Monday, December 29, 2014

Craving a Delicate Touch

I've been in a bit of a reading funk for most of the year. I know, with how busy I've been there shouldn't have been much time for reading but I managed to steal a few hours here and there. However out of all the books I picked up, I couldn't finish most of them. Out of the few I did finish, only two left me wanting more -- Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and Slow Regard For Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. (Seriously, they're bloody brilliant!) The others weren't bad books. In fact one of them was by Brent Weeks, whose writing I love, but for some unknown reason it just wasn't grabbing me and I couldn't figure out why. (Brent, there's nothing wrong with your writing and I will finish and thoroughly enjoy that book. Just at a later date.)

At Tracy's suggestion I started reading Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey and was hooked from the first page. Jacqueline is a wonderful writer but thick headed me couldn't figure out why this book satisfied that undefinable craving that the other books didn't. When I mentioned this to Tracy he pointed out that I hadn't read much by women this year, which was why he suggested Carey's book. He's right (which is one of the many reasons I keep him around). However, the revelation shocked me.

I've always been aware that there are differences in how men write and how women write but I never thought the difference in approach would be something I would crave. I read for character first and plot second. If I'm in a particularly vicious mood I'll read something with a high blood and gore content. I'm not a girly girl. I've never craved something feminine and lovely in my life. It's no wonder I needed someone to point it out to me.

As a woman I'm a bit ashamed that I never noticed the lack of women authors in my to read stack. Though as I mentioned before, I never buy a book because of the author's gender, political leaning, or sexual orientation. I have the same approach for music. Now I wonder if I need to pay more attention to the gender identity of the author. If nothing else it will help me keep a variety of voices in my stacks so I never get burned out again.

Speaking of Tracy, he has a wonderful blog that you should check out. He's got some great reviews and recommendations! Click here.

Also, don't forget that my first short story will published next month in the Kobo special edition of Fiction River: Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. You can pre-order it here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes it's better to play poker

I've been re-watching The West Wing lately because there's never a bad reason to revisit a brilliantly written show. Also the last time I watched it I was too young to fully understand or appreciate the show's brilliance. For example, in one of the episodes Charlie (played the wonderful Dule Hill), the President's personal aide, sat in a bar surrounded by co-eds enjoying the start Spring Break. He felt very self-conscious of his lack of a college education, as if the crowd's degrees in progress were a requirement to associate with them. At the end of the episode, Charlie spent the rest of the evening playing poker with the President and senior staff.

I bring this up because Charlie, in his youth, caught up in his own wants and insecurities, failed to fully understand or appreciate his position. If anyone in that bar was paying attention to who he was drinking with, they would have been envious of him. They also would have marveled that he didn't need a masters in political science to hang out with members of the senior staff. 

I'm not saying that college degrees are a waste of time. A good education is never a waste of time. But if hobnobbing with influential people is your goal, and let's face it, one can never know too many influential people, it's going to take more than a few letters tagged on to your name to earn their trust. Some might say that Charlie was lucky. I say he was in the right place at the right time and made a good impression.

The adage "it's not what you know but who you know that matters" is still true, no matter what business you're in. It's a shame that networking isn't a required course in school. Such an essential skill shouldn't be left to fate and it seems wrong to let the extroverts dominate. Perhaps it's intentional. A culling process so to speak. Those who want it the most get the prize? Who knows. What's important is that recognizing the need for developing relationships and gathering contacts. Business-wise, the hours I've spent networking have served me far better than the hours I spent in the classroom.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The self-indulgent workaholic

In March I thought it would be easy to jump back into my old schedule -- blog on Mondays, work the day job, go to signings, and write all the things -- after Avenue Q closed. It was a good routine, one that I'd kept for a couple years. It would be crazy busy for a few months as I juggled rehearsal, day job, and writing deadlines but it was only a few months. I'd be back to my routine before I knew it. What I didn't expect was that crazy busy became the new normal. After the show closed I was thrust into multiple family obligations, a much busier work day, conventions, more deadlines, and since I'd grown accustomed to working at warp 9 until I collapsed from exhaustion I soldiered on. I was so busy being busy that I forgot that I didn't have to do that any more. I'm ashamed to say that it took me two months to remember.

This month I've been taking a lot more time for me. Not because I'm too exhausted to write, quite the contrary. My writer brain is buzzing with new ideas and my creative muscles are eager to be used. However I need to forget that warp 9 exists. It's not healthy. I've gained weight from too much convenience food and too little time outside. Plus being at events when I'm perpetually tired is a waste of time. I was consciously walking away from great networking opportunities because I didn't have the energy to seize the moment. 

