Writing Process Blog Tour

Introduction

Beth Deitchman tagged me to be one of her three victims for the Writing Process Blog Tour. Beth wrote last week that she had seen the phenomenon of the WPBT on the Interwebs and she “secretly longed to be invited.” I laughed. Beth and I make good partners at Luminous Creatures Press because we have such opposite yet complementary ways of looking at things, and this reaction only serves to prove my point.

I heard about the WPBT and was secretly dismayed that someone might ask me to do it—blogging on my process is right up there with going to the dentist or the bike shop on my list of undesirable activities. The last time I blogged on that topic my fingers itched to hit the unpublish button for weeks. Sometimes they still itch.

I’ll try to sound a little less like a fairy who has eaten one too many mushrooms this time around.

 

What am I working on?

Many things at once, as usual! My main beast is a seven-book fantasy series—I know, I know, feel free to groan. I started writing the first book when I was twelve, so I’ve been groaning for decades. I have just finished a massive revision on Book One, The Last Gantean, and I really hope to publish it before the end of the year—it will be relinquished to beta readers sometime in the next week or so. Or so I claim. Books Two and Three are now under my microscope.

My first published book, The Velocipede Races, has been offered a special edition from Elly Blue Publishing/Taking the Lane, and I’m winding down a revision for that, complete with three new chapters and an epilogue.

I’m also tinkering with a short story about a bikeapocalypse to be submitted to EBP’s feminist bike science fiction anthology, Bikes In Space.

And then I have oh, you know, about ten other novel-length WIPs that I work on intermittently. My work—full time teaching Pilates and running a studio—takes up most of my days. I never get writer’s block. Every time I sit down to write I feel as though I’ve been starving for it, so I’m always eager.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I actually have a ranty blog post in draft form that answers this question in painful detail. I may post it later. Here’s the short-leash version:

I write women in fantasy—women often occupied with traditionally female concerns, not necessarily “strong female leads” who traipse a traditional hero’s path as a substitute for a male lead. With my Lethemia series, I have six female narrators who all tell their own stories—stories that deviate widely from the usual going a-questing, good-versus-evil, bildungsroman fantasy themes. It’s been a challenge trying to balance the norms of the genre with the stories I want to tell.

That said, most of my work is not fixed squarely in the fantasy genre. I call The Velocipede Races and Secret Room “quasi-historical femmepunk.” I often hint at historical eras and events but tweak them to suit my purposes. All my stories are set in worlds where magic might exist and strange possibilities abound, but I might downplay the magic in favor of the human elements of a story.

 

Why do I write what I write?

Mostly I just flail about in a sea of ideas and do my best to catch them. I have a sense of the big picture behind a story, a concept that filters down through the details of a plot and guides me in a very loose way. The Last Gantean is about identity. The Velocipede Races is about being true to oneself against the odds. Secret Room uses misogyny as its starting point. My Painted Dog stories were inspired by my interest in how the natural world and religion intersect. I have certain themes I return to again and again.

I guess most writing comes from a deep feeling or passion, so I write about what I care about, and I definitely like to have a North-Star concept to steer me across a story’s ocean.

 

How does my writing process work?

There are so many ways to answer this question. The simple version is: write, read, rewrite, read, revise, read, edit, read, edit, read…repeat.

I make myself a do-list for my writing goals for each day as well as for each month and sometimes even for the year. This keeps me on track. I get stickers when I achieve my checks. Here’s a picture of one of my do-lists:

photo (8)

As you can see, the end of August has arrived, yet I have only earned 5/6 critter stickers. Very disheartening. I want that final owl badly.

When it comes to the first draft, I write every morning directly after waking with a few sips of coffee. Many mornings I only get to write a few sentences before I have to bike to work, although I jealousy guard two mornings a week so I can have four solid hours of writing to get the heavy lifting done. I ruminate on ideas during my bike rides; my brain thinks best when I’m doing repetitive motions and breathing deeply. My big plot ideas always arrive at inopportune moments—in the middle of a ballet performance, on a long bike ride, while in the shower, just before falling asleep—whenever I haven’t got a pen handy to write them down. As soon as I’m in proximity to paper and pen I salvage my ideas and make big messy lists like this:

photo (8)

I edit and revise later in the day. After I’ve taught Pilates I cannot write—I’m in teacher-analyzer mode, but that works well for editing. I love editing. It’s possible that I obsess over editing.

