Monday, January 18, 2021

Starting with a Bang (and Why That's Bull)

 I've start up a new writers' group that includes some writers who are newer to the craft. This has been wonderful for me, because I personally find it useful to my own process and to my own understanding to have to articulate how writing works. 

One of my colleagues was complaining that his other writers group always harps on him to have a strong hook. They keep telling him "You have to start with a BANG." The problem is the story he wants to tell isn't a high octane shoot 'em up, it a quiet, reflective piece about grief and a small, personal mystery. So, he was talking about how frustrating it is to have to artificially wrench his story into a form where it starts with some kind of huge dramatic moment.

I stopped him and said, "It's a lie. What your colleagues are telling you is a lie."

A hook can be an actual gunshot, but what a BANG is, is simply the easiest way to get a reader's attention. It is not--absolutely not--the only way to get it.

You don't actually have to start with a bang at all. What you have to start with is a "hook," and that is very, very, VERY different than a bang. What a hook is, is something that compels a reader to want to go on. It's a sense of tension, an anxiousness to know more, it is a question that the reader desperately wants answered, or a quiet sense of building dread... or something else that has the reader saying 'OOoooooOOO, I want more of THIS.' 

It doesn't have to be BIG, it just has to be compelling.

It has been drilled into to new writers that the opening has to be exciting... and it does. It's just that it doesn't have to be "exciting" in a conventional way. 

I would go so far as to say that, if you do it right, almost anything could be a hook. A really strong sense of place could be enough for a reader to settle in an say to themselves, "Yes, this place seems super interesting, I want more." A strong, quirky narrative voice might be enough for a reader to say, "WHO is this person?? I must find out!" 

My friend and fellow Wyrdsmith, Adam Stemple once told me that an opening has to leave the reader with the impression that they are "in the hands of a master." And, he's right. Part of what you are establishing with your hook is a sense that you can be trusted to tell a good story. One of the ways you can gain that trust is believing that what you have to say is enough. Don't feel like you have to artificially contort your story so that you start in some conventionally "exciting" way. Just give your readers that nugget, the one that hints to them that what is promised is totally worth it. 

It still takes work to do it right, but don't waste that work thinking you have to go big or go home. You have to be interesting and compelling. That's hard enough! 

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

I'll Be Back (and I am!)


This news from my publisher's blog:


In October, I released a pair of anthologies, one F/F and one M/M, featuring magical pets. All proceeds benefit OutRight Action International, which fights for the rights of LGBTIQ people across the world.

The anthologies are delightful if I do say so myself, featuring a new Liavek novelette by Pamela Dean, a novelette by myself about a post-apocalyptic cat cafe, and short stories by Yoon Ha Lee, Tate Hallaway (Lyda Morehouse), Aster Glenn Gray, Damkianna, Ellen Million, and many more fantastic writers. Adorable magical creatures include an amphibious cat who can teleport from one body of water to another, a winged Bichon Frise, a flying cat who transports love letters, a set of spirit creatures straight out of a Miyazaki movie, a talking matchmaking squirrel, and many more.

Unfortunately, the anthologies ran afoul of a truly idiotic Amazon rule saying that anthologies must be labeled with the exact word "collection" and not "anthology." A sequence of bureaucratic idiocies later, the anthologies-I-mean-COLLECTIONS had to be pulled from the store and one of them had to be republished by someone else.

But, happy ending, they're back now. I know some of you meant to review them and couldn't; now you can! And if you meant to buy them, now you can do that too! Please broadcast this far and wide. It's a good cause and I promise you won't regret reading them.

Some injured animals get rescued and there are some ghost characters, but there is no animal death and everyone gets a happy ending.

The books will be released wide in three months. We're still working on paper editions. Please email or message me if you want a review copy or a non-Kindle format.

Her Magical Pet: Benefit F/F Story Collection


His Magical Pet: Benefit M/M Story Collection

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Sunday, October 25, 2020

What Was Live is Live No More (for Now)

 Sounds like I'm talking about vampires, doesn't it?

Alas, I'm only talking about the link to His Magical Pet. My publisher ran into some trouble with Amazon over what basically boils down to semantics. Here's what she says:

Amazon has suspended my entire author account due to the paperback of His Magical Pet. I am trying to get it restored now. 

Apparently it violated Amazon guidelines on metadata, which require that they say “collection” not anthology - Amazon in its infinite wisdom does not recognize anthology as a valid label. They also need the author names on the covers. (The names need to match the listed names and Amazon will only allow ten listed names, so not all authors can be listed on the cover of Her Magical Pet SORRY.)

Once I get my account back, I have to unpublish both books, then re-publish them with corrected covers. This unfortunately will break all links to the books and delete all reviews. 

I'm really sorry about this. Working with Amazon is definitely like doing a deal with the Devil. On the plus side, the anthologies have made nearly $1000 in less than a month!

A thousand bucks so far! That's a silver lining at least. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this charity COLLECTION (since apparently we can't call it an anthology any more,) but for those who still want to buy it, PLEASE BE PATIENT. My publisher will get it back up and running ASAP, though we will lose those precious first reviews--so, if you were one of those early reviews? Please consider posting again once we have everything straightened? It would be a great help. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

It's LIVE! Order Now


Go buy it! 

Here's the full blurb:  

Have a shot of concentrated joy, with nine stories of men in love... and their adorable magical pets!

