Having Survived NaNoWriMo

We survived NaNoWriMo.

I mean, I hope we did. Hopefully we also hit our word count (or got to where we wanted to be).

I wrote 50,075 words, and aside from a few days where I fell behind, I kept up the pace of 1,667 words a day.

It taught me a few things, or maybe it reminded me of them.

1. I can write that much in a month. It's not easy and I couldn't do 50K every month (without dropping other things in my life) but it's not impossible. So maybe I need to aim a little higher with my word counts (especially during the winter).

2. There's more to writing than making words. Yes, I hit the word counts and finished the story, but is the story good? I'm not a strong judge of my own stories, so I can't say, especially right now, so soon after finishing it. But it does make me want to write a bunch of short pieces (5K-ish) and use them to hone my writing skills (through feedback from my writing group). Then maybe compile them into a book and self-pub them? I dunno, just a thought.

3. I really don't mind writing vampires. I wouldn't do it all the time, but it wasn't a bad experience. I liked being able to fiddle with the myth and add my own twist to things.

4. There is freedom in just writing and not judging. I tried really hard (and think I succeeded) in writing without thinking "Is this any good?" It let me tell the story. Now that it's done, I guess I can go back and fix things. HOWEVER, as noted above, I do want to improve my craft so that the first draft is stronger and requires less line-level edits (phrasing, structure, language use).

5. I still like writing :)

That's all. Hopefully this exercise will mean good things for my future writing!


A Surprise Day Off

After a delightful day spent with my family yesterday, my plans to join my mother on a trip to visit my grandmother were thwarted by a very grumpy stomach. (And since it woke me in the middle of the night for over an hour, that led to a very grumpy Alex as well.) I would have been okay if I was just slee-deprived this morning, but the grumbles continue, and so I have an unexpected free day (with only a small helping of guilt!).

So I'll be spending it writing for Nano (hoping to make a big dent in it), sipping tea, and knitting. ....Like pretty much every other day, I guess :)

I'll also be using it to catch up on some of my anime viewing, so I figured I'd share the shows that I'm watching this season! (I watch all shows on CrunchyRoll.com, which is free (with advertisements and a week delay, or only $6 a month for simulcast.)

Yuri!!! on Ice - You MIGHT have heard of this one. It's taking the internet by storm as a canon gay pairing. It could be easily said to be "cute guys ice skating" but it's about so much more. It's about love, self-confidence, familial and friend support, and overcoming obstacles, whether they are your competitors or yourself. The ice skating sequences are carefully and well-done, it mixes just enough humor with seriousness, and it has the internet on the edge of their seats to see where this is going!

Nanbaka - This is a ridiculous comedy show about a special prison where the most troublesome inmates (like those that constantly escape from other prisons) are sent. It's bright, colorful, and goofy (though it does seem to have a vague plot it's heading for). The character designs are delightfully ridiculous in appearance, behavior, and weird 'powers'. This is a popcorn show, through and through, but never really presents itself as anything different. Familiarity with Japanese humor/anime probably helps, not because there are cultural references, but just to help understand what the joke is that they're making as they reference back to other shows, etc.

Trickster - Mysterious boy who can't be harmed (for mysterious reasons) and just wants to die, and his new friend who won't leave him alone and promises to find a way to kill him. Oh, and they're part of a detective agency. I can't really recommend this one, but I also can't seem to stop watching it....

All Out! - If you like closeups of bulging muscles, firm butts, and (did I mention) bulging muscles, you'll enjoy the visuals here. This show is about a HS Japanes rugby team in a small school and it follows the first years who join this year. The tone of the show is "guys being dudes" (they are rugby players, after all) and it sometimes leaves me wondering why I'm still watching, but I am still watching. The characters can be grating, but they also exhibit character growth that keeps me wondering what's going to happen next week.

Kiss Him, Not Me - All about a chubby fujoshi (term for a woman who loves yaoi/slash/m-m pairings) who suddenly becomes slim (and thus attractive to all the boys), the premise is weak, but the show is spectacular. Having a basic understanding of fujoshi culture helps a lot, but if you've got that, this show is hilarious and sweet at the same time. Now that she's pretty, the boys want her, but she just wants to see them all hook up with each other. Bonus: She also has a female love interest/option who is a fellow fujoshi.

Touken Ranbu - The basis of this show is that famous historical (Japanese) swords have been turned into humans in order to fight this group of monsters that keeps appearing throughout history to try to disrupt historical events (for reasons unknown). But the amount of time spent with the human!swords fighting the monsters is limited. Most of the time it's just a slice of life anime about a variety of cute boys all living. In this compound together and the mischief they get up to (sometimes because they don't understand human things, sometimes just because). The visuals are great here, but if you don't like pointless slice of life, you probably won't enjoy it.

