Review Excerpts


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: The Lost Lenore

(Parts of this were originally published on March 28, 2013)

Trope: The Lost Lenore

Description: The Lost Lenore is a dead love interest of one of the main characters. Not only is she dead, her absence has a profound effect on the character for the rest of the work, to the point where it influences the plot. Lost Lenores can either be dead at the beginning of the story or die early on, but either way, it's the reaction to her death that determines if she qualifies for this trope. Just being dead isn't enough; it's whether or not she has the same level of significance, if not more, as she would if she were alive. While they're often female, every now and then a male Lost Lenore pops up.

Examples: Lenore from The Raven (duh), April from Rent, Ellie from Up, Glenn from Fire Emblem: Three Houses (as an aside, holy shit, is there a lot of fanfic about a character who never even appears on screen)

Pros: Love is powerful and can even transcend death. A Lost Lenore can also be the inspiration for all sorts of plots for the lover she left behind, from some soul-searching and self-discovery to kick-ass vengeance. In romance, the audience is touched if the hero is able to work through his grief and learn to love again.

Cons: It can be hard to land in the sweet spot of "has grieved appropriately and is ready to move on." As always, this is subjective, and what might be "too soon" to one reader is another reader's "what took so long?" Tone is important to keep in mind here, too, as anything overly cheery will feel incongruous right after Lost Lenore's death. Also, considering they're dead (or die quickly), Lost Lenores can be difficult to develop and make into three-dimensional characters.

Would/Did I Use It?: Meyta from Disintegration definitely qualifies. That's not a spoiler, it's in the blurb of the book. She's dead by the second chapter, but don't think for a moment that she'll be easily forgotten. (And that's all I'll say about her, as I don't want to reveal true spoilers!) I also have a less-common male example in Kevin, April's dead husband in Elysium. Not only is she still grieving him at the start of the book, which kicks off the plot, but a simulation of him actually shows up at one point via virtual reality. What would Poe have to say about THAT, hmm?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Disintegration - Release Week

 

The official release day for Disintegration was on August 30th, and it was a great week! Pre-orders went out, some ARC reviews went up beforehand, pages have been read on Kindle Unlimited, and I even sold a couple of paperbacks. Phew! I'm also in the midst of some promo events, so let's have a link dump.

 


As a reminder, newsletter subscribers get a free PDF of Disintegration: The Prequels (check out that new AMAZING cover art!), as well as being the first to hear about news and sales and whatnot. If you haven't already signed up, there's a form in the corner, or you can use this link.

In addition to having some reviews on Amazon, there are more ratings and reviews on the Goodreads page. I guess now is a good time to not-so-gracefully include a reminder to support indie authors by reviewing their books, as we're all on an endless mission to defeat the Dreaded Algorithm (for Amazon, Twitter, etc.).

Also this week, I was interviewed by Aubry Andrews, which was a ton of fun! If you're not already following Aubry on Twitter, DO IT NOW. In addition to posting submitted confessions every Friday, she's a big supporter of her fellow erotica authors, and is just plain fun. You won't regret it.

I'm still working on some other promotions, along with trying to find some time to work on my new project, and I'll have some relevant tropes for you in the coming weeks. Busy, busy, busy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: Author Avatar

(Parts of this were originally posted on June 6, 2013)

Trope: Author Avatar

Description: Not limited solely to books, the Author Avatar is a version of the creator of a work inserted into the work itself. This can work in a number of different ways. Sometimes the Author Avatar is the narrator, giving opinions on what's going on in the story. Other times, he/she just makes a cameo appearance as a minor character. Every now and then, you get a character who is obviously the creator's favorite and can do no wrong, leading to the dreaded Mary Sue (which, yes, can happen in canon works).

Examples: Charlie Brown/Charles Schulz; Dante in the Divine Comedy; Liz Lemon/Tina Fey in 30 Rock; a whole lot of Stephen King, Woody Allen, and Tim Burton characters

Pros: It's important to have a distinctive voice when writing, so why not use your own? Aspiring writers are frequently told "write what you know", so it makes sense to write it from your own point of view, regardless of whether you're blatant about it or try to camouflage it. I only chose a few examples for this post, but there are plenty of others out there. A lot of writing conveys the author's opinions and biases anyway, so you might as well really try sell it via your main character, right?

Cons: Make your Author Avatar unrealistic and flawless, and your audience is going to rebel. They'll probably rebel loudly, especially if they disagree with "the character's" opinions. Somewhere along the way, you're going to have to write a character that isn't a version of yourself. Don't let the Author Avatar become a crutch!

