Thursday, December 25, 2014

An Author’s Christmas Letter

Having last year’s production drop,
Procrastination and laziness nonstop,
I resolved to make this year better,
By trudging onward, letter after letter.

January first I vowed
To make my judgmental side proud,
And meet my daily word count,
Surpassing last year’s amount.

Then February came.
With no one to blame,
I have an excuse.
Something happened to my muse.

And that’s all I got.
I told you it’s naught;
My creativity was gone,
My patience not long.

But in March out burst 90 pages.
Though I struggled through these dark ages,
One in the Hole Issue Two
Came out without too much ado.

Theatre was a time suck.
I felt I was stuck.
I avowed to drop it.
But it’s not easy to quit.

One last play, I told myself.
No more commitments on my shelf.
And then something terrible occurred.
I met some jerk and fell in love.

Heartbreak destroyed me, I’ll admit.
My summer was spent in a deep black pit.
But I found some light in that tunnel.
For distraction, my goals were funneled.

Productivity returned and with ambition.
I turned 25, renewed in my mission.
Novel edited, short stories wrote,
I found control, became afloat.

November brought some new followers and friends.
My day-job closed, my employment ends.
New Years brings new possibilities
Which unfortunately means new responsibilities.

There are things I wish,
Things I know I won’t finish,
And things I fear,
But as for this past year…

All’s well that ends well.


Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014

What to Do When Someone Questions Your Literary Choices

So, anecdotally, flipping someone off does not end a conversation as much as it exacerbates it. Most likely you will be considered the hostile agitator, especially if you are a writer not taking an “innocent” comment well.

When it comes to maintaining a confident demeanor, writers can often be put between a hard place and a rock. We all know what it is like to have someone question whether or not we really think we have what it takes, to suggest what we should really be writing, and to dig a fingernail right into our insecurity. But while the author is constantly questioned on every decision he makes, there also seems to be little in the way of his options without sounding like a colossal dick. Every explanation just offers more room for argument, trying to convey what’s important to you will often gets the return of, “That doesn’t matter.” When trying to answer something a tone of derision, writers will often feel themselves in a sticky spot.

What to do?

1) Evaluate the intention.

The appropriate response is very much determined by the speaker’s intention. In some cases, an offensive question is really just them trying to carry a conversation. And if the author just happens to be introverted, the speaker very well may be doing most of the hard work.

For small talk, people will take the little they know about you and try to form a question. It will probably not be that interesting, and if they don’t know that much about the topic, it’s likely to be the three-hundredth time you’ve heard it.

“Oh, I always wanted to write a book,” gets right under our skin. Like it was so easy. But if you sense that they’re speaking to fill the silence, sometimes it’s good to give them a break.

I can attest that when someone asks you, “So, what have you written?” it might be a competitive jibe. It also just might be a way for them to find out more about you.

While you only have a few seconds to decide, taking just a moment to give them the benefit of the doubt is often all you need to realize that they aren’t trying to be a condescending hole. If that’s the case, then you can answer their question confidently and thoroughly, which will allow them to come up with more detailed questions (versus continuing to question you.)

If you can’t tell why they’re asking, err on assuming the better of them. Even if they are egging you on, after you play stupid and act friendly, they either have to up the ante and be even more aggressive (making it more agreeable to outside viewers when you do eventually end up flipping them off) or, more likely, they’ll play along and act as though they weren’t being a jerk in the first place. (And then think you’re an unperceptive moron, but by this point, you were never going to get their blessing, so big deal.)

2) Don’t engage.

In a conversation, you don’t have to put any more effort into making them comfortable than they did you. Writers are often insecure about being a writer—“What gives me the right?”—and sometimes that makes us feel obligated to explain ourselves.

You don’t.

Explaining a decision validates a criticism. In certain situations, that’s fine. If it truly is constructive and an ensuing conversation can help the author understand the pros and cons of a choice, then having each person explain their view can be extremely helpful, even if they aren’t completely right. If, however, the criticism is more about someone else putting the writer down, the writer does not need to explain himself.

I work in highly competitive fields which, strangely enough, being competitive is ineffective and sometimes even counterproductive. While millions of people are trying to be writers, it is unlikely that the success of the person you’re speaking to will actually affect you. And yet, still we try to prove ourselves by belittling each other’s accomplishments.

Whenever you get the sense that someone is trying to prove that your choices are bad, or your experience doesn’t count (probably to build themselves up), the best solution is to answer them in the most succinct and literal manner possible, “literal” meaning exactly what they asked, not what they meant.

“Well, clearly this is a first draft.”

“Nope.”

“Well, you haven’t finished it yet.”

“I have.”

“It’s your first book.”

“No.”

Or…

“Why do you write science fiction?”

“I like it.”

Or…

“You sure you want to be an author. There’s no money in it you know.”

“I do know.”

And then stare at them, without saying a word, until they go away. No matter how long it takes.

When I’ve been in these situations (and I’ve been in them a lot) my succinct answers made my fellow conversationalist more and more flustered as we went on. By not feeling inclined to explain or prove myself or insult them, the power returned to me. They are under the obligation to keep adding details and to prove themselves right, not being fed any more information that they could argue or prove their point with. I don’t do anything that allows them to take offense and I don't allow them to get to me.

Of course, I was able to do this because I did have experience and could honestly give the “right” answer, but even if it had been my first novel, the answer, “Yep. It is,” would have still put the burden on her to keep carrying the conversation, and brevity lets her know just how I feel about the question.

Looking confident while someone is questioning your every action is difficult. Trying to prove yourself will often look like insecurity and give more fodder for criticism. By giving them little information and acting as though you don’t need to explain your actions often makes them seem reasonable and the person questioning them as the one who is being abnormal.

While the benefits of not engaging allow you to show you don’t find the question itself acceptable or necessary, maybe you don’t want to come off as annoyed. What then?

3) Make it a thoughtful conversation rather than an attack.

Whether or not a person is actually attacking you (or is aware that’s what they’re doing), if you feel attacked, there’s a reason. Maybe it’s you being too sensitive or maybe they really are just trying to bring you down. Sometimes it’s hard to say. But no matter the circumstance, many people want to bring the conversation to a positive light.

If they ask you to explain why you want to be an author, why you write in the genre you do, why your character did that “obviously ridiculous thing,” or just implied any of the above, sometimes the best way to handle the situation is to act as though the perceived slight does not exist and change topics.

“Why don’t you write contemporary fiction?” (Actual common question.)

A)     Instead of answering, ask a question that makes it about them: “Is that what you read?”
B)     Make it a bigger picture philosophy:  “I always find diversity in literature as important, so while I recognize contemporary fiction doesn’t alienate people as much as science fiction, it’s a niche that I enjoy and have no interest in disappearing.”
C)     Give an interesting anecdote: “A couple of years ago I was working on a play where I had a concept I loved, but no clear setting. I naturally made it about modern day America, and found I couldn’t get past page three. About a year later, I picked up the project again and picked out a more specific setting—one that I knew I would enjoy—and I wrote the whole thing in a couple of days. Turns out, contemporary fiction doesn’t interest me.”

