Social Media Letdown

So I have a Tumblr that I only recently started seriously playing with. I was using it as a place to shelve snippets of a fanfic. But though some of the “chapters” got attention, it seems to have tapered off. That might be because I’ve been away on vacation (I did post a few pics while away, and I’m not officially “back” yet, but I’m home for a day before going off on the next leg, hence this post). Or it might be because I’m just not very good . . . at writing, or “tumbling” or whatever. Dunno.

Social media is so, so tricky. We’re told we need it in order to succeed as authors (or in other creative fields). Major companies are convinced they need a social media presence, too. But what we’re really feeding is our craving for validation. And we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. Or worse. People get more depressed when faced with Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. They see others getting all the followers and Likes, and they feel like failures. Comparison is the thief of joy, or so the saying goes, and social media is really just a massive platform for measuring how “popular” you are. Or aren’t.

I have several friends who have recently announced they’re deleting their Facebook accounts. I’m tempted to do the same. A few years back I slashed and burned a number of my accounts and profiles, but it seems to have ballooned again. There’s always some new platform that authors are being told they need to be on.

For those wondering about the fic on Tumblr, it was inspired by my recent reading of The Raven Cycle. I actually indexed the posts on this post. And then there is a post that came after those. Though I know where the story is going, I’m not sure I’ll bother actually writing it. Social media saps the joy and desire from me, forcing me to face the indifference of the world to my work. It perpetuates the feelings we had in school, I think: there are those who have all the friends (and followers), and those who have only a few . . . or none. The kids at the crowded cafeteria table versus the kids sitting alone.

Fiddling

I’m wandering into the weeds today and exploring some characters who are not my own.

Years ago, I began writing a fanfic that has since been lost to time. Basically it was a Tokyo Babylon / X / Cardcaptor Sakura crossover. Touya had a creature inside him similar to Yue—the opposite of Yue, really, as this alter ego was the power of the New Moon, the byproduct of Clow having created Yue. When you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Unlike the sun, the moon is inconstant [visually; obviously it’s always there regardless of our ability to see it]. Touya’s alter ego was named Xiwan (or Xi-Wan? something like that). I don’t remember where I got this name, but I do remember readers sending me fan art of the character. I still have it . . . somewhere . . .

I don’t remember much about the fic except that Seishiroh hits Touya with his car. This was the inciting incident, I think? And it was done on purpose as I recall because Sei needed Xiwan, or needed to eliminate Xiwan for some reason. Might have had to do with the Dragons of Heaven.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this here and now except that with the return of Cardcaptor Sakura I find myself thinking more and more about the dynamic between Yukito and Touya. I always want more of their story, really. Mulling it over, I think about how Yuki admits to Sakura that he has feelings for Touya but isn’t sure how Touya feels. How must Yuki have felt, then, when Kaho came back to Tomoeda? When I go back and re-read the scenes in which Yuki gently probes Touya about Kaho’s return, it feels different in light of knowing Yuki loves Touya but is uncertain if that love is reciprocated. Yuki wants Touya to be happy, of course, but part of him must be in knots over wondering whether Touya still has feelings for Kaho, what their relationship was like, etc. And Touya is not particularly forthcoming; he doesn’t do much to ease Yuki’s anxiety.

Not that Yuki ever shows it. He puts a smile on for everything and everyone. It’s easy to read or watch CCS and take Yukito at (no pun intended) face value. But I’m a character person, and I like depth. I like to think that Yuki, sitting home alone night after night, wrestles with these thoughts and feelings. Touya is friendly, yes, but in a somewhat unapproachable way. Even for his best friend.

When you toss Yue into this, Jesus . . . Here is a creature who is as aloof as Touya, but we also know he has deep feelings for his creator Clow Reed. Which means he’s capable of love. Kero gets to be himself all the time, whether in small form or large, but Yue must swap his personality out with this non-person . . . It’s so complicated it makes my head spin. Yue has a sense of duty to Sakura, though his heart appears to remain with Clow. He has very little agency in “life” (if that’s what you call it). He knows Yuki’s thoughts and feelings but doesn’t seem to share them; he’s merely required to carry the burden of them. If he’s lonely, he refuses to admit it. You get the sense he’d prefer to disappear entirely now that Clow is gone. But he feels chained by his loyalty to Clow to continue to care for his new master. All that lies before him is a long trudge without the one person who means the most to him. Think about that for a while.

