Saturday, May 31, 2014

Personal Digest Saturday: May 24 – May 30

 Life news this week: 

  • My sister Lindsay got married on May 30. She is an old lady. :) I was a bridesmaid! It was a Star Wars–themed wedding and I got to sit at the Yoda table!
  • As mentioned on this blog, another of my short stories--"Her Mother's Child"--sold this week. It will appear in Kaleidotrope in 2015.
  • My advance reading copies of my book arrived at the publisher! My editor tweeted a picture of it and it was cool to see a stack of books full of words I wrote sitting on a desk!!!
  • I was sick over Memorial Day Weekend but at least I got to stay home and do a bunch of writing. I have written up to Chapter 9 in Bad Fairy 2 and haven't done anything new on the book since finishing that because a) it was an exhausting set of chapters and b) family things surrounding my California sister's visit and my Florida sister's wedding.
  • Went out to eat with my mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew on Tuesday. We had Sweet Tomatoes food and I got to cuddle the baby. :D
  • Wednesday was my sister's bachelorette party. It was small and silly; we got a hotel room and drank things (well, I drank Sprite) and didn't do anything significant except we played Two Truths and a Lie. (I got the most points. I rule.)
  • Thursday was the rehearsal dinner for the wedding, where we practiced what to do (of course) and then went to one of my sister's husband's parents' houses for a nice dinner. I spent most of the time just chatting with people and watching a cute slideshow of photographs of Mike and Lindsay as they were growing up.
  • I wrote an author bio for the first short story and I completed my comments on second-pass edits for my editor at Skyhorse. Things are coming together! I decided to make an "all published work" page for my main website since the list has grown large enough that I'm not embarrassed to share, haha.
  • Got to chat with Fred on the phone on Monday. :)

Places featured: 
Reading progress:

  • Finished Lovely Complex #2 by Aya Nakahara. ★★★★
  • Currently reading The Maxx #1 by Sam Kieth.

New singing performances:

Recorded "Particle Man" by They Might Be Giants.

New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0472: "A Reason for Everything."


New videos:
None except I posted a short video about the hail outside my apartment.

New photos:

The cupcake I got for selling another short story.
My mom huggling her grandson in the restaurant.
Lindsay wearing her "bachelorette" sash at the party.
My "partaaaaay" face.
Wine goggles.
Ladies of the bachelorette party:
Me, sister Patricia, Jenny, Amber, Kate, and Lindsay
lying across all of us. :)

Baby Ash cuddling with Grandpa at the rehearsal.

Mommy and Daddy--Grandma and Grandpa--enjoying the baby.

Rehearsal dinner family!

The ladies of the rehearsal dinner--Patricia, me, Lindsay, Mommy.

My ARCs! Mine's the pink one.

The whole wedding party, post-vows!
My sister with her doggie, Chewbacca, in her wedding gown.

Sister L's first dance as a married woman.
Sister dancing with her daddy.

My sister is a beautiful bride. Look at that princess dress.

Social Media Counts:

YouTube subscribers: 3,380 for swankivy (16 new this week), 339 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 494 for swankivy (6 new), 407 for JulieSondra (18 new). Facebook: 249 friends (no change) and 120 followers (lost one) for swankivy, 345 likes for JulieSondra (4 new), 47 likes for Negative One (no change), 69 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 1,338 (4 new).

Friday, May 30, 2014


Oh wow, my publisher just tweeted this:

This happens to be a picture of her desk and it happens to have advance reading copies of my book on it. Wow, that's kinda neat to see!

These are pretty much just for my blurbers though--I don't have them and they aren't the final text.

Cool to actually see it in book form though.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another short story sale

Just five days after I sold my first short story, I sold a second one.

Which seems a bit absurd, if I'm honest. I'd never sold fiction before and then I did it twice in one week.

Though that's a bit misleading. I'll start at the beginning.

First off, the first short story I sold was one I had a feeling was going to sell. Primarily because I wrote it directly in response to a magazine's prompt--I'd never done that before--and reasonably believed it was tailored to the editor's tastes. And although I had to edit a significant part of the plot based on some feedback, she sent me an enthusiastic acceptance when I was done. In addition, the magazine I got accepted to has not been around very long, and though that does not necessarily mean they have lower standards, it is true that as a newer magazine it probably does not receive as many high-quality submissions.

Part of the reason--probably--that I'd never had fiction accepted for publication before was that I was not submitting my work to non-paying or token-pay markets; I'm sure I had very high-quality competition because I restricted my submissions to pro and semi-pro publications. This is not because I want the money, nor is it because I'm obsessed with prestige, but because if a magazine pays its authors, I tend to think it has the resources to stay around longer and is less likely to suddenly disappear or stop hosting my stories. I like to be able to link to my work online and show people where it's displayed.

