Let’s Talk Ink

4700093127_a81b957cd8_bI don’t mean ink on paper. I mean ink on skin…tattoos. They are hot right now. I think it’s funny how many heroes have tattoos, but I don’t find a lot of heroines with tattoos. At least not as many as I’d like.

Why do I bring this up? Because I love tattoos. I have lots of them, and I’m getting a full “sleeve” this weekend on my calf. So I’ve been thinking, why aren’t there more heroines with tattoos? Is it because tatted up women still aren’t as mainstream as men? Since I write a lot of romance, I wonder if it’s because the ideal heroine is still very clean cut, not the bad girl of romance. We love the bad guys, but not so much the girls.

Even in paranormal, where I think there are more women with tattoos, I 4391428993_b701849253_odon’t think they are as prominent as they could be. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe not.
What are your thoughts on women with tattoos? Do you read about them? Would it bother you if the heroine was inked from head to toe?

Curiosity killed the cat and all that. Just for fun, share your ink in the comments if you want.

Here’s one of mine!

2015-04-05 16.34.19-1

Before I leave…Authors After Dark (August 12-16th) has opened up more spots for authors. If you want to go to a conference with multiple genres to read and authors to meet that’s a whole lot of fun this is a great opportunity. Readers…I highly recommend it! Authors…same goes! Check out more here.

Posted in Reading, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

10 Writing Facts About Shauna

(Originally posted on my blog)

My friend and fellow Scribe, Lyra, posted about this over on her blog, and I thought, “Hey! Cool idea!” So I stole it am doing it too.

Writing is a strange vocation. You’re in a world with hundreds of thousands of others, but it also feels totally isolated – especially for a self-pubber – so it’s good to see how other people work or deal with it. Maybe you need some suggestions on how to make things work for you and seeing into other people’s process can help with that. It did for me when I was first starting out.

So here are ten things I do while writing.

1. I am an entirely different writer today than when I was when I first started out writing. When I first started, I was a panster. I just sat down and blindly wrote, figuring out the story as I went. I knew what the end was, I just had to figure out how to get there. Now I outline. When I first started, if I outlined, I lost the momentum, the urgency to tell the story, because, basically, I already did. Now I need a road map. But it’s like a road trip – I know my final destination and I know the pit stops on the way, but anything can happen while I’m there. I will occasionally write off the cuff still, but I have more focus than I did before.

2. I use music to write. If I’m starting a brand new project, I give myself a couple of hours before I begin to get a soundtrack going. I do use songs with lyrics because they really help me. I can write and not consciously pay attention to lyrics, but they’ll propel me into the mood I want for the book and/or scene, like subliminal messages. If I’m writing a series, I’ll just keep building on the same playlist until I have an epic soundtrack. This works for me because, if I’m not in the mood or the right headspace to write, I can turn on that soundtrack and like a Pavlov’s Law, I will suddenly be able to get into the mood of the story.

3. Sometimes my soundtracks fail me. Sometimes you gotta switch it up. If a book has been tension filled and I’m coming to a big battle or bloody scene sometimes I need to switch to actual soundtracks to get me through. I have a backup playlist that is just full of music from movies and video games with no lyrics that really drive me through intense, physical scenes.

4. If there’s a fight scene in a book, I have choreographed it in real life with my husband. I’m very lucky to have my husband as a resource at my beck and call. He is a trained fighter and a lifetime martial artist and a self-defense instructor. So, often, I’ll think of a scene and then grab my husband and work it out down to the last gory detail so I know it’s real and not just a movie fight.

5. For me, the hardest part is the rough draft. People hate editing, hate revising, but for me it’s getting that first draft done. Which is why I tend to “fast draft” – get big word counts done so I can get it done faster. It’s also why I outline. Editing and revising are easy to me because the hard part is done. Every milestone is great until I realize how far I am from the end.

6. I pinterest to keep track of what my characters look like. I have a lot of series going at once and that means a huge cast of characters to keep track of. So I will start boards with pics of celebs and other people so I can keep them all straight. It also helps me make sure no new character sounds like they look like another character.

7. If a book/series is particularly hard to figure out, I talk it out. So many books have been resolved while I was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, sipping coffee, while I talk AT my husband. He will offer suggestions, but often, my mind is racing and I’m watching the book unfold in my head and I’m talking out loud for the benefit of hearing it and committing it to memory. Also, I want to hear another human being tell me how awesome that idea is.

