I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

Free-For-All Friday:  I AM a “Real” Writer and They Just Don’t Get It

(CC) David Turnbull

There’s been some discussion on Twitter and various blogs (as there always is this time of year) about whether NaNoWriMo is really for “real” writers, or if it’s just for non-writers who want to FEEL like “real” writers for a month.  Now, I have NO DOUBT that many of the people who participate in NaNo never write a single word of fiction (except for that email to the boss about being sick) at any other time the whole rest of the year.  However, a) that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with them wanting to try on the “writer” hat during a month when there is lots of enthusiasm and support for the endeavor; and b) plenty of “real” writers who write ALL THE BLOODY TIME also participate in NaNo.

Case in point, I consider myself a “real” writer (whatever the hell that actually means).  No, I’m not published.  No, I don’t have an agent.  And no, I don’t write all that often during the semester (I should say I don’t write FICTION often during the semester, but I’m writing non-fiction up the wazoo).  But I DO write at every given opportunity, I scrape out every spare moment I can, I write in the middle of class sometimes, and I forego sleep some nights because that’s the only time I can find.  And when I took the year off last year, I wrote pretty much NON-STOP.  And did FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY finish a whole first draft (and very long one at that) of a novel.  So, I consider myself a “real” writer, and I think I have right to.

And I LOVE NaNoWriMo.

I love it for a lot of reasons.  I love it because it is the sort of masochistic fun I tend to get myself into.  I love because of all the enthusiasm and support.  I love it because of all the crazy, eccentric, fun, would-be/hopeful writers who crawl out of the wood-work disguised as housewives and teachers and highschoolers and businessmen and firefighters, etc, etc, etc.

But here’s the one thing I think I love MOST about NaNoWriMo: For one month, I can tell my family I’m writing, and they back off.  For some reason, the tangible goal of writing 50,000 in one month is real enough and presumably daunting enough that they realize my time/energy/concentrate are precious, and they don’t bother me with incessant questions, or requests to “just spend some time with family,” or tirades about not doing the dishes in two days.  They leave me alone, and let me write.

Here’s the problem though: They just don’t get that this is how we writers think ALL THE TIME.  In November, when tell someone you’re writing, they don’t respond: “but you wrote YESTERDAY!”  They understand: “But I only have x days left to write x words!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”  BUT, any other time of the year, if I say I’m writing, so I don’t have time right now, the retort is: “but you write everyday!” or “you were writing yesterday, can’t you take a couple days off?” or (my favorite) “some things [insert: spending time with family, doing housework, mowing the lawn, etc] are more important than your little hobby.”

They just don’t understand that we’re thinking: “But I only have the rest of my life to write every insane word crowded around and screaming in my brain! And that’s a whole helluva lot of words, dammit!  I’m on a deadline and I just don’t have time for anything else right now!”

Now, I’m not saying I do (or want to) ignore every other aspect of my life.  I still do housework, I still clean the dishes, and do laundry, and go grocery shopping, and do my homework, and watch a little tv, and go to family dinners, and all that other stuff.  But if the dishes wait a couple days while I get a huge chunk of inspired prose out of my screaming brain, then so be it.  And if some Sundays I’d rather sit in my office and write instead of sitting in my grandmother’s living room while all my uncles watch football and I try to look entertained, then so be it.  And my family just doesn’t get it.

As long as it’s November, and I have a clear start and end date, with clear guidelines and an attainable goal in mind, well then: that’s a pretty cool achievement.  But if I’m just writing, every day, any time I can find a few spare moments, when I should be doing homework, when I should be sleeping…  Well, then, it’s like my brother playing video games all the damn time: it’s a fine enough hobby in moderation, but it shouldn’t take over your life, and never supersedes your other duties, activities, etc.

Perhaps if/when I’ve published something, and can definitively say: look, this is a career choice, not just a hobby!  I AM A REAL WRITER.

Maybe then they’ll get it.

But then again, maybe not.

My Two-Cents on World-Building

Free-For-All Friday: My Two-Cents on World-Building

Hello everyone! It’s Nov 4th, which means all us NaNoWriMo nuts are now knee-deep into the writing frenzy.  Some people are already pulling ahead with word counts in the 10-15,000 range.  I, however, spent Tuesday (the first day of NaNo) frantically trying to grade papers and finish homework, that I am already behind.  By last night, to stay on pace, I should have had 5,000 words, but I went to bed having written only 4,000 (and that, just barely).  Still, I have hopes that I will be able to catch up a little over the weekend.  We shall see…

Speaking of NaNo though, I wanted to share a little of my world-building with you because I think world-building is one of the most important and most enjoyable aspects of writing fiction especially in fantasy and certain areas of science fiction when you are quite literally creating entire new worlds for your characters to inhabit.

I am not by any means an expert on world-building, of course.  If you want expert advice, I highly recommend Orson Scott Card’s How to Write to Science Fiction and Fantasy and World-Building by Stephen Gillet.  But, of course, I have plenty of opinions on the matter.  Detailed, thoughtful world-building can make the difference between a fantasy novel that is mildly interesting and/or cliché, and one that is unique, immersive, and exciting.  That is not to say that my worlds ARE all that unique, immersive, or exciting yet, but I’m working on it.

I could go on about physical world-building: continents, climates, and so forth, but for now, I’m just talking about creating a society/culture.  To that end, there are some very important elements that should be involved.  Some of these are obvious: government, cultural norms (are your people militaristic, artistic, pacifist, do they love to dance, are they vegetarians, etc), physical characteristics (if they differ from humans), and sometimes religion.  These are obviously important.  But there are others that are sometimes forgotten such as: economic systems, interactions with other societies, architecture (this one’s huge, folks!), and gender roles (even more huge, folks!).

Admittedly, this is all just my own two cents, so take it for what it’s worth.  Which probably isn’t much.  *shrug*

Just to give you an idea of how I go about world-building, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve come up with for my NaNoWriMo story.  I haven’t yet put it into any kind of systematic format.  I usually just write down everything I can think of about the society and worry about systematizing and filling in details later.  And keep in mind that this is still pretty early in the development stage, but in any case, might be interesting.  So, here is what I have on the Bheidien, which are the “mermaid” people in my twisted weird retelling of The Little Mermaid.

The Bheidien (which translates as “People of the Sea”):

The Bheidien are a race of people who, several millennia ago, chose to leave land and adapt themselves to living in the ocean.  They are part humanoid and part fish in appearance, with a variety of different styles and colors of tail, fin, and scale.  They are not actually related to fish at all; their ancestors merely used magic to mimicked fish as the adapted to the sea and evolved.

