Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It would have been plain old mundane

I have been feeling quite sad about the loss of Robin Williams. There's not much I can add to what has already been said so instead I wanted to share a staple of my childhood. Robin did the voices for a recording of Pecos Bill that we almost wore out in on car trips. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

"Without Bill the 'Wild West' would have been plain old mundane." That's how we feel about you Robin. The world is just a bit more mundane without you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The benefit of the contest

I am hemming and hawing (per usual) about my most recent story. The draft is complete and it's been revised once from top to bottom. I have some friends reading it for me (including my wife). But I have to say I am intrigued by the prospect of entering it in a contest.

If you are on twitter there are contests now and again for writers. Some are simple and involve things like pitching your book in a tweet to the one I am mulling which is called Pitchwars. In this one you pick up to four mentors whose interests match your manuscript and you send your query and your first chapter. Each mentor picks one person to work with and they help you polish your pitch and your manuscript in hopes of winning over an agent.

If you get picked, you get an experienced writer (some of whom are also freelance editors) to help you make your book ready for an agent to fall in love with it. There really isn't a down side to entering (the worst case is that you don't get picked).

Yet, I am hesitant about it. I have a bunch of people reading my story already. I trust that they will have helpful things to offer when they finish reading. Does it make sense to hurry to get it ready in the next two weeks? I don't know. I will have to decide when it comes down to August 18.

But, I think the real value of the contest for me is the way it is helping to focus my attention. Right now, I figure the worst that comes out of it is that I spend two weeks scrambling to revise and then decide to bag it. I will have a shiny new chapter or three even if I don't decide to throw my hat in the ring.

Anyone here thinking of entering?

Friday, August 1, 2014


I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The sight of her tiny, brilliant self makes me giddy. When I hear her talk I remember hearing her in law school. That day I stood next to her for a few moments in the hallway and felt like some kind of giant next to her.

If you haven't checked out the Notorious RBG on tumblr yet, please do that. It's smart and funny and a fitting homage to a brilliant jurist. A perfect way to start the weekend.

Monday, July 28, 2014


I loved Code Name Verity and because of that this book, Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, was recommended to me. Instead of being set in England, this book is set in the United States (Louisiana and Texas, mostly) and tells the story of women in the WASPs here. Women piloting planes for the military, either ferrying planes, testing new ones, or providing support.

I liked this book. I doesn't read like Code Name Verity but I rooted for the characters and learned a chunk about the female pilots on this side of the Atlantic. The only thing I didn't love was that the book read a bit like the kind of novel a teacher might assign in order to discuss WWII with a class of teenagers. But if you can't get enough of WWII or female pilots, it's a quick read and plenty entertaining.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some people count more.

People like to say that you have to "know your audience." That's certainly true when I write for AfterEllen. It absolutely true when I write fiction. It's true when I open my mouth and talk. You don't say the things you tell your wife to her mother or your mother. You don't talk to your five year old in the same way you talk to your boss.

So, perhaps this is not earth shattering news to anyone but I have come to realize that you need your own little focus group. I ask my wife to read my work occasionally. She doesn't read this blog, or my recaps, or anything I write over on AfterEllen unless I ask her to. But when I write fiction, I always want her to read it. She lives through the process of me stomping around and grumbling when I don't get to work on it or snarling at the page when I can't get it right.

She reads and tells me what she thinks. Her opinion matters a lot to me but it's not because she's a writer. She is well read and can tell me where story holes are. She can say if it's no good and if I can get to her heart, I know I've done something good. In many ways she is my target audience but she's not the person I ask if I need to talk the nitty gritty of writing.

I have writer friends who, thankfully, tell me when something works or doesn't and can help me out of a word jam. These are the people who help me with the craft of writing and can give me more than "I liked it." These are my experts, my focus group (I know I am using that term more broadly than it might be used in terms of a movie or a product).

The same goes for my wife. I know she's an excellent doctor. I know it because I have seen her in action, I know the skills she brings to the table, and because her peers and supervisors have told me that she's amazing. But when she needs feedback on her practice or a patient she might talk to me in general terms but I don't know anything about anything when it comes to treating sick people. So she has her experts to talk to and bounce ideas around with and sometimes just blow off steam.

What's the point? Well, sometimes someone says something stupid about your work. They tell you that your story is shit or they don't get it. And that can hurt a whole hell of a lot. I have gotten mad and stomped around in circles and snarled and been a treat to be around. But finally, I have realized that it's okay for people to hate your work and that not every opinion matters the same amount.

Sure, I attach extra meaning to the feedback from my friends and people I want to like my stuff but at some point I figured out that if this isn't their thing, if lesbian romance isn't their wheelhouse, well, it might not mean as much if they think your work is crap. Some people are never going to like it, and that's all right. Some people are always going to like it, and that's all right too. The trick is figuring out how to navigate both ends of the spectrum while still getting the help and feedback you need and keeping your ego from collapsing into a puddle.

It's not easy. But realizing that there are people who are your "experts" and that there are others who should never be your undoing, is helpful for me. I don't know why it took me this long to figure that out but realizing that I can stop trying to please the people who are never going to like what I write is very freeing. It may never be good enough for them, and that's all right. They aren't the ones who count.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Less of a drag

This week, and basically every week since I started my new job, has been a bit of a drag. Things are nutty bananas in our house and it's seriously cutting into my writing time. But I assume we'll adjust somehow and find a new balance. Amid all the chaos this video popped up this week and I finally had a chance to watch it. It's fun, catchy, and Kristen Stewart (oft maligned for looking like she never has fun ever) is a treat to watch doing her best dude impression.

It's Friday, I hope you have excellent plans for the weekend and that this is a wonderful way to kick it off. Have a giggle or two.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Booked: Everything Leads to You

About a week ago I read Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. It is a very sweet love story about a couple a high school ages girls who live in LA, work on movies, and hunt down a mystery in their spare time. The mystery starts with a note they find tucked in a record at an estate sale and from there they unravel the mystery while also working on their movie sets.

It's sweet without being cloying and the kind of book that I kind of wish had been around when I was a teenager. Not because it gripped me on a visceral level but because of it's complete normalness. Some of the characters are gay. Girls fall on and out of love in it and it's not a big deal other than the fact that when you're 18 relationships feel like a big deal.

I almost want to call this a beach read in the sense that it is totally, wonderfully entertaining and left me feeling happy (but don't wish to malign it to the extent "beach read" might make you think it's crap. It's not crap, it's just happy and fun). Issue books are great. Books that make you feel less alone when coming out seems like the most insane idea are necessary but books where girls have regular old girl drama are also kind of a gift.