The novel release, part 163: It’s coming… this week. No, seriously, I mean it!

Ever since I finished it I just like to look at it. There’s a table of contents (all linked and prettified, which is not an easy feat, my friends), a dedication page, prologue, chapters, epilogue, afterword… believe it or not, it looks like a real novel.

And let me tell you, that’s more than a little scary. This thing is going to be out on the internets (theoretically) by the end of the week with my name on it, an open invitation for the world to look on, wonder, criticize, and maybe (hopefully) enjoy. I don’t even know what to do with myself. I have a list of links to blogs I would like to request to do interview on, and people who I would like to have review the book. The ebook is going to come out first, since of course that’s the easiest format to put together. I’m hoping that within a month or two there will be a print copy out there, if only because it’s a childhood dream of mine to hold a book in my hands which I wrote.

Yeah, it’s vanity, but I would be lying to you if I told you otherwise. There are a lot of reasons I write – a lot of decent, noble reasons. That’s kind of secondary to my baser motivations at this stage in the process, my inner child who is screaming ‘HEY LOOK AT WHAT I MADE.’ I have a feeling that there’s a little of that in any artist who disseminates their work.

I have made a few changes to this blog in preparation for the launch. There is now a “For Authors” section on some useful self-publishing resources (really, writing resources in general – I’m sure they’d be useful for those going the traditional route too). There is also an appendix and a pronunciation guide, to be used as a companion to Tragedy. The new menu of pages is my little attempt at being more professional… cause if I don’t take me seriously, I have no reason to expect you to do so. Still struggling with that part, if you haven’t noticed.

If you have questions about the process – uploading, editing, formatting, what have you – please feel free to post them! I’ll be in touch later this week, of that you can be sure. 😉

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Self-Promotion: The Hardest Part

Before I get into my ‘click here, check this out’ portion of the post, I would like to give you a token of my appreciation. Several of you have been liking these blog posts and following along – it’s not much, but it’s a start, and I appreciate each one of you. For those who are interested I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Elden, one of the lesser but still very important characters from Tragedy. Enjoy the sneak peak!

    Elden leaned his weight against the newly-stained wooden banister, looking out over the bar scene below. He swirled the tincture of fire in his glass as he watched from his perch. The establishment, while not necessarily new, was well-kept and recently repainted. Smoke and soft chatter wafted up to his quiet indoor balcony, keeping him company like an old friend. A young woman played a pleasant song her violin against the far wall, just beyond his view. Two bartenders worked in tandem behind the L-shaped bar, a handful of young people gathered around ordering drinks and talking. The tall bar tables were abandoned at the periphery – everyone wanted to be close to everyone else, except him. Solitude suited him.

     Taking a drag from the minty Covash smoke between his lips, he smiled to himself. While most of the dozen-or-so people in the room were having a good time, there was discord off to the corner of that bar between the slender, fair-haired Willow and her painfully thin summer-colored boyfriend, Douglass. Willow was on the offense again, her tree twig finger pointed squarely at Douglass’s chest while Douglass hand his hands open, his whole body curved away from her. Elden could read the cluelessness plain on Douglass’s face.

    It would have been easier to feel bad for the sap if he wasn’t the thousandth man in Vail to get tangled up with Willow. Elden made it with her for a solid week before Willow’s malicious nature drove him away. It was all well enough – the sex was good, and he only expected to get a night or two out of it at the maximum. He considered the experience overall as a win.

    Douglass, on the other hand, was never the brightest kid in Vail. He had an undying belief in one day finding a woman and having a family, even as he destroyed his body with covash and lylic. He was the last of the romantics.

    In the year since he arrived in Vail Elden had made many acquaintances, but no real friends. To even think that he might someday find a person to settle down with was preposterous. He had yet to meet a man or woman who could accept the fluid nature of his existence. Six years ago at the age of 16 he left his home in the border town of Chall to travel the world. In that time he had lived in at least a dozen different places. Each time he found a place to stay, something seemed to happen. He would save someone falling off a roof, or he would shatter the entire bar’s stock of glassware, and suddenly wherever he was living lost its hospitable charm. Surviving an entire year in Vail without incident was nothing short of miraculous.

    Elden glanced about his dark little corner, a six-foot-long space with two broken down tables and sets of chairs. Only card-players ever came up to the balcony, and even then only on third nights. No one ever bothered him when he took over the space. He tossed back the rest of his drink, distantly missing the way it used to burn his throat. Too many years of drinking the swill numbed him to the sensation. Even the energizing buzz from the tincture’s herbs barely touched him anymore; they only served to keep him sane.

