Monday, February 28, 2011

You Are Your Own Motivation


"What motivates you to keep writing and not give up?"

That's a very good question, considering I haven't written anything all month. Have I given up? Pffft. No. I'm in this too deep, past the point of no return.

Do I want to give up? Nah.

Have I thought about giving up? Of course I have. Life would be easier if I didn't write. After all, I have a day job. I could do what most American's do after work; watch TV, drink a cold one, hang out with friends.

Instead, I do what only writers with a day job do; I go straight to my computer and work. I don't watch TV because it distracts me from writing and promoting. I don't drink because I get buzzed easily and I don't want to see the result of drunken writing. Scary thought. Seriously. As for hanging out with friends ... What friends?? Oh, sure, I talk to Ana and Charlene on Skype and I go out with my boyfriend once in a while. But that about sums up my social life. I'm too busy trying to be an author to have a social life, so my social life consist of "friends" and "followers" online. Don't get me wrong, I love my social networking buddies.

But I wasn't always a hermit crab. I wasn't always a writer. I'm only twenty-five, I still remember my high school and college years. My pre-writing years. I don't have kids, I'm not married. It would be very simple to quit and go back to "normal".

So why don't I?

Honestly, I don't want to. I have a stubborn, determined passion to become an author. Well, scratch that. I'm already under contract with MuseItUp Publishing Inc. So, I AM an author. :)

Why would I quit now? I'm just getting started.

As far as what motivates me, the only answer I have for you is Me, Myself, and I. There's nothing, NOTHING easy about being an author. You might think plotting and writing the first draft is hard - and it is! But just wait until you start editing. You'll think "Nothing can be harder than this s**t." But of course, you wouldn't write and edit an entire manuscript without planning to publish it. HA. Guess what? Getting an agent or editor contract is HARD WORK. Lets say you get that far... have you tried self-promotion yet? That's where I am now. Hmm? Why are you looking at me funny? Oh, they didn't tell you you have to promote yourself? Yup. Unless you can afford to hire a PR. Which most of us can't.

Seriously. There is nothing and no one out there that's going to push you to do this. ANYTHING would be easier than writing. Especially since you don't get paid until you start selling books. Oh, and no one gets into this biz expecting to become rich. Sure, we all hope to be an overnight success like Stephenie Meyer. But we all know in the back of our heads that Meyer is the very definition of "exception". More like "jack pot lottery winner" if you ask me.

After all the blood, sweat, and tears (yes, I've actually done all three. Blood? Paper cut. Nasty things...) you may or may not sell a book. But whether you do or not, once you come full circle, you realize you're not at some higher place on the proverbial chart. No, you're back at the beginning, staring at the blinking courser on a blank Word Document, trying to puzzle out your next manuscript. And the whole process starts over again. HA.

Oh, not happy with that answer? Want to know what REALLY motivates little old me? It's the dream of one day seeing a novel I've written in print on the shelf of a Barns & Noble. Hopefully they won't also go bankrupt before I get that far. That, and a level of stubbornness only a female Taurus can achieve. Yup, that's really, really it. Just a stubborn dream.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Critique Groups May Work! However--!


They can work and they might work very well provided any and all axes are left outside as it were.
In other words, how do we know that the opinions that are given are constructive and are not embued with any negativity?

Can we be absolutely positive that those offering criticim are able to be fair? What if they aren't able to be and they don't realize it? Maybe they just don't like stories about vampires or even if they are sworn to adore every single story about vampires (or whatever it is you write about) they just don't like our story. Or even worse, they don't like us?

I believe in the 'ideal reader' that Stephen King speaks of. That is absolutely beyond doubt. However frankly I don't like critique groups. I have no problem however with workshops that offer critiques. Face to face workshops where we can discuss things one to one. That's fine as are critique groups that are also face to face.

I joined a wonderful workshop ten years ago for a time. I hadn't written since I was a teenager and that workshop was the very best thing that could have happened to me. I was enouraged, inspired and critiqued too. I learned in a constructive atmosphere and I learned happily. I don't belong to any now because at the stage I'm in now I feel it would paralyze my writing. My ideas would die before they ever saw the light of day.

But here's another point of mine, as for critiquing in general, I don't like showing a story or a novel (especially an unfinished-barely begun novel) for scrutiny. It's like having a ten day old fetus adjudged for its viablity. IT'S TOO SOON, PEOPLE! The little embryonic bunch of words will not go full-term. It will die before it is drawn forth, before it is allowed to gasp its first breath...!

