Thursday, December 22, 2016

Moving Forward

Hello wondrous people! This is going to be an odd post for me. Odd, terrifying. Mostly terrifying.

I've spent much of my life pretending I wasn't a thing that I was. Or at the very least, I wasn't as much of it as other people. Or maybe I wasn't that thing at all and I just thought I was. That there were qualifiers on the identification that I didn't meet.

I thought I was a fraud of some kind. I'd been stealthily "out" with a few people. Close friends, but not family, though I'd made some overtures of explanation I'd never just said one way or another in spite of opportunities to do so. After the election, and everything that came with it, I knew I could easily have just said, "Oh hell no, I'm never coming out now." But I can't do that. I'm done being uncertain. I'm done being anyone other than me.

So, here it is. Hi, my name is Ash and I'm demi & bi. (I was trying to come up with a demigod related pun and failed, sorry.)

As a kid, the only books I read with gay characters were the ones where those characters died, or were horribly scarred and/or torn from their love interest. They didn't get happy ever afters. The only reference I had for girls who liked other girls was couched in language meant to entice men. I didn't want to be looked at like men looked at those girls. I didn't think I could be one of those girls because I just...wasn't that. The image. The representation I'd been shown.

I rejected it so hard. I rejected myself.

I am so proud to see that the world of fiction has expanded. That there are little girls now who get to see themselves in books. That maybe those little girls won't have to muddle through years of confusion and self-doubt, they'll get to know who they are and know it's okay. That's amazing to me.

For me, self-acceptance means that I am finally writing about girls like me. I've always tried to write the books I wanted to read as a kid, and now, I think I'm also going to write the books I needed to read as a kid.

The writer community has been amazing. The first people outside of my tight cell of friends I told were fellow writers, who were incredibly encouraging when I decided to come out to my family. Which went really well, actually. It was very anticlimactic to be honest, but I am totally okay with that.

So, thank you fellow lovers of Colin (you know who you are), for supporting me.

Thank you writers at large for being awesome.

Thank you family for being totally cool. 

Next year is going to be hard, and probably the next four years, but knowing I have the support of an amazing group of people is going to help get me through that, and I truly hope that someday, one of my books does the same thing for someone else.

See you all in the New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Process of Not Giving Up

I first started querying for publication when I was fourteen-years-old.

I'd read one of Amelia Atwater-Rhodes' books and decided that if she could do it, so could I. Of course, what I didn't take into account at the time was that she had connections. Big time. But I learned some valuable publishing lessons early because of this. I learned about predatory publishers. I learned about vanity publishers. I discovered there were these things called agents.

And rewrites.

The point is, I've been at this for fifteen years. Fifteen. I've written book after book, queried hundreds of times. I've queried most of the books I've written and I was rejected over and over again. You'd think, after all of that, I'd give up.

And I have. There were a couple years where I wasn't able to do anything. Where I stopped writing but instead buried myself in reading. I spent a year living on a friend's couch after college because I couldn't get a job. I was diagnosed with a form of anemia that causes me to be fatigued very easily. I fell into depressive episodes.

It was hard. It sucked. But it was also during this time that I made my first headway into the publishing industry with an offer from a small press. Which I leapt onto, clung to and prayed would take me to greater things. Five years later I had to request rights back for failure on their part to, well, pay me. It sucked. It hurt.

But during the time that this was happening I had a string of unusual happenings. First, I reunited with my awesome CP Kaitlin after a hiatus brought on by my Grandmother's death. I tried out for #PitchWars. I didn't make it in, but I got some great feedback. Then #PitMad came up and nothing came of that. Not to be discouraged, I tried for #PitchSlam...and got in.

But before #PitchSlam, quite soon after #PitchWars, I was querying again. Researching, sending out cold queries every day. And out of the blue, I got a full request followed by a Revise and Resumbit (R&R). A couple days after I got into #PitchSlam, I got another full request.

I sent off the R&R, got it back, had a phone call, and started at it again for another resubmit. (This revision process was actually pretty awesome).

I should say, it was at this point that I was becoming pretty invested in this agent. She was enthusiastic on the phone, really seemed to understand what I was aiming for and more importantly--she could point out my weaknesses.

#PitchSlam results came out.

I ended up with ELEVEN requests. I hyperventilated a bit, bathed in congratulations, called my mother, thanked a bunch of people and...

Researched. That's right, I got out my spreadsheet, I put all of their names into the spreadsheet and found out who they were, how they wanted a submission and moreover, if I thought they were the agent for me. My full MS was still with my eager beta reader Courtney at this point. (THANK YOU!) I decided I would query Friday/Saturday and let the chips fall where they may.

