The Henry and Nolan story that wasn’t

In Behind Closed Doors, there’s a story about Henry having to spend a daylong road trip with the sullen, brooding Nolan. I loved the way this story turned out. Too bad it was supposed to be a full-length novel.

In the M/M genre, authors release books in quick succession. The best authors release a book every few months. I wanted to keep up with that pace, and I thought I could. In the original backmatter of Out in the Open, I said the next book was coming in spring 2015.

I planned to write a novel from Henry’s point-of-view. Henry was introduced briefly in Out in the Open. He wasn’t planted to be the protagonist of a future book. He just showed up the story. I turned to him when thinking about expanding the Browerton universe, but the problem was that I had already given him traits and a backstory. In Out in the Open, he tells Ethan that he’s been dating a guy in the closet for a few months, and hasn’t even told his friends.

That was canon. And I had to try to build off that. How do you write a story about a guy with a secret boyfriend that’s still fresh and different from your first book? At the same time, I had recently watched this phenomenal film called Weekend. It followed 2 guys over the course of a, um, weekend. They have sex, talk, have sex, talk, connect. It was like watching a play. I wanted to do something like that with Henry’s story.

I came up with a story about Henry going home for Thanksgiving break and trying to deal with his boyfriend and family. He rides back with Nolan, and the two characters intersect over the weekend. (Weekend, go figure)

The story sounded good in my head, but when I tried to write it, it was a slog. I struggled to write a complete novel. There wasn’t enough plot. The worst part was that it was dark. Henry’s relationship with his boyfriend was effed up. Nolan’s sullenness stemmed from an effed relationship with a high school friend. There was a suicide, sexual assault, cheating, depression, anger, breakdowns, jails. Happy Holidays?

Plus, Nolan and Henry weren’t intersecting enough. So I was writing 2 separate stories, in effect, and both were downers.

Now, I have no issue with dramatic stories. But things weren’t clicking on this one. And I realized that my books have humor, heart and hot guys. I was missing humor. This was not the type of story I was meant to write. Meanwhile, I had this self-imposed spring 2015 deadline breathing down my neck, which was effecting my writing and making me second-guess everything.

That’s when I decided to chuck the novel. This was not the Henry story I wanted to write. I turned my attention to short stories as a way to get my writing groove back. I had some ideas for stories with Browerton characters, and I just went for it, not worrying about spring 2015.

One of the stories revolved around Henry and his closeted boyfriend. What if I could write a story exploring that relationship? I had a great idea for a story that only took place in Henry’s boyfriend’s bedroom. Like a play. It was hard to reconcile how Henry could be in this relationship for so long. And why did he tell Ethan but not his friends? And yet again, Henry’s story went dark.

It was claustrophobic and seriously effed up. There are plenty of great stories with that criteria, but with Henry’s story, there was always something missing. The final piece of a puzzle. Just like with the full-length novel I trashed. It didn’t have the spark of the other stories. Is this the story I wanted to saddle Henry with? He wasn’t a bad guy. He didn’t deserve this. I felt like he wouldn’t be able to interact with other Browerton characters after going through what happened in this short story.

So I trashed it.

I was frustrated. Kicking myself, literally and figuratively. Why couldn’t I write this kid’s story? There was plenty of really interesting elements I had come up with, but the finished product wasn’t coming together. I gave it serious thought. What did I want to say? What did I like about Henry’s story? Well, I loved the road trip aspect. I love the idea of two strangers getting to know each other over one day. Maybe I could write Henry and Nolan’s story on the roadtrip and leave out what happens after they arrive. The journey could be the destination in this case.

Two and a half days later, I had written their story, Road Trip Cone of Silence. It poured out of me. I was smiling to myself as I typed. This was it. I knew it. I felt it.

I had finally cracked Henry’s story. It took me 70,000 words to get there, but it was worth it. You learn more about yourself from what you get wrong than what you get right. I learned what I wanted in my stories.

This was a trying experience, but ultimately invaluable. It’s not the gold standard of how a writer should act, frankly. Maybe I should’ve stuck it out with the novel or the first short story. I doubt I’m the first writer this has happened, too. In the future, I may try to push through. With humor, though. I can’t write without humor. Overall, I’m proud of myself for seeing it through Henry’s story.

So if you’re curious why there was such a long wait between books, and an even longer wait between novels, here you go. Trust that I have been writing. I’m not perfect. I’m just a working writer.

Writing Update – July 12

Well, I see it’s been a whole month since my last weekly writing update. #bloggingfail

I keep saying I’m going to be a steady blogger, posting weekly. I’ve said this multiple times to myself. Usually after saying how I’m going to stop eating chocolate and lose weight. I’m not good with the self pep talks.

