SA Collins

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Self-Publishing

Angels of Mercy – The Print Edition Cover Reveal

Angels of Mercy – The Print Edition Cover Reveal

 

I’ve waffled enough on this. To release it or not. Look for a lit agent or not. Traditional pub or not. I went back and forth so many times I started to see myself coming. I’ve tugged on my beta readers like you can’t imagine – trying to think through every permutation I could come up with to getting it out there. The print edition is a whopping 540 pages! I just came to the conclusion that no traditional publisher was going to touch the work because I am so new, so untested in the market place.

And ultimately, I knew I wouldn’t compromise too much on the work as it is. I’ve edited the hell out of it, shaving close to 60K words from the original version and it is still a large book. But others have previewed it and said they can’t think of a single thing to cut/edit. Everything in it is relevant to Elliot’s voice and the story he has to tell.

And it is Elliot’s voice in this book that I must honor! <— (You’ve no idea how much I need to defend that last line.)

Elliot and Marco’s story is a deeply personal one. It was one of the fastest works I’ve written (just over several months). Yet the torture I put myself through on whether or not to release it was mind-numbingly overwhelming at times. I knew it was edited and is a very clean manuscript.

But it has so many things that several people who’ve been self-pubbing told me were no-no’s: it ends on a cliff-hanger. It isn’t a M/M romance genre read. It doesn’t fit the mold even though it is one of the strongest stories about two men loving one another with all the trials, tribulations and utter euphoria of first (and in their case) lasting love that I believe is out there.

Will it ever find a readership (the one I know it deserves)? Who knows? I know that my debating it has got to stop because that is what will ultimately kill it before it has a chance to fly. Elliot must see the light for himself now. My boys must fly.

On the wings of Angels …

So without any more waffling – I give you the print cover release as it stands right now with CreateSpace (Amazon). I hope to release it late this month or early in April. Fingers crossed. The work might cost a small fortune in printed form. So yeah, there’s that to consider. I just don’t want to compromise what my boys have to say. It is what it is.

 

Cover artwork for Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot

The cover artwork for Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot

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With a plate full of fluff, where do I put my literature?

With a plate full of fluff, where do I put my literature?

 

With a plate full of fluffy words, where does the art of prose fit?

With a plate full of fluffy words, where does the art of prose fit?

 

Stream of Consciousness Time Here:

This one is a pure rant. I accept any bullshit flung my way from this vomit of “where’s the fucking art” in writing that I am about to sling your way.

This past year I woke up after toying for (literally) years with story ideas that I’d always wanted to put down. Mostly for my own amusement, with the odd thought that maybe, just maybe, someone else out there might find them of interest. And maybe with an eye to posterity (of some sort) that I was leaving behind that “I was here.” A stake in the proverbial literary catalog, of sorts.

So I started this website, started to post my WIPs (Works In Progress), started to blog about the craft of writing (which I take VERY seriously), started to cultivate getting to know other authors out there. I’ve gotten to know a few. I’ve chatted with some at length. Mostly I try to keep away from it all because to a great degree it’s been rather demoralizing as I write very differently from what they do. I know I am the oddball out. I know that my works don’t fit their often myopic mold.

I grouse at my poor husband about it all the time. I do pity him having to listen to me carry on about this.  And I do, and I know it might sound like my little choo-choo has gone completely ’round the bend at times.

My issue? Most of what I read now doesn’t have any real depth to it. It’s all fucking fluff. Fluff is what’s selling. Literally I have close to 1200 books on my nook alone and I’ll start several of them in tandem, trying to find something with which to hang my literary hat on and say – “Now we have something here, boys and girls.”

But I suppose that in this day and age of rapid information, of stories in television that must be told quickly, that our society has gotten used to a steady diet of sugary and thinly written prose as if it were the real thing: true literature. How do I come to this? Because there are Facebook groups set up by authors with LITERATURE in their title. As if using that word alone will elevate the level of their writing.

I see reviews of works I’ve picked up (primarily, because of those reviews) where the author is lauded with “powerful writing” or “story that moved me to tears” and read the damned thing and went – WHAT THE BLOODY FUCK??! I didn’t even bother to review it online. It wasn’t even worth my responding to it. More often than not it was better spent lining the bottom of my cat box (if I’d bothered to buy the actual paperback). Thankfully, 98% of my library is now digital so the death of trees is not a consideration for me.

I don’t write genre fiction. If my works tend to lean into some specific genre then it is a prop no more than the dress I may put a character in. Why? Because I deal in character studies. I deal in diving deeply into the psyche of a given protag with all of their inner-monologues. I want you to know who they are – unequivocally.

Oh, I know I have that in my signature line in my email: SA Collins, Author of Gay Literature Fiction across multiple sub-genres.  So I try to be honest about what I do. It is the LITERATURE part of that signature that means the most to me.

