My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Quickie About Guest Blogging

By way of reminder for anyone wondering about today's post, Tuesdays is our guest blog post and today I'm responding to a hundred or so submissions from my last call out for guest bloggers.

Once the ball is rolling, we should be good on Tuesdays for....well, probably months. Thank you to everyone for putting up with calls and reminders for the last three weeks.

Also I'm responding to these in the order I received them, so technically if you want to squeak one in under the wire, there's still an hour or so from this posting to get in with this batch. (Not getting in with this batch just means your response time would be a fair bit longer in the future.) Be sure and check out the original post if you haven't yet.

Monday, February 27, 2017

2016's Best By Month

Why I Literally Can't Even Turns out my girlfriend has cancer.
Through: The Only Way Out  For some of us, troubled times are when we write harder.
It's Later Than You Think There's one thing you won't always have more of: tomorrows.

Your Novel is Boring (Here’s Why and How to Fix It) By Bethany Brengan Our best this month from a guest blogger. Congrats Bethany!!
How Do I Write a First Sentence? (Mailbox) Starting can be tough.
One Last Generous Donation Thank you letter writer failure.

Once More Unto The Brink (Personal Update) Personal update of ongoing horrors.
But It's Just WORDS It's not just words. And writers should know better.
Why is Old Time Writing so Pompous?

The Top 5 Mistakes Made by Self-Published Authors (Bethany Brengan) Non-traditional publishing opens a lot of doors, but don't fall into these common pitfalls.
The Dirt Under All Our Fingernails (Artists and Money) It turns out that disdaining money because art is pure is a pretty classist position.
Tumors and Teammates Big changes in this short personal update.

Yes, I Make Money. But That's Not Why I Do It. (Personal Update) Money is nice, but I'd write without it.....just not as much.
How To Be A Writer By Kaitlyn S. C. Hatch I got a lot of help from awesome guest bloggers this year.
Plans. And Other Destroyable Things (Personal Update) Yet another post about things falling apart.

How Many Books (Mailbox) How many do I have to read until I'm allowed to write a book.
Filler Splat (Personal Update) Not sure why my personal update posts about why I didn't do a better entry did so well this year. Everyone loves a train wreck, I guess.
Writing for Income The ins and outs of trying to get paid to cobble words together.

Kickstarter Results and Final Thoughts (Personal Update) I ran a Kickstarter. It did pretty well.
Why I Write by M J Zander
Sabbati Terminus Manibus Jazzicus (Personicus Updaticus) I actually am finally getting to some of this.

Move 2.0–Working Through the Bumps (Personal Update) Remember that time I realized I was going to move again?
Ideal vs. Possible: Writing in Imperfect Circumstances It will never be perfect. Keep writing
Bass Ackwards (Personal Update) Remember that time I moved again?

Honorable mention: Earn it! (Revision) A redux of an old post.

On a Slow Week Remember how much writing it is when I'm falling "behind."
Novel Update Word Count Zero Getting started.
Novel Update Word Count- 4612 (Personal Update) First major update.

Illness and Internet (13,165/Personal Update) This would be the start of literally months of allergies that led to bronchitis.
Just Relax and Watch It Why I never just "enjoy" what I'm enjoying.
Individual Writing Process (Scott "Jinx" Jenkins)

Honorable Mention: Nanowrimo: The Good, The Bad, And the Very Very Ugly (Revision) A revision of a past article.

Writing for Your Life (Marcy Kirkton) My mom actually helped me get through the bronchitis without having to put the blog on hiatus.
A Somber Note The election hurt many of us artsy types. A lot.
Writer’s Block? How to Kick Those Finger-stalling Demons in the Nads and Start Writing in 5 Easy Steps! (Arielle K Harris) I have nothing useful to add to this awesome title.

How Many Would it Take (The Story You've Been Told) How many people hating you openly because of who you were would it take to make your life worse.
That Feminist Crap This did well (again) when I moved it back to Writing About Writing from the other blog I shut down.
Major Housekeeping (And The Reason Why) This is WHY I posted so many social justice posts in December.

The People in my Life/The People in my Fiction (Mailbox)

Image description: Red mailbox with a letter in it.
[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will try to answer a couple each week (after this one). I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  My comment policy also may mean one of your comments ends up in the mailbox. And I will totally fudge on days I'm watching the kid for 8 hours before I go to a Star Wars game and run questions that are long and answers that are short.]   

Welcome to our week of mailboxes. A full week of me responding to your questions to help kick off the return of one of this blog's most beloved features. Sorry it's been a long dry run–if you've been keeping up, you have some idea as to why. But as my three-day-job life eases (thanks to all of YOU and your generous contributions to my Patreon), I am able to work a little less frantically to pay the bills since moving out, and have more of the old levels of time and energy back into this blog.

M asks:

I had a question if you find a way to write an answer to in your blog or facebook page. I finished my novel and a big plot twist involved the protagonists daughter. It had a supernatural spookyish element. I ended up taking it out because I thought if the book gets published and is well read or even if at some point my daughter will know about it, it might freak her out. the obvious point is it's not true. I would be willing to throw almost anyone under the bus (ha ha) for the sake of fiction but not my kids!!!! it's not unflattering at all, the opposite but just a bit spooky. so I threw out a whole amazing plot twist to protect my daughter. even though it's fiction people would read into it. I of course considered maybe my son would feel left out that his sister got all the attention i the book - ha ha. it could go either way. the plot required it be a female and a young child... I ended up switching the ending but then it has another little twist. I replaced a daughter figure with a romantic figure. no supernatural part but a sort of surprise. so it went from a big supernatural twist to big reveal romantic ending. now I'm worried my husband will have issues since the protagonist has a husband in the book. the real issue is that this is all fiction. It's not real. of course. but I'm worried about overlap between the protagonists life and mine and what my closest relationships reactions will be. I feel my husband will understand the plot twist and the idea that it's fiction. better he than my daughter. if you would address that in a post or in a blog or any random thoughts to me much appreciated.

