Writer’s can’t take time off

Greatest Hits (Billy Joel albums)

Greatest Hits (Billy Joel albums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s another National Novel Writer even this month and while I’ve ceased having anything to do with them I still haven’t got around to blocking/unsubscribing from the periodic emails, and I’ve friends who still do it and still peruse the forums.

There is this pervasive notion among those who give writing advice that boggles my mind so thoroughly it deserves a second post … I’m not sure I’m up to providing a link to my first tackling of this subject.

What topic? This idea you have to write. You can’t take time off for family, for holidays, for illness, for simple lack of inspiration. To this I say “bullshit“, emphatically and unshakingly bullshit.

Now the argument is that, if you find one reason to not write you’ll find other and fall into a vicious cycle of unwriting.

Lawrence Block says:

“If you want to write fiction, the best thing you can do is take two aspirins, lie down in a dark room, and wait for the feeling to pass.
If it persists, you probably ought to write a novel.”

Excerpt From: Block, Lawrence. “Writing the Novel.” Open Road Integrated Media, 2010-06-15. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=411349843

If you have a story you want to write, you’ll write it. If it is such a chore that you can talk yourself out of it, then you may wish to ask yourself what is your real reason to do this and if it’s worth it.

Me? I just spent a week in hospital. I’m fine, but in pain – major surgery is unpleasant that way; I’m on narcotic pain relief, suffice to say I’m not writing. Besides, I can’t pick up my writing back without popping my stitches so I can’t write if I weren’t vaguely out of it.

My point is, I still want to see the end of Now & Forever, so the day I can pick that bag up and complete a rational though at one and the same time I’ll be right back to writing, and probably better at it as the surgery fixed a painful problem that is not an open topic for discussion (not embarrassing or tragic, just personal and private).

Artists need not bleed for their work. Certainly they should not buy the razor blades, bare their wrists, and make all the cuts themselves. Our art should be part of us, it should be something we can’t not do. Art is also life, we cannot make good art if we do not live. Take musicians who take their music so seriously they burn out after a half dozen albums because they are never not touring or recording, now think of Buffett or Billy Joel with their decades long careers, upwards of hundred albums, and no burn out: they remembered to live. They took time off for love, divorce, children, getting shot at by Jamaican police, philanthropy, etc.

It’s true for all of us. Take a day off to climb a mountain, take a two week honeymoon in the Italian Riviera, relax and recover when you find yourself stapled shut after a visit to the ER, take a nap in a hammock on a warm sunny spring day … it’s okay, your book will still be there when you get back.

To those who say I should have written while in hospital and should be while recovering, I repeat: bullshit.

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Nominate your favourite indie author(s)

I hope, maybe, some of you will nominate Love or Lust certainly I do hope that some indie author or other has put a book out in the past year that has inspired or impressed you enough to nominate he or she.  You can also, by the by, nominate multiple books/authors.

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The 50 Self-Published Novels Worth Reading (2013/14)

Nominations Now Open!!!

We need your help in putting together a list of some of the best self-published books from the past year. Read something great? Nominate it. Written something great? Urge a fan to nominate it.

The interest our list has already generated has been phenomenal; in the three days since we opened up nominations it has already become our most popular post ever. That’s great for our ego, but more importantly, it means that whichever books make the list will get the exposure they deserve.

The Rules

1. The book must be self-published or published by a small, “indie-minded” house.
2. The book must have been published on or after 1 January, 2013.
3. The book must be available for purchase, in paperback or ebook format, from a large store – Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
4. Only nominations received on or before 21 April, 2014 will be considered.

Haven’t read a self-published book yet? Here are some we think might be worth your consideration.

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Book 3 is going well!

At the very acute risk of jinxing myself I really have to say that Book 3 is proving loads of fun to write and is going smoothly and, relatively, quickly.  

I’m not far enough in to have a title yet; I’m not 100% sure what it’s about just yet, I’ll probably have that worked out around what will prove to be the half-way mark.

Still, if it manages to retain its smoothness and ease of writing I could actually see my way to putting it out late this year, then again I may just use the extra time for more editing passes and to get a head start on Now & Forever (what I’m currently thinking the final book’s title will be).

As with all so far this one is proving highly emotional and full of ups and downs for our lovely protagonists — and I’m only into chapter 3!  

A curiosity with this one is that, so far, the chapters have been quite shortish.  I don’t think a one will be more than 15 or 20 pages typed up; the longest is something like 11 pages written.  

In any event, keep an eye on your favourite way to keep track of me.  With anything like luck I won’t be posting any nervous breakdowns and emotional distress over the book in another couple of weeks and in a month’s time or so I’ll probably have a title and cover.

