Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Promising Start

How much of this plan is really a publicity stunt is a question I don't much care about. Of course it is, if it's done right. But that isn't what will keep me doing it, and so at the same time it isn't. It doesn't matter either way.

What does matter is the feeling of getting the keyboard back under my fingers for more than just killing virtual enemies or pointless internet debates. Blazed through eight pages yesterday of brand new, original story telling.

This time, it's a very real and human story of two women in love, and that's where I'll leave it for now. The link will be available by end of the week, of course!

Since starting this story, I've had several thoughts, two of which I want to address here. One, I've looked at that burst of creative force, and I can tell this is something that isn't going to be stymied. It was dammed up, waiting to be free, and not something I'm having to dredge up or force. As such, it is high time I also get started with the slow work of composing and polishing the second novel in Kama's series. This will be comfortably manageable, after trimming more fat from my schedule. Following the rule I did when I first began her story, two pages a day minimum no matter what, will make this very easy, and I can anticipate releasing her next story by the end of the year along with an anthology collecting all of this year's short stories.

The second thought is about the relationship between the novel and these short stories. This first story, as I said, is realistic. It's human, contemporary, simple. We're not talking people who can shift into wildcats or airships and what all. It makes me think about what an author is.

What I mean by that is how, on the one hand, there is a large world of readers out there who read voraciously across genres and forms. On the other hand, even among these readers, there is a strong tendency to identify authors in little boxes of genre and form. Part of this is facilitated quite naturally by the authors themselves, as in someone who sticks to poetry is a poet, what have you. However, there's also a kind of artificial, consumerist construct behind this, such that even very famous authors who can command vast audiences will often adopt pseudonyms when they write outside of the narrow confines of genre people come to expect of them.

I suppose I get it. It's kind of like when your favorite band puts out the new album you've long awaited, and it is very musically different. If it had been another band entirely, new to you, you might have loved it, but for some reason, because it isn't what "your" band makes, you're disappointed. You measure it against their canon. My Pandora station, affectionately named Eclectica Maximus, reflects the diversity of my tastes, and it is mostly background for me. If I were actively listening as a fan, like when I buy a new Dresden Dolls album or something like that, and suddenly they had a sound closer to, say, My Brightest Diamond, I might feel bothered, despite liking both of those very much. As it stands, my station can hop between Samuel Barber and the Wu Tang Clan, and I enjoy it tremendously. I'm not attached to the consistency of it.

So also with my writing. I adore fantasy and science fiction, and my first novel falls under the steampunk heading. This is not all I wish to write, however. Not by a long shot.

I'm taking a gamble that there are readers out there who will appreciate this, who will understand that I want all of what I do and create brought under my name and given that stamp. If I write fantasy, or mystery, or a slice of life, if I play with different points of view, if I delve into erotica or stream of consciousness, whatever, it will still all be mine. It does not in any objective measure change the quality of any one thing I have made in itself.

At any rate, I am full of other thoughts both related and distant, but it is best I return to the work. I'm so very glad I can do this with joy.

And as a final note, though she does not read this blog, nor would I expect her to, my thoughts are with you, Sydney, as you fly back home and buckle down for a new semester and continue your brave strut through life! I've learned more than I can find words for from you, and you'll always have a friend in me <3

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Coming Storm

I face a great deal of challenges, but the two largest, from which most others emerge, are these: One, making myself and my work known to the world, giving it the best chance it can have for recognition. Two, mental stability.

What I am about to enter into addresses both of these things nicely, I believe, even if at first it sounds as though the former will heavily compromise the latter.

It's a ritual practice in the culture around me to make vast, unwieldy, self-sabotaging "resolutions" for the coming new year. Just yesterday, I read a woman writing on this very topic, though not with true naivete regarding her own previous resolutions. In her case, it was dismantling racism in the Netherlands, and much of her point, I believe, is about both acknowledging the difficulty and committing, resolving, to the process, without making her struggle or efforts dependent on deadlines.

