Saturday, December 24, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is Electricity

It's Christmas Eve today, and I'm now living in a hotel. Don't worry, it is temporary. Unfortunate, but temporary. How did I end up in this situation? The little substation that powers our grid flooded with water and blew, so now 60 houses have no power for the holidays. Yes, 60 houses filled with young families, many of them with children. I am grateful that I do not have to pay for this room that I type this from now, or that the rest of the families living here do not either, but my, what a shitty first Christmas.

It all started when my husband's pay was screwed up. Money was tight and I started to look for a job. I couldn't even afford decorations for the holidays. Then he didn't get the time off to see our families for Christmas because someone didn't send him, and the rest of dayshift, the email they needed. Things started to look up when I got my job at the bowling alley. After New Years things wouldn't be so tight financially because I was now helping out, but then yesterday morning there was no electricity. My husband's alarm didn't go off, and he ended up late to work along with the rest of the guys who live down the street from us. With no power, there was no heat. We spent the night huddled under piles of blankets trying to sleep. It was warmer outside than it was in our house.

This morning my husband called me from work to tell me that the inn on base was handing out free rooms, and here I am after wonderful help from a couple young ladies at the counter. At first I thought I was screwed, there was no room for us, but then they worked to find a place for me and my sweetie. I really couldn't appreciate them more.

The bad news is that they don't know when the power will be fixed. Rumor says it may only be a couple days to a week. Poor kids. I wish I could do something to make Christmas better for them and their families. At least they have a warm roof over their heads for the holidays.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What I Have Discovered About Writing Fantasy

This week, I am not going to bitch about how poor I am. Instead, I am going to talk about my nerdy little passion: writing fantasy.

I don't just write, as I have said many, many times. No, I write fantasy. I'm the person who dreams of places with weird names and weird species, and puts them down on paper. I watch as Microsoft Word freaks out with its little red and green squiggly lines as I try to type in words that its software brain cannot comprehend. (I have since become pro at ignoring the little buggers unless it is a true spelling crisis.)

Despite the frustration of trying to get my computer to respond to what I want, the truth is that I do not follow "typical" fantasy conventions as I have found out so frequently when my work on Book Country is reviewed. I have discovered that my work can be awfully polarizing, with people loving the wit and character interaction, and others spitting upon it for its lack of Tolkienesque details. When I set out to work on my book seriously sometime during my freshman year in college, I realized I wanted to write something that people would be able to read and connect to without being bogged down in unnecessary detail and background information like I had come across in fantasy so frequently.

To clarify, I do engage in world building to give people a setting, a place to escape to. The characters that are created must exist and interact in this world. You can't just throw in characters and not tell the audience what the laws, rule, or customs are. (Actually, don't tell. Show. But thats for an entirely different blog entry.) My point is that I don't like to overdo it. The people who don't like my work prefer whole paragraphs where I describe in minute detail what the street the character is standing on looks like, or the mountain top, or etc.

Too bad. If it isn't relevant, I don't put it in. I'm not going to describe the bar across the street unless my character goes into the bar at some point. For readers who want that kind of detail, read George RR Martin. The fact that I don't bog the reader down in unnecessary details is one thing those that like my work praise me on. I don't "let the genre rule me," as my creative writing professor told me once.

If there is one thing that I've learned from writing, period, is that people want action to happen with characters they can connect with. That is what I'm trying to achieve. I've come to the conclusion that if people can get that, then they might give it a try. With my work, I attract people who read just about anything from any genre, than those who read pretty much anything and everything fantasy. Those into "High Fantasy" really, really don't like my stuff. (I have yet to discover if this is a good or bad thing.)

For now I just keep chugging along in the hope that my audience will pop up and show itself. I've had from the "This is awesome!" to "Uh, no..." to those who missed every single important detail ever written down. For those of you who want to give my book a shot, here is the link: Hands of Ash.

I'll keep writing fantasy until my hands fall off. So all the naysayers can suck it, because I love being a such a geek.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Not So Very Merry Christmas

It has been a while since I've talked about anything but my writing. I feel that now is the perfect moment to introduce why I soon may not be working on said writing as much.

