Romance, Sigh

I find writing in the romance genre to be difficult. It shouldn’t be because it follows a “formula”. They meet; there’s a misunderstanding/issue/someone else/whatever that gets in the way; they work it out; something else happens; they profess their undying love and live Happily Ever After. Why do I find that so boring to write? I enjoy reading it! I enjoy the feel good I get from reading it. But when I write it, my characters feel…flat. Boring. There’s no aliens or colony ship or dragons or whatever. There’s “just” two people trying to get together.

I would like to get a Butch Girl book out. Why? Because they sell. Romance books sells like funnel cakes at a carnival. Science Fiction? Sells like candy apples. Sure, people like ’em and they look fondly at them but, really, you have to really love them to actually buy (and bite) it.

So I got Nikki (from BGCFA) and I got Ellen. Two lesbians who meet and want to get together. Kinda. They’ve got some obstacles to climb first. Some differences to either settle or decide to live with. Without alien interference. Or colony ship to stock. Or evil enemies to conquer. Just, you know, Real Life Issues.

So stay tuned for updates as I write this book! I need a timeline. It’s June…Let me say I want this done by the end of August? I’ve got a chunk of it done already. Yeah, written by the end of August. I can do this! Yeah!

Irons in the Writing Fire

I’m not sure how many other writers do this, but I typically work on more than one project at a time. I tend to pound out a lot of words then pause to consider it. See, I don’t plan or do an outline. I start a project because I have an idea, a “what if…”, or just a title. Usually I know the ending, sometimes I don’t. Other than that, the plot for the book just flows. And sometimes that flow takes my characters to places or situations I didn’t expect. And I need to back up and think about it. The more I write, the less I discover it was the WRONG direction. Either I’m becoming a better writer (and trust me, some of my early stuff truly stinks) or I’m getting better at figuring out how to get out of the corner I painted my novel into.

What I do while I think is either play games on my PC (my current obsession is Homeworld Remastered) or I go to another project. Sometimes that thinking takes a while and even if I come up with a solution, the path to getting there is not clear so I gotta think some more. And as some friends will agree so quickly they spit, I tend to think too much and not just freakin’ do.

So what irons are in my writing fire? Glad you asked.

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Two At Once

I typically work on two, sometimes three, projects at once. This gives me a chance to walk away from a project and sink into another one for a while. Then when that one needs a break, I can go back to the first one. Yes, one of them usually suffers from it and that’s okay. One is always designated the “major” project and the other then “minor” one although twice now that designation has switched.

Sometimes my brain gets so excited about different ideas, that if I do not write them down, or at least get them started, I lose the momentum altogether. And that’s just sad for everyone. It may not go very far, that idea and the momentum, but it is there for me to pick up later.

Like right now, the two I am working on, one is Butch Girls 2 (I just cannot decide on a real title) has been written about half way in two different plot lines. I finally forced myself to pick one and I am writing it from the beginning to get another BG book out there for my screaming (and stalking) fans. Meanwhile, I dug through my massive archives (I am such a data hoarder) and have started to pump life into a massive manuscript I love but just can’t seem to let go of. I flip between the two projects–which are so very, very different–and soon one of them will win and I’ll feverishly get it finished. The BG book will be the winner because it has to be done first. It just has to be. Stalkers are demanding.

And, to prove to you I really am working, here’s a bit from BG2:

The next one rudely explained how she was looking for someone who had a “firmer grasp on the English language since they were in America, after all, and the short, simple reply clearly demonstrated” that Ellen was “most likely Phillipino or, on second thought, Puerto Rican”. Ellen stopped reading the very long diatribe at that point. She pulled back up the reply she had sent to her and read it aloud, in a Hispanic accent like her friend Toni.

“Nope, doesn’t sound like something she would say at all.”

The third was from the southern lady: “You bring the coffee, I’ll bring the brownies. The dating site has a built-in chat room we can use. How about Wednesday afternoon, 7pm Eastern? Whoever gets there first opens a private chat room with their username with only the other one able to join? I think that’s how it works.”

Ellen glanced at the corner of her monitor. “Dammit, it’s only Monday.” She sent off a quick reply, agreeing to Wednesday. She resisted the urge to complain that Wednesday seemed so far away. She then set several reminders for herself so she wouldn’t forget. “Am I that desperate?”

