Rainbow Snippets – 4/29/17 – Trustfall

Hi everyone!

I thought up a working title for this piece! I hate it, but it’s better than just calling it “new story” all the time, so we’re going with “trustfall” since a huge part of this novel revolves around trust. I think “trust fall” is actually two words but I’m exercising creative license here and making it one.

Last week, in the first six lines of the novel, POV character Saul was “ogling” a handsome man his sister had told him about. These lines (slightly more than 6, sorry) pick up right after that.




Speaking of my sister… I glanced around, but didn’t see her. Ah well. The man I presumed to be Alex walked around the desk then to head elsewhere, and I caught him with a light touch on his forearm.

“Excuse me.”

He stopped and turned, polite smile in place. “Can I help you?”

“I’m looking for my sister Hannah. Supposed to be picking her up.”

His eyebrows went up and he gave me a quick once-over, taking in my black slacks and tie. “You’re Saul?”

I wasn’t sure what to think of the surprise on his face after that once-over, but I smiled. “Someone’s been talking about me. And I’m willing to bet you’re Alex.”

An adorable reddish flush crept up his cheeks. “Guess someone’s been talking about me, too.”

“She talks a lot.”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing #OwnVoices – You Are Enough

I’m asexual. I wrote about this just a couple months ago when I realized it for the first time in my 10+ years of adulthood. Since then, I have joined the #ownvoices movement by starting to write a novel with an asexual gay man as a main character.

Let me tell you: It is hard. It is really, really difficult for me, despite being asexual myself. The temptation to put these guys into a regular old sexual relationship is strong. It’d be a lot easier to write. Despite not being sexually motivated or driven myself, writing sex is natural because it is everywhere, and I know it is expected, and a lot of readers live for the sex scenes.

Writing anything is hard. Writing gay men as a straight[ish] female[ish…person] is hard. Writing romance with a character who is not driven by sexual desire is a hard. Put all this together and add a heaping dose of crippling self-doubt on top, and it’s a miracle I’ve put a single word on the page.

“Self doubt?” you say. “Why are you drowning in self doubt? This should be easy. You’re asexual. You’re writing an asexual character. That’s like being a writer and writing about a writer. Right?”

Except I only realized I’m asexual like two months ago, and only decided to apply/embrace the label several weeks later. All in all, I’ve considered myself a part of the asexual community for like, maybe 5 weeks now. So who the fuck am I to write an asexual character? I have no idea what I’m talking about. Right? What if I accidentally write bad rep? Even though I am ace, and I have been ace forever, I could easily write something that offends someone else. I could write it wrong. The internet is a terrifying place. There are a lot of outspoken, aggressive people on every side of every issue (especially on Twitter, where I spend most of my time). What if I write this asexual character based on my own personal feelings and experiences, and someone comes along and says “He’s not asexual.”

But he’s based on me! And I am! Does that mean I’m not?!

What if I write this #ownvoices book and someone comes along and shits on me for it because I’m not repping enough? I’m not outspoken enough? I’m not… I don’t know what, but what if I’m doing it wrong?

TAKING RISKS IS TERRIFYING.

Somebody save me.

Do you see my issue?

And then, while I was musing over this hang-up I’m struggling with, here came Ana Mardoll with a miraculously well-time tweet thread:

If you could just pardon me for a moment, I’ll be in the corner, sobbing.

misha crying

Okay. Better now.

So this is what it boils down to, kids: You are enough, and the world needs your voice. No one is more enough-y than you. No one can write a marginalized character better than a marginalized person, and no one can tell you that your feelings and experiences disqualify you for the group you feel you belong to. There has been a lot of hate flying around lately–transphobia and biphobia, erasure of all sorts. There is no better time than now for writing #ownvoices, and there is no better person than you.

So I’m going to go on writing my asexual gay man, and if he wants to have sex, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. He’ll find his boyfriend attractive, he will be infatuated and in love and make flirty comments and sexual jokes, and if anyone reads about him someday and says that his relationship is unrealistic, I’ll give them a great big middle finger, because I am an asexual person, and I have sex, get crushes, flirt, and make a hell of a lot of sexual jokes. Those things do not disqualify me from the a-spec. I am asexual enough to write an asexual character, even if I just realized it a few weeks ago. It’s my identity and no one will take it away from me.

(If you want snippets and lines from Alex and his asexual D/s adventures, you can follow me on Twitter. I post quite frequently.)

Rainbow Snippets 4/22/17 – New Story!

Hi everyone! I missed the last couple weeks of snippetting due to, well, frankly, a horrible period of self-doubt.