The best part of my process is reading—not just my own stuff, but everything: reviews, pulpy genre paperbacks, big names, little names, poems, essays—usually late at night when I should be sleeping. I collect provoking ideas, active verbs, and sparkling nouns for future use. My dad sends me articles on topics he knows interest me from literary journals and The New Yorker. I also serve as a beta reader for other writers. All this reading gets reprocessed into ideas.

 

At last! My victims:

I expect Tony Caruso is going to dread this project even more than I did, and I don’t know if he has a blog, but he should, so I’m throwing the gauntlet. I’d post a picture of him here but he’s an international man of mystery. He’s @AllTimeThrones.

I have no idea if Kate Benediktsson frequents Twitter or keeps a blog about her writing, but since I’m curious about her answers to these questions and about when the cruise-ship-murder-mystery is coming out, I tag @azikate. She’s so beautiful your computer might meltdown if I post pictures.

For my final tag, I’m picking @ColbyBalch who just started his blog about running away to join the circus and being a trapeze dad. He also offers proofreading and editing services of all kinds via fivvr. I don’t know how much the writing process blog questions will apply, but I hereby grant permission for him to tweak them to suit his needs. Did I mention that he’s a trapeze artist?

My New Blog

Hello! This is my new space for posting a wide variety of writing, including updates about what I’m doing, flash fiction, short stories, and my rants on all kinds of topics. You can also follow my writing progresses at the Luminous Creatures Press Blog, or engage in occasional contests and activities there.

Today I am posting a little flash story I wrote for the prompt in the final week of our Summer of Super Short Stories Contest over at Luminous Creatures.

Here’s the prompt picture:

Flash-fic-week-10-300x244

And here’s my story:

Ralphie’s Itch

Ralphie’s back itch had begun when he had been searching behind the taqueria for soggy tortillas. A man had caught him and smacked him on the back with a rolled-up newspaper, just for lurking near the trash can.

A few days later Ralphie was picked up by animal control, and the back itch had only gotten worse. No matter how he squirmed he could not reach it.

His cage at the pound stood last in a long row. None of the humans ever got all the way down to see him because of the litter of puppies next door. Eleven puppies, every one cute, wiggly, and charming to humans. Ralphie always heard them:

“Oh, look! Puppies! Perfect!”

“We’d prefer a puppy.”

“Isn’t it better to get a puppy?”

Ralphie tried to use the cage bars to rub, but he still couldn’t reach that itch. The few humans the puppies could not seduce generally took one look at Ralphie and said:

“He looks like he has pit bull in him.”

“Isn’t it hard to find places to rent with pit bulls?”

“Aren’t pit bulls aggressive?”

The hall door squeaked. Ralphie hunkered down, determined not to get his hopes up again. After all, four puppies remained unadopted.

“What kind of dog are you looking for?” the volunteer asked.

“We’re not sure,” said a woman’s voice.

Ralphie rested his head on his paws and tried to ignore the furious itch between his shoulder blades.

“We have lab-mix puppies—”

“Puppies?”

Soft footsteps approached Ralphie’s cage. He lifted his sad brown eyes and met the gentle gaze of a slender man with glasses. But his back still itched.

The man read the placard on Ralphie’s cage. “Hey there, Ralphie. I’m Dave.”

Ralphie thumped his tail on the concrete.

“Beth, come look at this guy,” Dave called.

An elfin woman peered around the man. “What a face!”

Ralphie perked his ears. Dave fetched the volunteer.

“Hi, you sweet boy,” Beth said, reaching through the cage. Ralphie approached warily. He had been hurt many times by humans. He ducked under her hand. So close…

She patted his back. He leaned in. She scratched. Ralphie grunted in deep satisfaction, closing his eyes.

“I like him,” Beth said as Dave and the volunteer arrived.

“Why don’t you take him into the yard?” the volunteer suggested, unlocking Ralphie’s cage.

Ralphie wagged tentatively as he followed them outside.

“Do you like the name Ralphie?” asked Dave.

“It suits him,” Beth replied. “He’s so noble.”

Ralphie ran onto the lawn, threw himself on his back, and rolled in unadulterated joy, scratching that insatiable itch.

“Look how adorable he is!” Beth cried. “Can we get him?”

Ralphie leapt to his paws and shook out. The itch was almost gone; only one little niggle remained.

“He’s the one,” Dave said. “He’s our dog.”

Ralphie padded to Dave, who knelt to welcome him. As Dave stroked his back, Ralphie’s itch disappeared as if it had never existed at all.