Writing books of the heart

Writing books of the heart

This past week, Kris Rusch addressed writers burnout on her blog. She had just finished teaching a workshop to professional authors. She said that over and over, they lamented not being able to write what they wanted.

One of the comments I heard the most at this year’s Business Master Class was a bit wistful. And the comment usually came in a discussion about something else.

  • I sure would like to get to the place where I can do what you folks do: where I can write what I love.
  • As soon as this [insert detail] is over, I might be able to write what I love.
  • Writers who write what they love are really lucky. Sure wish I could get there.

Over and over and over again. Those phrases have been going round and round in my head, partly because I have a lot of compassion for the speakers, and partly in conjunction with other things that have happened this past year.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post on burnout.  It, and the subsequent posts, got reprinted in the magazine for the Romance Writers of America, the Romance Writers Report or the RWR. I got a lot of email from the original blog posts and from the RWR reprint. I had hit a nerve.

I was aware of the nerve, but not thinking about it too much, except to realize that so many writers were on the hamster wheel of doom—trying very hard to write more and more and more to make the same amount of money they had made a few years ago. We’re in a mature market now, and the highs aren’t as high (and the lows aren’t as low). Things do change, sometimes daily, in this new world of publishing, but the business models remain the same.

Source

What happened was that people start writing books that sell. And at first, they’re marginally interested in them. Say an author hits it big in contemporary romance. They keep churning out romance because they’ve gotten used to the money. Writing indie is particularly killer, because you’re encouraged to write books and release them as quick as you can–a month apart, ideally. In traditional, you release books a year apart, at minimum.

So here’s this author who has written five to twelve books in a year. They’re getting tired of contemporary romance. An idea has been percolating for a hard sci-fi. But they’re riding the tiger, dependent on that income from the romances. They don’t dare switch genres for fear of alienating their readers and losing that dough.

Kris Rusch calls this the hamster wheel of doom. You run and run until you burn out and take up selling cellphones at a mall kiosk. Anything but writing.

This “writing to sell vs writing what you like” thing is debated constantly in my own writing circles. We’d all like to make a little dough, right? But then we also want to write about space elves fighting space dragons in space. Who in the world would buy that?

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Someone, apparently.

Switching gears, here. Last weekend was Blizzcon 2018, where the game developer Blizzard Entertainment courts its fans and investors with sneak peeks of upcoming game stuff.

One of the games they announced was a HD version of Warcraft 3. You know, the old real-time strategy where you command an army of orcs or elves and beat on other armies of such.

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The man announcing the game remarked that Warcraft 3 had invented whole new genres. That stuck in my brain, because I saw it happen.

My siblings were big RTS players. And while Warcraft 3 was fun, the map/scenario editor became the hottest thing of all. People invented a game mode where you run around with just your hero character, and maybe a few minions, and beat on other heroes, Diablo-style. This gave rise to the game type called a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, or MOBA. Games in this new genre include League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of the Storm. None of these games would have existed without homebrew maps in Warcraft 3.

In the genre arena of books, certain authors invented genres, too, simply by writing books of the heart. John Grisham started the “lawyers in trouble” thriller subgenre. Joe Nobody invented the “prepper thriller” genre. And those are just the ones I know about–there’s lots of others. If they had “written to market” (that is, wrote what everybody else was writing because it was selling), those new genres would never have been invented.

If you write a book that you love but doesn’t sell, what does it hurt? You’ve produced something you love. It’s no worse than writing a fanfic that gets zero hits. And if you keep writing books in your little niche that nobody reads, eventually somebody will read it–as long as you’ve created something of good quality. And you may create a whole new genre by accident. This happens all the time.

As a reader, I can spot a book miles away that the author loved, vs a book the publisher made them write. The sparkle disappears. Just compare the earlier Mitford books (Jan Karon) to later ones. The characters are grouchy and the adventures are awful, compared to the wonderful stories and characters of the early books.