The royal family have traditional passed on a number of physical traits that follow two general family lines: one side have a more delicate feathered and colorful tail and fin (like a male Siamese fighting fish), and one side tends like look somewhat shark-like in shape and color.

All Bheidien have human heads, necks, shoulders, and arms, with scales beginning somewhere around the chest or torso and getting gradually thicker further down the tail.  They have two pairs of eyelids — one a normal “human” pair, and the other a clear pair that close in water and open in air.  They also have gill-slashes on either side of the neck for breathing, and feathered, fin-like extensions at the tips of their ears.

They can speak in water by use of long, thick vocal cords that are adapted to water, but because of the changes of sound in water, their language is slow, filled with high and low pitches, clicks, etc, and musical in quality — but still with actual words, and a vocabulary and grammar that is closely related to the parent language of the Cuval.

No, they can’t speak with fish.  (Just because humans live on land with animals doesn’t mean they can necessarily talk with them, right?)  Yes, they do sometimes eat fish. (Just because humans live on land with animals doesn’t mean they don’t eat them sometimes, right?)

The Bheidien have a fairly simple culture that relies heavily on tradition.  There are three separate kingdoms that do not have much contact with each other (being rather spread out in a very large ocean), but they are all fairly similar in basic structure: a city-state kingdom, with a magical “wall” that protects the kingdom from storms, hard currents, and more aggressive creatures like sharks; ruled by a monarchy, with a small but powerful nobility (of approximately 4 or 5 families depending on the kingdom); and a citizenry that is not much involved in politics or power, but is stable.

The Bheidien are powerful magical practitioners, though their kind of magic is somewhat different from the Cuval, and relies almost entirely on the spoken word and song.  They treasure singing.  They love beauty in all things.  They create intricate and beautiful architecture, using coral, other materials, and magic, without having to worry as much as humans do about structural integrity or weight (because of the constant presence of water).  They do not wear clothes, but love jewelry and decoration of all kinds.

The internal economic system is not based on money but on trade.  Goods are provided to the palace and royal family by way of taxes.  The small nobility class earns most of its goods in exchange for providing land and security to the citizenry.  The citizenry does most of the work of hunting (fishing?) and gathering other foodstuff, crafting and trading in other goods, and doing physical labor activities.  The Bheidien kingdoms occasionally trade with each other, and once or twice a year meet to trade with the Cuval (who come out in boats, or find piers, etc).

Revealing the existence of the Bheidien to humans is the worst crime one can commit.  However, the Bheidien still believe that all life of any kind should be respected, so despite their fear of humans, he does not in any way, shape, or form, condone the harm or killing of humans.  While Bheidien society allows for an eldest daughter to take the throne or inherit wealth, many other aspects of Bheidien culture are still patriarchal, so that all the younger daughters have little personal or political power.  Some can claim positions of power by becoming advisors and councillors, but most are only “useful” to the family and the kingdom if they can be married off well.  Men (yes, the Bheidien have a different word, but I’m not going to go into details about the language here, so consider this as “translated”), so: men are still mainly responsibility for the safety of the city, as well as most physical labor and leadership positions.  Women are still considered mainly home-makers, though many are also artists, architects, singers, and magical practitioners, etc.

So, what kinds of world-building do you enjoy doing?  What are the most important elements for you?  Who do you look to for advice/modeling on how it should be done?

Outline as Road Map in Planning for NaNoWriMo

Free-For-All Friday: Outline as Road Map in Planning for NaNoWriMo

Hello everyone! As many know, NaNoWriMo starts on Tuesday, Nov 1st, and many of us writerly types are frantically preparing summaries and character sketches and outlines and so forth as we await the NaNo kick-off at midnight.

A couple weeks ago, I thought I was doing well on keeping up with my schoolwork and would have plenty of time to prepare for and do NaNoWriMo.  And then early last week, the semester blew up in my face and things have been pretty crazy around here ever since.  I have not, therefore, had much time to think about my NaNo story, let alone do any of the usual detailed planning I usually do.  But I’m hoping I’ll still be able to pull off NaNo with some effort, little sleep, and lots and lots of coffee.  *crosses fingers* So last night, I finally decided on a title (which may change later, but maybe not), and a wrote a summary/blurb thing.  I also have a fairly decent handle on the main characters.  But where I usually have a pretty detailed plot outline by now, I have only the bare bones of the major plot points.  I’m going to be doing a lot more pantsing this month than I usually do.

That’s not to say I ever follow my outlines all that closely anyway.  But they are useful for direction.  I think of them as a detailed itinerary and road map for a long road trip, that gives me very clear instructions of where to go and when.  BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t get sidetracked or take alternate routes when I see some interesting or useful sign on the road.  Sometimes when I get sidetracked I can improvise my way back to the main road, and continue on with my itinerary with just that small addition.  Sometimes I get so far off the beaten path I have to simply make up a new route altogether and revise my itinerary accordingly.  But I still like to have the initial road map to begin with.  At least then I know where all the major landmarks, highways, and rest-stops are.  So to speak…  Otherwise, I might end up forgetting what state I’m in, let alone where I was headed.

I think it’s completely possible to have this kind of initial plan and still be a pantser at heart.  Because even with the map, you still never know what you might run into or where you might end up there might be a roadblock, construction, a sign pointing to really interesting scenic route or tourist trap you just can’t resist, and so on and then you have to improvise and quick-step your way back to your main plot/goal (and maybe you even change your mind and decide you’re not going to Los Angeles, you’re going to Las Vegas instead).  I highly recommend at least a basic list of important landmarks and highway exits to get you started.

But that’s just my two-cents.  *shrugs*

In any case, this time around, I don’t have the whole map and itinerary to work with.  I just have 5 or 6 of the major landmarks I have to reach with no clear idea how exactly to get to them.  It ought to be interesting…

If anyone wants to add me to your Writing Buddies list (once they get that up and running on the site), I go by “YummieYami” there (don’t ask, long story).  Also, for anyone who might be curious, here’s the summary I’ve come up with for my story, which is a weird, twisted retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid (set in an epic fantasy world I’ve created for a series of books):

Seaspell

When Jemirai, third daughter of King Uzon’yr of the Bheidien the People of the Sea risks not only exposure to humans, but human lives as well, Uzon’yr fears little can be done to make his angry, callous, rebellious daughter change.  And then he comes to a decision: he will turn Jemirai into a human and send her to live among them in hope she will learn patience and compassion.  To prevent her from using some magic to reverse his decision, Uzon’yr takes her voice as well.  And then he sends her to the sea-side principality of Emen, where the advisor of the heir-apparent, Prince Garan, was once Bheida himself, before becoming human for the love of a woman.

