Thursday, July 18, 2013

Accidental Self Censorship

I'm a huge advocate against censorship. I think the idea of changing classics to fit into some modern ideal of political correctness is utter bullshit. I grind my teeth when I hear the (ridiculous) various reasons books are banned. Ignorant people fear books because ideas, like viruses, are highly infectious. An idea can germinate in a child's mind, and when you are trying to force feed your narrow minded doctrine into the youth of your community, you don't need books encouraging them to see the world beyond, to see the differences between us aren't so very different after all.

Yeah it grinds my gears, which is why I find it hilarious and frustrating when I start censoring myself.

My writing often strolls on the shadowy side of the street. Though I write speculative fiction, I still deal in some pretty heavy issues, my serial blog alone has already tackled sexual exploitation, slavery, and rape in one character's story arc. It can be hard to write, especially when you are dealing with something as dark as rape. There is always the sliver of doubt in the back of your thoughts people will be put off by scenes like this, even if it advances the character's story line and development. I have whole paragraphs crossed out from my drafting notebook as I tried to convey this heavy subject, somewhat tastefully, in a bite size chapter.

The current novel in progress is a violent horror comedy. It does have zombies, there is the consumption of brains. As I work through the draft I will catch myself avoiding moments of description, where I could go very graphic. It's an internal slap up the head, I drag myself back and get down and dirty in the details because details, even the gory ones, pack the punch in a story. Game of Thrones is mainstream, the Red Wedding scene is shocking but Martin sure didn't skimp on the details. Who am I to shy away from a little brain matter? And who am I to shy away from the interactions between my characters? Whenever I catch myself in a moment of political correctness I know I need to go back and re-write the sentence.

Fiction reflects society, and humanity. This is especially true for the speculative genre, possibly more so than literary fiction. Where literary fiction offers a mirror, speculative fiction takes you into the looking glass to have to explore, to see beyond the surface. Censorship has no place here. Speculative fiction wonders what if things were different, for better or worse. Right Fucking On.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mother of Sci- Fi

I have stumbled into many a conversation about women authors in sci fi. The most insulting comment is probably "Women can't write science fiction."

What a load of shit.

The truth is, somewhere along the way, science fiction became a "man's domain". I don't say this in a derogatory way, but science fiction is usually marketed towards men. If you doubt this, check out the scantily clad females on the cover of many a sci fi novel from, what, early as the 1930's?
Sci-fi, and a great deal of fantasy, became bro fiction, Westerns with ray guns. It's a stereotype which is still around. Even though there are many good female sci fi authors out there, it is difficult to break into this genre. Many women used pseudonyms, initials or ambiguous names to slip by, such as C.L. Moore.

In 1948 women comprised about 10-15% of the science fiction, or speculative fiction as it's being toted now, authors. A lady did not win the Hugo, the coveted award in Speculative fiction until 1966. These days, women comprise about 40% of the sci-fi authors out there, but the genre has not completely shaken it's gender lean.
Andre Norton
Working in the book store, I get the reader's eye view. I know women read and buy sci fi/ fantasy, a lot of it.  In this same setting, I've had male customer's tell me they won't read sci-fi written by women, women can't write sci-fi, etc. My favorite one was a man voicing this opinion while buying a stack of sci-fi containing three Andre Norton books. *Snicker*

Despite how ridiculous this opinion is, I cringe inwardly because this is the genre I write in. Both my YA novels and adult novels are speculative fiction. My serial blog is sci-fi. I wonder how many male readers will dismiss my writing before cracking open a book based on my name alone. Maybe if I throw a bikini clad woman holding a weapon on the cover it will sell more.

I follow in the footsteps of some pretty amazing writers. Norton, McCaffrey, Bujold, Le Guin, the list goes on. With all those women in front of me, you'd think I'd be confidant enough to put my real name on the speculative novel I'm working on right now. Maybe it's not a matter of confidence. Maybe it is the desire to sell my writing before I sell my name. It is hard to listen to my male customers belittle my role in 'their' genre and not think about it as I write. Ultimately, a writer writes to be read, you think about shit like this whether you want to or not.

