Tag Archives: Aphra Behn

Back to Aphra Behn and Chameleon in a Mirror

The new version of Chameleon in a Mirror, my literary time travel featuring Aphra Behn, is going quite well. I’m 7,000 words in now, and if this keeps up, I can increase the target word count. Of course, I have a huge advantage in that I have the print-out of a completed novel by my side while I work. It may seem ridiculous to some that I have elected to type the novel in from scratch when it would be that much faster to just revise it, but that’s the point. I originally wrote this novel over fifteen years ago, and while I think the structure is still sound, my style has changed quite a bit. Sometime last summer, I had considered bringing Chameleon in a Mirror out as my first ebook novel, but when I started revising it, I realized it would need a lot more work than I originally envisioned. Then when my freelance editor of choice said she was booked through January, I decided to go with Yseult instead. I wanted to get a novel up by the new year, traditionally the best season for ebook sales, and Yseult had already been through both editors and translators and had been published in three languages (just not the original).

Then naturally, after I published Yseult and it was doing pretty well, it was much more logical to get the next Arthurian novel, Shadow of Stone, ready for publication.

But now that’s off to the editor, and Fragments of Legend is in need of more research, I can devote the time and effort needed to Chameleon in a Mirror. If I were just to revise the file, I would be much more tempted to leave things as they are. I’ve used the method of typing over from scratch a number of times, and I find it very effective in liberating myself from my old word choices. It also helps in questioning research and enlivening dialog and even in big picture elements like character motivation. The thing is, if I’m typing rather than just reading, I’m much more likely to hit a spot where I say to myself “Now wait a minute!” And then instead of revising, I’m writing completely new passages, which are (I hope) more in keeping with where I am now as a writer. 🙂

As Aphra Behn once said, “Faith, sir, we are here today, and gone tomorrow.”

In the marketing and sales realm, “Looking Through Lace” is doing quite well after its four day freebie, garnering another 5 star review and climbing through the paid ranks better than I expected. Here’s where it stands as of this post:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,532 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#15 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Short Stories
#23 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Anthologies

It’s still one of my favorites of the things I’ve written, even though it was first published almost ten years ago, so I’m very happy to see it reaching so many people. 🙂

Marie de France, Aphra Behn, and changing horses midstream

So here we are, at the beginning of a new round of words, with new targets and new projects, and I’m finding myself having to admit I need to change my goals. After months of concentrating on ebooks and editing, I returned to Fragments of Legend with the best of intentions, especially once I looked at the numbers and realized that with only 500 words a day, I could get a complete rough draft finished in a couple of months. Then after several days when the writing was like pulling teeth, I realized that for the section I’m working on, I not only need a compelling complication, I need to do way more research.

Sometimes resistance does have meaning.

At first I was hoping I could brush up on what I needed as I worked, and I started going through my books on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine again, consulting the web for more sources and to look up references the books only mentioned in passing. And then I stumbled across Marie de France.

Since I’ve done plenty of research on Arthurian literature, I know of Marie de France, but I was unaware that the works that have come down to us are in Anglo-Norman French, and many experts place her at the court of Henry II. And since my main character, Judith, is a medieval woman who will eventually write an epic, Marie de France would be a perfect addition to my cast of characters! (I love those kinds of moments while writing.)

The problem is, I know next to nothing about Marie de France, and have only ever read one of her lays, many years ago. So it’s back to the books and the doodles for a while until I can get this section worked out in my head (or on scrap paper).

So in order to get back into the habit of writing regularly, I’m returning to my old Aphra Behn novel project, Chameleon in a Mirror. Rereading the old material a few months back, I realized that my style had changed quite a bit, and I’m going to have to start all over almost from scratch. But as compared to Fragments of Legend, in my Aprha Behn time travel, all the parts are there and all the research has been done; the words getting me from the first sentence to the last just have to be different. So here are my new research and writing goals:

– Read up on Marie de France and her contemporaries, while beefing up on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1180s. From this research, come up with appropriate complications for Judith’s time in England.

