Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Agony

I'm kind of in pain right now. For a very good reason, I assure you.

I'm in a contest with 397 other people. We all submitted a picture book manuscript, and now they're being voted on. I'm number 108 right now, which isn't too terrible, all things considered. But that's not what's killing me.

The thing is, all the people who have absurdly high vote counts have really lame stories.

And I honestly don't say that because I'm jealous, or conceited, or have any sort of grand ideas about my own story. I say it out of complete objectivity. They're just... bad.

We're talking misspelled words, run-on sentences, rhymes that don't rhyme, "rhythmic books" that don't have any sort of rhythm at all, preachiness, complete lack of plot...

In short, so many thing that will always cause pain to rational, intelligent human beings. There have been several that I couldn't even finish. I even found a Your vs You're mistake! Authors just shouldn't do that. EVER.

And these people are beating me out by hundreds of votes.

Yeah, it really is more of a popularity contest than anything else. But I still retain one hope: the highest voted stories aren't the only ones that will make it to the finals round. The staff who run the contest get to choose favorites too, and I have a small amount of hope that they are actually competent in the publishing industry.

In other words, I am hoping that they won't allow the grand prize to be taken by someone who can't write worth beans. It may not be me. I hold no grand ideas about being so vastly superior to any of these people. But if it isn't me, I just really hope that the story that wins is at least good.

PS. Vote for me:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nano Day the Last

Well I did it. I won Nano, and 4 days early too.

I know I didn't do a spectacular job of keeping up the blog records toward the end. I didn't keep track of my numbers either, except to log them into the nano site. But the important part is that I did it. I broke 50,000 at about 11:25 this, the evening of saturday the 26th of November.

I'm pretty sure you can see the graph on my profile here


if you really want.

Things I learned?

-Sometimes just pressing on is the most important thing. That can be applied to Nano and life. You'd be surprised what happens when you just wade through the hard parts. They can end up being the best parts.

-"I just don't have time" is code for "I'd like to, but it isn't as important to me as these other things." Again, applicable to Nano and life. Everyone has the same exact 24 hours in their day. What we do with it is entirely up to us. When something is important, you make time. It's always possible. It's just about priorities.

-It's really easy to justify things. Last year during Nano, I ended the first week by being 3 or 4 thousand words ahead of where I needed to be. The second week I started looking at how much a day I had left to do instead of my every day needed goal. Gradually, after being lazy and not writing as much as I could have, I depleted my excess word count and ended up several thousand words behind. So, on the last day, I was on my computer, typing furiously all day, trying to catch up and make it. I did, but only just.

This year was extremely different. I was never behind, even once. I got a good deal of excess my first week, but I ignored it. I pretended I was only exactly on track. I forced myself to still meet the same daily goal every day, even though I was so far ahead. There were days that were slow, and I just didn't make it. But I never had a day where I did less than a thousand, except for one (the wed right before thanksgiving) because I just didn't do any that day. I spent all of it hanging out with people. And doing it that way, I not only won with no stress at all, but four days ahead of time. (a 7,000 word excess).

Which is better? The second, without question. Constancy makes an amazing difference in so many things.

-A lot of things in life are more about determination than anything else. (see my other blog for more in depth on this. http://supremechancellorsra.blogspot.com/2011/11/chariots-of-fire.html )

Well, that's it for tonight, folks. Happy continuing nano to some of you, and here's to learning things about life for the rest of you. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nano Day 16

Daily: 1,976
Total: 33,912

Man. At 11:59 I checked my total so I could type it into the nano website where it keeps my stats. I was 88 words short of 34k and I had one minute.

Problem: At my very best, I've only ever managed about 7o wpm. And that's when I knew what to type.

So 88 words in one minute was not going to happen. But I got enough to pass the daily goal today, which is good. I've been doing quite well with that, actually. I've only had two days where I didn't make the daily goal, but one of them was just barely barely short, and both of them were still over 1,000 words.

I'd say that's pretty spectacular. Over a thousand words every single day for 2 weeks straight.

Anyway, today's nano post has to do with something I realized while contemplating my intense contempt for Christopher Paolini.

(Why so much contempt? See this post on my other blog:http://supremechancellorsra.blogspot.com/2011/11/non-spoiler-inheritance-review.html )

Huh, I guess if you count all these blog posts, my word count is even higher.

Anyway, it was about rejections. As in career oriented rejections, not getting dumped or bullied, or whatever. Rejections, in this case, specifically for writing.

Getting rejected hurts. (I would know.) No one likes to realize that they aren't as good at something as they used to think they were. It's painful soul-deep, especially when it comes to your life dream. But it happens because it has to.

Rejections weed out those who aren't into it with their whole being.

Rejections make you evaluate yourself. They force you to make yourself better.

Rejections make you work harder.

Rejections make you learn more about your field.

Take American Idol, for example. Or any other of those reality tv shows. Notice how many people go on these shows and then refuse to learn. They refuse to take any sort of criticism.

They call it "being true to myself" and "not letting morons discourage me." Those are just euphemistic ways to say "I know better than anyone else." (Obviously not always, but in these cases, it definitely is.) The people who go on to win are always the ones who accepted rejections and used them to improve.

Without rejection letters, the book market would be even more of a slovenly mess than it is. There would be oodles of trash, and barely anything good to read. The truly quality works would be lost amidst the rubbish.

Sad, but true.

Rejections, more than anything else, are what will make us reach our potential. Do you have the gumption to walk through that fire?





Sunday, November 13, 2011

Nano 12

A bit late, yes. It is mid-afternoon on the following day. But I spent many many house last night working on reading Inheritance, which is finally starting to get good. Paolini is just too wordy sometimes. I could chop his 800 page monstrosity into 500 pages and have it be just as good of a story with much less unnecessary down time.

Which actually sort of relates to what I was getting on here to say.

One of the daily aspects of my life, an aspect that is so common that I barely notice it anymore, is that of me missing half of what's happening around because of being completely distracted by other things that are

SQUIRREL!

around me.

I joke about it. You have to. But it really does happen, and far too frequently. While my home teachers were over here earlier, 5 or 6 times I suddenly realized that I had been in lala land, and I had absolutely no idea how much time had passed since I stopped listening to what was being said. (Though luckily it usually ends up being just a couple seconds.)

It wasn't because it was boring, or I didn't like my teachers, or anything. It's just that my conscious brain and my subconscious brain very rarely want to be doing the same activity at the same time. And when they are, it's not always what I'm supposed to be doing.

At work it happens too. I'll take a book from my stack, go to put it away, and glance at the cover. I find it interesting, so I look at it for a few seconds. And then very suddenly I realize that I have no idea whatsoever of how long I've been staring at the book cover. It could be minutes, and I just don't know.

What was the point of all that?

Because writing stories, especially when I'm in my groove, doesn't get that way. I mean, sure, sometimes I don't know where things are going. I have a slow word count day, and I stare at the screen long enough to burn holes in it. It happens then.