Maybe I’m not meant to blog. I love reading blogs, and there are people who LOVE to blog. I salute them with both hands. This blog isn’t going away anytime soon, but it just won’t be as frequently updated, I’m afraid. For one, I don’t have stuff to blog about on a regular basis. I’m writing a blog right now about how I don’t blog enough.

But more importantly, the time I have available for writing goes to writing books. That’s number one priority for me. And on that front, I’ve been a busy caterpillar. (I don’t like bees.)

Writing Update

This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1
This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1

Last week was the most productive writing week of my life. No joke. I wrote 13,700 words this past week! I had no idea I was capable of that. Once I wrote 10,000 words in a weekend (years ago), and that was painful. That I wrote the 13k words only during Monday-Friday, on top of my full-time job, is even more astounding. How the heck did I accomplish this?

I didn’t do it alone. I’ve been having hourlong writing sprints with my writer friend across the country. We set up times to write — during lunch breaks, at night. We email each other right before the start with a word goal. Technically, it’s a “contest” to see who can write more words. But really, it’s motivation. Knowing someone is writing with me and knowing it’s only lasting an hour makes me push harder.

An hour isn’t much time but also plenty of write. You’d be shocked with how much you can accomplish an hour at a time.

The downside of writing this many words in a workweek is that pretty much every other element of my life went on pause. Dishes didn’t get washed. I didn’t do laundry. I didn’t hang out with friends. But on the plus side, I got all my writing done by Friday, so my weekend was relaxing and free, and life got back on track.

I’m at 30,000 words for my latest WIP. Already, I can tell this is going to be the longest book I ever write. At least as a rough draft. I’ll pare down to only the good stuff in revisions. I view a rough draft as gathering the clay. In future drafts is where I mold the clay into just exactly what I want. But that will come later. Right now, it’s all about getting words on the page.

If you’ve been thinking of writing a novel but haven’t made the jump yet, I suggest finding a writing buddy or writing group. They’ll provide motivation, accountability, and support – all necessary elements in writing.

How’s your writing coming? What are your goals for the week?

Behind Closed Doors – Available Now!

What better way to kick off the 4th of July than with some hot guy-on-guy fireworks?

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS coverBehind Closed Doors is now released, available for purchase, out there in the flippin’ open to be read and (hopefully, fingers crossed) enjoyed. It was a real journey getting to this point, but I’m ecstatic and proud to have the next Browerton University book published. This book would not have made it without my fabulous readers.

You inspired me. You motivated me. I never would’ve considered writing a prequel or trying my hand at dual POV (both firsts for me) without your suggestions. As I always say, I love hearing from readers, good or bad, and I always respond.

Please consider rating and reviewing BCD (and Out in the Open) on Amazon, Goodreads, or wherever you feel comfortable. Reviews help readers discover new authors, so feel free to spread the word.

Behind Closed Doors is available to purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks, and Smashwords. I hope it brings  a smile to your face, a tear to your eye, and a warm feeling to your no-no place.

 

 

Marriage Equality – What a Journey

I was going to write a typical Friday writing update, but I was pleasantly distracted by the news that gay marriage was now legal in all 50 states. I try not to let myself fall down into internet rabbit holes, but I spent my Friday reading articles about the ruling. I looked up pictures of couples in Kentucky and Ohio, read about the asinine dissenting briefs from the four justices, and choked up a little at the White House lit up in gay. We’ve come a long way.

white house gay marriage lights

I kept thinking about 2008. I was living in Los Angeles at the time of the election, and more than the presidential election, the biggest issue on the ballot was easily Prop 8. The initiative would’ve overturned the gay marriage ruling recently legalized by the courts. (Sidenote: I remember when gay marriage was first made legal in CA that May. The first night, as we headed to a bar, a friend of mine said “Well, I guess I need to start looking for a husband now.”)

Record amounts of money were spent on both sides for Prop 8. There was a pro-Prop 8 commercial that kept running, warning people that if Prop 8 didn’t pass, kindergartners would be forced to learn about gay sex. Won’t someone think of the children!

I remember attending an event on election night. People cheered when Obama won, but there was still a pall of disappointment as it looked like Prop 8 was going to pass.

A few days later, I attended a marriage equality rally in Silver Lake. We marched through the streets chanting, holding up no on 8 signs. “Gay, straight, black, white. Marriage is a civil right.” In truth, our rally was kind of preaching to the choir. It’s not like we were marching in a conservative neighborhood. We were surrounded by supporters in a very liberal area.

