Sunday, December 27, 2009

If the Puzzle Pieces Don't Fit

If the puzzle pieces don't fit, can I hammer them into place?

This rewrite is like putting trying to open a Chinese puzzle box. Or 3-D Tetris. I'm moving the timeline around, which changes who knows what when. Cause and effect are thrown out of sync.

Getting back to thinking about this as a play with acts, I have to figure out how to show the gun - so to speak - in act 2, which is late, but I can't mention it any earlier than that for other plot reasons. In the original version, the characters were getting along when the gun is shown, but now they aren't. It's easy to force them to be together. The hard part is figuring out why they'd be on speaking terms for that scene when they need to be at odds later.

And none of this probably makes sense to you.

*writer mumbling incoherently to herself as she walks down the street*

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hanging Back Again

I started to work on the rewrite of the rewrite, but realized I'd made a wrong turn further back than I'd originally thought, so now I'm hanging back and thinking. Thinking about characters. Not what it would be cool to have them do, but what they would do in a situation. Which brought my thoughts back to the core of the character: what is important to him? That's when I realized that his definition of himself has been challenged every step, and failing to live up to that personal code is going to hurt more than anything another character can do.

Some people call it a muse, I call it a change of focus. Either way, it's inspiration.

Backtracking isn't so bad when I think I'm finally on the right track. I need to hang back and focus on this type of thing more often.

Monday, December 21, 2009


While typing merrily away...

Okay, not merrily, but with purpose, I've finally reached the point where the current path of my characters meets the old path and I can salvage a lot of Act III. Except that I rushed the last chapter and I know it's wrong. It moves events and relationships froward, but it's lazy and the pace is wrong. Ugh. Back track, once again. At least it's only a couple thousand words. And if I get it right, I'll be in a good place. My characters, not so much. Every day dawning is fresh hell for them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Putting Away the Whine

So I'm working on the rewrite now. Finally got past my ego struggle and wrote a new first chapter. I'm on my way.

Kelley referred to parts of this story as Acts. I love plays, musicals, and opera, so the term has meaning to me. Act 1 is where the characters and the conflict are introduced. It has to suck in the audience. Act 2 is the tricky part. If it's not interesting, the audience squirms and their thoughts go to intermission. Intermission in a book is where they set it down and never pick it up again. Yikes! So the stakes have to keep cranking up to keep them interested, but they also have to be drawn deeper into the characters. Act 2 is where the emotional commitment is made. Act 3 is where everything that was set in motion plays out. That's the audience's reward for coming back from intermission. My Act 3 needs work, but Act 2 was the weakest part, so that's where I'm focused. Unfortunately, a lot of the existing story has to go. Figuring out what to salvage is almost harder than writing from scratch. I can't just plunk something into a scene. It has to be seamless flow. Right now, reading the new and old together feels like a beginner trying to drive a car with a manual transmission.

Now I'm glad I wrote that synopsis. As I'm working through the MS, scenes are moving. I'm adding here and deleting there. It's easy to get lost in the shuffle. That's where the synopsis come in. It's a map to remind me where I'm headed.

I'm not whimpering or groaning yet. Sure, this rewrite is a lot of work, but it's writing work.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Hardest Part

It's been hard to sit out this week of writing. Ideas are zinging through my brain and I'm itching to dive into my story again, but a little self-discipline is a good idea. I know my writing habits too well by now.

One of the biggest problems I have is an ego problem Yes, I said I'm fine with suggestions, but this is a different kind of ego problem. My first vision of this story was the current opening scene. The problem is that it focuses on the wrong character. I know that. I've known it for a while. So when Kelley pointed it out, I had to nod in agreement, but still, I couldn't let it go. It HAD to be the opening scene.

Another thing I know about myself is that most of of my problems in life are caused by barriers I throw into my path. I over-complicate things, and most of the agonizing is knowing the answer but rejecting it for stupid reasons.

So if I know that it's not the right place to start the story, and can see the obvious way to fix it, why am I hanging onto the idea that my first vision of the story has to be the first scene? Ego. Maybe the stupid and stubborn phase is just something I have to go through. When I'm thoroughly tired of this useless internal struggle, I'll be ready to start the story in the right place. Until I get to that point though, I refuse to write anything.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Kelley from Sterling Editing sent back the edits on my MS, and I'm thrilled. I got exactly what I was looking for - honest critique and good suggestions to improve the novel. Now I'm fired up and ready to get back to work on it. It's not my style to jump into anything without considering it for a while, so I'm letting her observations sink in for a week before I start. Sort of. I couldn't help whipping through a rough synopsis.

