The Girl from the Dream: JO

Ever wake up from a dream and think, “Hey, that’d make a killer story/character/movie?”

Ever actually attempt to write that story/character/movie?

I did it. It…wasn’t easy. But I now know anything is possible, and today I’m celebrating the release of JO, the story of the girl from the dream that started it all.

So first…the dream. It was of those early morning ones, where you know you’re waking up soon, and yet somehow it’s vivid and clear. In the dream, I was in my first college dorm room. My bed was across the room from the door beneath the only window. I was sitting on the bed.

There was a knock at the door, and it opened inward. There, in the doorway, was a girl. She had long, tangled hair, and a serious expression.

Beside her stood another girl, and she couldn’t stop giggling. But it was a nervous giggle, you know? Not at all a joyous, mirthful one.

The tangled-hair girl looked at me, sitting across the room, and she said something to the effect of, “I’m dead. Can you tell? Can you smell it on me? The death?”

And then I woke up.

Let me tell you, those two girls stuck with me like white on rice, and I found myself wondering for days and weeks: why was the girl dead? Who killed her? Why? And how was she there to tell me about it?

I can still see them standing there if I close my eyes. I grew obsessed with these two girls, and I spent countless hours trying to figure out the answers to the questions posed above.

It soon came to me that Jo was a mangled science experiment, a walking corpse running on a dying battery, and that she was desperate to find a way to save herself. That the story would take place on a college campus was never in doubt, but where and why was a bit trickier.

Where took shape in the form of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, a place I visited and fell in love with many, MANY moons ago. Why? Well, I couldn’t exactly set the story in Charleston, where I currently live, could I? Jo was a walking corpse, for God’s sake! In the heat of South Carolina, she’d surely rot!

So no, I needed somewhere colder, somewhere with nooks and crannies in which the girls (and the bad guys) could hide. So a remote mountain college, then, in the dead of winter.

Thus, my snowbound story found a home.

It took a lot more time to figure out the answers to all the questions posed in those early days following my dream, and I’m certainly not going to answer them all here! I want you to find the answers for yourself! Because the girl with the tangled hair became Jo, the title character in my modern-day re-telling of the Frankenstein monster that releases TODAY OHMIGOSH I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S TODAY!!! The giggling girl became Lucy, Jo’s best friend. Their story, in part, begins here:

From behind the door, Lucy groaned. “Come on,” she said, in a voice so muffled I could practically see her head buried under her fluffy, ragged comforter. “It’s too early. Leave me alone. Please.” Always polite, in her own, special way. That was Lucy.

I banged on the door, still afraid to trust my voice.

“Please please please go away, I said.” She was grumbling, whining, but at least she sounded more conscious.

I moaned. I couldn’t help it. It slipped out. But then I tried out my voice again. “Luce!” I said. “Lucy! It’s me!” I didn’t sound like me, that was for sure, but it was enough.

The door jerked open. “Jo? Is that you? Jo, what the fuck! Where have you been? We’ve been worried sick about you! Come in, come in! What are you doing? Whose coat is that? Eli’s been by seventeen times looking for you, he’s so worried. I didn’t call your mom, but I almost did. Where the hell have you been?” A mile a minute, that was Lucy. Finally she stepped aside to give me room to pass. “Ugh, you smell like ass!”

I looked at my friend as I stepped into her room. She was still muffled, wrapped up in her favorite blanket, with big, fuzzy pajama pants peeking out the bottom. From the way she squinted, it was obvious she didn’t have her contacts in. She was blind as a bat without them.

No wonder she let me in. I didn’t think it would be this easy to get inside.

“Get your glasses,” I said. “Please.”

“What’s wrong with your voice?” she said as she shuffled back toward her nightstand, where her black-rimmed glasses sat on top of a philosophy textbook.

“Put them on.”

She did.

“Now look at me.”

She did. Her eyes flew open, her own mouth dropped wide, and she stared. Stared. “Jo? What’s going on? What’s wrong with you?” Her voice rattled like tree branches in a wind storm. She stepped back, closer to the wall.

“Luce,” I said, my voice gravely and wrong. “Luce, I think I’m dead. Can you help me?” I reached for her. I wanted to be held, to be told everything would be okay. I stepped closer, arms still outstretched.

