Story before identity–then, now, and forever

I’ve been a reader for far longer than I’ve been a writer. Not once, during my most voracious phase as a reader, during those summers spent at the library, did I go, “Hmm, I want to read a book by a/an [insert identity group] writer.”

What I was looking for, was escapism, entertainment. A good story, well told. Interesting characters. Interesting milieu. Romance. Adventure.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I spent a lot of time discussing books with my fellow geeks–and to be honest, if you want to get all PC about it, they were a diverse lot. When it came to reading, they wanted the same things I did.

I didn’t need to have a woman as the protagonist in order to identify with a character. I didn’t need that character to be of the same national origin or race either. Why? Because well-crafted characters (and stories) transcend all those things.

I don’t have to be bisexual for Friday Jones to be one of my favorite of Heinlein’s characters. I don’t have to be a gay sadist to love Augustus (one of the minor characters in R. M. Meluch’s wonderful space opera series, Tour of the Merrimack (6 Book Series)).

Believe it or not, I didn’t pick up my first Honor Harrington novel because it had a woman on the cover–shocker, I know!

I don’t go out seeking stories with protagonists of Romanian, or Hungarian, or Greek, or Italian descent. I don’t seek out stories written by immigrants. Or women. Or any of the “identities” or associations some people would love to pin on me.

That’s one of the reasons I am proud that my short story “Cooper” is part of To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. You see, there was no requirement that you be a man to submit a story. Or that the story even be from a man’s perspective.

Marina Fontaine, one of my co-authors, put it best, when she wrote:

We were going to give them good stories.

Stories about men as heroes and role models, fathers and mentors, hardened warriors and even fantastic creatures. Men who are interesting, capable and worthy. Characters whom you’d want to meet, to spend time with, to learn from, and whose stories will stay with you after the reading is over.

And just like that, the authors’ gender became irrelevant.

The rest of her excellent article on how this anthology came to be can be read here. Give it a look. And buy the book. See what can happen, when stories are about Story [rather than the author’s identity].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father’s Day — It’s almost here. To Be Men print version is live and ready

I’m thrilled to announce that the print version of To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity is ready to go, just in time for Father’s Day.

This anthology features the stories of Scott Bell, J Trevor Robinson, William C. Burns, Karina L. Fabian, Michael W. Herbert, Richard Paolinelli, Ann Margaret Lewis, Brad R. Torgersen, C. J. Brightley, T.L. “Tom” Knighton, L.A. Behm II, Marina Fontaine, Jon Del Arroz, Jamie Ibson, Julie Frost, myself, and an essay by Megan Fox.

Tired of stories about men as bumbling idiots? Of fathers as incompetents? Of masculinity as “toxic”?

Tired of misandry?

Ready for some real masculine role models?

Stories about heroes and men who do the right thing? Stories about real men? The kind that provide for their families, love their wives and children, and make sacrifices. And save the world.

A collection of seventeen stories and two essays, To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity pays homage to men and masculinity.

Fun. Action-packed. Thought-provoking. Whatever your tastes, you will find enjoyment in these pages.

Each story embraces, in its own way, virtus–the concept of valor, manliness, excellence, courage, character, and worth.

The sentient Colt 1911 destined for the smelter.

A courageous werewolf who embodies virtus no matter his form.

The wizard raising a family in the 21st century.

Sherlock Holmes’ newfound respect for women.

A future untamed frontier where “women and children first” proves itself a timeless maxim.

The hero who identifies as a M1A2 Abrams tank.

A Vietnam War sailor defending his gay crew mate, because when bullets are flying, only what you do matters.

The police chief in a noir-style world where Fae, dragons, and humans live, love, and break the law.

These stories will delight and entertain you.

Looking for badge ribbons?

Just click on “Shop.”

Both ribbons are in stock, ship out the next business day via 1st class mail, and the price includes S&H as well as sales tax. You must use PayPal.

No, I will NOT be selling them at LibertyCon (or any other con). You have to go through the website (i.e. link above).

As far as I know, they are single use.

So get yours now, and thank you!

Time and Distance: The benefits of cycling.

One of the reasons I work on multiple projects at a time is because my writing process is unlike anything else in my life. Most other aspects of my life are filled with clearly defined steps, checklists, and algorithms. Exceptions are clearly defined by “if,then” statements. Loops are set up in very specific ways. This includes the laundry.

