Jigs and Reels – Giveaway!

Hi everyone! Who here loves free stuff?

Jigs and Reels has been out for a whole week already! Woohoo! To celebrate, I’m giving away two ebook copies of my story through Rafflecopter. Participate in any of the three entry options for a chance to win!



Publication Update – Jigs and Reels

Holy crap, guys, this is insanity!

A couple weeks ago, I submitted a short story to JMS Books, and within three days (THREE DAYS), they got back to me and offered me a contract for it. I’ve heard good things about JMS Books, so I accepted! My short story, Jigs and Reels, will be released in September! It features an anxious fiddle player, a rambunctious singer/flutist, and is set at/around a Renaissance fair.


You may remember a few months ago, I found out my flash fiction entry for the Queer Sci-fi contest, “Renewal,” was selected for inclusion in the anthology. Since then, I’ve been notified that it has received an Honorable Mention, meaning it scored in the top 25 of all entries! This is also awesome!

Jigs and Reels will be my first standalone piece, and I believe it’s going to be published before the QSF anthology, so it’s technically my first publication. My debut!


I’ve also been paying attention to submission calls for various publishers and I think I might submit something for one of NineStar press’s calls. Short stories seem to be doing well for me.

I may eventually self-publish a short story collection. I’ve written several recently which are less than 10k, which means virtually no publisher wants them except for anthologies, which generally have a theme, which my stories probably don’t fit into. We’ll see about that.

For now, I am QUITE content with what I’ve accomplished this year. I will announce a publication date for Jigs and Reels as soon as I know it. For now, it’s “September.” Stay tuned for more updates in the future!

Basic Tips for Beta Readers

A while back, I wrote a thread on Twitter with some quick tips on beta reading. I’m going to expand on this a little bit here.

First off, let’s get some terminology straightened out.

Beta reader – Your job as a beta reader is to tell the writer overall thoughts, point out areas where you didn’t follow the story or understand the characters’ motivations, and express opinions on style (for example, alternating POVs making it difficult to keep track of characters, certain chunks of the story being written as text messages made plot hard to follow, dialects and slang being confusing). As a beta reader, you don’t have to be a writer yourself, you just have to enjoy reading (and be familiar with the genre the writer is asking you to beta).

CP/Critique partner – Usually another writer of similar or higher skill. As a critique partner, you may want to trade your writing for theirs and ask for a critique in return. A CP should be able to give more in-depth feedback than just general impressions, and should be able to give advice on how to fix issues. Being a CP implies a more lengthy relationship than just a simple “read this when I’m done with it.” As a CP, you may engage in back-and-forth discussion and brainstorming about each others’ works.

Editor – Editors are the ones who polish up your manuscript after you’re pretty much done with it. They’ll check grammar, punctuation, and style. Where a beta reader and a CP will do what they do for free (or in exchange for critiques on their own work), an editor should be a professional who gets paid.

How does one become a beta reader? You can either advertise yourself, or keep an eye on authors’ social media to see when they ask for betas. Before you agree to beta, you should be aware of the manuscript’s genre, length, and the writer’s hoped-for turnaround time. If you’re going to advertise yourself, list what genres you’re willing to beta read (they should be genres you’ve read a lot of already, so you’re familiar with styles and tropes) and an estimate on how long it would take you to complete a book of average length for that genre (i.e., “I’m willing to beta romance novels. My turnaround for an average length romance is 2-3 weeks”). Keep in mind, beta readers are volunteers. Don’t overwhelm yourself.

So now that we have that cleared up, a general tip: use the comments feature in MS Word or Google Docs to insert thoughts and opinions as you go, if anything jumps out at you. Then, also write a summarizing few sentences or paragraph at the end with your overall impressions after finishing the manuscript.

