Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creating Names

Whenever I read or watch fantasy, I'm always impressed with the names; whether it's a character, a race of creatures or a place. I always wonder how the writer came up with such great and creative names that fit so perfectly into each story.

As I said in my previous post, Characters, Powers and Too Many Drafts, I'm trying to come up with a name for my race of creatures. I've been calling them Dark Creatures but that's far too easy and obvious. I already have a long list of names but they aren't speaking to me. So, I've been using the dictionary and the thesaurus to find a good word that encompasses everything they are.

I love dictionary.com. When I'm researching a potential name, I look at alternate spellings, the word's origins as well as pronunciations. I sometimes like the way the word is pronounced better than the way it's spelled, i.e. lahyt instead of light. The origin maps the word usage throughout history. It's another great way to get alternate spellings as well as different pronunciations and meanings. I have fun playing with the spelling and finding ways to combine words. I think I'll also look at the novels I started but didn't finish. They may be failed attempts but they're great for spare parts. I don't exactly know what I'm looking for but I'll know it when I see it.

Maybe the reason I'm having problems finding the right name is because I'm not looking up the right words. I know, in my head, what my creatures are and what they represent so, I've started writing out everything about them. I've never done this before. I learn about my characters not by mapping them out but by putting them in a situation and watching how they react. So, I've pulled out that World Building journal again. Now, I'm writing down everything the stories have taught me about my creatures. Doing this also helps me find any plot holes and I'm discovering there are a lot.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Characters, Powers and Too Many Drafts

As I said in Novel Planning, I'd no desire to turn any story into a series but then I thought about it. A series is perfect because my characters in three different drafts, Feast, Isolated, and Nothing, are of the same race and the stories all have the same themes. I didn't even do it on purpose, it just turned out that way! Now, I have to figure out how to weave together three separate stories that weren't written to fit together. I could dump them and start over after I fully flesh out the world but, I feel these stories need to stay the way they are, for the most part. I can see the characters standing over me scowling and wagging their fingers. I'm not ready to give up on them just yet. I don't think they'll let me either. It helps a lot that the three stories already relate in major ways, I just need to iron out the little details. Hmm...powers aren't exactly a little detail though- well, most of the majors are fleshed out. 

I've plotted how the Power works for each individual character and why it's different for them, now, I need to take a step back and flesh out how the Power works in general. (I know I'm going backwards.)  I had an origin story for the creatures in the first novel of the series, Feast and I love it. But, a couple of days ago,  just for fun, I decided to read some of Isolated, the second novel in the series. The Power is basically the same but it manifests differently and I never explain why. I really love this version too and don't want to change it so, I rewrote the origin story (I've rewritten that story so many times!). Now, the Power in Feast, Isolated and Nothing fits well together. I'm pretty happy with what I've come up with. I'm having a lot of fun World Building!

It would be easier if I could work on one novel at a time but stories, characters and scenes just come to me. I can't control when and I can't ignore them- I've tried, believe me I've tried. I've lost sleep trying to ignore stories determined to be told. They don't care how inconvenient it is for me. *Sigh* I love them anyway. 


I'm really enjoying the puzzle of fitting Feast, Isolated, and Nothing together. I grossly underestimated how much work it would involve. I loved sitting with my journal yesterday and writing out what the Power was and wasn't and where it came from- this time with the characters from all three drafts in mind. Now I just need a name for it. I could call it Power but I don't think I like that very much. I also need a name for the race of creatures. Another puzzle I'm looking forward to solving.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Heart Change by Robin Owens

Back of the Book: "Signet D'Marigold's lonely life is shaken when a prophet reveals that Signet is a catalyst for change... But to accept her new life- and the charge of noble child Avellana Hazel- will mean embracing a danger that may be fatal.
Cratag Maytree sold his sword and traveled across continents to find a place with his distant family. However, his settled life is disrupted when he is loaned out as a bodyguard for Signet and Avellana. Once again he feels like an outsider.
As Signet's and Cratag's attraction develops into love, her fear of abandonment and his concern about their different backgrounds diminish. Happiness seems within their grasp until fate makes them the target of a secret enemy they must defeat to survive..."
 I decided to take a break from reading Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC for something a little lighter. Heart Change isn't the type of book I'd usually gravitate towards. If my mother hadn't given it to me, I never would've read it. I don't like stories heavy on the romance and the paranormal romance novels I've read seemed to only include paranormal to attract people like me. On top of that, I usually don't read or buy books with people on the cover, especially buff men. But, as a writer, you have to sample every genre so, I read Heart Change because I saw no real reason not to.

