Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Famous People Piss Me Off

...even if it's for 15 friggin' minutes.

My thoughts exactly. (except for the part about Obama's book being great - I wouldn't know, I haven't read it, and quite honestly, don't ever intend to.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

1st vs. 3rd vs. crap

I got an idea into my head a while back and couldn't shake it. Oh, I shook it long enough to finish my first draft of my thesis (wrings thesis's neck), but now that I only have this and that to revise (and I'm still missing a whole slew of critiques for various reasons and some I'm not so clear on and now I'm starting to get irritated because I want to revise and I CAN'T).


Ok. Back to what I was talking about. Basically, on this new book (which I really shouldn't be working on anyway, but fuck it, I am), I want parts of it to be in first person and other parts to be in third person since I want my audience to know things that are important, but still enjoy the first personness.

Actually, that's all beside the point because that isn't the problem. Not entirely anyway.

The 1st person POV is the issue. What I want is for the reader to get into it and enjoy it in the same vein as say, a Stephanie Plum book. I want it to feel immediate, fun, and with a sort of loose candor people can get behind.

Thus far, I'm sucking at it. I couldn't quite figure out why until I thought about how I was writing it and how it was coming out and where the kink was.

The kink, my friends, is in the prologue. Yes, anothe prologue. Hey, it's short and doesn't really work well as a first chapter.

The problem is that I wrote the first chapter as a sort of...semi-flashback. It ends in a way that shows the narrator already knows more than she does at the start of Chapter 1, thus making it so when Chapter 1 rolls around, it's more like a retelling of the story rather than an immediate this-is-happening-now story. No, I'm not writing it in present tense, but rather the usual past tense that has that immediate feeling. I'm reading a book right now by Hugh Laurie (yes, the actor, the guy who plays House, for those of you who watch House) and he's doing a better job than me. HUGH LAURIE.


Not to say that Hugh can't write, or rather, shouldn't be able to write. It's just that I know I can do this and the fact that it's coming out all wrong is pissing me off.

SO. Ok. Prologue makes the rest of the book (or at least the next several chapters of it) seem like a tale being related. It's killing the style. It's too past tense, as it were. The death of said style is ruining the emotion and such.

You know, I had all this sorted out easier into 3 reasons but rambling has ruined it, but it feels good to ramble so whatever. Let's try this:

1.) Prologue indicates narrator already knows what is going to happen, hence
2.) Subsequent chapters have already "happened" and narrator is simply retelling them hence
3.) Initial emotion of said chapters has already occurred, as have actions, thus immediacy is killed.

4...or D...or maybe one of those little subscript things.) I'm so used to writing in 3rd person by now, I think my ability to do 1st person is somewhat dimished.

I think that was them. Ish. So now I have two choices. I'll probably end up doing one of them instead of plowing ahead because this whole thing is annoying the fuck outta me.

1.) Fix the end of the prologue somehow so it doesn't give the "narrator already knows" impression
2.) Adjust the opening of the first chapter to adjust for the narrator knowing and doing a retelling (up until a certain point)

Either way I choose, I'll have to redo a lot of stuff. Still, at least I know where the problem is.

I dunno.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Ta Daaaa!

It's done.


I've finally written those words at the end of my manuscript. My first draft is completed. All 416 pages of it. Yeah. 416. Over 100,000 words. Heh, kinda funny that I finish it during NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Of course, now I just have to revise the crap out of it. So the page number isn't solid. But yeah, it's over the required mark by plenty and I have no worries of it remaining there. It's not hte first time I've slapped THE END at the finish of a manuscript, but it is on one this big. My last largest piece was 240 pages. It doesn't surprise me that this one was double the size of that - I knew it was going to be massive when I started it. It was a big story filled with secrets and semi-betrayal and a bit of a love story and several massive battles. Whoo!

I actually finished it the same day I got the email for the Rooney Scholarship, so it was a good day. For those of you unawares, the Rooney Scholarship was one of two scholarships I went for. This one for short stories. In the past my short stories have sucked butt, but these two I worked on, spruced up (one completely new), and sent out. And then I had an email with "Rooney Scholarship" in the subject line and I sat here and said, "I did not just win that!" Yep. $500 less that I have to pay this term. Sweet beans, eh? I'm glad. Now if only the two places I sent my stories to would reply and let me know either yay or nay... God a yay would be effing fantastic...

Good times all around. After I finished my book I went downstairs kind of lost and said, "I don't know what to do with myself now..." I'd been writing for so long I wanted a break, but the idea that I didn't have to go back and write more (at least in the sense of writing to complete the first draft) kind of boggled me. It'll be nice to work on revising while working on other fun writing projects without the pressure of draft completion hanging over me.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Someone sees dead people

Some of you may wonder, why do I post a review of a book and then yammer on about it here? What's the difference? Well, you can't really see much of a difference in the book before this one, mostly because there's nothing extra to reveal. Here, I get to divulge everything, bitch about endings, go into details, and so forth, whereas people wouldn't be all that happy if I did it in my review. That's the difference.

On to The Everlasting. I guess I should have known better since Lebbon also wrote Berserk. What's that you ask? Most of us writers tend to have the same devices, similar characters, and elements in our books. We can't help it. It just comes naturally. Take me for example, 99% of the time there's a woman in my books that kicks ass, she's similar to her other book counterparts and they even have similar names. I probably shouldn't do that, but I can't help myself. So when Lebbon introduces the reader to Scott, a man heading toward his 50s, and interrupts things with flashbacks, yeah. Should have see it coming I guess. But you never know.

That's actually my only real problem with this book - I had a real hard time getting into Scott's character. In fact, we start off immediately with past events and memories of by-gone days. I don't ever feel properly introduced to Scott's character, and what's more, with the way he totally sobs over his wife's disapperance, I didn't have enough time or info or something to truly see how much they cherished on another. I mean, yeah, I don't doubt husband and wife love each other and whatnot, but Scott, for quite some time, just seemed to constantly break down into bouts of crying over the kidnapping of his wife.

That too, annoyed me. No, guys, I'm not saying you shouldn't be super upset when your wife goes missing, but geez, after the first few times quit crying and try to do something about it! Especially once you have a direction to go in! Get mad at least! Scott's personality felt flat to me, which is probably due to the introduction, and he never got pissed when he should have. I wanted him angry out of frustration, he should have been angry, demanding answers, God throw something why don't you? Hmph.

