For the love of pens!

Last Friday I encouraged my workmates to try writing with the fountain pen on display in a gift shop we entered.

I had one as a teenager and loved the way it glided on paper. I wanted others to experience this. After a few attempts they got it.

Image courtesy of The3cats via Pixabay

In a world where most of us cramp when we overuse a manual writing implement because our fingers drive today’s communication tools, it’s refreshing to reacquaint ourselves with feeling like we have a more direct way of spilling ourselves onto the page.

It’s more organic when we need to write on a post it or leave a message for someone on scrap paper. There’s one instrument between ourselves and the final product, not a digital reconstruction with choice of font. Our penmanship is ours. It’s our style, and on the rare occasions we see it, it reflects something back to us.

Image courtesy of StockSnap via Pixabay

Yet even now I use my phone for dictating plot twists rather than using my notebook. I have even been gifted two beautiful engraved pens, one from a friend and one from my mum. But at least I used one of them to take notes at a social media marketing seminar the other night and it felt natural.

Having a good pen in your hand is a treat worth rediscovering. The ink flows through craftsmanship. It’s tactile and alive. It’s you. A life story told in the handwriting itself.

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Nate and Cameron

Tomorrow, The Nate and Cameron Collection will be released in paperback. This book is made up of two previously released ebooks, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango.

I’m writing this blog several weeks before because something has already fascinated me as reviews of the second story started coming in. Readers are both wanting Nathan and Cameron to sort out their differences or simply break up. I’m pleased with this reaction.

When the first story was initially released by the now defunct Wilde City Press, the blurb promoted it as a Romance Novella. I thought this strategy would appeal to more readers. Half were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t while the other half were furious that it didn’t stick to the promise.

The original first edition Wilde City Press cover.

Yes there’s a rich dude who’s a dreamer trying to court a realist, but the realist, Nate, hasn’t let go of his last relationship because his ex was his soul mate.

The reviews of the second ebook, Nate’s Last Tango, have said that Nathan and Cameron need to learn the art of communication rather than using travel to elongate a kind of honeymoon. But the reviewers have conceded this is the point. Several have mentioned this makes the negotiation of their lives reflect a real relationship.

Warren and I, years and years ago

When my partner and I first got together twenty-seven years ago we too would have arguments that kept us from talking for days, yet it was important for us to work on our relationship. We both knew this one mattered.

Today we burst into laughter rather than fight. This is how I see Nate and Cam. If another tale gets written I’d like to take it from a point where they’ve worked a lot of things out, but that doesn’t make a good story.

Regardless, I have a new revised work out tomorrow. The two tales of Nate and Cameron in an old fashioned paperback. Thank you NineStar Press.

Having no time to write.

My current work in progress is suffering.

Well, maybe I’m being melodramatic but this has been a year of less time to write. First off I had to step into a new role at work meaning my luxurious three day working week changed to four sometime during March.

Monday is currently my only day to write because try as I might, I can’t sit at the keyboard and simultaneously daydream while my partner’s home on weekends. I need complete silence to hear my own thoughts.

Image courtesy of Start Up Stock Photos

But Mondays weren’t always my own.

I was blessed with a new publisher who re-released my existing work and brought out three newbies. So some Mondays meant going through my editor’s, line editor’s or proof reader’s notes. I can’t be cross about that. It’s one of the advantages of having a good publisher.

The problem is, you start losing the plot.

Earlier this year I had to re-read my first several chapters to re-engage with my own manuscript. In recent weeks when I’ve written a few chapters I’ve wondered if certain characters still spoke the same way they did at the start of the book.  I feel like this is the roughest first draft I’ve done in a while.

Image by Edar, courtesy of Pixelbay

There has been an advantage, though.

This tale, The Midnight Man, is about a middle aged man who meets an enchanting younger guy in his dreams, causing him to reevaluate his own life. When I started I only had half the book plotted. With time away I’ve been able to cement the story-line from random thoughts and real life experiences. The chapter by chapter breakdown is now complete, although I have a few new ideas to add to the tale.

