Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Not That Post.

I mentioned last entry that I'd be making a post about editing in an enormous character change.  This is not that post.  Quite frankly, I'm getting tired of talking about STARWIND; I feel like I'm the only one who cares to hear about it at length and I'd rather not babble on about it for yet another entry.  I'm nearly done with the major edits, so soon I'll get it to the Version 2 beta readers and we'll see how that goes.

It does, however, leave me without a topic for this week.

So since I know rejection is something we all have in common, I'll leave y'all with a video Rena linked in the comments to my existential crisis earlier this month.  Hope you like it.



Next week: April's IWSG, which hopefully won't just be a continuation of this month's entry.  That's an entire eight days away, who knows what could happen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Recommended Reading, San Francisco Edition

I've read two really good books recently, and I wanted to tell people about both of them.  (It's a good problem to have, I swear.)  Then, I realized that both books take place in San Francisco, and figured I'd go with that.  So:

BREATH OF EARTH by Beth Cato takes place in 1906 San Francisco on an alternate Earth where people draw magic from the earth and use it to power airships, where the United States and Japan are in a powerful alliance and a great many mystical creatures are real, and where the heroine is possibly the only woman magic-user of her type.

HEROINE COMPLEX by Sarah Kuhn takes place in a modern San Francisco where several years ago, a demonic invasion gave some people superpowers, and follows the loyal sidekick of the city's heroine Aveda Jupiter as they deal with demonic attacks (some of which involve cupcakes and karaoke bars) and a bevy of all kinds of personal issues.

Yes, these are very different books, but they're both awesome.

I don't want to give away much about the plots themselves, but both books hit on two things that I was very glad to see, and that made the stories better for me.  First, they're both incredibly diverse, which only makes sense, considering where they take place.  Ms. Cato clearly did her research for BREATH, and the sheer variety of people who make up SF really shows, even in the ugliness directed toward some people which is unfortunately historically accurate.  The mixture of humanity is definitely present in HEROINE as well, in both the main cast and the minor characters, and it's clear that this is not a story that could happen if these people were anyone else.

Both books also feature some really damn good romances.  I noticed this in particular because I've recently realized that this is a weak area of mine.  >_<  But while both authors handle the romances in very different ways (necessary considering the characters involved), both romances are full of heart and passion, yet free of melodrama, and they feel very genuine.  The fact that both books got me interested and invested in what easily could have been Yet Another M/F Romance says a lot to me, and I'm going to study what both authors did to learn how to do this better.

The only problems I had with these books are some story structure issues.  BREATH brings in so many different plotlines and, in the end, only settles the immediate one.  So much is left hanging that I was genuinely surprised it ended when it did.  The author's note refers to this being the first of a series, so I'm sure the next book will address what was left hanging, but "Wait, what?" is not the best way to feel about an ending.  As for HEROINE, the cast does a good deal of guessing about what's happening and drawing conclusions that turn out to be right.  While they were wrong about a few significant things, including a multi-part plot twist that caught everyone (including me) completely by surprise, I felt like they were right a little too often.

However, none of those issues got in the way of my enjoyment of either title.  I sped through both of these books, always eager to find out what happened next, and I'd recommend them both to just about anyone.  Also, they both have sequels coming out this year!

Next week: editing in an enormous character change.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

#MyFirstPostRevisited: Remembering SKYBORNE

Loni Townsend tagged me on an interesting blog hop, one started by Sarah Brentyn at Lemon Shark.  It's pretty self-explanatory - take a look back at your first post, link it or paste it in your new entry, and talk about it - so I figured, what could go wrong?

Despite my taunting of Murphy's Law, I found my first post wasn't so bad.  I originally created this blog for a writing contest, in which I was pitching SKYBORNE, a book that was a great deal of fun to write but was also incredibly indulgent in a self-referential kind of way, since it featured a main character who read stories about a world I'd created many years ago.  That world turned out to be real, but it had been shattered, and its gods enlisted her to help put it back together.  The plot entailed her traveling upward via breaking through stars, finding her way through different parts of the world she knew from the books, until she broke out and found that she'd been traveling through one of the moons that orbited the now-shattered world.  There, she was able to use a deific machine to re-create the world based on all that she'd read.