Or try to find anything worth reading on the Kindle free book list. “Shovelware” books, written overnight with no revisions or editing, aren’t worth the electrons it takes to deliver them to your device. Often I’ll download ten different books, and all but one will be badly-written tripe. Sometimes I don’t even get one good one.

Point is, there’s a lot of reasons to write what you want to write. Indie publishing has removed the barriers between you and your audience. Kris has a lot of good advice for people already on the hamster wheel of doom who want off. I hope this gives you courage to write that book that’s been gnawing at you.

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A season of breaking

I just had my sixth baby this past week. And it was quite the learning experience.

This entire past nine months has been a slow breaking process for me. I was so sick with morning sickness, then I just couldn’t do things I used to do, like long walks and fun outings with the kids. Finally, I could barely even walk. I’ve had to rely more and more on my family, because I couldn’t take care of everything myself.

I pride myself on doing everything. Having to be broken slowly has been very hard. It’s why I haven’t updated this blog, because I knew that all I’d do would be to whine. And who wants to read whiny blogs?

I was terrified of labor and delivery for the whole nine months. Surprise, labor and delivery wasn’t too bad. It was the postpartum hemorrhage that almost did me in. (And it was the doctor’s fault for the placental abruption, even though I begged him not to. Snarl.)

Here I am, four days later, and I still get shaky from the blood loss if I move around too much. So I sit. And nurse the baby. And have to let other people take care of things. This is very hard for me.

But it’s made me rely on God more, which I suppose was the whole point. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, after all. But having my pride beaten down has been so hard. And humiliating. I suppose I needed it, though.

Anyway, I’ll be back to creating things again … soon. Whenever soon might be. :-p

Doubting Thomas and the entertainment factor

Last week, I was hanging out on Facebook, reading discussions in the various groups I hang out in. I happened across a fairly benign question: If your characters are Christians, how much do they express the tenets of their faith?

Since it was a Christian writer’s group, I didn’t bat an eye. Then I started reading the comments.

“My character struggles with doubt.”

“My character doesn’t really believe in her religion.”

“My character is angry at God after a tragedy.”

The entire comment thread was like that. A whole crowd of people writing about characters who don’t really believe their own religion.

I commented about a character I’ve been writing who has unswerving faith in his deity, but this brings about other problems in his social circles, because he goes and does things nobody else would dream of doing, and people think he’s crazy.

Then I asked why there were so many Doubting Thomas characters. I was writing the only character who had any faith at all. I was told that doubting characters are written by doubting authors.

Which is troubling.

Now, I know that doubting the unseen is a common thread in speculative fiction. Characters doubt whether anything spiritual is real, in urban fantasy and paranormal romance and all those. But Christian books seem especially prone to it. Every Stephen Lawhead character is like this, and pretty much all Ted Dekker characters … my reading pool of Christian books has shrunk over the years, so maybe the doubting character thing isn’t as widespread as it was.

Or, judging by that thread, maybe it’s alive and well.

Angel-of-Renewal
Angel of Renewal, Magic the Gathering card art

Now, I can understand why you’d have a character struggling to believe some cosmic truth. No character really wants to be the Chosen One, destined to fulfill the prophecy or slay the vampire king or take down the dragon or whatever. It’s a stage in the Hero’s Journey, after all.

But when the main theme of the book is a character who doesn’t believe in their own religion? Come on. If you’re going to bother putting religion in your book, make it worthwhile. It’s got to be either a bad religion, with cultists summoning eldritch abominations, or a good religion that helps people in some way. And have the characters either believe or disbelieve it. The lukewarm dithering thing gets old.

I think what bugs me the most is that any other religion gets represented well in books. If a character is a Buddhist, I see them trying to live out the tenants of their religion by trying to be a good person, eschew material goods, etc. If a character is a Muslim, they observe the holidays, the food laws, the prayers, and so forth. So, why is it only the Christians who whine about “Is God really real? Why should I bother doing any of my religious stuff?”

