Alphabet Quirks, and meet Lou Hoffmann

Lou Hoffmann Icon-logo-square Here I am with my first Lou Hoffmann contribution to Authors Speak! Not to get too serious too soon, I thought I’d start with a few little bits of information about the English alphabet. Why? Just for fun! After that, I’ll tell you a bit about who I am and what I do, author-wise.

Alphabet Fact #1—Quirky

You know that funny looking thing called an ampersand? The one we sometimes call an “and sign” even though we know it’s officially an “ampersand?” Well it’s got a strange history, and at one time it was a letter in the alphabet. (Came after Z.) And it wasn’t called an ampersand. Not at all. It was, indeed, “and,” having started out as the latin word “et”, which means—you guessed it—“and.” In some fonts and articulations, you can clearly see the rounded E joined to the lower case t, sometimes upright, often slouching to one side. Baskerville italic ampersand 4880557608_d16c23e43e

So here’s the funny part. Think about, when you were a child in grade school and you learned to sing the ABCs. Did you think there was a letter called “elemeno”? I’m not about to confess, but I know for a fact quite a few school kids need to get that misconceptions sorted at a later date. The way “ampersand” became “ampersand,” is via the same route. I guess it was hard to sing “and and” at the end of the alphabet song, so the words were, “and per se and.” Eventually, so many kids had slaughtered the pronunciation that it all became one word. Makes you wonder if someday we’ll find the elemeno key on our laptops. (Wonder what that would look like….)

Alphabet Fact #2—Historical

Do you know where our letters come from? The most immediate ancestors of the characters in the English alphabet are Latin letters (as for ampersand), and futhark.

No, really, futhark. That’s a thing. A runic alphabet, to be more precise. When you hear people talking about casting the runes and so forth, usually they mean futhark. (In reality there are other and older runic alphabets, and most of the time they were used for very mundane things such as recording events, making signs, writing lists, and—oddly enough—poems about giants who were mean to women.) One of the most recently lost letters in the English alphabet is usually referred to as “thorn,” and if you think it was pronounced “th” you’re absolutely right. I have no idea why th took it’s place, although earl

Elder_futhark_rune_set_by_croppka
Elder_futhark_rune_set_by_croppka
y in its life, it did have a crossbar like t. Just in case you’re wondering, some people know pretty well how to write meaningful text in futhark, and if you have Microsoft Word, you have futhark in your symbols menu.

Tying these bits of alphabet trivia to introducing Lou Hoffmann, some of the character names in The Sun Child Chronicles series are derived from futhark runes. Prime examples: the wizard Thurlock (from thurisaz—another name for thorn—and kenaz), Isa (the rune is also called isa), and two of the young hero’s names, Perdhro and Mannatha, are indeed futhark runes as well.

Want to know a little about The Sun Child Chronicles? Click here to go to the Harmony Ink Catalog. And here’s a trailer for book one, Key of Behliseth.

Want to know a little about Lou Hoffmann? Here’s a brief bio:

Lou Hoffmann, a mother and grandmother now, has carried on her love affair with books for more than half a century, yet she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—at least partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman, Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.

Her blog: http://www.queerlyya.rainbow-gate.com

On Facebook as Lou Hoffmann, on Twitter: @Lou_Hoffmann. You can email her at louhoffmannbooks@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading! See you next month!

Sun Child new banner with CF logo

Panel Discussion at Fictional Badass Association Annual Convention 2016

Hello and welcome to my day on Authors Speak! Lou Sylvre and I decided to do something a little different this month. A few years ago Lou came up with a concept that featured a few of our characters in a panel discussion at the annual Fictional Badass Association convention. We’ve looked in on the 2013 and 2014, but weren’t able to to attend the convention in 2015.

Several of our characters are panelists again this year! Let’s sit in one of their panels.

Place: Emotion in Motion Convention Center, Noble and Sylvre room

Date: August 19, 2016  

Time: When many convention attendees have been drinking

Panel members: Luki Vasquez, Brian Harrison, Jonas Forge, Declan

Discussion topic: Modern Surveillance and Espionage Techniques for Human and Otherwise Operatives

Moderator: C. Auguste Dupin

Lucas Coate slips behind Declan and Forge. “Do you know who is in the audience?” He stands between them with a hand on each of their shoulders.

Brian leans around Declan and smirks. “My very handsome sub for one.” He nods in Jackie’s direction. “Looking good in that dark green suit.”

Jackie, front row center, then raises a hand and winks.

Brian mouths, “Behave, devil boy,” but doesn’t get more than a sly smile and chuckle out of Jackie.

“Stop interrupting!” Lucas sputters, and then points. “It’s Sherlock Holmes!”

Forge, interested but not the least bit excited, looks out over the audience. “He looks nothing like that guy from the new Star Trek.”

“Or Iron Man.” Luki adds. “Oh look, there’s Seeley Booth. Sonny thinks he’s “cute.” (He uses air quotes, catches himself and pretends he was only fixing his curls). “Personally, I didn’t think he was real. Now that I know he is, he’d better watch his shit around Sonny. Hi, husband.” He waves to Sonny James, who is sitting three rows back with Forge’s husband, Blair, but still might have been able to read his Luki’s lips. Sonny puts a hand on his hip and raises his eyebrows—a clear warning, which Luki pretends he didn’t see.

“Hmm…Lucas also ‘claims’ to be a fan of that show. He does a running commentary on their pathological investigative techniques.” Declan looks at Lucas. “Yes, I gave away your fanboy secret.”

“Booth is a good G-man,” Forge adds and Brian nods.

Auguste Dupin takes his place behind the podium and taps the microphone a few times, sending a high pitched squeal through the room. A few attendees slap their hands over their ears. A few others take long drinks for plastic cups full of… uh, “water.”

