Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pulp Production

Producing a weekly chapter has turned into an interesting animal. Despite all my good intentions, or maybe because of them, instead of working on the piece throughout the week, I usually slam it out Thursday Night/ Friday Morning, right before I post it. This leaves me with mixed feelings. I decided before I even started that for initial postings, I would do sight editing, try to flush out the big mistakes, but I was not going to rewrite a chapter five times every week, this is a side project, one meant to give me a steady creation outlet while muddling through edits with The Novel. That vicious beast. 
Going into it, I didn't have any illusions of producing something unique and original, more of producing an enjoyable pulp serial, entertainment for entertainments sake. Most of these chapters will end on cliff hangers, it is part of the schtick. I do have a mapped out outline of where the story is intended to go, but no chapter by chapter outlines, I'm mostly flying blind.
The unexpected side effect of my project is my snow balling obsession with giving it an audience. It's pulp sci-fi for cripe's sake! There is  nothing incredibly original about it, it smacks of themes often used in science fiction. Yet here I spend several hours a week plugging it on blogging networks, finding new places to drop it for notice. Why? Why bother at all? It's just a side project right?
Well, every one has to start somewhere. New Earth Six has evolved into a dual sided project, to keep up a writing regime, and to plant the seeds of a social writing network. If The Novel does find its way to the press, then I have the roots in place to begin an author's platform. 
There was also the interesting magic of blogs make into books. Quite a few of the fiction blogs I discovered on my journey have not only established an impressive network, they have gone on to create "novel" editions of their work. 
But I got really excited when I realized I have become a part of the pulp machine. It's not as sneer worthy as it sounds. Pulp fiction is a long practiced tradition that has changed forms over the years. Many writers considered classics of the 20th century were the pulp novelists of old. There are so many lofty ideas tied in with writing these days, if its not literary fiction it's genre aka trash writing. What happened to writing for entertainment's sake. 
That is what I want to do, that is what I hope I am doing with both my serial blog and The Novel. I find myself straddling the fence. Here I am polishing the crap out of my book, I want to produce a decent product for submission, while producing my pulp, my mildly edited, character driven, space opera. 
The pulp has been rather liberating.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recharging

After a burnt out spell of watching the boys all weekend without reprieve, yesterday I took a recharge day. With the fabulous Miss V in tow we caterwauled around our tiny corner of CT. We hit up our favorite used bookstore, dined in cheap and snazzy style, even stumbled onto the glory that is Five Below.

Miss V. is not impressed by Five Below like I am.

Honestly, it's a glorified dollar store, only slightly nicer since the limit is a fiver. They have cheap fun t-shirts, toys, seasonal junk galore. I love this kind of stuff, I am a thrift store beast by nature, with the occasional indulgence of Angry Bird pajama pants from Wally World. But I am a bargain hunter born and raised, my home town boasted a huge Flea Market in a two story mill.

My thriftiness is probably exacerbated by my hatred of clothes shopping. Aside from the fact I have to shop in the plus sizes whenever I walk into a clothing store (I am tall and curvy), the clothing racks at thrift stores are based off older sizes, therefore I don't have to buy an XXL t-shirt just to fit over my bahzangas. Plus you find some pretty cool shit.

So yeah, Five Below is totally my bag. I "splurged" on a Mario t-shirt, because it hit me right in the childhood. As I perused the rest of the store I thought "I could totally do my Christmas shopping here."

After a day of thrifty discovery, inane debates on the merits of the New Avatar cartoon vs the Old Avatar cartoon, discussions of world politics and social structures, and delicious foods, I call this recharge a win win. You don't realize how much you need them until you schedule one in.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Reading with Gremlins

I don't think I have to expound on the importance of reading to your children. I mean there are hundreds of books, documented proof reading to your kids is beneficial in tons of ways. Hell, I grew up reading, my father built a bookcase just for my room out of scrap wood, which I still have by the way. I love that fuckin' rough cut bookcase.
So when I eventually produced children of my own, I had big plans to make them readers. My children have taught me a great deal about the reality of reading with kids.

Lesson #1: Don't feel guilty if you don't read to your children every night. I think I went through an identity crisis when I couldn't perform this simple task consistently. I was all gung ho about making this part of the evening routine, to spend a good chunk of time every night reading a few books from the HUGE selection of children's books I have collected. ( I think I have as many children's books as I do adult books) I tried, I really did, but sometimes I was exhausted, sometimes I had ninety things to do before my own head hit the pillow, sometimes, my son was just too wound up to sit for a book and needed lights out.

Lesson #2: You will find the opportunities to read. They will present themselves, just make sure you shut up and take notice. The biggest hint will be when you stumble on them looking through their books. Derp derp, go read with them! Sometimes they will come find me with a book. I am fortunate to be in a situation I can stop whatever I am doing and read their precious selection. You will also make opportunities. In the long road to potty training, I purchased a old school wooden picnic basket from goodwill and filled it with books. It provides some protection from my splash happy kids and they now consider our bathroom story time central.

