Negative reviews? Please.

You know who can rip my stuff to shreds and inflict more psychological stress/pain on me than I’m already experiencing?

Me.

You think that review of Going To Pieces was bad? He didn’t even bother to knock the TITLE. What kind of wuss misses an easy dig like that? Pfft. And let’s not even get started about how he stayed away from critiquing the sex, the position(s), the BDSM, the colors of the decor, OR the vocabulary. “repast”? Really? Who uses “repast” in everyday conversation?

Every time I send a story off, I’ve got a serious case of cognitive dissonance going on: “They’re going to LOVE IT!” is followed immediately by “No, no, they will HATE IT. LOATHE IT.” Which is then drowned by “They’re going to ADORE IT!” and so on, until I decide to reread my submission.

The last story I submitted? Has at least one glaring typo. I’m amazed I managed to keep it under the word count–so I’m proud of myself for that–but I’m also half-convinced that in so doing I’ve wrung all the sensuality and hotness and immediacy out of it. I look at it and think “If I just had another 1,000 words! I could make Jackie’s whole look less gimmicky-sounding. Or I could do more with the plant. Or…”

I have yet to see a review of my story in Model Men, which is a Benny and Phil story. Phil’s the POV character… The first-person POV character. There are people out there who are going to declare that I am an absolute wash as a writer, simply because they hate Phil’s voice. There are other people out there who will rightly point out that there’s a minor omission toward the beginning of the story that ideally shooooould have been filled in, now that I think about it. (It doesn’t detract or otherwise substantially change the story itself, though, so I don’t think it really matters all that much.)

People have pointed out the problems with First Flight and Tobias’s Own, though for the latter most people were polite enough to not mention the fact that I smooshed six months of being attracted to one another into a couple of “telling” sentences. There’s more than that, of course, since they’re novellas, but seriously.

And not every negative review I’ve gotten has been bad — one of my favorites was for Gone To Pieces, where the reviewer said she was pretty sure Brice was pudgy, balding, and friendless. The story still wasn’t her cuppa, but we both agreed that Brice was a jerk and a half. I don’t care about that — tell me the story’s not your thing, even tell me why, that’s great. Make me laugh at the same time? That’s even better!

Write a lengthy critique that focuses on things I didn’t do or didn’t do the way you were expecting/wanted me to? Especially when it was a request story and you weren’t the one who requested it? I’ll fume about it, then write something relatively neutral in response.

Tell me I suck and I’ll get annoyed; tell me to quit writing and I’ll dig my heels in and keep on. Claim that anyone who has given my stuff bad reviews is a bully and I’ll be really confused. As I said at the beginning, dude. You want someone to point out every last wonky beam and misplaced modifier, I am at your service. I wrote it, I better know damn well just where it sucks and how.

So, y’know. I’m not saying I want negative reviews, or that I embrace them all with a smile on my face–because in all honesty, I’d rather have people love my stuff, warts and all. It’s just that for the most part, people who’re going to give First Flight one star because they had a traumatic run-in with their great-aunt’s hyacinth macaw when they were 12 and now they hate all birds (or whatever) aren’t going to bother to pull it apart the way I can.

Other Love Is Always Write Reads:

These are the stories that grabbed me, for whatever reason, in no particular order. If they’re not already available for download, they will be! Also, these are all pretty much NSFW (but if you’re here…), so there’s that.

Roses In The Devil’s Garden, by Charlie Cochet. Prohibition-era cops! Bad guys! Former lovers and secrets!

Into Deep Waters, by Kaje Harper. The story of two guys who meet in the Navy in WWII. Bring tissues/a hankie, you’ll need it — trust me, if it was Misery Lit, it wouldn’t be on this list.

Altered States, by LE Harner. Looks like a cop/buddy story at first glance… And then you get to the end! If you really want to be surprised, skip the informational post at the beginning.

Louder Than Sirens, Louder Than Bells, by KD Sarge. I don’t know why I can’t get into Florence & The Machine, but I just can’t. However, the song from which the title is taken seems to be a good fit for the story — which is not-exactly-friends (but not entirely enemies) to lovers, featuring lovely stubborn characters that you want to whack with a shoe even as you want to give them a hug. (…I apparently have A Thing for that kind of character. Learn something new every day.)

