Grace R. Duncan

Welcome, Grace R. Duncan

Choices will be out March 4th from Dreamspinner Press.

Grace was kind enough to stop by and to answer some questions:

1.  What was the most challenging part of your story to write and why?

There is a scene toward the beginning of the book that is quite violent and (to me) disturbing.  I don’t like to write unpleasant things, but I know that they are a necessity.  Good stories require conflict and sometimes the conflict between the main portions of my couple isn’t enough (at least, for me).  Especially, in this story, the abuse was of a particular kind that I have read about in real life all too often and in literature (I use that term loosely) it is often masked as being okay because it’s “asked for” (not true). So writing this scene was delicate, required a lot of juggling to keep it in the right context and hard because it was disturbing for me to inflict that kind of harm on someone, even fictitiously.

2. What is one of your pet peeves?

I am a pretty easy-going person when it comes to things like pet peeves.  There aren’t a lot of things that get to me, but one stands out over pretty much everything.  Choices has a lot of BDSM elements to it and I was very careful in researching the things I wasn’t already intimately familiar with, when it came to what I put Teman through.  Unfortunately, not everyone does.  Many people do cursory research (if they research at all) and would never consider taking a wooden spoon to their own behind before writing about it.  Now, I am not one who insists that you only write what you know – fiction would be horribly boring, if that were the case.  However, for most things, it isn’t difficult to do some simple experimentation to know what it really feels like to do something.  Even if you don’t have a willing partner, there is plenty you can do to yourself.  And plenty more good information out there, if you’re willing to look for it.

So what irritates me is when someone does some basic reading, then calls themselves an expert on a subject and proceeds to write about it.  Most of the time, it isn’t the end of the world.  It’s simply obvious that they don’t know what they’re talking about or they might even just squeak past.

With BDSM, it can actually be dangerous.  I know that seems like a little overdone, doesn’t it? But the truth is, for someone who is learning about the world, who is interested in getting into it, if they were to take the wrong book and use it as an instruction manual, that could have very disastrous, nay dire, consequences, including serious harm, and in the worst cases, even death.  No, that’s not an exaggeration.  Get tied up wrong, someone ignores the safe word (because they read somewhere that it’s okay to), and the next thing they know, there’s a funeral instead of a sweet after-Scene discussion. It can happen.

Choices has a couple (okay, three) very disturbing scenes in it that show how a top and sadist who doesn’t care for their bottom or sub can do exactly the wrong things.  But I am careful to show that it is the wrong way to be and I am careful to contrast those scenes with the right way to do things.  I know this because I’m in the BDSM world and for what I didn’t know (and it sounds trite, but it’s true: I know enough to know that I know very little), I read. I researched. I asked. Or I went and asked my own Dom to do it to me.

3. What is your favorite meal?

I have recently had a lot of dental work done, so I have been forced to eat mostly soft foods.  As such, interestingly, hummus has been a staple in my diet, which I’d started sampling different types of for my novel, Choices.  I am also very partial to lamb, which is actually Teman’s favorite meal, as well, though I doubt I make it the same way that Cook does for Teman and Bathasar.

4. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I’m going to be a tiny bit selfish here and say super speed.  If I could move fast enough for my fingers to keep up with my brain, for me to be able to get everything done, I’d be thrilled.  I’d like to think I could still use it to help people, too, while being able to get my stuff done, as well.  So, yes, super speed. Bring it on, I have fifteen books planned to write…

5. What makes your MC angry or upset?

Teman doesn’t like to see someone’s freedom being taken from them for any reason.  The gypsy part of him hates the idea of someone not being able to do as they need or even want to do. Now, he recognizes that someone who really does break the law deserves punishment (though he will do his best to try to get away), but especially seeing someone imprisoned wrongly or enslaved really gets to him.

6. Do you have a favorite character? Why?

Teman is my MC (in that the majority of the book is from his POV and about him) but I have to say, I have something of a weakness for Bathasar.  While he’s probably a little too perfect to be well rounded, he does have his own fears and insecurities.  But he will step up and take the responsibilities that he needs to, regardless of what he wants.  And, let’s face it, who doesn’t like tall, dark, and handsome?

