Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Strong Women need Strong Men

public domain photo

I have the personality of a blaze orange locomotive; loud, bright, messy, headed-in-that-direction-damnit, and towing a lot of baggage.

That means I'm apt to run you over - like the proverbial cow by the Lonesome Pine that my grandmother used to sing about - if I've got my eyes set on a goal. (It also means that I have a tendency to get derailed.)

Now, why am I talking about my dominating, obnoxious personality?

Yesterday I won this contest; in order to do so, we had to tweet about what we liked about strong heroines.

I tweeted this: A strong heroine always has to have a man, not a boy, to be equal to her awesomeness. !

I do truly believe that. I know it. Because I'm a strong woman. I know I've been over-fucking-whelming to some of the "nicer" guys in my life.

My husband... is not a nice man. Don't get me wrong, I love him, but nice is not an adjective I'd use to describe him. He's driven. He's obnoxious. And sometimes he's completely fucking clueless. He's very alpha male. He likes to be at the top of the pecking order in a social situation. Better than YOU! (Why yes, people who think they're better are annoying to those of us who ARE!) He also takes pride in doing a good job (not that I don't like to do a good job, mind, but I've never considered corporate America and their obsession with meetings and widgets to be anything worth taking seriously enough to put the effort into a good job. But he does! He works HARD at his cubical hive job. weirdo.) and has a never-quit attitude that sometimes makes me roll my eyes. He's also high-strung and temperamental.

Which is to say; perfect. For me. He'd steam-roller a nice girl.

He is my match, my mate, and my partner in crime. He's better with computers. I can actually cook a meal. He beats my ass at chess and I wipe the floor with him in card games. We're both wickedly intelligent, sarcastic, and occasionally belligerent.

Neither of us is afraid to scream at the other.

I read a lot of romance novels; one of the things I hate more than anything - inevitably I want to transport into the book and slap the HELL out of the heroine whenever this happens - is when the alpha male gets all "you can't ever, ever put yourself at risk! never ever because I would die if something happened to you, so promise me you'll let me put you on the shelf and protect you..."

And inevitably, the heroine is soooooo overwhelmed that he wuuuuuvs her that she bats her eyelashes and agrees to it.



Fuck. No.

Fuck you!

Look, you either love me, with all my bad habits, dangerous passions, and spark of life, or you love an idea.

I have ideas. I am NOT an idea.

(Anyway, I won one of the book packages and not the Ann Aguirre book. So I guess I'll just have to buy that one on my own... me and a girlfriend were just talking about sci-fi romances recently...)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Independent Verification

I've always felt like I was a talented writer.

Well, you know, except for the times when I felt completely worthless, insipid, and generally unable to follow a complex sentence from one end to the other. Days when I scrap everything I've been working on, throw it in the metaphorical trash and start over. Days when I'm convinced that I will never write as well as I want to.

I think we all have those days.

Taking aside those days, I've believed that writing was the one thing I was good at; I might be ugly (re: fat!), a bad housekeeper, a difficult friend, a needy, self-serving, annoying bitch with delusions of adequacy... but writing! That was my talent.

It's nice, however, to have independent verification.

I love my beta readers, I do; however, they're all my friends. They could be just humoring me.

I love Kristina, who accepted my story "Golden Moments." But again, she's my friend. And while my head believes that she wouldn't risk her reputation as an editor on my bad piece of work just because she's my friend... my doubts and concerns...

Well, yesterday, I got an email:

Dear Lynn,

Thank you for your submission to the Shifting Steam anthology. With just a few tweaks, I’d love to accept your story. Payment is $50.00 plus contributor copies of both print and ebook editions. The rights we’re reserving are first paperback and electronic rights for five years.

I'm very, very excited!

So... now to get to tweaking!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Advanced Review!

by Kristina Wright, editor

Genre: Erotic Romance, Anthology

RT Rating (4 Stars)

With a foreword by Meljean Brook and an introduction by the editor, this erotic paean to steampunk captures many aspects of the genre. Expect the unexpected, whether it is the baron’s mechanical arm in Sylvia Day’s Regency, “Iron Hard,” or Saskia Walker’s walking insect-like creation in “Heart of the Daedalus,” set after the Crimean war. Each story has its fair share of sex in addition to the invention that is out of place and time.