8. I used to say “write every day” but I don’t anymore. That phrase is so misleading, especially to new writers. I am a full time writer. I write 4-6 days a week depending on how well the sessions have gone. To me, that is writing every day. Yes, even with a day off. And then when the first draft is over, I take a break. Sometimes just a week, sometimes much more, depending on what I need. To me that is writing every day, but when you hear that phrase, it makes people think, to be a “real” writer they have to be writing 365 days a year and that’s just not true.

9. I don’t disconnect from the internet when I write. Some people need that, but I couldn’t focus if I knew I couldn’t take a break if I needed it. It’s like in school, when the clock is on the wall in the back and you weren’t supposed to look at it. That drove me nuts. If I write a few hundred and then want to check Twitter, I do. Sometimes I’ll bang out two thousand words without breaking stride, but I know I can take a break, so it helps. It’s all about figuring out what works for you.

10. It took me a long time to figure out what works for me to be a full time writer. My music, a set time of day that I write almost every day, a cup of coffee or a bottle of water, an outline, these work for me. But you know what? Even if I don’t have all these things, I sit down and write, or edit, or revise, whatever stage I’m at in a project, I get it done because this is what I want to do with my life.

Posted in Craft, Creative Life, Geekery, Paranormal, Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Ten Good Vampire Books

Vampires are done. Over. Dead.

Amirite?

‘Eh, probably. But if you like a good vampire story, you like a good vampire story.  And recently I’ve stumbled over a couple good vampire stories and well, SpellboundScribes IS the name of the blog. If I can’t talk about vampires here, where can I?

Now the twist is, I’ve been reading mostly m/m romance, so the vampire stories I’m talking about all feature gay characters. I have a pretty good handle on the vampire genre in general but I’m only just starting to explore it as an m/m sub-subgenre. I don’t know if there are m/m equivalents of Ann Rice or Octavia Butler or Barbra Hambly (people who were writing vampire stories before they were cool), but part of my motivation for this post was to discover what’s out there.

So here, in no particular order, are some suggestions for well-regarded m/m vampire stories. I asked for help with this post on the M/M Book Recommendations Facebook page, so I haven’t read all of these, but the research alone cost me money. I also found a Best Gay Vampires list on Goodreads…cuz when in doubt, go to Goodreads…

Cronins Key1. Cronin’s Key by NR Walker – This is a contemporary take on the fated love trope, and while the sample didn’t contain too many surprises for me, it’s got a ton of 5-star ratings on Amazon and it gets a lot of play on the M/M Book Recs page. AND it’s on sale for $0.99 right now because the sequel just came out.

Deep Desire

2. Deep Desire by ZA Maxfield – This one looks intriguing as hell. I almost talked myself into a one-click a couple months ago, and have moved the sample up to the top of my TBR list. I like the premise – centuries-old vampire and art historian searching for the same document and maybe (or not) falling in love – but some of the reviews have some pretty harsh things to say about the relationship, highlighting manipulation and dub-con. This is a revised edition of a book that was previously published as “Notturno”.

tinder chronicles

3. The Tinder Chronicles by Alexa Land – Tinder seems like it would be a good vacation read. Built on the same basic premise as Lou Harper’s Sanguine books – vampire hunter falls in love with a vampire – it’s filed under ‘erotica’ and promises good sexy fun. It also has solid reviews (4+ stars on The ‘Zon) and is $2.99 for a 3-volume set.

natural instincts

4. Natural Instincts by SJ Frost – This one looks like sort of a mash-up of the vampire-hunter-falls-for-a-vampire and the fated-love tropes. I haven’t read it – don’t know if I will – but it was recommended a couple of times by people who commented on my M/M Book Recs query and it’s #7 on the Goodreads list.

spirit sanguine

5. Spirit Sanguine by Lou Harper – I’m a bit of a Lou Harper fan, and thoroughly enjoyed this book.  (I also liked the sequel, Temper Sanguine.)  I mean, how can you NOT love a vegetarian, half-Chinese, vampire named Harvey? His boyfriend Gabe is a vampire hunter – therefore instant conflict – and the path these two take to get together is a lot of fun.

Merrick

6. Merrick by Claire Cray – My only complaint about Merrick is that it was too short! The premise isn’t a huge departure – young man is sent to apprentice with a mysterious older gentleman who turns out to be a vampire – but the voice is gorgeous and the period details pretty much nail the turn of the (19th) century atmosphere. The sequel is called William, and while I haven’t read it yet, I will…someday…

stripped with the vampire

7. Stripped with the Vampire by Jax Garren – Stripped is more urban fantasy than romance, and the world is fairly complicated, with lots of layers among the paranormal characters (read: lots of opportunity for conflict). Vince and Charlie make a cute couple, though, and the supporting characters are well-drawn. It reminded me of the early books by Kim Harrison or Patricia Briggs, but, you know, with a gay couple at the center.

