Love of Money

1 Timothy 6:10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

Money is simply how we control exchange. It is neither evil, nor holy. It’s the love of money—of material wealth—that poisons us.

In the U.S., I was raised believing that money was the root of all happiness and power, that money reflects one’s work and value to society. If you had a ton of money, then you deserved a “better” life. This is what I learned.

When I was a kid, I learned this philosophy from my parents: Why buy something that you can make? If I saw a cool spaceship toy in a commercial; Mom and Dad would give me a refrigerator box and some crayons. I saw an awesome fantasy costume at a festival, Mom taught me how to sew. I saw delicious looking treats in the grocery store, Dad taught me how to cook.

That having been said, I remember being so envious of some friends in high school because they lived in a house that was twice the size of my family’s. They had great computers, camcorders, cars… I felt so poor. Then one day my friend mentioned how much his father got paid (his mom didn’t work), and it was the same amount that my parents earned. I realized then that we too could be living in a big house with great cars and computers and camcorders! But, my parents were helping their families—sending money to aunts and uncles, grandparents… We earned the same amount of money, we just shared ours.

Then as an adult, I met a man whose envy and coveting were so profound that it became infections. When I met him, lived a very humble life, and I was more or less content. He taught me to feel deprived, though. I lived in a little apartment, and not a spacious house. I drove a small, used car, and not a big, shiny, new one. I didn’t vacation. I didn’t throw weekly parties. I learned to hate my life, because I did not have the money to keep up with what became my expectations. My debt ballooned from $2,000 to $16,000 in just a few years. I became miserable.

Then I met a lady who (at the time) worked three jobs. She worked in the shop at the company that employed me, she worked as a maid, and she cleaned schools. All so she could live in a tiny apartment, feed and clothe her kids, and send money home to her parents in Mexico so they could get the food and medicine they needed to survive, with the hopes of relocating legally to the U.S.. I never saw her without a smile on her face. She always waved and smiled and greeted me, and even though we didn’t speak the same language, I felt happier around her than I did with my White and English-speaking coworkers. At least around her, I didn’t have to listen to people complain about not having enough money for a vacation.

Then, I met the man whom I would ultimately marry. He had some money saved up, some investments that were holding steady, but he was living an extremely frugal life. He offered to help me out of debt. He helped me start over, and bit by bit, I began to unlearn the nasty money habits I’d learned previously. Now, we are comfortable. We have a cute little house, no debt (unless you consider mortgage debt), lots of love and creativity, and jobs we enjoy. If we really want something, be it a neat piece of home décor, a type of exotic food, or a ren-faire outfit, we make it.

Sure, I occasionally hear a figure about “poverty level income” and “livable wages,” and I will feel sick to my stomach, but I can look around and see my life and remind myself that we’re just fine. We have stained glass in our front door, and awesome faux metalwork in my office window. We have a closet full of unique costumes. Our weekly home cooked meal plans include Tex-Mex, Stir Fry, Curry, and any-darn thing else we want to eat. We keep our rings in U.S.A.-Made, Lead-free stained glass trinket boxes. We have paintings (not prints of paintings—actual paintings) on our walls. We wash with luxury soap, burn hand-made scented candles and incense, and bathe in luxurious bath oils.

We are rich, even though we don’t have a lot of money.


NaNo Winner… now what?

I’ve reached 50,000 words for this year’s NaNoWriMo project, and I am forcing myself to stop. The writing is… yeah, let’s not talk about the writing. The plot is… it needs a whole lot of work. The story is pretty darned amazing, though! In my opinion. So what’s next?

Actually, I know what’s next: Revise, edit, repeat.

Now, I go through the whole of the novel, read it through, and figure out where I need to add transition, description, foreshadowing, and world-building. I expect this phase to inflate my novel by another 5,000 to 10,000 words.

After that, I will go through it and polish up my characters’ voices, and make sure the romance sub-plot builds realistically.  I’ll be focusing on character growth and plot continuity. I hope not to add more than 5,000 words here, but I am leaving myself room to add a few growth scenes.

Next, I will attack characterization and tone. I’ll look at dialogue, reactions, character ticks, narrative consistency, suspense, and comedy. With any luck, this will not add much to my total word count at all.

After that, I want to go through and examine my prose—tighten it up as much as I can. I’m no editor, and by this point, I will probably be blind to my mistakes, but that’s fine. I intend to have an outside editor look over this and help me perfect it.

Finally, once I have this all edited and trimmed, I will be looking into publication options.  Now, I have met an editor who has insisted on helping me get this manuscript to shine like a diamond, so I won’t be sharing any test reader copies. I will be making updates about how the process is coming along, though.