So when someone asks why you want to be an author, tell them the story about when you first knew. When they inform you that it won’t make any money, ask them if that was a main factor in choosing their career. You can be as patronizing or as pleasant as you want. The important thing is to not give them room to suggest you are uncertain about that choice (even if you are).

4) Act like you really care about their opinion. (And try to really care.)

The best way to turn off hostility is to make that person feel respected. In the opposite vein of the above tactics, you may consider saying you aren’t sure about your choice and ask them their opinion, giving them the responsibility of making a “good” decision.

One of two things will happen: They’ll shut down, or they will go off, chattering endlessly. Either way, you’ve taken the responsibility to prove yourself off of your shoulders and put it back on theirs.

Some people have a lot to say when unsolicited, but then, the moment you ask them for their view, they refuse to give it. They’re good critics, but bad leaders. When criticizing, the responsibility is still on the creator, but when the limelight actually falls on the speaker, he can feel a lot of pressure to be right. That’s why everyone’s a critic and an aspiring author, rather than actually doing it. It’s easier to tell you why a choice is wrong than to make the right one.

The reason to use this method is because you actually aren’t sure about your decision, and you do want someone else’s insight. So if option number two occurs, then you’re getting exactly what you want. The trick is to just listen to them talk without putting your own two-cents in (which may encourage the hostility and competition to be revived.) Against my normal philosophy, it’s about making them do most of the talking, taking the information in, and then parsing it out later.

So, when they say, “He tells her he loves her and she just says nothing?” with that tone of derision we all love, just respond with, “What would you like to happen?” and they’ll either trail off about, “I don’t know, it’s your book…” or give you an in-depth analysis of their mind. Either way, win.

5) Passive-aggressively let them know why you hate that question.

I save this one for last because, while it is the most fun, it will make either make the speaker feel bad or get angry, so it should be your intent to do so. It should be saved for those who constantly barrage you with unsolicited criticism, and you merely want them to understand why it needs to stop without them defending themselves.

It goes like this:

“You should write romance novels. That’s where the real money is.”

“Ugh. People suggest that all the time. Don’t they realize they are insulting your personal tastes every time they ask you to write something you don’t write? I mean how closed minded can they be?”

Guaranteed they will never suggest that again. Also, that they may never talk to you again.

The real trick to confronting people’s derision is to assume you can’t change their mind. The less you try to do so, the more likely you will. Or at least, the less they’ll be willing to talk to you about it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Giveaway Winner and the Launch of Stories of the Wyrd.

The prize of the beautiful Edgar Allan Poe quilt goes to a woman by the name of Jessica. She has already been notified.

Wait. Come back.

I will be doing another giveaway of a similar prize next June or when I hit 5,000 likes on Facebook, whichever comes first. So if you’re interested in being kept updated, please bookmark this blog, follow it, like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter. And I do take suggestions from loyal fans.

The second part of news, I’m happy to launch the first of many short stories, Stories of the Wyrd:



These episodic short stories follow siblings, Rasmus and Kaia Kondori, as they weave a thin line between their world and a supernatural void that borders it. Fighting hobgoblins, ghosts, vampires, and the things creeping in from the wilderness, their adventures range from dark horror to fairytale slapstick.

Sarcastic, dark, supernatural, and romantic, the stories have a wide variety in length and styles, perfect for a quick jaunt or a long, leisurely read.




These short stories have been a pet project of mine for the past year and a half. Many of the shorts, not yet featured on the website, convey a widespread spectrum of emotions and moods. They have allowed me to experiment and toy with styles and techniques, removing the stressors of the publishing world my novels always tend to have.

Kaia and Rasmus came from a novel which really wanted to be a television show, diving into only a small part of their lives.

I’ve been procrastinating to make them live, but decided, in the name of my 25th year of life, to stop the isolation.


They are meant to be fun, casual reads that always have the option of growing into more if the reader so chooses. I will be adding more stories as we go along, probably around every other week. But I don’t need more deadlines, and these works are supposed to be nothing but enjoyable, so it will be sporadic. Again, following me is the best way to be notified of updates.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How Expedited Criticism is an Impediment

“Nobody understands me.”

It’s a sentiment that I use sarcastically, but at certain times in my life, I mean it. Then I make a point to be more dramatic.

People often ask me why I speak so specifically, and laugh when I discuss things like I’m a persuasive essay, having a list of “concrete details,” i.e. examples, to prove my point. (A little ironic considering how much I braced against the formulaic methods of essay writing.) It’s not uncommon for me to reply to a question with, “The answer’s not fully formed yet,” or, “It’s all speculation. I let you know when I can prove something,” even for things like, “How’d you like the movie?”

I’m used to being misunderstood and have spent my life trying to phrase things in a way that will make my internal thoughts clear to an outsider. In my mind, I’m never wrong, I just didn’t express it correctly. And, that’s my philosophy on other people’s opinions too.

That all being said, I’ve become fairly successful at figuring out how to be convincing. It’s easier to gauge success when everyone outright insists you’re wrong. Whatever it is about my nature—I’m assuming the condescension that I don’t actually mean—people want me to be mistaken. I once tried to tell my boyfriend that a square was a rectangle even though a rectangle isn’t always a square, and he flat out called me a liar. Because of reactions like this, I’ve learned how to express my feelings in a way that will, eventually, draw other people around to my same conclusion.

This is mostly in terms of life and philosophy over writing. In fact, though I constantly am thinking about improved methods of conveying constructive criticism in a palatable and efficient way, I hadn’t really put two and two together and considered one of the reasons giving feedback on writing is so difficult. Then suddenly it occurred to me how I came to understand my writing and its main weaknesses, and the difficulty for us to help others to do the same.

Getting people to an organic understanding of your perception takes time, and constructive criticism is expedited.

I recently got asked by a Twitter follower to read his manuscript. I agreed, he immediately sent it, and then not ten minutes later had asked how far I had gotten. He admitted to being impatient and I didn’t blame him. Truth was, even if I had sat down and immediately started reading, I wasn’t about to give him feedback until I had read the whole thing (about 200 pages.) I believe in going big picture and backwards, so I needed the big picture first. When receiving feedback, the demand is for it to be as quick and thorough as possible. I blame the microwave.

The best way to “improve” somebody (whether that be behavior or writing-wise) is to take time. There are several steps involved. Convincing your loved one he/she demoralizes you or that his characters always sound like they’re lying can’t happen with just one blurt of blunt criticism. You can’t say, “I need you to stop being so damn condescending!” and expect it to take affect.

First step is to introduce the concept without a call to action or insistence they are wrong. Second step is to give time for the criticized to digest what is said. Third step is to reinforced the concept, adding information each time. Forth step is to wait for acceptance of the idea. Fifth step is to explain your perspective as fully as possible when they're ready to listen. Sixth step is to allow them to experiment in solutions without being critical.
The best way to initiate a change in someone is first by allowing immediate rejection.

