Mission accomplished!

It’s a 3-star review, but I’m proudest of this one.  I started Now & Forever to be inspirational for both the sorts of parents and teens that the story is about, but also for their friends and families.  To see a positive review from one such parent of one such teen is very warming:

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Sandy Grassini‘s review

Jul 10, 13
It’s a week before her freshman year when Lauren Conners is thinking, for what feels like the billionth time, of breaking up with her boyfriend of the past couple of years. In a seeming answer to her fervent prayers for guidance she looks up into the hypnotic eyes of the quiet little Washington town’s exotic, dark, and alluring new addition.The two fall immediately for one another when their eyes meet. But Lauren can’t be sure – is this love at first sight? An answer from God to her prayer for guidance? Or is this simply lust as she wrestles with newborn passions and desires for the beautiful creature that has entered her life?

The relationship is fraught with other issues on top of the poor young ballerina’s internal and spiritual uncertainty: the two attend the best school in the area, a private school, Immaculate Conception, a Catholic school Lauren has attended since she was in sixth grade and where she has a reputation as a pious, studious, bright, Good Girl. So … what’s the problem here? Oh, her newfound love (or is it lust?) is a girl.

The author has done a fabulous job with each individual character. both girls and parents have great sense of humors. Both parents are very laid back and easy going and suport both their children as they embark on their journey to see if what they have is real.

Sally is a young freshman who saw Lauren and thought it was love at first sight. Lauren feels a connection as well. Even though Lauren isn’t sure about her sexuality, she embraces her feelings towards Sally. Puppy love is so sweet, isn’t it? I call it puppy love because we are talking about 2 14 year old kids. Do they even know what real love is all about. Lauren questions whether or not she’s only lusting after Sally due to her looks and not feeling that same love in return.

Sally has the best sense of humor and I love the way she makes everyone laugh.

Lauren is a sweet freshman who is having difficulty trying to figure out why she does not feel more toward her boyfriend then just friendship. She is confused. Until she meets Sally. Sally also has a great sense of humor. You will see this throughout the book. They are both so sweet, I would ben honored to have them as my own daughters.

As a parent with a daughter that was younger than these two are and faced with the same situation, I thought I was a good candidate to read and rate this book.

Now back to the additional characters. You have both parents, who have been very supportive of the girls new found love. I can relate with these parents, because I have an open communication type relationship with my daughter and she knows she can come to me for anything. I did love these characters, because they were very laid back and easy going. Both loving their daughters very much and the huge key here is the support. They were also very encouraging and helping the girls deal with their sexuality. i would be happy to call them as friends if it were my daughter in this situation.

I rated this book 3 stars. The book was well written, great format. Its basically the day and the life of 2 teenage girls trying to figure out who they are. There wasn’t really any excitement to this book, just normal teenage stuff. I do get what the author was trying to accomplish here, but I would have liked to see more of a story line versus just every day life.

Notions

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. Español: Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, fumando. Česky: Zakladatel psychoanalýzy Sigmund Freud kouří doutník. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In reading and writing, who owes what to whom, I wonder.

Does the author owe it to the reader, to pander to their preconceived ideas and ideals?  Or is it the duty of the reader to put those notions aside at the door and open their mind to the text before them?  Perhaps both?

In a perfect world, to me, there would be no genre.  It’s a sticky thing.  It’s a useful tool, somewhat, for knowing what themes and tropes — what tools and building blocks — were used to create the story, but at the same time it can be a detrimental thing as readers may flock to a book thinking it’s something it isn’t, or scorn it for the same reason and all because of which shelf in the store it’s on, or which cute little sticker the library put on the spine.

In some ways, I do think authors owe a little to the reader.  I think, for example, that an author should not write a book that has signs of being built on fantasy themes and tropes, then call the short stocky things with beards and axes ‘elves’.  Most certainly she could do this.  It’s her world and story after all!  B’God write your story, not what someone else tells you it ought to be; but, and this is important, make a little concession to the reader by introducing that the short stocky bearded things are elves.  It comes down to description.  Don’t take for granted that your reader will decide that an elf is short stocky and bearded with an axe penchant.  However, if your elves are tall willowy and fae, then you need only say ‘elf’, because you’ve hit the natural assumptions.

The reader, however, owes the author a bit of slack.  Tropes, stereotypes, genre conventions, and so forth can only take us so far — we can only combine those in so many ways before we’ve run out of stories, unless we tinker and tamper with them.  We need to sometimes have dwarves that love trees, elves who love axes, and dragons who dance ballet.  We need redheads with the temperament of Mother Theresa, and blondes who’re super-geniuses.  We need sex-crazed Bible-thumpers, and professional companions who’ve taken vows of chastity.

