Saturday, September 12, 2009

Writing Workshop: As

All writers have crutches. Editors help us see those crutches and provide us with tools to stand on our own 100k words. “As” is a common crutch and one that I have. Although I’m not as bad as some, I want to get rid of it. If you’re a writer or an aspiring writer (or a hobbyist or whatever word you use to describe yourself), I recommend you play along at home. To help you find common crutch words, use the find and replace option in your word processor. Find the word “as” (or any other word) and replace it with a highlighted version of the word.

Today, I’m going to take sample sentences and rework them to eliminate the “as”. After the first sample, I’ll be using sentences from Full Circle. I’ll be focusing on pages with more than one “as”.

Special thanks to Marci Baun for being a wonderful editor.

Sample: Stephanie’s mouth fell open as she stared at the size of his hands.

Changed: Stephanie’s mouth fell open. They’re huge. Her hands. Huge. The word huge repeated itself in her head over and over again. Before her eyes, they ballooned. Morphed into a roll of baloney with five fat sausages. What the hell was in her soda?

Original: His eyes grew wide as the crooked cross registered in his mind. Oh shit. Kendrick twisted around him as they lay in the baptismal tub. (Byron POV)

New: His eyes grew wide. The crooked cross registered in his mind. Oh shit. They lay in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him.

No as, but the short choppy sentences annoy me. It has poor flow and too much power has been given to inconsequential parts.

New: Through infantile wakefulness, the crooked cross registered in his mind. His eyes grew wide—oh shit. They lay together in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him like a child keeping a toy on lockdown.

That’s OK, but is “infantile” really a Byron word? The use of “lockdown” isn’t appropriate for the setting of the story. I added “like” in what feels like a gratuitous simile. I doubt anyone would call me out on that change, but I’m not happy with it.

New: Through the hazy fog of wakefulness, the crooked cross registered in his mind. His eyes grew wide—oh shit. They lay together in the baptismal tub and Kendrick twisted around him practically locking him in place.

Gonna use this.

Original: Dozens of ravens flocked into the room as Kendrick wept. Hour-long minutes passed, and he felt his body grow colder. His chest went hollow. A lump in his throat blocked his breath. Byron had left him—turned around and walked away as if the centuries upon centuries that they'd shared meant nothing. (Kendrick POV)

New: Kendrick wept. Dozens of ravens flocked into the room. Hour-long minutes passed, and his body grew colder. His chest went hollow. A lump in this throat blocked his breath. Byron had left him—turned around and walked away. The centuries upon centuries they’d shared, had they meant nothing?

I like this except the Yoda sentence at the end. I’ve had a penchant for Yoda sentences since my fanfiction days. The new shorter sentences are balanced with the longer ones. And, I’ve gotten rid of a “he felt” which is, in this case, a gratuitous phrase.

A half a cup of coffee later…I like this sentence. I like the flow. We’ve all been there, right? As it is, we can all relate to it. Maybe it was a doomed relationship, a cancelled project, or trying to save a historical landmark, we’ve all been there. We’ve all, at some point in our lives, had that crucial moment of realization [or moment of initial shock and doubt] that something we were passionate about meant nothing to someone else. There were three showings of as on this page. Maybe I can nix the other one and keep this one.

Original: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back as loneliness took residence inside his chest.

New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Loneliness took residence inside his chest.

That’s good, but it can be stronger.

New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Stark loneliness assaulted his heart.

Mmm...still not quite right.

New: Hissing and screeching, he arched his back. Stark solitude assaulted his heart.

We have a winner! And, I still have only one as on that page.

In this next section we have four incidences of as all on a single page.

Original: Kendrick’s talons gouged the wood as he prayed. (Keep)

Original: Kendrick smiled as best he could.

Original: Seth pulled off his shirt as he walked toward Kendrick.

Original: Seth was tantalizingly warmth as opposed to his corpselike cold.

(All Kendrick POV)

New: Kendrick proffered a, hopefully, believable smile.

New: Seth pulled off his shirt while walking toward Kendrick.

New: Seth removed his shirt and walked toward Kendrick.

New: Seth removed his shirt and approached Kendrick.

New: Seth removed his shirt while approaching Kendrick.

New: Seth’s tantalizing warmth contrasted with his corpselike cold.

New: Seth’s tantalizing warmth battled his corpselike cold. (Stronger, but too aggressive?)

And so on for the rest of the manuscript. This is why editing takes forever; however, it’s the only way to grow as...err...ummm...

This is why editing takes forever, but it’s the best way to hone one’s skills and to promote author growth. Awkward.