To convince someone of anything, the idea must be introduced first. If you do this in a manner that makes the individual feel control, he’s more likely to move through the first stage of being convinced faster.

Constructive criticism does get easier with time. The main reason is because it stops being surprising.

Shock is the first stage of a first criticism. Denial is the second. They tend to go hand in hand. Shock is what makes it hurt, denial is what makes it more palatable. When the introducer of the concept does it in a way that retains power for the listener, the listener is less likely to feel out of control. When someone feels in control, they feel safer and are more likely to not need the denial stage as long.

How do you introduce a piece of constructive criticism without implying an immediate call to action? That’s just the problem. The expectation is to give a call of action. The writer wants to leave this feedback session with an immediate solution to his problem.

Considering the most beneficial sessions I’ve had, I would say that beginning authors should focus on having conversations with others about their writing, not feedback sessions. Having someone to just talk about their book, or even sit there and just listen, is the best way to ease into what he wants to change about his work. Instead of giving solutions and trying to make it easy to digest in one succinct moment, the critic is enabled to just talk, without an agenda, about the story as a whole. The author is able to respond, and no one is looking for a means to “improve” the work. This allows the writer to feel in control. When he is told “When Susie didn’t save the cat, I hated her,” he is still shocked, but he gets to decide if that’s a good or bad thing, he’s not being told by someone that he made a mistake and needs to change it. He’s more likely to be honest with himself and not be spiteful.

Trying to get all the criticism you need in one session is pointless. You need some time to take it it, you need some time to be hurt, you need some time to dissect, and you need time to figure out what you don’t understand.

I never expect anyone to believe me the first time I tell them anything. Most people’s reaction to new concepts is rejection. There’s a legitimate question of why haven’t I heard of this before? Or, in the case of writing, why haven’t I seen it?

It’s an important step in constructive criticism. If you are given feedback, you don’t need to identify the truth of it right then and there. You can give it time to make sense to you, or for it to come up again and receive more information.

Whenever you want someone to make any sort of change, give it to them gently, even vaguely, and don’t expect immediate change. For one thing, when anyone tries to force change as someone expressed it to them, it’s likely it will be mechanical, false, and often not really what the person meant.

We need time to get over the shock and accept the possibility of the idea without feeling trapped by the need to make an immediate decision.

Most individual pieces of criticism are useless on their own. It’s only after figuring out how they connect (which often requires more than one perspective, either gained by time or new people) that the truth of each comes out.

Remember to enter my giveaway!





Sunday, December 7, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe Quilt Giveaway!

RUNNING DECEMBER 8-15, 2014

To celebrate the launch of my serial short stories, on December 15, I will be announcing the winner of this beautiful Edgar Allan Poe quilt.



This wall hanging is 45”x45” and handmade. Made from 100% cotton, it is the perfect art piece to brighten up a wall or place across a plain bedspread.

To enter, follow the proceeding instructions. If you win, you will need to send me your mailing address for the quilt to be shipped to. If I don’t hear from the winner within 10 days, I will pull a new name.

Please like my Facebook page when you are there.

(For the blog follow button, after following, just type anything into the text bar.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will be doing another giveaway June 2015, or after I receive 5,000 likes on my Facebook page, whichever comes first. I will keep everyone updated through my Facebook and Twitter account, so stay connected!

STORIES OF THE WYRD

On December 15 I will be launching a new website featuring episodic short stories about two so called "vampire hunters" and their attempts to save the world, or just convince anyone with coin it needs it.



Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How Freelance Editors Shoot Themselves in the Foot

This may be my hubris talking, but I always believed that the way academia handles writing is flawed, especially at my high school. Conversation with old comrades turns to the fact that while we were forced to learn and use the Jane Shaffer method for five years, when we got to college, each of us couldn’t figure out how to write an essay. We had someone holding our hand the entire time, making us not actually pay attention the process or having any idea why we did anything we did. We didn’t even understand what we were trying to do.

The school’s greatest failings, however, center around editing and critiques. While I do actually remember many classes that had us practicing criticizing each other, there wasn’t a lot of feedback on the critiques themselves. Most times, the author wasn’t even allowed to speak, which I’ve discussed before why I find that counterproductive to the process. And as for editing, well, sure we got the red marked pages back, but I don’t remember ever having to read them or do another draft. The turned in essay was supposed to be a polished draft already, which makes me convinced my teachers have never met a high school student before.

Critiquing and editing is not a natural skill, and it’s one glossed over in most situations. Not everyone knows how to do it even though we think it should be inherent. There are a lot of fallacies and myths going on about the editing process (I’m still surprised by how shocked some people are when I tell them a second draft isn’t always better than the first, like it never occurred to them that you could screw things up). Editing is just like writing in a lot of ways, where most people think they can do it, if only they’re just given the chance.

Along with self-publishing, the freelance editor has gained popularity. You want to publish your own book, it’s often a good idea to find a professional to give you feedback. But in the same way that you can’t trust a self-published work as much as you can a traditionally published one (we’ve all read that work filled with typos that completely lacks an ending) a freelance editor might not actually be experienced at all or good at what he does.

It’s hard hiring artists. Their skill level isn’t always consistent—by the nature of the beast—and even if they’re good at what they do they may not be what you’re looking for. If they suddenly decide to half ass it, which some are often inclined to do, then you’re helpless.

It’s difficult to tell how good an editor will be until after he’s already edited your book.

But it’s not like taking a chance on a self-published work where, if the author proves lacking, you’re out 99 cents. Ten dollars at max. An editor can cost anywhere from 300 to 3,000 dollars, and just because you’ve paid more doesn’t really mean anything. They often have websites with resume credits on it, but many times their work means little to you (I edited Joe Smith’s Little Red House), unless you’ve actually read it. And it’s not uncommon for them to just make things up. I read articles all the time about freelance editors who just jacked information from someone else’s page thinking they wouldn’t get caught. Which they usually don’t.

The best way for an editor to reveal his skill set is to have a blog. Whenever someone writes a lot about writing—his opinion, tips, what he’s reading, what he likes and doesn’t like—instead of reading their planted testimonies and a list of credits that are meaningless and might be made up, you find out a lot about the person and discover if you’re a good match or not. Knowing that what he likes to read is completely different than what you like to read tells you his issues will be those of taste rather than effectiveness. If he spends all his time ranting about prologues and adverb use and you find that to be the least important aspect of writing well, then you already know you’re going to be ticked when you get the drafts back. If, however, you find yourself agreeing with him and you seem to be on the same page, you might’ve found your literary soul mate and definitely should hire him.

The problem with these blogs, on the other hand, is it seems some people forget it’s their potential customers reading them. Same goes for Facebook statuses and Twitter accounts. While you have many people like me who aren’t in search for a freelance editor as of yet, I might very well be compelled to change my mind if the situation fits. If you are actively shopping around and are doing your research by checking out different avenues of their self-expression, you can easily be turned off by some of the things they have to say.