I'm still writing. I submitted a Flame and Filch short to the Blackguards anthology and I'm working on the requested revisions for Moonshine, the short that Rebecca Moesta bought at the Anthology workshop. Instead of working on them every day, I'm only doing it a couple days a week. The rest of my free time is being spent watching TV, favorite Halloween movies, playing Candy Crush and Clumsy Ninja, reading, and hanging out with friends. I'm working on my embroidery again and even toying with the idea of getting back into drawing and painting -- which I haven't done since college. 

The recharge has been really good for me. Not only am I well rested for a change I feel more...strong, capable. This time away has not only cleared away the fog of fatigue but I think it's also cleared away the remnants of the fog of grief from losing Spud in January. It may sound silly but I really feel more myself, more than I have in the past decade. (And those who know what I've been through understand what an achievement that is.) 

Next month I'm going to start transitioning back into a regular writing routine. I haven't decided if I want to go back to a six day writing schedule or cap it at four days. Even though it would be better career-wise if I spent that time writing, I like having time to kick back. I especially don't want to lose my regained clarity and strength. I have a hunch I'll need that more than ever since I'm no longer an amateur writer. We'll see if I can manage to keep some downtime. I am a workaholic so I may find myself at warp 3 before I know it.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Fiction River, the publication that my first three short stories will appear in, is having a subscription drive. You can find out the details here. The drive October 2nd so don't delay signing up. I've read most of the stories in year two's line up so believe me when I say that you want to subscribe for the full year.

While we're on the subject, my first short story, The Void around the Sword's Edge, will appear in the Kobo Special Edition of Fiction River: Pulse Pounders. If your Fiction River subscription doesn't include that edition you can pre-order it here.

The cover for the second volume I'm, Alchemy& Steam in is up on their website. It's so pretty!

Monday, August 18, 2014

New travelers on an old path

Every movie I've seen the last two weeks has shown the trailer for Interstellar. If you've missed it you can watch it here. It's probably the most vague trailer I've ever seen and yet, I have a pretty good idea what direction the story will take. It's not a new concept in sci-fi. Ken Liu's Mono No Aware (you can read it here) and Mary Robinette Kowal's The Lady Astronaut of Mars (you can read it here) are beautifully written examples. Neither is derivative and that's certainly not my concern for Interstellar. I'm worried that because it's so vague that the general public either won't be interested or they won't realize what they're in for.

I'm going to ignore the possibility of bad science and trust that Christopher Nolan and his team did their research. They did a great job of making the gadgets in the Batman films functional in a real world sense so I'm willing to take a leap of faith on that. The possible conclusions for the story however...

There are a couple forks in this particular story path. The first is whether or not they can establish Earth 2.0. Astronomers have already found some likely candidates so if my research assumption holds true than the film will focus more on preparing the selected planet for the coming settlers. If I'm wrong than they'll waste screen time with an improbable search that could have been done by satellites and drones instead of people. The average American probably won't be bothered by it but those of us who actually pay attention to science will be throwing popcorn at the screen.

The second fork is whether or not they make it back home. This path has no in between. They either make it or they don't. If they do, Yay! Happy ending. If they don't (which I think is more likely) it's going to be a massive tear jerker that will catch many an unsuspecting viewer off guard.

Unfortunately we're going to have to wait until November to find out which direction the story takes. If they've done it right this has the potential to be a spectacular film but I'm not going to get my hopes up. Heaven knows Hollywood has let us down plenty of times before.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Keeping a delicate balance

Since being cast in Avenue Q I've been silently struggling to come to terms with something. Considering the show's content one might assume that my struggle centered around porn, racism, or one of the other major themes. It's not. What's troubled me are stereotypes -- specifically whether or not it's okay to rely on them to convey a character's race when limited by the art form?

Most advocates would shout "NO!" but I don't feel it's as simple or clear cut as that. For some races skin tone, whether it's visible on stage or mentioned in passing in a story, is enough of an indicator to tell the audience that the character isn't the default WASP. However there are others that aren't as obvious. A lot of folks can pick an Asian out of a crowd but the vast majority can't tell the difference between Koreans, Chinese, or Japanese. I can tell the difference but I'm Asian. To the rest of the world we look the same which is why it's caused a bit of a personal dilemma for me.