I think it’s an alarming indication of how lukewarm we American Christians have become. I would love to read a book, even speculative fiction, where a Christian character actually has faith, lives by it, and goes through all the ups and downs of that. Kind of like Father Tim in the Mitford books, which is the only example I can think of. And he’s Episcopalian, which is closer to Catholic, so not even the Protestant branch so many of my writer friends are.

Faith in any religion requires life changes. And in fact, it increases the entertainment value if a character’s faith motivates them to get stuck in all kinds of interesting situations. At this point, in a book, I’d be happy with any kind of fantasy religion, as long as the author is true to the character’s choices about it. The Queen’s Thief series is like that–there’s a pantheon that interacts with the heroes, depending on their actions and beliefs. And those books are tremendously entertaining.

Does anybody remember Testament, by John Grisham? A super rich man dies and leaves his fortune to a niece or something who is down in the jungle in Brazil as a missionary. A troubled lawyer is dispatched on an epic jungle adventure and tell her she’s inherited a zillion dollars. Missionary doesn’t want it, back the lawyer goes to the States to settle the crazy relatives who are fighting over the will. Hugely entertaining. Wonderful presentation of a character who lives by faith in the jungles, and the impact of her faith on the lawyer.

So, I guess my point is, authors, dare to write about characters who FREAKING BELIEVE IN SOMETHING. It’s more entertaining than a wishy-washy character who doesn’t really believe anything and you know will have some kind of cringy “return to faith” scene at the 3/4ths mark.

Book review: Spicebringer by H.L. Burke

I’ve looked forward to reading Spice Bringer ever since Heidi mentioned she was working on it. I signed up as an advance reviewer just so I could get my grubby hands on the book a little sooner. Here’s what it’s about:

SpicebringerCoverSmall

A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya’s known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

Amazon Link


As you can see, the premise is set up to be a tear-jerker, and the story pretty much is. But I still wanted to read it, because I wanted to see if the author could pull off a sad book. Most of her other books are pretty fluffy. But in the third Spellsmith and Carver book, she gave hints of being able to take characters deeper, so I wanted to see her do it.

While Spicebringer is still pretty light, there’s some surprising depth there. Niya has fantasy tuberculosis, and there’s no cure, except this magic spice that’s not supposed to be used for medicine at all. When the bad guys burn down her the little temple farm where she’s been living, she escapes with a fire salamander (he makes the seeds grow), and a seedling of a new strain of the spice that might give sick people an actual lifetime to survive. She’s trying to get to this other secret temple where the priests can grow the seedling in safety, as well as protect Alk, the bratty fire salamander.

Then there’s Jayesh, the love interest. His story is almost more interesting than Niya’s. He’s a priest of the Just God, which means that his entire life is ruled by dice rolls.  The priests of his order do nothing without consulting their god via the dice, which is kind of cool and over-powered. They’re also wicked martial artists. But Jayesh made a decision without consulting the dice, leading to a series of deaths. The dice no longer speak to him, and now he’s on a pilgrimage to try to atone for the deaths he caused.

Oh, and priests of his order aren’t allowed to marry. You can see where this is going.

So Niya and Jayesh wind up having this lovely doomed romance. He’s not allowed to marry and he’s been excommunicated from his god. She’s slowly dying of her disease. With conflict like that, the sparks start flying early on.

And there’s bad guys chasing them who want to kill the fire salamander and steal its heart for plot reasons.

The setting is kind of Fantasy India, which is fun and refreshing. Monkeys in the jungles, river rides, girls wearing robes and colored wraps over their hair, temples and foggy mountain passes.

Anyway, the book made me cry in the middle and at the end, even though it has a nominally happy ending. So if you’re the stoic type who doesn’t cry at books, this one might make you get a little bit of a lump in your throat. If you cry at books, expect to cry ugly tears at this one. But it’s such a good story. Especially if you like doomed romance stories.



