in dreams.

| Thursday, December 31, 2009
Mood music: Connect / Disconnect

I had a ridiculous dream the other night that I felt the need to transcribe, because sometimes I don't know where my brain goes when I'm unconscious. It's a bizarre and occasionally creeptown place, I know that for sure.

I'm walking through a great, dark city. A lot like, y'know, Dark City. My cat is walking with me. The buildings seem more like cutouts than brick and morter, but they're solid enough. Everything is steeped in grays, blues or blacks. Sinister, as though we're being watched.

The streets are deserted, but I'm on my guard. Something's coming. Without warning, a young man is in front of me, wide-eyed but not afraid. He's telling me to run, and I do, my cat on my heels as we bolt down alleys and deserted streets. The kid follows, and soon there is a thing chasing us - shapeless, dark and nameless. When our lungs start to burn, he turns and calls out a name to the black mass headed our way. The entire length of it changes, becoming something slow, soft, harmless and... pink. He changed his world by renaming it. He looks at me, and then he's gone.

The dream shifts, and I'm somewhere else. I'm reminded of Vatican City - all bright colors and skillfully built arches. I'm standing on a patch of green grass, my cat still by my side. As opposed to the deserted city, this place has people bustling everywhere. I begin to make my way off the grass, wanting to explore the plaza. My cat calls out a warning. I take it to mean "Don't go over there, Food Lady Mom!" Though it was in Cat, so it came out more like, "Mrowr meep mew mew meep MROWR!"

I'm confused over her reaction, and I keep walking. She turns and scampers off. Continuing into the plaza, I find I'm surrounded by women. They all stop dead in their tracks. They're dressed all in black. They pull out umbrellas, opening them in unison and slowly revolving into the air, a la Evil Mary Poppins. Well, I guess that depends on whether you consider regular old Mary Poppins to be evil. Then they'd just be like Mary Poppins.

AND THEN I WOKE UP. And kitty was sleeping next to my head. I'm thinking she osmosis'd into my brain.

This wasn't even a weird night for me. I really need to start keeping a dream journal. Some of this stuff might be worth remembering.

jabbering about books.

| Monday, December 28, 2009
Weirdest thing... I get into my car today with the intent of picking up foodstuffs for my lunch break, and Reel Big Fish is playing on the radio. 1.) I work in a podunk country-lovin' town and I could swear no one here listens to RBF, 2.) it's a non-station that fades in and out depending on where I am in town, and 3.) LOL Reel Big Fish, I haven't heard you since the 90's, whut. Why oh why did third-wave ska have to die. If only it had been followed by The Aquabats, my day would have been complete. Seriously, I actually checked the FM transmitter on my iPod to make sure I hadn't left it turned on by mistake. Nope.

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. I sure did, though coming back to several inches of snow on a 17-degree blustery night was rough after spending several days with palm trees and Killer Crab Claws in California.

I have yet to get back into my writing routine (New Year's Resolution: KNOCK IT OFF WITH THE SLACKING), but I have been reading quite a bit, which has been awesomesauce. I've been inhaling all the books I've been meaning to read for the past few years, and even picking up a few new ones. Most recently...

Leviathan, Scott Westerfield - Fun fun fun. Yay alternate history steampunk with giant whale ships (literally, ships that are whales) and crazy gadgets. Plus a pair of rad female characters that are each awesome and kick-ass in their own way without being all OMGLOL STEREOTYPES ARE HILARIOUS. I approve. The male characters were win on many levels as well, of course, but seriously Deryn/Dylan makes me super happy. Plus I am a total geek for sci-fi alternate history, so.

Candor
, Pam Bachorz - I enjoyed it. A believable male protagonist, an anti-utopia, rebelling against THE MAN (who also happens to be your dad), mind controlling music, and graffiti. I look forward to more by Ms. Bachorz.

If I Stay, Gayle Foreman - Holy crap, this book. Emotional rollercoaster central, right from the get-go. It's short, but packs such a punch. It takes a special kind of talent to make people care so deeply about characters in so little space.

The Hunger Games
& Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins - Really interesting premise in these. The protagonist has a voice that I really liked, though at times she can be really stand-offish and calculating. It comes off to me as a self-preservation thing (she can't care too much or it will tear her apart), but I know some readers view her as cold. I have a thing for dystopian/anti-utopian/alternate world novels, so I knew these were a good bet. The first was very action-packed and visceral, but I was less blown away by the second. A lot of the second book felt like I'd already done it before. It was still enjoyable, but admittedly I felt a little cheated. Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to the next.

Wings, Aprilynne Pike - I will admit that I went into this one with some trepidation. Not sure why, but something put me off and made me think I wouldn't like it , but I ended up finding it pretty enjoyable. I liked her twist on faeries. The plot moved a little slowly for my liking, but it didn't drag too much, and the characters were pretty likable. Though I'm wary of the set-up for a love triangle, but we'll see how that goes.

Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr - Another that I was skeptical of but ended up liking okay. Maybe I'm just biased against faerie stories? I don't know. I am a sucker for tattoos, though. I really liked the theme of choice throughout the novel, because if there's one thing that does a story in for me, it's that pre-destined "we're just meant to beeeee" crap. Haaaaate. But Marr didn't go that way, and I give her massive credit for it.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak - This one has (obviously) been receiving accolades for a while, and I've been intending to read it for a long time. I'm 2/3 of the way through, and I can already tell that this is one that will stay with me. Zusak's prose is incredible - every passage is deliberate, every metaphor rich. The characters are real and rough and so very human. The narration is gripping. Everything totally wows me. This one is a must-read for every lover of literature.

Whew. I think I'll wrap up here for tonight :)

in which I ramble about stuff.

| Monday, December 21, 2009
Happy Holidays! Already had or to be had, I hope you enjoy(ed) them completely :)

I've been writing a whole mess of posts about my thoughts on writing, reading and literature, but I realize I haven't posted much about what I'm actually writing. Mainly because I haven't been writing much of anything - my current project is still 2/3 of the way through the first draft. I haven't had much time or (more importantly) motivation to write this month, which bums me out. I'm hoping that I can get out of my funk soon. I may have to force myself forward, but it'll happen eventually.

I honestly didn't expect to get into this project as much as I have, and I definitely didn't expect it to come together at all. I really thought it would be a bunch of mish-mashed gibberish, since I started it as a NaNo project. The seed of this story was planted sometime in August of this year, and I jotted a few notes and thought I'd make a short story out of it. In October when I decided I wanted to take a crack at NaNo again, I started taking more notes and brainstorming the general plot, and it turned into something more. Still, when I started typing on November 1st, I had no idea whether or not the entire idea would fall flat and end up in the practice heap.

I started out with a lot of over-description and blathering, being as sure as I was that I'd need the padding to make it to 50,000. However, as the story started taking off, I realized that I DIDN'T need the padding. The story was doing just fine on its own, which surprised me in a good way. My main character had an attitude I hadn't planned for her, the secondary characters came totally naturally, and the plot chugged along.

