Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Origin of Alex Novel

Every month my friend writes a letter to her son (and now to her new daughter, also). She tells him what he's been doing, how he's growing and changing and how she feels about him. A sentence from one of these letter gave me the entire idea for my 3-book Alex story. Here it is:

I've become such a baby junkie that I can't even leave you alone anymore, because what if a goblin snatches you away when I am not looking?!

Yes. Three books from that. Ideas are everywhere, people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day Late and a Dollar Short: Babylon 5

Seems like all of us here at Eventyr are running around frantically and *gasp* not writing.


I'm supposed to be working on a short scifi piece and a graphic novel script, but between personal and professional commitments, those haven't been happening.

However, I have been rewatching a lot of Babylon 5, so here, have a fanvid:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mad Busy

Work and other commitments are keeping me busy, so I'm just thowing together a short, random post for you.

1. Slang dictionary.

mad--(adj.) really

ashy--(adj.) dry; I need lotion! My hands are mad ashy!

brick-- (adj.) cold; Miss, it's mad brick in here!

brollick--(adj.) strong; George is the smart one and Lennie is mad brollick.

2. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost recreate Star Wars.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writing Religiously: Co-Authorship

For the past few months a friend and I have been collaborating on a novella. I’m not sure what the best way to co-write a work of fiction is, but because the story is his brain-child I’m letting him have the final say on all edits.

I find the process enjoyable as we brainstorm character scenarios together, but challenging as I relinquish style-choices over to him.

This is an ongoing project and I’m sure I’ll be blogging about more faucets of co-authoring in the future, but for now I highly suggest authors find someone to collaborate with on a project. It doesn’t have to be long, a short story will work (are you reading this April?). If nothing else, I’m learning more about my own style as a writer in the process.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Learned... #7: To Loathe Writing Short Stories

Dear Internet: I have a confession to make.

I hate writing short stories. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I'm not all that fond of reading them either, to be honest, but it's the writing of them that drives me daft.

God knows I've tried, and managed it from time to time. I've even sold a few; I've got a short piece called "Under a Lady's Skirts" coming out in September 2011 from Aoife's Kiss. But they are the exception that proves the rule, which is that the first draft of any short story I attempt to write will inevitably be five or six thousand words over what the magazine is wiling to accept. Granted, I do believe that editing is good for the soul... but I've mortified my spirit by chopping down so many pieces that were striving to become novellas, I might has well have sackcloth under my skin.

I started a science-fiction piece called "Deep Places" over a year ago. It's not allowed to be any longer than seven thousand words. And I'm finding it insanely difficult. I've done four drafts so far; none of them have gotten beyond four thousand words—not because I've run out of story, but because the relatively simple, straight-forward plot I thought I'd had suddenly mushroomed into something quite different, something exciting and complicated. And now I can't get past four thousand words because I'm terrified this thing is going to explode into another vast work that I'm going to have to take a blowtorch to. It's gut-wrenching. Oh, I could just let it bubble and brew and become another novella or novel, but then I'd have another WIP on my harddrive—and still no short story!

The problem, at first glance, is merely the length. I've been doing this writing thing for almost fifteen years now, and brevity is something I've never been able to learn. I've never been able to write a complete beginning-middle-end piece coming in anywhere under the eight-thousand-word mark that is usually the ceiling for professional publishing venues.

A second reason, probably more likely, is the simple fact that I lack the ability to formulate a proper plot on its own, without taking all the characters into account. For me, the plot is not something external to the characters it affects; it is internal—it wells up from the characters. They bring their perils and their enemies with them.

There is no plot without characters. There is no understanding of a plot without a thorough understanding of the characters—their lives, their motives, their pasts and dreams. For the writer that I am, there can be no story at all unless I and the reader knows the characters intimately.

And that's damned hard to do in eight thousand words or less.

(Comic from

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Forget the Pants, I'm Wearing a Skirt

Note: This post is a little rambley, because I didn’t get to edit it enough and wrote it while sleep deprived at my meat puppet job.

It’s high time I’ve talked about the novel I’m writing. Basic facts: It’s a YA fantasy about a girl named Alex who finds a door to a different world. It’s been in my head in some form or another for 3 years.

