I know I've been absent lately (sorry! Life has been insane, and only sometimes in the good way), BUT someone is giving away a signed print copy of my book! Also, she's sad that there are only two responses so far. So go, my peoples! Flood her comments! It will make someone happy, and you might just get the BEST BOOK EVER out of it. (That would be mine. ;-D)
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Hey, all! I'm moving and cleaning things out. I have copies here of "A Little Weird" that I'd be happy to sign and send out. $15 if you want one! (I also have copies of "Second Hope" that I'm happy to do the same thing with!)
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I find myself blinking between email and facebook in the hopes that there will be some human connection there. But the thing is, there isn't. Facebook keeps me sort of updated on what people are doing, but you can't say more than that. I might know that they are frustrated with their neighbor, but I don't know why or how they're dealing with it or any of the other mundane things that make a person a person. I have one fact, and that's all.
I'm looking for the community I had years ago, here on LJ, when all my fandom friends were here and I was part of groups where I actually knew people. When there were entries, like this one, about what was going on in peoples' lives. When myself and a dozen others would write essays almost daily, and comment at length about each others' posts.
None of us really have that kind of time anymore. But maybe I should start making the time. Maybe instead of spending twenty minutes on FB, refreshing the feed and hoping something pops up, I should start writing here and reading again. Most of my friends from here have moved on, but there are a few around, and there are always more friends to make.
I think that's a good plan. I hope I can stick with it.
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Do you ever accidentally create characters? Because I find myself doing it a lot. They usually end up being fun, at least. Just now I was writing a scene where a fight breaks out. It's told from the POV of someone who's infiltrating a... er, magical gladiator-esque slave ring. So, I'm writing this:
someone bumps into the tables where the heavies are sitting, and the heavies get up to Deal With That Shit. (Obviously, I'm paraphrasing what I wrote. >.>) Three men stand. Claire, Our Heroine, notices that one of them is her mark. His red hair is impossible to miss. The other two--
Wait. I should make one a woman! Yes.
Three people stand. One is obviously her mark 'cause of his hair. The other two she doesn't recognize: a man and a one-eyed woman.
Wait, no, because if they've got posters plastered around for advertising, a one-armed woman would be recognizable, surely. I KNOW. SHE CAN HAVE ONE ARM. Wait, no, that still defeats the whole unrecognizable thing. I KNOW. SHE CAN HAVE A PROSTHETIC ELBOW. Wait, wait, fantasy world. I KNOW. SHE CAN HAVE AN ELBOW MADE OUT OF MAGICKED WOOD. How am I going to describe that in a quickie one-liner so I don't break the flow? I KNOW. I CAN SAY THIS.
Three people stand. the mark, blah blah, other dude, blah blah, and a woman with a golem arm.
YES. THIS IS FREAKIN' AWESOME. GOLEM ARM. Women with golem arms are obviously bad ass, to have her arm cut off but she won the fight anyway and had enough of a fanbase for her sponsor to decide to put in the money to give her a golem arm!
...A golem arm is totally recognizable. OKAY FINE. NOW SHE'LL JUST HAVE TO BE IN THE BOOK, TOO. Because she already has wild black hair and she's a little crazy.
And that is how a woman with a golem arm came to be in my book. >.>
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Okay, I'm working on a book I've lovingly working-titled "DOOM." Because DOOM happens. (Also, a nod here to my cooperative writing buddies, who plotted out and wrote the short story version with me. ;)) (And who said, "Yes, JB, it was your idea! Of course you can use it for your book!") (They're awesome.)
So, here's the million dollar question: is the militia full time or part time?
The world as I see it: There's a large space of land that I'm going to refer to as The Good Country, even though the tribes within it would not consider it all one country. It has pasture and limited agriculture (small towns and villages) to the west, mountains to the north and east, and cliffs to the south. Farther to the west are ports and rapidly growing towns (becoming cities; give it another 50-100 years, and the whole culture will change), and inflowing trade. It's big enough that many of the Nine Tribes are still nomadic. Those who are not among the Nine Tribes are either the towns and villages, which have sprung up along the trade routes, or the Kavi, who live in the eastern mountains.
Toward the southern foot of the mountains they get much smaller and more livable, and beyond them is much more pasture and agriculture. This is where the trade routes ultimately lead; our story doesn't go beyond this southwest boundary of the country.
Got all that? Okay, well, it probably doesn't matter much. TL;DR: there's some nomadic tribes and towns and villages, and big mountains to the east.
