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My writing blog can now be found at http://lesleyhastings.com. All my archives from Dreamwidth have been moved there, and this will be the last Dreamwidth post for this account.

You can also add the new blog to your RSS feed:

I hope to see you over there!
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Congratulations to both [personal profile] taffimai and [livejournal.com profile] lisamariedavis who have each won a free copy of The Demon Catcher. [personal profile] taffimai got in within an hour of me announcing the Scavenger Hunt, and so won the "first reply" round, while [livejournal.com profile] lisamariedavis won "most amusing" because she recognised that the way to my heart (and my funny bone) is a GIANT CHOCOLATE COCK.
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Hey folks! To celebrate Valentine's Day I'm giving away two copies of The Demon Catcher, my m/m romance novella published with Dreamspinner Press.

In order to win a copy, you need to take part in the scavenger hunt below -- one free copy will go to the first person to complete the hunt, and the second free copy will go to the person whose responses to the hunt are the most amusing. Entries will be open for so long as it is still Valentine's Day somewhere in the world. Please be aware though, that every item must be different. If somebody has already used an item in their response, you can't use it again.

If you don't have a Dreamwidth account, you can comment here using Open ID, OR you can comment anonymously -- but if you do that, then you MUST leave me some way of contacting you. If I can't contact you, then you can't win a prize.

And now, for the hunt itself! In honour of Valentines Day, I would like you to find me the following five items:

1. Something that starts with the letter V
2. A representation of the number 14
3. A heart
4. A picture of February
5. Chocolate

You can simply copy/paste the URLs of your findings into your response, OR you can embed pictures (find the html code here). Please be aware that the responses to this post may very well be Not Safe for Work.

Good luck!

Just FYI

Feb. 12th, 2011 01:59 pm
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This weekend (Feb 12 & 13), Rainbow eBooks has taken 20% off the price of all Dreamspinner Press titles. That means that you can buy The Demon Catcher for US$3.19 instead of its usual $3.99.

Titles by m/m romance writer Andrew Grey are also 20% off this weekend, and if you buy one of those, you go into a draw to win a free copy of one of his books. In addition to that, you can also download Andrew's short story Copping a Sweetest Day Feel for free.
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Last weekend, the Love Romances Cafe on Yahoo Groups hosted a promotional chat for Dreamspinner Press, and as part of that, I posted an excerpt from my current WIP: The Taken Ones, which is the sequel to The Demon Catcher.

And I thought that I'd better share it with you all too. :)

Given that this is a WIP, it is, of course, completely subject to change, but as it stands, the scene below is the first scene of the novella -- in which Euan and Leon run into someone from Leon's past.

WIP Excerpt: The Taken Ones )

Thank you for reading! Any constructive comments are most welcome.
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Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in a Meet the Author event on Dreamspinner Press's Facebook Page. in order to promote The Demon Catcher. The heart of this event was readers (and potential readers) posing interview questions for me -- I got some great questions, and hopefully, I gave them the answers they deserve. So that it doesn't get lost beneath the inevitable Facebook updates, I'm reposting the interview here -- along with answers to one or two questions that I missed yesterday.

Feel free to pose more questions in comments (anon commenting is enabled).


Question from Sarah Madison
What are the things you look for when creating a hero?

Answer )

Question from @lbcubbison on Twitter
How did you decide to move toward original fiction?

Answer )

Question from Lisa Marie Davies
Do you plot everything out before you start writing or do you just start writing and let the story flow from there?

Answer )

Question from Sarah Madison
What was it about Euan [protagonist of The Demon Catcher] that made you empathize with him?

Answer )

Question from Martha Casey
I loved the story of Euan and Leon - are you planning on writing any more stories featuring them? Or in their universe? I'd love to know more about how their world fits together.

Answer -- contains minor spoilers )

Question from Phoenix Emrys
Where does the inspiration for the names of your characters come from?

Answer )

Question from Opal Trelore
One aspect of Demon Catcher that I really enjoyed was the setting. It felt very real. What do you like best about creating fictional worlds?

Answer )

Question from @ryanloveless on Twitter
What is the first story you ever wrote? Maybe something as a kid?