That's it. Hope you maybe found something that caught your eye! I realize anime isn't for everyone, but as this list shows, the variety of options is really extensive. There's something for everyone (and it's definitely not kids' cartoons!).


Christmas for Oscar available for preorder!

A Christmas for Oscar has a cover and is available for preorder! You can find it here at Nine Star Press! You can read it on December 19.

Oscar has never liked the holidays and all the surrounding rigmarole, but that doesn't stop his best friend from dragging him along for her Black Friday shopping spree. The only perk of the day is that he meets Nathan while he's there.

With sparkling blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a smile that won't stop, Nathan is a Christmas elf in the flesh. He even spends his days in a workshop! But Nathan is more than his bright smile, and he may be just the right person for Oscar. Assuming, of course, Oscar doesn't drive him and his holiday spirit away first.

Check it out!

You can also find an excerpt on the page to read more about grumpy Oscar and sweet, wonderful Nathan. This story is pure Holiday Spirit, with a little bit of sexy thrown in.


Thoughts on Nanowrimo

As we pass the third-way mark and round toward halfway, I think about what I've written so far, what I have yet to write, and what I usually write. How I usually write.

Normally I write as the story wants to go. I'll plan out the major actions, make sure things lead up to it properly, but generally I just write with the general scene in mind.

Which, yeah, is what I do with Nanowrimo too. BUT (and thats a big but) there is the lurking terror of getting to day 25 and realizing you've written a 45K story instead of a 50K story. Now you have to go back and worm 5K more into that story. In five days. GOOD LUCK.

Um, what I mean is that if you're striving for that word count each day, you tend to not rush toward things. You tend to focus on getting as much out of the scene as you can so you can hit that word count (or maybe that's just me). And while that can lead to a lot of fluff, my beta readers will tell you...that's not a problem I have. Most beta readers say I need more details, more this, more that. So nano forces (?) me to really work on describing things. Feelings, actions, surroundings, people. I'm not saying I still do a lot of it, but I do MORE. Baby steps.

In the form of 1,667 words a day! 

Other benefits to Nano:
1. Writing every day. Yes, it's murder and I couldn't do it for more than a month, but it's kind of cool to write every day, squeaking in words around work, friends, food, horses, and knitting.

2. Since I am writing every day, I'm more in tune with the story. There isn't a month between what I wrote in the beginning and what I wrote at the end. I'll likely remember the character doesn't drink coffee and not have him drinking coffee later.

3. Challenges are fun, especially when losing really isn't a big deal.

4. Permission to write absolute schlock. I'm not sure my current story will ever see the light of day, but it doesn't matter. It's just for fun, and that takes the pressure off. It's like when I go for a run--if I run for exercise, it's hard to motivate myself. If I run because it's a gorgeous day and I feel like running, it's fun.

5. Cheering on your other friends who are doing nano with you. And yeah, you can cheer when you're not participating, but it really doesn't feel the same.

Here's to the next 18 days!


Don't Kill the Queers

WARNING: Rant ahead, as well as spoilers for the webcomic Rainflowers.

When I saw the description for Rainflowers, I was all for it:
A BL comic about a clueless, but cheerful human puppy who falls in love with a temperamental, hard-working flower-lover.

That sounds really sweet! I'm all for it.

The story follows two college-aged guys as they fall in love, start dating, and the struggles they have (specifically around one being financially very well off and the other working hard to get through school). I picked it up halfway through its release, so after the first part, I had to read it on a weekly basis. And let me tell you, when the characters had a big fight, I was on the edge of my seat to find out how they resolved it.

So it was a surprise when the next update had the parent of one character calling to inform the other character that Guy 1 was dead.

Wait, what?

Yeah, So this "BL comic" ends with one love interest dying and the other one...continuing on with life. "BL" if you're not familiar, means "Boys' love" and is the term used for Japanese manga and anime that involves the romance between two men. The category has broadened to include other forms of media, but like most romance, the stories end (in everything I've read) with a happy ending. The reader goes in expecting a happy ending. So this suddenly and completely unexpected death threw me off guard. I was PISSED. And prepared to drop the story immediately.

But I thought "Maybe he's not dead and it's a misunderstanding"--except then we end up at a cemetery to leave flowers, so no, he's super dead. But there were only a few pages left, so I bit the bullet to see where this would go.

And then I reread the whole thing to see if it makes sense. If it was good story writing that I just didn't appreciate the first time round. If there was subtext and foreshadowing that I didn't see.