Aside from my disconnect with Scott, the story was interesting. We're on a quest to find and destroy an ancient book written centuries, maybe even millenia ago (well, probably not millenia because humans had to have been around to write it). The whole concept of the Wide and where you go when you die and all that jazz was cool and Lebbon did his best to explain it in terms that would boggle your mind even as you tried to imagine it. I'm still having trouble accepting the only way Scott would do anything was if Lewis kidnapped Scott's wife and did all that buuut oh well. Likewise I'm not sure why Helen would believe her kidnapper. I also don't believe that Tigre would just ignore Scott for the rest of his life. Tigre, if he really is who Nina said he was, sounds like the kind of guy that would take you out just because. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. I don't buy that he'll just accept that the book's gone and not kill Scott because of it.

Otherwise, it wasn't bad. Some good, horrific elements and creepy things going on, fit for the genre. Cool locals and Old Man was a nice addition. And, I must say, that Lebbon has finally applied my definition of immortal. I don't use that term lightly - if you're immortal and you can't die, then you can't die. None of this vampires are immortal stuff - no, vampires aren't immortal, they're just ageless. Vampires can die, easy as anyone else as long as it's done right. But not Lebbon's immortals. One gets cut in half, but she's still trying to drag herself together, then she gets shot in the head, but all the pieces start moving back to wake her up again. Now that's immortal.

Read the Review

Guy on the cover obviously not immortal/everlasting...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Feel the Horror

I'm feelin' the horror.


So ladies and gentlemen, you all want to know how my book is going?

*evil grin* Peachy.

In fact, I'm killing people left and right, putting my main character into a coma and totally fucking up their world. It's AWESOME. Yes, I've been waiting to do this for a long, long time. I only have a fe more things to cover (like, the massive battle that decides everyone's fate) and then voila! I'm finished. Grand. I'm on break now - I had to stop before my brain melted out of my ears. But I'll be back in full swing before you know it and polishing off this baby (I mean, honestly, I should be able to do that in the next 50 pages!).

Hee. *excited*

Now, on to the real reason for this post, On Writing Horror by Mort Castle. Or rather, edited I should say. Most WPF people have heard of or read this book by now. It was recommended to me by my mentor Gary Braunbeck since I said, "I need some horror in my life" (or something similiar since I was coming to that violent point in my book).

On Writing Horror is a book chock-a-block full of writing essays that include advice, tips, methods, and just general writer info. Even though I'm not writing horror, I do have horrific elements in my book, and besides, most of us know that genres tend to cross over to include bits and pieces that are typically associated with other genres (mystery + romance, romance + fantasy, etc.). Whatever your genre, this book contains plenty of goodies that work out well for any writer. I particularly love Tina Jens quote about characters and ducks (see top of blog). Well it's true isn't it?

It really is full of great stuff, and it's the kind of book that you either want to take notes on or just start photocopying favorite pages to save for later (that is, if you're like me and have no money or, more importantly, shelfspace, and have to get everything from the library). I was also really fond of Mort Castle's essay when he talks about falling into that kind of dreamy spot in order to get ideas. I practically squealed and thought, "I DO that!" Stuff like that makes me feel good because then I'm not the only person out there doing these things. Dr. McClain was right - time with like-minded companions helps. I used to do things to get ideas and always wondered, "Does anyone else ever do this?" In fact, 120 pages of my current novel came about during one of those zoney sessions. I slobbed in bed for around an hour years ago and played the entire thing out in my brain before getting up, going straight to the computer and typing all day and part of the next day (and I never do that - take my ideas straight from my brain to the keyboard. I write everything longhand so yeah...). Course, a cut a good chunk of that section because there was no possible way for it to work in the story, but who cares? I still used a good part of it. High-five to Mort Castle for making me feel not like a mutant.

Moving on, it's a book with some good resources in it as well as information that I hadn't thought of before or hadn't gotten the chance to find out previously. True, most of the resources are for horror writers, but there are some in there that work for SF and F writers as well (maybe a few Romance writers too, depending upon your tastes), mostly because people, editors and whatnot included, tend to lump H, SF, and F together. Which is fine, since we mingle a lot. I liked the piece by Scott Nicholson on promoting your book. Most of that stuff a lot of us already knew, but he goes into more detail and points out the how and a few of the where to get items and extra info.

Great stuff. And now I'm onto my last book, The Everlasting by Tim Lebbon!

Read the review


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Another Word for Crazy?

I finished Berserk by Tim Lebbon several days ago and am just now getting around to blogging about it. I slack off. Immensely. It's not funny how much I slack. It really isn't.

Anywho, not a bad book. Pretty solid with an interesting plot, though I got impatient at the start because Lebbon tended to go on and on about how much Tom missed his son Steven and blah blah and how much he loves his wife and blah blah and I sat there thinking, "Ok, I KNOW, let's move on now." Heheh. It's kind of like maybe Lebbon wrote it, revised it once, and didn't want to revise it again and said, "Pfeh. Just publish it as is."

The best part was not knowing whether or not Natasha (dead girl Tom dug up) would come back to life and rip Tom's flesh off his chest and snack on his organs or if she would let him live as thanks for getting her out of the ground. Hell, half the time I wasn't sure if she really was a little girl or not in terms of age. For all I knew she was 50 or something. I guess technically if she was maybe 10 when she got buried alive that would make her 20 (she was underground for 10 years). Not sure how much normal maturing you can do in 10 years while buried alive (normal being the operative word here), assuming she would have grown and matured similar to a human. Sounded like she would have.

The best parts were Natasha's flashbacks and the berserkers going nuts and ripping people apart with entrails flying through the air. Then seeing them being held by the military--which, I might add, wasn't American. So HA! America isn't the only country always getting put into print (representitive or otherwise) whose military hides secrets and in general, acts like some evil organization. That's good because that crap annoys the hell out of me. Still, even though the setting was in England, finding out at the end that berserkers weren't a normal everday group of ah, "people" naturally found on Earth but instead a military experiment was a letdown. Major bummer. Why? Well DUH. It's been done! And to add to that, I think Lane deserved to get shot, but that's only if he presented his family to the military and said, "Here, you can experiment on us." That wasn't really made clear, whether or not they willingly went into the arms of wacky science.