Blair Turner leaves his seat beside Sonny and Jackie and steps onto the stage a second later. He makes some adjustments to the mic, and smiles at C. Auguste. “Big fan, sir. That should work now.”

Dupin gives Blair one slight nod. “You’re a life-saver and a very astute young man.” He eyes the microphone suspiciously. “Infernal device.”

“Yes he is,” Forge chimes in. Blair blushes and returns to his seat.

Jackie gives him a thumbs up and grins. “They’re nothing without us.”

Blair nods. “True.”

“Behind every good Brian Harrison is a me,” Jackie adds, laughing.

“Behind every good detective is his tech guy,” Blair adds, pointing to himself.

Auguste clears his throat and speaks into the microphone again. “If we could get started.”

There is a bit of shuffling in the audience as Lucas makes his way down a row to an empty seat. He leans close to the man on his right. “You’re Ellery Queen.” Whispering loudly, he says, “Declan, look I’m next to Ellery Queen!”

Declan shifts in his chair, looks at the podium and sips his water.

Forge nudges Luki’s elbow and points to Declan. “Deadly assassin of the night.” Then he motions with one finger to Lucas Coate. “And his soul mate, Lucas.”

“Werewolves are very outgoing,” Luki observes, and Forge arches an eyebrow and nods.

Dupin gives them a dirty look and raises his voice. “As I was saying, this is a panel discussion on modern surveillance techniques for human and non-human investigators.” He motions to Forge and Declan. “We have with us today two vampire representatives from the Vampire Guard. Declan specializes in undercover—”

“He’s great under the covers,” Lucas chimes in. Forge covers his mouth with one hand and coughs while Declan shakes his head, rubbing his forehead.

“—undercover and has chameleon like abilities to infiltrate a target gang. Jonas Forge is a prior homicide detective turned covert operative.” Dupin then motions toward Brian. “The human panelists are Mr. Harrison, formerly an inspector with Scotland Yard, and last but certainly not least is Mr. Luki Vasquez, founder and CEO of Vasquez Security.”

Forge leans toward Declan. “Dupin looks hungry, don’t you think?” When Declan doesn’t even look at him, Forge shakes his head. “Maybe it’s me. I’m hungry. You know, my luggage was lost, with all my supplies.”

“You’re always hungry,” Declan states and slides a bowl of peanuts toward Forge. “Have a snack. I told you I have extra blood packets and will give you one later.”

“Declan,” Forge begins, making a motion with his hand to indicate Declan should quiet down. “Mr. Dupin is trying to get the panel started.”

Declan snorts and shakes his head.

“Good luck with that,” Luki says. “I hear the guy hardly ever leaves his house. And he writes poetry. I hope he doesn’t have anything like a recital planned.”

Sonny James stands up, eyes blazing as he makes his way out of the row of seats toward the stage. Luki believes Sonny’s eyes and ears should be studied by science. Sonny can hear a whisper two states away.

“Man, your hearing is good. Are you sure you’re not a vampire?” Lucas asks as Sonny storms by him.

“Luki Vasquez! I am surprised at you,” Sonny says once he’s planted himself on the stage, one hand on his hip, the other protectively on Dupin’s shoulder. “I’m sure you could manage to be civil. I’d like to remind you that Monsieur Dupin has been a fictional human detective for almost two centuries. You are a babe in the woods!”

Luki hangs his head and mumbles, “Sorry.”

“Don’t mope, husband. You know I love you. Just try to be nice, please.”

Mercí, Monsieur James,” Dupin says. “I am gratified, but not surprised by your gallant errantry in quieting the voices of those who, by means of nonsensical puns, would stand in the way of my effort to encourage discourse upon the superior analytic powers of the fictional detective, human and otherwise, such as myself, Monsieur Holmes”—he nods toward that gentleman in the audience and receives a smug nod on return—“and allegedly those four with whom I share the honor of this venerable stage.”

Sonny nods enthusiastically, mostly happy that the sentence had at last come to an end. As he begins to move off the stage toward his seat, he can’t help but reflect upon the vast difference between this man’s moderator style and that of Frodo Baggins, who took the chair in 2014.

Dupin said, “He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Théâtre des Variétés.”

Sonny stops, “Wha…?”

“Mr. Baggins,” Dupin explains. “And those are the same words I long ago spoke to my friend in Paris, as recorded by that illustrious man of the pen, Edgar Allan Poe, which caused him—my friend, that is—to ask me how I deduced that he was thinking about Chantilly. I will now elucidate the manner in which I arrived at the knowledge that you were thinking of—”

Sonny smiles and says, “Oh, no. Please, that’s fine,” while hurrying off the stage.

Declan comments to Forge, “Jackie Vasquez stands out in a crowd. He’s quite stunning and his heartbeat is very steady. You know, with training, if he was turned and acquired a soul mate he’d make a fine agent for The Guard.”

Brian turns immediately toward Declan, prepared to fight even a vampire to protect his lover, sub, and—he hopes—soon to be fiancé.

Luki stands up—which gets everyone’s attention excepting Sonny and those in the audience who have fallen asleep. “Let’s talk about guns!”

“I love guns!” Forge jumps in immediately. “I rarely have to use them—” his eyes turn solid blue and his fangs drop for a few seconds before he appears human again. “—but when I do I—”

“He’s trying to say he likes the big guns,” Blair pipes up from the audience. When everyone turns to look at him he blushes deep red. “Um, I mean, you know, rifles and not the little ones.” He sinks down in his seat.

“But when I do, I appreciate a good, solid, state of the art firearm,” Forge finishes.

“Perhaps you could expound upon the ever changing and fascinating subject of how, in this day and age of almost magical means of espionage that uses more than simply pen and paper, a keen eye and sharp wit to follow and apprehend a vile perpetrator?” Dupin asked.