But when I'm typing up a storm... that's one of the few things that really, truly focuses me. I can think fast, I can brainstorm, I can come up with great ideas, and I can type them all out, and my focus doesn't fizzle out on me.

I guess that's part of why I like it so much.

Last night I made a goal to break 27k and I totally did it. Not only that, but I spent the last half of the evening watching Sound of Music. I kicked some serious butt.

Daily: 3,119
Total: 27,067

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nano 11-11-11

Miracles happen sometimes. Today's miracle was getting almost double my word count goal when I thought I wasn't going to make it at all.

It was just one of those frozen days. I got on my computer, typed around 400 words. Ish. And got completely stuck. Then I fell asleep for like an hour, and woke up again at 9:30 pm or something. And was still stuck, but now with an arm that was so numb that it hurt from falling asleep on my computer.

And so I got up, walked around, did some stuff, played farkle on my phone (which I lost horribly), and then sat down and tried again. I still didn't know what was going on, and it was very hard to progress. But I just typed in a sentence, without much thinking about what it was. And then another. And then another.

Then I got to a part that was good. I knew what was going to happen. At least generically. The details were still a mystery to me. But I began typing at full blast. And low and behold, when I counted my words at midnight, I'd blown clear past my daily quota (of 1667) and done 2,744.

Needless to say, I was extremely pleased.

So, I guess the moral of the story on this one is "sometimes things turn out better than you plan, even if they didn't go how you plan."

Or maybe "trudging through tough times is always worth it. Don't give up."

Or possibly even "never type on an empty stomach."

Take your pick.

Daily: 2,744
Total: 23,948


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nano 9 - Meet D

Things are CRAZY right now. But in a good way. Somehow I've been able to keep up on my word count through it all.

Daily: 2,362
Total: 19,170

Sometimes unexpected characters just appear and become amazing without you ever having to think about it. There was a part today that I'm particularly excited about.


(This part mostly makes sense without explanation, but just in case: Aiden and Dayne are on their way to the capital of the merpeople. They don't know specifically where it is, and they start this scene out in a completely pitch black part of the ocean, having just been attacked by one of those creepy angler fish. It's a little long, but pretty good, I think.)


“What are you doing here?” The first guard asked.

Before Aiden could formulate any reasonable response, Dayne blurted, “Mermaids! They’re really real!”

“Excuse me?” The guard huffed. “Do I look like a ‘maid’ to you? Maybe you should get your sorry little two legs back to the land where they belong before I turn them into a pair of earrings for my girlfriend.”

“Sorry.” Dayne muttered, so that he was barely audible.

"That’s what I thought. You know, we’re under orders to kill any humans we see. But I’m feeling generous today, so if you leave now, I won’t set the hounds on you.”

“That’s a bit harsh.” Aiden replied, trying to appear confident and friendly. “After all, most humans don’t even know that merlinthae exist.”
“An educated little human. Fun. But that’s not my problem. I just do my job. And my job is to stick this spear through your ribcage unless you vamoose pronto. How’d you get here anyway? Shouldn’t you be drowning by now?”
“I‘m glad you asked, uh...”
“You can call me D.”
“D. We’re here to see Merkus. We’re ambassadors. As you can probably tell, we have a diplomatic ward placed over us that proves we mean no harm.”
“Oh boy. You’re gonna wish you hadn’t said that.” D said, lowering his spear. “Merkus isn’t in an especially nice mood today. Especially regarding humans.”
“Still, we need to see him.”
“Well, alright. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Come peacefully and give your weapons to my buddy Oshin here, and we won’t tie you up. But first sign of trouble, and you’re going in the cuffs. Got it?”
Aiden didn’t know what cuffs were, but they didn’t sound too nice. He nodded, and handed his sword over to a brawny guard who’s torso was violently yellow. Dayne reluctantly gave up his spear and shield. Then the whole group of guards turned around and faced into the black nothingness.
For a moment, nothing happened. Aiden wondered if they were waiting for some sort of transportation. Then the water around him started to swirl. A thin shaft of light appeared, far brighter than the unconscious glowing demon fish. It widened steadily, and Aiden soon realized that it was a massive door.
They had been floating mere feet away from a bustling city. Lights and sounds flooded into the dark. Aiden was flabbergasted. If the Aurelus cloud city had been spectacular, it was nothing compared to what he was seeing now. Thousands of merpeople swam about. More drove chariots pulled by large ox-like fish. There were shops and banks and restaurants of every kind.
All of the walls, including those through which the guard party had just passed, seemed to be of a very thin bubble membrane that could be clear or opaque at the discretion of the owner. Aiden reached out and ran his hand along the city wall. It was soft and stretchy, just as expected, but also extremely strong. Nothing was going to break it any time soon.
“Hey, human. Get moving now. You wanted to see Merkus, so let’s go see him.”
“Aiden.”
“Huh?” D asked.
“My name’s Aiden. And this is Dayne. Nice to meet you.”
“Thanks, I guess. You do know that you’re sort of under arrest, right now, and that Merkus will probably kill you?” D said with a confused air.
“Yes.”
“Oh. Well then, as long as you know. Nice to meet you too, Aiden.”
“This city is amazing.” He said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Dayne agreed.
D grinned proudly. “Our capital, you know. Not all of them are like this. We’re pretty pleased with it.”
“We just come from a little village.” Dayne remarked. “A few dozen people and a chief elder.”
“Some people like the quiet life.” D said casually. “Not me, though. I’m definitely a city guy. There’s so much to do and see here. Not to mention my girl.” He winked at the two boys, who smiled. “You got yourselves some pretty girls back home?”
Dayne blushed furiously.
“Ah, I thought so.” D said. “What’s she like?”
“She’s my sister.” Aiden said quickly. “But Dayne’s a good guy, so I approve. Though I do think he’s getting the better end of the deal.”
As if he hadn’t heard Aiden’s playful jab, Dayne said, “Wow. She’s the most beautiful girl on the island. Every time I see her I have trouble breathing.”
“Boy, I know exactly how that goes. The first time I saw Brie, I forgot what I was doing and swam straight into a wall.”
“Ouch.” Aiden said with a laugh.
“That’s the truth. See this here?” D pointed to a pair of graceful fins that ran the whole length of his silver-gray tail. “Bruised the left one so bad, I had to be in slime for a week. Not a pretty sight.”
“Slime?”
“Eh, sort of like bandages, but for bruises and stuff. But it worked out okay. I think she felt bad for me when she saw me hit. She took me home in her chariot, and the rest is history.”
“That’ll be a fun story to tell if you ever have any kids.” Aiden remarked.
D looked a bit shocked at the idea of children, but recovered quickly. “Yeah, I guess it would. Well, I hate to end the party, but we’re here. The palace. Best let me do the talking until we get you in the audience room.”
“Right. Thanks D.”
The palace was truly impressive. Made of opaque bubble-like material, just as the rest of the city, it stretched so far to either side that Aiden couldn’t even see how long it was. They were stopped at the gate, where D and Oshin talked to the guards on duty. Soon they were marching past the sentries and into the palace itself, which offered the boys even more to marvel at.
There was gold everywhere. How it stayed nice under so much salt water, Aiden could only guess. But it was very nice. Gems dotted every other piece of furniture. Portraits lined the hallways. Rich carpets that looked to be made of woven seaweed lined the floors, despite the fact that no one actually walked on them.
In nearly every way, the merlinthaen palace seemed to be the opposite of the almost spartan aurelus council house. It had been beautiful, certainly, but in a much more efficient, clean-cut sort of way. Aiden had little difficulty in choosing which he preferred, although he’d rather not have his dream home under a mile of water.
Every room was full of activity. In one, a debate was going on between two important looking mermen. In another they passed, a few dozen almost entirely blue merfolk were painting signs. Aiden wondered how the paint worked under water. They passed many rooms with expensive chairs lined up in rows around a central podium, presumably for speeches.
D hadn’t done too much talking. Nobody seemed to notice that his prisoners had legs instead of tails. Still, Aiden was glad to have him there. It was nice to know that Aiyla was right. Some of the merfolk were just ordinary decent people. He had just begun to hope that his mission might succeed when a completely jungle-green mermaid in a swanky business suit swam up to D.
“What do you think you’re doing here with those humans?” She asked frantically.
“Brie, they’re ambassadors here to see Merkus. I can’t do anything about that.”
“You know what his orders were.”
D pulled the mermaid off to the side and whispered, “Baby, I know that. But I can’t just kill something for no reason. They didn’t attack us. They were really polite. And besides, the tall one has a girl back home waiting on him. What do you want me to do?”
Brie looked torn. “I’m just worried, D. About you. You remember what he did to the last guard who disobeyed him. You promised me you’d be more careful.”
“I know. But I thought humans were supposed to be stupid and violent, just ready to kill us all. But they aren’t. At least, not these two. I have to do what’s right. But it’ll be okay. I promise.”
Brie gave in, and smiled. “I love you, D. Just be careful.”
“I love you too.”
He kissed her quickly, and then returned to the three who waited for him. Oshin was glancing away respectfully, but Aiden didn’t try to hide the fact that he’d heard the whole thing.
“She really is pretty.” He said with a smile.
“She sure is.” D said absently. As he led them forward again, he said to himself “kids? Yeah, I could see that.”
They passed through a few more bustling hallways before reaching a set of doors with more guards in front of them. Once again, D talked to them, half in Aiden’s language and half in the gurgly merlinthaen tongue. The guards looked concerned, but went through the doors to announce the arrival of the humans.
“This is your last chance.” D said, turning to them. “You sure you don’t want to just swim on home where it’s safe?”
“I’d sure like to.” Aiden said as his stomach did a few somersaults. “But it won’t be safe there for long. Not with this war that’s going on.”
D looked stricken. “I didn’t know.”
“Was she right? Is Merkus going to kill you for helping us?” Dayne asked.
“Kill, no. Other unfortunate plans? Well, I won’t go into what happened to the last guy. But don’t worry about it. I’ve got friends in high places all over this palace. We’ll be fine.”
“Thanks.” Aiden said. “I sure hope we can solve this. You’re a good guy, D.”
“Merman.” Dayne said with a wink.
“Maid.” D said through a chuckle. He rolled his eyes, shook his head, and floated backward to a lobby area.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nano 8 - Whatcha!!

