Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


1 Comment

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?

Advertisements


2 Comments

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.


7 Comments

Strong Women Wanted… Maybe

kimaI have a wide range of male character types I really adore. Women… not so much.

I love early Daniel Jackson (Stargate) in all his geeky glory. When he argues in favor of the power of mythology and gets in Jack’s face, I’m right there with him. Yea! It’s not just myth, Jack! Everyone knows that bad boys with a heart of gold get me every time. Give me Mal and Jayne and Spike and Dean, and I can die a happy fangirl. Yeah, they may act all gruff, but we know what they’re really like.

I see that same variety in my writing. Liam is quiet and efficient. Petroc is a cold killer, who has more morality than he knew. Casey is a disaster in terms of romantic relationships but Stunt is an experience player who can dance between Doms—at least until he meets Alex.

But when it comes to women, I’m not as egalitarian. Human hybrid Da’shay completely takes charge of her man, and even uses him as bait for the bad guys. Paige would never do that, but as an experienced cop, she takes control of her partner, even when he showed up as a vampire. Even my secondary characters like Allie and Carmin are brassy, bold, and perfectly willing to piss off the world.

Why?

I don’t know. Maybe I see so many women making themselves smaller that I feel a need to write them larger and stronger.

I dislike most Disney heroines because they spend their lives trying to live up to a man or find a man or get out from under a man.

I want my fictional women to be like Zoe from Firefly. THAT is a woman. I didn’t like River at first because she cringed in her brother’s shadow, but when she came out into the light and kicked Jayne’s ass, I fell in love. Captain Janeway was a little cold, but B’Elanna from Star Trek: Voyager totally hit the sweet spot for me. Kima Greggs. Oh god. She’s gorgeous, kick-ass, and lesbian. I’ll be in my bunk for a bit…. Okay, back now. Oh wait. I forgot Xena. Gorgeous… check. Kick-ass… check. Lesbian… Oh hell yes. Back to the bunk.

Oh baby.

Right. I clearly need to focus. I had a tougher time with Buffy who could kick ass one minute, but who then seemed unable to function without Giles or Angel another. I actually preferred Faith—at least the one we see in Angel who has gotten her head screwed on straight. She can be Angel’s equal and appreciate how he backed her up without getting lost in her shadow.

Is anyone surprised that my first television crush was Murphy Brown? God how I adored that woman. And I would add to that list Leela (my favorite companion), C.J. on The West Wing, Nikita, Seven of Nine… you see the pattern.

I loved Ziva on NCIS until the writers insisted on giving her personality flaws that seemed to eat the character. I had equally mixed feelings about Dana Scully. I think she kicked ass; I think she had to put up with more than she should have given her partner’s occasionally dumb-ass moves.

And I should get to the point here.

I don’t know what to do. I have an idea nagging me that I am utterly ignoring. I have thoughts for a different sort of relationship.

Ben is Nicve Marine—in fact he’s the marine from Turbulence and Drift. He kicks ass and he takes name. Becca… doesn’t.

She’s young and unsure about her skills. In her world, she was trained as a gunner because of good hand-eye coordination, but she hates the idea of killing. She trained as a tech, but it’s a struggle for her. In many ways she does want to disappear into Ben’s shadow. It feels safe.

She’s exactly the sort of woman I have never cared for, and yet she’s whispering. Then the Ben-Becca relationship is more complex because it includes Copta. She is asexual, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to sleep in a bed with someone and wake up with the warmth of another pressed up against her back.

She is Ben’s equal, willing to go toe to toe with him. She appreciates having a man who respects her for this. She loves Becca’s gentle soul and sees some of her own struggles in the younger woman. Even more, she feels at home because those two are sexually involved so she can love them without fearing that they are sacrificing their own sexual natures by loving her back.

Vortex is possibly the most out of the box piece my muse has ever inspired, and I’m not sure where to go.


5 Comments

Finding your Muse

I rarely have writer’s block. I’m more likely to get buried under ideas.  I’ve read all sorts of posts from other writers (usually in professional self-help books) about how to find the muse.

Some advice is amusing; some seems downright dangerous from a writing point of view.

So, what do I do? I follow my muse wherever she wants to go.  Generally that means I go to dialogue first because that is my favorite part of writing.  When I really get going, I can almost hear the voices, and I don’t bother with quote marks or physical action or anything… that’s part of revision.