Writing is the one thing I do that doesn’t work that way. It’s why I don’t outline (waste of time; I don’t stick to it; I write them AFTER).

Give me a beginning and/or an end, a theme or a moral point, and I can make it all work. Give me an already written ending and a song and I’ll give you a story (more about this when it’s official).

Think of a finished story as a sequence of scenes, numbered from 0 to N. Chances are, it’s been marinating in my head for some time and exists in one form or another as a set of notes, scribbles, and research references in a Scrivener file, waiting on me to get stuck on my current project and in need of something else to work.

A work in progress (WiP) might originally start out as scenes 5, 12, 18 … 52. Of course, at the time I’m writing them, I don’t actually know that, but you get my point. It’s not unusual for me to realize that I need to cycle back as I’m writing scene #18 and then come up with #13-#17 or go back and fix #12 so it works with #18.

Yesterday I spent the whole day writing (for the first time in awhile as I’d gotten side-tracked by other projects; I spent the whole day in pajamas and I think I ate).

There is nothing quite like time and distance to make you see that scene #156 is no longer a good fit. There’s also nothing quite like time and distance to make it easy to gut #156 if that’s what the story needs.

And by gutting, I mean opening up a new Scrivener scene document, and typing it out fresh after getting myself solidly set inside the character’s head. It is being inside the character’s head that allows me see that scene 156 no longer works.

It’s an entirely different process that “editing” an existing set of words and polishing the hell out of that turd hoping no one will notice what it is.

This is why writing takes time–and I’m talking writing here, not typing. All kinds of time go into “writing.” Research time. Down time (like a hobby or reading for pleasure).

Time spent cycling back to read what you’ve written so that you can get into your viewpoint character’s head before you move forward.

Time spent looking stuff up as you go along when you realize you need an essential piece of information (like can they really match bullets to specifics guns–the answer turns out to be a resounding NO!).

Time spent arguing with your characters because they don’t want to go where you want them to (aka writer’s block, at least in my case).

Is it worth it? I guess it all depends. I’m not a big fan of typing*.

Typing: Julie was a dog lover.

Writing: Julie tossed a TV dinner into the microwave for her husband and rushed out to the grill to make sure that Precious’s steak didn’t get overcooked. Great Danes were known for their particular tastes and she hoped he liked the kobe beef as much as the butcher seemed to think he would. Of course, the butcher had been under the impression that it was for her husband, and she hadn’t enlightened him. He wouldn’t understand. No one would. No one but Precious.

*For a better explanation about the difference between typing and writing, I recommend Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction (The Million Dollar Writing Series)

 

 

Where do you get your ideas?

I think this is one of those questions that comes up a lot in writing circles. I think a better question is “How do you come up with your characters?” When it comes down to it, stories are not so much about ideas (those are called documentaries) as they are about characters and setting (especially for speculative fiction, which is what I tend to write).

I’ve spent the bulk of last week running around with gun people, some of them old friends, many others new ones. And I have a lot of new character ideas.

Some are a bit cliché, but a cliché is a cliché for a reason. For example, the reporter who pretends to be sympathetic until they get you in front of the camera and then pops off a weasel-worded question that’s so inane, you can’t help but look at him with a “dafuq” expression. BTW, the chances you’ll see a “good” character that’s a reporter in any of my stories is somewhere around less than zero.

I do have new character ideas for a family of shooters, including a 10-year-old kid with more personal responsibility in his little finger than most adults today have in their entire bodies. Absolutely amazing. I wanted to stick superhero capes on him and his older siblings. An absolutely amazing — wait, I already said that, didn’t I — set of people. If the rest of America was like this family, raising their kids this way, we’d have a much better, and very different, country.

Also got to see the entire spectrum of gun owners, from what some consider the “marginalized” populations to the stereotypes, all in the same space, getting along swimmingly, enjoying a shared passion, having a good time. It was wonderful.

Of course, once I write these characters, I fully expect to get all sorts of blowback, i.e. they’re unrealistic, but I don’t care.

I know the truth.

Good news for Scribd subscribers

Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide is now available on Scribd. If you’re a subscriber, it’s included in your membership. Click here.

