Monthly Archives: January 2013

Achievement Unlocked: Downtime

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It’s always an awesome feeling when you meet your goals, regardless of how major or minor they might have been. You work non-stop, driving to reach your deadline whether they’re self made or otherwise.  Once met, where do you go from there? If you’re like me, there are a ton of other projects to pick up; stories to finish, edits to get to, promos to prepare.

So should you just jump right into something? I’m going to possibly surprise you and say no.

You may have a million ideas brewing but I think there’s a lot to be said for stopping down for a bit to recharge your creative juices. Catch up on your reading (a very important hobby for authors to keep up in my opinion), clear out the DVR before it’s too full to record anymore. Take a walk and get inspired by nature and people. It’s also a good time to get together with friends. Remember how you blew them off while you were busy writing?

“Sorry I had to miss your baby’s christening. I was right in the middle of the epic battle scene in my book!”

“Oh…did I miss your milestone birthday? I was under deadline. Sorry.”

“Uncle Earl won’t care if I miss his funeral to finish my book, right?”

Mend any bridges you might have started smoldering while you were locked away in hermit-mode working on your masterpiece. Spend time with family and friends and they’ll understand when you’re busy next time that their time will come once you’ve finished your project.

You don’t have to spend a long time in downtime, a couple of days could suffice if you’re scared you’re not going to be able to get back into the swing of things. Deadlines are stressful and you deserve to reward yourself before pushing towards the next one.  Remember all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, or some junk.  Celebrate your success by recharging yourself.  Not only will friends and family thank you, but your body will enjoy the tension stress-free time as well.

Do you take time off between projects? What works best to relax you after a stressful deadline is met?

SWF Writing GWM – Is it okay to write something you’re not?

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As I’m finishing up my round one edits on Heavyweight  I’m rather plagued with worry about whether my main character, a closeted gay teen athlete, will come off as realistic enough to my readers. While no one complains about adults writing for young adults (after all, we all had to go through that awkward age to get where we are today) I do wonder if there are people out there who are going to say “HEY! You’re not male nor gay! How dare you try to assume you know enough to write one without living the life?”

It’s true. I’m neither male (last I checked) nor gay (girls are pretty but just don’t rev my engine) but I have been surrounded by both for much of my life. Obviously, it’s hard not to be surrounded by males (unless one is born in a convent and never leaves perhaps) and between having a brother and boyfriends and a lot of male friends, I think I’ve got that aspect covered well enough.  I have gay relatives and over the years several of those male friends have come out and while I obviously couldn’t be inside their heads when that happened, there have been discussions and I like to think I have somewhat of an idea. I hope it’s enough of one that people aren’t going to come back and tell me my ideas are all wrong and that my characters come off as fake or unrealistic.

When writing anything you’re unfamiliar with, research must be done. I don’t think writing characters of different gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. is any different.  There are many great books out there with real life coming out stories and a good amount of fiction with gay main characters (although there could certainly be more). There are also movies and TV shows that can be used for reference. Plenty of actors  will play characters of the opposite orientation and do a fantastically convincing job of it. Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, Eric Stonestreet from Modern Family and Matt Smith (yes the 11th Doctor) in Christopher and His Kind to name a few.

I don’t think it’s something you should go into just assuming you know enough.  You might be right, but you might also end up offending  with your take on a certain type of person. I did try to stay away from stereotyping my characters, although I don’t know if that’s 100% possible, but I kept it minimal (at least I think I did!).

Finding beta readers who will be able to relate to your character can be very helpful in making sure you’ve done a good job in portraying a gay male teen or an Asian Buddhist, etc. That being said, I could certainly use more beta readers (just for content, not editing purposes) that will “get” Ian. You don’t need to be an athlete (although that’d be handy) nor a teen anymore, but if you’re gay (male or not) and interested in being a beta reader for me, drop your name and email into the comments!

They say you should write what you know, but if that were truly the case, how would we get fantastical Sci-Fi stories and epic fantasy tales?  Writers create and build their own worlds (even contemporary authors) and it may take research and advice, but I think convincing, enjoyable books can be produced.  An author can write any type of character as all characters are going to be relatable in someway (Even the aliens and robots folks. They will be relatable because they will be lacking those human qualities and emotions. Does that make sense? It does to me anyhow…) whether it’s experiences or emotions. They will all love and hate and triumph and fall down. It doesn’t matter if they’re black, white, gay, straight, Catholic or Jewish.

It remains to be seen on whether I’ve done a convincing job crafting my characters, but I’m holding on to hope that I have. So far no Juggalos have come to yell at me for my portrayal of one of their own in Tears of a Clown (even though I do poke a bit of fun at them) and hopefully I won’t offend anyone of the GLBT persuasion either. It’s certainly not my intention to do so.

What is your take on authors creating characters that are different from the type of person they are?