This was a real wake-up call, because I've had other ideas that I've been playing with, plotting and replotting out for years now, but this was the idea that actually flowed out with barely a hitch. This idea that dropped into my head one afternoon on my lunch break was the one I actually wrote, and it didn't suck. Not only that, but it made me turn a critical eye on a years-of-dedication story idea I have and realize... it's not that good. At the very least, it needs a MAJOR overhaul.

That hurt, because I love those characters. I CARE about those characters. But I couldn't write them. I've tried, but they wouldn't be coaxed out in the story I was going for. They didn't fit. I think I've just recently experienced "kill your darlings" firsthand. It sucks, but it's eye-opening as well.

My current project works because the characters fit effortlessly into the world I've made for them. I'm not trying to jam square pegs into round holes. It took me putting aside an old idea and starting something new and different to see it. Something I thought I wouldn't be invested in. I'm sure it's been said hundreds of times, but maybe being too invested in our characters hinders more than it helps. Maybe we need to let them go for a while until they wander back on their own, and in the meantime, let new characters in to do what they want to do.

And just in case anyone was curious: the current project is called The Tick-Tock Hearts, and it's Clara's story. Clara is a 16-year old girl in Victorian-era Chicago who is trying to make sense of her father's murder, support her grieving family, and delve deep into the mystery surrounding an underground group looking to achieve immortality. Lots of snooty aristocrats, the beginnings of jazz, pyrotechnics, and cybernetics. Like, duh.

broken families.

| Thursday, December 17, 2009
Hm, I like the theme music idea from my last post. I might make a habit of that from now on. Just pop 'er open in a new window while you read, and there ya go! The trick will be hoping there are enough videos out there to cover my very extensive and very wackadoodle musical tastes.

Oh, who am I kidding. Everything's on YouTube.

Today I wanted to wax on a bit about a topic that is close to me: broken and dysfunctional families. I'm the product of one, like so many millions before and after me. They appear fairly often in film and literature, and with good reason - they're pretty common. Stories in which the hero or heroine is dealing with dead/absent/oblivious/abusive family members speak to me. Not that I had absent or abusive parents - not at all - but there is a little glimmer of connection with characters that come from non-nuclear families.

I do hate the term "broken family." I get that it's referring to a family that's been (in theory) split apart, but what a pejorative term. Bleh. My parents may have divorced, and it may have been super hard and caused a lot of bad feelings all around, but we weren't broken people. True, our polished four-person family image was gone forever, but the sense of family didn't go away. It only changed, along with my perception of what "family" meant.

I admit that my own experience and perception of family largely colors how I read and write about families. I don't dislike stories where the parents are still together and actually get along, or the siblings aren't at each others' throats. I do find them more difficult to relate to, though. I never had a squeaky-clean everybody-gets-along kind of family. Nor did I have a horribly screwball family. We had our ups and downs, our struggles and falling outs, our tears and support. There were times I thought my family members did some messed up crap (still do, sometimes), but at the end of it all, we were good people and we loved each other. Not everyone can say the same.

I always enjoy books that play with the idea of family and make us question our perceptions. Why is an awful, abusive, cold person you happen to be blood-related to more "family" than someone that doesn't share your DNA, but truly loves and supports you? Are these bonds psychological, biological, societal, or all of the above? Can we break them? Why is it so difficult for us to sever ties with a toxic person when said toxic person is our mother, our brother, our cousin?

What gets me is the idea that any family that isn't comprised of one happily married couple with X number of biological children is an "atypical" family. Personally, I consider them all just families. Nothing normal about being a certain way or abnormal about being another, not when the variety is so myriad. Maybe this is why it seems like there are so many "unusual" family situations in fiction, when in reality they're no more unusual than the ideal. Family is what we make it, in life, fiction, or otherwise.

happiness writes white.

| Tuesday, December 15, 2009
First, some theme music.

There's an article that was floating around for a little while stating happy writers are crappy writers, which is a topic I always find interesting. It's not a new idea - the concept that "happiness writes white" (loosely speaking, happiness leaves a blank page while suffering/sadness brings great art) has been around for centuries. Here's another article from a few years back discussing this very topic in relation to great classical poets, composers and artists.

While I'm very hesitant to say that being a happy person automatically means you can't be a great artist, the idea does have some merit. The first article I posted states that a mild sad mood (mild, not severe) sharpens our critical thinking and makes us more persuasive writers. This seems to pertain more to persuasive essay-type writing, as opposed to fiction, but the stretch can be made. It's difficult to write a heartrending scene when we're feeling mega-chipper.

Suffering is a huge part of what shapes us. How could we know happiness if we did not suffer? Is happiness merely the absence of suffering? I don't think so. It's much like the general bad/good dichotomy - if there were no bad, the term "good" would be meaningless. It would just be. Perhaps it is so much more common to hear about suffering because everyone suffers in some way at some point in their existence. True, we put different values on suffering, (I've suffered so much more than X has!), but it's suffering nonetheless. We can all relate.

The beauty of fiction is that it's almost like acting - when writing a scene, we can place ourselves in the shoes of our character. We can create this immense obstacle for them to overcome, and then sit first-row to their emotional fallout. And there must be obstacles. That's what a story is, after all. You can't very well have a happy character wandering happily through their happy life where nothing ever comes up to challenge their happiness and expect the story to be interesting or relateable. So we give our characters obstacles, and stay with them every step of the way.

There is an almost romanticized image of the tortured, depressed, substance-abusing author/artist which I do feel has its faults and can be dangerous to us. I do not believe for one moment that artists must be self-destructive addicts in order to be great. However, there's no denying that people as a whole seem to value artists, at least in part, based on their suffering. What do we do when we hear about an author/musician who just sort of stumbled into their art and met little to no opposition along the way? We scoff. TSK, can you BELIEVE this person? They don't DESERVE what they have. This other person I know is SO MUCH BETTER than they are, and they've been struggling for YEARS to get published. They fought in a war. They lost a child. They stubbed their toe SUPER HARD the other day.

It's an interesting value judgment to make, I think. There is certainly an overwhelming sentiment that you will never appreciate something that came to you easily as much as you appreciate a difficult journey to your goal. That the true greats are the ones who lived tortured lives and died tragically and never knew the impact of their work. That sucks, frankly. I am all for creating beauty from tragedy, letting our pain bleed out onto the page as a sort of therapy, but heck if I'm going to abuse my body and psyche to obtain some abstract ideal of the tragic artist. No thank you.

Harnessing our emotions to make our writing gripping and complex is a great goal, and one I aim for. But I will not sacrifice my joys for my sorrows. They both shape my writing, not one alone. What use is trudging through the Swamps of Sadness if there's no Ivory Tower in the distance?

this old story.

| Sunday, December 13, 2009
The other day, I got to thinking about retellings of classic (or sometimes not-so-classic) stories. There are all sorts of them, with more coming out all the time - a reworking of a fairy tale, a new perspective on an old story, using a familiar plot in an unfamiliar way. I love retellings, though I think they can be abused. If we're not careful, they can seem an awful lot like a crutch, and if the story isn't fresh enough, we risk the reader becoming bored and thinking, "I know how this ends, I've read it a million times."

