Two installments of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda are now available in e-format. The third installment, Darker Shadows, is underway…
I have finally been to a Comic Con. My friend and fellow writer, QL Pearce, and I headed to San Diego in time to attend Preview Night on Wednesday. The road trip, as always, was fantastic, and we stopped for a late lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants in Old Town before heading down to the Horton Grand Hotel where we showered off the effects of the heat wave before taking the short walk down 5th to the Convention Center. The crowds were thick, but interesting. On the way, we saw vans plastered with religious slogans and, in front of the convention hall, protesters picketed with signs about drinking Jesus’s blood and bathing in his sins or something. The Jeebus freaks were rebuked with good humor about worshiping Thor and other gods who know how to party.
I’d been warned repeatedly that Comic Con is a smelly convention, but we figured the first night wouldn’t be too sweaty and, despite the crowds and heat, we were right. We wandered the huge exhibition hall for two hours looking at everything from masses of storm troopers to adult magazines. We walked and walked, slowly, stuck in a mass of people who inched along like a great slow earthworm. It was stressful, not stepping on toes or ramming others. But it didn’t smell and that was something. There weren’t many costumes that night. Bummer.
Returning to our hotel, we were accosted repeatedly (in a good way) by costumed characters giving out everything from packs of gum to Hello Kitty tattoo patches. By the time we got back to the room, we had about five pounds of postcards and flyers we turned on the TV and munched a cold dinner we’d brought along. We slept in.
The next morning our feet were happier and off we went, stopping on Fifth for toast, berries and coffee at a neat little bar and grill that also gave us a drinks menu at 10 am. The servers were all costumed – my favorite was Captain Underpants. Many of the guests were in character, too, and quite a few of them had wine or mixed drinks. (The Green Lantern appeared to have a drinking problem.) We watched costumed conventioneers walk by. There was a preponderance of Wonder Women and Batmen.
After breakfast, we walked on, collecting more postcards and packs of gum. And when we got to the last stop light where overly enthusiastic traffic “cops” blew their whistles like drill sergeants and employed furiously crisp hand signals at cars and pedestrians alike, we smelled it. The Stench of Comic Con. It’s real, we realized, and it’s bad. It wafted a couple of times. The third time, I noticed a large postcard I was holding seemed to smell like a dirty bathroom. I sniffed again. It did. I had Q smell it and her nose wrinkled up like Caesar’s in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. She had one, too, and we gave it the sniff test. It was equally foul. The light changed and we carried those crappy postcards by our fingertips and deposited them in the nearest trash can before going in and washing our hands. I never knew they made printing ink that smelled bad. Perhaps the conventioneers do shower daily and the stink is caused by putrid postcards.
Inside, the costumes were great. The hall outside the exhibition area was especially loaded with them. But, oh, the crowds! It was like ConDor – a San Diego con Q and I like to do each spring – gone insane. I wanted to climb onto a bench and yell, “It’s a madhouse, a madhouse!” But I couldn’t, because there were no benches, chairs, or anything else to sit on. Tired elves and aliens lined the edges of the lobby floor and circled the pillars. There was a Starbucks but no chairs in there, either. Finally, we hit the mezzanine level and found a row of chairs where exhausted people sat. We joined them for a few minutes then headed into the art show and other things upstairs. It was open and airy and huge vents shot cold air. Heaven. Downstairs again, we hit the exhibition hall looking for goodies and Noel Hynd and his wife Patricia, who own Red Cat Press. We found them and had some fun.
At three, we met up with some friends, Mimi Chen and her husband. Mimi is a jock at The Sound LA, the best classic station in town, and her weekend show, Peace, Love, and Sunday Mornings, is my favorite. She takes you back to Haight Street in the 60s. The music makes you feel groovy. So, off we went up Fifth, eeling through the throngs of people until we got to a little Italian place that wasn’t so crowded, Firenza Trattoria. There were only a few patrons at that hour. A pair of elves sat nearby eating pasta, and out on Fifth the crowds were colorful and noisy. We all had wonderful pasta dishes followed by the best salted caramel gelato I’ve ever tasted. Lunch took two blessedly quiet hours. We geeked out over movies and books like we couldn’t at the noisy convention.
