Focus

Just a quick word to say I’m still here.

I’m still stuck in the mud, though I have a nerdgineered plan for getting out. Just have to test it before I can know if it will work.

In the meantime: probably going to stay quiet here unless I have a true update or a big essay post. I am working on several of the latter. It might be the way I roll with this blog for a while, since I seem to have so little time/energy even for quick little thoughts.

We’ll see.

How’s your weekend, my lovely?

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Mudding

I am still stuck in the middle of the middle of this story. I think my subconscious is just taking its time to work through some things. Basically what I am struggling with is what I have always struggled with on this story – getting a handle on the whole thing in my mind at once. It’s like the magnitudes of magnification skip over what I need, where I can see all of it at once but in enough detail to be useful. It’s either too close or too far out.

One of the issues I did notice is that all the side characters who come up important for the end of the story had gotten pushed out of the middle. They don’t just disappear from the hero and heroine’s lives, so why did they disappear from the page?

Another issue I have found is a bit more of a major one: why, exactly, do the hero and heroine fall in love? I think most of what’s really got me held up is that I don’t have a good answer. I knew in the first draft that their dynamic was a little lacking, but I figured by the time I got to the end and then cycled back, I’d have a better grasp of why everything happens between them and therefore how to focus the view on that a little better. Apparently I am still in the same boat of not knowing everything that happens therefore not knowing exactly what threads to pull to the front.

I feel like my imagination went mudding and got stuck. Waiting for the tow truck, or the surge of desperate ingenuity that will show me how to dig myself out.

mud meme

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My Muse, the Parselmouth

Sunday I was trying to write while my baby napped. I ended up taking a nap, too. As you can see, either my muse is back passed out in a gutter somewhere…or he’s a Parselmouth. I guess if it’s the latter, I really am a Slytherin?

photo

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ASKING FOR IT by Lilah Pace: The Fuck Political Correctness Review

Asking for It: the controversial romance of the summer that has stirred exactly no controversy because everyone who’s talking about it is being so careful not to judge, nor to remove the lens of women’s studies/fourth wave feminism/neo-Victorianism about triggers and consent and safe spaces from their analysis, nor to admit that they find rape fantasies erotic.

To all of which I say: fuck that.

If you want to judge someone else’s kink, go right ahead. Secretly we all do, in one way or another – but in this day and age of enforced tolerance no one is willing to admit to it. We tolerate anything except intolerance! Now I am not personally going to cast a judgment on a book that revolves around the safe enactment of a rape fantasy, because, as it happens, that’s my deep dark kinky kink. My number one most common complaint about dub-con erotica (dubious consent, AKA rape) is that it’s not dubious enough. Almost invariably the heroine gets too into what she’s being “forced” to do too quickly to maintain the facade of non-consent. So this book? Was pretty much written for me.

Except for the whole new adult thing. That romance genre (contemporary…college to post college…searching for yourself…heroine probably got raped or had a drug addiction because in this brave new (adult) world EVERYONE either got raped or has an addiction or is the wrong gender for their body) is not one that I relate to very much. NA also usually means first person (gag) present tense (double gag) point of view, so the barrier is tri-fold in that I am not interested in the setting/age bracket of the protagonists, find the conflicts and hyperbole laughable, and hate the way the books are written. First person in general tends toward deal-breaker for me. I find that almost all of it sounds the same, and none of it sounds like how I think. Actual stream of consciousness would be preferable because at least that would be interesting to untangle and decipher.

But I digress. We were talking about the fact that I am in the most important way the Ideal Reader for this romance.

Let me say this now – I have never been raped. Being bound/coerced/forced in some way is a fantasy that I can trace back to childhood and my earliest moments of sexual awareness; the very first sexual fantasy that I generated involved coercion. That said, I also have a clear mental delineation between what turns me on in the privacy of my own mind and what I want to experience in real life. For that reason I don’t read much dub-con set in the real world, because I don’t get turned on by imagining an actual rape that might actually happen to me. The “stranger in my bedroom” sub-genre squicks me out. Sometimes BDSM-scene stories work for me, because they do have the framework that makes non-consent consensual, but most of those stories are too much about the heroine’s mental surrender. Mental surrender does nothing for me. To me the eroticism of rape fantasy is the loss of control, not subsuming your sense of self to someone else’s will. I’ve blogged before about how not being in control is my biggest, deepest, ugliest fear; to me it seems a very natural extension that one of my most powerful sexual fantasies is having control taken away – NOT surrendering it. Big difference. Generally, then, the rape fantasy I read tends to be really out there, fantasy setting, fantasy creature type stuff…as I put it in a text to a friend before I started Asking for It, “Normally I just go with monster porn for that, no feminist sensibilities conflict there, but this one intrigued me so I figured I’d try and enlarge my mind a little vis a vis the new adult genre.”