Brian leans closer to Forge. “Do you think he’s finished his question? Seems short for him.”

Forge shrugs and Declan stands up. “Bon après-midi Monsieur Dupin.” Then he repeats in English, “Good afternoon, Mr. Dupin.”

Dupin’s face lights up. “You speak French!”

Declan bows slightly. “I was born in Paris in 1721.”

“Actually he’s nobility, Marquis de—” Forge stops talking abruptly and reaches down to grab at his foot Declan has just stomped on.

“I prefer the name Declan.”

“He’s killed for less than knowing his real name,” Lucas and Blair chime from the audience.

“Like a damn demon,” Forge grumbles. “Can’t know my real name.”

Brian Harrison leans forward and covers his face, trying desperately to stop the laughter he’s consumed with.

“As I was saying,” Declan raises his voice ever so slightly. “We vampires have an advantage because our hearing is so sensitive, electronic means are often unnecessary.”

“And don’t forget the ninja fast moves,” Lucas adds. He nudges Ellery Queen and points to Declan. “Those vamps can move so fast it’s like they’re here one second and there the next.”

“That’s because we are,” Forge says.

“That must be handy,” Brian says and Forge nods.

Luki says, defensively, “I’m fast!”

Sonny is looking down at his program, and it’s not clear he’s even aware he speaks aloud. “Yup! Fast is the word. Wham bam.”

All eyes turn toward Luki, whose mouth is hanging open. He wipes sudden sweat from his brow. “Not that kind of wham bam. That isn’t what he meant! Sonny, baby, tell them that isn’t what you meant.”

Sonny looks up from his program, confused, and then gets a horrified look on his face. “No! No that is not at all what I meant. I mean… Sorry, husband!”

Sonny looks so miserable, and Luki loves him so much, so he ignores his own mortification. “Never mind, sweetie. It’s okay. I don’t care what they think anyway.”

The other panelists, most of the audience, and even Dupin chorus, “Aaaawww.”

Luki says, “So about those guns. I myself far prefer Sig for a handgun. I had a pretty little Beretta once, but… one terrible day I saw Sonny holding it to someone’s head. Lost its charm.”

Brian perks up. Here’s a subject he doesn’t mind talking about. “Man, when I was working in England, no guns! Imagine being a cop investigating murders in a metropolis with 10,000 dark alleys, and no gun!”

“Mr. Harrison, getting vampire skills is simply a matter of being turned. Then not having a gun will be far less a problem,” Declan points out. “If you’re interested…”

Brian seems to consider it for a few seconds before Luki and Jackie say sternly, “No.”

“Now that I’m going back to work for you Luki, things will be different.”

“Not too terribly different, I hope, Brian. You’ll be behind a desk at least half the time, and we rarely have to shoot anybody for a client. Although I did once have to shoot the client… But that’s a tale for another time. Still have your uncle’s Colt?”

“Of course. Damn fine gun,” Brian says.

Forge says, “To heck with handguns. I never use a gun in any situation that requires less than an M16.”

Luki laughs, and shakes his head. “You do know I’m former ATF, right? Still have ties…”

Not at all worried, Forge shrugs and says, “Bring it, man!” He flashes his detective’s badge with the word retired across the bottom.

Meanwhile, Dupin has been fidgeting at the podium and occasionally wiping his increasingly sweaty brow. He’s tried to interrupt, saying “S-s-sirs” several times, but none of the panelists have noticed.

Fortunately, Jackie and Blair have seen him, and they apparently both empathize. “Hey,” they both say, almost simultaneously.

All the panelists close their mouths and look toward the men in the audience.

Jackie continues. “Mr. Dupin has been trying to get your attention”—he stops, and in a fair imitation of his uncle Sonny, puts his hands on his hips and emphasizes the next word especially for Brian’s benefit “—Sir!’

Blair says, “Yeah, Forge. What he said.”

Sherlock Holmes stands, puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’ve deduced, Misters Forge and Harrison, that your respective lovers….”

Luki interrupts, “Is Watson here, Mr. Holmes? He knows a little something about guns.”

Dupin gets right up on top of the microphone and says, “Gentlemen! Here is a question from the audience.” Everyone is shocked into silence by the fact that the man asserted himself, so he continues. “Guns are fine in a confrontation, but you are supposed to be detectives. What are your favorite tools of detection?”

Brian says, “Internet.”

Forge says, “Superhuman strength and speed combined with extremely sensitive hearing. I can tell if someone is lying by how their heartbeat changes.”

Declan speaks authoritatively. “I’ve been around a long while; hard to put anything over on me since I’ve been a student of human behavior for a very long time. Plus, my senses are so sharp I just heard that guy in last row surreptitiously scratch his…” He holds Luki’s watch out to him and smiles mischievously. “And I can catch a thief because I am one.”

Luki has been looking thoughtful, chewing his lip while the others were speaking. The answer comes to him in just that moment, and he blurts it out. “Jude!” Then he rolls his eyes at Declan and snatches his watch.

Brian nods knowingly, but Dupin, Forge, and Declan ask together, “Jude?”

Luki says, “Yes. Jude. My office admin. She can do anything.”

Dupin gets up close to the mic again, as if about to assert control over the suddenly guffawing crowd, but a woman with “STAFF” on the back of her shirt comes in, steps onto the stage, and over to the mic.

“Lara Croft, Tomb Raider,” Brian exclaims. “Speaking of badass!”

But no one is listening. Ms. Croft has thanked Dupin and the panel for the “uh… ahem… enlightening discussion,” and the audience, it seems is racing en masse to get a table at the bar.

