Getting to know Bix Barrow

I have the great pleasure of being in a writer group with MM/MMM author Bix Barrow. If you haven’t read her book yet, what are you waiting for? Holding On to a Hero is book One in her Bent Oak, Texas Series. It’s a 99k MMM romantic suspense story filled with hurt/comfort, thirsty throupling, sibling baiting, road tripping, a cat with angst, and everyday heroes. As you can tell, it also has a healthy dose of humor!

Bix kindly agreed to sit and answer a few questions for us so we could get to know her better. Feel free to leave comments or questions below for Bix!

What is your genre?

I call it Lighthearted Contemporary MM/MMM Romance with a Dash of Suspense. Mostly I just want the reader to have fun and to be in a better mood when they finish the book than when they started it.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was a kid, really. But I never had a “big idea” for a book until recently, so it was always just wishful thinking up to now.

When did you actually start writing?

In 2018, if you don’t count my writing for school. Everything else has just been in my head.

What was your first story about?

The first book I started is actually going to end up being the prequel to my Bent Oak, Texas series. I got about 25% of the way through it and the plot for Holding On to a Hero came to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I put my first book aside to concentrate on the new one.

When did you start writing your current genre?  What drew you to it?

I started reading MM romance a few months before I started writing it. I guess I never really connected with the female characters in traditional MF romance, and MM romance seemed so much more interesting to me.

What is your writing specialty?  That thing that is in every book you write?

I’m all about the inner dialogue. My own inner dialogue is always running, so all my characters have it too. And it’s great for a little comic relief.

What is your favorite trope to read?  Why?

Wow, that’s hard to choose, but I would say probably grumpy/sunshine, especially if there’s an age gap. It just makes me go “awww” inside.

What is your favorite trope to write?  Why?

Well, I MAY be writing a grumpy/sunshine story now, so…

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Just start writing. I worried so long about not having a “big idea”, and I was intimidated by thoughts of “what if I don’t know how to develop my characters?” and “what if my plot sucks?” and “what if people don’t like my book?” It’s a learning process and it’s okay that your first draft sucks. That’s what first drafts are for. And second drafts, and third. You get the point. Everything can be fixed in editing!

Do you like to read angsty books?  What was the last book that made you cry?

Ugh, no! I like to read books that leave me happier than I was when I started them.  I can handle a little hurt/comfort, though.  The last book that made me tear up (since I avoid the ones that make me all-out cry) was Rising from the Dust by Adrianna M. Scovill. One of the characters talked about feeling invisible sometimes, and it really struck home with me.

What’s the toughest part of writing?

Getting and reading editorial feedback, even if it’s valuable feedback. 

Does writing give you energy or drain it?  If it drains it, what do you do to re-energize?

Definitely gives me energy if it’s flowing well. But if I’m having an off day, I just have to walk away and do something else.  Usually, I read a book!

What is your writing Kryptonite?  

If you mean what destroys it, then it’s stress in my regular life. I find it hard to be creative when people around me are pulling on my time and energy more than usual.

Do you listen to music when you write?  If so, what genre?

I can’t. I just end up listening to the lyrics or the melody and it distracts me. Same with coffee shops. I have to have silence for the words to flow.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I’m definitely less worried about the first draft being perfect. I am a lot more confident that I can fix issues later, so now I just focus on getting the words on the page first, then make them perfect later.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When was little I wrote my aunt a thank-you note and mentioned that my dad wasn’t excited about her moving to our city. As you can imagine that did not have a happy ending, and my thank-you notes were reviewed and censored for years after.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters?

I have a hard time making them suffer for the plot – I just want them to get their happy ending already!

How do you select the names of your characters?

I found a fun name generator online called behindthename.com and you can select various ethnicities, etc. 

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

No, I have a friend read them for me. I also read something from another writer – Nora Phoenix maybe? – who said she avoids reading them because a bad one can derail her confidence in her writing. Since I already have an issue with editorial feedback, I absolutely know that would happen to me too.  But I do love to get emails or social media posts from fans. That always makes my day.

What was your hardest scene to write?
The final action scene in Holding On to a Hero. I had a hard time figuring out the physics and logistics of it all while still making the characters act like themselves.

Do you Google yourself?

Ugh, no. See above with the editorial feedback!

What book got you into reading?

Wow, I have no idea. As I child I always had a book to read whenever I had a free minute. It’s been a lifetime habit/hobby.

Do you keep track of character attributes?  If so, how?

I’m all about the Excel spreadsheets!

Who is the one character you wrote that wouldn’t shut up?

Cole from Holding On to a Hero. His voice was always the clearest in my head and he keeps trying to butt into this new book too.

