Where’ve you been?

I haven’t been very active on my blog lately, and I have good reasons. Which doesn’t correlate into good reading for you, so I apologize profusely. You see, I’m a student now, and apparently that means that I must spend every waking moment at school or doing schoolwork.

It’s probably not supposed to be this drastic, but I’m having a little hang-up in Math. See, I’m an English major. I am not a natural number monkey. I have to sit and think about each problem, and usually I have to restart it a few times before I crunch the right answer. I failed my last quiz, although fortunately the first test I got a solid B. I can’t take this class over again… it would just hold me back from graduating, and I’ve got places to go and majors to ace.

I have to say that my biggest problem here is that I know that I will not be using Algebra II in my quest for author domination. I recognize that I will have to do math to get the accounting right, but that is not Algebra II. I could whine about my academic woe-is-mes all day, but I think you get the idea. Math homework time has become all-consuming, and has left me precious little time to blog.

Last month we managed to go on a family vacation to Whistler, BC. While I was there, I got to write up an essay that was a creation myth. I read it to both my husband and son, who both really enjoyed it. I’m getting pretty good at prompt writing.

January had its upsides and its downsides for my writing career. On the upside, I was invited back to the Oriental Excess team. Last year they published “The Gaijin & The Butterfly” and this year they want me to write the follow up to the story. I’m so excited to be a part of this process!

Also, there was an anthology that put out a submission all-call. I wrote what I felt was a fantastic piece for them, and just got the rejection letter a couple days ago. The good news about having a fantastic story and an imprint is that publishing is just a few keystrokes away. I do like having my stories published by other presses as well. There are perks either way. Right now Barely Salvageable is putting together a “pulp mag” that will feature work from my writing group. I happen to be fortunate enough to have fallen in with excellent writers, and I think the Hot Mess Mag will prove it.

So, that’s about all there is for me right now. School-homework-family time-sleep. I haven’t worked this hard in ages. The only thing I can say is that I refuse to stop writing, despite how much else there is to do. I decided to go to school so that I could get a career in writing, and so it’s silly to be stopped by school.

Are We There Yet?

I’m hot.

It’s 7 pm and it’s 87 degrees with not an air conditioner in sight. My kid is trying not to melt into the couch as he plays Pokémon to ignore the world around him. I know it’s too hot for him because he’s quiet.

It was a good weekend. It was my business partner (affectionately known as my “Book Wife”)’s birthday. While I was there, I had an exciting conversation with a friend I’ve recently connected with. He told me that after reading my book, he thinks he wants to write one. This is a little unexpected and a lot flattering. Especially since he’s the third person who has credited me as their inspiration to write a book.

I’m going to start putting warnings on my books. “Caution: May cause authorish urges.”

It’s awesome and inspiring and I am a little intimidated. I feel like the Queen of Spain commissioning some ships to find the New World. Of course, that bitch is responsible for some serious destruction of indigenous cultures, but that’s another blog post.

Following a dream is WAY harder than I thought it would be. I always thought that it took about an hour and a half to achieve a life’s dream. That’s what the movies have taught me, anyway. No matter how hard the struggle, no matter what bullets you have to dodge or Russians you have to defeat, you’ll win in an hour and a half. Two hours if you’re particularly epic.

I’ll tell you, it’s been years and I thought I’d be further than I am. But then the idea of having published two books when most people never publish one seems like a big deal. I’m out in a land of unfamiliar, and I don’t have a base normal to work from. My entire life is changing, and it’s so big and so fast sometimes and so slow and so tedious other times, I find myself constantly fighting for balance, which is pretty weird because anyone who knows me will assure you I’m neither patient, nor a creature of balance.

I’ve got two half stories going – a misnomer as one is a short story and one is a novel. The novel I know where I’m going, the short story not as much, so even though one is longer, one is harder to get into. Neither one are going as fast as I’m used to. I feel as though there is a time clock ticking in my head and judging me because I’m not hitting my word count.

I don’t know what else to do but write about it. Try to get the words OUT. Try to clear the decks for creativity to flow. It’s not writer’s block, it’s a blocked writer who wants nothing more to be at her desk churning word count.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, it’s time to put my son to bed.

