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Writing the Other December 7, 2016

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in Blog Tour, ex-cathedra from my navel, Forbidden Fiction, Haven's Fall, Rebel Mage, Release date, The School.
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In my initial outlines for Counsel of the Wicked, Matthias, the main character, was gay in a world of religious repression and rampant homophobia. Now, my characters have this habit of telling me things about themselves as I’m writing. It’s how I know I’ve written a good character, when one has taken on a life of his or her own. This tendency took an interesting turn in Counsel, when Matthias took the bit in his teeth in the middle of a chapter, and revealed that he wasn’t gay at all. He was asexual, and I had a problem. Every other time something like this has happened and I try to force the story back to where I thought it should be (no, the outline says you do THIS!), I’ve broken the story, so I’ve learned to go with it. But I had never written an ace character before; I had no idea how to write an asexual character without making them either a caricature or a stereotype. Which led to the question: What do I do now?

Well, like any good writer faced with a lack of knowledge, I started with research. I knew nothing at all about asexuality. Surprisingly, I found that Tumblr is actually a very good source of references for writers on alternative sexualities, with many links to websites that answered most of my questions and allowed me to finish the manuscript. Then I went looking for special beta readers—I sent out a request to my usual communities for readers who could tell me if I’d written Matthias properly. To my delight, I had eight people who identified as asexual come to me and volunteer. And to my dismay, four of them backed out when I gave them the trigger warnings for the manuscript. However, the other four read through the manuscript, and I was told that I’d written a good portrayal of a demi-romantic asexual character. I’d written a believable character who existed outside my personal identity.

I’d written “The Other.”

One of the biggest lies that creative writing students are taught is that they should write what they know. Really. I’m not sure how creative that actually is, but that’s what the book says. Write what you know. So, if I was writing what I know, I’d be writing books about an overweight, 40-something, Puerto-Rican/Italian, gluten-intolerant, bisexual, homeschooling, stay-at-home mom who’s been married for twenty years, and who is currently living in Central Florida. That’s a lot of adjectives, isn’t it? Well, if I’m writing what I know, that’s me, in a verbose nutshell. Now, tell me honestly, how many books do you think that would sell? One, maybe.

Needless to say, I’m not a big fan of “write what you know.”

I am, however, a huge proponent of the Rikki-Tikki-Tavi School of Creative Writing. When you don’t know something, run and find out. Odds are pretty good that you’re writing on a computer of some flavor, which means that there’s a wealth of information at your fingertips. Google is your very best friend, and there are always going to be people who will be willing to read what you’ve written, if only because it is important that all people be able to accurately see themselves in the mirror that is published fiction. Because all the stories can’t be about the overly-muscled white dude who saves the world, or the model with the lower back tattoo beating up on vampires or demons or whatever the monster of the week is in publishing at the moment. Sometimes, the stories need to be about the overweight, 40-something, Puerto-Rican/Italian, gluten-intolerant, bisexual, homeschooling, stay-at-home moms. Or the demi-ace boys.

A couple of months after Counsel of the Wicked came out, while I was hard at work on Haven’s Fall, I was invited to a dinner that had absolutely nothing to do with writing. It was a product demonstration, for a tester that you can use to see if there is gluten present in your food. It’s a fascinating little thing, a real boon to someone who can’t have gluten in any form, but who does have to travel and is at the mercy of restaurants more than is comfortable for someone to whom regular food can be poison. You know, like me.

Anyhow, I’m at this very nice dinner attended by all these big name bloggers and writers in the gluten-free industry, as well as others in the food industry. I spent most of my evening sitting next to the Head of Special Diets for Walt Disney World; that was pretty awesome! I’ll admit that by the time the salad showed up (the device said don’t eat the dressing!) I was wondering what the heck I was doing there. Then the organizer came over to talk with me.

“I wanted to thank you,” she said. “Your book is the first one I’ve ever seen with an asexual main character. My daughter is asexual.”

That is the why of writing outside your identity. Of turning your back on writing what you know and instead doing the work so that you can competently and respectfully write beyond your limits. Because it matters.

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Haven’s Fall is now available in print and ebook forms.

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Congratulations! It’s a draft! December 21, 2015

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in Best laid plans, Best planned lays, Burden of Truth, Counsel of the Wicked, forthcoming works, Happy Holidays!, Happy New Year, Rebel Mage, Ta-da, The School, thirty.
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Total words on Burden of Truth: Book Two of The Rebel Mage

I’m calling it done. I’ll compile it and send it off to the beta readers and to the editor tomorrow. It’s rough, but it’s DONE.