The question I keep coming back to is: Why can’t the writing be better? Jesus, sometimes I feel like I have ants crawling all over me as I read something that got five stars when I’d rather piss all over the work. And it’s not limited to just M/M Romance here (though to a great degree that genre hovers barely above the fan fic it was recently born out of). I used to remind the women who have made it into an industry on its own that it had roots in the MALE writers of the previous century. That their iteration of it only came into fruition during the gaieties of the 1990’s. Now I am not so sure. Why? Because those men – John Rechy, Gordon Merrick, to even EM Forster, Langston Hughes and the great Oscar Wilde – those men wrote real blood and bones literature. It truly isn’t the same as the M/M fluff that is out there masquerading as powerful prose.

And to be clear, I’m not saying I am the next Forster or Rechy. I am still working at my craft. But I am not about the sales. Jesus, was there ever a fucking cop out than to be totally capitalistic about it? Does the success of the work not speak for itself without it having to translate into dollars/pounds/pesos or the like?

I get that we all want to pay bills. I get that making a living doing the thing we love most is important to us. But how many great stories have been modified, quelled, softened or outright killed by their own author because there is the fear that “oh, this one won’t be as popular as that fangless disco sparkly vampire shit that’s all the rage right now?”

I know not everyone is up to the task of writing real literature. I get that. Jesus, what a bland fucking world that would be if we all were the Wildes of our times? It would be a pretty bitchy crowd as well.

But it doesn’t end with these self-pubbed or god forbid, small publishing boutique houses, who think they’ve become the barometer of what’s acceptable and can qualify as real literature or even proper storytelling.

And just what the fuck happened to real literature?

That’s what I’d like to know. Even the “NYT Best-Seller” list has questionable material out there.

50 Shades of SHIT, much? (I mean, have you read it?!)

 

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Harper Lee is about to have her sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird (a book I adored as a teen) published after some 40+ years. My first thought – who cares if it’s shit? It’s gonna be much better written than the crap people are slinging around now.

And it isn’t limited to books either.

Let’s take television writing, for example –

Two character driven shows I am currently caught up with (that I was certain were going to get cancelled) have somehow miraculously survived (to my absolute shock):

HBO’s Looking

The Cast of HBO's LOOKING (currently running season 2)

The Cast of HBO’s LOOKING (currently running season 2)

 

and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful

 

The brilliant cast of Showtime's PENNY DREADFUL

The brilliant cast of Showtime’s PENNY DREADFUL

 

The first (Looking) has come under a lot of fire from the gay community as well as the mainstream audiences. The first complaint lodged at it – it was an unrealistic portrayal of the gay community. Okay, perhaps for some of you. Yet, living in the SF Bay Area as I do (and yeah, even in the goddamned city itself) I gotta tell ya, I was more pleased than not by their first season voyage. So how did I come by to give them a pass when so many of my community seemed to shit-can it?

They said it was boring, it moved too slow.

I love slow.

I love the unveiling or unraveling of a character as they spiral out of control or try like hell just to hold onto what they think will work for them even when every indication is that it won’t. And can I stop and just laud Raul Castillo for a moment? His Ritchie completely slays me. His character is so to the core of who Latinos in the gay context are (don’t let the nom de plume fool ya, I am half-Latino). He doesn’t represent every gay Latino – who could? – but what he does brilliantly is that he encapsulates the culture so well that you feel his family roots in every scene he’s in. I get giddy as a school girl when he’s on the screen. And Lauren Weedman‘s Doris is one of the BEST written women’s roles out there. I am literally on pins and needles when she’s on screen. Her Doris is a knock-it-out of the park performance that can’t be missed.

 

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The push against slow reveal? Hmm, sound familiar from my argument above? Rapid information age, much?

What I liked about Looking was exactly that – it was a slow reveal of these guys lives. And yeah not all races were equally represented. I get that. But hey, news flash – neither is the other hit on HBO’s roster – GIRLS. No one seems to be bagging on that show about it’s lack of inclusion. Yet, Looking got hammered (both comedically by a trashy assed group out of LA who did their rather pedestrian attempt at a comedy spoof which I found wholly un-funny, and by several critics of the show who blogged (rather poorly worded rambles, I might add) about what didn’t work for them). Fine. I accept that Looking may not be for everyone. BUT what I do rail against it the fucking notion that you have to have all your shit answered in the first five minutes of the goddamned show or you label it BORING. Give the writers a fucking chance to flesh them out, will ya before saying – eh, it’s boring!!

News flash, all of our lives to a great degree are. Maybe that was the fucking point of the show – a little realism rather than heightened drama from the first minute of an ep to the last?

Guess what: You’re boring, fucktard for thinking that slow reveal is boring.  (I know, I know – not very prosaic of me, is it? Can’t help it – I’m at the end of my tether with this shit).

Characters are getting more and more stifled because of rapid writing and thinly dressed paper doll characters. I would think it safe to say that 95% of what’s out there in genre fiction is barely fleshed out. Some of it is appalling that it past muster on someone’s – ‘ooh, let’s get that one out there for the masses‘ with the desire to get them to drink the damned poorly written, thinly flavored Kool-aid.