In the show I play Christmas Eve, a Japanese immigrant, and most of my costumes are kimono-like. I happen to really like the items the costumer made for me but I have to confess that I've harbored a little bit of resentment. I'm really am Japanese and one of my first lines is "I am Japanese." I actually had to stop and ask myself "Do I have to wear this for the audience to really get it?"

Sadly, I do.

My name is generic enough that audiences can't use that as an indicator, and I have enough Western blood in me (German, Polish, and English) that my Japanese features are slightly muted. In the past people have asked me if I'm Native American, Hawaiian, Mexican, and Eskimo in addition to the full spectrum of Asian nationalities.

I also don't have a Japanese accent. I'm American. I grew up here. My speech patterns are American. Heck, even my mannerisms are American. While I could have adopted a Japanese accent and mannerisms for the show, very little of it translates well on stage. The few things that do are so subtle that the audience wouldn't notice them. For example, very few people are aware that the Japanese have hand gestures that accompany phrases like "excuse me" or that Japanese women carry their purses a certain way. Sure, I could still do them so that the audience would get a more authentic Japanese woman but if they're not going to pick up on it than what's the point?

The point is they'll never know if they're not exposed to the truth. As I want to vilify it, white America was never the source of my problem. The real problem is ignorance. Ignorance doesn't limit itself to one demographic.

Unfortunately the world is in this awkward transitional stage. While more people are becoming aware that what they identify as _______ culture is wrong, a lot still don't care enough about the issue to enlighten themselves. I have the daunting task of gaining the trust and approval of my stereotype loving audience so I can then gently show them that this character is a real person that defies their expectations.

While I seem to have done this well on stage (the reviews are very good) I don't know yet if I've pulled off this balance in my writing. All the stories I've written from this stance are either out in submissionland or are soon to venture there. I hope that I've done it well. I want to be a proponent for change and understanding.

It's only appropriate that in a show about finding one's purpose in life, I found mine. My purpose in life is to help people understand a point of view that is not their own.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Today on The Fictorians I talk about one of the odd perks of being a writer. Check it out!

Monday, July 7, 2014


Whew! I survived June, AKA the super crazy month. I can honestly say that I don't recommend holding down two jobs and rehearsing a play at the same time. Caffeine just wasn't enough to keep me going in the end.

When I figured out my juggling act back in March I failed to take fatigue into account. I foolishly thought that I could keep up with everything the same way I could four years ago when I retired from the stage. I hadn't aged that much. I would be fine.

Ha ha ha!

I had a twelve day stint where I was pulling fifteen hour days in order to keep up with the workload, learn my lines, as well as meet deadlines without any downtime. I met my deadlines and everything else but I was so tired at the end that I collapsed for two days and did absolutely nothing. Heck, I'm still recovering from that stint.

Since I don't have any deadlines in the near future I'm going to take a break from writing until the show closes. I need to rest so I have the energy I need for the day job and performances. Plus my to read stack has reached monumental proportions. It will be nice to have the time to whittle down the stacks a bit. Of course this break might have to be cut short. I've got three submissions out right now. If any or all of them are purchased then I'll have to adjust, which is okay. I'll take whatever downtime I can get at this point.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I have a post up on The Fictorians today. I talk about how to deal with monkey-throwing wrenches. Check it out.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Stay tuned...

I'm in the middle of a twelve day stint with no time off which means:

1) I'm exhausted.
2) I haven't had the time to write a new blog post.

So unfortunately I must leave you wanting. However, it's not for too long. I do have a post on the Fictorian Era coming up next Tuesday (the 24th). I'll post the link once it goes up.

Take care. I hope your week is less crazy than mine.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Changing the past for a better future

Spoiler warning!

I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past last week. I was on the fence about it at first. I'm still cringing from what they did to the Phoenix saga in X3 and despite some good performances First Class was a bit of a bore. However curiosity got the better of me. I had to see Bishop on the big screen. He's always been a favorite.

Bishop didn't disappoint (the little we got to see him) and the Sentinels were super scary and bad ass. The Time in a Bottle sequence was the best three minutes of the movie and I have to give the writers props for doing an admirable job retconning X3 out of existence (not going to cry about that). However they created unnecessary conflict in the past when all they needed to do was put the existing conflict in the future to better use. 

Kitty, Bishop, Colossus, Warpath, Blink, Sunspot, and Iceman was everything the X-men should be. They were a strong team of people who trusted each other implicitly in the most dire of situations and combined their strengths in amazing ways to fight back. It saddened me that we didn't see more of their struggles, how they became so cohesive. That's the movie I wanted to see. 