All proceeds from the collection will be donated to OutRight Action International, which fights for the rights of LGBTQIA people worldwide.

In this enchanting collection, supervillain husbands apply to adopt a cat, a dog with wings helps old friends confess hidden desires, a tour guide for an island of magical New Zealand wildlife falls for a visiting naturalist, and much, much more!

Includes all-new stories from Tate Hallaway, Aster Glenn Gray, Liv Rider, and more of your favorite authors.

“Chitter-Chatter,” by Riley Rivers. A chatty squirrel, accidentally given the power of speech through a spell gone wrong, tries to matchmake her two favorite humans - who unfortunately can’t stand each other.

“Catastrophe,” by Liv Rider. Matthew's new protection spell needs some workshopping. Especially since it keeps making his cat suddenly appear in his hot new neighbor's apartment.

“Care and Feeding,” by Aster Glenn Gray. Gabriel and Dmitri seem stuck as platonic friends... unless Gabriel's flying bichon frise Moppet can help them see each other in a new way.

“Throw Me a Bone,” by Elva Birch. New werewolf Lucas is forced to masquerade as his own pet when he chases his runaway collie right into the yard of his neighbor crush.

“If Not for the Rat,” by Avery Vanderlyle. A Changeling and his human lover pick up a pet rat that is much more than it seems.

“Fate and Your Average Supervillain,” by Tate Hallaway. Supervillain husbands try to craft the perfect application to adopt a cat from annoyingly picky agencies.

“Now You See Me,” by CJ Krome. A ghost bird brings a lonely ghost and a hot human together… but can they stay together?

“In a Blink,” by Mona Midnight. Alec's cabin getaway is just an excuse to work on his thesis--until a friendly cat and her sweet, gorgeous owner turn his trip into the perfect vacation.

"Gulls and Snails and Quokka Tails," by Harriet Bell. Nik wasn't keen on guiding a bunch of visitors around his family's island of magical New Zealand wildlife - but then he met the handsome naturalist who'd signed up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

New Publication COMING SOON!

 Hopefully going live in the next couple of days is a charity anthology called, His Magical Pet:

The blurb goes like this:

Have a shot of concentrated joy, with nine stories of men in love... and their adorable magical pets!

All proceeds from the collection will be donated to OutRight Action International, which fights for the rights of LGBTQIA people worldwide.

In this enchanting collection, supervillain husbands apply to adopt a cat, a dog with wings helps old friends confess hidden desires, a tour guide for an island of magical New Zealand wildlife falls for a visiting naturalist, and much, much more!

Includes all-new stories from Tate Hallaway, Aster Glenn Gray, Liv Rider, and more of your favorite authors

It should be live in a matter of days (fingers crossed!) Will post a link when that happens. It would make a lovely holiday gift for any queer holiday (which, c'mon, you know is ALL of them.) Given how sweet and adorable my story is, it could also be the antidote for what has been a very miserable 2020 for many of us.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Dreaded Middle

I briefly thought that my Loft class was cancelled, but four new students materialized out of nowhere last minute, so I'm back on. 

The course officially opened on Wednesday morning. One of the first things I always ask my students is: Is there any aspect of writing that you struggle with the most?  I ask this so that if a majority of people struggle with a similar thing, I can expand whatever lecture that falls into. 

This class is on-line and, as intimated in my opening, not hugely populated. I have about five students, though only four have actually checked into the course work so far.  The people who are on-line are fairly engaged, answering questions I posed and asking some of their own. 

Two people--so 50% of the active class--say they struggle with middles. They get lost, lose their way, and sometimes fizzle out of the story completely. 

I dug out my Writer's Digest Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress, because I've never tried to articulate my own process for getting through the middle beyond "I guess you just  put your nose to grindstone" or "I dunno, just keep writing to the end?" 

Which, at least I realize is not at all helpful.

In re-reading (though I'm not sure I ever made it all the way through to the end when I bought the book,) I realized that a lot of writers find their way into their stories and don't know some key things that would help make that middle bit less overwhelming.  One of them is:

  • Whose story is it?
I had a novel, my fourth one as Lyda Morehouse, Apocalypse Array, where I thought that I knew who the story was about, who the main characters were. I had several points of view in that book, and it was only when the deadline was only about two weeks away when my wife read the manuscript I thought was finished and said, "But this character's story, it doesn't actually add to the plot does it? It doesn't fit and doesn't go anywhere." I was so furious! My wife isn't even a writer! How dare she.... be right.

Characters have to change, they have to grow in some way.  If you have multiple viewpoint characters, they have to have that moment when their stories all intersect--all reach for the same thing (even if it's not a similar plot point but instead a similar emotional or thematic 'thing.')  

I rewrote an entire fifth of the novel in two weeks. I ripped out the character who didn't belong and inserted one who did. I did it all in two weeks. 

That book won me the Special Citation for Excellence Philip K. Dick award.

And now we come to the real epiphany I had about middles. They are scary when you're married to your beginning, when you think that what you've written is somehow written in stone. Middles are surmountable when you realize beginnings can shift to accommodate where you went, where you suddenly realize you want to go, what your book or story is ABOUT. 

It's not middles that are so dreadful, it's the fear of revision. 

If you are willing to tear it all up and do it over, you realize there's nothing to fear.