Back in February, I wrote my short story, The Red Barn, in a day and a half. It took one day to edit. The day after that I sent it in to Musa Publishing; they sent me an offer of publication after just one week. I was thrilled, to put it mildly J I’d been waiting for that moment since I was six years old! I had a smile on my face for week straight, not even the stress of my relationship with my alcoholic boyfriend could wipe it off my face.
Sara is one of those writers who thinks so far outside the box, the box ceases to exist. She takes an ordinary idea and twists and turns and warps it into something new and different, yet still recognizable. She is crazy, fun, and funky. And her steampunk novella The 19 Dragons is awesome, y’all!
Thanks for letting me stop by for a guest blog, Ana!
Part of the reason that Ana and I became acquainted was a similar love for demons. We were in the same writers’ group for a couple years, and I attribute a lot of my development as a writer from that time to her hepful criticism. Our books were kind of like “brothers from separate mothers”– both urban fantasy with strong female protagonists, with the special distinction of featuring demons. (Of course, my heroine kills demons, whereas Ana’s is a demon herself.)
Why demons? Why not vampires, or werewolves, or any of the other popular beasties that populate urban fantasy right now?
The fact of the matter is that even though the good ol’ vamps vs. weres is fun, we’ve built a lot of expectations around what these stories should be. We expect vampires to be sexy. To some degree, we expect them to be romantic. Werewolves are ruled by the moon, and while we can get away with them being more violent than vampires, we’re starting to expect them to be romantic heroes, too. The popularity of these creatures has made them stale.
Fortunately, we have demons surging in popularity now, too, and that’s partially a backlash against the popularity of vampires. We want to enjoy the trappings of dark fantasy without blood-drinkers or sparkly what-have-yous once in awhile, too, and demons are even older than vampires. You could even consider them the granddaddies of vamps.
By creating three-dimensional vampire and demon characters, we’re casting this evil in a new light. We’re making it more human and relatable. At the same time, there’s a core at the center of demonic mythology that cannot be made human, because unlike vampires, demons have never been human. You can write them with pure darkness. The kind of darkness that made you hide under the covers as a child and shiver at the shadows.
Plus, there’s a lot of variety in demons. You can have them like they were in the Lesser Key of Solomon, where they usually showed up with chicken feet and goat heads and legions under their control, or you can make them sexy and seductive and indistinguishable from humans. And that’s not even touching on demons from all the cultures around the world! When writing, you can draw from Japanese oni, or the asuras of east Indian mythology, or the violent spirits of animistic societies. Vampries are certainly pervasive in mythology around the world, but even they have their limits. There are no limits with demons.
I love getting to write demons. In my books, they’re part of a fully developed society in Hell similar to feudalism, which is kind of a fun way to weave history through contemporary fantasy. I like getting to take advantage of their infinite varieties and insurmountable darkness. And having the ability to write in a sub-genre that doesn’t have expectations that my werewolves do is refreshing.
Even though demons are becoming more popular, I don’t think we’ll see the genre become saturated with them the way it has with vampires. They can stay fun and evil, just the way we like them, and have a good long shelf life in urban fantasy.
What do you think, readers? Are demons here to stay?
Six Moon Summer available now!
Jennifer is yet another awesome writer I met through the message board of She Who Shall Not Be Named. When the deletion and banning of those people who disagreed with parts of the book got too bad, we migrated over to a much more awesome message board where we could discuss and snark and disagree with each other to our hearts content without worrying about being banned or silenced.
Ana asked me if I would be willing to write a guest blog this month and I jumped on the chance, as long as it got published today, October 29th. Because I turn 30 today. So this guest blog is a birthday present to myself! I’m going to talk about writing for the sheer love of it. Not to be published, not for fame, but just for the fun of it.
I’ve been thinking up stories for as long as I can remember. My earliest stories were cracktastic fanfics that involved the A-Team. I was 5. I had no idea what cracktastic was. I had no idea what fanfic was. All I knew was that my brain was thinking up the most awesome story lines and I could spend hours with my eyes closed watching as they played out on the back of my eye lids. A few years later, the A-Team story lines were replaced with China Beach story lines. And then I saw Lost Boys for the first time. And really folks, it was all downhill from there.
I started writing my stories down. I discovered rather quickly that I didn’t enjoy writing about preexisting characters. I loved thinking about them, but not so much writing them. It hampered my budding creativity. *said with a hoity-toity voice* So I started letting my mind wander through these fictional worlds that others had already created. And I started finding original characters that existed. And I started writing cracktastic fiction in earnest. And continue to unto this day. Although now I create my own worlds as well.
