Something New

Well, not entirely new.  I’ve tried something similar in the past with a modicum of success.  But I’m giving it a more focused go this time around.

If you aren’t aware by now, my characters drive my story.  I plot, yes, but vaguely and sometimes things I think are going to happen don’t, and things I never thought of are suddenly happening.  I was having a discussion with a friend about something in my WIP and he made a suggestion that I liked.  When I told him it was a good idea because “Mark seems like the kind of guy that would enjoy that,” his immediate response made me laugh. “Seems like?  Aren’t you in charge?”  Only moderately, is the truth.  Because the characters really do what they want and I’m just along for the ride.  So other than making vague notes about what scenes are going to happen, no I don’t plot.  Besides, that’s not what this is about anyway.

I’m talking about the character profile.

In the past, I’ve used it a bit.  A little cheat sheet that has eye and hair color, weight and body type, maybe some background info on the character, some significant event in their life that has shaped them.  My efforts were weak at best, but that little bit helped.  But these new guys?  Goodness, I just see them so clearly, and they are telling me stuff about themselves and I haven’t even gotten to the vague plotting stage yet.  So I need somewhere to put it and that, right there, is why I’m going to try to actually write out, beforehand, the character profile of my guys.  And hopefully that will guide me when my characters get into these situations they get themselves into because then I will know how they would react.  And I will be able to spot the inconsistencies a lot quicker.

That’s my hope anyway.  So I’m going to give it a try, see how it works.  If it’s good, I’ll keep doing it.  If it’s bad?  Well it’s only a bit of wasted time, and I don’t have to do it again.  I’m always trying to learn and grow as an author, and to find what works best for me.  Maybe the character profile is something that will help.  I’m willing to try.

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Battle of the Betas

Okay, there’s really no battle at all, but I liked the alliteration.

I’m really fortunate to have a handful of people that read my stuff in the early stages and help me improve it.  They point out plot holes I missed, tell me where there needs to be more “show” and less “tell” and point out weird phrasing or sentences that don’t make sense.  I appreciate it so much, and they do it with only helping me in mind.  I’m lucky, and I know it.

But the hard thing for me is that they all bring different experiences and tastes to the table, so they all see different things.  One scene that one beta might love, another has issues with.  One might point out a plot point as being unrealistic, while the others totally understood what was going on and didn’t have an issue with it.  It’s great that they all see different things, because that way I can make the story as clear as possible, but I sometimes have the problem of trying to figure out exactly what needs to be fixed, edited, and changed and what I need to leave just as it is because I’m the author and it’s ultimately my choice.

In the beginning, I tried to make everyone happy.  I took everyone’s words to heart, and sometimes it hurt, but I tried to rewrite it in a way that would please everyone.  Suffice it to say, that didn’t work.  At all.  But I’ve gotten better at really listening to what they say, and then being able to discern if it’s a problem that needs fixing or if it’s just a personal choice that the beta has and what they would like to see.

I’m really lucky too, that my betas aren’t stingy with the praise.  If there’s something that they like, they let me know.  They tell me that a particular scene worked really well, or that they loved a certain detail, or that something made them laugh or gave them feels.  That makes me feel like I’m on the right track, even if parts need work, and that I can make a story worth the telling.

I do my damnedest to write a story that people will enjoy.  Not everybody is going to like it, not even the handful of people who get to read it early and adore me and want to help me.  And that’s okay.  Because I know that there is going to be people who like it, maybe even love it, and will be happy they spent a few hours with my guys.

My betas help me get there.  And that’s all I can ask for.

Flash Fic Friday

**Because I can’t let them go, this week’s fic features Matt and Alex.  Books tab at the top has the links to their flash fics in order, if you missed any**

I walked into the house and stopped dead at the sight before me.  I’d just finished a long, particularly grueling swing shift.  This had to be a hallucination because I was beyond tired.  I blinked, then rubbed my eyes hard.  Nope.  It was real.

“Matthew Edward Carter-Sullivan!”

Matt’s entire body jerked, and then he cringed, before he turned wide, mockingly innocent eyes to me.  “Oh, hey, baby.  You’re home.”

“Hi.”  I squinted at him.  “Seriously, Matt, what the fuck?”