~|~|~|~|~|~|~|~

The Gents:

Sonny James & Luki Vasquez

VJ bundle new cover

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

 

 

 

 

Brian Harrison & Jackie Vasquez

A Shot of J&B 400x600

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

 

 

 

 

Jonas Forge & Blair Turner; Declan and Lucas Coate

o-code-name-jack-rabbit

DSP Publications

Amazon

 

 

 

 

180180 icon copy

Dreamspinner Press

 Amazon  

 

 

 

Until next month

Elizabeth Noble

nerw logo EN 61915 copy

 

Let it Go: Perfection is Killing Your Craft by Sarah Madison

Hello! Sarah Madison here. I apologize for recycling another blog post. I wrote this a while back for a book tour. I think a maybe handful of people read it then, but I think it’s worth sharing again. 🙂 At the moment, I’m at Writer’s Police Academy! I hope to have some interesting things to share on my return.

For now, I’d like to talk about one of the most destructive things possible to the writing process.

SnowHawkeye-resized_zps4d715482 - Copy

Most people who follow me on Facebook or on my website know I’m a huge Frozen fan. I’ve written several blog posts on the subject, most particularly why a Disney movie could speak so strongly to a middle-aged woman. I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that many of us live lives like Elsa, hiding our inner powers because we’ve been taught to conform, to fit it, to ‘be the good girl you always have to be.’ That we followed the rules, worked hard, did what we were told, and frequently got bupkis for our efforts. In that post, I listed a number of things I needed to let go of in order to stop binding myself to the same narrative in my life.

But I forgot one important thing.

I forgot to let go of the notion of perfection.

I think perfectionism goes hand in hand with the mindset I’ve described above, of always trying to be the Good Girl, the Perfect Girl, the one our parents urged us to be. I could make this blog post all about the pros and cons of trying to instill certain traits in our children, but that’s not what this is about. No, what I’m talking about now is how perfectionism is the deadly enemy of creativity.

snow-1405421-1280x960

In any other era, I’d probably still be an unpublished author, but the digital age has been kind to me. I’d been writing fanfiction for years when a friend encouraged me to write and submit original fiction for publication. To my surprise, my stories were accepted! I dashed off three or four more stories that were all accepted as well before it suddenly hit me. Oh crap. I was a published author. Did I even know what I was doing?

A lot of well-meaning friends gifted me with books on writing, and I adore them for encouraging me in my dream, but the more I read, the more I discovered I was doing it all wrong. Mortified, I took online courses, read more books, and found a great critique group. I continued to write, but I was no longer pumping out a novella a month. I began to doubt my ability, and I cringed when I re-read older works. Worse, I developed a Critical Voice in my head that made it nearly impossible to read anything without automatically correcting it, even beloved stories I’d re-read time and time again.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I wanted each story to be better than the last, which is a laudable goal, but it can stymie you when you are trying to write a scene for the first time. I thought I was producing better stories, only to have them shredded by editors who found fault with things I’d accepted as appropriate styles my entire life. For the last eight months, I’ve been re-writing the same five chapters in a new-for-me genre because it is so very important to me to get the main character right. And yet all I’m doing is smudging the paper with my erasures and re-writing of words until I have nothing but a grubby, pedantic mess on my hands. I need to either finish it or kill it. Either way, I need to move on.

The main problem is I forgot some of the basic tenants of writing.

  1. Let it Go Part 1: Write for yourself first. Write the story you want to tell. Write the story you’d want to read. Have fun with it. Stop expecting each new story to be THE story, the breakout novel that will rocket you to the bestseller list and solve your financial woes. If you’re not having fun with the story, no one else will either. This is not to say writing isn’t hard work; just that the end product should be something you enjoy.
  2. Let it Go Part 2: You want to throw every ridiculous trope into the story? Rainbow-colored Ninja Kittens with hearts of gold shooting fireballs with their eyes as they save the day? Go for it. Chances are, you won’t keep that first incarnation, but it might just morph into a less-impossible character that everyone will love. Most of my stories begin as hopelessly Harlequinesque sappy stories that I gradually mold into something less improbable. Why? Because we love tropes for a reason. Don’t be afraid to put the things you love into a story. Chances are, someone else will love it too.
  3. Let it Go Part 3: Ignore the Critical Voice that tells you this sentence isn’t perfect and tries to hold you in place before letting you move on. Words are like Doritos—you can make more! You aren’t limited to a set number and you’re allowed to cut, paste, delete, alter, and add on in the next draft. First drafts ARE rubbish. No one expects them to be otherwise. If you think typing The End on a first draft means you can breathe a sigh of relief and mark your job as done, you are wrong. You’ve just reached a stopping point where you can camp for a while and catch your breath.
  4. Let it Go Part 4: After you’ve sent your draft to beta readers, after you’ve cleaned it up to the best of your ability, stop polishing that gem and send it off to your editor. I don’t care if you’re self-published or not, you need a good editor. I personally do not think anyone should edit their own work. I don’t think you can be objective enough. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as an author was thinking that my best story was good enough as it stood. It wasn’t. You need someone who is going to make you ruthlessly trim and prune until your story is the best it can possibly be. The hard truth is that’s NOT you, or your BBFs, or your beta readers. Let the editor do his or her job. Don’t try to anticipate the editing process while you’re writing the story. That’s not the time to do it. The truth is, the more you do this, the better you’ll get. But it’s a little like the Force. You have to let it flow through you.
  5. Let it Go Part 5: Stop comparing yourself to others. On any given day, someone among my Facebook acquaintances appears to be receiving outstanding recognition for their efforts. They’re winning awards, or topping the charts, or they’ve been mentioned in glowing terms by some prestigious reviewer. It makes you feel small, doesn’t it? Like nothing you do matters. The truth of the matter is that whether you know it or not, someone is looking at YOUR achievements and wishing they had your luck, your talent, your ability. Be happy for the successes of others and remember it doesn’t affect your odds of the same. Self-doubt and self-sabotage are our biggest enemies. And perfectionism masks itself as something to strive for while in reality, it kills your story from within.

