when it all breaks down and we’re runaways

grace

This business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

So we’re coming up on the sixth year anniversary of me first getting paid for a story – which is the point at which I mark my entry into the world of Professional Writerdom – and I’ve been taking stock of some things lately.

As usual, I was forced into it by my own mental health cornering me and yelling and gesticulating wildly until I finally paid attention. That’s usually how this goes. That’s how it went after I collapsed post-doctoral comprehensive exams, and it’s how it went a bunch of times before. I convince myself that I’m okay until it becomes extremely obvious that I’m not. So I’ve done some stock-taking, and the conclusion to which I’ve come is that I’m not okay, and some things need to change so I can work my way back toward the state of Okayness I should be in most of the time.

Cut because this gets long and pretty blargh-personal.

Continue reading

the earth gives forth wonders

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art by Michael Whelan

Just finished going back through The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower book 3) and trying very hard not to cry. Not because the ending itself is emotional – it ends on a rather infuriating cliffhanger, actually – but simply because this brings back everything about these books which meant so much to me at a very, very difficult time in my life.

We escape into these worlds, don’t we? But they don’t always treat us kindly. The best ones, however, become places we regret leaving and to which we long to return. The characters become friends and companions, and they can mean almost as much to us as the “real” people in our lives. We suffer with them, we mourn with them, we rejoice with them. We learn with them and hopefully we become wiser, better people. Sometimes we’re their company when they die, unseen and unfelt – perhaps their only company.

I’m reluctant to embrace any narrative which places some ideal of “humanity” above any other way of being, but I do believe that stories and storytelling are one of the most fundamental – possibly the most fundamental – things that make us who we are. Creatures who feel and love and learn and grow, who imagine. Whose existence is bound by time but which also transcends time and exists simultaneously forward and backward along a linear trajectory.

We imagine the past, we experience the present, we remember the future. We’ve always done this. It was the first form of play that ever existed, the first form of history, the first futurism.

Tell your tales in whatever form they come. Build them, maintain them, return to them. Be glad.

The world is not cyclical, not eternal or immutable, but endlessly transforms itself, and never goes back, and we can assist in that transformation.

Live on, survive, for the earth gives forth wonders. It may swallow your heart, but the wonders keep on coming. You stand before them bareheaded, shriven. What is expected of you is attention.

Your songs are your planets. Live on them but make no home there.

What you write about, you lose. What you sing, leaves you on the wings of song.

Sing against death. Command the wildness of the city.

Freedom to reject is the only freedom. Freedom to uphold is dangerous.

Life is elsewhere. Cross frontiers. Fly away.

Salman Rushdie, The Ground Beneath Her Feet

Writing: practice resurrection

image courtesy of erichhh

image courtesy of erichhh

I wrote this the other day for my Tumblr but I feel like it fits here as well. So here it is.

