breathing!

Dec. 14th, 2015 09:00 am
beth_bernobich: Beak Bird (Beak Bird)
Application successfully launched. Department admins can now assigned courses to instructors, create new courses and sections, and run a number of reports. We have made a few tweaks in the past couple weeks, but overall, the new application is working quite well. In my spare time, I am setting up a real test server, creating profiles for automated builds, and converting a second application from ASP.Net to MVC.

All of this is a lot of work, but I am getting so much satisfaction out of making things right, both for the end users and the development environment. My boss hired me because he knew things were a hot mess and he needed an expert. I'm happy to oblige. Plus, he's ordered an ice cream cake to celebrate my birthday.

As for writing? I've completed the Writing The Other workshop, I'm sending out queries for Other Than Honorable, and I'm now reviewing my draft of The Edge of the Empire. Good stuff, satisfying stuff.

I'm also remembering to breathe.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Rose Fractal)
...of the old year.

I'm spending this last week editing chapters of Current Novel. Tidying up, as it were. Come New Year's Day, I'll start the next new chapter.

And the next year will be a new chapter, in so many ways. I'm switching to part-time at my dayjob for the first six months. I'm switching to a pen name for Current Novel, which itself is very different from the kind of books I usually write.

At the same time, I haven't abandoned my old self. I have plans to revise my fourth River of Souls novel and send that out to publishers. And I haven't forgotten my Not-Mansfield-Park project, which is my old friend historical fantasy, this time with magic and polyamory.

That's next year. For now, I'm content to work through this transitional week in quiet tasks and spending time with my family.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (mad scribe)
And here is my final guest post on the Magical Words blog: The Revision Monster, wherein I talk about how I approach revision.

Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] davidbcoe for inviting me to share my thoughts about writing.

Tomorrow: Another giveaway!
beth_bernobich: Crab (Crab)
My first guest post is up at Magical Words:

Writing Advice, the Meta Post

Wherein I give advice about writing advice. Stop by, read, and make a comment.
beth_bernobich: obsessing (obsessing)
There's a trick I play on myself when I write.

I tell myself, "There's no hurry. No, really. I don't need to finish this chapter this weekend. Just write the first paragraph. That's all."

Almost magically, the urge to procrastinate fades and my imagination unlocks. I write that paragraph. Then another. And another. And because I'm not in a hurry, I take breaks when I need to. And because I'm no longer stressed about the book, I no longer avoid it. So I truly can relax on breaks, not feel guilty, and I go back to writing with joy and anticipation.

And if I only get that one paragraph done? That's okay, too. Because one paragraph is more than none. And because tomorrow I'll play the same trick again.

So with that in mind, here are today's goals for my current WIP:

Write the first paragraph of chapter 7
Edit chapter 6 (a two-page mini-chapter)


ETA: Chapter six edited. 600 words written for chapter 7.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Fantasy Cafe is holding their third annual Women in SFF Month, with posts from women authors and bloggers. Today's entry is my post about "The Invisible Woman".

in between

Nov. 21st, 2013 09:00 am
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (blue woman)
Just over three weeks ago, ALLEGIANCE came out.

Five days ago, I emailed the final version of THE TIME ROADS to my editor.

I'm now in that restless state between projects**, but I've learned I need to take a break and refill the well. There are quite a few books on my TBR list. And some movies I want to see. And a trip to Paris to visit our son. Around the end of the year, however, the itch to write will get too strong to resist, and I'll start noodling on Next Project. Whichever it turns out to be.

** And fretting about things beyond my control. (Sales! Reviews! Cover Art!)
beth_bernobich: Beak Bird (Beak Bird)
Have any questions about my books? Want to find out more about a particular character: where they came from, what's in store for them? Any mysteries you'd like me to clear up? Or is there something about writing or publishing you are curious about? Ask me anything. I'll be happy to answer.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (book love)
No, not that living word. The living word in stories.

Now that I'm in between novel projects, I'm catching up on critiques and the process reminds me of the long frustrating struggle to sell that first story, and the even longer struggle to sell to pro markets. For years, the whole process felt like hit or miss. Then I took a week-long workshop with Gardner Dozois and Kris Rusch. We wrote, we critiqued, we analyzed. We even had to act as editors for our own pretend anthology, which meant reading slush. (Though not, I am glad to say, writing rejection letters.)