– Write 1,000 words a day on a new version of Chameleon in a Mirror.

In other news, “Looking Through Lace” is doing much better during this promo than during the last. During the first 24 hours, I had over 2000 downloads, and it is now in the top 100 Free in the Kindle store, and #2 in Science Fiction. (Carolyn Ives Gilman is beating me out, but that is definitely something I can live with.) If you don’t have my novella yet, please download a copy!

How Much Blog is Enough Blog? Or; how I doubled my fiction output in just one month!

I’ve been doing some reassessing (as well as a lot of fiction writing!), and both are part of the reason I haven’t been posting to my blog much lately. I’ve met tons of wonderful people through the blogosphere, but at some point I realized I was spending way too much time on this stuff, to the detriment of my fiction production. While I was reassessing, I read couple of posts that really struck a chord with me. In “Blog ennui and platforms built of bodies” Susan Bischoff summed up pretty much exactly the way I felt:

We’re all under so much pressure to publish content, any content, just to get it out there, on a regular basis, regardless of its quality. Okay, most of that’s pressure we put on ourselves because that’s what we do. But still, we’re not the freakin’ Borg and that idea’s coming from somewhere.

We’re going to commit to blogging three times a week. Doesn’t matter what we blog about. Doesn’t matter what our motivation is for typing the words on the screen, the important thing is just to get it out there and then go promote it. Do I know in my gut that this is a good post, that I wrote it for purpose, that I had something to offer? Screw that, doesn’t matter, promote that bitch and let’s get some numbers on that stats page. Because if we don’t, someone else will and we’ll be lost in the sea of social media noise. If we don’t stop moving we’ll die, DIE!!! and then this platform we’ve been struggling to build, body by b–er, I mean, plank by posty goodness plank of brilliance will be CRUSHED!

I had started feeling like I didn’t really have anything to say, but that’s no excuse: there’s this meme out there telling us if we don’t post at least twice a week, we’re committing social media suicide. I was spending so much time on writing posts and visiting other people’s sites and commenting and trying to be a good community member, it was getting hard to find the time to actually write fiction, which is what I supposedly do (when I’m not translating interfaces and computer manuals). Another thing was, after I started blogging twice a week, I didn’t see any real increase in ebook sales. Yes, my Twitter followers increased dramatically, from next-to-nothing to a little more than next-to-nothing. (For some reason, my number of Facebook “friends” is exploding, even though I don’t use Facebook much at all anymore. Go figure.) But sales? They just trickled along in the same leisurely way they had before.

So I stopped. I dived off the bridge and committed social media suicide. In the last month, I’ve only posted to my blog twice. And I’ve gotten about 36,000 words of fiction written. In the four weeks before that, my output was less than 16,000. Part of the increase in word count is of course due to the fun and games of Nanowrimo, but not all. I’m working on putting Writing First, and while I still get caught in the time trap of reading email when I should be writing, I tend to start writing earlier than I used to, as long as I remind myself of my new mantra: without fiction, platform is schmatform. And – SURPRISE! – when I spend more time on writing fiction, I get more words of fiction created.

A couple of other posts I would recommend in this context:

The Red Pen of Doom, “The Twitter, it is NOT for selling books”

Kait Nolan, “Social Media Ennui”

Kristen Lamb, “Beware the Social Media Snuggie–One Size Does NOT Fit All”

In other news, a Hungarian website put up an article talking about me and my novellas “Looking Through Lace” and “Beyond the Waters of the World,” as well as several other writers with free fiction up on the Internet. I can’t read it, but I still think it’s cool! One of these days, I’ll chase the thing through an online translator and get a chuckle at the results.

Another nice bit of recognition came from the new site for St Michael’s church in Harbledown near Cantebury, the church where the most likely candidate for the real Aphra Behn was baptized. They asked permission to link to my Aphra Behn page, and naturally I told them I would be honored.