Lucy’s mouth opened wider as if to scream, but no sound came out. She stumbled away until the backs of her knees struck her bed frame. Her legs gave out and she wobbled dangerously. I reached a hand out to catch her and the parka slipped from my shoulders, revealing all of me.

Lucy fainted.

Naked again, I caught her and lowered her gently to the bed.

I should have expected that, I thought as I headed to the bathroom. After catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I realized I’d faint too, if faced with a walking corpse.

JO by me, Leah Rhyne, releases today! For more information on her tale, visit Goodreads, Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, or Barnes & Noble. Or you can visit my web site any time and say hello! I’d love to hear from you!

 

Posted in characters, Craft, Paranormal, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Sexy Cycle: The Normalizing Power of Erotica

venice, romance, italy, blue

Image by Gnuckx, used under CC license.

Last week, fellow Scribe Kristin McFarland wrote about this being the golden age of smut. She of course referred to erotica, and described it (very aptly) as romance without the fade to black.

No curtains drawn, no blurry watercolors to be found. Erotica takes you not just into the bedroom, but underneath the sheets with the protagonists. It’s no secret that erotica has existed for a long time. Kristin wrote about how this golden age has come to be, and as I read her post and chatted with her about it, we both realized there was more to say on the subject.

50 Shades of Grey has been credited with bringing kink out of the closet. Detractors (myself included to an extent) will remark that its story is far from a normal, healthy BDSM relationship. Safewords ignored, consent in the titular shades of grey when it’s something that ought to be black and white, stalkerish behavior, and abusive red flags are all reasons I agree with that — but I will give it credit for one major, major thing: its normalizing power. Because of its success, many other authors have followed in its wake. My new rave is one Kristin already mentioned, Abigail Barnette’s The Boss trilogy. For me, that series is what 50 Shades wanted to be — Barnette created characters who have their issues but who deeply love and respect one another, for whom consent is first priority, and whose kinks are not acted out in an abusive manner. Also, her characters have lives and goals, friends and families and all the nuance that comes with them.

Erotica as a genre is something I’ve come to love. Over the past few months, I’ve read Mina Vaughn’s How To series featuring the elusive Dommes (or FemDoms) in a market saturated by male Dominants. Her books are often funny and lighthearted, but they depict BDSM in a down-to-earth way that gets me coming back for more. Tamara Mataya writes books with women who know what they want. I was fortunate enough to get a sneaky beta peek at her newest project, also centered in the BDSM world, and lemme just say — you want to keep an eye on her. I’ve also been reading Sylvia Day, Tiffany Reisz, and Amanda Byrne — all women to watch.

One thing that has struck me about the erotica genre is the power it has. It not only can erm…move you in unexpected ways…but in a world fraught with sexual shame and dichotomies and Madonna-whore complexes, erotica is a refreshing look at what things could be. Today I wanted to look at how erotica could very well change the world.

1. Turning Shame to Sex Positivism

Women especially are taught from an early age that our bodies don’t belong to us. “Don’t wear that; people will think you’re a [slut, whore, easy, tramp, floozy].” “She’s asking for it in that.” “Aren’t you just a pretty little princess?” “Don’t touch yourself! Dirty!” It’s reinforced in myriad ways through a culture that objectifies women’s bodies. Even Meghan Trainor’s smash hit All About That Bass is centered around the message that having curves is good because boys like women with booties. Not because your body is right and perfect as it is just because it is — but because of how men relate to it. It took a whole bunch of listens for me to put my finger on what bothered me about it, and since then it’s lost a bit of its empowering punch for me, also because of some backhanded jabs at women who happen to be slender. “And no I won’t be no stick figure, silicone Barbie doll…..I’m bringing booty back, go on and tell them skinny bitches that/Naw, I’m just playin’ I know y’all think you’re fat.”

There’s been enough shame, thank you. Let’s agree that all body types are worthy and that no matter what you look like, you’re a fucking 10 just because you’re YOU.

Erotica has the power to depict sexual relationships in a way that is positive and reverent — even when it gets right down to the sweat, the fluids, and the tumescent members. (Heyo, 10 Things I Hate About You)

In erotica, women are allowed to own their sexuality, to be the sexual instigators, and to be the ones with the higher sex drives. For me, reading stories where that was the case was more true to my own experience in several of my past relationships, and if I’m any indication, that can be a massively validating thing for any reader.

