“Age of Vice” by Deepti Kapoor is a sweeping epic of an India reaching toward the future while saddled with the shadows of its past. I’ve read a few chonkers lately that could have been 600 pages instead of 400 but not so with this book. Kapoor’s prose and characters had me hooked from the start.
This is the story of Sunny Wadia, a tragic anti-hero who’s a sort of Indian Gatsby, living under the thumb of his ultra-rich gangster father who runs a seedy chain of liquor stores. It’s also the story of a cast of characters that are all richly drawn, their motives and flaws vividly imagined. It’s his rise as a naive party boy who just wants his father’s love to his fall after he attains the one thing he’s ever wanted, for his father to understand he can be ruthless too.
There are no villains in this story, not really; no winners and losers, just a complicated portrait of pain and tragedy. This was an action-packed thriller but it was more characters and backdrop than defined plot.
Kapoor’s prose was my favorite part of the whole book. Haunting, lyrical, crisp and economical, she had me gutted from each chapter. This is a real tour de force, a gritty, glitzy epic that devastated me. Highly recommend.
I thought I’d return to these ramblings about my writing and publishing efforts but not do them weekly; rather, just an occasional series. So I’ve decided to return to my original plan of self-publishing even though I didn’t query very long, and I’m excited about it.
Feels like I’m one of the few authors who’s not interested in querying, though. Maybe one day, if I have the right book, but the way the market is now, I would need to write sapphic books, since these days it’s all about writing characters that share your identity. Vampires and werewolves are an overdone, oversaturated trope and I think agents often reject them as soon as they see them. I even saw a publisher whose guidelines said paranormal romance but no vampires or werewolves or any combination thereof. What else do you write about, selkies? Mediums? More traditional publishers are picking up queer books, and vampires come and go; but it’s always wait and see every three years what an agent or publisher feels like buying in the heat of the moment.
I write the kind of books that fit into familiar favorites and popular genres, but I write anti-tropes that are difficult to market. I could see myself querying 200 agents and spending a year on sub to find the right person who loves my weird stuff and I’m just not sure it is really worth it; nor do I have the patience to chase that gamble even if I know I’m good enough and my book has wider appeal. Even after you land a book deal you still have to move copies or you’ll be in the midlist forever. Many traditionally published authors with several books under their belt that they’ve successfully queried still need day jobs.
Then small presses, you earn 30-40 percent of the royalties, and they do the work of cover art and editing so you don’t have to invest in that upfront yourself. But many of them rely on their authors for their exposure, you have to do all the marketing yourself, and you can’t track and guide sales plans as easily as if you were doing it yourself. I’d rather query or self-pub than go with a small press, personally. This, even though small presses are friendlier to edgier, riskier topics and subgenres that major publishers won’t touch. Half are vanity presses, poorly run out of the owner’s pocket, and nothing more than social clubs that won’t last for more than a few years, anyway. You can usually tell by their business model, by their website and by their marketing plans. Many, though, are completely legitimate and have an important place in the market.
So self-pub it is. I like the idea of creative control, and the fact that I know I’m good enough and my book has wide appeal means to me that I think it has a good chance to sell more than the average of 150-200 copies if I market it right. I’m finishing up final edits now; my editor finished his major edit, and now we are checking it for continuity issues. This is the dark werewolf m/m romantic suspense novel.
Then I’ll figure out cover art; I may invest in an illustrator or do the cover art myself as I’m a photographer and have graphic design knowledge; I haven’t decided. I bought Atticus for formatting. I’m researching marketing and launch strategies. I’m going through several different drafts of my back cover/sales blurb, which is very important for marketing self-pub books. Then to figure out ARC copies and a release date. I am getting so close to pushing this baby out into the world.
I’m about 62k words into Book 2, as well, which focuses on halfbreeds and a side character, Eamon, and his love story with an FBI agent, Isaiah, who has a child whose mother was killed.
In other projects, I’ve decided to work on multiple WIPs this month to see what lands. I’m still working on my sapphic romantic psychological thriller from NaNoWriMo; I’ve got about 24k words in that one. I started a new m/m steamy contemporary fake dating romance about a guy who comes out as bi whose new gay friend is helping him get comfortable with his sexuality; problem being, he’s socially awkward as hell. I’m about 9k words in that one and constantly daydreaming about it so I think I’ll stick with it.
