Friday, December 24, 2010

Some Christmas Cheer

Due to holiday mayhem and deadline accumulation, I shall present you with some multi-cultural and hilarious Christmas cheer. Enjoy:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paul Cornell on E-Books & Illegal Downloading

Paul Cornell has a wonderfully detailed post on e-books and then illegal downloading. Illustrates a rather interesting development. Here is an excerpt:

It's hard, these days, to tell people they've done a minor wrong. Because one is now either a saint (or whatever the atheist version of that is) or a pedophile. Illegal download sites look perfectly normal, and ominous orchestral tones don't strike up when you visit one. 'Everybody' does it, and people who do are often quite surprised at the thought that they're doing something wrong. But they are. A small thing. They're each stealing small sums of money from creators. But put those minor wrongs together, and they become an enormous problem. Vilifying these people rather than educating or preventing them will just convince them that their minor wrong is cool and rebellious. A lot of them tell themselves that already. They're sticking it to the man. The trouble is, the man in question is me. And those like me.

The rest is [HERE] It's eye opening.

Monday, December 20, 2010

[State of the Writer] I wish I could say I wrote new words, but you know that's not the case

There is a funny thing about productivity. When you manage a great deal in just one week, you think 'hey, I can do this again and again' and lulled by this sense of security in one's own ability to combat procrastination YOU assign yourself too much to do. The inevitable result is the bitter taste of failure on your mind's metaphorical taste buds. *intense music*

Kinda like what I did to myself. If you ever want to learn how to sabotage yourself, this is it and I make a great tutorial for it. Though I was optimistic and the goals were doable. What I didn't at all consider had to be whether "Rabbit Heart" would easily give in, when it came down to edits. I knew how I wanted the story to look and to feel, yet it was static and had to be revised. Brand new opening scene and etcetra. I thought it'd be easy... Took me the whole week, around ten re-reads and making all the pages bleed with red and blue to get it right. I think at some point I had a very high blood pressure, because the story played hard to catch. But you know, after filling all the cracks and chopping off one third of the material, it was done.

Apart from that, no new story, no new chapters. Coincidentally those are my newest goals for the week.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Thoughts on "On Writing" by Stephen King [Part 2]

As promised I'm continuing with my thoughts on Stephen King's "On Writing". In the first post [HERE] I look at the memoir aspects of the book, while here I'll focus more on the actual advice and instructions King provides.

As Charles Gramlich said in the comments, "On Writing" isn't an actual book on writing. To a point I have to agree with him. Even when King discusses writing and tackles all the necessary for a budding writer building blocks he gives examples through his fiction. He distances himself from abstractions or a lengthy list of rules one must apply while writing.

In about one hundred or so pages King covers the nature of writing, vocabulary, grammar, dialogue, paragraphs, structure, pacing, characters, plot, story, themes, descriptions and editing. Is this enough? For veteran writers with several manuscripts under their belts [be they published or not] supposedly not really, but "On Writing" is the perfect book on the art of writing for new writers. Probably those writing book one or two or those planning to sit down and write their first novel.

"On Writing" lays the easy-to-grasp fundamentals in each category. King does so without overcomplicated explanations and remains honest about it. Two concepts King backs up through the whole bulk of his book. King advocates for simplicity. When he talks about word use and vocabulary King emphasizes on the context. One of his rules is to never use big words for the sake of sounding erudite. In the chapter for descriptions, King advises to be minimalistic, employing only key details in key positions. When he talks about direct speech and how to introduce it, King is adamant that 'he said/she said' suffices.

As far as truth goes, King delivers it on many levels. First, he is big enough to admit that whatever works for him probably won't work for others, which is true, because I have not the slightest intention of agreeing that outlines kill the spontaneous act of creativity. You'll never read 'You should do this or that', you will read 'What I do here is this or that' or 'it's this and this that work for me'.

On employing truth in writing King comments when explaining one of the sacred cardinal rules 'Write What You Know'. It's important to understand that this rule does not restrict the writers to topics they have dealt with, because which writer has ever slain zombies or dragons with weapons [be they makeshift or enchanted]. No, the rule binds writers to be honest in the emotions they portray. As long as you are not faking the fear of the zombie horde your protagonist has to face, then all is a-okay. For the rest there is research.

This is it. In short. Hope this didn't turn into a 'too long; didn't read'.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Thoughts on "On Writing" by Stephen King [Part 1]

I planned on doing a regular post on reviewing books that dealt with writing, but seeing how I review books for about seven websites, I don't think that is a promise I can keep, so I'll make this rare bordering on may not possibly happen again. Interlude over, I've chosen "On Writing" by Stephen King.

I'll review "On Writing" in two parts, since the it's essentially a hybrid between a memoir and a manual on writing. I'm starting with the memoir sections.

What I love about "On Writing" time and time again is how it doesn't read like a textbook. It's not extremely focused on the craft as other how-to books on the market and while it's a drawback for writers who want in-depth advice and a tutorial, you should really pick it.

More than the half the book pieces together King's past, his childhood, his adolescence, his college years and the years before becoming... well, King.