Also, sidebar: what’s with the tiny assed novels (which are more like wordy brochures/pamphlets in my book) lately? Angels V1 is 207K words and V2 is topping out at a whopping 752K (and I ain’t done with it yet)! My work is epically big. And those that have read it have commented that it’s all pretty damned relevant – not much to cut there.  Not that length is any measure of what is literature. I know that. It is the quality of the writing that elevates it to that level.

(Puts soap box away on this little side rant.)

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In the case of Showtime’s brilliant Penny Dreadful, I am overwhelmed by the writing style of that show. Gay writer and creator John Logan is a brilliant craftsman of the modern age in my book. I am a fanboy for life with this guy.

To have the brilliance of tackling most of the great gothic horror monsters in one show and of diving deeply into their strive to hold onto some small thread of their humanity is nothing short of a brilliant take on the work. I love that this show doesn’t go from one ep to the next where you think it will go. No, Mr. Logan gives us sweet and well written bon monts, gently peeling back layer upon layer of the character as we dive into their core.  Characters that are desperate to hold onto that humanity at all costs, when they know their darker monsters are what make them truly strong enough to survive in their harsh world.

One episode sticks out most for me. It was a complete diversion from the main story arc but was at the root of why the whole series was being revealed in the first place.  It’s focus was on the backstory of Eva Green’s character of Miss Ives and her past history with Mina. It went way out of the scope of the current arc, but it informed us of why we were where we were in the main storyline.

THAT, my friends, is brilliant and well-crafted prose. I nearly, literarily speaking, creamed in my jeans over this type of work. Only then to have a sudden fear creep over me that – “No, this is too good. It’ll get shit-canned for sure. The masses won’t keep watching this type of character driven period drama.” But apparently, Showtime was invested enough that Mr. Logan and crew were given not only a renewal part way into the first season, but also that they’ve bought into how Logan is revealing these iconic and well loved characters for a new audience. And they increased the number of episodes for the second season! Bang on brilliant in my book!

And I get that some people don’t like high prose writing. Not everyone finds Anne Rice’s works to their liking. I happen to love her writing style. As I do with her son, Christopher. Though I find his gushy blog ramble on M/M romance of late to be a bit out there.

I know fluff sells, because most of us live those boring damned lives and want some escapism to give us some much needed pent up steam release. I get it. But we’ve become dangerously weened off the good stuff in favor of this steady diet of fluff. Are we in peril of becoming literary diabetic from all this sugary coated ramble that we’re passing of as “5 star” writing?

Jesus, has the bar become that low now?

And for a guy like me who actually is trying to write the real literature stuff (and no, my NaNoWriMo HO’M,O wasn’t an attempt to do that – though I did try to elevate the prose a bit – it was more of my feeble attempt at fluff for a fan of mine since he loves werewolves so much – I wanted to have a bit of fun with his topic of choice) where do I fit in on the personal library plate? And I constantly hone my craft to look at the actual prose, to see if what I’ve worded serves the character to the best possible degree.

Not that everyone gets it, either. I mistakenly passed off Angels of Mercy to a small boutique house who simply didn’t get what the work was about – why? Because they don’t have anything like it in their roster. How do I know ? Well, a decent sized chunk of what I have on my nook was bought from that house. I think after I’ve perused that much of their catalog I get what they deem to be publishable. The response from my submittal – your character repeats what he says in his head a lot. It is what teenagers do to solidify that what they perceive is indeed real or not. They are constantly pulse checking where they are with others and with themselves. But the acquisitions person who picked up the work couldn’t get past their formula for the books they were churning out. And the size of the work was an issue.

To which I nearly laughed out loud – “Uh, do you remember what your youth was like? Cause the character is a teenaged boy who is living in fear of each day being ‘the day’ he will be beaten to a pulp. He is constantly checking and re-checking his world. It is a psychological element to his character. How do I know this? BECAUSE it is from my own journals and notes AS A GAY YOUNG BOY IN HIGH SCHOOL. The shit was REAL.” But hey, I am sorry that it didn’t fit into your formulaic and myopic view of what was “selling.”

I’ve decided that Angels is too great a work to go through the foibles of boutique publishing or even self-pubbing. It may mean that it ultimately sits on the shelf in my house and on a computer until it can find a proper home (probably via an actual literary agent shopping it around for me – so there’s that battle to wage down he road). And even with that sort of backing, it is an extreme long shot that it would do well. I get that. There’s simply too much white noise fluff out there to weed through.

The hubby swears it will find a home with a proper publisher and it WILL get read by the masses. I wish I had his confidence. I don’t.

What I do know, is that Angels captures that waffling of youth quite well (and I am not tooting my own horn here – I’ve had several people read the work in its current form and all unilaterally have said it isn’t genre fiction – what I’ve got is real literature and that it’s pretty bang on the money with how I did it).

I just don’t know if my work will ultimately sell, mostly because I am caught up with writing about inner struggles that are 70% or more inner-monologue. Think of Rice’s Louis or Lestat on steroids and you’ll get the picture.

