Monday, November 30, 2015

On Lucy Maud Montgomery's Tortured Life, The Tragedy of Tauriel and Endings

L. M. Montgomery's birthday is today (I'm sure Google told many of you this also). For those of you who don't know, she wrote the Anne of Green Gables series.

I am surprised(ish) at how tortured she was and how she *may* have committed suicide. She seems to have had a fascinating life though was born in the wrong era.  Apparently she is quoted to have said that she got married because that's what women did in Canada during that time (Early 1900s).Though her husband was a "winner" who suffered from religious melancholia or essentially depression.

Interestingly and not intentionally, I wrote a main character in a now-defunct zombie novel whose name was Lucy Morgan Monroe. I wonder if somewhere in my subconscious I was channeling my inner childhood lit experience? Who knows...if I could go back in time, dress all fancy (especially if I can wear a fancy hat) and have tea with Ms. Montgomery, I would totally do that. If only time machines were real...

L.M. Montgomery was a strong and influential woman of her time, in a time when women were not really able to be strong and influential. They had a path and that path was through marriage and children to inevitable death from a broken heart - broken at their wasted opportunities. Broken as their spirit was, crushed by a society ruled by men and a very few influential, yet narrow-minded women.

Speaking of ruled by men...I saw this meme today on Facebook that initially made me chuckle but ultimately made me sad.

First of all, I totally support the addition of not-in-the-book female characters to the awesome LOTR world. However, if you're gonna do it, FOR GOD'S SAKE PLEASE DON'T MAKE THEM SUCK! You had one job, PJ, ONE JOB! And you blew it.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, my rant is twofold.

1. She SUCKS at fighting. I mean, she keeps slipping up or falling and one tiny orc overpowers her to the point that she fucks over Killi because she can't keep her shit together.  Up until this point, she's been relatively badass, fairly succeeding in everything she tries to do. But in this last battle scene, she jumps on an orc's back and gets flung of like a squirrel on a T-Rex.

Meanwhile, you've got Legolas over here, hopping off monsters and rubble like some type of coked-up mountain goat, using his dagger as a sort of grappling-hook-cum-emergency brake to slow his fall... OFF OF A TROLL. I mean, even the dorky elven foot soldiers fighting with the dwarves do magical elf-dwarf vaults to embed their impossibly short swords into wargs' eyes. ALL OF THEM DO THIS. Why can't Tauriel stay attached to ONE angry orc?

2. Love. Fine - everyone loves a love story. Especially if it's a love story between the second hottest dwarf (c'mon, you know Filli was the sexier of the two with his bad-ass blond flavor savor) and a hot elf chick (not as hot as Arwen, but you won't find me complaining).  Love makes things interesting. Gives us that "aw" moment we don't get in real life, and  lets us have ALL THE FEELS when one of them tragically dies. Fine. I'll bite. This is Hollywood afterall.

But for chrissakes...did she have to be such a whiny baby about it? And worse yet, come crying to a MAN to explain her feelings involving men (dead dwarf-men in this case. *sniff* poor Killi)? And, true to form, it takes the man-elf to say "love is soooo worth it" for her to be like "ya ok sure. gotcha. I'm good now." *double sigh* Fuck you Tauriel and your "love".

This was probably the only (and most) disappointing moment in all the Hobbit movies for me. I can forgive non-book embellishments, silly dwarves, 9 hours of movie, and even the cheesy romeo-juliet/dwarf-elf love story, but could you have at least made Tauriel fight well? Oh, and not be a total baby who runs crying to a man when she needs to solve  her problems?

Stay with me here, people...She's an effing elf! They are magical! And if orc-shield-surfin', three-arrows-at-a-time Legolas is any indication of the species, they kick severe amounts vof evil ass.

Unfortunately, #everydaysexism still applies to girl elves in the made-up, fantasy world of Middle Earth. Peter Jackson, how could you have failed me so? I thought our love was true. Why does it hurt so much.

And lastly, in other new. My novel, Insignia, is finished. Did you hear that? Let me say it louder...

***My novel, Insignia, is finished!!!***

And I don't just mean finished in the "got to the end of the words" way. I mean, like I have edited it ad nauseum, spell checked it, consistently spelled all my made-up names and removed comment bubbles.That kind of finished. And ok, you got me, the formatting needs to be proofed by someone who knows what they're doing. AAAAAND it should probably have a 3rd party grammar check.  And xInfinity, It needs cover art. But content-wise it is done. No major revisions unless one of my grammar nazis decides that something is total crap. But holy shit you guys...FINISHED!

