Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Projected Projects

Somewhat astonishingly, I did get some actual work done yesterday. I shall pause to allow you to be shocked.

I deleted some paragraphs that, in retrospect, were completely unnecessary. In a 10,000 word short story (I'm still somewhat boggling about the idea of 20 pages being "short." Then again, 20 pages isn't a novella, either.) there's still not much time to have a conversation with one's sister that can be summed up in about two sentences. (Not to mention, I still have trouble with siblings. I don't have one, and I've never spent lots of time around people interacting with their siblings. So I'm never sure if the conversations are anywhere close to accurate. This bothers me more than other things I make up, since most people do have siblings.) After deleting that, I put in a 200 word paragraph to take the place of the 4-5 paragraphs I deleted. Then I wrote another page and a half or so of background information for my second hero.

(Ok, vocab check. In a typical romance, you have a hero and a heroine. In a m/m story you have... what? Two heroes? The alpha and the beta? Argh! I begin to see what Liz means when she complains about the pronouns. I'm sure I'll get to that later, when Maitland and Fitzhugh are actually interacting. Right now, they're just staring at each other across a card-table.)

So... anyway, I got some work done. That's good.

And then I found another submissions call that I'm interested in; 1,500 - 3,000 word short story about succubi. And since I'm already firmly establishing myself in gaslamp (another vocabulary check... apparently, "steampunk" is used for pure speculative science fiction. "Gaslamp" is used for the same setting - leather and velvet, brass and steam, Victorianesque - with supernatural or mystical elements. Apparently, the sci-fi purists don't like magic in their peanut butter.) genre, I'm going to go ahead and write it there (then?).

That's due October 1, which lets me start it after I finish Shifting Steam. (That's the title of the collection, not the title of my story... I'm still working on that bit. Ha. Werewolves. Bit. I made a punny.)

Somewhere in there, I have my own project that I'm interested in pursuing. I was thinking about writing a collection of short-stories, all gas-lamp setting, maybe some of them interconnected. Gaslamp Alphabet. So, the first story would be A is for Absinthe. And so on.

And then I have a series of novels, urban supernatural, that I'd like to get out of my head and onto paper. (Why do I call it that when I actually do most of my writing on the computer?)

So, yeah. I've got a full plate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Last week, my editor sent me (and the other contributing authors) an email, reminding us that contracts were due RIGHT NOW and giving us a copy of the cover art, so we could do publicity materials with it.

And also, last week, the Living Social deal was $10 for $50 worth of VistaPrint stuff; pens, mousepads, notebooks, business cards, etc.

So, rather than write this morning - my husband is working from home today and one thing I've discovered is that I have a really hard time writing when someone else is in the room - I opened up my deal and started making "stuff."

I'll probably do some contests later - when I get said "stuff."

I really do, however, need to get to work.

I'll be happy when the grumpy husband is back at work, and when the kiddo is at my dad's for three weeks.

I'll also be happy when I start making enough money from this writing gig to let us move to a larger apartment and I can have an office. (Altho previously mentioned grumpy husband has already said if I have an office, he has to be allowed to work in it on his work-from-home days, which means I'd still be sitting here with a room full of grump.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Settling My Head

Garden Variety is out* now (and ahead of schedule, even!) and I have a new project (possibly two, but the only idea I've come up with so far for the Memory Eater anthology is pretty damn vile, so I don't know if I'll go with it or not.) in the Hopper.

So, I'm taking a few days off to get my head on straight again. You'll know this has been accomplished when I stop checking my mail every five minutes to see if the editor has gotten back with me about Garden Variety... I don't know why I do this, especially since I didn't hear back about Golden Moments for... eh, I believe the due date for Steamlust was in March and I didn't hear back until the 2nd of May. But for the first few days, I sit on my email like a nesting bird.

