Thursday, March 28, 2013

Baby Evil Writers 101: Finding a Reputable Agent #1

Baby Evil Writers 101: Finding a Reputable Agent Step #1
Julie Butcher

Once you’ve finished a manuscript, it’s easy to jump right into sending hundreds of letters to literary agents. Maybe you get a list from a friend, or sign up for a website that lists agents who represent the genre of book that you write. They’re an agent and so inherently have the evil goodness that you’re searching for, right?

Not so my sweet minions of evil.

 I personally know many writers who lost YEARS OF THEIR LIVES by signing with an agent who was so not the cream center of the Twinkie. I know it is hard not to grab the first agent that says they like your work. Querying is a horrible, mind and spirit breaking process, but it needn’t make your brain leak out of your ears, or your lack of common sense flush all of your hard work down the toilet of fail.

What you write may be art but, this is a business guys, and you need to know stuff.

 Today, I’ll focus on one way you can positively know that an agent is honest, and that they’ll have your best interests at heart. (There are lots of different checks and balances you can do, and this is just the first.)

Is this agent a member of AAR? (Association of Author’s Representatives)

The literary agents of AAR are the super-agents of the publishing industry. They have a Cannon of Ethics and strict guidelines that they must adhere to in order to stay a member. Because of the difficult membership requirements, an AAR agent is more likely to be in publishing for the long haul, and not someone who informs their clients of a career change on Facebook. (Yes, this happened.)

So, before you query everyone and their dog, start with the AAR list of agents.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Temporary Insanity

I am shirking my duty a little bit this week. I'll be at Norwescon this weekend and my pre-con schedule is fairly frantic. So, I'm revitalizing and updating a post I did on my blog a whole lot of years ago. In honor of April becoming the new Camp Nanowrimo month and my continued, somewhat insane, participation.

Temporary Insanity

Too many years ago my good friend came to me, brimming with excitement over something she’d discovered. I poured the coffee, and she poured forth a tale so unbelievable that I feared for her sanity. It goes something like this: “Let’s write a 50 thousand word novel in thirty days.”

Imagine my horror. As I tried not to choke on my cookie, she waved a slim, tattered copy of a book in my face and beamed at me. Her chatter faded into the background, but I caught a few words, mainly “50,000” stuck out—and “one month.”  As the book flew back and forth I managed to catch the blurred title: No Plot, No Problem. Well, it sounded innocuous enough.

Still, I was a classic story-starter-and-never-finisher. This idea she was on about, this “finishing” disturbed me. I broke out in a sweat. Deadlines, frankly, gave me the heebie geebies. My comfort zone lay somewhere between: think a lot about it and never actually write it, and write like mad for a week and then get distracted by something shiny and change projects.

I guffawed in the face of her excitement. However, she can be relentless at times. Eventually, I caved and agreed to read the book, but I had no intentions of lending credence to this preposterous concept. Enter: No Plot? No Problem.

I began to read the book, shaking my head in disbelief. I chuckled. I gasped. I caught myself thinking, “maybe.” I came to my senses and kept reading. The book is written in quite the seductive manner. It’s ingenious; it’s hilarious. I thought--this just might be possible. Who said that?

 By the time I’d read the entire thing, I was game. I mean, it was only May and the ludicrous event didn’t even begin until November. I had plenty of time to come up with a reason to back out. Then the oddest thing happened. I got excited. I found myself pacing the floor and watching the calendar. Would November never get here? In early October, the website woke from it’s annual silence, and the message boards burst to life. The anticipation of thousands of authors waiting for Nano to start is infectious. I thought, I’m really going to do this. 

And just like that, I wrote 50,000 words in a month. Many, many times. Was it a torturous, insane, caffeine filled, blur of temporary insanity? Oh yes. What a ride.

Addendum: One week ago the same, nutty friend asked me to write a story in a weekend with her. Because I never learn, I mocked her again, waffled and then relented. In less than three days I churned out a 17K story that I'm pretty tickled with. Perhaps, I should start listening to her. 

But I probably won't. 
Come join us for if you get the urge. 


