Monday, December 13, 2010

Meet The Editor

So I requested info from everyone taking board and administration positions. Amy had a unique approach. Rather than summarizing everything she has done, I feel it'd be better to provide you with the link she presented me.
Here is her resume.

if you go to the Clipbook, you will find a listing of her published articles.

I encourage you to take a look. Ask Amy anything you like in the comments section!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Meet Yasamin (Yaz) Our Event Manager

Below is Yasamin's Introduction of herself to our current members.
Please include any questions you might have for her in the comments.

About Yaz

The position of event manager necessarily serves two primary purposes: the planning of events and their subsequent operation. In the first stage, I plan on combining my extensive familiarity with open-mic and set-schedule events to formulate a template for successful events for this organization. Not only have I seen the behind-the-scenes of a plethora of readings, but I have come to understand what it takes to carry out one of them efficaciously. Inside of school I have been required to read, but as it is my passion, I have acquainted myself with more authors than there are fish in the sea. Using these backgrounds and interactive seminar formats, I plan on supplying those with knowledge that I may lack a venue at which to impart that information. My presence will not overshadow those being featured, but will still command the respect and exhibit the wherewithal necessary to carry out such an event without any hiccups.

Goals for the Organization

The first and foremost goal must be the sharing of art in the form of poetry and prose within the local community. There is no “too many” when talking about how many people are reading or writing these days. As I see it, “too few” would be an accurate answer as of today. Across all barriers (age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, etc.), there are poets (and writers of all stripes) awaiting an awakening, shadowed only by a lack of exposure.

Secondarily, I would like to see this organization’s sponsorship of non-fundraising events on a progressively more frequent basis. With the right planning, a non-fundraising event can be carried out at no expense, and considering the subject matter, the chances are that our resources are either currently possessed or readily accessible for dissemination. Therefore, the only limitation should be time available, and luckily for us, there should always be time in the day for poetry.

Other goals include, but are not limited to, the improvement of the poetry scene in Sacramento, the improvement of the personal writings of those with an interest in bettering themselves, as well as the offering of a safe haven for the emotional, intellectual, and in some cases spiritual, growth of Sac-Towners. Not to mention, the growth of this organization into a name worth remembering.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Fundraising Manager -- Jazamin Wasi

Below is the Introductory Statement of our new Fund Raising Manager. Feel free to use the comment section to ask her questions about herself, her goals, and fund raisers she is currently researching for our organization.

I’m Jazmine Wasi and I am assuming the position of Fundraising Manager. I spent 3 years working as the Activity Director for the Black Student Union at Laguna Creek High School in Elk Grove, CA. My duties as Activity Director consisted of organizing fundraisers, community service events, scheduling club meetings, (basically any event that the club was to be involved in).

I gave weekly updates to participants in the club and rounded up volunteers to assist me in all new events I planned. I’m very organized, resourceful, and driven. Overused statement warning: I may not always know the answers to every question but

I pride myself on always being able to find answers. I usually accomplish what I set out to accomplish. Even if I don’t meet my goals at first, I eventually will, because I don’t give up easily. I generally get along with just about everybody. This makes it easier for me to effectively communicate with the necessary organizations and people in order to successfully plan fundraisers. My people skills will help me present a positive image for SWS when speaking on behalf of SWS to other organizations when arranging fundraising efforts.

With my position as fundraising manager I would like to fundraise enough money to accomplish the following things:

--find a permanent space for SWS to work out of
--spread the word about SWS
--help to accomplish the specific goals of SWS for SWS.

I would also like to help myself with this job as well. I hope to gain experience and help myself develop new strategies for planning successful fundraisers and events. I hope to advance my skills in event planning and find out where I would like to take my skills in the future. I’m still trying to find out exactly where I’m headed in life and what career I’m interested in.

I hope that the experience I get working with SWS will help me get a clearer view of what I really want. I would like to improve my position by eventually expanding my responsibilities and doing everything that is expected of me and more. I hope that everyone in SWS will be satisfied with my work, ideas, hard work and driven attitude. I look forward to getting to know everyone involved with SWS, and hopefully will be able to work alongside you in future fundraising event.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Novel: Outline Up

I'm big on character and plot. But in the last 2 years, my brain has kinda rewired itself. I've developed a more intense need for organization...

I think it's my life, really...

So I signed up for Nanowrimo. 50k words used to be fairly easy, when my life had a few less details in it :P Now, it's time to re-approach my projects.

World Building: 1st I am writing out the background of the world

This is how does the magic(s) work? Who IS magical? What is the history and how does that affect your character and world set up?

Character Building: 2nd I'm writing up the Character background for my main characters + villain--

Karryna, Dayton, Lara and Bea.

2a: Setting up the minor characters:

--I don't need to know their whole back history, but I do need to know their motivations and how that affects their interactions with my main characters:

Toni, Sera, Bea's goons, the Masons, Madre & Tia & Pappa, Ishtar ...

Outlining: 3rd, it all comes together with an outline.

Event by event, I mapped out the plot, include notes of character behaviors that will guide plot, etc.

And on Monday...I will start writing! :D

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What are Critique Groups For?

First off--this is the 100th post!

So lets celebrate by discussing the reason we're here on this blog, anyway.

Critique Groups. What are they for? Why do we need them?

Critique Groups exist to help you better your craft.

There are multiple ways to look at the purpose for improving one's art of writing. None are less worthy than any other, however different goals do impact critique style. So it is of utmost importance that dominate goal of your critique group is synonymous with your personal writing goals.

Writing for Hobby

Some people dabble. They can live without writing, but they choose not to. I can't explain this well, because I don't understand it. I used to paint for fun, and draw. I drew because I wanted to see my characters, get a handle on how they dressed...I was visually world building. But it was driven by other needs in my life.

Perhaps that is what writers who write for a hobby are doing...wrestling with other drives. Writing for therapy. Or to understand some aspect of their world, a tiny sphere of it, just to go “Ah hah! Now I got it!” So the writing, itself, isn't the goal. The self-knowledge it generates may well be the true aim.

Writing for Art

When the story and characters haunt you and refuse to leave you alone, even when you have a long day of cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping and errand-attending-to hanging over your head, and no time to write, it is the writing itself that drives you. The art takes so much time to craft, and if you find yourself stealing 15 minute breaks at work to crouch over your notepad, or even spirit away your notebook to the bathroom to scratch out some ideas in a way no one will miss got it bad.

Writing as a hobby won't sustain this need. The urge to write eats up chunks of your life. You start zoning out in the middle of conversations. You arrange a few hours here and there, but as painstakingly slow as the whole process is...these hours just aren't enough. And even when you hit dry periods, when life tosses obstacles in your way, you focus on developing techniques to keep you writing.

Myeslf? That's what started me blogging. At first I modeled what I posted from my favorite blogs, but over time I've begun to find my own voice. Precisely the same curve as fiction writing takes. Imitate what you like or the concept of what you think your chosen written form should look like, then you learn the true rules and ettiquette—why they exist—and upon implementation and adaptation you find your expression truly liberated. Suddenly the thoughts and emotions you want you reader to have...they have...even the ones who have never met you.

But I also derive inspiration from helping others. If I am in a place where Life and Writing are at odds, lest I tackle non-fiction, then I would like to see others get further down the road we both want to walk. I want to help them find the knowledge to hone craft, publish, proceed toward making at least part of their income from their writing. Recognition of hard work.

Writing for Publication

This is the realm of the successful writer. The writer who retains control of their art, and can consciously decide how much he/she wants to sacrifice for the ability to earn a living on writing alone. Or, precisely how frugally he/she can live and be content.

Goals here are to hone craft by better walking the line between self-expression and audience appeasement. While writing for art purposes can drive one to focus on how to communicate to his/her audience, that is not the same thing as appeasing said audience. Communicating lets the audience see/know what you want them too, based on what is best for your story. Appeasement means the audiences needs trump your creativity.

Just because someone “writes for publication” does not mean they are “selling out.” There are many aspects to writing for publication, chief of which is the ability to identify your audience. No human is 100% innately unique. We often feel that way. But in actuality, there are people who think like us, who like the same things we do, and despite their interests running in different arrangements and operating under different assumed categories, they are our built in audience. Who they are and how to reach them is determined by your ability to identify them, and give agents and publishers the knowledge they need to promote your book.

Promotion does not mean selling out. The modern concept seems to be that marketing of any sort means that a pursuit is “non-artistic.” But behind every artist whose name is even whispered, is a business. Not only is promotion—from fliers to press releases to article writing—essential to the advancement of any writer, it is the only way even the tiniest bits of recognition achieved for your hours of hard work.

The goals of the various levels of writing:

Dabbling Goals

For the person writing as a hobby, they want connection with other writers. Now, we all want this, but with different expectations of the relationship. Writing as a hobby means honest critique isn't the goal. Often these individuals want appreciation from a community of people who dabble in a similar fashion. True improvement of craft is not the goal, because the plan at the end of the day is to stuff the writing in a drawer.

