Stranger in Paradise

This is the blog post I’ve been meaning to write for ages. The one about one of my great writing influences, and how it walked back into my life after I thought it was gone forever.

Once upon a time, in the neon flannel decade known as the nineties, a teenage girl went on her weekly visit to the comic book shop and saw a cover. She knew nothing about the story or author/artist, and, at that time, had barely ever read outside the Marvel or Image lines. All she knew was that the cover featured a grungy-looking artist who looked she had exactly zero fracks to give for your nonsense, aka pretty much everything the girl wanted to be when she grew up. So she dropped $2.75 and instantly fell in love.

IMG_0903
~where it all started for me~

Strangers in Paradise, for anyone unfamiliar, was a comic series written and drawn by Terry Moore, which ran from 1993 until 2007. Its story followed a cast of characters– mainly Katchoo, Francine, and David–and their day-to-day lives, various romantic entanglements, and involvement with organized crime syndicates and a prostitution ring. (Sounded really cute and fluffy there for a second, didn’t it?)

Reading SiP as a teen, it hit so many personal notes for me. Katchoo was a talented artist, assertive, and tough as nails (while at the same time able to be vulnerable). Basically, everything teen me wanted to be. Francine, on the other hand, was insecure, struggled with body image issues, and wanted nothing more than to be loved. (I…uh..I’m sure I don’t have to explain how that would resonate with a teen.) And finally there was David, who was handsome, sweet, intensely loyal, and just the right amount of broken.

I got the SiP story in pieces. The #1 issue I bought wasn’t a true #1; SiP had had two short 3-issue storylines prior to it. And, being that this was before you could go on the internet and find anything you wanted, this meant combing through boxes and piles in literally every comic shop I came across for back issues. I spent YEARS doing this, and can still remember the thrill of finding an issue I didn’t have, the missing connector between one chunk of story and another. (That being said, it’s not something I recommend; thank goodness for the internet, trade paperbacks, etc etc.)

There are a lot of emotional levels to SiP. Sometimes it’s a comedy, sometimes it’s a drama, sometimes it’s something else entirely. (Is there an entire issue where Francine and Katchoo are Xena and Gabrielle? Yes, yes there is.) It’s also one of the first things I ever read with any significant representation of queer characters.

IMG_0905
~mmm…evil on a stick~

But at its core, SiP is a story about friendship and love. Katchoo loves Francine, and has a complicated relationship with David. David loves Katchoo, but has a complicated relationship with…well, a lot of things. And Francine wants to be loved, but struggles with how the fairytale version of it she’s always been fed never quite seems to materialize.

Are you using that heart beating in your chest? Would be a problem if it got ripped out repeatedly? Then maybe SiP is not the read for you.

IMG_0904
~even out of context, this moment is just…ouch~

But beyond the stab-you-with-the-feels-knife-and-twist-it storylines, Terry Moore also has a gift for drawing people. Like, REAL people, not the miniature-waisted, beach ball-breasted, occasionally feet-less superhero characters I was mostly seeing at the time. One of my favorite panels of all time is of Francine getting dressed, wearing normal underwear and nylons, and actually looking like a human woman would look in those items. I didn’t know terms like body-positivity at the time, but Francine is now one of my favorite examples of it; even when she’s voluptuous (curvaceous, ample-bodied, even kind of *gasp* FAT) the other characters in the story always find her attractive.

IMG_0900
~this panel tho~

Given that it ran for like, fifteen years, there’s obviously so much story I’m not touching on. Like how Katchoo was a sex worker for a powerful, dangerous madame named Darcy who tasked her girls with gathering compromising information, including at the highest level of politics. (At one point, Darcy even implies that a certain First Lady is a deep cover Parker Girl, and, geez, do I wish that had been real life and not fiction.)

IMG_0899
~still would have voted for her~

And here’s where I get into the personal stuff. A while back, Terry Moore announced that Strangers in Paradise was returning. Not just returning, but beginning it’s new run in January 2018, which would be the same month that my debut novel, Gunslinger Girl came out.

It was a feels-knife stabbing all over again. Like, the kind of feels that I tend to keep private because I’m easily embarrassed and Katchoo was always tough in public and, and, and…well, yeah. It’s impossible to pick apart Gunslinger Girl and not find the SiP influences in it. One GG character (no spoilers) is basically an overt homage to an SiP character. There are clear shades of David in Max, my main character’s love interest. And on and on and on…Strangers in Paradise was simply such a formative read that there will likely always be hints of it in whatever work I produce.