Their northern neighbors have started warring/raiding. First question: I guess it matters if they're warring or raiding, because raiding would mean minor scuffles, warring would mean we need a bigger army to fight them off. I don't want to write about the end of a war; that story is too big. Can I just be like, "They've been warring for pretty much forever"? I don't see why not, if they're contesting boundary lines. The better agricultural land is definitely southward, and the northern folks could be improving their lives via warring and raiding, right?
So. Northern neighbors are intruding. It's enough of a problem that the Nine Tribes have banded together, at least in this, and all agreed to send their best people to be fighters. Second question: does it make more sense in a low population type setting that they wouldn't send fighters, but say, "Each village/tribe to itself!"? I could say that the population is big enough to support fighters. Maybe the trade/port thingy has boosted the populace and created more stability? Third question: Maybe I answered this question already. If they have a militia, they'd have to be big enough to support it. I'd rather they not have a part-time militia where people go home in between fights. How big would they have to be to support a small militia? (But a militia big enough to cover the border passes.) Fourth question: Where would they place a militia? The boundary is BIG. I guess they'd need a bunch of outposts? Would they train at each one? I guess they'd have to. I suppose I need to shape it like other large countries with large borders? Or maybe I could say the northern mountains have just a few main areas where people could pass through and raid, so they need fewer outposts. What seems realistic?
Okay. I think I answered some of my own questions. So...
I need a population big enough to support a small but steady militia, which needs to be placed at the northern passes where the bad guys cross through. Say three or four of them. So I guess the big question is, how big of a populace do I need? Can I get away with towns or do I need to start having cities?
...Actually, I think that's all I need to know. :D
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So... I fell off the earth a little bit there, huh? Here's something I don't tell everyone (not because it's a secret but because, really how do you work this into conversation?), but I struggle with clinical depression. I have ever since I was a teenager. Through therapy and a lot of books I've learned some methods of keeping it relatively well balanced, but around August my balance tipped, and I was having trouble putting things right again. Then, after all the fabulous reviews, emails, and comments I've gotten on A Little Weird, I got the sales back and it was a rather ugly surprise. Before I'd figured out what had happened (most of the distributors are lagging by a quarter), between that and the rough year I had a fairly nasty spiral.
But good news! Because of this nasty spiral, I finally went to a friend who's an actual psychologist and said, "I think I need help. These are the things I'm doing, but I can't keep my head above water." (It was a lot worse than that, actually, but K knows me well enough to know that if I say, "I need a hand," I really mean, "THE SHIP IS SINKING, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.") K called me right away and said, "Given what I know about you and your family history, I really think you probably have a chemical imbalance. How would you feel about medication?"
She did a lot of hand holding and breaking things down into tiny, manageable steps for my broken brain, and I got on medication. That was Thanksgiving day.
I emailed her a week later and said, "This is amazing. Do normal people feel like this ALL THE TIME? Where things are still busy and sometimes stressful but it's okay and you can deal with it?!" and she said, "Yup."
So. Apparently I have a chemical imbalance in my brain. Medication is amazing stuff, and I probably should have been on it 16 years ago. No joke. On the other hand, props to me for managing for 16 years with behavioral and cognitive shifts, despite having wonky chemical imbalances in my brain. I mean, that's like someone saying, "I survived for 16 years with walking pneumonia. Go me! Now that I'm on antibiotics, it's even easier. Glad I made it this long so I could get on the antibiotics!" Does that make sense? Anyway.
The last eight months, and then the really fucking awful month of November, pretty much killed my writing drive. Unless there's a miracle, it's unlikely I'll continue the "Weirdos, Queers and Freaks" series, which means it's now officially a stand-alone. (Since I wrote it that way in the first place, I don't feel particularly bad about this.)
Now that I'm medicated and breathing again, I'm very, very slowly starting to plot things again. The urge to write is coming back, but I'm not sure what to start with. I have an urban fantasy story I plotted, and I have my DOOM story that was originally a trilogy, but I've since scaled it back to a one-off. (I get great ideas for trilogies, but the fact is that I seem to do better with one-offs. I get bored halfway into the sequel.) I need to do some replotting for the DOOM story, but I think it could be really good. God knows I've put enough thought into those characters...
I also got a fax/printer/scanner thingy, so expect sketches! Someday!
Competing for time is the fact that I'm still trying to buy a house. I've shifted, though, as the housing market has gone up by $100,000 over the last year. (Ouch. Talk about being priced out.) So now I'm looking for land and I'm going to put a mobile home on it. WOOT WOOT. Which means figuring out zoning and whatnot. (Anyone out there know anything about that? Anyone? Bueller?)
Anyway, that's off the topic. I just wanted to give you all a wave, say, "Not dead yet!" and let you know that 'Queer' is probably off the burner altogether, with some fantasy novels on the back burners and my mental health on the front burners.
