Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG Post: Uncertainty in Revision

I have had so may insecurities the past few years, and a few successes.  The Insecure Writers' Support Group is the place to vent them, to read others' opinions, feelings, successes, insecurities, and to just generally share in the ups and downs of writing and publishing.  Participants post the first wednesday of each month, and can be found here.  If you just generally want access to the best hub of links and advice for writing, check out the new IWSG website.  It's amazing.  Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh!  I am really enjoying reading through the site, and following the links.

Last year, I was so worried about completing a rough draft.  Then, in July, I finished a rough draft.  I wrote so often that I had the urge after Campnano was done.  I just didn't know what to do.  I didn't feel "done."

Well, it isn't done.   But it needed to sit awhile until I was ready to make any real edits, no matter my hurried read-through and obsessive notes after the initial completion.

There was a brain fog that moved in once I wasn't writing every day, and then I never quite got around to making any of the big changes.  I started... but it's still waiting to be done.

Now, I'm entering the November Nanowrimo, and I plan to finish it as well. December will be a month of brain-fog, and I should be ready for it.  After that, 2014, will have to be the year that I brave the revision.  I have learned just how much I need order and structure. If I have found a way to apply it to completing a rough draft, I certainly can do the same for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd drafts.

Do you have a system that you employ to make changes to your rough drafts, and if so, what is it?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Becoming a Writer Part 3: A Different Approach--All in My Head

All right, I know the "freedom" I feel is all in my head.  It's been there all along, there are likely even agents and editors that might like what I'm doing.  But I certainly feel more stressed when I think I need to impress others.  I'm just not good at it.  I can be friendly, and I have even enjoyed customer service jobs for the interaction with people. I know I often leave a pretty decent impression, but I've put so much more of myself into my writing.

Is it rejection that I'm afraid of?

Not exactly.  I am afraid of the same thing that has choked up so many drafts over the years, not producing a end result deserving of the idea, the character, the world and all the time I've poured into it.  Self-doubt. Perfectionism.

I have found that deadlines can combat these flaws for the rough draft level.  I am working on using process to fight off the rest of it.

Considering self-publishing means that I have to approach my writing with greater emphasis on deadlines, on the business of it, but with the underlining goal of being honest to the art of it, the idea of it. I am a paradox, finding certain limitations actually inspiring.  That's why I work well with Nano.

What am I doing differently?

I am exploring an organization to the chapters in my Rextian novels that are in line with the society that I've created, but not an order I'd ever have thought would go well for a "first novel." This is mostly because it isn't exactly something I've seen before, but it makes sense for the piece that I am creating.  

It also frees me to identify certain stories as possible serials.  Suddenly, I  can do all my ideas.  Beginning to end. I can build them my way, and use the very structure of the novel to build not only the plot, but also the context of the world. The outline is posted week by week on Story Snippets. I will follow up at the end of the week with my progress that week on the Nanowrimo project.

I'm very confident about my ability to generate a rough draft... but that's before the real work: the second draft.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Becoming a Writer Part 2: Rough Drafts

The challenge of Nanowrimo has helped me immensely.  The deadline helped me to finally and effectively manage my time in July, for Camp Nano.  I finished a rough draft and then read through it and then... let it sit.

The next challenge will be to revise what I have, but before then, I am launching into Nanowrimo. I have a new/old project.  That is, since I've been progressively re-approaching my main world, its history, the stories and characters that I've been building and playing with for years... why not?

I am approaching Nano differently this time.  I made an outline--suitably vague, and with a massive note to self  "achieve the main plot goals--but hey, change is okay."  But I know anything on Don-Yin will be epic.  In the real sense.  I can't expect to write the whole book in a month, but Rule of Magic--my July success-- was not a full manuscript.

The story was written beginning to end, but it is a stripped down version. I can expect to approach November's project with that same result.  That means my outline can be flexible, adjusted, as long as I have the characters and plot mapped out well enough to hang the novel on.

I think I have those things down.  I have, off and on, over the years spent enough time with the characters and plot that I am confident of my love for both, my drive to complete them, and now my newfound-direction that I know I can do this.

I will post my outline, in pieces, on Story Snippets, so if you're interested in following my progress, I'll track it there.

Writing with the idea of self-publication as the goal has changed the approach to the novel, from the beginning. I feel better able to embrace the artistry, and less pressure to compete.  That isn't to say this is not a competitive industry--I see just how competitive every level of the book business is when I go to work. Focussing on the need to compete, to produce a story that would both be familiar enough for the marketability to be easily demonstrated and original enough to seize the enthusiasm of an editor, made me worried.  So very worried.

But now, thinking that I can take control of my project, I can pursue all knowledge I need to produce a professional end product.  The interim, the beginning steps, are less stressful now, with more freedom for me to explore my own ideas of the story and the nature of  "good writing."

Much of this, I know, is me.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Becoming a Writer in the 21st Century: Part 1

Over the years of bumbling through this or that rough draft, participating in writing communities, and puzzling through the process and business of writing my focus has skittered about.  At the center of this is was the idea: “Where to start?”

Originally, the idea was with a rough draft.  But after the first few were shelved, or overhauled, I worried what the next step would be when I was pleased with a rough draft.  I got caught up in the idea of “the next step” and it made me resistant to finishing things.  

This had happened due to a few things.  One: the writers’ group i had been a  part of that I very nearly turned into a non-profit before succumbing to my own self-doubt and hanging there, useless, submitting resumes via  monster, watching the bank account dwindle and in such a  haze I couldn't finish reading a book--much less writing one. But before that settled upon me, I had drive and ambition, and a willingness to change and respond to the environment around me.  

We self published an anthology of short stories and I learned the entire process of the thing.   The process taught me that marketing was central to making a book successful.  Generating community, and rising to communicate internally to a particular niche.

