Sunday, December 27, 2009

Relations

I'm diverted from my writing by the information that my youngest sister and her boyfriend are spending quality time in the living room at parents' house. This would be something that the oldest sister and boyfriend did for two years before he popped the question and they shortly after married.



That is to say - things seem to be calmed down with the family and our way of handling the interloper.

He is still not exactly what the parents want in a son-in-law. But he has been going to church with her for the last year, given up dating everyone else (including his strange Scrubs-like relationship with another guy), and he spent Christmas with my family instead of his own.

Her car is a victim of the weather (dead battery, frozen gasline, or bad starter/fuse) - which means she is stuck at home and had no way of driving over to his apartment to see him. So he came out to see her the last two days.

Good on him.

I'm humored at the moment, because I sat down with the lovely and thick Jane Austen collection book that mom gave me for Christmas. I opened to page 187 and immediately saw the following paragraph:

"Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never ever be mentioned by any of us."

This was the speech which Lady Catherine gave Elizabeth upon falsely hearing from Mr. Collins that E and D were involved and about to declare marital intentions and relations to the world.

I read that parag and laughed, because it reminded me of all of our correspondance with Elizabeth (baby sister) when she and boyfriend began their courtship on the wrong foot according to our family. There was a difference of culture and values between his family and ours. Liz got caught in the middle and chose his side. She fled with him to Chicago and afterwards moved into his apartment with him and two other guys. Our parents meanwhile were stuck with all of her growing debts and dealing with debt collectors (they'd call up to 20 times a day looking for her) and were panicked and worried sick over her moral and physical welfare.

My sisters and I understood Liz' conflicted emotions, but stood by our parents. There were many emails from us to her, begging her to moderate her behavior and not burn all of her bridges.

Let me just say my remaining sisters and I watch Pride and Prejudice and read it with a different perspective than before. The situation with Lydia especially... hits close to home.

It is definitely a reason why I appreciate Jane Austen's books, and always have. While Charles Dickens used his writing to pour out his own personal grief and frustrations in life and gain the relief and satisfaction which he may or may not have found in real life, Jane Austen used her pen to explore some of the social situations which impact people and families even now. She either experienced those things herself in life, or perhaps she was a very observative bystander.
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Lazy Americans

"Lazy American Students -

Writing Note here before I get carried away - I am writing, slowly but surely. One of my projects. I have a vague goal of having one of my favorite projects ready for crit by my birthday (September) and then possibly ready for query by Spring 2011. That is my more generous goal. I really want to have something to query by my birthday.

The above link goes to a muy interesante article regarding one teacher's perspective on the American education system, and in particular her American students vs. foreign transfers or immigrant students.



Chinese undergraduates have consistently impressed me with their work ethic, though I have seen similar habits in students from India, Thailand, Brazil, and Venezuela. Often, they’ve done little English-language writing in their home countries, and they frequently struggle to understand my lectures. But their respect for professors - and for knowledge itself - is palpable. The students listen intently to everything I say, whether in class or during office hours, and try to engage in the conversation.

Too many 18-year-old Americans, meanwhile, text one another under their desks (certain they are sly enough to go unnoticed), check e-mail, decline to take notes, and appear tired and disengaged.

Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that all American students are the same. I’ve taught many who were hardworking, talented, and deeply impressive. They listened intently, enriched class discussions, and never shied away from rewrites. At their best, American students marry knowledge and innovation, resulting in some astoundingly creative work.

But creativity without knowledge - a common phenomenon - is just not enough.


On the subject - personally speaking, I believe it is a culture thing. Speaking for myself, it is really easy to not take the education side of school seriously when your parents, teachers, and peers are pressuring you to have a normal social life. I could be wrong, but elsewhere, parents pressure their kids to put their education first. This could be because a quality education is the difference between living in utter squalor and being successful and going places.

There are other things - like I'm sure we all had to read Amy Tan in college. There is one short story taken from one of her books, where the protagonist's mother is trying to steer her daughter in a direction where she will be rich and famous. The daughter obeys and fails each time, and grows up resenting her mother for pushing her so hard and never being satisfied with her as is.

