Lovely Reviews

Thank you to all my recent FictionPress reviewers for your support! Nachiketa, Aki, purple-wolf-howl, Weeds-Are-Growing, and my guest reviewers… Your recent compliments have had me practically blushing—and I don’t blush easily. If I haven’t privately messaged you back, it’s because there was no link provided for me to do so. Even so, I wanted to give you a shout-out here. Writing is a very solo endeavor, and involves a whole lot of concentration-intensive work, like honing pieces of myself. So thank you; your encouragement goes a long way, and gives me hope that there truly is a market for my niche writing (which is often quite different from the mainstream).

I would also like to say that I appreciate Redmoon5678‘s honest input as well. Finding out where I am weak inspires me to learn more and write stronger, to reassess problem areas as well as to press forward with new ideas of the form my story needs to take. I invite more reviews like this that point to exactly what I need to address.

That being said, I know I have at least 2 reviewers who have a hard time with some of my story’s subject content, yet continue to read on ’til the end. I appreciate the diversity of my readership, and I understand that stomaching some of these scenes may be difficult for you (some are admittedly difficult for me to write, as well). As forewarned, I will not be pulling any punches. But rest assured that for every heartrending scene, there is a point to it that makes it completely necessary to the story as a whole, and to Rome and Bre’s personal growth. Thank you for joining me on their journey!

Again, thank you for all your support! Know that I am writing, and will do my best to get this next chapter out to you by the end of this month. I would love for it to be sooner; I’ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, keep tabs on my Twitter! (@SeriahBlackShp) I am already dropping hints there about what is happening so far in the chapter I am writing!

The Prodigal Returns: to his friend, to her mistress

I posted chapter 20 this week! If you haven’t read “Prodigal” already, follow this link to go check it out!

Bre comes face-to-face with the judgment of her temple, with the mistress she abandoned, and with the priest she pressured Rome to set free. But she never expected to have a chance at a “free pass”! All she has to do is give up Rome, and let him take the blame…

Meanwhile, Rome is determined to storm the temple to save Bre, but he is just about the only person who thinks that is a good idea. Poisoned, and standing on the wrong side of a supernatural barrier, Rome’s rescue attempt is moving at trudge.

Bre certainly could use some saving; she’s having a pretty horrid time of it. But can Rome even make it in there? Even if he does, he has no idea what is waiting for him on the other side, he has no map of the fortress, and the only way in is a doozy…

If you’ve been trying to guess thus far as to what Rome truly is, make sure you pay close attention in this chapter! You’ll get some major hints!


Please note that I have specified in the title of Volume 2 that it is specifically entitled “Ignoble,” as it was once before. If you have bookmarked it as only “Volume 2,” unfortunately because of the way that FictionPress does its web addressing the bookmark link will no longer work. However, a simple search on FictionPress should do the trick! The title on FictionPress is “The BeastKing Chronicles Vol 2: Ignoble.” If it doesn’t pop up, try taking out the semicolon.

If my updates haven’t been moving fast enough for you, or if you’re a Paranormal or Fantasy-Romance author looking to connect, be sure to follow me on Twitter! I realize blog posts can be far between, especially when I’m holed up writing the BeastKing Chronicles! Twitter should provide a quicker connection point. I plan to post some memes with quotes from whatever chapter I am working on, so if you want to get sneak peeks, go ahead and find me as SeriahBlackShp! The link is provided on the righthand side panel.

RWA Annual Conference Experience 2016

IMG_3840I just returned from the RWA Annual Writing Conference in San Diego, California! 5 days surrounded by writers of all levels, from aspiring to multi-published, and half of them pitching to agents and editors! The Marriott Marquis (connected to the ever-famous Convention Center) was awash with 2,000 authors toting their lime green-handled Swag Shop bags from ballroom to ballroom. On Day One, before Orientation was even a line in my schedule, I joined baffled forces with Contemporary Golden Heart Finalist Rayn Ellis. Together we ran into Romantic Suspense Finalist and previous Golden Heart Winner Diana Belchase…right before we spotted Nora Roberts passing by into the harbor!

And, again, that was Day One. First Timer Orientation wasn’t even until Day Two. Workshops, keynote speaker sessions, and publisher spotlights didn’t start until Day Three.