I know, I know, supposedly there’s meant to be a big deal with the whole “cover reveal” concept and making a big deal of it.  Don’t really know when/where/how that got started and don’t care.  It doesn’t interest me as a reader and doesn’t seem like a big deal as an author.  I’ll just post the cover once I’ve made it and let you all marvel at my lack of artistic skill.

 

Which character is the author?

Among the many odd questions an author is often asked one of the oddest is some variation on “Which character is you?”

It’s so very strange to be asked this – because depending how you look at it, either all of them or none; unless, of course, I happen to have a character who is a shy author named Jaye Em Edgecliff that lives in Georgia and writes teen fiction.

On the one hand, they are all me.  They do, after all, come from my own hand and head.  They may be inspired by any number of things from notions and ideas to other fictional characters I encounter in my reading or watching a movie to real people I’ve met or seen or read about.  In the end, though, they’re my perceptions of those people.  Even if we assume the ficton view of reality wherein all of these characters are very much alive and real somewhere, it doesn’t change that the story on the page is my perception of those very real people.  By that measure, all the characters are me.  They’re all my perceptions of right and wrong, my perceptions of beauty and kindness, my perceptions of humour and sorrow, and so on.  How I narrate the story is going to highlight those perceptions – they’ll paint who is or isn’t supposed to be a villain and who is or isn’t in love with whom.

More accurately, though, they are a part of me.  My own dreams, desires, thoughts, feelings, experiences, darknesses, prejudices, anger, sorrow, laughter, and all go into shaping the words on the page and little pieces of those go into each little person in the dreamworld of the fiction.

In that sense – unless one of the characters shares my name, my description, etc. none of them are me.  I don’t share a religion with any one of my characters; my political and philosophical viewpoints do not perfectly align with any one of my characters.  Yvette and Lucas like eggplant, Lauren does not – neither do I, but that doesn’t make Lauren me.

I’m not sure what the point in asking such a question is.  I have written characters who share nothing with me, personally, beyond morphologically – they’re human shaped, not even actually human, just shaped this way.  I often write characters with different beliefs, different outlooks on life and everything else; major and minor characters, protagonist and antagonist alike.  I assume that this is mostly true of many authors.  I suppose we all, somewhere along the way, do write our views and thoughts into things.  This character or that one will say some brilliant line that perfectly parallels our own views.  Sometimes, if we feel strongly on a matter, we might write a protagonist who shares fully in our outlooks and thoughts; still, I do not believe that means the characters are ourselves – I’ve yet to meet any author who is writing purely from personal experience, using the Dragnet names changed and slightly tweaked reality to write their novels.  Oh, they exist, certainly, but I believe there’s a good reason they’re rare:  most people who live that interesting a life write memoirs, not novels.

So, in answer to the question – no, neither Lauren, Sally, Yvette, Lucas, Allison, Sarah, Lisa, Lucy, nor anyone else you have met or ever will meet in my stories is me, unless there’s ever a quiet author named Jaye … then maybe, but she’s shy and avoids the narrative camera like it’s carrying a plague.

An idea for anyone interested …

I love to hear about new books as much as the next person.  And I’ve noticed that some of my readership is comprised of writers.  And a simple fact of life is that some have more and others less readership than I do.  Certainly it’s a given that we all have different readership.

I’ve heard of blog tours, guest bloggers, etc.  And this isn’t so different as that; but a little bit, yes. Continue reading

Half way there

This edit pass of Ready or Not is going amazingly smoothly.  I’m already about half through it all and have mostly been fixing typos.  This bodes very well for moving up the release date!

I’m hoping, if this pace continues, to have this in my editor’s hands by the end of the month — maybe end of the first week of February at the latest.  She has to do another pass; no way to avoid it, my grammar and orthography can get pretty lousy at points — my schooling included little education, and less where English was concerned.  Too, I’m loathe to ever release anything that hasn’t been looked at by another set of eyes after being written/changed.

Depending when she can start the editing process on her end … in a perfect world we’d be looking at an early March release!  But more realistically I’d say no earlier than April or May.

Getting somewhere

Ready or Not is a step closer to release.

I’m in the process of another proofreading pass.  This one, sadly, is less a polish run and more of a revision/redraft/rewrite than when I’d don’t this for Love or Lust, but such is life.  The importance of that distinction is that it means I’m that much more likely to need till June to release.  With luck things will be swift and smooth enough that I’ll be done with this by March and able to give over to my editor for that last check for typos and grammar mistakes … if that’s the case we could see release by April or May.  So, fingers are crossed.

I’ve written one, and may write other short stories that expand things from the final book.  Still trying to decide if I ought to do that before or after putting the book out.  Probably after, at least for the one written already, since it spoils a surprise.

A truer graphic hath never been seen

I so very much believe this.  I mean, why couldn’t a young lady wish to play with Transformers™, you a young man to play with Barbie™?