Blind Mans Wolf

8. Blind Man’s Wolf by Amelia Faulkner – I read this in one sitting, when I should have been napping before a night shift. The whole idea of a blind vampire intrigued me, and I thought the author did an excellent job creating a believable blind character. Also, the story was hella entertaining. She’s still got it priced at $0.99, but you better one-click in case that goes away.

cake

9. Cake (Blood Nation #1) by Derikica Snake – I haven’t read much yaoi/slash m/m – about the closest I’ve come is With Wings by Z Allora. This is a big story with lots of fantasy and sexy bits, and it has enthusiastic reviews on Amazon. I only downloaded the sample because the $9.99 price was a little bit much for a one-click, but if I love it, well, the heart wants what it wants…

payback

10. Payback by Jordan Castillo Price – Now I did one-click this baby, because I love Jordan Castillo Price and I LOVE the cover art. This is book one in her Channeling Morpheus series, and another of her vampire stories, Hemovore, got quite a few mentions on my M/M Book recs query. Just to be thorough, Payback is #6 on the Goodreads list, and Hemovore is #9. Haven’t read either of them yet, but I will.

Thirst

BONUS – Thirst by Lisa Worrall – I’d meant to stop at 10, but when I looked over the list I’d hadn’t mentioned yet, this one DEMANDED a spot in the post. This one has mystery and sexytimes and Los Angeles (read: Liv’s personal catnips) and I’m totally going to add it to my TBR pile!

From Afar

BONUS(x2) – From Afar by Ava Marsh – This one gets a shout-out because it was mentioned by Amy Jo Cousins and she is the best with book recommendations. Also, it’s only the second historical m/m vampire story I’ve found and historical m/m is an even bigger weakness for me than mysteries set in L.A. (see above).

Now see? You’ve helped me identify some of the must-reads in the world of m/m vampire fic. I hope you found something you can one-click on – I know I sure did! And because I don’t mean to leave anyone out, here are a few more that were recommended by readers on the M/M Book Recs page or on the Goodreads list:

Angel of Darkness by Tyler May (QUICK UPDATE – I just one-clicked this one because it’s marked down to $0.99!)

Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite

The V Unit by Max Vos

Cowboys and Vampires by Hank Edwards

Immortality is the Suck by AM Riley

Alliance in Blood by Ariel Tachna

Dance in the Dark by Megan Derr

The Beast Without by Christian Baines

Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle by Amy Fecteau (Currently a FREE download!)

Happy reading!
Liv

Posted in Geekery, Paranormal, Reading | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

Sticks and stones....

Sticks and stones…

How many times do we hear this growing up? I don’t remember the first time I heard this simple rhyme, but I know that I have heard it hundreds of times since. Superficially, the saying offers excellent common sense: don’t let someone get a rise out of you, don’t retaliate with violence, don’t freak out over an insult. But when you consider it more deeply, it is one of the most mind-bogglingly false adages out there. Because words hurt. Sometimes far more than a simple broken bone.

Yes, sticks and stones may break a person’s bones, but interestingly enough, the human body does not remember pain. The brain can remember having been in pain, and the emotions surrounding that pain, but the actual physical discomfort cannot be conjured up again without actually inflicting the same pain on the same nerves in the same way. So a broken bone will knit. A bruise will fade. A cut will heal. But anyone who has ever been badly wounded by a carefully chosen sentence or two will know that it is not so with words. The memory of an insult, criticism, or verbal abuse can sting or even damage long after the moment has passed. Often, it will even grow worse with time, burrowing deep into the psyche until nothing can dislodge it.

It is a cruel irony that we are so often quicker to believe cruel words than we are kind ones. A hundred accolades can be struck down by a single calculated word of criticism, and a thousand compliments forgotten in the face of one off-hand insult. And the more personal the harsh words, the more difficult it is to brush off the criticism or abuse.

The stuff of nightmares...

The stuff of nightmares

As a writer, I have made a concerted effort to thicken my skin. Not that I have people hurling insults and criticism at me every day, but the very act of creating something and then putting it out there for people to see and experience arms people with the weapons to harm you. Metaphorical sticks and stones, if you will. And learning to stand strong against those sticks and stones can feel nigh impossible. I have come a long way since the first time I ever workshopped a short story in a creative writing class, but I know I still have a long way to go before the paralyzing horror of having people say bad things about me and my work disappears. Maybe it won’t ever go away. But that doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. –Elbert Hubbard

And it doesn’t mean that I should stop doing, either. Because for every person who hates something I create there is bound to be just as many who like it. And while the bad words might be easier to remember, the good ones are stronger and more important.

