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14.10.09

PART 2: My continuing journey

by Jude Mason

And, as promised, the second part of my ongoing journey. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear what you think


PART TWO

POV, what’s that? Genre, you mean smut isn’t a genre? Tense…you mean I have to keep it in one? All the time? The characters were real enough and the stories, although too short to be of much use, were entertaining. So much work to do, but at least I had a guide, someone to say, get off your butt and do it right.

Oh, and there was this thing about paragraph sentences. For you who don’t write, you might think this is funny, or pathetic. I was a champion paragraph sentence writer. I could drag a single sentence on for… well forever. So, the kindly Mr. Larkin gave me an exercise that darned near killed me. I was to write a short story of 2000 words, and not one sentence could be longer than four words. OMG! That’s impossible. Or so I thought, until I did it. That too is on my hard drive somewhere, and every once in a while I run across it and laugh. Back then I wrote BDSM, and that was pretty much it. So, the story was all about a spanking. I thought I’d croak before I got it done, but I didn’t and if truth be told, I loved every second of the task. If someone asked me to do it today, I’m not sure I’d tackle it, but I truly needed to be taught and that was one way to do it.

I’ll forever be in Roy’s debt. He taught me a lot, he took my first two or three stories and my very first novella. I made very little money, but that wasn’t the point. The dream I had, that one I never knew was there, it blossomed.

Yes, blossoming, yet the work involved was and still is daunting. I’d done well in high school English, but in no way prepared me for actually writing a novel. Roy suggested I join an online writing community called, Erotica Readers and Writers Association. It’s a large group with three different discussion sections, Writers: for anything writing related is discussed, Parlor: where anything and everything can be discussed or ranted about. And, Storytime, where you can submit shorter pieces and other authors will critique your work. In that group are authors of every skill level, from unpublished newbies to multi-published veterans who can tear your stuff to bits and make you weep—although, I found them all to be amazingly helpful. I’m still a member and even though I rarely participate, just knowing there are people who can lend a hand, or give an opinion can be very reassuring.

So, I jumped into that with both feet and worked my butt off. It was still some time before I really understood how little I knew. It seemed like I’d finally grasp some small concept only to discover that lead to six more obstacles I had to hurdle. And, the most painful lesson of all was, you had to do it in steps. No one could rush you into taking a step before you were ready. It was all up to you…errr… me and I had to do it at my own pace. Talk about frustrating.

Amatory was good for me, Roy was a great publisher and teacher, for awhile. ERWA was also amazing and I learned a hell of a lot from the people there. I’d encourage any new author to check them out. Heck, I’d encourage readers too; they have some awesome stuff on their site, including two or three of my own pieces.

After Amatory folded, I floundered for a little while, subbing to e-zines and sites that would pay per story. When I got my feet back under myself, I turned to a great little publishing house called Venus Press LLC. I also kept a couple of my e-zines happy, and learned that no matter what, you meet deadlines. Let’s see, one of the zines was a spanking site… does that surprise anyone? The other was a fetish site with a very particular fetish. Anyone for breast torture? My oh my did I learn a lot there! I actually got fan mail from women who were so happy to see stories in the style I wrote. Wow!

Venus Press was a great publisher for a new author, and in essence that’s what I was. Amatory had given me a little polish and direction, Venus gave me free rein to write in a variety of genres. Vampires, femdom, paranormal…Oh my! I truly had a ball and enjoyed my time with them.

After two years, for some unknown reason, the publisher vanished. Talk about shock! What was happening to my dream? Was it crumbling before it even got going? Contracts, releases, royalty payments due and likely never to be seen. What to do and where to go next. I felt shattered, but still determined.