I should note that I love editing other people’s work. I’ve done editing for quite a few friends, and I like to think I’m passably decent at it. When I try to edit my own work, I usually start out ok. And then after a chapter or two I get sucked in. And a few hours later I’m finishing reading the pages with a giant grin on my face, having made my brain happy because it got to hang out with its old friend, cracktastic story, for a little while. My story never really gets past the zero draft stage, but I’ve discovered that really doesn’t matter to me, since I only write for myself.
Do I ever want to get any of this fiction published? Aw hell no! My stories are really rather awful when compared to what’s in print these days. Completely implausible storylines. Mary Sues/Gary Stus out the wazoo. Gratuitous sex and violence. But I love writing them. And that’s what matters to me. I don’t write to be famous. I don’t write to make money. I write because I have a story in my brain struggling to get out, and even if no one else ever reads it, putting it on paper lets it roam free in the world. And there is something ever so gratifying about writing a cracktastic story, walking away from it for a few months, and then going back and reliving every thought that went into it. Even the really embarrassing ones.
I know I’m not the only one who writes purely for the pleasure of making my brain happy. And I think it’s important to recognize and remember that it’s ok to write solely for yourself and no one else. So if you enjoy writing for the fun of it and you don’t want to make it big, go right on a head and keep at it. Do it because you love doing it. And don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong!
Now, please join me in wishing Jennifer a very warm and wonderful HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!
I seem to have met a lot of great writers on the message board of the Author Who Shall Not be Named. Erin is another one I met there. Erin has written a VERY interesting Fae/Vampire novel and she’s also a lovely poet.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that one has a muse. No, I’m not funny in the head. I know it’s actually my subconscious, but personifying her (yes, she’s female) helps me handle her. Especially when she’s being difficult.
It’s funny. I’ll sit here at my desk staring into space, trying to come up with something that passes for good in my eyes (and I am very hard on myself), and my muse will be quiet. No whispers, no movement, nothing. I’ll poke at her a few times to see if she’s awake (maybe she’s dead?) and she’ll just…be…gone.
But when I’m not at my desk and ready for ideas? Oh boy. I think she takes a perverse pleasure in watching me flail.
Today at work I was copying down addresses and phone numbers. The most tedious work ever. So I’m doing my thing, and my muse finally decides to grace me with her presence (should I do a curtsy?). She’s like, “hey, we need to do this and this and this with this project” and she starts shooting me scene ideas, complete with dialogue and emotions. What, can’t I just take dictation? No? Suffice to say I had to try to commit everything to memory and hope for the best. Crazy fucking muse.
So later on I’m washing my hands and she perks up. “Hey, you know, we should do something with this unfinished Nano thing from 2009.” Again with the details, scenes, and dialogue. I’m rolling my eyes because that’s not even on the schedule — for this year or next. Crazy fucking muse.
Once, she held an intervention because I was having a bout of writer’s block and wasn’t writing. She gathered my characters and they all made their grievances known. Did I mention that I was at work at the time? I was alone which was good, but geez. Wait till I’m home!
But, needless to say, it broke my block.
Speaking of writer’s block, my muse is funny that way. She’s pretty much ready to go all the time (except when she’s sleeping or sulking) but occasionally, she gets lost. She’s sending me ideas and all kinds of good stuff, but when I sit down to write, it’s all gone. Hit and run. Hit me with it and fucking disappear. Ooh, I wish I could strangle her when she does that.
The Greek word for muse is mousai (I know this because that unfinished Nano thing from 2009 was a story about a muse, and I needed something interesting to call her besides “muse.” This has been your useless factoid of the day). I find that so interesting because it reminds me of mouse. There’s no way those are connected; the connection is strictly mine (the Greek word for mouse, if you’re interested, is poondiki (and no, that’s not the correct spelling. It’s phonetic. I have a Greek co-worker). But think of this. Mice are devious little things, aren’t they? And we’ve got the expression “quiet as a church mouse.” But sometimes they can scratch walls and make noise and generally be annoying. They also can hide — especially when one is trying to get rid of them. (I had a mouse in my office once. No one at work believed me. They said I was imagining things. Please note that I’m not at all scared of mice and do not get hysterical like some people do. I was very calm and cool when I mentioned it. A few hours later, after waiting for it to show up again, I spotted it strutting around the kitchen and told my co-workers. They finally believed me). Well, doesn’t this kind of describe muses? Or, my muse? You bet it does.
