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  • Felt Tips Now In Print

    Felt Tips Cover

    That’s right folks, the Felt Tips Office-Supply Erotica anthology, featuring my short story What Is It, Suzie? along with stories by over 40 other amazing authors, is now available in print!

    Edited by the inimitable Tiffany Reisz, other of the Original Sinners novels, all proceeds from the sale of Felt Tips goes to charity, providing kids with much needed school supplies. So go ahead, let this unique and exciting volume grace your shelves (or nightstands) and remember: it’s for the children.



  • Writers, Writing, and Fetishizing the Process

    I am still–and continually–reading Page Fright, which means I have become more obsessed with the process of writing than usual. It also makes me think of how both writers and non-writers fetishize the process, giving birth to the idea that ‘real writers’ write longhand, or only use typewriters; that ‘real writers’ must have certain conditions met–perfect silence, a particular type of paper, a certain brand of pen or colour of ink. It can lead many budding or potential writers to believe that unless they also adhere to these ideas, they cannot possibly write and will never be ‘real’ writers.

    Yet this fetishizing of the process comes with a grain of truth.

    I’m leery of the idea that a ‘real’ writer must do anything but write, but I also recognize that I have my own process that I find difficult to deviate from. When I write by hand, I could use a ballpoint pen if that’s all that’s available, but I vastly prefer my Sharpie pens because I like felt tip pens and Sharpie has everything I want in a felt tip. I can write in a typical word processor–OpenOffice, say–but I’m only truly comfortable with a Scrivener project where everything is set just so.

    I have my preferred formatting (Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing when drafting; Andalus, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing, printed with a 2″ right margin for editing and rewriting) and my preferred setting (on the bus or train; in a coffee or tea shop, or in a diner; at the front desk at the motel where I work; and always within speaking, texting, or tweeting distance of fellow writers). My Moleskine notebook–where all manner of notes both writerly and practical are written–must be black, and so must the Sharpie pen I write in it with. I edit in green Sharpie pen, and my critique partners get their critiques written in purple and orange Sharpie pen, respectively.

    I have these rituals which surround my writing, but they have all developed as the result of squeezing the most writing time possible out of a very busy schedule. I write longhand at work because it is more practical and edit longhand because it gives me a fresh look at my work; I write and rewrite in Scrivener because the labels and folders help me keep track of where I am in my writing or revisions. I save and compile redundant copies all over the place because I don’t ever want to lose the work I’ve done. Everything I’ve incorporated into my writing process is there for a purpose.

    And that is the most important consideration for any part of the writing process. Writers write; how we accomplish that must be there to help us continue writing, not tie us to conditions we won’t always have the luxury of meeting. So whether you write longhand or exclusively with a computer, and whether you use fountain, felt tip, or ballpoint pens, find a process that works for you and keep on writing.

     

    Do you want to read an erotic short story by yours truly and stories by 43 others while supporting a worthy charity? Of course you do! Get the Felt Tips: Office-Supply Erotica anthology by Tiffany Reisz today! EBooks available at AmazonSmashwords, and Barnes & Nobel



  • Fear Of Writing

    Writer: n. Someone living in a constant state of wtf by choice. ~Eric Andrew Satchwill

    Lately, I’ve been reading Page Fright: Foibles and Fetishes of Famous Writers by Harry Bruce. At one point, he quotes a number of authors talking about the abject terror they feel when they sit down to write, and it got me thinking about my own attitude towards writing.

    I don’t approach writing with fear so much as complete and utter bewilderment. I’m far too stubborn to not be writing, and compared with the fear involved in shifting one’s identity as I have, the fear of a blank page is laughable. Even so, when I stop and think about what it is I’m doing as I writer, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the sheer audacity of it.

    You see, I’m not just putting down words, I’m creating worlds. I’m picking up human failings and fleshing them out into living, breathing people, and I’m putting them in some of the most absurd situations I can imagine. I take these situations and play them out to their logical conclusions until I suddenly find myself to be the custodian of several worlds, numerous diverse people, and the engineer of no less than three wars between them.

    And I had thought that all I would be doing was following one character through an ordinary day in his life.

