Monday, February 22, 2010

Time for Another Shameless Plug (hopefully my last for a while ;)

My website is FINALLY up and running. I think it's got everything it needs, apart from the minor issue of Aigaion Girl not being up for sale yet. Otherwise, I think it's looking really good. I need to come up with some more interesting news than that I've launched the site (which is what is currently showing on the news page) and remember to frequently update the "bits" page, but everything seems to be running smoothly, which makes me very happy. You can check it out here. Link

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blood & Hot Sauce

Y’know, it’s surprising what you end up missing the most.

Take me, for example. When I was first infected, I steeled myself for endless nights of angst. Never seeing another sunrise, never seeing my old friends and my family again, becoming a monster who had to kill to sustain my own existence, possibly being damned to an eternity in hell...I got over it. None of the old clich├ęs really gave me that much trouble, to tell the truth. No, what got me was the hot sauce.

I’ve had a bottle of hot sauce in my fridge since forever. Hot sauce goes with everything. Everything. And that’s exactly what I ate it with. You ever had cold Chinese from last night – no, Chinese takeout from a fast food place – look, no one thinks that’s funny, so give it a rest, will you? Have any of you ever had cold Chinese food from last night with pickles and hot sauce for breakfast? Let me tell you, it is a feast fit for...well, okay, for a twentysomething male college student. But anyway. If it was possible to survive on nothing but hot sauce, that’s what I would have done.

And then I was infected.

And I discovered that there is, in fact, something that hot sauce does not go great with. And that would be a stomach that’s adapted to handle human blood and...that’s it.

Yeah. It’s fucking boring. Ignore all that romantigothic bullshit about ‘the sweetest bitter nectar ever to cross his lips’ blah blah blah. Blood tastes like blood. That’s kind of the point.

Sure, the first few nights I didn’t notice. It’s kind of a kick for the first little while, as I’m sure all of you know. But then one night I went to the fridge without thinking. And there was that one lonely bottle of hot sauce staring accusingly back at me.

That was the first time my condition actually made me cry. That’s right, I curled up in a ball in the corner and bawled and angsted until the sun came up and knocked me out. Not over my soul, or the family I could never see again, or the people lying dead in dumpsters because of me. No. Not me. I cried over hot sauce.

Oh, now you’re all laughing. Like you haven’t done it too. Every last one of you had a favourite food, I can almost guarantee it. And then one night, when you’d successfully got the big questions out of the way, when you were feeling pretty good about yourself, you realised, “Oh. My. God. I will never eat crackers and cheese again.”

No? Okay, maybe it was realising you can’t go on day-long shopping sprees anymore. Or how in summer, you can’t go shopping at all, because your favourite stores close before the sun sets. Or maybe...I dunno, you can’t go to waterparks anymore. Look, all I was trying to say is that those old clich├ęs aren’t the big deal here. We all thought about them, all the time, even back when we were human. Especially you – you were a vegetarian, right? When it comes to stuff like, like, metaphysical or moral issues, they’re just too big. It’s easy to pick a side, or decide to stay undecided, and then forget about them. No, it’s the little things that get under your skin.

Like hot sauce.

I’m rambling? Oh, I’m so sorry. Take the floor. Angst about how you tried to survive on rats but nearly died again, we all love to listen to that story.

I’m never coming to one of these meetings again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Naming Characters

I'm of two minds about this. In my very early writing days, I tried to come up with completely unique names for my female protagonists, and as a result, came up with very common names like Ariel and Violet and Adrianna. Now, I find I'm always torn between the extremes. I have characters named things like Apple, Caution, Emmeline, Fiercely, and then characters with names like Kate and Sophia. What I find I'm trying to walk in the middle, with common names that aren't too common. My latest two are Daphne and Jillian.

I was usuing babynames.com to look for character names long before they added their very useful tips for writers section and I've always been pleased with the results. They suggest:
If you name your character right, you will choose a name that is unique to your character and memorable to your story.
I completely agree, but my problem is with finding unique names that don't clash with the realism of the story. Some heroine who's grown up in an average family with boring parents is not going to have a name like Tatiana Starr McKnight (thank God), after all.