My husband and I are officially very, very poor. We have no savings, and all our money goes to bills and feeding ourselves. The reason why this has happened is a mystery to us. We have talked to the people that are in charge of the money that my husband makes, and they tell us that the government is making us pay them back money because they fixed how much he is supposed to make. It is a confusing and frustrating situation to be in when we have cut our spending significantly, but still it isn't enough. So now I am looking for a job. I actually might have to work two since all I've found is part time work. I hope I get the bowling alley job that I was interviewed for last Friday.

In other depressing news. I will not be seeing my family till December 28. No Christmas for me. Not even here. We can't afford to even make our own decorations.

Hope is hard to come by these days.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An Observation of Character

I've been cranking out the words lately, and I realized something about the characters that I create. Most of them are female, young, and don't like to follow the rules that society has set for them. They say that you put yourself in your writing, but I wonder if there might be an element of wishful thinking. They all do something that involves an element of bravery (or stupidity, depending on your perspective).

First there is my pride and joy, Melody. She isn't the best fighter, and probably not the smartest person to ever walk the earth, but she's got spunk. She wants nothing more than to be accepted for who she is regardless of gender or position, yet has a habit of inserting herself into other people's business. She's the main character of my novel Hands of Ash.

Then there is Tao. She's not the most pleasant person on the planet. Her cynical attitude and issues with the religious institution she's stuck working for make her difficult to deal with. She smokes like a chimney and will say a whole slew of unseemly things about your personality. She's rude and unseemly, yet is quickly turning into a fan favorite. Read her story here: Principium. She's also a character in my novel Hands of Ash.

The newest female protagonist to join my growing list is Scarlet the bandit. She came around as I was writing a story for a contest. The theme was to write a story from a villain's perspective. I decided to pick a female and go satirical. What I got can be read here: Why I Ain't No Hero. She's lewd and manipulative. Scarlet is perhaps the most masculine of my first two characters, and that's saying something.

In my current work I have a young woman named Mariann. Mariann is perhaps the meekest and most effeminate of my ladies. She keeps her head down and goes with the flow, but she wants out of the life she's been stuck with. Unlike Melody, Tao, and Scarlet, she's subtle. This was surprisingly easy to write for me even though my previous ladies usually have an element of loudness to them. Of course, this story is intended to be a tragedy, a sobering genre to begin with. I'll post a link for "Papers to Paradise" when I get it finished.

Not all my protagonists are female. There is Adamar. I have written one story about him, and have a second one in progress. (I actually didn't like the second one I wrote, so I'm rewriting it.) Unlike my ladies, he's quite and perhaps more mature. He also is more cerebral than the girls, but not  the scholarly type. To say he's a worrier is not an overstatement. He spends most of his time trying to figure out what it means to be a Warrior, and what is the purpose of war. Yeah, he's a tad on the deep side. His first story is here: Red Autumn.

I had started a story for Cyn Fang, yet it has gone nowhere beyond a couple hundred words. Like Adamar, he's on the quiet side. He's also calculating. I don't know what this says about my view of women and men, but for all those who like to psychoanalyze everything, there it is.

I think I've said enough about my characters. I'll let you be the judge.

Note: I don't know if the site I've linked the stories from will let nonmembers read more than one if linked to it like I have. Let m know if you have problems for those who are interested.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Love I Give To Chapter 9

Ah, Chapter 9. You are the biggest headache of my life right now.

I know my overly dramatic statement might seem like hyperbole, but in all honesty, I think my finances are easier at this point. I have a couple longer chapters to revise, yet none are quite so depressing as 9. There is death, weeping, and all the horrible sentences I wrote when I was putting converting it to a digital medium. You see, 9 is the chapter where I learned my lesson that you should never be bored with what you write, or bored while you write. Then, when you go back and revise you get this...

I know. Isn't it such a lovely mess, but it doesn't end there. I have plenty more where that came from.

Yes, those are post-it notes. I had to come up with something to put entire chapter rewrites on since I print double sided. (Although, the first copy I made of the revision I flubbed and printed single side. 25 pages wasted when I could have cut that in half. Sorry, trees.)