In my case, I already have some "accomplishments" under my belt, and some goals I wish to pursue, but I am not interested in situating them within the neat confines of "a year". My ultimate goals will be processes that unfold over the course of, what I intend, to be a life well lived. Things like my gradual weight loss and strength gains are not things I can say, "by this time x" and rely on that for motivation. Rather it is a "today I get up and do this" and take joy in each gradual sign of progress. Today I finally dipped below 190 pounds for the first time in quite a while, and have more strength in me than when I was in my 20s. Making this process about goals implies end points, and really, what is the pleasure in coming to the end of growth?

Much the same with mental health. I will continue to self-sabotage if I orient myself around an "end point" of stability, because every set back or new challenge on the road will be like me saying "you have failed and are not there yet", instead of "aha, progress". My closest friend once told me earlier this year that I have a tendency to, as she put it, "do all the hard work of changing myself to accommodate others, and have no expectations that others accommodate me". As I confront the possibility that maybe my closest friend is distancing herself as well, and I may not be able to call her a close friend anymore, I've had to confront more emotional "failures" that could have pulled me under. They still might.

So again, it is about practice and process. Resolving to continuously do, and not invest worth only in what has been finished.

With this in mind, I begin a new project. It is not an original idea by any stretch, but it is something I can make wholly my own. I didn't invent fiction either, but I use it to tell my own stories.

And now I am going to tell a new story, every week, for 52 weeks. A full short story, original, unique, as polished as I can possibly make it, and each one released for free (or very close to free).

I have some planning to do, some rule setting, and a bit of exploration into the functionality of releasing these works for people's convenience.

That work begins now.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Getting the Word Out, Part 2

So far, I'm finding that it's mostly about making connections. I'm already reeeeeally disinclined to spam, and paying for adspace is out of reach at present, so mostly it's kind of slogging through places where I might find people inviting book recommendations, or about handing out coupons for free copies to folks who might give favorable mentions or reviews.

I've tried this with a small community of interesting critics that were mentioned on reddit, which I spend far too much time on, and I've also tried it with some personal heroes of mine.

Excuse me, but I'm going to fan girl for a minute :)

When I was small, real small, it didn't take long at all for me to invert the paradigm of being read to by my father. He passed on while I was in college, so he's not available to ask, but if I'm remembering right, he used to laugh quite a bit, and felt great pride, in how I started taking the books out of his hands and reading to him instead. Maybe I wanted better voice acting, that's my theory >_>

I believe, though I could be wrong, the first time this happened was with Patricia C. Wrede's "Dealing with Dragons"

I know for certain though that the longest, loudest bouts of laughter, and most of my very happiest memories of being a child came from reading the Robert Aspirin "Myth Adventures" series.

Some time later, a little bit more grown up, I stumbled on graphic novel versions of those stories, and the Foglios, linked to above, and creators of Girl Genius, were the ones behind that.

Being able to laugh, free and loud, just like I was a small kid again and not the gradually more insular, angry teenager I was becoming, was a revelation. One page sticks specifically in my mind, where Aahz and Skeeve are waiting for someone in a tavern, and Aahz silently accumulates tankards on the table, looking angrier, until finally he's about to explode and has one on his head.

You'd have to see it yourself <3

So, I send the "Professors" a coupon for my book, and decide to share this story, realizing as I did that, you know, these people have so much to do with helping form and encourage my sense of humor, wonder, and all good things with all that they've done for over 20 years. They're work delighted me as a child, was there when I got into Magic TG as a teen, was even there when I was looking for, let's say... saucier artworks. And they've made genuinely strong, interesting, female characters for years, on top of being true pioneers and continuous innovators in steampunk and gaslamp fantasy.

Professors, I salute you!

And now, back to the long, but rewarding task of connecting people looking for adventure to my stories. Thanks to any and all now hopping aboard for a ride <3

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Wishes

Not really wishes for myself, though I certainly have plenty of hopes (getting my book out there more being one, obviously).

But no, as the holidays approach, and it's sunny and warm enough outside for me to have a nice walk today, enjoy my coffee shop porch, I think about all those close to me. I think about their trials and their needs.