Truth is, in the same way a potential boss might be turned off by having pictures of you stumbling drunk on Facebook, potential customers are turned off by some of the things the freelances have to say.

If I ever decided to hire an outside editor who I hadn’t met in person, I can tell you a few things that would confirm someone wasn’t a right fit:

I would never hire someone who might mock my work in public.

Many times these editors post complaints about the “shit” they’re editing. Whether it be a vague tweet, “Books like these make me wish I was illiterate,” with no real indication on who or what that book is, or a more in depth, three page analysis on something specific, this sourpuss demeanor does not read as professional to me. It does not say I’m someone who likes to read, and it indicates that I can’t trust them. While I can get behind many negative posts, an editor and author relationship requires respect for each other in order to be its most effective. Ranting posts suggest that the editor, in fact, does not agree with this philosophy.

I would never hire someone who cuts corners.

My blog, for those skimmers out there, is called, “What’s Worse than Was: A website on how the word ‘was’ isn’t the worst thing a writer can do.”

In response to this, a freelance editor told me that when editing a book, he could tell “how good it was,” by using finder to see how many times the word “was” was used. After a certain number, he knew that it was terrible.

I’m not going to critique the method itself—hey, it might work. I haven’t tried it—but I will say that, while he didn’t realize that I might be a future customer, he did make it so that I’m certainly not now.

Editors love to brag about how they cut corners when editing or simply judging a book. “I just turn straight to page 17, and if there’s not an inciting incident, then I know it’s not any good.”

See, what I’m hiring you to do is not to tell me how I’m not fitting into a formula, but rather tell me how the book made you react (or didn’t), why you probably reacted that way, and to give me a couple of solutions to solve the problem. Truth is, I know a lot of the writing rules already. I could make a formulaic book with ease. Anyone could. But no book like that will ever be considered great, which is why when to follow the rules and why you should follow them now, is important.

Announcing to me that you don’t consider context when editing suggests that you can be replaced by a computer. And if you can be, believe me, you will be.

I would never hire someone whose focus was on archaic grammar rules.

Grammar Nazism can be useful, yet, again, context is extremely important.

I’ve had authors and editors complain about speaking in the vernacular in Facebook statuses. The one person I’ve blocked was someone who told me not to end a sentence in a preposition. I repeat, in a Facebook status.

When I want feedback from someone, I’m looking for their opinion. What do they see that I can’t? I hate getting back a manuscript that just fixates on grammar and typos with no abstract, big picture issues. What’s worse is when they focus on doing things technically correct, not emotionally effectively.

While the zoomed in focus on grammar and typos is irritating, it’s useless when the editor brings in technically correct but long forgotten rules, especially when he doesn’t understand why those rules existed in the first place.

What’s the consequence of ending a sentence in a preposition? Does it jar the reader? Corrupt understanding? Make anyone who’s not trying to prove their literary superiority cry? No, it’s because it makes English less like Latin. Yep. Back in the 1700’s a literary critic wanted to make English grammar conform to the dead language, and his propaganda was pretty popular and well repeated, but he was never successful in making it actually incorrect, which is why your computer doesn’t bitch at you when you do it.

Being technically correct can be far more jarring than being incorrect. It can also change the tone and cadence of your writing. It sometimes has no point other than to prove superiority. Mostly though, if that’s the most important thing someone wants to talk about, it indicates to me a lack of more interesting thoughts.

I would never hire someone who doesn’t think for himself.

Personally I interpret an obsession with grammar as insecurity. Not that I mind when people point out typos, spelling errors, and the like, nor do I really believe that people who are good at grammar are all self-doubting, but when that’s all they will talk there’s a reason.

When someone doesn’t consider the effect of the grammar rule, he’s limiting my palate. If he doesn’t consider why I have a sentence fragment here, or used “me” instead of “I” in my dialogue, then why wouldn’t I just use a computer program? It doesn’t judge me, can’t post complaints about me in Facebook, and gets the job done quickly.

An editor needs to be more than just some formula pushing junkie. He needs to be a creative sort who is willing to stand back and consider someone else’s tastes to maximize the books potential. He cannot be some closed-minded parrot.

If an editor has a list of blogs complaining about grammar rules that no one cares about, or if his articles are all things we’ve heard before without any semblance of original opinion, it is an indication he’s not a critical thinker.

When looking for an editor, I’m trying to find someone who can do what I can’t; the opinion of someone who didn’t make the book, a different level of experience, simply ideas and inspiration that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. If the editor acts like a computer where he uses simple formulas instead of his brain, or if he behaves like an amateur with a light grasp of concepts I am fully informed of, then he’s not any use to me. Why would I pay him so much?


If I’m looking for an editor, I’m looking for his mind. If I’m looking for common writing techniques and tricks, I’m looking for Google.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Break the Rules Before You Learn Them

I think I’ve told this story before, but I’m telling it again. No, I’m not running out of material.

Once upon a time there was a guy in my writers’ group who was writing his memoir about running marathons. (Now come on, guys. I’m sure it’s much more interesting than it sounds. Be cool.)  This was not unusual because my writers’ group was mostly older people talking about their lives. It wasn’t a great fit for a speculative fiction writer, I’ll admit, but it was one of the few options I had, and on a rare positive note, I got something from it.

Anyway, here’s our conversation.

Him: Do most science fiction books have prologues?

Me: Yeah. I guess.

Him: Well, I’ve read a few and I didn’t see any.

Me: It’s not like a staple or anything.

Him: What does that mean?

Me: You don’t have to have one.

Him: Oh. Well, I was asking if you had to have one.

Me: …

Him: You should read other science fiction books and see how they do their prologues.

Me: …

Him: You have too much hook and too much tension right now.

Me: Like I’m trying too hard?

Him: No. It’s just exhausting.

It was a dialogue I puzzled over for a while until, after being attentive to what he was saying to other people, and adding in information as he continued to give me feedback at later dates, I decided he’s white noise and stopped thinking too hard about him.

The issue between us was actually about our priorities and how we understand the world. He believed you should do things like they were supposed to be done. You shouldn’t have a prologue unless you were supposed to have a prologue, and then you definitely needed one whether or not it actually helps your story. Being that I am of the opposite opinion—you should experiment until it doesn’t work—it explained why our conversation initially seemed a bit on the gibberish side.

Some people believe you should learn the rules to learn to break them. I believe you should break the rules first before they can infect your analytical skills. It’s after you start to understand yourself, your writing, and are seeking solutions that you turn to the old formulas.

1) You learn the rules best by breaking them.

I had a college professor who insisted that his class was “oh so hard” and “training us for grad school.” On paper, this seemed true. We had to read three plays for every class, often four hours in duration, and write a paper about them. His exams were extremely long with impossible questions about literally hundreds of plays (some we read, some we just talked about), as well as demanding three essays at the end.

It seemed hard, but the truth was, it wasn’t. I mean, it was the easiest class I’ve taken. Why? Because he never actually graded anything. He may have expected us to fill out a six page test, but he certainly wasn’t going to read it. Truth was, he’d never give you anything below a C because that’s when you might contest it. As long as you didn’t look like you were cheating and participated in class, you didn’t actually have to any of the work. Like, at all.

