Sunday, December 12, 2010

Scrooge -or- A Christmas Carol

I am speaking, of course, of the 1951 British film adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim in the title role of Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. This has long been one of my favorite adaptations of the classic novel, usually watched on the local PBS station late at night on Christmas Eve until I had the good fortune of obtaining a DVD copy. As I believe we all know the tale of Ebenezer so well, I will merely highlight why I love this particular edition so much. Be aware for those who have not seen this particular version, there lies below a spoiler or two, so read on only if you're unconcerned about that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update

As we are nearing the tail-end of November, I thought it was about time I post an update. As you can see from the progress calendar to your right, there are a lot of days with no words written. Suffice it to say, it's been a rough month, with a lot of stuff going on, and I have accomplished well below half of what I intended to do. I'm still just under the halfway mark on The Daughter of Three, which, sadly, means I will still be working on it in December.

As I've proceeded along through my plots, my vision for where the book is going has been clearer, but most days I have just been too tired to apply butt to seat without falling asleep. Added to that, my major tech failure over the summer became more and more of a hindrance due to the slower processing speed of Morgainne (our aging HP Pavilion laptop), along with her much shorter battery life (roughly 35 minutes if I were working actively).

So, on the down-side, I'm still much further from done with the book than I planned to be. On the up-side, I got my new laptop (named Lorandir for my main character) on Tuesday, and it has been everything I've hoped for in terms of processing speed and technical capabilities. Since the Mac version of Scrivener is so far improved over the Windows Beta version, it's much easier for me to shift scenes around and add things, which is a very nice plus. So despite the impending madness of December in retail, at least I know my computer will function as needed and at the speed and battery life I want.

All right, back to work I go, but look for more posts from me in the near future, which may or may not include some short works I recently located in my old files during the last computer switch.

~Kieran

EDIT Dec 4, 2010: I removed the NaNoWriMo progress calendar (or lack-of-progress calendar, in my case) from the sidebar. It wasn't particularly encouraging to see all of those red-marked days, and I want to continue working to encourage myself, so I decided to cut back down to my regular progress bar.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TSA Screenings: My Thoughts in a Nutshell

Last night, I read this article about the TSA forcing a cancer survivor to remove her prosthetic breast and show it to the TSA agent during a security screening. I posted the article to my Facebook profile with a rather profanity-laden commentary, which sparked some fascinating discussion among my friends and family. Part of my outrage here is due to the fact that my mother is a three-time breast cancer survivor. She has undergone two mastectomies, one in 1993, and one in 2004. Based on this report, my mother would have to remove her bra during a TSA security screening if she were going to fly anywhere. Something about that strikes me as, well, wrong.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

National Novel-Writing Month

In and out of the Blogosphere (I love and hate that word) you may have heard people talking about NaNoWriMo. The first time I ever heard it, I thought people were saying "Nano Rhyme-o" and had no clue what the hell they were talking about. It is National Novel Writing Month, and it happens every November. The challenge is relatively simple. In 30 days, write a 50,000 word short novel. It can be anything you want, you just have to get to 50,000 words in a month's time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Thirty

30. Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!

I'm going to talk about Lynn Flewelling, because she is, frankly, amazing. Lynn's stories are very richly detailed, and her world is well thought-out and well designed. This is, in part, thanks to her husband, Doug, who is an expert in geography, among other things, and a fantastic map-maker, too.

Lynn's real strength, though, is in writing characters that really draw you in. You care about Seregil and Alec and everything they do, what they feel, and what is happening to them. Similarly, in her Tamír Triad, she does such a wonderful job of making Tobin someone that you can identify with, even if you have no experience with what he is going through. She has also done a wonderful job of giving us gay, lesbian, and even trans-gender characters that are believable, and are not entirely defined by their sexuality. In a world where so much revolves around that part of our identity, it is so refreshing to read an author who writes it for what it really is: just another part of who we are, rather than having it be what we are.

I know she is currently working on her ninth novel, and the sixth in the Nightrunner series, The Casket of Souls, and I cannot begin to describe my excitement to see what Alec and Seregil are up to next.

Friday, October 29, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Nine

29. How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something in real life that reminds you of your story/characters?

I've become obsessive about my writing, which I hear is pretty much the way it goes when you have a project in progress. As far as real-life situations that make me think about my story, I do have a couple of story ideas that are set in the modern-day, including one that actually takes place here in Champaign, so now and then I will see something and think, "Hey, that could be in the story..." Since my main project is an epic fantasy in a completely dreamed-up world, that happens less right now than usual. But in all seriousness, I've gotten to the point where I am even dreaming about events that are happening or could happen in the book, which is both exciting and a little scary, especially as I embark on the last month of the project, with a lot of work left to do.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Eight

28. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

That’s actually not a topic that has come up so far. It occurs to me that it should be there, but so far there aren’t really any characters in Daughter for whom it’s particularly fitting, and at the moment, Daughter is my main focus. One character, Selanat, has been significantly wounded, and will spend the rest of her life missing a foot, but so far she is a minor character and I haven’t decided how it will really affect her or those around her.

I feel like a bit of a jackass for overlooking that, actually…

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Seven

27. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

Appearances can definitely play a role in my stories. I have to be careful not to fall into the pretty/ugly trap, where all of the really good or really evil characters are at one extreme or another. In the case of Daughter, the importance of appearance is downplayed somewhat by the fact that all of the fey are attractive by conventional standards. The more important piece when it comes to them is actually only visible to priests and other users of magic, who can see the aura instead and by extension can learn things about the spiritual nature of another. I've been playing a lot with that, and there will be more.

In the case of Tom, I have already decided very deliberately for Tom himself not to be particularly noticeable. He isn't gorgeous, but nor is he hideous. He's probably just a little to the pretty side of plain, if he's anything at all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Six

26. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!

I do not draw my characters. That would be an epic disaster, at least. At one point a long time ago, I did get an artist in Greece (Tanya Maria Tzanakis) who I found via the Elfwood Art Gallery, to draw one of my characters. This is a portrait of Sorônt as a young man. I'm not entirely certain that he looks like this now, but here is the drawing, just for fun.


Sadly, I can't seem to find Ms. Tzanakis any more, which is a great disappointment. Whether or not this character still looks the same, she did a marvelous job of illustrating him, and far better than I ever could have!

Monday, October 25, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Five

25. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

One of my favorite characters is Allison Chancellor's cat, Flora. She's a Maine coon cat, but has the talkative nature most people associate with a Siamese. I had a lot of fun coming up with her, as she mostly acts as comic relief in the scenes where she appears, and she is very communicative about her moods and thoughts. Cat or not, she is a full-fledged character in her own right.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

When they Don't Take No for an Answer...

The husband and I are in the process of switching around our health insurance provider, in the hopes of both saving some money and providing us a little bit of flexibility in our lives. Along the way, I picked up an unwanted broker from somewhere in Ohio, who was a little too insistent. I decided to go with someone local, for the sake of convenience, and because I prefer dealing with people who handle my insurance face-to-face. If I can see your eyes, I can decide whether or not I trust you handling my money. Learning this, the broker (Bill from Truth Benefits in Ohio) sent back an email that was, to put it mildly, patronizing and annoying. I sent the following response.

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Four

24. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

If it's necessary for the story, out they go, plain and simple. If it's too easy to kill them off, then I must assume they weren't that great or important of a character anyway. If it takes a lot of effort, or is an emotional moment for me, then I feel confident both that I did the right thing, and that they were a character that evoked a lot of emotion for me.

So far, nothing terribly interesting on the killing-off front. Mostly it's been more interesting what I've done with them post-death.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Three

23. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

Well, I haven't yet completed a longer work, so I'm not sure on that front, but with shorter things I've written, it's usually just over the course of a couple of hours. For short stories, I don't have that involved of a planning process, more just 1) apply butt to seat, 2) apply fingers to keyboard. (side note: I plan on posting up some of my older short works in the near future, probably just the unpolished beginnings, but we'll see.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-Two

22. Tell us about one scene between your characters that you've never written or told anyone about before. Serious or not.

Well, I have two characters that start off as, well, not quite enemies, but definitely not friends. One tends to be more dour, easily annoyed, and very tactically-minded. The other is more of a social butterfly, very air-headed, but also very influential at court. They are forced to work together at a request from their Queen, and it causes a lot of friction. The trick is, character #2's airhead act is just that: an act. A grudging respect, and eventually romantic feelings, spring up. We'll have to see how well it works out once I get to that point in the story...

