A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 16-19

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

I do write romantic relationships in my books.  In the Aleran stories, it's a theme that underlies what I do.  In The Fallen it's what ultimately saves Cel's life.  With my Psionics books, it's the loss of the woman he loves that sends the MC into the insanity that ultimately leads to the destruction of the major bad guy.  I've got a book where it's the only thing keeping the MCs alive because they're dying through pretty much the whole thing (don't ask...I STILL don't get that one either and I'm writing the damn thing.)  As for how "far", I do the stereotypical movie "fade to black".  I've tried writing out the sex scenes and they come out so canned and contrived that I've given up on that.

17. Favorite protagonist and why?

Favorite.....huh?  I get attached to all my protagonists.  Yes, I have times where one is easier to write about, but for the most part I love ALL of my protagonists.  I don't have one favorite.

18. Favorite antagonist and why?

This may be a little easier to answer.  One of my favorites is the Grey King out of my Aleran books.  He's a demi-god of death with delusions of godhood.  He's sarcastic, sadistic, and very elemental in his desires but very convoluted in his plans to achieve those desires.  My other favorite is Lucifer - yes, THAT Lucifer - because he turns out to be such a smooth-talking, amoral bastard that I hate him but love writing him in The Fallen.

19. Favorite minor who decided to shove him/herself into the spotlight and why?

Taereah in the Aleran books.  She was always meant to be a background character, a small part where she was just there.  But she developed a personality and a life of her own and demanded to play a larger role in everything.  She became central to Raghnall's story.  Taereah is a dragon trapped in a human body.  She's ascerbic, quick-witted, slightly arrogant, and ends up being easily blinded by Raghnall to what he's doing.  She also recognizes her mistakes and is willing to deal with them personally rather than try to blame others for them.  I just love the woman that Taereah has become and I've enjoyed getting to know more about her.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 12-15

(I'm short cutting this since I don't know if I'll have time in the mornings to write the blog posts. Very busy these days.)

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

*smiles*  I just did a couple of posts over on Scribblerati about this.  The world I've spent the better part of 20 years of my life writing in is the one I've done the most (and best) world building on - Aleran.  I've gotten the cultures, lifestyles, geography, meteorology, zoology, botany, etc. taken care of for all of the continents in the world.  I know what creatures live where, what they eat, how they survive, and even which have gone extinct due to climactic shifts in the climate and terrain (my world underwent a huge cataclysm when the Elder Gods stopped their younger counterparts from destroying each other and all of the races).

Some interesting facts about Aleran...

--It's a world of islands.  I don't have huge sprawling continents like on Earth.  It was, at one time, very Earth-like.  But then the aforementioned issue between the gods happened and it became a world of island nations.

--Non-humans used to outnumber the humans.  On most continents they still do.

--The average life expectancy on the series of islands I'm putting my current WIPs in is actually a lot higher than normal because the Goddess of Death has been locked up and her demi-god son is trying to manage things for her.  It's not working out as well for him.  As a result, birth rates are lower and the population isn't as large as you'd think (because murder, illness, suicide, and accidental deaths still claim lives...it's just the dying of old age part that isn't as prevalent).

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

The Sindlans and the Ketsueki are my favorite.  They're also the most complex, for all that they're a fairly simplistic pair of races.  Both have astonishingly rich cultures for those who only look at them as barbarians or cursed individuals.

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

I've got several maps I've created over the last few years.  They're all tucked into my sketchbook, until I get them put into the Binder O' Doom*.  I don't have any up online, and probably won't until I get to the point where they're actually in the hands of a publisher and about to be published.  Because by that point I might actually be able to afford a scanner to use to get them up online.

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

I admire so many, this isn't a fair question! Instead of naming them off, I'll give generalities here.  I admire the Indie authors I've gotten to know since - to me, at least - it takes a lot of guts to go outside the normal way of doing things.  It's even very refreshing to know that many have had some success with their endeavors with publishing their novels outside the normal methods of agent-publisher-bookstore cycle.

I admire anyone who can write a book that makes you think, feel, and dream with the characters.  Novels where I have to actually think as I go through, ones that stimulate my imagination, are my favorites.

I admire anyone who can write a book about a touchy subject and have it come out not sounding all preachy and irritating.  There are a great many "hot topics" out there, and a writer who can successfully include one or more of these topics in their books and get their opinions across subtly are masters in the art of prose - at least, as far as I'm concerned.