That’s my worry. I write what I write, but ultimately to what end? I don’t have an answer for that. All I see is five star ratings for stuff that I just can’t see the value in it. And I have to cop to the fact that it is selling hands-down. But I think that is because they’ve (the mainstream buying audience) been fed a steady diet of pedestrian prose, both in book and media form, that is passing itself off as great (and powerfully moving) writing. But is being a best-selling author truly the only barometer of a well-crafted work? Let’s be honest, I don’t think much of the fluff being passed around here will be remembered seventy years or so down the line. It’s written for immediacy in selling and the in the moment hype. It has no lasting purpose, not really. Let’s be honest.

Maybe that’s why I keep reading the classics. I need to be reminded why Look Homeward Angel was a brilliant piece of fiction.  Or my favorite, Maurice. There is one paragraph in Maurice that I still read many times over when I come to it. It is the description Forster gives about Penge that is simply a few sentences but so beautifully structured that I am caught it the absolute brilliance of the concise prose Forster employs to completely paint the picture of this crumbling British estate. But most of the book is like that. His prose is so well-crafted in the piece that it became a bit of a hallmark for me. I want to write, not necessarily in that style, but to that sort of structure. Only from a first-person perspective, because I think they are the most revealing. I’ve also recently picked up the un-abridged edition of Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray – which is decidedly far more homoerotic than the original publisher would allow in his day.

Okay, I’m spent.

I’ve done my bit of a rant now. Not that it does anyone any good (me included).

And to be clear – though I know I will be taken to task on it (as a sidebar in case you’re wondering: I don’t care) – I think there is room for the fluff; I am just saying that can we all aspire to write to a higher purpose at times? Or is the all mighty buck the be all/end all now?

That’s my worry. I think I may be a dying breed or a breed that has already passed. Too late to the actual literary party.

Eh, maybe I’ll just give it all up at the end of the year.

If only my boys in my head who have stories to tell would let me get away with that. But I know they won’t.

So I tinker away at it while others laud and applaud themselves for being “yay this, and yay that.”

My take on it? I think, if Angels sells by some odd miracle of fate, I would be so humbled by it I think I might go into seclusion. Which is rather odd for me, because I am a child of the theatre – I’ve been performing in front of large houses (several thousand seats) since I was a child (under a different name). Yet, success in the literary world would scare the bejesus out of me. Perhaps because maybe that would lead me to think that my work would be in the pantheon of Vidal, Forster, Wilde and the like.

To be clear, I don’t think I am in their league. Not yet, at any rate.

But I press on.

Until next time …

SA C

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Banned By Association

Banned By Association

Guilt by association? Banned by my own hand? You be the judge ...

Guilt by association? Banned by my own hand? You be the judge …

 

Okay, maybe it was my fault.

Maybe …

So I hit a BIG learning curve here.  Epically so.  Why, you might ask? Because my first work, a novel that was released to the world from several selling platforms, Amazon being just one of them, got BANNED! But since it all took place this past week I didn’t want to do a knee-jerk blog post about it. I wanted some distance from it to sort it out. I’m like that. I can be wordy and preachy when my ire is provoked, but at times, like this time, I was able to quell that rash desire to lash out and opted instead to think things through.

I’m glad I did. And while I might not like Amazon’s decision, I recognize it was theirs to make.

I mean, they’re the big guns in the literary world, like it or not. Even the big publishing houses have to play ball with them. So a little guy like me doesn’t have much pull. I haven’t brought enough money to the table. And I know that it is all about the money.

I mean, I think it is interesting that my book, with a rough sex scene (the hero in the story is raped physically by the bad guy in the series) near the end of the book, could be blocked/banned because of that scene when say EL James 50 Shades (of crap, if you ask me) gets a pass. Though to be fair, I guess rape wasn’t in the cards for that drivel. But what about the Bible? It has rape, pillaging and all sorts of violence spread throughout the work.

TO BE CLEAR: I don’t consider the Bible (or any other religious text, for that matter) to be holy or sacred. They are books like any other – written BY MAN. So yeah, I so won’t get into that debate ’cause to my way of thinking that’s just messing with 9 bags of cray-cray (as my granddaughter says).

But as a newbie author, doing the self-pub thing on my own, I know I have a learning curve ahead of me. I know that my works will stumble and I might make some epically bad moves. I get that it’s part of the process. I don’t expect to be “the next BIG thing” when it comes to literary works. Though to be honest, I do write literature. I write character studies. I find them infinitely fascinating to write from. I want to immerse the reader into the psyche of the character who is telling you the story. All of the inner monologue that we all have in our day to day lives that never gets said to the outside world.

Those monologues are deeply fascinating to me. At times I listen to my own mental ramblings as I interact with others. Not that there are voices in my head – well, okay there are, but they are my characters working out their upcoming scenarios that I need to get sorted before I write them down – I SWEAR!

Anyway, so my first work was out there on all platforms –

 

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

The reworked and final image for the first of my HOMO series of gay werewolves set in 1956 West Virginia.

 

Amazon   (Sold as The Shrill of Sparrows – abridged edition – A point I’ll come to later) 

 

The Shrill of Sparrows - the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

The Shrill of Sparrows – the reworked abridged edition as sold by Amazon.

 

Amazon had the original work – HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega  as it was originally released (with the rape scene in the next to last chapter). But here is where I think I misstepped and it only became apparent to me as I woke up this morning.

