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”?

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!

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.

 

 

The Unintended Romance

trainstalking by davitydave, on Flickr

trainstalking (CC BY 2.0) by davitydave

While writing Deviants, there was one twist in the story that took me completely by surprise. It not only changed the story I was writing – it changed me, as well.

Deviants started out as a story about Simon, a young man who, after being cast out of the remote, rural commune where he grew up, moved to the slums of a city to seek his fortune. While searching for work, he meets Li, a young woman who grew up as a rich Elite. They work together until Simon has to risk everything to save his (estranged) childhood best friend, Jamie.

As a major subplot, I had planned for Simon and Li to develop a relationship that led to romance … but somehow it didn’t seem to work out that way. Li craved adventure and excitement, and didn’t want or need an exclusive relationship with one person. Most especially, she wouldn’t be interested in tying herself to my timid protagonist Simon, whose idea of a good time was sitting at home with his loved ones and not gallivanting around the solar system looking for the next adventure. They might become good friends, and Li might take him out of his shell a little bit while he might calm her down, but they were never going to be happy together as a couple.

Since I don’t like forcing relationships with characters that don’t really fit together (I’m looking at you, Ron and Hermione!), I removed the romantic element from the relationship. I continued writing, and started developing the backstory of Simon’s childhood and how he met Jamie – a refugee slave taken in by Simon’s rural commune.

As I developed the friendship between Simon and Jamie, there appeared some hints of something deeper between them. I hadn’t really given any thought to making my protagonist gay at that point, so it threw me for a loop at first. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go that route, and if I did, how I should continue. After a lot of soul-searching, I decided that the pull between the two characters was too strong to ignore, and I let them out of the closet.

Up until recently, I hadn’t read very many books with gay or lesbian protagonists in them. Particularly during my childhood and teen years, even though I was a voracious reader, I rarely came across a character who was homosexual or bisexual without being pathological or tragic in some way. There was some bisexuality going on in Heinlein’s books, but he usually portrayed same-sex relationships as “good clean fun but still lesser than heterosexual relationships.” Anne McCaffrey hinted at homosexuality among Dragonriders in her Pern books, but it was only a hint, only for male Dragonriders, and not really something that the characters chose themselves.

I did eventually discover The Last Herald Mage trilogy from Mercedes Lackey, and some of the books from Marion Zimmer Bradley. Here were at last major characters who were definitely, unabashedly gay, lesbian, and bisexual. It was like a revelation, even if many of the homosexual relationships were fraught with suffering and tragedy.

After deciding to let my main character out of the closet, I started doing some market research, and discovered that there is a large variety of LGBT literature out there today. It is easily available on Amazon and encompasses almost every genre from classic literature to police procedurals to erotic romance to science fiction and fantasy (as an aside, if you like fantasy I highly recommend Lynn Flewelling). There are not a few tragedies, but also HEA endings and stable, loving relationships. Today, it is possible to find many role models and examples of people in fiction and in our daily lives who are gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and everything in between. People who are queer, but who are a part of society instead of being outcasts, and who find love and happiness and success instead of pain and tragedy and ruin.

Through this process, I have not only become a proud supporter of LGBT rights, but have discovered that I, too, reside in queer space. Recent developments in society have reminded me of the potential for the pendulum to swing back, so I hope to add to the growing collection of literature with happy gay and lesbian protagonists to tide us through any dark times that might be coming, so that we can make things get better again.

Anthropology for fun and profit

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Image: warrior woman (CC BY 2.0) by Anne-Lise Heinrichs

Back when I was deciding on a major, I inexplicably eschewed sensible majors such as Computer Science in favor of the endlessly fascinating but less useful Anthropology. I returned to computers long ago, and thought I’d never have a use for my Anthropological studies again. However, I’ve found lately that Anthropology is actually very useful for a writer of speculative fiction, because it really helps with world-building.

One aspect of Anthropology is the study of  how cultures are shaped by and shape their environments. There are so many things that we take for granted, and assume are the “natural” way of things because we grew up with them, but are not necessarily universal human traits. This is helpful to know when designing cultures in a completely new world.

In the world of The Amazon’s Apprentice, magic plays an important role in daily life, and women are stronger than men because they can use magic more effectively. Anthropology helps me figure out what their societies and cultures might look like, because there are physical differences between the sexes that would make them different than being simply a mirror of our own.

For instance, woman are both more affected by and more in control of pregnancy and childbirth than men, unless her culture or circumstances remove that power. If women are in control of society and its institutions, the whole concept of family and marriage is probably going to be very different than what we know. Unlike a man, a woman doesn’t have to worry that her child is not her own, so the necessity of keeping her mate(s) under sexual control diminishes unless there is another compelling reason to do so. In my world, there are some reasons why a woman might want to bind a mate, but they are not as compelling as in our world so the institution of marriage does not have the same importance.

NaNoWriMo

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This year I tried my first NaNoWriMo. I went into it with some skepticism, and didn’t really expect to reach 50,000 words, but to my surprise I finished with an almost complete first draft of a Fantasy novel.

Doing NaNo helped me conquer one of my major problems: I have a tendency to get stuck in an endless cycle of revision. I’ll write a chapter, revise, write another chapter, revise both, and so on and so forth until I get to the middle and have no clue what direction I want to go. Having a set goal for the month really helped me get out of my rut. I managed to write more of my NaNoWriMo book in 30 days than I achieved through more than two years of slogging through my other project.

I’m not really good at thinking up titles. I’m calling my NaNoWriMo project  “The Amazon’s Apprentice”  for now – the book doesn’t have any real Amazons in it, but it is based on a society where women have the power and men are their chattel. We’ll see if I can come up with a better title during revision.

I have a few more scenes to write to flesh out the story, and I’m hoping  to finish by the end of December and have a first draft to put through revision. After I do some revision I’ll go back to my Science Fiction project, and hopefully I’ll be able to take a fresher approach with it.