    It’s not only the large scale, ‘I wasn’t planning on starting another war but apparently I am’ realizations that so thoroughly bemuse me while writing, it’s the details. It’s realizing that while the situation makes perfect sense based on the chain of events and the worldbuilding, the fact that I have a gay daemon and his lesbian slave trying to find a misplaced closet is completely and utterly ridiculous. It’s these sorts of things that make me stop, blink for several seconds, then burst out laughing. I can’t quite explain how it happened, but it did, and it works.

    And you know what? I love every absurd, bewildering, and downright ridiculous moment of it. I love knowing that I am tackling something that no sane person would try and that without me, none of these situations could play out quite the way they have. This is who I am. This is my calling.

    Whether I chose this vocation or it chose me, I am a writer and I am not afraid.

     

    Do you want to read an erotic short story by yours truly and stories by 43 others while supporting a worthy charity? Of course you do! Get the Felt Tips: Office-Supply Erotica anthology by Tiffany Reisz today! EBooks available at Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Nobel



  • Writing for Fun and Frustration

    or

    Why Am I Wrestling An Octopus Into A Mayonnaise Jar Again?

    “Writing a novel… is like wrestling an octopus into a mayonnaise jar.” –Attributed to Patti Hill.

    I think this quote describes the writing process perfectly (thank you @BA_Matthews for bringing it to my attention). It’s not impossible to wrestle an octopus into a mayonnaise jar. They’re squishy and can squeeze into small places easily. But they’re also slippery and will wriggle out of your grasp, especially if they’ve decided they don’t want to be in mayonnaise jars, thank you very  much. And we invariably come to a point where we wonder why we decided to try wrestling octopuses into mayonnaise jars in the first place (but are too stubborn to give up because now that we’ve started we’re going to damn well finish the job).

    I’m not sure what possesses us to write. I can’t quite say why, after two years, I’m still beating my manuscript into submission, but I am. What I do know is that I couldn’t stop if I tried. I can’t imagine not having half-edited chapters strewn across the house, not tapping furiously away on my computer, and not yelling at my characters for refusing to reveal some all-important element until part way through the third draft. I can’t imagine not living in this constant state of joyful exasperation.

    And perhaps that’s the point. The joyful exasperation. All the frustrations, hair-pulling, and setbacks come with visible progress, excitement, and growth as we learn our craft and our art. For us, the process of writing is at least as important as the finished product. We complain, we moan, we gnash our teeth… and we love every minute of it. In the end, when our octopus is firmly in its jar and sitting on the shelf, we’ll look at it and remember what an insane, wonderful time we had putting it there.

    That, is why we write.



  • And Now For Something Completely Different

    We all have our writing routines. Some are more strict than others, some involve a particular setting or music, and some include what we’re reading when we’re not working. Sometimes we need these routines–and sometimes we need to abandon them for something completely different.

    My routine typically involves listening to no music whatsoever while working, and reading a similar genre to my own during leisure times to keep in the proper mindset. Recently, however, I hit a bit of a snag. The novel I’m up to the eyeballs editing and rewriting, Fallen Things, is urban fantasy (though I wonder sometimes if it isn’t more contemporary fantasy), so I’ve been reading a lot of urban fantasy. A good idea usually, but it wasn’t working this time.

    Whenever I sat down to work, I was annoyed with what I was writing. Whenever I went to relax with a book, I was annoyed with what I was reading. Whatever I was doing, I was annoyed, and I realized that I just wasn’t getting a break from anything, which wasn’t helpful. Something needed to change.

    A couple of things happened at once here: the first was that I was looking for some music that related to the character I was working on. While I usually find listening to music while writing distracting, I relate certain songs to certain characters and listen to those when I’m doing other things. This one, however, was being tricky. Nothing seemed to fit–until I abandoned the lyric-filled pop and rock music for Beethoven. It fit him so perfectly, and since I wasn’t trying to sing along with it, I could listen to it while I worked.

    The second thing was finding a selection of classic literature on sale three for ten dollars. Having two versions of the song Wuthering Heights, (Kate Bush and Pat Benatar), I thought I ought to actually read the book sometime. This was a complete departure from what I had been reading, and I loved it. For the first time in a while, it actually felt like I was giving my brain a break from the work I’d given it. I didn’t have to compare things like style and point of view because they weren’t  meant to follow the same guidelines.

