Answers to questions I’ve gotten about various writing related topics.
All the Way by Tsukizubon Saruko
illustrated by by Sakana Sara
Since Halloween is coming up, I thought I’d share with you the scariest fucking piece of fiction I’ve ever experienced. It’s free, you can read it online, and it’s f/f. It contains references to suicide, so avoid if that’s an issue for you, but that is not a complete set of warnings.
The fact is, I don’t remember it well enough to warn for it. I read it once when it was posted in 2008, and I didn’t sleep for three nights because I couldn’t stop thinking about the tall men coming out of my walls. I am never reading it again. Ever. Everyone I’ve recommended it to feels the same way.
If you enjoy being terrified, this is the story for you. If not, run fast in the opposite direction. Happy Halloween! <3
links of the month
- Weird lights in the sky 30 minutes before the 2008 earthquake in China (this is the email of stuff from 2008 I guess? Welcome to the past, spoiler: Obama wins)
- William Carlos Williams writes home to his mom from college and is an adorable nerd
- Subterranean Rome (I don’t know how to describe this, but it’s amazing, just trust me okay, at least go look at the pictures)
Posing dramatically on…some kind of bone. It’s not a hippo bone. As previously discussed, she is not a hippo serial killer, that was just poor phrasing on my part, honest.
A few months ago, I started noticing itty bitty bugs on my phone. Like, gnat-sized. Not beetley or particularly gross. Just tiny bugs, maybe twice or three times in a month, always the same kind.
And then it was maybe twice a week. And then it was every day. Always on my phone, never anywhere else. Conclusion: there are bugs living in my phone or in my phone case. My phone case is (was) fabric, so maybe they are eating it? Like tiny moths eating my phone’s tiny wool suit? (I’ve just looked it up, and the company doesn’t say if it’s wool; it’s described as a “Luxurious Fabric Exterior”, okay.)
So first I tried sealing the case in a plastic bag in the freezer to kill the little fuckers, which I think probably would’ve worked, but then I’m going around with bug corpses in my phone and I could not stop thinking about that. Option two was to just get a new phone case, which I did, because I have an old phone and the cases are pretty cheap for it.
And then the thing to do is junk the old one, right? Not like…crack it open over the sink and see if a torrent of tiny bugs come out and eat my cranky neighbor across the hall or, alternately, recognize me as royalty like the bees in Jupiter Ascending?
Let’s pretend I threw it out like a sensible person because otherwise I’ll have to admit that I wore rubber gloves and held it over the sink at arm’s length as I slowly peeled back the fabric and in the end one sad little bug crawled out and skittered away down the drain. I was both disappointed and relieved.
I got another fabric case. If this happens again, I will let the bugs build up to critical mass before I crack it open. In conclusion, my phone is now cosplaying Hannibal.
I’ve had a few questions recently about how to start self publishing, so I thought I’d make a page for it. The following is an email I sent someone a little while ago, and I’ve added a few links after it that I’ve found since. I’ll keep updating this with things I find useful. I hope it helps.
WHERE I PUBLISH
Amazon is the big dog, obviously, though Apple is starting to catch up a bit. I publish at Amazon with their self publishing portal, Kindle Direct Publishing. (That will put it in all the various Amazon stores all over the world, but if you make an author page through Amazon’s Author Central, you will have to add pictures and your bio, etc., to each country’s Amazon store individually.)
HOW TO MAKE EBOOKS
I use Guido Henkel’s ebook formatting guide. He also has a book called The Zen of Ebook Formatting, which I’ve bought but not yet read. I’ll try to remember to report back here when I’m done.
The guide is designed for people with no knowledge of HTML and CSS, but it will still probably come off as a bit intimidating if you have no familiarity with them. I do it that way because I like the control and I like knowing exactly what’s going into my ebook. Even if you don’t go this way, I’d suggest you read it so that you have some idea of the issues involved.
Most places will also let you upload a Word doc and convert it to ebook format for you. If you do this, I would check the ebook they produce VERY CAREFULLY, especially for things like backwards smart quotes and weird line breaks and accent marks.
Scrivener will also make ebooks for you, and a lot of people go that way, though there are some issues you should be aware of. I write in Scrivener, but I don’t use its ebook compile feature because frankly I found it super complicated. I seem to be the only one having a problem with it though.