Some notions, too, aren’t … natural.  These are personal notions.  This is nudity does not equal sex.  ‘He stood before her, admiring her nude form …’ can be the start of a sex scene or the start of a session in a photography studio.  Even if he’s naked as well.  And gay does not equal horny.  It means happy or homosexual.  ‘Jillian admired Ariel’s full, round breasts as she shifted her grip on the tattoo gun and …’ isn’t going to start a sex scene, Ariel is getting a tattoo from Jillian, who happens to admire women.

When we enjoy fiction created by another, we should consider that this person does not think as we think, do as we do, know as we know.  The fiction creator should ask himself, what is my audience going to absolutely know?

If you’re Michael Bay, agreeing to make the Transformers movie, you know your audience knows there ought to be giant robots, and they ought to fight; strangely some of the critics turned out to not know this … but that’s just proof that you’ll never please everyone.  If you’re Professor Tolkien, you know your audience does not know what a hobbit is.  Thus, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’ is going to be met with confusion; thus you continue further on with ‘What is a hobbit?  Well, I suppose they do need …’

As the reader however, you must maintain something of an open mind.  Allow the author that chance to explain to you what is a hobbit.  Also, give the author the benefit of the doubt as to just what a cigar is.  As Freud said, ‘sometimes [it] is just a cigar’, but as George Carlin stated ‘sometimes it’s a big brown dick’.  As writers we should be sure to give context to when it is which; a metaphor, after all, is lost if one is not given enough clues to know to look for and thus see it.

The nudity equals sex thing especially gets to me.  I find it a fascinating modern concept.  Once upon a time, people gathered to swim — even in some of the most conservative periods of the previous couple of centuries (not all, mind, I’m not a revisionist historian, I accept that normal was relative to time and place as much in 1763 as in 1996) — in nought but what God gave them.  Because that is how one swam, it wasn’t sex.  In some periods women and men swam together unashamedly, others they were to keep separate, and still more they could not even share the water in the first place.  But to say that two people were naked together could just as likely, more so in those days, speak to the reader that bathing/swimming was to ensue, or that some misadventure had just transpired.  Today, it means sex.  What puzzles me is that people will read sex even when there isn’t any.

Ed Greenwood has stated that his character Storm, is often naked as a place-holder for having sex due to the constraints of the TSR editors — he has also said that, sometimes, she was simply naked; also, if he had never said that, many would never have once suspected that a single sex scene was intended between the pages of any of those stories.  But many an author has no reason to have this.  If a character gets undressed it’s due to weather or other circumstance.

I think that one bothers me because it shows a kind of issue that goes beyond fiction.  That’s a social sickness in our own culture.  We’ve gone from believing that two characters in a book swimming together nude is a euphemistic sex scene, to believing that two people discovered together swimming nude are doing so to have sex.

It causes panic in the streets, CPA and the police are called if a mother attempts to develop film upon which she’d snapped a cute picture of her child in the bath — something that once upon a time was considered perfectly natural thing to want to do, and something to embarrass them with in a decade or so when her young beaus started showing up to take her out.  If a father catches his son naked with another boy ‘Oh my God!  They’re gay!’

We carry this into our reading.  Once upon a time, I would not have had to have anything more in the narrative of Love or Lust‘s second chapter but to say

Sally joined her new friend in the warm waters, eager to help revive the poor dear from the stresses of the encounter with Darrien.

Yvette showed Sally how to massage the arms, temple, chest, and side of the tiny form to seemingly wipe away the memory and the tears.  As the music began the two were lulled to a nap.

True, the real scene is, essentially, that, but my point is that it’s all I’d have had to say.  There’d have been no build up.  To put it into perspective, in the era of the later portions of the Little House series Laura is being taken out for rides in the country of a Sunday afternoon.  Pa and Ma trusted Almanzo, and they trusted Laura.  Simply put, the two had plenty  of opportunity to ensure that, once more, a blushing bride accomplished in 7 months, what takes 9 for cow or countess.  Certainly that expression means that, sometimes, that trust was misplaced — or was it?  She was a blushing bride in a slightly too tight dress, after all, so perhaps the trust was less misplaced and perhaps a bit overextended?  Or was it even that?  Maybe part of that trust was that, should such activity take place, and should it lead to a child, that the young man would marry the young woman without Pa needing to have a few words while holding a shotgun.  Certainly more than a few young gentlemen never even needed Pa’s words sans the shotgun — he came forward and proposed.  Oh, sure, sometimes those marriages weren’t so great — but that’s a risk no matter how you decide who to marry.  Give me a break, I’m a romance writer, we like (or at least I like) ‘and they lived happily ever after’.

