Note to self…

It’s “I buried my head in my hands” … not “I buried my hands in my head.”

That just brings some interesting visuals to mind…

… wow.

So, I got this email yesterday (okay, technically, the day before):

Hi Nonny.

You’re one of the writers who placed in the top four writing samples submitted for our Bites Based On A Prompt call for submissions.

I have your snail addy, which you’d placed in your earlier email. You should be receiving your book on writing in 7 to 10 days.

Regards,
Faith Bicknell-Brown

I’m … wow. Shocked. I really wasn’t expecting that. Especially since I sent a rough draft. Damn.

*falls over*

Long time, no blog… eep!

OK, I hadn’t realised it’d been that long since I’d last blogged. 😳

I’ve been pretty busy these past couple weeks, what with working on the Bites, teaching A&B, and handling stuff around Evolution. Cut down on LJ, which helps with procrastination and minimizes the drama I have to deal with. (Unfortunately, while I’m not the sort to start fights… I am the one to finish them. 🙄 )

Anyhoo, spent several days earlier in the month trying to figure out exactly what I was going to do for the Bites. I could choose from three prompts:

  • Theme 1: Both stories must incorporate a silver sword.
  • Theme 2: The heroine in the first story must wear a piece of jewelry that the hero in the second book later finds.
  • Theme 3: The heroine must be the same in both stories.

After some thought, I decided to go with #3. I don’t work very well with object-related prompts. Even when I was writing short stories regularly at MuseMuggers and used generator prompts, I stuck with character type or theme and chucked the object. 😛

So I had to figure out a character. No big deal, right? Well, it turned out to be a bit more complicated than I thought, because while I had vague ideas for characters, I wasn’t coming up with anything that “grabbed” me. If it doesn’t grab me, then I’m probably going to do a sucktastic job at it.

Eventually, I gave up trying to create something new and started going through some of my old files, wondering if I maybe had something I could use.

… and I came across an old story, “The Identity Vampire.” It’s several years old at this point and drastically needs a rewrite, but the basic premise: Arielle Thompson, preternatural specialist, comes to LA to investigate a strain of attacks leaving people in a comatose state. This is actually the story that spawned the setting for Stronger than the Night. (I threw out a lot in the prewriting/writing for Stronger that didn’t fit my purposes. ;))

My original concept for the character’s a bit off in regards to plausibility, but what do you expect? I wrote it when I was fifteen, without knowledge of Google or Wikipedia. 😛

A tweak here, a tweak there… I kept the preternatural specialist angle, but changed it so she’s working for the Paranormal Investigations subdivision of the FBI. Their basic function is to cover up paranormal activity and protect the American people. For the most part, anything that stays underground and hidden, they’ll leave alone, but otherwise… all bets are off.

Once I figured out character, then I had to come up with an idea for the story. Mulled over that for a bit and then came up with a premise. After receiving reports of vampiric activity, Arielle travels to a small town in Oklahoma to investigate. Basically, she’s up against a master vampire — and in her quest to stop him, she encounters Jackson, a vampire who’s trying to take him down before he can fuck things up for everyone else.

Sounds cool, right?

Slight problem.

I didn’t realise until late Tuesday evening (the 25th), when I was a good 3.3k into the story, that there was no way either of them were going to jump in the sack anytime soon. Neither of them work that way. He might sleep with her, but he wouldn’t do it with any feeling to it. And Arielle? Her basic attitude towards sex is, “I don’t need a man. I have a vibrator.” 🙄

Yeeeeeahhhhh.

Cue major freak-out. Less than a week till deadline, and not only did I have to toss my story out the window, I had to come up with a new idea!

I owe Amme, my crit partner/writing buddy, some major thanks. She listened to my frantic “ohmygodohmygodohmygod”ing and brainstormed story ideas with me. If not for her, I think I might still be banging my head against the keyboard!

I could explain the story, but I’ll post a short snippet instead. 😉

There’s some things you expect when you sign on with the FBI as resident preternatural specialist and paranormal investigator. Tracking down “odd” crimes, taking down master vampires, trolls of the non-Internet variety, hell, even your over-nosy hearthwitch here and there.

Stomping through a smelly Louisiana peat bog? Wasn’t on the list.