Editing can be a long and tedious process, but it’s an invaluable learning experience.

Hmm...yeah, I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully the next manuscript will contain fewer crutches.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Fetish

Here's a fetish I never saw coming. O.o

Stuck in the sticky

I'll never view a grown man chewing bubble gum with the same eyes again.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do Something

Warning: this blog post might come across as snobbish or elitist. It might enrage or offend.

Edit: This turned into a lengthy and interesting conversation on my LiveJournal.

When I learn about things like Playing for Change, I’m reminded of what art is supposed to be. Writers aren’t supposed to crank out drivel to make a buck. Visual artists shouldn’t slap just any crap on a canvas. Musicians shouldn’t belt out soulless sounds.

I think that’s why “selling out” hurts so much. Art is a gift to the world. Even if it doesn’t suit someone’s personal tastes, it’s still a present. A little treasure that should move people. It should “strike a chord” inside the audience.

By all means artists should be paid for their work. “Feel goods” and “Warm fuzzies” aren’t accepted as currency at the local grocery store. But, I watch some people work their craft and I wonder if they’re cheating themselves and their audience.
Not all art needs to move people to tears. Not all of it needs to initiate a moment of deep reflection. There’s nothing wrong with producing something for the sole purpose of entertaining. It saddens me and cheapens the art world when people produce work solely for the commercial value.

Grandpa Elliot’s voice sends waves of chills down my arms. I listen to him and there’s so much more there than just a talented voice. There’s some unknown, untouchable, unnamable special quality to him. An endearing charm hitchhikes upon his voice and reaches into my heart. If I could, I’d hug him and thank him for the gift he and Playing for Change has given the world.

Playing for Change also reminds us of the power behind art. (Perhaps the power that serves as the impetus for art?) Artists hold within their talents the ability to bring about change. We can speak for peace or war. We can hold a mirror up to the world and ask the audience, “Is this what you really want? No? Then do something about it.”

Some may say that such things are easy when one is a photojournalist covering a famine or a journalist writing a story about the victims of natural disaster. Some may say that I’m a hypocrite for writing this blog post. After all I’m just an erotica writer.

Erotica writers still wield this power. Can we not address social issues in our work? Can we not show the ugly faces of war and oppression? Can we not reveal the joy of love and the fecundity hope? Can we not do work like Coming Together With Pride and produce work for charity? Entertaining for a purpose.

Furthermore, can we do it without preaching?

We all start with the same tools: words, color, sound. Now, what are we doing with it?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Indie Book Awards, Full Circle, Personal Demon

I’m approximately 2,000 words into Full Circle II: Changeling. I’ve often said that writing gets it down and editing makes it pretty, but accepting that as I’m writing is difficult. I find myself staring at sentences and thinking, “Is something really missing or do I just think something is missing; and thus, cause something to be missing?” That’s the kind of logic that sends me to coffee pot or laundry room for a little bit.

I need to remember to just write when I’m writing and edit when I’m editing. There’s a lot of truth in what Oscar Wilde said, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back in again.”

I’m sure my pace will pick up once I’m into the meat of the story. The establishing scenes sometimes feel a bit tedious during the first go through. What do you mean I can’t just jump to this scene and then *poof* magically jump to another scene and expect the reader to follow and understand?

In other news, Personal Demon is on All Romance now with reader reviews of 4 out of 5 on overall enjoyment and 4 out of 5 for sensuality. ^_^

Coming Together: With Pride is a finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Interestingly, not in the erotica category, but in the anthology and e-book fiction categories. Woohoo!

On a personal front, I’m totally addicted to the song “Boom Boom Ba” by Metisse.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don’t Black or White Me

This post is will not be about the controversy surrounding the last years of his life. This post will not be about his eccentric ways. This post will be about the musical genius Michael Jackson.

Specifically in regards to his Thriller, Bad, and Dangerously albums Michael Jackson, in my opinion, was a master at percussion. The use of percussion and the variety of percussion in his matured sound is phenomenal. It’s a sound that I’ve not yet heard duplicated. In Michael Jackson’s work, percussion wasn’t merely the bass line. He used it to not only set the timing of the piece, but to manipulate the timing and manipulate how the audience followed the timing.

When an artist creates, their work is not their own. I don’t mean in a “collaborative effort” sense, but in a larger sense. When an artist, musician, or writer places their work in the heart and soul of the audience, the work takes on a new life. The audience member now has the responsibility to receive, interpret, and place their own world view upon it.

Michael Jackson’s use of percussion was a direct line to the audience--an unbroken connection between artist and art. A primal heartbeat underlined, permeated, and accented his work.