Feels So Good When You Stop, by Eve Ocotillo. For me, the hints that perhaps Tomas isn’t what he seems were really what made the story.

By Design, by Kate Islay. I like architecture, and while this story doesn’t require a degree in engineering or design, the architectural details add another layer of interest to it.

Fridge Logic:

Something that makes sense at the time, but when you go to get a snack you open the fridge door and suddenly realize that it didn’t make that much sense after all. (Or it didn’t make sense, and then you realize that it did). I’d link to TV Tropes, but I’d like to go to bed within the hour…

Anyway. So, I’ve gotten some reviews for First Flight; some are great (Serena Yates!) and some are…less so. (Getting the plot that’s outlined in the blurb is apparently not enough for some people.) Some of the other reviews (they liked it, but…) have been nudging at me for the last few days, so I did something about it. I start with a tangent, but stick with it: I promise I have a point.

I like to draw. I’m not all that great at it, but I’ve amused myself and at least one other person – as well as having inspired someone (because, as they said, they could do better than my paltry doodles). This is not a bid for sympathy, but rather the set-up for my next statement, which is this:

If I have to label the parts of the drawing, then it’s a pretty crappy drawing.

I hold a similar attitude toward my own stories: if I have to write a paragraph or more explaining the story, then I’ve pretty much failed and need to start over. That said, what follows is more or less an explanation. It’s most definitely justification, as well, but I’m more comfortable with justifying things. (Friends and family know that they can count on me to justify nearly anything, heh.)

This is in response to a reviewer on Goodreads, who said that there are some big/important issues that are glossed over in First Flight; it’s also something of a response to another that said First Flight was “unrealistic”.

Nota bene: I am not writing this out of anger or a desire to make the reviewers see the errors of their ways – quite the opposite (it’s hard to argue for realism when one of the main characters is a guy who used to be a bird). I know there are some places where I basically painted some vaguely building-like objects on a piece of canvas and nailed it up over a hole in the background, then pointed off into the distance and said ‘Look! Something shiny!’ in hopes people wouldn’t notice.

Short version is: yeah, there are some holes, and here’s why I left ’em instead of trying to explain in-story. Cut for mild spoilers, just in case.

Continue reading

*Happy sigh*

So I just finished rereading Shea Meiers’s The Wishing Box. It’s like a Christmas cookie, really, but better in that you can reread it as many times as you want.

And if you’re reading The Wishing Box, you might as well read Michelle’s Enchanted Grounds — it’s sweet in both the traditional sense and in the non-explicit sense (a few kisses, but nothing else).

As for me, I think I’m going to go work on my shy snake-boys story in hopes of giving it away for Pancha Ganapati.

More Hot Summer Days Recommended Reads

I haven’t been getting much writing done, for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture. In an effort to try feeling accomplished, I caught up on my HSD reading. Here’s the latest that I’ve liked, in no particular order whatsoever:

Bridges, by M. J. O’Shea. More of an enemies-to-lovers story, so it takes a little time for the guys to get their heads around the idea that maybe there could be more to their relationship. I definitely need more O’Shea and Vaughn in my life.

Photo Booth, by Neil Plakcy. A cowboy hooks up with an FBI agent: it sounds like that should end with “can they get along in the suburbs?!”, but Mr. Plakcy makes it work. (Full disclosure: I’m proud to say that Mr. Plakcy was the first editor to ever buy one of my stories, but that has nothing to do with the fact that I liked Photo Booth.)

Delivery With A Smile, by Megan Derr. A delivery guy finally meets the son of one of the ladies on his route. She’d told him her boy was single and handsome, but she left out that whole ‘tends to kill people’ thing…

Like The Taste Of Summer, by Kaje Harper. Jack Korbel hasn’t regretted a single minute of his life since the moment he decided that the only way out was straight through.

The Tears Of The Sea, by Marguerite Labbe. A lovely interpretation of an Irish folktale, and if you’re at all a fan of the things that live in the sea, you should give it a try.

