Thursday, June 30, 2016

What My Editor Has Done For Me

There is a big question out there of what, exactly, and editor does, and what makes a good one.  This is especially true when people are, say, considering who to vote for in the Best Editor, Long Form category in the Hugos-- a category that my editor, Sheila Gilbert, is nominated for.
So, just this week I had a long conversation with Sheila, mostly about my draft for The Imposters of Aventil.  This book is the third Thorn book, and it's also the midpoint in what I'll call "Phase I" of my over all Maradaine plan.  It's the first book where the integrated elements of the various Maradaine series show come into play.
So Sheila has to walk something of a balance act in helping me with the development.  She has to be able to fundamentally get what I'm doing and what I want to accomplish, while at the same time maintain enough outsider perspective to see if the pieces I'm placing make sense and I'm not just in my head.  She pulls at the loose threads and asks me what I'm going to do with those.  She keeps me on the big picture and on the details.
Which, for a book like Imposters, which is the biggest thing I've done so far, in many ways, is so crucial.
(Don't worry-- it's longer than the other books, but it's FAR from a doorstopper.)
Without that kind of editing, I wouldn't be able to do everything I want to do.
So now, I have to get back to doing it.  These books don't write themselves.  (Or re-write. Or edit. Or proof.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Developmental Editors

Developmental editors are a thing?











When did this become a thing?

I want one.

Guess I can't really write much of a post about something I didn't know about.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Dev Editor

In the world of self-publishing, more than a few authors skip the Dev Edit in favor of good CP or Beta Reader. I am not one of those authors. I have great CPs; however, I very much want and need the perspective and experience a Dev Editor brings to my manuscript.

Note: If I were signed to a publishing house-- small, medium, or large--then the editor assigned to me by the publisher would be my developmental editor (among the many other hats the House Editor wears). 

In addition to the great list Jeffe gave on Sunday about 5 Traits of an Ideal Development Editor, here are...

5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Dev Editor

  • They're upfront about rates 
    • Look for per-word rather than per-hour rates. You have no control over how quickly the editor does their job. Going rate for a dev editor is $0.025/word for two passes--one for the original submission and one post-first-round edit.
    • Some editors offer per-project rates. Do the math, if the project cost is more than the per-word cost, negotiate or find a different editor.
    • It is not uncommon for an editor to ask for a percent of the total price up front. This secures your slot in their schedule and confirms commitment from both parties. Paypal is the most common transaction platform.
    • If you're like me, your word count will increase--possibly by 10k words--during the editing process. Make sure you've negotiated that probability when talking rates. You may well owe the editor more money in the final payment to cover that bump in word count. 
  • They have experience in your genre(s)
    • This is imperative. An erotica dev editor is not suited for your space opera. An epic fantasy editor should not be futzing with contemporary horror. You are paying for an expert who knows your genre's tropes and your genre's audience expectations. They're also on point with the past, present, and dawning trends in your genre (regardless of whether you've written to a trend).
    • Check their client lists. If they're not posted on the website, ask. Then take the extra step and go to the library and/or buy a few of the books on which they worked by different authors. If you don't have time to read the whole book, then read the opening chapters, random bits from the middle, and the endings. You're not reading for author voice, you're reading for quality of story construct. Keep in mind not every author takes their editor's advice, and not every manuscript can be salvaged by two editing passes. This is why you have a random collection.
    • Beware of "all-in-one" companies that offer dev edits but do not disclose the editor or the editor's verifiable qualifications. 
  • They communicate in an effective and timely manner
    • They should be responsive from the initial inquiry straight through to final edit and invoice. At no point should you ever have to hunt down your editor. A big part of this is a matter of professionalism and applies to any freelancer. It still has to be said because it still applies to a dev editor. If they can't manage their email, imagine what they're doing (or not doing) to your 100k book.
    • By contrast, a dev editor is not there to be your therapist or to rewrite the book for you. 
    • Phone Calls & Web Chats: Don't assume phone-call reviews of the edits are part of the service provided. Web chats for brainstorming fixes may not be included either. If you are the kind of writer who needs or expects those services, negotiate that up front with the editor. Some dev editors are totally fine with it, some aren't. It's on you make sure your needs are understood and will be met before you agree to employ the editor.
  • They provide more than a paragraph of summary comments
    • The value of a dev editor directly correlates to the quality of feedback provided. This is what sets them apart from the avid reader, book critic, grammarian, or academic who might be a fan of your genre (or you) but is not qualified to be a dev editor.
    • The final product they send back should include a summary that hits on the big picture things including themes, plots, character dev, and even particular stylistic tics you have of which you may not be aware. If you're writing a series and you're using the same editor, the summary should also include comments about the progressing arc of the series.
    • The summary should include what works well along with opportunities for improvement. They should be able to communicate this clearly without being an asshole and without being too timid. 
      • (You should also be able to take said feedback without being an asshole or too timid.)
    • A dev editor should be able to articulate why things work and why they don't. Again, the difference between a beta reader and a professional dev editor. 
    • It's okay to ask for an example of a summary letter when contacting a potential editor. Similarly, some editors may ask you for your first chapter so they know whether they want to take you on as a client. 
  • They provide more than line-edits in the document
    • Note: your dev editor is not your copy editor, but they will call-out glaring issues.
    • Beyond noting grammar flaws, there should be comments in the document about what is working and what isn't. "Pacing falls flat here." "Action not true to character here." "Complex setting used only once in story here. Restage?" 
    • If you receive a document with nothing more than homophone catches and punctuation fixes, they haven't done their job. 
    • Most editing is done via MS Word's Track Changes and sent electronically. I know a few trad publishing houses who still send hard-copy edits. That's atypical in the self-publishing world.

Scheduling: As in all aspects of self-publishing, schedule 2-3 months in advance of needing the dev edits and bake in wiggle room for date slippage during the editing process. Sometimes the edits you get back are WAY more time consuming to address than you'd initially planned. Sometimes, life happens--whether on your end or theirs--and dates have to slip. An extra week is wise.

Bonus Benefits: Many dev editors have teamed up with copy editors, which makes life easier on the author. Often the per-word edit cost includes one copy edit pass. If you're availing yourself of that, make sure the copy editor is a different person from the dev editor. You want fresh eyes on that detail-oriented task.

Where to Find Dev Editors: Networking with other authors. Trade Organizations. Writer's Associations. Publisher sites (many publishers employ freelance editors). As always, check WRITER BEWARE before hiring anyone.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Like Rocky Balboa said:

Once upon a time, when asked if he would like to invest in condominiums, Rocky Balboa said, "I don't use them. I'm Catholic."


I'm that way with developmental editors. I don't use them.