Which of your characters was most difficult to write?  Why?

The child character Abby from Holding On to a Hero. It’s been a while since I’ve been around young kids and I was worried she wouldn’t come across as authentic.

Do you have any writing rituals or quirks?

I am a lot more productive just after I’ve gotten up from a nap. Which is a useful way to justify taking a nap!

What’s your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?

Reading, of course!  Unless I’m napping…

Now that things have settled down a bit…

I’ve started Embrace Me, book 2 in the Love in the Pacific Northwest series! I’m on chapter 2, and it’s been a bit difficult to find the time to write, but I’m trying to carve out chunks of time to make words happen. I’m really enjoying writing Quinn and though Tadhg (Pronounced like tiger but without the “r”) hasn’t had a huge part yet, his turn is coming. I have written a lot of Quinn’s best friend, Jules, and you know that one character that just steals your heart when you least expect it? Yup. Jules. I can’t WAIT to write his story! He’s just the sweetest! But that’s for another post. For now, I’m concentrating on Quinn and Tadhg and getting them to their HEA, because you know with my stories you will always have that! If you want to hear more about Embrace Me, have access to snippets and deleted scenes, and be the first to see the new cover then join my Facebook group Beck’s Blanket Fort, and sign up for my monthly newsletter! Both links are on my homepage here. If you want to talk about Save Me, Embrace Me, the Love in the Pacific Northwest series, or just chat, come find me on Discord!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

So I launched Save Me into the world, and to say it’s been a surreal experience would be an understatement. Thank you to all who have read the book and left me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or BookBub! Reviews and word of mouth are two key ways readers find indie authors, and every review helps! My book will be on KU until the end of November, and then it will be part of Amazon but not exclusive to them.

I’ve started working on Embrace Me, and I’m already loving Quinn and Tadhg so much! I hope you’ll love them as much as I do! I’m also falling helplessly in love with Quinn’s best friend Jules and can’t wait to write his book now! It’s the curse of the writer, wanting to write all the books at once.

Sending you all loads of love!

It’s getting close!

I’m not that far away from releasing Save Me into the wild and hopefully watching it grow! When I started this journey I did know that there was more to getting a book in the hands of readers then just writing it, but I honestly had no idea just how much! Websites, and social media accounts, and deciding where to sell and how much to charge, slogging through book cover options until they’re all a blur… It’s an undertaking! But I’m so glad that I did it! I have amazing friends who helped me all along this journey, and guys, seriously, I couldn’t have done this without you. So, fingers crossed that in a few weeks I will be able to share this story with all of you. Until then, be well!

Interview with Chas Barger, tabletop gaming photographer, and TTRPG DM

For the uninitiated, DnD is a role-playing game where each player creates a character and assumes their identity to act out a story based on an outline created by the Dungeon Master/Game Master and the outcome of dice rolls. I had a chance to sit with my own DM, Chas Barger, and talk about story and character creation.

So, Chas, how did you get involved with DnD?

I first played DnD in high school. My German teacher founded the “Nerd Club”, (real name lol), and it was my first exposure to the game. I got back into it when 5e came out and I missed the feeling of sitting around a table till late with friends vs. sitting on consoles or on PC games at each of our houses.

How many years had you been playing DnD before you gave Dungeon Mastering a try?

I have been a forever DM since 5e came out, pretty much. It was the classic “not having anyone to play with”, so I picked up the DM mantle to try and recruit some friends.

What’s your favorite part of DMing a game?

Definitely watching player reactions to the world, plot-twists, etc. Seeing people buy into a story you’re working on is a great feeling.

As a writer, I’m often asked this question, so I’ll ask you as well How do you come up with your story?

I generally use Wizards of the Coast modules as a general framework, but I heavily homebrew a lot of the events. I like for my players to recognize those in the lore of the official stories, but not be able to anticipate what will happen.

Are you a “Plotter” or a “Pantser?” Do you plan out all your story options and possibilities ahead of time, or do you come up with plot and characters as the game progresses?

I set up a general framework of how the overall story arches will go, but very loosely, because, with DnD, planning can go out the window.

What’s your favorite part of story creation?

Just getting lost in a setting and letting it organically create itself based on player actions. It’s a mix of story discovery and improv.

I think as writers we all have favorite kinds of stories we love to write. Do you have any favorite storylines or certain tropes that you prefer to use?

It depends on the group, honestly. I love to base the storylines on what will motivate the party specifically. It’s generally more about what the party will react to, more than my personal preferred storytelling methods.

What’s your favorite part of character creation?

Adding the flavor to his spells/cantrips/race or class abilities. That, to me, is what really breathes life into characters. It can be the simplest tweak added to a cantrip that makes me fall in love with a character.