Does this mean that dabblers aren't good writers? On the contrary, they can have a lot of skill. They just don't care weather they do or not. They don't want recognition beyond a narrowly defined clique, sometimes inclusive of family and/or friends. Dabblers seek other writers to join in a quest of self-expression with. It's an activity, like a club. Not a serious endeavor.

Writing for Artistic Goals

As writing drives expression, and expression transcends hobby and becomes part of one's life as essential as eating dinner, the writer is driven to publish. This isn't a drive perpetuated by a quest for fame (necessarily) but for a little recognition. Our society recognizes hard work monetarily. We give children allowance for chores, or good grades, etc. We pay laborers based on hours worked. We derive salaries based on knowledge required, academic experience, and duties expected. Everything in our lives is commodified, and as such we are trained: recognition comes in the form of a paycheck.

The more hours spent honing craft for nothing else but the sake of the piece you are writing, the more imperative the question: “What should I get for this?” When you've sacrificed family time, time with friends, grades and sometimes even work hours for the sake of completing a manuscript it can become more than recognition that drives this move. It could be fiscal realities that prompt you to think publishing is a must.

When you are at this point in your writing career you are on the quest for knowledge. Not only knowledge about the craft of writing fiction, but writing query letters, researching agents. Who do you contact? How? What edge can you manufacture so that when your polished manuscript lands in the hands of an agent or editor they say: “Ah hah! I want this one!” How much control can you maintain over the situation to guarantee that if someone doesn't pick you up, it isn't because of some naivete or lack on your part?

Writers with these goals—the aspiring writer—needs other writers who are actively on the same journey they are. Only others at their same level can provide the thorough critiques that prepare them for publication. These writers don't need pats on the back, they need honest appraisals from others who have researched not only the industry but what the Reader sees on the page.

Writing for Publication

These writers need picky, quick, and detailed critiques that can help them sit down, fix and complete all changes needed for making a deadline. Their critiquing partners need to know their publishing goals: does this writer write for pure entertainment? Is there an artistic or political agenda? Etc. These determine the analysis and critiques given about content.

Choosing your group:

When choosing your critique group, be honest about your goals.
Be certain your group shares your same perspective.
Discuss your reasons for writing frequently.

A critique group that pats you on the back and finds mostly grammatical issues in your writing, and only what is awkward and unclear is not going to help you progress toward publication. That group is simply not thorough enough, and may be susceptible to dogmatic approaches to critiquing.

Likewise, a thorough critique that focuses on big issues, rather than the use of details to construct said big issues may give you too much to think about/fix on a deadline. If you are writing for publication and need that sort of critique, you will likely be asking for extensions :P

Discussions of why you write and for whom you write will define some of your goals here.
For instance, my response: I write for myself! But I'd really like others to see it. I want, someday, someone I don't know to come up to me and say “I loved your book! It inspired me to write, because you made writing feel like an enriching experience.” Okay, perhaps it won't be in exactly that wording, but that's the jist.

When your group does not share your goals it can be detrimental to everyone involved. Does this mean writers of all levels shouldn't associate? No. But they shouldn't be in the same critique groups.

What are your thoughts? What do you want out of your critique partners?

Friday, October 8, 2010

If You Could Describe For Me...

So, I'm posting on Thursdays :P Let's pretend today is Thursday.

What happened yesterday?

The Guy put on a computer game. Stuff had been brewing for awhile (it's part of my process ;) and I've had a few "false starts" on this project already. For the School Daze Blogfest I tried a scene from Karryna's POV. It worked. Far better than anything from stubborn Lara's perspective has.

So on went Pandora, in went the Earbuds, and out poured the latest start of the project. Starting new projects always teaches me something new. And while I'm not quite 2k words into this draft, I noticed something I want to work on.


Ok,I've always felt this was hard. Why? I could describe something till blood oozed from under my fingernails and I don't think people would feel it's real. Last night, after folding my laptop and tucking it away, I realized why.

I rely on describing what Reader should see and hear. Smell and taste is hard. I mean, really. I should have not merely described the large entryroom, the wheeled luggage grating against tiles. I should have added the faint scent of lemon circulating on the draft caused by the open door. The whiff of flour and cooking oil on Isa the Maid as she comes to take Kari's bags from Madre. And perhaps, those scents made Kari taste bread.

Smell and taste do not have to be related to food. Our mouths taste dry, metallic (or as a friend's status read the other day on FB "minty fresh") and this is related to scent, memory, emotions. In actuality any of these things can trigger scent, taste and in response, memory.

Certainly makes flashbacks easy, or background information relevant. Also this deepens Reader's experience. Reading has been more "3-D" than movies ever have, because we can feel what the Main Character feels. We can watch the characters put puzzle pieces together that a) we've already figured out b) we haven't figured out. We develop a richer understanding of character personality, which allows for greater individual complexity than a 2 hour movie permits, or a series based on stand-alone episodes can imitate.

So describing a scene isn't about...well,'s about tricking Reader's mind into thinking, for a moment "I am there." Transcending the real world and landing smack-dab into the dream world, while awake. Full use of imagination. That's what it's about.

That's why I read. To love the characters, to see things I never could. So, I hope that some day my writing can create the same experience for others. Here's to improving description!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

After a short break...

 It's been a crazy, but fun few weeks.  And now (since everyone was undoubtedly aching for it), here's more Morgana:

Chapter Six
    When Morgana awoke, she could smell the intoxicating scent of breakfast.  She rose and remembered the tapestry.  While looking at the beautiful designs and heroic tales, Morgana realized that her hooves were tingling.  They seemed to want to leave the room.  Forgetting the tapestry, Morgana followed her hooves out of the room through many hallways and finally down a magnificent stairway that branched into two, but came back to one at the bottom.
    As she reached the end, she noticed a gigantic room with countless tables of silver and chairs of gold.  Several of the chairs were occupied with fairies of different sizes and ages.
    Olivia and Ravion were seated next to each other, so Morgana walked over to their table and sat down next to Olivia.  Her chair immediately morphed into a comfortable centaur’s chair.
    “So you are down at last!” Ravion chuckled merrily.  “Help yourself to as much food as you want!”
    Morgana suddenly realized that the tables were piled high with food of every sort!  Biscuits, eggs, jams, fresh fish, berries of all sorts, and much more.  Morgana had always been a fairly picky eater, but now she ate as though it was the last meal she would ever have!
    For the rest of the day, Morgana explored the Embassy and its surroundings.  She had her meals in the Great Dining Hall.  Never once did she get lost. The Embassy’s rooms contained more libraries, unused bedrooms, areas of worships, supply rooms, and much more.
    Finally, she retired to her own bedroom and the mysterious tapestry.  The first image was of a great battle.  Wizards and other demons were identified with black robes.  Fairies and other good creatures wore red robes.  The good creatures won the war and exalted three heroes: a fairy, a centaur, and a dragon.  They seemed to be good friends.
    As Morgana stared at the tapestry, she was drawn in.  She could actually see the events as they were happening!
    The heroes were kind and gentle; they justly ruled the land of Drynthia.  One day, in a counsel, they decided to build an embassy.  It would be a place where all good creatures could come and be welcome.  They built this wondrous place and called it the “Embassy of Drynthia.”  It was built in a circular design around a tree.  The tree symbolized life and harmony.  In a notch in the tree was placed an amulet.  The amulet was composed of gold, ruby, sapphire, emerald, and magic.  It had three parts; each from one of the rulers.  The centaur contributed the sapphire to symbolize water.  The dragon added the ruby to symbolize fire.  Finally, the fairy put in the emerald to symbolize the earth.  When together, it protected the Embassy from evil.  Many happy years passed under the good rulers.
    But things slowly changed in the land of Drynthia.  The centaur, dragon, and fairy each wanted Drynthia for their own.  A horrible argument erupted and the once strong friendship suddenly ceased to exist.
    Eventually, the fairy pushed all centaurs and dragons to other realms of the world after winning a challenge of some sort (Morgana couldn’t see this part very clearly).  Before the centaur and dragon rulers left, they took the amulet and divided it back into three pieces.  These pieces were hidden in remote places with the hopes that they would never be found again.
    But without the amulet, the Embassy would one day be vulnerable to the evil and war would once again emerge.
    Suddenly Morgana was back in her room, sitting on her bed. Her legs were bent under her body, and she was trembling all over.
    Morgana twisted her tail nervously.  She knew her mission without having to read the stars.  The amulet needed to be retrieved to the Embassy if anyone wanted to survive.

