I know. I’ve been neglecting all of you. But I have been writing a ton of Fangirl Friday blogs over at my other site, Women and Words, so if you wonder where the hell I am, check there. And the Twitterz, where I go by the cryptic handle @andimarquette.
Anyway, I’ve got a lot of things in the works right now. I recently published a short novel at Ylva — it’s a thriller with a little romantic undercurrent. Here’s the link, if you want to see more.
I’m working on some rewrites of my other stuff to get it back on the market…yeah. That’s been kind of a clusterfuck, and I apologize a jillion times over for that. Hopefully that will be remedied soon, but seriously. Clusterfuck. I can’t even with that. Sigh.
Plus, I have to admit, this election season has given me super angst. This whole fucking year has given me angst because of all the shitty-shit that’s gone down in a variety of quarters, which means I’ve sought escape in order to maintain my emotional and spiritual (and physical) health.
Along those lines, I’ve basically reclaimed my 37th childhood and decided to go fangirl for various things (see my posts at Women and Words) and seek solace with like-minded people. At least we can all fangirl together.
Geez, WTF, Andi? It’s been, like, forever and a day and all kinds of THE THINGS happened and where the hell were you and just what are you doing?
I know. Straight up, I’ve been FB’ing incessantly about the Women’s World Cup (OMG YAY TEAM USA) and writing for deadlines and then there was the amazing historical BOOM when marriage equality was ruled the law of this great land and then there was a horrific tragedy and then all kinds of crazy over certain flags. I decided much wiser heads than I can address those two latter issues, and I still haven’t quite been able to wrap my head around the whole marriage equality thing.
At some point, I will blog that, because I’m coming from a perspective of believing that I probably wouldn’t see it in my lifetime or if I did, I’d be in my 60s or 70s. This perspective, I think, causes a fatalistic outlook on relationships. Marriage was something I thought I could never have, so I never planned for it. I educated myself about the issues, worked to advance them as I could, but I never thought it would be something that I myself could enjoy.
And that leaves its own kinds of scars. Which I will discuss later, as I ponder more.
In the meantime, I wanted to discuss something else. Specifically, what repercussions marriage equality may have on genre fiction.
I wonder this because yesterday at Women and Words, we posted a blog by New York Times bestselling romance author Melissa Foster, who just released a new book in her Harborside Nights series that features a lesbian main character and this character’s love for another woman.
Foster predominantly writes heterosexual romance, and this is her first F/F. As she notes in the blog she did at WaW, she got a little bit of blowback from her writer colleagues.
I decided — after some comments (some cranky; others not so much) I got regarding my decision to reboot my first mystery, Land of Entrapment — that it might be a good idea to explain what a new edition is and why some authors decide to do it.
There are many reasons authors come to these decisions. We don’t wake up one day and decide, “Oh! I’m going to re-do one of my earlier works and re-issue it! Won’t that be fun?” Because not. It’s not fun. I mean, some of it is. But for the most part, it’s stressful and time-consuming and the longer the book stays off the market, the less opportunity there is for readers to read it. And authors never make this decision to piss people off. Trust me on this.
So let’s chat about some of the reasons authors decide to create a new edition of an earlier work.
So a couple of folks expressed interest in how to write an effective opener for a novel.
To which I say, “good luck.”
And then I supply links LIKE THIS, which have the alleged “100 best first lines from novels”, posted by the American Book Review site. I must say, Iain M. Banks’ line from The Crow Road is a grabber: “It was the day my grandmother exploded.”
Hit that link at Amazon and you’ll be able to read the first few pages to determine what that’s about.
At any rate, what makes a great opening line? Well, I’d say that’s a topic up for debate, depending on a reader’s taste. But overall, let’s try to dissect what makes a great first line in terms of writing craft. Here are five things to think about.
Hi, peeps! Well, I’m currently working my way through a major case of writing burnout.
Obviously, that hasn’t extended to my blog. Let us all rejoice for small miracles.
Burnout, friends, is sadly normal in our fast-paced high-stress lives. What exactly is it? Think of the flame on a match. It burns bright and sizzly and all happy and then it slowly diminishes until it’s no more. Matches are designed to do that. People, not so much.
Burnout means you run out of gas. You become physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time and it affects your job performance. It can be debilitating because it can lead to some depression, though depression can also help cause burnout, so if you’re prone to depression anyway (like I am), you need to pay attention to yourself so you can do some self-care things. with me, burnout is linked to depression and they feed each other, so I have to figure out whether my issue is true burnout or whether I’m burning out because of the depression. If it’s true burnout, then depression could follow, even if depression isn’t something you have to deal with on a daily basis.
Well, kids, it’s that time of year again. When we start thinking about getting our taxes together for THE MAN. Or WOMAN. Whichever IRS agent has a look at your stuff.
I know. Wow, what an exciting topic. Unfortunately, it’s a reality and it’s one that self-employed folks (and most writers are indeed self-employed) have to deal with all the time. And by now, you’ve probably noticed all the tax commercials showing up on your networks. You know the ones. TurboTax and H&R Block are already at it, as those icky reminders to get your tax on. Or off, which is what deductions are all about.
