Recent Reads: Strong Female Protagonist (Vols 1 & 2)

I got volume 2 of SFP for Christmas, which totally surprised me, even though months ago (perhaps longer) Ted had said to me, “SFP Kickstarter! Should I? It won’t be out until December!” and I said, “Oh, yes! It can be a nice Christmas present for me!” And it was! A very surprising one! :)

I re-read the first one leading up to v2, as it had been a while. One of the things I enjoy about sort of…early career comics? is watching the art style develop. (This is why I ended up reading Questionable Content, and why it makes me want to do SOME kind of little web comic of my own…) SFP’s art is still pretty rough at the end of v1, but it’s matured a *lot* by the end of v2, so that was kind of fun and exciting to watch.

To be frank, I liked the story of v1 better. V2, *especially* the first half, felt very didactic to me, and specifically didactic toward an audience that I presume is already predisposed to agree with its thesis. Very much a case of “the people who most need to read this probably won’t,” although, I don’t know, perhaps–hopefully–it is in fact reaching people for whom its thoughts are important and revelatory.

That said, halfway through v2 there’s a marked improvement. Honestly, v2 feels like v2 & v3, but left on its own the first half is *so* lecture-y I can’t imagine many people picking up a third volume voluntarily. They wisely avoided that problem by making it all one book, and the second half was quite enjoyable, especially the philosophical arguments chapter, which I enjoyed enormously both in content and in structure (I can’t remember which philosopher’s strategy they employed, but I recognized it as a philosophical structure and was ridiculously pleased with them).

Overall I…I appreciate what they’re trying to do. They’re taking the idea I played with in Take A Chance, which is: “what if superheroes were real, how would they deal with actually functioning in the real world?” and have pushed it much, much farther than I was interested in doing. They’re tackling a lot of big ideas and trying to push a narrative that tells us, simply, that we can be heroes. All of us. And I love that. I love what they’re aiming for, and so although I feel that they stumbled somewhat in implementation with volume 2, they’re offering an inspiring message that I believe strongly in. Ultimately, I look forward to more.

I had a day in which nothing went right. Nothing went catastrophically WRONG, exactly, it was just nothing went…*right*, and it was very frustrating.

I went to buy a couple new earrings for my stupid ears, because I keep losing the ball ends of the ones I’ve got (although more memorably I lost the actual earring recently, which, rrgh), and only somewhat after the fact did I discover I’d had a miscommunication with the dude and had accidentally gotten a much longer post than I wanted. I’d been trying to say I didn’t want a shorter one than was in my ear; he thought I was saying I didn’t want one as SHORT as the one in my ear, so I ended up with one that’s just…too long for my tastes, but it being a thing that goes into the body, I can’t return it. So that was just…frustrating.

I met up with my sister, who was having a rough day of her own and had forgotten the thing she was supposed to bring me. And also her phone. Which was just about more than she could handle, poor thing. On the plus side: I met up with my sister, whom I love, so that was one thing that went right.

Then I wibbled horribly and finally decided that I would go ahead and go out to IKEA to get the grow lamp lights I needed, even though going out to Ikea is something of A Commitment in terms of time, because on the bus the absolute fastest it can be done is about 45 minutes of travel time, nevermind the actual time in Ikea. So out I went, and I stood at the things I wanted for a long time being confused because, as it turned out, the tag on them had incorrect information. Eventually I figured it out and asked someone about it and they looked for the thing I couldn’t find and finally sighed and said the whole time they’d had this product in this season, they’d had either the growhouse or the lights but not both. So I ran (literally) for the bus, managed to JUST catch it, and got back into Dublin after a fruitless 90 minute sojourn.

By then I was pretty low and tired, and it was sleeting and blowing a cold wind and generally miserable. I went to the bookstore, there to discover I did not have any credit slips with me (I’d given what I thought was the penultimate, but proved to be the ultimate, one to Ted the day before), so then I spent a lot of time wibbling about whether I should buy the book I’d gone in to buy, and missed all hope of going to any of the movies I’d intended to unless I didn’t want to get home until much later, so I ended up buying not only the book I’d gone in for but also a Beauty and the Beast blank book because I like both those things and felt so sorry for myself I wanted something nice.:}

So then I finally gave up on everything and went home, where Ted heard all about my frustrating day and kindly asked if I’d like to go to a movie *here*, but as I told him, at that point I didn’t really think it would make me feel any better. But it was nice of him to ask. ♥

It was, overall, remarkably dispiriting. I kept thinking that I’d been seeing things on the internet that said Monday was, like, statistically the most miserable day of the year, and that I’d missed the boat.

I hope your day was better.

Okay, okay, it was two weeks until yesterday, but it’s close enough. Today’s day 15 (assuming I can count, which I couldn’t last week when I gave us two Day Eights…), and I’ve managed to write every day, which is pretty unusual for me.