Today, I arrived home after being on tour for Gunslinger Girl, something that I never dreamed would happen as a smol baby creative waaaaaay back in the nineties. I am utterly wrecked, running on adrenaline fumes, sugar, and whatever residual chemicals are coursing through my body following almost a week of restaurant meals. But an envelope was waiting for me in the mail, with a logo that took my extra crispy brain several seconds to register.

It was the first issue of Strangers in Paradise XXV.

It’s been at least two decades, but I still remember so clearly the feeling of seeing that initial #1 issue of SiP on the shelves. If there are points in a person’s life where their future creative fires spark, for me that moment was a full on flare up.

So, I am many years older now than when I first met Katchoo, Francine, & Co, but that’s okay, because so are they. I have no illusions about revisiting these characters; I may love the new stories, I may not. I know that if (when) I go back and re-read the original runs, I will be reading them through different eyes, in a world where some once accepted things are not longer acceptable, and where the conversations have evolved. But none of this stops me from being incredibly excited to dive back into the lives of old ink and paper friends.

And so, because we should always try to tell creatives when we love their work (so they keep creating, dang it!) I’m going to wrap up by saying thank you thank you thank you to Terry Moore for reviving this series, and that I’ll be eagerly checking my mail for new issues in the months to come. (>ahem< And also that the entire run of SiP is available in trade paperback, along with Moore’s more recent series.)

Can’t wait to read! ❤

IMG_1272

P.S. All panels, art, the copy within them, etc etc included in this blog post are copyright Abstract Studios, and are the gosh darn best.

I’m here, I’m here

Ages ago, I resolved to blog more. That, as it turns out, has been a resounding failure. The truth is, I never really know what to write about. I mean, I can think of a million different topics but I never feel like I have the right words to talk about them, so I don’t.

Why would the interwebs need one more blog post about a topic that’s probably been written about a thousand times before?, she reasons, tossing away idea after idea, because there’s always something else that needs to be done, and the threat of burnout has been lingering like a vaguely bad smell she can’t find the source of for most of recent memory.

So that’s where I am right now. Not at BURNOUT burnout, but wondering exactly how many breaking news stories or obligations I should have declined might get me there.

Pure 2017, basically.

A lot of creatives have been talking about how hard it is to create lately, constantly surrounded by what I will simply call “the unpleasantness.” And yes, that’s been hard. In the first half the year, I put in oodles of time finishing up GUNSLINGER GIRL, half-wondering if we’d be mired in a nuclear war before it ever came out. (And at least than three months from pub date, I suppose there’s still time, laugh/cry.)

But full-blown destruction by full-blown idiots aside, the creative process chugs along. Unfortunately, it has not been nearly as productive as I’d like. Today, for example, I planned to get a whoooooole ton of writing work done, only to fall asleep this afternoon on the couch, where I was quickly joined by my cat, who snuggled up with an enthusiasm  that seems to say “I don’t get why you don’t nap every afternoon, stupid human.”

Naps are a pretty rare thing for me (I’ve never been a good sleeper, and sleeping at night presents enough of a challenge) so when I manage to take one, I know it’s probably needed. (Given that I spent a lot of this week helping to prep for a Halloween party thrown last night by by one of my social groups, and didn’t get to bed until early this morning, I suppose it was understandable.) Still, I hate the feeling of *having* time, and then not putting it to as good a use as I could, because I’m too mentally or physically tired to do much more than binge watch Netflix and rationalize that dry cereal is a perfectly acceptable non-breakfast meal.

Like I said, I’m not at BURNOUT. But if I’m being honest I wouldn’t mind a two week vacation away from everything right about now. (Well, maybe…I took a week-long vacation earlier this year only to return to a large layoff at my day job, which has played no small part in the continuing Burnout-Lite™. So maybe I don’t want to tempt fate a second time, haha.)

On the plus side, NaNoWriMo is coming up. It’s been a couple years since I’ve been able to complete the challenge (for various reasons) but this year I’m really committed to adding a big chunk of words to my WIP. And the annual writing retreat with my writing group is coming up in a few weeks, so I have that to look forward to. (Full disclosure, the planning for that is on me too. Oh yes, I do this to myself.)

Where am I going with this? I don’t know…which is probably why I don’t blog much.

What I do know is 2018 is continuing as scheduled, and that I get to kick it off with the publication of my first novel. Which is a great motivation to begin a new year, as I certainly don’t intend it to be the last.