“What kind of demon sets up shop in a swamp?” I grumbled as I waded through thick marsh, wrinkling my nose and wishing I’d held out for a wetsuit. Thigh-high rubber boots don’t cut it. Not by a long shot.

Jackson, my partner, shrugged. You’d think being a vampire, with the whole heightened senses deal, he’d be more sensitive to the pungent smell, but apparently not. “It’s certainly an out-of-the-way locale.”

“Yeah, well, if they wanted out-of-the-way, why couldn’t they go to fucking Bermuda? Someplace where they wouldn’t be my problem?”

He didn’t bother answering. As usual. But that’s Jackson for you. Logical and practical to the point of infuriation. At least he’s got a cute ass. I don’t know if I’d put up with him otherwise.

Finished Seeking Shadows (the story) late Thursday night, revisited it the next morning to add a half-scene and tweak some consistency errors, then sent it off to my editor. I’m not sure how much rewriting it’ll need, as FB states in their guidelines that they prefer third person. That being said, it might be more of an issue with longer work than shorter, as first-person limits a novel to the MC’s knowledge and viewpoint.

We’ll see. It shouldn’t be an issue to change from first person to deep third, anyway. 🙂

Acceptance! *squee*

About a week or so ago, I read the submissions call for Freya’s Bower Bites line on their blog and on Romance Divas. After asking a few questions of one of their editors on the RD thread, I went ahead and submitted my query and writing sample early April 9th.

Ironically, the writing sample I submitted was a rough draft from Resurrection. This one, actually.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a response:

Hello Heidie.

Congratulations! It’s official! You’re a new Freya’s Bower Bites author. Welcome aboard!

You are also in the running for the books that will be awarded soon.

Youwill be contacted soon with prompts for your two stories and a contractfor the first rough draft and final drafts will be emailed to you.

Again, congratulations!

Regards,
Faith Bicknell-Brown

Cue mad squeeing. 😀

I’m really looking forward to this. Some of y’all who knew me back in 2003 remember I used to write erotica and erotic romance stories, but stopped for various reasons, one of them being marketability. Some of my work is very dark, and I’m still working on finding “homes” for those pieces — but the more romantic erotic pieces I have, I couldn’t find a home for, either. At the time, there were erotic romance ebook pubs, but they wanted novellas or longer, and most of my stuff was under 10k.

As for the erotica markets, well … they seemed to mostly be aimed at contemporary/literary than SF/F, with some exceptions. Now, I do stuff with a more “literary” tone to it, but even that has fantastic elements and would be classified as slipstream/experimental. I’ve tried to write contemporary without any fantastic elements … it really doesn’t work.

As I had several stories that I had difficulty finding homes for, I decided to work on other things instead. It’s not like I don’t have enough ideas clamoring for my attention, after all. 🙄

The different categories I mentioned interest in writing are paranormal romance, fantasy, gay/lesbian (I’m sure you’re so surprised), and werewolf/vampire. So, basically, I get to write just the sort of stuff I love. Whee! 😀

No-No Descriptions

Earlier today, Amme posted a link to an article on body language in dating scenarios. It should probably say something that one of the tips made me think of writing. 🙄 The quote:

  1. He’ll serve you an eyebrow flash. When we first see someone we’re attracted to, our eyebrows rise and fall. If they like us back, they raise their eyebrows. The whole thing lasts about a fifth of a second and it happens everywhere in the world — to everyone regardless of age, race, or class. Lifting our brows pulls the eyes open and allows more light to reflect off the surface, making them look bright, large and inviting.

OK. I’ve been reading writing articles for years now, and I’ve been a member of several crit groups, writers’ forums, and e-lists. One of the “rules” that gets brought out a lot is what eyes can and cannot do.

When I was a young(er) writer, I joined Critters. I remember critiquers telling me the following (paraphrased):

– Eyes can’t blaze, burn, or flash.
– She can’t drop her eyes. What’re they going to do, bounce off the carpet?
– Your POV character can’t know her eyes are sparkling or gleaming. This is a POV slip.
– People can’t “hiss” words unless they have an “s” in them.
– They can’t “purr” or “snarl” words, either.

All these and more are treated as “no-no expressions.” I’ve heard more than one writer insist you can’t do any of them, because they’re “not physically possible” or “are a POV break.”

