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!

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing!

i have no idea what im doing

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me use this gif to explain my writing process. It’s so accurate. I am totally winging this whole “writing” thing.

Some days, it really hits me how accurate that is.

This struck me recently while reading through the first draft of Trustfall, which I wrote during April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I can tell it needs work, but… fucked if I know what to do with it.

I thought I had an idea. I thought it was a great idea. It would require significant changes in the first half of the book, but it seemed brilliant!!! I wrote 400 words of notes about everything that would need to change in the first half in order to make this work. But then as I kept reading, I realized I did not like that idea. It wouldn’t work. It didn’t make sense. It wouldn’t fix things.

So now I’m back at square one. Having no idea what to do.

I’ve only written and revised one full novel in my life. It took me like three years to get it to a point where I thought maybe I was done revising and should start trying to publish it. Three years of “spend a couple months working on it, take six or eight months off, pick it up again later and revise again”… Ain’t no one got time for that now that I’m taking writing seriously and trying to publish. My goal for Camp Nanowrimo during July is to get this draft to a condition where I can send it to beta readers. Then I’ll probably wait 3-4 weeks for feedback from them (and write another short story or two in that time….) and revise again. Hoping to have it out to at least one publisher by the end of the year.

But I have no idea what I’m doing. No idea. At all. How do I fix this? I think I’ve figured out the problem (unclear character arc, entire first half of novel written during NaNoWriMo so it’s really, REALLY rough, and cute, but not overly exciting) but I am not sure of the solution. I guess I need to make Saul’s arc more clear? Make Alex’s struggle more difficult? So what do I do?? Add a scene? Change scenes? Remove scenes? Just flesh out scenes that are already there? rewrite the entire first half?!

This feels like someone dropped a calculus problem in front of me, told me the solution, but didn’t tell me how to get to it, and I have to write down the process of how to solve it. I HAVE NO IDEA. I GUESS I’LL JUST TRY A BUNCH OF SHIT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS! Except I have a time limit! One month! One month isn’t enough time to “try a bunch of things” with a novel.

I know, I know, self-imposing a deadline like that and pressuring myself is bad and leads to burnout. But I want to get it done.

I’m hoping for a flash of miraculous brilliance but not betting on it. How do you move forward when you have no idea how to move forward? Especially with revisions?

A Ray of Sunshine

THINGS have been happening in my brain and in my life lately, and I’m going to babble a little bit here about how I plan to proceed.

I created a Ko-fi and a Patreon (links at end of this post). I changed my name. I am starting a vlog. I changed my logo and kind of re-branded my entire online existence.

When I first got started online, less than a year ago, I was just trying to find a writing community and accept myself as a straight female writer of gay romance. I’ve been marketing myself as a “m/m romance writer and reader” on all my social media and such. But over the past six months, I have learned a number of things that form the basis for my new online presence:

  1. I’m not straight. Don’t ask me what I am. I don’t know.
  2. I’m asexual.
  3. I’m not exactly “female.” I’m some degree of non-binary. I go with “female-ish.” Technical term, there.
  5. Anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses are insanely prevalent. You don’t realize it IRL much because people don’t talk about it as openly as they do online.

So with those things in mind, I re-branded. I’m now Leigh M. Lorien, queer romance author–I am both a queer author, and an author of queer romance, so the tagline can be read both ways.

My most popular blog post so far has been the one I wrote about depression. So many people said “Thank you for writing this.” It crushed my heart. I am both glad I am not alone, and so very sad that so many other people feel the way I feel. It’s awful.

I want to do more of that, though. More of the things that people need. I want to address things that so many people feel, but perhaps cannot put into words.

That being said, I’m not going to blindside you all with sudden shouting about issues and cisnormativity and heteronormativity and all of that. That’s not my thing. That’s not me. No one fucking knows what those words mean, anyway.

I’m just going to talk. I’m not going to lecture or argue. I’m going to pick a topic–a book, a feeling, an event, something–and ramble and swear and get excited about it, because I am an excitable person. I am, hopefully, going to make you laugh. I’m going to create “adventure recap” videos for my patrons–I posted the first one publicly on my YouTube channel (video at the end of the post).

I just wanna be a goddamn ray of sunshine, you guys.  Remember my post from waaaaaaaaaaaay back ’round election time when I said Let’s Not Talk About Politics? Let’s focus on being lights.

That’s my goal. I just want to be a fucking sunbeam. I am a depressed and anxious mess but I am going to keep fucking going and I’m going to keep creating and I’m going to keep sharing, because people need voices who are willing to talk about the tough things.

My Patreon

My Ko-fi

Self care!

Sometimes, you just have a shit week.

I mean, my week wasn’t bad really. I got back to writing after two weeks off, so that was good. I got a handful of beta readers for my short story (I love you all), I went and saw a movie–ooh, and I started a Patreon!!! Check me out!

But overall, this past week just felt weird. Upon reflection, that is MOST LIKELY due to the fact that I ingested way too much caffeine and energy drinks, did not sleep much, and got sick because of it.

…Yeah probably.

So I’m going to write a quick blog post on self care.

You’re not invincible. Don’t pretend you are. I know you’re not. I know your secrets, friend.

