The Sequence Alt I M Is Your Best Friend While Editing.

So DSP has this editing policy: absolutely no in-line comments. All comments are to be made using the ‘insert comment’ feature of Word. I was happy enough to comply, since it was less confusing for me all the way around… But the report of Anthony Horowitz’s in-line comments getting published in some ARCs highlights just why DSP makes that demand.

I work hard to make sure that my editors and I aren’t at odds, so I doubt that having my/our comments would really be all that exciting, but I’m just as glad that the issue is unlikely to arise.

How I Work (or don’t, depending)

Michelle Moore (of Ylendrian Empire and Enchanted Grounds fame) tagged me for the Writing Process blog hop.

The questions are:
1) What am I working on?
2) How does my work differ from that of others in the same genre?
3) Why do I write what I do?
4) How does my writing process work?

A note before you start, however: I’m going to use a LOT of parenthetical asides and probably some odd capitalization. Sorry?

Without further ado, the talking:

1) What am I working on?

I have a handful of projects in progress at any given time, some written because they won’t leave me alone otherwise and some inspired by calls for submission.

Currently, I’m still trying to slog my way to the end of A Reading From The Epistles, the semi-sequel to I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills. (I say ‘semi-sequel’ because it’s set about a month or 6 weeks after the end of ILUMETTH and feels more like a continuation than an actual sequel. It’s probably Just Me.) Since I’m not making much progress at the moment, I’m really excited to write about writing instead.

I’ve also been poking at a revision of some of the elements in my Breton Farmer And His Former Welsh Pirate (former pirate; he continues to be Welsh) story, as well as the previously-mentioned Cyberpunk Thing (it lacks one vital element, namely a plot) and a more-or-less complete rewrite of a story I wrote way back in 2009 that was wisely rejected by the publisher to whom I sent it.

In terms of things I haven’t worked on but probably shoooould, there’s also this Dragon Thing, a couple of quasi-steampunk stories set in the same universe and sharing characters but the focuses are different, The One With The Hockey Players, a couple of Havothi-centered stories, The NOLA Thing (which is in almost-done limbo), the sequels to First Flight and Tobias’s Own Adventure, and a story that was supposed to feature a feral teenager but ended up being about an involuntary shapeshifter instead.

I also have a bunch of other stuff that’s mostly snips and drabbles, but the preceding paragraph mentions things that are more than a few pages long.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I generally work in the field of ‘romance’, in that a relationship between the protagonists is usually the focus of/driving element of the plot (or what there is of the plot). Where my work differs from that of other authors… I’ve never really mastered the art of writing characters that need to be hugged and whacked with a shoe at the same time, unlike Michelle and Reesa or Amy Lane. So there’s that.

Another, somewhat smaller difference is that I like writing magical realism and alternate histories—the world as we know it with a twist.

3) Why do I write what I do?

There are several reasons –

I write what I do because I believe that the more love and positivity in the world, the better.

I write what I do because sometimes I get an idea and it won’t leave me alone until I’ve written it down. This is not always a good thing, as I have a bunch of things I’ve started/written out and then nothing else comes of it. Well, I got to go to sleep, but otherwise…

Last but not least, I write what I do because I can’t write anything else. I’ve tried writing a standard Harlequin/Mills & Boon-type romance and I just…can’t do it. I don’t know how to write an “alpha male”, and based on the few parts of standard romance novels I’ve managed to read I don’t write heroines properly, either. I can’t say I’m terribly upset about that, however.

I just write my kind of romances, mixing it up with various genres, with characters all of whom have a different definition of romance, and I’m happy. Other people like them, too, so, y’know. It works.

4) How does your writing process work?

I am, for the most part, a complete pantser. If I know what happens next—at least in minute detail—then I’m bored and don’t want to write it. If I’m bored, I avoid writing it because it’s boring and feels like work. That’s not really much of an explanation, though.

Basically, it goes like this: I have an idea, whether it pops into my head while I’m minding my own business or I read a call for submission. I sit down and write whatever I can, which can be from one to thirty-five pages. Then, if that was all there was, I move on to something else; if it’s really eating my brain, I’ll keep going.

I don’t usually work from an outline or a summary or anything like that—it just works better for me if I find out what’s happening along with my characters. I will occasionally write notes about what I want (or need) to have happen, and I do have lists of things that I want to write about, but otherwise it’s all just a blank slate.