I guess that's less of a scene and more of a plotline, but the scene, specifically, is when others in their social circle find out about their relationship, and the shock, etc. they'll be having.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty-One

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

Not yet. There will be some children later in probably more than one of my projects. As of now, I don't know how well I will write them, but with kids, my attempts in the past have always been modeled on children I know. In my line of work (remember, I manage a coffee shop) most of my interaction with kids involves watching their eyes light up as I put the toppings on their cocoa, and/or trying to help their parents talk them down from a crying jag. Don't be surprised if these scenarios exist in my stories...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twenty

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

I'm very fond of the teacher/student sort of conversations. When a character learns some new, useful skill, or gets to know another character, something about it is fun for me, though I can't place my finger on exactly what. On some level, I'm sure it's because I learn more about the characters myself, too. It's all part of the character development; I throw a situation or tidbit of information at someone and see how they react to it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It Gets Better - Resources to Know

To anyone coming to my blog as a result of the WICD-TV or Fox 55/27 TV news spots, welcome! If you click on the words "It Gets Better" in the tags for this post, you can find my video. Here are some other resources for those who need them:

The It Gets Better Project
It Gets Better: Dan and Terry - The video that started the It Gets Better Project
The Trevor Project - (866) 4-U-Trevor

If you feel like you are alone, and if you feel like there isn't any hope left, you're wrong. If you need someone to talk to, contact The Trevor Project, or It Gets Better, or for that matter, contact me on Twitter or Facebook (links to the right of the page) or via email at ciaranruadh@gmail.com.

But whatever you do, don't give up, because there is so much waiting for you out there.

With all my heart,
~Kieran

It Gets Better - Part Deux

This morning, I received a blog comment from Bridget Shanahan at WICD-TV Newschannel 15, asking if I'd be willing to take some time to talk about my It Gets Better video. After I read the message about four times to make sure I knew what I was seeing, I responded that I'd love to do so. I just finished the interview.

I am unbelievably excited about this!

UPDATE: 5:13PM
You can see the story that WICD-TV ran here. Thanks go out to Ryann Monahan and Bridget Shanahan for getting in touch with me!

30 Days of Writing - Day Nineteen

19. Favorite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

I have a character that I actually didn't like very much. He was a great character, but if we met face-to-face, I would want to punch him. I decided the simple solution here was to kill him off, so I did just that. Then, at the back of my mind, I saw him wandering, lost on the plane of the dead. Suddenly, he could have a greater purpose, and redeem himself in my eyes. What exactly his greater purpose is, I have not yet decided, but I'm going to have fun finding it.

Writing Frustrations

Aside from the odd blog post, I haven't written anything in over two weeks now. I have six weeks to my deadline, and well over half the book left to write. I thought for certain I would be well on my way by now, but time keeps slipping away, which has made me realize just how delicate of a balance is needed to be able to write. The words don't necessarily just flow out of my hands every time I sit down at the computer, like people tend to think. For a blog? Certainly, that's easy, because it's all my thoughts and opinions, and aside from the occasional tough decision on word choice or sentence structure, I can apply butt to seat and just let it all pour out of me.

Writing the book, however, doesn't happen that smoothly or easily. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are days where things are crystal clear and the story is practically writing itself, but sometimes you need time to let the vision present itself. Each paragraph must fit the scene. Each scene must fit into the greater scheme of the story. For that to be happening, one must be in the proper mindset, and lately I've been having trouble remembering what that is. Even when I am in a groove, I write more slowly when I'm working on the book than when I'm slinging off an email or jotting out a blog post.

I can say at a glance that I write 1135 words per hour when blogging, but only 568 words per hour working on my book. Since I've reached the point where I need to write about 2200 words a day every day until November 30th to hit my goal, that measures out to right about four hours of work, unless I hit a major breakthrough and start writing my happy ass off. Four hours of work every day, even when I've already worked a nine or ten hour shift, is an extremely daunting prospect, and scarily enough that's not helping me at all with getting my butt moving again. I try to help it along by reading other work, or articles on writing, but then anything I do that is taking time away from writing just adds to the stress, because I realize it's just the clock burning away. I need an extra day in the week, or not to require as much sleep as I do, and I need to have my writerly time be available for me to actually get some work done, rather than sitting down at the laptop and practically hyperventilating at the idea of the task before me. The story is there, I just have to find it again, and for that I need solitude.

Of course, I also need some connection with the outside world that isn't work, and isn't just Facebook or Twitter. They're great, but I do like holding conversations with people, face-to-face, or on the phone. But that takes time, and time I don't feel like I even have right now.

The bottom line, though, is that I have a lot of work ahead of me, and a very limited amount of time to do it. And I'm trying desperately not to flip out about it, but if I seem to scurry off and hide a lot, don't take it personally, k? K.

~K

Monday, October 18, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Eighteen

18. Favorite antagonist and why!

Athel Salir in Daughter is currently my favorite. She started off as a character who was a minor annoyance to Lal Fanir, but Salir has grown in importance, and her politicking skills far outmatch anyone else in the Royal Court. She's absolutely evil, but in a delicious, fun-to-write way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Seventeen

17. Favorite protagonist and why!

Out of all my protagonists, Allison in Six Sheets of Bloodstained Parchment is actually my favorite. I dumped a creepy situation in her lap, and left her to pick up the pieces. She did pretty well with it, even though the plot was thicker than she realized at the time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Sixteen

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how "far" are you willing to go in your writing? ;)

I do write romantic relationships. I think for most people they are a critical part of the human experience, and so they crop up in my stories too, sometimes even where I don't intend them. Much the way things happen in daily life, it can be something as simple as one character deciding another is attractive, and then the pursuit begins. A particular challenge I'm facing with my current characters is that I have them intended for a definite romantic relationship, and have to manipulate the story around them to fit it, rather than having it be something that just happens out of the blue.

As far as whether or not I'm willing or able to write sex scenes, I honestly don't know at this point. Really it will depend on how necessary it is for the story. Then, it will depend on how well it works for my beta readers. If the general consensus says it doesn't flow, or is just plain bad, out it goes. Cross that bridge when we come to it, I suppose, and I'll let you know.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Political Frustrations

I've hesitated to write this post I don't know how many times, often because I am concerned about how it will be received. The GLBTQ teen suicide rate, along with recent developments in cases surrounding Proposition 8 in California, Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the (so-called) Defense of Marriage Act, have steeled my resolve, and so tonight, I will share my thoughts as candidly as possible, while still refraining from using quite as much profanity as I would while speaking.

I am angry. I am angry at our politicians, I am angry at our political parties and the system in which they thrive. I am angry at a society that thinks it is acceptable to vote on civil rights, and I am angry at those who say the GLBTQ community is wrong to call our struggle a civil rights movement. However, at the moment, I am most angry at President Barack Obama. (To find out why, click "Read More")

30 Days of Writing - Day Fifteen

15. Midway question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

Oh man, this means I have to pick somebody... Honestly, I would have to say the writer I most admire right now is Brandon Sanderson. While I haven't read his most recent release (The Way of Kings), I've heard a lot of good things about it, and that's really it. The man is a machine. He turned out a 400,000 side-project while writing and editing the twelfth volume of The Wheel of Time, and is still getting good reviews. He writes big books, fast, and still manages to keep a handle on his plotting and story structure. He is remarkably disciplined, though he makes up for this by being both an insomniac and having personal political views that temper my desire to shake his hand with a nearly equal desire to punch him in the face. That, too, is not an easy feat to pull off.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Fourteen

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I generally don't map things out, aside from overall ideas of countryside, or relative placement of cities within a region. I haven't drawn any of said maps in some time, and honestly I don't even know where I would find one at this point, aside from knowing that it would be in a box somewhere in the storage shelves of my basement.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Thirteen

13. What's your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

I actually have some ideas in my head that revolve around a short story I wrote three or four years ago, set during a cease-fire in the middle of a civil war spanning our solar system. I haven't completely fleshed things out, but I have a lot of ideas about how human culture could evolve in the years ahead, should the time come that we actually expand our sphere of influence to other planets in the system.