Prince Garan, at his advisor’s behest, takes the mute, cast-away princess under his care, despite his preoccupation with the illness of his father and his unwillingness to assume the throne.  Unknown to him, his cousin Duke Akthon has plans for the throne himself, believing Garan too soft-hearted to be an effective ruler.

Jemirai, meanwhile, resists her new life as a human, and is desperate to return to the sea.  Then an ancient sea-demon called Wave-Waker appears to offer her a wager: if Jemirai makes Garan fall in love with her within three months and kill him on their wedding night, Wave-Waker will return her to the sea; if she fails, Wave-Waker will devour Jemirai’s soul.

Jemirai accepts.  But that’s just the beginning.

So, who else is doing NaNo?  What’s your project about?  Do you do a lot of planning for it, or do you just go at it and see where you end up?

NaNoWriMo, The Truly Masochistic Endeavor

Free-For-All Friday:  NaNoWriMo, The Truly Masochistic Endeavor

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  We are 17 days away from the beginning of NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month, when a few hundred thousand people crawl out of the woodwork to participate in a month-long, high-intensity challenge to write a 50,000 word novel.  All sorts of people participate: students, housewives, full-time writers, published and hope-to-be-published-soon writers, people working two jobs…  It is always amazing to me how many people who have very little free-time still make the commitment necessary to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which comes out to approximately 1,666 words per day.

Last year I participated for the first time.  I had thought about it before, but I was in grad school and crazy-busy and it just didn’t seem possible.  But last year, having taken the year off from school before starting my PhD, I had plenty of free time to just write, so I did.  And I completely the NaNoWriMo challenge with approximately 70,000 words though I didn’t actually finish the whole novel until this past June (with 165,000 words).

It was an absolutely exhilarating experience.  I had a few friends who were also participating and we encouraged each other on Facebook and over messaging.  I also went to a few local write-ins and met some of the other participants in the Houston area, which was a lot of fun.  And it led me to starting and finishing an entire first draft of a novel for the first time ever.  Which was AWESOME.

This year, I’ve been very unsure about doing NaNoWriMo again.  I have started my PhD, and as some of you know, I’ve been very busy.  I’ve had difficulty keeping up with the blog, let alone any other writing.  And since finals week starts Dec 7th, which means that the month of November is when the scramble to survive the end of the semester kicks in.

And yet… I’ve got a fun idea for a strange retelling of the Little Mermaid story that would be an absolute BLAST to write for NaNoWriMo.  So, in a show of true masochist stubbornness (which I am fairly famous for among my friends), I have decided that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.  It will be interesting to see if I can actually reach 50,000 words in the midst of everything else.  I might just end up in a padded room instead.

‘Cause let’s face it: we’re all masochists at heart, right?  We know we’re not going to get any sleep, we’re going to get carpal tunnel, and live on coffee (as if we don’t already), and our families are going to alternate between being supportive and being downright irritated, and we’re going to frazzled and stressed out and lose what little sanity we have left.  NaNoWriMo is a truly masochist endeavor.  And we all love it.  Because we’re masochists.  And that’s what we do.

One of the things I think it is vitally important that people remember about NaNoWriMo is that this project should be considered a first draft.  Or even a zero draft as I and many other writers call it.  NaNo advocates just sitting down, shutting up, and writing.  You don’t worry about quality, you don’t back-track to change things or edit, you don’t pretty it up.  You WRITE.  Every day.  Period.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach as long as you don’t think this is the final project.  There is not a single person who has ever written a NaNo project novel in 30 days and immediately sent out to an agent or editor, and actually had it published.  The idea is RIDICULOUS.  This is your zero draft: your “I’m going to get all my ideas down on paper without worrying or second-guessing or revising or editing or anything right now, because I know I’m going to have go back later and work on structure, and probably change/rewrite half of it, take things out, add things in, fix details, develop the characters more, etc” draft.

On that subject and others, here are few posts that have some great tips and information about preparing for and doing NaNoWriMo:

NaNoWriMo Cometh by Suzan Isik

The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Checklist by Suzan Isik

25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo by Chuck Wendig of Terrible Minds

NaNoWriMo 2011 by Ashley Prince of Byron’s Curse

The Whole “Nail Your NaNoWriMo” Series at by Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com

So! Who’s doing NaNo this year?  Have you done it before, or is this your first time?  If you’ve done it before, how were your previous experiences?  If you’ve never done it before, what made you decide to try it now, and what do you hope to get out of the experience?  It’s time to sound off, folks!

My LGBT YA Bookshelf

Bookworm Wednesday: My LGBT YA Bookshelf

Update: Please note that the agents discussed in the article by Brown and Smith have offered a rebuttal.  I have included the link to a Publishers Weekly post which contains both the rebuttal and a counter-rebuttal from the authors.  Please keep in mind that while there may be some question as to the validity of the authors specific claims, the overall discrimination issue remains entirely real.

On Monday a blog posted by Publishers Weekly began making the rounds on social media sites, especially Twitter.  The article, written by YA authors Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith and titled “Say Yes to Gay YA,” told a sobering story about how these two well-known authors attempted to find an agent for a post-apocalyptic YA novel they wrote together.  However, none of the agents they contacted were interested, though several said they would be if changes were made, and one agent stated point-blank that he would be interested only if the authors removed a gay pov character, or made him straight.

It is implied that this is a marketing concern rather than a personal problem with homosexuality (though one can never be sure).  The generally consensus seems to be that YA scifi/fantasy novels (or another kind of YA novel, no doubt) with gay characters (or other minorities ethnic, religious, disabled, etc) simply cannot sell books.  The authors refused to make their gay character straight or remove him, and have yet to find an agent for their novel.  But this is not the end of the story.

The authors are asking for everyone to get involved in changing this trend that implies that LGBT and minority characters in YA, and by extension LGBT and minority young adults, are at best not interesting enough to sell books, and at worst a social evil that is (and should be) subject to erasure.  Readers, writers, editors, and agents all need to bring this problem to the public’s attention.  And they need to show other agents, editors, and publishers that having a gay or minority character in a YA novel (scifi/fantasy or otherwise) will not prevent people from buying/reading it.  That, in fact, many readers specifically want more YA fiction featuring LGBT and other minority characters.  We went YA fiction that truthfully and fairly represents the lives of all young adults.  Not just white, heterosexual, middle-class, Christian Americans.