Luscious Love, by Zach Sweets. A confession, first: having been through food-handler’s licensing classes, my first reaction to the picture was “Oh, God, they’re gonna have to throw out the whole batch and start over, and tempering chocolate can be kind of a bitch…” That, however, has nothing to do with the story, which is a cute little read about a man finding more than just a job. (Also, it pokes my Characters With Communication Issues button.)

Cupid’s Beau, by the intentionally-punning (and aptly-named) Jade Archer. You’d think finding love would be easy, for a Cupid — it’s understandable, he’s a Cupid, after all. Sadly, you’d be wrong… At least until the right person shows up.

The Importance Of Being Denny, by Kari Gregg. If you dislike stories wherein everything would be resolved in about ten minutes if one of the characters would just STOP ARGUING already? Yeah, this might not be for you. (He does knock it off, finally.)

The Boy Next Door, by PD Singer. He’s grown up, and he knows what he wants… If the object of his affections will just stop thinking of reasons it won’t work.

Say A Little Prayer, by Clare London. Another story about the seaside, and the unusual things that one can find on the beach. For instance, a naked man.

Super Sock Man, by Amy Lane. I am a fan of Amy Lane’s writing, and this is one of the stories that I was really looking forward to reading. What do hand-knit socks, Pablo Neruda, and a dancer have in common? Donnie’s not entirely sure, but he aims to find out.

Just One Kiss, by Lisa Worrall. This reminds me of Damon Suede’s Hot Heads, but that’s not a bad thing. I’m not a huge fan of “gay for you” stories, but both Hot Heads and Just One Kiss do a good job of selling me on the relationship between the guys. It really helps that they’re both friends-to-lovers stories (which I seem to have developed a real Thing for — who knew?).

Between Friends, by EM Woods. As I said, I’ve developed a Thing for friends-to-lovers stories. This is, surprise! yet another; the friends this time are a soda-delivery guy and his boss. Soda Guy gets into some trouble on his route, and his boss doesn’t take it well…

Sucker-Punch, by Sarah Black. A world champion boxer and his physical therapist take their relationship beyond the typical therapist-patient boundaries. I’m not a fan of boxing at all, but I kept reading to the end, which was worth it.

Be My Boy, by Casey K Cox. Owen is adrift, asea, lost in the fog of grief; Mitchell is a young man who doesn’t seem to have any need for Owen at all… Until Mitchell changes his mind.

A Woman With A Dildo, by Cardeno C. When we’re not being suspected of being indecisive or slutty or some other unflattering thing, people are worrying that we bisexuals’s heads are going to be turned merely by the equipment possessed by the opposite gender of our current partner — whether that equipment is biological or man-made (sorry). In this story, the point is made that there’s more to attraction than just parts.

Bear Naked, by JL Merrow. And to counteract the seriousness of the last story, here’s a fun little tale of a man who steps way outside of his comfort zone and discovers that he won’t regret it after all.

The Muse, by Astrid. An artist and his boyfriend live across the street from a woman with a camera. It all begins with an inadvertant pose and photo dropped in their mailbox…

— Crocodile Undie, by AJ Llewellyn. This story is, ultimately, about the blossoming of a relationship. It also involves three men named Bruce, a photoshoot at a lake, and tourists acting like, well, tourists.

One of the best parts about this project is not only reading things from authors I know I like, but discovering new voices, as well. Not that my budget can handle finding more things for me to buy, but at least I’ll have a list ready if I should win the lottery.

I’m not a delicate flower.

I do use a pansy as my profile picture on Facebook, but that’s because one of my favorite parts of living in Seattle was the fact that I could always find pansies in bloom in November and December — completely confounding those who use “pansy!” as a slur meaning soft and weak.

That aside, I am not a wilting hothouse vine, needing coddling. If you dislike something of mine enough that you’re willing to slap a single-star rating on it, I’d appreciate knowing what you didn’t like. The characters? The way I used a particular phrase or word? The fact that I [put in/left out] something you [hate/love]? I’m not aiming to please all of the people all of the time — that’s entirely impossible — but if I’ve got an area in which I could improve, then I’d like to know.