Sex positivism is something I long to see more of in the world and in fiction, and erotica not only allows for it, but it celebrates it. Stories have power to change the way we think. Seeing a protagonist take ownership of her body, her sexuality, and her desire can make others feel good about doing the same.

2. Exploring Kink

When even basic “vanilla” sexuality is colored with the marker of shame, exploring other proclivities can be even scarier for people. Erotica is a glorious safe space. As Kristin mentioned, with the advent of e-readers, anyone can read anything anywhere without the fear of someone scoffing at the cover or calling them out.

Beyond that, erotica is a place where readers can live vicariously through protagonists who might be into things we’ve never tried. From light bondage to caning, fisting to anal play, erotica is a safe space to engage with ideas and see how they can play out. One of the most awesome things about erotica for me has been to see writers who ensure they are depicting kink in a way that celebrates the kinkster code of Safe, Sane, and Consensual. (Or, alternatively, Risk-Aware Consensual Kink.) This means erotica writers who don’t shy from condoms and other barrier methods, who frankly discuss risks, and do it all with flair that makes even escapism something to emulate in real life.

Even if you don’t want to rush out and buy canes and spreader bars, beyond all else, erotica is a safe zone. You can pull the pages up to your chin and learn more about what you like without any pressure to actually try it until you’re ready. And bonus — unlike in pornography, you don’t have to worry about any chance of humans being exploited.*

Another major tenet of erotica’s magic is communication — especially in kinky erotica, I love seeing partners who make sure they speak their needs, use their safewords when necessary, and check in with each other to ensure that things ARE safe, sane, and consensual. It’s beautiful. Even for those who are not kink-inclined, there are many lessons to be learned from that.

3. Normalization

Finally, erotica has enormous normalizing power.

One of the biggest landmarks in the study of human sexuality was Alfred Kinsey’s reports on human sexual behavior. His studies took taboos to task and revealed that many things that had been seen as abnormal or overly risque were, in fact, incredibly commonplace. Masturbation, homoerotic feelings, female desire — his study shone light into previously darkened corners of how humans behaved in bed (or wherever else they happened to get their grind on). It created a conversation out of the realities of human sexuality, and that conversation helped lay the groundwork for the sexual revolution.

Erotica has that same power. Depicting female masturbation, fun with toys, kink, etc. — all of those things allow readers to see themselves on the page. By depicting equal, consensual, communicative relationships all across the spectra of kinks and and vanilla lovin’, erotica can show us something to aspire to in our own personal lives.

What do you think about the genre? How has erotica taught you about yourself, if you don’t mind sharing?

 

 

*I’m generally porn-positive, but I’m incredibly cognizant that there is always a chance that, especially in the jungles of free internet stuff, there could be some serious exploitation issues. This is one reason I advocate paying for it; you can generally find out from pay sites how their actors are treated, etc. Plus, compensating people for their work is good.

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Between the Sheets #romance #newrelease

Between the Sheets_highres cover

So apparently we’re having an unofficial smut month here on the Spellbound Scribes, thanks to Kristin & Emmie. (Emmie’s post will be up later in the week. I peeked. It’s good.) Since this is the release day for my novella Between the Sheets, what could I do but play along? (And the title refers to sheet music, y’all. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

Heh.

Now, Between the Sheets is a little different than most contemporary romances, because instead of being billionaires or Navy SEALs or desperately underloved high-fashion models, the main characters are music teachers. Maggie teaches grade school kids the basics of music theory – when she’s not trying to keep the kindergartners from peeing on the carpet. Randy (aka the Ginger God) can rock the house when he’s on stage with his blues band, but his main gig is teaching high school students to play in tune. The two of them go to a weekend-long teachers retreat, and while they don’t start out to fall in love, well, it wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t, right?

I wrote about music teachers because most of the important people in my life are musicians, and some of the most influential teachers I know teach music. Between the Sheets is my (slightly naughty) love letter to all of them.