 

How to use Song of Solomon to write hot romance

There’s lots of guides out there about how to write romance. One of my favorites is Jami Gold’s romance beat sheet, which single-handedly taught me how a romance works.

But there’s other ways to write a romance. When I was studying Song of Solomon one year, I realized that I could use a lot of this material as a pattern to really amp up my own writing.

First off, I’m using the Amplified translation, because it has all kinds of stage directions and explanations in it that make it even hotter. Let’s take a look:

 

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! [she cries. Then, realizing that Solomon has arrived and has heard her speech, she turns to him and adds] For your love is better than wine!
3 [And she continues] The odor of your ointments is fragrant; your name is like perfume poured out. Therefore do the maidens love you.
4 Draw me! We will run after you! The king brings me into his apartments! We will be glad and rejoice in you! We will recall [when we were favored with] your love, more fragrant than wine. The upright [are not offended at your choice, but sincerely] love you.
The book opens with the girl proclaiming her love for the man in all kinds of metaphors. Never underestimate the power of metaphor in setting a mood. She compares him to wine and perfume. Ever notice how in romance novels, the girl always thinks the guy smells like vanilla and sandalwood? Same idea.
One key to a hot romance comes early on:
I am so black; but [you are] lovely and pleasant [the ladies assured her]. O you daughters of Jerusalem, [I am as dark] as the tents of [the Bedouin tribe] Kedar, like the [beautiful] curtains of Solomon!
6 [Please] do not look at me, [she said, for] I am swarthy. [I have worked out] in the sun and it has left its mark upon me. My stepbrothers were angry with me, and they made me keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard [my complexion] I have not kept.
7 [Addressing her shepherd, she said] Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon. For why should I [as I think of you] be as a veiled one straying beside the flocks of your companions?
8 If you do not know [where your lover is], O you fairest among women, run along, follow the tracks of the flock, and [amuse yourself by] pasturing your kids beside the shepherds’ tents.
First off, the girl doesn’t consider herself beautiful. She’s a shepherdess and she’s got a super dark tan, her complexion isn’t great, etc. But she longs for her lover anyway, and asks her boss where he is. Her boss sends her back to work, lol. Notice the longing is starting to build.
Her lover reassures her that he finds her beautiful anyway:
O my love [he said as he saw her], you remind me of my [favorite] mare in the chariot spans of Pharaoh.
10 Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.
11 We will make for you chains and ornaments of gold, studded with silver.
He reassures her that he will adorn her until everyone sees her as beautiful and valuable as he does. Comparing her to a horse seems like a bit of a slam in our culture, but horses were the height of power and wealth at that time, so it’s meant as a high compliment.
[SHE SAID] I am only a little rose or autumn crocus of the plain of Sharon, or a [humble] lily of the valleys [that grows in deep and difficult places].
2 But Solomon replied, Like the lily among thorns, so are you, my love, among the daughters.
3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved [shepherd] among the sons [cried the girl]! Under his shadow I delighted to sit, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love [for love waved as a protecting and comforting banner over my head when I was near him].
Again she states her low status, and again he reassures her that he loves her anyway. They go on a hot date where he introduces her to his court.
And then they have to wait for the wedding.
[Vividly she pictured it] The voice of my beloved [shepherd]! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. [John 10:27.]
9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young hart. Behold, he stands behind the wall of our house, he looks in through the windows, he glances through the lattice.
The lattice refers to all the barriers still standing between them. All good romances have these to heighten the tension.
The next thing all romances have is anticipation. She’s looking forward to spring, presumably because that’s when the wedding will happen.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
11 For, behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing [of birds] has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth and ripens her green figs, and the vines are in blossom and give forth their fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
14 [So I went with him, and when we were climbing the rocky steps up the hillside, my beloved shepherd said to me] O my dove, [while you are here] in the seclusion of the clefts in the solid rock, in the sheltered and secret place of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.
15 [My heart was touched and I fervently sang to him my desire] Take for us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards [of our love], for our vineyards are in blossom.
The little foxes are the cares and worries that slowly pull a relationship apart. They spoil the vineyards of love. Again, this causes great conflict in a romantic story, but it can destroy a couple if it goes on too long.
16 [She said distinctly] My beloved is mine and I am his! He pastures his flocks among the lilies. [Matt. 10:32; Acts 4:12.]
17 [Then, longingly addressing her absent shepherd, she cried] Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away, return hastily, O my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young hart as you cover the mountains [which separate us].
More longing. Lots of longing. All the longing. This is the engine that drives any good romance. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing one with lots of bed scenes, or without any physical contact at all. It’s all about the longing, and the more you stretch it out, the more your readers will be panting for your characters to finally get together.
To sum up, here’s the points to remember:
  • Self-deprecation (I’m not worthy! What does the other person possibly see in me?)
  • Adoration of the other person (he’s so wonderful! She’s so wonderful!)
  • The lattices and little foxes that keep them apart.
Song of Solomon repeats this cycle in later chapters, with interesting additions of the girl looking for her lover at night, and being caught and beaten by the night watchmen for being out alone. (Harsh culture, no?) I think that’s to show what lengths she’ll go to reunite with her lover, even if it costs her dearly.
Anyway, if you need to add a little romance to a story, or if you’re writing a romance novel, these are a few points to keep in mind. A romance can be smoking hot without any physical contact whatsoever if you add plenty of longing.

