Lyn Gala

One writer's journal through one version of reality


3 Comments

It shouldn’t work that way

Normally I’m not a great fan of het romance. Sure, the gender issues drive me nuts and the “little woman” needing rescue is a trope that should be relegated to the trash heap until it’s new and fresh again… which would be in two or three thousand years.

But as I pondered the last het romance that I read and really liked (C.L. Wilson’s The Winter King), I think I realized why I like that couple so much.

Oddly, it’s not the lack of weird gender insults. Yes, they’re equals. Wynter saves his little woman from monsters, but Kham rescues him from an army and a demon trying to take over his soul, so they’re even.

More than that, though, they have every reason to leave each other. Wynter has made things politically uncomfortable in his own castle by bringing home the headstrong Kham. If he let her leave, he would let a few of those raised eyebrows go back to their normal shape.

And Kham’s brother and nurse come for her. She could walk away. More than that, she could walk away and save her country by being part of the force to conquer Wynter instead of chasing any of this alliance stuff.

Logic said they should split apart.

I think that’s why I like them—because something is holding them together despite that, and that’s where I see all the smudgy fingerprints of love. I could never quite put my finger on why Tom and Da’shay from my own Blowback tripped my trigger so hard, but I think that’s it. They SHOULD break up. They don’t make sense together. So when they insist on holding on despite everything, I can see love winning against the odds.

 

So, do you have couples (het or gay) that you love that when you look at them, they should leave each other, but you know they’ll never, EVER make that decision?

Advertisements


23 Comments

Kill that Passive Voice

I should be writing my novel, but I either have the stomach flu or Wendy’s did not keep their meat at temperature… who knows? Anyway, I’m surfing Facebook—the time killer and bane of all writers and I came across one more post admonishing writers to avoid passive voice.

Most of these posts include a nice little description of passive voice. It’s when the thing getting acted on is placed up front and the person doing the action is shoved into the back of the sentence or removed altogether. You can spot them because a passive voice sentence picks up a helping verb.

Active voice:

Lyn threw the ball

Passive voice shoving the subject in back:

The ball was thrown by Lyn

Passive voice with subject missing:

The ball was thrown.

 

And here is where most of these posts stop. The author must find and fix passive voice on their own. That’s a little like pointing to a field and saying… “Hey, there’s a bomb somewhere. Go disarm it.” They don’t even explain WHY it’s considered poor writing in English. So, here is some of what I’ve picked up over the years.

 

Passive voice lets writers hide a guilty party.

The money was stolen. The inspection was botched. The suspect was incorrectly arrested.

Yeah… do you see how the guilty people are suddenly ducking out of the blame? In romance writing that’s a particularly serious error because the reader can’t tell who is doing what.

Susan was betrayed.

Um… by whom? The asshole who cheated on her, the girlfriend who was the second person in the bed, or both? Passive voice hides Susan’s true feelings of betrayal.

 

So, how do you fix passive voice? First, you have to find it. Here’s a short passage.

Da’shay was carefully watched as she moved toward Tom with that sway in her hips that meant she was in a mood to play and Tom was considered her favorite playtoy. Tom never had much luck with women, so he wasn’t sure how he had lucked out with Da’shay. However, the chase was included in their game, so he planned a good long run, and he’d keep running until he was caught fair and square. Then she could tie him down and use him as she liked, and she would.

 

You want to suspect any linking verbs.

1. “Da’shay was carefully watched as she moved”

2. “she was in a mood to play”

3. “Tom was considered her favorite playtoy”

4. “he wasn’t sure how he had lucked out”

5. “the chase was included in their game”

6. “he was caught fair and square”

 

Passive voice is a structure where the person doing the action is either moved to the back or removed. Check each sentence by looking for the action (verb) and deciding if the person doing that action is up front where he or she should be.