The owner of a dirigible seduces the pilot of a hot-air balloon in 19th-century San Francisco in Sacchi Green’s “Fog, Flight and Moonlight.” “The Undeciphered Heart” by Christine d’Abo finds two lovers in need of new hearts long before transplants were a possibility. “Mr. Hartley’s Infernal Device” allows Elspeth to act out her darkest fantasies in Charlotte Stein’s tale. Elizabeth Coldwell’s entry, “A Demonstration of Affection,” has an investor demanding presentation of a mechanical man that is human in every way. Other authors include Vida Bailey, Anna Meadows, Lisabet Sarai, Andrea Dale, Lynn Townsend, Mary Borsellino, Nikki Magennis and Anya Richards. (CLEIS, Oct., 256 pp., $14.95)

Reviewed By: Donna M. Brown

Monday, August 22, 2011

SyFy Presents: A Line In the Ice

Cast: (in order by appearance)

Charlie Weller: Felicia Day

Theo Maigny - Andrew Lee Potts

Soren Dahlbeck - Michael Shanks

Lisa Steward - Leah Gibson

Eduard Guliyev - Adam Minarovich

Lysander Davies - Ed Quinn

Julius Hale - Conrad Coates

Summary: The Antarctic. Cold. Alien. Uninhabited. Until now. Strange creatures are appearing from a rift in the ice. An elite military squad stands between civilization and the mysterious invasion of monsters. Out in the ice one mistake is the difference between life and death. Charlie Weller (Day) thinks she’s seen everything—until a man crawls out onto the ice, barely alive and muttering about a place called Illyria.

Made Up Magazine recently got an exclusive interview with the director, Lynn Townsend.

MUM: So what made you decide to get on board with this project?

LT: Well, I read the book - you know I pitched the idea to Craig Engler in the first place - and I thought, what a great piece for SyFy. I mean, it's a really great story; and with such a small cast and confining location - the entire movie except for the last fifteen minutes - takes place in a tiny military base in the antarctic, it's perfect. SyFy does some excellent work, but they honestly just don't have the big budget... And this story is really character driven. That's why I was honestly thrilled to get to work with some of the best genre actors.

MUM: What was it like to work with Felica Day (Red: Werewolf Hunter; Eureka; Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog)?

LT: Oh, she's just a perfect Charlie. I mean, have you seen her? I know she does the quirky nerd frequently, but that girl is just SPUNKY. She literally rescued Wil Wheaten at Comic Con from some rabid sci fi fans, and you know they're the scariest things out there... So when I saw this role, I knew she was a perfect fit.

MUM: What was the worst thing about the set?

LT: Well, we had to use some leftover pieces of the Hoth stage for it - and let me tell you, getting through to Lucas is an exercise in red tape. The man has social secretaries for his social secretaries. And then it wasn't even put together right. We had several incidents on the set where the roof would literally collapse. And the Makeup Director used to grab his Darth Vader mask and stalk through the rubble. Funny, yes, but we lost at least a half day of filming.

MUM: So, who do you think really nailed their role?

LT: I admit, I was a bit dubious about working with Leah Gibson; anyone who's been on the set of Twilight is bound to be just a little flakey; but she was great. We had our moments, but really, she was quite good. And Michael Shanks... he's always throwing himself into his character, really heart and soul. Honestly, honestly, they're all excellent, and they really put a lot of work into this piece. I think viewers will be impressed.

MUM: Well, that's all we have time for today: Make sure to check out A Line in the Ice, a new SyFy original mini-series, set to air in December. Ooooh, I get chills, just thinking about it.

Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official Line in the Ice blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

Learn more about this author duo by visiting their website, blog, Facebook or GoodReads pages or by connecting with them on Twitter.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What's Your Name, Little Girl?

True story...

I excel at freaking out.

