Friday, August 31, 2012

The “Ardor’s Bridge” campaign is over.

This post also appeared on my "I'm On It" personal blog. It appears here as a reminder to authors that writing a thing is just the beginning. You still have to sell it. Sometimes, a great idea just isn't enough.

It has been a stressful month. Between the people supporting the idea of “Ardor’s Bridge” and the stress of watching our contribution numbers creep too slowly toward our goal, I feel torn.

I’m relieved to at least know the outcome. I’m sorry that I couldn’t drive this project home.

Here is the letter that I sent out on my social media and email channels today:
The “Ardor’s Bridge” campaign is over.
We didn’t hit our target goal. No one that pledged a contribution to our kickstarter campaign will be charged. The campaign is done.
We didn’t make it.
We tried to develop an idea and raise funds to see it through. We raised about 20%. To the 18 people that did contribute, and those who wanted to do so but couldn’t for a variety of reasons, I want to say “Thank You”. Thank you for taking the time to read what this project was about. Thanks for reaching into your own pocket in a time when we all feel the economic pinch. And, thanks for believing that every kid deserves to be part of the dialogue that helps to change the culture they face every day.
We didn’t make it. We’ll pull back, regroup and explore some other options. If we can find a way to bring this about, we’ll let you know. I hope we can count on you again in the future for your support.
Thanks for all of your belief and support. I appreciate it.
For my first play, it wasn’t a bad effort. Sure, it’s not Shakespeare, but, it was written in the right spirit. It was written as a tool for positive change. I wanted to do my small part in helping schools change the culture of indignity and bias that faces every kid that doesn’t feel like they “fit in”. When you realize that the kids who don’t fit in vastly outnumber the kids that do, you start to see the frustratingly stupid way we as humans treat each other, and allow ourselves to be treated. You start to understand the frustration and fear each kid faces, to varying degrees, every day in school.

My play/video project didn’t raise enough funds on kickstarter to get it off the ground. That doesn’t mean the problem goes away. Kids will still be bullied. Kids will still be mocked for who they are perceived to be instead of who they are or what they do. But, since enough of us haven’t taught our children not to punish others for having the audacity to be themselves, the state has stepped in.
The state government has passed a law that charges schools with changing the culture in their buildings.

Laws mean consequences for those that run afoul of them, and punishments for the offenders. But, you can’t change fear and ignorance through punishment. That can only be done through dialogue. Understanding between kids is the only thing that will start that change. Schools will need your help.

For those parents who do not teach their kids to hate, your kid is going to need your guidance. Singling other children out for being different is a common way for kids to act on their own fears. This can get out of hand pretty easily and surprise those parents who teach tolerance at home. Schools will no longer be able to turn a blind eye to bigotry and will err on the side of caution in the early days of these new laws. Please make sure that your kids are aware of the new guidelines, even if they seem outrageous to you. They are still real, still laws and will still be enforced. Change will come as common sense takes hold, but for now, remember that administrators, teachers and your kids are all going to need you to be involved. Dialogue, understanding on all sides and tolerance for the views of others is what is needed, now more than ever.

For those parents who still feel that LGBT kids should be mocked, made fun of or brutalized, be aware. This is just the beginning of change. The days when it’s acceptable to openly and actively discriminate against another American based on their sexual orientation are coming to a close.

I wanted to help by writing a play with a story about tolerance and acceptance, filming it as a movie, and then making that film available to schools to be used as a way to get those dialogues going between students and their peers. That’s all I wanted to do. I didn’t expect to change the world or cure the ills of society. I just wanted to help. To that end, I gathered together a bunch of people who also felt that this was a worthwhile cause. Still more saw the value of it and contributed funds. Even more planned to do so but couldn’t for a variety of reasons. We all knew that we weren’t going to single-handedly fix the world. We just wanted to help a little. If we all help a little, that can add up to a lot.

We’ll find a way. As the creative and generous people I brought together for this project move back to their regular lives, the dream lives on. We will all find ways to help. And, who knows… maybe we’ll find another way to produce “Ardor’s Bridge”. If it’s a good enough idea, the universe won’t let it die.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

For Mature Eyes Only - When Does Romance Become Erotica

Firstly, thanks to JD for hosting me on my blog tour and thanks to the Literary+ team for offering such a great opportunity, and especially, Paul Carroll, who organised the tour.