Okay, I'm getting carried away, sorry.

Answering this question on a purely subjective level: no. Critique groups do not work for me, I am not comfortable. I have to have my story grow and become whatever it becomes.

Possibly the reason for this is also that I am a 'seat of the panster.' I know my characters, have a basic idea of the plot and go for it. I get zero draft done first, then a proper first draft. Now since the zero draft is just that: ZERO, how can I ask anyone what they think of it? I can bounce an idea off someone, that's different but for critiquing, not for me I'm afraid.

Having said that what works for me may not work for another. No one ever lost anything by trying a critique group to see if they liked it, if they could benefit from it.

Nothing in life is certain nor is anything written in stone. With regard to writing, there are no rules. Writing is a great journey and if you find a vessel to sail the stormy seas in that is right for you, climb aboard, set your sail and seek your dream! 


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Some thoughts on… Criticism… and another bunch of Lemmings!


Some thoughts, you ask? Well, yes… I don’t really do Critique Groups. Oh! I have been on at least one of the sites that Greg usefully, and helpfully, provided links to… but I left very much reminded of Lemming-aid (thanks for the prompt, Greg! Quite apposite!) So I thought I would get together with Oscar W. and rack my brains for some thoughts around the subject of criticism (and Lemmings).


Dreams…
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.
OSCAR WILDE, The Critic as Artist
OK. So, if I stand here in the moonlight of my own existence, and I see what I see before anyone else, then what I write is my view...and there is no one with the authority to be able to critique what it is I see. Who are they that do not see what I see, to say that what I see cannot be seen or described so? What is the purpose of critique to the artist struggling with their dreams?
Vision…
All great ideas are dangerous.
OSCAR WILDE, De Profundis
Art is subversive. It will threaten the understanding of some and challenge their views of their reality. Any artist true to their art, and writers are no exception, must expect that not everyone will like their work. Some may even be positively unpleasant in their slating and damnation of our words. The more dangerous you try to be with your ideas, the more negative reaction you can (and should) expect. Indeed if a whole damn mass of lemmings slate your work, you could be on to a winner! (…albeit posthumously)
Risk…
Everything is dangerous, my dear fellow. If it wasn't so, life wouldn't be worth living.
OSCAR WILDE, The importance of Being Earnest
If you want to live as an artist, as a writer, then embrace danger… or you run the risk of not living your dream. Walk out in the moonlight and embrace the dawn… so what if you trip up on the way because you cannot see obstacles in front of you… but in seeing the dawn you can appreciate its originality and leave others (those few who are left who can connect with you) in awe of your ideas. Do not, as lemmings and critics (a.k.a. head lemmings) do, walk about in the day light seeing nothing new. Lemmings will walk over a cliff in the daylight – led by the chief critic!
Expression…
Art never expresses anything but itself.
OSCAR WILDE, The Decay of Lying
If you live dangerously; if you embrace the dawn of your existence and no one else’s, then your art will never be anything other than your Art. Express what you see, not what others see (or want to see). If your writing calls for adverbs then what the heck? Why have adverbs, if they’re not required? It is your art, take control. As you practice your craft of writing in the process of expressing your art… you do not need a critic! It is not their vision, their idea or their danger. BUT DO USE AN EDITOR (AND PAY FOR A GOOD ONE!)
Sincerity…
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.
OSCAR WILDE, The Critic as Artist
Ah, Oscar! Sincerity? Sincerity of the artist or of the critic? Here is a paradox. If the artist is totally sincere in following their dream… is living dangerously… then, fatally, they may have no one who can see their dawn and all the artist sees is the bunch of lemmings gathered in another corner of the world following the me-too critics. And if the head lemming is overly sincere and cannot interest other lemmings in the danger of the artist’s vision, then, fatally, the artist who is more comfortable amongst lemmings will be an outcast and feel bad about it. Reality is, surely, where most artists are not totally sincere and neither are the critics… for without a lack of sincerity there would be no Art and no Critics.
Arrogance…
The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated.
OSCAR WILDE, The Remarkable Rocket
The Artist, then, who is one who may have to stand apart from lemmings (and be happy about it), is conscious of the critical voice, but arrogant enough to take no heed, for, ultimately, the critic has little authority to comment on something they cannot truly see. But the critic is necessary… for the critic, as head of a bunch of lemmings, controls the destiny of lemmings and decides what the rest of the critters do. Do artists crave to be a member of the pack? Chose your critics wisely… not all lemmings are sane!
Consistency…
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
OSCAR WILDE, Aristotle at Afternoon Tea
Consistency is both internal and external… something that good ole Oscar’s comment fails to acknowledge. On his behalf, then (such arrogance!) I feel I must offer a qualification. Consistency with the external environment, with what has gone before, may well gain the approval of the critics and lemmings that surround us, but it really is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Internal consistency, between our work as artists and the vision we are attempting to realise, is important. This is the sort of consistency that we risk sacrificing if we adopt to much critical input at too early a stage in our artistic process.
Conformity…
When people agree with me, I always feel that I must be wrong.
OSCAR WILDE, The Critic as Artist
I’m letting Oscar have the last word here…