My reply:

There's a key question I have to ask you, M, before I can really answer this, and since we're not having a face-to-face, interactive conversation, I'm going to have to answer the question twice based on each possible answer. It's really the most important question when you're dealing with characters in whom you think people might see themselves.
ARE you writing these characters as your family members?
See most writers don't write people they know into their stories. Because that's some bad juju magumbo right there. Rather they use amalgams of many people they know to form a single persona. They may use a physical attribute they like from one person or a characteristic from another. They take that nervous tick from a third, and that speaking cadence from a fourth. I'll be using the names of a few people in my own current work in progress because that is a reward tier on my Kickstarter and Patreon, but the characters won't be based exactly on the people they're named after. These characters are all rooted in real people–that's how they get that spark of life. But none of them actually IS a real person. They're more like aspect Frankensteins, sewn together from the parts of many different folks.

The reason for this is twofold. First of all, exactly as you fear in your letter, terrible things have to happen to characters. Stories without conflict and stakes aren't interesting, so characters should basically be tortured by the writer for the entertainment of the audience. And if people see themselves as exactly that character, and that character as having nothing but a cavalcade of tragedies happen to them (and that before their grisly death), they may wonder if that writer has something against them.

The second reason is probably the more dangerous one. With the first reason, you could still say to the person: "Nah, it's just a story. Sorry I killed off your family, had the bad guy eat your dog, and had you get slowly lowered into a thresher while you begged for mercy, but it was just a fun tale. Nothing personal." But with this second part, there is no way to slip the noose so easily.

Writers tend to be practiced at seeing people. I mean really seeing them. They notice foibles. They see flaws. They pick up on that habit you have for avoiding a topic, and they probably have a guess or three as to why. They see you blanch when certain things happen. They pick up on that tick you have that you think no one really notices. They perceive how often you sabotage yourself. They catch how many of your greatest obstacles are of your own making. I've guessed (correctly) when people were cheating on their spouses. I've picked up on intense insecurities. I've been right about people having PTSD or pasts of sexual abuse. I've predicted drug addictions long before I confirmed them. I've known before people themselves did that they were falling in love, and I've also been able to figure out when a couple was about to break up. It's not a superpower or anything, and I would never dissect anyone for sport like House M.D. or Sherlock Holmes–especially since I'm wrong enough to get me into big, big trouble if I tried. But when you look closely at the world and you don't flinch from the problematic side of the truth, you see contrast of beauty and its opposite in everything.

But seeing the world through that sort of untrammeled honesty has a downside too. People don't particularly want to be seen beyond the carefully cultivated mask they show the outside world. If you describe a drug addict as a "drug addict" in a book that is clearly about your friend, you're going to have to deal with some pretty pointed words about how they don't have a problem, fuck you very much, and you just lost a friend. Many of those things people keep to themselves, they do so for a reason.

When writers describe the world with honesty, it's not just going to be a toastmaster compliment-fest. They're not trying to destroy people, it's just that they see things. They see truth. This is the reason we can see the humanity in "the other guys" and the problematica in "our guys." This is the reason writers don't fit in with very many groups (except other artists) and often have the tiniest handfuls of friends.

Image description: White text on black background.
"Dont' fuck with writers. We'll describe you."

Of course most writers understand that everyone has these foibles and there's room to be both imperfect and loved. They accept despite flaws and they are equally honest about everything they see. There are no angels and no demons. There are just folks and we've all got skeletons hanging out in our clichés. It's more about observation than judgement and endless honeycombs of nuance in even the most immoral behaviors.

But most people are just so mortified to be seen that they keep us at arm's length if we ever show them that we have.

So when most writers write a character, unless it's someone they met once on a train or something who is never going to recognize themselves, they usually do a mix and match.

And because of this, a reader will often consider themselves in a character and maybe relate to them, but the reader will also know they aren't actually being exposed as a fraud or a bigot of some stripe or a felon or whatever. Also it gives the writer plausible deniability: "That character isn't you. I mean sure the shopping addiction and endless Gofundme's to help with rent are a little bit like how you spend too much on iTunes and then ask for loans, but that character is 6'3" and addicted to cheeseburgers. Plus they run a halfway house for lemurs and shoot ketamine into their eyeball. Does that sound like you?"

So if this is the case M, you're in the clear no matter what and you should write the story you want to write. The most you would probably have to do is sit down with your kids and say: "Look, Mommy wrote a story and there's a kid in it, but I want you to know it's not you." Same thing goes for your husband. It's just fiction, so you just tell him, "Look, this character is having an affair, but the character isn't me, and I'm not, and I wouldn't, and you're my huckleberry lambykins boopoo (or whatever you say to your husband that I don't want to know about)." That really should be the end of it.


And here is the second answer to the question above. If you are basing your characters on real live people and actually they are basically these people:

I would highly, highly, highly, unequivocally, in no uncertain terms recommend that you NOT do that.

You better not. It's just a really bad idea. For all the reasons I just said above.

And it's not hypothetically bad either.  A lot of writers report their social relationships fell apart when someone could clearly see themselves in a character. Truman Capote wrote about his friends and then didn't have as many. A number of writers say they got a little too close to a character being clearly recognizable as a person in their lives and that was the end of that relationship. Autobiographers are constantly falling out with the people they write about–even years long friendships and loves. I can vouch for it too; I've gotten nuked from orbit by my friends (and righteously so) over some of my old Live Journal posts and really had to reevaluate how much I wanted to share my insights about a person (or even my feelings about an event) with the world at large. And even when I'm mashing up characters and slapping on a coat of superhero realism, if people think I'm complaining, I usually hear about it.

I mean that's why threatening to put people into your novel is...you know...a threat. We already do it to all the people we hate and don't care if we get into trouble with. *giggles sinisterly* 


So your character's relationship with her husband is exactly like your relationship with your husband, and the affair is justified or romanticized, (and maybe you constantly complain about your husband's behaviors to rationalize it) someone's going to be sleeping on the couch for at least a few days, and that's if you avoid calling lawyers. But if your protagonist is clearly a different person than you, and the husband is clearly a different person than YOUR husband, you can probably just tell the folks involved that it's fiction, and not to worry.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Random Creative Writing Terms Beginning with the Letter O

Image description: A red O
I set the size of this pic to "medium."
Because this post is not about the big O.
Back in the old school days of Writing About Writing I started a lot of articles and TYPES of articles. Everything from literary deconstruction of Skyrim (oh it'll happen....someday) to a series of guest bloggers that are....um....maybe a little less of the really real variety than the ones I run on Tuesdays. And of course there was the glossary.