I started a new novel at the beginning of April, and it involves BDSM, which is something I don’t have much experience with. And one of the MCs is asexual, which is something I do have personal experience with, but that’s making it oddly more difficult to write because it’s personal.

Anyway, it took me a few weeks to decide that I don’t hate it and I’m fairly sure I’m going to finish it at this point (29,000 words later…), so I’ll start sharing. I don’t even have a working title yet. Goodness. These are the opening six lines.




I spotted Alex immediately based on Hannah’s description. Tall, with light brown hair styled in that “just woke up” intentional mess. Or maybe it was actually just a mess. A purple t-shirt and track pants did nothing to disguise his impressive musculature. As he chatted with a woman at the desk, his smile was quick and frequent. Yeah, I could see why my sister had wanted me to come ogle him.




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!

Writing Process, Step Two – Simmering and Development

A couple weeks ago I wrote about the first step in my writing process–if the wild haphazard whirlwind of creation can be called a “process.” Now that I’ve survived into step three – writing, I figured I’d expound on step two.

Step two is what I (and a lot of other people) call “simmering.”

This step could also potentially be called “hunting and gathering” or “collecting specimens” or “research” or “meditation” or “contemplation” or any number of things. “Simmering” covers all the bases.

Letting an idea simmer is vital. My simmering process for the current WIP was short and rushed due to signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo and things happening at work, and it was incredibly difficult to get going on the writing when that time finally came. The idea was a little bit stunted and I couldn’t get into the POV character’s head for days (which, being as he is the POV character, made things difficult).

The simmering phase is exactly what it sounds like. You put the idea on a back burner and go on about your life–you’re aware of it, you check on it, sometimes you throw things in and come back later for a taste, to see if they made the idea better or worse (fortunately, with this kind of simmering, you can take ideas back out very easilyunlike when you accidentally add one head of garlic to your sauce, instead of one clove), but you’re not actively writing it. You’re letting things mix and seeing what new ideas bubble to the surface.

For me, the simmering phase starts with things like brainstorming, rambling to friends about the idea, doing research for character careers and histories, family life, possible conflicts, names, ages… When I’m letting an idea simmer, I listen to music for that WIP (I’ve written previously about the relationship between my writing and music). For my current WIP, the music is dark cabaret–things like Katzenjammer, Dresden Dolls, Birdeatsbaby, and The Romanovs – I’m not sure if, in this case, the music helped midwife the idea into the world, or if the idea drove me to seek out dark music. Dark cabaret music is very sexy and aggressive. BDSM is very sexy and aggressive. (There are a lot of dark cabaret songs about BDSM in some form or another.)

The music is the burner over which I heat the ideas, the notion of plot and characters. When I was writing my first novel, I listened to Maroon 5 and nothing but Maroon 5, ad nauseum for months (at least Maroon 5 has multiple albums – when I wrote the first draft of my second novel, I listened to Bastille’s Bad Blood album so many times I burnt out on it and haven’t listened to a single Bastille song in like 3 years). Anyway… I just let them hang out in the back of my mind for a while–a few days, a week, a month, who knows. I have ideas in the back of my head that have been there for ten years. Every once in a while I go back to them, adjust some things, write down new ideas, and then let them go again. Sometimes you’re just not ready to write the idea for whatever reason.

During the simmering stage, you may do things like fill out character profiles, start an outline (if that is your inclination), or write what I call “character exploration” scenes, which are vital for developing voice and personality. Character exploration scenes may never show up in the novel, but they help you work out hitches in back story and give characters an opportunity to tell you things. This can save time in revision. If you’re anything like me, when you don’t let things simmer enough, the first couple chapters of your novel will be shitty and stunted while you struggle to find your groove.

When you are simmering, a notebook will be your best friend. You never know when your characters will jump up and say “HEY GUESS WHAT!” (that applies throughout the whole writing process, really)
I carry a little memo book everywhere I go. Some people use their phones. I used to use my phone, but to me it seems faster to flip open a notebook and write something down, than it does to get my phone, open an app, get to the right place, etc. (If you have any app recs for easy note-taking, drop me a comment!) If I can’t get to my notebook for whatever reason, I text the ideas to myself. Here are a couple examples of the notes I’ve taken for myself during the simmering stage for my current WIP (pardon the chicken scratch):

notes 2

notes 1

Although I get ideas during the simmering stage (I get a LOT of ideas during the simmering stage), it’s different from the actual “birth” of the overall idea because things are starting to become clear. It is largely an inactive, quiet process. When I first get an idea, it’s an amorphous blob. Simmering helps me chip away the excess useless crap to find the true shape hidden inside.