Despite my misgivings, I really liked this novel. The world Owens built was brilliant. The details were so well thought out I had little trouble falling into the planet of Celta. I was amazed at how imaginative it was. It made the romance bearable. Heart Change is part of a series but you don't need to have read the previous books to understand the story. Some details went over my head but not in a way that made the book any less enjoyable.

The characters were likable enough though I liked and felt far more for the males than the females.  Don't know why but it always seems to be the case with me. Cratag was grittier, more the type of character I like while Signet, though far from the damsel in distress, was too girly. Owens decided to introduce her in an annoying way to. I used to start my stories inside the character's head while they're mulling over how horrible and depressing their life is but I've found much better ways to get the point across. Signet talked a great deal about how lonely she'd been for such a long time but I didn't feel for her.

Heart Change, for me, did what it was supposed to do. Though I prefer dark fiction, I was in the mood for something a little more predictable, an escape book. I simply liked being in the world Owens created. Though I didn't believe the characters were ever in any real danger, I still really liked each of them and was pleased to know, for the most part, everything worked out all right.

Heart Change exhibited, though, story elements I don't particularly like and reminded me why I stay away from romance novels. The characters had flaws but they were so downplayed by how wonderful and brilliant and powerful and beautiful (and on and on) they were. Everyone was far too perfect. Then, Owens dedicates paragraphs just describing the physical features of one character. I usually skip right over it. I get it, the character is gorgeous but do you really need to describe everything about them? In general, Heart Change was a bit too light and fluffy for my taste. I'm sure I'll give it a re-read or two but it hasn't encouraged me to read anything else by Owens.

That being said, it has gotten me looking into paranormal romance again. The stories may be predictable and the descriptions over-dramatic but they're great if you just want to escape, depending on the book. I am a writer after all. I read because I enjoy it but I can't do so without examining the story. The Twilight series got progressively worse and the characters and their relationships were far too annoying and unbelievable to be anything but insulting to me as a writer. It turned me away from the genre completely. But, I've started Beyond the Dark a collection of four paranormal romance stories. Now these stories and the characters are more to my liking.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Obama 2012

I feel so sorry for President Obama. He has done nothing but try to improve this country yet people see him as this horrible person. Nothing he ever does is good enough. I've read a lot of comments where people can't wait to get him out of office. Like many younger people, the 2008 election got me interested in politics and I've been following it ever since. I can't figure out for the life of me what Obama did that was so egregious to earn such hatred. People are actually saying he's worse than Bush!

Yes, the country is so slowly climbing out the hole Bush put us in that we sometimes feel like we're not moving at all but Obama has done a lot just check out the White House Blog and the Healthcare Reform Timeline. I also found this new tool called Federal Taxpayer Receipt where you can see how your tax dollars are being spent. Bush had 8 years to run the country into the ground, why do people think Obama can fix everything in 3 especially since Republicans are so determined that Obama should fail?

I've volunteered to help his campaign through barackobama.com. I have to say, I'm really frightened because doing this is way outside of my comfort zone but a Republican as president is far more frightening. Like I said, I've been following politics for awhile now and I'm convinced Republicans do not care about me. I read an article were they actually wanted to "end the in-school interest subsidy on federal student loans" which would increase students' already eye-watering debt level. Now that is egregious.

Glenn Becks' statement to "reclaim the civil rights movement" was beyond egregious. I don't particularly care that he had a rally on the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech, what I have a problem with is that statement above. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, going on today that can be compared to what both blacks and whites went through during the movement. Do you know how many people died during the Civil Rights Movement just so African Americans can be treated like humans? Activists or anyone thought to be helping activists were in constant, constant, let me say it again, constant danger. Glenn Beck's statement was beyond wrong.

I tried to sit through The Republican National Convention and watch Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity's show but I just couldn't stand it for more than a couple of minutes without feeling nauseous. How could anyone say waterboarding isn't torture? I couldn't even watch it happen without cringing and I'm a horror lover.

