Let’s Talk About Science!

Absolutely love this post. Go flowcharts!

Kelly Jensen

The fact the phrase “Let’s Talk about Science” is running through my head to the tune of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk about Sex” is probably a fair indicator I’m not qualified to talk about science. But, you know what? Science is the new sexy. It’s hot. And I’m going to talk about it.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Neil deGrasse Tyson and the moon thruthers. Click through to watch an amusing video.

At the moment, I’m listening to a series of lectures presented by one of our sexiest scientists, Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s called The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries. First of all, Tyson is a wonderful orator. He’s engaging and personable and his enthusiasm for his subject matter is infectious. Second of all, I haven’t listened to a lecture in about…well, it’s been a long time and we all know my math is spectacularly bad.

(here’s where I digress a little)

Sadly, my…

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It’s release day again!

I can hardly believe that this is my fourth book release this year. Talk about going from a famine to a flood! This time last year, I was working on edits for two books but nothing was out on the market yet with my name on it. Now…four books are out there. FOUR! Wow.

Book 3 of Chaos Station - Available now

SKIP TRACE is the third book in the Chaos Station series. It was a difficult book to write, partly because Kelly and I were still figuring out the whole “how do series even work?” thing and partly because this is the book where we drag Felix through hell.

If you read book two, you know what happens and you know how wrecked he is afterwards. Well, we really didn’t want the Guardians’ actions to be a magic wand for Felix. Yes, Zed is back, but that doesn’t erase all of the emotions or bad thoughts or soul-deep pain Felix lived through. This book is about him dealing with all of that—plus lingering PTSD from the war, plus feelings of inadequacy around Zed’s very well-to-do family—and because he’s Felix, he doesn’t deal with it well.

As one of the early reviews of the book, from Online Eccentric Librarian, states: “Where the first book introduced us to both characters, the second book was about Zander’s coming to terms with his failing body, this third book is very much Felix’s story.” That’s dead on.

So, I hope you enjoy it! If you do happen to read it, an honest review at your vendor of choice and/or on Goodreads is always very much appreciated.

Skip Trace Blog Tour Banner

We’ve also got a blog tour set up for this week with prizes! Check out these stops:

Monday, Oct. 5: Kelly will be at Charlie Cochet’s Purple Rose Teahouse talking about the middle chapter of our series. We’ve also got an exclusive excerpt over at Queer Sci-Fi!

Tuesday, Oct. 6: Check out Joyfully Jay for a list of Kelly’s favourite gay couples. On the Carina Press blog, we share some Chaos crew trivia.

Wednesday, Oct. 7: My turn to share my favourite gay couples over at Prism Book Alliance.

Thursday, Oct. 8: We’ve got our favourite five tropes in romance over at Fresh Fiction.

Friday, Oct. 9: We chat a bit about the technology in the Chaos Station series at The Novel Approach.

Thanks so much to all of our hosts! You can find links to our rafflecopter at the tour stops—prizes include the first two books in the Chaos Station series and a $10 gift card to your favourite online bookseller.

If you want to stay up-to-date on all things Chaos Station, you can always sign up for our newsletter, too.

Happy reading!

Graduation – A Chaos Station Story

We’ve got a new free story for Chaos Station newsletter subscribers!

Kelly Jensen

We have a new Chaos Station story for newsletter subscribers!

GraduationCover

Zander and Felix shared their first kiss the day they graduated from Shepard Academy. They had one night together before being separated by specialist training and their first assignments with the AEF. “Graduation” tells the story of that night.

“Graduation” is available to read now or download. To get your copy, subscribe to our newsletter and receive occasional updates regarding new releases, short stories, excerpts and giveaways.

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Preview the rest of the Chaos Station series on our website:

http://chaosstation.com

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My turn on the What Happened in Vegas marriage equality blog hop!

Today I’m over at Dirk Greyson’s blog with a short story about two superheroes waking up married in Vegas—and with no memory of how. Uh oh! Is it a bad thing they’re married…or maybe not so much?

Here’s a little teaser…

Iskandar ached all over. All over. One giant ball of ow. Not the first time, probably wouldn’t be the last, but usually…usually he could remember what had caused the discomfort. He pushed past the thoughts of kill me now, trying to find some clue in his memories.

