Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Month Later, A Month Wiser (A Month More Ambitious...)

I had big plans.

I was going to knock out the first draft of this novel by the end of March. Or did I say the end of February? Whatevs. Clearly I was on writer's high. I think that's related to runner's high? 'Cause I've made the same kind of pronouncement about my running goals too, only to have it fall short of reality. Miles short.

After the glories of NaNo I floundered through pretty much all of December. I was having trouble figuring out a new writing schedule, for sure, but I also wasn't sure what I should be focusing on. Typing up my handwritten pages? Editing while typing or after? Writing new material? More research? All of that needed to happen. Eventually I settled down to typing up my pages without trying to significantly edit or write new material, and instead just keeping track of any new ideas and the changes I want to make.

And then...

I was chatting a bit with a friend on Twitter about wanting to see alt-history where the Aztecs defeated the Spaniards AND the resulting technological and social development was not along European lines. And I kept thinking about it, and then because neither of us have enough to do I suggested a writing challenge: to come up with a short story, set in that world, in six months.

And then an offhand comment of his made me think that this could fit into the story world I am currently working on. Since I had just come to the realization (yet again) that these books I have in mind are going to be more demanding than I previously thought (both world-building and stylistically), why not pull this in too? And thankfully I have calmed down the thoughts about needing to get this done by the time I'm... whatever age I'm fixating on at the moment.

Fairly quickly I had mapped out a set of questions for myself, avenues to explore, resources to investigate. I have some things already in mind... and my existing characters seem to be taking it in stride. Whew.

Happy writer wriggles. I feel like a pup given a new toy.

So I guess now I have bigger plans. I'll keep on typing up my pages through January and February, make notes for new stuff, get some more research done, and then use March as my own personal NaNo. Since it's my birthday month and I like giving myself challenges as gifts, obviously. And then... cycle repeat, probably, since it seems to be a cycle that works for me. And at some point things will get finished. Probably. Hopefully.

Still wriggling with writing pleasure,

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tweet, Tweet

About three months ago I started actively hanging out on Twitter. Prior to that I would occasionally go on, reading it as a kind of news feed. But I started noticing Twitter handles for some authors I love, and began adding them, especially once I saw they were posting all kinds of good writing advice, and book recommendations, and overall smart thinking about the state of the world. And from those people I found other people to follow and so on and so on... a whole world of really interesting and brave and beautiful and inspiring people. I don't think I can overemphasize how much I've been given by all this.

I never meant to start commenting myself.

But here's the thing. I've been looking for a writing community, a reading community, a queer community, for a while now. And while Facebook is useful for a lot of things I don't feel I can be my full self on it. My Twitter self is the closest to my writing self which is probably closest to my most deeply felt self. (And therefore also my most vulnerable and hungry self.)

In Twitter I've found the closest thing resembling tribe... I was going to say in a long time but I think perhaps ever.

So how could I not chime in, from time to time?

I wrote last month about some of the challenges I experience about being on Twitter. Since then I feel I've gotten more of the hang of it. Both how to be a respectful participant and how to manage my own anxiety. Because of course there are all the usual pitfalls of social media magnified by the fact that I don't actually know these people, yet feel compelled to bring my most fully felt self into that space.

It's been good practice in sitting through discomfort, let me tell you.

It's also made me think more about the roles I have in my real-world communities and the power I have, and also what I consider to be my work in this world. That is leading me to be more deliberate in some of the choices I make and what I voice. Hopefully more brave too.

And being deliberate and brave can never be a bad thing.


Friday, December 15, 2017

In Translation

I've been reading poetry not in English, my favorite way of reading other languages.

In Spanish I read bilingual editions - Spanish on one side of the page spread, English on the other. So I always have at least an idea of what's going on in the poem. It's a way for me to expand my literary horizons, get a sense of the beauty of the language, see vocabulary in context, and cement what I've started to learn. My favorite Spanish-language poets from this last year are Alejandra Pizarnik - there's a line of hers I want as a tattoo someday, palabra por palabra yo escribo la noche - and Roberto Bolaño. I'm currently working my way through an anthology of Latin American poetry that will probably take me, oh, five years to finish.