There is no direct lesson. "On Writing" easily reads like a memoir and for all King fans I imagine it will be a treat. However, apart from learning more about King, there are subtle points that he makes. I group and label those into an 'emotional workshop'. For starters, sharing all his personal tidbits and how his ideas form underlines how different all writers are and while the market is influenced by trends there is no master mold.

Your big break maybe won't be through a novel, but through short stories. Or vice versa. I can even say that you could very will be published with your experiment in a different genre, for a different audience or a different medium [King has written for newspapers as a young one]. Your introduction to the publishing industry depends on chance. It may be months after you've decided to pursue this path or it may take years.

King's also saying that every writer will differ from every other writer on the planet. Every writer is a conglomeration of experiences and it's guaranteed that every writer's voice will be strictly individual. What else comes with this individuality?

The confirmation that universal advice on writing is non-existent.

But perhaps the most imporant advice here is to never give up, when pursuing a career in writing [or in any art for that matter]. This is mentioned in the first one hundred pages, in which King describes in detail how he worked in a laundry shop before his big break. Up until that point, Stephen King was not much unlike any of us, doing something we don't like so that we don't starve and support a family. You don't know whether your dream is a realistic one. No matter how bleak the situation may feel, the lesson is to keep writing.

Some writers give up after bitter disappointment, but once you've started and you KNOW there is nothing other than writing, it's better to keep going. Because you never know.

In the postscript, King relays how he was run over, his hospitalization, his fear that he may not live long enough to see his wife, how writing managed to bring him back to life. I think this is not much what you have to do for the sake of writing, but what writing has to do for you. Writing has to be fun. Writing has to uplift you. Writing has to keep you sane, while you drag other people through hell. Writing has to save you.

If writing does all that for you, then it's worth all the sacrifices you are willing to make for it. The forceful late night writing sessions, when you feel like crap. The nerves of getting it wrong. The pain of rejection. All worth it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

[State of The Writer] I'm semi-rocking it

Let's see... I stated last Monday that I wanted to write a completely new short story "Rabbit Heart" for the 20 Spec Anthology. The goal has been met. At a little able 4,000 words I have a very rough draft. The issue is that there is no direction, no spine to it. The story is a cephalopod at the moment, wrapping its tentacles around every possibility without deciding on one.

This week's challenge will be inserting the spine [direction] and I have an idea on how to do that [it involves the MC's hair]. I even know how I will manage to stay below the 5,000 word restriction, which I feared I would pass. It was a very helpful post by Matt Delman [HERE] The post addresses steampunk as a genre, but it has sage advice "if it doesn't serve a purpose, get rid of it", something I need to do with my pretty descriptions.

In addition to this I want to start on my Lovecraftian horror story set in Japan.

Last week, I said that I will be editing my novel. So far Chapter 1-12 are the ones I managed to edit. Wordcount-wise that is 15,000 words in the novel. I write short chapters, because I feel that the shorter the chapters the faster the novel will be read. This illusion of a fast pace is what I need since the build-up towards the action is slow and that is a bit fatal with UF as a genre. At the least the Buffy sub-category of it [not that I am writing a Buffy story, no, I'm writing a Willow story].

Among getting on board & editing three chapters this week [modest goal because all the other chapters are written in a journal and have to be transcribed AND edited], I will have to actually administer the changes on Chapters 10 to 12, because I had to rearrange dialogue and some info-dumping AND did those on paper.

Like last week, I aim to write a story for the Friday Flash. I think people really do like my funny superhero.

BUSY week ahead. What are your plans?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

[Blog Spot] 'I Should Be Writing' run by Mur Lafferty

It's been a while, since I've done a Blog Spot post. They are pretty much the direction of this blog, promoting the websites that aid in my writing and why they can be beneficial for yours. I am aiming for a weekly post every Sunday, starting now.


This Sunday I've picked "I Should Be Writing" a podcast for writers run by Mur Lafferty. I was introduced to Mur's own brand of awesomeness on Twitter through my friend @ghostfinder, who has been following this podcast since it's first episode. That is in on itself a feat, because the show is currently at episode #173. That is what I call dedication.

"I Should Be Writing" opens with a fun song by John Anealio, which will make you smile as it hits close to home [I'm talking about procrastination, people]. Then there is a short segment called the State of Mur, where Mur shares what she has accomplished and what she struggles with or has overcome. After this, the episode has a two part structure.

In the first part Mur tackles an aspect of writing, be it characterization, worldbuilding or software. The second part is where things get interesting as Mur interviews an author, who writes and has published in the speculative genre. What I love about these interviews is that Mur tries to encompass everything about writing. What the author's routine is, the publishing industry and the author's experience, general geek talk and advice.

Yes, episodes may vary from 30 minutes to an hour. I generally don't listen to podcasts. I'm a bit ADD to pay close attention so the length of some of the episodes are a test for my will, but they are so worth it. Mur has a pleasant voice and it's a pleasure to listen to her and she gets it. She knows and if you are serious about this whole writing deal, then she's worth your time.

