Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


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Disabled and in Love

Does a disability make a romantic hero less desirable?

I’ve been thinking about this lately. I had a fanfic story, Green Eyed Hope, where Blair loves Jim, but Jim is simply not gay. Trust me, when you are gay, this is an entirely too common situation. Anyway, Blair is disabled in a car accident, learns to trust that Jim loves him like a brother and moves on to find his romantic partner in another disillusioned soldier.

One of the most common comments I get on this story is that people are sorry Blair never recovered more. He gets to the point where he can use a cane for short distances, but he’ll never have the strength back in the legs to easily walk.

It reminded me of a big kerfuffle in fandom where someone else had written a wheelchair using Blair, but he was magically healed in the end by a shamanic ritual. Someone else fanficed the fanfic to rewrite the ending so that Blair stayed disabled and Jim loved him just as much.

I can see why someone would want that ending. If a person is disabled, where are the romance stories for him or her?

WilliamIn my newest story, William is never identified as disabled, and I doubt his parents ever got a diagnosis, but he is obsessed with his hobby (American history), has a job where he can handle numbers because he cannot handle relationships with people, he pisses off every boyfriend he ever had, and his social skills were so abominable that his very loving parents sent him to a boys boarding school in the hopes that he could learn to be more social.

I don’t think it’s hard to see the disability, but it makes my heart hurt a little when the comments come in with… Dallin can do better than him… William is just too antisocial… I wish Dallin would have walked out and stayed gone.

Even people who admit that William has a heart of gold are uncomfortable with him in a relationship, and then there are the comments about how William gets too involved too fast. Oh boy. Um… yeah, that’s part of the disability. Lots of Asperger’s kids have to be explicitly taught to not stalk because once someone expresses an interest, they often don’t know where that line between appropriate and inappropriate lies.

Which is why those on the autistic spectrum are so much more likely to abstain from sex. It’s just hard to find a partner.

Now, I’m not saying that William would be easy to love, and even at the end, Dallin has to move his stuff into another closet because William can’t handle having his stuff disturbed, and vacation consists of visiting historical sites that William’s interested in.

But on the other hand, William completely and totally loves Dallin and will do anything for him. There is an upside to having an autistic spectrum lover.

So, does the disability make William less appropriate as the subject of a romance novel? Should Blair be “healed” at the end in order to have his happily ever after? Can you have a happily ever after if one of the main characters is suffering and continues to suffer a serious physical or mental difficulty?

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Explore the world

Diverse books!

That’s the latest call out for authors… that they should write diverse books. Hell yes! Writers should write using a wider range of characters. Now I could talk about how it reflects society and starts to break down stereotypes. I could talk about the unfairness when some people can’t find books that reflect themselves. I could talk about a lot of stuff, but other people have done that better than I could.

So I say do it for selfish reasons.

Yep, be diverse for selfishness. See, diverse characters are more fun. I know me. I know my own cultural baggage and religious background. If I write about that I’m going to get really bored, really fast.

But if I write about someone who’s different, then I have to go out and explore the world.

I loved writing Urban Shaman. I did all this research on Judaism. I asked around on LJ and found an LJ friend had been raised Jewish, and in an ironic twist of fate, had been declared not Jewish enough for the exact same reason Nicholai got the boot—the converted Jewish ancestor on the mother’s side had a flawed conversion. I learned all about that when researching. I discovered parts of my world I didn’t know about.

I grew up reading Westerns, so I knew that certain Native tribes counted “coup.” However, it was when doing research for Drift that I discovered that the belief is that you dishearten the person by showing them their weakness. I read about how a tribe all got together and had a protest by counting coup against a liquor store. They all walked up to it and touched it so the owner would understand how much they all hated having that poison on their reservation. I like that.

 

So don’t go out there with the dragging of the feet feeling like you’re obligated to write using a diverse cast of characters… throw yourself into it. It’s a great excuse to spend hours on the Internet learning interesting facts about the real world.

