Farewell 2013!

It’s been an eventful year for T. K. Trian. Sure, we still haven’t finished Solus even though we thought we would, but it turned out that despite us working on it almost daily, there’s so much more to do than we ever expected. We have come up with new ideas, found flaws in our plot and writing technique, and wrestled with industry standards vs. creative freedom. It’s a learning curve, writing, but damn is it fun, too!

Nevertheless, there are a few things we can be happy about as we look back Twenty-Thirteen.

1) Joining writingforums.org aka Creative Writing Forums
– T. K. Trian have a lousy history when it comes to writing forums. We tried three places before settling at CW. Got kicked out of one (good riddance), got sick of the amazingly non-creative atmosphere of another, and the third one seemed a little dry. Then came CW, a scintillating community of all kinds of folk but mostly open-minded literary rebels. We’ve made new friends and had the privilege to read amazing, inspiring stories. Who knows what kind of future stars some of them will turn out to be?

2) Adventures
– Despite numerous health problems, we did get to adventure this year, St. Petersburg, Russia being perhaps the highlight. A beautiful city, delicious food, affordable shopping, and fascinating museums. The pitch-black night on the deck of a cruise ship, surrounded by the raging Gulf of Finland was also something to remember.

3) Academic Achievements
– While not anything to brag about, we’ve enjoyed the brainy atmosphere of the University of Helsinki this year as well. It will be a bittersweet day when we both finally graduate…

4) Creative Achievements
– Solus has been our number one focus this year, but on the side, T.Trian has worked hard with his band, Niavka. Some line-up changes have occurred, but the recording of new material has been underway ever since October, and the vocals should be recorded in January-February 2014. Very exciting! We also wrote separate entries to the Annual Science Fiction Contest of CW. Looking forward to finding out how we did!

What were your highlights, personal or professional, of 2013?

When Do You Dare Let Go?

Lately, Team Trian has been working madly on Solus , (hence the blog silence, sorry about that, in case someone reads this stuff, hah), and for a few sweet hours, we thought that thing was ready for submission.

But no.

It’s not. It’s really not. And this must be the 11th draft! We are starting to wonder whether it’s us, whether we just suck so badly that we can’t get it done or whether it is actually normal for a novel to take years and a gazillion drafts to be finished.

Our main problem is the length. We have to cut it down to, say, at least 180k. Space operas can be quite long, even those by new writers, and it seems we won’t be able to cut it any shorter than that.

Second problem is the amount of telling. Truth is, the prose is stronger and more effective when we show instead of right-out tell (we aren’t slaves to this “rule,” but it’s got a point!), and it’s a slow process to find the best way to convey Thing X in the most effective possible way.

Third problem is, how to put it delicately, some major new-writer rule-breakage. Italics for thoughts? Check (though way, way, way less than there used to be). Names for chapters? Check. Oh and the length, that’s a problem too, probably the biggest one, but it seems we’re going to have to live with all these “faults,” and hope that someone somewhere some day saw something potential in this manuscript… or else it’s self-pubbing for us.

Then there’s the technical side: formatting and grammar. Are the commas in the right place? Have we remembered every hashtag? Do we capitalize foreign words that would be capitalized in English but not in the other language?

How have you, dear published writers, jumped over these hurdles? Or perhaps you ram right through? When do you let go of your baby? How many drafts does it take? How high have you set up the bar and how much do you forgive yourselves?

We’ll be pondering this tonight while kicking some ass (read: have our asses kicked) in Medieval fencing and wrestling class and modern boxing class (yay for shitty time management and over-ambitious scheduling!).

Peace out and shoulder-punches all ’round!

T&K

Gay Rights, Ice Hockey, and Writing

by K. Trian
 
 If there are any sports fans out there, you’ve probably heard and read of the hubbub concerning the Moscow track-and-field World Championships and the criticism Russia has received concerning their human right trampling laws against homosexuals. This has prompted articles and opinion pieces to pop up all around media, and one of the most interesting ones that I read today was on gay rights, sports and NHL by Jouni Nieminen, a sports reporter. Unfortunately the article is in Finnish, but it made me think of a few things in relation to writing, gay rights and ice hockey.
 
Gay Rights and Ice Hockey
 
1) A male ice hockey player is expected to be heterosexual vs. A female ice hockey player can freely be both, gay or straight.
 
No, it’s not that black-and-white in real life, but you get the picture. This seems hardly fair, and makes me wonder if there really are people out there who honestly believe a gay man can’t be as “masculine” as a straight man, can’t play hockey as well, can’t build big, burly muscles, can’t lose his teeth in a scuffle, can’t drink his mates under the table, etc. How does the sexual orientation in any way affect any of that, the trademark behavior of “a real man”? And what are you afraid of in the locker room? Surprise butt-sex? You, big burly hockey players? That someone checks out your junk? Does that bother you and why? I just can’t wrap my mind around this mindset that a player’s worth is not solely weighed by their skill. Or around the ridiculous homophobia that keeps one from showering at the same time with a gay person.
 
