The State of Your Author

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This is basically everyone I know this spring.

So it’s been a rough spring for just about everyone I know.  Illnesses and deaths and housing issues, and in one case scholarship/paying for school scare.  I’m not going to whine about what’s going on in my family, but suffice it to say it’s sticking to the season’s theme.

On top of the unplanned difficulties, our family is working toward finally moving to Tokyo to rejoin my husband, which as you can imagine is fraught with bureaucracy from not merely one but two countries.  Woohoo!

StockSnap_LTY3TGLE73Anyway, my point in all this is to explain why I’m not telling you about the next book to look forward to.  Yet.  I know I’ve said that Brian finally cooperated and I got to finish his next book, but… well, it’s now wallowing pretty heavily in the editing process.  And I can’t find a decent title to save my life.  It’s been painful, and I’ve subjected my family and friends to moaning complaints about it repeatedly for months now.  They love it when I start complaining about demons and hard-boiled detectives and what have you.  I may be driving them to drink…

But there is hope!  The next Los Gatos novel is working out much better.  Sebastian is a bit thorny, and while I’m still writing the ending of it and it has to go through edits, but it feels much closer to ready.  So I’ve made an executive decision to swap the releases, and you’re going to get a new Los Gatos book at the end of May or beginning of June, depending on how fast editing goes.  And I’ve got a few ideas bubbling away for later on down the line going on over there in the Bay Area.

Brian… well, Brian will reappear when he’s ready.  He’s clearly got a few things to work through still, and I think it will be worth it, but patience seems to be key with that guy.

So there you are.  The state of your author.

Wait, what?

I just read about a woman standing in peak-toed shoes.  She was also peaking around the corner, horrified at the site her eyes were taking in.

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I can’t even tell you how much it hurt me to read about this poor woman.  I mean what kind of bizarre body shape does she have to require those strange shoes?  Or to jut out like that from around a corner?  And what sort of superpowers does she have to suck an entire location into her eyes?

Okay, okay, we all know perfectly well that I’m talking about homophones here.  We’re all familiar with the usual suspects like ‘which witch is which?’ and ‘They’re going to their car over there.’ These are the popular ones that everyone talks about in grade school, and when we come across them we often sigh and shake our head but move on past them because we understand it.  But I have been coming across some whoppers lately that a spell check is just not going to catch, and man.  I had to start collecting them.

Reek vs wreak is a good one.  I’m not sure how someone would reek vengeance, but it sounds horrifying.  I posted on Facebook the other day about the wonton love scene.  The professor in my family facepalmed hard when I pointed out the site/sight/cite problem one author was having.  Past and passed is another one I’ve started coming across recently.  It’s difficult for me to keep my suspension of disbelief when someone ducked passed something or wants to discuss the recent passed.  And when I read about it, I don’t shutter, I shudder.  Yeah, I’ve seen that one as well.

Illicit and elicit is a new one I just dug up.  I can’t even imagine how someone could illicit the reaction the author was going on about, but it probably was illegal in several states.  One I actually come across frequently isn’t a homophone, but a spelling error that is very easy to make so I try not to get upset, but breath and breathe are not interchangeable words.

Now I am far from perfect.  I’ve gotten notes on my published books where I’ve made a whopper of a mistake, and I truly appreciate when someone takes the time to let me know about a specific error.  But truly.  Some of these mistakes are just at the peek of lazy editing.

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Photo credit: theilr on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Golden Rule

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One of the things I mentioned last week is that I’m falling down on reading books to review here.  I basically haven’t read any urban fantasy for a few weeks, and the reason for that is pretty much the same as the reason I write it: most urban fantasy these days is full of horrible people treating each other badly.  I have picked up several books lately that sounded great from the description— interesting characters, exciting plot— but the interaction between the characters was so negative that I couldn’t stick with it.

In one case some manipulative parents actually had me punching the wall in frustration and man do I regret that.  I had to get an ice pack.  And I did not finish that book.

