Category Archives: Inspiration
Been cray-zee bizzy. You may have noticed. Heh.
I’m currently in that awkward place between projects. Kind of. I’ve published a novel this year, just released an anthology I co-edited (in which I have a story), and had 2 other stories selected for publication in 2 other anthologies. I’m also waiting to hear on whether another story I wrote is selected for a different anthology.
I am working on the fourth installment of my space opera series (I’m about halfway through) and I’m doing a bit of research on the fifth in my mystery series, so I am working on some long-term things, but I’ve just about finished up a whole bunch of things that I wanted to this year. And that feels pretty good.
Having said that, I am trying to hammer out another story this month for yet another anthology, but I’m not sure I’m going to make the deadline. If not, I’m not going to freak out about it because it’s not like I haven’t done any other writing this year.
In terms of my writing life, it generally cycles between completely slammed and these stretches where I’m not pressed to do a whole lot. I like these lulls. I still write during them, but I don’t feel the frantic OMG I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE HOLY SHIT SOMEBODY HOOK ME UP TO A RED BULL IV that can accompany my slammed periods. I also use the lulls to ponder writing projects that aren’t related to what I’m currently working on, and that’s always fun, to think about all different characters. I think that might be why I’ve written a lot more shorter stories this year than in years past. I wanted to hang out with some different characters and see what sorts of things could unspool in the narratives.
I do that, too, if one of my long-term projects is giving me some issues and I haven’t figured out how to write/re-write it to fix it. I’ll write something else — usually a short story or novella-length thing — and that helps loosen the logjam in the other project. There are times, too, that I’ve completely scrapped a project and started over from scratch. I don’t know any author who hasn’t had to do that, so if you’re in the middle of that, don’t freak. It’s normal.
So here. 5 things I do that help with the writing cray-zee.
1. Don’t force it. If a project you’re working on is just not working out, stop working on that one. Work on something else. If even that isn’t working, it’s a sign that you may need to take a couple days off (or more) from writing. In which case…
2. Read. Yeah, you heard me. Go read somebody else’s book. When I’m not feeling it, I read. And I generally read a genre that is different than the one that’s got me hung up. For whatever reasons, that gets me out of my headspace and gets me excited and interested in different kinds of plotlines. That feeds the creative stuff, and helps with logjams. If you don’t want to read…
3. Watch a movie. Or stream something. Some cool series you’ve been wanting to watch. Watch a couple episodes. Or, hell, go ahead and binge-watch. Just be careful with that. You don’t want to get into the habit of binge-watching all the time. But every once in a while, it can help get you out of a writing rut.
4. Get out of your house. Or office. Or wherever you write. Take a walk. Go exercise (which you should be doing regularly anyway, because that, too, helps the creative juices). Go do something in your community like visit a museum that’s having a cool temporary exhibit. Go catch a live music show. Call up some friends (or text or however you do it these days) and meet them for dinner or coffee. Have a barbecue with friends/family. Point being? Remove yourself from writing for a bit. Writers live in their heads. It’s important to get out of your head and, as they say, smell the roses. Besides, if you don’t, you might be missing out on good writing fodder.
5. Take a couple of days and go out of town. No, really. Leave. Even if it’s something goofy like driving a hundred miles to a neighboring town and spending the night at a B&B there. Do it. Go hiking or mountain biking. Rent a canoe and do a day-long tourist-y river float. Being outside in natural surroundings is a cure-all for just about anything that ails you. Don’t believe me? Here. And here. Oh, and definitely here.
Find whatever combo works for you. And don’t beat yourself up if you’re in a writing rut or stuck. What that means is you need to recharge the ol’ creative batteries. It’s a normal part of a writing life, to hit ruts. So make it part of your normal writing life to develop healthy strategies to recharge.
Speaking of, what are some of yours? Leave ‘em in the comments and happy Wednesday.
This is the follow-up to my Rainbow Award runner-up, the novella From the Boots Up. So you’ll see it posted in a variety of places — thanks, peeps! MUCH appreciated! Anyway, here’s more info plus some goodies to check out:
Meg Tallmadge is a veterinarian at a clinic in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s got a great job, great friends, deep ties to the family ranch, and big plans for her vet future. Sure, there are bumps in the road, like her mom’s continued denial about who Meg is and her painful and infuriating attempts to make Meg a “proper” woman. Then there’s Meg’s recent breakup with a girlfriend, which has her wondering why she can’t seem to open up to relationships. But Meg knows that life is messy, and sometimes all you can do is get through and shake it off. What she can’t seem to shake off, however, is her past.