Whatever method you use, check it to make sure it looks right, and not just on your computer.
You also need a cover, obviously. You can make it yourself if you’ve got the skills. If you want to pay someone (and if you have the money, you probably should), there’s 99Designs and Covertopia and Inspired Cover Designs. I haven’t used any of them, but I have heard good things about them.
Once you have the ebook and cover, the actual uploading is quite simple – you just fill out a form and hit submit, basically, and then they ask for you how you want to be paid and all that.
- The Self Publishing Podcast is a good source of info. If, like me, you tend to want to listen to ALL of a podcast, don’t take the advice they give in the early episodes. They’re worth listening to for the evolution of their business strategy, but they say themselves that they would give vastly different advice now. They’ve recently (as of August 2015) archived their older episodes and I think are planning to launch a new site for the revamped podcast. I’ll put that link here when they get it up.
- The Author Strong Podcast is pretty good also, both for craft and publishing, but particularly for goal setting. ETA: And this 3 part series on Amazon keywords.
- Writing Excuses is the best podcast I’ve found for craft, and they’re doing season 10 as a sort of masterclass on how to write a book from beginning to end.
- 2K to 10 by Rachel Aaron
- Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Gotta Read It by Libbie Hawker (if you find writing book blurbs as hard as I do, this will be very helpful)
Hey y’all, the third book is out! Description and links to various and sundry bookstores are below.
I also wrote a short story set after the end of the third book called From Dregs to Wine, which you can get by signing up for my newsletter, but I strongly recommend reading Singing in the Wilderness before you read that one or you will be spoiled and probably also quite confused.
SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS: WINE & SONG BOOK 3
David’s taste for rough sex has landed him in trouble before, but never like this. Until recently, capital-R Relationships were things that happened to other people, and he liked it that way. Now he’s living with his new boyfriend–or at least he was, until Jazz left to tour with his band. Suddenly, David’s finding it hard to sleep alone and wondering what he’ll do if Jazz doesn’t come back.
Added to that is his slow fall into real submission for the first time in his life. Jazz is more willing to push him over the phone but, despite David’s promises, they still haven’t had that little chat about limits and safewords. Jazz is afraid of going too far, and David’s afraid he won’t go far enough.
Melusine by Sarah Monette
Mélusine, a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption. It is here that wizard Felix Harrowgate and cat-burglar Mildmay the Fox will find their destinies intertwined in a world of sensuality and savagery.
This appears, bafflingly, to be out of print?? I feel like I must be missing something because I can’t imagine that. I actually went looking for it in the first place to see if there was an ebook, and there isn’t. You can probably get it used cheaper on Alibris than Amazon, but either way, it will be worth your time, trust me.
links of the month
- Emily Dickinson’s recipe for coconut cake
- Herman Melville had to watch his mother sleep
- A Star in a Bottle: workable nuclear fusion
heloise in september
Here are Heloise and Pavlov examining my August book list. I am also on Goodreads if you want this list in a more legible form without Pavlov’s butt blocking your view.
If you want a review copy of any of my books (i.e. I send it to you for free in exchange for an honest review on Amazon or wherever you usually review books), you can contact me here. Thanks!
I’ve now officially spent longer editing the third Wine & Song book than I did writing it, but it’s coming along. If it was one of you who left the sole, lovely review on Songs You Know by Heart, BLESS YOU. They make a ton of difference, especially on Amazon.
In other news, I have a story coming out in an anthology from Less Than Three Press. The theme of the anthology is May-December relationships, and it’s out on Oct. 7, but available for pre-order now. More info below…
From one-night stands to on-and-off love stories that span decades, the roads of love are diverse and have no map. One of the hardest relationships to navigate may be those with an age difference. Society isn’t always sure what to make of May-December pairings, and the odds seem stacked against them. But the wisdom of age and the optimism of youth is a combination not to be underestimated…
In One Last Leap (Helena Maeve), Phillip carries the old wounds of his partner’s death, and he’s not sure how to deal with an attraction to the much-younger Ivan. In Coffee Boy (Austin Chant), new grad Kieran interns at a senatorial campaign, and has to deal with being an out trans gay man in the workplace, his overbearing supervisor Seth, and his growing, begrudging affection for Seth—not to mention Seth’s crush on their straight boss.
