Friday, July 25, 2014

Setbacks

Writing a book is a challenge and a labor of love. Even for the more practically minded, with an overall goal of making a career of this, not just jotting down words as a hobby, there is a piece of us that goes into every story.

There are few things more satisfying than finding a home for a story. (Except for cake. Cake is always good.) It's confirmation that the work you put into it wasn't a waste. It's affirmation that these characters who speak to you also speak to others. It's validation of your craft, both personally and as a part of the larger world of authors. 


And then, sometimes, after you've put all that time and effort into a book, after you've searched and queried and found a publisher who loves your story as much as you do, sometimes things go wrong.


Yesterday morning I found out that Eggplant Literary Productions is closing due to on-going health concerns and my book (and all the others they've published) are being withdrawn from publication.

Which, quite frankly, sucks.

Eggplant is doing the right thing and returning the rights to all their authors. And I can't blame anyone for recognizing that they can't run a business if they aren't healthy.

But it still sucks. I feel like I'm back at square one, even though I know I'm not.
And in the meantime, there will be cake. Because cake is always good.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Revisions (Writing Update 7.13.14)

Just a quick note today. (And many apologies for the radio silence. We're in the midst of a rapid-and-unexpected move so the peripheral stuff is going to be a little hit or miss for the next few months.)

On Wednesday (July 16th) I have a guest blog over at Enchanted Spark. You may remember Melinda Moore guested over here a couple of months ago and is graciously hosting me as well. You should be sure to check it out - I talk about writing Brass Stars and dealing with hard characters.

It seems that The Beast Within 4: Gears and Growls may be coming out in October. It's been a little delayed, but I think everyone's excited to see it come out. Edited by Jennifer Brozek, this anthology includes my own steampunk-werecreature-Southern-Gothic story - "Legacy". And some other authors who you are more likely to recognize. (Like Ken Liu.)

A few weeks ago I finished up The Spider Thief and The Assassin King. This short novel started out as a short story and rapidly turned into the-project-that-wouldn't-quit. I've had a lovely talk with my agent, scribbled down a page full of notes, and now have a six week deadline to add some more polish to the MS. There is a fair amount of "Yay!" involved here. And also a bit of "OMG!" because... moving. Then again, who needs sleep?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LibertyCon 27 - In Review

This past weekend I attended LibertyCon 27. It was not only my first time there, but my first time at any SF/F convention and I have to say it was a great way to start off.

The folks who organize LibertyCon are a fantastic bunch and, despite feeling a little out of my depth, I still felt at home.

I also got to meet some wonderful folks.
- I shook hands with Timothy Zahn, whose Star Wars books made me exceedingly happy as a teenager, read a new short story and was very gracious when I babbled about how much of an inspiration his writing had been.
- I was able to sit in on Jody Lynn Nye's reading from her forthcoming book, Fortunes of the Imperium. It's wonderfully funny and comes out in September. 
- David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson and I were both on a (rather large) panel featuring Tennessee authors and I got a chance to chat with him a little later in the day. His newest book (A Plunder of Souls) comes out in a week (July 8th).

Among the other folks I met that you should check out:
D. Alan Lewis - due to a mix-up with name badges I will probably forever remember him as "Padre Alan."
Larry Atchley, Jr - we were on a panel discussing horror and dark fantasy and I believe he has work coming out in several anthologies over the next year.
Tamara Lowery - currently finishing up a pirates series with a lead character who may be a vampire but doesn't sparkle.
Louis Puster III - writer of dark fantasy with two books so far in his series: The Saga of Ukumog

I had a great time and hope that, although this was my first convention, it won't be my last.




Friday, June 6, 2014

Things I Saw on The Internet This Week (6.6.14)

Some weeks I drift along completely oblivious to the current memes, gossip and trending stories of the interwebs. And other weeks, every time I turn the computer on I see something that is important (in some fashion). Since this has been one of those weeks, and some of what I read will be the subject of forthcoming blog posts, here's a kind of heads about what I saw that intrigued and/or angered me. (And one thing that is just amusing.)