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I've Got Your Critique Right Here

This week, we get to talk about critique groups.

Let me start out by saying that I really am behind the times. For the bulk of my writing 
career, my critique group was whatever copy editor got my article. Of course, this wasn’t a true critique group because it was rather one-sided. I basically kept control of what wasn’t bleeding red.

Nowadays, the best I’ve done for critiquing is Writing.com (and, even with that, I usually have to offer gift points as incentive). I just joined Writer's Cafe so I can't even tell you what it's all about. Besides, my philosophy about critique groups was, for the longest time, typified by this cartoon:




Honestly, though, the times I have tried critique groups, I leave because somebody always hijacks the thing. For example, on one site that shall remain nameless, a few people jumped on me for using adverbs, you know, those words that end in "-ly" and more accurately describe things like verbs and emotions (by their views, I couldn't even say "accurately"; I'd have to be verbose and say "...describe things like verbs and emotions with more accuracy").


Look. Just because someone didn't pay attention in high school English or is too freaking stupid to understand one of the parts of speech we all spent 12 years learning is not reason enough for me to quit.


I mean too many people, including critique group members, have already thrown away the dictionary, judging by the horrible spelling I've seen. No sense adding adverbs to the mix.


Anyway, suddenly, everybody and their mother was carping on me for having the gall and audacity to use adverbs. Somehow I had thought critiques were meant to offer suggestions, advice and corrections.


Okay, that's it for me.


Since that’s all I really have to personally offer about critique groups, let me give you some references so you won't feel like you just wasted 15 minutes of your life.

So, for the convenience of our Wicked Writers readers, I’ll list a few who have compensated me for my time and endorsement (just kidding; I endorse no one):

 

DON’T see any you like, try creating one of your own. You can either pick C.J.’s brain (at your own peril) or try these helpful instructions courtesy of eHow.com:

1.  DECIDE ON SCOPE. Do some groundwork ahead of time. Some things to think about are: the desired number of members (4-6 is ideal), the genre(s) of the work to be critiqued, whether you want a facilitated group or a free form style of operating, frequency of meetings, and how the group will conduct itself (for example: read works al0ud in meetings, or read works prior to meeting).

2.  ADVERTISE. The most effective way to find group members who are serious is through a local writer's association. Do some research on-line to locate any associations in your area and become a member. Writer's associations often have annual conferences where you can post a notice that you are starting a critique group. Writer's associations also often have newsletters where they will advertise critique groups seeking members. Other advertising vehicles are community newspapers and Craigslist.com, which reach the general public, so expect a wide array of responses from serious to not-so-serious. Your ad should specify any requirements for members, such as genre limitations, location, and frequency of meetings.
Example of an ad:
"Seeking members for Young Adult Fiction Writer's Critique Group in Springfield. Meet monthly. Published and unpublished writers welcome. Contact J.K. Rowling at xxx-xxxx if interested."

3.  SCREEN RESPONSES. Once the responses start rolling in, contact the respondents and have an informal chat. Try to form a first impression to determine whether you think he/she would be viable candidate for your group. Ask yourself a few basic questions. Is he articulate? Does he listen or talk over you? Does he consider himself a beginning, intermediate, or advanced writer? In your discussion you should determine whether he meets the basic requirements specified in your ad: genre, location, availability for meetings, etc.

4.  SELECT MEMBERS. In talking with the candidates, try to form an opinion on their potential compatibility. If you believe you've found a viable candidate, ask him to join on a trial basis. Be clear that if after the first few meetings, you determine that he is not right for the group, you will ask him to leave, no hard feelings. Likewise, if he determines the group is not meeting his needs, he can quit the group.

