NaNoWriMo, Avian30 Style

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, National Novel Writing Month (Often abreviated to NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) is a challenge wherein people commit themselves to writing, well, a novel in a month. It’s a fun way to challenge yourself to Do the Thing and get words some words down on paper. (If you’re interested, you can get more information and sign up at the link above)

Here at Avian30, we’re doing things a little differently, both for us, and for NaNo. We’ve got a new story idea (rather, we’ve picked one story off the list of about 40 new ideas we have) and we want to see what we can do in a month as we juggle working on LiLA Book 4 and edits on Doves and all of the other things we have going.

We also want to show some of our process. We talk a lot about process here on the blog, and we just finished teaching a class through RWA about collaboration. So what we’re going to do in November is give you all a peek behind the scenes. We’ll post daily word counts (even when they’re miserable! Because there will be days when they’re miserable), screenshots of the Google Docs with our terrible stuck-in-the-weeds drafts and all-caps notes shouting back and forth, and maybe even some of our crazy emails back and forth, because man do we send a lot of emails. And, if all goes well, you’ll see the magic, too.

We’re not overly concerned with hitting the 50,000 word mark that’s the general NaNo goal (we’re pretty sure the story idea we have isn’t even a 50K word story), but like Alex, we love challenges, and this is a new one for us. Once the month is over, we’ll finish up whatever needs finishing, send it through our usual editing process, and then sometime this spring (our plan now is March, though as other things get added to our 2015 release schedule that may change too) we’re going to self-publish it.

Being a hybrid self- and traditional-published author is a big part of authorial success these days, and, aside from the whole NaNo challenge, we want to give ourselves the experience of self-publishing as we look at expanding the types of stories we tell, and the places in which we tell them.

So, what are we actually writing? Our (very) working title is currently The Court Quadrille. (That’s gonna change, probably this week). It’s a queer paranormal romance political thiller:

In the remote and provincial faerie Kingdom of Normarach, a wedding is not what Ivo Frederick Myles Dierderich (Myles, for short), had in mind for his coming-of-age party. But he and his twin sister, Hildireth Wilhelmina Otylia Aust (Wil, to her friends), are heirs to the throne, and are betrothed to Etienne, Sovereign of Semailles, to secure an alliance to protect their homeland from another destructive war. They decide to make the best of it despite being unprepared for a palace full of court intrigue and delicious and dangerous new temptations. While Wil sets her mind to being as pleasing and politically savvy as possible, Myles takes advantage of Etienne’s relative disinterest to take a lover. Too bad his heart is set on the disgraced brother of a man executed for treason.

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Starling and its unlikely, accidental alpha hero

Starling CoverThe character we were most worried about the reception of in Starling is currently the one people most often mention as their favorite.

Victor is enigmatic, cantankerous, and often unpleasant. He’s also asexual, a fact which is the subject of significant discussion in Doves. Which almost makes me a little confused about why he’s such a favorite.

Except, of course, I get it.  I’ve always loved the impresario too. And there is really no other word for Victor. He’s a businessman, a creative mastermind, and the guy who keeps all the animals in the circus dancing. It’s not a nice job, but it’s an essential one, and he’s good at getting his people to seek his approval despite their own wild natures and common sense.

Loving the impresario in our real lives is hard. It’s dangerous. It can get in the way of our own creative impulses and it can make us say yes when we should say no. It can make us small, over-eager and always hungry.  It is, in short, just hard.

Because Starling is a book that lacks not only an alpha hero, but arguably any hero at all in its central romance between Alex and Paul, Victor in many ways steps into that narrative roles. He tells the main character he’s beautiful, he picks him up out of unideal circumstances, and he changes his life. And he does it again and again and again and again.  He does it Alex.  But he once did it to Liam.  And to Paul. And to Natalie. And to dozens of other characters you haven’t met yet, and in some cases may never meet.

As such, Victor is also the voice that whispers in the reader’s ear. He’s the bad boy you’re supposed to crave in romances, just in a very different form than they usually appear.

Erin and I joke often how much I am like Victor.  Sometimes I sit like him.  Sometimes, I’ll drawl something in the same vicious tone we use for him in Starling. Sometimes, when Erin will check in on something she’s drafted with me, I’ll say completely adequate, by which we both know I mean “Thank god you did that, now put it to bed so we can move on to something fun.”

Victor is everything in myself I am amazed other people are ever willing to suffer.  He is also, so a certain extent, a figure I’ve had to force myself to become.  Starling wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t.

