Resolved…Not To Make New Year Resolutions

List pic

Makin’ a list! Checkin’ it tw- Wait, no, that’s Santa…

Okay. So I broke that resolution already. But it’s not all bad! I’m gonna keep the others on the list!

Er.

Well. I’m going to try.

So what’s going on for me in the new year? So, so much. In terms of resolutions, I’ve made a new daily wordcount goal: 2000 wpd instead of 1000 wpd. If NaNoWriMo showed me anything, it’s that I can write 2000 wpd when I’m not procrastinating.

I’ve also decided that I’m not going to be buying any clothes this year. I have too many already, and if I get the urge for new clothes, I have stacks upon stacks of fabric and patterns, and a perfectly good sewing machine that I actually like using. So if I want new clothes, I’ll make ’em.

In terms of writing, I have a few things that I’m planning to do in the new year.

Firstly, I’m excited to celebrate MASQUE’s 1st birthday for the month of January (it’s actually Feb 1st, which is when the sale/giveaway/celebration will last until). In pursuance of that, MASQUE is on Wattpad, and I’m currently in the exhausting throes of making a Podiobook of it. I’ll attempt to upload a chapter per week, but I’m still scrambling audio equipment together for the attempt and making dreadful, error-laden practise recordings. Still, the first chapter of MASQUE’s Podiobook should go live this month.

Secondly, I have a busy publication schedule for this year. I’m hoping to Keep calm and make a listfinish and publish the third novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD novella. There will also be the second book in my Two Monarchies Sequence, BLACKFOOT; and if I’m very good and very quick, there might even be the third book, THE STAFF AND THE CROWN. In between those two books I’m planning on a shorter companion novella for the SHARDS series, and the second book in my TIME-TRAVELLER’S BEST FRIEND series.

Well, that’s my plan for the new year. What’s yours?

Bring it on, 2016!

(Images from Practical Glamour and Etsy)

What A Glorious Feeling!

There’s a really horrible part of writing. It’s that part, about halfway through–or even 3/4 of the way through, or right at the end–when you’re convinced that everything you write is utter drivel and it feels like there’s no saving it. The plot is hopelessly holey, the dialogue is trite and stiff, and the surrounding prose is as uninspired at a piece of toast.

We all get it. Well. get it, and I’d hate to think I’m alone in my funk, misery–as they say–loving company. For me, this time, it hit like a sledgehammer right at the end of FIRE IN THE BLOOD. I didn’t even want to edit it. TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was so quick and easy to write, and it felt like FITB was one drag after another–problems with characters, problems with plot-holes, etc. Most of ’em I fixed as I went, but it left me feeling raw and uncertain about the whole novella. Especially since I preset a publication date on FITB before it was finished (December 25th, in case you’re wondering).

That was then.

Now?

This is me now:

giphy

What makes the difference, you ask?

Well, mostly I think it’s mental. As in, I’m mental, inclined to worry, and unnecessarily complicate things by obsessing over them. Also, a little while ago I finished first edits of FITB (with two quicker rounds to go). Not only did I fix the remaining, tiny (much tinier than I remembered) plot-holes, but I found that the whole thing was about twenty times better than I remembered it being. The dialogue was everything I wanted it to be, the story progressed so much more smoothly than I remembered, and it was all in all a much better novella than I thought it was. So I polished it some more and then went and watched The Marriage Of Figaro on Youtube.

All that wasted worry! I could have spent that on something else!

Shhhhh! Be Vewwy, Vewwy Quiet! It’s NaNoWriMo!

It’s NaNoWriMo (as if you haven’t already figured that out). And this being not only week two, but the first day of my week off from work, I’m at a little over 4000 words for the day of a proposed 6000.

So, no real blog post for you guys this week, except to share the meme me Ma made me. Ain’t she grand?!

I honestly don’t think I can ever love this meme enough. Enjoy. Sucker.

BA Baracus

Adventures In Reviewing: To Review Or Not To Review….