    I still spend a good deal of editing time glaring at the screen. That’s a natural part of the process. But the task doesn’t seem so impossible any more, and my leisure time, filled with Emily Brontë and Beethoven, actually feels like leisure time again. I can actually relax.

    Sometimes our writing routines help us to be more productive, but sometimes we need to know when to put aside old practices and shake things up a bit. Sometimes we need something completely different.



  • Why I Love My Local Independent Bookstore

    Walking into this bookstore is a different experience than walking into pretty much any other bookstore for one very good reason: it isn’t any other bookstore. It isn’t just another of a large chain of stores striving to make every shopping experience absolutely identical. This bookstore has an identity.

    I’m talking specifically about Shelf Life Books in Calgary, but I’m sure a lot of this applies to whatever independent bookstores exist in your community.

    To understand what Shelf Life Books is, let’s first see what it’s not. When I walk into a big chain bookstore like, oh say, Chapters, I usually need to know what I’m looking for specifically. It’s not really set up for browsing, confronting me instead with shelves packed with dozens of copies of the current best sellers. It feels more like going to a grocery store than a bookstore, and I tend to treat it the same way. I go to a specific aisle for a specific item. I can be assured to find the latest from any of the major publishers, but the chances of discovering something new and relatively unheard of is unlikely.

    Here, I have to browse. Even if the store is laid out into genres—I can’t imagine a book store that isn’t—the displays and the books themselves compel me to slow down, walk around, and really look at what’s there. For the first time in my life I’m deliberately looking beyond the fantasy section for something different. I’m looking—shock and horror—at non-fiction, finding books about things that interest me and things I didn’t even know interested me. Picking up The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Bable by Nicholas Ostler was hardly a surprise seeing as how I love language, but Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber was something I never expected to get into but did. Today it was the ninetieth issue of The Believer and Light Em Up, a book of microfictions that fits in a matchbook. Some of these things I wouldn’t be able to find at a Chapters, and the rest I wouldn’t even think to look for.

    Shelf Life Books encourages me to linger a while. I can sit at a table and write, just as I am now, which is something I haven’t been able to do easily at a Chapters (I’ve tried. The tables at the mandatory Starbucks are tiny and noisy.) The atmosphere here is an escape and not just another mad-dash stop at the mall on the way to the movie theatre.

    Another thing that bears mentioning is that a local, independent bookstore is, well, local. There’s a section for local authors—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry—and works from local artists on display. The red chair on the wall behind me is by a local painter by the name of Veronica Funk, who also has paintings on display at Café Koi on 1st Street.

    I never know exactly what I’m going to get when I walk into Shelf Life Books, and that’s the beauty of it. What I do know is that I’ll find something new and interesting to discover, and is there any better reason to love a bookstore than that?



  • There’s No Such Thing as a Minor Change

    As you can probably guess, I’m deep in the middle of the editing process on my novel. I’ve been through the whole story at least once–some parts many, many more times than that–and now I’m making all those minor adjustments needed for the story to flow and make sense.

    Except that there are no minor adjustments. Not really.

    One of my characters originally had a cat. After some deliberation, I realized that the cat was a ‘darling’, something lovely and oh-so-precious but ultimately a detriment to the story, and had to be ‘killed’. Of course, since I had performed incredible contortionist feats to accommodate the stupid cat in the first place, I now find myself having to delete any mention of it in the first quarter of the book, at least. This means rearranging dialogue, description, action… the beast had gotten his paws into all sorts of things.

    In another instance, I realized that I should maybe introduce a particular minor character who plays a major role sometime before his appearance in the final act. It should be easy enough to just have him passing through a particular scene early on, right? Wrong. The fact that he’s even there in that early scene reverberates through the rest of the novel, affecting how many other scenes play out. Some of it will be in the background where the reader won’t necessarily see it, but some of it happens right out there on the page. Let’s face it, I can’t really introduce a character as occupying a particular setting and then ignore his presence whenever it becomes inconvenient.

