A Migration Moment – Blustered

Here’s a little Migration Moment, a look into Rhys and Jason’s lives together.  Takes place before book one.

“Jason Tambor,” Rhys said as he pulled the car into the gas station.  “Have I told you how much I love you lately?”

“You’d better,” Jason replied.  “Otherwise this is going to be a pretty awkward road trip for the next ten days.” Jason bobbed his eyebrows at Rhys, which never failed to garner a smile.  He pointed towards the bustling store beyond the pumps.  “Want anything?” he asked as he reached for the door.

“No thanks,” Rhys said as he relaxed in the seat.

Jason walked behind the car, Rhys catching his eye in the side mirror.  A moment later, Jason was standing next to his window.  “Oh, Boo?” Jason said as he tapped on the glass.

Rhys rolled down the window. “Yeah?”

“We’re in California,” Jason said as he glanced around.

“Yeah, so?”

“So this isn’t Oregon. You have to pump your own gas.”Rhys blushed.  “I knew that,” he said, then stepped out of the car.  Together five years and Jason could still get him flustered.

Rhys started the pump as he basked in the warm coastal weather.  Theirs was the only car at the pumps until a convertible pulled in behind them.  A woman with oversized sunglasses got out, her long auburn hair, the color of sand that gets stuck to your flip-flops, waving in a sudden breeze.  She was wearing a bikini made out of the same amount of material that went into a roll of stamps, and even though Rhys was gay, the sheer amount of flesh on display made him gawp.  The click-click-click sound as she walked caused Rhys to look down, and he realized her outfit was finished off with a pair of impossibly high heels. His mind flashed the word, ‘impractical.’

“Hi there,” she drawled as she pulled off her sunglasses.  She put an arm under her ample bosom as if making an offering.

“Umm, hi.”  Out of the corner of his eye, Rhys saw Jason stopped dead in his tracks.  And even though he wanted to turn to his boyfriend for help, for some reason, all he could focus on was the sheer amount of flesh suddenly in his personal space.

The woman’s face broke into a broad smile, whitened teeth glistening in the sun as fingers twirled at her hair. “Can you help me?  I’m ever so bad at this kind of thing,” and gestured for the gas pump.

“Uhh,” Rhys said as he blindly reached for the gas pump.

“Wrong tree, sister,” Jason called as he confidently strode to Rhys’ side.  He put a possessive arm around Rhys as he gave the woman his best smile, then nodded to the woman’s breasts.  “Those things don’t work on us.”

And just like that, the stupor that had wrapped up Rhys dissipated.  A blush overtook his face as he made quick work of his own gas pump, then got in the car as the sound of retreating high heels looked for help elsewhere.

Jason handed him a bottle of water as Rhys pulled the car back out into traffic.  He welcomed the coolness, first taking a sip and then rolling the bottle across his forehead.  When Jason snickered, he turned.  “What?”

“You’re cute when you’re flustered,” Jason said, then dropped a kiss against his shoulder.

Beta the new version of Migration: Beginnings

Okay, so when I first got to publishing, I had no idea what I was doing. Then I got a few pointers from people, read some books, etc. And now I still have no idea what I’m doing, but at least I think my writing has gotten better!

As such, Migration: Beginnings was rewritten from scratch for two reasons. First, many people like me who tend to read in present tense can read either present tense or past tense without issue. But people who prefer past tense typically (at least from the feedback others have given me) detest present tense written books.

I know, right? Who knew?

But beyond the entire rewrite, I also went through the principals of ‘Take Off Your Pants‘ by Libbie Hawker and realized that hey – Migration wasn’t ready. So after the rewrite, I then went back and added in stuff that Hawker extolls in her book. And I think it’s made all the difference.

So now that that’s done, I have one last read-through before I’m done. But I’d also like to get other’s feedback as well. So if you’re interested in a pre-release copy of the Migration: Beginnings rewrite, drop me a note and I’ll be happy to get you one as long as you promise to send me feedback.

So much to do!

Occasionally I get into conversations with other writes – those in professional writing, as well as in fandom (because yes, I am still involved not just in professional writing, but in fandom writing as well), and the conversation usually involves things like, “So what are you writing?”

Boy, that’s a loaded question.  It’s like asking a hypochondriac how they are feeling.

I’m still hip-deep in the middle of my Migration: Beginnings rewrite, though I’m chugging along quite well after a quite productive weekend.  I’m almost at 75% complete in the initial rewrite, which is just taking the book from present tense to past tense.  But after that is complete, I’ll be doing a little more tweaking – making Rhys a little more angsty, as well as applying certain things from “Take Off Your Pants” like end of chapter tweaks.

