Throwing props to the elders

Greetings, friends!

I’ve been thinking about age and the different social and political contexts different generations grow up in and I’m now of an age that usually requires younger people to mistrust me, view me with suspicion and/or frustration. Get the hell out of the way, old. It’s our time, now.

I remember being that age. But I also remember going into the activism trenches with a lot of people 10, 20, 30, 40 years older than I am. Some even older. They’d been around a while, and had seen a lot of shit, and they continued fighting, not only for themselves, but for youngs like me, and they shared their time, energy, resources, experience, and wisdom to do that.

I hadn’t gained the luxury of hindsight yet, but watching those older activists work, and their patience and fortitude in the midst of hell — I was lucky to have worked with them and to have learned from them.

It is possible to age in such a way that you remember who you are and who you were. I hope I’m doing this right, because I’m drawing a lot of strength and inspiration from younger people (and okay, maybe I’m proud that my generation is raising these young people I see as kindred spirits…ha!).

I’m reminded of a queer conference I attended soon after the 2016 elections. I went to an intergenerational panel, designed to foster discussion between olds and youngs. I came of age in the 80s, and I know the weight of political and social boots on your neck. I know the lack of resources and the lack of policies to support those of us who were marginalized then and who are marginalized now. I know that people have died in this fight, and they will continue to do so.

Some of what I fought for was the right to marry even though I figured I’d never see it and so it was never part of my personal world view.

But fuck, I wanted people growing up behind me to be able to have that right, to be able to make that choice if they wanted it. And I wanted younger people maybe never to experience the fear of expressing affection for their partners/spouses/baes in public. To just BE in public, in all the glorious, multitudinous ways queerdom expresses.

We’re not there, yet. We’ve made gains, but we’re not there yet, and all we’ve gained can be taken away. So my work’s not done.

My work also means that I’ve expanded my worldview, and educated myself, and my fight now is for all marginalized people caught in systems of oppression, to hopefully use the privileges I have to do whatever the hell I can.

The work is never done, and I see that now, at this age.

I listened to all those young people in that discussion expressing their fears about that 2016 election, and their uncertainties about what would happen, and what it meant.

I said that we’d been here before. We’d been facing opposition for decades, and we will continue to face it going forward, but, I said, a lot of us olds have organized, created space, fought shitty policies, and changed hearts and minds. We can do it again. I also said that I wasn’t going to sugarcoat things, because it’s bad, and it’s going to get worse, but they all had backup. I said this is, sadly, your time. You’re first string, now, but the cool thing is, people like me are on the bench and we have your backs. I’ll offer whatever wisdom I’ve acquired, whatever tips I can share that might be adapted to these times, whatever support I can. We’ll do this together.

And I will go into the trenches again with these new generations. I don’t know how not to do that, and I wonder if those older people who continued their activism when I was so much younger had that same realization.

They said the work is never done, but there was so much life in their eyes, and so many stories, and such strength in their smiles. There is beauty in a life lived in service to the work and to others, whether those others are alive, gone, or not yet among us. There is beauty in finding joy, love, and comradeship even in the worst of times. Working alongside those older people taught me that.

And I hope I can be as cool an old as they were, and that I know some of them still are.

Sacchi Green Blog Tour – Andi Marquette

HI, all!

So I’m super-stoked to be a host on this here awesome blog tour for the one and only Lambda-winning Sacchi Green! Dirt Road Books just released her latest collection of F/F short stories (full disclosure: I am a co-founder and co-owner of DRB) and we’re all extremely excited about this anthology, and we think you will be, too. It spans historical eras, themes, and deals with narrative and characterization as only Sacchi can. Continue reading

5 tips for finding a publisher that’s right for you

Hello, friends!

I thought this week I’d chat a bit about finding a publisher (if you decide to go that route rather than self-publish) and pass along some tips for doing so.

“Look! Yonder! A potential publishing house!”

I’ve been on both sides of this fence in that I spent a few years as an acquiring editor at a “mainstream” house. I’m also operating in that capacity at my own publishing venture, Dirt Road Books.

But I’m also a published author, and I, too, have had to deal with finding a publisher for my work.

Newsflash: I have indeed been rejected by publishing houses. In the F/F publishing world, I’ve been rejected by three.

I’ll talk a bit about rejection in the publishing world in a future blog. What you need to know now about it is that it happens to everyone and don’t take it as a personal rejection of you. That’s something you need to acquire in a writing life, is a very thick skin.