For Mature Eyes Only - When Does Romance Become Erotica?

As a slash writer, I've been creating erotica and romance stories for a lot of years. However, with the advent of the term 'Mommy Porn', I started mulling over my own experience of sex in fiction and the line between erotica and romance and considering if there even is, or should be such a line.

Sex in fiction isn't new. I first came across it at age 13 or 14 when I bought a couple of cheap books, one from a jumble sale and one from Woolworths. Neither of them, by any stretch of the imagination, could have been called mommy porn, since one was a hard-noised spy novel and one was science fiction, but both contained graphic sex scenes. Neither of those books could have been called romance either, but then, some people would argue that is also true for the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey. I will state up front, I haven't read Fifty Shades and don't intend to, not my type of book at all, so I won't be making comment. However, the debate about whether Fifty Shades is porn, erotica, or romance does highlight how blurred the lines are between these genres.

So, let's start with a few personal definitions. This is what these terms mean to me, this is purely in my head, there is no legal definition intended, just my opinion, so when I talk about them, you know what I mean.

  • Pornography: well, for me, porn is devoid of emotion, it's describing rod 'a' into slot 'b'. I don't like reading porn, it offers me no connection to the characters and therefore no satisfaction in the book. Some romance/erotica writers set out with good intentions but end up with porn if they don't spend enough time with their character development and, importantly, interaction. :)
  • Erotica: this is much more difficult to define, because, just like romance, this genre deals with emotion for me. Okay, there's probably going to be humping involved :P, but, as I mentioned above, if there is no connection to the characters, it's porn. For me, character involvement and growth is the most important thing about erotica. The same rule applies to erotica as applies to any other writing, if a scene is not important to plot/character development, then it should not be in the story, so if a sex scene does not develop the story at all, then there is no point for it being in the book. That is the challenge of good erotica, how to titillate, but tell a story at the same time. The plot does not end at the bedroom door.
  • Romance: definitions get a bit grey here, because a lot of modern romance can be very explicit and overlap with erotica, but, for me, romance is the PG13 end of the spectrum, a little bodice ripping, some heaving bosoms (male or female), but fade to black in the juicy bits.

Okay, so these are my instinctive definitions, but it gets a lot harder for me when trying to apply them to actual books I've read or written, especially since other opinions vary so widely. This is particularly difficult when sites only allow you to stick your book in one or two categories. For example, I have a science fiction, fantasy story out called Bonds of Fire. I put it into sci-fi and fantasy categories, because it's main story is about dragons and a dragon-warrior, Drekken, who has to help a group of dragon hatchlings and their carers, two empaths, through a war zone. However, alongside the action, I have a developing romance. Now, in my head, it is firmly on the romance end of 'sex in fiction', because there's a growing friendship, a little bit of nudity, but nothing explicit, and some kissing. Sound like a romance to you? Me too. However, add into the mix that the relationship is male-male, and that there happen to be three of them and, well, one reviewer slammed the whole book, despite admitting to liking the story, because, 'the gay sex was terrible'. Other folks loved the saucier side of the romance. So, should I have defined this as romance, or erotica, I mean, there was a little nudity, I described an arse or two? ;) Personally, I'm still firmly in the it's a sci-fi/fantasy story with a side order of romance camp for this one, but I have since listed explicitly on the book description that it contains a male-male romance. I do think m/f romance writers can get away with a lot more of ye olde bodice ripping than m/m or f/f romance writers and still call it romance, simply because there has been more exposure (literally) to male-female relationships.

