Writing advice

Yeah, I’m back on this.  But it’s important.

So, when I tell people I’ve published a book I get some very odd questions, but one that comes up often is “so how did that happen?”

How does one answer that?  I usually go with “I went through most of a pack of paper and several ink cartridges.”

Thing is, that is how it happens.  I know a lot of writers, but I don’t know many authors.  The difference?  The former have ideas, and they write … a lot … but they never finish anything, or never put it out there when they’re done.

Some don’t want to publish, they write for their own pleasure.  This is well and good.  Just as there are plenty of people, some of them brilliantly talented, who paint or draw just for the pleasure of it and others who sell their work so the same should be with any art or craft; writing is no exception.

For the rest, just get to work.

Now, some myths:

You must write every day, no exceptions and no excuses!

Bullshit.  This is so very much not true.  This seems to be more prominent among Americans.  For those in other countries, America is a barbarism where paid sick leave (or even unpaid!) isn’t always available and rather than rise up in revolution against it we developed “the American work ethic” and it’s as perverse as it sounds.

No, art suffers if you do it when you’re not up to it.  Now, you must be self aware enough to know the difference between “I’m just not feeling it today” and “I really don’t want to write this scene”.  The former is fine.  There is no point spending an hour staring at the paper writing nothing, or in writing for an hour a few thousand words that you’ll throw away tomorrow.  The latter … get it over with and move on.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block; it’s all in your mind!

Mmmm … yes and no.  There can be a number of things that are preventing you from moving forward in your story.  Maybe it turns out you need to backtrack and rewrite something, but until you discover that you’re stuck and you can’t move on.  Maybe your dog died and you just can’t concentrate.  Maybe you’re a chronic depressive and you’re having a low day, week, month, year … and you can’t seem to write anything or write anything you want to keep.

Writer’s block is no superstitious concept.  It’s a simple lack of inspiration.  It can have a billion and one causes and reasons, and it can have two billion and five solutions.

Find your solutions, but don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is plant your arse in the chair and write (unless, you know, that actually works for you).

You should write like … / Never use …

Just … no.  No, definitely not.  Proof?  Look at the criticisms of any wildly popular work.  I mean the stuff that lasts, like Harry PotterThe HobbitAlice in Wonderland, and so many many more.  They break rules, some break every modern rule.  Bill Shakespeare broke the rules, his contemporaries did not; who do we remember?  Ms Rowling was writing in a “dead genre”, among other “writing faux pas”; who is the best selling author of all time (no Bible comments, please)?

Don’t take thou shalt and thou shalt not from any author, even the most successful ones.  First off, Stephen King said to avoid adverbs, not to never use them; he uses them.  Thing is, it makes a kind of sense for the pacing and tone of his books, but that’d be horrid advice for Lawrence Block to follow.

I mean “thou shalt write thine own damned book” and “thou shalt finish what thou starts” and “once it’s bloody finished, bloody publish it” and so forth, those are fine.  “Thou shalt find thine own voice/style”, etc. this is good.  Absolutes suck, but “absolutes” are good reminders that we’re creating art.  We’re not building and designing nuclear reactors here, there is no precise science to follow; this is art, it’s all about imperfections, experimentation, creativity, and doing whatever.  Well, unless you’re trying to put out a cheap dime pulp in a hurry that’s deliberately formulaic and such … but that’s a complete other kettle of popcorn.

You must do X, Y, Z before you can write your novel / [blah blah blah] pay your dues …

I don’t know where to begin with this one.  It’s just not true on many levels.

  1. Some people just don’t write short fiction
  2. The “examples” usually given weren’t people following a deliberate career path, they were coincidences (and if you’ll notice it’s generally the same list of specific, mostly, old scifi authors.) and leaves out the numerous examples of people who are just as famous or more-so who didn’t go this route.
  3. There’s not really a short fiction market anymore.  Well, self-published, but not a “professional” short market.
  4. That “gotta write a million words” or whatever it was, wasn’t meant to be literal gospel truth and it certainly wasn’t thinking just write a million words of pure drivel.  You must always be aiming for quality and somewhere in there will be mistakes and pitfalls from which we learn and grow.  Read all of Sir Terry Pratchett‘s work from earliest to final (moment of sadness) and you’ll see it.  Heinlein, Asimov, Dickens … you see it if you look at someone with a long enough career.  Some start to lose their touch and so the opposite can become true as well.

In simple, and as always, to be blunt:  go ye forth and write, finish what you write (unless it really is garbage, but get at least a second if not twenty-fifth opinion on that subject before genuinely trashing it), find a means to get it to the world.  That’s the only sure-fire formula for success.  Everything else is superstition.

An update!

Oh, look!  Alive I still am!

So, this summer has been Hell.  No … wait … Hell is cooler.  Seriously we’ve spent the past several months breaking records, the high ones.  I’ve also had a nightmare work schedule at a terrible job … and to top it off there’s the fun of job searching, then finding … and now trying to move from Georgia to Massachusetts.

