Guest Author Andrew Q. Gordon – To Happy Ever After or Not

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To Happy Ever After or not.

Pick up most romance books and you’ll find a Happy Ever After or Happy For Now ending.  I think for many, HEA is part of the definition of the romance genre. But is it the only definition.

I confess I knew so little about writing and publishing before my first book came out – I was truly clueless and I still don’t feel I know all that much. Word count, genres, troupes, marketing, you name it, I didn’t know squat about it. Back then I’d write the story and not worry about where it fit, would it fit a category. The main character dies for love – hey that’s a great story, right?  Not so much with many readers.

For good or ill, romance sells and romance requires a HEA or HFN ending.  If not, for many readers, it’s not romance.  Dreamspinner Press, a M/M romance publisher, has a ‘Bittersweet Dreams’ line for those stories without the HEA or HFN ending. But put your book there and it is a) not a straight up romance and b) not going to appeal to the same breathe of readers.

When Antya Sunday and I wrote (Un)Masked, we discussed whether one of the MCs  would die.[1]  The story could have gone either way, but for me–more so than Anyta–I didn’t want to kill off one of our characters. I was too invested in them.

And I think therein lays the answer to the question. If the author does their job right, the reader should feel invested in the characters and killing one off or not letting them find the HEA is something of a let down. That’s not to say that a bittersweet ending isn’t as good, but it certainly needs a different mindset from the reader. Which of course is why there is a ‘Bittersweet Dreams’ catefory.

This raises a different sort of dilemma: if you classify a story as romance or Bittersweet Dream, aren’t you giving away the ending? Put it in the romance bin and everyone has the right to expect there will be a HEA or HFN ending. Doesn’t knowing that the MCs are going to get that HEA spoil the tension and suspense?

In Purpose, I originally planned to not answer the question. The idea was to leave clues as to what I saw happening and then let the readers figure it out for themselves. There were enough clues to figure it out, but I also left enough doubt that you never knew for sure. I was advised to make the ending clear. So I did, but you’ll have to read the last paragraph to find out.

 

Blurb:

Purpose CoverForty years ago the Spirit of Vengeance—a Purpose—took William Morgan as its host, demanding he avenge the innocent by killing the guilty. Since then, Will has retreated behind Gar, a façade he uses to avoid dealing with what he’s become. Cold, impassive, and devoid of emotion, Gar goes about his life alone—until his tidy, orderly world is upended when he meets Ryan, a broken young man cast out by his family. Spurred to action for reasons he can’t understand, Gar saves Ryan from death and finds himself confronted by his humanity.

Spending time with Ryan helps Will claw out from under Gar’s shadow. He recognizes Ryan is the key to his reclaiming his humanity and facing his past. As Will struggles to control the Purpose, Ryan challenges him to rethink everything he knew about himself and the spirit that possesses him. In the process, he pushes Will to do something he hasn’t done in decades: care.

Pre-order link: Purpose from Dreamspinner Press

 

Excerpt:

“Will?” There was tension in Ryan’s voice.

“Yes?”

“I’d like us to go out with Jake if you still want.” His tone and body language didn’t match the words.

What brought this change about? “We don’t have to. I wasn’t trying to force anything.”

“I know you weren’t, but I’d like to go anyway.”

Will paused the movie. “What changed for you?”

“It’s like you said, you wouldn’t lie to me. Of all the people I’ve ever met, I know beyond any doubt, you’re the first one who won’t pretend. I trust you.”

Will felt a tingle in his nose, a precursor to a tear. The little time they’d been together meant so much to Ryan. How could affection be so missing in his life? “Thank you. I trust you too.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Ryan snorted. “I mean, what fool who looked like me would leave someone like you?”

“Whoa. Stop.” He pulled Ryan’s face up. “What fool would ever leave someone as beautiful as you? No….” He put two fingers over Ryan’s lips. “Hear me out. The moment I saw you on the Metro, I was drawn to you. You deserve so much better than me, but I’m going to try to make you happy anyway, for as long as you let me.”

Squeezing his eyes tight, Ryan turned back toward the television. “Really?”

“Absolutely.” He gently stroked Ryan’s head. “So no more talk about you being anything other than beautiful and hot. Deal?”

