Revised Draft of Book One/Deviants DONE!

So, last weekend I managed to finish my revised draft of the first book of Deviants. Now I just have to type in 300+ pages of mostly handwritten material, then print it out and do the final revision. Oh, joy!

It wouldn’t be so bad if my handwriting was actually legible, but it might have a silver lining: I’m too lazy to try to decipher my handwriting for superfluous information so I’m automatically getting rid of some deadwood while I type it in. So, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature”?

Author Spotlight – TJ Klune

Okay, so TJ Klune is not strictly speaking an indie author, since he’s over at Dreamspinner Press, but he is an LGBT+ writer, and also responded to a tweet of mine with a really cute gif . So he definitely deserves a profile.

TJ Klunes writes in several genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Contemporary, and his books run the gamut from falling-down funny, to sentimental, to sweet, to dark and twisted. My first book from TJ Klune was Murmuration, which falls under the umbrella of speculative fiction and has an unconventional love story thrown in. I enjoyed it so much that I read a few more of his books after that, branching out into his contemporary novels such as How to be a Normal Person (which was one of the the first books I read after Jay Bell traumatized me with Something Like Autumn because I needed something with humor), John and Jackie, and the series starting with Bear, Otter, and the Kid. I read The Lightning-Struck Heart – which is Fantasy with a twist, and screamingly funny. I can’t even look at a picture of a unicorn without thinking about Gary.

Then there’s the Immemorial Year series, beginning with Withered & Sere and continuing with Crisped & Sere. The series is Science Fiction, of the post-apocalyptic variety, one of his darker works and twisted enough to be worthy of Stephen King. One of the things that makes this series so haunting is that the world is all too plausible. There are always some people who act in destructive and cruel ways, and when civilization and its rules and enforcers are gone, there won’t be much to stop them anymore. The two main characters are more than just a little flawed: they’re certifiably insane, and broken beyond repair. They are not really “good guys”, nor are they “bad guys”, but fall somewhere in between. Despite their flaws, I was still rooting for them, and their weird creepy romance.

And yet … despite the darkness, the author’s sense of humor is still there. Characters like Bad Dog and SIRS add some lightness, and Bad Dog is probably one of the most endearing characters I’ve read.

What I really like the most about TJ Klune is that he has a vivid and wild imagination, along with a unique sense of humor, and these things are very much reflected in his books.  His writing voice is unique, honest, and a lot of fun. Most of us censor our thoughts when we write them down, taking out anything that might seem too strange, too bizarre, too weird. TJ Klune lets these thoughts remain, and the result is wonderful — because it’s precisely the weirdest thoughts and ideas that make life more interesting. When I’m reading one of his books, I feel like I’m getting a glimpse of what goes on inside his head — and it’s definitely a fun place to spend a few hours.

 

Pride in London and 80’s nostalgia

 

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British Parliament in Rainbow Colors

I was in London on business last week, and by a happy coincidence was able to catch the tail end of the Pride in London Festivities on Saturday. I’m not sure if it was Pride, or simply my mood, but on this particular visit I was hit by a wave of nostalgia while listening to my 80’s mix on Spotify.

You see, I’ve been in love with England, and its central city London, ever since I was a preteen, and just figuring out that I was different than other girls. I was just getting into music and fashion and being “cool”, and there seemed to be so many English music groups to love: the Who, the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Billy Idol, the Smiths, the Cure. British musicians, with their cool (to an American) accents and hip British style, were the people I wanted to emulate. To be more precise – male British musicians. I listened to the Clash singing “London Calling”, and wanted to be Joe Strummer, sounding the call to action. I would look at pictures of Led Zeppelin, and wanted to be like Robert Plant, with his mix of androgynous and masculine sensuality, and have Jimmy Page gazing at me with respect and affection (I used to ship those two before shipping was even a thing ….)

My first forays into the androgynous fashion of British pop stars were met by raised eyebrows at the hairdresser, when I asked for a “Rod Stewart” cut instead of my old standby, the “Dorothy Hamil” wedge, and ended up looking … well, even nerdier than usual, sad to say. It got easier as New Wave with its made for MTV pop icons came along – so many boys who looked like girls, and girls who looked like boys. Androgynous haircuts were now all the rage, so that no one thought too much about it when a girl asked for a step cut and a side part, bleached “Billy Idol white” (one of the few times I actually got the cut I wanted instead of the “feminine” version, come to think of it).

After New Wave, the rise of Glam Rock made things even easier for a genderbending DFAB, with only myself knowing that my long, shaggy spiral perm and leather pants were my personal tributes to Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant, my sleeveless Union Jack T-Shirt a tribute to Joe Elliot. Add Guyliner,  studded leather accessories, and minimal lipstick, and I could imagine myself as one of the pretty glam rock boys popular at the time, while still looking enough like a girl to fool everyone else.

Since then, and through the years, I’ve had phases of “trying to look like a woman” and periods of “I don’t care”.  These days I’ve gone over to the “I’m a frumpy, androgynously-dressed middle-aged woman with no makeup and man shoes and I don’t care what you think.” However, as I enjoyed the crowd at Pride, in the fabled city I have loved since my youth, surrounded by many wonderful people who were much more far-out than I could ever be, a part of me felt like I had finally come home.

 

 

Indie Authors – William Hertling

Singularity Series by William Hertling

To continue spreading the love about indie writers, today’s post is about William Hertling, a completely different kind of author than Jay Bell. William Hertling writes near-future science fiction, and his Singularity series starting with Avogadro Corp: The Singularity is Closer than it Appears has an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence and its interaction with humans.

