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Hi. Still on Earth...

I am, as you might guess, between drafts of this novel that perhaps is nearing its final form. Pondering serious shuffling of the first two chapters' contents.

NOTE: LJ seems to have no spell-check. I suck at spelling. Apologies for errors!

While I'm not writing, (which, seriously, makes my brain itchy), I am catching up on reading and then writing "reviews" (my opinions, not real book reviews) because I really enjoy helping authors by adding to their online presence via amazon and Goodreads. Find me on GR if you like; Terri Jones. And, reading Twitter and following links.

Today's post here is prompted by Chuck Wendig, one of too many authors I follow on Twitter. (Too many in that they tempt me with books.) (Apparently this post attracts paranthetical asides...) His blog is lively compared with many other authors' sites, and I even participated in one thing he had us do. So. Today's post link: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/08/09/25-reasons-why-i-stopped-reading-your-book/ which if you click it should open in a new window. "25 Reason Why I Stopped Reading Your Book"

He asked us what our reasons are for stopping reading a book. I thought about making notes. Then I thought, typing is easier. Hey. I should post to LJ for a change. Hi. :)

As with most avid readers, I used to finish every book I started. (Not counting the casual library browse/first paragraph taste thing, when a book limit was in place.) Back in my day, as a non-monied child shall we say, libraries kept me fed. Even when I could buy books, I read everything. But as life intruded, I became more picky. That's not all, though. It's life, but it is also coming to understand what works better for me, what I prefer, what I dislike. What I need.  What *I* need. At some point, I started abandoning stories that weren't working for me and for which the author hadn't earned my trust that it would be worth it. In fact, I tried to read my first Star Wars book, Aftermath, because Wendig wrote it. It did not work for me. I gave him more pages than I'd have given an unknown-to-me, but nope. Mark read it. He liked it. Good enough. :) Not everything is for me, a mantra I wish people would embrace, rather than getting all ragey about what they don't like. Let it the fuck go, guys. Move on. Plenty to enjoy elsewhere. Be happy!

Here we go.

Poor skills. A poorly worded first paragraph loses me. A cleche loses me. Repetition of words or information. Poor research or sloppy editing. I've been reading since before I started first grade. I'm 59. I expect a published writer to know English well enough to avoid errors we learned about in twelve years of instruction. I have standards, people. :) Technical ability matters to me. You can laugh at me if/when you find goofs here, I don't mind. ;) But in a first chapter, it is a huge no-no. That sucker ought to be polished like a mirror.

MAKE ME CARE. If the skills are average you need to make me care in that first chapter, sooner is better. If the writing ability is exceptional, maaaybe you can take longer. Maybe. I need to invest in your character(s) and their motivations and fears. NEED. Like air! I've read the Dresden Files and will finish the series whenever Butcher gets it done because I am invested in the characters and curious how he'll resolve things. I care. I tried to read Time Salvager (Wesley Chu) and though things happen, I had zero connection to the main character.

If you manage to bore me for a page, I'm gone. I was burned by listening to hype about Ancillary Justice, a novel many apparently found enthralling. I'm happy they did! I should've cut my losses, however. I was bored, and unrewarded at the end. Oh well. Under this also falls the failures of cleche. I primarily read science fiction and fantasy and am familiar with the tropes. Tropes can be useful. It's a shorthand for a genre. The thickest thicket of trope-laden goo I can think of is Aragon, written by a teenager. My teen loved it, at the time. That's the audience. Not for me, although I did read it, curious if he'd done anything original. Nope. I read Slaughterhouse Five because I've enjoyed other Vonnegut novels, but while I found interesting things in it, overall it's a meh. Mark and I both wanted to love one called Kaiju Winter. Neither of us could get into it. Shamefully boring. However, while I bought Alien Space Tentacle Porn because  the title made me laugh and I think it was on sale, Peter Caudron surprised the hell out of me by making me care. Which is why I'm reading another book of his now, with the even more misleading title of My Sweet Satan.