Now, without further ado, here’s a list of do’s and do not’s for beginning beta readers.:

  1. DO pay attention to what the writer specifically asks you to pay attention to. If the writer says “Let me know if you think John’s breakdown in chapter 4 is over the top,” pay particular attention to John and his breakdown in chapter 4. Write your thoughts on it as soon as you get to it, so you don’t forget to tell the writer what you thought.
  2. DO NOT make changes to anything, especially to stylistic things, especially if the novel is in first person. I had a beta reader who put my document in track changes and deleted every ellipses in the story with no explanation. That was neither helpful nor what I asked them to do, and all it did was annoy me. Those ellipses were a decision, not a mistake. If you notice that the writer uses a distracting amount of ellipses or frequently uses the wrong “too” or some other grammatical/stylistic thing bugs you or pulls you out of the story, definitely comment on that, but actually changing things like that is an editor’s job.
  3. DO give feedback on what you like and what does work just as much as you give feedback on anything you don’t like or doesn’t work. “No news is good news” is not how a writer’s brain works. They aren’t going to zero in on the 5 pages with negative comments and assume that the other 195 pages are good. If all they see are negatives, they’re going to assume it’s all bad. A general rule of thumb for feedback is to try to offer a positive for every negative. If you found my ellipses abuse distracting, balance that out by saying that my main character’s pop culture references were spot-on and made you laugh. As you read, use that comments function—even if it’s something as simple as “aww!” or “oh no!” it lets the writer know that their writing is evoking emotion, which is ultimately the goal of writing.
  4. DO NOT say “I don’t like this” or “I don’t think this works” and leave it at that. Why don’t you like it? Is the sentence confusing? Does the action seem to go against the character’s moral code? Similarly, if you read the whole manuscript and all you can say at the end is “I like it, good job,” you just wasted everyone’s time. I’m glad you liked it, but… what was the best part about it? What did you like most, so I can do more of that? And I know it’s not perfect. It can’t be. You mean there wasn’t a single point you didn’t like that I could improve upon?
  5. DO look for consistency issues and disappearing characters. If Aunt Sue seemed like she was going to be an important character back in chapter 2, but then we never see her again, that’s worth mentioning. If it’s the middle of winter and then two days pass and it’s suddenly summer, that’s worth mentioning. Writers tend to have brilliant ideas when they start writing, and then change time frames, delete characters, and forget about pets halfway through their writing process, but threads of those ideas might remain by accident. If you notice it, it’s worth mentioning.
  6. DO NOT be sarcastic or make jokes in your comments. This manuscript is a piece of the writer’s soul. Handle with care. There is no sarcasm font, and even the most well-meaning, lighthearted joke can damage the writer’s self-esteem and motivation. Reading feedback on a manuscript is one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. The writer is likely hyped up, nervous, cringing at every critique you provided. Don’t make a joke at the story’s expense. It’s not helpful.
  7. DO be nice, but don’t be too nice. No manuscript is perfect, and a writer can’t improve themselves if they’re only provided with positive feedback. You’re not doing anyone any favors by trying to spare the writer’s feelings. However, in the same vein…
  8. DO NOT be a dick. Don’t nit-pick, don’t decide you hate the manuscript and tear it down at every opportunity. If you start reading and realize that you don’t even want to finish the book, you may be better off reaching out to the writer, providing feedback on what you’ve read so far, and politely telling them why it’s not your cup of tea. Even that kind of feedback can be valuable.

Ultimately, your overall thoughts and feedback should include whether the characters felt real, whether the plot made sense, if there were any gaps or places you felt rushed, and anything else major you noticed. It’s also important to note that different writers may expect different things from their beta readers, and you should always ask if the writer has anything in particular they want you to do.

Another thing worth note is that you are working for free, just for the love of reading books. It is possible for the writer to expect more from you than you’re willing to provide. A beta reader is not a CP or an editor. A CP is usually a tit-for-tat kind of relationship, and an editor is usually paid. If the writer wants to call you a beta reader but expects you to edit their manuscript and you’re not okay with doing that for free, you’re allowed to step back. Beta readers are wonderful and amazing people and writers should appreciate them. As a writer, I’d like to say all writers are wonderful people who will treat you like gold, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. Beta reading for a person once doesn’t obligate you to read for them ever again.

