I went to NYC Pride yesterday.

Despite a messy house, a number of projects I should be working on, and a few other things.

I wanted to be there, because the SCOTUS ruling is a very big deal. I broke out the bottle of champagne we’d been saving since before Christmas on Saturday night, to toast it, along with my Dad’s eighty-seventh birthday.

I whole-heartedly support marriage equality, and really, it was about time. If you had asked me ten years ago, I would have told you that I wasn’t going to see equal marriage in all fifty states during my lifetime. Even five years ago I might have told you that.

This is a huge victory for equal rights. It is very much a triumph of love.

As I’ve blogged before, I am a Christian, and have been one for many years. I am from a fairly liberal tradition, but I dress very modestly, for a number of reasons.

Last time I went to Pride, I felt a little self-conscious. So I thought about putting on pants, so as not to stand out.

“Wear what you’re comfortable in,” my sister said. “Do you want to wear pants?”

“No, I’m not comfortable in pants. I’m much more comfortable in a skirt.”

So instead of an outfit that I’m marginally okay in public in, I put on a long cotton skirt with a slip for opacity, and a t-shirt with a modest neckline and embroidered fishies on it. And felt every bit as much myself as I hope the long-haired and bearded man next to us in red lipstick and a black and gold caftan felt like him, her, or ey-self.

Because, at the core of it, I think that’s what Pride is about. Being able to live like yourself, and love, without fear or shame or apology.

The joy I felt yesterday, or on Friday when I read the good news on my Facebook feed isn’t entirely unmixed, because I keep wishing this had happened five or ten or twenty or even fifty years ago. That it had never been a big deal. That the lack of this kind of equality under law had never led to so much injustice. That no one had ever had to suppress who they were because they wanted marriage and family. That…

I could go on and on. But love wins.Love wins

First time right, or “all I really needed to know about writing I learned from a journalist.”

That’s a little bit of an exaggeration.

For the record, I am not, and never have been, a journalist. All of my professional writing is fiction. My degree is in English Literature.

I took only one writing class in college. It was non-fiction, but not specifically oriented towards journalism.

I have read very little on writing, although that little has generally been by journalists. My parents had a background in magazine journalism, and I’m sure that has had an influence both on my writing style and how I think about writing.

The thing about newspaper journalism (and to a lesser extent, writing for magazines and the internet equivalents of both) is that it does not have the luxuries of either space or time. It must be concise, and it must be produced quickly and competently, because it will not get more than a cursory editorial glance. I don’t know if this is true, but I have been told that the standard, at least back in the day, was twenty minutes from AP wire to press-ready copy.

First time right. You don’t get a second chance.

Fiction writing is in many ways different, and not just because space and time are not the same kind of luxuries, but that “first time right” is sound advice.

I see a lot of advice on self-editing, including some that suggest it isn’t really possible. I do, by the way, think it is possible, but not everyone can do it, because that kind of objectivity is hard, and no matter how competent, it’s not a substitute for a decent professional edit.

A clean first draft isn’t a substitute for that either, but it will save you time, and if you’re paying out-of-pocket for editing, it will save you money.

Some writers can’t work from an outline (I’m one of them), but if you can, it’s usually worth making one. It will give you purpose and keep the story arc of your draft tighter.

Turn on the grammar and spelling highlighters in Word (or whatever else you’re using) and pay attention to the little underlines when they pop up. Acquaint yourself with a style manual (Chicago Manual of Style is the one commonly used in publishing). If the writing program you are using does not have spelling/grammar checkers, get one that does. Seriously. You’re a professional, get professional tools. Even if you are a former spelling bee champion who has strong grammar and punctuation skills, you have idiosyncrasies and you make errors when you type fast. The highlighting saves time and spares you from sending out manuscripts with stupid errors. Keep in mind that spell-checks are not substitutes for a careful read-through. Notoriously, they don’t catch homophones. Sooner or later your heroine will bear her chest or bare her children if you rely on them, and you will be embarrassed.

