Guest Post: Welcome Elizabeth Black!

Happy Book Birthday to a fellow eXtasy Books author! In honor of her latest release, I’m hosting her on the blog today and sending sincere congratulations.

Be advised this is a mature book with adult themes, as are all eXtasy Books titles. Mostly, if you’re under 18 and wanting to read this book, the answer is no. Them’s the rules.

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First, welcome to the blog, Elizabeth! I’m getting a strong ménage-á-trois vibe from this sexy paranormal cover. Or is it more of a reverse harem situation?

Thank you very much for hosting me here today. I’d like to introduce you to my GLBT paranormal shifter romance. It’s not a typical ménage, no. But it’s also not quite a harem . . . you know what, I’ll just let the blurb speak for itself.

Sounds like a good idea. Take it away!

William Shakespeare said All the world’s a stage, but he hadn’t counted on shifters under a theater’s hot lights. Lovers Sam Hightower and Grant Newsome live for the stage. Although they have enjoyed the wanderlust of traveling theater for many years, each has grown tired of the road and wants to settle down. They also have a secret. As shifters and no part of any pack, they are lone wolves in every sense of the word. The full moon brings out the beast in them.

Even though their work as gaffers—lighting techs—puts them in contact with a large variety of willing, sexy men and women to share their love, they prefer men. They find a dancer, Luke Pearce, who makes their blood run hot, but Luke has a secret of his own to test them. Add scenic artists and lovers Charlotte and Lina to the mix, and you have a wild and sexy fivesome.

To spoil their fun and to their surprise, Sam and Grant discover another shifter in their midst, but this young person is so inexperienced and terrified she could expose them to the human hunters and get them killed. How can Sam and Grant protect themselves as well as the people they love?

Fascinating! I haven’t read a five-way in quite a while. Where should interested readers look to find this title?

Readers can find it at all the usual suspects: AmazonBarnes & Noble, eXtasy Books websiteKOBO, and even Google Play Books

I have a short excerpt for you, as well.

Excerpt

“After many decades, Grant had grown weary of running and hiding, and that evening drove his melancholia home harder than ever.

There he sat with Sam in the Portland forest, part human and part wolf, smoking and drinking, waiting for their meal to appear. Grant sat in front of Sam while Sam rubbed his shoulders.

So much had changed over time. Now, he relied on his iPhone to keep track of moon phases. Before his trip to Freiberg, he hadn’t even noticed the moon in the sky at all. No matter where he lived or toured, he had taken to hiding out in the nearest forest on those couple of nights each month when the blood lust took over his mind and body. No one was safe when he transformed, and he did what he could to avoid harming people. A deer or stray dog quenched his blood lust while he hid from the world in the safety of the deepest area of the forest, waiting until the full moon decayed the five percent he needed to be out of trouble. He only transformed at night, and his gallon jug of monkshood rye alleviated his symptoms somewhat, but in the end, he knew he was a danger and needed to hide, not only to avoid killing people but to keep away from the local authorities.

He crouched on the forest floor, swatting the black flies that bit through his thick fur. He wished there were some way of reversing the curse thrust upon him. He wanted nothing more than to sit at home with Sam, drink some beer, and watch a porn flick while making love to Sam again. He cursed his bad timing and rotten luck. He could say “if only” until the tides reversed. Nothing would change the fact that he would go feral every full moon. While he accepted his fate, he did not like it at all. Each full moon he fell into a rage that often came with thoughts of suicide, but when he thought of Sam and his sweet nature and even sweeter body, he realized he had reason to stay alive.

Sam sat next to him, smoking a cigarette, and Grant handed him the jug. Why did Sam seem to take to the change better than he? Or did he really take to it better? What if Sam only pretended so that Grant wouldn’t feel so bad? Misery loved company, but Sam, being a good-natured sort, didn’t wallow in sorrow. He considered the moonlit change a monthly inconvenience, much like some women considered their menstrual cycles. An irritant. If only Grant felt the same way.

Sam gulped as he drank, making slurping noises that grated in Grant’s ears. Sometimes Grant considered the potion the only control he had over his life.

“I feel miserable. I hate the full moon,” Grant said. “Sometimes I just want to curl up and die.”

“It will last only another day or two and then things will be back to normal.”

“What kind of normal is this kind of life?” Grant let his chin rest on his chest as Sam rubbed the kinks out of his shoulders. “My entire body hurts. The monkshood rye helps, but I’m as sore as I know I’ll be every month.”

