Category Archives: Inspiration

Where were we? On setting and place

Greetings, peeps!

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?

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The haps!

Hiya, peeps!

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!

Other stuff:

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
Runners Up:
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
Runners Up:
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.

Runner-UpMD

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!

Left Coast!

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:

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Why, yes. Yes we DID enjoy ourselves.

But we also did some WORK.

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Writing builds character.

Hi, peeps!

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?

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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:

Writing Room
Sophie Novak at The Write Practice
Darci Patterson has bunches of writing character tips. Start here.
Brian Klems at Writers Digest with a nice character arc/character discussion.

Go forth and write! And read! And have fun doing it!
Happy Wednesday.

When writing is like a construction site

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!

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Inspiration

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.

Happy Friday.

Dude, where are the women in science fiction?

Hi, all.

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.

Keep reading…

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Hoppin’ Against Homophobia and Transphobia

AND WE HAVE A WINNER of a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of 1 of my books! Lisa W, come on down! YEEE-HA!!!! (Lisa, if you do not have an email message from me, check your spam filter)

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by. Thanks for the comments and thanks to those authors who participated in this hop. Happy reading, happy writing.

Hi, peeps. And hello, newcomers. Thanks for joining me today, which is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

2013 2

I agreed to join in the (Blog) Hop Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which is going on from May 17-27 on various blogs. I hope you’ll go and check out the others, too, to get an array of perspectives on this very important topic (and also to join in on some prize-winnin’!).

This day (commonly acronymed as IDAHO) was launched in 2004. It’s always on May 17th, which is the day in 1990 that the World Health Organization decided to remove homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses/disorders in the International Classification of Diseases. Transgender identity (referred to as transsexualism in the ICD), however, remains in the ICD as a “mental/behavioral disorder,” classified as a gender identity disorder.

Also, for those of you not in the know, I write F/F mysteries, sci fi, and romance, though all of my works generally include an array of characters. You can find out more about me here on my website (click “About”) and you can check out what I write here and here.

And here’s information about the giveaway I’m doing as part of this blog hop:

Answer the following question for a chance to receive a $25 gift card to Amazon.com and 1 copy of any one of my published books. Here’s my book list, which will explain the order of books in my two series (one is mystery, one is science fiction).

Here’s your question: Who is Alysia Yeoh? Give me a little bit of a reason as to why she might be considered important.

Put your answer in a comment on this post. Please include an actual, working email address when you fill out the comment form. Do NOT include your email address in the comment body, to avoid spam bots. Don’t worry. My little merry blog elves will make sure I get your email address. NOTE: I will notify the winner within 30 minutes of the drawing. If you do not hear from me, CHECK YOUR SPAM FILTER. Thank yuh. Thank yuh ver-uh much. :D

I’ll draw the winner randomly from all the correct answers on May 27th, 9 PM EST (US). Have fun!

All right. So let’s get global…

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Recycled writing tip: “As you know, Bob”

Hi, all–

On occasion, I re-post writing tips that I’ve gone over in the past. This one is from Women and Words (where I blog and co-admin). It’s the “As you know, Bob” syndrome or, in other parlance, a version of telling and not showing. Remember, you want to SHOW and not TELL. And you want to avoid info-dumps.

Here’s the link.

Happy reading, happy writing!

Things readers can do for writers

Hey, all–

Caught this cool post at Writer Unboxed from January 28 (okay, so, most of their posts are great) about what readers can do for writers. Specifically, writer and editor Chuck Sambuchino provides 11 tips with regard to supporting a writer’s new book. Number 1?

Buy the author’s book.

Here’s what he says:

An obvious point, sure, but important nonetheless. Naturally, we must buy new copies of books, not used copies, for the sale to “count” and the author to get a royalty. So buy new. Heck, consider pre-ordering the book. Publishers pay attention to pre-orders to help get a sense of what titles are getting buzz and attention. Impressive pre-orders help the author.
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No, authors do not make money off of used copies, no matter where you buy those used copies. Just wanted to clear that up. And we certainly don’t make money off pirated copies of our work. Now before you start in on how you can’t afford a new copy and all that, hey. It’s cool. I get it. I understand why you buy used. I also understand why you borrow a book from a friend or a library. I totally get that. That said, I am not down with piracy. Sorry.

At any rate, if you buy used and/or borrow a book, how about if you really like the author, could you do her a favor and tell your friends about her? And about her books and stories? Especially if you buy used or borrow a book. And if you do buy new and you loan your copy out to a few friends so they, too, can discover a new author, THANKS. So yes, ideally, authors REALLY appreciate it when you buy new. But we also appreciate it when you tell your friends about this cool author you discovered and how about giving her a read.

Moving along, Sambuchino also offers these tips (and I’ve been known to do stuff like this for authors I enjoy): face the book out at bookstores and read it visibly. The latter, I’m afraid, is going to be much harder to do these days, because many people no longer read actual physical books where you can show off your book cover. Instead, you’re on an ereader, and that makes it harder. But if you do have a physical copy of a book and you enjoy that author, hey, let the world see the title and author’s name. Another good tip is to spread the word about the book/author via your social media channels.

Basically, Sambuchino offers easy things for readers to do to help spread the word about an author and her new book(s). And believe me, authors appreciate it SO much when readers talk up authors whose work they enjoy. So thank you, readers. Thanks for buying our work, thanks for reading it, thanks for letting others know about your fave authors. You’re part of this whole publishing thing, too. And I think sometimes some writers forget that, much to their detriment.

Anyway. Happy Tuesday!

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