So when I turned on 'Prophets of Science Fiction' to relax as I cuddled the baby to sleep, I found myself engrossed by the first episode, talking about the inventor of the Science Fiction Genre, a story which took the science of the time a step further, explored how it could be warped and used for evil. Explored the idea of Man taking the creation of Life into his own hands. Yup, that bad mamma jamma was none other than Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

At the age of 18, on a dare, she penned a timeless classic and created a whole genre.  Aside from feeling like a total slacker, wondering what I've done with my life, I realized I not only have some amazing female authors to look up to, but I have her. Man's club or not, a lady built the clubhouse. Frankenstein is an amazing work. It has survived the test of time, it still resonates with us, and it has hooked itself into minds around the world. Mary Shelley may have written the book as a contest among friends, but she created a strong foundation for Speculative Fiction.

It's  a hard act to follow, but it's a little comforting. No matter what I hear, I know I belong here. Mary Shelley has my back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cover Art: Not One of My Strengths

Potential Cover, still in the works.
This has been a long morning. My son got up at 5am, I haven't been able to concentrate on anything I should be doing so I messed around with artsy things for a while.
My comical horror novel is coming along at a decent speed. I have plans to try e-publishing with this one, but I am poor and cannot afford a cover artist, so I started thinking of cover ideas I could create. It's tricky trying to make my own covers when I'm not really an artist. I am not a photoshop aficionado, hell I can barely maneuver Paint. After an hour of trying to outline an object I gave up. I ended up actually creating a simple collage and scanned it into the computer. It's very simple, as I said, I am not a great artist, so I feel an attempt to draw something/someone will not end well.
For a book like this, I think simple is better.

It's still rough around the edges. It looks okay as long as you don't zoom in ><. I'm not sure of the pen name either. *Le Sigh* But for a first crack at it, it's not that shabby. Could be worse.

Slightly altered, different name 
The idea is to create a spark of interest, so anyone stumbling across it while browsing sci fi novels will go "What the hell is this about?"

Then and Now: Pitfalls and Successes

The Pitfalls:
When I left my previous employment back in November of 2012, I had big plans. This was it, I told myself, you are going to finish editing your novel, submit it, write or bust!
Yeah 8 months later, edits on the Novel are crawling along. I spit out a redone chapter every few weeks. There are 5 chapters left to edit out of the book, but each one is pulling teeth. I need to finish the overhaul to do something with it, so I have incorporated it into my summer goals.
Back when I started this blog in April, I think my second entry was about seizing opportunities, like having enough income to pursue writing for a few months. It felt like the very next day my husband turned to me and said "We need more money." Further proof you should never open your mouth when you think things are good.
If I hadn't spent my first months of self employment floundering about trying to find a direction, things might be different. It didn't happen like that. On top of battling some pretty severe depression, I was pretty rudderless for a while.
Finances and emotions haven't completely leveled out yet. Some days are better than others, but I feel I am in a much better place mentally than I was six months ago.

The Successes:
This morning my web serial reached 1,000 views.
New Earth 6 now receives a steady 100 views a week. I have learned a great deal about the web serial world. It is hard to establish an audience in this format, you need to be consistent with your posts. In retrospect, I was so eager to get started I didn't consider all my options when it came to platforms and publishing choices. I learned how to advertise a web serial. You have to mention it a lot, not just to friends and family, I advertise on four different websites and link each chapter to face book and twitter as I put it up.
To me the biggest success with NE6 is not just the views, it my continued commitment to posting it. New Earth 6 was a risky endeavor and a huge step for me as a writer. It's challenging, pumping out a chapter each week. Some weeks I do write, edit, and post on Friday. Not the smartest way to go about it sure, but I spend all day working on it to make sure it gets done. It's not polished, it's not perfect, but it's mine and I've stuck with it. I've put myself out there.

Entering a Write-a-thon reminded me I have very supportive friends and family.
I am tearing up as I type this. It is so hard to gain perspective through the tunnel of depression. You become so mired down in your own self doubt you miss the hands reaching to help you out. This is the first time I've done something like this, I don't know if I'll be able to do it every year, but I think it's what I needed to do. Not only has it kept me writing every day, friends and family rose up with financial and verbal support, cheering me on, sponsoring my fundraising efforts, reminding me "We'll here, we're backing you all the way."

