Archive for November, 2011

Sting of rejection

So I had submitted a book to my publisher, and at first she liked it, but upon further reading, she rejected the story, Numbers Game, citing a lack of conflict. I was taken back, I have to say. I’ve published five e-books so far with Republica Press, and this hadn’t come up before. Perhaps I was due.

Let me say here I am not complaining about RP — they’ve been great, and helpful, and they are free to reject manuscripts.

I couldn’t help but puzzle over it, naturally. This was a story that had gotten good feedback and positive reviews on every site I’d posted it on. My editor may feel it lacks conflict, but in all the feedback I received, no one ever said so. It makes me wonder who’s right, if anyone. Like anything else, I’d imagine one person’s perceived lack of conflict (a point with which I disagree, more later) is another’s just-right-amount of conflict.

It is true that there isn’t much in the way of melodrama or histrionics in this story. No one dies, no one is kidnapped, no one is asked to replace their identical twin in the interests of national security. It’s just about two people who come together. One is a 32-year-old woman, Sara, fresh off a break up — her boyfriend cheated and then left her for a woman ten years her junior. The other is a 25-year-old hockey player, Dmitri, native to another country, who finds himself attracted to a woman he wouldn’t have expected to.

There are issues and conflicts. First, of course, is the age difference, which is more of concern to the woman. I think that’s most often the way that situation would go. However, after much thought and discussion with a good friend, she decides to take her chances. Still, she’s a grown-up — she has a job, rent to pay, responsibilities at work, things like that. The guy is a young hockey player; he makes a lot of money, is used to having much of his time be his own, and isn’t terribly experienced at relationships.

Dmitri becomes jealous of a slightly older, American teammate — youth can be insecure. Sara’s sister can’t let the age difference go; you’ll want someone closer to your age, she says, refusing to believe it can work. Sara gets furious with her sister’s objections, and herself for believing them. Sara’s in charge of a project at work that requires more and more of her time; Dmitri can’t imagine what’s that important. When she tries to balance work and her relationship, he feels she makes the wrong choice. When it comes to love, he doesn’t see the same shades of gray that she does.

To me, this is plenty of conflict, and likely closer to the types of struggles we all face in relationships. True, there are no cars careening around curves or off cliffs, no serial killers lurking around the corners, and no in-your-face screaming matches. But is that the only kind of conflict you can have in a romance? Can’t you have something more low-key, and more realistic?

Perhaps the answer is yes, you can, but don’t expect it to sell. 😉 I’m all for escapism, and enjoy stories where opposites clash and then come together, or where people look past what’s in front of them until it whacks them in the face to get their attention. Miscommunications are common in real life and books, and can often be funny, too, when you’re looking from the outside and you know it will get resolved. On the other hand, I also like a quieter story sometimes, one that’s more “real.”

I put this question (well, roughly this one) to a forum thread, and the answers ran in favor of sending it to other publishers. Certainly there are lots of them out there, and it’s the rare author who’s picked up by the first one.  Even JK Rowling, one person said, was rejected 27 times. (Ack!) I guess later, I’ll see who else likes it, or who rejects it. But I probably still won’t know who’s right about all this.

Rhythm and the Blue Line

At last! My next hockey story! I have started posting Rhythm and the Blue Line at sites like Literotica, StoriesOnline and LushStories.

It’s been a while, I know, since I’ve posted a longer story. In truth, I’d hoped to get a lot more writing done this year, but it didn’t happen, and that’s the way it goes sometimes. I was working on this for a while and held off posting because I wanted to make sure most of the story was done. I know it’s disappointing when a writer has long lags between installments, and I wanted to avoid that. I think I will.

This story is about a musician, Ryan Bancroft. First thing to know is that Ryan is a woman; second thing is that she’s not much on sports. Sports dominated her life while growing up. Her younger brother, JT, is a football star, and the youngest, Evan, is lighting up the basketball court. Her father, a former football prospect himself, lives and breathes sports and cannot fathom Ryan’s rejection of sports and her turning to music. Ryan then meets Brody Lang, who plays for the Washington Capitals. The last thing she thinks she wants is a relationship with a professional athlete, and tells him so. And if I tell you much more, I’ll spoil the story ahead.

I hope you enjoy, and here’s an excerpt:

“Ooooh, a dare.” Brody widened his eyes. “I can’t back down now. Tell you what: if I absolutely can’t stand the movie and leave, I’ll take you out for sushi some time. If I make it through the whole thing, you have to play me one of your songs.”

“Hey, wait,” Ryan said, startled. “I don’t remember offering to make any bets.”

“Chicken?”

“No!”

“Then what?” Brody asked. He couldn’t help it; it was fun to see her get a little shaken up.

“Why can’t the bet be that I take you out?” she countered.

“Doesn’t work that way.” Brody shook his head. “if I have to take a chance, so do you.” He grinned. “If you don’t like playing in front of people, that should make your gig next month interesting.”

“I’m fine in front of people.” Ryan inclined her chin. “Fine, you’ve got a bet.”

“Cool.” Brody reached over and squeezed her hand, surprising both of them. To cover his discomfort, he stood and gave her a sly smile. “Now, how about that movie?”

The Collection

The Collection, a novelette I wrote around Halloween, is now available as an e-book via Yellow Silk Dreams. It’s also available at Amazon.