I'm putting this "NANOWRIMO Winner" badge up as I used the rampant writing-energy of this month to ride through the remaining edits. And as I probably put in 50k + worth of editing hours, and accomplished my goal, i feel like a winner. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Humans, Octogenarians, Hate Mail and Sexbots...BoJack Can Come Too

Are you wondering about this post title? I will explain it below. 

This post is probably going to be a collections of some random thoughts as my novel reaches the end of its 3-year gestation period and will soon be born!  

1. I've been wanting to talk about Doctor Who's love of humans and Earth at some point in this book. It struck me as very appropriate since this book is all about humanness and what makes one so and how machines alter that "humanity". Also, I need to explain why my characters love and value this quality so much. Doctor who has some good lines. Like below!

Anne found this awesome Doctor Who quote for me and i decided to give it a prominent place in my novel.  You'll see where. ;-) 

 2. IT IS COMING! (I keep wanting to say "winter is coming" but that is inappropriate here even IF it is stuck in my head. Thanks, George). There is still a little ways to go with my novel.  I added all the chapters headers and have gone through 2/3 of my friends' edits. The 3rd friend had a lot of really involved comments, which is great though some of them really will involve some reworking.  (If your friends can't shit on your dreams, who can?) Which means, I have to determine which items are worth investing in that change and which ones are too much of a deviation from the story.  

One of his suggestions was to change the 1st chapter from one person's perspective to another's.  Unfortunately, that would ruin the flow and put the reader in a precarious position. Which isn't something that I really want to do.  So instead, I added a page-ish from that character's POV to get inside his head, just slightly, before you really get to know him.  I think it worked well.  You can see it below.  It is out of context here, but just go with me, OK? 
Samson was frozen, literally frozen. No, he hastily corrected himself, not frozen. He was in the air, floating…or falling incredibly slow. His boot had scraped off a layer of paint from the banister and it puffed out behind him in a small cloud. Below was a glass “skylight” – one of those tacky creations that had been popular during the decade before he was born and even though it had never been subjected to the elements, years of smoke, dust, and dead insects had crusted its edges, through which Sam could see a slightly blurred, cinematic view of the first floor cafeteria.
The patrons paid little attention to him, save for one, being wrapped up in their coffees, booze or the undoubtedly witty conversation with their modded-up, Johnny Depp-like date. Johnny Depp on a bad day, anyway.
The other one: dressed in all black, she stared openly with a startled frown, lifting her dark glasses away from her eyes, cappuccino cup in hand. Sam’s confused expression met hers and held her within the trance that he was currently experiencing.
Sharp stinging on his knee was the only indication that he had crashed through the bug-smeared skylight.  He barely felt even that pain as glass fragments gently twirled around his face, falling like weightless snowflakes toward the yellowing linoleum.  A hair-like wire glittered at the corner of his vision, lazily undulating like an animal.  What was that thing?
The dark woman had moved. Arm arched behind her back, she had launched the ceramic cup in his direction.  It gracefully slid past his ear as the aroma of overly-roasted espresso tickled his nose. Closer to the ground now, he felt his left leg tucked sharply into his chest, and his right leg…he wasn’t sure.
Something was on the floor below him, it looked like a limb. A leg. His leg? He shook his head. He was in shock, he told himself, gazing at the eerily-familiar boot toe, resting in a pool of blood. His blood?
Everything is too clear, he rationalized, I’m fine. Red droplets surrounded him, mimicking large jewels or small marbles.  He could see the surface of each one dimple and shift as the circular shapes became amorphous.  There was too much red around him, he thought, as the metallic tang shot through his taste buds. His chest fluttered as he forced himself to breathe.
His left leg was tucked underneath him, but his right…the floor reached him.

Another was to add a "Briefing" scene before the final climax.  Think of the rebel briefing before the Battle of Endor in Episode VI.  I think this could may also be able to give you a bit more of a look into Sam's head as well as reintroducing Drake and hinting at the havoc he's going to wreak later.

3. The importance of the first needs to have a hook. If I try to get published, I will need the first page, the first 20 pages or the first 3 chapters to be awesome. Eye-catching, tit-grabbing, dick-hardening awesome. Hmm..maybe I should use that? 

Anyway, I have a sentence on the first page that I have gotten mixed-reviews on. I love this sentence. It flowed from my fingertips as naturally as anything, and took absolutely zero thought. Unfortunately, it may be too unreachable for most people for one reason or another.  It's been a bitch finding a replacement.  I worry that I'm going to go with it's mediocre, C-student cousin. Nothing to get stoked about, but safe enough to get you through. But would it be enough? 