Yes, when I say publisher “spotlights,” I mean the editors from the major Romance publishers were actually there, detailing their publication lines, telling us what they were looking for, answering questions, and even hosting book signings and free giveaways. Which was totally separate from meeting with authors to hear them pitch their stories in person, to determine whether they wanted to read the manuscripts.

IMG_3843There was so much going on at that conference at any given time! Every hour meant a choice between 5-10 workshops, spotlights, book signings, or author panel “chats.” Chats were individualized to cover each sub-genre of Romance, and workshops ranged from author/publishing/marketing career decisions to structure, wording, and focus of the story itself. For three days, from 8:30am to 5:30pm, I tried to absorb as much as I could from as wide a variety of workshops as possible, sometimes even workshop-hopping because there was more than one workshop per hour from which to glean. Kindle representatives were there, Nook representatives were there… It was insane.

Author insanity, in the best of ways.

There was a distinct moment when I realized that one of the authors on my current workshop panel was Elizabeth Hoyt—as in, the Historical Romance author of at least one of the books I downloaded onto my Nook when I was binge-reading Beauty and the Beast stories. And she was right there, in front of me, on a panel answering questions about writing intimate scenes! 😱 Imagine my shock!

There was another moment when I realized my workshop instructor was Sarah MacLean, whose books I had actually shelved in Barnes & Noble. (You come to remember some of those big names, when they take up that much room on the shelf.)

Yes, you should wish you had been there. So, attend next year!

Special shout-outs to Brea Vinagh and Jen, my fellow first-time conference buddies! And a shout-out to Stephanie Garber as well, who encouraged me to attend events like this. Her first YA Sci-Fi novel, Caraval, will be released next year! Dare I say I knew her beforehand? She has been a splendid trove of advice for me, and I wish her all the best on her launch in January 2017!


IMG_3875The sheer number of people I met at the RWA conference who asked me if I had a critique partner (CP) alerted me to how badly I need one at this point in the game. I originally joined FictionPress because I was so hungry for feedback. Writing is a solo endeavor, and constructive reviewers are hard to come by—particularly for the non-YA Fantasy-Romance sub-genre (which is distinctly different from Paranormal Romance). I just joined the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Chapter of RWA. I am also reactivating my membership in Janice Hardy‘s Critique Connections group. So, if you are interested in being a beta reader or a critique partner for my story, please let me know! I am very interested in how I can better my story, better represent my characters, and ultimately succeed in publication.

Thank you for your continued support! Story progress will be ramping back up shortly. You have Brea to thank for that. 😉

From Chapter 18 to 19

In case you missed the notification, chapter 18 is posted, named “My Fight.” When Rome is summoned to a hearing suspecting his involvement in Lord Alonza’s demise, it’s up to Bre and the Wheat Girl to escape their room to intervene. But with a group even more powerful than the nobles arriving on the scene, Bre might have to choose between keeping her own secret safe or keeping Rome’s. The chapter is named for Bre and Rome’s individual resolve, each “stepping up to the plate” to protect the other, in their own way.

In the Author’s Notes section of the chapter, I warned you (my dear readers) that, unfortunately, there is a good chance the long stretches between updates will continue. Upon finishing last chapter, I was happily ready to blaze a trail into the next chapter. College homework, however, is very good at monopolizing time and depleting energy and concentration. Part-time work takes up a third to half of my day, and schoolwork gobbles up the rest. Since (contrary to belief) budding writers cannot live on bread crumbs alone, I am stuck in this situation until I can find another way.

Summer, however, should provide plenty of time to write, distraction-free. I look forward to it. I also look forward to whatever gaggle of writing workshops and conferences I can finagle my way into, whether online or in person. I might even make it to RWA’s annual conference, which is in San Diego this year.

Just so you’re aware: I changed the description of Volume 1 on FictionPress. The previous summary was quite boring, to be frank. The only way I could see to get around that was not to write the description in first person. I will probably end up changing the summary for Volume 2 as well, now that I have a better idea of what fit into the book (and what will be left to the next one). The only reason I’m holding off is because words like “alpha” and “pack” (which are in the current summary) draw in a certain audience, which I would like to keep, and those sorts of words will probably disappear from the vernacular if the summary isn’t written from Rome’s perspective.