It doesn't take a lot to get my stress meter over 10 (it goes to 11!). And I'm really good at borrowing trouble. I try not to - it's been my experience thus far that "preparing for the worst" doesn't actually prevent any pain when I get to the worst, it just expands the amount of time that I'm upset - but it's been my habit for almost 30 years now, and it's not that easy to get past.

So, yesterday was... not a good day.

I got some edits done, was pretty happy with a finished story. I read it. I put it away. I brought it out and read it out loud. (I'm told this is supposed to help me. I don't know if it really does or not. I've found some errors that way, but mostly not. I think my beta readers are pretty good about catching my grammar mistakes.)

I double checked the submission requirements - I've had it pounded into my head that failing to follow any submission requirements, no matter how trivial, stupid or arbitrary, is grounds to have my submission rejected and my birthday redacted.

In between, I did my normal "day" stuff. Grocery shopping. Housecleaning. Fiddling around on various social networks. Played some Warcraft. You know. Stuff.

Got the mail.

Commence freak out.

Apparently my bank is making some changes. That is to say, they're doing away with my free-checking. $7 a month bank fee, unless I maintain a minimum balance or use direct deposit (I do). Plus a $5 fee, per check card (that's 2, one for me, one for my husband) per month, with no waivers for that fee.

About a year ago, the bank changed me over from Visa to Mastercard. I discovered exactly what a pain in the ass changing accounts is; I do a LOT of things online. Seems like every few days for about three weeks I was getting another email that said, "give us a new credit card number!" And then they cancelled our "rewards" program. It really wasn't that much of a rewards program, honestly. About once a year I could get a $50 cash deposit put back into our checking account, and that around Christmas, so it was useful, but not like fantastic or anything. Mostly they discounted any "regular" charges, so things like my rent, electric, food, or you know, the stuff I actually NEED didn't count as "money spent" anyway. Shrug. Whatever.

But taking the same (or less!) services than I have had for the last 10 years and now charging me $120 a year for it?

So, I'm spazzing.

And I get an email.

"Dear Ms. Townsend,

I think you may have meant to send this to {Contact*}. She doesn't work here at {Publishing Company}. Her address is {}

{Someone I Never Heard Of}"


I triple checked the submissions requirements. No, no, I sent it to the right email address (as listed in the submission request!) Ok, {Contact} is the person who POSTED the Call for Submissions... and {Company} is the place that's publishing them... there's no other contact information listed. There's no link to {Company.}

Freak. Freak.

I googled {Company} and discovered that {Someone I Never Heard Of} was indeed the person I wanted to send my submission to.

Lovely. Just lovely. It's not entirely my fault, but perhaps I should have been a little more careful, done the googling first... I should have done research! Damn it, freak out more! She's going to think I'm a complete idiot (you are a complete idiot!) and not want to look at my submission because I'm a moron. (and your work is terrible anyway.)

I write her an email back and explain my mistake. She seems gracious enough about it.

But of course, my brain's already in full botheration mode.

So, nothing I can do about it now... I push it aside and start making dinner. Only to realize after I've cut up the onion and started sauteing it that I forgot to take the phyllo out of the freezer. You cannot microwave thaw that stuff... I stare at the partially started dinner. Great. Now what?

Around this time, my husband comes home. I haven't quite curled up on the kitchen floor and started sobbing, but I'm almost there.

(Yes, I'm aware that none of these things are tragic. No one's going to beat me with a horsewhip for making mistakes. And everything is fixable. I know. It's part of my being bi-polar, and I can't really do shit about it. Sometimes I just fall to pieces.)

So, I'm telling him about all the stupid that's going on and he's watching me with that semi-comforting, somewhat smug look. While I don't think he likes that I'm bi-polar, I'm almost certain that he does like dealing with my little domestic problems because he can fix them.

"Wait," he stops me about halfway through my rant. "Who did you say answered your email?"

"{Someone I never heard of.}"

"I know her!" he exclaims. "I read her blog."


* Names have been omitted because I don't want to sound whiny at a particular individual if the story doesn't get accepted, because you know, that's just rude.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Chat With Someone Else; S. M. Reine

I've read an awful lot of books in the last few days... one of them was 19 Dragons, by S.M. Reine... she's a charming woman, very funny, and I've spent some time "talking" with her across various online mediums, including Twitter.