“I know what you mean. We need something strong for the pain, like morphine, but I don’t know where to get it.”

“I’d rather have cyanide.”

“Don’t talk like that. We can get through this.”

Grant groaned in ecstasy as Sam’s fingers rubbed down his spine. Even though his entire body ached and he wanted to do nothing more than sleep for the next two days, his cock reacted to Sam’s amorous touch, growing larger and becoming sensitive to the slightest touch.

“Hey, I found a great movie for us to watch,” Sam said. “The Brotherhood of the Wolf. I figured it was the perfect movie for our time of the month.”

“Never heard of it.”

Sam turned to Grant and gave him a look Grant was all too familiar with. It was the you’ve got to be shitting me look, since Sam enjoyed relishing in the ways of the world much more than Grant . . . “

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Thanks, Elizabeth! Do you also want to tell us a little bit about yourself?

I do happen to have an author bio for you.

Elizabeth Black writes erotica, erotic romance, speculative fiction, fantasy, dark fiction, and horror. Her erotic fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), House Of Erotica (U. K.), Circlet Press, eXtasy Books, Ravenous Romance, Riverdale Avenue Books, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. She also enjoys writing retellings of classic fairy tales, including her two self-published fairy tales “Trouble In Thigh High Boots” (Puss In Boots) and “Climbing Her Tower” (Rapunzel). An accomplished essayist, she was the sex columnist for the pop culture e-zine nuts4chic (U. K.). Her articles about sex, erotica, and relationships have appeared in Good Vibrations Magazine, Alternet, CarnalNation, the Ms. Magazine Blog, Novelspot, The Erotic Readers and Writers Association Blog, Sexis Magazine, On The Issues, Sexy Mama Magazine, and Circlet blog.

Find Elizabeth at her website where you can sign up for her newsletter, on FacebookTwitter, or her Amazon author page

It was great having you on the blog today. Congratulations again, and best wishes with your new release, Full Moon Fever!

 

 

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group and Getting Out of The Zone

This is an Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Once a month, authors from all over come together and post in a hop where it’s safe to admit that this writing job has its bad days. There will be listicles, support, and digital shoulders to lean on.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

To sign up for the hop yourself go here. The awesome co-hosts for the May 6 posting of the IWSG are Feather Stone, Beverly Stowe McClure, Mary Aalgaard, Kim Lajevardi, and Chemist Ken! The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is also on Twitter and Instagram, in case you were wondering.

The Question for May is: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting in the writing ZONE?

I got some wires crossed and accidentally answered this question in last month’s post so you all already know that I am an anti-ZONE sort of person. Instead, this month I’ll share what I do that reliably helps me to get out of a writing slump/blue period/seasonal depression zone.

Sometimes it takes one step to lift me out. Sometimes I have to use several steps, or all of them. Still other times, I have to go through this whole sequence a few times. The end result, though, is they work for me. If they sound helpful, feel free to steal them for your own dark times. We’re all in this together.

Step one: Accept that rainy, bad times happen. No really, they do. No matter how mature or well adjusted I think I am. Perhaps for no reason, other than that it’s been a while and my hormones feel like slapping me upside the heart. It’s okay for there not to be a reason. I don’t have to pretend I need one.

Step two: Take a break. No writing for a little while. If the voice inside won’t stop telling me how awful everything I’m trying to write is, it’s time for a break. Fifth rejection in a row, or a manuscript that didn’t even make it to the final round of a RWA contest . . . yeah, it’s time for a cooling-off period from the Doubtful Voice which sings the same old tune over and over.

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Words to live by

Step three: Deliberately look up all of the things I’ve done right. Dig out that old critique feedback that was so nice. Look up my name in the one RWA contest that I did place in. Reject the idea that the good things are few and far between. There’s that little voice again, and I’m going to ignore it AGGRESSIVELY.

Step four: Read something funny. My poison of choice is Terry Pratchett. Watch something sweet, or inspiring. Enchanted (from the gif above) is a fantastic choice for this. Take a walk. Sunshine preferred, but I’ll take what I can get.

Step five: Work on a different project. Pick a writing prompt or stumble on a meme that really speaks to me and just let words flow. This project might never go anywhere or be published and it doesn’t matter. Just gotta get those words gushing again.

Step six: Repeat as needed.

What I Thought Author Life Would Be Like vs. What it’s Actually Like

What I thought it would be like:

A00WZ1CXA6Writing retreats full of discourse, stimulating discussions, plotting, and lots of other authors.