“I am that desperate.” Nikki set the alarm on her phone and put a big note on her fridge to match the one on her monitor. She and Spam, who was following her everywhere, returned to her office. She went to the dating site to test out how to open a chat room. It wasn’t as difficult as she thought. But staring at the blank chat window was depressing. Then text appeared.

“I see you got it to work.”

Fast Forward to Chapter Six!

Usually, the beginnings just explode out, all messy and nasty, like a can of Coke from my nephew. Then it settles down and I go with the rhythms of the characters and the story, sometimes the setting, too. That rhythm may usually will include some plot holes and some kicking and screaming but, gah, that screamin’ don’t usually happen so dang early!

Butch Girls 2 (aka BG2, aka Butch Girls and U-Hauls, aka Butch Girls: Intentional, aka What the Hell Am I Going to Call It?) is about Nikki Rogers and Ellen Hess. I actually started it before BGCFA but I didn’t like it and set it aside. Then I wrote BGCFA in NaNoWriMo ’04 and the rest is herstory. For one, I could never agree with myself on how the two of them were supposed to meet. And I guess I still can’t.

Option 1 was to have Ellen and her friend Samantha move down and be on Nikki’s mail route.
Option 2 was to have Nikki and Ellen meet online somehow.

I’ve written both ways several times and both has potential but I like Option 2 the best because it can be more, plot wise. Anyway, maybe because I went back and forth so many times, mostly on the dang beginning, that here I am doing it AGAIN, that my brain just says “WHY ARE YOU TORTURING ME!?!?!?!”.

Anyway, I need to get to writing it and stop whining it. Right? Write? Wright?

Spring mornings and squirrels

A scene that came to me this morning. It is rough, there’s some grammar bits that need fixing.

Ellen is a character in Nikki’s not yet named Butch Girl book. Nikki is a character from BGCFA. Spam is her dog, a big Rottweiler.

***

Ellen stepped out into the chilly late-spring morning. She could see the steam from her coffee as she raised it to her lips. She leaned her hip against the porch railing and watched Mother Nature in Her natural element. She could see fog down toward the river (no, creek as Nikki keeps reminding her). Wet dew glistened off the tall wheat-like grass in the field beyond the yard’s fence. As she sipped her coffee, she watched the sun’s rays slowly crawl across the yard, causing first the yellow iris then the purple ones to bask in the spot light.

Despite the house being fairly far off the road and in a rural environment, it was quite noisy outside. Dozens of birds flitted about from feeder to feeder. It seemed to her they spent more time chasing each other off than actually eating. The birds hadn’t noticed her standing there or perhaps they didn’t care. Mourning doves and bright yellow finches fought for positions on the thistle feeders. Big blue jays and several grackles hopped around each other as they ate the cracked corn from the flat stones Nikki used for ground feeders. A red and black little bird (something towhee?) scratched at the grass where the sunflower hearts had fallen from one of the feeders. A bright red cardinal perched on another feeder where he pulled out a big sunflower and cracked it open on the edge of the tray.

Ellen heard a low growl and turned to see Spam staring out in the back yard. She followed his gaze and saw a squirrel on a branch. It seemed to be weighing its options as to which bird feeder to feast from first. Ellen grinned. “Must be new to the neighborhood”, she said to herself. The squirrel ran up the branch then came down the tree trunk. It clung to the bark, upside down, about a foot from the ground. Last minute perimeter check.

Spam waited, his big head getting lower and his rump got higher as he slowly rose to stand. Ellen was fascinated with this. She’d seen him chasing the squirrels away before but had not seen him preparing for the event.

The squirrel reached the ground and in leaps and bounds, made its way across the yard toward the closest ground feeding station. Just as it was about three feet or so away from it, Spam let out a deep “woof!”.

For a brief half second, nobody moved. Then the backyard exploded in feathers and fur as the birds and the squirrel frantically tried to disappear. The birds flew away but the squirrel didn’t seem to know where to go. It ran in a circle, still looking for the source of that bark. By then Spam had charged off the porch and was across the yard. The squirrel seemed to realize the errors of its ways and headed back where it came. Ellen laughed as it looked like a gray, blurred line straight back to the tree and back up the trunk.

Spam stopped where the squirrel had been and he sat down. His mouth opened in a wide grin. His duty for the morning was done.

Speaking of Tease…

Here ya go. Let me know what you think.

****

Several hours and most of a case of beer later, Sam had reached a conclusion. “Let’s move.”

