Monthly Archives: March 2012

The gay marriage repeal has failed in the NH legislature!

This news is actually a week late, but I was in NYC for the Dreamspinner Press workshop and I had other things besides blogging to occupy my time.

For those of you who don’t live in New England and haven’t been following the news, a group of people in the NH state legislature have been trying their damndest to get gay marriage repealed for the past two years.  They’ve introduced bill after bill, held rallies, gone town to town with petitions and spent thousands of dollars on TV ads and campaign pledges.  This, despite the fact that more polls than I can recall have been demonstrating that the residents of NH don’t consider gay marriage to be a particularly big deal and between 60% and 70% of them don’t feel like discussing it anymore.  They’d rather talk about taxes and the state budget.

A little over a year ago, my husband Erich went down to the State House to join about 400 people rallying there to support gay marriage and unintentionally scare the crap out of the 50-odd repeal supporters.  (Apparently, they interpreted the pro-marriage supporters all wearing red shirts as some kind of “gang” thing and said we were trying to frighten them.)  The bill under consideration at that time would repeal gay marriage, but allow those of us already married (as Erich and I were) to remain married.  Ostensibly, it restored civil unions, which is what we had before gay marriage became legal in 2009, but the civil unions in the bill were watered down to allow anyone who had “religious convictions” against them to blatantly ignore them, even in a legal sense.  How awesome would it be if your “civil union” (or even your marriage) was conveniently ignored by a nurse in the ER who told you, “I’m sorry.  It’s against my religious beliefs to treat you with human dignity.  Please wait in the lounge while the doctors see to your ‘friend.'”

The repeal side pulled a “clever” move back then.  Seeing that they didn’t have the support they needed for a repeal, they asked for the bill to be postponed until next year.  This gave the appearance of a victory to the pro-marriage side, but it was really a ruse to give the repeal side time to rally more supporters themselves.  So for over a year now, we’ve had to play politics and try to garner more support than the repeal side, all to keep a right we’d already been given three years ago.

Over the past three months, the repeal side continued to delay the vote as the support they’d been hoping for failed to materialize, but they couldn’t delay past March without the bill dying.  So finally, on March 21st, a vote was called.

We (on the pro-marriage side) were worried.  We couldn’t effectively guage how much support the repeal folks had dredged up and our legislature is currently two-thirds Republican, which has not traditionally been a good environment for civil rights advancement.  (Well, okay, it was back in the Civil War and early 20th century, but that’s an entirely different post.)   However, we had several Republicans on board:  people with gay children; people with gay brothers and sisters.  And a lot of libertarian-leaning legislatures simply didn’t think it worth opening that whole can of worms up again.

The vote was almost two-thirds against the repeal in the House, which basically killed it.  Rep. Bates, the right-wing religious fanatic who introduced it in the first place, is determined to keep fighting, but the general public is clearly not that motivated to reconsider an issue that really doesn’t hurt anyone and brings additional revenue to local businesses.  (I can vouch for the fact that Erich and I probably put a few local kids through college.)

Even though Erich and I were supposedly exempt from Bates’s ill-conceived bill, friends of ours who are planning weddings for this spring were not.  Its defeat is very welcome, after two years of these people toying with our lives.

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“Saturn in Retrograde” has been accepted for publication!

This is the fastest I’ve ever received an acceptance of a submission: 6 days!  But it probably has more to do with deadline pressure than my brilliant writing:  Dreamspinner wants the anthology to be released in early June.

I’m very excited about it!  Not only did Saturn in Retrograde turn out to be something I’m rather proud of, but a release in June keeps me in the public eye.  It’s bad to go more than a year between releases, if you’re trying to build up a readership (or at least I’ve read that the “magic number” in the publishing world is a new release in not more than a year and a half, if you don’t want people to forget about you).  And although I did have a release in December (The Dogs of Cyberwar), and it garnered some nice reviews, it didn’t sell particularly well.  Seiðman will possibly be released this year, but I’m not sure yet.  So a new release in June is good.

In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with Shinosuke again, my re-telling of a 17th-century samurai love story.  I’ve written about five thousand words in the past two weeks, which is hardly a great pace.  It’s been pretty awful, in fact.  I was blaming the slow progress in the first week on having my attention focused on getting Saturn in Retrograde out the door, but I don’t have much to blame the slow progress of the past week on.  I have a handle on the manners of the period, now.  At least, enough so that I don’t have to worry about it constantly.  And I like the story.  But for some reason, it’s hard to write it.

I guess the only thing is to keep plugging away at it.