Would/Did I Use It?: Years later, my answer hasn't changed much. While some main characters I write are more similar to real-life me than others, I haven't intentionally put myself into a book, nor do I plan to. For fun, though, if I had to pick the character who comes the closest, I'd go with Veronica, the main character of Seductive Suspect. We all like to think we'd be a hero in an adventurous story, but when the shit starts hitting the fan in the book, Veronica locks herself in the bathroom and cries, which is probably what I'd wind up doing. Combined with her love for coffee, crossword puzzles, and snark, she's the closest thing I have to an Author Avatar.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Trope-Tastic Tuesdays: Act of True Love

Trope: Act of True Love

Description: So our characters are madly, hopelessly in love, but the universe is often cruel and refuses to let them be happy together for more than five minutes. (Fucking universe, man.) One of the pair—or sometimes even both!—is so very much in love, they will make a great personal sacrifice for the other person, whether for their relationship in general or even to save their partner's life. This doesn't necessarily have to be a romance trope, as it can be for a platonic or familiar relationship; it's also possible for this one to be a death trope. Hmm. Ominous.

Examples: Anna blocking Elsa from that asshole Hans's sword in Frozen; both Rapunzel and Flynn try to sacrifice their happiness/lives for each other at the end of Tangled (Disney really is a fan of this one); depending on your choices in Dragon Age: Origins, the ending can play out this way if you've romanced Alistair

Pros: The power of love is always compelling. And this isn't just everyday, garden-variety love...this is true love! Done well in a romance, an Act of True Love can make readers all fluttery and swoon-y.

Cons: For me personally, you've got to *really* develop your characters and plot well to stick the landing here and make it convincing. Like, I don't know if I'd risk using this trope in, say, a short story. Not to say it can't be done, of course, but it takes skill. Also, if you're writing a romance, if you're using a death trope version of this, some readers might hate you forever. Then again, some might love you even more. Blah blah art is subjective blah.

Would/Did I Use It?: Hahaha, so, funny story: Timeline-wise, I wrote most of Fire Beyond the Frost first, shelved it for a while, and wrote Out of Orbit before coming back to it. I think it was while I was editing FBtF that I realized—if you whittle both of those books down to their basic elements, they essentially have the same plot. And both of them end with an Act of True Love. Granted, the stakes are higher for Jasmine in OoO than they are for Catalina in FBtF, but the striking similarities are there regardless. So, like Disney, I guess I'm a fan of this trope!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Disintegration Updates, Part the Next

If you haven't seen the full cover for Disintegration yet (which means you may not be a newsletter subscriber or a Twitter buddy, which means you're missing out!), here it is in all its glory:

Everything's still on track for an official release day of August 30th, though I may make the paperback live earlier. I'm happy to report that everything went smoothly with setting up the paperback on Amazon when I uploaded the file. I'd heard horror stories of tiny little things going wrong and authors ripping their hair out when trying to find the needle in the haystack and figure out why it wasn't being accepted, which is why I was considering outsourcing the formatting. I actually got it right on the first try, which I was pretty damn excited about, though I did make a couple tweaks once I saw it in the previewer. Then I ordered a proof, which was also pretty damn exciting:

To get ready for the release, I've been sending out ARCs/review requests, setting up promo spots, and so on. I intentionally planned the release for the end of the summer since we'll be up at the Cape for much of August, so now I'm a little restless as I'm in the "sit around and wait" phase. I know once I actually get to the beach, I'll be glad I scheduled everything the way I did; I just have to slog through that "I want to do this thing NOW" feeling for the next few days.

The blurb hasn't changed since the original release, but I'll include it below, anyway. The next newsletter is going to have a link to the first two chapters in their entirety, so make sure you're signed up!

Blurb:

Dutiful soldier and devoted family man Callum Renwick fights to defend his country from the two opposing nations sharing its border. Following a brutal attack on his unit, he wakes up in the underground laboratory of a well-known mercenary organization. The leader of the Midnight Scorpions, Dr. Dane Zedek, informs him he was the sole survivor of the attack, and his hometown and loved ones were obliterated by enemy forces. As he processes the news of his loss, he learns he has been badly injured, and Zedek and his assistant have supplanted half his body with artificial skin and cybernetic parts.

Zedek intends to train Callum to become a lethal assassin for him, designating the woman who coordinated the attack as his first target. While he prepares to exact his revenge, he is assigned to the care of another agent in the Scorpions’ base. Ro is brash and outspoken, yet aspects of her character remain enigmatic. Despite declaring personal relationships useless in the cold, cruel world in which they live, she invites herself into Callum’s bedroom more nights than not. In her coaching, she pushes him physically, emotionally, and sexually to mold him into the killer the organization desires.

