Inspiration

Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop!

on August 24, 2012 in Inspiration, Process with 25 comments by

I am privileged to be a part of the Rainbow Book Reviews blog hop this weekend.

I’m also going to a water park this weekend, but that’s not really as relevant.*

The theme of this blog hop is “What Writing GLBTQ Literature Means to Me.”

Writing fiction with queer characters is very important to me. I believe in visibility. I believe in the power of being seen, not just being seen with a big rainbow sticker on but being seen as doing the dishes, driving a minivan, fucking and falling in love. In other words, being just like everyone else.

I write fiction with queer characters because queer people exist. We’re not hiding in dark alleyways waiting to jump out on to unsuspecting straight folk. We’re here. We’re friends of yours, we’re parents at your kids’ schools. We’re not really any different from anyone else.

Do you guys remember when Joss Whedon answered that now-famous question: “Why do you write these strong, female characters?” (He gave this glorious speech, which you should go watch.) His answer, well one of his answers, is simply “because you’re still asking me that question.” That is what writing queer characters means to me. Why are you even asking me that? I write queer characters, kinky characters, characters who are pirates, characters who have tattoos, characters who are very tall or short. I write about people, people who interest me or entertain me. I write stories that I like to write. Sometimes, the people in them are gay. Sometimes demons live in the back of their neck. Stuff like that.

When I first came out as bisexual to friends and family, the reaction was mixed. What I often sense, even now, is an undertone of “who cares? You’re married to a man.” There is still a lot of invisibility attached to being queer, and inside that invisibility is a “disappearing” that makes queer people seem mysterious. “Othered.” Strange.

I am so happy that there are so many people, of all walks of life, who are enjoying reading fiction with queer characters (whether it be the dirty dirty kind that I write, or any other kind). I love to know that for them, a love story is a love story no matter the genders or whatnot involved.

I guess the answer to the question of what it means to me to write about queer folk is: Nothing. And everything. It means I write what I know and I write what turns me on and I write what I want to read. I’m so glad that others write that same way too.

Now for the giveaway. If you leave a comment here, I’ll pick one at random and offer a story from my backlist. You’ll find gay, straight, completely pansexual, pirate, ghost, deadly virus, treasure hunts and kinky dealings in there. I’d love to see which one appeals to you!

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of the blog hop, via this link: http://rainbowbookreviews.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/the-rainbow-book-reviews-blog-hop-is-here/. I know I will.

 

*I don’t do sun. I burn. I’m a writer for heaven’s sake, we don’t go outside! I’m currently trying to figure out how I can carry a giant beach umbrella with me the whole time.

 

Writing makes more writing

on August 15, 2012 in Inspiration, Process with no comments by

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a short story. It was a special call for an anthology. That story is out having its audition, but the strangest thing happened.

I had another idea. A much bigger idea. An idea that has morphed into what might be a love story between a crossroads demon and a tattoo artist/recovering addict. A person I created as a one off, a sweet character in a tiny story, sort of grew into a whole person with a backstory and a future that might just end in a happily ever after. Or maybe burning in hellfire. It could go either way at this point.

What amazes me is how much storytelling is a muscle. For me, it isn’t a magical delivery service from storyland. It’s work, I have to exercise to make it happen. But if I do, things happen. Stories appear out of nowhere in my head. *

That’s kind of cool.

*less, of course, that swamp of sorrows between 25 and 35k. I never get that. That’s always work.

 

Successes

on April 17, 2012 in Inspiration, Process, Publishing with 2 comments by

I am so excited about a thing, but I need to be sure all the bits and bobs are dealt with before I share so… yeah.

I wish, still, that the success feeling wasn’t so tied to getting published. Because I’ve had a lot of writing successes lately.

I submitted yet ANOTHER story to an anthology, news on that to be delayed until after summer. Rocking the new material.

I started a new one, this one not an erotic piece but a work of spec fic about the afterlife. My first spec fic since I finished the first draft of Worse Things.

On Worse Things, I’ve got at least one big problem with the manuscript solved, and can jump into a new draft far more confident.

Today I spent the morning redesigning the site. I finally added pages for the books, go figure. You can see their covers now, which in the case of The Bell Curve is a great thing. I love that cover, all boobs and penile space ships and stuff. Pulpy sci fi perfection.

