Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It's not you, it's me. Or is it you after all?

So, I was scrolling through Facebook, as one does, when I saw a "trending article". Now, despite my visceral dislike for the word "trending", I of course also looked at what the article as, because nobody wants to be left out either, and it was from the Huffington Post, and entitled "Naked Face Eater Identified".  I thought "oh, well that's good", and scrolled down to look at the Kickstarter video that TeeFury had uploaded.

Then I went back. And thought for a moment. I  mean, how was it that I was able to be completely casual about the naked face eater?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Someday never comes

Sometimes I read a lot. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get through a book.

Sometimes I don't write for months. Others, I have a project going that I really focus on and really make headway with. Sometimes it's multiple projects.

Right now in the rubrick, I'm in the "not really reading, writing a lot" portion. I started a werewolf novel in April that's coming to its climax. I started a new writing project involving horror short stories. With June coming up, I'm trying to get myself to actually outline my CampNaNoWriMo novel.

I know I'm doing a space scifi thing. I know that the main characters are two sisters, and that there's at least one dude (no, this is not going to be a love triangle). I know some aesthetics of the space world that I'm operating with, and even though it's in space, it'll be on a smaller, character driven scale. But story? Eh, I've got an idea of the conflict. I think.

So, I need an outline, or else I'll be dead in the water at 10k words.

In NaNo lingo, I'm typically what's known as a "pantser", i.e. I write by the seat of my pants. I also typically have a story arc in mind, though, a culminating event, how I want things to shake out, that kind of thing. I wish I knew that already, this time. I'd really like for this to work out, and I'm always up for a NaNo!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I hate pictures of myself

So.  You may have noticed that I make gestures at being a writer.

Obviously, I intend to have my writing published.

There's this crazy thing that happens when you publish a book, though. They want an author photo. I don't know why people want to know what authors look like, truly. Except those authors that go by initials; then you play the "is it a male or a female?" guessing game until you ferret out the answer on the Internet. E.L. James? Female. J.K. Rowling? Female. W.E.B Griffin? Male. You're welcome.

But anyway. I have this pernicious hatred of pictures of myself. I never look the way I think I do, which is a strange thing. Or maybe not. It's an interesting conundrum.

And then it occurred to me that really, I had a lot of latitude. If I decide to put a toe in, publish something through CreateSpace, then the book itself doesn't need a photo, though I should put one on the Amazon author page. Then I thought about it some more, and figured, well why not have some actual fun with an author photo? By "thought about it some more", I really mean that I was bitching about it to a coworker and then tossed off "I should get a gas mask and have it be a picture of me in my 'Keep Calm and Kill Zombies' tshirt, jeans, and with Elka on a leash!" This is one of those things I said to be funny, but then the two of us looked at each other, and I had the "well, maybe....." thought.

Then I thought about it a little more, idly, in the back of my mind. And I thought about the red bridesmaid dress that I had from a wedding last year. And I thought of The Bloggess, and the traveling red dress, and thought "red dress, gas mask, Doberman." Then I thought of the "postapocalypse area" at the park where we walk most often.

This is probably silly, and I'll probably end up with a stodgy author photo with a pile of books, the way everybody else does it. But it's fun to think about.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Goodbye, Maurice Sendak. We'll miss you.

Maurice Sendak died this morning. He was 83. On one hand, I think "Well, 83 is a good run." But, seeing as how I'm apprehensive about 30 and beyond, I could see how 83 would not be enough. He had complications from a stroke, according to the New York Times.

Without reserve, I can say that Sendak's books are splendid. His illustrations are amazing, and the stories more than just fluff to keep your five year old occupied. There's a depth to them that makes some adults uncomfortable, and that kids seem to love, because for once, somebody's taking them seriously.

Maurice Sendak apparently lived alone after his partner of fifty years died, but for a German Shepherd. His most recent one that I've seen mentioned is named Herman, after Herman Melville, and I'm pretty sure most, if not all, of his German Shepherds came from the Monks of New Skete.

I do hope that wherever is is Sendak has gone, he's still able to do the things he loves, with whoever he misses that has gone before. Because that's what Heaven ought to be, right?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Character Questionnaire

How well do you know your characters?

It's a simple question, and a complicated one.

When you're writing a story, it's sometimes the case that secondary and tertiary characters are really on there for the interactions that they have with your main character(s). Your main character is there for that particular arc of story that you're telling.

So, do you think about them otherwise?

Do you know what their comfort food is? Their fear when they woke up in the middle of the night at age 3? What's in their fridge? Do they have a fridge?