I also edit as I go, rereading what I’ve written so far and making the odd tweak here and there. With some things, I read them out loud to a willing audience and get feedback that way; with others I email them to Michelle and Reesa for their amusement.

When I’m done, I generally try to stay away from a story for a little while. It doesn’t always work, though… Then I run a last spell-check, look for missing words/punctuation, format it for submission, write the submission email, press send, and then freak out/collapse for a couple of days.

It’s not glamorous or all that exciting, really, but I generally enjoy it.

I’m going to tag Piper Vaughn and M. J. O’Shea for the next post—They also write stories with characters who need to be hugged and smacked with a shoe at the same time. (I have A Thing for those sorts of characters, can you tell?)

TITLE! (And other important things.)

The Odd Anglican Thing will always be called that in my heart, but it now has an actual title! Said title is I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills, which comes from Psalm 121 (Levavi oculos):

I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.
Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep;
The Lord himself watches over you; the Lord is your shade at your right hand,
So that the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; it is he who shall keep you safe.
The Lord shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

The Psalm is fitting for both the story overall and for Justinian Clark, one of the protagonists. Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that Justinian has faith enough for ten acres of mustard plants as well as a deep and abiding love for the Psalms.

I’m almost ready to submit Eyes, but I have one. last. thing. that needs to be checked/reviewed before I do… Well, two, but one of them I can do on my own.

I have a synopsis, I have a blurb, I have read and reread and rereread until I’m pretty sure that if I fiddle with it any more that I’ll start messing things up.

I’m excited and worried and flappy and Small Mind has escaped from its cave on a couple of occasions and I haven’t even sent it off!

Speaking of sent off: I’ve submitted two stories already this year, which is pretty awesome. Both of them were for anthologies — One, Night Duty, is a Benny and Phil story that squeaked under the wire for the deadline; the other (Flying Colors) is a Max and Trev story that I won’t know about until somewhere closer to September.

I’m also fiddling with a couple of stories for a couple of other anthologies, but nothing’s really working at the moment. Not sure if it’s me, the story, the deadline, or the anthology, though. That’s okay–I’ll figure it out, and I’m not going to be completely devastated if I don’t get them done/sent off. I may get them published as individual stories instead of as part of an anthology.

No, really, I actually did flail.

Getting comments–especially positive, ‘I want more!’ kinds of comments–make me all giddy and flaily. Dennis of Michigan, you totally made my weekend with the comment you left, and I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.

In other news, I’m still alive! I’ve just been head-down in approximately 40K words of pretty much pure sex, none of which may actually make it into a story. On the one hand, it’s original fiction and I’m writing again! On the other… I’d really love to finish something rather than write bits and bobs of related stories.

…And in writing up my “so how’s the market for [description of what I’ve been writing]” question, I just realized precisely how odd this universe is. I really need to sit down and figure out how the world works before I try cleaning it up (formatting/editorially speaking, heh) and submitting it anywhere.

Negative reviews? Please.

You know who can rip my stuff to shreds and inflict more psychological stress/pain on me than I’m already experiencing?

Me.

You think that review of Going To Pieces was bad? He didn’t even bother to knock the TITLE. What kind of wuss misses an easy dig like that? Pfft. And let’s not even get started about how he stayed away from critiquing the sex, the position(s), the BDSM, the colors of the decor, OR the vocabulary. “repast”? Really? Who uses “repast” in everyday conversation?

Every time I send a story off, I’ve got a serious case of cognitive dissonance going on: “They’re going to LOVE IT!” is followed immediately by “No, no, they will HATE IT. LOATHE IT.” Which is then drowned by “They’re going to ADORE IT!” and so on, until I decide to reread my submission.

The last story I submitted? Has at least one glaring typo. I’m amazed I managed to keep it under the word count–so I’m proud of myself for that–but I’m also half-convinced that in so doing I’ve wrung all the sensuality and hotness and immediacy out of it. I look at it and think “If I just had another 1,000 words! I could make Jackie’s whole look less gimmicky-sounding. Or I could do more with the plant. Or…”

I have yet to see a review of my story in Model Men, which is a Benny and Phil story. Phil’s the POV character… The first-person POV character. There are people out there who are going to declare that I am an absolute wash as a writer, simply because they hate Phil’s voice. There are other people out there who will rightly point out that there’s a minor omission toward the beginning of the story that ideally shooooould have been filled in, now that I think about it. (It doesn’t detract or otherwise substantially change the story itself, though, so I don’t think it really matters all that much.)