But, really, I'll be honest. I wanted to write about new twists on old stories because I wanted to post this clip from O Brother, Where Art Thou?. And this one. Aaaaaand this one. Because I love that movie super hard. In case you were unaware, it's a retelling of Homer's Odyssey, and a really fun and well-done one at that.

I'm especially fond of reading stories from the perspective of a party we never heard in the original tale - the evil step-mother from Snow White, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Big Bad Wolf. It's a relatively straightforward way to make the story fresh, and plays into the old adage "the truth is in the eye of the beholder." It makes the audience view the tale in a new light, and twists their mind around a little bit. I love that.

There does seem to be quite a bit of balance between infusing enough of the author's voice, new twists and story elements while maintaining the original "feel" of the story. If the story follows too closely to the original, that's when it starts to feel like a crutch. If the story is absolutely nothing like the tale it's supposedly based on, it seems like the author is banking on the familiarity of X story to get people to read theirs. I tend to cringe when I see stories referred to as a "modern day Romeo & Juliet" or what have you, only to read it and find a typical romance where they're married and happily-ever-after at the end. Having a disapproving daddy does not Romeo & Juliet make. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, TAYLOR SWIFT.

When story retellings are done well, they rock. When they're done poorly, they fall really, really flat. They even risk being yawn-worthy. We definitely don't want that! It's hard enough to write a new story, let alone writing an old one and trying to weave in a new element that will keep our audience interested. They must be treated with care.

Do you have a favorite old-story-made-new?

wordle wordle!

| Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Oh hey, Wordle of my NaNo project, right. It's not done yet, but here we go so far. Hoo boy, am I going to have to edit this thing like woah when I'm done. CLARA CLARA HEY DID I MENTION CLARA THIS BOOK IS ABOUT A GIRL NAMED CLARA. CLARA.

but that was my idea!

|
maybegenius has died.

Not really, but the past two months are making me feel that way, for sure. Gack.

I feel like my posts recently have been limited to heavy territory, so I thought today I'd lighten up a bit. I'm going to talk about ideas. Namely, feeling like you have no new ones.

I imagine I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed when attempting to flesh out a new idea, or who has suffered punched-in-the-gut syndrome when they think of something TOTALLY COOL AND AMAZING only to find out someone else got there first. It's incredibly disheartening, and makes you feel like a hack. How original can we possibly be if another writer/screenwriter came up with it first? I know that inner monologue all too well.

"Oh wow, that dream I just had was incredible. That would make a great story! I could just add... no, that was in an episode of Doctor Who. But what about making the character into a... Gah, no, the Roswell High series did that years ago. I could make a distop- Wait, that's way too 1984. Maybe I could just make the city of Atlantis into an alien space hub! What? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT'S BEEN DONE ELEVENTY-BILLION TIMES?! Holy crap, is there a SINGLE original bone in my body? Okay, that was weird phrasing, but you know what I mean."

Are there any original stories left? That's a subject of wide debate. Some say that at the core of storytelling, there are only a finite number to tell. Five, six, eight... depends on the person you talk to. Boy loves girl. Girl goes on journey. Stranger comes to town. Royal outcast attempts to regain kingdom. People rebel against oppressive ruler/government. Et cetera.

I'm still not sure where I stand on the idea, but I think it has merit. If we distill our favorite stories down to their bare bones, we get love stories, journey stories, overcoming the obstacle stories, whatever stories. I don't think there are as few as six or whatever arbitrary number someone picks out of a hat, but we can strip them all down. What makes ours different?

Ideas. Ideas can be unique, or they can at least stray from the norm. Our ideas are what shape an old story into something just a little different - like refurbishing an antique dresser into something new in our own personal style. Maybe you'll paint it purple. Maybe I'll hollow the thing out and turn it into a bookshelf. Maybe Joe down the way will demolish it and light it on fire. Who knows.

We just need one. Even if it's one that seems to have been done a million times, maybe we can twist it it yet another new way. Maybe our idea is our voice, or our characters. They might shine through and breathe life into a story that people would otherwise find eyeroll-inducing.

If we sit around stewing and struggling to pluck a 100% brand spanking new story out of our brain, we're going to be sitting there forever. We have to work with what we've got - telling the stories we know in our own voice and with our own ideas. Sure, 8000 people before me have told a story about a girl who learns she's special and has to save the world. But that story speaks to me, and I'm going to want to write it again and again. One of these days, that story WILL be woven into something only I could tell.

Granted, that doesn't mean it'll be any good. Maybe it won't even be readable. But it will be mine. All we can ever hope for is that someone else likes our ideas. And if they don't... ces't la vie. Let's face it, there are thousands - HUNDREDS of thousands - of writers and filmmakers out there that we haven't even heard of who have already come up with ideas similar to our own. No one is as original as they think they are. What can we do? We can only keep writing, attempting to cut our own path.

boys can read about girls. it's okay.

| Saturday, December 5, 2009
I'm going to keep on keepin' on with my theme from Thursday, only this time, I hope to actually focus on the gender dynamic in YA lit.

I feel like I read a decent amount of YA literature. Not as much as I'd like to, being not only broke, but working super weird hours that take up the majority of my daytime. I'm not a romance/angst fan. I just can't get into stories that are romance-driven. That's not to say that I don't love books with a romantic element, I just tend to get bleary-eyed if it's the central plot point. Not my cup o'tea, as it were. As such, I tend to read more of the story-driven and character development sort of stories. With those, I'm all over the map.

What does that have to do with anything? It has to do with the idea that YA is largely focused on angst and romance. I don't really find that to be true. There's absolutely a chunk of the market dedicated to it, no doubt about that. But when I hear that pre-teen and teenage boys have "exhausted" the books in YA that are "suitable" to them, it makes me wonder. What am I missing here? I can walk into a bookstore and find any number of books at the YA and similar adult level that don't completely revolve around 1.) "girl stuff," hurr hurr, 2.) romance, or 3.) angst.

This makes me wonder if this is just a perception, and that boys (or worse... people assuming FOR boys) are skeptical of picking up YA because it's got an overwhelmingly female vibe. And it does - it is largely written by women, featuring female protagonists, and pitched toward girls/women. However, I'm still uncertain why this automatically seems to stretch to the idea that boys are uninterested in the stories. Reading books by male authors and featuring male protagonists doesn't deter girls, so why should the opposite deter boys? Why is there the assumption that they cannot connect with a more female-centric story?

My feminist spidey-sense is of course telling me that this is because our culture STILL lessens the feminine as unworthy of attention (note: just because it's less blatant now doesn't mean it no longer happens, and oftentimes it's totally unintentional). Maleness is viewed as interesting and important, while female stories tend to be lobbed more into the area of silly or vapid, even when they aren't. Of course, anyone who reads a lot knows this is goofy. Stories by and about boys can be silly and vapid, and female-centric stories can be powerful and moving. It's the insidious assumption that does it in.

Back to romance: I am in no way trying to lessen romance-centric stories. They are directed more toward the female sphere, and have an air of femaleness about them, and so perpetuate the assumption that males won't/can't enjoy them. They are centered more in emotion - that to which women are expected to aspire and men are expected to deny. This is also goofy. Romance involves males as much as females. But our culture pushes men toward viewing romance/emotion as something that weakens them, or something they must do only to woo a woman because that's "what women expect." Personal preference is one thing (like my own - I just don't prefer romance), but a blanket assumption is ridiculous. Yet it is the continued belief that men don't dig romance, and if they do, their manhood is questioned. Perhaps not by everyone, but especially in teen boys, the underlying pressure to "be a GUY" is there.

