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  1. It's been a fun two weeks so far in my new hometown of Plano, Texas. My old faults have come back and are having a blast messing with my attempt at independence in the sunset years of my life. First, I suffer from chronic procrastination. What can be put off until tomorrow will enable me to do fun things, like write a story or read an article in The New Yorker, today. I have tons of broken down cardboard boxes that can't be put in the trash. They're supposed to be taken down to special dumpsters in the parking garage to be recycled. I have an extra IKEA bookcase to put together. I have all my books unpacked and put in two bookcase, but the other one patiently waits for me to get a round-to-it. Then there's the second bar stool that came in pieces. One came put together, but the other came in a box. I know there's another round-to-it someplace around here, but I haven't found it. Then there's the new vacuum cleaner. I know it was unhappy in the box, so I took it out, read the "put together" instructions, and put in a corner until I find the round-to-it that I put somewhere, but can't remember where. My desk is put together, but for some unknown reason the printer wouldn't talk to the wifi router. My new insurance agent gave me an HP USB cable and now the printer is hardwired to the laptop. Funny thing happened the other day. The printer's been disconnected from wifi software for over a week, but suddenly the wifi button has started blinking as if it's trying to connect to the wifi router. Well, I'm sorry, it had its chance to play ball according to its very own software, but I'm not about to undo everything I had to do to make it work just so it can start acting the way it was manufactured. There are principles here that have to be acknowledged. An idea that's been floating around in my head for a couple years finally came to my attention in a moment of actual consciousness (I have this slight insanity problem). Since my previous VA psychiatrist changed my diagnosis from Bipolar Disorder to Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, I've been ruminating the idea of putting in for a reevaluation of my VA service-connected disabilities. So after I arrived here, I decided to contact the DAV (my official VSO) and see if they'd be willing to help me with submitting the reevaluation. I called their local office, but they didn't answer, it didn't even go to voicemail. So I used their email submission tool, but I haven't received a response from that. I suppose they're using the COVID-19 "we can't do our normal job" excuse to not do their job of supporting disabled vets. Last Wednesday night I looked on the VA website and found I could do this on my own, so I did it. I included having a reevaluation of my knees, too. They've gotten to the point where I've developed a limp. Now my ankles and left hip are going bad because of that. On Thursday, the local VA vendor who handles disability reevaluations called and said they would be setting up a couple appointments for interviews on the current state of my disabilities. The one for bipolar will me a teleconference appointment and the knee one will be face-to-face. Just goes to show that DIY sometimes works. Driving around Plano, I've become frustrated with the drivers in this town. I've never encountered drivers who invariably drive ten miles per hour under the speed limit. That's a twenty in a thirty, thirty in a forty, thirty-five in a forty-five, and forty-five in a fifty-five. Why? You can be too careful. The weird thing about those drivers is that most of them are alone in their cars and wearing face masks as if they're afraid the virus is going to come in through the air conditioning. Maybe it's that they have the air conditioning turned off, have their windows rolled up, and are slowly suffocating while driving to Walmart. Then there are the street racers. Corvettes, crew cab pickups with their tires sticking six inches out beyond the fenders, Mercedes coupes and roadsters, Lamborghinis, and all the rest driving sixty-plus in a 40 MPH zone, weaving in and out of traffic, going thru red lights, and all the other shit. It's enough to make someone consider walking or using public transportation. Unfortunately, there aren't that many sidewalks, buses don't go from here to there, and everything is so spread out. It doesn't help that I can't walk anymore. It's gotten to the point when I go to Walmart, Target, or Tom Thumb, I use the shopping cart as a walker. I refuse to even consider getting one of those scooters. I'm not a scooter kind of guy. You know what people think when they see an apparent healthy person riding around in one of those things. They're wonder if both legs are artificial, whether the heart is counting its last beats, or possibly they convinced some fly-by-night doctor their made up disability is serious enough for a blue handicapped tag to hang from their mirror and a free scooter from Medicare. My feet may ache because of neuropathy, my knees maybe severely arthritic, but you're not going to see me riding around in one of those scooters. But to get by I have my writing. I've got my novel waiting go to England for analysis (someone spent a ton of money on a totally impractical move to Texas and there's not enough money on the credit card to cover the fee). I've written a new story for the Fall Anthology. And, there are all those other novels waiting for me to get back to them. Plus, there's that collection of short stories to write and get published. That's the news for now. It's Sunday and since I played lazy yesterday, I have to get cleaned up and walk down to the mailbox to see how much junk mail I got.