As you can imagine, I've collected my share of rejections over this. And with the exception of the fairy tale short story that had just been accepted, I hadn't submitted anything new in months, so when I saw a lone e-mail in my author inbox that said "Re: Fiction Submission: 'Her Mother's Child,'" I assumed it must be some lingering rejection left over from a magazine's undone homework after selecting their favorites. Instead, the answer to an e-mail I'd sent on February 2 read "Thank you for submitting your story to Kaleidotrope, as well as for your patience. I really liked 'Her Mother's Child' and would like to accept it for publication at this time."

Well. That was unexpected. And kind of hilarious, too, since it wasn't like I had been emboldened by finally getting a short story acceptance and decided to strike out with more queries. It just happened to arrive in the good-news window.

I buy myself a cupcake whenever I sell a piece.
I checked my submissions spreadsheet to see if there were any other pending pieces out and there actually were two others sent out the same day I'd sent this one. Maybe their editors are lurking somewhere waiting to tell me how much they love me too. ;) (By the way, the short story that was accepted was the one I was fidgeting about in an earlier post.)

My future intentions with my short stories:

Written, hoping to publish, will keep submitting:
  •  "In Love With Love," contemporary fiction, about a mom who's worried she's incapable of loving her son.
  • "Just Like Stephen," contemporary fantasy, about a guy who's hiding his magical powers so he doesn't get taken away like his brother.
  • "Baby Talk," contemporary fiction, about a baby's first words--very short.
  • "Uncle Avery's Garden," contemporary fiction, about lessons a young woman learned from her uncle who passed away . . . it's kind of overly sentimental, but maybe publishable.
  • "Protector Cat," contemporary fantasy/experimental fiction . . . I go back and forth between thinking this is a good story and thinking it sucks. It's really short though. About a guy who lives with a gang and has a dysfunctional memory.
  • "Wind," contemporary fantasy, and sometimes I think I should give up on this one too, but maybe a spit-shine and an open-minded magazine that accepts long pieces will take it. It's about a guy who falls in love with a fairy.
Unwritten or incomplete, hoping to publish when they are done:
  • Untitled contemporary story involving a protagonist dodging unwanted romantic attention. Involves queer people. Yay. Partially written, but need to finish.
  • Untitled contemporary story about a transgender boy in middle school. Haven't started it but have been thinking about it.
Old stories I'd like to rewrite and publish:
  • "The Curse," speculative fiction; it has two intertwined stories, kind of, and I need to revamp one of those stories so it's more readable.
  • "On the Inside," fantasy; the original story was from a transgender girl's perspective, and I think I'd like to try writing an alternate version of it from the point of view of an adult woman in the story.
I'll be developing a couple of my short stories into novels one day too. 'Cause I'm ambitious like that.

The latest accepted short story won't be published until sometime in 2015. So don't be looking for it anytime soon. You'll see a link on this blog when you can read it, I'm sure!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bad Fairy 2 status report: Chapters 7 through 9

Writing these chapters has been slow going. Mostly because they involve a ridiculous amount of disappointment. In just three short chapters, protagonist Delia deals with boy troubles, extended sickness, her father being a horrible person, grappling with the duality of her existence, and having the brightest hope of her life built up and dangled in front of her only to have it irrevocably and devastatingly crushed. This leads, as you might imagine, to quite a lot of anger. I have never seen Delia this angry, and you know, well, that says a lot because she's Delia. At one point she is so furious that she actually blacks out from sheer white-hot rage.

And if you can believe it, that's kind of draining to write.

Many years ago I drew an entire cartoon set of Tarot cards based on Bad Fairy. This is the illustration I drew that involved the scene I'm talking about, drawn for the card Five of Pentacles. What you see behind her are a bunch of purple flames. That's the kind of pissed off I'm talking about.

And speaking of which, I'm not sure how many people reading my blog know this, but Bad Fairy was originally one huge book, so some of these scenes that I'm incorporating into the new "Bad Fairy 2" sequel book have actually been written before. I'm a little uncomfortable with it--in a few cases I've lifted chunks from the old book and pasted them directly into the new book, and then had to adjust them for minor details and writing style. They still feel weird when I read them and I don't know if that's because I know what they are or if it's just because they don't really go. Maybe because I know I didn't lead into them with the same train of thought they were placed after. I don't know. We'll see.

Words: Chapters 7 through 9 ended up about 16,500 words. (Yeah, I know.)

Basic details: Delia and her boyfriend reveal their secrets to each other and deal with each other's reactions. She sees her father again--for the first time since she was six--and it makes her literally want to barf. She leaves her tavern position and struggles with a long illness, and soon learns that her family's letter requesting that she be allowed to interview with the ruler of their kingdom has finally been answered--affirmatively. Delia prepares for her interview, meets the king (!!!), and . . . finds her interests incompatible with his, to say the least. From here she has to decide what to do with her life.

