This is my personal blog and does not necessarily reflect the collective views of Hard Limits Press

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ashrinn and Mal visit the astral plane

Mal looked down at the sword at his hip and Ashrinn only just managed to avoid laughing at his put out expression, despite the envy squirming in his guts. Mal hadn’t struggled at all. His identity and spirit blade had resolved themselves without Mal even having to try.

“What the hell?”

Ashrinn extended his magical feelers and scanned for threats as Mal spoke, unable to shake the caution that had been drilled in to him for most of his life. He didn’t detect anything in the immediate vicinity beyond Raietha and Khiriana. Raietha’s alien aura pulsed with quicksilver light, while Khiriana’s was that flickering fire he was becoming so used to living beside. He withdrew his psychic hand as though he had burned its physical counterpart.

“Swords and paladins just go together,” he answered, trying to keep his voice free of resentment, “and your blade is an expression of yourself.”

“An expression of myself?”

Malkai drew the blade, though he sounded scornful. Ashrinn whistled. A shining weapon, the silver-blue light it emitted not unlike the color of Malkai’s eyes. Sigils squirmed along the length, but Ashrinn couldn’t make sense of them. The blood channels burned electric blue.

“Ha, I always knew you were a little ray of light.” Ashrinn snorted, grinning.

“Shut up,” Malkai grumbled, sheathing it again. He folded his arms and in a rare moment of ribald humor, raised his eyebrows and said, “I showed you mine. Show me yours.”

Ashrinn pulled the sword from the decorated scabbard on his back, the jewel-hoofed doe depicted there forever frozen mid-leap. The snake familiar appeared now as an etching on the curved length of the blade itself, entangled with a rose. The design shimmered, outlined in fire.

“You’re making fun of me for having a fruity sword?” Malkai said. “A rose, Ashrinn?”

“I like flowers, you rube,” Ashrinn grumbled, “now shut your hole and pay attention.”

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why indie?

It seems like a requirement to do one of these posts these days, if you're a writer that intends to publish through a non-traditional company. So here's mine.


I've heard more than one author say, in essence, that they don't want to go the traditional publishing route because it is too much work. I think this only adds to the stigma still in place about publishing that doesn't use the Big Six model--query, agent, pitch, etc--by implying and/or outright stating that us indies just can't handle it, man.

I'm confident that I could sell my book through the old school model. I'm not perfect and neither is my work, but I don't have writer guilt; I can call my work good because it is. I think I have something to say, and I think a group of other people will want to hear it. It's that simple. (Try thinking this about your own work sometime. It feels pretty good.)I have a query letter all written, and a synopsis.

But I've gravitated away from traditional publishing. Part of it is because I would have to change too many things about the story, and not in the oh no I can't let go of my precious darlings kind of way.

Furthermore, Vivien and I are talking about making our books part of the same overarching world, eventually culminating with a couple of crossover novels. We could never do this as debut authors in a traditional publishing world.

Genre restrictions/expectations

I don't write what is coming to be thought of as traditional urban fantasy. These days, most people expect a female main character in first person narration, with a badass professional life (vampire hunter, werecat, investigator) juxtaposed with a confused personal life. (often a love triangle or other unresolved romance) I've got the confused personal life down (and how!) but my other elements are outside of that boundary. At the end of the day I'm really cross genre, and indie pubs are more open to that, especially as the Big Six flounder financially.

I think that genre restrictions have become more and more rigid lately. I think it's partly because traditional publishers become less and less likely to take risks as the purse strings tighten. I also feel that it ties in to the white washing of covers and so on, because they're conditioning readers to only search out a certain formula.

That's one of the major issues I have with the current interpretation of genre. We're conditioning people to only go for a single set of criteria. It's not entirely bad. If you want a certain kind of story it helps to know how to find it. At the same time it does mean a lot of interesting and experimental things fall by the wayside. Just today an agent posted a tweet about a novel she never forget, from about ten years ago. It pushed genre convention and that rendered it dead in the water. It would have a better chance today, perhaps, but I venture to say not a large one.


Inaccurate royalty statements from traditional publishers.


So there's that.

Not to mention that an indie author just gets paid more, period. Or has the potential to get paid more. Most traditionally published authors never earn out their advance, and for a debut author that advance is usually in the realm of a couple grand. I think I'd rather take my chances on the e-book market through a different avenue, where I am offered a greater percentage of sales and the accounting is often less convoluted.

Whatever way you choose, write on you crazy diamond.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Disjointed thoughts about closure

Once, I was on the beach in a little town near Seattle. There was a storm. I remember not being able to see through the rain, which came down in such a way as to make the whole area seem unreal. The sand gave way under my right foot. I stumbled, but the ground kept pulling until I was in up to my knee, other leg folded under me at an awkward angle. There was nothing to hold on to, just wet sand that clumped under my grasping fingers. My father stood somewhere nearby, but for some reason he couldn't help me.

I have an easily aroused sympathetic nervous system. In modern life it isn't of much use, and serves to make me a panicky little creature that gets big shots of adrenaline for things like old ladies yelling at me and epic battles in video games. In situations like being eaten by the earth it sure comes in handy, though, because all I remember is howling and dragging myself free somehow even though it seemed impossible.

Revising this novel has been just like that, except its taking me months to free myself from the sand.

Revision is always work, of course. But this is something else.

I have a gift for assessing others, but I am completely obtuse about my own shit embarrassingly often. It took Vivien to make me understand.

When I started writing this book, my life was crumbling around me. I kept trying to grasp it, the same way I tried to cling to that sand, hoping for enough stability that I could at least not get further buried.

At some point, I stopped hoping I could drag myself out.

I won't bore you with the messy details but suffice to say that love is a fucking battlefield. And it's a particularly gory one when there's three of you and you never know where your rent is coming from or whether you can eat, let alone whether you can feed your pets, and everyone in the house has issues and mental illnesses they haven't properly dealt with. It takes fallen soldiers on that battlefield a long, long time to die.

The book was my escape. It made me feel like I had a purpose. Most of my major relationships were just so much sand. I had been unemployed for years. I put on twenty pounds. But when I wrote that piece of shit first draft, it didn't matter. I had a world that I had made, and I called the shots, and I had something to say that maybe mattered, just a little.

I believe in this story. It's good. There was a lot worth saving. But the revision hurts. Sometimes it's fucking agony. It took Vivien to remind me that when I wrote it I was standing in the middle of a storm. So much of my pain and longing went in to that thing. (don't worry. you don't have to read my embarrassing therapy if you pick up the book. I'm way cooler than that the second time around.) So of course, every time I picked it up that good old fight or flight response kicked in.

There's a phenomenon in psychology, where one forgets the link between a trigger and anxiety. I might get nervous every time I hear a seagull, but I might forget it is because there was one wheeling over my head the time the beach tried to eat me alive. And so it is with the book, where I'd forgotten that whenever I started to talk about these people I had created, it was because it felt like nothing else around me had any permanency.

That whole year, I listened to Neko Case more than anything else. Her music still makes me feel like I'm back in Bellingham, walking to the coffee shop. It was always playing in my headphones. So much of it, too, was connected to that longing, that pain. Armed with this knowledge of triggers and their links, I put on that same music and sat down to revise.

When that worked, I visited Bellingham. I put those albums on and sat on the same couch, in the same coffee shop, where I wrote the first draft. It helped.

During that visit, one of my friends asked what I wanted to get out of visiting. I didn't really know how to answer. Friends? Food? Coffee?

Oh, closure.

Of course.

Everybody's talking to me
But they just can't explain
Disappeared from all the pages
And nothing seems the same

Neko Case, We've Never Met