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 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:



Special Guest: Grace R. Duncan

A huge thank you to Charlie for hosting me!

Choices is my first ever published novel.  I started it way back when, but of course, never had the nerve to put my stuff out there.  Then a few years ago, I made the leap to putting fanfiction on the web and that was what really changed things for me.

When I started writing fanfiction, I had always stuck very firmly to “canon-verse,” maintaining the world that the original creator started with.  Then, almost two years ago, a fellow fanfiction writer got me sucked into an alternate universe of hers.

I was hooked.

I talked it over with her and before long, I was writing in her AU.  It was still someone else’s world but much further removed from canon.  And I started to really appreciate the appeal of your own world and being able to make things how you want them.

Then I ran across art done of a pleasure slave over on Y!Gallery.  I can’t find the picture anymore, but  you know the kind.  They’re often inspired by Anne Rice’s Beauty series – naked, sometimes covered in jewelry, ready to be played with at the whim of some Master or Mistress.  Already interested in BDSM and familiar with domination and submission for pleasure, it took root very quickly and in less time than I can tell you about it, Teman was conceived.

At the same time, my friends (and daughter) had been pushing me to get into NaNoWriMo.  I hemmed and hawed, agreed and changed my mind.  Despite having written nearly twenty novel-length fanfiction stories, the concept of a full original novel still intimidated me.  But I caved to peer pressure, pulled out the notes I’d made about Teman and started scribbling furiously.

Initially, Teman was supposed to fall in love with his best friend, Jasim.  Well, he was having none of that and instead, told me flat out that he was attracted to the crown amir, Bathasar.  My characters have always had more sway over my stories than I do, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s best just to listen to them.

As NaNoWriMo moved along, I found myself pounding out chapter after chapter of story.  I won NaNo, but the book was still nowhere near done.  Teman had more to say, Bathasar had more to do and Mukesh was doing his best to make it difficult on both of them.  I had stumbling blocks and despite the point of NaNo — to write and forget the rest until later — I found myself lost in research often.

I learned a great deal about the medieval Middle East, spending hours studying transportation methods, food, clothing and even instruments.  I had amassed a small library on the period, then had to decide what to keep and what to ignore! I think that was more of a challenge than the initial research itself.

But I had encouragement in the form of a very supportive family and a wonderful beta who kept poking me for the next chapter because she just had to know what happened next.  And then, when I least expected it, Choices was completed.

We make many decisions in our lives.  How we handle the situations thrown at us define who we are.

Choices takes us into an erotic world of royalty, privilege and pleasure.  It shows the things people are willing to do for love – and the things others won’t give up.  It is a story about how easily one can blinded to what is both right and needed, when we refuse to listen to the part of us that usually knows best… our hearts.


Born and raised a gypsy, Teman learned early that freedom is everything.  Then one night, Teman and his best friend are caught committing a crime. They’re taken to the palace for sentencing and given a choice:  the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery.  With his eye ever on the need to escape, Teman becomes a slave and this need never wavers through training and new friendships.

Until he is requested by the gorgeous, fascinating crown amir, Bathasar.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne, which suits his cold, cruel father well.  Instead, he works covertly to preserve his brother’s legacy. But Bathasar’s eye is drawn often to a handsome gypsy slave and he finds himself doing something new: requesting one.  Before long, Bathasar and Teman are in love.

Then Teman’s best friend is gifted to the empress of a neighboring nation – the one the malik has decided to invade.  Recognizing that his father is no longer stable, Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction.

If successful, Bathasar would be malik with the power to offer Teman freedom.  But would Bathasar be able to let go?  Would Teman take it? What other choice could a gypsy possibly make?

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