True Monsters in my Fiction

Monster In Fiction

 

It occurred to me, sitting here on week three of being unable to edit my latest story, that I have been feeding the monsters in my own fiction. Nobody talks about the monsters inside while writing a story. Everyone expounds the prose, theme, style and little snares within the English Language that causes writers to trip along the way. I figure it’s time to get my monsters out of my brain, just a bit, and hopefully set them free instead of feeding the bears at Yellowstone National Park.

 

Warning to those faint of heart: Stop here, read next week’s blog post and hope everything moves on. I write this to let loose, not for anyone to sit and decide how much of me needs psychological help, or a wave of pity that followed like Jaws following the chum trail.

 

For anyone writing, as I am, or perhaps in a more strategic position or having sold, take solace in the fact that you slew your monsters, you didn’t feed them.

 

When I talk about monster fiction, I don’t think of the Cthulu wave hitting the internet as it does every year. The arguments over if vampires sparkle, or if werewolves actually slip their skin and create cells that regenerate at a high rate for change, but not when they are truly injured. There are deeper monsters you feel before you read the damned story. Monsters that seep into your brain well before the time that ideas take root. They sit and prepare for your creative process to start, as they have already built it’s slippery ladder.

 

For those in the world who bite their fingernails, pick their scabs, or twirl a piece of their hair in their fingers, will know what I’m talking about. It starts with an idea. The idea that you’re going to try something out of normalcy. Usually spiked by a game, movie, show, or even rpg. RPG is my favorite outlet. I loved turning into someone I wasn’t, and delineating facts in a world that never touched mine.  You enjoy something, and one or two facts start mixing in your head until you have to write them down. Either to use in another rpg, write into a story, or make a joke out of them for the next horrible date you pick up.

 

The monster hatches then, in the idea stage. Oh, you were inspired by something, isn’t that copyright in some way? Shouldn’t Spock get credit for the fact you loved how his pointed ears parted his hair away from his temples? Do you track the mean lady at the grocery store who smacked you with her purse because your hip accidentally brushed hers? The pain sparked an idea with ears-quick go pay them both.

 

Its silly, you say. Ideas like that are completely ludicrous, or are they? You make a name for the character only to remember you had a friend by that name in sixth grade, so you erase it and pick a new one. You shorten another character’s hair length, so your current boyfriend won’t think they are in your latest story. In my case, I picked a middle name for my child that is so perfect, and a double entendre in my latest work, that to change it would lose both meanings. And, another monster is born, wondering if she will actually talk when she grows up and some caretaker will sue you for using her name in a book. My own daughter, yet I worry about this, that there is another monster in my head, a monster in fiction that I can’t slay.

 

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

I have three beautiful bet readers for my latest work, but unable to edit consistently for them, as these monsters take my thoughts and turn them into fig pudding.  Everyone says ‘just write’, or ‘reading and writing are the two constants in being an author, you need to be willing to do both.’  Obviously, neither of these people saw the monsters in fiction.

 

The problem isn’t the story, the problem is my fear of it. I am in my 6th draft, editing to a goal of 3 chapters a week and failing miserably. Am I done writing it? Well I wrote it out. I have drives of old versions, changed it from third to first person, character adjustments, lexicon additions and spans of historical data. I threw out my prologue, all 13k words of it. Debated using the prologue as a short story then realized that if I wanted to keep writing in this world, I didn’t want the first piece let out of the bag to be a teaser like the prologue.

 

I don’t worry about if I have used present or past tense, passive voice, oxford commas and even existential prose. I worry about what’s happening to me. I made a promise to my late mother and my current boyfriend that I would send one out to agents.

 

Now, we step into the heart of the monster’s lair, my own mind. I try to edit and end up in tears. Am I insane? What gives me the right to expose my characters to others? How could I ever ask trees to sacrifice themselves for a lame joke or a quick fight? If I publish, my mother will be right, that I only tried after she was gone to spite her.

