Gender-neutral Pronouns

Let’s talk about pronouns.

First-person pronouns are pretty straightforward: “I/me” and “we/us”. In English, since we no longer differentiate between second-person singular and second-person plural, using “you” for both, we get into a bit of trouble now and then. There’s a persistent sense that we need to be able to distinguish between the two sometimes for clarity, so we end up with “y’all” or “you guys” or any number of dialectical variants. We’re missing a pronoun that we clearly feel that we need. That’s more of an issue when speaking or addressing others directly, however. When it comes to narrative fiction, at worst a character may stumble over the ambiguity the same way it happens in real dialog, and need to clarify their meaning to their listeners in whatever way is appropriate.

At the end of that paragraph, I just ran into the big, and familiar to many, pronoun issue with third person. How to phrase it? His listeners? Her listeners? A character could be either. His or her listeners? There are two problems with that: it assumes that the character actually identifies as one or the other, and it gets really awkward-looking after a few repetitions. So I went with the singular “they,” as many now do. It works. Continue reading

Pansexual, not bisexual

I originally wrote this back in Sept 2015 for an online magazine to which I submitted a few short pieces. I’ve spent some time thinking about whether it really belongs here. I’ve decided that, while it isn’t specifically about writing as such, it does make a point about the importance of a single word, a label, in self-identity. This matters, or should matter, to anyone whose writing involves character diversity, and not only in regards to orientation or gender. Reposted here with a few small corrections.

When I first realized, a bit over two decades ago, that I wasn’t straight, I took a look around me for an alternative description for myself. This being the early nineties, research was more complicated than looking online, and community and support more limited. I quickly concluded that “lesbian” wasn’t quite accurate, despite some lesbians occasionally choosing sex with men. When I stumbled over the idea of bisexuality, I seized on that: here was a term that wouldn’t try to force me to choose, and would allow me to acknowledge that I found people of many kinds attractive and desirable.

Life went on, and I ran into all the wonderful stereotypes that people have about bisexuality. Men I barely knew hit on me with descriptions of their wives. People assumed that I was non-monogamous because if I were monogamous, I would no longer be bisexual. I heard the bad jokes and the slurs and the put-downs: can’t make up their minds, sitting on the fence, want it both ways, in denial, too horny to care who they sleep with, and all the rest. I learned fast to stay away from lesbian events locally, because there was an unspoken rule that bi women were welcome only if they could be assumed to be lesbian–a kind of don’t ask, don’t tell. Having just come out of one closet, I refused to go back into another one. Continue reading

Short Story: Winterwood

Because I needed a bit of a break while trying to work out a plot snarl in Moonblood, I unearthed one of the very few short stories I like, gave it a bit of a polish, and posted it on its own page here.

A bit of male-male romance and some surprises, while on a little-travelled road in the middle of winter. (Other-world fantasy.)


Back in motion!

I mentioned previously that I hoped life could resume something like normality in early March. I’m extremely grateful that so far, that does seem to be the case. It’s going to take me a little time to get everything moving again, since so many different projects all stalled from lack of attention–and not only writing projects. But I’m feeling optimistic!

So optimistic that I’ve begun to release the first chapter of the new Moonblood adventure, as of this past Friday. That may not have been the wisest plan while the adventure itself is still incomplete, but at this point, 38k words into it, I doubt it’s going to involve any really major changes in the earlier chapters while I’m hammering out the later ones. Since the location, which is near the Garden of Umako that they visited previously, is very vaguely West African, I admit to feeling a bit nervous about possible accusations of cultural appropriation or related racism. One person’s “cultural appropriation” is another person’s “inspired by” and it’s not always a matter of insider vs outsider.I just can’t stand the thought, however, of the entire Moonblood world of Evanir, or at least the large continent our heroes wander, being an endless series of loosely medieval western European cultures, so I guess I’ll just have to hope for the best.

Overall, while looking back through the earlier adventures to remind myself of relevant information, I haven’t been entirely happy. As you’ll see if you looked at my main site, my usual format is the novel, generally one of substantial size. My work is, invariably, all about the characters and bringing them to life. To tell you the truth, I usually have only a very vague idea of what a new novel is going to be “about” since I create the characters (which can be a more difficult task than a non-writer might think) and then drop them somewhere to see what happens. Sooner or later, often thousands of words later, I spot something that looks like a plot and start to angle in that direction. I don’t know how many pros would consider it professional, but it’s a lot of fun and it means I know my characters very well. Usually I then put it aside for several months before editing it. Thanks to one person taking time, I now know how to edit the resulting mass of words into something coherent and consistent, though I generally keep a bit more of the “character development” material than conventional wisdom calls for. The thing is, none of this applies to Moonblood.