*The Binder O' Doom is my HUGE white three ring binder that's probably got a 5 inch width (usual size is 1-2 inches for 3 ring binders).  It contains all of my world building notes, SOME of the history, and my half assed sketches that I'm very bad at doing of the characters.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 11

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

My favorites have to be Annikka, Raghnall, and Celeste.  All three of them share the same characteristics of being jaded, tired of the natural order of things, and all have attitudes and ambitions towards changing things.  Annikka tends to get rather vocal about how idiotic the concept of men dominating women is, especially when you consider that women do more work for less recognition in this medieval society than the men realize.  Raghnall just thinks the world would be better if he ran everything and is out to prove it.  Celeste knows what she wants and isn't afraid to speak out against things she doesn't like.  She's also got a foul mouth, she's a royal pain, and knows she's a raging bitch and doesn't care.

My least favorite to write would have to be Khyle and Reidar.  Khyle is a cold, amoral bastard who will do whatever he wants to achieve his goal.  Reidar is a man who is struggling to establish his strength and position in a female dominated society when the women don't want to let him have that power.  He's in the peculiar position of having a gift that's only been found among the women (for the most part), knows how to use it, but is forbidden to use it in the way his teachers use it because - again - they're female and he's male.  It's very hard to get into these guys' heads when I'm writing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 10

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in?

I guess it would depend on how you define 'weird'.  I've got characters who declare war on the gods, a character who is the living core of a computer system, characters that can control elements with just a thought, fallen angels who aren't inherently good, and a bunch of others.  I don't know that I've written a "normal" character since I got serious about writing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Things I read today that bothered me greatly

I've got a blog and I've got an opinion.  Many people are scared to utilize their blogs to express their opinions.  I'm not one of those.  As I've stated before, I'm opinionated and cranky - and I'm not afraid.

The first thing that got my attention was this set of blog posts recently tweeted on my Twitter feed.
Laurie Halse Anderson's Blog
Myra McEntire's answer to this same situation

There's also a tweet chat hash tag for this.  If you've got a Twitter account and want to follow it, I highly suggest you do so: #SpeakLoudly

First, I HATE censorship and denying access to books to people that might give them hope or help...or might just entertain them for a brief time.  I'm all for allowing people to read/watch whatever they want.  Let them form their own opinions.  I understand there are some things that you don't want a child to read, but that's up to the PARENTS to monitor - not society, not outsiders, and most certainly NOT an outspoken man who claims to be a Christian.

Now, for the record, I'm a Christian.  I'm not one of those in your face, Bible thumping, "do it my way or you're going to HELL" Christians.  I don't go in for that, and will walk away from people who do that.  But today...today I couldn't walk away.  I couldn't stay silent, and I won't be silenced.

I am referring to the horrific statement by Wesley Scroggins, referring to the rape scenes in the YA novel SPEAK as "soft pornography".  I was already feeling sick because of a stomach bug I seem to have caught.  That made me want to puke even more.  (My apologies to my more sensitive readers but again, I won't censor myself on this blog.)  Spoken like someone who has no concept of what rape does to a victim.

Here is Scroggins' article, for those who are interested

Rape is a violent and brutal violation of a person's body - and their soul.  They begin to doubt themselves when society - people like Wesley Scroggins and those who share his beliefs - says that it must be their fault they were raped.  I'm sorry, but in this case I am deeply ashamed and disgusted to be a Christian because the opinions of people like this man and his rabid, foaming at the mouth followers give the rest of us who have a personal and more compassionate connection with God and Christ a bad name.

I've never read the book in question.  That doesn't mean I'm not qualified to give my opinion on the situation.  That book has also been moved to the top of my 'to-be-read' list over on Goodreads and will be one of the first books I try to get from the Library.  Why?  Because I want to see what this story is about.  I want to know what I'm defending and why Scroggins thinks it's evil.  Personally, when fanatics like him swear it's evil I end up loving it and adding it to my personal collection.  I can quite cheerfully say I own quite a few of those books that are now on the "banned books" list.

Religious fanatics in general irritate me.  This leads to another link that got tweeted that really got to me.

A journalist apologizes for his fellow Americans

I used to shop at Paul's, a local grocery store that is only (or so I've seen) really popular in Southwestern Idaho.  I made friends with a woman who lived in my old apartment complex who was Muslim.  She was a very sweet woman who was living there with her two daughters.  She'd left her abusive (Christian) husband when he told her that she and her daughters were no longer allowed to practice their religion and would have to convert to his.  She was working as a cashier.  She wore the head scarf that Muslim women wear, and I always thought she had some of the most beautiful things ever.  Bright and colorful, I always knew where she was and would go through her line even if there were several people there.  I just loved being able to say hi to her.