No genre is immune to people treating each other badly, and it’s difficult to tell it’s coming from a blurb or description.  And honestly it’s not a terrible way to set up a character’s life if that’s what’s necessary to get the story rolling, so I can’t argue that it’s absolutely the worst, but as a reader, I really need to find my reading material more hopeful.  I need to see people making friends and allies rather than losing them.  There are books out there that skirt the issue, slightly.  Like Dead Man.  It’s a good book, I won’t lie, but at the end of it, Cisco still alone and lacking answers because nobody will talk to him.

Real life is too harsh, especially right now, for me to want to immerse myself in poor behavior and bad manners.  I’m not looking for rainbows and flowers at all times, but at least, for the love of storytelling, let the main character have some loyal friends, please?

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Anxiety again

It’s been a rough month.  Lots of family stuff going on in the background: some drama, some tragedy, and some just normal life stuff that just wears a person down hard.  It’s the way life goes, and while I’m not going to post the specifics out of respect for various wishes, I do want to keep you lovely people in the loop as to the State of Your Author as it were.  And honestly?  Lately, Your Author isn’t in great shape.

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I try to keep a positive tone online for a lot of reasons, one of them being the fact that I don’t agree with Calvin and I try to avoid spreading my bad mood around.  Still, it’s difficult to not let my mood bleed through into everything I’m doing, especially since it’s affecting my sleep, my mental processes, and even my vocabulary which let me tell you is a pretty embarrassing thing for a writer.

Anxiety isn’t a lot of fun.  Pretty much the opposite actually, and it’s been hitting me hard lately.  Between the family stuff and the pending move to Japan, stuff with The Boy at school, and tax time (which I don’t usually mind much, especially now that we have a Tax Guy who is awesome,) and… well.  The Anxiety Gnomes found a way to breach the citadel walls and now they’re working like mad to get in and wreak havoc.

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

And it’s starting to seriously affect my work.  I’ve put off contacting my Beta readers who should be almost done with their look over the next Riverton novel.  The same novel that still doesn’t have a title, so I can’t order the cover.  I haven’t sent anything to the new editor I’m looking at, not even an introduction email which is pretty silly.  I’m sleeping very badly at night and reading really trashy, terrible books to keep myself occupied quietly so I don’t wake the whole house.  I’m not getting the plot work done because half the time it feels like I’m trying to think through the heavy fog in my brain, or reading any books I can review for book reports here on the blog and I’ve neglected my end of the month email for my newsletter.  I’m going to have to post an exclusive short story in abject apology to my subscribers, but then that’s another thing I’m not doing because it’s amazing how anxiety can actually stop you from even trying.

I’m trying to take steps, though.  I’m not simply letting myself slide further into this black hole of doom and gloom.  I’m drinking more water and trying to get a bit more exercise.  When it’s not sleeting or anything I’ll go outside and putter in the garden a bit.  I’m looking into doing some meditation in the mornings before things get too insane here with The Boy.  And my friend the massage therapist did some continuing education and needed a guinea pig to practice on the other day which made me think that maybe I should look into getting a massage once a month or so to help me keep myself from losing my mind altogether.  (She also pointed out that I’m wrecking my shoulder while I’m typing, so maybe if I’m not in pain while working will help too.)

So there it is.  I’m a mess right now, but at least I know I’m a mess and I’m working on it.  That should help repel the attacking Gnome army.gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-little

Brain freeze

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Photo via Visualhunt

My apologies, please see the title of this post.  Except that title isn’t entirely accurate, It’s more like I’ve fallen down and failed at my duties here, and I have to specify.

I seem to be going through an odd period, creatively speaking.  I am actually writing more per day than I have for the past year or so.  However, almost none of that is on the business end of things.  I have failed to get a book cover ordered (although to be fair, it’s tough to order a cover when the book still doesn’t have a title.) I haven’t written to the various professionals I need to talk to to get another project moving forward.  I have failed at getting my newsletter out on time.