Does that old childhood rhyme ever bother you? How do you keep from taking criticism too personally? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Is Kit Harrington Right?

KHarington
In the article Kit Harington Has A Point About Women Objectifying Men, writer Eliana Dockterman describes how the actor is “sick of being called a hunk”, and when members of the media asks him how he feels about being described that way, he generally says, “That’s not what I got into it for.”

The guy’s an actor, and he’d prefer to be asked about, well, his acting.

Ms. Dockterman cites other examples of actors who are constantly being asked how they feel about their “heartthrob” status. Actors like Benedict Cumberbatch whose legion of fans refer to themselves as Cumberbitches.  And John Hamm, for whom there are whole Tumblr blogs dedicated to the bulge in his pants.

I’ll take M. Dockterman’s word for that one. I haven’t looked. No, seriously. Mr. Hamm can get pretty harsh when he’s asked about those blogs, and I can’t really blame him.

While Ms. Dockterman makes it very clear that women are subject to the same kind of “you’re famous because people want to have sex with you” crap, part of me wants to greet Mr. Harington’s complaint with a big ol’ BOOHOO.

KHarington2

Is touching a standard part of the interview process?

 

In protesting treatment that focuses on his looks, it seems to me Mr. Harrington is complaining all the way to the bank.

Objectification is part of the Hollywood game, and women have been played since the beginning. The news that 37-year-old actress Maggie Guyllenhal was told she’s “too old” to play the love interest for a 55-year-old actor demonstrates how endemic the cult of youth and beauty is. Women are held to a different standard than men, and most of the time it seems that the sum total of their contribution is tied up in their appearance.

BCumberbatch might get asked how he feels to be a sex symbol, but only after reporters ask him  about his work. And pretty much only fashion bloggers care who made his suit.

Name an actress who is accorded the same level of respect. There aren’t many.

“And though it’s tempting to even the scales by caring as little about men’s feelings as misogynists care about women’s feelings, that attitude doesn’t help to stop misogyny or advance feminism.” E. Dockterman

The thing is, this level of objectification isn’t limited to actors and actresses. When I look at my on-line presence objectively – true confession here – most of my social media sights would fall under the category ‘NSFW’. (I blogged about it HERE a couple weeks ago.)  Maybe it’s an occupational hazard of being a romance writer, but my Facebook and Pinterest streams, in particular, are pretty much full of lovely masculine images.

Lovely, mostly naked, masculine images.

And some of them forget the mostly.

Which begs the question: After years of feminist bitching about the way men ogle young women, why is it right or fair to objectify young men?

And that’s where the guilt comes in. (Eldest child of an Irish-Catholic family, right? I can find guilt just about anywhere.) I do like to look, although it does bother me, and I try hard not to forget there’s a person attached to those abs. I don’t see following photographer Michael Stokes as some kind of feminist victory. He makes pretty pictures, and I like to look at them.

What’s wrong with that?

Does the power differential between men and women make a difference? Does the ubiquitous standard of youth and beauty applied to women matter? Is it somehow more wrong to objectify women, because so much of who they are is limited to how they look?

Yeah, I don’t know, either, but I expect M. Dockterman is right when she says we shouldn’t be dragging each other down to the same level, but rather lifting each other up.

So I’ll concede Mr. Harrington his point. He’s a serious actor practicing his craft, and we do him a disservice by focusing primarily on his appearance, regardless of how distractingly handsome he may be.

What do you think? Are beefcake photos as popular as cat pix in your Facebook stream? Can we really separate any performer’s appearance from their craft?

Cheers,
Liv

KHarington3

Honestly, if I met this guy in RL, basic functions – like speech – would desert me.

 

Posted in characters, Life, Television, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Bouncing Back From Burnout

Burnout.

Rarely spoken of but universally experienced, burnout is probably the reason the statistics about writers look so bad. Hundreds start writing, dozens make it to submission, and only  a few end up getting published—and much of that elimination process is actually self-selection: the “strong” survive, while the “weak” gradually fade from the pool.

It’s that binary there that’s sticky, though. What makes one writer strong, while another writer is weak? General wisdom says that writers write, and a successful writer is one who never stops writing, not even for birthdays and national holidays. And if you get sick? Well, sit down, shut up, and write about it, because writers write, damn it, and that’s how you can tell who is serious about this work. If you’re not serious, well, you’d better go home, because you won’t make it if you don’t treat it like Serious Business.