    Night air blew through as the front door opened below him. At the base of the staircase to his dark, abandoned balcony was the doorway to the outside, and in the doorway stood an intriguing young woman. Her auburn hair was spun back in a bun to reveal wide cheekbones. Underneath her cloak she was dressed in the work clothes of a healer, or perhaps an engineer – he could never tell the two apart. He could visualize her curves, the kind he hadn’t ever seen on one of the local girls. She had to be either a traveler or new to the town.

    He almost yelped when she looked up at him like she could hear him thinking. Her eyes were striking – the color of new spring lilacs, with a sheen of intelligence. She screwed up her lips to one side of her face thoughtfully. As quickly as she commanded his attention she suddenly broke from it, approaching the bar to place her order.

    She maintained a forcefield-like barrier between herself and the others around her. No one came close or spoke to her. She watched them, just as he watched them. She sat there a few minutes examining the others around her before her drink arrived and she turned her attention back on him.

    His curiosity sufficiently piqued, Elden took one last puff from his light before he gripped the edge of the banister and hopped over it to the stairs below. He was not a large man, standing 5’11” with the physique of someone who clearly spent more coin on tincture than bread. His boots landed softly on the wood, calling for glances from only a handful of patrons who quickly shrugged it off. They expected such things of him anymore. Vail was getting too comfortable with his presence.

    The girl kept sidelong eyes on him, a mug of ale in her hand. Her intensity was almost a deterrent, the way she analyzed him without a word. He put on his best lazy, alluring half-grin, to make it look like he didn’t notice. Men and women instinctively moved away when he walked up beside her. It was for best, for certain; if they didn’t move, he would have had to push them. No one enjoyed that.

    Domini, the large, black-haired bartender at that side of the bar gave Elden a casual wave.

    “Need anything E?” Domini’s booming voice asked.

    Elden shook his head, strands of slightly-too-long golden brown hair brushing over his eyes. “Good here Dom.”

    The girl was amused even by his brief exchange with the bartender. She raised one eyebrow, sipping her ale delicately like she might sip tea. “Can I help you with something, then?” she asked. In her voice he could hear the hint of an accent, one he’d heard from people raised outside the cities. A country girl.

    “Might be,” said Elden. He offered a hand to her, which she shook with a light touch, her pale skin contrasting against his olive-tan hands. “You must not be from here.”

    “I’m from Alta,” she said smoothly, withdrawing the hand. With her accent it was unlikely she was from Alta, a sizable city on the Kaldari border, but it was no matter. “Came here for work.”

    “Oh yeah? What sorta work?”

    “Not the kind you’re looking for,” she said with a laugh.

    Feigning insult, Elden guffawed. “Have I said something unwelcome? I don’t think so.”

    “No, you haven’t said anything of that sort.”

    The way she responded was curious, like someone who was lying by omission. If he were looking for something serious, he would have walked away immediately. He could see that she was trouble on legs. It didn’t stop him with Willow, either.

    “You’re not in here looking to make friends, are you?” he challenged her.

    “Neither are you,” she used a grating matter-of-fact tone, “I’m an alchemist, since you really want to know.”

    “So you’re here to fix the town.”

    “Town would have to want fixing.” She look him up and down critically. “So would you.”

    “Nothing broken here, hon.” He gestured with flourish, “I’m the most put-together guy you’ll find in Vail, that’s a fact.”

    “Oh, no doubt,” She laughed at a private joke. “Where are you from?”

    “Nivenea,” he lied.

    “I spent a while there,” she said. “Nice place. Why’d you leave?”

    “That many gifted people in one place makes me nervous.” Half-truth, this time. He was gifted himself, but not in any way that people respected. His parents were gifted, too, but like most of the divinely gifted, they had a narrow definition for who did and did not fit in their world view. Elden was never able to meet that standard.

    “So what do you do here?”

    Grow covash and piss on the law. “Handy man. I do whatever people need.”

    A subtly as he could manage, he used his mind’s eye to travel the outline of her body. He pulled her towards him only by a half centimeter, gently. It was something he had done a hundred times before on other potential partners; usually the slight decrease in distance between them encouraged discussion.

    She was the first person to ever react to it directly. She jerked, pushing further away from him. His mind’s feather-touch disintegrated against any amount of her strength. The sizzle of anger was in her eyes when she looked at him.

    She couldn’t know it was him, could she? No one else ever had. Coincidence, maybe. Either way, his interest evaporated. He was hunting for deer; she was a panther.

    “Well, it’s been lovely, but I have places to be,” he winked, “Handy work and all that.”

    Before he could turn away she grabbed his wrist, her fingers locked tightly against his skin. She narrowed her eyes. “What’s your name?”

    “Elden,” he blurted unintentionally, and regretted it. Something told him that he didn’t want her to know his real name. “What’s yours?”