 

Inspiration for Hank O'Malley in my story

Inspiration for Hank O’Malley in my story

 

The book does have sex scenes in it. This is for three reasons:
  1. It was meant to be a fluff, fun and slightly scary read as part of my NaNoWriMo 2014 writer’s challenge project that I won last November -writing the bulk in what made it into the published work within 26 days out of the 30 for the challenge. The werewolves have this ease with themselves where sex comes into it because that is how pack life is for them. The sex keeps them rooted to their human existence.
  2. It was meant to be a story for my very first fan, Michael, who has a penchant for sexy guys and werewolves. I wanted to do some thing for him. I even made him one of my wolves IN the story. He loves it and I couldn’t be happier. The hot and heavy man action was a nod to him.
  3. Sex within my packs of werewolves (which are ONLY male, btw) is a way of exchanging power. It is a metaphor I am using in that submissiveness doesn’t equate weakness. Sometimes, it actually takes far more courage to be there for another in that way. I wanted to play with that dynamic. My wolves keep telling Hank (Henry) that, as the pack’s new Omega, he doesn’t belong to them – they belong to him!

 

That is a very distinct but important difference. But that isn’t the topic at hand here. What is is how I classified it and where I think I went wrong with it all.

 

Amazon, like many of the distributor options out there for self-publishing authors, has their own guidelines and category systems to publish your work.

 

Where I think I went awry is that I classified it as erotica because of the sexual nature of my wolves. It really wasn’t that. That was my misstep. I see that now. BUT, what I do rail against is how Amazon handled it. I got this as my only warning regarding the work:

 

 

Hello,
We’re contacting you regarding the following book:
HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)During our review process, we found that this content is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we cannot offer this book for sale. If we identify additional submissions with similar content that violates our guidelines, we may terminate your account or you may lose access to optional KDP services.

To learn more about our content guidelines, please visit our Kindle Direct Publishing Help page at:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U

Best regards,

Kindle Direct Publishing
kdp.amazon.com

 

That was it. No – “can you modify the work to address the issues we see here (and then list them)?” There was nothing much for me to go on. When I clicked the link they provided, I got this as the only explanation (which wasn’t much to latch onto):

 

The scarcity of Amazon's KDP policy with regards to content. There's precious little to latch onto and learn from.

The scarcity of Amazon’s KDP policy with regards to content. There’s precious little to latch onto and learn from.

 

Since the work was classified as Erotica, I assumed that the first two sections of this lack of direction was the Pornography and the Offensive Content areas of this little policy write up. But how was I supposed to work with that?

It could’ve meant that ANY of my sex scenes were objectionable, right? I had to question it all. So I went out and offered a “hey, I’m new – what do I do to address this so I can learn from it and not repeat it?” I just wanted something or someone to direct me to what was in violation of the policy.

All I got was this (the bolding and underlining of the email content are mine as I am just drawing attention to what stood out for me when I read it):

 

Hello,

We’re contacting you regarding the following title:

HO’M,O – Henry O’Malley, Omega: A Sparrows Hollow Lycanthropic Adventure by Collins, SA (AUTHOR) (ID:5629640)

We’ve confirmed that your book(s) contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines and we will not be offering this title for sale in the Kindle Store. As stated in our guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what we consider to be appropriate, which includes cover images and content within the book.

If you wish to re-publish your book(s) with content that meets our guidelines, it will need to be submitted as an entirely new ASIN and go through our standard review process. Previous customer reviews, tags, and sales rank information are not transferable because the title will essentially be a different product.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website.

To learn more, please see: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U

We appreciate your understanding.

 

So all I got was a ‘confirmation’ that they were right in their first judgement of the work, and that I better pay attention or my entire account with them would be cancelled.

 

For a publishing company, this is woefully short of any real direction and leaves it wide open to capricious interpretation that any given reviewer might object to. Indeed, there are works I know to be up there that are definitely in violation of their policy but somehow I got flagged because of it. I feel like I have a big old red flag waving above my head now with them.

 

So what have I learned from this? Words matter. DUH! I should’ve seen that one coming.

 

So I am gonna take this one on the chin. I’ll be much more clever about how I package something going forward. I am driven by this not because of this first work going through the wringer to get out there on the biggest publishing platform that’s out there, but because of the work that I have waiting in the wings.

 

The FINAL - FINAL version of the book cover for "Angels of Mercy - Volume One: Elliot"

The FINAL – FINAL version of the book cover for “Angels of Mercy – Volume One: Elliot”

 

Angels of Mercy I do NOT want to be blasted or banned by this type of capricious labelling by Amazon or any other publisher. I know it’s literature and NOT genre fiction. It is a massive work. It is a deeply penetrating look at what gay young men go through to establish themselves in the context of sports and their personal lives. It is about the pressures of what society expects of them – the script they feel they must follow to succeed in their given sport. It is about choices and compromises that we, as gay men, must constantly do to eke out some sliver of happiness for ourselves in a world that is still quite homophobic about our existing at all.