So for this week, I fear I'm not much use. I have used first readers, I have hired my own editors, but when it comes to developing my stories, it's just me.  

I even had an editor I used once who, several times through the course of reading the first draft of my novel SMILE NO MORE, asked me to give her a clue. The challenge was simply that the story was told in three separate sub chapters for each chapter. First person recollections from Cecil Phelps. First person recollections from Rufo the Clown, and third person scenes told to fill in the events as they happened in the modern day. It isn't until a little over halfway through the novel that everything starts to dovetail, but it does, eventually.

Seriously. She'd ask for just a hint, just a vague notion of where the story as going. I kept telling her to keep reading and then, finally she said "Oh! That makes sense now."

That's just sort of the way I work. I know where I'm going. I know how I'm going to get there. Sharing that information tends to mess the whole thing up for me. No one sees it until it's done.


Is my way the right way? Probably not. But it's what I'm comfortable with.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

Five Traits of an Ideal Developmental Editor

A good developmental editor is key for taking a book from good to great. Or from meh to great. Or even great wad of suckage to great.

I firmly believe every novelist needs a good developmental editor.

Writers of short fiction benefit from them, too, but novels in particular, with all their unwieldy size and multiple threads really cry out for that help.

What does a developmental editor do?

They are the first stage of professional editing. (Feedback from critique partners and beta readers might come before this.) A developmental editor gives generalized feedback on how the story works - where it could be cut for pacing, where more detail can be added for clarification, where emotion can be amplified, perhaps even reordering of scenes for maximum effect. In short, a developmental editor does what it's impossible in most cases for an author to do: evaluate the work objectively.

But how do you choose a really good developmental editor?

I hear a fair number of authors recommend editors saying "they're really good and they don't change my voice!"

Cringworthy.

Why? Because this is utter nonsense. I don't get this writerly terror of having their voice changed. Let me give you a little clue, folks. I'll even all-cap it so it sticks to your brain better.

NO ONE CAN CHANGE YOUR VOICE BECAUSE IT COMES FROM YOU.

Okay?

Okay!

So, let's talk about the actual topic: Five Traits of an Ideal Developmental Editor

  1. They can see both the forest and the trees

    An ideal developmental editor has a good feel for the overall scope of a story - or series - and can carefully track key worldbuilding details, to keep the story logic in place.
  2. They care more about the book being good than your feelings

    This is particularly important for self-publishers, because the editor is hired by the writer, instead of by the publishing house. The temptation is to keep the client happy by telling them what they want to hear. This is not good for the book. Find an editor who's willing to tell you what you don't want to hear. Then listen to them.
  3. They also tell you what works

    A good editor is able to give praise as freely and specifically as criticism. Beyond the soul-crushing of editorial critique, well-targeted love can show the flip side, where the craft and the story IS working. It's much easier to fix problems when you can study your own successes, too.
  4. They're able to offer suggestions for fixes

    Not all writers like this, but I love it. A good editor can not only say "this isn't working," but offer ideas for rephrasing, clarification, adding, cutting, etc. A smart, talented and diligent editor cares as much about the book as the writers does and can often see what the writer can't.
  5. They know the market

    The best developmental editors know their genre and what's acceptable within the reader contract. Making a book shine means knowing the potential readership and what they'll expect. Adjusting a story to adhere to genre conventions can mean the difference between delighted readers and an angry mob.
What else? Any traits of an ideal developmental editor that I missed?

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Is The Slang Too Old?

I don't have much to say on this topic, since I write science fiction romance set in the far future and I've invented my own slang for those characters. I also write paranormal novels set in ancient Egypt and the slang I use there is VERY old LOL. But it fits the time period. Actually, the problem I have in those novels is the reverse - I have to be careful not to use words and terms that reference inventions and innovations that won't arise for thousands of years. I was rereading one of my old novels last night and found three gems I'd missed. No steel in 1550 BCE.  'Faux' - even Old French didn't exist that long ago. I don't remember the third one at the moment. I usually change steel or iron to bronze, which doesn't always flow smoothly to the modern eye, but I missed this one reference.

Here's an encounter from Dancer of the Nile, not that it's full of slang but I don't know what else to give you today! Nima the dancer is prepared to gamble with some very high stakes...

“Are you a gambling man?” She pointed at the object taking up most of the table beside him. “Do I see a senet board?”
                He rubbed his hand across the game board inlaid atop the gleaming container. “Indeed it is. You play?”
                As if she had all the time in the world, Nima walked to the game box, deliberately making her stride slow and sensuous, like the opening steps of a dance. Bending to give him a good view of her shapely bottom outlined by the dress pulled tight as she leaned over, Nima opened the bottom drawer of the case and plucked a shiny black pawn at random from inside. With an elegant gesture, she turned and extended her hand to the caravan master, the pawn sitting on her flat palm. “I challenge you to a game.”
                He stroked his bearded chin, leaned back as he braced one foot on a trunk and made a show of considering. “For what stakes?”
                “If I win, you give us shelter for the night, and we go our separate ways in the morning.” She set the pawn on the board in the starting square. “If you win, we’re yours to do with as you please.”
                “Nima—” Kamin’s protest was instant and angry. In two steps he was at her side, yanking her to face him. “What are you—”
                Wrenching herself loose, she ignored him, facing Ptahnetamun again. “I’ve lived in border towns all my life, so I’ve heard of the honor code governing caravan masters. I want your word you’ll abide by the outcome of the game.” She held up one hand before he could speak. “No, I want your blood oath on it.”
                Jaw dropping, Ptahnetamun stared at her while his men muttered and even the serving girl looked impressed by Nima’s boldness.
                “Well? Do you agree to my terms or don’t you?” Nima drew herself to her full height and tried to feel impressive, despite her dusty clothes and tired body. He can’t back down from this challenge in front of his crew. I hope. Since he hesitated, she taunted him, paraphrasing a saying she’d often heard in the taverns where she danced. Be aware I’ll pass you by as one who sails with the breeze, blessed by the Sun. I’ll be entering the House of Repeating Life while you, my opponent, will be stopped.”
                Next minute, Ptahnetamun threw back his head, roaring with laughter. “Spoken like a true gambler. I like your spirit, woman.” He pointed at Kamin. “Does your warrior agree to what you propose? The deal must include you both.”
                “Will you give us a moment?” Pulling Kamin aside, Nima turned so the gawking caravan crew couldn’t see their faces. Kamin’s cheeks were red, and his frown was truly impressive.
                Putting both hands on her shoulders, he gave her a little shake. “What in the seven hells are you doing? “
                She laid her hand gently over his mouth, leaning close as she whispered, “Trust me, please, Kamin? If he swears me a blood oath—”
                Shoving her hand away, he rolled his eyes. “And if you win,” he said furiously. “The throwing sticks are bound to be false-weighted somehow. It won’t be a fair game, not some friendly match in the tavern for mugs of beer.”
                “I’m hoping the sticks are false.” She smiled mischievously, letting her smile fade as he continued to glare at her. “Please? I know the stakes are high, but we’re not getting out of here otherwise. You’re one man surrounded by dozens, and he sees profit in selling us. This is the only way we stand a chance of escaping.”
                “You’re asking me to risk the success of my mission for Pharaoh, for Egypt, on how well you can cheat a cheater?” He closed his eyes for a moment, rubbing his brow.
                “Blood oath?” Ptahnetamun asked from his position next to the game board.
                Going on tiptoe to look over Kamin’s shoulder, Nima said magnanimously, “Nothing less. I’ll swear as well,” drawing a quickly smothered laugh from the ever-increasing crowd at her back.
                “She’s set the stakes.” The man who’d taken Nima on his horse came forward to offer the caravan master his dagger. “Challenge has been made.”

