Friday, February 28, 2014

Tropes (Writing Update 2.28.14)

I have to admit, I like gender-flipping standard genre tropes. BRASS STARS had a female gunslinger with a gigolo companion and the last man in a family fighting to save what remained of the ranch. What's really awesome is seeing how the gender-changes reflect and challenge the original trope. Because Tashn is certainly a no-nonsense-I'll-take-care-of-this-myself kind of woman, but she's not just Clint Eastwood with boobs.

This past week I started work on a short-ish story that features a Valkyrie-like space Marine (female) and a shy science tech who secretly has a crush on said Marine (male). I won't claim it's the first time this trope has been tweaked (McMaster-Bujold has had a lot of fun with her diminutive MC Miles Vorkosigan and his various lovers), but it's so very interesting to explore what happens when characters are written against the grain of gender and sexuality type.

I've also been working hard at the new Spider-thief story, but there are a lot of moving parts in the middle of the story and it's been difficult to work them out.

And because real-life stress is intense right now.

But words are being written and stories are taking shape. It's important to note that I'm not doing any of this as a rant against the (sometimes) stale world of SF/F/H. Nor am I doing it to rile anyone else who feels like SF/F/H should remain exactly as they have since Jules Verne first set pen to paper. (I know, he's not the first SF author, but he's the first whose name I can remember at this point.) But I really like to challenge myself. I like to learn how to do new things with words. I like to find new characters hidden deep in the morass of my subconscious - that accumulation of all the things I see and hear and think about every day, but haven't processed in a formal manner.

That's where tropes are so damn handy, because I can examine what has worked and figure out the bones of it, then spend my days putting new flesh on them. And, maybe, learning something useful in the process.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Little Things (Update 2.20.14)

I always find my writing speed ebbs and flows. The end of last week and beginning of this one was hot - big word counts every day. Then, as I've moved toward the end of the week, the word counts got sluggish - barely scraping past 500 words. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, because stress. I haven't the time nor the inclination to go into the detail that is the stupidity of our local sewer utility. But having a company on the other side of the country handle billing for a vital utility is probably never ever ever a good idea.

Secondly, some scenes are more difficult than others. For any number of reasons. Higher stakes, more characters, more action, more emotion. You get the idea. Some of what I've been working on the past couple of days sets the stage for the rest of the book. (Yes. The super-secret side project has somehow morphed from novella length into a novel. Just as soon as I figure out exactly where the plot is going.) And the Spider-thief story is still just a short, but has a lot going on.

Thirdly, the little things. In between the big and difficult scenes are frequently smaller and absolutely necessary scenes that at first seem a little... boring. You know the ones, the introspective ones, the traveling scenes, the every day life of your characters. They have a slower pace, they give the reader a chance to breathe and get to know the world and people who live it a little better. But they are still absolutely vital. Because otherwise you'd just wind up with a big long adrenaline spike. (And that's not always a bad thing, but sometimes it's fun to jump out and say BOO!)

So, here's to the days where the words flow like water and here's to the days where they creep along. Balance is a beautiful thing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Angst (Update 2.15.14)

Today I wrote more words. With lots of emotional flailing and weeping (by my characters, not by me). As a result it took about 5 hours to get a measly 2k words out of my head and into the hard drive. Not that I'm complaining, words are words. But certain things take more time to get out in any sort of readable fashion. (Fight scenes and sex scenes also seem to take for ever. Arguments on the other hand run out on paper like water from a cup.)

I also had another short story published. THE COLLECTIONS AGENT went live in Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE #14 today. This is a great story about a man with six brass wings, a temper and the job of collecting various magical abilities and artifacts from those who can no longer pay for their use. I've been waiting for a while for this one to hit publication because it's one of my favorites. (I'll bet it will be one of yours as well.)

I'm also in the position of being almost out of short stories to keep on submission. One after another I've sold the publication ready ones 'til I'm left with only a few still searching for a home. (This includes the not-a-zombie-story and the contemporary vampire unromance.) Which is also why I've been working so hard on getting some new ones polished up and out the door. (And likely one or two old ones that were shelved for consideration.)

