The Goddess Proxy

If you are reading this, you’re alive . . . oh, wait:  that was last Friday.  This is Tuesday.  It’s the end of my first four-day weekend in a long time, and the day of the Doctor Who Christmas Special.  There’s something else going on as well, but you don’t need me to tell you that:  I’m just letting you know what’s important in my life.

I’ve got ELP blasting live as I wonder what I’m going to do today.  I know it’s probably going to be writing related, but I don’t know for certain.  Actually, I do know, I just don’t know what yet.

I do know that I’m going to start up another story here very soon.  I need to get to work on developing the characters–at the least, getting them named, and getting them fleshed out a bit.  I have the plot laid out in my head, and . . . well, you know how it goes.  I have a good idea where the story will take me.

I’m dipping back into a universe that, strangely enough, I first developed as some fetish fiction many moons ago.  This time I’ll have a few of the characters show up in the story–one character in particular–without all the fetishy stuff that I had in my other, long-ago story.  That doesn’t mean my main character won’t be sorta sensual in her own way.

This wasn’t the intention when I first started this story.  Oh, no.  When I was in my story idea file, I wrote down “Muse Story” and that was it.  I was going to have a nice story about a guy and his muse, and how she was going to help him write the story that he was meant to write.  Because that’s what muses do:  they take you by the hand, bring out the best in your creative abilities, and get your ass to creating.

But somewhere along the way my muse went from being less of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl to a Lovable Alpha Bitch who’s a bit like Kate Winslet’s character Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, letting everyone know, “I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s lookin’ for my own peace of mind.”  And when you throw in just what she’s trying to get her latest charge to write, it means there’s going to be a lot more things happening than the casual, “I need to make you live!” sort of crap.

This is how the writer’s mind works:  you take a concept, let it sit for a bit before giving it a little heat so it can simmer, then when it’s ready, to take it off the low heat and get it into some real cooking.  That’s what this story’s been doing for some time.  Even when I didn’t know I was thinking about it, I probably was.

The thing that made the story complete, however, was when I realized that I’d sort of walked this ground before, and all I needed to do was ground both stories in a world that made sense.  That’s World Building–you remember me talking about it, right?

‘Cause if you haven’t, then you need to pay a little closer attention.

The Emerging Picture

If you put any time into self publishing, you’ll quickly understand that one of the most difficult processes that needs to be finished before you can upload your story isn’t the editing, or the formatting, or even getting out the word that you have, once more, published something for the masses to read.

It’s getting your book cover created.

I’ve done two book covers, though only one has seen the light of day.  (Both have, actually; you’d have seen the second cover if you’d visited my NaNoWriMo page for my 2012 novel.)  Both are very simple; they give a hint at things within the story without actually telling the reader anything.  As a friend told me yesterday, “My opinion on covers is that less is more,” and there is a lot of truth to that.

But there is something to be said about having a cover that’s, well, slick.  The cover printed for Captivate and Control made my heart sing when I first saw it, and even to this day I can’t help but look at it and feel a lot of pride for the work that went into making that cover.  But I know there was a huge amount of work that went into producing that cover, and if you want something that detailed, and lovely, to grace your ebook, then you’ve got to shell out some coinage.

I’ve begun working with Blender, trying to make landscapes, and my first render isn’t that bad.  There is a lot more work that needs to be done, but I’m getting there.  I’ve also played with DAZ 3D a bit, and I’ve begun looking through Bryce as well.  There is a bit of a learning curve here for all this software, but there is always a method to my madness–

See, this is all about making all the book covers.

Bryce and Blender can help with creating landscapes; DAZ can help with getting figures set up, dressed, lighted, and posed so I can put them into a scene.  Once that’s all finished, it’s a matter of doing a render (that’s the same as actually building the picture) then maybe doing a little photomanipulating on said picture before turning it into a cover.  With Blender it’s even possible to create an animation, so if I really wanted to get into some viral marketing, I could try my hand and creating an animated short that would become my book trailer–oh, you didn’t know those existed?  Then you need to get informed, no?

It’s been pointed out many times that as self-publishing becomes more of the norm, a writer is going to need to understand, and maybe even know, all the skills that go into making a worth-while story, collection of stories, or a novel.  It’s not enough to simply write:  you need to get involved in everything.

I understand that some people just won’t get this software stuff that may allow them to build a cover for their latest opus.  That’s okay:  if I know how to do this, then I can sell my skills to you.  So when I have a little down time when I’m not working on a story–like now–I can go around asking people if they need someone to whip up a cover for their novel.

Because I’ve seen some of the covers that people have created.

And . . . damn.


Last Night in Mister Moon’s Drive

I was out last night.  It was another in a long line of visits where I go out, have pizza, chat, and watch shows that either invite snarky commentary about plot holes (Prisoner of Azkaban, why walk back to Hogwatts when someone could have apparated Peter back?  Why not have someone go back and get Dumbledore?  Why not just take Peter to Hogsmeade, which was right next door?  Why did Lupin conveniently forget there was a full moon that night?  Why was the story plot hammered like it was being run by a bad GM?) or something more interesting (like two episodes of Season Two of Sherlock).

