Progeny Has Launched!!

Epitome Press

“Dr. Brant winked at her and leaned in to speak sotto voce. “I’m going to see about extending this project as long as possible, Theresa…Theresa, right? I hope you don’t mind if I call you Theresa. Just between you and me, I think the AUC project is just fascinating.” He laughed, his proximity grating on her nerves, which were already worn thinner than electrical wires chewed down by rodents. “—–Progeny

“Once the smile found purchase on her face and within her heart the laughter broke free as well, filling the room. She drew her knees up as she sat, still laughing, she wiped the moisture from the corners of her eyes and turned her gaze to what she held in her hands.

A husband, a wife, children. The light let in through the fluttering drapes illuminated the image and played across the words written below it. Emily stood, brows furrowed…

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Publishing Your Novel: Selfish of Selfless


I’ve been feeling guilty for working on my own novel and finally beginning the last steps of publication. Not only has it been wreaking havoc on my mood but it has slowed me down a number of times. But why feel guilty?

Well, I believe it comes from an inner feeling that I must first serve others before myself and if there is a need I must fill it. Coupled with that I am mother to four children and any time I spend on other pursuits I am not spending on them. I have therefore, published a number of my husband’s books while setting mine aside and I have grown and birthed two more children since I began writing.

I can’t not write. The stories come and I grow restless if I hold them in, but somewhere in the back of my mind my art has been deemed frivolous and selfish….

The question I must pose now is, “Is that accurate and fair?

So this is where I call up my actual beliefs based on logic and my current mindset to answer a question that my ingrained but deeply buried beliefs are trying to answer for me.

Is it selfish to give my time to my art? In a sense, yes. It is selfish and it is also a very good thing to be just the right amount of selfish. Especially for a mother. Firstly, I matter as an individual and my happiness is worthwhile. This is my one life and I deserve self-love and self-care. We all do!

And secondly, as a fellow artist who happens to be my multi-talented little brother pointed out, my children will learn to follow their passions and achieve their own goals if they see me doing it. What role will they expect the women in their lives to fulfill if their mother relegates herself to only servitude? Friend, wife, co-worker, boss, or servant?

While it may in some ways be a selfish act to devote time to ones own endeavors, it is also innately selfless due to the nature of art.

Art is by nature an act of sharing, it is exression–an open invitation to the rest of the world to experience, learn, grow, laugh, cry, and share again.

Art cannot be selfish; to keep it from the world is therefore a selfish act. So by all means, find balance, but make time to selfishlessly devote yourself to the selfless act of creation. You deserve that and so does the world.

Sci-fi Misogyny

I’ve known about the misogyny rampant in the realm of writing for quite some time as most of us likely have, after all, that is one reason some authors (Ahem! No pointing fingers!) choose pseudonyms that are gender neutral. Still, I was a bit surprised today when I found this gem in the comments of a blogpost by Joel Cunningham on the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy blog.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/the-best-new-science-fiction-fantasy-books-of-the-year-so-far/

 

seriously-misogynistic-comment

“Before you can have best science fiction, you have to have good science fiction, which we don’t. The death of Arthur C. Clark put an end to good science fiction. It’s cute women continue to try to write science fiction but their attempts is like a dog dancing on its hind legs: its not a matter that they do it well. The wonder is that they do it at all.”

 

Well, clearly our friend Chuck is not a writer because if he is I certainly hope he pays his editor well. He pretty much kills the attempt at cleverness with his lack of subject verb agreement and his flagrant disrespect of punctuation.

I must say I’ve read this a few times to try and discern meaning but really it’s just an attempt to cleverly convey that women can’t write science fiction, and therefore, shouldn’t try. It would be interesting to hear a discussion of the differences between varying sci-fi authors that may or may not be affected by gender or sex.