This picture of Baz Luhrmann and Nicole Kidman by Annie Leibovitz is one of my favorite photos. It reflects to me the necessary blankness that comes with performance, the compliment that a corrective touch always was in my upbringing as a dancer, and the degree to which so many performers are in this game to hear, “good girl” or “good boy,” no matter how much we know better than to talk about it.

Victor isn’t really based on Baz at all. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Baz a couple of times and attending a masterclass with him, and trust me, their affects could not be more different. But the type of power people like Baz can have over rooms?  That’s a thing for me. I like it, I’m interested in it, and I want it — whether focused on me or in my hands.  I’ve learned to say this aloud because it helps me somewhat to defuse the power of it.

When Erin & I created Victor, my experiences with people like that — directors, producers, entrepreneurs, politicians, music instructors, martial arts masters — all went into the DNA of him.  Along at my shame at how such people often make me want to be a marionette. But also along with how often such people inspire me to be a master of myself and pull the strings in my world to make it as I would wish. No one can be counted on to do it for me but me.

Victor and the marionette issue is central to Doves. If you love him now, you may not when you get to the end of that book (which will be out on January 21, 2015). But you also may love him more.  And I suspect and hope that either way, you’ll still hear him whispering in your ear.

He whispers in mine.  And some days that’s the only way I get anything done.

If you haven’t met Victor yet, you can buy Starling through any of the links below and at many other ebook and paperback retailers. Through October 31, 2014 you can use code BOO at Torquere to get 20% off.

Ebook: All Romance | Amazon| B&N | Torquere
Print: Amazon| B&N |

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Do the thing: Some days are awesome

Do the thingSome days, for no good reason, absolutely suck. But some days, also for no good reason, are absolutely awesome.

Today is one of the latter. Maybe it’s the crisp fall weather (well, as crisp as it ever gets in D.C.) Maybe it’s Mercury Retrograde starting to come to an end. For whatever reason, Racheline and I are on fire today — we’ve had a couple guest posts go up, we’re dealing with administrativia and brainstorming and putting words on paper with a fierceness we haven’t in weeks, in part because we’ve been busy and in part because the energy just wasn’t there.

But it’s there now, and we’re grateful for it, even as we keep emailing back and forth going “Hey, today feels good.”

Because some days just feel good. When you’ve got them, use them. And when it’s one of those craptastic days, and everything is going wrong or you just can’t brain and it seems like nothing will ever go right again, remember that it will — even if for no good reason that you can ever tell or anticipate.

So, what do you feel good about? What do you feel shitty about? Put it in the comments, and we’ll offer cheers and encouragement.

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Avian 30 Newsletter

We have a newsletter!

Once a month, on the first of the month, we will send out a newsletter with info about new releases, new contracts, and what we’ve been up to, along with special giveaways and exclusive bonus content, like deleted scenes and sneak peeks.

If you want to sign up, just plug your email into the box towards the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. (We will of course never share or sell your email to anyone or use it for spamming purposes, etc, and you can unsubcribe at any time.)

And as an added bonus, when we reach 25 subscribers, we’ll release a snippet from Doves featuring everyone’s favorite enigmatic showrunner, Victor.

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New Sale: Midsummer to Dreamspinner Press

Remember our Sneak Peek Sunday about the summer stock production of A Midsummer Nights Dream? We’re thrilled to announce it’s now contracted with Dreamspinner Press with an anticipated release date of May or June 2015.

It’s a ~30,000 word “gay for you” novella focusing on a May/December summer romance in the Virginia woods. Because we’re us, it also includes a skull, some magical realism, discussions of death, and a really great pair of shoes.

We can’t wait to be able to share this story with you, and talk a little bit about how we got this story, which isn’t the sort of trope we ever anticipated writing (and which we’ve turned a bit on its ear, of course).

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Do the Thing: The work will still be there

Do the thingTonight, Racheline is speaking at All of Them Witches. I’ve just arrived home after being on holiday in the woods (and without internet) for the last 10 days. Between being off the grid, family obligations, dayjob obligations, and some genuinely awesome events (see: what Racheline’s doing tonight) we haven’t actually gotten much work done.

Which can be maddening. The list of stories we want to write is endless and growing; with a novel out in the world now the number of balls we have in the air keeps growing, not shrinking. When the number of hours in a day does get shorter, even temporarily, because of everything else  that just must be done, it can feel a little like despair. After all, how can we ever do the Thing when there are so many things not the Thing that need to be done?

But no matter how endless the not-Thing tasklist is, it’s not actually infinite. Eventually, things calm down and go back to normal (for whatever given value of “normal” we’re working with). And when it does, the work will be there.

