Unreal Fiction

For the past few weeks I’ve been watching Psych (only a little behind the times) because I wanted something light that I wasn’t going to get super invested in (I’m in season 5 now). What I find interesting about the show is the levels of suspension of disbelieve it requires to watch it.

This is not a critique and analysis of Psych and what it portrayed accurately, but rather the attitude about accuracy and the suspension of disbelief in fiction, and here I’ll mostly be thinking of contemporary romance fiction as the genre with which I’m most familiar. We’ve all seen arguments about how accurate and factual a book should be, how much research an author should do, and how stories need to be grounded in reality (if they are contemporary fiction). I’ve even seen it argued that people will use these as tool in their own life, so we’re required to present the facts correctly.

To which a big part of me says…REALLY?

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely understand inaccuracies throwing a reader out of a story, and that is an important consideration. (Ask me about 99% of stories involving horses and people writing them that do not know what they’re talking about.) However, I question how real reality needs to be in fiction. Because the stories are made up (and the points don’t matter), does it matter if something is an accurate portrayal?

To some degree, I think stories have to be grounded in reality because of common knowledge (ie, if you ignore that World War Two happened, the reader isn’t likely to suspend disbelief that far). But for less common knowledge, or facts that toe the line of accuracy for sake of a good story–does it matter that the author diverged from reality?

Can you have a gay romance in a small town where the two mains are both out and proud and receive no backlash? Can you have a story take place in the “now” but ignore that the government is a horror movie and the world’s on fire if you wrote the book in 2020?

Yes, because it’s fiction. (And you can feel free to disagree, but you’re wrong ;P)

Going a step further (and circling back around), can you create a premise that is maybe not grounded in reality but still has its feet on the ground (like, say, a fake psychic solving a ton of cases for a local police station)? Can you fudge the laws of inheritance to create dramatic tension? Can you ignore the reality that half your cast shouldn’t have green eyes? Can you ignore that your uterus-having characters never have to deal with a period? Can you fudge that if someone actually missed work as much as the MC did because of story drama, they’d likely be fired?

Within reason, I say yes, as long as it’s not a glaring issue that will throw the average reader completely from the story and make them unable to suspend their disbelief. IE, the story could happen in a very similar parallel universe.

I’m not judging stories that purposefully keep their stories grounded in reality–props to them–but that shouldn’t make them inherently better in some way. Because these are fictional stories.

That said, the less you can diverge from reality in a book that is meant to take place in the real world’s present, the more real your story may feel. But I don’t think we should tell writers they can’t (shouldn’t) write that story about the professional Mennonite football player (who sends all his big bucks back to his community) and the love he finds along the way, as long as the author can sell the story to the reader.

(Please do not think this post means that I’m excusing stories for being all straight, cis, and white [which doesn’t properly express reality’s diversity]. There’s a difference between changing something for dramatic story telling and ignoring that gravity exists. But I’d also argue most of those stories aren’t actively deciding to ignore a fact and more are just showing their own bias/ignorance. Many of us need to do better. I’m also not trying to excuse stories that actively do harm to people, although that is a fuzzy line and a different debate.)

New Year, New…

If you’re anything like me, you don’t need the turning of a new year to make and break resolutions. But it’s nice to do it all together, isn’t it?

Yada, yada get fit.

Yada, yada watch less TV.

I’m continuing my “monthly goals” (which I hit only slightly more accurately than yearly ones!). I’m trying to up my writing word count and actually hit 120,000 in a year (or 10K a month). Not all those words are going to get published, and some of them are for other side projects not connected to my name, but writing is writing!

One serious goal is to submit The Miracle Man. Which means finally finishing revisions. Which I haven’t touched since….November? I’m a work in progress…

Currently I’ve been using my morning writing time to try to brainstorm the end of a different story (that is only 1/3 written) and takes place in the same world as Mark of the Familiar and Gift of the Familiar, but about a hundred and fifty years in the future (ie, our modern day, assuming similar timelines). I’m excited about this story and the characters (some of whom were not originally supposed to be as important as they are), but something’s hinky and I need to thinky.