It is important to note that the Simmering step gets repeated after the Writing step, and has much the same function and procedure there as it does in this pre-Writing step. As you write, your idea will shape more and more. New thoughts will bubble up, characters will reveal more truths, and you’ll realize by the end of the writing process that hot damn, the first half of your book needs some serious revision. But you don’t write “The end” and then immediately start revising. It’s important to give the idea space, look at it with fresh eyes. So you let it simmer again. But this simmering isn’t the “throw random shit in and see what happens” kind of simmering. The post-writing simmering is more like “I have the ingredients here and they taste all right together, but I think I need to adjust their quantities, or the order I put them into the pot, to make this story taste even better.”

I think I’m mixing metaphors, but you get the idea. So far in my writing process we have:

Step One – GOD THIS IS EXCITING LET ME VOMIT THIS BRILLIANCE INTO A WORD DOCUMENT AND GRAB PEOPLE AND SHAKE THEM WHILE RAMBLING BECAUSE I AM JUST SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS IDEA I JUST HAD

Step Two – Okay… so that wasn’t as brilliant as I thought, but I can work with it. Let me think about this for a while.We’ll get to step three in an upcoming post! Maybe next week, maybe the week after. Sometimes I have to let my blog posts simmer, too.What do you guys do during the “simmering” stage before you start writing? Anything cool or fun that I should try?

“Write What You Know”

There’s loads of writing advice batted at writers, packaged down into short, easy absolutes: Show don’t tell. Don’t use adverbs. Write drunk, edit sober. Never use semicolons. Don’t use “very.” And, of course, “write what you know.”

Let me tell you something about these hackneyed tidbits of “advice”: they are often misinterpreted. I believe the most common interpretation of “write what you know” is  “write about your own life”. That can be very discouraging, because the average person does not lead a novel-worthy life–if I went with this interpretation, I would write about cats, dogs, gardening, writing, and libraries.

A more accurate tidbit of advice would be “use what you know” or “start with what you know.” No where in that four-word writing quip does it say “write ONLY what you know.”

Here’s the thing: You know a lot more than you think you do. You know pain, you know loss, you know anger, joy, happiness, confusion, stress. You know friendship and family, you know hunger and thirst, you know what it’s like to want something you cannot acquire.

That’s your base. Emotion is vital for any story. Maybe you’ve never had to watch your entire village get slaughtered or decide to let one person die to save twenty, but you have experienced strong emotions. Use those.

And here’s another fantastic thing about “what you know”: you can actively decide to change what you know. If you don’t know about something, find out. Do Your Goddamn Research.

but its hard

Yes, there is such a thing as “creative liberty” and “author’s prerogative.” These are especially pertinent in scifi and fantasy. When you start engaging magic and setting things 500 years in the future on another planet, creative liberty and author’s prerogative become all the more powerful.

BUT

You have to have truth and fact and reality at the core before you can take liberties. There has to be a seed of relatable knowledge there to help you create the beautiful sprout of a novel you plan to write. Your characters should express true, believable emotions.

There’s a highly pertinent quote I’ve seen credited to Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” This applies to “write what you know” as well. Learn the facts like an expert so you can bend them for your novel.

But you have to start with what you know and be realistic. You have to start with that basis of truth, that honest emotion or basic fact. If you are writing something completely outside your realm of experience, sprinkle in pieces of what you know to lend a feeling of authenticity to your story–for example, I spent four years in college, so if I include a college campus as a setting, or a college professor as a character, I have plenty of knowledge I can use. Maybe the college campus is actually a huge summoning circle for the forces of evil, or the college professor is an alien. I don’t know anything about that from experience–but I do know the basics of dorm life, campus events, student attire, the kinds of conversation you might overhear on a campus, etc, and I can use that basis as a springboard for the rest of my idea to give it an authentic feel despite being about something utterly outside my realm of experience.

If you write an MC who has been raped or abused, who is instantly cured by falling in love with someone, you clearly have not put yourself in this MC’s position and bothered to lay down that foundation of truth, the kernel of realism from which your fiction can grow.

If you write a scifi novel and I read it and think, “Okay, this person has clearly never watched or read ANY scifi in their goddamn life,” then you’re doing something wrong.

No one expects you to become an expert on thermonuclear astrophysics overnight, but you should be doing research. You should have a list of resources you’ve consulted that you can go back to if you feel uncertain at any point. You should feel knowledgeable enough that if someone came to you and said, “Can you give me the basics on this topic?” you could spout off some knowledge and point them in the direction of some articles that you found helpful.