People have pointed out the problems with First Flight and Tobias’s Own, though for the latter most people were polite enough to not mention the fact that I smooshed six months of being attracted to one another into a couple of “telling” sentences. There’s more than that, of course, since they’re novellas, but seriously.

And not every negative review I’ve gotten has been bad — one of my favorites was for Gone To Pieces, where the reviewer said she was pretty sure Brice was pudgy, balding, and friendless. The story still wasn’t her cuppa, but we both agreed that Brice was a jerk and a half. I don’t care about that — tell me the story’s not your thing, even tell me why, that’s great. Make me laugh at the same time? That’s even better!

Write a lengthy critique that focuses on things I didn’t do or didn’t do the way you were expecting/wanted me to? Especially when it was a request story and you weren’t the one who requested it? I’ll fume about it, then write something relatively neutral in response.

Tell me I suck and I’ll get annoyed; tell me to quit writing and I’ll dig my heels in and keep on. Claim that anyone who has given my stuff bad reviews is a bully and I’ll be really confused. As I said at the beginning, dude. You want someone to point out every last wonky beam and misplaced modifier, I am at your service. I wrote it, I better know damn well just where it sucks and how.

So, y’know. I’m not saying I want negative reviews, or that I embrace them all with a smile on my face–because in all honesty, I’d rather have people love my stuff, warts and all. It’s just that for the most part, people who’re going to give First Flight one star because they had a traumatic run-in with their great-aunt’s hyacinth macaw when they were 12 and now they hate all birds (or whatever) aren’t going to bother to pull it apart the way I can.

Change and Conflict

So my weekend was full of change. Granted, a fair amount of it had needed to happen for a while–my mattress and my bed frame were not playing well together, to the point that I not only added a couple of boards to the frame, but then stuck all of my old pillows between my frame and the mattress.

On Sunday, one of Mom’s friends called her up and said, “Hey, I’m getting rid of the bed in the guest room. It’s practically brand new–do you want it? If so, come over and get it.” Mom, knowing about my bed situation, said “I’ll round up Connor and we’ll be there by 4.”

So I spent most of Sunday blitz-cleaning my room, discovering both things I thought I’d lost forever (my new carry-everywhere-just-in-case notebook; my microSD card for my new Nook) and things I only wish I’d lost forever (some lube packaging that was supposed to have gone into the recycling bin months ago turning up, happily bright orangey-red and obvious, among the stuff under my old bed).

I also discovered that I own entirely too many clothes. I don’t need all of them, and I certainly don’t wear all of them. In a bold move, I actually threw away some socks because I didn’t wear them, they didn’t have mates, and they weren’t worth giving away. Some things went into a give-away box, but not nearly enough. Since the idea was to get enough room for my new bed, I didn’t take the time to do a thorough cull–but I will.

My new bed is awesome, by the way. No head or foot boards, but that’s not a big deal–I can get those later. The lady who gave it to me threw in two sets of sheets, two standard pillows and one body pillow/bolster, a memory-foam topper, a bed skirt, and a heated mattress pad (though we walked off and left the cord behind, oops). Oh, and a dark purple blanket-with-sleeves-that-isn’t-a-snuggie-as-far-as-I-know, though that was intended for the Unofficial Nieces.

It’s taking a little getting used to, both in terms of sleeping in it and in its presence. It’s been a while since I’ve had a bed this tall, not to mention one where I’m in danger of falling out of either side. (My old bed was a twin-sized mattress (no box spring) that was in the corner, so I tended to end up against the wall. The new one is a double/full with box spring, and only the head is against the wall.) I’m exceedingly happy with it, though, especially after having discovered the hard way that a saggy mattress really does affect your back, and that in turn affects things like, say, being able to walk. Sleep. Think.

What does all of that have to do with conflict? Everything! No, wait, bear with me.