On top of this, there's the idea that certain topics aren't suitable to boys - pregnancy, rape, abusive relationships, etc. These topics are (duh) primarily focused around women, as women are the vast (and in the case of physical pregnancy, only) majority that are affected. I fail to see how this means that boys and men can't read and be moved by these topics. We read about the trials of others all the time - things we've never experienced and will never experience. Yet we relate; we are moved. I will (probably) never be a victim of genocide, or forced servitude, but I read stories about these topics. This idea that female issues are separate from male is harmful in general - these topics and others DO involve men. Indirectly or directly. We exist in the same world, and these issues are not something to be swept away and attributed fully to women.

To be less serious, even topics as common as puberty, the changing female body, dating, breaking up, being jilted by friends... these can be relateable to teenage boys. Instead, we perpetuate the idea that men and women are practically separate species, and that there's no way a male can "get" the female body and mind, so we don't try. No, a boy cannot understand what it's REALLY like to menstruate, but he can relate to feeling like an alien in his own body.

It never ceases to amaze me how few men really understand how the female cycle and menstruation works. It's something so deeply a part of our biology and existence, but they literally have no clue. They don't understand what "PMS" really means (it's just when a girl is acting like a super B, right? hurr hurr), or how sex can be physically painful for us during certain days of the month, or any of that. Of course the opposite is true - girls aren't really encouraged to understand the male body, either. Similar mistruths abound, and it all comes back to the idea that OMG the opposite sex is just WEIRD, okay?

Er, now that that's out of my system. I hope what I'm trying to get at is coming across, anyway. At the end of it, I'm not sure how to leap this hurdle - how to make it "okay" for boys to read more female-centric stories. Other than altering how society as a whole views gender, that is. I suppose I hope that if we know any young men that are struggling to find books to read, that we're not afraid to tell them it's okay to read a book about a pregnant girl, or a girl who breaks up with her boyfriend and moves to Ireland, or whatever. They might even like them.

boys and books.

| Thursday, December 3, 2009
BLARGH F- WORK AFTER A WEEK OF VACATION. YOU ARE THE WORST.

Mmmk. I was of course reading Natalie Whipple's most recent entry, and I started commenting and had to cut my comment short because I got carried away >.>

I thought I'd continue here.

So. Boys and reading. MEN and reading. What's the deal? They supposedly stop doing it, that's what the deal is. Actually, it's not really a "supposedly..." statistics back it up. I'm way too lazy to use my Google-Fu to find you concrete data right now, but it's the truth. At my job, we print a yearly report of the school performance of boys and girls, and every year I look at the stats and I get a little wigged out. Early on in their education (ages 5-9, roughly) boys and girls perform at more or less the same level across the board. Math, English, everything. Around age 10, however, the boys start to decline in their English skills and the girls start to decline in math. BUT, the boys decline MORE in English than the girls do in math.

Hm. Hmmm. I do not for one second believe that kids start out performing on even ground, but then hit a wall where one gender is miraculously better at X subject than the other. No way. So what's going on? A combination of a dozen or more factors, I'm sure, but I'd put a shiny new nickel down on gender conformity and social pressure. As a woman, I'm sure I'm not alone in dealing with stereotypes when I was in school - everything from people being astounded that I was interested in (and good at!) science, to immediately hearing, "Oh, so you're going to be a teacher!" when I decided to major in English in college. And my male counterparts were hearing, "Dude, why are you in English? What are you going to DO?" Gosh, I dunno, contemplate my navel all day? Yeesh.

Back to boys and reading. Why do they stop? DO they really stop, or is it assumed they're no longer interested and/or they're pressured to no longer be interested? Lack of books, what? I have my theories, the first being yes, I do think that, to an extent, males in our society are pushed away from reading. Among other things. From a young age, boys are pushed toward the external, and girls are pushed toward the internal. It's not always blatant, but it is always there. Boys are "supposed" to like the physical - science, war games, sports, first-person shooters. Girls are "supposed" to like the domestic - playing with makeup, talking on the phone, dolls, quiet activities. Expanding on this, boys are encouraged to be good at concrete and physical subjects, and girls are directed toward the more contemplative and quiet. So, boys are supposed to excel in math, science, physical education. Girls are encouraged in art, English, languages.

Now, obviously there are boys and girls that break the mold - boys who make pottery, girls who love soccer. In fact, I'd go so far as to say MOST of us break the mold in one way or another. I was on the swim team, loved science class, and haaaaated playing dress-up. My youngest brother used to write. Poetry and everything; really clever stuff. Then he just... stopped. And I don't think it was because he woke up one day and found it too difficult or boring. I think it's because he, like so many other kids reaching their pre-teen years, met with opposition. I did, too. Before age 10, my outspoken answers and large vocabulary were applauded. Then we reached that age where some people were cool, and some weren't. My two best friends at the time let me know that if I didn't stop "talking like a dictionary" and learn to dumb myself down, no one would like me. Horrors!

My brother experienced something similar, I'm sure. Why write? Why read? That's something nerds and girls in the library do. He was supposed to skateboard and junk now (he couldn't, not for the life of him).

Ack, got sidetracked again. Right, reading. Reading is an internal, contemplative activity. You sit, you take in the words, you think about them. One of those activities that is so encouraged in girls - sit, be quiet, use your imagination. Boys don't get that. They get: go out, be with your friends, play something. Again, this isn't all-inclusive, this is just the general feel I get.

As for YA literature. It's no secret that it's largely written and read by females. It's marketed that way. However, I think the assumption that YA is all about angsty romance with female protagonists is a misconception. Yes, a lot of them are. But there are a lot of stories about friends, and adventure, and drug abuse, and murder, and intrigue, and even about just being a teen. Books that would surely speak to boys as much as they do to girls. Yet there's this overhanging idea that boys don't want to read books (period), or at least don't want to read books by women and featuring female protagonists. How awful is that? I know most women won't pause for a second before picking up a book with a male protagonist or written by a man, and there's no assumption that we won't be able to relate to it because the gender is not our own.

Is this really what boys feel? Or is this what people ASSUME they feel? If pre-teen and teenage boys do feel this way, WHY? What is with the lessening of the female? Boys and men are interesting enough to read about, but women aren't. Books featuring female protagonists must be centered around a romance, and they can't relate. Female authors probably don't write anything boys want to read. How much of this is reality, and how much imposed?

I've totally lost my train of thought now, so I'll have to come back to this another time. Bleh to late nights, I say. Bleh!

frack.

| Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm back after two (yes, two!) Thanksgiving meals thanks to the SO's various family units. As for what I'm thankful for... well, I may have to do an entry on that sometime in December. At the moment, I'm thankful that SO is bopping his head and singing along to Lady GaGa, because that shiz is hilarious.