I've never had a problem coming up with ideas for new stories, but I sometimes find I lack the skill to do certain ideas justice. So, on occasion I write a story that I love, but I know isn't ready for submission. Those go on the shelf and every so often I pull them out and figure out how I might make them better. Several that started out as shelved stories have already been polished and found homes (IN THE COOL OF THE DAY, THE COLLECTIONS AGENT). I have a feeling there will be a few more joining them soon.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow News (2.14.14)

I did get a lot of words written on Wednesday (over 1.2k) but then there was this snow thing that happened.

Now, we had a snow thing down here in the south a couple of weeks ago. But this one was different. This one made my yard look like this.

 And it knocked out our electricity which forced me to do this yesterday evening. (See how all the snow is gone? It went from ten inches in the morning to 40 degrees and (mostly) melted off yesterday afternoon.)

I'm not used to making coffee in a percolator so it was kind of weak. But it was hot and that was amazing after a day spent shoveling snow off the driveway and then sitting in a chilly house. And this morning they (finally) got the power back on.

So, no words yesterday or today. And since it's Valentines I'm doubtful I'll get anything finished tonight. There's a bottle of port, some store-bought tiramisue and Mr. Carpenter to spend the evening with.

Happy Valentine's to all of You!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Strong (Update 2.9.14)

Today I added somewhere between 600-700 words to the new Spider-thief story. Still slower than I would like, but words are words. (And I've learned in the past that as long as I'm getting some new words with every writing session it's better not to worry so much about the quantity because it will even out. Eventually.)

The words from today finished up the final scene of the story, and continued to fill in the middle with my MC putting herself in danger in order to make certain she sees her alcoholic father before disappearing for an indeterminate length of time. Needless to say, stuff is about to hit the fan.

I have always liked writing strong female protagonists. (Though I have also written and sold a few strong male protagonists as well.) But I dislike writing women who are strong/smart/successful only because the men around them are weak/stupid/failures. To me that only reverses the inequalities that are frequently objected to in the male-centric SF/F/H. And, while there is sometimes a place for putting the shoe on the other foot so to speak, I don't find it very satisfying.

I like all my characters to be interesting and that means all of them have to have something to contribute. (And I should point out that I have no trouble reversing tropes, as evidenced in BRASS STARS.) It is never interesting to have a character (of any gender) seem smart/strong/successful only by comparison to the other characters. The challenge, of course, is in finding a balance between characters so that they complement each other.

Then again, that's part of the fun. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Convergence and Skin (Update 2.8.14)

Today I rewrote the synopses for my novella proposal again. I'm more satisfied this time with how the plots are laid out; the stakes are higher for everyone concerned, especially in the third (and concluding) book.

I've also reached just over 2.7k words on the new Spider-thief story. I think I'm about 1/3 of the way through, but I'm writing out of sequence so my initial estimate that this one would turn out around 8k words may be way off. In the meantime, there are spiders and a case of mistaken identity between twins which could have lethal consequences, a handsome King of Assassins (who sounds like Antonio Banderas in my head) and a vengeful spirit. It's a fun story with some serious bones, all set in a renaissance-esque world of magic and silly conspiracies.

I'm not the sort of person who ever writes something because someone tells me I should. (Although I am the kind of person who writes something because someone tells me I can't or shouldn't.) But, as a part of challenging myself as a writer, I do sometimes write things way outside my own experience. Sometimes this works out well and sometimes it doesn't. (That short story with the straight up misogynist MC? Still needs a lot of work. The unfinished novel with the bigot as an MC? Well, it's unfinished, but it has a lot of worthwhile material in it.)

Anyway. A couple of weeks ago there was this thing about better representation of non-binary gendered characters in fiction. Basically, this one woman said "There should be a better representation of the full spectrum of gender experience," and then this dude, who is apparently older and makes more money than all the rest of us, got his shorts in a twist and told all writers everywhere that if we wrote about non-binary gendered characters we would be boring and unsuccessful.

I say, challenge accepted!

Which brings me back to both the synopses and the Spider-thief story. I've had the Spider-thief story in-progress for a while and it has a supporting character who is transgendered. I knew it would be that way from the point I first stumbled over the plot. Not because I have to fill some sort of quote or incorporate some sort of message into my fiction, but because it is absolutely what the story calls for.

