Tag Archive | writing process

Gods and Heroes

Sorry I’ve been so quiet. It’s been a busy, busy six months, and it doesn’t show any signs of letting up soon. But I’m rewriting a section of the second Superheroes Union novella, and I’m still pushing ahead on Boundless whenever I can wedge an extra hour into my schedule.

In the meantime, have a link! Mr. Diaz and I have discussed how we relate to superheroes, especially superhero teams, a number of times. The comparison to pantheons most of us relate to as mythology always fascinates me. So the shirt of the day over on Woot.com amuses the heck out of me today.

Seriously, though, what’s up with only one woman in that pantheon? I know Wonder Woman gets all the recognition, but if we’re going to make her over as a classical goddess, surely she ought to have a number of sister-goddesses. *g*

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The Next Big Thing

Violetta Vane tagged me for The Next Big Thing, and since it’s Christmas week, I’m afraid I am running behind. At first, I was going to do this about the novella I’m working on right this minute, which is a second Superheroes Union romance. But so many of you reading this are already familiar with the Superheroes Union, so I thought I’d give you a taste of something different instead.

This is the story I had to back burner when the Superheroes Union first occurred and am still finishing…just not very fast. *g*

What is the title of your book?

It’s MMF space opera romance with the working title Boundless.

How did you come by the idea?

I discovered MMF entirely by accident, and I love the way the character dynamics work when it’s done well. So I decided that’s what I wanted to write, and started with the emotional dynamic I wanted between the characters. Then I fleshed them out into a space opera milieu. When I knew who I needed the characters to be and where they were, they brought most of the story elements along with them.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters if it were a movie?

Joseph is interesting. He’s a character I see very clearly in my head, which makes him harder to match with any real person. If you can imagine kind of a cross between Antonio Banderas in Desperado and Antonio Vargas in Strictly Ballroom, you’ll be on the right track, though at 6’2″, he’s taller than either. Joseph is going a bit grey and wears his curling hair back in a short tail. Both of them are now older than Joseph looks, so the truth is, it would have to be someone with that kind of look who can play forty-five-ish.

Michelle Rodriguez is a close match for Ty, though Ty’s eyes are green and her hair is light brown.

Daniel Curtis Lee comes close for Dak. Dak wears his hair different and his skin tone is darker, but this will give you an idea.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An old soldier who outlived his war, a young mechanic who’s never been off-planet in her life, and a gorgeous drifter with the entire slave trade breathing down his neck. What could possibly go wrong?

Will your book be self-published or traditional?

Traditional. I really like my editor at Carina Press, and I’m hoping she’ll work with me on it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Work in progress! *g* And that progress has been interrupted for several other writing projects along the way, along with the editing work I do. I imagine that by the time I finish the rough draft, I will probably have been working on it for two years on and off.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Slipstream Con, by S. Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore, might be a reasonable comparison. Boundless rests on the same strong core of a central character dynamic and phenomenal chemistry, and both books are space opera, though Boundless has more sex in it and is…maybe not darker, but grittier.

Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold, also has the sense of space opera meets romance I’m trying to capture with Boundless, though it’s a standard two-person romance, and I’d be ecstatic ever to succeed in my career as well as Bujold has.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Fanfic. 😉 Not some particular fanfic, but fanfic in general. Fanfic is where I discovered MMF, which, at the time, I would never believed could be written well otherwise–sadly, my first picks in original MMF weren’t quite the caliber I was hoping for.

Fanfic is also where I met so many talented people who are now my beta readers or fellow writers. I feel incredibly blessed to have so many really good collaborators and so much encouragement, so when I decided to try my hand at writing romance, I wanted to do something I knew they’d enjoy: MMF and science fiction.

Of course, then I met my characters, and they became their own kind of inspiring. 🙂

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

World building out the wazoo! New planets, cosmopolitan space stations, and one little tramp freighter where the gravity generator occasionally glitches and leaves our heroes floating midair while having sex. Dak’s dirty sense of humor! Rainbow asteroids and pearl beaches! Kick-ass friends scattered across three sectors of space! David standing up to Goliath, evil getting its just desserts, and a burned-out old soldier remembering how to live again. And Sancho the space beagle!

Let’s try a little excerpt. Copyright Ruth Diaz, do not use without permission.

***

“If you hid his body in one of the freezers, I’m going to be very put out. I just secured them all.”