Usually these additions are conceived between drafts. When complete, probably very late in the year, this first draft will have all elements in place so that in the next draft I can expand on some of the twists.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The irony is that I wanted to start this novel last year but other works demanded to be completed. In hindsight this was my instinct telling me that I’d need those new books this year for my new publisher.

In October I start a new position.

Same place, better working hours. I’ll be back to three days with some extra shifts from time to time to teach. I’m relieved. The Midnight Man can get the time it deserves.

Plus they’ll be edits and marketing for Social Media Central, my newest contracted novel.

My writing life returns to normal and I can’t wait. I’ve worked years toward that goal. Life is for dreaming.

Film adaptations

One of my favourite books is Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, and incidentally it is also one of my partner, Warren’s, favourite books. But the recent film adaptation left us cold.

One of the problems with the movie is that it only uses the pivotal scenes of the book to make up its story line. By doing this the scenes that lead to these major moments aren’t there. Thus the movie loses the impact of the novel.

In the book the main character, Charlie, a teenage boy, gets to know one of his female classmates. They often fantasise about moving to New York because of their love of the book Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and having a magical life together once they’re in this iconic US city. In the movie none of these gorgeous conversations are there. It lessens their courtship.

The story is set in a small 1960s Australian town where one of Charlie’s Asian friends, Jeffrey Lu, and his family are constantly exposed to racism by the locals. There’s a beautiful scene where Jeffrey is finally accepted by his peers through his talent at playing cricket, but the impact is lost because the smaller subtle moments are missing. Other scenes where the family are vilified are in the movie, but the underlying racism in the book that help these major scenes have better context, aren’t. We’re just hit with these outbursts and the menacing undercurrent is missing, yet so important to the main theme of the book.

My partner said that the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect example of how to make a movie out of a book, so I accepted the challenge and read the book.

I loved the novel and then sat down for a viewing of the film. Again, sadly, it was the same story, or lack thereof. The pivotal scenes were there, but they seemed out of context.

One important character, Scout’s teacher, should have been in the film to make Scout’s view of the world, and her confusion of it, much more relevant to the pivotal scenes we saw in the film. If the classroom scenes that were in the book were included, other characters would have had more relevance.

At the end of the film, Scout is dressed as a ham so she can perform on stage at the county fair along with other classmates. In the book she rehearses for her family giving relevance to why she’s dressed as a ham. In the scene where she is supposed to perform, she falls asleep backstage and misses her cue. Her teacher is not impressed.

In the film we see her and her brother walk to the town hall through the woods. Then we see them walk home much later in the dark for the next crucial but ‘out of context’ scene. Although they discuss why it’s so late, relevance is lost because we never saw her and the comical ‘fall asleep backstage’ scene. One moment it’s daytime. The next, it’s late. Something lighthearted and relevant is missing.

In one of the classroom scenes in the book, Scout’s teacher tells about the genocide of the Jews yet later, while leaving the courtroom where an African American man is on trial, makes a racist comment about the accused to her friend. Again, these are small moments that paint the whole picture.

I know many feel this is a movie classic, but trust me, read the book. You’ll see what I mean. And also add Jasper Jones to your reading list.

Perhaps this is why a television miniseries works better when adapting a book. Or maybe we should just leave novellas for screen adaptations.

Adventures in Self Publishing – Part 3

So, since my last blog on this topic, three things have happened.

One, I’ve gone through my edits. Two, I’m a millimetre closer to casting my book trailer. And the third, well, I’ll get to that.

The editor I chose I worked with twice before.  He edited the first edition of Nate and the New Yorker and a short story of mine that he chose for an anthology. One of my writing issues is passive voice and it was interesting to see how he rewrote my text. It’s so straight forward now. But he also did something else I wasn’t expecting. Most of my dialogue tags were changed to ‘said’.