Quality is essential to attracting the eyes of the uncertain.  A good cover is not just money, it is a demonstration of the seriousness of the writer.  There are a lot more steps to the process of producing the cover than CreateSpace and other formula-generating self-publishing options generally lead an author to believe.  Not that good covers can’t be produced through CreateSpace.  

Working where I do, I also know that a good cover is not guaranteed when going with a traditional publisher. In fact, it seems that the better covers are reserved for titles that expected to make more money, which means that the author has likely already demonstrated their marketability by reaching out inside a community, in some fashion.  They have been marked by the publisher as an individual with the connections to bring in enough money to make the whole system stay afloat.  

But quality has to be carried through the whole of the book to make certain the sale builds the sort of customer and brand loyalty that can generate a lengthy writing career.   As someone interested in being a full time writer--that’s what I’m after.  

Working in a bookstore, and knowing the limitations and shopping patterns of the book-buying populace I see why marketing is key.  Our store is relatively small--when compared to a box store--and insanely large when compared to most independents.  But there is no way that we can stock the sheer thousands of books published each year.

So whether you’re on a major book tour with your publicist plotting your stays, making arrangements with the stores, or if you are on your own, hauling self-published books out your trunk, it is about marketing.  

Realizing this has actually freed me.  You see, I was so stressed out over “perfecting”: my novel and wondering about timing and how to get an agent and a publisher while also understanding that the system… well, it isn't the same as it used to be.

If it is all about marketing, it isn't about writing to your audience, it’s about identifying who is already prone to like what you want to write.  If it’s about niches--the direction that successful marketing is going-- then it’s about being you.  Because when you market successfully it isn’t just the book--the author becomes a greater presence on the scene.   

And if that is the direction I need to go with my career, than the real thing to do… is write.  not copying the methods that work well for other authors, not harping on what has proven successful before and making it my own-- but generally writing my own thing.  

I am free to explore the form and craft the way that I, hidden under all the uncertainty and insecurity, have always wanted.  I have enough sense, after that, to work it all out.  I have learned enough about the business and about marketing, about the book industry itself, to have a few ideas of just how to go about making a business of it--but first, I’m off to complete a novel.

Complete a novel, my way.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Educating of Myself Part 2: The Working World

Then I got a job--after three years in pursuit of a paycheck--at a bookstore.  Love my job.  But it has given me much greater insight to the changed nature, not only of selling books, but also consumer behavior in buying books.  On top of that, there is a major gap between customer expectation of a bookstore and what a bookstore *actually* has the resources to provide.  Which, has demonstrated to me, yet again, that an author must run his/her own publicity machine--or pay for someone else to do so, whether they are published by the big guys, or by him/her -self.   

What a career as an author looks like now is not the same as the one I expected to attain when I was a teenager reading: “How to get Happily Published,” or piling through Writer’s Digest’s “Writer's’ Market” in ‘98 through ‘05.

Scheduling events with authors and publicists and publishers, I get a further insight into the discrepancy between what people expect from a signing event versus what actually transpires.   Then, there is the impact of changing formats and what e-book popularity is going to make people expect from print.

We (humans) work off of relationships and identity, and reading, art, education have particular resonance and purpose internal to specific American communities.  The physical objects we take into our lives are indicative of our identity construction, even if we are unaware why, how, or what it communicates to ourself and our community.

Books, however,  are a different matter. I think that booklovers reading this know *exactly* what they mean to us and in our lives.  Especially that gorgeous, signed 1st edition by a favorite author…

But the motivation to buy, and what to buy, will change.  It is changing.  It is changing what is published.  It is altering the composition of the bookstore.  But the expectation of the  buying populace, even if they are modelling changed behavior over all, are not aware of this shift.  So what they, and what authors think, a bookstore does is different from what a bookstore is actually doing, or even capable of doing.  

The result is that we are entering an awkward in-between phase where we expect bookstores to be what they were ten to twenty years ago, without realizing that how we use them now is no where near the same way we used them ten to twenty years ago.

This changes how I will approach my own career.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Educating of Myself: Part 1: My Academic Journey

I chose to major in anthropology because I wanted to soak up knowledge of cultures and history for the construction of my fantasy worlds. Life, as always, has different plans.

What I learned from spending eight years to obtain a four-year-degree can (somewhat) be boiled down to these vague ideas:

1) Culture defines us and our individual identity on such an innate level that we cannot witness or identify the vast majority of its affects on our life, mindset, and actions.

2) Culture is changeable.  The unconscious can become conscious, and history and values can be altered over time.  Technology can change behavior, and as behavior changes, values shift and identity construction adopts new forms.

3) Each people has their own history.  A People’s history formulates the shape of changes internal to one’s own culture, the available avenues to take when your behavior changes in response to an altered environment, and how to interact with others outside your cultural group.

4) Humans relate to the world in terms of relationships between and among things.  This is how all societies develop categories, stereotypes and groups of “like.” But each of these societies arranges the same things differently and their categories may be shaped or changed due to relationships with other groups.

5) The political map is an outgrowth of relationships between and among various societies, forged by the definition of dominant cultures, ethnic minorities, and culturally constructed borders reinforced by economic systems and who is included in that system, and in what manner they are included.  Individuals’ identities and value systems  can be formed and changed by shifts in these relationships and these changes can, in turn, result in individuals taking action as identity and values collide in a manner that can incite action (rebellion, war, law-breaking, etc).

What does this mean?  

For my writing I have fodder for the construction of a very sophisticated political map, based on groups responding to other groups based on deep histories.

For my career--and this is where I’ve been most shocked about my application of my education-- the tools that I developed to be “successful” as a writer are dated.  I saw this when i graduated college and plunged into reading blogs and listening to all the talk of “midlist genre authors being dropped,” but I scoffed at the idea that it would change that completely so quickly.  

