Monday, May 10, 2010

So I Gots Me a New Book Out

I was going to title this post "I Haven't Blogged Since January Therefore I'm a Suckass Blogger" but it's just too long. True, but long. Instead I decided I'd just tell you about my new book and then promise to blog more often. No, seriously, I promise.

My new book (it's more of a novella really but calling it a book makes me sound more important and I'm all about the self-esteem) is called Pool Hall Green. It's about a guy named Drew who hit the jackpot when it comes to pool playing talent but crapped out in the family department.

Writing this book meant a lot to me. Though I put something personal into all my books, Pool Hall Green holds a greater piece of me because my grandpa is a professional pool player (no, I'm not gonna tell y'all which one; watch me, being all coy like that). Though pool has always been a big part of my life, I've never considered writing about it before. My grandpa was a peach, putting up with late night phone calls, endless questions, my "frantic writer syndrome." He'd always answer with, "Yes, honey. That's right, honey. You got it, honey." So often women who write gay romance don't get support from their families (or even some members of the gay community at large) and to have a 70-something year old southern man helping out on a gay romance novel is the bomb.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hi Ya

According to my mother, I was born behind (three weeks overdue), so it should be no surprise to ya'll that I haven't posted a blog update since August. *Sigh* I was one of those kids in high school who always showed up late to class with a armload of loose, crushed, and crumpled papers because I'd left my binder at home. Rather than trying to cram five months of updates into one post I'll give ya'll a nutshell version of what's happening with my tardy self and tell you what I've got planned for 2010.

First, I'd like to congratulate the winners of my First Ever Reed Contest. They were Miss Mahola Donna and Amber from the Magic Yahoo Group. Both are long time readers of mine, so a big congrats to both of these lovely ladies. A huge thanks to everyone who participated and gave their votes. Seth has officially been voted the next Reed character to get a story of his own. When that story will make its debut is another question. It's in the outline stages, but I have several contract pieces I have to get out before I can get started. After that, the Reed murder and mayhem will commence.

Speaking of contract pieces, I've had five releases since I last blogged. I know, I know. Bad writer. Bad. I could offer all kinds of excuses about madness, pestilence, and one really bad wiener dog, but I think I'll just tell ya'll what I wrote instead.

The first is a charity short called Do Over, all proceeds of which will benefit the Matthew Shepherd foundation. Do Over is about a guy who's given a second chance at life after a near fatal diagnosis of leukemia. The focus of the story is how he uses that second chance. It's a quick read; it's super cheap; and it's all for charity so I hope ya'll will come out and show the love.

My second release is a novella in the Here, Kitty, Kitty anthology called Beckett's Pride. The book also features stories by the fabulous Jordan Lane and the unstoppable team of Jamie Booth and Kit Zheng. I was so honored to be in a book with these three ladies. As you can probably guess from the title, all these stories feature cat shifters. Mine's about an exiled white lion who finds himself in the company of a werewolf with issues. This is actually the kick off of a new series for me, so drop me a line and let me know what you think about it.

Number three was a booger. I'm not going to lie. I thought I was never going to get this damned story written. It's called The Five of Wands (based on the Tarot) and the SOB almost killed me. I think I'm going to have a soft spot for these characters forever because I spent untold hours staring at the blank screen of death, begging them to work with me. So funny because in its simplest definition, the five of wands is about hassles, disagreements, conflicts, and irritations: if the road is full of blocks, potholes, and detours, that's the five of wands. By the time I finished writing about the trials and tribulations of Dr. Travis Gordiani and his sparring partner-turned- lover Dr. Jeremy Bowman, I was firm believer in the power of that little card.

The fourth story (much to my relief) flowed much more smoothly. It's a novella called The Manny, and it's sort of my answer to all those secret baby stories I used to steal off my mother's bookshelf when I was a teenager. It's about two guys who pretty much hate each other until a pretty little miss in Pampers steals both their hearts. I had so much fun with this story. Oh the memories it brought back.

