Yeah, so I haven't been blogging for more than a week. Sorry 'bout that; I had a guest blogger lined up for while I was traveling, but they turned out to be a no-show and I was too busy to take time out from work.
This week's excuse is that "The Delirium Brief" is being typeset twice—separately for the US and UK releases—and the US page proofs landed in my inbox with a thud and a very short deadline which is going to keep me busy for the rest of this week once I'm over the jetlag.
Note that this isn't a separate edit; the US and UK editions were edited and copy-edited in a common process and share the same spelling, grammar, and word-shaped objects. But the US and UK publishers (who are two different companies who just happened to buy the respective territorial rights to publish the work on their own patch) decided to typeset the copy-edited manuscript independently of one another, which means I need to check a second set of page proofs for errors. It a while to plough through a 400 page book; even if you're just treating it as a reading text and can read at a page a minute, that's nearly seven hours—and checking page proofs for typos and errors is somewhat slower and more laborious. (Normally one publisher takes the lead on production and the others just buy in the typesetting files, but because of [REDACTED] that ain't viable this time round, hence the last-minute round of extra work.)
So normal blogging will probably wait until next week, and I'm going to be scarce in the comments for a bit.
Oh, that reminds me: some of you are wondering if I had any trouble entering the United States, right?
The answer to that is "not really"—the usual questions asked by the Immigration officer at the airport has merely grown by one ("Have you visited any of these countries: Syria, Iraq ..."), and by the time my interrogator got to "Afghanistan" I was visibly finding it so hard not to snigger that he just shrugged and waved me through.
But leaving the United States was a little more troubling.
I always opt out of being scanned by a body scanner on general principle; I think it's an annoying, ineffective, intrusive waste of time and I want to signal my disapproval by not cooperating. The TSA have a set theatrical routine for dealing with opt-outs that requires you to stand in the naughty corner while someone shouts "we've gotta male opt-out!" and some other poor guy has to pull on latex gloves and give you a massage.
It turns out that a couple of weeks ago the TSA rolled out a new pat down process that seems designed to ... well, some folks would pay good money for it, but the main effect seems to be intended to embarrass and deter body-shy people from opting out. I am not body-shy, at least in well-understood/controlled circumstances like a search at a security checkpoint or a naturist club, so the main effect in my case was to embarrass the dude following the orders to pat down my crotch.
But I think it's highly suggestive that this idiotic measure surfaced while everyone was agitated over Trump's ban on people entering the USA from majority-muslim countries that weren't major Trump business partners, and I am now wondering: what other low-key "administrative measures" slid by under the radar while we were all distracted by one act or another in the Washington DC puppet show?
These days I am part of a community that is very open to touch and affection, where some physical closeness even between people who don't know each other well, is the default cultural expectation, which has been wonderful and relieving for me. I suppose I continue to be on the asexual spectrum, if I have to choose a definition... Though I mostly just don't think of myself as having a sexual orientation. I have occasionally been marginally "sexual" with people. I have relationships that I consider intimate and they are each unique. I had a counselor for a while who at one point asked me, "Are you in a relationship?" I said, "You mean like, a romantic relationship? No. ... I practice intimacy." That still feels more true to me than getting into something called "a relationship", and I feel there is room for deepening in my relating, and I still feel sad sometimes that my relationships even though they are important to me somehow have less legitimacy and visibility in the eyes of society, and it's an ongoing exploration and I get to grow and take risks at my own pace.
So, in this group that I am part of, and in at least one close relationship, where we have been exploring touch and talking about touch, I feel I will have to bring up more of how it is for me, and I want to articulate it more clearly to myself (and to all of you) first.
I feel some fear and shame bringing it up, as if I've done something wrong. It's widely accepted that to have "good" boundaries, you make a clear and clean distinction between "platonic" and "sexual" touch, and we're implicitly agreeing only to sharing "platonic" affectionate touch unless agreed otherwise.
I don't have those really clear boundaries; not even within myself. Is that wrong? Am I leaking some kind of creepy energy? There are several people that I would want to touch more intensely than I currently do, where I feel that I hold back because I sense they are not open to quite as much touch as would convey my feelings towards them. What am I talking about, and will I upset the established order?
This thing where people go from "platonic" to "sexual" is really confusing to me. It's like I never got the memo. It's just not how it occurs in my body. For me there aren't people over here, who I want to be sexual with, versus people over there, who I don't want to be sexual with. For me, it's all kind of sexual. We are luscious physical beings. The closer I feel to you, the more I will probably want to touch you. And the more of my surface area becomes available to you.