I mean, it might be *harder* to get in, but it was still possible. Indeed, it was still *necessary* for success as a writer.  Right???  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Growing-Up of Drea

I started out just writing--like we all do.  Then I started researching the business, and at that point in time it was all about traditional publishing because you absolutely had to have your books in bookstores to sell, and you have to sell (of course) to make it as a writer.  So it was about queries and synopsis and having the first three chapters of your novel so polished that they shone, flawless on the page.  
The same critique group that honed this awareness introduced the idea that publishers were looking for marketability.  
I was an impressionable 21, with the only certainty in my young life the conviction that, in the amorphous future, I wanted to be a full-time writer and nothing else.  I soaked up the ideas of how to attract an agent, a publisher, and promote oneself as a writer.
Young as I was, I also chafed against this focus.  Shouldn't it be about my writing?  This is, after all, what I want to do?  
Besides, the group’s ideas of what made a story “promote-able” were an exact opposite, oftentimes, to what I considered good writing.  I wanted storytelling that didn't treat the reader as an imbecile with ADD.  
Over time, I went off the deepend, eventually being completely obsessed with marketability.  This happened partially in response to the changing industry and my determination to be traditionally published.  
But the more my academic experience changed how I viewed the industry and the trajectory we were all headed into, the more I questioned the viability of starting out pursuing traditional publication.  I gathered my own ideas of marketing, of writing, of developing myself and my career, and then fell down a recession-forged fiscal hole that finished the destruction of my carefully held beliefs of the adult world.  
Now, perhaps, I am ready for the enacting of my ideas.  It’s a long time coming.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IWSG: Being an Aspiring Writer and a Bookstore Employee

Hello all!  Here's another IWSG post--where we talk about our achievements and insecurities on the first Wed of every month!  I want to thank Alex J. Cavanaugh and her co-hosts for managing this most amazing (and inspiring group)-- you all kept me writing at least a post a month when writing and living was hard--so, I am amazingly thankful for this group and all of the hard work that is poured into it.  That said, the group is about to get even more awesome-- check out the news here, and all the wonderful participants here.

Being an Aspiring Writer--

I, like anyone hoping to publish at some vague point in time, pile through the blogs and books on writing and publishing.  I sort through all the information and make up my own mind about just what I should do in order to start my career on the right foot.

I'm obsessed with the "right foot." But the proper tactic seems so be mired in an over abundance of information and choice.  Wheedling through the options can be exhausting, and yet with the goal of eventual publication in mind...I can't stay away from reading news about the industry or the options available, down the road.

Working  at a Bookstore--

Then there's the whole aspect to publishing you learn selling books to readers.  That is enough to intimidate even the most  determined self-marketer.

Readers by what they hear about on radio, tv, or from a friend, or what is assigned by their book group. That is sort of where traditional publishing comes in.  But the authors who sell already have a presence (more often than not). Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" was a good example of this.

Her travel narrative was supposed to have been a "debut" but when it was wildly successful suddenly a novel and a self-help book she had previously published were reissued and the self-help hadn't previously had her name on it, as it derived from her "Dear Sugar" column in a paper.  So a debut wasn't really a debut after all...

So what does that mean?

Then there's the fact that new authors are increasingly having a particular statement plastered on their mass market paperbacks (in the SFF section): "First time in print!" Which seems to indicate that there is a rising list of successful books selling only as e-book and that, perhaps, an author needs to sell successfully as an e-book before a publisher considers a print run?  Could that be the case?  And if so, what does that mean for the royalties?

It starts to make me wonder, looking at my bank account, if, for a writer starting out now traditional publishing is a (fiscally) viable first step, or if it is more important to prove oneself through self-publishing and a successful promotional effort?

Successful promotional effort--

Most self-published authors who do readings/meet & greets at my work have tiny audiences.  They may or may not have FB pages, or author pages, or websites.  They may or may not have had a professional artist or designer assist with the cover design.  They may or may not attend events regularly, have community connections, or get their event listed in local papers.

I have been doing all I can to gain interest for the events, but internet-based marketing is (unfortunately) only one aspect to my job, rather than the whole of it.  So I'm limited, and the authors' promotional efforts need to be top notch.

So it seems to me that I can piece together from these experiences what I *think* could amount to a successful promotional effort, but seeing the authors in the store--some of whom are blatantly brilliant--but also make a subtle splash in the only remaining bookstore selling exclusively new books in the vicinity of the downtown area of our city, makes that seem daunting.

I hover here, writing, revising, and watching.  And doubting that even as I learn more about the book industry that my knowledge will lead me to make any greater a splash in an Amazon-dominated industry.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dreamer Issues

I'm a dreamer.  I'm a writer--so this is no surprise.  But one of the things that I seem to do well is come up with ideas for things outside of writing.  I always seem to have a project that I want to engage in.

This I know, is a bit of a distraction.  It is hard, sometimes, to maintain focus.  Why?

Because all I really want to do is write, I end trying to plan my perfect day job which is not one in which I work for anyone else, but am able to make the income i require to make ends meet and foster my writing.

Thing is, the income bit can't be guaranteed.  No amount of planning, no amount of dotting i's and crossing t's will guarantee that what I want to happen will happen as quickly as I need it to happen if I threw myself into it...

So I end up telling myself that it is an "eventual goal" and that I will still pursue full-time positions.  But if I do get a full time position--these projects which were hatched as ideas in order to compliment my writing will end up eating into my writing time.  My issue?  I feel that if the job doesn't compliment my writing--it is the thing eating up my writing time.

False.  It is on me to plan my time and to make certain that I focus on what is most important.

My writing,.

Why do I let myself get so easily distracted? Is it procrastination, because even if my current job is part-time, I love it enough to be afraid to move on?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Writing Books-- Perception and Reality

Last weekend I had an interesting discussion with a musician wherein I admitted that my personality was to be quite open, and to basically be just as I am--just as I seem.

To which this man replied: "We all are, it is something about being an artist."