A few more details. While discussing a wide range of topics "I Should Be Writing" focuses more on the craft and the advice is geared towards speculative fiction writes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

[#FridayFlash] With Leotard and Cheerleading Baton in Hand

I'm back with the followup of my humorous super hero story called "Worst Superhero Story Ever" At the end of the story I left the heroine Amelia with her newly handed symbol of office, namely the fabled baton and leotard of power. Oh, and a lot of loaded guns pointed at her. How the heck will she get out of this one?

"With Leotard and Cheerleading Baton in Hand"
by Harry Markov

“Oh my god! What is that on my lap?!”

As far as improvisations went, this one wasn’t half that bad. All the bad guys postponed their trip to Trigger Happy land to look at my lap, distracted by the white blot that was my leotard.

I used the moment to bolt to the right, both leotard and baton clasped in my hands. The goal was to reach the stacked crates and try to Houdini myself into the leotard, while handcuffed.

Gun shots mercilessly followed and I found myself dodging bullets. Among zigzagging and praying I didn’t get hit, I found myself performing cartwheels, front aerials, handsprings and roundoffs. Go team ‘Survive this Night Goddamnit’. Ra-Ra-Ra!

Surprisingly, I took cover without getting shot. Perhaps the first thing I’d write in this thing’s manual would be that the leotard gave the wearer super magic acrobatic acts without wearing it beforehand. No wonder that Robin, the Boy Wonder pranced around in tights.

Squatting with the leotard and the baton bundled in my hands I wondered how to get out of the cuffs. At this point I was numbed with the absurdity of this problem to worry how close to home the bullets hit. What I needed was a key. I didn’t see how else I could free my hands. I was no handy woman to work with tools and there were no tools in sight (well, other than the assholes with the guns that is).

Thinking it over and not finding a solution freaked me out a bit (a lot more than I’d admit it), but not as much as the baton growing smaller and lighter. Now, that pushed all the wrong buttons at the wrong time. The baton disappeared in the leotard and when I searched for it, I found a pair of keys for the handcuffs.

Deus Ex Machine to the rescue! No three words had made me happier in my life (other than the ‘Monthly Ex-Husband’s Allowance’ combo). I unlocked the cuffs and crouched around just as the goons grew the balls to follow me to the crates. There was something unsettling about this ‘in the nick of time’ business. I could’ve very well dined there and the only disturbance would have been the damage to my hearing.

The octogenarian planed on teaching me a lesson, so I wouldn’t die per se, but spending all my time in a gun fight didn’t rank at the top of my list for fun Sunday night outings.

I somehow moved to a different hideout position without getting shot. It seemed to me that I would do a lot of things in a somehow fashion, but I’d work it. I always did.

In all honesty, the leotard proved a lot more difficult to put on. I had to strip (the weather did not make this pleasurable), then the blasted thing caught on my…eh…muffin top (more hours in the gym, yey! Not.), then I came face to face with a shotgun barrel.

“Any last words, sweetheart?” The man holding the shotgun smiled, winked (in response I swallowed my bile or else he’d come face to face with projectile vomit) and prepared to kill me, though his motive still remained a mystery.

In the mean time I held the keys in my hand and was prepared for a second test run.

“Yeah, sure. Just one.”

I lifted the hand with the keys to his groin, which was really below his shotgun and in his blind spot. Really, because every gangster had to squint with one eye aligned with the barrel two feet from the target.

“Taser.” I yell and immediately feel how the keys grow into the familiar taser (every reputable businesswoman had one).

I shot. The wires darted. As they made contact with his crotch, I rolled out of the way (the leotard’s survival instinct, not mine) and the rest was a Home Alone action sequence. The shooter’s crotch was electrocuted. He fired at nothing and then curled up in pain.

With a single tug, I pulled the lifeless wires from him and ignoring my heavy accented muffin top I turned around towards the majority of bad guys, who just stood there (the power of the leotard). I might have been a sight. Sneakers, leotard… nothing else actually.

“You guys are the most inefficient henchmen in the world. I’d fire you if you worked for me.” I said in my most hardcore movie voice.

As they drew their guns, ready to take me out (personally, I’d lost confidence in them as enemies) I aimed the taser at the majority, hanging wires and all.

“Rocket launcher,” I said and sure enough, the taser elongated until one end rested on my shoulder and the loaded end faced the guys.

“You really want this to go down?” I asked. In my mind I tried to sound bad-ass, but then again I must have sounded constipated (that thing weighed a ton and I had no upper body strength at all).

The clatter of weapons on the floor answered my question as the tough guys made an exit, stage right, never to be seen again.

“Baton.” I commanded and huffed as the launcher shrank to the familiar baton.

God, what a Monday morning.

I placed a hand on my hip, thinking that this was the beginning of a super hero career that would totally damage my business life. Oh, and the muffin top reminded me about a renewed gym membership for I would have to avenge the streets with a leotard and a baton in my hand.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What I learned from reading H.P. Lovecraft

I'm trying something new here. Most blogs on writing handle writing almost exclusively. I read more about writing advice and theories behind writing, while at the same time I don't see reading mentioned anywhere.

