Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vampires Don't Sparkle

I was talking to my friend Amanda the other day, and she mentioned that she was almost done with a previous book I'd recommended to her, and she was going to need something else to read. I told her I had an Urban Fantasy novel for a read (background: I'd already asked if she was interested in reading my recently revised Learn to Howl and she declined, which was totally all right. Nobody should ever have to feel guilty about that, and I don't want to be one of those writer friends who you can't talk to without being guilted about whether you've read her stories yet, or at all. Once I'm published, I will take full advantage of my good behavior and guilt everybody into buying the books, see. I'm biding my time.) She said "No vampires!" and I said "I'll have you know, it's werewolves. And for your information, if I wrote vampires, they wouldn't sparkle!"

That planted the seed, of course. If I wrote vampires, what would they do? What would they be like?

They wouldn't fucking sparkle, I can tell you that. I'd go back to the folklore. I'd go back to Dracula, still (in my opinion) the best vampire literature we've got. And yes, I mean literature. There's a lot of vampire fiction out there, and some of it is very fun if nothing else, but it isn't necessarily good (even if fun). Besides the fact that we all want to be our own special goddamn snowflakes and nearly every person who writes a vampire novel has to reinvent them. Or uses Anne Rice, or the World of Darkness, or Underworld as their leaping off point. The Sookie Stackhouse books are not literature, but Charlaine Harris in many ways has better vampires than a lot of the stuff that comes through my hands at the library.

Of course, this brings me to an interesting world building conundrum. In Learn to Howl (which is about werewolves, don'tcha know), my main character has a conversation with her cousin in which it is stated that there are no vampires. The World Building Police are not going to no-knock my door and taze me if I break this somewhere down the road, but it's a matter of personal preference, I guess. Having "rules", that is, not getting tazed by intruders.

I like it when novels are written in the same "world". Each novel doesn't even need to specifically and at length acknowledge the existence of other things that have gone on, even. I just like that nod and the in-joke if a place is referenced. I like consensual reality to be maintained. To use the Stephen King example (there typically is one. He's kind of the Kevin Bacon of writing), if you're reading a Stephen King book, you're gong to hear about Castle Rock, if only in a single sentence. The Shop might get mentioned. Or "that writer that went missing for a spell". That kind of thing. Even in his latest and less than greatest works, he still does this.

Granted, my lovely werewolves do not know everything. But I also didn't want to have a kitchen sink urban fantasy world (*cough*Charlaine Harris*cough*), wherein every imaginary creature ever came out of the woodwork once you peeled that corner back and had a look behind the curtain. Maybe I don't want there to be fairies. Maybe I don't want there to be vampires. Maybe I want to write about angels and demons and werewolves and psychics. Can I fill a writing life with that? Probably. I could probably fill a writing life with serial killers and never scratch the supernatural surface. I'm making my own rules here. Nobody knows who I am (yet. I have to say yet). So what does it matter?

I think having personal rules (in a non crippling OCD way) can matter a lot. I think that kind of integrity can be a good mainstay for a writing career. Sure, I write what I want. I write in whatever genre takes me at the moment. But at the core, there's always something about it that's mine, and there's always a certain course that it will follow. You know how things will end in Dracula (well, by now you do. Maybe it was an edge of the seat thriller back then. Was Dracula serialized?. You typically know how things will end in Stephen King novels. It isn't to say that they're formulaic, but that there is a certain morality that he will follow, tied in with the lesson of the book. You know what happens in Lovecraft. I'm not Stephen King, or Brom Stoker, or Lovecraft, I'm just me. But it's good to have a path, and have goals.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My first "publication": on Dogster.com

I have my first publication!

Well, kind of. On Dogster.com, they accept reader confessionals for a section called Dogster confessionals. I'd emailed awhile back (November?) to see the kind of thing they looked for in that spot, and then mulled it over for awhile. I was surprised to receive a follow up email (or two!) asking if I had anything for them. Okay, surprised and flattered. Really flattered.

So, I came up with a little number that they entitled (because I didn't really have a title) "I'm Not Hearing Voices: My Dog Talks To Me".  It was fun to write, as writing about Elka mostly is. I'm not a great photographer, but having a striking dog makes up for that fact, so I did have some good ones that I was able to include. There's even a video they embedded from The Elka Almanac Youtube channel, of her playing in the snow (don't get too excited; she is very cute, but if I'm a bad photographer, I'm not all that great a videographer either. If that's even a word. Blogger doesn't think it is, but also has trouble with things like "isn't" at times.)