SPOILER WARNING…

In case you’ve already made it to the end of chapter 18, and are wondering where I’m going with it… Worry less about Bre being left unconscious, and more about what lengths it may take to get Bre back. Provided Rome can successfully eject himself from the nobles after they’ve condemned him to death, rescuing Bre means Rome’s first personal entanglement with the temple—something Bre has spent most of her life trying to prevent, and for good reason. You had your first glimpse of the temple’s Powers and resolve at the end of chapter 18. Rome isn’t necessarily used to meeting his match in Power.

The strange thing I’m seeing as I begin to write chapter 19 is that plotline takes SO many less words than romance and relational development. I’ve accomplished more in 2300 words (action/plot-wise) than I feel like I have in the last 20,000. I’m not sure whether that’s because the groundwork took so long to lay, or if I’m just not writing enough of what Rome is thinking anymore. I feel like Rome’s actions speak for themselves at this point. But he’s already surprising me, talking more than he’s acting in the face of Bre’s second disappearance. Writing the beginning of chapter 19 might turn out to be more of a struggle against OOC than anything else. It would be simple, in/fight/out, if it weren’t for the Wheat Girl—which is turning out to be like a stop sign, slamming Rome to a halt. That’s a problem. Not necessarily a bad one, but she’s not supposed to have that strong of an effect over him yet. Finding a way around that may take time.


My Dear Reviewers:

Purple-wolf-howl: What caught me most off-guard about your review was your allusion to mystery in the story. Once you listed all those attributes, I could see why; I could think of specific instances that illustrated each word. But I suppose, in my narrow, categorical view of trying to squish my story into genres, I failed to realize the significance of the spectrum of my story: romance, action, sex, and mystery. Thank you, for helping me see. :) I’m curious as to whether the mystery you see has to do with the temple, or with Rome, or even with Bre (and her developing Power)…?

How Killers & Servants Fall in Love

I really hope you noticed this by now, but in case you didn’t…I posted chapter 17 two weeks ago. Due to in-chapter wrestlings with concepts of love and killing, I ended up naming it “On the Kill Side of Love.”

This chapter was both very therapeutic and very difficult to write. I heard Akiyume when they reviewed:

“I’m glad she didn’t unrealistically greet him with open arms. It was time Bre needed to actually see for herself what the ‘beast’ is and decide whether to accept Rome or not.”

standoff_backtoback_shadowplayBut I also heard the cries of:

“Why can’t they just see each other’s love for one another!”

And,

“With love comes trust, and he doesn’t trust Bre at all.”

Some of these are old comments, but they make solid points. Rome is distrusting, since he feels he’s already been betrayed. Both Rome and Bre are new to the idea of love, as unloved orphans, and are naive to the pitfalls of defining love against obsession and fascination, adult lust and childhood crushes. It’s part of what defines this story as less a “coming of age” tale, and more a tale of growing into oneself, of wrestling with those past experiences and hardships that make you who you are now, to choose who you will be. It’s in favor of making the hard choice, when the hard choice is the heart choice, knowing the consequences could be dire.

Through writing this series, I’ve come to realize why people usually don’t write romances with so many conflicts of interest—where both characters are virgin, let alone have a virgin antihero, or start off with the romantic love interests not just estranged but actually at odds. I’m also understanding why things like bondage and abuse are taboos. For those of you who haven’t muddled through writing these things in conjunction with one another, let me help shed some light: Every single one of the aforementioned conflicts propagate endless writing fuel, yet is long and difficult to resolve. If you’re a “pantser” (writing “by the seat of your pants”), like me, it means you have this many scenarios you’re waiting to pan out, without knowing the outcome—almost without knowing whether they will help the plotline progress or not. Maybe one of these conflicts is going to stunt the resolution of the other, and you won’t know it until 30 pages in. Maybe it’ll speed you into the next resolution so fast, the two “aha” moments blend into one.

The truth of the matter is, my story surprises other people because it surprises me. I lay down the ground rules, and the characters write the story. Then one character does something naughty, which the other character may or may not like.

That being said, I somehow ended up with a bastard half-noble child who was taught by his esteemed, deceased father how to break servants to preserve household order. And, well, you can see how that might be a problem, considering years (of antisocialness) later what he wants most in the world is to bed a servant—a servant who previously suffered from bullying, abuse and being broken.