First (and these are not in order of when they happened) Jonah Hill. So, I missed the fact that apparently he got chased around by a paparazzi and then used a homophobic slur. I did see some of the coverage of his apology. Notably this article from The A.V. Club. What's interesting to me about that particular article, and Hill's apologies, is the fact that he admits that there is never a good reason to use that sort of language. There's no "Well, I didn't mean it that way, I was just angry," excuse. Which is a far cry from many apologies that amount to nothing more than "I'm sorry you were offended." It can be hard for anyone to apologize for doing something stupid or mean. But it's even harder when you're in the spotlight to not be defensive about being human. I think Hill handles it quite admirably and does what is so very difficult for any of us by saying "I'm sorry, I was offensive."


Next, a trollish piece of nonsense by Michael Kozlowski about "female authors". Weather wizard (and author) John Scalzi - who is always on the lookout for issues that concern decent human beings - talked about this a bit on Twitter (@scalzi) as did a number of other authors both of the male and female persuasion. I don't have much to add, other than this. If you have been in a marriage, especially one that is a good and strong marriage, you know that it is not a 50/50 split on effort, investment and reward. (In fact, when my husband and I got married we were told not to think in terms of each giving 50% to reach the 100% mark on marriage. The only way for it to work is to constantly strive for 100% individually.) You also know that when you are supporting your partner you don't think about whether or not he/she is bringing in the same amount of money or spending as much time at home or helping the kids with their homework. You just support him/her because you know that at some point the shoe will be on the other foot. Because that's how marriage works.


Also, there is still a lot of discussion about issues relating to violence against women, abuse, bullying and misogyny. Both in general and specifically in relation to the #yesallwomen hashtag. You can (and should) read Carrie Cuinn's harrowing and heartfelt blog post about it. And then read Zaron Burnett III's A Gentleman's Guide to Rape Culture. It is less uncomfortable to read, but equally thought provoking. Especially interesting in that he touches on the idea that rape culture is not just "rape", but also the acceptance of attitudes that allow rape to be a normal part of society.

Back in the realm of "mostly stupid" was this article by Ruth Graham in which she informs adult readers of YA books that they should be embarrassed. I mention it mostly because there is always someone (or a group of someones) who want to make themselves feel better by pointing out that what they read is better than what you read. We've seen this before with genre vs mainstream, genre vs literary, mainstream vs literary, classics vs contemporary, romance vs womens fiction. You name it and someone has probably said something snarky and ridiculous about why X is superior to Y. Good books are good books, folks. It doesn't matter who they are MARKETED to. (And it's important to note that YA is not a genre it's a category and is more about business than content.) So, read what you like, apologize to none.


And last, because some of this week was pretty heavy: A lovely collection of GIFs of cats being silly.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

(Not) Writing Rape As Conflict

A couple of years ago, I let another writer friend beta a short story I was working on. In it, there was a scene in which my female MC was attacked by some sleezy men traveling in her party, but her main ally and another supporting character stop the attempted rape and Yarrow is saved. (It's a sword and sorceress thing with a dragon and dark magic and stolen souls turned into little ash gremlins.) And my friend, who is very wise, said "I'm not fond of rape as conflict."

And I was like "Huh. Well, okay." And set the story aside while I thought of a different way to add conflict to the scene without it revolving around "You pretty girl. Me horny and despicable man. I will take advantage of you." (I did, eventually, figure it out and the story is much stronger for the change in conflict. Thank you, beta-reader friend.) At the time, I just figured "Rape is kind of a triggery thing for some women. I can see how it makes a dubious point of conflict."

Then Hugh Howey wrote his infamous "The Bitch at Worldcon" post. And then retracted it. And some other folks talked about misogyny at SF/F conventions and few women who spoke up about their experiences received threats. Threats of violence and threats of rape.

And that's when it started to click. See, there are a lot of fantastic men out there. And then there are the guys who are so entrenched in a misogynistic view of the world that they can only view women in terms of providing some sort of sexual gratification for men. These are men that, when confronted with an opposing viewpoint voiced by a woman, can only respond with "I will fuck you into silence."

I WILL FUCK YOU INTO SILENCE.

That, folks, is a problem.

The fact that even one troll on the internet can say that and not have the wrath of all that is right in the world fall on his head, is a problem. The fact that these kinds of threats are common, is a problem. The fact that this sort of behavior happens in real life and not just in the semi-anonymous realm of the internet, is a problem.

And when I realized that, I also realized why my friend had a problem with rape as conflict. Because it feeds right into the monster that only values women as an object for sexual gratification. Because it says that even in a fictional world the best way for a man to "put a woman in her place" is to fuck her. Because it puts that image in our heads one more time that a man can best dominate and subdue a woman by fucking her.