I decided to put my NaNo project on ice for a few days while I just vegged and recovered, so I haven't written a word since I verified and won (WOOHOOIROCK). It feels a little weird. I plan on getting back into it starting tomorrow. I'm aiming to finish the thing by Christmas. *fingers crossed*

I had a loose idea of what I wanted to write about today, and lo and behold, while wading through my backlog of blogs, I found that The Blood-Red Pencil had already touched on the subject I was thinking about - swearing in literature. I know, random. It was just one of those things that got stuck in my head and I ended up thinking about quite a bit over the last few days.

I have sort of a weird relationship with profanity. Growing up in my household, dropping an f-bomb could result in a two-week grounding and the possibility of revoked Trick-or-Treating privileges. Seriously. I was raised to view profanity as something not only incredibly rude, but also low-brow. Of course, eventually I grew up and got over it only to discover that my parents were great big hypocrites who cursed on a regular basis once my brother and I were "old enough." These days, several swears get plenty of play in my verbal rotation, and I've (mostly) gotten over my mental block.

Yet, part of the block still exists. I can't help but find myself in situations in which I find that a person's use of profanity really detracts from what they're trying to say and, yes, makes me turn my nose up a little. It's a tricky beast, especially in literature. There are certainly instances in which it fits - such as the dialogue of a character that has a serious potty-mouth, or even to show an intense emotional outburst from a character that's normally very proper and you're trying to show that they're REALLY upset. In other instances, such as non-fiction where you're attempting to build a logical argument, it can really throw off your whole stance to toss in profanity, even if it fits with your personal voice. Some people, like myself, tend to be turned off to a person's argument when they start swearing at me.

I'm definitely not anti-swearing. Swearing is completely realistic for everyday conversation, and many people are totally fine with it. Others are easily offended and will always find it distasteful. It's only fitting that both sorts of people will be writing and reading literature, and characters will reflect it. Depending on the characters we write, swearing might be more or less appropriate. Military officer? Might swear a lot. My Apostolic Christian traditionalist grandmother? Can't even say "fart."

In fiction, there's no doubt that sometimes profanity just reads hollow and off-color, like it's being used purely for shock factor, and that's a poor way to use it. Not only is it weak, but it's totally obvious. I can almost always tell when an author is uncomfortable with swearing, because the swearing in their work feels really stilted and not natural to the dialogue/narration. This seems to plague certain "adult" fiction books I've read, and some YA, as well. It almost feels like the author thinks their characters should swear, so they throw it in at really awkward points. I suppose the easy solution here is: if you're uncomfortable with profanity, you probably should avoid using it in your work. It shows. It's fine that your characters don't swear - not everyone does.

On the flip side of the coin, there is the fact that no matter what you do, no matter how appropriate it might be that some (or all) of your characters use profanity, there are going to be people offended by it. There will be people who refuse to read a book because it contains cursing. What can you do about this? Well... nothing, really. Not unless you want to censor your book.

How does this stretch to YA? Well, teenagers swear. But not all of them, and not as much as you might imagine, depending on the teen. I personally am trying to avoid using profanity as a way to "connect" with teens, because that crap won't work. It's like when I finally turned 18 and suddenly my parents were okay with swearing around me, and seemed to think they could connect with me more by saying "shit" once in a while. Awkward.

In a nutshell, I suppose I'm going with the idea that profanity is fine as long as it flows naturally, and you're not throwing it in because you think it should be there. It definitely shouldn't be used because you're aiming for the "cool" factor. And if it's really difficult for it to come to you naturally, you're probably better off sticking with vocabulary that does come naturally. It's akin to vocabulary in general - we're supposed to stick to the vocabulary we know and are comfortable with for the most natural-sounding writing. If you're breaking out the thesaurus every other paragraph, readers can tell - most often because you use inappropriate words in inappropriate places.

victory is mine.

| Tuesday, November 24, 2009

50,101 words according to Microsoft Word, 50,210 according to the NaNoWriMo robots. It has been a crazy month. AND MY STORY STILL ISN'T DONE. I have a big end battle and resolution to write yet. I am elated.

I didn't even use the classic cheats, unless you count my characters being all science-y and geeking out over botany and biology to a bit of excess. I am proud of myself.

Now I just have to finish the thing.

hook me in.

| Sunday, November 22, 2009
So I've had all these ideas for blog posts, but very little time to actually write them with my day job being eleven kinds of crazy and NaNo and all. I was going to write a big feminist post about the Publisher's Weekly shenanigans and how we're allowed to be critical of a perceived male preference without being immediately slapped down for trying to stomp all over men in our big black combat boots and reverse sexism and blahblahblah, but it's been done to death in the last week, so I thought I'd save it. I don't actually own any big black combat boots.

Instead, I thought I'd write about hooks.

Hooks, as we all know, are the gateway to our story. They're the opening line or lines - the collection of words that are supposed to pique interest and suck the reader into reading beyond the first page. There are a ton of books (probably literally) on hooks and how to write them, what makes a good one, etc., and I thought I'd give my own personal spin. I've selected several hooks that spoke to me personally, and I'll be musing on why exactly they captured my attention.

I'll start with a big one: dropping your reader into the middle of an action already in progress. Here are some examples I particularly enjoy.

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

"There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife."
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

"Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."
- 'The Raven' by Edgar Allan Poe

This is a classic hook. Your reader is placed right in the middle of the action, and left with questions they want answered. Who is the man in black? The gunslinger? Who's holding the knife, and why? WHO'S AT THE DOOR??? It's a highly successful way to draw the reader in and get them to keep going. They want to know what's going on. So now that you've got them, you have to keep the interest high, or else they may become bored or frustrated.

The next hook is one I like to think of as the "Fairy Tale" hook. It has a "Once upon a time..." quality to it. Examples:

"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun."
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

"Somewhere in la Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing."
- Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I know, right now you're thinking "lol Catcher in the Rye, what." But it has the feel of what I'm going for with this type of hook. They all give a feeling of storytelling - the narrator is settling down and is going to tell us a story. At least, this is what they say to me. "Once upon a time, there was a whiny phony named Holden..." Anyway. This hook works because it's familiar. We've all been told a story at some point or another that started this way. "Gather 'round and I'll tell thee a tale." We assume it's going to be something interesting, so we stick around. The question is, "Why are we following this man from Spain with the lance and shield? What's special about him?" Read on to find out.

Another hook that often sucks me right in is a hook that immediately shows me I'm dealing with a world nothing like my own.

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit."
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
- 1984 by George Orwell

"Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen."
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Right away, I'm thrust into a new world, and I want to know about it. Fantasy novels often start like this. Being as into fantasy as I am, I am interested in hearing about this new place. What is a hobbit? Why does he live in the ground? Why is the clock striking thirteen? Clocks only go to twelve in my universe! Why does Lyra have a daemon, and what is it for? These hooks are often grounded in the familiar, but throw in an element that lets us know we're dealing with something otherworldly, and they do it right away.

Last one I'm going to talk about is the one I think of as the "Lead In." It bears some similarity to the others, but isn't quite as fleshed out.