I've decided to volunteer because the only other alternative is to do nothing while people throw a good and intelligent president out of office and replace him with someone that doesn't have my best interest at heart. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Save, Back up and Encrypt

I'm terrified of losing a copy of any one of my stories so, along with saving them on my computer, an external hard drive and a SD card, I save them on a flash drive and carry that around with me. I try not the use the flash drive often but I'd saved a class assignment on it so I could print it out at Staples. I printed out the assignment then left the flash drive in the computer at Staples. Since I didn't use it often, it took me awhile to notice the flash drive was gone. I update the stories on it but not as often as I should. It took me even longer to realize where I'd left it. By that time, I knew it was pointless going to Staples and asking about it.

Let me remind you, a copy of every one of my stories was on the flash drive. I don't need to tell you what that means. Since then, I've encrypted my stories on my flash drive, external hard drive, SD card and laptop. My story notes on my iPod are password protected. I would encourage you to do the same (if you haven't already).

It's very simple to encrypt the document with Microsoft Office 2007.
  1. Hit the Office Button
  2. Mouse over Prepare
  3. Click on Encrypt Document
  4. You will be prompted to create a password. You will not be able to retrieve this password if you forget it so you should choose something you'll remember. 
After you encrypt the document, every time you wish to open it you'll be asked to enter your password first. My mother also suggested I date my story notes in my journal so, from then on, I've dated my notes.

I've saved my stories on so many different devices to ensure I didn't lose them but it never occurred to me what would happen to my stories if I lost the device until then. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dan Radcliffe in The Woman in Black

As both a Harry Potter and horror movie fan, I had to share this. I learned about this movie through MuggleNet.

"A young lawyer travels to a remote village to organize a recently deceased client's papers, where he discovers the ghost of a scorned woman set on vengeance" (IMDb)

This is exactly the type of horror movie I love! I cannot wait. The Woman in Black comes out February 2012.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Borders

It's sad all Borders are closing but they're having some awesome sales. I was near NY Penn Station a couple of days ago running an errand. As it happens, a large Borders is a couple of steps away from the station. Even from across the street, I saw the yellow sign in the window announcing their Going Out of Business Sale. What an awful sign to see in a bookstore window but it means all the books are on sale! I'd no intention of going to a bookstore (I'm avoiding them for the reason I mentioned in To-Read List), but how could I pass up a sweet opportunity like that? I didn't find a thing I wanted but I wasn't annoyed, I was pleased. The Writing Reference section had like one book left. The Horror and Fantasy section had been mostly picked clean. It was awesome! I was in the area again early Saturday and people were gathering outside waiting for the store to open.

 This was not the first Borders sale I went to. A couple of months ago, I received an email from Borders (I am a member after all) about a certain NY location's Going Out of Business Sale and made a point of finding that store before it closed. Those shelves too had been nearly picked clean but I found a nice journal and a book I'd been looking for both at prices I couldn't possibly pass up. The check-out line was enormous.

As I was going through Borders near Penn Station, I kept thinking of the article I read on GalleyCat not that long ago titled ‘I Hate Reading’ Facebook Page Earns 438,700+ Likes. Experiencing Borders' Going Out of Business Sale, twice- it's very hard to believe a significant amount of people hate reading. I wanted a more drawn out dialogue about this so I went to the forum on Reddit. It had a better discussion but not as many comments as I expected so I did a Google search. I still didn't find a lot of discussions about this facebook page. Maybe people, like me, aren't taking this too seriously. I was neither shocked nor depressed when I read this article probably because I've seen too much evidence to the contrary. No matter the form- print or eBook, I believe a great deal of people will always love to read.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Enjoy


 Here's an excerpt of a short story I wrote. Enjoy!

Michael held the green piece of paper to the light then put it so close to his face it touched his nose. For awhile, the only sound was his bare feet padding across the wood floor.

It didn’t seem he’d answer me anytime soon so I looked around. It had been awhile since I’d seen him. I used to enjoy books and the worlds they created before I met Michael. As I looked around, I remember why I was afraid of them.

His family’s reputation, his burden, wrapped around his neck like a noose and tightened every day. He hadn’t worked for weeks because the time he spent among people was limited. The strain his family's legacy put on him showed in the lines on his face. We were the same age but he looked so much older. He'd gotten skinner but the brightness in his eyes that caught my attention the first time we met never went away.

“Where did you find this Paige?”

“Does it matter?”