Love triangles may be cliché but damn does this have the potential to be a fun one. In the fanfic I wrote, Touya is in the hospital and Yuki refuses to leave his bedside. At one point Sakura comes in and discovers Yue there instead. She is alarmed, of course—Yue shouldn’t be seen by anyone, and what if a nurse or doctor or even Mr. Kinomoto were to enter? Yue tells her that he could not bear Yuki’s broken heart and needed to put him out of his misery for a while.

When I look at my book Manifesting Destiny, I realize I probably subconsciously adopted some of the dynamics of the Touya/Yuki/Yue situation when I developed the Cee/Marcus/Diodoric triangle. After all, Diodoric is Marcus’ alter ego. Of course, there is a fourth player in my story: Cee’s alter ego Livian. Not that he’s romantically interested in anyone, but Cee still has to navigate life with him as part of her.

Again, I don’t have a particular reason for bringing this up at the moment. Just something I was thinking about. When, really, I should be worrying about my WIP! So off I go to do some “real” work . . .

A Scene

“Touya is ‘special’ to Yukito.”

. . . Well, until he heard it from Yuki directly . . .

Touya didn’t distrust Yue, exactly—if he had, would he have given Yue his power?

Yes. To stop Yuki from disappearing, yes. Yue, it seemed, was part of the deal.

“Touya!”

As though on cue, Yuki’s voice rang out, and Touya stopped walking long enough for his friend to catch up. Out of breath but smiling, Yukito halted beside Touya. “You have work today?”

“No,” Touya said. He studied Yuki for a sign that what Yue had told him was true. Was he special to Yukito?

Yuki’s smile faltered under the scrutiny. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Touya repeated. He started walking again and Yuki kept pace beside him. “You seem more energetic lately.”

The smile returned in full force. “Yes! I was beginning to worry, but I feel much better now, ever since . . .”

Touya found he couldn’t look at Yuki. He stared straight ahead instead. “Since?”

“Touya, I . . .”

Something in Yuki’s tone brought Touya to a halt. He looked into Yukito’s eyes and wondered whether Yue was watching through them.

Yuki’s brow furrowed. He placed a hand on his breastbone as though to clutch—or shield—his heart.

“What is it, Yuki?” Touya asked.

Suddenly Yuki smiled again. “Nothing! I thought I’d forgotten my homework is all.”

Touya eyed him. Everything with Yuki was a negotiation. Touya constantly had to decide when to pursue and when to let go. This time . . .

He reached out and placed a hand on Yuki’s cheek. “Yuki. Whatever is troubling you, you can tell me.”

Yuki’s smile went slack and his eyes shimmered as though he might cry. “Touya . . .”

Touya waited. Why, oh why, did every interaction have to feel like being balanced on a knife blade? It was so exhausting. And yet there was still no one else Touya would rather spend time with.

Touya was about to relent, say something glib and continue walking, when Yuki pushed his cheek further against Touya’s hand. “Touya, I . . . like you.”

The words so startled him, Touya nearly dropped his hand. But that would have sent the wrong message, so Touya quickly overcame the impulse. “I like you, too, Yuki.”

“Really?” The eyes were so wide and searching, so hopeful, it pained Touya, even though the moment was a happy one.

“Really,” Touya confirmed. He felt a tightness release with him, a tension he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying. The hard edges of the world had softened.

Whatever else might happen, everything would be all right.

Touya dropped his hand. “Yuki . . .”

“Yes?”

Did you forget your homework?”

“N-no!”

“Come on, then. Maybe Sakura has made something to eat.”

A Funny Thing Happened…

I started re-reading Henry Jenkins’ Textual Poachers yesterday, and that prompted me to look up fanzines online. I was curious, really, whether anyone still publishes hard copy fanzines, or if it’s all just FanFiction.net and that kind of thing now. I guess I was just feeling a bit nostalgic. I started out as a fanfic author, after all, and a young one at that—I would turn up as a guest at cons and no one would believe I was who I said I was. (Remember, they couldn’t just look me up online back then. Yes, I’m old.)

Anyway, one zine I was published in was called Texas Revelations, though it only had about four issues. And I stumbled on this Wiki site and, well, I was floored. I don’t know why. It’s not like anyone did a page about me specifically, but hey, I got a mention.