 

Another of Hank O'Malley - tough luck lookin' like that, huh?

Another of Hank O’Malley – tough luck lookin’ like that, huh?

 

The tide is changing. I am emboldened by the success stories of young men and women finding acceptance with their loved ones. But there are still so many who are thrown out of their homes, who are shunned and abused for the lives they lead. This is why character studies intrigue me so. No matter the sub-genre I write in – whatever form it might take, I will always write from that inner-monologue perspective. It is the mindsets of those characters that I think is an immensely powerful viewpoint to write from.

 

So yeah, lessoned learned. I’ll move forward. I’ve made peace with it.

 

I’ve also become more determined to get Angels in front of a literary agent rather than self-pub it myself. I want that work to succeed on its own merits and not some capricious label that some fucktard reviewer who probably can’t write a sentence to save their life making a decision that has a bearing on my work getting out there.

 

HO’M,O (or The Shrill of Sparrows as it is now known at Amazon) is fluff – it’s not meant to change the world. I mean, I go dark in it. I want it to be more terrifying than just sexing man-on-man love action (though there’ll be plenty of that because I think the sex between the boys is what will keep them rooted to their human existence and deal with the horrors of the wolf that is within them).

 

Love a boy in wolf's clothing, don't you?

Love a boy in wolf’s clothing, don’t you?

 

Monsters are a way for us to examine our darker natures. Sexual violence, along with violence of any kind, is a strong metaphor to do that. I don’t intend to start pulling punches in that. But I also can see how I need to be much more exacting in how I classify the work going forward.

 

I’m learning. I’m trying to sort it out. And in a very real sense, I am intrigued by this mistakes and missteps. As always, I learn most from where I go wrong. So yeah, lemonade out of lemons and all that rot.

 

Face forward, looking to the bright horizon.

 

Time to press on…

 

Until next time.

 

SA C.

 

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I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

I’m a Scrivener, and this is how I do it…

 

Okay, this one is for all of my fellow authors out there. And fair warning – this is a generalistic overview of this remarkable application. I’ll dig deeper if others seem interested in the offering.

No judgements on anything that you all are doing but just putting out there what my journey has been and the things I’ve discovered. Maybe, just maybe, there is another author out there struggling with Word or some other writing app not knowing that this little gem might be the answer to their problems like it was for me.

I should emphasize that I’ve bought nearly all of the other writing programs (including Microsoft Office, so yeah, Word was in the mix as well – personally Word is about the crappiest program to write documents in long form (such as a novel)), but i understand its ubiquity within the authoring world so yeah, I get why some authors stick to it. I did for a while too. But then it just became unwieldy (I have to use it at work so yeah, I am a power user but word is just bloatware – I wanted more from my writing program).

So my search began: Dramatica, Storyist, Write, etc., I paid and tried them all. None of them had the one-stop shop that I wanted in a writing program, until I found Scrivener. And at roughly $45 (US) it was a STEAL of a program!

If you’re not happy with your current writing environment, might I suggest you take a look at this little screencast and see if it doesn’t appeal to how you’d like to work while creating your next masterpiece.

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I know the video is a bit long but the things this baby can do are astounding. The greatest part – it is TOTALLY one stop shop for authors (no matter whatever your genre or type of writings you do).

DISCLAIMER: In no way am I getting anything by way of a kickback from Literature and Latte (the publishers of Scrivener) for doing this. This is all my own doing. My way of putting out there what I do, and how I do it.

 

Of Note: while all the screenshots I show are from my Mac, the Windows implementation is virtually identical and the files can be used interchangeably between the two platform versions.

 


 

PART I – The Project

 

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

Selecting a NEW PROJECT from within Scrivener

As you can see the application is pre-configured with templates to assist you with whatever type of writing you do in your personal/professional life. For the purposes of my own journey, I will be focusing this blog entry on the fictional template.  Bear in mind that this is how I am using Scrivener. The application has many options that can accommodate just about any workflow. This is just how I am using it.

So from the Project Template window select Fiction and then Novel.

The new project template.

The new project template.

When you first open a new project you get the picture I show above. This is the new project window and your authoring environment. There are places for index cards to keep ideas flowing, and targeted word counts (if you’re into that sort of thing) to be set. All in all, the interface takes a bit to get used to where everything is. But I will tell you that, in the long run, it is well worth the effort.

The sidebar along the left side has become my “home” base. Everything I do, I do from there. It contains the MANUSCRIPT as well as the RESEARCH binder (in fact the whole sidebar is called the Binder – think of it as your author library, of sorts).

The one BIG takeaway from the sidebar is that anything in the Manuscript area can ONLY be included in the final compilation of your manuscript (be it in any format that Scrivener can compile – which is fairly extensive).

For the purposes of my novel I was able to compile my .mobi Kindle file and the epub standard used by Nook and other readers (including iBooks) as well as a printed manuscript (if required) straight from the application itself. How I set up the structure only made the creation of my final product that much easier. A little foresight goes a long way with this application.

To keep things tidy I moved everything BUT the manuscript files (the sample chapter folder and the subsequent text file that makes up a scene within a chapter). Everything else I dragged down into the Research binder. This way I was sure that the only thing that would compile was just the manuscript.

 

The Binder in Scrivener

The Binder in Scrivener

 

The structure of the manuscript can be what you want it to be but for me I wanted just the title page, my dedication, quotes (if any), preface, and anything else you want to include beside standard TOC which the application will build based upon your chapter/scene structure in the Manuscript Binder.

 

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

A cleaner Manuscript area by moving the associated template files from the manuscript to the research binder.

 

Okay, I guess I should pause a bit on this and explain the two terms I’ve been using over and over here. There are two main sections:

Manuscript:  The body of your work, the novel itself. (Area to be compiled into a final published product)

 

Research: Where you will keep your research. (ONLY research – cannot be part of the compiled project)

I realize that seems like it should be obvious but when you look at the interface for the first time it might be a bit confusing on how to read that sidebar.

Here’s what I consider to be one of the most powerful elements of Scrivener that puts it far and above the competition: The Research binder. This binder is a drag-n-drop binder that can hold just about anything you throw at it. Find something on the web? Drag it’s contents to the binder, or copy the link (whichever you wish). It can even hold audio and movie files if you wish (though that will grow the file size exponentially). But the beauty of this Research binder is that it becomes your repository as you write. You can organize it any way you want. It’s your personal research lab to support all of the things you’ve collected about your world. It’s like your story has its own personal Pinterest.

So back to the story construction in Scrivener. The proverbial and mythic cork board:

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The Corkboard about your story. This is accessed by either selecting it from the menu bar OR you can click the manuscript at the binder level and it will bring up the board as you see in this picture.

The nice part about the cork board is that you can see your storyboard in the traditional story building fashion that many authors and screenwriters employ when building your story structure. A birds-eye view of the whole thing.

NOW, FOR THE NITTY GRITTY – 

Here’s how I applied all of this to my own novel:

I set up my chapters by creating folders for each – in the beginning they were just Chapter One, Chapter Two (etc) as I just was looking for structure. Later on when I had names for them I just retitled the folders with the name of the chapter and Scrivener created the HTML links in the kindle or epub file for me concatenating the chapter number (1, 2, 3, etc) with my chapter title (e.g.: Chapter One – For the Love of the Q)  with the latter part of that title being the folder title in my Scrivener file. Handy, huh?

If your chapters have scenes or sequences that make up the entire chapter than you just create a text doc for each. The way I handled it was to name the subsequent chapter documents with the chapter and scene number (Scene 01-02 was Chapter 1, Scene 2 and so forth). Like the example I show below:

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn't contain the actual chapter numbers. There's a reason for that - Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How I structured my book within Scrivener. Folders contain the chapter titles and the subsequent documents are identified by chapter and scene. This allowed me to know what chapter was what because the chapter folders didn’t contain the actual chapter numbers. There’s a reason for that – Scrivener puts in the chapter number for you when you compile.

How does all this play out when you are ready to compile? Like this…

 

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

The compiled epub/nook edition of my novel. The chapter numbers are inserted for me by Scrivener. The titles are the names of the folders within the Scrivener project file.

 

So now you do what you want to do – write. Right-clicking on the chapter folder or the previous scene document and adding as necessary to flesh out your great novel.

 

Sidebar: In a future post (not to far off from now, I promise) I’ll reveal one of the wonderful things about Scrivener – Snapshots! They are a writers dream! Look for it…

 

While your writing you can always check on the project status and can set target marks while you write to keep you on track.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

The Project Status dialog box. Helping you stay on track with targets and projected printing and ebook formats word/page counts.

So we’ll jump ahead several months or so (if you’re like me it takes a few months to get things going to where you’re ready to publish (even if its just to beta readers as a preview or pre-flight test of your ebook offering).

 


 

Part Two: The Compiling

Once you’ve got it to where it needs to be then it’s time for compiling it into a final product (either as an e-book offering or a printed manuscript). Here are the offerings when it comes to compiling in Scrivener.

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

The compilation dialog (epub options being shown here)

This is where the magic truly is within Scrivener. This dialog allows you to customize and publish to various epub and printed formats. The example I am showing above is for my current forthcoming novel “Angels of Mercy.” But the options are pretty far reaching:

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

Publishing options to compile your great masterpiece and put it out there into the world.

One caveat to this whole epub thing: you will need to get the kindle gen (generator) installation file from Amazon and install them onto your PC/Mac to enable the Kindle publishing/compiling option. But once you’ve done that, then you’re all set with regards to publishing the Kindle edition of your novel. Cover art work? Covered with Scrivener. Build of the chapters and how you handle it is entirely under your control. What you include, how you include it, all managed by the compilation dialog.

The best part though was that all of this was at a remarkable price of $45 (US). That’s the part that I still can’t get over for me. Having poured through them all and trying my best to work with other vendors offerings (at a much steeper price for the software) I was really taken with how much power this program wields for the author’s buck.