Complexity. If you make things too complex right off the bat, I'm out. This isn't the same as bored. This is actively repelled. I need a list of characters at the front? A glossary of terms? A map so complex I can't read it? Hahaha no. I am not a details person, amusingly enough. I'm more a big-picture person. I suck at remembering names. As long as the author is adept at dialog tags, I'm not easily lost even if the characters sound the same. Other people find this sameness bewildering. However, unique character voice is thrilling, and can make it impossible for me to stop even if the plot is a little confusing and even if the names are gobblygook in my head. Miss that balance, and I'm out. A prime example of this working is The Library At Mount Char. I'm still amazed I made it out of that one alive. Worth it. Another? The Red Rising trilogy (RR, Golden Son, Morning Star). The successes have to do with what I need in pacing, in puzzles-and-discoveries rhythms within the plot. Utter failure, when I really wanted to like it? Shield and Crocus. I just. Didn't. Care. Too complex, dull characters, nothing happened. For chapters. *thunk*

Personal turn-offs. I am less and less a fan of Lone/abandoned Hero stories. Start with a rape? No. Start with boring character musings? Out. Start with stilted dialogue? Ew. Start in action without enough reason for me? Nope. Begin with a character I instantly dislike? Well... Every now and then, there's an exception to these. Mark Lawrence did in Prince of Thorns, and rewarded me at the end of Emperor of Thorns. Actually, the humor despite the grimness rewarded me throughout, to be fair. Jorg is an asshole. His humor is not just funny, it feeds the plot in ways you don't really get for awhile. The trilogy is masterful in payoffs to the reader who's paying attention. A world of gods? No... Usually. Robert Jackson Bennett got me with City of Stairs. The sequil, City of Blades, just as weird, just as good. Looking forward to City of Miracles so much. I love exceptions! His American Elsewhere is also very peculiar but good.

Agency is denied a character I care about. Maybe this should be in the above, but it feels separate. I stopped watching Game of Thrones (never read the books, too complex) during the second episode, when one housemate who'd read them told another, "Don't get attached to anyone." Not what I need in fiction. A lot of why I stopped reading fantasy is due to how women are treated by too many authors. You kill off the one different character? (Race, gender identity, sexual orientation, whatever.) You lost me. The Windup Girl, another hyped novel that I just could not endure because she felt hopeless. Women aren't set dressing or a prop to your female readers. You flip genders and the male is mistreated, it still hurts, although that does make it more interesting, and he's still with us, so Kameron Hurley's Mirror Empire, Empire Ascendant, and...whaterver the next one due out I think May 2017 is called I will indeed finish. I trust her, sort of.  :)

Stupid characters. Flawed, sure, absolutely. Mistakes? Yep! But driving a plot by making the characters too stupid to look something up, think for like, four seconds, ask an opinion? Out. I have no tolerance for thoughtless people IRL and even less in my fiction.

Sometimes I just lose interest. Sometimes the author's directions by the end of a novel aren't of interest to me (Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu was like that, sadly. The sequel's here in my Kindle file but so far, meh.)

What makes you stop reading a novel? Any genre. I'm currently learning/re-learning romance tropes, but I've read horror, mystery, detective, talking animals in several genres, fairy tale retellings, action-adventure, Westerns and so on. 

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This other book... (an experiment)

On the 20th, I started telling more or less this same superhero story, but from a different point of view. So, book 1 is primarily Denny's perspective. Denny has been in my head for a lot of years. Just recently (about a year), I introduced a romance for him, with Dragon. Denny didn't know he was bi, until Dragon told him he liked him. (Very Denny. Self esteem issues.)

Denny's 5'5" Latino-white, brown, a little tubby, full beard, geeky-smart, and ended up with a stupid number of super powers. Married to Karen (4'8" also Latina-white), girlfriend Jennifer 5'10' white-Chinese trans woman, Karen is mates with husband & wife Aaron and Brenda, Bren has a girlfriend, Gail. Polyamory, man. Complicates a super's life I tell you what, but Denny loves it. He looks a little like this guy, only browner.


