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Flash Fiction: The Red Shirt

Posted by Rachel on July 16, 2017 in action, characters, discovery, ending, practice, writer's sketch, writing |

The only way I know I’m awake is if I’m wearing a red shirt.

In dreams, color is muted and blurred so red stands out. It reminds me of safety. Bright and stimulating. The color at the edge of a perfect sunset. A surefire path to a warm reality.

See, I spend my day in dreams. Mostly other peoples. Some folks think it’s strange I wake from my own slumber to return to sleep for strangers, but people have memories they want cleaned. That’s right: cleaned. We don’t say erased. Cleaned is more pleasing to the ear and more importantly the soul.

Slipping from one consciousness to the next, I identify the memory in question through the dream and get to work cleaning it into something palatable. It manifests differently in every person and takes a well trained eye to sniff out. I’ve been at this for half my life so I can spot a bad memory in a quick shake. They have a blackish haze to them. Not a glow but a dim–that’s how I like to explain it.

Such keen training means the haze others mistake as the confusing smog in dreams is a crystal clear sign to me. So much so that lately I’ve been seeing those dim shimmers in my own dreams. Like a shadow stalking through my otherwise whimsical interludes, clouding the depth of emptiness between rest. They’ve spread, stretching like a fungus over everything. Unfortunately, cleaning isn’t something you can do to yourself. And frankly, it doesn’t come cheap. I may make a pretty penny for my skills but you’d be surprised the premium a clean conscious comes with. So I try to ignore them.

The fog is everywhere now, though. Last week, when I went to the city for a show, the shadow loomed over the buildings, taunting me with a question. I took second glances at every blur. I know it’s just my aging eyes, but I can’t help but look again at every possible blur. Even now, during my lunch breaks, as the otherwise bight room flickers with darkness I wonder…am I awake?

But no, this is what’s real. I know because each time my red shirt is there to welcome me with a different hue. Maroon. Scarlet. Brick Red. Crimson. Each color a friendly wave, a happy reminder. I find it strange, however, the day I dive into a dream and discover my one link to reality still draped over my skin. I know I checked into the lab. I know I linked into the dream. And yet, inside a vast chasm of a millionaire’s thoughts, I am still wearing red.

Stranger still, I don’t feel the panic of being un-tethered from reality. I feel relief.

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More Queer Stories, Please

Posted by Rachel on June 20, 2017 in characters, musings, reading, romance, writing |

It’s Pride folks!

Mind if I talk a little bit about queer stories? Awesome, great. As a kid, books weren’t my exactly thing until I found fantasy stories. I guess it was nice to escape and be a wizard or a princess for a little while. However, it wasn’t until I realized there were queer stories out there that I truly became an avid reader. Other books entertained me, sure, but nothing felt quite the same as seeing the lives of people like me in ways other media didn’t exactly showcase. I wouldn’t say the stories felt taboo elsewhere, they just weren’t often shown. And what was shown was pretty lackluster, if you ask me. But books! That’s where it was at. I still loved all the escapism of speculative fiction though, so it was even more exciting to later on find queer stories in those genres, too!

What exactly am I rambling on about? Queer all the things! Or well, at least we should be making more queer things!

I know some people think of queer stories as a narrow avenue of coming out drama and nothing else. Yes, that happens but there are endless stories to tell with these characters, each as nuanced and special as the last. Each of these stories is a valuable and necessary part of pantheon of queer literature and people should have access to all of it. Especially those with intersectionalilty and/or those written by people from these very backgrounds. In short, writers should write more and most importantly, publishers should publish more!

Here a few things I liked to see more of:

Hero’s Journey- Stories about good conquering evil and the hero saving the day should be available to everyone. Queerifying these tales is a great step forward and I’ve been thrilled to see more of them over the years. Let’s have more queer teens saving their communities and worlds!

Coming Out Stories- There have been many of these, I know, but I believe they will continue to be relevant. This narrative will change and shift over time but I think, at least for the foreseeable future, it will be a part of most queer experiences. As such, having a spectrum of stories that show this piece of the journey (the good and the bad) will be helpful for everyone.

Romances- Think of all the fluffy, gooey, adorable stories straight couples have had over the years. So many of them! And they’re enjoyable (for the most part), but I would love seeing these different tropes queered-up even more! Some are soft, some have tense angles, but there is plenty of room for happily ever afters as well.

Friendship Epics- Sometimes the most important story to tell is a friendship or familial relationship and these should be further highlighted in the queer community. Some of the greatest events in life happen with these people and having stories that show this sends a comforting message.

