Marriage Equality has come to Alaska

That’s right. The ban was overturned, and I could go down to vital statistics right now and sign a marriage license with my fiance. Sadly, the state is attempting an appeal with the 9th circuit court (a waste of everyone’s time), so my partner and I have decided to hold off for a week and see what happens before we march down there.

But really. We have marriage equality in Alaska. I didn’t think I’d see this day until the supreme court mandated all states recognize marriage equality. But it happened, just like that.

It was quieter than I expected. I was reading articles at home when I saw the news on the ruling. I nudged Sy and said, “Hey, we can get married here, now.”

She nodded and asked about any pending appeals, and then we went back to relaxing together. There was no fight, no sense of urgency. Four years ago, when Anchorage fought for a nondiscrimination act, I could feel the tension all around me. We stood in protest and yelled at opposition who drove past us shouting slurs and condemning us to hell.

Now, all I see is support. It’s overwhelming in that quiet way. We’ve taken another step forward. We’ve won another piece of normalcy for ourselves, and all we could really do when it happened was shrug and say, “Now what?”

For those involved in the court cases, I’m sure the tension was there, but in a few brief months, the tension has rapidly eased from the issue, as far as I can tell. The United States is in favor of marriage equality as a majority, and it shows in stark ways. I had a conversation with my student today about my fiance, an engineer who happens to share the same field as him. He knew we were in a same sex relationship, too, and did not even skip a beat in discussing it with me. It was just a normal conversation, one like any other person relating a funny story about a husband or wife might go.

That is what astounded me. I could talk to another adult, one who I rely on having an image of authority around, and my sexual orientation did not even cause a blip in the conversation. Usually, I just let students assume what they want about who my mysterious “partner” must be, but there’s been a sort of disillusionment in the pat few months. I’ve stopped stepping around friendly conversation like hot coals and students and colleagues have stopped making assumptions.

It’s just… interesting, and incredibly fortunate, that we’ve reached this point before I’ve even turned 30. We still have a long way to go. A very long way. But this time the change feels real, it feels more immediate and earnest than anything else in the fight for LGTBQIA equality. I’m honored to have witnessed it.

Let’s Talk About Writing Groups!

 Before we get to the discussion today, I’d like to thank any readers who purchased and commented on Warrior, my newly released novel. For those of you who don’t know what it is, you can check it out here. If it looks interesting and you read it, be sure to leave some feedback somewhere. I love hearing from readers.

Anyways, I’d like to talk about writing groups today. They’re an important part of any person’s development as a writer, whether they take place online or face-to-face. Why? Writing groups get you in touch with other people, writers and readers, and people are good for your writing.

We need audiences when we work on our writing. A single person is not capable of looking at their work and seeing all the necessary revisions needed. More importantly, our best work happens when we write with others, not alone.

We’ve all had that one misconception of a good writer. They’re that person who sits in a room lit by candlelight. They peck away at a typewriter for hours, agonizing over each line, and everything they write is golden because that person has something special that no one else has.

This is a false notion. All great writers have a great editor, or a horde of them, that help out during the writing process. When there’s a group of people reading your work, you have the benefit of multiple perspectives on your writing. One person can read your work and have a problem with something. You might not change it. If four people have a problem with the same thing and actually talk their way through what specifically troubles them about it, then you actually have something to work with.

Writing groups are essential for this reason. Your story will never please every single person on the planet, but it can become something incredible by working with the people around you. And writing groups are a great way to get free editing and consulting on your work :)

The next big reason you should join a writing group: you will read other people’s work.

Reading and responding to another person’s work will not only let you experience a broader scope of writing, it will make you a better writer. I’m serious. A 2003 study by Jay Simmons examined several classes of high school and college students over the course of three years. Their collective data showed that students who had the opportunity to respond to peer writing the most often also scored higher in writing assignments.

So do yourself a favor and get a writing group together. Make a google doc, meet some locals. If you’ve got an internet connection, there’s really no excuse for writing alone. Try out some websites like fictionpress.com or wattpad.com. If you’re not writing strictly original fiction, join the communities at fanfiction.net or archiveofourown. They’re all great sources for writers to make connections with one another.

So audience, what have your experiences with writing groups been? If any?