Chapter Seven
    The next two weeks that Morgana spent at the Embassy were the happiest weeks she had ever enjoyed.  Every day she explored more of the Embassy and became better friends with Olivia and Ravion.
    But at the beginning of Morgana’s third week, something changed.  Morgana had come down to breakfast as always, but today she found that her normal seat next to Olivia had been taken.  A huge dragon sat in it!
    The dragon was about 15 feet tall as opposed to Morgana’s five-and-a-half.  It seemed to also have brought a companion.   This dragon was only about five feet tall, but both were gobbling down food and showing sets of amazingly sharp teeth.
    Morgana shuddered and stood grasping the rail of the grand staircase, afraid of an impending doom.  She was about to run back to her room and hide under her silken blankets when she noticed that the gaze of the larger dragon was directed upon her.
    With a smile that Morgana did not find too reassuring, it said, “Here, sit by me.”
    Morgana opened her mouth, but no words came out.  Instead, she screamed.
    The younger dragon looked up and said, “Wot’s rong wi’ her?”  Through her great terror, Morgana recognized the language of a child and realized that the smaller dragon was nothing to fear.  The two dragons seemed fairly nice so with a beckon from Olivia, Morgana slowly made her way down the staircase, to the table, and slowly sat down next to the large dragon.
    “Hello,” she said timidly, casting her eyes to the floor.  “My name is Morgana Stargazer.  What is yours?”  Morgana had been hoping to make a good impression to seem tough so the dragon would not eat her.  But she knew that she only sounded childish and immature.
    “I’m Kazul Firebreath,” the large dragon said gently.  “This is Tinni Bigsword.”  She pointed to the little dragon.  “Here, have some bacon.”
    Morgana stared as Kazul grabbed a platter of fruit and the centaur said, “Wait a minute, don’t you eat meat and, um, like… centaurs?”
    “I’m a vegetarian,” Kazul said proudly.  “So is Tinni.”
    Morgana was amazed (and greatly relieved).  She had never heard of vegetarian dragons!
    The two talked about their backgrounds and families and by the end of breakfast, they were good friends.
    “It’s been nice meeting you, Kazul and Tinni,” Morgana smiled and walked off saying, “I’ll see you later!” over her shoulder.  As she headed back to her room, she felt quite proud of herself.  She had actually become friends with a dragon.  And now for a nap…


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Other than fame, what do Rowling and Meyer share?

So I'm on the CSUS English E-mail list. I received an e-mail from the list service concerning a high school boy who was writing a paper on Twilight. I think I over responded to the question: "Who spread the word?" (about Twilight, that is).

I made the case that it needed nothing. And as I built my argument, citing the history of the industry, I found out...well, that was market analysis. And now, creepy as it is I can see why Twilight was a hit. Just by looking at the trend.

Wanna know why?

Fantasy has always had vampires. We share them with our Horror brethren, and get the creeps from them. Then in the early years of this century Paranormal Romance boomed. And it didn't boom small. It took over the romance genre so rapidly that Harlequin released an imprint, Luna that shook up the Fantasy genre.

Meanwhile, fantasy authors began reverting to YA. When Harry Potter exploded onto the scene, YA exploded with fantasy. Classic Fantasy novels were reprinted with YA covers and stacked on YA shelves. Harry Potter, despite its overtones of high fantasy, occured in the modern world. Which is a trait Urban Fantasy shares. A lot of paranormal romance shared the same traits.

And Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series which bridged horror, fantasy and erotica got popular in the early 21st century. (Related to the complicated nature of Anita's relationships, perhaps?) While Hamilton began publishing her series in the early nineties, during the prior ascension of then-named "dark fantasy," she didn't see popularity until the rise of paranormal romance.

Lastly, novels with conservative ethics have made a comeback. Christian writers can write in any genre and as long as they have moral overtones...they can be hosted in Christian bookshops. And novelty shops, like Christian bookshops, are the only types of independent stores that stand a chance anymore.

When Meyer came along, she bridged all of these popular areas. The time was just right for her. Rowling had opened urban fantasy to the YA-reading crowd (children and adults alike) and taught the publishers that This Stuff Sells.

So her first book hit the shelves in '05. By the release of her 3rd book, popularity had increased to insane levels.

Luna books published urban fantasy that bridged paranormal romance, pulling those readers into other genres, and the heady mix produced the modern industry. Hachette, the publishing group under which Twilight was published, saw so much success that last year (I think, look it up :P) they opened Orbit. A SFF imprint that is really putting out some interesting things. So maybe Twilight IS making the world better for us.

Though where Twilight falls on the spectrum, is clearly as a "YA Romance with horror/fantasy and christian themes." Yes, I know she is Mormon, but honestly, all conservative religious ideologies share more in common than they differ in. And I'm more concerned with the marketing slant than the "truth" of her value-origin. The marketing slant and the behavior of the readership is related. For something to be this successful, not only does the marketing have to work, the audience has to be there...lying in wait....and they were.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moving Foreward

In my interest to grow as a writer and a person, I found the idea presented by Anastasia V. Pergakis on her blog "Labotomy of a Writer," fascinating.

I fully intended to create my own collage out of old magazines...

However, when I pulled out my poster paper and searched the house...well, I recycle many old fashion mags. The magazines that still hang out on bookshelves are old Realms of Fantasy, MZBFM, Asimov's, etc. Nothing I want to cut up.

So I took up my colored pencils and paper and created a rough poster:

From 2010-09-16

The main goals are the large images. Directly in the center is a desk, one side represents "work" and the other "writing." The left hand corner features a picture odf a kitchen :P The goal represented here is too keep my kitchen clean and ordered, and to reduce waste here. I cook nightly, so we go through pots/pans/dishes/silverware quite quickly. And cooking is ... messy. Especially when I go on automatic. When we briefly lived with my guy's mother I apparently stunned her with how quickly I chop veggies...but food is the one essential cost in my life that (while I'm attempting to reduce) is never going to be cut out entirely. So being more efficient and less wasteful is necessary to leading a rich and rewarding life on a squished budget.

On the left hand side I have an image of a very poorly drawn bundle of bills transposed on a line-graph. The goal here is to return to relative financial security. Mind, this is dependent on receiving an income...but, hey, it's a goal :D

On the bottom I have three (lesser) goals. The most important of these three is in the right hand corner. I have mentioned before that I have too many clothes. Keeping organized when I naturally have one foot in the dreamworld can be ...a nightmare...joke unintended. But as I get older I'm finding that disorder in my home is making me increasingly disconcerted. It makes it hard for me to focus. I feel like my house--torn in a bazillion directions. Unsettled. So if I am aiming to write (in the non-blog world) regularly, I need to do a better job keeping my home organized.

The second most important is learning to sew, and completing my mending. Currently, my mending sits in a box in a closet. Buttons fall off, zippers break, and the box winds up overflowing. I need to actually get back to it.

The final large goal is planting veggies. Gardening would be another obligation to list to my long to-do list, but would be immensely helpful.

I see the bottom three goals as essential to improving my fiscal security, which is important to my mental state and assists in the job hunt/writing endeavors. Why?

If I can keep my clothing and such ordered I can:

--see what I don't use.
--see what I should alter to make a better fit.
--increase my ability to pack away/donate and otherwise dispose of unneeded garments,do-dads and whatnot.
--which will assist in providing an ever more ordered environment.

If I can complete my mending:

--I can see what I will/won't use of my full clothing collection...
--see what I should alter.
--and the last two mentioned above, too.

If I learn to sew:
--I can alter clothing I have to match fashions I like.
--I can dress as I like more afordably...but retain my chosen form of visual expression.

If I plant veggies:

--I cut down on the produce that I buy.
--since vegetables compose the majority of our diet, this would present me with an insane level of control over my food budget.

If I cut down on waste:
--this means that I reuse all plastic bags, plastic wrap, aluminum and Styrofoam I possibly can (just a lot of washing to achieve this).
--(ideally) create a compost pile.
--buy and use less veggies
--store fewer food items, and make it easier to meal plan accordingly.
--meal planning and less buying equals more money to get by for more months...

All of these will make me feel more "in control" of my life. The more secure, the easier to write.

The little messages strewn throughout are like little reminders. "Stay positive," emphasize "reusing" goods, etc...which help me reach the big goals :D

What would your collage look like?

Friday, September 10, 2010

This is me jumping on the band wagon. Below is a tidbit from Arrelle...shelved 6 years ago after 5 years of writing/revising/rewriting. Be warned, I shall blast my own writing to shreds after the excerpt! :P

(To know: Arrelle is in hides, kicked out of her homeland. She and Evridon are in a prison cell. Velrehn is Evridon's home, its people enemies to Arrelle's.)