For those of you living overseas in countries whose governments take care of all of this for you (and they just send you a statement saying how much you paid in taxes), I can only dream of such ease. Here in the States, every citizen is required to put together his or her own tax/income portfolio between January 1 and April 15 of each year. That means you report your income and all kinds of other things to the federal government as well as to the state’s government where you live. Some states do not have what’s called a “state income tax” while others do.
Included in this process are things we here in the States “write off” each year. That is, expenses we incurred with regard to specific situations that relate to businesses or other things (like tax deductible donations, e.g.). In my case, I have to keep track of all my expenses as a writer, since that’s a “self-employed” position and my income is what I earn in royalties. So I keep files of receipts and royalty statements. Lots of receipts, since anything I buy and use in the furtherance/maintenance/development of my work as a writer is something I report to the IRS.
And yes, royalties are taxable. So if you write, you need to keep track of those. If you’re working with a traditional house, those houses will send you a form with your total earnings for the year so you can report that. If you’re self-published, you need to make sure you keep track of your earnings because that’s reportable and taxable.
Some of the things I report as deductions are:
writing conferences (registration, travel to and from, hotels, meals if applicable)
promotional materials/advertising for my books and blogs
internet (because without that, I definitely would not be able to work as a writer in today’s world)
mobile phone, which I use quite a bit for business
office space (you may be able to deduct your home office)
shipping costs for books and promotional materials
writing association fees
computer equipment (last year I deducted my new printer)
editing, typesetting, and covers for my books
expenses I incur as an editor (yes, money I make from that is also taxable), like my subscription to Chicago Manual of Style
So I keep track of all of this during the year. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass. But if you keep things organized during the year, it’s not that big a deal to get it all put together to send off to either the IRS (with the proper forms) or your accountant. I have one of those, so I put my stuff together for the accountant which for me is a lot less stressful than having to do my taxes myself. Yes, it costs. But it’s worth it for my peace of mind.
So readers, in case you wondered, everything a writer makes in terms of sales is taxable, which means the government can take a chunk of it. So no, writing does not give anybody “free money.” It’s income. And therefore taxable. For writers who are just starting out, keep this in mind and start getting organized with regard to your expenses and earnings. Regardless of whether you’re publishing through a traditional house or doing it indie (or both), your royalties are taxable, depending on how much you make from them.
To help you get a handle on what you can deduct as a writer, try these links:
I do hope that 2015 has started off awesomely for you. And before you ask, no. I don’t make “resolutions” in the classic sense. Rather, I have “schedules.” That is, things I will be working on, and those usually involve making adjustments to my daily regimens and organizing writing and editing projects.
At any rate, this year I’m going to be doing some writing in genres that I’m not known for (including paranormal). I think it’s important to stretch as a writer, and try new things in order to get a sense of how your style and voice work across genres and what kinds of adjustments to make to write effectively no matter what you’re working on.
I’ve also got a lot of other writing things I’m up to, including romance and sci fi and I’m working on New Mexico things. So don’t worry. You’ll see things from me this year, too. 🙂
And speaking of working, I’ve been reading some “how to” and “how not to” books because I like to check in on my own techniques and continue working on my craft. I recently read this gem of irreverence, called How Not to Write a Novel, by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, both writers.
The book is indeed filled with 200 examples of bad writing in an attempt to get other authors thinking about what constitutes bad writing and how to recognize it. The examples are often raunchy, hilarious, and in some cases NOT SAFE FOR WORK. So you probably don’t want to share this with teens or ‘tweens.
From the book’s website (linked above):
Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid at all costs if you ever want your novel published.
The book walks you through things not to do when you’re setting up your plots, writing characters, dealing with perspective and voice, learning about mechanics, and world-building. The examples can be over-the-top, yes, but the authors will tell you after the bad writing what’s wrong and why it doesn’t work (readers might also find the book interesting because it’ll get you thinking about the parts of a book and why some things work and why they don’t).
From the book’s intro (which will give you a sense of the approach):
We do not presume to tell you how or what to write. We are merely telling you the things that editors are too busy rejecting your novel to tell you themselves, pointing out the mistakes they recognize instantly because they see them again and again in novels they do not buy.
We do not propose any rules; we offer observations. ‘No right on red’ is a rule. ‘Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly’ is an observation.
Hundreds of unpublished and unpublishable novels have passed across our desks, so we have been standing here by the side of the road for a very long time. Had you been standing here with us, you would have seen the same preventable tragedies occurring over and over, and you would have made the same observations.
Do not think of us as traffic cops, or even driving instructors. Think of us instead as your onboard navigation system, available day or night a friendly voice to turn to whenever you look up, lost and afraid, and think ‘How the fuck did I end up here?’
Sometimes, dear writers, you need to see what absolutely does not work to get a sense of what to look for in your own writing. Most (if not all) of the examples in this book I have done, the vast majority when I was just starting out as a fiction writer.
Part of developing as a writer is finding your own voice and style within the rubric of solid writing craft. And that involves comparing all kinds of writing as you’re working to figure out who you are as a writer. Which is why I think having really bad examples can be helpful, along with the reasons that the writing is “bad.” You’ll also find tips in this guide that hopefully help you fix the bad so you can apply them in your own manuscripts.