5.  FIRST MEETING. Hold your first meeting. A neutral venue is best because no one will be distracted playing host. Consider venues like a coffee shop with a private room or a public library. In the first meeting, establish and agree on the ground rules. For example:
* Meetings will be the first Saturday morning of every month.
* Each member will send out material for critique one week in advance of the meeting.
* Members will read the material and prepare comments for the writer.
* Critique will focus on the broader aspects of writing (theme, character development, etc.) rather than line editing.
* Each member will have five minutes to give a verbal critique of each piece being critiqued.
* The author may not interrupt or make comments during the critique; he should just listen and soak it in.

6.  FIND YOUR STRIDE. You may not have the desired number of members in the first meeting, and might have to add members after the group is established. Orient new members to the groups mode of operating. After a few meetings, you may find that a few of the rules relax. For example, you may find that members, as relationships are established, will make comments while their work is being critiqued. Remain flexible as long as the group is functioning well, and members are receiving objective, meaningful feedback on their work.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Group, Partner, or Solo?

Sounds like a sexual reference, but I swear, this time my mind is clean ;-) This week we're discussing critique groups and do they work for you. My answer is pretty muddled: Yes and No.

In the beginning, when I first started writing, just two short years ago, I thought they were great. Lots of opinions, lots of insights. It quickly became overwhelming. The negative stood out to plague me and I had to sift through the crap to find useful advice.

My first attempt was with two online resources - writing.com (WDC) and the critique circle (CC). The former had people who really reviewed (which is how I met and became friends with Greg), a few were more like advanced beta readers, and TONS more trolled for gift points on the WDC system and left me one paragraph of nonsensical gibberish as a review.

CC, on the other hand, gave very in depth reviews, but moved achingly slow and following their guidelines I'd be shifting my novel through their system for six months or more. Some of the critiques I got on that site just about crushed me. I had published erotica writers slamming my present tense, my style, my voice -- pretty much hating everything I wrote, until they got to the sex parts. (I had to join their group b/c site guidelines regarding the sex scenes in Vampire Vacation)

Once they read the sexy parts, they grudgingly admitted I could write. And I'll go out on a limb here and suggest that it's they held such opinions possibly because they don't have sex (judging by most of their pics I'd say the last thing they chased was a donut), they just write about it, and so reading a piece from someone who actually has sex blew them away.

Nasty bitch today, C.J.? 

No, not really. Reading a woman write male on male erotica involving anal sex when she's never had it is very obvious. And they said some nasty shit to me about my work, so I'm glad I bailed on the site.

Next, I tried forming a paranormal writing critique group on yahoo. It worked out well and I met some great ladies I still keep in touch with, but again it moved slow. By this point in my illustriously short writing career (about two months in), I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) and immediately joined a slew of specialized sub chapters.

I have to admit, hands down, the best writers I've met to date are associated with RWA. Professional, hardworking, honest and thick skinned. The best ones focus on the work and never let emotion or arrogance come into play. That's not to say I didn't meet some cruel judges in contests who enjoyed hiding behind their anonymity to bash my attempts, or some lazy bitches who would spend fifteen minutes critiquing a piece of my work when I spent 90 minutes on theirs (hello - did you not notice the time stamps in your track changes?). Overall though, joining those chapters opened up a world of possibilities for me.

But again, these groups moved too slow. I was focused on my craft 40 plus hours a week and needed a partner who was better than me. Sure, at month two that was easy to find, but by month four I needed a real editor. Not someone telling me their opinion on my characters and my plot - but someone helping me to hone my craft.

I hooked up with a writing partner who taught me more than any other person in the industry to date. We worked exclusively together for about nine months and I was so sad to see the relationship end. While she struggled with plot holes and content in her manuscript, I learned the art of line edits and got a better grasp on punctuation. She taught me some of what twenty years in the industry as a journalist and editor had taught her.

This woman single handedly whipped my writing into shape and made me the writer I am today. Without her, I'm not sure where I would be today. Things, unfortunately, came to an end, I'll spare you the drama, but we are at least civil and supportive of each other when we speak online.

This past summer, I tried to crit with Jen and Ana, both strong writers with different skills to bring to a critique. It didn't work out because of a new venture I launched, Everything Erotic, which has become a huge time commitment. I stretched myself too thin and something had to give -- and with all the editing I was doing for the team I couldn't take on more.

Thankfully, those writers have returned the favor in spades. Anytime I ask for a read I'm so touched I have three or four ladies jump in without a moments hesitation. One or two often tease they have to read my work two to four times to spot any mistakes because they get so pulled into the story they forget to be critiquing it. I can't tell you how amazing that is to hear after the months and months of crap I used to have spewed at me via the internet.

