Reading as a Writer

So I’ve been looking around a bit for a good blog hop kind of thing for this year. Ronel the Mythmaker had a recent post about plans for 2017 and she mentioned The Insecure Writer’s Support Group. Finally a group for me!

The question prompt for February is How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader? which even more so made me go, this is for me!

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Reading

I used to be a good reader. When I get into reading I can be a good reader. Staying up until the next day, reading all day through, doing everything while holding the book (or ipad which is how I read these days, or listening).

But I get into ruts these days. I slow down, way down. I focus on all the wrong things. Because I stop and slow down and can’t stop thinking about the writing craft of it. Why did the author make this choice? What made the author select this tense? Why this character? What was the motivation? But this thing here didn’t lead to that thing. How did that happen? But what happened to her bag? The body was in the trunk for so long it must have gotten stinky, did they take it to a detailer?

I have a hard time making reading fun and completely immersive right now. Still stumbling. I haven’t finished a book joyfully and enthusiastically in a while. I’ve read several, I’ve done a lot of reading and even enjoyed it. But not completely immersed in the world to the point of not seeing the seams. I feel like I am really seeing the seams right now.

I was having a similar problem last winter and I managed to hit a pocket where I was able to fall into books. As soon as I hit the pocket I managed to stay in it for a couple months and read through books at a very good pace. And then I fell out. As soon as a seam was spotted, now they are all there again. I keep stumbling over them.

DNF

I’ve not finished several books that I’m sure were very good. I just couldn’t break that barrier. I’m going to keep trying until I fall out of this hole.

Audiobooks are generally better, not perfect, but an audiobook at 1.25 is harder to find seams in because first, I can’t see any errors in the text, and they are often moving fast enough in the ear that I miss them. Second, I just don’t have as long to pause and ruminate on each section as it runs past. I have to dig out the device and pause it, and by the time I do that I’ve often missed it. Which is great. But right now I’m even failing at that.

Bad writer. No cookie.

Horror

First a theory on horror then my own (mild) horror.

Do you like horror?

I expect that you can tell if a person likes horror or not by what happens when they have a benign scare. Like when a person taps you on the shoulder, or comes up behind you, or opens a door, or the like. Not when they are intending to be mean, but when they are just going about their business or trying to politely get your attention.

If that happens and after you jump or scream, you laugh? You like horror.

If that happens and after you jump or scream, you’re not laughing? Don’t like horror.

Anyone have any other information? Contradictions? Which kind of person are you?

I recently had a moment like this when I and another person surprised each other. It was totally unintentional. We both had a panic moment. The other person laughed, I did not. I wonder if you could force this response and if that response would eventually become automatic, and then at that point would you start to enjoy horror?

Hacking horror

My site was hacked yesterday, I cleaned it up. Today I took the site entirely offline and started over. There was no malicious code, but I just wanted to make sure everything was clean.

It should be back up and running at full capacity. I have some back end things that aren’t working (and some of the old freestanding audio isn’t uploaded again, so listen to the podcast instead! :))

I’ll keep working on getting the color and look and feel back to what I am aiming for, suggestions welcome!

S1.45 Infinite Stupor

Infinite Stupor by Konstantine Paradias

Decommission? Preposterous! We still haven't brough back the dodos!
Infinite Stupor

Konstantine Paradias is a writer by choice. His short stories have been published in the Dystopia-Utopia Anthology by Flame Tree Press, The Curious Gallery Magazine and  the AE Canadian Science Fiction Review, among many others. His short story, “How You Ruined Everything” has been included in Tangent Online’s 2013 recommended SF reading list and his short story “The Grim” has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His short story anthology, “Nowhere Stories” is published by Mad Paradise Press.

Konstantine is on twitter @KostantineP

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5-star review on iTunes.

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Depressing, sad, and nerdy

Comics

I love SMBC. They are weirdly nerdy in so many wonderful ways. Like this one about pop music. And if you are like ugh pop music, SERIOUSLY GO LOOK! You’ll thank me.

