All posts by chaseconnorbooks

Chase Connor currently lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his husband, his dog, Rimbaud, and spends his days writing about the people who live (loudly and rent-free) in his head when he’s not busy being enthusiastic about naps and Pad Thai. Chase started his writing career as a confused gay teen looking for an escape from reality. Ten years later, one of the books he wrote during those years, Just A Dumb Surfer Dude: A Gay Coming-of-Age Tale, was published independently. Now with The Lion Fish Press (and almost 20 books later), Chase has numerous projects in various stages of completion and lined up for publishing. Chase is a multi-genre author, but always with a healthy dollop of gay. Chase can be reached at chaseconnor@chaseconnor.com Or on Twitter @ChaseConnor7

Indiscernible, That’s What We Are

Two men are standing outside of an airport.

The shorter, slightly older man is reaching up, holding the taller, younger man’s face in his hands.

They are smiling at each other but the taller, younger man is visibly, though quietly, crying.

Ça va.” Says the slightly older, shorter man to the younger, taller man.

He doesn’t speak French, but the younger man does.

The younger man gives a wet laugh. “Ça va.” He nods.

Do you think that these two men are father and son? Maybe even step-father and step-son? Older and younger brother? Maybe lovers? The very best of friends?

Does it matter?

How two people–two characters–relate to each other, the essence of why they have the relationship that they have is never fully describable to someone on the outside looking inward. Some feelings and experiences transcend explanation. A relationship is explained in both what is said and not said. Body movements and expressions. Actions committed and not committed. The way two people can look at each other and slowly start to smile, knowing exactly what the other is thinking.

When you write a story where one of the central plot points is a strong relationship between two of your characters, knowing how to convey what those characters mean to each other can be difficult. Maybe it is not difficult for people to understand what it means to be spouses, or a child and parent, or a lover, or best friends, or siblings…but all relationships are remarkably different. There are a multitude of ways that two people solidify a bond, regardless of the type of relationship they have. And no one can understand the gravity of the events that led to that bond the way that the two characters/people can.

So, how does a writer fully convey to a reader just what a relationship means for the two characters in question?

Think of your strongest relationship – the one you know will stay true until the day you die. What makes it the strongest relationship in your life?

It’s not the words you say to each other. Or the hugs you give each other. Not the blood you share. Not just the events you have been through together. Or similar sense of humor or interests. The strongest relationships transcend all of that.

The strongest relationships are built on the fact that above all things, these two people accept each other for who and what they are, no questions asked, no expectations, no demands…they just truly understand each other through and through.

And they ask no more of the relationship than that. It’s almost divine, how these two people “get” each other. And it’s not because of the long midnight conversations or talks over meals they’ve had hundreds of times. They are…kindred.

When you write a strong relationship between two characters in a story, maybe go beyond “well, we grew up next door to each other, so our relationship was convenient…”. Figure out what it is that these two people/characters see in each other than no one else sees. Hint at it. Play with that knowledge, and slowly expose it to the reader so that that the depth of that relationship is felt as deeply by the reader as it is the characters.

You’ll be surprised how much more endearing your characters will be to your readers.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

What’s Simple Is True

Lately, I have been trying to figure out whether or not putting my pronouns in my Twitter bio is the right thing to do or if I felt that it was redundant.

I am obviously a man, so obviously I go by “he/him.

That was one thought circling my brain. Then, I saw people tweeting that if you did not include your pronouns in your Twitter bio, you were transphobic, especially if you had the thought I just included above. I do not feel that if you do not lead with your pronouns that you are transphobic by any stretch of the imagination. Like trans people want to include their pronouns so that they are not misgendered, or non-binary people are not called a gender they do not identify with, cis-gender people feel it is natural to assume others will automatically know their pronouns.

Being told I was transphobic if I did not include my pronouns in my Twitter bio made my hackles rise and made me not want to include them even more. I felt I was being bullied into doing something that did not come naturally to me. Intellectually, I know that is not the intent of the people who say these things, but, emotionally, I felt attacked. For better or worse, I am talking about my feelings here–whether they are right or wrong.

Feelings are important. People should be allowed to feel what they feel, process their emotions, and then think things over before they are required to act.

So, I eventually processed my feelings and realized that even if people I saw calling others “transphobic” were truly jerks (I have no idea if they are), I knew that I needed to educate myself. If I was going to stand by my decision to not include my pronouns. I needed to know why it was so important to trans and non-binary people and what it meant to them as people. What it means to their human experience.

I did what I do when I write a story–research. I talked to trans and non-binary friends. I Google’d “should people include their pronouns on their Twitter bio.” Speaking with my friends was very helpful because it was a safe, loving environment where we could speak openly, ask questions, not be judged, and not have everything responded to with anger or frustration. We could educate and enlighten each other.

Also, I found this article on PS Mag by Malcolm Harris:

https://psmag.com/social-justice/good-allies-check-their-pronoun-privilege

It was a good article and made a lot of sense. However, I was still confused as to how I felt. Then, I saw this response to the question on Quora: https://qr.ae/TWhBZj

When Elliot Steel mentioned teachers giving their pronouns making the classroom feel more welcoming and safe, my mind was made up. I was going to include my pronouns in my bio. For the record, they are “he” and “him.” But I will not be offended if you call me something else–as long as you are not trying to be unkind. I reserve the right to correct you, but if you were not being unkind, I will do it with understanding and patience.

That is the whole point, though, isn’t it? Kindness costs nothing. If typing six characters (he/him) into my Twitter bio can make someone feel more seen, safe, and welcome, then why wouldn’t I do that? Even being a cis-gender gay man, assuming others would just know that, is not as important as making everyone feel worthy of respect, dignity, and kindness.

Certainly, I am not going to tell other people how to feel or what to include in their Twitter bios. However, if you are confused as to why this issue is a big deal, please read the articles I have included above. At the very least, they will help you with your interactions with non-binary and trans people in the future. Maybe they will help us all to be more kind.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

T’ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do

Last week, I participated in an author discussion group called “So You Finished Your WIP…Now What?” for the #WritingCommunityAuthorsPanel on Twitter. I had a really good time and bought a few books from my fellow panelists that I can’t wait to read. The discussion was full of great questions, answers, advice, friendly discourse…it really felt like an amazing amalgam of writers coming together to discuss ideas. I’m so grateful that I got invited to be part of such an amazing event like WCAP.

I mention this because during the group discussion, I said (without really thinking about what I was saying):

A day after “saying” that, I really started to think about what I meant when I said it.

When I thought about it, and discussed it with my best friend, I realized that I was talking about far more than just marketing books. It is true that marketing is an ever-evolving creature when it comes to the life of a book…but I think I was speaking more about what it is like to be a writer and part of the community.

All creatives (people in general, really) have a different path. We all have our individual goals. It is rare when two of us are super similar to each other. Because of this, we will all end up doing things slightly differently from each other. Sometimes the differences will be really big.

If and when you step outside of what is seen as the “norm” for an indie-pub or self-pub writer you might experience pushback – to put it mildly. There are times people may be outwardly aggressive in questioning your actions. You might get some snarkiness from people.

That’s something I wanted to write about.

When it comes to your art, you have one person to worry about – yourself. You know what your goals are, why those are your goals, the reason you create, what your expectations are, and what you are comfortable doing. Maybe you are the type of creative who wants to follow a “traditional” path in finding success–however you define that. That’s okay. Maybe you are the type of person who wants to think outside of the box and try new, even crazy, methods. That’s okay, too.

One thing I want to convey to anyone who decides to take a shot at writing a book is this:

As long as you are not hurting anyone (including yourself), you can do whatever you want to do. And you do not need to make excuses, apologies, or provide explanations to anyone.

Maybe you will find out that your ideas aren’t that great and just don’t work. Maybe they were exciting and fun but they didn’t help you achieve whatever it was you were trying to achieve. That’s okay. Do a U-Turn and try again. You didn’t fail, you just slowed your course. At least you were able to find out if your ideas had any merit. That, in itself, is pretty cool.

Maybe you’ll find out that you’ve discovered a new way of doing things that is just as good or even better than the way everyone else is doing it. That would be amazing, too.

Maybe you do things the way you do them because that is what you are comfortable with. That’s perfectly fine as well. A lot of creatives are introverted or shy and prefer to create but not be the center of the attention. Or maybe they have day jobs and are trying to keep their two lives separate.

There are a million and one reasons why a person chooses to do things the way they do them. Unless someone shares their reasons with others, no one knows what those reasons are but the person they belong to. And that’s okay.

I love when people in a community want to help others – please please please make it known if you want to help people just starting out. Even reach out and offer help to people if you feel they need or want it. Let them know you are there to mentor them if they ever decide they want that type of relationship with you. That’s an amazingly kind thing to do.

But, none of us need to try and make others feel bad for doing things their own way if it is not hurting anyone in any way. Let people create, try things, fail, succeed, and everything in between. One of the greatest parts of being a creative is the freedom to try things that might never have been tried before. It’s part of the fun and excitement of the lifestyle.

There’s nothing more beautiful than someone who zigs when everyone else zags.

It’s one of the most creative things a person can do.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Why I Stopped Reading Reviews

Disclaimer: I would like to apologize in advance if this post seems negative or if I am trying to “call out” reviewers on certain sites. That is not my intention. I merely want to explain why I personally do not search out reviews of my work. Additionally, after this post, I am going to have to write A LOT of inspirational and kind posts to make up for all of this. HA!

This is probably my first post with a really straight forward title, but I didn’t want to try and be clever in talking about an uncomfortable subject for writers and readers alike. Reviews are helpful and hindering – to both authors and readers. They can be a good tool and they can be a breeding ground for negativity, trolling, and hatred. But, they are what they are. So, I’ll explain why I don’t read reviews – specifically on Goodreads and Amazon.

Now, admittedly, if someone mentions a review to me, I’ll check it out. If someone specifically mentions to me that they reviewed my work – or tags me on Twitter – I’ll check it out. But I do not go onto sites looking for reviews of my books. In fact, I often don’t look at reviews even when a friend says: “Hey, you need to see this review of <blank>.” Even if they tell me it’s a glowing review. Good or bad, a review is often not helpful to a writer. They’re really nice and I’m touched by each one that I’ve seen, but they are not helpful in what my current WIP is, though.