And I’ve got to finish it sometime soon because once that’s done and off my plate, it will still be full!  This is just a sample:

  • Prequel book to Migration: Beginnings, to offer free for folks new to the series
  • The second and third books in the Migration: Beginnings series
  • Four short stories, each 5,000 to 25,000 words, for a book I’m co-writing with my “Million Miles Amok” co-writer Lisa Witte.
  • Prequel and the first book in a male/male erotica series

Hundreds of thousands of words are planned in dozens of stories, just waiting to be written!

Why I chose to unpublish Migration Beginnings

One of the most difficult things you have to do as a writer is the editing process.  I have a wonderful little magnet that says:

Write Drunk – Edit Sober

And that’s a good philosophy, even if you don’t take it literally.  Write as uninhibited as you can, but when you go through the editing process, a careful, analytical hand is called for.

Migration: Beginnings has been published for just over a year now to minor success – and that’s okay.  It’s my baby, and I’m happy with it, for the most part.  But what I wasn’t happy with stemmed from feedback received after the book was published, as well as information I found out just about the same time.  First, the overall feedback from a couple of readers was that the book would flow better if it were in past tense instead of present tense.  Now for me, tense doesn’t make that huge a difference.  I can read either.  But I consider that personally, I don’t like to read things written in first-person.  Very few writers can get me to read first-person written works.  So thinking about it from their perspective, it just made sense that I should rewrite it as a past-tense written book.

Beyond that, I read Libbie Hawker’s “Take Off Your Pants” – and realized all of the stuff that I left out of the book.  The good thing is, not only can I see the holes that I need to fill, but I can also see how to fill them.

But the problem isn’t the rewrite – it’s the time it’s taking me.  Real life gets in the way a lot, leaving me precious little time to work on my writing.  I’m carving out time to get it done, but sometimes it gets missed because life happens.

So I unpublished Migration: Beginnings from Amazon.  It’s still published in a couple other spots, but because the volume of sales is so low, I’m not worried about it.  I’m giving myself until May 31st to finish the rewrite, and then I’ll get it published again.  And if you’ve purchased a copy, it will get updated to the new version.

Here’s to meeting deadlines and productivity!  Once Migration is completed, I can start on what the Muse strikes me with on any of the half a dozen other books that are running through my head.

Yea gods, I hate queerbaiting

When you come from the LGBT side of the spectrum, there’s always the desire to see something like you on the television, in movies, or in the books that you read.  I mean that’s one of the reasons that I wanted to become a writer in the first place.  The ability to not only experience in your own life but to view from others, that the life that you are living is a wonderful thing.  When you’re isolated because of something like your sexuality, that isolation can lead you down two paths – either down the lighted path where you see others like you and you realize that you’re not so different after all, or the darker path that some take that closes them off from society even further.

There’s a wonderful, compact snippet that explains the appeal of queerbaiting by the media, and how it’s used.  And while the original source has been removed from the Internet, thanks to wonderful sites that archive off entire websites, it’s been preserved.  Originally from an article called “Please Do Not Bait The Queers“, it goes:

Queerbaiting works on its audience because it offers the suggestion that queer people do have a vital place in these stories, that they might even be the defining figures, the heroes. The suggestion—but not the reality.

There are many examples of queerbaiting out there, from the never-ending examples on Supernatural to Sherlock to the new series Riverdale.  Even small series aren’t immune from it.  TBS has a half hour comedy show based on ABC’s “Lost” called “Wrecked” that had a genuinely large, funny cast, and lots of diversity.  They punched through stereotypes, like having a female character be the one who was the hunter, supplying everyone with food.  They had a good mixture of characters and were never too afraid to let a character lead a scene, even if they were a minor character from another episode.  And yes, they seemed to even allude to a queer romance between Danny and Owen; from Danny saying, “Thanks, hon,” in one episode, to being recalled as a queer couple in a dream sequence, to picking out a spot to (platonically) spend their nights together, to being referred to by other characters like, “Do it. Do it for your lover,” when one of the two was endangered.

But season two of Wrecked took a decidedly different turn, even though the queerbaiting continued, albeit one-sided.  Danny and Owen, who were pretty much in each scene together during season one, were more separated in season two (which was quite reminiscent of the Hawaii Five-0 fandom between season one and season two in which they walked back from queerbaiting, and lost a good percentage of their audience).  Danny still acted out his side of the “romance”, but Owen had a new love interest in Florence.  But it wasn’t just Owen’s new romance that changed; it was Owen’s attitude towards Danny.  His attitude went from one of mutual teasing and affection to something closer to disdain, like the gif in this tweet shows.  And it only got worse as the season continued.