Being an artist.  Writing is an art that marries the creative and the analytical in an odd mixture of things most artists would not assume go together.  With painting you certainly start with learning logic, but when I did the most painting in my youth, all those rules had already left an impression on my mind and things like shading came second nature in paintings, sketches. Only minor tweaks were needed after the painting was done.

With writing, no matter how many years you've been at it, no matter how deep into the subconscious the writing rules have imprinted, the rough draft is always a mess.  

Granted, the writing of it is the easy part.  The hard part, in my experience, has been revising the rough draft and polishing it into the book it was meant to be.  The analytical aspect to writing a book is definitely that second step.  

It is easiest to make mistakes in this step.  It is easy for the story to transform outside its narrow bounds and become a different tale all together, or to branch off into a series. My tendency to over-think has hindered many  drafts, and kept me working on them for years and years.

The perception of writing a book is that the writing of it is the hardest and most time-consuming part.  Perhaps, fore some writers, this is a true statement.  But certainly, for me, the writing is easy and the revising is hard.  And the lesson?

My guy is often fond of telling me when--in any number of areas in my life--a simple idea inflates to a full fledged enterprise, complete with steps and long term goals: "Drea, the K.I.S.S. method.  Don't get ahead of yourself."

But I'm so good at it!  And Keeping It Simple... in any fashion orb form is exceedingly difficult.  Thanks to nano, however, I think I can start charting the path through those woods.

So what step of writing a book is hardest for you?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Last month I got to meet authors from the State Fair Booth, who came in from various parts of the state and had booths at my workplace. I took pictures for facebook, blogged at the to generate traffic and interest for the store and our author-guersts.

In the course of this event, I had the pleasure of chatting with Deborah Cota, author of the Dante Series.  After the event she asked me to guest blog and today it's up!  Go read it here and check out her site, books, and assorted wonderfulness!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IWSG: Achievements and New Angst

It's time to share insecurities, achievements, and court the support of the like-minded. Or, well, it's time for another Insecure Writers' Support Group, that amazing once-monthly internet gathering of writers sharing their trials and successes in an effort to let us all know that we aren't alone.

I have to say, this group has been a major help for me.  It has forced me, in some pretty dark hours, to think of my writing.  i have never wanted to abandon it, but there have been some life challenges that made me face some massive self-doubt demons.

So, if you have any demons whispering in your ears, check out the list at Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog: here.

This month, however, I have a major success to share.  I signed up for camp nano and picked a half-formed, hastily outlined novel to write for it.

I finished.  At 50,300 some odd words, I won the July nano! This is big.  As many of my previous posts for IWSG have expanded upon, I have been having a ton of issues "finishing" things, so this is a big step in the right direction.

It feels really good to have a shiny new rough draft for the first time in years.

But now  the new worry is:  I wrote it in a month, how can it be any good?

I'm almost done with my first read-through, and I'm compiling notes on where to expand, where to increase tension and how to build the characters better.  But it is going to go to critiquers as well... so we'll see.  I'm at once both hopeful and horrified.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Looking for Events in Sacramento?

So... what's been up with me?  Camp nano--over halfway through my project.  That feels really good, by the way.  And... just in case anyone is in Sacramento this month, I thought I'd mention some of the events that will be going down at my work.

The California State Fair is kicking off, and we will be working with the group running the authors' booth. This is really exciting for me.  Anyone who may have seen my posts from a few years ago might see that, aside from writing, generating and being a part of a writing community is one of the things that makes me very happy and excited.  I guess that comes with the territory.

So, naturally, I love my job. Surrounded by books, with the opportunity to speak with readers and other writers, anywhere from the aspiring to highly accomplished--how could I not love it?

I will be expanding on the events that will be taking place this month on the blog here.    

If you are up for the fair, stop on in!  Say hi :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Camp Nano

So, I seem to remember my blog for this event every month.  Working on building up other posts as well.  What is this event? It is the Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. All posts can be found here. 

We share our goals and insecurities once a month, as well as successes.  

I maintained writing far more continually this past month than I have in a good while.  I came within 8 scenes of finishing a project and then my brain bailed on me.  Or perhaps it was will power.  

Anyhow, I'm fairly certain I will get to finishing it in August.  

In the duration, I signed up for camp nano.  Am I masochist? I have discussed in previous posts that my greatest insecurity of the past few years has been finishing a project.  A novel.  I came within 8 scenes and stopped not even a full month ago and now I'm committing myself to something new and different, and meant to be written from beginning to completion in a month. 

Not only that, but because of work and a few complications, I hadn't gotten around to really starting it until last night.   

On the flip side, I guess it's an accomplishment.  I just keep going.  *cue Ellen Degeneres as Dory* "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming."

But I am.  

And if I must say so, I feel the project is off to a good start.  Yes, it might be that honeymoon phase where it's hard to see the flaws in my own work, but... whatever.  It's going.  An it is't bad. Yet. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

What do we have against nice guys?

Nice guys: the ones that care for the people around them and do everything they can to help in tough situations.  The ones who have their heart in the right place.

Currently rewatching a bit of Stargate Universe and, yes, I'm a geek.  So Eli is mt favorite character.  And his dismissal into the "friend zone" with Chloe, and then the death of Gin pissed me off.  And I think it comes down to the perpetuation of the idea that all the Sh*** happens to the "nice guy."

"Nice guys finish last." & "Good girls like bad boys."  A bunch of crap.

The storylines depict the more jaded, edging characters getting into relationships easier.  Not that Eli doesn't have his own baggage, but they treat his as if it were the concerns of the stereotypical "Mamma's Boy."   But in real life?  If you're in college and you mom has no one but you and she is diagnosed with some serious chronic illness and you *don't* go home to help out--that's not just "bad boy," that's downright amoral.

That's not just "nice guy," that's a moral individual.

What does the perpetuation of these classifications say about our society?