You know what I'd really like? Some fans so I can say, "I'm thinking of doing this!" and have people go, "SQUEE!" That's what I miss most about fanfic. Seriously, Quin (we're getting married, btw!) says, "You're so much happier when you're writing fanfic," and I'm like, "No, I'm just more talkative because I have other people talking to me about it." Maybe I shall harass Roos when I talk to her on Sunday. Hmmmm.
Off topic again! Hi! Not dead yet! Love everywhere! Uh. Look, a very content pit bull! (Also, my and Quin's feet.)
Awww, <3 Lily.
Okay! I re-started Queer. Aside from the "SO MANY HANDS" reaction, good news! I'd had 100 pages (or so) of story that I didn't like, but in just a few days I'm up to 27 pages of story I DO like, and quite a few scenes that'll be salvageable from the other one. WOOT WOOT!
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You know what strikes me about writing make out or sex scenes with three characters? SO MANY HANDS.
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So! I'm working on Queer. Last time I started working on it again, something felt wrong. I stopped, and re-read A Little Weird. After doing so I was like, "Ah! I see what's wrong in Queer: I've lost the character's voices."
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Then I went and read "The New Topping Book," to sort of give me an inside look at what makes Doms and dos and don'ts. I did some of that already when I was writing Weird, but I felt like I needed more info -- especially as an important part of Queer is London learning to Dom.
After reading that, I was like, "Ah! And I see where I've gone wrong here, too, and how to fix it!"
Next, I went and started re-reading Queer with an eye toward fixing it.
Here's my problem: I'm not so good at fixing. I'm great at the initial re-write. But as soon as I start reading with an eye toward fixing, unless there's an obviously plot thing, I'm just not good at fixing a voice. As I read I can see that it's wrong, but I've followed the wrong down the rabbithole, and I can't see how to get out or where it starts or how to change it. Unless, of course, I re-write it completely.
Can you see where I'm going with this?
Short of re-writing it completely, I'm not sure how to fix this. (Actually, I wouldn't have to re-write it completely, and what I might do is rip out the scenes I don't want first, see what I'm left with, and go from there.) (On the other hand, because there is so much of it that I don't like, it might be easier to re-write it almost completely. I still like the first few opening scenes. It started to feel "off" around page 20. There are 100 pages written.)
Also, I need to get a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish here. So:
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Initially, some of the stuff now slated for Crazy was in Queer, so that needs to be adjusted.
I also think I need to keep re-reading Weird to keep a handle on voices, at least until I'm back to feeling like they're my second skins. A crazy busy life has left me feeling disconnected from my characters, which leads to poor writing.
You know what? I just need to stop promising things like trilogies, and start just enjoying writing one offs. Or do it like i used to do multi-chapter fanfic: write the ENTIRE DAMNED THING before I publish anything. That way, if I hit major burnout or something happens IRL that stops me from writing for so long that I lose my ability to get into those characters' skins, I can just adjust what's been written so far, and declare it done without having to get back into the right mode and fix something that went wrong. Grrrrrr.
*Edit: after a lot of hand scribbling to figure out what I wanted and what I liked, I think I have a clear path. It's... going to be a lot of re-writing. But hopefully good, solid re-writing that leads to another awesome book!
My life has exploded. I'm not ever sure where to start.
How about writing? I had to put aside "Queer" because it just wasn't going right, and I went back and read "Weird," the print version. It was kind of fun. :D the fact that it was in print distanced me enough to read it NOT as something I'd written, but just as a story, which means I could put aside that critical part of myself. It was... actually a lot better than I thought it was. *laughs* I mean, that sounds strange, but any time I read my own stuff I find lines that could be clarified or tightened up, so that even if I like what I read, I'm also critiquing it. Without the critique there, it was just fun. It's a hot little threesome Dom/sub story, and it made me super, super happy.
I won't know what the sales are like until the quarterly report comes in (late this month, early next month hopefully), but I hope it does well. I mean *I* love it. Shouldn't everyone else love it, too? Really, I need to pipe it to the BDSM community. Except it's not very hardcore, so then I get nervous. Which means I need to pipe it to the "Shades of Gray" lovers, because this is actually a healthy BDSM relationship, and mellow enough for the average person. I don't really know how to do that beyond advertising, which I'm doing now.
I have a ring! You know. A Ring. My sweetie gave it to me. :D We're engaged with no wedding date to be set. Maybe no wedding date to be set, ever, but we'll see. In the meantime! this is big stuff, and has pushed me into dealing with some of my commitment issues bit by bit.
"Commitment issues? YOU?" I hear you cry.