I'm also fascinated by Japanese culture, and would love to try my hand at writing some things set in Japan, be it modern or ancient. For that, though, I have a lot of research yet to do before I would even make the attempt.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Twelve

12. In what story did you feel like you did the best job of worldbuilding? Any side-notes on it you'd like to share?

Again, it would be Lalirea... (Are we sensing a pattern here?) I've put a lot of time and energy into that world, and it's very real to me because of that. I have continents and kingdoms, races and societies, that span an entire world, some more detailed than others. I will freely admit that the kingdom of Felloriath is written in the mindset of a world that works the way I think things should, at least in the basest sense of the idea. Heritage and family lines are traced through the mother, specifically because the identity of a child's mother is obvious. If you have to ask why that is, I'd suggest having a long talk with your own.

Another little side-note is that I really play around with the concept of sexuality among the fey races. Our own society, and perhaps especially American society, there is an automatic assumption of the heteronormative. People are "straight" until they identify otherwise, and anything other than that is considered an oddity. I went quite deliberately to the complete opposite with the fey--I guess the term would be binormative, by extension. Everyone is assumed to be bisexual, and to specifically identify as hetero- or homo- sexual is the oddity. Thus being the case, it is just as common to see a same-sex pairing as an opposite-sex one, and most of the fey (considering a lifespan of three to five centuries on average) will see relationships of both types throughout their lives.

Monday, October 11, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Eleven

11. Who is your favorite character to write? Least favorite?

Without a doubt, Sorônt and Fanir are neck and neck for favorite characters to write. Sorônt has a great sense of humor, and whenever he opens his mouth, something interesting is going to come out. He tries not to take anything too seriously, including even the most serious of situations. Fanir, on the other hand, is entertaining because she's two parts crafty, one part oblivious. She always has a scheme up her sleeve, but inevitably some part of it twists in a direction she doesn't expect, and somehow she winds up on the business end of her own plots.

My least favorite character to write so far has been Klathran. He is a good man, but altogether too melancholy. Things that should make him happy just barely scratch the surface, and anything even slightly discouraging sends him to the bottom of the wine bottle in no time. I love him as a character, but it's very hard to write him without feeling depressed when I'm done with one of his scenes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Ten

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

Well, honestly I haven't thrown a lot of completely weird situations at my characters yet. I do have one character who is wandering, lost on the plane of the dead, and finds it is nothing like he was told, which has been fun to write. I have a definite purpose in mind for him, and I can't wait to put it to work, but I'm just not quite there yet.

Another character in a short story I wrote a number of years ago finds something left behind by her grandmother, which she thought was imaginary. It turns out to be more real than she imagined, and figuring out what exactly it is and means is the adventure on which she finds herself. In retrospect, that's probably the most interesting situation in which a character has been, but how weird it is... I'm really not sure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Nine

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

My character creation process varies depending on why the character is being created. Sometimes I start with just a name, and build from there, deciding what their purpose is, and why they need to be in the story. Sometimes I start with the role the character is going to fill in the story, and then I spend a while coming up with a name and a background. Either way, it is usually from this basic framework that the rest of the character appears. When I write someone in, I usually start with a sentence or two describing who they are (Minan Shalo, the Count of Thakhar) and what makes them significant. From thereon, it's really up to the character to tell me who they are. The personality evolves over the course of the writing, and if it works, then I keep rolling with them. If it doesn't, then either I'm pushing that character into a role that doesn't fit, and I need to change characters, or I need to figure out where they do fit and then re-work that piece of the story around them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Eight

8. What's your favorite genre to write? To read?

The majority of what I write is fantasy, with some science fiction thrown in. Funny enough, even when I try to write something modern-based, I still wind up throwing in some elements of the supernatural, be it ghosts, or some sort of inexplicable intuition. I will freely admit that this has a lot to do with my own beliefs, as I am pagan, and I do believe in energy, auras, psychic abilities, magick, and the like, though not the Hollywood versions. As I said in a post some time back, magick is the art of creating change in yourself and the world around you in accordance with your will. I firmly believe this, and have had it backed up with my own experiences, to the point that I sometimes forget that other people don't see things the same way.

As far as reading goes, it's much the same. It is rare that I read anything that isn't a fantasy or science fiction novel, though I have made it a goal to branch out and read something else before the end of the year. Over the next few months, I intend to read some romance, mystery, maybe a classic or two, and if I'm feeling particularly brave, I may even take a stab at a Western...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It Gets Better

I've joined the It Gets Better project. Help spread the word, please.


30 Days of Writing - Day Seven

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

It really depends on my mood at the time. Sometimes music helps me to focus, but other times it distracts me horribly and I can't have it.

The kind of music I play while I'm writing can also vary. Theoretically, I have a "writing playlist" but in practice if I'm in a music mood, I pick an album that seems to fit the scene or scenes I'm writing. Since I've been a huge fan of Florence + the Machine's "Lungs," and Sarah McLachlan's "Laws of Illusion," those have gotten a lot of play, but I listen to anything from classical (Breathe: the Relaxing Strings, Lover's Adagios, Cello Adagios--I'm big on collections) to Queen. I'm planning to pick up some Cazwell and Chely Wright in the near future, and last night I was in a Reba kind of mood.

Where I am in the story right now, "Drumming Song," by Florence is a big influence for certain characters, and it will probably pop up again a few times. :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Six

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?

I'm actually relatively comfortable virtually anywhere at home, but especially the living room, the back porch, and, when things are in order, my office in the basement. I'm also a fan of sitting at a cafe, either the one where I work, or others around town, for a few hours. I tend to be more productive, and more easily set into the right mode for writing later in the day, though I can write almost any time of day if I'm in the right mindset. I almost always write on my computer, as I can type more quickly than I can write, and if I write on paper, I'll just have to copy it into the computer later anyway.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Five

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about "youngest" and "oldest" in terms of when you created them?

Most of my characters in Daughter age throughout the story (I need to find a dividing point to jump my plot about ten years two more times before I'm done, actually) but the youngest will probably be Leiroen Lalo, who hasn't been introduced yet. The oldest in the story is Aluarsilo, who is at least a thousand years old, maybe older. I've shifted the timeline around a few times in recent edits, so I've not settled on her exact age yet.

As far as the earliest created characters, Sorônt and Lorandir have been around since my first draft of this story, somewhere around fifteen years ago, though their names were Klatris and Maltren then. At this point, they're not even really the same characters, except in the absolutely most basic archetypes they fulfill in the story. My most recently-created character is Tom, whose exploits are found in the three blog posts I wrote earlier this summer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Four

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

In second grade,  we were reading a book that mentioned Kittiwakes, a type of seagull. I don't remember exactly how the assignment was set up, but we were supposed to write a story, and I wound up with a bit about a little baby seal named Kittiwake. I think (I hope, maybe) my parents may still have a copy hiding in their house somewhere, but the story went thusly:

Kittiwake was a baby seal, blind from birth, who could see because he had a magical amulet that granted him sight. One day, his necklace broke and, unable to find the amulet, he wandered too far from the shore, getting lost in the forest. (I'll remind you I was in second grade, so the idea that a forest would be too warm for a baby seal hadn't occurred to me yet.) He was frightened and began to cry, until a tree took pity on him and called out to Mother Nature for help. She answered the call, appearing and healing Kittiwake's eyes so he could see without the amulet, and helping him get home to the sea.

Makes you a little misty-eyed, doesn't it? I'd really love to find that story, if it even still exists, and post it up. Funny enough, I was telling my husband about it just earlier this evening, and made note of the fact that even as a child, I loved stories of magic, and thought Mother Nature could fix anything if you knew how to ask her.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Three

3. How do you come up with names for characters (and for places if you're writing about fictional places)?

Well, in the case of Tom, and of all of the other characters in his story, either I've randomly selected them, or they've selected me. Carol, for example, is named after a woman I wait on with some regularity at work. She's nothing like Carol in the story, but the name somehow stuck in my head and sprouted a character.