You know who didn’t know that? The typical A students. The ones who did everything they were told to maintain their 4.0 average. It was the people who tested their boundaries, the usual D and C students who knew the truth the best.

I always say don’t judge an expert by his accolades, but rather by how well he understands his mistakes. The person who understands when to follow the rules and when to break them is the person who’s broken them more than he’s followed them. The “rules” are actually contextual. They don’t always work, the mistakes they solve won’t always occur, and while they may be a safe choice, they’re rarely the best choice. Someone who has broken the rules a great deal has a pretty good idea of all the myriad of reactions breaking them can cause. Someone who follows the rules only knows what he’s doing now works, not what other options exist.

If you constantly follow the rules, you won’t be as aware what happens when you don’t follow them.

2) When you establish the problem before introducing the solution, you won’t wonder if the problem actually exists.

Let’s talk outlining.

Susie tells Johnny, “You must outline. Real authors outline.”

To which Johnny says, “Fuck that,” and proceeds to never outline out of spite.

So he doesn’t outline and doesn’t outline and doesn’t outline until, lo, one day, he does outline, and he realizes how much easier it makes certain aspects of writing.

He proceeds to turn around and say to Jimmy (knowing full well that Jimmy must be of the same stubborn mindset as he, and so needing to press the importance of it), “You must outline. Suck it up and outline like a real author.”

And we know what happens from there.

The first issue with the writing rules is they’re usually saying you’re doing something wrong. You did something wrong, this is the right way, and no you shouldn’t be feeling like you now have to prove that you’re right.

No matter how open minded the author wants to be, stubbornness will set in. “Don’t use adverbs.” “Don’t use said.” “Show, don’t tell.”

You’re not my mom!

Even when the author is fully aware he’s being spiteful, if this is the first time he’s had the rule exposed to him, he won’t be able to truly tell if and when the rule is stupid/true. His desire to prove this person wrong feels very similar to his gut telling him it is wrong. Meaning that even when the rule actually isn’t appropriate, he’s not sure if he doesn’t just want to believe that.

If the author is inexperienced and doesn’t have a solid judgment on his writing, the advisor has to prove three things: One, there is a problem. Two, he should care about the problem. And three, this really is the best solution for the problem.

However, when an author first reads and then actually takes the time to judge his own writing, determines there’s something wrong with it—even if he’s not clear on what specifically—and then takes it to someone else to help him find the solution, the advisor’s job is a thousand times easier. He doesn’t have to prove there’s a problem, he just has to prove this is a viable solution.

And let’s face it, even the most diplomatic person is going to have a hard time getting the author to not hear “You are wrong.” If the writer has already decided he hasn’t done something up to his own standards, then he’ll be more willing to focus on the solutions, not whether or not this guy is being an ass.

It is pretty useful for the writer to see a problem first. And if you’re thinking that knowing the rules will help him do that…

3) Don’t think of an elephant.

I’m going to be overt about my cynicism here and say that one of the dumbest things I’ve read was when someone tried to prove whatever they were saying by suggesting, “You may not think this is important now, but after I’ve said it it’s going to stand out like a zit on a beauty queen.”

Why is that stupid? Because you can persuade people to be hyper-attentive to anything.  All I need to do is give you the slightest inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s true, and ta-da! You will not be able to feel natural using whatever it is I suggest.

It’s easy to psyche yourself out as a writer, to question everything a little too much. The main issue with learning the writing rules, especially before you start to understand how you are naturally inclined to write, is you will have a hard time shaking them off. You will notice every time you use an adverb or the word “was.” You’ll question if it sounds funny. And just by focusing on it, it will sound funny no matter what.

After someone tells you you are not to use the word said, you are going to have a hard time trying to figure out when you can because it will always stand out.

HOWEVER, when you’ve started to understand the way you write, what you like, and what you don’t like, it’s easier to put other people’s opinions in perspective. When you decided you don’t like your word choice, there’s something ineffective how you describe things, and someone explains that you use adverbs a lot, it becomes about not using adverbs in hopes to improve uninspired sentences you’ve already identified. Problem first, solution second. Instead of—how people normally tackle it—telling you to find adverbs to find the uninspired sentences. Now every time you see an adverb, you’re not sure if the sentence is uninspired or not.  By being conscious of what you think you’re more likely to curb the absolute influence of your stubbornness/gullibility and access the truth of what someone is saying better.

4) When you learn a way that always works, you don’t want to try new things.

Now that I’ve spent so much time talking about the pratfalls, let’s talk about the good parts.

Most writing rules work in many contexts. They are repeated for a reason, and not just because they’re quick and easy to remember. The majority of them are about not drawing attention to themselves, i.e. allowing for attention to be drawn to allegedly more important things. Meaning that even if they don’t actually solve a problem, it is unlikely they will become distracting.

Not using adverbs, not using passive sentences, whether or not to always use said or never use it, is all about not sidetracking the reader to your word choice. By not using certain realms of your palate, you are allowing the (supposedly) more important things to take focus.

But, at the same time, you will never be extraordinary by playing by the rules.

No one in the entire world thinks a great book follows all the rules. It can’t. It would be contrived, false, and predictable if it did. You want to do something amazing, you have to do something noticeable, which is not what the rules are about. (They are about drawing attention to something amazing, but they can’t do that if you’ve followed all of them.)

If you need a work to be decent quick, the rules are the way to go. They’re safe, they rarely backfire, and they cover up issues well. But they’re limiting, in-the-box, and never amazing or inspiring.

Many people get good at writing by doing what they’re “supposed to,” but then they hit a plateau. They write these manuscripts that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with, but sparks no interest. They need to step it up, take it to the next level, take more risks.

Unfortunately, it’s common they don’t know how to break the rules. As I said, you learn when not to use an adverb after using an adverb badly. After this plateau, a lot of writers (and all kinds of artists) see a drop in the quality of their writing. That’s because thinking outside of the box requires risk taking, and risk taking often fails, especially when you haven’t practiced doing it.

Meaning they’re experiencing the sucky, over-the-top writing most writers have already grown out of, after they’ve already been able to write in a way that doesn’t make them cringe. When you blindly experiment at the beginning of your career, you develop more control before becoming extremely aware of how well/badly you’re doing. When you start experimenting for the first time in the middle, you’re going to be very conscious about it, and it will be nearly impossible to not just go back to what works.

Why write weird when I can do what works?

Because what “works” might get you accepted, but what’s weird makes you a commodity.

5) Your “breaking the rules” will be more motivated and organic.

There isn’t much to this one. If you break the rules before you knew they existed, you had your reasons for doing it. They may not be good ones, and you may decide that they’re exactly what makes you look like an amateur (it’s pretty common in fact), but they are sincere and natural.

If, however, you start breaking the rules after you know they exist, there’s a good chance that you’ll be forcing it—and it sounds like you are. Even if you have pure motivations outside of, “Look at me ignoring all the rules! Aren’t I creative?” your awareness of the boundary will make you react to it. It’s just like the elephant thing again.