Last night was the second season finale for Wrecked, and indeed, they went full “No-Homo” on the show.  There was no doubt, either from Owen or Danny’s character, that everything between them up to that point was all just a joke, and that whatever happened during season one wasn’t how they’d meant it at all.  Even Danny’s one-sidedness devolved into, “I mean it’s not like I want to touch your butt or anything.”

It’s all so tiring.

Wrecked itself is a cute show and a cute 22-minute diversion from reality.  But if I would have known I was being baited into watching it at the very beginning, I probably would have passed.

On Music

One thing that hits every single aspect of my life is music.  Be it the background noise while I’m writing, what I do to keep me just distracted enough to keep me focused while doing my day job, or what I bounce to while I’m cleaning.  Music is in just about every aspect of my life.

Stephen King writes to artists like Metallica.  I was talking to another writer about music (Soren Summers) and he mentioned that he listens to artists like Gesaffelstein.  I, personally, listen to classical music for what I need in my environment when I write.  But it’s not just the music that’s there – it’s the music that enhances what you’re writing.

For instance, Soren’s choice of Gesaffelstein is something that I could definitely listen to if I was writing erotica.  There is something sensual in the beats, the rhythm, the trance that the music puts you in, and that overall it just gives you the chance to let go of yourself.  And if you’re writing an effective sex scene – not a lovemaking scene, a sex scene – then why not listen to something that’s raw, and a bit animalistic?

When writing parts of A Million Miles Amok, I actually chose to write without music, and used the noisy aircraft cabin as my ambience.  But when I wrote Migration: Beginnings, I actually varied what I wrote.  In the “setup” type scenes, I listened to regular classical music. But in a couple of pivotal action sequences, I actually put “O Fortuna” on repeat.  Why?  Because it’s one single piece of music that has been used in critical action sequences in multiple movies, and I wanted to see if I could capture that same type of energy as I wrote.

Music is pretty big for me, and as I don’t have much to blog about right now (because rewrites kinda suck!), I thought I’d start a little side bit here about music.  Not just music when it comes to writing, but also music in the movies.  Because music can make or break a film, turning a cinematically-filmed marvel into a two dimensional piece of entertainment.  I mean, when it came to films from 2005, the cinematic marvel was “Brokeback Mountain”, though it would not be as successful if Gustavo Santaolalla hadn’t penned the beautiful piece “The Wings“.  What would Close Encounters of the Third Kind be without the pivotal “Dialogue” scene?  And the movie Jaws wouldn’t have been half as scary without those few low notes from a tuba and woodwinds that started it all.

I, personally, was ready to dismiss the remake of the 1950s classic “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – until I not only saw the movie, but the accompanying music.  Sure, the scene with Walter Mitty jumping on the helicopter as Kristen Wiig and David Bowie sang “Space Oddity” was a turning point not only for Walter, but for the movie itself.  But to me, both the cinematography and lyrics to the song “Far Away” do the most when it comes to non-verbal communication with the audience.  Mitty, a guy who has a nonplussed life, suddenly is feeling alive again as he skateboards down a deserted road.  Even the lyrics are there.  “Step in front of a runaway train, just to feel alive again.”  There’s a link on Youtube, but unless you see the whole thing, it doesn’t impact you as much as the whole film does.

So here goes.  A dialogue on music that’ll happen from time to time.  Because why not?

On Writing and Writing Books

One of the overwhelming things they tell you when you want to be a writer is that you have to read a lot. So I’m reading in my professional writing genre quite a bit, and enjoying it. Even the recent series that I stumbled upon, which has zombies (something I don’t like only because zombies are the only thing that can give me nightmares) is amazing. If anyone is interested, check out it’s called the Vertex series by Soren Summers. I didn’t know there were going to be zombies going into it, but it is oh so worth it.

Getting to the meat of my post, I wanted to talk about writing books. I don’t read books about writing. Rather, I listen to them (thank goodness for audiobooks!). I’ve only listened to 4 so far, but there’s something I took away from each.

Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down The Bones” and “Thunder and Lightning”. I listened to Bones first, and then after another book, Thunder and Lightning. There’s a bit of good that comes from each book, though they mostly talk about process and background. Goldberg is an old fashioned type writer, if I may say so. She talks about writing practice, and filling up stacks and stacks of notebooks. Writing practice is where you kind of let go and get in touch with what kind of writer you are. There’s a general guideline she has of “Maybe do writing practice two years before you attempt anything professional” and I can see that. But she goes on to say that the two year rule is more of a guideline than anything. The thing about Goldberg’s books, especially Bones, was that I would listen to them as I went on long afternoon walks – and whether it was her cadence or voice or just being inspiring, I spent a lot of the time with ideas for stories flooding my brain. How to work out a specific detail about the next Migration book? Well, it came to me as Goldberg was talking about a writing workshop in Minnesota, or the time she spent writing short poems for people at a farmer’s market for $1 per page. In all, I did enjoy both books, and though my mindset is more in the Thunder and Lightning realm, I enjoyed Bones much more.

Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. This book confused me when I started it. King talks mostly about his childhood for the first 20% of the book. But the way he can tell a tale is amazing. His time discussing how he missed a lot of school and ended up in the doctor’s with an ear infection multiple times just creeped me the hell out. But the overwhelming thing about King’s work is the lesson that comes natural through the discussion of the book. Think you might have an idea? Go ahead and write it, because you’re meant to. Nobody can tell a tale in your voice but you. And even some of the most well known stuff by King started out when he was processing laundry for hospitals and doing other menial tasks. Even in those bleak moments of his life, he was able to get something written down on paper that changed the world. The book is almost like a list of do’s and don’t’s on writing, but sprinkled around an interesting life so that if you’re not paying attention, you might miss them. One thing he has said that bugged me, though, was the lesson “If you have a possessive apostrophe and the word ends with the letter S, it’s still an apostrophe S in your writing.” Of course in Migration there’s a lot of stuff done by Rhys – so that would mean I would have to go back and change them all from saying things like “Rhys’ voice was soft behind the roar of the waterfall” to “Rhys’s voice was soft behind the roar of the waterfall.” I think that’s the only thing I don’t agree with – but who am I to say? Maybe I just no longer have names that end with S in my writing as a way of getting around it? ::grin::

Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life”. Oh man. I had high hopes for this book after listening to just the very beginning, especially after the inchworm story. I’ll leave it here:

Dillard writes a passage about an inchworm, the proverbial inchworm, that inches its way to the top of a long piece of grass. It gets to the top and says, “What? No Further?” It starts panicking, it starts wriggling, it starts looking for somewhere further to go. Finally, it bends the grass over to another piece, it attaches itself, and it starts climbing to the top again. But when it finally gets there, it exclaims, “What? No further? End of world?” “Why don’t you just jump?” asks Dillard, “disgusted. ‘Put yourself out of your misery.'”

This little passage spoke to me so much.  Why?  Because I sometimes go into a bit of a creative tailspin thinking I don’t have anything creative in me.  It’s like a tree branch that grows into my prison cell.  I took and took and took from the branch, plucking all the wonderful creative bits and ended up snapping the branch in half.  And even though I can reach through the bars of my cell, and brush my fingers against the stub of creativity that hovers just far out of reach, that’s all I get.  Yes, I feel like I get a morsel every now and again, most mostly I sit there staring at the branch, wondering why it’s so far gone when I need it the most.

I am the inchworm.  I’ve reached the tip of that blade of grass, and wail back and forth because creativity is gone.  I’m at the end of my world and don’t know what to do next.

But that’s where Dillard’s book left me.  After the first ten minutes, it was just a mishmash of semi-connected stories on what she did when she wrote.  What cabins she rented.  The weather.  That time she went up in an airplane with a guy who ended up dying doing a barrel roll.  For someone to inspire me so much in the first ten minutes, and then let me languish so much for the last three hours…  Well, it was so disappointing.

So those are the four books I’ve listened to on writing.  I’ve taken away something from each of them, and I’ll keep going.

If you have suggestions for writing books, please let me know.  What was your favorite?  What worked for you, and what didn’t?  I enjoy listening to writing audiobooks as I deal with mundanity like weeding the yard or working on my 10,000 steps per day, because it brings a bit of brightness to a task that’s just shades of grey.

When Writing IS Your Business

I’m at a point in my career where I get a chance to write, but it’s not my primary job.  I’d love it to be; get up in the morning, spend a few hours writing, have some time to do marketing and just fun interactive stuff with writers and readers, and then a few more hours of writing.  But that’s just not the case right now.  My primary job is in Medical Information Technology, and I truly love it.  But one day…

Thing is, Boo and I are going to India in August.  Since we’re on the US West Coast, we’ve got multiple looooong flights (14 hours SEA to DXB, 4 hours DXB to BOM, 8 hours BOM to LHR, and 10 hours LHR to SEA) that would be perfect for getting quite a bit of writing done.  Especially since I think August is a Camp NaNo month?  Or maybe that’s July…  Anyway, when you get paid to write, you cherish any time that you can spend on your craft.  So it’s hard to read that the iPad/laptop ban may be extended to more countries.  That means I might be able to travel with my laptop TO India, I wouldn’t be allowed to travel with it back to the United States.

We shall see what the fallout comes.  But here’s hoping it’s not an all-out ban, because that would suck even worse than sitting next to a screaming toddler that just filled their diaper for a fourteen-hour flight.