It’s not just sex and nudity.  I just think that’sthe strangest one.  In the beginning half of the 20th century our good friend Mr Robert A Heinlein wrote a line that wowed, awed, stunned, and amazed:  ‘The door irised open.’

He’s acknowledging that people have a preconceived notion how a door works and looks — he also explained it no further, thus showing that the preconceived notion in the story is that they work and look this way.

This is the give and take between author and reader at it’s finest.  It is.  On his side, Heinlein acknowledged that the reader would not think of iris, thus he did not simply say ‘the door opened’.  For the reader’s part, they accepted (or were meant to, and as I understand it did back then — not so much now, but that’s a discussion for another time) that it was as unimportant to the story, the characters, and the moment than if we were to say ‘the door swung shut’ — the purpose of saying ‘irised’ was much as ‘swung’ a little extra description, a sharper image of the scene.

One curiosity I’ve found with regards to notions is a mode of thought I find most often in my American friends, though it isn’t exclusive there:  My experiences are what is perfectly normal and the way that it always works.  No, of course no one has said that sentence outright … at least no one I’ve met.  Rather it’s the mentality they seem wont to approach life with.  Take a conversation that happened when I showed a few friends my blurb for Love or Lust

It’s a week before her freshman year when Lauren Conners is thinking, for what feels like the billionth time, of breaking up with her boyfriend of the past couple of years. In a seeming answer to her fervent prayers for guidance she looks up into the hypnotic eyes of the quiet little Washington town’s exotic, dark, and alluring new addition.

That paragraph really tripped one gentleman up.  He just could not fathom the idea of a fourteen year old who’d been dating anyone for a couple of years.  And it wasn’t ‘oh what a novel idea’ it was ‘this is just horribly unrealistic’ (not the exact quote, but I can’t recall his words precisely, but that’s pretty close).  A mutual friend and I just stared for a moment.  We could understand, because we’d known of the idea of people not being allowed to date till they’re 14/15/16/35, but we also knew plenty of kids who’d been dating in one form or another … well, in my case, as far back as 7 or 8 years old.  Because, like with nudity, dating doesn’t have to mean sex.  It floored me, and worried me somewhat — was my experience so unusual?  So I asked around, and no … a lot of people were rather surprised by his reaction.  Some understood, but not how he could think it unrealistic — just that depending what state you’re standing in, it might be more or less normal.

This would be an example of the reader not keeping up his end of the bargain.  I’ve given the context: Washington (a traditionally quite progressive and open minded state) and ‘fervent prayers’ (a clue that this young lady is not likely to be a member of the Boy of the Week Club).  It was his job, on the flip side, to accept that — within the context of the story — fourteen year olds might have been dating since some time in 6th or 7th grade.  It’s also an example of what I mean about the sex.  In the more conservative past, it would be seen as odd that the young lady was courting at 12-14 (barring certain eras and social classes, we could discuss that in several volumes — just stay with me here, please) but it would raise an eyebrow or seven, but they would wait to understand the rest of the context.  Certainly their objections to it would simply be ‘well, it’s not time to be finding her a husband yet’.  However, today, in this era of Boy/Girl of the Week Club and dating from some point in middle or high school and through college, which eliminates the ‘that’s no time to be finding her a husband’ now we object?!  In the era of homosexuality being a mental illness and criminal offence young Sally and Lauren sharing a bath is seen as a sweet friendship (let’s just ignore the having decided to be girlfriends from the preceding chapter for the sake of argument, shall we?); today in the era of gay marriages and a push (dare I say shift to?) acceptance it’s ‘oh my God!  I can’t believe the parents allowed, even encouraged such a thing!’

Why not?  Nothing happens, there’s no hint that something will or should happen.  Why mayn’t two friends — regardless of how long known — share a soothing tub?  Is it because Sally is !GASP! a lesbian!?  [cue dramatic chord]  Why should that matter?  I’ve known two men, one gay and attracted to the other who was not gay, to share a bed.  They slept.  No euphemism, they simply slept together.  The gay friend might have wanted there to be more, and even suggested it a few times — but, strangely enough, gay men and lesbian women seem to speak a language that includes the word ‘no’ (or nej, or nein, or geen, or 不是 …) just as doe their heterosexual counterparts.  Would it somehow be overlooked as sweet if it isn’t known, at the time of that scene, that Sally prefers the ladies?  How about if it is, but the two girls are not yet a couple?