After his brother’s death, Navy SEAL Zev comes home to take care of his estate in After the Dust (Eleanor Kos), and finds ex-prostitute Julian on his brother’s doorstep. A Corgi Named Kilowatt (C.C. Bridges) turns the teacher-student dynamic on its head when young TA Evan clashes with Marc, a dog groomer back at school at forty.
Maddie flirts with the older and mysterious Claudia at a movie, but doesn’t expect to see her again—especially not at a cake-tasting session for her best friend’s wedding. The Memory of You (Erica Barnes) explores not only the promise of chance encounters, but the reality of them. Runner (Sam Schooler) brings us Eden, who answers an ad for a caregiver but somehow ends up married and trapped in an isolated, dilapidated cabin with his snarly new husband, Mick.
(Edited by Amanda Jean.)
The Captive Prince: Book 3 by C.S. Pacat
I recced the first book in the series a couple months ago and at that point I had nearly despaired of ever getting the next one because it has been ACTUAL YEARS, but book 3 is finally up for pre-order! I obviously haven’t read it yet, but I have faith that it will be as good as the first two.
links of the month
- Butterflies remember a mountain that hasn’t existed for millions of years.
- Overexposure to beauty can drive people temporarily insane.
- Did you know we landed on a comet? I totally didn’t know that.
heloise in july
Here is Heloise bathing in a teacup while she considers the books I’ve read this month. Not listed, because I haven’t finished it, is East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which is … way more exciting than I expected it to be? So far one of the brothers tried to kill the other at the age of 15 and Cathy murdered her parents and burned down their house (spoilers, I guess …). I may do a blog post on why it reminds me of The Walking Dead.
The subject line is a phrase I googled in desperation after I wrote my first one and realized my usual technique of “read it a lot and poke at the sentences with a sharp stick” doesn’t work as well when you have 90,000 words to go through and have to think about things like Theme and Structure and Plot with a capital P. And also you’re on chapter 9 and you’ve forgotten what happened in chapter 2.
Someone asked me about editing recently, so here’s my basic plan.
1. steal underpants
Wait, wrong plan.
1. read through briefly and make a list of all the scenes, broken down by chapter so I know what happens when
2. note as I go through what I think of as open doors – things that raise questions or create expectations in the reader’s mind. These need to either be followed up on later or cut.
3. note also anything obvious that needs to be fixed (timeline contradictions, bad transitions) or that needs to be fact checked (can you actually cook liver like that???).
4. look at the open doors. Go through and either remove them or make them go somewhere, tie them into the plot if they’re not already.
5. look at the scene list and the overall plot structure. Decide if that works, if there’s sufficient tension and if it’s in the right places, if the climax is climaxy enough and so on.
6. make a to do list with all the things so far that I know need to be changed, starting with very large changes and going down to smaller ones.
7. fix those things!
8. once the major changes are done, I read it over and fix awkward sentences and poor word choice and dialogue like I mentioned above…probably like three times? Until it reads smoothly and nothing makes me cringe.
9. send it off to be betaed and fix everything they tell me to fix
10. go over it again at least once more, probably twice, because there is always something else – more adverbs to remove, sentences that can be shortened, words that aren’t quite right. And for the stuff I’m selling where I can’t afford typos but also can’t afford a proofreader, I have my computer read it out loud to me to catch stuff I won’t catch when I’m just reading it.
Most of the above is basically what Rachel Aaron recommends in her book 2K to 10K, and I wish I had read the book before painfully working it out on my own – it’s only 99 cents and the section on editing alone is more than worth it. (She also recommends making a timeline, which I should definitely start doing but haven’t yet.)
Anyone who got to the end of this is probably either editing something or avoid editing something and in need of a cup of tea, so here is Heloise to make you some. With death spoon.
So hey, I got some books done! One of them you may have seen before if you read Shousetsu Bang Bang. Songs You Know by Heart was published there years and years ago. It’s basically the same story, but I’ve rewritten a lot of the beginning and done a painful amount of editing. The sequel is Music in a Dry Country, and you can get it free if you want to join my list.
Both are novella length, and the third one, Singing in the Wilderness, will be novel length, probably around 60,000 words, coming out in September. I was going to put it up for pre-order, but Amazon wants a draft manuscript for that, which just makes me nervous. No, Amazon. Why? It’s not done yet, what do you plan to do with it??
SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART: WINE & SONG BOOK 1
When David was younger, he spent a lot of Saturday nights on his knees: in alleys, in men’s rooms, occasionally behind a hedge in Central Park. He liked it rough and he still does, but he tries to be safer about his choice of partners and locations these days.
He didn’t expect an attempted mugging to be the cause of his relapse. The guy shoves him up against a tree and puts a knife to his throat, and something in his voice makes David want to offer him anything – so he does.
It was a stupid idea – David’s had a million of them – but he got it out of his system. When his mugger shows up at his door in the rain like a lost puppy, it’s hard to say who is more surprised when David invites him to come inside.
MUSIC IN A DRY COUNTRY: WINE & SONG BOOK 2
David wanted a nice trip to the Argentine wine country with his new boyfriend, Jazz. He wanted some new contracts for his import business, maybe a good tan, and a lot of kinky sex.
Instead, he gets an uncomfortable reminder of the difference in their ages, a stiff dose of irrational jealousy, and the realization that his feelings for Jazz are much stronger than he thought they were.
He tries to keep it all to himself and let Jazz enjoy the trip, but his withdrawal, founded on old insecurities and the memory of loss, is the real threat to their new relationship.
Transformation by Carol Berg
Seyonne is sold as a slave to Prince Aleksander, heir to the Derzhi empire who made a spirited attempt to eradicate Seyonne’s entire homeland. In his former life, Seyonne worked as a Warden, protecting his people from demon incursions. When he finds evidence of a demon at the prince’s court, he has to make a choice between his duty as a Warden and his hatred for the people who enslaved him.
This is not actually m/m, but I wish it were. The relationship between Seyonne and Aleksander is beautiful anyway, and I think you guys will enjoy it.
links of the month
- A mysterious sound is driving people insane and no one knows why
- Nuclear semiotics: how do we tell people 10,000 years in the future that our nuclear waste sites are still dangerous?
- Unusual words (nesh: fragile, a bit ill, feeling the cold, generally sorry for yourself)
heloise in june
This month I read John Steinbeck’s notes to his editor, written every day (ish) while he was writing East of Eden. And that is it, mostly because I spent the rest of the time editing and wanting more sleep. I haven’t read East of Eden, so this book was a slightly odd experience – he’s writing to a friend, and this was never meant for publication, so he never explains who anyone is, either characters or people they know in real life. It’s slightly voyeuristic but interesting. Also the man was obsessed with pencils in ways that I did not know anyone could be obsessed with pencils.
The quote below is from the book.
SONGS YOU KNOW BY HEART: chapter 1
BUYING OPTIONS: [SEE SERIES PAGE]
David left the party without saying goodbye. He now deeply regretted the time and energy his secretary had spent on finding him a costume, even if he did look damn good in breeches and a frock coat.
Fondue, for God’s sake, like it was 1975, and most of the guests seemed to have hit their peak in the seventies too. A headache was creeping up on him from the terrible vodka, and the cat’s piss Ian had tried to pass off as 1947 Cheval Blanc was the last straw.
Out on the street, he stood still for a second and let the breeze chill him while he waited for an opening in the traffic. He’d take a shortcut through the park and be home in ten minutes. He set out as briskly as his blood alcohol level would allow.
The cherry trees were in bloom, thick as snow along the boughs. David passed into their shadow and stopped to look up at the glow of blossoms in the dark.
From just behind him came a voice: “Don’t move.”
David started to turn automatically, but a hard shove sent him to his knees, pieces of gravel and bark stinging his palms. Something sharp and cold pricked at the back of his neck, and he froze.
“Up,” the man said.
David rose unsteadily and rubbed his palms over his thighs. He glanced back but saw the man behind him only as a dark shape in tight jeans. Long hair and poor light obscured his face.
He got another shove, this time against a tree. “Money,” the man said. “Where are the fucking pockets in these pants?”
“Breeches don’t have pockets,” David said, with enunciation careful enough to compensate for the vodka. “That is why I don’t have money.”
“You don’t – fuck. Like hell you don’t.” The man crowded in close behind him, holding him in place with his body. “You must have something. Give it to me, or – or I’ll cut you. I will.”
