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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Belindapendence: Be The Change You Want to See

All right, Belindapendence time. This is for authors. You may not like it.

Tough titties.

Stuff happens. People do things/say things/write things we don't like, so we all clutch our virtual pearls and write scathing comments and reviews, and then vent our spleen on Facebook.
So what did you actually accomplish other than to dump a shitload of negativity on the world?

Probably not much.

We all get tired of mansplaining. Of being belittled for daring to write science fiction without a cock to dip into the inkstand. Of authors who behave badly or use horrible judgement in what they write.

I'm not saying you shouldn't bitch and vent. Its just not necessary to belabor the issue and then abandon it for the next issue that pushes your button.

Did you know that being angry all the time is bad for your health?

Anyhow. Flip that anger. Work it. Use it. Make it productive. Then let it the fuck go and move on.

The RITAs are coming. We all know about the shocking event that transpired last year. Well, that was last year. Water under the Pultney Bridge. (Yes, I'm in Bath.)  Now take a moment to consider what you can do to prevent it from happening again.


If you have a great book that qualifies as inspirational...even if its not mainstream Christian, enter it. Yes, it might feel like a throw away, but it isn't. The existing judges need to be exposed to diversity. The genre needs to be redefined. Give them your gay, interracial Taoist love story.


If you enter a book you have to also serve as a judge, so when it comes time to pick and choose the genre you'll judge, say yes to all. And judge fairly.


Are you a PAN member? Go sign up to judge. They need you. Sign-ups happen on September 22. Volunteer to judge all categories. That book was preaching to the choir. We must make that choir much, much larger.

Make 2016 the year of action and diversity. Do something. Talk about books you love. Nominate them for Hugos or whatever is applicable. Judge. Vote. Be actively engaged in the process. When someone tiffs you off, (especially when its something as silly as a Go Fund Me campaign), shrug it off and move forward.

Declare your independence from the ugly, trolly side of our community, because we are a community. Lets try to make it better by acting and not reacting.

Monday, September 14, 2015

From the Archives: Finding the Me in the Manuscript

This was originally posted waaaay back in 2009 and first posted at Long and Short Reviews:

The Writer’s voice

* “I’m so unhappy with my editor. I’m afraid she’s taking away my voice in this piece.”
* “I don’t want to submit my story. It’s a part of me. What if they don’t understand my voice?”
* “My voice will be lost if I worry about the mechanics of writing.”
*+ “Your writer’s voice is so distinct.”


These are comments I’ve heard on and off over the past couple of years, and frankly, this concept of voice still puzzles me a bit. What is it? Our style? Our accent? At a writer’s forum I attended recently, several writers worried about their voices. To be honest, that’s really the last thing I think about when I write...if I think about it at all.

Okay, I do believe that every writer has a distinct voice. I don’t think we can escape it. To me, it’s a little like how where you live affects how you speak. Frankly, I’ve always believed that I speak in unaccented American…you know, like the news anchors? But as I’ve traveled around, people in different areas of the US have mentioned my accent.

I’m from Northern California. Not the Bay Area, but north of the Sacramento Valley, and oddly enough, I’ve come to realize that we do have a regional accent. You know the actor Sam Elliot? He’s got that silky, sexy drawl that we love to hear in the beer commercials. He’s from Texas, right? The South? Nope. He was raised in the Sacramento Valley. My brother’s accent is exactly the same.

In fact, my oldest daughter works on a private yacht with an international crew. She’s the chef, and has been known to launch into the occasional verbal tirade when she’s alone in the galley. She says the Kiwis like to come in and listen to her tantrums because of her “redneck accent.”

So what does this have to do with your voice as a writer? Well, it’s there. You can’t really escape it, unless you’re spending a lot of time with technical or academic writing. If an editor wants you to clean up the grammar of your narrative, she’s not asking you to stifle your voice, she wants you to do your job and write properly. As a general rule, your editor will respect your writing and her advice will make your story better without robbing you of your voice.

There are times when I feel that my voice has become stiff and uninspired. I’m not talking about writer’s block. That’s when nothing comes at all. Sometimes I feel like the words are coming out by force, like maybe I’m not the one writing at all.

Perhaps there is stress in the household or I’m simply disconnected from the story that I’m trying to tell. Or maybe I’ve just finished a project and have turned to another, and haven’t captured the new personalities that I’m working with. When that happens, I have a few tricks to loosen up my mind and free that elusive voice.

* I have conversations in character. Okay, that might seem a bit weird. I used to act so walking around verbalizing is something I did to learn lines. If you can’t open your mouth and let your character speak, do it in your head. Go sit in a comfy chair, or lie down on the sofa and ask your characters what’s going on. Visualize the scenario they are in, and watch their actions and reactions to each other. Know your characters! I prefer to worry about the voices of my characters rather than my voice as a writer.

* Listen to music. Music digs into our brains on various levels. You know how a song gets stuck in your head? Music is a great tool for learning, as well as for setting mood. Try listening to the Beatles or Chopin or Barry White. Listen to the mood of the music. Many authors have soundtracks for stories. Belle Starr was written to the music from the Japanese Anime Cowboy Bebop. It’s a wild, fierce jazz number by a band called Tank. I think that single song really shaped the entire story.

* Read poetry. Find a writer that works for you. It might be Bob Dylan or John Donne. Poetry is the height of language and has an inherent flow and meter. You’ll expand your vocabulary and I’ve found my narrative moves better when I’ve taken a poetry break. Right now I’m reading Silky Thefts by Michael Jennings.

* Sing. Dance. That’s taking the music and poetry and moving it to another level. You’re integrating your body into the rhythm of the music and getting your circulation moving.

* Just tell the story. Frankly, that’s a pretty good avenue to take. So it might be stiff and ugly, but if you sit down and hammer out the story, you’ve got the framework finished. That’s the hard part. When you’re feeling more inspired, go back and fluff it up. Indulge in your creativity and play with your characters. Have fun. It’s easier to do when you have the roadmap instead of the roadblock.

Writing is certainly a creative art, but it’s also a craft…a discipline. If you approach it as a job that needs to be done, you will learn to work through the rough times. Your voice is there because it’s the part of the story that is inherently you. If you belabor the idea of your ‘voice’ your writing will become self-aware. It’s like watching an actor on stage who is aware of the fact that they are acting. Don’t act the role, be the role! In writing, don’t worry about your voice or it will become just another character on your page.

So when you sit in front of that blank page with your list of things to worry about, strike “Voice” off that list. It’s there if you let it come out. And no one can take it away. Not even your editor.