Finally, Mimi and Leslie headed back to the con and Q and I decided to hit the road. We talked and talked. We decided that Comic Con was a great experience, that it’s a humongous version the little cons we prefer, and that we hated the lack of places to sit. We decided, too, that our favorite parts were relaxing in the hotel and going out to eat.
Q is returning with her husband to the con tomorrow, so I’ll let you know if the stench has to do with people or if it’s just the postcards.
Personally, I was going to drive back down today, but I’m on deadline and I missed writing. It’s so nice, sitting here in the quiet, in the cooled air, Skypewriting in the Cloud with Alistair Cross. While I was gone, my collaborator turned out at least half of the upcoming third installment of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, Darker Shadows. It’s full of sex, ghosts, and gothica and we’re about to read it aloud. Then, it’s on to our horror novel, which has reached that sweet spot where everything is beginning to rush to the end. It’s so much fun I can hardly stand it. Indeed, it trumps Comic Con for excitement, at least for me. The writing is great fun and, well, hurrah for chairs!
On a final note, the second installment of Belinda, aptly titled Awakening, is available now on Amazon (and will be available soon in other formats.) The first installment, The New Governess is also available.
In The New Governess, Belinda Moorland became governess to the children of handsome and mysterious millionaire, Eric Manning. She met several interesting employees at Ravencrest Manor, including the mischievous butler, Grant, and the frightening house administrator, Mrs. Heller. During her first night, Belinda was also greeted – and groped – by other inhabitants of the house; ones who are more phantom than flesh.
Our article, Extreme Collaborating, is up at Beneath the Lake: On Writing Horror. In it, we discuss our unique form of collaboration – how we get in the Cloud and literally write together, often in the same paragraph. Go on over to Crystal Lake Publishing and check it out. While you’re there, look around; you’ll see all kinds of good stuff!
Meanwhile, back at the old Thorney-Cross Ranch, we’ve put the final touches – and strokes – on Belinda’s second installment, Awakening, and you’ll be holding and caressing her with your warm, loving hands very soon! The first installment, The New Governess, is available now.
Here is the (almost) finalized cover for Awakening, the second installment of The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, due out later this month!
The Awakening is Coming Soon!
Alistair Cross and I have been invited to participate in the celebration of Crystal Lake Publishing’s official launch of Beneath the Lake: On Writing Horror. For the next few days, Crystal Lake will be publishing articles on writing horror, by authors like Tim Waggoner, Patrick Rutigliano, and… us!
If you’ve been following us, you may have already read the blog that is going to be published, Extreme Collaboration, but there’s more to come from us and others, and if you love horror, and want to learn more about writing it, go check out the other articles at Crystal Lake’s website.
A radio interviewer asked Alistair Cross and me how we write together and that was one of the most eye-opening questions we’ve ever had. She was amazed when we told her our method and said she’d never heard of anyone writing like that before. Evidently, many writers split things up with one brainstorming and the other writing. Neither of us can even imagine having any fun doing our job this way. To not be allowed to brainstorm would be horrible! And to not write would be just as bad! We can each imagine this working in non-fiction, but in fiction, if you don’t love both sides – creating and writing – where does that leave you? How can you imagine ideas for your plot and characters without being able to set them down as well, and vice versa? Can a good writer write without his or her imagination taking off and soaring to the heavens? It sounds absolutely horrible to us.
Our collaborations are a 50/50 effort. We plot together, we develop characters together, and we even transcribe together by getting on Skype, opening the Cloud, and working side by side. Sometimes Tamara takes the lead, sometimes Alistair does – but nothing is written without both of us present. We each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses, and we each are aware of the other’s. Luckily for us – as we learned early on – our weaknesses and strengths balance out; where one of us has difficulty, the other is at ease.
One very important part of our process that we stress very much when asked about it, is the personal side of our relationship. Writing is a job, a business, and although we are business partners, we are also friends. We may share the same vision, the same sensibilities, and even similar writing styles, but all of this is pointless without three very important elements: respect, honesty, and loyalty.