Tensegrity

The career is the goal. The way to get to the career is through the work. It doesn’t matter where you are, as long as you can move forward. Money is the consequence of the work, it is energy. Money flows from hand to hand, helping people communicate. It is a medium, a concept, and should not be the focus or the goal.

The career is the goal. There are benefits of having the career. Not all careers offer the same benefits, and the benefits can sometimes be intangible. Having more time, enjoying what you do, knowing your family is taken care of are benefits.

Leave enough room to think. Leave enough room to breathe. Remember how powerful you are when you’re alone, uninterrupted, and allowed to chase down “idle” thoughts.

Growing hurts, but it’s meant to stretch you out of old thought processes and adopt new ones. Abandon approval seeking – you already either have it, or you don’t, and you don’t have to swing the fence-sitters. That’s energy better spent elsewhere.

Find a voice. You don’t have to wait until you’re so angry that your inner Hulk shows up.

Don’t obsess about how others are going to feel. You can’t predict or control their inner Hulk, but if it shows up, maybe they weren’t your friends to begin with.

On that note, letting go of those “friends” is like ripping off a Band-aid – worst at first.

When you’re working, set everything else aside. When you’re not working, don’t work.

It’s okay to be sick, or hurt, or just not want to. You’ll get the momentum back.

Time is not the enemy. Time is your friend.

Money is not the enemy. Money is a tool.

Balance isn’t permanent, in three dimensional space it’s tensegrity.

Fan Fiction

In a lot of respects, I was a late bloomer, but when it comes to fan faction, I was way ahead of the curve. I wrote my first fan fiction story when I was six years old. I don’t remember the specifics, but there were two horses involved, and they were playing out a story I’d seen in a cartoon movie around that time.

I didn’t know it was fan fiction at the time.. I don’t even believe the term was in popular use. What I did know is that I loved a story, and I made it my own using characters that were already developed (if subjected to an equestrian treatment.)

It doesn’t matter if you’re six or sixty; fan fiction is a way to let your imagination explore. Reading stories is how you learn story structure. Certainly you can study stories on a more intellectual level, but humans grasp stories instinctively. The fact is that it’s much easier to borrow established characters than develop new ones.

Fan-fiction is a bit like training wheels. It’s a writing exercise. “How would I have had this character develop in this world?”

Now, there is this little thing known as Intellectual Property. I don’t claim to understand the fine print but the basic idea is “I thought it up, it’s mine, and you can’t make money off of it because all that money belongs to me.”

Ostensibly, this is to protect artists. It’s hard enough to get paid as an artist, and having someone stand on the shoulders of giants is a little offensive at first blush. I could absolutely see being annoyed if someone took my protagonist and wrote a story and *gasp* sold more copies than me. However, I’d have to look very closely at this other writer’s work, and see what he or she did to succeed with my character that I didn’t do.

I think that as a consumer culture, we need more stories. There are 7 billion humans now, and we all need entertainment, not as much as food or shelter but certainly it’s a human need. And while it can take a year to write a book or 6 months to make a movie, it takes two to three hours to watch a movie and a week or two to read a book. Creation is slower than consumption. That’s how it’s been since humans learned to put wood on fire to keep it going.

I don’t know how I feel about fan fiction as a consumer, on the other hand. I can square with it from a writer’s perspective, but it’s hard to find a good book even when the writer has the backing of a professional house and the marketing team and editors that go with it. To me, fan fiction smacks of reading someone’s homework. It might be a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy it. My son’s kindergarten career brought home a metric ton of creations over the course of the school year. I kept five of the best pieces and let everything else go recycle. I love him more than I love another human being but that doesn’t mean all of his practice scribbles have attained Jackson Pollock status.

I want to encourage writers to write. It’s therapeutic; it’s good for the soul. However, I’m an elitist when it comes to my personal reading for enjoyment. What I read in my spare time for fun has to reach a certain level of awesome or it gets abandoned on the side of the bed, to be twice-sold or gifted or donated as is appropriate.