Got all that? Okay.

On the 20th, I tweeted something like 'who would want to read a poly m-m superhero romance novel?' and got immediate positive responses. Dragon crossed his arms and stared at me until I started trying it.

He looks a little like this guy, only with long natural hair that looks like dreds but is, as one fellow put it, "spongy" in texture. Dragon's a little thicker through the chest, and has a narrow chin-hugging beard and narrow mustache.


Dragon is black-Jamaican, 5'11",hair past his shoulders, dark brown and handsome, built like a superhero, gay-gay-gay. So gay. Insecure. Passionate. Importantly, the product that created supers, Elixir, usually erases past memory. At the point Dragon tells Denny he likes him, Dragon's memory is only a week long. He is Dragon because of the red dragon tattoo up his right arm. He and three others came out of an Elixired federal prison, including his love Aries (also named for a tattoo). (Aries is a 6' redhead. Aries, except for Dragon, is primarily a swinger, and aware of it early on. Dragon dislikes this, but is too much in love. So there's that going on. Then Dragon sees Denny. Little, and powerful. And the fantasies. And the sex with Aries, and the experiments. They're so sweet, these two, with so much to learn.

This could be Aries. He laughs a lot. You'd love him, everyone does. Charm is one of his powers. :)


Also he's pretty. My Aries has lots of freckles and is white. He and Dragon are all contrasts.

Dragon is, it turns out, kinky. He wants a Dom, at least sometimes. He is Very Passionate and not always in control, but little Denny is the more powerful super. That's part of the attraction. I knew all that, but hadn't realized about the kink until Aries pointed it out. To Dragon. Via internet. While I was typing the scene.

I hear of writers who only write what they plan. Whose characters do as they're told. And I sigh. But Dragon chuckles, and nudges: Keep typing.

Writing is really weird sometimes. 

this book

Hi. I didn't actually mean to abandon LJ.

It turns out that when a long complex story wants out, but I'm still learning how to write it well, there isn't anything left to put here. Last fall I paid a freelance editor to critique & give advice, and that helped enormously. (He offered his service if we'd give the money to his friends who'd lost their house to a fire. I had money at the time. Win-win.) I removed 30,000 boring to anyone-but-me words, crochetted together what was left into a much tighter plot, and have been editing and polishing. It's still under 110,000 words, about right for this complex a story.

The initial idea (what if a poly person gained powers?) hit me over 20 years ago. I spent, I don't know, over a year, working on it. I set it aside when I realized I didn't know how to write it. I raised my son (he turns 19 on the 30th) and learned many, many things. Many. When I read that original draft, it wasn't quite as horrible as I feared. And, I knew how it ended. (Or, it turns out, I thought I did, but that's drafting for you.)

By then, I'd been on Twitter, following many writers, reading their tips and advice and tales of success and woes and learning a lot, for years. The generosity of the sf/f writers I follow on Twitter is inspiring. I've leveled up because of them, specifically. Without that "school," I likely never would've been brave enough to read that original draft.

Drafting a novel is an art form of its own. To get it done, you keep writing it. You don't go back and rewrite yet, you bull through to the end (making notes if you must). The first version took forever because I didn't know this yet. Then you rewrite. Over and over. Sometimes you cut out big chunks, sometimes you toss entire subplots, sometimes you restructure the thing. Here's my mantra: Nothing is wasted.

Every word dedicated to a project feeds the whole, informs your understanding of the characters, drives the plot. Nothing is wasted. I had to let go of "darlings" in order to get this story closer to the vision in my head. Kill your darlings. Get rid of a chunk of text that's been there through every edit. Does it matter? No? It's a darling. Leave it out. If part is needed, work that in, but don't waste the reader's time.

I plan to participate in the next Twitter pitch contests. Meanwhile, I'm not writing, I am reading "Heroes Die" and "The Immortality Game" and a short-stories-knitted-into-a-novella called "Bad Powers" and if you sense a theme, you are right. They all have to do with gaining abilities beyond human normal. None is anything like my story (which so far has had three working titles, I am bad at titles). And that's rather the point, isn't it? I write like me, not like anyone else. Each of us does.