Plans went a bit sideways, but I sent out requests on Sunday, and then that evening a partial request came in from a cold query. It was a deluge of requests. More than I'd ever had for any manuscript, period. 

Now we're in the waiting.  A lot of waiting. I'm still hoping to have an offer before the end of the year, but I'm not expecting it. Amongst the waiting there have been rejections, there has been another R&R and a even a few partials upgraded to fulls. None of this would have happened if I'd given up.

No matter what happens next, I know without a doubt that I have what it takes to make it the next realm of the query process. I just...have to be patient.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

I Won.

That's right, I won Nano.

It was a crazy kind of November, which I talked about in my last post to some degree. I made 50K words on Day 29 after restarting from 0 on Day 14. Not too shabby. Of course, I wasn't actually done with the first draft at that point. I finished the first draft today actually, after staying up into the wee hours of the evening/morning. Final word count was 62.5K words in 19 days. I'm calling that a win.

This book was an unusual one for me. For one thing, it was scifi, and I haven't written science fiction for years. I've never finished any of the scifi projects I've started either, so finishing this was sort of a break through for me. Getting out of my usual genres was good for me.

Admittedly, writing without any supernatural or magical creatures had me missing them, but I'd conceived of this world some time ago and I knew that I wanted it to be science fiction. It let me flesh out some concepts I'd been toying with in some of my old, unfinished projects as well as dig into my technological interests.

Scout's Honor turned out to be one of the more honest books I think I've written. There's a lot of myself in it. It is, at it's heart, about a girl trying to put her family back together. The fight against a tyrannical government, prison breaks and espionage are all fun to write, but Dinah really just wants to get her mom back home.

She makes some great friends along the way, including (against my better judgement) falling for a grumpy medic named Eddy (short for Edwina). Romance was not in my plan for the book, but Dinah took one look at Eddy and was like, "Oh, that is mine." What can I say, characters do have a will of their own.

Set in a world where gene-modifications, micro-computers that can implanted into the body, and body modifications are common place, Scout's Honor is basically my take on the rise of technology, the rise of a very bad man to power, and what happens when the Girl Scouts of all people become a force for resistance.

I'm going to let it rest for a bit, but I plan on tackling revisions in 2017.

I've talked before about being ready to write a certain book. The WIP I tore apart to write this had long been resigned to the scraps folder. A few thousand words that petered out with no real direction. I'm glad that I found the place and time to write this book. I needed to write this book.

And, an obligatory excerpt:

Nothing about my room had changed while I was gone. The soft green of the walls I’d insisted on after I turned fourteen and could no longer live with dancing ponies on my wall. The half-chewed pen I’d left on my desk. It was a bit surprising there wasn’t a film of dust over everything but my bed was still half-made, my uniform was still hanging up in my closet. I wandered over to it, eyeing my wings. They couldn’t ever take the wings, I’d earned them, but the power that went with them was gone. I swallowed and gritted my teeth. I took hold of the pin, but jerking it off would only damage my uniform.
Fingers shaking, I let it go and turned away.
“Do you think you’ll be ready to go back in three weeks?” Papa asked, leaning in my doorway.
“I don’t know.”  I shook my head. “I didn’t think this far ahead. You know? I didn’t think about what would happen when I got back.”
“You weighed the probabilities. You didn’t think you would be coming back, did you?”
“I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t want to think too hard about it either way.”
“Well, now you’ll get your chance. You know they won’t let you out for field work until you come to majority.” Papa’s tone told me the truth. I won’t let you out for field work.
I couldn’t exactly blame him. I couldn’t let that get me down though, could I?
“Lunch in fifteen. I picked up a new ear piece for you and an upgrade module for your chipset. Do you need anything? I’m putting in the grocery order.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I need my birth control refilled.”
“Done. You have your first therapy appointment tomorrow afternoon, by the way. Dr. Kaplan has agreed to remote sessions to start, but she may want you in her office at some point.”
“Okay.” I nodded.
“Okay.” He managed a smile. “Shout if you need me.”
I nodded again and he headed off. I could smell food—specifically Papa’s goulash which was the only thing he ever made. It was his grandmother’s recipe. He always made it when we he thought I needed comfort food. He wasn’t wrong. I stripped down, changing into my worn favorite pajamas, gray with little black crows on the pants and a gray tank-top. The familiar smells of laundry soap and the lavender sachet I kept in my drawer.
I sat down at my desk, picking up things and setting them back down again. My sharpshooter award from camp. The tiny owl figurine my mom gave me when I was six. Random pieces of jewelry, pens and hairpins. A small photo of my parents and me in Berlin when I was ten. I was never very good at keeping my desk tidy. My room wasn’t too bad, but my desk was always cluttered.
I picked up a screwdriver tucked under my monitor. I couldn’t even remember why I had it on my desk to start with. I sighed and set it back down. I was feeling a little bit at ends. Uncertain. Alain was right about me putting together a plan.
If Scout Command couldn’t get Mom out, I would. I had to be prepared for that. Having Alain on my side would come in handy, but I was also going to need someone from R&D. Extraction and smuggling experts.
Like Maxwell Reed. Max had one of the best records for extracting dissidents. He’d participated in other prison breaks. From the outside in other instances, but still. He was good at what he did. I’d been counting on myself as the pilot no matter the circumstances, but now?
I had to put another list together that included a pilot.
But I’d have to solve that problem later.
I sure as hell would have the time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nanowrimo Update