I will acknowledge first that every character must have flaws and that moral uncertainty makes for good storytelling.  But characters can face moral uncertainty, and have flaws, without being "bad guys." Geez--a villian doesn't need to be a "bad guy." He/She just needs to have an idea of the world that wrecks havoc on our protagonist and creates an adversarial relationship.

The perception I would gather is that if your hero and villain are both "good guys," that tension would be hard to create.  I would disagree.  If both had moral compases that led them down what they thought were the "right path" but were in actual opposition, the moral uncertainty can lead to more complicated questions of human nature than a simple explanation of some people being bad, having bad traits/characteristics or negative aspects to personality.

But it seems to me that our reliance on this idea and glorification of outlaws in American society presents evidence of a society that not only likes breaking the rules, but would rather see villains triumph, see vileness win over "good."

What does this teach kids?

I always come back to this because kids soak up and sort everything in their experience to create an understanding of their place in the world and proper interactions with the people around them.  As the most impactful aspect of the "Nice Guy" stereotype deals with relationships. What model are we giving young men?  The guy who treats the girl with respect fails to earn her love?  Or he is doomed to lose her because a nice guy can't keep her interest? He's boring?  So it is better to act contrary the rules and not treat girls respectfully, or play down the fact that you do respect girls when in the company of other guys?

Small wonder we're having issues with  teens committing sexual violence and media self-blaming victims.  We think girls should like this sort of thing as it smacks of "Bad Boy."

Seriously disturbing, IMO.

But this issue is connected to something else I've seen/heard lately.  The idea that feminism is no longer relevant.  If women are being raped, subjugated, objectified, and told they should like guys that will hurt them in one way or another--you tell me, do women have equality in a society that paints that picture of relationships? If there is any power-play in a relationship there is no equality.

Furthermore, if we think that girl/women should choose more darkly complex, morally ambiguous boys/men then we are arguing the 1950's idea that women are emotionally driven and incapable of choosing a path that is in their own interest.  No logic, all feeling.

Does that sound like a post-feminist world to you?

Granted, I'm a woman, and I'll relate this issue back to women's rights and abilities and I know there is a whole facet to male identity construction in the United States that is undergoing a major transition.  It's shaky and acting very threatened atm.  I understand this-- intellectually--but do not have the experience or knowledge on that element to do more than mention it.

Have you seen any nice guys get the girl?  Triumph over their foes in a recent movie/show/book?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Growing Phase and Accompanying Pains

It's the first Wednesday of the month!  Time to share goals, progress and insecurities about writing as part of Insecure Writer's Support Group. There's a lot of really awesome and inspiring entries, so go check out the list at Alex Cavanaugh's blog here.

So what's getting me this month? Well, there are a few things.  They can be boiled down to Growth.  Yes, I'm capitalizing it.  It shall be personified--just for right now.

The aspects of Growth are personal-writing related and related to the industry at a large--my opinions here being formed as the lone 20-something working in Sacramento's only exclusively new book Independent Bookstore.  Isn't that something?  That there's only one of us in a state capitol?

Personal Growth

It has me in it's grasp.  Growth has come to be welcome on some days and pulling me heels-dragging-screaming at other days.  It has overturned long held assumptions and now it has oozed into my writing.  I spotted it awhile ago, and was thankful for the depth and improvement in my writing.

Now Growth has altered my reading habits, which can only serve to hone my writing further.  I have been obsessed with non-fiction.  I have read two books (at least) possibly three in the past month.  It has been a long time since I managed these rates of completion.  And I owe a device to half of the reason.  I was given a Paperwhite, which was the only e-reader that had ever peaked my interest sufficiently.

Yes, I devoured a ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) called Foodist, by Darya Pina Rose--now available in hardback, followed by Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, and Gary Taub's Good Calories, Bad Calories-- all in book form.  But then, on the Paperwhite, I (started) "Fast Food Nation", read "Omnivore's Dilemma," and am most of the way through "Cooked."  I will switch back to fiction and complete "American Gods" next. But I also can't wait to get my hands (or eyes) on Lisa See's "Snow Flower and the Secret fan," and "Dragonbones."

How will all of this non-fiction change my fantasy writing?  I have a few ideas.  I think I'll share in a future blog post :)

Book Growth

Devices, Online shopping and bookstores -- a recurrent theme where I work.  Also, the big glaring question of where are the 20something and 30something readers represented in the store's layout and displays?

I have been asked this, point blank.  I did a touch of research and realized book shopping is driven by individuals over 35, and primarily over 65. Amazon had these trends as did websites representing brick and mortar independants.

My customers think that "Young people," -- a term I once thought only applied to teens, but now seems to encapsulate anyone under 40--  read on devices.  And man, that idea is conveyed with a dose of contempt! I protest that "Print isn't going anywhere!  But our reason for buying it is changing."  Growth hit my work-sphere.

But I feel that my voice is small.  The change is starting, but how to be heard?  How to get the store to benefit from this change?  How to pull young people in the store?

You want to see young people's book-buying preferences?  Check out the Book section on  funny thing?  Some of their cookbooks are exactly one's I've eyed at work, but which the store, overall, has had trouble moving.  Last I searched the page, driven by curiosity, I was excited by the collections they had of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.  Classics.

The Bookstore is driven to shelve new releases. But if they aren't on the NYTimes bestseller lists, they have a 1 in 5 chance of selling in any given month. So, in the mix of new books, all of us who work at the store slip in our favorites.  I have sold Eddings' "Pawn of Prophecy," repeatedly, sold Sanderson's "Mistborn," sold Keyes' "Briar King," and on numerous occasions sent mom's home with Wrede's "Dealing with Dragons," --partially because it's one of my all time favorites and partially because I see it as an appropriate counter to the pink-laden Princess Culture.  Hey, it has a princess, she's just a lot more fun than Cinderella.