I've also read the Red Rising trilogy and holy crap, guys. Pierce Brown is also writing the screenplay, and I am eager to see how they present Darrow even though I know any movie must be far simpler than the novels. Go read them. If you get to the end of Chapter 9 in Red Rising and don't require the rest of the story, I don't understand you. :) (Golden Son and Morning Star are the other two.) It will cost you, the reader, but you're repaid at the end, and that's all I will say.

That's the other major advice. Writers read. I read ebooks now because I can make the font large enough. My Kindle has quite the virtual stack of TBR books, and that won't change. I whittle away at it when my brain siezes up, when I need words to go in not out, and between books or edits. It really helps! I read two and three at a time because I don't always want grimdark (Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence is next in that category), sometimes I want smut with a plot (The Dirty Secret, by Kira Gold) and sometimes I want super powers stories. And sometimes I get yanked out of everything esle to read an entire trilogy (Red Rising).

One last thing, for now. There's this yin-yang thing with characters and plots. Which is more important? Both, yes, ideally. But as someone tweeted some time ago: "No one is going to cosplay your plot." It made me laugh. And then it made me work much harder at defining my characters. 

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Haircut day

Today was haircut day!

This is how short it is now:


And this is where we started this morning. Right at the edge of OMG I am going to cut you myself!
(I had actually trimmed the bangs back at least twice. Last haircut was in May.)

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Graduation

Alex walked through his graduation ceremony yesterday afternoon, though he won't get his diploma until the state grades the final he ought to have taken two years ago. (He's been sick a lot the last two springs.) But we know he passed and so it was good. :) He seemed to enjoy it quite a lot.

Except for Principal Brown, the speeches were mercifully short, and one was funny. This is an A rated five year old school with an IB program, so the first, I don't know, five or six rows of kids wore extra overlays and stuff on their gowns. There were a LOT of high achievers in this just under 500 kids, it was impressive. Something that only struck me later: easily half the kids were not white, and I think a majority of the exemplary ones were non-white. There were easily 1500 people in the audience, and I feel really good about the future, you guys. Really good.

As per usual, the silly thing that happened was, shortly before they started handing out the diploma covers, all the lights went out. And, as is tradition now, there were cheers and applause, and then lots of lit phone screens waving, and laughter. (We had good weather. During rehearsal the Saturday before, there was quite the thunderstorm outside, but no power trouble. Florida, you so funny.) Whoever got to the switches got the mic and stage lights up first, so Principal Brown continued after a few minutes, and everything else went smoothly. Short speeches, one funny. Orderly inside, chaos outside where families and graduates reunited with balloons and flowers and smiles and photos. ALAS, LJ is not letting me upload the one good photo I took. Size seems irrelevant. Anyone else having such trouble?

delays

I haven't posted here since 10 March. My goodness.

The boy:
Alex has healed fine from the dental surgery. But he got sick with a flu...and stayed sick and was eventually diagnosed with a sinus infection. Treated... Treated with a stronger antibiotic. That worked. Suffered an F along with one B and the rest As for last quarter, and although he accepts responsibility, I also blame his teacher's lack of communication. Obvious, given the rest of his grades. He'll make good this quarter -- it's the semester average that counts. He graduates high school on June 4th. Planning on going to HCC for a year or maybe two, figuring out what sort of degree he wants. Computer tech...something. :) But before that, he's going with me and Kendall to Montana for my Dad's memorial service. And in July he'll spend 2-3 weeks with his Uncle Don in Hawaii. Don owns a fishing charter business, so he'll put Alex to work while he's there, as well as show him places he's been but doesn't remember. They live on Kauaii. I love that island.

