Year End Recap

2013 was a big year for me.  And not in the least because my dream of become a published author finally came true.  More accurately, I finally got enough courage to actually submit something for consideration.  That was the biggest thing of all.  If Worth It hadn’t been accepted, I would have been beyond disappointed, but I still would have been proud of myself.  Because I’ve been writing for more than half my life and I’ve always wanted to be not just a writer, but an author.  But I never felt like I had written anything that was worthy of being out there for public consumption.

The first draft of Worth It was actually written over three days right after Christmas last year.  I only had one truly false start when I went to put the words on the page.  It had a different premise when I originally conceived the story.  But then that opening scene–the prologue–jumped into my brain.  I could see, with absolute clarity, Jack and Ryan standing in their special spot saying good-bye.  And once I got those words on the page, the rest of the story fell into place.  Don’t get me wrong; there was much agonizing and tweaking over the next few months.  For all that it was less that 9,000 words, it was my baby and I wanted it to be as good as I could make it.  And then, of course, there were several more weeks of not being able to bring myself to actually send it in to Dreamspinner.  I was scared and nervous; half of me certain it would be rejected and the other half brimming with confidence that it would be accepted.  It was quite a roller coaster ride.

And while I was waiting for news, I wrote Hero Worship.  The submission call had been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks and then suddenly, bam!, the beginning scene hit me out of nowhere.  Literally.  I was standing in the kitchen one morning before work, drinking my coffee, and I just saw it.  By the time I felt that that story was as ready as I could make it and was going to submit it, I heard back from Dreamspinner that they were going to publish Worth It in the Advent Calendar.  That by no means made it easier to send to the publisher, though.  But Hero Worship with be out in February, as part of the Dr. Feelgood anthology.

I participated in NaNoWriMo and successfully wrote 50,000 words in about ten days.  But what I learned from that experience is that I don’t work well with that method.  Even though Postcards needs to be rewritten, pretty much entirely, I have the bones of story to work with.  And I learned a great deal about the way I work as a writer.  And what I need to craft a story that I think is worth telling.  It’s on the back burner for now, but I will revisit it.  I will rewrite and polish and improve it.

But for now, I’m working on something new.  And that feels incredibly good.  The boys are talking to me, they are telling me their story, and I’m getting it on the page.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  About myself as a writer.  About the publishing process.  About edits and blurbs and just how much work goes into the whole thing.  I’ve grown as a person and as a writer.  I hope to continue to grow and change and learn and improve.  I’ll work hard to make sure that I do.

2013 was a good year for me.  I hope all of you out there can say the same.

Here’s wishing you a lovely and prosperous 2014!

Flash Fic Friday–Jack and Ryan–First Christmas Part 2

Naked, sweaty, and sated was one of my favorite looks on Ryan.  Lying on his back, his chest heaving as he caught his breath, the lights from the tree reflecting on his skin, he damn near took my breath away.  I’d never been gladder that I had installed radiant heating in the floors.  Though we were on the rug, it still would have been chilly to be naked without it.

My grin, I was sure, looked dopey on my face but I didn’t care.  He was here and he was staying.  “Now all you need is a bow and you’d be the perfect present under the tree.”

His smile was radiant as he tilted his head back to see that he was very nearly under the edge of the tree.  We’d started out farther away but things had gotten vigorous.  I hoped he didn’t have rug burn on his back.

Suddenly, Ryan shot up into a sitting position and only my quick jerk back saved his from knocking his head right into my chin.  “Presents!” he shouted.

I blinked.  “What?”

He was scrambling up and trying to find the clothes I had peeled him out of.  He found the sweatpants and started hopping into them.  “I left your present in the car.  I wasn’t sure—“ He cut himself off with a shake of the head.  “I need to go get it.  And, you know, maybe bring the car closer because I parked it where we used to.  I have to assume you have a driveway.”

I was stunned.  I hadn’t even given a thought to presents.  I hadn’t really expected him to show up, even though I had hoped he would.  Now I found myself woefully unprepared.  And panicking just a little.

