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!


Chapter 15 Finally Posted!

Chapter 15 is finally posted!!!! Hooray!!! 🎉 It’s called “The Scars that Bind Us.” The title is derived from one of the secrets Labriella has been keeping from Rome, the proof of which she wears on her back. You knew the whipping was going to be bad, and twice as bad because it’s done by someone Labriella knows and loves. What Rome doesn’t realize is that it’s not Labriella’s first picnic (so to speak). Being whipped again dredges up all kinds of awful memories for Labriella—the knowledge of which could easily compound Rome’s guilt over fulfilling what he already considers to be a nightmare. The tavern prostitute warned Labriella that she would have a hard time keeping anything from Rome, especially if they were to get intimate. Now it’s time to face the past, and determine whether they can ever truly move forward.

Can Bre ever be more to Rome than a broken servant?
In fulfilling Bre’s request, has Rome lost her affection forever?

Already, several of you (my dear readers) have reviewed! How happy that makes me!

And wow, so far all the feedback has been positive!

I apologize for making you worry that I might have scrapped the story and launched headlong into revisions. I know I have done that in the past. I’m actually trying very hard not to do that right now. I’ve got all kinds of revision ideas, to be sure. But I’ve figured out it’s so much easier to work on things like plot structure and detail consistency/importance when the story is already written (probably because I have to write “by the seat of my pants,” since outlines are more of a suggestive launchpad than representative of the actual life of my writing). So I’m trying to get as far along in the story as I can, before I revise again. I figure if I have a clearer picture of where I’m going now than I did when I was writing volume 1, then I’ll have an even clearer picture of what needs to happen (past and future) when I’m in volume 3, etc. Then I’ll be able to consolidate, and emphasize the important stuff.

But let me be clear: The story continues to defy my storyboarding expectations. It twists and turns anew, because it has a life of its own. It grows like wildfire. So instead of trying to pen it in (don’t mind the pun), I just try to herd it in a general direction. And, as this happens, the characters deepen and create their own quirks and eccentricities, and develop their own internal conflicts of interest. After the “herding” phase, I will try to insert little things here and there to make sure there is a plot. But for now, I’m going to try to just keep on writing. I realize that every time I take a workshop, or read a book or blog about writing technique, my writing changes. (Which is for the better, but develops style, character, and narration inconsistencies with previous versions.) When I write a new chapter, I have to be careful to stick with the story that’s already written, not the one I’ve altered in my head.

I’m glad everyone (so far) seems to feel that in chapter 15 Rome and Labriella have made actual relational progress. I messaged with Tsunayum about how difficult this is to accomplish, realistically, without fabricating circumstances and rushing “wishful thinking” changes in character. Rome, in particular, is difficult to handle, because he can’t appear or sound soft when he’s actually feeling soft-hearted; it would be out of character for him. Likewise, Labriella is prone to internalize all her insecurities, and deem her own issues of self-worth too insignificant to be worth mentioning. It’s a tenuous balancing act to have the two characters push and pull their hidden sides out of one another, to promote interpersonal change, without being too radically unrealistic in reaction and in methodology.

Before publishing, I hope to move this sort of event up sooner, to happen earlier in the story. But we’ll see.

Thanks for all your support! I will be re-launching into writing chapter 16. It will be Party Day 5—the day after the token of favor, the whipping, and the healing and limeyness. The event of the day will be a sort of Hide-and-Go-Seek/Sardines, to the effect of “You keep (for the day) what you catch.” Expect some unexpected twists. 😉

New Chapter, New Workshops, New Member

For those of you who haven’t dropped by FictionPress in the last couple days, I have (FINALLY) posted chapter 12.

Bre_showcaseLabriella and Rome reunite in time for Lord Alonza’s party, and there is definitely still chemistry between them. But when Lord Alonza makes it clear he plans to use Labriella to provoke Rome, can Rome trust Labriella’s loyalty enough to play it cool?

Go look up “Showcase” to read about how Rome and Labriella fare on Day 1 of Lord Alonza’s party!

Just so you know, I’m thinking of all of the chapters dedicated to Alonza’s party as falling under the banner of “Showcase.” I’m just dividing them up into parts by length. I’d love to have each chapter/part be a separate day, but I think Day 2 will be a little short for that, and Day 3 might be a bit lengthy.