Isn't one of the main advices to read and try to learn about fiction, about what can be done and what is best avoided through someone's already published work? I know that another rule says that you should never try to copy, but still as a writer you read to grow. It's why I'm starting the semi-regular feature [the feature with no schedule] Learn from the Great Ones. Whenever I pick a book written by a household name or a name that rings all the right bells given a genre or movement, I will list in short the lessons I learned during my reading.

Last week, I focused on Lovecraft as part of my research for a Lovecraftian horror short. I went to the source to test the waters. Here are the things I learned from this master of the horror genre.

The Good:

~ Lovecraft understands the psychology of human fear, possibly because he had felt afraid most of his time. It all bowls down to the unknown. Not knowing can mean that whatever is threatening you be it human, animal or something organic, yet not from our world can be anything. Not knowing means that you can't figure out an exit strategy. Not knowing is translated to being helpless, a victim, prey. This is useful in times, when I want to recreate genuine fear.

~ Lovecraft knows how to enhance the unknown by smearing out all details except those he deems essential. In "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" Lovecraft is focused on the evil that is the character James Curwin, so he simply states how horrific the chimeras he built are rather than giving descriptions. In "Shadow over Innsmouth" he gives descriptions of the unnatural Innsmouth look as well as the depth-dwellers, because this race is central to the story's development. This is a technique to use in combination with the previous lesson.

The Bad:

~ Lovecraft can't write dialog and that's it. Period. In "The Colour out of Space" a dying farmer spends an entire paragraph in chaining senseless words separated with ellipses. I've yet to read someone's death bed speech delivered in this manner. The closest Lovecraft has come to writing direct speech is in "Shadow over Innsmouth", where the drunkard of Innsmouth engages in a drunken monologue.

~ Lovecraft's paragraphs are monolithic. He places blocks of text atop other blocks and I made miserable progress. It's a lesson in how to structure my work so that it is engaging and not a chore to read, because the less there is on a page, the less clogged the mind is during the act of reading. King said that, I think I can trust Stephen King on that, especially when I tried and tested it.

What are the lessons you learned from the big names in your genre?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ready, Set, Write... and Edit on the multiple projects I have in mind

Guess the witch!

NaNoWriMo is over and so is the celebratory weekend filled with doing nothing. My wrists had to rest a bit and I also have family return home for the weekend, so there. I have perfect excuses to justify not-writing. All of which end now.

I've jotted down ideas for my 1920s inspired mythological story called "Rabbit Heart". It's a story especially written for an anthology called 20Spec: Speculative Stories of the Roaring Twenties. It's a secret so far, but it has a very famous witch from mythology appear. I've also planned this one to fit in the "Lungs" concept of Florence and the Machine inspired shorts. I have to keep it under 5000 words, which will mean that I will use some dream logic to weave in all the elements I've envisioned.

In the spare time... Okay, that was a lie. My main focus will always be revising "Crimson Cacophony", a novel neglected when NaNo came. I kind of dread it, because it will involve retyping it from the journal I wrote it in. Several months of journal pages. But then again, if it was not for the journal I would not have finished it at all.

So what are you working on?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Write or Die: The Essential Tool for First Drafts

I've always complained what a slow writer I am. I have a friend, who can type up to 10 K in one sitting for about three hours, if I remember it correctly and don't exaggerate. I have a different one, who covers up to 2000 words in an hour. On Twitter I discovered a writer that does 3000 words in one hour. Me? I can do 1000 words per hour at best. Pretty slow and time inefficient, if you ask me.

However, thanks to Mighty Mur I discovered the ultimate tool for first draft writing. If the goal you as a writer pursue is speed when typing and generating wordcount for first drafts only, then this is the tool for you. I admit that quickly slapped-on words aren't the answer to solving your writing problems. A lot of people live by the words 'quality over quantity' and I agree. However, writers need to produce [it's a given that you will edit later on] and first drafts are meant to suck.

I'm a slowpoke. By the time I'm done with the first draft of any project my heart is not as invested in it. My mind is already chasing the newest shiny. I need to seize the story by the horns and get it out before my muse distracts me. Write or Die came as a blessing, when things with NaNoWriMo were going downhill. It helped me reduce my writing time by a double. I can [optimally] write 1000 words in just a bit over 30 minutes.

BUT what is Write or Die?

Write or Die is a free, browser-based software. Its purpose is to keep you writing. It's very proficient at it. But first, the basics. You manually set the wordcount goal and the time frame. The website offers you several modes of operation.

Gentle mode lets you know you've stopped writing with a pop-up message. Normal mode has an annoying demonic baby scream on a loop, whenever you slack and the Kamikaze mode actually deletes the words you have writen, if you rest for too long. Electric shock mode is the only mode that doesn't work on the free website version, perhaps the people, who use the downloadable paid software know what it is.

Then you can also determine your grace period. If you want more time to think, therefore stop to think more, then go with Forgiving and raise the bar to Evil.

I personally go with 1000 words set for 48 minutes [so that I can be smug, when I write 1,500 words] set on Kamikaze and Evil. Yes, I'm heartless towards myself.