Writing, overcoming blockage, having fun

I tend to hit a wall at 20,000 words when I write. I’ll be going along, happy as a clam, and then suddenly: POOF! No more ideas. I simply can’t think of what happens next

Well, two summers ago, I tried outlining my project in great detail, and broke down a 90,000-word manuscript into 200-word chunks. Writer’s block be damned; I knew what needed to be written whenever I sat down, the small goals were easy to accomplish, and I could be productive without “inspiration” or “motivation.” (I put those words in quotes, because I am beginning to believe that professional writers write; they do not waste days waiting for their muses to get off the pot.)

Anyway, that worked until I fell into a rut at the 40,000 word mark. I got bored. The plot felt like it wanted to go somewhere else, but I felt shackled to my own outline. I never managed to get that story back on its feet.

So this summer, I tried a different approach: writing backwards. (I’ll talk about my inspiration to try writing this way in another blog post.) I began by writing the very end of my novel. I wrote without explanation, using made up terms that would need defining earlier in the novel. I put my characters at their end points, and gave my world its final shape.

Then, I then asked, “How did these characters get here? How did the world end up like this?” I made a list of vocabulary words that the readers would need to understand for this chapter to make any sense. I outlined what would need to lead up to this point, and I wrote the previous chapter. I answered a few of these questions, came up with a few more, added more fantasy vocabulary, and built up to the finale.

By outlining and backwards writing, I pushed myself right up to the 20k wall. Then I discovered the “sprints” on myWriteClub–timed, social, online sessions with monitored word counts that reward writers with a star for every 100 and 1000 words they put down.

Bit by bit, one hundred words at a time, my manuscript grew. I wrote with enthusiasm–urged on by the knowledge that someone else could see my word count–could see every time I stalled out, and how slowly I type in general. I blasted through the 25k mark without even noticing it.

Of course, all the writing tools and toys in the word will do nothing for a writer who doesn’t actually write. I had to take a pretty massive dose of Discipline, if I ever expected to finish another manuscript. Chris and I put together a schedule, which leaves me a couple hours every morning before work for writing and writing alone. Then, I have an additional hour most evenings to wrap up my 2-k-a-day goal. I think I’m doing pretty well.

So this is where I am right now: pushing forward, working hard, enjoying myself, and writing even when I don’t “feel like” it. I want to have this draft finished by the end of October. Then, I can set it aside and get ready for November.

I have no idea what I’m going to write in November.

Check out:  myWriteClub.

Query and first 250…

So, I am taking part in Michelle4laughs’s July 2015 Critique Blog Hop. The first part is my Query, to be critiqued, and the second, is the first 250 words of my manuscript.  Here goes!

Title: Keeper of the Worldgate
Word count: 79,700
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

Saundra Cole has been defined by her dress size—ridiculed and alienated by the world’s unrealistic ideals of beauty. She takes comfort in the solitude of her apartment and shares a secluded life with her cats, until the very fabric of reality fails and, in mere days, her whole world comes to an end. Keeper of the Worldgate is an 79,700-word, adult-urban-fantasy about a body shamed woman’s fight to prevent two worlds from descending into chaos when the veil separating them disappears.

In the beginning, small things—strange things—occur when Saundra’s back is turned. The views outside her windows appear subtly different each time she looks, and her apartment seems to grow when she’s not paying attention. As the days pass, other tenants abandon their homes with no explanation. Curious letters and frightening messages arrive, foretelling the end of everything normal, and those few people who do remain treat her as strangely significant to their own ambitions.

The very rules of reality break down when the rational and fantastical worlds begin to merge. Saundra discovers her mystical ability to create beauty with just a touch, and to banish her enemies with but a word. Strange and terrifying beings appear to protect and guide her, to teach her about her new role as gatekeeper between realms, but there are others who would take advantage of the inflow of magic.

A young man with supernatural control over technology makes a play for power that threatens to give physical form to all of mankind’s most deviant and horrific imaginings. If he is allowed to prevail, then he will bring about a era of living nightmares. It falls to Saundra to stop him and maintain order in the merging worlds.

As a large, gay man who grew up in small-town Texas, I understand the depression that comes from being a social punch-line. Saundra’s battle directly and symbolically mirrors the emotional struggle that we outcasts face every day. Age, body type, gender—things over which we have no control—our enemies use these as weapons, and like Saundra, we must transcend what society expects of us. Saundra, and beautiful, magical people like her, must serve as inspiration to those who’ve not yet found the courage to love themselves and let their own beauty shine.

I have a degree in visual design, and I have one published novel entitled Piggy Moto: All-Star Boar Band,which was published in June of 2011 by Argyll Productions.

[Report User]

Saundra Cole stared at the link on her screen, and her finger hovered over the mouse button. Her chest felt hollow, as if SuperiorBrain97 had reached right through her monitor and pulled her heart out. He’s just a kid, trolling me. She scolded herself. It’s just a stupid prank!

“I don’t want to get him in trouble.” Her voice barely came out at all. She sniffled and frowned, reading the comment for what felt like the hundredth time.

SUPERIORBRAIN97: Stoopid fat dress 4 stoopid fat bitch.