That’s about it for writing and publishing news. Until next time.
I don’t know what got into me but I way surpassed my weekly target goal this last week. I am feeling a really odd mixture of excitement, trepidation and nerves as I near the end of my first draft of my paranormal romance crime thriller. I think I was feeling inspired by getting so close and pushed through, and I kept getting good ideas and had to run with them.
My WIP is now up to 98,586 words. I have one more chapter left to write, the marriage proposal chapter (I don’t mind telling you that my paranormal romance has a Happily For Now ending. Happily For Now since this is only Book One of a trilogy!) I for one appreciate HEAs and HFNs (Happily Ever After and Happily For Now endings) so I don’t mind spoiling you on that.
I was going to push through and finish today but I think I’ll stretch it out over the next week and really take my time with it. I didn’t manage to write a short story, but there will be time for that tonight when I was going to plug away at my novel some more. I did, however, write a blog post. I usually write my short stories to submit on Sundays because I have all day and I can work on them in 20-minute chunks of time between doing other chores, and my emotional headspace is cleared from the weekday triggers of the day job.
After that I’m planning on taking a month off from working on the paranormal romance. I’m still too close to it so I don’t think I could dive straight into editing with the proper brutal touch. My characters Mal and Noah have become like living, breathing beings to me and it feels like introducing my children into the world. Being a novelist is kind of like playing God.
I will spend that month working on short stories and Bablyon 5 slash fanfiction under a pen name. If you follow me on Twitter I’ll whisper my pen name on there if you’re interested in that sort of thing. I also plan to catch up on my enormous backlog of reading and write some book reviews and maybe some Medium articles. These are all a different kind of writing mentality than producing a novel, and I don’t want to take a break from writing completely to lose my momentum.
Then I’ll be able to detach myself from my darlings and approach editing my first draft with the proper brutality. I’m looking forward to the revising process. I plan to spend two-three months on it.
I’m finally feeling better from my cold as well, so my other goal is to get back into my exercise routine. I need to go to the gym and pool at least three times a week.
Feeling very excited that I will finish my first draft this week. I started working on this project on December 5, 2021 according to my Scrivener writing history. Now I’m nearing the end, and I’m an odd mix of chaos, panic and reverence.
I came down with a cold this week so I haven’t been as productive as I would have liked, but I still met the small goal I had set for myself for the week so I’m satisfied with myself.
My WIP now sits at 86,608 words. As I near the end of my first draft, I decided to add to it more incrementally to make sure it packs enough of a punch and to breeze past the inevitable doubts and overthinking. I’m planning to make it 100,000 words but after I get to 90,000 I won’t restrain myself to a certain word count; I will end it when it feels right, when I have done the story justice.
I’ve been working on this manuscript so consistently that even taking a few days off to recover from my cold made me feel guilty and restless. I don’t like it when I don’t write these days. I have so much fun with my characters and my universe that I don’t like leaving it behind. It’s not always fun, sometimes it’s quite emotionally involved; but it’s still always something I have to keep coming back to, again and again, to get all my story ideas out of my head. Even if it’s not always fun, it’s usually fulfilling and therapeutic. At the very least, it’s a distraction from my very boring life.
Even when I feel like I’m stuck and I don’t have an idea for the next chapter, I start with a general setting or theme, and because I’ve been writing regularly and practicing that muscle, the words usually flow eventually and I’m not staring at a blank screen for long.
But even muscles need sick days and recovery days. If you’re trying to force yourself to write through a migraine, don’t. In my case, I had low energy, brain fog and fatigue for a couple of days, so I didn’t even try. (I took a covid test and it was negative, thankfully.) I felt better over the weekend so I added a few more words and my writing sessions were more productive because I had rested.
It made me realize that maybe I need to add in weekends to my writing schedule. My “weekends” happen whenever I don’t feel up to writing, but it might be good to schedule in time off to just do nothing or to work on my other hobbies, just as I schedule in 25 minutes to sprint after a weeknight dinner or on a weekend morning. Too much rest can make it hard to get back into the flow of it; but just enough rest can be just what our creative muscle needs.
I am already feeling better even though my cold’s not quite done. Another few days of taking it easy and I think I’ll be able to get back to the gym and do more of my normal activities. And back to writing – almost every day.
I also thought I’d mention, I decided to take down the first three episodes of my story on my blog because I plan to completely rewrite them. You can see on my Patreon how much my first draft changes from my final product.