2) As a kid, I thought Russia was cool with gays because of t.A.T.u
 
Do lesbians pull the longer straw once again, or why does it seem that in sports, gay women have it easier than gay men? Let’s face it, sports, especially those that make you sweat, were considered a man’s business for a long time, so perhaps it is still a manly world. Now, the lesbian stereotype seems to be a manly, cross-dressing butch, so perhaps, indeed, being a gay woman doesn’t infringe on or besmirch some holy ground of athletics.
 
As for the t.A.T.u –reference. These girls, while apparently not gay in real life, were huge in the early ‘00s. While many of their gimmicks seemed to be mere eye candy for the male audience, the girls also had real talent and some really good pop songs (and actually, I’m glad I stood my ground and listened to them even though my big brother asked in all seriousness whether I was a lesbian too). So it’s rather surprising they came from Russia who’s received a lot of shit for their nonsensical human right violations.

You know, ’cause in reality a bunch of guys can go and beat up a lesbian, but if the same guys beat up a straight woman, they’ll get their balls sawed off and fed to them.
 
3) Traits irrelevant to skill kill your career – or save it?
 
Jason Collins and Glenn Burke were unfamiliar names to me up until now, but apparently in both cases being openly homosexual can and/or has affected their careers. Jason Collins came out this year. He plays basketball in NBA, but his career is at its dusk, he’s 34. If he gets to renew his contract, will it be renewed so as to shut up gay activists, or because he’s still got something to give to his team? If it’s not renewed, will there be accusations of homophobia? Either way, what saddens me is that there’s potential for dragging his sexual orientation where only his skill should be relevant.
 
Major League Baseball player and possible high-five inventor Glen Burke’s story is sad. He was openly gay through his career in the ‘70s, but his reputation was eventually besmirched, and he was smoked out of the sport he loved.
 
I can understand why people would choose not to be open about their sexual orientation or love life when there’s the danger of jeopardizing their career, and it saddens me that the world has to be this way. I mean, is The Summer Hit 2013 maker, Robin Thicke getting his career shot down for the lyrical atrocity that is Blurred Lines? Yup, advocating non-consensual sex is ok. Sleeping with the same sex is not.
 
Writing
 
The message
 
How is this relevant to a writer, then? I know many writers tend to get a little wary whenever they’re asked if there’s a message in their story for fear of appearing preachy because that’s just not cool if you want to live in the same box with other libertarians. But I think we shouldn’t be afraid of sprinkling messages in our stories. In Solus, the main male hero is gay – and a warrior, serving an organization that doesn’t welcome openly gay men or women. But since that’s what he loves, what fills his life, he does it anyway, and this situation opens several interesting avenues for discussion to us, the writers. The story is not about his struggle as a gay man in a homophobic environment, but it is part of the character, and we can’t dismiss that part. We have also created a multinational society where Western liberalism clashes with non-liberal values, and that also provides us plenty of interesting viewpoints. Yes, our attitudes bleed in, that’s unavoidable, but I’m still excited to have such a story to work with that allows me to discuss matters that are important to me – like the right to love and live. Whether our execution will ultimately work, well, I guess if anyone ever ends up reading the novel, they’ll be the judge of that. 

Breaking Stereotypes
 
But another reason why I think this is relevant when it comes to writing is that whatever characters a writer creates; gay, straight, black, white, men, women, young, old; there can be so much more to that character than the gender/color/orientation/age-tag we glue on them, and I find it important to respect the many layers the creation can and should have. Even if it’s just the tip of the iceberg that makes it to the final manuscript. I also think that, to a degree, a writer who’s serious about their work, should take responsibility and portray the many walks of life with respect – even if they seemed to be the villains. Even though it’s 2013, a gay male hockey player has a different story to tell than a gay interior designer – and note, it might not necessarily mean the former struggles with his sexuality vs. his surroundings more than the latter.
 
Sources:
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19941102&id=tplQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=FRMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5210,373655
http://blogit.hs.fi/nieminen/2013/08/25/sateenkaari-sotshin-jaahallin-ylla/

Writing about Uncomfortable Things

By K. Trian

Just a little bit of light in the darkness.

Okay, different people have different comfort levels, but I’ve noticed over the course of our “writing life” that T and I tend to veer towards rather uncomfortable things in our writing.

Sometimes this makes me nervous.

Just yesterday we came up with a new sub-story line to our current WIP, but already I’m wondering how other people would react to it. It’s about a woman who coerces a man sexually. This is a subject little discussed. A man can’t be raped right? Definitely not by a woman because women are so small and weak, right? It’s a difficult subject, and in Solus we wanted to take different angles to (sexual) abuse.

In fact, our sci-fi WIP, Solus, is turning into an uncomfortable juggernaut in other ways too. The science part of it is not pretty, the portrayals of human greed and corruption in the space colony of Solus don’t warm my heart whenever I’m writing or thinking about these subjects, and sometimes I feel like crying whenever we write the most damaged characters, the victims of the abuse from above, from people who have more power. I know I want to discuss these subjects, and I want to tell these stories, but sometimes they make me so uncomfortable, I start to wonder if there’s any sense in writing like this. Should we really carry on?