We have an interesting relationship, my muse and I. She can be wonderful, my best friend and my true inspiration. But she can also be my greatest enemy because she wants to write everything. If she had her way, I’d be working on at least 3 projects at the same time and that makes me nervous. I can do it, just not very efficiently. That’s the problem. I need to focus on one thing only. That way, I’m making the most use out of my time. Because I work and have a husband, I have limited time. So every minute has to count.
Now, she can be brilliant for plot twists, character flaws, revelations, and mixing things up. My current work-in-progress hit me a few weeks ago, with everything just there, from the world to the characters to the plot. To be honest, the plot was actually from my NanoWriMo novel from 2003 that I’ve been meaning to rework. She hit me with this like a hammer to the head and I spent about 3 days daydreaming, brainstorming, making notes as fast as I could, and figuring out scenes and situations. The ending eludes me, but that’s not a problem. By the time I get there, I’ll know what it is. That’s another thing — she loves to play when I’m rough drafting it. She believes that the blank screen is there for her benefit. She frolics around, sprinkling faerie dust and plots. Then she’s off in a different direction, shaping things to her whim. And then she overwrites and veers off several times. After all that, she throws in pointless meandering and a few red herrings and calls it a day. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here with a mega-manuscript in the bag and a migraine just trying to put the pieces back together. She pulled that with one book — it weighed in at 399k. The other big one is currently in 12 pieces and although I love the story, I have no clue how I’m going to make sense of the chaos she inflicted on me (but, to her credit, I did finish the draft, so I guess I can’t complain. Much).
But you know what? Most of that craziness brings me joy. I know it sounds nuts, but she’s a lot of fun, even when she’s shaking things up and creating mayhem. She’s actually pretty brilliant. I just wish she’d get more organized. But hey, no one’s perfect, right?
At the end of the day, I know this: I’m far better with her than without her. Even if “she” is just a collection of gray matter. She’s real to me. Even when she sucks.
October Weeks is a fellow urban fantasy writer. Her writing is as dark, creepy, and fun as the month she’s named after. Check out this little snippet from her current work-in-progress.
She squirmed on the floor, trying to get closer. Hideous, wet sounds coming from her torn throat. Her lower jaw was gone. The left half of her face was gone as well, nothing but sickly strings and rotting flesh. No eye.
It took just one day for this to happen…
Clothes had been ripped and torn from her body when her brother had gone for the real food. There were several chunks of flesh missing; it looked as if Jaron had gone for the meat of his sister, right up and down each side of her torso and thighs.
It took me several minutes to realize that her breasts had been eaten as well. She had been well-endowed, now there was nothing at her chest except a small amount of rotting fatty tissue and the skin of one side of her left breast. And that piece of skin, though it was rotting, had obviously been licked clean.
And that, my friends, is what the seventeen year old heroine of my YA Horror novel- my current WIP- has to face in her line of work. See, she’s a zombie slayer, trained by her uncle. She has sworn to help protect the town she lives in from the walking dead. And this is twenty years after the Zombie Apocalypse started to cool down, where humans have a fairly normal routine…albeit a completely different type of normal.
I never expected to write a YA, let alone one about zombies- mainly because I have a love/hate relationship with the walking dead. I love them, but they are the only horror creature that has ever given me nightmares- they still do. I cannot watch anything with zombies in it- save Scooby Doo- without having bad dreams for days afterward. Not even Disney movies wash them out. It just makes for a really messed up bad dream
Seriously. I once made the bad decision to watch Resident Evil while I was sick and had just taken Nyquil. I dreamed in animation- the Disney kind of animation. There were zombie pumpkins, killer vines, headless horsemen, and a psychotic vampire elf.
I should write a story about that one…
Anyhoo this fear of the walking dead doesn’t stop me from watching zombie movies or television (The Walking Dead season two is now on!!!), or reading a good zombie book. As a matter of fact, I think it all makes writing zombies easier for me because my fear is right there in my face. That translates to my heroine fighting without fear while I fear every second of what will happen if she loses- which makes for good action scenes! And I pray that all the dark and gory and vivid details in this zombie world will make those unafraid of the walking dead, afraid
As a writer, I want my readers to feel what my characters are feeling, see what they’re seeing, touch what they’re touching. Even if that means they’re touching a rotting corpse…or killing one. If I scare a reader into nightmares, that’ll make me very happy. As a matter of fact, I’m looking forward to that day. For now, I’ll be content scaring myself as I write about my character and her world. I’d say it was therapeutic but it’s not *shrug* I just keep giving myself bad dreams.
But I’ll tell you this- I have several survival plans for the coming Zombie Apocalypse. One must be flexible. After all, you never know what type of walking dead is in our future ;)
What about all of you? Do you have a zombie survival plan? What monster still scares you?
