Tag Archives: Joshua Essoe

Meet the Fictorians: Gregory D. Little

“Come in, — come in! and know me better, man!” -Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

We’d love for you, our wonderful readers, to get to know us better. That’s why, each month, Kristin Luna will interview a member of The Fictorians. We’ll learn more about each member, such as their writing processes, their work, where they live, and what they prefer to drink on a cold winter’s day. We hope you enjoy this monthly installment of Meet the Fictorians.

Meet the Fictorians:

Gregory D. Little

Kristin Luna (KL): Hi Greg! How are you doing today, and what are you drinking?

Greg Little (GL): Hi Kristin! I’m doing well, though I’m a bit stressed in the way I always get with a looming deadline. At this precise moment I’m drinking an iced, black tea (a mix of iced tea blend and blackberry sage). Unsweet iced tea is my go-to drink, because I like a drink to taste like something and I can drink as much unsweet tea as I want, guilt-free. I also enjoy flavored fizzy water, wine, craft beer and a mixture of my own design I call Cokenade, which is Coke Zero and limeade. Wow. I just realized that I am SUPER pretentious with my beverage choices. Um, next question!

KL: No, not at all! That Cokenade sounds like it should have its own SyFy Channel movie, for real.

So another pressing question: dogs or cats? I have to know.

GL: We have a nine-year-old yellow Lab named Riley (I’ve actually done a Fictorians post about him because he likes to carry his poop bag for us on walks). Both my wife and I are allergic to cats, so that was never really an option, but Riley makes that doubly so. As a puppy he was genuinely curious about cats and wanted to play with them. Two face-clawings later, he shifted to more of a “cat genocide” stance. He’s never actually caught one, thankfully (cats seem to realize he means business and generally retreat), but he would love to. I try not to let this prejudice me toward cats, but there are only so many times you can have your arm nearly pulled out of your socket on a walk before you start to dread the sight of them.

KL: Nothing like a good cat-clawing to the face to learn a lesson. That’s how my cat keeps me in line, anyway.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

GL: I graduated from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) with a bachelors in Aerospace Engineering. If you’ve read my author bio, I call myself a rocket scientist. That’s because when you tell people you are an aerospace engineer, you get one of two reactions: an impressed look or a look that mingles pity and horror. For whatever reason, changing that to “rocket scientist” gets you the impressed reaction a lot more often, so that’s what I go with.

KL: Wow, that’s awesome! So how does your education figure into your writing?

GL: Since science is all about how the physical world works, I like to understand that for the stories I write. For fantasy, I want some sort of logical underpinnings to my magic systems and worldbuilding. That doesn’t mean that every magic system has to have a clearly explained, Brandon Sanderson-esque set of rules, only that I as the author like to have an idea how it works even if I don’t make that clear to the reader. When I tackle science fiction, I feel an obligation to get the science right as much as possible. I try to make any deviations from science deliberate choices to suit the story rather than accidents.

KL: You have one book out right now called Unwilling Souls. What’s it about and what was your inspiration for writing it?

GL: A few years back I wrote a story, “Godbane,” set in a world where the gods were imprisoned inside the hollowed out center of the planet, and a group of blacksmiths had to keep them that way using tools forged of a special metal and empowered by the souls of the dead. The story was about teenage, star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a social chasm left over after the war that imprisoned the gods.

After finishing the story, I thought it would be interesting if those characters had a daughter together, and then a falling out, after which each became powerful leaders and bitter enemies across that same social divide that had doomed their relationship. Unwilling Souls is the story of their daughter, Selestia (Ses for short). Abandoned by her mother, now a business magnate, and her father, now a terrorist, Ses is training as an apprentice smith at the prison where the gods are kept as the story begins, . An attack on the prison occurs on her sixteenth birthday, an apparent attempt to free the gods. As Ses’s father is the prime suspect, she’s forced to go on the run when the authorities lump her into their suspect list.

This interview is perfectly timed, too. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, it will be featured in a Kobo Next for Less promotional deal, where readers can pick up a Kobo e-copy for 50% off it’s normal price. That deal will last until the 15th of April

KL: Great story! Do you have any other books coming out that we can look forward to?

GL: I do! Unwilling Souls is the first of its series, and the sequel, Ungrateful God, should be out sometime this summer. In fact, the deadline I mentioned before is to deliver the manuscript to my editor, Fictorian Emeritus Joshua Essoe. Work on the cover is nearing completion as well, so things are on track! While Unwilling Souls is a chase story, Ungrateful God is more of a mystery with an explosive final third. I’m quite pleased with how it’s turning out.