A writer’s job is to take threads of reality and weave them into something interesting, exciting, and entertaining. What you know–through research and experience–gives you the thread you need for your beautiful tapestry, but thread alone can’t make art. If you only “write what you know,” you’re basically just taking all those threads and hanging them up to flap in the breeze. Everyone will look at them and say “Huh, yeah, that’s thread all right.” If you don’t “write what you know” at all, you’re basically trying to weave a tapestry out of pure imagination. Everyone will look at your tapestry and go, “…oh. It’s uh… Very… uh, not really real.”

You have to use imagination AND thread to make a tapestry. What you know and what you don’t. “Write what you know” is good advice, as long as you know how to interpret it.

tapestries

For some other perspectives on this misunderstood piece of writing advice, check out The Most Misunderstood Piece of Good Advice Ever and Write What You Know – Helpful Advice or Idle Cliche?

What do you guys think? Is this much-repeated advice actually any good? What other frequently-uttered writing advice do you think we’re all interpreting wrong?

Writing “Process,” Step One – Birth of an Idea

As a writer, you hear a lot of “what’s your process?” and “How do you start?” and “Where do you get ideas?” and so on and so forth.

I’m starting a new novel draft for Camp NaNoWriMo, so I figured I would share my “writing process” while it’s still fresh in my head — at least as it pertains to this particular project, because to be honest, I don’t think I have a universal process. I don’t have a tried and true “method” for “getting ideas” and “prewriting” and then “writing.” Maybe writing this will help me figure out a more efficient method of shaping my ideas into coherent drafts, as well as give you guys some ideas.

I often start with a concept or emotion. For my NaNoWriMo draft back in November, I started with a concept along the lines of “opposites helping each other, sort of against their will.” For this new draft I’m starting, I woke up one morning with a thought in my head: I want to read a gay romance with a dom/sub relationship…. with asexual characters.

BDSM is a very sexual thing. I find it appealing in books because, as I discussed in my post a couple weeks ago, I am intrigued by the exploration of power dynamics in relationships (especially in m/m). BDSM is power dynamic exploration to the extreme. But it is very sexual, but given my recent realization about my own sexuality, I thought… how would a couple with at least one asexual member explore their BDSM kink?

So first, with this concept in mind, I went on a quest to find books to read for research. I wanted characters that are explicitly identified as asexual, so after posting a question on Twitter, my Facebook, and the Facebook M/M Romance group, I consulted the wonderful Aro/Ace Speculative Fiction Database first (maintained by Claudie Arseneault). There, I found one entry mentioning a D/S relationship, in the web series Iwunen Interstellar Investigations

Next I moved on to the M/M Romance Goodreads group and looked through their shelves. No shelf for asexuality, so that was a bust (get on that, guys).

I found a different Goodreads list of asexual characters – any gender, orientation, or genre, as long as it has a confirmed asexual character (with a whopping 105 books on it). I browsed through that and found one published novel that fit my ace BDSM criteria, from Dreamspinner Press – City of Soldiers by Sam Burke. I bought it.

Then I went back to my Facebook posts where I’d asked for recs. Nothing. I had three people who were interested enough in the same topic to follow the FB post, so I provided them with the two items I’d found.

So after several disappointing hours of searching, I decided FUCK IT. Guess I gotta write one. I’ve always thought there is nothing original left to explore in the world, but APPARENTLY, asexuality is pretty damn original. Asexuals are like unicorns or something.

So I had a concept, and two vague character archetypes to plug into the concept – In addition to wanting to write a “no sex” BDSM relationship, I also want to write a sub who is more physically imposing and/or financially successful than his dom and a dom who is not a suave millionaire stereotype. (on that note, if you have recs for m/m BDSM books with a dom and/or sub who fit those criteria, please drop them in the comments for me – they can be explicitly sexual, I don’t mind, since this is a different aspect of research than the asexuality aspect).

Anyway, with my concept in mind and a fair amount of excitement (I’m exploring new territory here, apparently), I went and got in the shower, because as a human being, I must sometimes do mundane things such as this.

And I got like FORTY MILLION IDEAS while I was in there. Thank God no one else was home because I kept going “Ooh!” and “OH MY GOD.”

When I got out of the shower, I sat down and wrote out about 2-3 single spaced pages of brainstorming. It was going to be urban fantasy. Magic! Danger! Curses and cures!

And then I went to bed, and at work the next day, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. It wasn’t quite right. Needed refining. The characters weren’t quite right for the plot I was trying to put them into. So I yanked them apart–these characters were not meant to be in this situation. So then I had characters in need of a plot, and a plot in need of characters. I also needed to do some worldbuilding, because if I’m going to write urban fantasy, I need it to be original. Urban fantasy is pretty popular these days and I don’t want to copy the Dresden files… So I consulted my sister for worldbuilding advice. We exchanged lengthy emails about worldbuilding for this story idea I have.