It’s back to the iris door.  Do we accept that this is normal and move on, now that we’ve been given — in four words!  that’s what I find amazing — the pertinent information about the visual scenery and the simple fact that this is not our today and world?  Or do we clamour ‘it isn’t realistic that the door would iris!  it would mean …’ and ‘why does the door iris!?  Oh God!  I can’t continue!  He has left me hanging here wondering just what catastrophe in history destroyed the humble door hinge!  Where’s the historical dissertation regarding this change in human habit!?’

Personally?  I say the former.  Authors, drop your hints.  Don’t forget your irises; don’t forget to establish your hippies don’t forget to describe your short, axeweilding, beer swigging, hairy faced elves!  You owe it to your readers sense of understanding.  Readers, you’ve a job too!  Acceptance.  If the door irises open, just accept that it does and that history has a reason and that the reason is not important right now.  It’s one adjective, relax.  If a hippie isn’t shy about being naked with someone, or allowing her daughter to be so, then relax … she’s not your daughter.  If the elves want to grow beards and destroy the tavern in a drunken brawl then so be it … it isn’t your setting.

Mounting anxiety

The end of Love or Lust is in sight. Saturday is on the horizon. I feel sick to my stomach.

Publishing a book is quite easy, from a technical standpoint. I could have done it a year ago today. I had the book typed, and myriad places would have taken a PDF or DOC file. But, that’s not good.

First there’s editing. My but what a knock to the ego to see all those mistakes! And even the technically good sentences and paragraphs that leave you thinking, Good God! What in Hell was I thinking?!

Once that’s done, the paranoid among us must proofread it again, and the perfectionists among us (sadly, that’s me – I’m lazy out of self defence, once I elect to do something …) can’t just look for spelling errors, we must reread the text and tweak dialogue and word choice.

Somewhere in here is agonising if you wish to publish this yourself or give it over to another to do. If you elect the agented route you have the headache of query letters and heartbreak of rejection after rejection – or increasingly more popular, no response whatsoever (silent rejection). Should you luck into an agent (or unluck, depending one’s philosophy at this juncture) there’s the agony of waiting while she (ever notice how many agents are women? I wonder why) shops it to publishers, then waiting for them to put you on a shelf.

Even on your own, you aren’t done at editing. God no. Formatting! Do you want a print edition? Better learn about gutters. Do you want page numbers? The title and author in alternating hearders? Layout is a wretch. You get better at it with practice, learn to preset as much of that before you start typing (and styles are my best friends). Exporting to MOBI and EPUB.

Personally I don’t care for the method Smashwords uses to convert documents. I make them in Pages, Adobe InDesign, or PubIt (Barnes & Noble epublishing service) then edit them with a text editor (Komodo is my favourite for this) because it never fails that SOMETHING will be wrong. The only thing I trust to get my MOBI files (Kindle) correct is Adobe InDesign with Amazon’s Kindle plugin.

A cover! Good Lord, you forgot a cover! Image searching! Find an artist! Can you afford an artist?! Creative Commons search? CreateSpace image library and cover creator?

Whew, we have a cover. Is its resolution correct? What do you mean the image size needs to be A x B on this service, but D x F on this other one?! ~sob~ Second guessing time! Oh, God, does this cover actually work? No, it’s stupid … no, no, it’s okay …

Then the anticipation. You’ve got it all done. The day is approaching. Th publisher says 29 June, or you picked it. It’s like waiting for Christmas, but not the excitement of what Father Christmas will bring, but the horror of just what monstrosity is lurking in that package from Aunt Phillis. You are equal parts terrified the book won’t sell a single copy, your own MOTHER didn’t buy it! That it will sell hundreds of copies in an hour and the next day a flood of criticism, negative reviews, peasants carrying pitchforks and torches beating on the door demanding your blood! Or, God help you, it sells, it ACTUALLY SELLS! Well, even. God help you, you’re a celebrity! Nightmares ensue of paparazzi being eaten by you dogs, and pictures of you in the bath showing up in National Enquirer

Publishing a book is very hard on the psyche.

Happy Christmas & New Year

chirstmas twinkle

chirstmas twinkle (Photo credit: jewell willett)

Editing of Love or Lust has slowed due to the holidays.  It should pick back up after New Years.