It would also be worthwhile to discuss the merits of hard sci-fi versus soft sci-fi but instead the author of this comment appears to be throwing a temper tantrum of sorts, “Women are ruining my sci-fi!”adult-temper-tantrums

While I could respect some intelligent discourse on why Chuck doesn’t like female sci-fi authors, I cannot respect the view that if one personally dislikes something it has no value or that women need to stay out of certain fields or genres. It is 2016, right?! Or is it 1916? I have been wondering lately…

I can’t be certain what possessed Chuck to comment in such a way but my working theory is that it was because one of the novels listed contains the word “Feminist” in the title. Or could Chuck’s outrage stem from the number of female writers featured in the article. On first glance-I can’t tell definitively by just names- the list appears to have six female authors out of the fifteen featured. Is six too many? Hmmm…how many female authors does it take to enrage misogynists enough to elicit such a comment?

Unfortunately, where there are feminists one will also find terrified misogynists fighting back as if equality was a turf war, or in this case, a tussle over the largest half of the covers, where not only do you bite your lover’s fingers to get them to let go, but to win you must kick your bed-fellow onto the cold, hard, floor boards for the night.

If you were the cause of this particular misogynistic temper-tantrum, then I salute you Kameron Hurley!! I was already going to read The Geek Feminist, but now I’ll be reading it with pride, along with your whole blog!

http://www.kameronhurley.com/blog/

The Geek Feminist Revolution, by Kameron Hurley
Kameron Hurley won the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2014 for her incendiary post “We Have Always Fought,” a furious analysis and indictment of the way women have been ill-t9780765386243reated by fantasy tropes. This collection, her first, presents that essential commentary of work alongside a host of essays examining women and geek culture, most of which were first published on her blog, through nine new pieces are exclusive to the book. It’s a challenging, incendiary assembly, covering her tumultuous career as an author and presen
ting a scathing look at the culture wars ongoing within the geek world. It may change the way you look at sci-fi, fantasy, and fandom forever.”

 

 

So, what do you think my reader friends, should women stay out of Sci-Fi and other “male-dominated” genres? Or do you agree with Jason P Crawford who stated, “There are very few things (most)women can’t do. Pretty much just some things having to do with semen, like making it. That’s pretty much it.”

 

Untangling Editing With Numerous Plot Threads

Sometimes editing can be straightforward. You read, insert dropped commas and perfect word choice, make sure time doesn’t pass backwards(unless its supposed to), and check for repetitive actions to make sure the main character doesn’t finish the same drink twice in one scene.

Doesn’t sound so complicated, right? But what about those novels with ten to twenty important characters,trident-gum-all-tangled-up-600-46814

each with their own plot threads, those sprawling epics of the novel world with prequels and sequels to consider as well? How on Earth are we supposed to know if everything has linked up properly, and catch and correct any dropped or tangled plot threads?

There are likely a number of methods that could work, but seeing as how I don’t plot while I write – instead flying by the seat of my broomstick – I had to devise something that would work for me.

Step 1. Read the novel and make basic notes of your impressions without changing anything except for the little edits like basic grammar and punctuation.

Step 2. Read and outline in this format:

Chapter 1 Page 1-18.5 (18 pages)

scene1—Genesis and contact discuss her choices/verbal sparring

scene2—colony meeting hall election talk/Captain reluctant to run again

scene3—Theresa and Em talk about Abby, David charms Abby with flowers,Em headache,Carla etc discuss viability ratings

scene4— David Questions G about staring and avoiding him

etc.

When making the outline, include every scene in each chapter with a short phrase to indicate each plot thread and main character included. Give enough info to jog your memory when you read it.

Step 3. After finishing the outline use your notes to find problem threads, and the outline to find each place in the book where the threads pop up. Pick a problem plot thread and read the scenes containing just one thread in sequence to see if they match up or not. This makes it clear what needs added, deleted, or altered to properly address that one thread.

Step 4. Go through and read and edit each thread using the outline as a map.

So far this process has helped me feel less daunted by the monumental task of editing my sequel, allowing me to streamline several plot threads. Now its time to get my novel into the hands of my alpha reader!

