M/M Regency Romance

When I started writing Faebourne, I had a definite plan. It would be the typical Regency romance except that the male protagonist (Duncan) would be the one who needed rescuing from the very odd Milne family. That’s still in many ways the fundamental starting point for the plot. However, the planned romance between Duncan and Adelia Milne, well . . . It’s there, but not in as much force as another romance that has taken center stage in the book.

After Duncan’s abduction, his valet Davies and best friend George go in search of him. In the original manuscript, we didn’t even have any chapters from their points of view—it was all Duncan, all the time. But I decided that it wasn’t as interesting to have Davies and George just show up at Faebourne. Better to follow their little journey. And as their characters grew, they, erm . . . They fell in love.

Now, this leaves me in a conundrum of sorts. A number of people who read sweet, clean, historical romances do so because their religious views don’t allow for anything more, er, graphic. It’s the reason I grew up reading Regencies, and though I’ve since left my sheltered childhood, I still greatly enjoy these kinds of books. (And I still don’t read steamy romances.) Those same religious views often frown on homosexual relationships. So I’m a bit afraid that Davies + George will offend a number of potential readers. I’m afraid I’ll get bad reviews because of it. Which is why I’m trying very hard to make sure readers know BEFORE they buy the book. That way, if it’s not their cup of tea per se, they can steer clear.

I did seriously consider going back and taking the relationship out. But honestly, it’s one of the best things in the book (in my authorial opinion). It’s a darling I can’t quite bring myself to murder.

Readers familiar with the broader spectrum of my work won’t be surprised to find a gay couple in Faebourne. But those who have only read Brynnde, which is far more heteronormative and hews to the traditional aspects of the genre, may be caught off guard.

SO. Be aware and spread the word: the “romance” in Faebourne: A Regency Romance is—at least in one of the two couples showcased (and the couple whose romance is most focused on)—a gay one. Don’t read it if you think that will bother you.

On Waiting

Today I’ll be talking to all you writers out there, you hopefuls. You can get the short version in a Twitter thread I wrote:

But I’ll go into a little more detail here.

When you’re querying agents about your manuscript, it’s like walking a tightrope. Without a net. There is an exhausting amount of tension involved as you try not to fall. When querying, that tension comes in the form of hope—you’re hoping all the time that an agent will have a favorable response to your query and/or your first pages. And if they do, you’re then hoping they’ll like the full manuscript. Constant hope is tiring to sustain. And as with tightrope walking, any little nudge—a lack of response, a bunch of form rejections, no sign of interest from anyone—can send you crashing right over the edge.

Let’s say you get an agent. Hooray! Well, now your agent is going to be sending your manuscript out on submission. More waiting, but this time you have a safety net under your tightrope. While your manuscript is in the capable hands of your agent, said agent may also be giving you guidance on what to work on next. You’re no longer alone in this venture.

[Note: I realize many authors will say, “I was never alone! I had critique partners and beta readers and fellow authors!” This may be true. But there is a marked difference between the support of your fellows—which is still a wonderful and lovely thing to have—and the support of people who are actually in a position to submit your work and make things happen on your behalf.]

Okay, so your agent is submitting your manuscript. There’s still a modicum of that exhausting, infernal hope that an editor or publisher will take it, but it’s not as exhausting as querying because of that safety net that is having an agent.

And then! Your book gets accepted by an editor! After you celebrate, you will wait some more, this time for editorial notes, and then more notes, and then more notes, and also a cover, and marketing info, and a finalized publication date. BUT. While this is all very exciting and you may be impatient to get through this process, the hope element is over. Now we’ve moved on to anticipation. Because there is no longer a question of whether your book is going to be published. It’s really happening! No more tightrope. You’re on the ground now, in the center ring, with the circus around you. It’s dizzying, but there is no fear of falling.

Well, maybe you’re a little afraid your book will suck and get terrible reviews. But you have an agent and editor and publisher who believe in you, and that goes a long way psychologically. From those lonely days of querying and hoping, you now have a full support system and—thanks to the guidance of your agent—other books in the works in case this one isn’t as successful as everyone, well, hopes.

Hoping alone, though, is very different from hoping together.

Knowing you won’t bear the sole brunt of the fall, should falling occur—that counts for a lot.