I know that some of you reading this are saying that is how they should look after a good, hard editing session. A writer should cut out the sentences and words that are unneeded. Dialogue and descriptions that aren't up to par should be rewritten or chucked in the garbage can to be taken away with the refuse, but here is the thing that shouldn't happen. An editing session on a chapter shouldn't take two weeks. Yes, folks. Two whole weeks, maybe even longer.

You see, when writing this initially, I was bored out of my mind. I wanted to get it done so bad that I wrote a ton of whitewash boring sentences. There was no flavor, no spice, no love to them. Then I had to fix them. The reason it took so long, is that when I found myself feeling tired, I put it aside. I did not want 9 to have no flavor like it did before. I wanted it to be engaging. I wanted it to be filled with the love of the craft. 

I don't know if I have succeeded at this point. I still have one more revision to do on it before I repost it up at my sources. Then it will be allowed to join the pile.

Above is the pile of folders for the Prologue through chapter 8. They wait patiently for me to put 9 through 14 with them, maybe even 15 since I'm almost done. I guess I will just have to take up the NaNoWriMo call and finish my novel before the end of November. (Thanks for making me feel guilty, Typewriter Mike.) Whether I get there or not depends on how persistent I am...

... and how good Skyrim is.

If you know me, text me, email me, Facebook me, or kick me and tell me to get my ass going. I know my husband isn't going to be the one to light the fire under my ass.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Editing Blows

Every writer will have to endure the pain caused by the red pen. Yes, the metaphorical red pen used to strike out every unnecessary word in each sentence. The pen responsible for the destruction of complicated phrases with a simple line. The pen that will add the addition of a forgotten comma. Does this scenario sound familiar? If you have written anything that has seen review, then you have experienced the art of editing.

Editing is important. It is what cleans up a work and makes it presentable for other's eyes and ears. It is a necessary, but difficult process. I have lately been engaging in this tortuous activity. Everyday I sit and reread things that I have read a hundred times before, a pencil in my hand. I have learned that you do not always catch every flaw on the first pass. You must go over the script again and again to find what you have missed.

The first time I began to take editing seriously was when I took my first creative writing class in college. My professor was a stickler for clean manuscripts. Even though we didn't workshop, he could tell if you didn't run over it a few times just by reading it once. As it turns out, he used to teach a grammar course on top of teaching for over forty years. He would look over the edge of your story as he handed it back to you, accusation in his eyes. "You didn't edit," he would say. After that, I always revised more than once.

Working on my first novel has taught me that not everything is perfect even after  you believe it is. I have been over the first chapters numerous times, and still find faults. Sometimes I have to stop myself from changing a sentence just because I don't like it. I have to stop myself from over-editing, yet I still look. I look for that errant comma, or the sentence that can be broken up into two. I look for a missing capital letter, or a an improper word usage. I do everything to make sure that others can read it without cringing in horror.

As important as editing is, it is tedious and time consuming. Editing blows.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Noises I Hear

I live on a military base in a house up against an elementary school. Every day I hear the children playing in the school yard now that the new school year is started. I can hear the bell that rings every morning at eight thirty calling them to class. I can here the teacher's whistles as they line up their wards during physical education. I hear when the school day ends, but that is not all I hear.

My environment has changed. The only things I heard through the walls of the house I lived in growing up was the wail of sirens from police cars and ambulances, or the tuned motor of a car or motorcycle. There was the occasional sound of a plane flying over. Maybe a person making a U-turn in the front yard since we had no sidewalk, only gravel.

Now there is the whining of cargo plane engines. My husband sits next to me and tells me their names. He tells me why he knows which ones they are. It is because of a whine they make, high pitched and piercing. Its different from engine to engine. I lie in bed and hear them taking off and landing. The line is nowhere near my house, yet they are still loud enough to hear. They are loud enough for him to know.

There is the clack clack clack of a train over tracks that run through the base. I hear it at night mingling with the whine of the engines.