Lesson #3: Your gremlins do not consider books as precious as you do. I am guilty of going through a period where I hid most of the picture books in our bedroom. I have two boys, and no matter how much I stress "don't stand on the book!" "you're bending the spine!" "ah, ah, ah you're tearing it!", well shit happens. I shed a little tear for the books I had to throw away but if you aren't willing to sacrifice a few to the Toddler Gods, they don't learn how to treat books period. I was so proud the day my son learned how to turn the pages of his regular picture books properly, something his younger brother picked up from watching him.
There are still accidents, but I have calmed down quite a lot, now I leave out a good selection of picture books...and hide the rest in the bedroom for down the road.

Lesson #4: As much as you want to introduce them to as many new books as possible, they will latch onto a select group of favorites and demand to hear them over and over. Okay, so reading "The Very Lazy Ladybug" for the 100th time makes me want to grind my teeth, but I know this is how my son is learning to read. It is his go to book. It did take me forever to realize, hey instead of just reading this by myself, I can get him to read with me. Some books we have read together so many times, he has them half memorized and one actually reads to me. That would be Mo Willems's "Time to Pee".

Lesson #5: Books are fucking magic. It never ceases to amaze me which ones they attach themselves to. My older son has a rotation of about five or six he wants to hear all the time. Most of these selections have sound effects, like "Roar" which he loves to do with me. But curiously, his absolute favorite is a long story, one that leaves me flabbergasted. My son cannot sit through most Dr. Seuss stories, he has attention and learning disorders, but he will sit for "A Bad Case of Stripes" by David Shannon. He will also find it, no matter where I hide it in the house...



I read to my children everyday. Somehow, somewhere, we find a chance to sit a read together. Usually in the bathroom. Book love spreads, like a happy virus. As my youngest watched how much his older brother enjoyed these potty story times, he soaked up the book love. He now sits in my lap, pointing to the pictures, and picks his own book to join in. His current favorite:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

To Selfie or Not to Selfie: The Publishing Dilemma

As I fine tune my novel, I'm having a growing debate with myself. It is THE debate of the modern author. When pursuing publication, what route do you take. There are so many hoops to jump through on either side of the fence it is a very difficult decision to make.

Traditional Publishing is not the same today as it was five years ago, and even then it wasn't the same it was ten years ago. The main problem with traditional publishing is the big six publishing houses with all their many off shoots, demand more from perspective authors than they can give back. Most of the big six will not look at unsolicited work, this means the author has to secure an agent in order to be looked at, never mind actual interest. Seeking an agent is a time consuming trial in itself, you have to sell your book to them first, they will take a percentage of your earnings, and even if you get one, there are still no guarantees with the big six. Who are these big six you ask: The Hachette Group, Penguin, Random House, Simon and Schuster, HarperCollins, and Georg Von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, though you might know them as Macmillan. Just about every book you see in a book store comes from them. It's a fortress you want access to, but the process takes months. Nailing an agent also requires you to come with a polished piece, meaning you better have some grammar savvy friends or hire a professional.
If you nail an agent, and if they read your work, you are looking at a four to six month waiting period to hear a yes or no. However, there are also some big exceptions to the agent rule with the big six, it comes down to the off shoots. Each of these big six has imprints with their own set of submission rules.
As a YA fantasy writer one of the imprints I've been eyeballing is Tor. There is still the beastly long waiting period but, they do take unsolicited submissions. Their submissions guidelines are here.


Self Publishing. This is the flip side of the coin. Self publishing is also referred to as vanity publishing, which is a very derogatory term because not everyone who self publishes is doing it because they couldn't cut it elsewhere. There are numerous reasons people choose selfies: you can publish fast, you get the greatest cut of the profits, and with the advent of e-books, your audience is potentially global. The harsh reality of self publishing is you have no net, and no support. When I say support I mean no one helps you edit, no one helps you design, no one helps you network and promote your work. While networking and promoting work is someone you can do with a bit of time and effort, editing and design are the punch to the larynx. If you think your readers won't care about a few editing mistakes, you're half right, many published paper form books are pushed out these days with multiple editing errors. My early printing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is so chock full of mistakes I was tempted to circle them all and send it back. It was a rush edition, the publishing house wants to make a butt load of money, so they will cut corners to produce product. It happens in a lot of retail/ manufacturing businesses. That being said, yes your reader will notice tons of mistakes in your writing if you don't, and it can be a huge turn off, like leeches, leeches are big turn off.
So you must produce these services yourself. It's pretty much the same story as seeking an agent. You need friends with benefits....or English degrees. Selfies can also be a well disguised trap, make sure you do your research because a lot of selfie publishing houses charge.
An extremely awesome article/ guide I found on self publishing is here. This is a success story, but it also tells you the real downfalls you can run into with this process as well as the best method for success.