That brings up other weird issues. Cole mentioned his life was normal as a guard until the military brought in the berserkers from Iraq. Ok. Is that was he was told? Whatever the case, why did he get promoted from normal perimeter guard to #1 berserker guard? What put him in that position? And why wouldn't the military go after them? I think Lebbon ought to write the book on Cole and Natasha's story, the whole thing that led up to her getting buired alive.

Ah well. Still interesting and a weird spin on the concept of zombie and werewolf-anti-silver stuff. Also interesting, this is the third book I've read so far in that the main character gets bitten and/or his/her blood drunk that leads to him/her changing into another creature. Hmm...

Makes me wonder where The Everlasting by Lebbon will lead. I have yet to hear from the library which makes me think they can't get it as no one in their system has it. Guess that means I'll have to buy it. Not really a fan of that idea seeing as I literally have no shelf space. Oh and don't tell me just to pile it on the ground. People keep saying to do that. "Oh, I have piles of books on my floor, haha!" No. Sorry. I like my books to stay off the floor and remain on a shelf where they belong. Besides, my room is freaking tiny so there's a good possibility of them getting kicked.

Oh well. Onward and upward.

Read the Review

Tell me that cover wouldn't catch your attention.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Live Girls

I finished my second book, Live Girls by Ray Garton, in two days. If I'd started earlier, it very well might have been one day.

Live Girls was a ton more fun than Cabal. I was worried though. Why? Because who hasn't heard of the whole vampire women acting kind of like succubi and living in strip joints and drinking blood from men they sex up? I snickered to myself because the first similiar item that popped in my head was that ridiculous movie From Dusk Till Dawn. Likewise, sex and vampires seem to go together no matter where you look and it's kind of annoying and tiresome after a while. Vampire women? Doing it with plenty of men? Been there, done that. What's Garton going to do that's different?

Mm, plenty. Garton does some great stuff and while I mentioned in my ramblings about Cabal how I expect a horror book to freak me out, I realize I have to take that back. While a horror book ought to weird a person out, I forgot about the entertainment value. I had a good time reading this book. Garton kept things interesting, characters you wanted to see hang on until the end, and who would come out a vampire and who would come out dead.

My mouth lead me to acquire books that contained a fair amount of gore, so I got what I asked for. There's just about everything in here, from mutilated bodies to vomiting blood to vampires gone horribly, horribly wrong. In fact, those last two components and the reasons behind them are what made Garton's vampires unique. While crosses and holy water don't work "Fuck you Bram Stoker" (one of the best lines in the book), garlic causes a nasty little allergic reaction, but even better, if you're familiar with vampire stories out there where the vampire wants to be good and just drinks up on the dregs of society? Yeah. No dice here. Drinking up on some crack addict or someone with a certain disease can permanently screw up a vampire. I love the idea. It's like eating bad food. In most vampire cases the blood simply tastes icky, but it'll still sustain the vamp. Here, that's a big no-no and it's cost more than one vampire their...well not lives but their looks and shape more or less.

Every character mattered, had a place, and the story just kept on moving, even when you think one spot is a lull, it isn't or it quickly switches over. One of those books you have trouble putting down. I also wonder why sex seems to always couple with horror, but meh. Oh well. It's a good book. A bit tricky to find (thanks interlibrary loan!) but worth it, yes sir.

Read the Review

Moral of the story: Be careful when you go to nudie bars, boys.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Night Has A Hero (sort of)

I've been itching to read something by Clive Barker for some time now. Cabal is now my official Clive Barker introduction.


While I haven't yet read the short stories included in the book I have (I'm not sure if they're with every edition of Cabal or not), but I finished Cabal a week or so again and have since moved on to other things. I'd mentioned needing gore, or good examples of it, in the hopes of making, ah, messy things in my book a bit more visceral. Cabal had some good bits to that end, but overall I felt a bit let down by the story. It's only about 200 or so pages, but it feels shorter than that.

I think my main problem was that I never really got into the characters. At all. Boone was just some random guy who got sucked into all this. I never knew much of his history, which I suppose was necessary because of his "memory loss" but I was curious as to why he was visiting a doctor in the first place. In fact, when I pictured the guy, despite the fact that seeing a psyciatrist is expensive, I thought of him as scruffy, scary-looking, almost of a homeless guy quality. I didn't have much to go on. I didn't even know he was supposed to be handsome until his girlfriend took over the story and said Boone was a fine-looking guy. The story was actually hers...sort of. The blurb made it seem like hers, she had the most camera time (so to speak), though there was the occasional head hopping.

I wanted to see more of Midian. For those of you wondering, Midian is a place where all the super-freaks, creatures, and monsters of the world live, staying out of the sunlight and away from people who would kill them without a second thought. I would have liked to explore that place, it's history, and more of the things that inhabit it. But to no avail.

Maybe I would have liked it better if I were more in tune with the characters - when Lori was in danger of getting killed by a total psycho, I hardly felt her fear. I don't often read horror, so when I do, I expect it to totally freak me out. I mean, hell, I still have fear the dark from time to time. Just last night I had a paranoid chill up my back and looked over my shoulder into a dark room and in my mind, threatened whatever was lurking in there with death, or at least one hell of a fight. So for this story, in which the dark contains all sorts of weird things creeping around, to leave me feeling "meh" and without any extra fear of, well, anything (not like I need any), is a bit disappointing. Maybe I would have liked it better if Midian wasn't under attack by a bunch of podunk small town cops (in Canada no less). By the way, all the inhabitants of Midian knew what was coming. One creature had a procog vision of it. The head honcho that created Midian knew they'd be invaded. And they didn't put up a few snags? No defense? I mean, if creature-A knew creature-Bob was going to die, wouldn't Bob not stand by the door later on? Maybe they didn't know the exact circumstances, but still, when creature-A starts naming names, wouldn't those named get as far away from the surface of danger as possible?

I also wish I would stop critiquing books as I read. I noticed Barker did a lot of this:

"Do you think so?" said Lori.
"Of course," came the reply.