Is it right for everyone? I can’t answer that. Some writers are just too entrenched. But if you’re not entirely happy with your writing solution, I say give this little writing gem a gander. What I’ve written here is merely the tip of the iceberg (as they say) on what this program can do. In the coming weeks I’ll try to lift the lid on various aspects of how Scrivener works (where my exposure and usage of it has taken me thus far). I am still trying to discover new ways to use it and I’m finding at each turn the application as risen to the challenge and then some.

I hope you find this write up helpful and as always, I am free to any comments or questions regarding the app.

Again it is available from the folks at Literature and Latte in the UK.

$45 US (Mac version)

$40 US (Windows version (v 8.1 ready))

Word has it they’re working on a linux version but I don’t know where they are in the process of releasing that version to the masses. Demo versions are available for downloads to try before you buy.

Lastly, their tech support is very responsive as I’ve never had to wait more than a day to get some traction on whatever I was dealing with. In addition, they have a very active and prolific forum/support board that is also of use. When you couple all of that with the video’s posted online you get quite a lot for your $40-45 (US).

Leave any areas you’d like me to post about in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Until next time… PEACE!

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Errata from the Cliff – what a view it is!

Errata from the Cliff – what a view it is!

 

View of the Bixby Bridge - not too far from where my book "Angels of Mercy" takes place.

View of the Bixby Bridge – not too far from where my book “Angels of Mercy” is set.

 

So I’ve been contemplating cliff hangers lately. Probably because my first book ends on a major cliff hanger. I’ve heard (via anyone who has an opinion on the topic) opposing opinions on this. Some lobbying for just putting it (my book- Angels of Mercy) out there. My fear: that I’ve asked readers to invest in my character (the main character that the book is dependent on his POV) only to have something happen that threatens the investment that my readers will have put in at that point.

But then I think about authors who have written their first novel of a series and it ends in an unresolved or even a cliff hanger state and their readers came back for book two. I mean, they had to start somewhere, right?

Take Rowling, for example. Sure, Harry’s story is hardly a real cliff hanger series (well, except maybe for the last two books which sort of were real cliff hangers because he Muggle/Wizarding world was upended on both sides so yeah, those last two could be argued were cliff hangers). By that I mean that the books all had a serious situation to deal with that the characters had to cope with and resolve. And each book ended with Harry being returned to the safety of his uncle and aunt’s home in Little Whinging. He was relatively safe for another summer, THEN all hell would break loose, so to speak.

So yeah, HP is not a perfect example in my pursuit of how I should handle my series (Angels of Mercy) because my story (my first novel published anywhere) ends on a d00zy of a cliff hanger. I was a little concerned that I might piss off  my new readership and since it was my first story, I might not get them to come back again. Part of me hopes they will. I’ve been told by my beta readers that they would read the second book without a doubt. So I know I have something. But again, I am untested by the masses out there. Betas are fine but they aren’t the whole enchilada and I’d be remiss in my due diligence in sorting this out if I didn’t cop to that. So yeah, while I like what they’re telling me about how solid my writing is, and how engaging my characters are, there is the potential that there will be others out there that won’t like the whole leaving you on the edge of  a cliff with nary a hope in sight (it ends REALLY dark).

I had lunch with one of my beta readers and he made a comment to me – why not pose a teaser at the end? An interesting prospect. The second book is told by the boyfriend of my main character in book one. That’s sort of the point in this series: the entire tale is told from three boys perspectives. Book one is Elliot, book two is his boyfriend Marco’s turn, then the last by Marco’s brother, Pietro. Each boy retells the same sequence of events only advancing the timeline further down the road towards the final resolution. It’s a very thought out process to put each of these boys in play to tell this big tale of a love between two boys and the foibles that they encounter (both trivial and fatalistic in nature) to get to their Ever After, Happily.

This isn’t something new that I’ve been toying with in the back of my mind. And okay, I guess I’m good with if it doesn’t sell out the door right away. A really great post from a self-pub expert out there (thebookdesigner.com) explains how I need to keep working at expanding my social media reach but also accept that if my book is well written, well executed and well edited, it should find its audience. It may not be this year, or next, but during that time that it might languish in relative obscurity I need to press forward with everything that I can to put my name out there – only by marketing ME can I hope to garner interest in my work. Also, I needed to sort out why I have a site at all. I need to take a look at what am I offering readers by coming to my site.

Thus, I’ve sort of turned a new leaf. I am honing in on not only why I am writing my novels but why I associate with other authors and readers. I am going to try and bring something else to my readers. I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I know that my success as a writer sort of depends upon it. I want to discuss with other writers in my genre their craft, their approach, their point of view on why they write what they write and most importantly, why do they feel so drawn to do so. I know there’ll be the usual – well, because I can’t think of any other way to be. I am a writer – plain and simple. Somehow, if I do my job correctly, I think there’ll be more interesting reveals down the road for some of these authors on why they are passionate about what they do. In a very real way, this can only enrich us all by having this dialog.

So yeah, my buddy authors out there – I just might be tapping on your shoulder to have such a dialog on my site. Get a real feel for what you do and why you do it. I know why I am in the mix – as they say, but I’d so like to hear why others feel the drive to do so as well.

Should make for some very interesting conversations.

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