Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snip for later

What a brainstorming session looks like. - Mary Robinette Kowal goes through her process of brainstorming the ending to Shades of Milk and Honey. It is full of spoilers and I might want to read it someday, so I am linking it here for now, in the hopes that someday I will be bored and looking through my old blog posts and I see this again and I can read it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Life these days - Just stop and WRITE

Before we get to the real meat of the post, I need to explain something. I wrote this yesterday. I wrote it in a big boo-hoo I'm still not writing mope session, which, while fueled mainly by fear, had no real source or explanation other than I'm a lazy fucker. That's right, my friends, lazy with a capital Fuck.

I finally realized halfway through the post that I could be writing instead of complaining about writing. So I stopped. And I wrote. Two whole pages, motherfucker! Handwritten, and I write small, and I didn't count but I'm guessing there is 1000 words in there. Not a ton, but something. I'm posting it anyway, untouched from how I left it yesterday, because I need to learn something important here. You can be absolutely, completely paralyzed by fear, but you need to know that NOTHING is going to change if you're not brave enough to act. What's the worst that can happen? I write some bad shit? WHO CARES. Tomorrow then, I will not write those same bad words. I will write different, and most likely better, words. You are not a doctor performing life-saving surgery on a little girl with a paperclip and some bubblegum while being shot at on the back of a moving lorrie. No one will die when you put pen to paper. So just do it, and realise that this fear is probably never going to change, but that you have to do it anyway.

And a side note, I'm pretty sure Chuck Wendig is hacking into my Blogger and reading my drafts. Not really. I'm sure he doesn't give a shit. But can you believe this is the article he wrote yesterday? I saw it just now. Imagine that. NOW GO FUCKING WRITE.

Also this.

It is the use of increasingly sophisticated tools that separates man from beast. From Kristin Cashore's blog, good for a chuckle. =]

I'm reminded that writing is akin to sticking my hand into a dark hole with something unknown skittering around inside. I take a deep breath, stretch my hand ever closer, but as soon as I get close the monster moves inside and I freak out and yank my hand back and my heart is pumping in my throat and I'm not any closer to getting the prize hidden at the bottom of the hole. And by the way, the prize is required to save the universe, so it's kind of important that I suck it the fuck up and go for it.

…then Tim comes in, takes a look at the dirt and staples all over you, your bloodshot eyes and borderline psychotic grin, puts his finger to his mouth in a thoughtful way and says, “I’m concerned.” And you say, “No, Tim, it’ll all work out—I swear!” And you staple some fertilizer to the floor and laugh.
-Libba Bray

I don't know why it's so hard for me to put pen to paper. I'm more interested in seeing if I like writing on loose leaf or this notebook or that notebook or with this pen or that one, or should I go back to my laptop? There's always Scrivener or MS Word or even text snippets that I can use, or I can start typing on my phone to have zero excuse of not having a writing implement with me (aside from the fact that I always have a notebook), or I can buy a moleskin because those are KEWL and be a super-hipster-writer. And sit in a coffeeshop and get overcaffeinated.

Do you see how quickly my brain gets ridiculous?

Honestly, there isn't some tool that is going to magically make writing easy. I'm not going to find the miracle purple crayon that will serve as the conduit from my brain to the paper. I have to do the hard work and translate the flashes I have in my brain to something coherent on paper. And you know what, that's hard, and goddamn scary. What if I suck at it? What if someone reads it and laughs? In my head, the story is perfect. World-changing and life-affirming. But what if I am worthless as a writer? What if I can't get other people to understand why the story is important, why it is magical and enthralling and sweet?

See, logically, I know that's bullshit. I know that no matter how awesome I am (obviously, very awesome) the first draft is going to suck. But I don't have to show that to anyone. I can fix it as much as I want, for as long as I want. And the whole point of writing is to tell the story, to whoever will listen. And if no one is listening, to at least get it out of my head and onto paper, and maybe the characters will stop harassing me 24/7. Because seriously, I think about them ALL THE TIME. There is no escape. I'm at work, and I wish I was at home writing. I'm at home, and I'm thinking about how I should suck it up and do some writing.