Even though I think the rules are great tools and unavoidable standards an author should be aware of, the writer who focused on uninhibited writing first, judged that writing, and understood it will be able to retain some of his true motivations prior to becoming aware of the imposed limitations. Meaning that when you wrote a bunch of stories before you learned you aren’t supposed to have a prologue, you can look back on them and have a better idea why they were there in the first place and if they worked or not. All the prologues after that won’t be free from ulterior motivation.

6) Making something safer is a thousand times easier than making it weirder.

Directors will, in most circumstances, cast an over the top actor instead of a little too subtle one. Why? Because it’s much easier to reign people in than it is to push them bigger.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something true. These are the ingredients to… Well, getting slapped. But also to making a good story. (Don’t hit me. I have a cat on my lap.)

Every story needs to have some expected parts as well as unexpected. It needs to be relatable enough, yet surprising enough. It needs to follow standards so as to not overwhelm the audiences with new stimuli, but not overexpose them to things they’ve already grown immune to. If a manuscript is just weird, breaks all the rules, is entirely unpredictable, it’s not going to have a good grasp on its readers’ attention. They won’t have anything to associate with it, will be overwhelmed, and won’t know what to focus on. They probably won’t care because if it’s too original, it has nothing to do with their life (i.e. what they’ve seen before.) If it is standard, hackneyed, and “technically correct,” they’ll just zone out. The brain says, “Already got this information, thank you.”

The correct balance, on the other hand, is complicated. It depends on the tastes of the author, the tastes of his audience, and what else the audience is being exposed to at that time. But, no matter how much or little, it still requires elements of both the typical and the weird.

A manuscript needs to take some sort of risk if it wants to stand out. That risk is what the author should focus on; questioning standards, trying things that no one else is doing should take first priority—for the simple reason that it’s harder than making a script do what it’s “supposed to.”


The rules are pretty easy to find, and not that hard to implement. The most difficult part of using them is not overdoing it. It is a thousand times easier to start with something that doesn’t fit in and make it conform than to take something typical and make it organically something new, because there are thousands of ways to be different, but only a few to be the same.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Knock the Grammar Nazis Down and Make Them Think

Yesterday, I was writing.

Ha, I jest. Yesterday I was considering writing while really reading about writing. Because that’s pretty much the same thing.

Anyway, while “writing” I came across this article by a screenwriter coach who diplomatically entitled his article, “Why Your Screenplay Sucks,” or something equally poetic.

It was a typical blog with the usual hackneyed advice, yet despite the tone of the title, I almost got all the way through it before I found something to complain about—as I am wont to do.

I finally read this passage:

It’s all too obvious when I’m entering virgin territory as a reader.  If mine are the first eyeballs (other than the writer’s) to scan the pages, invariably they’re peppered with typos, incorrect usage of apostrophes, wrongly used words, random character names, formatting errors, confusing sentence structure, and all manner of monstrosities that disrupt my engagement with the text and have me wanting to claw my own cheeks off.

Yeah, these are not problems that come from not getting outside feedback, these are problems that come from not doing a second draft.

“Does it matter?” you say. “You’re agreeing there’s a problem. So what if he’s suggesting a symptom of having no one read it? He’s not directly saying it’s the cause. He’s just offering up (in an offhanded manner) a solution,” you say.

Blah, blah, blah. Yes, that is exactly the problem, I say.

In physics, the definition of probability means that anything is possible, just to an insignificant degree. Therefore, there is a chance that the molecules in my hands will align with the molecules in my keyboard and I’ll fall right through it. If that’s possible, then it is certainly possible to make a great first draft. I’m just not saying we should bank on it.

I don’t think the theory of “all first drafts suck” is a good one, but on the flip side, I think it just makes sense that nothing bad comes from revisiting your work. In most occasions, there’s going to be something an author wants to change, and even if—on the off chance—it is just magically perfect, the writer needs to refresh his memory. A book takes at least several weeks to write, if you are damn fast. For most of us it can be months or years. No one remembers everything they did, and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten advice I thought was good until I actually reread and reunderstood my work.

What annoys me is not that Screenwriting Coach judges a book by its typos (I do too. And while misspelled words aren’t directly correlated the author’s inability to satisfy me, it is statistically a good sign that he won’t) but that he says it’s obvious no one else has read the script because of these typos. To which I say, bunk.

You don’t need anyone else to read your script to get rid of typos. And in fact, most of these problems should be solved before we get the beta readers involved.

Here’s what happens when you give out a fresh-out-of-the-mind draft of a story.

1) There will be typos.

How many, however, depends on how much you write. My first drafts now have far less than my earlier novels. The more you write, the more you practice writing correctly, and the more you learn about grammar rules, the less you make mistakes the first time out. But they will exist.

2) People will give all their attention to the easiest, most obvious mistakes. Which will be typos, because you have them.

See the case of Mr. Screen Coach par example. He has every right to complain about typos and is correct in suggesting they’re distracting. The issue is him insisting that “If mine are the first eyeballs (other than the writer’s) to scan the pages, invariably they’re peppered with typos.”

Nope. Catching typos is easy. It’s not fun. It’s tedious for many, but it’s not a complex issue. Sure, it’s inconsistent enough that the computer can’t do all the work, but there’s a reason we have a spell check and not a break in continuity check on Word.

I assure you not only can an author fix his own typos, he should. If only, at least, in a cursory glance sort of way.

As a Grammar Nazi Card Holder since 1999, and yet the least precise person in the world, I can attest to both sides of being annoyed by poor grammar and being a hypocrite therein. Spelling was not my forte when I started writing, and neither is closely checking to see if the words I think I wrote are the ones I actually wrote.

What I learned from my haphazard turning in English essays without checking them is that you will never get in-depth feedback when there’s typos to discuss.

Now, I know that wasn’t Mr. Screen Coach’s point. But the suggestion to get a second pair of eyes to fix “typos, incorrect usage of apostrophes, wrongly used words, random character names, formatting errors, confusing sentence structure, and all manner of monstrosities that disrupt my engagement with the text,” is exactly what some people do. And I think it’s a mistake. He’s implying that you need outside feedback to make sure you didn’t make these cut and dried mistakes, where as I argue these aren’t the mistakes your second pair of eyes should even be seeing. It also bypasses the real reasons we want feedback and exactly what I (at least) don’t want.

Again, I’m good at knowing the rules, and I’m decent at implementing them as I write them. But I do slip up, and when it comes to mistakes that have already been made, I’m really really terrible at finding them. It’s not that I don’t want people to point them out for me—that’s great. You’re sitting there, reading through it, you notice it, it makes my life all kinds of easier—it’s that I don’t want that to be the focus of your criticism.

I’m not getting a second pair of eyes to tell me about my spelling errors. I believe it’s harder to get someone to read your damn manuscript then it is to fix your own typos, no matter how inattentive to detail you (re: I) are. While it’d be stupid to not say something, what I’m looking for is information. More importantly information that I can’t get for myself.

