We just received the sad news that the British actor Robin Sachs has passed away.

I think it’s no secret that Emery and I cast most of our main characters when we write.  Afterwards, the characters develop their own personalities and traits apart from the actors and their characters that inspired us, but that actor is always the seed.

Robin inspired many of those characters for us.

From Peter Oberon in our Rule of Three series to Sebastian Byrne in the Frost and Byrne series we are currently working on to the eponymously named Robin Faulkner in Creatures of Sin, Robin Sachs, with his jocular snideness, cutting humor and, honestly, unconventional British handsomeness, has in many ways been our muse since we started writing together, lo these many years ago.

Thank you, Robin, for everything you’ve done, both for the fandoms you have been so generous to with your time and talents, and for us, as our inspiration and encouragement.

We will miss you.

 

Sometimes the hardest thing in writing is knowing the right point to stop.  Sometimes it’s knowing when to give in.  And sometimes it’s knowing that the tease is more important than the reveal.

 

We’re struggling with this in two stories right now.  In one, we built up this McGuffin into a big thing in one of the character’s minds.  But in the end, we glanced off the reveal and moved on.  And it left a hole in the story.  A build-up needs a reveal.  You have to pay it off if you’ve made the reader wait for it for so long.  And we punted it.  Except we didn’t really notice until the third read-through.  Thankfully that story is short, so we can expand on it, make the payoff and meet our word quota.

In the other, well, we didn’t build it enough.  (It’s probably my fault.)  We set up a tension between two characters who are attracted to each other but shouldn’t act on it, developed it for two chapters when suddenly WHOOP BOOM, they’re having sex.  Um, what?  Again, it’s entirely a timing issue.  With these two, it’s not about the having sex, it’s about the getting to sex, building the relationship and the tension before they both (and hopefully the reader) pop.  To be honest, I’m not sure these two should even *have* sex before the big conflict.  Even though it goes completely against one of the character’s personalities not to.  Not in a character breaking way, but more in a tension building way.  He wants this, any other time he’d just have it, but in this case he shouldn’t, so he holds back, which only makes him want it more, which leads to some frankly delicious tension.  If we as the writers can get our acts together and do it right.

Emery’s rolling her eyes right now.  She thinks we’ve given up on these two.  Little does she know how much they’ve been poking at me.  But we have to get the other story done and submitted first.

So there’s a piece of advice for writers.  If your story isn’t working, look at the timing in it.  Are you rushing things?  Are you paying off your hooks?

Timing is everything.

(And by the way, if you don’t know what a McGuffin is?  Go look it up.  And then watch The Maltese Falcon and some Hitchcock.)

 

Bit of a mouthful there, but it does what it says on the tin.

LiveJournal has been our home for nearly nine years now. (Nine years. Where in the hell did the time go?) Anyway, there’s this challenge going around to help bolster content, particularly for us long-timers who have drifted away to the various content sites out there today (I’ve relied far too much on Twitter to keep my LJ looking lively). The premise is to come up with 100 posts of a common theme. You can interpret it as broadly or narrowly as you like and take as long as you like. So having fallen out of the writing habit in general, Grey and I have both decided to use this challenge as a kickstart to get back on our game.

Grey, true to form (and quite smartly too), is committing to set parameters. She’s going to be doing 100 drabbles. Drabbles, for you not in the know, are stories of 100 words. Period. Some people out there don’t give such a strict definition. But true drabbles are 100 words, no more not less. It’s how we got started back in the day, and there’s nothing more satisfying than meeting that challenge. Even if you have to take out precious words to do it.

Grey (aka, sadbhyl)’s entries can be found here: 100 Drabbles.

As for me (aka, mydeira), I’m playing it a bit more fast and loose by going for 100 Stories, Scenes, or Snippets. However I gave myself 10 set categories to work within, so that gives me some structure. Although I’m really thinking Grey had the better idea. Grey, right? No way. ;)

So stop on over. You never know what you’ll find.

 

Hello from Emery. Just making sure this silly updater finally is doing the job it’s supposed to. Of course, it helps if I set the darn thing up right in the first place, huh?

 

Probably because both Emery and I come from academic backgrounds, all of our stories involve some kind of research.  It may be simple Wiki searches for basic information, but we tour locations on Google maps and dig around in State Department travel warnings and medical databases and all sorts.  We never know where a plot idea is going to take us, and while you should write what you know, you can’t know everything.  Which is where the fun comes in.