The last story was also a hoot to write, but for a different reason: I got to explore my dark side. It's called The Taste of You, and it's vampire urban fantasy romance. In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say upfront that a couple of readers have complained that it's too short. I agree completely, but you should know that this is the kick-off to another series, so please don't give up on Wyatt and Luke (the main characters) just yet.

So that's it as far as my new releases go. Several of you have asked about what I'm currently working on, and if the sequel to The Devil's Fire is still on that list. It most certainly is, but it's been very slow going. I honestly don't know when I'll be finished with it, but I want you to know that I'm not going to give up until that joker is finished and sitting on my editor's hard drive. I've also got three contract pieces already signed with Torquere for 2010/2011 and of course, Seth's story. Not to mention all the other stories floating through the dark and scary place that is my head. Makes me shiver just to think about it.That's all I can think of as far as writing stuff goes. I'm on Goodreads now, so if ya'll want to look me up over there, I'll clue you in to some mighty good reads. Hope your 2010 is filled with blessings, miracles, and love.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Wavyscribe?

The other day a reader and good friend of mine asked me, "So why Wavyscribe?" referring to the screen name I use for AOL and various social sites. I've had readers mention it in passing (some were sure it was an homage to gay romance, as in not straight but "wavy"), but until my friend asked I didn't give much thought that people might actually be curious about it. I'm afraid the truth behind it isn't nearly as exciting as some of my readers seem to believe.

It's all about my hair.

Vanity, thy name is Sara. I took my screen name from my hair. Now, lest you think me a narcissistic creature who loves her hair so much she stands in front of the mirror each night, brush in hand delivering a hundred even strokes like a maiden in a castle tower, um…no. My hair and I, we have a love/hate relationship. I love the fact that I still have hair after all the crap I've done to it over the years; hate the fact that I still can't do a darned thing with it after all the coloring, taunting, taming, and teasing. But that still hasn't answered the question about my screen name, so here goes.

For the first twenty-five years of my life, my hair was straight as a stick. We're talking hair that wouldn't hold a curl if you looped it into a swirl and stapled it there. I spent years sleeping on curlers, hot-rolling it, having it permed (God save us from the spiral perms of the 90s), and using every size curling iron known to man trying to get my hair to hold some kind of wave. The perms would last about a month; the curlers about half an hour. No matter what I tried, my hair was going to be straight and that's all there was to that.

Then, about ten years ago, I noticed the texture of my hair beginning to change. At the time, I chalked it up the stress. I had a one-year-old and a three-year-old. Didn't get much more stressful than that. Soon, though, the texture wasn't all that changed. It seems like overnight (though my doctor assures me it was really a process) my hair curled up like Shirley Temple.

For years I was baffled by the phenomenon. And me being the fickle female that I am, I finally had the curls I thought I'd always wanted and now I couldn't do a thing with them. I live in Alabama--land of the 120% humidity--so no matter what I do, my hair is going to frizz like a poodle in clothes dryer. I've tried blow drying it straight, flat ironing it, and dousing it with every product Sally's Beauty Supply has in their arsenal. The minute I step outside this house it's ringlet city.

Took me some time to get to the bottom of it all, but I now know the change in my hair is a by- product of my MS. Seems no part of your system remains untouched, including your hair. I'm doing so well with the disease (in remission, thank you very much) if this is my only side effect, I'll happily deal. Of course, I still threaten to shave my head at least once a week, and I'm a big fan of the ponytail, but at least I got a fun screen name out of it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

First Ever Reed Contest

About six months ago, I decided it was time to go back to Reed, the setting of my first two books. I was ready to do the third book in the series, I told myself, and despite the time that had passed since I'd written a Reed book, I began my task with a take-no-prisoners attitude and a fire in my belly. I chose Mitch, Ben Lewis's brother from The Way You Say My Name to be my main character and off I went.

I was about four pages in when I realized I just wasn't feeling it.