I just can’t seem to get my mind settled enough to write the non-fiction portion of my writing.  And it is a problem.  So I apologize.  I am going to spend some time this week buckled down and pull together the next few blog posts, for which I already have ideas.  I’m going to get my tush in gear and contact everyone I should.  I’m going to update the Books page because I have fallen behind somehow.  I…  well, honestly I’ll probably put up a poll on the Facebook group about book titles because I clearly can’t be trusted with that decision.

So there you are.  The State of the Writer for the time being.  On the bright side, I think that Sebastian Russell and the gang at the Village at Rancho San Antonio are on the brink of more interesting times.  Poor things.

Stress

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Stress is a thing.  It’s a real thing that has real, physical symptoms.  Then you can add on the emotional and mental symptoms and basically stress can make you a terrible mess.  I’ve got headaches, and extra anxiety (actually more than usual, which just makes for all kinds of fun times..) I haven’t been sleeping well, and honestly thinking is difficult.

Coffee doesn’t have much of an effect on me anymore, and that’s not just because I’m drinking too much.

The fact is that there have been some pretty big things happening with my family.  I’m not going to discuss details but it hasn’t been a lot of fun, although we did get to see my husband for a hot second thanks to a hastily arranged 3-day trip from Tokyo to Washington DC.  Still, as much as we loved to see him, the exhaustion and the weird appetite, the feeling of uselessness from being unable to actually do anything to help in this situation, and the feeling like I’m trying to think through a skull full of slush is really starting to get to me.

So I have to do something.  It’s spring break here, so The Boy is out of school for a week.  We’ll go hiking and to a museum or two.  Go outside in the spring sunshine and get some exercise and just shake up our routine a bit.  It’ll be good for us, and maybe I’ll be able to sleep at night again, finally.

Also, I might have to look into cutting back on the coffee.  Maybe.

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Photo credit: dannybirchall on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Book babies

My husband was in town for a hot second this past weekend.  He lives in Tokyo and is paving the way for The Boy and me to move there this summer.  We’re all really excited, and nervous, and there’s more than a little anxiety and second-guessing involved.  But with him in town, we decided that since it’s springtime now (hint, hint, weather!) I would pack up some winter clothes and send them home to Tokyo in my husband’s luggage.

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So, I pulled a bunch of my sweaters, and my heaviest scarves out of my closet and folded them into a suitcase.  There was still room, and since The Boy is growing like a weed, packing his clothes seems like a slight waste of time.  So instead of clothes, I asked him to go through his stuffed animals and pick a couple to send ahead of us.  He rifled through his mountain of stuffies and came back with all his Murlocs.  What can I say, that’s our boy!

The other thing I asked him to do is pick 5 English language books to send ahead since books in Japanese will be easy enough to come by.  He started pulling books off shelves like he’d forgotten how to count, and frankly, I can’t blame him.  I mean, how do you narrow it down?  I mean, they’re books, people!  It’s like choosing your favorite kid!  (Okay, I only have the one, but you know what I mean.)

My family has always had a book collecting habit.  It honestly can sometimes approach hoarding levels before we have an enforced cull of old textbooks and airport novels we didn’t love so much really.  We have a bookshelf in every room of our house, except the bathroom, because steam + paper is kind of a mess.  In fact, in the house I grew up in the basement was divided up into rooms via bookshelves placed back-to-back!

So I had to take a deep breath and find my inner minimalist and rein my son in a bit.  No doubt I’ll end up getting him a Kindle or some other international-travel-friendly solution, but for now, we have some non-negotiable tomes to transport.  The Star Power books are, apparently, essential to The Boy’s well being.  A couple of My Little Pony books.  Some Ricky Ricotta stories.  He seems content with the selection we settled on, and they all fit nicely between my thick wool sweater and my winter coat.  Now I just need to look at my own bookshelves and make some choices.