What it’s actually like:

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What I thought it would be like:

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Ideas lining up, falling neatly into their places, everything is flowing and glorious and ticking along like pure, perfect, writing clockwork.

What it’s actually like:

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EVER HEARD OF SLEEPING, Ideas? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

What I thought it would be like:

boom baby

Editing, DONE. Polishing? This baby is shining. Revision number three is going SO WELL.

What it’s actually like:

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This was such a great idea to edit this bit here—DAMN IT now I have to re-write every part with foreshadowing and change the spelling for one noun hidden throughout 60,000 words.

What I thought it would be like:

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Blissful hours spent writing.

What it’s actually like:

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Why am I on Canva again? How did Pinterest boards take up three hours? What happened?

What I thought it would be like:

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Writing, writing, writing, more writing, lots of writing, all the words!

What it’s actually like:

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Re-writing my goddamn author bio for the 50th time.

What I thought it would be like:

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The house will just somehow keep itself clean? I dunno, somehow I thought there would be time for writing and cleaning and cooking and parenting and writing.

What it’s actually like:

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This mess keeps multiplying although I am sitting quietly at my computer desk without cleaning, how unfair, I did not authorize this method.

What I thought it would be like:

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Writing the story.

What it’s actually like:

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Back on thesaurus.com looking up synonyms for “moist” for the 800th time

Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 8 Finale Review

TLDR; I just cried for thirty straight minutes. Everyone who said I would love Stranger Things was so very right. You know who you are, and you have my complete agreement, and what have you all done to me.

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The Upside Down

First thoughts: I am not emotionally prepared for any of this. Bring it on.

We’re starting with a big, brutal helping of THE TRUTH for “Papa” and I could sit and watch nothing but Joyce laying into him for a straight day. She doesn’t buy his lines for a second. If he thought Mama Bear would be an easy target he was so very wrong. I also have to hope that Hopper knows what he’s doing as he’s making deals left and right with Assassin Granny who is more than ready to kill him instantly. But he does get both him and Joyce into the Upside Down for a rescue attempt, so I’m calling it a net positive.

Unwise Scientist: “BTW the atmosphere is toxic, put these hazmat suits on.”

Joyce: “WAT the FUCK my SON has been in there for a week!”

And off they go on walkabout in The Upside Down, where we immediately get a flashback to Hopper’s past, to crush my heart into tiny pieces. Oh god I can’t take these revelations about Hopper’s daughter and him crying in the stairwell. It made me start crying, although I tried to hold it back so I could focus on what was going on.

Back with our monster-hunting duo, Jonathan gets cockblocked by Steve “I Creep on You Through The Window” Harrington in the most awkwardly timed decent impulse ever. Seriously Steve pushes inside and immediately you can watch the realization dawn on his little face: his girl is into sacrificial rituals and he probably barely escaped with his life. Bad timing level: expert because the Hellflower shows up at that moment.

Jonathan: “Jump!”

Steve: “There is a set BEAR TRAP in the HALLWAY what the everloving kind of kink is this?!”

Steve’s suffering makes me feel better, though, because I am a bad person. Do I have to LIKE Steve now? Seriously? I still don’t ship him with Nancy.

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RIP Assassin Granny

H E L P Eleven is squishing brains inside skulls now and I don’t even know if I can feel happy about this! Oh god oh god oh god Eleven! This is so disturbingly cathartic. Also “Papa” done fucked up and she wants Mike now. Because Mike gives her, you know, kindness and compassion and Eggos and basic human decency and other unnecessary things. Karma comes for “Papa” in the form of a rampaging Demogorgon and it is glorious. I’m not disturbed about this bit.

My feeling of triumph is immediately squashed, though, because they find Will in the Upside Down and it’s not okay. Nothing is okay. There’s a tube thing in his mouth and he’s not breathing and nothing will ever be okay again. This is all juxtaposed with flashbacks to the death of Hopper’s daughter and you better believe I started sobbing at this point.

Elven and the boys are trapped in a classroom, guns apparently have zero effect on Hellflowers from other dimensions and . . . wait . . . goodbye, Mike? As in, she’s gone? Eleven sacrificed herself? ENDLESS SADNESS and I’M ANGRY AT EVERYONE RIGHT NOW. Still crying.

Will starts breathing again and guess what, I’m still a tearful mess.

I need a hug. And a tissue. And then another hug.