Here’s a short(ish) excerpt…Maggie & her BFF Krista are at the opening night dinner…and fyi, P. Kirk Ringdahl is NOT the one Maggie falls for…

Once everyone was seated, Kirk stood to give Professor Baumgartner an unnecessarily long introduction to the soundtrack of clanking silver and scraping plates. Most of the people in the room were UW graduates and already knew the professor, but we all smiled and applauded as Kirk spoke. He planted himself behind me, resting a hand on my shoulder, and after shifting in my seat, trying to shake it off, I gave up. Krista only shrugged and ignored me, like she thought a P. Kirk hookup was a done deal. Then I noticed the Ginger God seated at a table across from me.

Looking in my direction.

But not at my eyes.

He slouched in his chair, arms crossed as he gazed south of my shoulders, in the general direction of my breasts. My cheeks got warm and, even more embarrassing, my nipples got hard.

He smiled slowly, as if he noticed the last bit even from across the room, and his gaze traveled up even slower, peeling off my halter top on the way. His attention felt way too intimate for a room full of more than two hundred people. I shifted in my seat again, trying to ignore the burst of heat between my legs.

My independent streak started screaming about arrogance and invasion of privacy and inappropriate behavior. Whatever. My fingers twitched, ready to trace his Celtic tat and go exploring under his soft green T-shirt. For the first time in five years, three months, and five days, I wanted to be alone in a room with a man when he had that look in his eye.

Instead of listening to an illuminating debate on the possible applications of world music pedagogy compared with Dalcroze and Kodaly, I imagined how a Sex Diva would handle the situation.

And desperately wished the Cosmo article had some tips on cross-room eye sex.

The meal could well have been composed of sawdust and turpentine. The Ginger God’s attention shifted when the servers started plunking dessert on the tables, leaving me chilled, like someone had just pulled the covers off me in bed. Krista was too absorbed in an exchange of text messages to talk, and Jessica and the Sues rose in a block. I followed close behind and made a break for the door.

Kirk caught me in the lobby, but as I was stumbling through some half-assed excuse about why I couldn’t walk with him, a warm body pressed against my back and strong arms wrapped around my waist. Jerking my head to the side, I managed to plant my mouth on someone’s waiting lips.

Warm. Soft. Tasting of savory man and smoke. I should have done something to escape, except he held me and turned me and pulled me closer. And kissing the Ginger God beat the high holy hell out of dealing with P. Kirk Ringdahl.

Hope you liked that little teaser. Keep reading for the blurb & the buy links at the end. It’s a steal at only $0.99!!

Life for music teacher Maggie Schafer has been full of flat notes lately. Sick of being single and celibate, she vows to get her groove back at the upcoming Western Washington Choral Directors Annual Retreat.

Too bad the only guy who seems interested is a pompous dork who thinks he’s God’s gift to women—and the music education world. When he gets a little too arrogant and crosses boundaries, gorgeous pianist Randy Devers swoops in to run interference. After sharing a shockingly hot kiss in front of the whole conference, Maggie and Randy come up with a plan to pretend they’re dating.

However, the more time they spend together—and the more physical their “pretend” relationship gets—the more she wonders if there could be anything beyond just smoking chemistry and a friendly agreement between them.

Maggie’s got history, Randy’s got baggage, and they’ve got a weekend to get their rhythms in sync and figure out how to turn their solo lives into a beautiful duet.

Crimson Romance (http://www.adamsmediastore.com/between-the-sheets)

Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22731244-between-the-sheets)

Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/between-the-sheets-liv-rancourt/1120082650?ean=9781440584855&itm=1&usri=9781440584855&cm_mmc=AFFILIATES-_-Linkshare-_-GwEz7vxblVU-_-10:1&r=1,%201)

Kobo (http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/between-the-sheets-29)

Google (http://books.google.com/books/about/Between_the_Sheets.html?id=t98-BAAAQBAJ)

Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Between-Sheets-Liv-Rancourt-ebook/dp/B00N0Y5WV0/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1409115949&sr=8-2&keywords=Liv+rancourt)

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A Golden Age of Smut

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of smut. What do I mean by smut, you ask?

You know, erotica. Romance novels with no fade-to-black. Lady porn—though I’ll ask you not to call it that, please and thank you. I call it smut with great affection: most of the books I’ve been reading, I view as the readerly equivalent of chocolate candies. They’re delightful while they last, but they have little nutritional value. More than bubble gum, say (you know the bubble gum books), but less than the kale smoothies that we sometimes have to read for classwork.

