Tuesday, December 22, 2009

John Hodgman, Popeye, and phobias

I just finished listening to Ken Plume's Annual Holiday Podcast with John Hodgman. I highly recommend--nowhere else have I heard such an insightful comparison between Robin William's rendition of "I yam what I yam" in the film Popeye and the classic Prisoner theme. Actually, it's to the former discussion that this post relates.

Mr. Plume and Mr. Hodgman spent more time talking about the Robert Altman film Popeye than some might consider listenable. I, however, found it fascinating. I viewed the film this past year for the first time since I was too young to form a solid memory of it. This is how I discovered that Popeye formed the seat of one of my lifelong phobias.

Popeye came out when I was still in diapers. I had a vague recollection of viewing the film when it became available on VHS (a primitive precursor to Blu-Ray, for those too young to remember), but I couldn't recall any details.

On a seemingly unrelated topic, I've feared large sea creatures for as long as I can remember. Strange fish mildly creep me, but anything with tentacles sends me into tremors. Luckily for me, I live in a landlocked Midwestern state. The northern portion borders on Lake Erie, but nothing with tentacles lives in those waters--I checked before ever setting a toe in. My husband has often mocked my fear--when octopi or squids appear on television, he points out how small and harmless they are. But these are not the creatures I envisioned in my mind. The tentacled monster I fear has never been captured by marine biologists, but deep in the recesses of my intuition, I know it lurks below, waiting for me.

The only time tentacled monsters become an issue is when I go on vacation to any place with an ocean. When I visited San Diego this past summer, I made plans to go surfing at La Jolla Shores. Two days before my trip, my most ridiculous phobia made national news: with no earthly explanation, giant squids suddenly began washing up on La Jolla Shores. This was one of those seminal moments that crystallized my belief in god(s), and that s/he/they love to fuck with me. Luckily for me, I surfed without incident, but part of my mind stayed ever on the squids while I surfed those waters.

A couple of months later, my husband recommended we watch the Altman film Popeye. He's an E.C. Seger fan and has often attempted to persuade me to read some of the collections of his work that hide somewhere in our house. [Note: since listening to Hodgman and Plume expound on the subject, I'm now motivated enough to search for them.] He did manage to get me to watch the film, which I stated I had seen once as a toddler.

I quite enjoyed the surreality of the film, and watched it with interest until one of the last scenes. In it, Popeye must rescue Olive Oyl from the sea, where Bluto has tossed her. Then, she gets dragged down below the water by a giant tentacled sea creature--the very sea creature that has haunted my deepest mind for decades. A sudden realization came upon me, a suppressed memory rising to the surface. This was the basis of my tentacular fear, dredged up from the most enmeshed early memories of my mind.

I don't blame my parents for exposing me to a lifetime of tentacle fear; if anime is any indicator, such a fear is healthy and expected, at least for Japanese girls. I also don't know if the revelation of my phobia's root has cured my fear. I suppose I'll find out next time I travel to the ocean.

Oh, and go listen to that podcast.

Monday, December 21, 2009

THATCamp. Yes, that one.

The Humanities and Technology Camp, or THATCamp, was begun by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. An "unconference", it's a place where professionals in the fields of humanities and information discuss issues in digital humanities, and how these technological changes affect us all.

THATCamp has since spread to several cities, including Columbus, Ohio. I am honored to be selected as a THATCamp Columbus participant this year.

The (un)conference takes place January 15-16th this year. As such, a good chunk of my writing energies between now and then will be devoted to developing a fascinating and educational session. The novel comes along, albeit slowly.

If you'd like to see what I'm planning on discussing, you can take a look.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Frank Herbert's Dune

I finished Frank Herbert's Dune yesterday. Before I go on, I'll take a moment to let all you other sci-fi geeks air your concerns.

Yes, I know the book's been around longer than I've been alive, and it's a classic. No, I can't justify not having read it before now, being a spec fic writer and all. Somehow, it took me this long to get to it. But, better a late geek-gasm than none at all.