I’ve done about…mmm. 7000 words, which isn’t really very many (particularly after last month’s, what, 65K+ and November’s …65K…?) but, you know, possibly the 120K in the past two months is taking its toll. Although really it’s more that I’ve…

So my projects this month were going to be proposals for trad pub projects. I started with one which is charming and delightful and would be lots of fun to write, and hauled myself through most of the synopsis before I had a Moment Of Clarity about what I’m trying to achieve, career-wise, in 2018. It amounts to Reinvention Of Self, and there are several irons in the fire in that regard.

Anyway, the project I’d gotten 80% of the way through synopsizing was a cute little CE Murphy style book, but a thing that happened, career-wise, after I wrote the last Walker Papers, was that both of my publishers at the time told me they wanted the Breakout Book from me.

As you might imagine, I also wanted the Breakout Book. I sent them many proposals. (Seriously. A lot.) They kept saying, “No, this isn’t what we’re looking for.” Eventually I said “okay, look, give me some guidelines.”

One of them, memorably, did so. They wanted me to write for their adult fiction line (as opposed to young adult, not, like, adult films). They wanted something without many science fiction or fantasy elements. They wanted something with “wide general appeal, like…Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games.”

I pointed out, with some frustration, that one could not reasonably ask me for non-fantasy/sf adult fiction with wide general appeal and simultaneously use *explicitly* SFF YA that gained wide general appeal through grass roots as an example. They, unfortunately, could not offer any greater clarification.

Shortly thereafter (and unrelatedly :)) my editor there got laid off, leaving me without much point of contact, and things have been heavily self-published-focused since, although I’ve been proposing things to agents and editors pretty regularly in the interim.

The point of all this is I’d been working on this charming proposal, and I realized: this is not a thing to reinvent myself with. It’s a CE Murphy book, which is fine, but it’s not something my old publishers would have bought. It’s not The Breakout Book.

So I thought, okay, if my goal here is really to reinvent myself, then I need to go big or go home. And there are two projects I have that fall under that category; one is an epic fantasy, and the other is…The Climate Change Series.

You know. The series I’ve been talking about for nigh unto a decade. The one I’ve taken stabs in the dark at, and backed away from. The one I’m…scared to write.

Here’s the truth, mes amis: I am not afraid of writing. I’ve never really understood people saying “this book scared me,” or talking about writing through the fear, or digging deep to, I don’t know, write with blood and marrow.

I mean, yes, in every book I write there’s a period of time where I think I’ve screwed it up and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written and I can’t actually write and I’m not doing the story justice and everybody will hate it. This, as far as I can tell, is entirely normal writer behaviour. But overall, writing doesn’t scare me. I’m confident of the storytelling choices I make (even when they cause readers to throw a book across the room, as memorably happened with one reader at the end of COYOTE DREAMS. Later, she said, she got EVEN MADDER…because she realized I’d been right with how I told the story, EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T WHAT SHE WANTED. Deeply offensive behaviour, that! :)). At the end of a book, I feel I’ve done it justice. I’ve done the best I could, I’ve gotten it onto the page as well as I can, I’ve conveyed what I wanted to convey.

I am not *afraid* of writing. I really barely even understand what it means to be afraid of writing.

I am *terrified* of writing the climate change books.

(Michelle Sagara, who (correctly) thinks I’m generally weirdly confident for a writer, cheerfully told me that my nerves about the climate change books is the most normal writer-behaviour she’s ever seen from me. I’m like BUT THIS IS AWFUL, HOW DO YOU EVEN DEAL WITH IT?!?!?!?!?! She did not have a helpful answer. :))

So I’ve concluded that if I want to go big, I need to…face this thing. Do the climate change books. Even if they terrify me, which they do. (I’m afraid of dropping the ball. I’m afraid of failing my…vision? of hope and change. I’m…I’m just afraid, and that’s…I have no tools to deal with that!) I have…I have a lot of notes and some story excerpts and some…ideas. What I need to do is spend more time than usual wrangling them into plot and story arc and, probably at least as importantly, decide where my limits are, because part of the problem is that climate change is huge, and I’ve come to realize recently that I know a great deal more about it than your average joe, and the weight of that knowledge is part of what’s stymying me: it’s hard to narrow down my focus when I’m too aware of the scope. Which is overwhelming, and cannot, realistically, be tackled in one series.

Which all means that instead of throwing myself headlong into a bunch of smaller proposals for the month/100 Days Of Writing, I’ve had to completely recalibrate my goals. I did finish the charming little proposal, because I’d put enough work in that finishing it was only another few hours’ worth of effort, but it’s now sidelined. I started writing another short story for KISS OF ANGELS, the Patreon-first Old Races short story collection, which is nearly done and if I finish 2-3 more stories this month I can get it out to the world pretty soon. I’m going to be writing a new book in February/March (either the next Heartstrike book or the next Austen Chronicle, I haven’t decided yet), for self-publishing purposes, and I’m going to be working on the climate change series in the background for the first quarter of the year. Or longer, if it takes longer.