It’s been almost ten years to the day since she met the love of her life, and about eight since she let her go. Meg has a hard time admitting that maybe she didn’t really let go, and that maybe some things you never really get over, no matter how hard you try. But her past is half a world away, caught up in her own life, relationship, and journalism career, and Meg isn’t one to chase the ghosts of past relationships. Even if they send you a birthday card and nudge what you thought were the closed-off parts of your heart. After all, second chances are the stuff of fantasies and movies where the good guy always gets a happy ending. You can’t count on something like that.
Or can you?
Click this link to read one!
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Where to find Andi
From the Boots Up
Thanks, all, for joining me. Happy reading, happy writing!
So, I’m Andi and I’m a setting whore.
That is, I love me some setting. I love a setting that an author threads into a story in ways that make me feel the local flavor and color, see myself walking down a particular street, and enjoy a view the main character does. I love a story in which setting comes alive, as in Alexandra Fuller‘s astonishing works about Africa and Wyoming. I also love a story in which setting is a strong secondary character — a vehicle for the other characters, like Carl Hiaasen‘s Florida or Tony Hillerman‘s Southwest.
It’s also hard to write setting well. You don’t want it to weigh down your narrative, but you want it to stand out when it needs to. Maybe you want it to confine your characters, like in a dungeon. Or a cave in a blizzard. Or a snobby cocktail party. Maybe you want it to liberate them, like a distant river that marks the boundary to the kingdom of Rin, where your characters will find sanctuary from the evil queen of Tandix. Or the sight of an island after a long voyage at sea. Or a view of home from a mountaintop.
Could be you want it to instill fear in your characters, like the Grexen Swamps within which dwell the legendary Faljin trolls. Or that really dark, creepy subway tunnel from which just emanated a scream. Or the gleaming white of the official’s hall, where judgment will be meted out.
Or you want it to make your characters feel safe and loved. Like in grandma’s kitchen, which always smells like enchiladas or maybe fried chicken and okra. Or your pickup truck, which you’ve had for years and that has gotten you out of lots of tight spots. It still looks good, even after all these years.
You see why setting is important? It influences what your characters are and, in some cases, who they are. It can change your characters — make them rise to an occasion or fail. It can create adversity (think about the recent Robert Redford movie All Is Lost) or offer succor. Think about the rich settings of The Lord of the Rings movies, or of the Star Wars movies. Setting isn’t just landscape. Think about the movie Misery in which the character is held prisoner in a house.
Setting isn’t just a backdrop. It’s a vehicle for characterization and narrative. And it’s also an intrinsic part of a character. And it’s not just something you see. Setting has sounds, smells, tastes. It evokes feelings. So when you’re writing setting, think about that, too. So let’s go chat a bit more about this, shall we?
Hope everybody is groovy. Remember, this Thursday begins the MASSIVE BIG-ASS CRAZY GIVEAWAY over at Women and Words! Here’s a list of authors. We’ve also got several lesfic publishing houses joining in and another publisher that does lots of LGBT stuff. So we hope you come by for that. It’s TWELVE FREAKING DAYS of nothing but book giveaways. TWELVE DAYS, people. C’mon! Join the fun!
I got interviewed over at the LGBT Support and Friendship Alliance. A groovy group, so throw ‘em some luv.
Oh, and my novella From the Boots Up, which was a finalist in the Rainbow Awards, scored runner-up in two categories. WOO HOO!
Best Lesbian Contemporary Romance
1. Karis Walsh – Sea Glass Inn
2. Caren J. Werlinger – Neither Present Time
3. Andi Marquette – From the Boots Up <—–WOOO HOOOOO!
4. Beth Burnett – Andy's Song
5. Lynn Ames – All That Lies Within
Best Lesbian Novel
1. Catherine Ryan Hyde – Where We Belong
2. R.E. Bradshaw – Out on the Panhandle
3. Karis Walsh – Sea Glass Inn
4. Caren J. Werlinger – Neither Present Time
5. Caren J. Werlinger – In This Small Spot
6. Andi Marquette – From the Boots Up <——–WOOO HOOOO!
7. Sandra Moran – Letters Never Sent
8. Beth Burnett – Andy's Song
9. Lynn Ames – All That Lies Within
10. Donna K. Ford – Healing Hearts / Andrea Bramhall – Ladyfish
CONGRATS to everybody who won and to all the runners-up! Here’s the complete list of winners.
Anyhoo, friends, I and the merry elves are getting things in order for The Hootenanny over at Women and Words, so we hope to see you soon! OH, and I’ve got another story I’ll be posting once the hoopla dies down. Look for that as a new year’s fun thing. :)
Happy reading, happy writing, happy Hootenanny!