"The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette."
- The Princess Bride by William Goldman

"All children, except one, grow up."
- Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

"It was a pleasure to burn."
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

These are the hooks I read and then think, "Okay, you got me, I'll bite." They raise the immediate question of Who? What? Why? Who is the child that doesn't grow up? Why is it a pleasure to burn? Why are you telling me about Buttercup and the most beautiful woman in the world?

In writing all that out, I've come to a conclusion as to what hooks speak to me personally: those that make me ask a question that I want the answer to. "Who is that? Why are they doing that? What story are you going to tell me? What's happening here?" Now, these aren't the only sorts of openings that reel me in. I will start and keep reading a book that doesn't have a great hook, but great hooks really stick in my mind. And then I write blog posts about them.

Also, I'm not every reader. I like to read, and I'll try just about anything once, even if I end up hating it. Other people aren't that open. They want their attention grabbed and kept. You need a powerful hook to do that. You want someone who picks up your book to open the first page to see if it grabs them, and then not put it down. These are some effective methods of doing that, and are some that I often try to incorporate into my own work.

Think of the hooks that grabbed you, and ask yourself why. Then try a similar tactic with your own writing. What hooks speak to you?

procrastination station.

| Friday, November 20, 2009
It's incredible the ways you find to procrastinate during NaNo. I'm even in the middle of an action scene, but I keep getting wiggy like I'm going to screw it up somehow. I need to get over it.

Instead, I'm watching my favorite scene from Dawson's Creek ever (starts at about 4:21). Shut up.

I think I may actually hit 50K this weekend, despite my flitting about. And I'm not done yet O_O

i am a winner finalist!

| Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I had a PITA day today, so imagine my elation when I got a chance to check blogs and discovered that I made the short list of Stuart Neville's Ghosts of Belfast Twitter microfiction contest! SQUEE TO INFINITY! (I am @stephy442, btw).

Totally made my night. Voting is open until Saturday at midnight, so please vote if you're on Twitter!

I have a bunch of ideas bouncing around my head to blog about, but I've had no time. The day job is eating my soul. Bleargh.

Still ahead on NaNo, though! There's always that.

teenage love != meltdowns.

| Saturday, November 14, 2009
I have serious layout template ADD, but I think I've managed to land on one I'll keep for a while. I have tweaked it to my satisfaction, I think. I should really brush up on my HTML and CSS again one of these days, but ANYWAY.

NaNo is going swimmingly, I must say. I'm finding it pretty doable to get out around 2,000 words a day. *ducks tomatoes* I'm sorry! If it's any consolation, the one other time I attempted NaNo, I got about 8,000 words in before the thing floundered and died a miserable death. This time, I'm closing in on 30K less than halfway through the month, and I'm feeling pretty good about that :D

I was pondering more over my post on puppy love, and I wanted to expand. I am all about the teen romance, as long as it's done well. It puts me in mind of how I felt when I was experiencing all those new, powerful emotions for the first time and trying to deal with them. It's very important to me that young adult writers try to capture the teen experience realistically, otherwise it's not going to speak to teens.

However, this brings me to my minor brainstorm (more of a brainflurry) about where to draw the line between realism and going too far into the "Not Okay" zone. It's certainly possible (maybe even probable) that a real teenage girl might tear her hair out and collapse into a sobbing hysterical mess and refuse to get out of bed for a week and then cyberstalk Facebook pages on a fake account to post vindictive comments because her first long-term boyfriend dumped her, but is that acceptable behavior? Not really. It might speak to a larger cultural pressure for people (not just teens) to feel that romantic relationships are everything and they are only half of a person until they find a significant other to "complete" them, but that's a whole other post.

Of course it is realistic and appropriate to portray teen relationships as tumultuous, addictive, and full of passion, because they are. The portrayal of betrayal and breakups including anger, resentment, sadness, feelings of loss, and maybe even a little depression is realistic. I just get worried when I start to see characters being defined by their romantic relationships, or having completely over-the-top meltdowns a la going catatonic in the woods for a day and then becoming a zombie for several months (to nab the popular allusion of the moment). It's okay to have a character mourn the loss of their first (or second, or third) love, to allow them that cutting pain many of us remember so well, but at what point to we need to snap them out of it because they're verging into a seriously unhealthy area?

I should say that it's not the sketchy behavior portrayed by some characters alone that bothers me, because sketchy behavior is a part of teenagerdom and can be done in a reasonable way. What bothers me more is when there is no growth past this behavior, or something in the plot to illustrate that while this type of behavior may happen, ultimately it's not the most appropriate way to deal with love and loss. What bothers me even more is when this behavior is rewarded in a novel. The lovestruck young hero/heroine pines and whiles away and participates in risky behavior and spends 90% of the story refusing to see the silver lining to their dark cloud, and then they get their love back as a reward for all their "suffering."

Ultimately, I think it's the choice of portrayal of these types of stories that concerns me. Character experiencing raw emotions and being torn up, but attempting to heal and live their life despite them? Cool. Character acting like a 5-year old that had their favorite toy taken away, and then getting said toy back? Not cool.

Romantic relationships do change us to an extent. We take on mannerisms of our significant others, and they take on ours. We depend on each other for emotional support, and entwine our lives together. This much is true. Loss of these relationships can shake us to our very core, but we move on - we have to. It is the choices we make on how to deal with the emotion and heartache that dictate whether we are dealing in a healthy way or not. The emotions themselves are much the same. We can show this in our novels, and we should.

And I'd like to thank *my* significant other for letting me bounce ideas off of him and helping me hash this all out ;)

bottomless.

| Tuesday, November 10, 2009
The winners of Writtenwyrdd's Spec Horror contest have been announced, so I thought it safe to post my piece here now :) I did not win, but it was a whole lot of fun and I enjoyed it bunches. Congrats again to the winners!

Here's my entry.


***

I have been falling for ages.

It began as these things often do – mind elsewhere, a stumble, a collapse. My throat had gone raw from screaming and vomiting before I realized there was no end. The world was ink, gravity was of no matter, and death was coming. Perhaps not in the way my crazed mind had anticipated when the ground first broke beneath me, but it was coming nonetheless.

Several hours may have passed before I was able to adjust to the sensation of constant freefall, and several more went by before I understood that I was not alone in my fate. Debris and creatures rose and fell around me, seemingly oblivious to the laws of physics. The world is strange, but stranger still when darkness and the downward pull are all that keep the crawling, wretched beings at the edge of thought from reaching out to pluck you, allowing you to hang, gasping and broken, before they devour you.

A day might have gone by when my drive for survival kicked in. Hunger and adrenaline had made me weak, and I began to listen. The coiled, venomous, slithering things surrounded me. I could hear their hissing and sense their ooze. By this time, I had spread my body wide and fell belly-down, adopting a lazy spin, and I waited. I learned about them, these falling things, and my hands clenched and flexed. When the moment was right, my fingers burst into the darkness and closed on something surprisingly dry and unsurprisingly serpentine. The devil was between my teeth before my revulsion could cast it away, and I gorged. It may have screamed; I do not remember. All my memory holds is gritty organ and salty flesh.