Today he's going with his dad to play Richard's D&D game at Doug's. They are very silly. :)

The novel:
I have finished the rewrite of my novel, and changed its working title to With Great Power. It's a superhero story, incidentally involving a poly family, deliberately inclusive of several lifestyles and races. The story is driven by the characters' choices and reactions, as all good stories are. I know it needs more, but I've started looking for an agent anyway because I have to start some time. Some day one or more of the beta readers will deliver unto me verdicts, observations, missing elements and so on. If you are interested in reading it toward giving me genuine feedback, let me know.

The life:
I'm picking daylilies to admire inside but otherwise not doing gardening, as the left foot's plantar faciitis is still bothering me and I'd like it to finish healing already. Uneven ground is a no-no, bending forward, kneeling... Yeah. So it's a beautiful mess out there. Inside (where I ought to be anyway, being pale and all) I'm doing the vast majority of dishes and laundry because Ann's not supposed to bend over (different problem). Just as well I'm not gardening. Between house work and book work and all the details of having both a house and a body to keep functional, well, I'm out of time!

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update (dental)

Man, it is good to have solid healing genetics. Alex is doing fantastic.

Yesterday Alex was called back not long before 11 AM (10 AM appointment), and I followed to get Rx and instructions and listen to my child quip with the nurse and the doctor, then go watch a 15 minute video about aftercare, then off to the waiting room and I swear wait for maybe 20 minutes. So quick!
Called back to talk to Dr. Jimenez next to Alex on gurney, groggy but insistent he was fine (yay slurred drug-talk) which kept making the doctor laugh (kindly) as he talked to me about specific what-to-expect and this-is-normal and so on. He was surprised when he asked Alex to touch his nose and Alex could. He was surprised again when he asked for a high-five and Alex delivered.
Alex, I observed, is most teen-like when he thinks he can do things but others say no. He was walked to the truck, but got himself inside without hitting his head, and buckled his own seatbelt. He got across to me that yes we could go drop of the prescriptions before going home. And he was fine, leaning back, and then head up, looking around, off & on.
At home, we went through the written directions for when & how to replace the cottton pads that soak up blood until the wounds have clotted, and got cold packs figured out. He didn't want any food for awhile. He watched episodes of The Daily Show on On Demand while holding the cold packs to his face. Then pudding!
He went to his room to play a game, but a little while later came into the bathroom crying in pain from an entirely different tooth -- oh, nerves, you are so EVIL sometimes! Poor thing. :( Gave him one of the hydrocodone, and shortly thereafter, no pain. Yay better living through chemistry. He was really impressed. And this is a kid with severe migraine experience. He napped for 90 minutes. Soup for dinner, more gaming. Went to bed, slept well.

Today, I slept in for a change. He met me dressed and doing fine as I was coming to give him the next ibuprofen and antibiotic doses. Only soreness, no pain. Hungry. Fantastic. Here's why:

For the past three years March has been the worst migriane month. Last year was by far the worst, migraine and then mononucleosis that took him three months to get past. Meanwhile, topiramate kept the migraines at bay. He's had one short one, in August. One drug overwhelmingly diminished migraine episodes. Thank you, science!

And now, a rant!

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY. Attentively used, monitored, but USED when needed, for however long needed.

Apparently there are still people who think if you have to take a drug to feel better, you're somehow ...what? Impure? Cheating? Not real? Less than human? Broken?

To those people I say, YOU are the broken ones. You probably fear disabled people like me -- or you would, if I was more obviously vision-impaired. You probably hide it behind "admiring" how well we do, how "brave" we are. That's horseshit, that attitude. Cut it out.

It really, really amuses me right in my fairness center to reveal my disability to someone who thinks I must be unbroken like them. Ha. None of us is whole. We all have broken bits. Being obviously broken doesn't make someone less worthwhile OR a saint for "persivering", and if you treat us as such, you only point out how YOU are broken.

In my experience, a lack of empathy is the most broken a human being can be.
"If you’re still struggling, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea."
http://rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com/2015/03/02/consent-not-actually-that-complicated/
Brilliant.