There are times when I'm sure my ideas are getting weirder as I get older, then I look at what I just wrote, and I'm thinking, nope, my stuff has always been this weird.

There are a lot of reasons why the book didn't work.  I loved the main characters, and continued to write them in other books, but I think my love for them kept me from making sure other people would love them too - I just assumed it would come out in my writing and that was that.  Also, this story would have been a horrible way to start a series, which is of course what I wanted to do.  I mean, the first book is about putting the entire world back together after it's been shattered.  How the hell was I supposed to follow that?

SKYBORNE, after spending some time in the query trenches and being submitted to several contests, went the way of all my other books.  It took me just under a year from when I wrote that first entry to leave it behind - the entry is from May 3, 2012, and on May 5, 2013, I wrote about putting the book behind me.

I've trunked fourteen books over the years, but I remember this one, because SKYBORNE is the only one I've ever printed out just to set on fire.  It was a cleansing thing, I swear.

Looking back now, it feels like not a lot has changed.  I'm still writing weird stuff and flinging it out into the void, assuming I think it's worth sharing at all.  But I think it's worth looking at the old ideas sometimes.  Even if nothing comes of it, sometimes it helps to remember that I still put in the time and got all these books done.  Other times, it just depresses me, but there are times when just about anything can depress me, so that's nothing new.

I don't think this is a story I could go back to, and I don't really want to.  As for whether or not I'd write another incarnation of these characters, I truly don't know.  I have ideas for a few possible plots, but of the fifteen books I've written, these two are in seven of them.  I think that's enough, yeah?

Anyway.  I don't want to tag anyone for the blog hop, because I have no idea what y'all have planned for your blogs or how you want to do them, but if you decide to play along, here are the rules:

Obvious rules:

  • No cheating. (It must be your first post. Not your second post, not one you love…first post only.)
  • Link back to the person who tagged you (thank them if you feel like it or, if not, curse them with a plague of ladybugs).

Other rules:

  • Cut and paste your old post into a new post or reblog your own bad self. (Either way is fine but NO editing.)
  • Put the hashtag #MyFirstPostRevisited in your title.
  • Tag five (5) other bloggers to take up this challenge.
  • Notify your tags in the comment section of their blog (don’t just hope they notice a pingback somewhere in their spam).
  • Feel free to cut and paste the badge to use in your post.
  • Include “the rules” in your post.

Next week: the Recommended Reading I said I'd do this week.  :P

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Recovery.

It's a strange thing to have a genuine existential crisis, but I want to thank you all for your kind words last week.  I've spent the past week doing a lot of thinking, both on what brought me to this point and what to do next.  Talking about it with friends helped a lot, as did last week's therapy session, wherein my therapist tricked me into realizing that I do in fact believe in my work.

Yeah, she's good.

A big part of the problem came from my own projection.  Seeing a whole lot of agents looking for everything but what I like to write made the whole querying task feel like I was being rejected before I even applied - like querying them would be pointless, because they wouldn't want anything from me.  Like I said, projection.  But it's easy to start thinking like that when I'm depressed.

Another part of it came from dreaming big, which is usually a good thing.  I've always hoped to make writing my career, so I thought it was best to shoot for the same sort of thing my favorite writers have.  But that's not an easy shot to make.  I think we all know that, whether we've taken it or not.  And part of the problem is constantly aiming for that one thing makes every other possible way seem lesser.

I have a distinct problem with putting all my eggs in one basket.  A big part of the advice I got, both from friends and my therapist, is that I need to rethink what I'm doing, since I've been banging my head against the same wall for so long and nothing's come of it.