Well, yes, in some ways there was foreshadowing. However, if you don't realize that what's happening, it just seems to be jumping to different periods where the one guy is collecting flowers, not as a completely different timeline. Now, if you look at the story as a whole and not as a BL or romance, it could possibly be considered a good story.

Except...there's no point. There's no character growth, there's no plot, there's no...anything.

We get two young men, who fall in love, one of whom dies. The end. The story ends five pages after one of the character dies, and there's no room for the remaining character to grow as a person. In fact, if you re-read the story, you see him behaving exactly as before: spending money freely and without regard for what that might mean to other people.

So there's really no point to the tale we're told. Except that queers can't get a happy ending, I guess.

The art is lovely and simple, the development of their relationship is nice. But when they have a fight about being able to afford taking classes over, stop. Or better yet, don't read it at all.


Taking a Break

As November approached and people geared up for Nanowrimo, I pondered participating. But November is usually a busy month for me (not sure how that differs from most months). And honestly, at this moment, my muses feel a little dried up. Maybe it's just because it's darker out, maybe it's a million other things. Maybe it's seeing authors post about it being "a 4K day" and me--not able to write a single word today (on the day I'm writing this) on my WIP--knowing even if I wrote I'd only write 1K. Whatever it is/was, I need to take a break. Mostly from social media. Maybe from Candy Crush.

Okay, yeah, definitely from Candy Crush.

I'll still be around, blogging once a week (mostly), and doing PR stuff online, checking email, and reblogging on tumblr (because that's my 'downtime' these days). I'll be on Twitter for an hour each day, I think, to check in, set up tweets, that sort of thing.

And maybe I'll share the writing exercises I plan on doing this month. Maybe I'll finish this shifter WIP which I feel like I've been complaining about for yonks. I definitely hope to read more. And knit.

Hopefully I can take this month to slow down, calm down, and see how much free time I'll actually have if I don't spend it on social media.

So if I'm not around, you know why. If I am around, you can raise a curious brow and poke me with knitting needles.


On Writing and Selling Out

Warning: ahead is a rant about the idea of authors "selling out" as the only way to make money, which probably stems from my annoyance at the objectification of queers for profit (as it was presented).

I went to a small (SMALL) convention last weekend, which wasn't aimed at readers/writers, but rather queer anime/manga (with some other sorts thrown in). While there, I went to a panel, the name of which I don't remember, but it was something like "How to Make Money Selling Your Book" or something of the sorts. I'm always curious to learn more, so I grabbed my notebook and scurried off.

Now, I'll note by saying that the presenter was an author who earns a living by selling her books (according to her). I was not familiar with her name, and I didn't google her (before or after). And I will say she was very upfront about everything. 

Her advice for selling enough copies of your book to earn a living? Sell out and whore yourself.

I might be truncating it a little. Just a bit. But the general gist of everything she said was, "Do what makes money." Screw your "morals" or "muse" or "standards." If a movie producer wants to option your book for $$$ but you have to let them change your one male character in a romantic pair into a female so it's not gay? Go for it.

Don't write X if X won't make you money. Write Y. If you want to write X, well, have fun at your day job! *insert derisive laughter here* (Because having a day job is laughable, I guess?)

I'm not stupid or naive, I know that writers should be at least a little bit aware of what genre in their scope makes money. Yes, they should be familiar with what's popular and how to reach the biggest audience (ie, which vendors to prioritize, perhaps). 

But the way she presented this to the group was that your work really means nothing and you shouldn't think that it does. And that your only two options were not making money and holding on to your pitiful little dream, or make money by whatever means possible. As if there was no middle ground. As if there aren't authors who haven't sold out (as far as I know) who make a living off their books.

Is it easy? No. Is selling out probably going to make you more money faster? Yeah.

Will it make me feel really grossed out and leave your panel halfway through? Definitely.

Because this con was sort of supposed to be a celebration of queerness, and while I know a lot of people make money off of it, I'm a little squicked when someone comes into what should be a safe space and says "this is the type of gay porn you should be writing for older straight women."

And maybe don't mock people who would like to only write what they like (and what makes them comfortable). Possibly--here's a wild idea--offer suggestions for how someone can make money without selling out. Because "selling out" is shitty advice (even if it is the most financially rewarding). If that's the only advice you can offer to help someone make money selling their book, then you're a shitty presenter.  

Did you get the feeling I didn't like that session? Because I didn't. I do recognize a lot of what she said was true (and maybe factual), but her presentation style and her view that there's only ONE way left a lot to be desire. And I just needed to rant about it.