Part 2, Electric Boogaloo: Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List

19657265_1560659563953453_1366085073147277012_n

puppyquestions

Since I’ve had some repeated questions about what I’m looking for, here are a few clarifications:

• I like all the fantasies. High fantasy, low fantasy, historical fantasy, diet fantasy, extra crispy fantasy—ALL OF THEM.

• Most sci-fi is good too. (When I say hard sci-fi isn’t really my thing, I mainly mean I’m not looking for heavily science-y sci-fi.)

• Dystopia = yes, please.

• Mermaids/angels/demons/ghosts/etc: While I’m not looking for these things to be the main focus of the plot, it’s totally fine if these things exist in your story or universe.

• Sexual assault/rape: Again, I won’t reject if these things exist in your story, so long as they are not gratuitous or your MC’s main motivations.

• Dead animals: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, again, this is okay if it’s a minor part of your story. (Just don’t you dare send me your updated fantasy version of Where the Red Fern Grows. Don’t. You. Dare.)

 

That’s it! And please, if you’re still wondering about anything, feel free to reach out to me in the comments or on the Twitters!

callmebeepme

 

Pitch Wars 2017 Wish List

19657265_1560659563953453_1366085073147277012_n

hellopeeps

 

UPDATE: When you’re finished reading below, check out Part 2 of my Wish List, filled with all manner of of riveting clarifications!

Hello Pitch Wars peeps! As a brand-new-mint-in-box-first-time mentor, I’m super excited, honored, and more than a little nervous to be posting my wishlist!

First, a little about me: My name is Lyndsay Ely (that’s eel-ee, like an eel). By day, I am a mild-mannered graphic designer at a Boston publishing company, where I’ve spent eight years creeping around the inner workings of the industry and acquiring a staggering number of books for my TBR pile. When I’m not doing writerly stuff, you can find me digging through a thrift/antique shop, trying out a new cocktail bar, or geeking out to the max at a con.

jubilee

In 2015, I was lucky enough to be a Pitch Wars mentee, mentored by the incomparable Elizabeth Briggs. Today, I am represented by Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary, and my debut novel, GUNSLINGER GIRL, comes out in January 2018 from Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown.

What am I looking for?

As a young adult mentor, I humbly request that you send me your finest YA speculative, SFF, and historical fiction!

I like fantasy, light science fiction (hard sci-fi is a harder—but not impossible—sell), stories that* bend genre (Bend it! Bend it like you’re the avatar of genres!), adventures, dark, twisty stories, and well-detailed historicals. Give me a book like SIX OF CROWS or THE GOLDEN COMPASS or GRAVE MERCY. Send your young adult GODS OF GOTHAM , ANCILLARY JUSTICE, or SHARP OBJECTS. Give me complex, complicated characters (your Kara Thraces, Hollands, and Kaz Brekkers), worlds that vibrate with their intensity, and plots that will make my stomach ache to see how they’ll turn out. Not too hard, right?

genrebender

MOAR WANTS (both general and oddly specific):

  • Heists/treasure hunts (I’m a sucker for these!)
  • Badass ladies
  • Diverse casts, relationships, and settings of all kinds (including, but not limited to, LGBTIQA+ & #ownvoices)
  • Dark, gritty, or adventurous historical fiction
  • A historical Middle Eastern-based fantasy (See? Oddly specific. I HAVE A MIGHTY NEED!)
  • Twisted stuff, like a YA version of PREACHER
  • Geekiness.
  • Anti-heroes, vigilantes, and redeemable villains
  • A Gillian Flynn-esque YA contemporary
  • I’m not big on re-tellings, but if you have something along the lines of JANE STEELE, I might be interested
  • Feminism!!!

What do I not want?

Well, middle grade and adult entries to start. And I’m not the person to send your contemporary realism or romance manuscripts. I do like angst and romance, but I generally need some magic and explosions and such to go along with it.

donotwant_appa

MOAR DO NOT WANT:

  • Mermaids
  • Angels vs. demons
  • Love interests whose biggest selling point is hottiness, or Insta-love™
  • Ghosts or paranormal (though this is a maybe if it’s a historical setting)
  • Contemporary (unless you have the aforementioned Gillian Flynn-esque contemporary)
  • Epistolary novels, novels told in text message, verse etc. (Just not my thing.)
  • Killing off of pets, familiars, or anything cute, loyal, and lovable. (Unless it’s absolutely necessary for your plot that you devastate the reader. Because it’s absolutely going to devastate me.)
  • Rape as a character motivation, or excessive use or threat of sexual assault as a device to create danger
  • Non-Western settings starring a Western MC. (White savior stories are a hard pass from me.)
  • Any plot that leans on the “MC overcomes challenge despite the fact that / even though she’s a girl” device. (Girl MCs who have to pretend to be boys is gonna be a tough sell to me too, though I won’t say it’s 100% out.)