This week’s art dump (mostly Destiny)

Well, here it is Friday again. I’ve tried to draw something every day this week, just to get back into practice. I’ve been trying out different styles and techniques for things. So, without further ado, the eye candy:

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An anime take on a Destiny Awoken Hunter … with a ghost in a shell shaped like a rose.
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Trying to do the impressionistic concept art look. It’s harder than it sounds. The background is screencapped from Destiny 2 because no way was I going to try painting that.
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Further adventures of the baby with a Destiny ghost.
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And even more further adventures of.

Art stuffs and writing stuffs

Time for another art dump post!

I know I should really be writing my superhero youtuber book. (And it’s an amazing story!) But I keep getting distracted by Destiny 2. Like, distracted to the point of fanart and fanfics.

Like this tiny little flash fiction I cooked up, just to have the excuse to put a comic at the end.


The ghost had wandered for a thousand years since its birth, seeking his Guardian. He had watched empires rise and fall, witnessed humanity’s retreat to the Last City. And he still had not found the spark that sang to him, the heart destined to bind to his own Light.
Weary beyond expression, the ghost made his way back to the Last City in the Traveler’s shadow. He might have to return to the Traveler, admit his defeat, and hope the Traveler accepted him back into the Great Consciousness. He had failed. He couldn’t find his Guardian.
But then, as he flew above the buildings of the City, he halted. Was that the pull of a spark? He hovered, turning this way and that, feeling for it. Yes, surely it was his Guardian! Here, in the City, the last place he thought to look. Guardians usually didn’t appear among the living, so he had never bothered looking.
He darted downward, scanning the rooftops and walls, searching. The sense of the spark drew him onward, through the neighborhood to the smallest house at the end of the street, nearest the city’s wall. He was so desperate to find his Guardian that he phased straight through the wall to enter the house.
The ghost entered a small bedroom. A woman sat in a rocking chair, holding a newborn baby.
The baby’s spark sang to the ghost’s core.
How could it be possible? He had waited all this time for his Guardian to be born? It staggered him with confusion. But there was no mistaking the glory of his Guardian’s spark.
The mother saw the ghost and gasped. “What do you want?”
“Your son,” the ghost said, still shocked, himself. “He’s my Guardian.”
The baby turned his head, gazing at the ghost with a deep, wondering look. And the ghost’s heart was lost forevermore.