  2. In my latest project I've got more than a hundred named characters. Insanity!? Probably but, that's how I roll. Goofy bastard. So... how do you keep track of it all? It's a struggle. These are the tricks I'm using and, the pros and cons of each. 1. Dramatis Persona... word document This worked Ok until it got to sixteen pages with notes and pointers to other entries. Then it became too complex and cumbersome to easily work well. It lost the virtue of simplicity when it was overloaded with more and more complex and unformed information. This is what it looked like at first: Chris Ashley (19) == Father Ashley (n) Tony Ramano (18) == Mother Maria Ramano (n) Toby Rankin (13) (d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased) Brandon Rankin (14)(d) == Father Sam Rankin (deceased) Jeb Somerset (15)(d) == parents Somersets of Savannah Cole Matthews (14)(d) == Father new age fruitcake Barry Anderson (13) (d) == trafficked child, actual name is Cutler You don't want to know what happened later. Each entry expanded from name, age, shift (day or night), parent to paragraphs and description and sketches and why the F* are my notes outpacing the writing??? This still exists but it has been trimmed down to only what is needed at a glance. Just basic stats. If I need hair and eye color... Well that's my next step. 2. Dramatis Persona... note cards Anybody that's ever written a paper knows about note cards and how handy dandy they are. They were hyper-text before there were computers, right? WRONG. Three by five note cards are amazing things. They help in lots of ways... until they become a horrific cluster of complexity and you can't find your arse with a flash light. Once again, Keep it simple, stupid. Index cards work but, you can't expect them to be a database. They are useful for marching ideas across the desk, matching up characters and seeing how things look. If you keep them simple and don't try to do too much with them, it works FINE. Keep it simple and, it works best if you can remember how to write. (That's actually a thing- handwriting vs keyboarding). 3. Dramatis Persona... spreadsheet- for the win. Yes it is a clear winner. It's searchable. You can make fields for EVERYTHING. Want to search by how many redheaded characters you have? It's possible. Want to sort by age? You can do it. Want to know who is boffing who? Yeppers, it's a complete possibility. There are highly complex writing packages that you could spend forever learning and not get anything done. Databases are possible but if you can do that, someone wants to hire you to fix the mess his last guy left. Spreadsheets are old tech and have been around forever. The key thing about them is they are built generically enough that as your complexity grows, it can accommodate you without breaking anything or having to start over. Your mileage may vary. If you've got a sane number of characters, data management isn't a huge issue. You may absolutely love Scrivner and have figured out how to make it all work. That's fine. If you can use Excel, you've got a serious power tool.
  3. Words are amazing aren't they? Are we even aware of how much they can affect other people? The casual use of a nickname. A kind “Hello” when you’re having a bad day. A softly muttered “Bite me,” when someone crosses you, or you cross someone else! Words we use to make light of a situation; or that attempt to pretty something up, make a concept or idea less gritty, better for polite company. Yes, words are powerful. Think of a parent with a child. A sharply spoken “STOP” can avert danger, cause the child to not touch that hot stove, or dash into the street. “I love you,” can be the sweetest thing you ever heard! “I don’t want to see you anymore,” can be the harshest; or could cause a sense of relief to wash over you. If someone tells you that something was difficult the words that you choose to bring comfort, or support, may sound like you are dismissing their pain or the effort that it took to get thru or past this thing. It can have the effect of invalidating that person’s experience. Think about that nickname for the guy you work with, for that friend of yours, whether you’ve known them for 8 years, 8 months, or 8 weeks. What does it mean to them? That you have christened them with your own appellation, something that only you call them, be it just between the two of you, or out where the world can hear. Or maybe a nickname that confers some kind of acceptance into a group. Maybe you have taken it upon yourself to shorten their name, Richard to Rich, or Dick, Jonathan to Jon, Victoria to Vicky. Does that person even like that you have done this? Does he or she grudgingly accept that you have done this, would they rather you didn’t? Was it the name that an old nemesis used as a form of torture or derision? Does this nickname bring this person joy? Does it makes him or her feel special? Make them a little giddy that you did this for them? Words can be truthful or they can be lies. They can help you make wants and needs understood, they can be used to baffle or enlighten. Think about the proverbial used car salesman, that fast talking shyster, trying to make that old clunker sound like a classic driven by a sweet little old lady to the market, the church, and home. A legal eagle’s contract written with lots of loopholes, the language archaic and full of jargon. Or those little quotes from someone you admire. A former president, or first lady. A spiritual leader you admire perhaps. A book or an essay that explains that thing you've always wondered about. They can tell you why the caged bird sings, or take you far away chasing a mysterious white whale. They can transport you to fantastical mythical places, or the corner store. I believe that words are one of the most powerful tools in all of humanity. Just look at what they do. They can bring comfort, joy, peace. Or they can wound, deeply, fatally even. Bring about war and division, foster hate and distrust. Because of the inherent power of words, we need to be mindful of them. Words are forever. Yes, even those spoken, not written, as they will be passed down by word of mouth to become tomorrow’s folk tales, and legends. So before you call that new guy in the office Jon ask, before you call the short cashier at the market “The Garden Gnome,” stop and think about the power behind what is about to come out of your mouth. When you finish a poem, chapter, or story, reflect on the power in what you just read. MacGreg Sir wrote about just that in His poem “Taste Your Words Before You Spit Them Out” What is the point of communicating with someone If your intentions are meant to maim? Taste your words before you spit them out. Consider the impact of their flavor As they roll across your tongue. For once expelled, they cannot be retracted. Consider this: Will what you are about to say produce acidity? Or lay a foundation for common ground? So consider the power of words, your words. With many thanks to @MacGreg Sir for allowing me to use part of His poem. Please look here for the complete poem, and here for more. And as always to tim @Mikiesboy for his never-ending love and support.
  4. Hey I'm curious, does anyone use some ambiance when writing like music or a specific you-tuber? I personally, quite often have music that fits the mood of what I'm writing, or listen to Fredrik Knudsen.