Had they fought Mistrios again? She was the latest villain attempting to make a name for herself in the northeast and she hit like a—

No, wait. He and Kyler were in Vegas. Right, the trade show. Technogeddon. They’d been planning this for months, a mini-vacation and business trip rolled into one. They’d stepped off the plane, had dinner, gone to Technogeddon the next morning and…

Blank.

Someone moaned. Right beside him. Iskandar froze. He had a giant black hole in his memory—and he’d brought someone back to his hotel room with him?

Not good, not good, not good.

Check out the rest of the story at Dirk Greyson’s blog!

And be sure to catch the other stops on the What Happened in Vegas marriage equality blog hop, listed below!

Vegas-Hop-Graphic

What’s the problem with said?

I saw a tweet recently with the hashtag #SaidAlts offering suggestions for “said” alternatives that made me cringe. I’ve seen this come up a lot with new authors, this aversion to said. It’s not that I’m against using synonyms for said (I’m really not!), but the choices the tweet offered up struck me as trying way too hard to get away from a very utilitarian—and rightfully invisible—verb.

Okay, so here’s an example of dialogue:

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Now, with a more colourful alternative for said that was recommended in that tweet:

“I’m sorry,” he regretted.

Look at those two lines for a minute. Which works best? Sure, “regretted” is not as boring as “said”, but there are a few problems with using it.

The biggest problem is that “regretted” is not a synonym for “said”. Other said alternatives, like shouted, screamed, whispered, whimpered, hissed, declared, exclaimed, and so on—those are all verbs that describe the action of making noise with one’s mouth for the purposes of communication. “Regretted” has no such meaning.

You can’t take an “emotion” verb and hijack it as a dialogue tag. That would be like saying “he sorrowed” or “he celebrated”. It’s nonsensical. Those verbs can describe how the character is feeling as they speak; but they can’t describe the action of speaking. Make sense?

People like using alternatives to “said” because “said” is very blah. Like I mentioned above, it’s invisible. But that’s a good thing most of the time. In this particular snippet of dialogue, using “said” puts the focus on the dialogue, where it should be. The “I’m sorry” is the most important part of that line. When you use “regretted”, that overshadows the dialogue.

And, finally, in this particular line, “regretted” is repetitive. The character has already said “I’m sorry” which is an illustration of his regret. The dialogue tag “he regretted” is telling…and not necessary. Remember, show, don’t tell!

So should you use said? Should you use alternatives?

The answer is yes to both. Sort of.

It’s okay if dialogue tags are invisible because everything the reader needs to know about how the dialogue is being spoken should be in the dialogue itself. With some exceptions, of course (there are always exceptions). It might not be obvious from the dialogue or the context of the scene that the character is whispering, for example, so it’s perfectly okay to use a dialogue tag like “he whispered” or “he murmured”. There are other situations like this, as well—and of course, you can toss in a said alternative whenever you feel like it. The one hard and fast rule I’d adhere to is avoid overuse of anything.

Something you should consider instead of using said or said alternatives is just getting rid of the dialogue tags altogether. This is something my editors have recommended pretty consistently. Readers mostly use dialogue tags to identify who’s speaking. If it’s clear who’s speaking, cut the tag. For variety, use an action beat with the dialogue (and this can help show emotion, too, if used right).

“I’m sorry.” He fidgeted with his pack.

With that simple action beat, we know the speaker regrets whatever he did and he’s embarrassed about it. OR—depending on context—maybe he doesn’t regret what he did and the fidget is because he’s lying. It’s a lot more descriptive than “he said” or even “he regretted”.

So here’s an exercise for you: go through a few pages of your current WIP and take out the dialogue tags. Can you tell who’s speaking? If not, add one or two back in, but try adding action beats, too, and see how that affects your voice and your pace. Good luck!

I have to read it AGAIN?! …or Proofreading: The Bane of an Author’s Existence

No book is ever going to be perfect.

This is kind of a comforting statement, one I’ve pulled out a few times over the last six months. I can do my best, but I’m growing as an author with every book and I know that there are some things I wish I could change in my already-published books. But at some point, you just have to brush your hands off and walk away.