Another wonderful comic site, Indexed. This one is something I need to remember over and over and over. We still try. We need to try. Keep trying.

Vaccines are awesome

Seriously, there is probabally someone reading this that is alive because of them. They save lives. Vaccines save lives. Vaccines keep people from getting sick at all. Vaccines keep people from getting acutely ill. So what does the current asshole with all the power want to do? Kill people. Not sorry. That’s what shit like this will do. People will die. Human beings will die if the complete lies that another asshole who was only trying to make money manage to gain traction.

Adults need boosters too. Check yours. Save a life.

Technology is awesome

Heart pumping gif
Heart pumping

I could watch this gif all day, despite the super bloody nature of it, it is still amazing.

This is what happens when you invest research money into science and a range from basic science research all the way to direct impact and outcomes you can …wear? Do you wear a silicone sleeve around your heart? I think wear.

Also from Ars (I do like Ars a lot) net neutrality.

Republicans at the FCC and Congress say they intend to repeal or replace net neutrality rules. Trump’s transition team is also reportedly pushing a proposal to strip the Federal Communications Commission of its role in overseeing competition and consumer protection and to move those functions to the Federal Trade Commission.

If you care about the internet, go read the whole thing. If you are reading this right now? The internet matters to you. Go read the whole thing. Net neutrality matters to you. Even if you aren’t sure? I’m sure for you. It matters to you if you are reading this.

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Strong women

So this is a post I’ve been thinking about for…months? At least. Strong women. Strong female characters. I’m writing this Sunday after the marches around the world yesterday, which, great, now what? And what does that mean? And whole lot of other stuff. This is going to be a messy post. I’ll come back and edit later, and it will still be messy so be warned. And crabby…I get crabby…

A story about strong women

We Can Do It woman flexing poster (Rosie the riveter)
We Can Do It poster

I’m sitting having dinner with a friend of mine. She would tell you that she is more feminist than I am. (I’m not 100% sure that’s true, but splitting hairs either way.) We are talking about books and I’m trying to get her input. She’s a reader, not a writer. She reads in the genre I write and in others. We are talking about romances. I bring up some questions about books I’ve read and their audiences. Let’s say we are talking about 50 Shades of Grey (we weren’t, but it will work for this) and who the audience is for it and what they like about it.

I was trying to explain the plot and some of the key pieces. She kept trying to simplify it down to just a thing.

Her: Oh it’s about money.

Me: Well not really, or only only, because a big part of it is rejecting the money, she doesn’t want the money, she doesn’t want him for the money, it is important, but not as in he buys her a whole bunch of stuff, that’s not the focus of that.

Her: It’s about sex.

Me: Yes, a little, but not entirely. If it was just sex it would be just sex but in this tome there are only like 3 scenes. And the sex isn’t the story driver, and isn’t the character driver.

Her…: I’m not sure, but I’m sure I wouldn’t like it. I like strong female characters.

Ahhh there’s the rub isn’t it.

But that character, and …quite frankly? Most of the female leads in most of the books I read will tell you they are strong. My friend is not the only one who says she wants strong women.

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a character a strong female lead. The problem seems to be, to me at least, that we start stacking these. You can’t just be one thing. You have to be ALL OF THEM.

Strong Women

Some of the examples from books I was reading at the time that I brought up to her, each one she sort of shrugged and eh but’ed.

  • Woman who takes care of a child on her own, single mom, handles shit from others who think that’s bad, makes the kid turn out fantastic
  • Woman who likes sex, knows what she wants, goes after it, isn’t afraid to say yes or no loudly and frequently
  • Woman who works really hard and has an amazing career and is well respected in her field
  • Woman who overcomes extreme anxiety to become a singer

I could go on and on and on. So you stack them up and you have a single mom who spends a ton of time with her kid, a ton of time at her career, has a very active and healthy sex life, and is going to be a breakout star.

Fuck you.

