Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As it turns out, I'm the one who came up with Lost

Not that I hold it against JJ Abrams or whatever. It's not like he broke into my Grandparents' house in New Jersey and went through the stuff in the attic to find this map I drew. But this is a Lost island, if ever I've seen one.

Clearly I was thinking "Crepe Suzette" when I named "Cape Suzed". That's my assumption, anyway.

 But, you can't copyright ideas, so it was fair game. And before you get weirded out at how perfectly the airplane is drawn, I'll hasten to inform you I had a stencil. The rest of the drawing is still pretty representative of my current ability, though my handwriting has become a bit more refined. I don't make my f's like that anymore, anyway. It's not great however, and every once in awhile I wonder if I should get penmanship books and practice or something. My legibility goes up when I use something felt tipped, or even something as large as a Sharpie, but most people don't want things written in Sharpie, like checks or forms.

Which reminds me, I should really watch the rest of the series. Or the series from the start, I really don't recall where I left off. I remember I was enjoying it, certainly. And my lovely fiancè bought the series for me in its entirety one birthday, in a ziggurat thing and everything.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo: Dénouement

From Merriam-Webster:

          1. The final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work.
          2. The outcome of a complex sequence of events.

So, there are a few days left of Camp NaNoWriMo, but I'm effectively done. I reached my July word count goal of 35k, bringing my current word count total for The Last Song to 70k. Not quite "long enough", but it isn't quite done either. I'll see what total I reach prior to the actual closing of the event, and verify at that point.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Urban Fantasy vs. Magical Realism

So , after some rumination (or perhaps stewing; I didn't really assign much conscious thought time to this. It bubbled to the surface the other day) I've realized that I might need to question the genre of my CampNaNoWriMo project, The Last Song. I've been calling it Urban Fantasy, which is probably appropriate. It takes place in Detroit (or a Detroit of my making, anyway) and fantastic things happen that the main character questions the reality of.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

More quotables, and also a Magical Mystery Box

Regardless of how I ordered the title, I'm telling you about the Magical Mystery Box first.

I sent my bestest friend Kelly a package a couple of months ago. You can read her post about it (with pictures!) at her blog. I covered the outside of it with unicorns that I photocopied from a Fantasy Tattoo ™ book. I stuffed the inside with curiosities and awesomeness, including things like sunglasses, polka dot socks, Urban Decay eyeliner, a Walkman and a cassette tape (sadly, not a mix tape. I really need to hook up my stereo). Oh yeah, and Baby You. I ought to tell the story of Baby You one day, as Kelly has not. Or maybe she will. Or maybe neither of us will, which leaves the world at an impasse.

 (Is it funny to anybody else that in my blog, "Urban Decay" could mean the makeup company, or the current condition of many properties in Detroit? Maybe not funny ha-ha [no, I don't think Detroit is funny. Interesting, yes. Compelling. Not funny.

After I mailed it, I texted her (or maybe Facebook messaged?) that I would really appreciate it if her Fiancè or somebody could take pictures of the opening process, because I'd forgotten to take pictures the contents, and we all love proof of our awesomeness, n'est-ce pas? And Kelly, wisely, was suspicious of this request, but went along with it. The results are awesome. 

And now the quotes!!

 ~   ~   ~    ~   ~  ~   ~   ~    ~   ~  ~   ~   ~    ~   ~  ~   ~   ~    ~   ~  ~   ~   ~    ~   ~  ~   ~   ~    ~   ~

Coworker: You know the look I give you when you're talking about serial killers? That's the look you just gave me when I was talking about wedding stuff.

Me: In Michigan? Was it in the shark or the mitten?
Fiancè: The shark or the....what the fuck are you talking about?
Bryan: You know, the shapes of the state. The shark is biting the mitten.
Me: No, the shark is facing the other way, like the mitten is grabbing at its tail. The shark is biting Minnesota, which is why I guess it looks like a dead headless cow.
Mahria: Oh yeah! 
Fiancè: ......I hate you so much.

Coworker: Why are you looking up heroin?

Fiancè: Did you just sing "Cartoon Express" to the "Garfield & Friends" theme song?
Me: I may have. Maybe I was just testing to see if you knew.
Fiancè: Or maybe you just made up the idea that Cartoon Express had a theme song.
Me: It did, but it wasn't that. Or they were so close that my brain defragged and put them together.