Ryan dressed in record time and it wasn’t until he was shoving his feet into boots that I realized he was asking, again, if there was a driveway.  I absently told him how to find it from where he’d parked his car and then, before I realized it, he was out the front door.

For a long moment, I just sat there, stunned.  Then I stood up quickly and searched for clothes.  One thing was certain.  I was going to need pants.  I was sure that once I had them, my brain would start functioning again.

By the time Ryan returned, I was ready.  I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of it the instant he said presents but I could only blame the fact that he’d shocked the shit out of me with his announcement.  But once he was out the door, and I was dressed again, I realized I had the prefect gift for him.

He had a duffle bag with him that he dropped unceremoniously by the door before bending down and riffling through it.  A moment later, he straightened, holding a large, flat wrapped present in his hand.  Fleetingly, I wished I’d taken the time to wrap my box but then Ryan smiled and I realized it didn’t matter.

“You first,” he said, holding out the brightly wrapped package.  I took it from him and sat on the couch.  “I saw it in the store and… It was like a sign.  I was always coming back but when I saw it?”  He stopped and shrugged, a gentle smile gracing his lips.  “I knew.  It just said, ‘buy me and take me home to Jack.’  So I did.”

I removed the paper carefully and then gasped.  It was a large coffee table book with pictures of Christmas trees from all around the world.  I reverently flipped through the pages for several minutes.  The photos were gorgeous and each had a small caption on the bottom stating when and where the picture had been taken and the meaning of the traditions behind it.  It was a perfect gift.

“Do you like it?” Ryan asked quietly, his voice a little unsure.

“I love it,” I murmured.  Then reached up to cup his face in my hand, pulling him closer so that I could kiss him.  “It’s great.”

He released a relieved breath and sat down next to me, leaning against my side.  Carefully, I set the book down on the table in front of me, took a steadying breath, and gestured toward the box on the floor.  “That’s for you.”

Ryan gave me a slightly skeptical look.  “I thought you thought I wasn’t coming home.”

“Just open it,” I said gruffly.

He reached for it and pulled it closer before he lifted off the top.  Inside were six smaller boxes.  After a curious glance my way, he picked one up and started to open it while I held my breath.

It contained a tiny gnome; and not the creepy garden gnome variety.  No, this little guy had a green pointed hat, was standing next to a deer, and was made from ceramic.  He was meant to sit on a shelf.  Ryan stared at it, not saying a word, turning it over in his hands.

“Remember?  You dragged me to that craft fair that fall before—“I cut the sentence off there, not willing to mention our parting.  “There was a whole table of these little figurines. You said you thought they were adorable and you didn’t care how gay it made you, when you had your own house, you were going to have shelves dedicated to the little things.”

“I remember,” he whispered.

“I went back and got him the next day.  I was going to give him to you for Christmas but then…” I trailed off again with a shrug and tried not to blush my embarrassment.  “Then I went back the next year and that same booth was there.”

“There are six boxes in here,” Ryan said, his voice shaky as he set the gnome down on the table and reached for another box.

“Yeah,” I said.

He opened each one reverently, admiring it fully before he set it down next to the others and opening a new box.  He kept at it until all six figurines were arranged on the table.  He stared at them for a long time and I started to sweat.  I couldn’t see his face and I had no idea what he was thinking.

Finally, he cleared his throat though it didn’t seem to help because he sounded like he was speaking through tears. “I can’t believe you did this, Jack.”

Suddenly he turned fast and launched himself into my arms.  I held him tightly while his body trembled and he tried to get himself under control.

“You were always in my head, baby.  Always.  Even if I never got to see you again, this was something I could hold onto.  I know it’s kind of crazy—“

“No,” he said, interrupting me fast.  “This is the most thoughtful, wonderful thing anyone has ever done for me.”

I was stupidly pleased that I had made him so happy.  “New tradition.”

“What’s that?” Ryan asked, his voice muffled against my neck.

“After the coffee and kisses and the fucking by the tree?  That’s when you get to open your new gnome to add to your collection.”

The kisses that followed were wet with his tears but I knew they were the happy kind so that was just fine.

We Were On A Break

I sort of psyched myself out.