Today was amazing on so many levels. So many.

Best. Day. Ever.

I'm not going to go into it here. Not the big important parts anyway. They're still in the process of happening anyway.

But also we won our soccer game and moved on in the tournament.

I got my book, Inheritance, on hold at the library. It only came out today, and I was almost first on the list. And tomorrow is my day off, so I can read it and still get word count in.

And I had fabulous, amazing (and 50% off) pork roast for dinner. Can I just say, I can make some MEAN pork roast.

So yeah, I was so hyper-excited-jazzed-freaking out- crazy today that I didn't think I'd get in my word count. I'd gotten 1077 before these things happened, and I figured that would have to do for the day.

But BAM. In one hour, I got in over a thousand more words, not only meeting the daily goal, but surpassing it rather nicely. Put that as another most amazing and awesome thing for today.

Really, best day ever.

Daily count: 2,230
Total: 16,808

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nano 7 - End of Week 1

Well, good and bad news. The good news is that I am way ahead of where I need to be on word count.

The bad news is that I was really hoping to break 15k tonight, and would have normally been able to. I was only 400 words off. But I just had a slow day. The numbers didn't want to come.

More good news is that, despite it being a really slow and trudging day for word counts, I still came pretty dang close to meeting the daily goal.

I very definitely plan to keep this up and break 30k at the end of week 2.

Daily: 1492 (teehee.)
Total: 14,578

I don't have any insights today. Sorry. The slow day affected that too. So instead, I give you an excerpt. I was going to do a different part, but for it to make sense, it had to be kind of long. So I picked this one instead. It's part of the one on my nanowrimo profile.

**Note, this is from the pre-nano part. Which is itself about 15k words. (I started my nano count at like chapter 8 or something.)

Even more than before, the strange shadows crossed his mind, giving him chills. He pulled out his knife, determined to get the job over with quickly.
A shadow passed by on the right, just outside the netted barriers. He tried to ignore it. Nothing dangerous could get through to him now that they had improved their perimeter security. Or at least, he hoped so. All the same, he sawed at the dead leaves a little quicker.
A strange tingling spread across his skin. He knew that he should be safe, but he couldn’t suppress the feeling that something was right behind him. He prepared to push off from the ground, and head back to the shallow waters. As he did, he turned around, just to reassure himself.
There, not ten feet away, was a mermaid.
Aiden knew that she was a real mermaid. Something about her made him quite certain that she was no illusion. She had a human torso, and a long, scaled tail. Her skin was a murky, pale green, making her difficult to see clearly. Her tail was a darker version of the same color, and her hair was coarse and flat, almost like sea weed.
She smiled at him with sharp, evil-looking teeth, and then lunged. She was obviously more at home in the water than Aiden, and covered the distance between them before he could get away. He had pushed off, and started paddling for the surface, but she caught his ankle in a grip that he knew he could never break.
He struggled against her, kicking and stroking, but it was useless. She was far too strong, and he was almost out of air. The look on her face was one of glee. She was just playing with him. Drowning him with such ease that she found it funny.
Aiden’s lungs screamed for air. He only had seconds left before he blacked out, and then he would be at the mercy of the sea. A picture of Rindi appeared in his mind just then. The thought of his sister gave him enough strength to swing his arm down upon the mermaid in one last strike.
He had forgotten about the knife in his hand. It slashed the green-skinned forearm, and she squealed in rage, releasing his foot. He paddled desperately for surface, only vaguely aware of the green creature that took up the chase.
After what had seemed like an eternity, he burst out into the air and sucked in huge lungfuls. He was coughing and shaking, and only had about a second to recover before a long-nailed hand was groping at his ankles again. He kicked as hard as he could while treading water, and connected with something. Then he began the swim to the shelf, all the while knowing that it would be impossible to out-swim a mermaid.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nano Day 6

This is going to sound a little creepy...