I'm just wondering what everyone else does for this. For my side characters, I often use Seventh Sanctum's Quick Name Generator, but for my mains, I'm finding it increasingly difficult to come up with totally unique names that are still readable.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Review of Sorts: To Find A Wishing Well

A few years back, I spent the best $0.25 ever at the library's discarded book sale, and bought Hylda Lee's To Find A Wishing Well.

I'm really glad I did. I've never seen another copy of it, and everyone that I or Bean have ever mentioned it to gives us a funny look. It's obscure, which is too bad, because I think it's one of the best children's novels ever.

It's about Lila, the 11th child of a King and Queen who have nothing but sons, and how a well intentioned fairy gives her the gift of always wanting something...which of course, backfires. When she's sixteen, she sets out on a quest to solve this by finding a Wishing Well on her brown and yellow striped horse Zeb. Along the way, she meets Ethelbert the Owl, Mitch the Otter, an enchanter, Caesar the dog and Prince Sorin, a host of other talking animals, gets a magic bag that is always filled with milk and cheese and apples and honeycomb, and gets her happily ever after.

I know there are some who would criticize the fact that everyone gets their wishes granted (Zeb wants a horn like a unicorn, Mitch wants to be able to fly etc), and that everything's happy and there's next to no hardship, but the book is still full of good morals: Like, 'help your friends when they're in trouble', and, 'get the whole story from the dragon because maybe he didn't actually mean to torch your kingdom'. Lila gets most of her wishes answered, but finds out that having everything you want, when you want it, isn't as much fun as wanting it. It's fluff, but it's the right sort of fluff, and I wish it was more well known.

As it is, I can't even find an example of the cover to add to this. I'm actually going to have to scan it. Google came up with nothing, if you can imagine it. The book is really that obscure. But if ever you do come across it, you should read it. It's adorable.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Freedom of Speech

I was reading Neil Gaiman's blog and I came across this article, which is essentially about freedom of speech as it pertains to art, and his thoughts on the subject. It's an interesting article and it got me to thinking.

I got into this a little bit with my post about the new Irish blasphemy laws, but I think it's something that needs further exploring, especially given the name of our site and the revolutionary nature of the original English Coffee House.

Gaiman's blog entry seems to have spawned from a question regarding his opinion on lolicon (a genre of manga and anime wherein childlike female characters are depicted in an erotic manner) and the banning thereof. What Gaiman points out is that regardless of your opinions on what is being said, depicted or printed, what it all boils down to is the right to free speech and free art. As he points out, the law can't be precise. It can't decide this is bad, this is good, this is passable.
The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible.
I don't think it should be up to governments to decide what people can and can't say. I don't think there should be a can and can't say. Laws are made by people, people have opinions, feelings and gut reactions, so unless those things somehow all magically start meshing, some people are going to be offended by other people's art. The solution: ignore it, speak against it, post it on your blog and trash it. But silence it? Isn't that what they did to people who thought the earth was round?
Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you're going to have to stand up for stuff you don't believe is worth defending.
Personally, I think this lolicon stuff sounds a bit weird, and now that I know roughly what it is (I had to look it up), I'm not about to delve into it to see whether or not it's worth taking the time to defend its merrits as art. The point is, people should have the right to produce what they want*, regardless of who might be offended.

As soon as freedom of speech goes, we're out of a job.

*As long as no one (including animals) is hurt or exploited in the production.

Volantynys - A Valentine's Day Story

I shouldn't be here – and I don't know why I agreed to this, I really don't. I was lonely, I guess, but I've always been lonely and it's never driven me to anything this awful, anything this degrading.

But whatever. I'm here now.


I'm here, at the mouth of Hell. It's bright inside, too bright, but too dim, too, like the light can't make up its mind. And there's this hum, a thousand conversations loud enough to heard, too quiet to comprehend. It's horrible. Deep breath, as we pass over the threshold.