One thing I’ve learned, slowly and sometimes painfully, over the last 14 months that we’ve been working together, is that it’s not worth the energy to stress over everything I can’t do on a given day. Eventually, I will get to it. And until then, my resources are better spent actually doing things so I can get to do the Thing that much sooner.

So let yourself do what needs to be done — whether it’s dealing with the plumber or finishing up that project at your dayjob or even going on holiday. The work isn’t going away.

So let us know the things you have to deal with before you can get back to the Thing. We’re happy to help reassure that the work will be there when you get back — our certainly always is.

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10 things we learned about Starling now that it has readers

Starling CoverToday is the 1 month birthday of Starling.  Erin is off in the woods on holiday and almost entirely out of touch, and I’ve been deep in the weeds with my non-writing life, although we have some more exciting announcements coming up soon.

For now though, I want to talk a little bit about the 10 things we didn’t know about Starling until it was in readers’ hands.  That’s sort of the coolest thing about writing, you keep learning things about the story you wrote.  Considering we love these characters so much, and have committed to such a long arc with them, that’s a damn good thing.

So without further ado:

1. Starling is interstitial.  If we tell non-romance readers it’s not a romance, we often get, “It’s totally a romance!” If we tell romance readers it is a romance, we often get some side-eye from those quarters too, despite the happy endings for multiple couples.

2. Starling is divisive. Okay, to be fair, we sort of knew this one.  Starling is an angry book. It’s angry about fame. It’s angry about fans. It’s angry about what people do to the nail that sticks up. It’s angry about how marginalized people are expected to behave “reasonably” in unreasonable circumstances.  It’s also filled with people who really don’t have the skills to deal with the circumstances of their lives.  And when people read romances about fame, they often want to see glamor and riches, not 15 hour days and poor relationship choices. In short, for some people, it’s just not a story that works.  Luckily, though lots of other people people really, really love Starling.

3. Starling also doesn’t exactly have a hero. Paul and Alex both need rescue.  They also rescue each other. Liam seems like a mess, but that’s largely his coping strategy (more on that in future books). Craig, meanwhile, is just some poor guy caught up in the middle of all their shit.  I used to think Starling just didn’t have an alpha hero, but these days, I don’t think it has a hero at all.

4. Unless Victor is Starling‘s hero.  Sure, Victor’s the asexual dude in the b-plot, but he’s also the closest thing the book has to an alpha who whispers in your ear and tells you how everything is going to be and how much you’re going to like it.  That he’s enigmatic, sometimes despicable, and finds most forms of sexual contact physically unpleasant is besides the point.  There’s a lot more of all of that in Doves.

5. Some readers adore that Alex is an introvert, and we love that people feel that way. We love that Alex is an introvert too! But we had no idea this would be so meaningful to some of our readers. We’ve been really surprised and touched by this.

6. Some people view Starling as a love triangle between Paul, Alex, and Liam. Alex, of course, has profoundly intense connections with both of them, and one of the threads in Doves is very focused on all three of them — and especially Paul — learning to navigate that friendship between Alex and Liam.  But I don’t think Erin and I ever thought of the book as a love triangle story, so that’s been illuminating.

7. Polyamory has proved to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable to some readers. This, I think, took us by surprise. We wrote about this a little bit at Mychael Black’s blog. Polyamory remains a key part of the series because it’s so important to Liam and Carly. But more than that, the Love in Los Angeles books are about lots of different types of love and lots of ways to build your own family, some of which can be pretty hard to classify.

8. Everyone is sure X character is Y celebrity.  Except, and this is awesome, every character for whom this has come up has been the subject of multiple guesses. So let them be whoever you need them to be for you. We love hearing your castings! For us, though, they’re all their own, even if they have narrative DNA from lots of sources which very much also include our own lives.

9. People love Starling‘s women!  Erin and I worried about this a lot. We heard, over and over again, that some people react negatively to the presence of women in M/M books.  But we never really thought of Starling as an M/M book, and always wanted a strong female presence in the series.  In Doves we’ll have more female sexuality — both on and off screen — than has been present in the series so far, so we certainly hope that enthusiasm continues.

10. Starling is really, really fun to read out loud.  At the reading event I organized at The Stonewall Inn I was a little worried about it because it’s so dialogue heavy.  But never, ever, have I enjoyed so much saying the words The Internet goes insane, mainly because the crowd that night laughed with it in just the right way.

Basically, this is a big thank you.  For buying the book, talking about the book, reviewing the book, taking pictures of you and the book, and spreading the word about this very peculiar and ongoing labor of love.  It means the absolute world to us.

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