In my fantasy writing, the names are sincerely formed from grammar rules I created for the languages of the characters. For example, among the iLalir, I pick a clan name, and then give the women a name that starts with the clan, and a given name that's an adjective (most of the time) with the feminine ending -ir. Lal Fanir, Athel Salir, Nol Erathir, are all examples. Women are seen as embodiments of the clan, so their names are adjectives suggesting what they will bring to the clan. Men, on the other hand, are the property of the clan, so they are named first with an attribute, and then with the clan name in the possessive form. Examples from the same clans as before: Klathran Lalo, Selan Athelo, and Thirian Nolo. For the iLalir (and their iThissir cousins) titles are less important, so they always follow the name. (Selan Athelo Shan, Klathran Lalo the King, Lal Fanir the Princess) As a side note, this is a matrilineal society, meaning the family line is traced not through the father, but through the mother.

It's a complicated system, but one with a logical setup, and reason for the way it's done. The Thissiro system is similar, though not identical, and the grammar structure is different, too.

As far as places, I have a much more organic method, which largely just involves picking a name that sounds good and, again, meets the sound rules for the local language. I have a growing word-list, but as yet a lot of things are still shifting and changing, so a number of things may not solidify until I'm done with my final edits.

Week Ending 10/2 Writing Summary

Sunday
1:20 Chapter 24 (1002 words)

Monday
0:10 Chapter 25 (113 words)

Tuesday
None

Wednesday
2:00 Chapters 25, 26, 27 (1524 Words)

Thursday
0:10 Blog Post: "30 Days of Writing" (131 Words)
0:50 Chapter 27 (695 Words)

Friday
0:15 Blog Post: "30 Days of Writing-Day One" (165 Words)
1:10 Chapters 27-28 (720 Words)

Saturday
0:15 Blog Post: "30 Days of Writing-Day Two" (189 Words)

Weekly Total
0:40 Blogging (485 words)
5:30 Writing Daughter (4054 words)
6:10 total, 4539 words total

Saturday, October 2, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day Two

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

Oh my... I have lot of characters. *glances through work-in-progress* Yes, I have a lot of characters, though only a few main ones. In Daughter, I have around twenty-five named characters, at least, and there's a pretty even split between male and female characters. In Tom I currently have five, three men and two women.

As far as a preference, I'm not sure I have one. I think the majority of my main characters tend to be female, especially in my sci-fi/fantasy work, and if I had to pin some reason to that, I'd say it mostly has to do with my own personal life. Most of my close friends have been women, and I've always been closer and identified more closely with my mom and grandma than with my dad and grandfathers. The majority of my bosses have been women, and often the majority of my co-workers in general.

Sorry, got a little tangental there. In any event, as I said, I tend to write more women than men for mainline characters, so I suppose I prefer to write women, though I hadn't thought about it until now.

Friday, October 1, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day One

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

Lalirea, which is the world setting for The Daughter of Three is definitely my favorite setting. I've been toying with various ideas for the world for a long time, and in fact I'm even running a D&D campaign set somewhere else in the world. I've been inspired for years by authors like Tolkien and Jordan, who created such rich, detailed worlds.

Daughter focuses mainly on a collection of kingdoms along the eastern side of the main continent, but bits and pieces of the rest of the world are out there, some places in name only, others with a pretty good, if basic, fleshing out of the culture and geography. In addition, I have a few side projects that have, in one way or another, tied into the world. Sometimes, the idea to make a connection only happened after the fact, but it seems like once the connection is made, I can't let it go. If I'm lucky, maybe I can make a series from it...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

30 Days of Writing

October is always a busy time around our household, and in addition to it being a month for Halloween parties, our annual Samhain ritual, and the month of our wedding anniversary, I've decided to finally throw in and participate in the 30 Days of Writing meme. Starting tomorrow, October 1st, I will post a blog each day in answer to the questions in the 30 Days of Writing list. I'm not certain who started the list, but I grabbed it from J. Koyanagi, and it seems like a fun idea. Plus, amid everything else going on, it will provide me with the motivation to keep thinking about writing, every single day, rain or shine.

To see what the questions will be, click “Read More”. Wish me luck, and happy October!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Week Ending 9/25 Writing Summary

Sunday
0:20 Blog post: "SPEAK Loudly" (376 words)

Monday
None

Tuesday
0:20 Chapter 24 (cut 442 words from a scene that wasn't working)

Wednesday
0:40 Chapter 24 (484 words)

Thursday
0:30 Blog post: "Promises by Marie Sexton" (review, 389 words)
0:10 Chapter 24 (67 words)
Would have written more, but was interrupted by my husband's computer having a major hardware failure, followed by my husband having a major panic about said hardware failure.

Friday
None

Saturday
None

Weekly Total
0:50 Blogging (765 words)
1:10 Writing Daughter (109 words)
2:00 total, 874 words total

Embarrassing, considering my goal of 10,500-14,000 words for the week. Hopefully this week will go better, and I am going to follow the same goal baseline. Maybe this time I can stick to it. :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Promises by Marie Sexton

I met Marie (and her husband and daughter) at Writing on the Waves, and hanging out was an absolute blast. When she confirmed that she had some titles published, I decided I'd check them out. As an amusing side-note, I think this is the first book I've read in a while that was both 1) set in the modern day and 2) did not involve even the slightest hint of the paranormal. Honestly, it was a nice change of pace. So, without further adieu (aside from clicking "read more"), my review of Promises.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SPEAK Loudly

Why? Because Wesley Scroggins doesn't want you to do so. He also doesn't want you to read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's what Scroggins has to say about the book in his article in Springfield, MO's News-Leader.com:
In high school English classes, children are required to read and view material that should be classified as soft pornography.
One such book is called "Speak." They also watch the movie. This is a book about a very dysfunctional family. Schoolteachers are losers, adults are losers and the cheerleading squad scores more than the football team. They have sex on Saturday night and then are goddesses at church on Sunday morning. The cheer squad also gets their group-rate abortions at prom time. As the main character in the book is alone with a boy who is touching her female parts, she makes the statement that this is what high school is supposed to feel like. The boy then rapes her on the next page. Actually, the book and movie both contain two rape scenes.
Not only is Scroggins misguided, but he's a little out of touch. The point of pornography is to provide sexual stimulation and excitement. I don't know about you, but I am absolutely not excited by the idea or act of rape. Maybe that's because rape isn't really about sex, but about power over another person. Power over a victim. No, Mr. Scroggins, that is not soft pornography.

He seems to be among that strange group who believe that not talking about something makes it disappear. If we don't expose our children to the possibility of teen pregnancy, then they don't get pregnant. If they don't read four-letter words, then they won't use them in the hallways or at lunch. If we don't talk to them about rape, then it won't happen.

He, and those like him are, in a word, wrong. Were I feeling particularly vehement about this I might also call them delusional, and frankly, fucking idiots.

Think a teenager shouldn't read about rape? About someone who is trying to cope with having been raped? Why don't you read this post from Cheryl Rainfield, or this one from CJ Redwine. For that matter, read what Laurie Halse Anderson herself has to say on the matter.

Rape happens. And it is because of people like Mr. Scroggins who want to sweep it under the rug and play pretend that girls who are raped do not seek out help. They feel ashamed. They think no one else understands. They think something is wrong. They don't know where to go or who to ask for help. They don't know there is help to seek.

And it is time to Speak. If we do not, then who will? So Speak loudly, and spread the word. Talk about this book, with your friends, with your neighbors, with your children. Don't allow this man to censor what other people read just because a topic makes him and those like him uncomfortable.

#SpeakLoudly on Twitter for more information, comments, and links to blog posts.

Writing Goals for Week Ending 9/25

Ok, I have now reached a point where I need to write at least 1350 words a day to be able to hit my self-imposed deadline of November 30 on Daughter. In light of this, I'm going to set myself a personal goal of averaging at least 1500 words/day this week (a total of 10,500) with a preference for 2000 words/day (14,000 this week).

Wish me luck, and if you don't see facebook/Twitter posts that I'm writing, ask me what I'm doing. :-)

~Kieran

Week Ending 9/18 Writing Summary

Due to various complications this week, largely surrounding my allergies, the pollen count, copious amounts of ragweed, and over-dosing on allergy medicine to try and cope...