Answer )

Question from @ChallyZatB on Twitter
What were the main challenges you encountered in writing the story [ie, The Demon Catcher]?

Answer -- contains spoilers )


Thank you to everyone who took the time to ask me questions. I really enjoyed answering them.
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NOTE: This post is supposed to be up on the DSP blog right now, but there are some technical difficulties, so it's going up here instead -- and hopefully up on the DSP blog soon!

If you head over to the Dreamspinner page for The Demon Catcher you will see that there is already one excerpt up, from the beginning of the novella. But right here, exclusively for the readers of this blog, is ANOTHER EXCERPT.

I chose this excerpt, from about 1/3 of the way through the novella, for two reasons. Firstly, it's an exciting scene set just before a very crucial turning point for Euan's character -- things are never going to be the same for him again. Secondly, this is the first scene that I wrote for this novella -- so it's special to me, and I'm glad to be able to share it with you.

The excerpt is under the cut: )
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Wonderful news, people! My novella, The Demon Catcher, is now available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, for US$3.99.

Art by Paul Richmond

Make sure you keep an eye on the Dreamspinner Blog on January 6th, from 5:30pm EST (US) onwards, for a series of posts about the novella -- some musings on how I ended up writing it, an excerpt, and, most importantly of all, a competition that gives you the chance to win a free copy of the novella for your very own!

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me during this process!
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It's all happening, folks! My novella, The Demon Catcher has a cover and is scheduled for release on January 5th, 2011 -- it will sell for US$3.99:

Art by Paul Richmond

From the website:

Brother Euan has always been skeptical about the existence of demons. He may have spent his life in a monastery dedicated to the God Ajen, but that doesn't mean he has to indulge in superstition. Even the unnatural storm that batters the monastery one night isn't enough to make Euan believe.

But superstition becomes the least of Euan's worries when Leon of Tremea arrives at the monastery to investigate the reports of demonic activity. Leon is nothing like the frightened, shame-filled monks, and when Euan is assigned to assist Leon in his work, he finds himself struggling with desires he'd thought firmly under control. After a second demon attack on the monastery—one that not even Euan can explain away—Euan's beliefs and assumptions about the world are shattered, and with nothing to hold him back, he opens himself to his feelings for Leon. But then Euan discovers that Leon is not all he seems to be....

I'm really happy with how the cover came out, and very pleased that the release date is so soon!

AND, you could win a copy before the release date, if you add it to your wishlist AND buy a title from Dreamspinner during December: in fact, anyone who buys a book from Dreamspinner during December goes in the draw to win EVERY e-book on their wishlist between December 26th and December 31st.
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Just to alert those of you who might be interested:

Dreamspinner Press is giving you the chance to WIN BOOKS. Everyone who purchases a book from Dreamspinner in December will go in the draw to win EVERY e-book on their wishlist -- and there will be a seperate draw on every day between December 26th and December 31st.

So, make a purchase and get your wishlists in order. :)
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I've not been very productive this week, both in terms of writing and other responsibilities. I've been languishing in the mornings -- there's already a feel of the holidays in the air, which makes it difficult to focus on the things that I'm supposed to be doing. And when I'm not productive in terms of my Real Life responsibilities, I often don't end up writing much -- I feel like I don't deserve the reward.

This is, of course, very silly of me, as I tend to be MORE productive when I'm writing lots, not less. So, I'm wondering if I should allow myself a full day of writing -- all by myself -- in order to get my brain back into action. I could take my netbook out to a nearby cafes, and sit outside in the shade all day, sipping on cold drinks and eating ice cream, as I write and write and write. It does sound idyllic.

One of the problems with this is it would have to be on a weekday, as all of my weekends between now and Christmas are full up. As I don't have a 9-5 job, this is quite doable, but I'd still feel guilty about it. But then again, since technically, writing IS one of my jobs now, perhaps I can convince myself that this is what I deserve.
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This is actually something that I've been sitting on for a couple of weeks, because it didn't quite seem real -- but Dreamspinner Press have accepted my novella, The Demon Catcher for publication as an e-book. It's currently in the editing stage, so I don't yet have a release date for it or anything like that -- I just know that eventually (I'm guessing at some point during the first half of 2011) it will happen.