In eighteen short months, I found a home. A home among the writers I associate with on various group blogs and online forums. They tell me their thoughts straight, but politely.  They often remind me to slow down, stop working, rest, focus on getting better... and they share their amazement at how much I can do while being so ill. They cheer me on and give me the highest compliment a writer could ever receive: they tell me inspire them.

Sure, the convenience of the internet has made the publication and small successes I've achieved a reality, but it also provides a mask for some people to hide behind and spew their anger and hate to the world. I'm incredibly grateful that on my comparably short writing journey I've met such talented people who are proud to associate with me.

Thanks to each and every one of you. And you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I'd do anything in my power to help you and your career at the drop of a hat. After all, that's what friends do for each other.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentine's (Week) Day

For someone who spends seemingly half of his day at the workplace and half of what’s left of the waking hours glued to his laptop, this is a special time of the year.

With my wife and me in our third decade together, it is incredibly important that we spend some quality time together, and so Valentine’s Day was a good opportunity to get away. We didn’t do too much, just lunch, a movie and some shopping, but we did it together…without the boys. It was a good time and reminded us of why we were drawn together in the first place. If you and yours are not taking extra time every once in a while, you should really think about addressing this.



We started our day at one of the local Mexican Restaurants in town. We then headed up to Fresno, Ca. which is a half an hour away, but has everything, including several Movie Theaters. As much as I wanted to see the film, The King’s Speech once again, we decided to see something new. It isn’t very often that we can get away to the movies so that was the better idea. We ended up seeing The Company Men. It had a good cast: Affleck, Costner, Chris Cooper, Craig T. Nelson and Tommy Lee Jones. It was directed by John Wells who directed episodes of The West Wing and ER. The film tells the story of people getting laid-off of work due to the poor economy, both regular as well as high-end executives, and how they must deal with the devastating changes that it brings to their lives, and the lives of their families.



The film was very good, but reminded me that we are very powerless when it comes to our jobs, and we could lose them at any moment, especially in a poor economy. We headed over to Costco after that, however, since the film had crawled into my head, I found myself unwilling to make any unnecessary purchases. Isn’t that funny?

I didn’t buy anything for my wife this particular time. We’re gearing up for a rather large trip to New York City next month, chaperoning my eldest son’s high school Wind Ensemble group that is playing Carnegie Hall and Central Park, so we both just agreed to spend some time together, rather than money. My wife isn’t a big flower person, and my allergies can’t stand it, so that was out of the question.

In spite of what you may think (considering I’m supposed to be a horror guy), I am a bit of a romantic. I’m the one who wants to watch Notting Hill and Love Actually and who gets misty at all of the right places. After all, when I have been asked what my favorite novel is, it isn’t Barker or King or Koontz I mention, but "Beach Music" by Pat Conroy. I also love to hide things and surprise my wife when the opportunity presents itself. I hope you crave those little moments, too, be it giving or receiving.

Now, how did you happen to spend your day? Is it a big deal at your house or is it subtle? Do you prefer the large outing or the quiet time at home? In any event, I hope it was a good day.

P.S.: I began this post with a photo from our wedding, so I'll end it with something a little more current. It is a shot from a couple of years ago from our stay at Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Hawaii.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Oh no! It's a Valentines Soap Box


I tried.

I really tried.

I fought long and hard to put myself in a romantic state of mind. To write on my Wednesday blog about romance and Valentine’s Day and all that wonderful lovey-dovey, flowers, hearts, candy, and gushy-mushy sentiment stuff.

But, I can’t.

Why not? After all, I am a GLBT romantic suspense author. Surely if I can write hot man romance in stories, I could write on the subject for this weeks topic?

Nope.

Because nothing puts me in a snit quicker than to remember my love and my commitment isn’t good enough to be validated in the eyes of our government.

In other words, Valentine’s Day pains me because many of us are denied the right to marry the ones we love.

What was that? You want a little Valentines Day “whine” with my cheese? Funny. Let’s see how you would react if you couldn’t get married. If you were denied marriage, based solely on the fact of the way your body is wired to desire sex.

As a matter of fact, let’s take it one step further. How would you feel if you were married, but the state you live in, or your countries government, won’t ‘recognize’ your love, your commitment, your union?

Even if it outlasts most of those marriages around you.