0:00 Hours
0 Words

100% Sadness

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Week Ending 9/11 Writing Summary

Sunday
0:20 Chapter 21 (226 words)

Monday
5:15 Chapters 21-22 (3374 words, a new record)

Tuesday
1:00 Blog Post: "The One-Quarter Mark" and "The Name of the Wind" review (1471 words)
3:00 Chapter 18 (filling in a scene that finally clicked) and Chapters 22-24 (2299 words)

Wednesday
None

Thursday
0:30 Chapter 24 (32 words)

Friday
None

Saturday
None

Weekly Total
1:00 Blogging (1471 words)
9:05 Writing Daughter (5930 words, again a new record)
10:05 total, 7401 words total

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Back in March, a friend of mine recommended this book to me. Being someone who wanders the shelves of my local Borders frequently, I had seen it numerous times, and heard good things about it, but I was always reading something else when it would catch my eye, and I'd think, "Okay, I'll pick you up later."

My friend tells me, "Do not make me fly out there and hurt you 'til you start reading it." He is six feet, four inches tall and a sergeant in the US Marine Corps. He can make good on the promise of pain, and I'm not inclined to give him any reason to do so. I picked up a copy, but due to various events going on with work, and the cruise we took in May, I didn't actually read the book until the end of June/beginning of July. Now I look at the calendar and realize that I've gone two months and haven't actually put up any review of it, so here we are.

The One-Quarter Mark!

Back on July 19th, I wrote that I was finally hitting my real kickoff point with the book. Well, after a day that involved a ridiculous amount of writing (3300+ words) I am at 24.91% of my goal words for this book. A mere 200 words will put me over the one-quarter mark, and it feels pretty good, realizing that since July 19th, I've written more than 23,000 words. It's not the 1000 words/day mark that I wanted to hit, and since I started actually tracking time writing and words written on a consistent basis over the last three weeks, I've only had 6 days where I actually crossed that mark.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Week Ending 9/4 Writing Summary

Sunday
None

Monday
None

Tuesday
2:10 Chapter 19 (1245 words)

Wednesday
0:40 Blog Post: "Whether or Not to Edit" (746 words)

Thursday
3:05 Chapter 20 (2327 words)

Friday
None

Saturday
1:30 Chapter 21 (1029 words)

Weekly Total
0:40 Blogging (746 words)
6:45 Writing Daughter (4601 words)
7:25 total, 5347 words total

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Whether or Not to Edit

In the writing world, there is a continual and divisive debate about whether the author should edit their work as they go. Some say yes, some say no. Interestingly, most of the blog posts I've read of late fall into the latter camp, the ones who say you shouldn't even go back to fix a misspelled word. Robert Heinlein, Stephen King, and Brandon Sanderson, all bestselling authors, have all, in their own way, warned against editing. Heinlein said, "You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order." Sanderson leaves spell-check (even the little red lines under the words) turned off until he's making his last pass through the book.

I've tried this, including turning off the spell-check markers, and I can't do it. I'm obsessed with grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I think it goes along with my overall obsession with language, as I also must use all the proper diacritical marks when writing in, for example Español or Français, but I can't handle leaving a word misspelled. I lasted five minutes with spell-check off, and then went back to frantically search out every red line. Of course, I'm writing a fantasy novel, so I also have to add every new name to the dictionary, and because OpenOffice doesn't have the spiffy shortcuts for accented characters, I add names with accents into my AutoCorrect so I don't have to stop in the middle of Ilôzu to hold down Alt while hitting 0244 on the keypad.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week Ending 8/28 Writing Summary

Sunday
None

Monday
0:30 on Chapter 17 of Daughter (414 Words)

Tuesday
None

Wednesday
1:05 Blog posts: "A Long Weekend" and "Weekly Summary" (1006 Words)
1:00 Chapter 18 (705 Words)

Thursday
None

Friday
1:10 Chapter 18 (667 Words)

Saturday
0:15 Chapter 19 (305 Words)

Weekly Total
1:05 Blogging (1006 words)
2:55 Writing Daughter (2091 words)
4:00 total, 3097 words total

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last Week's Writing Summary

I meant to post this on Monday, but work took up a lot of time and energy, so here goes. Layla Messner, an author with whom I've connected via Twitter, posts up a summary of the time she spent working on "Writerly" matters each day, and at the end of the week posts up a summary of the time she spent.

Because this seems like a good idea to me, I've started keeping track of my own time spent working on writing, or things that, for me, will support my writing habits, which includes blogging. I'm keeping track of time, number of words written, and by extension, the average number of words per hour that I write. I figure at least once a week, I'll post a summary of the previous week's writer time, which will help keep me on track as I review my progress over time.

A long weekend

The husband and I got to take a long weekend, and it was a blast.

Friday night, we went to the first annual Champaign-Urbana Pride, which had a HUGE turnout. I'll admit I was surprised, if only because the GLBTQ community here has rarely been...communal. At rough estimate, there were upward of 1000 attendees. It was also fun for me to run into people I've been waiting on for years at one job or another, and always sort of wondered about but been too polite to ask. That, I think, is some of what the community needs here--to know who each other are. To know that we're out there, and that none of us are alone. I hope that the turnout was enough to convince the good folks running the show that this should happen again next year, and that when it does, we'll be able to attend for the full weekend.

Sadly, we had to leave early so that we could get to the next stage of our adventure, the WizardWorld Chicago Comic Convention! Hubby's aunt was meeting us here at 5:45, which meant we got up at 4:45 in the morning (hence the early night leaving Pride, dash it all) to be ready when she got here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Daughter update

For anyone who's been reading up on my Facebook page or my Twitter feed, you may have noticed I stopped posting my word counts for a few days. This is because, sadly, I hit a major speed bump. In essence, I've known for a bit now that I was getting near the end of what could be called Part I, Act I, or what have you, of Daughter. This is the portion where the stage is set, you meet all of your important characters, learn a little about what they're doing, and meet your protagonist, and the problems that face them.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Why Marriage Equality is Important

My parents dated for about two years before they married in March of 1980. Upon signing their marriage license, they were instantly granted certain benefits and safeties. In medical situations, they are able to make decisions for one another. Should anything happen to either one of them, the possessions of the couple are automatically assumed to be the property of the surviving spouse. If my mom died tomorrow, my dad would still have the house, their vehicles, their bank accounts, etc., no questions asked, and vice versa.

In October of 2008, I stood on a beach in Massachusetts with my partner of then-five years, and made vows not altogether unlike those my parents took in a church in Illinois. Under the laws of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, the District of Columbia, and now most recently, California, I have a husband. Under Federal law, and in the other states of the Union, I do not. What does that mean, exactly?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Air Conditioning and Motivation

My husband and I have a wonderful little problem. Our central air conditioning unit works, but only until the outdoor temperature hits about 85 degrees. After that point, it is just too old to keep up.

Whether I'd like to admit it or not, this has taken a great deal out of my motivation. Not necessarily because I'm depressed about the air conditioner, though I certainly am, but because the house is so uncomfortably warm that it's hard to want to actually do anything. It seems like a flimsy excuse to write it out, but focusing on writing, or even meditation, becomes hard to do when you're considering peeling off your own skin to see if it could help you feel cooler.

I haven't gone to the gym, worked on my book, studied, meditated, or much of anything else, in many, many days now. This is the first blog post I've written in a few weeks, though I've started a few that are still sitting as unfinished drafts, one of which consists only of a title. Obviously, one major solution is that hubby and I need to purchase a new central air unit, but in the short term, I'm not certain what I should do. For the moment, it appears that I will be doing my writing outside of the house, probably before or after work each day. As far as housework, it seems the answer is simply to suck it up.

So anyhoo, that's why I've been so quiet lately. Don't worry, this is the start of me getting loud again. :-)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Writing in Earnest now...

I've been kicking ideas around on this project for a long time, and have finally begun to feel like I'm getting something useful out of it.  I was skimming through my last draft of Daughter, and did a word count check, only to discover that this horrid piece of tripe was a total of 51,800 words, give or take.  You may think I'm just being hard on it for no reason.  Trust me, I'm not.

a scene from "Daughter"

"His pulse is slowing. Damn it!" She turned her face skyward and shrieked her frustrations at the clouds, but they did not answer. She grabbed both sides of Sorônt's face and used her thumbs to force his eyelids open. The Thissir's eyes were glazed over, and if he was aware of her presence, he did not show it. "If he dies in our care, Thônt-ilôzu will never believe it was not treachery. It's war for certain." Ileno and Athelo both stared at her blankly. They knew as well as she did, but what could they do? None of them were skilled healers.

