Sunday 24 February 2013

Wild Dangers Published!

Part three of Wild Instincts is up and ready to go on Amazon and Smashwords! Character development, emotions, drama, tension, sex, oh my!

After spending the night together, Lyssa and Hawthorne are forced to put their feelings for one another aside as they return to everyday life amongst the pack. But a heartbreaking reminder of Lyssa's human past is waiting to draw the pair together again. Forced to wrestle with her feelings towards Thorne, her alpha, and her old life, the young werewolf soon finds herself on a dangerous path of defiance once again.
Even with her instincts under control, there are other threats lurking out in the woods.

I'm really looking forward to carrying this one on. It's not just a sexy romp, but a proper story that I'm excited to see unfold as the series progresses. After the fourth instalment is out in a few weeks time I'm looking to start promoting Wild Instincts a lot by making the first chapter free, and then hopefully getting some more reader feedback. Fingers crossed!
The series will probably end up being close to nine parts in total, but still longer than His Darkest Desire due to the comparatively lengthy chapters I'm putting out. At a rough estimate, I'd expect it to be completed around May some time.

But before all of that it's time to finish up His Darkest Desire once and for all! This week I'll be sitting down to write the final chapter. It's kind of exciting! Once the series concludes I'll be spending some time in March to go back and re-edit the entire thing, correct a bunch of those naughty commas, wrangle a few dialogue tags, cut out some superfluous sentence fragments, and generally give the whole thing a bit of a facelift in preparation for publication as a complete novel. I've no idea when that'll be coming out though, probably a couple of months down the line.

So I've got a lot on my plate! But even with all of that to work on, I'm still going to need some fresh stories to fill the gap once my first eRom concludes. Nothing's set in stone yet, but I have had an idea for an erotic serial about the life of a concubine in a period/low-fantasy setting. One of my favourite books has a similar plot, and I'd love to have a go at something similar with the sex ramped up to eleven!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Structuring Sexy Serials

I once heard of an erotica publisher who would read through the first three chapters of a prospective novel, and if there was no sex to be found by that point, it went in the trash.

But what's a good amount of sex in an erotic serial? One of the biggest challenges for me in writing His Darkest Desire, and Wild Instincts has been to find a balance between sex and story that feels organic. It's a tricky one, because I feel obliged to have at least one fleshed out sex scene in every chapter, but I doubt even the smuttiest of novels have that much sex in them. At times it can feel like the sex is contrived or shoe-horned, at least to me. But it's got to be there. If someone buys a chapter of an erotic serial and finds it completely sexless, I'd fully expect them to ask for a refund.

This is proving especially tricky for me in my werewolf eRom. Even though I've set up a convenient plot device whereby sex is a pretty mandatory part of everyday life for the heroine, it still feels weird for me to throw her into erotic encounters in every single chapter. So I've been trying to differentiate a bit. Sex doesn't necessarily have to be sex, and there are plenty of erotic situations that can occur without tab A having to be inserted into slot B. I'm going to play with things like erotic dreams (the perfect excuse for sexy sex without needing any justification for it in the plot - and a handy way of exploring a character as well!), observations of other characters having sex, and less conventional sexual encounters in general.

I think this'll be an important skill to learn if I can pull it off well. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and repeating the same sort of bedroom scene over and over -- even if it's a super-hot one -- isn't going to have the same impact as building up to it with a different series of sexual situations.

Longer chapters are also helpful for spreading out the sex and giving characters time to breathe. The ~7000 word length I'm working with now definitely allows room for both, whereas with shorter stories I often found myself having to cut scenes or break a chapter into two.

Some day (hopefully soon!) I'll get out my first proper erotic novel, then I won't have to worry so much about sex in every chapter.
I mean, don't get me wrong, there'll still be a lot of sex, it just won't be pouring from every orifice.

That was a pleasant mental image.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Finding Her Strength Published!

Part eight of His Darkest Desire is done and available for purchase on Amazon and Smashwords! Things are getting serious for our couple in this penultimate part of the story!

Nina and Elliot are finally free to be together — but one last secret from the millionaire's past is still waiting to be uncovered. Marcia is still determined to come between the couple, and when no answers from her Master are forthcoming, Nina is forced to take matters into her own hands.
The truth about Elliot's relationship with his old flame is about to come to light, and Nina soon finds herself facing a terrible decision about the future. She cannot afford to be a passive slave to her Master any longer.

It's hard to believe my first full series is almost done! All told, it's probably going to finish up at around 60,000 words. According to the internet, that qualifies it as a short novel! I'm definitely going to be publishing the entire thing as one full book at some point in the future. Speaking of word counts, this latest chapter is yet another long one, sitting at 7500 words. That's part of the reason why my recent stories have been taking a little longer to publish than usual — they're running on beyond the initial 5000 word length I had in mind when I started publishing. I feel like that's a good thing though. More story (and sex) for everyone to read is always nice, even if it means taking longer to write and edit. I'm still going to try my hardest to hit one release a week, but if recent trends are anything to go by it might start looking more like one release every week and a half.

Next up on the schedule: Part 3 of Wild Instincts.

Oh, oh! And Happy Valentines!

Saturday 9 February 2013

Alternate Endings

I've been neglecting the blog this week! A new Darkest Desire chapter should be out within the next few days, but until then I'm going to spend some time talking about alternate endings.