For serious, artists, not every "concept" is golden, okay?
http://xkcd.com/1496/


If you suffer depression or know someone who does, Matt Haig wrote about his experience, and this book is across the board getting fantastic reviews: Reasons To Stay Alive. I follow him on Twitter. A kind, funny, life-affirming fellow who's been in the deep dark and came back to report. This is merely one of many tweets praising it:

"Just read Matt Haig's brilliant and salutary book about going into and out of depression, Reasons To Stay Alive. Should be on prescription."

And another, also typical:

"If you, like me, fight depression, you MUST read by . It's clarifying in a way that will undeniably save lives"

Hah! And then Matt posted:
38m38 minutes ago

"Email from a 'shaman' working in the fifth dimension who can 100% 'cure me' of all depressive tendencies in 'minutes'. Phew!"


I just took this short quiz. As is often the case, I had to choose the answer closest to what I'd do rather than exactly what I'd do, but nevertheless, it is interesting if cursory:
Are You A Public Shamer?
http://www.picador.com/blog/march-2015/test-yourself-are-you-a-public-shamer?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=Tweet&utm_term=na&utm_content=-na_visit_-na&utm_campaign=picadorblog


In other news, at 10 AM Alex (who will be 18 the end of April) has an appointment to get all four wisdom teeth removed. Ah, spring break...you were more fun in grade school! He said the conversations were funny on Friday.
"I'm going to DisneyWorld!"
"Me too!"
"...I'm getting my wisdom teeth removed."
(I imagine the cost is about the same... And the lifetime results will be better for him. But still.)

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Recovery, and a question

Rewriting the novel is going well. Because the first third HAD been saved in a months-old version, I'm not working from scratch. Because I'm being forced to look at it all again, however, I think some important improvements are happening. The characters are being less stupid, and less repetetive. Thereby some important bits are coming out that will serve the rest of the novel much better.

So. Fuck you, ransom-ware creators, and may you get what you actually deserve, in whatever form Karma may dish out. Jerks.

Mark went to a fencing tournament, and was okay but not thrilled to win a Bronze medal in the D & Under open, whereas I was delighted. :) Perspective. It's the sort of tournament wherein he could have, in top condition, re-earned his C rating. He's not yet at the top of his game. I think that's still at least three months off, he wants it to be sooner. We'll see who is more accurate. ;) It's great that he's all feisty and impatient, though. That drive has served him well. It's why he has recovered as fast as he has after a week in hospital & two weeks recovery.

Moral: If you're going to be in dire medical trouble, start out crazy-healthy for your age. :)

Alex's progress report wasn't perfect, but that's what these are for. Nothing like a timely butt-kicking to refocus one's goals before final grades are chiseled in stone. He is still well, health-wise. I'm still watching him carefully, but so far, no sign of the returrn of the horrible migraine attacks. It's so good to have my cheerful, funny son back!

I need to find photos of people who look like my characters. (There are a lot of characters, white, half-Chinese, Latina, black, complex and interesting. Are there sites for that? should I just try not to be a creeper? :) Some authors use Pinterest for this, but I don't need that. I just need visual references that aren't people around me. None would be published ever, although I guess one or two might be art references some day. Maybe. :)

Bah. (Mostly.)

Some days are just...not the best. Not the worst. But not the best.

Today's lessons:
Back up your data. Go on. I'll wait. That's more important, trust me.

Sometimes it is better not to bother writing a comment. I got fussed at today for commenting on a LJ post. It upset me, but all I replied was "Ok, sorry" and then de-friended. Not a safe space for me. Okay then. Working really hard not to judge all of that segment of the population by one bad reaction. (Hormones complicate everything.)

Is your personal data backed up yet?

Mark has a puffy area on his elbow. Uh-oh. No no no. Got enough bills, better just be excess fluid. Good thoughts plz.

And here is something good.
When you finally get all the dang ducks to stay lined up, it is better. Thanks to topiramate to control migraines, Alex brought home first semester all As and Bs. He is at last his cheerful, smartass self. And he will get to graduate with his class on June 3rd, something that means a great deal to him.

How are you, whenever you read this? :)

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