Let’s Talk About Attention Economy!

Yeah, that’s a pretty big, fancy phrase I’m throwing around – attention economy. Fear not! It means pretty close to what it sounds like. 

The attention economy is the coined term used by some to define the economic system of the internet. Michael Goldhaber points out in his 1997 conference presentation that the internet primarily funnels information to people. In this sense, information is a product of the internet, an abundant one.

Why do we care about this? Well, that’s what I’m selling right now, information. Hopefully it’s in an entertaining and digestible format so you, the reader/viewer/audience, can understand what’s going on in the world.

I’m not really charging for this information, though. There’s no reason to. You could go google and read up on attention economy just as easily. There’s something else I’m (and every other internet user) is after with this blog: your attention.

Attention is the currency of the internet, or so attention economy theorists claim. It’s something I’m inclined to agree with, and it’s important that you understand this economy as a struggling young writer/blogger/youtuber because it’s what makes your paycheck. That’s right. Attention is what makes the money thing happen. Why else do we pay Facebook to generate likes for our pages? If you’re an independent writer, there is nothing more valuable in the world than other people talking up your book, mentioning it to others, or generally just posting a link to something related to your work anywhere on the internet.

Generally, people need to be entertaining in order to hold onto that attention. Something boring and educational like this little blog probably won’t generate a lot of interest (sorry reader who finds this fascinating!), but is good to get out there when the creative mood strikes you.

So! What can you, an indie writer, do to get some interest generated on the internet? Well, there are a few immediate options. My favorite one is fanfiction.

MeGustaFinal

Yes, fanfiction is a very good way to generate attention as a writer, and it’s so freaking fun! It also lets your readers share a fandom with you and brings you down from that “untouchable paragon” status that a lot of writers get awarded. I don’t really like being an untouchable paragon. I wrote my original fiction because no one else was writing epic fantasies with lesbians and I WANTED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THESE FEELS! It just so happens that along the way, someone else decided I was kinda worthwhile as a writer and rolled me up into their little publishing company. Still, you see me out here, shouting into the void at you guys, begging for your attention.

All internet celebs do this. Every blog, tweet, vlog, or tumblr post is an attempt to connect with another human, and some of us just happen to make money out of making those connections possible. More often, I see community builders getting rewarded for providing a public space of interaction. Livestreamers on twitch.tv can get donations from subscribers and people in the chatroom while they play their games. Artists solicit donations for comic panels and site maintenance. These creators, comedians, and entertainers are making an epicenter for human interaction.

So, dear writer, I suppose what I’m saying is that you should make yourself an epicenter, put yourself out there a little bit. Give people something to discuss and stop hoarding away every story you write in the hopes that some agent will pay you for it one day (spoiler alert: I kinda dislike the concept of agents). Share a short story, write a rant, post that fanfic you had an idea for, make photo collages for tumblr, be part of a community! Give your readers your attention. Have a conversation with them. Listen! They might just give you some of their attention in return.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Talk it up with me! I love responding to comments, I promise :)

What do you all think of this new internet economy?

Also, I’d like to thank my readers for keeping Warrior in the top 100 for lesbian romance all week now. Y’all rock. Leave a review when you’re done!

New Book: Warrior

Yes, my newest book is now out. Thank you world. It’s finally done. Let me say thanks to everyone who helped me get here, first. Now, let’s talk about how happy I am.

This is my FIRST solo work I’ve ever written and published through a company. Makes me feel a little tingly all over. And the cover is soooooo pretty! *squee* Michael, my illustrator, is an amazingly talented man, and you all should read his comic found here

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this post is going to be highly unproductive. I have no words of wisdom to offer at the minute, just excitement over my book release.

Well… maybe a few words of wisdom.

Speaking of book releases and stuff, a friend of mine is in the process of querying agents for her book, and she is having the worst luck. No takers. Nothing. I’m pretty sure I’d have this same problem if I tried to pimp my novel to an agent. Anyways, she’s struggling to get her book out there, but she’s reluctant to self-publish or try alternative routes. Why?