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The Loser’s Club and their happiness a month later as they smash out a great D&D campaign was so good for my heart. (Still crying, softly.) But the moral of the whole story was that if you baseball bat the face-hugging flower monster you get the girl. Happy Christmas. I STILL DO NOT SHIP THEM, OKAY.

We’re left with two extremely intriguing cliffhangers, involving Eggos left in the woods and Will possibly still being connected to The Upside Down. Oh you clever cliffhanging bastards, now I have to watch Season Two. I must.

 

An Updated Slang Dictionary for Your Author Toolbox

This is an Author Toolbox hop post. Every month, the hop supports writers of every stage with resources, ideas, inspiration, tips, and tricks for any and all comers. Join us here at author Raimey Gallant’s website.

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

We’ve been here before (in 2018 with A Modern Slang Dictionary for Your Writer Toolbox) but guess what. It’s 2020 now and the slang has changed! Why does it change so fast? Is it only to annoy us elderly folk? Is it a result of instant globalized access to multiple languages, media, and cultures? Business Insider.com says; “Though many of these terms have been around for decadesoftentimes derived from the language of black and queer communities, online spaces have made the spread, appropriation, and evolution of language more rapid than ever before.” Personally, I think they’re on to something.

However it happens, the end result is there are new terms popping up every year, and some of those terms could be fun for you to use in a book. Have at this list, with my compliments.

Yeet/Yeeted: Oooh, yeet is a fun one. It can be an exclamation, expressing happiness or determination. It can be a noun. It can be a verb. It’s very versatile! Currently, it’s mostly used to mean someone discarded something at high velocity, or left an uncomfortable person/situation at high velocity. The overtones of “Yeet” mean power, victory, a sense of self care, throwing your whole soul into it, and adrenaline.

example: “Esme felt smothered by her controlling boyfriend so she broke up with him yesterday and yeeted.”

example 2: Kids throwing their homework into the trash at the end of the school year: “YEET!”

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Lewk: Adjective/noun. Basically a fancier, cooler way to say “look”. A signature physical trait or carefully composed outfit with personal flair. A fashion statement based on a theme or meant to invoke a certain emotion. I see this one used on Instagram a lot, often by the wonderful Jonathan Van Ness.

example: “Honey, your lewk! It’s giving me serious Stranger Things, Season Two feels.”

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Spon Con: Abbreviating “sponsored content”. It’s a quick note that what you’re posting/talking about is sponsored so your followers are aware, as per FTC guidelines on clear and conspicuous disclosure of promoted content. Often influencers will put Spon Con, or the equivalent #ad in a prominent place.

example: #SponCon. Let me show you my daily face care routine, starting with this awesome organic cleanser.

Flex/Flexing/Flexed: Lean into, show off, emphasize, gloat. Mostly used to indicate someone is bragging about something. It originated in rap, as far back as Ice Cube and the Geto Boys, and has started coming into more commonplace use.

example: “Look at them walking around in cloth of gold. With a peacock on a diamond leash! Okay, somebody’s flexing and doesn’t even want to hide it.”

Stan: Noun or verb. A portmanteau of the words “stalker” and “fan”. Somewhat unfortunate for people actually named “Stan”, sorry about that. It means what you’d think, an overzealous or obsessive fandom/fan actions. Interestingly, the origin is also attributed to the 2000 song Stan by rapper Eminem, about an obsessive fan’s tragic actions. Possibly someone realized it made a perfect mashup of stalker and fan afterwards, and added it to the definition.

example: “She has so many stans on Instagram, don’t even try leaving a mean comment. They will jump all over you.”

example 2: “You know I totally stan Flula Borg, he is hilarious!”

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Thirsty/Thirst: Synonym for “horny” in some contexts, but also for “eager to get something” or “desperate for attention” in others. Context is key, here. The goal of the eager actions determines which meaning thirsty has.

example: “Your gym selfie has me . . . mmm, thirsty.”

example 2: “There are SO many selfies on the beach in this account, thirsty much? You parched, honey.”

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Ok, Boomer: Slightly pejorative retort. Used to dismiss perceived narrow-minded, outdated, judgmental, negative, or condescending attitudes, ESPECIALLY when the perceived attitude comes from a person of the “Baby Boomer” generation. Essentially, when something would take hours of deconstructing ingrained misinformation and ignorance to correct, and you’re not sure the person you’re educating would listen/care anyway, saying “Ok, Boomer” is a way to brush off whatever it was and move on.

example: “In my day people just said things and there was none of this social justice warrior nonsense. Kids these days are too sensitive.” “Ok, Boomer.”

example 2: “Millennial snowflakes are ruining humor! They should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, drink more beer, use napkins, and quit eating avocado.