The fall stretched on. I’ve no idea where I managed to find the fluids to survive. There must have been enough in the life and blood of the tunnel beasts I could get my claws on. I urinated and moved my bowels when necessary; the stink never lasted long. Sometimes I slept the restless sleep of one who knows their predator rests close by. One fateful morning (as I began to think of them), my arm struck an outcropping and shattered. Oh, how I howled. I sang to the terror-fish and horror-snakes to distract myself as I bound the ruined limb with cloth stripped from my flapping shirt.

In time, they began to understand me, these things of anti-gravity. They understood that I needed them to survive, and they moved closer to confide that they needed me. There were great secrets to share; incredible information they had held in their whirling minds for eons. My singing was greatly admired, and often my performances were greeted with the slap and hiss of applause. One of the largest, who I had feared from the beginning, wrapped me in flat, sheet-like arms and whispered great knowledge to me – solutions to the ailments of the world that were so painfully simple I could not fathom how I had never considered them before. We fell together, he and I, his soft, dry skin protecting me from the elements and cradling my destroyed arm.

There came a time when a villain, a jealous rat with a slimy tail, decided to destroy me. He felt me an outsider; unworthy to taste the flesh or hear the whispers of his brethren. As the wind whipped by and I fell, deep in discussion with a bold creature, he floated behind me and sank his vicious teeth into my good arm. I clawed at him, reduced him to shredded hair, but his poison had taken effect. He has driven me mad, that rat. The comforting darkness is gone, replaced by burning light. No more do the whispers of my companions lull me to sleep; now there are only moans and howls. I am confined, and I scream for my sanity yet.

And still I fall.

thoughts on puppy love.

| Sunday, November 8, 2009
Welp, so far I've been sticking to my proposed schedule for NaNo, getting in about 2,000 words a day, sometimes more. I have to admit, I'm pretty pleased with myself... my NaNo project is now the longest single work I've written without abandoning, and I'm still going! I think this whole structure-and-goals thing really works for me. MENTAL NOTE.

Not only am I sticking to my schedule, but I'm nowhere near out of plot yet, and that makes me feel awesome. I have yet to reach the midpoint of my plot arch, and still have a number of road markers to guide my way. Feelin' good. Maybe a little too good *shifty eyes*.

Oddly enough, the past two nights have brought me dreams involving the guy I had a MASSIVE crush on in high school, whom I haven't thought about in a long time. Both dreams involved meeting him again, finding out that we have a lot in common and can possibly be friends now, me beginning to get those stirrings of butterflies, him admitting he feels it as well, and then... not much. Some hugging, some hand-holding, some cuddling, some video game tournaments.

Maybe my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I'm at the point in my NaNo project where I've introduced a love interest for my protagonist, and they're getting closer now. These dreams are putting me in mind of my middle-grade and high school crushes, and how different they are from my old-and-jaded-by-the-world mid-20's loves.

I was a serious crusher. I crushed long, and I crushed hard. We are talking crushes spanning three years of my high school experience, here. Never resolved... I never got the guy. Wibble. Oh, but I loved him. I know many people look back on their puppy-love years and scoff about how it wasn't real love, we didn't know what we were talking about, and now that we're older and wiser, we know what love is FOR REALZIES. I disagree. It was a different kind of love, absolutely. It was full of potential and magic, and equally full of knife-to-the-heart twists and weeks of wondering what he meant by that thing he said the other day in class. That love was naive and overdramatic and insane and wonderful and awful.

This is all important. It's important for me to remember that the love I felt as a teenager was new and crazy, and certainly not logical. It was built on possibility, not reality. I think maybe this is what my dreams are getting at. My crushes were never about getting a boyfriend and marrying him and having a bunch of his babies and happily ever after etc. Certainly it was my ultimate goal to have that spark of a moment when he looked at me and realized OMG GIRL OF MY DREAMS, RIGHT HERE THIS WHOLE TIME, but it was really about the emotions and the drama of it all. That heady, addictive feeling of having the tiniest, most insignificant little action rolling around in my brain for days, dissecting it with my girlfriends, and wondering what if what if what if???

I honestly have no idea what I would have done if the guy had asked me out. Died, probably. And that all-consuming drama-queen love was very young and silly, and definitely not something I want back. That feeling, though. That feeling of every day bringing something new, of my very own teen comedy playing out in every action and line delivered. I need to remember that.

So, thanks, Dream High School Crush. Thanks for reminding me how I'd freak out for hours and feel like I was walking on air for the rest of the day every time you hugged me, or we passed a note in class. Sorry I was such a headcase! I'd still play video games with you.

still truckin'.

| Wednesday, November 4, 2009
*breathes into a paper bag*

Closing in on 9K words now for NaNo, and still some weird combination of giddy and nervous. Much to my surprise, the words are coming fairly easily. So far, anyway... knock on wood. Having my key points hammered out before diving in is definitely helping - I have goals to aim for! Huzzah!

Of course, the fact that the writing is coming easily enough is freaking me out anyway. WHY IS IT SO EASY? IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE HARD! A STRUGGLE! IT'S ALL JUNK! AAAARGH! And then I snap out of it and realize that I'm not writing a finished opus and I'm going to have to revise the bajeezus out of it anyway, and I chillax.

The whole process is dizzying. I've started writing novels before, but I've never finished one. Well, there was that horrible 25-page vampire novella I wrote when I was 13, but I'm trying to forget it exists. Finishing a book always seemed too daunting and huge, and I tried letting the writing guide me, but it didn't wanna. I guess this is me discovering that I work better with an outline, eh? Awesome.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

the madness starts.

| Sunday, November 1, 2009
NaNoWriMo is here! And ACK. I started writing at midnight last night, and got 1700 words in before I stumbled off to bed. Not a bad start, I hope! More writing planned for today, whenever I get around to it. I hope I can keep this crazy steam train going all month.

Also, the contest entries for Writtenwyrdd are up! One of the entries is mine, but I'm not going to tell you which, of course. Vote for your favorite!

BftP: choker of pearls.

| Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Oh hai, old poem.

***

Choker of pearls
white, round, perfect
as she is
lips scarlet and dress
flows past hips and ivory legs

choker of pearls
mouth of pearls
hair of mahogany
eyes of emerald
lips of ruby-amethyst
tongue of air.

She is the loveliest ornament
castrated half-man
of quiet breath and downcast eyes
delicate servant to
superiority and strength
lies of the snake
wrung out of her mind
with a wring of her wrist
long ago.

She is placed
prized ivory and diamond
chess piece of a revered set
admired, beheld
frozen beneath glass.

progress.

| Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Baby steps, right?

So, what have I been up to? Honestly, reading and playing a lot of WoW. Sigh. BUT, I have also been brainstorming my NaNo idea, AND I entered two, yes, TWO! contests this month. Namely Stuart Neville's Ghosts of Belfast Twitter contest and Writtenwyrdd's Spec Horror contest. Plush Chtulhu, how could I say no? Which means I have written at least one short fiction piece and a whole bunch of microfiction nibbles. I've also joined a local writer's meet-up. Go me, I should get a cookie!

I'm thinking that after the contests are over, I'll post my entries here to shock and awe everyone. OoOoOoOoOoOo.

NaNo is almost here. I'm a little excited, a little freaked out, and more than a little dubious. BRING IT ON, NOVEMBER.

holy... unholy, rather.

| Friday, October 16, 2009
I should be writing.