                “And accepted!” Ptahnetamun slammed his cup on the table so forcefully the base cracked. Rolling back his sleeve, he extended his thick wrist. “I swear by the twin gods of the caravan road to abide by the outcome of this senet game. She and her man go free in the morning if she wins.” He leered at Nima. “But she’ll be on her back in my bed by dawn if I win.” The crowd roared with amusement at this sally. Gesturing at Kamin, he finished his boasting. “Be sure I’ll sell his carcass for a tidy profit.”

The story:
Nima’s beauty and skill as a dancer leads an infatuated enemy to kidnap her after destroying an Egyptian border town. However, she’s not the only hostage in the enemy camp: Kamin, an Egyptian soldier on a secret mission for Pharaoh, has been taken as well. Working together to escape, the two of them embark on a desperate quest across the desert to carry word of the enemy’s invasion plans to Pharaoh’s people.
As they flee for their lives, these two strangers thrown together by misfortune have to trust in each other to survive.  Nima suspects Kamin is more than the simple soldier he seems, but she finds it hard to resist the effect he has on her heart.  Kamin has a duty to his Pharaoh to see his mission completed, but this clever and courageous dancer is claiming more of his loyalty and love by the moment. Kamin starts to worry, if it comes to a choice between saving Egypt or saving Nima’s life…what will he do?
Aided by the Egyptian god Horus and the Snake Goddess Renenutet, beset by the enemy’s black magic, can Nima and Kamin evade the enemy and reach the safety of the Nile in time to foil the planned attack?
Can there ever be a happy future together for the humble dancer and the brave Egyptian soldier who is so much more than he seems?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Being all 'hip' and 'with it'

I'm rather fortunate-- in a strange sense of the word-- that I right secondary-world fantasy, and thus I get to use my own phrasing and slang that is world-specific.  There's no need to be current or modern in a way that might date my work faster than I would hope.
I have friends who've written things set in "now", and because of the time it takes to get something sold or publish, the "now" has drifted away from them to a point where their story feels like a relic.  Or-- a real danger when writing near-future SF-- when I read Snow Crash, it was already the same year of the "future" of the book.  
I have been accused of using language that feels too "modern" for a fantasy novel-- though I think that comes from the strange expectation that fantasy needs to use some sort of faux-archaic tone, which I do not agree with.  Now, this might cause my books to get dated sooner than I would hope.  We'll have to see.
But the question at hand is also: can you write in a way that speaks to younger audiences without making your work seem dated-- or worse, like your some out-of-touch fogey trying to hard to "relate" with these kids today?  I think you can if it's authentic.  If it comes off as pandering-- like you're putting on a voice to target the youth market-- then they'll know.  And they won't like it.
Now, I've got plenty of work to do today in the word mines (and up here in the real world), so I'm off to it.  And if you're attending the Writers' League of Texas conference this weekend, look me up.  I'll be the one in the vest.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Are References Ever Too Old for Contemporary Writing?

Q1: Have I ever removed or edited a reference and/or saying because it's "too old" for my audience?

A1: Since I don't write YA, NA, or anything remotely related to children, "too old for my audience" is not a problem I have. "Too Young for Me" is something of which I am aware (you will never find the word "bae" in my work. Nope. I'm too damn old.)

Q2: Have I ever removed or edited a reference and/or saying because it's "too old" for my character(s)?

A2: Not so much for age as for the appropriate level of formality. This is particularly true in writing High Fantasy, less true when writing Contemporary Fantasy rooted in Western culture.

Q3: Have I ever removed or edited a Brand Name because it's "too old" for the story?

A3: In my Urban Fantasies? Yes. I try to never include Brand Names because what's popular today is riddled in ignominy tomorrow and out of business the day after, BUT sometimes they sneak in there. (I'm lookin' at you Lucite, Hakey Sack, and Frisbee).

Q4: Have I ever removed or edited a piece of technology because it's "too old" for the story?

A4: In Contemporary Fantasy? All. The. Time. I try to stay current on our constantly evolving technologies so as not to overly date a character who's supposed to be on-trend. It's little things that wave the "Get Off My Lawn" flag. Nobody "flips open their phones" anymore, and "swiping" means more than stealing these days. And thank gods for smartwatches and projection keypads because now my protagonist who wears form-fitting dresses can stop stuffing her phone in her bra.

Q5: Have I ever removed or edited a reference because it's "too obscure" for the audience?

A5: Rarely do I remove it. When I do, it's usually because it's part of a joke that's falling flat for all my pre-print readers. Otherwise, obscure references are fun little Easter eggs to drop that'll give an extra grin for anyone who gets the reference but by no means detracts from the narrative for anyone who doesn't get it.  I love to drop Easter eggs.  I am that girl. Not apologizing.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jump the Shark or Cut to the Chase - It's All Cool Beans to Me

I got to go on  a tour yesterday of Georgia O'Keeffe's winter home and studio in Abiquiu. That's been on my list for a while now and - wow! - it was totally worth it. I love studying how other artists live and it turns out that she and I share many aesthetics. No surprise as I love her work. Also no surprise that she's more visually oriented than I am. My sister-in-law who's a painter asked me if I got any "vibes" from the place. Yes. Yes, I did. Her powerful personality haunts that space and they've kept it exactly as the day she left. Remarkable experience.

This week on the SFF7 wonder blog, we're discussing catering to younger generation – what words and ideas have we given up because younger readers won’t know them. This is my topic, so I'll kick it off with a few stories for why this has been on my mind.

A while back I saw a young agent tweet that an author used "cool beans" in a manuscript they'd sent her and she was embarrassed for them. There's a few things to unpack here, so I'll take them methodically.