I go through smutty reading phases every year, and this latest one can, as so many things are, be blamed on my bosom friend and fellow Scribe Emmie Mears, who recommended to me Abigail Barnette’s The Boss.

“Try it,” she said. “It’s FANTASTIC, a great alternative to 50 Shades of Abusive Assholery. It’s a D/s relationship in a similar vein, billionaire dude, not-billionaire woman. But she is independent, intelligent, has agency and real thoughts, her character is FUNNY and insightful.”

And I thought to myself, “Self… you deserve some chocolaty goodness.”

Reading erotica allows us to explore our fantasies, even if those fantasies are something we’d never want in reality, and it gives us a safe space to be purely sexual creatures in a world where women especially are often discouraged from thinking of sex as an arena for play rather than competition. In other words, chocolaty goodness allows us to fully realize our capacity for delicious taste sensations.

So I promptly bought, devoured, and enjoyed all three books in Barnette’s series. And afterward… I wanted MOAR. Goodreads lists with titles like, “Smut for the Smart,” “Taboo Reads,” “Hot List.” Buzzfeed lists. Google searches. I plunged in with wild abandon. I’ve been reading Tiffany Reisz’s The Original Sinners series, which has been on my to-read list for ages, and I may take the leap and try out The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice, writing as A. N. Roquelaure.

Yep, there’s a theme to my smut reading. We’ll get to that.

It got me thinking about how lucky we are to be reading smut right now, at this moment in publishing history. Self-publishing has lowered the gates, and the aforementioned Fifty Shades of Yawn has paved the way for festishism to go mainstream.

It’s a new era of sex positivism, and I think that’s fantastic.

I see a few contributing factors. One is the gatekeeper thing: self-publishing has allowed more people to put work out there, and women are eating it up, perpetuating a healthy cycle of growth. But let’s look at some of the factors more closely.

1. E-readers make it possible to read whatever the hell you want without judging eyes seeing a half-naked man/woman/vampire/alien on the cover. When we don’t have to worry about others think, we feel confident exploring our fantasies, even when those fantasies are taboo. Although some people worry that e-readers and digital books are eroding the quality of published work generally, I think digital reading devices are an excellent “power place” for skittish readers: they allow us to read what we want without having to make a public statement about it by brandishing a cover at whomever is sitting opposite us on the bus.

2. The 50 Shades Phenomenon (arguably an offshoot of the Twilight phenomenon) has proved that women (and men!) want to read loving, graphic, sex-positive stories about female characters who aren’t afraid to own their own sexual needs and desires. While the publishing industry made 50 Shades a financial juggernaut, women are the ones who responded to what it offered: it wouldn’t have made umpty-million dollars without an eager audience. And the fanfic that launched a thousand similar novels, despite its own less-than-great quality, is in itself a fantastic thing because it opened the door to legitimizing that audience’s desires.

3. The resultant glut of erotica on the market in the wake of 50 Shades has provided for audiences a veritable smorgasbord of fetishes, fantasies, and filth. (Sorry, I had to.) Once publishers and writers realized audiences wanted these types of work, the market exploded with new material. While some might point out that it’s difficult to choose among these many options—the chocolatey goodness is spread too thin, if you will—I say it’s great because there’s something for everyone, and that helps to normalize sexual desires someone might otherwise be reluctant to explore. Because of the popularity of the genre, I’ve been able to find a number of D/s stories that are well-written and portray well-rounded individuals in healthy (and occasionally troubled) relationships. And because it’s fiction, just words on a page, the threat levels are lower than they would be in life or even pornography.

4. Finally, the work of previous generations of writers and educators has culminated in a new generation of women (writers AND readers) who are able to partake of these new resources with discernment and creative synthesis. Women of my age have grown up in an environment that says we can do and be whatever we want, even if we have to fight to make it happen. Because of a previous generation’s work, we’re mentally equipped (empowered, if you wish) to own our desires and our choices. We recognize that those choices help to shape the world when we vote with our dollars or our vocal support. Further, though, we’ve cultivated in ourselves a capacity to separate our fantasies from our politics: just because a given woman wants to be dominated in the bedroom, it doesn’t mean she wants to be submissive in life.

All combined, these things have added up to a market for erotica that means we can pick and choose literary treats that suit our tastes, feel safe reading them, and explore our sexuality in a healthy way.