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sometimez, I doesn't type so gud.

Typos. Kind of inevitable, right?

I think it's funny to read other people's writing and find the typos - everyone has a few specific typos that they can't avoid. Fortunately, spell check has taken a lot of the guesswork out of typos, but you still get some that you can't avoid.

Typing the wrong word, for instance, so that it might be spelled right, but not BE right. Hello, your and you're. Please figure this out. Especially the whole its it's thing. No, really. You NEED to.

Or homophones. They're a bitch, y'all. Still, it will INFINITELY increase your professionalism if you learn to embrace the differences between them and know which one to use when.

What are your common typos?

I'm forever leaving off the n't off of contractions, i.e. You should do that, instead of You shouldn't do that. Yeah, that's kind of a problem for me. I mean, seriously. That's just plain the exact opposite of what I meant. And for some reason, it happens numerous times in almost every manuscript.

Oh, and then there's when spell check makes things worse - auto correct. Delightfully entertaining in text messages, kind of problematic in manuscripts. For instance, I am, for whatever reason, incapable of spelling definitely right on the first try (thanks spell check!). I often get it so mangled that my poor deluded word processing program has taken on Google's polite suggestion like, "did you mean defiantly?" Ugh.

So, minions, what kind of typos can you not avoid, no matter what you do?  Are they as bad as my leaving off the n't or butchering spelling of certain words so badly that Word is forced to step in and point out how crazy I am?

The point I'm trying to make is that you should always have someone else read your work. When you read through your own work, you know what it's supposed to say. Your brain, helpful organ that it is, often tells you that it says what you think. So you miss your own typos. Fresh eyes can fix that. Or, lacking a pair of fresh eyes (although you shouldn't be, thanks to the big wide internet), read it out loud to yourself. That'll slow you down enough to catch most of the typos.

Also, I've had a few drinks, so if there are some typos in this post, they're not ironic typos. They're just tipsy typos. Maybe they are or aren't. N't, bitches.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Adult...Again

There are things in the publishing industry that get talked about ad nauseum. And just when you think the conversation is over, it pops up again. Fortunately or unfortunately, the conversation about New Adult and what it is refuses to quiet... at all.

Just yesterday I was confronted by an author who defined New Adult based on sex--you know, like the media has been. The fact that it's the same media who poo-poos genre fiction (especially romance) and refers to erotica as "mommy porn" is not lost on me. It's why I shake my head at the media and move on, but when I see authors--who have been around the block for a while--falling into the same patterns, I kind of want to puke on their heads.

Saying New Adult is Young Adult with sex isn't much different than saying Young Adult is Chapter Books but with kissing. No. JUST NO!

*ahem* Forgive me, but this pisses me off.

I went to college. Was sex part of my life? Yes. But it didn't define my life at that time. It shouldn't define the genre either.

Things that do define it, kind of by definition?

  • Age (or apparent age) of the main character(s)--18 to 25 is a generally accepted range, though the upper limit (in my opinion) depends greatly on where the characters are in life.
  • Beginnings--Post high school is a time of new beginnings, whether it's going to college or getting the first real job, or just escaping from under the thumb of parents in whatever way possible. 

Um... yeah. There you go. Where Young Adult is about coming of age, New Adult is about self-discovery. (Granted, there are people like me who are much older that are still discovering who we are, but that's beside the point because it's different at this age than it was then.)

Yes, sex is a part of that time. So is leaving home. So is being broke (much of the time). So is legally drinking. So are... a lot of things. But they don't define that age group. There could easily be a book written about a young soldier in war that could be New Adult if written a certain way. No sex. No love interest. Just some hard truths about what it's like to be a soldier in another country, away from everything you know, where people around you are dying, and realizing you might be next. With the focus put on the life the soldier hasn't lived yet, it could most definitely speak to that whole "beginnings." It doesn't need sex for that.

To put it another way, getting older and a degree of growing up is required. Sex is optional.