I’ve read a few cyberpunk/A.I. novels, especially older ones, that seem quaint and funny today (*cough* Neuromancer *cough*), but Hertling is not just a writer with a fairly good grasp on human psychology, but also a software developer who has interesting and realistic ideas about how Artificial Intelligence might come about, how A.I.s might think, and what kinds of motivations they might have. The scenarios he writes are all too plausible, made more so by the future world he has envisioned which is not so far from our own. It’s not a big leap to imagine living in the world that he has created, and his overall message is something we should be thinking about.

His novels are classic science fiction, focusing more on the science than the characters, so although the human characters are realistic, their characterizations don’t go very deep. However, his depictions of the A.I.s are some of the best and most realistic that I’ve ever read, so that the relative shallowness of the human characters doesn’t really matter. They are, after all, not really the stars of the show. I am very familiar with computers myself, so none of the technology is strange to me, but I think he keeps it simple enough that someone with a less technical background could understand what’s going on.

I’ve read the first two books of the Singularity series so far and am looking forward to reading the rest. Avogadro Corp deals with a singular A.I. and its birth, development, and interactions with its creator, while A.I. Apocalypse deals with the development of multiple Artificial Intelligences and the formation of an A.I. culture. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the communications between the different A.I.s and the thought processes of the A.I.s while they are dealing with humans.

If you enjoy realistic science fiction, and are interested in Artificial Intelligence, I highly recommend checking out this author and his Singularity series.

Book spiderwebs

I recently stumbled onto a blog about self-publishing from David Gaughran, which has some really useful information about marketing books and working with the algorithms of E-Book publishers. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re planning on self-publishing.

In one post, Who’s Pointing At You? David introduces a tool that promises hours of amusement for nerds like me looking for an excuse to procrastinate (ahem) marketing analysis tools: yasiv.com. It’s a visual representation of  the “Also Bought” connections related to the title you type into the search field (change the default search from “books” to “kindle store” if you want to see the Kindle recommendations).

David has a good explanation about why you would want to keep track of the connections that your book has, but since I don’t have anything published yet I amused myself by plugging in a couple of my favorite books into the search and got nifty spiderweb pictures to show for it. For instance, here’s the web for 1984 from George Orwell:

1984

 

Many of the connections to and from 1984 are to other dystopian novels and classic literature, which isn’t surprising. A closer look reveals a cluster of Cliff Notes, which makes sense considering it’s often required reading in literature classes:

CliffNotes

My Muse says I better stop surfing and looking at pretty pictures and get working on that revision so that I have something of my own to look up!

Indie Authors – Jay Bell

Something Like … series by Jay Bell

I wasn’t really planning to do reviews on my blog, but a post by Only Fragments about growing up queer at a time when there was little queer representation in media got me to thinking how important it is to continue to share the love and spread the word, even though the world looks much different today than it did when I was a kid.

It’s particularly gratifying to support indie writers, such as Jay Bell. His books have not only won awards, but his book Something Like Summer has even been made into a movie – which is something pretty impressive for an indie writer, especially one who writes about LGBT characters. I also feel a certain kinship with him, since he married a German and lived in Germany as an ex-pat for several years.

I’ve read the first three books of his Something Like … series so far: Something Like Summer, Something Like Winter, and Something Like Autumn, and have been enjoying it very much.  Each book is written from the perspective of a different character, and the first three all follow the same core story. Although each book could probably stand alone, I strongly suggest reading them in order to get the full effect because the story gains depth and layers as you read it from differing viewpoints.

Romantic relationships are central to the books, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them romances, since the story goes beyond the romance part and follows the lives of the characters for several years as they grow up and settle into adult life. They fall in love (with more than one person), have friendships, work on careers, deal with bad relationships, interact with family, and handle grief and loss. The books are not perfect, but I was engaged enough with the characters to look past a couple of plot sins in the first book, and the writing gets better in the next books. I honestly would have ended the main story line a lot differently, but of course every writer is different, otherwise every story would turn out the same, and how boring would that be?

Jay Bell’s characters are real and sympathetic each in his own way, even the ones who were ethically challenged (at least to an old romantic like myself who has been around the block a few too many times). The main characters are gay and bisexual men, but I found many of the themes applicable to relationships in general, since they’re not just about hiding in the closet or coming out. I particularly enjoyed the character of Jace, who was featured as a romantic partner in the first two books and is the main character of the third, Something like Autumn. His character is one of the highlights of the series, even though he gets shortchanged in the broader story, because he’s one of those rare characters in romance fiction (and, unfortunately, in real life) who knows what it takes to make a relationship really work: the central understanding that the relationship isn’t all about him, but also the well-being and happiness of his partner.

Be forewarned – these books tend to the dramatic and are very emotional, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, they probably won’t be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you enjoy a good cry and emotionally engaging characters, they’re definitely worth a read. Jace’s book in particular reduced me to a puddle of miserable tears, even though I knew how his story ended from the previous books. If you’re the emotional type, and want to avoid having to make excuses about “allergies making your eyes hurt”, it’s better read it in private (not on the subway, like I did. So embarrassing.)

Revision Blues

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I haven’t been blogging very faithfully lately. I promised to myself I’d try to do at least one post a month but it seems that things change so fast in the news these days that by the time I manage to write a reaction to something, it’s already obsolete, and to be honest some things have been so horrific that they don’t really need a blog reaction at all. I wish that there weren’t so many leaders determined to prove that there is evil in the world, but unfortunately they exist.

On a more positive note, I’m still in the middle of revision on Deviants, and have been doing Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of at least 1 hour/day doing revision.  I made the decision to incorporate a lot of the backstory into the manuscript, so right now it looks like there are going to be at least two books following the adventures of Simon and Jamie from childhood through adolescence and early adulthood. I may also do a third, which will follow them into old age. So on that front things are shaping up nicely.