Monday, October 29, 2012

Just testing whether the looming specter of personal humiliation is a reliable muse

Some advice I liked from the NaNoWriMo website.
2) Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages on the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t. Every book you’ve ever loved started out as a beautifully flawed first draft. In November, embrace imperfection and see where it takes you.
Except for Joseph Conrad's novels.  He only ever wrote one draft.  Maybe this is why so many of his works are so perfectly depressing.
3) Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing keeping you from quitting is the fear of looking pathetic in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your novel for the past month. Seriously. Email them now about your awesome new book. The looming specter of personal humiliation is a very reliable muse.
Hey, everyone, I'm writing a "novel" as defined by NaNoWriMo this November.  Don't write to ask how it's going because I probably won't answer your email, and then I will feel guilty about this.  : )  I'll post updates here.  See you then.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

National Novel Writing Month - possibly a lovely birthday gift

I think I'm going to try it this year.  In preparation, I asked friends for suggestions for good books to read that have voices I can learn from for the kind of book I'm considering writing, and I've been reading them.  I hope to get through several more this weekend while also trying to get ahead for blogging, since it will be second priority to this sustained effort in November.  (I really need to start getting realistic about my abilities and energy reserves one of these days.)  Anyway, I already have a title, which for me is one of the hardest things to come up with for a piece of writing.

Last year, I might have done it, but in August of 2011, I smashed the tip of one of my fingers on my writing hand, and the nerve and fingertip were still very angry at me in November.  (And continued to be so until 6 months later in May, when I could finally type without pain again).  Now the nerve is just slightly miffed, and I am not teaching on top of my regular full-time job, so I think I (and my trusty companion prescription-strength ibuprofen) can mechanically make this work.  (Voice recognition software stands ready to hear me read in what I've written--likely by hand, since that only irritates one hand while typing angers both hands.) 

The last post(s) I write for this month (probably posted early next month will likely be when I force myself to look at each book I read in prep and figure out what I might be able to learn/thieve/borrow from each.  If I don't make myself stop and reflect, I'll just tear through them at speed.  While this strategy is a good one to get more voices into my head, so I can have lots of voices to guide me/choose from as I write, there needs to be something intentional in the mix, too.  Wish me luck on translating that all into a novel in one month.  : )

I think it's kind of a lie to call it a novel, even.  I really just plan to write short stories/chapters/vignettes without really caring if they will all fit the overall themes and without editing.  In the end, I hope to have a huge pile of stuff I can pick through and edit into something more coherent and unified.  Sound like a plan?  Anyone else who's always wanted to try it want to join me? 

Since the blogs are about discipline, I will still try to get my 8 posts a month, but if they are short or more erratic, it's because I consider the big writing to also be evidence of discipline.  : )  If the bloggings are slim in November, now you'll know why. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The day before the layoff

Phrase of the day: "The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked."  This was meant to be a thing about blessings, I think, since rain was scarce in that place at that time, and it makes things grow and keeps things alive.  In the Midwest, we act like it's a negative: sometimes it pours when you don't have an umbrella, and the rain that's soaking you doesn't care if you're good or bad: it just falls.  And that's the thing.  Whether you look at this as something about blessings or curses, things happen to people, and you don't get to control them.  This is life in a fallen world.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Still on the shelf October 2012

Oh, books.  I'm drooling over you, but I'm trying to be an adult here and do responsible things on the weekend instead of drowning in you.  Soon the last applications will be completed and vacations will be had, and books will be read.  Oh, yes, they will.
  • Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore:  This author has turned out two excellent books that take place in the same world.  The books were very different.  I am looking forward to a third excellent book that is also very different.
  • Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare: Leave me alone.  : ) The dialogue is fun, and these characters have had less time to become tiresome.  It's a weird paranormal/steampunk vibe with very polite speech, and I liked the first one, possibly because I am a sucker for demon-drug-addicted-soulful-doomed-guys in books.
  • City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare: Well, Simon is still pretty much awesome.  I'm really in it for him at this point, if you must know.  Certain other folks need to be kicked in the head until they stop acting like idiots.  Well, they needed kicking in the last book.  Now they need way more help than a swift kick could provide . . .  I must admit a sort of morbid curiosity about the upcoming movie adaptation for the first book.  I suspect it won't be nearly as much fun as the book unless they get some really snazzy actors and actresses. 
  • The Fox Woman and Fudoki by Kij Johnson: Even the complaints on Amazon are promising. Something tells me I will adore these, possibly as much as the Tales of the Otori. I hope to find out this winter.
  • Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: Will they stop the war?  Will he ever figure out why the perspicacious creature keeps saying Mr. Sharpe so sarcastically?  Will Alec ever get to be emperor and thus never be able to be in a romance with our other main character?  I don't know, but I will find out and then not spoil it for you.
  • A Calculus of Angels by J. Gregory Keyes: We move to Russia, which didn't actually get destroyed in the first book, but the fallout from said book is pretty fierce even there.  That's all the further I've gotten, but I am looking forward to a day taking up a chair at Panera by the fireplace and finding out what on earth happens next in this fantasy/alternate history weirdstravaganza.
  • A bunch of tween books: I don't know which ones yet, but I figure I ought to fill up the tank before I tackle my just-graduated-from-sixth-grade narrator for National Novel Writing month, which I can probably participate in since I have not destroyed any of my fingers in the last couple of months (fingers crossed).  I'm still not 100% there with the recovery from the August of 2011 smashing, but I'm told the nerves will eventually grow back right as rain.  Got any suggestions?  (For books, not for finger remedies.)  Finding contemporary-ish 11-13 protagonists in non-genre fiction isn't easy.  Good thing I like to read a lot. : )
So what's on your slate coming up?  Any books you've been saving to savor when you have more time?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The week before the layoff: Tuesday

I wonder if this is the last Tuesday I will take this route to work past the half-dead, half-alive tree and the marsh.  Will this be the last Tuesday I do work at this desk surrounded by this three-sided view of clouds watching this plant shiver as heavy machinery moves the floor?  Will this be the last Tuesday I go to this store and then that store and get gas at this gas station and then go home? 