 

1. The verb is “watched.” Who is doing that? Either Tom is watching her OR there is someone else watching the couple start their gameplay. This is the worst type of passive voice because it makes the actions unclear. If Tom is going the action, “Tom” should be placed at the front of the sentence so the reader knows who is doing the action.

2. The only verb is “was.” The sentence is about Da’shay, and the “she” is up front. This sentence is fine.

3. The verb is “considered.” Who is considering it? Does Tom consider himself a playtoy or does Da’shay think of him as a playtoy? This is written from Tom’s point of view, so this should reflect Tom’s thoughts, but this sentence is so unclear that it almost reads as if we’ve jumped to Da’shay’s point of view.

4. The verb is “was.” The fact that you don’t have another verb in there means this isn’t passive voice.

5. The verb is “included.” Who is including it? “Chase” is the thing that is included, so it can’t be the subject doing the action, but it’s up front. That’s passive voice.

6. The verb is “caught.” Who is doing the catching and who is getting caught? The person doing the action should be up front and the person getting caught should be in back. Wait. The sentence is backward. Tom is getting caught, but his name is up front.

 

So this short passage has four pieces of passive voice. Fixing them isn’t difficult. In each case, you do the same thing. You have to figure out who is doing the action. Then take that person and put their name (or a pronoun that refers to them) up front.

 

1. “Da’shay was carefully watched as she moved”

Who is doing the watching? I don’t want someone else in this scene so it must be Tom. I need to put him up front. I then drop the helping verb out of the sentence: “Tom carefully watched Da’shay as she moved”

 

3. “Tom was considered her favorite playtoy”

This is Tom’s point of view, but the fact is that thinking about yourself as a playtoy is a little creepy. I want Da’shay to look at Tom like he’s a playtoy, so he’s just thinking about her attitude and reveling in how much she likes to “use” him. So I’m going to put Da’shay up front as the person doing the “considering.” That will push “Tom” into the back half of the sentence. “Da’shay considered Tom her favorite playtoy.

 

5. “the chase was included in their game”

This is confusing. Who included chasing as part of their sexual game. I seriously hope it was both of them agreeing on it. But as it’s written, it’s really not clear who set up this dynamic. This is where passive voice makes things truly confusing. Put that both of them include this up front so it’s clear this is a shared kink: “They included the chase as part of their game.”

 

6. “he was caught fair and square”

Clearly Da’shay is doing the catching, so leaving her out of the sentence is just lazy. If she’d doing the action, put her up front. “Da’shay caught him fair and square.

 

 

So, put it all together and write the passage in a more active (rather than passive) voice:

Tom carefully watched Da’shay as she moved toward him with that sway in her hips that meant she was in a mood to play and Da’shay considered Tom her favorite playtoy. Tom never had much luck with women, so he wasn’t sure how he had lucked out with Da’shay. However, they included the chase as part of their game, so he planned a good long run, and he’d keep running until Da’shay caught him fair and square. Then she could tie him down and use him as she liked, and she would.

 

 

So that’s how you kill passive voice (after recognizing it).

 

Look, I honestly don’t know who reads this blog. Is this useful? A waste of time? Should I be off writing my pirate novel?

 


3 Comments

Submissives, fanfic, and an Apology to Jayne

code4Well, I finally updated my webpage, and I have to give up on Firefly.

No, don’t get your panties bunched. I still love the show. I still love the fanfic I have done with the show, but I just don’t write that much fanfic with it, so my fourth slot on my main page switched from Firefly to Stargate.

You see, the only thing I miss in Firefly is a sexual relationship between the characters. I started with Thoughts Colored Ugly where River’s telepathic powers allows her to see Jayne’s submissive nature, but she accidentally drives him away before she can step up and claim her man.

I then did Old War Horses, which I loved. Jim (The Sentinel) had been a Purple Belly government officer who had been turned into a government experiment. While fleeing from arrest, he runs into Mal and the Serenity, who have very strong Browncoat feelings. I loved watching these two try to continue a war when both of them had lost the war so long ago, and it let me play with my favorite dynamic—the strong submissive.

