::taps the mic:: Is this still on?

8 02 2010

Weather: Pending Snownarok! High: 30 degrees + SNOOOOWWW!

So yes.  I’ve been very lax in blogging lately.

Been working on revisions for the WIP, and considering how much I’ve been shifting and rearranging,  I swear I might as well have started from scratch.

But there’s the rub. When the epiphany hits on how to make the story work better, especially in line with the greater story arc, do you say, “Ah Well, I ‘ve already written 110K, and it’s pretty good” or do you dive in with the scalpels and bandages and antisptic and FIX IT , even though it might push your self-imposed deadline back? Yeah, it’s the latter, I’m afraid.

See, the story I had was good. But what I came up with is BETTER. More cohesive, more streamlines, better sustained tension and plot. Why wouldn’t I throw myself on the literary sword and do my damndest to wrestle it into shape?

Which brings me to something that’s been conking on my noggin lately. Before we had Twitter and Facebook and all the other blogs & journals, did writers suffer advice overload? I imagine the answer is there in the question.

I am so appreciative of all the publishers, agents and other writers that post and blog their experiences in publishing and dole out advice for all us newbie writers. And I mean that with absolute sincerity. The problem is there is SO MUCH of it out there. I feel sometimes like a teenager being taught to dance by 17 teachers at once. The steps are all there, but a lot of the teachers don’t agree in what order they go. However, this is not the fault of the teachers.  I think sometimes the innate insecurity that I feel as a writer on the verge of stepping into the publishing world causes me to seek out more information than my brain can process.

At some point, the information stops being helpful and starts being confusing and intimidating.  No new writer wants to make the egregious mistakes that show up on numerous “Top Ten Reasons I Won’t Look At Your Book EVER!” lists that pop up all over the net. At the same time, the sheer number of these kinds of posts can make someone new to the publishing industry seriously reconsider getting published at all. I have to admit, the articles and blog posts that most of us take to heart are the ones that show the statistics AGAINST our ever getting published.

Again, this is not the fault of the industry people or the authors who are trying to relay how difficult it is out there. But sometimes I wonder if the proliferation of all the negative and cynical articles outweigh the helpful info. Sure, we all want an unvarnished view of what to expect. Fluffy pieces on how everyone deserves to be published don’t tend to ring true, after all. But we are sometimes told, in seeming contradiction that we should write from the heart, write the book we want to write. And then we are told, but make sure you don’t write in this genre, or from this POV or include characters of a particular ethnicity or age. It gets a little confusing.

Ultimately, I think, at least for myself, that I need to focus on the WRITING. Make the story as polished and streamlined as I can. Proof it a number of times. Have someone objective look it over. Then send it out and hope for the best.

The internet has become both a curse and a blessing for writers. The availability of information is a wonderful thing, especially the advice from people who know what they’re talking about when it comes to writing and publishing. The curse is in the volume of the knowledge. Hopefully, like anything, we can learn to take things in moderation. After all, a good bit of info goes a long way.

Now playing: Three Days Grace – I Hate Everything About You
via FoxyTunes

Distilling your influences

19 01 2010

Weather: High: 30º and partly sunny. Yes the Yellow Hurty Thing is back in the sky. Growl.

Wow. I’ve been very lax in posting here! Although, looking through my archives, I seem to have started a number of posts and abandoned them. Truth be told, the facile pleasures of social networking have stolen time from what I should have been doing. Time to start limiting the Twitter/Facebook addiction I think.

I recently turned 43. It’s odd that this non-specific or “milestone” age brought some nostalgia rumbling to the surface.