There is the Big Voice being tested. The bell that rings from the towers that run down the streets break through the walls as if it is joining me in the living room or bed room. The ringing ends and a voice crackles from the speakers. To hear this I must stick my head out the door and strain my senses, otherwise it is only static. When the towers ring I dream of worlds thought up in science fiction stories where an unnamed person speaks to the masses to make them hear. I hear, but I can't understand what they are saying.

These are the noises I hear.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sifting Through Old Stuff

My husband and I bought a 3-hole puncher this weekend. He needed it to organize some of his paperwork into binders, so we took a trip to Office Max. This purchase ended up being beneficial for me as well because I could finally put new drafts of my novel into my binder. In a paper-wasting act of organization, I proceeded to print out all 12 revised chapters to replace the ones that still remained in the black binder that sat on the corner of my desk. I can certainly say that it was gratifying, but what about the old copies?

I went through all the folders and holders I possessed to gather up the old drafts that I had lying around. It has been 8 years since I started my novel, and some of the drafts are years old. Over those years I have become a better writer and have repaired flaws that needed to be repaired. Naturally these old drafts were just plain bad. Yes, bad. I was shocked that I ever wrote that way and am glad that I improved. I couldn't help but think of my friends in high school who would nag me for my spiral bound notebooks so that they could read the new words I had scribbled down as my teachers lectured. I had never dreamed such a project would get carried away.

For years I just had fun with it. There are characters that are more caricature, now cut out and forgotten. My main characters' actions have become more refined and realistic as I have gotten to know them better, and as I have gotten older. I became better read, so my writing style has evolved to become my own and less adolescent. My word count has shot up due to the cry for more detail and explanation from those who have read what I have written. I have introduced new characters that make the plot more complex. Old ideas have grown to become their own monsters. My work, my world has evolved.

Now its a serious project that I am constantly working on. Sadly I am a bit of a procrastinator, and have issues with staying consistent. One moment I am doing the much needed rewrite for chapter 1, and the next I am working on chapter 13. (That doesn't include the two short works I'm currently writing.) I have to prevent myself from going through all that I have just printed out and doing more revising. The perfectionist in my tries so very hard to deter me, but I am making progress. I have a goal to write more every day so that I can get all of Part 1 (now Book 1 due to length) finished so I can really grind at it. Yes, I have a dream about getting it published some day. Whether it will have to be self published or not is yet to be seen. I will continue to write, because now with the division of the parts, I have two books written and a third started. I can say I'm pleased with myself, and I have enough ideas for a dozen books.

I need a filing cabinet.

Now it is time for me to admit that this blog is being used as a procrastination tool. I must get back to that chapter 1 rewrite.

If you want a little taste of my work go to BookCountry, but I should warn you that there is a word count limit for nonmembers. My book is under Hands of Ash, and my short stories are "Principium" and "Red Autumn."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Yard

Today was a new experience.

Since we have been broke - until recently at least - we have not been able to take care of our backyard. For the past two months it has sat by itself to mind its own business. When our yard is left alone the grass does not only grow incredibly long, but it has a tendency to sprout up these little cankers called weeds, en mass. I have kept the blinds closed that faced the backyard to blot out the little eye-sore that it has become. What made the sight even worse was the fact that it is butted up against an elementary school with only a chain link fence to divide it from the clean cut green blades on the other side. I could not bare to look upon it since I didn't have the means to deal with the problem.

Then we got a weed whacker. Yes, a weed whacker. Just a week whacker.

I know that it sounds sad going up against a forest (I should note that our yard is not that small) with only an electric weed whacker to combat it, but I made a dent. Yes, I made a dent, and it felt so good. I grinned the whole time I ground away at the weeds and long green blades that had begun to invade our patio. I watched as little brown spiders - and some monster ones - scattered about amongst the ants as green brush sprayed everywhere. That bastard  yard was going down.

There is only one problem with me going after the yard, of course. My Achilles heel, the sun. Yes, the sun. Where most people flip-flop around in the lovely July air (here in California) with bare arms and legs, I must cover up from head to toe with gallons of sunscreen on my delicate skin. Due to my photosensitive condition, I was prevented from continuing my slaying of the green bladed beast until I had killed the last battery for my weed whacker sword. How did I know it was time to stop? The lovely tingling in my forearms and shoulders right through my UV shirt and twenty pounds of sunscreen. Having found a chink in my armor, I put my weapon away and went back inside. I would not be able to continue my onslaught until my energy ran out.

