Emergency Refilling of the Well

For a lot of us – especially Romance writers – the stress of the last few weeks has been at best distracting and at worst devastating. That kind of emotional stress, on top of the holiday season, which can be emotionally draining for many people, can leave us with empty wells. So what do you do when you need to be creative, but the well is dry?

In other words, how do you even when you can’t even? Come on over my tips!

 

First Cup of Coffee – June 7, 2019

If you’ve been waiting for the second Sorcerous Moons compendium, books 4-6, it’s out! Also talking about reviews and why authors shouldn’t try to improve craft by reading them. And updates on my broken contact lens.

Trigger Warnings – Do We Need Them?

The first SFWA Fantasy Story Bundle has been selling like hotcakes! Which…how DO hotcakes sell, anyway? Maybe fast before they cool off too much. But these stories will keep. For only $5 you get four full-length novels and for $15 total, you can get all twelve. Keep them forever and read at your leisure! A great way to discover new-to-you authors while supporting both those authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, who does so much to advocate for the genre and the profession. The first book in my Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series, Lonen’s War, is a part of the bundle.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is Trigger Warnings: When Subject Matter is Controversial. Come on over for my take. 

Channel Your Outrage into Art

the talon of the hawkCan our calendar guru see into the future? If so, I want words with KAK on if she saw these elections results coming!

Maybe it’s just me reading in. Our topic this week is: Writing fuel – taking caffeine (coffee and tea) off the table, what fuels your words?

Lemme tell you, folks – I’ve been writing a lot this week. Come on over to the SFF Seven to find out more

Growing Up and Facing the Bullies

snapshot_000DC5D89D0F_20150918175453David got this pic of me, without my knowledge, with a video surveillance camera he was playing with. Which is why the colors are so stark. Always interesting to see a view of myself when my attention is totally on something totally other than being photographed – in this case, on getting the photograph *I* wanted.

I want to tell you all a story. I think I’ve referenced it before, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never told the whole thing. I’ver written it in my head enough times that I’m not sure, however. It starts with 8th Grade.

See, I had English as the last class of the day, every day. I had kind of a love/hate relationship with English class in general, especially in middle school. On the one hand, I got to READ, for school, even! And I loved to write. Both were very easy for me, so much so that I almost held them in contempt. Surely something so easy wasn’t worthwhile. Also, while my math and science teachers gave me accelerated assignments to work on, to keep me interested, there wasn’t anything like that in English. I was bored a lot of the time. And, because I was 13, I didn’t have the sense or poise to disguise that fact. I also had started menstruating when I was 12 and I was full of sexual feelings. Feelings for which I had little outlet, beyond masturbation and illicit reading. It did come out in the poems I had to write for English class, probably much more so that I realized. I don’t think my stuff was at all graphic – I mean, we had to read them out loud – but it was full of sensual language. I know because I kept a list of “good words,” many of which I still use today in writing erotic scenes. I also had all kinds of adolescent sexual energy behind what I wrote.

Looking back, at the fact that I’ve become a writer, not a scientist, this all makes perfect sense. But I didn’t understand it at the time. Also, being a 13-year-old girl, I had zero idea how to handle boys.

There was a group of boys in that class – four or five of them that were friends, all football players. I remember two clearly. One I’ll call John, a gentle guy who I had a bit of a crush on, and the other was a guy I’ll call Doug Smith. Now, Doug was quite the star. Athlete, tall, dark hair – all the girls liked him. He was the leader of this little group. And for whatever reason, they fixed on me. This all goes back to the thing of “when boys like a girl, they tease her.” Well, they did more than tease. Every day after class ended, they would follow me out of class and grab my ass.

This is one of those montage things. It felt like it went on forever. It felt like they all tried to grab me, put their hands between my legs. Doug Smith did the most. I tried various tactics. Waiting to talk to the teacher, leaving class really fast. If I managed to evade them, their laughter would follow me.

No, I never told anybody about it. Not even my friends.

If my mom is reading this, she’s probably all upset that I never told her.

Why didn’t I? I don’t know. It was that shame thing. I didn’t understand why they were doing it, only that I felt terrible and wanted them to stop. I didn’t want anyone else to know about it because that would only make it worse, for people to know.

And that’s not even the relevant part of the story. It came to an end, probably because we graduated 8th grade or they moved on to some other target. I think I got better at fighting it – I kicked one of them once, pretty hard. I even rode rides at the amusement park for 8th grade graduation with my crush John, though that never went anywhere. Doug Smith went on to be the high school superstar in many ways and I fell out of his orbit of notice, thankfully.

The weird part of this story is that, about a year or so ago, Doug Smith sent me a Facebook friend request.