After you are done with those hit WRITE button and you get transported here. if you have difficulty seeing the image in detail, which I'm positive you will, click to enlarge and see what I'm talking about:

You have a word counter on the right lower corner and a timer on the left. You write the text in the box. You have two buttons on the upper right side of the page. The Pause can be used only once, so beware when and why you use it. You can stop the timer and through that prevent any negative consequences like the screams and deletion of words. The other button is Done.

When you slack, your first warning sign is a gradual reddening of the screen like this. This is very helpful, because the website gives time for you to prepare and avoid any of the consequences:

When you are finished, you press Done and you get transported here:

As you see the text is formatted and ready to be copy-pasted in MS Word or whatever you fancy as text processor. As a bonus you even receive widgets with your wordcount and the time you managed it in.

Write or Die has become my essential go-to tool for generating high wordcount, when I'm in need for many words quickly. My advice is to use it for first drafts and for stories, in which choosing the right words is not of the utmost importance [as with high concept, dream-world stories or stories with a highly specific voice that needs paying attention to]. It keeps my brain awake and thinking.

I wouldn't recommend this to people, who paralyze when they see a timer or any other negative stimuli. Write or Die is aimed to buzz you into action, but if your psyche is all about defense and not the offense, I'd suggest you skip this product.

Do you use Write or Die? Do you think of using it?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Process Porn, Organic Writing & Post-NaNoWriMo

Since I will take you into the land of writing [where fantasies come true], I've decided to set the mood with illustration of La Fontaine's Fabled by David Kawena

As promised, I will talk about my experiences with NaNoWriMo and the discoveries I made about my writing process. For starters, the end is quite fresh in my mind and I learned from it that I experience burnouts, when I conquer the middle [the place that temps me to quit, which I’ve done with two projects]. I beat the challenge. I feel satisfied with what I’ve achieved and then: who cares about the ending? I know how it ends… On to the next one, now please.

This is why this NaNoWriMo I pushed the last five to seven thousand words to descriptions of what is supposed to happen rather than showing it. It’s storytelling in its crudest sense. Like when you relay what happened in a cool movie to a friend, who is interested in it, but not enough to go watch it. Is it cheating NaNoWrimo? Perhaps, but it’s story telling nonetheless and it got me through the end, no matter how underdeveloped it is.

Lesson: After a month, I develop burnouts. Here, I think that I can develop a short story for a week or so and then return to the long project. Dave Brendon does this, but then again he is in the middle of an epic, so I guess that for him it’s a valid approach. What do you do to manage the burnouts?

It’s no secret that by the time I hit 20,000 words I had plot-wise finished my NaNo project. I just came to a certain point, where I couldn’t push the story any more. I stalled for two-three days and the epiphany hit me. I was done. The story was written. Not the actual story, but the gist of it. The main plot arc.

I went back to the drawing board, figured out what needed to be done and dived right back in. This time around I had the basic subplots lined up. The second time around I knew the story, so I could focus on the characters and I made some subliminal progress there. I may actually produce worthwhile to read characters… Can you believe it?

I still ended the NaNoWriMo and if I had not sketched out the last scenes I might have gotten a 65,000 word novel that was with better character development, basic arc and basic subplots. It’s novel-like, but it’s not a novel. It will be a novel, when I sit down and revise it.

However, this is an interesting process of layering. It’s not the strict linear approach, but not the chaotic ‘write the scenes you want’ approach either. I would have called this the weaving technique, but today I found this article by Juliette Wade called Sequence Outlining.

Here is an excerpt:

In sequence outlining, you start with events first and worry about calendar later. Often I start with a list of questions or suggestions that come directly from my sense of the demands of the story. Such as:

• Someone has to be the target of an assassination attempt.
• Sorn has to be part of some nefarious plan to influence the voting.
• Tagret has to learn that Selemei wants to expose his mother to the public eye.
• Tagret has to do something bad in order to save his girl from the candidate Innis.

Then I put my mind on how these things can be ordered relative to one another, and relative to other events I have in mind. I ask myself, "what would be the worst time for this thing to happen?" So for example, the worst time to learn that Selemei wants to bring attention to his mother would be just when Tagret realizes his mother is up to something that would put her in serious danger if she were to be exposed to scrutiny. That gives me a hint for another event, "Tagret realizes his mother is up to something," which I can then look for a place to add. Of course, I know that it must happen right before "Tagret learns that Selemei wants to expose his mother to the public eye." The two events now have a required relative sequence.

Technically, this is about outlining [I actually kind of outline in the same way, but not as focused as Wade does it, for I learn about my story as I write] and how you can arrange your scenes in a correct for the story sequence, but the principle is organic. You start with the main points and build upon them, which is what I do with my writing.

This is my process porn. I will most likely have to go through a few rounds of revisions, do a chart to get the plot write, bang my head to get the characters develop their own distinctive voices and then a heap of other things, but I trust that this is enough for me.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I promise to say NO to my Muse and her Shinies

Pictured: The New Shiny

I promised process porn… The cogs and the wheels and the grease that make my stories tick tock. Yeah, be patient, it’s coming. Today I’ve an announcement to make. It’s a most solemn promise and has to do with my writing:

I swear to not start a novel project until it’s time for NaNoWrimo 2011. Exactly one year, if you decide to pardon my conscious miscalculation.