  1. Agents and editors tweet daily work aggravations, most of which should be treated as the minor irritations they are and not literary canon.
  2. Many newbie agents who are actively acquiring are very young. As in, right out of college young. Some still carry that young adult's "Mom, you're embarrassing me!" squick, which enables the young to separate from the older generation. Being a literary agent gives unreasonable weight to what is really something she'll grow out of.
  3. Still - how many writers immediately struck "cool beans"off the list of slang terms appropriate for use?
  4. Addendum: I've seen the phrase in several books since then. Just saying.

A long time ago, back in the early 80s, the board game Trivial Pursuit came out. My family loved to play this game. I only discovered much later that not every family had the rule that if you'd answered the question in a previous game, you were on your honor to cop to it and draw another question. We viewed it as a test of knowledge. I often complained that many of the entertainment questions were biased for the older generation. In fact, I had a rule of thumb that if I didn't know the actress in question, I'd say "Carole Lombard." For an actor, I'd say Clark Gable. It was like guessing B on a multiple choice test - the odds were in favor of it. 

I've saved this thing for a while from an article in Vanity Fair. The article itself isn't that relevant, as it's dated now, unless you're big into Ryan Gosling history. But this bit caught my eye:
“I think it really is sort of like, I’m a pigeon and the Internet is Fabio and it just happened,” Gosling said to The Hollywood Reporter, attempting to explain the pop-culture phenomenon via obscure Fabio reference
Bolding there is mine. I saw that and wondered, since when is a Fabio reference obscure? I mean, yeah, enough of bringing up Fabio in Every Single Article that References Romance, but obscure? This kind of thing is much like snarky agent's tweet above - it reflects the author's narrow view of the world more than anything else.

There are those (who consider themselves purists or arbiters of culture) who say pop references should never be used as they'll date a work to that era. This might be true on some things (hello Ryan Gosling taking a break from acting), but others persist and become emblematic, even iconic (hello Carole Lombard).

What's interesting to me is when pop culture references become so embedded in our lexicon that we later have to dig to retrace their origins. Good examples are Jump the Shark (from the TV show Happy Days, when Fonzie went, of all things, waterskiing in Hawaii and ended up literally jumping over a shark - now a metaphor for any show that takes the plot in an improbable direction) or Cut to the Chase (originally film director's jargon for cutting to the chase scene whenever the movie momentum lagged, now shorthand for getting to the essence of something).

So... how's a writer to know? When does cool become square, and sick become, well, sick?

I'm interested to hear what my superhero SFF7 fellows have to say on their personal rules of them. For me? Well, frankly my dears, I use whatever the hell I want to.

~hat tip to movie lines from the olde era that live forever~

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Pages of The Mind Flash Fiction

 For my  flash fiction I get to use one of Jeffe Kennedy's marvelous covers ...but it was hard because I associate them so strongly with her stories. So I've sort of compromised, keeping the fantasy feeling but offering a vignette from a different time and place of my own.            

“You will tell my story.” Her voice was low and beautiful. He wished he could see her more clearly in the swirling lavender and green mists. She extended the glowing book to him, saying, “It’s all here, all the spells, all the details.”
                “Where are you going? Why can’t I come with you? After all the adventures we’ve shared, why must we separate now?” He clenched his hand on the pommel of his sword.
                “Our destinies lie along different paths and I’m summoned home to my own place and time. Yet if you tell the story true, we may meet again. Take the book, I beg you.”
                Ignoring her outstretched hand, he shook his head. “I’m no scribe, no bard. I can’t do justice to your tale. I can’t even read - you set me an impossible task.”
                The book drifted in the evening breeze, floating from her hand and moving like an oversize butterfly, coming closer to him. Unwillingly he plucked the glowing tome from the air and tucked it under his arm.
                “You should seek help,” she said, retreating a step. “That’s allowed. Go to the city and visit the book seller in the corner of the market square. His daughter will be able to read the runes, can tell you what you must do next.”
                Taking her by surprise as he’d hoped, he leaped forward, capturing one slender wrist. “Swear to me we’ll find each other if I do this.”

                He realized he held nothing but cold mist, as she continued to back away, deeper into the forest shadows. “I did love you,” she said.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Lady of the Star Wind Flash Fiction


For my cover translation flash fiction, I have the great good fortune of pulling Veronica Scott's cover for LADY OF THE STAR WIND
 
 

Someone groaned. His vocal chords burned, leading him to believe he'd uttered the sound. Good sign. He wasn't sucking vacuum. Yet. Forcing his eyes open cost him what felt like a laser cannon blast to the head, but when his vision twisted into focus, the worst of the pain retreated to a sullen, persistent thump in his left temple.

Blue-gray bulkheads surrounded him. Centuries of space travel and no one had found a way to create space-worthy building materials in anything other than grim. The depressing bit was that it wasn't his grim, blue-gray bulkheads.

"Oh good," a feminine voice said. "You lived." She'd propped a shoulder against the door frame. Lush. Blonde.

He shook off his body's interest. More pressing concerns. "Where am I?"

"Aboard the cruiser Star Wind."

"Star Wind. Solar wind," he said. What the hell had happened to his brain that he tripped over translating a poetic ship's name?

She smiled. "Something like."

Focusing on the weapons strapped to her waist, he said, "A destructive force of nature."

"Unless you're armored." She looked him up a down, brows slanted in amusement. "Very few are."

Star Wind. Destructive. He frowned. "My patrol skiff was under attack."

She nodded.

"You rescued me."

"Of course I did," she crooned. "Because the great big payday tucked away in the piece of space debris you patrol goons were guarding isn't the least bit necessary to keep the Star Wind competitive in this cruel universe."

He clenched his fists. "Pirates."

"I prefer 'force of nature.'"

"So I'm a prisoner."

She snorted and straightened. Stepping back, she tapped the doorframe. The distortion of a force field splintered her features. But not her words laced with bloodthirsty amusement. "Oh no captain. We don't take prisoners. We procure entertainment."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Flash Fiction based on Damned If He Does

So, we're doing flash fiction based on each others' covers, and I've pulled Marcella.  And, lo and behold, Marcella has a brand new cover, just revealed!  It seems almost foolish to not use this one, especially since it's so dynamic.

Now, a warning: flash fiction?  Not my skillset.  So I'll just pre-emptively apologize to Marcella and the rest of you right now.  But, my first paid publication was for Hint Fiction, so I'll aim in that direction.

----

His touch was explosive.
Her skin, incendiary.
Thank god their tailor specialized in asbestos.

----


No, no.  I'll see myself out.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Flash Fiction based on A Murder of Mages

For the flash fiction we’re writing this week, I am riffing on Marshall Ryan Maresca’s cover for A Murder of Mages.