…But sometimes you can’t write on it either.
How do you introduce a fluffy purple donkey who writes some of the most cracktastic smut around? It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I met Eey on a certain author’s message board board many years ago. When that started imploding from Teh Crazies, I followed her to LiveJournal where she and several other introduced me to slashfiction. It was love at first read. Pretty boys doing smutty things to each other! *sigh*
Go check out her InsaneJournal (because she’s become too crazy for LiveJournal :-p) and read some of her luscious fics.
Ana approached me to guest blog as a writer of fanfiction, and while I was (and am!) happy to do so, I can already hear the hisses and screams now. And they’re not all coming from the BDSM corner of fandom.
I can’t personally tell you what fandom is about. It’s too wide-spread, it covers too many areas of life, and quite honestly it’s pure crazy. I’ll admit it. We writers of fanfiction, creators of fanart, and downloaders of fanmixes are a completely committed bunch. We have to be, don’t we?
We’re the people who read a book/go to a movie/view a piece of art and can’t let it go. We hear music on the radio and can only hear the songs as they pertain to our favorite characters. We see a picture of two people kissing and, in our minds, they are a fictional couple acting out a love scene we’ve read.
So why do we do it? Because we’re invested. We’re intelligent, free-thinking individuals for whom the words “The End” have no meaning. There is no end as long as there is fandom. For anything. Pride and Prejudice is still going strong nearly two hundred years after it was first published. Don’t believe me? Google it.
Why does fanfiction exist? In short, it exists because people like me can’t stop thinking about what people like Ana write. We can’t let go of those worlds. We love the characters and celebrate with them when they’ve won. We grieve when they lose. We go into mourning when they die.
And then we bring them back to life.
So how does one write fanfiction? Well, we write in much the same way that anyone else does, I imagine. We sit down to a blank computer screen, watch the cursor blink for a few—or fifteen—minutes, decide we need a drink/sandwich/walk around the park, and come back to continue the staring contest with our blank page. Eventually a word or phrase will crawl through our brains, and we’ll write it down. Finally, the story unfolds.
And then, if we’re at all worthy, we find someone to beta—or edit—our stories. For the most part, people who write fanfiction are rabid about things like characterization and canon (everything that is true for the original model, be it book or movie or television show). So we find someone who knows the world we’re writing in, give them our stories and tell them to rip them to shreds. At which point they’ll likely send our stories back with red marks all over them and notes like, “Elizabeth Bennet’s eyes are described in canon as ‘dark.’ In which universe is light blue a ‘dark’ color?”
The writing part is easy. After all, someone else has done the hard work of world-building and character development for us. Did you expect me to deny it? I absolutely won’t. I would not exist as a writer of fanfiction if it weren’t for the gorgeous brains of those who created the sandboxes I play in. I cherish each and every one of them because they have provided me with a necessary outlet.
Fanfiction exists in all forms. From entire on-line communities built around the concept of stories told in exactly 100 words (drabbles) to epic masterpieces comprising hundreds of chapters with multiple sequels.
All it takes is one idea. One “what if.” What if Elizabeth had not gone to visit Mr Darcy? What if she’d stayed home? What if she’d accepted Mr Collins’ proposal?
That’s where authors of fanfiction step in. We take one idea (or several) and develop them into a story. We use the characters we love, the worlds we’ve spent so long in that we know exactly where to place different structures on a map. Even if the map is of a world so totally alien to Earth that up is down and down is sideways.
We use the sand from your sandboxes to build castles. Have we changed the sand? Of course not. Have we prevented others from playing with the sand? Nope. The sand is still the same sand it was when we climbed into the sandbox. It’s just taken on a different shape for a few minutes.
So don’t be threatened by fanfiction. It exists because someone loved something so much that they couldn’t stop thinking about it.
And now I’ve got to go write that Elizabeth/Mr Collins fic….
I’ve only known K.B. for a few months now. We share several mutual friends on LiveJournal who had apparently been meaning to introduce us for a long time, but never did. I ended up introducing myself to K.B. after
stalking perusing her journal for a bit. Boy am I ever glad I did that because she is everything I love my friends to be — crazy, opinionated, intelligent, funny, geeky. If you like all of those things as well, I suggest you do as I did and stalk her. She can usually be found haunting the halls of Black Ink, White Paper or LiveJournal.
I am a sick writer. I am a spiteful writer. I am an unattractive writer. I believe my liver is diseased.