What do you think, dear reader? Have you read any good smut lately? What do you think of the current trend for fetish erotica? What do you think has contributed to that trend?

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Issues, Trades, and Volume! OH MY!

Sorry for posting this late! A crazy schedule got the best of me. 

With the popularity of superhero movies, there has been a rise of interest in comics among people. For someone who has never read a comic, everything about it can be intimidating. On my personal blog, I started a series on Where to Start in Comics. This post is cross-posted from there. I hope you enjoy it.

Like any medium, comics come with it’s own terminology, and it can be confusing. You might have heard people talking about their “pull lists” or distinguishing between Young Avengers volume 1 vs. volume 2, and maybe you have no idea what those things mean. Well, never fear! I am here for you!

new 52 Batgirl #1

Issue: This is the term that most people are probably familiar with. Issues are the flimsy, magazine like books that are numbered, like Tales of Suspense #57 (the first appearance of Hawkeye in a Marvel comic). In this case, Tales of Suspense is the “title” or “series,” and #57 is the issue number (i.e. up to that point there had been 56 other individual magazines). Issues are what comic fans are buying on Wednesday–the day that new comics are released to the public.

Pull List: Speaking of comics coming out on Wednesdays, you might often hear comic fans refer to their “pull list.” A pull list is something you can set up at your local comic book shop. Basically, it’s a way to guarantee you get the issues you want. If you want to read Hawkeye and Nova, and you want each new issue when it’s released, you go to your local comic bookstore, and you tell the people who run the store that. You list all the titles you want. Then they’ll have the new issues waiting for you on that day. Otherwise, they may not order your comic (especially if you like something obscure) or they may run out before you get there (like Hawkeye). So it’s basically a form of pre-order for issues.

Comic store owners use these pull lists to know which issues they should order. And then publishers use these pre-orders to determine how well a comic title is doing. It’s a system that depends on people buying hard copies of issues, and it’s slowly evolving to take electronic comic sales into account.

Trades for Hawkeye, Avengers Assemble & Young Avengers

Trade: You may on occasion hear comic fans say something like “I’m interested in that title, but I’m going to wait until the trade comes out.” What the heck does this mean?

A trade is a collection of six-ish issues. It can be more or less, but six is usually the average number. These collections are then published in a book that you can often buy at places like Barnes and Noble.

I find it helps to think about trades and issues like this:

Imagine each issue is a segment of an episode of a TV show, the breaks between issues are where the commercials would go. The trades combine all the segments into one whole episode.

Run: When a certain creator writes several issues in a row, those issues collected are referred to as a “run.” I myself have referred to Keiron Gillen’s run on Journey Into Mystery here on this blog. Keiron Gillen’s run is all the issues of Journey Into Mystery that he wrote, which happen to be issues #622-645.

Volume: I wish I could say that volumes were a collection of a set number of trades or issues or even that a volume was defined by a run. But none of these things are true. As far as I can tell, volumes are completely arbitrary and a volume can be anything from twelve issues to 100. Sometimes issue numbers are re-started when a new volume is created, and sometimes they’re not. Really as far as I can tell there is no rhyme or reason. (If you know the rhyme or reason or rule, please share in the comments and I will update this post accordingly.)

But volumes are important, especially in cases of re-numbering situations. For example, the current Hawkeye comic, which is Matt Fraction and David Aja’s brilliant run, is Hawkeye volume 4. So if someone refers to Hawkeye vol. 4 issue #1, you know they mean the Matt Fraction/David Aja run, and not any of the previous Hawkeye comics.

 All these volumes are in Volume 1. Cuz they’re really trades.

Because volumes are so vague, I don’t pay that much attention to them. I tend to pay more attention to creators and their runs. But they can be very useful when talking about titles where a creator spent many years writing the comic. Ed Brubaker wrote Captain America for 8 years, so his “run” is very long. But Captain America vol. 5, which he wrote, is the groundbreaking “The Winter Soldier” storyline, that the upcoming movie of the same name is based off of.

It’s important not to confuse volumes with trades. Sometimes trades are numbered, and sometimes they are referred to as “volumes.” But trades and volumes are not the same thing. Volumes are (most of the time) collections of trades. But this is why you’ll occasionally see, when a trade is released (especially in e-form), that you’ll be looking at Runaways Volume 1, vol. 1. They’ll publish a trade and call it volume 1 when really it’s just the first trade of volume 1.