It happens.  The words and I were getting along too well and I had so much other going on in my life that we took a wee break from each other.  No big deal, right?  Only, I let the break go on too long and the doubts started to creep in.  And then I started getting that sinking discouraged feeling.  And then there was a spiral of bad and I couldn’t seem to sort anything out, let alone get any words on the page.  I couldn’t even put together  a cohernt thought for a blog post.  For a few minutes there, I was certain I was doomed for Titanic proportion disaster.

But eventually, I snapped out of it, said, “fuck that noise,” pulled up my big girl panties, and put some words on the page anyway.

It’s probably not gold.  In fact, it may just need a lot of work.  But that’s okay.  Because the words are going on the page and I have a new story and a new goal in mind.  And maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly what I needed to get out of my writing funk.

I have a billion and nine stories in my brain.  Some of the are worth the telling.  And finally, again, I’m attempting to tell them.

Flash Fic Friday

Jack and Ryan will be back next week to share with us what they got each other for Christmas.  Until then, enjoy this short about some of the perils of home renovation.  

“I can’t get it up!”

The twelve year old boy in me couldn’t help but laugh at that.  I bit my lip to keep it inside.  If he caught me laughing, he’d be pissed.

“I’m a man!” he shouted, indignant.  “I should be able to get this thing up!”

I pressed my knuckles against my mouth and turned my back to him.  I would not laugh out loud.  I wouldn’t.

“Oh, there it goes.  No!  Stop!  You’re supposed to stay up.  Once you go up, you stay up.  That’s what you do!”

I lost it.  The laugh burst from my throat like a mighty guffaw.  I had to press my hand against my side, I was laughing so hard.  It really shouldn’t be that funny.  But he was so put out and had no idea what he said.  Little boy humor still got to me, still made me laugh despite the fact that I should have outgrown it twenty years ago.

“Oh my God!  What is wrong with you?  This isn’t funny in the slightest.  The window doesn’t work.”

“Counter-“snort ”-weight’s-“ chuckle “-broken,” I managed to choke out.

He huffed and stamped his foot before he crossed the room to my side.  I reached out and pulled him in, but he kept his body stiff.  I tried to rein in my mirth for his sake.

“Remind me again why we bought this house?” he grumbled.

“You wanted it, so we bought it.  Because you said it was, and I quote, ‘too freaking cute.’”

“Well, it is that,” he mumbled, his body finally melting against mine.  I dropped a kiss on his head and he grunted.  “But it’s also a freaking money pit.  Knob and tube wiring, so all the electrical has to be replaced.  Poor insulation and crumbling sheetrock in practically every room.   The stairs creak.  The windows don’t open, or if they do, they don’t stay open.  The furnace is so old it barely heats the house.”

Everything he said was true.  But that didn’t mean that we should give up.  This was his dream home, he was just too upset at the moment to remember.  I’d just have to remind him.

“On the upside, it’s got copper pipes.  The plumbing is solid.”

He was silent for a moment, then reluctantly agreed.  “That’s true.”

“And all the beautiful hard wood floors?”

“After we refinish them, you mean.”

“Easy enough, though.  And hey, there’s the breakfast nook.”

“Which is just so damn adorable I can’t even stand it.”  He was trying to hold on to his annoyance but it was slipping fast.

“And what about the window seat in the bay window in the front room?”

He sighed and sagged against me, letting me take his weight because he knew I’d hold him up.  “I love the window seat.”

I put both my arms around him and hugged him tight.  Five years we’d been together and I still got a tiny thrill every time I realized how perfectly he fit in my arms.

“It’s going to be perfect once we get all the reno done.  It’ll take a bit, but we’ll get it finished.  Of course, if you don’t love it, then we can always flip it and buy something else.”

He jerked back, that indignation back in his eyes. “Are you kidding?  This is our home!  We aren’t selling!”

I smirked and he groaned.  I saw the blush creeping up his cheeks before he buried his face in my chest.  I chuckled and squeezed him tight.

“Okay, fine,” he muttered, his voice muffled.  “You made your point.”

“Back to the list of what needs to be done then?” I asked.  I didn’t bother to gloat.  It would do me no good and he was reminded that we had bought this house to build our life together.