In my experience, 90% of the time alternate endings are weird. I do not like them in traditional storytelling, and I feel like the majority of stories that incorporate more than one ending do so inappropriately. Alternate endings do have their place, but they require a very specific type of story in order to pull it off. I'll be mentioning video games again here, because recently the gaming medium has been the only one to tackle alternate endings in a widespread manner (to varying degrees of success).

I'm going to be bold and outright say that no traditional story should ever be given an alternate ending. Yeah, you can argue that they're an interesting side feature to see on a blu-ray, much like deleted scenes — but that's all they are. An interesting extra. When you have movies like 28 Days Later that screened with the alternate ending being played after the first one, it creates a jarring lack of closure for the audience. The fact that the directors preferred this alternate ending to the one in the final cut (and only changed it because it tested badly with audiences) further muddies the water. I have no problem with people changing the endings to their stories pre-release for whatever reason, but I feel as though offering two very different conclusions side by side undermines the integrity of a story, and damages the product as a whole. It becomes hard to discuss a story critically when you have to view the entire thing in the context of not one, but two (or more) separate conclusions. Ultimately, it's confusing.

Now that isn't to say that viewing the same material through different filters can't be very interesting and provocative — but it all depends on the type of story you're trying to tell. As I mentioned, traditional storytelling relies on a single, conclusive, wrap-everything-up-and-give-us-closure type of ending. So what's an example of a good alternate ending? The recent Deus Ex game, Human Revolution offers the player a choice of no less than four different endings. Surely that's even more awful and convoluted, right?
Well, no. Because from the start, Human Revolution is set up as a commentary on the theoretical (for now) issue of transhumanism becoming a central part of society. Throughout the game the player is presented with a series of moral viewpoints that explore different sides of the issue, and the entire storyline is deliberately ambiguous on which one of these viewpoints might be considered the "right" one. As a result, any conclusion that favoured one perspective over the others would undermine the entire debate the game intended to provoke. It feeds the player information about the issue throughout the entire storyline, and at the end presents us with the question: "What do you think? What conclusions have you reached after all of this?"
As a result, each ending provides a different monologue that concludes the protagonist's story with him reaching a decision (or not, as one option allows) about his stance on transhumanism. Without alternate endings, the story could never have provided as satisfying a conclusion on the subject without becoming biased in a viewpoint that the player might not agree with.

Unfortunately though, Human Revolution is the exception, not the rule. A lot of games handle alternate endings awfully (at least from a story perspective), often concluding in a "bad ending" if the player hasn't jumped through the requisite hoops to see the "good" or "true" ending along the way. On a game design level this ties into things like replayability, but story-wise it often ruins the conclusion to a narrative by purposefully giving the player an unsatisfying ending to their experience. It's even worse when story elements are deliberately left unresolved in these "bad" endings. That's straight up crippling your storytelling on purpose.

So, while I do think alternate endings have their place in a certain kind of narrative (namely, an ambiguous one), they really add nothing to a traditional narrative. In fact, I'd argue that they damage it by feeding the audience conflicting information.

And let's not even get into going back to change your ending post-release because people didn't like it.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Wild Passions Published, and Polishing Prose

The second part of Wild Instincts is finished and available to buy on Amazon and Smashwords! In line with my recently lengthy shorts, this one's setting a new record at 8000 words. You can pick up the first part for just $0.99 now, and hopefully for free in a few weeks time!

Lyssa and Hawthorne are growing closer, but with their dangerous animal instincts boiling beneath the surface, can the pair ever become more than just friends? After enduring a cruel punishment by her alpha, Lyssa is forced to confront her instinct, or give in to it completely.
But Thorne's desires are simmering too. His wolf's needs are becoming harder to fight. Once the beast inside him is awake, it will stop at nothing to have Lyssa—no matter how savagely he has to claim her.

Aside from the new release, I've been thinking about Prose recently, and how I've been getting better at the technical aspects of writing over the past few months. Despite having a degree in Creative Arts, I've gotten literally zero training in the technical side of writing since highschool. And even then, I recall us spending roughly two months on creative writing out of the entire syllabus. So everything that I know (which isn't a lot) about grammar, sentence structure, dialogue etc. has been either self-taught, or more often just what I can pick up on from looking at how it's done in other novels. It's always been an uncomfortable area for me, because without any formal training I've always had a lot of niggling doubts about whether I've been doing this stuff right (I haven't).

Just the other day I finally took it upon myself to look up once and for all what the difference between ending a piece of dialogue with a comma, and with a period is. I'd always just assumed it was to do with pacing, and the "sound" you want a piece of dialogue to evoke when you read it, but upon further investigation I now know that the use of a comma is reliant on the sentence being followed by a dialogue tag (he said, I asked, Janet whispered), whereas a period tends to come when the following text describes an action. More or less: "he said" describes the preceding dialogue (and is therefore part of the same sentence), whereas "He stood up"while it might coincide with the dialoguehas nothing to do with the character's verbalisation of those words, and therefore gets its own separate sentence.

This is probably basic stuff to anyone that's been educated in the technical side of writing, but it was something new to me! Knowing exactly when and where to put a comma instead of a period when I end dialogue is another step towards becoming comfortable with my prose, which means I can stop worrying about it as much and focus on what really matters; telling the story.

Of course, I'm now painfully aware that all of my older work is riddled with inappropriate commas and periods in dialogue.
But, I suppose, if I didn't notice it as a writer, I'm crossing my fingers that most of my readers can handle it until I get around to the big re-edit of my back catalogue!