N is for Names… Not that I have any.

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I knew this had to be my topic, as soon as I saw some of the other posts people are doing on the topic.

Names are a special kind of torment for me. I will fixate on just about any kind of name. I can’t name a minor character, much less a book, without obsessing over the implications and cultural details of whatever name is being considered. And, I’d like to know the character before I name him, so half the time, I just start writing, and figure the name will come later.

And yes, I use “placeholder” names. They all begin with tk (to make them easy to search and replace) and then a description of the character by role. MC. MCF(female). MCM(male.)And they get replaced when they get replaced. I used to put in silly names, but that’s how you wind up with a twelve-year-old named Herkimer, and by golly, those names stick. Herkimer refuses to give up and just be Jason.

Some of my names… particularly for very minor characters… have meanings. I like perfect participles, and I like names that help me keep track of the character’s role. Oh, yes. That’s the prostitute from chapter eight.

I wouldn’t give all the names in my books to flesh-and-blood children. And if someone else does… It’s probably a measure of success, when someone tells you they named their kid after your character, and then demands that you pay to change the name… Isn’t it?

L is for Laughter

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I thought about making this post about Lepterians–one of the two main cultures from my Science-Fiction-y thing–but then I thought better of it. After all, A-to-Z is about community building and creative exploration, and certainly not about siphoning off readers for my own petty gain. (oopsy!) So, I’m making this post about laughter.

And I’m going to try to keep it Safe for Work. That should be a challenge in itself. After all, my sense of humor usually ranges somewhere between eighth-grade boy and Caligula.

Today’s gift from the feed-fairy was a video from Four Femmes on the Thames.

Oh, wait… I said Safe for Work.

Well, then. Let’s just say that today’s gift from the feed fairy was this classic and wholesome recording of Louis Prima and Keely Smith:

It’s in black and white, so you know it’s extra wholesome. And plus or minus a few lines that wouldn’t make the cut today, I think it’s held up pretty well over the years.

But… I’m not sure it’s still funny for exactly the same reasons. Sometimes, changing perspectives ruin things, and sometimes it just changes them.

Since this is starting to look like a nice long ramble through all the singing comedy routines in my subconscious, I think I’d better shut up. I can chase a tangent like nobody’s business.

Hope everybody’s still enjoying the A-to-Z Challenge, and that we’re all hanging in there!


K is for Kissing… and stuff.

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There were a lot of great words today. Kindness and Knowledge and all sorts of things with maturity and depth. There’s wisdom and life lessons out there on other people’s blogs.

Unfortunately for you, I just got off the phone with my sister, and that pretty much took us both back to junior high, and I’m still sugared-up from an impulse trip to Baker’s Candies. So, today’s blog post is about Kissing… and stuff.  **hee hee**

So, the book I’m working on–the one I’m posting here on my blog–is somewhere in the soft-science fiction to fantasy range. It’s the story of two cultures reconciling after a long–and sometimes vicious–war. My main characters are the queen who inherited the winning side, and an ex-soldier turned resistance fighter from the losing side. In a bid to foment rebellion, and expecting his own execution, he has married her. (Lepterians practice unilateral marriage. He married her. She didn’t marry him. It’s a thing.)

And then, she also didn’t execute him, so he’s pretty much stuck.

In a lot of ways, they’re vehicles for the cultures around them. And their romance, such as it is, is a parallel to the cultures coming together. Awkward as hell.

And I’m not exactly a romance writer. The romantic high point of my last novel was my main character’s husband helping her block a hostile takeover. **sigh**

And at some point… I can’t escape this–she’s going to have to kiss him.

**shudder.** Maybe if I just throw in a few more executions. You know, like at the very beginning? “She executed him, and then he died. The end.”

Honestly, I’m not sure where the problem is, but I’m a little squeamish. Or nervous. Or… something. I’m not sure whether that’s just that I haven’t written a lot of romantic scenes before, or if there’s some deep seated prejudice against romance (based old-school bodice-rippers and cigarette smoke, which I cannot separate in my mind) or if my muse is just telling me that I’m doing something wrong with this.

So, any thoughts or advice? Some of you are really good at this. What do you think?

J is for Joy

2016JSo, I’ve been in a good mood all day because I woke up this morning to to this upbeat video of a little girl and her teacher dancing:

So, let’s make today’s post about joy, and the things we do not because we have to, or because we think we can build a career or a reputation out of them but because we enjoy them.