He held up his hands in surrender.  “It’s Carrie’s fault!”

I blew out a breath, and then pinched the bridge of my nose.  I should have guessed that my wonderful but meddlesome best friend was somehow involved.  They’d always been friendly, and Carrie was married to Matt’s brother.  But ever since she and my husband had planned our wedding together they’d been thick as thieves.  I thought that it was great that they go along so well–they were the two most important people in my life–but they somehow always managed to get into trouble.

Matt took my silence as an invitation to explain.  “See, she decided that she was going to get Luke a fish tank for his birthday.  And she recruited me along to do the heavy lifting.”  Matt curled an arm to show off his bicep.  I continued to glare, not amused.  He shook his head and continued.  “And then she wanted to look, just look, at the kittens.  But then we saw this one and I couldn’t leave her there, Alex.  I just couldn’t!”

The overly dramatic tone did nothing to sway me.  Matt knew better than to think it would.  Which is why he picked up the tiny kitten in his lap, cradled it in his hands, and turned so that the little face was looking straight at me.  “Look, though.  Isn’t she just so sweet?”

The kitten ever so slowly blinked at me.  And then she started to purr.  Despite the eight or so feet that separated us, I could still hear it.  Okay, yeah, if I was being honest, she was absolutely adorable.  She was all black except for the small patch of white on one paw, and her eyes were a startling and sort of eerie shade of green.  She gave a somewhat pitiful meow.  My heart nearly melted right on the spot.  But no.  I couldn’t let the kitty get to me.  I was pissed.  Matt had brought home a pet without even talking to me first.

“Matt,” I said, my voice low and full of warning.  I had to tear my gaze from the kitten and force myself to focus on my beloved husband’s face.  And I did love him.  Which was why I wasn’t throwing a tantrum of epic proportions and insisting he get the cat the fuck out of our house.  “You can’t just–”

“But I need something to cuddle with when you’re on nights,” he interrupted quickly.  “I get so lonely, and I miss you so badly.  Having the cat in the house will make me feel better.”

Shit.  He jumped straight to the trump card.  He knew I hated leaving him alone at night.  I deflated, my anger disappearing.  “Matty, I told you I’d get another job.  There are other things I can do.  If it’s really that bad, I can–”

“No,” he cut me off again.  He set the kitten inside a towel lined basket and practically leapt to his feet, crossing the distance between us quickly.  He took my face in his hands and tilted it down until I had no choice but to look at him.  “You love being a paramedic, and I know you’d be unhappy doing anything else.  I don’t want you to do that.  I knew what I was getting into when I fell in love with you.  We’ve been  making it work for almost two years.  We’ll keep making it work.  Don’t even think about quitting your job.”

I nodded.  “But you just said–.”  His kiss shut me up this time, but I was perfectly fine with that.  I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him in close, fitting our bodies together perfectly.  He always felt so good in my arms.

“I hate being away from you on nights that you work, but I can deal,” he said softly, his lips brushing against mine.  “But Alex, I want the kitten.”

Like I would deny him anything.  “Fine,” I grumbled, just for form.  “Keep the damn kitten.  But don’t expect me to clean the littler box or brush her.  Or feed or pet her or anything.  This one is all on you, buddy.”

His grin was brilliantly bright, and I was rewarded with another kiss.  “Thank you, baby.”  He squeezed me tightly, then pulled out of the embrace to sit by the basket again.  I walked closer so that I could see too.  The kitten had curled up and fallen asleep, her tiny body contorted in what had to be an uncomfortable position.  Apparently, she didn’t think so.

“I think I’m going to call her Uhura,” Matt announced in a whisper.

“Like hell you are!”  I exploded.

“But–”

My glare was real.  “I will not have that name spoken in my house.”

Matt’s smile was indulgent, and I thought I heard him mutter “ridiculous” before he shook his head.  He reached out and stroked a hand down that tiny spine, his fingers ruffling the fur along the kitten’s back.  “All right, then.  What shall we call her?”

I was ridiculously pleased that he’d said “we” though there was no way I was going to let him know that.  I thought hard for a moment before suggesting, “Cersei?”