So, if you read it, hope you enjoy! I'm fairly chuffed to have the coverage, anyway.

(This is Elka's "Did you just see that?!" and/or "Wasn't that great?!" face)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

One of my favorite things to do for dinner is to throw some kind of Protein in the crockpot before I go to work, season it appropriately, and come back several hours later to something that I pair a starch and veggie to and serve.

You can do it with a whole chicken, which is kind of cool. You can make pulled pork. Most frequently, I'll get a likely slab of beef, liberally garlic and black pepper in it, and voila. I salt it on the cutting board when it's done cooking and whispers apart when fork tines touch it.

One night, I pulled the beef out of the crock pot and it maintained its structural integrity for the ordeal, unusual in and of itself. When I laid it on the cutting board, it looked like this:

My fiance and housemate were in the next room, and I said "Hey guys, you know how people see the Virgin Mary in toast and stuff? Well, the roast looks like Cthulhu."

My fiancé, dear heart, came to look. "Holy crap, it does look like Cthulhu."

We stood and admired it for a few moments, and I took pictures (they pretty much all look like that one.) We asked said housemate if he was going to come and see. He said "No thanks, I'd like to keep my sanity."

(for reference, the title quote translates to "In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming." You can read Call of Cthluhu by H.P. Lovecraft at hplovecraft.com. You can also listen to it read on Youtube, which is freaking cool.





Sunday, February 24, 2013

I'm just like the Bloggess! (well, not really)

We were getting ready to watch The Bourne Legacy (which was rather good; Jeremy Renner has improbably long eyelashes. It makes viewing things containing him interesting) and I was fiddling on the Internet, as always. My fiancé said something along the lines of "Well, what are you doing?"

I said "Leaving a reply on a Bloggess post. I'm amazed that her husband continues to argue with her."

My fiancé: You've got to figure he's used to her by now. Or has superpowers.

I said: His name is Victor.

My fiancé: See, that's why. His name is Victor, which means he's the winner.

Me: Well, I don't think that's the way it works. But their conversations, or the ones she posts, are a lot like the ones we have where you end up confused or frustrated and I'm laughing madly.

Our housemate: You mean every conversation you  have?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

By hand?

I used to write everything out by hand.

Through high school, I really liked the pilot precise v ball pens, and wrote a rambling and muddy plotted fantasy epic in mostly blue, with some black. More than a thousand loose leaf pages by hand, perpetual stain of blue or black ink on the first joint of my middle finger.

Though my father was in computers, and his father for decades before him, we didn't have what one could consider a "functioning" computer at home. I mean, it was okay for DOS Jeopardy, Age of Empires eventually, and then finally word processing (with a dot matrix printer; this was Not Good, even in the '90's). But I didn't type my fantasy epic which, if I recall, was entitled The Dragon Legend.

I had a separate notebook going that was a cast of characters, their geographic locations, their 'group' affiliations (I wasn't thinking in terms of politics back then, you see). A list of dragons, of course, because they talked and stuff. Other pertinent critters, Bad Guys, Good Guys, you have the idea. More than a thousand. Hand written. Pages.

I only have part of it anymore. I put it away pretty much for the duration of college. I took it out and looked at it after, and threw most of it away. Just like that. Yeah buddy. I'm happy to say my taste in fantasy has improved since high school. Matured, like a fine wine. Or patchouli. Or something.

Some of the story elements surface in my mind occasionally, melded with other things I'd like to see in a fantasy novel. I still don't know what The Point is, and aside from using some kind of Ancient Magical Sword MacGuffin, need to have a few more plot points. Need to know what the Bad Guys want. Need to know what the Good Guys want. And then, of course, blur that Good/Bad line just a little, just for fun. I'll write it sometime.

Nowadays, while I might jot ideas on scraps of paper (I have many scraps of paper; my fiancé bemoans this madness on occasion), and while I write sentences in some of my myriad blank books (you can never have too many. You just have to accept this fact. The Bloggess has one now, by the way), I primarily write via computer. I blog, seen here where we are now of course, and also over here. My fingers are no longer ink stained. Typically. Sometimes there are incidents with Sharpies at work.