Joseph laughed and settled in at the nav boards, entering some command with one hand and patting the seat next to him with the other. Sancho the beagle jumped into it like he belonged there—and maybe he did, since he’d sat there as they docked at Mèngjǐng, too.

From out in the corridor, Dakota’s laughter joined Joseph’s. He strolled into view in the doorway, sauntering into the control room like he . . . not owned it, but owned something. Himself, she guessed. His black pants were a little short—of course they were, he’d have borrowed them from Joseph, where else was he going to find wrap pants before they hit their next port?—and the dark green wrap shirt he wore gaped open at the front, exposing a deep sea of smooth, dark skin. It must have something to do with the way he’d fastened it, since he was about as broad as Joseph was, even if he didn’t look it, being taller.

Ty wrenched her eyes away before she could think any harder about licking him.

“We just secured the crew quarters,” Dakota said.

“Off we go, then.” Joseph’s amiable voice accompanied the soft clicking of his fingers on the navigation boards. “We’ve got clearance in forty minutes, and we can jump as soon as we’re past the second asteroid belt.”

Ty stared. “You guys are okay? No more of this ‘just stick my finger in a conglomerate’s eye’ rubbish?”

Joseph shrugged. “Somebody’s got to look after his kind, and it’s usually me.”

“I offered to demonstrate being easy to look at, but he made me wear clothes.” Dakota looked at the sleeve of his borrowed shirt as he unfolded a jump seat and sat down. “Said I needed pockets to keep that controller in till I can get a surgeon to pull the slave collar.”

Ty started to snicker, but stopped, staring as she caught a glimpse of the back of his head. “What happened to your hair?” The long cornrows she’d seen out on the docks were no more, shorn a couple of inches below the nape of his neck.

“Joseph cut it off for me.” He looked ridiculously pleased.

Joseph, not Captain. Well, that was something, but… Her fingers twitched—she hadn’t realized how much she wanted to run them through the length of his hair. She patted the bun at the back of her own neck, instead. “You couldn’t just have put it back?”

Dakota’s smile faded down to something more ironic. “I never wanted it like that in the first place. Anything more than a couple of inches is too much of a handle in a fight.”

Which explains why Joseph’s ponytail was so short. “I’ll never understand soldiers,” she complained. “Whatever makes you happy, I guess.”

He chuckled. “Don’t worry, beautiful, you’ve got enough hair to balance out both of us.” His eyes fixed on the nape of her neck, and Ty found herself blushing at the attention. “Someday, I hope I’ll get to see it.”

Ty bit her lip and smiled, looking back at her boards. Dakota had no trouble seeing her as a woman. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Joseph giving him a dirty look.

They broke dock on schedule, on a false heading Joseph said made them look like they meant to jump for Huàshuō. It wouldn’t make much difference—once they jumped, there was hardly more fuel expenditure involved in leaving from that point than from the one he’d usually use for Horizonte. Upon hearing this, Dakota started telling a story about the party he’d been to out on Huàshuō right before his ship was sent to a battle point nearer Niflheim. He’d just gotten to where they were doing strip karaoke (Joseph complained you couldn’t possibly play strip karaoke, but Dakota said the point was to end up naked) when her stomach took a very odd turn and Sancho started to howl. A red light came up on one of her boards.

Joseph pulled Sancho close, and the ends of the beagle’s ears floated away from his head with the motion. The canine serenade showed no signs of stopping. “Gravity’s out.”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Ty tapped keys and slid her fingers across the glass to zero in on the red telltale. By the time she confirmed it was just for the gravity, she was drifting away from her seat. “Right, that would be me.” She tried to stand up and ended up veering crazily across the control room, kicking to catch her foot under the edge of her chair, but she clipped the edge of it, which started her going over backwards.

“You said this happens often?” Dakota’s voice was very dry over the sound of Sancho’s displeasure.

Ty looked for anything on the diamond-patterned surface of the deck she might wrap her fingers around when she got that close. An access door with a recessed handle caught her eye, but she didn’t know if she’d have the range…

“I had enough money to replace the gravity or the inertial dampers. Floating once in a while beats bashing into the walls. Doesn’t it Sancho?”

Sancho didn’t sound convinced. A strong hand wrapped around Ty’s ankle. “Don’t move around, Ty,” Dakota said. “Stiffen up and keep stiff until I let go. I’m going to correct your spin, get you back upright. Zero-g maneuvering isn’t hard, but you’ve got to start slow till you get the hang of the way the trajectories work.”