And what if you were in a committed relationship for years and was not granted the rights as those married, or in some states, a common law marriage? Like claiming your partner on insurance, taxes, other benefits, the family medical leave act, or be ‘recognized’ as a family, even if there were children involved?

I bet you would be having fits. You wouldn’t like it, you would seethe in the injustice of it all, and you would be as crabby as hell on Valentines Day.

But, do take note. I believe, within my lifetime, I will be able to celebrate Valentine’s Day, taking comfort in the fact that ALL Americans will have the human right to marry who they want, regardless of the current discriminations against the GLBT folks.

An AP-NCC poll conducted in September 2010 showed that 58% of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage. In the same month, CNN did their own poll showing 52% in favor, with 2% having no opinion.

Five states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire) plus the District of Columbia have the freedom to marry for gay couples, and there are three more states (Maryland, Rhode Island and New York) who are so close to voting for same-sex marriage it’s not even an issue. They already officially pledge non-discrimination against marriages between same-sex couples from other states. It’s just a matter of time before they jump the broom, as well.

Various states now offer broad protections short of marriage, including civil union in Illinois and New Jersey, and broad domestic partnership in Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and California. Smaller packages of protections for same-sex couples are available in Hawaii, Maryland, Maine, Colorado, and Wisconsin.
 
And we are getting closer in Wyoming and in New Mexico.

With these advances, nearly 14% of the US population lives in a state that either has the freedom for gay couples to marry or honors out-of-state marriages of gay couples. About 25% live in a state with either gay marriage or a broad legal status such as civil union/partnership. With the Illinois Civil Union Act now law, more than 40% of the US population (over 125 million Americans) live in a state which provides some form of protections for gay couples.
 
And that’s not all.

Let’s take into account that 12 countries now embrace same sex marriages as being equal heterosexual marriages. They include the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina.

Already with civil unions, the following countries are up for debating/voting on same-sex marriage in the next couple years are the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Ecuador, Colombia, Uruguay, New Zealand, Austria, Germany, Greenland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Demark, Finland, Slovenia, and Switzerland.

So, if you have read this far in my post, I bet you are wondering what does all this have to do with romance, Valentine’s Day and a blog devoted to writing?

Glad you asked!

Don’t you think it’s ironic that as a GLBT romantic suspense writer – someone who makes a living out of weaving love-sloppy and erotic romantic stories with happily-ever-afters – that in my own state of Michigan, in my own country, and in this day and age…

I am not qualified – not considered equal enough – to have a marriage of my own?

And until the GLBT marriage equality is rectified, and the US government allows gays to be treated respectfully with the same rights, privileges and benefits my heterosexual friends have,  I doubt I will ever celebrate another Valentines day again.

I look at this declaration as a another step further away from the closet door. Of claiming who I am. I refuse to be treated like I don’t matter, like I don’t count. I am a human being, and the last time I looked at the constitution, an equal in all ways.  

Fighting for marriage equality on Valentines Day might mean jack-squat to you. But for me, it’s all about love. And that’s the most important gift I can give to myself and future generations of gays and lesbians.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Erotica Day!


I mean, er, Valentine's Day, of course. :)

On this glorious Hallmark day of romance, I've decided to give myself a break from thinking up entertaining or educational posts, and do some shameless, painfully blunt promotion for my publisher. You know, the kind where I sound like an idiot car salesman. So here it is:

Looking for something romantic to do with your sweetheart this Valentine's Day? Why not read an erotic romance story to your lover to get the mood going?

Stop by the MuseItHOT Book Store and take a look around. They have all genres and heat levels, from sensual romance, to BDSM. GLBT also available.

Have fun! Now excuse me while, um, "read" to my honey....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Genre Writing: I AM My Genre!

Remember that fantastic line from 'Wuthering Heights' when Cathy said: "I AM Heathcliff?!"
She says it suddenly with such drama because she has realized something irrefutable; they are so much alike as to be one! There is no denying it. It is quite a moment.

Now, I am not going to discuss 'Wuthering Heights' here. I am referring to this line purely to make a point. This weeks' topic asks: 'within the genre you write, do you know who you are writing for? Do they call to you?' I have to say I couldn't wait to get going with this one!

Gothic fiction with its sweeping and dramatic narrative knows my name. I hear its voice every time I sit down to write. I am writing the sequel now to my gothic novel, 'The House on Blackstone Moor.'
And boy do I ever hear its voice. It is all around me.