“But why, Harry?” cry the astonished readers.

I never ever finish anything that I start. If I do finish a first draft, then that remains unedited. If I do edit something, then I do not submit it enough or I don’t send it to beta readers to get additional feedback. It’s a catastrophe.

With my NaNo [semi]completed, I have five novel length [aspiring] manuscripts in a different state of chaos. Not to mention all the short stories I have neglected.

It’s semi-official, but here is what I want to achieve:

- Revise some novels
- Complete work on my short story collection
- Submit to more anthologies
- Revisit old and unfinished stories
- Do more Friday Flash

I will most likely make my projects and plans official, when December 1st pops up.

Anyway, tell me, do you think you radically need to change your routine and habits as well?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

[#NaNoWriMo] Not a Loser

November passed and with it died two things. NaNoWriMo and a whole lot of mustaches [go figure out what I mean]. I’m surprised that with what has been going off-screen I’ve managed to hit the big 50K, something which I doubted highly, until I found my first draft crutch, but I won’t be talking about tools today. So I won NaNoWriMo [see the magnificent badge I have here in this post and on my blog] and I discovered a lot about myself as a writer.

The wordcount: 50,057 words [I admit that I let myself go the third week and had to seriously make up for it, which is why my wrist hurts]

Nothing as a very tight deadline makes you experiment and also observe your behavior as you write that first draft. Even self-imposed, private deadlines don’t give the opportunity to learn about your writing habits, strengths, weaknesses and crutches. NaNo is effective, because you make a public commitment that keeps you busy and a short enough time frame to see how you react to road blokes or as I like to call it: subconscious self-sabotage [in short, the three S’s].

But I will spare you the process porn until Friday.

Right now, remains the question, whether I will try this next year. I’m definitely sure. With my new writing tool [Write or Die] I’m confident I will rock it next year.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Terry Pratchett Contest

The mighty Sir, Terry Pratchett is hosting a contest, the winner of which will have a book out and about.

Sir Terry Pratchett had this to say:

Anywhere but here, anywhen but now. Which means we are after stories set on Earth, although it may be an Earth that might have been, or might yet be, one that has gone down a different leg of the famous trousers of time (see the illustration in almost every book about quantum theory).

We will be looking for books set at any time, perhaps today, perhaps in the Rome of today but in a world where 2000 years ago the crowd shouted for Jesus Christ to be spared, or where in 1962, John F Kennedy's game of chicken with the Russians went horribly wrong. It might be one day in the life of an ordinary person. It could be a love story, an old story, a war story, a story set in a world where Leonardo da Vinci turned out to be a lot better at Aeronautics. But it won't be a story about being in an alternate Earth because the people in an alternate Earth don't know that they are; after all, you don't.

But this might just be the start. The wonderful Peter Dickinson once wrote a book that could convince you that flying dragons might have existed on Earth. Perhaps in the seething mass of alternate worlds humanity didn't survive, or never evolved -- but other things did, and they would have seen the world in a different way. The possibilities are literally endless, but remember, it's all on Earth. Maybe the continents will be different and the climate unfamiliar, but the physics will be the same as ours. What goes up must come down, ants are ant-sized because if they were any bigger their legs wouldn't carry them. In short, the story must be theoretically possible on some version of the past, present or future of a planet Earth.

Details [HERE]

Monday, November 22, 2010

Something for the Creative Mind

I did say that I was away for the time being and that is essentially so. I have been, however, doing my best to gather materials and you know talk about writing [basically the whole purpose of my wee little blog]. In the mean time, feed your creative energy with some Vintage Japanese Political Posters. Via Pink Tentacle.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

[#NaNoWriMo] My Eyes, My Eyes

Self-Portrait, made this morning, before shaving and coffee. You can tell my eyes are bit not all that great

I’m in a bit of a crunch at the moment. Turns out I need to write several reviews in the very near future [this happens because I manage my schedule so well] and the materials I have to read are not yet read. I also discovered that my lack of productivity as of late is not because of sleep deprivation. No, turns out my eyes are yet again weary of being in front of the screen all the time. That couple with the fact that I need to type my reviews and that my review copies for five or six reviews are PDF files don’t make this any easier. High on the grocery list at the moment is securing eye drops.

Anyway, my calculations indicate that I’ll be able to accomplish my goal of reaching 50,000 words without a mad dash to the finish [like last year, where I had to write around 30,000 words in less than two weeks]. “V is for Voltage” is progressing nicely. I have two villains, who somehow have to be even more villainous than my characters [who plan to establish a super powered evil organization] and it’s fun to write dastardly characters. The world has not yet fully formed on technological level, so I may be taking some liberties with what my guys can do at the moment, but so far sex seems to be maintaining the economy and it makes sense, I swear that it does. The way I have planned for things to go, I need to write between 2K and 3K daily to make it, but it’s totally manageable.

TOTAL: 28, 456 words [which is totally weak]

Friday, November 19, 2010

It will continue to be quiet until this NaNo thing is over

I'm writing this to completion despite feeling like I should abandon ship [though technically I'm past that point]. I thought I could blog through the process, but there is always next year to try and stick to it. In the mean time, I will prep some stuff for next month.