Small Publishing Houses. Small houses are also not what they used to be, but I think for the better. They provide many of the services large publishing houses do, though maybe not a flashy and wide reaching. Small pubs did do one thing right the big six are still flagging on. They snatched the e-book opportunity and ran with it. To be honest, I am leaning in this direction. A lot of small pubs will take unsolicited work, help edit, help design, and respond about ten times faster than the big six. On the e-book market, small houses can be pretty competitive with the big six, though they still hit their wall when it comes to traditional book format. Some will print on demand, produce limited printings, etc. It's harder for them to take a loss on a product than the bigger companies. There are TONS of small publishing houses, and as the big six become more and more exclusive, more new writers turn to this option. These houses like to snag writers so they advertise themselves on lots of lists sites. My Perfect Pitch and Every Writer's Resource are two great list sites to get a feel for the numerous small houses out there. Ever Writers Resource in particular not only lists houses, but gives a summary of what they are looking for and how to submit work.

It's a tricky business. Here I thought the hard part was just writing the damn book. Through all the drafting and moments of wanting to slam my head on my desk, I don't think I really thought about what came after all that work. Honestly, I'm still not sure which route I will end up taking. I will finish polishing up my work first, then see where the road takes me.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Don't Panic!

Everyone needs that one friend to smack them upside the head when they start sabotaging themselves. I have a few friends who gladly smack me around from time to time but my grounding totem would have to be the fabulous Miss V.
V. and I have just enough in common and just enough differences between us we have cultivated a pretty solid bond. I don't see her nearly as often as I would like, or should, since I tend to hide in my writing cave tweaking on too much caffeine. It's not easy getting together, we both have kids, husbands who work lots of hours, the other various bull shit that crops up on a daily basis. But when I feel myself panicking over, well everything, I make the time.
V. is a massage therapist, a professional herbalist, and probably the most chill human being I know. She is the perfect person to dig into my tangled mess of panic, find the root of the problem and show it to me.
What am I panicking about this time? Oh the usual, I have loaded my plate with too much, so determined to pursue the writing thingy I forgot I am only human and need things like sleep and sanity. Having a coronary over student loans rearing their ugly head, and trying to potty train a very difficult learner while maintaining several writing projects is making me lose sleep at night.
V.'s response: Well, which project is the most important, what do you want to finish first. The rest can wait.

The rest can wait.
It's a simple answer but one I often forget. One a lot of people forget.
From this I take away : Don't worry about what you can't help, just focus on what you can.
Sounds proverby and stuff.

So the solution, aside from maintaining NE6 (which is a given, this project is what I fall back on when I can't stand working on edits anymore) I can shove everything else off and concentrate editing The Novel. If I can do that, maybe I'll actually meet my goal to submit for pub this summer.

Some advice to pass along to fellow writers, or really anybody: Everybody needs someone like Miss V. in their lives, the person who can give you perspective on life you can't see yourself. It could be your parent, a friend, a spouse, it doesn't matter. What's important is to have someone to turn to when you start miring in your own personal swamp of despair. Because the perspective they give you can turn that swamp into a puddle in seconds flat. Okay, that's enough metaphor for today.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got some scribblin' to do.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ninja Lazy Days

Gives self deadline: Finish editing "The Novel" by the merry month of June

Self says: Fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything!!!!

I got a shuriken, right in the kidneys. After a discouraging editing day, I have sunk into procrastination territory. I turned my precious chapter into an inky mess of corrections. I think I salvaged three sentences out of 13 pages. Now it's mid afternoon and the only thing I've managed to do with my novel is sneer at it from across the room.

Ah, I thought it was so clever when I first wrote it, it's amazing what wine and post midnight creative sessions will do to your brain.

Today has turned into a sneaky lazy day. I even cyber stalked face book this morning. This is what avoidance drives me to do!!!! <----Using multiple exclamation points, a sure sign the insanity has set in.

Yup I got tons to do, free lancing jobs I'm trying a hand at, edits to type up, NE6 post to write, etc, etc, so on, so forth.

I think I'll watch some anime >.>....<,<.....I'll find some motivation somewhere.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Well I shall just put this here then...

When not stringing together another NE6 chapter or editing "The Novel" I have spent an unhealthy amount of time traipsing the net.

Blogger seeking Network.
Dat's me.

It's a bit of a learn as you go process. I guess I could have bought some guide to attaining the internet audience, but I am cheap and it has been fun bumbling along on my own. Half the time I just stumble onto neat sites that have nothing to do with what I'm looking for. 
I guess the ye old proverb rings true even in the asinine environment of the internet.

"Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination." 

It has been a tricky search, something I don't know how to go about, but building a network is important, a survival tactic of the internet, you never know which site you throw up a profile on will be the site that gains you page traffic. The trick is to find as many places as possible to leave your mark. 
The internet is like a vast organism, a living breathing hive covering all pockets of the globe. There is no distance between people on the internet, you are tethered to a person halfway across the world on an electric signal. 
Courtesy of www.hungamapoint.com

How have we not eradicated cancer yet, we made the freaking internet!