7. Do you base your characters on your real life at all?

Actually, I am 99.9% sure that real life (my real life, along with others) creeps into my writing all the time. As much as I would love to say that everything is absolutely original, I am fooling myself if I think that.  Rather, people of all types will wander into my stories and those that are close to me are likely to recognize bits of themselves in many of my characters. I’d think it would be impossible for any author to truly keep those they know out of their stories.

One of my favorite movie quotes of all time: “I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.”  -Geoffrey Chaucer from *A Knight’s Tale *

I think as writers we spend too much time cataloging those that we observe – and we spend all our time observing – and so it would be mighty difficult to keep those observations out of our writing.

8. What are you working on now?

I am currently in the midst of working on the Choices sequel, Deception, featuring two of the secondary characters from Choices, Cyrus and Nadir.  Teman and Bathasar come back and are the catalyst for change between Cyrus and Nadir, bringing them into a situation they’ve been trying to ignore and now are forced to face.   I am also planning one more book in the series with another couple from Choices.  Hopefully, Dreamspinner will like them all!

9. Do you have a favorite book or movie?

Every time I am asked this question, I hem and haw. I go over and over the movies I’ve seen and the books I’ve read and I wonder what my favorite is. But if I had to give you an answer without thinking it through, I’d say something like: TheStandLordoftheRingsHarryPotter(allseven)TheChesapeakeSeriesfromNoraRobertsTheInDeathSeriesfromJDRobbThe… And somewhere in there, I’d pause to take a breath and say… “I don’t think I have one specific favorite. One favorite within a genre? Probably (see the string of text above) but one overall? I don’t think so.

10. Do you have a favorite author?

I’d like to just say “see above” but I supposed I could whittle it down a little. I think, out of all the worlds I’ve been drawn into, Middle-earth has pulled me the most and, as such, I have to say Mr. Tolkien has to be my favorite. With that, then, I could probably tell you that the Lord of the Rings is *probably* my favorite book (though again, if I do that, I start to waffle and then people just start imagining syrup and things just get messy, so I’ll stick with a favorite author and move on…)

11. Do you have any insights for aspiring writers out there?

The one that, I am quite sure, they hear all the time. Don’t. Stop.  Seriously.  Don’t stop writing.  Don’t let someone tell you not to quit your day job (like I did), don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough (I did), and don’t let your own fears of both success and failure stop you.  If you keep going, keep writing, you will keep improving and, eventually, find your corner of the publishing world.

12. Tell us about your MC. What does he like or dislike? What are his good points or his flaws?

As much as I love Teman, he can be a stubborn as the day is long.  He’s caring, intelligent, does try to do the right thing most of the time, and can think on his feet, but he is most definitely stubborn.  I wouldn’t have any idea where he got that… *cough*

13. Where do you see your writing career headed in the future?

My hope is to eventually write full-time. I know that a lot of authors say that, but I think that, given the chance, I could do it.  I’ve been told before that I am ridiculously prolific and if I ever get over some of my fears and self-esteem issues, I think I could do it.  It’s just going to take some work and dedication, but I am willing to put the time and energy into it.

14. What type of book would you love to write someday?

I’d like to try collaborating sometime.  I have seen a number of folks write a book together and I have written fanfiction with another author before.  But I would love to write an original novel.  I think it would be fun to be able to work with another author like that.

Links:

Website: http://www.grace-duncan.com/

Blog: http://gracerduncan.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorgraceduncan

Twitter: http://twitter.com/gracerduncan

E-mail: duncan.grace.r@gmail.com

And the link to Choices: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3611&cPath=55_777

A Writing Exercise for Fun

A Writing Exercise

This was something I read in an article from “On Fiction.” I have not tried this yet, but I might give it a shot this week. It was from a book by Carolyn See.

Carolyn See’s idea for a character list is as follows:

“In Making a literary life: Advice for writers and other dreamers (2002), See proposes an option which entails creating two sorts of lists. The first is a “list of the ten most ‘important’ people in your life… Whom do you love? Who betrayed you? Whom did you betray? Who drives you nuts? Who’s out of your reach? Who’s your role model? Who’s your benchmark for insanity? Quick! Write the list” See, p. 118). Then make another list of “the other kind of important people you know … the ones who gave you the willies. Who creep you out and you don’t know why” (p. 120). Together, she claims, these “are your ‘characters for life'” (p. 121). After this exercise, one is to cast the person before one’s eyes and focus on what one is seeing.”