 

For Fettered, I looked at a lot of research on dysfunctional families and the ways that other family members are affected by one person with serious mental issues. I also spent time researching Miss Dolphinia, who is a gay man and a drag queen. It was fun reading stories of these people who were at the Stonewall and how the mob was happy to make money off them while the cops harassed them. I did a lot of reading on that. I also love twisting the history a bit because Miss Dolphinia sees that history through rose colored glasses.

In Urban Shaman, Nicholai is from a very insular Jewish community. I’ve already talked about how much I learned there. But the other character also let me go explore. Miguel is Hispanic, and Mexican mythology plays a large part in the storyline. Mexican mythology! Why is it that we learn about Zeus, but we never learn about Hunahpu and Xbalanque (Other than the obvious problem of pronunciation)? It’s a GREAT story.

Shepherd, Slave, and Vow took me to the world of Greece. Sort of. It’s a blend of mythology and history where the gods are real and Athena helped Greece gain dominance over Rome. I had fun digging deeper into the mythology and figuring out how the Roman stealing of Greek gods would work if the gods were alive to protest it.

Turbulence is a frikkin’ rainbow. If humans are at war with an alien race, I have to imagine that everyone goes to war, not just white guys. It really annoys me in American movies how America (and white America) are the only ones fighting the invasion. Our armed forces are very diverse, thank you very much Hollywood. So, I went a little crazy. Oh boy. Zeke and Jacqs are bisexual, and Zeke is an amputee. People with an amputee fetish are… different. I found parts of the Internet that scared me, and I’m an aficionado of pony play. I didn’t think I could get scared. Shank is Native American. Copta is asexual and Arab. Allie is pansexual. Karney and Lendra are black, and Lendra is a lesbian. Benares is French and a raging drunk with PTSD, Becca is so white it’s not funny while Neira Daygik is darker skinned and Honshi Quin is Asian. See? The world is fighting.

Drift is the book where I really explored how much Shank is Sioux. Culturally, religiously, and genetically Sioux. Rather than adapting, the Sioux have found a way to keep their culture and screw the mainstream. I did lots of reading for this and I loved it. And that’s why you also get Cetan, Chetankeah and Anpaytoo.

The one I’m working on right now has Dallin Mekam, a good Mormon boy raised to get married, have kids, and earn his godhood by pursuing the tenants of the Mormon faith. Instead he comes out as gay and walks away from that life. But as much as he isn’t religiously Mormon, he still has a lot of those cultural values. He can’t turn his back on a little brother who needs him, even if that brother is an ass. He feels like he can’t be a man without being able to support himself. He still has a lot of those traits, even if he claims he’s not at all Mormon.

 

All of these are outside my culture and my comfort zone because I’m boring. The rest of the world is interesting.

 

And of course this summer I insist I am going to get the Claimings sequel done if it kills me… and it might. Does it count as diversity that Ondry is eight feet tall and purple?


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Blog Tour

habeas corpseI often avoid writing about writing because I don’t want to bore everyone. But Nikki Hopeman invited me to do a little blog hopping. She writes some very sharp plotty stuff, and she has a way of bringing old subjects new life. Metaphorically anyway. Habeas Corpse is zombies like you’ve never seen them before. You should definitely check it out.

So, it’s time to tour. I have four questions here:

1) What am I working on?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

3) Why do I write what I do?

4) How does my writing process work?

 

1) What am I working on?

That’s a difficult question. I am trying to finish the Claimings sequel. Once I get “distracted” from a story, it’s hard for me to pick up the threads again, and my mother’s recent hospitalization definitely interrupted the creative process, so I’m just now trying to get back into the swing of the story. Right now, I have the sequel tentatively titled Assimilation, War, and Other Human Oddities. Ondry and Liam are doing well, but the human base has sent a new trader—a linguist expert—to try and forge a stronger alliance between humans and Rownt because the universe is changing. Captain Susan Diallo will be joining the cast as the government’s new head negotiator.