Respect comes first. We are aware of each other’s time. We meet every day, six days a week, and work anywhere from 8 to 10 hours. But if something comes up or one of us is running late, we are okay with that.
As for honesty… honesty is something you have to be comfortable with if you intend to write with another person. If one of us hates what the other is writing – though it hasn’t really happened – we’d say so… but kindly. If one of us isn’t feeling the same vibe as the other and thinks the story needs to go a different direction, we discuss it openly.
No drama. We are similar in that we both avoid drama – and the people who spew it – so one of us getting drawn into the chaos of the other one’s personal life issues is never a problem for us. This zero tolerance for drama, in fact, is probably the glue that holds this whole thing together. (Sure, we each tell the other what’s going on in our lives – we’re friends and that’s what friends do – but we don’t dwell. We go to work.)
So kindness, honesty, and a no drama policy is what makes up the respect facet of this deal. Then there is loyalty.
Loyalty comes into play because we are given a lot of advice by outside forces, and sometimes, the advice is not good. We’ve made a firm pact that no decisions will be made without the consent of the other one. No one is allowed to call one of us and discuss changes behind the other’s back. We are business partners, and we operate as such, no exceptions.
With loyalty comes trust, which could easily be the fourth part of the sum. We trust each other with the characters, the storyline, and on a personal level as well, but this trust is built on the foundation of the respect, honesty, and loyalty to which we adhere.
And now that the personal elements of our collaboration have been covered, we come to the creative part of the process.
Each day we spend an hour or two in the morning warming up. We chat, we do our PR and marketing work, whether it’s writing a blog, posting to Facebook, or answering interview questions. We spend a little time studying some aspect of our business most mornings as well, whether that’s going through a lot of covers or promotional posters and talking about what we like and dislike, discussing articles we’ve just read on traditional vs indie publishing, or anything else writing-oriented. We tell some jokes. We laugh a lot.
And then we get down to writing. If we’re having trouble getting going, we get silly, each sneaking in outrageous dialogue or descriptions for the other to laugh at. That’s actually one of the best tricks we’ve found for getting a scene moving. We’ll add on to the silliness, each of us, and suddenly the scene comes to life and, when we’re done, we remove the goofy stuff.
We each enjoy following certain characters and take the lead on our favorites, but we are also careful to switch off so that we each know every character well. To us, familiarity with our characters – all of them – is vital to the story.
While, individually, we both do a lot of world-building in order to get to know our characters and their locale, together, we probably spend twice as much time doing this. When you are collaborating, the littlest details become important and are (usually) best figured out beforehand because both of us must know whether a character has dimples or drives a beat-up old Chevy or hates seafood. Otherwise, incongruities can get past us, unnoticed.
The characters’ voices, however, evolve during writing and whoever creates the voice sets the tone the other follows for that character. For example, a character in one of our upcoming novels has a unique way of swearing that Alistair made up. We both love voicing her and work together to get the most insane profanities out of her as we write, always following Alistair’s original style.
While we occasionally write two scenes in tandem – this usually happens when we are writing one scene together and one of us is inspired by something the other writes – we still consider ourselves to be writing together; after all, via Skype, we have instant access to one another. After that, we go over both scenes together and make sure everything is in synch and do a light edit. Mostly, though, we quite literally write together. One of us may write most of a scene with the other trailing along fixing things, or simply taking in the tale as it evolves. Sometimes we take turns in the same scene. Tamara often takes over descriptions of locale because she really enjoys it. Alistair enjoys writing certain situations and takes those. We think the main reason one or the other of us takes the lead, though, is character. We each have our favorites.
We write in similar voices and have similar sensibilities, senses of humor, likes and dislikes, and this, of course, is part of our chemistry. But if you have a collaborator you constantly disagree with, our question is why? If you have nothing in common, how can you enjoy your work – or one another?
We received some great feedback the other day. After reading The New Governess, the first installment of our Gothic Erotica serialized novel, The Erotic Adventures of Belinda, a reader said to us: “Which one of you wrote this? I can’t tell.” To which we happily answered, “We both wrote it.” And we did. Just like we wrote this blog. Together, in the Cloud.