Why does the former have to mean she’s a “tom boy” or the little boy a … does anyone say ‘sissy’ anymore?

A toy is a toy.  If it makes the child happy, who cares what colour it is or what character it is?  Does it matter the child’s age or sex if they find joy in a dolly, or if they find a little pleasure in a Nerf™ gun?

Frankly the only time a toy ought to care about sex is, as the graphic says, when it’s for sex — some of those just don’t work for one set of parts or the other.

5 more stars!

For those suspicious I’ve made this up, you can see it for yourself at Amazon here and here.

It really is lovely to see things like this.  It’s very heartening to see when the characters evoke something within the reader like this.

I may have mentioned the one from October already — I suddenly can’t recall.  I know I’d meant to, so I’m mentioning it now to be sure.

The newest one is something that is very uplifting to an author.  Just as with my three star review, I’m very proud of this one — not because of the rating (though I can’t say I’m displeased with it ;)) but rather because it’s nice to know that one has created something that really jives with certain people’s lives and experiences.

And yes, I know the story is a little hard to believe.  That’s the point of fiction, though, it’s always a little hard to believe; I mean you have to swallow a lot of coincidences of one form or another — but then again, life is full of those coincidences.  It’s why people say truth is strange because fiction has to make sense; trouble is, the odds don’t normally work out so conveniently in regards of both good and bad, so the job of a writer is to balance the amazing coincidences with the day-to-day expectations to make them ignorable, or to play magician and keep distracting you from them by sufficient waving of wands and flashing of shiny things.

For those awaiting Ready or Not will be happy to know that it is, so far, still on track for release between Easter and June.  I know that’s a frustratingly vague range, but I promise to do all I can to have it somewhat more specific date by the end of January.

5.0 out of 5 stars None, October 29, 2013
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Wonderfull book. I could not but i down. I have read it twice now i love it so much. Hopefully the next one come out soon. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, December 8, 2013
By
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: Love or Lust (Now & Forever) (Kindle Edition)

Great story even if it is a little hard to believe. This book really hit close to home while reading what “Pixie“ was going through. Just about every gay person goes through having those fears and freak out a as she did. I really hope their story does continue into another book. I know I’ll be watching for it.

Vulgarity, sex, and other offensive things

As always, my opinion regarding asking “should I …” when writing your story should always be answered with “yes, absolutely, if you want to”.  But as always there can be room to discuss the impact, and nuances of that answer.

Graphics violence, explicit sex, vulgar language, lewd behaviour … should these be in our fiction?

The answer to that isn’t so clear cut, honestly.  Then again, perhaps it is.  Tough decision.  On one hand, they’re a part of our reality, so of course they should be there for realism — and even fantasy shouldn’t shy away from them unless it’s trying to paint a rosier setting.  On the other … how detailed a picture do we wish to paint for the youths?

Frankly, in most regards, I see it like this:  language should be accurate.  If swearing isn’t common in your fantasy world, then don’t use any.  If you’re writing teenagers in modern America, then odds are some or many of them will swear (probably, rather a lot).  We were all teenagers once, or possibly still are, and we probably hear teenagers talking to one another at the mall — profanity is a way of life.  The key is to learn the forbidden words of the day.  30 or more years ago the scary word that you just didn’t use if you could help it, in conversation, in dialogue, anywhere, was fuck.  Now?  Fucking fucked the fucker; that’s a sentence someone might say in a crowded street at the top of their lungs.  You’ll shock few with it.  Nigger, however … that will get people’s attention in a hurry.  That’s not to say it shouldn’t be used in the interest of accurate dialogue, but you should — for the sake of social acceptability of your work — weigh your options on using it at all, and be sure your dialogue uses it accurately or you’ll simply piss a lot of people off either for using it, or using it wrong, or … simply put, it’s the new fuck.

Also, what age are you writing for?  If for children, that’s a tough one.  I mean, as I understand it, in French any age says zut, merde, pute, et al because there is no dang/darn, shoot, and fudge.  It makes me wonder if, just probably, you find those words in French childrens’ books, therefore (I can’t read French, and don’t much enjoy the language, so I’m speculating from what I know of it from people who do).  In English, however, we tend to frown upon using profanity in front of children, so it’s probably seen as best to keep such language out of your childrens’ books.  Just remember, legal age of majority is not the same as adulthood versus childhood.  Many people are not so much children any longer in their language, experience, attitudes, etc. once they’re somewhere between 10 and 14, certainly by the time they’re 15.  Still, it’s your story, if you want little Brother Bear saying “Fuck this shit” to Momma Bear in your kids’ story, it’s your kids’ story, just don’t be surprised when every protect the children organisation in the country is calling for your head on a spike.  Personally, I prefer to be true to the characters.  Some people swear like the only vocabulary they have is entirely vulgarities, others blush if they say ‘heck’.  As such there are swear words in my stories, but it’s dialogue and by people who speak that way, it’s not meant for impact (well, at one point, but that’s after you’ve got to know Lauren well enough to realise that, while nothing too shocking about ‘fuck’ or its presence in the story, its presence in her mouth is shocking), it’s just meant to characterise.