 

Don’t just tell me to write, talk to me about it. How do I know if my red-haired male protagonist switching to a caramel colored black man is a success or a joke? Is some African American going to find me and beat me down in a parking lot one day for describing the pigment of the skin that way? If I laugh at something in my prose, does that mean it’s stupid? Stupid because nobody seems to understand me, so the more I relate to my own work the more frightened I get that I am writing nothing.

 

I fear that everyone will laugh at my book idea, that everyone won’t either. If I submit, who’s to say that agents won’t think its drivel, in the wrong genre, oh there’s three typos on one page therefore the writer has no skill or grace? People think vampires are dead, angels are placated, and demons are simply a better way to do devious business. Does having all three in my work bury me under a pile of other manuscripts I will never get out from under?

 

I have nobody to talk to about this daily, no true comrade in arms. No dinner dates, or conference meetings, or panels to prepare for this time. I face going to Salt Lake Comiccon in September with nothing to show for it, as I haven’t worked in three weeks.

 

Don’t get me wrong, there is something to work on, but it’s too hard to think about. My head is full of the monsters in fiction, and there is no exterminator team in sight.

 

Will people think I included an autistic child to check off some imaginary box, instead of realizing some of the things she did in her past are too damned funny to pass up?

 

Will someone read my main character, who is a simple sexual polyander, and think I am imitating someone else?

 

Will some gun fanatic come at me with a loaded weapon one day because my character starts from the super basic fundamental of carrying an unloaded gun around for practice?

 

I had an agent last month tell me that its standard to throw out the first 2-3 chapters of any book to make it good. Will they tell me that, not realizing I already chucked 4 prologues and 6 first chapters?

 

Will my late mother haunt me every night for daring to get published after she passed away?

 

Can my boyfriend tone down his competitive nature long enough to actually support my writing, instead of getting his backbone twisted over his own fan-fiction every time I clear a hurdle?

 

Does anyone talk the way I do anymore? Since nobody in my immediate vicinity seems to understand me?

 

How can I publish, when some agent, or editor, or fan will find me ‘not aesthetically pleasing’, to put it lightly.

 

Will I ever be able to go to a popular con outside of Utah when I can’t fly.

 

Take all these questions above, times by ten, and shove them into 60 seconds of the time I think about my writing. This is the small food chain of the monster in my fiction. I am not being contrite, or pretentious, or even needy. A good therapist, or research, or even ‘Elements of Style’, by Strunk & White will not steer me clear of them. I sit and weep, I wake up when I can sleep, in a cold sweat. I dread every movement of my fingers as they possibly compound the situation. My cheeks flame in embarrassment just by the notion that someone is going to pay money to read my drivel.

No, there are no tricks that can help clear the monsters in my fiction.

A good friend might…

 

Then again, everyone is too busy for it.

 

All I can say is please forgive me while I become a better monster hunter, never to be confused in the same arena of Larry Correia.

 

Kate

It’s wearing me down – It’s all in my head now.

This month, continuing after Westercon, has been filled with extreme highs and extreme lows that I can’t replace or explain. Part of it comes from what I now know is ‘Post-Conference Blues’, according to some of the people who helped make Westercon great. (NO, other people lol) Other parts have included my birthday which was on the 13th of July, Ben’s on the 10th of July, and my daughters end of summer school. Being completely broke doesn’t help you celebrate anything, it draws you into a deeper need to hide away from the things you can’t celebrate. Yes, there are ways to go about it without money, but they always include some element that ends up not in your cupboard, or not in the apartment, or not within reach. Why purchase things for a birthday cake when you have to save the money to come up with some school clothing for her first year of Junior High School?

 

There have been some unexpected high notes as well. When I felt at my worst, a 12yr old girl comes around the corner giggling so loud that you can’t even hear the t.v. or radio. A post on facebook asked everyone to name a band that does not have the letter B in it. After watching TV with Ben, we end up spending the next hour and going to bed listing names back and forth with each other that don’t have the letter B in them. We stopped when he fell asleep at 120 of them, of which I fell asleep saying A-Ha (a band). We saw some fireworks on the night of the 25th off our back porch which my daughter waved at them and said “Hello Hello”.