Before I get into this, my years as an acquiring editor and gate-keeping editor, essentially, allowed me to learn a whole lot about different publishing houses, something I made sure to do so that I could send an author to a house whose list was a better match for their manuscript. I continue that practice today, and I also try to offer some constructive critique to authors about their projects.

Newsflash two: this is not the norm. Most rejections from publishing houses are short and to the point: “sorry, we’re not pursuing this project kthxbai.”

I’m an exception, though I know there are other acquiring editors out there who try to take a few extra minutes to offer something to an author beyond that, but when your inbox is overflowing with submissions and submission queries and you’ve got other business to deal with, I understand where they’re coming from.

So you’ve got your novel written, beta-read, re-written, edited, cleaned up, and ready to go. YAY, you! You’re interested in working with a traditional publisher, so now it’s time to go forth and find one. Continue reading

Mistakes Were Made: On editing, proofing, and why errors get through

GREETINGS, fellow travelers.

I was talking with my colleague, fellow writer/editor/publisher R.G. Emanuelle this morning (and if you have not read her work, her latest is an awesome F/F gothic thriller/mystery).

R.G. and I are co-founders and co-owners of publishing venture Dirt Road Books. We and 4 other authors got together and launched it in 2017. R.G. and I come from traditional publishing back in the day; collectively, we have over 40 years of experience in publishing (omg dinosaurs roaming the earth).

Both of us worked with publishing houses before ebooks, way before the availability of platforms as we know them now, so we’ve been editing and proofing manuscripts in various formats for a while.

Today we were talking about typos and errors that sneak into the final product, and I thought I would offer some thoughts about how and why that happens, and I’ll do a comparison of old-school vs. new-school processes in publishing a manuscript.

Also, it might be valuable for readers who don’t have a background in publishing or editing to understand the amount of work that goes into a manuscript, whether its format is print or ebook, so you understand why books are priced the way they are. Sure, you can say that “ebooks should be priced even lower than they currently are because they’re just electronic files,” but the fact is, the manuscript behind that ebook went through an ass-load of work before it got ebooked. You wouldn’t do a ton of work on contract for a pittance, would you? Or for free? Well, there you go. Just something else to ponder.

Anyway, let’s break this down. Continue reading

So you’re writing a novel. 5 things to think about.

Hi, friends!

I tend to think a lot about process and the little things that go into working on a project and yeah, the overarching philosophy behind the act of writing.

I mean, obviously, if you’re writing a novel, you probably have the ultimate goal of being published. Let’s assume that’s the goal, anyway and let’s focus here on writing novels/fiction.

BUT.

Writers don’t write just to get published. If that’s the only reason you’re doing it, re-assess. Write because you love it, because you can’t NOT write, because if you didn’t your soul would wither into a desiccated carcass, left to bake on the salt flats of your future.

So with that in mind, I’m here to disavow you of some notions because writing a draft of a novel isn’t just hammering something out and then you’re ready to go get it published (and then make ass-loads of money).
Continue reading

So you want to be a published author: 5 things to think about first

Hi, friends!

New year, new…whatever.

ANYWAY! Thought I’d get back into the groove here with some more blogging. Not that I haven’t been blogging/writing/podcasting, It’s just that I’ve kind of left my website all by itself and that ain’t right!

Okay. So I thought I’d bring some things up for y’all to think about — ESPECIALLY if you’re an unpublished author looking to be published and get your debut novel out there for the world to see. Continue reading

Tales from an aging fangirl

Been thinking about this, on World AIDS Day.

Women and Words

Greetings, fellow travelers!

I’ve been thinking about some things. As you’ll see.

I’ll start my train of thought by telling you that I’m a fangirl, and I have been pretty much my entire life. Those of us who participate in fandoms — especially if we’re from marginalized groups — find our tribes in them. We find inspiration, support, creativity, friends, lovers, partners, spouses.

I’ve found support in fandoms. And for those of us who are queer, fandoms have offered us safe haven from the shit all around, where we could tell our stories and offer each other queer rep when nobody else was doing it.

I find many vibrant, amazing, eclectic people in my communities and fandoms, many of them younger than I am, but I am so goddamn proud of the young people who are stepping up to continue the fight, who want to make things even better for…

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10 things to help you get your manuscript ready for submission

Hi, peeps!