So if anyone would like to wave their magic wand and resolve my issues, I’d much appreciate it.

Quietly writing…

Back in the beginning half of the year, I was working on a project I was super excited about. I was so excited, in fact, that I broke one of my cardinal rules: don’t talk too much about a project.

One of the reasons I have this rule is because it gives my audience expectations of something coming, and I don’t want to let anyone down. A few teases? People will likely forget. A tweet every day for a month? They’ll remember that (hopefully).

The other reason is the same reason I previously never outlined/plotted stories, and even now have to be very careful: if I know too much about the story, my brain decides the story has been told/heard/figured out and doesn’t need to be written. (I do not agree with my brain on this, but ultimate the brain wins.)

So a month of following a hashtag and answering questions about my story and plotting it out…

And I found a little plot hole in my planned outline, and I tried to think of a solution. And I thought and thought and eventually wore that story out in my brain. It’s not dead, I don’t think, but it’s also not in an exciting part of my brain where I have to write it down.

So I set it aside (and barely wrote for several months….), and when I started my new piece, I’ve said not a thing. I know it’s silly and superstitious, but that seems safer than risking it, right?

The new piece was mostly started on a lark, a “what would happen if I took this setting that takes place in a Victorian-esque world and put it in the modern day?” And I started writing, just throwing whatever I wanted at it. No plotting, just adding pieces as they came. Some plots have begun to appear, but I’m not thinking too far in advance.

It was supposed to be a straightforward “MC meets LI” story, but then the LI has this friend and the MC has a weird connection with the friend as well, so now I have no idea where these folk are taking me. This is a truly magical world 😀

So we’ll see where it goes, we’ll hope that I’ll be more diligent on working on my revisions, and if everyone could send me some positive vibes to get through this dark, cold season with my depression, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Random Is Good, Right?

A while back I had an idea for … something, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to develop into anything more than these few paragraphs, so I thought it’d be fun to share with you!


Black ooze seeped under the door. With it came a sharp, bitter tang that filled the air. Evelyn stared at it, entranced, until the scent crept into her mouth, bogging down her tongue. She scrunched her nose, stepped forward–mindful of the puddle–and pounded her fist on the door. “Kira! Kira, you better not be making a mess in there!”

The ooze shrank back under the door, leaving only its stink behind. 

Evelyn sighed. “Kira, what are you doing?”

No answer. 

Evelyn rolled her eyes. “I’m coming in!” 

She turned the handle and pushed the door. It creaked as it slowly swung open, the light from the hall doing little to break through the dark murk of the room. Evelyn sighed and reached for the wall just inside the door. “Kira, I’m going to turn on the light.”

“No!” Kira’s husky voice was pouty and petulant. “No light.”

Evelyn restrained another sigh. “Why not?”

The darkness slithered back, and the light from the open door was just enough to show a mass on the bed.

She stepped into the room, eyes on the bed. “Kira?”

Kira sighed, and the bedsprings sagged with the weight of the emotion. 

“Kira, what’s wrong?”

More slithering, and the shadows lurking deep in the corners and along the far wall faded, until the room was cast in the gray glow of a dark room lit by the light from the door. Evelyn waited, not wanting to intrude in Kira’s space but also running low on patience–and restraint on another sigh. “Kira.”

“I’m ugly,” Kira said, choking on the words like a sob was trapped in its throat.

Evelyn’s heart broke. “Oh darling, no, you’re not.” She moved into the room, mindful of the shadows spilling across the floor. By the time she sat on the bed, Kira had pulled its shadows in even tighter, making a dense physical form for Evelyn to side her arm around its not-quite-shoulders. She gave a little squeeze. “You’re perfect just the way you are.”


Hope you enjoyed this random little thing!

Nanowhomo?

So for April, I decided to take part (hypothetically) in Camp Nanowrimo, but instead of aiming for 50K, which just wasn’t going to happen in APRIL, I aimed to work on writerly stuff 30 minutes a day. So writing blog posts (good!), working on edits (if it happened!), and planning marketing stuff (er…) all were counted.