Compare that to a Christmas movie I watched over and over the past week... I forgot the name of the movie, but Melissa Joan Hart (one of my alltime favorite actress people) plays the main character. She is all set to have a really cwappy Christmas because she has to go home for the holidays and she doesn't have anything BRILLIANT to show her family - not even a boyfriend. Her older sister is going to college to become a lawyer. Her brother is practically married to somebody. She is the only one who doesn't have a lot to show - and she works at a diner as a waitress. So she kidnaps Mario Lopez' character, drags him home with her, and introduces him as her boyfriend.

By the end of the movie, her parents fall apart and mom attacks dad for trying to mold the children into mirror images of him - all successful, respectable, wealthy, and fab. And one by one the children confess how they are all well short of his expectations (sister dropped out of college, brother dumped gf and is gay, Melissa Joan Hart's character is now a felon).

Actually, the only person who stands up and embraces being successful is Mario's character, and the cool thing is he explains how he worked for every bit of his success on his own - this because he came from a poor background.

On one hand... I'm thinking that the movie had one thing right - there is nothing wrong with doing what you want in life, instead of bending yourself out of shape to fit somebody else's expectations. That is the American way. Our kids are taught from daycare on that they can be whatever they want in life. If they think that math is a braincell-straining-nightmare, then nobody is going to push them to become an engineer like Dad. If they want to play games for a living, then maybe there is a career that needs somebody like that.

Hey! Anybody watch Stargate Universe?! The main character is a video gamer who was swooped up by the army because of his gaming skillz.

On the other hand, movies like that drive me nuts - especially since so many are aimed at kids. Somehow or other, they take respectable and wealthy people (who worked for their living) and tear them down to size just because they wanted their kids to be successful and self-sufficient. It kinda encourages parents to look the other way when their kids spend high school and even college goofing off with friends instead of going after those difficult and demanding degrees where they are certain to get a hugely successful job.

ALL RANTING ASIDE -

I read that article a different way, at least from the aspiring writer's perspective.

That line - "creativity without knowledge - a common phenomenon - is just not enough" - reminded me of something I was gabbing about with my older sister the other night. This was after I read "Twilight" and realized to my HORRRRRRRROR that I enjoyed it (you know I did if I started reading Christmas afternoon and didn't stop until 5AM yesterday morning).

We started out discussing Twilight and how I refused to read it beforehand. Then we gabbed about people who simply refuse to read - period.

There are actually people who only read when absolutely forced to (like in HS and college), but spend all their time writing.

I know how easy it is to get into the mental block that reading while writing might unconsciously affect your writing style. This is so true! But the risk is well worth it considering how reading expands your mind and perspective beyond the confines of your skull.

Because writing is so solitary an exercise, it is very easy to get into writing block situations - recycled characters, situations, unrealistic plotlines based on your own narrow worldviews, etc...

Reading teaches you how to develop stronger characters and to go out of your own personal comfort zone.

And not just reading fiction.

Go online and read everything you can of the news, gossip, history, and science.... everything you think will expand your mind and feed it new ideas. And also learn to see the world as other people might see it.

This doesn't mean you have to give up your own viewpoints and go wishy-washy. It just means that when you decide to write a novel with a current issue (teenage pregnancy, for example), you will know how to write that novel to show a certain viewpoint in a way that it can be absorbed by people who have other viewpoints.

FWIW, I reached this 'open your mind and expand' point after logging onto a sorta-religious chatroom and eavesdropping on people I thought I knew well. When chittering to them in person, it is easy for people to be on their best behavior and socially conscious. When it comes to writing on forums or elsewhere, these people turn into something different.

I was honestly shocked by their lack of understanding.... basically they held the proper viewpoints, but didn't know how to explain WHY. They never took the time to educate themselves. Theology is hard and boring, I understand. But if you go onto chatrooms and start arguing with people over theology, you better know how to explain yourself.

What usually happens is these people resort to emotional warfare. And fight by personally attacking their opponents. Their weakness is immediately perceived by their opponents who go to town exposing that ignorance and capitalizing on it. Those opponents not only destroy the ignorant-arguer, but use the ignorant-arguer to attack the establishment that the ignorant-arguer was trying to defend.

