Changeling

Cutting scenes (but also, why Changeling is so long)

Because that’s how long it took to tell the story. I really wanted to tell it under 80,000 words, and, if at all possible at 100,000 words, but the beginning needed more. I had even sacrificed my two favourite scenes. The scene where Kevin takes Matt to the arcade and the scene where spoiler does spoiler, but at the end, I had to go back and put them back in.

For most of the scenes in the cut scene, they ended up being superfluous for the story at the time that they happened. I don’t plan the books I n write, but my process allows for that. I truly respect authors who can write out a four page outline as to what the story is going to be about and then sit down and write that story. There’s an amount of ordered thought to that that I couldn’t even dream of.

I start with a character in a situation and an ending that I have a vague sense of. I start with an interesting character with an interesting problem in an interesting world and try to let the story guide itself. In the first draft, this can mean not really figuring out what was going on until the last quarter. That means that if the book is a room in pitch darkness, I spend a lot of time groping about, trying to identify everything that is in the room as points to the plot.

By the end of the book, I know what I’ve written. It’s like turning on a light and not just having to guess at what I was trying to describe, but see it clearly for what it was. Sometimes I ended up spending a lot of time describing something that was far more complex than it was in the bright light of day, and some times there’s a smoking gun in the middle of the room that I didn’t stumble across.

It means a lot of what had formed the story to get to the ending was wrong. And I know that’s hard to hear when a book spends so much time getting all the way out of you, but I wish I had known a decade ago that all that time I spent trying to save my deathless prose with the least amount of effort got me no further in my writing path.

I think discovering micro-tension put the last nail on the coffin of trying to save the scene for being what it is. I know a lot of people that I really respect who don’t bother with making each sentence have a sense that the character is struggling, it makes for a quick read. The more the microtension carries the piece, though, the harder it is to just cut and paste section from scene to scene. The character knows what they know at the time they know it, and if the tension in the sentence is out of whack with the tension in the scene, it always reads to me like there’s a flat tire on your car.

Is that mixing enough metaphors? Yes? I think I’m done. Except to say that if you cut a scene and it physically hurts to do so, and you start to obsess about it, it should probably go back into the manuscript. Cutting away the scene at the curry shop, even though it solidifies the reason as to why Matt decides that no matter how much he loves Kevin, he’s realistic that the relationship is less than a week old and he can’t possibly trust Kevin with Sam’s life. His own, sure. Sam’s? No way. I’ve already made that point, so redundancy is redundant.

But the arcade scene? Matt never does anything for just himself, and would never do something fun just for himself. Him giving up his arcade games wasn’t just a financial choice, though, it also reminded him horribly of the really bad choice he made in one. When Kevin takes him out to the funland, Matt could be exactly what he was, a nineteen year old kid for once in his life.

That it also showed that when he stops worrying about “acting gay”, his body moves effortlessly, he has fine motor control, and it gives him a way of being able to “see” the moves he needs to make in order to do magic in a way that makes sense to him. In book three, when he climbs up a tree, all he sees are the up down and sideways arrows that make a very complex task simple. Cutting it would have cut out five thousand words and a piece from the chest cavity of the book.

There. That’s enough mixed metaphors for the day.

Changeling Cut Scene Thursday #2: it’s not really about the jeans

It’s Cut Scene Thursday again! There are more spoilers than last week here under the cut tag.

This scene happens in a thrift store where Matt goes shopping for jeans. In the first draft, the scene happened a lot earlier and Matt and Kevin barely know each other, and things unfold differently with Matt needing to get a blood test done. There’s another draft before the final version that I’ll be posting next week.

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Five things about consent culture

I’m very pro-sex, obviously. I write erotica. The one thing I hate is when people ask me what I write, and I say erotica, I could almost say along with them, “like 50 shades of Grey?”

And I want to scream no, nothing like that. I want to celebrate consent culture. Even though Kevin meets Matt while Matt is engaged in sex-work, I’d still like to think that the book is pro-sex and pro-consent culture. After dabbling in fanfic for almost a decade I understand the desire for dubious consent because playing with fire is hot, but not obtaining your partner’s enthusiastic consent before engaging in sexual acts is no grounds to actually build a relationship with.