In all seriousness, networking the sci fi blog has been frustrating, but it has also solidified my commitment to keeping it going. I hit 300 views yesterday, no a huge number, but it was enough for me to go "Squeeee!" followed by "Shit, I need to keep on top of this motha now." 
Armed with evidence my feeble attempts at networking are slowly but surely paying off, now I have to suck it up and learn to Tweet. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

"I want a castle" Reality vs. Daydreams

"He'd heard that writers spent all day in their dressing gowns drinking champagne. This is, of course, absolutely true." -Terry Pratchett

Growing up, my fantasies of adulthood centered on my status as "world famous author." I wanted to be the next Motha Fucken' Rowling. This fantasy probably burned its candle a lot longer than it should have, I mean I should have gotten a big enough dose of reality before hitting college but something happened in High School. I had a minor taste of success.
Through a university funded contest, I entered a novel in progress. It was incomplete, poorly edited, but I submitted it anyway. To my surprise, I won the county prize, $1000 and my first taste of being paid for my words. I did not win the state prize. But I did get some awesome praise from the judges who gave me these lovely ego inflating compliments. "I thought you were a man, your male protagonist was so convincing." (Dude, I swooned at that.)
Then there was college. We shall call this my wake up call. In college I was in a creative writing class with insanely talented people. I probably got off light on the "You were a big fish in a small pond" realization. College did do me a tremendous favor. It taught me becoming a writer is not an overnight success. There are not magical editing fairies to come fix your draft in the night. Until you are firmly established in your craft you will have to work to support yourself. The ratio of authors who just write for a living vs writers who have another job is probably somewhere in the 1:1000 ratio. Don't quote me, I am not a statistical person. It's probably more skewed than that.
Reality is, even if you publish your first novel, there are no guarantees it will be a success. Even if it is a success, it might not be enough of one to allow you to be a full time writer. Or that you will strike the same chord of success with your next book.
You need a fan base to support your work.
Where does that fan base come from? What spark ignites that sends people scrabbling after your book. It's not always quality. Sometimes its shock value or daring, in the case of E. L. James, taking her risque fan fiction to erotic new heights with 50 Shades of Grey. There lies the big question. How did she do it? Who's hands did that crazy book stumble into to create such a sensation?
Will I ever find the ignition spark?
As I grow older my daydreams have matured. While I secretly still want a Scottish castle, what I really want is to find my spark, to find a fan base who will be the foundation of my writing career.
Time to repeat the mantra: Type till your fingers bleed, don't give up, Just Keep Writing. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

*Scribbler Love* Feature: Bettie Sharpe

It's my first Scribbler Love feature!
I talk a lot about the craft of writing and other writers on this blog. I'm happily obsessed with it, but I also think it's important to support the people working towards the same goals you are, so behold, Scribbler Love.

This scribbler recommends the dark, enchanting, fairy tales of Bettie Sharpe.


I stumbled onto Sharpe while trying different sites to promote my own blog fiction. Her novella, Ember, happened to be one of the top ranking blogs on the site and after reading it in a saucy single sitting, I could see why.
Ember is a little gem, a wonderfully twisted retelling of the classic Cinderella tale. It combines some of my favorite genres; there's romance, fantasy, horror, and while it wraps up with the Happy Ending, Sharpe makes her characters work for it.
The titular character, Ember, is the voice of the story, her wit and dark humor carry the narrative and keep the reader interested.
Retold Fairy Tales are hard to make interesting. You have to bring a unique twist to a tale people have ingrained in their collective memory. Cinderella has been Disney-fied, modernized, and even had a sex change. Sharpe's take: Cinderella is a Witch, with a big capital W there, sacrificing a piece of herself for magic to protect her from Prince Charming. That's right, you see Sharpe's Prince Adrian Juste is gifted with Charm. People cannot resist him, women throw themselves at him, everyone obeys his word to the letter, and he absolutely hates it. Plus her take on the "ugly step family" is just awesome. Just Awesome.
For a novella, the characters are fairly drawn out. It is difficult to flesh out rich characters in a shorter work and while I wish I had more to read, I still loved what I got. Sharpe has written a few other retold fairy tales, spinning new versions of The Little Mermaid and Puss in Boots, as well as an adventure story Strangers in the Night. But I really want to see what Sharpe does with a full length novel to flush out her unique and captivating characters. Her site states she has a work in progress as of Dec 2012. I shall be keeping an eye out for it!

Best part, Sharpe has the entire story of Ember still up on her page, FREE. It's a perfect quick escape and a great introduction to the author's work.

Check it out yourself: http://www.bettiesharpe.com/ember/

Enjoy!!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Who do you work for!!!

Who do you write for?
Ok, at some point, every writer has to ask themselves this question.
Sometimes you have to ask it twice, because the first gut reaction is to defensively say "I write for myself."

Bull.