Matt shook his head vehemently.  “No.  She’s an evil bitch.  I’m not going to let my sweet, beautiful kitten be called that!”

Now he was the one being ridiculous.  I had to laugh.  Lowering myself to the floor beside him, I wracked my brain.   If Star Trek and Game of Thrones were out, we needed something else.  Matt settled back into my chest, and I slid my arms around his stomach.  What else did we both watch and love?

“Oh!” I said, the idea hitting like a lightning bolt.  “I got it.  We’ll call her…” I paused for dramatic effect.  I felt Matt suck in a breath and hold it.  When I let the silence stretch long enough, I announced with relish, “Buffy!”

Matt released a happy sigh.  “Perfect.”

 

***

 

I was lying on the couch, watching TV when Matt got home from work a few days later.  I was off, and I’d spent the day doing laundry and tidying up some.  I gave him a grin when he walked into the living room.  His smile turned wicked.  I licked my lips.

“Caught you,” he mumured, his voice low.

“Huh?”

He gestured with a hand toward my chest.  I looked down at the little black ball of fur that had taken up residence on my left pectoral.  “Um, well, you see.  She just kind of climbed up there, and I didn’t have the heart to dump her off.”

“Uh huh.” Matt’s face was full of amusement.  “Suuuuure.”

I scowled.  “Shut up.  I’m not going to be mean to a cat.”

“Admit it,” he said as he dropped his messenger bag on the floor.  I pulled up my knees so that he could sit on the other end of the couch, then plopped my feet in his lap.  “You love Buffy as much as I do.”

I would do no such thing.  It was true that the cat was a sweetheart.  And there was something comforting about having that warm ball of purring fur cuddled up against me.  But there was no way I was going to tell Matt that I adored the cat.  He would be insufferable.  I shook my head, then slowly sat up, placing Buffy in her basket that was conveniently by the couch.

“The cat’s nice,” I allowed, then let my voice drop.  “But it’s day light, we’re both home, and I’d rather be cuddled up with you.”

Matt’s pupils dilated with lust, and his mouth popped open to pant out little breaths.  “Want me to take you to bed and fuck you hard?”

I groaned, then lunged, sealing my lips to his in a hungry kiss.  This never got old.  I didn’t think it ever would.  “God, yes.”

“Admit that you love our cat,” Matt said, the lust in his voice making it deeper than usual, “and I will fuck you so good, you won’t walk right for days.”

I growled, and Matt just laughed.  He pulled away from me, and started backing down the hallway.  He tugged off his shirt, taunting me.  “Admit it, Alex.”

I stalked after him, knowing I could have him whether I said it or not.  But underneath the playful banter, I could see this was important to him.  I wasn’t sure why, but if it mattered to him, I’d say anything.  Besides, it was a little bit true.  “I love the cat.”

He grabbed me and yanked me hard behind him into the bedroom.  The passion on his face was enough to set fire to my body.  I started yanking off my clothes, loving the lust radiating from him.

“There’s my man,” Matt all but purred, shoving me down on the bed beneath him.  “Gruff on the outside, soft gooey center.  Christ, I fucking love you.”

I grinned, submitting easily.  I knew I was in for the ride of my life.  I’d have to remember this trick.  If it got him that fired up to see my softer side, I’d use that to my advantage.  Who knew that cat would turn out to be a blessing?

Follow Up on Confidence

Confidence is a fickle thing.

Working on the last round of edits on my current WIP, tentatively titled Beck And Call, before I submit it for consideration, and I’m flush with confidence.  A little change here, a tweak there, change the way a sentence is worded to avoid passive voice, is that “little” really necessary there, read through yet again…I got this, it’s good, I can do this.  I got confidence.

Editing Spell Break on the other hand?  Well, that’s a whole different beast.  Trying to fix THAT while keeping things largely unchanged is a challenge the likes of which I never expected.  So far, it’s mostly rewriting scenes to read better, so the the content itself is unchanged, but it’s really a crap load of rewriting.  There is one new scene I’m planning, but haven’t gotten to yet.  And here’s where the confidence starts to shake again.  Because I’ve got everything I need already, but being able to rewrite it in a better way is harder than I ever anticipated.

But I repeat my mantra…I got this…and push through anyway.