This is not seeking sympathy (though it wouldn’t go amiss), but rather to illustrate that writing has happened little due to stress (there ought to be a word for worse-than-stress-no-not-quite-try-aiming-higher).  Even if Book 3 were finished it would be nigh impossible to type it due to the energy requirements’ likelihood of resulting in heat stroke to say nothing of the toll to the computer, and forget editing.

I’m looking forward to the move.  I miss my boys; they would’ve loved where we’re headed, but it’s a chance to move on.  At least it’s bloody gorgeous up there; very conducive to writing spells.

Love wins!

Oh my gods!

In all sincerity it has taken this long to convince myself I’m not dreaming … I got a text from a rights group that announced the decision the moment it was given, but … wow.

I expect, once it’s sunk in, I shall have more to say in days to come but right now I’m too overwhelmed.  Also I’m busy baking in a daily hell of record breaking GEORGIA summer highs.  110°F in the shade is terrible for cognitive thought and/or creativity (which potentially explains a great deal about the deep south).

Congrats to all the newlywed couples out there and all the ones whose marriages have been properly accepted and respected by the laws of our supposedly free nation.

Thoughts about Caitlyn Jenner

Well, by now I’m sure a lot of people are aware that the person formerly known to the world as one Mr Bruce Jenner is to be known as Ms Caitlyn Jenner.

Bravo.

Sincerely. I mean, why not?

Is it her fault she’s someone people have heard of? (I hadn’t until this whole trans suspicion business began in the past months, but I’m still trying to figure out who the Karadashians are and why anyone cares … seriously, I don’t know this) No, so the trans people upset the media is giving her attention … target it at the media, not her.

BUT I would like to point out:

  1. Ms Cox got all this attention first, so a win for racial trans visibility, yes?
  2. She’s apparently a well respected athelete and celebrity. This is great. You can’t deny things took a turn for the better when Ellen & Neil Patrick Harris both came out: people find it hard to support laws that create suffering for such beloved people.
  3. At this point any positive visibility is good visibility.  First Time, then … was it GQ with that trans hunk recently (sorry his name escapes me so Googling very unhelpful) was in/on … now Vanity Fair?!  Fingers crossed to see one of our gorgeous trans sisters in Playboy (now wouldn’t that be a serious acceptance win!)

In other countries maybe you can change people’s minds with reason and politics.  In America, though, you change it with pop culture and celebrity.  No one cares about the Supreme Court case, they care what Kanye West had on his Wheaties.  They care about the equality cases if it affects them, if they think it affects them (yes, I’m looking at you religious right), or if a beloved celeb cares.  So by a reversal:  Ellen cares and so does Mr Takei so millions of people do care.

It is a good idea to fight this creepy obsession that the US has with its celebrities, but that’s a separate battle.  In the mean time it is a tool to be embraced.  Misses Jenner, Cox, Mock, et al help just by being people that give us a face.  

Should the media be paying more attention to wars, political corruption, LGBT+ discrimination, etc?  Of course!  But they won’t.  CNN once upon a time would have hardly spent 5 minutes of their loop on Caitlyn, yesterday she was 95% of 2hrs broadcast.  

These are our vessels to make things better.  Can’t get the conversation onto homelessness in LGBT youth?  Let one of them bring that up (thank you for that Ms Cox).  Or let the public opinion shift by their visibility breaking down people’s perceptions and this reducing the discrimination that leads to those ugly numbers.  As far as I’ve noticed watching the stats, the more gay/lesbian celebrities who’re out the lower the ugly homosexuality stats get.  Are they great?  No!  Better just means not as terrible as last time.

So, yes, I applaud her.  I shake my head at the news for their treatment of her – especially the disrespect from conservative news – but more than that I hang my head for the LGBT disrespect she got.  Wealth makes the cosmetic stuff easier, but it doesn’t mean her struggle with herself was any less real or hard than for anyone else … her celebrity status could even have made that worse.  Let her be welcomed with a lovely photoshoot and some news coverage, be happy for her, then move on with important matters afterward and with a new name on the list of faces with a certain power that may be the crucial leverage to enact some change.

Happy Mothers’ Day!!

Česky: Matka a dítě. עברית: אם ובנה, 2007. Sve...

I know it’s not Mothers’ Day all over the world.  Sue me, I’m in the U.S. and I didn’t even realise it was this weekend here until Friday leaving work, okay?

Anyway, Love or Lust is 100% off anywhere I could set it.  Ready or Not is 50% off in all the same places.  Oh, did I mention this sale is going to run all week?

As usual I’ve too little practical control over Nook and Kindle pricing.  Amazon will probably eventually price match me, but I can’t say when.  Kindles and Nooks can read the files you’d get from All Romance eBooks, so I recommend users of those devices consider that source.

I know, a Lesbian Teen Romance, what kind of Mother’s Day gift is that?

I don’t know.  I suppose I was thinking about all of those lesbian mothers out there who in the past year have seen their lives validated and vindicated somewhat in … is it 38 states, plus DC and Puerto Rico now?  Some people prefer YA/Teen fiction; I mean some of the best new books I’ve read in the past decade was the Harry Potter series.  Maybe it could be a way for some of my lesbian/bi female readers to prime their mother(s) for letting her/them know about the new fiancée and future daughter-in-law they’ll be meeting today?  Give me a break, it makes more sense than some of the places out there having a sale this weekend.