littleguardiancomic1


Oh yeah, I’ve got it so bad. Like, here’s a sketch of our fireteam:

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My husband’s character, my character, and our friend Josh. We each play a different class and have a ton of fun. Well, until we burn out. 😀


As for fanfics, here’s one of my fanfic hero, Jayesh:

destiny-jayesh-firesword

Story excerpt: Jayesh inhaled and drew on his stored Light. He was still tired and sore, but that slid aside, becoming secondary. He pushed through his own doubts, his disillusionment with his own people, and his secret fears that maybe he really hadn’t seen the Traveler, that he had dreamed it somehow. The Light was real. He could feel it. In his mind, he was back with the Traveler, feeling the Light around him and inside him, warm, electrical, and alive. Its voice spoke in his mind, along with the Light, saying in recognition and approval, “Guardian Jayesh.”
He hadn’t made it up, after all. Sudden courage filled him. He had been telling the truth–the Traveler knew his name. No amount of sneering media could change that. The Light surged inside him, though him, empowering him as its chosen Guardian.
“I fight for you, Traveler!” Jayesh cried. Fire burst from him, wreathing him in a cloak of burning light. It billowed from his shoulders like a pair of wings. A glowing sword appeared in his hand.
He shot into the air and hurled himself at the Gate Lord.

fanfiction.net link

AO3 link


So, there you have it. A peek into my latest obsession. That’s what I’ve been up to lately in my small bits of free time.

Strong Women and Weak Men

Oh boy, here I go again! More of my strange views of men and women, particularly as regards to fiction.

What set me off this time was a book blog I was reading. The book premise sounded interesting, so I clicked on to see if the author could sell me. I was almost ready to pick up the book when the author started virtual signaling. She talked about how she changed up the myth she was using because “she only writes female characters”.

Nothing irritates me more than virtue signaling.

So I quit reading and tried to figure out why that had gotten under my skin the way it had. I’m writing multiple stories right now. The female characters in both of them are stronger than the men, mentally, sometimes physically, and as relates to their powers, definitely. I have nothing against strong women. As I mentioned in one of my other blogs, I don’t actually know any weak women.

But it’s writing them in a vacuum that bugs me. Guys are people, too. When I read, or write, or, heck, hang with friends, I want a mix. Men and women have different perspectives, and the interplay between them is so fascinating.

I looked at the books I like to read and write. And … aha … there’s a pattern.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones. Sophie is a Strong Woman helping a Weak Man who is under just as bad a curse as she is. Howl has more magic than she does, sure, but he can’t save himself without help.

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The Lake House, by Kate Morton. The main characters are all women–Alice the author, Sadie the cop, Eleanor the mother. All of them are mentored, helped, or in the case of Eleanor, desperately trying to help the men in their lives. The men are critically flawed in endearing and sometimes frightening ways, and these women shoulder impossible burdens to help them.

The Beaumont and Beasley series by Kyle Schultz. Although these books are told first person from the male perspective, Beasley is hampered by his sheer logic. Magic can’t exist, therefore, it doesn’t. Lady Cordelia comes along and wrecks that paradigm by accidentally turning him into a Beast. She’s better educated than him, knows magic, and has all kinds of magical connections. But they need each other, because she’s trying to break his curse, and he’s the detective who still reasons out motives and puts together clues. (Great series, too.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the argument about Strong Women isn’t stated very well. A Strong Woman is Strong, not when she can beat a man in a fistfight, but when she can reach out to a Weak Man and help him become strong.

Everybody needs help, men and women alike. In Proverbs, Solomon observes that an excellent wife will do her husband good, not evil, all the days of his life. He also points out that a wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman tears it down with her hands.

In books, part of a character arc is that a character must start in a place that demands that they change in some way. Sophie acted like an old woman before she was cursed to become one. Alice believes she’s responsible for the disappearance of her baby brother. Beasley thinks he has reality all figured out. They all start in a place of weakness. But that’s part of the joy of fiction–that journey from weakness to strength, or acceptance, or whatever the goal of the story is.