* I usually describe stories as being "In the Hopper" (still working on it... not even enough to be considered a first draft), "In" (I'm working on them now!), "In Beta" (awaiting feedback from a test audience) or "Out" (out the door to the editor/publisher)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Variety

So, I sent out my Jackie and the Beanstalk story yesterday.

I finally came up with a title that I liked; Garden Variety. I've had acknowledgement from the editor that she received it and she "looks forward to reading it."

Now... I just have to wait. And you know, shill Steamlust. (Pssst, go pre-order it!)

I'm going to take a few days off, and then start working on Shifting Steam, due August 10th.

I'm cheating a little with this one, since I'm working out several characters in the first scene who can/may have stories of their own to tell. But that's the idea, right?

Monday, June 13, 2011

On Feedback

I sent out six copies of my story for beta reads and critique. One writer in my genre of erotica/romantic, a writer NOT in my genre (she does Young Adult), a librarian, and a couple of other friends.

On Thursday or so, I was starting to get anxious about having heard almost nothing back from readers. I'd gotten one set of suggestions back almost immediately, and then heard nothing. From anything. Now admittedly, what I got back was pretty sweet:

Oh, I really liked this! I only had a few quibbles here and there with word choices. Very steamy, too, whoo! :D I hope they take it; it's wonderful!

You'd think that I'd be thrilled with this... and admittedly, I love to cuddle up with the favorable reviews. At the same time, I'm very rarely so confident that my work is that wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I recognize that I'm a pretty good writer; but first drafts are just that. First. Drafts.

Something had to be wrong with it!

I did some edits as I wrote, trying to get my main character - Jackie - to stop being so incredibly whiny. And I did some sentence work between paragraphs of writing the explicit scene. But surely... surely there were more suggestions than a few awkward sentences where I rewrote a few times and ended up with half of sentence A and half of sentence B not flowing together at all because I forgot that I needed to change the verb tense. Something that happens more often than I'd like to admit because of the run-on sentence problem that I have.

Read your story, found it really hot :) I don't know, I didn't really find anything wrong with it!

Seriously? Nothing??

I know I'm actually happier with this story than I was with Golden Moment. Probably because instead of writing a rather generic sex scene (I love Golden Moment, don't get me wrong, I think it's an excellent piece of work, but that one was more plot-device-character driven) I wrote something that personally appeals to my kinks.

Overall liked it :) I did add comments and suggestions though out the text.

Ah, there we go! (Why is everyone smiling at me? Do they know something I don't?) Hmmm. Seems like I'm showing off my vocabulary again. Seems like fiasco isn't well known. Everyone was able to look it up, but everyone had to look it up. Since literally everyone mentioned it, I'm either going to have to take that out, or add a descriptive clause after I use it.

I am amused by the fact that the only straight man who read the story was the only one who pointed out that Jackie and Thorn didn't actually have penetrative sex at all. In fact, it's left extremely not mentioned whether or not Thorn had an orgasm. (I'm not saying my other readers didn't notice, just that they didn't think it was worth mentioning.) I know they didn't. I did that deliberately.

I spent a while debating - both internally and with other people - what the actual difference is between erotica and romance... because honestly, sometimes there doesn't seem to be much difference at all. I thought, perhaps it was ratio; a short story with a sex scene in it is about 50% sex to 35% plot/15% character development. Perhaps it was graphic... and then I started reading more modern and urban supernatural romances (my personal favorites are the 1810-1840's historical, and the sex in that is often very, very tame/vanilla/boring/skip to the end...) and some of those are pretty damned graphic.

And in the end, I decided the big difference between erotica and romance is simple; erotica is catering to the hot realities of sex and romance is catering to the ideals of sex. And when it comes right down to it (pun intended) cock is nice and all, but I don't need it. Real sex is an exchange of favors... you do me, and I do you. This, however, was fantasy sex. My fantasy sex, thankyouverymuch. So, you know, I don't really care if Thorn got off or not. The scene wasn't about Thorn, it was about Jackie. And Jackie had a wonderful time.