Books and ownership of physical--non-digital items--as a statement of identity to be shared with the community you permit into your home.  For this reason, I think that buying habits will continue to change.  But declaring the direction I see it going because of how I see people shopping in the store and how I know my community of various aged individuals consumes books, plus the impact of the economy and so forth on "young people"-- I feel that my voice is small.  Ineffectual.

I think I could write more on this topic... another post!

Friday, May 17, 2013

End of the Woods

For anyone following my blog, I have been pretty up-front about the hardship I've faced the last few years.  Now, I've been working for about six months, and I feel that I am way down the road to recovery.

The hardest thing has been the psychological effects. On this road to recovery, I have been really revamping my lifestyle.  It's something that, looking back, has been a recurring theme of my posts. I had this continual feeling that I was trying to keep pace with my expectations of myself.   I had my life mapped out and I knew where I wanted to be and how i wanted it to go.

But nothing happens according to plan and when life hit I think it took awhile for me to catch up to the changes that the last few years wrought.

My writing changed, as I said before, and the other big thing that I'm figuring out how to do is forgive myself.  I got into writing because I loved it.  I kept writing because the expression of self was addictive to the point of becoming a necessity for balanced daily perspective.  But somewhere in there I entered a transitional phase.  When I started writing in that phase, again, my writing had become darker and heavier.  Certainly depression and despair had  become easier to write.

Then, I got a job in a bookstore.  Depression had limited my reading for over a year.  Then, in a bookstore, serving customers who loved to read as much as I did, I was struck again with book greed.  The surprise?

I've never read much nonfiction outside of school.  Now I gobble it up like my favorite custard dessert.  For many years, little fiction outside SFF appealed to me.  Now I'm reading much more broadly.  I want to read so many things, and I haven't felt that way in a long time.


In the depression, there was only one thing I managed to continue with great fervor and to teach myself.  Cooking.  All of my insecurity poured into an interest in controlling diet.  I fixated on food as the thing I could control in my life, and most other things I started to shut out.  Piece by piece.

Now, that the wounds are vanishing, I have to deal with scars left behind.  I'm not who I was.  My goals can't be what they were.  I have to pull my together the core of me-- which transcends the distance from then to now--with the me that was formed by the last few years.


I have to be realistic, now.  I never really was good at this before.  I was raised for a world where a college degree should win entry to a basic position, so I never planned for anything other than a job to pay the bills until I got my writing off the ground.  I was hard on myself to meet self-imposed deadlines for a very long time.  I'm no longer able to do that.   Reality got so real that it intruded on my peace of mind.  I once was able to shut out concerns for long enough to meet my writing goals.

Now, I have learned that I can't do that anymore.  I love my writing, but I need to give myself time to fall back in love with it.  I need for the same joy to return to me, which can only happen as I get the rest of my life together.  I have been alternating between obsession with writing, toward indecision.  The sign of a transitional period where I'm not quite certain what road I'm taking.

Knowing my own mind is the best key to falling back in love with my writing.  It is forgiving the me that needs reality to be set straight in order to write.

So i'm letting myself slow down and letting my mind and newfound interests carry me. I have a direction now, for Real Life, as opposed to Writing Life.  The balance, I think, is all I need to actually finish a project. It never was about the writing.  It is always about me.

And perhaps, at those times when writing is hardest it comes from the same place that finds liking myself difficult.  Those demons may never be fully dead, but i can put them to long sleep as I sort myself out.

I have made a big decision this week.  It has helped bring clarity.  I am choosing path I would never have ever considered a year or so ago.  But I think this is the right one.  Moreover, paradoxically, it will be good for my writing for me to know that I will be working towards such a necessary and, well, employable job.

These are needs that I, raised for a world of plenty, never thought I would have to make--and decisions I never knew I would find such joy in making.

Here's to new goals for a new me--and the allowance to change the old goals to fit my new life.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Google IO

It's another day in this geeky abode and yes, we're livestreaming Google IO again this year.

I love the discussion of new technology, and it always leaves me with increased curiosity about exactly the direction our future is headed.  This year, Google has not premiered crazy futuristic technology like the Glass they demoed last year.  But they are streamlining and updating everything they have.

From Google+, to search, to maps-- everything gets a makeover.  Certainly this is very exciting for a consumer of Google products like myself as it's all about making the technology smoother and more functional.

It feels a lot like the background, taken-for-granted technology of a science fiction novel. We've made it to the future, and what does it mean?  Where do we go now?

It feels to me that a foundation for some very amazing technology is being created.  Like Google promises, the technology is on the road to stepping aside so we might get to living.  I like living, so that is appealing.

But what does the world look like where we take all of this technology for granted?

I know for many, it feels that this time has already come.  But for me, the "taken for granted" is part of not consciously thinking about using technology. Right now, whatever device I am using, I am thinking about it.  From one screen to the next, swiping typing and charging.  It takes time, effort, memory for all of these things.  Yes, it isn't much, but it isn't as natural as placing one foot in front of the other, or smiling or laughing. Some of those things, we do so effortlessly, so naturally and habitually that we don't think of them.  Those actions we take for granted.  

I feel that technology certainly wants to get there.  A completely automated house like a particular Bradbury story.  What happens when it does?  When we engage with the computer as naturally as we would another human?  A pet?

What does that world look like?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

IWSG: Brevity *sobs* & Date Scenes *shudder*

It's time again!  Be sure to stop by the list and check out all the other awesome IWSG posts for May at Alex J. Cavenaugh's blog, here.

So what have I been insecure about this month?  Well, despite being sick twice in the past month and suffering from crazy allergies, I've been doing pretty well.  I am working on the main WIP, and while the progress has been slow, it has been continual.  Also, I have been working on what I had hoped to be a novella, but which a friend recently glanced over and critiqued.

Based on his comments I think it will be a novel. *sobs*

So perhaps that is my main insecurity: brevity.  I just don't seem to have it.  I try to keep thing short and they end up these long pieces.  At least there's no way Dezzy will end up as long as Silver Mask.

