Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
Sunday, January 1st, 2012
It’s 2012. The Mayan Apocalypse looms (for those who are incapable of understanding complicated geometric concepts like circles) and there is a fresh coat of new on everything. I am not prone to using the start of the calendar year for reflection, but all the same it seems like this year it’s more appropriate. This last year was slower than I might have liked, though I did manage to complete (at least) first drafts on three manuscripts (and revised two of those three into something that I can at least show to my beta readers.) I’m aiming to do better in ’12, however. Using the very effective FastDraft technique, I am aiming to finish four manuscripts. It’s not Matt Forbeck’s brilliantly ambitious 12 in ’12 plan, but then again, he’s the hardest working man in showbiz for a reason.
I’m also planning to make some changes around here – expect a new look to the site before the year is out. Ideally I’ll combine that with at least monthly posting on the blog. (A much more achievable 12 in ’12 for me, though with my posting track record, let’s not hold our breath.)
My convention junket this year is still being set. I’m planning on the Gathering, so I can represent the SFR side of the FF&P genre. I’m seriously looking at Nationals in Anaheim. Beyond that, it’s hard to say where I might end up. As always, if you’re going to be in the same location as me, send a wave my way. I’m always happy to say hi to people.
So here’s to bigger and better things for 2012 – at least until a giant solar flare degausses the Van Allen belts, or whatever vaguely scientific reason Roland Emmerich had for the apocalypse in that movie. All I’m asking is, whatever the reason for the end of the world, let it wait until after I’ve had a chance to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Saturday, July 9th, 2011
In the American Civil War, many soldiers referred in their writing to “seeing the elephant” – going into battle. The idea comes from an old concept of experiencing the rare and exotic first hand, and of never really understanding a thing until one has experienced it. It’s a phrase that’s always held a certain appeal for me, and never more than now.
I’m off to see the elephant, you see.
At this year’s RWA Nationals, author Candace Havens presented a workshop on “Fast Drafting.” The object is to get the brilliant story you’ve locked away in your head out on paper before your brain has a chance to muck it up. It’s a grueling and arduous attempt, that makes NaNoWriMo seem an absolutely sane pace by comparison, but it also sounds like exactly what I need.
I’ve joined up with some other like minded authors, so we can support each other as we dive into this strange and crazy thing. And when it’s all said and done, we will surface together, accomplished, exhausted, and proud parents of a (admittedly mistake ridden) first draft. But it will be on the page, and sometimes that’s the hardest part.
I don’t know what it looks like, but I will definitely see the elephant before we’re done. And it’s as exhilarating and terrifying all at once as I would expect it to be. I look at my outlines and scene cards (I’m still a plotter after all). The dear C.A. Young has helped me hammer out the kinks (or at least smooth the rough spots) to get it as ready as I can be. So now all that’s left to do is take the plunge. And let me tell you, I can’t wait.
See you on the other side, Ray.
Sunday, July 3rd, 2011
I have survived the craziest 4 days in writing once again. RWA’s National conference has come and gone, and scenic Times Square New York has made a hefty impression. I had a great time, filled with productive networking, incredible workshops, tear-filled speeches, and even a little time for sightseeing. The air of positivity, support and creativity seemed to lift us all up, which is good, because the elevators couldn’t be relied on to do that in any particular hurry.
The Gathering – the annual awards dinner for the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal genre chapter was once again a smashing success, and the PRISM awards were handed out to some incredible writers. Science Fiction Romance was well represented (and even got a pair of nods at the Rita Awards for Marcella Brunard’s great romp “Enemy Within”).
Speaking of SFR – this year’s keynote speaker was Sherrilyn Kenyon, and there weren’t many dry eyes in the room after she told her story of triumph and success despite what seems like insurmountable adversity. Her signature, on the inside cover of my Nook, will be a reminder of her inspiring story, and will definitely be a place for me to look when I think it’s “just too hard” to do this crazy carousel. By comparison, I can assure you that I haven’t even begun to see a rough road.