Granted, none of them used that metaphor or put it so dismally, but hey, it's me.

So, instead of continuing the agent hunt, I'm going to start looking into small presses.  The general consensus is that they're more open to stories that fall too far outside the mainstream for the big publishers, and the stuff I come up with is only getting weirder, so who knows, it might work out.  I'll need to wait a bit, as I've heard it's bad business to try querying agents and editors at the same time, and I do still have queries out for STARWIND.

But that's all right, as I need to do some edits on that book.  A common comment from my beta readers was that they didn't find one of the two POV characters as interesting as the other, so I have some plans to make some significant changes to him.  Besides, I like the idea more of having only one crew member come from Earth.  ^_^  This will take time, but I think it'll be for the better, as it'll give him a better backstory and more appropriate development without changing the overall story.  If anyone wants to beta-read the updated version when it's ready, please let me know.

So, yes.  I'm not quitting, not that I ever really could.  All I can do is keep going and hope someday it'll all be worth it.

Next week: if what I'm reading continues to be good, it'll be another Recommended Reading.  If not, it might be just a bunch of random tidbits.  We shall see.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

IWSG: I Want to Quit.

This is not an entry I wanted to write, but I have to go with what's on my mind.  And if you're expecting this to be one of those times where I figure things out along the way and end on a hopeful note, that's not happening today.

But nothing is happening for me lately, so that fits.

I am so sick of all of this.  Of watching ideas crash and burn because I can't figure out what the hell's supposed to happen.  Of throwing myself into something and losing interest in it after a month or a week or a few days.  Of trying to get my work out there (on the rare occasions when I think it's worth sharing) and getting nothing but reinforcement for my feeling that nobody wants it.

I want to quit.  But I don't know what else I'd do with myself.  There's nothing else I've ever wanted out of life; I've wanted to be a writer since I was a kid.  Any other job I considered was just another way to tell stories, and I eventually shunned them all for the real thing.  And now here I am, at thirty-seven years and fifteen books and easily over two million words over the course of my life, nowhere closer to my dream and without a damned thing to show for it.

I feel like the querying process has finally broken me this time.  I knew STARWIND wasn't going to be an easy sell.  It's a weird book, but it's exactly what I want it to be.  And while I felt lucky to find a few agents who sounded like it would suit them, the search since then has been a real struggle.  If I was writing YA, or romance, or contemporary or just about goddamn anything else but what I want to write, I'd have an easier time.

And it really doesn't help when I fuck things up before someone can even say no.

To make things worse, out of the book's beta readers, one quit after ten or eleven chapters, one gave very little feedback that was mostly negative, and one hasn't said a single word to me about it after more than two months.  (The other two beta readers were very helpful; you know who you are.)  It's one thing to write books that no one reads, I'm used to that.  It's another thing when people who ask to read it either don't read it or have almost nothing good to say.

Also, the book itself has started to feel stupid to me, like something I would have come up with back in high school.  I read my first pages when putting them after query letters and roll my eyes.  This could be my usual self-deprecation, but I don't even know anymore.

So now I'm sitting here with a book I'm losing faith in, no idea what to write next because not a damn thing is working, and wondering if there's a point to bothering with this shit anymore.  Ideas keep coming whether I want them or not, but everything I think of seems stupid.  And everything I do ends the same way: abandoned or trunked.

I want to quit.  But that's probably the only way to make everything worse.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Needs More Drama.

Welcome back to yet another session of me realizing something I've been doing wrong for years.  I think I need to go back and tag these entries, maybe put them into a little collection so people can learn from me screwing up over and over.  :P

I was making another attempt to get caught up on Writing Excuses this past week, and listening to an episode (number thirty-six from last year) about relationships.  I was paying particular attention to this episode, as I've written a lot of relationships over the years, and the general feedback I've received is that I write them well.

Yeah, maybe not.

