Archive for March, 2013

Editors are Murderers

By Russ Gregory

 

There’s a sort of push-pull, dance-to-the-death between writers and editors that rarely breaks out in actual physical violence but none-the-less leaves emotional scars. I’m not referring to disagreements over the placement of a comma or the appropriate use of passive voice. I’m talking about flat out murder… the killing of darlings.

 

As my editor Greg Herren explains it…

 

As painful as it is, sometimes a writer will write an extremely beautiful sentence–it just sings and is clever and wonderful and—just doesn’t really fit in the narrative. In fact, it jars the reader out of what they are reading. I call it ‘author intrusion’–“see how beautifully I can write?” 

There’s nothing wrong with using language beautifully, or creating lovely images with words. But it has to fit with the sentences and paragraphs before and after, otherwise it interrupts the flow–and you don’t want that.

 

Oh but Greg you are so wrong – that’s exactly what I want. I want my readers to be jarred out of their complacency by the sheer elegance and beauty of my words. I want them to see my oh-so-heavy hand as I craft another glorious phrase and take flight on another visual bunny trail, with my sentences painting pictures in their minds even when if their focus is pulled away from the story.

I want them to say, “Wow, that’s cool… who is this guy? I wish I could write like that. I’m going to print this saying on a T-shirt. I’m going to tattoo this phrase on my buttocks. I’m going chisel this slogan on my headstone. I’m going to run naked through the streets screaming these words …”

OK, maybe not that run through the streets thing, but you catch my drift. I want to be the one that brings universal truth to light in a series of witty, elegant and thought provoking expressions.

Or at least part of me wants to be that guy. The other part wants a readable and well-designed story.

Still, when I spend three weeks writing and re-writing the same sentence – struggling over word choice and placement and syntax and rhythm, turning over options for hours and hours until late one night, I wake from a fitful sleep and bound from my bed shedding sheets like the skin of a serpent, tripping over my backpack and nearly impaling my face on a bedside lamp, just so I can make it to my computer before the perfect slogan escapes my sleep-addled brain, and then I smile and do a little happy dance and pat myself on the back because the words are too beautiful, and the world is too beautiful, and I’m too beautiful, to hold in all that beauty – it’s a little difficult to see it deleted from the manuscript on the first editing pass.

This probably explains why writers drink heavily.

When I send off a manuscript and get back the edited copy, the first thing I do, after pouring myself a stiff drink of course, is hunt out my darlings. I hold my breath until I locate the sweeties and if they’re gone, after pouring myself another drink, I pout, and curse, and stomp around the room threatening to call my publisher, or my agent, or my mother (because no one wants to hear from my mother). After another drink, I realize that maybe the world will not end at this affront to the literary cannon and, after another drink, I don’t seem to care as much because now I’m passed-out on the sofa, or yelling “Ralph” into the thunder-mug, or trying to pick up the mailman. (“Hey big boy, you sure look good in blue…”)

That’s how I handle it; other authors may have different methods.

The thing is, it hurts. It hurts like a good whack in the testicles or giving birth to a bigheaded baby.

I want my darlings left alone. The thought of them disappearing into the universal editorial maw is agonizing. My pretty words obliterated, after all that fretting and lost sleep, and, well, dancing. Seriously, I’d rather donate a kidney to a to a gun lobbyist.

Once I struggled over a single word for nearly a month and a half. I just couldn’t get it right. One early option was ‘surreal’, but that didn’t sing to me. Later, it morphed into ‘cubist’, but again not quite the right sentiment. I finally landed on ‘Picassoesque’. Even writing it now gives me goose bumps. Lovely sound isn’t it? It was lovely in context too. I fell for that word. I sang songs to that word. If I could, I would have dated that word all through high school and taken it to the senior prom.

So you can imagine my horror when the manuscript came back sans my darling ‘Picassoesque’. I sunk into a funk so deep even copious amounts of self-flagellation couldn’t pull me out of my doldrums. I was devastated.

Now some of you may be asking yourself what’s all the fuss over one little word. But ponder this if you will. What if Edward Bulwer-Lytton had written, “The pen is mightier than the butter-knife”, or John Donne had coined the phrase, “No ham is a island.” or Dorothy had muttered, ‘There’s no place like Akron” – see, one little word does make a difference.

So for all the killer editors out there, and you know who you are, this rant is for you. Authors can be spiteful and petty and as a class we are not above peeing on the petunias. So please tread lightly when you murder our darlings (or someone might just make a late night run through your garden.)

BSB_Blue_3ds

The Amazon Trail

Handy? Man?

by Lee Lynch

 

I’ve never had much use for straight men other than my big brother, but I’m learning they have their uses.

My friend the handydyke turned 80 and gave away her tools. She has a contractor now, but he’s much too busy to work at odd jobs. So the manager of our development recommended a guy who loves doing just that. We’re on such a home improvement tear, he’s practically living with us.