Legolas Mulder put his shoulder to the heavy bolt-bedecked door and grunted as he pushed. Once the weight of it cleared the threshold the hinges did their work and he straightened, bringing his crossbow into a ready position. Beside him, Tauriel Scully stepped lithely around him, her weapon already aimed into the room, following the door’s edge to cover the expanding space.

Before them appeared a room dark save for a ring of scarlet candles. All had burned nearly to the floor. Some had extinguished themselves but it was impossible to tell if they had run out of wick or if the flames had been drowned by the blood. Seeing no body from which the large puddle would have emanated, Mulder’s eyes scanned upward.

The chamber had a vaulted ceiling, about twenty feet up, a pale and too-slender figure hovered. Its enormous black eyes stared and its big head lagged to one side. The figure had large slits along its spindly limbs, and blood dripped from its toes.

Scully let her aim fall downward and she sighed.

“What?” Mulder asked.

“This isn’t what we’re looking for. It’s far too small to have built this place. The doors are twice our height and three times its height.”

“But we found one! It’s proof!” Mulder said.

At that moment the figure began to make a crackling sound. As they watched, its body disintegrated into dust. “So much for proof,” Scully said.


“Fuck,” Mulder murmured.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cover Flash Fiction: FATAL CIRCLE by Linda Robertson

FATAL CIRCLE -- Flash Fiction based solely on the cover of Linda Robertson's Urban Fantasy.

Keys.

The keys were upstairs on the dresser. Seventy-eight steps. Seventy-eight steps from the foyer to the master bedroom and back. Seventy-eight opportunities for one of the babies to hear the slightest disturbance in the force and scream his puddin' head off.

Then his brother would hear. And his other brother. And the other. And the other. Then the unholy choir would sound and the babysitter would bolt. Ears bleeding.

She could do this.

Thirty-nine steps one way.  Five bedroom doors. Stealthy like a ninja. Like a ninja wearing thigh-high leather boots that creaked every time she bent her knees. Bending one's knees was a requirement for climbing stairs. Forty-five minutes to lace them up meant she couldn't just whip them off. Five-inch heels made her ass look great, but the ruckus they made on the steps would sound like the Charge of the Heavy Brigade.

They were just babies. She was a grown ass woman. With keys on the dresser. Keys that stood between her and an epic date night.

"Wish me luck, hon. I'm going up."


Monday, June 13, 2016

The Orb - Flash Fiction for K A Krantz

The idea this week is to take the next person in line's book cover and do a flash fiction. This one is for KA Krantz. :)


Larcourt the thief thought she could run. That was her first mistake.

Her second was making him angry.

The sorcerer tied one single strand of his target's hair around his right thumb and carefully pulled the orb from its wooden case and held it in his hands. He stared deeply into the flawless depths of the orb and whispered, "Find her."

There perfect translucence was marred by mists and a moment later he saw the mists clear, revealing the location where she was trying to hide.

There were six stone hounds along the walls of his workshop. They were meticulously detailed, from the wrinkles on their muzzles to the patterns on their carved fur.

"Find her. Bring her to me. Kill any who cross your paths."

He closed his eyes and clutched the orb. Behind him, stone grated and moved....


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Clean Fire - Flash Fiction for James A. Moore

We're playing a game this week at the SFF Seven, writing flash fiction inspired by a book cover belonging to the writer who posts on the day after us.

This means I drew Jim.

Hee hee hee.

Oddly enough, it perfectly fits the world of the series I’m currently writing, Sorcerous Moons. Maybe I’ll end up using this. Cheers, Jim!

 *************

Fumes from the fire hung heavy in the desert air, only slightly less choking than the ever present grit. Another day, another sandstorm. And, naturally, a hot fire to eliminate the last wriggling bits. Her iron battle axe cleaved through the foully animated golems easily enough, but it wasn’t worth it to stay there, chopping them into pieces small enough to render them completely harmless. They’d emptied the city of all life already.

Might as well burn it to the ground and move on.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Take A Pinch of This Genre and A Spoonful of That Genre

I don't really give much time or thought to the intricacies of genre, except when I'm trying to pick the best  classification codes and key words for my book at a vendor. I want to help the readers find my book and have a fairly good mutual expectation going on as to what they'll be reading from me. I hope they'll enjoy the story and not be disappointed.

I think I write science fiction romance with adventure.  Or maybe it's space opera with space marines and romantic elements... Or else ancient Egyptian paranormal fantasy romance with adventure. Unless we're calling it Ancient World Romance with fantasy elements. Luckily I guess, no one is trying to slot my books on any shelves at their local bookstore! The world doesn't have nice, neat boundaries any more, if indeed it ever did. I usually have some mythical, mystical or fantastical elements in my scifi romances. While there's no science fiction in my ancient Egyptian tales, they sure can't be classified as 'historical romance" because I take a lot of liberties with details (but backed with in-depth research so I know what I'm changing) and proudly so state ahead of time. Fantasy! Or maybe Paranormal....

I'm livin' in the wide open frontier of book genre classification and loving it! (Except for certain vendors/promo sites/contests who stubbornly do not have a science fiction romance or romance=> science fiction category. I mean, how hard IS that???)

Here's my latest new release, Hostage To The Stars, just out this past week, primarily scifi romance/adventure/suspense with a touch of mystical at one point.

He rescued her from space pirates … but can he keep them both safe from the far greater evil stalking a deserted planet?
Space travel without Kidnap & Ransom insurance? Not a good idea. University instructor and researcher Sara Bridges can’t afford it, so when pirates board her cruise liner, she’s taken captive along with the mistress of a wealthy man, and brought to a deserted planet. When a military extraction team sent to rescue the mistress refuses to take Sara too, she’s left to the mercies of a retired Special Forces soldier, along as consultant.
Reluctantly reactivated and coerced into signing up for the rescue operation to the planet Farduccir where he once was deployed,  Sgt. Johnny Danver just wants to get the job done. But when the team leader leaves one captured woman behind, he breaks away to rescue her himself.
As Johnny and Sara traverse the barren landscape, heading for an abandoned base where they hope to call Sectors Command for help, they find villages destroyed by battle and stripped of all inhabitants. A lone survivor tells a horrific tale of the Sectors’ alien enemy, the Mawreg, returning after being pushed out …
Searching for evidence to give the military, Johnny is captured. He regains consciousness in a Mawreg cage–with Sara next to him. Death is preferable to what the aliens will do to them… And even if they do escape their captors, can they alert the military in time to prevent another invasion of the Sectors?
Standalone sequel to Mission To Mahjundar (mild spoilers for Mahjundar in this story.)
Amazon    Kobo     Apple iBooks     Barnes & Noble




Friday, June 10, 2016

To Label Is Human


So file this photo into a single genre.