At this point in the story, you probably see why Bre was so tame at the beginning of the story, at the opening of Book 1. Why she let the bullies kick her. Why she didn’t want to be noticed. How attractive it might have been to run wild with Rome before she re-entered what she perceived to be a tomb—a temple she only saw as a tomb after she met Rome, and saw what it meant to be wild and free.

love_kills_by_lmd93-d4bt1ss

Artwork by LMD93

Bre’s perception of Rome’s wildness is getting turned on its head now. She saw the freedoms of wildness, but not its hard edge, not its restrictions, not its narrowed perspective. In chapter 17, she’s faced with the question that’s been before her all along: Can she accept both sides of Rome’s wildness? Can she bed the killer with the boy? After judging him to be more dangerous than her greatest foe, does she even still want to be with him?

This chapter was hard to construct, because how do you get a temple servant to embrace a creature denounced by her religion? How do you get a second-guessing virgin to give herself up to an unruly man who admits to getting outside advice to make up for his lack of knowledge/experience? How do you get an abused girl to not cower before a torturer? How do you get a punished servant not to fear her chains? How do you get a self-conscious girl to let the guy she’s crushed on for a score of years see her naked imperfections? How do you get a lifelong servant to play like she’s worthy of a noble’s utmost attention?

And how do you get the torturing bastard not to look like a jerk?

A large portion of this chapter was a sequence of highly sexual scenes. And whenever I write scenes like that, I wonder how many people I’ll turn away, based on their principles alone. It would have turned me away, once. But, as I’ve read several erotica authors say, The sex isn’t why I write it. And in every sexual scene that I write, I’ve got to hope somebody sees more than pornography.

So, “thank you” to my reviewers, because I can tell not only that you’re enjoying reading my story, but that you’re seeing my characters as people with real struggles and failures and misgivings, in need of growth. I could ask for nothing more.

Stay tuned, because there’s about to be a whole lot of growth.


To my beloved reviewers, who always thrill me with their comments:

I’m so glad you both thought the chapter was “amazing,” and felt there was relational progress! Considering the height of the challenge to keep the characters’ reactions within their personality and development ranges thus far, I’m truly relieved to read your positive responses—particularly after my lengthy absence. So much enthusiasm! I was concerned that I was spending too much time on Rome and Bre, in the bedroom, but maybe that was a much-needed tension release?

trueBibliophiliac, I was genuinely surprised that you found the chapter “sweet.” It was a pleasant surprise. With Rome’s gruffness, and without switching to his perspective, I was worried he might come across too hard or too soft, and I wasn’t sure how much I could put the initiative into Bre’s hands without raising questions of why Rome wasn’t taking back control. If Rome came across as sweet, then his emotions came through to Bre’s perspective after all, and accurately. More on that at the beginning of next chapter. :)

You are right to fear for Rome. So if the chapter reveal about the nature of the beast is putting you on edge…good! Now you and Bre (and you other readers) have a better idea of what’s really going on here. And in the next chapter, some of the more antagonistic characters are going to begin to discover that as well. Bet ya can’t guess who just got themselves invited to the party!

Aftermath: The Violent, the Jealous, and the Wounded

I’m back from the dead!

Well, okay, I wasn’t dead. I was working 2.5 jobs. And yes, I add that .5 on the end there, because one of my two jobs offered me overtime hours, which effectively doubled the hours I would normally be working there. So, it was like having 3 part-time jobs, or 1 almost-full-time job and one part-time. 7 hours in the morning, and 5 hours in the evening, with commutes in the middle and on either end…Yeah, it was brutal. Necessary, and ethical, but brutal.

But now I’m back down to 1 job (or 1.5, I suppose). And with my brain and body well on their way to being recharged with sleep and reading and sanity, I’m stepping back into novel-writing.

Enough about me. You’re dying for news of the story, right?

Yes, the story is still here. It’s taken a lot of twisting to get my head back in the game without altering the chronology, but it’s still intact. I’ve re-read much of my already-written material. And now I’m once again trying to create, and to move the story along.

It should strike you as no surprise that I will not be able to cram as many scenes as I would like to into chapter 17. I suppose I could have glazed over the aftermath of chapter 16’s trauma (both Rome and Bre being worse-for-wear). But I’ve already had at least one person complain (albeit kindly) about the change of pacing I used in chapter 16, rushing through events without psychological rambling, and where one person complains aloud there are likely more who agree who haven’t said anything.