/steps off soapbox and puts away megaphone

Until next time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Rape Culture Primer for Writers - Consent

We interrupt my scheduled Editing 101 with Mama Bitchstress series to discuss something terribly important. With the Steubenville rape conviction, lots of things are being thrown around about rape and rape culture.

As a reader, I have encountered many rapey books that make me weep. Here are some tips to see if you're perpetuating rape culture in your books.

First, what is rape culture?

Wikipedia actually has a good, simple definition: Rape culture is a concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.

When you hear people blame the victim, that is rape culture. When rape is so normal people fail to recognize it as rape, that is rape culture. So let's stop perpetuating it in fiction.

Next, what is rape/sexual assault?

Legal definitions can vary from country to country and even state to state. So I'm not going to get into those. We're going to talk morally. Sexual assault is any kind of sexual contact where one party does not give consent.

Okay, that seems simple and obvious. But books start to get rapey when the authors seem to be fuzzy on consent*, usually with regards to sex between acquaintances or intimate partners. Rape can be the stranger in an alley wearing a mask, but there are many non-violent ways intercourse occurs without consent.

(As an aside, this post is phrased in a heteronormative way, but sexual assault occurs between same sex partners as well as by women against men.)

Just because she isn't saying no...
doesn't mean she's saying yes.
You cannot give consent if...

  • You are drunk/drugged.

Yes, yes, I know--alcohol loosens inhibitions. A lot of people engage in alcohol consumption and then sexual acts. And that's totes okay. But there is a common trope where the heroine drinks a lot, sleeps with someone (the hero usually in romance or romantic comedy), and wakes up unable to remember anything. If your character is getting black out drunk and waking up to not know who she slept with (or if sex occurred), I am concerned. If you choose to do this in your novel, showing her enthusiastically consenting and engaging in the sex act with her partner in the text (ie no fade to black or sudden "the next morning..." scene change) will help it seem less rapey, otherwise readers are left to assume the worst.

I recently read a book by Krista D. Ball where the heroine's long time crush showed up at her home needed to be consoled, quite drunk, and there was a moment where they easily could've fallen in bed together. Instead, the heroine made the conscious choice not to do this, insisting he be sober and in his right mind before it went further. It was an unexpected twist on a common trope and made me root for the couple even more.

And in a similar vein, you cannot give consent if...

  • You are asleep.

In real life, this SHOULD be pretty obvious: do not engage in intercourse with someone who is asleep. In fiction, it's another common trope (often in comedy) that makes me facepalm. A woman (or man) is in bed asleep. Someone fondles him or her. Said person wakes up and is all "OMG what?" and it's treated as funny or not rapey.

I'm sorry but this is rapey.

Once again, this is a trope that CAN be effectively turned around but it requires a little extra work on the part of the author. I read one romance where the heroine and hero had engaged in sex throughout the book (obvs) and the hero at one point decides to wake the heroine up with intercourse. This was in his POV and it worked because he spent time pondering the act and her reaction to it--the author addressed the fact that it could be perceived as rapey. And the heroine enthusiastically enjoyed her wake-up call.


You cannot give consent if...

  • You are being tricked/deceived into thinking it's someone else.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I strongly disliked Riley. But the one time I felt genuinely bad for him was in the fourth season: bad girl slayer Faith switched bodies with Buffy and then banged her boyfriend.

Wait, no, she didn't bang him. She raped him.

Yes, it seems fuzzy, it was Buffy's body, etc. But the fact remains that he thought he was having sex with his girlfriend but it wasn't her--it was someone pretending to be her and she fooled him. This is rape.

Like, seriously even legally this is rape. Sometimes these cases get tossed out or the perpetrators are acquitted, so you will find it different from state to state. Morally? Rapey McRapeson does this kind of thing, folks.

Again, if you choose to use this trope, a) don't do it for laughs, b) have real consequences for it. It was treated on Buffy like relationship drama and ignored the fact that Riley did not give consent to do those things with Faith.

You cannot give consent if...

  • You are saying no.**

This seems like a no-brainer. But I know a lot of the time characters in all genres like to fight their attraction and show reluctance, especially in love-hate relationships. So they kiss, someone says no, the other someone kisses them anyway, etc etc.