The main reason I avoid reviews is this: I have finished writing my book and published it.

Spelling, grammar, and the like can be fixed and a new file uploaded so that future readers do not have a problem with those issues (I openly invite readers on Twitter to DM me with mistakes they find). But knowing a reader hated a character or disliked the ending is moot at that point. Even if it wasn’t, why would a writer change their entire story because a reviewer(s) gave them a bad review? We’re not all George Lucas, changing our art willy-nilly-like when it suits us. A piece of art is a screenshot in time…changing it makes it less art and more of a consumer product.

Also, art is a product, I suppose (look at me having my cake and eating it, too!). A reader pays their money (or checks the book out) and reads the book. The writer gets paid, the reader gets to read, transaction complete. What can be done at that point? Both parties held up their end of the bargain and a review won’t change any of that – nor will “fixing” what someone disliked. A writer does not write a book with a guarantee that you will love it – just like filmmakers with movies or an artist with a painting. The money a reader pays (or library card or rental subscription they hold) is a guarantee they can read the book – no more, no less.

I also see a lot of SJW buzz words floating around the internet. My favorite is “problematic.”

Things are problematic if they are endorsing a bad behavior or way of life. Say, if a writer endorsed homophobia, racism, misogyny or smoking cigarettes. However, “problematic” gets used liberally by the people who have appointed themselves the SJW Police. I see a lot of “Karens” and “Lindas” – usually white women who have appointed themselves the SJW Police – telling other people how a book is supposed to make them feel about a certain issue. I have a real problem with a person who is not part of a marginalized group telling people in that group how they should be offended by something. Then again, I have a problem with a person in a marginalized group trying to “rally the troops” and getting others to protest something before they’ve even checked it out and made up their own minds about the issue.

At best, these types of situations are a disgusting attempt at censorship.

A writer/artist is describing a way of life, giving you a glimpse into a way a character lives and behaves. Just because it makes you uncomfortable does not mean that it is problematic. There is a huge difference between making someone uncomfortable and promoting dangerous ideas. I often describe different ways of life – but I am not promoting them. What a reader takes from the work is solely up to them.

This is all the “video games cause mass shootings” argument wrapped up in different paper.

You might often see people tagging books “DNF (Did Not Finish)” for this reason. How does the reviewer know if the writer was setting things up for resolution in the second half of the book, to start dialogue and make social commentary about these things? You just labeled the author and the book “problematic” without having the full picture. THAT is problematic. Trying to keep others from reading or viewing something due to your own sensitivities is problematic.

Another thing I see in reviews (especially on Goodreads, since they don’t seem to have any form of moderating going on there) is the reviewer saying: “Could use an editor.” Almost always aimed at an indie author.

First things first – what kind of editor? There are developmental editors, line editors, copy editors…did you mean a proofreader? Without context, a writer has no idea what you found to be a problem. Also, the reviewers who make this simple statement can often confuse stylistic choices for poor editing. If the style didn’t work for you, that’s okay – no offense taken. But if you don’t know the difference, you’re misleading the potential readers who might be thinking about reading the book.

Without a specific example of what a reviewer is talking about, that critique is less than worthless.

Reviewers also make broad, sweeping statements. An example would be to point out one error in punctuation and imply that it was a problem throughout the book…when it was really just in one sentence or section. That’s misleading to the people who are reading your review. And again – that might have been a stylistic choice that you just didn’t like. We’re all different in our reading and style preferences…but that doesn’t mean that what was written was necessarily a mistake.

Furthermore, most reviewers have not read the entire catalog of a writer they are reviewing. One personal example I can think of that was pointed out to me by a friend was a review of ‘Jacob Michaels Is Tired’. A reviewer opined that by my making “the only person of color” in the book come off as racist, that the book itself was, in fact, racist (FYI – the character in question was ignorant to the dining customs in India, not racist). Couple of problems with that. The POC they referred to was not the only POC in the book. There are 5 recurring characters that show up in that first book in the series. One is black, one is Latinx, three are white. The black character is a douchebag and the Latinx character is a fun, wise drag queen. So, their statement is misleading. Additionally, the reviewer is obviously unfamiliar with my work and all of the POC who are portrayed much more positively in my other books. A WRITER CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT MAKE EVERY PERSON OF COLOR A SAINT. Just like making every POC a bad person in every book is despicable, making all of the POC saintly is at the far end of the other side of the spectrum. Just like white people, POC are complex and multi-faceted. To imply that they can never be a villain or flawed human being is problematic.

I’ve also seen reviews of other writers where a reviewer says: “This is my fourth book by this author and they just keep getting worse!” Or something similar. Okay…how am I supposed to take you seriously now? You read a book, it was bad. I can see giving the author a second chance. It was worse? So you picked up a third book of theirs? At this point, I’m pretty sure you are just looking for things to be negative about or you have a vendetta. Or maybe you just don’t know what types of books you actually like to read. I. Do. Not. Take. You. Seriously.