“Do you have any idea what this is?” Michael’s cheeks flushed, his eyes widened and his smile reached his ears. I didn’t understand those facial changes.

“If I did I wouldn’t be asking you.”

He walked to the bookshelf by the window and dragged his index finger across the journals’ spine until he came across the one he’d been looking for.

He sat on his couch and invited me to do the same. The page he turned to had the same green piece of paper only it looked new.

“This is money,
” he said.

“What’s money?”

“It’s what people used to buy things with.”

I frowned, “What is buy?”

He sighed and handed me the journal while he paced.

“People used to exchange paper like this for things.”

“You mean like clothes.”

“Yes.”

I leaned back. Clothing stores existed. People ran them only because it was mandatory. The owner's didn't gain paper for their work.

“Why would they trade for little pieces of paper? What would they do if it got wet or burned?”

“They’d have to get some more.”

“There was more?” I asked as a strange jolt roused my heart.

“Yes, much more.”

"Where would they get them?"

"Some would steal it but most people worked for it."

I flinched. "People worked to gain something."

Michael's eyes met mine. I had come to understand that look as pain.

"Yes Paige, people didn't always live as we do."

“What happened to the paper?”

He went to his shelf, pulled out another journal and sat next to me.

“All the money was put into the hands of seven men more than fifty years ago who then decided to keep the money to themselves and run their section of the world the way they saw fit. My great grandfather believed that was nonsense but he..., here read.” His eyes held an intensity I never understood.

I didn’t want to read but the neatly drawn words attracted my eyes. He pointed to one paragraph: I saw something my eyes would not let me believe. My mind could not comprehend. They fed us this nonsense about what was happening in the world but no one believed it. People who searched for the truth didn’t die but they returned changed. Something was missing... inside of them. They no longer cared for anything. I saw the monster responsible but I cannot bring myself to describe what I saw. The next generation will need to know but I don't have the courage to tell them. I cannot be sure they didn't see me spying on them. My life has already been forfeited, so why do I still fear to write down what I saw? 

I slid away from him and those written words filled with trepidation it radiated off the page, “There is no world.”

“Yes, there is and it has existed for millions of years.” His brightness burned my skin.

“This is all crap. They teach us there is nothing outside of this dome.” I heard my voice rise as each word, as the journal gnashed and clawed at the nice feeling inside me until all that was left were pieces too small for a memory. It was replaced by one that pumped me so full of adrenaline I felt I could bend steel.

“There is a whole world outside of this dome.” Michael’s voice became calm.

“No there isn’t.”

All the blood rushed to my head. I was on my feet but my legs shook as though angry bees swarmed around the bone. I liked Michael well enough but never bought into the ideals his family held to. Who the hell kept journals when they could read history in a book? Books didn’t lie. I balled my fist and something crinkled. It was the paper. When had I gotten it back? No matter. I went to the kitchen and threw it away. I shouldn’t have asked questions. Curiosity was a disease and I had been infected. These feelings were unnatural.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes


When I first heard about a Planet of the Apes prequel I thought...this is a really stupid idea. Turns out, not so much. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was amazing. When watching movies, I try to keep in mind I'll be blogging about it but, with this movie, I completely forgot about that- I forgot I was watching a movie. Everything about it was so engaging. I was sucked in immediately.


As you might have guessed, we (by we I mean humans) did not come out looking good. We were vile or useless or both. The movie is all about the apes, humans were simply there as seasoning. I felt so bad for Will played by James Franco though. He really was one of the few good human characters- all he wanted to do was save his father- but still, I cared far more about the apes.  

I loved Caesar- the main ape. His facial expressions were phenomenal. Andy Serkis, the man behind the ape, was spectacular. First Gollum, now Caesar...I am impressed.

Caesar had it so hard I felt so bad for him. I wanted to cheer when he fought back and some people in the theater did. This one part, one of the best parts of the whole movie, made the entire theater, including me, gaspI get excited just thinking about it but I will not tell you what happened, you have to see for yourself. Those who know me know I like to throw up the devil horns. I could not resist cause that scene rocked. I was stunned.

The ending was sweet but not what I expected. In a movie called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you'd expect to see how the apes took over. I was a bit disappointed it didn't go there but, I'm thinking there will be a Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2. Towards the end, the writers introduced another problem which wasn't resolved or even mentioned again but it was done in a way that said more- there will be a sequel and less- we introduced this and forgot about it. 

