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The Unread Map

For the first time since all of this life upheaval started, I felt today a glimmer of excitement about the fact that I don’t know what comes next. The map of my past is filled in, explored as thoroughly as I care to, and spreads out behind the X labeled “You are here.” Until now the lack of terrain features on the map ahead of me was creating anxiety and fear, not interest or excitement. But I am finally in a place where the lack of certainty is exciting and not frightening. I have hopes for what lies ahead, certainly, and I have things I am capable of actualizing to give me some sense of obstacles to come, but the actual landscape? Unknown. Unpredictable. And, at long last, Undaunting.

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And To All A Good Night

image imageMerry Christmas to all of you still reading!

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View from the Air

At least, if I cry up here, it becomes rain.

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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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Libertarian Thought for the Day

It’s another Friday the 13th, the day The Honest Courtesan asks vanilla people who believe it is morally wrong for sex work, up to and including prostitution, to be illegal to publicly say so. I am one of those people. I consider the criminalization of sex work an attempt to control female sexuality, agency, and self-ownership; an attempt to legislate morality; and an affront to both liberty and common sense to declare that an action undertaken for the motive of money is criminal when the same action undertaken for fun is not. It is a thought crime, in a very basic sense, and as such utterly indefensible.

No essay today; I had the natural follow up to my post on the last Friday 13, a defense of romance genre, 2/3 written. WordPress app ate it. I can’t recreate a thousand words of edited prose in 10 minutes at lunch, so I’m not trying. I am leaving today’s thought at the above.

Down with thought crimes.

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At its most conceptual

…what is your novel about? Can you sum it up in a one- or two-word phrase?

I have seen this exercise written up before, but this weekend my brain of its own accord (not because I saw a recent article about this) just sort of started filing some of my stories into categories of character/scenario dynamics. For romance I found I wanted two concepts: one for the external reason the characters were pushed together/held apart and one that best described what their relationship was about.

For example, for A Christmastide Courtship I came up with duty and acceptance. Duty is what draws Piers to court Catherine, but what they are each looking for – and find with one another – is acceptance.

The old/new/whatever it is WIP (maybe I should just say “the WIP du jour”….sigh…) has themes of familial coercion and trust. The characters are pushed together by family, and the main conflict of the book is that they do not trust one another when they marry and struggle to build it afterward. I might parse the two as “resentment and trust” since the coercion they both submit to in marrying causes resentment, and neither has anyone else to take it out on.

I like the clarity that being able to state a theme in one word offers me as the writer. Being able to do so tells me I have a solid grasp of the work as a whole.

Alas, I don’t, by this rubric, have all my works in progress firmly in hand – far from it.

For the long novel I am revising, I do not know how to distill either side of the story. I am not sure I can even clumsily lay hold of the themes. Maybe it’s because the hero and heroine have opposite themes: living for oneself and not society vs suppression of self for society. The story is in a way about loyalty to family conflicting with loyalty to self. It’s also about the hierarchy of needs, and which loyalties take precedence and whether that can change. The lovers spend most of the book with ambivalent feelings about their growing attraction and where they both fit in each other’s hierarchy of obligations. Their feelings grow into love almost despite themselves. “Split loyalties” might describe the external issues, but I am not sure how to phrase what is happening between them. It’s not the kind of breathless fated love words like “inevitable” or “inexorable” evoke, even though it is the sort of love that can’t be stopped once started, because they are right for each other…it’s more that they find in each other someone to lean on, someone who has their back, but in that specific way such that “trust” or “loyalty” doesn’t really convey the relationship. Fealty, except with sex.

I don’t know. Reading that paragraph back makes me think “split loyalties” covers both dynamics pretty well.

The Christmastide companion piece I would – ahem, Muse, looking at you here – like to finish and get up this fall so as to actually do seasonal marketing for the duology is another I have no effing clue how to distill. Perhaps that is why the muse went for the one story I know well enough to summarize without much thought at all.

…if I can tease out the novellette’s themes, will I find myself suddenly able to write it? I wonder….

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Heroes Vs. Mentors

Just a random thought while catching up on The Voice about the established creators whom younger artists choose as mentors. Some of the time the young singers will pick their hero – I notice most of the time this happens it’s a young girl who idolizes either Shakira or Christina – but generally the people who walk in acknowledging being a huge fan of one of the coaches end up picking someone else to be their coach…often to their own surprise.

I have thought about this for a couple seasons now, and I have a theory: when you’re actually faced with your hero, do you really want them to see you in all your flaws?

This is actually something that has crossed my mind before. There is a SFF book conference that takes place in the town I went to college, which one of my all-time favorite writers – perhaps my very all-time favorite – attends almost every year and regularly participates in the writing mentor section for as one of the judges/mentors for the sessions. I attended the conference once right after I graduated and moved away, specifically to meet her (it was awesome) and considered going back the next for the writing portion. I even emailed the coordinator to ask if I could request placement in a particular mentor’s group, thinking of course I would want to be in hers. And then I thought about it some more. Did I really want my hero to be the one to tell me my work was awful? Did I want to be placed under the microscope by one of the writers I was, at the time, essentially trying to emulate, who might just think me a milquetoast impersonator? Did I really want to blur the lines between being a fan and being a colleague like that?

For me the answer was no – no, I didn’t want any of those things with my hero. I wanted her to remain my hero, and I would find a mentor elsewhere, if I needed one. (And in the end I decided not to go back and do the writing portion, because my absolute fear of writing groups was not going to be overcome by anything less compelling than a desire to form a mentoring relationship with a writer I have looked up to since I was 13.)

I think a lot of the singers who audition end up in that place. It’s gratifying to have your hero say “I want you on my team,” but in the end you can probably learn more from someone whom you can regard as a more experienced artist but immediately as a colleague/peer, because you have never put them on a pedestal, than someone you idolize.

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