But instead I'm boggling over things like this.

My brain may have fractured.

I am still outlining and writing notes for NaNoWriMo, though, I SWEAR.

BftP: Alice isn't here.

| Monday, October 5, 2009
Yet another poem from my youth. My youth being approximately four years ago.

***

My name is Alice.
This is not who I am.

My fingertips taste of ash
75,624 cigarette drags
pulled through a berry-stained mouth

the smoke curls off my tongue
my face is veiled.

My name is Alice.
This is not who I am.

I wear mirrored sunglasses indoors
sip pale liquor from a cracked tumbler
the half-there ice clinks as I move

my eyes are hazel flecked with gold
but you’ll never know it.

My name is Alice.
This is not who I am.

I am sometimes lost
behind smoky curls, thick and soft
my lips will brush you neck as I whisper

and I will make you my last
impatiently tapping my chipped nail on the bar.

My name is Alice.
This is not who I am.

NaNoWriMo plotting.

| Thursday, October 1, 2009
What is it about creating outlines and timelines and notes that makes me feel like an 18-year old in Biology 101? Ack.

I'm debating how much actual research I should put into this book idea. I want it to sound realistic, but I don't want to get so bogged down in facts that I'm going "MY TIMELINE IS COMPLETELY SCREWED BECAUSE X EVENT DIDN'T HAPPEN UNTIL 1893." I'm writing paranormal YA fiction, not historical! Yet, I am massively anal.

Learning experience, right? I'll research. If I end up scrapping half of it and pretending it's an alternate universe, so be it. I can always go back later and double-check my facts. You know, remove or fix passages where someone would go *SNORT* THAT TOTALLY DIDN'T HAPPEN UNTIL 1893.

Just gotta get it down on paper. That should be my grammatically incorrect mantra.

To-do list check:

Write in blog? Check.
Continue to flesh out NaNoWriMo idea? Check.

to-do lists and musings on book magic.

| Monday, September 28, 2009
Yeesh. Start a blog with the intention of actually writing every once in a while; find that you never write in it. Man. Which brings me to the creation of a to-do list (hooray!).

To Do:

1.) Write in blog
2.) Bang out some poems for the month of October
3.) Start fleshing out idea for NaNoWriMo
4.) Continue fleshing out back-burner book idea, or scrap it if it's not working
5.) Quit being obsessed with wanting every word from my mouth or fingers to be quippy, clever and deep
6.) Write. Write and write. And write.
7.) Record more dreams and fleeting thoughts in notebook
8.) Seriously, write in blog

Now on to the musings portion of this episode.

I just finished Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, which is a novel that's been on my mental "to read" list for a long, long time. Couldn't put it down, and read it all in one day. That hasn't happened in a while. It spoke to me on a deep, just-below-the-surface level. The language was straightforward, the narrator was anygirl, and the storyline was easy to follow. And I could not stop reading.

Anderson captured the inner monologue of her character so perfectly, and made empathy so easy. I was there, behind her eyes. It could have been me. This was one of those rare books that left me completely absorbed and moved when I was through. The sort that makes the world seem clearer and mistier at the same time; pregnant with meaning you can find in every mundane little thing. You see a sign that says "Drive With Care," and your mind buzzes around the words and views them in an entirely new light. Emotions well inside you, and everything seems a little more right, or a little more wrong, or a little more something. All because of ink on a page.

I want to write like this. I want my ink on a page to make other people feel this way. How does one figure out how to do that?

BFtP: twenty-three and twenty-three

| Sunday, September 13, 2009
Another Blast From the Past - the second of my poems to be published in my university lit mag. Can you feel the co-ed feminist rage?

***

I hear it all the time

Dumb slut shouldn’t spread like peanut butter

as if life spontaneously came to exist within her womb,
the catalyst forgotten.

Twenty-three and twenty-three
but she is blamed for all forty-six
and the pregnant XY whistles and walks on

unhindered by the truth of science:

we were all women once.

BFtP: i used to have this schoolgirl fantasy...

| Sunday, August 30, 2009
Blast From the Past - This is a poem I wrote while in college. It was published in my university's literary magazine, zaum. Very special snowflake, I know.

***

We are abducted by aliens
tiny red and violet monkey-cats
with curious eyes and saturnine souls
probing us kindly as we shiver
naked and frightened as any caged thing.

They speak with their minds; we scream at the noise
until our voice breaks at last and we must listen
quiver lips tinged blue and unfocused gaze
fade out to the feel of soft paw pad touch
we slip under quietly.

The world goes black; white
as we wake to a mansion cell with a dozen rooms
moving portraits of our childhood pinned for us to see
your gap-toothed smile, water running in your eyes
my cornsilk locks over shoulders covered in pink satin.

The futuristic refrigerator is filled
with Ahi tuna and string cheese
we gorge ourselves out of confusion
venture outside to find we’re caught
in Eden under a bubble.

We draw patterns in the mica lake-sand
speak very little; we never knew each other well
until the day we realize we’re all we have
the day we fall into each other to spend the years
counting freckles and learning to play the harp.

A hundred years pass
and the bright flash wakes me to find
it was all in the blink of an eye.
I imagine it was a dream
at least until you called to say

Remember that time we grew old together?
| Friday, August 28, 2009
Let's get floundering, eh?

Submission season for literary magazines is upon me, with nothing to show for it. I had every intention of having several pieces ready to start sending out, and nada. I'm stuck. I'm not practicing, I'm not writing. I start a story, and then run away screaming almost immediately. What the crap is my problem. SNAP OUT OF IT.

So that's very exciting. I think maybe I've lost my youthful cockiness (because at 25, I am incredibly ancient, oh yes). In college, I banged out poems and prose left and right, always to glowing praise from my various ego-stroking peers and professors. Now I'm a few years removed from that environment, and I realize that the REAL WORLD (TM) probably doesn't think I'm such a shining star. My ego is shaking in its boots a little. Probably with good reason, but that doesn't mean I don't need to get the hell over it and take a dive.

/whiny emobag

Hm. New blog. Maybe I should write a rundown of myself or something? That'll shut the ego-monster up for a minute.

- English degree, Creative Writing emphasis. No one around here has one of those, I'm sure.
- Schlub programmer for Big Name Printing Company
- Misplaced Californian currently residing in the Midwest
- Horrible speller. Victim of the dreaded "creative spelling" curriculum.
- Fond of fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery
- Addicted to alliteration, annoyingly enough
- Very prone to parenthesized asides (much like this)
- Also fond of lists
- Forum addict
- Insert witty phrase here

Etc., etc.

and in the beginning there was this chickadee

|
... who thought she had something interesting to say. Really, she just likes attention.

One more aspiring writer for the doldrums of the internet to swallow. This blog will develop as it will, but at present I mean to use it as... you know, a blog. A sounding board of whatever I decide is interesting enough to spew about. I may post old poetry and excerpts of work, we'll see. If I do, criticism is welcome as long as it's constructive (because that's how we grooooooow!). If it's some form of "Lawl wow u sux hard," it'll get an eyeroll and a pass. I have four brothers, I've become immune ;)
 

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