As a Harry Potter fan, I have to go here. Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy, was in it. Man he was vile. I don't mean his acting was bad because it wasn't. I mean he was written to be an unlikable character and man did he deliver. I'm not surprised. He did play Malfoy. This was the first time I'd seen one of the Harry Potter children in another movie but I had little trouble separating him from Malfoy.

Overall, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a spectacular movie with a well thought-out storyline, great acting and phenomenal visuals. This one I will be buying once it's available on iTunes.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The To-Read List

I just looked at my bookshelf and went down my to-read list and man are there a lot of books on that list. After Hands on the Freedom Plow-which is spectacular, I'll be finishing up Dark Delicacies edited by Del Howard and Jeff Gelb. I stopped reading Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned because every chapter was a different character out of nowhere and it was getting annoying but I'll be giving it another try. I like Anne Rice. I've really wanted to read Lynn Flewelling's Luck in the Shadows but I kept passing it over. I don't particularly like owning books I haven't read so I'll definitely be reading that one soon. I've had Storm Constantine's Wreaththu on my shelf for like forever too My mother just passed on to me Robin Owens' Heart Change  which sounds pretty interesting. I might have to move that up on my list. Then, there are the books I'd love to read but don't own. Now that list is long.

What I need to do is stop buying books. I usually see a new book I like, get it and become so excited about it I stop reading the book I was currently working through. This has happened so much I've ended up with far too many half read books. But I just can't help it. There are so many good books out there. How can I possibly stick to just one?! I need to treat books the way I treat writing my stories. Do not move to another one until finish the one I'm reading. Who am I kidding? I really don't work on one novel at a time. I've simply figured out a way to give one novel more attention than others so I can finish it.

I've tried avoiding the bookstore because every time I go I see something else I want to read but I'm a lover of books so, you know, the bookstore is like my all time favorite place. I especially love the Union Square Barnes and Noble in New York. Now they're letting you sit in a corner and read undisturbed. How cool is that!  I can't resist going there and just hanging out- around the fantasy and horror section of course, sometimes taking a dip in a graphic novel or a manga. 

I just read about Stephen Jones' A Book of Horrors at Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews. As I've said in other posts, I love horror but haven't read a good chilling book in a long time so I'm always on the look out. It seems A Book of Horrors may be just the book I've been looking for. I'm gonna have to check it out when it's released.

The to-read list is its own exciting adventure. Its like a challenge and I say bring it on.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Into the Unknown


At the end of the year, I'll be getting my Masters in Information and Library Science. (Pause while I panic, hyperventilating into a paper bag). Life didn't go quite the way I planned... who am I kidding?- nothing went according to plan! So I'm faced with that question- Now what? I have a very obscured road map in front of me.

I feel I've been in school forever. Each year brought new challenges but, for the most part, I knew what to expect. Right now, I'm groping around in the dark (semi-darkness actually). Funny thing is... I'm not really frightened- at least not yet anyway. I'm pretty sure I'll start freaking out the last day of class but right now, I'm looking forward to this new adventure. It's stressing me out, of course, but what in life doesn't?
 
This isn't the first time I've trekked towards the unknown with a plan that could hardly be called one. When I moved to NY nearly 2 years ago I was beyond terrified. A week before the trip- all excitement was gone. All I thought was- I have clearly lost my mind. I mean seriously people I was freaking out and I've always been a pretty calm person. I didn't know anyone there, didn't have a job lined up and nothing was going according to plan. I don't regret the decision though despite it being a lot harder than I thought.

A couple of years before that I decided to study abroad in England- going to a strange (strange to me) place where I didn't know anyone. Talk about jumping clear out of your comfort zone. I was terrified. It was hard but so worth it. It is still the most fun I've ever had. Maybe that's why I'm not freaking out just yet. I've learned if it's hard it'll be worth it in the end and that traveling through the unknown may be the most terrifying experience ever but it can lead me to more fun than I've ever had.

What's interesting and a little distressing is people are no longer getting jobs through the traditional means- you know, find a job posting and apply for it. Job hunting was stressful enough, now we have to get creative. There are no hard and fast rules about getting a job in publishing or in any place for that matter. It's pretty much find a path that works for you. I've come up with a plan of attack and a goal in mind, several goals actually. Let's see how it all works out. It's a good thing I like a challenge (most of the time).