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As Fair Art Thou, My Bonny Lad now available!

I’m really proud of this story because it’s the first non-collaborative original work I’ve completed in years. I used to write fan fiction by myself all the time, but that slowed down a lot once Ari and I hit our collaborative groove. By the end of our time in fandom, I was writing very little on my own — maybe one or two stories a year — and once we switched over to original works, I didn’t write on my own at all.

Until now.

I started writing for the Torquere Press anthology calls because I’m going back to grad school this fall, and I needed both to practice writing on my own and to prove to myself that I still could. I figured writing for calls that required less than 10K words would be a good place to start. I flailed around for an idea for the Plaid Nights anthology because hey, men in kilts! I finally decided I wanted to write a historical piece. Then I flailed around for a plot, and then I flailed my way through writing the story itself.

It was tough! I’m used to having someone there to play off of, but there was just me this time, and the words came slowly at first. But they came. The words came, and I finished the story, and I’m so proud of myself for it. I felt like I’d achieved a significant milestone, and it bolstered my confidence that I’d be able to write what I needed to write for grad school.

I’ve written for two other calls since then, and it was much easier. The words flowed more quickly, and the end results bumped up against the 10K word limit. But this little story is like my firstborn, and I’m sending it off into the world with a proud smile. 😀

plaidnightsmckay1400As Fair Art Thou, My Bonny Lad (July 2015) – by McKay

Adie Gilchrist is satisfied with being a bachelor shopkeeper, until a handsome immigrant from Scotland arrives in the port town of Wilmington in the North Carolina Colony and begins pursuing him. Adie’s quiet life is changed in ways he’s not certain he wants. Niall McAllister wants a fresh start in the Colonies, but Adie isn’t convinced they can build a life together without consequences if their secret is discovered. When illness threatens to tear them apart forever, Adie has to decide which he wants more: safety or love.

19 pages/5100 words for $2.49

 

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Plot bunnies everywhere

I’ve mentioned before that Ari and I use Evernote for our notes and ideas. It’s really useful because you can clip articles and images from the web, upload documents, and create your own notes, all saved in specific notebooks.

We have one note that’s just an on-going plot bunny list. Whenever one of us gets an idea for a plot or character, the standard response is “Put it on the list.” Although now that it’s pushing 100 plot bunnies, I think it might be deserving of capitalization: The List.

Since the Herc’s Mercs series seems to have taken off nicely, we’ve been thinking more and more about ideas for continuing the series. We’d been lumping the Herc bunnies in with all the other bunnies, but last night, we decided it was time to give the Herc series its own bunny list. So I pulled all the plot bunnies specifically earmarked as Herc ideas plus a couple of others that we’d discussed as being of potential use for Herc stories and added them to a separate note in our Herc’s Mercs notebook.

The Herc plot bunny list is already 7 items long, which doesn’t count the two stories we’re currently working on. So if our readers like the Herc’s Mercs series, I don’t think they need to worry that it’ll dry up any time soon!

We have two Herc’s Mercs stories going at once because we started one, realized it wasn’t working out the way we wanted, and decided to backtrack and do over. However, before we got started on the do-over, another insistent Herc bunny came along, so we decided to roll with that one and get back to the do-over afterward.

Right now, we’re probably about 3/4 finished with the insistent Herc bunny, which features a retired merc whose attempt at building a second career as a private chef is interrupted when the circuit court judge he works for is targeted by an ex-con with an axe to grind. Ezra “Ghost” Levin ends up calling in a favor to his former boss, Cade “Hercules” Thornton, and getting a team of mercs to help him keep his judge safe. For those who liked Herc’s Mercs: Bloody But Unbowed, Daryl “D-Day” Greer makes an appearance in this story as part of Ghost’s team. 😀

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Herc’s Mercs visual inspiration

To start on a random note, I really like my nails right now. I don’t normally go for pale colors, but I found a combo I wanted to try: In the Flesh with Vintage Confetti glitter coat on top. Both are Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure, which I’ve found wears pretty well. The glitter coat caught my attention first, and In the Flesh is a subtle pale pink that picks up one of the glitter colors, so I thought it would make a good foundation. I’m very pleased with the results!

Also, I’m trying hard to cut down on processed foods, but they make it really hard when they throw things like Lays potato chips in “Cheddar Bacon Mac and Cheese” flavor at me.

I’ve talked a bit about Herc’s Mercs: Line in the Sand before, but mostly I nattered about how Tom Hiddleston was the inspiration for Jon and then I veered off into talking about Herc 3. So I wanted to talk about visual inspiration, which we use a lot in our writing.