So many options for fun, real, and honest queer stories these days!

While they are becoming more popular on TV and movies, if you’re looking for the best representation, I guarantee it’s in book. I know I would’ve read a lot more as a kid and felt a lot less alone if I had even half of the stories out there these days. So I hope to see more tales like these and a lot more expansion on the variety in the future.

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Writing As Resistance

Posted by Rachel on May 17, 2017 in action, characters, current event, emotion, inspiration, plot, teaching, writing |

Since the feeling of helplessness regarding the state of affairs in our world continues to bother a lot of writers, I thought that’s what I’d talk about this week on my li’l ol’ blog here. This isn’t specific to any one problem or any single annoyance *cough*CheetoThunderfucker*coughs* since I feel like this could be applicable to many different situations we face.

The world and our lives aren’t perfect, but as artists, we definitely crave the desire to have an impact on our surroundings that might help move society in that direction. Inch ever closer to the elusive goal. But we may also feel as though our mode of helping is trivial and slow in comparison to other methods. Perhaps that’s true, but I argue it is also the most effective form of helping the world progress. That’s right, writing helps change lives and save lives. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again until everyone believes it.

Writing is resistance and although it may take months or years for your story to get out there, it’s purpose will prevail and continue to push for a greater tomorrow. Even more awe inspiring is that your story will ultimately outlive you and although you might be writing about an issue now, it could help people decades or even centuries later.

So if you’re frustrated with something, anything, about how people think, behave, or how society functions, write it in a book. I know this is sort of preaching to the choir but sometimes we feel addressing something sensitive or controversial might be an express route to failure when it’s far closer to the opposite. Think of all the greatest stories you’ve ever read. I’ll bet the aspect they share in common is that they called out something about life that you hadn’t seen talked about elsewhere before.

Maybe it was a bit of a risk, a little controversial at the time, or maybe even still to this day but it made an impact, didn’t it? You valued that story above others. These exceptional books took a chance to highlight the troubles the saw in the world not only to educate readers but get people thinking, to help people find a path to change.

And right now, in the depths of a lot of societal darkness, using your writing as resistance is a process that will not only help you through these tough times, but will help someone else on the other end of it all, too. Fight back, resist, tell it like it is. Don’t be afraid to write the hard books, and these certainly are hard, but the world has enough fear, your job is to give it hope.

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Value of a Conference

Posted by Rachel on April 17, 2017 in best of, current event, travel, writing |

Tis the season to be con’ing!

Between spring and summer, the writing world fills with many extravagant events near and far. Conferences for Adult lit, for Kidlit, for illustrators, and educators, for librarians and bloggers. Conferences everywhere!

These writerly festivals are expensive investments, there’s no doubt about that. So for everyone who has never been to a conference, the biggest question you’re facing likely revolves around: is this conference worth the money?

There are several factors to consider. Travel expenses, hotel expenses, and tickets to the con are the basic payments you will likely need to make. Attending a conference close to home will reduce these costs while attending one further away from where you live will increase your spending. It’s a lot to consider.

Is either extreme worth doing? What about those in-between? Or the big name conferences (YAllfest, RT, BEA, etc)?

All of these are valid questions, but I think it’s most important to focus on what you’ll gain from attending.

Connections: Holy book fun Batman! You’re at a writing conference! So are a bunch of other wordfolk! Without really trying you’re going to connect with a whole host of different people from the industry. Writers, editors, agents, readers, etc. Chat around, make impressions and you’re likely to stick in people’s mind for later when you tweet/query/sub/etc.

Resources: There’s bound to be somewhere you can buy books at this event. Seek them out and you’ll find things to help with your craft, to read in your genre, read outside your genre, learn from other authors, and many other forms of book knowledge.

Inside Information: Get yourself to the nearest panel. Trust me. These tidbits come from industry insiders and may help clear up misconceptions or concerns you might have had that would have otherwise gone unexplained. While there’s plenty to learn from books and peers, sometimes that extra level of publishing expertise is invaluable.

Friends: While everyone attending is theoretically on a business trip, conferences are also a great way to meet new writer friends! They might spring up from the most random conversation or a chance seating arrangement. The people you meet might becomes CPs, betas, or all around friends. They might even be the people you end up going to other conferences with!

Undoubtedly money is a factor and can make or break your decision. If you can’t afford a conference but want to attend, there are some scholarships floating around. However you get there, in some way, large or small, these conferences will help move your writing career forward so do your homework and find one (or more!) that work best!

If you’ve been to a conference before, which one was it? Would you recommend it to a friend? Please share 🙂

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