So writers, if you’re looking for a funny and useful guide to hone your writing skills, give this a look (here’s the Amazon link; more purchasing links at the site). If you’re a beginning writer pounding away on your first novel, definitely give this book a spin. And if you’re a reader curious about what bad writing might look like and how writers might address it, you might enjoy this, too.
So let’s get crackin’ this new year and hit the manuscripts!
It’s true. I curse. And, like many people who do, I generally use swearage in contexts in which there is precedent for it (i.e. friends and yes, family).
For those of you who know me personally, you’re not shocked by this revelation. For those of you who don’t, sorry. I’ve blown your image of me as a pristine, untainted virginal woman with an entire closet full of white dresses who coyly smiles and demurely defers.
I bring this up today because I was recently answering some questions for a book group and one of the questions I got asked was why there was so much swearing in the book.
Context of question: The book was one of my mysteries, whose main characters identify as lesbian. The book group was predominantly (if not all) women and, I presume, lesbian.
Someone else then said that she hadn’t even noticed the swearing. I responded that there was far more swearing in one of the other mysteries I’d written, and that some people swear. Ergo, some of my characters swear. It’s unrealistic, I think, for characters not to swear. I did wonder what the person considered “swearing.” There were a few F-bombs in the book, but for the most part, it’s “hell” and “damn” in my books, which, on my swearage scale, ranks a bit above “crap” and much below “fuck.”
But the deeper issue here is this:
If I were a man writing mysteries and thrillers (regardless of sexual orientation), would that question even have come up?
I doubt it.
Language conveys many things, including where in the social hierarchy someone is. The way you use language and the way you express yourself linguistically signals certain things to listeners. Language can convey power, and the way you say things (your intonations) as well as what you say provides clues about how you think of yourself, where you’re from, and what your background might be.
Swear words (which are found in pretty much every human language) are typically considered “power” words (maybe “scary” words), and have historically been most associated with men. Women who curse have historically (and still) been viewed as “unladylike,” “dangerous,” “uncouth,” “ugly,” “trashy,” “harlots,” and [fill in epithets here; the list does go on]. Buzzfeed has a nice GIF-ridden list that addresses the double standard that women face when they curse.
Professor of linguistics Robin Lakoff opened a whole new field in linguistics — language and gender as an object of study — in 1975. She identified “women’s language,” i.e. the characteristics and kinds of language women were expected to use and often were socialized to use. Here’s a chapter she did, “Talking Like a Lady” (Language and a Woman’s Place, 1975). Below, a relevant quote from said chapter.
Allowing men stronger means of expression than are open to women further reinforces men’s position of strength in the real world: for surely we listen with more attention the more strongly and forcefully someone expresses opinions, and a speaker — unable for whatever reason — to be forceful in stating his views is much less likely to be taken seriously. Ability to use strong particles like “shit” and “hell” is, of course, only incidental to the inequity that exists rather than its cause. But once again, apparently accidental linguistic usage suggests that women are denied equality partially for linguistic reasons, and that an examination of language points up precisely an area in which inequity exists. Further, if someone is allowed to show emotions, and consequently does, others may well be able to view him as a real individual in his own right, as they could not if he never showed emotions. Here again, then, the behavior a woman learns as “correct” prevents her from being taken seriously as an individual, and further considered “correct” and necessary for a woman precisely because society does not consider her seriously as an individual.
And if a woman “appropriates” what’s considered male language, she also runs the risk of being ridiculed and dismissed for “stepping out of line.” Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t (see what I did there?).
This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked that question. And each time (around 7 or 8 times, now) it gets asked, it’s a woman who identifies as lesbian wanting to know why there’s “so much cursing” in my books. Have you read John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers books, I ask. And usually, the answer is “no.” Well, I say, there’s your point of comparison.
And, yes, swearage can also be a function of one’s background. I grew up in a household that used swearage in appropriate contexts. I also grew up around a lot of public defenders and other attorney-types and I’ll tell you right now, the swearage was strong with that group. Both men AND women. I grew up in a rural western town, where we snuck swearage into our conversations during high school lunch breaks and after school, and learned how to wield it with our friends. Furthermore, I’m not religious, so any kind of religious moratorium on swearage has no context in my life. And, let’s be honest, here. I grew up with strong women. Who swear.
I come by my swearage honestly.
But again, the deeper issue here is the fact that if I were a man writing, I doubt I would ever get asked why there’s “so much swearing” in (some of) my books.
And what, exactly, is “so much”? How much is that? I’m only granted one F-bomb per 100 pages? I have a finite number of “hells” and “damns” I can use? Do dudes writing have a finite number of swear words they can apply to their work? Again, I doubt it.
Regardless, I don’t believe in quotas on swearing. And I don’t believe that women shouldn’t swear, because I think ultimately, that’s what’s really at the root of that question. Some people swear. Others don’t. Some of my characters swear. Others don’t. It depends on the scene, genre, story, and the characters’ arcs.