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On the philosophy of writing

OMG how deep did that even sound? Yeah, we’re all navel-gazing up in here. Heh.

Actually, there seems to be something in the writing water, because a few of us have been waxing philosophical (wax on, wax off) on our blogs for a couple of days, now. I must’ve had some of that writing water, because I’ve been navel-gazing after all.

We all make choices. I get that. One of mine was to work a day job so I would have health insurance and other benefits that I just can’t afford otherwise. At least not at the moment. As a result, I don’t write 8 hours a day. I would LOVE to do that, but I made a choice. So writing is a part-time job (though it takes up many more hours than that), and I view it as such. I don’t view it as a hobby. It’s a job, and one that brings me a lot of satisfaction and happiness in many ways.

But it also brings me a shit-ton of frustration, angst, and exhaustion. There are days I’m despondent, that I have no desire to write anything, and I wonder why the hell I do this and what the point of it all is. Rejection emails. Skimpy royalties. Bad or weird reviews. Plots that suck. Characters that piss me off. Ineffective writing. Word salad with no flavor.

I have those days.

I’ve written thousands of words over the decades. As individual words, they don’t suck. They’re just words, part of a language that indicates something. Without context, they just float around in thought bubbles, neutral entities without baggage. As combinations of words that I put together, some of them do suck. Others don’t. They’re slung together, thousands of them, in patterns and styles that track this long slog I’m on. Some are epically bad. Others aren’t too bad. And sometimes there’s a gem in there.

I have the evolution of my writing life in boxes, on discs, on my hard drive, my flash drives, and the Cloud, signalling the shifts in technology over the years as well as various points on this path, when the combos of words started to suck a little less. And out of all of the thousands of words that I have written, very few of them have made it to the big stage. I’ll write thousands more. A small percentage of those will make it off my hard drive and out into the world. The rest will serve as pavers on the road that is my personal writing journey.

That’s okay, fellow inkslingers. As author/writer/ninja wordsmith Chuck Wendig says,

Your writing career will be long. Lots of peaks and valleys. Lots of digging in dirt, lots of learning “wax-on, wax-off,” not sure how waxing a fucking car will teach you goddamn karate. Lots of living to do, lots of reading to do. A world of of thinking, what feels like literal tons of doubt pushing down on your neck and shoulders. And, obvious to some but not obvious to all:

It’ll take a lot of writing.
See Chuck’s blog, “It Takes the Time that It Takes,” HERE

And then I read Kameron Hurley’s blog over at Chuck’s virtual house HERE.

THAT is the essence of a writing life. And this, from that blog, is key:

I think I’ve been on the long tail a long time, but the more I talk to other writers the more I realize that that whole slog – the shitty apartment with the shitty boyfriend, the frigid outhouses in Alaska, the cockroach wrangling in South Africa – weren’t actually the start of it. That wasn’t the part where things got really interesting.

It was getting the first book. It was after the first book. It was being confronted with the fact that writing is a business, and expectations are very often crushed, and your chances for breaking out are pretty grim.

It’s persisting in the game after you know what it’s really all about. After the shine wears off. It’s persisting after all your hopes and aspirations bang head first into reality.

That’s when it starts. The rest of your life was just a warm-up.

Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
Kameron Hurley, “On Persistence and the Long Con of Being a Writer

Once you have that first book or story out, THAT’S when things do get interesting. Writing IS a business. And now you have to find the balance between your creative lovefest and the crapshow that the business can be. Wax on. Wax off. Repeat.

Because Hurley’s right. Persistence is what it takes to be a successful writer. Think of that, as she says, as a way of life and not just a word. That is the essence of a writing life.

Back to it, Grasshopper.

Dude, WTF are those women doing on those covers?

Hi, all–

About 10 days ago I blogged about sexism in sci fi (and we can extend that to publishing and writing in general, sadly).

If you have not read it, please read Kameron Hurley’s awesome piece on writing women into fiction, and ways not to do that.

