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
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 In that group are authors of every skill level, from unpublished newbies to multi-published veterans who can tear your stuff to bits and make you weep—although, I found them all to be amazingly helpful.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.