Perhaps I should mention that I used to be A.C. Langlinais. Back in the day.

Not only that, but someone made a separate entry for my undergraduate thesis project, which was an X-Files spec script called “The Bane.” There’s a photo of it. How did they even get a copy?! (To be clear, I wrote a short story version of “The Bane,” which is the one published in Texas Revelations. The story started as a back-and-forth writing project between me and my best friend Tara.)

I’m weirdly flattered. And a little freaked out. But mostly flattered. I was definitely more successful as a fanfic author, if by “success” one means “widely read and praised.” I didn’t make any money, of course, but I was asked to conventions and got a lot of great fan mail. Ah, those were the days.

Moving on, let’s not forget today’s WIPjoy:

18. Share a line you absolutely love.

I think the opening line to the novel is wonderful (and many others have said so, too), but here’s another little exchange I love:

All sweetness left my mother’s face. “I loved him, too.”
“Clearly, since you went and got another one just like him.”

Is There Such Thing as “Wrong” Fanfiction?

I’m asking because this Guardian headline suggests there is.

I suppose fanfic can be “wrong” if it gets things about the characters just completely wrong. And I know fanfic can be bad; there are tons of bad fics out there. But I wonder at the posing of the question of who should be “allowed” to write it.

Sure, if it’s going to be something “official,” then . . . Well, it’s no longer fan fiction, is it?

The Guardian author frets over who might be hired to write sequels to her favorite books or movies or whatever. But no one says she has to read them. I didn’t read Scarlett because I didn’t want to ruin Gone with the Wind for myself.

Lumping official sequels with fanfic is problematic. Fan fiction is, by definition, written by fans. For no money. (Amazon Worlds notwithstanding, I suppose.) Fanfic = fans who may or may not actually have an ability to write playing in the sandbox next to the fabulous sand castle that is “canon.” Anyone is allowed to do it. The beach isn’t closed. And maybe some people are crap at building sand castles or whatever, but that doesn’t mean we don’t allow them to try. We don’t go stomping on their efforts.

I got started as a fanfic author, and I think it was a great way to hone my skills. I’d say I had more fans when I wrote fan fiction than I do now because those worlds have built-in audiences. (But also because I was a guest fan author at cons, which built my fan base.)

Some authors get irritated when fans try to write their own stories about characters the authors have created. Those authors want ultimate control over their work, and I get that, too. Anne Rice has asked that people not write fics about her vampires. (I did it anyway, before I knew her stance. Then I stopped.) She can’t really keep people from doing it, but respecting authors’ and creators’ wishes just seems like the right thing to do if you really do love them and their work.

That said, if you want to write fic about any of my stuff, go for it.

I think any time there’s going to be a sequel to something, people have a certain amount of trepidation. There’s always the question of, “Will it suck?” And then we learn who’s doing the work: the writer, the director, the actors, whatever. And we either feel better or worse. And sometimes even the original author can suck at writing a sequel, so there’s no safe harbor. Sequels are inherently dangerous. They may always alter the original in ways we don’t like, no matter who is making them or writing them.

That’s the balance: we want more of what we love and are terrified of ruining that love at the same time.

Which is why fan fiction is so wonderful. You can love it or hate it, but it doesn’t count, so it doesn’t ruin the original work! Ta-da! You can decide to take or leave what you want with fan fiction. When it’s good, it’s very, very good, and when it’s bad, you laugh and walk away. No harm, no foul.

In short, I think the Guardian piece is misusing the term “fanfiction” (they make it all one word there). They’re talking about an official sequel and worrying over other possible franchises that could get “new” authors. Eh. Whatever. To go back to the sand castles, this kind of sequel is like letting someone build a new wing of a standing castle. It’ll either look awesome or look really bad, but if you walk around to another side of the sand castle, you won’t be able to see it at all. You can pretend it doesn’t exist.

IWSG: Back on the Horse

InsecureWritersSupportGroup (But what if I fall off again?)

What am I insecure about right now? Easy! My new book comes out in TWO DAYS! On August 5, Evernight Teen will release Changers: Manifesting Destiny and I am, of course, simultaneously exuberant and terrified. While I think this book has the potential for a wide audience, I felt equally excited about my previous book (The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller) only to watch it flounder despite all my best efforts to promote it.

What if that happens again?