It happens that way sometimes with writers. We're all gung-ho until we're glued to our chairs staring at the blank page of death. I did some soul searching, worked on some other projects, and finally figured out that while Mitch should and will eventually get a story, the reason I couldn't write for him right now is because it wasn't his time yet. When you're cooking for an ensemble cast like the folks of Reed, sometimes the stories have to simmer on the backburner before they're seasoned enough to taste.

Once I figured it out I felt better but I still had a decision to make: who should I write about next? After going round and round about it in my head, I came to the conclusion the best way to chose would be by letting my readers do the picking. After all, I've kept you all waiting five years for a Reed story. I figure you're due a say.

But readers, they can be shy creatures and some don't like to speak their minds without an incentive. That's where the idea of the first ever Reed Contest comes from. I'll be giving away two signed sets of Reed books to two different winners (a name-in-the-hat drawing kind of deal). From now until September 30th, readers can enter the contest by emailing me with the answer to the following question:

Whose story would you like to see as the next book in The Reed Series:

1) Seth Morris
2) Mitch Harding
3) Randy Nash
4) Ashton Barnes
5) Dexter Carson

Like all contests, there are a few rules. You have to be at least eighteen to enter, you can only enter once, and you have to pick only one answer for it to be a valid entry. Also, you have to live in a place where it's legal to receive spicy gay romances via the mail. Oh, and you can't be allergic to dog hair because I guarantee your books are liable to have a few stray hairs stuck in the pages (I love my dogs but it's fuzz city around this joint).

That's pretty much the gist of the contest. I've already gotten a slew of entries through my yahoo group (Seth's leading but Randy Nash is coming in a strong second). So far it's shaping up to be an interesting contest. Who knew these things were so much fun?

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Year and Seven Days Between Blog Posts? Seriously?

So, I always knew I was something of a procrastinator, but going three hundred and seventy-two days between blog posts is a new record, even for me. I thought about playing it cool, just sliding in a post (this is May, same month and all) and hoping no one would bother looking at the year but then I realized I'm not that slick. I figured a better course of action would be to fess up and tell you where I've been. I had some health and family stuff to deal with--normal, everyday, real world stuff--but I'm back with a vengeance, feeling great, and ready to blog.

So many cool things have happened I don't even know where to start. I suppose the most exciting thing is the formation of Romance Writers of America's first ever GLBT chapter, Rainbow Romance Writers. To say this is a major milestone would be like calling a tarantula a little spider. Total understatement. The best part for me is having the privilege of being in on the ground floor of it all. I'm the vice president, so I get to have both hands in the inner workings of chapter life. Our numbers are multiplying like ambitious little bunnies and I couldn't be happier.

Project wise, I've got several pots on the stove. The print version of my online novel The Way You Say My Name is in the final stages of editing and due out at PD sometime between the end of this month and the first of the next. Some of my readers have wondered what's taking so long with the release. It's probably because I don't brag on them enough that readers don't know this, but those ladies at PD take more care than any small press I've ever seen to make certain every book they publish is as close to perfect as a book can get. I get not one but two editors and two additional read-throughs before any of you ever sees the final product. For a small press, that's a really big deal (in case you couldn't tell, I'm a satisfied author).

Another press I've greatly enjoyed working with is Torquere and I have a couple of projects coming out with them this year. One is a novella in the Here Kitty, Kitty Anthology called "Beckett's Pride" and the other is a Torquere Press Arcana based on the tarot card The Five of Wands. This is my third Arcana piece, and I have to admit I knew nothing about the tarot when I started writing Arcanas. Some of the interpretations are fascinating (I may never look at a tarot card reader the same way again). I don't have a firm release date for either of those but once I do I'll post it here. One of the great things about both these pieces is I get to work with editor extraordinaire Michelle Rhode again. She's fabulous and she gets my quirky, right-brained weirdness. You gotta love that in an editor.

