Writers, Love Your Beta Readers!

blog beta

One of the ways for writers to get their name out there, in the BIG WORLD OF FICTION, is to write short stories and then get them published in anthologies and magazines.  This has been the way of writers for a long time, even with diminished printing opportunities and the rise of e-books.  But, writers still have to find venues. You can search them out yourself, join a mailing list for writers, or you can follow around other writers.

I’ve been on one of those writer’s mailing lists for a while, but I always seem to be working on something other that the promoted style/genre.  The only time I had used one of the suggested publishers, I didn’t even get a response to my submission.  But, still, I always browse it, to see if anything jumps out at me.  Toward the end of June, something did…

A call for noble-bright fairy tales for a short story anthology came up, and best of all IT PAID FOR THE STORY!  I had the time and a story in mind, so I decided to finish up an old, neglected project.  But, since I only had a month, I had to figure out a way to get a critical eye on it, and not my own.  Ten revisions, a couple of months apart, was not going to work. So, I contacted five people I have beta read for, and asked for a huge favor.

It was a crunched together Franken-story, made of former blog posts with pictures removed and a long part that had only ever been written in longhand, and not even in the correct order, yet.  It was messy, and not even proofread with in the meager skills I do have. Sending it was uncomfortable.  Like wearing-your-underwear-on-the-outside-while-in-public uncomfortable, and not in a cool or sexy superhero way.

So my beta-friends read for me, and sent back notes with a superhero-like quickness, giving me extra time to mull over their thoughts.  I was able to spackle up some plot holes, give a few explanations and descriptions that were missing, and rewrite some awkward passages that I knew were awkward (but, still, needed to be told).

BUT, there came a point that I realized the rest of the suggestions really were opinions.  Their questions and observations, while good, were from the point of view of themselves as writers. Things they would have addressed if they were the one writing the story.  And it was MY story.  So, I sent a mental hug for their time and effort, promised myself to send more “thank you” emails, and got to work with final edits and proofreading.  I was able to submit two days before the deadline.

And I realize that once again, here on my blog, I’m not just preaching to the choir (by talking about writing to writers), I’m preaching to the preachers, rabbis, ministers, and priestesses.  If you are an experienced writer, and have already gone through all this, I hope I gave you a moment of nostalgia.  If you are going through this now, know that you are not alone, and I hope you will find and keep some good readers.  If you have yet to go through finding and synching with other writers, for better or worse, then you are forewarned.  It’s a stressful experience, even when it’s a good one.

For now, I keep writing and working on other projects, and try to ignore the waiting period for acceptance/rejection clicking along…

Urg.

 

 

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Daydreaming “In Calabria”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeter S. Beagle published “The Last Unicorn” in 1968.  He was twenty-nine.  I was born the same year, so that book was not immediately on my reading list.

In fact, I did not discover the story until the 1982 animated film.  It would not be an exaggeration to say it helped shape my life.  It was one of many films and books that molded my view of the world, including my fascination and love for animation, movies, storytelling, myths, and fairy tales.  I never grew out of those first loves, and over time I learned that was a fine thing.  I still dream of the Red Bull, waves of unicorns coming in on the tide, human folly, and a unicorn’s regret.

I was in my twenties before I got a hold of a copy of the book he had written.  It was sublime.  I found more of Mr. Beagle’s books in my thirties and forties, but not all, to my current embarrassment.  The books I read were all very fine things.  He’s not a rock-star author, nor a household name, but I adore his command of language.  His prose weaves a subtle spell created from ethereal mists and hard labor.

I was shocked to find his latest work, “In Calabria,” in my local library’s new arrivals, but in a pleasant way.  I honestly didn’t realize he was still writing at 78.  This is a new goal for me, to be still publishable at that age, even if it’s too late to match being published in my twenties.

So, I’m currently in book-dream-land.  It’s a timely vacation, since I am at a point in my life where I need help believing in the intangible magics, like love, justice, and hope.  Writer whining, unhelpful suggestions, and ridiculous posturing will be lacking this week, and maybe, that is a fine thing, too.

