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Posts tagged ‘first novel’

Tale as Old as Time

It’s been a week. Mostly, I’ve been head-down in classes. This is mixed, as I am learning things, but it also means I’m not keeping up with my writing, or reading, or… anything. So I was sort of aware that there was some kerfluffle over Gaiman’s tweet that Clarion was the thing to do if you ever wanted to be a writer, but I just rolled my eyes and kept going. Unlike a bunch of people who seem to have let it knot their knickers, I know that you don’t have to do Clarion to be a writer. I can see that tweet for what it is – genuine enthusiasm on the part of a man who really enjoyed the experience of hanging out with other writers. All of you who read Mad Genius Club can appreciate that. After all, you come here to learn, and hang out with other writers and spark enthusiasm off one another. But you don’t have to leave home and work for weeks on end and it costs nothing.

Ok, now that I’m feeling a lot of pressure to produce high-quality content that will inspire you to get out there and write…

But you know that already. Writers write. It’s not about who has published you, or the prestigious awards you have received, it’s about words on the screen (or paper) and readers who want more, and aren’t shy about telling you that.

My problem right now is time. I have ideas. Oh, how I have ideas. Bursting at the seams, my head is. But I don’t have time, and there are stressful things going on in real life that mean I can’t focus on making-believe to a level that allows me to write a seamless story. What I can produce is sawdust, and dry, compared to what I want to create. I’ve been editing more than creating new, and that’s only when I haven’t had homework.

We all, I suspect, have interferences like this. Where we lose the signal in the noise of stress and life. I’ve been reassured that it will pass, in time. I hope so. I really need to write, not just to make money (I’m a mercenary wench, I am) but because I need to tell the stories.

In the meantime, I’ve been creating art. Art I can do while watching a video lecture on the Silk Road… and you know, they didn’t just transport silk over that? And it wasn’t just one road, there were many routes. Furthermore, there was the Silk Road, the Sand Road (across the Sahara Desert) and the Sea Road (around and across the Indian Ocean) which supplied spices, silk, and many other luxury goods to the Romans, Greeks, and Persians. It’s a fascinating piece of history, and one I wish I had more time to delve into, since I’ve only the lightest of knowledge about it.

This class is like reading Wikipedia articles. No, it’s got less content than some wiki articles I’ve read. But even so, it can spark ideas from which could grow stories. Not a historical – dear ghu, I don’t have time for light fantasy and space opera, never mind the level of research I’d need for that! – but the realization that humanity is both richly diverse, and strangely obstinate in habits.

I mean, doesn’t this sound like, I don’t know, a more recent time in history than Seneca lamenting to the Forum about Silk Road goods sometime around the era of Christ’s life?

“I can see clothes of silk, if materials that do not hide the body, nor even one’s decency, can be called clothes… Wretched flocks of maids labour so that the adulteress may be visible through her thin dress, so that her husband has no more acquaintance than any outsider or foreigner with his wife’s body.”

The class emphasizes gender roles oddly. I understand what the thinking is, but the reality is that throughout early history – and mind you, the class covers from Neolithic era to 1500 – the men were the public faces, the ones who wore the masks of leadership and war. The women were in the shadows, protected, sheltered, and expected to keep the home that the man could return to a sanctuary. From those similarities, when we look closer, we begin to see the differences in expectations and realities. Stereotypical roles can only be carried so far before they begin to fall apart under scrutiny. Yet the modern historian/anthropologist insists on looking at historical accounts through a lens of modern mindsets like feminism and freedom. Freedom is a rich blessing to live with, but unheard of in the era I’m studying. Even rebellions didn’t seek individual freedom, a concept which would have been regarded as madness, but leaders who would extract a lighter tribute, be less brutal to their slaves.

Diamond Sutra

A woodblock from the Diamond Sutra

For all the irritations I find in this class – which is less history and more anthropology – I am still learning from it. You can gain insight from anything, even a light novel. But you aren’t going to gain anything from the unread book. And that is why we here at the MGC talk about not using message as a club. If your reader wants that, that is what they will buy. Did you know that the world’s first printed book was not the Bible but the Diamond Sutra, a book of Buddha’s teachings? It was printed with wooden blocks, not moveable print, and it first came out in 868 – I wonder what the critics had to say. As for the first novel, it was written by a woman, in Japan, and it was a romance novel! The Tale of Genji came out in the same era in which Vikings raided cold English shores, and Omar Khayyam wrote the Rubayiyat.

Come, fill the cup, and in the fire of spring Your winter-garment of repentance fling: The bird of time has but a little way To flutter-and the bird is on the wing.

Ah, Love! could you and I with Him conspire To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits, and then Remold it nearer to the heart’s desire!

It has been a thousand years, and still we write stories. Romance novels are still derided as women’s provenance and the Bible is still a best seller. The human race doesn’t change much. There will be a market for the racy novel in another thousand years.

Don’t let them get you down. Write early, write often, and when you get stuck, take the time to read something you didn’t think you would like. Stretch your wings a little and see if you can catch the wind of inspiration.

Tale of Genji

The story of a man, and a woman, is old as time.




Humble Beginnings

I wanted to write this post for a couple of reasons. One, to counter the claim I saw recently that crowdfunding is necessary to create a debut novel, because you need money to write.  Note that the claim here is not: I need money for editing, formatting, or a cover. No, it was, I need money in order to finish writing my first novel. The second reason was to acknowledge a big influence on my publishing career, and to praise a man who has too much undeserved scorn heaped on him these days.