Spoiler alert: I got what I asked for in terms of erotic satisfaction. (The book didn’t much change my opinion of NA, though.)

So what is the book actually about? Oh, you know, the usual story…. Girl meets boy, boy hears a rumor that girl has extreme rape fantasies and offers to fulfill them, girl says yes, they have amazing almost-anonymous sex, they realize sex is not enough and start emotionally bonding, just as they begin to fall in love they discover that the events in their respective pasts which gave them the same kink also make them psychologically incompatible as partners…or are they? The book ends on a cliffhanger where the couple is no longer together – an outlier in romance, which generally demands at minimum a happily-for-now ending. But this is book 1 of a duology, and the cover/release date for book 2 is on the last page after the book ends, so the reader is immediately made aware that the ending is an ellipses and not a period.

I loved this book. First and foremost, because the sex in it was smoking hot. Pitch-perfect, if you like that sort of thing. It felt real, authentically on the line between fantasy play and actual assault, with a clear demarcation in the aftermath to show that for both of them (hero, especially), it was role play.

Second, I really appreciated that the author was trying to take the baggage of the hero and heroine seriously and actually attempt to unpack it. Too often in romance really heavy backstory just sort of magically disappears or stops affecting a character’s life/decisions once it’s served its purpose of creating sympathy in the reader or creating a conflict in a situation that otherwise would have had no impediments (and therefore no story). Not the case, here. I mean, I guess in a way their respective baggage is driving the conflict (because if they were two otherwise healthy people who happened to share a kink, it’s pretty much boy meets girl, they are perfect together, the end), but it feels authentic. It’s an actual problem they have to actually solve, not a plot device that could have been replaced by…well, any other plot device. No. Replace these problems, and you have a different story. Some reviews I saw felt the book was kind of heavy or hard to read because it’s more serious, but I didn’t find it so. Just…realistic.

I did feel like the author imposed a frame of feminist rhetoric over the story that was heavy-handed enough to be distracting for me. Actually, my complaint about the frame is not that it existed – see above where I don’t like real-rape scenarios – but that it SO DELIBERATELY used phrases and topics from the politically correct handbook. Things like the hero saying he approached her at a party with other people in sight (and not, say, via text or email or asking her on a date) because, “I want you to feel safe.” It felt inauthentic for him to use that kind of language, and it pulled me out of the story. There are other ways he could have made his proposition to fulfill her fantasies, and for them to draw up a list of boundaries and limits and rules, that were just their words and their voices, not the cant of Political Correctness/Social Justice Warrior style activism. The whole book felt dipped in SJW rhetoric.

I like to think the author did that as a joke, that she used the trappings to create a Trojan Horse that could trick affirmative-consent proponents into reading (and perhaps even enjoying) about sex that actually offends everything they stand for.

Supporting this theory is the Easter egg for libertarian readers, of a side character’s kid being named Nicholas Gillespie Ortiz. You know, like NICK GILLESPIE, Editor in Chief of reason.tv? Because that happened. An unlikely coincidence given that the child was Hispanic and last I check Gillespie was an Italian name. Also supporting that theory is the fact that she wrote (fine: PUBLISHED) this book at all. (When I finished the book and found the “trigger warning” section as the very last page of the text I was convinced the entire thing was a giant middle finger to political correctness…it made me so happy to think that warning had been so blatantly and hilariously mis-placed…but when I looked at the Table of Contents, I saw the publisher had included a spoiler-free warning at the front with a link to the longer, explicit warning for those who needed more clarity about the triggers. Sigh.)

Here’s the real trigger warning this book needed: if you have ever lived in Austin, try to forget the city you know – she gets a lot of details wrong. The sort of things you can only know if you live there, about what the traffic and the parking is like and what the locals call certain streets, about the general vibe of the town and the countryside around it, etc. If I hadn’t been so intrigued by the premise I don’t think I’d have made it past Chapter 3. But the dirty sex more than made up for my outrage about “First Street” (which doesn’t exist because Austin has two, which are called South First and Ceasar Chavez, and I still don’t know which the girl lived off of).

Also I call bullshit on Pace being a YA author writing pseudonymously, or, at least, only a YA author. The sex was written too well to be a first-timer to writing romance.

Overall, well done Pace, and well done Randy Penguin for publishing a book like this. I’m sorry you had to include so much deference to the yeth hounds of outrage that drown dissent by screeching about their offended sensibilities. Maybe now you’ve established yourselves as “sensitive” and “aware” about such matters you can ignore them going forward. Keep fighting the good fight to bring down the walls of PC tyranny from within!

