The clothing is a little more fanciful and a little less historically-sound than I’m really imagining, but all the same, these are reasonable approximations. Haven’t yet found a steampunk dollmaker I like well enough for menfolk, so I can’t introduce you to the gents yet. 😉
So, as part of the gearing-up for Nano, they’re posting writing prompts on FB’s. I don’t always manage to see them in a timely fashion, but I did today’s.
For today’s writing prompt, we’re playing a game we like to call: “Where’s My Character”! Describe the city or location your novel takes place in with 100 words, without mentioning any names or dates. Make it evocative enough that others can guess where your novel takes place in the comments!
As I set to it, I realised I could really best identify my location by what grows there, even moreso than the scenery itself. Which was sort of interesting. So — where am I setting my Nano13 novel? (Some of y’all who already know the project — or me — well enough will already know).
Three farmhouses, square, paint chipping, nestled into a sunny valley between old, careworn mountains. Wrap-around porches crawling with ivy. The surrounding fields grow corn for grain and trade; the vegetable gardens yield pumpkins, asparagus, squash, beans, many herbs. Berries grow wild. The families trade east for peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes. It’s particularly good country for apples, turkeys, and horses; the families also keep a few hogs, chickens for eggs, and a couple of milk cows. The landscape grows calmer to the east, towards the ocean, but swiftly sharper and denser to the west. Long, plentiful growing seasons, but potentially temperamental winters.
In which Cass has feelings about Shakespeare, and they spill out all over the internet. Reblogged from my day job.
Just a quick note regarding the ongoing David “I only teach real manly manly men, no homos, no lady bits, you understand?” Gilmour controversy — this post by Anne Thériault is one of the best things I’ve read on it so far. So go read it.
Because the thing is, if you’re not a cis white straight male, you are constantly expected not just to expose yourself to, but to immerse yourself in media that is not about you, not written by someone like you, not written for your experience. Gilmour’s flat-out refusal to examine any experience other than his own (and his promotion of that viewpoint to his students) is, well, a lot of what I feel is wrong with modern culture, really. Our world needs a greater degree of empathy and a greater capacity for divergent thinking. Gilmour — and the many, many others like him who deserve but aren’t receiving equal castigation — have a lesson to learn about that.
Today was another round of the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter. #MSWL stands for Manuscript Wish List, and the idea is that agents and editors post the sorts of things they’d love to see queried — be it specific genres, specific types of characters, certain tropes used or smashed, certain themes explored. The first one I saw was back in June, and I thought that it was great — I practically doubled my “agents to query” list based on what I saw in the tag. Some of them I knew I could query right away for Aven; others, I added to a backlist for some of my works-in-progress, or for the buds of ideas that haven’t even begun to fruit yet. I may not have written that historical romance set during the Georgian era yet, but someday I might, and when I do, I’ll at least have a place to start querying. Some agents ticked more than one box — I can try them on Aven, and if they don’t bite there and I’m still unrepresented when I finish The Antares Project, I’ll try again. The tag also gave me some great agents to follow on Twitter — it’s always nice to see that side of the industry, how the cogs whirl behind-the-scenes. And, a lot of them are just charming, funny people — a lovely addition to any feed.
There’s a downside, too, though. If no one’s asking for what you’ve got, it can feel so discouraging — even knowing that, obviously, not all agents in the world are participating in the list. (The flip side of that, though, is — if you know you want an agent who’s social media savvy, then, yeah, you probably do want someone participating). Seeing the trends can start to feel like a weird pressure. Everyone’s asking for YA urban fantasy, or for NA contemporary romances — should I be writing those instead? If I’m not writing those, am I screwed for finding representation? Do I need my main character to tick every possible demographic box in order to appeal to agents looking for diversity? (Answer on all counts: No. Of course not. But I think any writer perusing the feed today could be forgiven for having those knee-jerk reactions).
And, of course, it’s frustrating when the feed gets clogged with maddeningly unhelpful things. There’s a joke/troll account that I’m sure thinks he’s being funny, but mostly it’s just vaguely insulting clutter. There are the hoards of clueless writers using the tag to pitch. There’s the mass influx of people promoting the tag… which has the effect of cluttering the tag. There are the writers using the tag to whine about how no one wants what they’re selling, or humblebragging to try and get some attention. There are the writers asking questions where, if you have to ask, you probably shouldn’t be doing this. There are the editors who are looking for exactly what you’ve got — except no agent seems to want to promote it to them. There are the agencies participating in a Twitter meme, who unbelievably don’t accept email queries, or whose websites haven’t been updated in over a year. And there are the publishing companies perfectly willing to accept unrepresented queries — whom you then check out, and find that they’re little better than vanity presses. The whole experience can be as easily depressing as inspiring.
Ultimately, I think #MSWL, like so many other social media games in this industry, needs to be taken with a pretty liberal dose of salt. A useful tool, but not something you can let take up too much space in your brain. I just have to remind myself to write the stories I’ve got in my head, write the stories I’d want to read, and not try to fit myself to the crowd. After all, what most of the agents really say is that the thing they love the most is the thing they never knew they wanted till they read it — so I can’t let myself get in a twist over the Twitter hype.
Okay, this is seriously the coolest thing I’ve seen on the Internet in a really long time. I’ve been using it for Aven, particularly when it comes to estimating how long it would take the army to move. Not only does it calculate times and routes, it can estimate prices, adjust for seasonal variants, give you the shortest versus the cheapest versus the fastest, and (this is so cool) the little thing at the bottom shows when you’ll hit which intermediate landmarks, how long you’re at sea versus on land, etc.
The only impediment to its usefulness for me is that it’s all clearly done height-of-Empire — which is no surprise, that’s when you have the most places to go and the best information about how long it took. But I will still have some fudging to do since a lot of these roads didn’t exist yet at the end of the Republican and the very start of the Principate.
I’ve decided to start this blog to showcase some of the work that goes into my writing. I’ll be posting research, news articles and op-eds that interest me, Nano updates in the appropriate seasons, internet-generated silliness, random musings, and even the occasional snippet of what I’m working on. First order of business will be to get pages up on my bio, my past academic publications, and my current projects-in-progress. Cheers!