*laughs* Okay, not really. (and my apologies to Fydor Dostoyevsky for stealing the opening of Notes from the Underground)
I am, however, a mean writer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my characters, but given half a chance I will destroy them. I will maim them, break them, kill their loved ones, burn down their houses, and run over their puppies. (Okay, I might be lying about the puppies.)
You’d think I write horror the number of times my characters get beaten up, shot, stabbed, killed, brought back to life, and killed again. I’ve broken bones, set characters on fire, and cut their throats. That’s all just the tip of the violence iceberg. Psychologically I’m even more sadistic. To date I’ve killed more than a handful of loved ones, made characters watch their significant other die, forced them to fall in love with their enemies, questioned their ethics, pushed their morals, and turned them into traitors.
It’s so much fun. *grins*
Before you call the authorities, I have a very good reason for this. See, I’m endlessly (some would say obsessively) fascinated with what happens to a person at rock bottom. Where do you turn when there’s nothing left for you? What do you believe in when all your faith is stripped away?
I’m less interested in the mundane, mid-level crises that people can face – lost jobs, break-ups, things like that don’t attract nearly as much interest from me as the endless plummet into a pit of despair.
The good news is that my characters recover (mostly) from their ordeals. It makes them stronger (usually) and gives them the tools they need to overcome whatever challenge happens to be in their way. They’re normally only slightly cracked and broken in the process, though I have progressed in a few cases to exploration of out-right insanity.
I said I was mean. I honestly can’t help it.
If you’re a reader, what’s the worse thing you’ve seen happen to a character? If you’re a writer, what’s the most awful thing you’ve done to your characters?
I have known Elizabeth for many years. Not only is she smart, funny, and a great friend, but she’s also a great writer and photographer. She can be found on LiveJournal or view her wonderful photographs at her Flickr account or her PhotoBlog.
I’ve always been a storyteller, since before I can remember. When I was little, I had three (count ‘em!) imaginary friends, and I would make up adventures for the four of us. I I would draw pictures of our adventures, and when I learned to write, I would make little books full of fabulous (or so I thought) stories. Being the eldest child (and one of the older kids in the neighborhood), I usually directed our group play. I was always Peter Pan (I grew up with Mary Martin as Peter, so that wasn’t too unusual), the ringmaster, the wicked witch; whichever role was the most prominent, or most dramatic.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve made up stories in my head when I went to bed. They’d be little movies, often playing out over several consecutive nights, and often with sequels and prequels to follow.
Even when I wasn’t actively writing fiction, I was always a storyteller. Writing Wiccan rituals, sharing stories around a campfire, even in my jobs in sales, I was weaving a narrative, telling a story, connecting with others through the power of words.
A few years ago, I got more serious about writing. I gathered up all the half-written stories I had stowed away in notebooks and on hard drives, and took a good hard look at what I had. A few themes stood out, but I was struggling to find a voice. When I finally figured out that I was writing the way I thought I was supposed to, instead of how I really wanted to, it was like a dam broke. I started writing to please myself instead of a mythical reader, and the words flowed much more easily.
My favorite form is flash fiction: a quick, short story, written all at once and in under half an hour. Something self-contained, a little vignette sparked by something I’d see or hear. I’m really at my best when I can get down even the bones of a story right when I have the idea. I’m not the kind of person who can sit at a keyboard for hours every day, working a story over and over. My attention span is just not that long!
A while back, though, I had a germ of an idea that threatened to become something more than just a short, self-contained little story. The original idea was sparked by a customer placing an ad for her condo (I work at a newspaper), and the main character sprung nearly fully-formed in my head. My first thought was to write a series of linked short stories, as more ideas for this character and her situation came to me.
I finally resigned myself to the fact that only a novel would do this story justice, and had to start nearly from scratch in order to weave all the elements together. That was really tough at first, but once I got started, it actually became easier than writing a series of separate stories. I had little notebooks with snippets and ideas and names. I sat down at my computer, ready to tell this character’s story. I knew what was going to happen, and when, and even where.
Something just wasn’t working, however. I wasn’t getting across this character’s voice and personality, which was so clear in my head. I decided that the problem was point-of-view: I had to tell this in first person in order to properly present my character’s little quirks. I really didn’t want to do this, but it seemed the only way. So I started all over again, nearly from scratch. Again.
I’m making progress on my story, and as long as I dedicate time to writing away from the internet and other distractions, I know I can finish it. The hard part isn’t writing, it’s staying focused. I have a lot of respect for writers who can sit and write every single day, for hours at a time. The key, I suppose, is to really want it. I will always have stories in me, and I must have discipline in order to keep telling them.