  5. Wow, I didn’t realize I haven’t done a blog entry since September, 2018. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, so I suppose it’s time for an update on what’s occurring here in Gold Bar, WA. First off, I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing, but other than the 2019 Fall Anthology and the 2020 Spring Anthology I haven’t posted any stories here since August 2018. In 2019, I wrote a YA Fantasy novel, The Birthday Present, about a young boy who runs away from home to go to Faerie to meet a dragon and submitted it to a story review site. An English university creative writing professor reviewed the novel and gave a very thorough critique. My writing was great, but there were two many characters and the protagonist got lost in the shuffle. Plus, my presentation of Faerie beings was a bit off from current interpretations. As it stands now, there are only dwarves, a brownie, and a dragon. The story is now in a total rewrite with over 11,000 words in 5 chapters. Then there is an apocalyptic virus novel, M. C. Escher Under Pale Turquoise, about a small group of survivors of a viral epidemic who are transported by aliens from LA to place far, far away. The protagonist is a late middle man who is the elected leader of the group. The antagonists are the aliens who turn out to be the aliens who visited Earth early in man’s development and made significant impacts on early religions. The story currently has over 36,000 words in 12 chapters. I’m also working on a YA/NA novel, Cary Grant and the Cougars, about a young man who sees and interacts with ghosts. When he was fifteen he went through a sweat lodge ceremony and while in a trance Cougar accepted him as his spirit animal. Plus, he has schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. On top of everything else, he’s a mathematical genius who does differential equations to quiet his mind, he’s starting his first year of college, and he’s gay. The story currently has over 31,000 words. Then there is another schizoaffective novel, Arnold Snell (working title), about a long haul trucker nearing retirement. He is quite delusional and frequently has blackouts. It is currently at over 17,000 words in 5 chapters. Finally, there is another schizoaffective novel, When Eyes Cannot See the Truth (working title), about a young man growing up during the Vietnam war era. He is significantly impaired due to his mental illness. He tries very hard to exist in the real world all the while failing horribly at every attempt. It is currently at 5 chapters. My plan is to put it up on GA. So, you’re probably wondering where all this schizoaffective shit is coming from. Well, lo and behold, yours truly has been moved from good ol’ Bipolar Disorder I to Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type, due to my past and present delusions, hallucinations, and other issues. It doesn’t help that I may, though probably not, slightly be suffering from Asperger Syndrome. I spoke with my psychiatrist about that, but she says that while I am slightly symptomatic, I have to realize slightly is the key word. I was finally able to see a neurologist at the VA. I’m now taking a beta blocker to treat Essential Tremor, which affects my hands and fingers making it difficult to hold things, type, write, and sign my name. Also, though I am not diabetic I have Peripheral Neuropathy in my feet and hands (no wonder I drop things). Unfortunately, there isn’t any medicine I can take other than the 5% Lidocaine Ointment I was given for my arthritic knees, which didn’t work. When I go back to orthopedics in July for cortisone injections, I’ll be asking about at least one new knee. Also, I may be in the early stages of kidney disease, but due to the coronavirus situation at the VA I won’t be able to get another round of urine and blood tests until June. Well, that’s the current news from Gold Bar, WA. Hope everybody is hanging low and practicing physical distancing.
  6. Consider the title your warning. This is my blog. I write what I want. Deal with it. I think it's a shame that we can't have philosophical discussions on ways to potentially expand and improve our writing horizons without someone taking it personally and ruining the party. This is supposed to be a website for authors and their stories. You'd think that discussing writing techniques and tools would be integral to that. When it comes to writing tools, techniques, and advice, you're free to take it or leave it. Nobody acts like you're trying to force them to do something when you talk about voice, plot building, world building, POV, whether prologues are good or bad, etc. But as soon as you so much as mention ways of measuring whether your writing is diverse and inclusive, people act like you're holding a gun to their head. This has happened before. Can we have a conversation about these things like adults, please? Can we bring up the mere existence of gender without someone throwing a hissy fit? To those of you who are so opposed to the mere idea that other people may want to make a conscious effort to make their work diverse and inclusive, maybe you should take a moment to think about why you feel so attacked by it? Nobody seems able to give an answer other than, 'Because I don't like people telling me what to do!' Even though nobody has told them what to do. When someone says they don't like stories written in the present tense, I don't get offended or think they're trying to tell me I can't write stories in the present tense. When someone says they prefer third person over first, I don't think they're trying to tell me I have to write in third person. Because they're not. If someone goes, 'Here's a handy way to avoid adverbs in your story,' I say, 'Well, I probably won't use it cause I actually like having some adverbs in my stories, but thanks, I'll put it in the box with the rest of my writing tools.' And maybe one day I'll decide that I should cut down on adverbs, and I'll take it out, dust it off, and use it. Or not. But if someone says, 'This is a test for measuring representation of women in fiction, isn't that interesting?' you can be damn sure someone will lose their shit and assume we're trying to force them into shoehorning more women into their work. And no amount of assurances that that isn't what's going on will convince them otherwise. If you're reading this and you have no idea what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky. Suffice it to say, we had a party, someone got drunk, someone called the cops, and now the party's over.