The problem became in the actual counting, because I started off strong and then just…sorta…lost count. Some days worked an hour, some days didn’t. Some days stared at the TV and pondered life.

So I haven’t gotten as much done as planned. (No one is surprised.) But I have worked on stuff!

My fantasy WIP is coming along slowly. I did some revision brainstorming for my light fantasy that’s in edits (which was supposed to be my focus this month. OOPS). I’m really contemplating character growth and pacing, so it has me a bit jammed. I got very much distracted by a submission call that I’m not going to finish in time, most likely.

And in less than a week, I’ll have Ties That Bind coming out! Which you can still preorder for 36% off!

For Chel, Tomlin, and Mathias, life is simple but good. They share a home and a love, and despite a few conflicts of personality, are happy. Mathias runs a magic shop, where he makes magic items and potions for his customers, and Tom is his familiar, helping supply his magic. Chel, who’s not magical, works at a bookshop and makes sure dinner is on the table for his lovers.

When Mathias suddenly comes down with a mysterious illness, Chel and Tomlin seek out answers. As Mathias’s familiar, Tomlin can sense that nothing is wrong with the magical parts of him, but when a trip to the doctor’s indicates nothing is wrong with him physically either, they start to worry.

Then Mathias collapses, and the search to find the truth becomes urgent.

Ties That Bind for Preorder!

I’m happy to announce that Ties That Bind is now up for preorder on Less Than Three Press’s site! The cover will be coming soon, and the book releases April 23.

For Chel, Tomlin, and Mathias, life is simple but good. They share a home and a love, and despite a few conflicts of personality, are happy. Mathias runs a magic shop, where he makes magic items and potions for his customers, and Tom is his familiar, helping supply his magic. Chel, who’s not magical, works at a bookshop and makes sure dinner is on the table for his lovers.

When Mathias suddenly comes down with a mysterious illness, Chel and Tomlin seek out answers. As Mathias’s familiar, Tomlin can sense that nothing is wrong with the magical parts of him, but when a trip to the doctor’s indicates nothing is wrong with him physically either, they start to worry.

Then Mathias collapses, and the search to find the truth becomes urgent.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me posting a lot about this story for the LGBTRelease tag. These boys are magical, and I hope you’ll join them on their little journey!

PS. I hate WordPress’s new “block” formatting, and eventually it’s going to force me to “update” and my entire site is going to look like shit, because it doesn’t translate anything well >.<

Happy New Year…

Do I get extra points for doing this post before the end of January? I think I should…

I’ve been keeping myself busy so far this year with my writing goals (10K again), revising goals (Just do it *swoosh*), reading goals (book a month, that sounds familiar…), and health goals (lose the extra weight I put on over the past few years).

Of course, I’m a writer so you can assume I’m mostly playing mindless app games, watching TV, and talking on social media about how I should be writing…

But I did do revisions on The Miracle Man, which I’m currently looking for a beta reader for:

I’m looking for a beta reader, focusing on pacing/plot issues, for a light fantasy m/m romance (light on magic, heavy on time spent in wagon traveling). 53K, would love feedback by end of month.

Email me if you’re interested!

Premise: A young man with a “knack” for fixing things, becomes apprentice to a miracle man in the hopes of learning how to heal people.

I also finished writing a 50+k contemporary that might never see the light of day (who knows), brainstormed a new fantasy story (disgruntled coworkers to lovers is a thing, right?), started brainstorming a second in the same world as Magic Runs Deep, and I’m reading The Left Hand of Darkness which is good but not light.

So I’m keeping busy. I guess it keeps me out of trouble 😉

Spring is pupping

So spring has kept me busy, as usual, with horses to ride and dogs to pet-sit. Plus I’ve been working on edits for HARD TRUTHS, an M/M contemporary that’s 75% sweet, cute nerds (one of whom is a tattooed biker) and 25% feelings. That’s nearly done, and I hope to be able to share more soon.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit of writer’s block. Every time I finish a project, it seems harder to get started on the next. In January I finished writing The Miracle Man and between edits, I managed to start and stop a few pieces, and eventually took two months to write (and submit) a 17K short story for an anthology. It didn’t get picked up for the anthology (which has limited space) but is going to be published as a standalone. Then I had a month where I barely wrote 1K. I was a bit of an emotional wreck, so I’m giving myself leeway there!