One day I found myself apologizing to her for the behavior of the people in front of me.  They were a couple of young male college students (they'd been bragging to the young ladies in front of THEM in line about their studies which is how I know this) and one of them tried to reach over and pull off her head scarf.  She stepped back, smiled, and politely asked him not to touch her.  He went off and started screaming at her about being a terrorist, asking her how many babies she'd murdered, how many people had she killed, if she'd been bin Laden's lover, etc.  I almost clobbered the guy and I'm not a violent person.

My estimation of the store owner and managers went up 1000 times that day as they came out of the office when one of the other cashiers called them.  These were a trio of older men who walked up to the cash register.  The louder of the two young men demanded that my friend be fired, or at least that she be required to remove her head scarf when serving "real Americans".  The other guy, who'd been quiet up until now, chimed in that since she was a Muslim we were at war with her and technically that meant that all Muslims who still followed their beliefs were war criminals.  My brain about exploded at this.

The owner of the store, who also lived in our same apartment complex, saw me and knew that I was this woman's friend.  He asked me to take her back to the break room so he could personally deal with the two men.  I did as he asked, and let her cry into my shoulder.  I reassured her that I thought that those two college students were bloody idiots and that I loved her and her daughters as some of my dearest friends.  A few minutes later, the manager came back and asked her if she wanted to go home.

I applauded my friend's bravery as she looked up and shook her head.  She asked for a few more minutes to get herself back together and some time to wash her face, and then she'd be back on her register.  He told us that the two men's sale had been voided and they'd been forcibly ejected from the store.  They were also banned and that if anyone - customer or employee - saw them in the store we were to notify the managers who would call the police.

I went back out and picked up a couple items I'd forgotten and went back to her cash register.  I was disgusted by the fact that there were still people mouthing off about how she deserved everything she got.  But I was also touched to see that the other cashiers stepped in and told them to leave, and those who were there and actually cared spoke with my friend and assured her she was beautiful and she was their favorite person to deal with.

Two months later, my friend's apartment was vandalized and her younger daughter was rushed to the hospital with multiple lacerations due to being next to the sliding glass door when some fucking ASSHOLE threw a cinder block through the glass door.  My friend and her daughters disappeared.  I've had two emails from her in the last year.  All she'll tell me is that she and her daughters are living "somewhere new".  I think she's still scared of being attacked again.

So...to my friend, to the non-extremist Muslims who just want the option granted by the First Amendment to ALL Americans, and to those who truly believe that people should have the freedoms we're given by the Constitution and Bill of Rights that people seem to want to deny them (Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion being the main ones these days)....I APOLOGIZE ON BEHALF OF ALL THOSE THAT ARE TOO BIGOTED, STUPID, OR BLIND TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE'RE ALL HUMAN AND DESERVE THE SAME RESPECT REGARDLESS OF WHO WE ARE OR WHERE WE CAME FROM.

Censorship isn't just for the written word.  It comes when we deny the basic right to believe as they wish to people.  We need to remember that.  We also need to remember, for all our "holier than thou" bullshit attitudes, that Americans destroyed the lives of the Native Americans because of bigotry and racial hatred - just like we're accusing the Muslims of doing to us.  Christians have been persecuting people who don't follow their beliefs for centuries.  We've even killed people for it (the Crusades, anyone?  Spanish Inquisition?  Do those ring a bell?).  We need to step back and realize that we are all humans, and that while there are those fanatics out there who try to ruin it for everyone, that NOT every Christian/Jew/Muslim/Pagan are the same as all of the others who profess to follow the same faith.

Brief intermission

Just a quick note in between my posts about writing.  I've started a book review blog because I FINALLY got my library card back (stupid library fine) and now I'm able to get my hands on more recent stuff so I'm going to be blogging my reviews as I read new books.  Or even some older books, just because I can.

30 Days of Writing - Day 9

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

That's a hard question to answer.  My characters come from a lot of different places.  Some are based on people I've encountered.  Some come from ideas sparked by reading or watching movies.  Some spring whole and ready to go out of my subconscious in the form of dreams.  Wherever they come from, however, they are only bare bones - ideas without flesh.  They are not exactly who they will be when I set them in motion on the page.

When I have a character arrive, I look at them and ask myself where they would fit.  Which world will they inhabit?  Do they have their own story to tell, or are they part of a larger story?  Who are they as people?  What are their likes/dislikes?  What is their favorite color, their favorite food, their favorite music?  I tailor the questions to match the idea of the world I think they're going to inhabit.  If they don't fit in that one, I try to see if they fit into another established story.  If they don't, and I don't yet know what their story is, I file them away to be used at another time.

