Imagine: You’re locked in a room with no way out, and a small group of people are locked in with you. You are faced with a series of complex tasks, puzzles, and clues, all of which will lead you to a door that is your salvation. You have one hour to escape, or be locked away forever.

I have recently had the joy of experiencing two escape rooms. Both were vastly different experiences, and in one, my team narrowly missed escaping (we were about 5 minutes from solving the final clue when our time ran out), and in the other, my team narrowly escaped (we had about 25 seconds left on the clock when we found the last door and put in the code that opened it). Without giving too much away, I thought I’d share these experiences with you.

In my first escape room experience, we found ourselves recently deceased and at the gates to Heaven. St. Peter had stepped away from the gates, and we had one hour to rummage through the room and find evidence of our misdeeds in order to slip through the pearly gates and be allowed access into Heaven. The room was set up with a series of puzzles that needed to be solved (some were sequential, some were not) before the pearly gates would open, freeing us. There were word puzzles, logic puzzles, math puzzles, secret codes to decipher, and more. We did find the evidence of our misdeeds, and disposed of most of it, but our time ran out just when we realized that there was one final puzzle to solve, and that we weren’t free after all. We had so much fun, but we were all very disappointed that we didn’t escape in time. (Even the organizers were surprised we didn’t escape – they had been watching us throughout and had predicted early on that we would actually beat the course record.)

In my second escape room, we were a little better prepared. Three of us had participated in the first, and that gave us a slight edge – we knew, in some ways, what to expect. The room was different (very different), but having had the experience previously gave us a feel for the flow of the game. This room was titled “Glitch in the Matrix” and in some ways was much harder than the first. It has the lowest solve rate of all of the rooms at this particular escape room experience (#humblebrag). The room was a little mind-blowing. When you enter, you are completely taken by surprise. I won’t ruin it by telling how it was surprising, but suffice it to say, it was nothing like what any of us had expected. There were several chambers in this room and  you had to pass through each chamber to ultimately escape. The puzzles were hard, but we managed to crack the codes and freed ourselves with seconds to spare. It was great fun.

A few points of information about escape rooms:

  • No, you’re not really locked in. There’s one door that’s always unlocked, for safety and fire code reasons. People are welcome to step out to take a breather, use the restroom, or partake of the snacks in the lounge. In my first escape room, several people stepped out for various reasons, but in my second one nobody stepped out for any reason. I think this helped.
  • No, it’s not scary. It’s a little creepy (one escape room they offer is set up to resemble an abandoned asylum, for example), but never were we scared for our safety. There was one puzzle that we were a little nervous to solve, because it involved some blind faith in the organizers, but we sucked it up, and solved the puzzle. Nothing bad happened.
  • Are you in with strangers? Well, that’s a possibility. The rooms hold a maximum number of people, and if your group doesn’t buy out the tickets for a particular room, the company may sell tickets to the room to others, which means you could be working with strangers. It might be a disaster, but it might be amazing!
  • Don’t stop trying. Try everything. Try pushing, (gently) pulling, lifting, looking under. Don’t dismiss anything as unimportant. Nearly everything is a clue, and while there might be some red herrings, you can’t afford to ignore anything, at least not at first.
  • You don’t need anything with you except your brain. Some escape rooms allow cell phone usage for help on your puzzles, some do not. I don’t know of any escape rooms that allow photography or video inside the rooms – that’s just spoiling the surprises for anyone who comes after you. We frequently used our cell phones as flashlights, and in each room we looked up one puzzle – not that the answers to specific puzzles can be found on the internet, but you might look up a math formula, or the Greek alphabet, for example.
  • Work together. Teamwork is crucial. The quieter your room is (in terms of interacting with one another), the less likely you’ll escape.
  • If you have an idea, call it out, no matter how stupid or obvious you think it might be. Your teammates may be thinking of things differently, and you just might have the right idea.

In all, it was a fabulous experience. Highly recommended, 10/10, would do again. And again. And again. In fact, I’m already plotting when I can escape from the asylum.

Pre NaNoWriMo planning

​Well, it’s that time again, and NaNoWriMo is just around the corner. I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve played seriously every year since 2012 (I not-seriously joined in 2011, and wrote about 2,000 words), and won every time. I’ve also won a few Camps, including the Camp during which I wrote Falling Apart, though I haven’t done every camp since I started. So anyway, I’ll be playing again this year.