Not sure if I’ll be into something? Ask me on Twitter!

butwaitheresmore

Some personal favorites to give an idea of what I like:

Some favorite books/comics: The Count of Monte Cristo, the Young Wizards series, Six of Crows, Gods of Gotham, A Darker Shade of Magic (and sequels), the Bloody Jack series, The End of Mr. Y, The Stand, Strangers in Paradise, Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Fables.

Some favorite authors: Diane Duane, Scarlett Thomas, R. L. LaFevers, Lyndsay Faye, Warren Ellis, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and Terry Moore.

Some favorite TV/movies: Battlestar Galactica, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Archer, Dangerous Liasons, Titus, Deadpool, Heathers, Muppet Treasure Island

karathrace1


What can you expect from me as a mentor?

Well, to start, doing what it takes to get you the materials you need to revise in a timely manner. This will include an edit letter, feedback on revisions, help on your query, synopsis, and pitch, as well as assistance in finding sensitivity readers, if applicable. (Plus, some other things I probably haven’t thought of yet.)

What am I looking for in a mentee?

Someone passionate about the amazingness that is Pitch Wars. Someone who can take criticism, and search for the kernel of truth in it even when it doesn’t entirely make sense to them. Someone who won’t just kill their darlings, but pop up in the back seat of the darling’s car, garotte them, then burn the car and walk away without looking back.

carexplosion

And, most importantly, someone who will do the hard work and hit the deadlines, no excuses. (I mean, some things are obviously unforeseeable, but besides those.)

I am a very deadline-oriented person, and I’d like a mentee that is too. Two months for revisions sounds like a lot, but it runs out quick. However, if you’re willing to to put in the effort, so am I!

letsdothis
*that is in blue

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.

25.

26.

27.

28.

29.

30.

31.

32.

33.

34.

35.

36.

37.

38.

39.

40.

41.

42.

43.

44.

45.

46.

47.

48.

49.

50.

51.

52.

53.

54.

55.

56.

57.

58.

59.

60.

61.

62.

63.

64.

65.

66.

67.

68.

69.

70.

71.

72.

73.

74.

75.

76.

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.

Readercon Wrap Up

There’s nothing quite like the exhaustion following a weekend convention. My queendom for a pill that can erase three days of too little sleep and too much caffeine, booze, and unhealthy food. In lieu of that being available, blogging from the couch will have to do.

For anyone unfamiliar, Readercon is a Boston-area convention focused on science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other genres of speculative fiction. This was my second year attending (though it shares so many common guests, vendors, and themes with another local con, Boskone, that it doesn’t really feel like that) and, as usual, the line-up was great. This year’s guest were Nnedi Okorafor and Naomi Novik. I was able to attend a number of excellently executed panels, including It’s Complicated: Improving Intersectionality and Representation in Speculative Fiction, #Ownvoices Without Limiting Diverse Creators, and Recommending Outside the Box: Countering Unconscious Bias in Book Recommendations for Teens. And the events…well, if you poke around the hashtag on Twitter you may find some very entertaining videos from the Miscellany show on Saturday evening.

Cons feel a little different these days, though. Last year at this time, I hadn’t yet sold GUNSLINGER GIRL, so when people asked me what I write (or read, those two questions being pretty common icebreakers), I’d say mostly YA and that was the end of it. Now, with GG well along in the publishing process, I can say “YA, and my debut novel is coming out next year.”

Which feels…weird. Especially at a con with such extensive roots in the SFF/spec fic world (a world that I have far less exposure to than most of the attendees), where you’re pretty much within twenty feet of a critically acclaimed and/or major award-winning author at all times. Long story short, I felt very aware of my n00b author status.