I also have a couple of books that are well into the process, but I’ve managed to lose interest or lose the threads of the narrative long enough that I don’t know how to pick them up. Desert World Immigrants follows Verly Black and Naite Polli from the Desert World universe. Customary Miracles is about a geeky, unlucky-in-love author who meets an equally geeky professor of comparative religions from India.

After that, I have dozens of ideas, some of which are more likely to hit the paper than others. Saddled, Ghosts of the Living, Exposure, Asymmetrical, Vicissitudes of Magic... they are all alive in my head, and I have no idea when or even if they’ll hit the page.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Wow. Okay, that’s hard to answer. I do think I am plottier than a lot of writers. The sex isn’t the most important part of the story—not even close. I like poking the characters’ psyches. I have an advanced degree in international relations, which includes a lot of sociology and psychology. I think that comes out in my writing. Of course, sometimes that’s not a good thing. I remember I had a reviewer shred Gathering Storm because of how unrealistic the characters were. I laughed a little at the thought of a few years undercover being unrealistic. My bad guy was larger than life, sure, but the news is full of stories of how psychopaths will engage in stalking over for years. That’s what they do. And at the time I wrote Gathering Storm, I was working on a set of classes related to the Middle East and the spy-fest of love that Israel and her neighbors had during the Cold War era. Wolfgang Lotz spent four or five years just setting up his cover before going into Egypt. Avri El-Ad had his circumcision reversed, which was a dangerous and painful surgery in the 1950s. Seriously… who does that? Then of course you have his buddy Philip Nathanson who set fire to his own pants on accident while trying to firebomb the Egyptians so Israel could blame the Moslem Brotherhood (look up the Lavon Affair… it’s really kinda pathetic). Anyway, I think that background makes my characters a little bigger and broader. I won’t say they’re bigger than life because they aren’t, but I draw from a weird part of life that I don’t think many people know.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write a bit of everything… if you add in my fanfic, I don’t think there’s a genre I haven’t touched. I’ve done gen and romance. I’ve written het couples and gay couples. I’ve done mystery and sci fi and fantasy and contemporary. I like writing everything because life is everything. I get bored doing one thing too much, so I want to be out there exploring new ideas and new psyches. I find myself particularly drawn to stories where I have to research because that lets me get out there and learn something new myself. I spent a lot of time reading research about the Sioux when I wrote Drift because I wanted Shank’s family to have some real connection to the people they would have called ancestors. I read on Jewish culture for Urban Shaman and I read some truly depressing pieces on front line psychology for Turbulence and Claimings. I like exploring the world.

4) How does my writing process work?

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Seriously.

Some stories flow out. I literally can’t write fast enough to keep up with my ideas and I can sometimes get in 10,000 words in a day. I’ve had a number of fanfic pieces like that. Claimings was like that as was Shepherd, Slave and Vow.

Other stories come with the dialog first. In Mountain Prey and Turbulence, I wrote most of the dialog first. I could “hear” the guys talking so well that I would just type as fast as I could as they sniped at each other, and I would go back and add in the action later. Desert World came to me in images first. I wrote out scenes of the desert and of Shan’s bike sliding down the dunes long before I wrote any of the interactions between the characters.

When I write, I always know where I want to end up. Always. Everything else is up in the air. Every book involved a different process. I have figured out one thing though. If I outline a book, I’m sunk. That’s it. Once a book is outlined, I can never work on it again because I either try so hard to follow the outline that I screw myself or my characters refuse to fit into the neat boxes I’ve made and I get writer’s block. So outlines are a dirty word around my house.

 

Now I should have found other authors (published or non-published) to carry this blog post forward. You know… link back to the person you got it from and then answer the four questions. Yeah… I know I’ve mentioned how much I try to avoid asking people to do things because social interactions aren’t my thing. So if you want to, do. I’d like to see what you guys come up with.

Leave a link to your post in comments so I can read it!

And now I’d like to invite you to visit these other authors to see how they view their work and learn more about their writing process.

Scott A. Johnson writes in several genres including nonfiction and horror. Visit his blog at Write Stranger.