Evridon, though--
Someone was shaking her, Someone quite strong since she felt as weak as a leaf...and that was not a sense she liked. She opened her eyes. Velrehni! Her hand, of instinct reached for her side: nothing. Her back: nothing. Her--an animasl smell returned her to the present.
"Blahk." The Velrehni made a face. "Those really smell."
"I don't trust you."
"Fine. Good. That means you'll remain over there."
She frowned. "You are a fool."
"Is that the best insult you Leccites have? Look, you've no reason to trust me. By Draden, I certainly don't trust you! But those are sad last words. Sad to die plagued by the past."
Arrelle tensed, wondering if somehow he had read her mind...could he have seen...?
"Sad," he continued, "That I haven't overcome it." He rubbed his forehead with an earth-brown palm. "You haven't either, have you?"
She didn't respond. His smile was ironic and directed at nothing in particular. Arrelle found it offensive.

So why is this bad? One, Eesdon's random supposedly "sage" comments throughout are an indication of his one-dimensionality. Through Eesdon the "reader" of this version is supposed to develop a better understanding of Arrelle. Can you tell I meant for them to get together? And see how naive I was about relationships? I think that exudes from their dynamic...Eesdon slowly guides Arrelle through her own dark places and forces her to deal with life because he knows so much better.

BS. WTF. Why does Eesdon know better? Because he was on the streets for a few years? Because he's male? What was I thinking? Clearly I had no idea what the meaning of "a relationship is a partnership," meant.

Eesdon and Dayis guide Arrelle differently, toward different truths. This, to my current sensibilities, is too simplistic. Real people are not devices to assist the growth of your heroine/hero. So this sort of character building is unrealistic. Though it does highlight my emphasis on structure. Everything feeds plot :P Stupid plot-driven tendencies.

On the sentence level...too many adverbs, unwieldy sentences and an over dependence on dialogue. Too much information, too little internal dialogue. Too little description. on top of everything, characters know too much. I focused on psychological discovery over real life-changing events...but didn't do enough "explanation." There's a lot telling, too little showing...

And feel free to add anything else to the list! :D

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Link to Steven Sylva-aRT's Blog Entry

I'm sure there's any easier way to link this, but I wasn't sure how to do it myself.  So I decided to post a link to my blog post for the week here.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Humbled by Mel's bravery in posting her first stumbling efforts into the world of fantastic fiction, I have decided to post my own part in it. Sadly, I cannot even claim that this was my first attempt at writing. I was actually working on a novel at the time (the first in a proposed quintet, after which would come a second quintet. I was a very ambitious twelve year old. Obviously something has changed.)

Like Mel, I have preserved every painful word. In this installment you will witness info-dumps and a rather poignant example of why I no longer even attempt to write fight scenes.

Somewhere along the line I lost the first page of this story so it begins in the middle of a sentence. Essentially, Lyra, our protagonist, is handing out orders to the gang of thieves she runs.

“... usual posts. I want you to stay away from fights and whistle if you do. I would also like to inform you that all the rules still apply and anyone caught breaking them will have to answer to me.” Lyra glared at them to drive her point home. “Alright, go!”
                The gang melted back into the shadows, all but two. These were Iorek and Asriel, Lyra’s partners; second and third in command. Lyra ran her gang differently than others’ gangs. Each of her thieves had a specialty and worked in that area. Some were pick pockets, others raiders, and some were con artists. Lyra worked in all these areas but her specialty was in con artistry. Iorek and Asriel helped her. “Let’s go,” growled Lyra and stepped back out into the crowded streets.
                Lyra stopped to take in all the scents of the city.  Merchants yelling their wares, the creaking of cart wheels, the different cries of animals, and the laughter and talk of  the crowds blended together as background noise. Different scents drifted toward her on the breeze. Fresh baked bread, sweat, dung, spices were all there, familiar. She could remember when all this had seemed alien and frightening, but it seemed like home now. She knew Cyn could never feel at home in the city as she did, but Lyra enjoyed being around the crowds, even the noises and smells.
It was easy to hide in the city, to blend in and never be noticed. It was also easy to get away. There were countless little alleys, sidestreets, and backways. One could hide hideout in the city and never be found, if one knew the right places. And Lyra, being a thief, did. Lyra was conscious of this every hour of every day, for this was her city, she may not have grown up there, but it was hers all the same. Lyra knew all this in a moment, then put her able mind to other things. The sun had risen, there were plenty of people out, and work to be done.
                Lyra, Iorek and Asriel made their way to the square where each of them promptly took a strategic lookout point and leaned on whatever there was to lean against with an air of casual boredom. Lyra was leaning against the side of a stall displaying cooking pots and a few pieces of finely worked metal when the apprentice began to flirt delicately with her. When it was profitable Lyra took the time to wear a dress, as now, and looked really quite fetching in it. One of the best tactics she used was to get on someone’s good side so that they showed her the box with the money and, unwittingly, how to open it. The apprentice tinker was falling right into her trap.
                Lyra was just stating that he must have awful responsibilities like, say, protecting against thieves? The apprentice, named Jobrile, said he did have a lot of responsibilities, but the money practically protected itself and would she like to see? Why of course she would!
He took her to the back of the stall where there was an iron box with a variety of locks which she looked at intently. It would be a challenge, but then again, Lyra enjoyed challenges. It wasn’t the locks that worried her, (she was an excellent lockpick) it was the iron. All faries were a little allergic to iron, especially those with magic. The apprentice noticed her staring and asked about it. It was just that all those locks were fascinating, and how did he ever keep track of all the keys? Well it wasn’t really all that hard.
                Lyra threaded her way through the crowd, artfully bumping into people. She seemed so kind and so full of remorse everybody just said think nothing of it! After all the streets were crowded. Lyra had been doing very well that morning and the afternoon looked to be even better. Then everyone would stop work early, and the real revelry would begin. Lyra was just thinking to herself about how much she loved faire days when a high, shrill, whistle echoed across the square.
                Nobody else paid much attention to it, but then again, Lyra was the only one who knew what it meant. It was one of her thieves whistling, and that particular whistle meant danger. Lyra also knew the type of danger the thief was in; he was hopelessly outnumbered in a fight and there was no way to get out of it. Lyra had designed the complicated system herself, rookies who didn’t know the meanings were always accompanied by someone who did until they learned. The whistle couldn’t reach over the whole city, but there was always a thief in the vicinity who could pass it on if need be. Lyra knew all this in but a second and started to make her way to its point of origin.
                As she reached the allyway she knew the distressed thief was in, the rest of her gang materialized around her. Lyra entered the alley and took the scene immediately. Her thief, Borcan, a boy only about nine or ten, was surrounded by a ring of older boys. Lyra recognized some of them, they were from a gang across town. Lyra knew their leader and was not fond of him.
 Sorcen, she thought. He is, I think, overly fond of making trouble. Whatever these imbeciles may say they knew Borcan was a part of my gang when they attacked him. Maybe it is time I taught him a lesson.
                “Halt!” Lyra said in a strong, clear voice, “I said stop!”
                “I heard wha’ yeh said, but who’re you t’be sayin’ it?”
                Lyra drew herself up to her full height, looked down her nose imperially at the speaker and said, “I am Lyra Silverlit, and you are assaulting one of my thieves,” her voice was dangerously low, and by the end it sounded very much like a growl.
                The speaker just smirked and Lyra knew she had been right. It had been a set up. Every thief in the city (and probably a fair amount outside of it) knew the name of the Queen of Thieves, and it was not a name to be smirked at. “And if you fight one of my thieves,” she continued, “You fight me.”
                “And if you fight one’ve my thieves, you can bet on fighting me,” came a voice, and Sorcen stepped forward. “Lyra Silverlit, I challenge you.”
It is not a widely known but thieves have their own kind of Court System and customs to go with it. Everyone present knew that this was not only a fight between rival gang leaders. This was fight for superiority. In essence Sorcen was challenging Lyra’s authority as Queen and her gang’s superiority for her being head of it. Whoever won would be the rightful ruler of the thieves.
                A circle was automatically formed around Lyra and Sorcen by all thieves present, except for Borcan who was trying to get his breath back; he looked pretty bad.
                “I accept your challenge Sorcen,” Lyra said, though everybody had known she would. Sorcen leered. Lyra glanced back at her gang, who formed half the circle. They knew the rules, do not attack until attacked, she just wanted to make it clear it still applied.
                Lyra and Sorcen stood in the afternoon sun sizing each other up. Lyra knew he was bigger and probably stronger, so she couldn’t let herself get  trapped or too close. She also knew he was not as fast as she, and his reflexes were sluggish, she could use this to her advantage though her skirts would slow her up. Lyra waited for Sorcen to make the first move, she wouldn’t start a fight, but she’d finish one.
                “What’s-a-matter Lyra, afraid?” he sneered.
                “No,” she replied, and then he made his move.  
                Sorcen lunged for Lyra and hit her squarely in the eye. Nice tactic, thought Lyra, try to impair my vision. She jumped back, as did Sorcen. He was leering again. Lyra blinked once, twice,  shook her head and stepped up. Sorcen lunged again but Lyra was expecting this, she ducked and hit him heavily in the jaw coming back up. Sorcen whirled toward her and her and threw another punch which she avoided easily, though she got caught in the gut with the next one. Winded, she stumbled a bit and Sorcen seized his chance. He lunged yet again and struck a blow to the head.
                Lyra reeled, stars and balls of color burst before her eyes. Her skirts tripped her up and she fell heavily. She rolled over onto her back just in time to see Sorcen aiming a kick and rolled out of the way. She was back on her feet in a trice and shook her head once more.
                “Doesn’t look like things’re goin’ your way Lyra!” jeered Sorcen.
A boiling rage burst in her chest and spread throughout her body. She had fought with some of the best, she knew what she was doing. She was not about to lose to a hot-headed loud-mouth like Sorcen. This time Lyra lunged, making a sound very much like a roar. He managed to block her first few blows, but just barely. Her fist finally connected with his head and then his gut. He reeled. Lyra pursued. She wasn’t a knight, she had no need to be chivalrous. Another blow to the head and one to the jaw. Fighting like a wildcat Lyra sought out all his weakest areas, until Sorcen fell to the ground with a thump.
                Using her knees to pin his arms, Lyra put her hand to his throat and applied pressure, not enough to choke him, but enough to let him know she meant business. Her other arm was pulled back, the hand balled into a fist that would surely break his nose if she brought her arm down.
                Putting her face very close to his she said, “Surrender,” though it came out as more of a growl. He spit in her face.  Lyra applied more pressure to his throat and her upraised arm became even more taut.
                “I said surrender,” she breathed. She could feel him gulping under her hand.
                “Al-alright , I surrender.”
                “I surrender!”
                “Good.” Lyra got up and started to walk toward Borcan when she heard footsteps. She turned around at the last moment and dealt Sorcen such a blow he fell down unconscious.
                “Some people never know when to quit,”  she muttered as she pulled Borcan to his feet. He had been beat up pretty bad.
                “Somebody see to him, then get back to your posts,” she barked, then she strode off into the direction of home.