Beyond the contracted pieces, I'm also working on the sequel to my fantasy romance, The Devil's Fire and--I know some of you won't believe this--I'm finally, after five years, working on the third book in The Reed Series. I know. Shocked the daylights outta me, too. Like the first two books in the series, I'll be posting this one free online as a thank you to my readers. Unlike the first two, though, I won't post a word of it until it's completely finished, so you've a bit to wait yet. I'll do my darnedest to make it worth your while.

I've also discovered something I never thought I'd enjoy, and that's tweeting. I'm on Twitter
@ wavyscribe and I'd love to tweet with any of you who happen to be in a tweeting mood. I love the very sound of it. Tweeting. Makes me feel like a canary.

So that's pretty much it from my corner of the universe. What's happening in yours?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Handling a Bad Review

After making my first post, I did some research on reviews. In the span of three weeks I got four good ones, one medium one, and one I would consider "bad." That still puts me ahead, if you average them all together. Of course, most writers--myself included--can have twenty-five stellar reviews and only one negative one, but it's the negative we dwell on every time. As I said in an earlier post, I do my best to take bad reviews with a grain of salt, the "live to write another day" approach. It never dawned on me that there are some writers out there who take negative reviews so personally they'd actually threaten the life and family of the reviewer. After my Net search yesterday, I've learned that isn't the case. I don't want to go into the details here because there are far more knowledgeable sites out there that can explain it better than I, but Google the words Amazon reviewer Reba Belle (no relation to yours truly) and see what comes up. The short of it is, Ms. Belle gave a three star review (three stars, mind you) to a book by a paranormal romance author, and the author went after her, going so far as to get Ms. Belle banned from ever posting to Amazon again--although she's still welcome to shop there--and claiming she'd hired a PI to track down Ms. Belle, her husband, and even her children. The Dear Author Blog has the whole story; it reads more like the opening of a romantic suspense novel than real life.

As I read this, I couldn't help but think about life from the reviewer's side of the coin. In the bad review of my work mentioned above, the reviewer held nothing back. She thought my main character was an unsympathetic moron and my prose was stilted and formal. I don't think any of us want to hear that, but it takes more guts to tell someone they suck than to sing their praises. Did I agree with the review? Nah. This main character happens to be one of my favorites, but she made her point well, was well spoken, and I got what she was saying. Even if the review had made me mad, it never would've occurred to me that I should go after her, or even try to defend my story. Once I finish a piece, it's out of my hands and up to the reader whether they like it or not. I hate catfish, and if someone tried to make me eat a big ol' plate of it, I'd be spitting mad. What right do I have, then, to force feed readers my point of view?

So how do you handle a bad review? One article I read on the subject suggests either growing up and getting over it or getting out of the business. Another POV in another article suggests brooding over it for days and allowing the hurt and anger to run its course. I think both of these views represent the extreme. There's got to be a happy medium. Personally, if I'm bummed about a bad review, I take a close look at what the reviewer is saying--see if I can see his or her point. Also, I try to consider the tone of the review. Is he talking about the story, or does he say derogatory things about me as the author? If it's the former, then I have no beef because that's what an unbiased reviewer does: tell it like he sees it. If it's the later, then I know it's personal and I move on.

Another thing that helps me put it into perspective is to go to sites like Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, etc, and read the reader-written reviews for some of my favorite authors' novels. In almost every case, mixed in with the four and five star raves, are ones and twos written by readers who just didn't gel with said novel. These people are on the NYT Bestseller's List, have sold millions of copies, and have in some cases been in the writing game for years, and yet not everyone likes what flies from their pens. Helps me to realize just how subjective a review really is. And it also helps me appreciate reviewers brave enough to give their opinions, especially when they're in the minority.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When a Good Critique Goes Bad

So I'm new to the whole blogosphere (as you can tell since this is my first post) and it occurred to me that starting out I wanted to talk about some of the tough stuff--stuff some writers don't like to talk about. I'm the eternal optimist, and I believe if you deal with the bad stuff, you can clear it out to make room for the good.