Honestly, when Venus Press closed its doors, I was devastated. It’s one thing to leave a publisher or to have difficulties with an editor or something like that, but to actually have one close down, it’s pretty traumatic. Something I learned from that was, never put all of your eggs in one basket—a very hard lesson, but one that truly sank in. I’d published nearly everything with Venus Press. Yes, I still worked with my fetish e-zine, but those things weren’t for sale in the same way. I was paid per word once for a story there and as long as I sent them things I got paid. If I decided to take time off, I wasn’t paid. No royalties. Also, with an e-publisher, your work is seen by a wide variety of people, I got to explore new genres; I got to stretch myself and grow.

So, I literally had nothing out there available for the e-book buying public. It really was an eye opener. I floundered for about a month, checking the list of publishers I’d gathered over the previous year or so and talking to authors. The first publisher I approached was loveyoudivine, an alternative e-publisher that I still have work with. It wasn’t a perfect match, but it seemed like a good idea to try them and even though I haven’t subbed to them in awhile, I leave my stuff there.

The big step was taking the books I’d had with Venus Press to Phaze, a publishing house I’m still with and very happy to be with. They’re not perfect and I moan about what goes on there behind the scenes sometimes, but they have been extremely good to me and my books. Katherine Lively, the head honcho, is an amazing woman who I swear doesn’t sleep. I’ve never been hesitant about approaching her for anything, and she always has time to answer questions, or can point me to where I need to go.

I’d been with Phaze for a couple of years when I decided it was time to find another publisher. A new publisher, Dark Eden Press, looked promising. Their list of authors showed promise and when I was approached I decided to take a chance. I sent them a work I knew needed major edits and they jumped at the chance to tear it apart. I sent them a short story for an anthology they were putting together. Everything was going swimmingly and I was thrilled.

About this time, my e-zine closed its doors and I took a major hit in the salary department. Ouch! The owner was having family problems and he simply decided getting the site up every month as well as all that goes along with the e-zine was just too much for him to handle. I’ve never found another site as good or as author friendly, but I’ve got my eyes open.

Shortly after this, Dark Eden Press closed its doors. This was a tragic ending for an extremely promising house. The owner had major health problems and was unable to carry on. This was the first time I was actually able to see how a publishing site should be shut down. Authors rights were returned properly, the editors were paid and anyone involved with the site was notified and given fair warning of its upcoming closure. I still miss them.

I was again down to one publisher who I was active with. A great publisher, yes, but I was definitely not going to have all them eggs in one basket. The closing of Dark Eden wasn’t as traumatic as earlier. I hadn’t been there as long or submitted nearly as much. I did get some experience as editor there and that was a real eye opener. Authors really are horrible people. *G*

I didn’t leap into anything new for a few months. I really wanted to be sure I found just the right place, somewhere I could learn and somewhere I’d be able to stretch again. Good friend and co-author Jenna Byrnes gave me the push I needed to join you all here at Total E-Bound. The editors are killer and I love it.

See, to me, that’s what writing is all about, learning, polishing the craft, making each story better than the last. I sometimes drag out older works thinking I’ll re-write them and send them off. It rarely works because I’ve changed so much and the writing is horrid. Possibly a non-writer won’t understand that, but another author would.

So, I’m now with both Phaze and Total E-bound. I’ve had print with both Total E-Bound and Phaze and have more coming out with them all the time. That’s a huge thrill too—holding your own book. I thought I was done, settled and happy, working my tail off to keep both publishing houses happy as well as submitting to the occasional call for submission that caught my attention, when out of the blue Noble Romance falls in my lap. Okay, maybe not quite falls, but they have this call that grabbed me. There’s always more though, the next story, the next book, the next idea. I’m always checking new publishing houses and searching for calls that grab me, editing accepted works or whining over rejections that happen less and less. I'm incredibly happy with TEB and plan to write for them as much as I possibly can. Claire and her staff are amazing. Jenna Byrnes (my writing partner) and I both find them incredible to work with and for.

This is where I am now. I have works submitted to several places, magazines, anthologists and I have three publishers. One of which scares hell out of me—LOL. I have a writing partner I trust and who has become an amazing friend.