Morgana Continues!

The next three chapters of Morgana follow.  First, though, I'd like to make note of the fact that I started a new short story last week, alleviating my fears that revisiting this catastrophe would permanently stunt my writing.  Anyway, onward:

Chapter Three
    The ball was nearing its end; only one event was left: star reading.  The reading of the stars was the most exciting part of every centaur gathering, but tonight, there was only one message.
    “Morgana Stargazer, the soon-to-be warrior will be sent on a quest with a dragon and a fairy.  She shall be a heroine for all eternity.”
    All eyes turned to Morgana; she couldn’t be a warrior.  Only men could be warriors!  Morgana felt her world crash down on her as the stares and rude comments kept coming.
    “Calm down, my friends!” Morgana’s mother shouted over the noise.  “Morgana can’t be a warrior, so we must be reading the stars incorrectly.”
    This seemed to soothe the centaurs, so gradually they left the ball, leaving Mrogana alone in the clearing.
    Though Morgana was crushed, she wasn’t staying away from others out of shame; she had noticed something else.  Next to the spoken star message was another one.  Some sixth sense told her that no one else had been able to see it; it was meant for her.
    Morgana scanned it quickly, and then write it down on a small piece of parchment. It appeared to be a riddle.
    Straight away to the North,
    Keep the rising sun to your right,
    And the setting moon to your left,
    Sleep as the stars dance at night.
    Three weeks on the path you’ll be,
    Until you arrive at the guarded gates.
    Go straight away;
    Your destiny awaits!

*    *    *

    Morgana realized immediately that she must run away.  Her mother would never give her permission to go on a quest.  Nonetheless, she was hesitant to leave her family, friends, and land.  She sat on the cool grass and pondered the inevitable deed.  She had no choice; she had to go.
    The centaur grabbed her cloak, enough provisions for three weeks, and the family sword.  Morgana’s father had not taken the sword for fear the sly dwarves would rob him.  Nonetheless, the sword was said to possess magical qualities to those who used it wisely.  Unfortunately, Morgana had never even held a dagger before, let alone the family sword.  Still, something told her that she would need it, even though she would have to steal it.
    At around midnight, Morgana set out on what would be the greatest adventure of her life, but first, she had to do something.  Hiding behind a bush, she pulled out a piece of parchment and a pen and began to write.
    “Tell no one about the contents of this letter.  I must leave.  I would tell you where I’m going, but I’m not sure myself.  Tonight’s message was no mistake.  Pray for my safety and know that you will always be on my mind.  I will come back safely, so try not to worry.
    “Love, Morgana.”
    Morgana slid the letter under the door of Thomas’ house and stole off into the night.

Chapter Four
    Morgana had been traveling through the Myst forest for almost a week.  Other than direction, Morgana had been ignoring the stars’ message.  They had said to sleep at night and travel by day, but in all good adventures, the hero traveled at night so as not to be seen.  Besides, Morgana couldn’t think of anything dangerous at night that wasn’t a threat during the day.  So she traveled by night.
    All was going well until her seventh night of travel.  Morgana had been casually walking through a clearing when two huge trolls grabbed her!
    “Unhand me, you brutes!” Morgana cried in fury.  “Put me down in the name of the Stargazers!”  She paused to view her captors and gasped in horror.
    Trolls, as you probably know, are very ugly creatures.  Morgana had only seen pictures of trolls, and was hardly prepared for the sight.  The troll that held her was about 25 feet fall and was covered in brown scales.  Two pointy horns grew behind a pair of tattered ears.  Yellow, deadly teeth filled its gaping mouth.  The other troll looked the same, but was slightly taller.  It promptly grabbed Morgana.
    “What an interesting little horse we have here, Oog,” the taller troll remarked. He was obviously the leader of the two.
    “I’m not a horse, you monsters!” Morgana screamed.  “I’m a centaur!”
    “What’s a centaur, Uug?” Oog asked.
    “I’m not quite sure.”
    While the trolls were occupied, Morgana clumsily drew her heavy sword.  “Let me free,” she stammered, “or I’ll slice you both into ribbons!”  While she said this, she raised the sword and swung wildly.  When she finally stopped, she realized that the most mortal wound she had inflicted was a small nick on Uug’s finger.  In her dismay, she again flung the sword, which caused it to fall to the far-away ground.  The trolls glanced at each other and burst into laughter.
    “You are the most pathetic horse that I have ever seen!” Oog chuckled.
    Morgana was too exhausted to correct the trolls.  She simply groaned in protest.  The trolls examined Morgana with a childlike curiosity for several hours.  But in their interest, they forgot the most important rule of trolls: if a troll is in direct sunlight, they will turn into stone.
    Morgana had just been falling asleep when the hand that held her grew tighter and she heard a shriek.  She opened her eyes to a bright morning sun and Uug and Oog statues of rock.  Unfortunately, she was now stuck in a hand of stone.  She was also very cold.
Morgana dug her fingers into the pockets of her cloak and gasped in surprise – her crown!  Somehow it had ended up in her pocket, but Morgana had never been happier to see it.  Slowly and carefully, she began to chip away at the stone fingers with one of the crown’s diamonds.

Chapter Five
    It had taken Morgana two weeks, but she had finally reached her destination.  Morgana hadn’t been sure what to look for.  She envisioned a large building where all kinds of creatures gathered in times of joy and crisis, but she didn’t know what to expect.
    As Morgana walked up to a humongous set of gates, she stared in awe at the building she was to enter.  It was like a castle!  There were hundreds of pillars, windows of stained glass were everywhere; meadows and brooks surrounded it all.  Towers jutted out in just the right places, and a faint song could be heard from within.
    “It’s like a dream…” Morgana gazed in wonder.
    “That’s what many people say about the Embassy of Drynthia.”
    Morgana was jerked into reality and looked at the speaker.  It was a male fairy; Morgana had never seen one before.
    “I am Ravion, the guardian of these gates.”  Ravion flittered his large, clear wings several times.  “Are you Morgana Stargazer?  How did you get her so quickly?  The notices were just sent out yesterday!”
    “She’s a centaur, Ravion!  She read the stars and left ahead of time!”  A woman fairy had emerged from the building, turning towards Morgana she said, “My name is Olivia.  This is my brother.”  She pointed at Ravion and continued.  “You don’t even know why you’re here, I assume, but no matter.  Come with me.”
    Morgana followed Olivia obediently into the “Embassy of Drynthia.”  Whatever Drynthia was.

