Know (And Prioritize) Thyself

You know that old adage, the one about how you can tell a real writer because s/he writes? I don’t think that’s the exact phrasing, but you know the one. Writers write. If you want to be a writer, write some words. How can I be a writer, you ask? Well, you do some writing.

It’s kind of a pithy, snide sort of adage, but there’s truth at the heart. If you want to do something, you jolly well find a way to do it. In short, you make it a priority.

It goes for other things, too. If you want to be a faster runner, you run. If you want to learn to play guitar, you practice. Want to speak Portuguese? Well, you probably need to go to a class or something. At any rate, you say to yourself, “This thing I want, well, it’s important to me. Therefore, I am going to dedicate time, energy, and brainwaves to it. And by George, even if I have to give somethings up to do it, I’m gonna do it.”

Simple as that.

But while it may be simple, it’s certainly not easy.

We all have so many commitments, between work, family, and, you know, living, it’s hard sometimes to make space for one more thing. Sometimes, when you’re exhausted after a long day, you don’t want to wring out your brain for just a few more cogent minutes of study or creative work. And that’s fine: sometimes health and sanity take priority over wishes and goals.

At times, prioritizing is largely about self-knowledge, which is one of the trickiest things we humans can do. It can be difficult to distinguish between “I want this,” and “This is important enough to me to dedicate the time, money, energy, and sheer willpower to make it happen,” and that difference is the gap between having Pop-Tarts for dinner and moving to Ireland for a year.

So how do you do it?

Often, the proof is simply in how you live. We unconsciously prioritize every day: it’s why I’m a pretty good spinner and a terrible guitar player. Some things are harder to make happen, though, and that’s why we have to work, every day, to figure out what are the most important things.

But other times, it takes soul-searching, angst, and a re-evaluation of one’s life before those priorities surface. And when that happens, it can be a crisis, or it can be a brilliant moment of awakening. These realizations often come in a tidal wave of shock, when we realize we’ve been distracting ourselves from what really matters, or we finally acknowledge that we’ve been doing nothing to pursue one of our Big Dreams.

So perhaps it’s worth the price of a little ongoing self-study to keep the priorities straight, if only to prevent those foundation rocking moments of cold clarity.

Have you experienced this? Do you prioritize based on self-knowledge? How do you decide what’s really, truly important to you, and how do you prioritize those things?

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On Being Adaptable

ADAPTABILITY_TO_CHANGEIf I’m learning one thing as a pre-published author, it’s that you have to learn to be flexible in this industry. And I don’t just mean in being able to take edits, although that’s a very important skill as well.

In the last year, I’ve seen writer friends get agents, leave agents, get new ones, take contracts, cancel contracts, get dropped by their publishers, succeed beyond their wildest dreams and have to adapt to all manner of situations in between.

In that same year, I’ve written several books, been on submission, experienced the acquisitions board and been both baffled and inspired by publishing houses and editors. I’ve started projects that I thought were pure genius, only to put them on hold to focus on those that have a better likelihood of selling in the current market, and I’ve rearranged my whole TBW (to be written) list more times than I can count. And you know what? I’ve learned to be okay with that.

You see, market trends influence the business side of our craft more than we’d like to admit. When it comes down to it, what we do is art; what our publishers do is business. We meet somewhere in the middle to bring books to our readers. Publishers have to acquire stories that fit what people are buying or there is no profit in the deal for them. And their success is what pays us and enables our careers, especially when they have to take a risk on newbies like me and many of my friends. From an artistic point of view, it sucks. But from a business perspective it makes total sense.

As writers, we have to learn to see it from both sides. I’m not advocating chasing trends. You have to write what it is that calls to you. But you also need to be aware of other opportunities that may be out there. I recently opened my mind to a later period in history and, even though that’s not “my thing,” have found three lovely stories to tell, golden opportunities that I otherwise would have missed. So what if my planned books have to wait? It’s not like they are going anywhere.

But I didn’t get to that place of peace – and dare I say excitement? – overnight. I wailed (privately) for a while before I ceased the pity party, put on my big girl panties, and accepted that in order to succeed, I would need to be willing to change.

This is the tough stuff that no one tells you when you enter the big, wild world of writing. And I’m kind of glad they don’t. If I would have known six years ago that how good my story is isn’t the only thing taken into consideration by a publishing house or that I may not get to write books in exactly the order I want, I don’t know if I would have bothered to get started. This is the stuff that weeds out the hobbyists from the career writers. Those of us who are meant to have long careers learn to adapt, rather than give up, no matter how tempting it may seem.