I dance, too. Not particularly well, but I have fun doing it, and I meet people. I have fun.

I write stories for the fun of it. There’s nothing better than sinking into a world of your own creation, and just tinkering. I have a massive amount of material that’s just me playing with my characters. (Editing’s a different story. Editing is the hard-labor end of writing.) I paint.

And since I’m clearly starting to ramble–I’ve been up since 2 glorious A.M.–I’m going to post a picture of one of my paintings (which was on my hard drive, anyway)(and which I got a lot of joy out of making) and get off the computer.klynnextra

I is for Impostor Syndrome

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I’ve been having strange dreams lately. You know those weird, recurring, not-quite-nightmares that linger?

This is the one where you’re some place. Somewhere you want to be, and you can see in, but somehow, no matter what you do,  you can’t find your way inside. There are variations, of course, but that’s the basic idea. You want to be inside; you want to be with whatever happy and successful people are in there.

In the most recent iteration of this particular dream, I was looking into a couple’s bedroom, watching her breastfeed their baby while they entertained their Tribe of Creatives.

They both knew I was there. They waved and smiled, and looked right at me, but they couldn’t help me get inside. I woke up sometime during the waving.

(This all made complete sense, at the time.)

My subconscious could put me in a dream where I’m at the party. It could make me the center of attention, the life of the party.

And yet, it doesn’t. There’s always a wall. Something to keep me out.

Something to say I don’t belong.

That’s not rational, of course. There is space for me in the creative community. There has to be, because that’s the nature of a community. There’s space for the two year old with his first box of crayons and for Michelangelo.

But I don’t want to be at the kiddie table. And there’s always a better table just a few row over.

And maybe I still have work to do to belong there. And definitely to belong at the one after that.

At least I know I’ll be welcome when I get there.

F is for Forcing Yourself

2016FI didn’t get much sleep last night. I don’t know why. Too many ideas in my head. Not enough food in my stomach. Maybe the cat decided to take up moonlight yodeling. I don’t know. But morning came, and there I am, staring at a clock that insists I get up, and go to work, and basically function. And more than that, there’s a computer waiting for me to work on my own work, and a whole A-to-Z Challenge that could be completely ruined by not having an F-word.

And by the way, sitting there thinking F-word, F-word, What’s a good F-word is probably not the best way of coming up with a decent, uplifting F-word.

So, let’s be honest. Today, I am forcing myself to sit down and write a post.

Because stuff happens. You don’t get enough sleep. You go to work, and find out that “the girls” have decided they need to find you a man. You keep going. You keep working toward the goals you set for yourself.

I’m going to finish this blog post, and then, I’m going to work on my WIP a little bit. I don’t expect a whole lot of quality on two hours of sleep, but I do expect to put in the effort, and maybe let my mind wander a little bit.

E is for Effort and Expectations

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Welcome! Today is the first double-dip day of the month, with Insecure Writer’s Support Group and the letter E in the A-t0-Z Challenge falling on the same day.

And as it turns out, I have just enough E-type insecurities to make it work.

I’ve reached the point that Effort is a big issue for me. I’m getting into good habits, and doing the things a professional writer should do, according to all the advice and pithy little mottoes. I’m writing every day. I’m writing… actually, kind of a lot every day. And at a thousand words per day, done religiously and with diligence, that adds up to a lot of raw ore.

My hard drive is bowing under the weight of a thousand word (or more) per day. In one of the more shocking moments of my writing life, I was “organizing” the hard drive recently, and found… A 90k manuscript I’d completely forgotten I wrote. So, that’s the situation. I have a LOT of words in a LOT of different stories, in a state of glorious first draft Entropy.

And that’s where Effort comes in.

At some point, if I want to be a professional writer, I have to make the Effort to Edit and revise, at least some of these stories. And… because there’s so much volume in my literary slag heap of doom, I have to choose which stories are worth the Effort.

And that represents a complete, world-shifting change in Expectations.

The first time you write a novel… whatever the genre, and whatever the circumstances… you start out, and you’re not really sure that you can do it. You’re looking at a blank sheet of paper, and wondering how you get from there to War and Peace, or Harry Potter, or the Phone Book (whatever). And the whole thing looks like this monumental, completely implausible, and probably impossible task. After all, you’re going to write something that’s ten times longer than the longest theme paper you ever groaned over in school.