Most recently, while playing Mage this past winter, my fiance had each of the player's fill out a questionnaire as our characters. It was a stroke of brilliance, really. It was fun to do, and really put you in that person's head. The things that happen "off stage" are still important, be it in a book or in a game.

All these little things that we do, they make us who we are. Our characters would do them too. If we let them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This Book Will Change Your Life

Occasionally, somebody will refer to a book and sigh, "that book changed my life." I nod, like I know what they're talking about, but I really tend to be thinking "...really?"

Frequently, I've read the book as well. Life of Pi? Didn't change my life. Neither did The Kite Runner, though it made me profoundly frustrated and angry. The Help? Nope.

Maybe The Fountainhead did, to a small degree, but maybe I don't want to make declarations like that here.

Maybe life-changing ability isn't what I read books for. Maybe, because I also write books, I don't look at them as mystical tomes that hold profound answers. I love to read, anybody who knows me will be able to attest to that (and if they aren't able, I guess they don't know me), but maybe what I want to get out of a book isn't what others seek.

I look for entertainment in books. When I open a book, I certainly do want it to take me away for a little while. Books are education, books are thought exercises, books are fantasy, books are time travel. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, contained things I'd never thought of before. I'm looking forward to reading the anniversary edition, which I've brought home from the library yet again. Did American Gods change my life? Not more than The Fountainhead, anyway.

So really, I do feel that a book's job is to create an immersive world that I go and visit for a little while. No more, no less, though really, that's a pretty tall order. A book that I continue to think about after I've closed it, that's a good book. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings both take place in a complete world of Tolkein's creation. They have been, and will continue to be, popular for just that reason. The movies have only added to that, and with The Hobbit releasing trailers, will continue to.

Tabletop fantasy role playing games indeed owe a profound debt to Tolkein (well, and war gamers), because the world he created still has such a profound effect on the fantasy worlds that are created today. Indeed, "traditional fantasy" makes one think of elves, and orcs, and goblins, swords and sorcery. Urban fantasy frequently has these elements as well.

So yeah. The book that changed my life? Well, it's a few I guess, but one of them was referred to as The Player's Handbook, and was 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, published by Wizards of the Coast. Before I had friends who had that book, and others, I didn't know. I didn't know that, other than in theatre, people came together to tell a story together, acting out characters who have no scripts but very certainly have specific roles. I didn't know about White Wolf either, publishers of The World of Darkness, old and new.

Gaming can be better than workshopping. Gaming can fuel the fire to write, within those consensual worlds, and in others of your creation. It can make you push your boundaries and test the edges of trust, and make you think hard about the decisions that you're willing to make.  As a writer, it's been a blessing to me, and a good game is equivalent to a good book.

D&D, unfortunately, moved to other editions, and 4th edition is where Wizards of the Coast and my gaming group parted ways. We're partial to Pathfinder, now, by Paizo publishing. It maintains that spirit of the game, the traditions of orcs and elves and goblins, and wizards with staves casting spells.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's the time of the season

In God gives you one face but you paint another on top of it (clever, I thought, Hamlet quote), I talked about the different people that I am.

For a few days this week, I've been reading my old entries on LiveJournal. I started that thing back in 2002, and even make gestures at updating it to this day, mostly to crosspost things from The Elka Almanac (which I tweaked the look of, by the by), when there are fundraisers or calls to action or whatnot. In recent years, I used it to list the books that I'd read, with reviews. Mostly. Sometimes it was just a list. Sometimes it was a paragraph long rant about the frustrations of the book I'd just read. Which were pretty funny, if I do say so myself, but I don't want to be calling people out on my author blog; that's just gauche, so I won't really be doing that here.

My LiveJournal also cataloged my college years from Sophomore year on. I revisited the anger and frustration and mania of doing my senior thesis (The Use and Misuse of Antidepressants; riveting, I know), hilarious quotes from brilliant and somewhat wacky professors, hijinks that friends and I had. Links, now defunct, of things that I thought were freaky, or funny, or just interesting. It's an Internet time capsule of another person I was; funnier, younger, a little more fearless, I think. Or perhaps a different kind of fearless, the kind that you can be when you know you have a net.

Not that I'm without a net. It's just different when you're not in college anymore.

One thing I did say in that very first entry, almost ten years ago (Current music: Godsmack "Awake" in my head, Mood: Lazy):

You know, this Internet is a crazy thing. It's going to run our lives one day. And by "run our lives" I mean gain its own sentience, build a robot army to strafe the globe, and then become our evil overlord. Or it would be evil if machines could be evil. I think in the D&D scope of things they're true neutral. I could be wrong, though.

Ten years. I might cry.

But, hello College Jen. We might be able to learn from one another.