If you are writing with the intent to publish, you are seeking an audience. You are writing for the amusement and, hopefully, the admiration of others. And the audience is important, it's vital to your success. Like a snake charmer you need to hit the right notes to keep your audience captivated.
This does not mean you mold your entire story based on the whims of your audience because a) different things please different people and b) you can't please everybody.
I can't state that emphatically enough.
YOU CAN'T PLEASE EVERYBODY.
 For every 100 people who adore Harry Potter, there is someone going "Wizards are stupid."
But we don't egg their house because it's part of the job. Take the barbs for what they are, learn from the ones that give honest constructive criticism and ignore the "this is stupid" b.s. because hey, they don't have to like your story. They might prefer contemporary content, or historical. They will rave about the literary merit of Twilight, then turn around and sneer at Game of Thrones. Reverse that and it's still not entirely fair. Both books, no matter how you personally feel about them, had their own separate impact on the literary world. But I believe Martin, Rowling, and Meyers all wrote their stories with an audience in mind.
I know I do.
I know the general audience for a young adult novel is usually 2-3 years younger than your main protagonist. And while I spew everything onto the page in my first draft, this intent heavily influences my editing choices. My main protagonist is 16 at the beginning of the book, and while I have no illusions about teen sexuality, the romance is secondary to the character's journey of personal growth so I don't have to do too much dancing around the topic yet. However, in the next two books I have planned, this relationship deepens, it is something I will have to address when the time comes.
For now, I'm focusing on fine tuning my tale, making it readable, threading the loose ends together. I want to sell this book. It has been a labor intensive project for nearly four years. Writing while experiencing massive life transitions is tough. So, during those years, yes, I did write for myself. Sometimes that was the only answer that kept me writing. Now that a first draft is done the answer has altered somewhat.
"I write for myself, I edit it for my audience."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My Mother, the Hole in My Heart

I have struggled with this post for days.
It concerns a very intimate pain in my life, one that has shaped the person I am today. It's emotionally intense, consider yourself warned.

Mother's day has always been a holiday of mixed feelings. Now with two children of my own, this emotional mess has reached critical mass.

The summer I turned 8, I lost my mother to organ failure. Her death was sudden and slow in the same breath, she grew sick and passed within a week, her final days spent in a hospital as her body stopped working a piece at a time. It was a terrible reaction to a pain medication, it blind sided our family, leaving behind her husband and daughter.

My memories of this time are fractured and nightmarish. I remember the night my father came home, awake to hear my uncle's girlfriend ran past my room sobbing.  I crept down the hall to find her crying in the dark guest room and when she pulled me into her arms, I knew. The revelation punched a hole in my heart, I just lost one the most important people in my life.

Grief is a tangible presence, it hangs over you, clouding your personal light, and it's form and focus shift as you grow older. At first, her loss drove a spike through me, I ached for her down to my bones. It wasn't until I went back to school the anger hit. Kids can be unintentionally cruel. Ignorance and unease can also make them incredibly mean. In the space of a month, I became an outcast, the crybaby, something was wrong with me because I had no mother. My peers did not know how to react to this, they lashed out with cruel words and cold shoulders. Hurt and Anger stayed with me for a long time.

My father met the woman who is now my step mother when I was 10 years old.
In retrospect, the relationship to my step mother is a complex tapestry we have spent years piecing together. She had grown two children of her own, and while it's rather easy to graft a new spouse onto an established family, it is far more difficult to add a younger child into the mix. The difficulties I had in forging a relationship with my step mother fall on both sides of the fence. I don't want to talk about them. I have dwelt on the bitterness and resentment that bled from my attempts to form a maternal bond with my step mother long enough. I will be 30 in two years and I still call her by her first name as often as I allow myself to call her 'Mom'.

I do call her on Mother's day, of course I do, despite our struggles and pitfalls, she has been a crucial part of my life, and she pulled my father from the dark pit my mother's death put him in. I will always be grateful to her for the love she has given my family.
But I know I do not have that maternal bond with her. It is a bond I have sought my entire life. I see it in the strong friendships I have with older women in my female circle, trying to fill a hole that feels bottomless.

My memories of my mother consist of her absence more than her presence.
I remember all the times I spent crying on the floor of my bedroom, wishing for nothing more than her arms around me. I remember milestones in my development where I needed her advice desperately. Health class aside, it took my years not to view my menstruation cycle with shame. How do I deal with crushes? How do I deal with cliques, and still be myself? I remember her not taking pictures of me when I attended my first dance, of her not warning me to be safe with my dates. I remember her not being at my high school graduation, or my college one.

I remember her not being there to see my babies when they were born.
But my greatest heartbreak, is I cannot remember her face.

I am afraid I will have trouble keeping a maternal bond with my children as they grow older, or that my bond with them is defective. I fear dying on my children. I cannot dwell on my mortality without dissolving into a shuddering bundle of nerves. I refuse to let these fears take over the memory of my mother.

Her loss is a pillar of my personality. You may not consider this a positive thing but I have come to see it that way. My mother encouraged my imagination and creativity until the end of her days, my imagination has become my solace, my power. From my imagination, I drew the strength to survive. I became a storyteller, a weaver of destinies, taking life into my inked up hands. From the loss of my mother, I became strong through struggle, hardened by adversity. I am still a weeper, I cry when I am angry, but I will survive whatever you throw at me. I have pulled myself out of deep depression over and over because my mother gave me a fierce will to live. Her loss has made me treasure each female friendship I have, they may have not filled the hole in my heart but they have formed the bandage over it. Even with great distance between us or swamped by the busy chaos of day to day living, I think of my ladies all the time.