More than anything else about writing, what I really enjoy is being the puppet master. Having the reader's emotions on strings so that I can tug whenever I want and be in complete control.

Come to think of it, that may explain some of my results from those "what kind of villain would you be?" quizzes.

I don't know why, exactly. But there is something intensely satisfying about having the audience captured so thoroughly that they laugh or cry or burn me in effigy. That because of something that I created, I have their emotions in my iron grasp, to dispense as I please.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm NOT a villain.

Nano midnight daily count: 1842
Total: 13086

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nano 5 - Magic

Writing stories is the closest I will ever get to real magic.

I've never been able to use the force, or fly. (I have tried many times.) But stories are the next best thing. When I'm in my groove, I feel like I'm ruling the world.

Literally.

You know those movie scenes where one of the characters is standing on a mountain top, crazy with power? You know the drill, outstretched arms, laughing maniacally, lighting zapping through the sky above them. Sometimes fireballs and incinerated villages are involved.

I like fireballs.


That is what I mean when I say magic. That feeling of power and confidence and energy that makes you laugh psychotically because there is no other outlet. (Sometimes incinerating villages doesn't even do it.)

Writing isn't like that every single day. But when it is, that sure makes up for all the rest.

Today was one of those days. My word count was spectacular. I met and surpassed 3 different goals. I did 1,035 of my words in one hour. With facebook breaks.

Today, I really am the supreme chancellor of the world. (See the url for my other blog, if this statement confuses you.) ( http://supremechancellorsra.blogspot.com/ )

Nano update:
Today's daily: 3,268
Total: 11,244

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nano Day 4

There are a lot of numbers in this post.

Today's nano experience was interesting. I didn't quite meet my daily quota (which is 1,667 words per day) but I came pretty close. I hit 1,612. This puts me at 7,976 for my day four total.

Yeah, I am still ahead of my needed goal. (1,667 x 4 = 6,668). Well ahead, really. I have a 1,308 safety cushion. (For now.) But the thing that was fun about this isn't that I'm still easily on track. It was the word sprint I just finished.

I am far too easily distractable. I made the mistake of checking my etsy store to see if this lady had bought her order yet. This turned into a searching for christmas presents party. (Which I did find, btw. I got some good things.)

At 11:32 pm I suddenly realized that I had spent far too much time there, and not enough writing. I was at 7,196. I needed 8,031. I had 28 minutes in which to do said 835 words. (Literally half of my needed daily quota).

At 11:45 I still needed 522. I hadn't even gotten halfway. So I kicked it into high gear. I started typing with reckless abandon. I did 458 words in 15 minutes.

That's 30.5 words per minute. Spectacular.

Yes, I can type way, way faster than that when I know what I am saying. (I average like 60 wpm). But I didn't. Also, even though I didn't stop to fix all of my typos, I did fix some of them. And I had to stop a couple of times to think of where to go next. So all in all, that was a pretty awesome victory.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nano Nov 3 - Aurelus

The story I'm working on for nano is actually something I've had on the back burner for a long time. So my nano count is actually starting at something like chapter 8.

I decided to work on this one specifically because I feel like it has a great deal of potential, but I was totally and completely stuck. Nano is energizing that way. It gives me motivation to just type my fingers off. Like I said in the last post, when I stop to think, my thinking stops.

The story is called Aurelus.

Aiden is just a sea farmer. A young boy who works hard tending kelp and fish alongside his sister. After a violent storm, he happens upon a strange girl, who is wounded and unconscious on the beach. Chaos follows. Lava flows chase him down. A real live mermaid tries to kill him for helping the girl. And the girl herself turns out to be an Aurelus - A "mermaid" of the air.

Aiden has stumbled into a war between the elements. The balance of the earth is at stake, and by extension, the fate of the human race. And he, as a human, might just be the key to establishing peace between the warring elementals.


I got the idea for it when I was randomly googling pictures of the 4 elements. I came across this one:

It's called the elemental goddesses, by someone on deviant art, I think. It's cool as it is. But when I very first looked at it, it was just a tiny thumbnail, and I thought they were mermaids. You know, except for each element. Like an air-maid, and a fire-maid, etc. That idea was super cool to me.

When I clicked on it, I saw that wasn't the case at all. But the idea was in my head. Elemental "mermaids". It was one of those ideas that sort of hit me over the head until I started working on it. It love and hate when that happens.

Current word count: 6079 (For a daily count of 1470. More to come after work later this evening.)


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nano - Nov. 2nd

Today's nano thought:

It's not hard for me to crank out high word counts. It is hard for me to not want to go back and make those words actually good.

I can type fast. And my best thinking comes when my fingers are flying across the keyboard. If I stop to think, my thinking stops. Unfortunate but true. I just have to keep going.

However, there comes a point in every nano project when you realize that what you're writing is not very good.

Because, let's face it, it never is. Writing 50k words in 30 days is not going to produce anything resembling quality.

But what you have to remember is that no book ever became good on the first draft. Even bestsellers by people like Stephen King or Dean Koontz take drafts upon drafts to become publishable.

Once you have a draft written, that's when the real work begins.

It's just hard to remember that. I keep thinking of things I want to go back and fix, but I must force myself not to.

Today's total word count at midnight: 4609

(1728 yesterday and 2881 today)

(not counting these blog posts. ;)

NANOWRIMO Headquarters

I officially declare this blog (for november at least) to be my nanowrimo headquarters.

Just in case someone who doesn't know what nano is comes across this post, allow me to enlighten you.

November is National Novel Writing Month. But it's not really just national. Thousands of people from all over the entire world participate.

All you have to do is write a novel in 30 days.

*screeching brakes* What the???

Yes, you read that right. One novel. 30 days.

(And yes, most of us are completely bonkers.)

Rules?

-No stopping to edit.

-Just write up a storm.

-50k words from midnight on Nov. 1st to midnight on Nov. 30th. (This averages to about 1667 words a day.)

We're not talking publishable, here. (Yet. Editing comes later.)

And we're not even talking long. (50,000 words. That's the bare minimum for a novel length publication.)

The point of all this is really to get it done. For most people who want to write, the hardest part is just doing it. Once there's a rough draft to work with, there's motivation and a sense of accomplishment, and things happen.

The worst enemy for any writer is a blank page.

Nano is basically "confront that blank page and kick its sorry butt" month.



Anyone can do it. You don't have to be an aspiring author, or an English major.

I did it last year.
To be a winner, all you have to do is meet your goal.





Just go to nanowrimo.org, type in a user name, and start keeping track of your word count.

It's only the 2nd. You still have time.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Truth Has Been Spoken

This is copied from a friend's facebook status. A friend who happens to be an elementary school teacher.

Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year. It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit! We can get that for less than minimum wage.

That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (.........7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and planning-- that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year. I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET'S SEE.... That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year.