Violence.  Fun one that.  Certainly let’s leave that out of the little kids’ works.  I mean, come one, do you really want to give little Timmy nightmares?  Then again … ever read the old fairy tales as the brothers Grimm published them?  How about the older versions they worked from?  Maybe, if we don’t shelter little Suzy, she won’t be so bothered by a bit of visceral depiction and graphic violence.  After that … stand outside a cinema for 20 minutes some Friday night.  Believe me, by the time Jimmy is 10, Jimmy will watch Terminator and laugh at the cheesy special effects (ah, the expectations of the advanced CGI generation), you won’t shock him with some blood and gore.  After that it’s just a question of how disgustingly visceral you should be.  Do we give a highly detailed and graphic account of someone committing hari kari?  Do we do it in first person POV?  Mmmm … plenty of full grown adults, even a few who’ve been in war, might be squeamish to read that.  Doesn’t mean don’t do it, just remember — a reader who throws up, is a reader who may not read your next book — so you might ask yourself, do I need to be so graphic?  I base it entirely on tone of the story.  Now & Forever will never go into graphic detail of any violence that might be occurring; Færie Patrolon the other hand, might a bit — though we won’t be seeing anything as graphic as Kill Bill.  

Sex.  Funny thing, sex … what’s so wrong with it?  Sex is great, it makes kids, it doesn’t hurt anyone (certain very frightening fetishes aside — RP is one thing, doing that stuff for real!?  ~shudder~).  Still, it’s dirty, and something you should shield the children from.  Again, if you want to keep the PTA off your back, then leave it out of your Amelia Bedelia inspired fiction.  Stuff for the middle school/junior high crowd?  High school?  Frankly — if they’ve hit puberty, then odds are pretty good they know what sex is.  Unless I went to a very unusual school … they’ve got a fair notion by the time they’re a year or two away, I believe I was starting to get the clue around 3rd grade, myself.  So now the question is, fade to black or get explicit?  Explicit will almost certainly get people on your back if you write for a crowd under 25, but depending on details you probably won’t get much flak if you keep the target 16+.  So, again, is the exact detail of exactly who put what where and in what order so vital as to risk alienating readers?  It might be.  Certainly I could see a very clear argument for explicit sex scenes in a teen fiction work, I really can.  Point of note, even for the more puritanical crowd:  even the ones who graduate high school as virgins, because of those little “not until married pledges” … not personally, but some people I know quite well … they tend to be very technical on the whole virginity thing; put bluntly, an amazing number of ‘virgins’ are quite versed in oral and anal activities.  By being explicit you’re not providing these ‘kids’ with anything they haven’t already seen, done, or fantasised about unless you’re digging into the twisted depths of fetishist sites, then you might be providing a colourful piece of education.  Personally, I fade to black.  I always feel silly getting specific; but if it doesn’t violate the tone of the story then go for it, but if it would … well … for example, the sex scene in Ready or Not (uhm, spoiler alert?) is not so much fade to black as fade to the emotions rather than the bodies because the mechanical aspects of the event would have been discordant with the tone of the moment.

As always, you’ll write very little that’s safe enough not to offend someone.  I mean, have you ever mentioned that Jesus drank wine to a Temperance League member?  As with violating the rules of physics or the laws of grammar, do it with eyes wide open.  Remember, while in the end you’re writing for yourself, if you plan to publish then you are also writing for the public.  The public might be 7billion souls upon this globe alone, so there’ll always be someone who agrees with you, you ought to ask yourself “how many people are going to like reading about a toddler prostitute assassin” then ask “how many parents are likely to buy this storybook about said toddler for their sweet little toddler’s bedtime storybook” … no one says you can’t write and draw it and put it out there, just please don’t be surprised when you raise eyebrows and when your sales are low.

Taboos, those glorious taboos.  Society has expectations.  It’s our jobs to question, probe, exploit, reinforce, shatter, violate, uphold, and ignore those expectations, those mores, those taboos … but if you do it with eyes open you do it in a meaningful way.  When you are aware that most parents won’t like a storybook for little Timmy to be about a toddler assassin prostitute, then you will approach the narrative, the themes, the plot, etc. rather differently, one would assume, than if you take it for granted that no parent would ever take issue with a storybook about an assassin prostitute aged three.