Now - I hate writing a synopsis. Truly hate it. And I hate outlining. But this time it was a good way to channel my writing energy without touching the MS before I'm ready to. I'm imagining new scenes. One of the most meaningful things Kelley mentioned was that every character had to have skin in the game. I've heard it before, but when it was directed at my story, I finally got it. I have to be - scratch that - get to be much bolder with emotions and stakes for my characters. So I'm looking forward to the rewrite. No whining this time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Editing Saga Begins

It's early in the process to talk about the job Kelley from Sterling Editing is doing on my MS, since we've only exchanged a few emails, but so far, I'm so happy I decided to do this.

If I were to join a gym, no one would be surprised if I hired a personal trainer to help me figure out the machines and get into a good routine, so I wonder why it feels so decadent to hire a good editor. I'm past feeling guilty though. This matters to me, so I deserve to invest time and money into getting it right.

My beta readers are great but they don't have the time to discuss the story in detail. That's what I'm paying the editor to do, so all our conversations can focus on my story. It's all about meeee! Ha! We can discuss every little detail, and question everything. Three of my beta readers don't write, so they don't understand when a story is put in front of them that isn't the only way it can be told. Things can change. Events, characters, the time line - everything is negotiable. I can tell them that, but they truly don't get it. An editor does.

Remind me how disgustingly perky I was about this when I groan about the rewrite later.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Not Another One!

Some writers have writer's block. I have too many ideas. I don't know which one is worse.

I've written the first of what I hope will be a four or five book series. While it's being edited, I'm reading through my teetering stacks of books and working a little on some short stories. It's good to have the time away from writing to recharge my brain. So imagine my horror (okay, not horror. how about eye-rolling exasperation with myself?) when on my drive home from work today the idea for another series popped into my head. Another five books or so.

I like to be fully immersed in a world while I'm writing it, which means not getting distracted by other stories, but this one is pushing everything else aside and sitting in the forefront of my imagination. Instead of doing something useful with my evening, I mused about characters. Specifically, how many major characters is too much? I know I can do three. But what about five? Maybe I'll have to compromise and whittle it down to four.

I have to stop this. First I'm thinking about cast, and the next thing you know, I'll be doing character sketches and thinking about plots. This has to stop. I'm not writing. I'm not. I won't.

Crud. I think I just visualized two of them.

I'm doomed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I'm thrilled (and terrified) now that my manuscript is in the hands of my editor.

People talk about great opening lines, but I have a feeling that many great opening lines only seem like that after they've read the book. A strong opening paragraph is more important in my opinion, and it has to be followed by some fairly intriguing reading to keep the reader's interest. So the first chapter usually gets most of the writer's attention.

I was lucky with this book that the first chapter came to me in a full vision. That's not how it usually works for me, but this time, it was like watching a great anime film full of action and sound and chaos. Lovely. It's not as if I could simply transcribe what I saw onto paper though, because in film the initial characterization is purely visual, taken in by the audience in seconds, but in a book, it has to be written out, which slows down the action. And this book is pure action.

Kelley from Sterling Editing did a sample edit of the first five pages, which are the most important pages when it comes to selling the book. She focused right in on the weaknesses. Reading her comments was an Aha! moment for me. Yes, I knew about those problems on some level, but I either didn't want to deal with them or thought I could slide by. Hah! Do I want to slide by? No. Not really. This is why editors are so important. It's also why I'm so excited to be working with her. She can't fix my problems, but she can point them out and suggest changes for the better.

It takes a thick skin to be a writer. You have to be able to take criticism of your work. What good is advice if I'm going to get huffy or defensive? None. And my writing won't improve. So the little diva feelings get tucked away somewhere safe and comfy so they won't get hurt, and I get on with honing my craft. It's weird to be excited about exposing my work to criticism, but I'm looking forward to more Aha! moments. I'll let you know as this progresses.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Taking A Positive Step

There are writers who have complete faith in their work. I'm not one of them. Okay, I have faith in my work, but not so much in myself. As a result, I often give up before even trying. This is a bad thing. Never be the first person to say no to you.