    “Delia.” She abruptly let go.

    An awkward pause grew between them. He didn’t know what to do with his hands or his face. After several long seconds he finally withdrew from her. He saluted Dom casually on his way to the door, walking slowly even while he wanted to bolt.

    I know what you are, an unwelcome voice intruded on his thoughts. It sounded like Delia’s voice, but she had not spoken. He physically shook himself all over to clear his brain, bewildered. He’d had hallucinations before, but rarely were they so clear.

   Maybe he needed to slow it down after all. Folks said that years of tincture could cause strange reactions in people, and he was coming up on 4 years of a bad habit. He banged the bar door open, letting the icy air filled his lungs. He didn’t look back.

Now to the shameless plug part of this post. 😉 I don’t like always doing straight-up promotion posts (and I hope that I haven’t been boring you with too many of those), but I feel like it’s worth noting that my short story Fathers and Sons has been re-uploaded with a chapter from Forsaken Lands attached to the end. If you haven’t already picked it up, it’s only $0.99 on Amazon. If you like it, please review!

On the novel front, I’ve been making some headway on Forsaken Lands 2 as well as doing more cleanup editing on Tragedy with the help of my husband. I will be uploading it to Amazon as soon as the cleanup and the cover are finished. Although I will be out of town on a job next month, I will continue my work on the editing and try to get in a blog post or two. It is my sincere hope that I can get the novel out by the end of September (if not earlier).

To those following and liking this blog, I thank you for listening. Please chime in if you want to hear more or less of what I’ve been talking about. The feminism post was pretty popular, so I might do another post like that in the near future.

Peace and long life, friends.

Do I write like a woman?

I’ll go ahead and say it since you’ll probably either find out or figure it out eventually: I consider myself a feminist. Now I’m sure I’ve lost a few of you with that statement alone, but for those of you still listening, I’d like to get a few things out there.

  • I do not hate men. In fact, I love men. The majority of my characters happen to be men, actually, which causes mixed feelings.
  • I believe in equal rights for all people – gay, lesbian, queer, straight, bisexual, transexual, extraterrestrial, lens-glare white to mahogany brown. I understand that there has on occasion been friction between the feminist community and the LGBT community, so I want to be quite clear on that point in particular.
  • I’m not looking for a fight. I’d like to believe that all of us have more in common than we have differences.
  • I define who I am. Although I believe in a lot of feminist principles and loosely categorize myself as “a feminist,” I refuse to be defined by the actions of others under the same title. Do not ask me to defend the questionable actions of others. I speak for myself, and myself alone.

Now with that all out of the way (or so I’d hope), I’d like to continue on and discuss this article (blog post?) that I read earlier today. “Michelle Rodriguez Made Me Cry at Comic Con” by Kate Conway relates Kate’s personal experiences at Comic Con, specifically a panel called “Women Who Kick Ass.” The women on the panel recounted several stories about how other males on the set treated them, at times, with a lack of respect, and how the writers seemed to have difficulty writing believable scenes for them. Maggie Q described a classic scene in which her character was performing kung fu in high heels (and anyone who has ever worn high heels will tell you that there is nothing you would rather do less than perform fast, athletic movements in heels). This kind of ridiculous scene is rampant in all manner of fantasy and science fiction.

Tangent: Seriously guys, why in the world would someone as “efficient” as Seven of Nine wear something as frivolous as high heels and a catsuit? As minor and somewhat irrelevant as it is, that kind of thing has always bugged me. Fortunately Joss Whedon and whoever he works with proved that women do not have to be seen in only fancy shoes and tight-fitting outfits by choosing reasonable clothing/shoes for the characters in Firefly.

Digressions aside, the following quote from Kate Conway’s article inspired this post…

In that moment, though, I didn’t know any of that. As the moderator started wrapping things up, apologizing for having to leave “right as things were getting good,” Michelle leaned forward to her mic again.

“We gotta start writing,” she said again. She meant women. “Writing, and directing, and producing the kind of content we want to see. Because otherwise, nothing’s gonna change.”

I’ve seen this kind of sentiment expressed a lot lately amongst the growing subset of feminist nerds on the internet. Anita Sarkeesian is perhaps one of the most high-profile feminist nerds, and she frequently brings up topics which either directly or indirectly lead to the conclusion that the media at large needs more fictional women as lead roles/main characters/playable avatars, and more real-world women in creatively powerful positions. These assertions are surprisingly controversial, and Anita, among other public feminist nerds, has faced a pretty severe backlash as a result.