Okay, we need to please stop doing this.

"It's not sex...when he changes is mind."
Not to keep harping on Buffy as it's still my favourite show, but a lot of the later Buffy/Spike scenes absolutely turn my stomach. I bet you think I'm talking about the attempted rape in Seeing Red, right? Wrong. It's actually the number of times she said "no" "stop" "don't" while engaging in sex and she was ignored. Yes, it was to show her reluctance or internal turmoil over physically enjoying it while hating herself for it. But it's terribly disturbing.

Also? If a character withdraws consent and the other party continues, that is also rape.

There was another book I read a while back where the hero and heroine were having intercourse and at one point she asked him to stop. He said "too late" and continued until he finished.

I just...what the what?

That is rape. Please do not do this in your book.

Okay, so those are some common non-consent things. What DOES consent look like?

Consent is when both parties say yes enthusiastically.

Not when someone "doesn't say no." Not when someone is physically UNABLE to say no. But when everyone is all like, "YEAH, let's take off our clothes! Woohoo! Sexy times!" while in their right mind. Yes means yes.

It's classic show vs tell, my friends, combined with an awareness on your (and hopefully the characters') part about what consent looks like and how it differs from rape.

The most important thing to remember is that no one--in fiction or in real life--should be treated as though their default position is "yes" to sex. Yes cannot be assumed. Yes must be given. Ignoring this = perpetuating rape culture. Even in fiction.

But, but, but...

Don't "but" the Bitchstress.

Note that there is a difference between depicting behavior realistically and still not condoning it. I'm not saying you can't have your heroine abused or raped*** or not show victim blaming afterward. Victim blaming happens all the time, so of course it makes sense to include it in the book. But there's a difference between showing the victim and/or others blaming her for what happened to her but explicitly NOT condoning it in the text. There is a difference between showing a destructive, abusive relationship and not romanticizing/idealizing it.

Why does this matter? You have power, writers. You have the opportunity to go all Inception on the reader and plant a seed of an idea. You have the power to reinforce for the women reading your books that consent matters and sex should be a positive, welcome experience. You have the power to show victims that what happened to them was not okay and to stand up to a culture where rape is the norm.

Take that power and use it.

Why should you? Why care about this power? Because the odds are, if you're reading this, a quarter of the women you know have been victims of sexual assault. Whether they were molested as children or raped on a date in college or assaulted by their spouse as adults, rape is a reality women live with. A reality that tells them it's their fault or that it didn't even occur or is some kind of "gray" area or that it is somehow romantic. You damn well SHOULD fucking care about that. These are your friends, your family, and your readers.

Next time, we're going to discuss victim blaming and reactions to sexual assault, as well as when it should/shouldn't be used in fiction.


* There is an erotica niche called "dubious consent" which is like "no means yes." Usually one partner says no but physically reacts in a way that enjoys the sexual act. This skeeves a lot of readers out and many publishers do not take this genre. But rape fantasy is an actual thing (which we are not going to debate here, so don't start) and it doesn't involve ACTUALLY wanting to be raped but to control a fantasy where one gives up control. So in this discussion, I want to make it clear I do understand this niche exists and it is not what I'm referring to.

** Unless you have a safe word! But this post is not about How to Talk About Consent in BDSM. It's just general. If someone more knowledgeable than me about the lifestyle would like to write that post, please have at it.

*** In my last book, the heroine engaged in sex with the enthusiastic consent of a partner who was not in his right mind and she knew it. The scene was in character and had to be written, but both she and I were aware of the fact that he couldn't legally consent, and there was text directly discussing this fact, so I did try to be responsible about it.


ETA: Okay, we are getting some great traffic and great comments. Please remember, I carry a mighty banstick. I am very aware of the fact that survivors can be triggered by these sorts of discussions and, guess what? I'd rather a safe comment section for thoughtful replies than worry about butthurt misogynist feelings. So watch your fucking self.

If this is a problem, please fill out this form.