In one small effort to do my part, I am taking a moment here to mention a few of the YA novels I have read personally that featured gay or lesbian main characters.  I tend to read more adult scifi/fantasy featuring LGBT characters, so I don’t have a lot of YA titles to share.  Of course, part of the reason for that is that there simply isn’t much choice in YA fiction.  I’ve also noticed that while gay YA lit remains an overall minority, within that grouping it is far more common to find YA titles with male gay characters than it is to find novels about bi or lesbian young adult girls.  However, the few titles that I own all have female main characters, with one exception, simply because I’m a girl, so that’s what I tend to gravitate toward.  Also, only one of these is a YA scifi/fantasy.  The others are more mainstream coming-of-age.  Again, more because that’s what’s available than out of any particular intention on my part.

My LGBT YA Bookshelf:

Annie On My Mind (1982) by Nancy Garden: This was the first lesbian novel I ever read.  I bought it for a friend of mine when she’d told me she was bisexual our Freshman year of high school, and then read it myself as well.  It is a classic about two teenage girls who fall in love and have to learn how to live their lives when no one around them can understand except for two teachers who happen to know exactly how they feel.  Eventually, the  girls’ secret is revealed to their parents and the rest of the school and the fall-out is enormous.  It is a touching and believable story that all questioning girls should read.

Please Don’t Kill the Freshman(2003) by Zoe Trope:  This book actually began as a chapbook memoir written by a girl under the pseudonym Zoe Trope.  All the characters have names based on a characteristic like “Linux Shoe” and “Plum Sweater,” but all of these characters are painfully, shockingly real.  This diary-esque memoir follows tortured, sharp-tongued Zoe through high school as she deals with the growing apathy of the world, her disdain for everything around her, and the her complicated transgendered relationship with her first girlfriend who becomes her first boyfriend.  This book is profanity-laced, stream-of-consciousness in style, gut-wrenchingly raw, and painfully familiar to anyone who want through high school in the late 90s-early 2000s.

Empress of the World (2001) by Sara Ryan:  This is the story of Nicola Lancaster who goes to a Summer Program for Gifted Youth, a camp filled with intelligent, artistic, and intense highschoolers all living like college students for 8 weeks.  Nicola has never really had friends, and she’s never been in a relationship.  Then she meets Battle Davies, a beautiful, passionate girl who claims Nicola’s heart despite the fact that Nicola always thought she liked boys.  This one is short, smart, and intense, with a bittersweet ending that leaves you wanting more.

The Rules for Hearts(2007) by Sara Ryan: Thankfully, where Empress of the World leave you wanting, Rules for Hearts at least begins to answer.  This one follows Battle in her first year of college, when she moves in with her older brother in his Bohemian apartment building filled with strange characters who all work at a local theatre, including Meryl.  But while much of the focus of this book is obviously on the complicated intertwined relationships of the theatre crew, and how Battle gets swept up into it with Meryl, it also deals heavily with Battle’s relationship with her brother, who had run away without a word years before.

Keeping You A Secret (2003) by Julie Anne Peters: This one is another classic.  Julie Anne Peters has written a number of YA novels with LGBT themes, including one called Luna, about a transgendered boy and one called Between Mom and Jo, which is about a teenage boy raised by his lesbian mothers (neither of which I’ve read yet).  Keeping You A Secret is one of my favorites because it deals with a high school girl with the perfect boyfriend, who suddenly finds herself absolutely fascinated with the new girl: who happens to be an out lesbian.  The romance of this one moves quickly but believably, and the real tension and some terrifying moments (for me at least) come when she has to face her mother.

Far From Xanadu (2005) by Julie Anne Peters: Another one by Julie Anne Peters, this one is about a girl who goes by “Mike” and lives in a small Midwest farming town.  She is the classic tomboy: dressed like a boy, prefers sports and working as a farmhand, and lifts weights.  Her life is already complicated by her father’s suicide and the competition she’s put herself in against her older brother.  Things get even more complicated when she falls in love with the new girl, Xanadu: gorgeous, exotic, rebellious, contrary… and straight.  I think I like this one because it doesn’t have an exactly happy ending.  (Julie Anne Peters newest book, Rage: A Love Story, came out in 2009.  I haven’t read it yet, but I just bought it, so you might be hearing about that one eventually.)

Hero (2007) by Perry Moore:  Last, but not least, my only LGBT YA novel about a gay male, and my only one that is also a scifi/fantasy. Hero is about Thom, son of Hal Creed, who was the greatest of all superheroes until a horrible event left him disfigured and disgraced.  This event also led to the disappearance of Thom’s mother.  Hal wants to keep his son out of the superhero game.  But Thom’s father doesn’t know two things about his son: one, he has special healing abilities; and two, he’s starting realize he may be gay.  Thom isn’t sure which fact is going to disappoint his father more, and he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure he never has to find out.  I love this one because I love it when authors try to find ways to make superheroes fit into the framework of a more realistic worldview.

So, there’s my LGBT YA bookshelf.

If you’d like to share any you’ve read, I’d love to hear about them.  I’m always in need of my book suggestions!  If you’ve written one, that’s even better!  If you have questions about any of these, I’m more than happy to elaborate as well.  Please feel free to chime in!

Also, again, make sure you read the original article written by Rachel Brown and Sherwood Smith.  You can find it: here.

And for another reaction to the “Say Yes to Gay YA” article, please read Kait Nolan’s “Don’t Kill Diversity.”

For a rebuttal from the agents discussed in the Brown and Smith article please go here.  It is important to look at all sides of this issue.

The Beginning, Middle, and End Blogfest

On her blog, Annalise Green decided to enter the Beginning, Middle, and End Blogfest hosted by Kate Larkindale, for which you post the first, middle, and last paragraphs of your WIP.  I’ve never heard of such a thing, but it sounded like so much fun I decided I had to do it too!

As some followers know, my current WIP is an urban fantasy called Midnight’s Knife, which is about a woman who works as a demon hunter for the Catholic Church.

So, First Paragraph:

Gabrielle was bored, and bored was not a safe place to be with Gabrielle.  It led to… messes.  “Pearce, I’m bored,” she whined.  Pearce looked up from his newspaper to give her a long-suffering look, a look that said clearly ‘oh lord, no.’  When Gabrielle made a mess Pearce was invariably the one stuck cleaning it up.

Middle Paragraph (or as close to it as I can figure):

“Care to tell me what the hell this is about?  ‘Cause I’ve got a manicure appointment in an hour,” Gabrielle jeered.  She sat at the wide wood table of an interrogation room, Detective Edwards seated opposite her with a triumphant expression on her face.  Gabrielle leaned back against the lightweight aluminum chair and crossed her arms over her chest.  Fury bubbled just beneath the surface of what she hoped was a calm-and-in-control exterior.  At this point she couldn’t be certain how believable her unconcerned expression was; Detective Edwards would have thought she was the devil even if she had wings and a halo floating over her head.