Afraid even to nod, Ty said, “Okay.” Sure enough, a gentle push on her leg had her turning upright—not fast enough to feel nauseous, but faster than she’d been going backward. When she could see him over her own legs, she asked, “I’ve got to get down to the gravity generator without coming adrift. How do I do that?”

Grasping her shoulder to check her momentum as she came around, he grinned broadly. “Zero-g maneuvering classes and heavenly bodies.” His words oozed innuendo, and she giggled. “My favorite.” She caught him looking at Joseph, whose stubborn frown couldn’t quite hide an upward twitch of his lips, and wondered what she’d missed between those two.

Whatever it was, at least it meant no blood on the floor—or in the air, she supposed, floating in bright red globules. “Hey,” she said, suppressing laughter in favor of a smile. “Gravity now, flirting later.”

Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s Talk Tropes

Happy Valentine’s Day, all y’all out there who love to read about love. And to those of you celebrating Singles’ Awareness Day, Arizona Statehood Day, or Anti-Monetizing of Love Day, happy day of your choice.

Isn’t it amazing how even when it’s not about love, it’s still about love? Even if we’re boycotting Valentine’s Day, it’s still a reaction of profound awareness. We can’t miss it. We have our noses rubbed into it. We have to react to it, even if the reaction is bad.

Partly because of Valentine’s Day, and partly because I’m wrestling with the outlining of another superhero romance (it refuses to decide if it’s a novella or a novel; it’s very irritating), I thought it might be a good time to talk about tropes in romance. Much like the very commercial Valentine’s Day celebrated in the US, you can love tropes or hate them, but it’s hard to escape them.

I think my favorite romance trope is actually an anti-trope. I like it when the party who is not expected to have the power–the woman in heterosexual romance, the “beta” lead in homosexual romance, or anyone who can surprise me in poly romance–knows exactly what he/she/zie wants and isn’t ashamed of it. Whether that’s applied in a romantic sense, a sexual sense, or a social sense is really all the same to me.

On the flip side, the trope I hate most–hate, hate, hate–is when the evil ex shows up at that point in the story where, near the end, it needs to look like Our Heroes are going to lose. I’m familiar with this as the black point/negative point in literature. If you have a villain, it’s the point where it looks like the villain has won. But since romances so often don’t have villains, people succumb to the urge to cast the ex in the role of the villain. It doesn’t work, and since it’s almost always the woman or the beta personality who is made to feel threatened this way, that means the “villain” is another woman or beta personality. Not only is it inadequate to the task it has to fill in the story, it contributes to stereotyping and role-enforcement in a way I find pretty unforgivable.

What about you? What’s your favorite romance trope? Your least favorite? Or maybe the trope you love to hate or hate to love?

(And I confess, I still choose to celebrate Arizona Statehood Day. Even in upstate New York. Even happily married. And even with what some of the bigoted assholes who’ve wormed their way into government in the state have done to it.)

Singing the Praises and Faults of Voice Recognition Software

This post is somewhat modified from a reply I made to Justine Larbalestier on her own blog post about her miserable experience with voice recognition. For what it’s worth, I’m using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 on Windows 7, and I run it on close to the fastest processor available in May 2010 and 4 GB of RAM.

I started using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 in late 2009. I, too, was in a situation where the condition of my wrists and elbows suddenly curtailed (and eventually prohibited) my use of a keyboard and mouse. And I know that no software will be perfect and no one solution will be right for everyone.

With that said, I had far more trouble with it in the beginning and was very frustrated. At this point, I find it works very well, and by using it whenever possible, I can type the occasional word or phras when that’s more convenient. There are certain things it just doesn’t do (like have editing tools compatible with Google Docs), but a few tips and tricks made it far more usable for me.

First–and this turned out to be the biggest thing in my case–I was trying to run it on my old computer, which didn’t meet even the minimum spec for the software, let alone exceed it. My experience at that time closely parallels Justine’s, in that it was so much easier to just turn the stupid thing off and type whenever I could. No matter how much I slowed down, over-enunciated, or spoke in single words, nothing would fix certain problems. But my hands and arms kept getting worse, so I went out on a limb and bought a new computer (mine was five years old at the time, so I was about due for a change).