Bonds of Fire was complicated by the fact that I didn't class it as either romance, or erotica on the book site. However, I do have several erotica books out as well. They're explicit, so, instantly erotica in my head, however, I would say some of them also fall into the romance category as well. See, even I can't get my head around my own definitions! Maybe I should qualify that and say, they are also romantic, i.e. the characters are falling in love. Some of my erotica isn't romantic. That doesn't mean it is porn (my definition remember), it's not just describing sexual activity, there is emotional attachment, just not romance. In one case, The Need In Me, there are in fact two romances in the story, but not between the parties involved in the erotic part of the action. However, this book does follow the rule that the sex has to develop the story. I don't write what are termed PWP's, which means, Plot-What-Plot, which are sex and only sex for titillation's sake. That's not to say I haven't tried, just for fun in some of the slash fandoms I'm in, but somehow, they always grow a plot :).

For me, the important thing about a story, be it explicit or non-explicit, is the intent behind it. I don't find a person treating another person badly at all romantic, whatever their gender. This was my problem with the Sharon Green Terrilian novels. The Warrior Within and The Warrior Enchained were another couple of books I read in my teens, I had no idea quite how sexually driven they were when I opened them, but the power dynamics in them and the implication that subjugation to a man made the female lead 'complete' really made me uncomfortable. I never got as far as The Warrior Rearmed. I didn't even consider them romances, although others do, because the dynamic was so skewed that I couldn't see any romance in it at all. Wuthering Heights as well, definitely not one of the greatest romances of all time as some have dubbed it. It's a brilliant novel, but it's a tale of obsession, not love, in my opinion, Cathy is too selfish and Heathcliff too damaged for there to be any romance.

Seems I find it easier to define what romance is not, than what it is. As you can tell with me wavering between definitions, the journey from romance to erotica is not a simple one. There are many shades of grey along the way and distinction will be different for different people. Personally, I don't really care about the distinction, because explicit description of sex doesn't bother me unless it's done badly. What I'll leave you with is that, there's not really a line between romance and erotica, it looks more like this:

Sophie Duncan

Sophie was born with the writing bug in her blood, boring her primary school teachers with pages of creative writing and killing her first typewriter from over use when she was thirteen. She began publishing her work on line while at university where she discovered the internet and fanfiction. It took another decade for Sophie to realise her long-time dream of releasing her own original fiction as an author through Wittegen Press.

Death In The Family (Heritage is Deadly #1)

Leaving a good London school with solid prospects, Tom Franklin has the world at his feet. Yet one thing has always haunted his perfect life: his dreams. When Tom discovers that the nightmarish images of dark places and even darker instincts are in fact repressed memories from his early childhood, he must face the heritage from his birth-father, a savage vampire known only as Raxos.

Realising his memories are his only hope of controlling his awakening instincts, Tom returns to, Coombedown, the sleepy, Cornish village in which he was born, unknowing that the night-breed in his veins will lead him into danger.

Death In The Family is a young adult, paranormal novel.

Death In The Family Literary+ Blog Tour Schedule:

  • 27th August 2012: Is it the teeth? - vampires and why we like them. Host: Brooke Johnson
  • 28th August 2012: Scare me, Shock me - paranormal fiction vs horror. Host: A. K. Flynn
  • 29th August 2012: For Mature Eyes Only - when does romance become erotica? Host: JD Savage
  • 30th August 2012: There were 3 in the bed... ménage, ewww or gimme gimme! Host: Tressa Green
  • 31st August 2012: The Sidekick - plucky, loyal and just a tad annoying :) Host: Paul Carroll
  • 1st September 2012:Feedback - Taking It - Giving It - Enjoying It. Host: Leonard Suskin
  • 2nd September 2012: Mad With It - The Highs and Lows of A Writing Imperative Allisyn Bridges

Literary+ is a marketing initiative which was founded and led by Shen Hart. This is a time of evolution and progress, the market is being opened up to e-books and self-publication. As a fellow writer, Shen understands that self-publication is a hard and often lonely road. She started Literary+ to bring together authors and related creative specialities with the goal of helping each other. With a tight knit, friendly and welcoming community at its core, Literary+ holds a strong focus on marketing. As Literary+ continues to grow and evolve it will use innovating, original and experimental marketing methods and schemes to get its member’s books into their reader’s hands.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm Worried

With only a few days to go, I have to admit, I’m getting worried. For the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to raise money for a project. I’ve raised about 10% so far, and that’s not without a bit of spamming and shaming my friends and family. I live in a reasonably stable section of the planet. The amount I’m trying to raise shouldn’t be too big a deal. I have two meetings coming up where I’m hoping to convince some people of the importance of my ideas, but, one never knows how those things will turn out.

