Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2 Chiming In
So, if you're in the States, tomorrow's the big day. It's the one day of the year, diets are allowed to go out the window, nutritionists are bound with shoe string potatoes and gagged with turkey drumsticks, and family members gather to stuff their faces while bringing up all those things everyone swears will... never... be... brought... up... again...

Since I will be at my cousin's overfull house full of overstuffed people, and since tomorrow even the banks and post offices are closed, I'll not blog tomorrow. Instead, I'll say HAPPY THANKSGIVING today instead of tomorrow.

All right, kiddies, you know how this works. Clockwise around the table, share your thankfuls:

I am thankful that I have my little blog following of lovely people who read these rambles I pound out at my laptop, and I am thankful that my WIP, all 3 of them, are in much better shape than they were a week ago.

So, how about you?


Thursday, November 18, 2010

1 Chiming In

I just realized I have 16,000 MORE words done on my WIP than I realized! I'm almost at 60K!!!

*does happy dance *

(Why are you all laughing at me?)


Rowling's Reach

Friday, November 12, 2010

4 Chiming In
Nathan Bransford has made this week one dedicated to the Harry Potter-verse on his blog. Today, he asked / challenged / suggested that people do their own Potter / Rowling posts to be linked back, so here goes...

I missed the Potter bandwagon. I have never purchased nor checked out a HP novel. I have never seen a HP film. And yet, I can't honestly say I know nothing of Harry Potter or J.K. Rowling. Like those arcane echoes of times past that remain in our common vocabulary as "cliches", Harry Potter has become something of a cultural standard.

The reach of these book, as well as their impact on our pop culture is evident, more so for those of us who never participated, I think, because it's through our experiences that you come to realize just how hard it is to escape the "Wizarding World of Harry Potter".

Even without joining the stampede toward devouring these books, I can name the main characters (and most of the actors who portray them). I know the over-reaching story arc and who the good / bad guys are. I know the themes of the books.

Some of this may be due to frequenting writing boards where JK Rowling is mentioned frequently, as is HP (every teen writer seems to think they have the "next" Harry Potter at some point.). I'm not sure if that's where it comes from, or not, but somehow I picked up a working knowledge of Quidditch, and well, that's weird.

HP seems to work a bit like the "boiled frog" analogy. (If you stick a frog in a pot of water and gradually raise the temperature, he'll boil before he even knows it's getting hot.) This is how the Potterverse has impacted pop culture, I think. Sure the glitz and fervor was highly noticeable, but the subtle changes came slowly and without fanfare. (by subtle, I mean the use of HP-words and phrases becoming "normal" words, etc.)

I'll admit I'm curious about what makes these books tick. (Who wouldn't be, right?) But the first time I was tempted to look one up on You Tube or the HP-wiki was when I started with that writer's board I mentioned.

The first instance was someone telling me my WIP read like a fusion of The Forest of Hands and Teeth with Dementors.

:-( <---- I looked like this. I didn't know what a Dementor was, so I was a bit disturbed at the idea that maybe it was a bad thing.

I hit Google and found out that a Dementor was a soul-sucking creature used as a prison guard in the HP-verse. Okay, so I was still slightly disturbed, but I was no longer upset. The person had meant it as a compliment. My point is that HP had become so pervasive, that it was being used as a descriptor to reference people's work.

(FWIW, there's no soul sucking involved in my WIP)

I saw it over and over again. People said "This reminds me of______" (fill in the blank with the appropriate HP character or descriptions. Scars were too much like Harry's. Characters acted too much like Hagrid. Mentors were "Dumbledore wearing a mask" (though, technically that should be Gandalf....). The "good villain" was met with -"Oh... he pulls a Snape! Gotcha!"

Unlike so many stories that seem to be popular, then forgotten, HP is transcendent. In twenty years, the impact will still be there. The words will still be in our vocabulary. The characters will still be studied as archetypes. The theme park will still be hosting visitors.

(It's got it's own friggin' theme park.... when's the last time a "book" rated that high on the culture-shock scale?)

And... I still probably won't have read or watched (I have a mental block on magic stories. Yes, I'm weird like that.)

The impact of those 7 books is enormous. (<--- obvious statement of the day). They made Rowling a household name (and made a pretty nifty career for the actors who portray her characters). They floated many an author whose books were suddenly not as big a risk thanks to the extra income HP generated for its publisher. They became the new bar to reach for.

I'm not saying that you should charge in saying "I have written the next Harry Potter! (In fact, don't do that. Seriously, I'm telling you not to.) But there's nothing wrong with stretching toward that goal.

When you compete against the best, you get better by virtue of trying to play in their league. And while publishing is NOT a competition between authors, using someone else's career as inspiration can have the same effect.

Do I smile whenever someone tells me a piece I offer for crit reads like it was written by JK Rowling? You better believe it. Even without knowing her stuff that well, I know it's a compliment. And if they see something in my writing that strikes the same chord as what they saw in hers, then yes, I do a little happy dance.

Happily Ever Apples

Sunday, November 7, 2010

4 Chiming In
I hate to say this, but I think we've all been poisoned.

Yep. All of us.

You. Me. And any other unsuspecting people and/or cats, dogs and gerbils that may have been subjected to movies the last few decades.

I'm not going to go off on a rant about sex, violence, and crude language / behavior in films that may or may not impact the public at large. No, the poison of which I speak is much more insidious and slow acting. You see, unlike the kid who might repeat an off-color joke at his Grandmother's 84th birthday part, this poison doesn't have any overt effects.

By the time you realize it's wormed its way into your system, it may be too late...

The poison, in this case, is from eating too many Happily Ever Apples. You know the kind I mean - they're what common vernacular calls "Hollywood endings" or "Disneyfication".

Indoctrination starts young, long before your average drool-bomb is able to form coherent sentences. They watch all manner of brightly colored, vibrant, and hyper-kinetic animated thing-a-ma-jobbies dance and sing on the TV while their parents go about their daily lives.

When they wake up and get ready for school, cartoons are on. When they do their homework, there's more. Parents line up in droves to take their kids to see whatever the highly-marketable cuteness of the minute happens to be.

And every friggin' one of them has a saccharine sweet ending that leads kids to think that's how stories are supposed to end.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was a horror story, but...

Not anymore.

The Little Mermaid is supposed to die...

Not anymore.

Snow White and Cinderella are dark, twisted stories involving amputated toes and heels and much blood...

Not anymore.

That's the poison at work, you see. It makes people accept that the "only" ending for a story is a happy one. The worst part about it is that most of us know we're being poisoned by the Happily Ever Apples, yet we just keep chomping away on them, thinking 'what could it hurt'. I didn't realize how far gone I was myself until I read someone's review of Mockingjay, the final installment of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is not a happy book; it's not supposed to be. It's violent and ugly at times. It's heavy and grey in a way not many YA writers dare to be. I know this, and yet, as soon as I started to read about the resolutions of the story in the early reviews, I got upset.

'No!' cried my inner apple eater when she heard that by the end of Mockingjay, readers would be wondering if it wouldn't have been kinder for all considered if Katniss had simply allowed her sister to take her chances in the Games.

I've said it here before that the happy ending isn't always the right ending, and yet I still got upset with the ending of the Hunger Games Trilogy. There's an inherent futility to the story's arc that triggers all of the side effects of Happily Ever Apples. Indignation, anger, and a feeling of being somehow cheated... but why?

Does the ending make the journey to reach it any less compelling?


Does the lack of that maudlin happy moment where the heroine and her hero pronounce their love for each other and end on a new beginning make the story any less complete?


Did the author accomplish her goal?


And there it is. THAT'S the driving force behind the poison. It's not the authors pushing Happily Ever Apples, it's the readers. People conditioned to believe that unless their heros and heroines die for the masses or get their dreams handed to them, they (as an audience) have been robbed. But sometimes, that's not how the story ends.

Respect the author enough to know how their own tales should be told. Understand that they are the creators of their universes, not you. (That's what fanfic is for ;-P ) To many writers, characters aren't just pieces on a playing grid, they're real people without bodies, and by writing their stories down, the writer is telling those people's history.

The Little Mermaid dies and Pocahontas was a fourteen year old kid who didn't end up with John Smith. If you tell the tale of Jean D'Arc, she's going to meet a fiery end whether you like it or not.

Bad things happen - in fiction as well as real life, and it detracts from the story if you ignore that fact in favor of making everyone smile on the last page. The RIGHT ending is ALWAYS the best ending. It may be happy, it may be tragic, but even in fiction, that's life.

Good ending =/= Happy ending. They are not synonyms.

Sure you can hope for the best when you start a new novel, but you shouldn't automatically expect it as your due payment for cracking the spine.

If you don't like the way a story ends, then just wait. Maybe Disney will buy it, animate it, and then Jean D'Arc can exist forever with a trio of singing cherubs and a convenient Fade-to-Black before the first embers fly.

More NaNo stuff

Friday, November 5, 2010

2 Chiming In
If there is a coming explosion of sci-fi to the literary word, I blame the short title for this month's festivities. It puts nanites on the brain. (And anyone familiar with the concept of nanites knows that on your brain is the last place you want the little buggers to be.)

Now, on to the supposedly lucid post of questionable intent and value...

I'm trying to be a good little NaNo- blogger (I'm keeping my NaNo / NaNo, Mork from Ork jokes to a minimum, I swear... what's the emoticon code for fingers crossed behind your back?). To that end, I'll point out the little butterfly on an ivy string in my sidebar. That's my NaNoWriMo word ticker, which so far, I've remembered to update every day.

As it sits now, I'm at about 8,000 words (3K of which are most likely tripe, but, that's the fun of NaNo. This month we make messes. Next, we clean them up.)

Also, in a lull, I made an attempt at a longish query-type summary of Draconis:

Being helpful is not supposed to be this big of a deal.

Tanner only wants an excuse to talk to Keira Beckett so that maybe she'll forget about his too curly hair and his too skinny arms. Seriously, it's just a friggin' band-aid on a cut that's barely bleeding. It isn't supposed to lead to civil war... but that's exactly what happens when the blood from Keira's hand mixes with that from Tanner's.

Keira Beckett isn't the sweet, if somewhat aloof, teenager with an overprotective family that she appears to be. She's dragon-kind, and the last of her line, daughter of their ruler. In an attempt to make sure she remains the last, the head of a rival pride killed Keira's mother, and her father's second mate, ensuring that there will never be another heir born to that family.

But when Tanner's little act of kindness mingles her blood with his own, he's jerked out of the normal world and placed on the front lines of a war he didn't even know was being waged.

Now that blood from the royal line is in his body, he begins changing. Suddenly the vegetarian craves meat and his night blindness evaporates; he discovers that he's fireproof and has an endoskeleton of dragon scales beneath his skin. He'll have to trust Keira's father to teach him how to survive those who want him dead, because if he can't learn how to harness his new power and control the dragon that's been born in him, neither he nor his mother will live long enough to regret it.

It may not make much sense yet, it may be a bit redundant in places, and by the time I'm done, the story may actually change, but this is Draconis as it sits now.

NaNo Update

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

1 Chiming In
Here it is, day 3, and .... I haven't given up! Yay! (<--- you'd appreciate the severity of that statement if you knew me :-P )

Things are going in fits and starts, and I'm not going to give up the major WIP for the sake of NaNo, but I've got the NaNo novel started. It even has a title -- Draconis. Right now it's sitting on the fence between being MG and YA. I like the freedom of it being YA, because the characters could legally drive, but the MC is male, and that tends to do better with MG readers (so say "the experts"). Other than the freedom of movement issues, the age isn't really a big deal, so I guess I'll have to see what plot points develop to tip the scale one way or the other on the age issue.

The story far is shockingly coherent and complex (<--- again, if you saw my usual "process", you'd be just as shocked as I am), and I -"Hater of all things Outline" - managed to outline the first half of the book... 20 friggin' pages worth.

We've got:

* A tween / teen curly headed drama geek of a MC with night-blindness
* His loyal best friend (<-- all MG / YA must have at least one of those, otherwise the union gets testy, and picket lines get involved)
* An aloof girl-type person who is the catalyst of the Curly-Top's woes and triumphs
* said girl-type person's giant father and seriously scarred little sister. (It involves a fire, it's not for shock value. Her name is Brigid, if that gives you a hint.)
* Maternal unit with serious OCD issues
* Prefab housing
* Sacred gold
* A cat named for Edgar Allen Poe
* A principal who the kids actually respect, despite the bad comb over and extra hundred or so pounds. He's a great guy.
* Epic battles involving all manner of creepy creature and evil, power hungry (leaf covered) villains, and....
* A Renaissance Faire.
(Yes, at some point, there will be men, boys, and maybe even a goat in tights. I have worked a Ren Fest, believe me, stranger things have happened.)

Dragons, and Naga, and Wyverns, oh my!

And since I'm hung up on the whole "dragon" theme from the title, and spent far too much time googling "Dragon Quotes", I leave you with the one that's become my favorite (sorry Nietzsche, but you're almost a cliche now.) --

“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

~ G. K. Chesterton

Nov. 1... you know what that means...

Monday, November 1, 2010

1 Chiming In
You probably think I'm going to say something about tomorrow being the elections - I'm not (unless you count this statement, of course)

No, today is the 1st of November, which means yesterday was Oct. 31, and today begins NaNiWriMo!

First, to Yesterday --

I'm happy to say the house survived the after-hours siege in tact and with no damage to the lawn. Much candy was passed out, many munchkins were denied their option to "trick" because of these treats, and our neighborhood did absolutely nothing to curb the juvenile diabetes or obesity rates of its minor citizens. However, since I didn't recognize even one quarter of the kids at the door (and not because of their masks, smart ass) a plethora of parents have now displayed by practical application that it's okay to take candy from strangers - especially if it's dark and requires approaching unknown houses to ring the bell.

No one seemed to appreciate my "Go blonde! Starve the Zombies!" campaign, but that's okay, I'll have the last laugh when they're the blue plate specials of the reanimated :-P

The best part of the night was when a little guy (maybe 6) approached the house with his older sister. I have an animatronic butler-ghoul (the kids call him Eddie) who responds to motion by speaking to the kids or turning to look at them and breathing. This little boy evidently wasn't from our neighborhood (he had on a hockey mask, so I couldn't see his face, and was dressed as a psycho blood-covered doctor with a machete) because he didn't know "Eddie". Most kids either respond to the butler with delight or fear, depending on their age and disposition, but this kid...
Eddie's head picked their arrival as the time to move and "look" at the little guy's sister. The kid glanced up, brandished his machete, and polite as you please, said: "Please stop staring, I have a knife, sir."

Baby brother to the rescue. (When the zombies come, me and my bottle blonde self will be hiding behind that one...)

Now, on to NaNo --

If you were around last year, you know I started strong, and fizzled. Hopefully this year will be different. The idea for the project is that by writing a little more than 1,600 words / day, you'll have a complete (50,000 word) novel by the end of the month. It doesn't have to be perfect (you aren't supposed to edit as you go), just the first and very rough draft.

So... we'll see.

I have my leftover (read: held back because the advancing horde stripped everything like a bunch of chocolate-seeking locusts) candy for energy, a shiny new idea, and a blank screen, so I'm good to go. And maybe, just maybe, there won't be a single mention of brainless blonde cheerleaders confusing the zombies with their ability to walk and talk.

(I was a cheerleader, I can say that. So there. For the record, ours were highly intelligent)