And I'm finally allowing myself to get excited about it!

To all of you who helped me by reading over earlier drafts, allowing me to bounce ideas off you, etc -- thank you so much. I'm more grateful than I could say, and if we all lived in the same part of the world, I'd have you all over for dinner where I would make us a scrumptuous feast, which would be accompanied by lots of wine.
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Yesterday, Dreamspinner author Ryan Loveless tweeted to inform @glaad that Amazon is currently including books about incest, bestiality and pedophilia in their "gay and lesbian fiction" category. This can be seen if you look at the top 100 bestsellers in the category, which includes the book "The Girl Who Loved Horses" by Peter de Sade -- the description of the book makes it clear that it is about bestiality and heterosexual incest, yet for some reason it's classed as "gay and lesbian". Also included in the list is "Trailer Trash 2 Down on the Farm", by the same author and much in the same vein -- except with some eroticised child sexual abuse thrown in.

I don't think I need to tell anyone how homophobic and offensive it is that such books are included under the umbrella of "gay and lesbian".

You can contact Amazon about this issue using their Contact Us form.

Cross-posting to [personal profile] lefaym.
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...just quite randomly, this afternoon. Well, this evening. Basically, it's the beginning of an m/m urban fantasy romance about a guy who meets a faerie in an alleyway behind a gay bar. I have no idea where it's going to go from here (except for a few minor details), so I figured I'd put it up here to see what people think of it.

Feel free to offer any con-crit you like. I LOVE con-crit.

The first time he saw Flynn, Geordie was taking a piss out back of Maggie’s Hotel )
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I'm not doing NaNo, but over the last week or so, I've started working on the sequel to The Demon Catcher again. I don't have a working title for it yet, which is really something I should remedy.

I'm currently at the stage of writing where everything seems like a huge mess and I feel plauged by doubt. Is this story really viable? Are my characters boring? Are they believable? Am I focusing too much on plot at the expense of character development? Is my plot even working?

I have to admit, the worries about characterisation are not something I expected -- most of the writing I've ever done has been the sort that privileges character development over plot, yet here I find myself wondering if the plot I'm developing is overshadowing the developing romance between Euan and Leon.

I know that a lot of these worries will be resolved as I keep writing -- stories ALWAYS seem like a mess when one gets towards the middle, and they don't start making sense again until one gets to the end -- at which point, one can go back and fix anything that wasn't quite working. It is very difficult, however, to let go of the fear that maybe it won't work; that all this effort is going to go for nothing, in the long run.

Part of being a good writer is, I think, letting go of that fear, or at least not letting that fear stop you. So I won't let it stop me. I just need to keep going until I feel better about it again.


Oct. 27th, 2010 11:41 am
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I now have a Twitter account which I will use for all original fiction related tweets. Feel free to follow @lesley_hastings.
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Over the last few days, I've spend a lot of my free time (and some of my not-free time) reading the Bookends LLC Blog, the blog of the Bookends Literary Agency. While this blog addresses a range of issues relating to the publishing industry, much of the focus is on how to write a good query letter -- the letter that one first sends to an Agent or Publisher when seeking representation/publication. One of the key themes that keeps coming out of this is, "don't disparage yourself". If you don't have faith in yourself and your own writing, how do you expect an Agent or a Publisher to have faith in you?

I have been guilty of this. When I wrote On Feeling Presumptuous, I said, "I am under no illusions that what I am writing will be a great work of literature". Implicit in that statement is the idea that if a story isn't going to make it into some sort of literary canon (mostly made up of dead white men), then on some level it's not worth writing. This is wrong.

If finding publishable stories is a matter of seperating the wheat from the chaff, then I am the wheat.

I believe that the stories I am writing are stories worth telling. I believe that I am the best person to write these stories. I know I can write well, and I know that I am capable of improving my stories in response to criticism. I believe that my stories are worth reading, that they should not spend their lives languishing on my hard drive.