What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute... The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids! Make a teacher smile; repost this to show appreciation for our teachers! :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

(Almost) All You Need Is Love

I know it's 2 in the morning. I know I have to go to work tomorrow. But I was so blown away by this article that I had to mention it.

When I say blown away, I don't mean that the ideas in it are so revolutionary. In fact, they're so basic, so down to earth, and so obvious that it's just fantastic to me that people don't understand it.

Read it here.

No really, read it. It's a little long, but definitely not boring.

There were a few specific points that I particularly liked.

In case you're far too lazy and boring to click on my link, here's a paragraph from it that contains the gist of the subject.

Although I’m a passionate advocate of whole language I believe it’s perfectly possible for whole language to fail in the hands of a rude, thoroughly nasty teacher who hates children. Similarly, although I feel that the teaching of phonics outside meaningful texts is the least efficient way to teach reading, I believe absolutely that a joyful, enthusiastic, experienced teacher who uses phonics and only phonics, will nevertheless have a large measure of success in teaching her students to read. That’s the influence of the affective.


People have done so much research on methods, and had so many arguments about which way is better, that they've forgotten a kind of important aspect of learning to read: Passion.

Another part I liked:

The passion I am asking for from teachers is a passion beyond the pay cheque. It’s a passion for children’s books, as well as for their own reading, for if teachers don’t love to read why on earth should children?

Why should I learn to do math if the person who is teaching me hates to do math? What possible reason could I have to learn to play the trumpet if music is so hateful to the person I am learning from?

And this:

Asked to describe the year in one word Marian said: ‘Blah.’

‘Blah?’ I said. ‘Describe blah.’

‘Blah means all on one level. It means we had a steady, predictable routine. There were no dramas. There were no highs, no lows. We did lots of worksheets about nouns and adjectives and verbs and stuff and I guess we learnt it but we didn’t use it. We wrote very rarely—less than ten stories the whole year and when we did the teacher never got excited. She’d write: “This is a good story, Marian,” and you’d wonder what kind of good it was but she never said so you didn’t get excited about the next story. We wrote a lot of reports but they went nowhere, just sort of into the desk and you thought why make the effort? When we had to write she sat there eating and reading the paper. I guess she wasn’t a bad teacher it’s just the whole year was sort of grey and forgettable, like mud not fireworks.’

Mud, not fireworks. I've yet to hear a metaphor that describes the difference between a bad school year and a good one better than this does.


She associated books with cuddles on the rocking chair on her mother’s lap, sweetly learning to read first words, then pages, then whole stories in the happy relaxed knowledge that she was the centre of her mother’s focus and pride. Her emerging literacy was greeted with so much encouragement and praise, with so many and hugs and kisses, that she learnt to read fast, without a moment of strain or tension, doing her best to please her mother because it was so obvious that her mother adored her and was excited by her progress.


Duh. And yet, no one seems to get it. Thinking that worksheets and drills and stress are the best ways to accomplish things. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy anything that was stressful to learn about. Part of the reason I still can't play the piano, probably. It was work, not fun.

And my favorite line of all:

Their inherent passions and the love that flows through them freshen up an often dry and meaningless education system, enabling it to become more affectively orientated and therefore also ultimately more effective, by capturing hearts so minds will follow; they make a school year like fireworks, not mud;


By capturing hearts, so minds will follow. I can't say it any better than that.

The Beatles were almost right. (Almost) All you need is Love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I don't usually do this, but...

The day started off normal. Everyone's did. Well, except for a few "pilots"...

The rumors started around lunchtime. Which, in high school, was more like 10:45 or 11. They were vague, and I didn't hear any directly. They just floated. Whispers from invisible mouths.

There was something about a bomb threat, but this was Rustburg, Virginia. It's not like that hadn't happened before. And no one ever followed through.

Just at the end of lunch, someone started panicking. Something about blowing up Lynchburg.

Why the heck would someone nuke Lynchburg, of all the places in the world?

After lunch I had history class. I would have been in 11th grade then, so it was Ms. Lipscomb. She took us into Mr. Singleton's room, but I still haven't figured out why. The tv was so snowy that, even if I had known what was happening, I couldn't have figured out what the reports were saying.

A lot of the kids didn't care. But the teachers didn't notice. They both sat, staring at the snowy screen, looking pretty grave about something.

The rest of the day was blurry. I think we stayed in history, but I don't really remember. I just know that no one in the school actually told us what we were supposed to be concerned about.

I only found out the details over the next few days, and not from school (ironically). By that point I was more annoyed about the hype than concerned with the tragedy. Who cares about a stupid tower in New York?

But I should have cared.

Only twice in the history of our country have we been attacked so blatantly, on our own soil. the first was Pearl Harbor. But at least then we had a face to go with it. Japan more than paid its dues.

Hundreds of people died for absolutely no reason. National security was breached in a major way. Money was siphoned. Equipment was destroyed. People were thrown into complete panic.

I should have cared. But I didn't.

Learning about all the people that died was like talking about Antietam in history class. The bloodiest day in the history of our country. 23,000 dead in one single-day battle. But it happened a week short of 139 years before 9-11. And I didn't know any of them. It was just a moment in history.

I didn't know anyone in New York. Or Pennsylvania. None of my family or friends were flying anywhere that day. The biggest effect it had on me was that school was practically empty for several days. Which was kind of fun.

I was 16. Old enough to take things more seriously. But I was too sheltered. It was too distant. Unlike so many other people in the country, I wasn't afraid to go to school, or to sleep at night. And I didn't really understand why I should be.

9-11 didn't really affect me at all. Not then, at least.

But ten years have passed since then. I've learned a few things over the years. That people can resolve their differences when something more important is at stake. About what patriotism means. That our country was strong, and wouldn't take such things lying down. About how quickly people forget...

People are back to their same old problems. Their same old arguments. Their same old complaints about the failings of America.

I don't think it will be too long before 9-11 day becomes just like Pearl Harbor day. Without cheating, how many of you even know what day that is?


Maybe I should have cared more. Been more concerned. Thought about the broader perspective. But I didn't. And I was okay.

Think about it. One of the biggest things that has ever happened to the American people, and how many of them didn't get hurt? How many didn't lose someone, didn't get stranded somewhere, didn't get too scared to sleep?

Even when we're in the middle of a direct attack on the people in New York City, we're still lucky. We're lucky that we have the freedom and safety to be complacent. We're lucky that we could just sit around not caring about 9-11, and nothing happened to us.

We didn't have to flee for our lives, or board our windows. We didn't have to suffer through hundreds of attacks.

We should care. I definitely should have. But I'm incredibly grateful to be living in a country where I'm safe enough and free enough to escape such a momentous event so completely unscathed.

Even if you take 9-11 for granted, don't do the same for our country.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Escribir

Some people write because they have a story bursting out of them, and they can't not write it down.

Some people write because they love making words go together in cool ways.


Some people write because they are good at it. It's a living.

Some people write because they want to be famous, but they suck at singing.