  7. Our community is so much bigger and more diverse than many of us believe. With a lot of new-ish terms and labels out there detailing identities some may not be aware of, I figured a brief list of definitions might be helpful for someone somewhere. I shall begin with the four letters everyone knows. If you're here, you already know what these mean, but I'm including them anyway. L: lesbian - a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women G: gay - a person who is exclusively attracted to people of the same gender or sex; often used to refer specifically to gay men B: bisexual/bi - a person who is attracted to people of two or more genders (we'll get to the 'or more' later) T: trans/transgender - people whose gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth Now for the 'new' letters you often see added on at the end of the acronym these days (LGBTQIA), whose definitions you may be unfamiliar with or a bit fuzzy on. Q: queer - used as an umbrella term for everyone who belongs to a sexual or gender minority (*) also: questioning - people questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity in one way or another I: intersex - people who are born with ambiguous sex characteristics or sex characteristics that don't match their chromosomes. This includes ambiguous genitalia, sex chromosomes other than XX or XY (such as XXY, XYY, or simply X), and androgen insensitivity syndrome, to mention a few. Some people with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) also consider themselves to be intersex. Many intersex people also identify as transgender. A: asexual - a person who does not experience sexual attraction toward anyone at all; sometimes also called ace also: aromantic - a person who does not experience romantic attraction toward anyone at all; sometimes also called aro Some asexual people are also aromantic, but far from all. An asexual person can also be gay, for instance, if they experience romantic attraction towards people of the same gender or sex, even if they have no sexual attraction. The words homoromantic, heteroromantic, biromantic, and panromantic are often used to describe the romantic preferences of asexual people. Now for terms that aren't in the acronym, starting with those related to sexuality: pansexual - a person who is pansexual is attracted to people regardless of gender. This differs from bisexuality in that, as previously stated, bisexuality is attraction to two or more genders, while for a pansexual person, gender is completely irrelevant to sexual attraction. omnisexual - a person who is attracted to practically everybody demisexual - a person who experiences sexual attraction only to people they have a strong emotional connection with grey asexual - a person who normally does not experience sexual attraction but who may very rarely do so under certain circumstances Gender identities (these words generally exist under the trans umbrella): non-binary - someone who is non-binary has a gender identity that does not adhere to the binary male/female model of gender; colloquially also called enby, derived from NB genderfluid - someone whose gender identity shifts on a spectrum between the masculine and the feminine agender - someone who does not identify with any gender bi-gender - someone who identifies as both male and female genderqueer - someone whose gender identity does not adhere to ideas of traditional gender; sometimes used interchangeably with non-binary And a few more gender-related terms: cisgender - someone whose gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth; anyone who is not trans AFAB - assigned female at birth AMAB - assigned male at birth transman - someone who was assigned female at birth but identifies as male; sometimes referred to as ftm (female-to-male) transwoman - someone who was assigned male at birth but identifies as female; sometimes referred to as mtf (male-to-female) trans masculine/trans masc - someone who was assigned female at birth but whose identity lies somewhere in the masculine end of the gender spectrum trans feminine/trans femme - someone who was assigned male at birth but whose identity lies somewhere in the feminine end of the gender spectrum gender dysphoria - physical discomfort and mental distress from having a body that does not conform to one's gender (note: not all trans people have gender dysphoria) gender euphoria - the feeling of joy experienced by trans people when they 'pass' as their gender or feel comfortable in their gender expression HRT - hormone replacement therapy; causes people assigned male at birth to go through a female puberty where they grow breasts, fat and muscle is redistributed, body hair growth is diminished, and the quality of the skin changes, among other things. T - testosterone; causes people assigned female at birth to go through a male puberty where their voices drop, they grow more body and facial hair, fat and muscle is redistributed, and the clitoris grows top surgery - removal of breast tissue in order to create a male-looking chest on a person assigned female at birth bottom surgery - changing of the genitalia through plastic surgery; for people assigned male at birth, vaginoplasty; for people assigned female at birth, either phalloplasty or metoidioplasty I hope this has been helpful. A note of caution: the purpose of these terms and labels is not for you to label others, but for everyone to label themselves as they see fit. It is nobody's place to tell anyone else what or who they are. We all have the right to self-identification. If you're an author and you use some of the less common terms listed here in your stories, feel free to copy the definitions for your author or story notes, or link back to this blog entry, if you're worried that people won't understand them. * I recognise that some people are uncomfortable with the reclaiming of the word queer, which has been used as a homophobic slur for a long time. We who use it in no way mean to cause offence. Its usage within the community has grown over time and is especially useful for people who belong to more than one sexual or gender minority; instead of saying that I am trans, non-binary and bisexual, I can simply say that I'm queer and be done with it.
  8. The confusion when it comes to these two words is understandable. A lot of people write 'lay' when they should write 'lie' (as in lying down) and, however more rarely, vice versa. So here's a quick guide to how they are different and how they work. 'To lie' is an intransitive verb. That means that it's something you do, but not to something; it's an action without a direct object. You lie down. 'To lie' is conjugated: lie, lies, lying, lay, has/have lain. As you see, the past tense of 'lie' is 'lay', which is likely where the confusion begins. More on this later. Examples: He lies on the ground. (Present tense) She is lying still. (Present participle) They lay there together. (Past tense) I have lain here for a long time. (Past participle) 'To lay' is a transitive verb. It's something you do to something; an action with a direct object. You lay something down. To lay is conjugated: lay, lays, laying, laid, has/have laid. Examples: She lays the pen on the table. (Present tense) He is laying the bag on the ground. (Present participle) I laid the book down. (Past tense) You have laid the blanket on the armrest. (Past participle) So, let's look closer at the usage of these words, in present tense. First, intransitive 'lie': I lie down. I (subject) lie (verb) down (adverb). This clause has no object. That's how you can be sure that you should use the intransitive 'lie'; I'm not doing anything to anything else. For comparison, another intransitive verb is 'to think'. It also functions without a direct object. I (subject) think (verb), no object required. Now, transitive 'lay': I lay you down. I (subject) lay (verb) you (object) down (adverb). This clause has an object. I am laying you down, you in this case being the object (in the grammatical sense; I'm not objectifying you). Since I'm doing something to you, you know to use the transitive verb. For comparison, another transitive verb is 'put' (which is sometimes interchangeable with 'lay'). It is a verb that requires an object. I (subject) put (verb) the knife (object) down (adverb). 'But!' you shout. 'What about "now I lay me down to sleep"??' Well, as strange as it may seem if you're not accustomed to grammatical terms, in that sentence you are both subject and object. That is to say, 'I' is the subject and 'me' is the object. So that sentence is perfectly correct. 'I lie down to sleep', but 'I lay me down to sleep'. I hope this has been informative and edifying. A lot of writers (and people in general) seem to struggle with these particular words—I used to get it wrong all the time—but it's really very easy. You just have to know the difference. Happy writing!
