Sunday, May 25, 2014

When Your Family Won't Support Your Writing

Over the years since I published my first book, I've dealt with a lot of challenges. I never dreamed, when I first typed "The End," that the hardest obstacle to overcome would be my own family.

Here's a composite list of my supposed writerly crimes. They include the collected complaints of siblings, husbands, parents, children, extended relatives, and more:

I do nothing all day. I do not have a "real" job, prompting comments like: "If I had nothing to do all day, I'd get so much more done than just making things up..." I will never be JK Rowling. I won't schedule lunches for one whole day out of the week, because I'm writing. My head's not in the game. I live in a fantasy world. I'm moody, brooding, and sometimes downright depressed. At other times, I'm euphoric, babbling on about imaginary people and isn't it wonderful that they did x. There's no point reading my published novels- they're not the right genre, or they might be too personal, or yes, dear, I'll get to them someday. I wear yoga pants for days in a row, my hair perpetually thrown up in a clip. If I have a deadline, nothing else exists but that deadline. I read too much. I don't have "normal" hobbies like tennis or gardening. I don't watch tv, go to movies, or keep up with current events. I spend too much time in front of the computer, which would be best used, at times, as a projectile.

I mean wow.

I can't, and won't, pin this on just one person. I also know I'm not alone in being on the receiving end of these kinds of sentiments, if not the comments themselves. Each one of them hurt, and each one of them made me want to stuff my head under my pillow and cry. Then two thoughts occurred to me.

Maybe there's a tiny bit of truth in there. Maybe.
And screw them.

First off, I had to pick apart what seemed like a tangled ball of petty, jealous ranting. I love my family, and staunchly believe most families are made up of people who do love and want the best for each other. So what's behind the stunning lack of support, if not outright sabotage? I set out to analyze their comments, turning them over to find the grain of truth. Best done in pieces, and at the end of it, I realized:

1. Writers really are moody. We have the reputation of being self-absorbed, tormented alcoholics who must torture ourselves in the name of our muse. And while this certainly fits some of us, the most stable among us have almost certainly had the occasional bout of staring at nothing for an uncomfortable period of time. Can we blame the people who love us if, "But I just figured out the Syncline Corporation was behind it all!" is not a valid excuse? (In fact, it's probably more alarming than the staring.)

2. Yoga pants and hair clips? Guilty as charged. (Hey, at least I've graduated from my pajamas.) And even though this same outfit is the default uniform for any work-from-home person, it would not kill me to spruce up the word-slinging duds a bit.

3. I never will be JK Rowling, and I have nothing but pity in my soul for anyone who defines success this way. Instead, I do have a string of smaller milestones that are nonetheless important to me, that keep me going when things get hard. Once, success was typing, "The End." Then it was selling 1k copies. Then 50k. Then 100k. Being a bestseller? Check. Making more than my day job? Check. Having a great publisher? Yup. The bar keeps adjusting as I grow as a writer, and that's more important than achieving financial success. It's a radically different way of looking at life that has been hard won, but something I wouldn't trade, even to be JK.

4.  Writing takes up resources. Time, money you could be making at a day or second job, head space. It's only natural that sometimes, family members get resentful when things seem out of whack. Opting out of a lunch date one- or several- days a week seems reasonable, but repeated isolation is death to any relationship. Not to mention how bad it is for our own heads. Checking in to make sure things stay balanced- money, time, attention, housework- is just Happy Family 101.

Most of the rest of it can go under the "I don't give a damn" category. Don't want to read my books? That's cool. Plenty of other people have, including some amazing beta readers and fans who have become friends and cheerleaders. Too much time on the internet? Well, see, there's this amazing, supportive community of readers and writers out there who get this whole word-slinging deal, and support it, and me, whole-heartedly. I'd be lost without them. A lot of tv is overrated; I kill cacti, so forget about gardening; if something important happens, I'll hear about it from my family, friend, or garbage man.

That about covers the important parts. The rest? That brings me back to my second point.