The only way [the book can be written] is to set the unbook -- the gilt-framed portrait of the book -- right there on the altar and sacrifice it, truly sacrifice it. Only then may the book, the real live flawed finite book, slowly, sentence by carnal sentence, appear.
-Bonnie Friedman

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Around the 'Webs

Finish Your Novel by Timothy Hallinan - Wow, how have I never heard of this before? A series of articles to keep your ass in gear and finish what you start. - Like Shirt.Woot, but $7 of each purchase goes to help a charity, and the designs are beautiful and awesome. Expensive, unfortunately, but totally made of awesome. Proceeds from sales this week go to Freedom Firm, an undercover rescue mission to save young girls and sex slaves from forced prostitution.

My Darkest Hour by Kristen Lippert-Martin - On subs? Keep freaking going!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ideas!!!! And quandries...

After consciously NOT writing for so long (but still having it in the back of my mind) it was harder than I would have liked to get back in the swing of really thinking about writing. I couldn't help but get a little worried about it. What if not writing for three months meant my brain won't work anymore? What if all the work I'd done so far meant nothing? What if I could never write anything again because for some reason three months of avoiding something is enough time to completely erase it from my memory? I mean, I wasn't writing OR reading for a while, instead painting or cleaning or watching lots of TV and knitting. In the back of my mind I knew I was being ridiculous, and that I just needed to relax, maybe read a few books to get my brain out of screenplay mode and into prose mode, and ideas would start coming to me again.

Well, let me just go on the record to say that  within three days I'd already had that one idea to get the story flowing in my head. Seriously, I worry way too much. And isn't it funny, I've had this in my head for a very long time, but I'd never thought of it as something that could work in a story. And then all of a sudden it's HOLY SHIT THAT'S PERFECT I'M AN IDIOT. That's a really good feeling, by the way.

So my stalled story is now churning in my brain. The character is suddenly alive, a requirement for me if I want to write anything, and I have the first several scenes of set-up outlined in a frenzied scrawl on a piece of scrap paper. (Which means nothing until I actually write those scenes, but still.) Now I just need to figure out which direction I want to go... contemporary or fantasy? Both directions are feasible. The story goes further in my brain down the fantasy road, but I just don't think the premise is enough to support a fantastical element. It seems much more natural to go down the contemporary road, but that way is a bit boring so far.

But let's be serious, it has to have SOME magic...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Irrepressible Library

You know that feeling where you have a pile of books you can't wait to read, then your coworker comes in and gives you a book they absolutely LOVED, and you still have those other two books from your other coworker that you are slowly making your way through but have had in your possession since before Thanksgiving and feel guilty about that, and anytime you click open the internet you find more books to add to your pile that you are SO excited to read RIGHT NOW?

Yeah. That.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. A ginormous brick of a book, I can't really put my finger on why I want to read this book so badly. I used to scoff at books like these. Mainstream fiction and literary brown-nosing that English majors and hipsters read. (Although I've realised that disdaining the life of a hipster is, in itself, hipster.) But I've become enthralled with quiet books that sneak up on you and whop your senses, and it all started with The Name of the Wind. A book decidedly in the Fantasy section of bookstores. Then came other fantasy-but-mainstream books—The Gargoyle, The Night Circus—books that were shelved in the wrong section because Mainstream Fiction sells more, and the editors and publishing houses knew they could get more money by reaching a wider audience, because there ARE NO highbrow fantasy books.