As it happens, I live in Yorkshire and have been to the Bronte Parsonage many times as well as the moors around Haworth, the very moors the Brontes walked upon. Anyone with any sort of affinity for gothic romance should visit these places. These dramatic, wind-swept settings shape my writing and always will.

As for the genre in general, those great writers of the past left us a legacy to carry on with: whoever they were and wherever they lived. And by the way, the drama in gothic can be transposed to various settings and times. It is merely up to the writer.

I feel there is a genuine interest in this genre. In fact I don't think it ever went away. Read some of the discussions on Amazon between gothic romance readers and you'll see what I mean.

As for me, I often hear from those readers who wish to read that sort of fiction again. Not re-packaged, but freshly written for today's reader. All the feedback I am getting is confirming this to be true.

I read that gothic romance was no longer popular. That motivated me to write my book.
What better inspiration is there then to be on a mission to help to reinvent gothic romance?
I think we all write within the genre that appeals to us, the one we enjoy reading the most. It is a natural thing.

We watch what's being sold, what's popular, but we should also be unafraid to trail-blaze or to seek to bring new readers over to our genre fold. And then again, we may re-interpret what's gone before or indeed go onto invent some entirely new subgenre!

I believe whatever genre we write in, we must love that genre. It must be part of us, because our writing is really our vision of everything told subjectively. There's a very interesting line in the film, 'Leave Her To Heaven,' when the beautiful but homicidal Ellen says about her father: 'my father said every book was a confession...'

I think it is. I think we are what we write!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A word (or three) from our sponsors...




From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field.’ Martin Heidegger, 1935



Some great views here on Wicked Writers this week – that is what is so rewarding about sharing this space… diversity of opinion… you cannot beat it for stirring the creative juices!


We have Sharon writing for posterity (and the little guy in blue – what d’ya think? future President? Must be!)… And I love the whole statement of purpose thing…


Then there’s Greg – aside from razzing C.J. – writing for one of the most critical, single-minded, stubborn, unyielding audiences ever: the self!!! My hat off to you, Greg… I couldn’t cope with my own critique…


Then C.J. … what brilliance… what strategy! She secretly became her audience! By getting to know who they were, what they liked and what they disliked, she was able to throw off the constraints of their existence when she sat down to write as a reader!


And my take?


I do not believe I consciously write to, or within, a specific genre. I am a poor reader as a writer… flitting from this to that… often starting but never finishing a text. However, I do believe I write for an audience – I just don’t know who they are.


This is paradoxical. On the one hand, I am denying that a section of society exists which can be characterised by a set of literary expectations that may guide my writing. (I don’t identify with a genre.) On the other hand, I want to write in a manner that will appeal to the literary expectations of a section of society sufficient to provide such an audience. (I want to sell my books!)


So how do I resolve this paradox?


In essence, I do not know for whom I am writing but I do know that I am writing for someone. Does that someone call to me? No. If there was a call, I should listen and I might then at least have an opportunity to determine who the caller might be.


This is where I get all philosophical… (Bear with me!)


The French Philosopher, Sartre, wrote:


“To the extent that I strive to determine the concrete nature of the (social system) and my place therein I transcend the field of my own experience. I am concerned with a series of phenomena which on principle can never be (fully) accessible to my intuition, and consequently I exceed the lawful limits of my own [narrative] knowledge. I seek to bind together experiences that will never be my experiences and consequently this work of construction and unification can in no way serve for the unification of my own experience.”


I see the world as I see it… this provides the framework for my vision, for the explication of my narrative story. But if I want an audience to buy my books, I have to present a world that will appear to them as I will never, truly, be able to see it… I am creating a fictional world which, as Sartre would say, “transcends my experience”. That world will never be “fully accessible” to me. This, to my mind is where the art in what we do, as writers, lies. We must reveal to an audience, who ever they are, something that we ourselves cannot see. And that “something” must engage them. And it is not an easy task.


Are C.J., Greg, and Sharon wrong? Most certainly not… C.J., when she writes, may be disinterested in her audience, but she is not “uninterested”; her investment as a reader in her genre allows her now to step away from that audience. Likewise, Sharon’s writing for a future which cannot yet be specified shows similar disinterest. Greg, also, through learning to become detached from the specific audience he wrote his early work for, has become disinterested.


But not one of us is uninterested in our audience of readers.