I suspect one of the main problems is that self-publishing hardly feels like a legitimate route. But it is. Honestly, it is. I probably dislike the whole big-wig publishing system a little too much, but I firmly believe that independent publishing is just as legitimate for a good writer to pursue. It’s just as much work and money to advertise your book as it is to get an agent’s attention. Something I like about small press and independent publishing is that the writer and readers are directly connected. There’s no interference from the massive corporate entity that is best-selling publishing. Oftentimes, the bestseller’s list is predetermined by whoever advertises the most, but sometimes, you see a small-press or independent book break that mold. 

I want to see more of that happening. I want to see more writers flinging their work out into the great cosmos for no reason other than to attempt at having a conversation with another individual. I want writing to be about the connection between a writer and readers, not the relationship between a writer and their marketing campaign. I mean, don’t get me wrong, making money off of your books is the best thing ever (my beautiful car agrees; my shabby apartment, meh) but the book needs to be about more than making a quick buck.

Or… at least… I want it to be.

Let’s have some conversations about writing.

And if you’ve made it this far, here’s the link to my book, if you want it. Buy it or not, I don’t care, but I would like to talk about writing :)

Delays, Delays…

Just a quick post.

I want to apologize and thank all of my loyal readers that have been waiting patiently for the release of my new novel, Chronicles of Osota: Warrior. Sadly, there has been another delay in publication. It should be out by the end of July, but we will no longer be making today’s projected date of publication.

This was an unexpected delay, a silly accident, and we’ll have everything fixed soon. I want to thank you all for sticking with me and continuing to read quietly and sometimes comment :)

More updates soon!

Gearheads – A Short Story

A/N: This is a short story I’ve had lying around for a while. I just posted a related story to the Wenches’ Cauldron blog here: http://wenchescauldron.blogspot.com/2014/07/an-everyone.html. I figured both stories featuring Kaylin should be available, especially since her first story has been such a triumph for me. Hope you all enjoy it, and we’ll get back to talking about writing another time.


 

Gearheads

Kaylin clapped her hand over the boy’s mouth. Her right arm tightened around his middle and drew him close, out of the daylight. She dragged him to the wall of the sewer tunnel and hid there. The boy tried not to struggle, though she could feel his panicked, ragged breathing every time he exhaled against her hand. He tried drawing in more air, and every time the unforgiving grip of her arm around his chest limited his intake. She did not care, though. It would be better for him to pass out than for the gearhead to spot them. She could see the bolt-brain’s face pressed against the rusted grate. The hexagonal screws sticking out from his face clanged against the iron and his glass optics clicked with every unsettling blink of the bronze lids. Sunlight flickered and dimmed as he shifted for a better angle, but he’d never spot them, not where Kaylin hid.

It was the boy’s fault that they had to hide. He had yelled at the sight of her arm, the one that practically crushed his rib cage at the moment. She eased the pressure, just enough to prevent him from wheezing. They waited like that for a long time, her with a hand over his mouth and an arm around his chest; the gearhead with his face pressed to the grate, listening. Even after he got up and left, they waited. They waited after Kaylin’s joints ached from holding the awkward position. Her back had gone numb where it pressed against the wall. She didn’t care. They weren’t going to move until they were sure the gearhead and all the others were gone.

When she finally did let go, the boy did not run away. Instead, he staggered to the other side of the tunnel and sat down. He stared up at her, unblinking. It took Kaylin a few moments before she sat down across from him. The boy looked typical for a scavenger. His face was smudged with grime and he wore ragged clothes. She knew she looked just as bad. He probably had not seen anyone close to his age for a very long time. His gaze kept drifting to her arm, and that was certainly more interesting than her age.

Her old arm had been crushed when a building collapsed. Any normal person would have amputated. Not the gearheads, though. She could imagine how they found her body mangled in a heap of rubble, how they dug her out carefully, like extracting an artifact. A soldier would have passed her over, but the gearheads did not operate that way. They needed to recruit more to their side. Recruitment started with improving the conditions of others around them. They saw her arm as an area for improvement.

Well, improvement was one way to put it.

She flexed the digits of the new mechanism. The cogs and wheels spun. The pistons sunk and pulled depending on what motion she made. Part of her marveled at how the gearheads had attached her tendons to the machinery. Bronze clamps fastened to her muscles and the ligaments. When she flexed, the appropriate pumps engaged to mimic the movements of live tissue. Her cauterized skin stood out sharply against the bronze and copper. She clenched the finger-like cogs into a fist. No wonder the boy had screamed when he saw her. She looked just like one of the monsters.