Mother's day, truthfully any holiday, draws out the contemplation of the woman who gave me life, and whose absence I keenly continue to feel. My children are still young and I know they will grow up feeling the love of my husband's family, and my beautifully imperfect sewn together family. They will call my step mother 'grandma' and I am confidant she will love them as fiercely as she loves her other grandchildren. And as I sit here, typing with my son asleep against my chest, I know under all those irrational fears I have of being a flawed mother, I will be perfect for my children.

Someday, I will sit my children down and tell them the story of their other grandmother, the woman whose absence has become a presence in itself. I will tell them of the woman who shaped and influenced the person I am even though she couldn't be there.

My mother is a hole in my heart. It's been over twenty since her passing. This hole has never closed. Year after year, I have slowly filled this hole from the bottom up with memory, tears, dreams, love, and hope. It's not full yet, I don't know if it ever will be, but it is a part of me, a part I have finally accepted for the negative and the positive.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

I am the God of this Universe! My P.O.V. identity crisis

When approaching a new piece, the first wall I run into is P.O.V, the dreaded point of view. There are so many aspects of a body of writing tied into P.O.V. The P.O.V. is the defining facet of how your audience views your characters and how your characters function in their world. It is also how you function as the writer of this world. Each choice comes with it's limitations and bonuses. Do you use first person, planting yourself into this world? Third person, where you are a voyeur into your character's most intimate secrets? Hell, you could even break the fourth wall, you are the god of this world, and you tell the story of your characters in an authoritative voice like the bards of old.

First person, I find, is perhaps the trickiest to pull off. It is very easy for a character to become the mouthpiece of the writer, a freer, looser, projection of themselves onto the page. This does not mean the story will not be good, and most first person stories absorb some aspect of the writer into them, their ideals, their snark, their dreams, or even their fears. The flip side of that coin is the writer who is lead by the character, dragged into their story, peering through a different set of eyes.
I have tried several times to write in first person, but it comes with a very big limitation that often clashes with my ideas for a piece. First person is just that, one person, the view point is filtered through one character's eyes. Many writers get around this, flipping the first person view to a different protagonist. This transition is handled a number of ways, the one I have seen the most being a chapter flip, where the author labels a chapter with the name of the speaker.

In my own work, I usually work in one of the tiers of third person, sometimes limited, sometimes omniscient. Third person comes with the luxury of hopping through multiple characters heads, though it is not always handled skillfully. In the many romances I have read, P.O.V. is like a tennis table match, you bounce between the male and female perspective constantly, sometimes on the same page. If you're lucky you might get a page break to indicate the perspective change, other times the tip off is usually pronoun change, or, my personal favorite, description of genitalia.

The hindrance of third person is it's a seductive drug. It's too easy to throw everything out there on the page, to reveal everything everyone is thinking all the time. But if you are in everyone's head at once, the story can become repetitive,  stagnant, and clogged up by too much inner thought. The more omniscient the P.O.V. is, the harder is it too keep secrets, tell lies, and trick your reader until your big reveal.

Right now I'm at war with myself of P.O.V. My work on the romance novel is moving at a crawl. Just when I think I've worked through my hang ups on sex scenes, I go get tangled up in the voice of the piece. It is very easy to write a romance in third person, not so much in first. But three chapters in, neither voice feels right. Third person comes off stale, while first person comes with it's own set of limitations. Perhaps I could do a combination of perspectives and P.O.V. styles. It's not a new idea. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon uses this technique.

I need to stop sweating the small stuff. This is supposed to be a first draft, I keep losing that perspective. First drafts are the perfect platform for experimentation, they are your paint splattered creative studio while a final draft is the art show. I need to relax, loosen up, maybe drink a glass of wine before writing to let the words flow out.

Or perhaps it's another issue entirely. I am usually the god of my universe, not squatting in my main character's mind. It could be an issue of control, I'm finding it difficult to relinquish the reins of the story to my character, to let her lead the way. There is a taunt chain between us, I'm not sure what will happen when I set her loose. A glass of wine might be the cure after all to let someone else drive tonight.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writer's Sludge

Bloody fiery pirate balls, I'm stuck in a sludge.