Anybody doing lists like these? It might be fun!

It’s interesting how See says that these are your characters “for life.”  I do find some writers tend to create the same type of character in multiple books. For example, Pat Conroy usually has that abusive (often in the military) father figure.

The article goes on to evaluate See’s ideas in depth.

If you are interested in reading it, here is the link:  http://www.onfiction.ca/2009/04/characters-for-life-why-carolyn-sees.html

The Last Grand Master and Andrew Q. Gordon

Andrew Q. Gordon is here today.

Andrew’s book, The Last Grand Master, is available at Dreamspinner Press. Welcome!

Can you tell us a few things about your work?

  1. What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?

Writing is my favorite part – duh right?  But I mean the creative, sitting down and getting the vision of the story down on paper – or at least onto the screen.  Transferring the ideas and the images I have for scenes is the best part. I can go back and decide later if it’s any good, but just getting it out feels great.  Like I’ve created something.

Marketing what I’ve written is my least favorite.  I’m sure everyone says this.  Once I’ve gotten everything down, I just want to move on to the next one – and there are so many ‘next ones’ right now rattling around inside my skull, I don’t have the time to do them all.  Unfortunately, self marketing is a big part of the process and frankly I – like so many other authors – am not very good at it, nor do I like it.

2. Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere – For me I’m very visual. I think in images. When I write something, I ‘see’ what I’m writing – even this answer. I can ‘see’ someone reading this or the person – you – who sent it to me.  Even if I don’t really know what that person looks like, I still see an image.  Because that is how my brain works, so many things will just evoke new images and from those images, stories start to form.  After that, it’s on me to translate those images into the full story.

3. Do you like to write with music or in silence?

Both, though with a toddler in the house, I can’t really use my headphones or play music anymore. Generally I write upstairs near her room and this way if she wakes up – and I generally only get to write when she’s asleep or if I can beg a few hours free from my husband – I can hear her.

4. What is your favorite meal?

Really good lasagna with home made sauce.  My mother used to make this and she’s taught me. I love the different cheeses and I usually add ground turkey to mine. But it is the sauce – gravy in my house – that makes it. If the sauce is good, everything else tastes better.  It’s taken me a few years to master this, but I’ve learned to make special sauce for Lasagna, one that is made with cheese cooked in.  Very tasty.

5. Talk a bit about you’re new release The Last Grand Master

The Last Grand Master is a fantasy novel that is part of a series I’m calling Champion of the Gods. It’s a ‘high fantasy’ novel that allows me to do a fair bit of world building to go along with characters and plot.  The background is – and I’ll be brief – There are Seven Gods of Nendor.  Six exist in harmony and work together to keep watch over the inhabitants of Nendor.  The seventh – Neldin – decided long ago, he wanted to be supreme ruler of all and made war on his siblings.  That war – 3000 plus years before this book is set – ended badly for Neldin.  In the three millennia since, he has plotted his next attempt.  When the book opens, Farrell, a young but powerful wizard – is the last wizard of any consequence left to stop Meglar – Neldin’s servant – from conquering the Seven Kingdoms, then Ardus and ultimately all of Nendor.  Farrell knows his destiny, but the book opens with Honorus – first of the gods – sending him to rescue a group of people Meglar is trying to conquer.  While there he meets his life partner – mate – among the defenders.  What follows is their story together and how they prepare for the final conflict.  Farrell is the Champion of the Six, the one chosen to fight Neldin’s champion – Meglar.  There are several books to the series so this is just the beginning.

6.  Do you have a favorite character? Why?

I do, but we haven’t met him yet. I’d tell you who it is, but it might give away a plot line for later.  Otherwise I think I most identify with the main character Farrell. When I was writing this story, I think he was the character I could most see myself as if I had the ability to insert myself into the story. I don’t know how common that is for writer to want to be one of their characters, but there it is.

7. What advice would you give to new authors?

Two things. First is easy and everyone probably tells people this – write.  A writer writes. But it’s good advice. Only through the practice of writing do you get better.  But probably more important is, get feed back before you try to publish something.  An author friend of mine suggested I join an on line writing forum for feed back. Her advice was to post something there – not something I intended to try to publish, but something I could learn from. It was amazingly good advice.  I think we all start out thinking we’re awesome, some few are, the rest of us need work. The key is, be open to constructive criticism and not just looking for positive feed back. No one wants to be the naked emperor being told how great his non-existent clothes look.