Happy writing, and please support your local library!

Today, I Will Nap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell, I got through the Beautiful Freaks Fest with most of my brain intact.  I don’t feel it was my best writing, and the fiber arts/artifact creation/photography caused lots of insomnia, and nearly gave me a panic attack by Sunday.  Sooooo many things got cut out of the posts because my imagination far exceeds my time and abilities.  I had to be vague with specific details, like dates, names, and locations, because the second I commit, I HAVE to make sure everything is 100% historically accurate, and I would have never pushed the “publish” button, AND that would have been its own kind of failure.  Also, I was so busy trying to get my own posts out, I couldn’t get to the other writers/artists to look/like/share their work, too.

I also ignored a lot of weekend chores to get anything posted, and there is a vague sense I was only half aware during the conversations I had with my family.  Writer’s fog, I call it, although it affects all creative types.  I will hope for their forgiveness, and try to do better in the future.

BUT, I did it!  Three fiction posts in three days!  The links to the fest are still open, so I will spend the week visiting my co-conspirators.  Please, visit them, too.

I didn’t realize how comfy I had become with the “publish” button while running a blog.  All the old anxieties came roaring back when it was a work of fiction.  This does not bode well for future self-publishing, and puts another tick mark in the traditional publishing column.  Hmmm…

When I wrote the original short story six months ago, a letter from a man to his sister, begging her to come home and help him deal with the aftermath of the Fae touching his life, I had no idea it would go in this direction.  Now, I have the beginnings of a blog serial, and perhaps I’ll collect it into a novella.  (Although pic heavy e-books are difficult to format, from what I have heard.)  There is so much more to that short story than I thought.  Time to dig deeper into the research.  Yay!  Research!

What else is in my future?  Finishing the other short story, catching up on beta reading for friends, overdue reviews for other friends, revising and editing my novels, more blogging with my creative brain exposed, and hopefully–somehow–getting my work out into the world and published.

But first, I’m going to take a nap.

Happy writing!

UPDATE 6/28/2018;  The Mayfly Bride fiction posts were removed to revise and submit to anthologies.  Sorry for any inconvenience.

Writer’s Crack!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriter’s crack is real!  No, this isn’t about the pants-sliding-down-while-you-type crack, like the plumber’s crack of comedy gold.  We’re talking about things that put you into a frenzy to write a newly inspired story.  Every writer has triggers, and if you’re lucky you can find them and use them to get out of a slump.

A couple of years ago, while browsing through a used book store, I found a book about English fairy tales and–of course–purchased it.  (That’s it, up on the need-to-read shelf.  The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evens-Wentz.)  The subject has always fascinated me; it was not my first, and certainly not my last such book.  Some weeks later, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I had a moment to crack it open.  The introduction (Yes, I read introductions, prologues, glossaries, appendices, and maps.) was both pleasantly surprising and completely cringe-worthy, in the way of dusty, old, and almost forgotten books.  Apparently, I had in my hand a recent reissue of a book that JRR Tolkien had referenced for his world building.  Even more pleased with my lucky find, and hopefully under the influence of a little mystical foresight, I happily delved into the first chapter…

AND FIRMLY SHUT IT, bookmarked on chapter two.  The after images in my head, while my body lay snugly anchored on my couch with the book clasped in unmoving hands, spun like leaves heralding the start of a stormy spring.  The stories!  Characters!  Battles!  Lighting, tempests, swords, grief, love, fear, and loss that is an ache that pierces to the soul’s depth.

I held completely still.  The overfull brain must not be disturbed.  A new/old world sloshed against the sides of it.  For a dry and dated tome, first published in 1911, it held a surprising lushness.

I was aware of movement deep in my psyche.  There was something lurking in my mind.  Lurking like an elder god and getting called to the surface.  The Leviathan rises, or worse…

Unfortunately, I already had three multi-book story arcs that had been clawing at the insides of my skull, rudely pushing each other out of line and snarling to be first.  I closed that wonderful book HARD–like the doors of Tartarus–just to preserve my soul from the punishments I likely deserved.  It contained the breath of Titans snoring, and (as anyone who has lived with a chronic snorer learns) I heard the sound of something nearing an awakening.