 

And, I found all 3 of my beta readers (or charlie readers as I call them). Who graciously take 3 chapters a week as I go through my 6th round of edits now. They put up with my drizzle, with my moods and stick by me as I attempt to fry their brains with fun urban fantasy!

 

The lowest part of the year also happened this month. It has now been two years, on July 24th, that my mother passed away. There is this emptiness that feeds into the world when you have an event like this touch your life. Color seems not as bright, things don’t taste the same, and I wonder what I did to make it this way.

 

Let’s not get to the blame game, for I know that my isolation is of my own doing. I just don’t know how to change it.   I tried entrusting my half-sister with my daughter for the first night of the convention, which was a mistake. Not only was she not taken care of properly, but her routine was broken and she met my other half sister again, who still has a substance abuse problem. One of them called me on my birthday to find out if I had smokes for them – the other left me a message saying happy birthday that evening, but nothing since. (The irony in this is that my two half sisters are 12 & 15 years older than I am, and never act like it.)

 

I am extremely lucky that I have Ben as my boyfriend and my support, as the rest of my family fails miserably. With my mother gone, it’s just us three. Somehow it feels not enough.

 

Most of my friends from when I drove truck, moved on. I subsequently lost my friends for one reason or another over the last few years and with focusing on my writing, wonder at times why there is nobody to talk to every day about it. Some suggested that I send thank you notes to those who made the con great, however its been about a month, and everyone I wanted to thank, I was lucky enough to do so in person on the last two days. They have moved on to other conventions, other events, and other projects. Just as I went back to my writing.

 

With my mothers anniversary this last week, I ended up only submitting two chapters, not three. Hopefully they understand. Things are cranking faster, and I latch onto some things like a Writing Excuses episode that is titled – I’m a Horrible Writer. I wanted to add more to the last chapter I submitted, but ended up at 4545 words with no room as I try keeping my chapters under 5k. I took a glance at my third person outline, as I am switching it to first person, and I can now see the end in sight. All that takes is kicking myself in the rear and sitting down to type.

 

I can’t let it wear me down, no matter how much my depression and anxiety want me to. The title of this post is a song by Dashboard Prophets titled – Wearing me down. It fits as for years everyone was in my head. Once I wrote it out of my head, I threw it away. I can’t let the loneliness, depression, fear, nerves, anxiety, familial situations, or terror bring me down. Its my promise to myself, and I am still trying.   Even if it makes my mother right, that I wouldn’t try to get published until she passed away..I have to think she was proud of me, even misplaced.

 

How do you keep going despite the odds or situations?

 

 

 

Kate

Pick One – Anyone

I am reminded of the scene in Pretty Woman where she unzips her long red boot and pulls out an assortment of condoms. Julia Roberts, the lead character, then holds up the condoms like holding up a hand of cards and says “Pick a color, any color,” then goes on to list all of them and what they do. And, he picks one.

I saw some friends on twitter, old critique partners, asking for various diseases or illnesses. Having done research on my latest in mental issues, I immediately pulled up my list. ‘Pick a disease, any disease’. By the time I settled my daughter down from her habit of eating puzzles, they had moved on in twitter. Apparently everyone popped off answers fast, and they picked one and moved on.

As you may know, the conference I worked pulled me out of my edits for a good two plus months and finally ended at the beginning of July. However, it has left a hole in my heart (or is that my depression?). I was too busy making changes to programming as it fell on me in the last days, to enjoy the whole reason I wanted to do the conference – to talk to other writers. There were poets, self pubbed, celebs that I met before, and I didn’t have time, nor the stamina, to talk to them long.

You go to these things expecting maybe 5 minutes if you’re lucky to talk or say hello, maybe remind them who you are or listen to sage advice. Someday, say five to ten years from now, maybe they will pick up your book like you did theirs and enjoy it. At least that is my hope. the only good time I got to spend with anyone was driving people to and from the airport.

Back to Reality

 

The reason I brought up the condoms and diseases, is that the conference left me alone, again. Ben went back to his gun files, and anime and fan fiction. Jordan still doesn’t talk, and all those fantastic people I hoped to have dinner with, or hang out with, are now gone. At least they all expressed how happy they were with their schedules and time there.