So, I was watching “Dreams with Sharp Teeth” again last night, and was reminded that although I read particular things now, they are only the more recent superficial influences on my writing.  Harlan Ellison, who is the subject of that film, was heavily influential on me as a young girl. I started reading Harlan when I was in 7th grade. Weirdly enough, the first mention I’d ever noticed of him was an intro he’d written for the US releases of Doctor Who tie-in books. I believe the first book by him that I purchased was “Strange Wine” which was one of the most amazing, dark, visceral and visually inspirational books I’d ever read. The story “From A-Z, the Chocolate Alphabet” still resonates with it’s short alphabetical entries about fantastic creatures, disturbing concepts and at some points, painful thoughts. I can quote most of the entries to this day.  And “Croatoan” still gives me vague nightmares. After that first taste, I dove into more and more of his books: “Paingod & Other Stories”, “Shatterday“, his book of essays “An Edge in my Voice“, and on and on. Harlan’s books made me stretch what I thought I could handle, storywise. While most girls my age were reading Judy Blume, I was reading Harlan Ellison. It made for awkward discussions at lunch time. They wanted to discuss in hushed tones about the new things about love and sex they were reading, I was more interested in discussing things like what it would be like to live in a world where all free will had been removed & you were subject to the whims of an insane AI computer. (“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”) Yeah. I wasn’t really part of the usual cliques in school.

Additionally, I was also reading Anne McCaffery’s Pern novels, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover Series, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising booksFrank Herbert’s Dune series and a lot of novels variously by Nancy Springer, Piers Anthony, Stephen King (His short stories & “Danse Macabre” were my go-to) and re-reading Tolkein. It was a beautiful stew of fantasy, science fiction and , with Harlan’s books added in, dark speculative fiction. I loved books that were set in a huge universe, that had depth, history and layers to them. I also liked books that didn’t just give me one note emotions. I wanted books that allowed me to immerse myself completely.

Mind you, I had an early start reading. I was an only child for 6 years and my parents, gods love ’em, let me have free rein in my dad’s library. Thus why I’d read most of Shakespeare’s plays by the time I was 10, and had a conversational knowledge of art and mythology and archaeology at the same age.  My dad got a little worried that he kept finding me with my nose buried in his coffee table book of Bosch paintings.  I believe he thought some of the grotesque imagery might give me nightmares. Instead, it prepped me for Giger, who I fell in love with later.

Art, in it’s own way, has also influenced my writing, but that’s another post.

Later, in college and after, I moved on to Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman.  Both authors again shaping my writing brain as I immersed myself in their diverse universes. Clive Barker was instrumental in leading me to challenging myself on what I wrote. I often quote him, “I forbid my mind, hence my pen, nothing.”  It’s a mantra I try an live by when I’m in the middle of a scene and find myself hemming and hawing over how far I should take it.
Barker also introduced me to William Blake and the concept of transcendence, not just of the spirit but of the flesh. It’s a concept that Barker employs in a lot of his writing.

Because of Neil & Clive, I’ve found that words need to have more dimension than mere description. They need to convey emotions, even the uncomfortable ones. And, if you can manage it, they need to be able to mold your concept of reality, make it more fluid. Not just show the worlds they describe, but put you in the middle of them, make you feel them on your skin, in your head.

So after a lifetime of all this amazing literature, it’s no wonder that some aspects of all those influences would creep into my writing as well. Although I harbor no illusions of coming anywhere near the volume or quality of any of those writers, I’d like to think that while I was reading their words, I wasn’t just absorbing the stories.  I’d like to think I was learning from them. There are flavors of all of them, in how I describe a scene, in the dialogue and in the world building that this series is requiring.

The key is trying to meld these flavors into something new, not just a reheat of what’s gone before.
Now playing: Three Days Grace – Life Starts Now
via FoxyTunes

Reading as a Writer…

15 12 2009

Weather: High: 26º & sunny. Wind Chill: 13º G’BRR!

After an extended delay and several false starts–BACK TO THE BLOGOSPHERE!

As a writer, that is, one who writes stories and creates worlds,  I find that my reading has suddenly taken on an odd bi-level focus.

I’ve always been a voracious reader. I love books. I REALLY REALLY love books. My husband is threatening to build another wing on the house, just to accommodate my books. Daily packages arrive at our house from Amazon & Alibris, feeding the need for more reading sustenance.

Now, a few years back, I was still reading with one single focus: Reading for pleasure.  I define reading for pleasure as immersing yourself in the story,  both intellectually and emotionally, and when you’re done, you sigh in satisfaction (if it was good) or glare & throw the book across the room (If it was not to your liking- note, I didn’t say it was BAD.) This was the usual procedure. Some books, like the Harry Potter series, would arrive on my doorstep, get ripped from the packaging and get carried off to some quiet room, to be devoured in one marathon sitting. Others would get read piecemeal over a few weeks. (House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is STILL getting pored over, several months along. It’s a really…involved book.  )

But in the past year or so, I’m finding my brain has added a second track of focus when I’m reading.  I still immerse myself in the characters & plots, enjoying or getting annoyed by whatever transpires between the covers. But I’m also finding that there is a little voice, quietly talking in the background.