  • Write.
  • Read.
  • Accept that your first draft will probably be shit. Accept that it can be shit. It doesn’t make you a bad writer. It makes you a writer. You’re writing.
  • Fear editing. Do not let your fear of editing stop you from editing.
  • Recognize that creativity is a muscle and becomes stronger with exercise. Don’t wait for inspiration; you screw yourself that way, because inspiration is fickle and also does not like you or support you emotionally as a person. Your brain is plastic. You can literally train it to produce words on command. It’s not necessarily easy and they aren’t necessarily going to be good words, and everyone is different. But it (probably) can be done.
  • You’re going to have periods where nothing you produce feels good. Where it all feels bad. Where you’re sure you would do the entire world a great favor by no longer producing words at all. It’s okay. It almost certainly won’t last. Try to look at it like the flu; let it run its course. If you can, keep writing anyway.
  • You’re going to have periods where you can’t write at all. Try to write anyway. Stop when it really starts to be painful and/or upsetting. See above re: flu.
  • Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to take breaks. Give yourself permission to take vacations. Eat healthy. Drink enough water. Get plenty of sleep. You’re working with your brain but your brain rides around in your body and you need to take care of one to take care of the other.
  • Don’t let things sit. They will become terrifying.
  • You will never be the writer you want to be. Ever. Probably. Regardless, get comfortable with the idea.
  • Under no circumstances should you compare yourself to other people. It kills you. *points to chest* Here.
  • Recognize that you’re going to compare yourself to other people anyway so don’t beat yourself up about it too much. You are probably going to resent other writers, great writers, who are also your friends, and you’re going to feel like a jerk. You’re not a jerk. At least, you’re not any more of a jerk than they are, because I guarantee they are doing the same thing. Very possibly at this very moment they are resenting you.
  • Focus as little as possible on what you “should” be writing. Write whatever the fuck you want to write and worry about the details later, if indeed the worrying needs to be done at all (probably it doesn’t).
  • Seek the advice of other writers. Take whatever advice they have to give with entire mounds of salt.
  • Embrace criticism. Remember that it will always hurt.
  • Embrace rejection. Remember that it will always hurt.
  • It is a sad fact that quality doesn’t always equal attention. You’ll probably write great stuff – stuff which you know for an objective fact is great, and people won’t read it. While at the same time they’re all reading and raving about something else which is frankly not very good. No, I don’t know why. People are baffling. Make your peace with that.
  • To the extent that you can, don’t write for the sake of attention. This is something else which you’ll probably do anyway; just recognize that it usually doesn’t go anywhere productive.
  • If it comes to attention? Pay attention. To everything. Writing is about the process of paying attention.
  • One of my favorite quotes is from Wendell Berry’s fantastic poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front”: Listen to carrion – put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Life is temporal. Life exists and moves through time. Words and the process of producing them is the process of creating static points of meaning in that time. Things will arrive unexpectedly, from places you never regarded as productive. This is where paying attention becomes important.
  • That said, don’t take writing seriously. It’s ridiculous. It’s just a completely fucking ridiculous thing, as ridiculous as anything human beings have ever done.
  • Do it anyway.
  • Write.

THE THING I HAVE BEEN WAITING TO ANNOUNCE: IT IS HERE

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Let me tell you a story.

Over half a decade ago I and a friend of mine wrote a book. It was half a lark, something to do while we were both being tormented by our respective PhD programs, but it became something quite serious, and then it became Line and Orbit, which was our co-debut novel. We loved it. Critics loved it. Readers seemed to mostly love it. Love love love.

We didn’t explicitly plan for a sequel, but we left the ending very much open for one. Because hey: characters we adored, world we adored, and the story didn’t feel like it was necessarily done. So after a while we started writing one.

And this was when the snags began.

Snags happen when you’re writing a book. Sometimes lots of snags. Life is sort of a thing. My co-author eventually needed to leave to spend more time with her dissertation (and she graduated and is sort of fucking amazing). I scrapped almost everything and started again from scratch. Then there were additional issues of a variety of kinds, and I ended up having to scrap that (complete) draft and write another (complete) one. Which also hit a wall. Lots of shuffling around. Lots of scrambling and throwing of chalk and erasers and turning over of tables. And at the end of it, when the dust settled, I had a sequel to Line and Orbit and no home for it.

This was, to say the least, troubling. Because it’s very hard to sell the sequel to a book absent the first one, if the sequel can’t stand pretty much entirely on its own, and even then. I thought I might have to self-publish, which I badly didn’t want to do – nothing at all against self-publishing, it’s something I’ve done, but I just didn’t have the time or the capital to do it the way I wanted. I shopped the book around a bit. No takers. I began to wonder if this story would ever see the light of day unless I did it all myself, and who knew when I would be ready to do that.

Well.

I can now announce that an angel has arrived in the form of Riptide Publishing.  The Line and Orbit sequel is happening.

It’s in the editing phase right now and will be published at the end of the summer. The final book in the trilogy – yes, it’s one of those – will be published in the fall. A third book – a sort of prequel – will see a release this coming winter, hopefully just in time for the holidays.

That’s three books from me, all in the next few months. I have a lot of work ahead of me. But it’s work I’ve been waiting a long time to be to do. I’m so, so grateful to Riptide for stepping up and being there when I really needed someone to save me and these books, and I can’t wait to do this work with them.

Adam and Lochlan also have a lot of work to do. They have a world to save. Many of them, actually. You’ll see them again soon.

In the meantime: Dance party.

LABYRINTHIAN giveaway – ebook and trade paperback!