  9. I posted this to Twitter earlier, so I thought I might as well share it here too. I've seen some folks trying to use this older form of the second person singular pronoun in stories, poetry, song lyrics and so on, but getting it all kinds of wrong, so I made a handy little guide. thou - subject (see: 1st person 'I') thee - object (see: 1st person 'me') thy - dependent possessive (see: 1st person 'my') thine - independent possessive (see: 1st person 'mine') Examples from Shakespeare: Sonnet 18: Shall I compare THEE to a summer's day? THOU art more lovely and more temperate [...]But THY eternal summer shall not fade Sonnet 134: So, now I have confessed that he is THINE 'Thine' is also used in place of 'thy' if the following word begins with a vowel, for example: Sonnet 132: THINE eyes I love, and they, as pitying me And, just so we're absolutely clear, 'thou' is ALWAYS singular! Plural of 'thou' is 'you'. 'You' has been adopted as a singular pronoun, but it didn't use to be. The plural form was used as a formal singular form, for politeness, respect or deference, but at some point people started to use it as the default 2nd person singular pronoun in informal as well as formal settings. There are other languages in which the 2nd person plural is used formally while the singular is informal, such as the difference between 'tu' and 'vous' in French.
  10. Neil Gaiman once wrote, in response to angry A Song of Ice and Fire fans demanding the next book in the series, 'George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.' Much like getting attacked on Twitter, I think alienating readers is proof that you're doing something right, if that makes any sense. You've pushed someone's buttons, made them think or feel in some way, even if it was negative. I have alienated multiple readers because of artistic choices I have made, and the same artistic choices have kept many more on the edges of their seats. And that's fine. People don't have to read my books, they have every right in the world to put them down and go do something else. Lord knows I have. (Full disclosure: I find Lord of the Rings dreadfully boring and never made it past the third chapter.) Life is too short to read books you don't like. Some people didn't like all the swearing in The Jacob & Marcus Tales and stopped reading. Some people didn't like what I put my characters through in Nemesis. And I'm sure I've lost lots of readers who never said anything, simply put down the book, and moved on. But then some readers become angry. They feel entitled to have the story move in the direction they wanted it to. They claim ownership of someone else's creative labours. I will happily receive constructive criticism of my work. And I love hearing and reading what people think of what I write. I think it's wonderful that we can have this kind of interaction, that you and I can communicate about the things we write. But no one has the right to dictate what I should write, just like I have no right to dictate anyone else's work. And it's all in the delivery; some people are just rude. I firmly believe that art is a dialogue between artist and audience, but the artist still has final say. The thing is, I don't write for you. I write for me, and I share it with you just in case you might like it. That, I think, is what most writers do, certainly most good ones. Often when I write, the story and the characters take me in a completely different direction from what I thought they would, and that creates richer stories for me to write. I will never compromise my artistic vision to make people like me. I write what I want, what the story wants, and if people like it, that's great. If they don't, they can stop reading. But don't yell at me for my story moving in a direction you didn't anticipate. For lack of a better phrase, that's a dick move. So, dear reader, just to clarify: I am not your bitch.
  11. So, I've finally made it. I'm back at the point where I manage to write. Over a period of about ten years, I got pulled further and further away from things that gave me inspiration to write. (or do anything creative for that matter) The reasons, may or may not be disclosed at a later time, but the gist of it is that even if I didn't understand it at the time my life wasn't doing so good anymore. Top that with denial of being trans from way back when I was 10 or 12 years old. I basically didn't want to "be different" so I didn't tell anyone, and all my life just pushed it away. Then things happened, and I suddenly had the opportunity to observe myself. And discover what was actually going on. A "few" doctors appointments later, over to a specialist, and suddenly things started working out. I now proudly can say I'm trans. I've been (on the time of writing) on hormones for half a year. And things are looking up. I've been out for walks, just to walk. And now my creativity is coming back. And WOW does it feel good. My job situation could be loads better, and thus the same with my economy. But I manage. But now I can see that famous light in the end of the tunnel. And yes, I'm fairly certain it's not a train. So, also at time of writing, chapter one of my new story The Old is up and I'm halfway through first writing of chapter 2. I don't know if I will, or want to pick up some of my old stories. At least not yet. But we'll see. After all, if I remember correctly I have almost 40.000 words down on my main and biggest story. But for now I hope you enjoy The Old, even if it is the first thing I write in many years. Thank you. Anita
  12. There is this overwhelmingly popular opinion that self-publishing, to some degree, isn't valid. It's what we do here on GA, of course, and putting out your work for free on the Internet for people to see seems to be acceptable and sometimes commended, but as soon as an author tries to make money from self-publishing their work—either by setting up a Patreon and asking for donations, or by publishing their work using services like Lulu and Amazon KDP and thus circumventing the traditional publishing process—a lot of people, and in particular other writers, become sceptical, sometimes bordering on hostile. There's this idea that people who self-publish just aren't good enough to be published by a major publishing house and, as such, don't deserve to get paid for the time and effort they put into writing. But is it really about who's good enough? And who decides? Some arbitrary authority, like editors, agents, and publishing houses who are out to make money off of what you write? Is the question whether your work is good, or whether they think it will sell? How much bias and prejudice goes into that evaluation? I think a lot of publishers steer clear of queer fiction, thinking it won't sell as well, and a lot of what you do find published wasn't even written by queer authors. It's getting better, sure, but I still believe the cards to be stacked against us. Yesterday, an event called PitMad took place on Twitter. This is an event that happens four times a year, where authors scream into the void. You write a pitch for your book to fit into one tweet, tag it with #pitmad as well as additional relevant tags for genre and demographic, and wait for editors and agents to like your tweet. Then you send your manuscript to them, and by liking your tweet they have pledged to read it. This rarely leads anywhere, of course. As with everything else on the Internet, it's a lottery. Was your tweet visible enough? Where did Twitter's algorithm place you when they were scrolling through tweets? And it's hard to market yourself, to try and make your book sound interesting in less than 280 characters. And without an agent, you're basically fucked. You don't get JK Rowling stories anymore. You can't just send your manuscript to a publisher. They won't even look at it. So there are more steps, more middlemen, more people who have to think your book is worthy of a chance, who have to think they can make money from it, before it's