And then–somehow– you finish, and you start editing, and editing that book–the one you weren’t sure you could finish, and you’re not sure you could do again–becomes the impossible task. And you get caught in the quagmire between impossible accomplishment (I wrote a book!) and impossible goals (I have to edit a book?)

I kept writing new things… and I kept editing that first novel. And writing got much, much, much easier.

Editing got easier, too. I “finished” my revision, and sent the novel on submissions, and got rejections where people noticed I had a name, sent feedback, and **gulp** requested future work.

And all this took time. I kept writing, and I have that backlog  of work I mentioned.

The thing about a first novel is that you have the most inexperienced editor working on a manuscript written by the most inexperienced writer. Improve either one of those things, and the whole process gets easier. And quicker. And more plausible.

Of course, that’s also going to mean more output to edit, so in the big picture, there’s always an impossible, implausible task ahead of you. I’m here, deciding whether the first novel is worth the Effort to Edit again, or if I have higher Expectations for one of the more recent novels. Trying to figure out which novel I expect to be my “THE” Novel.

I’m at the point where I’m not ready to give up on the first novel, but my attention is starting to stray. My expectations have changed.

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D is for Doubt

2016DYou know that “artist”? The one who sings, or paints, or writes, or… dances? Whatever. The one who makes everyone cringe, because everybody in the room—except the artist–knows how awful, and untalented she is?

No one ever says anything, because “the artist” is so enthusiastic, and so earnest, and so committed. No one wants to break her heart. You know the one.

Yeah. I think that might be me.

After a while, you learn to question the good things people say. We’ve all been in writers’ groups where people dig and dig to find the one nice thing about a story that just isn’t good. Poetry readings where people applaud the writer’s courage, or their effort. Nobody ever looks at that optimistic writer and says, “Wow, you’ve got good penmanship.”

I do okay, most of the time. But there are moments of doubt. Where I don’t just think my stuff is crap, I’m absolutely certain of it. And it’s probably the crappiest crap since Adam’s very first crap after getting crapped out of Eden.

Part of this is taste. I’m comparing myself to giants, to classics, to the best stuff I can find, not to the latest trend or the guy down the street. And I have to. Because looking at things that are genuinely, objectively better than I am is how I learn.

And part of it is pure hubris. I keep trying to catch up. I believe–on a good day–that someday, if I work hard enough and long enough, I can be as good as those lofty role models of mine.

On a bad day, though… when I’m finding mistakes and suffering my own clunky metaphors, I wonder if I shouldn’t be aiming a little lower. I could write the future fish wrappers the world so desperately needs. No one likes naked fish. I could write fortune cookies, or children’s books. (You know. The kind with no words. And pictures. Drawn by somebody else.) Or very special special interest books. (High Tech Robotics for Your Rumspringa Rebellion) The market’s small, but at least there’s no competition.

So, what about you? How do you face down the doubts?

C is for C– uh-oh.. C– oh, my… Cussing

C2016Cussing. No, I promised. No adult language. But Cussing is a C-word for which I have more than a little talent. I like the intensifiers and the transitive verbs. I like the broken-glass window into the culture in question.

My immigrant great-grandfather–who was a liar, by the way–insisted that there were no dirty words in his native languageAnd he said this with such angelic composure that people believed him. Until I came along. Hello, internet, and a list of words so colorful, I had to translate the translations for some of them.

So, in my current project, I find myself exploring insults and curses on a non-earth world. At the moment, I’m looking for just the right thing for a woman to say to her husband (in a unilateral marriage) when she finds out he’s lying to her.

So far, the insults have come from his culture, not hers.

His culture values family, so the worst of their insults are things that imply someone isn’t living up to their responsibilities, or isn’t capable of helping their family. Suggesting, for instance, that someone is competing for advancement when he should be working to rebuild after a tragedy. Suggesting that he would have to be forced into even the lightest, and most pleasurable work.

Her culture, on the other hand, is much more class-conscious. If she wants to insult someone, she’ll probably point out their lowly status, or poverty.

And frequently, the insults just don’t translate. They may know they’re being insulted, but they’re not too likely to understand the exact reasons that what’s said is an insult. They confuse each other, and learn from the experience.