On the writing side of things, close to half of all fantasy titles are written by women according to Slate’s Alex Heimbach, while only about 1/4 of science fiction authors are female.  The more equitable distribution of women writers in fantasy is certainly something to be happy about, and it’s equally pleasing that many of the most successful fantasy writers of the last couple decades have been women (hello, J.K. Rowling). Unfortunately, most of the data will show that there is still a disparity in female representation in general media, particularly when you look at Hollywood writers and female characters. This infographic pretty much speaks for itself:

I’ve been reading feminist philosophy, data and what have you for a long time – I’ve done enough research to firmly establish my opinion that yes, we do need more strong female characters and yes, we do need more women with creative power (and more trans* and non-binary people, for that matter). I’m not saying we should stifle the creativity of males, but merely the position that it would be good for women and people in general if we were better represented both in print and in films. Women in the United States and in many countries all over the world still face a culture which is silently permissive of rape, perpetuates a substantial wage gap (especially if you are both female and a minority), and attacks our reproductive health choices. Portraying strong and capable women in media is one way to push society towards a world where women are viewed with complete parity to their male counterparts.

Ever since I started this journey towards actually publishing works of fiction I’ve had to evaluate my own work from a different perspective. If I’m going to stand up for my beliefs and “be the change,” as it were, it would make sense for me to put a little thought into what kind of change I hope to represent. One conversation in particular brought me to this realization.

Several years ago during an interview for a scholarly position, one of my interviewers noted that I listed “writing” as a hobby. She proceeded to ask me about what I write, so I told her: I was, at the time, working on a novel about a girl named Zikaly –

“Do you always write stories with heroines?” my interviewer interrupted excitedly.

The question caught me off-guard. It seemed a strange thing to ask – almost every story I’ve ever written has included a woman as one of the primary perspectives. It had always been my natural instinct to first write from a comfortable perspective (in this case, a female one) and add on more ambitious perspectives as the story progresses. My characters tended to (and still do) evolve pretty organically, regardless of gender. Gender was something that I typically assigned on reflex, with no conscious intent. It wasn’t until this interview that I realized that these seemingly small creative choices could potentially make a profound impression on my prospective readers.

The way that I approach gender, race and sexuality in my writing has been changing since that encounter as I’ve started to accept that someone else might read what I’ve written. With Tragedy more than any other story, I’ve tried to be as gender- and race-inclusive as I can. I will be the first to admit that I fail at those goals in many ways. My two main characters are pretty light-skinned (though I do describe Teveres as “honey-skinned” because my gods he is delicious). Most of my POV characters, and really most of my characters as a whole, are male. I do have a gay man and a bisexual man in the story, though they are not usually in the spotlight. It might be hubris that I believe I am decent at writing about other genders – and maybe hubris again that I think I can write well for women when I, like so many others, fall into many of the creative traps that are all around me in the media.

All of this leads to my question, and the title of this post: Do I write like a woman? Does my gender make my perspective as an author somehow different from my male counterparts? I’m not sure. I can’t read my book the way you can; what I’ve written will never be new to me. I do know one thing for certain – none of my characters, male or female, will ever willingly enter a fight wearing heels.

An author, or something like one

“Author” is a title I always associated with something very official. An author, well, they publish. Once I would have said that they necessarily have published through a traditional publishing house, but I can’t say that anymore – I view Lindsay Buroker and other authors like her as “official” authors. They create work that someone reads… you know, someone other than their friends and family. They’re professionals.

I can say that indeed, someone other than friends and family has read and liked my work. Am I a professional? I don’t know, to be honest. I am a professional in the medical field, but in writing… I guess if professional is someone who stays up to all hours in her nightclothes writing on her laptop from an unhealthy posture, then sure. I could be persuaded to be a professional. And finally, yes, I’ve published. As of July 25th, 2014 I am a published… author?

Am I an author now?

According to Webster, I might be.

Definition of AUTHOR

a : one that originates or creates : source <software authors> <film authors> <the author of this crime>b capitalized : god 1

: the writer of a literary work (as a book)
I don’t know how I feel about branding myself an “author,” alongside all the artists whose work I have read and respected over the years. I’m not sure I’m ready to take on that mystical shroud that I’ve wanted to wear since I was 10 years old. I would, however, like to invite you to check out my short story… my first published work of fiction.
fns
“Garren has spent many years building his home in the Kaldari border town of Plen. A satisfied husband and father, he is known as one of the best scouts in all the provinces despite his identity as a half-Kaldari bastard. Although he tries to ignore the war brewing between the Kaldari and the Children of Elseth in the north, one man’s mistake brings that war to his doorstep and changes his life forever.

This short story told from Garren’s point of view is a prequel to Sydney M. Cooper’s upcoming novel, “Tragedy.” Look for “Tragedy” on Amazon Kindle later this summer.”

If you are indeed out there, theoretical reader, let me know what you think. 🙂