Monday, November 15, 2010

It Gets Better [tongue-in-cheek: Save the GLBT peeps]

This is far from writing related, but then again nothing really is writing related, we relate to writing since writing is all about connecting things. So I hope you connect this idea, somehow. The 'It Gets Better' campaign is a Youtube based meme/collection of videos, all of which aimed at teens with an alternative sexuality [gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual] who think of suicide. Being bullied to the point where a person can think that life is not worth it is perhaps the lowest humanity can fall down to and it's only fair that the younger generation receives a message of reassurance that it does get better by people, who have been there.

I'm personally in this position, not entirely outside the closet, but not entirely in. I live in a social environment that is not very open towards different people and I could have used this, while I was growing up and coming to terms that I am homosexual:

I know, the videos, don't promise WHEN things will become better. AND you should know that 'it gets better' does not mean a sparkly happily ever after [I'm still waiting for mine], but it's a slow transition. It's there. It's happening. Just you wait and see.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

[NaNoWriMo] Day 14: Barely Holding the Front

REVISION: Crimson Cacophony
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
STATS: Chapter 4 [1,509 words]
TOTAL: 6,519
PROGRESS: Slow as hell. I had to drop everything and focus on my university life for a moment, because I had a test, an essay and a presentation to complete. The edits were the first of the long list of casualties this week. The chapter today was incredibly easy to edit. It's still one of the highly polished ones and thankfully, one that did not demand a better presentation of worldbuilding elements. I did tweak one or two sentences that better represent Samantha as the truly wicked person that she is [in all senses].

NANO: V is for Voltage
GENRE: Science Fiction / Super Hero
STATS: Finished scene 12 [1, 718 words]
TOTAL: 17,061
PROGRESS: I know my characters. I know why they are monsters... but somehow the whole SF futuristic vibe has left me struggling as to how to portray them. I seem to flourish more, where the dark, old fantasy settings are. Heh. I guess I will struggle with that. Basically I get to the point, where all four narratives are online, but I'm not satisfied with how monstrous my characters are. I've decided to sit down re-plot and start expanding on the beginning. I need some battles. After all this is a super hero [villain] novel with monstrous characters and monsters do monstrous deeds. So far I have been doing a lot of exposition.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wild Plants of Japan [time-lapse videos via Pink Tentacle]

While I'm in the NaNo fever and actually fighting off evil University projects, I'll be treating you to some geekishness. Starting with my love-hate relationship with Japan. After I vowed to never watch live action horror movies from that country, Japan decided to make it up for me with these breathtaking videos of wild plants blossoming and growing. I found this via the Pink Tentacle where there are more videos:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

[NaNoWriMo] Day 7: Week Gone-By

REVISION: Crimson Cacophony
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
STATS: Chapter 3 [824words]
TOTAL: 5,010
PROGRESS: I have neglected work on the revisions, because time ran short and I had to slot in the new words. I had a hard time with chapter two. From the present I jump back with three days and my immediate critique partner says that it's puzzling to a point. I'm brainstorming ways to show that change and make it understandable. Now, had this been a TV series, perhaps LOST, the viewers would have get that, but in writing it has to be better cemented. I do use the header where I point at the change of date and setting, but it's not enough. Thankfully, I managed to get the worldbuilding elements fitted in without creating confusion. Chapter three has been bliss to edit. I may need to revise how a Goth would express herself, but so far I can't complain.

NANO: V is for Voltage
GENRE: Science Fiction / Super Hero
STATS: Finished scene 5 + scene 6 [2,674 words]
TOTAL: 10,437
PROGRESS: The ride has been bumpy. I missed two days, because my brain went haywire with a lot of real world things vying for attention. I missed two days, which results into 2K loss. Because I also have no clear idea how to move the novel and establish the characters with individual voices, I have been slacking in writing, because it takes a lot longer to get it done. So far, I have an idea to focus their attention on the thing that the parents seriously messed up in their kids and use that. But that is going slow and still have no general outline, which took 2K more from my goal. Anyway. I'm not entirely lost. It's still early on. Worldbuilding is going fine. The society of the future is my problem. I just know that religion is the biggest no-no and that there are no last names or any gender/age/racial discrimination. The goal is efficiency. BUT how the heck is a modern man/woman to dress, talk and walk... Eh, that is giving me issues.

Monday, November 1, 2010

[NaNoWriMo] Day 1: Setting the Pace

It's been day one of the madness I have planned for the month [writing and editing]. Although I spent the most of the day doing research and writing my paper in Comparable Economic Systems [my topic: The effects of non-economic factors on the US economy], I started on the edits and the actual words. Here is the run-down.

REVISION: Crimson Cacophony
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
STATS: Chapter 1 [1,489 words]
PROGRESS: I have worked on the first nine chapter meticulously, because I wanted a perfect beginning at the time, so the work here was relatively light. I had to fix some small grammar mishaps, change the setting [because interrogation rooms have changed from the 80s]. I'm not sure if I like the dialog, but my protagonist has established her voice [my beta loves her already], so it's good for now.