Fiancè: Evidently Gamestop is having a "Summer PlayCation". Placation. I don't think they realize. I don't think they got it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Whistle While You Work

I listen to music a lot. In the car, when I'm at my computer. In my head. As much as I can, really.

One thing that Stephenie Meyer did on her web site (it might still be there. Yup, it is.) is build "soundtracks" for her novels. Regardless of my Professional Opinion™ of the Twilight novels, I did read them, and I don't hate them. I just wish everybody would stop reinventing the vampire.

But, I digress.

The thing I like is the novel playlist, that's my point here. And since The Last Song is a novel about a rock star, I've really had a playlist in my mind for it all along. Different songs get mentioned in different chapters (by title only! Song lyric rights are an expensive bitch to get, is my understanding. Oh, actually, I do mention one line, of one Foo Fighters song. So that'll need to get removed, should this go to publication. Or I'll need to purchase the rights for it. Think the Foo Fighters are cool? I'd hope they'd be cool.) The main character's band covers songs. The main character thinks of songs on his wife's MP3 player, or songs that she liked. You know how it is, when music is a part of your consciousness

I do have a particular playlist I listen to while I'm writing, but The Last Song playlist is different. has been a help, as always. I have a carefully crafted Nirvana station that I started years ago, and have thumbsed up and down songs for a good long time now.

But, if you're interested, here's somewhat the list I have in mind (not all of it, and not necessarily in the "correct" order; that would require more intensive thought and, well, the novel awaits):

 "American Girl", Tom Petty
"Fell in Love With a Girl", White Stripes
 "Everlong", Foo Fighters
 "Fall to Pieces", Velvet Revolver
 "Burning Beard", Clutch
 "Lightning Crashes", Live
 "Tiny Dancer," Elton John
 "Landslide", Stevie Nicks
 "White Rabbit (Go Ask Alice)", Jefferson Airplane
 "Hotel California", The Eagles
 "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" Nirvana cover of a Leadbelly song
 "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", Led Zeppelin
"Better Man", Pearl Jam
 "Horse With No Name", America
 "Knights in White Satin", Cream
 "Angie", the Rolling Stones
 "Starseed", Our Lady Peace
 "Loser", Beck
"All Over You", Live
"Hemmorage", Fuel
"Plush", Stone Temple Pilots
"Never Die", Creed

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Realistic Space Travel for a Brighter SciFi Future

I've mentioned numerous times (though not enough for them to give me money, apparently) that I'm a reader of Their articles tend to be well (or at least amusingly) written, they give lots of links, there are pictures. I don't watch the videos, or look at the fan photo things. No, I look at the list posts. In the past, has also filled this sort of "fascination niche" for me.

Though I'm not currently writing any kind of SciFi space offering, I intend to one of these days. I sort of did, for the NaNo of 2008. I'm pleased with parts of it, though not really the scale, and it's hung on enough of an Atlas Shrugged framework that the Ayn Rand institute would not appreciate my homage, I daresay.  What does this have to do with Cracked? Well, they have articles on space, as one might imagine. One in particular that caught my attention and my writerly focus is 6 Reasons Space Travel Will Always Suck. In science fiction, the concerns this article brings up aren't typically addressed, with few notable exceptions. The Cold Equations is one of them.

Also  (and I'm surprised at myself that I didn't talk about this here at the time. I meant to, certainly), I'm probably one of the only people in the world who, when they saw Chris Hadfield's "Space Oddity" cover, wondered if he smuggled that guitar onboard because I knew weight was such an issue with packing for space (though it occurs to me as well that I read Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, in which I'm sure she addressed these rules and their more recent changes). On December 16, 1965, the guys in the Gemini 6   in Earth's Orbit played "Jingle Bells" on their contraband sleighbells and teeny tiny harmonica, which you can see in this Smithsonian article.

Another Cracked article is the 6 Weirdest Dangers of Space Travel, including things like static electricity and being unable to stop. Less glamorous aspects of the Space Opera, certainly, and by "less glamorous" I mean "nobody in Star Wars once had a problem getting zapped by a random thing they touched." Or, for fun, draw your own comparison.

So, while Science Fiction I write is still going to be far more fictional than sciencey (that's just the way it goes), I'm still a big fan of using enough factual material to lend reality to the story I'm building. It's easier to suspend one's disbelief if there are facts in the mix; it makes the falsehoods a less bitter pill to swallow.

I'm still pretty sure I'll leave out the unicorns, though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yes, Virginia. I will share more funny things we've said.

Coworker: Yeah, I saw that picture and thought it was you. But then I saw she was wearing blue, and knew that wasn't your thing.
Me: That, and I don't have curly hair. Or, I don't curl it just for the beach. YOLO.

Friend: So, did it come with a raise?
Me: Did what come with a raise?
Friend: Your promotion to Captain of the Fun Police?
Mahria: You'd better run, she's got a knife.

Library Patron: Oh look at this nice empty glass case. Is it for Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty?
Me: Snow White. Sleeping Beauty was up in a tower while she was sleeping, with all those thorns.
Kate: Sorry if he's not up on his Disney Princesses
Me: Who's talking about Disney? I'm talking about Brothers Grimm
Library Patron: Ooh, Brothers Grimm
Me: Though strangely, Sleeping Beauty is the only one with the happy ending. Other than the whole "having two children before she wakes up" thing.
Library Patron: Two children while asleep? Yeah, that's not so great.
Me: Yup. More than a little rapey.
Library Patron: You have to wonder what Freud would've done with that.
Me: Gone for three?

Coworker: Okay, so I'm going to tell you this dessert idea I have, and you tell me if it's totally out there or not.
Me: Is this dessert against The Man? Is that our segue here?
Coworker: Our segue is food, which is always relevant.

Me: I'm going to call that kind of  guy a Douche Billed Platypus from now on. You heard it here first. You know, the guys with the straight brimmed hats that have to be at just the right douchebag angle? Yeah, those ones.

Coworker: Hey, you can't go wrong with Sega.
Me: Sega CD?
Coworker: Yeah, that's a nightmare I can't unlive.

Monday, July 15, 2013

When Your Character Does Not Do Nice Things

I have a brief dilemma on Friday night while working on The Last Song. I did not know, SPOILERS if my main character should cheat on his wife SPOILERS.

Then I thought about it. This guy is a recovered heroin addict rock star in Detroit. I've painted him as rough around the edges, he uses foul language, he drinks too much, before and after the heroin. Of course, in that very specific instance, he would. Why did I even have to ask myself?

Of course, we worry about having a sympathetic main character. We want people to like him or her. I'd written once before, though, about how I don't think a character needs necessarily to be likeable. There are main characters in books I would not care to meet in person and be friends with, like the narrator  from Rebecca, or from Fight Club. These characters can be sympathetic, but do I personally like them? Not in a "let's be friends" kind of way.

I ran into this recently when I read Trickster, by Jeff Somers. The narrator, on occasion, would look at an action he and his comrades performed, or a decision they made, and he would reiterate "We were not nice people." (maybe it was "we were not good people"? I could be wrong. Either way.) I could sense his regret in this. Also the necessity in the non-niceness (or goodness) of their actions. This character had a specific morality to which he clung. This character had a mission that he ended up carrying out to the best of his ability. Did he mean to be "nice" or "good" to do so? Well, not "good" in the sense of "out of the goodness of his heart", but he did need to be good at what he was doing.

Not all characters are likeable. Not everybody is going to do Nice Things™ every time, unless you're Beth from Little Women, and even Beth, I feel, was written that way for a reason. And SPOILERS I think Beth dies for just that reason. SPOILERS

I think this can be a thing that holds us back, the double whammy of "will they like me" and "will they like my characters". Characters must be interesting, I feel. And characters must be true to themselves as they are written. So yeah. My main character has done Bad Things™. He isn't proud, necessarily. He isn't guilty, necessarily. It is what it is. And I need to be okay with that.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let me Google That For You (or, research your guts out)

I'm sure, as a citizen of the Internet, at least once you've seen Let Me Google That For You. If not, have a look. It will enrich your life. Its existence, though funny, is also symbolic of something. Social commentary, if you will. LMGTFY exists because there are people who are willing to starve to death at an All You Can Eat buffet, simply because they aren't being spoon fed.

So, my manic research tendencies make me stand out amongst those who know me, of that you can be sure. But why do I do research, actual research with books and articles and music and newsbites, when I can just Google it?

(Detroit Library, main branch. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Detroit Rock City

So, I guess I'm grudgingly finding a use for Tumblr. It has its merits. I guess. People put up lots of pictures there for me to look at, anyway.  This search, Abandoned Detroit, has been a lot of inspiration in my writing of The Last Song. Best Abandoned is one of the specific Tumblrs (tumblr pages? Tumbles? Rolls in the hay? Whatevs.) with some of those images. is a very well organized site that documents the marred face of the city. Urban Exploration images have always interested me, and prior to this year, my ruined city love affair had been Pripyat. One would be remiss in calling Detroit "abandoned"; it is not. According to recent articles I've been reading about the impending bankruptcy default goings on, the city's resident population has dwindled to 700,000. It was 1.8 million in the Fifties, and this article in the New York Times points out that Detroit's population downshift in the last ten years (237,500 people) was greater than the amount of people who left New Orleans after Katrina (140,000).

The possibility of Detroit's bankruptcy is also fascinating to me. I don't know what happens when a city goes bankrupt. It is $19 billion in debt (I also see numbers like $11.4 billion instead, and saw $200 billion once but perhaps that was a typo?), a number so large that it isn't even real money any longer. It might as well be WoW gold or Final Fantasy XI gil or seashells. It's too much. I feel lucky it isn't my responsibility to try and fix it, because where do they start? They do have an Emergency Manager for the city, Kevin Orr, who has a planned tour of the city to drive the creditors around on, to show them what Detroiters (I see this word a lot reading these articles; I don't know if it's what people actually use, or if it's just news speak) see every day, what they live every day. One article I read said that Detroit might have to resort to auctioning museum objects, or maybe even zoo animals.

Auctioning zoo animals? Seriously? I don't think that would be the most responsible husbandry. Considering there are still places in which there are tigers at truck stops, I can't say out of hand that it would never happen, but geeze. (Plus, there's already at least one abandoned zoo in Detroit, on Belle Isle, though I believe they moved the animals before closing those gates)

An uplifting Detroit debt story I did see lately? Jack White paid off the tax bill for the Detroit Masonic Temple. Since 1939, it has been the largest Masonic temple in the world (according to the Wikipedia article). This building is a delight to have "discovered" in the manner that I have, safely at home on the Internet, and I look forward to learning more about it.

Detroit is one of those places that I feel is (or has been) a valuable resource for this country. I think "Detroit" and I think of the automobile industry. I think of Rosie the Riveter and others working on the homefront in WWII (I read a freaking awesome book called The Narrows, by Alexander Irvine about people working in a Golem factory in Detroit during World War II.)

I wonder what this city could accomplish, should it rebuild, repopulate. Wouldn't it be awesome if, say, Tesla Motors decided to open a factory there? Who do you think we need to talk to, to get this going?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dispatches to myself

In "Just One More Thing", I described my difficulty in closing out my writing day. This isn't a condition I expect to end any time soon, or that I'm even working to resolve.

In fact, I've kind of habitualized it even more.

See, I didn't really intend to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo for July. The first came and went, and I was still doing my own thing, mostly not-writing. And then I reread The Last Song, which I wrote the first half of for Camp NaNoWriMo in May (and began "visiting" Detroit for in April). And I thought "Wow, this is really good" and I reached the end and wanted to know what happens next.

This is an awkward thing when it's your own book, wanting to read what happens next. You must, of course, write it first. And you must write it well enough that it is in fact a continuation of what had gone before, or else you're doubly disappointed, and perhaps a little ashamed.

But anyway. I've been writing to catch up (just a couple hundred more words, and I'm par with where I should be in the month). My word count goal is again 35,000 words, which would bring the novel to a total of 70,000. A little slim, but Neil Gaiman just published a 180 page novel, so maybe it'll fly. I'm not Neil Gaiman, granted (oh, that could be another post: 5 Reasons I'm Not Neil Gaiman. If I was smart, I'd make a logo button thingie and make that a writing blog hop. Would anybody participate in that? Let me know.); I don't have years and years of writing and fans and a body of mostly admirable work (love him though I do, not everything is to my taste. Or would have been to my taste years ago, but not where I am now).

But now, I do my evening thing, I hack away at my writing, and then I close things down. I go upstairs, take my contact lenses out, lay in bed, and email a few notes to myself on the topic of the book. Scenes to cover next. Specific ideas about the characters. Details I should have added. Then I close the phone, go to bed. In the morning, I transfer these ideas to a "notes" file, in the novel's folder. It's been working well. No more thoughts have typically intruded after this final email; it puts the wrapper on the day.

Also, in addition to the fondness I confessed Google Maps Street View in the I've Never Been to Detroit post, I've discovered a game that makes use of this. It's called GeoGuessr, and it puts you down in a random spot, and you need to click around and zoom in and out and such, and then guess where in the world you are. It's very absorbing, to me, and I've become very familiar with things like the pay phones in Brazil and the different styles of lines and dashes different countries paint on their roads.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Word tastings

While watching Clerks with some high school friends during one of my Freshman year college breaks, one of said friends looked at the word that flashed between scenes (it wasn't "Catharsis", as that was towards the end. This happened much more middling, perhaps Perspicacity or Purgation [the Clerks Wikipedia, of course, has a list of the vocabulary title cards]) and said "They're just making words up."

Most of us in the room (okay, at least two of us) turned to him as one. I understand that not everybody has a vocabulary that plumbs quite the depths that mine does, but the words in those Clerks segments...well, they're real words. They're words you've probably heard. For serious. I also understand not everybody has a love affair with words; I don't, necessarily. My fiction is not an intricate tapestry of shining gold threads the way, say, Jeanette Winterson's is. It just isn't my style. But I like savoring them sometimes, like I imagine people do at wine tastings. But with words, you see. Word tastings.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver

This is not about an Orwellian sort of Big Brother; no, Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver, is about the main character's actual big brother. As in, older than. Etc.

It isn't We Need to Talk About Kevin. I'm hesitant to declare an author has already written her best book, and years ago at that, so I won't. I'm sure Shriver may also be tired of hearing about said prior work, but maybe not. I know I'd be damned pleased if I'd written it. But.

Monday, July 1, 2013

You are the crunchy noodles in the vegetarian salad

Connor drops a towel on the floor and scrubs it around with his foot to clean water Elka got on the floor. He then goes to put it back on the oven.
Aunt Marian: That was on the floor!
Connor: So? You dropped a knife on your foot and put it in the butter dish.
Aunt Marian: That didn't happen.

Fiancé: Don't worry, you'll sleep soon. I drugged the pizza, to help you.
Big Tim: Well that's funny, I drug all my food too. But really, how do you drug a meat pizza?
Me: Well, you have to inject the pepperoni with Ketamine before you slice it.
Big Tim: .....did you say pepperoni?

Aunt Alicia: We have to carry our own boards, like real surfers! Of course, what it's really going to be is four of us to a board, crying.
Aunt Jen: With Emma laying on top.

Fiancé: Thanks for being our snack bitch
Big Tim: I wasn't going to call it snack bitch. I was going to call it something else, but what came to mind was "munchie concierge" and I thought no, that's fucking stupid.
Fiancé: Lunchador!

At the television show talking about fried ice cream:
Bryan: nobody's surprised by that anymore
Fiancé: I know, they've had it at Chichi's before I was fucking alive.

Me: That kid somehow got his right arm and head through his shirt's head hole, so he's just one-shouldering it.
Our friend: YOLO

Tim: See, I play that game, and I don't have any stupid names like that.
Mahria: Oh! Apply cold water to the burned area.
Big Tim: I guess that's what I'm going to rename my character to: Burn Ward.

Fiancé: Okay, Tim, you're right. It is worse on your side of the fence.
Fuzzy Tim: I think this just illustrates the problem that our fences are next to each other.

Fiancé (playing Fallout New Vegas): Yes, game, thank you. I totally wanted to pick up a damaged garden gnome. I'm just like somebody else in the room who likes carrying skulls around.
Me: Wait, what did you pick up?
Fiancé: Damaged garden gnome.
Me: Morale is very important in the postapocalyptic nuclear wasteland

Mahria: Thank you for not strangling me for laughing at YOLO.
Fuzzy Tim: I'm just saving it for when we get home.