Thank you so much to my 12 readers who have responded to my end-of-chapter request! Your support has inspired visions of what the next few chapters need to be. I welcome any additional suggestions or constructive opinions/feelings my other readers have yet to voice. 🙂

◊     ◊     ◊

My workshop frenzy has slowed, but not ended.

Last month I attended a YRW (Yosemite Romance Writers) seminar presented by Margie Lawson, called “Empowering Characters’ Emotions.” I admit that, based on the title and the bullet-point description, I went into the event expecting a prolonged lecture about how important it is to communicate characters’ emotions through speech, body language, and portrayal of settings. I can honestly say that I am glad that is not what I got. Margie Lawson has created a color-coding system for self-editing your mach_highlight_EDITSnuscript. And considering she is both an editor and a psychotherapist, you can expect her home-crafted EDITS system to be analytically in-depth. If you’re on the verge of your next major revision, and you want to take your editing to the next level, I highly suggest you look into this. I won’t be ready to employ half of the techniques I’ve learned from her until I complete my next step of revisions, but that doesn’t mean I’m shelving them. This EDITS system is a MUST for self-publishing authors, and a “should have” for authors aiming for traditional publishing. I’ve read too many indie books on my Nook that could have benefited from this.

The members of the RWAOLKiller Openings” workshop by Alexa Bourne provided some extremely helpful feedback for me on which opening for the BeastKing Chronicles would be most gripping. It would seem now that which opening I start with depends upon whether my series is considered Romance with fantasy elements, or Fantasy with romantic elements. At this point, Book 1 almost solely Romance, with Book 2 leading that way as well. But I have buried the original plot. If I bring that plot back to the forefront in the next revision, as I plan to, then my instructor for this month’s workshop believes that my story will be Fantasy.

claws1This month’s online writing workshop is called “Balancing the Paranormal and the Romance,” taught on Yahoo Groups by Shannon Donnelly through FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers—an offshoot of RWA). I realize my novels are High Fantasy, and “Paranormal” usually connotes Urban Fantasy. However, seeing as Rome’s beast nature is very much a paranormal anomaly within the High Fantasy world that I have created, I hope this workshop will inspire me with ways to subtly introduce, mix in, and play off of the supernatural elements in my story.

ch-network_RWATo give a little perspective to the workshops I’ve been attending (thinking they were separate entities)…RWA is a big non-profit, international organization, and each RWA offshoot is called a “chapter.” I stumbled onto this Chapters network by accident, by following an author’s blog links to a master listing of RWA workshops. You don’t have to be a member to attend the workshops, although membership does afford you discounts. You do, however, have to be a member of the larger organization in order to become a member of a Chapter.

I recently became a RWA member so I could join the Online Chapter…Or so I thought. What I didn’t realize when I signed up was that I wasn’t just paying for Chapter access, discounts, a magazine subscription, and getting my name out. There are all kinds of opportunities and programs built into a RWA membership, even for an Associate Writer (which I became)—not the least of which is a Critique Partner Matching Program. And, as an Associate member, Romance doesn’t have to be my primary genre. Perfect fit. If you don’t mind throwing down 100 bucks, plus a startup fee. I admit, that was a little painful for me. I consoled myself by realizing the price of membership is equivalent to the difference between the annual conference cost for members vs. non-members, if I attend.

Feel free to comment with any questions you may have about workshops, etc. I know what it’s like to try to navigate and figure it all out on your own. I’ll be honest if I don’t know the answer to your question, but then again, I might be able to point you in the right direction.

Workshop Help: Information vs. Perspective

I recently realized I hadn’t updated my Volume 1 info page. Whoops. Fixed that.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been dragging my heels in my writing a bit because I signed up for some online writing workshops.

“Do those really help?”

Yes and no. There’s always the stuff you already know from experience, the stuff you’ve already researched, and the stuff you can’t figure out how to assimilate. The farther along you are in your writing, the more narrowed your focus. For instance, I now know that I am writing an antihero (as opposed to a Prince Charming or an epic hero), and my Fantasy story’s plot decided it wants to be a Romance. So every time I read advice about what a hero should and shouldn’t have, and what they should and shouldn’t do, I’m seeing it through a Romance/Antihero lens. I take some things, and I toss the rest. What to take vs. what to toss is the pivotal question. My male counterpart is an Antihero, he’s discreetly muscled and slimly built, and I loathe irrelevant book covers, so I automatically dismiss the idea of having a book cover image depicting a headless muscly chest, and I’m going to ignore any advice on how to make him extra-fluffy lovable. On the other hand, he’s damaged with a past, I want readers to be sympathetic, and I’ve got to get my heroine (and my readers) to fall for him. So I’m more than happy to take advice about how to write in his sexy quirks every couple lines, and build questions and intrigue through his actions and reactions.