Someone got on a podium and made a speech (I believe it was a the mayor, but my memory’s a little fuzzy). He said that every civil rights battle in America has succeeded, eventually. That gave me hope. At the time, we didn’t know how long this battle would last.

I attended another rally a few weeks later. Got another No on 8 poster to wave over my head. The rallies were fun, more like a social gathering for me. At the time, I didn’t think too much about what we were doing. Marriage wasn’t really on my radar, and I’d never been an activist type of person.

But now 7 years later, here we are. I’m planning to marry my boyfriend next year. Not civil union. Not domestic partnership. Family and friends are happy for us. The gay marriage thing is a non-issue to them and their kids. I know things aren’t perfect, and there are still bigots lurking around the corner, but it’s a large step in the right direction. The days of Prop 8 seem miles away.

After the rallies, people were discarding their posters. “Don’t throw yours out,” my friend said. “You should frame them. They’ll be valuable one day, once gay marriage passes. A relic from another time.”

I’m glad I took his advice.

2008 Prop 8 posters

 

Friday Writing Update – June 12

And…it’s Friday. I’m hoping to get some good writing done this weekend. I’m trying to write two manuscripts at the same time. Stupid, or stupendously awesome? The verdict is still out. My plan is to work on one project during the week, and the fun project on weekends only. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Writing Update

This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1
This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1

I’m aiming to make this a weekly segment. It’ll give me accountability for projects. Also, as my readers, I want to keep you guys in the loop. Conversely, if you don’t want to know how the sauce is made, feel free to skip this part.

Behind Closed Doors is currently getting formatted for its ebook debut. Once I have that back and to my liking, I can begin sending out advanced copies for judgement reviews! Let me know if you’d like an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Notecard Strategy

I’m a big fan of outlining my stories and getting the structure just right. First, I do freewriting, then I organize those mangled thoughts into the spine of a story. I want to make sure I have a beginning, major plot points, and an ending. Next, it’s onto the notecard stage.

The final product, separated by major plot points
The final product, separated by major plot points

I write out all the story beats on index cards and plot them out on my dining table. Seeing a physical representation of my story helps me figure out how it flows and where to insert some plot puzzle pieces. I rearrange notecards to get the plot just right. I make sure subplots are distributed throughout the story, not just crammed into one section.

Figuring out the plot is my favorite part of writing, so I may go overboard compared to other writers. I know writers who write first and ask questions later, and they turn out beautiful books. There is no one way to tell a story or write a book.

And then my cat likes to give her opinion of the story.  cat on notecards

She’s very opinionated.
cat on a dining table

 

EXTREMELY OPINIONATED

cat on table closeup

Do you have any writing strategies? What are you up to this weekend?

 

Friday Writing Update – June 5

TGIF! Another week bites the dust! I’m hoping this weekend is better than last, when the biting, cold wind and torrential rain made me skip going to the Lana Del Rey concert I was so jazzed for, and had been so jazzed for since January. I’m going to get some writing done and hopefully see that new Melissa McCarthy movie SPY, which is getting ridiculously great reviews.

Writing Update

This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1
This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1

I’m aiming to make this a weekly segment. It’ll give me accountability for projects. Also, as my readers, I want to keep you guys in the loop. Conversely, if you don’t want to know how the sauce is made, feel free to skip this part.

I’ve been working on final edits to Behind Closed Doors, getting the last pesky comma in order. I’m sending it off to my formatter this weekend. If you’re interested in getting an advanced copy to review, feel free to contact me.

I continued freewriting and brainstorming my next Browerton book. I’ve come up with some scenes I cannot wait to write. (and will probably need to fan myself while I write them) Next week, I’m aiming to bring the story to the notecard phase. Pictures to come!

I begun writing a new project. This is actually a young adult project I’ve had on my mind for a while. I love using the summer as writing motivation, trying to write a book between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The sun’s out when I wake up early. It’s too warm to stay in bed. I can celebrate my writing days with ice cream.

This weekend, I’m aiming to writing 10,000 words. It’s a fun stretch goal. I’ve done these 10k weekends in the past and challenged other authors. We’d give each other updates during the weekend and see if we can hit our goal by Sunday night. Let me know if you’re writing this weekend, and we can play together.

What are you up to this weekend? What are you working on? I hope you have great weather whatever your plans may be.

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

UPDATE: Behind Closed Doors is now available to add on Goodreads.

I am super-duper-califragi-excited to reveal the next book in the Browerton University series. And it’s hot. Hotter than the sand under your feet.