I wait for a good friend to come back from a major operation, happy and ready to move on with her life.

I think about another friend who needs help with her chronic pain, someone who inspired me to make healthier choices and is always a source of positivity and strength. Today is her birthday, and she's feeling low, when all I can do is tell her what she means to me, which is everything.

I think about my closest friend these last couple of years, our mutual struggles, missing her terribly these last few weeks and wishing her some peace and freedom. I cherish her challenges to me, her forgiveness, and never let myself forget that this world must become more just if it is ever to deserve having her in it.

I anticipate the imminent visit of one of my favorite people, someone I was lucky enough to help and actually see grow into a gradually more confident and happy young woman, her whole future ahead of her.

Sometimes, I even think about the friends I've lost, people I once thought of as family, and I bear no ill will towards. Once in a blue moon I'll hear something through the grapevine about them, and while I can't pretend I'm that invested in them either way, I certainly don't wish them bad fortune.

I think about my family, slowly coming to accept me as I am. I think about my partner, the first person to give me a real chance at a lasting relationship, how we're still going strong. And I think about their own family, just beginning the long, and even more fraught journey, of accepting us for who we are.

I think about my greatest pillar of strength, who helped edit my novel and was there from page one, her fierce independence and brilliant intellect.

All kinds of people I really only know online also fill my thoughts, how they make me laugh, or empathize, or think critically, make my days richer.

The weight of all those thoughts, all those people, I can't lie, on balance it makes me feel ... Alot of anxiety, alot of sadness, and alot of powerlessness. The things I can't fix or make right on my own. I have my own problems in spades, but I am terribly privilege enough to be able to make gradual progress on everything from my health to, hopefully, my writing career. After this post, I need to explore a couple more options before packing up, walking home again, and finishing the holiday baking.

At the same time, even now when things are rougher than usual, too many people I know are hurting, I still feel lifted up, fortunate to know them and have even a little measure of their trust and respect.

I don't know what the next year brings. I told myself this year was going to be one full of change and fantastic new things. It is important to remind myself that this was so, I fulfilled that promise, even if not in all the ways I had hoped. The journey is going to be longer than I wanted or planned, and that's fine, maybe even better over all. I can't just set my fears down and walk away from them, as much as I might want to, because with them would go all of my investments of time and love and care. I can hold onto them more mindfully, bring those voices into a chorus with all the rest of myself, find harmony and reassure my fears that I am listening and working as best I can.

So... Back to all of that work.

The very happiest of holidays, and the very best of life be with all of you <3

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

Anyone reading this blog (both of you) is already well acquainted with a fact that has relatively little to do with my writing, but it's sometimes worth noting here anyway.

I'm a transgendered woman, as in someone who was "assigned male at birth" based on only one superficial sex characteristic. There are, in fact, many factors that go into determining a person's gender identity, and in the fullness of time, the weight of all those factors brought me squarely into the female camp.

I could say more about that, how it has impacted my writing, where it shows up as a hidden thematic element, what have you, but I have far more important things to do today.

Specifically, challenging another transwoman to a major wrestling throwdown.

I'm dead serious. Read her page. She has arrogated to herself the title of World Champion, espousing body positivity, and representing all the Heavyweight radical queers of the LGBT community. All of us.

And she's done a few pushups to back up this claim.


It's not that I disagree with her aims, or her methods. I am perfectly aligned with her goals, in fact. Rather, it is that, as I advance further along the gradual timeline of exercises built into the Convict Conditioning system, as I continue gaining body knowledge and self respect, as I embrace the truth of myself and break free of shame, I am perfectly convinced that this woman, this Black Dahlia Parton, is a mere half nelson away from handing her champion belt over to ME.

That's right, me, Cheyenne "Fannie Oakley" Cartwright.

So this is your challenge, Black Dahlia! Down here in the Lone Star, we grow our queer girls up right and strong. I don't give a hoot that you're all the way up in Canada, and I'm down here. You said it yourself, you mean for these events to be all over the world.