A lot of "came the reply" tags. It kind of sucked when more than one person was involved with the conversation. I felt like Blinkin of Robin Hood: Men in Tights. "Pardon? Who's talking?"

Normally my imagination runs wild. Not so much here. I would have preferred to stick with Boone and explore Midian. Find out what happened to Peloquin. I don't care that the head sheriff gets his best ideas on the crapper. *snort* Little things, mostly.

Anywho, one down, four to go. Live Girls or Berserk will be next. Shouldn't take long to read them either. 3 days for each, max.

Read the Review

<-- Kuski's work makes me think of Midian. Check it out, it's liquid awesome.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Oh dear

During residency (which I have yet to blog about in the Life O'Me section, and when I do, you'll all get to hear about the crazy things that happened, from my invisible powers to The Battle of Farrell Hall) I discovered that it was Mystery's turn to choose the book to read. I took a look at the list of possibilities and lo and behold, there was a book I'd read back in November - In the Woods by Tana French. I had a brief panic attack and from then on "casually" mentioned to anyone around me that "I hope they don't pick this one. It wasn't that good." The blurb offered up by the book was misleading, which is likely why I was irritated with the whole thing.

I have mixed emotions about this book. I reviewed it and while I rant on about how I dislike it, I did give it 4 stars. Yet if I had to read it again (which I suppose is expected...maybe?), I wouldn't. Er, in this case, won't. No thanks. I gave it 4 stars because of the skill involved with the book, much of the plot, as well as other items but overall it's defintely not something I'm ever going to rush out and buy (such as when I saw it at work the other day released in paperback - I kind of snorted, waved my hand at it, and walked on). I just think...if no one liked Lies of Locke Lamora...oh god. The horror....

So, for any WPF people reading this and who may be curious about my likes and dislikes, check out the review.

And just so you all know, I don't dislike mysteries - I just was not all that jazzed about this one. Looking at the reviews at, I realize I'm not the only one. Good to know.

Currently: They did what?

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of

An interesting book. Going in, I'd though I'd chosen another history book - like I'd wanted - only to find I was once again reading a series of essays connecting the real world to the worlds of SF. However, Disch's book is much more coherent than Hartwell's. Half the time I wasn't sure where Hartwell was going in his ramblings, though I was sure there had to be a point in there somewhere. Though occasionally it felt a little like Disch strayed a bit from time to time, I have to say, the man had some seamless transitions. He does stay on topic in relation to his chapter title, and that's really what counts.

Though I still want a history of SF, mostly to give me more structure in terms of SF's development through its authors and over time, this did offer some semblance of order given though the topics and time frames Disch decided to discuss. My favorite chapter had to be "How Science Fiction Defused the Bomb" in regards to the atomic bomb panic and radioactive possibilities. It's just that it's still a relative topic today, which is ironic because when Disch wrote the book, the scare had already died down and everyone learned to live with the bomb. We still live with it, but it's become a fear yet again and it's still bringing up monster movies (at least, atomic testing is one of the many theories beind the Cloverfield monster).

Throughout the book, I kept wondering what Disch would have to say if he'd written this today or even a year or two ago. Even though I consider 1998 to still be semi-recent (nevermind that it's already a decade ago), the book felt dated. I guess technically it is, another reason it would have been neat to see DIsch's thoughts on the now. Especially since NASA is still in full swing, SF/F movies have taken a firmer foothold in Hollywood than ever (and most of them directly from books), Star Trek is still loved, so much so that a new movie is coming out in 2009, computer graphics have become more fantastic than ever (often to my annoyance, in fact), and so forth.

The chapters were easy to get sucked into, the connections Disch made between SF and other areas of life/the world from religion to politics to wigged-out people committing suicide in the name of God-knows-what, all rather solid with great examples. Disch lived through most if it, I'm sure, and whatever he didn't deal with directly, he did his homework, something I admire because I'm certainly not as willing or likely to do so.

I'm not too sure I agree with him on Poe as the head of the SF bonanza, but he has a commendable argument. I can see his points and on several occasions, pulled out my fat, leatherbound everything-Poe book and read some of the pieces Disch referenced. I admit, I haven't yet had the chance to read all of Poe's work, so Disch has a one-up on me there, I'm sure. Maybe as I continue reading, I'll start to agree more. Still, I think there were too many before Poe that could collectively take the slot of parent(s) of SF, but again, I'm fuzzy on all my dates, so more research on my part would be needed. Now I just need a list of authors and to get motivated...

As a whole, a very good read and insightful, especially concerning the past. The present and future are easier for me to spot and connect (obviously) so seeing past events coupled with SF influence through a writer like Disch was enjoyable and a better read than Hartwell by far.

Currently: Dreaming of floating away and sleeping

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Improbability Drive, Activated!

*squeak, honk, erk, eek, boink!*


Right, now that normalily has been restored (I have The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on the brain - and on my desk over there so, you know), here's the blog entry I meant to write several days ago, but keep forgetting because I swear if I don't write this stuff down, I forget it.

I should invest in some Post-It notes.

Anywho, I finished up Word Painting and I have to say, Dr. Wendland chose a perfect book when it comes to working on description. Admittedly, my description still needs some work, but that's beside the point. McClanahan really does touch on every aspect of description and includes so many useful exercises, it's great. I haven't really had the chance - okay, you know what? That's a lie. I've had chances, I just don't use them properly. I need to reorganize my time and stop screwing around, though this week I haven't even really had time to screw around, but next week I only work 8 hours (down from 34 - how the hell that happens I don't entirely know) so I've got plenty of time on my hands.

Ok, moving on. I plan to review this book, but when I do, it's getting 5 stars, all the way. I'm really glad to have found it and as time goes on, I'm going to go through it again, one chapter at a time, much slower, maybe devoting an entire month to a chapter, and working on all the exercises, taking my time and searching for the proper and special naming of things (which I feel is my biggest weakness. When it comes to scent and sound and touch, well, those I just forget, moreso during this story because half the time my guys are all wrapped up with oxygen masks and full protective bodysuits). Well, almost all the exercises anyway. A few I don't think I could do because I'd get distracted. Any that have to do with music at least. For example, there's one that suggests walking about 6 blocks or so noting details as you go, first with one type of music and then again with a different type to see what differences you see. That wouldn't ever happen because any time I walk around outside for any period of time with music, my mind wanders to one story or another and it's like a switch going on in an idea factory. Ka-chink! Ideas rolling down the conveyor belt and dumping into buckets for later use.

