2017! The Year of the Manzanos!

As the holidays approach and I sit down to write my last blog post of 2016, I’m reminded of just how erratic my year has been. Politics were the pits, tons of celebrity favorites died, and a general malaise settled over the world. Things were not looking so shiny. We took some personal hits this year as well. My Uncle Bobby died after a long and grueling battle with cancer. My son was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety disorder, which has really kicked up recently and has us struggling to find the answers. My husband and I had our own respective health issues, one that landed me in the hospital having a small, but not fun, surgical procedure. I ended my publishing contract with no book to show for it.

But there was light toward the end, at least with my career. There was Pitch to Publication, two short story publications, and an Editor’s Choice Award. And there was the prospect of next year on the horizon. Next year, when I start to query The Order of the Key again, in hopes of finding an agent who will love it. And next year when I embark on two new projects that aren’t exactly about my writing, but have some interplay with that career.

Allow me to introduce you to my two new projects. Or should I say OUR two new projects.

geektastic-bannerGeektastic: My son, Logan, wanted to be a YouTube sensation. My husband, Ismael, missed doing reviews. My sister-in-law, Megan, wanted to start a BookTube review channel, but didn’t know where to begin. I wanted a way to show off how damn random we all are, and wanted to have a place to openly be meta about geeky things.

This is what lead to Geektastic. We put our minds together, and decided to create a YouTube channel/blog where we could openly discuss all of the wonderful things that make being a geek so kickass…and so that we could offer an alternative to adults. Fun, kid-filled YouTube channel with gaming, toys and memorabilia, that speaks about some more sophisticated television, books and movies, but in a way that’s totally family friendly.

We’re still working on our first video, but it will be available in January. In the meantime, you can view our website and go follow us on our social media links, because we want you along on our adventure. Check it out at www.geektastic-manzanos.com.

inkwell34434The Inkwell Council: After leaving my work at Fantasy Works Publishing behind me, I was told by one of the writers there that they would miss my editing work. I am also constantly asked by my close circle of writer friends to read their stories, to help polish them up. I came to realize, I could help new writers. Maybe not with entire manuscripts, but I could read their first three chapters, and offer suggestions. It wasn’t about money. It was about giving back to a writing community that gave to me.

A discussion with Ismael revealed he missed writer’s workshops. Last to join was Megan, who was trying to make a living doing freelance edits, but didn’t have enough exposure and wasn’t sure how to build a client list. Moving forward together, we created The Inkwell Council, a manuscript editing service with specific rules. Basically, if you have no writer’s critique group, and you want someone to polish up the first three chapters of your Fantasy manuscript (we could only do one genre we could all agree on) we’ll be there for you. For rules and specifics of our program, please visit us at http://www.theinkwellcouncil.com/. Submissions officially open in January. Please also follow us on social media, which is linked on the website.

Add these two amazing projects to querying The Order of the Key, writing a new short story, and brainstorming on three other novels, and there is a busy year ahead. And the best part of it, is I will get to work with a big chunk of my family, whom I adore.

So, what’s new with your year? Anything exciting to look forward to? New projects? Let me know in the comments.

Either way, here’s to you and yours in the new year. May 2017 be a bright, shining light, leading as far away from 2016 as possible. 😉 Happy Holidays!

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Conduit

I have this main character named Jacklyn.  As I delve into who she is, I find I love her more and more.  She is a strong woman, vulnerable but bad ass.  She is confident in her sexuality.  There is never a question of whether or not she thinks she’s pretty.  She knows she is.  She is foul mouthed, sarcastic, and a bit of a geek.  Her logic?  “If I’m going to be a superhero, I want to be just like the ones I grew up with.”  She’s dramatic and romantic, believes in fighting the good fight and, as her character grows and evolves, she begins to see the guns she carries as the only source of power she can truly rely on.

Whoops!  Where did that last bit come from?  There are plenty of things about that description of Jacklyn that feel like natural extensions of portions of my psyche.  There are some, one more decidedly than others, that I don’t feel terribly comfortable exploring.

Guns scare the crap out of me.  I view them as death machines.  I hate them.  HATE. THEM.  Which is why it’s so weird that one of my favorite characters to write loves them so much.

So how do you write a character with values so different from your own without completely endangering your belief system? Well, for one, you can create a counter balance.  The story’s co-lead character is Kyp.  He refuses to touch a gun, thinks they are instruments of destruction.  He feels that if a tool can only be used for destruction, it should not exist.  He is not against violence to protect others, but he understands the danger of relying on it too much.  He prefers to use his supernaturally-gifted strengths to find another solution.  In this way, he is my voice in the story.  In many other ways, he is nothing like me – there are moments in which he can be an emotionless drone, and he often behaves as though everything is a game of strategy and not the lives of other people.  But he provides that ability to speak my views on the topic within the story.  Is either correct?  No.  They are two characters, disagreeing as people do in real life.  There isn’t always an easy yes or no answer.