KL: As Frank and Evan have mentioned in their interviews, writing a series isn’t easy. Do you have any advice you can share that you discovered while writing a series?

GL: Lots! One in particular applies if you write like I do. I’m mostly a discovery writer. While I have end goals and major waypoints in mind when I set out to write a story, a lot of the stuff between those points is discovered as I go. Sometimes the points themselves shift as things change! If you write in a similar fashion, the fear of hemming yourself in later in a series can be very stressful. While you should definitely plan out enough to avoid major disasters of a painted-into-a-corner variety, don’t sweat the small stuff too much. Little roadblocks of that sort will force you to get creative, resulting in better ideas than the lazy ones that are usually the first to occur to you.

KL: Let’s get more general: when it comes to writing advice, what’s the best you’ve heard?

GL: People will tell you that you have to write every day, or x many words or pages per day, or that you should write in the morning vs. the evening vs. the dead of night. When you get right down to it, most people are advising you to write in exactly the way that works best for them. But people are different. Write in the way that works for you. If writing every day causes you to burn out after a few months, then don’t write every day. If writing once a week causes you to get distracted away by other things, then write more often than that. Whatever keeps you writing regularly and enjoying it, do that thing.

KL: Excellent. So let’s touch on how you came to be a Fictorian. When did you join the Fictorians and why?

GL: I met Evan at World Fantasy Convention 2012 in Toronto and we got along well while hanging out with the other Superstars alums. A few months later he contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in doing a guest post. I did and had a great time. He then followed up with similar requests for two or three more months in a row, and after that I was inducted officially. I joined because it’s just a great group of people and coming up with content on a regular basis forces you to think about the details of writing in ways you might just gloss over otherwise.

KL: And finally, what is your favorite Fictorians post that you’ve written so far?

GL: I hate to say I peaked early, but The Inevitability of Myth, one of my guest-posts, was a lot of fun to write, because it combined my love of storytelling with my fascination over modern neuroscience’s giant leaps into understanding of how the human brain works.

***

If you have any questions for Greg, please leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

The Monster Mash: Writing Sex Scenes, Part Two

A guest post by Joshua Essoe.

In part one we talked about if you should go all the way, how to decide, creating tension in all the right places, and what position you should take. Tonally speaking.

Today, let’s get into some specifics of when you’re trying to verb the adjective noun.

Your characters should inform everything that takes place between them. Who are they? Are they gregarious and shameless? Well then, yeah, a character like that might just throw their clothes off, give strip teases for the thrill of it, and view kisses as fun but meaningless.

Is your character shy? Well that character is very unlikely to just throw their clothes off or have sex in a changing room. Maybe they want the light turned off first, maybe they kiss tentatively, and slowly, maybe they need their partner to undress first.

And let’s not forget about laying down complications, hiking up tension, and stroking inner conflict. Maybe your character feigns confidence and it gets tested terribly when things heat up. Maybe they’re worried about some perceived physical defect. Maybe the character is married or committed to someone else–what kind of inner conflict would that engender? How would that other relationship inform their choices in the romance with someone else? Are they in love with two people at once?

Let’s get deeper into the question of how far you should push.

Just like any other scene, you focus on what you want your readers to focus on. And that is what your specific character would be focused on. What does your viewpoint character find attractive and sexy about the character they are with? Both physically and in their personality, their movements, their smell, the sounds they make. Maybe that shameless character is turned on by having everything articulated. That character definitely likes the dirty dirty. Maybe that shy character is focused on the eyes and minute facial expressions. Use all the senses. What is going to make it interesting and unique are the specific details you use. The more specific and narrow you make your focus, the sexier the scene will be. And yes, sometimes that means you’ll be writing about what parts go where and what that feels like.

The way you inform your readers of that, what words you use, will depend on your characters, the tone of the story, and how you’ve set it up. There should always be some words on your Do Not Fly list. Let me suggest a few:

  • Turgid, adj
  • Purple, adj/noun
  • Fleshy, adj
  • Wrinkled, verb (If this is an adjective, then please don’t send me this MS.)
  • Pert, adj
  • Moist, adj

These are not sexy words. Even penis. Penis is not a sexy word. They accurately describe something, sure, but analytically relating what a thing is, or what a thing does, does not sexy make. Likewise, be careful with the placement of your sexy words because it will be hard, err, difficult to keep from using them over and over. Keep track of those little buggers or everything is going to end up wet, or hard . . . or turgid.

