Genres and labels.

I’ve always had a problem describing my own work, it’s like trying to pin down mercury.   But after taking a long, hard look at Clearing of the Way, I decided that it is indeed paranormal romance.  I mean, it’s full of the paranormal, both main characters qualify as paranormal, and there’s definitely a romance involved.  That should make this easy, concrete.  Hi, my name is Melissa and my most recent series is a paranormal romance!

So I decided to take a look at the community that has sprung up around this genre, to look for guidance, to become familiar with a genre I’m new to.   I was pleasantly surprised that there is a huge, HUGE, paranormal romance community and that so far, it’s been a very kind and supportive group to be involved with.   That’s the good.  The bad?  Well, Clearing doesn’t seem to fit the template that they consider to be paranormal romance.  I feel like I did when I first fell into fan fiction… there’s a lexicon, there’s shorthand, and there are certain expectations tied up in the community.   Yes, both Nathalie and Gideon are paranormal.  But they’re not vampires, faeries, were critters, zombies, mages, witches, they’re people.  Imbued with power, but still pretty ordinary people.   While they’re both attractive, especially to each other, neither one of them is drop dead fantastic.  And most importantly, they lack the love-hate, gasping, grasping, fascination  that I admit that I find rather creepy now that I’ve reached adulthood.    They’re there for each other, they love each other, but they’ve always lacked the romance relationship angst… I figured end of the world zombie plague style was angst enough.

But I’ll keep up with the community because they’re a bunch of really nice people.  And I definitely recommend them to anyone who has a story that fits the template.


Back on track- “Way of the Blessed”

I’ve been doing well, managing to push fan fictions behind me to focus on what I really should be working on, Way of the Blessed.   I’ve produced twenty pages in the past two days, and it’s walking forward under its own power again.   It’s bad news for those who are waiting for the endings of those three fan fics, even worse knowing that at least two of them are just a chapter or two away from being completed, but I’m always much more secure in what I’m doing if I’m working on my own original works.

And for this one, it means research.  While I love to do it, I always feel like I’m just scratching the surface and somehow, somewhere, I’ve gotten something desperately wrong along the way.   I think that’s one of the reasons why I am so insecure with “The Harder Right”, although I did as exhaustive a research as I could, given my limitations, I still feel that there is something in it that would be glaringly wrong to someone who has been there before, I just can’t see it.

Thankfully, Way of the Blessed’s research right now is strictly map based,  (Thank you, Google Earth!) plotting the path between Nathalie’s main home in the Arkansas Ozarks and her destination…her parents’ home in northern Texas.  That part of Texas, I am familiar with and don’t feel the same doubt about writing as I do when I put Nat and Gideon in places I’m only passingly familiar with or have never been before in my life.  But it can’t really be helped, I just have to do the best I can and accept the fact that I will get something wrong along the way.   Science fiction and fantasy are so much easier for me, and I miss always being right with them, but at this point, Way of the Blessed is still very close to here and now and it’s something I just have to deal with.

But, all of that angst aside, it’s good to talk to Nathalie again.  It’s good to be writing my own stuff again (sorry, fan fiction fans!).   And it’s good to be truly writing again.    (Oh, and it is an absolutely beautiful, clear blue day here in the wilds of SW Wisconsin!   I know we’re due for another winter storm later this week, but again, I’ll take what I have right now.)

The creamy filling.

Something happened last night that really started me thinking about how far I’ve come on this journey.  I tend to be pretty hard on myself, I’ve been pursuing what I’ve known to be my calling for decades now, and it doesn’t seem like I’ve really gotten that much closer to making it a viable reality instead of a pipe dream.   But I’ve had a moment of insight, a chance to peer through the looking glass, and I see not how far I have still to go, but how far I’ve traveled.

My real problem with writing content that reaches out and grabs a reader has always been ‘the creamy filling’ of a story.  Dialogue comes easily, since I see the scene in my head, all I have to do is transcribe what the characters say, word for word, and it works every time.  The mechanics of where they are, what they’re doing, again come from that.   If I see a character picking something up, then I say that they pick it up.  But there’s more to a story than that, there’s internal dialogue, deep characterization, embroidering the little flaws, quirks and foibles of a character in an attempt to reach and touch reality with them.  When I first got deeply into my writing, I had a real issue with this.  Certainly, I thought, my readers really didn’t want to know such pointless, worthless minutiae about a person who doesn’t exist, right?   Wrong.   Meeting a well developed character is like falling in love, and just like you want to see, grasp, embrace and know every little secret about your new found soul mate, sharing some of these points with your characters helps a reader to fall in love with them as well.   There’s a part in Clearing of the Way where Nathalie remembers a quilt she made as a young teenager, which she fashioned out of washcloths instead of the precise cotton patches that her cousins had used.   Years ago, I would have seen the scene in my head, known that it had happened, but would have decided it was too pointless to actually add to a work in progress.      Who would want to know that?  Now I see that it is a valuable insight into how Nathalie’s mind works, and a way to show the reader that she’s always a little step off, even with the family she adores so much.

Now, it’s possible to overdo this and meticulously (ugh, word sounds like work, a real killjoy, doesn’t it?) describe every single thing… which was where I went in overreaction when I realized that my stories were lacking.   A creamy filling still requires a pastry to hold it in.   The search for the happy middle has been a journey, but it’s a journey I’ve taken quite a few steps in.