I pray it will be the last Tuesday I ever have to do research on hip surgery (while contemplating potential job and insurance loss). 

Will tomorrow be the day that everything falls apart for me like it did for my cube-neighbor today?  He was one of our managers, an irreplaceable expert.  But they did tell us that this lay-off had nothing to do with how good we are.  It is a thing of cold, hard numbers, HR and finance, not our bosses or those who work with us and give us performance bonuses. 

Now I wish again that I had maintained my goal of only achieving expectations.  Who knew that exceeding them would have the consequence of making me more attractive to a cut based on numbers?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Why you should keep writing

"Keep writing and submitting and asking and trying, but don’t forget that the joy of it is in the simple movement of pen over paper. Of finding the exact right word. Of finding yourself carried into the next paragraph by some wild thought. Of getting a new, startling glimpse of the holy. Publication may come, or it may not, but it will never get better than this." - Addie Zierman

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fantasy Lady Bits Posing

I stumbled across some interesting discussions about book covers (particularly genre book covers) and what they say to readers.

Jim C. Hines is a male fantasy author.  He decided to try recreating some of the poses (in costumes as close to the original as he could in most cases) on the covers of his and others' fantasy books.  Be sure to open the link and go check this out because it is hilarious and thought-provoking.
"To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being sexual. I can totally see Snow from the princess books flaunting her stuff, for example. But posing like these characters drives home exactly what’s being emphasized and what’s not.

"My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk."
Ils has some interesting things to add to the discussion in a Tumblr post.  "I guess some people find torso dislocation sexy? I’m not one of those people."

That post was pretty popular, and she discovered she had some additional things to say, so she made another post that included these gems.
'Oh, no, sorry, have females that are awesome in their own right, but don’t let them be awesome without being sexy.'

'We don’t need that pose to show off the good ol’ T&A. We know they have them. And there are plenty of times they show them off. I mean come on, they are females, and they’re moving around. A fellow black belt from my TaeKwonDo class has fantastic kicks. I mean yeah, I can kick, I’m proud of my kicks, but hers could knock you back from the sheer awesome. Her perfect stance also happens to show off her perfect body. It’s a byproduct. It happens. So the extra push that takes “sexy” over into “that…what, no,” why does it seem so necessary?'
Good question.

This whole argument ended up leading me to another Tumblr blog with the awesome name of "Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor," wherein the author proves that it is possible to clothe the fighting ladies in more while subtracting none of their deadliness or sexiness.  It can be done!

This Tumblr inspired an actual armorer to post a pretty good explanation of the nature and purpose of armor and how it could be practically applied to females, as well. 

And we're not even talking about how the men often get to dress with complete modesty and weather-responsiveness while the women don't . . .  : )

Monday, October 1, 2012

What I've been reading lately

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: In this volume, DJ sort of dates this guy, and that ends badly.  Mostly she keeps dealing with her screwed up, silent family, as they deal with a real crisis or two.  I love this narrator's voice and the way she comes to realize things about herself and the people around her and starts to act on them in small but powerful ways.

Book Girl and the Wayfarer's Lamentation: So what does a book series do after it resolves what you thought was going to be its main conflict?  Well, I'll have to find out in the next volume because this was the volume where some big showdowns happened, and it gets pretty brutal.  There are a lot of reversals in this book as characters and motivations are twisted and shown to be not exactly what you were led to believe.  Lots of emotional tension and some great book-related information, as per usual.

Newton's Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes: Ben Franklin + Alchemy = pretty entertaining. Unless you're London.  At least he's really sorry.

Margaux with an X, Now Playing: Stoner and Spaz II, and Deadvilleby Ron Koertge: The endings are never cheaply happy.  Each protagonist is so unique.  All the books are united by their common excellence.  Not perfect, mind you, but great.  I am impressed by his ability to make convincing characters who so easily move the plot along while narrating in first person.  I need to study this; if done right, the books just seem to hum along even if there's not really much action.  I am also impressed by his ability to create realistic adult characters, use interesting family groups/dynamics, and seamlessly include characters with various kinds of disabilities.  Well done!

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: This book is always an interesting read (especially if you're me and forget everything between readings).  Ponder once again these clear examples, this lack of theological buzzwords, the thought-provoking ideas grounded firmly in a time past.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson: If you are easily offended, this one is not for you; the language is frequently R-rated, as is the content (sometimes more "R" for ralph-inducing).  As the Bloggess, Jenny Lawson tells stories about her screwed up life.  And it is screwed up. 

People who think they grew up with quirky parents will be put in their places by this book.  There are baby racoons in jams, lessons in couch etiquette, more than you really wanted to think about cow artificial insemination, dead babies, saint-worthy husbands, feeling stabby, and more neuroses than you can shake a roadkill puppet at.  You will find that you really love your job (unless you work in HR).  You will be grossed out and offended for sure.  You might also laugh hard enough to have an asthma attack.  More than once.

Best served in small doses, this one nonetheless adds up surprisingly well into something akin to a memoir.  However, you really need to know what you're getting into when you read this, or you will be disappointed.  It's not Shakespeare, and it's not trying to be.  If you read it like a blog (a little bit every so often), you'll probably end up with a better opinion of it than if you try to read it like a normal memoir or novel.  If it starts getting tedious, stop reading and come back to it later when you need a really weird pick me up.