That will be good though, to take my time and work on this and that in better detail, revising and practicing and tweaking. I can use my ridiculous fanfic as practice as well, one of the reasons I decided to keep it going, as stupid as it likely is.

The point is that the book is useful, extremely helpful, and anyone in need of descriptive help should look into it. Not sure what else is on the market, but this isn't getting replaced by anything else anytime soon. In fact, it's slotted in my brain as a potential class when I eventually do my little module thing before graduating, right beside idea generation and name creation.

The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of is my final book, but I plan on writing about that after I finish, which should be too long as I've only got one chapter left, except it'll probably take me until the final deadline to write about that since I freaking forget everything.

Really should get some Post-Its...


Currently: An octopus?

Sunday, April 13, 2008


In order to keep my brain from filling up with too many adjectives and risk getting busted for using a copious amount - plus I really, really wanted to read some fiction - I went to the library the other day to pick up the remaining books I have to read for this term. I've been a little slow in reading them this time around, but I knew Prey by Michael Crichton would only take me five days to read, max, leaving me plenty of time to finish Word Painting and get on to The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of.

I underestimated just how much I wanted to get into some good fiction. I borrowed the book on the 9th. I finished it the next day.

Prey revolves around the semi-typical story of robots getting out of our control. What makes it different is that this time they're nanobots, robots put together on the molecular level. And these aren't just mechanical either. I want to recommend this book to my sister since they use E.coli as a part of the nanobots, which makes them kind of like nanocyborgs.

I'm no stranger to nanobots weirding out and getting smart. The first time I saw nanos taking over was while watching a Gargoyles episode. Anyone ever watch that? That cartoon rocked, just for the record. Except there the nanos wanted everything to be ordered, less chaotic.

Crichton's nanos are program-based (though I suppose most would start out that way) and evolve at an astounding pace. What I enjoyed here was the amount of research Crichton had to do - he even includes a bibliography at the end that spans about 4.5 pages. You get semi-info dumps throughout the book that enlighten you about nanos, bits of microbiology, and distributed intelligence programs. I say "semi" because while they can technically be considered info dumps, they're done in such a way that they feel more like an aside by Jack, the main character, or even a brief moment in his mind as he thinks. The dumps are short and the surrounding text is done in a connecting manner so the dump takes on the feel of a flash of thought by Jack. Though I felt one or two may have been repetitive ("Wasn't this already mentioned?"), for the most part they were pretty necessary. Hey, I've never heard of distributed intelligence programs and the kind of viral programs and such mentioned in the book before, but now I do, and they make perfect sense.

It was exciting and I loved evey minute of it. Sometimes Jack made me want to scream though - "How can you not put two and two together dude?!" - but otherwise it was a great read. Creepy, edge of your seatness, wonder, and "What's going to happen next?" tension. Crichton, or rather, Jack, mentions near the beginning how "No one ever does anything until it's too late." That right there is the freakiest part of the whole book (second only to seeing the result of his wife getting eaten alive by nanos). People are so short-sighted, they fail to take a step back and look at the big picture. They make sloppy patchwork fixes that can only be considered temporary and neglect to examine the consequences of every action.

That's why I keep saying when we are killed off by AI, just like every SF writer ends up writing (or at least, what? 90% of them?), it's going to be Japan's fault. Why? Have ya looked at their robots lately? They're bent on making their robots better, smarter, etc. It's only kind of funny how people think SF writers are imagining this stuff. These days it's more like they're What if-ing this stuff. I don't think people like to let that get into their brains though. Makes them uncomfortable. Suddenly reminded of Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, "They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop and think of whether or not they should."

Oy. It's exhausting to think about. But you know what was really exciting for me? In my novel I decided to use nanos (not made by us, mind you) as a reconnaissance method when checking out a new planet through a portal. Lo and behold, that's exactly what Crichton's company was doing in the book! I was very excited to see my idea echoed (albeit 6 years ago, but hey, I didn't know that), especially by someone like Crichton. The funny part is that when I was writing up the nano section, I made a point to have someone mention the possibility of the nanos getting out of control, my scientist shooting the idea down immediately. I refuse to do an AI out of control deal. It's been done many times, and now Crichton's done the nano thing. Besides, the research involved is a lot of work in itself. Another reason I've realized I like writing fantasy more than SF.

Great stuff. Very glad I stuck it on my reading list this semester. Been meaning to check it out for a long, long time. Totally worth it.

Read the Review

Currently: Thinkin' about mah sistah.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sniffing, Tasting, Seeing, Hearing, Action

McClanahan has some good stuff in this book. The editors picked a good person to write about description, let me tell you. Frankly, I think this has been the most helpful thing I've ever dealt with when it comes to writing description. Everyone else is too vague. "Show don't tell." "Use personal experience." "Oh, and did I mention show, don't tell?"

I hate that phrase. Mostly because whenever I heard it, no one explained it. I only had a fuzzy idea of what it meant and what people expected from it. Reading McClanahan's book, on the other hand, has been a real treat. The end of every chapter is filled with exercises for practice, and even within chapters she mentions a few things worth trying out.

What's more, she doesn't just talk about describing setting, which is what most people tend to think when it comes to description. She goes into characters, their actions, their objects. She mentions the other senses aside from just seeing - something everyone wants to do (and mentions) when a person or place pops up. "I don't know what so-and-so looks like. Can you describe him?" She has all sorts of little tricks up her sleeve I wouldn't have ever thought about. What's on your character's grocery list? If your character were to go on a trip, what would he/she/it pack?

Ever since reading McClanahan's book (and I'm not quite done yet), I've snorted spices (ok, not literally, but for some scent description training) and eaten a few, thought a some descriptions of my characters (like how I should mention Ballard has a climber's body, something that's become even more important since one of my crit partners thought Ballard was an old guy), picked at some of their actions, looked for more specific words than before so I can go for "the proper naming of a thing," and so forth.

I have a lot of rewriting to do yet, but I think the second time around things will be much better.

