Category Archives: Thoughts

Fuck Plan B

Amanda Palmer made a commencement speech to the New York Institute of Art’s class of 2011. It is very much worth watching, or reading the transcript if you prefer. In it she talks about the Fraud Police. You know that feeling you have occasionally (or constantly) that you’re a fraud and someone is going to find you out? Yeah. That. That is something I can totally relate to — I bet we all can. I watched her speech and I thought ‘I ought to blog about that’ and maybe I will someday, but not today.

Not today because of three little words at the end of her blog (well, two words and a letter). Those words? Fuck plan B.

I <3 them.

For me they sum up a lot of things I find myself telling other writers, telling myself. Unfortunately, they are also very much open to interpretation, so let me tell you a little story about how I interpret them.

As far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to ‘be a writer’. Now, that definition of ‘be a writer’ was not ‘someone who writes’. It encompassed a whole lot more than that. It meant publication, it meant people liking what I wrote, it meant writing as my full-time job. I wrote all the time in school. All the time. My friends (and even the other students who weren’t my friends) and my teachers said I was a good writer, they said I had “talent”. I believed them, but I didn’t. I tried, in high school, to get published. I submitted a couple (terrible) stories to magazines. They were rejected. I said all the right things about those rejections, “It’s not me they are passing on, it’s the story.” “It’s a good story, it’s just not right for them.” “Get back on the horse.” Etc. etc. I even sent some of them back out again, and got some more rejections.

In the end, the only thing I published prior to 2006 were letters to the editor in my local paper and one in Canadian Gardening that was mostly fiction though I pretended otherwise. I was pretty pleased with that silly letter getting published though, don’t get me wrong. I was willing to take my victories where they came.

They didn’t come often enough though, so I became discouraged. I gave up on writing as a career and I moved on to Plan B.

Now, there was no pivotal moment, no light switch that got flicked and made me say ‘No, I’m not going to do this, I’m going to do that’ but it happened. Slowly, insidiously, it happened. I became certain my dreams, my Plan A, was impossible so I moved on.

Oh, how I regret that now.

In 2006 I was re-assessing my career, my life. I was looking for a new direction. My husband, Jo, said to me “Well, if you could do anything in the world what would it be?”

“Writing. But that’s impossible.” I replied.

“Why?” he asked.

I had no answer.

That was a turning point for me. Now I’m living my Plan A. It’s taken time (oh, how I bemoan the lost years when I could have been honing my craft instead of writing it off as impossible) and it’s tough. I still feel like a fraud, and I struggle, but it beats the hell out of Plan B. Hope beats surrender.

So Fuck Plan B.

I don’t mean that people should be completely irrational. You shouldn’t give up your fantastic job to go be a starving artist if you’ve never picked up a paint brush before. You shouldn’t drop out of school to make a living writing poetry. But you should aim high. Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. You should start learning to paint and practicing on weekends. You should start writing poetry in the evening after you’re done your homework instead of watching American Idol. Fuck Plan B doesn’t get to be an excuse for doing something foolish, but it can be fantastic motivation for doing something awesome.

Sine Wave

The sine wave that is my personal writerly confidence is at a pretty low point right now, which sucks, but I have found a silver lining in amongst the clouds. I know that it’s a phase, that it will pass.

That’s huge.

Knowing that, though it may not feel like it now, eventually, if I keep writing, that feeling will pass. That knowledge helps me keep writing, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

Insights like this really make me feel like I’m beginning to understand my writing process more, and in doing so, I’m learning more about myself. As a writer. As a person. It’s a good feeling.

How about you? What sorts of insights have you had into your writing process lately?

Givin’ it Away

I seem to be seeing a disproportionately high number blog posts about book piracy these days. For example, and just off the top of my head, there’s Jim C. Hines, Tobias Buckell and Tom Hansen. Those three blog posts all relate to one another quite directly so you’ll understand why one prompts me to think of the other, however, after reading all three of them the thought which was foremost in my mind was ‘Man, with so many people stealing books you’d think they’d be easier to give away’. This says something about my self-interested little soul, but bare with me.

If you’re reading this blog you’re probably aware that I’ve been serializing a novella on it called Lost and Found. That is, I’ve been giving it away a chapter at a time. It’s been a lot of work. In fact, to do it really well I’d need a lot more time than I actually have, but I’ve been making a valiant effort.

On paper things look pretty good for it. Carrie Jones, a NYT bestselling author who writes in a similar genre gave me a glowing blurb that made my millenia:

“Rhonda Parrish’s descriptive and action-packed prose grabs you by the hands and doesn’t let go. This is the kind of story that’s so good you clutch right back because you don’t ever want it to end.”

The reviews, when I could get them, have been positive.

I commissioned a freaking fantastic artist to make a killer cover for me. No stock images for this novella.

Bill Ratner, a well-known voice over artist, liked it enough to create a podcast version of it for me.

It’s difficult to judge exactly how many people have been stopping by to read the story; relying on comments is foolish in the extreme, my webstats are not the best and this blog is mirrored to Livejournal, but I know enough to know that interest has not been what I’d hoped.

There are good reasons for why I haven’t been overwhelmed.

  • People like their stories all at once, not doled out a chapter at a time, and I’m not offering Lost and Found as a .pdf (yet).
  • Reviews are tough to come by because this story hasn’t been through an independant editorial process (and who can blame them? Let’s face it, folks, most self-pubbed stuff is crap).
  • I haven’t got hours to dedicate to driving people to this blog to read it, and I’m not fantastic at it in the time I do have (I hate over-plugging my work so tend to err on the side of infrequency).