Yesterday, one of my books got a bad review. I say this not so you'll feel sorry for me, because I'm honest when I say I try to take reviews in stride. Bad reviews are never fun, but they're a part of this business. They suck, they make you feel like dirt--even make you doubt you should be writing at all and instead maybe you should get a job asking the age old question, "You want fries with that?"--but you allow yourself a one hour pity party, shake yourself off, and write some more. In the back of my mind, I'm able to rationalize that it's my book that's being reviewed, not me. Sometimes a certain character just doesn't resonate with the reviewer, or maybe the plot isn't something he/she is interested in. I can handle a bad review because even though it feels personal, I know it's just part and parcel of being a writer. This post isn't really about reviews, but it was the review that got me thinking: what happens when it is personal? What happens when it's a friend or a critique partner and his or her assessment of your work goes from an unbiased review of the manuscript to something deeper: something potentially harmful? That happened to me a few years ago, and that's what I want to talk about. Heavy stuff for a first blog post, but there you have it.

What can I say? I'm deep.

I started out as a Net writer, posting some of my stuff for free to get the feedback I felt I needed to launch my career. I'm an Internet junkie, and I think it's one of the greatest things to happen to writers since quill and ink were first put to parchment. Through the Net I've gathered an amazing readership and have been able to work with top notch publishers. One of the greatest things about the Web and writers is accessibility. Post your email address and you're never more than click away from the people who read your stories. It's always a thrill to me to get an email from a reader. Even if they're writing to tell me the story sucks, at least I've provoked a reader response. But that accessibility can be a double edged sword, and for a newbie writer just getting into the game, it can be especially devastating if you get hold of a critique partner (or beta reader, or writer-pal) who has a hidden agenda. Before I tell you what happened to me, I'd like to say that I don't have a critique partner, but I do have a group of beta readers, and they're absolutely amazing. They don't hesitate to tell me if something I wrote stinks, but they do it in a constructive way that never makes me feel as if I'm under attack. They make me a better writer, and to them I'm grateful. Okay, on to the nitty-gritty.

I posted my first novel, The Magic in Your Touch, to a free story site back in January of 2003, while it was still a work in progress. From the day I posted it, the feedback came flooding in. Some liked it and some didn't, but from almost every email I was able to take away something that I could use toward honing my craft. I was excited to get to the keyboard every day, and totally in love with being a writer. The manuscript was raw and full of typos, but I was proud of what I was accomplishing.

And then came an offer too good to refuse (cue music from The Godfather).

I got an email from a man I'll call Fred. He told me how much he was enjoying my story, how good he thought the plot was and how well-drawn he found my characters. The kind words were exactly what I needed to hear. I think most of us have certain insecurities about our work, and Fred made me feel so good about what I was doing. Each time I posted a chapter, he'd write to let me know his thoughts and feelings on it. I was beyond grateful for his input and advice, and felt honored that Fred (who was also a writer on that same site) would take time out of his busy schedule to grace me with his opinions.

Self-esteem issues, anyone?

About five chapters into my manuscript, Fred said, "I noticed some typos and misused words in your manuscript. If you'd like, I can proof each chapter for you before you post it?" Would I like? Was he kidding? I couldn't say yes fast enough.

It started out as a great relationship. He infused all his comments with praise, and any negative comments were tendered with respect and what seemed a genuine desire to help me grow as a writer. I offered to critique some of his work, but he said he wasn't interested in that, that he already had critique partners of his own. That probably should've been my first clue that everything wasn't A-okay in Writerland, but I continued on in blissful ignorance. I couldn't help but feel like he wasn't getting as much out of the relationship as I was, and I felt guilty for it, but he assured me he was happy with the status quo.