Do you have any favorite character types that must be in every game you DM?

There is always the comfort character; the character that the party just feels at ease with, and who can do no wrong to them. Someone who the party can relax around and not constantly be suspicious of their intentions.

When you get to act out a part in the story, which are your favorite characters to role play?

Villains, always. They are the most fun because if done well, your players will loath to hear a certain voice or hear reference to their name.

Writers are always trying to create that one character that will hook the reader. What tips would you give for creating an interesting character?

Try and include something that makes them uniquely yours. A small mannerism, a unique method of spellcasting, or some quirk that adds flavor to combat and adds depth to roleplaying. But most importantly make a character you enjoy playing.

You also take pictures of game dioramas using minis and sets that you’ve painted yourself.  How did you get involved in that?

When I first started I did nothing but hand-drawn maps on graph paper with dice as minis for my players. As time went on it was a gradual evolution into 3d terrain and miniatures. Naturally, the painting came along when I realized some of the best minis were not pre-painted. 3D printing also played a large role in my painting.

And how did the photography part happen?

When the pandemic hit I had all this beautiful terrain and miniatures but nothing to do with them. As almost a coping mechanism with the pandemic, I poured myself into this new hobby of ttrpg photography, and it has been an amazing creative outlet during trying times.

Where can we see some of your diorama photos?

I post new photos to Twitter: @npc_creations or on my website npccreations.com. I plan on attending ttrpg cons as well in 2021-2022.

A bit of backstory on Save Me and what I’m calling my Love in the Pacific Northwest Series

So, yes, some of you may recognize parts of Save Me.  I knew when I originally wrote it that the story had so much potential, but I never thought I was good enough at writing to turn it into a bigger story.  So it sat for years until I practiced writing enough, and read enough other stories to know I was ready.  But Save Me is only the first in what, hopefully, will become a six-book series of overlapping characters.  Each book will take place in the Seattle area, will have characters from prior books, and introduce new characters that will appear in future books, but they will all be independent stories that can be read as stand-alones.  I have a daytime job, and I’m a medium-speed writer, so it won’t take forever to get these books written, but they won’t all come out one right after the other.  But I promise they will come!  😉

Things I love…

Well, I love writing, but besides that? Cake. Yes, cake is my kryptonite. BUT, besides cake? I love dry red wines (especially Spanish reds), high end tequila, and D&D. I’m currently in a campaign where I play a level 10 human barbarian. I know for some of you this is snoozeville, but let me explain how this dovetails with writing. See, with the start of every new campaign, or if, gods forbid, your character dies and can’t be revived, you need to create a character. It can be almost anything! They can have massive amounts of power, be elven royalty, or a goblin peasant. They can be any or no gender. They can have disabilities, or not. Did you all know that there’s an entire group of devoted D&D players who are actively working to make D&D accessible to anyone who wants to play, regardless of disability? There are full sets of dice with braille numbers on each side, and disability mechanics and content for players of all kinds to have representation in TTRPG. In fact, you can find out more about that and the wonderful organization (to which I have no affiliation) at https://www.dnddisability.com/

I mention all of this, why? Because each new character is an opportunity to creatively write who they are, what their backstory is, flesh them out as an individual character, and then through roleplay, bring them to life and continue to help the character grow! It’s fascinating, and wonderful, and collaborative, and so much darn fun!

How the heck did I get here??!!

Like many of my fellow writers, I didn’t start out planning to write a book. In fact, I didn’t even think I could write a story! (Thank you to that jerk 11th grade Creative Writing teacher who told me my stories weren’t plausible). Anyway… fast forward mumblemumble number of years, and I found myself immersed in reading video game fan fiction. Some of it was so good I couldn’t believe it was free! Some of it wasn’t as great, but I still enjoyed reading the stories. And then I started to hear the characters in my head telling me their stories. It got to the point where I had to get it out on paper just to make the characters stop talking at me! And behold! I had written my first fan fiction! And people liked it! And commented! And encouraged me to keep going! So, six years later, here I am with a fully written, edited, and published book, and I never would have thought that possible all those years ago. So, basically, I suppose there are a few things I’m trying to say here. 1. Don’t give up! You can reach your goals, even if it happens decades later than you thought. 2. Comments/Reviews are an author’s life-blood. It’s what keeps us going. It’s what makes the blood, sweat, and tears of writing worth it. Please be kind and “like” and comment on/review the books and fan fiction you read! 3. If you’ve made it this far in my ramblings, know that I appreciate you beyond measure and I’m so very glad you stumbled on my writing and liked it enough to come find me here! Welcome!