Finally, because I cannot in good conscience waste the opportunity to do so, if you're reading this post as a survivor of sexual violence, read this article.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Baby Evil Writers 101: Conventions

Baby Evil Writers 101: Conventions
Julie Butcher

There is a lot of information floating around out there about going to conventions in order to learn all of the professional writer things. Others tell you that you should go to meet agents and editors. These are both true in their way, but, depending where you are writing-wise, it makes a ton of difference in which convention you should choose to attend.

Right now I’m gearing this article to the baby evil writers. You’re in this category if you have completed at least one novel, if you are not published with a traditional publishing house, or if you are not represented by a literary agent.

You need to pick and choose your convention wisely. At this stage, you need to meet the scary agents and editors, learn to pitch your book, and go to workshops where you can learn craft.

My rule of thumb for this stage of writing is that you shouldn’t go farther than you can drive in a day. (Of course if you poop green money—this rule doesn’t apply.) You’ll be surprised how much area a day’s drive covers on a map.  Google Writer’s Conventions 2013 and figure out which events land in your area.
Now that you have a list, you need to focus on what you need to get for your convention dollars.

1.       Meeting other writers
2.       Workshops on craft
3.       Meeting agents or editors
4.       Learning the business end of writing

Guaranteed, all of the conventions will be fun. If you’ve never gone to a writer’s convention, start small. Pick one of the more inexpensive ones to get your feet wet. Convention etiquette is an art form in itself. If you pick one with plenty of workshops, and a few editors and agents, it will be a pleasant experience and you won’t end up hiding in your hotel room closet.

I do suggest that you attend one big enough that the workshops are in the same hotel where you stay. Networking opportunities with other writers are generally in the evening, after the workshops are finished. You’ll make friends and build a support community that you can continue online for years.

Avoid national conventions. They’re huge, overwhelming, and really won’t give a baby writer what they need. Don’t pick large fan-oriented conventions like Comic-con (which is awesome on a stick but won’t help your writing one smidge). Fan conventions are to be a fan—not to help you get published.

The reason you do want to attend conferences is to make new writer friends, learn craft, and to realize that editors and agents are real people who eat food and get sore feet just like you. I swear, just deep-down knowing this fact will take a ton of the angst out of sending queries. Plus, a publishing is a long road. You’ll need friends to make the journey seem faster.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I Smell An Opinion

I really wanted to call this post, "she who speaks loudest often looks like an ass," but that just seemed a bit rude. (and yet, I said it anyway) Also, it's true. Recently, it's particularly true, or at least, I've been noticing a lot more of it than usual. Stinky opinions, I mean. Confusion of what is fact, and what is just a wild-ass guess.

In my son's literature class, we are working on how to recognize the difference between a fact and an opinion. It's pretty easy. I mean, he's in the first grade. A lot of opinion had been presented as fact these days, however, and it's leading to some pretty embarrassing (albeit mildly entertaining) goofs.

The publishing and writing business is a lot like a tossed salad that hasn't hit the bowl again yet. And yet, a lot of people are offering to tell you exactly what is and or isn't going on. There's that smell again.
Nobody knows what works, what is easy, what you should do or what tomorrow is going to look like. A lot of people will act like they know all of the above, and I've noticed recently that a lot of people who have been very vocal are now in the awkward position of having to do some fast retraction.

Now, some of them are just being honest. "Hey, that thing I, was I wrong." I can totally respect this, and I'd much rather hear that then the alternative, which looks more like this, "you know that thing I said, well I didn't mean it that way."  or even better, "you took that thing I said totally wrong."
Guess which one you see more of?
And though I find it pretty amusing to sit in a lecture by someone I've seen three months ago and have them tell me exactly the opposite of what they said then...with equal conviction, absolutes are dangerous business. Dealing in them is not recommended. It might even be bad for your health, but I cannot back that up with any, legitimate medical research.

Here's the problem with listening to other people's advice, folks. It's often wrong. I might say it's usually wrong for you. In fact, I think I just did. If there was a substance or class or advice column or blog or seminar that could teach people to think for themselves, I'd be promoting the shit out of it. (There is, actually, I just Googled it, but it looks pretty suspect to me.)

