National Novel Writing Month: 2017

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting short, and it’s almost time to embark on an adventure: National Novel Writing Month.

Last year, I wrote a romantic sci-fi thriller about a hacker and a small town boy on the run from some government contractors. After a few revisions, I thought it was done, queried it too soon, and got a lot of rejections. One editor was kind enough to give me some feedback, and after sending the book out to a few more beta, who agreed that the book needed work, I started a revision, got stuck, and put it in the to be revised later folder.

This year I am going to be more patient. I’m really excited about my project, and want to make sure it’s really ready before I send it out. Luckily, I have plenty of other projects to keep me busy.

I haven’t written or outlined enough to know exactly where the plot’s going, but I know who my characters are, I know the world, and know that it is totally queer. It’s space opera, and that means there will be whispers of Star Wars, Firefly and Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m also certain my cast of gender-fluid characters, teenage drama, and  retro flare will make it unique.

Yes, there are space ships, aliens, magic and a quest, but the characters are what will make this book shine.

For now, here is a working blurb and some images:

Dianny doesn’t want to take over Mom’s business dealing in sex and drugs, or wind up like one of the beings Mom employs. However, with ADHD, anxiety, sensitivity to Oomph, and a gender identity their peers don’t understand, Dianny isn’t doing so well at avoiding that path. Dianny isn’t sure if they are relieved or terrified when they find Mom’s club shut down and swarming with federal agents, but they don’t dare disobey the task given to them by one of Mom’s girls: find their father, who is in a prison half way across the galaxy, and give him the Oomph enhanced artifact that the authorities are after. 

 

 

 

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Pronoun Problems

Reclaimed story esthetic

Aesthetic of Earth Reclaimed

I’m in the midst of revising a novel (Earth Reclaimed) with a non-binary protagonist. Since this work blends high fantasy with solarpunk and has alternates points of view, I choose to write it in third person. However, several of my beta readers and critique partners have been having a hard time adjusting to me using “they/them” as a singular, gender neutral pronoun.

Readers have suggested I switch to first person, or use something like Xe or Ze. Not realizing it was own voices, one reader even questioned if it was necessary to write the character as non-binary. She meant well, but just because there is a non-binary character doesn’t mean the story has to be about being non-binary.

I knew I didn’t want to write this story in first person, and I couldn’t picture this character CIS, but I did briefly consider a different pronoun.

Before making any decisions, I wanted to see how other writers used neutral pronouns, so I read the first two books of the Ardulum series which used two variations of gender neutral pronouns for aliens who had a third gender. It worked great for those alien characters, but would not suit my protagonist or my writing style for two big reasons.

One:

Xe and Ze are not as neutral as they seem at first glance because they lose some of their neutrality when they become possessive. The writer has to make a choice: does Xe become Xer or Xis? In Ardulum, the author choose Zir as the possessive form of Xe, but when read out loud, it still sounds a lot like Xer or Her.

Some non-binary folks, including me, use gendered pronouns. I use she/her because it’s what I grew up using, and I get overwhelmed when I think about telling friends and family I prefer they/them. I don’t think I’ve ever even bothered announcing to most people that I’m non-binary or gender fluid because it’s a conversation that could turn awkward too quickly. Plus, I don’t like labels and boxes. No matter which one you stick on me, what matters is that I know who I am.

Even though Earth Reclaimed is an own voices story, the main character isn’t me. Serena lives in a future and region where gender is fluid and people are not boxed into identifying as men or women. They are also braver and bolder than I am. I wrote my first draft using she/her, and it just didn’t feel right. Serena needed a gender neutral pronoun, and at least to me, they is more neutral than the others.

Two:

Neutrality is not the only reason to choose they. Xe and Ze do not come to me as natural as they does. Growing up, if I didn’t know whether a person was male or female, I would automatically use they/them until I knew whether they were a she or a he.

Back then, I hadn’t heard of words like non-binary or gender fluid. Those terms may have existed, but they weren’t part of my vocabulary.  I was in my later twenties when I discovered those words and thought “that sounds just like me.”

Identifying with the label didn’t lead me to change the pronouns I use, but that doesn’t mean all the non-binary characters I write have to use the same pronouns, especially of the conditions that keep me using she/her don’t exist for them.

When I write a third person, own voices narrative with a non-binary character, I am going to use they/them as a pronoun. Will there confusion in the early drafts? Yes. However, with careful editing, I hope I will be able to write third person, gender neutral they/them without confusing my readers.

Happy Book Birthday Half Breeds!

Half Breeds 1

Kicked out of private school, Allen has to brave a public high school where most of the kids don’t know supernatural creatures exist. He expects to be miserable, but he finds himself romantically pursued by two people: a shy, but fascinating boy named Jeremy and a spunky girl named Chloe. The demon in Allen wants to feed off Chloe, but the human part of him is falling for Jeremy. Which will win?

Today, my first stand alone story, a novelette called Half Breeds is released to the wild. The ebook is for sale and ready to download on Amazon and on Nine Star Press’ website.

Of all the short stories that I’ve written, Half Breeds is one of my favorites. Sometimes I struggle portraying emotion and sexual tension without being corny, but in this story more so than others, I feel like I managed to balance emotion, tension and humor.

Half Breeds may be a paranormal tale featuring teens who are half demon and half angel, but in it, I explore very human concepts, like sexuality, consent, self-image and the feeling of being a monster. These are topics I love to write about because they are always snaking around in my mind, but sometimes, they make people uncomfortable.

