Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Characters/Scenes Living in Your Head

How much do you think about the characters from your stories? For me, some of them (like the Season Avatars) take up more of my attention than others (like Abigail from my cozy mystery or characters from my short stories). For me, the more I think about certain characters, the more I want to write them. Sometimes it helps me plan scenes so that they actually flow when I can write them down. Other times, it helps me get ideas for events, but it's still a struggle to get the words out. Just some random thoughts at the end of a long work day when it's easier to write about writing than actually writing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

An Author's Afterlife

My husband and I have been working on planning our estate. It's relatively easy to find a lawyer to prepare a will, a trust, and other documents; however, these types of documents don't discuss intellectual property like books and copyrights. Honestly, I'm more worried about what's going to happen to the stories I wrote as opposed to what happens to my book collection. Fortunately, there are some resources out there to help authors, particularly indie authors. In particular, when I searched for resources, I found one author referenced repeatedly: Michael L. Ronn. Here are some discussions with him on various websites:

I've also chosen to order two of his books dealing not just with an author settling her estate, but a guide for an author's heirs. I won't get these books until after this post goes live, so it'll be a while before I can determine how helpful they'll be. I have done some initial steps to deal with my intellectual property by making a list of my published works in a spreadsheet. I've also created folders to gather current editions of my self-published work and the associated cover art. 

Ultimately whatever happens to my stories after I die will depend on how much effort my heirs (which will most likely be my husband and/or son) are willing or able to put into maintaining my work. It's hard to tell if there will be any interest in my work in the long term. Nevertheless, if I'm going to spend hours writing, editing, and promoting my work, I would like to give it as much opportunity to connect with readers as possible.

Have you started thinking about your legacy as an author? If so, and if you have any advice, feel free to share it in the comments.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Happy Birthday, IWSG!


This month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group celebrates its twelfth birthday. If you're not familiar with them, you can learn more about them on their website and Facebook group.

Our hosts this month are Sonia Dogra, J Lenni Dorner, Pat Garcia, Sarah at the Faux Fountain Pen, and Meka James.

Here's our questions for September: The IWSG celebrates 12 years today! When did you discover the IWSG, how do you connect, and how has it helped you?

I don't remember when I discovered the IWSG, but I know I've been participating for a couple of years at least. I learned about them through Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog. (Alex has been kind enough to appear on this blog, host me on his, and comment regularly. Thanks for your thoughtfulness, Alex!) Participating in this group has allowed me to connect with other writers, though unfortunately real-life obligations make it difficult for me to follow and comment on other blogs these days. 

If you're reading this post as part of the IWSG, thanks for stopping by, and enjoy the celebration!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Writing Update

 Here are a few quick notes about my current writing projects:

I'm still waiting to hear back from my cover artist regarding the cover for my cozy mystery Restaurants and Revenge, the sequel to Murder at Magic Lake. It's been about six weeks, so it might be time to follow up with them. I've got about 30,000 words written for Book Three in the series, which will be titled Bubble Tea and a Body. However, I haven't had much time to work on that lately, since I've returned to my Season Avatars world and started a couple of unrelated short stories to boot. 

Although I finished the main story in the Season Avatars series regarding Chaos Season, a magical weather storm that mixes up the seasons, I still love my heroines and want to spend more time with them. I also want to explore the implications of the series ending and let the world modernize somewhat. So I want to write a spin-off series called World Avatars, which will allow me to introduce new characters and revisit old ones. I have a sense of the main events, but I have to decide how many books they will need and how to plot each book as a stand-alone story and part of the overall series. Although I don't have much time to write on my lunch break, I use the time to jot down notes for the series.The first book will be titled Avatars Abroad and will feature a quartet of mostly new characters exploring the country next door. Before I publish that, I'll need to publish another short story collection, The Season Between, set between the two main series. Ideally, I'd like to publish Restaurants and Revenge first before working on the collection.

As for the short stories, they're "for the love" projects, so I only work on them after I've written at least 500 words on Avatars Abroad. Hopefully when they're done, I can return to Bubble Tea and a Body. Two is probably the maximum number of projects I can write at once, especially when I'm juggling so many other things (work, parenting, daily chores, etc.). I definitely keep busy!

What projects are you working on? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Yellowface and the Writing Life

Every month, I like to do a diversity read, a book by someone from a different background than me. I consider it a way to support diversity and grow as a human being by experiencing other existences vicariously. Ironically, R. F. Kuang, the author of Yellowface, doesn't want people reading her work just because it was written by an Asian author. Her book, which is about a white woman author who steals a manuscript from her dead friend, Athena (a superstar Asian author), is also a send-up of the publishing industry. It shows how the system of elevating a few carefully chosen authors as tokens of diversity hurts writers of all backgrounds. However, for me, the book also illustrates the perils of being too much of a "career author."

June Hayward, the narrator of Yellowface and the author who steals her friend's first draft, is one of the most self-centered characters I've ever read. She has no responsibilities, no genuine relationships, and no interests other than chasing writing success. She's addicted to reading about herself on social media, whether it's good or bad. Even some of the ways in which she tries to give back, like establishing a scholarship in her friend's name and mentoring other young writers, are done to enhance her image. June not only fails to grow as a person during the events of the book but becomes even more racist and self-obsessed, able to write about nothing but herself yet expecting the whole world to be waiting for her words.