Currently: It's early, but I'm awake and feelin' good.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Couldn't Stand Watercolors

As it says on the main Profile, I'm reading Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. My goal this term is to work on my description. Bleh. Er, not about working on my description, but just the fact that for some reason it's become not-so-good. I don't know why, but let's forget about that at the moment.

As I read McClanahan's guide to writing more descriptively, I realized something that helped to explain my difficulty in getting description to transform from mundane to pure awesomeness. Don't know why I never really saw it before; it seems like it should have been as plain as day. I read other great descrptions and think, "Man, I wish I could write like that." Maybe if I'd been paying attention, I wouldn't be at this juncture. The problem lies in my issue with finding just the right words. I find myself constantly trying to find great words to truly express what I want to express. My thesaurus has become dog-eared with use because I just can't seem to fit all these good words into my head. I make little marks next to words as I write, putting notes in the margins, * find alt word, when something doesn't hit me right and I don't want to stop (or I have stopped and haven't found the right word so I simply return later).

McClanahan speaks of the proper and special naming of a thing, as well as words that describe as opposed to merely labeling something. That could not be more right. Without the proper words for an object, action, and so forth, the description isn't as precise and can make all the difference. I need to focus on doing that. Exactly what I needed to be beaned in the head with.

She also mentions taking time to examine things, look at them in different ways, with different perspectives. At least I can say I do this. Often, actually. I like to go outside and ponder the tiny veins in a maple leaf or the way a spider keeps her legs on individual strands of her web, pulling them taut to detect even the slightest movement, which could indicate dinner. Just today I found a black ant, a soldier, in the sink. No idea how he got there, and at first I thought he'd been smashed and someone swept him in there and failed to swish him down the drain. But when it doubt, a little puff of air from your mouth will tell you whether he's alive or not. He was, so then I plopped my chin at the edge of the sink and watched him, letting my soup bubble for its three minutes. I like to just eyeball things and describe them in my head - like the baby praying mantis I once found, who (and I swear by this) loved my petal pink nail polish. But I never put any of it down on paper because I never considered it of any use. Perhaps I should have as practice.

Considering McClanahan's words, maybe I should do this more often before putting anything down on paper when it comes to my story. Sit back, close my eyes, and put myself in the room. Stand next to a character. Touch the table he's at. Stare at the scene he sees (or she in some cases).

I need to sweat the small stuff.

Currently: Somewhere being ethereal.

P.S. More on this book to come as I continue reading.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mmm, spicy.

Working at Barnes & Noble, I can borrow hardcover books, and as long as I don't mess them up, return them after two weeks so they can go back on the shelves in still-perfect condition. We do this all the time, but if we screw up the book, we have to buy it.

BWAH. Always make sure lids on tupperware are completely closed before putting it in the same bag as your book - especially when the container had chili in it. *oh so sad*

Actually, I managed to clean the book off fairly well, and could have probably gotten away with putting it back without buying it, but I couldn't do so in good conscience. So I ended up buying a $30 hardcover edition of Dune by Frank Herbert. I'm not mad anymore, though it does bug me that the book isn't in pristine condition (I'm very anal about the condition of my books - exactly why I'll eventually buy a hardcover edition of LOTR and leave the paperback with those who messed it up). Oh well. I suppose if I were to ever buy Dune, I might as well get it in hardback because it's big enough to merit the strength hardcovers bring.

Likewise, this gives me a chance to comb through it again in the future and look for the technical error as pointed out by my mentor Anne. We briefly discussed the book vs. the Sci-fi channel's miniseries and how there was a techinical error in each (the same one), but I can't remember the Sci-fi channel's version (though I do remember the costumes and color being fantastic), and I didn't see the hiccup in the book. The best I can come up with is the difficulty in transforming Dune from a desert planet to what everyone kept talking about in the book. Frankly, I don't think it could be done, not without a nice set of mountains to help regulate the weather once all the water was eventually released into the atmosphere (and it would be too). If you still need the desert, you'll need some kind of block to keep desert from encroaching upon jungle/woodland/whatever they want to make. Though I might have missed the error because I'd start out with it in my brain and then read and forget and keep reading and only remember the next time I picked up the book. I'll have to find the Sci-fi miniseries to find it I'll bet.

Ok, aside from that, I pretty much got what I expected from the book. At first I was jealous of Herbert, because he head-hops and he gets away with it. I'd love to head-hop like that, which is probably why I get in trouble for doing it. I don't head-hop like he does; it's not structured enough. Well, at least the pieces I had people read didn't have it structured enough. Either way, I don't think I could match Herbert's style, and in reality, why would I want to? Not to put down Herbert of course, but I mean why be him when I should be me? Besides, I can do a little skipping around when I get to my romance novel (oh so far in the future). Anyway, there were a few times when I thought, "Wait, who's thinking/talking now?" due to the hoppage, so even Herbert isn't perfect. Nyah nyah. (I'm so rude...and Frank Herbert passed away 1986 so I should stop).

I'd seen the movie long before this point in time (ah, I remember watching it that one time in college knowing I was the only girl in the room that would enjoy it, haha) and think that aside from a collected number of things, it was pretty close to the book - especially in terms of style. Talk about head hopping there. I think that movie is the only one with that many people thinking thoughts. Very interesting indeed. But the movie was a bit too dark and Paul was too old and it failed to delve into Paul's issues with stopping the jihad.

Speaking of which, I was very interested to see the amount of Middle Eastern-style words and concepts in this book. I wonder why Herbert went this way. Did he study something in that area? Know the language? Associate desert with the culture? He's had a lot of jobs, so who knows (oyster diver! I'd totally do that). Whatever the case, I don't doubt that either research or experience had a hand in it.

I realized a problem that readers have with my work from time to time as I read one of the action scenes in the book. I had no idea what was going on because it was fast and used disembodied weapons and body parts. I didn't know who was doing what and thought, "Aaah, so this is what it's like to read one of my action scenes." Haha. It was a good lesson and reminded me that it was okay to slow down, add a few details as necessary, and be clear on what was going on.
It was a good choice to read "Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpiece" (as it says on my book cover). I'm not sure about all that, though most people have a pretty good idea what you're talking about when you mention Dune. Hey, Donald Maass (head honcho of an agency company) is looking for "the next Dune" so at least now I have a much better idea of what people are asking for when they mention it (you can't include the movie - they're never accurate enough). I don't think my work qualifies as the next Dune (not enough betrayal, economic conflict, and other elements requested), though I really would love to be able to portray the kind of scope Herbert did. Or Tolkien. I love the scope. I want the scope. I've been gathering up worlds and peoples since I was 13. When done right, I think it can bring in so much to a novel and leaves open so many more fun and exciting possibilities.