My plans this week are to write two short stories, one to submit; get over this cold; and reach 90,000 words in my WIP. Happy Easter, Passover and Ramadan if you celebrate, happy Spring if you don’t, and until next week.
I have reached 45,523 words in my WIP, CRY WOLF, and am starting on the 31st chapter. This is generally the point in a manuscript when I tend to give up but I am determined to see this one through. I find something compelling about doing it in an episodic format that makes me want to stick with it; it’s like writing a string of interconnected short stories.
Although I have again slacked on self care, I have written every day this week again except for Friday. I got stuck and I realized I needed to figure out the bones of the middle of the story even though I knew who the killer was and what the end would be. That could always change. On Friday I made a, gasp, outline. I realized I didn’t want to introduce the killer too late, or have a predictable mystery. I have reached the point in the story where I need to deal with the murder mystery subplot and introduce the suspects. Until now it’s been hovering in the background as the romance has taken precedence.
Previously, I was scared of outlines, finding them too constraining. I like the thrill and adrenaline rush of discovering the story as you go. But I also don’t want more continuity issues, and I needed to figure out if the story had legs for a longer book.
Some scenes I come up with organically are worth keeping, though; I do not have to follow my outline exactly. And I realized there are many different types of outlines you can do. You don’t have to prepare a detailed spreadsheet with your characters’ backstories down to their mother’s maiden name and their favorite way to cook an egg. What I did is I started a process notebook in a spiral college-ruled notebook, and I wrote out each chapter and what the total word count would be after each chapter. Then I summarized the chapter to make sure I could build the plot into my desired ultimate word count. The goal is 90,000, but if it needs to be shorter, then it needs to be shorter. The story is driving it. Since I’m indie publishing it, I don’t need to worry about arbitrary industry standards for word counts.
Trick here is not getting too predictable, nor getting too melodramatic. This is not Magnum PI. Building a mystery is like fitting pieces of a puzzle together. I feel a bit intimidated by it but I’m also excited by the challenge.
I also realized that at this point in the book I basically have to write another 40,000-50,000 words to finish this manuscript. So it’s like I’m starting a second book with a new inciting incident, raising the stakes and adding more conflict. That has helped me attack the midpoint with fresh eyes.
My goals for the week are to keep writing every day; by the end of this week I think I’ll be able to easily reach 50,000 words. And to work on self care again. No more rice and cheese for lunch and I need to start exercising again. Swimming or yoga in the mornings, running at lunch, hiking on the weekends. At least I have proved to myself that I can write every day no matter my mood or stressors, if I am excited about the story.
I was out of town this holiday weekend visiting friends in Portland and completely forgot to post this column, so I have renamed it to “Weekly Musings” so I am still in the clear. It was a fun weekend. I’ve felt rather socially isolated lately working from home, so I feel out of practice being in a group these days. It was good to get my social juices flowing.
On Sunday, we had fondue and taco night. Couldn’t decide between the two, and both sounded good. Saturday evening we made pizzas in a portable clay-fired oven. Both days we went on hikes. I even brought my computer and got some writing done.
That’s my biggest takeaway from this last week. I can’t not write every day these days. It’s become like a drug to me, and I have to have my fix. I keep thinking up new scenes for my paranormal romance and then I have to get them out of my head and pound out the words on the page. I didn’t always feel this way about writing, so I don’t know what has gotten into me.
I used to be one of those “Writing is hard, stressful and full of emotional pain” type of writers. You know, “It’s open a vein and watch it bleed” or however that saying goes. Maybe it’s just that I have found my genre and hit my groove, I don’t know. Maybe it is that I have released all attachment to the outcome of this book. I literally do not care what happens to it; I don’t care if no one else loves it as much as I do; I know I love it and that’s all that matters.
I at first was going to publish it to Kindle Vella, but then I decided to self publish it. I still question myself on my decision of course; you hear so much about querying that it’s impossible not to be influenced. But this book in particular is made for indie publishing. I can always query other novels. I don’t even care if it’s a success. I don’t even care if I only sell 5 books.
I just love writing it. I feel joy in the process again. I feel like I’m addicted to my couple and I have to know what happens next. I’m completely discovery writing this so when I look back over it I notice some continuity issues that will need to be edited. It will definitely be going through a few different versions, I’m sure, but I doubt a total rewrite will be necessary. I love it too much. Every time I read it over I love it more. I know, I know, I may have a conflict of interest in that assessment.