There are lots of reasons. And there are lots of people who write. Seriously, lots. And you thought there were too many who wanted to become pop/rock stars.

And I guess I have a little bit of all those things. (In differing levels, of course.) But wanna know my favorite thing about writing?

Watching people squirm.

Awful, I know. And maybe a little weird. But I love being the puppetmaster. Nothing in the whole world is cooler than seeing someone freak out, or cry, or fall in love, or hide under their sheets, all because of some words you typed into a laptop at 3 am.

When people need to get up early, but they stay up all night reading your words.

When they cry at the devastating plot twist that your character just experienced.

When they hate your guts for a cliffhanger ending.

This makes everything worth it. Everything being all the years of agony and late nights go into every decent novel. (Emphasis on decent.)

Lots of people say, "I'm not writing to get published. I'm just writing for me."

That's all fine and good for some people. But I'd get bored.

I don't write for the paycheck, or the publishing contract either, (though these things would be nice). But I need an audience.

And that is my confession for today.

Yours Truly,

The Puppetmaster
*sinister laugh*

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

It was a dark and stormy night...

The wind blows, no longer a summer breeze. It is colder and stronger. It whips through the trees, howling just a little.

The first crackly leaves fall from the branches and skitter across the pavement. In the dark, the sound is eerie.

And it is dark. The streetlamps make it that way. They are too far apart, and only serve to deepen the shadows.

The walk was pristine long ago. But the trees have taken over. Their roots have twisted under the concrete, breaking it apart and leaving it a hazardous pathway. Here and there, slabs of asphalt have been pounded into the gaps left by the collapsing walk, but it was carelessly done, just like everything else on that street.

Navigating the path is hard enough in the daylight. At night, it becomes treacherous. The occasional lamp destroys night vision. The perception of depth is almost non-existent.

A shoe catches a jutting root.

A low-hanging branch scrapes a cheek.

Farther down the road, the traffic slows. In the distance, lights flare. A car emerges from a cloud of dust. The headlights are blinding. It passes slowly.

A person emerges suddenly from a side road, their approach hidden by the lights of the car. They hurry past, shooting a suspicious glance behind them.

The wind shifts. More dry leaves fall.

The turn is up ahead.

Another dark side road appears. To the left, a young man clad in black blocks the path. He stands just outside of the light, waiting. To the right, it is clear.

The road is half gravel and half asphalt, dusty and uneven. A car approaches too quickly. It passes by, but only just. The driver is completely unaware of the pedestrian traffic.

On the other side of the road, the walk becomes smoother. The wind dies down, but the leaves still scuttle along.

A thin, rickety stairway rises three stories. It groans with each step. There are no lights.

Keys are fumbled in the darkness. At last the door swings open, squeaking in protest.

Closets and cupboards hang open, blocking the hallway. The door screams again, shutting with a resounding bang, leaving everything in shadow.

(This is obviously not the same street, or the same time of year. But I thought this pic I took on University Avenue had the appropriate air of 19th century foreboding.)


As it happens, Provo has some interesting horror potential.

Melodramatic... certainly. But this is a cumulation of my last few walks home.

Point of note, though, it wasn't actually scary. I thought it was really cool, so I had to share. Although Provo really does have to do something about those sidewalks. Pounding asphalt into holes seems to be their answer-all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ones Who Are Crazy Enough to Think They Can Change the World

Some quotes I read today that I officially love:

I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult. - E. B. White

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. - Flannery O'Connor

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. - John F. Kennedy

Like all weak men, he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind. - William Somerset Maugham

To change your life, start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions! - James Joyce

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. - Eric Hoffer

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Steve Jobs


Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Thousand Word Picture


Stereotypical and cheesy, yes. But nonetheless valid. I love this picture. It's funny and accurate at the same time.


Sometimes life feels like that. Like we're trying to cram ourselves into this hole that just doesn't fit. It's not always true, though. Sometimes we just have to be patient and wait for gravity to do its job. Slow and steady gets it done.

And sometimes we're in the right hole, but at the wrong time. The carpenter hasn't cut us down yet. We're still a rough block. But life experiences turn us into the peg that we're ultimately meant to be. Sometimes it hurts. No one likes being sliced and sanded. But the end result is way more awesome than just sitting around and staying an un-cut block that doesn't fit anywhere.

And sometimes we really are just trying too hard to do the wrong things. We have to branch out and try new things.

Either way, though, it's the struggle that makes it interesting. How boring would it be if we just slipped easily into our little round hole and sat there forever while everyone else was going around doing stuff?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dreams That Haunt Me

I haven't blogged in basically forever. There are two reasons for this. A: I haven't had any blog post ideas. B: Absolutely nothing has changed in my life in the weeks since my last post.

That said, I thought I'd make a post, despite the fact that I don't know what to put on it.

I did wake up with a very interesting image in my head this morning.

_

Bursts of flame followed each step he took. One wrong step, one slight hesitation, and he’d be toast. Very literally. He’d have laughed at his little joke, but the belly of a volcano was no place for such things.

Bare feet flying, he leapt nimbly from stone to stone, leaving each one just as it sank away into the magma. There would be no turning back.

_

I thought that was rather intriguing. I mean, it's the opening scene, and we see this guy sprinting full out through a volcano. Barefoot.

Why is he in a volcano? And why the heck is he barefoot? Seriously?

I don't know the answer. But I very much intend to find out.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wisdom

I was reading a blog post from http://www.rachellegardner.com/

I really liked the analogy here. It applies to so many things. I found it especially applicable because I am like that in my life. I don't like to do things the same way everyone else does, and sometimes it makes me grouchy when I have to anyway. But some things are like that for a reason, and it makes everything better when you do it by the rules.

It's hard to realize it, but there's an infinite amount of possibility, even within a structure.

This is the beginning of that post:


Guest blogger: Rachel Hauck

I’m just going to say it: Writers do need rules. Rules apply to structure – how a story is crafted and told. Voice and style are flexible. But story structure definitely has rules, and they give the author freedom to create.

A friend of mine was studying architecture. She loved drafting and creating beautiful buildings. She hated the rules and the math. Her professors would look at her designs and say, “Ruth, it’s gorgeous, but it’s going to fall down. You have to learn the math.”

She caved. “Once I learned the math and the rules, I had more options and more freedom to create what I wanted!”

The same applies to writing. A good story typically has certain elements.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Books Change Your Life

It's interesting how a random fictional story can have a major impact on your life and point of view.

Not that books never affect me. They do, very much. I usually spend the next several hours after a particularly great book just reviewing the entire thing in my head and wondering at its awesomeness.

But this time it was something very different. Something that hasn't happened to me before.

I was re-reading the Hunger Games. The books were awesome enough the first time. But this second time through, I really got into it. I mean, I already know the characters and what's going to happen, and I spent the whole time covering my face and wishing that it will change. Sadly, it didn't. Things still happened, and I still cried.
About ten minutes later, in my after-book stupor, I didn't really know what to do with myself as I replayed the book over and over in my head. I hadn't had dinner, so even though I wasn't super hungry, I got in the car and started driving. I didn't feel like having anything I passed, so I ended up at Walmart, where I bought a few groceries.