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Politician Chloe Swarbrick literally used this phrase, on the Parliament floor, in New Zealand. Now I really want to move to New Zealand.

Periodt: “Periodt” is a word used at the end of a sentence, meant to add emphasis to a point that has been made. A more extreme or intense version of “period.” Once this word is used it is over, done, finished, extinguished.

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Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 7 Review

TLDR; Playing with my emotional strings like that, how dare you, Stranger Things? Will is caught! And Joyce & Hopper are caught! And Nancy & Jonathan are off monster hunting AGAIN! And everything is too tense for my heart!

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This. This is the point of the whole episode, right here.

The Bathtub

First thoughts of episode seven: LUCAS TO THE DAMN RESCUE! YAS. Stalker Repairman and His Candy Van Brigade are coming and the kids have to run/bike for it. Eleven’s face when she sees “Papa”, ugh, just stomp on my heart already and be done with it. Anyway, they paid their special effects team well for this show and it was worth every cent.

Everyone apologizes and for a brief, shining moment all is right with the world. Ahhh. But of course that lovely soft feeling cannot last.

Joyce and Hopper go to rescue Jonathan from the jail and, unwisely, a deputy tries to get in her way. She was ready to kill a HELLFLOWER with an AXE, dude, you will not be a challenge.

Just when I decided to hate his guts forever Steve has sudden decent impulse. Damn it, pick a character direction, Steve! I don’t want to trust you but you’re looking all earnest and remorseful and stuff and I don’t know what to think.

The kids are hiding out when the Government Men finally find them but it’s okay because Hopper shows up just in time for some problem-solving! Me *trying to sound stern but still laughing*: “Hopper, you cannot solve every problem by punching it.” Hopper: *punches the problem until it goes away*

And then finally, FINALLY, we are sharing our information as Joyce, Hopper, Eleven, and the rest of the kids all sit around Joyce’s kitchen table and brainstorm. It’s coming together! Upside down road trip to rescue Will, coming right up! Please? (Also, can Hopper, like, be Eleven’s dad now? He would be roughly 1001 times better at it than “Papa”. I’m just throwing it out there.)

We discover in this episode that ten o-clock at night is always a great time to call your science teacher to learn how to make a sensory deprivation tub. Always. I really love it when a show can take moments that are critical for plot development and make them funny. It’s one of my favorite tropes. Is it a trope? Oh, well, it is now.

Nancy and Mike: *make pact to tell each other everything and keep no secrets from now on*

Also Nancy and Mike: *Immediately break pact*

Joyce gives El love and encouragement for possibly the first time in her life. I just wanted to lie down and sob with a combination of relief and pain at this point. This could very well be the first time Eleven has been touched with kindness in her entire life and it HURTS to know that. For her new friends she goes hunting through the Upside Down, alone, looking for our two lost members. We all knew Barb was dead but FUCK that was disturbing. RIP Barb.

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Just shove an ice-pick through my heart, why don’t you.

Eleven does find Will (alive, at the present moment) so all is not lost. But there seems to be a problem with his hiding place being discovered by a rampaging Hellflower . . .

Wait—do not end there!

No, no, don’t do that! Do Not do this to me, Stranger Things, I swear . . .

Goddammit they ended there.

 

 

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is in The Zone

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group meets (online) on the first Wednesday of every month. During these especially scary days, it’s nice to know you’ve got a group like this at your back. If you haven’t already, come join!

The awesome co-hosts for the April 1 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter (Hi!), Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

April 1 question: Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

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Actual image of SE, getting ready to share the ZONE ritual

Why, yes, there is indeed a no-fail ritual I turn to and I would be delighted to share.

  • First, what you need is a good knife sharpener. Chef quality, if you can. You’re going to want a really good edge. Next you’ll need a good narrow filleting knife. None of those big ol watermelon chopper kinds, finesse is needed here.
  • During the next gibbous moon (waxing gibbous, definitely) head for any swampy, rich, muddy area close to you. Getting out of there with dry boots is a bad sign, I mean the kind of place that actively tries to suck your shoes off and eat them.
  • Bring a good reusable shopping bag, two green bell peppers (pasilla will work as a substitute), two spiders (doesn’t matter what kind), an empty container, lots of string, and a snack, cause this will take most of the night and self-care is important. (I suggest tacos.) The container is for blood. Blood will flow as streams for this ritual. When you find a good area to set up your trap you’ll need to leash the spiders and tie them to . . . oh.