Writer's block is a misnomer for what a block really is. It's more like a sludge, a slurry of procrastination, depression, apathy, and frustration that swirls around your ankles and yanks you down. It happens every so often, when I'm hung up on something, usually in real life, I get stuck in the sludge. I can barley sit down at a computer without panic bubbling in my guts.
My particular sludge is usually born from fear. One of those vicious circle kind of fears: afraid I can't make a living as a writer, which I can't do unless I write. I'm stuck, it's hard to breath, I look at my family, I need to work harder, my pitiful side income is not enough, but the words won't come. I need to finish editing my novel, I need to work on my sci-fi blog, I should try to work on that romance I've been tinkering with. All those shoulda, woulda, couldas building up until they overwhelm you.
When those feelings come calling, the only thing you can do is find a way to keep writing around them. In the past, during the "doomy gloomy days" I couldn't get past it, I would stop writing for months at a time. Now, I blog, for myself, for the three people who stumble across it and go "I'm not alone".
Everyone struggles at some point, the trick is to find a way to keep going. You can't just sit in the Sludge and wait for it melt away, you have to pull your ass out of the muck as fast as you can, even if you lose your shoes doing it. Write, rant, rave about your sludge, write utter drivel, you can always throw it out later, but sometimes when you force out the drivel, something magical can come out with it. It could be just one sentence, or an idea, a fragment, but if you can salvage anything, then you have expunged yourself from the sludge.
Some days you crawl, some days you fly.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Yup, I'm a Genre Whore

*For the record, I will never shit on your choice of reading. Whether you read the Times Best Seller list or supermarket Harlequins, I fully support your reading choices. *

I'm a big reader. I will pick up and try just about anything once. And I have a wide, WIDE, reading range. Yes, I have a collection of specific children's books I use my children as an excuse for. *cough* Yes, I own a hefty collection of books for a two bedroom apartment. (Five overflowing bookcases, a few boxes, board book bins, and random stacks but who is counting) Between the Writer (moi) and the Husband (book a day man) we still frequent the library, used book stores, and regular bookstores to supply our habit. I have worked in bookstores for nearly a decade now, so the 'pantry' is always stocked. There are books on the kitchen table, books by the bed, even a wooden picnic basket chalk full of picture books in the bathroom to read to the boys for potty training. We are obsessed with books in this house and proud of it.
Between the Harry Potters and Jim Butchers is a healthy stack of Kresley Cole and Larissa Ione, James and the Giant Peach is comfortable nestled between Memoirs of a Geisha and The Autobiography of Mae West. To put it mildly, our reading tastes are eclectic. Though the hubby will swear in as a Sci -fi man, he will read just about anything with enough convincing/whining on my part.
Wearing my coveted Shaun of the Dead pin!

I don't need any convincing. But people get caught up on genre. I have hocked books at several different bookstores now, but working in used book stores, in that intimate setting they provide, has revealed the inner workings of the reader. People get caught up on genre all the time. I'm not sure when the change happened. I mean when I step back and see the same people who revere the work of Ray Bradbury and Orson Welles turn around and sneer at modern sci-fi, really? You know these two gentlemen wrote fantastic sci-fi and fantasy right? It's the label issue of the matter. We must fit everything into a box, though the box doesn't always fit. If I tried to put 1984 in the same box as Storm from the Shadows by David Weber, people get up in arms. No, 1984 is a classic piece of fiction!

Well, what about putting Dracula in the same box as World War Z. Both are horror right? Surprisingly not as many people get upset about that one, though Dracula is older and more classic than 1984.

Labels, they boggle the mind. Then you have the 'genre breaking' phenomenons, I'll use Hunger Games because Twilight makes me rant for whole other reasons.

What some people may or may not realize, Hunger Games was not Collins's first rodeo. She has this whole other series , a children's fantasy series, moderately successful itself. But in the balls and glory of the Games, which everyone and their mother read, people seemed to forget Suzanne Collins as a YA/Children's Fantasy author. It was a box, a nice, lovely box more and more people are poking their nose into. Why the felt the need to pry her out of the box is troubling. On my personal copy of the Hunger Games there is not a label for YA fiction anywhere on the cover or the copyright page. Your only indicator is Scholastic publishing, which is primarily a children's publisher.  It's still marketed in the Young Adult section, but why rid it of labels? Why not celebrate the labels? It's not a Genre breaking YA novel, it is a YA novel.

In truth, YA as a genre has lots of amazing offerings. I, myself, hope to join the ranks when I publish my book, because I am okay with this label. I'm also okay with labels like Fantasy and Science Fiction. My serial blog is Science Fiction, but the themes I'm exploring are just as heavy as any "fiction" piece.
It is thanks to writer's like Rowling, Collins, and even Meyers, I do not have the great fear of being nothing but a niche writer.

Now as a reader, I love genres, I love exploring different genres, sampling all the pies. I will proudly tell all I read smut, it's fun, relaxing, and it makes me giggle. I read fantasy, YA, sci-fi, mysteries, steam punk, biographies, horror, thrillers, graphic novels, comics, etc, so on and so forth. If it interests me, I'll read it. I believe everyone needs a healthy dose of fantastical fiction in their lives, even if it has to be sneaky. I believe it's a slap worthy offense to openly sneer at another person's reading choice. Who made you the literary police? I believe a well read man is sexy. I will stop whatever it is I'm doing if my child crawls into my lap with a book. Because books have power. I will remember the characters and plot of a book long after I've read it, I will go back and read many I love again. They inspire, they fuel imagination, and they survive, no matter what form they take, be it paper or digital. For me, genre is not a weighted word. I long ago decided books fell into two categories, Fiction and Non-Fiction. Genre is not a box I judge a book's quality by, I let the book speak for itself.