Then a kid came along and distracted me from pretty much everything. Then cancer. Then other stuff. Some of those articles took a lot longer to prep and write than others and they fell by the wayside a bit. Suffice to say that I soon had my own following wearing glasses and tartan plaid and telling all my new fans that my older stuff from before I sold out was way better.

Well, I never forgot all those threads left incomplete. And just like Leela Bruce is firing up a new fighting article about dialogue attribution tags, and I'm spending some time restarting a new Skyrim game, the glossary will continue forth....right where we left off.

Creative Writing Terms beginning with the letter N.

Ode- a poem written in the form of an address to a particular subject, often lyrical and elevated in style–which is another way of saying it's hella pretentious to do an ode about a person unless you really know what you're doing. So if you use an ode to get laid, first of all go you, but more importantly keep that shit on the downlow like your pet names and baby talk. Ironically, the less you care about something or the less of a person it is, the more socially acceptable an ode is. Odes to wind, seasons and urns are fantastically famous. Odes to cheeseburgers are awesome, and need to be famous.

Of course if you DO really know what you're doing, well....then all bets are off, you magnificent poetic heartripper.

Technically your classic Greek odes had three parts (strophe, antistrophe, epode) but it's SUPER nerdy to understand it, so the quick and dirty version is that Greeks had kind of funny names for iambic and trochaic. (This won't be on the quiz.) If "iambic" and "trochaic" are even too nerdy for you, just know that it has to do with stressed syllables, go enjoy your robust social life, and leave us nerds to our nerdry.

Onomatopoeia- a word that is formed using the sound of the idea it represents. It's a difficult concept to explain, but entirely too much fun to come up with examples of, so here we go:

Whisper- See how the sound of the word sounds like a whisper.
Splash- Sounds like something hitting the water
Click, Clink, Thud, Thump, Sizzle, Pop, Plop, Murmur

Image Description
Pam from Archer looking majestic AF and
riding a dolphin while holding a beer and a
sandwich. The word "Sploosh" is on a banner.

Organization- A word I added to this list because seriously, have you seen how few literary and creative writing terms start with O? It's ridiculous. There's like...three. How am I supposed to work like this? I thought you people were creative! Come up with some O words already!

Anyway your stories need some kind of organization, and while fiction is often chronological, much of it is not. The only real rule for fiction is that anything that isn't more of a vignette should follow a pattern of rising action, climax, and denouement.  Some fiction is spatial, describing a place and using the rising tension to reflect an increase in the intensity of the conflict within successive spaces. Some fiction bounces around in time to literally categorize every interaction in a continuum of least to most in rising action. (Consider how Pulp Fiction moved all around in time, but each successive story moved further from nihilism to personal redemption.)

Overview- Mostly a nonfiction publishing term (as fiction usually requires books to be completed before payments and contracts or "advances" to veteran authors). However, just as some non-fiction publishers will read completed manuscripts without proposals, some fiction publishers and/or agents will require proposals.

An overview refers to the first (and most important part) of your book proposal. It may well be the most important piece of writing you ever do....including your make-or-break final essay on the transition of romantic literature through gothic and to the modern detective novel and how the knight errant and the modern detective are the same literary archetype.

Other parts of a proposal include sample chapters and sick bribes.

Oxymoron- a figure of speech (often an idiom) combining two terms of apparent contradiction. We often study the poetic, Shakespearian ones like "sweet sorrow" or "bittersweet," but the best jokes can come from pointing and giggling at those that have become idiomatic in our culture or are part of commercial branding. Note: oxymorons aren't necessarily grammatical errors. Many simply illustrate the paradox and plasticity of English.

  • Act naturally. 
  • Virtual reality.
  • Genuine veneer. 
  • Mandatory option.
  • Sports sedan.
  • Full time daycare.
  • Wireless cable.
  • Minor crisis.
  • Definite maybe.
  • Only choice.

And my personal favorite:

  • Almost exactly.

Letter P coming soon. (Like way sooner than the length of time between N and today.)

Have you enjoyed this post and want to see more like it? Do you like Writing About Writing and want to see it thrive? Do you want to grudge follow me and be there to laugh when I open up to my "inner circle" about my pain and angst? Support my Patreon, and for as little as a dollar a month (that's less than the cost of a movie every YEAR) you can take place in patron-only polls, "VIP room" discussions about future writing projects, support the writing that entertains you, and help me pay some bills so I don't need five day jobs. Plus more benefits for bigger donors. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Post Tomorrow

Image description: Writer being wild on a Friday night!
Aww yeah.
I'm having a lot of fun with what was to be today's post. So much, in fact, that it's 9pm on a Friday night and I'm still working on it.

Aren't writer's lives wild and glamorous? It's amazing I can schedule anything between the talk show circuit and all the groupie threesomes.

Anyway it's definitely a "slow burn" article (one that will not, in the long term, be hurt by a Saturday release), so I'm going to post it tomorrow.

See you then!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Worst Page Turner (Semifinal 1 Last Call for Votes)

What is the most awful book that you just couldn't stop reading? 

In a couple more days (Saturday) I'm going to get the results of our first semifinal round and put up our second semifinal so this poll doesn't dribble into April.

So you're running out of time to vote. Don't forget you get three (3) votes, but that there is no ranking, so using as few votes as possible is better.

The poll itself is in the lower left at the bottom of the side menus.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


So....just a quick update today.

Really an excuse, an update, and a change of plans.

I probably should have remembered that writing the "In the Loop*" letter to the various high level patrons takes the whole day and I should cancel any kind of blog post in its honor. That'll go out in just a few, but it took most of the day to draft and craft and revise. (Nothing but the best for those folks!)

I still want to do a week of Mailbox posts, but at this point this "week" is down to only two days. Plus I'm running behind (not ahead) on all this writing, and Thursday is usually a train wreck if I'm not sitting on a mostly finished article by Wednesday night. (I'm not. Not even close. I'm sitting on a chair and it has no article on it.) So I'm going to reschedule the "Mailbox week" to NEXT week. That way I can do a full and proper Monday through Friday.