Once upon a time, I was grumbling about conflict. That fighting made me tired, and writing characters who fought all the time was just as tiring. Reesa, who is wise beyond her years, pointed out that just because the usual word used as shorthand for “stuff that moves the story forward in small, smooth increments” is “conflict” doesn’t mean that it’s all about fighting.

This fascinating (and totally worth reading!) article starts with the statement that, “In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other.”

The author of the piece argues that there are other options, but the premise–that “conflict” is inherently violent, requires a “winner”, and that violence is the only tool in the western story-telling arsenal–is the same one I started with. And it’s not true.

Part of the problem is with the connotations of the word “conflict”. People have used the word “conflict” as an euphemism for “war” (or massacre, or genocide) for so long that probably at least two generations have grown up internalizing that connotation.

You can find conflict in the most mundane of tasks. Take changing a light bulb, for instance. The first conflict is one’s desire for light, but alas, there is none. No one wins or loses anything, in this case — it’s just a fact: I want the light on, but the bulb is burned out. So I have to go find a new bulb, which isn’t too difficult, and something to stand on.

Ah! The stepladder. It’s downstairs. So I have to put the new bulb somewhere safe (so the cats don’t knock it down and break it, and where I won’t forget it), then tromp downstairs to find the ladder. I find the ladder, but… It’s behind a bunch of boxes, which I have to move before I can get to it. And before I can move the boxes, I realize that I have to go to the bathroom, which means I have to go back upstairs…

See? You thought changing a light bulb was boring! Getting ready for my new bed was the same way. Very little actual violence (there was a bit of recyclable-tossing), but plenty of conflict that didn’t necessarily have a winner or a loser. There are ways in which it is possible to have a negative outcome–dropping the vacuum’s dust-cup full of, well, dust and cat hair and fuzz and crumbs and God only knows what onto the freshly-vacuumed floor, for instance. Or attempting to adjust the blinds and having them fall down. Or any of a million other ways that things go pear-shaped.

The point is, you can write a story without violence, without people clashing and without defining who/what “wins” and who/what “loses” — but you cannot write one without adjectives or adverbs.

It doesn’t hurt to use a search engine, I promise.

Come over here. Yes, you. Sit down right here beside me–we need to talk.

Look, I know you’re excited about writing a story set in a place you love, but have never been to. I understand, I do. Now, sweetness, it’s really really important to remember that there are people who live in the place you’ve chosen for your story’s setting, and that, particularly in the US, it’s likely they’ll have a chance to read it.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Sh, no, just let me have my say, please. When you pick a particular location, you need to look up some fundamental basics. Check out the weather patterns, for instance, and look at the average temperatures for various times of the year. I’ve never been to New Orleans (argh argh argh), but I know that they don’t get hurricanes year-round. Kansas is not all corn fields and tornadoes 24/7/365. There are more cities in North Dakota than Pierre and Minot. Not everyone in Minnesota is decended from Scandanavian stock, eats hotdish, or is Lutheran (or all three at once).

If you can’t go to your chosen location for whatever reason–financial, familial, etc–then for the love of all that is seen and unseen GO TO THE LIBRARY. Use Google or whatever your search engine of choice is. Check out guidebooks, check out blogs from people living in the area (even if you do have to wade through the unpredictable results of machine translation), ask the people you know if they know anyone in [Wherever]. I personally know a guy who knows people in Finland, plus I know there’s a Finn on one of my mailing lists. If I want the lowdown on living on a farm just below the Arctic circle, I can ask them if they either know anything about it or know someone who does.

Please. It doesn’t take all that long — and if you’re like me and tend to get sidetracked, set aside a couple of hours one weekend and just get lost. Make notes and bookmarks, or copies, or whatever! It doesn’t matter if you ever use all of the information, but at least do your readers the courtesy of actually making the attempt.

Thanks for listening,

love,

A fan of Street View for finding neat-looking places

Thinking about what’s next

I have a new thing bouncing around in the back of my head; I have a good double handful of things that need finishing. I need to make a list and match it up with the various sub-calls/due dates, then see what happens.

The New Thing seems to be asking to be a semi-historical: set in the mid-60s and featuring an older guy (40+) running a diner. I’m wondering how long ago something has to have happened to be considered “history”, not to mention whether I’m going to write it as an AU or more realistically (which: depressing, booooo).

“Because it’s science, that’s why!”