So here we are in a new year and I know for a fact that bunches of you are working on manuscripts and once you’re done with your draft, you’re going to hopefully get it submission-ready. That is, you’re going to prep it in hopes that a publisher will think it’s awesome and sexy.

First things first. Not all houses accept a full manuscript for a read. They might just want the first few chapters. Or maybe the first few chapters and the last few. That’s fine. The point is, if you have a full manuscript that’s ready to go, you can easily extract the chapters or first 50 pages or whatever it is the potential publisher may want to see. And you want those to be clean and ready for viewing. So here are 10 things you can do to help you get it that way.

Continue reading

10 things you can do for a productive writerly new year

Hi, all!

Hope your holidays went awesomely and that you’re well on your way to settling into this latest chronological trip around the sun.

So let’s talk new year, new opportunities.

I don’t make resolutions. Instead, I make a few goals to accomplish but leave options open for opportunities that may spin off said goals and/or things that don’t go so well. I also create new good habits or strengthen existing ones if I haven’t been as engaged as I’d like in those.

So here are 10 things to do to get you into the swing of a new writerly year and to keep you going throughout the year. Or, if you’re not a writer but have other pursuits (whether creative or otherwise), some of these you may be able to tailor to that.

1. Get organized.
I do this at the start of every year. And generally it begins New Year’s Eve with a house-cleaning. I’m pretty regular about cleaning my house, but I do a symbolic one around the end of the year so I go into the new year feeling fresh n’ clean! LOL

Then I usually spend the first week or two of the new year getting rid of material things around the house and donating to charity. Clothing, dishes, furniture — things that have served their purpose but no longer do (at least with me) and someone else no doubt could put them to use. I also begin organizing for tax season, something that you have to do every year regardless, but for writers, there are things you need to organize in terms of deductions and royalties and the like.

Point being: organization and cleaning up can help unclutter your creative energy and help you focus, which might also help with some forms of depression.

2. Set a goal for the one writer project you want to complete this year.

Maybe it’s a novel. Or a novella. Or a few short stories. Whatever it is, create a realistic timeline (part of the “get organized” strategy) and make a schedule. By such-and-such date, for example, you want to have 5,000 words written. Or whatever it is.

TIP: Be realistic about all the commitments in your life. It is possible to work in writing a novel around a day job and a family and all the other things that come up (ask most writers). Even 30 minutes a day once or twice a day can move you to your goal. Carve out the time. If you’re serious about writing or any other goal you have, carve out a bit of time and be open to moving that time block around as you figure out what your schedule is during these first few weeks of the new year and what times of day you’re most creative. Work it that way and stick to it.

Here’s a cool link over at Author Media that helps you create a writing schedule that works for you.

3. Buddy up.

Find a writer buddy who is also working on a project who can serve as your cheerleader and nag (lol). Like a workout buddy, your writer buddy will engage in writing sessions with you, whether online or in real time. What that means is, if you’re doing an online writer session, you agree with your writer buddy on a set time on specific days and you check in online and do your writing thang. Then you share what you wrote.

Looks like Xena finished up that one section of the Sappho scroll…

Sometimes you won’t get very far with your word count. So what? The important thing is, you’re producing something and you’re sharing it with your buddy (and she’s sharing it with you). It’s like you’re working out together, showing how many sets and reps you got in. And your buddy might also serve as a beta as you’re going along, which helps with the re-writing aspect of writing. Heh.

4. Take breaks.

From writing. Seriously. Writing burnout can be a thing. I know people tell you to make writing a habit and you have to produce something every day and omg deadlines but guess what? Driving yourself off the road because you’re exhausted or tense or need to deal with other things does not help you complete the journey. Stop at a rest area and stretch your legs (to continue that metaphor).

Make sure you spend time with your loved ones and that you take time for yourself that isn’t the physical act of writing. Writers are ALWAYS writing, because we’re constantly seeing stories all around us and working scenes out in our heads, but the physical act of writing is where you’re staring at your screen and pounding away at your keyboard (or longhand writing; however you do it). I’m talking about taking a break from THAT. Once a week. Once every two weeks. Just a little break from your routine to refresh your mind and give you a jolt of creativity.

5. Get out.

Literally. GET OUTSIDE. Specifically, green space, friends. Wherever you are, go to green space. Some of you live in areas of the country where that’s not difficult. Others have to use what’s been engineered (e.g. Manhattan’s Central Park). Or, hell, take a walk around your neighborhood. Just be OUTSIDE. Make it a point to do that. And also, do not use your phone or other tech when you’re outside. Be present.