First of all, this is utter bullshit. While I can't complain about a marketing move that gets a book into more hands, I hate that people don't go into the fantasy section because they think it is for children and "fake readers." There are amazing stories in the genre sections, just like there are flop/waste of time/shouldn't have been published books in the mainstream section. And personally, I think English programs would have a field day analysing and deconstructing the Use of Magic in a Dystopian Society, complete with allegory and metaphor and everything else Contemporary/Mainstream has. A little action or entertaining story does not lowbrow make. And even using "lowbrow" to mean "bad" is a terrible thing to do, because even if someone wants to read a wish-fulfilling porn thinly disguised as a book in polite society and get away with it even though porno mags are still frowned upon, at least they are reading. Even though wish-fulfilling is part of the reading experience. Ugh, I've tied my tongue in knots here, I didn't want to get in a philosophical discussion, and I could go on for hours more. Ok. \end{rant}

1Q84 is another of those Fantasy-but-shelved-in-Mainstream books. It has an intriguing premise, and I want to read it. All 1184 pages of it.

"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he’s doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers... But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.” —The New York Times Book Review
       The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
       A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
       As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
       A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers. (BN)

The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks. This is research for my WIP. All about perception and vision and how your eyes can see one thing but your brain can interpret it as another thing and how patients have adapted to their strange senses and situations. Very interesting and easy to read. It is giving me science to back up my magic system, making it less arbitrary.

In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks explored music and the brain; now, in The Mind's Eye, he writes about the myriad ways in which we experience the visual world: how we see in three dimensions; how we recognize individual faces or places; how we use language to communicate verbally; how we translate marks on paper into words and paragraphs, even how we represent the world internally when our eyes are closed.
       Alongside remarkable stories of people who have lost these abilities but adapted with courage, resilience and ingenuity, there is an added, personal element: one day in late 2005, Sacks became aware of a dazzling, flashing light in one part of his visual field; it was not the familiar migraine aura he had experienced since childhood, and just two days later a malignant tumor in one eye was diagnosed. In subsequent journal entries -- some of which are included in The Mind's Eye -- he chronicled the experience of living with cancer, recording both the effects of the tumor itself, and radiation therapy. In turning himself into a case history, Sacks has given us perhaps his most intimate, impressive and insightful (no pun intended) book yet. (GR)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Another book I am currently reading. I had to stop for a few days because it was just so get-under-your-skin creepy I needed a break. After that it was better, and now I am to the second part, I've reached the (probably first of many) holy shit part, and it is much smoother reading now. Though still not completely smooth. I never really understood before this how you, as a reader, could dislike the main character. It had never happened to me. I could always find something to like about the character, something that made me root for them. Not in this book. These characters are thoroughly despicable, and I hope they both lose. I hope the entire town dies in a nuclear attack so all the evil can be wiped from this book. Seriously. This book is worth suffering through just to read the magic GF spins with these words. The writing is snarky and crisp and beautiful, even while you're cringing. I know the twisting isn't going to stop (so many of my book-friends have read it), so I'm eager to see how it all pans out and ends. Read this book, then read a palate cleanser.

Marriage can be a real killer.
       One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.
       On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
       As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around. (GR)

Which leads me to my next book:

The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron. Fun, quirky, and quick, this is one of the books from a coworker. She absolutely loved it, and hopefully I can read it quickly and not lose my taste for 1Q84, because sometimes quick, fun books lead to more quick, fun books, and it's tough to get serious again and dive into the doozies.

       Eli Monpress is talented. He's charming. And he's a thief.
       But not just any thief. He's the greatest thief of the age - and he's also a wizard. And with the help of his partners - a swordsman with the most powerful magic sword in the world but no magical ability of his own, and a demonseed who can step through shadows and punch through walls - he's going to put his plan into effect.
       The first step is to increase the size of the bounty on his head, so he'll need to steal some big things. But he'll start small for now. He'll just steal something that no one will miss - at least for a while.
       Like a king. (GR)

Little Brother and Homeland by Cory Doctorow. I need to read these. Right now. Because of this. We need more people like Aaron Swartz in the world, more people who will not only stand up for something they believe in, but do something the fuck about it. People who inspire. The world is only as good as the dreams of the people, but that means squat if everyone just sits on the couch watching Doctor Who reruns.

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
        But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
        When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: "M1k3y" will take down the DHS himself. (GR)