If there’s anything a writer understands, it’s another writer’s search for reviews. We need them. We need them to propel sales, we need them to garner interest around the book blogosphere, and if we ever hope to enter the hallowed halls of Bookbub-advertised authors, they are indispensable.

That being so, when someone suggested that I join a non-reciprocal review group on Goodreads (non-reciprocal meaning that authors strictly don’t review authors who have reviewed them), I thought it was a great idea. I mean, it was foolproof! No-one could be accused of the kind of I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine kind of review, and all the reviews would be fair and unbiased. And there would be, yanno, reviews.

So I joined a non-reciprocal review group, eager to see who I’d come into contact with, and ready to review the books of others. I knew there was a chance that people wouldn’t like my book and would rate it low (after all, that’s the chance we all take), but I was feeling good about the whole thing. I’d even been able to find a ‘clean’ round within the review group. No sex scenes to watch out for, and nothing I wouldn’t really like to read. I couldn’t go wrong!

Then I got my randomly-assigned read-to-review books, and had my first unpleasant moment. It hadn’t really occurred to me in the lead-up to signing up with the review group that I might end up with any really badly-written books. Unfortunately, I did. Oh boy, was it a doozy! No plot, dreadful writing, unbelievable and cardboard characters, and a level of political hackery that made the entire books seem like a fantasy manifesto of what politics should be like. That was reckoning without the grammatical errors, wrong and missing punctuation, and wrong homonyms. I read it through and took notes anyway, growing more and more anxious about having to review it. It wasn’t even up to a standard of three stars, and I hated to think that I was going to have to give another author less than three stars. Much to my joy, the next book was much better, and my third, although I was conflicted about it and found a little to criticise in it, was very well written.

My second unpleasant moment was when, having read three of the four assigned books in three days, the moderator of the group very sweetly and cleverly insinuated that both I and another member hadn’t really read the books. I was taken aback and more than a little sickened at the veiled accusation. Surely we were all readers as well as writers? In my mind, there is no lover of books who can’t read at least one book a day when in the mood. When I’m in the reading mood, I read anywhere from 1-3 books per day. I pointed out to the mod that two of the books had been very short, and tried to put the nastiness out of my mind. I already had the impression that this wasn’t the group for me, and that the unpleasantness of such a group made the possible profits not worthwhile. I was soon to be proved quite right.

In the end, I gave the dreadful book two stars (and thought it generous). Since it didn’t seem fair to give a fellow author’s book such a low rating without justifying it, I went into some detail with my review. After all, it had already been suggested that I hadn’t read the books, and I wanted to make sure that I couldn’t be accused of that again. Feeling sick and anxious about the whole thing, I uploaded the review to the required sites.

I woke up the next morning to find a message in my Goodread inbox. You can insert your choice of dum dum daaaaaah! music here. The author had seen my review, had taken exception to it, and was demanding that I start a dialogue with him about the thing he found most offensive about my review. It was also suggested, though not outright said, that I should be changing my review. To make a long, nasty story quite a bit shorter, I replied, indicating that I wouldn’t be changing my review, stating my reasons for giving the review I had given, and closing with a gentle reminder that it wasn’t professional to harass a reviewer for their review. The author sent back a shorter, nastier message, and contacted the moderator.

