“Hatchling”

It’s just a working title, but this is one of the projects that’ve been on the back burner while I focused on Somnolence. It’s going to be a YA trilogy about a girl and her dragon. I put these down when I realized that the rough draft I was almost done writing was actually going to need to be split into two separate books. The pacing just didn’t work, and the first storyline deserved more attention than it had gotten. I’ve been straightening out the outlines and getting some other prep work done on the first story. I like these characters a lot, so it’s fun to get back into it.

Click here to read the blurb I’ve written for the first book.

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My dragons are halfway between crocodiles and dinosaurs because I’m a confused nerd.

Sharing an Unfinished Manuscript With People is an Exercise in Effective Terror Management

It’s probably equally scary to share a finished manuscript with people, but I haven’t had that pleasure yet. Two of my beta readers finished reading last week within a few days of each other, and that’s the first time anyone other than me has read the whole thing through. My readers are super awesome people, and all the feedback I’ve gotten so far as been really constructive and helpful, but I still get this little jolt of panic every time I see an update from one of them.

I feel like this whole process is a crash course in developing stronger confidence, though. Not because anyone has been anything less than helpful so far, but because showing it to anyone when I know it’s nowhere near finished was a pretty difficult step for me. Handing it over to the editor was similarly intimidating, even though it’s literally her job to take unfinished things and help develop them into better things. Every step is gonna be scarier than the last, but that seems like a good thing in the long run. It’s hard to make good art while also being too scared to take risks.

Plus, without the risk it’s not possible to get the super sweet responses that make it feel totally worthwhile.  ❤Screenshot_20170512-174705 2 copy

 

 

Outlining Fun with Scrivener

While I wait for Somnolence to come back from the editor, I’m working on some older projects. At the moment, I’m organizing a story that I started during national novel writing month a few years ago. I did get to around 50,000 words only to discover that I actually had two books worth of story on my hands, and I had only written about half of each of them.

I’ve been using Scrivener for a while, now. It has tons of features, many of which I’m sure I haven’t figured out yet. At the moment, I’m using it for outlining the material I’ve already produced and filling in the blank spaces. It allows me to make a virtual cork-board and to organize my plot points on it as little index cards. It’s pretty cute, and it works nicely.

Behold, this beautiful sample creation.Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 10.54.57 PM

*Obviously, I don’t own these lyrics. They’re from Crazy Ex Girlfriend, which is the hilarious creation of Rachel Bloom. I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. Too much.

My Favorite Writing Vloggers

I’ve come across some really great writing vloggers (video bloggers) while wasting time on Youtube, so I thought I’d share them. Honestly, no source of writing information has been as helpful to me as these videos. They’re encouraging, educational, and it’s really easy to absorb the information and remember it. It’s great to be able to put on a video and soak up awesome writing goodness while doing the dishes, and watching one or two before sitting down to write helps me get in the right headspace. Plus, it usually cheers me up if I’m feeling floppy and unmotivated.

  1.  Jenna Moreci‘s videos are just really fun to watch. She’s funny, and she has great writing tips that I’ve found incredibly helpful. She’s also very blunt and honest. I think that creative types often need a kick in the pants more than sympathy, so I appreciate her no-nonsense approach; it’s generally what I need when I’m goofing off. Here is her great advice for getting over writer’s block. Her self-published YA sci-fi series, starting with Eve: The Awakening, looks really great. I have a copy sitting on my shelf but haven’t had time to read it yet, which makes me sad. I’m also really excited for her upcoming fantasy book, The Savior’s Champion.
  2.  Kim Chance is a total sweetie. She recently got a publishing deal for her book Keeper, and she offers a lot of support for people who are interested in traditional publishing. Her videos are super cute and heartwarming, and she also has great general fiction-writing advice. She teaches english, so she’s there for your grammar needs, too. Here is her video on giving your book a strong start, with lots of great info about what to do and what not to do in first chapters.
  3.  Kristen Martin‘s writing vlog is full of really detailed, really clear information, and she also has a cool personal vlog where she shares some of her daily life, including how she finds general balance and a healthy approach to her writing. A lot of writing sources romanticize stress, so it is really refreshing to see someone who really cares about feeling good and taking care of herself while pursuing her goals.  Here is her video on her writing process and how she gets her first drafts done in about two months, which is totally hardcore. Her self-published YA sci-fi series, starting with The Alpha Drive, looks really cool. She also offers first chapter critiques for a reasonable fee. She critiqued the first chapter of Somnolence, which was incredibly helpful and encouraging.
  4.  Bookish Pixie, also known as Ava Jay, is also traditionally published. She offers advice about that process, plus a bunch of general fiction tips and tricks. Here is her video on writing fight scenes, which can be really difficult to get right. She started pursuing her writing goals very young, and has worked incredibly hard. I think her videos would be especially encouraging for younger writers, although I still get a lot out of them. She wrote Beyond the Red, another cool sci-fi novel.

There are a ton of really informative writing vlogs out there, so I’d encourage anyone who’s interested to just search around on Youtube, because there’s almost certainly someone making videos that are perfect for your needs. And if not, you could always take it up yourself and help others while building an audience. 🙂

“Somnolence” Progress Update 

My awesome beta readers have chapters in hand, and the manuscript is headed for the first round of professional editing on May first. I’m still working on a release date, but in the meantime, here are some pretty mood pictures for you. Somnolence is set in a dreary mountain location, surrounded by an encroaching forest and climbing with brambles and overgrown rose bushes.