Did we need to spend 70% of the movie in the past? No. The final scene with the Sentinel attack on the White House lawn would have been just as good if it was in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. All of the key story elements could have been done in half the time, leaving a plenty of room for distopic battles that let the diverse future team shine. 

In spite of the setting imbalance and the fact that we didn't get to see Bishop, Warpath, Blink and the others nearly enough I still enjoyed it. There were enough geeky goodies to keep me happy and the resolution was satisfying.   

Monday, May 19, 2014

The crossfit writing regimen

My days are punctuated by the deafening music, floor breaking thuds, and adrenaline fueled yops from the crossfit gym next door. Every morning and evening the members do several laps around the block. I assumed that it was their warm up but I'm not sure anymore.

Lately a few of the members have added extra equipment to their run and I'm not talking about hand weights. They're dragging hundred pound weights -- the kind you usually see on a barbell -- or large duffle bags filled with dark matter for all I know. I'm not a runner. Big boobs and crooked achilles tendons have guaranteed that I never will become one. However, if I were I wouldn't be crazy enough to carry a fifty pound duffle across my shoulders because sooner or later my face would meet the pavement.

I understand that it's the Super Saiyan training method. Since technology won't allow humans to train under 4X gravity they're using the tools available. It's logical but still baffles me. Why push so hard? A conventional workout is much safer.

After considering it for a while I realized that I do the same thing with my writing. Every time I try to meet an insanely close deadline or write from a POV outside my norm I pick up that bag of dark matter and heft it around the block. Yes, it's scary. Yes, I do often find my face meeting the pavement. But every time I try I make it a little further. It only takes one fall to remember that a certain spot has uneven pavement.

The story I'm writing now is a new genre for me, and a new kind of POV. However it's also a story that a year ago I wouldn't have been able to tackle. Then it would have been too far outside my abilities to even consider and the story would have lacked because of it. I know it's scared a few of my beta readers when I told them what I'm attempting with this story.

Now I agree that it's probably not the most conventional way to strengthen my creative muscles but it seems to work for me. I'm up to the point where I can take the duffle bag around the next corner and discover what obstacles and challenges await. I may still fall flat on my face and earn a few new scars but I can live with that. Scars are cool.

Monday, May 5, 2014

An overlooked resource

When it comes time for an author to promote their newest book the local bookstores are often the first stop (and if they're not than they should be). However where a lot of authors go wrong is that they try to get the store to carry the book rather than get the staff to sell the book. The difference is bigger than you think. If you want to know how to take advantage of their selling skills take a look at my post on the Fictorians.

My next post on the Fictorians is coming this Friday (5/9). I'll be talking about one of my favorite books. You won't want to miss it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The balls you didn't know I juggled

Last month I announced my decision to cut back to blogging every other Monday and why I came to that conclusion. Well there were two reasons that I wasn't at liberty to share then that I can now.

I've been doing guest posts for The Fictorians for over a year now. Last month they asked me to become a full member. I know it doesn't make sense to cut back on one blog just to post on another but my posts for them have been well received, and I have a lot of respect for the other members. I'm honored to be among their number. I'll only be doing one post a month for them so it won't cut into my schedule too much. Next Tuesday (29th) my first post as a Fictorian will up on the site so make sure to mark it on your calendars.

The other reason is that I'm returning to the stage. I auditioned for and was cast in Albany Civic Theater's upcoming production Avenue Q. I'll be playing the role of Christmas Eve and I'm so excited! I'm excited to be back on stage, I'm excited to work with this amazing cast, and I'm so happy to check one more show off my bucket list. I've wanted to portray Christmas Eve for years and I'd never forgive myself if I passed up this opportunity. She's such a fun character. So if you're local I'd love to see you in the audience. Just remember that this isn't a family friendly show.

So why did I withhold this information? Well when I made my announcement I hadn't been officially instated as a Fictorian. As for Avenue Q the auditions hadn't taken place yet. I did take it into account when I made my blogging decision, even though it wasn't guaranteed I'd be cast. Doing a musical takes a lot of time and energy and I wanted to be certain that I wasn't overloading myself. My conclusion was that if I stayed with a weekly blog schedule it would be exactly that. They were the weights that tipped the scale. Now that both items are official I'm glad that I took them into account and acted accordingly. It's going to make the next four months doable.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Captain plot hole and the repetitive threat


I saw Captain America: the Winter Soldier on Saturday night and even though I enjoyed it immensely there were a few plot holes that prevent me from calling it the best Marvel film of all. Yes, the predecessors in the franchise all had their flaws too (I'm still trying to forget the first Thor film) but I don't feel that their flaws were as far reaching as CA2's. Remember that I still liked the film. The action sequences were excellent and I love Steve and Natasha's interactions. I also loved the congruity with the TV show. However, those delights didn't compensate for the rest of the film being poorly written.