But putting that aside (because I’m pretty sure the insecurities never really go away, *nervous chuckle*) it was a pretty great con. My writing group did their first “official” reading. (Which I very lamely came late to, because that’s how good of an organizer I am.) I got to hear some really interesting writers speak, including a kaffeeklatche (round table discussion) with Maria Dahvana Headley. That was a particularly interesting hour, as she touched upon something that’s been on my mind a lot lately: Narratives, both in real life and in writing, the effects they have, and how to better control/break free of them. (But that’s a blog topic for another day.) Also, she had these amazing antique Italian gold earrings she let me paw at.

Today, I’m enjoying a day off from work, recovering and gearing up for the beginning of Pitch Wars as a first-time mentor. (Eek.) And as tired as I am, I’m already looking forward to next year’s Readercon. Someone asked me this weekend what my next con was going to be, and I realized that now begins the dry season, and I’ve got nothing solid in mind (toying with a day at Boston Comic Con) until Arisia next January. *sad emoji face*

So, if anyone has recommendations for great cons between now and January, especially in the Northeast, feel free to share!

Getting Off the Fence for #PitchWars

ticktock

After what felt like a never-ending forever, all of a sudden Pitch Wars is approaching at  a rapid pace. (Are you nervous? As a first time mentor, I sure am.) We are only a week or so out from the Mentor Blog Hop, and less than a month from when the submission window opens.

There’s a lot of advice going around right now about preparing for Pitch Wars, how to up you chances of being chosen, how to pick the right mentors to submit to, etc etc. But there are probably a few people who haven’t decide whether they’re even going to enter this year. Maybe they’ve got reasons for telling themselves they shouldn’t, not now, not this year.

So let’s look at a few reasons why someone might be hesitant to enter:

booktoss

REASON: My manuscript isn’t good enough.

Is it? Is it really not good enough? Self-rejection is one of the hardest parts of being a creative to overcome, and one of the biggest obstacles to success. (Personally, I say take opportunities when they’re available, whether that’s an online contest, a new agent to query, an invitation to resubmit after revisions, etc etc. Persistence, as is repeated over and over in this industry, is key.)

It’s important to remember that Pitch Wars isn’t about perfect manuscripts. Mentors aren’t making offers on your manuscript, their goal is to help you improve it. And honestly, even the agents and editors who do make the offers rarely do so on “perfect” books. After an offer and after a sale, it’s very likely that you will make revisions on your manuscript, maybe drastic ones. So don’t assume what you’ve got in your hands right now isn’t “good enough.” There are thresholds at which a mentor/agent/editor will say “I can work with this” but you’ll never know if you’ve reached those thresholds if you don’t get your book in front of folks.

yeahokay

REASON: Rejection sucks.

No argument here. But it’s an inevitable part of the writing world, and it will never go away. You might as well get used to it.

I’m not trying to be flip. Putting your work out for critique never stops being nerve-wracking, but it does get better if you begin to accept that criticism and rejection are part of the process. I feel lucky to have attended art school (which is basically four years of putting your hard work in front of your instructors, friends, and fellow students and having them tear it apart) because resistance to rejection builds up like a callus. IF YOU LET IT. But if you avoid it, the few times you do put yourself and your work out there are going to hurt, and keep hurting.

And one more thought on rejection: Okay, you got rejected. What have you really lost? Not much. You’re back where you were before, at worst. But at best, you get what you want. Isn’t that an acceptable risk?

nervouskermit

REASON: Ahh—interacting with people online! It’s scary!

Okay, maybe you’re an introvert, or just aren’t very active online. That’s okay. As far as I know, there’s no minimal amount of interaction required if you’re chosen to be a mentee. While there are a number of active online mentee groups on Facebook, etc, no one is going to twist your arm to participate. If you want to quietly work with your mentor to make your manuscript the best it can be, and that’s it, that’s fine!

notimetodothings

REASON: Eh, it’s a lot of work and I don’t think I’ll have the time.

Now this is an acceptable reason not to enter. Pitch Wars IS a lot of work, and does take a certain level of commitment if you and your manuscript are going to benefit from it. If this year isn’t the year you’ll be able to make that commitment, cool. 2018 is right around the corner. (In fact, it could get here a little faster, for a multitude of reasons, haha.)

coinflip

REASON: I’ve read this whole blog post and thought it over and asked other people for input and I STILL can’t decide if I’m going to enter.

In this case, leave it to Fate. Flip a coin. (Hey, it worked for Two-Face!)
Got any other reasons you’re telling yourself not to enter? Need to be talked into it? Pitch Wars is a community; hit up the hashtags (#PitchWars or #AskMentor) and I’m sure you’ll find someone willing to help. 😉