Here, I want to talk a little bit more about that and then bring your attention to cover art as one of the layers (author Jim Hines’ term) in the giant reeking onion that is sexism. More on that below. First, I want to call your attention to a particular blog post…

Join me for more…

Read the rest of this entry

I haz done ‘nother interview! Plus gud readz

My gracious, peeps. I’m sort of out of hand up in here. I went on down to the Cocktail Hour for a Bar Conversation with Andy. We talked about books, writing, writing process, the upcoming GCLS conference, and a whole slew of other stuff. Hope you go and check it out. We had a hell of a good time. But then, I ALWAYS have a good time at Cocktail Hour!

I believe I’m slated to do a readings thingie on the Liz McMullen show in the next week or so. Not sure yet what I’ll be reading of mine, but it’ll probably include some unknown and unseen works-in-progress. I’ll let you know when that’s ready for your listening pleasure.

So now I’m a little lost without Walking Dead to get therapy over. Thank god(dess) Lemony Snicket took over Twitter for a bit to help us deal with our fears. Check it out. It’s darkly funny, as you would expect.

And here’s a cool post at Writer Unboxed by author Erika Robuck on how words can nourish in various ways.

And one of my fave writers/bloggers, Chuck Wendig, points out again that self-publishing versus traditional publishing isn’t some kind of epic war between Orcs and Hobbits. One might not work for you, or the other might not. Who cares? Do what works for you. I’m a hybrid between the two, and I generally tinker and explore all kinds of options and platforms. Oh, and check out his review/experience with Bioshock Infinite.

Oh, and cuz I kind of collect a few comics, here are some cool comics blogs to check out:
Comics Worth Reading (lots of great, meaty discussions here)
Comics Alliance (good info about stuff that’s out there, events, and stuff that’s on the way)
Bleeding Cool (comics news and other groovy stuff like that)

Cool links

Hiya, peeps!

When I find interesting-ness on the intertubes, I like to pass it along to you, to do with as you please.

First, author and awesome savant Chuck Wendig often re-posts things from his blog “Terrible Minds.” This one is one of my faves, “Ode to the Editor.” Read it HERE.

Remember the other day I blogged on the importance of editors and those urban fantasy books I was reading? And how I said I would definitely not read further in one series, but would in the other? Well, I’m reading the second in the series I enjoyed, but once again, the editor made a boo-boo. In the first of that series, the word “allusion” rather than “illusion” appeared. In this one, the word “allude” rather than “elude” appeared. Grammar monster will explain the difference here. Even though I’m 200 pages past it, it still bugs me. And sadly, I know what page it’s on. Sigh. The editor-ness in me sometimes is SUCH a burden. :D

Anyway. Here’s another cool thing I found today. Jennifer Niven writes on women spies at HuffPo in the 20th century. Super-cool, and if you’re looking for some inspiration or ideas for an espionage novel/thriller, this piece might offer you some.

Oh, and James Blaylock, one of the dudes integral in the establishment of steampunk as a genre, tells us how that came about in his piece at HuffPo, “On Steampunk.”

I’m currently reading Phoenix Rising (by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris), the first in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. Fun stuff, great characters. If you haven’t read much steampunk, I also recommend Cherie Priest‘s work.

Heh. And the January 15 Bloggess entry, about the Eye of Sauron. [NOTE: if you have issues with ladyparts words, don't click that link.]

And finally, this cool song, “All of Me,” by the Brooklyn duo Tanlines. They remind me of my Erasure days in the 80s, when I wore pegged jeans, Docs, and retro bowling shirts. Oh, wait…

Anyway, this vid has an 80s cold war feel to it, too. Love the juxtaposition of the bippy tune and the grim interior of that bar/club.

direct link

All rightie! Happy reading, happy writing, and put your music on and DANCE!

So you want to be a writer. Bless your heart.

Hi, folks–

I’ll be on the road in the next few days, so I won’t be able to check in as often as I’d like. But DON’T WORRY! I’ll be back, and probably with some tales to tell.

Anyway, I follow Broadside (because it’s an awesome blog. Hello.) and today, Caitlin Kelly (the woman who does Broadside) had a super good post about what it takes to be a writer. READ IT. Not that I’m pushing you or anything.

She didn’t use the term “stubborn,” but I sure will (Caitlin used “persistence”). Because that’s important. You must be stubborn and stick to it, if it’s what you want to do. And you must continue to do it, in the face of what some days feels like you’re wearing a pair of concrete cowboy boots in a shit tornado. In spite of these things, you must persevere, if this is what you want to do.