Behind Closed Doors is a collection of short stories, all revolving around different twosomes at Browerton. Characters you met from Out in the Open are back. Many readers kept asking me for more of Greg and Ethan. While that couple has their happy ending, I started wondering what Greg was like before that fateful law lecture.

I also loved exploring the lives of side characters like Henry and Blake. Their stories may turn into full-length novels if there’s enough interest in following these characters.

I should tell you that I picked the cover because it best represents the thematic elements uniting these stories. Not because this guy has a ridiculous body. No, that didn’t factor into my cover decision at all.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS cover

At Browerton University, a lot can happen behind closed doors.

Two frat brothers can reveal their true feelings. An honor student’s dark past can come to light. Ten hours in a car can turn strangers into lovers. And a coach can teach his star quarterback a very valuable lesson.

Catch up with some familiar Browerton students and meet new ones. Four stories. Four doors. Endless possibilities.

  • Door Number One: The Whitmore Room  (Out in the Open prequel)
  • Door Number Two: Is There a Porn Star in my Class? 
  • Door Number Three: Road Trip Cone of Silence 
  • Door Number Four: Coach’s Revenge 

Behind Closed Doors is a collection of gay new adult romance stories filled with humor, heart, and hot guys. The book is intended for audiences 18+ as it contains explicit sex and language. Approx. 30,000 words.

——

Behind Closed Doors will be available for purchase on June 30th. I’ll have the Goodreads page up shortly, and the Amazon pre-order link later this month.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Friday Writing Update

Hello Hello Hello. Happy Friday!

Lana Del ReyThis weekend, I’m seeing the one, the only Lana Del Rey in concert. Naturally, the weather is plunging into the 40s and rain after a week of 80-degree sunshine. But I won’t let that stop me from enjoying the music. In fact, 40s and rainy seems like the perfect weather for Lana’s music. I hope she sings National Anthem, my favorite Lana song. It’s totally my pole dancing song, if I were ever to pole dance.

Don’t look at me like that. We all have a pole dancing song.

New Book News

Check back here on Monday for the reveal of the next Browerton University book. Title, cover, blurb, release date. You’re getting it all. (And if you were subscribed to my mailing list, you’ve gotten a sneak peek already.)

Writing Update

 

This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1
This is why none of my stories have paragraph indents, capital letters, or the number 1

I’m aiming to make this a weekly segment. It’ll give me accountability for projects. Also, as my readers, I want to keep you guys in the loop. Conversely, if you don’t want to know how the sauce is made, feel free to skip this part.

This week, I worked on brainstorming a new book. For brainstorming, I freewrite in my journal. I put pen to paper and let my mind wander, capturing every random thought about character and plot. I don’t think. I just write. It’s a great way to discover these people. I fill up pages and pages with freewriting until the main plot points come into view.

I love learning about these characters and picturing the key scenes between them. I’m on a story high. It’s a bit like falling in love. At this point, everything in my story seems shiny and perfect. I know this won’t last forever. Drafting and revisions take their toll, but I always try to remember this feeling, this excitement for my story. It usually carries me through.

 

Thank you so much for reading! What’s your pole dancing song favorite song to dance to? What are you up to this weekend?

photo credit: Lana del Rey @ Planeta Terra via photopin (license)
License: (license)

Euro Pride Con – this July

Gay PrideAs M/M romance and gay new adult gain in popularity, I’m so happy ecstatic that more conferences are popping up. Conferences are a great way for M/M readers and authors to connect with each other. Reading and writing can be a really solitary hobby. Some days, I’ll be listening to my characters and writing great dialogue only to realize that I haven’t spoken a word aloud all day.

And while chatting with people online is mega-super-awesome, there’s something to be said about hanging out with people in person. I love love love meeting people in person that I’ve known online. It’s like meeting a pen pal  or long lost relative. You have an already established connection. You already have mutual interests. There’s no better icebreaker than “Nice to meet you! We follow each other on Twitter.” Continue reading Euro Pride Con – this July

Was I Ever Really Gone?

I should play that song Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Hello world (big)I’ll admit, things have been quiet on the A.J. front this year. My first book came out in September, and then *crickets.* I hate that there’s been such a gap between books. Believe me, I’ve been writing. Unfortunately, not all writing is gold. I spent months working on a book that just wasn’t coming together. I don’t want to push something out just to have another book for sale. Quality, not quantity. I’ll give you all the details in an upcoming blogpost.

But let’s focus on the positive. And there’s so much positive!

Continue reading Was I Ever Really Gone?