    Every time I make a tiny change, it seems to snowball, affecting something two, three, twenty scenes down the line. Sometimes it means having to make notes later (or sometimes earlier) in the draft to make sure I account for that change where it matters. It can become a lot of work, especially since it’s never just one minor change. But you know what? All that work? It’s worth it. One of the amazing things about making these changes is seeing how much better my story is becoming.

    Because just as one minor change leads to a string of other changes, it can also snap a string of events into focus. Suddenly, one character’s behaviour makes a lot more sense, and another’s motivation becomes clearer. Everything becomes tighter, everything becomes richer, and everything hangs in a better balance. And the best part? Through all these changes, I’m still discovering new things about my characters as they do things I hadn’t anticipated, things that say so much more about about their personalities than what was there before.

    If you happen to be in the same boat as I am with your writing process, don’t worry. All that hard work and all those ‘minor’ adjustments are worth it in the end, bringing your story to a stronger, more cohesive place.



  • A Good Writing Group Is A Great Thing To Have

    As writers, we tend to be solitary creatures. It’s the nature of our work. Sitting in the dark pounding away at a keyboard for hours upon hours doesn’t really lend itself to rich and varied social life. Add the fact that most ‘normal’ people don’t want to hear how our characters hijacked our story yet again, and it looks like we’re doomed to be hermits, doesn’t it? So we can’t be allowed around the general public. But what about… other writers?

    Other writers? They get us. We can vent about our character troubles or share an exciting yet disturbing epiphany about our plot and rather than backing away slowly, a fellow writer will say, “I know, right?” Suddenly, we are not alone. Gather one or two more, and we become a writing group. And a writing group is something we want to be a part of for many reasons:

    A Writing Group Provides Support

    Having a writing group means having people we can go to when we’re stuck or frustrated or feel like giving up. These are the people who can offer workable suggestions for our stories, and even if we don’t use those suggestions, they get us thinking about why giving the MC a pet alligator isn’t going to work which can lead us to an idea that will. They remind us why we wanted to write in the first place even as they commiserate with us. They encourage us as we battle through word count and edits, and they celebrate with us when our hard work pays off. And we do the same thing for them.

    A Writing Group Pushes Us To Improve

    A good writing group is never satisfied with simply writing; a good writing group wants us to write better. This includes critiques and writing challenges, sharing resources we’ve found, and coming up with new ways to work on our craft together. A writing group gives us structure, which as much as we hate to admit it, is something we all need. One day we look up and realize that we’re sitting with a group of friends, analysing something we half-killed ourselves to write, and that we’re doing this voluntarily. That is when we know we’re in a good group.

    A Writing Group Forces Us To Finish What We Started

    In order to discuss each others work, we have to have something written to discuss. A good writing group won’t let us off the hook with a half-finished story; they will make us finish it even if it means shunning us over dinner while we pound out the penultimate battle and final confrontation. And when we finally submit our masterpiece, they will still give us brutally honest feedback, because that’s what friends are for.

    A Writing Group Is An Idea Factory

    Put writers in a room together, and we will feed off each other’s insanity. Our conversations are wild, and often wildly inappropriate (just ask any server who’s waited a table of writers.) The littlest thing will spark an idea. A joke becomes canon, a ‘what if’ becomes a story, a ‘we should’ becomes a reality. A critique group spawns short story challenges, and a short story spawns a forum where our multitudes of characters can interact, just to see how someone from one person’s universe interacts with someone from another’s.

    We make each other work hard, but we also play hard, having so much fun that it’s hard to tell where the ‘work’ left off and the ‘play’ began. We leave each other energized and ready to dive back into the editing we’ve been struggling with or start that story we’ve been meaning to get around to. A good writing group helps us do what we love, and helps us feel less alone while we do it.

    And now for an announcement!

    FELT TIPS – The World’s Greatest Charity Anthology of Office-Supply-Related Erotica is coming out December 12, 2012. It includes What Is It, Suzie? by yours truly, as well as many other exciting stories by authors I am proud to be featured along side of. Check out the ‘Coming Soon!‘ tab above for more information and updates.



  • Blackbirds Devoured My Thursday

    There’s a peculiar thing that happens when I start reading something written by Chuck Wendig… I lose time. An afternoon. A whole day. The latest culprit? Blackbirds.