In this story, Mark Peterson loves taking pictures of the women who intrigue him. However, he can’t stand to let them go and has found a way to keep them.

I hope you enjoy!

Excerpt:

“Come on, you can raise it higher.” Mark stood and walked over to the dresser, where he’d laid out his lenses and rolls of film.

Chloe laughed. “Any higher and it’ll be indecent.”

“There’s nothing indecent about you. It’s just us, Chloe. I told you.”

“I know, I’ve just never done anything like this before. I was in college before I got to the point of not hiding when someone took a picture.” She blushed a little and looked away. She would be thirty next month and she still felt uncomfortable having her picture taken.

“That’s crazy.” He unscrewed one lens, studied the selection, and chose another. “You could be a model.” He rewound the film, opened the camera and took it out, then inserted up a fresh roll and threaded it around the spool.

“Oh, hardly.” She laughed. “Thanks, but no, I’m a little too short and a lot not thin enough. You’re sweet to say so, though.”

“I’m not sweet, I’m honest.” He went over to her on the bed, took her hand and brushed his lips over her palm, enjoying the flush on her cheeks and the squirm of her body as he did.

Mark stood back and checked the settings on his camera. “Go on, Chloe. Raise it a little higher.”

Violence of writing

Yet again, more time has passed since my last post than I intended.

I recently wrote a story called “The Collection,” inspired by the song “A Collection,” by favorite group, Marillion. It’s a disturbing song by the band’s own admission, and when you hear the music and the lyrics together, it’s far creepier than “Every Breath You Take.” The music is light and lilting, the lyrics not so much (No one lives inside/my collection).

This is not a violent story; I don’t like to write violence, and especially sexual violence. However, when I submitted it to LushStories.com, it was rejected for violating their site guidelines (which I admit I didn’t read closely) on violence.

I have to tell you, I was shocked. Anyone who’s read my stuff knows that any violence in my stories is not sexual in nature, and in fact is mostly in my nonhuman stories, so it’s what the movies might call “fantasy violence.” That is, it might be a fight between a vampire and a weretiger, or a werewolf and another werewolf. “The Collection” is more in the Twilight Zone vein. There’s no actual violence — no one is hit, or physically assaulted — and it comes down to the supernatural. This isn’t the most original idea, I know, but I hope I put together a good story and entertained the readers.

Another story, “Facing the Past,” was rejected on violence grounds as well. Once more I was shocked. This story is about a woman, Annabeth, who escaped her abusive family. She returns to the town she left when she gets word her dying (and malevolent) grandmother wants to see her. While in town she meets with the boy, Chris, now a man, who helped her through the difficult times. The scene in question was a flashback, where Annabeth’s brother accosts her in their high school’s hallway. He shoves her into a locker, but Chris intervenes, and again there is no sexual violence.

Now, I will say and do believe that a privately-owned website can make its own rules. I did have a back and forth with a moderator at LushStories, but didn’t protest. I admit to some confusion, though — they have story categories for BDSM, Spanking and even one called “Reluctance.” Yet one fairly realistic, non-sexual, violent encounter is enough to reject the story? What about a murder mystery, I asked. What about the violence that’s fairly inherent in stories involving werewolves, vampires and other fantasy creatures? The answer I got, and it’s valid, is that it would be a case-by-case basis.

So I guess I wonder about violence in stories. Violence does not do much for me when it comes to sex. I have little interest in reading BDSM stories, and even less in non-consent or reluctance. Now, I’m all for a good action flick (and occasionally even a bad one), or action “books,” like spy thrillers and such (love the original Bourne trilogy by Robert Ludlum. But my experience with Lush made me wonder about who draws what lines.

Let me repeat, or make clear, I am not complaining about freedom of speech or anything like that. That’d be nuts. Lush, Literotica, etc., are privately-owned and if I don’t want to follow their rules, I can post elsewhere.

It’s the seeming inconsistency that bugs me, and perhaps there’s no real solution to that. It may be that the only way to be consistent is to be like StoriesOnline, and allow anything. I’d say that perhaps the issue (on LushStories) is consent but then I’d point to the Reluctance category, which implies lack of consent, or at least coercion. You could, I suppose, allow no violence at all, but that would severely limit your story pool.

An interesting outcome of all this, for me, is that I find myself wondering if I’d tailor future stories to fit Lush’s guidelines. I mean, I had something of an option to take out the scenes in question from “Facing the Past.” And the moderators at Lush were kind enough to direct me to their sister site, StoriesSpace, to see about posting the story there. However, as I understand it, SS is for non-erotic stories. I have hesitated to submit there because I don’t want to go to the trouble of dividing the story into small enough chapters to fit their requirements, then submit, then have it rejected. I have decided I will not remove the scene Lush objected to, and although I may decide to submit to SS, if it is rejected, I will not adjust it for that site, either.

I doubt this will be much of an issue for me, generally speaking. I do not write a lot of violence, as I said, and if I do, I like to think it fits the story and has some context, and it’s more than likely going to be in a fantasy story of some type. However, it is the first time I’ve wondered if I’d adjust to fit. I don’t think I would. I write what I think needs to be in a story, and then after some re-reads and input by beta readers, I make adjustments — but only those that I think/hope keep to my vision for the story, and not because I think it will be rejected somewhere.

(“The Collection” will be available soon from Yellow Silk Dreams.)

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