“Is something wrong, gearhead?” the boy asked in a mocking tone.

Kaylin glanced over at him. “I’m not one of them,” she said.

The boy laughed and slumped back against the wall. “You sure look like one,” he said, echoing her thoughts.

Kaylin turned away from him. She crossed her arms then uncrossed them as her skin came in contact with the metal arm. She felt the need to rationalize herself to the boy, if only to prove she was still just as human as him. “Why would I be hiding down here if I was a gearhead?”

The boy shrugged. “They don’t really make sense to me. If someone put bolts in their head, you’d figure they’re not all there.” The boy paused for a moment, obviously waiting for a response, but Kaylin ignored the comment. “So, what’s your name?” he asked.

“Kaylin.” She waited a few moments before returning the favor. “What’s yours?”

“Mark.”

Kaylin nodded and looked down. She had been trying to fold her hands together, but when her fingers came into contact with the bronze digits she stopped. Instead she glanced at the tunnel ceiling and listened. She heard nothing. “You think they’re all gone?” she asked.

Mark shrugged. “Who cares? More will be back later.”

Kaylin nodded and took a moment to study Mark. He had to be one of the first children she had seen in years. All the others had either died in air raids or been sent to live elsewhere. Kaylin was probably one of the few who did not get sent away at the start. Her parents could not afford it. Now, at fifteen, she felt older than fifty.

“Well, it seems like the front has moved on,” said Kaylin. She stood up and stretched her legs. “I’m going to find some food if you’d like to join me.”

Mark nodded and they set off for the sewer exit. Kaylin climbed up to the surface first before waving to Mark. He followed after her, and once his fingers closed over the opening, she leaned down and pulled him up the rest of the way. They sat on the street for a moment and looked around.

“I can’t see a thing,” Mark said. They both looked around the ruined town. Nothing moved.

“Good,” Kaylin said. “Hopefully that means we’re alone.” She stood and dusted her ragged clothes off. Mark stepped ahead of her and took off. “Where are you going?” she asked.

“Where do you think?” Mark turned and waved her onward. “Keep up, now. I hate being out here.”

Kaylin shook her head and ran forward. Mark was similar to other kids living in the rubble. Well, the rare few she met at least. He followed the same instinctive rules that guided her, the first being to keep low and to keep moving. In fact, she had been trying to catch a boat across the river when she got caught in the last raid. It was the only reason she delayed seeking shelter. Boats ferrying civilians were a rare occurrence. The attempt to catch that one had almost killed her. It should have killed her. Instead, she woke up on a lab table with a new arm. After that, everyone had avoided her. No one opened their doors to her. No one would feed her or show her even a glimmer of kindness. No one except the gearheads.

Mark glanced back at her. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” said Kaylin. She shook her head and followed Mark down one of the wider streets. They walked clear of the town. Mark led her down a nearly-faded path that looked more like a game trail than a walkway. “Where are you going?” she repeated.

“You’ll see.”

The trees on the outer edge of town looked charred if not completely burned. The fighting had probably taken place somewhere nearby. “You sure it’s safe, Mark?” she asked.

“Sure is. No one knew about it except me and my mom.”

Kaylin expected the burn damage to recede as they moved deeper into the woods, but evidence of the battle still surrounded them. The ground looked treaded upon, and none of the footprints rested on the path. The vegetation looked torn as if bullets had whizzed through. “Mark.”

The boy looked back at her. “What?”

“This was a battlefield.”

He looked at the torn earth. “So?” Kaylin sighed and followed after the boy. She watched her step carefully as they moved farther into the trees. After a while they made it to a clearing. The wear on the earth was not so bad, but tracks remained pressed in the dirt. “Here we are!” he declared. Kaylin glanced around. Most of the foliage remained undamaged. The green, jagged leaves looked familiar, like some plant one of the other scavengers had urged her to pay attention to.

“And what’s here?” she asked.