I think that about covers it! I hope this helps some new beta readers, and maybe even some writers, to know what should go down during the beta reading process! Comment below if you have anything to add!

Writing Process, Step Two – Simmering and Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

notes 2

notes 1

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

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

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


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

“Write What You Know”

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

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

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

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

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

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

but its hard

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Writing M/M Romance – Why?

I am a straight[ish] married chick, and I write m/m romance. I recently asked for blog post topic suggestions on Twitter, and I had someone suggest/ask “Why m/m romance?”

This is a question I’ve seen thrown at other m/m romance authors, and it’s a question I’ve wondered about myself on a few occasions. Why are all my characters gay? Why am I, a straight-ish female, constantly writing about two men doin’ it? Why can’t I just write some nice straight m/f romance that my mother wouldn’t be shocked by?

To be honest, I can’t really answer the “why” of this. Why do all my characters end up gay? I don’t know, why do your characters end up straight? I don’t make an active choice for them to be gay, they just pop into my head and say, “Hey, lady, I like dick.” and I go, “Okay, let me create a handsome dick-bearing love interest for you, dear.”

I can tell you why I read m/m romance, and I suppose the “why” of writing it is the same, or at least partially so. I like to read m/m romance because 1) it’s hot, and 2) I enjoy the power dynamics in a m/m couple more than a m/f couple. M/M romance allows/forces men to be portrayed outside their “typical” gender roles, and I find that intriguing.

Let me start out with why I don’t read m/f romance. I hardly ever read fiction featuring a female protagonist in general. I have realized this about myself and am actively working to read more female-led fiction. As someone who calls herself a feminist, avoiding female protagonists is a huge character flaw of mine. I will probably never read m/f romance, but I want to read more female-led fantasy, scifi, urban fantasy, etc. “Why,” you may ask, “do you, as a woman, pointedly avoid female protagonists?”

Well, I’m trying not to anymore, like I said. But it’s hard. I have issues with female-led fiction. So often in writing, women fall into some kind of pigeonhole where no matter how tough they are, they need to be saved by a man. Or the second a man shows up, they’re overwhelmed with attraction to him and are suddenly not so tough anymore or are terribly misguided because of their feelings.

It’s bullshit. Maybe some women are that way. Maybe some women see a hot guy and suddenly can’t think of anything but boning him. I, personally, couldn’t care less about boning hot guys, and if I was a tough female protagonist, I would have better shit to do than swoon because a handsome muscular man swaggered into my life. Perhaps my strong aversion to female swooning is because I’m ace and don’t identify with the need/desire for sex. Perhaps what I need is asexual female protagonists. (know of any? throw me some recs in the comments. please.)

Oddly enough, I can handle this kind of behavior from a man… because this is not a male pigeonhole. Needing to be saved, being distraught with emotion, etc, are not typical male roles, and you don’t typically see them portrayed in straight male characters. Guys feel the need to act tough. Society drills that bullshit into their heads from a young age (“boys don’t cry,” “man up,” “be a tough guy”) Women are allowed/expected to be emotional and sensitive. When the couple does not involve a woman, there isn’t an “easy out” for emotional events to occur–in m/f couples, women are clearly the more emotional, so they clearly are the ones to start all the fights, cry over dumb shit, and force conversations to occur around tough topics. In m/m couples, these guys have to navigate the emotional waters of a relationship without the aid of an always-more-emotionally-aware woman.

This also leads to interesting power dynamics. In m/f couples, if the woman holds the power in a relationship, the guy is often seen as “whipped” or somehow weak for letting a woman have control over him. In m/m relationships, there’s no gender-related socially-imposed “power.” They’re both men, so they’re on equal footing in the eyes of society. I like that in m/m romance, men often struggle with figuring out the emotional aspects of relationships and that in order to be a healthy couple (which is the goal in romance, after all), they have to kick through that socially-imposed idea that men can’t be soft, can’t be emotional, can’t be “weak.”