Wall-to-wall Mailbox love.

*If you are a $25+ Patreon patron, gave $50+ to the Triexta Kickstarter, or are a "Patron Muse" there is an "In the Loop" email I put out every month to six weeks that updates folks on some less public goings on of my life.

If you'd like to become a patron at one of the levels to get such an e-mail, you can sign up for Patreon at any time, make a donation to Triexta through Paypal (label it "For Triexta" where it tells gives you the option of adding a note, and I will make sure to hand add you to the appropriate reward tier--unfortunately the Kickstarter has closed, so this is the only way to donate specifically to this project). Of course you can also become a patron muse of the blog, but this usually involves large donations, solid monthly donations (which are better done through Patreon now), or fiercely supporting the blog in non monetary ways.

I also have a Venmo if you prefer to avoid Paypal. chris.brecheen@gmail.com 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Business Bits (Last Call for Guest Bloggers)

1) Guest Blogging

Last week I put out the call for a new round of potential guest bloggers. I will wait a couple more days for stragglers, but then I'm going to put out...."Phase 2™."  It's not that you're shit out of luck if you pop a query in after...."Phase 2™," but the process might take quite a bit longer.

To let everyone in current process know, there were about seventy responses (and might be more stragglers). This means a couple of things: First of all, please know that I am doing everything I can to expedite the process, but it's going to take a while. Sending you all the...."Phase 2™" email will be easy, but once the replies to THAT start rolling in, it takes quite a bit longer. I'm sure some people won't actually ever even reply to the...."Phase 2™" email, but I'll probably have to read fifty or more articles of those who do.

Please keep in mind that there's only one guest blogging spot per week and several dozen of you, so not only will I have some tough choices to make, but I also won't have the time to give everyone I don't pick a lot of feedback about why. I will do my best to get back to everyone with some kind of reply, so feel free to send a follow up query if it seems like I have forgotten you.

2) "In The Loop Email" 

If you are a $25+ Patreon patron, gave $50+ to the Triexta Kickstarter, or are a "Patron Muse" for this blog, keep your eyes open for the latest "In The Loop" email (and be sure and let me know if you don't see it through one of these sites or in your inbox by the end of tomorrow).

If you'd like to become a patron at one of the levels to get such an e-mail (and keep getting one every month to six weeks), you can sign up for Patreon at any time, make a donation to Triexta through Paypal (label it "For Triexta" where it tells gives you the option of adding a note, and I will make sure to hand add you to the appropriate reward tier). Of course you can also become a patron muse of the blog, but this usually involves large donations, solid monthly donations (which are better done through Patreon now), or fiercely supporting the blog in non monetary ways.

Of course these "In The Loop" letters are not worth the donation amount, but they are a small, if heartfelt and intimate, way of saying thank you to some of my most generous backers and contain a few more personal details than I generally make available for public consumption.

3) Mailbox Week

To help me get back into the full throated swing of things, the rest of this week (Wed-Sat) will be nothing but mailbox posts. Your questions answered on my blog. And though I have enough to cover this week, if you'd like to get a question answered in a future post, please send me e-mail at chris.brecheen@gmail.com. I hope everyone enjoys the dropping of the knowledge.

4) 2016 Bookkeeping

While every day's main post will feature a mailbox, we will also be working hard in the background of our "brunch posts" to wrap up the 2016 of "Best of" menus and thank you posts, as well as kick of the 2017 season with fully updated tab menus. Apologies in advance to folks on RSS feeds or other similar subscription. It should only take a few days.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Emergency Tag Ins

Me? Tired? Hahahahahaha.
*single tear*
Image description: Chris looking a little not at all tired.
I got tapped late last night for emergency Contrarian duty. I had to wake up at the crack of seven forty five and head to Oakland. Today's post kind of got nuked from orbit.

As of right now, I don't know what my weekend looks like. It's a three day weekend, so we'll be taking Monday off. If it's just today I'm needed for this kidwatch, I'll get today's article up tomorrow or Sunday. If it drags on into the weekend, I may have to just call it a four day weekend and see you all on Tuesday.

Apologies for the missing post. But on the bright side, this will help me cover over $500 in vet bills.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Worst Page Turner (Semifinal 1)

What is the worst book that you simply could NOT put down.)  

The books you want to hate, you want to stop reading...but you just can't.

We've culled our quarterfinals and come up with sixteen titles, eight of which will go on to our final round.

Everyone will get three votes (3). The top four names of each poll will go on to the final round. 

Before you simply vote for your favorite five, consider that, as there is no ranking of those votes; each vote beyond one dilutes the power of your choices a little more. So if you have a genuine favorite–or pair of favorites–it's better to use as few votes as possible.

The poll itself is on the left side, at the bottom of the side menus.

Worst Page Turner (Quarterfinal 4 Results)

Here are the results of our final quarterfinal for worst book you just couldn't put down.

Text based results below.

Blake and above will be going on to the semifinal round. Everything below was either deemed too actually decent or not page-turny enough.

Be sure and stay tuned. We are now through the quarterfinals, so all the picks that made it will be combined into the semifinal rounds. The first one will go up later today.

Atlas Shrugged A. Rand 50 32.68%
The Mortal Instruments-C.Clare 30 19.61%
Left Behind—T. LaHaye 17 11.11%
Anita Blake-L.K. Hamilton 14 9.15%
Wizard’s First Rule-T. Goodkind 12 7.84%
Lord Foul’s Bane-S.R. Donaldson 11 7.19%
Looking for Alaska-J. Green 11 7.19%
Friday-R.Heinlein 8 5.23%

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

2016's Top Ten

Sorry to hit you with two of these today (and a reminder to vote later on), but the one from 2015 is literally a year overdue, and I usually have the old year's bests up by the end of January. Part of getting back on the rails with all the writing I need to be doing is catching up on all these menus.

However, I
will be waiting to do the 2016 by month until this weekend.

2016's Top Ten

On "Crappy" Social Justice Teachers Are they though? Are they really?