One of the aspects of writing a relationship that the podcast talked about was the need for a conflict that works against the people who might be getting together, something to give the reader that heart-clenching feeling as it looks like things might not work out.  The idea is to get the readers invested in what's happening between these people so they care about whether things work out or not, and then yank that out from under them.

I have written fifteen books, about two-thirds of which have some sort of romantic relationship.  And I don't think I have ever done this.

It made perfect sense when I heard it.  And it hit me like a truck.  While I like writing relationships, I'm not a fan of relationship DRAMA - I like it when things work out for people, when they get together over the course of the story and all that.  As I made pretty damn clear two entries ago, I like my happy endings.  But by pursuing that, I have repeatedly failed to give my would-be couples much to stand against them besides their own awkwardness.

To get a little deeper, I know where this comes from - I just plain like the idea of relationships working out well.  My parents got divorced when I was a kid, I've been single for centuries, and I can count the relationships I have had on one hand.  So there are some serious aspects of wish fulfillment here; I know this and I accept it.  But because of all that, the idea of using the story, the world, and the plot to drive my characters apart and force them to find a way to still get together somehow never occurred to me.

It's kind of a sobering thing to realize, to see that I was holding myself back like that.

I know that this doesn't have to apply to all relationships, especially those that are established when the story begins; I'm not going to delve into more STARWIND rewrites to wring some relationship drama out of Kris and Sarai.  And this doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to start writing stuff where the relationship itself is the story; I think I'd be bored to tears without something else going on.  But going forward, I know I'm going to look for opportunities to cause even more trouble for any characters who might be moving toward getting together.  I've already started on that in my current plot-in-progress.

Granted, working on that story is like trying to carve something out of stone while constantly ducking away to make sure the stone didn't notice, so who knows how it's actually going to turn out, or if it even is.  -_-

I'm curious to know what y'all think about this, since I know many of you are a lot meaner to your characters than I've ever managed to be.

Next week: IWSG.  It might be just one extended whining session, but we'll see.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Much do you Tell?

I'm working on something and it doesn't suck!  *waves tiny flag*

But seriously, this is the first time in weeks I've felt like I actually have a story worth working on (that isn't STARWIND's sequel, but anyway), and I'm ridiculously pleased to be able to say that.  And yes, it's something I started working on early last year and set aside for a good long while.  Hell, the notes currently guiding me are from mid-November, and they were the first thing I'd added to it for a long time.  So I've learned yet again how important it is to let something sit for a while before I start working on it.

That, however, is not what I'm here to talk about.

When I realized I actually had something to work on again, I wanted to tell everyone about it.  This didn't seem like a good idea for a few reasons.  First, the story's still in the early planning stages, and a lot could change; my November notes were the missing piece I needed but there's a lot I don't know.  Second, I might end up not writing this, and even if I do, I might decide nobody gets to read it, and even if I don't, history shows that you can count how many people read my books without taking off your shoes.  Third, a lot of what I'd like to share doesn't make much sense to anyone but me:
 I've seen different writers say a lot of different things about talking about your work before it's done.  A lot of them say to not say a thing, and some say not to say a thing to other writers.  I don't really understand either of those.  Sure, it's hard not to talk about what you're working on, but while I can get resisting the urge, I don't get why it should be an absolute.  Especially when you're excited about it and it's going well.

And not talking about it to other writers?  How does that even make sense?  Who else is going to understand?  O_o

There's also asking for advice about something you're working on.  Much as I hate to say it, I've killed ideas by doing that.  In the past, asking for someone else's thoughts on a would-be project got their idea rooted too firmly into my mind, and I ended up abandoning it, because I felt like it wasn't mine anymore and I couldn't get it back to how it used to be, because I couldn't get someone else's idea out of my head.

So, what do the rest of you think?  Do you tell people what you're working on, or do you keep it to yourself?  Do you ask for advice on what you're working on while you're working on it?  And can you guess how much of the above tweet is a metaphor?


Hint: NONE OF IT