Silver Mask, the main WIP is definitely epic.  But, I think if I give myself time to work on the other story I can be patient with Silver Mask's slow going.  Here's hoping!

Secondary Insecurity: writing romantic scenes.  I dread them.  I am thinking this month of trying a few exercises to challenge myself in this regard.  If I can somehow master the "date scene" perhaps I can breeze through these scenes with the same tenacity and dedication I do with the rest of my projects.  Instead, these scenes tend to make me feel like I'm pushing through waist-high mud.

I become way too conscious of this or that part of the scene--even as I'm writing them--and that little voice in the back of my head is screaming "Bad! Bad! Bad!"  But I barrel on through, and try to tell myself I can fix it in the revision.

I guess it can all be fixed in the revision.  *Crossing fingers*

So, with luck, this month the "short" novel I'm calling Dezzy for now (My WIPs tend to take on character names/nicknames until they have their own title that Just Sticks, and then I know it's the right one) will be done by the end of the month, or nearly so.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Genderizing Kids Books

One of my pet peeves, working in a bookstore, is that modern kids' literature is so gender-segregated.  Perhaps it was this way when I was a child, before the advent of YA, but I honestly don't remember it being so.

This is really concerning to me because--and I'm fairly certain I've written about this in earlier posts--strong female characters (aka positive role-models for preteen and teen girls) drew me into SFF.  But these books weren't written solely by women, nor were they primarily for girls, but for an audience at large.

With parents and kids reinforcing that some topics are "for girls" and some topics "for boys" we reinforce gender norms that aren't so realistic.  I thought the 60's through 80's taught us that.  I want to progress towards developing believable male characters and female characters and a plot line that does not cater to one gender over another.

See, my fear is that if kids grow up reading gendered fiction that they will expect the same things from adult-level literature.  That not only closes plenty of doors for girls on books with powerful, fictional role-models, but on whole topics that should not be divvied up as "masculine" or "feminine."

I don't even want to speculate as to the societal ramifications of these ideas existing in a modern context...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


It's that time again, IWSG, where we share success and insecurities about writing.

Last month I made great headway on my WIP.  I separated all of my characters and am writing each of their stories up to the climax, and then I'll tie everything together.

I found that when I do it this way it's easier for me to focus and spend a lot of time with one character.  I am also hoping that I get rid of any time issues I've had in previous incarnations of this work.  Character growth and change *should* be easier to spot.

Biggest insecurity:

This Blog. I had so much enthusiasm when I started and now, I guess I am not so confident that what I have to say or share is in anyway helpful, meaningful or interesting.  While posts helped me while I wrote less fiction, finding a balance while I *am* writing, is proving more difficult than I expected.  I regain focus in my fiction, and lose it for the blog.

I have tried different approaches and they haven't been holding my interest.  Perhaps it is that I have given this blog too narrow of a focus and I should allow more flex in it to meet my needs.

Don't have that one worked out yet.  Do I want to continue blogging? Yes.  Do I need inspiration?  Definitely.  Maybe it's time for another makeover ....

I do those way too often, a clear reepresentation of my indecision, for sure.  But to be fair, I have in my life been in a point of flux and change the last few years, and all the old systems just don't work anymore.  I've changed my approach to novel writing for what works for the *new me* and I've been in the process of changing my life to match.

It then makes sense that I have to find a way to make my online persona (and blog) a match as well.  So, a makeover it is.   *sigh*

Monday, February 11, 2013

Describe it, with Emotion

As soon as Teffi walked into the room, she smelled the stench of ale spilled and the accomaning illness of patrons who had imbibed too much.  The cook banged pots and pans, the clanging echoed into the empty main room.  Hollow.  Perhaps the cook wanted to fill the silence, to drive off the lingering ghosts of last night's ruccous. But it didn't.

The whole room stood before her, as iuf waiting.  Watching.   Ten round table clusterd at the center of the room.  Their stained and chipped wood had certainly seen better days, and now looked forlorn without the guests to give them significance. 

Six booths lineds the walls, wrapping around a corner, hidden in darkness under shuttered windows.  The bar to the left of the entryway was the only surface that glistened. It drew the eye there.  Where meals and pitchers would be set and the girls would come and sweep them off the counter to dreliver to waiting patrons. 

The flow of food and alchohol would distract from the otherwise lackluster color and quality of floor, walls, tables. 

Without the bustle, the room just stood there, barren, lost.  Exposed for its true nature: plain, dull, and worn out by too many parties and too many guests and too much attention.  Ragged and older than it should be. 

Teffi sank into one of the chairs and traced a deep gash in a round table.

The clacxking stopped.  She caught her breath, finding the silence disarming.

"You're here early," said the cook, a dish towel hanging from a chubby hand.  

--How'd I do?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Out of Place

Kasai didn't know what to make of the tall brick wall ringing the city, much less the noise and bustle beyond it, through the great bronze doors. She couldn't imagine anyone in her family living in the cramped apartments crowding the narrow cobbled streets.

But her mother's cousin did, and that's why she was here, dodging piles of horse manure and women in bright silks that looked down their noses at her.  She couldn't understand what they said to each other. The language here was all wrong.

Supposedly they spoke the same language as she, but Kasai found their nasal-vowels confounding. She could not find words in the furious and rapid chatter, There were so many people and so many streets, winding and weaving around haphazard brick buildings that seemed to bend over the street.

But they didn't. Kasai knew they didn't.  If they did, they would fall.  And they didn't fall. Still, they did not put her at ease.

She craned her neck to find the signage at each of the streets. There were never any words, for which she was grateful, as she knew none. Images of birds and trees guided her to her relative's apartment over a shambling bakery with a dusty stoop.

The whole way she felt that she had followed a maze and by the time she stood there, staring at the door she wasn't certain she'd know how to turn around and leave the city.  Kasai's inability to remember every turn she had taken on her way here was the only thing that prevented her from fleeing.