I’ve seen personal attacks against authors, misogynistic statements, homophobia, racism, violent threats…the list goes on and on. The land of reviews can be a toxic wasteland. I love seeing a review from someone who enjoyed my book or someone who has valid criticisms presented in a “I’d like to help you out” kind of way. I don’t even mind: “This book just wasn’t for me.” But I am not subjecting myself to hatred and hateful/violent behavior of any kind over something such as a book someone did not like. In fact, sometimes, after reading a review of a book I loved and seeing the statements the reviewer made, I often wonder if they actually read the book, just skimmed it, or simply pulled a review out of thin air.

This is especially true when you see reviewers who give War and Peace 5-stars and Twilight 5-stars as well…but then they give Percy Jackson 2-stars. What is your rating method, reviewer? I know reviews are subjective and personal preferences (especially those on Goodreads and Amazon since they are done by amateur reviewers), but there really is no way for a potential reader to quantify and validate the value of the review and the reviewer.

Lastly, I include my Twitter handle (@ChaseConnor7) and my email address (chaseconnor@chaseconnor.com) at the end of all of my books. If a reader has feedback that they feel is helpful to me, they have 2 different ways to reach out to me and provide that feedback. I’ve gotten some wonderful feedback, critiques, and advice from so many readers. I don’t always agree, but I am always touched that they took time out to share their thoughts with me. And it’s always great to “meet” a new person. Approaching a writer with helpful, thoughtful critiques via email or DM is a lot more useful than anonymously putting their ass on blast on a social media site.

Finally, let me be really real with all of you – I know that this post sounds exceptionally negative and bitter. I mentioned on Twitter that I was reticent to write this post because I knew I would come off as a jerkwad. However, I can honestly say I’ve only one read one review over my work that really, truly bothered me. Mostly because the book was based on personal experience and I could tell that the reviewer had merely skimmed the book because the information they presented about the book was really off. The reviewer also erased parts of my identity by making personal assumptions about me. It was hurtful and ignorant. My intention with this post is not to shame or call out any particular reviewer – or reviewers in general. I simply want to point out that reviews are usually used by potential readers to decide if they want to read a book or not. They are entirely subjective and based on a reviewer’s personal preferences and likes/dislikes. Generally speaking, most review sites do not moderate the reviews on their site well and there are sites where people pay for reviews or friends review friends or the provenance of a review is unclear. There are just too many factors at play for me to get too mentally and emotionally invested in reviews and review sites. As I said on Twitter – reviews are a cost vs. benefit situation for me. The costs of trolling review sites greatly outweigh the benefits.

So…if you review a book (not just mine), leave your good, bad, or in between review…and move on to your next book. The writer can decide if they want to engage in any way…though I recommend that they just keep writing.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Country Song, Lead the Way

I like to write dialogue.

I feel prideful and ashamed when I say this – but it is one aspect of writing a story where I feel that I really shine as an author. Please don’t hold my arrogance against me.

Dialogue, the back-and-forth banter between two characters, can really help a writer’s creativity sparkle. Dialogue obviously conveys information to a reader, but it also helps set the tone for the story and maps out the relationship between two characters for the reader. We all know how we interact with lovers, friends, family, strangers, enemies…so seeing how two characters interact tells us so much about them and their relationship.

And writing dialogue is so much easier than description or exposition. Well, for me. Other writers dread writing dialogue. I guess this post would be different with another writer tapping the keyboard keys, but…

There is a caveat to my above proclamation of love for dialogue, though.

Most people (as was pointed out a long time ago by my long-term developmental editor) communicate so much information in non-verbal ways.

Like the country song goes: You say it best when you say nothing at all.

Consider this scene from one of my LGBTQ+ YA Books, A Surplus of Light:

Against all instinct, all nature or nurture, I found my hand sliding slowly through the water to Ian’s.  He looked down, surprised as I grabbed his hand.  Then he looked over at me.  His eyes looked black in the dark as they met mine.  But as my fingers slid between his, he accepted my hand.  We stared at each other for a very long time, then turned our attention back to the bats, our hands still together.  The bats fed for several minutes.  And it was the most glorious and exhilarating minutes of my life up until that moment.

Do you think this small part of a scene would have been helped at all with dialogue? I did. This scene was ten times longer in the first draft. Not kidding. I felt that this scene was more powerful with the characters describing what it was they were feeling, discussing it…it was embarrassing when I was told to cut 90% of what I’d done and to “get your head out of your ass.”

I get told that a lot by my DE. It’s only fair. I tell him “go fuck yourself” a lot. Sometimes I say it in French. Just to give it a little “Razzle Dazzle.”

In rewriting the scene (and pulling my head out of my ass), I realized that sometimes, actions committed in a vacuum of silence are so powerful. What happens when a person caresses their lover’s cheek and stares into their eyes lovingly, desperately wanting to feel other parts of them?

How does one express how they feel when they stare across a busy airport terminal to see that their spouse, whom they haven’t seen in a year, has come back from war?

What could a character say as they are standing in a church, their hand laid on the closed lid of their mother’s coffin? What would be more moving? A soliloquy about their mother…or a shaky exhale and downcast eyes as they desperately will themselves to not fall apart?

Sometimes…words just don’t do life justice.