This is how I came up with the short story arc surrounding Emir, Tyber, and Elizabeata.  They were three characters I didn't know anything about who just showed up one day demanding I write about them.  I found out something about them and realized while they fit into the world of Aleran they didn't fit into any established story.  At that point, I made a few more notes and left them to sit.  I eventually wrote a trio of short stories that were rather half assed but at least they got voices and had some time to shine.  Recently I went through and edited two of the three stories, and completely rewrote the third.  Now the stories fit better in the timeline of Aleran, and seem to fit better with the characters as they presented themselves to me.


I've got spreadsheets, character dossiers, and random bits of information about everyone I've created tucked into folders, saved in my email, and on my computer.  One day I hope to find a home for all of my orphaned creations, since I firmly believe that all my creations have their own part in a story - be it their own, or as sub-characters helping tell someone else's tale.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 8

8. What is your favorite genre to write? To read?

My favorite genre to write is high fantasy.  After spending so much time on Aleran, it's the one I've got the most projects for.  I also enjoy writing sci fi and urban fantasy/thriller.  I write in the genres I read, which brings us to the next half of the question.  I read what I write, and I write what I read.  I'm not into the new sci fi as much because it's rather biased and seems to focus a lot on white Americans in space.  I love the old soft sci fi.  But I'm a huge high fantasy and urban fantasy reader, with the occasional horror/thriller/romance novels thrown in for good measure.

Friday, September 17, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 7

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

I listen to whatever I have free.  Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I listen to anime (Japanese language only - English is a distraction), sometimes I listen to movies or tv series playing.  It all depends on what I'm writing, what my mood is, which WIP I'm dealing with, and which characters I'm focusing on.

When I listen to music, I listen to Within Temptation, Nightwish, Taylor Swift, movie/game/Broadway musical soundtracks, and some international stuff by Namie Amuro - among others.  My playlist isn't very broad these days since I lost a good chunk of my music when our old computer crashed.  But what I have works for now.

I'm hunting for music that, to me, expresses my characters.  I haven't found much of anything yet.  I'm eventually going to create soundtracks for my books to listen to while I write.  I'm just waiting until I can acquire more music.

There are those days where I want absolute silence because I don't want anything to break the mood.  On those days NOTHING is played while I write.  But most of the time I need some kind of background noise or I tend to lose focus and wander off to do other things.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 6

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

I'm most comfortable curled up with my laptop on my bed.  I can lounge and write, or I can prop my pillows up behind me and lean up against the wall.  Right now I'm using my husband's iMac because my laptop got pawned to pay bills.  I expect to get it back in the next month, though, which will make me a very happy writer.

What time of day - honestly, I don't write better at one time or another.  I don't even really have a preference.  It's wherever I can fit it into my schedule.  I'll write snippets and notes during slow times at work.  I write when I get up in the morning because my husband wants his computer in the evenings.  When I have my laptop back, there's a good chance I'll probably sneak a couple hours in during the morning and a couple when I get home from work at night.

I prefer to use a computer to do my writing.  It keeps up with me as I type, and if I make a mistake the backspace key is a lovely thing.  When I'm at work, I write by hand.  I've filled up a few notebooks that way (one of which is missing right now...grrrrrr).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 5

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

That's a very good question, especially since I tend to use races that live very long lives in most of my stories.  I think, in terms of physically the youngest, it's Jeena out of my Psionics story line.  When you first meet her, she's barely sixteen years old and has been flying a fighter since she could pilot on her own.  This particular sci fi story is very odd to begin with, so don't mind the age.  She's only been flying in full on combat for the last two years.

Oldest? If we don't count the gods of Aleran (which have been around forever), then it would have to be Minerva and Amberle.  Minerva is the ancient red dragon who rules the rest of the dragons up in the mountains.  Amberle is the amber dragon who sleeps under the forest and provides the magic by which the forest thrives.  They both play parts in most of the Aleran stories and have been around since the creation of the world.

Oldest in terms of when I created them?  Algethra, Jes, Lealye, Dhore, and Prince Taethen - the Blood Shadow crew.  This was actually the first story I started writing in Aleran many years ago.  The outline is still hanging around, and I fully intend on rewriting it one of these days.