I then had the joy of receiving a message from the moderator that accused me of personally attacking the author in my review (amongst other things) and suggesting that I would be happier in another review group. By this time I was regretting that I’d ever taken the advice of joining a non-reciprocal review group. It was also at this point that I began to think that non-reciprocal reviews, earned in such a manner, weren’t exactly non-reciprocal. If every author going into this group was going into it with the attitude that they had to be kind and careful in their reviews, and expected the same in return regardless of the quality of the book, how was that different from reviewing the author who was reviewing you? They would feel constrained to review in a certain way, and with a certain amount of stars–thus making the review essentially reciprocal.
I had begun to feel exceedingly squicky about the whole thing: almost as if I’d bought and paid for reviews. And though a second message from the moderator indicated that they had spoken to the author about the inappropriateness of not contacting reviewers, I was still left with a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Fortunately, as with all things in life, every cloud has a silver lining and two lovely things have come out of the experience. I’ve met Loralee Evans, who was honest and truthful in her reviews, and who helped me out with invaluably sensible advice when I didn’t know what to do. (She’s also recently guest-posted for me: check it out!)
The other thing that made me exceedingly happy was meeting Dan Buri, whose book I was very conflicted about and rated 3 stars. He was a gentleman about it from start to finish, and never harassed or pressured me to change my review, though I know from experience that getting a lower-starred review isn’t at all pleasant. He was such a breath of fresh air after the nastiness with the other author.

Will I ever join another non-reciprocal review group? Heck no. It’s not my thing, and I hate the horrible feeling when I have to rate a book lower than I’d like to be rated myself. But the experience wasn’t all bad, and for those strong people who go into it with the determination of being truthful and accepting truth in return, it’s both useful and honourable.

In the end, as an author, it’s all up to you. To review, or not to review?

NaNOOOOOOOOO! Why did I do it?!?

I must be crazy. I did it. I actually signed up. I was gonna DO it, of course; just from the comfort of my own computer and no tallies and accountability and stuff. I wasn’t going to bother with making it official. Then I got excited and sort of accidentally signed up.

I’m talking about NaNoWriMo, of course. I went and signed up to the official site (come and see me and be my writing buddy–WRGingell is my Buddy Name); title and everything. Soon there’ll even be a cover for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, my NaNoWriMo novella.

NaNoWriMoFace

MY FACE WHEN I REALISED WHAT I’D LET MYSELF IN FOR…

I did all this before it occurred to me that I would be at the stage of editing FIRE IN THE BLOOD at the same time as writing my NaNoWriMo novella…
It helps that they’re in the same trilogy (2nd and 3rd, respectively), but I’m still trying to tell myself, like Jones from Dad’s Army, “DON’T PANIC! DON’T PANIC!”

I’ll most likely end up in a frothing, quivering heap by the end of the month, but what’s that between friends? It’s all good fun, and let’s face it, I only have to write 1667 words per day. I’ve been routinely doing more than that each day for the last month or two. There’s absolutely no need to panic.

But what would a writer be without a side-serving of worry, eh?

Oh No! It’s NaNoWriMo!

Well, it’s that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is coming up fast (National Novel Writing Month, for those not in the know) and everyone is talking about prepping for their November novel. This will be the first year I’ve participated, and while I don’t think I’ll go so far as to actually sign up to anything, I’ll certainly give it a shot. In my case it’s a little easier: I’m prepping for the second novella in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy, and at 40,000 words it’s hardly a full length novel. So I’ve got a head start already! (And if I finish that novella this month, as I fully anticipate doing; well, there’s always the third one to write during November!)

Prepping steps:

  1. Cover. Already done! I know, I know, it’s not writing, but I like to go gloat over it every now and then. It bolsters me. And it’s so flamin’ pretty!
  2. Outlining. I do not outline. Never. Ever. Except with this novella trilogy. I tried it out as an experiment for TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, and it worked out so well that I’m going to do the same with the second and third novellas in the trilogy. I didn’t stick to it exactly (I used a few different methods of murder than I’d planned, along with other small differences) but it made things so easy that I’ve had to do very little in the way of structural edits. It helps that the novellas are only a third of the length of what I usually write.
  3. Stickers. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. My stickers are utterly, totally necessary. I get one sticker on the calendar for every 500 words I write. In fact, I’ve had to order MORE stickers because I went through so many, so quickly with the first novella. I love looking at the day’s box and finding it absolutely stuffed with glittering gold stars. They’re even more effective than chocolates for bribing myself.
  4. Beaut Beta Readers. I seriously have the best beta readers. I also have the best alpha reader. Okay, so my alpha reader is my sister. But she doesn’t let me get away with mistakes, and she points out REALLY useful stuff. Not to mention finding all my spelling mistakes and missed punctuation. Lately, she’s also been able to point out when sentences are too long/convoluted/confusing. It’s wonderful! And she has to do it cos I’m her sis. Win/win! My beta readers are the other members of my exclusive cough*small*cough writing group. They help out with stuff like weird comma placement, bad word choices, and character development. (Plus so much weird conversation when none of us feel like writing). I may not always agree with them or take all their suggestions, but they’re an integral part of my process. It would be a huge mistake to run any kind of project, NaNoWriMo or otherwise, without planning on edits, feedback, and revisions.

