Youngblood Blog

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The Journey Out and In

Monthly IWSG Corner

SHASTA: CRITICAL MASS, soon to be released through All Things That Matter Press, a Maine publisher

I’ve always been one to push it: the over-achiever in me likes to be in control. But sometimes it just doesn’t work.

We all know when the Muse is directing operations, it’s better if we just go along with her, with the tide, and allow her full rein. It’s important to give her loads of room to stir up the subconscious, and then wait and see what little miracles she has planned for us.

At other times, when the outer world directs—like editors, publishers, book-signings; that whole exciting round of putting oneself out there—it sometimes takes us by storm and we need to follow that flow, too.

But our Muse doesn’t like it; does she? Even when we tell her she needs to rest occasionally. Like her human charges, all work and no play… you know.

I wish it were as easy as it sounds: deciding when to write, and when not to. But, especially in the writing-publishing world, it’s never that simple. We writers aren’t totally in charge.

To be honest, we probably never were. We may think—especially during edit-mania—that the left hemisphere of our brain is running the show. But, even then, the direction is more likely to be coming from the reading public, what our publisher expects, what the market wants; what subjects are current darlings of the book-club circuit.

So, because I have been working flat-out—over the last month, at least—to try to get through final edits on my apocalyptic/end-times New Age novel, SHASTA: CRITICAL MASS, forthcoming from lovely Maine publisher, All Things That Matter Press, I have to say upfront I have probably let down my blogging/authorly friends in Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. I know how good it feels to hear a word of encouragement from others in the same position—writers and bloggers and authors beginning to make a name for themselves out there—so I apologize if I haven’t had a chance to make the usual rounds of IWSG authors’ pages in the last few weeks. I promise I’ll try to make up for it, when the current push subsides.

Maine publisher of spiritual, self-help, authorly fiction and non-fiction for new ‘voices’

On the other hand, there may be quite a few IWSG-ers whose work is ideally suited to the ATTM ethos, so I’ll explain. They are a small press who like to introduce to the world of readers those authors who have a message—predominantly spiritual—to relay, a distinctive “self”, which they’d like to share. In these times where the ‘Big Five’ often have little patience with first-time authors or new discoveries, their approach is refreshing. Run by husband-and-wife team, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Phil and Deb Harris, the system operates smoothly, and the cogs are well-oiled and kept rolling by a team of editors, including the superb Marvin Wilson, himself a blogger and author of several books, including the Avatar-Award-winning novel, Owen Fiddler (2009). I couldn’t be in better hands.

For IWSG-ers, it may be of interest to point out that Marvin is also a mentor who delights in assisting writers, bloggers, other authors in the art of good writing.

That said, my Muse is feeling a little restless. She doesn’t like taking a back seat. Edits and reworked points-of-view (POV) are not what she thrives on. But I have told her that she, like me, should take a break from time to time. We all need to make the Journey Out and In. Besides, I’ve had a couple of chapter rewrites where she seemed delighted to pitch in again and throw her weight around!

And, if all goes well, she will be allowed to stretch her wings fully once more next month, when the annual NaNoWriMo marathon starts up again for all of us fledgelings to soar, unencumbered, to dizzy heights.

Until then, I hope she will a-Muse herself—sorry :(—and I have reminded her that we have even greater (Muse-ical) avatars who paced this path before us:

Gazing past the Planets
Looking for total view
I’ve been lying here for hours
Got to make the Journey Out and In

Thank you ©Moody Blues.
And thank you, Alex.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

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October 3, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, Muse, novel, publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Genre-Bender or just Plain Naïve?

INSECURE WRITERS CORNER

NaNo keeps one at it, leaving little room for impromptu extras

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you
~ Ray Bradbury

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog — and coincidentally involved with Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Group — that November is a heads-down month for writers, authors, part-time-bloggers and scribes of every description. This covers those aspiring authors who blog in the bath, motived teenagers desperate to show they can break away from their school curriculum, to seasoned veterans like the icon quoted above (which, after February’s launch of his second book, CassaFire, will include our host, Alex). Hope he doesn’t mind being called a veteran, but I’m sure he won’t mind being thrown in with Ray Bradbury, 90!