I keep telling myself that Manifesting Destiny has wider market appeal. It’s YA fantasy. Peter is more of a niche book, more literary (editors called it “upmarket espionage”).

Then again, YA fantasy is a crowded market . . .

Aaaaagh!

I can only do my best to spread the word and hope readers find and enjoy the book. With that in mind, here it is:

Manifesting-Destiny-Evernight-teen-2016-smallpreview

Sixteen-year-old Cee has a hopeless crush on her best friend Marcus. Unfortunately for her, he’s gay. In the wake of Marcus’s older brother leaving home to join the Aerie, Marcus has become increasingly distant. Then, when Cee discovers she has a troublesome dragon named Livian living inside her things grow even more complicated.

Marcus urges Cee to go to the Magi to have Livian removed, but the more used to Livian Cee becomes, the less certain she is about letting him go. Should she change her natural self for the crush who will never love her anyway?

Read an excerpt on ARe Cafe here.

Question of the Month (found in the IWSG Newsletter): What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

As an aspiring writer? So the very first thing I wrote once I knew I wanted to make that my career? Hmm. I’ve known I wanted to do some kind of writing for most of my life, and I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. But the first time I wrote something with an eye toward getting it published, it was fan fiction and I was sending it to a zine. (Back before fanfic was online—yes, I’m that old.) And it did get published in a zine, and then the zine did another issue that was devoted entirely to my work. I got invited to conventions as a guest fan author, and it was great fun and a bit bemusing. I miss that sometimes. The zine community was so connected, and while I think it’s great that the Internet has widened the doors, I don’t feel as connected any more. (Well, and now I write “real” books and don’t read much fan fiction. But I think cutting my teeth on fanfic was not a bad thing. It helped me hone my skills.)

Then as an undergrad getting my screenwriting degree, my final project was an X-Files spec. Which is like fan fiction in script form, really. That is, of course, collecting dust.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts the first Wednesday of each month. Find other insecure writers and/or join forces here.

The Akantharhodon

This is old. Like, really old. Something I wrote back in the mid-90s. Fan fiction from a time when I was really into comics and anime. I was cutting my writing teeth, so to speak.

The Akantharhodon spans Fushigi Yûgi, Shoujo Kakumei Utena, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, CLAMP’s X, and a bit of my own AElitian lore that I’d been developing under the tutelage of Doc Parker. In short, it’s kind of a hot mess. Yet there is one thing that lodged itself in my brain, something that still occurs to me now and then at odd moments: “surprise and delight.” Kamui (from X), portrayed here as an unwanted child . . . Neglected and acting out . . .

“It is true,” Destiny admitted, “that the family is not fond of you. . . Your very nature, Kamui, makes it difficult for anyone to—Ah, and now you are getting that stubborn, stony expression on your face, I know it!” (For Destiny could not see it, he was blind.) “You got that from Morpheus, I’m sure. But, Kamui, remember that you are an orphan, without parents and begrudgingly attended to by your extended family; you cannot go through any world expecting people to love or even like you.”

“So I am to go without ever being loved?” The idea gave him a small, sudden, unwanted pain in his chest. It made his breath catch for a moment, and he wondered at it. He squeezed the stem of the rose in his hand, puncturing himself, and feeling better somehow for having relieved the pressure inside himself, for having bled it out.

“I didn’t say that,” Destiny told him. “I said you cannot expect it. And then, should you be so lucky, it will surprise and delight you.”

This plays out later in the story and is the only part of the entire thing to stick with me.

I can’t say it’s any great piece of writing. Rather, it stands as a testament to how far I’ve come. Though, as a small point of pride, it did win some Internet fan fiction award back in the day. I post it here now more as a curiosity. Just as with my June 11th post wherein I shelved some of my plays, I add this old bit to the digital shelf as well for anyone who might want to check it out.

My Writing History

I find the question I most get as a writer is not, “Where do you get your ideas?” but “What does the M stand for?” And then, after that one, they ask, “When did you start writing?”

And that’s a difficult thing to answer. (The M thing is answered on my FAQ page linked at the top of the blog, btw.) Because I’ve been a writer a long time, but I get the sense that people want to know something more specific but aren’t sure how to ask.