Perhaps a little background is in order.

A few months ago, the local school district where I live hosted a meeting outlining the latest ruling from the state. It was actually bigger than that. A law had been passed, outlining the steps schools had to take to ensure that bullying, discrimination and general assholery would no longer be tolerated among the students. No more shoving the geek in a locker, no more marginalizing the fat kid. The real thrust of it, though, was tolerance. Kids that identified as gay, lesbian, transgender or bisexual were to be treated as if they deserved basic human dignity. They were to be treated as if they should be judged by their actions instead of being judged by how far they were from “normal” or “typical”.

Excellent in theory. Impossible in practice.

Rules and laws, by their definition, require punishments and consequences. But, you can’t legislate intelligence. You can’t punish someone into believing something they don’t believe. If you have a kid who delights in pushing around a smaller kid, no amount of punishment will change that. The only option is to try and reach that kid through meaningful dialogue. The only chance to change that kid is to prove to him that there are no “groups” or “communities” of people except the one we all share.
Schools are going to need tools that they can use to get those kinds of conversations started.

So, I wrote a play. I plan to produce it and film it. I want to make the subsequent film available to schools to be used as a way to help get those conversations started.

After I wrote it, I took it to a school administration official. I asked him if he thought I’d hit the right tone. I asked him if I had gone too far, or not far enough. I picked his brain and made sure that what I had on paper was what was needed to make a difference. He assured me that this was a worthwhile idea, and my script was definitely something that could help.

My confidence bolstered, I sat down with some really creative people and asked them to help me. I asked them to read it and consider directing it and handling the musical direction. Gracefully, they agreed. So, I started a campaign on one of the online crowd funding websites. After a few fits and starts, I got my project up and running.

More creative people signed on. I secured the actress I wanted for the lead role, and another that I had written a pivotal role for as well. Through my director friend, I am excited about the choreographer that has agreed to be involved. My wife has agreed to manage the project, and no better project manager can be found. My friend who will be in charge of costumes is second to none in terms of tenacity and brilliance under fire. It is all coming together. Now I just need to secure the rest of the funding.

If I don’t make it, the project may be shelved for a while, while I try other sources of funding. More likely, though - this project will die.

Please help. Follow this link to contribute. Dance Play project.
I could tell you the story, I could tell you all about my childhood and how I got to where I am now. I could tell you why this is important to me and why it should be important to you. But, the bottom line is that these kids need to be able to go to school and learn without fear or having to smile through the indignities other kids visit upon them. I want to help make that happen.

I was telling a friend about this project and how worthy it is and he said to me, “Hey, what are you going to do? The world is a cruel place.” I thought about that for a minute, and replied, “No, it isn’t. It’s just full of cruel people.” But to his question, I indicated my project and said. “This is what I’m going to do. What are you going to do?”

And so, I ask you the same question. Will you help? If so, thanks. If not, thanks for reading this far. I hope you find a way to make a difference, too.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Guest Post - Book Trailer Videos!

Today, you lucky devils, Paul Carroll,
author of Balor Reborn joins us to lay out his speedy quick ways to build a video book trailer. Paul joins us from Literary Plus, the wonderful new talent house of authors, designers and creators of independent literature, led by Shen Hart.

Your Book in Film

When it comes to promoting your book, the next event of the Writing Olympics is exactly what you need to get beyond the writing desk. Making a book trailer allows for people to spread the word about your book easily, to find out about the feel of your book quickly, and to get an idea of what they can expect. There are some simple things I picked up from a module in college to help make this process so much easier, and while I could write a whole book on making simple videos like this, let’s focus on the basics instead.

Your book trailer should be planned, first. You’ve warmed up your creative juices, you’ve gotten everything you need to do for the cover done, and you’ve written your book, so this shouldn’t be a problem. For Balor Reborn, I knew my book was focused in Dublin; I knew I had something coming back from the dead; I knew what would happen in the book. So I planned accordingly.