Almost… almost….! December 20, 2015

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in Best laid plans, Best planned lays, Burden of Truth, Counsel of the Wicked, forthcoming works, Happy Holidays!, progress, Rebel Mage, scores, slow-writer-is-slow., Ta-da, The School, the-end-is-near, to-dos, wordcount.
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Writing:

Total words today:  2,715 words

Total words on Burden of Truth: Book Two of The Rebel Mage

You might notice I’m over. And I’m not done yet. There’s about a thousand words or so of wrap up, which I’m hoping to get done first thing tomorrow morning.

Draft by TOMORROW!

Hey, where have you been? December 14, 2014

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in award-winning, baking, edits, forthcoming works, heady praise, Marketplace, No Safewords, Sable Locks, The School, the-end-is-near, upcoming books, upcoming work.
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Yeah, it’s been almost a month. I know. Bad writer.

It’s been busy. The line edits on The School have gone off to editorial at Forbidden Fiction. We’ve been talking about changing the title there, but nothing has gelled yet. I have a couple that I like, but we have to nail it down. That will come soon, I think.

There have been a couple of story sales in the past month. One I can’t say because there hasn’t been a contract signed yet, but the other two… well, I’m proud of those, and very excited. I will have TWO stories appearing in the upcoming Marketplace anthology No Safewords 2!  One of them revisits Thomas and Eugenia from O, Promise Me!, my story in the first No Safewords anthology. The other story… well, I’ll leave you on tenterhooks for now.

In other news, I found out today that House of Sable Locks has made Erotica for the Big Brain’s Best of 2014 list.  I’m very excited about that!

Now, being as it’s been a busy year, and a stressful couple of months, I decided that once the line edits were in, I was going to take the rest of the year off. Reset my brain, read for pleasure, not do anything except for edits.

So… what does an erotica writer do when she’s resetting her brain?

Bake, mostly. LOTS of gluten free cookies:

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Almond Cranberry biscotti.

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Carob oatmeal lace cookies. Carob because both males in my house are allergic to chocolate.

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Italian three color cookies before assembly

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And after, covered with white chocolate. I forgot to take a picture after I cut them.

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Flourless peanut butter and jelly cookies

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And coconut macaroons.

Tomorrow, I’ll be making my mother’s recipe for jelly cakes (which probably have a proper name, but she never called them anything but jelly cakes), and on Tuesday, I’ll be making cookies for the teachers at my son’s school.

Why yes, this is how I relax.

Nano. October 14, 2014

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in 2014 plans, edits, Hidden Things, Nanowrimo, The School, upcoming work, writing.
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I’ve been asked several times now. Am I doing NaNoWriMo this year?

And the answer is…. a definite maybe.

I’m working on edits for The School, and I have two short stories that need to be in by 11/15. But I also have a novel I’m DYING to work on, and the synopsis is done, so I’ll just be pouring words out of a bucket onto the page, really.

But we also have a trip coming up for Thanksgiving…

So…. maybe.

School days, school days… June 17, 2014

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in contracts, forthcoming works, Good news, inspiration-strikes-OW, SOLD!, The School, upcoming work, yippee.
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…will mean something entirely different soon.

My newest novel, The School, has been acquired by Forbidden Fiction. Manuscript is delivered, contract is signed, edits will begin whenever they begin.

The School is a dark, post-apocalyptic fantasy, featuring my first ever Asexual character.* Very dark. REALLY dark. I went all in on the dark.** To the point that I had three beta readers back out when I warned them. Now, most of the time, I don’t know where the dark comes from. For this one, I do.

A year ago in December, my sister and her husband both caught that nasty flu. My sister ended up in the hospital, and I jumped on a plane and flew from Florida to North Carolina to help out with their daughters. Which involved taking the girls to church — three times in one day (Mass, rehearsals for the Christmas pageant for the younger, and religious education for the older one).

So, six times in one day, I passed the Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center.

The history of this place is lurid at best. And not long after came the discovery of bodies at the Florida School for Boys. 

Add them both together, and you have The School.

“Be a good boy, or you’ll get sent to The School….”

* Yes. Erotic romance with an Ace hero. The research on this was interesting. I learned a lot.
** And you thought chapter 7 was bad dark…

Done. May 9, 2014

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in summer, Ta-da, The School, thirty, upcoming work, WIP, writing-mom.
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I finished this spring’s novel. The School clocks in at just a hair under 66K words, and features someone new for me — an asexual main character.

Needless to say, I will be having people reading this to make sure I did it right.

In the meantime, I have two and a half weeks of school left. What am I going to do with myself???

(I know. I know. Editing!!!)