Is it a sunset shot? A wildlife shot? A nature picture? Clouds? Or is it all of those things? If you were looking for a shot of a seagull in profile at sunset, how would you begin searching for it? Likely, you'd start with the keyword 'sunset' but you'd end up with millions of results. Some over mountains or cityscapes or forests or fields. Some with people. Some with animals. But you really, really want that bird for the cover of your special interest mag "Sea Bird Quarterly". So you have to add 'bird' to your sunset search to narrow the results. You get eagles, herons, song birds and vultures. This makes you switch 'bird' to 'sea bird' or 'seagull' and presto. You've found your cover.

This is the power of labels. Genres are nothing more than labels. They're labels meant to make it easy for readers to find what they want to read. Whether or not those labels are accurate or not is another rant. But like anything, genre labels can be used for good or for evil. (Good - you find your next favorite read on your lunch hour and still have enough lunch time left over to actually start your book. Bad - you get stuck inside the box you've been reading in and never entertain anything else.)

What's amusing to me is the notion that I get to pick which genre a story will be. Maybe there are people in this world who can do that. I certainly don't get to. The stories dictate what they will be. I go along for the ride or I give up writing altogether. Because they are adamant. So. This story wants to be in the past, a fictional past at that, with gadgets and improbable hideouts, magic and spies? Why the hell not? Sounds like fun. I have no idea what genre to call it. Historical Fantasy? Steam Fantasy? But yeah, write a story that's one thing? Probably not in my nature. It's at the juncture of genres that I find the things that interest me. There's likely some telling psychological issue there. I'll claim it's just fun.

Are you old enough to remember the commercials: "You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" Yeah. Genre blending all the way, because two flavors go great together.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Perils of the Writer: Deep in the Genre

Not to get all Goodfellas on you, but for as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a genre writer.
It's funny, because the idea of writing sci-fi or fantasy has always been in me, long before I was really reading it.  I have a hard time pointing to influences, because by the time I was seriously reading in the genre, I had a picture in my head of what I wanted it to be.
Of course, writing genre comes with a huge set of baggage.  
I still remember in my college Creative Writing class the comments that started, "Well, this is fantasy, and fantasy is junk, but given that..."    Even with Fantasy  being more mainstream, it's still got a ways to go, at least in perception.  Not too long ago, I read an article* which declared the genre "stale", though it was clear that the author only had the most cursory familiarity with the genre.  
Fortunately, the baggage is not as heavy as it used to be.  Sure, there will be a crowd that thinks it's not "real" writing, or "real" literature, or something, but I think the uphill battle for legitimacy has largely been won.  The general public might not know the deep cuts in the SFF literature, but they they know that it's out there, and it's no longer in the darkened corner of shame of the Waldenbooks.
That is, if there were still a Waldenbooks, but that's a different story.  
But it's not entirely gone.  Just the other day I was introduced to a writer, and when I said I had three novels out and fourth coming soon, I got nods of approval... but once I described my books, I got that look.
I can take that look, though.  Because I'm doing what I love.  I'm doing what I've always wanted to do.
---
Only one week remaining to sign up for the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop!  If you're in the Austin area-- or can get there with minimal trouble-- it's very worth your while.  
---
*- I'm not going to link it, it does not deserve the traffic.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Art of Mixing Genres

Let me begin by saying...

Moving sucks.

The stress and anticipation and scheduling = $$ massage appointments.
The packing of all your stuff = $$ boxes from Uline and free old newspapers from local paper.
Soap to often wash newsprint from your hands = $1.28
Moving truck/gas = $200
Loading truck with 2 helpers = hours + helpers dinner
Unloading truck with 1 helper = fewer hours + dinner for two
Unpacking all your stuff and finding the right place for it = another $1.28 for soap, and WEEKS.

Driving that 20 foot truck and backing that big bitch into both old and new driveways perfect on the first try = PRICELESS!!!!

Seriously, not ALL of it sucks, though.

The prospects of a new phase of life, the adventure in a new place and new people to meet, remembering why you kept this or that, and deciding some of that shit doesn't mean anything and can be trashed... it's also priceless because it reminds you of parts of yourself you might have forgotten and shows you how other parts of you have grown.

And since the big-truck moving stuff was done Tuesday of last week, that is my excuse for completely flaking out last week and not posting a single word. No thought of it even occurred to me. Brain no worky. Error. Malfunction. Does not compute.

I prioritized the kitchen and the office, in that order because COFFEE. Things are settling down, and here I am, late, but posting on the topic: Genrefication. How does working within or without the genre spectrum benefit?

My Persephone Alcemdi series was steadfastly categorized in the genre of Urban Fantasy. I agree with this. It was UF. My next novel (announcing soon) will be of a completely different world and characters and it too, will be UF. I have written (unpublished) Epic Fantasy, Space Opera, Poetry, and Mainstream / Fantasy.

That said, Seph and Co. whittled away at mainstream subjects such as losing old friends/making new ones, parenthood, troubled childhoods with troubled parents, loss, jealousy, murder/committing murder, rape, social constructs and politics (in a world of "non-sters" = not quite humans), aging, actions and consequences, dealing with unwanted responsibilities thrust upon you, etc.

To me, the genres are ways of poking around at topics that wouldn't appear in the normal human world alongside topics that would. It adds a layer of depth as well as a layer of separation. Some folks like the 'comfort' of knowing these genre things couldn't be real, while also taking a look at real current issues.

Let me make comparisons via visual art.

Below is my most favorite piece of pen and ink art ever. It is by the awesome Larry Elmore. In it, there are three values: black, gray, and the white of the page. It is perfectly executed and lacks nothing. The emotion conveyed is tender, yet wary. Tanis and Laurana are embracing, but both remain watchful for their world is a dangerous one.
By Larry Elmore
Sometimes, however, you need (or want to play with) more than three shades. The result can be very evocative.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/575053446142879575/
You may find that introducing just a few colors (read as: "aspects of another genre") can heighten the dramatic tension in incredible ways.

http://7-themes.com/7031754-dragon-ship-fantasy-art.html

But if drawing on the vibrant aspects of another genre create the only possible image that completes your story, DON'T HOLD BACK.

http://www.wallpaperhi.com/Abstract/Fantasy/clouds_moon_fantasy_art_dreams_skyscapes_colorsplash_color_spectrum_1920x1200_wallpaper_61084

It's YOUR story. Craft it with all the tools you need, and if you have to learn a few new skills along the way, you'll be stronger, more diverse in your skillset, and hey...that can't be a bad thing.

http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/fantasy/images/32624354/title/fantasy-photo/6






Tuesday, June 7, 2016

3 Reasons to Write to One Genre & 3 Reasons to Blend Genres

Kristen Wiig as Katie Lee Gifford from 'SNL'
Writing to a specific genre. How does it benefit an author?