I officially started writing it last August, got 15000 words in, and then had to start over because the tone was completely off. I’m 15000 words in again to my 2nd 1st draft and I realized that I’m going to have to rewrite most of it because Alex's motivation is all wrong.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I saw it coming. Her reasons for her actions were very flimsy, and mostly based off of somebody else’s. I’d tried to think more deeply about it before, but didn’t have any easy answers so I let it drop.

All this rewriting doesn’t bum me out because these changes are for the better, and I can already see the story improving. It just makes much more sense.

At the same time, they show that I clearly need to do more planning than I’ve been doing. If I have to write the story over each time I have a narrative revelation this novel is going to take a while.

I’m not against planning. It just never seems to work out well. I think the reason I have a problem with it is that it's hard for me to think through a whole story if I’m not writing something of it. I mean, let’s say I want to think about a character's backstory and motivation. I’ll just arbitrarily make something up that doesn’t make sense or go with the story.

I think I may need to plan something, then do some draft scenes and see how they work.

So, back to the drawing board (literally). I’ve got to figure out a way to plot/plan some of this book before I keep writing, and not ignore the problems I come across. I see posterboard in my future.

This is a guy who knows how to plan.

I’m also going to take some time to dissect a book (my fav one) to figure out pacing. Word count means nothing to me. I'm going to try to answer these questions: What number of words/percentage of the book should be dedicated to the intro to the character/world/conflict? When do we start getting answers to our initial questions? When does the action pick up? When is the climax?

Obviously, these numbers are different for each book, but I want to have a ballpark, something I can work with.

What about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you use any fancy graphic organizers to plan?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Day Late & A Dollar Short: Beastly things...

(Welcome to the first installment of "A Day Late & A Dollar Short," my intermittent series of random meeblings hastily flung-together several days past my weekly deadline.)

I'm in the middle of reading this recent blog post at The Hathor Legacy, when this paragraph caught my attention:

The Beast’s repellent form, initially a metaphor for old age as it related to arranged marriages between the audience (young women) and the rich men their parents chose for them, has been imposed on him, though not by time, but rather, as a way to gain wisdom. His only salvation will be the love of a woman who can see beyond his physical limitations– but he’s on a supernatural deadline, imposed by an enchanted flower that represents his own mortality and will take him with it if it dies. The Beast takes a man prisoner, because he is cruel, and when the man’s daughter comes and volunteers herself in his place, the Beast takes his chance to both free himself from his own beastliness, the ugliness of his fur and claws standing in for Gothel’s graying hair and wrinkles, and to save himself from what he considers an untimely death– and though, at the end of the movie, his castle and its inhabitants are restored to their former condition, one wonders how long the Beast had actually lived. After all, his servants had begun to refer to themselves as the names of the furniture and tools whose shape they occupied, his home had fallen into disrepair, and no one within the distance of one night’s horseback ride seemed to even be aware of any castle or prince in the area, even Belle, who one would assume would have read at least a few history books.

The rest of the article is very good (it's actually about step-mothers and how Disney borked them), but my brain wandered off in a different direction.

I've long had an unhealthy obsession interest in stories like The Phantom of the Opera and "Beauty and the Beast," any story that revolves around a physically different person falling in love with someone aesthetically acceptable. Basically, the bad boy falling for the girl is more to my tastes than the girl falling for the bad boy--probably because that's not normally how it works in real life.

There are "Beauty and the Beast" type stories in cultures all over the world, but one of the earliest, that I know of, is the story of Eros and Psyche, found in Greek mythology. C.S. Lewis wrote an amazing adaptation of the myth in his criminally-underrated novel, Til We Have Faces, which is actually written from the POV of Psyche's ugly half-sister. Lewis was revisionist before Maguire made it cool, yo.

I'm in danger of rambling forever, so I'll get to my point: I would like a story where the Beast-character actually is the villain--not just a misunderstood person with an ugly face, not just a spoiled brat, but an actual has-done-horrible-things villain. And who is, not necessarily redeemed, but who becomes a better person because of the Beauty-character being thrown into the mix. Not out of Beauty's love for the Beast, but out of Beast's love for Beauty, and... his own self-respect, maybe? I'm not saying this well. Argh, words, how do they work?

The best villains work because they are still human on some level; they have emotionally attachments and ethics of a kind and morals of a kind--you don't sympathize with them, but you don't hate them unequivocally.

So, if the Beast was a complete dick, and Beauty finally said, "Screw you and your talking furniture. I'm going back to my father until you become human ALL BY YOURSELF, because I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE!" and then the Beast actually wised up and DID all that, and Beauty said, "I'm impressed and I'll give you another chance, but you're still on probation" and Beast said, "I respect that..."

Yeah, that's pretty much the story I'm looking for.

Traveling with the Doctor

The Doctor finds Madrid's airport suspiciously quiet for 10 AM.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thursday Next-fan fiction

I'll hopefully have a real post tomorrow, but I thought I'd give a brief update about One of our Thursdays Is Missing. It was awesome. If you've read any Jasper Fforde at all, know that this is up to par, and if you haven't read any, and you like books at all, you need to go to the bookstore/library, pick up The Eyre Affair and get reading!

OooTIM takes place almost entirely in the BookWorld, so there's a lot of fun book things there, including Fanfiction Island. That's where there's a brief mention of Doctor Who:

Fforde also seemingly gives his opinion of fanfiction:

"Fan Fiction isn't copying--it's a celebration. One long party, from the first capital latter to the last period!"

"I never thought of that."

"Few do--especially the authors who should really accept the praise with better grace. They're a bunch of pompous fatheads, really--no slur intended."

I like the analogy to a celebration--people write fan fiction because they
love the characters and want to see more--who cares if it's good or bad.
Obviously authors can't read it, for legal reasons, but I'm not quite sure why
some vehemently object so much. I can understand being weirded out by the way
your characters are treated, but it's a free country. Take the flattery and move

What do you think about fan fiction? Have you ever written any? Would you be
flattered if someone did someday?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Writing Religiously: Writing with Music

I write with music playing in the background:
  • Nothing I'm unfamiliar with
  • Genre's ranging from classical all the way to heavy metal
  • In random order
I'm not quite sure why I do this . . . perhaps it's so that I don't over think the scene. Or I might be looking for some subconscious inspiration. I don't know.

Anyone else find themselves spinning tunes while writing? Why do you do it? (Or why don't you?)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Underrated Books: Sirius

When I first told Megan that I wanted to review Sirius for our Underrated Books feature, her immediate reaction was "Oh heavens, Olaf Stapledon? Really? You like him?"


For desultory students of classic science fiction, the name Olaf Stapledon means pretty much one thing: Cubic density. Stapledon's two most well-known works, Last and First Men (a history of the human species over two billion years) and Star Maker (a history of life in the universe), are not so much novels as they are fictional history textbooks. Very interesting, highly thought-provoking, and thoroughly boring. As I like to put it, very chewy books.

Sirius, however, while still well-written and worth thinking about, is decidedly a scifi novel, and a romantic tragedy at that. The book is the story of a genetically-engineered, super-intelligent dog in Wales during World War II, and how he struggles to live in a human world from within the limits of his canine frame.

Raised from a pup with the daughter of the scientist who created him, Sirius grows up as part of the Trelone family. He learns to read and to write, even to speak English after a fashion. He comes to understand politics and religion, and he has a special relationship with his human foster-sister, Plaxy. But Sirius is the only one of his kind in the world, neither truly canine nor truly human, and he constantly struggling under the weight of the fear and hatred he encounters throughout his life.

A very moving story all on its own, this book owes a great deal to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It is the story of a being created by humans who are then unprepared for the enormity of what they have made.

Why do I consider this to be an underrated book? There are two reasons:

1) Stapledon's other works (see above) tend to overshadow his less overwhelming fiction. Last and First Men and Star Maker are considered to be important, ground-breaking works in science fiction. Meanwhile, Sirius doesn't even warrent its own printing. (That pictures above is of the only current edition.)

2) This book has the potential to make people uncomfortable. There are hints throughout the story, often implied but never declared, that Sirius and Plaxy have a sexual relationship. The book's narrator neither approves nor condemns this rumor, and it is left to the reader to decide whether or not such a relationship, because of Sirius's intelligence and in spite of his species, is right.

This is a very very thinky book, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Surprise book

Owing to my lack of employment I'm trying to make use of my local library instead of buying books. So when I saw that Jasper Ffforde's One of my Thursdays is Missing would release soon I went onto my library's web page and requested it. (They have an awesome inter-library loan system, so even if they haven't ordered it they can get it from another library and call me when it's in.

I went away for a couple of weeks but when I came back yesterday what did I see laying on my bed? The book, which my mom had picked up from the library for me. Except it isn't released until Tuesday.