He takes my coat. He does everything he's supposed to and it makes him that much worse. I can't help hating him.


The other him is just a glimmer across the room. I thought I saw him sitting at a table there, but maybe not. Maybe it was wishful thinking.


Property management, veterinary assistance and I'm ready to kill myself. I'm considering faking a headache, a phone call, anything but my continuing interest in this conversation.

He raises his glass to me. Not him but the other him. The him that I'm actually paying attention to. He's more than a glimmer now. A glimmer and a half, then gone again.


The economy. Politics. The politics of the economy. I have to go to the bathroom. Excuse me.

It's not such a bad place. The floor is well maintained, the walls are rich, the music isn't unbearable. The snippets of conversation I can make out are infinitely more interesting t

han the ones I've been having, but not enough to grab my full attention. And, I'm about to pass the other him's table. Hymn. In my mind, that's how I'll tell the difference. Him and Hymn.

He isn't there. He isn't anywhere. My glimmer and a half is gone. I'm contemplating slipping out through the kitchen. I'm contemplating walking out the front door, right past him, letting him know

I'm leaving. Being bold.


No. I'll go into the bathroom, I'll powder my nose, and I'll return for something stimulating about the political economy of property management and veterinary assistance. I'm a coward.

He grabs my arm, hard. Hymn. He's wearing a mask, white china. Black lips trailing red blood. A heart on his cheek, like it's a tear.

He shoves me into the wall, harder. My breath catches in my throat, my heel catches on the baseboard and I'm completely unwilling to struggle free. I'm his.


He whispers to me. His voice is dark gravel pouring over hot breath. I nearly melt. My whole body is trembling as I nod my assent and return

to Him.


Is everything OK? I have to go. The only conversation worth having. I grab my coat and I'm gone.

He follows me out. He follows me into an alley, calling my name. I'm telling him to leave, but he won't listen. What's going on? I wish I knew.


There he is, my Hymn, my mask, my silver blade, my single tear.

Who is this guy? Why do you care? He's not you; that alone would be enough.


He whispers again, my black lips, my red blood. He tells me what to do.

We're the last thing he sees, on his back in an alley, my blade buried up to the hilt in his chest.


We step over him, his hand low on my back, his eyes high on my legs – my stilettos clicking on wet pavement and broken glass.


I love this Hymn; makes my heart sing.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Twitter?

What are your opinions on setting up an account on Twitter for Devereaux Court? All I can imagine posting would be updates whenever there was a new article. Worth it? Or maybe those of us with Twitter accounts (*shudder*) should just post a hey check this out every time there's a new article up. Thoughts?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Damaged = Goods?

As much as it seems like an odd thing to admit, I think a small part of what has always driven me to write is the preconception of any writer as this damaged, broken being, one with vices and eccentricities and a sort of depressed misanthropy that can't be found among the members of other professions. I know this isn't really accurate. I'm sure there are plenty of writers out there who are normalish, well adjusted people - but to me, it seems there's some power in being damaged.

In an effort to provide some evidence of what we all know to be anecdotally considered true - that the majority of writers battle with some kind of addiction - I typed writers vice into a Google search. What came up were a number of articles, including the one excerpted below, which suggest that well over half of 19th and 20th Century writers were, if not alcoholics, at least well on their way there.
...of six Americans awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, four (Eugene O'Neill, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and Hemingway) were alcoholics, and a fifth (John Steinbeck) drank heavily.
See the rest of the article here.

I don't know. I'm not an alcoholic, not by a long way and I'm proud to say that I wrote all of Aigaion Girl completely sober - but then, I find myself wondering why I'm proud of that. I mean, don't most people do their jobs completely sober? Why is it unusual that I should have done so? But it is. Hopefully it won't always be, but of the books I've actually finished, A/G is the only one I've completed over the influence.