Lastly, I’ve been reading a LOT. I know this is the advice and the wisdom from all writers–if you want to write, you must write and you must read. I’ve been reading faster than I can review lately, and I’ve got a backlog of great stuff to talk about. As I read I find story ideas percolating, so it must be working. I’ve been focusing on scifi, spec fic and urban fantasy and paranormal romance lighter on the romance heavier on the paranormal (er… some of these can interchange). If anyone has any recommendations for me, I’ll take them!*

I’ve also been knitting the biggest lace shawl in the universe for a wedding. Because of that, I caved on my never ending quest for good audio books at the library and joined Audible instead. That way, I can read and knit at the same time. The shawl is coming along beautifully, and the book is hella entertaining (The Magicians, Lev Grossman).

All of this feels like being a Real Writer ™. Every day is a step forward, if only a baby one.

*Are we friends on Goodreads? If not, hit me up! I love to see everyone’s reviews and recommendations.

 

Immersiveness

on March 7, 2012 in Inspiration, Process with no comments by

Mother Fuckin Churros

It’s a word now!

I just got back from my nearly-yearly pilgrimage to Disneyland. As usual, I arrived home exhausted and brewing the Disney plague that is now eating me from the inside out. Starting with my brain and sinus cavity. My immune system just can’t hack the non-stop fun and excitement and carbohydrates and also germs.

I’ve heard all the criticisms of Disney and I can’t disagree with any of them. Their corporate culture is scary, their business ethics are questionable, their entire reason for existing is to get me to pay 4 dollars for a churro, their movies carry misogynistic and heteronormative messages (among many other race/ethnicity/class/history rewriting issues), etc. etc.

Those churros are dang expensive. But I love them.

I was thinking about why Disneyland makes me so happy. It isn’t the problems listed above, to be certain. Or the crowds, the hot sweaty lines or the sort of creepy fact that a college kid in a fur suit is hugging my child. It isn’t even why some people do like it–it does not evoke in me a sense of nostalgia for better American days. I don’t walk down Main Street and wish we were still in the 1950s when Walt Disney opened the park but barred anyone with hippy long hair and tattoos from coming in (and also maybe hated Jews, but that isn’t as clear). I still maintain that if he knew they served alcohol in his parks he’d take a crap. Either that, or he’d be thrilled with the extra income. Dude was a capitalist through and through.

All that said, I do walk into that park and light up like a six year old mainlining churro dust.

I blame the immersiveness. IT’S A WORD. I don’t know anything about Disneyworld, but at Disneyland, you walk in there and suddenly that’s the only place you are. You’re not in Anaheim, you’re not even in the real world anymore. The layout of the park is genius. You feel like you’re walking into different worlds depending on which land you’re in. Details as specific as the poles that support ceilings, the ground beneath your feet, the landscaping, the food served and the music playing all work together to create an experience. The Jungle Cruise river, for example, butts right up against Main Street but you’d never know it from inside. You feel like you’re in a land far away from Main Street when you’re cruising.

My bff and Disney buddy tells a story she learned in her quest for all the Disney knowledge. According to her, one day Walt buys a snack. Probably a churro. He eats it while walking, and when he’s done, he measures the distance. To this day, that’s how far apart the trash cans are at Disneyland. There are billions of them, and they’re basically never full. There are also very quick and efficient employees (cast members) who constantly sweep and scan for trash. The park never feels dirty or run down–repairs are made quickly and often whole rides are shut down for renovations and repairs to keep things looking fresh.

Food is always fresh and hot and ready to eat (not to mention salty, sweet, and addictive). People talk a lot of trash about park food but let me tell you–I never eat badly at Disneyland. There are four and five star experiences everywhere. And you know, hot pretzels and cotton candy. It’s all guilty pleasures (well not all, there are fruit stands with abnormally large fruits for sale too). I don’t have to work for anything, it’s all there and utterly believable. And often in my mouth.

The employees are near-universally friendly, helpful and cheerful on a level I cannot comprehend. How anyone can wear lederhosen all day in that heat and keep that kind of genuine smile on their face is beyond me. It might involve beatings in the off-hours. The happiness infects you, sort of like Disney plague, and you’re smiling all the time too. You are treated like people are glad you’re there, and let’s be honest–how often do we feel that way?

Each ride in Fantasyland touts the triumph of good over evil. The shows are full of swelling music, effects and a crecendo that lifts the heart. Love conquers all. Everyone is really pretty or cute except villains. The princesses switch out hourly so that their makeup never looks melty and they never look as tired as they have to be in those gowns and dresses in 100 degree temps.