I think the world is always looking for more forms of story, and I respect that. Fan fiction is the place a lot of good novelists begin. In my eyes, however, fan fiction is a stepping stone to the real deal.

The Black Between Stars

I walked with fellow writer/artist Allison along the downtown streets, some of which are salted with people who are displaced from society, and have created societies of their own in the tide pools of shadow and cement. My gaze slides past them, seeing them but not too deeply; I don’t want to cause trouble, and I don’t want to invite conversation.

We were talking shop. I have a limited audience for people who will listen to my flights of fancy, and Allison is one of the lovely souls that will let me fly. As we walked, I noticed a blonde girl in a red tank top, pacing along the side of a building and aggressively taunting a man who stood outside of her orbit. I started assessing the situation, and almost missed the second blonde, crouched low, sitting on her feet, knees out, smoking.

As we passed the first blonde, the crouching blonde started talking.

 “Hell no, fuck no.” She muttered, drawing on her cigarette. She had sores on her nose and cheeks that I first took for freckles. Her eyes were glassy and stared out into the void. “I’d rather die.”

In that moment, a small piece of her climbed inside my head, and stared outwards.

I assume that she was on something, probably meth from the thinness of her body and the poor condition of her skin. The fact that she spoke to no one suggested it too. I could almost feel the ragged hole where her aura should be, trying to draw something in.

As a writer, I’m a magpie. I take poignant moments and internalize them, try to synthesize meaning out of it, and then send it back out to the world. I can’t get another person to feel anything if I don’t feel it first.

And let’s face it; no matter how we love our heroes, we cannot say they have easy lives.

I try to soak up the good things as much as I can. But the world is full of horrible people, and if we pretend like they don’t exist, it gives them permission to continue being horrible.

Indeed, at this point, the meth-addicted blonde isn’t a horrible person, she’s just trapped in a prison no one can save her from.

I don’t like being a writer for this reason. If I see something, I know about it, and if I know about it, I care.

And I can’t just care. I have to pass it along.

That’s what it means to be a writer.

I’m too busy being an author to write!

October was a fast and furious romp of learning all the things an author does, when they aren’t busy writing.

I now understand why George R.R. Martin takes 3 years to get a book out.

I have author pages up on Goodreads.com, Facebook.com, and Chaptersee.com. I review proofs, both digitally and in print, and learn about formatting and editing. I write when I can, gotta get that second book out. And let’s not forget that I’m a person with a full-time job, a son in Kindergarten, a programming class, and occasionally I like to oh, see a friend or read a chapter of something that isn’t a manual.

Even this blog post is a part of these new expectations. I don’t resent it. I love to write, and this is a way for me to keep a log of my journey through this process. However, it’s getting in the way of me catching up with a couple of friends over IM, and watching a Dr. Who episode.

Life is always a balancing act, but lately I’ve felt like that clown who is expected to juggle more and more objects of differing sizes and weights. I just keep repeating, “I think I can, I think I can” over and over again.

My previous job was at a small app development company, that was built from the ground up from the humble beginnings of my living room. I got to do it all – a little project management, a little HR, a little marketing, a little programming. I even got to write a story (technically, my first published work.) It was called Dragon Scales & Unicorn Tales, and it’s available on the iTunes App Store.

I had no idea how valuable the experience would be. When you become an author, you hang your shingle and you set up shop, inventory of one item. (Until you build your library.) There’s a whole lot of marketing, and from what I’ve read, even the big guys expect authors to peddle their wares. You can hire someone to do it for you, but for a first time author, it’s better to do it yourself. There are things you learn, things you experience. Giving it over to someone else to do cheats you of that.

A friend of mine (the one I was IM’ing earlier) told me that because my name was in print, it had inspired her to write for the first time in years. My co-worker took a recording of me at work to demonstrate how his camera’s record function worked, and my boss said, “You can’t delete that. You have a real live author recorded now.” It’s an unexpected side effect, getting these little pieces of recognition. It’s some of the most fun I’ve had.

I wasn’t prepared for the amount of work involved in being an author, but I’m happy to say that it’s a job that I love.