sunday ramblings.

| Sunday, February 28, 2010
Today's Tune: Blood Red Summer

Oy. What is it about weekends that completely drains my will to blog? Hrmph.

Well, as you can plainly see by my sidebar, I did not meet my goal of finishing the first draft of my novel this month. Not unless I can bang out something like 15,000 words in the next 24 hours. Not impossible, but unlikely. Sigh.

On a better note, I've been revising my short story quite a bit, and I think it's almost ready to start submitting to magazines. After this one's ready, I hope to write a few more short story ideas I have floating around in my brain, as well. Then on to submitting! This is going to be sort of a test for myself to see if I can actually handle this submit and rejection thing. *nervous*

I joined the SCBWI recently, and I'd definitely recommend it for anyone that's writing children's, middle-grade, or young adult. The publication guide they send out is very helpful. It has a great big list of lit mags to submit your stuff to, which is awesome because I've been having a hard time finding magazines that will accept YA short stories that will also accept from adults (a lot of teen lit mags only accept material from people aged 12-23).

I want to end today by mentioning if you'd like to send any financial aid for Chile, I'd recommend the Red Cross. Their funds are also being funneled into Haiti, which is still under dire straits in their relief efforts. Please donate if you can!

Now back to editing!

Kill This Character: The Superman

| Thursday, February 25, 2010
Today's Tune: Superman

Two ideas for themed series posts in one week? OMG.

This concept came to me when I was considering characters that really didn’t work for me, and why they didn’t work. By way of a disclaimer, let me add here that this is only my opinion, of course, and is colored by my own preference.

One of the more important ideas to remember in characterization is to avoid cardboard, stereotypical characters. The same old character we’ve seen a hundred times could become someone new and interesting with some artful tweaking. Here I’ll talk about a character that doesn’t work for me, why I wasn’t taken by them, and what would make them more appealing to me. Onward!

Kill The Superman! (or Woman)

Who this character is: Mr. (or Miss) Perfect. They’re flawless, incredibly good-looking, brilliant, talented at everything they do, obsessed over by every possible romantic interest, and generally have all the characteristics that make them the most awesome, overpowered character in the story. If the story involves some sort of life-threatening situation, they’re also excellent fighters who are impossible to kill, either due to super strength, impenetrable skin, wicked mind powers, or basic sheer badass-ness.

Why this character doesn’t work for me: They’re too perfect. There’s nothing normal or wrong about them. Occasionally they have some Dark Secret, like being The Only One of Their Kind or having a Deep-Seated Insecurity, but it’s not usually something big enough to sway me from the fact that they are too massively incredible to be serious. It doesn’t ring true. No one is good at everything, AND a genius, AND unkillable, AND the Hottest Person Since Ever.

The problem with being an Absolute Winner from the start is that there’s little room for them to grow, which is what a story needs. Any problems that are later tacked on (everyone loves this person, but ONE new kid doesn’t think they’re ALL THAT) seem trivial because they already have everything.

It’s also very, very difficult for me to connect with or root for a character I know can’t be seriously injured or threatened. You can toss an army at them, and they wipe everyone out and walk away with barely a scratch. How am I supposed to feel tension there? This character is usually painted as incredibly brave, but I always wonder how someone can be truly brave when there’s no way for them to lose.

How to make this character work: They MUST be flawed. Not superficially flawed, but not flawed beyond reason, either. Don’t give them everything. If the character gets to be very good-looking and smart, they can’t also be amazing at athletics and a musical virtuoso. They should be bad at something. We all are.

Don’t make them indestructible. The bad guy has to win sometimes, or else you’re just watching cheesy episodes of old-school Batman. BIFF! POW! ZAP! Curse you, Batman! Foiled again! There should be a point in almost any story where I’m seriously afraid that the hero isn’t going to get what he wants. And I should CARE.

Even the real Superman has a weakness. Even he can be killed.

IT'S A TRAP!: Quirky Character Names

| Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Tune: That's Not My Name

I have an idea for a series of posts, so here’s to hoping you like it!