…anyway, so that’s why I’ve done about 7000 words this month instead of 30K or something. O.O :)

Marvel Movie Marathon: Iron Man: omg I had somehow managed to forget the sheer level of asshole Tony was in the first part of Iron Man.

Back in 2006 or whatever when Marvel said they were floating an Iron Man movie, I, an X-Men fan who never cared much about the Avengers, was like “why would anybody make a movie about a 2nd tier character like Iron Man that nobody cares about anyway.” Ted, who is much more of an Avengers fan, objected strenuously to “2nd tier” and argued in favor of an Iron Man movie, but I was completely meh on the matter.

Then, of course, they cast RDJ, and I was like “…okay, I mean, RDJ basically *is* Tony Stark, and he’s a great actor anyway, so if they have a decent script it doesn’t matter whether I think Iron Man is 2nd tier or not, this will work. IF they have a decent script.”

And then of course they had a decent script and it was, in fact, a pretty brilliant movie.

It’s 10 years later, and Iron Man is still a pretty brilliant movie.

Oh, the CGI seams are showing more than they used to. Whether that’s their fault, per se, or if it’s the quality of our TV screen*, they’re definitely showing more. There were places I saw them that I’d never noticed them before. But still: it’s a damn good movie. The story is slick, RDJ is, I mean, come on, he’s RDJ, Jeff Bridges is…

…you want to know the embarrassing truth? I was completely floored the first time I saw the movie and Stane shows up in the desert to double-cross Faran Tahir’s character. I was immediately embarrassed because OF COURSE Stane was the bad guy, but even him locking Tony out of the company hadn’t actually tipped me off, I just saw it as…I mean, yeah, there was rivalry there, like, power plays within the company, but I just DID NOT SEE him being the ACTUAL BAD GUY coming. Which is mortifying. And very funny. :) And, I don’t know, it’s because it was Jeff Bridges! He was The Dude! He didn’t play BAD GUYS! (He does now, and maybe he even did then, but my experience with his movies was he was a good guy, and I just Did Not See It Coming! EVEN THOUGH HE WAS BALD! :))

I always feel a little conflicted about Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts, although I like a lot of what she does in this. She’s just so rigid, which she’s supposed to be, but often that kind of rigidity makes me feel like the person in the role can’t act. I think Paltrow *can* act, but the role doesn’t showcase it well. OTOH, this is one of those kind of unsung hero roles on every level, including the fact that at least three separate times Potts either literally, in-the-moment, saves the day, or has arranged for the day to be saved ahead of time.

Those appalling 4″ heels, though. God.

Anyway, I think the story beats are as effective as ever (especially, always, heartbreakingly, the Yinsen storyline), and the “I am Iron Man” bit at the end where every other reporter except Christine Everheart leaps to their feet and she’s just sitting there like “yeah, no shit, you arrogant self-centered little man,” kills me every time. *laughs*

I’m looking forward to watching IM2 next, as we’ll probably skip the only-tangentally-related Incredible Hulk…

*A thing I’ve noticed is that HDTVs, even comparatively low quality ones like ours, do CGI absolutely no favors. It’ll be interesting to see the newest Marvel movies on this TV, because stuff filmed for HDTV, like Star Trek: Discovery, seem to be doing pretty well, but it’s felt to me like movies are still filming for the big screen and its softer focus without also taking HD into consideration.

One of my big projects for 2018 is Revamping My Patreon, which has now largely been accomplished. First off, of course, I’ve been running a Patreon a while now, and you’ll find short stories, book proposals, even whole novel drafts here, immediately available when you become a patron.

But I’m offering lots of new fun stuff this year! I’ll be writing individual pieces of flash fiction, ranging from up to 250 words all the way to stories of 10K in length on commission, so you get what you ask for! I’m looking forward to that. :)

Another goal–in fact, the first couple blogs have been posted for these–is to have a lot more patron-first blogs before they go out to my regular blog, and I’m doing a live-blogging-the-writing series that will probably remain Patreon-only.

I’ll also be wrapping up the second Old Races Short Story Project, which is a collection of stories set post-Negotiator-Trilogy, and which will set the Old Races universe up for potential book-length sequels, which I may or may not ever actually write. :) Subscribing to the Patreon gets you early access to those stories, credit in the acknowledgements, and a complete e-book once the project is done.

The Patreon, right now, is almost halfway to an early release of a CE Murphy novel, which is one of my long-term goals for it–I have great hopes of being able to release one or even TWO novels early to the Patreon crew, and even possibly writing a couple of bonus novellas a year. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on there, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all! ♥