Not only did he fully understand the power of sound, he understood the equally powerful flipside: silence. His use of silence is another layer of his music that is unparalleled, at least in my perspective. In order for light to be powerful it must relinquish some power to shadow. In order for color to move our hearts it must yield to “void zones”. The weight of words upon our minds is directly related to the “white space” around it. As we drown in the “wall of sound” that has seemed to infect modern music, silence has become even more powerful.

Michael Jackson masterfully created with both sound and silence.

He was also a master of the metaphor. From heavy handed to subtle, he guided us through his political pieces. He presented the facts as he saw them and left it up to us to carry message. And some of us have been carrying the message from “We Are The World” for twenty-four years.

Although I could never be accused of being a Michael Jackson fangirl, I can appreciate his genius. His death is the world’s loss.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Tweets, tweets, and more tweets.

I've caved. I've given into Twitter.

One more thing for me to fail to update, huh? Maybe I can manage 140 characters.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Disagreeing with an Editor

Rehtaek11 asked me a question that I think will make an interesting blog post.

Does the company that publishes your work ever make demands that you… change your work in a way that you don't like?

This has happened to me. There has been editorial advice that I initially thought was rooted in the deep end of the Insanity Pool.

The first time this happened to me was with the first edition of Full Circle. I held a great deal of respect for my editor there and told her that I thought she was bonkers for her suggestion, but I’d give it my best shot.

It’s been a while since Full Circle was out for public consumption, but do you guys and gals remember the scene where Byron is speaking to Pebble? Tami planted that seed of creativity. Yes, I created Pebble. Yes, I wrote the scene. But, when she told me that the scene fell flat because of all the inner dialog and reflection coming from Byron and that he needed to talk to someone or do something to make it interesting (“hell, have him talk to the bird”), the creative juices started to flow.

I went back (all the while muttering about how crazy my editor was and telling her so) and crafted Pebble. The friendly neighborhood oh-dear-God-please-let-it-just-be-a-bird-but-we-all-know-Cup-is-up-to-something-creepy Pebble. I then wrote the scenes with Pebble thinking they were going to fail miserably. (Too cryptic? Too obvious? Too batshit insane?) When I finished the scenes, I’d surprised myself. I loved those scenes. I think they really work and add another layer to the novel. And...yes...I told her so. I even let her do the “I told you so dance” and gloat about it.

When I was working on Personal Demon the editor insisted that a condom be used. I didn’t want a condom in the scene and countered. She countered. I was about to counter and realized that I really didn’t want a reputation of being a PITA author and really wanted more contracts with Freya’s Bower (Karen didn’t threaten me or anything), but most importantly, I realized that, Holy crap the lady had a point…kind of...sort of...

I went back and added the condom to the story. I still don’t like the condom being there. Karen saw the implications in the story that support the condom. I didn’t see them and felt that the condom solidifies what I never intended to be there.

So, why didn’t I put my foot down and refuse to allow a condom?

Because with editors you must pick your battles.

The presence of the condom, in my eyes, does change the story, but not to the point where I feel detached from the story. I still feel like it’s my story. I think it adds an element of premeditation that shouldn’t be there. Karen’s point is that the premeditation was always there. I can see that. I can see my point too. Bottom line: fighting over the condom just wasn’t worth it. It’s a short fun story and, generally speaking, I like condoms in erotic fiction.

Let’s go forward again with the editing for the second edition of Full Circle. The editor I’m working with at Freya’s Bower made a suggestion that I thought was a complete deal breaker. She wanted me to eliminate something from the story that I refused to do. Putting my foot down on this particular aspect was worth risking my contract being canceled. It was worth risking not getting another contract with Freya’s Bower. It was worth all feasible consequences. In my rebuttal (two typed pages explaining the importance of the item in question, reviewer feedback about the item in question, and reader feedback of the item in question) and she told me that it was fine. She still doesn’t like it and still wants it changed, but she’s willing to let me have my way with this.

We hadn’t had a dispute before that and we haven’t had one since. I respect her and she knows that. I feel that she respects me. Marci is just awesome like that.

I picked my battle here and I picked it carefully.

In these three cases we resolved the issue in a professional manner, but what happens when the editor and the writer can’t agree?

In some cases the issue is brought to the Executive Managing Editor. Basically, taken up with the editor’s boss and a decision is made and the editor and author are put back to work on the title. Sometimes a writer will be assigned another editor. In extreme cases, the contract is cancelled by the publisher or by the author.