Screw them. Keep writing anyway.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Carnivalesque

I'm truly blessed in the number of projects I have coming to fruition. Some are new territory for me, like my New Adult I love so much, but others are the labor of years. Like this one. I've decided to share it for Teaser Tuesday because I'll be releasing it as a series of episodes, hopefully by summer. Pieces of it have appeared in different anthologies here and there, but they all add up to one epic, cohesive whole. So. Welcome to Verres, a world of ash, phantom carnivals, and masks that infuse the wearers with a rare mineral and god-like powers. Meet Jessa, princess of starvation and cinders, as she braves the surface of her destroyed world to catch a forbidden glimpse of the sun.

The Last Carnivale

     Jessa ran.
     The corridor stretched on into blackness, its walls covered with burnt paper.  Faint moonlight leaked through broken windows. She dodged chunks of fallen ceiling, kicking up dust and ash. Her eyes stung and her lungs pulsed with acid. Glass and smaller chunks of debris cracked too loudly under her heavy, ugly boots.
     She knew the importance of silence; she could hear the group of soldiers behind her. She knew she hadn’t yet been spotted. She just had to make it to the end of the corridor, then up the servant’s stairs to what remained of the roof. With luck and skill, she might still have a chance.
     Then I can run back to the caves so Theodric can kill me himself, Jessa thought bitterly.
     They were closer now. She forced herself to concentrate.
     Jessa had learned from bitter experience not to go rushing blindly into exposed space while she was above ground. Predators, collapsing debris, and Syncline soldiers were just a few of the dangers that awaited the unwary. She dropped to her belly, protected by her thick canvas coat. She could see one of them wedged into a doorway just meters from the staircase entrance. He held a sleek rifle with an arm made of both flesh and metal.
     A new brand of killer, Jessa thought numbly.  Syncline Corp. had sent their very latest model for her this time. She’d stopped asking why long ago. The short answer was simple: the mineral found only on Verres that was infinitely more powerful than any source Syncline currently possessed. The long answer started as far back as the day they’d killed her family and razed her world, mistakenly leaving the youngest, most headstrong member of the ruling family alive.
     Hide.  I’m going to have to hide. Theodric will know, he’ll bring help…
     Shouts behind her let her know hiding was no longer an option. 
     The roof, then.
     With one swift slice of her knife, her bootlaces fell away. Barefoot, she’d get cut, but she wouldn’t fall. Cuts would heal. A fall would snap her neck. Weakened by the repeated bombings that followed the Day of Fire, the remaining buildings were off limits to all survivors. The roof, especially, was treacherous territory. But Jessa knew her forbidden rooftop kingdom well. She crossed it often in her frequent attempts to escape the shelters and see the sun, unlike the Syncline soldiers who followed.
     Jessa vaulted across open space, staying low as she slammed into the stairwell. The lone soldier who’d been guarding it barked commands into a crackle of static. Voices echoed behind her, followed by pounding feet and gunfire. She ran, skipping steps three at a time, ignoring the chaos in her wake. The sounds of fighting grew closer.
     She cleared the staircase in seconds.  Burned out buildings and twisted metal spires stretched up into endless night around her. What had once been beautiful, luminous structures mocked her with their broken windows and grime-encrusted surfaces. She barely had time to draw breath before a metal hand grabbed her.
     “Target acquired,” the Syncline soldier said. An oddly elegant faceplate covered half his features. A red lens obscured one eye, while a grid of some kind jutted out and over part of his mouth. All that remained of his human face was a ribbon of flesh curving through metal barriers. His grip on her collar tightened while his inhuman strength hauled her even higher into the air. Her feet scraped wildly at nothing. 
     “I’m not …” Jessa gagged, trying to pry even an inch of air from the man’s merciless metal hands. “I’m not who you think,” she managed at last. He ignored her.
     “She’s an exact match,” he said into the grid. Jessa didn’t hear the reply, but whatever it was made him narrow his eyes. “No, not a problem. She’s a tiny little thing.” The soldier shook her again, as if examining a pet he was considering taking home. “Scrawny, even. The embargo must be hitting them hard.”
     Outraged, Jessa tried to kick him. Nothing happened, of course.
     Gunfire echoed below. The soldier holding her froze as bullets rained down in a circle around them. Several hit him in the leg. She watched as a thick silver liquid oozed out, but he didn’t seem hurt. Instead, he grimaced as he dropped her and hauled her in front of him in a protective embrace. 
     Two thoughts hit her at once:
     Theodric sent the Guard for me.
     Why is a Syncline soldier protecting me from gunfire?
     The latter she filed away for later. There simply wasn’t time, as tantalizing as the possibilities were. But her Guard’s presence meant a chance at rescue and demanded immediate action. As the hail of gunfire increased around her, she took a deep breath and dropped to her knees, leaving the soldier holding a much too large for her empty jacket.
     How’s that for scrawny, she almost yelled after the astonished soldier as she crawled for the middle of the roof. Great big pieces of the structure were missing all around her. She crawled forward across a support beam, relying on deeply ingrained memory to guide her. Bullets and blasts were pierced by the occasional scream or yelled command. Behind her, she could hear more and more people clambering up onto the roof. Which was bad. Very bad. Too many, and the whole thing would collapse. She just hoped the main support beam would withstand the increasing weight.
     Without her bulky jacket and its sheltering hood, there was no mistaking who she was. Her long red hair lashed across her face. Without the bulky jacket to hide her shape, it was obvious she was young and female. Not many young females survived the Day of Fire. Certainly only one had the kind of stupidity that would lead her to risk the roofs, and only one had her trademark red hair. She might as well be wearing a sign for Syncline’s forces.
     They called her the Beggar Princess, the sole survivor of Verres’ ruling family after the Day of Fire. Gods be damned, how she hated that title. Hated it almost as much as she hated who she was, where she was, and what had happened.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Worlds Burn Through