Now, having started research on one of those three stories, a novel that has so much potential for cultural relevance and impact on women, I can hardly believe that I almost bull-headedly passed up this chance to stretch myself.  Beside the ability to weave spellbinding stories, create compelling characters and market ourselves on social media, adaptability is one of the most powerful tools in the tool box of any writer. Our careers, not to mention our mental and emotional health, may depend on our ability to use it, so it shouldn’t be undervalued or dismissed. In this changing world in which we live, it may just be what gets us through with our sanity intact (or at least not any more damaged than it was before.)

 When have you had to be adaptable? Do you have any tips?

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Shauna’s Edition

If you’ve been following me on any social media site, you know by now that my sequel to World of Ash, Time of Ruin, went live on Tuesday. We all talk about how difficult writing is, and it is, but some books are easier than others and some just kill you a little bit, steal a piece of your soul with every page. The Ash and Ruin Trilogy is the latter for me. That’s why I talk about it so much. I’m just so glad for each book to be complete and out in the world. I’m glad I wrote these books, but I will be glad when they’re over because they take so much from me. But that doesn’t mean I’m not excited to see people reading the, so in that vein, here is all the info you need!

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic adventures with monsters and just a touch of romance, please check them out!

The first book, World of Ash, can be found here:

WOA (1)

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.

The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.

That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.

The second book, Time of Ruin:

TOR

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads, iBooks, Kobo

Blurb:

The world has ended, and hope is the most dangerous thing left.

Battered and bruised after barely escaping San Francisco with their lives, Kat, Dylan, and Blue press north – desperate to reach the possibility of a new home.

But strange, monstrous ravens are tracking the remaining survivors, food is becoming scarce, gasoline is running short, and people are becoming suicidal, making survival almost impossible.

And the Pestas are growing bolder. Somehow, their numbers are growing.

The further north they go, the harder it becomes to ignore the signs that they’ve made a fatal mistake. Kat must face the impossible truth that there is no escape, there is no safe haven, and their worst nightmares don’t come close to their new reality.

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Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is

In less than two weeks, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will hit American theaters.*

In case you are unaware, Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera starring a team of prisoners who band together to save the universe. This team consists of a human, two humanoid aliens, a talking tree, and a machine gun wielding raccoon.

The Guardians of the Galaxy: Gamora, Peter Quill, Rocket, Drax, and Groot

I’ve found that people generally have one of three reactions when it comes to hearing about this movie:

(1) Extreme excitement. These are the people like me who love cosmic Marvel and are excited to see some of our favorite characters (*cough*Rocket Raccoon*cough*) come to the big screen.

(2) Trust in Marvel. These are the people who are skeptical about the movie but are going to go see it anyway, because with Marvel Studios’s current track record of awesomeness they will pretty much see anything they produce.

(3) Complete Disbelief. These are the people who hear the idea of a talking tree and a gun-toting raccoon and think that executives at Marvel have gone completely off their rocker. These people have no intention of seeing this movie.

Needless to say, this movie is a bit of a risk for Marvel. Will people accept Rocket Raccoon as a compelling character? Will they understand Groot even though he can only say three words? Can the average superhero movie watcher handle a movie where Earth is only ever mentioned but not actually a place that is visited?

Marvel doesn’t know. Honestly, I don’t know what the outcome of this movie is going to be. I suspect it’s going to be amazing, but I don’t know if the box office will reflect that, because I don’t know if the average person is willing to take a chance on it.

People complain all the time about how formulaic fiction has gotten. They complain about how Hollywood only produces sequels anymore or how Hollywood won’t make movies with female action leads. They complain about these things and then they only see sequels, they only see movies led by men, and they only buy formulaic fiction.

Money talks. Ultimately money is all that matters in a capitalistic society. YA fiction will continue to be dominated by heterosexual romance until people start putting their money where their mouth is and buying books like Malindo Lo’s Adaptation. Action movies will continue to star men unless we all start buying tickets to movies like Lucy or The Heat. Women, PoC, or non-heteronormative couples will continue to be ignored and sidelined until we start actually paying for stories that focus on these characters.

And it’s happening. Slowly yet surely it’s happening. This week Ms. Marvel, a comic book starring a Muslim teenage girl in New Jersey, reached it’s sixth printing–something that rarely ever happens. The Hunger Games and Frozen are teaching Hollywood that women are a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the screen. But we can’t stop there. We can’t relent. Don’t just talk about how interesting having a female Thor or a black Captain America would be. Buy the comics.**

This is why I’m going to see Guardians of the Galaxy, and regardless of how good it is, I’m going to see it multiple times. Because as a cosmic Marvel fan, I want to do everything I can to say to Marvel Studios, “I want to see more of this. And please for the love of Loki give me a Nova movie.” And the only real way I have to tell Marvel that is with my money.

Let’s not just be talkers. Let’s put our money where our mouth is and actually support the kinds of stories we want to see.