I’m not willing to bother a boss or get accustomed to another editor over a condom. I’m willing to show deference to my editor’s experience in most cases. But every so often there’s something so critical to the story that it’s worth the risk of having to find another publishing house and editor.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Stewart and Cramer

I just finished watching the full Stewart and Cramer interview on Normally, I don’t recommend getting news from Jon Stewart. Yes, he’s informative. Yes, he offers a unique perspective on world events. Yes, he’s entertaining. However, he’s a comedian. He’s not news.

But! This interview is exceptional.

If I could, I’d thank Cramer for agreeing to the interview. I gained some respect for the man. I feel like he was honest with Stewart. We cannot change the past. Experts will make mistakes. It’s positively refreshing to watch someone say, “We screwed up.” (NOT a direct quote) It’s even more refreshing to watch a professional say, “It’s legal, but it’s shenanigans and should be stopped. And, furthermore, I once participated in it.” (NOT a direct quote)

Bravo Cramer. Bravo for admitting your mistakes. Bravo for admitting CNBC could have done more. Bravo for listening and not blaming “loser homeowners”. Bravo, Jon Stewart, for being so damn insightful.

What happened to our news when I feel like in-depth reporting comes from a comedian? When did fancy graphics and an interactive map replace good solid reporting? When did the news become bloated with commentary and opinion and bereft of fact and investigation?

Hey, news networks! If I want commentary and opinion, I’ll read a damn blog. If I’m tuning into the news, I want news. Yes, interview people, but don’t assume they’re being honest. If Jon Steward and Stephen Colbert can pull clips from the past showing contradictions, why can’t you? And, for crying out loud, please stop playing the freaking commentary and opinion on the screen while the real news scrolls across the bottom.

Our economy is in shambles. I don’t pretend to understand how we got here, but with three 24-hours news networks and two 24-hour financial news networks, shouldn’t someone be reporting on the dirty backroom deals on Wall Street? Shouldn’t someone shine some light on the shady-but-legal artificial means of manipulating the market? Why does it feel like the people who most believe in a free market economy are the ones who artificially control and manipulate it?

Has Wall Street abandoned ethics? Did Wall Street ever have ethics?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Crazytrain off-loading at Crazytown

Hi again.

(Insert litany of excuses for not blogging)

With all the authors wigging out, tweaking out, flipping out, and flaking out in obvious and subtle ways, it makes a gal a little nervous to blog. Shit, what if I’m batshit insane too, but I don’t know it? LOL We all have our hidden crazy, right? Maybe we like the Saiyuki collector “action figures” to be a certain freaking way on our bookshelves and we’re a bit miffed because we currently don’t have the room to place them JUST SO. Or maybe we turn into Ultima "Bitch from Hell" when our working time is interrupted for stupid shit. (Are you bleeding? Is someone dying? Is something on fire? No? It’s not an emergency, fuck off.) Or maybe I’m showing a bit too much of my hidden crazy right now. LOL

If we live, work, and play on the internet long enough we will eventually type something that sounded oh-so-good at the time. A few years later and…shit…it’s still there. We hope it gets buried in the bowels of google, but it’s still THERE.

But, sometimes there is a group of people who tend to reveal their crazy a bit too often and too frequently. Authors are one of those groups of people. We start writing and all of sudden we start smoking (anyone seen my lighter…the one shaped like a coffee cup?), then we get way too many cats (the four in this house are fine btw and the crapload outside seem to be fine too.), then we start drinking (OMG Blue, the mandarin vodka was awesome!), then comes absinthe, then drugs, and finally we off ourselves.

Did I REALLY thoroughly think about this career path?

Speaking of career paths, while I was off working and dealing with life, I missed a pretty important announcement. Metaldog/Irondog (anyone know what penname she’s using for her work? I forgot to ask on the phone last night) has TWO contracts with TQ! How awesome is that? Good job, MD! We’re all cheering for you, dear. (Hope you thought about this career path.)

But, I thought I’d check in with everyone and let ya’ll know that I still have the same level of crazy that I’ve always had. So far, I’ve not experienced any alien abductions or revelations from God. My spiritual life is what it has always been: sometimes I go to Mass, sometimes I go to church, sometimes I go to drum circle, and sometimes I look at the wall and think I should be doing something else (playing a lvl 80 holy spec priest does not get one closer to God BTW). The dog next door, Sam, isn’t talking to me. There’s no grape Kool-Aid in the house and no one is getting castrated. Furthermore, I have no intention of walking away from my keyboard or genre. I’m just much, much slower than before due to this nerve problem that will, probably, never go away.