In other news, Dreamspinner Press is hosting a workshop for its writers in New York City this week and I’ll be there!  I’ll be hopping on board a train with my friend, Claire Curtis (who needs to be there for moral support — travel gives me panic attacks), Thursday, at 9:17am in that wretched time of day some more optimistic people like to call “morning” and returning Sunday night.  No doubt, I will achieve some kind of writerly enlightenment somewhere in the middle.

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Just Under the Wire!

Just ten hours before the deadline, I’ve submitted my time-travel story to Dreamspinner Press!

Well, okay, the deadline is March 15th, which most likely means they’d accept submissions tomorrow.  (So, if you’re interested, write fast!)  I actually finished the story last week, but it needed some readers to look it over.  I spent the afternoon with my husband, Erich, and my best friend, Claire, going over the jumbled time-travel “science” in the novella.  I’m not completely clueless about science.  I’ve been known to read physics and chemistry books for fun.  But I admit that quantum mechanics baffles me.  Erich and Claire know at least a bit more about it than I do, and Claire has worked in a scientific laboratory.  (I forget what she did, but at least part of it involved trained monkeys.  And no, they weren’t hurting them.)

Once the science was made to sound more plausible and a few other details added, I think the story came out pretty good.  This is the summary I sent in my query letter:

Joshua Bannon has idolized the renowned physicist, Patrick Riley, ever since coming across a picture of the man in a high school physics text book.  Now that he has his doctorate in quantum physics research, Joshua is delighted to land a job working with Patrick and his assistant, Max, at the Eloi Institute.  But when things begin to heat up romantically between him and Patrick, the older man balks at the twenty-five year difference in their ages.  A serious bout of the flu breaks through Patrick’s reticence and throws the two of them together, at last, as well as providing the breakthrough they’ve been needing to turn time fluctuations into actual time travel.

But as the work on the time machine (affectionally dubbed “Saturn”) progresses, the relationship between Joshua and Patrick begins to unravel, until Joshua is forced to make a decision which will affect all of their futures…and their pasts.

Incidentally, the story is called Saturn in Retrograde

This isn’t the best query letter I’ve ever written, I’m afraid.  I find the last sentence both a bit cliche and awkward.  My synopsis was also far from perfect — I always write them too long.  But I was in a hurry, and I have a relationship with this publisher, so I’m hoping they’ll overlook those details and just read the story for what it is. 

Kids, do not try this at home!  Your query letters and synopses should always be as close to perfect as you can get them.  An editor who doesn’t know  you will chuck that baby right in the trash bin, if it isn’t up to snuff!  I can’t stress that enough. 

And don’t hit your little brother!

My God, I’m such a bad influence….

 

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How to Address a Samurai (Without Him Cutting You in Half) – Revisited

After finishing the first draft of a time-travel story I’ll be submitting to Dreamspinner early next week (after another draft or two — it seems one of my friends found my time-travel quantum mumbo-jumbo to be “all screwed up”), I’ve dusted off my tragic samurai love story from last winter and begun working on it again.

I thought I’d sorted out how I wanted the characters to behave, within their social ranks, but apparently not.  Looking at it with fresh eyes, I found numerous contraditions sprinkled throughout the story.  I also discovered that the characters were behaving rather like wooden fence posts in kimono.  There was so much formality in the character interractions, there wasn’t much room left for emotion or character development.

Fortunately, all was not lost.  The story is still good; the setting is still fascinating (to me); and the characters are interesting, if I can just get them to loosen up a bit.  One of the biggest problems was the Japanese words I’d sprinkled a bit too liberally throughout the text, especially hai (“yes”) and iie (“no”).  My decision to use these words had resulted in a very irritating rhythm in places, where they were simply repeated too often.  In English, a reader might not notice anything odd in the following passage:

     “You didn’t attempt to copy the artwork?” Senpachi asked.  The birds and flowers were conspicuously absent.
      Shinosuke flushed red again — something Senpachi was beginning to find endearing — and bowed lower.  “No, sensei,” he said, “I’m sorry.  I…they were beyond my ability with the brush.”
      “No matter.  Are you claiming to have memorized the poems, as well?”
      “Yes, lord!”
      “Well, let’s hear them, then.”

But when the Japanese for “yes” and “no” is substituted, it becomes a bit irritating:

     “You didn’t attempt to copy the artwork?” Senpachi asked.  The birds and flowers were conspicuously absent.
      Shinosuke flushed red again — something Senpachi was beginning to find endearing — and bowed lower. “Iie, sensei,” he said, “I’m sorry.  I…they were beyond my ability with the brush.”
      “No matter.  Are you claiming to have memorized the poems, as well?”
      “Hai, lord!”
      “Well, let’s hear them, then.”