Are there any books, movies, or comics that you love, which feature minority groups, and you wished got more support?

*No one here should be shocked that I’m talking about a Marvel movie in a post. What can I say? Everything in life relates to Marvel.
**I am very aware of the Remender problem, and personally I’m torn as to whether or not to pick up the first Sam Wilson as Captain America comic. I want to support Sam as Cap but I don’t want to support Remender. Alas. It’s a dilemma.

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Insecurities and Eppihanies

Shauna Granger:

I posted this on my personal blog, but I think it’s something that would be good for others to read no matter the genre they write and/or read. It’s good to remember, sometimes you have to wait for things until you’re ready, even if you don’t know when that might be.

Originally posted on The Musings of an Author in Progress:

So, as many of you know, Time of Ruin the second installment in the Ash and Ruin Trilogy, releases in exactly one week.

I can’t express the level of anxiety I have about this. Trilogies are incredibly difficult to write, I’ve come to learn. With an open-ended series you have a while to develop your character arcs and have so many plot bunnies to chase down, the pressure is kind of spread out. But with a trilogy you’ve got three books. Three acts. Beginning, middle, and end. And you gotta get your shit done. And each book needs to have a whole, satisfactory story contained within it’s covers while carrying on the major plot arcing through all three books.

I thought the hardest book was the second one, the one coming out in a week. But truth be told, the first book was just as hard. This  is a fucking…

View original 738 more words

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Shameless Self-Promotion

This month’s post is all about the shameless self-promotion, prompted by the recent release of Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk, and the upcoming release of my contemporary novella Between the Sheets.

My story The Clockwork Monk is one of the twelve tales in Cogwheels, and if you’re wondering why a book called Ten Tales has twelve stories, I can only say it has to do with editor Rayne Hall and her cat Sulu and it’s complicated. But why complain? Bonus stories, right?

I’d never tried to write steampunk before, but I’ve read enough that I have a pretty good handle on the genre. In fact, you can jump here for my Spellbound Scribes post listing my top ten favorite steampunk books. And you can check out this blog post, put together by Rayne Hall and Day Al-Mohamed, that summarizes all twelve contributors’ ideas about what steampunk means.

My story The Clockwork Monk is a PG-13-rated m/m adventure tale that’s set right before the start of The Great War, WW1. In it, I play with gender roles and bash organized religion and generally have a good time. Cogwheels is a fabulous collection of stories, and if you like steampunk, it’s a screamin’ deal for $0.99.

The Clockwork Monk image

The Clockwork Monk

Thomas Beck is a spy. Actually, Thomas isn’t his real name, but you wouldn’t expect a spy to use his real name, would you? He reports directly to Madam Helen Taft, President of the United States, and his goal is to prevent the war that threatens to drag every country in the world into chaos. Madam President invites him in for tea, and tells him his comrade Gesualdo has sent a cryptic message about an anarchist, an Archbishop, and a Clockwork Monk.

And now his comrade is missing.

Thomas and Gesualdo have a past, and Thomas presumed they would also have a future. He sets off to investigate under the pretext of accompanying his sister Emma on an excursion. She’s a renowned lyric soprano (who has a secret or two of her own) and she’s been invited to sing a recital for the Archbishop of Chicago, which happens to be his comrade’s last known location. Steeped in steam, aided by clockworks, and distracted by a handsome young priest, Thomas must rely on his wits, his bravado, and his bone-deep toughness to solve the secret of The Clockwork Monk.

COGWHEELS Ten Tales of Steampunk Cover 2014-04-25

Cogwheels: Ten Tales of Steampunk is available from the following fine retailers…

Universal Amazon URL: myBook.to/Cogs

iTunes/iBooks

Barnes & Noble

Page Foundry

Scribd

 

My novella Between the Sheets is also a bit of a departure. It’s my first attempt at contemporary romance, which is a lot harder to write than it looks. I mean, if you’re writing paranormal and your hero is human and your heroine is a vampire, there are all kinds of life-and-death conflicts to work through before they get to their happily-ever-after. With contemporary romance, it’s a lot harder to find meaningful reasons to keep two normal, healthy, single people apart.

But you gotta make them work for their HEA, or it’s no fun at all.

I can’t post the cover art yet – though I’ve seen the draft and it’s lovely – but here, for the first time anywhere, is the blurb for Between the Sheets

Maggie’s going to choir camp, the annual music teacher’s retreat. Her best friend will be there too, and tries to convince her it’s the perfect opportunity for adventure. Caught up in the spirit of things – and maybe a little tipsy – Maggie vows to end her extended celibacy during the retreat.

At the first dinner of the event, Maggie catches the attention of the group’s token single straight guy, but she’d rather be a born-again virgin than give it up to him. She tries to blow him off, but he’s not going to bow out gracefully. She doesn’t want to spend time with him and she doesn’t want to make a scene, so Maggie chooses her third option: Run.