Twisting, Ryan all but jumped on top of him. Pressing his lips hard against Will’s, Ryan kissed him with a passion Will hadn’t felt in a long time. It was over quickly, and Ryan settled back onto Will’s chest. “Deal.”

Clicking the movie back on, Will asked, “So why the change of heart on seeing Jake?”

“I… I don’t have any friends. Us having some would be nice.”

The impact of the statement took Will’s voice. Amidst the sadness in the words was the hope Ryan felt for his future. He not only wanted friends, he expected they would have them together. He swallowed hard, wondering what possessed him to give up his emotionally detached life for this swirling mass of conflicting emotions. Then Ryan gave him a gentle kiss on the chest, and Will’s arms squeezed reflexively.

Detached was easier, but it was empty. For the first time since David, he felt alive again. A little pain was worth it, if this was how it felt when it was good. 

 

Contest:

Enter for a chance to win a $25.00 Dreamspinner Press credit. To be entered, you can leave a comment here, on any of the other post release blog stops or on the Purpose page on my site. For those who don’t know what to write – you can answer this question. Which do you enjoy more, HEA/HFN or Bittersweet stories?

Please leave an email so you can be notified if you win. All comments from all guest blog posts between the June 21, 2013 release date and July 1, 2013[2] will also be entered to win. The winner will be chosen using Randomizer.org on July 2. One entry per blog, but you can enter on each participating blog for more chances to win. For a complete list of eligible blogs, please see the Purpose book page on my blog:

Purpose: By Andrew Q. Gordon

 

About the Author:

Andrew Q. Gordon wrote his first story back when yellow legal pads, ball point pens were common and a Smith Corona correctable typewriter was considered high tech. Adapting with technology, he now takes his MacBook somewhere quiet when he wants to write.

He currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his partner of eighteen years, their young daughter and dog.  In addition to dodging some very self-important D.C. ‘insiders’, Andrew uses his commute to catch up on his reading. When not working or writing, he enjoys soccer, high fantasy, baseball and seeing how much coffee he can drink in a day and not get the shakes.

Follow Andrew on his website: www.andrewqgordon.com,

On Facebook:  www.facebook.com/andrewqugordon,

On Twitter:  @andrewqgordon,

Or just email him: andrewqgordon@gmail.com

 


[1] I’m not creating a spoiler by stating no, because the book was not listed by Dreamspinners as a Bittersweet Dream.

[2] All dates and times are East Coast, U.S.A. (EST).

*** This contest is now closed ***

Guest Author: Grace R Duncan – Chatting Choices and Reviews

ChoicesLGWhen I originally set out to write Choices, I honestly had no idea the monster it would become.  The idea started out as an AU fanfiction of the Naruto world.  It was to be the first alternate world (as opposed to alternate reality of Naruto) of my own making.

But as I was talking to the wonderful A.F. Henley about the concept behind Choices, he told me that it sounded like an amazing world and then he challenged me to write an original story, instead.  I don’t think he had any idea just what he unleashed.

Choices grew quickly.  From a short AU fanfic to a short story to a novel.  Then, as the novel progressed, I found myself fascinated not only with the main characters, but also with a number of the secondary characters.  They began to worm their way into my head and heart and demand their own stories.  I pushed it off, convinced for the longest time that this was going to be a single, standalone novel and that was that.

Well, Cyrus and Nadir wouldn’t stand for that.  Neither, apparently, would Darius and Salehi.  And before I knew what hit me, I was making notes on not one, but two more novels in this world.

I managed to make that be enough for the time being and put my effort into finishing Choices.  That novel took me a long time to write.  I started it before NaNoWriMo of 2011.  During NaNo, I managed another 55,000 words and then sometime between January and April, I finished it.  It ate up some 182,000 words, initially.  I stared at that number for a long time, shocked that I’d written so much in one story.

Mind you, novel-length stories aren’t anything new for me. I’ve been writing novel-length fanfiction for quite a long time.  The first story was put up on Fanfiction.net sometime in late 2008/early 2009.  Okay, four-ish years might not seem like a lot for most folks, but it is for me.  Before that, the most I’d written was bits and pieces of original fiction, short stories, poetry and the like, but not in a very long time— like, more than a decade, long.

But seeing myself finish a novel-length original story was an amazing accomplishment for me.  I owe a lot to my husband and my beta, who were both amazing cheerleaders for me and helped encourage me to finish.