Blood on the Mountain was a great example of this.  We went into it knowing we wanted to have some sort of a bodyguard relationship to parallel Keith and Tanner in Under a Rock for putting them together into an anthology.  So, enter Gabe and Nathan. Now, why does Nathan need protecting?  Okay, um….

At this point my blog reader spit out a great article on using shipping containers to create affordable housing, and that was our hook.  But where?  Afghanistan?  Africa?  Where?  Someplace exotic, but something we could visualize.  Someplace in need.  I don’t even remember at this point how we hit on Rio.  Probably in relation to the Olympics.  But when I started reading about Rio and the favelas and the drug wars there, it turned out to be just the perfect place to set this story.  Everything we document in the story is accurate.  The favelas are the slums of Rio, outcast and ignored until the drug violence becomes too great or too much of a detriment to the tourist areas.  They back up literally to the back of the hotel strips along the beaches, so close to all that wealth while living in these hovels with no running water, no security and no hope of change.  City planners have tried again and again to close the favelas, but are never able to.  The people move to other fringe places, and usually are able to move back a few months later when nothing is actually done.  A plan like Nathan’s could radically change life for people in these areas.  It’s too bad it’s only in a story.

But that’s one of the joys of writing.  Yes, write what you know.  But combine it with things that you don’t know, give yourself a chance to learn something new.

I now have to go back to researching Gondwanaland geologic ages and die-outs for fossil deposits in Australia.  I get all the fun jobs…

 

Another week done and gone. I still find myself frequently surprised that it’s April already. Where the hell does the time go? The days may drag, but the weeks and months sure do fly.

Not much news on the writing front. Although, Sins of Profession was listed as number five for sales last month at AQP. WOOT! It’s the little things.

Since I’ve been not writing, what have I been doing to keep out of trouble? Well, there’s the brewing beer and a fair bit of knitting (lots of starting and restarting with the Pattern from Hell (TM)), and losing myself in the rabbit hole of Ancestry.com cobbling together a family tree. All roads seem to lead back to Germany, be it the actual German lineage or the mutt route through Canada and New York and the Netherlands or the Polish side. Fascinating really. Of course, the most frustrating part is finding a bunch of stuff on dead side relatives but fuck-all on my paternal grandfather’s WWII service or my maternal great-grandfather’s WWI service. *grumble*

Otherwise, not much new to report on my end. Just keeping on keeping on.

 

The problem with being a woman writing fiction about men is that you have women parts, which are very different from menly parts and sometimes do really nasty things that you had no way to see coming.

Such has been the case for me this month. I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Before you run away screaming, this isn’t about to become a cancer blog. I have other places to talk about that. But I did feel like I needed to let our readers know because a) there may be someone else going through this out there who would like to not feel alone and b) it is going to have an effect on our India Harper production.

Fear not, the next (last?) book in the Creatures of Sin series is all done but the editing, and we have a new series that Emery kickstarted which we will hopefully be producing on as well. But it may (most likely will) mean that the shorter stories we’ve been publishing will trickle down to nothing. Which disappoints me. I like those little pieces. They’re a fun way to develop characters and relationship without having to delve into a terribly complex plot. But they’re also the easiest to put aside and pick up later. So this we do. I may be screaming for a distraction over the next few weeks, but right now it’s the best idea to sit back and let those ideas lie fallow and ripen until we can pick them up again in the fall.

In the meantime, we both hope you enjoy what we have completed, and hopefully you’ll be as excited as we are when the new stories start reappearing. And for anyone else out there who’s going through the challenge of breast cancer, good luck and best wishes, and if you want to visit, let me know. This is all new to me, too, and there really isn’t a manual!

 

One of our publishers emailed us Wednesday asking how we were coming along on the galley proof for our upcoming release. Bwuh? I had been wondering where it was since it’s been a few weeks since we wrapped up edits, but I always think things should move faster than they do. I’m weird like that. So I haven’t given it much thought, and Grey’s had a lot more important things to worry about.