Then came the drive back after midnight.  For some reason there was almost no traffic, and my drive home was one of just letting the cruise control do its thing just point the car down the road.  There wasn’t a need to touch the brakes, so I drove and thought . . .

I had a waxing gibbous moon on my left shoulder for most of the drive, and it struck me that this would be my last moonlit drive for 2012.  And it was strange because on so many moonlit drives, I’ve been with characters who have made my stories shine, with ideas that drive me on to produce good stories, and plots that I hope work out once I put them to paper.

I had none of that last night.  It was just me, and a few of my thoughts.  Not that there was anything wrong with that, but as perfect as the night seemed, I really wanted to have someone alongside, sharing the experience.

This is has been a long year, with plenty of ups and downs, things to be remembered and forgotten.  There has been exhilaration and doubt.  Particularly the doubt, which has seemed to increase in the last few weeks.  Don’t ask why, because I don’t know myself.  It’s the way my mind works, and it’s not ways a good thing, that.

The thing about being a writer is there is always doubt.  Is this story good?  Are the characters believable?  Does any of this make sense?  Is the cover nice?  Is this damn thing going to sell?  It’s the nature of the beast, these doubts, because creative people are like that.  Nothing is ever good enough for them; everything is “okay”.  Or, if they are really down on themselves, “not so good”.

Quite honestly, we’re all seconds away from an Admiral Ackbar moment, and it will drive you crazy when all the thoughts of everything bad that could happen to you come knocking.  I had a touch of that last night, then kicked them out of the car because I realize the more negativity you embrace, the longer it stays with you.  That was the problem with my last job:  it was a negative environment, and very little made me happy.

I don’t want negative:  I want happy.

It seemed that once I pushed the bad stuff out of the car, a couple of characters who I hadn’t thought of in some time entered my mind, as if to put me at easy and tell me, “It’s okay, love.  We all go thought this:  you’re no different.”  It was comforting that even someone fictional could bring a smile to my face . . .

Perhaps they needed someone to ride with as well.

Bring Down the Sadness

Just as a week ago I’d finished the draft on Replacements, last night saw me finishing the draft on Echoes.  Last chapter, a few words added, a couple of things edited . . . ta-da!  Final Draft is in the bag.  Now all that’s required is one more pass, another good polish, a book cover, and it’s ready to take its place next to Banging the Cheer Squad, which is one of the tomes that appears on my Smashwords front page.  (There’s even an interesting first sentence:  “Gretchen thought she was the only cheerleader who had been turned into a gangbang slut.”  Definitely not my high school.)

The last chapter has always made me cry–my story Echoes, that is, not the one about slutty cheerleaders.  I wrote it last year, starting it almost about this time, and it was a reflection of something that I was feeling at the time.  I wanted to get everything down inside words I’d remember, everything that I felt would convey how I felt then, and I think–I think–I got it right.  It was the first real story I wrote that touched my emotional side, and it’s really one of the first stories that isn’t just words, but possesses feelings as well.

Which is why the ending makes me sad, because the feelings are still there.  Probably will be forever.

The thing about Echoes, though, is that if I couldn’t have finished it, I’d have never been able to write the ending to Transporting.  The later was delving into some deep, emotional waters as well, and as I’ve stated in other, older posts, in order to finish the story, I needed to get into some feelings I couldn’t access.  I’d always been a touch unemotional, and it showed in my writing.  I could plot and do prose, but there was something missing.

It’s a fact of life that sometimes your writing is going to make you cry.  Can’t be helped, because when you, the writer, goes over a piece, no matter how long before it was written, you’re going to remember when that writing happen, where it happens, and maybe even what you were feeling when you wrote those particular words.  That’s assuming you aren’t Scriptomatic 3000, which was something I think Dan Aykroyd called himself when he was developing scripts.

If you’re just hammering away at your stories, getting the words down one after the other, and you’re not putting yourself into them, then maybe you won’t feeling anything when you’re editing them later.  I think that will show up in the story, however, because as many of you know, when you’re reading another author’s work, you see things in your head, see the characters a certain way, and the emotions that trickle out are pretty much a combination of yours mixed with those of the writer.  But if the writer didn’t put any of themselves into their work, the reads may just feel that.

There is one other thing about getting your feelings onto the page:  it means you’re will to open yourself up to things you may not like to remember, or feel, or even admit ever happened.  It’s not a pleasant thing to do–I know, I’ve done it.  There are a lot of things in my life that I wish hadn’t happened, and would like to forget completely.  But when you’re writing . . . damn it, those feelings just seem to pop up, you know?

All that remains are the covers, and a little polish . . .

I’m almost there with the new stories.  Here’s hoping people like them.


How’s That Apocalypse Working For You?

If you’re reading this, you didn’t die in a massive conflagration of natural disasters that has even bored Roland Emmerich to death.  The world didn’t end at 5:11 AM Chicago time, which was when the last Mayan cycle ended, and the next began.  Nothing bad happened that wouldn’t have happened anyway, and things move forward.

Life goes on.

So does the stupidity.