Information is what is helpful in these workshops. It’s authors handing you tools. It’s social connections. And it’s awareness of your contemporaries and the current book market.

Perspective is a totally different issue. The best perspective help I’ve had volunteered actually comes from readers in the genre, down to the subgenre and the sub-subgenre. There’s no substitute for it. Readers intrinsically know what they’re looking for in a subgenre—or rather, they can tell whether what they’re looking for is or isn’t present. Some readers will just drift away if they feel your story is lacking. But other readers will leave a line or two—or even a few paragraphs—if they know you’re interested in what they have to say.

So I’d like to say “thank you” to those readers who reviewed my most recent chapter, and those who have reviewed my story in the past. Also, a special “thank you” to those readers who reviewed multiple versions of my story. It is your comments I keep in mind when I revise, and when I try to figure out where to write to next. It is your comments that I use to write myself out of corners. And your comments have helped make me a better writer. Don’t think that your one little nay-saying comment is not heard inside a bunch of yay’s, or vice versa. I know I have cut scenes some of you liked, but don’t think I’ve deleted them. They’re still here, waiting to be added back in.

That being said, I am slowly realizing that all of my focus on the “right” ways to do things in order to get published has both helped and stunted my writing. I’ve been outlining and re-outlining, trying to figure out where to go next. That’s necessary, at certain stages. But I’m looking at two more events before the end of the second book, and realizing my writing went so much faster when I just free-wrote. Sure, I wrote myself into a bunch of corners. Sure, I had a bunch of adverbs and repetitive sentence structures. But I also chalked scenes full of emotion and used them as catalysts for unexpected plot turns…and I did it without hardly thinking about it. I just followed my pen. The next revision I have in mind for my manuscript is actually way closer to my original plot ideas, because my story has taken on a life of its own and thus far I have opted to blindly follow it, into whatever unexpected turmoil my pen may lead. I’m not sure which is better to publish: the original plot, or the raw, character-charged emotional turns of events. But with the end of the second book finally taking shape, I think I might just throw myself into it. After all, that’s where all the limes are going to hit the fan.

The second event at the end of this book, I was actually considering moving to the end of the first book. But now I’m not so sure. I guess I’ll figure it out after it’s written. After all, no matter which order events fall in for these two books, events in the next portion of the story should progress the same.

I don’t know if I will go right into writing and posting the next book after I finish Book 2. I might, if I have momentum. But it seems like a great breaking point for revisions.

Anyway, I’m finishing up a Male P.O.V. workshop by Sascha Illyvich (previously entitled “Inside the Male Mind”). I’m starting in on a Romance Writers of America workshop called “Killer Openings” by Alexa Bourne, which should help with the revisions I’ve been toying with for the beginning of my series. I’m also attending a one-night class on publishing and a seminar about characters this month. After those, my two-month workshop madness will be complete. It’s quite the marathon, and it can be difficult to switch back and forth between question mode, social mode, revision mode, and writing mode. Who knew authors had to be such multi-taskers? But after that, it should slow down…and my writing should pick back up. Theoretically.

Chapter 12 is underway; don’t think I’ve forgotten about it just ’cause I’m in a workshop frenzy. I’ve spent a lot of time mulling it over, attempting outlines, and brainstorming specific prospective scenes. I’m being careful, because recent discussions about bondage and alphas has helped me see how important it is that I handle the details of Lord Alonza’s party the right way. Rome may be dominant, but it is very important that you (my dear readers) see that his brand of dominance distinguishes itself that of the corrupt nobility—that they’re about a lot of things that he’s not. I believe the best way to do that is to stick Rome in a noble-dominant situation, and contrast his desires (and how he handles them) within the same situation.

I should warn you, though: Some bad crap is going to happen to Labriella. And, Sheryl, you’re right; Labriella has been growing more timid. But, if I play my cards right, the aftermath of said “bad crap” is going to change that. 😉

So stay tuned!