But, like everything else in writing, it is a careful balancing act. Just like any other action scene, don’t go overboard with your descriptions or you’ll bog down your prose, and kill your pacing and interest. When I say focus in and use specific details I don’t mean that you should describe every single movement or action taking place. You can leave some things to your readers’ imaginations. They’ll fill in the blanks.

Be aware of the tropes. There are a lot out there, but here are some common ones:

  1. The woman or man is unattainably attractive.
  2. She has an apparent willingness to have sex with the male protagonist, usually as a means of manipulating him.
  3. The female character is duplicitous, and either secretly evil or forced to act that way for some reason.
  4. Rape. I can’t tell you how tired women, in particular, are of reading rape used as a tool to garner sympathy, or stoke conflict. But that is a separate article.

One final note. It’s worth talking about the actual, physical writing of these kinds of scenes. I heartily recommend your local Starbucks if you want the dude with the Beats by Dre, the man in the pinstriped shirt, and the cute, spikey-haired girl sneaking stares as your face flushes, your breath quickens, and you start to sweat. Just please keep your hands on your keyboard at all times.

Or maybe you should plan to write these things in private. And then you can let your hands do whatever they gotta do.

Wherever you chose to write your dive in the dark, don’t stop, once you start. Going halfway into the scene, then pulling out for a break kills your own tension and takes you out of the flow. It would be like texting with your buddy while you’re bed-pressing with your partner. Just like in real life you want the process to go smoothly without interruption. Write the whole scene in one ecstatic burst. Do not go back to read what you’ve written. Do not count how many times you’ve used the words “moist,” and “pert.” It doesn’t matter, don’t break your rhythm.

That means do not stop to edit yourself! The scene might suck, but that does not matter, just like any first draft, you’ll have your chance to go back and massage it into splendor later.

If you’ve never written a sex scene, and maybe even if you have, you may feel embarrassed, or even scared enough that you can only manage a tag to yourself, “put the sex stuff here.” For those of you that this applies to, take heart. You don’t have to view writing sex and romance as writing a sex scene or writing erotica. You’re just writing a scene. That’s it. You’ll do great. Let your characters guide you, listen to them, just as you would with any other scene, and write.

Joshua EssoeAbout Joshua Essoe:

Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale; Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development; best-seller, James Artimus Owen; and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the copy editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michael J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.

The Monster Mash: Writing Sex Scenes, Part One

A guest post by Joshua Essoe.

This is an intimidating subject, and one I think many authors have a lot of questions about. Should the characters indulge in a little horizontal refreshment? Do they or don’t they? Should I or shouldn’t I?

In loving someone else, we really do discover things about ourselves. The act of sex opens up all kinds of emotional territory for us, and it’s great to show characters discovering themselves through their physical loving of one another.

First, let’s decide if your story needs a love scene. Just like any other scene, ideally, it should do three things–advance the plot, show character progression, and turn you on . . . I mean entertain. If the sex can reveal character, or advance plot, or increase tension, you should consider including a little limb mingling in your story. Especially if the genre encourages it.

I read an awesome quote from Delilah S. Dawson who writes the Blud series:

“Remember in Mallrats, where they were doing the dating show, and the suitors were asked if their kisses were like a soft breeze, a firm handshake, or a jackhammer? Gil answered, “Definitely a jackhammer, I’m in there with some pressure and when I’m done, you’re not the same as before. You’re changed.” And we laughed, because he was a douche. But your sex scene should be like that: it should move the story forward and somehow affect the characters emotionally. Maybe the hero learns to open up, maybe the heroine decides she wants to be more aggressive in her real life, maybe they’re just having what they think is a last fling before a giant orc battle. But it has to mean something, or else it’s just porn.”

So here are some things to consider:

A) Is a character’s personal life necessary to the story?

B) Should the sex be explicit or implied?

C) What genre is it for?

Each genre is going to cook the meat and potatoes a different way, and have different expectations and limitations. Do your research and find out what is required, and what is prohibited. Keep in mind that just because a story has a sex scene in it, it doesn’t make it erotica any more than an action story becomes a romance because there is a romantic relationship in it.

Sex scenes and romances are all about the tension. They’re about building that moment that readers are waiting for. That moment where one thing turns to another. That first kiss after all those “innocent” touches, or all that longing. It’s that slow build to that first moment where the clothes finally come off, or the first time that one character finally admits that they love the other. The buildup is where it’s at. That’s what’s interesting and engaging. The reward of the actual kiss, or the I-love-you, or the sex is nice, but it means little without the buildup of characters and those characters’ desires. Wine and dine your readers before taking them home. Everybody enjoys some foreplay.