During his quest to hunt down his nemesis, more and more of Callum’s biological body parts fail and must be replaced. In addition to dealing with his grief, he struggles to come to terms with his new appearance, functions, and responsibilities. Will he be able to transform himself into what Ro and the Midnight Scorpions need, yet still retain his humanity?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Trope-tastic Tuesdays: Silver Fox

Before we get to this installment of Trope-tastic Tuesdays, a quick announcement: the newsletter subscriber bonus is going to be changing in a few weeks, so if you haven't already signed up and received your free copy of Sweet Escape, don't miss your chance! You can use the form that's over there on the sidebar, or this sign-up link.

Onward!

Trope: Silver Fox

Description: A person—often male, often with gray or white hair—who, despite their age, is still regarded as being attractive and charming. Silver Foxes are distinguished and powerful; after all, being older has its perks. If the Silver Fox is a love interest, the other half of the pair will usually be younger, though it's not required. To qualify for this trope, characters have to play by the rules - they have to *look* older, not just *be* older. No thousand-year-old vampires who look like they're in their 20s allowed, etc.

Allegedly, the female version of the Silver Fox is the Silver Vixen, but I'm going to be honest here, I don't think that idea is nearly as popular, which I'll expand on below.

Examples: Oh, hell, just take your pick of older actors who only seem to get better with age. There definitely isn't a shortage of them.

Pros: None of us are getting any younger, right? It's nice to know that even as we age past what's considered the "standard" ideal of beauty, there's still a chance others will find us attractive. In romance especially, this can be used as a shortcut to help establish a power dynamic, for better or worse. If a Silver Fox is in a relationship with another character, chances are he's not going to be the passive, submissive one.

Cons: Time for the standard disclaimer about how all appearance-based tropes for love interests are highly subjective! Okay, that's out of the way. The aforementioned power dynamics in the "pros" list can also be subjective, and it can veer into problematic territory if the Silver Fox is using his age and assumed privilege to influence his partner to do things she may not really want to do.

I said I'd come back to the gender issue; as much as TV Tropes may try to convince me otherwise, I do feel like this one favors the men, and I'm not sold on the "Silver Vixen" thing. I mean, a good number of the women on their list of examples didn't have gray or white hair. I suppose we could debate whether the "silver" part is supposed to be taken literally or if this is all just about a general persona. Regardless, there's a whole lot to unpack here about how society sees men aging vs. women aging.

(If someone knows the difference between "Silver Vixen" and "Cougar", PLEASE enlighten me.)

Would/Did I Use It?: I do have a few entries for this trope! First up is Colin, one of Celeste's potential love interests in Blazing Justice. He's older than her, he's her boss, and yup, he's got the hair. It's no secret that other women in the office find him attractive, too. Lucky her.

I'm going back and forth on whether Edwin from Closing Montage qualifies. He and Abigail take a trip through the highlights of their lives via virtual reality, so obviously he's an older man by the end, but she's aging, too, so there's no contrast there. Additionally, there's one point where he questions whether she's still attracted to him in his older form (SHE IS!), so his lack of confidence may prevent him from being a true Silver Fox.

Bonus mention of Aras in Out of Orbit - he's over 500 years older than love interest Jasmine. Despite the fact that he may not look so old to her, he's considered to be in the older age range for his species. Plus, since he's the ruler of his planet, he's got the elevated status that contributes to this trope. While he doesn't have any hair, his skin is silvery gray, so I will insist that counts and add him to the end of this list. :D

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Trope-tastic Tuesdays: Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl

Trope: Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl

Description: Not necessarily a romance trope, when you have a male character and a female character hanging out and doing whatever in your fictional world, one way to play with expectations and subvert stereotypes is to have the man be the calmer, more pragmatic one while the woman is the zany one who's bouncing off the walls. Despite the trope name, this can also be used with same-sex relationships as long as the contrast is there. Mileage varies as to whether this counts as an "opposites attract" trope; a lot of times, the characters share the same goals and priorities, they just approach them in different ways.

Examples: Anna and Kristoff from Frozen, Simon and Kaylee from Firefly, a classic example in Lucy and Ricky from I Love Lucy

Pros: If all our characters had the same personalities, that would get pretty boring. As mentioned above, this trope plays around with stereotypes - often it's the men who get to have all the wacky hijinks while the women get shoved into the "maternal" role to keep everyone grounded. Girls just want to have fun, or so I've been told, so let's let them!

Cons: There's a fine line between "energetic/perky" and "ditzy," and I'm not a fan of the latter. The Energetic Girl can also veer into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory, which is a trope that doesn't have a spotless history, alas.

Would/Did I Use It?: In reviewing my books, this came up more than I would have expected. In Closing Montage, Abigail is the one who has to convince Edwin to loosen up and have some fun, beginning with the very premise of their virtual date. I'd also apply this to Fire Beyond the Frost despite it being a lesbian romance - here, nurse Sari is the cute, bubbly one, while doctor Catalina just wants to do her job well and barely cracks a smile for at least the first few chapters.