Next I plan to take some Udemy courses in book cover design for Photoshop. I know I can probably outsource all these things and people should do that to improve the standards in indie publishing. But then I start adding everything up. You pay $1,000 for developmental editing, you pay $200-500 for a good cover, you pay x amount for a good formatter, you buy ads, et cetera, and soon you are spending $3,000 to make $50.
I mean just take editing. Every writer needs quality editors, but editors also need to make a living and deserve to get paid. But you do the math on 25 cents a word for 90,000 words, which is hardly a living wage on an hourly basis, and it doesn’t make much sense for an indie publisher. Think too carefully about the economics of the market and it can completely ruin your desire for creativity. So I’m not thinking too much about that yet. Just trying to write the best book I can.
Even though my day job funds my writing and creative efforts and I think nothing of paying for studios and hiring models for making no money at photography, I still want to think like a business about my books. I also want to have a quality product, which will help you stand out amid a crowded field. And I know hobbies can be expensive and sometimes you just have to eat the costs, but something about that business model of hiring your own team with no guarantee of even making your investment back strikes me as too much of a risk. So my goal is to invest as little upfront as possible so I can still end up in the black.
Maybe one day when I am successful with these books and have a fanbase, I can run a Kickstarter campaign to fund those sorts of things.
I’m a photographer though and I like to think visually and have always wanted to learn book cover design, so it’s something I’m going to put some real time into studying. I’m excited about it and I have definite ideas of what I think looks good graphically.
All in all, it’s been another successful week in the writing world, even though I’ve slacked on exercise and all my other self care activities. I learned I can still get myself pumped up about writing even when I am feeling moody and exhausted. Even today I have to get this blog post done so I can get my ideas out of my head and onto the page. I now feel fairly confident that next week I’ll be able to hit 40,000 words in my paranormal romance. So this is what NanoWriMo is like when you’re actually winning at it.
I’ve published a weird gothic short story on my Ko-fi: The Vicious Sky This one’s free but tips are appreciated.
I’ve also published Episode Six of CRY WOLF, my werewolf crime drama with a dash of queer romance (with a love triangle forthcoming!) exclusively for $3 a month Patreon supporters. In another month or two I hope to start releasing it on Kindle Vella.
What I like the most about my writing is two things actually – my character development and my way with language.
I’ve really taken it to heart that characters need to be flawed, complex, whole people who face problems and conflict, then go through changes and transformations. I get a lot of inspiration from the various work and travel experiences I’ve had throughout my life for the people in my stories. I’m an avid people watcher and I like to study their quirks and tics. I am drawn like a moth to a flame to interesting people.
To be interesting to me doesn’t mean you have money, fame, or a certain kind of career, or any other kind of status or prestige. Interesting people have diverse interests and backgrounds. They see the world differently than most people. I think people are defined by the choices they make; their choices add up to form their character. Exploring someone’s character is why I find the craft of fiction a rich and enthralling experience.
Even when you are writing about dragons and orcs, fiction is the act of telling the truth. Not the facts or reality per se, as it is seen in scientific terms. Not post-modernism, where the facts are only how you perceive them and opinions are facts. But capital “T” Truth. Spiritual Truth. Art explores who we are as humans and how we interface with the world. Fiction is how we impart our consciousness to others. It’s the legacy we leave of our souls, even when we are writing a character that is vastly different from us.
In that sense, fiction is writing what you know. But it’s not your skills or talents. You absolutely should do research to make sure you are representing a character accurately and understanding culture and history that is different from yours. But writing what you know is writing what you understand about the world.
In addition to character development, I really like my writing style and language ability. I think I am good at phrasing things in a lyrical, flowing manner and imparting my voice through my words. This has come from writing for years, almost since I was six years old, with breaks in between. Nowadays I have an authoritative tone to my writing that comes from my journalism background; I’m trying to tone that down a bit, though, and focus more on showing and not telling.
Anyway, that’s what I like about my writing. Do you agree? Interested to know what you like about my writing.
This was a story that got rejected, but I didn’t feel like looking at it again so I’m self publishing it on my blog. Enjoy!
By Denise Ruttan
Suzi did not think of herself as a strong woman.