Last Paragraph:

Behind them, the demon stayed in the shadows, watching but not moving.  One last time, Gabrielle turned, her gray eyes piercing the veil of darkness and pinning him with her gaze.  Run, her hard gaze told him, run and hide, because I’ll be back on duty soon enough.  And the demon backed away, turned, and ran.

*

Yeah… this is a very LONG WIP.  I finished the first draft with 30 chapters and 165,755 words.  Which means you aren’t getting MUCH from these snippets.  However, I also posted one long scene from the first chapter a few months ago: here, that might give you an idea of the overall atmosphere of the novel.

Please tell me what you think! I’d love to hear any and all comments, critiques, whatever.  Obviously, it needs a lot of work, and I’m TRYING to find time to work on revisions in between classes.  But so far that hasn’t worked out too well.

In any case, hope you enjoyed this impromptu addition to my usual blogging schedule.  See you tomorrow for Free-For-All Friday!

The Versatile Blogger Award

EDIT: Due to the fact that wordpress had disappeared all the blogs I follow, I had difficulty thinking of blogs I should include.  Since publishing this post this afternoon, I have thought of one more blog that absolutely MUST be added to my list of nominations.  Even if you’ve already read this post, please scroll down to the bottom to take a look.  Thank you.

In lieu of my usual Bookworm Wednesday post, I have some more news.  My blog was very kindly nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Ashley Prince of the blog Byron’s Curse!  Thank you so much, Ashley!  I really appreciate it.

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

So here goes: Seven Random Things About Amanda Rudd:

1)     I love to watch cartoons.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jane and the Dragon, and Phineas and Ferb are a few of my favorites.  As well as all the old 90s cartoons like Doug, Darkwing Duck, and Rainbow Brite.  I have never understood the mentality that says after you reach a certain age you should stop enjoying things like Saturday morning cartoons; I think that’s just silly.

2)     I have had the same bookbag since 7th grade (for those of you who can’t figure it out that’s 14 years).  It’s plain green canvas, nothing special.  Where most bookbags fall apart after a year or two, this bookbag has only two small holes after all these years, the zipper still works, and I love it.  I can’t imagine ever using any other bookbag and I will probably get the seams sewn back together before I give in and buy a new one.  However, toward the 2nd half the semester, when I have more books and papers to carry around than I can possibly fit in my bookbag, I also have to cart around a medium-sized duffel bag, which is quite literally filled with library books and student papers by finals week.

3)     I do not drive.  I know how.  But I don’t.  After a car accident when I was 19 yrs old, I’ve been afraid to get behind the wheel of a car.  So I carpool and bum rides off friends wherever go.  Which, unfortunately, means I do not go to as many events, parties, etc. that I would like to, but oh well.

4)     When we were little, my brother and I collected all the beanie babies, but our beanie babies were better because they could sing and they formed a gigantic band under the management of my brother’s Big Bad Wolf doll.  Also, I had a four-post bed that functioned as full-fledged pirate ship, flying carpet, the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC 1701-D… as in from Star Trek, not the aircraft carrier), and an island surrounded by sharks and/or lava.

5)     I really do not like sports; I don’t like playing sports and don’t like watching sports.  With a few exceptions: I enjoy watching figure skating (yes, it’s a sport dammit!), I like watching tennis occasionally, and I LOVE watching motorcycle racing.  I’m a big fan of the FIM (International Federation of Motorcycling) and cheer most loudly for Noriyuki Haga, who has raced for Ducati and now races for Aprilia.  He has finished third in the Superbike Championships four times, and won second place three times, but has NEVER won the championship, and is REALLY starting to frustrate me this season.

6)     My hair is the one physical feature I really like about myself.  I have never dyed it or permed it; I do not blow dry it, and I use A LOT of conditioner.  It is currently more than three and a half feet long, and almost (but not quite) reaches to the back of my knees.  (Also, when I was younger I really wished I had my dad’s blue eyes, but now I really wish I looked more like the Japanese side of my family.)

7)     I have known I wanted (downright NEEDED) to be a writer since I was in fourth grade and read The Hobbit for the first time.  I now keep an index of the all the story ideas/premises I come up with.  There are literally 100 of them now.  And my biggest, deepest fear in life is that I will die before I get to write at least half of them.

Okay, so there’s a few random things about me.  There’s plenty more I could say.  I’m a very eclectic (read: mildly insane) person.  But I think at this point you all know more than enough.

As for nominated 15 blogs for the Versatile Blogger Award… Well, I’m not sure I even follow 15 blogs… So I’ve decided I’ll nominate 10 instead.  Of course, WordPress recently disappeared all the blogs I DO follow from my subscriptions list, so it’s going to take a little effort to find them all again.  But here goes:

My Nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award:

1) Jess Witkin’s The Happiness Project: Jess always has fascinating stories to tell, great “Guilty Pleasures” lists, and she’s one of the sweetest most supportive people on WordPress.

2) Angela Write Now: Angela Kulig is cool, tough, and supportive all at once.  She’s the creator of the #writingatgunpoint Twitter hashtag group, and she’s a fantastic writer to boot!

3) Tiffany A. White’s Ooo Factor: Tiffany writes about anything that makes you go “Ooo!” but her best posts, in my humble opinion, are her absolutely fantastic, spot-on TV show reviews, with one of the best and most creative rating systems out there.

4) Gene Lempp’s Blog: Gene’s weekly series “Designing from Bones” which uses archeology and artifacts from human culture to find and create stories is one of my favorite weekly-reads.  And his blog mash-ups are always full of awesome!

5) Kristen Lamb’s Blog: Kristen needs no help from me to generate traffic or gather avid/obsessive followers.  We are all priests/priestesses before the altar of Kristen, who is the Queen of Social Media and just plain AMAZING.

6) Terrible Minds: The same can be said for Chuck Wendig’s Blog.  His profanity-laced, hilarious, and supremely helpful posts about writing have made him a King among indie writers, and he really does need me to tell him how awesome he is.  But I’ll do it anyway.

7) The Feminine Miss Geek: The quintessential geek blog for GIRLS, this blog written by a group of 3 amazing women reminds us all that geekdom is not just a country for boys.  Plenty of girls are citizens too, and we’re damn proud of it.

8) EduClaytion: Clay’s blog covers just about every facet of pop culture you can think, and he does it flair and a great writing style.  He’s also a fellow academic, which makes me awesome in my book, though he’s ahead of me currently as he already has his PhD.  I’ll catch up eventually though!