Hey, all –
Whew. The first Left Coast Lesfic conference came and went, and wowzers, what a blast! Before I get into the overview, I just want to profusely thank Sapphire Books for putting this event together; all the authors and readers who participated; and the host hotel and staff: Casitas Laquita.
And thanks to Luan, the book vendor who came down from Oakland!
People. We held workshops and panels right out by the pool. How much more awesome could that be? Everybody was relaxed, having fun, and engaged. Because of the mellow atmosphere, it felt like a writing-themed vacation, and I can’t tell you how great that was. Here’s hoping for a repeat next year!
Also, the silent auction (which included things like wine and book gift baskets and some more RACY things) raised nearly $500 for the local LGBT community center, which worked with Sapphire Books to help pull this event off. THANKS, everybody, for your generosity!
Here was our workshop setting:
Why, yes. Yes we DID enjoy ourselves.
But we also did some WORK.
If you’re headed to the Left Coast Lesfic Conference, I’ll see you there!
I’m slated to do a workshop on character. That is, developing them. Making them groovy for sexy-time reading. Making readers WANT to follow your characters and find out where they go, whether they grow, or even if they fall.
So I’ve spent some time thinking about how to create and convey character, how to capture it, and how to hold on to it and make it arc logically and effectively. And we’ll talk about that in the workshop. But for those of you who can’t make it, here are some things to think about when you’re embarking on a writing journey.
I’m one of those writers who thinks that setting is absolutely key to your story. For me, characters and story can emerge from a setting. Characters are products of a setting, its history, its culture, and regional flavor. Alternatively, a character from somewhere else entering a new setting will be bringing his or her own background and context into that new place. You’ll need to think about how that plays out in the story arc and the character arc.
If you’ve decided on a setting for your story, and you’ve got a rough idea of a plot and some rough ideas about characters, then start fleshing out your main character. You’ll need to figure out what makes this person tick in order to make your readers care about his/her trip through your pages. So if you choose to read on, you’ll find 10 tips from Auntie Andi to help you think about characters, and how to flesh ‘em out.
The big, existential question is always: Who is this person?
So let’s dissect that.
1) Name? Some writers don’t care about names, and they’ll take the first one that comes along and slap it onto a character. Or they’ll name a character something unconventional, thinking it’s oh, so cool that their main character, a corporate lawyer, is named Talyn Tigerfoot. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you can actually make that work for the character. But if you can’t, it ends up being jarring for a reader. At any rate, I’m not that writer. I spend some time thinking about names and what the sound of it conveys to a reader and whether it “matches” a character. If you’re not quite sure what I’m getting at, try the tips HERE.
2) Where does your character live and is that going to be the main setting of your story? If so, think about regional quirks — how certain communities do things, what sorts of things they do, and how those are going to find expression in your character.
3) Place of origin? (if, say, he or she is a stranger in your setting or grew up somewhere else). Where a person is from determines a few things like expressions he or she might use in speaking, and things like recreation and hobbies. Growing up on a coast is very different than growing up in a mountain community, for example.
4) Age? Yeah, obvious, right? But think about that. A character’s age is going to determine a lot of personality quirks. Older people might not be all into the smartphone thing, might prefer books to ereaders, and are definitely going to speak differently than younger. And they’ll have a lot of pop culture references that younger characters don’t, and vice versa.
5) Background? That is, did your character struggle in rural poverty for her formative years, for example? Or has she always struggled? Would you classify her as working class or middle? Or is she from a wealthy family? These determine how your character might react in different situations. If your character is from a rural agricultural community, she might be extremely uncomfortable in cities. If she’s from a poor family, she might have some issues around people who come from money. Likewise if your character was unable to go to college but ends up in a situation where she has to deal with other characters who did go to college, and who move in very different circles.
6) Occupation? This depends on age, too. If you’re writing young adult fiction and your main character is a young adult, then ask yourself about the school your character attends and what his or her favorite subjects are and what their activities are.
7) Personality traits? Think about 3-5 of these. For example, is your character easygoing or uptight? What sorts of things push his or her buttons and what are those buttons? What is something that’s been bugging her since childhood that she’s still working through? What’s that chip on his shoulder? How does your character deal with change or crisis? Things like this can also drive the arcs for your characters, and will be an integral part of the story.
8 ) Who else is in your character’s life? No one lives in a vacuum, after all. Even if your character is currently alone, shipwrecked on an island, she’ll be thinking about her friends and relatives. And a character can also have relationships with memories and people who are no longer alive. People who have died in your character’s life will have an effect on how that character reacts to things, and might trigger memories that will enrich or add tension to your story. So yes, dead people in a person’s past do count as being in your character’s life.