Terry Goodkind did a masterful job of creating romantic tension in his first few Sword of Truth books. We really wanted Kahlan and Richard to get together just as much as we were invested in the central conflict being resolved. When they finally kiss and when they finally get together, however briefly, it is immensely satisfying.

Another excellent lesson from that series is that the tension of their love affair decreased exponentially with each new book that kept them apart. With the repetitive pulling apart and coming back together, it became frustrating. You can’t be a one-trick pony, no matter how good that trick is; you have to show your readers new problems, give them new conflicts. There’s only so long readers will be willing to wait, and only so much they’ll be able to stand before getting frustrated or bored and putting your story down.

You have to keep up the cycle of tension, but it has to be fresh tension.

So, okay, the characters really do need to do the pickle tickle. It’s necessary to the story, okay? How do you handle it?

Unless the tone and mood calls for it, unless the characters and the story call for it, don’t be needlessly crass. There are plenty of ways to describe things, and use implied information to inform your readers of exactly what is going on.

In one sci-fi manuscript I read, the writer plunged me into gratuitous sex scene after gratuitous sex scene with no build-up or tonal foreshadowing, and seemingly without purpose besides the writer’s desire to write raunchy sex scenes. It was like having a picnic on a cloudless day that abruptly begins raining frogs on you. It didn’t make sense and was quite jarring.

Language is important. The specific words you use are important. Don’t write a book that has a little flirtation, and then jump into a chapter where one character is practically raping another. Don’t abstain from using any harsh language, and then use all the filthiest words you can come up with when you get to your sex scene. Your story needs consistency and everything must be set up so that you are appropriately managing your readers’ expectations.

Tone is important, but don’t be afraid to have a funny sex scene either. Coming-of-age sex scenes, for example, could be just as much about the humor in the awkwardness as it is about that life-changing event for the characters. You can still do funny, and tender, and sexy all in one scene if you want. Life is nuanced, and so should your sex scenes be.

In part two, we’ll take a deeper poke at how far to go, tropes, and character penetration. Until then, don’t write anything you’ll regret in the morning.

Joshua EssoeAbout Joshua Essoe:

Joshua Essoe is a full-time, freelance editor. He’s done work for best-seller David Farland, including the multi-award winning novel, Nightingale; Dean Lorey, lead writer of Arrested Development; best-seller, James Artimus Owen; and numerous Writers of the Future authors and winners, as well as many top-notch independents. He is currently the copy editor at Urban Fantasy Magazine.

Together with tie-in writer Jordan Ellinger, indie success-story, Michael J. Sullivan, and traditionally published author and NY Times best-seller, Debbie Viguie, he records the weekly writing podcast Hide and Create

When not editing . . . ha ha, a joke. He was a 2014 finalist in the Writers of the Future contest, and lives with his wife, and three horrible cats near UCLA.

Growing Pains and Progress

You may hear authors reminisce from time to time about their awful earlier work. While I can agree that some of my oldest short stories are not as interesting or polished, I relish looking through them. Why? Because I can see how far I’ve come.

Growth in one’s craft is only sexy in movie montages. Definitely in Rocky III, amiright?

For everyone who isn’t Sylvester Stallone, growth looks like hard work, tears, inevitably a day of not showering here and there, and a hefty dose of self-loathing. Sometimes, it seems like you aren’t getting anywhere. You’re running in a constant hamster wheel, praying for something to break your plateau. You care too much to give up, even after seeing rejection after rejection.

When I hit one of these plateaus a few years ago, I spent time in serious reflection. I received a few rejections, and knew that my writing wasn’t quite up to par. I desperately wanted to improve and get better, but how? I had a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing. I have read many books about the craft. But I needed someone to dive deep into my writing and give some personal advice.

I hired Joshua Essoe, a friend and freelance editor, to line and content edit my YA fantasy novel, The Bond. While it was a bit scary to have my book picked apart, I couldn’t believe how much I had learned from the first few edited pages alone. Joshua Essoe pointed out things I do stylistically that no one else had before. Those observations helped me make my story more compelling and clear, and streamline sentences by taking out unnecessary or implied text.

Paying a professional to edit my work has been some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Working on the second book in The Bond series, I can see how much my work has grown, and how much tighter and precise my prose are.

Let’s face it. Editing is not fun. But editing your book in order to make it better is worth it. Looking back at your previous works need not make you groan. Instead, it should be a celebration of just how far you’ve come.

Personal note: If you’re in the market for a professional, detailed freelance editor, I highly recommend Joshua Essoe. He’s edited books for many well-known people including fantasy author David Farland, and Dean Lorey, the writer and producer of the television show Arrested Development. http://www.joshuaessoe.com/