Well, that’s my planning. What have I missed? What do you guys do? And who else is planning on taking advantage of NaNoWriMo?

1P.S: TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first novella, is currently available at the Amazon store on a Preorder Sale for 99c! It’ll be out October 30th, and will go up to $1.99 thereafter, so get it while it’s cheap!

The Editing Blues

I’ve been writing poetry again. YOU’RE WELCOME.

The Editing Blues

It’s editing time again
-what a lark!
I’ve mounds of paper to spare!
Print out the MS
-a walk in the park!
The paper has jammed- but where??

My hot pink editing pen
-oh so bright!
Has caught out that, and and but
Echoes of repeated words
-what a plight!
I’m certain I’ll have to cut

that beautiful, deathless prose
-what a bore!
Surely I’ve started to bleed!
There must be an easier way
-or four
to make this book fit to read!

Now it’s a badly formed sentence
boo hiss
I didn’t write that, I swear!
That ‘humorous’ dialogue?
-hit and miss
And shouldn’t that pair be pare?

Markups in hot pink
-all over the page!
I think there’s more pink than black!
My back is a wreck
-I’m sure that I’ve aged
And likely started to crack.

But there’s tea for the weary
-ah, what joy!
And doughnuts allay the stress
as my poor typing fingers
-I employ
To lay the edits to rest.

It’s not like that’s all there’s to do
-that pink
But it’s a milestone, yanno?
The changes are added to file
-just think!
‘Only’ the proofing to go!
(oh no!)

Have Pen, Will Edit

Have Pen, Will Edit

I’m Coming Out…

(Though probably not in the way you think.)

It’s come to my attention (especially lately, with the dust-up at the Hugo Awards) that if a person doesn’t fall in line with a certain set of beliefs and -isms, and isn’t aligned with a certain political and social worldview, that such a person will never be accepted into the mainstream of SFF writers. That’s okay. I write what I write because I love writing it, and there are enough other like-minded people around to find the sort of thing I like to read, as well. I don’t write to meet certain set amounts of POC in a book, or to advance a social/political belief, or to fight for gender equality. I don’t like being preached at through books I read, and I don’t intend to preach at my readers.

woman-closet

This particular idea was strengthened in the last few days. Over the weekend a thread cropped up on one of the blogs I like to visit. The question was (paraphrased): What makes you stop reading a book? How long do you give a book before you give up on it?

It was a question that interested me, and so of course I commented. In my comment I listed several things that would make me stop reading a book: sex scenes, rape scenes, bestiality, graphic torture, and homosexual themes. I went on to add that I would also stop reading if I didn’t connect with the characters, and mentioned that I would also stop reading a book if there was continual profanity. I wasn’t making a statement of what I believed, or of what I thought was right and wrong. I was simply stating what I didn’t read.

Do you want to take a guess as to whether someone replied to me? And as to what they said?

If you guessed that they did, and that the gist of their comment was that they had decided I was equating torture and rape with homosexuality, and that they were offended by their own inference, you would be right.

In vain did I point out that I had never equated them with each other, that sex scenes and characters I didn’t identify with were also on the list (was I also equating them with rape and torture? Spoilers: no) and that these were my own personal preferences as to what I did or did not read. A few of the commenters were simply determined to be offended. In which case I reckon they must be offended at the dictionary, too, since it also lists homosexuality along with some other nasty words and ideas. There seems to be an idea that if you don’t agree with what a person does or doesn’t support, that you can ‘call them out’ to tell them how offended you are, how unkind or bigoted they are, and how they need to be more careful in what they say.