Abuse does more than just hurt. It can destroy the sense of safety and trust that everyone needs to be able to become a productive member of society, including sex-work if consensual. Abuse can leave a hole in someone’s soul that dangerous habits like drugs, alcohol or dangerous habits can almost, but never completely fill. No foreign substance could ever completely fill that hole. The person has to figure out for themselves that they are worthy of love and can trust on their own, independent of the acts of other people. As much as it is a love story between Matt and Kevin and a platonic love story between Matt and Kevin, there’s also a side story where Matt figures out what he needs, and allows himself to be whole.

Matt learning to trust Kevin is as important as Matt learning to like Kevin. It was love at first sight, but falling in love is the easiest part to a relationship. Relationships take serious work to maintain for both parties.

As bad as the headmaster is to Matt in real life, both of them entered into the relationship with clear expectations as to what would, and wouldn’t happen. It may not be as sexy as smouldering looks, but trying to get a person to do something that is on their ‘hard no’ list. Getting a person to do something they did not want to do from the onset is the very definition of not sexy.

Matt and Kevin do not have penetrative sex until the very end of the book because it takes that long for Matt to trust Kevin. In the Fae language, one of the kinds of love you can have for a person is synonymous with trust.

If you want to know more about consent culture, here are some good places to start, and related links:

Laci Green, Consent 101 – what it says, a Youtube video.

Consent culture from the Pervocracy – what an ideal consent culture would look like.

enthusiastic, willing, unwilling, coerced – different models of consent culture at The Dirty Normal

Elodie Under Glass gust-posts at Captain Awkward on how to romance

consentculture.com for everything and the kitchen sink

 

To celebrate the release of my new book Changeling, I’m going to be posting related links on Tuesdays and cut scenes on Thursdays for the next month. Changeling is a m/m paranormal erotica novel about Matt, who sells sex to keep himself and his little brother together. When Matt discovers Kevin, the john he’s rapidly falling for, is a Prince of the Fae, the questions start piling up. But most importantly, why does Kevin keep acting like it’s Matt who will leave, when it’s Matt who’s the broken one?

Beta reading and Changeling sale

If there’s one thing I can say about beta reading, it’s take what you need and discard the rest. I love this beginning. From the first line you know there is a child aboard because the text says once the storm had broken A few stray flakes flew into the headlight beams. Matt and the other adults on the bus exhaled the breath they’d all been holding. A comment I got in a critique said, “I understood there were children aboard, but other people might not. You should definitely change that.”

This whole world is set up so that the people making the decisions know what is what, but there is this massive fear that someone less intelligent might not understand as much. I don’t write to please everyone, I write for people who would get a small burst of pleasure in their head when they realize there’s at least one child on board, and that child is important to the main character. Because there is, and he is. 

Changeling is 10% off right now. 

Changeling’s beginning.

Broken and Beautiful panel at When Words Collide

The Broken and Beautiful panel is the one panel during When Words Collide next month that I was really hoping to be on–and I’m on it! If there is one kind of character I write over and over again, it’s the wounded hero. There’s something absolutely beautiful about writing a character that could have been shattered into a million pieces, but is holding himself together.

Just after I’d written Changeling, I read another author’s take on a prostitute as a main character. Everything is just my opinion and it’s worth what someone will pay for it, but I think you really have to be careful when you make a character do something that the intended audience probably wouldn’t have made.

For most people, the idea of selling your body for money is a walnut sized lump that is hard to swallow. The reasons why your character does it has to be absolutely crystal for the audience and, if they were put in the same shoes, it would have to be the choice that they would have made, all things considered.

Matt had grown up being abused as far back as he could remember, but the first time he sells his body for money, he not only bursts into tears while it’s happening, he also spends every dime he earned and all the rest of his money he had on him that was supposed to go towards getting him and his brother out of the abusive home they are in on a video game that he doesn’t even like. He had to stay past his curfew in order to burn through the whole lot, and he gets in trouble for trying to run away.

When he and Sam finally get out of the bad situation (no spoilers, Changeling begins with the main character having been out of the house for the past three years) Matt still tries to get a straight job. Without any diploma and having to be home so that he could be with Sam after school and on the weekends, he can’t take a job that would leave Sam alone most of the time. He tries working the night shift at a meat processing plant, but his body can’t adjust to the night time and after he wakes up in his drive way with no recollection of how he drove home in the morning, he quits the manual labor job and tries tricking again.