Long ago I learnt that this is the norm and I stick to this rule, but he changed words like ‘asked’ and ‘replied’. Apparently this is a trend now set by J.K. Rowling. The thinking behind it is that if there is a question mark at the end of the sentence, then why overstate it with ‘asked’ or ‘inquired’? Perhaps I’m a traditionalist. I changed these all back. Other than that, I was more than pleased with his edit.

Characters in my notebook.

My second task has been casting the book trailer and I’ve found many time wasters.

I initially targeted the actors I wanted, contacting them directly. Sadly, even the ones that responded stopped communicating when it came to the next step – organising to meet.

So I changed tact. I put out a casting call and have received about seven replies. I’ll be meeting several of these actors in the coming weeks, but I’m still in search of my femme fatale. Plus, I might also rope in a couple of friends who suit the roles. Time will tell.

The futuristic city depicted in the manuscript.

Last but not least, my own publisher sent me a contract for this book.

This is going to sound odd, considering I was putting effort into self-publishing this work. You see, my last publisher was only interested in books with a gay male protagonist, so long ago I confirmed that they didn’t want this novel.

When they folded, I was courted by my current publisher through one of the editors I previously worked with, so I never went to their site and read their submission guidelines. On top of that I’ve had a busy year with my day job, so my writing life has taken a back seat, which is a nice way of saying I wasn’t on top of things.

Several weeks ago I was on social media and stumbled across a forum talking about my publisher and what type of books they’re interested in. A light came on. They accept characters from all the colours of the rainbow. So I enquired, thinking that Social Media Central was still not a book they’d want as its focus is not sexuality. I was wrong.

I signed the contract on Friday. That’s what I like about NineStar Press, the variety of genres on their list.

The characters who wouldn’t shut up!

Tomorrow the sequel to Nate and the New Yorker will be released in electronic formats. I never intended to write another book based on these characters but it wasn’t up to me to make that decision. Somehow, Nate and his friends demanded a second outing.

Originally I wrote the first novella because my publisher at the time pointed out that, regardless of the books many of us like to write, it’s romance and erotica that sell. So I wrote my version of a romance story to make more readers know about my work. It worked, except for the die-hard romance genre fans. It didn’t fit the mould. And boy, they let me know it.

On the flip side I’ve also received some great reviews for that story and somehow, shortly after its release, Nate, Cameron, Lucy and Ben were calling from my subconscious. There was more to their story, and they wanted me to continue putting them in the spotlight.

The Nate and Cameron Series are both set in various cities I have visited. One place my partner and I fell in love with was Buenos Aires, so I wanted to capture this exotic and romantic location for the second book. I knew the tango had to be part of the story, and as I did for the first book, canvassed possible titles via a post on Facebook.

A friend came up with Nate’s Last Tango which I loved instantly. This title also helped tie it to the premise of the first book which is about a man who is learning to love second best, while the love of his life is still around. So this new book continues to put the question out there – How will Nate and Cameron make their relationship survive?

The original first edition Wilde City Press cover.

There’s not too much I want to give away except that Cam’s much loved cross dressing butler, Roger, and his lesbian aunt have more of a role in this book as they help the mismatched lovers. And while the main focus is Argentina, all characters do pop down-under to enjoy Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

I personally think this is my best book so far and I’m thankful to NineStar Press for publishing it.

Meet the Devil

He’s been sitting inside my laptop for a very long time, but finally, tomorrow, he will strut into the world. Friends, meet Preston.

He’s one of the characters in Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, the third book in the Actors and Angels series. As you can see he’s fond of a top hat and pearls. He’s also a character I originally introduced in an earlier draft of Drama Queens and Adult Themes.

You see, both books were initially the same story. Gay couple Adam and Wade dealt with their mutual infatuation for Mannix, the young nude model from Adam’s art class, then half way through the manuscript was this passage:

Imagine everything coming to a standstill. Like being sexually teased, but instead of your object of desire changing his mind, the whole scenario changes. The phone rings and your mother tells you that your Uncle Patrick died. A real mood killer. It’s not that your mum is a killjoy, it’s just that the main focus of the moment has shifted.