It’s taking notes. Sort of out loud.

Not so much about characters or plot points, not in an “Oh I SO need to swipe that!” mentality. More like a set designer seeing a play. It’s taking note of STRUCTURE not lines or actors.

The voice says things like “Oh I see how she/he pulled in the world element from the previous book there…” or ” Crap, they shifted perspective in the middle of the scene again –who’s perspective am I supposed to be in now?”

In my own stories, I’m finding lately that I’m getting better at sentence structure, better at clarifying a scene…even managing a decent plot development. Instead of filling my library with writing “How To” books, I’m reading other authors who write similar genres to my own, especially the really good ones.  I’m especially focusing on authors who have a very rich and complicated universe built that encompasses many books.

As writers, especially when we’re first starting out, we sometimes try to find a book or workshop, hoping to stumble across the magical path that will lead us to writing the perfect novel. Like there’s some secret construct or template that the big name authors have access to that gives them that added quality to their writing.

More often than not, I’ve found that most “How To” books directly contradict each other, or rather arrogantly claim to be the “only right way” to get your book written.

After flailing around for a while, I’ve finally realized that the best teachers of form and structure are other writers. It should probably be telling if the authors of the “How To” books haven’t actually written a genre novel, they might not be the best ones to use as a resource.  Granted not every book published is a good example, but the more you read, the better you’ll get the hang of what works, and what doesn’t. It’s not about characters and plots in and of themselves, it’s about WELL DEVELOPED characters and INVOLVING plots.

So, for what’s it worth, I think the best thing a writer can do, when they’re not trying to crank out wordcount or polish their own novels, is read. Read a lot. By a lot of different people. Read outside your genre to get a feel for the different rhythms of plot. Read inside your genre to see what audience you are trying to engage.

Reading is your best teacher.

Now playing: Blackmore’s Night – Ma-O-Tzur
via FoxyTunes

Back on the blogging horse again..

22 10 2009

Weather: Has been unseasonably cool, mostly in the upper 40s. Not complaining. For today: High: 57º & rainy. And foggy. Perfect weather for writing.

It’s been a couple weeks of non-writing and other health issues. I broke a toe and am hobbling around, cursing intermittently. Add in a dollop of PMS and financial chaos and yeah. Been a little distracted.

But enough of the whining and flailing.

Writing had hit a bit of a wall for me. The WIP was stalled and I was getting NOWHERE on planning for NaNoWriMo. So, I did the smart thing and set it all aside for a couple of days and went on a research binge. And caught up on some reading. (Got Laura Anne Gilman’s “Flesh and Fire: Book One of The Vineart War” and was hooked in the opening pages. ) Fantastic story and using a unique magic system, wine, which in turn makes it even MORE interesting. Great book and highly recommended. Also been catching up on the Dresden Files. (Reading Small Favor at the moment with Turn Coat, to be ordered and Changes to be PRE-ordered. Oh and a Dresden Graphic novel in the wish list as well. )

Research for NaNo has actually yielded some good little “What if…” thoughts so that I can get a serviceable plot brewing. Thank the gods that Norse Mythology has enough loose ends and loopholes that I can concoct a lovely urban fantasy from the question marks. 🙂 Love that there is no definitive myth on whether Ragnarok has a) already happened, b) is YET to happen, or c) is happening in cycles. Lots of open ground to mine there. That and the fact that some gods & many of the Svartálfar (Dark Elves) & Ljósálfar (Light Elves) escaped to Midgard during the fighting…well. That also leaves some stones unturned. VBEG. I have an abandoned story from a few years back that will need to be completely re-written, but the seeds of a good story are there. It will have new characters and a completely re-worked plot. Nice thing is, once I got a few salient points down on paper, the bits of dialogue started cropping up. And stray scenes. I’m only jotting down notes so I don’t actually cheat and get started early.