I love kick-ass submissives. I love the idea of someone having power and choosing to lay it at the feet of the person they love. I think you can see that in Liam and Tom and Ferro, and so many of my submissive characters.

Jayne is the ultimate strong submissive. When I see how, in canon, he was willing to accept his death if it came at Mal’s hands, when I saw him follow Mal into certain death with the Reavers when he couldn’t follow any other captain through a simple trade… I knew him. He was my strong submissive.

I thought I would be able to play with Jayne forever.

So I started Big Damn Dog, and I realized I had run out of fuel in the tank.

You see, there’s really nothing else I can change or fix in the series. Once I have my beautiful submissive Jayne settled, I’m happy with Joss’ world. I’m done. I don’t feel the call of any more epic stories—I can just go watch the series and be sated.

But Stargate? Oh, yeah. That’s just a hot mess.

The Not in Kansas series lets me totally stick my fingers in both SG1 (to poke Jack’s all symbiotes are evil button) and in Atlantis (to poke the let’s run this like a base and not the colony it is button). Face it, both ideas are pretty dumb. No species is evil as a whole—there’s just some other definition of right and wrong going on in that alien head. In my universe, the goa’uld are what happens when a perfectly sane symbiote has the bad luck to join with a psychotic/sociopathic ancient race and learn all about power and pain. And when Gibbs and Tony move to Atlantis in not one but two 100K epics, that poor city never saw it coming!

The Magical Cage let me poke at the Wraith/vampire connection by pulling Buffy in. The Shadows Universe let me use The Sentinel and their fear of government as well as La Femme Nikita to point out that the SGC is a scary covert ops world, we just see the friendly face of all the scary. We see that again in Dr. Sandburg Finds a Sentinel.

Dark Still Water gives Teal’c the voice he never got in canon, and lets the SG1 folk torture Jim (The Sentinel) for his most assholish season 4 behavior.  Airman Harris lets me poke at all the psychological damage these people take that rarely gets addressed in canon.

Yep, the Stargate universe feels more flawed. It ignores the very ideas I want to explore. It’s more interesting because it’s more flawed, so Stargate has now officially bumped Firefly off the main page.

I’m sorry, Jayne. I still love you!


5 Comments

The Claimings sequel… coming soon… hopefully

GalaClaimingWell, the Claimings sequel is done and off to the betas. In two weeks, I will be turning that puppy in to Loose Id.

I’ve titled this one Assimilation, Wars, and Other Human Oddities, but we’ll see what the publisher calls it.

The first novel flew out of me as fast as I could write it, but this new one… oy! If I hadn’t promised fans of the first book that I was working on a sequel, I would have walked away.

So, in the reviews, people complained Liam was too much of a pushover. Wait. He’s a linguist, a soldier, a man who walked away from a long-term abusive relationship (which takes balls). Anyway, I started writing, but I think their complaint got in my head because I did two chapters, and I realized… wait… THIS Liam is a pushover. Where is MY Liam?

This is why I suck at sequels. It’s like the feedback gets in my head. That never happens with my fanfic. My god, my Igigi series (NCIS/SG1/Stargate Atlantis) is over 200,000 words with hundreds if not thousands of comments now. But I never feel pushed by feedback because Tony is Tony. You can’t push my interpretation of Tony.

Alas, Liam needed time to settle in and get his feet under him, so I read the first book again and set the sequel aside. So, a while later (that would be while defined in months, not days), I picked up the sequel again. Okay, so I wanted to show more humans. I would have a human ship crash land and Rownt are not terribly interested in mounting rescue missions so Liam and Ondry would go.

This sometimes happens to me when I’m writing. It’s called a really bad idea. I mean, Rownt are technologically advanced. They have a network of satellites. They have ordered humans to land only at one place, and considering that humans are in their own civil war, no commander would give a shit what some primitive society thought unless he could see the space weapons.