I have a folder on my desktop, appropriately labelled "Writing", in which I have an avalanche of files, and other folders, some better organized than others. There's "finished" and also "novels" and also "Steampunk", which then puts me in a bind....I have more unfinished Steampunk than finished, and all three of them are novels. So where does the Steampunk folder go? Does it need more folders in it? Should everything by arranged by genre? By end-length goal (novels and short stories) and then genres within that? Then there are the files I have on my desktop, of stories I've only just started. Or files that are titled things I want to title stories, with no text yet in the document. When they're finished, they get moved to Writing -> finished. Though some of them are in their own folders too, if I feel they would go well in a "collection" (and I know this is a slippery slope, given what I keep seeing about short story collections. Of course, I keep seeing the damn things get published too. So.)

It's really a tremendous bother and I should organize it, but I would much rather play Snood or fuck around on the Internet listening to cello and looking at boots I can't afford and magazines I would love to give me money.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fever Dreams

I've been sick all week, starting Sunday night with a tightening of the throat and that feeling in your eyeballs that indicates you have a fever. It was a very small fever, honestly, but a raise in temperature, anyway.

The interesting thing about being sick is it affects the way you think. Or it can. Things make sense that wouldn't otherwise. Things that normally make sense do not. You get ideas, while awake or while sleeping, that swim up from a different part of the subconscious. Or seem to.



So, my dog blog has posts scheduled through the end of the month, which is nice. I'll have to go back through and make sure they actually make sense, of course. And I started and wrote two new short stories that I hadn't thought of before Sunday night. I'll have to check later that they make sense as well. One is somewhat Ray Bradbury/Shirley Jackson esque, or will be once I read through it and edit it again, because I'm also sure it's quite rough. The other, I'm not sure how to quantify. Maybe a bit like Neil Gaiman?

 (one day I'll write about why I thought this pot was in the backyard of this house)

Speaking of Neil Gaiman, have you read his Calendar of Tales? You should. There's a link from his journal, there, where you can download them for free. If you're artsy, you can even submit art to make an online calendar, or maybe even a real one. Neil Gaiman seems to want there to be a paper one, so methinks that will come to pass. He seems like he'd have that kind of pull.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Conversation About What is "Real"

My fiancé and I were in the car, heading out to a day-after-Valentine's-Day lunch when we passed a NYSEG truck. The pair of cones the truck carried in its front...grille? Cone rack? Whatever. The cones in the front thing were racked point down, and I exclaimed "Vampire NYSEG truck, why??"  My fiancé gave me the side eye and said "Uh, what?"
"The cones in the front of the truck, they were point down so they looked like fangs."
He nodded, still looking at me kind of like that. "Oh."

Then, on our way home from our day-after-Valentine's-Day lunch, we passed another NYSEG truck, this one with the cones point up. "Look!" I exclaimed. "Orc NYSEG!"

My fiancé sighed and reached over to pat me on the head. "Honey," he said in a gentle, understanding voice. "That's a Boar NYSEG truck. Orcs aren't real like boars and vampires."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

You do know it's Valentine's Day?  Not "Valentime's Day"?  I hope so. If not, I might not be able to talk to you.

Anyway. I've been busy, as you may guess. I still update The Elka Almanac regularly; rather M-F in fact. I may have mentioned, it's easier to talk about dogs than writing. Writing still feels like a cloistered tower or dusty garret sort of thing, done in secret, close to the vest, until it's time to reveal the masterpiece that of course everybody will love. Right? Right.


 (Elka on the new couch)

Well, I did a read through and edit of Learn to Howl, the first book my werewolf...trilogy? Series? Cycle? I don't really know. I'm working on book 2, The Wolf You Feed, right now. Dear Kelly, who I love very much, has offered to read Learn to Howl. I do hope she likes it. And feels better soon so that she reads it. I won't bother her about it; this is the last time she'll see a "reminder." If she reads this post.

To add insult to injury, though? As it turns out, not only is one expected to write a novel (well, if one is a writer, anyway), one is then expected to write a query letter to agents to get them to read your novel. What is this shit? Query letters, unfortunately, a lot like cover letters to me. I'm bad at summarizing things, truly. So a query letter is hard for me to nail. It's kind  of like "Dear so and so, this is my book's character. She's pretty rad. She finds out she's a werewolf. Conflict occurs. Character deals with conflict. Character triumphs. I hope you like it. I'm writing a sequel. Kisses! Me."

Less than compelling, n'est-ce pas? Of course, any actual query I send will be less....sarcastic. Far more useful. But I can't help but feeling that it's just so stilted. Maybe it's because I don't read blurbs of books? The title and cover are what get my attention, obviously; that's what those are for. But I open the book and read the beginning. I've read blurbs that give away too much information, and I've read blurbs that give incorrect information. I want the writing to speak for itself, y'know?

On the other hand, maybe I should still sign the query with kisses.