8. Do you set writing goals?

No – I figure this isn’t my job so if I miss my goal, I don’t need to feel like I’m slacking and if I hit my goal I don’t want to feel I can stop, especially if I’m on a roll.  I will do deadlines for things like edits back to the publisher or editor, but not self imposed ones.

9. Why the M/M genre?

Why not? No seriously, I didn’t set out to be a M/M genre writer. And, frankly I think what I write could find a home in ‘straight’ genres. I don’t do a lot of sex scenes – mostly because my stories aren’t as much about the sexual relationship as about something else.  Not that I won’t or haven’t done sex scenes, and I get that in most M/M fiction it’s sort of expected, but it’s not me.  So back to the question, why this genre, well for now, it’s my target audience.  Hopefully I’ll expand outward sort of like Mercedes Lackey did.  Which is to say, her books have gay characters and some are MC, but they are not per se m/m literature. That is where I aspire to go.

10. What is your favorite movie or book?

I really don’t have a favorite movie.  I don’t tend to watch movies over and over. I guess if I had to choose a movie it would be Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Stupid, low tech, low budget, but it reminds me of when I was 12 so I guess that’s not a bad thing.

My favorite book is really a series. The Last Herald Mage.  I like all of Lackey’s books, but I felt some ‘tried’ harder than others and all seem to try to recapture the magic of this series.  I think these book are what inspired me to want to write.  I could read these every year and not get tired of them.

11. Pet peeves?

Do Goodread Trolls count as a pet peeve? But seriously, I think of GR trolls as both reviewers and writers.  The reviewers who give objective criticism, without being nasty or demeaning are not trolls.  People who get snarky and sarcastic when criticizing are.  But just as bad, and maybe worse are those authors who expect only good reviews and any negative feed back gets lumped into the ‘GR Troll’ category. Someone I know who is published by a small publisher asked me to read for her because she knew ‘I’d give her honest feed back.’  The story – like most of her stories – was a mess.  Multiple perspectives, ‘convenient’ plot resolutions, unbelievable character reactions, totally telly, very little showing etc.  I pointed all these out as nicely as I could – I got back the expected, ‘thanks, but you’re an idiot, this is really good’ response.  Fast forward a few months.  The book came out and people trashed it for most of the reasons I gave and a few I missed.  That prompted a blog post from her on why it was ‘wrong’ for people to criticize someone’s ‘hard work.’ To me that is worse than the haters because it’s part of why criticism ends up so snarky. Reviewers who want to be honest and give constructive criticism get slammed as haters and trolls and told, if they can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.  So there you are-  I don’t like trolls of any stripe.

In life my pet peeve is ill mannered people – for instance, this morning, I took ‘lil q- my daughter – to get breakfast [she’s 16 months] we stopped to get coffee at Starbucks – there are no other coffee shops in the area :-/ – the line wasn’t long but it wasn’t short either.  Two young women walked up past everyone else to ‘talk’ to their friend and then they stayed and ordered – basically cutting in line. Lack of decorum, courtesy and consideration get no slack from me as they tend to make people cranky and irritable.

12. What is an ideal day for you like? What would a horrible day be like?

My ideal day would involve no day job and time to write. Followed by lunch with the husband and an free afternoon to take the baby and dog to the park. I’d like to have time to do both, write and be a dad/husband.

A horrible day is pretty much most of my M-F. I see ‘lil q for about 10-15 minutes in the a.m. when I change and feed her.  Then I’m off to work. I get home it’s about 6:30 and I have to cook. We feed her and eat, clean up and it almost time for her to go to sleep.  So I get less than two hours a day to see her and most of that I involves feeding, cleaning or changing her.

13. What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a couple things.  The second book in the Champion of the Gods series is written, but I’m revising and reworking it. I’m also trying to work on a new, modern paranormal story that I’ve tentatively titled Archangel.  There are no excerpt ready for prime time viewing so I’ll keep it to myself.  I’d like to find time to finish the Champions series, then finish Archangel so I can start a new series, set in a different world from any I’ve written about so far.  But, as I’ve said before, I don’t have the time to do everything right now.

Thanks, Andrew! You can find more information on the book here:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3549

http://www.andrewqgordon.com