Frustration Leads to Smiles

I received a review this week on the first chapter of the new volume of my story, which I wanted to address. The reviewer sounded rather frustrated, but the review actually made me incredibly happy, because it means that I successfully structured my story in such a way that it had the desired effect. For those of you who have been waiting for some sexual action in the story for some time now: The palpable tension in the story is intentional. The review has alerted me that the sexual tension may be lasting too long sans mini-resolution for readers (since, after all, the story does not take place in real life, and is read for entertainment purposes), so thank you. If I seek publication, I may go back and cut out or shorten some of the in-between stuff. Due to word counts, I have been looking for something to cut anyway.

My challenge in Volume 1 was to develop the relationship naturally, at the rate it would in real life. Many novels nowadays (particularly in the Teen section of a bookstore) feature all the events in the novel happening in the span of only a few days. By the end of the novel, you FEEL like you’ve been journeying with the characters for a year of their lives…so when/if a character alludes to the fact that all these crazy events have happened in 3 DAYS, you’re like, “Wow, those days are chalked ridiculously full.” You accept it because you’re already locked in, but is it really realistic for so much to happen in only a day’s time? Can the character really grow so much literally overnight? I decided not to go at this break-neck pace in Volume 1, so I’m sure it seems much slower.

It would not feel natural, in light of the much slower pace of Volume 1, for Rome and Labriella to jump right into gleeful sex after the epilogue. As much fun as that would be to write, the psychology is not quite right for it. Labriella had to convince Rome to take her home with him again. And human nature is to slip back into an old way of doing things, even if that is not necessarily what is desired. (If you don’t believe me, just think of projects like trying to stick to a strict diet to loose weight. No sugar? Yeah right…see how long that’ll last when you’ve had it every day of your life. Or getting into a bad relationship, finally getting out, and then getting a new boyfriend/girlfriend just like the last one.) I had to address the natural slipping, to bridge it somehow–to call them on it so there can be progress. That was the function of chapter 1…Plus introducing Rome’s noble heritage into the equation in way that can be built upon in a plot-promoting fashion.

It’s not that Rome is stingy, or conservative, or cold-hearted. It’s that he is employing ridiculous amounts of self-control. His beast nature is very possessive and controlling, but his human side is deeply caring and has lost all that was important to him. So it’s only natural that he would try to control what he has left to keep from losing it. But Rome does have a breaking point. And the whole point of building so much tension is to make that breaking point that much more dramatic, so that when he finally does snap, you’re just as breathless as Labriella.

Never fear: There WILL be sex in this volume. That is why I started off the new volume with a lime in chapter 1. I warned of “sexual themes” in the summary for Inhuman, but I warned of actual “sex” in the summary for Ignoble. By “sexual themes,” I was referring to the fact that sex literally runs as a theme throughout the first volume; they talk about sex a lot, which decidedly sets the story apart from a “Teen” rating. Initially I wanted to close out the first volume with Rome and Labriella’s first round of actual sex…but then I realized A) the word count was already extremely high, and B) the story might be better served by integrating the first sex into the plotline rather than making it the destination. But I’ve had that wedding-crashing scene in my head for a looooong time now, so even though it’s graphically stretching the MediaMiner rating of Y for Volume 1, I just had to end with that.

I was concerned about crossing a line on FictionPress with my sex scenes, since they do not allow a rating above M. However, no one has complained so far or berated me for being too graphic, I have seen more graphic stories than mine on FictionPress, and the aforementioned review especially confirms that readers are actually waiting for the more graphic sex scenes. So maybe I won’t have to have a censored version of the story after all. I guess it really depends on how people handle Rome’s first-person violence in Volume 2. Nobody complained about gore (like heat of insides and texture of blood) when Rome stabbed Labriella with his claws in chapter 15…but he’s going to do a great deal more than that to people, so we’ll see.

To OneWithoutAWhish: I’m glad for your review. It’s like you’re reading my mind. 🙂 I don’t know if I’ll move quickly enough for you in the next couple chapters, but many of the ideas you listed are actual scenes I already have planned out, and you’ve anticipated the reason I even introduced escorts and prostitutes in the first place. At the risk of exposing any more of the story, since I can’t privately message you on FictionPress, that is all I am going to say.