So, aftermath in chapter 17, and plot movement in chapter 18. Unless you want a 16,000-word chapter that will take another month to be released. Yikes.

My debate in chapter 17 has been three-fold:

  1. Whether to pick up right where the story left off, or to start with a dream (since it follows the same stream of thought from where the story left off, and would serve as a memory refresher).
  2. How much interaction Rome and the “Wheat Girl” Showcase should have after Rome and Bre got back to their guest suite.
  3. Whether to herd Rome and Bre together to repair their relationship and/or take a big leap forward, or whether to leave a wrench in it until the next wave of plot tensions have exploded into light.

Intimacy between Rome and Bre, after Bre’s near-rape and Rome’s explicit demonstration of violence, has been a particular tough spot. Rome is neither passive nor Prince Charming, so he’s not particularly willing to bend. Bre has been forced every which way into dramatic and traumatic situations she had almost no control over. That doesn’t exactly create the kind of situation that would propel Religious, Self-Conscious Girl to initiate resolution talks with Violent, Horny, Drugged Beast-Man.

The resulting writing attempts have created split versions of what could happen, based on who takes the lead after Bre seeks out Rome. Because, let’s face it: The ball is well and thoroughly in Labriella’s court. Rome has started to open up, and Bre has put on the brakes and dodged out of the way. The question becomes what, exactly, is Bre’s problem with Rome that would keep her running away, and what is strong enough to pull her back to him when he has violated her ethics?

The answers might surprise you.

And the question right behind it is, If the relationship is salvageable, is sex still on the table? (No pun intended.)


To my most recent batch of reviewers (some of whom I have already replied to privately):

trueBibliophiliac: First, you crack me up! 😄

Second, thank you for expressing your concern about the pacing. The rush-pacing in chapter 16 was intentional, so that you could feel the adrenaline and desperation of the characters when put into a time-sensitive situation, but also to simulate a sort of drug-induced blur in which events seemed to fly into one another without enough time or clarity of thought to think through proper reactions. However, I have made an attempt to even out the pacing in chapter 17, to give you (the readers) and the characters a chance to catch emotionally catch up.

And you’re right: The transition from chapter 15 to chapter 16 was rather abrupt. I initially wrote a few explanatory lead-in lines in the middle and end of Rome and Bre’s alone time together, at the end of chapter 15, but when I changed versions those lines no longer seemed to fit, so I excluded them. I supposed I could add those lines back in, if I continued on from Bre’s perspective after Rome blacked out. But at the time, I wasn’t sure where I was going with Rome’s blackout yet, so I thought it might be better to figure it out in the middle of chapter 16, where I would know how it was going to affect Bre’s reactions. (Strange as it may sound, sometimes the characters teach me a thing or two through their reactions to the situations I put them in. I didn’t know Rome started to strip her at the end of chapter 15, until Bre started shying and flashing back in the atrium in chapter 16. Just like I didn’t know Bre had been “broken” to give up information about Rome [not just as punishment for sneaking out] until chapter 15 of volume 2. I didn’t know Rome had held a whip as a child, until Bre envisioned it. I only have the benefit of hindsight when I revise. It’s part of why I’m trying to write all of the books in this series before I try to publish the first one.)

Zlen: I am so glad you can still say that you want more of Rome! One of the dangers in having an antihero flip out and show some of their true colors is always the danger that it will be too far of an ethical leap, causing readers to reject the character, and therefore put down the story. If you are still with the story, and want more Rome, then I have succeeded! I hope I can keep you wanting more.

Nachiketa: It’s not that the nobles with Power are dead. It’s that (unlike ancient times) the temple now controls those with Power—which predominantly means noblewomen. Noblemen with Power almost never pop up, let alone survive the political power struggles that ensue. You’re more likely to find a commoner with Power, which most people would consider to be an anomaly. Nobles are screened for Power, but it’s easier for a person of lower birth who’s not as power-hungry to slip through the cracks. So, when Lord Alonza figures out Bre is covering up the use of Power, he assumes the Power must be her own, undiscovered by the temple. Not in his wildest dreams would he imagine the rookie noblemen he’s been harassing, who’s lowest on the political totem pole, to actually be more Powerful than himself. If Alonza dies, Rome’s outed secret should die with him. One can only hope. 😉

More on this later, in-story (as you guessed) as more standoffs and quandaries arise.

