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Archive for April, 2012

Friday, April 27th, 2012
and the cold came back

We’re under a winter storm watch. Again. I don’t think we’ll actually get snow, but it had to come the night before the girlie’s birthday party. To which people have still not RSVPed, so I don’t even know if anyone is coming. I desperately hope so, and not just because of the mass of cake that I’ll be forced to eat if not. I do have some games to play, so that will be excellent. I also have a fire going in the woodstove and am hoping that frost doesn’t kill all the leaving out plants. Poor things. A few days ago it was almost 80 degrees.

IN the meantime, I got notes from my editor on Blood Winter today. I have to read and absorb them. He’s a new editor to me and he pointed out some issues that I had figured out and offered some intriguing suggestions. So I have to put all that together with some ideas I had for restructuring/revising, and polish the coal off my diamond. I’m excited about it, but with that everpresent fear that I won’t be able to pull it off. But I will! I’m determined.

In the meantime, the block ends in a few days, as does the semester. Hard to believe. But Twisted Ink, our webzine, is coming together nicely. They are doing a good job, as crazy as it’s making them.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
mythical birds

I spent some of yesterday and today researching mythical birds. I have this scene in mind where they do an Alfred Hitchcockian sort of attack on *name redacted*. I have this picture in one book of the perfect birds. But even though it’s in a book of magical critters and such, there’s no actual reference to them. Yes, I can make something up, but I like going with real creatures (well, you know, real fake creatures). Plus these are so perfect!!! Anyhow, I did run across some very cool possibilities. One is bird hieroglyphs that come to life and chomp the heck out of people. I like that one.

I couldn’t access the Aberdeen Bestiary for whatever reason. It is a very cool bestiary with lovely illuminated images and so I’m going to try again later tonight or tomorrow. Doing this research is totally fun. This is a case where serendipity is my friend. I page through the books or dig through bestiaries and so on, and I encounter all sorts of rich tales. They spark ideas and one thing leads to another . . .

I did up my department’s website. I have to use a program called Genesis, which is like a hacked down version of a decade’s old Front Page. It was weird after using more modern methods. And wow, it added tons of extra weird code stuff. Luckily I could play with the code and get rid of a lot of it. I was going to do a lot more updating, but there’s a chance of switching over to another system that’s more flexible (not sure what it is, but it might be WordPress) and so I’m waiting. No point in doing it twice. I’m the only one in our department who likes to mess with website stuff.

Oh, and speaking of which, do you know how outdated this Genesis program is? I can only use it on a PC with Explorer. No Firefox, no Chrome, no Mac at all. It simply won’t let me log in. How funny is that?

The girl’s birthday is tomorrow. Her party is on Saturday. I’m not entirely prepared. She also got her new glasses today, which are not pink believe it or not, and she can actually see again. She’s very excited. I just hope kids come. I haven’t had RSVPs yet. I’m a little worried.

Monday, April 23rd, 2012
The beat goes on

Today I’ve been trying to think up magical problems. Specifically, really big magical problems. And I’d be more specific, but that would mean spoilers. The problem is thinking up the right magical problem for the characters and situation and that leads to a specific outcome. The only trouble is that I’m not coming up with any serious contenders. Well, actually, a couple of possibilities, but not how I might make them work. I need to stretch my magical thinking.

In the meantime, I’ve got a post on attacking revisions/novels on Magical Words today. It’s about eating the cheese.

In the meantime, we’ve had bizarrely warm weather and some thunder showers. That’s pretty cool. I like thunderstorms, especially if they don’t come with round winds. Round winds I hate with a passion.

Saturday, April 21st, 2012
Murder board

As I mentioned previously, I’m working on doing some replotting Blood Winter. Well, not all of it needs to be replotted, though the back half is going to change according to how the front half changes. Yeah, I like to state the obvious. I’m in a mood. It’s one of those listen to a lot of loud music, swear like a trucker and swing swords sorts of days. Dogs are eyeing me with trepidation and wondering when I’ll stop long enough to become their bed.

Anyhow, so the murder board. My white board is metal so I can use magnets on it. I’m taking note cards and writing down plot notes and questions and other notes and I’m going to arrange them in plot order. Some of this is really thin, as in, something attacks here. Or these disappear here–why? and so on. But I’m trying to lay out the basics, even with what I don’t know. I actually know a lot. I’ve also brainstormed stuff that likely won’t show up. I’m putting it all up and playing the mess with puzzle pieces game and working through it in my head at the same time.