IT’S A TRAP! entries are posts in which I discuss newbie writing mistakes that seem like a good idea at the time, but usually end in burning wreckage. I’ve made many of these mistakes myself and thankfully learned from them, but I needed a few years and wake-up calls to recognize them for what they were.

DISCLAIMER: there are aaaaalways exceptions. The topics discussed herein are not always mistakes. But most of the time they are *shifty eyes*

Quirky Character Names: IT’S A TRAP!

If you’re like me, you get a big kick out of naming your characters. You carefully consider the “right” name for your MC and other important persons. The name has to fit. It has to represent them. We want the reader to see it and go, “Wow, that’s the perfect name for this character!”

This is all well and good. THE TRAP! comes into play when you take The Naming way too far. Beware the following:

1.) Scouring name websites for the name meaning that illustrates your character’s True Self. I was such a sucker for this. I have a character that was born at an astronomically important time! I’ll name her Danika, which means “star!” She was born between an air sign and an earth sign, so her last name will be Tadivanda, which is a mish-mash of “wind” and “wanderer!” YES!

Don’t do this. Seriously. Your concept of your character’s “inner self” might not translate to your readers. It’s also very easy to punch a meaning into BabyNamesWorld and then pick the most exotic-looking name, even though there is NO WAY YOUR CHARACTER WOULD BE NAMED THAT NAME. They’re a Latino from the Bronx; they’re not going to be called Alkinoos.

Also: the audience is not going to run name meaning searches and theorize about why you named your character “Corinne” instead of “Jessica.” This is also a form of telling: you’re telling the reader who your character is (or how you want them to be perceived). Don’t.

2.) Likewise, naming a character after a profession, color, animal, or inanimate object as foreshadowing. You know what I mean. Naming a character “Wolfe” when they’re a werewolf, or “Watcher” when they’re the secret teacher/mentor. This is sooooooo cheesy, you guys. It is sometimes acceptable to do this in children’s or middle-grade literature, because kids enjoy making those connections and they’re less likely to catch on right away. If you do this in YA or adult literature, it is CHEESETASTIC and transparent.

3.) Making up totally off-the-wall names. A caveat: obviously, there are some genres where unique and author-created names are the norm. These tend to be genres such as fantasy and SF that create their own world where EVERYONE has an unusual name. This is fine. Expected, even.

Made-up names get sticky when a character has a weird name for no apparent reason in an environment where unique names aren’t commonplace. I know all of our MCs are super special and unique and all that, but that doesn’t mean we have to find The Most Unique Name in the World to bestow upon them for no other reason than THEY ARE SPECIAL, OKAY?
In a nutshell, if you are going to go with unusual names, everyone has to have one. If they don’t, your character will stick out like a sore thumb.

4.) Giving your character a name that is mainly attributed to the opposite sex. I don’t mean unisex nicknames like Chris for a girl and Jess for a boy. I mean naming your female character Steve and male character Bettie for no real reason. Maybe you’re trying to portray her as a tomboy and him as someone that is constantly belittled for being girly, but there are better ways to go about it.

I fell victim to this one. I nicknamed Danika “Danny” because… well, no real reason. Because it was quirky, see? She’s a girl with a boy’s name! Because she’s DIFFERENT! Yeah. Not really.

5.) Naming a character after yourself - nicknamed, spelled differently, or otherwise. I, uh, may have done this one, as well. Unless you’re going for something experimental or postmodern, this is a bad idea. You may be able to get away with it if your name is something SUPER common like John or Mary. Otherwise, the character will be compared to you, and people will assume you did it on purpose. Which you did, of course, since you know your own name.

It’s extra bad news if you make the character bearing your name WAY cooler than you are in real life. Not that I did that, or anything. BAD AUTHOR. BAD.

And there we have it. Naturally, I’m sure people will have 800+ examples where the preceding nitpicks were employed effectively, which is why I led with the admission that not every instance of these five naming strategies is a mistake.