Akiyume: Wow, I’m so flattered (and glad) that you consider my story to be one of the best you’re reading! I am very passionate about developing my writing, although I think that is a more recent development. Character depth, however, has always been a major passion of mine. I am most drawn-in by character depth and complexity when I am reading, so it remains foremost in my mind while I am writing. I am, after all, writing the characters’ stories; it’s all about them.

I did initially intend for Bre to give in to Rome in the flower prep room—mostly because she physically could not help herself, being drugged and all. But it turned out she was too flustered to stay in one place. She might have gone along with it, if Rome hadn’t tried to strip her; I honestly couldn’t tell what turn that was going to take. But it just didn’t seem plausible that he wouldn’t try, and once he did try, it seemed obvious that it would be OOC for Bre (being so self-conscious and religion-steeped) to go along with it. And Rome, reacting largely to her undercurrents of acceptance, could force her to stay but couldn’t quite force her to accept the parts of him he hasn’t entirely accepted himself.

So, I sort of accidentally drove Bre away from Rome, when I intended for them to get closer. But, well, acceptance doesn’t happen in a day. It can, however, get a boost, in chapters 17-18.

But, you’ve caught the heart of the book! The big question is: Can Bre accept Rome, just as he is? And if she can, how will that affect and/or change Rome?

XxsilenceisgoldenxX, and my 2 guest reviewers: What high compliments! Thank you! I know my story is very different from many of the others on FictionPress these days, as ElvenFaerie said. I can’t help but be overjoyed that it sticks out in a good way! I can only hope that it will be a “gem” in the eyes of the publishing world as well.

I know the lapse in updates has been killer, but hang in there! As soon as I finish grafting versions of chapter 17 together, the posting of the chapter shouldn’t be long behind.

The Chase is On: Catch Her if You Can!

girlrunningtrophyIn case you didn’t get a notification in the last couple days, chapter 16 is now posted as “Catch Me If You Can“! The hunt is on, and Bre is the highest prize in the noble game of Hide and Seek. If she wants to survive, she has to run fast enough and hide well enough to ensure Rome is the only one to get his hands on her. But noble lust isn’t the only obstacle in this game. Lord Alonza threw in a cocktail twist, so now even wrong feels right. For the nobles, this isn’t so far from the norm. But for Rome and for Bre, being drugged in such a way might have devastating results. Even if Bre can keep her mind and body anti-noble and (most importantly) anti-Alonza, the Rome that comes to save her might be unpredictable at best. At worst? Every bit as beastly as he claims to be.

This chapter is highly sexual in nature, and largely non-consensual. There are drugs in play, on top of the nobles’ corruption and Rome’s beast nature. Not to mention, the nature of the game itself is very immoral. Sensual scenes will be fast-paced and/or riddled with moral confusion, not warm and fluffy and safe. It’s necessary for things to move forward. You have been forewarned.

You will, however, get that Rome vs. Alonza scene many of you have been waiting for. Which (I warn you) is gorey, and morally ambiguous. You may imagine how being present for this scene could affect Rome and Bre’s relationship, seeing as Bre has been raised in a temple environment which considers all life sacred.

I had to end this chapter sooner than I would have liked, because of the length. However, that might have turned out for the best, because it may make for a better transition point into the next plot twist. Yes, it will be primarily a plot twist, not a romance twist. Certain concerns have rcompletethecircleemained untouched by the storyline for far too long, and I intend to circle back around to them. That circle is just about complete. If you’ve read Book 1, you’ve waited about 1,200 [novel] pages for this. (I’m studiously trying not to think about what that means for revisions.) If you started with Book 2, a.k.a. the current story installment…let me know how you fare. Maybe consider flipping through the first several chapters of Book 1, if you can handle the slow pace. You’re all smart, so you should do fine putting the pieces together, even if you haven’t read Book 1; it’s not like it’s mandatory for understanding. But it’s kind of important to realizing the significance of Rome’s personal journey, as well as what it might mean for Bre’s past to finally catch up to her.

That’s all the hints you get, for now. 😛