A retired fisherman, Roley could have been anything. I picture him as a gentle teacher, maybe shop, maybe math, or as a die-hard surfer or – Instead, at age 70, he is putting up shelving and installing a doggy door at our house.

Actually, he’ll install a kitty door, as our little Mini Foxie is afraid of dog doors. Or maybe isn’t smart enough to figure them out. At the Handydyke and Pianist’s house, the dog sat and watched over a couple of years while the other dogs came and went through a dog-sized flap. She’d stare like a muggle at the train station, wondering where Harry Potter and his pals went.

In any case, Roley the Handyman is in our closets marking the walls, tapping for studs, drilling, attaching brackets and borrowing my tools. Or else he’s off buying materials. Sometimes he calls a couple of hours after leaving to pick up materials and asks if it’s too late to come back to work.  His lady friend lives down the street so I know where to find him.

Forty plus years they’ve been together, in separate homes, and here my sweetheart and I are, thrilled to be married and cohabiting. Kind of ironic, kind of fun, having the tables turned this way.

The house, of course, is a mess. We’re also downsizing during this transition and I actually turned down an offer of a bookcase from an ex who is also downsizing.  Who would have thought I’d still be dividing property with former lovers decades later? Though I was tempted to reunite the her & her bookcases, I remembered that my sweetheart and I already have 42 of our own.

Since Roley’s moved into our closets, we’ve dragged our “wardrobes” out. The house is not that big, so we’re sharing space with, besides the dog and cats, heaps of jackets, pants, t-shirts, my sweetheart’s dresses, my vests and a nightmare of tangled hangers. It’s kind of like living in a used clothes shop or a Salvation Army store, though Sally’s Army wouldn’t like that. Roley and his lady friend would be okay, but not lady lovers like us.

He’s also strengthened the bars in our closets. What a surprise: they were overloaded to the point of pulling out of the walls. I wish I was the kind of person who traveled light, but when I hit a certain age, I started growing, and not in a good way. I finally got rid of my size 28 jeans and men’s small shirts, but I’m hanging on for dear life to the 34s and larges with great optimism.

It may be time to stop collecting favorite things. Or not. I could ask Roley to put up narrow shelves for my toy cars. They haven’t been on display since I lived with my ex-bookcase. Back then, I had the energy and patience to do my own projects.

If only I was the kind of person who could leave things behind, and not save for tomorrow. I’m the child of depression parents. Like my mother, I’ve taken to making balls of used string and folding paper bags neatly, ritually, because I might need them some vague day.  Although I squander thread – Grandma Lynch would consider that a crime – I’m the kind of person who’s always afraid of running out – of words, of pet food, of safety in a county that just voted down domestic partner rights for everyone, gay or not..

The oddest part of working with Roley is how very much he reminds me of my friend the sailor who, when I first moved to the Southern Oregon women’s community, was the local handydyke. The sailor and Roley are both tall and thin, with weathered, handsome faces. More than that, they move exactly alike, always in rush-forward motion, with long quick steps, figuring aloud, gesticulating with tools and frequently in search of misplaced measuring tapes, small bags of nails or big orange loops of electrical cord.

The handyman is back, after an extended lunch hour. He’s putting up my sweetheart’s shelves for her collection of shoes and other femme essentials. He’s courteous, honest, respectful, non-judgmental and not at all sexist. Can a straight man really be as nice as a handydyke?  Will his shelves hold up till my sweetheart and I can marry in as many states as Roley and his lady friend?

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013

 

Eight Tips for Better Procrastination

BY JESS FARADAY

You can’t even fire up the Googler these days without stumbling over advice about How to Keep Your Writing on Track! Finish that Manuscript! Write a Novel in 10 Days or Your Money Back! But, as every writer knows, procrastination is an important part of the game. Where’s the advice about quality time-wasting? Nowhere, that’s where! And a crying shame it is, too.

So here are some handy tips I’ve come up with, to help when you find you’re being Just Too Productive.

Jess Faraday’s Tips for More Effective Procrastination

  1. Games. Nothing moves a manuscript along like a little Farmville, or perhaps Words With Friends. It’s words, right? It counts! Or maybe a nice multi-player RPG? It’ll help you develop your plot and give you ideas, right? Right! Let’s go!
  2. Social Media. It’s all about promotion. Interact with your readers. Or pick a fight with a perfect stranger about some overblown political point. It’s hard to work when Someone on the Internet is Wrong. You can do a new blog entry about it. Check your stats at Amazon and Goodreads. Write a few reviews. Be social! Interact!. Or just look at some pictures of cats.
  3. TELL everyone all about the amazing book you’re GOING TO write. That way you can feel like you’ve put in a full day’s work without having done a thing!
  4. Clean house. As everyone knows, every Great Author has a tidy desk and an immaculate domicile. Besides, you know you can’t get started until every little thing is in its place and the dust bunnies have been vanquished, so what are you waiting for? Get on it! This place isn’t going to clean itself! Ooo, is that laundry?