When I finished my first novel, the owner of another site offered to let me post my stuff on there, as well. It meant a wider audience, and I was thrilled with the chance. I'd just started novel number two and was going to preview it at the new site. Fred said he was glad for me and agreed to keep beta-reading my chapters. I was one happy girl. And then it came. The catch, I guess you could say.

I'd written a chapter that was especially difficult, but it was one I was really happy with. I sent it off to Fred, and as usual, his comments were dead on. There was just one suggestion he made that I disagreed with. I honestly can't even remember what it was now, but I think it was something about a change to one of the scenes. I was happy with the scene as written, so I left it the way it was, sent it off to the website, and started to work on the next chapter.

To say that Fred was less than pleased would be a gross understatement.

He sent me a three page email demanding to know why I hadn't changed the piece as he'd "recommended." He went on to tell me that it was hard work, reading my chapters each week, that he had to take time away from his own stuff, and if I was ungrateful and selfish enough not to use his "suggestions" then he should go help someone who deserved it.

I felt like a complete jerk. Here I was, wasting this poor man's time. He'd gone out of his way to help me, and I'd been inconsiderate to the extreme. After all, he was a "real" writer, and here I was some newbie upstart with half his experience and possibly half the talent. I sent him an apology, which he so graciously accepted (God, was I naive or what?) and the relationship continued. Looking back, I can see his manipulation for what it was, but at the time I was green and gullible as all get out.

His comments on my work soon became harsher and more detailed. Nothing overtly abusive, but I was beginning to sense a change in the relationship. Then I started work on my first fantasy novel, and that's when the blinders came off.

By then, I had several betas who'd volunteered to read my stuff. They got free books, I got feedback, and all was well in Saraville. Then came Fred's response to the first chapter of my fantasy piece. It was a doozy.

He hated everything about it, from the names of the characters, to their eye color, even their clothes. He said though some second-rate publisher would probably pick it up, it wasn't good by anyone's standards and he could hardly believe I'd written such drivel. As I read through the entire critique--all the comments and side notes--I realized something: somewhere along the way, Fred had stopped critiquing my work and was now critiquing me. Thankfully, my confidence as a writer had grown enough that I could separate the two. After a long talk with my best friend (who also happens to be my hot, hunky husband, lucky girl that I am) I sent Fred an email, thanking him for all he'd done, but telling him in the politest way possible that, since he didn't enjoy the current story, it would probably be better if I didn't send him any more chapters. I understood how busy he was, I told him, and I didn't want to keep monopolizing his time.

All hell broke loose is an apt phrase in this case.

Fred sent me an email so hot flames were rolling off my inbox. He said was a "real" writer and I never would be. He told me he'd forgotten more about writing than I'd ever know, and I didn't have enough talent to write for a school paper, much less a bona fide publisher. He said he'd only told me my work was good to begin with because he felt sorry for me. He said most of the readers were laughing behind my back because I was so pathetic, and I was totally delusional if I ever hoped to make a living as a writer. He ended the email with the equivalent of "bite me."

It hurt. I'd be lying if I said it didn't, but I was fortunate enough to have had enough valid critiques at that point to be able to separate the meat from the sour grapes. I was able to push past it and keep writing. I still don't know why Fred turned on me like he did, or why he decided to go for the jugular, but here are two things I do know: nobody can make me stop writing but me, and a real critique--even when it's largely negative--is meant to help you become a better writer, not tear down your confidence.

So whether you're just starting out or have fifty books under your belt, if you're thinking about taking on a critique partner it's not a bad idea to be wary. If it sounds like your crit partner is trying to be deliberately hurtful, or if he/she is beginning to veer off the novel and has started treading into personal territory, it might be time to move on. Making a valid point about your work is one thing, but trying to devalue you as a both a person and a writer is a whole different, ugly animal.

One final note about Fred: he sent me a long letter after my first novel made it into print. Told me he'd known all along I would be published one day, and he hoped we could put all that ugliness behind us. Hitting the delete button on that one was one of the most satisfying experiences I've ever had.