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  • Bon Appetit: Stories & Recipes for Human Consumption
    Bon Appetit: Stories & Recipes for Human Consumption
    by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt, Rev. Thomas Thorn, Nikko Lee, Dax Bordas, Sebastian Bendix, Rick Powell, Misty Tyers, J. N. Cameron
    Contains Bouillon de Bebe 
  • Spar
    Spar
    by Nikko Lee

    A closeted black belt comes to terms with his bisexuality when he takes an openly gay student as his new sparring partner.

  • Wolf Creek
    Wolf Creek
    by Nikko Lee

    Life as a gay omega werewolf is no fairytale.

  • NECRONOMICUM #2 (NECRONOMICUM: The Magazine of Weird Erotica)
    NECRONOMICUM #2 (NECRONOMICUM: The Magazine of Weird Erotica)
    by Gary Budgen, Julian Darius, Richard Greico Jr, Nikko Lee, K. A. Opperman, Alice Renard, Rose Banks, Paul St. John Mackintosh, Michael Seese

    Contains Instabiable by Nikko Lee

  • Zombiefied Reloaded: The Search for More Brains
    Zombiefied Reloaded: The Search for More Brains
    by Carol Hightshoe, Cynthia Ward, Terry M. West, Christie Meierz, Dana Bell, Mary E. Lowd, Patrick J. Hurley, Francis W. Alexander, Liam Hogan

    Brainatarian by Nikko Lee

  • Coming Back
    Coming Back
    by James Arthur Anderson, Brian Barnett, Dave Fragments, Shawna Galvin, Vince Darcangelo, Ken Goldman, Michael Lindquist

    Contains A Mother Knows by Nikko Lee (paperback available at Lulu.com)

  • Wolf Warriors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology
    Wolf Warriors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology
    by Jonathan W. Thurston

    Contains Great Mother Wolf by Michelle Knowlton

  • People Eating People: A Cannibal Anthology
    People Eating People: A Cannibal Anthology
    by Frank Larnerd, Tony Peak, Geoff Gander, Shenoa Caroll-Bradd, Robert Hart, Nikko Lee, Kyle Yadlosky, Edward Martin III

    Contains Bouillon de Bebe by Nikko Lee

  • Valves & Vixens: Steampunk Erotica
    Valves & Vixens: Steampunk Erotica
    by Nicole Gestalt, Crysta Coburn, J.T Seate, Nikko Lee, V.C., Zak Jane Keir, Blair, Regina Kammer, Jim Lee

    Contains Boson's Mate by Nikko Lee

  • The Big Book of Bizarro
    The Big Book of Bizarro
    by Rich Bottles Jr.

    Contains Honey-Do by Nikko Lee

  • Between Love and Lust
    Between Love and Lust
    by Nikko Lee

    E-book

    Print-on-demand paperback

  • Templar and Other Stories of Suspense and Terror (Vampires 2, Volume 4)
    Templar and Other Stories of Suspense and Terror (Vampires 2, Volume 4)
    by J. Troy Seate, Patricia McCarthy, Nikke Lee, Andrea Saavedra, James Hartley, Edward McKeown, Mike Graves, J.E. Gurley, Zakk Erikson, David Bernstein C.C. Blake

    Contains Pure Delight by Nikko Lee

Monday
Apr042011

Skill, substance, and style

Despite being a slow reader, I gobbled up JR Ward's latest in her Black Dagger Brotherhood, Lover Unleashed, in less than two days. Partly, it was because there are some sections that I skim. Mostly, it is because I am so excited to see how certain relationships develop. However, the read was not as enjoyable as I wanted it to be. In the end, I had more quibbles than kudos for the book. Then came time to post my review on Goodreads and pick those silly little stars.

Five stars just don't allow for enough of a range when reviewing a book.

JR Ward is a skilled story teller. Many of her characters are likeable and engaging. Her vampire myth is my favorite so far. And while it is one of my quibbles, she evolves some exceedingly complicated and intersecting plots. I can't complain about her writing skill or a lack of story. However, I do grumble about her plot choices and over-abundance of characters.

I think one reader on the goodreads BDB board said it best. Low reviews of particular BDB books have more to do with the featured couple than the quality of the book. I'll second that and add that JR Ward's unique style (the product name dropping, clunky slang, and many-words-strung-together-to-replace-a-few-words nouns) does as much for her writing as it takes away from it.