German is another matter. My passive German is good enough that I can attempt to read in the original (though always with dictionary in hand). Some poets are more challenging than others, for sure. I'm reading one right now who uses very specific natural history terms, not ones I've encountered before. The problem for me with some of these is that the words can have multiple meanings depending on the context - and I know one meaning of the word, but not the one she's using. So as I'm going through the poem I see references to things that don't make sense to me - but it's a poem, right? Metaphors and symbolism and all that. I'm all for one thing meaning another in the context of a poem, I do that myself. It didn't even occur to me at first that I needed to look up these words I thought I knew the meaning of, not just the words I knew I didn't recognize. (It doesn't help that this poet doesn't capitalize the nouns, not even the proper ones, so I've already had one layer of linguistic cues stripped away.)

As I've been reading these poems and thinking about translations I've been seeing another place where I have to translate - Twitter. There are words, mostly abbreviations, that I don't know, and common words that have acquired new meaning.* There are gifs and emojis - not just emoticons but emojis - none of which I feel skilled in using. There's the need to scan for additional context, especially to be sure I understand the emotional tone of the comment, and the need to hold back, and then hold back some more and weigh my words before I attempt to say something, knowing some things don't translate well to print. Like, most of my attempts at humor. And then, because Twitter is sometimes an odd mix of public and private discourse, of knowing when not to get into a conversation at all.

And yet, as with the poetry, it's worth the effort, as I encounter beauty and bravery over and over again. People shining a light into the world, word by word by word.**

In love with all kinds of words,

*Like "crickets", to mean a response of awkward silence. This may be my favorite new word usage. I'm not 100% certain I encountered this usage on Twitter, but it feels like I might have.

** I know there's a lot of negative use of Twitter but apparently not in my little corner of it, knock on wood.

Friday, December 8, 2017

My Money Matters (On Patreon & Being A Small Pledger)

Patreon announced new fees this week and has a lot of people (including me) pissed off.* You can complain to them about the new fee structure here.

For those of you who don't know what Patreon is, it's an online platform by which artists can receive funding directly from their fans. Here's more info on them (via Wikipedia). All of the creators I pledge to are writers.

I spend an absurd amount of money on books. New, used, and now e-books too. But I don't know the publishing industry well enough to know how much is going to authors (not much, I know that at least, and nothing for anything I buy used). And I also know that those funds are not steady.

It's made me really happy to find a way to support some authors directly. Even though my pledges have all been at the $1/month level (until recently), I know it makes a difference. And pledging at that level has allowed me to support more authors.

I work at a large liberal church and a big part of my work each year is running donation drives: hygiene kits for disaster assistance, school supplies for our summer students, Christmas gifts for our tutoring students. From talking with donors and my own experience as a donor, it's important to me that everyone be able to contribute as they can and would like to. I sometimes get grumblings about this from new volunteers - it's not efficient, it's not economical, etc. But these drives are part of the life of the church, of that particular community. People need to feel they have something to contribute, that they are a valued part of that community. That what they give makes a difference.

We all do.

And from my end, every contribution does make a difference. Dollars add up fast when you have enough people giving. One women's group I work with has a weekly collection of their "least coins". Trust me, when I'm dragging a sack of coins twice a year to accounting, those least coins are not so little!

Reading Patreon's new few structure, in light of my own experience with asking for donations, tells me my little pledges don't matter to them. That I'm not who they want giving.

I hope that's not the message they want to send. I know it's not the message creators want them to be sending.

For myself, I've dropped out of a couple of pledges (to organizations rather than individuals). I've upped my pledges to everyone else, both because I can swallow the per-pledge fee more comfortably if it's a smaller percentage of the whole, and because I know creators are losing pledges over this. And I've resigned myself to spending more overall this way - I was going to say I'll just buy one less book each month but I think we all know that's unlikely. Maybe a few less coffees instead. And I'll be more cautious about adding any new ones.

And yes, I have registered my complaint.

Sending love to all authors and those who support them,

*Word now is that Patreon is doing this as a way to freeze out creators that they feel aren't "successful" enough to represent them. What a dick move. I'll stay on it to support those authors I love, but if/as they start migrating to other platforms I'll follow them.

Monday, December 4, 2017

NaNo, Now What?

I did this NaNo thing last month, 50,000+ words when previously I'd never managed more than 12,000 in that time.