But alcoholism and addiction aren't really what this article is about - at least that's not how it started. I'm more interested in writers' demons and whether or not they are what drive us to write in the first place. Again, I can only speak from my perspective, but I think that maybe we're all a little... I don't know. Off. I don't think that people who see the way the world that everyone else does can write - or maybe they don't want to. We write the world the way it is, the way it was, the way it should be and any way it could be, because I think most writers perceive all of these possibilities simultaneously, and I think that maybe it's the stress of this quadruple+ perception that makes many writers miserable enough to be driven to drink.

I write the most, and the best, when I'm stuck - when I feel it necessary to escape my life and can't think of a better way to do it. The mirth and levity I feel toward the end of a project almost always lead to writers' block and I often have to wait until I'm ill-at-ease again (or, as I used to do, hit the sauce) for it to go away.

I'm not trying to make it sound like all writers are horrible, depressed alcoholic hermits and I'm certainly not condoning or encouraging substance abuse. I think, actually, that what I'm trying to do is convey my feelings of gratitude toward the universe that I was born with the ability to turn the sensations and feelings that should be entirely useless to anyone into something productive and, if I'm lucky, beautiful. That there are people who can take pain and confusion and misanthropy and turn it into art is inspiring.

As I've said, this is all from my own perspective. I really don't know how it is for other writers, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Websites & Attracting Attention

My website is almost up and running, and as such, I've been thinking of ways to publicize it, as well as myself. More than that, though, I've been thinking about content, which brings me to my question of the day: What should be included on an author's website?

So far, I have the page titles: Home, News, About, Stories, Poetry, Photography, Bits* and Blog**. The Home page has (for the moment) an ad for Aigaion Girl, which will change based on what I'm trying to publicize at the time. The News page is where I'll put information about new books, book release parties and whatever else I can think of that's newsish. The About page, obviously, is a little blurb about me, and the Photography page will have a bunch of pictures which I took last year (when I have some more $$, I'll have it adjusted so that I can upload and my own content for that page). Where I'm confused is with the Stories and Poetry pages. The more I'm thinking about this, the more I'm wondering if they were really necessary - especially, because right now, I really only have one story that's ready for public consumption. The poetry page is a bit easier, because I can include the full text of my best poems... but again, is it necessary? Will people be interested in reading my poems?

This, of course, brings me to my other question, which is: How do I go about getting my name out there? I have some ideas fot this. Once A/G is actually available for sale, I'm going to invite all of my friends to take that silly FB quiz and ask them to ALL invite their friends as well. Then, at the end of every single possible result, include a link to my site. I'm also going to put my website in the signature of my emails, so all of my correspodence has it, and anything I send out that gets forwarded has it as well. I know I want to have a book release party, to which I'll invite everyone I know, but beyond that, I'm kind of at a loss.

I read somewhere (I believe in my Writer's Market Guide) that a writer should spend ten minutes a day networking, which I think is probably true, especially when you consider the way that the famous writers of yore always seemed to travel in packs. The problem is, I'm not really sure how to go about doing it, or who I should be networking with. Plus, even if I knew a tonne of people, I always feel weird about taking advantage of my connections, even if those connections are happy to help.

So, there you have my little (and long-winded) dilema. Enjoy your day ;)

*Bits is the page where I can upload whatever I want: flash fiction, pictures, whatever.
**The Blog link links to my personal blog.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

IT HURTS MY BRAAAAAAAIN


Make it go away, please.

Valentine's Day may be imminent, and I may be female, lonely, single and bitter, but even in my vulnerable state this crock of shit does not look appealing.
I bet they hired TaEnoby to write it. She definitely knows how to put together a self-insert.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Character Deaths and How To Deal With Them

Right.

So, having spent the large majority of the night laughing our asses off at the worst fanfic that has ever happened to anything, anywhere (see Bean's post below), we watched some canned TV. I won't divulge the series, in case of spoilers, and while it seems that rambling about TV at twenty after one in the a.m* seems...random...it does have a point. About characters. And killing them off.