The good: I feel like I was finally able to explore most of the holes left in the plot for if someone was reading this book before Book 1--Delia explains everything that happened when she was still receiving her magickal education and what fueled the clash between her and her worst enemy. I also did something I've literally never done before: I included some geographical specifics. Historically I write very light on setting, but in these chapters there is some fleshing out of not only Delia's village (and scant mentions of the other three villages that make up the four riverside communities), but the larger kingdom she's part of, including the information that she lives in the same province as her king and what the name of the king's city and province is. I sort of let Delia make fun of herself for not knowing geography, too; I figured she'd be fairly ignorant of her surroundings because her world was always very small, but traveling through these places helps her have a reason to know what they are.

The bad: There's so much negativity in these chapters, and it's not balanced with much positivity right from the beginning of the story. I wonder if reading this will be a trial for people--if it will just be too depressing and contain too little hope. Delia is a good person but she comes off as sullen and entitled quite a lot of the time, and I don't know whether the balancing passion and authentic desire for positive change will redeem her. I'm also a little worried about the length of Chapter 9. It's over 8,000 words long and that might be a bit much. Oh, and the portrayal in this book of certain religious philosophies might be offensive, but at this point I've already got magick-practicing fairies invoking pagan goddesses and practicing sorcery so I'm probably not going to lose anybody new with this.

And now, the quotes:

When Delia won't accept her co-workers' sympathy when she has a crying breakdown at work:

My mother had once told me I needed to cry with loved ones instead of running from them, but I felt far more comfortable answering misery with isolation.

In my mythology, fairies don't have the ability to do magick long-distance. Delia knows a couple techniques that allow her to thwart those limits. This is her on how she can magickally send dreams to other people as a means of communicating:

My own magickal range was just as limited by distance as anyone else’s, but the goddess of death and rebirth could come to anyone, anywhere. She could also bring dreams. So I handed Her mine.

On Delia battling a lengthy illness (framed in one of her philosophical asides penned from the end of her life):

In that time I did much sleeping, but in my waking hours I did not read or write. I simply nursed my heart as my mother nursed my body, groping mentally for some purchase on where I should lay the wretched beating thing.  

On choosing a direction (again, from one of her philosophical asides):

Each time I’d faced adversity, it had been truth that had done me in.

That is, truth after partial lies paved the way.

Having come to a crossroads, my choice was clear: the rest of my life would need to take the path of either pure truth or masterful deception.

The moral fabric of my mind; the effervescent fibers of my magick; and the ancient, stalwart voice of my goddess all vibrated to the hum of truth, but so far in my life, only the lies had been met with external reward.

Delia on the rules for fairies adopting patron gods:

We were not allowed to invite bonds with religious figures still respected by the rulers of our realm—that is to say, the king’s god and any characters associated with Him were off limits—but we were allowed to borrow the inspiration and power of past gods. As long as they were dead.

I liked dead gods. Especially if they had presided over death in their heyday.

Delia having a rather odd conversation with her personal goddess:

We must tell the king everything—the unfiltered truth, so he cannot ever accuse us of obscuring it. We must make him partial to what you can do. We must show him your true value. We must make sure he would kill to have you.
“Well I don’t know about killing,” I said, swishing the wine around in the cup.

Delia on leaving her village and traveling far away:

Soon I was farther from home than I’d ever been, and I started to feel the distance like the marrow of my bones was being stretched.
On Delia choosing a rather dramatic outfit for her meeting with royalty:

I may have been thirteen years old, but I looked deliciously like an archetypal woman of the mysteries—rather like Cerridwen’s depictions when mythology books dared to include illustrations—and I savored the striking image my figure cut in that glass on the wall. I was no longer a yearning student, or a modest tavern maid, or a child on a hopeless quest for employment. I was a mature person who knew herself and knew what she wanted. A person who was about to do everything in her power to get it.
And there was a lot in my power.

The king to Delia after learning how interested she is in the afterlife:

"Do not go looking for death. It will find you on its own."

Monday, May 26, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 8: Favorite Genre



Today's question: What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

I tend to prefer writing that roams around in the speculative fiction camp. That's also what I like to read. However, the most important thing to me about a story is that it has realistic, believable, interesting characters, and that can be done in any genre.

The term "speculative fiction" confuses some people. I don't like calling most of my work science fiction (mainly because there's really not usually much "science" in it, and people's perception seems to point toward expecting aliens, robots, and time travel when I say "science fiction"). I also don't like calling some of my work fantasy (because it's generally pretty grounded in reality and usually in modern times with a twist, and people's perception seems to point toward expecting magic, dragons, wizards, elves, and epic quests to "get all the crystal shards or save the world or fulfill a PROPHECY").

I use "speculative fiction" because that's what it is. It's fiction with some speculation thrown in. What if this one thing was different? I tweak that one thing--or a set of things--and then let things play out from there. "Speculative fiction" encompasses nearly any situation that couldn't or didn't happen in our reality. Even alternate history stories can be "speculative fiction," which is cool.

An example: I tweaked the attributes of the usual human being by having a pair of ordinary parents give birth to a daughter with superpowers (in my webcomic Negative One, of course), and suddenly I've got a whole story; how do parents raise a baby who's more powerful than they are? How do they feel about her? How do they discipline her, feed her, protect her? How is her mind and her body developing differently because of this one twist? Who gets to know about the situation and what do they do about it? There's not much of an overarching plot there except that it's one extraordinary family trying to muddle their way through ordinary life. I find that sort of thing fascinating, and I tend to deal with the ordinary lives of extraordinary people.

