On epic fantasy and bodily functions

Dear Potential Future Readers:

So I’m working on this Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel. If it ever sees the light of publishing day, then you, dear epic fantasy fan, will possibly read it. And several of you are going to raise certain complaints. I would like to preemptively address one of them now:

No, it’s not that my female characters never menstruate. It’s just that their menstrual cycle is not relevant to the story*. And while you may not see my characters answering the call of nature, it’s not that they don’t have to. They urinate. They have bowel movements. Again, it’s just that those things generally don’t contribute to the advancement of the story*, and so I don’t include them.

Trust me, dear reader, if I ever find that a depiction of defecation, urination, or menstruation would serve to advance plot or character, enhance my setting, or otherwise serve the story, I will not hesitate to describe it. In fact, such things have showed up in my short fiction when relevant. But as far My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel goes, please just assume that my characters take care of their business off-page. I mean, when your first draft clocks in at 118,000 words, the poo really has to earn its place on the page.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go use the bathroom.

Love,
Me

*To clarify, when I talk about relevance to the story or advancement of story, I’m not talking about plot alone. If a woman’s menstruation or the way a person goes to the bathroom tells me something about a character’s personality or the world or the setting, then I consider that relevant, something that advances the story by adding to my understanding of the world and the characters. But showing someone going to the bathroom simply to establish that they sometimes have to go to the bathroom, not so much.

Signals and study and stories, oh my!

It seems I went AWOL on the blog posting front. Again. But now that I’m here, many things…

SIGNALS: First, a signal boost: Say Yes to Gay YA, where authors Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith talk about an unfortunate instance of being asked to either make a gay character in their novel straight or remove the character’s POV altogether. EDITED TO ADD: Some follow up. And this is where I bow out without further comment other than to say: must so many people resort to needing to cast a villain with a dastardly agenda in the matter instead of considering that it’s more likely not so clearcut?

STUDY: Busy grad school is busy! But despite some initial moments of panic (because that’s what I do), I’m settling into the school routine just fine and have started to find a balance between class and everything else I need to squeeze into my days. You know, like writing. Speaking of…

STORIES: Appropriately enough for a writer, there are sevveral things going on in the story department:

* Now available for purchase is the 2011 Untied Shoelaces of the Mind Anthology, which includes my twisted little flash piece “Mr. Fluffy.” The story should also be online soon in issue 5 of Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

* My story “The Cycle of the Sun” was accepted for publication in the March 2012 issue of NewMyths.com! My Odyssey classmates will quite possibly remember this piece as “the orgy story.”

* My steampunk lemurs on a dirigible story, “A Red One Cannot See” (originally published in Shimmer’s Clockwork Jungle Book issue), has been added to my stories available at AnthologyBuilder

* And I’ve finally gotten to work on the revisions for my story “The Girl Who Welcomed Death to Svalgearyen,” which I got some great feedback on back in July at TNEO. Much like my daily schedule right now, these revisions are proving to be quite the balancing act. There are some changes to make that I think are going to really strengthen the story, but I feel like it would be easy to do too much and totally edit all the life and magic out the story.

The Writerly Update: Rising from the Grave Edition

Holy crap, has it really been that long since I’ve posted something? Sorry not to have been keeping up lately, but life has continued to dance on the insane side of the fence. Hopefully come fall I’ll be able to settle back into a blog reading and writing routine. Until then, I’ll probably remain my current scattershot, occasionally resurfacing self.

In the meantime, here’s the bullet points of what I’ve been up to in the writing department:

* My zombie apocalypse story “The Holy Spear” has been accepted by Black Static. This will be my second appearance in their pages, which I’m thrilled about.

* Speaking of Black Static, reviewer Peter Tennant wrote a nice post about my story “The Wounded House” from issue 20 on his blog.

* Received my shiny contributor copy of Aoife’s Kiss (10th anniversary issue) this morning. Pretty.

* Gearing up for this summer’s TNEO workshop for Odyssey alum. As of last night, all the critiques I had to do are officially done! I’ve still got a ton of other things to do, but it’s nice to put a big fat check mark next to that beast of an item.

* Unfortunately, progress on the writing front has been mostly non-existent. I got in a good afternoon of revision work on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel a couple weeks ago, but otherwise, that’s been kind of it. But now that TNEO critiques are out of the way, I can hopefully get back in gear. I’ve got some revisions to do on a short story, several flash pieces I should probably polish up and send out somewhere (anyone have suggestions on where to send an unabashedly liberal-leaning gay superhero flash story?), and then back to the novel grind.

A sale, and unexpected responses to saying you write fantasy

I’m happy to say that I’ve sold a twisted little flash piece of mine called “Mr. Fluffy” to the wonderfully named Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.