Mark walked over to one of the bushes and grabbed a branch. “Look.” He lifted up, exposing the round, red berries growing underneath. “They’re still in season,” he said. Mark picked one and popped it into his mouth. “They’re prefect.” He picked another one and held it out to Kaylin. She reached out with a hand until she saw the bronze gleaming in the morning light. She pulled back and reached out with her left instead. He placed the berry in her palm and she ate it. The small berry tasted better than she could have imagined, like red wine, or what she thought red wine should taste like. She had gone a very long time without food.

“That’s amazing,” she said. Kaylin approached the nearest bush and began gathering berries. A lot remained despite the obvious use the path had seen. Troops usually scavenged the areas clean when they moved through or torched any resources. She stopped gathering berries and looked down at the earth; it was dark and moist, packed down and freshly turned.

Dirt sprayed everywhere. Metal screeched against metal, then the high, pained cries of Mark followed. Kaylin turned and saw the boy tumble to the ground, a large animatronic spider attached to his calf. He screamed and clutched at his leg, eyes wide in terror as the metallic pincers sunk through his flesh and anchored to the bone. The eight needle-like legs clenched around his calf. “Kaylin!” he yelled. “Kaylin, help!”

She rushed to his side and knelt down. “I’m here,” she said. “I’m here, don’t panic.”

The mechanism clicked as the pincers locked into place. Scatter spiders. Of course the gearheads would plant them around the food. Only the army or scavengers would go for wild resources. Mark’s howls pulled her from her thoughts. “Get it off me! Get it off!”

The trap clicked again and began ticking. She had a couple minutes before the shell of the body exploded bits of shrapnel everywhere. The gearheads had designed it specifically so that the victim would kill others by limping off to get help. “I can do this,” she said. She reached for the loose plate on the spider’s backside, but her cog fingers scraped against the metal uselessly. “I’ve disarmed these before.” She reached with her left hand instead and pried off the plating. The mess of springs and cogs inside were designed to be temperamental. If she yanked stuff loose at random, the device detonated early.

“Kaylin, don’t leave me,” said Mark. His face was white. He was probably going into shock. “You gotta get it off me.”

“I’m trying, shut up.” She needed both her hands. That was the problem. Kaylin reached with the metal arm and pinched one of the main cogs still with her mechanical fingers. The wheels halted and the pistons slowed. Usually she stopped the cogs with her left hand, but she did not trust the next task to the metal digits. She reached in with her normal hand, gently pushing aside several springs until her fingers found it: the smallest piston in the machine. She pinched it closed and listened to the slow whine of the steam building up. All she had to do from here was unhook one spring with her right finger. She extended her pinky; the joints groaned. The metal would not flex to the side far enough. The spring lay just out of reach. As much as she tried, she could not get it to hook, just brush against the cog. The seconds slipped by. She knew she had run out of time. She let the piston go and withdrew her hands.

“Did you fix it?” Mark asked. His chest heaved as he gasped and fought off mounting panic. “Why’s it still attached?”

Kaylin could not look him in the eye. “I can’t do it,” she said. She flexed her fingers. “This arm… the fingers don’t work like my old ones.” She stood up.

“Kaylin.” Mark reached down and grabbed the pincers. He tried to pry them loose. “Kaylin please don’t leave me.”

“I’m sorry.” She stepped back. “I have to go.”

“Don’t leave me!” he yelled. “Don’t leave, you hear me?”

She turned and ran.

“Kaylin!”

She did not stop. She made it out of the clearing, deep into the forest. The spider detonated with a clang that reverberated through the air. She raised her arms instinctively, though nothing could harm her at this distance. Mark’s screams ceased.

For a while, she fought the urge to scream. Things always happened too fast since the war started. One minute, everything was fine. The next, everything was blown up or mechanized. Both sides had a way of ruining things.

Her stomach growled and she did scream. Why didn’t the gearheads just replace her stomach? Or her heart? Maybe they should have bolted her brain, too. She raised her hands to rub her face, but jumped when the cold metal of her right hand came into contact. The metal was always there, always reminding her. She had contemplated chopping it off, had contemplated worse. She was a coward, though. She wanted to see this war out, and in that moment her stomach ached with hunger pains.