I hope that wasn’t too confusing for you, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments!

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Knowing When It’s Time to Unplug

Image from Tereza Litsa who has great tips for unplugging on her blog: http://terezalitsa.blogspot.com/2013/09/is-it-time-to-unplug-from-social-media.html.

Image from Tereza Litsa who has great tips for unplugging on her blog: http://terezalitsa.blogspot.com/2013/09/is-it-time-to-unplug-from-social-media.html.

It’s kind of ironic that I’m writing a blog post about unplugging from social media, as it’s a form of social media. Plus, I’ve sent more tweets tonight than I have in two weeks, but that’s neither here nor there.

The point is this: over the last few weeks, I found that social media was doing me more harm than good, so I decided to back off of it for a bit. I think after five years on social media almost every day, I’m suffering from too much of a good thing.

Why? Well, some of it is the place I’m at in my life right now. The main thing is that my priorities need to be elsewhere. I’m also finding that some of my online friendships have turned from uplifting to toxic, so I need to take a break until I can see those people from a healthier perspective.

Plus, there’s always drama. Twitter seems to have a rant of the day, Facebook can be populated by people spouting off without knowing all the facts, and everyone has an opinion on the Amazon/Hachette dispute, which doesn’t even affect me. I don’t need that. Life has enough drama in it without hunting it down online.

So to avoid a mental meltdown but still stay active, I’m sticking to blogs, Pinterest and watching my basic Twitter lists: my agent/agency, local writers, and famous authors. That’s it. I’m even staying quiet with Team Awesome (which includes many of my fellow Spellbound Scribes) until I get my head on straight. It’s nothing personal, but it is for everyone’s benefit.

Sometimes we all need a break, that’s true for social media as much as it is for anything else. While it’s a great suite of tools for reaching/building an audience and interacting with other writers, it can also be a distraction and source of irritation. I, for one, would rather maintain a more limited positive presence online than have you see my nerves get frayed or the unguarded moments when I can’t control my (sometimes negative) opinions.

So if you’re wondering why you haven’t seen me as much, that’s why. I’ll be back, but I need some time to just be a writer, without the constant streams of articles on what I should or shouldn’t do to be successful or the relentless “look, I’m wonderful, now buy my book” tweets and posts. I need time to focus on me, my research and writing, on my life outside of the world wide web. Then, I’ll be in a better place when I am back full-steam ahead. But I wanted to be open and honest about it, rather than hide in the shadows.

Have you ever had a time when social media just got to be too much? How did you deal? Do you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing to admit when you’ve had enough?

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Finding the End!

Last month I posted this: Lost in a New Genre, where I talked about stretching well beyond my comfort level and started a new genre. Shifters.

Well this month I can LOUDLY AND PROUDLY scream from the rooftops because I FINISHED!!! That’s right, I found the end. I followed the trail and made it through the maze of navigating a new genre. Met some new characters, fell in love with them, and now I can’t wait to explore some more.

They say you need to keep pushing to get through a slow point. There are rewards to persistence. One of the hardest things to do as a writer is finishing the story. I don’t know about others, but it seems like with every story I always hit a wall at about 25% and then 75%. Then I hit the end and I breathe a deep sigh of relief!

A bit of shameless promotion now…check out my FIRST shifter story for free on Goodreads. It’s coming soon and I’ll update with a link as soon as I have it. For now, a little about Not Just a Kiss.

Not Just a KissThe last thing Raju Bhandari expects on the night of his first leopard shift is to find his mate. He is ready to start training for the endurance test that will determine his place in the Leap. But the son of the alpha has a different plan in mind.

Sujan Malakar, son to the alpha of his snow leopard leap, has found his mate. On the night of Raju’s first shift, he goes to Raju’s home to tell him how he feels. But Raju doesn’t acknowledge their mating bond. For the first time, Sujan is rejected. Not one to back down from a challenge, he continues to pursue Raju to show him they are meant to be together.

Raju’s pride keeps him from seeing the truth in Sujan. Everyone says they can see their intended mating, so why is he the only one who doesn’t?

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