    Now, it’s entirely possible that I felt more invested in this book than many of the others I’ve picked up off the shelves. In some second-hand way, I feel that through Twitter posts and blog updates, I’ve been along for the journey as this book went from manuscript to published product. Wendig was one of the first folks out there that made me realize that writers are people and that as a fellow person, I have a chance at this thing. Even so, I had this weird preconception that internet people exist only on the internet… maybe if I started putting money in my PayPal and waited the 6-8 business days for it to go through I’d be able to procure a copy, but it seemed like so much effort and waiting and blah.

    But then I was at a Chapters and thought, “Hey, just for kicks, I’ll look up Chuck Wendig in the database and see if they have anything.” And lo and behold, there it was: three copies of Blackbirds right there in the store.

    It was like someone had blown a great big hole in my reality and rainbows shot out of it.

    Needless to say, I bought the book. And then I read it. And when I looked up, I discovered that my Thursday had disappeared, and I didn’t care. It was that good.

    Let me tell you right now, it’s messed up. It’s sick and twisted, and I loved every profanity-soaked minute of it. It’s like Gaiman’s American Gods stripped down and filtered through piss, cheap booze, and highway gravel. And death. A lot of death. It’s raw, dark, and it made me laugh for all the wrong reasons. It’s about fate and yet, however much I heard about the process of writing it, it kept me guessing–hoping and fearing–right up until the end. And honestly, I don’t know how he pulled off those interludes/flashbacks and ‘current time’ all in present tense, but he did.

    He also got me invested in the characters. In Miriam. In Louis. In Harriet even, though I’m a little afraid of what that says about me. I felt for Frankie. I was fascinated by Ingersoll. I swore out loud at Ashley. I really, truly cared what happened to these people–and if I say any more about that, I might spoil it, so I won’t.

    The point is, Blackbirds is well worth losing a Thursday to. It’s well worth buying–online, ink, digital, at your local bookstore, I don’t care. It’s worth it.



  • Self-Directed Writing Course

    In a bit of a continuation of my previous post on planning after the fact, I thought I’d share with you one of the things I’m doing to help myself figure out what I’m doing with Fallen Things.

    It started as a spur-of-the-moment suggestion from my critique group to help me with identifying and writing description: going through a favourite book and highlighting instances of description. I’ve decided to take it a bit further by also marking whose POV a scene is from so I can identify POV balance, another place I’ve had a few… issues. In that spirit, I bought a fresh copy of Lynn Flewelling’s Stalking Darkness. I chose this book for three reasons: 1) There’s description. There must be, because I can picture characters and settings clearly and consistently whenever I think of them. 2) The story is told through multiple POV, and yet it’s clear who the main characters are. 3) Even if it is the second book in the series, I’ve read them all so many times that I nearly have them memorized, and can therefore focus on the mechanics of the writing.

    Now before you worry too much, this is not an exercise in plagiarism. Fallen Things is its own world, full and complex, and I certainly don’t need to steal someone else’s. This is me brushing up on my technique. Are there inherent similarities? Of course. Whether we admit it or not, there are no new ideas, we are all influenced by what we’ve read before, and the only thing that makes our work different from the rest is how we put it all together.

    Anyway, back to the lesson. What I’m doing right now is going through the book highlighting every instance of description and marking the POV of each scene. What I plan to do with this is to look at all the description to see what she did and why it works. I’ve already come to the realization that, sometimes, description occurs in dialogue. I’ve also noticed that this makes what could otherwise be a fairly dry passage more active.

    For POV, I plan on looking at what is happening in each scene and why it’s important for that scene to be told from this character’s perspective rather than another’s. One thing I’ve already noticed is that, surprise surprise, the bulk of the scenes go to one or the other of the two main characters and that there are only a handful of other regular POV characters. I on the other hand am juggling more, and I may need to decide whose POV to cut and whose I should focus on.

    All in all, I’m looking forward to this, and not just because it gives me an excuse to read a favourite book all over again. It gives me a chance to delve into why it’s my favourite, and the chance to improve my own work.

    What strategies do you use to improve you’re writing? How often do you look at your favourite authors to see what you can learn from them?