It’s a tightrope walk, deciding whether dialogue or description is best. How much dialogue is too much dialogue? How much isn’t enough? When do you stop describing things?

The only answer I’ve been able to come up with is: when it feels right. Honestly, when you get to a point where you feel that you’ve said/described just enough to make things clear to a reader, you should stop. Reading, fundamentally, is about imagination. If a reader did not want to fill in some details on their own, they would watch a movie or television show.

But, if you pay attention, even characters in movies and T.V. shows do not express everything through monologue/dialogue. Sometimes all it takes is a simple look to convey an infinity of emotion.

Try it with your characters. See if something they said can be conveyed better with a simple action. You might be surprised at how much more moving the scene is and how much it emotionally resonates with your readers.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Sunday Q&A Wrap-Up Bonus Post

You may or may not know, but I did an author Q&A for the #WritingCommunityAuthorsPanel on Thursday, August 1st. It was an AMA (Ask Me Anything) style affair that was a little chaotic but so much fun! However, after the fact, I realized there were a few questions I didn’t get to answer. In fact, my lovely friend Dee only asked one question and I missed it! ARGH! So, as a bonus post for today, I thought I’d answer the “straggler” questions I didn’t get to Thursday night. Here we go:

Q: Do you know the ending of the book before the story is developed? (Dee’s question)

A: Sometimes I work from the ending backward – weird, I know. However, I often go into a story without a clue where the characters will end up and decide along the way what seems like the most natural conclusion to their story. As an example – in ‘A Surplus of Light,’ Mike and Ian weren’t supposed to have the ending that they did. It was the exact opposite. But my DE talked me out of that. LOL

Q: Where did the name ‘Ginjuh’ come from? (Teresa did not get her answer to this)

A: My husband is a redhead. My best friend used to scream “GINJUH!!” at him in a British accent to irritate him. When I was writing a story about a redheaded character with a former speech impediment, it just worked well.

Q: Which of your characters is your favorite, and why? (Bahar’s question)

A: I answered that, if forced, I would choose Eli from ‘Gavin’s Big Gay Checklist’ but I forgot to tell her why. I like that he was a devout, religious straight teen who accepted others, was kind, caring, was not biased or prejudiced, and saw God as something where love emanated from and not something meant to give people an excuse to hate. I also loved that he had no problem being a straight teen with a gay best friend and was more than comfortable with that.

Q: Is there anything you’ve come across while researching that’s led you down a rabbit hole? What are some of the most intriguing or out of the ordinary things you’ve researched for your upcoming books? (Dakota’s question)

A: I think my favorite “rabbit hole” moment was when I was researching the “Strawberry Moon” for ‘A Surplus of Light’ and I found out there is a whole society of people who don’t believe in the moon. So…I spent maybe 3 hours watching videos of people explaining why they thought the moon doesn’t exist. I still believe in the moon, so don’t worry. LOL I was just fascinated by someone even having this theory. The most intriguing or out of the ordinary thing I’ve researched for an upcoming book was all of the new drugs available for cancer patients. It could be depressing at times, but it is really amazing all of the new chemo options for people getting treatment – it doesn’t have to be as brutal for the patients as it once was, though it is still not a good time. The most fun thing I have gotten to research was pop culture and music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Anytime I get to listen to good music and call it “research,” I’m very happy.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Writing Mentors

A few weeks ago, I promised that I would write a blog post about finding a writing mentor. I am not going to write a long introduction to this post because I am going to be straight forward with providing information, explaining it…and I don’t want this to be like a recipe blog where you have to read about the blogger’s great-great-grandmother who grew up on a vineyard in Italy before they even mention the recipe. So…here we go:

Why Do I Need a Mentor?

A lot of us ask ourselves this question. Mostly out of fear and confusion more than a desire to avoid having a mentor. Or, maybe it is our ego speaking up in the back of our minds. Either way, there are quite a few reasons to have a writing mentor.

  1. When it comes to your own work, you may be wearing rose-colored glasses.
  2. You need honest feedback as a writer.
  3. Accountability.
  4. Support & Inspiration.
  5. Continuous improvement as a writer.
  6. To access skill sets you don’t have.
  7. Networking.
  8. To develop a thicker skin.
  9. Kinship in a difficult field.

We all look at our own work as if it is our baby/child. We love it no matter how ugly it is. Sometimes we need an impartial person–who also wants us to succeed–to give us honest feedback and continuously give that feedback. We also need someone like this to hold us accountable to our writing goals, to check in on us, and to keep us from slacking off. A mentor will also be your biggest cheerleader – cheering you on and pushing you to go harder, faster, stronger – to live up to all of your potential. Mentors also make sure that we constantly have that impartial party looking over our shoulders when we need it so that we do not develop bad habits or revert back into bad ones we had before. We continuously improve with a mentor.

Mentors will also provide us with a way to learn skills we just don’t have or don’t know how to access. Maybe you are great at writing exposition and description but your dialogue isn’t so great. Maybe you’re good at first person POV but not so great at others. A mentor may be better at types, styles, and genres of writing that you are not, helping to teach you these things along the way. A mentor can also help you network, introduce you to new people in the writing world, to make friends you can learn from on your journey. The feedback and knowledge given by your mentor helps you to learn to take critique in a positive way and develop a thick skin so that both good and bad feedback is handled appropriately in the future. And lastly, we all need kinship in the writing world. It can be made unnecessarily competitive and exhausting by others, so having someone who understands your journey is invaluable.