So, how is it that Rownt, who are predatory and who have a finely nuanced understanding of deception, would allow a ship of humans to land without either A) challenging them or B) blowing them out of the sky on the off chance the ship is a weapon?

Yeah, that didn’t work. So I set the story aside for a while. Do you see how I’m using that word “while” again?

So finally I had a good idea. I have a new character who can come down. After all, Liam mentioned that he wasn’t a real linguist by training. Well if things with Rownt had turned interesting, then shouldn’t Earth send a real linguist, a first contact specialist? So Captain Susan Diallo was born and I finally started writing chapters I liked.

And then my mom had her first stroke.

Can we just say that my writing suddenly became a whole lot less important to me? My mom was in and out of ICU, multiple surgeries, and finally she came home. My sister came to live with me for a few months because I was trying to not completely fuck up my day job. I learned lots of nifty new skills like taking blood pressures and blood oxygen levels, changing dressings, and assisting the elderly in personal hygiene.

A fun time was not had by all.

But then she started sleeping through the night and moving around the house without a walker. My sister went home, and I started tinkering with the sequel again. I got several chapters written. I was feeling good.

And then one of the boys in my class had a catastrophic drop in grades. He turned surly when he was a great kid. I came down on him like a ton of bricks to keep his grades up and not lose credit, but he would not talk to me. I called home.

And found he didn’t live at home.

He was gay.

His religious parents found out.

Oh boy. So I called him in after school and we talked. He was living with a friend. I hooked him up with the social worker, who will explain things to his parents like they legally HAVE to support him until he’s eighteen so they can pay frikkin’ child support. The family that took him in was awesome, and he did get the credit in my class (although I know he failed at least one other).

And I was so angry. I wanted to go hit his parents with the biggest stick I could lift, only the police frown on that sort of thing, and I’m really not cut out for prison.

I was so fucking pissed that I could not write lovey scenes between Liam and Ondry if you paid me.

I couldn’t.

So I started an angry story. Dallin Mecham was kicked out at sixteen. He went to the nearest big city to lose himself and ended up a whore in Phoenix. But that was ten years ago. He’d crawled out of the gutter, started up a small business, and started making a life for himself. And that’s when the economy tanked. So he was homeless and clinging to the edge of losing everything when he went back to his old pimp and got set up with a long-term client who would help pay the bills.

Of course William has his own issues, but the part that was cathartic for me was writing Dallin.

He got kicked in the teeth over and over, and yet he was in there swinging. He set the rules and if people didn’t live by them, he would spit in their eye and walk away. And of course his family shows up at some point. I had to get my rage out somewhere.

But all that meant that Claimings was in the back seat AGAIN.

I swear, this sequel is cursed.

But finally I worked out my rage (and boy did I write Two Steps Back in a hurry… turns out that rage is a good motivator for my muse). So, I was ready for something softer.

I went back to Claimings, and this time I didn’t post chapters for my writers group. I didn’t let any voice get in my head but Liam’s and I wrote.

Yesterday I finished the story and posted to my group asking if anyone in the reader’s group still wanted to read it and give feedback for any revisions before I sent it off to Loose Id. It’s done. Finally.

In two weeks it goes to Loose Id, who already has Two Steps Back.

Hopefully the title will join the “Coming Soon” page in the near future.


Leave a comment

Do I have a Street Team?

I know authors have street teams. I know it works for them. The problem is that I have trouble enough managing my relationships in real life. The idea of having a team terrifies me. The Internet is where I come to reenergize my painfully introverted soul.

And I said all that to someone on my list.

She promptly started laughing at me. Apparently I’m an idiot.

I don’t advertise this widely, but the fact is that I always post bits of what I’m working on to Livejournal (http://lit-gal.livejournal.com/). Seeing the reactions often helps me figure out how I feel about a piece. If, after two or three chapters, I feel strongly about a story, then I put it under a custom friend lock.