Dry eyes were also hard to find during the Rita and Golden Heart awards – RWA’s yearly awards for published works and unpublished manuscripts. Most of the recipients got teary eyed with joy, and we followed right along with them. Tales of unwavering support, loyalty, and love reminded us that no matter how much this feels like a solitary endeavor, none of us exists in a vacuum.
Old friends were met, and tales of the last year were swapped (because despite all the time spent writing, I and many others are simply rubbish at answering our e-mail). New friends were met, and friendships kindled over drinks, cheesecake, and more drinks. Workshops filled us with new ideas, and if other folks are like me, left with notes about current and upcoming manuscripts scribbled hurriedly in the margins around their notebooks. Critique groups formed, and so did plot brainstorming circles. Manuscripts were pitched (and some of those will probably be started in the coming weeks, no matter what their state was declared to be when pitched).
In other words, it was the best of times and I was sorry to see it end. Now the challenge will be to keep the magical feeling of that time alive in the weeks after the Big Show has ended. Fortunately, like everyone else I talked to, I came away with my creative batteries at full charge, eager to take on the world and pour myself into the writing at a fever pitch. I hope that everyone else who attended got as much out of it as I did.
Monday, April 4th, 2011
Oh how the time flies. Hockey is preparing to start its Second Season (the playoffs, which can carry us into June). All across America, bats are swinging and fantasy baseball owners are looking at their freshly drafted teams with a mix of hazy regret and wishful “this year”-ing (or maybe that’s just me)and I’m far enough along on my current Work-in-Progress that I’m already thinking about the next.
Actually, sometimes that happens pretty early. Not because I don’t love my WIP (I do – the Heroine is one of my favorites since Syna Davout), but because I am fighting issues with my magpie mind something terrible. It’s very much a case of “Ooh shiny!” and “Do this!” that can be a bit of rough trade to bring under control as I’m going. And of course that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
I love to knit (after all, practically a third of this blog is dedicated to my knitting), and a lot of times that’s all I need to do to still the magpie mind. It’s a form of meditation, and it doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes before I’m focused and calm and ready to shift over from the day to my writing.
But that’s not good for everyone, and even for me it can be rough. That’s why I really like what Holly Lisle refers to as “Candy Bar Scenes” – those scenes you just can’t wait to write. I find that if I can tweak a scene, adding a conflict or an element I hadn’t thought about originally, it can often switch my mindset from “work” to “treat”. I get excited about writing the scene, and when that happens I know that some of my excitement gets transferred to the readers.
So that’s my method, for when the Magpie Mind wants to do something – anything else. If I’m not excited about the scene, I try to step back and decide why. I ask myself if it really needs to be in the story, or if I can move the plot along better by putting the important elements of the scene in another place and dropping the scene. I ask myself if there’s something I can add to up the stakes for the character. I work myself towards excitement, and excitement follows.
How about yourselves, dear (loyal, patient) readers? Any particular methods that you fall back on again and again to keep your mind on the right track?
Friday, April 1st, 2011
Or, alternately, Father Time has played the Fox to my Chauntecleer. Hooray for Chaucerian April Fool’s references! Suffice to say, the first part of the year got away from me, and it seemed to me that the best place to pick up the slack is by dropping in on the first of a month. That it’s a day set aside for fools and liars only make it more appropriate.