Give yourself permission not to be perfect. You’ll be astonished at how freeing this can be, not just in your writing, but in life as well.

Fool'sGold-200x300

My latest release, Fool’s Gold, is now available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. If you love horses and the thrill of the Olympic Games, you’ll love this story of second chances and lost loves!

 

Taking Chances by Charley Descoteaux

castle-1016717_640Hi there, Charley Descoteaux back for my monthly spot on Author’s Speak. Thanks for visiting and thanks, Lou, for not changing the locks after last month. 😉

Recently, a friend sent me an email about a contest she thought I should enter. I missed the window because I thought none of my books fit the guidelines but that got me thinking about the contests I have entered, and why. (It also forced me to wonder how I could forget the ethnicity of one of my own main characters, but I’m writing that off to Real Life Interference.) Contests are fun to enter, and I always find new books for my TBR pile. With the way 2016 has been going I’m not about to pass up anything fun.

circle-312343_1280

Earlier this year I entered the Twitter pitch contest #DVpit. In case you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t until the day before) #DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. Authors pitch their finished manuscripts in 140 characters or less and hope that an agent, editor, or publisher will favorite that tweet. Favoriting a tweet is an invitation to send the story,  to let the author know they want to read it.

My #DVpit pitches were favorited twice—which isn’t bad, considering I hadn’t had much time to prepare—by one agent and one publisher. The agent ultimately wasn’t interested but the publisher who liked the sound of my bisexual genderqueer Romance caught my attention and has since contracted a different story for publication early next year.

overcome-1403734_640

Last week I heard that #PitchWars 2016 was about to start so I checked it out  and ended up submitting my #DVpit story. The submission window has just closed so I probably won’t know if anyone wants to mentor my manuscript until the end of the month, but that’s not really the point. Sure, I’d love to land an agent and a deal with a Big Five publisher but the point is that I took a chance, ventured out of my comfort zone. That carries its own rewards. It’s been fun following the different #PitchWars hashtags (especially #PitchTease and #knowthementees) but I don’t really expect to be chosen from the pool of literally hundreds of entries.

castle-505878_640

The larger point of this post is that you never know what will happen when you take a chance. For authors, that could mean catching the attention of an agent or contracting a book with a new publisher. In life in general~the sky’s the limit.

pixabay_colorful-1191017_640

Next month I’ll be looking forward to the Gay Romance Northwest Meet-up (especially the panel on bisexual characters which I’ll be on with some awesome authors and editors) and Bi Visibility Day on the 23rd, so expect something non-monosexual in this space! In the meantime, let’s chat about what you’ve done to shake things up lately.

What chances have you taken lately? How have you pushed yourself to grow—or just to have a little fun?

Leave a comment here or catch up with me online & continue the conversation!

Blog   Twitter    Facebook

onlytherose

All photos used in this post are courtesy of the lovely folks at pixabay.com.

Shelly Davidson – Drama!

Good evening! This is Shelly Davidson and it’s time for my regular blog spot here at Authors Speak. First, I want to thank Lou for asking me to post monthly.

So far, I have written about Changes and Independence (Day). This month, I think I’d like to focus more on Drama.

Oh, come on. We all see it. Spend a few precious moments on Facebook and you will be inundated with drama. Particularly from writers. We do love a good drama. I mean, it’s our life’s blood, right? And many of us writers are active in the gay community and boy, talk about drama! I say this with the deepest respect. I love the drama but when can a little drama become too much?

We all have our friends lists. As authors, we probably also have our fan base (boy, that sounds weird to say!). Many of us have one page for our personal stuff and another for our business. Our readers don’t want to see pictures of our children doing goofy things and I know my straight, homophobic brother doesn’t want to see some of my pictorial inspirations for my writing.

Sometimes, though, the pages’ mix. People say things, others respond emotionally and not necessarily professionally and tempers flare. Reading through posts of others I have on my lists, I’m amazed at how quickly something can escalate and really become an issue. I’ve seen people hurt by personal comments or things taken out of text. I’ve seen people needing to take a Facebook break, just to separate themselves from the drama. I’ve seen people post truly personal things that honestly, I really didn’t need to know about.

I suppose my point is that you need to keep an eye on the whole picture, not one string of words. You need to remember how much that person or people really know about you or are they just people on your list. Remember who your audience is, whether you are on your personal site or your author site. Remember that words can hurt. You don’t have the addition of facial expressions or voice inflections to help with your intended message and just simple words can be dangerous. Watch your tone. The last thing anyone wants to do is to offend someone accidentally (and if your intent is to offend or hurt, stop reading now! You won’t understand).

Some people have way too much time on their hands. Some people just like to start trouble. And then there are those that believe everything they read and act on it rather than knowing the facts. If you have someone posting on your page who offends you, block them. Or call them on it. But most of all, don’t let it ruin you! So many times, it’s really not personal (unless it’s your momma – then you’d better listen!). Some people live to stir the pot and you don’t need that in your life. Facebook is a valuable social networking site that brings you into contact with people from all over the world who you would normally never have an opportunity to meet. It can also be a clever disguise form anyone to present themselves as what you want to see but in fact, have nothing but bad intentions. Be careful. Unless you know the person in reality (yes, much of Facebook is not real!), then be careful. Again, know your audience. Get personal only with those you trust completely. Read your posts before you hit enter and try to never type from emotion. Think!

If you’re a drama queen and go for that stuff, go for it! Personally, I haven’t got time for it. I have a supportive family, good job and friends, books to write, and can live without the drama.

Just be careful and always remember – delete, block and the power button all exist for a reason. If it gets to be too much, power down, curl up with a good book, and drink some hot chocolate. You’ll feel better for it.