Youngest in terms of creation? Oh hell...I don't know.  I'd probably have to say Kieran.  Kieran is a character who was created as a foil for Raghnall, briefly entertained the potential of becoming a semi-major character, and has now once again been relegated to the sole purpose of getting people to like him so when he dies his death is the catalyst for one of the major climaxes in the story arc dealing with Raghnall and the others.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 4

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

Ok, this one is a little more difficult for me.  I wrote my first story at the age of eight and it was a faerie tale version of "A Little Princess".  I guess, in a way, you'd call it fan fiction.  It makes me wonder how many of us started out writing stories for various fandoms - or because we think we can do better than the author in question.

I think, in terms of stories written that did not include someone else's characters, I'd have to say that it was the earliest incarnation of my present high fantasy WIP.  I'd been fascinated by the story of Lady Jane Grey and wondered what it would have been like if her story was different.  I was also fascinated by faerie tales and decided to write one of my own based loosely on the historical facts about the 9 day Queen of England.  Thus "Anne and Edward" was born.

Anne was the abused daughter of a scholar and his evil sorceress 2nd wife, and Edward was the spoiled brat of a prince who was now king of Vassa.  But Anne and Edward were also good friends from those days when her father used to bring her to Court and Edward had always wondered what happened to her.  Well, when her father died and her stepmother turned her and her younger twin sisters into slaves, Anne took her sisters and fled to the neighboring lands, where they became servants for much kinder people.  Eventually Edward, doing a tour of his kingdom, sees Anne again and rescues her from her life as a servant and together they put an end to the evil stepmother and the twins became the ladies of the lands.

Really cheesy, very much a Cinderella story, and nothing I'd ever recommend anyone read.  But it was the first time I seriously put anything down on paper that meant something to me.  The characters have changed, the entire world has changed, and the little faerie tale I'd created has now been relegated to a place in my massive story notebook where other stories that I've abandoned now reside.

Monday, September 13, 2010

30 Days of Writing - Day 3

(Doing a double post so I'm caught up, will resume normal posting schedule tomorrow.)

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you write about fictional places)?

There are two answers to this question.  The first is for naming the characters.  If I have a specific meaning in mind I hunt websites like www.babynames.com to find the name that fits the meaning.  If I'm looking for random names, I go to Behind The Names random name generator.

However, I also have to like the sound of the name.  If it doesn't flow right, or if it doesn't fit the character even with the correct meaning I won't use it.  I tend to use hybrid names - 2 or more names combined to make one - when I don't like what I find.

When it comes to naming places, I can honestly say I don't know where I get my names.  They seriously just randomly turn up in my dreams or when I'm writing.  I'm sure there are things that influence them but I don't know what they are.  For me, naming places is harder than naming characters.

30 Days of Writing - Day 2

(Ok, I know this should've been done yesterday.  I actually forgot I was doing it.)

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

I do a lot of story lines where I have multiple characters where I have to handle the POVs, the setting shifts, and the plot twists for each of them.  I love having large casts of characters to work with.  It gives me ample opportunity to say, "I don't want to work with X today.  Y needs some help on one of his/her scenes.  I'll work with Y today."

For example, in the high fantasy WIP I'm working on now I have three protagonists.  The antagonists shift with each POV so each character has his or her own enemy that they are working against.  They each have their own supporting cast of characters too - at least until I get them all in the same place to bring the climax about.

Another example would be the UF story lines I'm working on.  In "The Fallen" we follow the adventures of one woman as she struggles to understand who she is and where she comes from.  She meets up with some colorful people, finds love, and ultimately sacrifices a lot to stop the end of the world.  In "Fang Faces" (yes, I know - lame title) we follow two different couples through the whole thing.  We start with 4 separate individuals who quickly become two functioning teams and eventually become something more to each other.

As for the gender of my characters, interestingly enough I've come to realize most of my protagonists are male.  Which is very odd for me since I have a very hard time writing males. But two of the three protagonists in my epic high fantasy WIP are male.  My UF couples are male/female pairings.  Both of my sci fi stories follow primarily male protagonists, although there are a couple of females who get the spotlight.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Meet my mum

Originally, I started out writing this as a 9/11 memorial piece.  But it changed as I wrote it because I realized something: while I watched the news that day, I was mostly in shock.  I don't remember much about it at all.  I remember the aftermath, but I don't remember the events except by what people have talked about and the repeated use of the footage on the news over the next several days.

What I do remember best is this...

It was 2:30 AM on September 11, 2001.  I had a major break up with my fiance and was just barely crawling through the front door of my parents' house after a 16 hour Greyhound bus ride.  My dad had picked me up at the bus station after getting off of work at the rehab hospital where he was one of the housekeepers.  He was tired, I was tired, but more...I was emotionally drained.  I'd spent the day on the bus alternating between sleeping and very quietly crying, trying to read and write in between.  I wasn't pleasant company and I knew it.