But wait, we give advice here, right? Sure we do. I'm doing it right now. (though admittedly in a very convoluted way) However, I expect you to doubt me like a crazy person. Go on. I would. I expect you to question, to double check, refute and toss out at least half of my advice.
Because we have some pretty savvy readers, many of whom probably could whoop me in a fact checking contest, I assume that you are doing this.

Please be doing this.

Advice is fine, opinions are fine, but they stink if you try to wrap them in a "Fact" package. Nobody knows. Chant that with me. Nobody can tell me how to succeed in thirty steps, how to sell like Wool, how to self publish, how to trad publish, to agent or not to agent or that I should give it all up, buy a dancing kangaroo and start a mariachi band!

And I know you guys know this, but just in case someone stumbles by who might fall into that, "THIS is what you should do" trap. Well, there you go. Also, if you have any ideas how we can sneak that "think for yourself" serum into our politicians' drinks, let me know.

And bonus points if you get the dancing kangaroo/mariachi band reference.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Series Post: Ask Dr. Dina - Breaking Stuff

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I do not hold a current medical license or certification (I let them lapse because I no longer work in the medical field and don't intend to ever again). What I do have is an extensive medical background in various fields. Everything you read here is the result of either education, training, research and interpretation, or personal experience.The information in this post is not to be taken as a substitute for professional medical advice or examination. Seriously, if you're having an immediate medical problem and you're reading this blog for help, get off the damned computer and call an ambulance! 

That being said, let us continue. This is the third post in a series inspired by our lovely Bitchstress Dreamkiller called "Ask Dr. Dina." As the above disclaimer states, I'm not really a doctor, nor have I ever been. I have worked in the medical field in various settings and have an extensive and varied medical background. These posts will all focus on how medicine applies to your writing.

Today we're going to talk about trips and falls.

We've all done it. We've all tripped over our own feet, the cat, shoelaces, curbs, anything. We've all fallen – out of bed, off a chair, off the bottom step.

While most trips and falls result in nothing more than bumps or bruises, some are more than they appear. The body is amazingly resilient and can handle a great deal, but it is also amazingly fragile, and things you wouldn't think hurt actually break bones.

I speak from personal experience here. About seven years ago I tripped and fell in a parking lot when I stepped on a piece of gravel. Everything at that moment combined – my boot/ankle turned inward, I was off-balance mid-step, there wasn't any way to regain my balance despite years of kickboxing and gymnastics training. I was going down and I knew it. Amazing how quickly you process these things. Fortunately, thanks to the above mentioned training, I know how to take a fall. (Yes, there are "ways" to properly fall.) I hit the pavement hard, face first. Talk about a faceplant. Also fortunately, I'm a Goth and it was early spring, so I was wearing my full-length black leather trenchcoat. I'm also a small person, so said coat reaches my ankles and wrists. This was, as stated previously, fortunate, as when I went down, my arms that came up to protect my head were both cushioned by and protected from injury by the leather. My head was in turn protected by my arms.

Not so fortunate were my knees. They took the brunt of the force when I hit the ground, and I tore the left leg of my jeans.

All of this took place in less than five seconds. One second I was upright, the next I was face first on the ground.

It's instinctive of me with my background and training to do an immediate "self-diagnostic" to determine injury before moving if something has occurred. Having done that, I waved off my husband's offer of help (he was quite horrified and very chivalrous) and got up myself. Once upright I checked myself over for changes in status – sometimes it takes a few minutes to several hours or even days for injury to become apparent – and found nothing injured but my pride (fortunately it was dark in the parking lot and we were alone and no one but him saw me kiss the dirt) and carried on into the theater. I noticed the torn knee of my jeans as we took our seats, but shrugged it off as it was a small hole, and naturally asphalt is rough, so meh. Shit happens.