A rating of 2 out of 5 stars felt as if I were cheating potential readers out of a good read. Some people love couples I hate and vice versa. In the end, I bumped the rating up to 3/5. This book was quite mediocre for me because of all the extras I honestly didn't care about. I'm eagerly awaiting Qhuinn and Blay's novella - it's been promised within the next year by the Warden herself. I'm curious about the next installment in the series, even though I know it will probably be mediocre in my eyes.

It all served to remind me just why it is so hard to be a successful author.

First, you need skill. That's what I am currently working on. At this stage, I need to write, get critiques, develop my skills, and repeat. JR Ward has mad skills, even if I disagree with how she uses them.

Second, you need substance. All the skills in the world are meaningless without sympathetic or compelling characters and an engaging plot. I struggle to determine if the characters and stories I develop are strong enough and entertaining enough to capture readers attention. I'm particularly worried that Dark Heritage doesn't have the necessary HEA ending to qualify as a romance. I worry readers won't find Leif a sympathetic character. I might argue that some of JR Ward's characters are a little weak and their personalities change depending on the needs of the plot.

Third, you need to develop your own style. No one wants to read a second-rate author. By consequence of being individuals, authors have unique voices that can either add to or detract from their work. While I found JR Ward's product name dropping quaint in the first book, it got old quick. I am also in the anti-slang group, and despise the too-long-for-their-own-good words. But this is her style. I would recognize it anywhere, under any name. It is unique and different. By the ninth book, you either love it or hate it. I lean towards the later.

Yet I keep reading. Her books are like sexy alpha vampire crack. So here's an author with skill, substance, and style. If by some shift in the universe I was her editor (and knew what I was doing) I'd be getting her to carry a story line to a conclusion; I'd firm up her female characters; I'd cut out a lot of the Lessers; I'd be tempted to nix the Virgin Scribe/Omega storyline except that it accounts for Vishous; I'd tone down the slang and mutli-word nouns; etc. Would that produce a better book? Maybe, maybe not. It would be the book I wanted, but would readers at large fall in love with a toned-down JR Ward? I think not - yes I'm back to reading the Godspeaker trilogy.

As I prepare for the numerous rejection letters I will need to face, I'll remind myself to ask 'What's missing'? Skill? Substance? Style? Market? Great books never get published. Mediocre books become bestsellers with sparkly vampires.

Writing a mediocre review for a bestselling author because she doesn't write the way I want her to reminds me of how hard it is to be a successful author.

Friday
Apr012011

Zombie erotica?

Over a year ago, the call for submissions to Rigor Amortis, a zombie erotica anthology, went out. On the list of words that I had never dreamed of putting together, zombie erotica ranks high. What could possibly be sexy about ravenous, rotting corpses?

My first attempt at a zombie erotica, Honey-do, was selected as one of three storytime contributor stories for EWRA's April gallery.

So what changed me mind about zombies being sexy? I think I'm going to have to blame Ben Delano. In the first part of his NaNoWriMo podcast, Victor Zulu, unforeseen occurrences convert a virus designed to cure HIV into one that kills then reanimates its human hosts. Initially, the virus boosts human sexuality to increase its dissemination into the population. It's not so far fetched considering Toxomplasmosa gondii alters mouse behavior to bring it closer to the cat host in which the protozoan parasite reproduces. An even scarier though is that research has indicated that this parasite may also alter human behavior.

Now take a listen to Rob Zombie's Living Dead Girl. There something really hot about those lyrics set to a driving base, at least in my opinion.

Then there is the zombie's insatiable appetite. Substitute sex for cannibalism, get ride of the rotting flesh, and I think there might be something sexy about zombies.

Sexified monsters can provide an irresistable combination of danger and desire.

What do you think?

Friday
Mar252011

Don't Do It!

I've discovered another excellent sci-fi/fantasy publishing podcast. The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy is hosted by John Joseph Adams. He is an author and editor of several anthologies and fiction magazines, including Lightspeed magazine. Never heard of Lighspeed? Go to ITunes right now, and download a reading from their online magazine. Their sci-fi is entertaining and thought-provoking. My favorite so far is Similacrum by Ken Liu.

After listening to one Geek's podcast, I was hooked. Since the beginning of the week, I've been making progress through the past episodes. My podcast addiction is starting to pay off in that I am starting to recognize the names of popular and award-wining authors in sci-fi and fantasy, even though I have not read their works yet. I am woefully under-read, a falling that I am steadily trying to rectify. I am constantly adding to my must read list.