9) I Read Banned Books: This blog by a librarian has more book reviews than you can shake a stick at! I’m still fairly new to this blog, but its awesome so far.  And the design of the blog just looks AMAZING.

10) The World in the Satin Bag: This blog by Shaun Duke began as an attempt to write an entire novel online, but it has since moved on to become a fantastic blog about various topics related to science fiction, fantasy, and other literary issues.  Shaun’s articles are always thoughtful, intellectual, and fascinating.  I only found him about a month ago, but I’ve been reading through his archives a LOT.

11) Annalise Green’s Blog: I blame WordPress for almost forgetting to include Annalise’s blog, but I absolutely HAD to come back to include it.  It’s brand-spankin’ new but I already love it! Annalise’s style is light-hearted, witty, and goofy.  Seriously, any blog that includes a page dedicated to her love of monkeys and another page dedicated to hatred of moths HAS to be awesome.

Okay, so admittedly, none of these blogs are all that “newly discovered.”  Some I’ve been following for months.  A few I’ve only discovered in that last two months (so I guess that’s still kind of new).  But they are all awesome, and you should go take a look at them.  Now I have to dash off to inform all these people that I nominated them.

I’ll see you all back here for Free-For-All Friday! Have a great day!

Is He a She? Using Pseudonyms To Hide Gender

image taken from wikipedia

Yesterday I discovered that famed and prolific science fiction author Andre Norton was, in fact, a woman.  I was shocked to the say the least, not because it’s not possible but because I didn’t know this already, so I dashed over to Wikipedia (have I mentioned lately how much I love that site?), where I learned that Andre Norton was born Alice Mary Norton (1912-2005).  After using the Andre Norton pseudonym for some time she had her name legally changed to Andre Alice Norton.  She also wrote under the names Andrew North and Allen Weston.  I already loved Andre Norton who is one of the most prolific scifi writers out there with over 300 published titles including the awesome Astra series but discovering that she was not only a woman but, in fact, the first woman to ever receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World Science Fiction Society in 1977 makes me love her even more.

I just don’t know why I didn’t already know all this!  It’s not like I hadn’t already heard of plenty of other scifi/fantasy authors who were woman writing under male pseudonyms.  And, of course, there are many many more non-scifi/fantasy examples, perhaps the most obvious of which is George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans.

There are a number of examples in the scif/fantasy genres, including Paul Ash: a short story writer who was often published in Analog and Astounding Science Fiction, was nominated once for the Hugo and twice for the Nebula, and whose real name was Pauline Ashwell.

image taken from wikipedia

The most famous example of a female scifi writer who published under a male name is, of course, James Tiptree, Jr, born Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987).  Sheldon has one of the most fascinating careers of any scifi writer I know of.  She began as a graphic artist/painter, who worked as an art critic for the Chicago Sun from 1941-1942.  In 1942 she joined the U.S. Army Air Forces as part of the photointelligence group.  And in 1952 she and her husband were invited to join the CIA, which she did until she resigned in 1955 to return to college.  She earned a doctorate in Experimental Pyschology from George Washington University in 1967.  To make her even more interesting, she also had a complex relationship with her sexual orientation, once stating: “I like some men a lot, but from the start, before I knew anything, it was always girls and woman who lit me up” (from Nisi Shawl’s “James Tiptree, Jr: The Amazing Lives of Writer Alice B. Sheldon”, published in Seattle Times, qtd in the Wikipedia article).

Sheldon adopted the pseudonym James Tiptree, Jr in 1967 (Tiptree came from a marmalade jar and the “Jr” was her husband’s idea), thinking it would be easier to enter the scifi world as a man.  She successfully hid her identity until 1976, at which point several other scifi writers becames embarrassed: Robert Silverberg had written an introduction to Tiptree’s collection Warm Worlds and Otherwise, insisting that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman; and Harlan Ellison stated in an introduction to one of his own anthologies that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man” (qtd in Wikipedia article).  Sheldon later said she regretted the male pseudonym as taking the easy way into the male-dominated world of publication.

This male domination is, however, precisely the reason so many woman writers have adopted male pseudonyms.  It is a simple fact that when novels first came on the scene (somewhere between 1600-1750 depending on who you talk to), it was the purview of men and men alone.  It was many years before woman writers could gain any true foothold.  And even as women finally gained acceptance in mainstream fiction, men still clearly dominated the scifi/fantasy genres until the 50’s or 60’s.  The only genre in which this male domination does not hold true is the romance genre 98% of all works in the romance genre are written by women.  Of course, there are men writing in the genre but most (not all) take on female personas, just as women took on male personas in scifi.  A couple good examples include Jessica Stirling, who is really Hugh C. Rae, and Tom E. Huff who writes under the names Edwina Marlow, Jennifer Wilde, Katherine St. Claire, and Beatrice Parker.

And then there are those whose names are ambiguous enough to leave it to the reader to decide if the writer is male or female.  Leigh Greenwood’s name is ambiguous enough to be either, and as a romance writer most assume female – but Greenwood is male.  Also, when I first heard of Terry Brooks when I was a kid looking at my mother’s bookcases, I thought he was a woman (but perhaps that was just me).  For women, this ambiguity is usually achieved by using first initials.  C.J. Cherryh (Carolyn Janice Cherry) used her initials to hide her gender and added an ‘h’ to the end of her last name so it would not look so much like a romance author’s name.  And while everyone now knows that J.K. Rowling is a woman, her editor first insisted on her using initials to make that fact a little less obvious.  They never outright lied about her gender, but they knew that most people generally first assume a writer is male unless the name is explicitly female.

Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to use a pseudonym besides hiding your gender.  Some use pseudonyms when they write in a variety of different genres and don’t want readers getting mixed up.  Other use them to keep their writing life separate from other professions, or to simply maintain their privacy.

So, have you ever used or considered using a pseudonym?  How about a pseudonym of the opposite gender?  Or one that is ambiguous enough to be either male or female?  Why or why not?

Dialogue in TV: Deal-Maker, Deal-Breaker

I would like to start my month-long discussion (or perhaps obsessed fan-girl gushing would be the better term) about tv shows with a focus on dialogue.  Obviously, dialogue is important in any story-telling medium.  Obviously.  That goes without saying (even though I just said it).  But I would make the argument (and perhaps I’m wrong, please let me know) that dialogue is at least marginally MORE important in television shows than it is in movies or in novels.  Dialogue in tv is the deal-maker or the deal-breaker.