This is something that may and frequently does happen with beginning writers.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The DARK SIDE of Christmas Shopping



I thought about this topic after seeing a headline from someone else's blog and relating it to my own experience yesterday while visiting the local Target for dolls for my niece. I also stopped over in the cologne dept, looking for my younger brother's favorite cologne. It also occurred to me to look for my sister's favorite perfume (I haven't figured out the difference between cologne and perfume, and instead of looking it up or asking, I idly assume they are male/female type words like blond/blonde, yes my bad) since I was over there and everything was on sale.



What happened instead was I saw all of these perfumes that I wanted, and it distracted me from the real reason why I was standing in the aisle.

The same thing happened when I was in the jewelry and then the clothing sections of the store. I saw ME THINGS, but forgot to look for THEM THINGS. Fortunately, I didn't buy anything for myself. My conscience/budget reared its authoritative head and ordered my compulses and my checkwriting hand to cease and desist.

Heh.

But this reminded me of something in writing.

See? There is always a correlation. ^.~

Basically:

I've also found myself many times sitting down to write a new chapter, and only thinking about what I want to see in the chapter. There's nothing wrong with that. You SHOULD enjoy what you write, especially since you will have to write it over and over again until it is publishing quality.

The problem is when you verge in the 'lazy writer' direction and forget you are writing for somebody other than yourself. Means you have to be a bit more universal in your topic (there is ALWAYS a topic) and you have to remember that agents and publishers are not evil meanies who reject your work because they hate you. It is a business. They will take on something if it will sell. I know there are agents who say that they won't take a project if they themselves do not have a passion for it, but I'm sure they will make compromises if the market is selling projects of that type. It's survival of the fittest.

In Christmas shopping terms, it is either buying shampoo for somebody who is bald, or buying a certain kind of shampoo for somebody who already had ten full bottles of the same exact shampoo.

Maybe find out what that person already has TOO MUCH of and see if you can give them something similar but of a different fragrance. You still get to get them what you want (shampoo), but it will be snagged up with joy.

What? Am I the only one who gladfully snags up presents of new bottles of shampoo, soap, and lotions with joy on Christmas? They can get expensive if you buy them yourself. :)
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Twitter Twash


Sorry about whatever anyone might have seen down on the twitter feed. I'm not sure WHY this happens, but once every while somebody else's feed appears instead of mine. I don't know if the person is a troll trying to get attention, or if this is something I can blame on Blogger for being stupid.

I just did a quickie search, and apparently this is a known problem with 'third party' (meaning blogger, myspace, etc) widgets. I had to use the official Twitter widget, which you can see below. Shouldn't ever happen again - fingers crossed in hope.

Sorry again if you saw whatever - and nope, that wasn't me.
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Where I've been....



More or less...

I finished NANO, and then went through a week of nought - meaning I did absolutely nothing worth mentioning in a literal and writing sense. I've been going over my budget and writing up Christmas lists - and checking both twice.

Then starting this past weekend, I started my Christmas shopping. First it is window shopping, and now I have money to spend, it's buying presents. And happily I'm staying within my budget. Squee!

Ahem. On a less mundane front!

I picked up a new writing project. This is a supersecret one that I've been thinking about for a while. It's based in the same world of another supersecret project, both which will shy away from the real world until summer I think. At least I hope to have them done by then. These are both YA fantasy novels of the same type as my NSAM and MQTRTDTP projects (two old favorites), except they are a bit more between the urban fantasy world and epic fantasy world. I realized that some agents may be looking for something like Harry Potter or Twilight - not the plot, but the semi-real world setting - and I took that tip and picked up this new world.

I'm also working a little bit on Marbles, though I'm treading very carefully on that one. I really don't want to mess it up. It needs a lot of editing and revision work still, but I know it has the right feel.

My nano - I put aside until I have time to pick it up. I want to gather more ideas before starting again. It needs to simmer on the backburner for a while.

Christmas vacation is coming up in three days. HURRAY. If I don't get too buried by baking, shopping, visiting, sleeping, eating - heh, I may take one of the above projects (not nano) and surge ahead. I hope.