Paul/ Maud'Dib's transformation in the book is probably my favorite aspect. I love watching how we shift from the perspective of outsiders, dismissive of the desert-roaming Fremen, to living with the Fremen themselves. To an outsider, the giant sand worms are at least an inconvenience, and at most deadly predators. To the Fremen, they take on the role of sacred Makers, and a valued form of transportation. I have much to learn from Herbert's writing.

I do have issues with how women are portrayed in the book, but that's a matter for another post. Now, on with finishing my own novel.

By the way, I've decided on yet another title change (yes, I know this will probably get changed by an editor anyway). I'm changing it from Slideways to The Sundering Gate. What do you think?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Starbucks is for old people

At least, the one near my house is.

I occasionally like to take the laptop and write in a different location; I find I usually get more done with fewer distractions. Usually I'll head to the Caribou Coffee at the end of my street or the library down the road. Caribou is usually hopping with students and folks of all ages, talking and getting work done. The only drawback is, they play the music a bit loud, and the conversation decibel level has to exceed the music. So, for a change of pace, I biked over to the Starbucks down the road.

Noise was definitely not a problem there; you could barely hear the music. Also, the place was near-dead, both figuratively and literally. Of the 3 or 4 customers that cycled through while I worked there, I don't think one was under sixty-five. The difference in age distribution between the 2 coffee shops is bizarre; they're about a block apart. Perhaps self-segregation is at work, or maybe the kids just don't like Starbucks.

In other news, I passed the 2/3 mark on "Slideways" yesterday. I'm happy with the progress I'm making; I've solved a number of plot holes and filled in some explanatory background, all while working to maintain heightened tension. This writing stuff isn't for weaklings!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl

If you know me, you may know that I'm a big fan of Mr. Daniel Pinkwater. If you are not familiar with this brilliant juvenile/YA author, you should immediately run out and purchase this collection of five novels and this collection of four novels. These collections contain some of my favorite D.P. novels, including Alan Mendelsohn, the boy from Mars, Borgel, and two Snarkout Boys books.

But that's not why I'm blogging today. Today I want to talk about Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl, which Mr. Pinkwater will be publishing in June of next year. I'm excited about this book because I've already read the first two in this series, The Neddiad and the Yggyssey, and I can't wait for the third.

Luckily for me I don't have to. While you can pre-order it, you can also read it online, right now, for free!

What are you waiting for? Go read something awesome!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Free Tarot Readings

Alayna Williams, author of the upcoming book Dark Oracle, now offers free Tarot readings via her website. Just click the link in the upper right hand corner.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lessons learned from rejection

A couple of months ago, I wrote a short story, one of the most enjoyable stories I've had the pleasure to write. It had everything I love: evil super-science villains working on a mad science island! Superhero spies! And one naive, conflicted man, caught in the middle. It was deliciously and unapologetically over-the-top. I love that story.

Sadly, I seem to be the only one engaged in that love. I got some mixed feedback from my peers, and I went back and did some revision. Then I sent it out to some markets.

Submission is the stage of the writing process where the writer discovers the disconnect between the brilliance she perceives in her own mind and the cold trained judgment of the editor. Two editors did go out of their way to personalize their rejections. 'The story almost caught me in a couple of places, but never quite made it.' 'The character development just wasn't there.' I appreciate their insights, and will keep them in mind when I work on future stories. However, I don't think I'm going to do any more revision on this story.

I think I understand the problem. While the story spoke to me, it just didn't touch other readers in the same way. Perhaps if I went back and tinkered some more, I would be able to alter the story enough to make it "marketable". I'm still developing my structuring and story-telling skills, and maybe I'm just not "there" yet.

But perhaps a sale wasn't the purpose of this particular story. I had a ball writing it, and it clarified some ideas I've had for a fantasy/sci-fi universe that I'll be using in future stories. I also used it to experiment with plot twists, something I've been told is lacking in my work. (As a caveat, one editor commenting on the story told me that plot twists are not a substitute for character development; but hey, at least he acknowledged the plot twist!) So for now I'm going to mark that story as an enjoyable learning experience and continue on with new projects.

Edited on: 01/19/10 to protect story name

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nanowrimo approacheth

For all of you of a writing bent, Nanowrimo starts in just five days. If you don't know about Nano, hang around and learn how you, yes you, can become a real honest-to-gosh writer.