So I’m coming out. 

I don’t agree with homosexuality. I won’t write about it, or (in almost every case) read about it. I won’t promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with abortion. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with misogynism. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong. Also, I find it highly annoying.

If you’re not going to read the books I write because of that; well, that’s your right. Just like it’s my right to read and write what want to read and write. I won’t be silenced in my convictions, and by God’s grace I’m not going to be bullied into being too scared to speak what I think is right. If that means that some people (or even a lot of people) won’t read my books and feel that they have to call me various names; well, that’s their right. It’s a free world after all.

And I’m free to act upon my own convictions, too. If you’re lesbian/bi-sexual/gay/trans; if you’ve had an abortion; if you’re a misogynist– I don’t hate you. I do have a different moral system, and it’s not going to agree with yours.

It helps if people remember that. And it helps if we all decide not to be instantly offended by everyone who doesn’t agree with us (especially if you’re reading values into simple statements of preference). Fortunately I have quite a few family members and friends who identify as lesbian/bi-sexual/et al, and are always willing to have open discussions with me. They don’t love me any less for my beliefs, and I don’t love them any less for theirs. We certainly don’t agree with what is right and wrong, but none of us are closed minded enough to say that the other isn’t allowed to have their point of view.

The internet is not the same. Fair enough. But I don’t try to tell others what to read or write, so don’t expect me to change my beliefs to suit you, either. Whether I make a living at writing or only ever manage to keep it as a side-job, I want to honour God; and I can’t do that if I’m too afraid to stand up for what I think is right.

If you want a reason to label me, to refuse to read my books, to call me names, I’ve listed some for your convenience. Choose any or all of the above. And for my writer friends, whom I have loved ‘meeting’ as I began to publish, and who may or may not agree with me: some of you write stuff I don’t like to read, but I’d have to be daft to say that you’re bad writers because of it. Most of you are brilliant writers, some of whom simply write things I don’t always read.

Also, no hard feelings if you feel that you no longer want to interact/follow/’like’/talk to me. These can be divisive issues, and many publishers don’t like their authors to associate with ‘my kind’ of person just in case mud, doing what mud does best, sticks.

You Are What You Eat Read

At the Day Job I meet a lot of interesting people. And by interesting I mean people who have punchups at the service desk, entitled crusties who bring 60+ items through the 15 or less counter while berating anyone who dares to tell them they can’t do it, and that bloke who always comes in with striped thermals under his  knee-length shorts. (Seriously, I love that bloke. I get a kick out of seeing what colour stripes he’ll be rocking each time).

Then, of course, there are the ones who are interesting for a different reason. Quite often as I’m putting a customer’s groceries through, it’ll come out in the conversation that I’m a writer. The conversation then usually veers in one of three directions.

  1. Customer is VERY interested, and wants to know what sort of thing I write. When told that I write YA and NA Fantasy (most particularly rewritten fairytales) they ask to know my name so they can look me up. They are thereupon given my card.
  2. Customer is interested, and confesses to reading quite a lot, but not usually fantasy/YA etc. Depending on whether or not they are also interested in blogging/self-publishing/etc, I may or may not hand out a card.
  3. Customer wishes to tell me ALL THE WISDOM and let me know exactly how I should be writing, what I should read to be successful, and that I should give them my phone number so they can encourage/mentor/teach me the ways of life. (None of these so far have actually been writers, just rather pompous but kind-hearted individuals who genuinely seem to care about my growth). They make me want to back away slowly, but mean no harm. I try to avoid giving them my card.