Trust the Police? Who is dying to protect whom?

Four Things Your Editor May Not Tell You (But You Should Know) By Bethany Brengan I'm honored to have a guest post make it to the year's top ten. And it's a great article about how to work with editors.

Six Ways to Not Actually Write Want to never actually get around to putting words on the page? Here's how.

Privilege of Daily Writing and the Ableism of Prescribing It  Part 2 As good as the advice to write every day can be, not everyone can do so.

10 Reasons to Write Daily–Accentuate The Positive Instead of telling you what ills will befall you if you don't....

Where to Submit Your Short Pieces and (Hopefully, Eventually) Get Published (Bethany Brengan) Bethany got two of this year's best. And earned them both! Here's another one out of the park about what to do once you've finished the last round of polish on that really great short story.

SJB on Guns and Mental Illness and the Stories We Tell Our concern over mental illness becomes particularly keen when we're trying to avoid having other conversations.

Three Stories from the Train I took a train from Okaland to Denver late in the summer of 2015. Here are three stories from that trip and why I almost spent the night in Salt Lake City.

Don't Make it so Damned Hard Writing every day doesn't have to mean six hours religiously on your work in progress. Not everything has to be like crawling over glass.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Want to Guest Blog for Writing About Writing?

We seem to be down a guest post today, so let me remind everyone that I would love to publish your work.  While "meaty" posts, weekend posts, even two posts a day will be returning to Writing About Writing soon, Tuesday is always a day for guest posts.  

Got something to say about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading...or possibly cheese?

Got something that writers or book lovers REALLY need to see?

Want to respond to something I've written, even if it's to completely disagree with me and tell me I smell like soup? And not that I smell like the good kind of soup that reminds you of childhood winters, but something with weird goat cheese, too much salt, and seasonings that make you wonder if it hasn't gone a little off.

Want to take advantage of my (currently) 200,000+ page views per month and advertise your own online endeavors in a thinly veiled self-promote-a-thon wrapped in the "sheep's clothing" of an article?  (For which I will only demand a shoutout in return.)

Want to put an article or three out in the world, be read by lots of readers, but without having to start your own blog and do all that self promotion? Or just want to try blogging on for size a few times before you start one of your own?

Want to even make a couple of bucks?

Then I want you!

Hey, I gotta get a book written. I need a day where someone else can do some of the heavy lifting.

Bring it!  Drop me an e-mail.  (chris.brecheen@gmail.com) As long as what you want to write is mostly coherent, at least obliquely about writing, no more than 82% horribly offensive to white males, non-abusive to other readers, doesn't make me cry (except in the good way), contains at least one vulgarity, innuendo, or salvo of F-Bombs to maintain the lack of decorum I steadfastly maintain around here, I will consider your article.

Now paying people and having the traffic I do, does mean that I usually get about fifty or so replies to a post like this, and I get to be a little picky, so please put on your Sunday best.

I can't promise that if you write an article on why I'm wrong about everything ever in my face that I won't write some kind of rebuttal, but all opinions on writing are welcome--even ones antithetical to mine. (I do reserve the right to refuse a post for any reason, but I promise that reason won't be because I disagree with you about daily writing or you think NaNo is awesome or whatever.)

And...if you're one of my regular guest bloggers, I'll even give you your own link on The Reliquary (unless you'd rather I didn't).

Here are some guidelines so we don't waste each other's time. If you don't at least get through them, this isn't going to go well:

  • If you send me offers to do web content, I mark your mail as spam. I know when I'm looking at a legitimate offer for a guest blog.
  • If you are a robot I will mark you as spam. Unless you can do dishes. Robots that do dishes are welcome.
  • If you can't figure out what this blog is about, and offer to do articles about steam roofing or something, I'll mark your mail as spam. I'm not just web content here; this blog has a theme and everything. Make it about the inspiration and creative process of steam roofing AT LEAST!
  • Please read the paragraph below the bullet points very carefully.
  • Your writing is yours. I'm going to ask that you let the post run on my page for a while before you cross post it, but ultimately I respect that as the generator of the creative effort, your writing is yours. If you ask me to remove it, I will. If you repost it somewhere else, that's okay.
  • There are no author passwords to Writing About Writing–you'll submit your articles to me. I will post them if they are good enough to post.
  • If you skipped all that dull text up above, this blog is about writing, art, inspiration, creativity, motivation, process, craft, literature, reading, and maybe cheese. Don't skip the paragraph below though.
  • Right now I'm not publishing fiction other than my own. I would be willing to publish fiction of any of our regular guest bloggers but getting that distinction takes some doing. If you have something more creative (like someone mentioned poems about writing) run it past me. I might be up for something like that.
  • I will be as liberal as I can about gatekeeping, but you do have to be able to write a little. I am going to get a lot of responses. I'd love to publish them all, but I have to pick one a week. An incoherent rant about the tyranny of grammar or something you slapped together in ten minutes probably won't be approved. But don't get too nervous. I mean I can't write that well, and I post all my stuff. 
  • You don't have to agree with me, particularly about writing stuff, but I'm not going to post wildly divergent social positions, humor that punches down, or deeply problematic phrasing. Anything I post here isn't an "I agree with this 100%!" endorsement, but if I hit publish on it, I'm going to be the one to answer for it. If you want to write about how the PC police are agents of "Obummer the Mooozlim," and they won't let you even use the word "tard" anymore, go start your own blog.
  • I won't make any content changes to your writing, but I may make some copy edits. If a proofreading change might change your meaning, I will run it by you.
  • Please fucking read the paragraph below.
  • When I say "I will make some edits" I want you to understand that I'm not a copy editor and wouldn't be good at it even if I wanted to be. I'm not here to fix up a post from scratch that you didn't have time to proofread. Clean it up.
  • You may link out as much as you want (even self-promotional links), but I'm going to check them all--if they go to spammy shit, I won't publish your article.
  • Please, for the love of all that is holy, and in the name of Poseidon's left nipple, read the goddamned fucking paragraph below.
  • If your post is a giant ass commercial for some product, then you need to be paying me for advertising space. (I offer very reasonable rates.) And if your product isn't awesome and something I totally believe in, that's not going to happen anyway since WAW is generally ad free. Thinly veiled self promotion under the auspices of something that at least resembles an article is totally okay though–just know that it might not get a lot of hits. I only get about 1500 views on articles that aren't liked or reshared through some social media. If my readers don't like something, it does NOT do very well. If they do, well they know where the share button is.
  • Be aware of, and at least passingly comfortable with my politics and social justice posts. I absolutely do not require guest bloggers to agree with me–certainly not about every issue. However, there is nothing more desperately unprofessional than writers so happy to be published anywhere that they turn around and are shocked to see their medium throw out a social position they can't abide by. 
  • Seriously, read the paragraph below.