Multiply this throughout the manuscript and it becomes damned irritating.   A simple word like “yes” shouldn’t draw so much attention to itself.  So I was faced with two choices:  1) Change all instances of hai and iie to “yes” and “no”, or 2) Leave them alone, but reduce their number.  For now, I’ve chosen the latter course.  For the most part, “yes” and “no” are seldom necessary.  Generally, they are implied by the context.  So the current draft of that passage now reads:

     “You didn’t attempt to copy the artwork?” Senpachi asked.  The birds and flowers were conspicuously absent.
      Shinosuke flushed red again — something Senpachi was beginning to find endearing — and bowed lower. “Sumimasen,” he said, “I…they were beyond my ability with the brush.”
      “No matter.  Are you claiming to have memorized the poems, as well?”
      “Hai, sensei!”
      “Well, let’s hear them, then.”

One might argue that replacing a small Japanese word like iie with sumimasen is cheating.  But since sumimasen means “I’m sorry,” it allows me to tighten the passage up a bit more, at the same time that I’m breaking up the haiiie rhythm.

There was also a lot of confusion in those early drafts about when to use first names and when to use last names.  So I’ve come up with the following rules that I’m trying to apply consistently throughout the text:

  • Shinosuke, the “boy” (he’s eighteen), is always “Shinosuke” to everybody, because of his youth.
  • Akanashi Senpachi, the samurai he falls in love with, is “Akanashi” (his family name) to everyone but himself.  This includes his friend, Toriyama, since men use each other’s family names when talking to each other, even if they are friends.  He’s also “Akanashi” in the prose, when the story is told from Shinosuke’s point of view.  About halfway through the story, however, he becomes “Senpachi” to Shinosuke in dialog and in the prose when the story is told from Shinosuke’s point of view, because lovers can use first names.  When the story is told from Senpachi’s point of view, he is always “Senpachi” in the prose.
  • Senpachi’s friend, Toriyama Kurobachi, is always “Toriyama“.
  • Servants are referred to by their first names, such as “Kaeda.”
  • The prefixes san (Mr. or Mrs.) and sama (“lord” or simply an acknowledgement of higher rank) are not used in the prose.  (My God, did that end up being cumbersome!)  In dialog, the two samurai (Senpachi and Toriyama) are referred to with the honorific sama by everybody, except each other.  When referring to one another, in the presence of others, they use -san; when alone, Senpachi calls his friend “Toriyama” and Toriyama calls him “Akanashi,” since they are close friends.
  • When the two samurai are addressed by something other than their names, they are called either sensei or samurai-sama.

Believe it or not, this is actually far less complicated than what I’d worked out earlier and it’s allowed me to go back and remove a number of confusing references.  There are still a lot of fuzzy points (Would the samurai refer to Shinosuke’s mother by her first name, because she’s a lowly seamstress, or as Daizaki-san, in honor of her late husband, who was a friend of theirs?), but already I can feel the prose perking up a bit.

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“Seiðman” Has Been Sold!

I received a very nice note about Seiðman earlier in the week, along with a contract to publish it under Dreamspinner’s new YA imprint, Two Steps Up!  The imprint has been announced through the ALA, but isn’t yet “online.”  However, I know that there are several books slated for release under the imprint, so I expect I’ll have more news on that fairly soon.

In the meantime, while I fret about the other novel I have floating around out there (By That Sin Fell the Angels), I’ve decided to write a story for submission to a time-travel anthology that will be coming out in June.  I finished the first draft of the story late last night, but there’s a problem:  it rolls in at a bit over 21k words, and the maximum word count for submissions to the anthology is 18k.

This is an unusual situation for me.  Unlike most other authors I read and talk to, I write lean.  I get the story down on the page and then have to go back and fill in descriptions and add detail to flesh it out.  Certainly, sentences can be tightened up: excessive adjectives and adverbs removed, run-on sentences shortened, all that sort of thing.  But eliminating over 3,000 words from a tightly plotted story will be a challenge.

I’m also anxious to move on to the Japanese samurai story I put aside last year.  I’ve reread the chapters I wrote and they have problems, mostly due to the emotional distance between the characters.  It’s difficult to portray two people falling in love when they’re separated by such an enormous class difference.  I’m also struggling with the social issues myself, attempting to portray the time period as realistically as possible.  One of the problems I have with modern authors who write about this time period is that they often have their characters doing things that, in reality, would probably get them executed or imprisoned.  That always yanks me out of the story.

But I’m certainly no expert on the subject.  I’m far less comfortable with this time period and culture than I am with Viking Age Iceland, so I keep making mistakes and there are a number of places in the chapters I’ve written where I don’t find the behavior of the characters to be convincing.  The overall result is, so far, an interesting story but with somewhat wooden characters.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a handle on that and produce something good out of it.  I’m still convinced that the core story, based upon a 16th-century samurai tale by Ihara Saikaku, is a great idea for a novel.

 

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