As we watched the play, I did note that the small hollow on the outside of my left knee throbbed a little, but hey – trauma. Hurts gonna hurt. Plus, I have a high tolerance to pain. So, meh. After the play I went home, cleaned up the tiny little scrape under the torn material, took an ibuprofen and promptly forgot about it.

Occasionally it would throb and I'd notice it, but I'd also ignore it. Meh. Of course it hurt. Asphalt is hard, la la la. I noticed it would hurt more when I did things like walking my dog or climbing up stairs. Again, I ignored it.

I ignored it for 10 months.

After a long trip in which my knee throbbed insanely annoyingly for a good bit of it, I was at my doctor for something completely unrelated (I think it was an ear infection, which I don't mess around with – another post on infection a different day), he asked me if anything else was bothering me. I mentioned my knee. He poked and prodded and scowled and said, "let's get that x-rayed." 

Ohhhhh, joy.

So down to radiology I trundled, orders in hand. La la la, pics taken, xray read, report to doctor and…

"Looks like you have an old healed fracture there," he said, pointing to the offending spot on the film. "Right there at the head of the fibula. Looks like the tibia took a nice crack, too. How did you say this happened?"

(For those who aren't familiar with anatomy, the fibula is the thinner leg bone on the outside of your leg, and the tibia is the bigger one, often referred to as your "shin bone.")

What the doc was saying was that I'd broken my leg and walked around on it for 10 months. 

It was hurting all the time because it was trying to heal itself without proper care/being splinted/me being on crutches to give it a rest. Had I gone to the doctor/ER when the fall happened, they could have splinted or casted the leg and given me crutches to get around on while it healed. The leg is fine now, of course. I mean, there wasn't really anything to be done about it at that point. It was already healed. It had only been a small fracture ("Fracture" is the proper medical term for "break." There's no difference whatsoever between a "fracture" and a "break." Fracture = break. A lot of people mistakenly believe that a fracture is a type of break, but it's not. There are degrees of breakage, from hairline to compound fracture, but they all mean the very same thing – if you fractured a bone, you've broken it. The degree is what matters.) and while it should have been treated/set, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Hell, some strains and sprains are a lot worse (these are soft tissue injuries I'll discuss in another post) and hurt more.

My point is, severity of the trauma doesn't necessarily indicate severity of the injury. You can go through a horrific car accident and emerge completely unscathed. You can break a glass in the sink and sever your radial artery. It just depends.

In my case, it was a tiny little fall. Honestly. I've fallen harder in the gym. But it wasn't about how hard I fell. It was about how I did. I fell, I hit my knees, I fractured my left fibula and tibia. The patella was fine (kneecap). That thing can take massive amounts of pressure (it's designed to), but can still fracture, and that's obvious from the moment it happens. You generally aren't able to stand/walk with a fractured patella. I could stand and walk, so naturally I figured I was fine. I wasn't. I'd broken my leg. I should have gone to the ER/doctor ASAP. I should have had it treated and set.

But I didn't.

In your writing, keep this in mind. Even something you think isn't at all serious can have an effect, even days later. Swelling, inflammation, pain – keep all these in mind, especially if you do a series. Ilona Andrews is awesome about this in her Kate Daniels series. Kate suffered a serious injury to her knee in one of the books, and it pops up as problematic every now and then because it's damaged and will take years to heal, if ever. Some things will always have issues, and keep in mind that a broken bone, while generally stronger in the area that's been healed over, will never be as whole or functional as it was before it was broken.

You'll hear older people talk about how they know a change in the weather is coming because something on their body is "acting up," or of how certain body parts hurt years later because of an old injury. You see this a lot in sports medicine/athletes. If your character has been injured in any way, keep that in mind and don't just make everything fine in the next chapter or even the next book. If you're going to put your characters through hell, they should at least suffer the consequences.


There's a certain character I will not deign to name that I despise (hint: it rhymes with "hella.") who has what is supposed to be a "charming little quirk" of clumsiness. If you're going to give your character a "quirk" like this, remember that there are results.

Cause. Effect. Easy peasy. You can't have something happen to your character - medically or otherwise - without a result. Everything results in something.