You can also try to understand the reasoning behind the value in question.  Jacklyn likes guns.  Why?  They make her feel like she has power.  Why?  Because her own personal supernatural powers were taken away from her before and she feels like guns are a more reliable, more concrete, source of strength.  Does she struggle with this?  Yes.  She isn’t entirely comfortable. But she isn’t entirely uncomfortable either.  Do the guns help her out of situations Kyp’s “alternative methods” may not?  Yes. But other times, Kyp’s method is smarter.    Is Jacklyn’s gun toting a departure from her core personality?  Somewhat, but it also plays into her need to be dramatic, to be showy, to be the next Lara Croft.  Does it matter?  No – Jacklyn needs her guns.

There’s a danger in opening yourself up to that method of thinking.  You can actually develop sympathy for the other side of an argument – an interesting journey, and one that might frighten you.  But the important thing is that you remember your role as a writer.  You write what you need to write because it’s what the character dictates. You never ask yourself what you are okay with writing, what would embarrass you.  You never ask yourself what would make the plot easier.  You never ask yourself what other people will think.  You write the thing based on the characters you have created.

You are the conduit through which your character reaches the world.  You truthfully ask yourself how a girl like Jacklyn would cope with a loss of power that led to her own injury as well as the deaths of others.  And when you find your answer, you don’t question it.  You simply write.  The rest will, hopefully, fall into place.

Let’s Get Political

Why do people join Twitter?  For me, personally, Twitter is a place where I get the opportunity to have an exchange with other writers, public figures, actors, performers, and to get to know a side of them I haven’t previously been able to see. maybe get inside their heads a little, see what their process is like.  Actors, writers and musicians are the most interesting people to do this with on account of the art, but it’s nice to see how everyone’s mind works.  I also enjoy finding people who share common interests with me.  Lastly, it is a part of my writer’s platform, a place where I can advertise my work and put my own thoughts out into the world for public consumption.  (If anybody doesn’t believe that as a “last” purpose, take a look at my account – originally, it was all fandom all the time, because that’s who I was connected with at the time.

The reasons I enjoy Twitter lead to why it bothers me so much when it becomes clear to me that an account on Twitter is solely created as a marketing technique and not as a vehicle of expression and connection to others.  I despise autofollow messages and autogenerated DMs and I hate accounts that are created for the sole purpose of advertising ones work.  Why?  Because I want to get to know you and your views, whether I may like them or not.  Because it makes you a real person.

Often, when experts discuss the best way to build your platform as a writer, you hear the following: Don’t get political.  Don’t get religious.  Don’t get too fiery.  Stay the course.  Discuss your writing.  Discuss topics that relate to your writing.  Don’t get involved in arguments.  Don’t give your public any reason to cut itself in half.  And it makes sense.  As a writer, or any public figure, really, you want people to like you.  You don’t want to turn people off by loudly blasting views that will turn people off to your work.  The theory is that you should be able to separate the product from the artist who created it.  But is that even possible in this age of social media marketing?  And even if it was, could you maintain it?

I enjoy speaking my mind.  I try to do so in a calm and rational way, but I always feel my most comfortable when I’m saying how I feel.  I’m a staunch democrat.  Pretty damn Liberal.  I believe in a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to birth control.  I am a Feminist through and through and believe in wage and social equality.  I believe in marriage equality. I believe in fighting any and all bigotry that I encounter.

Whew!  It felt good getting that out there.  Most people with an audience are very careful about what they say.  I tend not to be and here’s why.

I am a writer.  Who I am fuels the stories I tell.  If I don’t tell you I’m a feminist, but submit to you the story of a woman who believes she has as much of a right to stand up and be heard as a man and fights towards that end, would you be completely shocked to learn that I am a feminist?  If I don’t tell you that I believe in marriage equality, that I am a staunch ally to the LGBT community, wouldn’t you be able to tell that based on the fact that many of my stories feature gay or lesbian characters in prominent roles as tastefully (or not – depends on the character) depicted as any of my heterosexual characters?  I may not need to beat you over the head with my viewpoints for you to get a strong feeling of what they would be.

So let’s call a spade a spade here.  If you dislike gay people, my stories will likely not be for you.  If you are a racist, my stories will likely not be for you.  If you have issues with women in power, my stories will likely not be for you.  In that way, I find that expressing my views may actually be beneficial to my readership because nobody will be surprised by what they are going to find.

Are some of the values of my characters different than those of my own?  Of course, or else it wouldn’t be a good story.  I can’t simply keep reciting my own thoughts as though they are gospel and expect to write something decent. However, there are themes about acceptance and love between characters in all of my stories that do shine through.

Don’t get me wrong.  If you’re political ideas are different, I will be more than happy to debate that with you, and I respect your opinion.  (If you’re an actual bigot, that respect your opinion thing doesn’t apply to you. Sorry.  I don’t associate with bigots of any kind.)

So which is better?  Creating a public persona and hiding an aspect of who I am so that others have no idea what to expect from me?  Or being very open about exactly who I am to create a more stable potential fanbase, one that will not suddenly flee when it is realized that my values don’t necessarily coincide with their own.

Thoughts?