Then, the door opened.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Writing Prompts

In order to get myself to post more, I'm giving myself assignments!  I'm choosing prompts with I will post the first week of each month and will be writing to them over the course of the month.  As today is the 7th, I'm starting at the tail end of the week, but hey--it's a start.

Why prompts?  I love writing exercises. They push me a little bit, get me out of my standard train of thought, but I don't feel that I need to write anything more than a snippet at a time.  If they lead to a short story, good.  If they don't--so what?  They're fun, they can help work out knots in one's main WIP, develop a skill that needs a little work, and I never feel my time is wasted on them.

So there are three more weeks in February.
Here are 9 prompts:

  1. A character out of place, new to a city/town/time/planet
  2. Describe, in detail, a single room in a manner that conveys the emotional state of the POV character.
  3. Enemies, alone, trapped in a situation where neither can kill each other or do one another any real harm--what happens?
  4. Construct a scene with dialogue alone, that still gives a sense of setting/place.
  5. Action scene with an unskilled main character, out of depth
  6. Escape from a magical institution (temple, school, estate) by a non-magical character
  7. Best friends learn something about each other that could change the nature of their relationship, and cannot tell each other what they know, while in a situation forced to interact socially (either privately, or in public).
  8. Magical being loses ability and is forced to live among humans--but telling the story from the perspective from an unsuspecting human.
  9. Princess in a tower: refuses to believe she deserves the imprisonment, but she does (the POV of a villain! hard for me).
If you like any of these and want to use them, feel free! I just came up with them, so there's no site to quote or anything.  But, if you do, I'd love to read them, so be sure to let me know.

I will also be open to any prompts you might have for me for March.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Focussing On One Thing: IWSG

One month later... and another IWSG post where we share insecurities and successes, month by month.  See what it's all about and all the awesome people who participate over at Alex J. Cavenaugh's site here.

Last month I talked about finishing things and posting more on my blog.  Well, posting has been lax.   I've been unpacking, organizing and working.  All of these things are good for the soul, I think.

My situation currently isn't a spectacular one. So much is still terribly chaotic. However, I have had an overwhelming sense of starting fresh this move--despite any of the less desirable particulars.

My job is amazing.  Being surrounded by books has helped me recommit myself to reading all the wonderful books I have on my shelf, but have, somehow, not quite read.  It has also done wonders for my self-esteem to realize how many different topics and books I can talk to my customers about.  Somehow, I had lost sight of these and drowned in self-criticism.

Does my writing suffer the same?

Likely.  I think that some years ago, when I successfully finished some (now shelved) manuscripts, I had found the means to focus on one thing.  Indecision and insecurity go hand in hand and I find all these ways to justify juggling multiple projects without finishing one.

I get close, at Nano, to finishing something. But I suppose at the moment it might take me two months of laser-focus to produce a rough draft.  I think that will be my goal this month, suppressing distraction and focusing on a single project.Then, perhaps, by the end of April I will have a completed draft.

So I suppose that's a goal that I can set and monitor each month with these posts.

Friday, January 25, 2013

All Moved! So What's on the table?

The boxes are being unpacked and I am somehow beginning to make sense of chaos.  I am enjoying my job, but now that the holidays are over it is turning into a very part-time position.  Which is okay, of course.  It just means I need more work *sobs.*

I am working on Silver Mask, again.  but I'm backtracking a touch and developing characters that I thought I had a handle on but who have changed in this draft.  So, I'm spending more time with them.

Also, my guy got me involved in the community behind a not-yet-released game.  And I'm loving the creativity, the people, and the idea behind this game.  So I'm working om my own character and that has meant doing some scifi writing.  Not usually my forte, but hey,I like trying new things.

In other news, it's lemon season again and I love lemon season.  Lemon bars, lemon poppy seed scones, lemon pepper chicken... and that's just for starters.

I will be posting fiction on my shiny new wordpress... and then I'll link to it from here :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IWSG: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!  Here's another edition of IWSG: where we post our insecurities about writing and our goals. and this year, at least, I think my year is started off right!

While, yes, I will be moving yet again, and my laptop officially died, I achieved some pretty notable things in my non-writing life this holiday season: 

I got a job!-- in a bookstore!

I began attending a really awesome writing group!

My guy repaired an old laptop for my use (old laptop that is newer than the one that just died) and got me a laptop table/desk to make my habit of writing-on-the couch more comfortable. 

okay.. wait.. I suppose all of these things will be impacting my writing.  

The greatest benefit is that I am happy, positive,and everything seems doable.  

Which means I get to address my main writing insecurity this year: finishing something.  

That's my goal: finish the novella, and at least one of the two novels that I'm working on.  Edit and post short stories for sale.  And this year I will return to blogging whole heatedly , rather than sporadically writing short little posts.  I like deadlines, I like goals. So I'm going to work really hard at keeping myself to them this year.  

Why do I have a problem finishing things?  

I think it's just been a matter of discipline, honestly.  I need to return to being disciplined.  But I know that everything I required to help lift me from my mental fog--I now have it.  So I should be able to finish something this year, because I should (after this next move) be able to return to a disciplined and structured life.  

But when i let something sit long enough the characters change in my head, and then the plot shifts.  I know I have to write quickly to finish something, and taht based on whatever else i have in my life fast is relative.  But I suppose after the move my days off should include marathon writing sessions. I need to get ahead of the thoughts, the planning, the characters.  

I think this makes me a pantser, for all my carefully arranged plots, characters timelines and dictionaries... when it gets down to it, I write in a very stream-of-consciousness manner. Everything formal, I guess, comes in a revision. a whole different skill that I am working on mastering and has come with its own insecurities (or developed them, more likely) -- which I can elaborate on next month!

What was the hardest writing project you ever completed (or had a hard time completing)?