I still maintain that most of the time, we’re not being as clever as we think we are. *Ducks tomatoes*

other authors != punching bags.

| Monday, February 22, 2010
Today's Tune: Beat Your Heart Out

Ever since I decided to seriously focus on my writing, I've been finding myself more mindful of the criticism I bestow on other writers, and careful how I speak about published authors. There are a few unwritten rules in the world of writing, and among them are: Don't Dish More Than You Can Take, and We All Live in Glass Houses.

This is why I tend to avoid book reviews on this blog unless I have something genuinely gushy to say about a given book or author. I do make general comments, such as "the plot moved slowly for my liking, but the characters kept me reading," but you won't see me ripping into a novel. I tend to subscribe to the mindset of "If you don't have something nice to say..." as far as that goes.

I haven't always been this way. A few years ago, I would have been happy to tell you exactly why I thought a novel was a total pile. Even a year ago or so, I found myself falling into this trap, and I had to give myself a good shake and get out of that mindset.

Here's the thing with pointed criticism of our fellow authors (published and unpublished): we're all in the same boat. We're all on the same side. Some of us are going to be more skilled than others, hold different opinions about what's quality and what isn't, have different approaches to the craft. If anything, we should be able to relate, because we know exactly what we're all up against.

I'm not saying we have to love everything and sing a big kumbaya. We're allowed to hate what we hate. We just have to be mindful of the arena in which we announce that hatred, because when we do, we're leaving ourselves wide open for return scrutiny.

Don't Dish More Than You Can Take: We think we can handle it all. We can laugh, let it roll off our back, and still be convinced of our awesomeness. Well, good luck with that. Writers by nature tend to be some pretty sensitive personalities. Abstractly, we think that we can stomach unbridled loathing of our work, but in practice... could you imagine if your beloved, baby novel were finally turned loose into the world and then absolutely destroyed by critics and a fair chunk of the public? Say what you will, but that STINGS. BAD.

Even if your book has an awesome following and plenty of praise, those few naysayers (the ones that really go for the jugular) still hurt. If you've ever posted a diatribe about how terrible a book was, imagine Googling your own work and coming across something just like that. Could you handle that? If yes, then have at it. Otherwise, maybe rethink how you're coming across.

I say this because it brings me to the next "rule:"

We All Live in Glass Houses: If you're an author dishing nasty criticism about other authors, you WILL receive backlash. Your writing will be painfully scrutinized and gutted in kind. You will receive several responses of "What the hell do you know? You're no Faulkner/Vonnegut/Bronte." If you ever made a remotely similar mistake to the work you're criticizing, the spotlight will be on.

And you know, even if your writing is flawless and awesome, the people who love the author you ripped to shreds won't care. They won't read it because they don't like how you treated another author. They may even diss it anyway to give you a taste of your own medicine.

I'm not a huge believer in karma, but I do think it never hurts to put out the sort of energy you'd like to receive. For all the energy we waste hating on and being jealous of and stewing about other authors, it's not going toward what really matters: ourselves.

Sometimes a good "I HATED THIS BOOK SO MUCH" session is really cathartic. I have them every once in a while. I'm just mindful of keeping it among myself and my personal friends/family, as opposed to making it available to the Internet at large. Just sayin'.

is all art created equal?

| Saturday, February 20, 2010
Today's Tune: Metro

Twenty followers, yay! Thanks dudes!

Just an FYI: for some reason, Blogger embedded comment forms get blocked on my work computer (I usually check blogs during my lunch break), so I can't comment on a lot of blogs! :( My home computer is fine, it's just my work computer. I can do the comment forms that are pop-ups and the ones that take me to a different page, but it doesn't like the embedded forms for whatever reason. I try to remember to comment when I get home, but sometimes I forget. Just so you know!

I was reading this post about Sarah Silverman addressing the TED audience over at LitDrift recently, and it got me thinking (of course, right?) about pushing the envelope and the idea that "anything is art."