It is difficult to overcome notions of what makes a "good" book, what makes a book worth reading, and for some of us, it's also difficult to overcome the idea that there are certain types of books that we "should" be writing. When I was a child, and my proud doting parents realised that I enjoyed writing and was somewhat better at it than my peers, I heard a lot about what a great writer I was going to be someday. During my teens, surely I was destined to write the Next Great Young Adult Novel, yet somehow my seventeenth birthday came and went, and I failed to morph into S. E. Hinton. But it didn't matter -- no doubt I would write something Great and Wonderful in my adulthood. My English teachers also encouraged me in this belief.

Somehow, though, the stories didn't come to me. I could create characters, I could create settings, I could write up nice prose accounts of role playing games, but coming up with a plot on my own? It didn't happen.

I decided that I wasn't destined to be a writer of fiction.

Then, of course, I discovered that I could write fanfiction. After all, that didn't necessarily need plot -- it was about writing around other people's plots. I also discovered that I'm pretty damn good at writing erotica -- I got a lot of people telling me that, even though they didn't usually read porn, they would read mine.

But still, I thought, this didn't make me a real writer -- and in some ways, that was a very good approach for me. It meant that writing wasn't something I had to stress over, and as a consequence, I started doing it more and more. And then, somehow... the stories started coming. Stories that didn't fit into the canon that I was writing for. Stories that started living on their own, that started making their own characters who refused to be moulded into someone else's creations.

It still took me a while to start writing those stories... but now I am doing it, and it feels wonderful. It feels right. It feels far more right than any of those literary stories that I attempted in my younger years, trying to live up to the expectations of my parents and teachers. It feels like I have something real to offer the world.

I am sure that writing erotic romances is probably not what my parents and teachers had in mind for me when they told me that I would be a writer someday. I'm sure that many of the people who encouraged me in my younger days would say that I'm wasting my talent. But I'm not.

I'm telling the stories that I want to tell, and I know that there are people out there who want to read these stories. I am writing stories that will make people happy, because they are romantic, and my characters ultimately get happy endings. I am writing stories that will make people think, becuase even though my characters do end up happy, they still have to deal with some pretty nasty stuff. And I am writing stories that are hot and sexy, and will hopefully increase the number of orgasms in the world. This is most certainly a Very Good Thing.

So, no more apologies from me. I am the wheat, and I'm not afraid to show you that.
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I sent the novella-length revised draft of The Demon Catcher off to Dreamspinner today -- now for the 6-8 week wait! That's quite all right, really, since I have this pesky little thesis that I need to finish in the meantime.

I also have a few new projects.

  • Firstly, as I believe I have mentioned here, I am working on a sequel to The Demon Catcher. Regardless of whether or not this story ends up professionally published, Euan and Leon are alive in my head now, and I can't stop writing them. I'm thankful for the internet, as it gives me the chance to share them with people, regardless.

  • Secondly, I'm working on what I think will be a short story, another m/m romance, about an Irish man living on an island as a hermit around the turn of the 19/20th centuries. He's purposefully shut himself off from a world that rejected him, but all that changes one day, when a dark-haired man washes up onto the beach of his tiny rocky island.

    I'm just working on this one very slowly, in dribs and drabs. When I started it, I really only had the image of the hermit finding a man washed up on his island, and nothing more. I started writing, not knowing whether or not I would actually end up finishing it, not knowing if a plot would develop. But now that I'm writing a plot is developing, and I think I have a good sense now of how the story is going to take shape.

  • Thirdly, I'm formulating ideas for a f/f cyberpunk romance novella, which I hope to submit to Samhain Press's cyberpunk anthology. I haven't actually started writing this one yet, but I have lots of ideas for it that still need a bit of time to stew in my brain, and I'm very excited about writing it.

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I am once again revising "The Demon Catcher", adding more detail (world building, characterisation, plot developments) in the hope of bringing it up to novella length. I'm also thinking a lot about how the political ramifications of my desire to write m/m romance -- and my actual writing of it.

There has, of course, been a lot of discussion about the ways in which m/m romance, particularly m/m romance written by straight women* (and I do identify as straight), appropriates and fetishises gay/bi/queer male experiences in a way that is not actually positive for gay men. This is an important discussion to have, and I do think that I need to remain open to any criticisms of my own work in this regard.