I’m off to the next Villa Diodati workshop this week, so my fiction production will most likely drop off again, since I have to read a bunch of stories and write critiques. But at least after that I will have something to blog about — a workshop report. 🙂

A New Look and Some New Projects

Did a lot of work on redesigning my blog in the last couple of days. Chose a new theme, and added a bunch of links to my publications and anthologies containing my stories. Still need to do a lot more, but at least it’s a start. What do folks think – was it worth the work?

I also finished the hard copy revisions for Chameleon in a Mirror, my Aphra Behn time travel novel. I was hoping to hire a freelance editor of my acquaintance, but she’s booked solid through December. I wanted to get the ebook put together before Christmas, though. Does anyone have any suggestions?

This week, I finally started critiquing again on Codex. I got really bad about that while I was working on Shadow of Stone, so I’m pleased that I’m finally getting back into a critique group. A couple of the collabs I’ve done recently have been through Codex as well; I neglected that great community far too long, and it feels good to be back.

The next project I want to tackle is finishing my Callisto story. After that, I’m a little unsure what to do next. Should I go ahead with the Aphra Behn novel? Or should I work on Yseult instead, my retelling of the Tristan and Isolde tale? Since that has been published in translation in German, Dutch, and Italian, I know there’s a potential audience, and the original manuscript has gone through the editing process. Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated!

Aphra Behn and the Odds

For me, one of the great things about having Aphra Behn as a role model is that it keeps me from indulging in complaints about my lot too much. Of course, we all need to gripe now and then to get things out of our systems, but whenever I want to blame my life or somebody else for how little I get accomplished, all I have to do is look at Aphra and I know I really don’t have any excuses.

Not much is known conclusively about Aphra beyond her plays and publications other than that she worked for the Crown as a spy in the Netherlands. A number of her letters begging the government to reimburse her for the money she’d spent on her mission have survived. After she returned to England in 1667, she may even have briefly landed in debtor’s prison because the government refused to pay what they owed her for her services. At this point, her father was dead and her mother probably as well, and in any case, her family does not seem to have been wealthy to start with. The most likely candidate for her father was a “barber-surgeon,” and while the woman he married came from minor gentry, she married beneath her. There is no indication among any of the Aphra’s writings or the writings of her contemporaries about her that she had any wealthy family to fall back on, as did most of the “scribbling women” who came before her, such as Katherine Philips or Margaret Cavendish.

Nonetheless, two years after her letters to the Crown begging for the money to keep her out of debtor’s prison, her first play, “The Forced Marriage,” was produced by the Duke’s Company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was a great success and ran for six nights, providing its author with two nights’ income. (The “third day” always belonged to the author of the play.)

She definitely deserves the famous words of Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she–shady and amorous as she was–who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.

The last couple of days, I’ve gotten an average of 25 pages a day revised in hard copy on Chameleon in a Mirror. I should be done by the end of the week. Then I have to get the changes into the file and start working on a cover. I may also be wanting to hire an editor to go through it one more time. But my goal is to get the novel up as an ebook at the very latest by the end of the year.

Rediscovering my Enthusiasm for Behn … Aphra Behn

After finishing a bunch of stories for the Clarion West challenge, I’ve returned to working on revisions of my novel Chameleon in a Mirror, a time travel romp revolving around my literary idol Aphra Behn. While the novel needs a lot more work than I had hoped, unfortunately, I’m having a great time returning to the English Restoration and the figure of Aphra. For those who are unfamiliar with her, she was the first professional woman writer in the English language. A contemporary of John Dryden, she made her living writing plays for the Duke’s Theatre, the rival company to that of Dryden. If that wasn’t unusual enough for a woman in the seventeenth century, she was also worked for the British government as a spy in the Netherlands, and spent time in Surinam, South America, where her father was to have been appointed governor — if he hadn’t died on the voyage. She also wrote the first epistolary novel in English, Love Letters Between and Nobleman and his Sister, decades before Samuel Richardson supposedly founded the genre.

Now if that isn’t enough to make a gal enthusiastic, I don’t know what is.