Um. Yes. As wide as the Nile is long. But good news! My beau has commitment issues, too, so we work at about the same pace. ;-D
Whoops! And now she's home. Gotta go!
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"So, what have you been doing lately, JB?"
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Oh, you know, the usual. Practicing insomnia. Not writing because I can't focus. Arguing on the Internet, which only decreases my focus. Dog training. Watching NCIS. Trying to keep my head above water, with mixed results.
Actually, this whole "arguing on the internet" thing is awful. I get obsessive when I debate anything, and I don't think well in the moment. Arguing on the internet is more successful for me than elsewhere, simply because it gives me time to think, but that doesn't stop the obsession. Even when the person I'm arguing with agrees with me, I end up awake at night, thinking about ways to convince them. It's like they become a representation of all the people I haven't convinced, and OH MY GOD THEY CAN'T THINK SOMETHING DIFFERENT THAN I THINK. It's completely unhealthy. COMPLETELY. In all caps. Like that.
I wake up in the middle of the night, my brain already spinning, and it's totally useless. Usually by then we've walked away from the argument, with mixed results, so I can't even do anything with it. I suppose I could write long essays, but that doesn't really stop my brain from waking me up the NEXT night with more things on that topic, or just the same things on that topic. I work myself into frenzies and none of it means anything, except that I'm sleeping less well and I'm seriously cranky and distracted.
It's an addiction, of sorts. Or an obsessive/compulsive issue. (What's the difference between mental addictions and OCD issues? Is there one?) Anyway. I'm trying to let it go. (I actually was debating online today, and went through the obsessive phase and into an information gathering one, which is new for me.)
When I really need to clear my mind, I swing. You know. On a swing. At the park, typically. I put in an iPod and listen to music and let my brain zip through all the thoughts it wants to have. I can swing, when I'm really locked into something, for a couple hours at a time. Other than 3/4 bottle of wine, I haven't found anything that works better (and I don't get hung over from swinging. I do get bruises...).
I guess I don't really have anything to say, except, "Hi. The world is still spinning, and I'm still stressed out, and my world is changing around me in ways I'm scrambling to keep up with." It's not pleasant, and I'm definitely tired of it. Finding new ways to cope is becoming a way of life. Egad.
This is the aborted start to a book, which will no longer work because I overhauled the plot. But it's still an entertaining start. (That yogurt line? Totally needs to find a home in one of my other things.)
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I've declared Sept a no-write month. I just can't keep up. >.<
I got home from SoCal last Tuesday, worked, saw a house Thursday then left for a Vegas wedding Monday (so tempting to post this misleading line to Facebook: "At a chapel in Vegas! - with Quin" but I refrained), got home Tuesday, worked yesterday, today I'm going to see a house (I'm trying to buy a house an hour away, so each visit is nearly a day trip; I've mentioned this, yeah? Surely.), tomorrow I work, Saturday is a bachelorette party, Sunday and Monday I work, I board dogs next week (one REALLY aggressive dog), work all weekend, the next week I work and then that weekend is a weekend-long wedding.
...Yeah, I'm just declaring this a no-writing month.
Which doesn't help my head at all. Which is probably why I had such trouble getting to sleep last night, and woke up at 4am...
Guys. Seriously. My life is insane right now.
Other news! "Weird" keeps getting reviews that say some variation of, "London is crazy, but in a good way," which makes me SUPREMELY happy because that's what I was going for (and did a bunch of re-writes to attain). So, WOOT! It's also getting five stars all over the damn place (after one odd review that was very complimentary, but gave it only three stars. I still can't figure that one out).
Do you ever lie in bed at night (or drive in the car), thinking up brilliant blog posts, writing them in your head, phrasing things so they're entertaining and... well, I was going to say thought-provoking, but no, mostly just entertaining. Make up posts about all sorts of random crap, ramble or rant on and on, think, "Yes, that's what I'm going to write about!" and then turn to think about something else?
And then, when you sit down in front of your computer, your brain goes, "Huh? Write? I know I had several good ideas over the last few days..."
I swear to god, it drives me crazy! Sometimes I think I started doing reviews just so I didn't have to think about it so much. I can just glance over my book shelf and go, "Oh! That book! That book drove me NUTS. Let me rant about it now!"
Speaking of things that drive me crazy, I just bought season 9 of NCIS. I have like, random seasons. Season 1 (which was worth the $10 but not much more), season 5, season 9. That might be it, now that I think about it. I pick them up whenever I feel the need to turn my brain off (which is hilarious, because they don't really turn my brain off, they just make it think about other things), and watch them bit by bit.