No seriously, why does a character have to have all those things? And you know what happens when you stack them up?

Mary Sue. Which are 2 words I could 100% live with never seeing again.

So you can’t be strong because then you are too strong and you can’t be only one thing because then you aren’t strong enough. (And yes, heaven-for-fucking-fend if you have any intersectionality.)

I have seen a few things about complex female characters, which sounds a lot better than “strong” and even might include some intersectionality in there. But I don’t know how to really get across that…I don’t want strong women only. I want a range of women. I want a range of people. I want people who aren’t only one thing and who aren’t all things. And I’m going to keep calling this friend(s…this is actually a compliation of a few people, I love my friends, we are all always learning) out on this shit and seeing if I can keep shifting opinions. One beer or coffee at a time.

And in the mean time I’m going to do my damnest to write them and read them and share them.

S1.44 Make Arnos Great Again

Make Arnos Great Again by Eddie D. Moore

Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work, and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Jouth Webzine, The Flash Fiction Press, Every Day Fiction, Theme of Absence, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Adventure Worlds. Find more on his blog: https://eddiedmoore.wordpress.com/.

Music is provided by MADS.

You can support 600 Second Saga by giving us a 5-star review on iTunes.

Jenna’s Books

Jenna is the protagonist in a trilogy, or I thought it was a trilogy. Or it might still be a trilogy.

Jenna’s Series

It is an urban fantasy with a heavy layer of tech, rather than an eschewing of tech (which is something I want to see more of an if anyone has any great suggestions that are UF that aren’t anti-tech, bring it on!)

Book 1

The first book was written about three years ago now. It has some problems. There are a few substantial issues with it. 

  • The love interest feels a little tacked on and not crucial
  • Not enough backstory (her backstory is pretty important and I didn’t even bring it up until 3/4 of the way through, beta reader was stunned by it)
  • The secondary villain wasn’t well developed
  • The world felt fuzzy (some of this was intentional, but intentional doesn’t mean good)
  • It’s not really a full book

There are some smaller things that I think I’ve gotten better at writing in the last few years. 

Book 2

I wrote book 2 last NaNoWriMo. I wrote it with an understanding of some of these problems and believing that I’d resolve these things.

I made an assumption that these changes have happened in the first book. That love interest was cut, that the backstory was at least sprinkled throughout, that the secondary villain was …shifted, and that there was a little more structure to the world. 

Now

I was going to edit it last Camp NaNo. I was going to edit it over NaNoWriMo.

I knew part of the reason I’ve been fighting so hard to do this project is because something isn’t quite right with it. 

I finally have had a few conversations about it. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I thought I had a strategy, but even working that through I wasn’t getting anywhere. 

Partly I don’t want to just trash it because I really like the second book, I feel pretty good about that one. And it 100% does not work without the first. 

Going forward

I think my solution going forward might be to make this into the first act of the second book. The second book picks up right after the end of the first. Tying them together makes a lot of sense, and yeah, the first one isn’t a full book. The second one is fine, but it needs a little more, and putting this at the start as the first act I think would make it a lot stronger.

This is my solution today. We’ll see where the future actually goes, but I think right now at least this is the direction I want to take going forward.

That all said, right now? I’m editing another Smoke Jumper short and so I’m focused on that. It’s a good shift away from beating myself up about Jenna’s books. I’m just hoping this is the right decision this time.

How can I help?

I wrote earlier this week about writing for my niece. The second piece of this is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

Why me?

I created a podcast. (You might have heard of it, 600 Second Saga.) This makes me a gatekeeper of sorts. Not a super fancy gate wearing gatekeepers (that’s what real gatekeepers do right? wear gates?) but one nonetheless.

I read a lot of other submission guidelines along the way to creating mine. Some of them said something about accepting or soliciting work for underrepresented groups. A few called out specific populations. Some didn’t. I thought, only a monster wouldn’t want that. Only a person who is a garbage person would need to even say that. Of course, I want a range of experiences and stories.