The cumulative effect is one of story, and that is my point here (it was coming, don’t grouse). Disneyland tells you a story from the moment you walk into the park to the moment  you stumble out, exhausted and significantly broker. It’s like Vegas casinos, except in Vegas things are seedy and smell like cigarettes. Disney smells like candy and the rush is from roller coasters. The money loss is far less obvious in the moment.

The elements of story are all there: setting, scene, characters, growth, happy ending. Everything is flawlessly and relentlessly managed to make you, the consumer, feel happy and spendy. Tell me you haven’t been suckered in by a book in the same way. I myself just bought all five Fever books (see a later post) back to back because her cliffhangers are so compelling, her world is so perfectly immersive, that I couldn’t resist.

I figure my end goal is to  make my writing as tempting as Disneyland. I want readers to stay and play as long as possible. I want you to have no idea how close the Jungle Cruise river is to Main Street. I want to hide the structure behind clever scene dressing and I want readers to feel like they never want to go home. Or at least, when they do, I want them to be tired, sore and ready to come back the next day.

It’s all about immersiveness.

(Check out the wiki on the Jungle Cruise ride. The water is artificially colored to hide the boat mechanism, and some of the plants are upside-down orange trees with vines growing on them to make them look exotic. Amazing attention to details, is what I’m saying.)

 

Excavation

on January 24, 2012 in Inspiration, Process with no comments by

I spent the bulk of my weekend and many evenings last week cleaning. By cleaning, I mostly mean getting rid of things.

I continue to be amazed at how things can collect in corners and unused spaces. I started joking that things kept respawning. I’d clean out a space, only to find more stuff had materialized in the time it took to carry a load to the car. A life lived as fully as possible can lead to this sort of overflowing, I think. That’s what I tell myself when I’m being patient and loving, anyway, lol.

I wonder if ideas work the same way, at least for me. I’ve got a full mind, always have. I don’t do quiet well. I have speakers set up in my bathroom for podcasts while I shower. I listen to Pandora* while I exercise and am apt to knit in front of a great television show.**

I started practicing mindfulness and meditation many years ago and I’m always laughing at myself because there is so much going on in my head. Meditation is more like the me show. Now with less rumination and more random thought bubbles!

Ideas come slow for me, I’ve talked about that before. I wonder if it is a matter of unloading all the busy loud that usually goes on in my mind. I have to clear out the unused “oh don’t forget to”s and “oh hell why did I”s. I have to dig past the same old boring stories I tell myself and look for the stuff I’ve forgotten underneath. My creative mind works, it just lives in the bottom of a cave under a very tall mountain of stuff. My creative mind is apparently a dragon, hoarding its treasure and being very stingy about who’s allowed inside.

Well you know what? It’s the year of the dragon, motherfucker. I’m coming for you.

 

*http://www.pandora.com/#!/stations/edit/6509559808670288 (if you like folk music)

**I used to be one of those snooty anti-tv types. Then I discovered a show called Firefly. From there, I discovered that television has gotten significantly better than the last time I watched it. Now, I don’t feel at all wasteful watching shows like American Horror Story, Dexter, Doctor Who, and Psych. These are brilliant, witty stories written with amazing skill. I see it as research and actively study the story elements I admire in each. I guess I’m a born-again tv enjoyer!

Win! A success story, less 10K

on November 28, 2011 in Inspiration, Process with no comments by

Woohoo! I’ve hit the 50K mark (and change) for November writing, thus winning my sixth NaNoWriMo challenge. I actually won the thing while watching the Thanksgiving parade on mute. That was surreal, as it turns out. Huge balloons and dance routines with no sound? Just a bit Ood.

The book is not quite finished. I’m about halfway through the pivotal end scene. Horror and death will soon ensue. I’m looking forward to diving into it today, actually. Horror and death are fun to write. I often wonder what is wrong with me, then I shrug and get back to the killin’ (but only on paper. Yeah. Only paper.)

This was the fastest I’ve ever crossed the NaNo finish line. Looking back, I can think of a few reasons I flew through this novel with six days to spare. (Six days! Luxury.)

1. A writing habit. I had been writing daily, as you, invisible imaginary reader, know. I had been writing/editing nearly every day, possibly with weekends off, for at least a month or two before NaNo began. NaNo doesn’t really allow for days off, but all I had to do was add a couple days a week rather than shift from zero to seven.