I have to say first off that 19 Dragons wasn't at all what I expected. I wasn't sure what I expected, but the delightful, witty, and exceptionally poetic novella was NOT it. Truly, a wonderful, wonderful piece... so, Before we get to know my guest a little better, I'd like to say you should probably pick this up, because it's really quite fabulous.

Lynn: Obviously, as a writer, you're just a little on the strange side. What's the oddest thing you do regularly?

S.M.: I disassemble my food. All of it. I don't think I've ever eaten a sandwich by biting the whole thing. Instead, I eat the cheese rolled around the tomato, then shred and devour the meat, and then eat the crust of the bread, and... oh, you get the idea. I'll even do it to whole foods, like bananas.

Lynn: Tell me about how you set up to get some writing done; is coffee/caffeine on your Must Have list before working? Do you have a ritual? Favorite writing spot?

S.M.: I used to have a luxurious writing ritual involving a snifter of brandy, lingerie, and mood music. (Really.) Now that I'm a mom, it's more like guerilla warfare. I write whenever the Helpful Baby is distracted by his feet for more than five seconds. It's harder, because I can't get In the Mood anymore, but it really makes me value my occasional free time. Procrastination is at an all time low in my writing life. I just don't have time for it.

Lynn: We've all answered the question, "If you could talk to any writer, alive or dead, who would it be?" Is there a particular writer (or other famous person) that you'd like to have tossed out on their ear?

S.M.: Ooh. I can think of a few modern writers I wouldn't mind tossing into the fires of Mount Doom, but I have a personal rule against speaking ill of living writers. Instead, I'd like to sacrifice Oscar Wilde. I think he sat around making up pretentious quotes and then cobble them into "stories." I love the guy, but he was a hack.

Lynn: Have you ever done something specifically to "get book fodder?" Tell me about it.

S.M.: I refused to evacuate when I had an insane forest fire practically at my back door. I was entranced by the snowing ash and the bloody hue of the remaining sunlight. The whole side of the mountain glowed with smoldering trees. It was the closest to apocalypse I've ever seen. So horribly dangerous, but so moving and inspirational. Of course, I was younger and much stupider at the time.

Lynn: When did you first decide you wanted to write? What inspired you?

S.M.: I realized writing was my Destiny when I wrote my proto-feminist vision of X-Men (titled "Z Women") in second grade. It was basically terrible fanfic that expressed my irritation at the comics seeming to favor the male mutants over the female mutants. Not much has changed, really.

Lynn: What are some of your favorite books? Anything you'd particularly recommend?

S.M.: I have a million favorite books. Since I've gotten into reading indie books, I have even more, since I feel like I need to advocate for these amazing, underrated novels. I've recently loved "An Apple For Zoe" by Thomas Amo, "Descended by Blood" by Angeline Kace, and "Found in Blood" by Maurice Lawless. (Everything is "blood," isn't it? Haha!)

Lynn: Do you have any word or grammar pet peeves?

S.M.: I'm nutty about commas. My old critique group used to call me the "comma cowgirl." They're so easy to mix up, and they seem to be one of the most frequent errors in a fledgling writer's manuscript. I also get pretty weird about adjectives.

Lynn: 19 Dragons reads like prose, but occasionally the story slips into a poetry, with staggered sentences and blank spaces. I found it intriguing. Without giving away too much of the story, what made you decide to work in this technique?

S.M.: I'd love to say that The 19 Dragons was a masterfully calculated work of art, but I actually had no idea what it was about or where it was going until the end. I had to go back and do a lot of tweaking for consistency because I was really, really pantsing it on that one. The occasional "poetry" pieces appeared on their own. Total accident.

Lynn: Any upcoming new projects we should be on the look-out for?

S.M.: Actually, I have quite a lot coming up. My next appearance will be in an anthology called "Here Be Monsters." The sequel to "Six Moon Summer," called "All Hallows Moon," is coming this fall. I'm also organizing a charity anthology to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that will be released in December. Hard to believe I wasn't publishing anything a year ago, whereas I'll have five publications in 2011!