Now, I get that it's not always possible to keep actors from season to season, due to contracts, and other jobs, and life stuff, and...maybe they're horrible bastards/bitches to work with and no one likes them in real life. Or maybe not. Sometimes the writers are just assholes. Whatever. There are times when a writer has to make a decision about what to do with a character, and it usually boils down to a few options:

a) Send them on a 'vacation' that lasts a very long, long time
b) Kill them off
c) ...I had a 'c', but I can't remember it right now.

How a writer (for anything, TV show, book, short story, etc) handles that character's departure is a delicate, delicate thing. Especially if you've got vocal fans, and especially if you're going with option b).

I don't want to say that there are rules, but there are...sort of. Well, guidelines. Like 'Be Consistent'. If a well-loved character is about to get offed, at least make it make some sort of sense. Don't do it because you think ratings will go up, or to sensationalize it, because that just cheapens the experience. And it cheapens the characters.

If your characters are really that good, your audience will (on some level) believe that they're real. It's how our minds work. We personify everything. This doesn't mean they'll write horrific fanfic about it, or even good fanfic, but they'll keep watching the show/reading the book. They'll keep searching for that connection they felt.

Removing that connection will leave a hole, even just a tiny one. We all want our own deaths to mean something - it's another consequence of being human. A beloved character dying, seemingly at the whim of an author and for no other purpose...there is no meaning there. It leaves the audience confused, hurt, angry, and a little afraid. Then they stop reading/watching, which is the exact opposite of what you, as an author, want.

This leads naturally into 'Remember Your Canon'**. If you're going to turn a character into (for example) the murderous sidekick of an recurring cannibalistic villain because you don't want to bother developing him any more***, at least make sure there isn't an episode earlier in the series that won't make it extremely obvious what you're doing.

Art, in any form, is about evoking emotional responses from your audience. There's also a very close tie to our biological need to reproduce, but that can be a topic for a different post. Even if you're in it only to make money off the masses, you should still remember that 'art=emotion'. Killing a character will trigger that emotional response very quickly, and if that's what you're going for, then yeah...it works. It can just as easily backfire, though. So be careful.

Oh! I remembered option c) have them switch sides long enough for people to begin to hate them, and then kill them off****. This, too, has to be done delicately. If there's no basis for having them become turncoats, then your audience won't believe it. And if they can't believe it, they won't keep watching/reading. Their emotional ties will be severed.

Whatever. Sometimes, killing your own characters is unavoidable. Sometimes, you've killed them off before you've even realized what you were doing, sometimes it's a premeditated removal of a character. Whichever it ends up being, and whatever comes after, do it well. You owe your characters that much.

* It was 1:20 am when I started writing this, but...I was much too tired to finish it, so now it's the next day.
** Not the explosive device. The other one. I can never remember which one has two 'n's.
*** I'm looking at you, Bones.
**** Goddamnit, Joss Whedon

Help Me Obi 1 Enoby ur mi only hop!!!!1

I'm not usually pro-flaming, but I just had to post this, if nothing else, as an example of how not to write. From what I understand, this is one of the best-known fanfics in the world. It is a Harry Potter Mary-Sue which takes place mostly at Hogwarts. From what I can tell, all of the main characters are Satanists and goths, except Snape (aka Snap), who is a pedophilic prep, who, despite the fact that he's gay frequently fantasizes about and spies on the female protaganist.

My favourite quotes include:

I’m not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he’s a major fucking hottie.
I was wearing red Satanist sings on my nails in red nail polish (AN: c doez dat sound lik a Maru Sue 2 u?).

And, my all-time personal favourite:

And then…………… suddenly just as I Draco kissed me passionately. Draco climbed on top of me and we started to make out keenly against a tree. He took of my top and I took of his clothes. I even took of my bra. Then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time.
I really, really, almost hope that this was written by someone who was eleven or younger, because somehow that would make it better... I think. Maybe not.