For instance, writing this blog post has made me desire more tea. I shall now go fulfill that desire.

Questions about medical issues with your writing? Leave them in the comments below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. (THESE MUST APPLY TO FICTIONAL SITUATIONS ONLY. I AM NOT YOUR DOCTOR, NOR A SUBSTITUTE FOR ONE.)

Friday, March 8, 2013

March to the beat of your own muse

My darling husband is a musician. Not professionally, but his whole life he's played one instrument or another and he just gets music. I do not. I don't get music to the extent that I can barely clap along to the rhythm of a song, much to my husband's amusement.

So yesterday, in the car, on a road trip home, we started discussing music. We started with him trying to explain to me why 6/8 time is different from 3/4 time, which I feel was a bit like tossing me in the deep end of the pool. I mean, mathematically, they're the same thing. Why is it different musically?  Anyways, from there he tried to teach me about the difference between where the emphasis is in rock music versus jazz music (For rock, on the 2 and 4 beats, whereas jazz is the 1 and 3 beats, traditionally).

And I can understand it. Intellectually. I can't feel it, though. And I'm never going to feel it. I'm just about the least musical person I've ever met, and I'm okay with that. Sure, I'd love to be able to sit down at a piano and wow my friends, but it's never going to happen. My husband, on the other hand, just gets it. Music is an intrinsic part of him and that's great.

But it got me thinking. In Greek mythology, there were 9 muses. Each one was dedicated to a different area of creativity. And I kind of love that idea. Sure, I got the muse for writing, but the muse for music didn't even make it into my neighborhood.

My brother is a professional photographer, and a damn good one. Sometimes I look at his work and feel deeply uncreative because he can produce images of such incredible quality and all I do is write down the words floating around my head. It doesn't feel creative to me. But creativity comes in so many different forms.

So remember that when you're faced with someone else's creativity. It may make you feel inferior or like you can't do your own thing, but just keep in mind, they've got their own muse. There's no reason why their muse is any better or worse than your own muse, but just different.

Well, except for Clio. I think we can all agree that a muse who inspires history is really only of use to a timelord.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Being a Professional...No Matter What

by Seleste deLaney

One thing new writers hear a lot is about how they need to be "professional," but no one's ever really sure what that means. To some it involves not drinking at conventions--I'll believe this when my editors stop shoving drinks in my hands at cons. To others it means keeping your distance and not sharing personal stuff--uh...yeah, I'm pretty much all personal stuff. The thing is everyone has their own definition of what it means to be a professional in this crazy world of publishing, and sometimes you won't even know what yours is until you don't have a choice.

There are some...challenges in my life right now (See? Personal stuff!), and it's affecting all facets of my world including writing. It doesn't seem to matter how gung ho I am about working. When I open that file (and there will be several files this month), I freeze. My heart gets lodged somewhere on the north end of my gullet and my chest hurts and... (Yay, Panic Attacks!) Let's just say what would normally take me one work day is now taking at least 2-3.

But you know what?

I'm an author. This is my job. And damn it to hell and back, I am going to act like a fucking professional and do it.

What that means, for me:

  • I will drag my ass out of bed, no matter how much I'd rather lie there for hours.
  • I will continue to cover my posts at my group blogs. I'd already minimized how many places I was blogging in preparation for writing insanity, so that's only a few posts a month. 
  • I will keep my own blogs updated, even if it's just with videos or cute cat pictures. There will be posts on time. 
  • I will organize my time to get my projects done. (I have four books to work on this month. FOUR! I don't have time to slack off and fuck around.)
  • I will stay in contact with my editors so they are aware of what's going on with the manuscripts they're waiting on. 
  • I will continue to fucking work even though it's hard and I don't want to...every day. 

On the flip side, I'm going to step away from social media when I need to (and focus on work instead). I'm not going to take on any new projects because I'm already buried.

For me, being a professional is doing what needs to be done, no matter what. And right now, I really need to be editing because that's the J.O.B.

There you have it. Want to be a professional author? Don't treat it like a hobby. It's what you have to do, not just what you want to do.

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