Anyway, in season 9 the awesome redhead director is replaced by an African American gent, who I don't like as much as the redhead, but that's okay because you know what? He's the ONLY person of color on the show. (Okay, some people count Zeva, so I should amend that to ALMOST the ONLY PoC on the show.) (As an aside: Zeva is so hot. I'm generally only into masculine people, but for Zeva I would make an exception. The accent and the kick-assedness and the cargo pants. Purrrrr.)
That poor director is like, one speck in a sea of whiteness. I love the show, I do, but GOD the whiteness! It's blinding! Come on, casting people! It's based in the US, and more than half the population of the US are people of color! Statistically speaking, this over-white show is an anomaly! (As compared to reality, not as compared to other shows.) So, yay for getting a PoC director, less yay for getting rid of one of the women. (Since it's not exactly half and half men:women ratio, either.)
Also. Zeva and people of color. This is a term I'm a little unsure of. Actually, 'white' is a term I'm a little unsure of, too. I live in an area with lots of Asian, Indian, and Islander folks, and they're all as pale as I am. In fact, I'm darker than a lot of them. For a long time I thought of this as a very white area, then I started realizing that more than half the people I see are Asian/Indian/Islander, and I went, "Oh, wait, maybe this is not such a white area." Even though they're whiter than I am. Which THEN made me think, "What is the definition of white?" and "Probably it's not a color definition. It's probably a race/minority definition," kind of like when they talk about women being in the minority, they don't actually mean there are fewer of us, they mean we're not equal in status to men. (I'm not willing to say "second class citizen," because having JUST being given the right to wed as a gay person, I can honestly say that women get way, waaaaaay more rights than second class citizens. And I'm not saying that gay people are second class citizens, either, just that being discriminated against systematically and legally is a lot worse than being discriminated against systematically. Though since the laws are different for gay folks than straight folks, maybe that does count as second-class-citizen-of-a-first-world-nation, and I should say gay folks are second class citizens.) (I know, some backwards states now have laws that discriminate against women. When the country doesn't get into an uproar about that shit, I'll accede that maybe women are second class citizens. Until then, maybe first-minus-a-half class citizens.)
...Is everybody with me still? Oh, good. Back to Zeva and whiteness.
So! Much like I looked around, saw Asians and Indians and Islanders and thought, "We are all white," I look at NCIS and Zeva and think, "They are all white." This is where I need someone to slap me upside the head and tell me what the boundaries are. Or I could Google it. Hang on.
Okay! So, it is always changing, but currently in the US:
"The current U.S. Census definition includes white "a person having origins in any of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa." The U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation describes white people as "having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa through racial categories used in the UCR Program adopted from the Statistical Policy Handbook (1978) and published by the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, U.S. Department of Commerce." The "white" category in the UCR includes non-black Hispanics."
Got that? You can read about it on wiki here. So, Zeva would be considered white at least here. SEE? The show is downright cheesey! The mozzarella kind! And this area is apparently non-white, even though peoples' skin color is paler than mine. Good lord, this stuff is confusing.
Right, so that was a long and somewhat pointless rant. Um. Hey! I squashed a mosquito last night!
...That is all.
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I remember being a kid, and listening to the football game play in the background during Thanksgiving. It wasn't the Superbowl. I know that now, because I thought it WAS the Superbowl and I put that in my book, and no one else caught the slip up either. Now it's published like that. *dies so hard* I can't believe I did that. I so carefully researched everything else, down to when baseball season started and basketball season and everything else! Lordy, lordy.
Um. Yeah. Just ignore that. *dies some more*
On the other hand, Weird is getting great reviews! My current favorites are the random reader who posted a 5 star review on Amazon, and... drum roll please... the 5 star review at Just Erotic Romance Reviews! Guys, I do believe this is my FIRST five star review! I mean, the Dragon series got good reviews, usually ranking in the 4s steadily, but this is a 5! WOO HOO! *does a dance!* So, so exciting. :D
In other news, I'm still on vacation! Tango and I have been sitting by the pool and drinking wine. (Occasionally at least.)
See? Pretty awesome. I also helped a friend move, because I'm just that kind of masochist. No writing has been done. I did, however, score an embarrassment of clothes when I went shopping with my mom. Aren't moms great? It doesn't matter if you're self sufficient, they're still happy to buy you stuff! :D
I've seen a bunch of friends that I haven't seen in too long, so that was great. And one of those friends had a PUPPY, so that was fun, too. Puppies are always adorable. ;)
Tonight my beau flies in, and we'll spend the weekend here in SoCal before driving home together. Tomorrow we have a riding lesson, and Saturday we go kayaking in La Jolla. Yeah, life is hard right now...
Don't break the internet without me!
