A writer’s lament about a WIP that doesn’t progress.

Outside our front door.

It has dawned on me why my latest WIP is going so slowly.

Way back in October I participated in a Monsterfest in the ushobwri community on Dreamwidth. Every day for a week we posted flashfics or drabbles about different mythical beings. One of my ficlets was about a human/fae mm romance and the characters nagged me to write their full story in at least novella form, and give it a happier ending. The nagging was successful in that I decided to comply.

There shouldn’t be any problems. The outline plot (or most of it, if you forget the ending) is there already, and the characters are very real in my head. (In fact, they chatter non-stop.) But it has been going incredibly slowly. Snails would be faster. Or sloths.

The trouble is, my brain thinks I’ve already written the story. It’s even on AO3 in the community collection for 2021 – all 657 words of it. Really, really long…!!! And although I have to change the ending that’s already done, in my mind. So expanding the tale is proving very boring indeed!

I’m used, I think, to not quite knowing what’s going to happen as I write. OK, if there’s a crime to be solved I know the solution, even when I’m not sure about the perpetrator. But on the way from the beginning to the end I just watch my characters and report what they get up to.

Not this time.

Also, the story is firmly resisting any hint of a title. As a working title (well, I have to have those for files, saving and so on) I’m calling it ‘Rip Van Winkle for now’ because it’s very vaguely based on that although my human is from the middle ages. A title would, I think, make me more likely to put in some work. Who knows?

It doesn’t help that my beta is not reading quickly for reasons beyond her (or my) control. So I have nobody pushing me to write faster. Plus my usual editor has just sent back the first draft of a novel which is just begging for amendments and formatting. (Why on earth would those appeal more than writing??)

I’m nearly up to 15k words and will definitely reach at least 20k if I can ever motivate myself. So – plot, characters, location and length are all in place. It’s not exactly writer’s block.

All I have to do is finish it. (‘But you already have,’ says my brain.)

An upcoming sale, and February’s television

header pic courtesy of Smashwords

The annual Smashwords Read-an-e-book week starts on Saturday 6th. This time I’ve put the first volume in each of my series into the sale. That means that for a week, Growing Up Fae and The Scroll are free on Smashwords.

Growing up Fae is the first in a four volume fae saga that has plenty of mm, mf and ff romance and lots of adventure.

The Scroll is the first in a six volume fantasy series that follows a trainee detective in an elf kingdom. She has two sidekicks, her gay brother who provides the romance sub plot, and a young dragon.

Please note that all volumes in both series are full length novels. I suspect the low pricing I’ve gone for so far might have made people think they were either novellas or YA so I’ll be looking to put the prices up soon. If you’ve thought about trying them, now’s the moment! There’s more information about both series under the books and buy links tab.

I’m currently working on a new fae saga in a completely different ‘verse.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching TV quite a lot on February’s long dark evenings.

I’d recommend most of these – they should all still be available.

Death in Paradise *****(bbc iPlayer) I’m not that keen on cosy mystery books but I adore this series with its exotic location and the way it lets little known actors shine.

The Romantics and us with Simon Schama****(bbc iPlayer) Some newish information about some artists though plenty of stuff I already knew. Well presented of course. Note that Desperate Romantics***** is also currently on iPlayer and I loved that series. I had the DVD but am not sure whether it survived Portugal.

Trigger Point**** (itv hub). Some silly plot devices but Vicky McClure is awesome as always and there were times when the suspense was so great I had to cover my eyes.

Mary Beard’s Forbidden Art****(bbc iPlayer) I don’t think she always understands what causes people to dislike a piece of art or be offended by it. She speculates from her own reactions. For example I can’t cope with looking at illustrations of violence because they make me feel the subjects’ pain, not because I think they’re inappropriate subjects for art. There’s enough violence in the news without looking at it as art.

The Green Planet – David Attenborough**** (bbc iPlayer) I tend to fall asleep to the eye candy. I thought the last programme on plants in cities was the most interesting. It kept me awake, anyway.

The Impressionists: Painting and Revolution**** (bbc iPlayer). Some lovely insights into the lives (and locations) of the impressionists. I’ve visited Giverny but was hazy about some of the others.

This one wasn’t really worth the four hours I spent on it.

No Return***(itv hub). A lot of questionable plot points in this story of a family holiday gone horribly wrong (teenager arrested for rape of another boy) and the acting didn’t lift it out of the ordinary.

I’m still watching:

Dogs Behaving Very Badly Ch5

The Responder BBC

This is going to hurt.BBC

The Great Pottery Throwdown Ch4

and we’re thinking about The Promise BBC

Once upon a riverbank: a free story for Valentine’s Day on Monday.

This short mm romance is set in my fae ‘verse. It is very loosely linked to Living Fae in the sense that Harlequin, the main narrator of that series, visited Australia and met one of the characters briefly in one of the volumes. But these are Australian fae, living near the Murray river, north east of Adelaide in South Australia and they are not normally in touch with their British counterparts. I have visited some of the locations I describe, and my account of the wildfires owes much to my own knowledge of the Portuguese fires as well as to my Australian friends’ experiences. So I placed my paranormal romance in a very real.setting. Murray wants to ask Morgan to marry him but the right time for a proposal never seems to arise then events overtake them. Despite the worries about the fires I can assure readers there is a HEA ending to this tale.

I am extremely grateful to my editor, MA Naess. She lives in South Australia and kept an eagle eye on all aspects of the story. I got very confused over the correct usage for Big Bend, partly because I’d just been reading Blake Allwood’s romance series set in the US location known as Big Bend. I made the cover pic/post header based on a photograph by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash.

You’ll find the story under the Free Stuff tab. It’s currently the last in the list. (They are not in publishing order but divided by type and as I said, this falls in my fae ‘verse.) Enjoy!.

Sale and a new free story

I’ve enrolled my books in the Smashwords End of Year sale which runs from 17th December till 31st December. They’re all at 50% off which means the novels are now $1.49, the novellas and story collections are $0.99 and Silver Chains is free. The coupon will automatically be applied at checkout.

If you’ve ever thought about reading any of them, take advantage of this. In the new year I am considering raising some of the prices because I strongly suspect the low price makes people think the novels are just novellas or short stories.

I’ve also written you a holiday gift story which is now under the free stuff tab here. It’s called King of the Wood and is about plant shifters and mm romance (nothing explicit). The cover is based on a photograph from our garden. I thought it was very good of the holly and ivy to grow together for me!

I’ll be posting some holiday recipes later this week – before most of us do the celebration cooking, anyway!

(Incidentally my free stuff page is a mess but one of my friends is going to help me sort it out after the holiday. Meanwhile, you can still download stuff – it just looks disorganised.)

Boring thrillers

Boring thrillers: a contradiction in terms? It’s something I’ve been promising to write about for a while now.

I like crime stories but I’m quite fussy about them. To begin with, I want to be in the position of the detective, amateur or professional, and I don’t appreciate being given the criminal’s pov, or some prologue that gives the solution away. I like being asked by the author to investigate alongside the detective and draw sensible conclusions then check them against the eventual ending. I like it when the author plays fair – no deus ex machina at the last minute and preferably no ‘well they were insane and nobody knew’. ( I read a couple like that recently.) I don’t like things that are too gruesome as we ‘watch’ though I don’t mind the investigation of gory crimes. Nor am I keen on really cosy mysteries, partly because I don’t often find them realistic; most investigation is done by professionals, either police or private detectives, not by amateurs.

Having said all that, I’m fairly careful about what I buy or borrow, and always read the blurb. I don’t read many reviews, in case of spoilers. I look at the first couple of pages and if an entire novel is clearly going to be in present tense I tend to turn away. Not a criticism because it’s clever and I know there are people who enjoy it – I’m just not one of them. It’s also a literary ‘trend’ and that’s something I don’t want in my genre reading.

However, recently I have read a number of thrillers that passed all those initial tests and then turned out to be totally uninspiring.

There are the police procedurals that are more about the procedure than the crime. I really think we can skip too much time explaining how a police station works. Even differences between different countries can be covered very briefly. Forensic science labs likewise. I want results and then the detective’s reactions to them.

Some stories have so many characters and so many threads introduced very early that my brain switches off. I have no objection to a cast of hundreds if they’re brought in gradually!

Then there are crime stories that are more about the detective than the crime. Yes, I want an interesting detective so that they come alive on the page and engage my sympathy, but I really don’t want chapter after chapter about their family or their problems till it detracts from the main plot.

That brings me to another kind of boring – boring detectives. I don’t necessarily want a superhero (in fact I don’t much like superheroes) or someone with so many quirks they aren’t real, but I do want them to stand out from the crowd. The same goes for their partner or sidekick. I’m happy with them finding romance – with each other or elsewhere – but again, it shouldn’t overwhelm the plot.

I love most Scandi-Noir on TV but have tried some Scandinavian novels and found them lacking. I think the actors and directors must bring extra life to the characters when books are used for series.

So when I give four or five stars to a crime story you’ll know it has passed all my tests. I’ll mention a few writers I love: Charlie Cochrane and RJ Scott both write mm romantic crime mysteries. KJ Charles does the same and includes magic. Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series is wonderful, as is Ian Rankin’s Rebus. My comfort reading includes Lindsey Davis’ Roman detective Falco. There are others but this isn’t a critique or review post. It’s just to explain why sometimes in my reviews I talk about thrillers being boring.

And you know, when I invest time (and money) in a thriller, the last thing I want is for it to be boring!

October’s Monsterfest ficlets – free to a good home.

Community icon courtesy of Brumeier

Every October a writing community I belong to on Dreamwidth runs a monsterfest. The mods give a number of prompts and the members can write to those, rec appropriate things they’ve read or watched or just discuss the monster/legend in question. All the prompts concern fantasy creatures of one kind or another.

I don’t always write but this year I did and my contributions – all short ficlets – are now on AO3. At least one will be expanded and turned into a novella (or even a novel) eventually.

I find writing drabbles and ficlets to prompts a very good writing exercise. Everything has to be finished quickly, must stand alone and should be accessible to readers with no prior in-depth knowledge of the topic. That’s harder to achieve than it sounds.

Some members write fanfic responses. All mine are inspired by various fandoms but are not specific. The pieces reference well known legends, and none contain any sex or violence. The last paragraph leads back here, to the short story I gave you for Halloween.

So here’s the link for anyone who’s interested.

https://archiveofourown.org/works/35085676

You can follow the link to my contribution but if you like monsters I suggest you also check out the collection because there are a lot of good stories there from this and previous years.

https://archiveofourown.org/collections/Shoobie_Monster_Fest

Free Halloween story. The Old Ones

I wrote a story for Halloween. It’s about 6k long and it’s free. You can look along the tabs for the Free Stuff page or you can just follow the link here!

The Old Ones

It’s a contemporary paranormal mm romance set in Northumberland National Park. Werewolves and ghosts against a background of heather!

My usual editor (m.a.naess) helped put right the bits I’d left in confusion. Many thanks to her! She is worth more than her weight in gold!

Then I had to get a WordPress chat person to sort out why I was failing to put the link on my page correctly. They ended up editing it for me and have left me with some study materials… I think WordPress, along with Facebook, Microsoft Office and other sites, now have so many bells and whistles it’s almost impossible for the ordinary home user to keep up!

Anyway, I’m glad I got this loaded in good time for the Halloween weekend. Enjoy!

Romance plus

I enjoy reading romance, whether it’s boy meets boy, boy meets girl or girl meets girl. I am less interested in threesomes (though I’ve written one in fanfiction). I often, however, read well written books and end up giving them only three star reviews and then forgetting them completely. I was wondering what it is that makes me faintly dissatisfied with a lot of romance books and realised I need romance plus…

Romance plus crime or mystery.

Romance plus fantasy.

Romance plus historical interest.

Romance plus external drama.

In other words, stories where the romance is central but doesn’t play the starring role throughout. Or in more ‘other words’, stories that cross genres – and for that reason can be hard to find.

The first three are fairly obvious. I have to say I love it when more than one box is ticked (e.g. historical crime). There is excitement generated by the world building or by the mystery and that adds immeasurably, for me, to the pleasure of the story.

The last perhaps needs to be unpacked. If the protagonists are going to face drama in their search for a HEA or HFN (I don’t like sad endings in fiction – they’re all too prevalent in the non-fiction I read) I need the drama to come from outside. There are plenty of romance tales that focus on the angst faced by characters who are caught up in their own self doubt or immediate family problems. I prefer it when they come up against things like natural disasters or the dangers posed by social norms within their society. I’m not so keen on war, though I do read it. It reminds me too much of war stories which, as a genre, I tend to avoid. (Again, there’s quite enough war in my non-fiction reading.)