This is a friggin' awesome description.

Well, thank you.

Friday, June 10, 2011


It doesn't matter what I say
So long as I sing with inflection
That make you feel that I'll convey
Some inner truth of vast reflection
But I've said nothing so far
-- The Hook, Blues Traveler

I once had a beta reader who tossed a story - admittedly, it was bad - back at me with a scornful snort.

"You're never going to publish," he said, looking down at me. (Everyone looks down at me; I'm abnormally short, and for whatever reason, I don't think I have a single male friend who's less than six feet tall.) "with introductions like this. Someone's got to die or have sex in the first chapter, or no one is ever going to read further than that."

I was insulted, and more, I was rather incensed. I went back to my home and immediately opened about twenty books, reading the first five pages of my favorite books. Death? No. Sex... no. Death, well, does someone we don't know at all being dead count? Then this one counts, I guess. Sex, yes. Death, yes. Sex, no.

He's not entirely right.

But he's not entirely wrong.


  • Harry Potter. His parents are already dead when the story starts. We don't know James and Lily Potter; it takes many novels before we even get a sense of them as people rather than just "dead parents." But the description of them being dead, the house destroyed, a mystery as to why they were killed, and what is going to happen to that baby... that's all established in the first few pages.
  • Stephanie Meyers opens up the Twilight Saga with the threat of Bella's demise. We don't even know Bella yet - she's not identified by name, we know nothing about her... and yet, there's the happy hunter (I've always thought James' description in that first chapter was a bit jarring, actually.) bouncing across the room to murder her.
  • Even my favorite writers, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller open up Conflict of Honors with a funeral, a rape and the threat of a second sexual assault.

It's about the hook.

You have to hook your readers in. There are millions of writers, tens of millions of books. Even if you're an avid reader, there's no way in the world you can possibly read all the books that exist. So everyone makes choices. We narrow ourselves to a couple of genres, or recommendations from friends and talk show hosts. And even then... I personally have a rule that I'll read about 10% of a book or 70 pages, whichever is longer, before I decide I'm not interested. (Unless, of course, I'm so massively offended before that... Game of Thrones, which everyone that I know completely adores, so totally turned me off before I even reached page 50, I never did finish it.) If I'm not interested in 10%, I don't need to waste my time.

The hook... that's what you're looking for. As both reader and writer. The question isn't always "death or sex" in the first ten pages... it's Why? What? Who? (I suppose you could throw When or Where in there, too, but they're a little harder to pull off.) Who is this? Why should I care? What's happening?

As a writer, you form a question in the reader's mind... and then you don't answer it. For a while.

Advertisers know that. "Drink Coke!" Not so compelling.

"Thirsty? Try a Pepsi."

The question opens up a need; even if you didn't necessarily have one before. And neatly offers you the solution right there. That's advertising, getting you to buy the product. A book's solution is also right there... get the answers... read the book.

The death or sex equation is asking the question with a sledgehammer. You get the reader's attention (theoretically... Black House by King and Straub opens with the detailed description of a murder victim. And even with a built-in audience - I had read The Talisman - I was so squicked out by the opening that not only did I never read the book, I took it back to the bookstore and exchanged it for something else.) and then you can get on with the business of telling your story.

Which is good, since I don't have so many characters in this short-story I'm working on, that I can kill anyone off immediately. And as it's a romance/erotica story, the sex is the payoff. I don't want to show that right away.

So..... yeah. I need a really good intro.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Steampunk Glasses

For your viewing pleasure. Sniped from here

Contracts and Contents

So, I open up my email yesterday - you know, I really need to consolidate my emails. I have two separate email accounts, which wouldn't be so bad, I guess, if I didn't forget to open one. For weeks at a time.