This year I have big plans. Big, big plans. I’ve converted from being a pantser to a plotter, which is a big change, though it took lots of time. I started using the Snowflake Method about two years ago, on my first attempt at a sequel to Falling Apart. It was a terrible piece of work, truly, and I have not attempted to resurface it or edit it at all. Looking back, it was too melodramatic and contrived, and involved an ex boyfriend of Ryder’s surfacing to mess up Ryder and Billy’s happy relationship. I didn’t like the introduction of another person as a roadblock to their relationship, because I didn’t want there to be any implications of cheating. But still, I wrote it, while editing Falling Apart for MLR for that matter.

Back to my plans: I’m once again entering the world of Falling Apart to play with Ryder and Billy.

There’s something about those two that just won’t let me go. In my other stories, I have no problem giving the characters a send-off and never hearing from them again, but not Billy and Ryder. They just won’t stop. So this year, I’m throwing a different complication at them, and I’m going to attempt to craft it into something worthy of your attention. We can thank Eye for the complication. I emailed her with a plea: “Give me a plot!” and she responded with seven words that formed the basis for this novel. (Those seven words will remain a secret until I decide whether this novel is worth publication.)

I’ve really enjoyed the Snowflake Method this year. In the past, I’ve only taken bits and pieces of it, just done the first few steps to give myself a few bones to chew on. This year, I’ve taken it almost all the way through, and I have a full skeleton. I even have a list of each scene that needs to happen and whose POV it’s coming from.

The husband is dedicated to my NaNo success again this year, going so far as to call November “your month” – the month during which he will shoulder a lot of the childcare while I go to write-ins galore.

I look forward to NaNo this year, and I hope you are too! Feel free to share your project in the comments!


Tomorrow is Gishwhes. What is Gishwhes? Go to for more information, but briefly put, Gishwhes is a big crazy scavenger hunt. It’s an international shindig, and our team spans from Argentina to Alaska, with stops in Virginia, Deleware, and New York. 

Last year, items ranged from the silly (take video of yourself getting people to sign a petition to save the endangered unicorns), to the artistic (create a dress out of construction paper), to the kind (sell hugs, donate the money), to the impossible  (get gishwhes in space). 

My team of 15 is called GishteenCandles and we will be meeting tomorrow to strategize and plan, and then carry out our tasks. It will be a long, exhausting, grueling week of madness and mayhem. 

Gishwhes is great fun and I look forward to it every year. I can’t wait to share with you guys the craziness. I can’t share tasks until after the hunt, but soon you’ll see. 

How I Pants-Draft my Stories

I can’t remember if I’ve discussed pantsing vs. plotting here, but I’m gong to touch on it today. I wanted to discuss a little about how I draft stories because I’m working on a first draft right now and drafting has been on my mind. 

The first thing I do is look for inspiration and ideas. Sometimes that’s in the form of writing prompts I find online. Sometimes I have a character in mind first. Sometimes, it’s a song or lyric that just begs to be tuned into a story. I’ve admitted here before that coming up with ideas is not my strong suit. I can do a lot with a prompt, but I don’t often get struck by an origin without some sort of help. I find ideas much easier to come by when I’m working on flash fiction, but when I’m working on a bigger piece, I often take inspiration where I can get it. 

Once I have the idea in mind, I decide how old my characters are and search for character names. The social security name registry is extremely helpful for this. I tend to latch on to a name and accidentally reuse it, so to ensure that in using a new name, I’ve started keeping a running list of names that have been used up. Sometime during this process, character appearance comes to me. It’s also no secret that I love hipsters, so you’ll likely find one or reference to them in a story  (easter eggs!). Physical description and personality fall in line here. They all sort of happen at once. 

Once that happens, I have two choices. I can write on paper or type. If I type, I have to come up with a file name for Scrivener, my writing software. I usually go this route becaude my ideas flow much easier on a keyboard. I can type faster than I can write. Besides, this makes revisions easier. The story I’m working on now is being handwritten, for no reason other than portability. I can’t take my laptop everywhere, but a small notebook is portable and discreet. I can write on my lunch break. 

From there, all I have to do is write. I typically pants a story – fly by the seat of my pants. I know the ending, and I have some general idea of what’s going to happen, but I don’t often plot out my story. I find that the ideas flow much better this way. Another day, I’ll discuss my plotting method, when I do plot. 

Once the draft is written, I usually let it simmer for a while – a few days, maybe even a few weeks. A second draft comes by editing my own work. I make several passes, and I stop counting drafts at that point. I’ve lost my beta reader (Pet was my faithful beta, but since we’ve broken up, he doesn’t read for me anymore, understandably), so I don’t often send my work to anyone to read before I email it to my editor at MLR. Once it’s in her hands, it’s in her hands to decide what happens to it. And the rest is history, as it were. Several more rounds of editing follow, of course, but editing is a topic for another day. 

Come Sail Away release day!