Becoming a freelance editor: I know more about writing then I give myself credit.
 I am far from a perfect writer. I make tons of mistakes drafting like everybody else, I often miss mistakes when editing my work, I am plagued by the sensation I've missed something every time I post a chapter of NE6. It's the perfectionist side of my writing self, I think it's the side which holds me back the most.
I do have a decent eye for detail. I have a knack for story crafting, I can see a story's bones, and point out what needs mending. These past few days I rolled up my sleeves and dove head first into the deep end of the editing pool. This is my first paid editing gig, so I've been pouring myself into the effort. Line editing is a bit like sketching a map as you walk along, it takes longer detailing everything from eye level than from an aerial view.

It's been a season of heady changes. I hope the trend keeps upward. It all comes down to commitment and effort. All my successes have happened because I put the work into it. Now I just need to keep it up.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Surprising Opportunities

First, not only hit my $$ goal for the Clarion Write-A-Thon, but sailed on past. $330 as of today, WOWZER! I am blown away by the generosity of my friends and family, seriously I'm tearing up at how supportive they are. What does this mean for artistic endeavors? Well one of the prizes in the write-a-thon is:
  • Writers who raise $250 or more are entitled to a free story critique by a Clarion alum (our choice).
I have no idea what this entails, but Clarion has a reputation for excellence which gives me hope of receiving some punch drunk feedback.

Awhile ago I posted about reading a friend's book with intent to give her feedback. Little did I know the windfall from helping a fellow writer with her creative pursuits would lead to an opportunity of sheer awesomeness!
She shared my feedback with her publisher, who was apparently impressed with my attention to detail.
S.M. and I have gone back and forth with our financial woes, so when we came up with the idea of seeing if her publisher would possibly be interested in hiring me for freelance editing, well, it turned out better than I expected.
Within a day of broaching the idea, I had an email in my inbox starting up the conversation. The next day, I had a book in my inbox waiting for edits. BAM, that fast I went from rudderless to being handed a key to the factory.
I've been tinkering with the idea of freelancing for months, with no idea how to start, what to charge, who would hire me. Starting up a Freelancing business takes time, you need to get your foot in the door, build a clientele list, etc. Between my own writing, the boys, and the part time job I didn't see myself being able to start up any time soon. So landing a best selling Sci-Fi/ Fantasy author and his protege as my first client, Hachi Machi. I'm excited, they're excited. Everyone's excited!
Between this and the boost of generosity I've received through the Clarion write-a-thon, I feel the gears of fortune slowly shifting in my direction. To land a job in the field I went to college for: dream come true. I'll be reading and writing for a living. Just keep on trucking along.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Editing and My Gag Reflex

Okay so the phrase 'gag reflex' can't be used without a load of snickering, but in all seriousness, nothing makes me queasy like editing.

Correction: nothing makes me queasy like trying to force editing.
It's a bit like bashing your face against your keyboard for all the good that does you, everyone and their mother tells you editing is a natural part of the writing process and necessary to make a book better. I know this, I see this, I see all the shit I have to fix in my piece. Doesn't make it easy.

Editing my work brings out my inner sado/masochist. Oh, this passage isn't good enough? Let me just slit my wrists and make the corrections with ink made of my blood and tears. You get the idea.

I have been systematically tearing apart the novel for months now, my edits have edits. I have reached the final few chapters and walked face first into a wall of procrastination. The rational part of my brain is screaming "What the hell are you doing?? This shit is almost done! Once you fix all the big stuff, it's just finessing from there!!!" To quote that lovable, annoying redneck "get er done!"

"Ah, but it's not that simple" says the inner artist. "I must recreate whole chapters of this story to fix it, and I am le tired."
My inner artist might be a little French.

I have kept myself writing by turning to other projects, I am happiest when I'm creating. I have given myself another poke of motivation by including these edits in my pledge for Clarion, hoping to trick myself into doing them for a good cause -_-.

The hilarity of this situation is I love editing...for other people. I do love helping a story come to fruition, I love helping someone mold and shape it into a flowing work of art.
The perfect partnership would be to find someone exactly like me. We shall edit each other's work and make millions...millions I tell you!

Well, that rant is over, guess I shall go back to banging my head on the desk til this chapter fixes itself.

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