So what I’m saying here, that I said in much shorter form via Twitter, is that when people tell hopeful authors—authors without agents yet—to get used to waiting . . . Well, yes, that’s going to be a big part of the process. But I’ve noticed the people doling out the advice usually already have agents, and sometimes have editors and publishers as well. They’re speaking from a place with a safety net and support system. And while they’ve walked that tightrope that is querying, they are now in a position of privilege that feels out of touch with where querying authors are. Similar to the, “You’ll make it if you try hard enough!” school of encouragement, the, “Just be patient,” school doesn’t address fundamental problems. Like the very real psychological stress of not knowing an outcome. We like to make light of how we check our emails repeatedly and have trouble focusing because this hope takes up so much of our energy, but it’s a significant (and not always funny) issue. “Just be patient” doesn’t alleviate that stress and in fact often adds to it by making querying authors feel like they’re doing something wrong. Like there’s a wrong way to wait.

We’re waiting. We’re being as patient as we can be because, seriously, we have no other options. We’re on this tightrope, and we’d love a safety net. The truth is, we may never get one. That’s a stressful reality. So please, if you’re an author giving this advice, don’t be patronizing. We know you mean well, but you’re not always helping. Sometimes you’re even throwing us off balance.

21st Century Yokel

So I have a YouTube channel now, and I recommend you subscribe to keep up with all the videos because I won’t always be posting them here. The link to the channel itself is on the sidebar to the left. (Scroll down to all my online media buttons.)

I’ll try to get more sophisticated with my recording and editing methods. But for now, enjoy this short video about author Tom Cox’s work. And if you watch long enough, you’ll catch a glimpse of my cat Minerva.

Sanitizing YA?

There was a Twitter thread earlier today about “sanitizing” high school parties in YA fiction. It seemed to be referring to some other conversation that may or may not have been going on, a stance that the parties are “unrealistic.” And I think these are two different arguments.

I didn’t party in high school, and I didn’t know anybody who did. (Or if they did, it wasn’t obvious.) I went to a handful of “parties,” but these were not like the movies. No houses packed full of students spilling alcohol everywhere, music blasting, precious items being broken. The parties were somewhat small and fairly tame. There was sometimes alcohol, but there was also stuff like Win, Lose or Draw. (Which is hilarious to play if you’ve been drinking btw.) ::shrug::

Anyway, everyone’s experiences vary. What is “realistic” to one person may not be to another. Aaaand there’s the whole “it’s cliché” angle to these teen parties in books and movies. But to say that a suggestion to remove such a scene is “sanitizing”? That feels extreme.

I mean, sure, if the person who is suggesting the change is doing it because they feel like they don’t want to encourage that kind of behavior, then they’re sanitizing the story. I can see why that might be considered problematic, but I won’t delve into that here. However, if they’re saying it should be changed because it’s not realistic, then . . . That’s just a personal opinion. I mean, look at most writers and editors. We were the bookish kids, the quiet ones. Parties like that sometimes don’t seem realistic based on our experiences.

The Twitter thread spent a lot of time talking about how teens need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. Agreed. And some of them party and . . . want to see parties in their books, I guess? Some take drugs and want to read about other kids who take drugs? But some of us didn’t party, and we like seeing the quiet kids front and center because we felt so insignificant and overlooked in high school.

Look, teens who party and do drugs and get in trouble with the law—they’re out there. It’s not an experience I can identify with, but I know it happens. And there’s a place for those stories, too. Maybe it’s because I don’t write those kinds of books, so I can’t see where the scrubbing is taking place. Do agents, editors, publishers really squash stories featuring problematic teens and the issues they face? I honestly don’t know. As I pointed out in a previous post, I was told my teen fiction wasn’t edgy enough, so . . . I’ve experienced the flip side of this problem.

Bottom line for me is that I’d want to know the reason behind an author being told a YA party scene (or sex scene, or drug scene) needs to be changed or omitted. Because I don’t think it’s always simply to sanitize the text, or keep the reader “safe” from those things. Maybe it is some of the time—in which case, that should be addressed—but sometimes the reason may really be that the scene isn’t realistic (or the editor doesn’t think it is, anyway), or else it’s cliché. Those are valid opinions. Not everyone shares them, but they aren’t necessarily wrong.