People ask me where I’d like to be in five years. I don’t have much of an answer. Here, writing, selling books. This is my idea of Heaven.

16 comments:

Devon Rhodes said...

Yay, thank you for the continuing story, I've been waiting for your day to come back around. A month is a long time to leave a gal hanging! Thanks for sharing all your experiences and wisdom. What a journey...you should write a book! ;)

I agree that TEB is top-notch! I work with every editor here and they are just fab. :)

Jenna Byrnes said...

Nice post, Jude. I'm sure it helps others to see what you've gone through- it hasn't been smooth sailing the whole way, but you've accomplished so much, and are finally reaping some rewards!

You are truly a joy to behold. Oh, see that? That's me, right behind you. *G*

Hugs,

Jenna

Jude Mason said...

Devon,

Big grin, sorry to keep you waiting, but it really was too long to post all at once. TEB has been a real eye opener for me. I've worked with several publishers and although I've been happy with most of them, TEB really does shine.

Hanging girls, now there's an idea. hehehe!

Thanks so much for your kind comments.

Hugs

Jude Mason said...

Jenna,

Grabs an arm and drags her up beside me. We're a joy to behold, ain't we?

Thank you. I'm amazed how well we work together and look forward to many more books, co-authored by this dynamic duo. (Cripes, we sound like Batman here. LOL)

Thanks for stopping by!

Hugs

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Though I could never write the kind of books you do, I've had similar experiences along the publishing trail. Nearly 30 rejections for my first book way back when you had to use a typewriter and send things in my mail. (No, not pony express, just seemed like it.)

Had two publishers die, two crooks, agents that did nothing, and three publishers who decided to quit.

My best advice is never ever give up. It your dream is to be an author, read the kind of books you want to write, go to writers conferences, join a critique group and write, write, write.

Marilyn
http://fictionforyou.com

Jeanne said...

great post, Jude. I've been lucky so far with the publishers I'm with, but had several close calls.
What's ironic about those near things is that each time, I procrastinated before subbing and by the time I was ready, they'd folded or gone into bankruptcy or whatever.
Sometimes I guess it's a good thing ;~D

Mahalia said...

Thank you for sharing both the great parts of your journey and your crappy parts. It shows that if you keep up and work hard you can still achieve your dream.

Jude Mason said...

Hi Marilyn,

Having to wait months for rejections would be horrible. Heck, waiting for months for any news would be horrible. I wrote back then, typewriter as well as long hand, but never ever dreamed to submit anything. It sounds like you've had a very colorful journey as well.

Good advice, write, write, write and get critiques. Oh yes, and grow thick skin. That's a biggie too.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

Hugs

Jude Mason said...

Jeanne,

You have been lucky! I've learned a lot though and plan to keep learning as I go along. Having a publisher fold when they have rights to your work is pretty scary, but you deal. There always seems to be a way to carry on. And, just writing has always been huge therapy for me.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

Hugs

Jude Mason said...

Mahalia,

Yup, heavy on the hard work... LOL It's something I can't imagine not doing. I figure by the time I die, I'll have the comma thing figured out.

Janice, my editor, just cringed then. LOL

Thanks for commenting!

Hugs

grbretz said...

Another great post Jude. I saw a lot of familiar bumps in the road; plus a few that I have yet to encounter, but probably will.
I'm definitely going to start researching e-zines as a source of income. I've developed a fondness for short stories. I think erotica is best served in small doses.
BTW: I think smut is more of a sub-genre. I once showed a very, very short synopsis of my first novel to a fellow author (cough, Bryl). He referred to it as literary smut. I instantly recognized the ringing noise as the sound of someone hitting the nail on the head. It was one of the most flattering moments in my short literary career.

Glenn

Jude Mason said...

Glenn,

Good friend and amazing author, M. Christian's often refers to himself as an author of literary smut. I think it often fits what I write as well.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting

Hugs

Anonymous said...

Hey Jude! (I've always wanted to do that!)