Doctor: What? What?! What?!
Batman: Calm down, Time Lord. I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation.

Now, anyone who's followed Harry Potter launches know that in general release dates are somewhat flexible--books obviously arrive at stores ahead of time, and may be put out for sale before the launch. It seems they also arrive earlier at libraries, which make sense because they have to process them before they go into circulation.

I have been very excited for the release of Thursdays. I love Jasper Fforde and especially the Thursday Next books. (If you haven't read them, go out and do it.) So you would think I would be ecstatic to see it on my bed, with no wait at all.

I wasn't. I was terrified.

I wasn't ready, I wasn't prepared. I wasn't expecting it so soon. It wasn't supposed to be available yet--was I going crazy?

It took me a little while to get over it, and I started reading it this morning. I'm loving it but it still weirds me out a bit.

Did anything like this ever happen to you? Did you ever feel unprepared to read or do something?


No She-ra?! It's okay April, I've got you covered:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Underrated Book: Ivory Tower series

This week at Eventyr we’re writing about underrated books.

Most underrated book: The Ivory Tower series, by Doris Egan.

Who is Doris Egan? You totally know her. She writes/produces House, Dark Angel, Smallville and the latest Torchwood, among others. Her Ivory Tower books are just as awesome.

Why are they underrated? They’re out of print. Again. I lost my copy of Gates of Ivory this summer and had to buy it used online. Totally worth it. I would do it again if I had to.

What are they about? Because I’m lazy, I’m just going to copy what I wrote in the anthropology paper I did on The Gate of Ivory:

In The Gate of Ivory, by Doris Egan, the main character and narrator Theodora, who was raised in a scientific, reasoning society, finds herself stranded on the planet Ivory, unable to leave because she has no money. While trying to survive by making a pittance as a tarot card reader, she maintains her cultural distance from Ivory’s ethnocentric and self-serving society. Then, she is hired as a card reader by a sorcerer, a profession which defies all her scientific understanding. She is flung into Ivoran civilization and forced to adapt and develop a sense of cultural relativity.

Ivoran culture often clashes with Theodora’s own ethical belief system. Ivorans make a game of killing people, and revenge is taken freely. They also are extremely materialistic and Theodora comments that the closest the planet came to a universal religious statement is the phrase “Everything can be converted to money” (Egan 270). As a result, bribing the right official allows a person to get away with anything. In addition the entire population is paranoid, because only family is honor-bound not to kill each other, and that “only because there had to be someone they could trust” (Egan 45). Wide windows only face into a house’s courtyard and not into the dangerous world, and even small towns have poison testers to sample communal meals, all of which is an attempt to maintain safety in an unsafe world.

Theodora’s detachment from the Ivoran ethical system deteriorates when she is hired by Ran Cormallon, a sorcerer and head of a wealthy house. She reads magic tarot cards to aid him in his sorcery business, which often includes cursing people or
murdering them. She defies her ethical system when she gains the opportunity to exact revenge on the person responsible for her mugging, a sorceress named Pina. Ran arranges for a sorceral mishap to occur while she is working, and her employers professionally condemn her, causing her career in the capital to end. Revenge doesn’t turn out as Theodora had hoped though, and she feels guilty, especially since Pina was reduced to tears. She tells Ran that she thinks they went too far, and he replies, “You think you can forgive your enemies. That’s crazy. One day your new friend is going to bring you down with your own knife and serve you right” (Egan 30).

Why do I love it? A big reason is the setting. Egan manages to make a rich and textured cultural and physical setting without shoving epic description down your throat. If it weren’t for all the murdering, I would move to Ivory and spend my evenings in the capitol, sipping tah with my friends and debating if we should catch the naked floor show at the Lantern Gardens. Or maybe we would take a ride in a carriage, pulled by a “modified” animal that you control with a box with the buttons “stop” and “go.”

The plot is fast-paced and interesting, and Theo is the perfect first-person narrator to take you along as she sinks into Ivoran culture. Her rational thinking is coupled with a somewhat neurotic personality that makes her question her own motivations. (Though she does loosen up when she drinks.)

Sci-fi or fantasy? Both. There’s interplanetary travel, aircars, escalators and the Net (a computer system that’s all in the cloud). However, there’s also sorcery, lots of pastures and forests, and no skyscrapers. The sci-fi/fan elements enhance the world, but take a back seat to the characters and the plot.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

What's book do you think is underrated?

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