Category Archives: writing

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, the Intro.

THE NEXT BIG THING BLOG HOP. It’s a hoppy thing. (See what I did, there?)

What is a blog hop? Among other things it is a way for readers to discover new authors. The path to publication has always been a tough one to navigate, and even when it is attained it is usually not that fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Getting seen and read after being published is growing tougher by the minute. There are so many good books out there you’ve never known existed, so many amazing authors who are just not getting the attention their skill warrants. Bookstores are closing and publishers aren’t promoting new authors the way they did in the past. Despite all of our hard work, many deserving authors are simply falling through the cracks. It rests with us, fellow authors, and us, fellow readers, to discover the talent that lies in the big blue beyond.

My place in this little hop is to tell you a bit about my book, Resonance, and to direct you to more authors who deserve a chance to be read and appreciated. Pop back in next Wednesday for my Q&A about Resonance, and for links to five other deserving authors.

So, Resonance is my book. It is a dark urban fantasy with lots of demons and magic, and one very reluctant punk hero whose name is, you guessed it, Resonance. It is currently for sale exclusively through Amazon. Print versions are in the works.

A huge thanks to one of my first-ever writing friends, Sidney Williams, for tagging me to participate. He is a talented author whose work you definitely should be reading. Give him some clicky love and check out his book, Midnight Eyes, from Crossroad Press.

See you in a week.

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Tagged 7-7-7

Sidney Williams tagged me in a fun meme, so I figured I’d play along. Well, at first I couldn’t, because I was supposed to go to page 77 of my work-in-progress, and the only thing I’ve been doing as of late are novella length, or shorter. But, my genius friend Kate Sterling said I could do what she was doing and go to page seven, and play that way. The rules are, go to page 77 (in my case 7) of your current work. Count down seven lines, and then post the next seven lines/sentences. As I’m a chronic long sentence writer, I chose to copy the sentences, not the lines.

This is part of a short story I’m writing for an anthology on sexuality in fantasy.  I’ve had some thoughts, lately, on the recent sociopolitical push to drag women back to the old prehistoric caves by our hair. It has caused me… Angst. Okay, rage. And you know me, go dark or go home, so this little dystopian piece of bad news was born. This scene is where our heroine, Cherry, is confronted by an official of her church commune whose twisted desires for her cause him to act out in unholy ways:

“To keep me chaste,” she sputtered past the blood.

“Why?”

“As a reminder the Destroyer is everywhere, and that his demons cannot be overcome with manmade Chemical, or the National Church’s polygamist whoring, but by purity’s resistance alone.” If Cherry desired her back as bloody and raw as the Warder made his own every night, she would have added, But, the government keeps pumping me full of hormones and Chemical so I can lure these earthly servants to them, and you let them do it, so how can I be pure when everyone demands something unholy of my virginity?  As she had no desire to be whipped, she remained silent.

The Warder had always been a devout boy, singularly driven to understand the world they had inherited, the life so unlike the antiquated photographs of men and women walking freely in the sunshine, holding hands and pressing together their lips and bodies. He had latched on to the church’s inane assertions that the mouth of hell had opened up and spewed forth the creatures that had one day appeared from underground and carried off the majority of the world’s chaste in less than a month’s time.

*****

As I am very, very late to the game, all of my writing friends have been tagged, so I can’t play the “tag seven friends” part. But, if you’re a writer stopping by here and want to play, go ahead. Just let me know in the comments so I can read your 7-7-7.


Catching Up

It seems the past few months have been a race between time and me, with me struggling along in the back, trying to catch up to all of the things I need to do. This month marks a year since I joined SRG, and what I’ve learned, more than anything, is joining a roller derby league is not a trivial affair.  It’s not a drop in the bucket list, or the filler of an empty space on a college application.  Roller derby is a living, breathing monster.

And it will swallow you whole.

Once devoured by the monster, there are just two options: be spit back out, or settle down inside with thirty other ladies for a long, slow, glorious digestion. The first moment I laced up and stepped onto the track I chose digestion.  I practice for two hours, three nights a week.  At least one of those ends with someone offering to run out and grab a beer.  There are fundraisers, league meetings, committee meetings, and committee obligations.  There are gatherings, parties, and get-togethers almost every weekend.  With so many young women on the league, something is always going on.