Why This Particular Mentor?

Maybe you have a mentor in mind. Maybe you don’t. But once you set your sights on a particular person you want to mentor you, there are some questions you need to ask yourself.

  1. Do I just like this mentor personally, or do I respect them professionally?
  2. Do I think this person can make me better, or do I think we will just get along well?
  3. Do they write the same genre as you? Is that a good thing?
  4. What are their professional achievements?
  5. Do they have the professional admiration of others?
  6. Have you read their work?

We all want a mentor we can like and get along with…but if you don’t respect them professionally or think they can actually help you improve as a writer, what is the point? You need to select a mentor (and hopefully be accepted) whose work you respect and you think can take you to the next level of your writing career. Also, did you select a mentor who writes the same genre as yourself? That may not necessarily be a wise decision. If you are too similar to your mentor, they may help you improve some aspects of your writing but they may not help you become a well-rounded writer.

What work has this person done? What are their professional achievements? If there is nothing to gauge the mentor’s abilities by, why would you want them as a mentor? Don’t choose a mentor just because they seem like they know what they are talking about. Ask for proof. Additionally, ask others (in a respectful, private way) if they can recommend the person you are thinking of mentoring you. Lastly, have you read any work from this potential mentor? Was it good? Do you want to learn to write like them? What about their work makes you want them to teach you how to write better?

Let’s Be Realistic

Are you a new writer who has taken some creative writing courses or possibly published a few works in magazines or online? Maybe you have self-published a book. You are not going to get Stephen King to coach you on writing horror. J.K. Rowling will not offer to teach you to be a better MG/YA Fantasy writer.

There is nothing wrong with shooting for the stars but you must be realistic sometimes. Maybe you can’t get a bestselling, well-known, popular author to be your mentor. That is the case for 99% of the authors who have a mentor. Why not ask a proven, but lesser-known developmental or line editor to be your mentor? Or an independent author who sells decently and whose work you admire? You do not have to commit to one mentor throughout your writing career. If the mentor you choose (and accepts you) gets to a point that they feel you could benefit from the help of someone with a higher skill set, they will help you find a new mentor.

This may be one of the most important aspects of finding a mentor. Expect someone with actual writing skills, professionalism, and experience to guide you – but don’t feel you are immediately entitled to help from a masterclass writer.

How To Ask A Mentor To…Mentor You

Just like asking someone if they want to be friends or asking a person out on a date, respectful and polite behavior are key, and that goes without saying. But there are some key points you need to consider before approaching the person you want to mentor you.

  1. Do. Your. Research. Don’t show up “empty handed.”
  2. Will this person be open to taking on the role of mentor?
  3. Approach with a positive, enthusiastic attitude.
  4. Be prepared to take “No” for an answer.
  5. Make a case, not a demand.
  6. Tell them why you think you’d be a good writer to mentor.
  7. Tell them why you chose them to mentor you.
  8. Have a plan/timeline/schedule/method for mentoring set up before you ask.

First and foremost, have you researched what it means to be a mentee and have a mentor? Did you research the person you are going to ask to be your mentor? Do you know what they do in the writing world? Do you know about their career? What do you admire about them and their work? Why will you be a good mentee to their mentor role? Do you know if they would even be open to mentoring a writer? Have you thought about how the mentorship will work–especially if you are not geographically close to each other to meet? What are your different time zones (if you are able to get this information in a non-creepy way), how long do you feel you will need to be mentored? When will you “meet” to discuss your work and get critiques? Will this be Skype? Phone calls? Email? DMs? Are you close enough to meet in person periodically?

When you approach a mentor – have your research done, a plan formulated for how the mentorship will work, tell them why you would be an excellent mentee (this is the time to gas yourself up – don’t be self-deprecating. EVER.). Tell them why you chose them and make sure to mention what you like about their career that you think will make them a good mentor. Don’t be disingenuous, but complimenting a mentor’s work, professionalism, integrity, or work ethic never hurts.

Do this all with a positive, enthusiastic attitude – people love to work with positive, enthusiastic people – but make a case for the mentorship, don’t make it sound like you’re demanding their help. Explain all of your research and plans, why you two are a good fit, and why mentoring you is a good idea for the mentor. A mentor should only have to tweak your ideas for the mentorship, not develop a plan themselves. This is about helping you…so don’t be a jerk and not do most of the work.

Ultimately, you are selling yourself. Making a case that you are the mentee this writer has been waiting for their entire career. Don’t be arrogant – but make sure the potential mentor knows your strengths, your drive, your passion for writing, how hard working you are, your level of commitment…don’t be afraid to be your own hype man.

What If I’m Afraid?

Being afraid to approach a writer, especially one you admire, is totally understandable. There are many writers who, if I met them, I might not remember how to speak. Salman Rushdie being at the top of the list. It does you no good to tell you that there is no reason to be nervous or afraid since most writers will be very kind when you approach them for a mentorship. If you are afraid, you are afraid.