Do you use your library’s OverDrive eBook lending service? Good news, you can now request Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide and read it for free.

Blurb for “Enemy Beloved”

Illithea Dayasagar survives alone, on a distant continent. For her mission to succeed, she must remain hidden.

But the fireball that splits the sky and scorches the earth does not go unnoticed. Neither does the corpse she finds instead of the meteor. 

Especially once he turns out to be very much alive. And very much a mystery.

Passion and betrayal collide in “Enemy Beloved,” a story of true love and sacrifice.

Now available in Venus, part of the Planetary Anthology Series.

Now LIVE! on Kobo

Kobo was actually the easiest one to set up. Added bonus, they are part of OverDrive, a system that allows libraries to lend eBooks. So, if you’ve wondered how to get your work into libraries, this is one venue. I think it’s also available through other aggregators.

But why would I want to “give” my eBook to libraries? First, you’re not “giving” anything. Second, having your book in a library is advertising. Someone who enjoyed your work might just decide to check out and see what else you’ve written. Gasp! What a concept.

Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide is now available on Kobo.

Didn’t need an ISBN for this either. Yes, this means they’ll have different ISBNs, but I don’t expect this to be something that needs tracking to justify the cost of an ISBN.

Now LIVE! on iBooks

As I said before, the self-pub plunge is as much for the benefit of the experience as anything else. iTunes Connect was easy enough to navigate. iTunes Producer, like most Mac programs, a breeze.

Easy set up. One glitch because I didn’t have the latest version of Java installed.

Review was MUCH faster than Amazon.

And now I’m live on iBooks with Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide.

One of the nice things I noticed about this is that it’s very easy to set up promo codes.

No, didn’t need an ISBN for this either.

I took the self-pub plunge

Most of my author friends are self-published or hybrid writers. I often feel “out of the loop” when it comes to the details of the self-publishing process, so I decided it was time to take the plunge. At the behest one of them, I took the six blog posts about my workshop experience and why a rejection is an opinion (not a death sentence), and created a book: Rejection 101: A Writer’s Guide

Although it took all day, it took far less time than I thought it would.

I already had the KDP account set up, but I had never worked with the KDP system or Vellum (the layout software).

Here’s the run-down of what it took to go from a series of blog posts to a finished product.

I chose an image off DepositPhoto.com, and fired up Pages. This probably ate up most of my time. It had been awhile since I’d worked with Pages for anything other than writing, but it all came back to me. Create a black background. Add image on top. Check the reflection option. Add the fonts for the title and author. I spent more time playing around with fonts and colors, to be honest. Way too many choices, most of them bad. Saved it, changed the type of file, and done. Reopened it in Preview in order to adjust the ratio of image width to height, per Vellum’s suggestion. That took like another minute.

Next, Vellum. Great software, took about ten minutes and one very specific question posted to a group, and I had it figured out — the front and back matter, the chapters, the headers, dividers, everything–bam, bam, bam. It was amazing. By contrast, I was struggling with Jutoh for days before I threw my hands up in disgust and wished I’d never heard of it. With one press of a button, Vellum generated everything for all the platforms/venues/formats, all in one step: Generic ePUb, GooglePlay, iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Print (i.e. a PDF).

It took longer to actually proof the PDF, Kindle and iBooks files (by looking at every page inside the file) than it took to put the book together, and that includes futzing around with the fonts and colors. (BTW, leave the extra pages in the PDF alone. They’re there for a reason.)

Vellum is pricey, but worth it (works only on Mac). You can play with a full version for free, but you have to have a license to hit that magic button that spits out all the stuff you can then upload to the various venues. No, you don’t need Vellum if you’re doing KDP because you can upload a .docx or .PDF or .rtf file instead, but that doesn’t mean that all your versions will look the same if you wide (other platforms).

Uploading to KDP was simple enough. The one snag I hit was with the paperback version, which took two tries to get right, so maybe fifteen minutes to re-do.

Did learn that you don’t need an ISBN–Amazon will “give” you one.

There was a 24-hour turnaround on the approval process.

Voila. That’s it, in a nutshell. Even a rocket surgeon can do it.

Up next, publishing on iBooks, Kobo, and Nook. Also CreateSpace, D2D, all this stuff I’ve heard of but never had a reason to look into too deeply.