With Moonblood, I tried something new. I took a handful of very old characters (Neoma, Kieran, Tyrel, and Madoc have been around since I was in high school, and Kaveri nearly as long) and reimagined their world and their lives. The various adventures aren’t really stand-alone. They follow a sequence, and description of characters and all tends not to be repeated. They are, however, extremely compressed. Places where I would have included a scene showing something, I’ve summarized it into a paragraph before getting on to the next big event, trying to keep the pacing fast and something immediately interesting in each individual post (and not always succeeding). Some of the less-direct character interaction scenes that I’d have included in a novel have been cut or never written, and as a result, there are more places where I’m telling the reader about the characters instead of letting the characters demonstrate. Despite that, chapters are repeatedly broken into 2 or 3 posts to bring them to manageable size. I’m also finding things that I probably would have fixed or changed with more time to revise. I think I have to consider myself poorly suited to writing serial fiction. That shouldn’t come as too much surprise, since my short stories are few and far between. If an idea or, more often, a group of characters is interesting enough for me to do two or three thousand words, then it’s probably interesting enough that I’ll want to explore it or them in much more depth.

Which means that once I finish Return, I am going to take a more deliberate break from this particular project. At some point, between other writing projects, I plan to seriously revise it from a different approach. Instead of treating it as web fiction, I’ll consider it the rough draft of a novel of sorts with an unusual internal structure, and see what happens. I think it will give me the room to flesh out the characters the way they deserve.

That said… I do have one old but rather good idea that would be hopeless as a novel but might someday work in serial format… so who knows?

While this has been all about Moonblood so far, that isn’t the only thing I’m doing. Leaving the overall arc unresolved has been nagging at me, so it became the first thing to pick back up. Lamia‘s revised re-release is coming up, I hope before May. Once that is done, that’s it for my earlier novels, the ones that I previously finished and put on my old site essentially expecting only friends to see them, generally after years being kicked around and re-written and taken apart and stitched back together, and everything from there on is shiny-new and made from whole cloth, so to speak. (I really should write something about the difference, someday soon.) I’m hoping to get Shaman released by June. I’ve had requests for print versions of books, though that’s only available for Yin-Yang currently, so I need to get that sorted out. (That project costs a bit, since I have to buy test copies, and the household budget is tight… but I’ve had a few voluntary payments for ebooks, which I think will cover it.) I think I’m going to re-issue Renegade with the introduction, explaining its history, at the end, in hopes of scaring off fewer people–although I do find it interesting, and probably indicative of current demand, that the urban fantasy with expressly LGBT content has sold 4 times as many as the other-world fantasy that I can’t really tag LGBT. And… all the others, novels and blog posts, waiting in the wings for me to get my feet back under me and get back to work.

Since my household is now in a new and safer apartment that humans and felines consider an enormous improvement, the health and other crises seem to be winding down, and spring is in the air, getting back to work is definitely a high priority. Writing isn’t just something I do, it’s a central part of who I am, and a stretch of several months with only a small amount of sporadic writing is difficult. While I’m not attracting large numbers of readers, I am attracting a few, and given the huge amount of time and effort that goes into polishing a novel for release, it’s good to know that they do interest people. I have my fingers crossed that the LGBT urban fantasy will appeal to people, but I have too much fun to give up doing the occasional other-world fantasy!

No updates or releases? Why?

Even a quick look will show that everything writing-related has come to a halt: no blog posts, no new novel releases, no new chapters in the serial Moonblood. No signs of life for several months now. I know if I came across that, I’d assume that the writer had given up or moved on to something else.

That isn’t the case. I’m still around, still writing (or trying to!), and still have every intention of releasing more novels, more blog posts, and wrapping up neatly with Moonblood.

Recent months have swamped my household with human health issues, feline health issues, housing issues, and a variety of other complications that have had to take higher priority as far as my time and energy. (That includes several unexpected days in the hospital myself, plus recovery time.)

Despite that, the final draft of Lamia is underway (although I haven’t come up with a plan for a cover yet). I’m rather looking forward to doing the final revisions on Shaman and releasing it, even though I admit to being a bit apprehensive about reception of a novel with a trans main character written by a cis author. The next installment of Moonblood is sitting on my netbook, waiting for me to have the concentration to work out a tangle in the thread so I can get on with it. I wrote a piece on gender and pronouns for an online magazine I was briefly associated with, and plan to revise it and post it here. Faerie Tale‘s first draft is about 75% complete, and still looking very promising (if a bit unusual). I have several other novels begun, in varying stages.

In other words, nothing has been abandoned, just put on hold, and I very much hope that the series of crises resolves very soon so I can pick up where I left off. Tentatively, life should begin to quiet down in early March. I’m not optimistic about it happening before that, however.

I was somewhat surprised to drop by Smashwords and discover that, while I’ve been distracted, there has been a slow but steady trickle of sales. I freely admit that I am very bad at self-promotion and networking. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere before that being disabled, I have to choose where to put my finite personal resources (how to spend my spoons, to use a recent Internet analogy) and if I have to choose between creating or promoting, creating will win. I can only hope that my work speaks for itself. That said, my attempt at honesty about the origins of Renegade seem to have backfired, since very few copies of it have sold compared to Yin-Yang and Black Wolf, even taking the time since release into consideration. That does make me somewhat sad, since I think it’s an excellent story on its own. Maybe that will change at some point.

But I digress. Those of you who have enjoyed my work enough to download it or read it on Prysmcat Books directly, and the very few who have left ratings or reviews or let me know privately what you think – thank you, and please bear with me. There’s plenty more of my own slightly odd fantasy coming, I promise!