Tom and the Waiter

I'm sitting at my desk, making notes from the recording of Carol's interview.  It's unusual that I didn't get more information out of her, and that's gnawing at me a little.  It's not that she's really anything special herself, more that she has friends in the right places, hears all the gossip.  It's also usually not that she doesn't want to tell me, but it's a game for us.  We love to hate each other, and that's the game we've played for fifteen years.

My desk phone rings, and I put it on speaker so I can keep writing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Seven Years!

Just a short note to mention that seven years ago today, I went out for coffee with this really cute guy I met through mutual friends.

See how cute?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Languages: a pastime

Yes, I am serious. I am fascinated by languages, in all their variations, and really always have been. The variations even between English as it is spoken in the United States versus in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand (to name countries where I know English is spoken and has significant variation, with no disrespect to anywhere I've missed) are endlessly entertaining. A guy who's gone by "Randy" in Chicago had best be prepared to call himself "Randall" when he goes to London, or be ready for a great deal of tittering every time he introduces himself.

While a friend of mine continually asserts that we don't speak English, we speak American, I point out that British English and American English are still mutually intelligible. English and French, for example, are not. But, interestingly, English, while being a Germanic language, is also descended from French (and through French, from Latin), thank you William the Conqueror. Hence, while the slang may vary, English is English, wherever it is spoken.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Remodeling Redux

I haven't been making nearly as much progress as I wanted on the things I'd planned to study over the course of this year, and it's occurred to me that this is, at least in part, because I'd been very vague about how I was going to accomplish all the work I intended.  I have a few topics that I was specifically interested in studying, and I told myself, "Work on them for at least an hour every day."  Well all right, then...  That was in the beginning of March, and I've not made much progress in four months.  Perhaps, it's time for a new approach?

I always function best in a situation where I have very specific expectations for what needs to be done.  So, I bit the bullet, and came up with a schedule for what things I'm going to do on what days.  (On this day, read this, take notes on it, following day, review notes, do meditation; On this day, read through this lesson and listen to cd, following day, do exercises, etc.)  I'm giving myself until Sunday to actually start this part of the routine, but I keep looking at the list and reminding myself that it's not at all insurmountable.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Snippet

"And what's your name, boy?"  The woman's eyes were sharp in their review of the young man before her.  He gulped.

"Leiroen Lelo, mistress."  Despite his best efforts, his voice quavered.  Her expression shifted to a wide grin and she laughed delightedly.

"It's been so long since I've had a student with any real talent!"  Leiroen was confused, then started to let the corners of his mouth pull back.  Perhaps this would be a good day, after all.

"Wipe the smile off your face, Leiroen Lelo.  I said it's been a long time.  I didn't say that particular dry spell had ended.  You're bright, no denying it, but brains do not equal talent."  She shook her head, apparently exasperated, and Leiroen sighed.

Perhaps not.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Weirdness

I'm having a very odd, introspective sort of day. It's my first non-vacation Saturday off in roughly five or six years, and I sat around for most of the morning doing absolutely nothing out of what I planned to accomplish today. The introspection has been largely focused around my school years, and apparently I still have some things about them that bother me.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tom and Carol

Yes, this is the same Tom from the scene at the restaurant. So far I'm just getting little snippets.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This morning

I didn't get out of bed as early as I'd planned today, but I still got the trash cans to the curb before the garbage truck got here, so I consider that a win. I've been doing laundry, catching up on cleaning up the kitchen, made breakfast, and played around on Facebook a bit. Once the laundry has produced a clean set of work clothes, I need to run to the salon and do payroll, and get started on the paperwork for the end of the quarter. This afternoon, I go in to the store and work until close, and I do have paperwork to catch up on there, as well, in addition to needing to do a little re-write on the schedule that's coming up in a couple of weeks, as I forgot about our promotion changing over.

And after my long, ranty post yesterday, life goes on. I've been letting speed bumps slow me down too much lately, and it's time to pick up the pace again, because we all know that the world waits for no one. The more time we spend standing around worrying about everything that must be done, the more things pile up, and the harder it is to wade through the mess. It's all about effective time management, which has always been my problem. I've never been great about work before play, and once again I am looking in the mirror and saying that has to change. I know it will stick eventually, but sometimes I just forget entirely. Every few months it becomes necessary for me to re-commit to the challenge.

So that said, I need to get moving so that I can still accomplish all of my to-do's for the day. Hell, if I play my cards right, I may even make it to the gym this afternoon!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A rough few days

This last week has been exceedingly frustrating. While I have still striven to stick to a philosophy of speed bumps and not roadblocks, occasionally, when you hit enough speed bumps, followed by a big nasty pothole, it's hard not to want to throw your hands in the air and run off as fast as your feet can carry you.

"Laws of Illusion" by Sarah McLachlan

Being a complete Sarah fanatic for a number of years, I was highly disappointed in myself when I logged into my MySpace page at the end of May and realized:
  1. Sarah McLachlan was releasing a new album and I was completely unaware.
  2. I had failed to "Like" her on Facebook, in which case #1 would never have happened.
  3. I still hate MySpace. Why do I still even have a MySpace profile??
In any event, once I got my hands on the album, I had to (as usual) trap hubby in the car with me to enforce listening. For the first time in our almost-seven-years together, however, the most shocking thing occurred. My husband, while listening to a Sarah McLachlan album for the first time, actually uttered the words, "this is really good." Typically, I play something ad nauseum, and he finally begins to like it, because it's that or complete insanity. Don't worry, he has to do the same with me on a fair amount of his music, too. (It took a week before I could actually handle The Addams Family: The Musical in its entirety.)

But enough about that. Let's talk about the album, shall we?

Sarah has had a rough few years, and it comes through clearly in the album. Many of the songs give a glimpse of her emotional state and she is unapologetic and unabashed about the honesty in this album. "Loving You is Easy" is one of the few happy songs on the album, which is fine by me, as my love of Sarah McLachlan's music has never been based on her more cheerful tunes (though "Loving" is catchy, and one that I catch myself singing a great deal).

Stylistically, the entire album sounds much more upbeat than any of her previous work, despite the bittersweet lyrics. The music feels more elaborate, and on "Awakenings," the opening track, there's a heavy dose of electronic. For some artists, adding so much background can result in a loss of vocal quality, but this album has been very well constructed to avoid that effect. Interestingly, the one thing "missing" from Laws of Illusion is her very characteristic style of flipping her voice from low notes to high (my husband refers to it as "yodeling" but this gives me visions of lederhosen, so I'll stick with "flipping"). While it's there in some of the songs, in most, she has opted for a much smoother vocal style.

My only complaint? The saw, heard throughout "Last Dance" on Surfacing, makes a repeat appearance in the song "Changes" and it seriously bugs me. I've never liked the saw as a musical instrument, and while I (clearly) worship the ground Ms. McLachlan sings over, I just can't make an exception.

$12.99 for the Deluxe Version on iTunes, $19.99 at Borders, and at this writing $12.37 at Borders.com. Go on, you know you want it...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An amusing short

In one of the workshops, Lynn asked us to write the introduction to two stories. One had to be a modern/real-world story, the other a fantasy. My gorgeous and hilarious husband had reached his writing saturation point. The words would no longer come, so instead he drew these:

What the?!? A real-world kitten and a fantasy kitten, of course...

I got stuck on the fantasy prompt, which I never expected would happen in a million years, but for once, I didn't have any scenes jumping to mind. The modern prompt, however, presented itself to me at once, and the result is here:
---

I am bored, in the worst way. “And what,” you may ask, “is the worst way, Tom?” My answer would be first date gone horribly wrong bored. Don’t get me wrong, Dustin brought me to the nicest restaurant in town, and drove over an hour to get here, but that’s where the high point ends.

It’s one of those places where the tablecloths are white and they have actual candles in the centerpiece. The furniture all looks like it was hand-made in Italy and flown over, and the menu prices don’t dispute that theory. Not the sort of place I frequent on my best day, and this isn’t my best day. We’re at a four-sided table, and Dustin insisted on sitting to my right, instead of across from me.

“…and that’s how I got Rush Chair. Crazy, yeah?” It takes a moment to break my reverie and murmur my agreement. I’m sure the story was positively wacky, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Dustin’s profile said he was 25, but I’m fairly certain his finger slipped off the 3 key. Either way, Rush Chair was clearly some time ago. Not that age bothers me. I’m a hell of a lot older than I look, to tell the truth. It’s the discrepancy that has me concerned, and behind my dreary boredom, a sense of unease is starting to slink in.