Stop and look over what you’ve written every ten pages or so. Fix any errors you’re aware of. Some writers will go over the previous day’s work every day. I usually go over the whole thing every ten thousand words or so and adjust as necessary, particularly for consistency. Now there are some writers who can’t work that way, either because they get bogged down in the minutiae of revising, or they’re so tired of their own work that they don’t want to look at it anymore and give up halfway through.

If you can, it will usually result in a tighter draft. If you can’t because it stifles your process, it’s still worth trying to keep the spelling and grammar, particularly sentence structure, as clean as you can without becoming so fixated on the technical details that you forget what you were trying to write about.

Why?

Particularly since a lot of writing advice focuses on worrying about creative stuff in the early stages, and leaving the technical details for later. There is also no wrong or right way to embark on process. Some of us write at six in the morning with coffee and some of us write at midnight with wine. Some do both. Or neither. There are hacks that produce clean copy and brilliant writers whose drafts are a red-ink worthy mess. Both are probably exceptions, but they exist.

Not only does that clean draft save time in the edit and revision process (always a worthy goal), a finished looking manuscript is easier to read. Easier for a beta to find the holes in your plot. Easier for an editor or an agent to see if they might have potential interest in your work. Easier for you to figure out if what you put on the page is actually what you meant to say. For at least some writers, probably easier to produce a better book.

May, December, a couple of new projects, and my boxset story.

A couple of months ago I was facebooking constantly about a story I was working on for a charity boxset. It was kicking my butt. It seemed simple enough. The story was supposed to revolve around a Pride festival, and I already had a little bit of a plot bunny from when I went to NYC Pride in 2012 with some extended family.

Then some stuff happened to my plot bunny. Then some more stuff, plus I was working on BoardwalkBoardwalk Final Front Cover 1 29 2015

while I was writing it, and some of that spilled over… And, and, and then I finally realized I was writing an enormous age gap. Huge. My poor MC was falling in love with a man old enough to be his grandfather. Ack!

How do you make that not creepy? The answer is “very, very carefully.” So that’s why the story was kind of kicking my bottom, because I kept going over again and again in minute detail, because it could so easily have veered into “Eeeewww!”. I think I’ve been successful. I hope I’ve been successful. I’ve always been a “pantser” kind of to the extreme, but every now and then my characters get these notions into their heads…

The end result is “What the Heart Wants” and it is about to be available in this limited edition set.

11393262_1610815519188150_2124506859436953645_nI don’t have the buy links yet, but it’s up on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25665642-finding-love and I am incredibly excited. I’m still really stoked about every new release, plus it’s very flattering to be invited to something like this, and I’m in some great company.

And it’s for charity. That’s actually the very most important part of the whole thing. All the proceeds go to The Trevor Project. I can’t stress enough how vital their work is. We’re losing our kids. Because they don’t believe it gets better and they don’t know anyone else like them and sometimes teenagers just get tunnel vision because they can’t believe it isn’t always going to be this awful.

Will, my MC in “What the Heart Wants” doesn’t have the easiest relationship with his parents, but he’s old enough and grounded enough and has enough other support systems that it’s not awful for him. I write fiction, but what happens to Jared in “Another Gift”, or to Leon and his first boyfriend, or to Blake’s childhood friend in “Where Least Expected” are close to reality for some LGBT youth. LGBT people and allies need to stand up for these children and do something. This well-respected charity does, and I’m delighted to be part of this, and to try to make a difference.

I have a couple other things cooking too. I’m working on a bunch of stuff (always), including a couple of period pieces. “Call it Forever,” the sequel to

71TBETuZTsL._SL1425_is due out July 3rd and I’m very excited about that. I also just finished another Wake and Cody story. It’s been submitted, but I don’t yet know if it’s going to get picked up or if it will end up as a self-pub.  I also have at least one Halloween story in the works, and there is no way I’m ever going to let a holiday season pass without at least one Christmas story (and maybe a Thanksgiving one, possibly Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve…)  So more coming, I promise. And thanks for putting up with me.