I'm not a big fan of "shock jocks" - people who set out to purposely shock and offend people to make a point. I understand what they're trying to do. They want to bring attention to something (or themselves) in an overblown way that will undoubtedly be talked about. It's effective, no doubt about that, but I usually feel whatever message they were trying to convey is completely lost in the outrage that accompanies their antics. It's all well and good to say, "But that was my point! SOCIAL COMMENTARY!", but... bleh, not really. You're real-life trolling. Anyone can do that. It's not revolutionary to know that using the N-word at an NAACP event (for example) is going to get you some backlash.

It's the same way I feel about race/sex/fart jokes. Yes, you can and will find people that think that sort of thing is freakin' hilarious. People will connect with it, you'll get attention and laughs. But is it art? Is it creative? In a loose sense of the term, sure. It's also easy. I'd even go so far as to say it's lazy. You really want to measure the validity of your art off of the fact that some people think saying "retarded" to a bunch of stuffy artsy folks is funny? And supposedly "edgy" and "revolutionary?"

For what it's worth, I'm not anti-Silverman. She has her moments, and I respect some of the things she tries to do. Just not everything. This is one of those things that made me roll my eyes and go, "Jeez, really?"

Is some art more valid than other art? The all-inclusive, hippie-dippy part of me wants to say no. Everyone's contributions to creativity are equally valid, sure.

The more critical part of me wants to say, come on. Fart jokes are not as creative or valid as clever, subtle satire. Can both find an audience? Absolutely. Are they comparatively creative? No.

There's this desire in the artistic community to make everyone equal - that we all deserve credit and acceptance because our art is just as important as any other art out there. Unfortunately, it's not reality. That's not a bad thing. It means we always have something to aspire to. If you never have to be challenged, how do you grow?

Just to be clear, I don't think admitting that art is inherently unequal means that certain art is INvalid. Obviously, tastes vary widely. What some think is inane, others will find hilarious; what some find genius, others find mind-numbingly boring. It's how we deal with that fact that makes the difference.

Do we feel compelled to demand that people accept our brand of creativity and admit its validity, even if they disagree? Or are we okay with being accepted by some audiences and not others?

What do you think? Is all art created equal?

watch your head.

| Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Today's Tune: Boy With a Coin

I am an aspiring writer, as you may have noticed. It's an exciting, weird, bewildering, rough place to be. It's easy to say you're a writer - the only requirement is that you write occasionally. Heck, the only requirement is that you think about writing occasionally.

Wanting to actually make a career out of writing, though... that takes dedication. Guts. Hard work. Seriousness. No matter how many anecdotes you can pull out about the incidental never-wrote-a-thing-in-their-life nobody that became an overnight household name because they miraculously wrote and sold a bestseller on their first try, we are not that person. I'm not, you're not, and it's just better for us to go on believing that THAT - that crazy, one-in-a-million shot in the dark - isn't in our future.

It's rough out there. It's hard to maintain our confidence when the odds are stacked so high. But confidence is so important! Having faith in ourselves and our ability is what's going to keep us keepin' on, even after the rejections and the stress and the heartache.

Of course, as with anything, there is a delicate balance between confidence in yourself and your talent, and having an over-inflated ego complex. We see this dichotomy in aspiring authors sometimes. There are always that select few that don't only believe they're incredible, they believe they're above scrutiny. Their art is so real, so raw, so GENIUS! that mere mortals like other writers and those people that WORK IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY just can't grasp it.

These are the people that obtain critiques from various sources, and even when every critique comes back with the same issues, they insist that the passage must stay. The passage is PERFECT. You, and everyone else, just didn't get the meaning they were trying to convey. They weren't looking for criticism, they were looking for awe at their brilliance. What do you know, anyway? They know EXACTLY what they are doing.

Such people are those that usually end up becoming the most belligerent about the gate-keepers of publication. And to an extent, I understand the anger. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE IN OFFICES TO SAY THAT MY ART IS UNWORTHY OF THE PUBLIC? And yet... well, they're the people who do this as a career. They're the people that are trying to make money.

It doesn't mean they're always right. It doesn't mean that you're a shabby writer, even if you never get published. You could be amazing. Unfortunately, talent and amazingness don't guarantee you publication. Never have, never will. It absolutely sucks, and it's absolutely a reality. No one said this game was fair.