Choosing visual references for our characters helps us set a clear image of that character in our minds for ourselves and each other, which means we’re both on the same page in terms of physical description. Usually, we end up taunting each other and trying to whip each other’s muses into a frenzy by linking to sexy photos of the person we’re using as visual inspiration, which is fun if a little distracting. 😉 Continue reading “Herc’s Mercs visual inspiration”

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Blood Bathory 2!

A week from today, the second novel in our Blood Bathory trilogy will be coming out from Torquere Press! The Blood Bathory series is dear to us because while the first book wasn’t the first original work we got published, it was the first  manuscript we finished (and submitted and got rejected) when we decided to try our hands at original fiction writing.

Book One came out last July, and we used it as a way to introduce the world we’d built, which involves a battle between shapeshifters who are the servants of Gaia and vampires, who are out to destroy the shapeshifters. The primary antagonist is Elizabeth Bathory, who is trying to establish a foothold in NYC and to track down Evan St. John, who risked his life to escape her.

Evan is one of the main characters of book one, a reluctant vampire who didn’t ask to be turned. He seeks help from his best friend, Will Trask, and together, they face the realization that the world is much stranger — and much more dangerous — than they thought it was.

Mild spoilers for book two ahead!

Continue reading “Blood Bathory 2!”

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Herc’s Mercs, Tom Hiddleston, and The Walking Dead

The interesting thing about the Herc’s Mercs series is that it basically steamrollered us. Ari came up with the basic premise quite a while ago, and we put it on The Plot Bunny List of Doom, but we didn’t focus on it right then. She mentioned it a few times as a possibility when we were casting around for ideas on what to write, but again, we didn’t latch onto it. A few months ago, a Herc plot bunny attached itself to her ankle and started mangling, and since it was inspiring her so much, I rolled with it.

I chose to write Jude in “Herc’s Mercs: The Bigger They Come” because action isn’t really one of my strengths as a writer, and I wasn’t confident I could pull off writing Herc. Once we hashed out the basic plot and started writing, the story flowed, and we’d scarcely reached the end of the rough draft before we were coming up with ideas for Herc 2.

“Herc’s Mercs: Line in the Sand” is coming out later this year from Torquere Press, and it focuses on Alec “Red” Davis (you were right, Macky!) and Jon Baldwin, an actor who has recently skyrocketed to fame thanks to his starring role in a summer blockbuster. Alec is Herc’s right hand man, and he hasn’t been in the field for a while, so Herc assigns him as Jon’s bodyguard to change up his routine and get him back in the action again.

We tossed around various ideas for the plot, and since we knew we wanted to avoid repetition, giving Jon a stalker was out of the question. Jon does end up in peril, and Alec has to call on all of his strength and wits to save him, but it’s a very different kind of peril than Jude and Herc faced.

Continue reading “Herc’s Mercs, Tom Hiddleston, and The Walking Dead”

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Writing Process Blog Hop!

Welcome to the Ari McKay portion of the Writing Process Blog Hop! Much thanks to Sean Michael for inviting us – you can check out his blog at http://sean-michael.livejournal.com and learn all about how he does his thing!

1) What am I working on?

We usually have at least 2-3 things in various states of progress at any given time. Some things get backburnered indefinitely, and some get backburnered temporarily, but nothing ever truly goes to waste. Everything we write allows us to practice something new.

Right now, we have a rough draft of the second Herc’s Mercs story (the first is coming out this Wednesday, April 2!) finished and awaiting final edits before we submit it.

We have a rough draft of the third Herc’s Mercs story mostly finished. It needs a couple of action scenes added and a first round of edits. The Herc’s Mercs bunnies hit hard, fast, and en masse, so we pretty much wrote three stories in that universe back to back.

We have about 22k words of a post-apocalypse novella/novel that we envision as a kind of futuristic Steampunk Western. It might be a while before we get back to this one, but we’ve had a lot of fun with the world-building, so we’ll definitely finish it eventually.

But the main thing we’re working on right now is the third novel in the Blood Bathory trilogy! We’ve started and scrapped drafts of this two or three times as we tried to figure out which way we wanted to go with it, and we’ve finally settled on a direction that’s working out really well. This novel will wrap up the battle between the vampires and theriomorphs begun in Blood Bathory: Like the Night and continued in Blood Bathory: Absence of the Sun, which is coming out on July 2. Even though we’re wrapping up this particular arc, we’ll probably revisit this world down the road because we’ve grown attached to the characters and the world we’ve created, and there are definitely other stories to tell!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With the Blood Bathory series, we’ve tried to create and explore different variations on the traditional types of vampires and werewolves. Our shapeshifters are a kind of shaman, servants of Gaia who protect and nurture life. Their form is determined by their nature, and they can transform at will. Our vampires are cursed rather than undead, and the distinction will be made clearer in Blood Bathory: Absence of the Sun, which reveals the origin of the vampires.

