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…

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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

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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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Lost in a New Genre

One of the greatest things about publishing today is the chance for authors to write in multiple genres under the same name. At least I think it’s a great. In my opinion, feel free to disagree, self-publishing and an influx of digital publishers have given us this opportunity.

That being said…the freedom can also be bad. Why? Because sometimes crazy people like me decide they want to try something new. I love stretching my imagination to see what I can come up with. So when Decadent Publishing announced they were going to start a new adult shifter line I jumped at the opportunity.

Then I stepped away because while I wanted to write a shifter book the ideas just weren’t flowing. I love reading shifters, but sitting down to write a shifter story…not so easy.

A couple of months later I had this AHA moment and decided once more I’d do it. I’d write the shifter book. Now…I’m lost! The idea is there. It’s plotted. There are even a few words on the page. But every time I get into the moment the story turns contemporary and I forget these characters are supposed to have an animal side.

What’s the point of this post you ask? Well, my point is I’m lost. Sometimes just talking it out helps. I know this book will get finished. I want to write the story and these characters are SO DANG LOUD. But it’s a lot harder than I ever expected.

So tell me…do you get lost when you decide to write in a new genre? Do you think authors should genre jump or stick with what they know?

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THE MASKED SONGBIRD Arrives!

elephant, trampoline, elephant on trampoline gif, gif, animals

 

It’s here!

IT’S HERE.

*breathes into paper bag*

You know those dreams where you’re stripped naked in front of the whole class? Yeah, well I never had those until I started working as a server. Then I had dreams where I had the whole restaurant as my section, every table got sat at once, I couldn’t get drinks for everyone, they all got REALLY angry……

….and then my clothes disappeared.

That’s ever-so-slightly how I feel with THE MASKED SONGBIRD flapping around in the wild. It’s my book. One I wrote, finishing the final words two years to the day before this one. And now it’s out there for everyone to read.

It’s a little terrifying. They say life imitates art, and as I read through the .epub file I was given by my publisher, there were some things in the book that stuck out to me like a cowlick or a sore thumb or other things that stick out. More like a sore thumb, because as Buffy would say, “Do they really stick out? I mean, do you ever look at thumb and go, ‘Wow, that puppy is sore?’”

But I digress. The point is, you all probably won’t notice those things, but I see them in every chapter. Bits of my life and subconscious that got woven throughout this story without my active decision-making. One character has traits of several of my good friends and my own inner voice snapped together like a rubber-band ball. Sometimes his words sound just like my best friend Julia. He breathes Scotland and is a baker like Jordan. He comes through for people like my bosom friend Kristin. He’s an activist like my Albannach and National Collective friends, a painter like my mother and my uncle and my aunt and my grandmother and my grandfather and like another good friend of mine.

Yet another two characters share names with a friend who passed, a Scottish patriot and an historian who loved the legacy of his country and hoped for a better future for his daughter. His name, David Ross, became these two characters I love.

I didn’t mean to do any of that. Any of it. I guess “write what you know” just bled out like that. I wrote the book in six weeks two years ago — and barely had time to think. Some of it didn’t click until after I’d sent the final draft to my editor after my last chance to review. I sat straight up in bed at 3 in the morning wondering how in the world I’d missed all that.

And deeper still, the setting itself is so threaded through my soul that I can’t read the book without thinking about walking arm in arm across the bridge in Inverness in the cerulean summer gloaming at 2 AM with Julia and Jordan. Or see the aquamarine crescent that is Achmelvich Beach. I can’t think of the coming referendum without wondering what 18 September holds for my beloved Scotland; she’ll be fine either way. I just wonder. And hope. And however much my life ended up imitating my art, I can’t predict what will happen.

This post turned super mushy.

crowley, supernatural, mark sheppard, demons, feeling the feels

So sue me. Mah book just came out. If you don’t want to listen to me be mushy, well…

Go read it. :D

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Barnes and Noble

Harlequin

Kobo

iBooks

emmie mears, the masked songbird, harlequin e, harlequin, debut novel, debut, fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, superwomen

Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

 

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I’m a cheater at NaNo because I write my way

So on Tuesday I had a 5,000 word day. I know some writers who do this pretty often. I am not one of them, though a lot of my writing friends think I am because I do tend to knock out pretty decent word counts when I get down to business.