United States Army ranger during the military operation

I am the proud author of Resurrection, a military M/M romance that deals with love, loss, and the aftermath of the war. It is available now through Amazon – (http://smarturl.it/ijekrp).

Excerpt:

Jamie couldn’t get the door closed fast enough as he sagged against it to the floor as the sounds of the helicopters took over. He seized his head between his fists as the mortar rounds and the gunfire erupted in his brain. He squeezed his eyes shut as his entire sensory system was taken over by the battle that lived in his head.

Links:

Web Site: https://sdavidsonauthor.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sdavidsonauthor/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30267756-resurrection

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@sdavidsonauthor

Email: sdavidsonauthor@earthlink.net

Take Note – Anne Barwell

Hi, it’s Anne Barwell back for my monthly blog on Authors Speak. Thanks again, Lou, for hosting me.

Last week a few of us at work took a Myers-Briggs personality test. I can’t remember exactly what four letters I came out with, but the end results were spot on: Reader, writer, and musician. I’m very much a reader, and work in a library, am a writer, and a musician. I taught music for ten years, it’s my minor in my BA, and one of the subjects in my BTeach. I played piano for church for many years, and also play violin for a local orchestra.

I usually write with music playing in the background, and often I’ll look up from what I’m doing and think that a particular song or piece of music reminds me of either a character or a story I’m writing. When that happens, I’ll jot the title down. The music I listen to isn’t usually a soundtrack to what I’m working on, but sometimes it’s more the feel of it to get in the right mood. For example I like listening to Michael Bublé when I write my WWII Echoes Rising series. Although he’s not a singer from the 1940s, he sings a lot of older songs, and it puts me in that mindset. Every time I hear ‘I See Fire’ by Ed Sheeran I think of dragons and A Knight to Remember, and Dancing in the Moonlight reminds me of Simon and Ben of The Sleepless City.

Music also tends to be a reoccurring theme in my writing. Several of my characters are musicians, and it’s played a part in a few of my books too.

I’m about to start the final copy edit for the 2nd edition of Winter Duet book 2 of my WII series Echoes Rising from DSPP Publications. Both Kit and Michel in that series are musicians, and I used quotes from Schubert’s Winterreise as part of the code phrases exchanged between members of the Resistance. I also love the idea of code in music, and played with that in the story too. Reese Dante did a wonderful cover for Winter Duet with the outline of a violin against a winter forest backdrop, and sheet music in the background.

Music also features quite extensively in On Wings of Song which begins with the Christmas truce in 1914 during WII, and then continues through to 1920. One of the main characters, Aiden, is a singer, and his music is an integral part of the plot. TL Bland caught the feel of the story perfectly with the sepia cover, and music in the background.

Here’s an excerpt from the story when Aiden sings during the Christmas Service during the Truce:

“I’ve seen it,” Aiden said quietly. “I wish to God I hadn’t.” He looked directly at Jochen. Jochen met Aiden’s gaze. He’d seen an echo of Conrad’s fire in Aiden when he’d talked about his music earlier that afternoon.

“Don’t die on the wire, Aiden.”

“I’ll try not to.” Aiden’s words were an empty promise. They both knew it, but what else was he going to say?

The red-haired man Aiden had spoken to about arranging the burials walked over to him. He too held a shovel, and he wiped perspiration from his brow despite the cold. “There’s going to be a combined service for the dead,” he told them. “In about ten minutes in no man’s land in front of the French trenches.”

As they made their way over, men were already beginning to gather, soldiers from opposite sides sitting together, conversation dwindling to a respectful silence. A British chaplain stood in front of them, a Bible in his hand, a German beside him. Jochen recognized him, although he didn’t know his name. The young man was only a few years older than Jochen and was studying for the ministry—would he ever get the chance to complete those studies?

Jochen and Aiden found somewhere to sit a few rows back from the front and joined the company of men. The German spoke first. “Vater unser, der du bist im Himmel. Geheiligt werde dein Name.

The British chaplain repeated the words in English. “Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.”

They then spoke a few words each, some from the Bible, the rest from their hearts. Their congregation was silent apart from a few quiet “amens.” Jochen saw a couple of men wipe tears away. He was close to it himself.

Finally the chaplain bowed his head in prayer. When he’d finished, he spoke quietly to the man who had come to stand next to him. It was Captain Williams. He nodded and looked over the crowd, his gaze fixing on Aiden.

Aiden must have guessed what Williams wanted. He inclined his head in response and then stood. Jochen glanced between the two men, confused. What did Williams expect Aiden to do?

“Aiden?” Jochen asked softly.

Aiden smiled at him and began to sing. “O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining….” He lifted his head, his voice strong and clear, each note building on the last to create something truly beautiful, something angelic. Aiden’s eyes shone; his body swayed slightly in time with the music. He was the music.

His audience sat in awe. Jochen could feel the emotion rippling through the men around him, tangible, as though he could reach out and touch it. He felt something inside himself reach out, wanting to be a part of it, to be carried along the wave of pure music, to grab it and never let go.

Although music isn’t reflected on the cover of Slow Dreaming the song of that name drives the storyline of my New Zealand set time travel novella. Jason, a time traveller, is haunted by a song almost remembered from a dream, but finds the truth behind it almost too late, when he meets Sean, a musician and songwriter who quickly becomes far more than just an assignment.

Finishing this post with an excerpt from that story:

“You’re a musician?” A familiar not-quite tune whispered to him. He ignored it.

“Yeah, although more of a songwriter than a performer.” Sean shrugged. “I doubt you’ve heard of me, although a couple of local bands are willing to play my stuff. I play keyboards for them on the occasional gig, too, when the usual guy is off sick or whatever.” He glanced toward his pile of papers, his mouth twisting into a half grimace, half-shy smile. “I’m working on a new one but having trouble getting it quite right. That happens sometimes, then when it’s the right time, it all falls into place. It drives me crazy until it does, though. I swear I eat, drink, and sleep the thing.”