Backup or Beware

  In the dark of night, lit only by the colored glow of our pine exuding Christmas tree, with the not-so-gentle snores of my husband beside me, I opened up my laptop to do a quick bit of research.

I was looking for something about dolphin attended births or some such obscure topic if I remember correctly.

Instead of my cheerful ocean themed screen, I was greeted by the ominous black eye of a blank and silent screen. It wasn’t asleep and it didn’t respond to being plugged in or restarted. 

Holy crap.

Several attempted restarts and a few phone internet searches later it became clear that my hard drive was having major problems.

Not great, but not catastrophic as long as all my work was backed up. 

But that was just it, I hadn’t backed up in quite some time and my work in progress was teetering over the edge of a black abyss before my bleary eyes.

There followed a couple days of terror as I confirmed with Apple what the problem was and priced data retrieval(OMG!) 

Only by a happenstance ray of sunshine be it blessing or good luck did I rescue my novels when my computer winked on for a few minutes while at Best Buy. 

I flashed in a flash and all was well aside from my MAC needing repair.

In this digital age we all know how important it is to back up in at least one way, preferably several, but somehow there are times when we let it slide and then skate by unscathed but warned or suffer the loss of irreplaceable photos or original artwork.

I have learned my lesson from this recent experience and will no longer  trip casually along, trusting my fate to the reliability of my computer. Indeed, I’m now backing up frequently in three ways, E-mail, flash drive, and I-cloud. If you aren’t doing so yet, I recommend you learn from my irresponsibility and back up as often as possible!

Why YA or How Clean is too clean?

  I was going to do a scheduled blog on Sunday but this morning all my filters broke and I caught this topic slamming around the confines of my skull and trying to burn it’s way through. I opened my mouth and it tumbled out hissing, steaming as it hit my tongue. 

So reader beware, I’m shooting from the hip this morning and my target is the YA genre. 

First off, I am pleased that there is literature aimed at young adults that deals with topics they can relate to readily. When I was a child I did enjoy stories that featured children. As a teen I liked teen leads in novels and now topics like childbirth and mothering grab more of my attention. 

So what’s my beef with YA? First let me give a quick disclaimer. I am not criticizing YA readers or writers. Read what thrills you, write what you are moved to write! I respect that completely. So my perspective on the YA phenomenon is just food for thought. Maybe you’ll find something of value here to apply to your writing or your book choice and maybe not. 

Here goes…as it stands YA reads as a movement to do three things: cater topics to readers, sanitize reading material for youths, and lower the vocabulary and complexity of writing style to cater to reading experience. It’s these last two that so deeply concern me.

Sanitizing our young adults reading material is just bullshit. Yep, bullshit. Not only do you lose colorful language and sex scenes when you clean up a book for young readers but you lose depth of experience. You lose serious topics, You lose reality. I started reading Stephan king, frank Yerby, Steinbeck, and Taylor Caldwell when I was about nine. Not only did it open up my mind to whole new words and show me in no uncertain terms that reading was much more exciting than cartoon overload, but it opened up my heart to the humanity and experiences of people. Real people. 

Research indicates(google it my friends) that reading develops empathy in children. Agreed, it did it for me and I recall chucking The Dahomian by Frank Yerby across the room when I was thirteen and weeping. Too much for thirteen? I beg to differ. I will never forget the brutal truth of slavery and the importance of seeing the humanity of a person regardless of the differences between us. I feel a connection to racial struggles on a level that is deep, raw, and authentic. And this is just from one book. I have lived through hundreds. 

So the question is, how “clean” do we want our children’s eduction in empathy to be? What do we want them ready for, gentle fantasies with snuggly puppies that never bite and unicorns with blunted horns? Should we be sanitizing away the opportunity for personal growth through the lived experience of reading real life?

My second concern is the catering of YA vocabulary and complexity of writing style to serve readers that are inexperienced. Hmmmmm…..Grammar and punctuation in school was pretty dull for me and it still is for many children. It is well recognized at this point that education is best assimilated when offered through application. So for math we talk about collecting, losing, or categorizing seashells, for example. 