Three Reasons to Write to One Genre:

1. Established Framework
Face it, when you're staring at a blank Page One with little more than a glimmer of an idea, anything is possible. Sometimes, "anything" is paralyzing because of the excess of choice.  Aiming for a specific genre can supply guidance for setting, POV(s), number of characters, plot beats, and overall length of the story.

2. Established Publishing & Distribution Markets
If you plan to self-publish, you will need to hire editors and artists who specialize in your genre--specialization makes a notable difference in the end product. Once the product is ready, you need to know the distributors with the most targeted reach among your ideal consumers. If you're squarely in a particular genre, then that information is readily available and accessible.

If you plan to run the gantlet of traditional publishing (of any size), your genre dictates the course you will run. Writing to a specific genre makes that course infinitely easier for you and everyone who has to re-sell your product up the food-chain to get your product to the right market.

3. Established Consumer Market 
We all want sales. Great sales. Enough to buy barrels of wine kind of sales. Regardless of the path to market you took, you still need to sell the books. Thankfully, consumers readily self-identify as fans of specific genres. If you've written a book in their genre--a book that meets the Contract of Expectations between Author and Reader--then you can hop on the sales train that has been built and maintained by all those authors in your genre who came before you. You can tap into the networks of book reviewers, reader conferences, sales catalogs, bundled ad-spots, and more.

Seems like a no-brainer to write to a specific genre right? Not so fast.

Three Reasons to Blend Across Genres:

1. You Want To
2. It's What the Story Needs
3. Your Characters Said You Had To

As I've posted before, I don't know any author who doesn't blend genres. Yes, we need to choose which genre is going to be our primary target audience, but when it comes to sales, we're going to pursue those secondary genre markets too.

Barrels of wine are at stake.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Blurring The Lines

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: I hate genres. My blog is called Genrefied, because I often feel like whatever I write, it's going to be shoved into one genre or another.

I understand the reasoning and I can even agree with it to a certain extent. fiction and non-fiction should be separated.  I'll even go a little further. Maybe romance should be kept away from hard science fiction.

here's my deal: People go into stores that have been broken into genres, they look in specific sections and they leave. There are exceptions of course. I can almost guarantee that if there is a bargain section, I'm there.

But there is still a lot of bias from a lot of people after they look at THEIR sections.
"Oh. I don't read horror."
"No, I could never read a romance."
"I'm not into mysteries."
"Science Fiction bores me."

Un hunh.

A lot of times when the name Stephen King comes up in a conversation I can actually see the shutters going up inside a person's eyes.

"I don't read Stephen King. He's not my thing."
You mean you don't like horror? or you don't like crime? or you don't like fantasy?
"Any of his stuff."
So you didn't like The Shawshank Redemption?
"The movie? I loved it!
Yeah? How about Stand By Me?
"I that the one with the four boys going to see a body in Labor Day weekend before school starts again? "
Yes. 
"It was great!"
Okay. Now, how about The Green Mile?
"Oh, I cried at that one. it was beautiful."
Stephen King.
"It was not."
Shawshank Redemption was called 'Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.' It was a novella in his book Different Seasons. So was Stand by Me, but it was called 'The Body.' So was that other movie, about the kid who discovers a Nazi war criminal in his neighborhood. 'Apt Pupil.'
"I didn't like that one as much."
It maybe wasn't quite as good as the others I mentioned, but they are all Stephen King.  

I've actually had variations of that conversation on at least 50 occasions. No, I'm not exaggerating. i worked for 8 years in a place called Media Play that sold books and movies and music and computer games. There was a lot of cross pollination and King was my favorite example of how not to judge a book too quickly. Now and then, people got over their biases and came back and told me how much they enjoyed his books.

A lot of stores moved King over into general fiction a long time ago, because, you know, not exactly one genre for that man.

Currently I'm writing fantasy a lot. Also crime fiction, political thrillers occasionally, got a couple of science fiction pieces out there and a few I'm working on, oh, and straight up horror. Mostly, I mix them as I please. I like blurring the lines.
I am not a round peg. Now and I strictly a square one. I don't easily fit anywhere and I'm okay with that. I write what I want. I read what I want. Sometimes neither can be easily defined.

Some people will tell you that the movie ALIEN is science fiction. I like to counter that it's actually horror with a science fiction motif. Break it down and it's really a story of a monster on a boat. It's just that this time the monster is in outer space.

Write the story you want to write. figure out where it goes afterwards. That's my advice.

And here's a slightly different sample for you: BLOODSTAINED OZ.

One day Christopher Golden looked at me and said, "We should do a story about all of the characters from OZ falling on Kansas, only they've been turned into vampires."

Of course I said yes. Who wouldn't? There are beloved childhood memories, there's depression era Kansas. There are people trying to live their lives and, of course there are vampires. Depending on who you talk to, it's horror, it's comedy, it's action. I say it's all of the above. What it is not, is for the squeamish. Still, we had a helluva lot of fun.  If we had focused on genre, it would have been less fun.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Pros and Cons of Genre Boundaries

I spotted an interesting comment in a review of THE PAGES OF THE MIND. The book came out last Tuesday and it's been doing amazingly well. The best of any of my books so far, in fact. Something I credit to my amazing readers who've really turned out to support this release week.

You all are amazing with posting reviews and talking up this book and series - thank you!

It's even more super cool that the companion novella in FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, with darling friend Grace Draven, has cracked the Top 1000 on Amazon in the paid Kindle store. Love seeing those fabulous rankings! So does my mortgage company, so there's that, too. :-)

At any rate, a review of THE PAGES OF THE MIND posted just today said:

My goodness its been so long since I read a legit Fantasy Romance. The genre is so small, and its hard to find gems like this one. When I say Fantasy Romance I mean non Paranormal. Since the Twilight craze there are just too many Vampire/Werewolf type romances happening. This book is in a completely different world than our own with its own politics, religions, and lands.Top it all off add in some magic and romance and you've got me hooked.

I saw that just this morning as I was mulling this week's topic: How does working within or outside the genre spectrum benefit or limit? As faithful readers know - my books rarely fall within genre lines. In fact, when I wrote ROGUE'S PAWN, the first of my Covenant of Thorns trilogy, I had no idea it was Fantasy Romance. So, it's kind of amusing to me to have a reviewer call my book "legit Fantasy Romance."