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Well, I packed up Cash, Lily, and Tango and we all headed south to visit my family! We've had a blast while we're here. :D
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We've been looking at model homes (not because I'm moving down here, but because they're just plain fun to look at and pretend), and we went to see "Now You See Me." Aside from the lame-ass sorta-romance ("You're sweet."? Really? I love both characters, but he was a dick to her), IT WAS BRILLIANT. I loved it. Go see it. It's about magicians robbing banks. You can't get better than that. ;)
I'll try and get another mini-post up later in the week! Or, uh, earlier next week, as it happens... but no promises. I'm on vacation!
(And trying not to think about re-re-reading Queer yet again before I start writing when I get home. *sighs*)
So, way back in my heyday of comic fanfic, there was this thing called The Common People. I forget now who started it -- Luba? Lori? Kaylee? -- but it was pretty popular. It was superhero stories told from the point of view of -- you got it! -- the common person.
It's stuck with me all this time. I come back to it every time I watch a superhero movie. I haven't given it enough thought to figure out how it would be feasible, but today on my walk I did a little more thinking.
I love the idea of it. I mean, what's it like to be the doctor who bandages up Batman in secret? How much does she worry that her superiors will find out? How does she hide the supplies she uses? What about the civilian who gets dosed with laughing gas or mutagens? Or the one who escapes, but is surrounded by the crazy, panicking crowd that produced? Do people in metropolitan areas have to pay for superhero insurance? In fact, how many people end up homeless because there isn't superhero insurance, and the insurance company declares Thor's hammer an act of god? (Ha ha.) What about the entrepreneur who starts selling superhero first aid packs -- everything you need in case the Joker comes to town?
Along these lines, I had a couple of ideas.
1. I could totally write a chicklit book (can I tell you how much I hate that term, btw?). It would start with a personal ad:
F, 34, BBW looking for someone to share life with. Commons only. Superheroes need not apply. Repeat: NO SUPERHEROES. My insurance won't cover you. Inquire at...
I mean, come on, that practically writes itself!
2. Who are the people who find cures for things like the Joker's laughing gas? I want to know about those people. It would also be an interesting story, on the outskirts of superheroes, with the possibility of danger if a villain decides to shut them down. That would be seriously cool. And, hey, they might even get to see Superman one day, if he gets sick. ;)
So, yeah. I'm contemplating this sort of thing at the moment. I'll contemplate a LOT longer -- I have other things that take precedence (like Queer... which would be going except it's not. Don't ask. Bleh.)
Fun stuff. :D
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I read this great article today, "I Hate Strong Female Characters" by Sophia McDougall, and it had a fabulous point. I'm going to sum it up:
Tell me about a Strong Male Character. "Any of them!" I hear you cry. Except... not really. To quote from the article, let's look at Sherlock Holmes:
"Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong."
Put another way, male characters get to be human. Female characters are limited (in both type and number), and therefore the one female character you might see in a movie needs to be representative of all women, everywhere. She gets to be Strong. Not human.
I was thinking the other day about writing female characters, and my own cultural sexism biases. I thought that what I'd like to do is set people to write stories. Fantastic stories. About whatever they wanted. And then to simply take a character (which would, in all likelihood, be male) and... make it a woman. The thing is, when we write men we write humans. When we write women, we don't. The women are interested in the hero, most of the time. Even when we have them be interested in furthering the plot, they don't get interests outside that. The men might get flashes where you see them playing video games or wondering what's going on with their favorite sport and so on, but the women don't.
I was thinking about how to tell someone how to write a woman. "Write a man," I thought myself saying. "And then make it a woman." Because, really, when we write men we write humans. Sure, there are more differences between men and women than simply changing their pronouns. But not that many more differences.
I realized the other day that my favorite shows all have women who aren't interested in the men around them. NCIS? I loved it once Ziva arrived. The Big Bang Theory, though initially steeped in cultural sexism, has done a fantastic job in the last few years of bringing in women. Lots of women. Smart women, geeky women, gorgeous women, socially awkward women, socially adept women. Heck, the ratio is often 1:1 men and women. (The other complain against it is that it makes fun of geeks. Since I'm usually laughing because I relate to what's happening from the "I've been in that geek position" standpoint... bah.) White Collar. Several smart women, who have interests OUTSIDE the men and the main plot. Women!
Back to the article. McDougall says that the solution here is to have more female characters, of all stripes. I agree! I mean, half the world's population is women. Don't you think that, in all likelihood, they'd be involved in whatever shenanigans you're writing about?