You may consider if it is worth going ahead with the foreplay in honour of your Uncle Patrick. One last bang in memory of the old guy. After all, he did have a wicked sense of humour and you always suspected he was a closet case. But the thought that he could be looking down from above judging your actions on the news of his death, somehow kills the mood.

At this point the foreplay, and the dramas around it, went on hold. Everything I knew of my life was being revised. This, in turn, changed everything for all the people who have contributed to this tale so far. This is why I have been left to finish this story.

After I read this initial draft, one thing was evident. The story flowed along nicely, building tension between all the characters, but then the story ground to a halt. The secondary tale began as all stories do – from the start. The momentum was gone. This was sure to infuriate my readers.

So I now had two books at first draft stage, and as they were part of the same series, it was easy to link events in both.

This is a luxury for an author. Subtle hints can be planted as you go back to redraft the former novel, that make the latter book make a lot more sense.

As evident by the title, Preston is the devil. He fosters a deal that could help Guy, the insecure angel, meet his parents for the first time. Meanwhile, Guy’s favourite mortal friend, Adam, is dealing with adultery.

It’s nice to finally have this book published. A big kiss to NineStar Press for putting it out there.


CLICK HERE to read an EXCERPT

CLICK HERE to order from the publisher.

Worldbuilding

Two decades ago I studied acting part time over three years.

Photo from Pixabay, courtesy of Un-Mino

Fortunately, I secured a job in a creative industry before I completed the course, which probably saved me from many desperate auditions and a life of poverty. But there are important factors about that craft that shaped the books that make up the ‘Actors and Angels’ series. The first, notably, came from my assessor who simply told me to write about something I knew – theatre!

During one of our acting lessons, we practised our own style of magical realism. Our challenge was to make a fantasy scene feel real. We were given hints like ‘if you are playing angels polishing the stars, polish them as if you are cleaning brass ornaments’. This is the same approach you take while writing. Make sure there is some kind of real world in your fantasy one, otherwise things get surreal.

Image from Pixabay, courtesy of Bessi

As these novels are set in the Afterlife where people from different centuries reside, I had the freedom to use anything within context. In the opening scene of Drama Queens with Love Scenes, Allan and Warwick’s first impression of the Afterlife is an extravagant room. This room kind of exists. It is depicted on the inside cover of a record I own. I won’t say which album it is, but I will reveal it’s the third release of an 80s New Romantic pop group. I expanded on it in my description, but by having the initial piece of art in front of me, it gave me a base to build from.

Also in this first scene, our newly dead characters are welcomed by a blond bombshell and an insecure angel. I don’t think it’s any secret that authors base their fictional people on real ones. The angel was originally based on a person who was so self-conscious, everyone he knew assisted him in confidence building. But Guy developed his own personality as he evolved. Samantha is the hybrid of two characters from the first draft, and both these characters were based on sinister work colleagues at the time.

There’s two real life historical figures that were re-imagined for this book. One is the drag king, a minor figure who pops up in many chapters. Back in the 1930s a mysterious performer with dark skin baffled audiences, all wanting to know her origins. Her name was Nellie Small. She travelled around Australia, performing with her female admirers closest to the stage.

Another character, theatre director, Maudi, was actually an actress with London’s Gaiety Theatre in the late 1800s, although my version of her is older than the real life person was when she hit the height of her career. She’s also the character that my assessor wanted me to expand on after reading the first draft. I’m glad I listened. She adds chaotic class to the novel.

The last characters I’ll mention are Allan and Warwick. They are loosely based on Warren and I. Let me reiterate, very loosely! Unlike Allan, I was confident in my sexuality when I met Warren, and I was single. But as in the book, we met at work and were just friends for a long time until we gave in to what everyone around us already knew. There was love there. I was just too blind to see it.

Adventures in Self Publishing – Part 2

Yes it’s time for an update.