You will be rejected (and some of those will hurt). You will be dissed on the interwebs (and you must not respond). You will submit your work a gajillion times and only one of those times may garner you a notice. But it may not land you a contract. You must, as Caitlin points out, have a hide the thickness of a fossilized dinosaur’s (okay, she’s more eloquent) but the sensitive heart of a Bambi-eyed puppy. You must suck it up and smile, even when you’re in the middle of that poo typhoon, and exhibit graciousness and humility because people remember what you say and do. Readers like to know that you’re not some cranky-ass sodden heap of negativity spewing thunderbolts of judgment at everybody who wanders across your time/space continuum. And if you are, readers remember. Hell, everybody remembers. Why bring that on yourself?

And, a couple of my favorites from Caitlin: be curious, and be generous. I’m intensely curious about everything and everyone. How could you not be? The world is an endlessly fascinating place and we are a totally mondo-bizarro species doing all kinds of wild stuff. I also like giving of my time and energy to others, because you never know who you’ll meet. Plus, it’s just good ju-ju to share the love.

Caitlin also supplies some links to other blogs about what it takes to be a writer. Check those out. And here are a couple I liked.

(the always irreverent and happy sailor-mouthed) Chuck Wendig’s 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers

And another Chuck post about things writers lie about to themselves

And here’s Chuck’s secret to writing:

source (re-sized here, and he did register it with a Creative Commons license, so share away!)

Yes, people DO judge a book by its cover

I did a post over at Women and Words on some funny stuff — worst book covers, worst album covers, worst books — and that led me to actually want to post one of those worst covers I really enjoyed. Here it is:

source (re-sized here)

You so know you want to read on…

Read the rest of this entry

Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds

Happy Friday, peeps!

I’ve provided links to author Chuck Wendig’s writing tips in the past, because I love his irreverent, often profane take on this nutty writing life.

He just released his novel Blackbirds, and it’s getting a ton of well-deserved praise and buzz. Check out the sexy-time cover:

source: Angry Robot Books

Here’s what it’s about, from Angry Robot:

Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Here’s part of the buzz, all from Angry Robot:
“Trailer-park tension, horrified hilarity, and sheer terror mixed with deft characterization and razor plotting. I literally could not put it down.”
– Lilith Saintcrow, author of Night Shift and Working for the Devil

“A gleefully dark, twisted road trip for everyone who thought Fight Club was too warm and fuzzy. If you enjoy this book, you’re probably deeply wrong in the head. I loved it, and will be seeking professional help as soon as Chuck lets me out of his basement.”
– James Moran, Severance, Doctor Who and Torchwood screenwriter

“Gritty and raw, Blackbirds sports a unique heroine in the form of Miriam. Both sympathetic and pitiable, she dances through Chuck’s brilliant turns of phrase and crisp writing to an illuminating ending which begs the question: Are we truly masters of our own fate?”
– Allison Pang, author of A Brush of Darkness

That might not be the kind of book up your alley, but what I also dig about Chuck is how open he is with and about his process. Here’s part of the story BEHIND Blackbirds, done in his “25 Things…” format. It’s worth the trip over. CLICK THIS LINK HERE OR BE FOREVER DOOMED TO THE WALK-IN FREEZER OF MORDOR!

Happy Friday, y’all, and may we all find that “god I love this novel this is the one that will take me to the fire goddess Pelé and buy our way out of her wrath with a cocky grin and a song and make sure I have plenty of party favors” novel within us.

Writers are nuckin’ futs

Chuck Wendig agrees.

My particular fave point:

5. Quiet Loners
Whenever they find some whackaloon with a collection of severed heads in his freezer, they always trot out the neighbors and you get that classic line: “He was always so quiet.” And the assumption becomes, oh, that seemingly nice-and-quiet chap next door needed his quiet time because he was too busy with his hobby of decapitating dudes. On the other hand: hey, maybe him being quiet and alone all the time made him crazy. Maybe you spend too long cooped up with yourself the carpet starts moving and the wallpaper shifts and the room starts to whisper, You know what would be awesome? A sweet-ass collection of severed heads. Get on that. This is probably a good time to remind you that writers happen to spend a lot of time alone and cooped up with themselves. Just, uhh, putting that out there. What, this old thing? Just a hacksaw.