Anyway, that's my rant for today. Go read the article. It's good. ;)
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Did I mention I've been having to go back through and fill in scenes from Queer that I hadn't realized I hadn't written? Or scenes I didn't think I needed, but then when I went back and read it -- after finishing editing Weird (which is available in paperback now, btw!) I realized I did?
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See, here's what happened. I wrote A Little Weird. I sent it off. It was accepted. In the several weeks' (months?) lag time between being accepted and editing starting, I wrote about a third of A Little Queer. Then edits came back for Weird, and I had to focus on those. By the time I'd finished edits, I'd forgotten where I was with Queer, so I re-read it. And discovered that it didn't flow nearly as smoothly as I thought. :( So I made a bunch of notes and whatnot, and I've been going back and filling in scenes. It's not fun.
Anyway, the good news is this: in doing so, I realized I needed to cover more than was possible, and so now it's a trilogy. Also, I've finally finished filling in scenes. YAY! Now: I need to re-read it again, and then continue on. With luck it'll be finished by the holidays!
We all remember that when I say "review" I really mean, "I'm going to talk about this book, and it might only be a line or two, but it might be pages", right? Good.
When I get stressed, I read. I've been stressed. With work (dog training) picking up, and edits (for the recently published A Little Weird, now available in paperback!) to do, and most recently a bird to visit and then adopt... things have been a wee bit crazy. Good, but crazy. So I've been reading. :D
1. The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. (Fantasy)
I'm not even sure how to describe this. Here, have the blurb:
"Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief.
But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect.
The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while.
Like a king."
Except it wasn't really about stealing the king or Eli Monpress. It was more about stopping the usurper who tries to take over when the king vanishes.
Meh. It was nice to see as many female as male protagonists, and the two supporting characters were interesting. I'd have liked the book more if it had been about them. It was fun, in a romping sort of way, and if I were bored and wanted something I didn't have to think about or get too interested in, I'd read it again. It was smart, and I can think of a few people who would really like it a lot more than I did. It just didn't quite hook me.
2. Cold Pursuit by T. Jefferson Parker (Mystery/suspense)
Straight up mystery: someone gets killed, and the detective has to figure it out. The twist here is that they're Capulets and -- wait, no. There is a modern day family feud going on, though.
This would have been great if it hadn't been A) predictable (I figured out the bad guy and the motive in the first twenty pages, mostly due to all the crime shows I watch) and B) if every woman in it hadn't been a bracelet for the protagonist. Seriously. Mostly, in fact, I got really sick of reading how the red herring had this awesome job that we weren't ever going to hear about, because she was too busy fawning over the detective, and how the daughter of the dead guy was the detective's ex-wife and kept throwing herself at him, and the female detective -- no, wait, she gets one line in the beginning and then we never really see her again, and then the detective's sister has a cool job we don't hear anything about, we only hear about her newest beau and how she has terrible taste in men. Because, y'know, how women relate to men is all that matters about them. Fuck that shit. This book pissed me off with the cultural sexism. What's even worse is that my dad -- MY dad, who marched in the gay pride parade and is all about equality and is totally a new age hippy -- recommended it. *sighs* Oh, Dad. I'm not sure how to tell you that the author you like so much is writing sexist crap. Crap I can forgive. Sexist crap? Don't think so.
3. Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann (Mystery/suspense)
Someone... does something... and has to be stopped... there's a dog that I kept thinking, "I could fix that problem," and a gay movie star.
...I didn't actually finish this book. This book had the opposite problem of the one above. I didn't figure the plot out in the first hundred pages that I read, which was great. There was LOTS of diversity in sex, culture, race, and sexual orientation, and that was really awesome. I was quite excited about that.
But all the characters who were accepting were these pious, perfect people, and any character who wasn't accepting was overweight (hello, body shaming -- I probably wouldn't have noticed, except everyone was so welcoming otherwise), slobbish, loud mouthed, rude, clearly bigoted. Which isn't how the real world works. In the real world, even bigots can be nice people, and even tolerant people can be louts. It didn't bug me at first, but after a while I got tired of the stereotypes. I did wonder what happened with the subplot, which was a gay romance, though.
4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (sci fi)
Um... the future is run by calorie companies, which seem to control food(?), and there's a mini- cultural revolution/civil war going on.
I'm still not sure what I thought of this book. It was good. I LOVED that it was set in Thailand, and all but one of the movers and shakers was -- amazingly -- non-white. (They were mostly Thai, with a few Chinese and Japanese.) It was a large cast, and all but two of the main characters were men, so that was a little annoying. But one of the female characters was really cool, and -- gasp! -- she wasn't a love interest, and didn't have a love interest. I think I remember in passing that she might have had a crush on another woman... but it was definitely not the main focus of her story. The main focus of her story was her history, and what she was doing now, and the moral quandary she found herself in. Do what she had come to believe was right, or continue on her path of revenge? Hmmm... It was awesome.