I cannot have a first impression of my own work, even if I let it sit for years. I can’t strip the knowledge of what I actually meant to say to see what I actually said. I can’t see how the order in which I put the information together is confusing, or stop filling in the blanks when I left something out. I don’t know what is unique to me (like laughing at menstruation jokes) until you tell me it’s not funny to you. I also don’t know that most people don’t know what “chagrin” means, or know that most people do know what it means, but my one beta reader was especially sheltered.

If I manage to get someone willing to read my book for free the last thing I want from them is a series of impersonal red lines telling me I need a comma. Or that I spelled “coma” wrong.

I want people point out, “I don’t know what the hell is going on.” Or “I don’t like that character.” Or “I totally thought the community and the union was the same group.”

In my experience, people don’t see past the typos. When a writer gives someone a first draft, the feedback is often what he could have seen for himself after a first read through. And if the author’s lazy enough or has enough friends, maybe that’s what he wants. But getting someone to read the same book once, let alone over and over is difficult.

So, yeah, yeah, ScreenCoach was really saying don’t have typos. And he’d probably agree with me in saying you should get rid of as many of them as you can before giving it out. I’m just saying we shouldn’t perpetuate that’s what second pair of eyes are for.

There are a lot of Grammar Nazis out there with far more interesting opinions rather than not ending a sentence in a preposition. Force the bastards to think for themselves and not allow them to focus on the easy marks, question or otherwise.



ON ANOTHER NOTE:

GIVEAWAY UPDATE!

I just finished the quilt I will be giving away for the launch of my serial short stories this December.

Here it is:



Edgar and I will set up a raffle in early December. If you are interest in winning this beauty, all you will have to do is find your way back here and confirm you’re following me via Twitter, Facebook, or my blog. It’s free, and it’s a pretty good prize.

If you’re interested in keeping updated when I actually start the raffle, I will be announcing it on my social networks.


So bookmark this page, follow this blog, follow me on Twitter, or like my Facebook page!

(I do reciprocate.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

So I’m Writing This Novel: Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

My friend likes to annoy me by being in love. Now, I have to clarify that by insisting normal love isn’t irritating. I like asking people about their relationships, and I enjoy seeing happy couples. But she takes it above and beyond the call of duty, which, honestly, annoying each other is kind of the foundation of our relationship, so who can blame her?

She has continuous long-term relationships—lasting years, and very limited in the space between them. She’s fun, pretty, and supportive, making guys flock to her like the damn bugs to my iPad. When she falls in love, she falls hard. Completely head over heels, ready to commit, she gives over to it wholly to whoever’s she’s with.

And so, whenever I ask her if she believes in soul mates, she answers (in a deliberately flighty, dreamlike voice) “Of course. I mean if I hadn’t found BLANKETY BLANK…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. But besides him.”

Despite my airs of great misanthropy, I’m a big romantic. I have always loved romance and the honest truth is I rarely find a story without it remotely interesting. I don’t begrudge my friend for being in love, I begrudge her because I’m looking for the truth:

Is love about finding someone you connect with, have fun with, and care about inherently?

Or, is true love about finding someone you’re willing to try for?

I know damn well there is some intangible connection, some electricity, some feeling, some unreasonable desire to just be with them—in so many ways—that you can’t control. It’s a connection you can’t force, you can’t logic into yourself. I felt it once, for one person. And it was that feeling that helped me get hurt when it went to hell. After that, I knew that I couldn’t love someone without it. And, honestly, I didn’t want to love anyone without it. I wanted that feeling back more than anything—I still do—and I’m not willing to settle.

So where does it come from? Is the feeling a sign that you’re meant for each other? That you should try harder to make it work? Or is it just a random act of the universe? Did I feel that way because I let myself, without thinking too hard? Or is it just something that you feel for some and not others? How seriously should you take it? And am I wrong? Can that feeling be created over time?

When I first started writing THE PLANE, I knew there would be a male and female character.

(Pronouns, baby. So much easier to write a scene between a girl and a guy.)

But also because of the romance angle. I’ve never written a book without one yet. Despite that, even as I developed the characters, imagined scenes in my head, and began plotting out the book, they never felt right together. They got along—in the sort of constantly bickering and loving it kind of way—but I couldn’t really see them together. Not as a couple. I couldn’t see them in love.

Why? Well, for Soel’s part, he’s not in the right place for love. For Sanya, Soel isn’t supportive enough.

Soel has developed into being a fairly selfish character. I don’t think that makes him unlikeable, (entirely) because he is, at least, not entitled. But sometimes he does and says things that really make me cringe. Unlike many of his male counterparts before him, each of whom have some sort of chip-on-his-shoulder, it’s-me-against-the-world attitude, Soel is the only one who is truly angry. He’s resentful. He’s struggling to keep his head above water, and he wants society to accept him. Most of my protagonists before were trying to escape it.

He’s not lonely. It doesn’t propel him. Security does, feeling safe—financially, physically—is his main priority. He doesn’t even seek pleasure, and I’m not just talking sex. All he wants is freedom, to not have to struggle anymore.

Normally I’d call bullshit on the “not being in the right place for love” crap. I know damn well when you like someone, the sensibility of it all goes right out the window. I believe not being in the right place can make something not work, but I don’t believe it can prevent you from falling in love. But I feel like love wouldn’t make Soel happy. Not now, anyway.

As for Sanya, I’m not entirely sure what she needs, but a part of it is unconditional acceptance. Soel is, considering how important status is for him, a judgmental whore. He cares too much about getting what he wants to truly accept her. He can accept her as a friend, as someone who understands him, who he can talk to, but as a committed life-long companion, I just don’t see it. She’s insane, she has baggage, she has severe impulse control. She’s hard to take. Soel doesn’t have the patience. And honestly, neither does she.

I’m seeking other avenues for love (in my book we’ll say), and I’m not ruling out that maybe when they get their shit together they might fit right. But as of right now, there’s a reason they’re not working, and I’m not going to force it. Maybe it’s because, though I’m doing great, I’m still not entirely over my last heartbreak. Maybe it’s me that can’t get them together. Or maybe it’s them.

We’ll say it’s them. That it’s just not meant to be. It seems to make things easier.