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Social Justice Warriors in Literature and History

Americans love a hero. Whether we’re talking about an underdog who refuses to back down in a fight against the establishment, or a powerful being who uses their strength to defend the helpless, we’re all about heroism. This seems to be a universal human thing, but I think Americans are especially fond of those tropes, and they’re very much a part of our cultural identity. Many Americans imagine our country as being (or at least having been at one point) a powerful force for good in the world that stands up against evil, especially nazis. We hate those damn nazis.

The funny thing is, though, that we as a culture absolutely loathe real people who embody the exact traits that we admire in literary and historical figures. We love that guy who stands up to a corrupt government, unless that guy is real and that government is our government. Then, we hate that guy. We especially hate that guy if he happens to be a woman on the internet. We even have a lovely term for that person: the social justice warrior. This label is often spat at people who try their hardest every day to push back against a culture that has completely normalized cruelty against those who historically had little or no power to protect themselves.

This rosy-but-limited view of heroism also applies to the past. Civil rights? Absolutely important. Everyone who marched was a hero. Suffragettes? Damn right women deserved the vote. Stonewall? Yeah, they probably had a point. World war 2? Let’s beat the shit out of those fucking nazis.* The people who fought against progress back then are increasingly viewed as backwards, ignorant, or outright evil. Especially the nazis. Screw nazis, right?

Wrong.

Well, I mean, nazis have a right to express their opinions, don’t they? It’s a free country, after-all. It’s just intolerant not to tolerate the view that some humans deserve to die or be raped or be socially ostracized for harmless inborn traits and personal choices, isn’t it? It’s literally just MEAN to call someone a bigot for saying and doing racist or homophobic things. It’s BULLYING to argue with people who make fun of those with disabilities that require accommodation. It’s a sign of the sad, close-minded, liberal mind-set that people aren’t willing to remain close with friends and family who “disagree” with their fundamental humanity being socially recognized, and who make dehumanizing jokes about them. While we’re on the subject of humor, rape jokes should totally be protected by freedom of speech, and people who object to them are literally destroying the soul of comedy. Trans women are one of the most at-risk demographics in the country, especially trans women of color, but it is an intolerable cruelty to cis women and children everywhere if they’re allowed to pee in safety. Oh, and of course, it’s just judgmental and rude to tell parents not to hit their property, I mean children.

But of course, that’s all just common sense stuff. Obviously the rights that people have already fought and died for, and the social awareness we have now which was raised inch by painful inch by activists who were shamed and ostracized for their efforts, that’s all a logical baseline for a just society. That was right, and justified. Anything more than that, though… Anything that challenges *current* norms, or demands the redress of *current* injustice, or challenges your personal *current* views of right and wrong, well. That’s just taking things way too far. The thing is, though, that’s exactly what people have always said. Word. for. word.

Every freedom we take for granted as just being common sense was someone’s totally absurd liberal agenda at one point. It was over the line. It was millennials with their made-up genders, and it was black lives matter with their violent demands to not be shot by police, and it was trans women wanting to pee where they’re less likely to get beaten to death by strange men. It was a threat to social stability. It was abusing the majority for the sake of a minority who were just getting above themselves.

Literature has always been used as a mirror held up to society so that we can see injustice that has become invisible due to desensitization. That’s a pretty well known fact, ask any english teacher. How is it, then, that people who would never miss an Avengers movie, and who eat up novels about gritty underdogs tackling evil corporations that profit from human suffering, and who truly believe that they personally stand for truth, justice, and the American way; will absolutely lose their goddamn shit when they hear: “Hey, man. That thing you just said without thinking is actually a slur against a group of people, thousands of whom were gassed to death in living memory, could you change a single word in your vocabulary so that you’re not perpetuating stigma against them?”

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*Yes, there are still tons of people who are straight up against all of this, clearly, but it’s no longer considered generally acceptable. You can’t be FOR slavery, that’s just wrong. Prison labor, though, that’s just what they deserve for being black. I mean, criminals.*

* Because there are plenty of people who DO proudly express that view, I feel the need to clarify that that last part was sarcasm. Fuck the racist as hell prison industrial complex.

 

“Norse Mythology” 

I confess that I haven’t yet finished reading my book on writing for March, but I have been listening to the audiobook of Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. It’s very relaxing. He’s a great narrator, and the book has a wonderful rhythm to it. Each story is his retelling of an old Norse myth. He did a huge amount of research for American Gods and apparently he just has a general passion for norse mythology.

I love the way he characterizes all the gods. It’s cute and engaging, but I believe that it’s also very true to the original stories, or at least as much as it can be when sources sometimes conflict, or parts of the stories are missing. I was sad to learn that many of the stories about the goddesses had not been preserved or handed down at all. They’re simply lost to time and the spread of christianity.

It’s pretty different from the other Neil Gaiman books I’ve read. He hasn’t taken many liberties other than relating these myths in his own particular voice. He’s just being a storyteller in the long tradition of storytellers who collect and pass on beautiful pieces of literary history.