Spring Fever-These Dragon Haunted Days, Songs of the Unsung, Path of a Calling

Ah, yes, it’s late winter.  And it seems like every February and March in Wisconsin gives me the same restless lack of focus.

I’ve been playing the rejection dejection game with the short stories I’ve described earlier, and that brings its own issues.   I’m fairly used to the dreaded rejection letters by now, but sometimes the whole process still confuses me.  How can they reject a story merely six hours after I email it?  Is their staff that up on their slush piles that they’re waiting with bated breath for the next one to arrive?   Did they change their guidelines for content and/or length without updating their submission guidelines?  Are they full up, but again, didn’t update their sub guidelines?  I know that I’ll never know the answer, but the immediate rejections really make me wonder.   I’d rather wait the usual weeks and at least delude myself into thinking they had a chance.

Writing fanfiction…again.  (Or is that, still?)   Unfortunately, that lack of focus means I’m flitting from fanfic to fanfic like a sugar high hummingbird.  I’m currently writing three.  At the same time.  Yeah, I really don’t suggest it, but thankfully I believe that “These Dragon Haunted Days” only lacks a chapter or two before I stick a fork in it and call it done.

On a brighter note, I’ve become involved in a new writing group, and unlike the one I describe earlier in the blog, this one seems to be much more my style and more closely fits my needs.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s also much closer!  Maybe having some push and input will help me get back to Way of the Blessed and give it the swift kick in the pants it needs to get going again.

Where did you come from? (The epiphany machine at work again)

My mind is filled with a whole conglomeration of random ideas.   Occasionally, one of them spins off and starts to ferment in a back corner.   A couple of weeks ago, a tiny idea took hold.   Last night it unfolded into an entire story, leaping along from point to point until I had an entire concept.  Then this morning, I sat down with the idea of getting it started so that I would not lose the idea and the impetus.   That was at about 9 am.    It did the usual changes in mid-stride, and is not what I envisioned even as recently as last night.   And then it was done.   5k words and an entire story, in less than 24 hours.  I love it when it all comes together as seamlessly as that.   Unfortunately it is extremely rare, so today was a gift.

My new friend is Nicola.   I like her a lot.  The core of this new story was the thought of children being innately magical and losing that as they grow up.   Then it grew into a thought, what would a society be like if the vast majority of their children really were magical, but lost it as part of adolescence?    What would it be like to deal with a magical four year old on a rampage, but as an adult, you had no defenses against them?   What laws would come from that?   What societal adaptations?   Who would enforce them?  What happens when someone just doesn’t fit into this?

Well, hopefully I can find a home for this one because it certainly was a fun ride.


Backlog, and a little summer cleaning

Like most authors who have been at it for awhile, I have started many stories that I just never got around to finishing.   I’ve  been going through them recently, and have finished and sent off to various publications. Cockleburs has had a full blog post devoted to it, so I won’t go there today.  It is a new story, completed in good time.

In Mysterious Ways is another short story that revolves around one of my favorite characters from a roleplaying game, Roan Lattimer.  Roan is a rather long in the tooth woman who was spaceship wrecked on a low tech world, where she used her high tech knowledge to rise to a position of power in their Church so that she could protect her new home.  This particular story really feeds (in my humble opinion) on the blurry line between accepting a deity’s existence and work in a character’s life and the fact that often miracles can be explained away if an observer wishes to.    This one sat around in my documents folder for a few years, it dates from early 2009 as does the other one I just finished today….

Trade Relations began in 2009.  It began very strongly, and for the life of me I don’t remember what came along to distract me from it. It is the weird love child of a sci fi/fantasy/speculative writer who is also involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval recreation group)  Put them both together and you get a short story like this one.   I don’t want to even try to describe it, but I am very pleased I finally managed to get ‘er done, as they put it.

The Broker and the Fetch (the odd ghost story I referenced earlier) is also complete, and also springs from 2009.  Not sure what I was doing that year, I had three strong short stories that I let go dormant.

All four of them are completed as of today, however, and all four of them are out to various publications (What is up with horror markets only wanting tiny little stories?   I had to pass on several likely homes for The Broker and the Fetch because at 5857 words, it was considered to be too long.   They seem to really be buying only works that are under four thousand words… )

Cover art?

After spending 13 months in a weird sort of contract limbo, the publisher that wanted “Fall of the Old Guard” has suddenly popped back up into play, and their very first question is:  Do I have any ideas for cover art?

Er…  no, I must admit that I do not.   Sure, I see myself walking into a bookstore, going to the appropriate genre aisle, going to C and finding one of my books available there.  I see myself pulling it, shiny and new, from the shelf…but I don’t actually see it, except for the hint of foiled embossing on the cover for the title.    Maybe I’m just a bad author.  Maybe I don’t love my books enough.   Maybe my brain just doesn’t work that way, but none of them have ever tossed up a cover idea.    I think I’m just going to leave this one in their hands.

On another note, finished that quirky little ghost story I was working on (“The Broker and the Fetch”) and now I get to peruse to see if I can find it a suitable home.   My usual go to places are all science fiction, so I’ll have to go outside of my box to see where I send it to.

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