I think every author should do that.  No, I don’t think everyone should do dialogue first… I think everyone should write what makes them happy.  You should start with the part that you love, and then you create something others can love too.

Take this.  This might never be more than a snippet on my hard drive.  I may come back and write this later.  Who knows. I only know I loved writing it.  If I want to do more with it later, then it becomes work. Right now, this is pure joy as Avery, a die-hard feminist raised by two lesbians tries hard to reconcile her independent nature and her unexpected reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey.  Her husband is just confused.

 

Old Married Kink

Okay, either I’m losing my charm or something’s wrong.

Nothing’s wrong.

Well, that’s actually a little upsetting because the logical conclusion would then be that I’m losing my charm.

Of course you’re not, you giant stud muffin of studliness.

Damn right. Right now, I’m going with the assumption that something’s wrong because my studly powers are at full strength.

You’re a dork

Guilty as charged, and I have the Babylon Five soundtrack to prove it. Now, if you’re through avoiding, maybe you can tell me what’s wrong.

Okay, but you can’t laugh.

Not my first thought. I’m actually starting to worry.

Rachel loaned me a book. A really stupid book, but I can’t get it out of my mind.

A book? Why would I laugh about a book?

Because of what book it is?

What? You read one of those Harlequin romances with that long-haired douchebag on the front? Oh crap. You didn’t, did you? Not that I would judge. Much.

No, I didn’t. They stopped having douchebags on front back in the nineties, anyway. You know, I could make an argument that those covers were at least a salvo in the battle of the sexes. Women have been objectified forever, but for men, Fabio was a new phenomenon. None of us wanted to hear from him. We wanted him to shut up and look pretty. God, that’s actually really pathetic. Instead of trying to change the objectification of human beings, we just spread it.

I think that was the Harlequin people, not the feminists.

Probably. Most feminists were running as far from those books as they could get, which is why I considered them prime rebellion material. God, my mothers would have spontaneously given birth to puppies if they’d known I was reading those.

Wait, you’re admitting to reading cheesy romance novels, but you’re still embarrassed about whatever Rachel loaned you? You have now successfully distracted me from sex with my beautiful wife.

Well that’s ironic.

Okay, talk or I’m sending a strip’o’gram to your office.

Rachel would worship you if you did

Rachel is a fruitcake so I would prefer she worship someone else. Now what did she loan you?

Fifty Shades of Grey.

That sex book?

Wait, how do you know about it?

Hell, all the guys at the firm are talking about getting their wives and girlfriends to read it because they want to have kinky sex and they don’t have balls big enough to ask for it straight up. Oh shit. Do you…

I have balls, even if I don’t have balls.

I’m not doubting it. I’ve seen you make accountants cry.

This is stupid.

What this are we talking about?

Do you know how sexuality is turned into a weapon against women?

Did we change the topic?

And now women are just handing over their power because they think it’s sexy. They expect the man who ties them up to magically turn into Prince Charming with his billions and his jet.

I don’t think Prince Charming had—

Christian Grey is an ass. He’s an abusive son of a bitch who uses his privilege like an ax, like an ax he doesn’t even know he has because he’s Christian Gray so of course the world bends itself into a pretzel for him.

Okay.

Ana needs to grow a metaphysical pair. If you ever talked to me the way Christian talks to her, you would be in search of a therapist or a divorce lawyer, depending on my mood. But I wouldn’t go sighing and weeping away.

Note taken

I mean, I love the shit out of you, but I would kick your ass up between your shoulder blades.

Uh-huh.

It’s like the feminist revolution never happened, and I am not talking about the kink. If people want to be kinky, that has no bearing on their actual power.

Really.

Did you know there was a study showing that people involved in kink were actually mentally healthier? They faced the hard psychological work of accepting themselves and didn’t get caught up in defining themselves by how the society defined them.

You researched this?

Of course I did. I research everything. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

Right now, I could really use some bullet lists.

I liked that stupid book, which is stupid.

Stupid, check. Now, when you say you ‘like’ the book…

Women have fought to get their power back, and just handing it over like that feels… wrong.

Power?

The sex in books never even approaches reality. The whole submitting thing is probably just bullshit.

Submitting like tying up?

Why would that make the sex better? Sure, I can imagine that it reduces performance anxiety. You can’t be blamed for something going wrong if you’re tied up, that that is so dishonest. The whole ‘lay back and think of English’ bullshit is part of our history. Of course, if certain people have their way, women are going to be right back there again.

Stop. I’m getting seasick here.

And us. We’ve been married four years. I’m good at sex, so it’s ridiculous to think I need an excuse to… I don’t know, lay there and do nothing.

Seriously, Avery, I’m starting to really get lost here. Are we talking about spicing up the sex life?

Power games are fine for people who need them.

And they’re fine for people who are just playing around.

Really? Would you lie down and let me tie you up and ride you?

Okay, the little head is voting yes. And you sound like you’re trying to use feminism to guilt trip yourself.

Hey, don’t bash feminism.

I’m not. I’m bashing the idea of using feminism to make yourself feel bad. If you want to spice up the bedroom, I am not going to turn you down.

You think we need spicing up?

There is no answer I can give without digging myself a hole to China. However, I will say that I am a man, and as a stereotypical, testosterone-driven male, I will take sex any way I can get it.

Even if it involves rope?

Oh hell yes.

You’re supposed to be making fun of this book with me. I mean, I never thought about this stuff until I read that book, and now I can’t think about anything else.

So, we try something. Either we like it or we don’t.

Or one of us likes it and one doesn’t.

Let me repeat—I’m a man. I like sex. I’m going to be good either way, but when you’re enjoying yourself, I have a lot more fun. So, if you like it, we keep doing it. If you don’t, we don’t.

That’s totally unfair to you.

Seriously, Avery. Stop overthinking it. In my mind it goes sex equals good.  Any sex. So tell me one thing you’re thinking about. Just one. Please.

 

 


7 Comments

Backstory Muses and A Good Trade

GalaClaimingThe Rownt muse strikes again. Actually, the attack of the backstory Rownt muse struck.  Backstory muses are very odd things.

So, I am trying to pull out a list of Rownt words before I work on the sequel to Claimings, Tails, and Other Alien Artifacts.  I reach the point where Liam turns over a Ginal coin, and I remember the backstory I had come up with for that little gesture.  I really like my backstories, although I rarely write them down. I think the success of a story set in an exotic location, science fiction or not, depends on having a backstory.  Nothing can feel random, and if the writer doesn’t know how the world functions, the reader is going to pick up on that randomness.

However, if every bit of backstory lands in the book, it is booooring.  People want a story, not an anthropological description of why someone turns over a coin when they finish a trade or what that coin means.  And actually, in the original book, Liam got it wrong. He thought it meant trading ended. It actually means that the trade ended well.

Back to my point…. I was pulling out these phrases and I hit that Ginal coin, which should have been a two line entry in this “glossary” of Rownt I’m creating. Instead, I kept wanting to return to Ginal, to tell his story.  Considering his story is pure science fiction with no romance at all, I tried to ignore the muse. After all, I’m supposed to be working on Liam and Ondry.  But no…. the damn thing insisted.  It demanded.  It practically reached out from the computer and grabbed me by the throat. That’s actually what the first book did too.

Anyway, here is “A Good Trade,” a short story from the Rownt universe featuring a traditional hero from Rownt history and a man trying to be a good father to one headstrong girl.

———————————————————————————————

Ginal crouched at the top of the escarpment, watching the Rownt of Lartal move about their lives. From this height, he couldn’t tell the difference between these individuals and those who made similar preparations for war in his own Pratoalta. As a trader, he visited both towns. Women, even grandmothers, from both places had claimed his sperm, and he suspected that more than one egg laid in Lartal came from his genes.

And yet.

And yet these people and his would soon go to war. Hand against hand, spear against spear and ordinance against ordinance.

“We should move the merchandise,” Ang said quietly. The girl was growing into a woman, and Ginal had no doubt she had large eyes and itching fingers when it came to their latest trade. The oils and spice would be worth much. However, the success of the trade was ash in Ginal’s mouth. He stared down at this town that would soon be enemy to him, and he could find joy in nothing, not even from the growing evidence that his daughter had her own schemes to steal some of these profits. His girl was growing up and if she had a less capable guardian, she would have stolen them blind by now. Pride grew in his stomach at the sight of her capable plots and machinations. One day she would be a trader to respect. Unfortunately that day was decades if not centuries away, and history conspired against him and his offspring.

“Father?”

 

removed due to the general assholiness of some people.