 

…an hour and a half later….

 

Oh yes, where was I?

  1. Exercise. How can you work with the waistband of your jeans cutting into your tummy? Change into sweats, you say? Amateur! Obviously what you need is to head to the gym for an hour or two. It’ll also help to get rid of that nervous energy that keeps you from settling into the manuscript. You can use the time to work through that thorny spot in your plot. You know, the one your writing group says Doesn’t Work For Them. Either that, or you can watch the court shows on the gym TV. Your call.
  2. Another Cup of Coffee. There. Now you’re set to work. How about a sip of coffee to get started? Ah. Better. Now, let’s reread what we’ve got so far. Sip. Read. Change a comma. Sip—oops! Out of coffee! Better start again.
  3. Watch TV, go to a museum, or go to the movies. Sometimes you need to surround yourself with multisensory reminders of the setting you’re trying to create in your story. Or catch up on the last fifteen seasons of The Simpsons. Or something.
  4. The Day Job. Wow, you are desperate for distraction, aren’t you? Well, maybe this is one you should be doing. I mean, how much time have you spent slacking off of the day job to work on your novel? At least try to look like you’re making an effort. That is, until Speilberg comes asking about the movie rights.

If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And that includes procrastination. So, get right on it! Or…put it off until you feel more like it.

The Left Hand of Justice 300 DPI

BUSTED

Bold Strokes Books author Lisa Girolami doesn’t let anything get in the way when she’s marketing her latest novel, Cut to the Chase.

Notes from the Pageant Circuit:Palm Springs 2013

BY KEN O’NEILL

Being a first time author, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Bold Strokes Books 2013 LGBTQ book festival in Palm Springs. I thought perhaps it would be a pageant-like atmosphere, with one of us being crowned at the end. Because of the glorious desert climate I worried that the writers would be subjected to participation in a swimsuit competition. Wanting to have the best possible shot of winning, I texted my friend Shawn to schedule an appointment for some long overdue pre-trip manscaping. Immediately he texted back:

“Ken, have fun in Palm Springs. Sorry I’m in Mexico, Can’t help U get your smooth on. Better make peace with your inner Bear.”

I almost cancelled my flight.

Thankfully, I did not. Forced to forgo the Boyzilian, I boarded the plane in a far more natural state than was my want.  To my great relief there was no swimsuit completion. We didn’t even compete in evening gowns, which I wish someone had told me in advance because it would have saved me so much room in my carry on bag. There were however four days worth of talent competitions.

Well, no, not talent competitions. It was more like four days worth of talent celebrations.

My chief objective in attending the event (aside from winning Miss Congeniality) was to meet, and spend time, with my fellow writers. I’d been feeling like I needed a reminder that I love to write, and hearing author after author share their dazzling work I absolutely was reminded. I left each day inspired to work—committed to completing another novel.

But something even more wonderful happened. I wasn’t just reminded that I love to write. I was reminded that I love to read.

More specifically, I was reminded why I love to read. Reading takes me places I’ve never been.  It takes me into the lives of people different from myself. Even with every one of my body hairs intact, I will never really be one of Radclyffe’s wolves. But with a book in hand I can howl. Nor will I ever be a lesbian—or a woman of any orientation—but while reading I can pretend to be one.

On Thursday I attended a panel called Kiss and Tell: Scenes of Lesbian Desire. I was present for the session because I wanted to be supportive of my fellow Bold Strokes authors, not because I was particularly interested in the topic. But then something simultaneously wonderful and embarrassing happened. Ashley Bartlett began reading a sex scene from one of her “Dirty” seriesDirty Money 300 DPI of novels. And my interest perked up—considerably. It’s been years since I was in High School, still I found myself reaching for my books and placing them in my lap for camouflage.

What was happening to me?

The answer was Obvi: I was being moved (or in this case turned on) by the power of a well-written story. And over the course of four days my colleagues stories moved me again and again—though only Ash’s words caused that particular type of movement.

Really this shouldn’t be news to someone who loves books, and yet it did come as a revelation to me. Sure, I like to read stories about gay men. But I also want to read books about the lives of lesbians and bisexual people and straight women and straight men. Bring me your transsexuals and your questioning. (Or is it queer? Does anyone really know what the Q stands for?) Honestly, I am totally game for a great asexual hero, too.

All I want—aside from Nell Stark’s tiara—is a great story and an interesting world and smart and pithy dialogue.

Oh, and apparently some hot, dirty lesbian sex.

Queerly Beloved

Bold Strokes Books authors and stellar journalists Diane & Jacob Anderson-Minshall talk about fiction, nonfiction, and everything in between. I swiped the title of their upcoming relationship memoir as the perfect name for this blog.


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