Even starting the month I didn't think I would be able to, but then I switched to writing by hand, which you'd think would take longer, but 1) I write pretty fast by hand (not that anyone but me can read my writing when I'm going that fast, and all the personal shorthand doesn't help), 2) I can take it anywhere with me, and 3) I don't edit as I go, which I do when composing by keyboard. I do all my other writing this way, I don't know why I'd gotten into the habit of something different for my fiction.

Plus I got connected with some other writer types - through the Chicago NaNo Facebook group, through Twitter, through emails with the all of two people I know in real life who write fiction - and that gave me inspiration to keep trying as well.

But even so I was amazed at what happened over the course of the month. I've heard NaNo described as a gym for writers and that was what happened for me. My sit-my-butt-in-one-place-and-just-write muscles got stronger. Like, ten times their size. And I wasn't as worried about being able to "come up with something good" either. Hell, it didn't matter. I just had to come up with something - and I got better at doing that too - time and editing will sort out what's good and what isn't, and what has the germ of something good but needs a lot more work to let it flower.

Since I've been working on this novel for over a year (NaNo was a way for me to jumpstart the total rewrite I needed to do thanks to a change in POV and some pesky paranormal stuff that demanded to be made more prominent - thus necessitating total change in backstory and plot details as well, thank you oh so much), I do actually have an idea of what happens in this story overall. So I know, for example, that I'm two scenes away from the end of Act 1 at this point and that I'm probably a third of the way through the whole thing. That is, a lot more writing still to be done.

My secondary goal for the month was to finish the first act, so after taking a few days off to just not think about it, I plan to keep going at a somewhat more moderate pace until I've done that. Then start the process of typing in all those lovely handwritten pages and I'll be editing on the fly as I do that.

And then another push for act two, and then another for act three... I want to finish this first draft by the end of my birthday month, four months from now. And I know there are plenty of people who would say however long it takes is fine... but no. I have more stories to tell. (Already thinking about next year's NaNo...)

But I can't say strongly enough how huge it was for me to "win" NaNo. Kind of thinking of myself as a real writer now... And I don't want to lose that, no way, no how.

I may have to be a complete dork and put up my winner's certificate where I can see it every day.

What it feels like to want something so much,

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Return To Scary Movie Month - The Books

Even as I was writing yesterday's post I knew I was missing titles. That's what I get for leaving my book journal at home, and not updating my notes from the beginning of the month. (I meant to write these earlier in the month but NaNo got in the way.)

I suppose it's not too surprising that I couldn't quite put my finger on what I was missing - I read these all as e-books, and my brain still hasn't figured out where e-books fit into it. Which is a shame, because I've gotten to read some fantastic new authors I never could have otherwise, as well as a lot more short stories and novellas. But I'm a hands-on kind of gal, and I remember things based on the way they feel and the place they take in the world, the more I can handle them the better.

That said, here are some more books (and stories and novellas) of a fantastical bent that I enjoyed this November. A number of these authors were new to me and I'm looking forward to reading more of their work.

By Elliot Cooper, The Clockwork Menagerie and Junk Mage. I'm trying to remember how I found out about these - maybe a Twitter thread? I get a lot of my book recommendations from Twitter these days.

The Clockwork Menagerie by [Cooper, Elliot]    Junk Mage by [Cooper, Elliot]

Ginn Hale's Swift & The Black Dog. I don't know if this is a stand-alone story or part of a larger series, but I would love to explore this world more. I do have the first of another of her series on its way to me from inter-library loan.

Swift and the Black Dog by [Hale, Ginn]

The Whybourne and Griffin series by Jordan Hawk. This series took me a while to settle into, I think I was expecting something else from it, though I'm not sure what. Now though I think of these as cosies - as cosy as hell-beasts, insane asylums, and curses can be, that is. But something I can cuddle into at the end of the day and not get all tied up in emotional knots about.

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin Book 1) by [Hawk, Jordan L.]

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo. Well. I was going to say that all of these stories today have some romance in them, so if you dislike kissing and sighing and longing you won't want to read any of these. But this one is a bit more graphic. (Well, the Whybourne and Griffin books are too, now that I think about it.) Still. Fairies! Vampires! Elemental beings! On an ocean liner to boot.