I came into the house, expecting my mum to be in bed.  But she wasn't.  She was standing there in her short sleeved pale green nightgown with her old, worn out dark red shawl thrown over her shoulders.  She gave my dad a hug and a kiss, and told him to go take a shower.  Then she looked at me.  And then she held out her arms.

I completely lost what fragile self-control I'd cultivated all day.  I burst into tears and started crying on my mum's shoulder.  It sounds a little silly to me now.  I was 24 years old, and here I was acting like a lovesick teenager who'd just lost her first crush.  The truth was I hadn't had that many really close relationships with guys and having my heart ripped out by my ex-fiance really did a number on me.

My mum took me into the family room and held me while I cried.  I choked out everything that had been done, everything that had been said, and what to me was the worst betrayal ever - he'd been positively cheerful when he'd put me on the bus because he and two of our friends were going to go play video games at the big arcade in Seattle.

My mum just held me and let me vent.  She kept telling me that I was worth so much more and that he was just stupid and blind for not seeing what a catch he'd had.  This was a far cry from what I'd expected.  I'd expected to be told that I was better off without him, and that she'd been telling me from the start that he'd hurt me.  But she never once in all that time - or in the time since, up until her death 2 years later - "I told you so".  She simply let me live and love how I wanted to, and supported me however she could.

I was so tired I fell asleep on the hide-a-bed around 7:30 am.  At 8:30 am the phone rang and my older sister told my mum to turn on the news.  The phone had disturbed me, and the tv was in the family room so when mum turned it on it made it even worse.  I just wanted to sleep.  But then I heard mum say, "Oh my God.  What the f***?"  I'd never heard mum swear like that.  I pulled on my glasses (I'm pretty much blind without them) and looked up - in time to see one of the towers get hit.

I helped mum close up the hide-a-bed, and the two of us just sat there for a while staring at the tv.  We were watching everything and nothing was making sense.  Two of my friends lived in NJ and worked NYC.  I didn't know where they worked, what they were doing, what they were seeing, or if they were even alive.  But I couldn't move.  I didn't want to move.  My mum had her arm around my shoulders and I think we were both crying.

The phone rang and mum went to answer it.  There was a phone in the family room but I think she wanted to get away from the tv.  I couldn't move.  Then my mum came out with the cordless and told me to go take the call in the dining room.  It was my ex-fiance calling, absolutely frantic to make sure I was still alive.  Sea-Tac was closed and the buses were shut down.  He didn't know if I'd made it home or not.  I told him I was ok, and we spent a couple hours talking.  I got him off the phone only to get a call from one of my NYC friends.  Kim wanted to know if I'd heard from Nick, our other friend.  I told her no and wanted to know where she was.  She was vacationing in TX with her husband and their newborn daughter.

Nick called me an hour later.  He was in CA with his parents, helping with his grandmother's funeral.  I found out later if he'd been in NY he'd have died in the Towers because that's where his company's office was.  I don't remember what company he worked for.  I don't think he wants to remember because he lost a lot of friends/co-workers that day.

Through everything, my mum was right there - encouraging me to talk to my ex-fiance, having me check in with everyone I knew to make sure no one had friends/family still in NY, etc.  She only made me give up the phone when my dad needed to call my aunt to make sure my cousin wasn't in D.C. at the Pentagon - which is where he'd been planning on going.  He was still in OR.  My friend Delilah was back in Japan.  But my ex-fiance's best friend was a MP at the Pentagon.

To our extreme relief and gratitude, he was actually driving back to WA to pay a surprise visit on his parents.  He'd gotten leave on the morning of the 10th, and left at 5 AM on the 11th.  Later, my ex-fiance (who I am now happily married to, strangely enough) called me back and my mum let us talk for hours.

My mum died on September 13, 2003 - 2 years after I came home about ready to throw myself off of a cliff because of being rejected by the guy I loved.  My mum went from diagnosis with Stage 4 stomach cancer to death in three weeks.  During that time, we were still talking about what we were going to do together in the future because neither of us wanted to admit the fact that there wasn't going to be a future for us - not for me and my mum.

Before she died, I wrote a short story that expressed how I felt.  It was the last of my writing projects my mum ever saw.  By the time I wrote it, she wasn't really able to read for very long.  So I read it to her.

Here's the story

My mum told me it was beautiful, and I think that it was the first time that the two of us actually admitted that everything we'd planned was never going to be accomplished.  Not with us being together, at least.