I’m an all-or-nothing sort.  I don’t half-ass things, never have.  If I commit, I put my heart into it.  If I can’t commit, I don’t try to just squeak by with a marginal approximation, I simply don’t do it.  And that is why this blog has been such a wasteland the past few months.  I committed to roller derby, found amazing fulfillment in it, and let, well, pretty much everything else slack. There were other factors going on with my writing, ones I will not bore you with.  As many of you are writers you probably have experienced each of my extenuating circumstances, and I wouldn’t be sharing anything new, anyway. Whatever the root cause, my obsession with roller derby provided an excellent excuse for not dealing with the blinding white screen.

Sunday closes our official season–our team’s first. I started out having not skated in twenty years.  I was sedentary (save for a few short-lived spurts of “I’m going to get in shape with Billy Blanks!”).  Skating an hour during open skate exhausted me.  I geared up and pushed myself on sucky wheels and a slick floor.  I participated in my first bout, skating very upright and directionless.  Boomz from Charm City–a borrowed skater for our team–spent the entire night yelling my name and dragging me around the track from wherever I had wandered to where I was supposed to be (thanks for that, Boomz). I worked harder after that bout.  I learned to always ask myself, “Where’s their jammer, where’s my jammer, where am I?”  I learned to pick up my feet, to get in front of people and sit on them. I got faster, got winded less. I went from panting after one jam to being able to participate in almost every jam without exhaustion. I tore my PCL.  I went to physical therapy and pushed even harder once I got back on skates. I hit harder. I skated with more strategy.  I learned to crossover on the turns while skating backwards.  I jammed more to learn agility.  I hit harder.  And now I’m looking at this upcoming bout with confidence, knowing that all of those little struggles have added up to an entirely new me, both on and off the track, one that will keep growing and changing with every passing practice from here on out.

If I take what I have learned from roller derby this past year, it’s that achievements aren’t the big billboards we envision at the end of our path.  Rather, they are the small things that happen on a daily basis that add up to create an ever-shifting vision of who we see ourselves being. For a while there, I was concentrating on my billboard dream with writing. I kept slogging towards it, occasionally flinging myself forward in the hopes of making greater headway, but it never seemed to be getting closer.  Every choice I made seemed to fail, and I started to think, “Why bother?” And that’s where the disconnect began. Commercial/professional/mental progress is much trickier to track than the physical, however, and I failed to recognize how far I’d come from five years ago. The connections I’ve made with other authors–people who are great both professionally and personally–are enough alone to consider this venture a victory. Looking even closer, though, I see magazine articles; an entirely self-published novel with admittedly few, but stellar, reviews; invitations to join other writing friends on projects; and new avenues constantly appearing to help guide me through this path I’ve chosen.

Expecting the One Thing to tell me I’m doing well is like saving up all of my energy at a bout just to deliver that big hit where everyone goes, “Ooooh!” It might be cool and satisfying in the moment it happens, but in focusing on that single detail I would be overlooking the multitude of other opportunities to grow and achieve (and probably set myself up for a slew of failures in the interim).  You know that hokey saying about how it takes a village? I guess it’s true.  Except in this case, it takes a whole roller derby team to raise a writer.    

As this blog is about Hell and Wheels, about my professional and derby life, it seems only natural to treat them as mutually inclusive.  How I approach derby seems to be a success, so I’m going to approach this writing life in the same manner–one little victory at a time.

As for Sunday’s bout, well, I’ll let you know how that one turns out.  Here’s a spoiler, though, it’s gonna be a good time.

If you’re in the Wilmington DE area Sunday around six and have nothing to do, stop by the Christiana Skating Center and buy a ticket.  I’ll be in black, with the mark of the beast on my back.

(I’m not in this particular jam from our July bout, but this is SRG–purple–in our first bout against this weekends’ opponents)


A Few Quick Updates

I’m backtracking a little through my progress with the Resonance sequel (titled Harmony), because I’ve decided–no, the story’s decided–there has to be a third book.  I never expected this to become a trilogy.  Well, once I had a notion that there was room within the plot confines for a third book, but I never really gave it much thought beyond that.  Then, the other night I was playing the “what if” game with the Architect and an entirely new idea twisted itself out of the current Harmony plot, and set about weaving itself into a whole storyline.  Because of that, some of the events that were going to happen in this upcoming novel have either been shifted to the final book’s plot, or have been deleted altogether.  I don’t mind the work, really, because it’s all going to make for a much more exciting series.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s just chewing up a significant amount of my extra time.