even seen by someone who can decide whether it deserves to be published. The market is oversaturated. It's harder than it used to be. There are also indie publishers, but a lot of them are sketchy. I've heard stories from authors who were asked to pay to submit their manuscript, pay for their ISBN, which is not how publishing is done. Most serious indie publishers close their submissions periodically because they get so many. At least by self-publishing, you get it out there, you have the chance to make a little bit of money from it. Some self-published authors have later been picked up by major publishers or literary agents. Some have managed to make a modest living through self-publishing. And yeah, when anyone can do it, you end up with a lot of bad stuff. That's not to be denied. But that's no reason to discount the whole thing. I wonder if a lot of writers believe they're simply not good enough. Most writers of online fiction never even try to get something published, indie, self or otherwise. Maybe that's where the hostility towards or dismissal of self-publishing authors comes from. Why should they do it when I don't? And of course, self-publishing comes with a necessity for self-marketing, which can easily be seen as narcissistic. I'm taking the plunge. I'm self-publishing a book of twenty-four of my short stories. All of those stories are available to read here on GA, though I have polished, edited and, in some cases, rewritten parts of them. I have chosen to believe that I'm good enough. That my writing is good enough. And I'll be pushing my book hard on Twitter. I've been writing all my life and I'm taking this into my own hands. It won't make me rich. It may not really sell at all. And posting about it may not make me any friends. But I'm doing it anyway. It will be available on Kindle and as paperback through Amazon KDP, and also as an eBook through Draft2Digital, to be released on Apple Books and Barnes & Noble, among others. It will be out on the 30th of September. I choose to think I can do this.
  13. I'm a nice guy. I think about how others feel, consider their beliefs, and I try to be respectful in as many things as I can. So when I write I do my best to adhere to those same principals. Yet, therein lies a limitation. Not rocking the boat of the reader, not challenging their beliefs, not forcing them to grow is a failing. It's one that I struggle to move beyond, and it has kept me from posting work. I know some of the things I've written will simply not pass muster for some readers who are decidedly experts in their own slice of experience - an experience I seek to depict as an integral part of my story. A friend had to remind me that I'm not claiming to be an authority. That I am only showing the lives and struggles of my characters, and not staking ownership on the only path. I've put in the work. I've done my diligence, and it's time to set it free. Anyway, this one means a lot to me. It means a lot. Maybe that's a part of why I have such a tremendous trepidation around turning it loose. The pictures embedded in most of the scenes are part and parcel of the work, which is why I am only linking it from my Google drive vs posting. By the way, Pexels is a fantastic place to dig up free to use pictures for your own artistic endeavors, and BeFunky was the program I used to tinker with them and add captions. Fleeting Eternity It can be a tough story to read. There's a lot of emotion here, but I love how it turned out. So, here we go. As terrifying as it is, I'm setting it free.
  14. Renee Stevens

    Crazy Life!

    Wow, how the time flies. It's hard to believe that Baby J is just under 2 months shy of celebrating his first birthday! He is so active and is crawling, pulling himself up, and walking along the couch (or anywhere else as long as he has something or someone to hold onto!) We have baby gates all over the house, and so far they seem to be keeping the little guy mostly contained. And we now adapt whatever we're having for meals so that the little man can eat it too, with his 4 little teeth! Being a new mom is more than I ever expected, and so worth it. Especially when he gives me his big grin, or like the other night when I wasn't feeling good and Baby J just snuggled with me. Or he says mama or dada (the very occasional mommy and daddy). Of course, he has his grumpy boy moments, but they're usually only when he's tired or not feeling well. Luckily major meltdowns are few and far between. He's even been on his first major roadtrip. 17 Hour drive (one way) to meet his uncle, aunt, and cousins (we broke it up into 3 shorter days rather than 2 long ones to make it easier on him). Of course, everyone loved him, but Baby J really took to my brother. If my brother was home, Baby J was on his lap, or otherwise in the very near vicinity. As you can probably tell, life has been busy. We're lucky that Baby J hasnt really been sick much, primarily only having the flu at one point and a short lasting stomach bug another one. I've been sick a little more, but D has been great about helping out around the house, especially when I'm not at my best. We may have finally got a few answers to everything that has been going on with me. Vitamin D deficiency counts for a lot of my issues, and most of what isnt caused by that are most likely caused by a stomach/esophagus sphincter hernia. Which basically means that the above named sphincter, that connects the esophogus and stomach, is loose and allows for reocurring reflux. Not great news, but it's mostly controllable with diet and reflux meds (though I'm not on a daily med for it at this point). Surgery isnt suggested to fix the issue unless it gets much worse than it is, as it would require a major surgery. So that's what's been going on here. Not much writing going on, as I simply cant seem to find the time and or ambition, but hopefully that will return in time. There have definitely been some ups and downs, but overall I cant complain too much. Hopefully I'll be able to return to GA on a more full time basis in the near future (is that a little optimistic considering Baby J is nearly a toddler?) But I have a great team to help with my GA duties, and I owe a huge thank you to all of them! Not going to name names, just in case I forget one, but Thank you, all of the help is greatly appreciated! Until next time! Cheers Renee
  15. I started rereading a story I wrote a while back. Camp Refuge is such a keystone for me. It has so many good things going for it, embedded in a package of terrible mechanics. I'm going to try and explain what I mean. I began it to help a reader who had written while I was in the process of releasing Guarded on another site. He was recently diagnosed with HIV, and he was wrecked. I'll never forget the last two lines he ever wrote to me - "Who could love me now? Who could possibly love me now?" I was a chapter away from finishing Guarded when I got that email, and I started Camp Refuge immediately after Guarded was done. I had to. I had to show him that he deserved love, acceptance, and peace. He never wrote again, and as I released chapters, I wondered if he even saw them. But, something started to happen around that story. Other's wrote. People who were HIV+, demisexuals, gray asexuals, trans folks, people suffering from depression, those who had been abused... they all reached out. I got some of them to explore getting treatment locally, even had our HIV nurse and a case manager reach out directly to a few who consented to such. I began to realize that it was bigger than the beginning. It made me understand something scary, and thrilling, all at once. It was the very first time I realized that my words have power. Rereading it now, I know I can't put it on GA. Not yet. I head-hop soooo much; it's almost laughable. But, the bones are there. It has a good skeleton. In the words of the esteemed Stitch, the story is "Broken but Good". I think it deserves to simply be "good". Another project... urgh.