Oh . . . wait. That’s not—haha, no, wait, that’s incorrect.

That’s the wrong ritual. Wrong one. Sorry, friends.

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*coughs nervously*

Ahem. In actual seriousness, I have no ritual to get me in the Writing Zone. I just . . . do not have one. Nor have I found one that works every time, because discipline and consistency are kinda anti-SE traits, and this is something I know to be true about myself after 33 years on this planet. I am a vague, oblivious, socially anxious, kind of ditzy, unorganized person with a bad short-term memory. I have developed life-hacks and habits to work with and/or minimize (cause this kind of personality doesn’t get the bills paid, yo), but I don’t have one magic bullet fix for my writing life.

The closest I get to a ritual, and if you want to steal this idea please do, is this: I always go back a chapter or two and re-read what was happening before I start writing.

*shocked gasps all around* I know, I know, this goes against current writing advice which is all VOMIT WRITE DIRTY ON THE FIRST DRAFT and NEVER SELF EDIT YOU INSECURE MUFFIN and YOU CAN’T EDIT A BLANK PAGE. Yes. Totally. I agree 100% if this kind of get-it-down-on-the-page works for you. But it does not work for me and my Dory-memory self.

I need to hit the refresh button before I can go forward, and that’s how I write. As I read through what I already finished I slip back into the world I was creating, remember where I was trying to go, and recollect what steps were next to get me across this constantly rushing torrent of ideas. It’s like shifting from park into drive for me, and it’s something I need.

Will it work for you? Maybe. Also perhaps not. We all hack out the words from the Idea Mines with a different pick. But I will enjoy visiting your blogs today and hearing what works for you. Happy IWSG Day, writers. Stay safe and healthy.

 

Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 6 Review

TLDR; Help us Lucas, you’re our only hope. I was brutally attacked by FEELS in this episode and I don’t know if I’ll survive.

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I need a fluffy otter hug right now

The Monster

First thoughts of the episode: I want to know if Nancy’s okay! I’m going to regret this! But I want to know!! Oh god I’m already regretting this! Help!

I did live through the terrifying part where Nancy & Jonathan are trying to find each other, including yet another jump scare. The music just adds to the tension by a factor of twelve, may I say. Then, as my heart rate is finally slowing again and the monster hunters are dealing with their trauma, Steve pulls an Edward Cullen and regrets it immediately. Just accept you’re an awful boyfriend and move on. You have no idea what Nancy is going through right now. Or Jonathan, for that matter, who proves that he can just be quietly supportive and not pushy, EVEN SLEEPING IN THE SAME BED. Take notes, Steve Cullen.

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oh god my heart rate, it’s not healthy

Meanwhile Mike feels guilty about El, which he should, damn it. She overreacted to Lucas and should definitely apologize to him, but you YELLED at her like a huge meanie and I am mad at you. Never yell at my Eleven. Don’t even look at her in a mildly mean way. Give my El all the hugs and the loves and the kindness and absolutely no yelling. Dustin comes over and lays down some truths in his lisp and Dustin, I love you. (Please don’t die.)

Undercover Assassin Granny shows up at Mr. Clark’s house and my first thought was, “Awww, man, bullet to the head. Farewell, Mr. Clark.” Damn it, why did I admit to liking Mr. Clark, I know better! But he gets to live because she merely wants the names and addresses of all the kids, which is WORSE.

Turns out Eleven spent the night in the woods and she’s having a serious moment. It couldn’t be clearer that she feels like she’s a monster. Her stealing scene was awesome, although I was uncomfortable with her being forced to shoplift. Somebody fucking take care of her right, for once! Poor baby. And there were Eggos again. They haven’t been as critical as I was led to expect with all the memes.

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This is what you GET when you MESS with my ELEVEN, okay

In the very first miss-step I’ve seen the writers make, Joyce and Hopper go on a road trip to see Exposition Lady™ as she explains all of Eleven’s/Jane’s/Stolen By the Government’s backstory in one big infodump. I’ll allow it because there really is a ton to get packed in there and they kinda need it.