My most traditional fantasy is Bad Fairy, because it does involve enchanted characters (fairies), magic, and a more typically "fantasy" setting (indeterminate pre-industrial past under a nebulous feudal ruler). That wasn't really my choice, though; deciding to do the fairy tale retelling the way I did required me to keep it in that setting. It's still pretty different from typical fantasy--I don't read much high fantasy or epic fantasy, and everything I write is personal and mostly microcosmic. I focus on the inner workings of characters' motivations, emotions, desires, and thoughts. I love doing this in a fantasy setting because I can take people where no one has ever been, but keep the experience relatable by grounding it in realistic portrayals of human experience (even with non-human characters!). The books I love reading the most take me to those places too, even if they are realistic contemporary fiction. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Personal Digest Saturday: May 17 – May 23

 Life news this week: 

  • Only wrote about 5,500 words this week--I was reading a lot because I wanted to not be writing. That's not the same as not wanting to write. I'll let you decide if that makes sense.

  • My short story sold to a magazine, huzzah. The short story is entitled "Your Terms," and it will be published in Timeless Tales, a fairy tale retelling magazine. (Its original title was "Hope Came Out.") The story will also have an audio version that can be downloaded by people who get a subscription to the magazine, but the text version will be free. I'll post where you can read it when it comes out.

  • As of May 20th, I've been drawing Negative One every week and posting it every Friday, without ever being late or missing an issue, for nine years.

  • I also spent a lot of the weekend on the phone. I called Sarah for her birthday and got to talk to my sister P about her upcoming visit, and called my mom on Sunday, and chatted with Meg at night.

  • I'm on second-pass edits for my nonfiction book. Nothing new to tell you about that though.

  • I finally decided for sure that I am going to the international asexuality conference in Canada. I registered for the conference in the latter part of this week, and got my passport renewed. (Well, I sent the expedited application off.)

  • Ate at Moe's with Jeaux on Wednesday and gave him his birthday presents. We listened to the latest Welcome to Night Vale episode and also listened to one of the live shows.

Places featured: 
  • I'm negative famous this week.
Reading progress:

  • Finished Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire. ★★★★
  • Currently reading Lovely Complex #2 by Aya Nakahara.

New singing performances:

Recorded "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz.

New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0471: "No Such Recognition."

Webcomic So You Write Issue 36: "Not Flattering."


New videos:

Letters to an Asexual #20

New photos:

My sort of hideous passport photo
in which I look old and weird

Doing some drawing on Sunday
The cupcake I bought as a reward for selling a short story

Social Media Counts:

YouTube subscribers: 3,362 for swankivy (16 new this week), 336 for JulieSondra (lost one). Twitter followers: 488 for swankivy (4 new), 389 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 249 friends (1 new) and 121 followers (lost one) for swankivy, 341 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 47 likes for Negative One (no change), 69 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 1,334 (15 new).

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


OMG selfies. What's with all the selfies?

So what's the deal with the Selfie Generation? Are we all just obsessed with ourselves? Have we immersed ourselves in the frivolity that takes hold when one constantly has access to a camera? Surely we're not all that desperate for attention?

No, you stop that right now. Sit down and stop sneering about Kids with Gizmos and widespread self-centeredness. I'm gonna learn you a thing.

First of all, "selfies" aren't new. Rather, self-portraits and group portraits with people we care about are not new; ever since photography developed, we have used it to document ourselves, share ourselves with others, and create art. Before photography, there was more traditional visual art. Portraits have always been a thing. Among the first subjects of children's artwork are themselves and their families and friends. We like to see ourselves. We've always liked to see ourselves.

Secondly, photography has always been social to the extent it could be. Well before the Internet, it was (and continues to be!) very, very common for families to send portraits of the clan in Christmas cards, and school pictures to capture our children growing up (to be distributed between friends and sent to Grandma) were a staple from elementary school through our senior pictures. We shared our images with people we loved to symbolize our bonds with each other and allow faraway loved ones access to a captured sliver of our lives.

And lastly, now that the Internet has facilitated all kinds of long-distance communication, we lean on images to fill in the gaps in our relationships. At the beginning of the Internet, before images were common because of data restrictions, there was a widespread fear of Internet People--they weren't what they said they were! They probably wanted to hurt you! Because their text alone couldn't be trusted! You need to see their face! And if you do get a picture, they're probably lying to you! It might be an old picture, or a picture of somebody else! That would be a falsehood and a misrepresentation! RUN AWAY!