However, no one is the perfect writer. No one is above criticism and improvement. That's the thing about art - you can ALWAYS, ALWAYS be better. Keep that in mind. Keep your voice, your will, your confidence, but don't ever think you're above criticism.

So. I guess what I'm getting at here is... believe in yourself! Believe in your talent, and that your voice is unlike any other.

But watch your head.

many thank yous.

| Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Today's Tune: Portions for Foxes

Nathan Bransford declared today Writing Significant Other/Friend/Family Appreciation Day, which I think is a wonderful idea. So wonderful, in fact, that I'm dedicating a post to my thank yous ;)

I'm a very lucky lady, I think. I have always had a built-in support network for my writing - people who have told me I have talent, and who have fostered and encouraged it. It's one of the most important things that has shaped me into who I am. And so...

To my Parents: Thank you for forever supporting me in everything I do and encouraging my creativity. Thank you for never trying to direct me on a specific career path, for never stifling me, and for letting me find my own way. Thank you for bragging to all your friends about me. Thank you for art.

To my Significant Other: Thank you for being the fire under my butt. Thank you for believing in my greatness while also bringing in the reality checks. Thank you for telling me to get off the Internet and WRITE, DAMNIT. Thank you for kisses, and love, and promises to move to the tropics once we've both made our millions, even if it's just a dream.

To all the friends who read my stuff and write alongside me: Thanks for giving me faith in my ability. Thanks for sharing my pain. Thanks for support, and encouragement, and laughter, and imagination. Thanks for helping me grow as a person and a writer.

To my Professors: Thank you for not letting me get away with sub-par writing. Thank you for making me gnash my teeth over Derrida and Woolf and worry for the first time in my life that I might FLUNK AN ENGLISH COURSE, and then giving me an A. Thank you for turning something that had always come easily to me into a challenge. Thank you for teaching me.

To Everyone Who Reads My Blog: Thanks for coming on this journey with me :)

fleetwood mac and zombies.

| Monday, February 15, 2010
Today's Tune: Landslide

I'm thinking I may make these "describe Steph's beyond-bizarre unconscious visions" posts a regular thing, because MAN do I have some doozies. I need to come up with a better name, though. How about Extreme Night Visions? No? I'll figure something out.

Here's last night's insanity:

I am with a large group of people from The Office (the television show), and we're trying to get to some sort of important convention somewhere. But! ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE.

We hole ourselves up in a building (a Costco or Sam's Club, maybe), and find that there are a few people already hiding out. One of said people is Stevie Nicks, frontwoman of Fleetwood Mac.

Stevie and I get to know one another, and before I know it, she's crying her eyes out and telling me how upset she is about all the drama that happened in the band, and it's SO HARD, etc. I'm patting her on the back and going, "IT'LL BE ALL RIGHT, STEVIE NICKS. DON'T WORRY."

But tragedy strikes! Stevie is bitten by a zombie. We fight them off (me and the cast of The Office, that is), and we're sure Ms. Nicks has gone to the big concert in the sky. But no! SHE'S WAKING UP. OH GOD, SHE'S ZOMBIE STEVIE NICKS AND SHE WANTS OUR BRAINS.

And then I woke up.

No, I seriously do not make these up. Well, I do, they come from my brain, but I mean I don't make them up after the fact.

happy love day.

| Sunday, February 14, 2010
Happy Day Full of Mushy Love and Candies and Flowers and Sweet Whispered Nothings and stuff!

I'm not a big celebrator of Valentine's Day, but nonetheless, I do have a soft spot for a special few love scenes. In literature, one of my favorites is from Madeline L'Engle's Many Waters, when the twins are telling Yalith how much they love her before she's taken away.

In the spirit of the day, I'll leave you with a nice feel-good fan video from one of my favorite feel-good movies, Stardust. Be forewarned: spoilers!

online literary magazines.

| Friday, February 12, 2010
Today's Tune: I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked (so how 'bout it, eh?)