There have always been books, and music, and movies that parents or adults don’t think appropriate for young adults. This is nothing new. And if a publisher thinks, No parent is going to want their kids to read this, then they might not publish it. Not out of spite or a need to whitewash teen experiences, but because they’re a business and want to sell books. And though teens do buy their own books some of the time, parents buy books the remainder of the time. And school librarians. And teachers, if they keep a classroom library. And school librarians and teachers won’t buy books that will get them in trouble with parents or the school district. And a publisher won’t risk their business for something they don’t think parents and teachers and librarians will buy.

Then again, sometimes you’ll find one who hopes the book will create buzz through shock value. They hope kids will buy it in secret and smuggle it to their friends. But one copy passed around a dozen people doesn’t amount to many sales either.

So, again, it might not be that they’re “sanitizing” YA. It might just be that they see no profit in it. If you write edgy YA—if you write parties and sex and drugs and jail for teens—go for it. Prove them wrong.

Synastry, Transits, Progressions

Of all the posts on this site, the ones about astrology charts get the most hits. I’m not sure why; I can’t possibly be the first result when someone Googles astrology. But since that seems to be what many people are interested in, I thought I’d write a bit more about it.

An astrology chart is like a fingerprint—it’s unique. Sometimes people ask, “What if two people were born at the same hospital at the same time?” Well, I don’t know. I’ve never seen a case like that. But I think that there’s a lot more to a life than a star chart, so while some of the themes in those two hypothetical lives might be similar, their lives wouldn’t necessarily be the same. If you look at a family—that’s a number of charts interacting in what we call “synastry.” Synastry is a fancy word for taking two people’s charts and comparing them to see how those two people might (or might not) get along. Most people use synastry to look at love relationships, but you can use it between parents and children, between siblings, between coworkers, anyone you might have a personal relationship with.

Synastry is handled in a couple ways. I usually look at the individual charts and see where planets interact, whether one person’s planets fill empty houses in another person’s charts, etc. But there’s also a way to create a composite chart that more or less shows a picture of the potential relationship. I don’t have much experience with these, so I can’t really say much about them. But my understanding is that you read the composite chart in the same way you’d read a natal chart.

Things get complicated when you consider transits and progressions. When you look at the current placement of planets in respect to a person’s chart, you’re looking at transits. If a natal chart is the big picture of a person’s life lessons, their obstacles and advantages, transits are more immediate things happening right now as the planets move. Transits are what daily horoscopes are based on.

Progressions take the planets in the natal chart and, well, progress them. They show where the planets would be now if progressed . . . by various methods*. Progressions can indicate change in a person’s life cycle, as their planets shift and so does their Midheaven and Ascendant. Again, I don’t look at progressed charts very often, but it’s an interesting idea. In fact, even as I write this I find myself thinking I should go look at my progressed chart.

If you’re ever curious about your chart and want to know where to get yours, I generally use astro.com (which is free) but also have on my phone a professional app called TimePassages that works well, too (not free). For the most accurate results, you’ll need to know where and when you were born—not just the date, but the actual time, which is usually on your birth certificate. Or, if you have a mother like mine, she calls you every year on your birthday at the exact time you were born and reminds you of all the pain she went through.

I catch a lot of grief from my scientist friends and religious family members about this stuff. For the record, I find it interesting, but I still firmly believe in our ability to make and change our own circumstances. Your chart is only as important and influential as you allow it to be. Nothing is inevitable. I find looking at my chart sometimes gives me perspective. However, I don’t let it dictate my life. How you handle yours is up to you.

* Methods for determining progressions vary. Some astrologers move each planet forward one degree for each year of the querent’s life (solar arc progression), some do it by moving the chart forward one day for each year (secondary progression). Those are the two most common techniques, but there are others. You can see them on the Wikipedia page for progressions.

Random Video

So I haven’t done a video in a while because of a laundry list of reasons, but here’s a short thing I did to get back into it. Though the thumbnail options YouTube gave me sucked. I must make the dumbest faces when I talk.

This isn’t about writing, btw. I just unboxed a couple of rosaries I picked up while in Paris. Because I collect rosaries.