This actually ended up hurting me, a few months ago. I hadn't opened my email in a while - one account is gmail and since my Favorite Web Browser© is set to iGoogle as my homepage, I see that one all the time. And the other one is my ISP email, which means I have to open Microsoft Outlook to get to it. And for some reason, I never seem to get around to it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended up missing the deadline for another compilation of stories: Best Erotic Romances. I only knew about the comp when I saw Kristina complaining about some of the submissions she'd gotten. Checking my email, I did find her email to me, letting me know about the project... right before I got on a train for a week's vacation in Boston. Needless to say, I missed it.

Since then, I've gotten better about remembering to check that email address.... at least once every couple of days or so.

Yesterday, I got my contract and the finished table of contents for Steamlust. So... that's kinda exciting.

Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance

Foreword Meljean Brook

Introduction: A Passion for Steampunk

Iron Hard Sylvia Day

Heart of the Daedalus Saskia Walker

Fog, Flight and Moonlight Sacchi Green

The Undeciphered Heart Christine d’Abo

Mr. Hartley’s Infernal Device Charlotte Stein

A Demonstration of Affection Elizabeth Coldwell

Undergrounded Vida Bailey

Sparks Anna Meadows

Green Cheese Lisabet Sarai

Lost Souls Andrea Dale

Golden Moment Lynn Townsend

Liberated Mary Borsellino

Make Your Own Miracles Nikki Magennis

Rescue My Heart Anya Richards

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


New Anthology Call:

Title: Shifting Steam
Genre: M/m steampunk shapeshifters
Word count: 5-10K words
Rights: first Electronic and print rights
Payments: $50 plus print trib
Publishing: October 2011
Deadline: August 10, 2011

So, that's what I'm working on now...

The idea being that two stories in the same (ish) genre, released by two different publishers, will net me a wider audience. That's the hope, at any rate.

Right now, I'm working on fleshing out the characters and the basic plot. I need to keep an eye on my word count, obviously. There's a lot of room to play with this project idea, and I need to make sure that I don't get overly ambitious. 10k words is a good deal more than I've been working with most recently (my last two submissions were 2k - 4.5k words, or a little less than half this length.) Golden Moments was 3,337 words and my first draft of Jackie and the Beanstalk (I really do need a better working title than that...) was just 2,981.

In case you're unaware, a printed page is ~500 words, give or take. So, a project aimed at 2k - 4.5k words is 4 to 9 pages.

This new project, being twice that, is an estimated 10 - 20 pages.

I'm also looking at another submissions call, the story due July 15th. That's a LOT more open, as there's no min or max word count... I haven't decided yet whether or not I plan to spend any time on that. It's not a paid submission, more an "equal share" of profits... as an independent publisher. I'm dubious, but we'll see. I have an idea, so if Shifting Steam goes well or quickly (or not at all!) then I may turn my attention to that.

After that, I have my old novel, Marked Man, that I'd like to clean up for potential publication. It's a fantasy romance about a thief and a dragon-slayer who have to team up to save the King; the only problem? The assassin is the dragon-slayer's ex-boyfriend.

So..... I forsee a busy summer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What do you Want?

The question every young writer asks is: “What should I write?”

And the cliched answer is, “Write what you know.”

This advice always leads to terrible stories in which nothing interesting happens.

The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s write what you *like*.

Write the kind of story you like best.

We make art because we like art.

All fiction, in fact, is fan fiction.

The best way to find the work you should be doing is to think about the work you want to see done that isn’t being done, and then go do it.

Draw the art you want to see, make the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read.

-- How to Steal like an Artist, Austen Kleon

Somewhere over the last twenty years, I've been making a mistake. I've been writing what I thought people wanted to read. About ten years back, I wrote a rather long novel (with a co-writer, my lovely friend Liz) that no one will ever want to read.

It started out as a romance. At the time, neither of us actually read romance novels, and if we thought about the genre at all, we thought about it in terms of large stacks of cheap paperbacks with tacky covers, stacked in the used bookstore that we would never have looked at twice. (oooh, look at that, I managed to write a sentence that I didn't end with a preposition, even though I really, really wanted to!)