But what does being open to criticism actually mean? Certainly, it means not reacting in anger when someone (especially a gay/bi/queer man) speaks up with objections regarding m/m romance written by women (especially straight women). It means not saying "OMG, YOU'RE TRYING TO CENSOR ME AND SILENCE WOMEN'S VOICES", whenever an objection of this kind is raised. It means not claiming a subject position, that, as a straight women, I cannot inhabit -- that is, I cannot speak FOR gay/bi/queer men.

So, I have a list of things NOT to do -- that's the easy part. What about what I SHOULD do? Now, there are a few things that tend to come up on this list -- do your research, treat your characters as well-rounded people, etc, but in general, I think the list of "shoulds" is far more difficult simply because there is no one perfect way to write fiction; there is no such thing as an unproblematic text. Something I write might be construed positively by one person, and negatively by another -- and NEITHER of those people will necessarily be wrong. But when you're writing about a marginalised group of people -- particularly a marginalised group of which you are not a part -- any negative effect can be amplified simply by the cultural structures of privilege that already exist. It doesn't matter if I personally intended the story to be read that way -- because we inhabit a culture where negative readings of narratives that deal with LGBTQI characters abound.

At the same time, however, I don't think it's necessarily a good thing to structure my writing around what are, potentially, the most negative readings possible (even if I acknowledge that those readings will occur), because I do feel that this runs the risk of treating gay/bi/queer men as a homogenous group. There is no one single way in which GBQ men will respond to my work, and given that I do have these characters living in my head, revealing more of themselves to me every day -- I think the best thing that I can do is put those characters on the page, to make them as real as possible.

I've been trying to read up, as much as possible, on discussions about m/m romance, and I have seen some pretty faily statements made from many different perspectives. For instance, Victoria Bronworth's Lambda opinion piece, The Fetishizing of Queer Sexuality, makes a number of sweeping generalisations about m/m fiction, such as that the majority of it is historical romance, and that it often features a stronger "masculine" man raping a "feminine" man -- while I have no doubt that this does happen in some m/m fiction (certainly, I've seen it in slash, although I wouldn't say that such tropes dominate the genre in any way) -- it is certainly NOT typical of the m/m romance that I have read.

Nonetheless, while Bronworth is clearly wrong in the way she characterises m/m romance, it doesn't mean that she is wrong to feel fetishised by m/m romance, or to speak out about it. And I DO think it is wrong that some people have responded with comments to the effect of "It's just FANTASY. It's not REAL." Because while fiction may detail events that never happened in the world of consensus reality, the story itself, as a literary artefact, IS A REAL THING. The story itself exists in the real world, and it affects people. If one writes a story that one hoped would be a positive thing, but someone responds to it in a negative way, they have the right to speak out about that, and the fact that the story is fiction doesn't change that.

Another piece that I've read while thinking about all this is [livejournal.com profile] sparkindarkness's Some More Poking of the M/M Genre. Spark is highly critical of the m/m genre, but I find that his criticisms are more nuanced, and more in line with what the genre is actually like than Bronworth's. On thing Spark says in particular gave me pause:

And this is especially the case when a book is primarily about sex or strongly sex driven (the “add 4 more sex scenes” school of m/m fiction). Because here we have gay men being used as sex toys. They may be well written sex toys, they may be non-stereotypical sex toys, they may even have been written to try to make them respectable - but they’re still sex toys, they’re still being used for others to get their rocks off. Sure, a non-stereotypical, attempted-to-be respectful sex toy is infinitely preferably to the stereotypical, disrespectful and plain awful sex toy. But it’s still a sex toy.

My story is not all about sex, but there are two fairly explicit sex scenes in my story, and I DID write them to be sexy -- I WANT my readers to become aroused while reading them. The sex scenes also have a larger purpose in the story, in terms of character and plot development, but that doesn't cancel out the fact that they are written as porn -- nor would I WANT that fact to be cancelled out.