The very important paragraph:

W.A.W. isn't making very much money article per article. I can't offer more than a couple of dollars (currently $5 for an article that does on average as well as the ones I write and more if it does better). Most guest bloggers ask to fold their payment back into W.A.W. as a donation, but that's never expected, and I'm happy to pay you for your writing. If your article brings in heavy traffic, we will figure something extra out so I'm not taking the hard work of a writer with nothing but the promise of "exposure." Plus of course if someone sends me a donation earmarked for a guest blogger, I will pass the money onto them and even cover the Paypal fee–that's for them, not me. It may not add up to much (unless you get millions of hits or write for me a lot) but if it came from your work, I'll make sure I'm not taking advantage of you.

Less important paragraph, but you probably should keep paying attention if you don't want to be frustrated:

When you email me, I star the email as "important," and then wait until I get a few dozen interested pokes. Sometimes it's as many as seventy. That usually takes a week to ten days. I then send out a mass reply to everyone who didn't spam me or pitch steam roofing articles with the next step (which involves either a sample or the article you'd like considered if it's already written). I usually get half a dozen responses to the second email. Most people just ghost me after not getting a reply immediately. Of the dozen left maybe three or four end up sending me something I publish. Now, just so you know, while I do get submissions that aren't ready for publication yet, it's actually uncommon. Most people who don't end up with a published article don't follow directions. I'm not even talking about anal retentive directions that you get from most publishers like single spaced or page numbers. I mean they don't reply to the first email. Or they reply to the Facebook post but never send me an email. Or they link me something and never tell me if that's their sample or if that's what they want me to publish. Or I ask about a biography and a pic and don't hear back. Or they send me six emails in a row wondering if they can write ten to fifteen articles a day because they need money. And most of the writers who do get all the way to the publication point send me between four and seven articles and then lose enthusiasm. So if you're serious about this, the best thing you can do is read everything carefully (like this post and the e-mails I send you), and stick with it.

Just like writing itself.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Peak Orangosity

If you peel away the first five or six years of my existence (when my memory was pretty sketchy), I've had a little orange friend with me for nearly half my life.

I first met her in 2001. My ex spouse had left me for the second time and this separation involved several months, so I was living on my own. My coworker approached me and asked me if I wanted a cat.

At the time she went by "Mercedes" and had a bit of a reputation for being loopy and overly energetic. "That cat is crazy," was an oft uttered phrase when she came up as a topic of conversation in the service area. She'd passed through three other owners, including two of my co-workers who just couldn't hang with her...exuberance. I wasn't particularly excited about having a pet at that time either.

But then my coworker explained the situation. She was pregnant. (The coworker, not the cat.) And the man she was pregnant with was abusive to Mercedes. Not just unpleasantly anti-cat or callous. He was downright sadistic. He would smack her around. Put her out on the balcony and dump a pitcher of water on her. Chase her under the bed and reach under it for her, and if Mercedes scratched his arm in her terror of self-preservation, he would pull up the whole mattress up, grab her by her scruff, and toss her into walls. He was never in a million years going clean up the cat box after her. And with my coworker pregnant, she couldn't risk getting toxoplasmosis. Would I please take the cat?

[Edit to add: a number of people have asked me about this relationship since people who abuse animals seldom stop with animals. I'm happy to report that she got out of that situation and is with a great guy now.]

She was an orange tabby. Female tabbies are pretty rare...kind of like male calicos, but she defied the odds. In more ways than one.

At first, I was not thrilled. She shed her white and orange fur all over my new black futon. She scratched up the leather recliners that were on loan to me from a friend. She bolted around the house at all hours meowing like she was in combat with nine or ten invisible rabid wombats. And she was anxious from her abuse. She wouldn't really let me pet her, and if I so much as sneezed she would run out of the room in terror. Skittish beyond functionality. I found food in weird places and the water dish knocked over. And she kept knocking shit off of high places.

I had made a huge mistake saying yes. I was not ready to be responsible for anything, let alone this unholy orange  I even asked about seeing if the coworker would help me rehome her.

It was the third or fourth night when I fell asleep in the couch form futon without pulling it out into a bed. I drifted off feeling vaguely sorry for the train wreck my life had become. Long after I was sound asleep, in the deep quiet of the wee morning hours, I felt a tiny body curl up into the small of my back. If I moved, she bolted. If I reached out, she bolted.

But if I held perfectly still–just perfectly, perfectly still–she started to purr.

The next day it was as if nothing had happened. She was gone with my first morning twitch and spent the day caterwauling through the apartment at cheetah speeds. But the next night she jumped up sooner. And the next morning she left later. Four days in, she let me pet her. At first it was a gentle touch, but within a few minutes, she bunted my hand for the first of about a gazillion times.

She was a cat and I was a person, but slowly we came to some kind of detente. She stopped running around late at night. I calmly picked up after her whirlwinds. She never really warmed to being in my lap, but she was always curled up next to me. She learned I would never hurt her, and her jerkiest moments of jerkitude barely got a raised voice, and in return she stopped running out of the room every time I shifted position or sucked in breath to cough. Eventually the tiniest touch would get her purring. I leaned in one morning–something that would have spooked her earlier–and with her eyes barely slitted in trust she extended her nose towards me.

Boop. We bumped noses.

"I found someone who might take her," my coworker said the next day.

"No!" I said.  Then after a pause: "No....I think that's okay. I feel like we make each other....less broken."