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OKAY SO

I love giving shit away. Let’s give some shit away

Between now and February 10, you can enter to win one of three copies of the Labyrinthian trade paperback over here. WHICH IS AWESOME

BUT I’M NOT DONE

Between now and February 10 you can ALSO enter to win one of three copies of the ebook in your choice of format right HERE:

And of course I won’t spam you unless you want me to and even then it’ll just be pictures of my cats. And if I sell your info to anyone else it’ll just be my cats, and they won’t do anything with it because they’re cats.

FREE BOOKS YAY

LABYRINTHIAN: here is a FAQ

I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT ON THE 20TH

14794919024_73b09979e4_cI haven’t been talking about it as much as I would prefer for reasons of workload, but I figure it might be good to post some info on it given that it’s like ten days away. It’s a book I’m really proud of. There are some things you may wish to know about it, so here are some answers to some questions you may have. You’re welcome.

  1. Q: What the hell is it? A: It’s a book. It’s a book about mythic science fiction and spaceships and bounty hunters and shooting and more spaceships and genetically engineered supersoldiers with anxiety about social situations and family-related angst and the bounty hunter who might eventually figure out how he feels about him. It’s about facing death gracefully and the long journey toward self-acceptance. It’s about faith and confronting the loss of it. It’s about learning to love someone. There are more spaceships also. And dudes making out.
  2. Q: When is it out? A: I told you. The 20th. Pay attention.
  3. Q: Okay, don’t get snippy. What formats? A: Ebook in all the flavors of the rainbow and trade paperback both.
  4. Q: Can I preorder it? A: FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK also if you do you get a nifty discount
  5. Q: Are you going to be giving away any copies? A: Yep! Two copies of the paperback via Goodreads, starting tomorrow. Concurrently I’ll be giving away three copies of the ebook via my site. I’ll post the link when it’s up.
  6. Q: How long did it take you to write it? A: A month. It was extraordinarily fast for me. Ironically I started it in mid-October and finished in the middle of November so it would have counted as winning NaNoWriMo if I had just timed it right.
  7. Q: Is it good? A: I like to think so.
  8. Q: Is there sex in it? A: Quite a lot.
  9. Q: Is there plot? A: Quite a lot.
  10. Q: Are there feelings? A: A tremendous amount.
  11. Q: Is it actually romance? A: I’d say absolutely so, though it’s romance with the SFnal parts equally important and deeply interwoven. It does not work at all without the science fiction. I hate genre finickiness but if that’s a thing you wonder about there’s the answer.
  12. Q: I notice it’s in the same universe as this other Line and Orbit book. Do I need to read that too in order to get what’s going on? A: Nope. This is fully a standalone. That said, reading Line and Orbit will give you a heftier dose of worldbuilding and probably allow you to get a little more out of it. Also I like when people buy my books. Buy my books.
  13. Q: I love you and I want you to have money. Where will buying it give you the most money? A: Buying it anywhere at all is awesome but if you want me to have slightly more money buy directly from Samhain. I get a higher royalty rate there.
  14. Q: Will you sign my copy? A: If you track me down in meatspace, sure.
  15. Q: Will you be my friend? A: I will be your bestest best friend.

I think I’ve covered everything. But shoot me a line if I haven’t addressed your question here.

What are my social medias and how do I use them: general information

It occurs to me that I’ve been using Tumblr in a really different way lately, as well as getting some new followers, so I figure – if anyone cares – it might be useful to summarize how I use each social media thing and what you can expect if you follow me at any of them or if you want to or if you do after you read this.

  • Twitter (@dynamicsymmetry). Day to day minute to minute shit. Screaming about emotions, links, talking about writing and politics and random opinions. Retweets that are either odd or obnoxiously political or both. I’m very, very active here.
  • Tumblr (dynamicsymmetry). These days, mostly fandom, specifically The Walking Dead (tv). Meta of same. Yelling about same. Gifsets, of that and other things. Fashion. Fantasy art (not mine). Occasional Social Justice Warrioring. Music. Fanfiction. These days I’m very active here as well.
  • Facebook (Sunny Moraine). Kind of a mishmash of the above, with more links and less fandom. I tend to use this one the least.
  • Instagram (sunnymoraine). Makeup selfies. Among other things. This usually crossposts to all of the above.

So yeah. To anyone who already follows me at one or all of those, thank you and/or I’m sorry.