For Randy, the retreat doesn’t get interesting until he sees a pretty blond woman getting hit on by the kind of guy whose picture is in Webster’s under pompous dork. She’s clearly not into him, but the dork’s not giving up, so Randy improvises by pretending to be the woman’s boyfriend. Sneaking up behind her, he wraps her in a hug. She turns and kisses him, which is as shocking as it is hot.

After they actually introduce themselves, they decide to continue pretending to be a couple until the dork leaves Maggie alone. And possibly also because the chemistry they share is fierce. Soon neither of them can tell where the acting ends and the real feelings begin. Maggie’s got history and Randy’s got baggage, and making good on her vow to get laid could end up being an empty victory. Can Maggie and Randy fight through their internal discord fast enough to turn their solo lives into a duet?

 

Between the Sheets is my homage to music teachers and band geeks everywhere. Who knew you all were so naughty?

;)

The title might sound risqué, but it refers to the sheet music that’s part of the cover art. I mean, music teachers, right? I’ll post the cover when I can, and you’ll see what I mean. In any event, Between the Sheets will be available on August 25th from Crimson Romance. A 22,000-word novella, it will be priced at $0.99. And I also gotta say that the writing of BtS was greatly facilitated by the members of #teamawesome, most of whom are also Spellbound Scribes. You guys sprinted me to the finish line on this one!

 

Phew! I’m much better at writing the stuff than promoting it after it’s written. Thanks for checking out my post, and if you have any snappy ideas for promotion success, please leave them in the comments!

Peace,

Liv

 

OOH! Late-breaking news!!! Here’s the official cover for Between the Sheets!

Between the Sheets_highres cover

Posted in Geekery, Writing | 2 Comments

Surviving the Revision Gauntlet

It’s no secret: revisions are extremely difficult for me. One of the things I dread most about finishing a project is the prospect of then having to begin revising it. It’s hard for me to identify precisely what it is about revisions that bothers me so much; sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of imperfect material that I have to slog through, while other times it’s a question of beating down my ego in order to recognize what is wheat and what is chaff, and how to separate the two.

Point is, revisions are not my favorite thing.

More often than not during the revisions process, I find myself staring at my manuscript until the black words marching across the page begin to swirl like ants being flushed down the toilet. I’ll force myself to tinker with a few sentences here and there, rearranging words without much confidence that any one phrase is better than another. And then I’ll give up, shuffling off to stab pencils into my eyes out of pure frustration.

But the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? So in an effort to get over this revisions mental block, I’m setting off to identify where my issues lie, and how to start overcoming those obstacles.

Switch from writer mode to reader mode. When you spend months pouring words out onto a page and living a story even as you weave it from nothing but pure imagination, it can be difficult to step away from the perspective of omniscient creator. I have to forget that I am the god of these characters, and this world, and begin to inhabit the perspective of a reader. Someone for whom a plot hole is extremely confusing, for whom pacing is the difference between finishing and quitting, for whom character incontinuities are annoying and off-putting. I have to learn how to be my own best critic.

Start small and move to the bigger picture slowly. It can be difficult to feel like you’re getting anywhere when all you’re doing is nitpicking over awkward sentences and improper grammar, especially when you know in the back of your head that there are plot holes waiting to be filled and characters waiting to be fleshed out. But if the language is clean and tight, free of grammar or spelling mistakes, it is so much easier to see macro-level problems. I have to learn to accept that correcting and polishing small mistakes is still productive, and will make it easier for me to see bigger problems in the long run.

Don’t be afraid to affect change, and don’t be afraid of its effect. As Shakespeare writes in The Tempest, ‘Nothing of him that doth fade/But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange,’ meaning that just because the substance of something is transformed, the form can be retained. Often we instinctively want to protect the things we create, but that is a selfish and egotistic attitude. Mindful and conscientious change is nearly always a good thing. I have to remember that just because I’m altering something that I’ve previously created doesn’t mean that I’m not being true to the thing itself. Chances are, whatever I change will be just as good, if not better, than the original, and will still be my work.

It’s okay to love the bad parts, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep them. There are going to be times when a scene or a conversation personally speaks to you as a writer, but that you know doesn’t work in the story or slows the action. Cut it out, but keep it. I’ve started keeping a word documents with paragraph fragments or descriptions that I loved writing but that didn’t work in whatever project I was working on. You never know–you might find a perfect place for that sentence or description somewhere down the line, but it doesn’t have to be today.

Revisions will never be my favorite thing, and I still have a lot of work to do before I become more effective in the revision stage of a manuscript. But recognizing where my difficulties lie is the first step in learning how to streamline my process.

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