As I drove there, I began to be impressed by the sheer absurdity of traffic. How people get so mad at other people, or get so obsessed about their precious cars. But I'd thought about that kind of stuff before, so it wasn't new.

But when I walked in through the door of Walmart, I was suddenly hit with a wave of disgust.

I casually walked past four or five drink machines, two crane machines, and a red box, and the commercialism almost overwhelmed me. The flashy labels. The lights. The totally unnecessary products.

Then I entered the store itself. Rows and rows of food, piled up for anyone's taking. Dozens of racks with shirts and pants and jackets and socks. Aisles filled with the most advanced toys a kid could ask for. Video games, movies, cell phones, cameras, TVs, laptops.

I felt like a Capital yuppie.

All I needed were a few clueless people who were selfish, arrogant, decorated and clothed according to fashions, and oblivious to the bounty around them... oh wait, they were there too. Hundreds of them, all milling about and complaining about things, or filling their carts without even a thought to the availability of so much.

I'm not saying that I've never realized things before. Like the fact that I take so much for granted, or that people over-emphasize things that aren't important. It happens to every halfway decent person occasionally. But it never hit me on such a deep, extremely real level before.

I was legitimately disgusted.

There really aren't any words that convey the depth of my revulsion for the society in which I found myself. Suffice it to say that I was shocked in a way that I have never been shocked before.

I was only grateful that I wasn't wandering in a huge city like New York or Chicago. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had to face all the neon signs and billboards and the general swarm of humanity.




This picture would normally look cool to me. Right now it's making me feel a little sick. It's so Capital.

Most of this will probably pass. Things like it always do. And I'll be back at walmart or target or shopko again, going about the usual mindless shopping. But I don't think I'll be able to forget it completely. Somewhere in the back of my head it will sit, reminding me of what's real.



Thursday, June 9, 2011

Impossible

Remember that time that the universe was determined to make me feel better?

Oh yeah. That was today.

It’s kind of random that on today, when I get thousands of hours of hard work crushed by a two sentence email, I also just happen to have the funnest google doodle ever, “Impossible” from Cinderella stuck in my head, a motivational Bon Jovi song on my music shuffle, and inspirational messages on my facebook posted by unwitting friends.

(The “Come What May and Love It” talk. Go figure.)

Sometimes I just want to lie on my bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness, okay! Let me!

But I suppose we all have to suck it up and pick ourselves out of the abyss sometime. I still insist on at least an hour of moping, though.

Really, I think it’s good to mope for a moment, as long as we eventually snap out of it. Life is literally a roller coaster. There are ridiculous highs and crushing lows. But the highs wouldn’t be so high without the low bits.

Imagine a coaster with only highs. Yeah, it’s completely flat. Boring.

Sometimes life gets like that. We go along at the status quo, and it gets boring. Even if it’s really, really good. We just don’t appreciate the good stuff if we don’t see it from a pit of despair occasionally. So don’t pretend like the pit of despair didn’t exist.

When you’ve been driving at 70 MPH for a while on a straight road, it feels exactly the same as driving 20.

Or orange juice. It tastes normal and tangy sweet most of the time. But ever tasted it after eating a donut? Gak! Opposites enhance each other.

Sometimes I watch a really sad movie on purpose. Why? Probably because life got status quo again, and it’s good to feel something strongly. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. (Newton knew what he was talking about.) The stronger the sads, the stronger the glads.
So mope a little. Complain. Feel like a martyr for an hour or two. When you finally get over it, the happy parts will feel happier because of it.

Just don’t pull a Bella Swan and sit in a chair for a billion months. Flat-lining while in the abyss is a surefire way to never feel anything again. And what would be the point of that?


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

We are the Champions!

I haven't posted on this blog in about 12 thousand years. I feel like I should, but I don't really know what to post about. I've been super busy with other things.

One of which is our ward's intramural kickball team. We didn't do amazing in the regular season, but we are seriously rocking it in the play-offs. We just won our third semi-final game, and are clear for the championship game on friday. WOOT!

If we win, we get a t-shirt. If we lose, we still came in second, and are awesome anyway. So it's great either way.

I do hope we win, though. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Imagery and Eerily Opening Doors

In terms of imagery, I find that there are two general types, and that I prefer one over the other nearly every time.

"And the light grew steadily stronger, but no birds sang as they were wont to do at the approach of the dawn; and but for the heavenly music all was marvelously still.

On either side of them, as they glided onwards, the rich meadow-grass seemed that morning of a freshness and greenness unsurpassable. Never had they noticed the roses so vivid, the willow-herb so riotous, the meadow-sweet so odorous and pervading."

-The Wind in the Willows

"A hundred yards away, at the bottom of the slope, ran the brook, no more than three feet wide, half choked with kingcups, watercress, and blue brooklime. The cart track crossed by a brick culvert and climbed the opposite slope to a five-barred gate in the thorn hedge. The gate led into the lane."

- Watership Down

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much difference in these two descriptions. But one really appeals to me, and the other really doesn't. I wondered why, and when I realized the answer, I suddenly felt the need to blog about it, despite the fact that it is currently 2:32 am.

What makes these two passages, which are both so detailed, so different from each other?

The first gives the impression of the scene. The second is strictly the lay of the land.

Neither of these methods are wrong, mind you. It really comes down to the way your brain works when you read.

Impression:

I really liked this little segment from The Wind in the Willows. I think this is mostly because it gives a feeling for what the scene is like, and I can fill in the details on my own. I know the feeling is a surreal sereneness that only a sunrise can give, so I know exactly what colors and movements to give everything in order to make the picture that way. I can put the shade of the grass to the color that I like it best. I can decide exactly what fresh meadow scent would please me the most.

It doesn't bother telling me things like "Thick clumps of roses lined the southern bank." It does tell me that the roses are more exquisite than normal. Then I can put them wherever I want them to be, and make them whatever color I choose, making them exquisite specifically for me.

Impressions and feelings can bring to mind very vivid images and memories. You know exactly what the scene should feel like, and your mind creates it accordingly, detailing it to your personal specifications. After all, what might please one person might be exceedingly dull to another.

Lay of the Land:

It is important to know certain things. If one city is about to declare war on another city, it might be helpful to know that they share a border over which they've been quarreling for decades. Thus the war makes much more sense.

Or if a person is left handed, and the attacker is coming from the right, this is important information because it partially determines the outcome of the fight.

But I find, personally at least, that lay of the land descriptions severely limit the imagination, and therefore limit the imagery itself. Thus making me much less interested in the story.

Take, for example, the section from Watership Down. The details are so specific in nature that two things happen.

One, I get bogged down. I am trying to paint the author's picture in my head at the same pace that I'm reading, and I can't keep up. It's a bit frustrating. When I paint my own picture, it all sort of comes automatically.