  16. 'They're doing a premium short story collection at GA,' I said, 'for Pride. Coming out stories. Thought I might submit something, got a couple of ideas. I'd get paid, even.' 'That's nice,' she said vaguely. 'I think you should try to write some more . . . accessible stories, though. You know, stories you could sell.' Did you not hear that I may in fact get paid? I sighed. 'I can only write the stories that come to me.' She pursed her lips. 'Of course. But you could write something that more people will want to read.' Have you ever even read one of my stories? I wanted to ask, but I didn't. 'The stories I write are important, though. Queer representation is important. Queer voices are important. Queer writers writing queer stories is important.' 'Well, yes . . . I'm just saying . . . If you'd like to get published, then—' 'I can self-publish. Thought I might put out my short stories.' 'Do people make money off that?' 'Some do. It's hard to find bigger publishing houses who'll publish the stuff I write. And this stuff is important, Mum. How many mainstream novels with queer protagonists written by queer writers can you name off the top of your head? Ones that have reached any real amount of critical acclaim?' I knew I was getting worked up. 'Queer representation in the media is really, really important. Did you know that the only queer actor to ever win an Oscar playing a queer role is Ian McKellan?' 'Really?' She fell silent, and I sighed. 'I have to write my stories,' I said softly, 'or there's no point.' She let it drop. 'Oh, we're here. If you don't want Vietnamese we could go for something else.' 'No, Vietnamese is good,' I said. 'I feel like Pho.' EDIT: Fun fact about self-publishing: The Martian, the book that got turned into a big movie with Matt Damon, that The Martian, started out being sold for Kindle for $0.20 or something like that. Guy who wrote it just wanted to give it away for free to his friends and they kept insisting on wanting to pay for it. So, yeah. Self-publishing can work.
  17. When I write a short story, I usually sit down and write until I'm done. Then I go back, revise, edit, remove stuff, add stuff, read it out loud to myself, fix every minor thing in the dialogue, and then, when I'm happy with it, I'll send it to a beta or an editor, or both. That is my process. When I write a novel, I can't just write until I'm done. I'll write a chapter, go back and read it, polish it, add stuff and take stuff out. Then I'll move on and write the next bit, and maybe do some research for some detail or another (and I need everything to be correct, so my research is meticulous), go back, reread, polish, add stuff, take stuff out. I fact, nearly half my word-count often comes in the editing process, because my rough draft is very stark, often just dialogue and a few tags, the bare minimum of detail and internal monologue so that I know what's going on. I add descriptions, embellish my language, fill out my characters' thoughts and actions, on the first rewrite. When you do NaNoWriMo, you're not supposed to do that. You're just supposed to sit down and write. I have a really hard time doing that. If I manage 2000 words in a day, it's often because I went back and reread and added stuff to previous chapters. At the moment I'm only a tiny bit behind, and I should be caught up by this evening, but I'm not really doing this the NaNoWriMo way. It'll be interesting to see if I make it in the end.
  18. Wayne Gray

    Why I Write

    I don't have the best grasp of the mechanics of writing. I am sure I give my poor retired school-teacher editor fits (it'd be worse without Grammarly). Yet, I still feel my work has merit. Emotion and its description is something I love to do. I love making a reader laugh, cry, or shake their head in frustration at a character. Best, is when they empathize with the poor choice the character just made. The reader gets why the decision happened because they're on the same emotional journey, but objectively, they also know it was the wrong one. Characters with flaws, weaknesses, defects, and pain are beautiful gems that roll in sunlight and throw bits of chaos and color everywhere. My favorite character I've written was a brutal man who ended up guarding a boy on the autistic spectrum. He was prickly, dark, socially inept, but he had a soft spot for his charge. I never received more email than when he finally met the man who tore down the walls around his heart. How many times can you write lines like "... and he fell to sleep on the chest of the most dangerous man in the state..."? In the end, I know why I write. It's not about me. It's all about the reader, and that they're giving me the gift of their time. My job is not to waste it.