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Twenty- Twenty- Twenty-Four Scenes to Go-o-oh

I wanna be sedated

I suppose I should have said chapters, not scenes (but, of course, “chapters” would not suit the rhythm of the Ramones). I think the actual scene count is more like 30, and a soft 30 at that – inevitably I will find gaps that need to be bridged, pushing that number higher – but I think 24 is a fairly safe estimate for number of chapters remaining. I have currently written 22, and my word count is just shy of 50,00, so by both of those measures I am pretty much exactly halfway through (re)writing this novel.

Not bad, I suppose, considering I didn’t really seem to hit my stride and start working in earnest until April.

I suppose I should also count myself lucky that I have reached 50% of the book before hitting the “mushy middle” wherein I realize that I have a not insignificant gap between where my narrative is and the point at which my next string of events starts happening. I am debating whether I ought to tighten up the time by literally moving the events that have already happened forward a month or continuing to pluck the various storylines one by one and hope that one (or more) of them shakes down a couple events that are of narrative importance to happen to my characters in the next month of their lives.

From a word-count perspective the mushy middle also amounts to a small section of the whole…the point in my original draft from which I don’t expect much to change events-wise in this re-write to the end is 61,848 words. Even allowing that I will cut a third of them (leaving roughly 40,000 to be grafted to my current 50,000), with a projected total of no more than 100,000, this little gap in my outline can comprise no more than 5000 words, since I assume I will need to add in at least that many across the 40K to make everything flow smoothly. So as far as mushy middles go, this one is the shortest, quickest, and easiest to solve yet.

Unless, of course, the point from which nothing much changes is a mirage.

Unfortunately I feel like I need to parse out which direction I’m taking (shift the calendar or add events) before I move any further. The hero and heroine have established a good momentum. I don’t want to crash that by giving them nothing to do for a month except more of the same. I want the snowball to keep rolling down the hill and getting bigger and bigger – but I also want it to have enough rolling time that the point of no return is also believable (since one of my biggest complaints about 80% of current romance novels is the short time frame in which they take place).

At least the writing is still coming easy. At least there’s that.

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The Other Shoe

A series of texts between me and my first reader, who has been getting sections of the new draft to read as I finish them.

Me: So I was skimming the next few chapters…I have this sinking feeling I’m gonna be rewriting more of this motherfucker than I thought.

Firstie: LOL, it won’t be so bad.

Me: Well, maybe it will at least be fun. That’s pretty much what was missing, any sense of fun. No wonder it was so hard to write the first time, LOL

Firstie: Yeah, and now you seem like you really know where you’re headed.

Me: Welllll…I WAS headed to the point I just reached. Only problem is I don’t like the look of the highway I thought I was gonna merge onto. So I think I’ll keep driving…but now I don’t know to where.

And that, ladies and gent’s, pretty much sums up the second shoe dropping. If I am not at a merge point but rather at a second divergence, and one that I haven’t really plotted out yet, then I have no real idea how much further I have to go on this book. If I have to write the entirety of Act II from scratch it’ll be another goddamned five months probably.

I dunno. It may only be a few more scenes than I originally thought that nee to be re-written versus tidied. But I just have this feeling….

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Progress Report

I am finally at the part of my novel revision where I am done writing entire scenes and chapters from scratch and am able to integrate part or all of a given segment from my original draft. There will be a few new scenes to write, simply because the current of the story changed a little from its original course, but for the most part the new words are generated. Now on to the endless evaluation, trimming, and restructuring of the 75,518 words left in my doc of the original draft that is not yet integrated into the new one.

I have no idea how long it will take me to make this revision a cohesive whole. Hopefully not too much longer.

The last few weeks (month, even? Basically since I kicked the bronchitis finally and recovered my life equilibrium) I have moved things forward at a good clip. Keep it rolling, keep it rolling, keep it rolling.

Last night I was trying to remember when I actually started writing on this revision draft. Had to check the create date on my Word doc, because I didn’t make a good note of it inside the doc, nor did I make a note of it here anywhere. January 7, for the curious. Basically 5 months ago.

I’ve written 35,000 in five months. Okay, fine, SOME of them were already written, but I am sure at least 20,000 were brand new words. Which is, yeah, okay, not fabulous, but also not that bad when I consider just how little time and energy I have had to devote to this project. I will be happy with my stat’s if I can finish revisions on the rest of my first draft by the 6 month mark.

July 7.

That’s 23 days from now. If I do the same amount of work every day, that’s 3283 words a day moved from the old draft to the new (with necessary trims, additions, and reworkings). If I count it by chapters, it’s a little more than one chapter per day on the old counting (because I am up to Chapter 15 of 42 in the old draft).

Those measures are not unreasonable. They are not unattainable – provided I touch the project every day.

Eye on the prize. Keep it rolling. Come on, muse, just hold your shit together for 3 weeks and 3 days….

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