“I’d love to hear what you’ve got so far.” Jason could have kicked himself for not taking the time to listen to the sound files attached to Sean’s dossier. However, it was Sean’s role at the café that was the focus of the assignment, not his music.

“That settles it.” Sean grinned. “I knew you were crazy with all your talk of hotness. Now you want to hear music composed by a guy you’ve only just met.” He schooled his face into a solemn expression. “I think that’s about the fourth sign of madness isn’t it? After all, for all you know my music could be really bad. How do you know you won’t lose your hearing and good taste for the rest of eternity?”

“And here I was thinking the fourth sign was being a true believer of the sanctity and healing properties of coffee,” Jason deadpanned.

Bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.

In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.

She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.

Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.

Links:
Blog: http://anne-barwell.livejournal.com/
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/115084832208481414034/posts
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4862410.Anne_Barwell
Dreamspinner Press Author Page:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/anne-barwell
DSP Publications Author Page:
https://www.dsppublications.com/authors/anne-barwell-49

The value of giving your opinion

So, right now, the United States is in a huge uproar. Our political system—which I will admit needs to be fixed—is getting worse by the day. This election cycle has been the most poisonous pile of vitriol I think I have ever witnessed in all the years I’ve been old enough to vote (and that’s not a few years!).

It’s very tempting to wade into the conversation and start throwing the
unfollow same verbal punches everyone else is. There is so much misogyny, racism, classism, and more going around that it at times makes me physically ill. I have unfriended and unfollowed more people during this election cycle than I can begin to comprehend.

And believe me, there are plenty of times I want to start yelling from the rooftops about my views. They are important. They are a part of me. However, that way just leads to disaster.

J. Scott Coatsworth wrote about this a little while back. He made good points that I can’t argue. We don’t like to see some of our favorite authors/artists/actors/whatever turn out to be douches because they’ve let their political views out and they’re exactly the opposite of ours (or worse, they call for violence against a group).
unfriendWe are as human as they rest of the world. We have views, ideals, needs and worries just like the rest of the population. In the M/M genre, we can feel safe about speaking about some things—gay rights, marriage equality—because if someone is patently against them, they probably don’t want to read my books, anyway. And that’s cool. We all remember that no book is universally liked (a fact I like to remind myself of when things get bad).

However, for the same reasons my readers don’t want to know the gory details of a surgery I need or how my body reacted to the lunch I had the postoptions

other day, they also don’t need to know every detail of my political stances. Even if they’re on the same general end of the political line as me, there are so many little things we can disagree on that it’s likely that one tiny detail I wouldn’t think is important might be the biggest thing ever to someone else.

The problem is, as an author, it’s not just that one reader I have to worry about. For the same reason we want readers to review, to tell their friends about our books, we have to be careful how we approach controversial topics. That one reader can just as easily talk to their friends about this too.

And let’s face it. The vast majority of us don’t make so much money that we don’t have to worry about that. Sure, Mel Gibson can be an anti-Semitic asshole. But he can afford to be. Me? A two-digit change in the number of books I sell can mean the difference between buying a medication or not.

635768801212005091-EPA-AUSTRALIA-MEL-GIBSON
“Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that… oops?” **

Now, not everyone is as politic (see what I did there?) as Scott was. Sometimes you get a fairly new author that (I might be generous here) might not realize just how much a ranty post can cost them—whether it’s about US (the current election) or UK (Brexit) politics or a more localized community concern—like pseudonyms and profile pictures. And rather than approaching it with the preface that, yes, it could cost me readers but it’s necessary, they just go off.

My advice? At the very least, until you have a pretty decent following –or don’t care how many books you sell—don’t bring politics onto your Facebook page, Twitter feed, blog, etc. If you have a private Facebook profile, that’s where you should put your opinions and views. Keep it to family, offline friends, etc. It’s not easy, I get that. Because of it, I’ve hovered over unfollow so much it isn’t funny. I’ve wanted to punch lights out, scream until I’m blue in the face, shake people. But the current political clime is going to do one of two things: fall apart completely (in which case, what my political opinions are won’t matter worth a damn) or the heat will cool off and we’ll all go back to discussing hot man-on-man sex.

So, before you share that post or write your rant, ask yourself this question:

Is it worth it?

Probably not.

**Photo credit: Paul Miller, EPA

Stop Talking About It

alternate-universes

This is an article I wrote a year or so ago for another blog. I’m cheating this month because I’m on the deadline train and I like the article and want to rewrite it a bit and re-share.

Hope that’s okay!

I wish there wasn’t a gay fiction category.

There are many reasons people read and write fiction of any genre with gay characters. My favorite type of story is not the one where the focus is on a character being gay. I love the story where the main character(s) just happen to be gay. Being gay shouldn’t be considered a character flaw so it stands to reason it shouldn’t be what defines a character.

I think it’s great when a book/TV show/movie has characters that also happen to be gay. Their sexual orientation doesn’t need to be the story line.

The Syfy Channel is an excellent example of doing just this. Yes, this is television, not books, however script writing is still writing and all movies/TV shows start out in a written form. LGBT representation is wide-spread in Syfy’s original programming. They don’t shout about it, or advertise it and the importance of the character is not the fact that he or she is gay or a lesbian or bi. These facts are one aspect of the many layers of a character.

One of the best examples of how Syfy channel has accomplished this is the show Warehouse 13 (great, fun show, give it a watch if you haven’t already). From the start the LGBT community has been represented. In season 3 they added a gay character to the regular cast, a former ATF agent, Steve Jinks…aka Jinks or Jinky on the show. He’s also a Buddhist and has recently ended a long term relationship with a man who is US Marshal (cha-ching).