Close Quarter by [Zabo, Anna]

And then two by E.E. Ottoman, Business Makes Strange Bedfellows and Selume Proferre. I've been slowly working my way through their works, as well as appreciating their blog posts on history. I particularly loved the first, a gothic vampire story, but I'd be happy to read more stories from both worlds.

Business Makes Strange Bedfellows by [Ottoman, E.E.]    Selume Proferre by [Ottoman, E.E.]

Oh, and I'm in the second book of Zoraida Córdova's Vicious Deep series, The Savage Blue, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had started this. Because, you know, mermaids.

That's it for this month. I'd been thinking I might use December to work through some of the historical novels in my to-be-read pile, but I've also got my hands on new releases by some of my favorite contemporary authors so maybe not. (Though E.E. Ottoman's latest is a historical and I can't wait to dive into that.)

Because I will buy books before clothes or shoes or sometimes food,

Monday, November 27, 2017

Scary Movie Month Part III - The Books

I started off my reading for this month trying to get through my growing pile of fantasy books, though by the end of the month that had veered mostly into ghost stories and horror.

No spoilers here or even reviews, really, I loved all these books. Some I may have swooned over more than others but I'll let you guess which ones.

Finished Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor and am sad that I'll have to wait until next year to get the sequel in paperback ('cause I'm dorky and like to have my series in similar format). Luckily I have The Book of Phoenix still to read.

Akata Witch by [Okorafor, Nnedi]

Then, Thorn by Intisar Khanani. My sister recommended this to me and I'm glad she did.

A new Gail Carriger! Two, even. Romancing the Werewolf and Romancing the Inventor. I should say, two new ones in the Supernatural Society, since I haven't been excited by her young adult books. But these were sweet, I loved getting to return to these characters.

Product DetailsProduct Details

On a complete side note, there's been some discussion on the interwebs lately about "sweet" as a descriptor for romance novels. In its strictest sense it apparently means romances without sex on the page, but in broader usage it refers to romances with traditional gender roles/ages/abilities/etc. Socially conservative. And "sweet" as opposed to "dirty".

I think it's safe to say that nothing I read is "sweet" by that usage. But it's a good word to describe some of what I read! Damn social conservatives mis-using good words.

Two by K.J. Charles, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal and Spectred Isle. I'm not sure I can adequately convey my love for her books. I had to join her Facebook group just so I could have a place to squee sufficiently.

   Product Details

Then Open Mic Night at the End of the World by Jessica Meyers. I'm not usually a big fan of end-of-the-world stories. Probably because I've been pretty sure since I was ten that it was likely. (I wrote my own version at that time - even won a writing competition for it - which meant having to read it out loud to a number of my peers, all of whom looked at me sideways afterwards.) But this one was, yes, sweet.

Open Mic Night at the End of the World by [Jessica Meyers]

After weeks of waiting it seemed, Caroline's Heart by Austin Chant. A ghost story in the best way - haunting. And over much too soon.

Caroline's Heart by [Austin Chant]

Then All In Fear, a collection of short horror stories. I read this because of, yes, K.J. Charles, and Roan Parrish and Avon Gale, but all of the stories were great (and I've now been introduced to Kris Ripper and have been busy trying to read all I can of zirs).

All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales by [Charles, KJ, Parrish, Roan, Rock, J.A., Ripper, Kris, Berman, Steve, Gale, Avon]

Finally, I'm still in the process of reading The Whites of Their Eyes by Xen, and Latin@ Rising, an anthology of Latinx science fiction and fantasy (many of which are horrific, at least to my eyes). I'm reading both slowly - the first because I find the stories truly terrifying (and because his writing is lush and I want to fully take it in, plus I've gotten sidetracked by his other books), and the second because the stories are so different in tone that I want to be sure each one sticks before going on to the next.

The Whites of Their Eyes: A Collection of Queer Horror by [Xen]     Latin@ Rising  An Anthology of Latin@ Science Fiction and Fantasy by [Aldama, Frederick]

I've really enjoyed spending a block of time steeped in these books - I've always read some fantasy throughout the year but these have pushed me to read more science fiction and horror as well. I think this may become a new October/November tradition.

Read any scary stories lately?