After another day of simmering, I ended up splitting the characters up, too. They had too many clashing aspects. I’d gotten excited and attached some feelings to one of the characters that I couldn’t shake off him, and they didn’t mesh with the other character. So I pulled my sub and dom apart, gave the sub a new dom, gave the dom a new sub……… and then I split some aspects out of each of those couples to create 2 more couples that could explore even more aspects of this idea I’d had.

So at this point, I had 4 potential couples/plots to work with. The characters were all still in the “vague concept” mode, but the plot was starting to have some substance. To decide which characters to work with and put into this plot, I brainstormed careers — I texted some friends and talked with my husband for career possibilities that would allow someone to be physically strong/imposing/able to handle themselves. I put together a list, but the vague notions I had for the plot immediately latched onto one career choice as soon as it came to mind, so the decision was easy. The same thing happened for the other character. I asked Twitter for career possibilities and the second I saw one of the suggestions I said YES. THAT IS IT. Almost like the characters were there, they’re in my head, but they don’t have any vocabulary yet. They know themselves, they know what they are, but they can’t provide the words. I have to drop words into the well with them and see which one they throw back at me, saying, “This one.”

It took me 2-3 days to shape that initial brainstorming session into something useful, and in the end, the characters that came out of it are nothing like the ones I initially thought up. This is why you don’t share first drafts! My original couple that I got excited about while showering was a magic-using bodyguard (dangerous/physically imposing sub) and a scientist (not so physically imposing dom). After shaking them down and peeling them apart and kicking the dust out of my plot idea and gathering that dust up and making a new plot out of it, my final couple is a personal trainer (or physical therapist, I have to do a bit more research) and a sociology professor. No magic. No danger. Just a nice, normal, contemporary romance… with an asexual character in a dom/sub relationship.

The characters’ names come to me with varying amounts of difficulty. One of them has had a name since I thought up his initial concept in the shower. The other one… I knew his name started with S. Throughout the day at work, various character facts come to me, rising up to the surface of my mind like soap bubbles, popping into existence with brillaint “a-ha!” certainty. I also begin to get flashes of scenes as those facts begin to appear, snippets of dialogue, vague notions of plot and events. All of this goes into my handy-dandy little memo book which stays on my desk at work and comes home with me each night, full of new ideas.

So to summarize, the birth of a new story, for me, goes: 1) concept or emotion, 2) research, 3) wild, excited brainstorming, 4) simmering & refinement. Of course, it’s not a nice even neat progression of events. It’s more like having a bucket of lego, and there are a few really cool bricks and a bunch of other pieces that aren’t as exciting, and you immediately grab onto the cool bricks and think I’M GOING TO MAKE SOMETHING WITH THESE. But then, when you try, it turns out you actually need all kinds of other pieces in order for the cool pieces to fit together, and some of the cool pieces just won’t fit no matter what you do, and you try rebuilding a couple times with a bunch of different types of pieces in a bunch of different ways in hopes of making your original “something” work, but eventually you have to discard some of your precious “cool pieces” and accept that your lego house will be better off if you sacrifice a little bit of “cool” in exchange for structural stability.

I’m always curious about others’ writing processes. Where do you guys get your ideas? How do you refine them down to something useful? Do you actually have a process? Let me know in the comments!

Rainbow Snippets 4/1/17 – Shipwrecked

Hello again, one and all!

This’ll be my last week sharing from Shipwrecked. Camp NaNoWriMo started yesterday and as such I am starting on a new novel. I’m excited about it. I’ve already written a few thousand words, and it is going well. I’m not sure how the plot is going to shake out, but I like the characters, and as a character-driven writer, that’s very important to me.

Anyway, here’s my snippet for the week, picking up right after last week’s. I’ll just leave you guys with blue balls, since I’ve been teasing my way up towards a sex scene for the past few Saturdays and next week I’m switching to a new story. Hehe. Sorrynotsorry.




Thick black curls covered a strong, tan chest, trailing down a flat belly to disappear into the top of his trousers. I’d heard somewhere that if you weren’t sure if you were awake or dreaming that you should pinch yourself. If you feel pain, you’re awake.

I gave my left hand a sharp pinch. It hurt. Belmont glanced at my hand and then met my eyes, questioning me without words.

“I had to make sure I’m not dreaming, sir.”

“Is this something you would dream of?”




Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!). Visit the group for links to more snippets from LGBT works! While you’re over there, shoot me a friend request!