You can find it on the MLR site here:

And the blurb: After a bad breakup, Ryan heads to St. Thomas to clear his mind and forget about his ex. He originally plans to spend his days relaxing in the sun and working on his book, but a chance meeting changes all that. While on the island, Ryan meets sexy boat captain Eric, who takes his thoughts off of things. Eric and Ryan spend a passionate week together, getting to know each other. When it’s time to depart, Ryan is devastated to leave Eric behind, but they make promises to write and call. When that tapers off, Ryan’s sure he’s lost Eric forever, but Eric has other plans.

I hope you enjoy!

“You write beautiful dialogue”

A dear friend said this to me once and I’ll never forget it. She’s read Falling Apart, in early drafts anyway, and much of the dialogue remains intact from the very earliest of times. I was fretting about my writing ability and my weaknesses, when she laid this line on me. Now, I know friends often tell ego-boosting white lies, but this woman (one of the Awesomely Awesome) does not. And furthermore, she asked me to write a stage play with her, because she believes in my dialogue abilities. Coming from her, that’s an incredible compliment. And considering how much I struggle with and agonize over every word, every syllable of dialogue, I don’t think I’ll ever forget this high praise coming from one of my most trusted friends on an area I’m insecure about. It’s given me great confidence in writing, as a matter of fact. I still shy away from some of my dialogue – it comes out so naturally and then I worry and fret that my readers will have issue with this word or that phrase, and I dial it back. Suffice it to say thay my characters want to drop the f-bomb more often, and at least one guy has lovingly called his partner a slut (in the sex positive, pro slut way, of course). Those don’t make the final cuts, not because my editor makes me change them (she never has), but because I chicken out when push comes to shove. I’m getting off track. My point is, though I love to write it, I often worry about my dialogue, and my greatest writer compliment ever was affirming my love for writing good dialogue. 

Briefly, I want to mention that the other third of the Awesomely Awesome is in the hospital. She’s probably going to be just fine, but there are some issues with her heart and the doctors are just a little baffled right now. Please keep her in your thoughts. 

And lastly, don’t forget that Come Sail Away hits stores tomorrow! It is typically up on MLR Books on release day, and them hits virtual shelves elsewhere within the next week. I’d love to hear what you think! 


I have been reflecting on things I’m thankful for lately, and here are some of them, in no particular order:

1. Husband. He’s my rock, as it were. He’s always there for me, patient to a fault, and gives me the leeway I need to discover who I am. Whether that person is someone who quits her day job with no prospects, someone who writes erotica, or someone who comes home with a blue mohawk (true!), he respects and supports me. I’m grateful to call him mine. 

2. You. Dear readers, you’re sticking with me through feast and famine, through drought and downpour, and for that, I’m grateful. Writing isn’t easy, and for my slightly-more-than-slightly ill mind, writing comes and goes. I’m grateful to have a readership at all, under these circumstances, and I see the statistics – you’re here even when I’m not. Thank you. 

3. Little Man. Kids are a strange breed, friends. My baby factory is closed for good, so there shall be no more babies, but children are just wild. They’re a rollercoaster ride. Little Man is also patient with me, takes my bad days in stride (which he shouldn’t have to do, but he does), and loves me as unconditionally as I love him. I can hardly wait to see what kind of adult he becomes. I just hope he’s as cool as Christopher Rice.

4. My job. This is probably an odd one, considering I’m not out at my job (as bisexual or in a semi open marriage or as a writer), but I do love my day job. It pays the bills, I’m happy and valued, and I feel I do important work. It’s a remarkable change from my previous job (which is tragicomic if you know what I did at my previous job).

5. Writing. I’m so so thankful for a brain that works (intermittently) the way mine does. Would I prefer to write the next Great American Novel? Maybe. If that novel could be about gay men loving each other. But that will never be so, and I’m fine with that. I love what I write, I love making people happy, and I love the boys in my stories. 

6. My ancient dog. She really is very old (past her life expectancy by 1-3 years), but still kicking. 

7. The Awesomely Awesome. I dedicated a book to them. These women are my best friends, and love me unconditionally. They get to see the ugliest parts of me, and don’t mind at all. 

8. My WriMo group. These friends I made during NaNoWriMo meetups for my area, and I adore them. They worked with me to find a publisher, and push me to be the best writer I can be.

9. Eye. Her nickname is slightly odd, but no matter. She read Nurse’s Orders and asked for more. She practically forced me to submit Falling Apart to MLR, and did a happy dance for me when they asked for revisions, rather than rejecting outright. She convinced me that writing IS something I’m good at, and she pushes me to keep writing, even when I’m down.

10. Technology. It’s a cheap shot, but without technology, I’d be nowhere. 

Thank you for reading. Goodnight.