David could hear the man’s quick breaths. His heartbeat thudded against David’s back. The knife was so sharp that David could barely feel the edge. David tried to concentrate on that instead of the man’s solid warmth, his hard thighs, his hair brushing David’s neck. Knives didn’t usually do it for him.
“I don’t,” he said, voice just a little unsteady. He swallowed hard. “I promise.” And then, unable to help himself: “Search me.”
“I will,” the man growled. “Don’t fucking move.”
One hand groped up David’s sides, over his chest and his hips. A rough, hard grip on his ass seemed to linger a little too long and pulled a shaky gasp from him.
The side of the man’s hand covered David’s mouth, and the knife lay flat against his cheek. The other hand slid slowly and thoroughly over the curve of his ass and down his thigh. David tried not to squirm. Or to push back into the touch. He’d done stupider things, but he tried not to add to that list these days.
The man slammed a hand against the tree. David jumped. The blade was back at his throat, and it caught against his Adam’s apple. His heartbeat picked up, and he felt his cock stir. He might need to rethink his position on knives. And his sanity.
“You gotta have something. Twenty bucks. Come on. Rich assholes like you don’t walk around with nothing.”
“We do when we don’t have any pockets.”
“Are you laughing at me, fuckface? Fine. Get out of this, take it off.”
He yanked at David’s jacket hard enough to make him stagger. A seam gave way. David struggled out of it, hands shaky.
The knife point drew a sharp line between his shoulder blades. “Shirt too.”
David worked at the buttons, but not fast enough to keep the man from slicing his shirt up the back. A few more seconds and it lay on the ground, certainly in no fit state to be returned to the costume shop.
The man grabbed his shoulder, turned him, and shoved him back against the tree. He planted a hand on David’s chest. He was close enough that David could see his eyes, gray and sharp, the color of dawn.
“You want to lose the pants too? Come on. Cough up the cash.”
David curled his fingers against the trunk. He could feel his cock stiffening despite his best efforts to think about anything else. Breeches hid nothing, and he held his breath as the man’s eyes traveled down his body.
“Are you getting off on this? What the fuck is wrong with you?” He sounded more confused than angry, and he was still staring.
“I really don’t have any money.” David swallowed. He tried once again to keep his mouth shut, but he’d never been particularly good at that. “Maybe you’d like something else.”
The man frowned at him, like he didn’t understand what David was offering, and then his mouth sagged open as he got it. He surged forward, pinning David hard with his body, knife tight against his throat again.
“I don’t like being laughed at, asshole. I thought I made that pretty fucking clear.”
Maybe not, but he liked something about the situation. David could feel his cock pressed against his thigh, and it wasn’t entirely soft. He seemed to realize that at the same time David did. A moment of stillness stretched between them, and then the man took a step back.
“Fuck you, man. You’re nuts. Just – get out of here. And don’t tell anyone. Or I’ll find you.” His voice wavered on the last sentence, and then he took off running into the dark.
BUYING OPTIONS: [SEE SERIES PAGE]
To put off writing today, I finally cleaned spider guts off the book I used to kill a spider two weeks ago. So, procrastination, but at least I have my book back. For a while I thought I might just leave it there. That’s a legit life choice when spider guts are involved, right?
In other news, I made an Amazon author page where you can see two pictures of me, one of which I’ve been told looks like a picture of a goth paint smudge (I’ll let you guess which one that is): http://amazon.com/author/eleanorkos
Autobiography of a Flea
by Stanilas de Rhodes
I don’t know that this is a recommendation, but if you have ever wanted to read Victorian erotica written from the point of view of a flea…this is the book for you! It’s here mostly because: (a) It was hilarious, although I admit I haven’t read the whole thing, and (b) I am so amazed and pleased that it even exists. Apparently, there was even a sequel…
links of the month
- Clown Church
- Mouse Heaven: Universe 25 (overpopulation and the breakdown of society – these experiments were so fascinating)
- Slinkies were used as antennas in the Vietnam War
heloise (and pavlov) in june
Except for The Little Stranger and 30 Days in Lithuania…this is all Nero Wolfe books. I didn’t realize I’d read so many this past month, but I don’t regret it. The Little Stranger is the one I’d recommend though. Just don’t read it right before you go to sleep.
Wine bottle vectors from freepik.com, a v useful site.