Thank you for sharing your story! Your posted blog piece couldn't have come at a better time. As an aspiring m/m writer, this reminds me that struggles will continue, but with perseverance, I can go on to succeed!

I’ve had, shall we say, 'a colorful past'. It sucks sometimes to experience the highs and lows of a rainbow life, but then again, it’s these experiences that make us unique. It also makes for great story fodder!

Since I was a child, I have dreamt of being a writer. Like you, I traveled everywhere with a spiral notebook, writing stories upon stories. Then, during the late 90s - I got 'religion' and trashed all my writing (as I was told it was all sinfully homosexual and that was NOT using my talent for God).

Life trudges on, bring with it joys and bitter disappointments. After a severe bout of depression lifted, inspiration flamed in my soul and I began to write again. Courage caressed me and I decided late in 2008, to get serious about my writing. I began to take workshops and seminars to brush up on my skills, readying my self for publication.

For me, it has been a struggle. Not that my writing sucks. It’s my battered self esteem that seems to have me frozen in fear.

Looking back, I have failed at so many things in my life that I’m almost scared to try to reach out for my soul’s calling of being an author. I mean, this is the last hope and dream I have left. What would happen to me if I fail yet again? They say the label “failure” only applies to those who don’t try in the first place. Yet in my past, I always made several strong efforts – in marriage, with careers, as a parent, in committees, with family members, in leadership. And somehow, after soaring in the glow of the sun, the wax on my wings melt and I spiral downward to the deep empty abyss…, cloaking my wounded self in pity and ashes, before trying to claw my way out of the suffocating darkness and back out into the light to live life again.

Well, I didn’t mean to get all maudlin on you! I wanted to share with you my good news:

This past weekend, at RomantiCon (in Ohio, put on by Ellora’s Cave) – several authors encouraged me to make my first pitch ever – and the editor is indeed interested! Even if my two stories get rejected, I have other places to go and submit. It may have been a silly baby step for some – but it was a giant, liberating leap toward the horizon of my future as an published author.

Thank you once again for your story. It has been encouraging!

George Allwynn (inspiring m/m author and coinsurer of fine m/m erotic romance) georgetalwin@gmail.com

Jude Mason said...

George, what an inspiring message. Thank you so much for sharing a intensely personal and interesting part of your life with us.

You know, I've always been a writer. Always. I honestly can't remember a time when I wasn't spinning tales. Success to me isn't making the big bucks. Very, very few authors even make enough to quit the day job. Success is actually writing. Striving to tell a better story, to entertain a few people with what comes from my imagination.

You'll have rejections. I've heard that if you don't have a tidy pile of those, you're not trying hard enough. I believe it.

Huge congratulations on your submission to Ellora's. That's a place I've never tried. I've been extremely happy with the publishers I'm with now, but you never know.

Oh, a quote I love:

"The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals and 362 to heterosexuals. This doesn't mean God doesn't love heterosexuals, it's just that they need more supervision." -- Lynn Lavner

Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting.

Hugs

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Jude,

I've known you and been reading your writing since your active days at ERWA, and I can see how you've continued to become more polished, more professional and more diverse in your visions.

The message for me in your post is that the stories are what counts. You had the ideas long before your skills were at a point where you could sell your work. However, craft can be learned. Inspiration is something that you have or you don't.

As far as publishers go- I've had a couple fold under me too. It seems to be the name of the game. The only solution is, as you say, avoid that one big basket, and don't worry too much about it. You'll always find a new publishing home.

Hugs,
Lisabet

Mahalia said...

Jude OMG.....;( The comma at times is the bane of my existence..However
So are my teens...HEHEHE my editor Steph has pretty much got me past the comma thing now it's onto slowing down my brain so that I don't skip details. ;) I have been listening to a lot of seasoned authors and their triumphs and disasters. Hate the word failure. haha. I did get rejected once and was told it'll happen again. But it's the waiting for months to hear any word at all that I'll have to grow accustomed to.

Happy writing

~Hales