First of all, when I started writing Vulcan’s Kittens, which is my first published novel (I had about half of The Eternity Symbiote written prior to it, although it would be published later), I wasn’t trying to make money. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure I’d never sell VK to, well, anyone. I wrote it because my daughter asked me to. So the idea of asking for money while I was doing it never crossed my mind. I had no idea if it was any good. I hadn’t heard of Indie Publishing, and knew that vanity publishing was not for me. While I was writing VK, I was a single mother of four, working two and sometimes three jobs, receiving no support from their father.  And it wasn’t published until after I had gone back to college full time on top of that.

The idea of crowdfunding so that I could sit at home and write in my comfy chair, or possibly go and do research in some coffeeshop with my laptop on my knee never even crossed my little brain. My office mates watched me carry a notebook or my decrepit laptop into the lunchroom, eat in five minutes, and write like mad for 45 minutes until it was time to get back to my desk. They thought I was a little crazy, but were fascinated with the idea of writing a novel. Then I’d go home, take care of my kids, and when they went to bed, I’d write for another hour before falling into bed myself. I worked weekends and wrote around the erratic schedule then. In due time – and the bulk of Vulcan’s Kittens was written during NaNoWriMo – I had a manuscript.

Now, the concept that was pitched to me last week was that in the tech industry, you release a product, and then the beta users come back with bug reports, you fix them, and so on until you have a final result. This, the aspiring author insisted, was how it should be. People who wanted to read your book should give you some money, tell you where they saw problems, and you would work on those while offering another section of the book for some more money…

This is not, I assure anyone who had a doubt, how publishing works. Don’t try it. Readers do not want to pay for the privilege of being your editor.

As for me, the story continues. With no help from any crowds, I now had a rough manuscript. I had a writing group that mentored me through short stories prior to this, and I was slowly reconnecting with them (and this blog). I had no money. The stage is set: enter, Larry Correia.

Larry Correia and Cedar Sanderson

When I say big influence, I’m not just talking metaphorically.

I don’t think I’ve told this part of my story here on the blog before. I’d discovered Larry through Baen, when they bought the rights to his previously self-published Monster Hunter International, and published it with a typically Baen all-action-all-the-time cover, and I probably bought it in Webscriptions (no money does not equal no book budget. I don’t smoke, barely drink, and most important: don’t have cable. That I could have a few new books a month through the then low price of $15 was a boon to a struggling single mum). In July of 2012, I learned that Larry would actually be in my state, and I decided that I had to go see him. There were a few problems with this plan. One, he didn’t know me from Adam (or Eve, since I’m undeniably female). Two, no money. Three, and worst of all, no car. He’d be an hour’s drive from me… I pitched the plan to a friend and mutual SFF reader, who’d never even heard of Larry Correia. He was kind enough to make it an expedition.

And this is where I first learned the true nature of Larry Correia.

You see, this wasn’t a formal signing. There just aren’t that many SFF fans in NH. So Larry’s plan was to swing by the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford, NH, sign whatever they had in stock, and go off to bigger and better events. And here this Baen Barfly – my only tie to him, I’d never talked to him before, as I try not to pester my favorite authors – was sending him a message asking when he’d be there, please, so she could meet him? He obligingly gave me a firm time, which he hadn’t planned on, and we headed south.

When I walked into the bookstore, the only person in the shop was the guy behind the counter. I approached him and asked when the signing with Larry Correia would be. He looked up from his work and said ‘oh, hey, he told me you were coming. He’s gone to lunch at the Chinese place next door, said you should come join him.’

And that is how I wound up spending an hour picking a bestselling author’s brain about selling a manuscript, self-publishing, and baby pictures (ok, that’s not really about writing, but I was delighted to get a peek at Epic Baby). And you know what? For a couple of years now, I’ve seen the casual accusations about Larry thrown around. Misogynist? Seriously? He sat there with me, never even blinked at my rampant femaleness, and gave me solid business advice, peer-to-peer. I’ve met Larry socially and professionally several times since them, and he’s always hail-fellow-well-met, with never a blink at my womanhood. It simply doesn’t matter to the man. He was more concerned with helping me get better, and be professional (the gist of our initial conversation was: treat it like a business) than he ever was with assuming I was a lesser being for my gender. It simply doesn’t matter to him. He’s always treated me and the other women who I know are mutual friends with us as: I’m his equal in capacity when it comes to writing, I might not have the experience he does, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn.

Baen Publisher and Authors

Toni Weisskopf, Larry Correia, and Mike Kupari at LTUE

It enrages me to see him treated like a woman-hater. I’ve seen him with his wife, and he’s a devoted husband, tender to her as a man should be. I’ve seen him with women like myself who have a professional relationship with him, and he’s serious when necessary, witty, and always respectful. I’ve watched him with his publisher, who is a woman, and their relationship is a blast to watch. She jokes with him, he teases her, but there is still a deep mutual respect there, one that makes his working relationship an ideal for those of us who work in this industry. I hear all the stories about editors and authors. I see the authors tossed away like used tissues. But there is a higher standard that can be had, and Toni Weisskopf exemplifies that.

His relationship with peers? Look up the Monster Hunter Nation and a phenomenon called a ‘book bomb’. I can unreservedly say that the man gives wholeheartedly. He knows this isn’t a zero-sum game, we authors aren’t competing against one another, we’re mutually feeding a hungry and growing pool of readers. When Larry knows a friend or even acquaintance needs a boost, he pitches their book. He’s not afraid to help other authors. I can’t say how much a help it is, as I’ve never been bombed, but I can say that I’ve bought several books because Larry said “this is good, and this person needs a hand.” Now, that’s how to work crowd-funding. But it takes a big pool of trust and respect, which have to be earned.

Did I become an Indie publisher  because of Larry Correia? No. But he was a huge influence as I tried to figure out if I was going to become a writer, a real professional writer. For that, I’d like to thank him profusely, and to ask:

When’s the next book out? because I can afford more books now, and I want to buy it!