My images are all from Dublin. Ideally, you should take your own photographs if you’re using them. I would have, too, if I’d been able to get out of the house to do it. However, if you’re stuck for time and resources, head to websites such as, and follow these simple steps.

1. Specify your search options. On Flickr, click on Search. Don’t bother typing anything into the search bar beforehand. When the page loads, click Advanced Search. This will bring up the new page of options for you to choose from.

2. Specify your search terms. The first option available to you is to enter key words to find your images. You can also choose to exclude some images. For me, I wanted photos from around Dublin, so I typed ‘Dublin’ into the search bar. I was getting images of celebrities who had come to Dublin, too, so below the search bar in the Advanced Search page, enter in terms you want to exclude. (For me, ‘Gok Wan’ was one I had to enter.) You can enter more than one word to be more specific.

3. Choose between photos and videos. The next step is simple. Choose to look for photos or videos to use. You’re better off keeping it at photos for the purposes of your book trailer, based on the later settings you need to apply to your search.

4. Search by date. If you want photos from the Olympics, and you simply type ‘Olympics’ into the search bar, you can choose to look at photos from a particular range of dates. This isn’t always necessary for your book trailer, but it’s useful to note.

5. Creative Commons options. Before you click search, look at the Creative Commons section of the Advanced Search. It’s the reason you’re here. Click ‘Only search with-in Creative Commons-licensed content’ to begin with. Because you’re making a video advert, click ‘Find content to use commercially’. If you plan on changing the image at all, which I did, even if it means just adding text over the photographs, click ‘Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon’. With that done, click Search.

When you select your images, be sure to note the licensing on them before you save. If you need to attribute the photograph to somebody, find their name and jot it down. You’ll need it later.

When I had my images, I slotted them into my Story Board. A Story Board is simple to create: decide on what you want your trailer to look like, plot out images on the page and specify an order and where the text will go.

You may wish to write the text for your trailer, beforehand. I went for something simple, to give a feel for what the book is about. My text was broken into four lines:

In a peaceful city
a long dead evil
will rise.
There will be blood...

This was the basis for the feel of the trailer. Decide what images the text will span across; you can have the same text continuing across multiple images if you wish. With that done, you need to find music.

I use to find my music. Specifically, I use the royalty free music. Kevin MacLeod provides hundreds of free tracks to use, even commercially like this, with one simple rule: you attribute it to him. Again, note his name and get picking your music. You can search within a genre, which is useful; or by key-word, which I found to help in certain instances; or within the ‘feeling’ of the music. For the purposes of a book trailer, this is the most useful, and allows for you to find exactly what you need. You can listen to the music before you download.

When you have everything you need, open up a movie maker. I use Windows Movie Maker. The most recent version works better for putting text in different locations, but the 2007 version still works fine. Add your images and music to the files to use in your project, and follow your storyboard closely. I chose to have two different tracks for my trailer, breaking at the final line of the text.

I finished the trailer for Balor Reborn with an image to tell people when it’s out and where they can get it or find out more information. However you choose to end, publish the file for your computer (the default setting) and head to YouTube or another video hosting site. Upload your book trailer file, and head to the description. Here, you will need to include the names of the photographer(s) and the composer(s) of the music used. You can also include your book’s blurb, which is helpful, and a link to where people can get the book. This information can be edited whenever you want. You should also add in tags, before sharing your video.

A final piece of advice: get feedback from people before you make it public. And there you have it: my simple process for putting together a book trailer. It’s an excellent way to get some more publicity for your book, and if you followed my advice to the letter it won’t cost you anything to do. Can you afford to say no to a free marketing tool?


Paul Carroll is a writer from Dublin. He is studying to be a teacher of Religion and English at second level, while working in a bookshop at weekends. His 'free time' is divided among assignments, fiction, poetry, articles and blog posts, as well as college Drama and almost weekly trips to the local cinema.

He has been writing since the age of twelve, with a love of words going back further than he can remember. When he isn't reading or writing, he likes to make use of social media, bake, and talk to friends. Often, he'll watch a horror film alone in the dark for the sheer joy of it.