To answer the question that has turned up several times in my “searches” statistics:

Knowing your parts of speech allows you to write sentences that delight both your English teacher and your readers.

For example, if you don’t know your parts of speech, you won’t know when you’ve broken the “rule” about not using adjectives and adverbs. Knowing your parts of speech can make learning a second language much easier. If you get bored easily, then knowing your parts of speech can provide you with hours of entertainment–don’t just stand in line at the grocery store, copy-edit the headlines on the tabloids! Also, it makes you a kick-ass Mad Libs player.

In all seriousness, though, I have found that knowing an adverb from an adjective from a direct object has been the most helpful in learning other languages, as well as in my writing. For instance, the simplest sentence construction in Japanese is: [Noun] is [noun/adjective]. In Japanese, the verb always comes at the end of a sentence, and there is a particle that marks the end of the subject. This makes it dead easy to make up declarative sentences, such as: sora wa aoi desu. Sora ([the]sky) is the subject; wa is the subject-marker particle; aoi (blue) is an adjective; desu (is) is the verb. [The] sky is blue. (Japanese has no articles. On the other hand, German has at least nine.)

More complex sentences are just as simple (providing you have the vocabulary). Watashi no neko wa kuro desu. Watashi (I) is a pronoun; no is a possessive particle (essential an apostrophe-S); neko (cat) is a noun; wa is the subject marker — this makes ‘watashi no neko’ (my cat) the subject. What about my cat? Well, we already know where to look for the verb, and it’s the same as the first time, so we know that my cat is…something. In this case, it’s another adjective: kuro (black). My cat is black.

How about something a little more exciting? Here’s this one:

Watashi no neko wa neko no tabemono wo tabemashita. We already know what the subject is: my cat. Same construction as before, pronoun + possessive particle + noun being possessed. Then we have another possession: neko no tabemono. Tabemono is ‘food’ (literally ‘eating thing’, tabemasu = to eat, mono = thing), so it’s cat food. There’s a new particle, wo, which usually denotes that what came before is a direct object. And, at the end as usual, we have the verb tabemashita (ate; past-tense form of ‘tabemasu’).

So, in English, we have the sentence: My cat ate cat food. What was eaten? Cat food. (And yes, I suppose the narrowest answer is just ‘food’, but I’m not being that picky.)

Now that we know what goes in each slot, we can make up Japanese sentences all day long. Watashi no neko wa ninjin wo tabemasen. (My cat didn’t eat [a] carrot.) Anata no mimizu wa kowaii desu. (Your earthworm is scary.) Kore uma wa shiawase desu. (This horse is happy.) Anata no uma wa watashi no ninjin wo tabemashita. (Your horse ate my carrot. [Explains why the horse is happy.])

And that is just one of the reasons that it’s good–vital, even–to know your parts of speech.

A new hat!

A figurative one, anyway — real ones tend to make my head hot.

I got into writing on purpose, but a lot of my stories come about by accident: usually because I start with one idea and my characters wrench the tiller from my hands and adjust the sails to their liking and we all end up somewhere else.

This new hat I’m trying on, it’s kind of an accident, too. I joined the YA GLBT Books (née YA M/M Romance) group on Goodreads because despite my advancing years, I still read YA books. Hell, I will read (okay, look at) picture books, too, if it comes down to it. If I come across Fox In Socks at a store, I can’t go on with my shopping until I have at least read the tweedle beetle battle. Out loud.

Anyway, my point is, I didn’t actually mean to put on the hat of a YA Author, but it seems to have slipped onto my head anyhow. I’m not complaining–far from it–I’m just kind of surprised. Kind of excited, too, because this means I have a shot at getting some of the completely RANDOM things I’ve written out into the world, which is always fun.

Thing is, if I’m going to write YA stuff, I’ll probably need to use a different name. Probably nothing radical–C. J. Wright, perhaps. Or maybe I’ll drop the C and go with Julian Wright instead. I’m trying to decide whether I should add a subdomain here, or if I should bite the bullet and have a separately-hosted site… A tumblr, maybe.

Before I do any of that, though, I should really have something to offer in terms of YA content, which means polishing up my . It will be M/M for now, though I may branch out in the future. I’ll make sure everything’s clearly labeled, no worries.

Now I have to try to decide if I should change a character’s name or not. Hmm…