I like to think I’m super healthy, super resilient, and impervious to illness. Turns out I am not. I am getting less healthy, less resilient, and less impervious to illness with every passing day. Here are a few things I need to remind myself of, which you may need to be reminded of as well:

  1. Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. Don’t stay up until 2am thinking “I’ll just chug a gallon of espresso/five energy drinks/a 24-pack of Coke at work in the morning and I’ll be fine.” Spoiler alert: You will not. You will not be fine. You will be miserable. Staying up late is not worth it.
  2. Exercise and sunshine are actually really important to human life. Go outside, for Christ’s sake. I know you have to write, but did you know that taking breaks actually increases your productivity? It does! So go outside. Walk a lap around the block. Sniff a flower. You’ll feel better when you return to your dank writing cave.
  3. Human interaction is healthy too. I KNOW you have to write, and I KNOW you talk to people on Twitter, but it’s not quite the same. Call someone. Go out for a drink or lunch or whatever people do these days.
  4. Eat actual food. GOLDFISH CRACKERS AND COKE ARE NOT A MEAL. Cookies aren’t breakfast! (I use these examples because I frequently eat Goldfish crackers for lunch, because I am an adult person and I make good life choices, clearly.)
  5. Write. You say you’re writing, but are you really just sitting there trading Tom Hiddleston gifs with your friends on Twitter? Because that is not writing. If you’re going to write, buckle down, focus up, and put words on the page. Set a reasonable goal, meet it, and THEN trade Hiddlesgifs.

That’s it. It’s halfway through the year and I assume most peoples’ best laid plans have gone flying out the window. I know mine have. Take a moment for self-care. Relax. It’s okay. You don’t need to stay up until 3am to get that scene done unless your deadline is 4am. Then maybe you should. But if not…… don’t. Take care of yourself, friends. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to run yourself into the ground trying to be productive.

I needed to write this to remind myself of these facts. I hope they help you, too!

Baby Steps! – Publication Update

Exciting news on the publication front! A few months ago I entered a flash fiction contest for queer scifi (contest info here).  My piece, “Green Burial,” has been selected for inclusion in the anthology to be published later this year!

Official contest winners have not been announced, so I may or may not hear more on this, but even if I don’t, I’m happy! This is small, but it’s publication, right?! This counts! I’m going to be published!


I told myself ages ago that when I got something accepted for publication, I’d get myself a new tattoo to celebrate/congratulate myself. I was thinking it would be, you know, a book publication and that I would make money from it, but flash fiction in an anthology is good too!

I’ve been craving a new tattoo, and since it is Pride month and I write queer fiction, I’m going to get a rainbow. I’m excited.

As for the rest of my publication journey, I am revising a short story (Jigs and Reels, if you want to browse my snippets from a few months ago – first lines here) and hoping to have it out to publishers by the end of the month. I’m thinking Nine Star might be my first shot. As soon as it’s out to publishers, I’m moving on to revising Trustfall, my D/s novel with an asexual MC.

On the backburner is a scifi novel tentatively called Dark Lies, which has been in my head for years and years but not as a romance. I need to rework it. I realized a few months ago that the love interest is trans, and realized last week that the MC is aro/ace, so that will be incredibly difficult and torturous FUN to write. I never realized how much I relied on sex scenes to keep plot moving until I wrote a whole novel without any. I love a challenge, though!

Also on the backburner, an entirely new novel idea which will end up being polyamorous, with one asexual partner. That one would be urban fantasy. Something about a curse and a cop on a magic-law-enforcement task force. I’d write this one in third person, I think, which I haven’t done in ages but with three MCs it’ll be hard to do in first.

One of those two will end up being my NaNoWriMo novel for November, unless I get an infinitely better idea before then. Both will require significant worldbuilding, which is not my strong suit, so I’m not planning to dive in to them in any hurry.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with my writing! Hopefully I’ll have more news in the coming months.

author announcement


I’m a pantser. It’s odd, because in life I can’t operate like that. I have to have a plan for everything that happens in real life. But for writing, plans make me anxious. I feel suffocated and restricted. There’re expectations, there’s pressure, there’re rules. Pantsing lets me follow my gut, lets the characters guide me, lets me experience surprises as I write!

However, after finishing my last draft, I think I’m going to try plotting my next novel.

When I pants things, I know generally how it starts, the largest obstacle, and how it ends. The excitement of getting to know the characters and figuring out their lives is usually enough to get me started, and then following them through their lives is enough to keep me going, but that excitement peters out if I hit too many snags. I keep going, because that’s what you do, but I start to hate it. I’m confused. I’m lost. I’m distracted. I just want to be done. The quality of the draft suffers because I am just so sick of writing it.

My last draft took eight weeks to write. I’d hoped to have it done in 4 or less, but I hit a snag, I got writer’s block, I went almost an entire week with no clue what I was supposed to be writing, I had to fight with it, it was awful.

From my understanding, plotting would minimize those periods of blockage because I would have some idea how I intended to proceed and I could refer back to it. I would go through those periods of confusion and creative constipation prior to the actual act of writing. Then, when I go to write, I would just…. write. No fighting. No fuss.

This is a beautiful concept.


As soon as my characters make a decision that throws me off the plotline I’ve created… the idea of having to step back and recalibrate my plotline instead of just plowing forward… seems awful. So then I start to think, “They’re not going to let me stick to it. Why should I even start one?”

I’ve plotted a few short stories and that went okay. For something small and restricted like that, I can manage a plotline because I have to make sure I don’t wander off he reserve. It’s short, so it needs to be succinct and powerful. The plotline is a couple pages long, if that.

The idea of plotting a novel is… eek. But I’m gonna give it a shot. However, I need your help!

I have no idea where to start. Link me some good plotting/planning resources in the comments and I’ll appreciate you greatly. 😉