*    *    *
    Morgana had been left alone in, Olivia had said, the Embassy’s humongous library.  While snuggling on a large cushion (centaurs use these as opposed to chairs), she read the letter Olivia had given her.  The fairy had said it was an extra copy of the letter everyone else had received.  Morgana unfolded it and read:
    “Evil is abroad in the land, and it is very near the land of Drynthia.  Goblins, vampires, wizards and other such evil have banded together and formed an enormous army.  But the worst is their leader, a wizard.  His plan is to take over the world of Feary.  Then he can make all good creatures become slaves and serve him.  If we are to overcome them, we must join forces immediately.  I ask you to send one of your people to the land of Drynthia.  Others have been sent for and when everyone is here, we will have a meeting and tell you what you must do.  Consider: separate we become droplets of water, which can be scattered with the flick of a hand.  Unite us and we become a river, even able to wear away large rocks.
    “Sincerely, Lillia, Queen of the Fairys.”
    “Interesting, isn’t it?” Olivia had walked in unnoticed.  “Every letter was a little different.  Yours, of course, would be personalized, but this is an extra copy.”
    “Is it true?” Morgana asked meekly.  “I mean, about the war?”
    “Every word of it.”
    “That’s why we summoned you all: a centaur, a dragon, and a fairy.”
    “But why those exact creatures?” Morgana shuddered at the thought of a dragon.
    “I think that it would be best if you wait for Queen Lillia to tell you at the meeting.”
    “Oh.  So Drynthia is…”
    “Our country,” Olivia said with pride.  “The country of the fairies.  The Embassy is equally amazing because it is different to everyone who sees it.”
    “The Embassy was built with many spells.  One was that it should appear however you want it to.  For me, it is a large cottage.”
    “For me, it’s a castle.”  Morgana had never learned magic (centaurs frowned upon it), but she was growing excited at the thought of a building made completely of the stuff.
    “The inside is splendid to all.  The Embassy has almost 500 rooms, but you never get lost.  More magic, I suppose.”
    The two talked for hours about many things.  Finally, Morgana’s head began to droop and Olivia’s voice became slow.
    “I’d best show you to your room,” Olivia yawned, and they left the library.  After numerous twists and turns, Olivia stopped and opened a door towards the end of the hallway.  “Here we are.”
    Morgana gasped in amazement at the sight that lay before her. Her room was beautiful.  It contained a large, deep green canopy bed (specially made for centaurs), a corner of purple cushions, a small oak desk (with quill, ink, and paper), and a full length mirror.  On the wall that Morgana’s bed faced was a tapestry of what Morgana figured was (and she was right) the history of the Embassy of Drynthia.  But the most splendid of all was the balcony.  Great double doors swung open to a rounded balcony.  And the view!  As if in a dream, Morgana trotted slowly across the softly carpeted floor and stepped out.  She could see a small stream surrounded with heather.  Further on, she could see many meadows and beyond that, the beginnings of a forest.  Looking even farther, Morgana saw the outlines of mountains with snow-covered tips.
    “It’s…” Morgana stumbled to find words that could properly describe this paradise she could now call ‘her room.’  “It’s perfect!” she finally managed.
    “I know.  Everything about this place is perfect.  Maybe that’s why we’re in grave danger.”  Olivia turned and Morgana saw her brush away an escaping tear.  But she heaved a sigh and smiled again.  “Feel free to explore the Embassy tomorrow.  Almost all of the doors are unlocked unless someone is using it as their bedroom.  Breakfast is at ten in the Great Dining Hall.   You’ll know where it is.”  Olivia winked.  “More magic. Goodnight.”
    Morgana bade her friend a goodnight, but didn’t sleep yet.  Something about the tapestry was odd to her.  Morgana stared and thought, but she was too exhausted from her journey and soon gave in to sleep.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

It's My Birthday and I'll Cry if I Want To

So today I turn 27. I feel 30 around the corner. If an age can stare at you and accuse you of all your shortcomings...30 is doing that to me right now. I can't get that Simpson's kid's voice out of my head "Ha-ha!" and the feeling of his accusing finger.

I woke up depressed. I've learned a ton this year, but I feel like I'm in the same position I was last year. I know I'm not. But when I mark my list of goals I have so many "In Progress" and so few "Achieved." How would I explain myself to the person I was ten years ago?

Ten years ago, I felt that I had a lot to prove. Not to my parents. Not to my teachers, and not really my peers, but to myself. I externalized it as "society" as if I could somehow collect that whole abstract notion and bundle it in a bag. Then give it the finger.

I would show them all! I would write 40 novels! I would read tons of advice by published authors and do everything they said writers had trouble doing! And then...I'd be successful. And along the way, I'd get a BA.

Relationships were an amorphous thing. They never factored into my goals concretely. Clothing had always been an expression of my inner eccentricities rather than a genuine effort to attract a date. I had no real interest in dating, though felt insecure at times for the lack of attention I received. But I was also clueless about the whole thing.

And, I was painstakingly shy. I was phobic about talking up in most classes. I hung back with my friends, and when called on my voice hovered a little over a whisper. I was most comfortable with my friends. And my friends had a massive network around them, into which they roped me. Not intentionally. It just sort of happened.

That girl wanted nothing more than to write short stories and novels and be published. She expected to be there by my age. She expected to have been further in life when she turned 27. What would I say to her?

"You are resisting the Internet, and that is a mistake. You will find, in time, that the Internet will determine more of your future than that novel. You have read that first a writer must master the art, then learn promotion because she cannot expect the publisher to do it all. But you have yet to see the impact of the internet on the industry, and how hesitant that will make you in publishing your short fiction. Don't sit on that short fiction. Sword and Sorcery, MZBFM won't be around next year. Realms is going to have a fight ahead. Dredge up those old Asimov's and go for it! In a year, the press is going to be so limited, the editors won't give you critiques. Now, right now, it's 2000. The next 10 years will be so very different...

"Learn LiveJournal, like they tell you to. You don't know how it'll come in handy. And know isn't orderly. It's messy. You have to write one million words of crap before you put down that golden phrase leading you toward true art. Craft. Publication. And don't devalue life experience, there are some hard knocks ahead."

And boy were there. My dad's family business went out. My mother's heart condition appeared. I started dating, infrequently. My brother's teens sent the family into turmoil. I wrote rough drafts of three novels before I even mastered revision. I thought writing was simple. You have an idea, you write it out. You tweak the wording, maybe a little structure--clarify a ton, because that's important--but basically, basically, you stick with the original.

Ha! Such ignorant thinking. The more you try to clarify, the more you learn about the characters. The more you learn about the characters, the more you learn about their world. Then the story changes. Because as the factors you juggle become more specific, and more suited to the story, the greater the diversion from the initial intent. And I thought, then: "I'm not a bad writer! I'll get better, I'll learn more, and I'll publish!"

If it were really that simple, I wouldn't have a little rejection card from a literary agency nestled amid the pages of Arrelle. Hidden in a box. A big box. That card is 7 years old. "I'm not ready," I realized, and threw myself into the process all over again.

I didn't realize that there would be other goals that came to share my life. A relationship that meant the world to me, and my guys' goals nearly as important as my own. I didn't know about conventions. I had no idea about the value networking actually played in making it as an author. I didn't know about the rise of POD. I didn't know how much upper division courses would detract from my writing time, but inform my storytelling when I returned to it. I didn't realize that my parents' expectation for me to get through college alone would lead to me doing it...slowly... and when I graduated, with the need for a back up career, I would stand in the wilderness empty-handed.

"There's only one thing I want to be!" Cries the 17 year old: Drea Davis.

"Tough luck. That's impractical," returns Drea Moore. "You don't get anywhere by wishing it. You can't flaunt your difference and expect acceptance all at once. In the future, acceptance will be more important to you. Then it will remind you what you know now: it's not easily come by. But you can't be a writer, only. You can't be any one thing, only. Humanness doesn't work that way."

"But I am going to work hard! I'll get there!"

"Sure you will, but it'll take a lot more time than you expect. And that's okay. So figure it out if you really want your feet under you before your thirty."

"You don't have any faith in me!"

"You don't have faith in yourself. You are expecting to magically gain confidence at 18? When you start using my name?! You'll get it in time...but you aren't over those other things...the things that got you writing in the first place..."

"I made my peace with that."

"But there will be instances in the future that will remind you of the past.Return you to the old patterns. It isn't about the person, it's about you."

"But I've-"

"Left one phase. You're headed to another...but the dark spaces will be back."

And here, in the present, dragging into the future toward 30...I wade in my private darkness, seeking the light. The hope, the confidence to return to the willful spirit I had at 17.

"It isn't about hoping," Drea Davis reminds me, "It's about doing. What did I do my senior year?"

"You pieced the Creative Writing club from nothing. Created a Literary Newsletter that was read and exchanged around the student body. You were the treasurer of the Vietnamese American Society and helped Yen and Mary Ly, who becomes the president of the Chinese Culture Club, run all of the fund raisers for the year. You got your theater techie friends to run the lights and sound for the Asian Assembly, helping the others put it together."

"See? Look at what I did. Behind the scenes I hope?"

"Yes, back then, definitely. You were good at taking direction."

"And at 27?"