There’s a lot of world-building in the Blood Bathory series, and while there’s definitely a romance (and sex), the emphasis is on the plot, which has plenty of action sequences. World building and character development tend to be common elements of our works in general, especially when we’re creating a series.

3) Why do I write what I do?

We write a lot of different genres! We have a lot of contemporary romance stories, but we also have historicals and paranormal adventures. Even within the contemporary works, we’ve tackled a wide range of characters and settings. Basically, we go where the plot bunnies take us, and we enjoy trying new things. So if we get a particularly aggressive plot bunny biting our ankles, we’ll try it, doing research as needed.

 4) How does your writing process work?

Because we don’t live near each other, we use Google Docs to write our drafts. The benefits of using a collaborative writing tool is that we can both access the documents at the same time and write together in real time when we’re online together in the evenings, and we can access the draft and take our turn in the current scene when we have time during the day. It saves drafts automatically, and the draft can be downloaded as a Word document once we’re ready to start editing and formatting in preparation to submit the story.

We use Evernote to organize notes about our stories, clip webpages and photos we can use for inspiration, write up character bios, and keep an on-going plot bunny list, among other things. We give our novels their own notebook; each series has its own notebook, and our short stories all go in the same notebook. It’s been a very handy organizational tool, and the best thing is that we can both access it from our computers, our smart phones, or our iPads.

Our writing process is pretty simple, and we’ve got it honed to an art form at this point. First we decide on the overall plot, which is determined based on whether we’re writing for a specific call for submissions or we’ve been attacked by a giant, rabid plot bunny that’s sunk its teeth into our ankles and refused to let go. Sometimes, it’s both!

After that, we discuss the main characters. Sometimes, a character will pop up and start yakking at one of us. At that point, deciding who writes whom is easy. We stick to single POV within a scene, but we do alternate POV from scene to scene so that the burden of exposition doesn’t fall entirely on one of throughout the story. On the rare occasion when we do stick to single POV, it’s because either the story length requirement was so short that we thought it wouldn’t be worthwhile to switch or we thought the story would work better seen through the POV of a single character. Most recently, we tried first person POV with “Call of the Night Singers” because we were trying to mimic the common tropes of traditional Gothic horror.

After we finish the rough draft, Ari takes the first editing pass. After she’s done looking at it, I format the work to the publisher’s requirements and take my editorial pass through it. Sometimes, we get someone else to look at it as well if we’re worried about any particular aspects of the story or we want to make sure it reads well. We’re pretty much a well-oiled machine when it comes to writing the rough draft, but we do tend to get bogged down in the editing and revision stage. That part always seems like a necessary evil when we’d rather be starting on the new shiny!

Next week, please check out the blogs of some other fantastic writers:

For author and textile artist A. Catherine Noon, it’s all about the yarn, both metaphorical and literal—spinning a yarn, knitting with yarn, weaving, sewing, painting, sharing stories and good times over a cup of coffee with dark chocolate. She teaches creative writing, creative expression and textile arts. You can find her blog at: http://acatherinenoon.blogspot.com/

Medeia Sharif is a writer of Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction from several different publishers, as well as being a middle school English teacher. You can find her at http://medeiasharif.com

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A Trip Into the Unknown…

As some people know, on March 19th our novella “Call of the Night Singers” will be released by Torquere Press. This is a very different venture for us in many ways, and we’re eager to see what people think.

What’s so different, you may ask. Well, to begin with, it’s in first person. I know a lot of people don’t care for first person POV, but in this case it was absolutely necessary for it to be written as such, because the story is very much an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired gothic horror. Both McKay and I are fans of the horror genre, and for me, especially, H.P. Lovecraft was one of the authors who I read extensively in my formative years. His kind of brooding, creeping horror/suspense had a big influence on my appreciation for a well-crafted tale of the macabre, and it’s very easy to trace his influence on authors such as Stephen King and Robert McCammon (both of whom I also enjoy).

The second difference is that the story is a historical. Our other historical piece, Heart of Stone, has been well-received, so we wanted to venture back to the Victorian era once more. One advantage of a historical setting for this kind of story is that it helps preserve the nature of the unexplained and unexplainable, to make the horror that much more fearsome because the characters don’t have to get caught up in things like DNA analysis or infrared photography to prove or disprove their experiences. This is in direct contrast to our story “Ghost of a Chance”; while “Ghost” wasn’t a horror story per se, the scientific proof (or lack of it) lay at the very heart of the conflict between the characters. In “Night Singers”, however, disbelief isn’t much of an option for the protagonists, and they are the products of a Victorian era which was rife with seers, seances, and all sorts of unexplained phenomena.