One solution is to employ a third party to approach the person you wish to mentor you. However, this can be seen as a big red flag by the writer/mentor, so it is not always the best idea. Not approaching the writer yourself may make it seem like you are not passionate, ambitious, or strong enough for the writing world. Some writers might find it endearing. Your research into your mentor may tell you if this solution is okay or not.

I advise that you should almost always approach a mentor yourself. A third party intervening on your behalf is usually only a good idea if they thought of the idea to match you up with a mentor on their own. But this is a decision you will have to make based on what you know about the potential mentor.

There are other solutions if you are afraid of asking someone to mentor you.

The AWP (The Association of Writers & Writing Programs) has a Writer to Writer Mentorship Program you can apply to be a part of as a mentor or mentee. As of this posting date, it is free. You only have to submit an application and 10 pages of your work (or 5 to 10 poems) to be matched up with a mentor. There is no guarantee you will be accepted and mentored by another writer, but it is a less fear-inducing way of trying to find a mentor.

Are you a horror writer? The Horror Writers’ Association has a mentorship program as well. They do require that you are a member in good standing (the yearly fee is $75 for an individual – which is prorated if you join later in the year) before you can apply. And you will have to submit “polished work” of 2-3 poems, a short story, or the first few chapters of a novel/novella.

Lastly, the National Novel Writing Month organization can help connect you with the writing community and mentors. For example, during “Camp NaNoWriMo,” they have “Camp Counselors” to help you along. By using their open discussion forums you may also be able to match yourself with a mentor.

If all else fails, you can always post to the #WritingCommunity on Twitter to ask for guidance. Sometimes you will not get a response (Twitter is glitchy often and it depends on traffic as to whether or not people will see your tweet) but other times, you will get dozens or hundreds of people in the community who are excited to help a fellow writer.

How To Keep Your Mentor

So…you have a mentor. How do you make sure that they will want to keep mentoring you until there is no longer a need?

  1. Do not be defensive or “check out.”
  2. Don’t be a punching bag.
  3. Communicate openly and honestly.
  4. Learn to express yourself eloquently and succinctly.
  5. Develop mutual respect.
  6. Have a strong work ethic.
  7. Don’t make the mentor do all of the work.
  8. Respect your mentors schedule and other obligations.
  9. Know how to communicate your schedule and other obligations clearly.

If you are wanting to be mentored, you should have already realized that a mentor is going to critique your work. Go into this partnership with the understanding that no critique is personal. Be an active listener, be willing to learn, do not get defensive with your mentor. And never, never, never, mentally “check out” if you get discouraged. Tell your mentor you feel discouraged so that you can work together in how best to convey critiques. Conversely, if you find yourself paired with a mentor who seems to love being antagonistic (and that is not your style), tell them so. Stand up for yourself. If your mentor cannot respect your boundaries, then maybe they are the wrong mentor. This all has to do with communicating in an open and honest (but respectful) way with each other. You are basically a “couple” now. Talk to each other. Don’t expect anyone to read your mind or read between the lines. When you communicate something, do it eloquently and succinctly. Your mentor needs to understand you…but they also don’t have time to read 10 page emails or DMs every day about your feelings, either. One way to run off a mentor is to make them feel as though you think their whole life is about mentoring and supporting you.

Develop respect for each other through communication, respectful behavior, a strong work ethic, and pulling more than your share of the weight. Do not ever make your mentor think they are more committed to the partnership than you are. If they are the one always reaching out to talk about your work, they will quickly stop doing that and leave you to find a new mentor. However, make sure to talk to your mentor about what they feel is too frequent communication. Maybe 1 email/DM a day is good. Maybe you will have a weekly meet up. Maybe you two will really “click” and constantly communicate with each other. Make sure you are both on board with your plans and expectations.

Lastly, a mentor is a living, breathing person with work, goals, dreams, aspirations, family, friends, and responsibilities of their own. Respect that. Do not get fussy with them if they do not respond to an email/DM/phone call immediately. They are mentoring you out of the kindness of their heart, so treat them well. Respect that they will not always be available at the drop of a hat but will respond as soon as they are able. A mentorship can turn into a lifelong professional relationship. Nurture it. Never abuse it.

Conversely, you have responsibilities, too. Make sure your mentor knows about your personal and professional obligations away from writing so that if you are busy at certain times, they know why.

When Will I No Longer Need My Mentor?

Well…I will have to write a post about this sometime in the future. I have been with my mentor for over 3 years, currently have 13 published books, and I still feel like a baby author. There is no hard and fast rule about what length of time is best for a mentorship. If you and your mentor are happy with your partnership, you are constantly learning and improving, and it doesn’t get to a point where you feel like you are being held back, keep the mentorship going. Personally, I love that my mentor keeps me grounded and gets onto me when he knows I am not doing my best (for whatever reason). My mentor and I have been together so long we fight like a married couple…so we’ll probably be together forever. At least, that is my hope.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

I’m A Sinner, I’m A Saint (Don’t Bother Asking If I’m Ashamed)

Recently, I was asked about a weekly themed post I make on my Twitter account. The post is almost always on Fridays, mentions how it is the weekend, and I have more time to sin – and it includes a .gif of Jared Padalecki doing a funny dance. The .gif is so fun, I will include it for reference:

The question about these posts was: ” Aren’t you afraid by referring to gay sex as a ‘sin’ it might be triggering to gay YA who might read you or other LGBT who struggle from conversion therapy or religious ideologies in their life?”