He took a deep breath, kissed me once, and then stepped out of my embrace.  “Yes.  But we’re replacing all the windows.”

Flash Fic Friday–Jack and Ryan–First Christmas

This takes place immediately following the end of Worth It.

 

I bent to kiss him, because he demanded it, then jerked back as a realization struck.  I peered down into his bright blue eyes—they were still a bit wet—watching as confusion marred his brow.

“What’s wrong?”

I shook my head.  “Nothing.  I just—I just realized that this is our first Christmas together.”

There was a second of silence, then Ryan started to smile even as he rolled his eyes.  “That’s because you were an idiot and broke up with me on Christmas Eve.”

I scowled and pulled back a little.  “I didn’t break up with you!” I protested, a bit indignant.  “I let you go to make your dreams come true.  And it worked, didn’t it?  It was the right thing to do.”

“Jack—“ Ryan tried to interrupt, but I was on a roll.

“You think it was easy for me to let you go?  Because it sure as fuck wasn’t!  It felt like I was ripping out my own heart.  But I knew it was the only way so I let you go but that didn’t mean I didn’t die a little bit each day you were gone.”

“Jack—“ he tried again.  Except after years of keeping this all bottled up, it was finally spilling free and I couldn’t stop.

“It killed me, Ryan.  Killed.  Me.  I was barely existing.  Just holding on to the hope that you would come back to me even though I never expected that you would.  What the hell, Ryan?  I never wanted to say good-bye to you.  I just wanted you to have what you wanted!”

“Jackson!” he shouted and I finally looked him square in the eye.  I could see the pain there and I immediately wanted to soothe it.  My words had hurt him.  I never meant for that to happen.  But when I reached for him, he took a step back.  Now he didn’t want me to touch him?  Fuck!  I had fucked this up so badly.  I should have just kept silent.

“I love you,” he said quietly after a moment.

My breath whooshed out in relief.  “I love you too.”

He nodded.  “I know you do.  I knew it then.  I knew you had to love me completely.  Because you were letting me go to chase my dreams.  I’m just sad that you thought I wasn’t coming back.  I was always coming back, Jack.  And, I’m not going to lie, it hurts a little that you didn’t have faith in me.”

I grabbed him before he could get any further away from me and hauled him into my arms, squeezing him so tightly I could hear him struggle to draw breath.  That didn’t make me release my hold.  I buried my face down in the side of his neck and just soaked in his scent.  God, I had missed that.

The touch calmed us both.  Finally, I was able to pull back to look at him.  “I’m sorry that I didn’t trust that you knew what you wanted.  You were nineteen.  And you were going to be amazing.  I wouldn’t have faulted you for making a life without me.”

He scowled and it was still damn adorable.  “You’re an idiot.  How could I have any kind of life without you in it?”

The words were said with such conviction that I had no choice but to believe them whole heartedly.  Something in the back of my mind eased.  I had always known that we were meant to be together, to make a life together.  There was always a part of me that held on to the hope that he would return.  Even when I was telling myself that he’d found something better in his new life across the country, there had always been hope that he would come back to me.  As long as he stayed right here with me, I would have no trouble believing we were meant to be.

I kissed him, pulling his smaller body tight against mine.  He melted into me, his body surrendering to my control, little happy noises sneaking out of him.  I reveled in it.  In his taste and the feel of him against me.  It’s how I knew my world was whole again.

He pulled back and sucked in a big breath.  His eyes shone with lust and I couldn’t help but return his grin.  “I propose we start a new Christmas tradition.  Start the way you aim to go, you know?”

“Oh yeah?” I asked breathily.  “What’s that?”

“Let’s start every Christmas morning with coffee and kisses,” he paused, then waggled his eyebrows.  “Followed immediately by you fucking me stupid on the floor by the tree.”

My grin grew as I pointedly looked at our empty coffee mugs and then dropped my gaze to his kiss swollen lips.  Ryan took a step back.  Then slowly, he took another.  His smile turned positively sinful as he whipped off his shirt, threw it at me, then raced into the living room.  I was hot on his heels.  This was one Christmas tradition I fully supported.