Still, when I read about piracy I can’t help but wish the people stealing those books would instead just pop over here and read the one I’m offering for free.

I know it’s not the same, not really, but you can’t blame me for the thought.

By the way, if you’re here reading this — have you checked out Lost and Found yet?


Can’t blame a girl for trying 😉

Just Keep Swimming… Just Keep Swimming…

Ever feel like Dory? I don’t usually post videos here but I’ve had Dory stuck in my brain an awful lot so far this month, so I thought I’d share the expirience.

I feel rather a lot more like I’m drowning than swimming these days.

I’ve fallen behind on my psych course and frankly, I don’t know what I was thinking taking it in the first place. It’s a history of psych course which requires more memorization without context than my brain is used to handling. I read things, I understand them, I move on, I forget them. It’s horrible. So it’s taking me far longer to wade through than it should, but I’m still trying.

It’s also NaNoWriMo month and I’m embroiled in that again. Here’s the thing. The past few years NaNoWriMo has been a cake walk for me. I type pretty fast and if I turn off my inner editor it’s ridiculously easy for me to pump out 50,000 words in 30 days. However, I’m at a stage in my writing where I’m not interested in writing crap. I also no longer type my first drafts. Since the last NaNo I’ve switched to writing my first drafts out long hand. (I think I blogged about this before, I’m not going to go into detail about it again today). While I may be able to type a few thousand words an hour I can’t say the same for my writing. I have horrible handwriting and if I want to make it legible enough to be able to read it later, that takes time (and it’s still horrible). The process is also slower for mental reasons as well as physical — I think about what I’m writing more longhand. That makes for less crap, but more time.

Time is not something I have a lot of right now.

Danica and I have fallen behind on our poetry prompts, and I’ve only done one zombie poem since the month began.

Right now things aren’t looking good LOL

Not for NaNo, not for many of my November goals. School, obviously, has to take priority over NaNoWriMo or zombie poems (and to some extent even over my project with Dani), so I’ve been giving it most of my attention. Trying to fit other things in in between. It’s been an adventure.

I considered switching back to typing for November, but decided I’d rather keep working slowly toward having a reasonable first draft of this novel eventually than writing 50,000 words in November just to keep up a record or win a .pdf certificate I’m unlikely to even print.

Wow, I sound cynical.

I’m not… at least not as much as that sounded. I’m still hoping to cross the finish line, I’m working to re-arrange things and find some more writing time and get through this coursework too. I haven’t given up yet, but I am feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

But, I’m still swimming.

How about you?

The Line…

TooltasticBorrowing real life cultures for fiction is something I’ve been thinking about a lot of late, and the book I’m currently reading has just slammed me in the head with what I don’t want to do.

Let me explain a little bit. In my novel-in-progress, currently titled See the Sky Again, I am working really hard on developing the culture of the Aphanasian mountain elves. I worry a great deal about the perception of that culture, I do not want them to be -insert any culture or race here- transplanted into the inside of a mountain. That being said, I have borrowed one or two of the trappings of real life cultures and bent them to my purposes. Each instance of this (there are two, from two different cultures) has required a lot of introspection on my part before I did it (a lot) and the results have been run by several people to make sure no one had any red flags or eye-rolling moments. Indecisive as I am, I’m confident now that they are woven into and integral enough to the story that they aren’t going to make people go ‘Oh, she just totally stole that from ancient Japan!’*

I’m reading The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett and for the first two thirds of the thing I freaking loved it. It’s a story about a world where every night demons rise up out of the ground intent on killing anything that moves. It’s a fantastic concept, the people and lifestyle that have developed as a result of living with that threat are very believable and I was completely drawn into the story.

I’m almost done the first book and the three main characters haven’t yet met each other which tells me that the book is not going to be self-contained. That is one of my pet peeves about books in a series, but in this case I was totally willing to forgive it because I liked the book that much. Then I encountered the Krasians. Everything I read about these people makes them sound like a renamed real-world culture to me. That taints my reading of the story, partly because I find part of my brain analyzing the story to see what the author thinks/feels about that cultur, and kills my suspension of disbelief.

As an aside, most people don’t seem to see the Krasians the way I do. As I was writing this I googled them just to see and it seems they are often seen as a cross between different warrior races. One interviewer described them as “a blend of Vikings and Mongols, with a little bit of the near East thrown in for good measure” and Mr. Brett said the original inspiration for them came from Medieval Japan. So it could be that my perception may say more about myself than it does the book. Still, for the sake of this blog post, let’s assume that it’s not completely on me.August 30, 2010

The Warded Man is well-worth reading (and I’ve not even finished it yet), but my issue with the Krasian race has tainted my completely unbridled enthusiasm for it. I don’t want to do that with my stories, and I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the issue. Not, so much on the political/moral/ethical correctness of borrowing from cultures and what not, but more the effect it has on the work itself (or, as a reader, your enjoyment of it).

I’m sort of feeling around in my brain to see where the line is. If you’re a writer are you constantly aware of cultural appropriation? What about as a reader? Do you find yourself pulled out of a book if the cultures in it too closely resemble real ones? What about psychoanalyzing the author when that happens? I’m willing to bet it’s not just me.

*Not actually a culture I used LOL

**Pictures just added because I took them and liked them, not because they are relevant in any way.