I had to abandon my edits and beta readers to do the conference, and as of yet I have not heard back from them if they wish to continue. My anxiety and depression became too much during the con and I had to isolate myself online to get anything done. Making the lonely feeling all my fault, which I accept. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I stare at this manuscript which I changed from third, to first person. Which I have thrown out 2 prologues and 3 first chapters, and knocked down from 295k words to about 150k words, and wonder what now? I am doing edits and changes and float in the unknown land.

 

The unknown feeling of wondering if the story is entertaining for anyone else, wondering if I am doing the right thing trying to keep my promise to my deceased mother and my boyfriend, and wondering why I can’t seem to find a writing group, or friend whom I can talk to about the book every day. I knocked out 480 words out of the first 3 chapters, and try to find the strength to keep going. How do these people do this? Or, is the pressure and fear I feel just a buildup of my anxiety and depression? Sometimes, I don’t know how to function, so I just do.

 
All I know is that I can’t keep hiding in the shadows of life, waiting for the storm of people to pass. Somehow, I have to join it. So pick a disease, condom or stress in life, just don’t forget me too.

Broken Pieces and Toeing the Line

The week of July 7-13th, is set as recuperation from Westercon67. I came late to the party and basically ended up being clean-up gal to make sure the convention ran as smooth as possible. Were there hiccups? You bet. Did things seem to fall apart at times? Yes. I think a small part of that goes on regardless of what event anyone does, as unforeseen factors make up a good chunk of life.

The important things still happened. I somehow juggled 110 participants while still keeping my mind intact. I did not loose my daughter during the processes, nor did I loose Ben, and all but three of the participants were extremely happy in what they had to do and the connections they made with each other during the convention.

Now that I sit here, my medications getting balanced again, and resting my legs and lower back that seemed to take the brunt of my lack of sleep; it is those three that haunt me. They shouldn’t be my problem. I strove to do my best with what I was given and in many points of view pulled off a miracle here and there with sponsors and guests. (Anyone who has to juggle 13 guests of honor has a license to be insane.) I have a hard time remembering the good qualities of the con, when their points of view float in my head like broken pieces of a bad record.

No matter how many times Mary Robinette Kowal, Peter Orullian, or Larry Correia and Howard Tayler congratulated me on the success, I knew not everyone was happy. But, I asked myself, is there a way to fix that? In all honesty, I do not think there is.

As a former pet, I learned to follow the facial expressions and small cues to anticipate a dominant’s needs. As a secretary or personal assistant, it remained an invaluable skill in anticipating the needs of a boss, or celebrity. It doesn’t mean you have to toe the company line, but you better be damned sure you know where it is when you step off it.

It took me four days, and a bunch of realization to find out those negative viewpoints, are not my problem, it’s theirs. They stepped off the line without knowing its there. Most were local authors, or authors that were talked about in local circles, but not much outside it. Some are building their reader database and finding their niche. There is no problem with that. I applaud they are doing something I am scared of. However, they took their decided lack of conference success out on me.

It was not my problem that I was handed tasks so late in the game. It was not my fault that there were 110 panelist and only so many panels to assign them. Just like it was not my fault that some of them could not understand the difference between a local, and regional conference.

Sometimes you have to give up the ghost, and enjoy the connections you made, and not bemoan the fact that you did not get the spotlight. There were a lot of spotlights to juggle. Alot of dancers without choreography, and alot of lines jumped during Westercon.

 

Now, after the convention, I sit back in my recliner trying to get the swelling down in my legs, trying to calm my own demons, and try to focus on my manuscript I left on the side of the road to help others. There are no celebrities wanting a personal assistant, there are no other conventions needing my help, there are no phone calls or emails with fires to put out… There is just forty year old me on sunday, a mostly empty apartment, and a haunted diesel out there that hasn’t reached its destination yet.

 
May the powers that be, have mercy on me when I cross that line as an author, and not a convention organizer…so I do not become one of those three voices that soured the circus.