2. The story. I had a story well underway by November. I’d written 15K, but more importantly, I’d done nearly all the world building and character research I needed to do already. I had an outline. The outline still had the “and them some stuff happens” 25-35K section, but I had a far better idea where I was going than I have in previous years. I even had something of an endgame in mind, though the endgame got pushed up to the end of the middle game and a different endgame was born. Kinda. This is how it goes, though, as you draft. Middle game. It’s a thing. I also had a real vision for the pacing and theme of the story, so I could always return to those things when stuck.

3. The midnight dash bump. No really. Two sets of word count in one day really do set me off right. I was double where I was supposed to be by the end of day one. It helps.

4. 2K per day. I aimed for that instead of the usual 1667. I read on Twitter that someone was aiming for that, in 500 word chunks. 4 500 word sessions is way less daunting than one 2K session. There were many days I hit 1500, then thought that 500 was so easy, might as well do that also. Worked really, really well.

5. Write ins. I didn’t make very many, due to certain spouses having the nerve to need to work late or something. Gah, don’t spouses know that writing maniacally with a bunch of other writers is more important than income?! Sheesh. However the ones I did get to helped me double my word count for the day.

6. I’ll confess to a small amount of racing with one of my NaNo buddies. I won, too, by about 12 hours. MWAHAHA.

7. Tea. Lots of tea. I can’t really eat as much pie as I would like these days, so went to the mall and treated myself to some tasty fancy teas. Then consumed them in mass quantities (quantiTEAS. See what I did thar?). Treating yourself is always a good thing, no matter how you do it.

8. Constant creative mindset. Even when I wasn’t writing, I kept the RadioMuse channel tuned. I heard a lot of static, but I kept listening. Occasionally something came through, and was beautiful. I was angsting about a certain plot point on Twitter, and the second I posted about it, the idea came to me. Keeping the creative juices flowing throughout the day really helped the story gain traction.

Don’t get me wrong, there were difficult sections. I’m convinced that 20-35K is the swamp of sorrows for first drafts. It’s like, the more you struggle, the faster you sink to your death. I don’t know why, but I’ve encountered the phenomenon enough times to know it isn’t unusual, at least for me. I’ve learned to take that section one word at a time, just keep slogging through, and eventually the magic will occur and there will be a path out.

I hope everyone is having a great end run toward 50K about now, or already validated and coasting on the high. Either way, see you on the flip side, NaNoEdMo. *shudder*

Ideas

on October 3, 2011 in Inspiration with 2 comments by

Whenever I read about writing, I always read about people who have so many ideas they simply can’t record them all. They are so busy with ideas and people in their head, they can’t get it out fast enough.

I confess, I’ve felt some ugly jealousy with regard to writers with ideas. I don’t get them like that. I don’t wake up in the middle of the night with ideas (well, once I did, that’s gonna be a weird book). My muse isn’t as much a pretty lady wearing a toga as this:

I read about King’s muse in On Writing. He describes his as a cigar chomping dude in a basement. That image appealed to me for years before I finally stumbled on my own mental muse: a radio. A badly tuned, ancient radio.

Mostly I get static. Especially when I’m looking for a channel. I can spin the dials all I want but all I get is white noise (that’ s a thing, kids, use the googles. Man I’m old.) Every once in a while, when I’m driving or eating dinner or somewhere with no computer or paper, the dial will spin itself and BAM, I’ll find a station playing in my head.

There’s several channels broadcast via Radio Muse, but trust me, none of them are on all the time. Often, the wrong one is on at the wrong time. I panic whenever I’m needing ideas because I don’t get them like that. They aren’t there all the time, they are there when the radio feels like turning on. I get an idea when I’m reading about a Goldilocks planet (last year’s NaNo). I get an idea when my husband has a dream (NaNo ’09). I get an idea while getting tattooed (Worse Things). The ideas are sparse, badly formed and often before I can grab onto them they have slipped away and the radio is back to white noise again. Laughing at me, I think. That radio creeps me out.

All that said and bemoaned, I do get ideas. I’ve got a backlog of ideas now, even, many in messy first draft forms already. I’m so thrilled at this moment, because I actually have things to play with. Books to write. Books to edit. I can actually see myself finishing things and starting new things. The radio finally gave me enough to play with that I feel like I can be a Real Writer ™. I think once I am willing to listen, it gives up a little more each time. Which means I have to keep listening, even when I should be doing other things.