That week made a huge difference in my writing, and it made a difference in my reading and critiquing. It was as though someone had handed me a pair of glasses, and I could almost see the dividing line between stories that were just a dead collection of words, and those that had potential. I obviously can't predict whether a particular story would get published, because sales also depend on finding the right market at the right time But those dead collections of words? Nope. Those either needed to be binned or set on the far back burner until the writer acquired more skills.

And from time to time, I try to figure out how to describe that difference. "Vivid" isn't quite right. "Zing" comes closer, though some people react badly to the word because they associate it with marketing speak. It's definitely not an absence of mistakes. I've read stories for critique (or ones already published) that have flaws, but they all posses some combination of prose and story and character that injects them with electricity. The monster gets up and walks.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (sagittarius)
Luckily, the writing part of my life is going well. Copyedits for ALLEGIANCE will arrive on Monday with a generous deadline. (Thank you, Claire!) I will be working at the dayjob all next weekend, but I should have two weekends free and clear, plus I can wrangle a couple days of vacation. (I've learned that I end up with much cleaner prose if I read the whole ms aloud, and that takes time.)

The novella still has no title, alas.

I poked at my novel proposals, but I find I can't focus on them yet. I need to get past ALLEGIANCE copyedits and galleys first. However, I should have an interlude before my editorial letter for EDGE OF THE EMPIRE arrives. My goal is to finish two complete proposals before the end of summer, and I think that's doable.

One day, one project at a time.
beth_bernobich: obsessing (obsessing)
There's a sweet spot, between finishing the novel—and I mean really finishing it: taking it through editorial revisions, copyedits, and galleys—where I have this momentary sense of victory. It is, by no coincidence, the last moment where I have any control over anything.

Oh, sure, a few shiny moments pop up along the way. Holding the ARC in my hands counts as a big one. Or coming across some positive buzz.

But then the ARCs go out to reviewers, and anxiety descends. Will the reviewers like it? Will they even bother reading it, or is the ARC headed straight for eBay? More important, will the readers like it? The ARCs go out four or five months before the release date, and during that time, it can can feel as though the book has vanished into a black hole.

So. Queen's Hunt is now in that black hole. Luckily I had a short story project that claimed my attention for a while. Plus the dayjob. Plus moving house. Even so, I have bouts of panic from time to time, worrying about pretty much everything a new, relatively unknown author can worry about, plus some.

If I follow the same pattern as before, I'll get some good reviews and bounce around. I'll get some bad reviews and fall into despair. I'll get excited all over again when the book shows up in bookstores, followed by more despair when the first one or two star review shows up. (Yes, I know it's madness to read reviews. I'm getting better at avoiding them, but I'm not all the way there yet.)

Eventually, two or three months after publication, I come through to the other side. A bit resigned (again) that I'm no star in the genre world. Happy that the book worked for the readers it did work for. And busy with edits for the next book.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
Wednesday and Thursday, I posted the results for applying the Bechdel Test to my short stories and novels.

The results weren't bad, but the point isn't really to go all rah-rah, look how great (or awful) I am. The real point is to double-check my own unconscious choices when creating plots and characters. Why should I do that? Well, to make better stories. If my default choice is male, then I'm failing to think hard enough about my characters. (Even more so if the default choice is white, straight, cis-gendered male.)

Just as important as gender choice is what roles those characters play in the story. Plenty of stories and novels include women, but then those women are treated as accessories to the men. Their lives, and their pupose in the story, revolves around the men. Why? Why can't the women have their own agendas? No reason, other than that default view again.

So my goal, going forward, is to question myself and my choices in my writing. About sex. About roles. About all the elements that make up a character.

What about you? Have you checked your stories and novels? What if we all posted our results? What if someone, lots of someones, paid attention?
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (lilith)
The Bechdel Test, from the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, was originally used for movies, and has these three simple rules:

1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something other than a man. (Not limited to romantic relationships, for example two sisters talking about their father doesn't pass)

(An optional variation says the two women must be named characters.)