There’s some truth in it. Publishing is serious business, and if you don’t recognize that, you probably won’t get very far. But the ‘never complain, never quit’ attitude might be hurting us as much as it helps us. In the last year, I’ve seen several writer friends disappear off the face of the internet. I’ve had friends leave publishing altogether. I’ve had others get seriously sick or seriously depressed, and I’m sure there are still more I don’t know about because they haven’t publicly admitted that they’re struggling.

I’ll say it here: I’ve struggled.

The last year has been incredibly difficult for me, career-wise. And it was no picnic in the six months before that. I stepped back from blogging, I went quiet on Twitter, and I started wondering if all this heartache and struggle was what I actually wanted.

It is, but it’s taken me awhile to realize that. And recovering from burnout is a process, not an event: I have yet to magically wake up one morning and say, “Ah-ha! I feel good about my creative life once again!”

But I’m reaching the point where I want to write again. I realized recently that I miss writing, and I found myself thinking about a new character’s life choices, wondering why she wants to make the choice that will instigate a whole new book. In short, I was tending tiny plants that will, one day very soon, become a towering tree of a project—and I’d planted the seeds, without knowing it, in the dark winter of my burnout.

So how did it happen? Well, I’m not an expert, and I’m certainly not fully recovered yet, but I have noticed a few things that have helped me start to recover.

1. Put a timeline on it. Tell yourself, “I’m on vacation from writing (or a particular project, or a friendship that’s troubling you, or WHATEVER) until X date. I won’t do it, think about it, or feel guilty about not doing it or thinking about it until that time.” And then hold yourself accountable. Whether that date is one day or one year from now, give yourself that time to actually recover. Don’t spend your free time worrying about how much you’re not getting done.

2. Cultivate another part of your identity. One trouble with recovering from writing burnout is that, as writers, BEING a writer is such a big part of our identity. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. And if we’re not writing, we’re not just failing as a writer, we’re Failing with an emphasis on that capital F. We’re neglecting a vital part of our selfhood, so that when we do take time off, we feel adrift. But the truth is, each of us is much more than a writer: we’re friends and lovers and painters and bikers and who knows what else. Take your time off to develop some aspect of yourself that makes you happy. Discover another side of yourself.

3. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for not writing. And don’t beat yourself up for beating yourself up about writing. The key here is to cherish yourself in your time off. Take time to do things you might not do when you’re not on vacation from writing: take a bubble bath when you get home from work. Do yoga in the morning when you’d normally be writing. Go to a movie on Saturday instead of staring at a blank white screen. Actually use the time you now have to recuperate and relax, and don’t just use the time to make yourself feel worse.

Those are the things that have helped me. Have you experienced burnout? And if so, how did you recover?

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Being Okay with Taking Time Off

GoneReading-at-the-Beach-Womens-T-shirtI’m sure I’ve written about this before, because God knows I’ve been struggling with it for a while, but I’m the kind of writer who doesn’t know how to not be writing. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but see, my brain is tired. I know this a few ways:

  1. I’ve been doing stupid stuff lately like forgetting my work badge at home and getting confused about what day it is (which can be problem at work when you’re supposed to send out an announcement on a certain day but not before, trust me)
  2. I’m so tired that I spend most of Saturday asleep (where did my energy go? I want it back!)
  3. My characters aren’t talking (there are about 20 books plots in there and all I hear is silence)
  4. I think my muse is in Tahiti (wish she would have taken me with her)
  5. I can’t settle on a new book topic (I have two historicals and three contemporaries that are strong contenders.)

As someone who is trying to launch a writing career, part of me feels like I can’t afford to waste any time. That’s why I haven’t stopped writing in the last three or four years. I’ve just gone from one book to the next – for six books (with a full-time job). Well, I think the end of that extended energy spurt is over.

On top of wanting to write another book, I’m also the kind of person who can’t ever stop learning. I’ve even created my own DIY MFA program. And I want to get started on that, but every time I think about it, my brain says “uh-uh.”

All of this boils down to the fact that I don’t have a choice but to take a break. It’s actually good timing in that I’ve got two books out in the publishing world trying to find agents/editors that are right for them. Plus, it’s getting to be summer, which means nice weather and pool time. So I’ve made a deal with myself: I’ll take a break until June 1. That’s only about three weeks, but it should be long enough for me to know if I need a longer rest or if I can get back into the writing game again.

And I will. Right now sometimes it feels like I don’t have another novel in me. But that’s just the burnout talking. We all know I have at least 20 in me. Watch out when I come back because they may all burst out one after the other!

Have you ever had to give yourself permission to slow down or stop doing something at least for a while? If so, let me know. Hearing your stories will help me feel less guilty!

Posted in Writing | Tagged , | 11 Comments