If you like, disinterest, as concept, is a move of focus from the specific to the general. It is a concept that allowed another famous philosopher, Heidegger, to look at Van Gogh’s painting of “Old Shoes with Laces” and see the toils of a working-woman in the fields. He held no care for whether or not the shoes were really those of an old women, or just a pair of random shoes Van Gogh bought off a market stall for the purpose of painting his next still-life study.


And a final word?


In 1873, John Ruskin wrote, ‘…the art is greatest which, conveys to the mind of the [audience], the greatest number of the greatest ideas…’. As writers, our written work should engage with our readers (who ever they might be, now and in the future), producing within them the greatest ideas about the worlds we create.


We do not want to spend too long, trying to get inside our readers heads, making assumptions on their behalf. They can read; they can decide for themselves; they are intelligent (we hope). All we should give them is possibility.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You're All Just Along for the Ride


Sometimes I have to wonder about these topics C.J. picks for us to blog on. They’re making me think too much. Usually, I just throw stuff out there, so having to have the kind of deep thinking I normally reserve for watching movies like Inception can give me a headache.
Still, I must soldier on.

So, who exactly am I writing for?

After some deep soul searching, I can now say that I write for me.

The rest of you are just along for the ride.

Seriously, I believe that I write for myself.

Long time ago, I used to try to make my writing fit into a known category. That is probably why I don’t have any of my writing from my early days. It was all garbage, stuff I forced up like that tofu taco I sampled last week.

I’ll leave the art of changing to fit someone else’s ideals to Sarah Palin.

No, I’ve found it better to write and let people find my stuff, like they did at Writing.com.

Does that sound egotistical or vain?

Maybe it does but my style doesn’t seem to fit into any of the current popular styles. Hunters is old school vampire hunting. I just got tired of perusing the book shelves at Publix, eh, I mean Barnes & Nobles and seeing all the books glamorizing and sexifying (okay, I got that word from Family Guy) vampires.

Couldn’t let that stand. Even Brian Lumley was straying into Twilight territory by the end of his Necroscope series.

Before Hunters, I decided to let other readers decide if I’d found an audience. Of course, I really couldn’t tell if the reviewers on Writing.com really enjoyed my work or the gift points I offered. Eventually, I got a hardcore following.

My path isn’t original, by any means. Many writers before me just wrote what they loved and let the readers find them. H.P. Lovecraft for example. I’d hate to think that the master of macabre, depraved horror was actually writing for any recognized audience. Those stories of his were downright weird and must have been his readers (I should know; I read his stuff in my heady junior high school days).

That said, it doesn’t mean I’ve never tailored my stuff to a specific audience. Short stories written for a particular publication often mean alterations to fit the theme. Farspace 2 was geared toward space travel, so I created a short story for it. Stephen King wanted to do full-length novels, but spent his early career writing short stories geared to the magazines he sent them off to (with each version slightly altered to fit the specific magazine).

My bottom line is this. Write what you like and what you feel comfortable with.  That means you can put your passion and full energy into it.

If it’s good, your audience will find it and  you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coloring Outside the Lines

Howdy, everyone. This week's topic is in our chosen genre, do we know who we're writing for? I'm late posting and writing on the fly, which is totally not me, so please forgive the oversight. Greg has said in the past it usually helps him produce humorous posts in very little time (so I bet there is an art to it).

Who do I write for? I know my audience, because I read the genre extensively, but I don't write to them, per se. My writing was originally an escape. We won't go into the boring notion of why I needed an escape, just accept that I did. The book was never expected to succeed. It was purely for my own distraction.

Only a few months in did I decide to share it and see what people thought. Imagine my surprise when they liked it! And we're talking the way, way rough version, not the one on the shelf now. Sure, some people don't like it, but that's always going to happen when you write. Can't please all the people all the time.

But did it change how I write? No.

I listened to opinions for clarity, corrected inconsistencies when pointed out, and whether or not a scene was fleshed out enough. We won't even mention the formatting, punctuation and grammar catches (we'd be here all day listing those many infractions).

If you are going to write in a genre, you'd better know it. Know where you can make stuff up, know where to borrower from accepted beliefs (vampires and sun reactions, for example), and know when to push the envelope. But don't write a romance if you've never read one. Same for spy thrillers and horror. The reader will know.

Happily married couple as co-protagonists in an urban fantasy with sex? You betcha. Why not? If all our our writing was formulaic what would be the point in reading new books? They'd all essentially be the same, right?

I think there is no right or wrong way, you just have to do what works best for you and your story. What about you? Do you write in a convenient mold or do you color outside the lines in your genre?