The sentence is as follows:

"She was wrapped in black leather pants the shade of an octogenarian’s favorite easy chair." 

Most people don't know how to parse it, and others think that 80-year-olds just remind them of the smell of pee. Which is NOT what I'm going for here.  I'm more aiming toward worn, comfortable, creased, faded, loved, once-fashion-conscious but not anymore. Clearly I am misunderstood. But unlike Captain Shakespeare (stardust) below, the misunderstanding probably will not make me look more badass...

You see, I'm very much
a man of my own creation.
Even chose the name specially.
Took me ages.
See, I'm thinking
Legendary British wordsmith.
My enemies and crew are thinking,
"Shake! Spear!"

While I don't have a fearsome rep to uphold, I do want to be that writer that thrills you and holds you captive or 350 pages. Losing you on a sentence on the first page, is a bad start...

4. Lastly some distraction because the cold meds are finally starting to kick in. I think I've found a hidden gem of the internet: Sexy Robots. I am fairly certain that I could write an entire blog post JUST about these, but here are a few samples. I am particularly fond of the last one.
Of course, robot is made sexier with Vodka...

Or pool...

Who needs clothes when you have tubes and ten inch heels?

On the other hand...what is she trying to cover up with that barely-there bikini anyway?

"Oops, I totally just fell into a pool with its cover on. And sexbots can't swim. Whoever will help me?"

6. BoJack horseman is telling you to write:

7. Also, just going to put this out to the universe: I hope one day I am popular enough to start getting hate mail. Because that will mean that people 1. took the time to read my work and 2. took the time to write me an angry letter. That's more investment than a lot of people will put into something. I'm good on the death threats though...those I can live without. :) 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Seven Deadly Sins of World Building

**NOTE: This is not my writing, but I am posting it here for easy access for later....also so that I can remember what the random link was for.  For the original article, please see the end of this post.**This is extremely useful and what I strive to do when writing.  I am not sure I have taken care of all of these holes, but I am working on it. 

7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding
Worldbuilding is an essential part of any work of fiction. But especially for science fiction or fantasy, it's the lifeblood of storytelling. But when worldbuilding fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless. Here are seven deadly sins of worldbuilding.
Top image: Under Tomorrow's Sky by Daniel Dociu.

1. Not thinking about basic infrastructure.

How do they eat? What do they eat? Who takes away the garbage? Who deals with their bodily wastes? How do they get around? What do the majority of people do to survive? You're not just constructing a society, you're creating an economy. People don't oppress each other for fun — usually, systems of hierarchy and oppression have an economic component to them. Maybe you need a lot of peasants to grow labor-intensive crops, or maybe you need lots of cannon fodder in your space war. Maybe your only source of protein is a weird fungus that needs to be tended by specially trained people. Maybe everybody's eating algae. In any case, there's nothing worse than a fictional world where there are elaborate social structures, which seem completely separated from the realities of food, shelter and clothing.

2. Not explaining why events are happening now.

Chances are your story revolves around all heck breaking loose in your fictional world. (Or your fictionalized version of the "real" world.) One major worldbuilding flaw is not explaining why heck is breaking loose now, as opposed to 20 years ago or 20 years from now. Why is the dark elf army showing up now? Was there something preventing them from showing up, which has been removed? Will it be too late if they wait another year or two? Often, if your plot is swinging into motion for reasons that feel purely arbitrary, that's actually a failure of worldbuilding. You haven't fully accounted for the things that kept your villain in check, and probably also for the factors that keep other political actors in your society in check as well. And that's a larger issue — every society has checks and balances. Even an absolute monarchy has invisible lines the monarch can't cross. Sometimes you can't figure out how these checks and balances worked in a particular era, without reaching beyond the official history as sanctioned by the people in charge.
7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding
On a related note, if you're drawing on real-life history, for your fantasy world or your future history, don't just read works by historians from the dominant culture, or works focusing on the ruling class. Historians have done amazing work on discovering what ordinary people and marginalized groups were doing during a lot of eras, and there's plenty of resources on what was going on in, say, the Middle Ages outside of Western Europe. To the extent that you rely on actual history in your world-building, you should reach beyond the Kings and nobles of a few Western countries. Image by Frederic St-Arnaud/CG Society.