There were several other interesting characters, and I quite liked the way everything played together. I was really disappointed that the windup girl for whom the book was named was such an oddly minor character. She changes the world inadvertently, which I suppose is why the book is named after her. Still, I wished I'd seen more of her.
I didn't particularly care for one of the main protagonists (the white guy), and we saw him more than I cared for. But the Chinese protagonist was fascinating, too. He had a great backstory, and you could totally see why he did what he did. The world was odd, and I'm still not sure I entirely understand it except in the broadest brushstrokes. I did like the way all the cultures coming together melded, and seeing people through the eyes of other cultures. That was cool.
See why I can't decide how I feel about this book? I'll give the author another try, that's for sure.
5. Seduce me at Sunrise by Lisa Kleypas (historical romance)
Boy meets girl, is adopted into her house, falls in love with girl. Girl is sickly and obviously can't be in a romance because he's an overprotective douche. Girl finds doctor to make her un-ill. Cue music.
I liked the first book in this series (a series about gypsies, and I have a soft spot for gypsies of any stripe), but I couldn't get into this one at all. Twenty pages in and no one had really spoken yet: it was all narrative about their lives up to this point. I got tired of reading it there. Too much telling, not nearly enough showing. Maybe I'll pick up the third in the series to see if it gets any better. The sad part is, I had a feeling I'd like the heroine; she had a spine. (Though I also suspected the hero would make me want to slap him, as so many of them do.)
6. Bloodshot by Cherie Priest (urban fantasy/horror - vampire thief)
It's about a vampire who steals things for people, and is hired by another vampire to get documents from when he was kept and experimented on by the government. I know, right? Anyway, it was fun.
I liked Boneshaker better, but all in all, Bloodshot was good. It took a little while for the characters to hook me, but the plot was interesting enough to keep me reading. By the end the cast had grown by one blind vampire and an ex-Navy SEAL drag queen. I mean, hey, I'm going to have to read the next one just for that. No stereotypes, but told in the first person (which I'm not fond of). Fun, and I'll come back to this series in between other stuff. ...Especially since I loved the ex-Navy SEAL drag queen. He was awesome, in a Navy SEAL way "Yes, I'm a drag queen, deal with it" way, rather than in a stereotypical drag queen way.
...I think we've finally gotten through all of them! Hooray!
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My writing update is super short this month.
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With the advent of Tango and A Little Weird coming out (it's out in print now!), I haven't had much time for writing. A Little Queer is next on the docket; the fantasy trilogy is still burbling in the back of my head, and I've re-plotted the spy book several times now. Everything is tightening up, but nothing is ready to go. Status quo, right?
Let's talk about books I've been reading, instead. Specifically, a couple of fictions: Little Bee by Chris Cleeve and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski.
Little Bee has possibly one of my favorite quotes:
"...I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."
This was an incredibly powerful book. A really hard read, in some cases, but very powerful. It had more breathtaking passages in it than any book I've ever read.
Little Bee is about a Nigerian refugee who goes to England illegally, and an English widow who had met her in Nigeria, and tries to help. By the end of the book, Little Bee has grown as a character and everything comes full circle. Everything is tied up and complete. You put this book down going, "...wow."
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is likewise a 'wow' story with beautiful passages (though, I must admit, it pales in comparison to Little Bee). It's about a mute boy whose family owns a kennel, and his life up until teenagehood.
I loved the descriptions of the dogs. I mean, this guy knows dogs better than some dog trainers I know. They were gorgeous, and true to dogs, and I LOVED THAT because you never see it. I also loved that Edgar has a disability, and he's still the star of the book. It was a great book, with very human characters.
It also left me with this taste in my mouth that nothing will ever work out, and you might as well stop trying. All the things that Edgar learned and grew from and then tried to apply? None of them worked. It all happened within the last twenty pages, and by the fourth-to-last page I was like, "AGH, don't tell me he's going to fail in this, TOO." And not failing in a hilarious way, but in a heartbreaking way. At least in Little Bee there was heartbreak (oh, boy, was there ever: also rape triggers like whoa, for those of you who need to know), but success. In Edgar you feel like, what's the point learning and growing? It's all going to be fucked up, anyway.
...But it was pretty. I'd recommend it for the language and a very human character with a disability, if nothing else.
(Seriously, though. What is it with fictional books and bittersweet endings? Or just endings that are defeatist? I have enough stress and worry in my life: I don't want to read that maybe there isn't any point in making things better.)
So, yes, there you go. Go! Read and buy books!