Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

Detroit Author in Residence program

So, starting in 2014, Write a House in Detroit is accepting applications for authors in residence. They'll give the deed of the house to the selected candidate, who will be rent free but responsible for property insurance and taxes.

A WAH Author-in-Residence will be expected to contribute to their blog, participate in local artsy things, and live there primarily. They'll be published in the Write a House literary journal. At the end of two years, the house is the candidate's. Should they decide not to remain in Detroit within 5 years, WAH retains the first buyer's rights option. There are professional connections to be had, and a cultural community to take part in.

Detroit has a bad rap. We all know it. I've learned about it in doing my research for The Last Song. But we also know that Bad Things are clickbait, and that the good things going on in Detroit aren't necessarily being reported. There's a lot of revitalization there. There's an artistic community there. The Riverfront Conservacy is another organization I've read about, and Detroit Dog Rescue. People think they're clever with their freaking Robocop jokes, but Detroit is still an American city, with people living there, struggling to get by, and struggling to make their city a thriving home again.

In another life, I could see myself wanting to apply to such a program. Who I am today, who I am now, I don't. I have a house, a job, a fiancè, a dog, none of whom are Detroit related. I have just one book that takes place there, in an Urban Fantasy way. Maybe I'll visit Detroit one day, but I don't want to live there, but I think this in the same manner I think about New York City; I visit there on occasion, but have never had any intent to live there. For the right person, though, the Write a House offering is a unique and interesting experience, and I do hope it's a successful project for everybody involved.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Female coworker: Oh, that shirt looks so much better on [other coworker] than it did on me!
Me: *blank look*
Female coworker: What, I gave her some of my clothes I wasn't wearing.
Me: I don't even know what my clothes look like, I can't be bothered to keep track of yours too.
Male coworker: I'm going on break. Bye.

Friend: Oh clowns, I hate clowns. They deaths they've caused.
Me: Geeze, you have one guy who's a serial killer and also happens to be a clown and you ruin an entire subculture.
Friend: I think more than one clown is a serial killer.
Me: I don't think that's true.
Friend: I found a list of clowns!
Me: If they haven't killed anybody, they aren't a serial killer, are they?
Friend: Look at this face and tell me he hasn't killed anybody.
Me: Isn't that Pennywise?
Friend: Oh. I guess this is a list of fictional clowns. Maybe it was just Gacy.

Me: I'll get a green pepper, I know you don't like the red ones as much.
Fiancè: Yeah, they're too sweet.
Me: And I'm all the sweet you need!
Fiancè: Well, you forget people exist, so how sweet are we talking here? Just how sweet?
Me: It's not on purpose. Does that make it worse?
Fiancè: Yes. Yes it does.

Male coworker: Really, how many bodies are we talking about? If you're only digging a single grave, you can't claim to be using gravedigging for cardio. You would need a constant supply.

Fiancè: I liked it better before you visited Imgur on your own, because then I could show you things.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Routines and Rumination

So, my hours changed at work, which is magical. I've got a 9-5 now like  a real grown up, still at the library. I do all the Interlibrary Loan stuff now, which fills my day and occupies my brain in an appropriate way.

The last time I had a job with this type of schedule, I worked for the Cat Fancier's Association. This was back when they were located in Manasquan, NJ. They've since relocated to Ohio, and I don't think any of the same people work there at all. Which is kind of a shame, because the woman who did the pedigrees and genetics and things was a descendant of somebody who'd started the organization.

But I digress.

My point is, years ago is the last time I had a 9-5 job as opposed to a noon-9 job or what have you. This is messing with me in a number of ways. It's really great, because the work day goes super fast. I get there, and two hours later have a break, and two hours later have a lunch, and two hours later have my last break. After that, home is just around the corner. So I get home between 5 and 5:30, and then at some point in our long murky evenings, I get super tired. I try to make it 'til 11, and go to bed and start all over. It's the first week, I'm still adjusting, to be sure.

But after 11 used to be "my writing time".

Of course, right now, I'm preparing my "submission package" for the Angry Robot Books open door. I'm counting my blessings that so many agents are willing to blog about their experiences and preferences and How Things Work in the industry, so I can write a synopsis without too much angst (Janet Reid even says specifically that it's supposed to read like a "book report from a third grader." This is a profound relief). Of course, this doesn't mean my synopsis is written yet. I started it! But I'm also re-reading the first five chapters of Learn to Howl with a critical eye. I've got another opinion and comments under my belt, thanks to the magnificent and magical Kelly!

It's always an agonizing process, when somebody else is reading your project. You suddenly think it's stupid. Or you hope they don't think it's stupid. Or you wonder about the things you should change. You think about the things you will defend because that is how they need to be for the story goddammit, the story demands it! And then, sometimes, a lot of time, you don't need to fight about anything.

Do I think I'm going to make it past the slush with the Angry Robot submissions? I don't know. And I won't know, if I don't try. If it's a rejection, well, at least I've got the experience. And at least I'll have the Learn to Howl synopsis done, for when I'm querying agents, and they ask for one!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rethinking Skyler White

Back in August, I talked about strong female characters, and also Anna Gunn and her character Skyler White on Breaking Bad (there are some spoilers at the very bottom of the linked post). I've just finished watching Breaking Bad, and feel like I've got a more complete grasp of Skyler.

See, the show's writers have a very solid idea of who you should be rooting for. Walter White. At times, Skyler appears diametrically opposed to him, and that makes us boo and hiss her, even though Walter is Doing Bad Things™. It's brilliant in a way, truly. Because of my dislike for Skyler's passive-aggressive (and sometimes, it seemed, irrationally aggressive) reactions to things, I didn't take the time to try and get in her head, and empathize with her. She made some bad decisions, sure, on incomplete information, but everybody in that entire show made some bad decisions, I assure you. So why would I judge Skyler most harshly?