We always do, though. It’s like we owe it to the characters who are trying to survive in the dark and hostile world we’ve created. If we never finished the story, I’d feel like I had forsaken them there, in the dark.

Sometimes I’m afraid what others, possible future readers, will think. Will they misunderstand everything? Think the content is gratuitous? (I know it isn’t, but as said, people are different) Question our sanity? (likely). But here we, T. K. Trian, just have to trust our writing and vision, tell the stories we think should be told. And it’s not all doom and gloom either. There’s lots of humor and romance as well. But especially with Solus, I feel the uncomfortable is always there, hanging heavily above like a storm cloud, or out of sight, like a poisonous river running underground.

What types of uncomfortable issues have you addressed in your writing? Have you ever found yourself biting more than you can chew?

The unbearable lightness of editing

by K. Trian

It was well put on writingforums.org, if my memory serves me right, that your novel is not finished after you’ve typed the last word. That’s just your first draft. The finished work is, of course, the one you have proofread, edited, sent out to be beta-read, edited again, read through, edited, tweaked, turned, added and deducted, sent out again, edited, edited, edited…

True, there are editors out there, but they don’t re-write your first draft to a publishable form, so, really, there’s no escape from editing.

I’ve come across several comments about how much writers dislike editing and proofreading their works. Understandable. It can get boring, or even embarrassing, very likely infuriating, and such was the case with me as well. But now I have grown to really love editing.

It’s like calculus or algebra, which I hated back in school, but I have come to enjoy now: the intricacies of mulling over sentence structures, weighing adjectives, catching filters and expositions and renegade commas—just to get to my end result, neatly marked under a straight line like a math problem in your notebook.

Sometimes I treat our work like it’s research, an article we have written to a scientific journal. I try to manufacture a map inside my head; how the elements connect within the novel, whether its structure is cohesive, whether I can pinpoint the goals of the characters or draw the arch of the plot. It’s challenging, especially with our WIP, Solus, because it’s a mastodon of a novel.

I also want the story to look pleasing to the eye. The dialogue and narration parts are neatly in order, there are enough paragraph breaks, I even ponder the words—“Could I have assonance or alliteration here? That’d look and sound nice!” And then there’s all the sculpting that must be done! Am I repeating myself here? Is this sentence necessary or have I achieved the effect I wanted with a certain utterance? Am I explaining too much? Why are there so many howevers, seemeds, reacheds, nods, frowns and smiles? Do I really have to mention whether it’s the left or right hand, or whether he aimed his gun or just shot at whatever? Can I show the surroundings without huge info dumps?

And even after all this work, the writer is still blind to their mistakes (at least we are!). It’s easy to edit others’ works, way easier to spot illogicalities and grammar errors. But with your own work… well, we have read Solus 1 well over half a dozen times, and every time we come across mistakes and faulty logic and ‘goddamnit this doesn’t make any sense!!!’ –situations. Every. Single. Time. Just yesterday we were reading a part where the main heroine, Lise, fights robot sentinels in an abandoned research station. Something struck her as odd three or four times within several pages. How did we not notice this verbal fuckery before? And how many times does Reggie, the male hero, grin on one page? Way too many. What’s with the grinning! Get some help, dude!

Editing can be frustrating and painful, but it can be fun too, especially when the writer can laugh at him/herself. Yes, at first it unnerves you, even disgusts you, but you tell yourself the world wants you to do it, that you owe it à tout le monde. Can’t give them a half-assed work, can you? You know it’s gonna hurt, so you have to ease on to it, take it easy, fix little things here and there. Sure, at first it does, hurts to find out you are not as brilliant as you thought, but little by little you get used to savaging a part of you, your manuscript. And maybe even learn to like it! Yes, editing can be unbearably fun!

So good luck to all of you aspiring or already published writers. Pull the editor’s hat on and get polishing your masterpiece!

-K

 

Our flagship story: Solus : The Darkness of Space

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Welcome to T. K. Trian’s Literary World! Feel free to browse around, leave comments, and follow!

Right now T. K. Trian are working on our sci-fi piece, Solus: The Darkness of Space.

Synopsis

Lise Armfelt joins the International Law Enforcement of Solus with intentions so good, they pave her way straight to hell.

Solus, Earth’s capricious space colony, was built with the blood of convicts, but now their descendants want to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Soon Lise realizes that the constant clashes between ILES and violent gangs have her doing more killing than protecting. Her philanthropic goals are further sidetracked by her offbeat team leader, Jonathan ”Reggie” Reagan. His personal vendetta against Vincent Léon, a notorious gang leader, takes Lise to places she never knew existed, and if she had, she never would have wanted to visit.

The threat of an all-out war between ILES and the gangs, corruption that reaches the highest offices of Solus, and the isolation of space quickly drain Lise’s innocence, but too many will die unless she goes above and beyond the call of duty. In the end, she learns that the darkness of space is more than just a metaphor.

____________________

 

Solus is a mixture of military sci-fi and horror with a dollop of social commentary and a tiny hint of romance.

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