As Internet communication became more and more common, we learned to illustrate our conversations so all those people hung up on vision would start to feel more comfortable with the whole person on the other side of the Series of Tubes. If you could see them--see regular representations of them--you started to feel that they were real, that they existed in meat space like you, that they possessed certain attributes that they may not have told you about and that helped you understand the big picture of their identity. Sighted people tend to expect these cues in getting to know each other--which is not to say sight is necessary at all to become fully acquainted on the Internet, of course, but that people who regularly use sight to understand others will often expect to do so in their digital relationships as well. More pictures of us--more selfies--is a natural part of sharing ourselves with our Internet friends who usually aren't in our living rooms or at the coffeehouses with us.

So when I take a selfie, I am not saying hey look at me--I need your attention, I need your compliments, I need you to admire me, I need validation. I am saying "Here I am. I am putting myself on your screen because you are part of my life. I am using the technology available today to make myself a more integrated, more authentic piece of your world. Here is a piece of me. I am inviting you to see me the same way you would see me if we lived in the same city, in the same state, in the same country."

Selfies aren't selfish. They're just self. They're me, and they're for you, to help us be us.

Hi. Nice to meet you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On Compromise

Yesterday, I signed my first contract to publish short fiction in a magazine.

I bought myself a cupcake to celebrate that milestone. I think I'll make a tradition of it.

More icing than cupcake, really.
I'm sure I'll talk more about that story and where you can read it when the issue I'm in is published. But today, I want to talk about compromise.

We're starry-eyed people for the most part, we writers. We have big dreams and overflowing pots of idealism, especially at the beginning of our careers. And there's nothing wrong with that. But now I want to say that for all three pieces of writing I've sold (for actual money) and for both of the agents I signed with, there was a compromise of some kind. Sometimes, it was a major one.

  • This short story, a fairy tale retelling, actually invoked the fairy tale it was retelling by name and became very, as the editor called it, "meta." She loved the story but believed the association with its fairy tale should be more subtle, and asked if I would rewrite it with that in mind. My rewrite was accepted.
  • The short nonfiction piece I recently sold about asexual femininity was accepted by the editor at the proposal stage and she loved my original version, but literally came back to me with a request to make it twice as long.
  • The asexuality book got very few content-related revision requests, but there was definitely a fair amount of back and forth at the contract negotiation stage, and ultimately I sold my book to an imprint that specializes in library sales, not trade audiences. (There's always a possibility it will sell well enough to justify releasing it/marketing it to trade in the future, but as such, it's not part of the plan.) I would have liked to have wider reach from the beginning, but this is where everything led.
  • The agent who signed my nonfiction offered me representation with the understanding that she did not think large publishers would want it, and she wanted me to understand that she would start in the middle with realistic expectations of selling to a medium or small house.
  • The agent who signed my fiction loved my query and sample pages, but thought my word count was far too high. She asked me to take my 146,000-word book down to between 85,000 and 115,000 words before she would look at the rest of it. She signed me, but I had to cut over 30,000 words.
I have also made a few significant changes based on the opinions of beta readers, publishers who rejected me, and pieces I've read by other authors. So what does that make me? Would you like to say "Julie, why do you change your vision for other people? Are you a sellout?"

Well, kind of. Not exactly. But it does have to do with the word "sell."

Let's make one thing clear: if you are aiming for publication--in the sense that someone other than you is publishing your work and offering you money for it, intending to then sell your work to consumers--then you are agreeing that you will be using another entity's resources, time, expertise, and cash to forward your message. You are also agreeing that you want that entity to have input into the product that gets released--and as publishing-industry professionals, people who offer you money for your work have the right to say "I am looking to pay for THIS product, and your product is not quite THIS product. I will pay you for it if you modify it to fit my needs."

They often know more than you do about what, ultimately, will sell in the marketplace. They are not always right. But yes, if you think they are wrong, then in today's world you have the option of publishing your work yourself. You don't need to submit your poetry or short stories to established magazines and journals if you're content to post it on your blog. You don't need to find agency representation and/or get a publisher if you believe your book, as is, represents the best presentation possible of your work, and that you alone with the resources available to self-published authors can get your book out there. And yes, sometimes that works out really well for people--most of whom are both talented and lucky.

But when you offer your work to publishing-industry professionals, they will tell you how to make it appropriate for their audience's consumption, and if you don't agree with them, you can walk away. If what they ask you to do does not compromise the soul of the work--the reason why you wrote it in the first place--it would behoove you to try.

  • For the short story: I like meta, so I was sad I had to rewrite it. But I got the idea for this short story because of the magazine's theme issue prompt, and I wrote the original in forty-five minutes. I saw no reason why I couldn't write an alternate version of it for this editor's magazine if I had written the original for her magazine in the first place. Now people get to meet my characters and enjoy the weird little modernization I came up with. And I have a short story credit for my résumé.
  • For the nonfiction piece: I didn't think I had anything else to say on asexual femininity, and historically I'm never asked to say more since I'm usually too wordy, so I didn't know what to do initially to double my word count. But having more space to have my say encouraged me to make the piece more personal, with a varied tone and more valuable content, and I think it's a better read now.
  • For the sale of the nonfiction book: I had three offers for this book. The library imprint was the best one I got. My choices were to either wait for a different opportunity or take this one, and honestly I think the time for this book is now. Despite not being able to concentrate on trade audiences for its distribution, it will be available at least, and perhaps the decision-makers are right that it's the type of book more people would want to borrow from a library than buy for themselves. If the demand is higher than expected, it may go to trade anyway, and if not, their conservative choices will have been the right ones.
  • For my nonfiction agent wanting to avoid the largest publishers for submission: I even got a few passes from middle-sized houses saying they just didn't think the audience was big enough to justify offering me a contract. I doubt the bigger houses would have said something different. My agent knows the game.
  • For my fiction agent saying my book needs to be shorter, she knows that it's already so hard to get a debut book deal without a high word count hanging around your neck. Furthermore, I did have my doubts about whether I could shorten it that much and still tell the story I wanted to tell, and I found that I could; it ended up being a fantastic lesson for me in learning to write more concisely, as well as making the manuscript cleaner and more marketable. 
If you are not willing to take these risks, learn these lessons, and accept that professional publication does involve compromise sometimes, that's your choice. And it's not even necessarily the wrong one--I'm not implying that all authors need to make unpleasant sacrifices before their work will be judged worthy of publication. I'm saying professional publication is an acknowledgment that you are pursuing mainstream consumption of your work, and you should expect to adjust your vision when the end result requires you to see eye to eye with others.

There have been several times when I rejected a publishing industry professional's requests because their vision wanted to take my project in a direction I didn't want to go.

Several agents told me my seventeen-year-old protagonist in Finding Mulligan having a romance in a college atmosphere was unsaleable, and that I would have better luck getting representation if I rewrote the entire thing in a boarding school instead of college. (Happily, now that New Adult is a Thing, I should have better prospects.)

One agent said my protagonist's mature storytelling voice in Bad Fairy was unbelievable and she wanted me to reconceive it in a more age-appropriate voice. (The agent apparently didn't realize that the protagonist is presenting an autobiography "written" at the end of her life, not in her voice as it happens. Other agents, including the one who signed me, didn't misunderstand that.)

One agent I offered my nonfiction book to was very adamant that my platform was nowhere near large enough to warrant writing this book and explicitly sent me two publishers that might be "willing to consider me," one of which was a self-publishing service and the other of which was a vanity publisher. (Thanks, man. No.)

One short story magazine editor told me I should rewrite some central aspects of my protagonist to be more similar to a television character they thought was more realistic. (No.)

One beta reader told me, extremely condescendingly, that my sentences were too long and my vocabulary too complex to be palatable for mainstream audiences. "You're a good writer," he said, "but you are NOT Henry James or James Joyce. THEY can get away with writing long sentences. One day you may acquire the skill. Let's just stick with short sentences for now." The reader opined that my sentences reminded him of a thesis or a doctoral dissertation, and added, "I know because I've written them." (No one before or since believed my style was over their heads. Perhaps this fellow just had a low opinion of what level mainstream audiences read on.)

Sometimes people who read your work are wrong about it. Sometimes they might be right but you're not interested in finding out because the compromise they're asking for doesn't sit right with the reason you wrote what you did. And sometimes, it's worth the compromise to have a chance to bring your work to larger, more mainstream audiences. It's up to you to decide whether they're asking you to sing a different song or whether they're just asking you to wear a different dress while you sing it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 7: Music



Today's question: Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

The short answer to this of course is no. I don't listen to any music while I write. I can't. I'm an auditory learner. Whatever I hear will be the thing that gets my attention much more readily than what I'm seeing. I don't tune it out or get it in the background of what I'm doing; I focus on it pretty much exclusively. Though I can still do things like chores or drawing if I'm listening to music; just not verbal things like writing. 

The second part of this question is very applicable though. My novels often gain extensive soundtracks! I'm thinking that when I have a particular work on the brain, I naturally start associating certain songs with them, but it's kind of uncanny how quickly I will gather a strangely appropriate playlist for characters. 

Here I'll show you my playlists for each with illustrative quotes. But it does get quite long, so I will do one of those nifty cut things. Beneath are four lists with silly titles:

  1. "Magick" for Delia of Bad Fairy
  2. "Dreaming" for Cassie/Dia of Finding Mulligan
  3. "Unique" for Ivy of The House That Ivy Built
  4. "Summertime" for Nick of Stupid Questions 
Just click the "read more" to see the lists, with the applicable lyrics pulled out to show you why they remind me of the characters. :) 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Personal Digest Saturday: May 10 – May 16

 Life news this week: 

  • Wrote another 8,000 words or so on the new Bad Fairy, bringing its word count to about 20,000 words. That's pretty slow for me though. 
  • Steve visited me on Saturday for the first time in over a year! We ate at Sweet Tomatoes and talked about, what else, the past.  
  • Worked on some rewrites on a short story.
  • I spent part of Sunday with, you guessed it, my mom, 'cause it was Mother's Day! I made her favorite biscuits from scratch (made with cream and parmesan cheese) and hung out with her and my sister L. 
  • I turned in my list of potential blurbers and my first pass edits to my editor at Skyhorse. YEE-HAW. 
  • On Tuesday I saw my dad for lunch. I almost never take lunch while at work--I just eat at my desk--so taking a little break halfway through the day was nice. :) We ate at Mimi's. 
  • On Tuesday night I got to talk to my mentee on the phone--we mostly talked about our books and being on submission--and I redecorated my place for the Beltane holiday. Yes, I'm late, be quiet. 
  • Ate at New York's Best Pizza with Jeaux on Wednesday, and we watched the last two episodes of Season 1 of Orphan Black.
Places featured: 
  • The radio show Friday Night Lip Service plugged my book this week on its asexuality-themed show. There's no currently available way to listen to the show but the person who notified me said they will let me know if that changes. Hmm, nice of them, though! (I wish I had gotten to hear the asexuality show!) They made a couple posts about it though and linked my site:

    Post 1:
    Post 2:
Reading progress:

  • Finished Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy. ★★★★
  • Currently reading Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire.

New singing performances:

Recorded "The Power of Love" by Gabrielle Aplin.

New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0470: "Special Lady."

New videos:

Julie Sondra on Hints for the Drafting Writer

New photos:

Just my monthly haircut comparison shots!

Back: 2/15/14
Back: 5/15/14
Front: 2/15/14
Front: 5/15/14

Social Media Counts:

YouTube subscribers: 3,346 for swankivy (23 new this week), 337 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 484 for swankivy (6 new), 388 for JulieSondra (2 new). Facebook: 248 friends (2 new) and 122 followers (no change) for swankivy, 340 likes for JulieSondra (3 new), 47 likes for Negative One (1 new), 68 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 1,319 (4 new).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bad Fairy 2 status report: Chapters 4 through 6

It hasn't been a great writing week for me lately. I've been falling asleep relatively early and filling many of my waking hours with other things--especially since deadlines/obligations on THE BOOK WITH A PUBLISHING CONTRACT kind of trump writing new content--but I finished another chapter last night so I guess I'll do a status update. Maybe I'll do these every three chapters or so, if it doesn't become too annoying.

Words: Chapters 4 through 6 total about 9,000 words.

Basic details: My protagonist, Delia, is biding her time waiting for an important letter that will theoretically springboard her into the future she's been dreaming of, but she has no idea how long she's going to have to wait. Because she is a fairy school graduate with many specialties, she is qualified to do many types of magickal work, but her reputation was ruined by a school enemy who got hired by the king and used her influence to blackball her, which makes it very difficult to find employment. Delia is a proud person and does not want to take on magickal tasks she believes are "beneath her," so in these chapters she is distracting herself with a completely unrelated job: working in a tavern in a neighboring village, more or less passing for human. (She's half fairy, but looks-wise she's almost entirely human.)

These chapters are about what she does when a regular customer her own age gets a crush on her without knowing she's a fairy, and about her struggle to keep her "real" serious life separate from this temporary distraction. She also goes to one of the seasonal fairy rituals and reconnects with her study partners from her education, who are married to each other and have gone on to get a low-status job together without her.

The good: I'm enjoying Delia's odd little relationship with Tom, the thirteen-year-old boy who pretty much just likes her because he thinks she's pretty. Delia spent her life so far among fairies, and being judged by their standards of beauty has made her feel like her appearance is not a plus, but among humans she's being treated like an unusually attractive girl and that really messes with her mind. She's also kind of adorable when she's awkwardly flirting. Especially this one scene where she gives the boy some cake and then hides for the rest of the evening because she's afraid her behavior was too forward. I like seeing her downplaying or hiding things she's usually proud of (most notably her magickal abilities) in order to belong in the tavern's human culture, though her boss and her co-workers know she can do magick (and sometimes make use of it).

I also really liked writing the ritual scene, incorporating the everyday elements of fairy life into the background of the interaction to flesh out their culture, and the interaction between Delia and her old partners is sometimes sort of hilarious to me. And I like that Delia isn't buying into the overused trope of a half-magical-race character by struggling with whether she'd rather be human. There's really never a question, though she does enjoy getting to explore the other half of her culture. It's more like visiting, though.

Doodle of Delia with her old
study partners, Fiona and Drake.
Just standing around being cute.

The bad: I'm six chapters in and Delia is still waiting for something--and it's the same something she's been waiting for since the beginning. I sometimes struggle with pacing in my writing, and I'm wondering if this is going to feel like too much waiting. On the one hand, it's terrible for Delia too. On the other hand, I should be able to make readers feel the interminable unknowingness of waiting for a letter without making them actually slog through it with her, the same as I should be able to indicate that a character is bored without actually boring the reader.

I also wonder if I'm drawing out her relationship too much. Delia is a very cerebral character. She's also only thirteen. She's finding that she's not experiencing any attraction to the boy who likes her, and wonders if that's owing to her inability to open up to him at all without telling him she doesn't identify as human. But she fights with this in the chapter where they meet, talks about it to her partners in the next chapter, and then has an inconclusive encounter with him in the last chapter I've written. She still hasn't told him. She doesn't know what she wants. I don't know if this is going to piss people off. (Yes, she's going to tell him in the next chapter.)