But I will not give up!

Later this week I will continue my assault on the yard once my arms and shoulders have stopped tingling. This is a funny thing to be defeated by the sun and not a spider bite or exhaustion. To think that very few know what a vampire feels like. For now I will stay inside and do house work or my writing while I heal up.

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Critiquing Using the 5 Things Method

Those of you reading this are probably wondering "What is the 5 things method?" The 5 things method is a method of critiquing that I have developed myself as both a writer and a reader. The purpose of this method is to find 5 things that you like or found that the writer has done well, and 5 things that you didn't like or found that were not done well.

So why would I develop such a method? This explanation goes along with my experience writing. I found it frustrating to read a review of my work in which the person did nothing but give me paragraph long explanations about what I needed to fix or what they didn't find favorable. If something positive was said, than it was a simple footnote, a line, of minute praise. Then there is the opposite when all I would get was praise, but not a note of what needed improvement. This method was developed by me to force myself to never slant myself too far in either direction.

Now, I know that there are limitations and bias that can still be shown by using this method. For example, sometimes a work will be absolutely atrocious (or phenomenal), and it will be difficult to find 5 things on either end to state. This is where the reviewer can get creative. If the writing is bad, find a name or a line of dialogue that you enjoy. If the writing is good, the same goes. Find something that you may not absolutely be in love with, and suggest a change or point it out. 

I know that liking of loving something is only the first stage of critique, so that brings me to the next point. Explain your choices. Even if  your explanation is something like, "It just seems awkward to me," go ahead and put it down. A simple explanation can be better than nothing. Depending on whose work is being critiqued, they may take a second look at what you have said even though it wasn't specific. You would be surprised at what makes people double take.

This method may still seem to be a little underdeveloped, but I can assure you that it works. Not only does it help the other person to improve on their own work, but it also assists you, the reviewer and reader, into spotting things besides grammatical and spelling errors as well as generalizations about plot and character development. When it is harder to fit a specification than you work harder to fill it.

Trust me, try it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Beginning

I have been told I should start a blog, me, mouthy and loud me. So here I am starting a blog. I guess that your first blog should be like the first chapter of a book. Wonderful, exciting, captivating. My life is not, so sorry to those who were expecting that I was published. I am not, consider that confession numero uno. I hope some day to publish my year long (more years long) struggle known as The Infamous Book. No, that is not its title. That is what I call the book when I am irritated with it.

Writing is hard work. True writers will tell you that. There is nothing romantic about sitting in a chair getting fat while you stare at a screen going blind as you type away getting carpal tunnel. What is even less romantic is the things people will say. If you do not have a back bone of titanium, than you will sit in a corner with the wonderful woe-is-mes. It's like banging your own head against the wall while someone is kicking you in the shin. That is the romance of writing. It is not sitting at a table outside at a cafe in Paris/New York/San Francisco and scribbling in a Moleskine(T) notebook. (I do have one, but it is the only thing that can take the abuse that my purse dishes out.) Writing is hair-pulling, depression-giving difficult.

Then why do I do it? I love it! Yes, I am crazy enough to want to be a writer. A novelist to be exact. I have gotten the comments about the uselessness of it all, and rolled eyes, but I still want to do it. I have been through the grind where I had to produce a short story of 3,500 words every two weeks. Trust me, it is so wearing that it makes you realize what you do want to do. It makes you know whether you want to be a writer or not. And I know. Even with the reviews on my latest endeavor being less than stunning, I still trudge forth with my head held high despite my bruised shins and the welt on my forehead.

So where does the military housewife bit come into all of this. I guess it has to do with the fact that next to punching out words on keys worn smooth, I have to do my husband's laundry and prune my fingers with dishwater. Yes, currently I am a housewife, and that is the one thing making me crazy. As the psychotic multitasker that I am, I am also looking for a job.

Welcome to the life of me bashing my head against the wall while sorting lights from darks as I type out my resume with one foot.