I told one of my beta readers that I was going to try to find an agent for my current novel and sell to it a New York publisher. But then I started waffling and settling for less before I got started. Ugh. She told it it was my decision, but I could imagine the tone of her voice. I can disappoint myself, but not someone else. So I got a backbone and recommitted to my original plan. I'm taking positive steps.

I'm not a leap first, ask questions later kind of person. I'll study a problem for a while before making a move. Other than a lack of faith, my problem was that I was overwhelmed by the task of finding an agent. The logical solution was to get help. I read a lot of advice but that wasn't enough. So I'm talking to Sterling Editing about a line edit of my novel, and if we work together well, I'll sign up for their other services. Even though we haven't started, committing to this action makes me feel a lot more optimistic. A little faith goes a long way.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I had a long discussion this week with my beta reader about one of my characters. This character shifts gender. My original plan was that s/he'd change with the phases of the moons on his/her planet, but the more we discussed it, the more problematic that became.

We sketched out orbits of planets with multiple moons (Saturn being my go-to example) and even used our solar system as a potential model. That showed that the moons could work as imagined, but there was still a problem with biology.

So I turned to my favorite biology reference book: Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for all Creation. If you write alien races, you should pick this up. Almost any weird scenario you can imagine for procreation has a working model on this planet. The strengths and weaknesses of each is discussed in enough detail to work as a writer's prompt for a society that might reproduce that way. She had some good examples of gender-switching fish that opened up the possibilities for my character. A few changes, and now my beta reader and I are convinced my scenario has a solid basis in science.

It seems as if such things shouldn't matter in fantasy, but they do. An author can write him/herself into a corner quickly if details aren't thought through, which means later on they inevitably have to anger their readers by violating their world rules, or they have to go throw god into the machine - which also disgusts readers to no end. Readers are a generous group. They'll accept almost any world for the sake of a good story. Be generous back - respect their intelligence, and do your homework. It doesn't take that much effort to get the details right.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Beta Readers are Beginning to Comment

One of my three beta readers got back to me on my new novel. Her final comment: Start writing the next one in the series.

I love feedback. She had some honest criticisms (at one point saying "Is this character really that stupid?") that I need to fix, but overall it was the mental boost I needed. I mean, I know it's good, but it's nice to know that someone else feels the same way.

This past week, I joined the Outer Alliance for GLBT science fiction writers. It's the right group for me at the right time. There are many well-known names on the list who are great to tap into for insight. There's already been a great thread on agents. As I'm looking for an agent, it's timely info.

Now if I could only come up with a title for my novel. Usually, I have no problem, but I'm stumped, and my beta reader (rightly so) hated all my ideas. It's hard to pitch to an agent or a publisher without a title. Urgh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm so behind on posting

I'm also behind on reviews. Crud. Sorry.

I put my latest novel into the hands of my beta readers and waited. And waited. And am still waiting. Yeah, I know reading it is a huge favor to me, but don't they realize the anticipation is killing me? Ugh.

This has been a whirlwind summer, but I promise to get better about posting in the autumn.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lee Wind put Suicide Year on his website!

You have to scroll down, but feel free to make comments.

Sheela Lambert of BiWriters.Org loved The Suicide Year, so I hope to see it posted on their website soon.

As I've mentioned, I've been typing away madly on a novel. It's in the hands of my first beta reader. I expect him to be done sometime today. It's a fast read, all action. Then I'll send it out to my other readers and see what they think. But what this means is that I'll have more time to read and review (yay!)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sorry I've Been So Quiet Lately.

I'm working on a new novel and I'm so excited by it that it's sucking up all my free time. Sleep? Hah! Work? Well - the day job keeps me in the manner to which I've become accustomed (things like food, clothes, and shelter) so I have to do that. But other than that, the novel comes first.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Without Sin by J Tomas

Without Sin by J Tomas
Prizm Books

Jacob Smithson has a short temper and uses his fists, a trait that's gotten him kicked out of every public school in the area, so his parents send him to St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Boarding School for Boys even though he's not Catholic. His first day at Mass, he falls for altar boy Avery Dendritch. Avery is just as smitten with Jacob. As the boys hang out together, rumors about them run rampant through the school. Avery begs Jacob to stay out of trouble so that they can be together. It's a real test of Jacob's self-control, but for his first boyfriend, he tries. As they get more involved, they aren't terribly discreet. Who is at that age? The whispers grow louder and finally come to head in a confrontation that leaves Jacob's future at the school in question.