Then, after some discussion with my writers’ group, I decided to write a short story, which was what I spent May doing. That’s done and with the group for review. It’s only 6K, and it’s not the normal stuff I write (it’s the closest I’ve ever been to literary fiction), so if it gets published, it likely will be under a different name.

Then it was June and I was head off to pet-sit these trouble-makers. The mini-dachshund is Guiseppe and the corgi is Lillibet.

Meanwhile I struggled to come up with my next story, told myself I didn’t need to write immediately, but I wanted to! And so I just started writing a story (involving a dog, I can’t imagine why) and am letting it take the wheel. I’ve also been starting some brainstorming for revising (and adding a fair chunk) to a story I previously finished involving shifters (surprise, surprise). It’s part of a series (maybe), and I’d like to beef up the first in the series before continuing on.

So hopefully you’ll see some more of that as the year progresses. I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through!

A book release!

If you haven’t heard, Magic Runs Deep is now out in the world! It’s a fantasy with some sweet romance, hurt/comfort, plus mages, bear shifters, and war!

For the last five years, Veier has been chained to a king’s throne in his bear form. When a neighboring kingdom overthrows the crown, Veier’s imprisonment ends, but true freedom is not so easily earned. With blood on his hands, he needs someone with patience, strength, and trust to help him become the person he was before and prove to the invaders that he isn’t the monstrous king’s loyal pet.

Elrid, the invading king’s brother and a powerful mage, is everything Veier despises. He’s also the only thing between Veier and execution, because he thinks he can help Veier change from an aggressive bear shifter into a reasonable man. While the pair have a rough start, with long talks and mutual leaps of faith, they begin to care for each other.

However, the closer Veier gets to his freedom, the closer he is to losing Elrid. He must find balance in his heart and his life if he wishes to truly claim the freedom he’s been given — and the man he loves.

Let’s Talk About Expectations

There are many, many things to have expectations for/about in life, but this post is focusing on self-expectations, specifically in regards to goals/resolutions, because these are the expectations we have the most control over.

I set some goals for myself at the beginning of the year and by the second week of February I knew I’d built a pretty high mountain to climb. January went well. Book read, edits done, writing mark hit! Of course I also finished a book, so starting a new one was hard–immediately my word count plummeted. I finished edits, got beta reads, submitted the book…and immediately got developmental edits to do. While I was brainstorming how to fix February’s editing case. So my “edit a book a month” plummeted. Reading one book should be easy, right? But after reading all day, editing various books, and struggling to write, the last thing I wanted was another person’s words in my head. I read one page of a book and switched to another. Read a page of that and put it aside.

What I realized around the middle of the month, was that I might have burnt myself out by being too productive too fast. I need to reassess and adjust accordingly.

Revising: One book a month is kind of crazy, especially depending on how much work needs done. Especially since I edit for a living (duh, Alex). I think if  get 6 books revised this year, I’ll call it a win. It’s still going to be about 5 more books than I did last year!

Writing: Same basic 10K a month, but I think it’ll be a year-end goal of 120,000 instead, which will average out to 10K a month, which is pretty much how I looked back a 2017, so I think it’ll work.

Reading: I might need to “cheat” and read another volume of manga, but I do want to at least hit some of my titles on my to-read list. However, I also want to watch a bunch of anime shows (many of which are subtitles), so I’m giving myself flex here. Kind of a “we’ll see how it goes”. I know it sounds like I’m giving up, but it’s more a matter of “how much can I fit into my free time without feeling like it’s not fun anymore?”

The important thing, for me, is not thinking of the above changes as failing. Goals and resolutions should be flexible, especially in the beginning, so you can improve while also not killing yourself. Because once you start to fail, you give up. But if you lower the bar, then you might end up jumping just as high as you’d first planned, once the stress of failing is removed.