6. Unplug.

What that means is, when you’re doing a writing session, you are writing. Don’t go messing around on social media after you finish a paragraph or a chapter. Get up and walk around or make a cup of tea or something and go back to writing until your scheduled session for the day is done.

Try to minimize your obsession with the rest of the world at least during your writing time but I’m going to STRONGLY suggest that you unplug regularly, for maybe an hour a day. It helps give you perspective and allows you to be present with your thoughts and to engage with the world without the filter of social media.

And in these shitty times, it’s important to ensure you don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the toxicity of what passes for discourse these days. Which is not to suggest that you don’t engage at all online with your contacts, colleagues, and friends. Just don’t get sucked in and make sure you spend time engaging in the real world, too.

7. Eat right.

Creativity needs good fuel. If you’re eating/drinking things that aren’t conducive to overall health, you’re eventually not going to feel completely healthy. And it will run you down, which means you will lose effective writing time. So have a look at your diet and clean it up, friends.

Start with one small thing. For example, switch from soda (even diet, which has its own set of issues) to, for example, sparkling water (the kind that doesn’t have fruit juice, which adds sugars). Almost 6 years ago, I went off caffeine, which meant that I stopped drinking soda. I had been drinking diet colas, but going off caffeine made me quit those. Sure, there are decaf soda options, but I lost the taste for soda really quickly and I don’t miss it at all.

Eat regular meals (and try to eat with your loved ones, no distractions!) and don’t eat late at night. That can contribute to and exacerbate issues. So don’t eat after, like, 6 PM which is what I try to do.

Snack on ready-sliced fruits and veggies. I get this stuff ready ahead of time or buy those packets of baby carrots and dip them into guacamole or tzatziki or I’ll just munch ’em plain.

Lower your unhealthy carbs (i.e. cut back on alcohol and overly processed carb-laden foods). If you start focusing on eating more good proteins and vegetables, you don’t need the energy burst (then crash) that comes with carb and sugar boosts because your body will be effectively fueled all day.

But if you just want a starting point: stop drinking soda and cut back on alcohol. And if you smoke, maybe make that one of your writing goals, to stop. Better overall health means more creative energy and more stories. 🙂

8. Get moving.

Exercise helps with overall health — physical, emotional, mental. And exercise helps clear your mind and energizes you, which funnels right into creative energy.

And you don’t need to join a gym to do it, though that does help get you into a routine. I actually do workouts based on Navy Seals exercises, because I don’t need a gym and I can take the routines on the road (I travel a lot) and they don’t require special equipment.

I do a circuit of those 3-4 times a week, then on non-circuit days I’ll walk or ride a stationary bike or do some other kind of cardio-only then finish with a few sets of core-strenghtening exercises.

It is extremely important to strengthen your core. If you primarily sit to write (I alternate sitting and standing), you need to get up and work your core. Here’s a great list of core exercises that don’t need equipment.

Some of those exercises can be found in this cool list of 50 bodyweight exercises (that is, you don’t need equipment; you’re using your bodyweight as resistance).

Want to start simple? If you can, start walking. If you can’t quite do that, check out the bodyweight resistance exercises and core exercises to build up to moving around more. If you have health issues that preclude just starting on your own to exercise, check with your docs about what you can and cannot do and go with that.

Your body and your mind are interrelated. Keep your body strong and fueled with good stuff and it boosts your brain. 🙂

Be your own Amazon.

9. Read.

Read WIDELY. Across genres. Fiction and nonfiction. Magazines. Blogs. Fanfic. Read all kinds of stuff. Make it a point to stretch your reading comfort zones and read authors from different backgrounds and countries. Engage your critical thinking skills and question not only others, but yourself. This is how we develop and it’s how we create better stories.

10. Have fun.

This can also fall under “self care” (see above, too). My have fun routines include indulging my fangirl side, so I go to see movies or indulge in a staycation in which I get to catch up on some programs I haven’t had a chance to engage with.

I’ll also go out with friends and take day trips to get new perspectives. If you can, do a road trip, even if it’s just a few hundred miles. Get out of your zone, see new/different things, engage with different people. Fuel for stories, friends. Even fun stuff fuels your creative energies.

AND A COUPLE MORE THINGS.

Be kind, to yourself and others. Stay alert and help build the communities that feed your soul.

Happy New Year!