Dean Winchester, Supernatural, smile

Starting next week I am joining my writerly friends and participating in Camp NaNo. Yep, NaNo in July. All the same rules as NaNo in November, just with sunshine. But it got me thinking about the rules of NaNo that really cheesed me off and I thought I’d share some insight with you about my writing process and the right and wrong way to write.

The last two years I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo and have “won” by accomplishing the task of writing 50,000 words in the month of November. The first year I did it I felt pretty good about it and challenged myself try harder. So, in January of last year, I finished the MS I’d started in November and wrote the first third of another book, giving me a monthly total of 80k. I was on such a role that I finished that next book in Feb by writing 75k. It was insane. But kind of awesome because I knew I could do it.

a5dd6-mostwonderfulstorybellegif

But how did I do it? Did I start a brand new project? No. Did I write every day? No. Did I use an outline? Yes. These three things means I was actually a cheater when it came to NaNo. In the last year or so NaNo has finally changed their “rules” about how to accomplish the 50k in one month. When I first did NaNo the FAQ’s said that you had to start a new project to participate (though there was no way for them to know this either way), and that you shouldn’t use an outline.

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I called bullshit on both those things and did it my way. I mean the only goal was to hit 50k new words in one month. Does it really matter if those 50k words started at chapter 1 or chapter 10 or 30? What if you were 30k words into a manuscript that was just kicking your ass and you knew if you participated in NaNo you would have the motivation to actually finish that MS? Why should you have to start something new if you had something that needs finishing?

Supernatural, prophet, Chuck

And no outline? Eff that. Some people write with outlines. Some don’t. Some plot out with 3×5 cards plastered to a wall or the floor of their office. Some map out a book like a screenplay with acts. How can anyone running a site that is supposed to encourage writers to hit a goal tell them they’re doing it wrong?

8c4276839d75eb25d7e1e1ecd550e1d4

But, like I said, they’ve changed the rules. Now they say:

We think NaNoWriMo works best when you start a brand-new project. However, what’s most important is being excited about what you’re writing. If you want to work on a pre-existing project, you have our full support!

Outlines, character sketches, and other planning steps are encouraged. Just be sure to only count words written during the month.

About damn time you got on the reality train, NaNo.

Crowley, cookie, Supernatural

I was so upset when I first won NaNo only to find out I was kind of a cheater with my outline and unfinished MS waiting to be finished. But whatevs, I’m not going to change my process for anyone but me and the particular book I’m working on.

So that’s the big secret folks, no one piece of writing advice will work for everyone. And believe it or not, there’s a good chance your process will change over time.

 

I wrote Earth, Air, Water, and the first two thirds of Fire without an outline. As a pantser. Then I hit a wall with Fire. Maybe because it was the first time I was going to kill a major character. Maybe because it was the first emotionally charged book I’d written yet. Maybe I was afraid to finish it. Whatever it was, I was stuck. I knew what the last scene looked like, but I didn’t know how to get there. So I broke my cardinal rule of no outlines and I outlined that last third. And then I managed to write faster than I had in months.

Merida, excited, gif, Brave

I used to be a nighttime writer. Now I write with my first cuppa in the morning. Now I can’t pants a book. I need an outline. It was thanks to my well detailed outline of chapter 2 that I managed to write 5,000 words on Tuesday. But you know what? When I tried to write my very first book, I outlined that sucker to the T. And I never finished it. I figured out that I’d lost the momentum, the urgency, to tell the story because, in my novice mind, I’d already told it in the outline.

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So see? You change. If you need writing advice, seek it out. Someone might say something that resonates with you and unlocks a secret to get you writing. But if someone says something that doesn’t work for you, ignore it. No one has the magic spell, the perfect balance of ingredients that will work for every writer.

For me, writing Monday through Friday, in the mornings, with an outline, works for me. But it works now. Maybe I’ll be a different writer in two years, who knows? It certainly didn’t work for me ten years ago.

So, don’t let rules tell you you aren’t doing it right. Are you writing? Then you’re doing it right, whatever gets the words on the page is the right way. Be a cheater like me, who cares? Screw ‘em!

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