Two of my friends have commented on their blogs that Hydra's presence within S.H.I.E.L.D. should have been discovered years prior. They're right. Someone would have let something slip in conversation or an intercepted communiqué that would have started an internal investigation. I also have problems with Hydra's reasoning, as explained by Zola. He claimed that the only way for them to succeed was to have the people freely surrender their liberty but when they were allied with the Nazis that's exactly what they had. Not across the entire globe of course though they had enough of it. If that approach had already failed than why try it again?

I also had big problems with the Winter Soldier. First was that he had supposedly been operating for fifty years without anyone catching him or discovering his identity. Again, someone would have found something in all that time. They also eluded to his having been repeatedly frozen, thawed, and had his memories forcefully repressed. Unless he possessed the healing powers of Wolverine he shouldn't have been able to survive that. One freeze and thaw, sure. But a repeated course over fifty years? No way. And since we're on the subject of his abilities wouldn't the changes resulting from the Hydra experiments have manifested during the many operations he, Steve, and the rest of the team carried out in Europe during WWII?

My second problem with the Winter Soldier was that he was Bucky. In the first Captain America they used him for the gut-wrenching plot twist. That they did the same thing with the same character a second time is lazy. They could have expounded on Steve's dissolution with S.H.I.E.L.D. or the fact that the Winter Soldier was a Hydra operative and that would have been enough, I think. The fact that they went ahead with this copycat twist when they took the time to give Thor and Iron Man new and interesting conflicts is appalling. Especially when they negate all Steve's "I don't want to fight my friend" stance in the final fight scene. If Steve was so against it why did he throw the first punch?

The last plot hole that should have been addressed was Zola. If his mind and the algorithm was so essential to Hydra's operations why hadn't he been uploaded to a more modern interface? Those circuit boards shouldn't have been operable and the speed of modern components would have made the transfer worth the risk.

In any other film all of these flaws would have made me call it a massive failure. Fortunately for them the first class fight scenes made me a very happy bloodthirsty girl. Oh, and the relationships and the continuity with the TV show. But mostly the violence.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some difficult decisions

I have come to the realization that I need Hermione's time turner. There is too much to do. I always thought that when I broke into the business it would be either a short story sale to a small magazine or a  novel sale. In the case of the first, I didn't expect it to be widely publicized or in an issue with a lot of big names so it would go largely unnoticed. In the case of the second, I figured I'd have a year or two to get a (real) website up, and do all the business and promotional things that I haven't had time see to. Well this mega short story sale falls in between since there are a considerable number of big names in these anthologies and I can't afford to miss out on the momentum it will create.

What exactly does that entail?

Building a website
Updating my business cards
Updating my bio
Having professional bio pictures taken
Spreading the word about these sales to all of my friends and clients
Have a will drawn up (I have intellectual property to secure)
Submitting more stories
Writing more stories
Oh, and completing all of my edits on time and I have to juggle all that with my day job and prepare for Avenue Q auditions next month...

With that in mind I'm going to be cutting back on my blogging. I'll only be posting every other week. I hope that this will only be temporary because I really enjoy blogging but I have to do this. I've been working too many late nights lately and I need to be smart about this now before my health suffers because of it. (I'm walking a fine line as it is.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm editing and not pulling my hair out


I still have too many things to do. I finished one edit and crossed one business item off my lengthy to do list. Since this is my only free day this week I'll be spending most of it offline so I can finish the first polishing pass on the story for Pulse Pounders. I need to send it to Kevin soon. I'm actually enjoying the edits and polishing passes this time -- probably because I'm still full of first sale excitement. It's also really gratifying to know that my work only needs a little tweak here and there to make it right for these anthologies. I can't remember if I've mentioned this before but I really had no idea that my writing really  could hold it's own when compared to my published peers. It's a revelation that's still sinking in but it also may be what's making these edits easier. I don't have to stress and wonder if the changes I'm making are the right ones. If I err, my editor will tell me and I'll go back and fix it. Simple.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Oregon Coast Anthology Workshop

Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a lovely post about the anthology workshop. Kevin J. Anderson did as well but his post included the names of the bestselling authors that have stories in the Pulse Pounders anthology. I'm thrilled to be in the same volume as these wonderful writers and even more thrilled that my work is worthy of that honor.