This comes on the heels of a friend who asked me if I had any new Contemporary Fantasy Romance releases later this year for an interview. Which... I don't. My Fantasy Romances are all either "historical," as in they occur in less technological ages than ours, or they're alternate world. Really they're all alternate world, but I'll accept historical. Only that original Covenant of Thorns trilogy counts as Contemporary Fantasy Romance, because part (very small parts) of the storylines in books one and three take place in our contemporary world.

So, those are perfect illustrations right there of how working within a genre can both benefit and limit at the same time. Having my books fit exactly within the Fantasy Romance genre is fantastic and very helpful for conveying what these books are. However, genre boundaries can be so limiting - as much as I'd love to participate in my friend's article, that small addition of "contemporary" leaves my current books out of the running.

But, in the end, does it really matter? For me it's all about the story. I suspect that's true of most of you, too.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Writing Through Tough Times

My late husband with our girls several years prior to his death, instilling a love of books as early as possible!
One evening after work my husband went for a bike ride with his best friend. Ten minutes later the neighbors were at my door to tell me there'd been an accident.

The hardest thing I've ever done, or ever will do, was to sit with my daughters - then ages 3 and 5 - two days later, and tell them their father was gone.

That happened in July many years ago.

Ironically, I'd just gotten back to writing regularly and daily, thanks to my husband's support. We'd known each other since tenth grade, been a couple since our senior year in high school. He was my best friend and biggest booster of me as an author. He really wanted to see me become published and I was seriously at work in the evenings and on the weekends hat year on a science fiction novel that I intended to submit to publishers and agents.

Did I continue to write through the tough times after his death? No, I did not, Widow, single mother, demanding career at NASA/JPL that kept the roof over our heads and food on the table, fixer-upper house we'd bought because he had mad skillz (and I'm hopeless with house repair of any size), huge yard....yeah, no energy or creativity left at night for writing. I still thought about my stories, because they never go away, thank goodness, but no words went on paper. In fact, we have a joke in my family how the characters in that book were left in jeopardy on a temple roof for a LOT of years.

I got back to the actual writing eventually and became a published author. I did major overhauls and revamping on the manuscript I'd been working on when he died, and it became Mission to Mahjundar. (By the way, the new sequel to that, Hostage to the Stars, is coming out in about two weeks!). Dedicating the book to him (and my daughters) was a bittersweet but happy, proud moment.

My creative energy is heavily affected by my health and what's going on in my life, so as I said, if things are dire enough, I don't write. I never stop thinking abut the people, places and plots though.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Port in the Storm

Everyone and everything alive is subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Thank you, Shakespeare. How do you write while navigating whatever slings and arrows have been fired your way? I'd really like to know because I am the acknowledged cosmic empress of losing my footing when life shoots at me.

Maybe the fact that I seem to take it personally is a factor. The thing is we all have our challenges. Migraines are my major stumbling block because when those hit, they hit in waves, and I'll be down for several days in a row. They are electrical storms in the brain - so assuming I can even bear to look at a screen (which is assuming a lot) - nothing cogent can penetrate the random firing pattern of the synapses and the subsequent pain. Boo hoo, poor me, right? That's actually not what this is about - it's to point out that there are things and times in life when writing is 100% the least appropriate thing you can do. Or to recognize that there are times when writing is beyond your grasp, that nothing you do will get you words that day. Or that week. And that's okay.

What's not okay is forcing yourself into someone else's mold. What's not okay is avoiding the writing when physical capability has been restored. You have to come back to the writing and you have to keep coming back.
Emotional hits, stress, chaos, all of those can be written through - and I'd argue SHOULD be written through. Someone once told me that when the shit hit the fan, you can either turn away from your writing, or you can turn toward your writing. Turning toward your writing might mean being vulnerable on the page. It might mean changing where you are in the story so you can channel emotion/conflict/tension/whathaveyou to your characters. It's one of the ways I siphon off intense emotion - I figure out where in my story my character(s) feel the exact same way and I write that scene while the emotion is still fresh in me. Just by virtue of examining how and where I feel stuff lessens its impact. I get freed up. And I take great, spiteful glee in using the messy, painful parts of my life to completely muck up my characters' lives. This makes writing my port in a storm.

What about time? There will be days you don't have time for much of anything. But you have twenty minutes before you sleep - and in that twenty minutes, you huddled in bed with your laptop - you can pour out 750 of the crappiest words on the face of the planet. But you'll have written. You'll end your day on a brief, shining moment of triumph. You'll learn to write in the gaps - the brief snippets of ten minutes here. Fifteen there. And while you might not win any speed awards (gods know I don't) you will eventually amass a book, just by virtue of showing up and persisting no matter what comes.

One last quote that I keep in a file on my computer:
“Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want something badly enough. They are there to keep out the other people” Randy Pausch

Whether or not someone writes, regardless of circumstance, really does come down to wanting to write badly enough.*


*Clinical depression or other mental health issues notwithstanding. Those need treating before you can evaluate what you do and don't want.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Getting the Words Down while the Hurricanes Blow

I'm in an incredibly privileged situation.  Not only to I have a fair amount of financial freedom to devote time to my writing, but I'm unburdened by physical or mental ailments.  In the parlance of of the popular metaphor: I've got plenty of spoons.
Collage 2EVEN STILL I have days where I feel like OH LORD I CANNOT with the writing.  Which is terrible, because I have no excuses.  Well, that's not true: despite my situation, I do have requirements and responsibilities and two to three other people to share a house with*, and am the one handling the various domestic tasks like errands, cooking, laundry, dishes, etc, in addition to elements of our home business.  Some days have special projects, and at the end of those days, the idea of putting my ass in the chair and cranking out some words just makes be want to fall down.
Nonetheless: the writing needs to be done, even on the bad days.  I'm not going to preach some sort of writing perfectionism.  There are days when it doesn't happen.  Usually because I'm just exhausted or have too many other things to get done that day.  And while I do say that if you want to write you have to make it a priority, that's about the long term, not necessarily the day-to-day.
Some days it just doesn't happen, and you shouldn't kick yourself for that. Allow yourself the luxury of a bad day, or a sick day, because it's a long haul.  You can get back on the horse the next day.
But you DO have to get back on the horse the next day.  Do not wallow in your failure. Just accept that you had a bad day and move on.  Because things will go bad in this business.  Things will go bad with you and your day-to-day.  You could slip and break a foot.  You could wake up with a killer case of vertigo.  Your car could be rear-ended by some kids who were skipping school.**  Any of those happen, and your productivity will drop.  But you can't let that stop you.
And speaking of: plenty of work to do.  Quite the long term to-do list on my part.
---
Also: Only two weeks left until the submission deadline for the ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop!  Get in there while you still can.
----
*- Depending on if my mother-in-law is in town or not.
**-No, those are just random examples, really.