Because I was terrified.  Of putting myself out there, of the rejection I was sure I’d get from the publishers I’d submit to.  I’d decided that even if it got turned down, I’d still put it out there on the web as original fiction, at least, for my friends to read.  And I was even scared to death of that – of the reviews I knew I’d get.

Reviews are both a bane and a balm to authors.  There isn’t a book out there that is unilaterally liked.  Every book ever published gets critical reviews as much as they get good ones.  The good ones help motivate us, keep us going, help us to get through that next book.

The bad ones… can stop us in our writing tracks.  Sometimes for days… weeks.  Even months.

I am not new to bad reviews.  I’ve had my share of them over the fanfiction I’ve written.  Something about the anonymity of the internet give a lot of folks insulation and the feeling that since it is the internet, they can say whatever they want.  But there are still real people on the other end of that screen, real people who put their hearts and souls into that story and when bad reviews come back, it is heartbreaking. I should be clear, here.  I’m not talking about reviews with good, constructive criticism here, ones that talk about character problems or plot holes.  I’m talking about reviews that shred the author for the sake of being nasty.  And we’ve all received them.

Despite the fact that I have received my share of bad reviews for fanfiction – and one such review once had me unable to write for over two months – despite having received them, I have found that reviews of my original work are even harder to take.  I can’t explain it; it doesn’t make sense.  But they hurt, much more than any of the mean-spirited reviews I’ve taken over my fanfiction.

As I sat down to work on Deception — my next book— I have found myself blocked on more than one occasion.  I’ve been told over and over again to not even read the reviews, much less let them bother me.  But it is easier said than done.

The most common thing I’ve heard so far is that Choices has too much sex.  It was intended to be a sexy erotica novel.  The sex is integral to the story and the plot is woven through it.  You can’t separate them.  And I was (and still am, if I let myself be) proud of that book.  In a lot of ways – not just because it was my first novel and the first original story like that that I finished.

See… I like sex. I like to read about it and I like to write about it.  I love BDSM and I love good stories about BDSM that handle it right.  So when I set out to write Choices, I wrote something that I would have wanted to read.

Well, I got warned that it might be too much, but I sent it off and Dreamspinner liked it.  They wanted to publish it.  The edits came back and my wonderfully patient content reviewer warned me about the sexual content (not the type of sex, the amount).  We cut and moved. We revised and rewrote and we both were happy with what was left. It was still a lot, but a lot less.

And still, the most common comment I hear is… too much sex.

The problem that comes with that is that Deception is the same type of book.  It, too, is erotica.  It follows Cyrus and Nadir of Choices, two other pleasure slaves.  This is, in fact, what they are.  And when I let those reviews get to me, I start to realize how hard it is to keep writing what Deception should be – and erotica novel with sex that is inseparable from the plot.

But thanks to some very wise words from a couple of close friends of mine, I realize that I still like Deception. I still like the type of book it is and others will, too.  There are quite a few people already looking forward to it.  And it is on these readers that I should be focusing – the ones that I know like Choices and want more.

Well, they’ll get more.  After I finish Deception, I have plans for not one, but possibly up to three more stories.   I mentioned before that this world didn’t want to let go of me.  The characters have become such a part of me, so many of them want my attention.  Two of Teman’s clansmen – Hamid and Isam – have insisted that they want their story told.  And then there is an even more minor character, a serving boy in Bathasar’s chambers by the name of Ghalib who may even get his own.

Will they all be the same level of erotica? I don’t know. That remains to be seen.  Those stories will tell themselves, like Deception is doing now.

It’s not up to me to fight it.  It’s not for me to question it, despite what the reviews say.

It’s just up to me to tell the story that needs to be told.

 

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Thank you so much to Charlie for hosting me today! It is an honor to spend time in the Teahouse!

Please be sure to leave a comment below! Do you write? Have you ever received reviews? How did they affect you?  Do you leave reviews? What is your philosophy on them?  Leave your opinion for a chance to win a bag of swag and be entered to win a signed paperback copy of Choices! Thanks for reading!

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Choices Blurb:

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

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Where to find Grace:

Website: http://www.grace-duncan.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorgracerduncan
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6606362.Grace_R_Duncan
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GraceRDuncan