Another difference from our usual type of story is that it’s an established relationship piece. Geoffrey Wainwright, the POV character, has been with his lover Garland Heatherford for several years, and they are very much in love with one another. Rather than the central story involving characters discovering one another and finding love, this time love is the motivation for overcoming fear and horror in order for the characters to protect one another.

Even though this story is bit different from our other work, we do hope people enjoy it, especially those who are fans of a good horror story!

Story Blurb:

When Garland Heatherford is named heir to his uncle’s vast fortune, he isn’t pleased by the honor, and with good reason. The last five heirs all met with most untimely deaths – four of them from drowning. Although loathe to accept his inheritance, Garland nevertheless travels to the “cursed” town of Bath, North Carolina, to meet his aged uncle, hoping to avoid the fate of his predecessors. But Garland has something in his favor the other heirs didn’t: his lover, Geoffrey Wainwright.

The sight of the decaying hulk of Heatherford House dismays both men, yet they have little choice but to enter a world where a miasma of horror lies beneath a veneer of breeding, and madness and death seem to lurk in every corner. Ruling over all is the presence of sinister Roderick Heatherford, who has managed to outlive five young, healthy heirs despite his allegedly poor health. When an unexpected illness strikes Garland and he begins to sleepwalk, lured from bed by singing only he can hear, Geoffrey resolves to protect Garland from every danger – even if it costs him his own life.

Publications

Valentine’s Day story: Dandy’s Little Girl

Tomorrow (February 5), our first work of 2014 will be published! It’s a Valentine’s Day themed novella called “Dandy’s Little Girl”:

Five years after losing his partner, Noah Coleman lets Andy Lane into his life and the life of his daughter, Emily. Emily and Andy obviously adore one another, but can Noah handle it when his feelings of friendship for Andy become something more?

For this story, I wrote Andy, who is the manager of a toy store by day and a Bluegrass musician by night. His band, the Big Biscuit Bottoms, are hired to play an “Anti-Valentine’s Day” gig at a local bar, and I had way too much fun compiling the set list. Rather than go for songs about heartbreak and betrayal, I decided to use songs dealing with the end of a romance… via murder.

What amused me most is that I found so many, I had to narrow the final list down. Not all of the songs I chose involve murder, but they are all unconventional takes on love and romance. In case anyone is intrigued, I’ve compiled a list (with videos!) below.

Continue reading “Valentine’s Day story: Dandy’s Little Girl”

Diary

Speak the Speech Trippingly on the Tongue

One thing that helps keep Ari and me focused is deciding what we’re going to write, in what order we’re going to write it, and then making a list. Works with deadlines get priority on The List, and we also have a shared iCal calendar just for writing deadlines. Currently, we’ve just submitted a story and crossed it off The List, and we’ll be finishing up the rough draft of a Valentine’s Day novella this week. It’ll get a few days to marinate, and then we’ll edit it and send it off.

After that, it’s time to whip the rough draft of Blood Bathory 2 into shape! The draft is finished, but we need to add scenes we skipped over, mostly brief scenes establishing what the villains are up to, and then edit it. Considering it’ll probably be 100k-ish, that’ll take a while. We’re budgeting about a month to get that done, allowing for real life interventions, and once that’s finished, we’ll move on to the next thing on our list.

One of those things is Blood Bathory 3, the third and final novel that will wrap up our trilogy, although we’ll probably revisit that world down the road. The trilogy will be stand-alone, but the world we’re building will let us come back to it if we want to, and I think we will because we’ve enjoyed it so much.

I’m looking forward to writing the primary character I’ll be writing in BB3, and I think he’ll pose an interesting challenge. He was born in the 1500s, and for plot-related reasons I can’t divulge, he spent a rather long time more or less isolated from the world. Not cut off entirely but separated enough that his language didn’t have time to catch up completely to the modern world, so he still uses a fair bit of archaic language without realizing it. So I’ve been planning for his language — word choice, sentence structure — to be different, but I hadn’t stopped to think about how his pronunciation might be different until I saw this:

love this. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the past, and I love that there are people who are so passionate about language that they’d go to the trouble of researching and reconstructing Shakespearean pronunciation. Not only that, but now I have a pretty good idea of what my character probably sounds like. Maybe not quite to this extent but I’m sure it still impacts his speech, which should make trying to communicate with some of the other characters interesting!

Suffice to say, going to London to see an Original Pronunciation production at The Globe is going on my bucket list.