So that’s my answer for why I write m/m romance, I suppose. Or at least, that’s my answer for why I read it. And I guess the fact that I read it is why I write it. I used to try to fight my characters, to make them straight. I did it for classes in high school and college. I still recall my high school creative writing teacher suggesting to me that I include more female characters in my writing… so I gave my MC a female love interest. And yet, every time I wrote a scene between the MC and the male antagonist, the damn antagonist flirted. Mercilessly. I kept writing what I call “character exploration” scenes (scenes that don’t make it into the novel, but are just hypothetical situations to see what shakes loose if I put the MC in this position) and no matter what happened, the antagonist and MC ended up hate-fucking and/or eventually falling into grudging love with each other. No matter what I did, they ended up a couple. I never did finish that novel. I have another novel I tried to write in college, a scifi story, and it contained a female love interest, and… I never finished it, either. I tried to do NaNoWriMo back in 2013 with a no-romance fantasy story, and I bet you can guess what happened with that one.

So I gave up. I write m/m romance, and that’s just all there is to it. My muse demands the dicks, and so my muse gets the dicks. You cannot deny the muse.

What do you guys write? Does it call to you with an irresistible urge and no matter what else you try to write, it just doesn’t work?



Well, my manuscript for Stray has received its first rejection!

I’m not disappointed (okay I’m a leeeetle bit disappointed, but not surprised). I was expecting a rejection. They even gave me some feedback!

I’ll treat you to a play-by-play of my emotional states as I went through this experience:

9:00pm – I see email in inbox. PANIC. Try to decide if I should just pretend I didn’t see it. That’ll make it go away right? No. No. You’re right. Okay. Need moral support. Send panicked message to friend. Friend demands I open it.

9:05pm – Nghhh. Rejection. Okay, this is okay, I expected this, it’s okay. Read the feedback.

9:10pm – Damn it. I should have revised more. I knew about one of these issues that they pointed out. I should have fixed it. It was not good enough. It is not good enough. I have failed. Dishonor on me, dishonor on my family, dishonor on my cow.


9:16pm – but…


9:18pm – *dejectedly stares at in-progress sequel to freshly-rejected book* but…


9:20pm – *buries the sadness under productivity… sorta*

I’ve spent the past few days in a state of contemplative blah, wondering if I should revise (AGAIN) before sending it off to the next place, or if I should just ship it away in its current state. One of the best writing teachers I’ve ever had advised me to send it off and see what the next place says, so that’s the plan now. I started re-researching other publishers last night. Torquere and Samhain are both closing, which I find alarming, especially after that All Romance debacle recently. The publishing industry is scary enough without publishers folding left and right. Torquere was the first m/m publisher I discovered when I started getting into this genre, so that one’s a double punch in the gut.

One of the great things about this rejection, though, is how positive everyone has been about it. I posted on Twitter and Facebook about it, and I have received so many “welcome to the club” sentiments and back-pats and encouraging words (from published authors!), I can’t even be a little bit sad (okay I can but I’m not letting it get to meI AM NOT LETTING IT GET TO ME I AM NOT).

I said when I started this blog that I wanted it to be a bit of a road map to publication. First stop was Dreamspinner and they rejected me. Next I make my meandering way down the list. I struggle because my book is lengthy (140,000ish words) and a few romance publishers seem to cap it at 120k. I’m disqualified from even attempting there. I am reluctant to try the really small presses after seeing longstanding ones flop. I am further limiting it if I look at the publisher’s Twitter page and they never post.

My list consists of three choices right now. I think they all allow simultaneous submissions (Dreamspinner doesn’t), so over the next couple weeks I’ll be putting together materials to ship Stray off to all of them at once. Might as well just rip off the band-aid. Let the rejections pour in upon me like a plague of frogs from heaven.