In derby news, we at SRG had another bout on July 17.  We won, by a significant margin.  I don’t have any photos to post, sadly, because no one I know has a camera that’s speedy enough to take the good action pictures, and I’m too lazy to contact the people who do to see if they’ll allow me publication rights.  But, I was there and I skated well.  Promise.  We had an unofficial scrimmage against another team on Sunday night, and we won with a similar score.  This all makes me very happy, and excited for our next bout in August.

I also got new wheels, Atom G-Rods, and my laps-in-five-minutes count went from 26 to 28.  Yay for magically awesome wheels!  Oh, and I have a new helmet.  It does nothing to make me faster.  But, it does a lot for the looking badass category.

This is probably one of my lamer posts, but the derby and writing have been warring for my attention, and I find I don’t have the time I used to for getting these posts together.  Just wanted you all to know I hadn’t died under a pile of cats or derby girls.

Oh, and I have an interview with Adam Slade up at Editing Hat, today, if you’d like to check that out.  I talk about writing, derby, and wading through flooded streets in nightwear.  It’s more amusing than this most likely has been.  Promise–yet again.

    


What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part Three: Sometimes You Have No Idea What the Lesson Is

It was a normal Sunday night.  Scrimmaging had started three jams before.  I was in the center of the track, skating as a poor substitute for a jam ref due to some bruised ribs.  The girls were doing short pack scrimmage drills.  Three jams in, one of our girls went down, her ankle leading the way.  I stood and watched it happen, having no recourse to help.  It’s a gut-wrenching thing to see one of your teammates fall and not get back up.  Derby girls are tough.  We stand in less than three seconds if uninjured, ten if slightly rattled, thirty if we have our bells rung pretty hard.  Last night time stretched beyond those benchmarks.  We waited on one knee, silently willing our teammate to rise, knowing as the seconds ticked past the likelihood of her getting up on her own grew smaller and smaller.  

Since I was useless as a jam ref, I chucked off my skates and drove her to the ER.  Fortunately, it was a slow night and radiology came for her soon after I arrived from ditching the car in the garage.  The doctor came back with the results almost as quickly–broken fibula.  Just like that, in the odd bend of an ankle, all of her plans for the summer, for derby, for everything, came to a sudden and complete halt.  And there seems no apparent reason for it.
We’ve all had those slap-in-the-face moments of hyper-clarified reality, when life seems to be trucking along nicely; we’re enjoying ourselves, our jobs, our writing, and then a lightening bolt crashes from the cloudless sky and sets everything aflame.  We try to make sense of it, say things like, “There’s a reason for it,” but in reality we’re just ignorantly stumbling in the smoke, wondering what in the hell just happened.
As someone who always wants to know the reason for everything, I wish I had an answer to those moments, that I could locate the lesson within the haze.  Sometimes, years later, I do see a glimmer of a thread connecting a bad event to others, a tiny labyrinth of happenings that lead to my current happy situation.  Other times, though, the purpose is more deeply hidden, seemingly absent.  
Maybe it’s not the event, but the response that counts.  How quickly we pick ourselves up from that devastating rejection letter, from our dismal sales rankings, from that sidelining injury.  Some would say it’s a test of our mettle.  I agree, but not in any hand-of-God way.  Instead, it’s our own test, not something we set for ourselves, of course, but one to accept once presented just the same.  We are all stronger than we feel most times, and can take hits–even devastating ones–better than we can ever imagine.
Still, searching for the whys in difficult times can be counterproductive.  Coming from an obsessive background, I understand the allure of picking over minutiae, analyzing mental scenarios to find the cause, reason, truth.  The torrents of energy we pour into such thoughts, however, can better be served by moving on, even if the steps are slow and tedious.  If there is a lesson hidden within, no doubt it will present itself along the way.  Conversely, if the universe simply decided to flip us the double bird for no discernible reason, then what else is left but to flip it right back and go forth?
Divine lesson or no, chaos or no, the only thing to do is keep on rollin.’
Get well soon, Punk.  

What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part Two: The Flashy Stuff is Generally Useless

A woman cruises along on her skates, leg extended back.  Another skater flies up and grabs the proffered ankle.  With a quick pull, the front skater propels the other forward, giving up her momentum to allow her teammate to fly around the track.  The crowd goes wild at the show just performed for them.  This maneuver is called a “leg whip.”