And, whether you’re a mother of human kids or furry/feathered/scaly ones have a happy Mothers’ Day whether you grab a copy of my books or not.

Oh, now this is just insulting

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 08.54.53

Seriously? I mean, they couldn’t have tried even a little harder?!

Mens’ clothes?  Me?!  And Ralph Lauren at that?!  I’m a hippie chick, damnit, Mx Spammer.  Sheesh!

Okay, to be fair I do have a Ralph Lauren sweater I picked up for like $4 at a thrift shop once that I rather like because it’s big and comfortable and warm that I didn’t even realise was RL until I got it home.  It caught my eye because I’m from the 80s and the pattern reminded me of some of Cliff Huxtable’s tamer sweaters.

Puppies …

No, I’m not doing a post about young canines.  I wish I were, actually; instead I shall be venting some steam on a matter.

I know I write romances, but I’m also a fan of speculative fiction.  This means I tend to be somewhat aware of what’s going on around the matters of WorldCon and the Hugo awards.

For those of my readers (is it pretentious to actually think of anyone who follows this blog or reads my books as “fans”?) who don’t keep up with the SF/F universe this post might not interest you, but you may wish to keep reading anyway if you like reality TV a la Jerry Springer and … buggered if I know, I really haven’t watched TV since 2002 in any capacity that is worth considering.

Oh my gods, where to begin?  Look, if you keep up with this stuff can I assume you’re familiar with the vitriolic, misogynistic, sociopathic troll who calls himself Vox Day?  (No, seriously, this is me being my usual sunny and kind, sweet self … if I weren’t I’m pretty sure I’d have to resort to Russian and German as English lacks the requisite vocabulary to voice my thoughts)  Is it also safe to assume that you’re marginally familiar with the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies?

If not, you can get a really awesome education about them on the blogs of Messrs John Scalzi and George R R Martin.

I just want to chime in with this:  What the fuck guys?!  I mean, seriously?!

There.  Okay, first off, you really spoil your arguments when you can’t keep your story straight from one day to the next.  It doesn’t.  If it’s about diversity in the genre, then stick with that and when it’s pointed out that you’re idiots because Exhibit A, B, C, D … QQ, RR … ZZ1ZZ4%3ERT, etc then just sit down and shut up.

Do not, instead, decide that it’s about bringing back the good ol’ adventure yarn in place of “message fic” (also do not knock “message fic” while it is possible to witness the orgasmic pleasure you derive by merely typing the name Robert A Heinlein, it REALLY spoils your point), but then start bitching that things don’t qualify when numerous items are pointed out, but those items just happen to have females who play a role other than damsel in distress (Uh, one word for you, buddies, little thing you probably never heard of from the early 20th century Triplanetary … she wasn’t a damsel in distress), characters who incidentally are gay or trans or black or fuchsia or vegetarian or ¼ amphibian … If you’re trying to claim you aren’t over-privileged, white-supremacist, homophobic, transphobic, etc it’d help if you didn’t call things that are exactly the old-fashioned classic adventure yarn you claim to want “message fic about gay issues [for example]” just because a character is gay.  Trust me, there’s a difference between a character being gay and a story dealing with gay issues.  My stories touch on gay issues, they aren’t strictly about them, and in SF/F there frequently is the conceit that the society has no gay issues in the first place (some of the talented Ed Greenwood‘s work, for example).

Just … no.  The whole thing?  You can’t have a secret cabal of 8000 people dictating an award you can’t even make up your mind if it is relevant & important or not.  You certainly can’t say various different authors giving non-identical lists of books they liked which number more items than can be Hugo finalists are setting up the ballots and then turn around and create slates of specific items that should be nominated and voted into certain orders.  No.  Just, are you people serious?  Also, you’re authors, have you ever heard of using capital letters?  What are you all … was it Hemmingway who never touched his shift key? [Edit:  Apparently that’s E E Cumming, either way no one I liked trying to read]

Of course these clowns won’t read my post.  It’d be funny if they did, not.  First off, I’m a woman, so they wouldn’t take this seriously, they’d just leave trollish comments that I wouldn’t bother to approve unless they’ve started leaving more intelligent comments than the last ones I saw elsewhere.  I’m trans, so they’d have terrible things to say which would probably make me cry and then my wife would be in jail for murder because she lacks the requisite subtlety (especially when angry) to make sure the case is of “a missing person presumed dead” instead.  Oh, and I’m a lesbian, and they’re pretty ugly about that too.  And I don’t write SF/F so somehow this makes my opinion about the genre I’ve loved most of my life invalid (I was born in 1981 and have a few fragments of memory of seeing Return of the Jedi in a cinema for crying out loud!).

Oh, this would be further evidence that their own arguments are invalid given that they are often so dismissive of people who are openly Other.

P.S.  Question:  If I ever were to win a Hugo, since Færie Patrol books would qualify for it even if the genre rarely gets any attention at WorldCon … would it be wrong of me to make some kind of off colour joke about the trophy and its profound resemblance to a sex toy?  Something like “Cool … are batteries included?  Where’re the speed controls?” 😇