Hot Summer Days Reading Recs

Needless to say, these are all decidedly Not Safe For Work.

– Piper Vaughn’s Wanting is a friends-to-lovers story, sweet and hot and funny in places. There’s a bonus scene in the comments, too. Sometimes the tagalong little brother grows up to know exactly what he wants…

– Stuart Wakefield’s The Elements Of Love is an interesting futuristic/post-apocalpytic sort of world, populated with mechs and wracked by war. Fortunately for humanity, when the four elements are united, peace will return. Earth, Water, and Air just aren’t sure if Fire is alive, never mind where Fire might be.

– LC Chase’s Open Tackle is another friends-to-lovers story, this one featuring college football players. Carrying a torch has one little drawback: torches can’t be hidden forever.

– Deanna Wadsworth’s Unscheduled Maintenance is definitely not sweet. In fact, I was considering not even finishing it, but I kept reading — and I was glad I did. It’s rough, it’s a little darker, and it features a D/s-ish relationship with elements of humiliation, just as a heads-up. Like I said, though, I ended up liking it even though I’m not keen on the whole humiliation thing.

Pre-Release Jitters

So I just got the first message–and read two of the three stories–about the Hot Summer Days project. Jen and Company are planning on releasing about 20,000 words a day from now until August 20th, and no, I don’t know when Gone To Pieces will be out.

Part of me is okay with that, and part of me is thinking that it makes it even worse because I have no idea when to start squinting through my fingers at the comment section. (I got this way after posting Anonymous Lovefest fics, too, just FYI. And hey, people loved those, so maybe it won’t be so bad.)

So far, Open Tackle and Unscheduled Maintenance are pretty good; Open Tackle is sweet, while Unscheduled Maintenance is darker/rougher but still good. (And I say that as someone who does not, as a rule, enjoy D/s stuff where the Dom is all about his own pleasure.)

I started Wanting Jack, but decided that I wasn’t interested in reading about people yelling at one another/The Big Misunderstanding at the moment. *Shrug* Currently, that’s not my cuppa, but I may go back and finish it later. Don’t let me dissuade you from checking it out, though.

And now I think I need to go poke at some fiction and go to sleep. Maybe if I let myself do something silly for a little while, I’ll be able to work on something for submission.

I love it. You’d think it would be easy.

This applies to two different things that I’m trying to write. The first is the Hot July Days story; the second is a review of The Slipstream Con.

Seriously, I love TSC to pieces and I can’t articulate WHY? At least not in the context of an Amazon review, apparently. Tal and Vanya’s honor! Kellen’s funny (and a jerk, but mostly wonderful)! The whole plot-that-goes-places thing! Heston! The painting and other art! The ending! The ship’s name! (The fact that it could be the ‘ship’s name!)

Part of my problem is that elaborating on why I love those things generally means I’ll be spoiling the book for everyone, and I reeeeeally don’t want that. The other part of it is that I’m really inclined to just post “Seriously, I want MORE AWESOME STORY. Buy this and you can help make that happen. Plus you get MAS, too, so really it’s a win/win all the way around.” Needless to say, that’s not going to get rated “helpful” by anyone outside of the authors. *Grin*

I have also learned two things, in the course of trying to write this review and one for The Balance of Silence:

1) I do not understand why people recap the plot that’s in the blurb. I don’t know about anyone else, but I read the blurb to find out what’s going on (if at all possible; some blurbs aren’t helpful in that regard) and if I want to read the story. Recapping what I’ve already read annoys me — I want NEW information, not something I can scroll up and re-read on my own.

2) I don’t really get/like the whole alpha/beta/omega/waffle/protozoan thing. Those are great designations for cultures/groups of creatures with a rigid social hierarchy, but on an individual level, humanity tends to be more fluid. I don’t care if Tal’s an “alpha male”–in fact, I’d argue that the term has been so corrupted by romance writers and readers using it as shorthand for “asshole” that it doesn’t apply at all. There’s no way Vanya is anyone’s beta ANYthing. Well, okay, maybe to the Empire/Empress. When it comes to working with–and being married to–Tal, she’s every bit his equal.

Ugh. It doesn’t help that I didn’t sleep well, either.