It amazes me how people are so taken in by utter bullshit every day.  A few years ago it was the Rapture that was, for sure, gonna happen in 2011.  People sold off their possession, convinced they were off to meet the lord, but the only way that was going to happen is if they got personal with a Guyana Cocktail.  Before that it was the Heaven’s Gate yahoos, who at least had enough fortitude to carry through on their insanity and leave the world a little more sane.  And before that . . . hell, people, too much, because it seems like someone thinks the world is going to end at any moment, and only the faithful are going to survive–or, if nothing else, be rewarded with a trip to Heaven Land, or some such stupidity.

And you think this is the end?  Not a chance.  We have another Rapture coming up in 2015, because British Methodist theologian Adam Clarke said so, and no other than Sir Issac Newton, claimed that his studies proved that the Rapture couldn’t possibly occur before 2060, so look for the Raptors (Can I call them that without pissing off the real raptors?) to get all jiggy over that one, because, hey, Sir Issac said so!

People are a gullible lot, and the majority of them seem to be on Facebook these days.  Even today I saw another of those, “Can you believe THIS?” memes going around about there being “December 2012 will feature 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays, a combination of days that occurs only once every 823 years,” and you better pass that along so you can make money.

Pure bullshit.

I mean, it only takes a close look at calendars, and a little common sense, to understand that the whole, “I happens once every 823 years” is total crap.  But it’s easier to believe the crap than it is to call it out as illogical claptrap.  Why?  Because of Sturgeon’s Revelation, I suppose.  Harlan Ellison suggested that the Revelation applied to people as well, and in the forty-five years since reading that, I’ve seen little to suggest otherwise.

It’s far better, it would also seem, to just make fun of the lunacy of the event, rather than tell people who appear to even the smallest belief that the End is Nigh, that they are crazy and should either get their head straight, or to keep their insanity to themselves–or, better yet, get help for their delusion.  Because you aren’t helping anyone by professing your opinion that the end of the world is coming, and we gotta get ready.  You’re a problem, and it would be best if you leave us alone.

Oh, is that too mean?  Just ask a “prepper” if I’m wrong, and they’ll tell you I’m the crazy one.  They’ll tell you the end if coming, and you need lots of things:  clothes, food, guns . . . lots of guns.

Just ask Nancy Lanza how that worked out for her.

Checking the List, Editing it Twice

I didn’t finish a chapter last night, but I was surprised by how far I did get.

The current chapter I’m editing for Replacements is a big one; originally it ran a little over fifty-five hundred words, and it’s inching up towards fifty-six hundred.  So even though I was a bit distracted by things around me as I started working on it, I wasn’t in such a bad position that I was completely overwhelmed.

I was surprised, however, at how well I’m handling the edits.

A year ago editing was not my forte.  It was something I was pretty going at half-assed:  I’d get in and start giving something a once over, fully convinced that my first draft was so good I didn’t really need to do a lot of work.

Like I said, that was a year ago.

My illusions of First Draft Perfectness have vanished into the void, and I’m far more cognoscente of exactly how the creative process works.  My first drafts are very good when it comes to laying out the plot, but there are all sorts of little things happening within that plot that work every well at messing up the story as a whole.  I find misspellings; I find sentences where the tense makes no sense; I even find little things like using the same word twice in a row, or leaving out a word that I meant to use because my brain told me it was needed, but that I never used.

You know:  things every writer does.

It’s true there are some writers who can, or could, rip off a story on the first draft and never have to do a lot of rework after that point.  There have been stories I’ve written that were like that, but those were few and far between.  These days, with everything I’m putting into a story, I’m finding my mind working more and more towards keeping a chapter straight, making certain I don’t leave a bunch of plot holes around for people to twist their ankles in, and working towards the overall end of the tale—which means I’m missing things as I go along.  Things like writing “an” instead of “and”, or writing a statement in a sloppy fashion.

That was one of the things I found last night:  I had characters who were supposed to be intelligent, well-educated individuals, using slang you probably wouldn’t hear them use in day-to-day conversations.  I saw it, read it, cringed, then changed the statements.  At least I didn’t have them making a comment like, “Yo, dawg, just sayin’”.  There’s an advantage to working with people a thousand years in the future.

Though it may seem as if I’m spending a lot of times on editing, it pays off.  I found myself embarrassed to get messages from people telling me that a story I’d self-published was full of errors.  Not a huge amount, but enough that when I saw them I wondered how the hell I could have let them through in the first place.  The answer:  I didn’t have my editing chops down.

Becoming a better writer means becoming a better editor as well.  If you don’t believe me, just self-publish a first draft and see what sort of response you get.

If you’re lucky, your readers will be kind.

Blindsided by the Light

A funny thing happened on the way to the editing last night:  I’d forgotten that I’ve almost finished editing Echoes.

I’d begun editing this story a while back, but when it came to doing the revised draft, I thought I’d only managed to get through one, maybe two chapters.  Imagine my surprised when I opened the Scrivener project last night and discovered that I was in the middle of a chapter, and I was about half-way through the story.

The question then becomes:  when did I do this? Continue reading