It's barely Teaser Tuesday! As in, I almost let it fly by this week. But I caught myself after the fabulous Ellie Garratt was kind enough to interview me on her blog. She published an excerpt from Worlds Burn Through, the first Chronicles of Nowhere book, and I was all, "Oh! I have a blog, too. A sadly neglected one, and if I don't post soon, Blog Protective Services is going to take it away from me..." So here's a teaser! And if you want more dirt on me, like personal quirks and things I do to pancakes, hop on over to Ellie's blog.

Chapter One:  Cinema Apocalypse

That night, as she so often did, Chloe Burke dreamed of fire.
            In her dream it was not the fire itself that was frightening. Rather, it was the sensation of burning noxious metal ripped from deep within the earth and stretched thin as air, hot as supernovas. The acrid heat threatened, at any moment, to coalesce back into metal, trapping her and crushing her lungs, making it impossible to run or scream.
            In her dream, there was also the boy.
            He came to her, moving low to the ground.  Her first vision of him was always of wild dark hair and a pale, determined face peering up at her from the side of her bed.  Moving slowly, with a feline grace that made him seem older, surer, than he must have been, he slid into her bed with blankets like strips of jewels stitched together. Pinning her firmly with one arm, she could not move at all, even though the smell of fire crept slowly but surely across her senses.
            “Stay still, Chloe, and do not speak,” he whispered. “My uncle will come for us soon, he told me so. We are to remain as still as possible, so as not to attract their notice. The wards will hold until he gets your mother out.”
            She wanted to speak. She wanted, badly, to scream and thrash, but for some reason, in the dream, she could not. His command, his hand upon her, made it impossible.
            She turned to him, mute and frightened. His eyes shifted colors, flecks of greens, blues, and even gold boring into hers. She never forgot his eyes, not ever, not even as she grew up and learned to agree with her parents, that it was just a very bad, recurring nightmare, the result of a childhood fever. She never forgot the eyes too vivid, too desperate to be called hazel. Sparks.  His eyes were sparks in the void of her nightmare, waiting to catch and burn.
            “Chloe,” he whispered, and the room around them exploded into a ring of fire.  There were shapes in the fire, of people who were wrong, who were stretched too thin and who undulated with the flames.  Their hands were flattened and sharp with fingers and teeth like razors, and she knew they had to get out.  There were no adults to save them now.  She did not cry out as the boy dragged her out of her bed.  His slim body blocked her from the flames, his hands a strange alchemy of object, motion, and light.  He cut through blood-colored flames with a single flare of gold, with a strength and steadiness that did not match his age, and walked through them, past razor-sharp hands that reached for them.  He brought her to a place thick with the smell of forest and river where her mother waited, catching her up in the smothering embrace frightened parents reserve for their children.  As she looked over her mother’s shoulder, she saw, through what looked like an arched, open door, a world engulfed in flames.  There were tears on her cheeks, and she didn’t know why, except that a world was burning, her world, and there was nothing she could do.