  19. A recent comment in the Writer's Forum about a story involving a disabled person gave me the idea for a story about a blind college student that I befriended many years ago. I have posted a number of stories here on GA - (Carhops, Goats and Bugs, the Marco series and the Nick series). These were reposts that had previously appeared on another site but the new story will appear here first. Since it is new, and because the topic could be a bit sensitive, I would really like a Beta reader. Not so much for the usual grammar edit, but for content. I think there is a good story here and I don't want to screw it up. Any volunteers? Thanks, Nick
  20. Yes, OK, insert your own joke here and lets get it over with I'm currently posting an old story of mine (Cal) which I wrote a year or two ago, and each chapter is usually ~4000 words. I've noticed that many stories posted here have shorter chapters than this, which is interesting only because stories I am working on more recently (and yes, they will be posted on GA I promise) are tending to have even longer chapters. So my question is essentially; as a reader, do you care how long a chapter is? Sam
  21. I started writing Nemesis a decade or so ago. While the essence of the story was the same, so many things about it have changed. Back then, Dave's name was Leo. Leo was a far more aggressive, macho type of character than Dave. When I began to rewrite the story from the beginning, a bit less than three years ago, I found that Leo had changed so drastically as to be almost unrecognisable, and his name had to change. Dave just felt right, somehow. Nick has always mirrored me, to a certain extent. When I created him, at fourteen, his big interests were anime and Harry Potter. He wrote poetry and would, in some sort of dramatic gesture, recite the poetry out loud to himself. But the Nick I write now is a songwriter rather than a poet, his great passion is music and his favourite book is, just like mine, American Gods. He's also much better as standing up for himself, quicker and cleverer. I was always terrible at clever comebacks when I was in school, and if It hadn't been for my friends I wouldn't have made it through those years. But Nick doesn't have any friends. It was suddenly clear to me that he needed some more street smarts if he were to survive school without the safety net of friends. So, instead of being the sad loser that everyone picked on, Nick had to become a loner by choice. A non-conformist. Not good at making friends, but getting by without them. In the original story, Leo was very much superior in every respect. However, Dave meets Nick half-way. They're more evenly matched. The minor characters have also evolved. They were, originally, far flatter, and the antagonists didn't really have motivations. That all changed when I took a leaf out of Neil Gaiman's book, literally. Neil says in his introduction to American Gods that when he wasn't sure what was going to happen next, he wrote one of the Coming to America stories (stories about how people ended up taking their gods, superstitions and deities with them to the new world), and when he'd finished, he knew exactly what was supposed to happen in the main story. Whenever I wasn't sure who a minor character was or what their motivations were, I sat down and began penning a short story exploring that character's origins or an episode from his or her life, and when that story was finished, I suddenly knew exactly what that character would do in any given situation. I call the collection of these short stories Hubris. I shall leave you (if anyone is reading this at all) with the rather embarrassing first paragraph of the original Nemesis, exactly as I wrote it ten years ago: There are many small towns in this world, where everyone knows each other and no one's a stranger. If you would ask any of the residents of one particular suburban small-town who the two boys Leo and Nick were, this is the response you'd most likely receive: Whoever it was would get a faraway look in their eyes and chuckle slightly before turning to you and saying, "Don't even get me started on those two!" Because there wasn't a single soul in this town who didn't know the names of the two archenemies Leo Thomas and Nick Davies. Cheerio! Going to sleep now.
  22. I've been meaning to do NaNoWriMo for years, but I never got around to it. November always seems to be a bad month for me. So when I heard about Camp NaNoWriMo this year, I decided this was my chance. So, in April, I finished and rewrote Nemesis. And I won! I'm sort of giddy and very pleased with myself right now.
  23. I finished NaNoWriMo! I’m a winner! I feel really happy and accomplished and proud of myself and very happy. Look, I got a certificate and everything! Of course, this doesn’t mean that the novel is finished. Far from it. I’ve mostly finished all the chapters, and mostly done it the way I planned. But this is just a rough draft. Currently, the sequel to Nemesis (the proper title of which will be decided at a later date) is a collection of loose scenes, it feels like. That’s not to say that there isn’t an ongoing story arc and red thread, but It feels very episodic, and there are bits missing to tie the story together. It’s also full of errors (not so much the spelling and grammar kind as the continuity kind), and it’s very bare bones; I’ve written dialogue and the bare minimum of necessary description, and the language is simple and direct. Now comes the bit I like. Now comes the edit. I will read through everything that I’ve written, changing things as I go, fixing everything that doesn’t make sense, adding flourish to the language and detail to the settings, address the needs of characters who were overlooked (Chas needs more lines; Chas is funny). In the coming months, I’ll likely read through this thing a dozen times before I deem it worthy to even be seen by a beta reader. A lot of authors hate the edit. I love it. Just writing was very stressful to me (and I didn’t quite manage to do it; I kept going back, adding bits and taking bits out of what I’d already written), it isn’t the way I usually work. I always edit while I write. Now I get to take this lumpy, crippled piece of fiction and polish it and turn it into art. This is the bit that I enjoy the most. This is the part of writing that I truly love. This is the fun part.
  24. When you've been depressed for a while, and you've found writing really hard, getting back into it can be a bit of a challenge. I'm feeling a lot better now. Going to school to study sound engineering this autumn, and it feels like my life is back on some kind of track. But the writing is still difficult. The problem is that I have lots of ideas, and I want to get back to writing properly, I really do. But I'm mostly motivated to work on my new ideas. So I sit down thinking, 'I'm gonna write now,' and open up one of the new, unpublished ones (my new viking story, my detective novel, the Pride & Prejudice pastiche). But then I remember that I should be working on my unfinished novels, Lavender & Gold or Nemesis 2, and so I open those and read through what I've written and get to the point where I've got more to write... and then stop, cause I don't feel motivated to write those things, I just want to write the new things. It's like my attention span is shot. And I have readers waiting for L&G and Nemesis, and I don't know what to do. So, I end up playing Skyrim instead. I know all I have to do to finish L&G and Nemesis 2 is just sit my arse down and start writing, but it's like when I try my fingers just won't move, and my mind wanders to Detective Inspector Templeton, or Trym the viking, or Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. And nothing at all gets done. I have to find some way around this. I really, really do.
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