And on a non-pimpage note, I’ve now encountered the following situation enough that I’m curious to know if any of my fellow fantasy writers have as well:

I’ll be in a conversation with a non-writer and/or non-speculative fiction reader who finds out I’m a writer and asks, “What kind of stories do you write?” The “science fiction” and “horror” parts of my answer usually go over as expected, but saying “fantasy” often earns me awkward silence and a strange, questioning look. So, even though I’ve never written anything with an elf in it, I elaborate with, “Elves, magic, Lord of the Rings, that sort of thing.” The person then laughs in relief and says, “Oh, when you said fantasy, I thought you meant like sexual fantasies.”

Erm, no, I did not. At least not unless one of my characters has a sexual fantasy relevant to the plot.

Three Squiggly Things Make a Post

~ Much to my surprise, on Monday I cranked out the first draft of a short story I hadn’t planned to work on that night let alone finish. It felt rather reinvigorating. I wrote 1,000 not totally crappy words in under an hour, which is unusually fast for me. Onto the second draft de-crapification process! (And here’s hoping I find a decent title for the story along the way.) But because my brain doesn’t like to let me enjoy such minor triumphs of productivity for too long…

~ The online world doesn’t need me to offer yet another link to a certain NY Times review of a certain HBO show based on the novels by a certain George RR Martin. But as a chick working on an epic fantasy novel, subsequent commentary and discussion generated by that review have sent my brain into overdrive on pondering women in epic fantasy—as writers, readers, and characters. Unfortunately, my brain is such a jumble right now and my time so limited that I don’t feel like I could put my thoughts down in coherent form at present. Part of that brain jumble has resulted from me obsessing over things to the point of it becoming paralyzing—this fear that, while I know what I’m trying to do with my novel, I’m going to get it wrong and end up with something used as an example of everything that is wrong with epic fantasy. I know nothing is going to please everyone, but Irrational Me, being irrational, isn’t listening to Rational Me.

~ While Irrational Me and Rational Me duke it out, I’m going to go re-caffeinate and get some more Ye Olde Day Job work done.

Escape from the Void Of Too Much Else To Do

Urgh, so much for resurfacing on the blogosphere. Well, I did resurface. I just got sucked right back into the Void Of Too Much Else To Do. I have a feeling that’s going to be happening a lot over the next few months.

So the bulleted version of what this writer has been up to:

* I’ve been encountering far too much lately that has led to forehead slapping and *head desk* moments.

* After much demanding from my brain, I returned to the slow-going revisions on My Big Fat Epic Fantasy Novel–so of course a short story idea immediately started jumping up and down and waving its arms around and asking for a little love. Stupid brain.

* I began my dive into the critique fest that is TNEO.

* I changed the look of my website.

* More details to come, but it looks like my story “Final Report” (from issue 4 of the sadly short-lived Darker Matter) will get some podcast love in the near future.

* The last few months spewed so much crazy all over the place that my attempts at establishing a routine were repeatedly thwarted. That really needs to change. I was determined to get myself onto something resembling a consistent schedule starting today. It’s not even noon yet and that plan’s already gone to pot.

And on that note, I think hear the unmistakable sucking sound that is the Void Of Too Much Else To Do.

The Writerly Update: In which I feel a draft

Turns out I was incorrect in stating that the first draft of my current short story was 6,800. There were about 400 words worth of notes I had forgotten to remove from the file, so it was actually 6,400–still about where I predicted it would be, though.  

Getting rid of that pesky Procrastination Fairy didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would, but eventually the little bugger was dispensed with. I’m sure she’ll zombify and pull her antics again, but in the meantime, the second draft has been progressing nicely. I think I might have even come up with a non-sucktastic title. 

I kind of love second drafts. The second draft is when I get to go back and discover that my first draft wasn’t nearly as crappy as I thought it was. I have a tendency to want things to be the perfect the first time, which is something I have to let go of with first drafts. Otherwise they’d either never get finished, or I’d suffocate all the spontaneity and discovery that makes writing so fun in the first place. Yet recently, I’ve found myself getting antsy in first drafts because I wasn’t including enough setting or sensory detail.  Working on the second draft of this story reminded me of two things I had forgotten (probably because I haven’t been cranking out short stories as much as I used to): 1) it’s easier for me to include the appropriate setting and detail when there’s a plot there to hang it on, and 2) I have far more fun doing it that way, I think because I have a better idea of what will be relevant, what can help reveal story and character, and what will work within the pacing. In some ways it’s like fitting the proper pieces into a puzzle to make a picture. And I love puzzles.