Jacob can be an annoying character. He's mean to his roommate and doesn't try to do well in his classes even though he's supposedly smart. He's his own worst enemy, which is pretty realistic for a guy that age with a huge chip on his shoulder. But he cares deeply for Avery, and he's nice to his roommate when a family problem arises, so he does have redeeming qualities.

I only have two complaints, and one may be because I had an advance copy. All the apostrophes and quotation marks were missing from the text, which at times made it difficult to read. I'm sure that will be fixed in the final text. The other complaint is strictly a matter of personal taste. I find it hard to read novels that are written in the present tense. You probably won't notice, or it won't detract from your enjoyment of the novel. These are minor complaints though. Overall, I felt this story depicted realistic characters, with realistic problems and consequences, which was a very nice change from some YA novels and TV shows that depict high schoolers with the lives of overly-dramatic college graduates.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

REVIEW: Masks Rise of Heroes

Masks: Rise of Heroes
Hayden Thorne
Prizm Books
available through Prizm and Amazon

Eric is an ordinary gay goth teenager riding the train to downtown Vintage City to hang out with his friends when his life veers into the world of weird. The tracks of the elevated train explode, sending the last car - and Eric with it- teetering, and then falling. Rather than slamming to earth though, he's plucked out of the sky by a flying superhero and brought safely down to earth. Suddenly, Vintage City is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, and Eric seems to always end up in the middle of the fight. After a while, he gets tired of the constant danger, but arch villain The Trill knows that Eric's new boyfriend is one of the superheroes and plans to use Eric as bait. How's a boy supposed to muddle through his first relationship when an arch villain ruins date night?

I enjoyed this enough to buy the next one in the series. The first romance storyline is well done, with problems anyone would have even if his boyfriend wasn't a superhero. The superhero part of it was a bit rougher, but that wasn't really the main plot and it was building a base for further books in the series. The book would have been better if the next villain hadn't been introduced as it diluted the focus of the current story, but that's a minor quibble. I'm looking forward to the next one. Recommended.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

REVIEW: Changing Jamie by Dakota Chase

Changing Jamie
by Dakota Chase
Prizm Books
published June 2008

Jamie wishes he could be as open about his sexuality as his friend Billy is, but he's cautious, so he only comes out to Billy. Because he's in awe of Billy, he overlooks the fact that Billy really isn't a very good friend.

For years, Jamie has had a secret crush on Dylan. Jamie is too cautious to ever let Dylan know how he feels. Dylan's English grade is slipping, and he needs tutoring so that he can stay on the track team. That's both a dream come true and a nightmare for Jamie. It turns out though that Dylan doesn't really need help in English. He let his grades slide on purpose as an excuse to spend time with Jamie. Unfortunately for Jamie, the one person he could talk to about all this - Billy - has disappeared.

While Billy isn't a good friend, Jamie is the best friend, ever. He alone seems worried about where Billy has disappeared to. With Dylan's help, they track down the older man Billy was seeing and get him to tell them where he last saw Billy. What they find is confusing and heartbreaking for them. Billy is a bug chaser, intentionally trying to get infected with HIV. Jamie tries to talk sense into Billy and tries to help, but he's too late, and Billy still won't listen.

As all this is going on, Jamie's unemployed, homophobic, drunk step-dad grows more abusive, but his mother is too worn out from her long hours at work to do anything about the jerk. Things get ugly, but she finally stands up to him.

While Changing Jamie is an unflinching look at the uglier side of life, it has enough hope that it isn't depressing. Jamie is affected by the bad choices other people around him make. While he doesn't emerge from it unscathed, he has those everyman hero qualities that promise he'll make better choices and mature into an admirable man. Highly recommended.

Monday, March 9, 2009

REVIEW: Does Snogging Count as Exercise by Helen Salter

Does Snogging Count as Exercise? by Helen Salter
ISBN 13: 978-1-4169-3801-9
Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster, NY)

Holly Stockwell is the misfit of her family. Everyone else is sports-obsessed. She'd rather read a book. Her older, perfect sister has gone off the university, but is still clearly the family favorite, as well as obviously being the favorite student of many of Holly's teachers.