Playwright and Screenwriter David Mamet was once quoted as saying: “A good film script should be able to do completely without dialogue,” (despite the fact that his ability to write sharp dialogue has led to the phrase ‘Mamet-speak’).  Dialogue in films is obviously still important as far as specific plots and characters are concerned, however, I would agree with Mamet’s general sentiment.  Many very good films rely so heavily on the visual: character movement, sweeping landscapes, brilliantly shot action sequences or surrealist techniques, etc, that in certain cases dialogue becomes merely a minor detail.  One such film is Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin), a German film by Wim Wenders.  This film is almost entirely visual and internal most of the spoken lines are voice-overs that indicate a person’s thoughts. There is little-to-no dialogue until the last half-hour of the film.

Similarly, while many novels rely heavily on dialogue, some novels can employ visual description and an internal focus so effectively that dialogue becomes almost superfluous.  That is not to say, of course, that there are many novels that don’t use any dialogue (though I can think of one: Western by Christine Montalbetti).  Obviously, novels still NEED dialogue, but some novels have a more internal focus that make the external dialogue between characters somewhat less important.  For instance, Sunshine by Robin McKinley focuses fare more on the first-person narrator’s internal monologue, going sometimes 8-12 pages between snippets of any dialogue at all.  It’s the narrator’s voice that makes that novel as amazing as it is.

The point of all of this is to say that unlike these other two media, television lives and dies by its dialogue.  Yes, character development and plot are highly important, but the dialogue carries a tv show more completely than it does in just about any other medium.  I cannot begin to list the number of tv shows I’ve heard praised based almost entirely on the intelligent, wit, humanity, and rapidity of the dialogue.

Case in point: Gilmore GirlsGilmore Girls took some very common teenage-focused dramedy tropes focused around the main character Rory Gilmore (all the usual first love drama, family conflicts, school bullies, etc), added some unique details the unconventional single mother, the quirky small town and gave us an entertaining tv show.  The show gave in to quite a few cliché plot elements that often put me off for awhile, especially later in the series.  But throughout, the most appealing element remained the same and kept me coming back: the sharp, pop-culture-filled, rapid-fire dialogue.  This show was built around the pitch-perfect dialogue, and execution thereof, between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore and the crazy people in their lives.  It was difficult to pick a representative scene, but this one’s good:

This heavy reliance on dialogue is, unsurprisingly, usually most obvious in comedies.  Another great example is Psych, which is a comedy and crime show in one, about Shawn Spencer who uses his Holmesian abilities to pretend to be a psychic working for the police.  Like Gilmore Girls, much of the dialogue is filled with pop culture references (especially 80’s references) and is spoken very quickly.  The dialogue between Sean and his partner Gus, as well as the other characters including several police officers and Sean’s ex-cop father, is by the far the highlight of the show (with the random slapstick moments coming in a close second).

Some other shows that rely heavily on good dialogue are: X-Files (my mother used to complain that ALL they did was talk), Law & Order (seriously!), and In Plain Sight (the word battles between the two main characters is FANTASTIC), just to name a few.

Sharp, witty, (and often quick) dialogue can make or break a show.  It’s not the only important thing, obviously, but it’s definitely near the top of the list probably tied for first with the characters themselves.  And, of course, the characters and the way those characters are portrayed through dialogue are so intertwined that I don’t think you could really have good, well-developed, likable characters without the right dialogue.  You could say that the opposite is true too, but I think in the case of tv, the dialogue often MAKES the character — especially in the beginning of a show as both the actor and the viewers are getting to know a new character.  Stilted, awkward dialogue that makes it difficult for the actor to fill out the character, or for the viewers to understand or like the character, can completely destroy a show — no matter how interesting the plot is, or how cool the character might otherwise become.

(I spent WAY too much time last night digging around on youtube trying to find some decent dialogue clips.  The two videos here don’t do the shows justice, but they’re a start.  I highly recommend simply watching the shows.)

What do you think of the importance of dialogue in tv shows?  Is it far up on your list?  What other elements do you find just as or more important for an entertaining successful tv show?  Any other good examples of strong dialogue in television?

Tune in next Wednesday for a discussion of one of my favorite shows of all time: Star Trek.

Midnight’s Knife: Gabrielle Wrath

I’ve been thinking and thinking about whether or not I should post some excerpts of my WIP: Midnight’s Knife.  I’ve been ridiculously indecisive about the whole thing.  But, thanks to some enthusiasm on Twitter and here, I finally decided to just go ahead and put up at least one scene.  And here it is.   This scene is a bit long, but its one of my favorites and its a fairly complete entity.  This will probably be the opening of the first chapter, though I’m still debating if this the best way to introduce the main character, Gabrielle Wrath.  (For a summary, or two, of Midnight’s Knife, I direct you to Wednesday’s post.)

I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback.  I promise I can take criticism.  I’ve necessarily developed a pretty thick skin over the years.  I would like it best if you would be willing to give me some idea on what does work and what doesn’t (I’m hoping at least SOME of it actually works…).  Oh! And I should warn you now, there is some fairly graphic violence and a curse word or two.

And now, without further ado, a scene from Midnight’s Knife:

Gabrielle walked the streets of downtown, whistling, ignoring her surroundings, and swinging her keys in tight circles on the end of a lanyard.  It was ten o’clock at night, dark but for the street lamps and the occasional neon sign.  The soft soles of her flat brown boots rolled over the pavement without sound, and her brown leather jacket did not even whisper with her movements.  Her dark pixie-cut hair fluttered in the breeze, and her storm-gray eyes shimmered in the dim light.  There was little movement around her.  A couple men in business suits walking down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, probably on their way to a bar.  Or a strip club.  Cars going past her every few minutes, most of them trying to get out of downtown and home to their quiet suburbs.  To say she was bored would be laughable.  She had passed boredom days ago.  Weeks ago.  She was so far past boredom there were now several states between them.

She had arrived six months ago on a job.  She had finished the job in two months.  Then she’d spent a few weeks sight-seeing, relaxing, and walking through downtown at night looking for something to keep her busy.  But the charm of relaxing and sight-seeing had long since worn off.  Boredom did not even come close.

Her whistling stopped, and she put her keys back into her jean pocket.  She thought she heard something.  Something like breathing maybe.  But she shrugged to herself and kept walking.  Her face was unconcerned and incurious as she glanced around at buildings and street signs.  Looking oblivious of the danger a pretty young woman of twenty might come across on city streets at night.  Looking as if she had not a thought in her head.  One might therefore be excused for thinking that she, like any normal young woman, would be shocked and terrified to find two large arms lunging out from the dark of an alley to grasp her, one hand covering her mouth as the other clutched her around the waist.  The thing attached to the two arms expected her to scream and struggle.  Any normal young woman would have.

