Tobias Has a Title...and a Date.

I know, I know, I haven't had a lot of news lately. I gave myself a lot of time to write Tobias's book, in large part because I'm a slow writer, and also because I knew I would have to do a lot of research for it and I didn't want to skimp. But now that the book's in and we've begun the editing and pre-publication process, things are finally starting to roll!

Hard Line, Tobias's book, second in the Woodbury Boys trilogy, will be released April 2, 2018.

As soon as I have a cover (it'll be a while yet, so don't get too excited) and a blurb, I'll put those up for you, too.

Gettin' Fighty

Sometimes it's hard to draw a line between writing healthy relationships, realistic relationships, and the sort of conflict-based relationships that are crucial for page-turning fiction.

Let me give you an example with some mild spoilers. In Bad Judgment, my two heroes get into an argument. They're both tired and pissed off and neither one is getting what he wants from the other and they're too emotionally involved at this point to walk away. Neither one has any good options. There's no obviously right answer. It's just a shitty situation and they don't know how to handle it.

So what happens? They yell at each other. One of them slams a door open without really meaning to. They get to a point where they both feel that a line is about to be crossed, and they back off and do something different.

This is one of those moments that, as a writer, I thought about a lot. Not only because it was an important turning point in the plot but because I suspected that someone might get upset about it. And a few folks did. Not unreasonably.

Yelling is a big thing. Most people who've been yelled at in relationships realize that it can be a big red flag for later abusive behavior, and while the stats on men abusing women are a lot scarier, anyone can abuse anyone, regardless of gender and orientation. The fact that both my heroes are men doesn't mean abuse can't happen, and yelling is still a red flag.

Does everyone who yells hit? Of course not. Does everyone who slams a door manipulate and name call? Obviously not. But many readers--particularly readers who've been through this sort of thing--see yelling and door slamming as a bad sign, and I totally get that. It's a fact.

I want to model healthy relationships in my books. I'm not one of those readers who thinks back on the romance novels (and TV shows and movies) of the 80's and 90's with warm fuzzies. In way too many of them, emotional manipulation and abuse and rape are portrayed as romantic. As someone who read that shit through my formative years, let me just say that it took a long time for me to get some of that crap out of my head and out of my relationships. So yeah, I think it's important that romance novels say here, this is what's really ideal, this is what's actually romantic, you can have higher expectations for your partners.

But the opposite extreme can be just as tricky. Fiction where people always do the right thing and never have bad, stupid, or mean thoughts is, in my opinion, preachy, unrealistic and fucking boring. The reality is that we weren't all raised with parents who modeled healthy disagreement skills for us. Some of us have better emotional control than others. And personally, I like messy people who are imperfect. I like people who don't always know how to express themselves. I don't mind yelling every once in a rare while, because I'm less concerned with volume than I am with tone and content and word choice. That's why Brogan yelling about being frustrated and scared that Embry was hurt didn't cross a line for me, although your mileage may vary. I like people who don't all fight like they've had conflict resolution training, both because the vast majority of people haven't, and because it can be good to see couples model getting better at fighting. 

Which is something Embry and Brogan do over the course of the book. In fact, by the end, they're both so fucking grown-up it's almost sickening. 

But I'm working on Ghost's book now, and Ghost makes Brogan at his worst look like an after-school special. Hell, Ghost makes Embry look like an after-school special, and Embry's no cupcake. Ghost isn't someone who yells, but what he does is far worse. Let's call a spade a spade; Ghost is capable of real meanness. He's manipulative. He lies. He doesn't mind hurting people, and at times in the past, he has actively enjoyed doing so. It is entirely in character for him to do things which, to some readers, will be unforgivable. And while he needs to learn how to be better and he will--it's kind of a theme in this series--at the same time, people are who they are. He's never going to be selfless or kind or gentle. He's capable of doing selfless, kind, or gentle things, but doing isn't necessarily being. 

He has very good reasons to be the way he is, although I'm not sure how far mitigating factors go to excuse bad behavior. He recognizes that he's not a good person. He's capable of being better and is even willing to try, which in my mind is the line between an antihero and a villain. None of us is raised to be perfect. We're all works in progress. We learn and improve, and that means that characters who do stupid or mean things but are trying can still be worthy of love. That's a comfort to me--as someone who isn't perfect at all--but some folks find it really upsetting. They see it as rewarding or excusing bad behavior, and that's a valid perspective too.

It's a tricky line to walk without tipping over. How much wobbling can Ghost do before readers won't forgive him?

Well...

I guess we're gonna find out.

The Revision Process in Gifs

Revision is a long, unwieldy process full of insecurities, small setbacks, and large improvements. It is, to be frank, the emotional equivalent of the tilt-a-whirl. In the micro sense, the process is different for every book because you always manage to screw up in new, colorful ways.