“So, what do you do again?” I ask, trying to seem interested. The dining room is full of clattering plates and talkative people, and I have to repeat the question because I’ve spoken too quietly. Cars roll by on Marion Avenue, and I’m trying to listen to Dustin rather than watch them through the windows dominating the east wall of the room. He says something about an insurance company and I murmur how fascinating it is.

That feeling of unease grips the pit of my stomach, tightens, drops. Something is wrong, and it’s not Dustin’s typing skills.

“We should get down,” I interject into an ongoing description of daily paperwork. My tone is too calm, really.

“I’m sorry?” He is confused, and rightly so.

“I said we should probably get down.”

“Meaning?” His tone drips with the sense of a hundred meanings that never occurred to me, and never will. The feeling takes over my whole body, like the adrenaline rush that happens when you almost fall down a flight of stairs, and catch yourself just in time. I roll my eyes, grab him by the tie and pull him, forcefully, under the table a moment before the windows explode. There is shouting, and a gunshot, followed by the sound of running.

“What the fuck was that? Tom?” I realize I’m still holding onto Dustin’s tie, and I let it go. Checking to make sure my badge is in place, I grab my gun out of its holster.

“Sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t discuss police business with anyone outside the department. If you’ll excuse me?” I get up and start running, heading for the windows. Whatever just happened, they can’t have gotten far.

“Can I call you?” he shouts after me.

“No,” I reply, not looking back. Boredom eliminated.
---
I wonder if I can do anything more with this... That would be awesome. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Writing on the Waves - 2010 Edition

I'd like you to imagine that you've been given the opportunity to leave the country for a week and stay at a fabulous resort. For a flat fee, you'll stay in a nice (if a little small) hotel room, have food available around-the-clock, dinner at a five-star restaurant every night, see stage shows at a theatre, dance at a nightclub, skate at the ice rink, swim in the pool, or even sit in the library for some quiet time. Now, while you're singing at karaoke, this entire resort is on the move, taking you to places where you can swim in the ocean, snorkel with sea turtles and tropical fish, and wander around the remains of an old French fort.

Oh, I forgot to mention, your resort looks like this:
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Freedom of the Seas. It, along with its sister ships the Independence of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas, forms the second-largest class of cruise ship in the world. Did you catch the part where I said there's an ice rink?

So, this pretty much sounds like a dream vacation, right? Wait, there's more. Suppose that one of your favorite authors is offering, during the three days the ship is at sea, traveling between ports of call, to share advice about writing, their own experiences, and critique your work. We have just moved from dream vacation into, "am I dreaming?"


Nope. That would be myself and my husband standing with Lynn Flewelling after one of the formal dinners. You may recall a few months ago when I wrote about her Tamír Triad, and I still need to talk about her Nightrunner Series, book 5 of which was just released a week ago. Words cannot describe how I feel about this.

Wait, one can.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

So here's a little recap of what happened each day:

Day 1 - Book Release Party!
While the book didn't officially release in the States until Tuesday the 25th, Royal Caribbean got some of the planning mixed up, and set up our champagne release party for Sunday the 23rd, the day we got on the ship. We met Lynn when we boarded, to get information about the where and when of the workshops, and then took a little time to learn where our room was located, and get a feel for the layout of the ship. Huge. Rather than go on in excessive detail, I'll send you here: Freedom of the Seas
That afternoon, we met in one of the upper lounges of the ship to drink champagne, play Apples to Apples, and hear Lynn read from the book. (She read at least part of Chapter 15, in case you're wondering...) We each got copies, which we later had her sign during the workshops.
After the party, we went on to dinner in the formal dining room, where the group was split between three tables. We were seated with Gia and Keenan, from Chicago, Kim from Omaha, and Thea and her mother Karyn from a town near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Lynn dropped by the table after dinner to chat with us a bit.
I'd also like to point out that I successfully restrained myself from running at her, screaming and waving my arms like a maniac. The combination of Dramamine, Claritin, and Mucinex I was on probably didn't hurt...

Day 2 - Coco Cay, Bahamas
Coco Cay is a small island owned by the cruise line, and basically functions as a giant beach and water park. Being as I'm not a beach sort of boy, we really didn't do much here, other than swim for a bit, and struggle with the sunscreen melting into my eyes. Since I don't have anything else to show from this trip, here are some seagulls. :-)



Awesomely, the first formal night was scheduled for this night. Sunburned people in tuxedos and full-length gowns are an amusing sight.

Day 3 - Workshop
I won't go into a lot of detail about any of the workshops. The information is copyrighted by Lynn, and I'm not going to step on her toes there. The short version is that there were several different classes, each surrounding a separate topic like Character Development, Plot, World-Building, and Editing & Publishing. For more information, check out her website.

Day 4 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
I didn't ice skate, as me + ice skates + moving boat = stooopid idea, but hubby and I did go snorkeling with Lynn, her husband Doug, and our new friends Gia and Keenan who were also at the workshop. There were some turtles, along with other tropical fish and coral at Turtle Cove, just off St. Thomas. No underwater camera = no underwater photos, sadly. Barring that, here's us on the boat...

In order: Keenan, Gia, myself, Michael, Lynn, and That Bald Guy We Didn't Know...
Post-snorkeling we were pretty wiped out, but the party wasn't over yet. Captain Joe and his crew started handing out punch made of a liberal amount of rum and a dash of pineapple juice. And free refills. Lots of refills. We were feeling pretty good by the time we got back to the boat, but thankfully had enough time to sober up before dinner. :-)

Day 5 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles / Marigot, Saint Martin (French Side)
Philipsburg is not terribly exciting. The main industry is tourism, and a lot of it is jewelry and liquor stores. Not really our cup of tea either way. We did, however, get the chance to see more of the island as we signed up for a bus tour that included a talk of the history of St. Maarten/Martin, and took us to Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island. Sadly, it was a French holiday, so most things were closed, but we got to eat a tasty lunch at Le Oizeau Rare, and check out the remains of Fort St. Louis, which were beautiful and featured an excellent view of the island. See below...








Day 6 - Workshops
The second day of workshops took up a significant portion of the day today, covering Plot and World-Building. I got a lot of great info about how to space out your plot to keep it moving, which I will be putting to use in the very near future.
This was also the second formal night, so we got a lot of pictures of all of us in our pretty clothes. Here are the three tables:




Day 7 - Workshops, Long Goodbyes
The final workshop was today, focusing on editing, how to get published, and a few personal stories from Lynn about getting Luck in the Shadows purchased by a publisher. The afternoon was a long critique session, and I, personally, got a lot of great feedback from Lynn and the other writers in the group. Again, a lot of great info that I'll be putting to use, and am already including in my ongoing project.
The evening came to a really tough end. After seven days with really awesome new people, we all stood on the deck, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, the moon shining through the clouds, reflecting on the waves. It took until about 1:30 in the morning before we all gave up and went to our staterooms. As Lynn put it in an email later, "I came to meet students and came away with friends."

An absolutely unforgettable trip. Many thanks to Lynn, Doug, Gia, Keenan, Thea, Karyn, Kim, Nico, Sharon, Betty, Stephanie, Joanna, Carter, Amy, Rowan, Leslie, Janel, Laura, and Justine for making this such a memorable and amazing trip. We'll see you all around the waves again, I hope!



A towel bat. Our favorite of the towel animals we received...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

For those who haven't heard, this is not merely a re-telling of the little girl gone down the rabbit hole. As it happens, it is somewhat a mixture of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, with a few dashes of good old Tim Burton flair thrown in. We've gone to see it twice now, once in the standard version, once in 3-D. I'm becoming more and more attached to this whole 3-D movie idea, and I would recommend seeing the 3-D version.

The movie plays about with a number of the classic conventions of Alice, but adds in little details like Alice's clothes neither growing nor shrinking with her. The March Hare is highly amusing, and Stephen Fry's Cheshire Cat is, in a word, delicious, for all that his part seems small in the film.

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, unsurprisingly, is a role with significantly more depth than I'd have imagined for the character, which is carried off phenomenally. Changes in the Hatter's mood are marked by his shifting accent, anywhere from a proper British Received Pronunciation with a slight lisp to a booming Scottish accent that makes Braveheart look mild. I've honestly never read the books (though I now plan to do so as soon as I have time) so I have no idea how focal the Hatter is in the original work, but Burton found a way to do so that makes sense.