I know some of you are waiting to hear my take on the workshop but I fear that time won't allow that at the moment. I'm already in the first round of edits on the stories that sold and the submission period for Women Destroy Fantasy is drawing near. Plus I was ill a good part of last week and that put me behind a bit. Hopefully I can catch up this week so I can share with you how amazing the workshop was.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fantastic news!

I had a wonderful time at the workshop. Everyone there was so warm and welcoming, both the writers and the hotel staff. I got an insightful look into what editors have to take into consideration when they select stories for an anthology or magazine. It's a lot more complicated than I thought and seeing it in action completely debunks every rejecomancy theory I've heard. But enough on that. I promised you news.

Three of the stories I submitted to the editors sold! Wahoo!!!

My stories will appear in three separate volumes of Fiction River. The first in the Kobo special edition of Pulse Pounders, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. The second will be in the print edition of Alchemy and Steam, edited by Kerrie Hughes and the third will be in the print edition of Sparks, edited by Rebecca Moesta. I'm super excited to have real deadlines instead those that were self-imposed and working with these three is going to be a great experience.

If you want to see what the anthologies will look like you can go to Fiction River's site. The cover for Pulse Pounders is up but it's too soon to see the other two. You can also check out the other editions of Fiction River. Each volume has wonderful stories.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Babes in Spyland

Since I'm at Dean and Kris' anthology workshop this week my friend, Jo Ann Schneider, has graciously agreed to make Ninja Keyboard part of her blog tour. Every blog on the tour has a different character bio and snippet from her novel, Babes in Spyland. There's a link to her blog at the bottom of this post if you want to read the other bios, as well as the Amazon link so you can buy a copy of this fun book.

Agent Amphibian Queen:

Height: 5’-9”
Years with The Super Secret Agency: 2
Preferred Gun: Kahr P9
Strength: Stealthy, subtle and artistic. Blends in.
Weakness: Tiny things. She thinks they’re adorable.
Name origin: Something involving a frog. She doesn’t talk about it.

The aromatic garland of white orchids, yellow lilies, and baby blue morning glory hung over the metal detector like drapes, failing to hide the dirty, off-white housing underneath. Even after calling in a third florist and an extra bundle of greenery, Super Secret Agent Amphibian Queen couldn’t figure out how to disguise the machine.

“Maybe a few more on this side,” she said, squinting her eyes in an attempt to picture the results of her suggestion. The sun beat down on them like a hammer, and she really wanted a cool, refreshing Hilly Dew.

“It’s a metal detector,” Agent Bunnynose said, crossing her arms over her stomach and glaring. Sweat plastered the stray tendrils of hair to the back of her neck. “It’s not supposed to be pretty.”

Amphibian Queen ignored her partner. Agent Bunnynose had been rampaging since they’d touched down in LA the day before. She must be at a delicate time of the month, Amphibian Queen decided. She would need to send someone for snacks. Agent Bunnynose was prone to random acts of violence if not kept sufficiently fed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

When the little things aren't so little

Back in October I picked up a stack of advances at a trade show. Most of the titles were YA spring releases and they all sounded really good. Last week I started reading one during lunch. I'm not going to say which book nor by whom because it was that disappointing.

I had high hopes for this book. It was by an author whose previous work had received praise on a prominent morning show, the title filled a much neglected area of the market, and the author possessed the expertise to make the unique nature of the story work. The parts of the story that fell within the author's expertise were great, and exactly what I'd hoped they would be. So why the disappointment?

Because the author doesn't understand modern teenagers.

Oh, the book had the angst, the relationship drama, and mischief elements right. What the author erred on was how teens use of technology. In one scene the protagonist and friends headed out to their favorite hangout for an afternoon of fun. On the way they turned on the car radio. Now, most of the teens I know would plug in the iPod or connect to their favorite internet radio station on either the in-dash system or on their smart device. I'll admit that it's not out of the realm of possibility that they would tune into the local popular music station on a car radio. Unfortunately, the author didn't have them listening to a music station. No, they were listening to an NPR news report.

Maybe the teens the author knows are different, but all the teens I know wouldn't listen to NPR news for love or money. It's not that they don't care about world events, it's that they don't have the patience or the desire to listen to the persistent monotone of NPR's reporters. Heck, I don't have the patience or desire and I'm twice their age. If teens want information they're going to look for it on the internet. Even if they're on the go, they're still going to turn to their phone or tablet before they even consider TV or radio.