This afternoon I had one of the less off-putting interesting ones. We had quite an interesting chat about The Classics (which he wanted to know if I had read, and was kind enough to approve when I said that I had— well, some, anyway). He then wished to know which classic authors I enjoyed. Of course, I mentioned Austen, Dumas, Scott et al, which he seemed mildly pleased about. I was on the right track, he said. We then moved on to Shakespeare, where we had slightly differing views on his tragedies (I find them highly amusing, and full of rich themes like hope and love and forgiveness).

Then he asked if I had read Kafka, Dostoyevsky (yes, I had to Google it to find out how Fyodor_Mikhailovich_Dostoyevsky_1876to spell it) and a few others that I either didn’t recognise or found vaguely familiar but was uncertain of their body of work. When I confessed my ignorance, he smiled kindly and said that I was going in the right direction, but that I should broaden my horizons. I agreed generally, but said that some of the classic authors I didn’t enjoy at all; to which he replied that reading them wasn’t about pleasure, it was about broadening the mind. Sometimes, he said, you have to force yourself through them: they’re heavy going, but worth it in the search for illumination (my paraphrasing here).

That got me thinking. As a writer, everything I read has an effect on me, even things that I really dislike. In one way or another, every book I’ve read has contributed to my ability as a writer, even if that contribution was how not to write. Sometimes I’ll dislike a set of characters and love a setting. Sometimes I’ll greatly admire a plot and dislike everything else about the book. Sometimes I’ll just hate a book so much that I can only think of how I would have written it AND NOT RUINED IT. In one sense, therefore, reading for the sake of broadening my mind and my skill isn’t to be lightly dismissed.

I do not, however, tend to continue reading things I don’t like. I don’t read just for the sake of broadening my mind. I read for pleasure. (With the exception of Christian authors like Sibbes, Spurgeon, Goldsworthy and others, whom I read both for pleasure and instruction). I’m not even sure that I should read merely for the purpose of broadening my mind. If there’s no love for what I’m reading, why bother? Even when I read biographies and autobiographies, I read because I’m interested in the person, and thus could still be said to be reading for pleasure. I’ve gotten past the age where I feel that I have to be able to proudly proclaim that I’ve read this great author or that famous poet: I feel quite happy in proclaiming that I read for pleasure.

Will I read Kafka and Dostoyevsky? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. But I’m pretty certain it’s going to be because I want to, and not because I should.

In Appreciation Of The Significant Other

There’s a point at which, as writers, we find ourselves sitting on the floor and sobbing hysterically.

You think I mean metaphorically.

I don’t.

We’re a weird, piebald mix, writers. We’re thin-skinned, delusional, always-hopeful, always-despairing; a quivering, mushy bundle of nerves and irrational fears; more than slightly mad and almost invariably difficult to live with. We ride highs and lows like the worst addicts out there, exulting with each small success and crushed by each small failure or setback.

We sit on the floor sobbing over something that a night’s rest would show us is not the end of the world. We’re convinced at every review that doesn’t positively praise our book to the skies that we’re the worst excuse for writers that ever lived. Five minutes later we’re at it again, writing furiously and certain that we’re gonna be famous soon, because this book is THE BEST BOOK EVER. Then when editing time comes around again we know we can’t write for peanuts, and the whole cycle starts again.

Part of this is good. If we weren’t so thin-skinned we wouldn’t be much good at writing: there’s a necessity to feel and anguish and exult, to know what it feels like, what it tastes like, what it is to be all these things. In one form or another, it all goes into our writing; and if we’re VERY good, our readers feel those things with us.

But it doesn’t make us terribly easy to live with. If we’re not crashing, we’re exulting. We’re usually talking about ourselves, or our books. We’re horribly self-centered and self-absorbed.

(Or, yanno, that could just be me).

So I want to take a moment of appreciation for my significant other, The Hubby. He’s wonderful, and sweet, and can be so very patient with my vagaries and self-absorption. He doesn’t read my books, but he’s as proud as can be and supports me in all the important ways.

Cheers to all the Significant Others out there. We love you. We’re thankful for you, even when we forget to say so.