He can be found online at

About Balor Reborn

Old Ireland is returning, as an ancient evil arrives in Dublin. A single glance from his eye is all it takes to kill.

Stephen Fox is haunted by the memory of his wife, and suffers from guilt at abandoning his new-born son. The spirit of the tyrant Balor has come back to take his vengeance on the country. A hero must rise in the unwilling form of Fionn Murray, a university student with a mysterious past.. As a world of wonder unfolds around him, and with no one but his house mate Michael at his side, he’s left with the choice of running, or facing the evil that could consume the world.

Based on the old Irish myth of Balor of the Evil Eye, Balor Reborn is the first in a series that seeks to revive the magic of Ireland. It was written and published in one week.

It's available to buy on PDF, Epub and Mobi through

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tolerance - Walking the Walk

I did something for the first time the other day. I launched a campaign to ask people I know, and some people I don’t know, for money. This is not something that comes naturally to me.

But, it is a good idea.

For the past few years, I have been teaching myself how to be a niche video maker. My niche is educationally-minded stuff that makes a difference. My very first effort was a Photoshop-based project tutorial. Screen captures and voice-overs. That was interesting. I had learned to use Photoshop and wanted to teach others.

Next was a cooking video featuring a woman who made specialty cookies and desserts out of her home kitchen. That was fun. The following year, I created a DVD set for preschoolers, and that went click in my head. This was a use of my talents that I could get behind. I got to plan, shoot, edit, create graphics and do the whole thing. I loved that project and still do. It was called Noodle Boosters and you can still buy a set today.

Since then, I’ve created a few different educational pieces of work for different grade levels, K-12. I like doing this stuff. I’m a big kid at heart and I think kids need stuff that doesn’t talk down to them, but still gets the message across. RU Listening was one of my favorites, a short film about cyber bullying. You can see it on YouTube here.

On weekends, I usually videotape the performances of a local children’s theater for the parents. You meet a lot of great, like-minded people when you volunteer. I highly recommend it. I’ve done a few video projects with the folks who run the theater, and they even appeared in Noodle Boosters as the puppeteers. I’ve met some wonderfully talented kids there as well. Singers, actors and dancers with amazing talent. Kids from 2nd grade right on up through high school. My family has been involved in this particular theater for four or five years now, and we’ve seen little kids grow into some pretty talented young adults.

Even though I’ve acted on stage, I prefer being creative at my desk. Writing, editing, etc. To that end, I wrote a play that is told through different styles of dance. No, I don’t know anything about dance. What I do know, however, is that dance is probably the purest form of human expression. And the young dancers I have met are probably the most dedicated and driven people I know. The physical work involved is second to none, and the mindset needed to make a human body do those things on command is something that I just don’t have. Hence, I have a tremendous respect for it.

So, I wanted to do something that brings together all of my skills, all of my experience and all of my creative friends and do something that will serve up a good message for kids. Such a project needs to move me, awe me and provide a chance to do something worthwhile. Tolerance, respect for the differences in others and a story that can illustrate different styles of dance was the way to go.

Ardor’s Bridge is that play. It’s a story of a young fairy who falls in love with a wood sprite. Their two cultures don’t get along, and these two kids have to figuratively build a bridge between their two families. The fairies are defined by their traditional ballet style. The wood sprites are rougher and more unrefined. These two styles of dance, and a few more, will tell the story.

Of course, I will design the sets, collaborate on the costume design and generally drive everyone crazy with my attention to details. But, the folks I work with are used to me, and while they may roll their eyes and plead with my wife to reign me in, what I say usually goes and gets done.

I usually have a customer lined up for such a project beforehand. This time, I don’t. I believe in this project so much, I decided to take a big risk and put it all on the world of the web. I started a kickstarter project to raise the funds for Ardor’s Bridge. You can find it here

If I reach my goal, we’ll go into auditions and first rehearsals in September. If I don’t reach my goal, the project may die.

I don’t want to do this unless I can do it right. I’ll do as much of the work myself as humanly possible to save on costs. Many of the folks who will be involved will be working gratis or close to it as well. I think we can do it. I think we can raise the money we need. I think it’s important and I think the world will see it that way.
What do you think?