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Showing posts from October, 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.

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 aro…

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.

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…

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&#…

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!

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.

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.

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.)

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.

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...

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.

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

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

With all my heart,

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!

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 int…

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.

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.

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 …

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.

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.

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.

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. P…

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&#…

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.

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…

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 somethin…

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 Fl…

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.

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 fo…

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 …

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 a…

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

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 f…

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…