“Move? Where?”

“I dunno. Somewhere that’s not a city. Not too hot, not too cold.”

“Juuuust right?”

“There’s nothing to keep me here. Nor you, for that matter. You’ll keep bumping into Ruth and I’ll never bump into whatshername.” Sam opened another beer bottle.

“You still hurting from her? It was a one-night stand, Sam. Get over it.”

“I don’t do one-night stands. And she said she didn’t either. Yet, well, don’t get me started. I’ve almost purged myself of her.”

“Must’ve been fantastic sex.” Ellen nudged Sam.

Sam sobered up for a moment. “The best I have ever had. But it wasn’t just the sex, although that alone was enough. It was the talking, the sharing, the laughing. You know?”

“Yeah, I know.” They were silent, each lost in their own thoughts. “So, we’re moving? Where to?”

“You got a map of the U.S. around here? A big one?”

“Nope, but we can make one.” Ellen weaved her way to her computer and opened her web browser. “Wikipedia is our friend.” Soon the printer was spitting out pages that they laid out on the floor to form the map.

“How many of these dead men are yours?” Sam pointed her unsteady hand toward the various empty bottles on the table and floor.

“Shit if I know.” Ellen giggled.

“Find the caps. We’ll toss them one by one onto the map.”

“Then we play connect the dots?”

“Nope. We see where they land and we choose where t’ move.”

“Oh! I get it now.” Ellen gathered the bottle caps within her reach while Sam did the same on her side of the floor. They began tossing them onto the map. Of course, it took a while since far too many of them missed the map altogether.

When they were done, they lay on the floor side-by-side and surveyed their choices. “I say take out all the Florida and Alabama ones. Too dang hot.” Ellen took off the Alabama ones and Sam removed Florida’s markers.

“And Washington. Nice state but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

“Texas?”

“Isn’t that where one of those companies is? Are? Whatever?” It was Sam’s turn to have a giggle fit.

“Yep. Too hot.” Ellen flipped the cap to the side. “Louisiana?”

“Hurricanes.”

“Missouri?”

“Tornadoes.” At each of Sam’s responses, Ellen picked up the appropriate caps. “That leaves Virginia, North Carolina, Wyoming and both Dakotas.”

“Take off the Dakotas and Wyoming. Too cold.” Sam held out her hand for the caps.

“Two in North Carolina, and one in Virginia.”

“Then I’d say North Carolina wins.”

Believable Angst

Angst is: “An acute but unspecific feeling of anxiety; usually reserved for philosophical anxiety about the world or about personal freedom” (WordWeb). But it is also used by a lot of authors to describe the internal emotional twisting for characters and/or the tension and conflict in a book. Not enough angst, and you wonder why the book was written. Too much, and the reader is exhausted or you’ve made the story unbelievable.

With Romance, the tension/conflict is usually “does she love me yes or no” followed by “she said x but I think she means y so I’m going to run now”. If it were that easy, no one would read it. Usually there’s some sort of medical drama (nothing says I love you like wiping blood of your face or cleaning up your puke, right?). Someone pointed out that nearly every lesbian romance has a concussion in it. And a shower sex scene. Most also have sex in an alley.

So I got Nikki. She’s tall and cute and kinda stingy with her money after years of not having any. Then I got Ellen who is short and cute who spends money too easily because she’s always had someone to bail her out. That and she also keeps an emergency fund on hand for ‘justincaseities’ that crop up. They meet, get to know each other, feel the attraction, get together by the end. I can’t come up with any angst for them. There’s the money thing but that only goes so far before it gets to be annoying. And there’s the Yankee vs Redneck thing which, along with the height thing, is more for comic relief. There’s the dead brother thing but that ties into Harri’s book. I just can’t come up with some believable conflict for them. They just get along rather well, actually. I don’t want to do the misunderstanding thing (something I overdid in BGCFA). Oh, there’s the kitchen. They both love to cook and are rather picky about their kitchen space. But again, that only goes so far.

There has to be something I can do. I want to do this book quickly, get it written (again) and get it sent out. I know I know. Nearly exactly a year ago it was supposed to be out but shit happened. Real Life knocked me for a loop (and Mom is doing well, thank you for asking).

There’s the personal space issue. One is a neat freak (Nikki) and the other is far from it. Then there’s Spam, the big huge Rottweiler with his stuffed elephant.

Sometimes I think I think too much.