The idea is to play with what I have and put in the skeletal elements of the other and come up with ideas of how it will all fit together, and then be able to jump in and just do it. I’ve not worked it out this way before, but I have to say I’m having a hell of a lot of fun. I think part of it is that I stand up to do a lot of it and physical movement is helping. Who knew?

So this is how the board looked a little while ago. There’s much more on it now and more to come. I hope to have it mostly sorted out with details tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Some of you will remember that I have a big whiteboard that I use for keeping track of characters, making notes, plotting, and whatever I happen to need in terms of writing. It’s freestanding and I can flip it over and use both sides. I’m about to put it to use to replot the beginning of Blood Winter. Toward that end, today I shopped for some office supplies. I bought a bunch of magnets shaped a bit like pushpins, and I bought some index cards because I was out, and a bunch of colored sharpies. Why? Well, I’ll tell you.

I’m going to write down different plot possibilities for different characters in different colors and play the puzzle game where I align them in order until I have a satisfactory replotting of the story. The thing about this book was that I mostly pantsed it. It refused to follow the plot ideas I had and it refused to give up what it intended to do until I wrote it. So I wrote it to find out what had actually happened. Now that I know and have some time to think about things, and now that I have feedback from my agent, I can see some places where I need to replot.

I plan to do this this weekend. I’ve not done this particular method before (hence me needing to go supply shopping), but I’m looking forward to the process. I’m going to start by brainstorming all the possibilities for the various characters and the events, and then start moving things around, taking into account what I want to keep and how I want to shift things up. I have a feeling I’ll be tossing cards on the floor as I get rid of ideas. The cutting room floor, as it were.

I’m hoping it works. In the meantime, I’ve finished the maps on the other project I’m working on and finished one character interview and am now working on another and also noodling around with some more plot stuff. I’ve been figuring out a lot of world details in the process. I’m excited about that. I’d try out the plot card puzzle idea on that one, but I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of the main plot. I just need to get down the details, but that happens in the writing.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012
A really good book

I don’t have a lot of time to read anymore, and worse, the time I have I sometimes (frequently) squander. A few months ago I got an ARC of a book by an online friend of mine. I was buried in day jobbery and my own writing, life and a few other things, so I didn’t get to it. I wanted to because it has an amazing cover, but I didn’t. I started reading it this week finally, after carrying it around with me for sometime. It’s probably got more than 3000 travel miles on it by now. Anyhow, I read it and I have this to say: Wow. Wow wow wow.

Let me tell you about it. First, the cover, because I think it really is one that grabs the eye:

Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tsavelas

This book is urban fantasy. It involves the faerie, angels, demons, and others. The plot revolves around a woman, Marley, who gets panic attacks and tends to run from life, and has a hard time keeping a regular job. She’s got a couple of really great friends, Branwyn and Penny, and she’s started hanging out a bunch with Zachariah and his two orphaned nieces, who are four year old twins. When Zachariah disappears, the girls call Marley for help and that sets off the plot.

There’s a lot going on here and you really have to pay attention, because things happen fast and there’s a lot of worldbuilding going on. The reader has to put a lot of the puzzle pieces together on the fly, because nothing is super obvious. I like this. I have to admit that for me, this was a page turner. I kept having to shoo people away while I was reading because they annoyingly kept interrupting.

I like the characters quite a bit, though I have to admit Tarn and Branwyn were my favorites. But I think what kept me going most was just wanting to find out what was going on and why. The mystery was really well built and the descriptions were compelling and vibrant. I also liked the way she portrayed the kids. They seemed real to me and not just incidental. They were important. I also liked the way that the magic was portrayed in this book. I really enjoyed it.

I do admit that I still have questions. I’m hoping they get explained in the future. Plus I want more of these characters and more of this story. More! Is it bad that I want to bug her for an early copy of the next one? I really hope there’s a second one coming. A lot.

Anyhow, this is a really good book and I recommend giving it a read.

Sunday, April 15th, 2012
Graduate school taught me that I don’t get weekends off. Ever.

When I was in highschool, I was a good student. I skated, really. I did very little homework at home. I did most of it at school in the class before it was due. Yeah, there were some tougher classes where I couldn’t get away with that and I had to actually study, but the point is that when I graduated from high school, I had a crappy work ethic and not a clue about homework. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to get it done, I did. I held jobs and I belonged to clubs. I just did the minimum and no more.

In College, I ended up in engineering Calculus. When too many people passed the first test (I got a B+), the professor announced he needed to fail 1/2 the class as this was a weed out course and things would be toughening up. I tried. I had tutors, I did reams of extra homework. But I couldn’t pass. I didn’t have the ability to make intuitive jumps that he was asking for. In other words, he didn’t test on the work we had practiced and learned, he tested on what we might infer from that–the next step as it were. So I failed.