Been spending a large chunk of the morning chatting with my lovely writerly friends about topics as diverse as vampire canon (which DOES NOT EXIST, KTHXBYE!), writing software and whether or not committing ourselves to NaNoWriMo when we have books on the burner (and on the back burner and hanging from the ceiling and stuck in little boxes under the bed) makes us masochists.  (I, for one, believe I have lost touch with my pain threshold and am just doing it because I like the taste of insanity in the morning. Burns so good!)

On the home front, Bri and I are getting the house prepped. We’ve crunched the numbers and are slowly getting the few cosmetic things fixed so the house will be ready for the market come March of next year. Seattle or bust, baby! We’re actively looking for places to live out there and, of course, looking for jobs. Along with about a bajillion other people. Sigh. Remember what I said about my masochistic tendencies. Yeah. Right there.  But we’re full bore dedicated to getting the hell out of  here. Sooner rather than later, thank you very much.

Been compiling writing mixes again. And with NaNo coming up, I need to start formulating soundtracks for my characters.  My writing mixes lately have been made up of predominantly the new Three Days Grace, AFI, Muse and Editors albums. All of which are conveniently fitting to the storyline of the WIP. (“Last to Know” off off the new 3DG is so perfect for the epilogue, I swear it was written with pre-knowledge of the storyline. Which would just be weird & creepy.  ::makes note to send those boys a fruit basket or something for the inspiration::)

All righty. Got to get back to work and then head home for a writing session. No telly tonight (Supernatural & Vampire Diaries are both repeats. So vexing.)

More tomorrow, my sparkling ferrets of delight.

Now Playing: Fly on the Windscreen — Depeche Mode

Cold and Rainy….must be Tuesday.

8 04 2008

Weather: high –53 degrees & rainy. (Feels a lot colder tho!)

Trying to get my mindset back to something resembling focus and am failing miserably.

The writing is sitting there percolating, I just can’t seem to get past 1) the current roadblock scene in “Carrion” and 2) how to re-write the bar scene in “Mirror” so it flows with the rest and doesn’t sound like a scene crowbarred in from another story, (which it is, unfortunately).

Add in the return to the 17 tracks of whirling nonsense in my brain and the focus she has gone on vacation.

Some added things before I forget:

  1. Battlestar Galactica-– WOO! great way to start off the last season. Still wondering what’s up with the Starbuck storyline. I posited the theory that the Earth Starbuck found is a future earth and THEY doctored her ship. (Or more specifically, the lost Tribe did)
  2. Torchwood — Haven’t seen the Season Finale yet, but have seen the wailing & gnashing of teeth as a result of it. Sounds like the spoilers panned out and there was a high body count. OY!
  3. Doctor Who — 10 days till it starts on SciFi. WOOO! (Have read some spoilers from our British friends and you know what? It’s gonna be great. I can tell!!!)
  4. IKEA — I love the Swedish crack store! SRSLY! Bri and I drove out to the Bolingbrook, IL store since it was the closest and ended up buying a crapload of stuff, mostly for the cats, but then when don’t we? Had lunch at the cafe. NOM NOM NOM. We also have designed our kitchen for the new house. You know. The one we haven’t built yet? Plus the kids section had me clutching my ovaries. Bri and I will DEFINITELY be decorating from here.
  5. Health — Well, hello allergies, my old friend. Bri and I are just keeping the Claritin D/ Zyrtec D people in business. Between the dust from cleaning, and the kitties shedding their winter coats, and the sudden resurgence in mold…yeah. Sinuses are not our friends right now.
  6. Job Stuff – Bri got a call back from Two X Four about possibly freelancing and asking for his salary history and references. Sounds like a bit of good at least. Still keeping my fingers crossed. Didn’t get called on Monday, but I figure they need at least a week to iron out the details. Keep hoping folks.
  7. House Stuff — Bri and I are gonna go with the Maple Forest House design when we build. We’re gonna be applying for a mortgage on the current house (to get the damn thing SOLELY in our name– long story) as soon as he lands a job. Once we get situated and decide on a locale, we’re gonna sell current house (hopefully the market will stabilize a little.) and start building the new one. Lots of things need to be in place between now and then, but at least we’re starting to make decisions and get things started. OY!
  8. Friends — All things seem quiet here. I’m feeling a little anti-social right now, probably due to exhaustion and PMS, and I find I just don’t have the urge to post or respond over at LJ right now. This blog is more like a diary for me and therefore I don’t have to worry about what’s posted here so much. Lis and Tom had us over for dinner on Saturday, we really need to reciprocate soon. Was a nice evening though. Lots of convo and watched Torchwood and got to pay with thier kitties.