Lynn: Well, thanks for your time, and good luck! I know I've enjoyed getting a peek into your head!

What? Are you still here? Go... buy the book! Go read. Shoo!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just a Quickie

Yesterday I was reading through a marketplace for submissions; essentially a web site where you can go and see if any publishers are looking for a story like yours, or to get ideas for new stories to write. I've got a bit of a gap between now and when my current WIP is due. (October 1, to be precise, and I've already written more than half of it...)

I wasn't even really looking hard for "new work". Just kinda getting a feel for it. Window browsing.

I came across one CFS that looked good; specifically looking for new writers, not at all published, or only published since June 2010. As my story in Steamlust isn't coming out til October, I'm pretty much exactly meeting those requirements.

However, the story call was Very Open. Topic/genre/setting all open, except for a few basic no-nos (which she spelled out, because we are NEW! Hehe!) No underage sex, no animals (shape-shifters don't count), no dead things (ditto on vampires being excluded.)

I book-marked it and wandered away from keyboard to do the dishes.

Open-ended... hmmm. I have a mostly finished story about ghosts/zombies. (I haven't really decided what they are, except for being recently deceased...) Maybe I could do that... well, haven't I written a lot of supernatural stuff recently?

And then I got hit with the inspiration mallet.

Literally. Hit.

Felt like someone walked up to me and wopped me on the head. I staggered backwards.

I hadn't thought about that particular episode in a long, long time. And honestly, as far as sex went, it wasn't that wonderful. It was kinda scary and had the thrills of possibility of being caught, which added to my excitement, but as far as technique? No. I was back in college and sex back then was never more than wham! bam! Heh. I didn't know any better and neither did my myriad lovers.

However... could I take the situation... and have a run with it?

Yes, yes I could.

And I did.

Two thousand words yesterday.

Almost another two thousand today.

And it's already done.

I don't know that I've ever written that quickly before.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plotting, 101

So... now that I'm a "published writer" I've been dealing with a whole new world of weird. I'm sure that it's nothing different from what every new author has to go through. I mean, I don't feel any different - as a writer - than I did six months ago. I do what I do, when I do it. There's nothing any more or less magical coming out onto the page than there was last year. Just now, someone's paid me to do it. This apparently gives me some sort of fairy dust, and it seems like half the universe is trying to shake me up and get some for themselves.

Maybe I'm being unfair. I know my friends - and friends of friends, and neighbors of friends, and almost perfect strangers that someone passed my business card to - are excited.

But I'm no more the expert than I was. Nothing has changed. I know very little more about publishing than I did.

And I'm a terrible teacher. I discovered that years ago when I firmly decided that teaching high school English was not what I wanted to do with my life.

In the last few months since I've become "a published writer", I've been given several short stories, poems, incomplete manuscripts... "Just take a look..."


I already am writing part-time, housekeeping part-time, being mom part time, trying to raid part time, and I'm beta-reading for a couple of friends already. Plus I have a huge stack of books that I want to read for pleasure.

I've done a couple of reads for people anyway. I never got thanked. They said nothing about my suggestions. This doesn't incline me to do it again.

And again, I'm not a good teacher. I'm not a writing coach.

Yesterday I spent some time with a newbie writer wanna be. (I say that because he hasn't actually written ANYTHING. He might be one step up on the circle of words than people who say causally at parties, "Oh, I've always wanted to write a book." Maybe. But in my view of the world, until you actually have written something. Anything. TO completion. You're not a writer.)

"I have a main character," he says. "And a BBEG -"

"A what?"

"Big Bad Evil Guy??" he says, like I should know this. Really? I usually call that person the antagonist. Or the villain.


"Now what?"

What do you mean, now what? I mean, maybe it's a legitimate question... it's not one that's ever occurred to me. But I've been writing stories for as long as I can remember, so maybe... back when I was eleven... it did, and I've forgotten...

"Well," I said, tapping my fingers against the desk, "What does your bad guy want?"

"I don't know."

"Then why is he bad?"