Then complete misogynistic douchery comes to play in Hawkins Indiana and all I could think was; STEVE YOU FUCKING TWATWAFFLE. Public slut shaming? That’s your big move here? REALLY? And the heavens opened and from them rained a Nancy bitchslap, which was so well deserved. Steve pushes his already crappy luck and in return gets his ass kicked by Jonathan, which he also deserved. I ain’t even sorry. The Nancy and Steve ship has officially sunk for me. Full speed ahead, Captain Jonathan.

As if that wasn’t enough, what kind of middle-school bullies are they growing in Hawkins? This little dude (he has no name in my head beyond “Bully”) pulls a damn knife on my nerds! A switchblade! Slow it down there, this ain’t The Outsiders, JD. For real. My school mostly had people, like, calling you names and chasing you into the bathroom, what the hell is in the water in Hawkins? Mike risks his life to save Dustin (he was totally going to die) and then El saves him in the coolest scene ever.

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Feelings attack me as they group hug. I’m not tearing up, you’re tearing up. So dang much happened in this episode and all of it hurt and I’ve definitely been smooshed by a train made of feels.

And . . . we end on yet another cliffhanger with G.I. Lucas as our only hope. He’s put the clues together and he’s the only one in a position to warn the other kids as they troop home, all unaware of Stalker Repairman and his Candy Van in the front yard. Things are definitely rushing towards the climax and the tension is almost visibly ratcheting up.

 

Throw Away Your Crutches: Author Toolbox

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2The author toolbox is the creation of Raimey Gallant, all about sharing resources, discoveries, and expertise. If you’re a writer looking for a diverse range of help in many different areas, this is your hop. Come join!

What do you mean by writing crutch, SE?

I mean something like those words we overuse (that, suddenly, like) but in the realm of scene setting and action beats your characters go through. Here are some examples of common writing crutches/habits/aids.

  • Dramatic sighs.
  • Locked eyes/gazes
  • Hearts leaping and/or pounding
  • Letting out a breath they didn’t know they were holding (looking at you, YA)
  • Throats closing/clenching
  • Stomachs jumping, clenching, or sinking
  • Furrowed brows
  • Trembling
  • Blushing
  • Laughing, chuckling, snorting or otherwise indicating amusement the same way every single time
  • Shrugging while rolling eyes
  • Licking lips
  • Nodding or shaking heads

Each of us has a writing prop or three we turn to when it’s time to throw in an action beat. It’s universal, and unavoidable. I’m in the process of editing and revisions for my latest finished MS, running headlong into all of my own writing props, and so this topic is very much on my mind right now. Oh wow do I have a repetitive range of action beats I reach for in almost every situation! Most of the time we don’t see we’re using the same descriptions until we enter the process of editing and realize ‘omg my character is constantly shrugging! Why are you always shrugging, you shrugging shrugger?!’

How do I fix this? What are my options? There are only so many ways to get those action beats in, you know!

Experts have done scientific study things, as they do, and most of them agree that somewhere between 70% and 93% of human communication involves nonverbal cues. Most of us pick up on them without even noticing we’re doing it.

So one possible solution for this issue is to start paying careful, close, almost stalker-ish attention to the nonverbal communication going on around us, and then apply the findings to your action beats.

As I’m revising I find it helpful to search out each repetitive behavior in my book, highlight it, and try to figure out what I was conveying with those actions. I condense it down to the main emotional beat or emphasis I was going for, and with that base in mind I go people hunting.

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NO, NOT LITERALLY. CALM DOWN.

Then I like to watch a movie or show and make a special note of how I’m seeing the emotion I got stuck on. Movies have the luxury of being visual and using that nonverbal communication we take for granted. As authors, we have to take the long way around and describe it so that the reader’s nonverbal communication radar is activated. Get as many examples as you can to draw off of when it’s time to write your character experiencing that emotion. Jot down notes, even. (What are all those empty notebooks for, after all?) Then filter it through your character’s quirks and personality as you kick away your writing crutches and revise your manuscript.

*NOTE* I’m not saying to get rid of every single generic description ever in your book. A) it’s not happening and B) sometimes they’re the quickest way to convey a scene to your reader and there’s no need to complicate it. And they’re not bad things, per se, it’s when they become a repeated refrain there’s a problem. Also, you have your own voice and writing style which should always be respected!

Keeping that note in mind, let’s look at some action beat inspirations:

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  • One of my favorite actors to turn to for huge, grandiose, over-the-top, physical acting. Look at how his whole body is involved in making a humorous point.