Kerri-Leigh Grady is an editor and a writer of dark fiction. She blogs here.

Ann Laurel Kopchik writes fantasy, both of the elvish and bedroom kind. Go see her blog here.

Madeline Price writes dark and sexy fantasies. Find out more about her books and her writing process here.


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New Book

driftThe newest book is out in a few hours now, and I’m here to show you the cover.

That is Allie and Shank.

Allie is brash, young, and utterly confident.  Maybe too confident. However she promised to go back for Jacqs, and she’s determined to live up to that promise.  She’s confident and sexual and completely sure that she’s got it all figured out.

The only think Shank knows is that they don’t have anything figured out.  He’s been around the universe long enough to know how screwed up the system is.  He’s invested in saving Jacqs and Zeke, but he’s a little more realistic about how ugly this is going to get.

He also knows that his relationship with Allie is missing something.  She is a very dominant woman who has never really let herself be a domme.  He is a submissive man who hasn’t submitted for fear of having yet another lover mistake submissive for pushover.

This was a fun one to write.  I loved researching the Sioux background, and this is a world where the Sioux insist on remaining Sioux, even as other groups lose their identities.  I don’t often write het, but these two demanded to have their love story told.  And I needed to find a way to get Jacqs and Zeke out of the mess they found themselves in.


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A-holes

ImageAssholes.

No, not the anatomical ones we all have, but the metaphorical asshole.  I just submitted Turbulence to my publisher, and the main character truly is an asshole.  Jacqs is gruff, unforgiving, and very likely to assume the worst of others.  I think he also has redeeming qualities, but your miles may vary on that.  He certainly is a little… um… rough around the edges.  Jayne from Firefly inspired him, so he would have to be.

Reading the reviews, I have to wonder why some love watching Jacqs annoy the rest of the crew and others hate him.

God knows that there are real asses on television I love to watch.  I adored Gregory House the first few seasons, and he makes no apologies for his lack of social skills.  I also have an unabashed adoration for Jayne.  Yes, he’s got a crusty outside, but every so often, you see hints of a softer, kinder man underneath.

The Huffington Post even has a whole writeup on TV’s biggest A-holes.

But I think these giant buttfaces need to have some sort of redeeming quality.  With Jacqs, I tried to show right up front that he won’t stand for bullies. He stands up for what he believes, although he often does it in the worst possible way.

Jayne was an even larger ass, but he had this loyalty to Mal that made him follow his captain into Reever space (even while bitterly complaining about it).  House saved people, and every once in a while you got a flash of emotion that made you think maybe he even cared about those people he saved.

Story Addict suggests that assholes need to have some trait that balances out those more negative qualities.  They add Bella and Katniss to that list of annoying characters. However, they claim that “the important thing is that the character doesn’t bore you or have absolutely no redeeming qualities.”

I think Jacqs has that balance, particularly in the longer story.  He is very protective of Zeke and loyal to a fault.  However, looking at some of these links, I have to admit that I have other assholes sitting on my hard drive.

Myles Borodinskii is a former fashion model who now runs his own mega-corporation including magazines, fashion, and appearances on television reality shows.  He also has someone trying to kill him, but his arrogance leaves him refusing to take the threat seriously.  He calls a military-trained bodyguard “sweetheart” and makes fun of how he looks. He uses humiliation as a weapon at virtually every turn.

But he also adores his Russian grandmother who has a sharper tongue than he does, and he viciously protective of those he sees as his own, going so far as to hire a bodyguard for a low-level employee.

But honestly, Asymmetrical is stalled because it’s hard to write Myles. I think one of the reasons this prompt with Jayne appealed to me was because I was struggling with Myles and writing that asshole archetype.

A long-suffering hero like Miguel from Urban Shaman or the classic good guy like Charleston from Gathering Storm or even the bratty hero who hides his strength like Ferro in “Shepherd, Slave and Vow” are all easy to write.

Jacqs wasn’t, although I had Jayne to use as a template.

Myles is even harder.

Maybe I’ll wait a while before I try to dig back into this particular character type.