So yes, there’s links below, some old, some new and some just things I felt like sharing. Come back Monday for a real post. In the meantime, things you might like to see:
- If you’re like me, you’re probably worried about the things that have been leaking out about the remake of Conan (Even if it does have a line from “Queen of the Black Coast” in the trailer, and a lot of Jason Momoa’s abs). If so, remind yourself of the original film with a Musical Adaptation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBGOQ7SsJrw
- Smart Bitches, Trashy Books wins my heart (at the cost of my already damaged liver) by linking us all to the incredibly awesome Jane Austen Drinking Game, complete with live video. http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/friday-videos-love-womanly-skillz/
- If you’re the book buying sort, and you don’t know this already, there’s a movement to boycott Dorchester. I’m not normally into telling folks what to think, but this is the exception. I’ve had friends that got screwed in this and had to fight to get their rights back. If it helps sway your mind RWA uninvited them from the National Convention last year for “unfulfilled contractual obligations “. Brian Keene began it all here: http://www.briankeene.com/?p=6140 and for another author’s take you can go here: http://www.stacydittrich.com/blog/2011/03/guess-what-dorchester-its-on/
- A bit of good news for fans of the Glastonberry Thorn – despite last year’s horrific vandalism, there is new growth on the tree: http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/news/New-life-holy-tree-welcomed-great-news/article-3363186-detail/article.html
- And while we’re talking about religion, there’s few things make me smile as much as the Saga of Biorn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV5w262XvCU
Thursday, December 30th, 2010
Continuing the series I started on Monday, I’m wrapping up the things I enjoyed most from the past year. It’s been an eventful year for pen-and-paper rpgs, with the resurrection of not one, but two beloved franchises. There’s been a lot of chaff too, but let’s concentrate on the good stuff.
Dark Sun once again graces the table of people who like their fantasy post-apocalyptic and dark. I’ve praised this before in these electronic pages, and it should be no surprise to see it in my list for top picks this year. It is, simply, the best use of the 4e engine so far, modifying the set-up to create a world that feels on the verge of total collapse.
On the Post Apocalyptic front, I finally had a chance to play the new version of Gamma World. It’s just as over the top and crazy as it has always been, and possibly even more so. Mutations rise and fall in the heroes, while technology is dangerous and unreliable. Character generation is random and quick, and players aren’t expected to live long. It’s a blast.
My winner for great games this year though has to be Fiasco. It’s a loose, narrativist rpg designed to set up the kinds of nightmarish failed heist stories that make for some of my favorite movies (Big Lebowski, Snatch, Fargo and the like.) Invariably, it spirals out of control and everything falls apart, and in the breaking becomes even more entertaining. Highly recommended.
Of course, any recap of the year in RPGs would be empty if I didn’t mention Paizo’s Pathfinder, for which I’ve written a bit of fiction. If you like your D&D more pulpy and a little old school, (but not retro-clone levels of old-school). It’s a good time, with some great settings.
Monday, December 27th, 2010
2010 is almost in the history books, and with it the first decade of the 21st century. (Sadly, still no flying cars.) I’m still trying to figure out where the time has actually gone. It seems like February was just a few weeks ago, not most of a year. Little to do but go forward, though.
I’m taking a break from the normal format here at the blog to give a recap of things I’ve loved that came out in the past year. It’s been a great year for a lot of fields, and certainly there’re plenty of things to point out on the off-hand chance you haven’t managed to find them on your own. Today I’m going to talk about ParRom, Wednesday will be Gaming, and Friday will be whatever oher things happen to pop up in my mind (as befits a potpourri day).
Two great new series kicked off in 2010, and I am hard pressed to decide which I enjoy more. Stacia Kane’s Downsider series (Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts) are a gritty post-apocalyptic supernatural series that doesn’t flinch away from the ugliness of life on the low. Chess Putnam is an addict, and makes Sookie Stackhouse look like the queen of good decision making. She’s a great heroine, and her foil/partnering with the criminal enforcer Terrible makes for compulsive reading. Further, Kane has given us great world-building, where the truth about life-after-death has been laid bare, and the world’s religions have collapsed as a result. Great stuff and highly recommended.
Completely different and no less addictive is Zoe Archer’s Blades of the Rose books (Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, and Stranger, plus a novella in Half Past Dead) are tied together by their world and themes, rather than by a specific character. Part Adventure-Romance, part Paranormal-Pulp, and all phenomenal her series follows the members of a secret society dedicated to protecting the world’s sources of magic from those who would corrupt them. The books span the world, including stories in England, the Canadian Backwoods, and Outer Mongolia and Archer manages to capture the feel of her locations and make them another character in her stories. The romances in each are as different as the characters involved, and don’t feel tacked-on as sometimes happens with adventure romance. I’ve loved each one of these books, and cannot recommend them enough.