Didn’t get as much done this week as I had intended, since for the last couple of days I’ve been suffering from a summer cold with a slight fever. 50 pages of revisions on Chameleon in a Mirror and one more collab story finished for a deadline. Once my foggy brain clears up, I need to get back to some marketing, ebook and web page work in addition to the novel revisions.

Balancing writing and life

Now that the Clarion West Write-a-thon is over, my writing goals revolve around finishing a couple more stories that didn’t quite get done in those six weeks, and moving forward on the revisions of my novel Chameleon in a Mirror again. As I reported earlier in the week, I had a mild case of burnout, and later in the week, my time got waylaid by grandmother duties. This is not a complaint. Somewhere or another I read a writing goal that really resonated with me, “tempering ambition with a balanced life.” Unfortunately, I don’t remember where it’s from so I can’t give credit, but one thing I know, my family is part of my balanced life, as weird and patchwork as it is. And as exhausting as she can sometimes be, my granddaughter gives me so much joy, it makes up for a lot of the frustration and rejection that comes with being a writer. A year and a half, and she says, “Ach so!” in exactly the right tone of voice after being told how her daddy borrowed Grandpa’s car to go to Berlin. It’s a moment of laughter. Like when she points to the blackberry stains on her bib and says “Erdbeer” (German for strawberry, but it’s her default word for berries). Or that her default word for dog is “goggie” rather than “Hund”, even though her linguistic environment is at least 90% German.

So anyway, besides the babysitting and other life stuff, I got about 50 pages revised on my Aphra Behn time travel novel, and 1400 words done on stories in progress.

Life is good.

A Zeppelin for Your Thoughts

That was the working title of the story I finished (in very rough draft) today. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the title, since for 1) the story doesn’t have the humorous tone the title suggests, and 2) during the period I’m writing about, giving airships that name would be too anachronistic, even for steampunk, and besides) Graf Zeppelin is a minor character in the story. I’m thinking I might call it “An Airship for Elise” but that’s not decided yet. Comments on the title welcome!

Despite finishing this rough draft, progress has slowed up a lot for me in the last few days. I think this has a couple of reasons. For one, I had Grandma duties twice this week, and when the (totally engrossing) young one is around, I don’t have any time for writing. Still, I love it. She gives back in fascination at the way her mind is developing (she’s a year-and-a-half and already has a vocabulary in the dozens in two languages) and general grandma-happy-hormones that more than makes up for the lost writing time. For another, I’ve often noticed that for me a period of high productivity where I’m pushing myself is followed by a phase of a lot fewer words. I wouldn’t exactly call it burn-out this time, but I seem to be in need of a bit of rejuvenation. I’ve only gotten twenty pages on “Chameleon in a Mirror” revised (my Aphra Behn time travel), and 800 words on the steampunk story. Hopefully I will be able to catch up with myself a bit by the end of the week.

Write-a-thon: Final Accounting

Recap: For the six weeks of the Clarion West Write-a-thon, I had the following goals:

– finish 6 short stories
– get six stories out on the market for the first time

This is what I accomplished:

– 4 stories finished
– 2 additional stories started but still unfinished
– 2 new stories submitted

My word count for this week was 4600. Total word count for the last six weeks was 22800, for an average of 3800 words a week. That means I’m almost on track for my ROW80 goal, 4000 words a week. The interesting thing was, though, that my word count increased during the course of the six weeks, except week 5, when I fell back from 4400 words to 4000 words.

With two stories still unfinished, I’m revising my ROW80 goals. Originally when the write-a-thon was over, I had planned to get back to revisions on the Aphra Behn novel. I’m still going to do that, but only an hour a day until I complete the other two stories.

I realize I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to do, but I’m fine with that. Four new short stories to shop around, and 2 more in the works, that’s a pretty decent result for six weeks. One thing I’ve learned in the many many years I’ve been writing – it’s so easy to kick yourself, but life’s a lot more pleasant if you forgive yourself instead.