I know, too, that typos happen. No matter how many times I look at a manuscript, or Kelly does, or our editor, or the copy editor or the proofreader…stuff gets missed. It’s not ideal, of course, but that’s part of being human and not a computer. But we do our best to catch everything.

So when I see really blatant errors in published books—for which I’ve paid a fair amount—I get grumpy.

I read a lot. These days, I’m almost exclusively reading m/m romance, because I love it—the tropes, the way the tropes are turned on their heads occasionally, and the absolute joy of love triumphing over societal restraints. It’s awesome. Since January 2015, according to Goodreads, I’ve read 177 books (and let me just say holy crap, really?). Most of these books are fantastic, really enjoyable reads—even the ones with errors. But damn, sometimes the errors make me want to weep.

Examples:

  • A book in first person POV referring in the narrative to the other hero by the POV character’s ex’s name.
  • The second book in that series, told from the second hero’s first person POV, slipping and calling the other hero by the second hero’s name in narrative and dialogue. (By the way, when there’s a switch between first-person narrators from book to book or chapter to chapter, I’ve seen the name slip thing quite a bit.)
  • The name of an organization changing from chapter to chapter in a book.
  • Chapter Two of a book talking about a kiss between the heroes that happened in Chapter One…except it didn’t.

I’ve read plenty of books with grammatical or proofreading errors—depending on the voice and the quality of the overall story, I can often ignore those. It’s these logical-type errors that throw me out of a book. The last thing you want to do, when you’re writing fiction, is to have a situation where reality intrudes. You might as well have “THIS IS FICTION” flashing in red on every page.

As an author, you need to proofread your own work. Professional editors and proofreaders are great, don’t get me wrong, but this is your book and you know your book. It’s hard, I know (GOD, I know). When you’ve already read the manuscript ten times, the words tend to blend together, right? And it’s tough to remember what scenes got cut in the developmental edit stage and if there are ramifications elsewhere in the book, and did we end up keeping that scene in Chapter Five or…

Thing is, when it comes down to it, it’s your name on the cover, not your editor’s or your proofreader’s.

So, some tips for proofreading:

If deadlines allow, give yourself a few days of not looking at the manuscript before you try to proof it.

If you’re reviewing your manuscript for typos and grammatical errors, read it backwards. This will prevent your brain from reading the word it thinks should be next.

Microsoft Word has a “Text-to-Voice” feature that will read out highlighted text. It’s not perfect (seriously, it can pronounce made-up alien names but has difficulty with regular words sometimes) but there are three reasons I use it:

  • It forces me to read at a slower pace, following along with the words, instead of skimming.
  • I will sometimes hear the error when I can’t see it (it’s especially good for catching missing words).
  • Hearing swear words and sex scenes read out in a robotic voice is pretty damned funny.

Print out your manuscript and read it on paper. I’ve gotten more used to editing and proofreading on-screen but this was once my go-to method for proofreading. There’s something about reading on paper that really helps you find errors.

Alternatively, you can send a Word or PDF document to your Kindle (or Kindle app) with “Convert” in the email subject line, and it will convert the file to a .mobi. If your publisher provides galleys, this probably isn’t the best method of proofreading for you, as it will destroy the formatting, but it’s great for flipping the switch in your head from “this is my work-in-progress manuscript” to “this is a book!”

To keep track of story and scene progression, consider making a cheat-sheet for yourself that lists the chapter number and gives a brief description of the scenes with whose POV they’re in, etc. (I think Scrivener does this sort of thing automatically, but I’m not all that familiar with that software so I can’t say for certain.) Not only can this help you keep track of scenes that get cut and reorganized (if you keep it up to date), it can be really helpful in identifying any pacing issues. Not to mention a shortcut for creating your synopsis.

Do you have any other proofreading tips you’d like to share?

Monday update

A couple of things for my Monday update…

My free Love is an Open Road story for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group is now available for download! Here’s the blurb:

Line-of-Sight-Jutoh-P4-225x300Betrayed by his alien partner, it takes intergalactic cop Cailad kar Natoth a full year to accept that he’s stranded on Earth. Rescue just isn’t going to happen. He’s now Cal Smith, a bartender of all things— but the situation could be worse.