Every year during the month of November, thousands of souls worldwide attempt to write a novel in a month. Granted, the term "novel" is used loosely; you must produce a work of fiction 50,000 words in length. What about structure, developing characters, etc.? Well, Nanowrimo's motto is "No plot, no problem!" The idea is, through the journey of putting words on paper (or computer), a story will come up out of the jumble.

I have a special affection for Nano, since the book I'm now finishing started life as a Nano project last year. With sheepishness, I admit I did not finish that draft. I actually tossed it after about 20,000 words, disgusted. I wandered, working on other projects, letting my novel idea gather dust. However, I started over and did finish what became the first draft of Slideways. Now I'm pushing on to the end.

Per the rules, I can't compete in Nano this year. All draft writing must be done only during the month of November. You can plot, brainstorm, and do as many character sketches as you want before then, but you cannot set down Chapter One until November 1st at midnight. So, while I won't be an official entrant, my goal is to complete my second draft on November 30th. I will be celebrate alongside my Nano friends, but not directly with them.

Feel motivated to try your hand at a novel creation? Pop on over to Nanowrimo and give it a go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Free Romance Webinar

I sent this information over to Laura Bickle at Salamander's Tales. Laura had the clever idea of posting this online so everyone could take advantage of it; I'm following suit. If you are a fan of romance, you should check out this free webinar from Booklist:

Booklist Webinar
Sweet Talk: Romance Fiction in the Library
November 12, 3-4 PM Central Time

Romance is hot . . . in the library, that is. Join Donna Seaman, Booklist's romance fiction editor, and a panel of librarians, authors, and publishers to discuss the state of the genre—in public libraries and in the marketplace.

Panelists include:

John Charles, Reference Librarian, Scottsdale (AZ) Public Library, and Booklist reviewer
Shelley Mosley, Adjunct Librarian at Glendale (AZ) Community College, and Booklist reviewer
Madeline Hunter, best-selling author of 17 historical romances
Kayleigh George, Library Marketing Coordinator at HarperCollins Publishers
Cheryl Herman, Library Marketing Director, Books on Tape and Listening Library (Random House)

The reservation link is: http://www.booklistonline.com/default.aspx?page=general_info&id=63

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Second Draft

Right now I'm slogging through the second draft of my novel, tentatively retitled "Slideways". I've been tinkering along the way, making each chapter as captivating as I am able before moving along to the next one. I've gotten up to Chapter Five; however, my husband (my first reader) pointed out some glaring problems with Chapter Three. So, now it's time to go back and revise again.

Moving ever forward...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

News from Marcon

I returned this evening from Marcon, a popular sci fi/fantasy convention in Columbus, Ohio. Even though I live in town, we got a hotel room for a couple of reasons. First, this was my first year participating as a panelist, and I didn't want to have to worry about driving back forth; second, I decided to host a room party this year to honor the achievements of everyone in the Ohio Writers Network, in addition to my friend Chuck Ebert who also published a story this year.

The party, while moderately successful, was more effort than I expected. Between that, the panels, my reading, and an interview with NRR Radio, I felt like I had very little time to myself this weekend. I can't even imagine how I would have handled it if I hadn't had a room to retreat back to! I did learn several valuable lessons:

--If your party coincides with a much-more-popular party, you will get "party blocked"; a glut of inebriated geeks will clog the hallway, blocking passage to your room;

--Marcon staff members are possibly the most helpful, considerate and nurturing folks on the planet (along with the other members of Ohio Writers Network, of course); and

If you have short hair, black plastic-rimmed glasses and wear a suit with tennis shoes, sci fi geeks WILL think you are dressed as the Doctor, even if that is not your intent.

My favorite panel was Writing and the Rest of Life, which I got to share with Charlie Finlay, another Columbus author who I greatly admire. Plus, I got a chance to share my work with a geek crowd. Thankfully, I have tomorrow off from my day job, so I have a chance to decon-press.

Take care.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Beyond Centauri now available

Last week I received my contributor's copy of Issue 23 of Beyond Centauri. Click the link if you'd like to purchase a copy. Also, if you're of the writing bent, be sure to check out Expressions Newsletter, also by Samsdot Publishing.