Three things have happened since my last blog on the subject that bring me just a little bit closer to seeing my first self published work see the light of day. I got advice. I’ve been contacting actors. I have my edits back.

Fellow Sydney author Nic Starr met me for lunch to tell me how she balances her Dreamspinner Press work with her indie releases. Many good tips were shared, all dutifully entered into my journal.

Nic is a technical wiz when it comes to writing, and I got the ins and outs of who to go through to format my work, how to publicise, and what I should know about tax if I have to pay any to the US.

Although this information is easy to find on various blogs and forums, it’s refreshing to get this advice over a nice bottle of white and a plate of seafood. Plus we made a vow to attend GRL next year – a gay romance literary festival held in America each year.

Photo courtesy of Start Up Stock Photos

Secondly, I’ve been trying to get the right look…

I like to cast actors for my book trailers. As any author knows, social media is an integral part of your marketing, and even more so if you’re going it alone. And as this is a book about social media, it can’t be ignored.

So far I might have a nibble with casting the main character. He’s in Los Angeles at the moment but hopefully I’ll meet him next week when he returns. The sad thing is, three others I really wanted for the shoot now live in the US. Plus, two more that emailed me back stopped communication when I tried to set up a meeting.

This has happened to me before. It’s kind of like being on a dating site and finding time wasters. You wonder if these people are actually interested in adding more to their portfolio. But unless I’m casting through an agency with big bucks behind me, I guess this is what I have to expect.

Image by Edar, courtesy of Pixelbay

Now for my edits…

It’s my designated writing day today, so I’m about to close off this blog and read my notes. I’ve worked with this editor twice before, but for the first time, I’m footing the bill. I’ve had a glance at his ‘tough love’ notes and am now about to work on the final draft.

I promise to blog about this experience soon. But for now, it’s time to work!

 

Adding Adult Themes

Tomorrow the second novel in the Actors and Angels Series will be re-released.

This book is called Drama Queens and Adult Themes, and follows Drama Queens with Love Scenes. The third in the series, which has never before been released, will follow next month.

The idea for the plot of the second book came from the first – I know that’s stating the obvious, but bear with me. The first book takes place in The Limelight Quarter, which is the theatre district of the Afterlife. One of the plays that is performed in that book centres around a heterosexual couple and a younger man. A warlock has placed the spell of lust on all three, confusing them as they come to terms with their desires.

“What a great idea for a book,” I thought.

There was a whole year between when the first book in the series was originally contracted to Charles River Press, to when they were considering its release. So with all that time I did something odd for a sequel. I took the plot from that play and made it the plot of book two. 

In this second novel, the lovers from the first book are reincarnated. Yes, I know this sounds odd, but there is a chapter in the first where Allan sees his next life, so its not too much of a stretch for readers who have entered this world. Anyway, Allan and Warwick are now Adam and Wade. They are middle aged and both fascinated with a young man named Mannix.

Stills from the Book Trailer for Drama Queens and Adult Themes

Fabien and Ipan, the two warlocks that were in the play featured in the first book, could now come to life for the second. They were joined by a kind-hearted witch named Farah who originally existed in an earlier draft of the initial novel. And of course, Guy the angel, who surprised me by his popularity with readers, also made a return.

But then I had an issue with story structure.

The first book was written in first person. In the second, not everyone knows the whole story. I had a problem. Should I write in third person or tell the tale from different points of view? I opted for the latter, and carefully plotted so that each chapter continued where the last left off, even if another character was now telling the tale.

The previous edition from Wilde City Press. Sadly this publisher is no longer with us.

I only had one reviewer freak out about this. Everyone else was fine. In fact it was quite interesting to read who preferred which book. Half the time I was wrong in my assumptions about various reviewers.

So, I’m quietly raising a glass to the re-release of Drama Queens and Adult Themes. It’s nice to know it’s out again in print and in ebook formats. This makes this the final novel NineStar Press are relaunching. Next month will see the first editions of two newbies. But for this month at least, Adam is discovering that a midlife crisis can be fun!