9) What does your character look like? Sex, age, ethnic background, race? These all play a role in how your character perceives herself and how the world and other characters are going to perceive him or her. A character’s sexual orientation and gender identity will play a role, too, especially if your character is a sexual minority. All of these will help determine what your character looks like, how she dresses, and how she presents herself to the world. I tend to know what my characters look like physically, but I generally don’t try to convey that exactly in my work, because I’d like readers to develop their own sense of how that character appears and how he or she negotiates the world. I’d much rather a reader come to know the character through his or her way of speaking, their friends and relatives, some of the things they like to wear, what they like to drink or eat, and what they think about, as well as how other characters react to him or her. But it depends on a writer’s personal style as to how he or she approaches this. All that said, it’s a good idea to have in your own mind an idea of what your character looks like, because physical appearance can and does play a role in fictional life as well as in real life.
10) Habits/quirks? Does your character smoke? Does she drink to excess? Or is she a little uptight about booze because she grew up in an alcoholic household? Does she like dogs or cats? Both? Does she have any kind of animal in her life? Does she like camping? Or maybe she’s into bowling. Be careful, though, and don’t go overboard with habits/quirks, because that might get in the way of your character arc. But it helps me develop a better sense of my characters if there’s something they do or say that makes them stand out from other characters. It doesn’t have to be flashy and it doesn’t even have to be something that’s intrinsic to that character. It can be something a character does habitually in relation to somebody else. For example, in my short story “Dinner Party,” when Shay goes to her neighbor Brisa’s dinners, Shay generally helps clean up. It’s an unspoken sort of agreement the two characters have. But it’s a habit, and it tells a reader something about these two characters and the level of intimacy they may or may not have.
Final thought on that? Balance. Don’t make your character one big quirk with nothing beyond that. So be careful with your quirks. If your character is eccentric and has a lot of quirks, don’t forget there’s a person underneath all that. Get to know that person and then layer the quirks in as you get more familiar with your character.
With that in mind, it might prove helpful for you to use a questionnaire to get your characters’ backgrounds sketched out. Gotham City workshops have a pretty extensive one. Check it out.
A few other links to help you think about writing characters:
Go forth and write! And read! And have fun doing it!
Hi, all –
So, yeah. Been keeping busy with some stuff. My latest mystery will be out in a month or so. Give or take (let’s hope it’s the give). And I’m working on a few different projects at the moment. One is really causing me angst. I like the characters, I like the overall plot arc, I like the setting and the romance (yes, it’s another romance), but like any project that sits a while, it needs work.
I wrote this novel back in…um…2009-ish or thereabouts and then it kind of sat around for a while on my hard drive, drinking beer and scratching itself while watching The L-Word and Ellen over and over again. I dug it out a few months ago because I knew it was time for it to get ready for its debut.
And time to gut a few parts of it and add some other parts. For some reason, that’s proven a bit frustrating for me. Okay, it’s pissed me off. I’ve gone rounds with this manuscript and with the characters. And now it’s time for more of that.
MORE BLOG THERAPY AHEAD!
Hiya, peeps –
Hope everyone is doing well. I was thinking about things that inspire me. I’m not talking about writing. I’m talking about life. About what makes us keep going in spite of all the nasty, brutish, ugly things out there, and in spite of all the crappy things we as a species do to each other and to other species.
And I saw a couple of videos yesterday that summed up the word “inspiration.”
Here’s the background. Sportscaster/newscaster/awesome woman Robin Roberts was honored with the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYs. Here’s her acceptance speech.
But THIS video, I think, sums up why she got this recognition. That link will take you to it, at the ESPN site.
Go on. It’s about 11 minutes.
I’m pretty sure you’ll find something that inspires you. And go ahead and leave a comment here about what inspires you.
Whew. Sorry about the delay; I’ve been crazy busy. I finished up the edits for the third in my sci fi series, The Edge of Rebellion. Cover coming soon as well as an excerpt. I’ll post them here and on my main site don’tcha know, so stay tuned.
I’m also sending the fourth in my New Mexico series, Day of the Dead, in for edits. We’re hoping to have that out by the end of the year. WOOOO! Stay tuned for a cover and excerpt from that, too.
Thanks again, everybody, for stopping by during the (blog) Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Much appreciated. I discovered some new authors, so I’m pretty stoked. Plus it was just really great to build a bit of community.
Anyway, I wanted to bring your attention to sci fi writer Kameron Hurley. By all means, read her work, but also, for the love of goddesses, read her blogs, too, because she is on point when it comes to dealing with how women are represented in fiction and science fiction. I just recently found out about what appears to be some major sexism at the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) not only through Hurley, but also through E. Catherine Tobler.