It sits on my shelf, unobtrusively, but whispering to me I quiet moments.  I know that like Pandora, I am doomed to open it…

Eventually.  For now, it sits.  It’s writer’s crack, or something like.

Hopefully, a story is really in there, but I think I may need to be a more experienced writer to do it justice.  It’s not the only story I have saved for later in my career.  For now, I have my other stories that I am currently passionate about, and willing to learn on.

This past weekend I added three more of The Lost Library book series to my shelf, risking collusion among them.  Myths are my weakness, and my wellspring.  I–apparently–like to live dangerously.

And that, folks, is about as close as I get to a written book review.  Not an Amazon review (I’ll do those anytime for books I like, especially for independent authors), but an actual blog review.  It’s not my thing, and lots of other people do a really good job of them.  And despite the heavy-handed use of metaphor in this post, it really doesn’t begin to describe what was happening to my brain.

But, I am curious if this has ever happened to any of you?

Gender Politics and the Modern Storyteller

Why does the princess dress as a boy?  Why does a girl cut her hair and run away?  Why does a young woman throw her life away, entering a lethally dangerous world, to reject  the marriage proposal she doesn’t want?  Simply to escape the trap of being female in a male dominated society.

The struggle for an equal voice in our society is just as old as those Fairy Tales, if not older.  Some are of the opinion that Campbell’s mythic Hero’s Journey is for men, exclusively, and to place a female in that role is ‘manning’ her.  After centuries of waiting, women–in fiction and reality–are breaking free of the imposed roles of golden princess, mother goddess, and throne side trinket.  We are becoming the Hero, because the hero is Human.

Movie and TV Producers don’t think it’s happening.  Toy Producers don’t think it’s happening.  Book Publishers don’t think it’s happening.  Everywhere I look are people who don’t think it’s happening.  Some Manufacturers see it, I think, but are sure to charge us more for the same product sold to men, while simultaneously paying us less.

Can you not see it?  I see it in social media, dating practices, self-published books, and Sci-fi awards (including the backlashes).  And it’s not just about the equality of genders; it’s equality for all the things a Human can be. (None so blind as those who will not see.)

I see the signs everywhere.  The firm rock our culture is built on is shifting toward equality, moving like a tectonic plate.  Gender politics pop up in every aspect of our lives, like sudden volcanos sprouting in open fields.  The ground shakes, liquefying, and you either figure out how to float or sink down.

It’s a struggle, figuring out who you want to be as a gender.  Some of us make mistakes, as many are quick to point out, fingering the most obvious cases of toxic feminism, confusion at gender fluidity, and concern over woman becoming too manlike.  We are evolving, and that is a difficult process.  Mistakes will be made, and hard lessons learned.  (That’s just the tip, Honey.  Lye back and get used to it.)

I don’t want to take away or suppress the masculine voice.  I just want to be able to say, “Me, too.  I have a story!”  Equality is understanding we all have both masculine and feminine sides, and being allowed to express them as individuals is the evolved form of society.

It may feel like we are entering a new Era to you, but it’s been whispered to me my whole life.  The earliest myths, Fairy Tales, and the stories we tell ourselves are all part of it.  The voice is louder now, promising a better way, if we are strong enough.  You can’t keep a segment of the population suppressed forever.  All of the stories tell us…  They rise.  Always.

I don’t want to be your Queen, or Goddess, or Mother/Sister/Daughter to have your respect.  I want to be acknowledged as roughly fifty percent of the population.  I am equally human, so don’t force me to play the Bitch card just to be equal.

Keep your eyes closed.  Pretend it’s all going back to the way it was.  Feel free to take that risk.  Just be aware that if you keep trying to force that golden bikini on us, we have new role models, and we will wrap that chain around your throat and pull.

If we choose to put that golden bikini on, for you, for an evening, that’s another story…

(Dammit, I’m back to erotica.  Again!)