3) Creating fictional versions of real-life human ethnic groups, that never go beyond one dimension

This is a huge problem that tons of creators seem to struggle with. But as a rule of thumb, if you want to have Belgians in your novel, you're going to have to try and create an accurate view of Belgian society. If you decide that instead of Belgians, you're going to have an alien species called the Bzlgizns — who are basically Belgians except they've got antlers — you still have to try and make them well-rounded and as nuanced as possible. Ditto if you're creating a secondary world where there happens to be a land of magical creatures called The Belge, who are still basically Belgians. Really, you should make sure that any cultural or ethnic group you create has multiple dimensions and a sense that its members have their own subjectivity, and a believable culture. Whether it's the culture that your main characters come from, or a culture that they see as the "other." But it's also a really good rule of thumb that the more your fictional group resembles real-life Belgians, the more you ought to worry about being true to life. Changing "Belgians" to "Bzlgizns" doesn’t actually let you off the hook for presenting a true-to-life portrait of people from Belgium.
7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

4) Creating monolithic social, political, cultural and religious groups.

Everybody in a particular ethnic group agrees about everything. Every member of the ruling class, or the working class, agrees about everything. Every citizen of a particular nation holds exactly the same set of opinions. There is one version of history that absolutely everybody agrees on. Every member of a religion interprets the tenets of that religion in exactly the same way. That sounds plausible, right? Maybe if you've never been around actual humans. In real life, if you get three members of a particular in-group together, you'll probably hear four different opinions on most of the group's major concerns. Asserting that all Christians agree on all matters of doctrine is probably a good way to get laughed out of the room. So when you imagine the ruling class of your world, it's safe to assume that no two members of it will agree on much — and when you retell your fictional history, remember that nobody's likely to agree on what actually happened. Image by MacRebisz/Deviant Art.

5) Inventing a history that is totally logical

In an imaginary world, the strongest side always wins and the people who are in charge are always the descendants of the people who were in charge 100 years ago. But real life isn't like that — history is full of odd quirks and happenstances, and powerful people often make huge miscalculations that wind up costing them dearly. Just think about weird happenstances like Ireland being divided in half. Or Korea. Or Germany, for nearly five decades. Why is WashingtonDC the capital of the United States instead of Philadelphia? Why did the Portuguese have their own colony in India until 1961? History is weird. And things that seem inevitable in retrospect usually seemed anything but at the time. So a totally logical history will never pass the "smell" test. And speaking of smell...
7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

6) Not really giving a strong sense of place, like what it smells like after it's been raining.

You can spend hours and hours thinking about the history and culture and mores of your imaginary land, and how people interact and the ways that different religious and ethnic groups collide. But if you don't make me feel the dirt under my fingernails, then you still haven't created a real place. If the reader doesn't get a little lightheaded from the stench of the polluted river, or transported by the beauty of the geometric flower gardens, then something is missing. Most of all, there should be a few spots — bars, taverns, crypts, spaceports — where the reader really feels "at home," as if you could imagine hanging out there for real. The purpose of worldbuilding isn't just to do a cool exercise, but to give a sense of place — and all of your thought experiments absolutely have to result in something vivid and alive. Image by Michel Koch/Don't Nod

7) Introducing some superpower, like magic or insane tech, without fully accounting for how it would change society.

If your pitch is, "It's just like our world, except everybody can turn invisible at will," then you've already failed. Because if everybody could turn invisible at will, it wouldn't be anything like our world. Especially if this power had been around for more than a few months. Whether you're creating an alternate history or a secondary world or a far future, any technology or power you introduce is going to have far-reaching effects — not just first-order effects, but second- and third-order effects, too. Going with the "invisibility" example, you'd have people using it to spy on each other — but you'd also have a huge boom in heat sensors. We'd start redefining the whole concept of privacy, and pop culture would be massively transformed. There would be whole art forms based around invisible performers, and it might be legal to shoot an invisible intruder on sight (on smell?). You could be here for hours imagining all the ways that the universal power of invisibility would change the world, and you'd probably still just be scratching the surface.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Words of Insignia

A while back I was playing with a website called "Wordle" and I made a few with the text from my story.  What Wordle does, is figure out which words are used most often and displays it in a graphic.  It doesn't grab articles and prepositions but pretty much everything else is up for grabs.  It's not the most sophisticated tool.  However, there is a way that you can filter out certain words by culling them individually.

This is very interesting to ponder. It says a lot about my writing style and also the story focus. I bet I could analyse the shit out of this if I really wanted to!

So, here are my awesome creations:

This one is all the words with only super generic verbs and such filtered out

This is all the words with all character names filtered out 

This is all the names with Mara's deleted (for some reason).

The problem with this tool is if you delete a word, you can't rally get it that's why Mara is not in the last one. :-D

Yay fun...