Genre is just an adjective.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

I have no idea what I'm doing; Serial Blogging

Back in February, I stumbled on an old idea.

It's a very old idea, but the Idea came from how writers lived once upon a time. The writer I'm mostly thinking of is Charles Dickens. Dickens made his living as a writer, which even in his day was not the easiest of tasks and on top of that, Dickens had a pretty sizable family he supported with that writing to boot. How did he do it? I mean he was a popular author at the time, but pumping out those massive novels took time, so how did he support himself in between. The answer: many of his novels were released as serials, weekly or monthly installments rather than a whole book at once.

I thought that idea was fantastic, so I began formulating my own idea, and modernizing it. An online blog would be the perfect place to do this. After a month of planning and designing, I officially began the site towards the end of March. After five weeks, rolling out about a chapter a week, the writing is flowing but the interest is creeping along. I did not have high expectations. I am pleased with the steadily rising number of hits I do have, but...

There were two painfully large differences between my serial blog and Charles Dickens serials.  The first is money. I also attempt to support a family, and I do not get paid for the many hours I pump into this science fiction blog, nor do I know how to go about making money off it. Perhaps if I had an audience, I could garner funds, but this is also something I don't have a clue how to do.

The Militant Baker, http://www.themilitantbaker.com/ is an extremely popular blogger who not only has thousands of hits, but features an add feed on her site which is awesome and I as yet have no idea how to do. Even if I wanted to do something similar, how does one create a blogging audience? So far the only network I have attempted to use in expanding the site's audience is Facebook, which comes with it's own set of limitations. But it is where I am established in my own little community of friends and writers. How to go about branching out from there? Is it the people you know or the sites you post on? Is it just a matter of the right person stumbling across it and passing it along?

I feel another research project coming on...

Thursday, May 2, 2013

“Didn’t you get tested?” A Rant, A Cry, A Hope

“Didn’t you get tested?”

There are so many things I could say about this article. As a mother whose son has been labeled Development Delayed, I actually broke down in tears reading it.
Whether you agree with genetic pre-screening or not, this speaks to a much darker issue in our society. I have often asked myself if I could terminate a pregnancy if I knew ahead of time my child would have down syndrome. To my knowledge there is still no test to screen for autism, since most forms of autism do not clearly manifest until the child is over a year old. I am a strong supporter of reproductive choice and rights, so it comes down to personal choice. For my answer, no I couldn't do it, I would have the child and shower it will all the love I do my other two children.
But what really bothers me about the whole issue, is

"Why has it become so agonizing to bring a down syndrome child into this world?"

We treat down syndrome like it's something shameful of, to pity the parents who have been "burdened" with raising mentally handicap children. To that knee jerk response I say "What the Fuck, society?" Why don't you put all that judgmental b.s. into improving the quality of life for all people with mental handicaps. People with D.S. or Autism are still people. If you judge these people based on how they were born, or their parents for "bringing them into this world", then you have just quantified a human life, their life is worth less than a 'normal' person.
Genetic perfection through elimination. Remember that Holocaust thing. Whoa, now,that's a little extreme, right? Perhaps, but remember, Hitler's plan was not to simply eliminate the Jewish people, they were just a part of the target population. He wanted to eliminate everyone he considered imperfect, which included physical and mental handicaps. He considered these people less than human and killed millions upon millions of people to achieve Genetic Perfection.

Fuck genetic perfection. Hey science, I know you are gung ho about solving these problems before they happen but this is what I want to see. I want to see science unlock the brain, the organ at the root of this issue. A true challenge, figure out how to rewire the brain around the neural pathways of D.S. Of all the organs in our body, the brain is the most complex, the hardest to understand, the organ that is incredibly difficult to repair and is so very easily damaged. We understand a great deal about our bodies, much more than we did even fifty years ago. Who knows, in another fifty years, perhaps science will access the huge percentage of our brains we don't use, find a way to cure autism and D.S. in adults. We have ways to give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, is it so big a leap to heal the brain? I, for one, would fully support that research. Need stem cells? Do it. If parents feel their only options are to abort a fetus or subject themselves to a lifetime of assholes, then I feel we have shoved science in the wrong direction. And we have seriously gone off the rail of what we should be as a society.

My son and I have difficult days. We are currently trying to potty train him, a task filled with many tears and frustration. My son constantly babbles, and it is hard to get him to string three words together. He still needs help dressing some days, and often doesn't listen. I feel like I lose my temper and yell at him too much. But...
He loves to sing, he gives these full body hugs, tucking his head against my neck, and sweet little pecking kisses on my lips. He still comes to me for comfort when he hurts himself, and loves to be read to. He has memorized several of his favorites and tries so hard to read along. Yes we have our difficult days, but if I had the choice to go back, I would still pick him every time.





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