Not a monster

And then Trump got elected. On a wave of people who think that it is more important to have false change and loud shouting than to disavow actual Nazis. So…here we are today. I would like everyone who reads my blog, listens to the podcast, or reads my books to just know, of course, I’m not a monster. Just like the day after the election at work, even though I didn’t talk about it at all before directly, everyone knew how I felt. Because when someone needed to say, hey it’s not cool that we only have white dudes as avatars, that was me. When someone had to say it’s not ok to say that word/thing/etc it was usually me. And eventually, they just stopped saying them (around me at least). Because they just knew that about me.

I wish everyone here knew that I wasn’t a monster. And I wish that everyone felt free to say, hey! Not ok! Every time I said something out of line (if I do, please do, I try hard, but I screw up often).

So here I am. Saying I am not a monster. I do, of course, want work from underrepresented groups. Especially groups that are going to be feeling the pain the worst in the next few years. I want to help lift your voices. I want to do what I can. And that is the absolute bare minimum that any decent person should be doing.

I want work that is about being who you are. I want work that edges on political. (Not that I haven’t already got that, just wait for the inauguration day episode, which was written and recorded before election day.) I want work that doesn’t file off your edges.

I don’t get demographics on authors, but I know for a while I had more authors outside the US (this is the easiest demographic for me to keep track of, though I’m not 100%, but if your email is clearly outside the US I have a hint) than from inside, which is a good component. But I want to keep doing better.

My offer

What I think I can do is make this tiny little offer. If you think your voice isn’t welcomed, isn’t heard, and isn’t represented and you are struggling and aren’t sure if your story is a fit, or is ready, or you want feedback? Let me know. As long as it meets the other guidelines (link at the top but basically, ~1K, no swearing, sff) reference this post in your email, and I’ll do what I can to help, make suggestions, etc.

I Write for…

My niece. She’s not old enough to read my work. (And if my sister reads this, don’t ever let her read a few of them!) She may never actually read my work, and I’m entirely ok with that. But I write for my niece anyway.

I remember reading when I was a wee bite sized person and clearly I could never be any of those book people. I mean obviously. They were mostly men. They were brash and ballsey (again, dudes). They were adventurous. They had all the money. They were always talking to people and conning people (or being charming). I don’t…do those things. I’m not a fancy talker. I’m not good with people. I’m not outgoing. I’m not charging forward into anything. I’ve got brain stuff. I’ve got other stuff… and mostly I’m…not a protagonist.

My niece has a lot of that, and she’s not white. At least some of the book people looked vaguely like me, prettier sure, but still.

I want her to never experience running out of books in the library and still feeling like there is no place for her. I don’t want her to feel like she’s read everything she’d like and no one like her exists in the world. I never want her to think she can’t do cool things because the cool things in books always happen to other people, to the main characters and if she’s really lucky she’d be a side character.

It is deeply selfish. But that’s why I write.

That doesn’t mean all my MCs look like her, but some of them sure do. (I want other people’s nieces to have good experiences too.) They aren’t always the most adventurous person in the book. Sometimes they are deeply concerned about people around them. Sometimes they are a little too self-centered. Sometimes they are quiet. Sometimes they are loud and unheard. 

But every single time, they are because I want her to feel like there is a place for her in the world. That the world wants and needs her in it. Each word I put down I want to try to make sure that there is a chair pulled up to the table for her. I never want her to have a Christmas without a present. I never want her to feel like she isn’t deeply loved and wanted in the world.

I hope that helps not just her, but others in the world as well, feel like there is space for them. I want to keep pulling chairs up to the table until everyone has one. The table is more than large enough. There’s always enough food.

So for my wonderful and amazing niece, I will do everything I can to make sure there is always a chair for you.

(Side note? I have a nephew too. He’s going to be just fine I’m pretty sure. He’s all the outgoing and charming and adventurous and brash and every single other thing. I hope that the world is better for him too, I hope he sees himself in many things. But I think he’ll be just fine. )