As I said before, this book is a satire, and June is meant to be an extreme. However, she does show the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in one's writing life and in life in general. Given that her interactions with the real world are minimal, it's not surprising that she suffers writer's block partway through the book. Even Athena mines other people's experiences and uses them nearly unchanged in her own work. It's important to have experiences of your own to inspire you and real-life knowledge of things and interests you can combine to create a unique story. It's also not healthy to seek out all of your self-validation online or base it on winning other people's attention. While I do find useful things and even a community on Facebook, I'd rather spend more time reading and less time doom-scrolling. After all, there's more to life than being an author.

Despite my comments on Yellowface, I'm still interested in reading one of Kuang's other books, Babel: An Arcane History. Part of that is yes, I still want to read diverse authors, but also because I'm interested in the premise and have heard good things about it. Hopefully the characters in that book will be more well-rounded.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space

Traveling and living in space will pose a variety of technical challenges, but there are plenty of other social challenges that space will pose. Who owns space? How will workers get paid? How will we handle reproduction in an environment with limited resources? To start considering these questions and their answers, I recommend reading Off-Earth: Ethical Questions and Quandaries for Living in Outer Space, by Erika Nesvold.

Nesvold starts the book by acknowledging that some people may wonder why we should go to space when we still have so many problems to fix on Earth. There are a couple of reasons why we should start planning for space anyway. The first is that developing the technology needed for space travel may help us improve the situation on our planet. The other is that there are people and companies determined to get into space, so we need to plan accordingly. Attempts to regulate space internationally have had limited success, so we need to learn how to do so quickly.

Each chapter of Off-Earth raises a different question. (Some of the examples are listed in the first paragraph.) At the beginning of each chapter, Nesvold describes three scenarios, some based on history, others set in the future, about the topic. There are plenty of historical examples where exploration and exploitation of resources and people led to tragedy. If we don't learn from these examples and set up regulations/customs/laws before we establish lunar settlements or asteroid mines, we'll only repeat our mistakes.

At the end of the book, Nestvold discusses how we as a species can start discussing these questions. One thing we should do is to look to non-Western societies for possible solutions. For example, people living in the Arctic have experience with extreme environments like the ones in space. We could learn from them, but we shouldn't just appropriate their knowledge but make sure they're included in space exploration. One group Nestvold fails to acknowledge are science fiction writers. We have experience creating thought experiments about alternate societies in space. If authors consider ethical questions in their works, we can influence the development of real space societies, hopefully in ways that will be sustainable and beneficial for all.

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Ineffable Husbands and Reincarnating Wives

I liked reading the book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman when it first came out, and I enjoyed watching the adaptation of the book (Season One of Good Omens) on Amazon Prime. However, I didn't expect to be so enthralled by Season Two, which was released at the end of July. Then again, who can resist the perfect marriage of demonic love and angelic cruelty in that final episode? I haven't fallen for a fandom like this since the Beatles Anthology aired in November 1995 and I had "Free as a Bird" stuck in my head constantly. I binged Season Two of Good Omens in three days (which is quite fast for me, but it helps that I can now stream shows on my tablet while I'm cooking or washing dishes) and just finished watching Season One before starting Season Two again. I can't get Aziraphale and Crowley, the Ineffable Husbands, out of my head. I think part of that has to do with how much they remind me of two of my own characters, Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil and Jenna Dorshay, the Spring and Summer Avatars in my fantasy Season Avatars series. (Of course, my writing ability is only a fraction of what Pratchett and Gaiman brought to the table! Credit also belongs to Michael Sheen and David Tennant for portraying these characters and their relationship so brilliantly.)

Like the angel and demon, Gwen and Jenna are opposites who get on each other's nerves but know they can rely on each other. Gwen is a cool intellectual noblewoman, and Jenna is a passionate farmer's daughter. Both of them have magic granted to them by the deities they serve: Gwen gets healing magic from the Goddess of Spring, and Jenna is blessed with plant magic by the God of Summer. Like Aziraphale, Gwen is driven by duty, while Jenna shares Crowley's enjoyment of pleasure. Gwen and Jenna aren't immortal, but they are reincarnated over and over with their magic and memories intact. In previous lives, they were male and female (switching gender between them) and married to each other. However, after Jenna was responsible for a tragedy in their previous life (see Chaos Season), they both came back as women. Although their culture has Victorian-era technology, their country has a more liberal attitude towards homosexuality. Women can have relationships with each other, but those who do so serve the Goddess of Fall, not Spring or Summer. It would be scandalous for Gwen and Jenna to act like Fallswomen when they serve Spring and Summer. I don't want to say too much about the current state of their relationship, but it's obvious by the end of Summon the Seasons, the final book in the Season Avatars series, that they're not getting back together in the near future.

Something that is different between the two couples is that Gwen and Jenna are embedded in other relationships that affect their own. Unlike with Aziraphale and Crowley, Gwen and Jenna work with other Season Avatars who understand their situation. In fact, Ysabel and Kay, the other half of their quartet, often moderate when Gwen and Jenna fight with each other. Gwen and Jenna also have responsibilities toward others that keep them from acting on their relationship. Gwen is an only child, so she has a duty to create and raise heirs to manage the family estate. Jenna was married, widowed, and left with a young child before she even met Gwen in Scattered Seasons. The pair have several things they need to resolve before they can get back together as a couple. I do know where I want them to end up, but I haven't charted out the path of how they get there. Part of the fun of writing for me is discovering that path.

As for Aziraphale and Crowley, I have some ideas about what might happen to them in Season 3, but it'll take a 100-Lazarii miracle to give them a happy ending. I hope Neil Gaiman can give it to them!

Have you ever encountered a very popular character or characters who reminded you of one of your own characters? Did you change anything about your character as a result? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. 

Site Meter