Have a small rant that needs getting out of my head, so here’s a cut to spare the innocent…

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday! My dear old friend!

22 02 2008

Weather: 26 Degrees and Cloudy

Friday FINALLY! This week has been made of fale all way round, between 3 hour train commutes and pulled back muscles and various work related drama.

SIGH. This weekend looks to be a melange of housecleaning and writing and getting some packages put together for people. Hopefully we can get ONE weekend that isn’t crap in the weather department.

I’m finding that Livejournal is again waning in interest for me. I spend more time at the communities than the journals. With a rare few exceptions, mind you. Maybe it’s just a sign that I’m getting to that age where I really am less interested in group input on my day to day life. ::shrugs:: There are a couple of people that I still read with any eagerness, but a lot of friends are also elsewhere and I’m finding I have a premium on free time anymore to keep up. Work is demanding a LOT of my focus now and there is less “goof off ” time than there was before. A large number of people who were on my original FList are either no longer in my life or have left LJ altogether. It’s the nature of things, I guess. I spend more time at the SD forum and in e-mail anyway.

On a totally OT note, last night’s LOST was made of AWESOME! Man have the writers’ been bringing out the big Plot guns lately! So many twists and I swear for the first time since Season 2 am I EXCITED about this show again. Sucks that I have to miss Supernatural because of the timing, but there’s always my good friend i-Tunes to make that up for me.

Torchwood has been made of WIN this season so far and I am practically panting for the new season of Doctor Who in April. New Top Gear eps on Monday- Squee! Sad that there is so little quality TV that even piques my interest lately.

On the movie tip, will probably finally plop down and watch “Daywatch” tonight from zee Netflix. It’s the sequel to “Nightwatch” which is fantastic in it’s own right. A Russian made vampire film, who’d a thunk? They even did CGI on the SUBTITLES for the film. And it’s a very unique take on the war between dark and light. LOVE this series. We also have The Namesake & The Island to watch. I want to get these watched and back since my queue has a bunch of films lined up I’m dying to see as well. (Across the Universe, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, 30 Days of Night…etc)

On the reading front, I’m still wading through “Lick of Frost” from the Merry Gentry series and have about a gajillion books on the back burner. I’ve ordered “Nevermore” -my friend Keith DeCandido’s Supernatural tie-in novel, which I hold vested interest in because I was a beta reader for the manuscript. 🙂

Music? I’m still all over the place there. Thanks to my lovely friend Jack, who exposed me to the crack that is Amiestreet , I am starting to get hooked on unsigned and newer bands. Been listening to the usual amounts of EBM (VNV! Ronan? Where’s the damn “Restoration” EP already???) and a lot of Brit Pop bands. Not much of a change in other words. Have Siouxsie’s Mantaray on order as well. Have heard two singles off it and loved them. Closer to Creatures stuff than Banshees.

Gearing up for Keith (see above) and Terri’s wedding in June in New York, although the funds are gonna be tight after we book the flight and hotel. Then there’s my sister’s wedding in October to still plan. Lots on the plate.

Snoots and Apache seem to have reached a sort of tentative detent, where Snoots will only chase her when her back is turned. :shakes head: I was kinda worried about him chasing her and, with her cataracts & arthritis & lack of claws, her getting hurt. Then after one particularly loud and boisterous romp around the basement, Snoots was carted off to time out and I went to check on Miss Apache, I was rather amused to see she had a tuft of grey hair in her mouth. Apparently she can still take care of herself.

Anyway–must go spend some time on the WIP novel and get some actual work done today. Database entry. Be still my heart.

Now playing: VNV Nation – Schweigeminute
via FoxyTunes