Made all the difference in the world. What had been frustrating or agonizing before became suddenly easy. I discovered that when I had been reduced to speaking in individual words, I had actually been doing the worst thing possible (if only the software had been running on a computer that could handle the alternative). Speaking in whole phrases and sentences increased recognition hugely, as context actually helped Dragon to figure out what I was saying.

I also discovered certain tools and tricks for using the editing functions in ways that were not intuitive to me out of the package. I still don’t try to make it substitute for a mouse on a regular basis (though being able to switch windows just with the voice command is very nice), but I discovered that the easiest way to position my cursor to edit text was to say “insert after” or “insert before,” rather than trying to use the “move up/right/down/left” commands. I also found it was easier to select and correct a whole phrase than just one word within it.

Certain words, yeah, I’ve never been able to get it to give me the spelling I’m looking for the first time. I actually do spell e-mail with a hyphen, but eBook? Not so much. For those particular words, I alternate between saying, for example, “select e-book” and choosing the alternate spelling I have programmed in or simply typing in the single word I know never comes up right first time. In particularly tricky cases where I know I will never use a spelling that keeps coming up, I’ve been known to delete that spelling from Dragon’s dictionary.

Likewise, regarding character names, I’ve found two solutions. If it’s a name I’m going to be using a lot, I program it in. The more I use that name in preference to whatever else the software might think I’m trying to say, the more likely it is to come up the first time. If it’s a name I’m not going to use very often, I will frequently use the “spell” command. “Spell E-S-T-E-B-A-N” doesn’t take me very long to say and comes out right the first time. This will probably not be true for every accent or every person, but just discovering that I didn’t have to say “spell that” and wait and then spell the word in and say “OK” each time made it a far more useful process.

The truth is, if I weren’t in such a bad situation with my wrists and elbows, I don’t know if I would ever have had the motivation to suffer through the learning curve, let alone actually try installing the same software on a faster computer. I would never recommend someone switch to voice recognition software just because they thought it would be faster or easier–the frustration conquers all in the beginning. But when you’re left with few options, sometimes it can be a lifesaver. Again, not necessarily for everyone, as much as I would love to be wrong about that. But I’m always happy to answer questions for anyone just starting out with Dragon, because I remember how frustrating it was, and I’d so much rather spare as many people as possible that experience.

Generation X and Abstract Rejection Letters

Generation X Doesn’t Want to Hear It

Yeah, this about covers it.

In other news, I recently received the strangest rejection letter of my life. I’m no stranger to rejection letters–they’re part of the writing game–and they come in flavors from thoughtful and encouraging feedback to “sorry for the form letter, but your work does not fit our needs at this time.”

Except for this one. This one attempts thoughtful feedback, but it appears to be about somebody else’s work. I showed it to four or five other professional writers and a professional linguist because I was worried I had somehow dropped the ball in a major way on this story and was too close to the project to be aware of it. None of them can make heads or tails of the letter, either.

Oh well. At this point, not my problem. It still falls in the category “It doesn’t matter if I get nine rejection letters, as long as the tenth publisher wants to take it.”

On the Inclusion of Naughty Bits

Tara Lynx just posted a thoughtful piece on why we write erotic romance. I can’t really think of anything to add to it. Sex is not evil; it is an important part of our physical and emotional well-being for most of us. It’s also something we put a lot of intense emotional investment into, before, during, and after the act itself. If I’m writing in a genre that’s all about emotional interactions and emotional journeys, how can I tell the whole story without including the interactions that take place during sex?

The Difference Between Lightning and a Lightning Bug

For me, one of the hardest things about writing is figuring out why something isn’t working. All of a sudden, my writing grinds to a stop. I could push through it, but I’ve mostly stopped even doing that, because that’s my cue that something isn’t working. The question is, what? Yesterday I slaved over a scene that couldn’t have been more than 700 words, and when I’d finished it, I just wasn’t sure that it was working. Something wasn’t right.

Over dinner with my husband, it hit me that it wasn’t working because I’d written the wrong scene. Oh, it was the scene that was in my outline, all right. It just wasn’t the scene that needed to be there at that point in the story.

Today, I nuked the entire scene and replaced it with one that ran more like 1200 words, and those words just flowed. There was no struggling, because this time, it was the right scene. It’s frustrating to lose work when I still have hopes of meeting a September 1 deadline, but it was what had to happen to make the story work. And having the right scene is worth any inconvenience–sometimes, it’s the difference between a perfectly adequate story and one that jumps off the page at you.