By Kristin Nelson & Angie Hodapp
Your opening pages might be in trouble if…
#6) Your novel opens with prose problems, such as flowery or overly descriptive verbiage.
This morning, while sipping my steaming hot and deliciously aromatic Mountain chai with creamy half and half and gazing out my window at the cerulean sky, I pondered on the inevitable curiosity borne of dissecting why working authors succumb to the passion of crafting overwrought prose.
Did you have trouble reading the above sentence? Did you read it twice to figure out what I was talking about? Did you wonder why I didn’t just say, “This morning, I thought about why writers use overly descriptive language”?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then you know exactly why overwrought prose makes our list of openings to avoid.
So often we come across submissions in which writers are trying to play with language, but they’re often playing with it at the wrong time. If you just need to convey that a character smiled, then “He smiled” is far preferable to “His lips quirked up at the corners, his sudden smile lighting up his face in such a way that I knew he was happy” is overdone. But newer writers, still mastering craft, often make the mistake of using fancy words and “phrasey” sentence structure all throughout their work…and this slows a story down rather than moving it along.
The point is the smile, not how the character did it.
Expansion and Contraction
One thing to keep in mind as you revise your own writing is the concept of expansion and contraction. Bestselling writers know when to expand their prose and when to contract it. They expand when they want to slow readers down to ensure they take notice of something important to the development of character or plot. They contract when they need to keep things snappy and simple to keep readers interested as the story moves over points of low conflict or tension, or transitions from one turning point to the next.
Newer writers, on the other hand, tend to expand a little too much—a big reason such writers wrestle with high word counts. Learn (a) that contraction is a tool in your toolbox and (b) when you need to use it, and you’ll be well on your way!
So is there a time or a place for more elevated prose? Absolutely. But save it for scenes in which you need a certain type of prose to set a certain type of tone. Save it for a moment of gravity, to let the words shine.
Photo Credit: Thor
Disobedience by Naomi Alderman. Queer woman goes home to her Orthodox Jewish community after her Rabbi father dies. I nearly bailed, hard, at the 50% mark, actually; I couldn't see how it was going to end happily for any of the main characters, and for a bit there it looked like it was heading down the "town gossips get the facts/rumours entirely wrong" squicky trope. But it was short, and I had an externally imposed deadline of the library loan period, and that was enough to keep me going, and I'm so glad I did.
Somewhere in there it all smoothed out into being okay, and if not happy as such, then definitely characters being content with their (actively reaffirmed) life choices. And the ending was pointing towards new directions and people making changes -- not dramatic overthrowing regime changes, but the first steps in generational changes that means so much. Um, that was all very vague, but I ended up really really liking this one. It was all that plus a fascinating insight into a religion I know almost nothing about, too. I'd tentatively call it the Oranges are not the only fruit for Orthodox Jews, but it's been so long since I read said that I don't know how accurate that actually is. Would rec.
God's war by Kameron Hurley. That was the best opening page EVER. Like, hello yes I am here for your body-brutal sci-fi pronoun-game scene setting, holy shit sign me up. There are so many brilliant deft little world building touches.
I'm currently in the throes of much deeper political/cultural scene-setting/exposition at page 100ish tho, so it's slightly a slog, but I'm expecting it to pick back up and also flag the important things as reminders later on.
Up next: God. No idea.
Page 18. Realistic.
Gotta make an executive decision here: Not only will this also be a one-update week, but the rest of February and all of March will be one-update weeks as well. With the preparations and traveling I’ll be doing for Emerald City Comicon, that’s just how it’s got to be. In the meantime, join me this Wednesday, 2/22 at 7pm CST for a livestream!
If you’re a Patreon pledger who’d like more information on how the next couple months will go, read on:
For Patreon people especially, I understand how this new update schedule is a bummer. We’ve consistently hit a monthly amount that for some time now had guaranteed twice-weekly updates. Lately, the work that would normally going into that second OHS update has been going into Meal instead. Your pledges have helped me produce comic pages, but ones that are too early in production to share.
This suggests to me that my Patreon is due for a restructuring so patrons can better understand what to expect from me in 2017: OHS at a slower but steady rate, and consistent work on Meal. I will give my Patreon page a facelift in mid-late March to reflect these changes.
Thanks for your patience as I shift my workload a bit. My 2017 projects are super exciting and I look forward to sharing them with you!