So there you go – two great new series that have kicked off this year, and exploded onto the scene. Go, find them, and if you haven’t done so yet, buy and read them.
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
Solstice is behind us, and the days are once again stretching out towards summer (even if it doesn’t particularly feel like it yet.) In that spirit, I’ve gone a little Holiday Mad around the electronic homestead, and all three posts this week will be in the spirit of the holidays. But I’m trying to remain faithful to the spirit of the planned days as well: Writing on Monday, Gaming and Knitting on Wednesday and the Friday Grab-bag I like to call Potpourri.
I could talk a bit about my holiday knitting – in fact, my original plan was to discuss one of my proudest knitting gifts. Watching a now-adult brother still wear his Hogwarts House Scarf in the winter because he’s so proud of it never fails to bring me a smile and a little feeling of awesomeness in my chest for coming up with the exact right gift. I could say a lot about it.
Then I saw Raw Exports: A Christmas Tale, and I threw that idea out the window.
Let me be clear – I love horror gaming. It’s hard to do well, and I’ve been blessed to have a string of groups that came together for those magical moments of genuine terror. Most of those came around some variant of Call of Cthulhu (or more recently, the superlative re-imagining “Trail of Cthulhu”) and it is that sense of digging too deep into things Man Was Not Meant To Know that really made Rare Exports come alive.
For those not in the know, the plot of Rare Exports is this – An American Mining Company breaks open the ancient tomb where the Laplanders managed to imprison Santa Claus, and all hell breaks loose. Because this isn’t the friendly Santa that Coca Cola sold you on. This is Joulupukki, the Yule Goat, and he’s come to punish the wicked children, rather than reward the good. The Lovecraftian weirdness pervades the movie (beyond the rendering of Santa as an ancient evil), and there’s even the requisite Tome of Forbidden Knowledge (appropriately The Truth About Santa).
I came up with a half-dozen ways to ransack Rare Exports for a one-off scenario –telling the story from other points of view, or letting other Holiday symbols run amuck (The Krampus / Zwarte Piet occupies a place of honor on my holiday tree, right below Gordie Howe). I suspect I’ll put my friends through the holiday wringer sooner rather than later.
As for Rare Exports – the film is in limited US release (I am fortunate to have a very good art theatre locally) but if you get the chance, go see it. It may not dethrone the Holiday classics (like Die Hard and National Lamppon’s Christmas Vacation), but it’s earned a place alongside them.
Monday, December 20th, 2010
The long night of Winter Solstice is almost upon us, occurring for the first time in over 400 years in conjunction with a lunar eclipse. There’s a lot to be said for that sort thing. It just feels momentous. The majority of writers I know personally are a superstitious lot – with writing in favorite rooms, or with certain brands of pens, or after observing certain rituals. Over and over I’ve heard tell of the nightmares of trying to produce new words while Mercury is in retrograde, or how good or bad someone’s relationship with their muse might be.
One of the things I try to think about when I create a character is their little superstitions. Whether it’s a common “wives tale” in a fantasy setting, or simply a particular habit of an individual, it’s the little superstitions that make characters feel more rounded. It sometimes also makes them come off a bit eccentric, but that’s the point.
I’ve been working on a new story, with limited success (no doubt to the aforementioned Mercury in retrograde) but one of the things I’ve tried very hard to do is throw away some of my superstitious crutches. I write in other places than my office. I push myself out of my comfort zone, partly to remind myself that I don’t need those other things. Partly, I am reinforcing the belief in my mind that “A writer writes. No matter what.”
I encourage each of you to stretch yourself in some way, as the days stretch out once again. Write with joy and write with abandon. Most of all, just write.
Happy holidays, whatever your holiday of choice may be.
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