Now, I appreciate you already got your first challenger. I've been reading you close since I first saw your challenge to Dan Savage. That's alright. I know that what will emerge from that epic bout is a stronger, more positive community, more integrated.

And to be fair, it ain't even the belt I'm after. We need the same dang thing down here, is all.

So let's wrassle it out, hon, and we'll ALL be winners!

Oh, and here's the obligatory buy my dang book link for the day.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting the Word Out, Part 1

I have to confess.

I loathe "social networking".

Now don't misunderstand; making actual friends, professionally networking with peers, connecting over things I would not find on my own if not for having them pointed out to me, these are all wonderful things. I'm certainly no misanthrope.

What I can't stand are the tools, and certain major aspects of the culture surrounding "social networking". I should not have to give up vital privacy to discover what someone had for breakfast this morning. The privilege of encountering poorly composed copypasta should not require that I be bombarded with advertisements calculated to exploit my insecurities as a woman. How exactly things like pornographic spam and virtual thumbs ups are supposed to act as cherished rewards for tossing dignity to the four winds is beyond my intellect.

But, as anyone truly privy to my intimate life knows well, I look at dignity in much the same way I view the notion of a soul: They're basically fungible assets that I am delighted to spend carelessly on stuff I can actually use!

In this vein, while I am still not going to join facebook purely because it irritates me to no end (and because I would rather beat up superheroes on DC Universe than raise a virtual farm), I am going to create a Twitter account.

Right this very minute. Maybe.


Not a terrifically painful process, now that it's finished. Whether it helps magnify my roar or not, well, that remains to be seen. We can hope!

I have many other plans/notions/whims to consider and implement as far as making the world aware of my book and ongoing work. I will tinker with smashwords' coupon function before too long, see about giving freebies to more established names. I will need to figure out "affiliate" programs, participate in certain forums, and many other things I do not yet know about or understand. That's what makes this entry Part 1 of getting the word out.

May I be fortunate enough that this series of posts will have very few parts, and soon I can just focus exclusively on communicating with those who do know and are ready for more stories <3

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Curling Up With a Wildcat

Finally, after a good couple years of struggle and learning, I've managed to publish the first novel in, what I hope, becomes a series of adventures. Tales I will get to invent and share for many years to come, trading them with friends and lovers and perfect strangers. I like the idea of stories going back and forth, getting richer with each telling and reading, kind of like speculating on an economy of dreams.

There are so many tales I want to tell, and in the telling to live them. Not all will be in the world I've made for the heroine of this series, and not all of the ones that are will even be about her adventures.

Still, this heroine, my Kamalapur, will always be special to me.

Artist: Zach Turnipseed

This is why, even though I will tell many stories with many other characters, all different and special in their way, Kama gets pride of place, including this blog's name. It is her space as much as it is mine.

Unlike any character I conceived before or since, Kama was less an invention or idea, and more of an unstoppable force. She used my words, my imagination, to bring herself into the world, growling and struggling.

She was impatient to be born, accepted no excuses on those nights I was too tired, and demanded freedom without compromise. If I threw her a challenge, she ate it whole and dared me to do better. Whenever I came out on top, and my language or word choice started to take more control of the story than her, she swore three-fold revenge and took it out on me in the edits. When agency after agency closed their doors to her, she snorted and said, "Then we shall make it better, and make it on our own."

Kama was also the perfect companion, inspiring strength and courage in me I'd never known. Helped me to become healthier, wiser, more attentive, and to begin living my own truth. I'm sure she would say it was only a matter of convenience, that she needed me stronger if she was ever to be free of my imagination. But, just as she begins to learn the value of allies and a family, so too have I learned from her self mastery and independence. We both keep learning.

So here we begin then, the first of Kama's legends available for readers, and I dedicate this space to her. I'll hopefully learn enough about blogging soon to make it a bit more comfy and personal, something uniquely ours.

Besides... I seriously doubt she'd let me get away with anything less!