After I emailed the publisher back, I had a brainwave. Was it maybe accidentally in my spam? Having multiple email addresses is always going to result in craziness. But I thought consolidating all but one of them in my main Gmail account would help offset any issues. It has. Until now. So I went into my author email specifically to check the spam, and yup, there the galley was. I promptly re-responded to the publisher saying we would get the errata back by some point Thursday. I had it turned around by the end of Wednesday night.

Damn email, thwarting my efficiency. When there’s something on my plate to get done professionally, I like to get it done and back to whomever asap, regardless of lead time. On the personal side, when it’s not my job and there’s no financial ties to it (i.e., bills), I can drag my feet like you wouldn’t believe. It’s how I roll. Not knowing that I had something to do just makes me feel like a fool for not doing the spam check sooner (although, to be fair, it had only been there since this past Saturday). Such is the exciting live of an author.

 

Appropriately enough, the title of the story Grey and I are reworking is Fade Phoenix. It’s not the first time this story has risen from the ashes in the new form, but it just might be the best it’s ever been. Or will be. As with any work in progress, there are rough patches to smooth out and assorted bumps along the way.

Once upon the time it was a M/M fanfic that we tweaked into an M/F story for publication because…well, it’s a bit fuzzy now as to why we changed the gender. It was as a favor for one of our publishers at the time that did sell M/M stories, so…who knows. The gender change never really worked and the story never got the editing or rewriting love it truly deserved.

Some key components have remained the same since day one, but the writing has evolved and the right characters may have finally fallen into our laps. First came the names and then the faces, and now their personalities are making themselves known.

I finally got through my big first pass. Now it’s Grey’s turn to work her magic. I’m the rewriter but she’s the mistress of detail and coherency. I throw the curveballs; she does the research that ground them in a believable reality. When we’re good, we’re brilliant. And when we’re down, we need to remember just how damned awesome we are.

Being a writer isn’t a stagnant process. It’s a constant evolution of self, of skill, and of story. An ongoing rebirth.

More and more, it’s seeming like that phoenix tattoo I got is quite fitting.

 

On Tuesday night, I made the mistake of asking a question.

“So, how are you feeling about how the story’s going?”

Because honestly, I wasn’t feeling so great about it. We’d been writing very slowly after a sudden burst of energy the week before, but that might just have been the burdens of work. The previous chapter and a half had been like pulling teeth, and some of the character elements I’d thought we’d agreed on seemed to be going by the wayside. But if Emery felt good about it, I wasn’t going to fight it. It’s one of the C’s of team writing. Compromise. Which is not to say I won’t fight like the devil for something I think is important, but if it’s not, I have to give way. Which leads to the other major C. Communication. I needed to know where her head was at so I could follow along.

“Honestly?” she answered (I’m paraphrasing) “Not so great. We skipped all this stuff two chapters ago which is making this all feel very disjointed.”

I was gobsmacked. Not because she was wrong, because she wasn’t (and she’s enjoying rubbing my nose in the fact that I’ve admitted that), but because that hadn’t even been on my radar. I had a whole different set of issues and had been clueless about hers. We talked about it and agreed we need to go back and flesh things out, but it left us both not feeling very good about the project.

That’s the peril of communication. Sometimes you hear things you don’t want to. But you still have to ask the questions and have the conversation, even if it leaves you on shaky ground.

So we’ve been ignoring that project. For now.

In the meantime, Emery’s been reading one of our old, abandoned WIPs. It was meant to be the next book in the Rule of Three series, but we’ve brought that series to an end more for market reasons than for lack of passion for the characters. The book was a little darker than the rest of the series (hard to do, considering!) and it left the characters in a bad way with no out. Parts of it we adored, and the premise overall was strong, but it was in that series, and that series was done. End of.

Until Emery asked a question.

“What if…”

Well, the what if was genius. Absolute fucking genius. And as soon as I said yes, she was off, renaming characters and working on titles and being very quiet on her end which either means she’s working in meatspace or she’s rewriting. I know I’ve said this before (and she grudgingly accepts it) but she is the best rewriter I know, bar none. I have seen her take perfectly decent stories, work her magic on them, and end up with something better than brilliant. I’m so excited to see what she’s doing until I get to jump in and play, too.

Asking questions is dangerous. But it’s worth it. Even when you don’t get the answer you were expecting, or get an answer to a question you didn’t know you were even asking, it’s still worth it. Every time.

 

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