To this day, my strongest memory of mum is her standing there in her worn out nightgown with her faded shawl over her shoulders, holding her arms out to me to welcome me home in spite of all that had happened between us in the past.

My mum wasn't a casualty of 9/11, but it's to her that my thoughts turn today.  Because of her, I'm alive. Because of her, I found hope.  My mum was a writer who never got published.  She had an amazing gift and was in the process of trying to find an agent when she got sick.  We didn't know about that until I went through her box of dot matrix documents that form the bulk of her manuscript.  There were notes about editing in there that mum planned on doing but never got the chance to do.  There were also two rejection letters in there letting her know that she needed to find an agent to solicit the publishers on her behalf.

One of these days, I plan on publishing my mum's books.  It's going to have to wait until I'm published myself, and I'll have to make sure my dad signs the legal paperwork signing the documents over to me.  But my mum's stories will be printed and published properly - something my mum should've been able to live to see.

So, to those of you remembering 9/11 today - please keep on doing so.  Remember the sacrifices of those brave souls who gave their lives to save others.  I'll go on remembering my mum, who went out of her way to keep me alive after I hit one of the lowest points in my life.

Love you, mum.  I won't ever forget.

30 days of writing - Day 1

I decided to go ahead and give this a shot.  If nothing else, it'll give me a chance to explore some of my own thoughts and such.

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

My favorite has been, and probably will always be, Aleran - the fantasy world I've rebuilt so many times over the last 20+ years to get it to its current status.  It's my biggest project.  I have dozens upon dozens of story ideas based over a long period of time in this world.

To bring it into focus even more, my favorite story arcs all have to do with the continent of Vassa/Kingdoms of Erondahl, Lytharia, and Sindla.  I've put a lot of effort into working out the kinks in these lands and building characters from these lands.  I've noticed a distinct shift from human dominated societies in my work and into the kingdoms dominated by my Elves, Sindlans, Majiin, and Terathen.

My very first story in this world was a very badly written knock off of "A Little Princess" turned into a weird faerie tale.  I was also only 8 years old and it was the first story I'd ever fully written.  Of course, that story has long since vanished from my collection and I can only tell my inner 8 year old that it's for the best since we write so much better than we did back then.

I've written barely concealed Cinderella stories out of this world, projected a lot of my insecurities onto the characters, and my favorite collection of characters to play with have undergone so many different incarnations I seriously ought to make a spreadsheet just to see how they - and the world they live in - have evolved.

I enjoy my other projects and look forward to writing all of them, but of all my projects/universes I really feel Aleran is the one that actually reflects who I am as a writer and how I've evolved my storytelling abilities over the years.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why am I up? (Artists vs. Writers...Break Room edition)

It's barely 4 am.  I've been up since 3:30 am.  Why am I up?

It's simple: I need computer time for my writing, and I don't get it after work.  Downside to only having one computer.  One of us has to take their time in the morning before work (we leave together since he's my driver...and we have similar schedules).  The other gets it when we get home.  Given that I'm usually really tired after work, it works out - although personally I think part of the reason I'm so tired is the fact that by the time I go to bed I've been up for 16-18 hours.

My roommates asked me why I'm doing this.  "You've got a pen and notebook.  Write that way, and then on your days off write on the computer.  He doesn't get up until late afternoon anyway."

They've got a point, but I made another one: I need to do research.  Half the time I spend online is because I'm doing research on one topic or another.  I'm getting a good starting point for when I finally pay off those pesky library fines and can start checking out library books again.  Once I do that, I'll probably still spend quite a bit of time researching because, frankly, the internet is a lot faster and easier on the budget than driving to the library twice a week.

That got me thinking: what exactly is it a writer does?  We got onto a discussion of art vs. writing in the break room one day because one of the art students was working on her research paper, and I was working on the notes for the WIP.  One of my co-workers made the crack that writers have it easy.  "All you do is sit down, put words on paper, and voila! You have 'art'!"

I get up early, do my research, write between calls and on my breaks long hand at work, and when I get home I'm STILL working because I'm revising notes, editing manuscripts, and going over my research from earlier in the day/week.  I've talked to writers from the NaNoWriMo group who routinely get into fights with SO's because they don't understand this drive to write that we all share.  Even outside the yearly torture in November, they spend hours during the week writing.  Most of those like me who work in jobs where they can write in their spare moments do so.