Writing of Ready or Not has slowed because of chaos at work and home and some of it’s the holidays.  I’m typing it, though, which is good.  I’d more than doubled the word count without typing a single syllable of it.

Well, peace, love and good wishes to all until next year!

Drama, angst, tragedy, and rape

Writing is a strange business. It’s the only one I can think of, besides sports, where people seem to be inclined to believe that they know how to do things better than you. Though most sports fans don’t tell the players and coaches this, so maybe writing is unique (or I just know even less about sports than I think I do). I’m not talking praise or criticism here. This isn’t about “oh, my what a wonderful plot with such deep characterisation” or whatever, nor “oh my, so many clichés one after the other I feel I must bathe thoroughly”. No, I mean “you know in Chapter 3 on the second paragraph when Bubba said …” or “You know the best thing you could do for …”

Blows my mind. If you know so much about writing, by all means go write. It really isn’t hard. And if you’re so brilliant you should take the plunge, get something out there and let us all see.

What’s this to do with the title?

Read this: http://seanan-mcguire.livejournal.com/470626.html
It’s all right, I can wait.

There. Now. That isn’t the whole of things, but it’s a starting point.

That link deals well with the ideas that women can only grow and change through very limited events. I do not fathom this. My characters grow and change, male or female, through life and experiences. In Love or Lust Sally begins to grow, spiritually and religiously because of people she gets to know and such. Love makes Lauren stronger and helps her grow to better appreciate the important things in life and to realise that what looks to be the easy way is just a different way with different difficulties. No one gets raped, but people change and grow.

There is death in Ready or Not (oh my! Spoiler!). The death is sad, tragic, and hopelessly random and senseless. Unfortunately so are all too many untimely deaths. It changes those people it impacts.

The thing is, that angst, darkness, tragedy, rape, murder, death, self loathing, self doubt, fear, and all of these things are facts of life. Their absolute absence in a modern day setting is something that would be felt profoundly by a reader. You needn’t have them all. Harry Potter avoids some of the least chivalrous ones, as do I. And they aren’t the be all and end all of character growth. Joy, love, romance, tenderness, life, birth, hope can be as profoundly changing or more so.

“Oh, but Jaye, you have to have one of the girls raped. After all, not doing so is unrealistic! One in six women have been raped you know!”

Please, learn how statistics works and are gathered and the scope of the statistic you’re quoting. It helps. Please, I do not mean to say people aren’t raped (men can be raped too, after all, and hardly anyone seems to be fighting to do anything to help those poor fellows. Sexism, truly, works both ways folks) and I have deep sympathy for you if you are one of them. I merely point out that one in six is a broad scope, world wide average. This means it counts the sad state of some countries in Africa where nearly any woman over the age of 20 has been raped because there really are bands of men roving around looking for a poor defenseless girl to offload into. There’re some very interesting wearable contraceptives for this that involves barbs. It includes certain schools where a mickey and a lot of beer are a tradition. There are countries where the average is quite lower and areas of the world where the horrible act is quite rare. In my writing therefore, I’m not being unrealistic, just locating my stories in a different part of the bell curve.

The rape and violence, the murder and hate, all the darkness and brutality of so much modern fiction is really just as cliché as June Cleaver. A different overused trope is still an overused trope. Far too many stories that are very good feel they must insert these events to make the story more believable, or edgier, or whatever. Many a good story is ruined by this. Sadly, the converse is true. Some authors avoiding these events, even when it makes perfect contextual sense for them to be present, for fear of resorting to cheap instadrama.

Admittedly, all too often it’s not just weird, creepy, annoying fans and armchair critics or backseat writers who feel inclined to make these bizarre and tasteless recommendations. Other authors, people who should know better, are guilty of it too. I wish I knew who to blame for that, but I don’t. I’ll say my editor says it’s writer’s workshops. Which could be true, I just refuse to hold an opinion. I’ve never met with one and never plan to; they seem terribly silly to me.

Is there a real point to all this? Only as much as anything that comes down to opinion. Maybe to God there is a right or wrong answer, but aside from divine, omniscient understanding of creativity I should think that it’s safe to say no one is any more right or wrong than the next person – merely more or less capable of providing a compelling argument to sway the opinion of others into line with her own.

God in Heaven! Progress?!

Well, as can be seen the blog shows signs of being worked on.
I’m, frankly, rather proud of myself. It’s amazing what gets accomplished when we stop sitting around not wanting to do them and praying they’ll just do themselves.

Now & Forever‘s first book, Love or Lust, has been given to my editor. If she can do this one quickly it could be out as early as July, or as late (in theory) as December.