I don’t know if I can do this…

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Photo credit: Sander van der Wel via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

Getting angry

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Photo credit: @lattefarsan on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Characters have feelings, just like anyone else.  Sometimes those feelings get hurt, and characters get angry, and the interesting part for me is always how they come back from that particular ledge.  Often the person or situation they’re angry at is the bad guy or the Great Crisis of the book, and the way our heroes get past their anger is to defeat the bad guy, solve the Crisis, and go home victorious to have cake and fancy drinks and maybe flirt with that cutie over at the corner of the bar.  Or something.

But other times— and this is where I get really hung up— our heroes get angry at their friends, family, or love interest, and we all know that they’re going to have to work that out to get through the Great Crisis or else the whole story is a mess of people falling apart and nothing getting fixed.  So, often someone will talk to our hero and explain, either logically or not, that they’re wrong for being mad, and the hero sighs ponderously and agrees, either silently or out loud, and then they go and apologize to whoever they were mad at. And the story moves cheerfully along to its grand finale.

Fuck.  That.  People are allowed to be angry.  People are allowed to be hurt when they are wronged, or even think they’ve been wronged, and it’s not their job to apologize for having feelings.  This post was inspired by a book I was reading the other day, and yes I’ll admit it was a romance because I love me a happy ending, and no I’m not going to author-shame by naming it.

Our young hero agrees, after a long conversation discussing it, to date their love interest.  When the love interest is seen out with another, our hero gets upset and makes a small scene in public before being hauled off by his friend.  Now, in the story the whole thing hinged on a misunderstanding of exclusivity, and I can easily see how it could be resolved quickly, but instead of a reconciliation scene where two adults admit faulty assumptions, what I got was a “well we never talked about that, we just said we’re dating, now come on we’re going to do what I want now,” statement and within about 3 short sentences the couple was all over each other.  No further discussion was necessary, apparently, and all was forgiven even though the actual problem was barely even addressed let alone solved.  And they lived, I assume, happily ever after, but I wouldn’t know because I had to put the damn thing down and walk away.  I had no respect left for either of the characters involved.  And the love interest showed that they were uninterested in our hero’s emotional health to the point of being actually harmful.

Our young hero had every right to be upset since he was under the impression that they had talked about that, thank you very much, and discounting that fact is dismissive in the extreme.  It’s also maybe hurtful in bigger ways since in all honesty humans learn from fiction, and that scene taught that anger and hurt in a relationship should be buried and ignored.

That’s only one example of perfectly justifiable anger being ignored or pushed aside that I’ve come across, but it’s a pretty clear one.  I don’t mind anger in a story, because like I said, characters are just like everyone else, and they’re allowed to get mad when the situation calls for it.  It’s how they come back from being angry that can be hit or miss for me.  I would hope that there would be some sort of acknowledgment that a character’s feelings are acceptable, if only because they’re part of that character.

Now acting on that rage…. Well.  That’s another blog post altogether.

 

Shut In

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So going to the doctors on Monday made me realize something.  I mean, I’d sort of noticed it in a peripheral sort of way, and made jokes, but I’d never really thought about it much.  I goof around about having to go to such great lengths as “clothes” to take my son to school in the morning. I teased my husband that I’m moving to Japan and planning to become a hikikomori.  I have been known to spend all weekend in my pajamas just because I can.

Basically, I dislike having to leave my house.  I actually kinda resent it.  I mean there are people out there!  Like, people that expect me to do things like have manners and know basic social conventions!  I am not good with real live people, what can I say?

Maybe that’s how I got so hooked on stories?  The people in stories don’t expect me to understand how to react.  I can get into their heads and see what makes them tick and it makes actual sense.  Mostly.  (More on that later, maybe…) I can never seem to think fast enough to deal with people in front of me in real life, but a fictional one on a screen or a stage or a page?  I can get my brain around that person.

I still have to go out to take my son to school though.  And there’s still at least one last show for me to work on before we move, and a few friends here care enough to force me to get out and be social.  And even in Tokyo there will be friends to see and new friends to meet and adventures to be had, so I won’t just stay in my apartment all alone, I promise.

Although, as a writer, I might have to block off a few days every week to live up to the expectations of me, my coffee, and my rickety typewriter. I aim to please, after all.

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