So, where does this leave me? At the moment, I'm simply going on the way that I feel about representations of women in pornography. There is a lot of porn out there that I feel objectifies women in really negative ways -- but there is also porn out there that does NOT objectify women, and the difference, I find, for me, is I'm less likely to feel objectified the more that the audience is encouraged to emotionally identify with female protagonists. I realise that my experience as a straight women =/= the experiences of gay/bi/queer men. But I know that there is porn out there that includes women and, I think, presents women as people who are sexy rather than as sex toys, so I think that the same is probably true for m/m romance -- and that is what I will strive for, to write about men who are sexy, rather than sex toys who are ostensibly gay/bi/queer men.

But I might not always succeed at that. And I need to be aware of that. To that end, I'm going to list a few things I've been wondering about with regard to my own stories. I might frame them as questions, but I do want to make it clear that I don't think anyone is obliged to answer them. If anyone does want to contribute, that's great, but I'm not trying to imply that anyone should be coming in to educate me here.

So, here are things I'm worrying/thinking about:

  • My psuedonym: There seems to be a problem in terms of women choosing male or gender ambiguous pseudonyms for m/m romance, in order to imply that they are gay men and are capable of speaking for gay men. Is my pseudonym playing into this? That certainly wasn't what was on my mind when I chose it -- I chose it because "Lesley" is my middle name. I THINK that they "ey" spelling does indicate that I identify as a woman, and actually, I think it's a lot LESS ambiguous than my real first name (which is not an Anglo name, and doesn't have any clear gender markers to Anglo readers -- I have frequently been mistaken for male when using my real name online). Nonetheless, "Lesley/Leslie" IS a name that is used for both men and women, and given that masculine/gender-ambiguous names have this history in m/m romance -- should I adopt a different pseudonym before I have anything published?

  • Sex in my story: I DO think that the way I write sex in my story is a little bit idealised. I don't think I made it COMPLETELY unrealistic, but it's certainly not hyper-realistic either. Part of this is a genre thing -- it IS a romance, and I want it to be a happy romance, and that includes my protagonists enjoying sex. I also fear that the first time they have penetrative sex is a little heteronormative, insofar as it involves a sort of "missionary" position, and the bottom does experience a bit of pain at first. As far as the position is concerned, I wanted it that way because I want them to be able to see each other, while I felt it would be unrealistic for an inexperienced bottom to feel no pain at all (I know that it can happen, but I think if I did that I really would slip into over-idealisation).

  • The whole fantasy setting thing: As I mentioned above, I don't think that "but it's just FANTASY" is an excuse for objectification. At the same time, however, the concerns of a gay character living in a fantasy world (in my case, homophobia does exist in this fantasy world) are going to be different from a gay man living in a 21st century Western country. At the moment, I'm sort of working instinctively, but I'm aware that instinct can lead one to fail. I'm trying to figure out what's important here, what DO I need to research to make sure I'm doing this properly?

Anyway, that's what's on my mind. As I said above, I didn't pose these questions because I think anyone has an obligation to answer them, but having said that, I'm open to any comments that anyone might have.

*Obviously many LGBTQI women write m/m romance too, and I don't want to make that invisible, but I'm talking predominantly about straight women writing m/m here, because there's that extra layer of privilege involved.
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I heard back from Dreamspinner today -- they have rejected "The Demon Catcher" as a story for the Myths and Magic anthology, but have suggested that I could revise it to novella length (15,000 words +) and resubmit it for consideration as a standalone story. This is rather encouraging -- clearly, they did not simply think it was crap.

I did say that if it was rejected I would post the story here, but as there is still hope for publication, I won't do that. Instead, I'll post the current story to [personal profile] lefaym under flock, in the hope of receiving feedback from my flist, although I will take it down again completely before I resubmit it.

As far as revision of the story goes, I'm considering two different options -- the first is that I could try to embellish the current story a bit more and do exactly what the Dreamspinner editors suggested -- resubmit a longer version of the same story. However, I also have the option of taking certain elements from "The Demon Catcher" and combining them with elements of the new Euan and Leon story that I'm working on, in order to produce something novel-length. I think I'm going to wait and see what sort of response I get from my flist re: "The Demon Catcher" before I make my decision.


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