He had left a one-star rating, thus relegating Saundra’s item–one handmade Victorian-inspired fantasy woman’s gown, size 22—to the sixth page on the auction site. 197 other dresses claiming to be fantasy, handmade, and costume, were listed before hers. Most of them were imported–a fraction of the price, and a fraction of the size.

Nobody will even see it until it’s too late, she realized. She set her jaw, and clicked the button.

“Prank or not…” she sighed, trembling slightly. “No! I need this money. I’m sorry if this gets you in trouble… Superiorbrain… but no. That’s just abusive, and I need this money. This is how I make my living.” Saying this did nothing to make her feel better about reporting him. She reminded herself that this was the only way to get the comment and downvote removed from her auction, but that didn’t help either.


A Little Place in the Wasteland

The East Face I love this little place. It speaks to me of dreams not yet lost to the ages.

The East Face
I love this little place. It speaks to me of dreams not yet lost to the ages.

The North Face Nobody around for miles, and it's just standing here out in the open.

The North Face
Nobody around for miles, and it’s just standing here out in the open.

The South Face The damage to the roof is pretty extensive. This is going to take a lot of work to fix.

The South Face
The damage to the roof is pretty extensive. This is going to take a lot of work to fix.

The West Face A lot of dirt and sand has blown in through the windows over the years.

The West Face
A lot of dirt and sand have blown in through the windows over the years.

My Special Challenge

I didn’t learn until I was thirty that my eyes make it impossible to track horizontally without special lenses. So for my entire life up until then, reading had been a terribly frustrating chore. Even now that I have good glasses, all I see in books is hours and hours of reading and re-reading, puzzling out what I’ve just read, and trying to remember what I read five sentences ago. Needless to say, I’ve never been much a fan of the written word.

So for me to announce that I want to author not just a book, but a whole series of books, or a line of video games, or a television saga, sounds laughable. Indeed, “friends” have said some very hurtful things to me when I tried to start writing in earnest. I don’t talk to those people any more, but I still feel like an idiot when I imagine myself telling stories for a living. Hell, even now I wonder who the hell am I writing this for? And, I have to remind myself that I’m doing it for me, for whatever that’s worth.

Unfortunately, a lot of the writing that I’ve wanted to do is not a particularly solitary pursuit, and sitting around a table with a handful of other writers, throwing out ideas to compete with all the other desperate egos in the room just doesn’t appeal to me. Wracking my brain for the best ideas and most colorful dialogue just to have those ideas criticized, vivisected and bastardized so that someone else can get their name on the screen—episode written by Jerkface McGee—is just not appealing.

So, then the voice in my mind says, you need to start somewhere, and that’s where you start if you’ll ever get your credentials to become a legitimate writer. And what’s worse, you’d have needed to start as an intern, and you blew that chance when you failed to go to university because you were too busy trying to earn rent. Enjoy your life not writing, loser! I embellished a little bit, but yeah, that’s pretty much what my inner voices sound like. And I fear that they’re right, but I don’t want to just lie down and give up because I got an irregular start. I mean, this is what I’ve always wanted to do!

See, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with serial fiction—short stories strung together to tell a longer story, TV show style. It amazed me when symbols that were introduced episodes ago return to enrich the current plot. I wondered how anyone could think of so many amazing details, and keep track of them all, so long before their ultimate payoff.

Looking back, I see that D&D was a no-brainer for me. It lets me tell short, episodic stories that grow and evolve with the characters. It’s like my own little TV show with an audience of five or six. Perfection.

So, I want to tell stories, and I love short, serial fiction. I really have no ambitions of being the next great literary genius; I just want to take my little D&D world and make it a tiny bit more real, and there is nothing wrong with that. I know that I have a lot to learn about the craft of fine writing, and despite the fact that reading has always been difficult for me, I do understand that reading successful novels, both literary and “cheap” contemporary, will expose me to patterns and styles that I don’t get from television shows. I mean, I know how a fight scene should be paced in a TV show, but how the heck do I write one without it taking 30 pages? The color of someone’s lapel pin can be a subtle and thrilling clue on the screen, but how do I slip those things into text without beating someone over the head with heavy-handed foreshadowing? I can learn things like this from the examples of others.

If I’m honest with myself, I know that I’m not standing on square one. Chris is totally supportive of what I do, and I genuinely do trust his praise and criticism. As I work to find representation for Saundra, I’m encouraged by editors and agents who speak well of my scene building, plot twists, and characterization.

I’ve built up a good set of well-honed story crafting skills. Now’s the time to learn the finer points of translating my stories for the page. I think I will begin by making a list of the types of things in writing that don’t seem to be working for me—things that Chris, test readers, and agents have repeatedly pointed out—and research more successful methods employed by time-tested classics. I bet if I can polish up these rough spots, then a lot of the frustration that comes from writing and editing will evaporate. Yeah, I’m pretty excited now.