 

Here are some other good articles on the topic:

http://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/05/24/can-straight-authors-write-queer-too/

http://speakitsname.com/2011/12/03/can-a-straight-woman-write-gay-characters-and-so-on-and-so-forth/

http://rosalie-warren.blogspot.com/2012/04/can-you-write-gay-fiction-if-you-are.html

http://asknicola.blogspot.com/2010/11/can-queer-authors-write-straight.html

http://lynleystace.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/can-women-write-authentic-male-characters/

http://journalism.howlround.com/why-am-i-afraid-to-write-african-american-characters-by-marshall-botvinick/

http://sarahockler.com/2012/04/30/race-in-ya-lit-wake-up-smell-the-coffee-colored-skin-white-authors/

http://www.racialicious.com/2007/05/25/white-authors-ethnic-characters/

Teaser Thursday – Heavyweight

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I’ve been busy working on edits for my Young Adult GLBT novel, Heavyweight, and I am falling in love with the story all over again. For me to be so excited over the edits goes to show how important this book is to me and how much I want to get it out there to share with everyone. I figured I’d take today to share a little more. Hope you enjoy it!

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Fishing in my pocket I dig out my wallet to check  funds. Because of my intense practice schedule, I can’t have a job during the school year, but I do some construction type work over the summer and then try to ration out the money to stretch throughout the school year.  It doesn’t allow me to spend much, but thankfully I don’t have a lot of free time to hang out, blowing money.

“We can cover you.”  Julian’s voice startles me from my thoughts.  I wave him off.

“Nah, I’m good. But thanks.”

“Really, it’s not a big deal.  Our dad allotted for an insanely big weekly allowance.”

“Jules,” Mei-Li puts a hand on her brother’s arm.  He looks at her.

“What? I can’t afford to pay?”  Mei-Li gives him a look I can’t quite interpret. I don’t want them to think I’m some bum trying to scrounge money off of them. I decide to make a joke of the whole thing.

“What, is this suddenly a date or something?” I ask, smirking.

When Jules turns his head slowly to look at me, a wide smile spreading across his face, I regret my choice of words. What was I thinking, egging him on? What if he takes it wrong and spreads it around school that I flirted with him?! Why am I trying to sabotage myself? I’m ready to dash out of the diner when he finally speaks.

“It could be….especially after seeing you in that singlet today.”  My head snaps up in time to see him bite on his lip ring, sucking it into his mouth. Woah. Who knew piercings could be so…erotic?  I shift in my seat, utterly aware of how my body is now reacting to this conversation.  Julian sees the movement and I spy an evil glint in his eye. He knows what he’s doing.

“I never knew wrestling was such a…sexy sport. All that sweating and touching. Maybe I should join the team. We could…wrestle together.”

Holy shit. I think my heart just stopped. I can’t seem to bring air into my lungs. Is he being serious or just playing along? Mei-Li is rolling her eyes at our conversation. That doesn’t help me know whether it’s a joke or not. Good God! Do I call him out on it? No! No I couldn’t possibly. What to do? What to do?

“Sadly, that wouldn’t be possible. We’d be in different weight classes,” I finally reply, still utterly unsure of what to make of this conversation.

He pouts. My God, those lips. Get a grip, Ian!! I’m going to have to dump the glass of ice water the waitress just gave us down my pants.

“Well, you could help me practice the holds, couldn’t you?”

Wait, what? I’ll practice whatever you want if you’re being serious. “I…guess?”

He smirks. “We shall see then.”  Picking up his menu, he winks at me – freakin’ winks!- and then hides behind the giant plastic covered paper presumably deciding what to eat.

I drop my own menu and slid out of the booth. Upon standing, both my companions peer over their menus.

“Bathroom,” is all I say hurrying to turn away from them. I’m dying to adjust myself, but I’m certainly not doing that where either of them can see.

Once inside I throw on the cold tap and splash my face, hoping it’ll cool down the rest of my body. I leave the water running as I lean back against the wall of a stall, eyes closed. A quick readjustment makes my pants fit a little better. But only a little.

Is this reaction natural? Is this how Maggie felt when I smiled at her? I mean, minus the boner of course. If so, I can get why she was so upset when we broke up.  I guess I just didn’t really understand that kind of connection. Sure I’ve had crushes on actors and maybe a cute classmate or two, but it’s never been like this.  Could this feeling be…love?

No.

No, it couldn’t possibly be.

Lust, maybe? That makes you all shaky and sweaty and wanting to jump someone when they just smile at you, right?  How do I stop this from happening? Keep him mad at me? Avoid him? Confess?  My head whips back and forth at that thought. I can’t do that. What if I’m totally off the mark and he’s straight? There’s no way he’d keep my secret under wraps and then there goes my whole life. My whole future. Why does he have to toy with me like he does?

“Ian?”

My eyes fly open. So lost in my own thoughts, I didn’t hear him come in.  Julian is standing in front of me, the door slowly closing behind him. He eyes the still running tap before looking back at me.