On his eighteenth birthday, he goes out and gets hammered, picking up some piece of strange at a bar to fuck him without payment. If he’d gotten caught prostituting at seventeen and 364 days, he would have been considered a minor and have access to help that would dry up the day he turned eighteen, even though his situation hadn’t changed.

As an adult, he knows he’s an arrest away from destroying the little safe home he’s managed to make around his little brother. He might have gotten away with probation the first time he’d been arrested, but the second time he’d probably be violating the terms of his probation, and that’s a far more serious charge.

I absolutely love Matt’s way of looking at the world. In one way, he’s very cynical and mistrustful, but he falls in love with Kevin the first time he sees the man. He understands that realistically Kevin is so far out of his league they’re playing different games, but when things always seem to work out around Kevin, he can’t help but feel suspicious.

Well, that got off topic quick. What I was trying to say is having a character who is broken is a real challenge to balance. No one wants to get sucked into a pity party where the book just gets mired in the middle of a self-pity bog, but on the other hand, you don’t want to have a character be blase about selling his body for sex, especially since you’re selling the romance as much as the smut in an erotica novel.

Broken characters are awesome characters to play with, but from page one, it’s really necessary to show that he or she is trying to be whole, even if they can’t see how they can change their circumstances on their own. Matt has his brother, Sam, to keep him trying to help himself. It would be really easy for him to stop fighting the current of his life and just go with it, but Sam keeps him swimming upstream.

Changeling Cut Scene Thursday #1: Really good curry

It’s Cut Scene Thursday! I’ve decided that’s going to be a thing for the next four weeks.

It’s not enough to cut bad scenes when you’re editing, you also have to cut scenes that are actually good, but don’t move the plot forward. It hurts when you have to lose bits that you really like, though. The novel was already over 130,000 words and I had to cut out as much as I could.
This originally took place almost at the end of the book, but is relatively light on spoilers. The scene with Matt and Kevin on the floor in the kitchen was one of my favourite ones in the book. But I’d made it clear earlier in the book why Matt needed the deal, putting it here was countersinking the concept.
The Indian restaurant is an amalgamation of two different places, both within walking distance of where we were living first in Edmonton, then in Calgary. They were both excellent, but only the one in Calgary, just off 17th Ave, is still open. It’s about five blocks from the Korean restaurant that I turned into a demon brothel in another series. Oops?

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Changeling links: five things about fairies and NEW BOOK DAY!

It’s new book day, and Middle Hill #1: Changeling is out! Right now, you can get it on Loose Id’s website, and it should be up on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and all the other usual suspects in the next day or two. And my last book, Coral Were His Bones, is on sale for 40% off right now if you buy direct from Loose Id.

To celebrate, I’m going to be posting related links on Tuesdays and cut scenes on Thursdays for the next month. First up, five things about fairies:

1. If you feel the need to brush up on your folklore, changelings don’t work quite this way in Matt’s story, but the history and sociology’s interesting none the less.

2.  If you’re wondering how fairies are related to Sherlock Holmes, then you’ve never come across the Cottingley fairies. (And a shout-out to the not-so-great episode of Torchwood, “Small Worlds,” just for the truly creepy flashback scene on the train.)

3. The internet is awesome. Where else can you randomly find an English-subtitled French documentary about Icelandic beliefs in elves? I’d take it with a giant tablespoon of salt, though, especially when they get to the bit about UFOs. Take everything with a grain of salt, actually…

4. Here’s your stealth Canadian content, the song “Taken Away by the Fairies” by Colleen Power on last.fm or streaming on CBC’s website. It’s creepy, and I love it, and I would be the  kid in the song, mittens off, straight into the forest. Well, except for the bit about a man in her bed. Not so much. Go. Listen. Especially to the lyrics. While you’re on CBC’s site, check out her other song “Newfoundland Weather” as well for relationship described as maritimes weather forecast.

5. And since fae politics start to have some real-world implications on Matt’s life, some more folklore, with the Lost Kings of Faeryland.

Happy new book day!

To celebrate the release of my new book Changeling, I’m going to be posting related links on Tuesdays and cut scenes on Thursdays for the next month. Changeling is a m/m paranormal erotica novel about Matt, who sells sex to keep himself and his little brother together. When Matt discovers Kevin, the john he’s rapidly falling for, is a Prince of the Fae, the questions start piling up. But most importantly, why does Kevin keep acting like it’s Matt who will leave, when it’s Matt who’s the broken one?