I responded with: “Simple answer – no.”

The complex answer is this:

Religion and God were a big part of my life for a very long time. Now, only God gets my attention. For years, like the people referenced in the question, I was told by God’s “good people” that being LGBTQ+ was wrong, that we were sinners, going to Hell…repent, repent repent. God did not love us the way that we are. I never believed these things. I would hear someone say these things, smile, nod, and continue on with my day, secure in my relationship with and faith in God. A priest or preacher or even a Pope cannot speak for God – and they certainly will not tell me which way my moral compass should point. Especially since so many of them have covered up sex crimes against children. Their moral compasses are definitely off, so I refuse to take advice from them about my life.

When I say that I am “going to sin” it is with a nudge and a wink – a sarcastic, ironic statement that “Imma be me.”

Look at me! I’m sinning! Tee-hee!

I’m taking something horrible that was said to me and reclaiming it as my own. I am trying to tell all of my LGBTQ+ family that these “sins” religious people may speak of are ones they made up in their own heads. Do not let them have power over you.

In my Twitter bio, I state that I am a “mostly harmless smartass.” I’m also a kind person and I try to be kind to everyone I encounter (if I can’t, I tend to just be quiet). When I say something sarcastically or use irony, I know that people mistake it for my normal, frequent earnestness. However, this is not the case when it comes to my weekly post about “sinning” for the weekend. I’m looking up at God with a wink, saying:

Look at these jerks who think they can speak for you.

So…you don’t need my blessing, but sin all you can all day, everyday, my amazing, wonderful friends. If love is a sin, then it is God’s favorite sin.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Let’s Get Real

If there’s one thing everyone knows about me from my (minimal) online presence, it’s that I do not provide a lot of personal information about myself. Due to factors beyond my control, I have to stay somewhat private about my personal life. The handful of people who know me in person AND online knew me before I became “Chase Connor,” so there was really nothing I could do about that. At first, that really bothered me since I am an ENTJ (apparently) and I really do love people and being socially active (mostly). I’m always on the verge of saying: “Screw this. I’m inviting everyone to my apartment for an LGBTQ+ Writing Community party!” Alas, that is just not possible. Especially since a lot of you are not even remotely close to where I live.

It just is what it is, I suppose.

My persona online is not a persona–though I do write under a pen name–I behave as I would “in the real world” while I am online. Sometimes that translates well and other times, it doesn’t. But that is another thing I can’t control. I can only work on it. The person you encounter on Twitter is who I am, though you won’t get the full, annoying, effusive, bundle of energy and nonstop talking that you would in real life. You can thank me later.

Regardless, I still get asked quite a bit how much of myself shows up in my books and stories. In fact, a few nights ago, a friend told me that Teddy from The Guy Gets Teddy came off as having a thought process and mental phrasing that reminds them of me. The whole character is not like me but aspects of him are similar to who I am in real life. That’s accurate, I guess.

I think all writers inject aspects of their internal self into a character or characters. It’s an occupational hazard, making characters think, feel, react, and behave the way that you do.

So…how much do writers take from themselves and put into their stories? It’s something I have always been curious about, though I’ve never actually asked other writers this question.

For me, I would have to say that the only book I’ve written (besides erotica) that doesn’t really reflect me or my life at all is The Gravity of Nothing. Of course, I’m grateful for that. I don’t think anyone wants their life to resemble that book at all. Not that I am not proud of the book…but it is definitely not happy or lighthearted in any way.

In other books, like Just a Dumb Surfer Dude, Just a Dumb Surfer Dude 2: For the Love of Logan, Gavin’s Big Gay Checklist, A Tremendous Amount of Normal, and GINJUH, I paid homage to parents, grandparents, siblings, and other wonderful people I’ve been privileged enough to have had in my life. Most of them are no longer with us.

When it comes to my stories, you might notice that God is mentioned a lot. Religion, not as much, but God has a cameo in most of the books. I do not want to preach one spirituality or religion to anyone (especially since I no longer belong to any specific religion), but a belief in and relationship with God is a big part of who I am. God and (for many years of my life) religion connected me to people I loved who are no longer with me. Giving up my religion was a defining moment in my life since it made me feel like I was giving up the last connection I had to some of the people who are no longer with us. So…I find comfort in still having faith in and a relationship with God.

I guess that’s where I show up most in my stories. Odd for LGBTQ+ stories, I know, and I get some criticism for it from time to time, but it helps me feel like I am being my most authentic writer self.

I cannot say that I am much like any of my characters in any of my books. I have a feeling that a lot of writers would have that exact same answer. We use our experiences to help make characters more authentic, but they are still their own “people.” Sometimes they are better people than we are and sometimes they are worse. Hopefully, they seem authentic either way.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase