Thursday, October 25, 2007

Weirdly Ironic

I first heard about Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was in college. How we were headed that way. How scary it all was. I was intrigued. Since then I heard other things about it. How well it was written, etc. It's been on my "To Read" list for a long time now.

So I've finally read it.

Easily, I can give all those who praised it for skilled writing their credit because it was crafted very well, despite the few times when the hero would lapse into a memory and at some point I wasn't sure if I was still in the memory of if I'd reverted back to the present. It's still better than what I've produced, and likewise Orwell gets plenty of kudos for making something like this during 1949. Not for the content, as that sort of thing is still around, but more the futureness involved. We still don't have telescreens and the closest we've come to making one could be the little camera you have on your computer where you and your friend share real time video of one another. Considering the way telescreens are used though, that's a good thing.

When it comes to people freaking out over the government and the whole "Big Brother is Watching You" thing, they fuss over telephone conversations and emails. Now while I don't see us headed in that society as of yet, or in the immediate future either, I can't believe people ignore the other restrictions the government wants to put on us. People fuss about privacy. There's no telescreen in your house yet, but what about saying what you can and cannot consume/do to yourself? Cigarettes are barred from public places statewide. Yeah, ok, yammer on to me about cancer and while sure that's a possibility and the government wants to keep us all safe from secondhand smoke, consider also where it stops? Hmm? I read an article once about a consideration on taking Coke and Pepsi machines out of schools just to keep kids from getting fat. Are you serious? Whatever happened to conscious, intelligent thought? Don't want your kid chugging down suger-filled drinks? Don't give him/her money for it. Sure, he/she might get money from a friend, but face it, that friend isn't going to keep supplying them forever.

Here's one thing that always freaks me out. I'm a chocolate junkie. There's a really bad movie out there named Demolition Man where things deemed bad for you are outlawed. Chocolate is one of them. In this book, people get chocolate rations. You know what I say? Fuck that. The day chocolate is restricted in any form or fashion is the day I freaking riot. That's when you know things are getting way out of hand.

But back to the book. In some ways, I found myself disappointed. First because of the content. I expected something like The Giver or Fahrenheit 451. But a lot of it turned out to be exposition that no doubt contained Orwell's concerns at the time. That's all very fine and well, but it takes things down a notch when you have different expectations. It's just that everyone all giddy about it gave me that initial impression. Ah well.

Second is the end. I accept it, but I'm not thrilled by it. I guess that too is Orwell's thoughts on the subject. That "they" win in the end. Well...hopefully not. The whole world was like that? Eech. You get just a couple glimmers of hope throughout the book only to have more rhetoric take over and then whump. The end. Hero loses. Game over. Unless you read the appendix like some critics do; as the subject content is written in the past, it implies that Winston, the hero, was indeed right, and the Party fell. One may never know...

That's my take on it as fiction. It's still quite good, the fact that it freaks people out, not just as in "Ohmigod, that could happen to us!" but instead as politically dangerous and thus getting it banned from libraries and such. Well, well. More power to it then. The more a group rejects a book, the more I tend to rally behind it. Especially if it's a ridiculous claim *coughHarryPottercough* and people start chucking books into fires. Nazis.

You know what this book did remind me of though? V for Vendetta, totally. At least in that movie we get to see what might have been the results of the rallying lower class.

Ah well, hat's off to Orwell. I'm tired.

Currently: Blah.

P.S. I forget what's "weirdly ironic" as my title says. I'll be sure to come back and mention it if I manage to remember...

Read my Epinions review on Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

No more balking!

Swain's book is good stuff. He breaks down a lot of the pieces that make up a novel, and alerted me to things I'd never thought of before. I'd like to list them, but there are too many (ok, here are some; character drives, beginning help, ending ideas, an unhappy Unconscious and so forth).

I should have brought sticky tabs with me to work so I could have marked all those spots. No matter, I don't have to return this book until December so I can have until then to skim some of these ideas again and get them more firmly lodged into my brain. I liked how he not only included writing methods and items to look at, but also preparation for writing, locations to write, and so on. I've read some writing books before, and none of them really put it as well as Swain does. He mentions that if you have a window, you're likely to stare out at the world beyond it and forget about writing.

....Ok, this is in no way a joke, but I have a window practically in front of me, and I was just staring out of it. Yikes. Then again, I am running on very little sleep so...

Another thing he mentioned that I thought was absolutely fantastic and I've never read in any other writing book: Get out and exercise! Do you know how good of an idea this is? I mean, just a nice walk around the block can help clear your brain. I go with my mom to the grocery store - I just did yesterday, in fact, in order to keep my brain from completely melting. Of course, I end up with a container of Chips Ahoy Cookies beside my desk, but you get the idea. Anyway, I thought it was great he mentioned that and I think a lot of writers would benefit from it. Otherwise, what? We'll all get slobby in front of our computer screens (or in my case, a notebook). Haha. Ok, maybe not necessarily, but do you know how many ideas and scenarios I've gone over in my brain while running on the treadmill to some good music? I once read that most writers get their ideas in the shower. ...Shower? I have never once had an idea in a shower. I've even considered this information and made a point to think about my stories in the shower, but I inevitably start thinking of something else totally unrelated. And hey, if you do get ideas in the shower, then you can hop in after you get a bit of exercise and have a double think session.

Of course, unless you live in a world during 1984, then doublethink is a bad thing...but that will have to wait until another blog entry!

Currently: Inspired

Friday, October 19, 2007

By the Way

I forgot to mention two things.

First, when it comes to the end of the world through our own destruction (and by that I mean human error - and that error could be anything, from overpopulation to developing AI that becomes self aware and freaks out on us), I think SF readers and writers will make it out alive the most. Why? Because those who can imagine the all-too-logical AI: "Humans destroy the planet, thus they must be destroyed themselves" or be able to realize the fact that we might totally ruin our planet (Al Gore does not count, I don't care what you say, that guy is an idiot. Did you hear his speech? The beginning of it made no sense for God's sake) are probably the ones that will see it coming the quickest. We'll look at the rest of the world and say "Fuck this" and move to places like Colorado or Wyoming and live where it's quiet and end up going back to hunting and stuff to survive. So yeah, when you watch movies of post-apocolypse type stuff, those survivors are genre readers and the people that got lucky.

Ok, not necessarily, but come on. When's the last time you read a SF book or even watched a movie and thought, "Oh crap. We're headed that way aren't we?" Some of the stuff that went down in The Fall of Hyperion didn't surprise me at all. Think of yourself as plugged into the Internet 24/7. I mean like, literally. A little wireless Intel Processor in your brain. And after centuries of this, people suddenly get cut off from it? Hell yeah there would be people that would go insane. Then there's 1984 but I'm not going to get into that quite yet. Waiting until I read enough of it to truly go on a tirade of some sort.

The second thing also has to do with (naturally) The Fall of Hyperion. Maybe it's a moot point, or not even really a point, but it made me smile...chuckle a little. Not in a happy way, but more of the ironic sort. As in, "Why does that not surprise me?" Here's the passage that did it, and by the way, for those of you who've never read the book (probably everyone reading this), this takes place at least 700 years into the future (probably more), so we're at the year 2694 or so, and the only means of world connection (ship travel excluded) has just been destroyed, thus cutting all worlds off from one another:

"On Qom-Riyadh a self-appointed fundamentalist Shiite ayatollah rode out of the desert, called a hundred thousand followers to him, and wiped out the Suni Home Rule goverment within hours. The new revolutionary goverment returned power to the mullahs and set back the clock two thousand years. The people rioted with joy."

I'll leave you to think about that yourself.

Currently: Feelin' Magical

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

So is the Shrike dead or what?

Back in June I read a book entitled Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It was required reading by the program just as the romance book Bet Me is required this time around. Hyperion is pretty hard science fiction reading, something that actually surprised me because I enjoyed it so much. Up until that point I'd been pretty convinced that I wasn't a fan of hard SF. Now I think it's just like any other genre; some books have it, some don't. I guess I never should have thought anything in the first place because I'd never really read any hard SF, so technically, I had nothing to go by.

Anywho, that book ended on a "to be continued" note, so naturally I decided I had to read the next book. How could I not? I mean, come on, you're talking to the girl who reviewed over 50 volumes of Inuyasha and a ton of Fushigi Yuugi like a loser. Basically I finish what I start, and besides, since I enjoyed Hyperion so much, I figured I'd probably enjoy the next installement.

Good times.

Granted, sometimes Simmons will ramble on with tidbits of information we really don't need, which I'm sure could pare the book down by...probably a decent number of pages, but oh well. To me, it never really gets excessive. Mostly because somehow he manages to make it seem relevant and it doesn't get too boring or repetitive. Compare that to Jane Eyre and the entire page dedicated to how blue the sky is. Ok, I get it, move on please. Yikes. The techno-babble never bothered me because it settled in so nicely to the rest of the text. There were a few places where I thought, "What?" but not many and they didn't seem to major so that if I didn't fully understand it wasn't any big deal.

For a brief moment in time, when I read that the AI's "God" was at war with a human developed "God" I almost laughed in an "Aaaah, you've got to be kidding me" way. Something like that meant that after hundreds of pages, everything boiled down to a hyper-detailed and elaborate version of humankind vs. artificial intelligence (that we created...yet again. Why are we always doing this? You'd think humankind would know by now). But there's way too much going on for it really to be trimmed down to just that. Even if it sort of still is. If any of that makes sense. Mostly because it's not so much "robot vs. human" like in Terminator or The Matrix, but that on a higher plane of existence. Strange, but that's the best I can describe it.

It was a wild ride, though I have to say, I was getting a little....maybe not annoyed, so much as "Get on with it!" Monty Python style with the whole John Keats thing. Is Dan Simmons obsessed with John Keats? Did he write some graduate dissertation on the man or something? Having poetry laced throughout this kind of SF book was a little weird, occasionally annoying, and sometimes fitting. For example, the giant AI personality speaks in verse at several points which was both annoying and yet in some ways fitting. I know a lot of people would roll their eyes and think, "Lame. Why is an advanced AI rambling in poetic verse?" Yeah, I tend to agree. However, the simple fact that I've never heard of or encountered any other AI doing so gives this an interesting twist. Then again, as I've said before, I've not read much in terms of hard SF, or anything that's ever had AI in it either.

There are still plenty of questions to be asked. What happened to all those poor bastards on the Shrike's thorn three? How many Shrikes are there? What was up with Brawne's air-walking and Shrike killing? And the whole time traveling thing makes me feel like I was just in the middle of some really bizarre episode of Doctor Who. But concerning all the weird stuff that went down in this book, I tend to agree, or at least apply the Doctor's concept of time as being just a big ball of wobbly...stuff. Certainly seems that way here.

Of course, I'll have to read the next book. Yes, that's right. The craziness keeps on going. There's Endymion and The Rise of Endymion to go through. With this thing going through crazy AI, humans, semi-humans, non-humans, portals, time travel, Gods, and other totally off the chart I-don't-even-know-what, how can I not read the next couple of books? Besides, I want to know who wins the war, that the real deal is with the Shrike, and what this supposed message is that is so universe-shattering. ...I'll bet I'm the only one out of the whole residency group that plans to read all four books.

Hey, I told you I finish what I start.

And by the way, the cover art for this book sucks. That Shrike is not scary and dammit, the thing has four arms, not two! Does no one tell the artists of this? Becuase I don't think it had four arms on the first cover either, but that one looked a little freakier at least...

Currently: BLEH!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Techniques and a bit of Hyperion

I realize I never really did finish talking about my previously read book about SF history and whatnot. Guess I'll finish that before going on my next ramble.

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. I was hoping for a good, strong SF history chunk and instead got...well, truly, I'm not sure what I got. Not a real, clear history lesson, that's for sure. Expectations made the text hiccup; I was hoping for [this] and instead found myself reading about [that]. The fact that he drifted a lot didn't help. One minute we're talking about 1984 and the next it's something about Star Trek.

Fine, whatever, I perservered. I finished. Book's back at the library. Clean cup, move down.

I'm nearing the end of Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain now. Actually I'm reading two books at a time - I've been slowly chewing on Techniques and just recently plucked out three other books from the library (because they were finally available - though I might as well just buy them, truth be told). Some people might worry that since October 25th is nearby, I'm taking a risk by procrastinating. Psh. Obviously no one knows the way I function. The Fall of Hyperion will take me 5 days max. Judging by my current speed, that's about right. 1984 will take much less - 2 days, 3 max. But back to Techniques.

I have to admit, sometimes I zone out and will read through a page without really reading it. Annoying because then I have to reread it. Sometimes I don't because I've caught enough to fully grasp what Swain is talking about and realize, "I already know that." But of course there are oodles of ideas and things he's mentioned that I've either had trouble with or never thought of in that light.

For example, I've always had issues with time. In my previous books it wasn't a worry because things naturally progressed quickly. Days were just fine and dandy as something interesting would happen each day (sometimes night) and I never had to worry about "3 months later" and so forth. It wasn't until book #1 that I had to plan out days. Anyway, before I get too off track with other books that need polishing, Swain pointed out a great way to bridge that span of time. Slip it into the middle of a character's musings or current emotional feeling. That's the abridged version of his explanation, of course, but with his examples and whatnot I thought, "That's perfect!" And it seemed so easy too. Why hadn't I done that before? Doy, I was too preoccupied with the time factor I totally missed out on how I could gloss over it with just the right flicks of the pen. Not to say that the time isn't important, but it's a hell of a lot easier to slip it in so your reader knows 6 months have passed as opposed to trying to drag it out saying what went on these 3 months and then these next 3 months, blah blah, when it's not even important and all your reader sees is, well, "blah blah." I hate that extra crap.

I love Swain's style too. It's quick, to the point, and clear. I've always had trouble with the difference between "show and tell" and frankly I'd love to strangle both of those words, something I frequently have to do to my internal editor because she's back there poking a finger at my text saying, "Show, don't tell" and my description comes out like crap. Oh how I could go on about my description. But reading The Fall of Hyperion helps with that too because while Simmons can go overboard sometimes, he does have some good ways of presenting it. Better than myself, that's for sure. Swain also notes showing and telling and gives a few tips and explanations. His style is sort of like an outline (no, literally, it's like an outline with writing in between, it's rather great, actually), which keeps things orderly and helps restrain potential rambling, which after Hartwell, is really nice.

Something he mentioned near the beginning of the book was "Grammar as a fetish." I thought that was brilliant and giggled. Too many people can get stuck on perfect grammar. Personally, I love a good fragment. I don't think I've used any in my current book, but I know I have a lot in book #2, all intentional of course.

His section on beginnings is rather helpful because of my current fist-shaking at my own beginning. What to ditch. What should be important. Cutting and flashbacking. Other concepts to make sure the reader doesn't say your book is garbage and puts it where the rest of the garbage is. I think what he had to say will help give me a better beginning. More interesting. Less backstory since much of it is indeed inconsequential to the reader. One thing he mentioned is along the lines of "What may be important to you concerning backstory isn't always going to be important to the reader." Even if I need it to make my world work, they probably don't. Keeping that in mind makes cutting down a lot easier. Adding to that is The Fall of Hyperion's description and the fact that it gave me a few extra ideas that could be fun to include in the beginning (again, working with description and not just offering readers some lame, punch-out postcard crap). I feel much better about this.

Haha, my mentor Anne Harris warned me that Swain is a little sexist. Or maybe not so much that he is (was?) but that the book kind of is since it was written in '65. There are several places where, yeah, I can see it. Hahaha. I don't mind, of course, as long as I'm getting good advice. But it is kind of funny. Women tend to be leaving or cheating on their husbands, and the hero is always a guy. Sometimes I'll hit on something that's obviously guy-sided, but I just smile and shake my head. And I'm not all that feminist either, haha. Still, it's good stuff and I've already suggested it to a few people because he's got some handy points.

Cool beans.

Currently: Feelin' magical.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Ok, I need an outlet and since this was originally a writing blog (temporarily a reading journal for grad school), I'm going to use it.

I'm pissed. That, in short, describes what is going on with my story. It's pissing me off. I've never had to work this much to get past something, I've never had to muscle through so many chapters before when compared to the past 4 books I've written. Maybe it's because this time it's serious, this time there are deadlines, this time once I'm done with grad school there isn't any more school and I've got to either sell a fucking book or I don't know what. That's a slight understatement, but you get the idea.

I have a headache, even now. I've read my mentor's comments, and the shitty thing is that I already know I have an issue and I'm having problems getting over it. Here's the thing. I want to start from Point A: Humans discovering portal and get all the way to Point B: We help to win a huge planetary war. The problem isn't so much the idea, it's just that there's so much boring bullshit that occurs following Point A that it's hard to get to the good stuff that leads up closer to Point B. Humans learning this and that, smalltalk to get between little conflicts that are so minor they don't even have much reason being there. Again; pissing me off. I've waded through the boring stuff before, but it's been okay, necessary boring stuff that doesn't last too terribly long. The thing here is that I know readers would easily get bored and toss my book away in favor for something better where they can get to the meat much sooner. Hell, as a reader, I would toss my book away in order to get to something better. That can't be said for my other ones. Good stuff happens in them. Conflict arises quickly. Characters have issues to work through during said conflict, blah blah and all that good stuff. Here they're just wandering around like a bunch of idiots. NOT what I want my characters to be doing.

So I finished a brief "Adjustment" list which basically is a short version of how I'm going to revamp my story. I'm going to be cutting the shit out of it, that's for sure. Fuck the prelims, fuck all that boring crap and rambling useless nonsense. I'm going to put the trust into my readers and characters; that the readers will understand and my characters will do their thing without a lot of explaining. I'm getting too bogged down with info dumps or stuff that is info dump-like. Time to smack them around, toughen them up. I'm tired of muscling through this thing and being pissed off that nothing is going the way I want it to.

Time to make it go my way and have a bit of fun.

Currently: Fuck you story!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Haha, Los Angeles sucks

While Hartwell managed to stay on task for the most part in the next few chapters, in chapter 6, "Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?" he started to wander again. With that chapter title, his wanderings didn't make much sense. Going into it, you're going to think, "He'll talk about places authors get ideas" and instead he begins to go on about what ideas can do and the purpose of ideas etc. etc. and sort of leaves the wondering reader in the dust about idea origination. I think he could have easily gotten away with it had he just named the chapter something different.

I did like the phrase "Science fiction writers are like magpies." Collecting all sorts of random bits and pieces of information and what might seem like junky trivia to others. I do that all the time. I have all sorts of random "stupid" things in my brain that are just waiting to be used. I think this can be attributed not just to SF writers, but to a lot of writers. Tell me the fantasy writer doesn't soak up crazy information or the horror writer isn't collecting bits of something that might make for one freaky-ass story later on.

The chapter on the use of the term "science fiction" was good. I'd never really thought about it before, but it is kind of oxymoronic. Sort of like creative nonfiction. Haha. The problem is that people automatically think infallible facts with science, and that's not always true. Scientists get their theories disproven all the time, so science is more like the search for truth rather than truth itself. Therefore, I see nothing wrong with science sitting next to fiction. Especially since science fiction writers have come up with ideas that have later become reality, hence the reason the government started asking for the help and creative minds of some science fiction writers. There was a whole article about that, which I thought was awesome.

And yeah, once it becomes reality, it's no fun anymore. Of course, I tend to think that in that moment when fiction is no longer fiction and that invisible vest is actually functioning on a human being, both SF and science are totally kickass. After a while the elation will fade off, but I'll still think of how cool it was when it became real. Execept now we can't write about it like we used to, but oh well. I like to think that will keep the genre fresh and force new ideas to arise. And anyway, you never know what will come next. I remember when they thought they would never invent the gigabyte. Hmm.

My computer has 78 GB. (I could have had around 200 but I didn't have the money at the time).

Currently: Just kinda normal

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Wait, what was that again?

So I'm on my next book, Age of Wonders by David Hartwell as my sort of history book for science fiction. I thought it would be cool getting into science fiction's history because even though my current novel is science fiction, I've read little in the genre (seems counter productive, I know) and figured knowing some of it's roots would help. I'm a little more well versed in fantasy, which would make sense considering that's what I do most of the time anyway. This is my second large science fiction idea, and I thought it was interesting how almost all my short stories were science fiction instead of fantasy....

Anywho, Age of Wonders. I'm trying to get it out of my way so I can devote my full time to Harry Potter, which may be a mistake because I'll probably start hearing all sorts of things about Harry if I'm not careful. I haven't read a lick of it yet and I know once I do I probably won't be able to stop. Like me and a bag of Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies. I'm still not very far yet, and I blame the book, actually. Ok, I should blame myself, but up until recently, Hartwell's writing is sort of like mine actually, although I tend to think my ramblings digress a little before getting back on track and it's a little hard to get lost.

Ok, see, Hartwell's book isn't exactly a history book. This is good because it means I'm not going to be drooling on myself while I go through dates and facts presented in an uber-boring manner. Instead he's upbeat, obviously interested in what he's talking about (as he's a SF writer as well), and knows his stuff (and if he didn't he looked it up). Therein lies a bit of the problem.

Sometimes I think he got so into what he was talking about he just sort of...kept...talking about it getting to a point where I was sitting here thinking, "What the hell does this have to do with the chapter?" While I give it to him that perhaps he found his rhythm in the third chapter because it actually follows a line of thought and stays on topic, the first two just started to bug me. The first chapter was called "The Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12" and while I was able to grasp what he was going for (and I guess that's what's important), once he was done talking about omnivorous SF reading behavior, he started babbling about specific authors and what they've done. This may be a problem because he's set in his time (80s) and it sounds as though he isn't planning for future readers. More like this book was for the current audience of the time. I wasn't born until '83 so I wasn't likely to read this book anytime soon.

He does it again in the second chapter, "I Have a Cosmic Mind - Now What Do I Do?" Come to think of it, I don't think he ever really answers this question. Maybe suggests books to read, but if you were an outsider of the SF genre and read that chapter, I honestly don't think you would be any closer to knowing how to handle your newfound reading world.

What I do credit Hartwell with is the way he describes SF people, reminding any non-SF person that, duh, SF people are just like you except for their enjoyment of SF. The guy at the water cooler, that woman in the grocery store picking out apples, your boss, who knows? Kind of helps kill the stereotype that all SF people speak Klingon or sit at their computers and get fat and think that the government has covered up an alien crash. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Truth is, that isn't (always) true. Most are the everyday people you see, just with an internal sense of, as Hartwell puts it, wonder.

I have a little problem with his attitude toward Star Trek though. Now, I'm not a trekkie and I've probably only seen a handful of episodes and yes I do realize what the show has done to the SF scene (both in good terms and not so good terms [all SF people are like trekkies]), but I don't take too kindly to Hartwell's condescending tone toward the show. I guess I can see his points and all that, and he's not horrible toward it or anything, but just the way he talks about it rubs me the wrong way. Like I want to tell him to lighten up on the show, give it a break. *shrug* Maybe it's just me.

I just hope he stays on track in future chapters.

Currently: I was happy but now I'm kinda bummed

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Kids? Really?

One of the books I put on my list to read during my writing term (as we are required to read a certain amount) was The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. You know, the one about the guy that goes back in time? Meets the Eloi and Morlocks? Come on, it was made into a movie - twice.

Before I get into more details, I have to say I'm surprised at where I found this book during my search for it. Jobless and strapped for cash as I am, I opted for the library. I looked in two different places; the public library and the Penn State University library. While in Penn State's library it was just sort of hanging out, I was quite shocked to find that Schlow Library had it residing in the children's section. The Time Machine - a children's book? I recalled reading War of the Worlds when I was in 8th grade, but that doesn't count as a child's book, does it? (Difficult for me to really know, since this is the same girl who planned to read Gone With the Wind over Christmas break in 7th grade and didn't because it got checked out) I was even further confused about the choice when I actually started reading the book. I wonder what age group it's stuck in at the library because when I think of children's book, I think at most 6th grade and under. The concepts the Time Traveller talks about in the beginning are things I probably wouldn't have grasped too well until after taking geometry or algebra, subjects I didn't take until middle school and up. Time. Space. Fourth dimensions.

I also don't see the style as something a child would tolerate. We're being told a story by the Time Traveller (he's telling his buddies and we're sort of listening in). There isn't any back and forth dialogue, paragraphs can be long, and there just doesn't seem to be the sort of thing children can get into. Maybe I'm underestimating kids - after all, they are driving through 700-page Harry Potter books. However, those read much differently.

Anyway, having said all that, on to the book. Much better than the movies (though I only remember fragments of the first one), which both failed in terms of Morlock looks, Eloi looks, landscape, and just far ahead he traveled. Though I don't often read SF, (ironically enough - it's just that I don't know what's good to read and I'm not into the hard SF) I do find myself strangely drawn to the time in which Earth dies. I know, weird, but it's a fascinating thing to think about - mostly because I seriously doubt it will ever happen in my lifetime. So what would it look like? How would Earth change in the future? In the book the atmosphere grows thin, green plantlife dies away, and we're left with a barren, rocky landscape with a dying ocean and giant crabs roaming while the sun slowly fades or dies or whatever happens to it when it starts to grow red and...unless it was because of Earth losing orbit, falling into the sun.

When you can see something like that in your mind in such a bizarre way, do you know how scary that is? That's why people don't leave their lives for very long and think about our insignificance. You think ants are small, but we're just the same in many ways. Sure our brains are bigger, but what then? People kill each other over religion, but to what purpose? Will it all matter in the end of all things? When our planet slides closer to the sun and our kind die away - and we've lived only such a short time as it is, both as humans and as a country. Rome didn't last. Persia didn't last. How long before we go too? Maybe that's why we strive to live so much. How many shots do we get? I think that's why I go a little mad sometimes. Stuck in a house, thinking about how I have to get a job. Life is to short to spend it in a cubicle or selling bullshit clothes, credit cards, or other crap to people. Stepping outside one's comfort zone to think of the utterly massive amount of space and strange stars and things far and beyond is frightening. That's why I'd love to see it - do you know how thrilling that would be? Forget sky diving, the rush would be so much more intense, holy cow...

But, as usual, I digress. H.G. Wells had a great imagination, you have to hand it to him. I'm extremely fond of his description, a skill I think I need improvement on, and maybe even if I don't, there's no reason not to try making it even better. I simply loved the fact that he had the sun rise and set in the west at one point. I have a world where I really, really want to do that, but I didn't know if it was possible and had considered asking someone well versed in planetary movements. I feel a little better about the idea now, though I would still consult someone, mostly because if the orbit of the planet is going a certain way, I don't know if there would still be grass and living people on that particular chunk of land with the sun moving in that way.

Oh, and I chuckled a little at the beginning as they discussed space and time. About the present, past, and future. It made me start thinking about the original Buddhist doctrine (yay Buddhism class in college!) and how there is no Present. Just the Past and Future. As we are perpetually moving forward in time, there never is any present, and though the concept was difficult to fully grasp at the time, thinking about it in terms slightly different, it actually works for me now. Crazy huh?

“What happened to then?”
“We passed then.”
“Just now. We're at now, now.”
“Go back to then!”
“I can't.”
“We missed it.”
“Just now.”
“When will then be now?”
“How soon?”

Currently: Wishing I was in the Infinite

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Books, My Baby, and some OMG-ness

Today's topic of discussion is books...and maybe a little Carson Beckett.

If any of you remember or ever read R.L. Stine's Fear Street books, then how about this. I have reviewed over 57 of those books on, which I believed helped catapult me into my Top Reviewer and Advisor status in the book category. On another good note, I have just sold all 57 of my (and my sister's) old Fear Street books on the infamous eBay. Yes, I am not a fan of eBay and won't ever buy there again, but that doesn't mean I won't sell. For the record, the Sex and the City DVDs never came. However, not too terribly long after filing my suit on PayPal, I got all $152.94 back, so yippee skippy for me. Back to the books, they sold for a pretty sweet $46. I had hopes that maybe I'd get $57; at least $1 per book, but considering I started these babies for what they might have been sold at a garage sale ($0.25 - or maybe less considering people around here haggle over items that are $0.50; how goddamn cheap are you??), I've made a pretty nice profit from them, so eBay has redeemed itself as a decent place/concept. Now if only I could sell the I Spy books...

Stephanie Plum, ah the famous Stephanie Plum. For a long time now I've been pondering over possible actors and actresses for roles in a theatrical version, and I'm pretty happy with some of my choices. I decided (very randomly) to put up some of them, as I haven't been ridiculously thorough with all the characters, but I figured it could be fun nonetheless. Not necessarily a rival to my sister's list (as some I agree with and others I don't), but just something to do with my time. These are all considered tentative in the case that some fresh new talent comes along or I simply find someone better or the person is the closest I can get for now (for example, Debra Messing, while not bad, I'm not too sure about her with non-red hair).

Stephanie Plum - Debra Messing or at least someone very similar

Joe Morelli - Thomas Jane

Ranger - still no idea. The man/character is a mystery. Gonna have to be someone new.

Lula - Monique (didn't know what her name was until seeing my sister's list - then realized we were thinking about the same person. Kickass)

Benito Ramirez - Michael Clark Duncan

Constantine Stiva - Crap. I have the guy's face in my mind but can't figure out his name. Don't worry, I'll get it sooner or later...

Randy Briggs - Either Martin Klebba or Peter Dinklage

Eddia Abruzzi - Jason Statham

Albert Kloughn - Not Jason Alexander, but someone very similar to him...

Ranger's Merry Men - Half the guys on the S.W.A.T. team from Bad Boys II

Ok, so it's a small list, but it's all I can remember at the moment as these were the people that first popped into my mind and have stuck around since. I really do think Ranger is going to have to be someone we've never seen before because I cannot even begin to imagine The Rock in this role, or anyone else for that matter. Plenty of good people out there, I'm sure, so they should have a chance.

Lastly on the topic of books, I've read Silence of the Lambs and now have Hannibal in my possession, which lead me to thinking maybe 3 or 4 hours ago...I think it was at dinner - what do people taste like? Oh shut up, it's a legitimate question. I've even discussed this with one or two people at some point. Doesn't mean I'm gonna go all psycho. You know you've had it pop in your mind once and a while and if not, well now it's in there, isn't it? Haha. But seriously, I've heard that animals like lions and sharks don't constantly eat us because we don't taste good. Now that could be utter bull for all I know, but what if that's true? Do we suck as a meat delicacy? And it's not like they're getting crappy tastes either; surfers are usually in good shape. You pretty much have to be. So it just makes me wonder...what do humans taste like?

Anyway, I hope Hannibal is more fun than the movie. I liked the movie, but I got impatient with the Clarice/Hannibal cat and mouse game. I guess after this I'll have to read Hannibal Rising and then maybe Red Dragon for good measure, just to make sure I finish all of them. I don't like loose ends if I can help it.

Now that I know I'm not going to get phone calls or emails from any of you ever again due to weirded-out-ness, it's time to talk about Carson. My beloved baby Carson. Dr. Carson Beckett, to be exact. Ficticious character and one I'm sure about, ah, well none of you are aware of. Only if you watch Stargate Atlantis, which I don't think any of you do. No matter. I have to fuss anyway. They're taking him off the show. Yes, after forming his character, making it into a main one the second season, this season they're going to kill him off. My cute, Scottish doctor is going to get blown up, tossed into a casket, and taken back to Earth. I am not happy. Very not happy. He was one of the more 3D characters on that show, a main reason why I watched it. Now it's going to go downhill. Very disheartening. Especially since I watch so little TV as it is. A few sitcoms and some Stargates. Except now SG-1 is going off the air and they're killing my favorite character in Atlantis. What a bummer.

All right. Fine. Whatever. I'll still watch the show, but I've made a vow that if they kill off Ronon (who, along with being a super-fun character, is pretty damn hot) I'll quit watching the show. At least they'll all know that, producers and such. Yeah, I wrote letters. I hooked up with the movement. I couldn't help myself. But I had to vent somewhere that mattered, even if nothing is going to change. Some of it is kind of like all the resent I've built up over the years for other shows I've liked that have disappaered (and subsequently been replaced by shit programs). It goes a long way back. Like to when I was a kid and David the Gnome was the last cool show on Nickelodeon, and then *poof!* that was gone too. I don't think I've ever religously watched a show since then. Enjoyed, yes, but made a point to remember and sit down every day/night to watch something? Mmm...not that I remember. Until now. But that's because there is absolutely nothing ever on TV and I forget half the time anyway so I have to make a note to remember and watch.

So what's this got to do with writing? Carson Beckett is the inspiration for my Dominic Ballard, and reading books is good for you because it gives you insight into other styles. In the case of R.L. Stine, it reminds you what NOT to do, and with Thomas Harris, what you don't really like. I'm hoping Hannibal will be different. Stephanie Plum, well she's just for fun. And I am pretty unwavering in my choice for Joe Morelli.

Currently: "OMG is Nicole crazy??"

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Writer’s Market 2007 and

When opening our Christmas presents early I was surprised to receive the Writer’s Market 2007. A handy book to have – it’s like a bible for writers, containing all sorts of publishing places and goodies. Agents, book publishers, magazine publications, contests, etc. I promised myself that one day I would comb through it and find places to send work that didn’t suck.

I did send off one piece to a contest with no entry fee (as 99% of them have entry fees, ranging from $5 to $50), and then later on I stumbled upon another and submitted something there as well, but as I nosed about in the book, I read an article about online freelance jobs and how there were a bunch out there to start in small and work your way up. This got my brain going and I did some poking around online and managed to find two good sites that had people listing freelance jobs they wanted done. My first thought? “Hmm, score.”

Now I’d already done one brassy attempt with the Rantoul Press, querying the editor about adding in a movie review column (done by me of course). I wasted a stamp on them because by the time I got home after dumping off the letter, there was a reply in my email saying “No, we’re not looking to add this kind of material.” The Rantoul Press is small and has no vision. Fine. I’ll put my services elsewhere.

On January 7th I responded to 4 online freelance job listings. On the 8th I responded to 5 more. On the 9th I did another 3. I made a new email through Gmail (pretty sweet setup I might add – kinda kicks hotmail butt). I figured by then I should stop and wait for some replies. Two of them were filled up. Another gave me some test articles to produce. Two others gave me a go, but I have some questions before solidifying anything. But the one that gave me the test articles, ah…

Unreel Media – freelancers write articles for them for website clients that need content. I had to write 5 articles with certain specifics involved, the most difficult one being using specific keywords numerous times without sounding dumb or redundant. The pay was $5 per article. I took it very seriously, did the necessary research, and with some skilled phrasing, got them to sound pretty sweet. I sent them back in and got a reply from the project manager saying she’d give them a close look when she had the time as a big deadline was looming.

On the 11th I got another email from her stating; “You are so totally hired.” Kickass. So now I work as a freelancer for Unreel Media writing articles and in the very near future will either be doing some for $6.50 an article or a ton for several months at $5 an article (as their payment depends on their length). *squeal* Nicole’s first freelance job! Yippee! I don’t know why it took me so long to find and I honestly don’t even remember just how I found those sites in the first place. *does that whole is-God-looking-at-me? looking up thing* And I’m pretty excited about one of the other two places. Just think – I get the job at Hayden’s (t’would be sweet) and I do freelance? That means paycheck + extra income. Heck, I already got my $25 from the test project. Granted it has to be done through PayPal and we already know I basically hate PayPal’s guts right now, but oh well. No counting my chickens, but still. There are those who make their living off freelance. It may not be glamorous, but it’s better than nothing.

Aside from that, you may still be wondering just where the heck that $100 eBay gift certificate came from in the first place. Well, you may remember I won $1000 from Epinions in December because of that contest they did.

Every month Epinions has a first Very Helpful review contest. Write the first Very Helpful review on a product. Piece of cake. The interesting thing is, I seem to be on a bit of a winning streak. Probably due to my case of writing insanely to make myself feel productive. After all, I did write 100 reviews in 80-some days, whereas normally it would have taken me around a year to write 100 reviews. But because of my prolificness, this has happened:

September: 1st prize - $100 Epinons CafĂ© Press Gift Card (more like shopping spree and this one took me by surprise since I wasn’t even really trying to win)
October: 3rd prize - $100 eBay Gift Certificate (now you know)
November: $100 Target Gift Certificate (this one I found out about recently and am totally excited about getting because I worked my ass off for it because I enjoy Target and could use a few things from there)
December: $1,000 (one of 4 or 5 major prizes that happened to be in the thousands)

January’s contest is for more money, but boy did December completely clean me out. My review output has dropped insanely, but still at one a day. They’re not all first reviews, but many of them still are. If I win, fabulous. If not, hey that just means someone else I probably know does and that’s cool.

All in all, the world of writing is going along pretty sweet. I rejoice in that.

Currently: In "yay!" mode