A Scene between the Two “Lovebirds”

Soel eyed the woman without hesitation, not even bothering in the slightest to be subtle. She raised her brows, but he didn’t stop. She turned back to the ocean.
            The sound of the water lapping on the deck beneath them seemed louder than normal. Soel finally glowered at Mavich, the bastard taking his time reading through the paperwork. He did this on purpose—to torture them both. Soel knew his first impression on Galdin was not a great one, and that Mavich was the sort to not tolerate the scum of the earth anyway, so combine the opinion of lapdog and master, the lapdog was going to bite twice as hard.
            But he couldn’t help blame this Sanya for her part in it. A part of him wanted to kill her too, and he didn’t give a shit if she worked for Galdin or not.
            She took a long breath from her cigarette before glancing to Soel. “Fine weather we’re having.”
            “Don’t talk t’me.”
            She held up her hands, amused. “Alright then.”
            “Hey, Mavich,” Soel shouted. “What y’doing? Can we get on with this?”
            “Cram it, mud.”
            “Why’re we here?”
            Mavich ignored him, pulling the paper up closer to his face.
            Soel crossed his arms.
            “We’re here,” the woman said in a demure manner, “Because they are trying to convince us that they own us.”
            He just gave her a dirty look.
            “You do own us. You have me by the nuts and y’know it. Just come on. What do y’want? Who is this lady?”
            “Sanya,” she said, holding out a hand.
            He stared at her incredulously. She withdrew it.
            “Sanya, this is Soel of Green Shore. Soel, this is Sanya,” Mavich said carelessly.
            The woman smiled at the pilot next to her.
            “What? You a transient? Ain’t got a hometown?”
            “I do. But I don’t see a reason to tell you.”
            “You could probably bribe it out of her,” Mavich muttered, not looking up.
            Soel looked to her for confirmation, hoping to legitimize his judgment.
            “A million drakma.”
            He rolled his eyes.
            “I can’t imagine what someone such as y’rself could be hidin’.”
            She stood tall, back arched, energy contained within her form. She was controlled, every movement intentional, else her body sat completely still. The way she gestured, arched a graceful brow, smiled only when she chose, suggested a woman of class, of one of the higher isles. But her dirt stained black pants and long leather jacket—patched in places—ruined the effect. Her long black hair glistened in the sun, clean and maintained. She wore thick make-up around the eyes, she had, at least, tried to maintain her appearance. Again, Soel knew nothing about guns, but the shotgun strapped one her back was obviously finer than most of what he’d seen. He was talking to someone of the greater stations, but, for whatever reason, she hid it. It gave him more reason to be mad than just his hatred of the situation.
            “If I told you why then it would just explain away the what.”
            “Y’don’t need t’explain anything to me,” he muttered.
            “Oh, but I want us to be friends. I have a feeling we’re going to be very close in the near future.”
            She and Soel looked to Mavich. The man pretended to ignore them for a moment, but finally raised his head.
            “Oh fine,” he sighed. “Yes. You both know that we are entering into contract, correct?”
            “Correct.”
            “Sure.”
            “Well, it would be foolish of us to send you off without a full arsenal.”
            “Oh, please tell me you’re giving me a gun,” Sanya moaned.
            Mavich’s eyes narrowed. “Maybe,” he said. “It’s a possibility. You will have to ask him.”
            “Oh, I will.”
            “Alright,” Soel snapped. “But what does that have to do with Trigger Happy over here? She’s not comin’ with right? I’m not gonna have t’be in the same space as her, right?”
            “We will be giving you everything you need to ensure the trip’s success. Food, gasoline, any weaponry Galdin deems fit.”
            “And so what? “You’re givin’ me a whore?”
            Sanya gave him a dismissing look. “You’re a lovely person, Soel. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
            “You will need a gunman. Sanya here is the best possible option you can have. You should be grateful.”
            She nodded at Soel in agreement. He scowled at her.
            “We have been trying to tie her down for a good while now. You should be happy.”
            He looked away, but he realized they were right. He’d seen what she could do, and he knew damn well that trying to shoot while flying had almost killed him several times before. He needed to suck it up and quit pissing off the one person who might be the difference between life and death.
            He just glowered at the dock.
            Meanwhile, Sanya glanced back to the plane behind them then to the scrawny man next to her.
            “Gunman, huh?” she said. “So I take it you think that I’ll be getting into that death trap.”
            “You will do what you are told,” Mavich explained, exhausted.
            “There’s nothin’ wrong with my plane!” Soel snapped.
            “Oh, I believe you. But it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to be a pilot’s gunman. I have never been a pilot’s gunman, and I will never be a pilot’s gunman.”
            Soel eyed her up and down. Mavich kept his eyes on the page.
            “And why’s that?” the lapdog asked.
            She shrugged. “I’m scared of heights.”

            Soel nearly tossed himself to the ground.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Motivation of a Big Life Change

I’m moving in two months. I’d have moved two months ago if I hadn’t already agreed to work a play. Then add in that my job is closing and I am one of the few primary employees, I didn’t want to leave my boss in the lurch, so that tacked on an extra three weeks until I could go. Then it’s my Dad’s birthday. Then Christmas. Then New Years. So now the official departure date is January 3rd.

There’s all this crap that I wanted to have done before I go, and now that I have a date in mind, it’s actually time for me to think that it’s feasible. Truth is, having a deadline like that is a great motivator. The problem with most nonprofessional (i.e. unpaid) authors is that they don’t have a time requirement. No one cares if they don’t get their stories done within a certain amount of time.

I do, however, and I’ve been slacking.

I will admit that over the last few weeks I’ve been working a show and, combining that with my day job, I’ve been working 14 hours a day with one half an hour official break. I’m exhausted—like many of my fellow thespians—and I don’t feel like doing much. But, today the show premieres, which means starting Sunday I’m going to have my nights back again. Hell, even a day off if you can believe that.

I’ve decided, as I like to do, that there are a few bigger projects that I’d like to get done before I actually pick up and move. These projects, like most, are in the final stages and so get waylaid (I’m much more likely to do something that I know will take forever to finish, but will blow off anything that I feel I could end in a quick burst of work ethic.)

These things are…

-Read all the books I’ve borrowed from people and return them.
-Finally send out that manuscript to agents.
-Get my serial short story website up.
-Redo my web comic and get ten pages ahead.
-Finish one of the books I’m writing.
-Get my Etsy store working.
-Get my giveaways going.

Most of these won’t actually take that long. I have several different first drafts that are damn close to being done, my manuscript I have been editing for the last few years just needs to have about 10,000 words cut (which considering I’ve already cut more than 50,000 isn’t as difficult as it seems.) I’ve been writing my serial short stories for the last few months, have the website designed, etc. It just takes some time to put it together. The web comic will take forever, probably at least two weeks of all my focus, so we’ll see about that one. The giveaways are going to be writing based quilts I’ve made, one including one of Edgar Allen Poe. (Follow my blog, friend me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter to keep up dated on when that will be.) I’d like to set up one to co-inside with my launch date, but I’m not sure that will happen. Quilting takes a long time.

In that vein:

I am announcing the launch of my online episodic short stories, STORIES OF THE WYRD, December 15, 2014.



Brother and sister, Rasmus and Kaia, walk along the ever shifting boarders of society and the strange wilderness christened the Wyrd, fighting monsters and beasts that crawl from its misty recesses. For a price of course. And if they can’t find something, there’s nothing to say they won’t make it up.

These stories will be free and online at my website www.CharleyDaveler.com at the end of this year.


I won’t be worried too much about getting any of this started until Sunday, mostly because I am so tired I am finally willing to admit that maybe I don’t have the time needed to actually do all my work, and that maybe I can give myself a break.


So I have three days until the countdown begins. Stay tuned.