I've been in short story mode (I know I'm supposed to be working on my novel, but OMG it is being such a pain, you guys), so I've been getting more and more in the mindset of looking out for literary magazines. This brings up two questions for me:



2.) Are print magazines still the cream of the crop, or are online magazines worth consideration if you want to be taken seriously?

I am a big proponent of the oncoming digital age. Which, don't get me wrong! I adore printed books. I always want to have printed books. I hope someday when if I get published, my book will be available in print. I love the look, the layout, the smell, the feel. All the things that really don't translate well to the digital medium.

That said, I can't deny that the digital medium has its own appeal. It's green, it's compact, it has huge capacity for storage, it has potential for really cool design techniques. It gives more opportunity for people who would have just missed the cut of a printed journal to get their chance in the spotlight, since there aren't page limits and printing cost constraints.

Of course, I know many people worry this will bring down the quality of writing that is available. Admittedly, being kind of a writing snob myself, this worries me as well. But it's more or less a moot point. This IS going to happen, so we should look toward how we're going to deal with it when it gets here, rather than waxing on about THE DEATH OF ART ETC.

Ahem. Anyway. Literary journals, right?

Online literary journals have been roundly scoffed at since their conception, and many still are, but they are gaining more and more ground. Universities are beginning to publish their journals online (see Blackbird and Hunger Mountain), sometimes in conjunction with a printed version. Several of the online-only magazines on this top 20 list feature works from published writers and poets, and some have had selections chosen for Best Of anthologies.

Clearly, online magazines are getting some clout. They're no longer being viewed as on the same level as MySpace poetry and fan fiction. This is quality, print 'zine level material being published in an online format. But is that enough?

I'm not sure how agents and publishers view online-only literary magazines. I imagine it varies based on who you talk to. Is publication in an upper-tier online 'zine good enough to count as a respectable publishing credit, or is it still viewed as not worth mentioning? If so, why? When will we be able to break down the wall between online publishing = crap, print publishing = quality? These aren't anyone-can-publish websites; they're magazines with an editorial staff.

Thoughts? Would you be willing to publish in an online 'zine, or do you feel like it would tar you with the "amateur" brush? Do you respect online lit mags, or is your heart set on print?

rock opera > jude law.

| Thursday, February 11, 2010
Today's Tune: Zydrate Anatomy

So, we all hear tell of this idea that every story has already been told, right? Originality is dead, and there's nothing you can come up with that hasn't been done before. Probably by Shakespeare.

The key to overcoming this, of course, is to incorporate your own spin and voice into the story. Sure, the plot may be derived from Much Ado About Nothing, but your imagination and characters will give it new light and find it a new audience. People love the stories they love, no matter how many incarnations there are.

But there are some times when the story is so similar, when so little newness is brought to the table, that I just have to headdesk.


Admittedly, I am pouty about this because a film I like very much, which is sort of a little-known cult flick, did this already. Almost the exact same thing, actually. The new (big shiny uber produced) film tweaked things - made it into a dramatic thriller, added a partner, took out the father-daughter element - but the premise is more or less the same.

The film I'm thinking of is Repo! The Genetic Opera. It's really campy and deliberately gross and gory, but it's so fun. I really liked the story, and though I'm sure they weren't the first to think of synthetic organs being repossessed by Repo men, it's still the first one I think of.

Did the big film steal the idea from the little film? Pretty unlikely. It's a clever idea, but not revolutionary. And clearly a film like this would have to have been in production for a long time (a year? two? I'm not sure on films).

I know I'm probably being oversensitive because I'm a fan of the campy little cult flick, but I can't help but think BAH on this new movie, and am unlikely to see it.

And this, friends, is why I think it's extremely important to keep your ear to the pulse of books and publishing, particularly if you want to publish in a specific genre. You don't want to be the person whose story elements are so close to another author that people roll their eyes at you and think you ripped someone off.

Granted, this is largely public perception. It is entirely possible in both the film and publishing industries for two people to have very similar ideas and release them fairly close together, thus giving the impression that one ripped off the other when it's not true at all. (Films and books take years to produce, as we all know, which means it's highly unlikely there was any ripoff happening). Still, public perception matters.