Teens are smart. I mean, scary smart. I recently stumbled across a photo of a High School classroom. The teacher had put information on the overhead screen and gave the class permission to take notes. Rather than use pencil and paper, all of the students were taking a photo of the screen with their phones.

Like I said, scary smart.

I don't know how teens may react to this scene. I suspect it wouldn't be any better than mine and given how tech savvy and connected most teens are it probably wouldn't be long before their dislike was posted for the whole internet to see. That could potentially damage the author's career. I hope it doesn't because as I said earlier, the premise was quite good and there were some very well executed scenes. But this certainly illustrates (at least it does to me) how important it is to understand your audience.

Monday, February 10, 2014

For want of a potato

I'm sorry I didn't post last week. It was one of those unfortunate times where I had too many deadlines and no internet access. While I wasn't able to get the blog written and up, I did get nearly everything else done.

There's one bit of news that I haven't mentioned on the blog yet because I've been a bit hesitant. My close friends and family already know but I'll tell the rest of you. My geriatric cat, Spud, the one I've mentioned in a few early posts, passed away two weeks ago. It wasn't unexpected -- she was almost 19 -- but her passing has definitely put a pall on my life. Not a good thing when I've had so many deadlines and obligations that couldn't be postponed. For some people losing a cat wouldn't be traumatic but I've had her for more than half of my life. She's comforted me during the most distressing moments in my life. That's a distinguishing achievement for any being, let alone a pet. I'm not telling you this because I want to be a pathetic figure or because I can't move on. Believe me, life has given me no choice but to move on.

I've never been one to criticize someone in mourning. It's a very personal thing that effects everyone differently. If an author wants to mourn for a year and a day, then that's what they need to do and I hope they find the peace they need during that time. Me? That's a bit hard to say. The last time I was in this sort of headspace I wasn't a serious writer. But how it progressed last time was completely different. This time around I'm oddly aware of my mental state and the precarious edge my schedule has forced me to walk. It's a very strange place to be. It's like living in someone else's head while being fully aware that it's still my mind.

That part isn't so bad, weird, but not bad. What I don't like is that this headspace is making my writing inconsistent. On good days I can produce the same quality words at the same pace. But if I'm having a difficult day I don't get much of anything on the page. Difficult days have already caused me to miss one deadline. While I don't want to miss another I don't want to ask for extensions because that would mean that I'm letting depression take control of my life when it should be the other way around. I'm stronger than this, damn it.

Grief aside, I've had enough experience with depression to know how I need to deal with it. Unfortunately my production issues have mitigated the effects of my usual therapies of choice. I've worked too hard to get my work to this stage to let my imbalanced brain muck it up. Please don't flood the comments with suggestions. As I said earlier, I know my own mind and if anyone is going to find a way through the brain fog, it'll be me. If you want to offer condolences, prayers, positive energy, go right ahead. What I don't want is a barrage of "try this therapist &/or medication"or "you need to do _____."I realize those kind of comments are offered out of concern and love but they aren't what I need. They may help someone else, but they won't help me.

So if I don't want advice, why bring all this up? Because depression and silence tend to go hand in hand. The last time I was in this headspace I pulled away from my friends and didn't tell anyone what I suffered. It made my recovery excruciatingly slow and I refuse to let my depression sabotage my life like that again. This time I'm being proactive. I'm telling you that my mind is currently teetering between okay and hanging in there. If I seem out of it or not as chatty as usual, it's because I am having a difficult day and need to be in the background for a bit. If I look pissed off, I am, but not because of any serious wrong doing on your part. My fuse is very short these days and it doesn't take much to set me off. Plus it may be the result of writing frustrations so don't take it personal. I'll be myself again in time. All I ask is that you be patient and understanding while I work my way through this.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Uninvited guests

I like having reference photos for my characters to look at while I write. They don't necessarily have to match what they look like in my mind, though it helps, but they do have to contain something that reminds me of them. Sometimes it's the model's attitude and sometimes it's what they're wearing but there's always a correlation between the two. But I always know what I'm looking for before I go hunting. So when I searched for photos last week the last thing I expected was a new character.

While I hunted for the right menacing photo for my villain, Google threw in a picture of a handsome, young man that had nothing to do with my initial search. Normally this either annoys or amuses me. This time it was a magical moment because as soon as I saw the picture I knew his name and what his role in my WIP was.