But Gabrielle was not any normal young woman.  She relaxed her body and allowed the arms to drag her backward into the alley.  Once out of the light of the street lamps, she dropped her body, twisted her hips, and let her assailant’s own momentum knock him off his feet.  Her assailant lay sprawled on his back, staring up at her in shock as she turned to look at him fully.  Her eyes could see him as clearly as if it were broad daylight, could see the dirty clothes, the yellow eyes, the elongated incisors.

“What the hell!” her attacker gasped, looking confused and stunned.

“You really should be more careful who you ambush,” she said conversationally.  She pulled a long knife from its hiding place in a carefully concealed pocket in her jacket and almost laughed when her attacker continued to gape at her.  This was hardly going to put a dent in her boredom, she thought bitterly.  Stupid clueless vampire.

“Who the hell are you!” the vampire demanded, half-fear, half-indignation.

“Who do you think, you idiot?” Gabrielle said scathing disgust.  “I’m a Sword.”  The vampire’s eyes widened in renewed terror as Gabrielle moved toward him in a blur of motion.  Just as she raised her arm to slide the knife through his neck, the vampire looked up and behind her.

“You lied to me!” he wailed, as Gabrielle sliced halfway through his neck with one stroke to the left, and finished the cut with the return stroke to the right.  Oh shit, she thought, as she began to spin on the ball of her foot.  And then it all happened at once: the vampire she had just decapitated burst apart with a flash of bloody-red light, leaving bits of bone, blood, and dust in his wake; Gabrielle found a second vampire standing behind her; the vampire wrenched the knife from her hand with a deep growl and dropped it the ground beside him.

So much for being bored.

The vampire gripped Gabrielle’s arm and swung her against the brick wall to her right.  Hard.  Gabrielle’s spine struck the brick and all the air rushed from her lungs, but she managed to wrest her arm from the vampire’s grip and stay on her feet.  For just a second they stood facing each other, sizing each other up as quickly as some people blink.  This second vampire wasn’t like the first.  He was clean and neatly dressed for one thing.  His eyes were red, which meant he was getting much more blood than the first had been.  And he had obviously used the first vampire as bait, which meant he was both smart and ruthless.

“Can I help you?” Gabrielle asked, unconcerned.  She stood on the balls of her feet, her knees bent, her hands loose and ready at her sides, prepared to move in a flash if needed.

“I’ve been watching you for a week now,” the vampire told her.  “But others keep beating me to the punch, so to speak.  There always seems to be some other demon to keep you occupied for the evening.”

“It just sucks to get cock-blocked, doesn’t it?” she asked with a smirk.  The vampire curled his lip in anger and without another word lunged forward.  She ducked his attempt to get his hands around her throat, and gave him a right hook to the jaw.  The punch barely made him stumble, but she quickly followed it up with a straight punch to the nose, then one to the solar plexus, and a finally a knee to the groin.  He was a vampire, but some sensitive areas never changed.  He grunted and stumbled backward as he bent at the waist.

“Bitch!” he growled.  But Gabrielle didn’t wait for him to continue.  She kicked him in the side of the head, and as he collided face-first with the brick wall, she dove for the knife he had wrenched from her earlier.  But before she could get her fingers around the hilt, the vampire was on top of her.  His fingers dug into her throat.  She rolled and slammed an elbow into his face, but he did not let go.  She tried to pry his fingers open, but his vice-grip did not loosen.  Her throat closed and her lungs screamed.  Brightly-colored spots danced in her eyes.  The vampire’s teeth gleamed as he grinned.

Gabrielle let go of the vampire’s hands and reached her own hands out to his throat.  He laughed at this, but she gripped his chin and maneuvered one hand behind his head.  With one quick motion she twisted hard and heard his neck snap with a satisfying crack.  His motor control temporarily impaired, the vampire let go and fell sideways off her.  Gabrielle climbed to her feet, swaying a little and coughing as her lungs tried to catch up.  She knew she needed to retrieve her knife before the vampire recovered, but spots still filled her sight and she could barely keep her footing.

Too soon, the vampire’s head twisted back to its normal position and he came to his feet as well.  Laughing.  “You stupid bitch,” the vampire sneered.  “Snapping my neck is hardly going to kill me.”

“I’m perfectly aware of that, thank you,” Gabrielle said, her voice just a little breathless now.  She glanced around for the knife.

“Looking for this?”

He held her knife tightly in his hand.  Damn.

“Now what?” he gloated.

Without responding, she tackled him, slamming him first into the brick wall and then into the ground.  The vampire did not have time to react as she shoved him face first into the pavement, twisting one of his arms behind his back.  He grunted and struggled, but for the moment at least, could not dislodge her.  Before he had a chance to try again, she raised one knee high and then brought her leg down with all the force she could muster, pounding her heel straight into the back of the vampire’s neck.  Every vertebra in his neck shattered and she could feel each tiny crackle and snap through her boot.  The vampire let out a gurgle that could have been a groan and could have been a giggle at the fact that even this would not kill him.  But Gabrielle knew that.

Pressing one knee between his shoulder blades, she knelt down to him.  “You seem to think I need that knife to kill you,” she said.  “It may be the fastest and easiest way, but I assure you, it’s not the only way.”  With that, she reached out both hands and grasped his head.  Her fingers kept an iron grip on his skull and she twisted hard, like twisting a stubborn lid off a jar.  His head snapped to the side but for a few moments moved no farther.  But she kept twisting and pulling, her knuckles going white and his eyes going wide.

The vampire let out another gurgle that might have been “no” and could have been “oh.”  Gabrielle continued to twist and pull.  There were several loud pops as the tendons in his neck tore.  The vampire screamed.  Gabrielle gritted her teeth, knowing this was about to get nasty.  The neck muscles resisted and her arms trembled with the effort.  Then suddenly, as if a dam had crumbled down, the vampire’s head turned a full three-sixty degrees plus a few degrees, and came free as the skin ripped in a surprisingly clean line.  Blood splattered Gabrielle’s hands, arms, face, leather jacket, and jeans, and quite a bit of the pavement around them.  Blood bubbled out of the torn arteries for a minute as the vampire’s undead heart slowly came to a halt.  Then, as Gabrielle still knelt over it, the body burst apart as the previous one had – showering her in bits of bone and dust.

Slowly, Gabrielle stood and tried to brush some of the bone and dust off, but it clung to the wet, sticky blood, coating her in a disgusting sticky, gritty, grisly mess.  She sighed heavily.  Her jeans were definitely ruined.  And she wasn’t too sure about the jacket either.  But at least that was two less vampires to worry about.  Only, now she was bored again.

And there you have it, folks.  Please, please, please leave a comment! I’m not above begging.  In fact, I’m begging right now.