And finally, I'm worried about Delia's likability. Yes, I'm writing a BAD FAIRY story, after all, and Delia has all along basically been this story's antagonist, but she's the protagonist of her life, and I want people to at least identify with her even if they wouldn't do the things she does. But if someone hasn't seen her go through what she went through in the first book, they may have no idea why she's so bitter and pretty arrogant and so often unfriendly, and on top of that she's entered her teenage years and that adds a whole extra layer of moodiness and seemingly irrational behavior. I don't know what to do about this. She has plenty of angst and does all kinds of wallowing in her frustration, but I am unsure of whether my audience will have the patience to deal with it. My readers are not her mother. I can't take it for granted that they'll put up with her unsympathetic behavior because they already love her.

So, perhaps when I'm finished drafting and moving on to cleaning this thing up, I'll be able to figure out some ways to make Delia less off-putting to readers who may not know her past from the previous book, and speed up the pacing maybe. If it needs it. (I might need my test readers to tell me whether it's too slow. Authors have a tendency to not be objective on this sort of thing.)

And as promised, some favorite quotes from the last few chapters:

When the boy who likes her does something awkward but kind of adorable:

I definitely felt that gesture tickling me toward flattered. No one had paid me this sort of attention before—not in a way that didn’t feel inappropriate and predatory—and I was now beginning to realize that I kind of liked Tom’s approach.
What would it feel like to like someone like that? Maybe I would find out.

Delia's thoughts on why Tom is at all appealing:

As far as I knew, Tom had nothing in common with me. He was human. He obviously had no passion for magick. He had a future in a sweaty, dirty profession that he nevertheless was satisfied with, and he wasn’t literate or learned like I was. We came from different worlds. But right now, we were in the same one: both thirteen, both frequenting a tavern for our own reasons, both looking to spend time with people who didn’t treat us like we were naïve, precious babies with so much to learn.

A conversation with Fiona about the boy:

“Why would you . . . date someone if you don’t fancy him?”
“Because he fancies me and I don’t have anything better to do.”

An observation about the holiday ritual:

The musicians were playing a familiar ballad, and all the fairies were milling about in the dancing area, not actually dancing. I’d always thought the rituals for the cross-quarter between midsummer and autumn equinox seemed oddly lazy. Maybe we were all feeling the draining energy of the waning year upon us, but hadn’t yet accepted it.

When Fiona wants to know what she and Tom do together:

“We walk around in the middle of the night mostly talking about how annoying it is to be thirteen.”

“How much is there to say about that?”

I shrugged. “A lot when you’ve never been thirteen before and all your friends are old married people.”

Fiona dipped her finger in my blackberry jelly and fingerprinted it on my nose. I wiped it on the sleeve of her pretty orange festival dress and she shrieked.

An example of how much these three old partners obviously just love each other:

“What’re you two yammering about over here?” said Drake’s voice. He sat down across from us with his second plate of rice and began to stuff his face, even eating the decorative red flowers that I’d always considered nothing but garnish. That boy would eat anything.

“Delia has a boyfriend,” Fiona said.

“Send him my condolences,” he replied.

A rare bit of philosophical observation from Fiona:

“You’re pretending to be a human?” Fiona blurted.

“It isn’t hard. They assume I am and I don’t correct them.”

“Ohh.” She sighed. “I sometimes . . . forget about that.”

“No you don’t,” I said, cramming part of the muffin in my mouth and talking rudely around it. “You have eyes, you’ve looked at me.”

“We stopped looking at you a long time ago because we’ve seen you.”

 Typical Delia reflecting on the seasonal ritual:

A priestess read some poetic ritual purpose statement—it seemed different every year, but always contained the same elements—and we focused on the transition of summer into fall, the fading of the light and heat, the first and least of the three harvests. The time had come for jellies and jams, for packing away, for enjoying the sun before the bite of winter would be coming for us.

I, for one, wondered if I was about to move into the winter of my life.
What-ifs from Delia, excerpted from one of her reflective thinky pieces:

Sometimes I wonder who I would have become if people didn’t hate me. [. . .]
At the end of the day, I love the person hate made me. And maybe I wouldn’t have loved that person as fiercely if others had been there to do the job.

On an opportunity for physical intimacy:

Tom had happened to me. I hadn’t chosen him. I was a wanted thing, not a person who wanted. I couldn’t have moved if I’d wanted to, because the person he wanted to kiss didn’t really exist.

 On a moment, or lack of one:

“I’m cold,” I said finally. Autumn was definitely starting to dig its claws into this late summer night.

Tom touched my face again. “Yeah, you are.”
Still, it would have been much colder to kiss him on the lips and not mean it. To pretend to reciprocate his interest if my heart wasn’t in it. At least, that was what I told myself.