It boils back down to knowing what's "hot" in your genre, knowing the frequently-used tropes, keeping an eye out for the big popular sellers as well as the lesser-known reads that still have a cult following. In other words, read and research widely, and do it often. Keep up. Know how to make your story stand apart.

Now that I've posted this, I'm sure like eight books will come out that feature an intensely similar plot to my WIP, and I'll have a severe case of foot-in-mouth to deal with. Heh.

honest scrap award.

| Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Oh hey, I got a blog award! Thanks to Shelly Sly for thinking of me :)

From what I hear, the point of this one is to list ten honest things about yourself. So, you’ve been forewarned.

1.) I once tried out to be the lead singer of a punk-metal band. I was terrible. Like, even for punk-metal. But, roads left untraveled, you know?

2.) I have a habit of going back over posts/stories/comments I’ve written, even days or weeks afterward, scanning for errors and clarity.

3.) I play a Night Elf Mohawk Druid in World of Warcraft. And it is really not as nerdy as you think it is. I mean, okay, it’s kind of nerdy, but it’s seriously not that bad.

4.) I can be overly judgmental when masking my own insecurities.

5.) I prefer earthquakes and wildfires to tornadoes and ice storms.

6.) I have been called a hippie several times throughout my lifetime. It’s weird. I mean, just because I’m from California and I like health food and think Eastern philosophy is cool and am all about peace and harmony and use natural beauty products and listen to a lot of folk music and own tie-dye, it does not make me a hippie. SO NEENER.

7.) Pacey is way, way, way better than Dawson.

8.) I am addicted to BPAL. And the Internet.

9.) I make awesome baked mac n cheese.

10.) I’d probably have David Tennant’s Time Lord babies if he asked.

And now I’m supposed to pick a few others to receive the award. Hmmm…

Kate In The Closet
Portia Sisco

love it and live it.

| Monday, February 8, 2010
Today's Tune: Ca Me Vex

UGH, snow. Snow and I are done. We will not work it out, we will not learn to love each other, and we will not play nicely. END. FIN. AUF WIEDERSEHEN MINUS THE MEET AGAIN PART. Auf Wiedersenever?

Ahem. Moving on.

Rachelle Gardner says to write what you know, and I of course couldn't agree more - especially with her definition of "know." It's so painfully simple.

I'll go a step farther and elaborate that not only do we need to write what we know, we need to write what we love. Particularly where genre is concerned.

We have to love the genre we want to write. Unabashedly, truly, deeply love. It should be the genre we ourselves read and can't get enough of. Mystery, horror, chick lit, thriller, young adult, children's, literary, fantasy, sci-fi, cookbooks, self-help books on how to convince your cat to get along with your hedgehog - you should adore your genre. More importantly, you should READ your genre.

That last bit has been stated umpteen different times by umpteen different people, and that's because it's the truth. How can you possibly expect to write a good science fiction novel if you 1.) don't read much sci-fi, and 2.) really don't like it all that much in the first place?

I have trouble comprehending it when writers are considering writing in a genre they don't really care for. Why would you do that? Not only to yourself (what's less enjoyable than writing about something you're not interested in?), but to your potential readers. It's saddening to pick up a book in your favorite genre and find it to be lackluster and full of tired tropes and flat characters. It's insulting to later learn that the author doesn't give two figs about crime fiction, but they wanted to take a crack at it anyway.

Readers can usually tell when an author doesn't care about what they're writing. They don't take the care to make the story and characters shine. They obviously haven't read much of their peers' work in the same genre, because they reuse a genre standard plot twist for the eight billionth time.

The solution to this is so plain. Write what you love! Write the stories that sing you to sleep at night. Write something you yourself would genuinely want to read.

When you love your work, it shows. Especially in the arts.

dot dot dot.

| Sunday, February 7, 2010
Today's Tune: Home

I've been having a burnout sort of weekend, so today I'm going to be lazy and piggyback on another blogger's entry from LitDrift: young writers, lay those bricks.