"Plot is about conflict... " Hasn't this been covered in some basic high school English class? "You're telling me your story has a protagonist and an antagonist; that's a classic formula; man vs. man."

"Well, they're cats."

"Same thing..."

"No, it's not, they..."

"THE SAME THING for the purposes of PLOT DEVELOPMENT. Man vs. man. Cat vs. Cat. Character A vs. Character B. So the first thing I suppose you need to start with is defining the conflict. Why are they fighting? What does A have than B wants? Or what is B planning that A wants to foil?"

Long silence.

"I guess I need a new bad guy."

Like I said, I'm a bad teacher, but I fell over laughing at this point. How can you have an antagonist that doesn't want anything? Even if they're the evil dictator and they have everything in the world under their paw, they want something - to stay in power, to crush the rebellion, to marry the sweetheart of the hero... they have goals, desires, plot devices.

* at this point I'd like to say I'm exaggerating part of this conversation for effect, grabbing bits of other conversations I've had recently to emphasize, and that we got cut off from our chat at this point, so I wasn't actually able to give him any helpful advice.

The best advice I ever got on plot development didn't come from a Creative Writing class (I've taken three...) or another writer. It came from a gaming book; Storyteller's Guide to Vampire, the Masquerade, 2nd edition. It is, by far, my favorite gaming book. In addition to having more rules, nifty items for your characters and the typical stuff found in all role-playing books, this one included a couple chapters on HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR STORY.

That's all Roleplaying is; group story-telling. You have one person leading the events, and a bunch of other players reacting/acting/developing character... I highly recommend role-playing as a way to sharpen your writer's eye. Because while we all joke that our novel characters don't listen to us, that's nothing - NOTHING - like what a bunch of truly independent characters will do to your plot. Anything you haven't thought of, they'll try it. Any area you haven't developed, they'll go that way... any NPC (non-player character) that MUST NOT DIE will get shot in the first act for being rude. Players will run rough-shod over you, force you to think faster and more creatively than four to seven other people, and your reward is that years later they'll tell stories about the "good old days of your campaign" and you can sit by and smile.

Anyway, I don't think the Storyteller's Guide is available anymore... in fact, I think Vampire's current edition (4? 5?) isn't even called "the masquerade" anymore. Which is too bad, because this is a great book.

It's divided into 6 chapters: The Story, The Chronicle, The Setting, The Motive, and The Enemy. Yes, that's only 5. But the sixth chapter is mostly game mechanics, and is therefore not relavant to today's lesson.

Story discusses the parts of a story; concept, plot archetypes, themes and mood, incentives, story structure, beginnings, middles, ends, loose ends, aftermath.

Chronicle includes what are technically game details, but can also be really useful for ideas like a story map (outline! I am NOT a pantser writer. I need a road map or I'll never freaking get there. Other people don't, and that's great, I envy them.), troubleshooting, consistency, handling time, the web (not the www, but what the character does affects people that he may not ever notice, but that can come back to bite him in the ass later.) tension and humor.

Setting: where does your story take place? Who lives there? What is life like there regularly? Questions like these come up in games, they also come up in novels; particularly if you're writing a novel in a world not our own. In our world, people assume things like toilets and toasters and telephones. What is it like somewhere else?

Motive; here we come back to what I was saying earlier; What does your character want? Who's preventing him from getting it? What does the villain want? Why does your hero care? Everyone has motives; even wild animals have motivation (they're hungry, you're scaring them, you're too close to their den). People don't act in a vacuum. Even if the motive is; like a six year old who broke the windows by throwing rocks at them, and the parent is going, "Junior, WHY did you do that?" and the only answer is, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

Enemy: How to create a memorable bad guy. Yes, in both games and novels, you can send hundreds of redshirts (sorry, star trek term) in to die or get in the way... but that gets boring. So you frequently need a bad guy; and you need to love your bad guy. If, as a writer, you hate him, he's just not going to be very much fun. Love your bad guy. Feed him, talk to him, canoodle with him. Find out what he wants, what he loves, what he hates. Discover that, despite being an evil overlord, he's got a soft spot for his Aunt Mabel. Real people are seldom all bad or all good.

And those are the things that make them interesting.