Right? Like a bolt from the blue. And all those awful feelings rushed back, though I have the maturity now know to process them and know them for what they were. So, turns out Doug is an artist these days. As a career. After sitting on the request, and mentioning the history obliquely to a few friends, I finally accepted the request. I kind of wanted to see what he’s about, these three decades later. He’s very chipper on Facebook – about both his art and my writing. He sometimes comments about my various successes and invites me to attend his shows.

He’s working the social media, you know?

And I find myself wondering – does he remember what he and his pack did to me? Maybe they thought nothing of it. I might have been some pretty girl they thought they were flirting with. When I read stories about people confronting their childhood bullies as adults, it seems that a lot of the time the bully had no concept of their impact. Mostly I try to reconcile this very macho, dick-swinging, callous teen with who appears to be a thoughtful and sensitive artist today. I sometimes wonder if he’s gay and out now, and that all that meanness and sexually related cruelty came from his struggles with that.

I don’t have an answer to any of it. Probably there are none. I think mostly I’m mulling this idea I have that a person who’s an artist can’t also be cruel, which I think is wrong. I also believe people can change and obviously that was a long time ago. I’m not the girl I was then. He’s clearly not the guy he was.

But I’ve never replied to him on Facebook. I just watch, and think about this.

The Value of Being Flexible

Jeffe Kennedy & Connor GoldsmithHere’s my agent, Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary, and I at World Fantasy Con. In the bar, of course. He tweeted this as “the beautiful people” and, as this was the very beginning of the conference, that was pretty accurate.

LOL

 I recently ran across a post on an Indie Author loop where a writer I didn’t know, in a piece of advice on an unrelated topic, offhandedly mentioned that she changed the pen name on her books five times until she found one that sold well. That absolutely fascinated me. First, it never occurred to me to think of my author name as a sales tool. Then the fact that she had such a totally different frame of mind, a business-minded detached approach to the question, that it took me aback.

I’m very attached to my name. Arguably it’s my brand now, but even during my brief flirtation with a pseudonym, I didn’t like it not being ME.

I think this is a way that Indie authors have an advantage over authors like me. I tend to get bound up with my books being my art and an extension of myself. She seemed to have a greater level of detachment where it didn’t matter which name she published a story under, except that it be one that sold well. Finally, she also exhibited what I consider to be an enviable quality of mixing up what she’s doing and trying again.

A while back – I was going to say a couple of year ago, but it was omg 2011 – I wrote a blog post about The Guy in the Pink Suit. It’s still one of my favorite posts and something I refer to fairly frequently. It probably worth reading, but I’ll summarize so as not to max out your TLDR threshold.

The Guy in the Pink Suit trolled the sidewalk in Las Vegas for a good two hours while we ate lunch. Over and over he’d approach people, shake their hands, be charming. Sometimes they’d take pictures with him, less often they’d give him a tip. We thought he might be pimping a show because the cash intake didn’t seem to justify the effort. Regardless, I learned a great deal from him about handing rejection. Nothing dissuaded or discouraged this guy.

At least, that was my take-home message then. And it’s still an important one.

But this Indie author who changed her pen name five times to find the one that sold best made me think of him. Instead of the message being about persevering in the face of rejection, however, I realized there’s also value in mixing things up, trying a lot of different approaches until you find one that works.

A writer friend of mine recently told me about a Twitter conversation she saw between two other writers. Those two bemoaned that they were slow writers, comparing themselves to elephants with enormously long gestation periods. (We writers love our analogies.) In comparison, they described faster writers as sea turtles – who lay lots of eggs and abandon them on the beach in the hopes that  few might make it to the water and survive.

Yeah, it irritated my friend, the fast writer. Understandably so. Though that’s not my point here.

The slow writers were unhappy, saying that their slow production rate might condemn them to extinction while the sea turtles presumably take over the world. Of course, the analogy breaks down immediately at this point, as anyone with a passing understanding of biology will point out that elephants and sea turtles don’t occupy the same ecological niches. There’s room for both in the world. But, more important, I think what these slow-gestation writers see as careless abandonment of huge batches of books is actually a willingness to diversify. Yes, being a faster writer lets us produce more books. (I’ve already meditated on the perception that faster means lower quality, so I won’t go into that here.) Producing books faster also lets a writer try more different things. New ideas, upside-down tropes, maybe some riskier heroes and heroines.

Those of you who paid attention in biology will recall that more variety – heterogeneity – creates stronger individuals who are more likely to find a niche they can survive in. The more specialized an organism, the narrower its ecological niche, the more vulnerable it is. Thus we lose Spotted Owls when we lose old growth timber. But the species that are flexibly, that can move into many changing niches – like the coyote – are the ones that thrive through change.

Flexibility means survival. Not a bad quality in a publishing market that sends authors and genres into extinction faster than global climate change ever could.