“You okay?”

I fumble to shut the water off. “Yeah, fine. Just a little shaky. Probably need to eat.”  Wiping my hands on my jeans, I move to walk past him and leave the suddenly shrinking room.  He catches my arm before get too far.

“I hope I didn’t upset you…joking around before. That wasn’t my intention.”  There’s a sharp pain in my chest upon hearing the word joking. My free arm rises to rub the smarting spot.

“You didn’t. No worries.”  He lets go, looking a bit let down before the expression is gone, replaced with a small smile.

“The waitress came by to take our order.  She said she’d come back for yours.”

“Oh…okay. I better go then…”

“Yeah…”

Throwing the door open, I hurry out before I can turn around and ask him why he had looked so disappointed.

Make Connections and Get Involved

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I’ve done posts before about building your platform by using Twitter and Facebook and other forms of social media, so I hope you have that aspect down pat by now!  It’s important to build a fan base if you want to be able to sell books, but it’s equally important to make professional connections and get involved with the writer/reviewer community.

The Internet and social media make it easy to find fellow authors and learn from them but besides authors you should be looking for reliable book bloggers, editors, cover artists, marketing folks, small press publishers (if you’re undecided between going the Indie route and traditional, small press is often a happy medium), brutally honest beta readers, etc.

So you’ve gone and scoured the net , finding all of these people. Good job! Now, what to do with them?  This is when you get involved. If you’re following blogs, be sure to read them. I get we all have busy lives and families and it’s hard to get to every single post, but you can set up a (RSS) feed to have your blog posts delivered to one place (so to speak) and you can scan the titles and pick the ones that catch your eye to read.  If you notice someone is involved in a blog hop, look to see how you can join in the fun! If someone is planning on doing a release soon, see if you can help them with a cover reveal or post a snippet of their work. If you don’t have a blog of your own, there’s always Twitter. Remember, no two people have the same exact followers and while you may have a couple of people overlapping with the other author, chances are you have more folks they’re not following, therefore you would be helping them reach a larger audience. If you help your fellow authors, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be happy to lend a hand when you need it as well.

There’s a whole lot going on out there and a lot of groups who are looking to help promote authors (especially Indie authors!) so Google for groups, looking for forums and be a steady participant.  The best you can anyway. The more you’re around participating, the better others get to know you and become interested in your work and recommend you to others. What more could you want? I mean besides a lot of sales and recognition…but those could come as you expand your reach!

While a lot of this networking can be done online, don’t forget that there are opportunities in the “real” world as well! Check your local library or bookstore for monthly writing groups.  They are often looking for fresh meat…uhh new authors to hear their work and critiques. It will help to read your work out loud and get instant feedback. Even if you’re shy you should give it a try because what happens if you have to do a reading/signing someday?  Might as well get practice in when you can!  There are often writing groups in your county/state that will set up talks with other authors on how to write queries or find a publisher, etc. Many of these talks are free or only charge a small fee. I highly suggest attending some. They are often very informative and can help on your journey. They might also run workshops you won’t want to miss. If they have an email newsletter, be sure to subscribe!

I bet there are more opportunities out there, you just have to do a little digging. I bet it’ll be easier than you think so don’t just brush it off and think “I don’t need to network more, I have one thousand Twitter followers!” You need to be an active participant in the community if you want to thrive in the profession.

What do you do to expand your professional network?

 

Give Your Characters Substance

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A great plot line is essential to keep your readers riveted, but pair that with flat, dull, stereotypical characters? Let me tell you, it won’t make for an enjoyable read.

Developing your characters is just as important as developing the plot. You want them to be realistic and believable, regardless of whether they’re human, vampire or fae. You want your readers to be able to connect with the character in someway whether it’s seeing themselves in the character or being able to share in an emotion or experience.

Your character needs a physical description so your readers know how to picture them in their mind, but they also need a personality. Personality is often shown through your character’s voice but also through their actions.  If your character is kicking puppies or helping the homeless, it gives the reader an idea of the kind of person they are.

While you may have some static characters in your story, a main character should be complex, three dimensional. Make your characters realistic by making them unsure, curious, full of anxiety, lust and anger. We don’t always make the right decisions in life and neither will your characters. We learn from our mistakes. So should your characters.

Don’t be scared to have your character’s personality change throughout the story. We all change through experience, but make sure you give a reason why your character goes from happy-go-lucky to bitter and cynical or vise versa. Also don’t think you need to change them back to happy and content.  While readers enjoy happy endings, (heck, so do I!) life doesn’t always deal the best cards and it takes time for people to trust and be happy so don’t feel like everything has to be all good and right with your character at the end of the story.

Make your characters lovable, hate-worthy, comical or cynical. Make them three dimensional, relatable and realistic. Flesh them out and your readers will be drawn in and excited to see what awaits your creations.

How do you make your characters realistic?