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  • Yeah, she goes far beyond the usual narrowed eyes to express anger. Also, it’s hilarious. How would I describe this in a book? I think I’d start with the quick, agitated brush waving and move on to the gritted teeth underneath a wildly flared nose.

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  • So much going on here! Tim Curry’s body screams confidence, control, suspense, humor, excitement. That cocked shoulder. That perfectly timed pause, with the widened eyes. Those quirked lips.

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  • Data is a beautiful example of filtering a character’s physical reactions through their personality. What would be a fluid and natural gesture to a human is stilted, abrupt, and somehow off in the timing when an android does it.

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  • Rowan Atkinson is a living legend when it comes to pure face acting. Here you can see why. I swear even his ears get into the act. This is FAR beyond the usual furrowed brow!

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  • Johnny Lee Miller expresses an entire world of feeling simply by closing his eyes and lowering his head a little. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Further reading: As well as having a nice, quick list of the more common generic reactions, author Nathan Bransford  has a different, good fix for this same problem. I really recommend his article if you’re struggling like I am.

Stranger Things Season 1-Episode 5 Review

TLDR; Everyone is off on their side quests getting lost and separated and infighting and I need them all to get together and have a PLAN. Alone, it’s not working for them. Together, they might have a chance. Also we lost Nancy and I’m surprisingly sad about this?

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At least we don’t have to cringe through any more scenes like this? I guess?

The Acrobat and The Flea

First thoughts; what does a flea, or an acrobat, have to do with anything? (For the record: there was no way I was guessing what that episode title was about. Not even theoretically.)

Hopper has the best worst idea EVER. For nearly ten minutes I sat there saying ‘oh god oh god, oh god’ under my breath. His whole adventure was an exercise in don’t. Don’t go in there! Please don’t get face hugged by the hellflower. DON’T TOUCH IT what is wrong with you? Then was sure it was the monster behind him H E L P. But oh, no, wait it’s the government guys. OH THAT’S WORSE.

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Hopper being Hopper

The funeral just makes everything awfuller and awfuller. Poor Joyce, Poor Jonathan. But not poor Lonnie, fuck that dude. Pretty much everything he does is shady. Like, I’m happy he was there for his family, that was a decent thing to do but…it was also rock-bottom-bare-minimum decent. He belittles Joyce and goes a fair way to convincing her she’s crazy. He argues with Jonathan. Where is the support, dude? Ugh.

I was delighted to find that Hopper gets to live! Yay! Haha on the government guys, too, their little stage setting didn’t fool him for a moment. And it’s like . . . he’s engaged, his brain is firing, he’s kicking ass and taking names and finding the bugs they planted in his trailer. Hell yes, Hopper. I haven’t touched on his tragic backstory much because there really hasn’t been time, but it’s super clear he was depressed and directionless (and drinking a lot) after the death of his daughter. This is giving him purpose? A mystery to solve? A family to help? A cause to champion? Maybe all of those, at once. And I approve.

I just adore Mr. Clark and how enthusiastic he is, though. Oh god now that I’ve said that he’ll die, won’t he? Damn it, SE. I loved Dustin’s brain wave about the compasses and the changing of polar north by the gate. Brains, For the Win! But El looks . . . absolutely terrified. And she’s probably right. They don’t want to go storming that particular gate.

Hopper goes to see Joyce and affirms her Mama Bear sense. You were right, this whole time. It feels so good! I’m not Joyce and I still needed that good feeling. But everyone’s off on their separate side quests and they need to get together, compare stories, and work as a group. Monster/Gate hunting powers, combine! (Please, writers! Please. I’m begging.) I can’t help feeling their separate quests are doomed to fail and my beloved nerds do indeed end up with a fractured group, as Mike & Lucas fight and El uses her mind powers to throw Lucas. Major sad face.

The flashback to El’s powers being used in the sensory deprivation chamber is stunning, what a cool idea to have her basically treading softly on an endless dark ocean! But it makes me very angry on her behalf. They TORTURED her brain to spy on RUSSIA are you kidding me right now? She’s terrified, get her out of there!

Nancy & Jonathan find the wounded deer and the jump scare totally got me. Then yet another side quest ends on an epic fail when Nancy goes through to where this monster dragged a wounded deer, most likely to EAT IT, wtf are you thinking, Nancy? Of course she has a run-in with it, it realizes she’s there, she’s running scared, Jonathan can’t find her and . . .

. . . and it’s the end of the episode, isn’t it. DAMN YOU WRITERS the cliffhanger game is so strong in this show!

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