It’ll probably take a bit longer to get Spell Break, and it’s sequel, out there than I originally thought.  It’s a real test of my abilities.

I’ve got confidence, I just need to apply it elsewhere. And remind myself that I got this. The more I do, the better it gets. And that’s going to help me stay in solid ground better than anything else.

I Got This

I know for a solid fact that I’m not the only one with shaky confidence out there (though sometimes it’s hard to remember that fact).  I’ve seen plenty of authors–well established, resoundingly successful authors–who really freak out over WIPs or new releases, just certain that no one is going to like it.  Because of my own personality, though, sometimes, yeah, it’s super shaky, or non existent, and I just crumble a bit in on myself because I just know that there’s no way I can do this.

Except I have.  And I can.

I’m not going to write the next big literary masterpiece.  I’m not going to write some sweeping epic of self discovery, where my character experiences massive and profound growth on his journey.  I don’t think I have that in me.  I’m perfectly fine with that.  Because all I want is to write a story that entertains for a few hours, maybe gives the reader a bit of feels, is a coherent story with characters that grow and change and become better, but not necessarily in an epic way.  I’m perfectly fine with that, these are the stories I have in me, the stories that need to get out.

But telling that entertaining story?  Sometimes, and sometimes a lot, I have very little confidence in myself that I can do that.  Only…I got this.  My new mantra.  I got this.  And even when I don’t feel like I do, even when that confidence is shaky beyond belief and I’m seconds away from throwing up my hands in defeat, I remember the mantra, I repeat it to myself, and I’m able to take a step back, take a deep breath, and write.

I’m doing what I can to improve.  I’m learning everyday how to be a better writer.  I’m listening to my betas about what works and what doesn’t, and editing to make it better.  So when that final project is out there for public consumption, it’s a good story that will entertain.  Not everyone will like it (because that’s impossible) but those that do will appreciate the work that went into it.

I just have to remember that I got this.

Flash Fic Friday

Rob’s wallet was one hundred six dollars lighter, but he had his car back.  It passed inspection, which had been a little bit of a worry, needing nothing more than new windshield wipers.  They’d put them on without consulting him, and Rob had no idea why they had cost thirty dollars, but the car had passed and was his to drive for another year without worry.  He’d even had the garage change the oil while the car was there.  His little sedan was good to go.

Rob exited the office and gave a wave to his co-worker that had been kind enough to drop him off.  She left the parking lot with a smile, and Rob crossed to his car.  It had been a tiring day, the worry on his mind, and now he just wanted to go home, have a quick dinner, and crash in front of the TV after finding a suitably mind-numbingly dumb show to watch.

Rob took a right out of the parking lot.  As he approached the traffic light, he put on his left blinker.  It’s cadence pounded out double time.  The noise startled him for a moment, then he released an explosive breath.  His tail light was blown.  But it had just been inspected so he knew it had to have worked earlier or they would have replaced that too.  What were the chances that the light would go out seconds after leaving the garage?  It was just the kind of luck Rob had.

“Shit,” he muttered.

Making a quick decision, Rob circle the block and pulled into the parking lot of the garage.  He’d been the last customer, but he was hoping they hadn’t closed up yet.  One of the mechanics, looking sinfully hot in greased stained coveralls, was standing beside an open bay door.  Rob stopped close by.

“Hey, um, I just hand my car inspected here–”

“Yeah, I saw you when you dropped it off this morning,” the mechanic interrupted.  He had a nice smile that made his eyes sparkle.  “I did the work myself.  Is there a problem?”

Rob was distracted for a moment when the setting sun glinted off the tiny gold hoop in the guy’s ear. He shook his head, then nodded.  “The tail light blew.  I was wondering if you could fix it now?”

“Of course, yeah,” the man said easily.  He motioned toward the open bay.  “Pull her in.”

Relief flooded through Rob’s veins.  He was sure he could stop at an auto parts store and get the bulb, but he wasn’t sure how to change it himself and he didn’t want to screw it up.  Following the mechanic’s guidance, Rob steered his car into the bay.  Then he shut it off and climbed out.  Now that he was closer, he could see the name Jace stitched on the man’s coveralls.