Holly is a student at an all-girl's school in England, which makes it awfully difficult to meet boys. Lucky for her, her best friend Poppy has a dreamy older brother, Luke. Unlucky for her, Holly can't put two words together when Luke is around. Even worse, when Poppy shows a picture of Luke to the girls at school, popular, pretty Claudia sets her sights on dating him. Part of that plan is pretending to be Poppy's friend, so Holly gets cut out.

One of the things I liked about this story was that even though Claudia does some questionable things, she's not one of those all-powerful high school movie villain girls. These are the kinds of things a real person could do to really make your life miserable, not because she's evil, but because she never stops to consider other people's feelings.

I think everyone has been through one of those terrible times when a good friend suddenly changes. It's no fun suddenly feeling alone. While Holly is hurt and thinks about saying mean things to Poppy, she doesn't stoop to it. That's a pretty admirable trait in a character. Plus, it makes is easier for them to go back to being friends after Claudia moves on to fresh victims.

This is a fun, breezy read, more comedic than dramatic, and well-paced. There's nothing I hate more than a spoiler, so I won't tell you if Holly ever works up the courage to talk to Luke. Read it and find out for yourself. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

PS. The cover art by Karin Paprocki is wonderful.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I'm Excited!

I met with my publishers a week ago Sunday and pitched a series to them. They said "write it and send it." Now, that does NOT mean they'll buy it, but at least they're interested.

This one will be very lighthearted. That's a nice change. I already have three of the five titles in mind, although one might not work because I'm not sure how to fit it in with the rest of the series as I currently envision it, but things change. I also just figured out how to get around one of the stickier moral issues in the story. After all, you don't want your main character to do something you'd never forgive a real human for doing, even to make the plot work, even if it seems okay because she's a nice person. So now that the same consequences occur, they come about for purely innocent, and forgivable, reasons.

Yay! Writing again!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My Book Is For Sale Where?

I set up a Google alert to send me messages every time it sees my name and the title of my book. I was more than a little surprised to see it listed for sale on a Bible bookstore site. Huh? Hasn't the ultra-right Christian community set up GLBT as the ultimate evil now that they can't endorse slavery and wife beating anymore?

Sure, the main character talks about God a lot, but in ways that I think would make most evangelicals froth at the mouth. So I'm interested to see what reaction, if any, comes from the religious community.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good News From My Publishers

They aren't back from ALA yet, but my publishers said there was a lot of interest in The Suicide Year. Yay! Great cover art helps. Being in a library would be very cool.

Every writer has his/her own measure of success. For some, it's awards or good reviews. For others, it's the ability to make a living as a writer. Mine is the dream that some day I'll see stranger reading my book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


My publishers are off to the American Library Association conference, so I thought I'd take a moment here to praise librarians.

Books have been a constant source of comfort in my life. I've never been a big fan of TV. Don't get me wrong. Some shows are great and help change attitudes; other make us laugh, which is priceless. I can't watch anyone being humiliated (Mom issues there) so most situation comedies were impossible for me to watch. It seemed to be the primary source of the comedic situation. I found it mortifying and had to leave the room. So I spent a lot of time reading.

Without much money to spend on books, libraries were the source of books for me. Some writers I loved I found on my own, but many times it was a librarian who pointed me in the right direction. I might have never found Dune, A Town Like Alice, or Dorothy L Sayers' mysteries without guidance.

In the Bush years, as so many of our civil liberties were under constant attack, it was librarians who stood up and tried to defend our right to privacy. It's librarians who keep controversial books on the shelves so that we can share ideas that evil people want to keep from us. Unfortunately, it's also librarians who baby sit many kids who have no place to go after school, who watch over the homeless, and who fight the thankless battle against budget cuts and for the freedom of information. So show the librarians of the world some respect. They're soldier in a hidden war, and they fight for you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Here!

I got the copy of my book in the mail. Atta Vazzy's cover looks wonderful!

Prizm asked me to write some discussion questions for reading groups and librarians. Yikes! I made up some, but it's hard to know what themes will pop out at
readers. Once again, I was reminded why I should never write a book
where I don't name the main character, but there was a reason I did it
that way. She's almost invisible to her family. They call their dog
"The Dog" instead of by name, so it seemed right that her parents
wouldn't ever bother to use her name on the rareoccasions they notice her.

Darn it! Now I realize I should have asked a question about her relationship
with The Dog. It's as if they're siblings instead of pet and owner.
Sadly, it's the most loving relationship she has.