When a male character is weak, often a Strong Woman can come along and help him out. This leads to the complex interplay between genders, that push and pull of attraction and affection. Conversely, a Weak Woman will need a Strong Man, but that’s taboo in our culture, for some reason–admitting that a woman might ever be weak for some reason.

(This works in reverse, too–the strong one can tear down the weak one, and the weak one can undermine the strong one. These are toxic relationships, and aren’t the point of this blog.)

As part of the ongoing cultural discussion about Strong Women, I thought this was an interesting new angle to explore. Strength is fine, but it means nothing unless it’s used wisely, to build up others. That same strength can destroy and shatter. As writers (and readers!) it’s something to be aware of.

Sketches of people and stuff

School started today in Arizona, so I’ve been running all day. It’s kind of nice to have the structure back, though.

Anyway, WordPress has informed me that on August 1st, Facebook will no longer let WordPress autopost to our personal feeds. They’re only allowed on the Pages … you know, the ones you have to pay to let anyone see. So I expect my traffic to drop by half. If you enjoy this blog, consider adding it to your reader of choice. It’ll still autopost to Twitter, of course.

And now, without further ado, my artwork practice!

human-sketch-practice

Sorry about the Destiny stuff in there, I’ve been playing it a lot and it’s taken up residence in my brain. As you can see, my grasp of human anatomy is tenuous at best. Ah well, practice practice.

Then it dawned on me that I have very little grasp of values, so I practiced those, too.

vlue-study-double

I’ve gotten so rusty, it’s been good to practice the basics again. I’ve seen so many artists do amazing things with very narrow value ranges, and I just … cannot think that way. So I’m going to LEARN to think that way.

10 things I learned at Realm Makers (and I didn’t even go)

Realm Makers is a little writing conference geared toward that weird demographic of Christians who actually read Harry Potter. They have lots of good classes and keynote speakers.

Funny thing is, I didn’t attend Realm Makers due to boring real life problems like cash and childcare. But in shmoozing social media, I did learn quite a few things.

1. Writing should be a joy. It’s play, it’s what you do for fun. If it’s not any of those things, find something else to do.

2. Editing is hard. So, if writing’s not a joy that awaits you at the other end of the editing tunnel, find something else to do.

3. Why are you writing? Figuring out the answer to this can carry you through the dark night of editing.

4. People at writing conventions say really weird things. For instance, discussing plans to bump off fictional people.

5. People read books to escape difficult times in their lives. I know that I read different genres because of needing that particular kind of comfort. Whether it’s a thriller where the heroes defeat the bad guys against all odds, or a cozy mystery where the sleuth has tea and cookies with the suspects. I get annoyed having to explain this to authors. You’d think it would be pretty obvious.

6. Perfectionism is fear in disguise. And oh, how I’ve seen perfectionism utterly destroy writers and their stories.

7. Figure out what you’re good at, then develop that. It’s your superpower. Don’t bog down in trying to prop up your weaknesses.

8. Marketing is interesting. When you write your book, you are writing for someone like you–age, gender, etc. Go out, find people like you and tell them your book exists.

9. Only you can make you fail. And you fail when you quit. Rewriting is not failure. Low sales are not failure.

10. “A sermon with elves is not fantasy.” This one made me laugh. I’ve read a few of those, and boy, they’re not fun at all. Instead, weave themes organically into the story.

I think that pretty much sums it up. I’m kind of glad I didn’t go, because my social media is now lamenting how real life just isn’t as much fun as the conference was. I imagine the people headed home from San Diego Comic Con are saying the same things. 😀

I’ve just been over here, prepping for school (next week!) and writing around the edges. And playing Destiny 2. Way too much Destiny 2.

the_last_great_ahamkara_by_tdspiral-dano3na
The Last Great Ahamkara by TDSpiral