Problem with reading Dune? Now I have to read the rest of them. Just like with Hyperion. Great, more stuff to add to my already massive library list, hahaha.

Currently: Oh I dunno. Something like this I guess.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Fuck It

The title pretty much sums up my attitude at the moment. Come to think of it, I don't think that's the first time I've used that title for this particular blog. I think I must have forgotten about the syndrome I adopted in high school when the need arose. The Fuck It Syndrome. Came in handy for things that shouldn't be obsessed over. Kind of goes hand in hand with Robin Williams' Fuck-It-All drug. Sweet.

Anyway, so what's the syndrome for this time? Once again, my story is annoying me. Actually, it's not really the story's fault (ok, so it's never the story's fault - it's my story so it's my fault. Fine. Picky, picky). While starting the whole thing was a huge, annoying pain in the ass, this time I've just been fussing over whether or not to include a specific couple of scenes involving two of my characters. Should I bother? Does it do anything for my story? Do I want them in there because they rock out?

I've been agonizing over this little conundrum for quite some time. Longer than I should have, truth be told. I think a part of that agonizing included, "Well how the hell do I change it if I leave it out?" I didn't know. So I was kind of freaked. I was rather used to it the way it was, and even though I enjoyed the scene, I still didn't think it was truly fabulous, so the "Do I want it because I like it?" question was only so-so. Sure I like it, but I wouldn't cry if I had to cut it either.

Things finally came to a head a few days ago when I got to stay up nice and late the way I LOVE to do because they cut back on hours at B&N. I get less hours which = less money, but it's a blessing in disguise because I get more time to write. But what the hell does that matter if I'm not even writing? Ah, here's the "Fuck It" part for you.

The last time I wrote a fanfic was when I went out of my mind and thought, "Why the hell not? It'll be short anyway." By the way, that fanfic has transformed into a great romance story for the future. Hoorah. Anyway, the other night I watched an early episode of Doctor Who and because I'm a complete nerd and think David Tennant is hot (ok, maybe not hot, but I'd be like a kid who was just told the candy store he's in is now his if I ever found David Tennant in my bed, or hell, even in my vicinity...God do I ever need to get laid. Honestly kids, this whole virgin thing is getting OLD), and went to bed dreaming dreams of visiting London and meeting him in a bar...ah I wish.

That morning I woke up and laid in bed for a while, pondering ideas. I don't know about other writers, but I tend to get some great ideas when I just lay there, thinking. Either at night or in the morning. I go through whole scenarios that way. That's exactly where a huge chunk of my current book comes from. An hour of laying in bed. So there I was, pondering a Doctor Who scenario for...God knows what reason. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure where it came from. I'd thought up a character before to hang out with him, but I'd never acted on it (as in wrote it down as a fanfic) though I know exactly where the whole kit n'kaboodle would go. But this idea. It was good. I liked it. It was violent. It had tension (hahaha - sorry, Seton Hill giggle), and I thought, "That would be fun." And then I got up.

I didn't do anything about it for a while until I went through the day thinking about it and realized just how much I wanted to sit my ass down and write it. Of course, those thoughts were tarnished by the thoughts of, "Well, I should be working out this Anna/Rilst problem." Finally, I remembered Mike Arnzen's class, and decided, "You know what? Fuck that. I'm going to write what I want to write." I got up and grabbed my red notebook (*drool* God I love that notebook) and started writing.

Aaaaaah. It was good. God it was so good. Words went onto the paper, endorphins flooded my brain, all was well with the world. Ok, so I don't know about the endorphins part, but it was so nice just to feel my pencil swirling over the paper in pretty little letters to make pretty little words. I don't care that it's a Doctor Who fanfiction and it's a waste of real writing time. In essence it is real writing time. It made me happy and hey, that's all that matters. I've been working on it instead of my story, but I don't much care. I have an entire week off and I have enough done already that I'm not under any crazy pressure constraints.

So yeah. Fuck it. >=)

Currently: Take that bitches!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Did you just make a yummy sound?"

Read the Review

Thanks stomach flu! *blarg* So above I have my "professional" review of the book. Haha. Professional. Whatever. Anywho, that contains half my thoughts on Frankenstein. Yes, Mary Shelley did a good job. Skillful writing, descriptions you can sink your teeth into, and a vocabulary I wish I had. Ah, to have lived during that time. Then again, had I lived during that time, I wouldn't be writing what I am now (well, who knows?). So what do I have to say here that I didn't say in my review?


Aside from my continual disbelief that Frankenstein's creature (ok, you know what? I'm tired of calling him that. From now on, Victor will be Victor, and his creation will be Frankenstein. There.) is able to communicate so flawlessly, I have a bone to pick with Victor.

He is a selfish, selfish man. That's what I kept getting from him. Not in the very beginning, even when he's making Frankenstein, because then he's got this semi-wacked out haze going on in his head: "I can do it, I can make it, it will be fantastic, just think!" and so on. He's so bent on creation, he's basically forgotten everything else. A lot of people can, and have, done that. Though it was a selfish desire that motivated him. Glory, oh glory! Fool. But after that, it became all about Victor, in his mind at least. Oh, sure, he had his moments of "Oh William! Oh Justine! Oh Elizabeth!" and anyone else that had a moment of vulnerability to Frankenstein in Victor's mind, but otherwise it was aaaalll about him. Things like, "Oh how I'd hate to see that wretch [Frankenstein] again! How I am so miserable! Woe is me! I wish I'd never created that abomination!" Yadda yadda yadda. Now, I can understand falling into a guilty depression of Dear God what have I done? This is all my fault! But the man was so consumed with his misery, he didn't ever seem to take into consideration the misery of those around him. Did he ever think on how to solve the problem? No. Did he ever confess his crimes? No (well, once to the judge and then to Walton, but those don't seem much like confessions to me). Even when he thought on death - "Why did I then not die?" - to me it seemed selfish. Sure, your misery is so bad, you think you should just die in order to be free of all the pain. But what about your father, fiancee, brothers, and others around you? And what about Frankenstein? Hmmmm?