I don’t necessarily want romance plus sex. I will happily read explicit scenes and don’t want any ‘fade to black’ at the bedroom door. However, the slightest hint that the story is in fact a vehicle for sex scenes and I’m instantly turned off. I also find, in this respect, that less is more. I like the UST that precedes the sex, and the personal development that accompanies it far more than details about the mechanics. My imagination is much more likely to work on its own, without the author spending pages explaining unnecessarily how Tab A went into Slot B. Even in books that otherwise fit my preferences, I tend to skim those parts.

This is not to say that I won’t enjoy sweet stories featuring the initial get-together or maybe the effect on one partner’s child, but as a rule these are quickly blurred in my memory into one long trail of sugar. If they’re well written they’ll get their three stars, but no more. Obviously, if a book meets my other criteria but is badly written it won’t make even the three star grade.

The romance plus books are the ones that make four or five stars in my memory and my reviews. Incidentally, five stars are usually reserved for books I would re-read. This cuts out most crime stories because they don’t work as well second time around.

There are the five star series like Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels, KJ Charles’ Magpie Lord or Kaje Harper’s Hidden Wolves. These do have crime, which adds to their interest, but the crime is not the absolute focus; the magic is (or werewolf society in the case of Hidden Wolves). Then there are the five star standalones like Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks with enough magic to make the pages sparkle, and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy with its piercing dissection of Indian society and politics. And of course Lord of the Rings, which is kind of ‘high romance’ in the mediaeval sense. My comfort reading is Georgette Heyer’s long list of Regency romances but I think it’s the focus on historical detail that makes them so memorable for me rather than the romance element. (Other comfort reading involves Pratchett’s Discworld and Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, both of which have varying degrees of romance but focus on social or historical issues.)

I’m sure some of you thoroughly enjoy the books I discard and find comfort in what I think of as saccharine reading. We all have different needs when it comes to fiction. My need is definitely for romance plus!

The Virgin and the Unicorn

The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally ‘live’!

At last! After some technical problems involving tearing my hair out (after going grey) and relying on wonderful friends, my novel The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Kian, son of a lord of the manor, finds himself with an arranged marriage to a foreign prince. The prince’s sister needs a unicorn horn for her dowry and Kian wonders if his only qualification is his virginity. (Same sex relationships are illegal in his home country.) The marriage brings problems faced by most newly wed couples alongside culture clash and the royal duties that take Alair from Kian’s side. It also brings court rivalries. Eventually, the unicorns of the title appear but are not quite as expected and Kian has no intention of parting one from its magnificent horn. So can the marriage survive, and will the princess ever get her dowry?

The buy links are as follows:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1101529

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FB1JC63

Serious thanks and lots of love to all my FB friends especially Tal Valante, Jackie Keswick and Gynn Silva (and Gynn’s cousin).

Oh, and it appears I need to subscribe to or buy a new version of Word. I think I’ll subscribe then I’ll never have this kind of chaos again. My current copy is 2013 and was state of the art when I bought it – so I suppose in this age of built-in obsolescence it has served me well till the last couple of weeks.

A new book is imminent!

I’m about to publish my latest novel: The Virgin and the Unicorn should be available towards the end of next week. It’s a story of arranged marriage and is a standalone but I’ve left room for a sequel featuring some of the minor characters in more prominent roles.

I’ve finished all the final proofreading, the formatting and the cover. I’ve been working on the blurb which I find harder than the initial novel writing. I’m also working on marketing, which is why I’m actually giving advance information this time!

I never realised, when I started out, just how much time is taken on all the peripheral aspects of publication; time that detracts from writing and that, to be honest, I don’t enjoy. I especially don’t enjoy marketing. It requires a totally different skill set from writing, and I just don’t have it! Besides, tagging and marketing are particularly hard, because although the novel does contain one major sex scene, it’s by no means erotica.

Here’s the blurb (which might have some changed details between now and the time when it appears on Amazon or Smashwords).

“I knew you needed a unicorn and I knew I was a virgin and…”

A same-sex marriage is arranged in a Regency-style alternate universe . Can a hard working prince find wedded bliss despite his duties? Does his sister really need a unicorn horn as her dowry and if so how can she get one? Will a young foreigner ever settle in his new country and accept his own family’s attitudes? Find out how Alair and Kian cope in this tale of discovery and romance. There’s only one explicit sex scene (the wedding night) but the discussions of sex and emotion are probably only suitable for adult readers. A full length novel that explores culture clash, social expectations, the problems that beset any young couple and a new slant on some mythical creatures which turn out to be very real.

And the cover, which won’t change other than to have slightly different sizing for the different sites, is the header picture for this post.