Kaylin looked back toward the clearing and set out for it. When she returned, she dared not walk on the bare soil. She kept her eyes on the ground and cut a wide path to the back where the berries remained. As carefully as she could, she reached out and plucked one of the berries from the bush with her mechanical hand. She held the food in the sunlight and examined it close. Red glinted off the berry’s skin. She ate it anyways.

Let’s Talk About Clean Prose!

Well, I really do suck at updating a blog regularly. Let’s ignore that and get right to the point, the pen’s point if you will.

Some of you may have heard that the Golden Crown Literary Society is meeting up this weekend for their annual conference. This conference hosts the Golden Crown Literary award ceremony, a pretty big deal in lesbian fiction.

I try to read most of the books that win a Goldie, though I have some catching up to do. Currently, I am slogging through The Dark Wife by Sarah Diemer, which won a Goldie in the Speculative Fiction category for 2012. About halfway through the story I set it down to check out some of the reviews on GoodReads (which I’m glad I did!) to see how others thought about it.

A lot of people had the same thing to say: I wanted to like this book, really! I think that mantra is the only thing powering me through this novel. I want to like it. Badly. Who wouldn’t want to? It’s a lesbian retelling of the story of Persephone and Hades, except without the freaky kidnapping. It’s gold! Or it should have been.

Before I continue any further, I want to say that Sarah Diemer is a good writer. The prose just fell flat for me in The Dark Wife, which made it all the more disappointing in light of its Goldie. Many of the repeated problems in the prose were minor, slap-of-the-wrist fixes that are often shot down by a writer’s extremely talented editor. Since Ms. Diemer self-published this story, I’m guessing she did not have a horde of editors to sound off ideas with. As a result, the story had some repetitive problems that many writers suffer from.

And before you start thinking that editors just rinse out the originality of a story and writers need to be free and fuck the system man its overrated you be free as a bird and do whatevah you want!, just stop. Stop right there. Because (finally) we’ve hit the point of this update.

When we write, we owe it to our readers to deliver a polished story that fully accomplishes what we wrote it to accomplish. Things like purple prose, excessive dialogue tags, too many commas, and awkward syntax get in the way of meeting that goal (unless your goal is to highlight those problems in writing).

Why do they get in the way? I’ll tell you.

One or two prose-oddities in a story are good. But what if that obtuse prose keeps popping up? What if the main character keeps having heavy, weepy, rageful, ecstatic FEELINGS on every single page? It would be like eating cake for every single meal. Eventually, you’re going to get sick of the cake.

And I eventually get sick of overly thought-out prose. I think one of my favorite things to hate on is using two verbs to describe one action. This is a nice touch when it’s an important action to highlight. It’s different, so it tells the reader, “Hey! Something interesting is happening. Wake up!”
But if every single person needs two actions to highlight one (ie, he barked a laugh, she skipped a hop, he bellowed a shout) it’s going to get exhausting. The same thing goes for adverbs: Slowly, carefully, lowered down from the ledge, Sammy walked herself down the path.

Do you see what I mean? This sentence highlights actions first, the person second, and the destination last. People consistently, pathologically arrange sentences with the person first, the action second, and any objects or destinations last. This sentence tells me that the actions are more important than the person. Used sparingly, tricks like this are useful. Used consistently, you can get some very unhappy readers.

This kind of prose distracts people by nature. It forces the reader’s brain to decipher something, and not in a this-makes-me-think-about-deeper-issues-that-resonate-with-our-chaotic-and-dissonant-world sort of way. The reader gets pulled out of the story. If that is your goal, then congratulations, get to it.

But there are stories out there that use this prose. They use it without meaning to give their readers mental whiplash. This prose highlights the author and their pen strokes, not the characters and their world. But the story is about the characters and their world, okay?

Here’s the problem. The prose keeps the reader from getting what you (dear writer) want them to get out of the story. It’s something we all struggle with, myself included. It’s also something we can fix if we just paid attention to our own damn sentences.

I think that’s the advisory for today. Pay attention to your sentences. Never just write something and call it good. Re-read it, first! Hell, I even proof-read this blog before I posted it. And I found messy sentences. Good job, me. You get a gold star.

So readers, did you enjoy anything in this post? Let me know! I want to hear your thoughts on writing creatively and effectively. Leave a comment, please.