She was the first pet I ever had that was definitively "mine." She was the first one who picked me to snuggle in a line up. She was the first one to come to me without prompting and the first to make sure I knew it was time for some pets. She was the first pet that went beyond a passably affectionate chore and stole my heart right through my rib cage.

She decided she needed a new name for her new life. Obviously I had nothing to do with such a decision, but Mercedes would simply no longer do. The high energy, bullet dodging, jumping and leaping exploits of Princess Mononoke from the Miyazaki film decided her name almost without my help. I was watching the movie. I looked over. And she nodded in agreement.

It was decided.

Of course as soon as she heard she was a princess, she decided it was time to act like one. And of course that had nothing to do with me spoiling her. Nope. The Mononoke part was mostly remembered as an afterthought as she demanded most of the bed, dinner exactly when, and my loving attention no matter what I was doing.

Jumping onto my computer and lying down on the keyboard while I was writing was a daily occurrence.

She always seemed to know she was orange. She would always sleep on blue things that brought out the orange, and she actually acted sort of unimpressed before by other things that were orange even knocking over cups and such. The oranger something was, the more she hated it, and the bluer it was, the more she wanted to be on it as much as possible. It became a running joke that she would not suffer anything that failed to acknowledge or dared to upstage her Royal Orangosity. Acknowledging how orange she was became sort of a thing, and my friends humored me her.

Her kitten energy wouldn't last forever, but there were bird heads aplenty at the threshold while it did. After she shifted into cat middle age, there were cranky meows when I would come to and fro, turn on lights, get into bed. Anything that disturbed her got me a cantankerous "Meyehhh." But as irascible and crotchety as she got, she always booped my nose, curled up next to me, and started purring.

Seventeen years we kept each other company. Partners came and went. Friendships sparked and died. I quit my job as a manager of restaurants and went back to serving, then quit that job too. I went to school and got a degree. I became a teacher. I started writing in earnest. I started getting paid to write. Homes were moved into and out of. I was asked to leave my family and moved out. Through it all, we were each other's support. No matter what happened, eventually we'd boop noses, curl up next to each other, and she would purr while I scritched her cheeks and pet her back.

The kidney disease made life harder. There was more routine. Longer instruction manuals for whomever watched her when I was out of town. Lots of concern about getting enough water.  But she was actually doing quite well for how long she'd had it. That is to say her blood panels looked pretty good when I took her to the vet two weeks ago. But she was not actually doing quite well.

All the water in the world added to her expensive special diet didn't stop the tumor behind her eye. Steroids gave us another couple of weeks, but they just reduced inflammation. Cancer's inexorable march was only postponed.

Or as I like to think of it, she saw that our new president was an anthropomorphic cheeto who was even oranger than she was, and that was simply not okay. "Fuck this shit," she meowed at his orange countenance. "I'm out."

We talked that last day. Not long, for there was some urgency, but for an hour or two. I told her that we found each other broken and we helped each other heal, but also that my scar was always going to ache without her. Cats like to hear these things about how they'll be missed, you understand. I wasn't being maudlin or anything. Purely for her benefit.

But then it was time.

I tucked my breaking heart into my pocket, and held her through her last journey.

"It's okay, baby girl," I said. "It's okay."

The weirdest things totally get to me right now. The quiet. The gaps. The spaces between. I miss the nose boops and falling asleep petting her purring body, but it's the tiny moments of null energy that thunder through my heart.

Shutting off the lights in my room to leave, I thought to myself that I should leave one on for—


Saturday I walked into my room and no one yelled at me. You know....for having the temerity to open the door.

The pressure sensitive cat bed (that I swore I'd never get) sat on my bed (where I swore I would never put it). Her food was uneaten in the bowl next to the door. The thought that I need to fill the water bowl and clean the box turned into a lancing ache.

Getting into bed and not hearing her objecting "Meyahhh" that I'm shifting her sleeping zone.

The quiet is the loudest part.

You were a very good girl, Princess Mononoke. You brought light and joy to half my life. You were my cat.

And you were very, very orange.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Write What You Know (BS Writing Advice That Isn’t As Trite As It Seems) [Arielle K Harris]

Write What You Know (BS Writing Advice That Isn’t As Trite As It Seems)  

by Arielle K Harris

I used to think that one of the least helpful writing maxims was “write what you know” – especially in writing fantasy.  I thought, “Why would I want to write about what I know when the whole point is to write about the unknown?”

Then I wrote my recent self-published novel and found that writing what you know doesn’t need to be a transposition of straight facts.  It can be interpretation, the use of ideas taken out of context, or knowledge of one subject used as the basis for another.  (Having written this out it sounds pretty basic, but for the longest time this epiphany eluded me.)

My novel, Bestial, is a fairytale retelling which reimagines Beauty and the Beast.  I thought about how I wanted to portray my main characters, my female Beast and my male Beauty in this reinterpretation, and how to write the relationship between a man and an inhuman creature.  Then I realized: I know this!

No, of course I didn’t have direct experience with mythical griffin-like Beasts, nor am I now or have ever been a man, but I have long experience with the working relationships between humans and some of the proudest, most intractable of inhuman creatures: I’m a falconer.

This is definitely one of my more unusual hobbies, and something that I can use as a wildcard when desperate making small talk with strangers (because I suck at this) or on an awkward first date (I suck at this even more, because what’s worse than talking to a stranger – talking to one who is judging your worthiness as a potential mate based on your ability to not be socially awkward for a whole two hours at a time.  I’m not sure that randomly talking about birds really helps me with this, however...)

For the last six years I have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of birds of prey while I lived in Scotland, and am currently pursuing the various permits and licenses in order to continue practicing now that I live in the USA.  For much of that time I was employed in this capacity, doing educational displays at a wildlife park, and enjoyed the great amusement of being able to write “Falconer” on the line marked “Occupation” on boarding cards every time I took a transatlantic flight.  It gave me and Border Control something to chat about, and goodness knows they need a bit of entertainment during their day.  But above all, I got to develop relationships of trust with the birds I worked with, and grew to love them all for their fierceness and their independent nature.

Except owls.  Those fluffy wide-eyed bastards are assholes.  (I kid, sort of, but whoever first thought that owls were wise certainly never had much experience with them.  What they lack in intelligence, however, they make up for with utter contrary stubbornness, and I will admit [though not in their hearing!] that I love them, too, for exactly that.)