Since consent and sexual harassment are largely discussed, public issues, I was a little worried how readers would react to a particular scene where Allen, the main character, doesn’t respect another characters revoked consent while they are making out. It’s an important scene because it’s a realistic situation in Allen makes the wrong choice, and has to face the consequences of it.

One review said “The bathroom scene made me a little uncomfortable to be honest but I think if you truly read it in the context of the story it’s tolerable…… kind of” while another said “Codair handles these issues with grace and humor.” The point, at least to a certain extent, was to make the readers uncomfortable, to make sure they saw how the character made the wrong decisions, and how it affected him after.  I don’t want to alienate readers, but on occasion, I write things people shouldn’t be comfortable with because in some ways, it forces people to think about the issues more than hash tags  or vague posts.

Serious issues aside, I hope you find that Half Breeds a spooky and funny Halloween story that makes you think.

 

Nannywags Pet-Sitter — Shayna Leavy

A great post about a great petsitter!

Artemis Savory

Shayna Leavy is thrilled to meet me in one of her clients’ spacious backyards; there are three dogs: a Newfoundland, a lab, and a lab-rottie mix. They’re big, sweet dogs. There’s a kiddy-pool filled with water that Tuukka—the lab—keeps walking through. Shayna is all smiles and big dark sunglasses as she tells me about the dogs and other critters and what she does. I trust her in an instant—this is the hallmark of a truly good pet-sitter: trustworthy.

I started Nannywags about a year ago. I was in a very bad car accident and it left me not able to go back to my old job. When I was in the car accident I was in the backseat with one of my friends’ dogs, and my first instinct was to grab the dog so she wouldn’t fly out the window. We rolled and everything. That was two and a half…

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Book Review – Ardulum: Second Don

Ardulum: Second DonArdulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second book was just as good as the first, and I am very thankful I was able to get a free digital ARC.

The characters were constantly growing and being pushed to evolve. They were all flawed in ways that made me want to root for them. The obstacles thrown at them were believable enough to accept but big enough to pose a significant challenged.

The romance subplot is is picking up a bit, though it is still going at an incredibly slow, frustrating pace. This really puts the slow in slow burn. However, the romance really is a subplot, and there is so much more to this book.

The main plot was faster than the romance. I was reading on my kindle. One minute I was at 54%. The next time I looked at my progress, I was 77%, 95% and then I was done. It flew by, and I really wish book 3 was already out. The little teaser at the end of this made me want to read it now!

I may have already said this in the first review, but I loved how different pronouns were used for different species who had members that were neither male nor female, but while the idea of a true third gender was awesome, it wasn’t with the humans.

I have no complaints about this book. I had been reading more fantasy than science fiction, but the authors and editors at NineStar press, with books like the Ardulum series, Dalí, and Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, are reminding me how powerful science fiction can be when it involves complex characters and issues.

Ardulum was entertaining. It kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and got me through a bad day, but it also made me think. It made me think about gender and sexuality, about human rights, religion, faith, diversity and where technology and advancement can build society up and break it down. Second Don was a little darker than First Don, but it wasn’t bleak and hopeless. Yes, it exposed some nasty flaws, but also offered hope that they might begin to heal in Third Don.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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ISWSP October Question: #ownvoices?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeOctober 4 question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

My answer:

Yes, but sometimes it is more intentional than others

While none of my characters are directly based off of my self, many of them share my non-binary gender identity. They struggle with similar mental health issues, like anxiety triggered by crowds or touch. Occasionally, they even like the same things as me, like Star Wars and vegetable gardens.

Of course, there are instances where I write characters that are opposite of me and have almost nothing in common. Sometimes I need to escape my world and truely become someone else while I am writing.

Yet more often than not, it’s hard to fully filter myself from my creations, and when the ones with bits and pieces of me sewn through are more authentic, why bother filtering?

Authenticity is important. Representation is important. My experience with mental health and gender may not quite be like someone else’s, but that is kind of the point, isn’t it?

People do read for entertainment, but they also read for education. Ideally, both happen at the same time. If my book can keep people entertained, make them feel things, keep them turning pages and teach them a little something at the same time, then it was success.

Book Review of Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

Ardulum: First DonArdulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I originally picked this book up because I wanted to study how the author used gender-neutral pronouns. Once I sunk my teeth it, I was so engrossed in the plot that I kept forgetting to pay attention to pronouns. NineStar Press’ editors really have a knack for acquiring good science fiction, as this is the second space opera series that’s really impressed me.

At first, the plot of Ardulum reminded me of Firefly: a ragged crew doing semi-legal transport on an antique ship picks up a stasis chamber that happens to have a strange girl in it. Thankfully, the characters, world, and other aspects of the plot were complex, deep, and unique.

I loved the flawed characters, the pacing, the description, worldbuilding, and the speculative science behind the spaceships. The presence of advanced 3-D printing grounded the world and made it seem like a future that was truly plausible.

My one complaint was that all of the gender neutral pronouns were for alien characters whose race was either somehow gender neutral or had a third gender and I had been hoping to see them used with a non-binary human. Still, that was a minor thing and didn’t stop me from enjoying everything else about this.

One nice touch worth mentioning was that the future Ardulum is set in is optimistic. With all the tragedy and political BS happening right now, I needed to read something that showed a hopeful future.

If you are a fan of space opera, science fiction, or just speculative fiction in general, this is a must read for you!

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