I laugh. Oh how I laugh! "Your goals will change. You will want to set up something that fosters others creativity."

"What about my own?"

"It'll always be there."

"Of course it will!"

Of course it will...but I need a back up plan...and all I ever wanted was to be part of the field. If not working toward my own goals, then inspiring others. Fostering community, support. All I ever wanted...but when I wait on others I'll never see that light. I don't have the community support I once did, 10 years ago.

Who would know that as I turn 27 I would know so many people and spend so much time feeling so isolated? So much has changed...and I must believe in three years more will. But three years no longer feels very long. So little has happened in the past year. At least I might have a hint how to move into a more uncomplicated future. So I try. I move forward.

Soon I will stare 30 in the face. I have three years to get my feet under me. Set up my foundations, change "In Progress" to "Achieved" so I can set my eyes on more goals. A house. Family. But I need my foundation in place before I can get to those. I will do it this year, make all the strides I need to get started and lift myself from this dark mud.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Worst Story Ever Told

    Dear Reader, I would like to share something very dear to my heart.  I’ve mentioned the story that Erica, Bri, and I wrote in middle school before.  I think that its beautiful awfulness needs to finally be unearthed.

    Let me set the scene.  I met Erica in seventh grade.  She wrote; other than my Young Author projects from elementary school, horrendous attempts at poetry, and childish journals, I had never gotten past the idea stage.  Erica, benign dictator that she was, took it upon herself to get me and the rest of our band of friends into storytelling.  She announced, one day, that we were all going to write a story together.  We were each supposed to pick a mythological creature to be our protagonist.  I chose a centaur, Erica a fairy, Bri a dragon, Laura a phouka, Christina a… I don’t remember what she chose, and Evelyn a good witch.  The basic plot of the story was simple: these creatures had been chosen by prophecy to retrieve the pieces of a broken amulet, which would somehow restore good to the world and defeat the evil Head Wizard (to whom we were too lazy to give a real name).

    Christina and Evelyn soon abandoned the project.  Laura continued on, but developed her own world and a far more sophisticated plotline.  This left Morgana (my centaur), Lyra (Erica’s fairy), and Kazul (Bri’s dragon) to fend off evil themselves.  Many wonderful sleepovers and countless lunch hours later, this monstrosity of fiction was the result.  I’ve corrected the punctuation and grammar, but otherwise, this is word for word what we created back then.  Every last painfully bad word.  I present: Morgana.

Chapter One
Morgana Stargazer trotted to the ancient oak tree at the edge of the meadow.  She needed to think.
    Morgana loved this meadow.  It didn’t belong to her family, and that made it even more special.  Being the eldest child of two noble ranking centaurs, Morgana could have almost anything she wanted, but she didn’t want the meadow.
    If the young centaur owned the meadow, it would end up being filled with servants and constant disorder.  For now, Morgana was content with visiting her special place that was owned by someone else.
    Usually, the meadow provided Morgana with a quiet place to read, but today, Morgana needed it for something much more important.
    As everyone knows, centaurs are very wise.  Centaurs are wonderful astrologers because they can see the future in the stars.  And lately, the future had been troubling.
    It had started as, “A centaur will be sent on a mission.”  Last night, it had been, “A noble-ranking centaur will be sent on a quest with two other creatures, one of which will be a dragon.”
    Morgana shivered at the recollection.  Centaurs were always going on quests; it was a part of life.  But with a dragon?  It would be suicide!
    Dragons were enemies of the centaurs.  They were so fierce, so crude, so large!  Morgana had heard tales of dragons larger than twenty centaurs put together!
    And the part about a noble-ranking centaur going… Morgana’s father was at a battle and would be gone for at least a year.  Her mother had to take care of Morgana’s siblings.  It was the most absurd thing the stars had foretold in ages.
    “But the stars never lie…” Morgana mused to herself.  She lowered her chestnut-colored body to the soft grass under the tree and gently stroked her tail.  Even though centaurs were some of the wisest creatures in the world, Morgana was completely puzzled about the stars’ message.

*    *    *

    “Mother, I really don’t want to do this…” Morgana sighed as she looked at her reflection in one of the many pools in the Stargazer castle.
    Flowers and ribbons had been wrapped into her tail.  Her coat and hooves had been polished.  A shirt had been sewn with gold thread (an elf technique) and sported a golden color.  It was now being worn by the disgusted Morgana.
    “Your ensemble is not yet complete, my dear,” Morgana’s mother smiled.  “You had forgotten your crown.”
    “Oh Mother,” Morgana moaned.  “Must I?”  The crown was beautiful, fashioned of pure silver with designs carved in gold.  Thirteen large diamonds circled it to represent the thirteen full moons of the year. Yes, it was very beautiful, but it was bulky and heavy and gave Morgana a headache if she wore it for more than a few minutes.
    “Yes, you must,” her mother replied.  “I’m not looking forward to this ball either, but we must do it.  With your father gone, we are not exactly doing a wonderful job ruling the centaurs.  We cannot let them rebel against us.”
    “Yes, Mother,” Morgana whispered.  For the sake of the kingdom, she would be someone entirely different from herself tonight.  She would be dainty and polite.  She wouldn’t sneak off her crown when no one was looking.  And for the first time that day, Morgana forgot about the troubling message of the stars.

Chapter Two
    The ball was about to begin.  Morgana paced nervously in her large room.  Not only did she have to act perfectly, she had to deliver a speech as well!  Morgana was frantic.  She had never made a speech before.
    “I must make a good impression,” she mumbled, “for the sake of the kingdom!”
    “Are you talking to yourself, Miss?” Morgana’s personal servant, Clara, had wandered into the room.
    “I’m, uh… rehearsing my speech,” Morgana lied.  A future ruler didn’t talk to herself.  She must learn to stop.
    “I was sent to inform my lady that guests are beginning to arrive.”
    “My name is Morgana, please use it when addressing me.”  Morgana sighed as she headed towards the ballroom to greet guests.  This would be a long night.

*    *    *

    Morgana had been pleasantly surprised.  The ball had been fun, so far at least.  Everyone had told her how wonderful she looked and acted, and she had danced with a kind centaur named Thomas.  Thomas Moonwatcher was the son of one of Morgana’s father’s advisors.  And he was extraordinarily handsome.
    As Morgana was thinking about Thomas, her mother called the hoard of centaurs to attention.  “Everyone!” she called.  “My daughter, Morgana, would like to give her very first public address to you all, so let’s give her a warm reception!”
    “Here goes nothing…” Morgana thought as she approached the podium at the front of the ballroom.  “Nothing but the whole kingdom.”
    “Fellow centaurs of Peliadesia,” she began uncertainly, “I would like to welcome you all tonight.  As you all know, my father, the prime ruler of our fair Peliadesia, has been gone for many months fighting the barbaric dwarves in an effort to keep them off our beloved land.  As the stars have informed us, he will be gone for over a year, but the centaurs will emerge from the battle victorious.”  Here Morgana paused as the centaurs cheered and applauded.  “I know that we are all worried about what will happen to our kingdom in the meantime, but my mother and I will take care of it to the best of our ability.”  More cheers.  “I am, currently, no ruler.  I am unfit for the honor of protecting our nation, but I am more than willing to help my mother in the duty.  I love my land, and I assure you, I would die to protect you.”
    Morgana finished and slowly looked around.  Every centaur was looking at her, utterly transfixed.  Suddenly, Thomas burst into applause, closely followed by everyone else.  Morgana stepped down and blinked back tears of joy.  They had loved it, and she had succeeded.

Come back next week for another mind-destroying installment!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Social Media Marketing & the Writer

I returned to blogfests this week. Oh, so much fun! I write a passage on Writing Worlds, then go and read other entries, comment, and so forth. The comment-love is easy to come by for blogfests, and they seriously boost traffic to your blog.

But that isn't the best part. Reading awesome entries from the other participants and finding other authors in your genre certainly feels good. Then there's the critiques. Sometimes I get really good responses, and many times I find a lot of support. It's really easy for me to see everything wrong in my writing, and very hard to be happy with it, so positive feedback is just as essential as a thorough critique. It might be my personality, I'm more ready to believe negative evaluations to be reality than compliments :P

Then I find authors/writers who invite you to friend them on Facebook and follow on Twitter. The more we connect and the tighter the community, the easier it becomes to channel audience through the network. Also, the easier it will make eventual publication when that day comes.

I found an application on Facebook that networks blogs. This is really useful! I connected the SWS blog to one of our pages and can follow other networked blogs. if this makes it easier for our members to find writing blogs/links I will be ecstatic. It is within the SWS mission to "educate" writers about writing...and unfortunately the trend we're going, that includes the "business of writing." At least, for me, it's fun. Hopefully it helps streamline others' research.

Also, it is instant advertising for SWS. It's just up to us to make the group look professional, well-organized, and interesting.