A blocker sees another blocker coming up.  She leaves her defensive wall and sweeps out like a wrecking ball, smashing the other player into the suicide seats.  The opponent sprawls onto the floor (and maybe a few laps), and the audience is beside itself with glee.

The problem with these techniques is–they’re generally useless.  If a skater is in a tight pack, then there’s probably no room to extend her leg fully.  Even if she does have the space to attempt such a move, she’s just asking to get knocked down.  An arm whip–less glamourous, maybe–will more than suffice.  As for our swooping, big hitter, odds are the opposing jammer has taken advantage of the defensive hole she has left in the pack and has zoomed on through.  Or, the other team has used the lack of walls to form one of their own, and have now possibly trapped the abandoned co-blocker, making her the “goat” they keep behind them (and thereby control the speed of the pack).  In any of these scenarios the result is the same, showboating gets you nowhere.

The same is true for writing.  You can plan in your head a heroine who does flying roundhouses, snaps necks with a flex of her well-toned (yet sensual) bicep, who dismantles nuclear weapons while speaking eighteen languages to six different covert agency operators.  You can implant her into every dangerous scenario known to man.  You can build up the action until it’s nearly boiling over.  But, if your character has no purpose, no meaning, no depth, then all you have is flash.  And while flash can be pretty and cool, it never entertains people for very long on its own.

For instance, have you ever stood in line to see the Hope Diamond?  Waited in that snaking, creeping line to get your turn at the glass?  If not, here’s how seeing it goes:

Seconds one through two:
“Oh, wow! Just…. Wow!”

Seconds two through eight:
“Man, that thing is big.  I’d risk a curse to have a diamond that size.”

Seconds eight through ten:
“How is it blue?  I like blue.  I’d rather have a blue one than a regular one.”

Seconds ten through twelve:
“I think that guy behind me is breathing directly onto my neck.”

Second thirteen:
“I wonder what the big elephant in the lobby is up to?”

And that’s it.  The flash has already waned.  And the more times you see it, the less special it is.  Soon, it’s just a rock in a case that thousands of people stand in line to see, while you walk by and think, “Suckers.”

Sure, that last part was a little jaded, but my every field trip from kindergarten to twelfth grade was to the National Mall and I’ve had more than my share of the Hope Diamond, so you’ll have to forgive me.  Still, I stand by my assertion; just like a leg whip, just like a swooping block, just like an over-hyped stone, writing with the sole purpose of blinding your audience with awesomeness is useless.  Without depth and meaning, those big moments will not be very big at all.  In fact, they’ll reek of the author’s hand in the story, and jade your readers faster than a twenty-minute line to see a rock.  Staging events just to have them will never ring true with fans, and–just like the blocker who swings out to make the grandiose hits–will most likely cause a giant hole to appear somewhere you don’t want.  

Instead, keep it tight.  Keep it effective and meaningful.  And if the opportunity for flashiness arises, be sure first and foremost you’re not doing your story any harm by taking it.



What I’ve Learned About Writing From Roller Derby, Part One: It’s Okay to do This

In roller derby you have to pass a series of physical and written tests before you can scrimmage with the other players.  It’s a safety thing–making sure you’re not going to injure yourself or anyone else when skating in a tight pack.  At one point during the assessment test I fell.  As I regained my feet, my captain said, “It’s okay if you fall.  You have wheels on your feet.  You’re going to fall sometimes.”

I called the corner of the rink in which we fresh meat practiced, “The Guppy Pond.”  In the guppy pond I practiced crossovers, jumping, blocking, hitting, and I learned how to fall.  I learned how to fall correctly, and how to get up quickly.  I would steal envious glances at the ladies scrimmaging on the rink while I skated and dropped to one knee, stood up, dropped to the other, stood up, dropped to both, stood up.  Over and over I skidded across the floor, my legs aching for relief, my eyes darting along with the flashes of blue and red pinnies flying around the track.  I wanted to be out there so badly, to mix with the experienced girls, to play derby.  But, I wasn’t ready, yet.  I had more to learn before I could play the game.