Jinks is badass. He’s a wonderful, multi-layered character who also happens to be gay. He’s got an awesome story line that has nothing to do with his being gay. There is no real angsting over will the other characters accept him or not, which is refreshing. They take his being gay as just him. They are supportive when they have to work with Jink’s ex, asking if they should hate him, because they could do that. Later Jinks and his ex discuss what went wrong between them.

There is a second character, a woman HG Wells, and she’s openly bi. As with Jinks that’s not what is important about her character. She’s one of those good bad guys. The fact she’s bi comes out during her story line but isn’t the focus of her story. Her character has layers upon layers and they all come together to create a memorable, fascinating character.

Let’s not forget Caprica with a gay man who was an enforcer!

The Star Trek franchise is taking the same approach. From the first appearance Star Trek has always boldly gone… and they’re not stopping now. Hikaru Sulu, another badass character was recently revealed as gay. It’s not a big announcement, I understand there’s a family picture and some mention of his husband. How awesome is that? The focus is on the man and his part in the story, not who he goes to bed with at night.

These characters are treated like all the other characters on the show. They are what they are and their story lines is what is important. The focus of their character is what they do, not who they sleep with. I think that goes a long way in promoting the LGBT community in general.

There is certainly a place in literature for the coming out or coming of age traditional LGBT story and those stories need to be told. However, we must also have a place for this other type of story where there are gay characters but the story doesn’t revolve around that aspect of the characters.

Actor Morgan Freeman made a wonderful statement about Black History month that can also apply to LGBT people. He basically says to stop prejudice and bias we need to stop talking about it. The Syfy Channel, Star Trek franchise and publishers such as DSP Publications have done an amazing job of showing how to do just that.

“Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman.”– Morgan Freeman.

 

Visit Elizabeth Noble at her website.

Congratulations to our winner!

cropped-Authors-Speak-Icon.jpg
Our Authors Speak giveaway raffle is for July is over. We had a fair number of entries, and appreciate every one of them. Thank you so much for registering, following, and helping us spread the word. Jen CW is the lucky random winner of $15 in book money this time around. Let’s all yell the word at the top of our virtual lungs: Congratulations Jen!
congratulations bookshelf large  spectrum flickr goo ftuos 3330670980_dab9f6b5c8_z
logo_430714_web png

Sitting on the KU Fence

No dice

To KU or not KU–it’s a question I’ve been pondering for months now. I wrote a post about my ongoing waffling debate about whether or not to list with Kindle Unlimited, at the end of which I’d almost convinced myself not to do it. My reasons were varied–Amazon is paying authors based on a model of number of pages read: but they can’t accurately determine this number, nor can they keep scammers from playing the system to their advantage. The changing TOS is worrisome, as well as the feeling that even for those who say KU is working well for them, this is just a bubble that will collapse once Amazon owns the entire reading market.

Only, there’s that promise of a payout now… the notion that this story, if enrolled, might be the one that catches fire. That, because of Amazon’s aggressive promoting of KU stories over others, this story will be the one that helps pay the bills, brings new readers to your backlist, cures cancer, and will make everything better. Even though intellectually, I know I have a better chance of winning the lottery, it’s a very seductive idea.

Fool'sGold-200x300

So here’s the background: in 2012, I wrote a novella that was part of an anthology. I’d always wanted to go back and expand on the story, and finally in 2016, I got the chance. Because of its previous incarnation as a novella, I can’t submit the revised story to my usual publisher, which means self-publishing. Fine. No big deal. I’ve self-pubbed before, and while I don’t think it fits my current situation as well as working with a publisher, I recognize there might be a time when that changes, so I like the idea of keeping my hand in. Things change so rapidly in this business. What worked in 2013 is déclassé today.

which-way-1549661-1279x950

One of the big things that has changed is the notion that a stint on Kindle Unlimited is necessary to the success of a story these days. So as I am coming down to the wire with the release of Fool’s Gold (I only have the formatting left to do, and then I can upload the file), I’m looking at this decision once again.

A couple of new cautionary tales have come to my attention since I last toyed with this idea. This post is about an author who got notified by Amazon she’d been banned for life from publishing because the Zon believed she was guilty of manipulating page-clicks. Read the fine print on the post because according to Amazon, the company will hold you responsible for something a book promoting service you hire might do. Also, getting paid $1.50 for a 300 page book in KU is a bit disheartening, don’t you think? The only way KU can make up for undervaluing stories is to sell them to LOTS of people. But I digress…

This post is by an author who got the same warning letter from Amazon–only she also had someone steal her identity–and she can’t help but wonder if the two things were related: that in fact, someone deliberately ran up her KU numbers because they gained access to her bank account. Her advice was to keep close tabs on your sales through KU and alert Amazon to any unusual spikes before they came looking for you. The Digital Reader posted about similar cases, and concluded that until Amazon could distinguish innocent authors from scammers, the only way to be safe was for authors to pull their books from KU.

Whew. Not very encouraging, is it? I find myself having to weigh the risks of being permanently banned from Amazon as an author because my life is too hectic for me to watch my accounts like a hawk versus the whispers of that promised land of author recognition and financial success. The reality is neither scenario is likely to happen. And I can’t adequately say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to something I haven’t tried for myself. I don’t have high expectations for this story–I doubt seriously the average romance reader is going to fall hard for a story set in the world of competitive sport horses! So perhaps Fool’s Gold is the perfect guinea pig.

I’ll let you know.

Oh! I almost forgot–we’re running a Rafflecopter of prizes for signing up to follow the blog via email! Check out all the details here!

 

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and an extremely patient boyfriend. You can find her on the web at:

Website/Facebook/Twitter/Newsletter