And you know what I said?
"Well, fuck that."

So, I made myself a promise that I would find other ways to put my female characters in conflict. (And it doesn't mean that rape is something that doesn't exist in my fictional worlds, because it does. But I'm working hard to make it an aberration and a last resort for conflict with any central character, while at the same time realizing that some men will never see women as anything more than a sex object and making sure those characters get what they deserve. Fictionally, of course.)

Quite frankly, it's meant rewriting several older projects because rape as conflict is an ingrained trope. But taking it out, putting in conflict that is actually... conflict, has only served to make my stories stronger. It's made my characters stronger and given the women in my stories a better sense of agency. They no longer exist to fall prey to the villainous and sexual urges of the antagonist. They have worth and skills and strengths that make them a legitimate threat.  

It's a small step, but I know it's a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lessons Learned from Writing A Sunset Finish



Thanks to A.G. for letting me guest blog today. My first novella A Sunset Finish came out a little before A.G.'s novella Brass Stars did last year. It's thrilling to get something longer than a short story published, and not quite as daunting as writing a novel. She asked if I'd do a Lessons Learned theme for the guest post. It was a great idea since I learned quite a bit writing A Sunset Finish.

1. Research pays off. I've lived all of my life in New Mexico and near many Pueblo Indian reservations, but I didn't know enough pueblo folklore to write A Sunset Finish off the top of my head. I was somewhat fortunate when it came to the music and dance aspects of the story because I had studied some local Native American music in college. But even my music experience was limited. To make up for the gap in my knowledge, I took trips to ruined pueblos, attended dances at the Pueblo Cultural Center and visited the libraries frequently. My favorite book for study was Dancing Gods by Erna Fergusson. While gleaning the information from it about pueblo ceremonies, I also found myself thinking up different short stories and a possible alternative history book. Two of the short stories I thought of during that time of research have already been published and another one is on the way this summer.

2. Watch out for repetition in longer stories. I sent A Sunset Finish to three places before it found a home. One of the editors who rejected it told me that it was well written except for being so repetitive. I had no idea what she was talking about. So I boohooed to my best friend who said, “Well, I thought that too, but a lot of published stories are so I didn't say anything.” After that, I read it with a different eye. Indeed, I had several chapters in there that were rehashing the same emotions or the same mysteries. I cut most of the scenes where Bruce's dad appeared and about half the dates between Stephanie and Bruce. It was accepted at the next spot I sent it to: Jupiter Gardens Press. Looking back on stories I've read, I now believe several novels would be better as novellas if the repetitious scenes were cut out :)

3. Don't waste time watching rankings. After A Sunset Finish was released, I was introduced to the world of rankings, which I had largely ignored. I made it to my publisher's best seller list, and then I was addicted. Watching rankings cuts into precious writing time and can be depressing. This month I've made a huge effort to not look so often and only focus on new stories. My production has gone up, even though I find myself looking more than I should.

4. Self-promotion is hard. I think most writers are introverts; I know I am. But now we are expected to tweet and blog and Facebook all the time. I really enjoy swapping blog posts with people like A.G. where we talk about the craft. I see it as a definite benefit to growing as a writer. But time blogging is also time not writing new stories. There needs to be a balance. I see some writers promoting every day, and I honestly don't know how they do it and still get their next novel out on time. I admire them, but for me, I need time to let my head settle on a story and crank out the words until it's done.


Thanks again for having me here, and please come and check out A.G.'s post on my blog at enchantedspark.com coming in June.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Spiders! (Update 5.15.14)

First, a bit of publishing news. The Spider Thief and The Sorcerer is live at Crowded Magazine. This one is light-hearted, free and has a lot of spiders. (Arachnophobes, beware!)


Secondly, next week I have a guest blog post from Melinda Moore. She's putting her own take on Lessons Learned and telling us about her book A Sunset Finish.


(On the flipside, I will have a guest blog over on her website http://enchantedspark.com/ on Wednesday the 21st talking about how I came to write Brass Stars.)


In writing news, the novel-ish (a part of the series I'm developing around the MC of The Spider Thief and The Sorcerer) is now past 43k and will continue to grow steadily as soon as some other RL business is taken care of.