When people talked about strong women, she didn’t know what they meant. Was that like calling a woman bossy, or feisty, because she expressed an opinion? Suzi didn’t express her opinions often, unless it was to say that she found it gloomy when it rained. She didn’t like confrontation. She hated to argue. She was, in fact, what they used to call “mousy,” back in the old days. She thought of herself as a pushover. Maybe she really was “petite” and “feminine.” That was what her mother called her. Those words did not sound strong.
She had, in fact, just left her house, and she was going for a walk to let off some steam. It was dark out, but not quite pitch black; it was that time of twilight when the light almost seemed blue and fragile. The clouds amassed in the sky, and it smelled like it was going to rain. Her husband, Brad, was a mean drunk. He had just wrapped up his latest tirade, crunching his fifth can of Natty Ice in his fist and glaring at her. “You’ll never be a registered nurse,” he said, his eyes glowering. “You’re not even smart. You never graduated high school. What are you doing up late studying, when you should be cleaning the house? Look at what a mess this place is. I don’t have the time to do it. I’m the one who should be providing for our family.”
She didn’t have the heart to tell him, “But you’re not.” She would have done so, if she was a strong woman, maybe. She would have told him that he couldn’t hold down a job because of his drinking problem. She would have told him about the bills that kept piling up on the kitchen table. She would have told him that they could have more than beans and rice, if he could stay sober at work. She would have told him that she would gladly stay home and clean, if he could hold down a job. But all those things would have really made him mad, so she held her tongue. She said, “You’re right, Brad. I was stupid to ever think about it.”
“That’s right, woman,” he’d said, and that’s when she’d grabbed her coat and hat and umbrella, and stormed out the door, slamming it behind her as he hollered after her to get him more beer. She ignored him. But strong women would not just go for a walk to escape the fight. Strong women would leave a man like Brad.
Suzi didn’t know how she was feeling. She thought she was angry, but she was too tired for rage. Anger was for strong women. She didn’t have the strength to keep it simmering. Anger ate her from the inside out, hollowed out her core, frayed her edges. She was, in truth, exhausted. Her bones were tired. She didn’t know what she was doing either, going back to school to become a registered nurse. She first had to get her GED, so that was why she was studying. Then she would have to go to college for four years. She was 40. She worked as a janitor, cleaning the hallways of the hospital where she dreamed bigger dreams than making the floor gleam. She watched the nurses doing their work, rushing from patient to patient with purpose and light in their eyes, drawing blood. She wanted to do that. She wanted to help people.
But maybe it was too late. Maybe it was too late for someone like her. Maybe she wasn’t smart enough.
She sighed, and kept walking. They lived in an apartment complex in a suburb, and in the dim light she saw everyone’s manicured lawns and their houses painted to HOA specifications and heard the sprinklers running. She thought of the families who lived there whom she’d never meet. Maybe the husband was a doctor and the wife was a lawyer and because they were both busy people they made sure to sit down with their two children every night for supper. She wondered what it was like to fulfill your dreams.
She kept walking. There was nobody on the road. It was strangely quiet. She could not even hear birds or the wind. The sky did look threatening, though. And she really did not like rain. But she did not want to go back to Brad yet. The thought filled her with dread. She couldn’t, either, just walk away, go to a shelter, like some women did. She couldn’t do that. She needed money. She relied on Brad. He really wasn’t that bad of a guy, actually. He never hit her. He was not violent. He was just an alcoholic with no ambition who put her down all the time. That was what guys were like, wasn’t it? That was what her father was like.
Lost in thought, she crossed the street at a crosswalk. She didn’t even look both ways. She didn’t see the car coming. Suddenly, she heard the whine of insects buzzing. Her eyes filmed over with mist and midnight. She held her hand in front of her face and it became a stranger’s hand, translucent in the crepuscular light.
The car kept going. It never stopped. Maybe the driver was drunk. Maybe the driver just didn’t care.
No one emerged from their beautiful middle-class houses to help Suzi. But she stood up. Her bones and the sinews of her muscles stretched with heat. She wiggled her fingers and toes. She was not hurt. Miraculously, she was not hurt, other than a shot of pain in her neck.
She curled her hand into a fist. Her heart pumped blood through her veins. Iron blood. Her eyes blazed fire. She straightened her shoulders and stood up tall. Her skin felt hard. No longer soft flesh, feminine curves.