We very much enjoyed the writing of said romance. And then we got to the end of the story and realized that that's all there was. Romance.

Well, who the hell is going to read that? we asked ourselves. Particularly when you consider that not only is it fantasy romance, it's fantasy poly-amorous romance. Which meant that, yes, there was male-male sex. (There was also female-female sex. We're pretty liberal around here. Or horny. I'm not sure which.)

At the time, neither of us realized that there was, actually, a vast audience out there who do read what's commonly called "slash fiction."

So, we attempted to "fix" the story. To market it towards an audience that we thought might exist.

We added an adventure plot. A rather twisty bit of politics surrounded by some action/adventure.

We took out ALL the sex.

In short, we pulled all the colored feathers off a peacock, taped a feather duster to its ass and called it an eagle.

When really, it was a perfectly lovely peacock before we messed with it.

Since then, we've both started reading romances; I will forever be grateful to another friend who absolutely INSISTED that I would like When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn. We've both discovered that something we believed was a weird, freaky fetish (ie, the male/male sex stories - ok, so maybe it is a weird, freaky fetish, but at least it's a weird, freaky fetish that is NOT unique!) is actually fairly popular. And there's a built in audience for it.

I've discovered paranormal romances. Supernatural romances. Fantasy romances. Steampunk romances.

Just recently, I've found myself liking my own work more and more. Usually when I finished a piece, and then polished and edited and changed it and tried to shove it into someone else's box, I've not been at all happy with the finished product. And I was wondering to myself, why exactly, that was.

Had I really improved that much as a writer? Have I just lowered my standards.

Last night, I came to the conclusion that neither of these things were true. It was that I was finally doing it right.

I'm writing those stories that I want to read.

"What do you want?" Mr. Morden, Babylon 5

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bless the Broken Road

I think about the years I spent, just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost, and give it back to you
-- Bless the Broken Road, Rascal Flatts

You know, I've been writing for as long as I can remember. Somewhere in my piles and piles of forgotten stories and poems, I have a poem I wrote... oh, maybe in the second grade. About a shark in the park.

It's horrible. I was seven, whatdayaexpect? (Although, even as a seven year old, I was wordy... how many second graders do you know who know the word "embark" and use it correctly in a sentence?)

I've got the first short story I ever wrote. It was called Alona and the Blue Ribbon. We wrote short stories in class and "bound" them into books.

It's also terrible.

I have stories from high school, from college, from that terrible period of my life just after college when all I had was a temp job, and was living in my mother's guest room.

I have plays. I have essays.

I have two complete novels and several not-quite-done-yet novels and dozens of first two or three chapters of ideas that never quite fleshed out.

Some are awful.

Some of them are actually pretty good.

I submitted a few things back in high school. Got a lot of "no thank you's" and one yes, for a publication that went out of business within a year. I pushed out one set of agent-requests when I was interested in marketing my first completed novel (that I co-wrote with a friend.) I sent out six inquiries and got one form letter back. The rest went completely unacknowledged.

But I really haven't put much effort into getting published.

Which is why it came as such a shock for me to get this email recently:

Hi Lyn!

I am delighted to inform you that I will be including "Golden Moment" in Steamlust: Steampunk Erotic Romance. I very much enjoyed your lusty, adventurous story and I'm thrilled to have it in this collection! I will be sending you the contract, a table of contents and some other information soon!

Thanks again for a fantastic story!

All the best,


It was a whim, really, to write the story. I gathered some ideas from here and there, and wrote to spec for the first time since college. (And by that, I don't mean fiction... but writing a college essay is very much like writing for spec. And given that I was always excellent at writing college essays and enjoyed it incredibly...) I do know Kristina in person - she's a wonderful lady and I adore her... also her coffee-lust might possibly come close to my own! - but I don't think I got a bye from her.

So... for the first thing I've submitted for publication in twenty years. And it got accepted.

I find myself wondering: what was I waiting for?