What made this so magical was that his character didn't exist until I saw the picture. That's never happened to me before. I've had characters surprise me mid scene, characters pop in my head and say "this is who I am and this is my story, now go write it", and characters pop in a scene they weren't supposed to be in. Each time I went with the flow after the initial grousing. When creativity provides an unexpected twist it would be silly not to use it. This time I didn't grouse. I'm not sure if it's because I liked his character or simply too entranced by the image to care. Possibly a bit of both. It was a really sexy photo. (Not that sexy. Get your mind out of the gutter.)

Has this happened to any of you? Am I the only one with sexy males penetrating my plots?

Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm not cheating

Once again, my math teacher proved to be right. I really did need to know how to solve a story problem. While this realization made me wiser, it didn't make me any better at solving them. I don't suck at math. Heck, I use it every day at work. Give me four bags of books and I can tell you in thirty seconds what the trade in value is. In college I could solve Logs in my head. But give me a story problem and I'll over complicate the equation every time. It's frustrating.

On the bright side, now that I'm in the "real world" I can turn to friends who are good at story problems and get them to solve the equation for me. It's no longer considered cheating. Yay!

In other news I've discovered how many of my guy friends don't know how important it is to a woman to have a good bra. (Seriously, guys. Our holy grail is a cup of a different kind.) I'm not bringing this up to demean them. They're guys. It's normal. However it does make me wonder what I don't know about the physical discomforts of being a man. As a writer I definitely need to know how to write the other. This doesn't necessarily mean that I want to incorporate a blue ball scene into a story just so I have an excuse to assuage my curiosity. There are some things that shouldn't be put on paper....but I'm still curious. Don't worry gents. If I ask you a weird question, it doesn't mean I'm going to put your words in a story. I'm simply curious and I want to understand so my male characters are more realistic.

Monday, January 13, 2014

To theme or not to theme

I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately and I've noticed a couple of similarities about my favorite stories. One would assume that my favorite stories would also be those written by my favorite authors. A lot of them are but not enough for me to count it as a defining characteristic. Being well written is, but that's a topic that I could spend a year talking about at length. While I do have a year in which to talk about it, I'm not going to limit myself to a single theme. Especially when adhering to a theme seems to be exceptionally difficult to do. That's why the similarity that surprised me most is that I liked the stories that most closely adhered to the theme.

I admit that some themes are easy: Year's best sci-fi and fantasy, Best of _________'s short stories, etc. Okay, they're not much as far as themes go but they do give a lot of latitude in term of genre. Other anthologies don't have that luxury. I'm reading Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardiner Dozois. While it doesn't give a specific genre, you do expect there to be a dangerous women featured in each story. Nope. They're all well written, but some don't have a woman, and others don't have a woman that you could call dangerous by any definition.

Maybe I'm being picky -- it wouldn't be the first time -- but those stories just didn't have the punch that the others did. I'm not certain if it was my disappointment that there wasn't a homicidal woman that degraded the stories or if it was something else that I've yet to put my finger on. Either way, it's something to take into consideration if I ever find myself writing for a themed anthology.

On a side note I've got another guest post on the Fictorian Era coming up on Wednesday. Be sure to check it out.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting whipped

About this time last year I was incredibly stuck. Stuck writing 250 wpm, stuck hating my WIP, and stuck thinking that I bit off more than I could chew. That's when a good friend told me to write the f&#*ing sentence. When I first talked about it I had just started to implement that advice. I managed to get to 300 wpm and was working on the rest. After a year of writing the f&#*ing sentence, the difference is astounding.

The most obvious change is that I'm now writing 500 wpm with bursts up to 600. I've more than doubled my output. That's pretty freaking awesome. Better yet, I no longer see ______ word count as being impossible. I know a few people who can write 1K an hour and while I'm not at that speed yet, I believe that I can -- that's a huge step right there.

Another huge step is that I can look at daunting scenes and say "I'm not sure I can pull it off but I'm going to try." and mean it. It took a good part of the year to get that through my thick skull. I still have the occasional "what was I thinking" moment but every time that happens I hear Lee's voice in my head and get back to work. In some ways he's kind of become my shoulder angel. Except instead of wielding a harp and kind word it's a whip and some tough love. That statement might be a little too revealing but that doesn't make it any less true.

This philosophy has bolstered my confidence so that I no longer feel like a newbie that can't do anything right. Instead I see myself as an up and coming writer with a lot of potential. If that's the result of getting whipped once perhaps it needs to happen more often?