It is always fascinating to hear authors talk about their path to 'success,' or rather their current state of publication. I always get a kick out of the number one advice most published authors give to aspiring authors; don't do it.

Really, that's the advice authors with print publications have for newbies and wannabes. Given how hard it is to develop writing skills, let alone convince an agent, publisher, and the market, I honestly can't say I hold it against them.

Here's what I've learned from listening to countless interviews with new and established authors who have obtained some modicum of success:

It's hard. It's daunting. It takes talent. It takes discipline. It takes luck. It takes timing. It takes a lot of work. It takes expert advice. It takes readers. It takes a lot of hard work, and, even then, you aren't guaranteed to be any good or that your writing will sell. Having one or twenty publications doesn't guarantee the next story will sell.

The number of authors who are instant successes is astronomically small. Most regularly published authors struggle for years, even after they've established themselves as authors, to sell their work to publishers on a regular basis. Hearing the horrible experiences of some authors makes me realize I have nothing to complain about.

I'm reminded of a section from Blade of the Immortal - yes, it's a manga; bear with me. Set in feudal Japan, the story follows an 18 year old girl on her quest for revenge on the man who killed her parents. She's trained every day for 2 years in her father's dojo to master their system's sword techniques. Then she pairs up with a samurai whose has actually faced death numerous times and killed. A few days of training with him, and she's ready to quit. She thinks she might not have any natural talent for sword fighting. The samurai laughs at her. He tells her that she has no right to ask that question until she's practiced so hard her hands bleed.

Being a martial artist, who doesn't come doesn't have any natural martial art talent, this passage has always struck a chord with me. Just because something is hard, and you aren't skilled, doesn't mean you will not improve with a lot of practice. Improvement is a long road, sometimes it takes a life time. But it is a path that must be taken one step at a time. Or in the case of writing one story at a time.

I try to remember that each story written and edited to submission quality is another step along the path. I might never get as far as I want to get, but I will move forward as long as I keep trying and learning.

When I heard authors advising others not to take up the pen (or keyboard), it is a sobering reminder of the struggles that most authors face in chasing their dream of writing. So many people want to write, yet how many actually do it? How many finish that novel? How many can produce something that a publisher will publish? How many will sell enough copies to show their work is marketable? How many will be more than a one book or one series wonder? How many will continue to love writing when so many other responsibilities demand their attention?

Like so many things in life, becoming an author is a journey and not an end. Still, it is tempting to dream of one day seeing a book that I've written on the shelf of a bookstore or in the hands of a reader I've never met before.

What have I written this week? Not much. I've been gobbling up the second book in Karen Miller's Godspeaker trilogy. I tried a little editing on BDD, only to realize that it needs a read-through to identify needed re-write. I received another rejection letter from an agent for Dark Heritage. I am inspired and terrified about an idea for a steampunk romance/adventure story. I did the final edits on Honey-do, a zombie erotica short story. It will be posted on EWRA's gallery next month. A little publicity can't hurt.

Simulacrum

Wednesday
Mar162011

Drops in a bucket

Life is filled with dreams and aspirations that sometimes seem just out of reach. More often than not, they seem so far in the distance that they are only a glimmer on the horizon. The dream of writing well is one of those glimmers for me. It strengthens whenever a friend or stranger tells me that they have enjoyed my writing or the rare occurrence when my writing get published. More often than not, I must struggle against a tide of self-doubt and the realization of how far I have to go.

On her 'I Should Be Writing' podcast this week, Myr Lafferty talked about the importance of small steps towards an ultimate goal. The discussion centered about the small steps needed to create healthy living. I know well how health goals are achieved through a slow and steady process. Over the last 3 years, I've lost nearly 60 pounds. It's frustrating to see the dial on the scale stay the same or occasionally increase from week to week. I have set-backs and still continue to make progress towards my weight loss goal. I'm almost there. But it happened one pound at a time.

I started thinking about how acquiring skill also takes a lot of little steps and a lot of time. There are tiny steps forwards, many slides backwards, and lots of feeling like there is no progress at all. Yet after years of effort and practice, improvement is achieved. I know my writing skills are not developed as those of other authors. I know that coming up with a story and getting it written, let alone editing it into a format that others can read, is a difficult task for me. Likely, it will always be difficult.

Yet for every word I put on the page, for each story I complete and edit, and for each submission I send, I get one step closer to being the writer I want to be. It's easy to get discouraged looking at where other writers are in their careers, how I compare to the writers I admire, or those who have print contracts. When that happens, I think of some of the things authors I respect and admire have said.