So...I sort of completely restarted Nanowrimo from 0 on Day 14 because my WIP was being effected by my emotional state post-election. So I dug through my WIP folder for a couple days until something finally spoke to me in the state I was in. The things I needed to say.

Out of that, Scout's Honor was born.

 I made a cover mock-up because it statistically increases your chances of winning. I've clawed and typed my way up to 24K words over the last six days so...that's good. I'm marginally hopeful that I'll finish this. I've written more than that in week before. I finished in two weeks last year so...Anything is possible.

So, what's this thing about?

When the US has been overtaken by despots, there's only one organization willing to try and take the country back. The Scouts aren't going to let tyranny reign.

Dinah, a Wing Scout and the daughter of the Scout Mistress General (missing for near four years now since a mission gone wrong), takes a major risk. Smuggled on to US soil, this Girl Scout is ready to fight back, find her mother and free a few Scouts while she's there.

And if she can finally throw down the terrible regime choking America? Well, the Girl Scout motto is "Be resist!"

And because I can't help it, my current favorite scene:

“When the doctor said you should push yourself,” Eddy remarked, “I don’t think this is precisely what she meant.”
I shrugged. “Exercising in the rehab gym was depressing.” I continued walking along the top of the fence. “I’m testing my balance.”
She shook her head, leaning back against a post. “If you fall, I will not be blamed for the scrapes and bruises.”
“This whole curmudgeon thing you do, you know it’s like, only more attractive to me. Right?” Did I say that out loud? Oh…fuck.
“And I admit you are pretty damn cute when you’re plotting to overthrow despotic regimes.”
I stumbled, airplaning my arms to regain my balance. Failing that, I tried to fall toward the grass rather than the sidewalk. The sensation of falling, of losing balance, my heart jumping into my throat—and then stopped by a firm grip as Eddy caught me.
Okay, this was not in any way making me less attracted to her.
“I thought you weren’t going to stop me from falling.”
“Never said that.” She peered down at me. “I said I wouldn’t be blamed.” Her nose wrinkled. “Didn’t think it would be this easy to sweep you off your feet.”
I groaned. “A pun? Really?”
“If it works? Yes.” She licked her lips. “I’m really glad you did something stupid and reckless and got me out of jail. Thank you. I meant to say it before but, thank you.”
“Oh, you know, it was nothing.” I swallowed nervously.
“Right.” She nodded, leaning closer to me, strong arms still holding me tight. “Can I kiss you?”
I was entirely okay with that but I couldn’t quite bring myself to speak in the moment. I could only nod, eyes wide as she pressed her lips to mine. I felt like the whole world had shifted suddenly. Kissing Eddy was like electricity tingling against my skin. She was decidedly in control of the encounter from every aspect an outsider could see but I couldn’t ever remember someone stopping to just ask that one little question before.
It made me feel…cherished. Important.
Eddy pulled back the moment I started to cry.
“Hey,” she got me standing again and put a hand on my cheek. Brows drawn down in worry. “Hey, are you all right? Did I hurt you?”
I shook my head. “No. No I just…that was perfect. I don’t know why I’m crying.”
“It’s okay.” She smiled. “Hug?”
“Okay.” She pulled me back into her arms, stroking my hair.
She gave me the time I needed to compose myself, not really caring if I got her shirt wet.
“You know,” I said as we finally began to walk back to the hospital. “If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here for you too. I don’t want you to think that I can’t be there for you. I want to be there for you.”
Eddy took my hand as we walked. “I know. Right now though? Right now you need me. And that’s okay.”
“Thank you.”
“Come on, we’ll get you some cocoa and see if we can’t find something decent to eat in the cafeteria.”
I snorted. “I really thought the food would get better once we got out of prison. You know?”
Eddy laughed. “Yeah. I know—maybe we can find a burger place on the way back.”
Here’s hoping.