Others actually travel to the places they're writing about or using as references for their work.  We put a lot of effort into our "babies", and then when we're done we ruthlessly chop our "babies" down and then send them out to be further ridiculed by those in authority.  When we FINALLY get someone to take our "babies" seriously, we end up having to do more chopping and tweaking until it's time to see them go out into the world to be introduced to others who we hope will love them as much as we do.

When I explained this to the co-worker, she just snorted and made another crack: "Artists still have it harder than writers."

I don't think we have it easier or harder than anyone else.  We just do what we do and hope for the best.  Both artists and writers are like that.  We're no better than each other.  We have our different mediums, our different artistic styles, and we all have different ways of seeing the world.  We take those different views of the world and turn them into works of art - even if they're only works of art in our own eyes.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Technology...why it's both a good and bad thing

Yesterday, a very lively discussion was started on another blog because of Hannah's post about the whole "blogosphere" phenomenon for the YA authors.

I even weighed in a little during the conversation, though I'm not a YA writer.  One thing Hannah, and other commenters, brought up is that the "blogosphere" as it applies to YA writers - and, I'm assuming, to a lot of other groups as well - is how clique-ish the online communities are.  They're not as welcoming to newcomers as they should be.  In fact, in some places, they're downright hostile.

Why?  When did this happen?  I know the whole "Net Neutrality" talks are generally about the rights of the companies who provide us with the service, but I think that at some point the general feeling of "Net Neutrality" among those of us who use social networking, blogging, fan sites, etc. to connect with like-minded people has also disappeared.  Many of us have become net snobs, not wanting to welcome new people into the fold.

The internet is a valuable tool.  It can help us with our research.  It can connect us to other authors, fans of the types of books we write (or art we create...or games we enjoy...you get the idea), and it can open up a whole new world of opportunities.  It can lead to the making of new friends and reunion with old friends.

A good example of this is Twitter for me.  I've always been interested in writing but believed I'd never really get much of a chance to meet any authors until I was well established in my own writing career and maybe have been invited to a con or two to do a presentation (yeah, I know...not likely...but hey, it's still a dream!).  I've met the wonderful @GeneDoucette, @hannahmosk, @leapetra, @katrchrdsn, @caitkitt...the list goes on.  In fact, I have an entire set of lists designated for the YA writers, the SF&F writers, the general (or genre unknown) writers, and the UF writers that I've met and have the pleasure of chatting with.

I may not know these people in person.  I may not know them face to face.  But I'm getting to know more about the personalities of the people behind the printing on the covers of books.  In fact, I might never have picked up Greywalker by Kat Richardson if not for the fact it was tweeted about and I got a chance to read some of her Tweets.  I was very impressed by her writing, and I'm now after the rest of her series about Harper.

Hannah's book Break has also made it onto my list of books to read, even though I'm not much into the YA literature.  The reason is because the person BEHIND the book is interesting enough to make me want to check out what she wrote.

The point is I'd never have even heard of these people, let alone picked up their books, without a little prompting because I'm not around people who share my tastes in reading material.  I've also never given genre distinction much of a thought since I tend to write epic fantasy and soft sci fi.  But what about my Fallen story arc?  What about my arc that I cheerfully refer to as "Fang Faces" because the darn thing still doesn't have a working title?  I didn't know, until a very interesting discussion with some of the others in the #UF_Chat last night that both of those arcs can be classed as urban fantasy.  I also got some good ideas on how to resolve some plot blockades that came up.

I'm also very aware of how dangerous the internet is.  I know the stories of the predators who stalk Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other online social sites.  They try to beguile the unprepared into different kinds of trouble - which can even lead to the deaths of their prey.

Pedophiles, murderers, identity thieves, data pirates...we know the stories.  Just like with the benefits of the internet, the list can go on and on.

The truth of the matter is the internet has become one very large, very public info dump, international marketplace, and social club.  You can find just about anything online that you want, you can talk to people halfway across the world for a lot less than it would be if you called them, and if you need to get information on the breeding habits of the platypus you can find it.

I'd like to see a more welcoming environment for people new to whatever it is they're interested in.  I'm not saying they aren't there.  For writers, Absolute Write is amazing.  For artists, I can highly recommend Elfwood and DeviantArt - although DA is more commercial than Elfwood is.

I think part of the elitism we're seeing on the internet is because of trolls and data thieves, but part of it is also human nature.  We're naturally suspicious of each other and not trusting someone we can't even see face to face seems very reasonable.  But this can lead to a lot of difficulties.

I'm not saying spill your entire life's story to the person - although if they look hard enough they'll probably find something on you - but offer them a little bit of trust.  Offer a cautious hand.  Let them see that you're willing to be friendly.  You may be surprised at what you learn.