I’d add another:

Social Cues
What? Doesn’t everyone ask people at cocktail parties what it would take to get them to drive a car off a suspension bridge or break into someone’s house for the sole purpose of raiding their refrigerator and eating meat naked in the kitchen sink? (true story–that actually happened, but I’m sure a writer somewhere had already put it to paper before that) Writers should go out in public at least three times a week to interact with people who are not writers. Not only does that teach us how to behave like normal people for a few minutes (one hopes), but it can give you lots of good ideas for secondary characters.

Happy reading, happy writing. And put that hacksaw away, where nobody can see it.

Self-publishing vs. traditional–why are we fighting about this?

Hi, kids. Just letting you know that Chuck Wendig posted a great blog over at “Terrible Minds” about this issue. Catch that HERE.

And catch my take on it over at Women and Words HERE.

The upshot? There is no battle between the types of publishing. As writers, we should be helping each other tell great stories, and quit ragging about the vehicles that bring them to market.

Just some food for thought. Happy Thursday.

On being a writer

Hey, kids. I’m a huge fan of author Chuck Wendig for his spot-on blogs about writing and the life of a writer.

His latest is no exception: “What It’s Like Being a Writer

It’s true. Every last bit of it. That’s what it’s like.

I get a lot of questions about “work.” That is, what writers “do” when they “work.”

There’s no real mystery to it. I sit down (or stand — I alternate, because the bane of backs everywhere is sitting for long stretches), I open a file onscreen, I go through a couple of chapters to pick up the mood and flavor, and start writing where I left off. I also go back and tweak, edit, obsess, re-do, tighten, and check. I have the interwebs open so I can fact-check (when I’m working on a mystery), and sometimes I stop everything and contact an expert to make sure that I have details right. For me, thus, writing is like putting together a research paper. There’s an internal organization and structure, a way that things unfold, and I have to do some research for a lot of my work.

Having said that, I don’t ever really know how my stories or novels are going to play out or end until I’m practically there. I’m one of those “organic” kinds of writers. I’ll have an idea and I’ll mull it for a while and then sit down and just start writing. I don’t do outlines (unless I’m working on a nonfiction piece), though I do keep notes.

Most writers will tell you that to keep fresh as a writer, you need to do at least a thousand a words a day. And not Tweeting or interwebbing or Facebooking. A thousand words on your project(s) each and every day. Every writer has a different approach to doing those thousand words. I tend to hammer out 2,000-3,000 in a session, which can be an hour or two. On weekends, I might get in 5,000-7,000 words, if I don’t have anything else going on. And yes, I have a day job. I treat my writing like a workout. I do it almost every day. And when I’m not doing that, I’m dealing with publishers, cover designers, and marketing/promotion. Writing is not just about the act of writing. It’s about the entire business that surrounds it. And when I’m not doing that, I’m trying to figure out how to make my writing better, which involves workshops, reading other writers, and engaging in discussions about craft.

But I also have a day here and there where I don’t write. That’s fine. It works for me, because I’ve found that for me, if I force myself to write too much all the time, I stop liking the story, and that’s when I know I have to take a break. But I don’t ever stop thinking about stories. And everything I do during a day has the potential to turn into a story or to be part of a story.

So yes, writing is work. Is it brutally physical labor? Hell, no and I would never presume to compare it to things like, say, firefighting or law enforcement. But it requires a level of engagement with a subject sustained over long periods of time. It can be a lonely, frustrating pursuit with little monetary reward. And no, I don’t know why writers write. Everybody’s got their own reasons. I do it because I love it and it provides an outlet for me that I think (for unknown reasons), keeps me grounded and sane, in a weird way, though I know that lots of writers are rumored to be other than that.

Oh, and writers constantly tell wannabe writers things like this. Because it’s a crazy freakin’ life, and honestly, not everyone should be a writer, just as not everybody should be a firefighter or a police officer. For those of us who are writers, it’s obviously because some strange alien creature invaded our brain fogs like the Borg and now we’re doomed.

So there you go.

Happy reading, happy writing!

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