So, I studied the rules and practiced the basics.  I took my test and passed.  And then I got onto the track.  My rabid enthusiasm quickly turned to apprehension as the realization sunk in that I was out of the guppy pond.  The hits would be real, and my newly acquired skills were nothing against the seasoned skaters surrounding me.  Suddenly, the guppy pond didn’t seem so bad.  But, it was too late.  I was in with the big kids and there was no going back.  So, I launched into the fray.  And fell.  And fell.  And fell.  Over and over I tried my best to get around the opposing blockers, eating floor more often than not.

But, there’s a trick to falling in derby.  It’s called falling small.

Falling small is falling in a calculated way.  It’s not flailing, clawing, sprawling onto the track in a miserable heap, railing against that which brought you down.  It’s tucking in your knees and elbows while still descending, hitting the ground in a smooth, protected curl and regaining your feet instantly.  It’s a thoughtful process, not distracted by what happened to make you fall–that doesn’t matter anymore–but rather knowing how to make that hitch in your progress cost you as little momentum as possible.

We’ve all struggled as writers.  Roadblocks–either of our own design or of those forged by the system into which we seek admission–are inevitable, just like falling when you have wheels on your feet.  But when those moments come, we can be ready for them.  As we topple, we can look up to see the track ahead.  We can see the holes in the defense, pleasant little spaces for us to try to squeeze through and attain our goals.  We can tuck in, preparing for that brief moment of impact, but already poised to spring forward with renewed vigor. Sometimes we hit the ground hard, but it doesn’t matter.  We’ve fallen small, and are up again and sprinting, a clearer plan in mind.

Yes, it is okay to fall.

Just make sure you do it right.


Five Years and One Month

That’s how long it’s been since my blog has been running.  To celebrate that milestone (I missed last month’s true anniversary, but I like the notion of thirteen months better than twelve, anyway) I am making some changes.

I’ve been skating for five months now, and I can honestly say the Derby Monster has grabbed me and will not let go.  Instead of fighting my loves and trying to compartmentalize them, I have decided to merge the two.  Derby has taught me quite a bit about being a writer, and vice versa.  I’ll tell you all about it, soon, right after I get this new layout squared away.  
There will still be fantastic stories–of mystical women, some who can control fire and minds, and others who will knock you onto your face with a twitch of the hip, or slide through a fingerbreadth of space as if it were a chasm.  
So, welcome to Hell and Wheels, the next transformation of the dark fantasy writer Avery DeBow’s blog.  I’ll be back soon with my first post about what derby has taught me about being a writer and how “It’s Okay to Do This”
It’s Okay to Do This

Oh, and I Play Roller Derby

Since the past two weeks have been filled with getting ready for my roller derby team’s first ever bout, I haven’t really been writing much.

(Waiting for grumbles of chastisement to cease)

See, I agreed to be the bout production coordinator, because… Well, if we have our honest hats on, because I have a bossy streak and an inescapable need to be in charge of things.  So, it’s all my fault, really.  I haven’t been doing nothing, though.  I’ve fit in several internalized versions of my ever-famous “What If” plotting tirades between the ticket sales, text messages, shopping trips, printer emergencies, and phone calls.  As far as actual writing goes, though, these past two paragraphs are pretty much the sum of it.

*Gulp*

Now that the first home bout is over, I think things will be much easier from here on out–which is good, because I need to crawl back inside my head and get some things done.

Until I come back with something more substantial, I will leave you with the information that our bout was amazing.  Nothing went wrong.  We had over six hundred people in attendance and they all had a blast.  It was an inter-league bout where we split into two teams, The Old Bay Bombers and The Wicomikazis.  I was on The Bombers, and we just happened to win.

But, the big win of the night was an entire league of girls finally getting out there and showing the public what a group of fun-loving, hard working badasses we really are.

Photo courtesy of Todd DeHart Good Clean Fun Life  (on Facebook)

Want to Put on My Shoes?

Did you ever wonder what it feels like to have prompts thrown at you?  Ever wonder how it feels to come up with a story based on random spewings from other peoples’ minds?  Well, now you can live the dream.  D. Lynn Fraizer is sponsoring a very cool flash fiction writing contest over at her blog, WrittenWyrrd.  She previously asked readers for prompts (I missed that part, sorry), and came up with a spine-tingling paragraph for writers to use as a basis/inspiration for an urban fantasy flash fiction story.  You can find the prompt and the rest of the details, here.

So, come on.  Jump in the prompt pool and see how well you can freestyle.  The deadline for entries is midnight on Sunday, August 22.