I can relate. I often have the mental block of not wanting to suck - of wanting everything that flows from my fingers to be deep and meaningful and awesome from the start. Which, of course, it can't be if I don't practice.

I'm slowly but surely getting over it. I completed a short story yesterday (yay!).

i find this agreeable.

| Thursday, February 4, 2010

I have found the staircase that will exist in my future dream home. Just sayin'.

the pros and cons of LOST.

| Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Today's Tune: Click, Click, Click, Click


Now that that's out of my system... I'm a LOST fan, obviously. I love this show, but GRAH if it doesn't drive me absolutely crazy sometimes. There are many things that work and keep me watching, but other things that frustrate me to the point of blogging about it.

What works?

1.) Suspense and mystery everywhere. Nothing is as it seems.
2.) Tons of characters with layers upon layers of backstory.
3.) No one is as simple as they appear. There is good and evil in everyone. Characters have reasons for their actions.
4.) Interesting and beautiful setting that is itself part of the story.
5.) Scottish guy that calls everybody "Brother." You can't lose with one of those.


1.) Too much going on. More and more mystery with little to no resolution. It's frustrating.
2.) The story has gone on so long that characters and events are becoming predictable.
3.) Tied into that last: characters make the same mistakes over and over. Many don't seem to grow.
4.) Too much of the current storyline is dependent on backstory that is most likely being made up as the story moves along.

I'm not really prone to violent tendencies, I swear. BUT SERIOUSLY.

Now, clearly, there is a different set of rules for popular television versus literature, but even so I think a lot of these pros and cons can be tied in to writing. Where LOST has gone on for about two seasons longer than it should have due to its popularity, we often see similar fates befall book series. It even occasionally happens to single novels - too much is going on without enough resolution, the characters meander instead of being forced to grow, and hiccups in the plot are "solved" by layering in another twist or more convenient backstory.

The problem: Trying to milk a good story for more than its worth, and having the overall plot suffer as a result.

The solution: Know exactly where a story is going, and know when to cut it off. Hint - cut it before your characters start getting predictable or even annoying, and before you've frustrated your readers with eleventy billion sub-plots.

It's not like LOST's writers don't know that this happens. They do have an episode titled Dues Ex Machina, after all! It's a wonderful example of how a story can have a multitude of brilliant elements that keep you coming back for more, but also make some not-so-great mistakes along the way.

Learn from LOST. Create well-rounded, likable characters. Kill the annoying ones, and once in a while kill off a beloved one for maximum angst. Keep suspense and mystery high, but don't forget that your audience is going to need SOME resolution before they lost interest. Make your setting matter. Don't depend on backstory too much.

And get a Scottish guy, for serious.

an additional goal.

| Monday, February 1, 2010
In addition to finishing my first draft this month, I also vow to eventually write something that gets a dinosaur named after it, because DUDE. AWESOME.

Dracorex is a putative dinosaur genus of the family Pachycephalosauridae, from the Late Cretaceous of North America. The type (and only) species is Dracorex hogwartsia, meaning "dragon king of Hogwarts."


The name Dracorex hogwartsia was inspired by young visitors to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis as a tribute to both dragons (Dracorex means "dragon king"), which the animal resembled, as well as the Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling (hogwartsia for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the fictional school from the popular series).

“I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small (claw?) mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs. I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three. My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker’s paper describing ‘my’ dinosaur, which I can’t help visualising as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”

— J.K. Rowling, Dragon-like Dinosaur at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is Named to Honor Harry Potter Author J.K. Rowling


a goal.

Today's Tune: I Love the Rain the Most

I've decided I need to set a concrete goal for myself as far as my current work goes, because I am just not disciplined enough yet to go with the flow. Therefore, I am creating a deadline: first draft of my current manuscript will be finished by the end of February.

Originally I wanted to aim for two weeks, but I figured I'd give myself a little leeway. So, there it is - I WILL FINISH THIS DRAFT IN THE NEXT 28 DAYS!

*cue Eye of the Tiger*

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