Out from under the pressure of regulations, he has a chance to explore the emotions he’s always kept tightly controlled. Ryan Cameron, the man who offered him shelter and a job when he needed it most, once held up the chance to be more than friends— and now that Cal’s sure he’s staying, it’s time to take him up on it. Maybe they can see if the lust and desire ricocheting between them is the start of something more.

But Ryan’s lingering grief over the death of his husband five years before— and an unexpected visitor— might steal their future before they have a chance to build it together.

Get your preferred format here!

Also today, I’m over at Rebecca Zanetti’s blog talking about my lifelong nemesis, roller coasters. You can also leave a comment to win a $10 Amazon giftcard! Good luck.

 

Happy Book Birthday to Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin!

IN THE DISTANCE, the third book in their m/m contemporary In the Kitchen series is out now! I had the pleasure and privilege of reading this book early, and it was awesome. May/December romance, foodies, and lots and lots of emotion. And check out that cover…isn’t it the cutest?

carina_0615_9781426899713_inthedistance_final Here’s the blurb:

Tyler Mitchell has worked hard to rebuild his life after his family kicked him out. A culinary student and sous chef who spends his spare time volunteering with kids, he’s happy enough even though he has no time to consider a relationship.

Trevor Pratt is finally getting over losing the one person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but it’s taken screwing every cute guy in Manhattan to get there. He’s vowed to repair the friendship he broke along the way, but that’s hard to do when his friend’s new employee catches his eye. Despite being warned to stay away from Tyler, Trevor turns on the charm.

Romance is a terrible idea. Trevor is ten years older and a relentless playboy. Tyler is still unsure of his place in the world. Neither of them is ready for life-changing love, but as things heat up, their chemistry in the bedroom might just take that decision out of their hands.

Pick up Tyler and Trevor’s story now!

The Hearts of Men

Such a lovely post by Kelly Jensen!

Kelly Jensen

I’ll never forget the first time I broke a guy’s heart. Yeah, I said first time. Unfortunately, I’ve done it twice. It’s not something I’m proud of, and I hope it never happens again. I don’t think it will!

(I can hear my husband sighing with relief in the other room.)

The first time genuinely surprised me. His reaction was so intense and sorrowful. If I’m honest with myself, I had expected him to be upset, but I hadn’t quite connected the dots between his impending sadness and me. He’d be sad he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, sure, but would he be sad about losing me in particular? Apparently so. I’d hurt more than his pride. I’d broken his heart. It was awful.

Why did I find that so surprising? At the tender age of twenty-one, I had naively assumed that men and women were vastly different beings. I…

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Great reviews for LONELY SHORE (Chaos Station 2)!

LSCover600LONELY SHORE has been out for almost two weeks and we’ve gotten some great reviews!

Library Journal: “With their beat-up ship and eclectic group, comparisons with the fan favorite TV show Firefly are inevitable, but in more of the way of homage, since Burke and Jensen’s characters take center stage all on their own.”

Joyfully Jay (and it’s one of their favourite books for May 2015!): “This is really an amazing novel and I would encourage even those who normally don’t enjoy science fiction to give it a try. Felix and Zed make a fantastic couple and following their adventures is a true pleasure!”

Prism Book Alliance: “If you love sci-fi and space operas, you need to read this series! Looking forward to book three!”

The Jeep Diva: “Oh readers, grab that jumbo box of tissues once the Chaos takes its crew to Ashushsk Prime.”

Smitten With Reading: “When a book moves me to tears, that’s always a sign that it’s a really good book. And while I do cry every once in a while in books, there are only a handful that I can say reduced me to a sobbing, ugly crying mess. This is one of those books.”

Fiction Vixen (featured on What-to-Read Wednesday!): “I was expecting action, adventure and finding out how Zed and Felix were getting along after finding each other again. I was not expecting how emotional and gut wrenching the ride would be.”

Dear Author (and it’s a Recommended Read!): “I thought the reasons for the tension between Zed and Flick in this book were *perfect*.”

A huge thank you to everyone who has bought Chaos Station and/or Lonely Shore and hugs to those who have taken the time to leave a review! It feels so good to know that readers are invested in these guys as Kelly and I are!

Have a wonderful weekend, all!