Now, I’m going to step out on a limb here and say what I think. It’s bullshit. 100% grade-A fertilizer.

Let’s take it from the top.

– Eyes can’t blaze, burn, or flash. You can’t “drop” eyes, either.

Have you ever seen a person enraged? Their eyes widen and narrow at the same time, brow furrows, lips purse. It’s more a consolidation of multiple facial features than eyes alone — but eyes draw the most attention. “Burn” and “blaze” are metaphors, used to describe a hot, angry look. “She dropped her eyes” is also a metaphor, often used with a submissive connotation.

If you read “Her eyes blazed” and think they’re really on fire, get a grammar textbook and read up on metaphor. If you stripped your description of metaphors and similies, you’d have some very dull, dry prose.

As for flashing, let me refer you back to the bit of the quote I italicised: “Lifting our brows pulls the eyes open and allows more light to reflect off the surface, making them look bright, large and inviting.” They can “flash” with different expressions, too, depending on the rest of the person’s face.

They’re shorthand. Sure, sometimes it’s better to take your time and describe in depth a character’s facial expressions, but not all the time. If you want to emphasise the character’s emotional state, then do it in detail. Shorthand works just as well otherwise.

Describing in depth isn’t necessarily more “realistic.” It just puts more emphasis on the description. Your average reader understands exactly what you mean when you say “Her eyes burned with fury.”

Think of detailed description like curry powder. More isn’t necessarily better.

– Your POV character can’t know when her eyes are gleaming or sparkling.

Oh, really?

Funny that, because I do know when I’m making the facial expression I would describe as “gleaming” or “sparkling.” Characters don’t have to have their faces glued to a mirror to know what they’re doing.

If I said, “Her eyes sparkled, like a small child meeting Santa Claus for the first time,” or another similar description, that would be a POV slip, because the character likely would not think of herself that way.

But “her eyes gleamed”? No. It’s not a POV slip. It just means the character is self-aware.

– People can’t “hiss” words; People can’t “purr,” “snarl,” or “growl” words.

Maybe they can’t hiss like a snake or a cat, but “hiss” is used to describe a low tone of voice, that’s like a cross between a whisper and a hiss. I’ve heard people use it with words that didn’t have an S, and I’ve done it myself. (Yes, aloud.)

“Hiss” is used as shorthand, because there is no other word to describe that tone of voice. Same with purring, snarling, or growling. Are they completely accurate? No, but they’re the closest approximation to the vocal tone you’re trying to convey.

I’m at a loss for how these “rules” became so important. They’re metaphoric shorthand. Sure, if you never have any variety to your description, that’s not a good thing. But the way some writers/critiquers talk, you’d think using any of these was the Eighth Deadly Sin.

They have their place and their purpose. They’re not “wrong,” nor are they “bad” or “lazy” writing, like many writing rule adherents loudly proclaim. Like anything, if they’re used in excess, they can be detrimental, but that’s true of any tool.

Chuck the all-or-nothing thinking. Everything in moderation. That’s what you need to know.

Tentative plan…

So I’ve been thinking about Wings of Steel recently. I’d originally intended to do the necessary prewriting to expand it into a novel while teaching A&B. Between Stronger, Resurrection, teaching the course, adminning Evo, etc, that hasn’t happened.

I love the story and the characters and want to get back to it. But it’s going to take a lot of work to make it into a novel. So I got to thinking … what’s stopping me from writing it as both a novelette and a novel?

Nothing, really. Except I need to figure out what direction I’d take it as a novelette.

The tentative plan at this point:

Finish Resurrection
Pick up where I left off on Wings of Steel
Finish it
Attempt to sell it as a short novelette to an epublisher

Then, later, expand it into a novel and see if I can sell it. More likely than not, the novelisation would fall more towards the fantasy side, whereas the novelette would mostly focus on the romance.

At least, that’s the tentative plan as of now. Who knows, it might change again. 🙄

Progress!

Resurrection
41320 / 50000 (82.64%)

Finished Chapter 20. I now only have six scenes left to write. Then I’m finished.

Wow.

Feels … very odd to have it this close. Like it’s something within reach. Been a very bloody long time since I felt that way about anything writing-wise.