So if you see someone in a minivan lingering at a red light, just give me a little honk. I was probably listening to the radio.

Quandary

on September 7, 2011 in Inspiration, Process with 4 comments by

I have two projects underway now, both sadly suffering for my day job (and honestly, I took Sunday and Monday off–all work and no play and all that).

They are very different projects, editing one novel within an inch of its life and writing the first draft of another, much more carefully wrought novel. At least, I hope it is more carefully wrought. I do not want to do this level of editing a second time.

For Worse Things (the draft), I’ve been taking things very slow, limiting myself to a small word count with each sitting. I want to focus more on story progression and writing quality the FIRST time, so that when I go back through the story isn’t a hot mess. That has been going really well. I have about 15K now (need to update the word count widget). The book is fast paced and hopefully interesting. I’m struggling with each scene to make it the one I want, to deliver the story in a controlled way. I feel like I know my world, and my characters, and now it is a matter of unfolding all this information in the right order.

Waking Kiara is a lukewarm mess, and that’s after a major revision already. I can definitely see my progression as a writer from 2006 when I first wrote Kiara through to now. I hope in ten years I can say the same thing! I like the story, I LOVE the world, and I think I can fix her, but it is taking a lot of effort (and the awesome analog project board). On the plus side, she’s not a HOT mess anymore, just tepid. That’s doable.

But what is the quandary? I also have NaNoWriMo coming up fast! These two projects are super important to me, and I want to put my writerly energy into them whenever I can. At the same time, I am pretty committed to NaNo. It gets my mind jogged and my fingers typing, even in the worst of circumstances (my one losing year still gained me 20K, and that was on the heels of some MAJOR bad shit in my life).

So here is the question: what do I do? I’m tempted to work out the end of Worse Things, but if I keep my pace up I’ll be past the need for 50K by then. I have the option of sketching out a novel from Kiara’s world, centered around two of her sisters. I’m not sure what their story is yet, and I know that 50K won’t finish that story and I’d really like to FINISH SOMETHING. You know. Someday.

What do I do? I don’t know, but I’m hoping my ever patient and loving goddess Seshat might be holding the answer in her head and if I seduce her right, she’ll share with me.

(Unrelated: I had no trouble uploading gifs before, but all of a sudden gifs aren’t cooperating with WordPress. Wtf?)

 

Done!

on September 2, 2011 in Inspiration, Process with 2 comments by

Okay not really. But done getting the awesome analog board of awesomeness up and running. Let me tell you–this was a pretty good idea I had (with help from lots of tips online). I have a much better picture of the story’s faults now, and places I can cut/move/expand.

BEHOLD THE AWESOMENESS:

Okay well, maybe it doesn’t look all that awesome here, but I promise, it is awesome.

Also–please sign up for the NaNo Blogchain 2011! I’m just the humble host, but I think it is a great idea to have a clearinghouse of NaNo blogs. I’m hoping for a nice long list of folks so that when I need to procrastinate, I have a list of bloggers I can cheer on instead.

I need an idea for NaNo, pronto. One I can start and finish, because many of my NaNovels are sitting in unfinished states looking at me with frowny novel faces, and I can’t have that. I feel guilt.

That’s Entertainment

on July 27, 2011 in Inspiration with no comments by

Being someone who attempts to craft a readable story, I find myself increasingly unhappy with gaping plot holes in fiction.

I wonder if learning to be a better writer (cause that’s me. Learning, not better necessarily…) makes me far more critical of stories than I would be in the past. I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to just jump in and enjoy a freaking twist and turn already. I can say I find more to criticize in visual media like movies and television than I do in books. But at the same time, there is a lot to like about television these days. I’m much more of a TV watcher now than I was several years ago, because there’s a lot more enjoyment to be had now.

Sometimes I just have to take pity on the writers. Check out this adorable twitter exchange (@stephen_moffat is the head writer on Dr. Who) (BEWARE SPOILERS):

I do like a writer that can have a sense of humor about his own plot holes. I only hope I can be so willing to accept criticism without angst someday.

The question remains–how big can the plot hole get before irritation ensues? I don’t know, but I do know it lies somewhere south of Voyager’s first season. Blech.

 

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