And then, when I do finally get the author's details, I end up with a bit of a coloring book look: Where the insides are brightly colored, but the background is still the same off-white. If you're going to control exactly where everything is in my picture, you'd better give me enough to cover the entire canvas. And that, sadly, is very hard to do without becoming exceedingly dull. Case in point, Victor Hugo.

Also, even though the paint was spread, there was still no life in it. Just a still frame waiting for something to happen. Was the brook happy and bubbly, or slow from those choking plants thus giving it a depressing air? I want to know, because right at this moment it's not moving at all.

Two, I get bored. Why should I care whether the gate was five-barred or not? Is that going to be important later? I don't like being told exactly how many yards away my creek should be, or how wide it is. Oh, and obviously the gate leads into the lane. I'd rather gathered that for myself, thanks.

As of this point, you're likely thinking that I'm being rather harsh on that poor little paragraph. Yes, perhaps a bit. But it came from a much longer selection which left me, as I mentioned, frustrated at putting it all in the right place, and dissatisfied with the result when it was together.

Analogy:

I suppose the best way to describe these differences is with a horror movie analogy. When I watch a scary movie, I'm almost never scared. No matter how good the effects are, or how well written the script is, the most a movie has ever done for me is intense suspense. I don't get actually frightened. Until later.

The scariest part about watching a horror movie is walking through the nearly empty, completely dark parking lot, because the only open space when you got there was around the back in that section that most people forget is there.

Or going to bed at night when you realize that your roommate is still out of town and your front door has been unlocked for several hours.

Or when your bedroom door mysteriously opens about four more inches for absolutely no reason at all.

Which seriously just happened, and it kind of freaked me out. Especially because it's now after 3 am. If I'm missing tomorrow, you'll have a clue, at least.

Anyway, the point of that is that people can put scary images on a screen, and sure they might be pretty good, and pretty freaky. But everyone is different, and no one knows exactly what would be the perfect scare set up for you but you. So when you get in the dark later, your brain comes up with the optimum scenario for freaking you out. It remembers the things in an exaggerated way.

Same with the literature imagery. For me, the second selection was like watching the tv. A couple scary images, a few plot twists, and some creepy music. Pretty alright, but I'm not clutching the arm of the person next to me in fright.

The first selection is what happens later when I'm walking home in the dark. My brain remembers the idea of scary things. Which leads to remembering exactly what scary things would actually frighten me. Which leads to me actually imagining said scary things, and having to put on my ipod and plug in my christmas lights. The scariness was very specifically tailored for me.

Summary:

When I can construct my own pictures from the impressions and clues in the text, the resulting images are specifically tailored for me, and therefore much more satisfying, and significantly easier to produce.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Extolling the Virtues of Fantasy Literature

I was just reading The Writer's Guide to Fantasy Literature. I don't usually read books like that. Mostly because they are generally really boring. But so far this one is fantastic.

Chapter 2 is called "What is Fantasy?" It's essentially the best explanation of "why?" for fantasy that I've ever read. I'm still blown away. Everyone should read it.

Unfortunately, I can't post the entire chapter here, or I totally would.

The thing that I love the most about it is that it quotes some of the biggest authors, all in defense of fantasy.

There are so many people that oppose fantasy, especially for adults, in saying that it detracts from reality. It blurs the line, makes people dissatisfied with our world, etc. I never really believed that rubbish, but I didn't know how to go about explaining my opinion.

This chapter did it perfectly. It is so exactly what I've been trying to say for a considerably long time.

As I said, I can't post the whole thing. And since I can't, you'll just have to take my word for it and go check it out from the library. But I also know that it is pretty unlikely that anyone will do this just because I said so. After all, a lot of the other "writer's guide to" books are pretty pathetic.

So, in order to spark your curiosity, I shall put a few quotes that I especially loved.

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time...

- T. S. Eliot"

"As Consolation, Tolkien points to the resolution of fairy stories in happy endings, in the return at the end to a normal world. These aspects of fantasy, says Tolkien, are not escapist. They embrace that which we most yearn for- an acute awareness of the beauty of the real world- by leaving it, imagining richly, and then returning."

"Once we believe..... we begin to see the forms of good and evil. First as children, later as adults, we come to believe that even creatures as small as ourselves can play a role, that the world is affected by the actions we take."

"The well-intentioned mothers who don't want their children polluted with fairy tales would not only deny them their childhood, with its high creativity, but they would have them conform to the secular world, with its dirty devices.

- Madeleine L'Engle"

In answer to the question of whether fantasy will warp a child's mind to confuse fantasy with reality:

"It would be much truer to say that fairy land arouses a longing for he knows not what. It stirs and troubles him (to his lifelong enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth.

- C. S. Lewis"

There are many more pearls in this chapter. But I'll let you read it for yourself. If you don't, you'll definitely miss out, and forever wonder what might have been.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wha-bam!

Butt-kicking awesomeness from Evey, telling it like it is. This one was a 'boo-yeah' moment.

“You are right. There ARE some people who are better than others. But it isn’t because of where they were born. It is their actions that raise and lower men. And judging by your actions, you are one of the lowest pieces of filth to plague this world. Hang me, if you must. Add one more crime to your conscience.”

Wha-bam.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Imaginary Boyfriend is Better Than Yours

That was the title of a book we found today. It was funny. But also true. I have some really fantastic imaginary men in my life.

There's much more to Isaiah Wolff than this, but it's a tiny little example of why I'd marry him if he were real.



“Always to the point,” he said through his laughter.

“Yes, well, I don’t see a lot of purpose in extra words.”

“Most of the time I agree.” he replied.

“Most of the time?”

“Yes. I don’t like lies and deception, and manipulation.”

“Of course not.” She started, but she cut herself off. She wanted to know more about how he thought of things, and here was a chance.

“No, I don’t. I like straightforward honesty. But there are some things that are better with more words. Like... oh, never mind.”

“Oh, come on. Like what?”

“You’ll probably think this is weird.”

“I won’t. I promise.” She said, now very curious.

“Well, like poetry. Nature, life, love...” He paused, and glanced up at her for a moment before continuing. “Those things don’t need more words, but they deserve them. Saying ‘I love you’ to someone is fine, if you mean it. But if you really do love them, why not say it over and over? Make the saying of it as beautiful as the feeling itself?”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves...

I remember once thinking about a way to describe art as something better than just "art". And then it came to me.

Art is visual poetry.

It's true. It's poetry for the eyes. Something that isn't strictly necessary, as with food or sleep. Something that everyone understands differently. Something that makes you feel the whole "deeper meaning of life, the universe, and everything". It does the same thing to your soul through pictures and objects that poems do through words.

And music is audible poetry.

Or at least it should be. Not everything that claims musicality can really, honestly qualify. But when it's good, it's GOOD. Few things are as powerful as music. Poetry for the ears.

All people have different needs. They understand things very differently from every other person. Some love art, but hate poems. Some love poems, but don't care about music. It comes in all different forms. But deep down, we all have one thing in common: we all need poetry.