This morning, for instance, my kids asked me when I learned to write. I told them, “I learned to read and write when I was three.” This is true. But I wasn’t, at age three, thinking of becoming a writer. Even when at age six or seven I was making a neighborhood “magazine” for other kids, I hadn’t considered writing as a goal or career. I wanted to make movies. I wanted to be like Steven Spielberg, who was the only name in movies I actually knew. No idea what he did, mind, but I wanted to do it, whatever it was.

So when people ask me “when” I started writing, I don’t think they mean all this. That’s dabbling. I think they’re asking about intent really.

Around age 10 or 11, I started to write stories. Really write them. I wrote them for my best friend, and I used favorite characters from books and movies and television. I didn’t know what fan fiction was; I didn’t learn about that until I was in college. I just liked weaving together incredibly complex stories that explored the characters more. And somewhere in there I became aware that screenwriting was a thing, that people wrote movies and TV shows. This was amazing to me. Two of my very favorite things in one! So when I went to college, I got a film degree and focused on screenwriting. And at the same time I discovered the wider fan community and became a fan fiction author. I got invited to conventions as a guest, and they were always amazed when they met me because I was 17 and apparently most fanfic writers were middle-aged women. It was fun, though. So much fun.

At the same time, I was interning on film sets and writing my final project, which was a spec for The X-Files. But while they taught me the mechanics of screenwriting, no one taught me the process of getting scripts to people, or networking, or all the other things that you really need to succeed. No one thought to tell me that, when the producer invited me to go to L.A., I should have done it. Instead, I had one more year of college and I stayed and finished. Only later would I realize I’d wasted a huge opportunity.

So when did I become a writer? In middle school, when I figured out that was what I wanted to do? In college, when I actually started trying? Or does it only count once I started getting published?

The school newspaper and literary magazine notwithstanding, I count my “first publication” as 2004. That year I had poems accepted in two literary journals and a short story published in Future’s Mysterious Anthology Magazine. I thought at the time I’d finally made it!

I wouldn’t have anything else published for four years, and that would be a self-pubbed anthology. Then, in 2012, I self-published my first Sherlock Holmes story. I count that as the true sparking of my career. (2012 was also the year I had my first play produced.) So when people ask, is that what I should say?

In truth, I began being able to focus on my writing again after I had children. Because I was home. Before that, I was working in publishing, making other people’s books happen and not doing any writing of my own (aside from blogging). But after I had my first baby, I opted to stay home. And rediscovered my love of writing.

And I started again with fan fiction. It was well received, and that encouraged me. I went back to the Sherlock Holmes story I’d written in 1999 (for grad school) and decided to put it on Amazon. It did well. I was further encouraged. And everything else flowed from there.

So. When did I start writing? A long time ago. When did I really devote myself to writing? Around 2009 or 2010 when I started writing fanfic again. I needed to scrape the rust off my skills, and that was a good way to do it. So that when it came time to turn my efforts to my original work, I was oiled up and ready to go.

And here I am. Chugging alone. It’s not always a smooth ride, but I’m enjoying most of the scenery.

The Thrill of It All

You can sign up for this blogfest here. The task is to write something—fictional or true—about a thrilling time or event.

I’ve had some thrills lately (script being licensed for a movie would top the list), but I’m going to reach way back and talk about something that happened when I was an undergrad. My freshman year I was kind of a hermit and didn’t make many friends; instead I spent a lot of my time reading and writing. And one thing I used to write was fan fiction.

Now, before I knew there was such a thing as fan fiction, I wrote these stories just for me and my best friend to laugh over. But then someone told me about ‘zines . . . I wish I could remember that moment of discovery, that lots of people wrote and read these kinds of stories. (Of course, with the Internet, ‘zines fell by the wayside.)

Whatever. The point is, I began to be known as a pretty good fan fiction author. You know, for someone who was all of 18. And I actually got invited to a convention as the Guest Fanfic Author. It was the most surreal experience. I flew down and one of the convention runners picked me up at the airport. They put me up in a hospitality suite. Took me to dinner. And all during this long weekend, people came to chat with me, asked me to sign copies of their ‘zines, even wanted pictures taken with me. They would engage me in these bizarre conversations . . . An exhausting time, but I enjoyed it. It was quite the thrill to go from shy nobody on a huge university campus to someone so admired in a room full of people.

I gave up fan fiction not long after. My classes got more demanding, life got more interesting, I made some really great friends. But that convention remains a bright spot in my rear view. For a girl who felt like she didn’t much matter, that one weekend made her a star.