For the written word we….read!! We read!! Our children’s ability to craft words, understand and use a large vocabulary and follow and understand complex sentence construction will improve if we trust them to learn by reading for pleasure. But here is the key: this can’t happen if we edit, sanitize and write-down to a lower level of skill!

So what do you think? Are we doing our youth a disservice with YA that is too sanitizatized or is the caution we are showing necessary and not an act of overprotection?

The Roll of Routine in Writing or When Moving Kills Your Mojo

  
 I took a number of things for granted while writing my first novel that I am now quite suddenly lacking for the second book. In fact, I took them so much for granted that I didn’t become cognizant of them until I noticed a resounding echo where they no longer were. 

At this juncture, because I really need the points; I’m going to give myself kudos for at least being quick to realize what it was that had made writing the first book so easy and what the absence of was making the creation of the sequel feel like camping out in a cold, damp cavern with only echoes and the distant sound of dripping water for company.

Before I let you in on what was missing and what to some degree still is, let me tell you a bit about how it felt. 

I really, truly wanted to write and the story was still there. The characters still chattered in the back of my mind and my drive to write was intact. But every time I sat down it would seem I was too tired, full of stress and tension, or so scattered of mind that I couldn’t collect myself long enough to get anything accomplished(aside from scrolling the Facebook feed). Even after nights where I found inspiration and managed to knock out a thousand or so words, I still found myself floundering the next day.

So at this point, I guess you’re wondering what crucial element was missing, that it managed to so entirely derail the writing train that helped me write and edit 108,000 words and finish my first novel. 

Wait for it…did you read the title?…Routine and security. It was that simple and also that complicated. I’m not sure how many writers are deeply entrenched in routine and rely on it to get their books written, but apparently I am. Big time. 

Back in the illustrious Antelope Valley desert I knew what to expect and when to expect it. The heat was dry, the dust was well…ever present and dusty, the rain smelled like spice and sage-brush, and every night was writing time. 

Even annoyances like moths immolating themselves on the lights above us and falling into our laps were expected and safe. Candles, a bit of wine or hot tea, a circle of writers feeding off of each other’s creativity as it flowed through the room. Good company. And the words poured into our laptops like the wine into our glasses.

Change can be a blessing. A jumping off point for inspiration and personal growth but it also shakes things up and rattles our insecurities around in our skulls like seeds in a pod, ready to take root and grow into phantasms of self-doubt. 

Change calls into play Maslow’s hierarchy. The human creature has great trouble focusing on higher callings like art and self expression when the basic needs of food (delayed pay), shelter (friend’s garage, hotel, guest room) and safety from roaming predators (angry neighbors) aren’t a certainty.

My guess is that all artists need their routines and a strong sense of security to produce their best work, even if the routine is misery and the only security is being unable to fall lower!

So this brings me to problem solving. How does an author re-root, settle in, and build security and routine in the name of calling back a skittish Muse? 

Well there’s always coffee, but by itself probably not good enough.

I’m going to posit these ideas and we’ll see if they take me from sporadic writing to regular and inspired storytelling and perhaps a completed Progeny Book Two within a few months.

1) Old routines made new: take all the small routines that added up to comfort before the move or big change and revamp them for the new environment. A hot or cold drink that’s special for writing time and suits you now, a cozy place to settle in, candles that remind you of home. 

2) meditation before settling in

3) cultivate new support systems and writing buddies while holding onto your old ones if possible.

4) Maslow’s Hierarchy! Tend to your basic needs as best you can before expecting inspiration to flow.

So stay tuned, fellow authors and readers, and an update will be forthcoming once I manage to implement all of my ideas. If any of you are suffering similar loss of productivity from your world shaking up, crumbling down, or otherwise going sideways, and you think my suggestions might help, give me a shot and let me know if they appease the Muse.