With our website, compilation blog, member blogs, and project site, we have the beginning of a writers' network. If we can feed these pages through social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and our members can engage in discussions on Facebook, we can easily boost SWS rankings in the web at large! So be friendly, leave comments on this blog, on our Facebook pages, and on our members' Blogs! Everyone who links back to this page between now and October 8th will be mentioned at our Release Event! :D

So go ahead--Where would you like to see SWS? On the net? In the Real World? Let us know.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How I Avoid Writing

When I've reached a block in storytelling, one of my favorite diversions is to organize.  I have two big writing binders: one of current projects and another of past.  The past binder includes dearly departed stories like the old Morgana chronicles (started by Erica, another friend, and me in the 8th grade) and the far bettter but still unfinishable Revenge (written by the three of us at a slightly higher level of talent).  Hundreds of pages of Arylle  ideas and drafts fill the front half of the binder.  Tucked in the back are drawings from days of olde when I liked to pretend that I possessed a modicum of artistic ability.  These also mark a period of my writing when I was so bad at developing character that I spent more time debating about what they wore than what they actually did.  The binder is rounded out in the middle with some old handouts from highschool with basic pointers on narrative techniques, the hero's journey, and word choice.

I purchased the second binder from Staples yesterday (there are few things in the world that make me happier than new office supplies).  For the  first time, I ordered and divided five years of notes for Aya's Wings and its tentatively-titled sequel Aya's Children.  The funny thing about reading over old notes is realizing how many ideas have fallen through the cracks over time.  Some of them might even be good ideas.  With me, though, this usually serves as a comfortable reminder that as cliche and melodramatic as my writing continues to be, it really is better all the time.  I finished this new binder with a section of 'Other.'  These are fragments of story ideas or prose that hasn't found a home yet.  My Dynesia ideas were stashed here, also.

This task took half of the afternoon, and perhaps it wasn't entirely useless.  I found myself thinking about my stalled plotline later that evening.  And I caught myself looking through a catalogue and imagining what Amarinne and Najerie would wear.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Art?

We writers are prompted to put pen to paper or tap messages on keyboards, for one reason. We have this overwhelming need for self-expression. Sometimes, in my case, the need to express self muted over time. I started writing, like many people, because I had issues. But after watching Loranna fight with her father and Dezy having no father...and so many other elements that reflected my own life...I took those characters and their stories and locked them up entirely.

But the damage was done. My imagination gave birth to a world, and the characters were alive in my head. I couldn't always identify with their issues, but as I have gotten older I've learned how to express them better. Them, being the characters.

To me art is about communicating. It is one of those things we assume we do. But oftentimes word choice and use do not convey the intended meaning. The simpler the word, the harder to understand. We use so many words colloquially that they attain meanings--semantics--that are not found in the dictionary. I like to keep to dictionary definitions, as near as I'm able.

I also like to assume my readers are intelligent, capable of reading between the lines. Art, in my understanding, is guiding the assumptions of the readers. Communicating intent consciously, and directing the readers' thinking. Art lies in crafting the sentences, the paragraphs carefully. But it also depends on an understanding of what the reader sees. Hence, communication.

An excellent painting is not created by a sudden spill of a paint can, even if some paintings look that way. Color and form are chosen carefully. So too need it be with writing.

Nor is art the first draft. The first draft is like a rehearsal, when all the actors run through their lines. It takes time, and revision, to make the rough outline a solid piece. Art.

Creativity, I think, when fostered in children, is treated as if it is easy. This concept is furthered by a notion discussed in various points around the blogosphere: More people are writing now than ever before because they think you sit down, write a novel, get it published. Easy money. See? Creativity must be easy. It must be making something from nothing. Following rules does not creativity make, so why follow rules?

Artists can't create a nature scene without use of perspective. An abstract artist must know how the human eye travels along a composition, in order to defy the viewer's expectation. Rules. You have to know 'em to break 'em. Else, you convey nothing. Even breaking the rules, consciously, is art.

Art, real art, is hard work. Rough drafts are easy. Rewrites and revisions, tedious. That is where the real art happens. That is when the writer hones his/her craft.

I'm 5 pages into a revision. Every scene, every thought is consciously planned. I've listened to my characters in the prior drafts, I know where they want me to take them. Now, I find a way to tell there story in a way others will understand.

I write for my characters, now. And while they are part of me, sometimes I think I am little to them. I want to publish, not for fame, nor for "success," but to make just enough that all my ends are met and I can immerse myself in the telling of stories. There is nothing else I've ever wanted from life, but the ability to tell stories and do it well.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Broken Hearts

Today, for the millionth time, I made the mistake of going back and reading parts of my first novel again.  Seriously, this will be the love affair that haunts me for life.

And good God I am so pretentious sometimes it's worrisome.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Where I Write

Hi! Haven't posted in awhile. Life assaulted me lately, hitting me from all sides. I have become a ghost, lurking around my virtual spaces, but never interacting. So with a *shove* I'm going to kick my butt in gear! :P

Where do I write?

Anywhere really. Right now, I am sitting on my Ikea couch. My guy is playing a game. There is a lamp on behind me and a fan running under the living room window.

I find that where I write has changed overtime. The first time I mastered the whole Butt-In-Chair scenario I was 17. I had just graduated High School, I had a crappy draft of a 1st novel tucked away, and was determined to crank out a "sequel." I woke up at 7am every morning that summer. I ate my cereal, poured tea--Captain's Stash Chai--turned on Lorena McKennit (changed up the albums, though) and plunged into Traitor Born. I wrote all 200 pages (forget the word count, so bad of me) on my mother's computer, in her office. Mom, naturally, was at work.

That summer I spent more time on Mom's computer than she did. By July she began to realize this. Then she thought, maybe, just maybe, she wanted to return to her poetry. Which she does, sporadically. But it seems to me that that's how poets work, in infrequent bursts. I could be wrong, maybe it's just my mom.

Anyhow, her realization was followed by a decision: Drea needed a laptop. Well, I was certainly grateful. I signed up for all afternoon and evening classes for my first semester at Community College, leaving my mornings open to write. I wrote some by hand at the neighborhood Starbucks, and then returned home to commit myself to my work. Then off to classes I went. Starbucks became the Writing Spot during my community college years. I could make a mocha last five hours, and wrote a ton in that time.

I was desperate to find people to critique Arrelle and Traitor Born. Arrelle took on greater length and complexity until it's own weight made it clearly unfeasible. So I pushed on with Traitor Born.

When I transfered to San Fransisco State, I wrote on my desktop during the week. but I wrote little. Life began to interfere. My roomate was silent, she could glide behind me so soft I couldn't hear a step. She could open the door so gently it wouldn't make a noise. The apartment-mates were cousins, and they watched a lot of movies. I hate the sound of people talking in another room. Talk radio makes me anxious. Needless to say, I was not comfortable with the continual onslaught of noise. I like music and silence. I like the TV on if I'm going to watch it.

I have, now, become accustom to the sound of computer and video games.

I transferred to Sacramento State and divvied my time between desktop and laptop. Then laptop died, and all time was spent in front of the desktop. Which worked out well, because I got a job at Starbucks that fall and moved out early the next year. Now, Starbucks has NO creative vibe for me at all.

Our first Christmas in our first rental, my wonderful guy got me a laptop and ring--not an engagement ring, we're still working on that one. But I have been wearing his gift for three years now :P The laptop is the one I'm currently using.

When the economy hit, two years ago, we moved. Then, last year, we moved again. Trying to find a system to keep our heads up and reach all of our goals. I graduated college, finally. But work has been elusive. I had abandoned Starbucks for an office job,but that was contingent on attending school. No school, no work.

I resumed Butt-In-Chair (figuratively) last summer. Really, I sat on the floor with my laptop. I worked on a "new project."

But none of my projects are ever completely "new." I tend to recycle, reform, and re-approach ideas. Then I added Blogging to the list of my efforts when fiction ran dry. Silly life, always interfering with the mental process.

I try to resume the cafe-pattern when I feel "dry." Mind, "dry" isn't writer's block, per se, it's more a feeling that I need to put my writing on "pause," because I have unexpected life issues to sort before I can sit down and dedicate myself to my imagination. I feel that "going to a cafe," should somehow trigger the older patterns.

It doesn't.

I've found my new favorite spot. I just moved, you see. I'm no longer on the couch. This is the second time I've returned to the dining chair by the table in the corner of my living room. Ornery me, the laptop is on my knee rather than the table. I'm holding the computer with my left hand while I type with my right. I think I'll stay here the rest of the night. Perhaps this will be my new writing place.

Perhaps, in all the places I've lived, in all the phases of my life, I will find a new place to write. Because it isn't the spot that matters. It is the act of writing itself. I should be able to write anywhere, anytime. Because this isn't a muscle I can turn off intentionally :D

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