The novellas are newer in development, so perhaps the seed of the idea that I should be looking for opportunities to write with more diversity of character was there. I don't know for certain. I do know that I had an idea to make the story deeper and it involves a character that is transgendered. It also involves the heartbreaking response of family who doesn't understand what that means.

I'll also freely admit, I'm not sure I understand what that means. But I like to try and think outside my own skin. And when I do that, invariably I wind up putting some of what I discover on paper. I can only hope I do it justice.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Words, Love and Hope (Update 2.7.14)

Still just a trickle today, wordwise. I added a bit more to the Spider-thief scene I had started on yesterday. Then I wrote the third synopsis for this little trilogy I'm trying to figure out. And promptly decided none of the three were good enough. So, back to the drawing board on that. (The overall plots are okay, I'm just trying to refine as much as possible. Compelling and coherent are goals for the day. So far I'm 0 for 2.)

I did get the copy edits on "The Collections Agent". It's due out in the Stupefying Stories Showcase any day now. This one is possibly the oldest story I've been waiting to see published. (It sold a while back, but due to it's length - and possibly the oddity of it's genre-mashup - it's taken a while to see the light of day.) It is another one I dearly love, a peculiar duck of a story that's part noir fiction, part steampunk, part love story, with a very large MC who collects magical abilities from those who have abused them or failed to make payments to the company that bestowed them.

By yesterday evening I was a bit down. I could go into details, but that would probably come across as bitching and, truth be told, I don't have much to complain about. My disgruntlement stems from wanting to be at Point F or G and still being somewhere around Point A. (Or maybe A.5.) I have never been patient. Stubborn, yes. But not patient. So I was just... down.

But here's the thing. I still love what I do. So, I got up this morning and I started working again. Because I love what I do.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sand (Writing Update 2.6.14)

Today is one of those days I have trouble focusing on any particular project. But, after a few weeks of rebooting my brain following the revisions on the Steampunk Novel, it's time to start putting more words out.

So, I wrote the first couple hundred words on a sequel to Brass Stars. Right now I'm kind of ... egh about it. I like my plot, I like the opening, but I'm worried I'm about to spend too much time on the set-up.

Then I refined about 500 words I wrote by hand last night for "The Spider-thief and the Assassin King". This scene I liked. Nicola and the spiders are being bad-ass again which is always fun.

Also put in a bit of work on the super-secret side project. (Super-secret because I sometimes write under a pseudonym. So, I may talk about the fact that I'm writing it, but I won't tell you what it is.)

Which means, the day was fairly productive, but scattered.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to hone in on one particular thing.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

News and Good News - 2.5.14

First off, an apology. Well, more like an excuse. I had almost gotten settled into a regular blogging schedule and then writing stuff got real. (In a good way. More on that in a minute.) And just about the time I was wrapping that up there was this snow event that kind of fucked up the Southeast. Me and mine were able to stay warm and not get stuck anywhere. (Of course, we also salted, shoveled and took a flame-thrower to the road outside our house to enable safe passage up and down.) Long story short, I've been kind of busy and blogging just wasn't at the top of the list of things to do.

Next up, some publishing news.

1. The 2014 Campbellian Anthology is available for FREE download, thanks to Stupefying Stories/Rampant Loon Publishing and several mirror sites. It features the work of 111 up and coming SF/F authors (including myself) who have qualified for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It will only be available for a limited time so be sure to check it out now!

2. "Vessels for Destruction", a dark SF flash story, is Nature Magazine's "Futures" story for February 6th, 2014 and is live on their site HERE.

3. I have an agent! After a lot of queries and hard work the Steampunk Novel (and it's sequels) is now repped by Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services.

Finally, market news.

Unidentified Funny Objects 3 is currently in the Kickstarter phase but will be opening to submissions March 1st: DETAILS HERE. They are a pro-paying market and produce quality books. If you like humorous SF/F and would like to help support them, please do. If you're a writer looking for a good humor market, this is one to try. (But wait until the submissions period opens March 1st.)

And, Apocalypse Ink Productions is looking for linked novella trilogies. They like things dark, speculative and more-or-less contemporary. They also offer a small advance and 50% royalties of net profit.

And that's it for this week.
Stay warm! (Or if you're on the other side of the globe, stay cool!)