Helena Bonham Carter's Red Queen shifts pronunciations and personality traits slightly as well throughout the film, and again in ways that make sense and have a definite pattern if you know what you're seeing. The contrast with Anne Hathaway's White Queen is very direct, and I'll tell you now that the previews did not do the White Queen justice. For the Queens, this is all a very elaborate game, with strict rules that must be followed by both parties.

In all, the movie manages to capture a level of whimsy with that delightful dark twist that was the way of faery tales before the Victorian Era got hold of them. Add into that the excellent casting, going beyond our main players to include Timothy Spall, Matt Lucas, Crispin Glover, Alan Rickman, Martin Csokas, Christopher Lee, and Lindsay Duncan (who played Adelaide Brooke in Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars) in supporting roles, and you've got a truly well-constructed adventure. Finally, I'll say that I've never seen Mia Wasikowska's previous work, but after her performance as Alice, the hunt begins.

I'd give more details, but it would really ruin the surprises...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What I am Building

I quit going to college around six years ago, and while I can't precisely say that I haven't looked back, it is not a decision that I particularly regret. I wasn't going for the right reasons, had no idea what I really wanted to do, and was absolutely terrified that I would get all the way through to graduation only to realize that I really wanted a completely different degree for a completely different career. I also allowed that fear to influence my work ethic, and fell into the same habits I had in High School. I finished assignments late, poorly, both of the above, or not at all. It's not that I couldn't do the work, or that I didn't have time--I just prioritized poorly, and my GPA paid the price. I graduated HS with a 3.23 on a 5-point scale, and the last I checked, my GPA at Parkland was somewhere in the realm of a 1.16 on a 4-point scale. Because I hate writing papers.

Odd, isn't that, since I'm writing this, and I love to write in general. Why don't I like writing papers? I used to think that it was specifically because of the requirements of style and citations, or perhaps it was because I didn't get to pick topics that specifically interested me, and while those were and are contributing factors, I think the problem is rooted slightly deeper than that. In my previous post, I talked about having non-useful habits, and a severe lack of time management has always been my biggest shortcoming. I'd rather read, spend hours typing up random factoids that have no bearing on my life whatsoever, or daydream, than do what I was "supposed" to do. At twenty-seven, it is becoming more and more clear to me that this really isn't a good way to go about my life.

This is one of the major reasons I have chosen to shift my perspective so drastically in recent weeks, and one crucially important factor in this whole process has been my spiritual life. I've said in a post or two, and for those reading this on my Facebook, I drop hints or comments now and then (along with having listed my religion in my Info) about the fact that I am Wiccan. For those less familiar with the term, it means I identify as a witch--which probably bears some explanation in itself, but we'll get to that. This does all tie together, I promise, so bear with me, and I'll try not to ramble too much here. One of the problems I have faced for a long time is a tendency to compartmentalize various portions of my life, and often in neither the most sensible nor most helpful fashion. I definitely "bring it home with me" when I come home from work, especially if something has been bothering me lately. Much of the time, I do the equal and opposite, too, bringing things in my personal life to work with me, and not letting them go throughout the day.

Now, the interesting thing about many of the things I've talked about in the last two posts is that not only do they apply from a psychological perspective, and also function in the concept of the Law of Attraction, but they are things that I have read, time and again in one form or another, in books on the Craft. While I generally dislike the reputation that Aleister Crowley gave the movement, his is one of the best definitions of magick: "The science and art of causing change in conformity with will." This is a practice I have been at least nominally studying for nearly ten years now, but I have, admittedly, not been learning much. Despite my very deep interest in the Craft, I allowed myself the same laziness in my understanding of my religion that I did in school. As I mentioned above, I needed a change--I wanted a change--I just haven't been sure of how to go about actually causing that change in my own life until more recently.

So about four weeks ago, I set myself some goals. I have been collecting a series of books by Christopher Penczak, his Temple of Witchcraft series, for about six years now, and I am beginning to work my way through the books. I also decided that it was finally time for me to buckle down and actually learn Gaelige (Irish Gaelic) rather than just having the books to do so sitting on the shelf gathering dust. I drafted a "class schedule" for myself, with specific assignments to be completed on a weekly basis.

Gaelige is mostly a fun activity for me. I am great with languages, but this one has proven challenging, due to wacky spelling and pronunciation rules (almost as wacky as English, believe it or not) and complex grammar. I like a challenge, so I've committed to grabbing this one by the horns and going for it. By the beginning of April, I will have a strong enough grasp of the language to begin using it for my daily journal, and referencing a dictionary when I need it. A friend of mine keeps haranguing me because it's not a language used by many people in the modern world, and it won't really be useful to me, but I view it as a badge of pride to do this and be successful in it.

With regard to the Craft, I have begun working through the first book, The Inner Temple of Witchcraft for what is now the third time, with the intention of actually completing the exercises, meditations, and actually learning and internalizing the content. So how does it tie in to all of the rest of my mental redecoration? I hope Mr. Penczak doesn't mind, but I'm going to quote my favorite paragraph from the first lesson in the book here (emphasis added):

"Though you don't have to do magick to follow this spiritual path, such training is part and parcel of becoming a witch. You do not have to actively cast spells to make the concepts behind their working a part of your everyday life. One part of magick that is not usually focused on in many books and classes is that magick is any change caused by your will, including internal changes. We tend to focus on external changes, manifestation in the physical world, as "proof" that magick really works. We all need to see the results of our actions, but some of the most important, profound, and healing magick comes through an internal change, a shift in perspective or consciousness. In that sense, if you choose this path of the witch, you may not necessarily be doing spells and rituals all the time, but you will undeniably be doing magick. Magick is a part of each breath we take and every action we make."

Another important point that has come up in the book, and something that I've had to really think about and work to internalize, is the concept of personal responsibility. We are the only person we can blame for the words that come out of our mouth, or the thoughts that come out of our head. For me to not only learn my path, but to truly walk the walk, I must learn to always take responsibility for what I say, think, and feel. I have spent a long time refusing to learn this lesson. Of all of the things for which I've chosen to kick myself over the years, this is the one thing both most deserving and least attended. I have blamed others for my shortcomings, and chosen to take offense where none was offered, rather than taking responsibility for who I am and making the choice to take the higher road, not just for myself, but for those I love as well. I have selfishly and needlessly hurt others in my life for no other reason than this, and it shames me.

It is my belief that the "will" of which Crowley spoke is not just an expression of the needs and wants of our physical life here in this world. It is the will of the spirit, that eternal piece of us that drives the body forth each day, that is what is really important. When we learn to look at the beauty in the world around us, and at the good things in our lives and hearts, and to focus on those things, we begin to understand what we really want. It is through this alignment of the mind and the self with our true will that we grow. This isn't just a truth in the Craft.

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." --C.S. Lewis

So in the process of remodeling that I have begun, my goal goes beyond just getting out of bed at a better time of day, or eating more healthfully. I am tearing the whole house down, examining each piece of my life, my heart, and the thoughts with which I've programmed myself, and building again from the ground up. I'm not just re-painting the living room, or putting up a new shower curtain. I am working to build a new, better version of myself from the ground up. One that is thoughtful, sees the better side of all things, and has learned what he really wants. One who is closer to the person I really want to be. One who has these traits in all aspects of my life, and does not compartmentalize certain truths or facts to being only true when I am at work, or only true when I am in a Circle--all truths are the same truth, if you know what it is you seek.

It occurred to me as I was writing this that some of you may be concerned or curious about my religious path. Saying, "I'm a witch!" isn't the easiest thing in the world, especially knowing that the uninitiated (pardon the pun) might not understand, or might be uncomfortable with that title. It is what it is, however, and my not saying it won't change that. So, this being the case, I'd like to open this up for you: if you have questions about what this means, or questions about what Witchcraft is or is not, I want to hear them. Send me an email at ciaranruadh@gmail.com and ask. I'll put up a post at the end of next week (so around the 20th) with your questions and answers. Ask me anything you like, and I'll answer it to the best of my ability. If it's something to which you'd prefer a private answer, I can do that as well, just let me know in your email. Don't be shy, and don't worry about hurting my feelings. I want to know what you think, or I wouldn't be posting this up for the entire Internet to read.