So, who gets to read it? Anyone who commented on the first few chapters. If they liked it enough to say something, I want to have their feedback. My flist then cheerleads, catches errors (both in spelling and continuity) and tells me where they hope the story is going (and that often does influence the direction of the story).

Near the end of the story I look at how many people are still commenting and drop off anyone who hasn’t commented in a while. The story wasn’t for them. That’s fine—no harm no foul.

I then keep that friend filter and when the story is sold or ready to come out, I post where only those people can see it and ask them if they could put out some reviews.

Um… I think that’s a street team. Yes? No? Maybe?

Anyway it works for me.

I may have six people or fifteen reading a particular novel in its raw form. A person has to have a Livejournal account for me to add them to the friend-group, but that’s the only requirement. Anyone is welcome to join.

However, apparently I am not only running a street team but doing it in a really shitty way that means that very few people know where it is. I’m here!

Right now I just finished Two Steps Back and I’m working on an edit for the Desert World books, which have found a new home. However, in about a month, I will be starting work on a new story, so you’re welcome to come by, join in, and be part of the team. And if you don’t like a story and fall off on commenting, no biggie.

We all have our own tastes.

Unless you come in and tell me I suck, in which case my introverted soul will kick your ass to the curb.


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?


14 Comments

Where’s my bondmate

In the past, I’ve commented that I don’t get mystical bonds or mated pairs or destined pairs or whatever it means when a couple is biologically driven together.

I didn’t get it when I read fanfic and Blair and Jim absolutely had to bond or they would die. Doesn’t that negate their love because they’re forced together instead of choosing each other?

I didn’t get it when Tony and Gibbs were telepaths or vampires or part of the Sentinel universe. If they were forced to stay together, then where is the beauty in them working through problems together? Where is the power of the relationship when biology trumps all?

When people read Long, Lonely Howl, they tried to read a “bond” into the relationship, but there isn’t one. Casey has a crush on Nathan, but he’s gone years without following up on that relationship, and when they choose to be together, they have to figure out how to make it work in a pack where there is a range of compatibility between the members.

But I think I’m coming around.

Right now I am so emotionally exhausted and whiny and alone that all I want is someone who is biologically required to stand by me, because trust me, I’m not safe around anyone else. My life feels so out of control.

Mom is recovering, but it’s going to be a long, hard haul. LONG HARD haul. My fiction has been sidelined by the need to become an in-home nurse while doing all the cooking, laundry, cleaning, and tending for someone who physically can’t do for herself. And because she’s a two hundred plus pound woman, it’s hard to manage some of these tasks. Nursing care only comes out every third day, and it’s hard. It’s so hard.

Normally when I’m this stressed, I write. I retreat into a world where I have more control. But I’m too tired and too frustrated. I try to sit down with Ondry and Liam, and I find my eyes closing as I type. And I can’t catch the thread of anything.

And god help me when I see a bad review because I don’t have the emotional reserves to deal with any of it. I look at the lack of interest in Drift (three reviews on Amazon, nothing on Loose Id), and I want to cry. I feel like such a failure, and I know I’m not being emotionally fair with myself, but I can’t catch my balance.

I want a bonded mate.

Right now, I just want someone who is forced to like me, even when I’m being a little (or a lot) unlikeable. About the only thing I am consistently finding time for is The Journey Home by Jilly. It’s over on keiramarcos.com/roughtrade.

So I logged on to see if there’s another chapter and if I get myself ten or twenty minutes of indulging in a fantasy of bonded mates and love that stretched across worlds. It’s NCIS/Sentinel fanfic, and it beats up on Gibbs who can be a bit of an ass, so it scratches all my itches.

But then I get a database error on the Keira Marcos site, and I swear I want to cry. All because I want to read a stupid damn chapter of a stupid damn fanfic that clearly means more than it should right now.

 

I hate life.

 

And Jilly, I love your story, even if I’m calling it stupid because I shouldn’t care so much about Tony’s damn bonded mate.