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In the macro sense, however, there's a fairly predictable path that can be summed up pretty well in gifs. Like so...

Step One: Sending the book to beta readers:

Step Two: Waiting patiently:

Step Three: More waiting, because your beta readers have lives or something apparently, and didn't drop everything to read your book. Alternatively, it's because the book is a garbage fire:

Step Four: More waiting because now they're just fucking with you. 

Step Five: Finally going through the beta readers' comments:

Step Six: Thinking about your beta readers' comments:

Step Seven: Deciding your beta readers are picking on you and you're going to ignore them forever because they're jerk-faces:

Step Eight: When time and perspective make you realize you are not only wrong...

...but an asshole.

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Step Nine: Looking at the Garbage Fire that is your book with an honest eye:

Step Ten: Looking through the millions of possibilities and suggestions for the clues to success:

Step Eleven: You want to be an deep sea diver. You want to be a kindergarten teacher. You want to jettison this manuscript into space, because...wait. WAIT. What if...what if you move that to there, and do that there, and then he does that with him...BREAKTHROUGH.

Step Twelve: Oh, yeah. You got this. You got this so hard:

Step Thirteen: Channeling earnest Robin Williams:

Step Fourteen: Re-reading the new, revised, brilliant ART that your beta readers selflessly helped you create, despite your self-indulgent, narcissistic tendencies:

Step Fifteen: Sending the new draft to your editor:

Don't worry. Eventually you'll get back to Walter White levels of confidence again. Just in time for the release date.

My Search History is Going to Get Me Arrested

A romantic suspense author's internet search history is a terrifying thing. Because we're constantly doing research so we can write from the perspectives of all sorts of heroes and villains, if something exists under the sun, chances are we've googled it, whether it's sexual, violent, or just plain weird. And we can yell to the heavens about the fictional purposes of the thing, but that's not going to keep anyone who takes a peek at our laptops from thinking that we're either a) psychotic, b) pervy, c) criminals planning a major crime, or d) all of the above.

The nature of my research habits can be summed up with a simple look at my browser's (Chrome, in case you care) search suggestions.

For example, the other day I needed to know whether all Canadian police were Mounties or if Mounties were a special group of law enforcement officers within the larger framework, and this is what happened.

I started by typing "Can," planning to type in "Canada and Mounties." Simple, right? 

But before I got any further than "Can," Google took a look at my previous searches, made some guesses about the kind of person I am, and offered the following:

"Can I shoot someone who enters my home even if they're unarmed?"

And, "Can I get avoid getting extradited?"

And, "Can I get STIs from unprotected sex with a prostitute?"

And, "Can you score a goal and still have a 0 +/-?"

Okay, that last one is legitimate; it's about hockey stats. Everything else is the product of previous work-related searches. I swear.

For the record, the answers are as follows: #1 --yes, if you live in Colorado, as long as the person is using some form of force against you, although 'force' is vaguely defined, #2--it depends on where you go and what you did, but I wouldn't recommend you get legal advice from anyone but a lawyer regardless of your location or activities, and #3 is yes, you can potentially get an STI from any unprotected sex you engage in, no matter who your partner is. I hope you already knew the answer to #3, but I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't, because sex education in this country is a joke. If you want to do your own research, Teen Vogue is an excellent resource for healthy, sex-positive info and education about messed up crap like "stealthing."

Oh, and on a less-creepy note, the answer to the hockey question is yes. +/- provides (flawed) insight into who's scoring while you're on the ice. If you score a goal (yay!) they give you a point, but if you're on the ice when the bad guys score (boo!), they take a point away. So yes, it is possible for goals to cancel each other out, giving you a big, fat donut hole for your troubles. I actually already knew the answer to that one, because I'm a hockey nerd who reads about this shit for fun, but anytime Google wants to help me out with WAR analytics, sign me up. That stuff's confusing.

But I have really digressed. The point is that I've clearly been lumped into a very select group of searchers, and I'm not sure it's one that'll be good for my reputation if I don't make it clear somewhere that these searches are for fictional purposes. I do not plan to shoot anyone or commit a crime and run away to another country or have unprotected sex with a prostitute. Or any kind of sex with a prostitute, as I'm married to someone who is not a prostitute. So far as I know, anyway.

It's fiction! Hello, FBI? It's FICTION.

Night Owl Reviews Summer Fun Event!

I'm a sponsor for the Night Owl Reviews Summer Fun scavenger hunt this year! Woo!

But what does that mean for you?

Prizes. Lots of prizes in the form of Amazon gift cards. It also means a fun game where you investigate the site to find not only the pieces you need to win, but to learn about great books that've come out recently. 

Need something new to read? Need to beat other readers into the ground because you're that competitive? Need a new blender and a gift card is the only way it's gonna happen? 

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