-It's ok to suck.

-How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

-Be the cockroach of the writing world.

The other drops in a bucket that came to mind this week are books sold or rather readers hooked. On Writing Excuses, the gang talked about how books aren't sold by the thousands but one reader at a time. Marketing is about connecting with each reader. Word of mouth connects current readers with future readers. Before I purchase a book online, I read the available reviews. If a book is recommended by one of my favorite podcasters, I check it out. It's that connection that I need to learn how to foster no matter what format my works appear in.

As far as my current writing, I'm still dabbling in short stories. I've returned to my erotica roots to to blend it with steampunk and horror. There's a call out by Carina Press for a steampunk collection that I am seriously tempted to write something for. My steampunk experience is limited, and I have some qualms about diving into a genre that requires a lot of historical knowledge. But as someone said, you shouldn't attempt something unless you feel like you might not be able to do it.

Tuesday
Mar082011

Labor of love

Recently, I've been a little adrift as far as writing is concerned. A few weeks ago, I finished up my final draft of Dark Heritage and sent out 10 agent query letters. It might seem ambitious to seek an agent at this point, but the worst that will happen is a pile of rejection emails. So far I've received 3 rejection letters. If I haven't heard anything by the end of the month, I will move onto querying some publishers.

Waiting for rejection letter is never fun, and something an author isn't supposed to do. The ideal is to move onto the next project. I hit the ground running by writing and submitting a steampunk erotica short story. There are a few short stories that I want to write before I get back to editing Between Duty and Desire.

There  is no shortage of things to work on. Yet since writing that steampunk erotica, I have yet to complete another piece. I've made attempts at a couples D/s erotica and a sci-fi short. I've thought about writing. I've been reading and getting blog posts up. Still my mind keeps going back to waiting for those rejection letters so that I can move onto the next stage.

Waiting for rejection is like waiting for that guy to call you back. You know the one. You went on one great date with him. He was funny and smart. He made you feel on top of the world. The date keeps replaying in your mind along with the possibilities of what could be. All the while days go by and still no word from him. At least that's what it feels like to me.

I start to doubt that the novel that is by far my best work still isn't good enough. I worry that no matter how well-written it might be the topic is over done. I worry that no one will see what I see in the story. I worry that I will never write anything good enough to be published no matter how long and hard I work. I worry that all my ideas are over-done, and I don't have the skill to make them new. I worry that I don't have the motivation, heart, desire, or ability to write something if no one is going to read it.

Then I listened to this week's Writing Excuses podcast, and a light bulb went off.

The podcast was all about perseverance as a writer. Sherrilyn Kenyon made another appearance. She shared her trials and tribulations,  and she's had plenty of both. Listening to these best-selling authors express their own doubts, brick walls, failures, and frustrations put my own worries into perspective. If Brandon Sanderson had to write 12 novels before he got his first published, then at 7 novels written (3 polished and submitted) and 1 published, I have little to complain about. If best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon can survive being told never to submit her works to a particular publisher again because they would never be published, I can handle the form rejection letters.

After sharing their hardships (including being unemployed and homeless even after producing NY Times best-sellers), the gang talked about how they got over their despair. The common theme that emerged is that you have to love your work. Forget the agents, the publishers, the reviewers, the sales figures, a writer must write because he or she loves to do it. Give them a few spare minutes, and they are plotting out scenes or inventing characters.

It really struck me how writing has to be a labor of love. Skill comes with effort, practice, and time. Agents and publishers will only pick the manuscripts they think will sell or are worth publishing. Some reviewers and readers will love every word you write while others will hate those same words with equal passion. There are so many things that I can't control. My strength comes from loving to create stories.

I've decided that first I've got to write for myself. I need to write the stories I want to write because I want to tell them. I can experiment with different styles and genres. I can produce horrible stories that are beyond repair. I can slave over the stories I believe in until they are presentable. I can submit my work to crit groups. I can improve the text until I think it is publishable. I can submit and learn from the responses I get.

These are the things I can do. Whether an agent or publisher picks up one of my novels is beyond my control. I will nurture my little darlings with all my heart and skills. Once they are submitted, I set my words free to the world to flourish or flounder on their own merit and the whims of the market.

So what did I write last night? A few hundred words of a zombie erotica. I know, it's kind of weird and morbid. But it was fun. And that's what really matters.