This means that I, newbie NaNo-er only three years in, will make this particular blog shorter than my usual efforts — more inkeeping with my prolific (and self-disciplined) blogging buddies who seem capable of blogging day and night seven days a week for 365 days at a stretch. My headscarf is doffed to them, but I am the first to admit I usually only write when the Muse directs and, under normal circumstances — unless I’m NaNo-ing — I tend to wait for her signal.

This is probably naïve of me. But I admit to being naïve. There’s no point in pretending — particularly when it comes to writing and allowing the word to flow through the mind, down the arms, via hands and fingertips on to the blank page.

I am first to admit I still find the process miraculous. Almost like subconsciously intending to bathe, and five minutes later finding oneself soaking deep in the luxurious warm waters, without any recollection of having undressed, lit candles, found towel, shampoo and soap and turned on the taps to fill the bath. But I digress.

The same goes for knowing how to describe what I write. Naïve. On Twitter — which, as you know, requires a brief description in fewer than 140 characters to describe oneself and one’s tweets — I say I write New Age fiction. But, as far as I know, that isn’t a genuine genre. This was brought succinctly home to me when preparing my new profile and studying the genres suggested in this year’s NaNo — which, as you probably know, has put together a whole new user-friendly novel-conducive webpage, just to get us all fired up to CREATE for the next 30 days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are supposed to know. And sometimes trial and error is not an option open to you. If you have been writing query letters for the last six years and you’ve been describing your work as Sci-Fi and somebody *in the know* says they like your ‘Fantasy’ work, you swallow hard and start all over — with the knowledge that you’ve probably wasted a lot of time that could have been salvaged if you’d done your homework. Problem is, however much homework you do, it is still difficult to know the difference between ‘magical realism’ and ‘paranormal romance’. Well, maybe some of you experienced authors do know the difference. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m naïve. And it takes time — and loads of errors — to get it right.

So what do you think?

The genres which NaNo lists as ‘standard’ in this year’s contest are:

Adventure, Chicklit, Erotic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror & Supernatural, Literary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Mystery Thriller & Suspense, Religious Spiritual & New Age, Romance, Satire Humor & Parody, Sci-Fi, Young Adult & Youth, and Other.

No Magical Realism, you’ll note.

When I first started out submitting queries, I was paralyzed by my inability to decide which genre my MS fit into. Being a Brit, it was, for me, even more daunting to read young American beginner writers (on Facebook and elsewhere) bandying about their knowledge of genres with fluent ease — as if I ought to KNOW. It has taken me a decade or two to calm down and use a couple of standards when querying.

Mt.Shasta's presence is awesome, even from a distance of 80miles, photo ©2008MCYoungblood

This quandary is purely self-inflicted, because I wrote historical non-fiction for years, before finding my voice in novels. Since the switch I have written not only historical romance, (Phantom’s Child, pictured below right) but also am blessed that my supernatural novella, Cockatrice is to be published early in 2012 by NetBound Publishing; and my New Age tome, SHASTA: Critical Mass, (sidebar-2, right, and pictured above) has been picked up by AllThingsthatMatterPress, also for publication in 2012. Two of my recent NaNo novels in the Green Turtle Cay series fall under the banner of fantasy, although they are borderline Sci-Fi.

So, you can see my dilemma. It might seem I have not yet honed myself — as any sensible person might — to fit one genre. It certainly makes for intrigue and change of pace. And it keeps me on my toes. But the question remains. How does one decide on one label, when so many strands and possibilities exist within a single manuscript which might make it more suitable under another?

In order to maintain my sanity — and because NaNo calls, which means I shall have to wind this up 🙂 — I blame the system that insists on labels. Bureaucracy in the microcosm. I may not like having to live with it, but live with it I must, if I wish to continue to write and be published.

Your opinions and personal experiences in this thorny field, dear Reader, are most welcome because, at this stage, I suspect I am not alone in this duel with the Publishing Powers-that-Be. Thanks for listening. And thank you, Alex, for allowing me another shot at these insecure blues…
©2011 Marian Youngblood

November 2, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments