Archive | October, 2015

Nanowrimo, Self Pubbing, C4 Comic Con, and Where I’m at

26 Oct

So it’s been a crazy few weeks – let’s just say that life marches on with EMS, and I’ve been happily getting all the OT I want since about, oh, Mid May. A little burnt out, but since my goals have been predominantly getting my finances in order to get that down payment, I can deal with a little bit of that.

I mentioned last year that I was going to self-publish, then chickened out. I still have the cover – my sister is still reading it and giving me feedback. I’m tempted to move ahead with a different title I had edited, but I’ll be honest – that was more about checking out my mistakes. I have a beta reader (er, alpha reader?) but I’ll be honest – I don’t have a big social network of people willing to help me out, so I’m on my own. The feedback I do get is the equivalent of going to a writer’s group – which is great if it wasn’t personal. So yeah – nothing new from me for now. RJ Hore and I will be at comic con, hocking books – I am supposed to have the weekend off, but I feel obligated to protect my territory, so if I look tired, assumed I worked the night before.

Hopefully I will convince someone from the editor’s guild to let me in on a class of editing. I know it’s not the same as getting a fresh set of eyes to look things over – and you’d think this BA in English would give me some confidence – but not so much. I actually did a lot of mental unpacking at the provincial EMS conference yesterday – good things for the most part, but I honestly haven’t been working towards publishing, so to rush out a project (which has been sitting there for a year, I know) wouldn’t make me happy or be to the quality level I want to get it to. I have been working on getting stuff ready for submission – once that’s all out in the email, I can maybe refocus and then just put something out there as a test, and see how it works.

But yeah, Nano’s around the corner. I’m split between wanting to do two very different sequels (one in a long standing fantasy series, the other in a kid’s steampunk world) and then there’s this new fantasy novel I keep plugging away at in hard copy. I make no commitments right now, other than that I’m in and that my user name is Ciage. I will update that cover image too (kitties are cute, but I think it’s been there for a few years).

I know I could update the reading challenge, but I think now I’m just procrastinating. I should probably get back to that editing.

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Reading Update

5 Oct

This is getting trickier and trickier as we go along, mostly because I got loaned a bunch of books I need to return, plus I was kind of sick last month (as in, still not 100% but this is best I’ve felt since before the end of August). I’ve read more than what’s on the list, but figured I should at least update this and keep it kind of legit. I know it’s screwed up but I don’t care enough to go back and figure out who and what. I have more books sitting on my shelf that will finish my year off-challenge without reading any more Afro-futurism – which I totally said I was going to keep doing – but it’s kind of nice to be pushed outside what I’d normally pick. Also, I know I could have used The Maze Runner for the trilogy but didn’t because there’s a prequel – I have a set of 4 books, so even though that’s not really a trilogy, I think I’ll count it (I was going to finish the final 3 books in The Black Cauldron and make that a trilogy – so yeah, really fudging things to make them fit).

Oct02

A Book from an Author you love but haven’t read yet – Battle by Michelle West
A Book Set in a Different Country – Hawk by Marie Powell
A Book from your Childhood – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montegomery
A Book a Friend Recommended – Treasure of the Sarah Madder by R.J. Hore

Okay, R.J.’s not really my friend but close enough – he wrote it. Anne of Green Gables I picked up specifically for the ‘book from your childhood’.

Strong Female Characters Part 5: Tokenism and Final Thoughts

2 Oct

I’ve been trying to give both specific and generic examples in the past few posts. Obviously I can’t go into everything – and I don’t want anyone to think that if they wrote something I kvetched about it is a ‘I hate it I hate you graaaargh.’ It’s more of an in general rant, but there’s stories that use cliches and they’re deconstructions, or the writing is that good that I don’t care. It’s like the Bechdel test – failing doesn’t mean that the work sucks. The movie Gravity fails, but there’s just not that many characters in it. It’s when we see patterns consistently forming, that we have something to argue against. Being a Disney Princess isn’t a big deal, but when the only occupation is ‘princess’ some of us will get bitchy. I don’t mind the “Lego Friends” sets because all the lego eventually ends up together in the same bin. (Tough the pink Rebelle nerf guns did irk me…)

Having one character encompass what is ‘ideal’ is downright challenging. Not only do they need to be flawed, they need to be ‘acceptably flawed’ which is a rant for another day.

This past summer, Avengers: Age of Ultron took flack with Black Widow’s character, because her story arch summed up as love interest for Bruce Banner, saying she too is a monster because she’s been sterilized. Now, no one’s going to come down on anyone having a love interest or facing infertility – but, when she’s really the female face of the movie (I can hear you – Scarlet Witch was in it too!) the character has some enormous boots to fill – not only being a character in a superhero movie, but also being one of the characters who fights against the bad guys. I know that not all criticism is legitimate, but let’s say you’re a little girl sitting in the theatre – you are excited because you finally get to see a female superhero fight on screen. Pretend she’s diminished to the classic love interest role, because all women really like romance novels and they’re here to see who hooks up with who, not because they like superhero movies. It’s a mite insulting. Personally, I got more bitchy about Tauriel from the Hobbit movies – not that one female was created to somehow balance out the sausage fest – lots of stuff was in there that wasn’t in the books – but her role was the hypotenuse in a confusing sort-of-not-really-love triangle between her, Kili, and Legolas. The issue isn’t about Black Widow or Tauriel wanting to be with men(?) or why it didn’t work out. It’s about what we see across the spectrum. (Look, it’s a woman! PAIR HER!)

And not to go back to the whole sad puppies thing, but it’s not an indicator that someone is male or female because they keep a cool head in battle or that they’re intuitively nurturing. I don’t want my hero to always be the same only in a different costume. We know we’re going in for a different heroic personality when we pick up a Wolverine or a Spiderman comic. A different flavour of hero or heroine can greatly determine not only the tone, but the outcome of the same sort of plot.

I don’t mind tokenism, where maybe it makes sense that women are in the minority. I’ve written stories where there’s only one female and a bunch of men, and vice versa. I didn’t watch The Last Airbender, (hadn’t even seen the show before the movie came out) but I could tell – by looking – everyone was supposed to be Asian or Inuit. There’s no reason for “inclusivity” to include white people other than Hollywood is not as progressive as it claims to be.

But back on the topic of women, my main suggestions are variety, and think about their relationships with other women. And the reason for the disclaimer above, is, “Obviously – if your theme is about how hard it was to be Queen Elizabeth” a theme of isolation might work. But if you’re writing a “She’s so awesome – all the other women suck next to her” that’s not exactly an empowering statement, and it’s ignoring the hardships faced by real women struggling against actual social injustices.

Want your sword swinging hack and slash? Fine – Have the ladette, and have your lady of war. If they exist in the same universe, they don’t have to be friends – they don’t even have to like each other – but maybe if you have more than one work, you should have a novel where women aren’t in competition or spiteful just because. Want your epic space opera? Fine – have your space princess with a forced-marriage plot, but maybe have a pilot or a mechanic who is not regulated to her chromosome pairing and who isn’t paired off just because (or have the princess end up ruling alone and have the hero and the wrench wench skip off into the next galaxy).

I think criticism is inevitable – but, I also like to think that as readers, we can be smart enough to recognize that we don’t want works with female characters there to fit a quota. I never think about who’s being a good role model and who’s representing, because I typically just make them be human if they’re meant to have much development. For instance, when I wrote Naguset, she’s Micmaq, which I had to research, but she wasn’t the first aboriginal woman I’d written. I didn’t care about making Aoife a pain in the ass, because I’d written characters like Fiannait already. I say don’t get scared to criticize things, even if you’re in the minority, because I think it’s all well and good to like something, but it’s more important that, if you’re going to internalize something, that you can think about it, talking about what you did and didn’t like.

All About Meeeee

I kind of wanted to talk about this topic once I had more stuff published, but I’ve been such a coward and my head hasn’t been in editing and ‘finishing’ things the way it should have been, especially in the last three years. It’s hard to explain exactly – if I were to analyze myself, I’d probably argue that creative works, such as writing or painting, helps me deal with stress and writing helps organize my thoughts. Putting stuff out there – at least for me, is not only handing out ammunition, but it’s another sort of stress to know what you say and what people want to read into your stuff. I can’t control other people, and quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to. I like it when people critically analyze things, and while I don’t expect a book report, I can also figure out who’s genuine, and who’s not, usually by reason.

Final bit – on the publishing side I got nothing but guessing as to why less women write or submit their stuff to publishers then men, ergo women representing X amount of published work compared to their male counterparts. In my experience – well, let’s just say I don’t orgasm over grammar texts and sometimes, I really wonder why I keep at it. I mean, I was writing novels in junior high when most of my peers were all like, “I’m working on a short story” and now people look at me like I have two heads when I tell them I manage about a 100k novel every year plus some shorts.

Maybe compared to other endeavours, writing’s not encouraged, and my guess is that trying to be a novelist is not exactly practical when you’re struggling to get into the middle class. Sure, you might get lucky, and if you have genuine talent and business sense, you can probably make a decent living doing what’s in demand. For me, I’d rather keep my creative works creative and not suck out all the energy writing technical manuals or paint-by-number books. I’m not putting down people who can and do – at one point, I tried to get into ghost writing, but it wasn’t practical for me needs at the time. I think the publishing landscape has changed and it’s possible to do the niche thing, but, as said above, I’ve never been the person who is really good at catching my own bullshit. I’ve edited a lot (mostly mine and RJ’s; I’m more of a content whiner than going through his stuff with a fine comb, though). I have a degree in English and I’m better than the layperson, but that’s akin to saying “Well, I drive the ambulance sometimes for 5+ hours a day, I must not be a completely awful driver.” Do anything long enough and you become less sucky at the task.

There’s a lot of competition out there and I gave up believing hard work = success years ago. If you have to work two jobs and care for X,Y & Z, I think it’s normal to prioritize and maybe put writing on the backburner until things calm down. I never did, but I also snuck journals into my waitressing aprons and I edited a printed copy of ToO in the back of an ambulance during practicum. For some people, they say they wake up at five in the morning (and I say when you work until 2 in the morning and you’re getting up at 7 to go to your other job, screw that). My own experience, though, is that once you have gotten to a place of establishment, you can stop writing when you can ‘fit it in’. My first job as a paramedic involved on call – basically think 96 hours designated to being on truck. We weren’t busy and rarely did the tours run us ragged. I then had 96 hours off – and even being at work, it was the most spare time I had since I was about 15 years old because I only had the one job, no school, and no family commitments. Granted when the pager sang, I had to drop everything and go, but until I got the dog, I could keep housekeeping to a minimum.

I say, if you enjoy the writing, even if you can’t commit to it full time, keep at it. It may not be good enough or no one likes what you’re doing, but I’d rather have a bunch of unpublished stuff I like than a bunch of stuff I can’t stand. I used to think it was a matter of hard work, but part of me has redefined success. I know I need to be less of a chicken-shit and stop ruminating, but I also know how unforgiving readers are, so I need to get the quality up there first.

That last part was a bit tangenty and more of a rant, wasn’t it?