Now, passing the Bechdel Test isn't a guarantee of quality, nor is the opposite true. However, it shows some interesting (read: depressing) results when applied to movies and fiction in general. I've heard some authors claim how *hard* it is to pass the Bechdel Test. My first reaction is that it can't be that hard, but I thought I'd check my own published work to see how it fares. Below are the results for my short fiction. ('X' means the story passed.)

X  "River of Souls," 2010
X  "Jump to Zion," 2010
   "The Golden Octopus," 2008
X  "Shopping Spree," 2008
X  "Air and Angels," 2008
   "Pig, Crane, Fox", 2008
   "Marsdog," Coyote Wild, 2007
   "A Handful of Pearls," 2007
X  "A Feasts of Cousins," 2010
   "On the Morning of the Day Before," 2006
X  "Remembrance," 2006
   "A Flight of Numbers Fantastique Strange," 2006
X  "The Colors of Tomorrow," 2005
X  "Watercolors in the Rain," 2005
X  "Chrysalide," 2003
X  "Poison," 2003
   "D'une étoile éloignée," 2002
X  "Of Moondust and Starlight," 2002
X  "Chameleon," 2001
   "Medusa at Morning," 2001
   "Forever," 2000
   "Version 2.0," 1999


Of 22 stories, 12 pass. More than half, but not so great. In some cases, the stories are limited because the single POV character is male (Pig, Crane, Fox; Marsdog; A Handful of Pearls), but "Air and Angels" does pass even so, because the male protag witnesses a brief conversation between two sisters about their science experiment. "River of Souls" is from a male's POV, but in his previous life, he was female, and she has conversations with women. "Jump to Zion" passes only if you don't invoke the "named" part, so I'm not sure if I should count it or not.

The point is, however, that I could do more. Especially when I look at the stories again, I see that several could have passed without much trouble. Again, it's not so much that *every* story must pass, but that stories will be richer and deeper if they do.

Tomorrow I'll post results for my novels (those under contract, even if they aren't yet published).
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (facepalm)
The author of this post means well**. I guess. He gets a few—a very few—things right. But wow, oh wow, does he get so much more wrong. I have this strong urge to whack him with a giant cluestick, but I'm not sure it would do any good.

Luckily, he's not the only one writing about this topic.

A useful, illuminating article on the same topic is [livejournal.com profile] rose_lemberg's splendid article about Feminist Characters in SFF. And after you've read that, read Alex Dally MacFarlane's article on Female Friendships in SFF Fiction.

** ETA: After reading this earlier post on his blog, I no longer think he means well. (Warning: the post is full of stupidity and triggers.)

ETA2: Apparently he did not write that bullet list himself. He "borrowed" it from another writer's column.
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (doggie)
I don't have any rules. (Neither do the other writers who have posted in this meme. As I understand it, this is more a sharing of personal guidelines, which is a Good Thing.)

I'm also not sure I have ten of whatever you call them, but I do have a few reminders to myself.

  • Listen to your inner broccoli. If your subconscious wants to follow a weird path in the story, let it. You can always revise later, but often that weird path leads to something new and interesting.

  • Take all the "you should" and "you must" comments yammering in your brain and stuff them into dark hole. Then shoot them.

  • Write what you love, but make it the best you can. Love is not a substitute for craft. Nor is craft a substitute for love.

  • Trust your process. Even when that process decides to change. (And it often does.)

  • Don't pull back. If your character is about to do something horrible—or amazing—let her. If her actions have consequences, follow them.

  • Read. Write. Critique.

  • Be aware of your prose. Word choice matters. So does rhythm.

  • Be kind to yourself.

(Counting them up, only eight. Is that okay?)
beth_bernobich: red mushroom (Default)
Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire, just announced the results of his first paragraph contest.

Even if you don't care about the contest itself, read the post anyway. He's got some good thoughtful comments about first paragraphs, both from a reader's and an agent's perspective. This comment, from one of the posters, resonated with me:

Essentially, I think the first paragraph has three important functions: it establishes the tone/voice, it gets the reader into the flow of the book, and it establishes trust between the author and reader.

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