The rest of my time in college was much like high school. I did what I needed to, sometimes more, but I never felt like I really worked hard. I didn’t work weekends either if I could help it. I thought weekends were sacred time off.

Then I went to graduate school. In my Masters, I was able to maintain the sacred weekend part, mostly, but I did learn that I had to do homework and research and really work. But it was nothing compared to my Ph.D. program. In that one I really got put through the wringer. It was one of the best times of my life. I stretched and reached for ideas and words and concepts and I did well. I was proud of myself. I still didn’t really work on weekends. I passed my comprehensive exams and then I started work on my dissertation.

And this is where I learned the real truth about discipline and about the weekends. First of all, no one was setting demanding deadlines. That was all on me, as was meeting them. My thesis director and committee were very demanding in terms of revisions and what they expected, but it was up to me to do the work. And I couldn’t get it done M-F. I had to use weekends. And nights. More than that, I had to go into my office, put my ass in the chair, and do it. Who knew?

I think this is when I really figured out what adulthood was about. It wasn’t just taking responsibility for yourself and your bills, it was that I had to hold myself accountable. Nobody else was going to and if I wanted to achieve things, I was going to have to ask myself to do it and then I was going to have to see it through. Whether it’s writing, or yard work, or dishes, or exercise, or climbing a mountain, no one is going to be behind me with a cattle prod making me do it.

It’s funny. One of the things adulthood lets you do is eat cake for dinner and sleep late on your days off. There are perks. But there’s also that endless self-responsibility. I can’t believe it took me so long to learn it. Of all the things I learned in grad school, that was probably the most important.

Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Day in the life

Tonight at dinner we had a discussion of segregation, since that’s what my son is studying at school. It was a good discussion and we talked about hating on the basis of race, gender, appearance, religion and so on. The kids seem utterly confused that people would hate other people for any better reason than some people are mean (ie nasty bullies and even then, they are still people and can change).

Things here are turning green. Lots of leaves and even a crocus has bloomed!!! It’s almost like spring. I’ve planted peas. I am hoping they’ll come up soon.

My students are developing at literary webzine. There’s not a lot to it yet, but it’s at wwww.twistedink.net if you’d like to go have a look. It’s taking submissions of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, and art. Pass the word if you know of anyone who’d be interested in submitting.

Today we went to the soccer field with the kids to kick the ball around and walk the dogs. Was fun. I like soccer.

I’m in a funk. Emotional funk. Not sure why. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the man is laid off and the whole nonmovement on the house sale or something else.

I’m also working on some other things that I can’t talk about. I am hopeful that they will pan out however. How’s that for cryptic?

I also discovered this website today, which is really cool: Issuu. It’s got some really cool stuff on it and also could have some possibilities for doing some stuff. I’m just not sure what yet. I also learned some stuff on InDesign. I’ve been trying to learn some stuff about that, Photoshop and Adobe Illustrated. I know just about nothing on any of them.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Curiosity and writing

First, the curiosity. From my site stats, i can tell that a fair number of people have downloaded my dissertation. I’d love to hear from some of them and find out what you’re using it for, or what brought you to it. In fact, someone actually searched the exact title of it and came to my website today. Very cool.

As for the writing stuff, I’m working on a new project of the traditional fantasy variety, but dark and edgy. I’m coming at it from several directions and today I manage to hammer out a fragment of map. The world building is so key at this point and I have a lot already figured out. But the map is pretty crucial and I have only seen bits of it in my mind’s eye. But even so, I haven’t been able to draw it out. Today I got a good start. Like I said, it’s just a fragment, but it’s a crucial piece. Hopefully more comes tomorrow.

I’m interviewing the main character. Here’s a little bit of the description after my narrator interviewer asks where she lives:

She moves her eyes before she turns her head. She eyes me, calculating. Not really fearful. Cautious and with more than a hint of anger. Her eyes are black and unreadable, but they feel dangerous, like she’s quietly considering how to eviscerate me without making too much of a mess.

Sunday, April 8th, 2012
Throne of Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin is the Guest of Honor at our little Montana con this year. It’s during Memorial Day Weekend. It’s called Miscon and it’s a gem. It’s got a lot of great people, it’s small, it’s got community and family and creativity and generally a place everyone should get to come to. But what I just found out is that the Throne from Game of Thrones is going to be there. I’m going to be able to get a picture!

Now, keep in mind that it was at Reno Worldcon and I was too oblivious to have my pic taken in it. Not this time. I will get it done!!

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