It was an easy job, and Jace had the tail light replaced within minutes.  He was focused solely on his work, so Rob let his gaze roam over the man.  He was good looking, his dark hair a little long and curling against his collar.  His hands were large and capable, and Rob was struck with the very inappropriate thought that he’d like to feel them on his skin.  Rob flushed, and took a few steps back.  No hitting on the mechanic.  That was a recipe for disaster, or maybe a beating, just waiting to happen.

Jace replaced the cover, straightened up, and pinned Rob with a penetrating stare.  Rob tried, and failed, to keep himself from licking his lips.  Jace’s gaze dropped to his mouth, and then the man smiled.

“Have a confession to make,” Jace said, his voice going low.

“W-what’s that?”

“I fucked with your tail light on purpose.”

Rob jolted, shock coursing through him.  “Wait.  What? Why?”

“I was hoping you were the kind of guy that would turn around and come back to the garage.  Then I could fix the problem for you, talk to you again, ask you out without anyone around.”  Jace shrugged, and looked a little embarrassed.  “Some of the guys know I’m gay, but I still have to be careful not to show it too much.”

Rob understood the need to be careful.  Hadn’t he just been thinking similar thoughts?  He swallowed hard.  “And if I hadn’t been the kind of guy that would turn around?”

Another shrug from Jace. “Missed opportunity,” he said, like it didn’t matter, but Rob could see something on his face that mad Rob think it mattered a lot.

Rob let himself think about it.  Jace was cute, and he’d gone to an awful lot of trouble to get Rob’s attention.  That was kind of sweet.  He let his smile uncurl slowly, and was smugly satisfied when Jace’s eyes widened and his breathing picked up.

“What are you doing tonight?” Rob asked.

The smile Jace gave him just lit up the man’s face.  “I need a shower to scrub off the grease, but after that, I’m free.”

“Excellent,” Rob said, anticipation building in his chest.  “You know where Johnny’s is?”  He waited until he got a nod from Jace before he continued.  “Meet me there at seven?”

Jace nodded fast.  Rob just grinned.  They said their “see you laters” and then Rob got into his car, slowly backed out of the bay, and then paused in the parking lot.  He watched as Jace rolled down the bay door and lock it up.   Then, with a cheerful wave, Jace headed for the side of the building and a gleaming black and chrome motorcycle.  Rob swallowed hard.  The man rode a bike.

Rob let Jace leave first, and then followed him out of the parking lot.  They drove in different directions, and Rob was sad to lose sight of the powerful way Jace commanded the bike.  Rob shook his head, and grinned.  They’d be meeting up again in less than two hours.  Excitement crept in, mingling with the anticipation, and Rob practically bounced in his seat.

Suddenly, Rob wasn’t tired anymore.  His night was looking decidedly up.

The Title

For me, the title is an important thing.  I think a lot of people will agree.  I want the title to make sense.  I want to understand why an author chose a certain title for the work.  I want it to resonate with the story.

That doesn’t always work.  I can think of a few (which I won’t name) where I thought the author was grasping at straws.  I can think of a few more (also won’t name) that didn’t make sense to me at all once I read the book.  So I’m conscious of my title choices.  And maybe there are readers out there who don’t agree with my choices either, just like I don’t agree with other author’s, but at least for me, it works.

Most of the time, titles come to me while writing the work.  Some particular line or scenario sticks out and I realize that’s what the title should be.  It was like that with Worth It and Hero Worship.  Sometimes, titles need a little assist, like Pumpkin Rolls and Porn Sounds which was suggested to me by a friend and fit perfectly for the story (that’s slated for release in about six months, details when I have them).  Everything else I’ve written, I’ve been able to figure out the title by the time the story was finished getting on the page.

Not so much with the new one.  The first draft is complete, I’m working on making it better now, the title eludes me.  A couple of people have read it, and a couple more will read it soon, but those that have can’t suggest anything either.  I’m in a quandary, and it’s irritating.  I feel like it’s there, somewhere, and I just can’t see it.

I hoping another pass through, more editing, and I’ll be able to see it’s name.  Because the title is important.

Do titles draw you in?  Do they make you take notice, take a second look?  Am I alone in thinking that a good title is important to a book?