It began with my educational work, but I was soon determined to experience true falconry – that is to say, hunting with a bird of prey in their natural environment, and since then I’ve hunted with a male German Goshawk and a male Red-tailed Hawk.  When you fly a hawk you cast them off your glove totally unencumbered, apart from the leather anklets and jesses they wear which are designed not to hinder flight and perhaps a telemetry tag in order to track them should they be drawn out of sight by the hunt.  They’re completely free-flying wild birds, and the only thing keeping them from disappearing over the horizon is the trust you have built with them.

It’s an awe-inspiring act to call down the hawk you’ve trained out of the high branches of a tree, and to have him respond to your whistle, glide down with outspread wings and alight upon your glove in perfect trust and partnership.  He trusts that you’ll provide him with the chance to do what he does best; you’ll help him locate his prey, flush it out for him to catch, and help him secure it on the ground.  He trusts that if he misses he won’t go hungry.  He trusts that if he gets injured, you’ll care for him.  Life with you is far more beneficial than life without you.

In return, you trust that he will stay by your side, in a not-too-distant tree, watching your every move, waiting on your word, and allowing you to take part in his wild existence.

So when I sat down to write about a man and a Beast and a love story that wouldn’t choke the feminist in me, I drew from this experience of trust and partnership.  I wrote what I knew.

It didn’t mean that I needed to restrict myself in any way, I could still write about fantastic creatures and unknown places.  I didn’t need to write autobiographically, this could still be a fantasy novel.  Only I could now write my character’s burgeoning relationship with authority and believability, drawing on my own depths of knowledge on the kind of relationship I was describing.

While I don’t believe that an author must always have personal experience in everything they write about, there are some things you just can’t easily pretend to know without true experience, and Google doesn’t replace foot-on-the-ground research.

I’m reminded of a fairly silly romantic comedy movie, The Decoy Bride, set on a fictional island in the Outer Hebrides.  David Tennant plays the character of a writer who set his bestselling novel on the island, but never set foot on it until later events bring him there when he attempts to discreetly marry his famous actress fiancée. Hijinks, obviously, ensue.  His fictionalization of the island becomes a point of tension and comedy between him and the island inhabitants, and he finds that the reality of the island is very different from what he described.

This is a real danger for a writer who might choose not to write what they know or, perhaps more accurately, choose not to know about what they write.  Not only the danger that you might be wrong, but that you might be ridiculous.  But this can be prevented.

In writing to the second half of Bestial, I decided I needed to draw from a greater canon of fairytales, especially those of the Grimm’s Brother’s collected folktales, because I couldn’t face either a moral conclusion in the style of the original tale, or a Disney-style happy ending.  I didn’t know these fairytales yet, but I knew I needed to.  So I studied them and their history, drank them in, read every tale I could find in every spare moment I had until I did know them.  I made myself an authority on a subject where previously I could only profess ignorance.

But, above all else, you need to be an authority on your book itself, your book’s world and those living within it.  This is especially true for fantasy, science fiction and other speculative fiction because, as your world’s creator, if you aren’t the authority on it who can be?

So don’t be too quick to dismiss the trite advice often handed out to writers.  Sometimes you may find that there’s a reason why a tired old idea is so old and tired, and that maybe, just maybe, it’s right.

[Ed Note: Leela Bruce has some similar things to say about "Write what you know" here.]

Arielle K Harris is the author of the novel Bestial as well as the ridiculous steampunk time travel drama short story The Adventurous Time Adventures of Doctor When.  She is responsible for one very opinionated toddler as well as a writer, poet, falconer, knitter of many half-finished scarves, drinker of tea, enthusiast for wine and sometimes has been known to have wild birds in her spare room.

She can be found online at her own website: www.ariellekharris.com as well as on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/ariellekharris/ and her published work can be found on Amazon here:https://www.amazon.com/author/ariellekharris

If you would like to guest blog for Writing About Writing we would love to have an excuse to take a day off a wonderful diaspora of voices and you can even make a couple of bucks. Take a look at our guest post guidelines, and drop me a line at chris.brecheen@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Saying Goodbye

Last year. 
Folks, it looks like the steroids we put my cat, Princess Mononoke, on only bought her a couple of weeks.

I'm going to spend the day saying good-bye and watching for any signs that she might improve. But I think it's time. We knew the steroids would reduce inflammation around a brain tumor (one of the likeliest suspects) but obviously that improvement would be temporary. We were hoping for a clot that caused a small stroke because then she would get better.

Twas not to be.

I have a guest post I can put up tomorrow, but this is going to need my full attention today. Apologies if posts get spotty until next week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Worst Page Turner (Quarterfinal 4)

What is the worst book that you just couldn't put down...no matter how hard you tried?  

We've finally made it to our fourth and final quarterfinal round. It'll only run a week, so don't delay. Remember that the poll is not about terrible books that you hated or that were so poorly written that you couldn't finish. It is about books you couldn't stop reading despite yourself. Books that were train wrecks but you kept turning pages. Books you scoffed at twice a page, but finished in one feverish, scoff-filled night.

Everyone will get three (3) votes. The top four titles will go on to the semifinals.

The poll itself is on the bottom left of the side menus, below the "About the Author." 

Worst Page Turner (Quarterfinal 3)

Just a quickie here to post the results of our third quarterfinal for the Worst Book You Couldn't Put Down poll.

Text version of results at the bottom of the post.

I've gotten some questions, so just to clarify, the "winners" (at the top of the poll) are the worst page turners and will go on to the semifinal rounds. The "losers" (the bottom three titles) have either been deemed not terrible enough or not addictive and irresistible enough.

Stay tuned!  The third quarterfinal will be going up just a little later today.

Divergent Series- V. Roth 64 34.97%
Eragon- C.Paolini 56 30.6%
Bridges of Madison County-R.J. Waller 15 8.2%
White Gold Weilder-S. Donaldson 14 7.65%
The Girl on the Train P. Hawkins 14 7.65%
Under the Dome S.King 13 7.1%
Name of the Wind- P. Rothfuss 7 3.83%