I think the height of his selfishness (to me) appeared when Frankenstein said, "I will be with you on your wedding-night" and Victor immediately thinks, "He means to kill me then." Victor may be a genius, but the man has no sense. Take a moment; you'd just refused to create a mate for Frankenstein. Franky's already killed three people close to you. He seeks to make you miserable the way he is; alone. He plans to pop up the night you're married. Just WHO do you think he plans on killing? It doesn't take a rocket scientist. Yes, yes, I know, if Mary Shelley hadn't written the book this way, it may not have gotten to where it needed to go, but I think it's entirely possible for Victor to have known better and still failed. Heck, he can never flippin catch Franky anyway.

There were a few times when Victor managed to get his head on straight and think in the right direction. First when traveling with Clerval and panicking in thinking that Frankenstein might pop up and kill Clerval. Then when pausing to think on what might happen should he finish making a female version of Frankenstein. That was a good, solid train of thought.

Victor is also a fool because he never fully understands just what he has done to Frankenstein. Sure, he listens to Franky's story, but he doesn't truly listen. Franky, in my eyes, really did have promise. Sure, he's a freakish thing in terms of appearance, but consider how often he tried to be good, tried to be useful, and appealed to the better sides of mankind. I'm not defending him when it comes to the murder he does, but I don't doubt that without proper education of morals (despite what he might have heard and read before) and love from the one that made him, he could have turned out much differently.

So, what about the book as science fiction? It's nice to read something from very early on, just for history's sake. Helps one to see how writing and content has evolved since then. Content seems to have continued on the same course. This could have been written now and still rocked the house. It would have to be written differently, of course, as not naming Victor for so long (as mentioned in the review) would bug a lot of people, and having so little dialogue and mostly narration could turn people off. Then again, who knows? The book is still in print, isn't it? Except now it's read as a classic (sometimes a necessity depending upon the classroom teacher that decides to stick it into a lesson plan) as opposed to the stuff on bookstore shelves that others consider mindless sludge. "All that sci-fi nonsense. It's so lame." Actually SF has a better rep now, so maybe not. It always depends on the readers.

Come to think of it, we've redone Mary Shelley's Modern Prometheus story already. Take a look at one of the many AI stories out there. Funny. The things we make always tend to turn around and destroy us, oftentimes because we fail to teach it correctly or reject it and attempt to destroy it, which then leads to the creation attempting to save itself. And what about superiority? Well Frankenstein did inform Victor (who was already quite aware) of his abilities to survive through much more than any human ever could. Small amounts of food, extreme heat, extreme cold, etc. Victor wanted to build a superior creature - he did. In SF humans wants to build better robots - we do. Scary.

When our modern-day, metallic Frankenstein finally wakes up, I don't think it'll be here. I'm willing to bet it will be in Japan. I'm telling you, they need to stop with the smart robots, but will they? Noooo....

Currently: OMG RLY? (slightly spastic for no reason)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Strunk Has Style!

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, as we all know (at least, my residency posse knows), is a tiny book filled with nuggets of gold for writers. That can include everyone, if you're still in school working on college papers and whatnot.

The book is the smallest grammar/style book I've ever encountered, due to (ah, now here I almost wrote "the fact that" - Strunk would be hitting me in the head with a ruler) only a certain number of "rules" listed. Where to put a comma, a semicolon, how to handle yourself with apostophes and so on. I have another grammar book leftover from a creative writing class that lists more usage rules for em dashes, puncutation inside and outside of quotation marks (which I wish Strunk had addressed), and other such items. You get the idea. There's also a nice list of words; how to not screw up allude with elude. Again, you get the idea. If you remember those Mead folders with all the junk on the inside, you should remember the English one with the list of commonly confused words.

But enough about what's inside the book. What about it? It's good (what did you expect?). Strunk wrote this for his students, something I thought was a fantastic idea, and when I started to think about it, I wondered why I'd never heard of the book before. I think everyone in my high school English classes could have used this book. Especially since our teachers (except a one of them) didn't do jack to teach us. It's amazing I love English at all, considering much of the time was spent either watching movies or filling out sheets of busy work. Or doing nothing. I recall doing very little in my senior English class. Right, so I don't get on a rant about poor English teaching, back to the book. Strunk chooses brevity over wordiness, a good idea since wordiness can kill a sentence. I loved some of the ideas he put down on ways to cut out unnecessary words and phrases. I was happy reading, knowing that many of these things I was already doing through choice. You know, that feeling of "That just doesn't sound right" before you reword a sentence? I think a lot of us tend to do that, not because a teacher told us to, but because it isn't hitting our ear right. We want ear candy. Ear candy!

I did feel a bit ignorant when reading words like "gerund" and "participle" and other grammar terms because I couldn't remember what they meant. Ok, shut up, it's been years since I was in a 7th grade English class learning these things. Even then the lack of enthusiasm the teacher had made me drowsy and I couldn't ever stand picking sentences apart and graphing them. I always thought, "This isn't right! A sentence shouldn't be subjected to this!" I was too busy being indignant on the sentence's part to accept what I was supposed to be learning. Now that I sound like a bad student (wasn't, really, I aced the class, but our teacher needed a vacation or to spice up the class somehow). ANYWAY, to get back on point, I had to go look up what some of those meant, only to find out later that (duh) there was a glossary in the back of the book. I laughed to myself and hoped I wasn't the only one who needed it.

I wonder who put it there - Strunk or White? Either way, good move.

I only borrowed the book from work (yeah, again I look like a bad student, I didn't buy it right away, but I have learned that when I do, I'll opt for the paperback instead), but it's on my list o' books to buy. I have no shelfspace (no, seriously, I don't. But I am the God of Organization, so I'm sure I'll be able to think of something), even though I did find a great deal on a pristine copy of Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Yeah, my description has been sucking this time around. I think this surprised one person at residency who had my submission piece. Looking at some of my other works, I don't know what's going on. I have some lovely similes and metaphors.

Strunk and White, eventual revision buddies.

Currently: Whoo!