RANDOM ADVICE

I was going to describe some people as villain or Wormtongue type fodder inspiration, but realized that it wouldn't be very kind or polite - even if I'm confident that the two characters I wanted to mock were not very likely to find my blog (they think novels and novel-writing is the work of the devil).

Instead I'm going to broadbrush this and say something that I know we have all heard: if you are at a loss when it comes to building a believable bad guy without resorting to cliches and borrowed traits, open your eyes and watch and listen to people around you.

Even the best of people show their faulty side on occasion - and they are all the more dangerous, because they have the trust and good opinion of people around them. People would find it most difficult to believe that 'wonderful x' could be capable of such VILE behavior. The wormtongue types too, whatever else you feel (disgust, annoyance), you feel somewhat guilty picking on them, because you wonder if they are 'children' or have a mental problem which causes them to behave in such an odd or paranoid way.

The best characters in the world are those that have a human base - whether they are based on somebody the author knows personally or somebody the author imagined based on research into the character (bios of Marie Antoinette, for example), people in the news (criminals like Knox out in Italy, the girl who murdered her roommate), even people that the author only knows a bit about (like people you meet on online forums).

Keep in mind I heard about a case somewhere about a woman who sued an author for writing her into one of his/her books - and she won!

While you borrow from real life people that you may know, for goodness sakes! Don't put those people in any recognizable fashion into your books.

OTHER

When writing accents and such, be aware of the thin line between gimick and worldbuilding.

A proper accent can definitely put a reader right there in a setting and help them see and hear everything.

Too much of a proper accent can also make a book unreadable for somebody who doesn't want to muddle through pages and pages of mangled words.

CHRISTMAS PLANZ

As noted by the pic way above, that is about all I'm MAINLY thinking about this moment, when I'm not thinking about writing. :P

I may do more posts during the next couple weeks, or it might be as skimpy as it has been the last month and a half.

If you are following the blog or peeking in - thank you and welcome!!!

If you follow me, I'll be sure to follow you back (as long as your blog isn't something... ooky or creepy), and I'll keep an eye on you - in a nicest way possible, of course.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays <- I should post before then, but you never know in case I get VERY BUSY.

I hope and pray the holidays find you safe, warm, and happy with your loved ones at home. If this has been a bad year for you, ah, you are not alone. I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one gleefully cheering the banishment and death of 2010. Horrible year that it's been. Speaking to friends at work and on the road, everyone has high hopes for the year to come. May it be.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Encouragement and Confusion



The above picture (martial arts fun in Gaza) could be taken a couple different ways:

1) The next time you go to Kickboxing class and feel vindictive towards your teacher, because he's making you do those horrible squat/kick combos which leave your legs feeling like brutalized flubber, go look at the above picture and put a relieved smile on your face. Your evil teacher could always go the total demonic route and have you lay on a board with your head pressed into what looks like a pile of octopus* while your classmates dance around on your back.

2. The next time you sit down to read through your novel and edit it into shape, even though you are starting to hate reading the same thing over and over and thinking that getting published isn't worth stretching your poor helpless brain out of joint in trying to read your work as a stranger would, despite the fact you have been mulling over the same chapter for the last month at least trying to figure out why the scene doesn't zing like it should - take some relief. Somewhere out there somebody is being forced to lay flat on a board thing with his face squashed in a pile of octopus* while his classmates (or enemies?) dance on his back. Editing is easy compared to that, surely.

The CONFUSION part of my post today has to do with sorting out my emotions upon reading the summary of Meg Cabot's new book coming out next July. She describes it as the 'sequel to Dracula'. The main character, Meena, is a writer who is being forced to write about vampires even though she's sick of them. She meets a vampy guy with a Romanian last name who is like a real life prince. Of course she falls in love with him and then discovers that he's technically dead. Oh, and she also can see the future of everybody she meets, but doesn't know anything about her own future, which leaves her wondering if she has no future.

Two alarms went off in my head -

1 - When I saw sequel to Dracula. I hate Dracula.