What’s in a name?

I’ve always had a thing for names.  Weird thing to collect, right?  But I have ever since I was little.  I was the person who, in high school, got people to tell me their full names–even when they didn’t want to.  And I hoarded them, cherished them.  Names hold power.

I have a thing about names fitting a person as well.  I always get upset when parents pick out names for their unborn children and do not waver or allow for any possibility of changing their minds.  What if your kid is born and the name doesn’t fit?  And it always irritates me when parents don’t fully think about any ramifications that the name they choose for their child could have.  Naming your daughter Crystal if your last name is Ball might seem cute at the time, but it’s going to put that girl in prime position for teasing.  Yes, kids can be cruel and tease for other reasons, by why give them fodder?  This is my thing though, and I do fully support the right of parents to name their child whatever they choose.

When it comes to giving my characters names, I often feel like a parent, trying to choose the best one for them.  A lot of times, the character just sort of tells me his or her name and it is what it is.  But other times, I struggle.  I’m working on a story now and I got stalled out about page five because the main character, whose voice I’ve been writing in for the last five pages, has yet to tell me what his damn name is.  And everything that I think of just doesn’t fit.  We’re working on it.  But I’m very fortunate that most of the time, my characters’ names are apparent from the get-go.

I will fully admit that I have a penchant for J names.  I don’t even know why.  But characters often have them.  I adore them.  I want to use them all the time.  But then, when I’m writing a scene and three out of the six characters in the scene have a name that begins with J…well, it can get confusing even for me.  And then live in my head, I know them inside and out, so it shouldn’t be that difficult, right?  But it is, because I’m an avid reader as well.  We all know that phenomenon that happens when we read: our eyes catch the important letters and our mind automatically fills in the rest.  So, when there are a lot of J names floating around, it’s hard to keep track of exactly who’s doing and saying what.  I’ve made a conscious effort to steer clear of the J names of late.  In fact, in the last three things that I’ve written, there has been only one character with a J name and she’s a secondary character.

And then are the books I read where one, or more, character(s) have names that I hate.  Can’t be helped and I don’t blame anyone for that.  We all have our own personal preferences, right?  But, at least for me, if a character has a name that I can’t stand, it sort of pulls me out of the story a bit.  That’s on me, of course.  A name that I don’t like can easily be a name that someone else loves.

That being said, I only use names that I like for the characters that I like…and if I’m writing a bad guy, a villain,  a mean character, then that character is probably going to have a name that I despise.  It’s how I’m wired.  But I’m not just slapping any old name on my characters.  Each one is a deliberate choice.  Whether that’s because what they “told” me their name is or I’ve given it immense thought and chosen the name specifically.

How about you?  When you’re reading, or writing, does the name of a character influence the way you feel about that person?

Road Trippin’

Went on a trip this weekend.

The amazing thing about trips is the absolute fodder for plot bunnies.  I was a passenger so I had plenty of time to work out some stubborn plot points.  But even more than that, there were plenty of more little bunnies being born as I was people watching.  The rod trip took us on the thruway…so there were rest stops.  Have you ever noticed how many different kinds of people you see at a rest stop?  My brain was scrambling to pick up on all the little nuances of all the different sorts of people.  And when I finally made it home, I was scrambling to write little paragraphs of my experiences so that I could use them for future tales.

I’m pretty fortunate.  I can get inspired by the tiniest of things.  Of course, that’s also a bit of a curse, as it means I’m constantly having “possible” stories running ’round my brain.  Now my task becomes sorting out what I do have and seeing if I can write a story.

That’s what I’m working on now.

I always need to write what’s in my brain.  And I’m slowly learning that just because I thought something was next up on the block, doesn’t mean that it actually is. Sometimes, other characters are louder and more vociferous.  And those are the ones that need to make it onto the page.  Sometimes, that means other characters have to take a back seat.

I thought I was going to write the sequel to Postcards next.  I already began working on my Scottish adventure.  But perhaps that guy I saw at the first rest stop needs his story told first.  But no matter what it is, I am writing and working on a new tale.  Have no doubt about that.