(in general, I'm kind of a misogynist, personally. Or perhaps less controversially, a misanthrope. I don't like people readily. I like being left alone. I frequently think people do dumb things, or like things I can't relate to, etc. So this is my first and most logical reason for not liking Skyler. But it's interesting to dig further.)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Issues of Bullying

There were a couple of times, due to news items, I thought about writing about the B word here. But I didn't. But then I read this...article? Blog post? The Bully Too Close to Home. And it bugged me. Because I think we should start using different words for relentlessly targeting people to treat like shit. In that blog post? Yeah, I don't feel that's bully, I feel that's child abuse. Emotional abuse specifically, of the bullying triad (I just made that phrase up, I think, though it might already be existent): emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. But is a parent a "bully"? 

I feel like "bully" is one of those terms that we've kind of outgrown. Bully used to mean, in my mind, a kid at school who roughed you up for your lunch money, stole your homework, etc. etc. Maybe that's the sanitized middle grade novels of yesteryear version of it (like The Bully of Barkham Street, by Mary Stolz), I don't know.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Found Object Inspiration

Working at the library, we find a lot of things in books. Hell, we find a lot of things just around the building. Some of these things are personal and we return them to the patron as soon as we can identify them and is possible. Some of these things are not traceable to any individual and they languish in lost and found until an arbitrary amount of time has passed and they are thrown away. Ephemera like this does not tend to be saved.

I apologize in advance for the cell phone quality of these pictures.

First up, the line "On Monday it rained", on orange post-it note, on a yellow legal pad. I could think of worse opening lines to a story, n'est-ce pas? I haven't written this one yet, but it's up there, in the stew of my subconscious.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Just a little space

It's interesting, what some space can do for you.

It's oft-repeated advice dispensed to writers. Just finished a story or a novel or whatever? Put it away for a little while. Gain some perspective through distance. Give it a little space. Read other things. Write something else. Watch movies, screw around. Just don't look at that work in progress.

Though unfinished, I put The Last Song to bed several months ago. I was a little burnt on working on it, I was nearing the end but not ready to write the end yet (though I know what it is). Yesterday, I took it out and started reading through again (mostly to keep from prematurely working on Learn to Howl again, though the clock is ticking there). The first chapter, even after my previous rewrites, is a bit too disjointed and clearly doesn't have the impact I'd like it to. I was able to trim away paragraphs that were dead weight. In places, I've had to maintain perspective, fix a tense, change a reference. But overall? I'm pretty damn happy with it. It seems, to me, like it's the non-beastie Urban Fantasy type of story that a lot of people are looking for. No vampires, no werewolves, no fairies. Its bones come from Greek mythology, but it got bigger than that in the writing (as things do). Comp titles would be things like Alice in Wonderland, American Gods, and The Book of Lost Things.

But, talking about it doesn't get it written and edited. And once I  get Learn to Howl back from my trusty reader, I'll need to edit that again, and write a synopsis, to make the Angry Robot Books open door submission due date of December 31. I really dig that they encourage taking all that time, because I'm sure all of us have felt the regret of pulling the trigger on a sub too early. I'm excited to go through that process, because for the past almost two years, Learn to Howl has been my primary baby (books two and three pending; I'm not sure more than three books is necessary, but I'm confident a trilogy would carry). So starting to get it out there would be good for it and me, even if I'm rejected promptly. And with Learn to Howl, I've had space too, so it'll be interesting to see what comes of that for me.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Books break rules

I arrived on this post after having posted about not knowing, necessarily, where my story should start. In general, the "rule" on that seems to be: it depends. Or, there is no rule. Or, it could derive from genre (see "It depends").

And that got me thinking, as one does, about just how many rules writers break. Regularly. Gleefully. A rule is a rule until it's in the way. A rule is a rule until the story needs it to....not be. And I'm not talking about lazy writing, or experimental writing (whatever that might mean); what I mean is good writers break rules.

Think about it.

Monday, December 2, 2013

When does the story start?

As I mentioned in my NaNoWriMo finishing post, I thought part of my problem with the novel I was working on was that I had started the story too early. This can be problematic, certainly.

It's hard to decide the point at which a story "starts". Sure, my story starts when I was born, say, but is that the most interesting part of my life? Certainly the circumstances of my birth might be considered interesting. When you're writing a novel, when do your characters' "on camera" lives start, and what is just backstory?

Backstory isn't bad, per se. You want to know what made somebody the person they are. But how much of it needs to be extensively narrated, and how much can be woven into the story as the action is taking place? You want there to be action, certainly. Action is what drives a story, what drives the characters from A to B to C. Action is what catches peoples' interests.

Nobody talks about Stepan Arkadyich's political tendencies and the running of his farm in Anna Karenina; they talk about Anna, and her affair. Really, she's in so little of the novel, it's strange to me that it's even called "Anna Karenina". In the edition I read, you don't even meet her until page 30, and she exits stage train long before the end of the novel. Maybe Russian novels aren't the best examples when talking about action, but in Crime and Punishment, certainly, everybody remembers the crime, and things like Raskilnikov's dream. The punishment is a bit longer in coming.

So, as I'm figuring out how to write a synopsis for Learn to Howl before entering a "final edit" stage (Angry Robot books is having an unagented, unsolicited submission period, deadline December 31), I'm keeping this in mind. Does Learn to Howl start where it ought to? Should the opening be reworked (again)?

How do you determine when your story starts?