2 - When I saw the seeing the future of everyone she meets, etc. Because that's a cliche thingy. I've really seen it a lot in the books I've read.

*exhales*

But it is Meg Cabot!

She's one of my favorites, and I usually enjoy whatever she writes.....

But is's so cliche... and... and... Draculaisbleh.

Maybe it's going to be one I borrow from the library.... This is "Insatiable". See the Meg Cabot link on the right.

............. <- Yes, I've been abusing these things again. You should see my NANO project. Gleeps. I blame the fourth finger on my right hand getting carried away.

Repeats:

LoOk B4 U LP - whether it is on forums or twitter or blogs, there will always be people who go all ranty about things to the point they are abusive and meanspirited. Protect yourself and don't try to reason with them. You can always ignore them until they get over themselves. :)

*Upon second look at the picture, the octopus looks more like somebody's dirty laundry all bunched up. Which may well be a lot worse than being face-rubbed into seafood. Dirty laundry could be a weapon of mass destruction from some people....
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Writing Joy



This would express the mood I'm in right now.

At first I was disappointed when I recalled a little too late that my new favorite TV show (V) is on pause until March, next year. But then I sat down with my computer and began working on nano revisions.

I chopped the novel down to 10,000 words - which yes, I know is APPALLING and against everything that NANO should stand for. It is my most severest post NANO cut ever - agreed. But as I mentioned before, I was not very happy with some of the chapters which I felt went the wrong direction. I printed them off for reference, but deleted almost all except the first four chapters of the novel.

So I got a little writing and revamping done tonight (and plan to do more), and I'm just in an upbeat mood. I feel like I can do this.

Oh, yes. Today was a good hair day too. Maybe that's all I need to make me feel more positive and glowing about everything - including the normally dreaded revisions. Every day should be a good hair day.
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LoOk B4 U LP

This is something that occurred to me this morning when I saw a comment from somebody responding to something someplace else. This person is a teenager, I think, but I understand how he/she felt the NEED to speak up and dive into a barbed wire trap. I've felt the same way in the past, right up to last year - even though I'm not a teenager. There is that feeling like you have to stand up for what you believe in. But you are going up against sharks who start swarming as soon as you take their bait.

Something I've done or have started to do now - learn to walk away from conversations if you start to see the warning signs that they aren't civil conversations at all, but a tank full of those nasty sharks out to rip into the first gullible surfer to stick a leg in the water.

So!

If you are that teenager, or have felt like that teenager at some point of your internet and forum surfing life, keep everything in perspective.

Learning to walk away from conversations gets a lot easier if you take the lesson from Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), when she's telling Caroline Bingley how to ruin Mr. Darcy's good mood -

"Laugh at him."

Ok, maybe don't laugh at ALL of them, but sit back and sort out their weird little deals.

Look at their conversations in general and consider all of their weak points and human fralities. Everybody has a weakness and character defect. Sometimes it is just a minor case of thin skin, or an impulsive temper (like me). Other times it is a bit more serious, and explains why they seem to be so bitter and hateful all the time.

In general, the main reason why people go trolling around trying to pick fights is because it makes them feel intelligent and important. Maybe in real life they're that awkward guy at the gas station on the night shift - you know, the one who looks like Napolean Dynamite except he has pimples and doesn't look people in the eye when they talk to him. I always feel so sorry for that guy at our gas station. Shyness and lack of self-confidence are the WORST things to overcome.

Or it could be that person who claims to live in an exotic location really lives in a cramped and rusty mobile home in a bottom level mobile home park where they are pretty much stuck because of the poor choices they made earlier in life. Or maybe this person DOES live in an exotic local, but is all alone because his/her friends have forgotton that he/she exists.

Once you humanize your attackers, it becomes a lot easier to shrug off their "Need for Attention" inspired attacks.

Or if they said something that really hurt, you can always sit back and wait. They are the types who get bored very easily if they don't have somebody to fight with. At some point, they are going to attack the wrong person and be handed their own gravy in a care package with a little bitter mustard on top (which sounds utterly disgusting, I know).

End line here - don't take trolls too seriously. They usually hide under bridges for a good reason.
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My Shelfari Bookshelf

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

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