the blessings of the damned

I feel like I've heard that before, but I googled it and all I got were a bunch of Christian blogs, so maybe I actually did make it up. I've got a short story percolating behind that title, and the first folks who get to read it are my critique group. I wanted to write a post about them because they are my hard, drought-cracked ground in the great flight that is writing. They're also the huge, blue sky. I'll use first names to protect the guilty (me).

Renata- the leader of our ragtag band, an editor at Espec, and a damn good writer. She has a way of putting me in her stories and keeping me there (all without writing in third person!) She's as technical a writer and editor as I've ever met, and she puts me through my paces grammatically. I have a hard time finding someone who can do that for me since Krypto went to the great Blogger-In-The-Sky. Because of her (and S&W) I know what I submit to magazines and agents will be clean and correct. She has anxiety about perfection in her own writing, which is ridiculous because the stuff she turns in is so good I just want to know what happens! She also keeps us on schedule, at the Zine and in group, which is valuable cuz I need a keeper.

Dave- aka "The Slasher." He follows the 10% cut rule to a tee, and probably beats it every time. We have the most in common: family, young kids, we live near each other, and carpool. Oh, and we're always late. The most unassuming, published, and well-read member of the group, Dave's lawyerly mind makes connections and leaps that surprise me every time. He also gives us the guy POV, which is valuable since I write from the male persuasion all the time. He tells us when there should be flirting, sex, a mention of breasts... Thing is, I think of all that stuff, but I tend to go to far in my mind and hence don't put much of it on paper. He's my green light, and my red light, and a damn good editor besides.

Lesley-Sheer volume of words. For production, I rarely meet a writer who can beat me, but Lesley writes a short story a month to put on her website. Plus, she's editing a novel, writing a new one, and oh, did I mention she's got a day job as a physicist? She's our science guru, and a grand sense of humor underlies every word of her writing. I like to think I'm the idiot she has to write down to, cuz I'm always going "I really liked this piece, but I don't get the science part." She just wrote a short story I loved. It's on her site now--go read!

Adrianne- Unadulterated passion. (Ok, not like that.) She's untempered steel ready for the fire. She feels strongly enough about writing that she takes her licks from us and comes back for more. She's me a few years ago, writing reams on Aidan and Kaelin. She's just taken that exit off the hobby roundabout toward submission, and it's a great thing because she's proved to herself she's serious about what she's doing. As a critiquer, she is well-read and just plain gets it. Many times she is the only one who understands my point in a scene, and she's the one that gives me hope that I'm showing not telling and all that. Watching her improve over the past months has put me back in the teaching frame of mind again.

I have a few beta readers, too, who tend to read the entire work when it's done:

Beth, who is a real writer (MFA, published, blah blah.) Very creative and good. She appreciates my characters and asks me pertinent questions.

Becky, who is my one friend who tells me exactly what she thinks. I know when she says she likes it, she likes it, damn it. (She mostly tells me what she doesn't like, but nicely.) She knows the fantasy genre and she's a discriminating reader.

Cyndi, who speaks two languages and challenges herself mentally every day, struggled to understand and help me clarify what I was doing with the series. She appreciates the intricacy of the plots and subplots and motivations. She is my cheerleader who is insulted on my behalf when agents turn me down, and her appreciation is valuable because she's downright picky about what she reads.

Charlotte, who never reads fiction but loved my characters enough to plunge herself into the series and find meaning and connections and explorations even I didn't know was there. She's the one who gets it when I say "Sometimes, I think I'm channeling this stuff."

Mom, who only reads British mysteries and the New Yorker, but does her damnedest to appreciate my weird-ass stories. Someday I'll write a mystery for ya, Mom.

And then a few hangers-on who likely haven't read a word I've written, but are so encouraging and positive they can't go without mention: Carol Berg, who is a wonderful writer and just a neat person, and who brought us E-spec editors into the inner circle of RMFW last conference; Barth Anderson, who writes circles around most people in simple blog comments; Jeanne Stein, who is newly published and wrote a fine book (just enjoyed it over the holidays)and writes a fun blog with Mario Acevedos (who I flirt with from afar--he truly has no idea who I am) ; Peter Stampfel at DAW who gave me encouragement by taking my book seriously very early on, as well as the benefit of a second reading (a prompter man with his emails you've never met); the folks at Spinetingler, who published my first story (my first in twenty years); a myriad of friends and acquaintances who ask me how the books are going; The Husband, who doesn't like to read or be mentioned here, and who also puts up with me and my insane hours, dirty clothes, house, language, and my drinking all because one day, a few years ago, I said, "I think I'm writing a book"; my son, who tells people his mommy is a writer; and my daughter, who tells me new stories of her own every day.

Thank you, all of you. Someday soon, I hope to make you proud.

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