NANO: V is for Voltage
GENRE: Science Fiction/Super Hero
STATS: Chapter 1 [2,035] < I planned for 3K, but that can be easily caught up with
PROGRESS: I introduce one of the protagonists, Adrian, who will be know as Voltage or Mr. V. He will be the center of this book, so his messed up childhood is important. I'm excited to write him, because he's a married homosexual, drug smuggler, emotional and not beautiful or at least bland, he's physically on the freakish side [a departure for me, since I idelyze the human physique]. I enjoyed writing the death bed scene of his mother and the fight with his father, which results in using super powers for a brief moment. What bothers me is that I started writing in 1st person POV, when this is a multiple character novel. I need to convert...

How did you start NaNo? DO tell.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Day before NaNoWriMo: Last Words and Plans

Tomorrow is the beginning of the end [of my social life for at least a month]. November will be here and NaNo will be unforgiving. I admit that I have been an intensely bad boy for not doing necessary prep work. I know [vaguely] where my story will go. I've got me a beginning and I've got me an end, but the In-between is very hazy.

I know my cast on codename basis, which is a bit bad. I know of their pasts, but I have yet to flesh out their parents with their super powers, names, codenames and appearances. Thankfully, this is an introduction into the world and the characters, so I don't need to stuff that much into this one novel.

I also have a title:

'V is for Voltage'

Voltage is the codename of the most corrupt villains of the Syndicate. The one who was a villain before seeking vendetta in the first place. The idea is that unlike the Enforcers, who go around calling each other with their full codenames, the Syndicate will use the letters of theirs. Like a weird mix between 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'V is for Vendetta'.

Anyway, my deal schedule would be:

Monday: 3,000
Tuesday: 1,000
Wednesday: 1,000
Thursday: 1,000
Friday: 3,000
Saturday: 3,000
Sunday: 3,000

That makes a total [ideal] wordcount of 60,000 words, which gives me an opportunity to screw up with 10,000 words. I'm a lazy bastard, so it's essential that I aim high in order to at least cover the minimum.

PS: You can find me on NaNo by the handle of Harry Markov

Thursday, October 28, 2010

#NaNoWriMo novel Idea: The Synopsis

I might have mentioned my ill-planed decision to dive into this year's NaNoWriMo, just because... I am insane [considering that I harbor serious plans to maintain a steady pace at revision]. But the decision has been made, I have promised that I will devote time to a lot of shorter projects, but November has a siren call I cannot resist. It will be a rush.

I've mentioned that I'm attempting to write a super hero type of story, but you know not with the tights, the spandex, the colorful get-up. It will be futuristic and the focus will be on the deconstruction of superheros and the ambiguous morality. For comic book fans, who speak Marvel: The Ultimate Avengers as mood, themes and characterization, but in a futuristic setting and superpowers not being a rare thing. I don't think my concept fits in the superhero niche, but a lot of the elements stay: the need for codenames, secrecy, costumes [although not as flamboyant] and major showdowns.

Here's the synopsis for the very first novel in the SYNDICATE series [no idea for a title apart from the obvious: Genesis or Coalition, though I'm not feeling those much]:

Life for a life

Such is the law a thousand years into the future. It's also a hard law to maintain, when roughly half the population has genetic mutations. Enter the Enforcers: Black Ops of mutants trained to maintain peace, agents of justice, rock stars for the public.

However, when the masks are off and the criminals caught, the Enforces are people. People who have children and make horrifying mistakes as parents.

Life for a life

Such is the law in the future. But what is the punishment for the Enforcers, when their offspring joins the crime fighting scene looking for personal vendetta?

YES, it's clunky and it sounds a bit ridiculous in the Daddy-Issues category, but believe me when I say that the Enforcers screw up big time. Big enough for their children to become super villains.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Things I learned about Writing from my First Draft

At first draft, I'd have to say being chaotic is my method

After now having read my first draft from first page to last page, I've learned a lot more about me as a writer and about writing in general. I have to admit that it's surprising for me to actually like what I see on the page, because by rule of thumb I end up hating all my early efforts. Since "Crimson Cacophony" is actually a rewrite of an earlier novel, so I guess it makes a lot more sense to actually like it now that I have it refined. Still there is much to be learned from the book as it is.

1) Following scenes isn't the best way to mark chapters. My first chapter's 10 000 words long, which in a 90 000 long novel is, say, 1/9th. Makes you wonder how that happened in particular. Well, I wanted to have a little LOST moment with a parallel of the present along with the past and things got a bit out of hand. So, chapters are logical breaks in the story, but also need to let the reader breahe. That first chapter now is nine chapters long and the flow is better now.

2) I use characters as tools, but do not involve them much as people. Apart from the MC I have no clue how to use the others or if I do I just noted it and skimmed through their scenes to keep it going. I seem to have no idea how to better develop Matthew, the dude that spends 90% of novel time with my MC... YES, that will be troublesome...

3) After I hit 60% of the novel I become impatient and dash madly to the end. In short, I underwrite as hell. The beginning has been worked to perfection. The middle is so-so as I usually get stuck there, but after the middle as a milestone I lose it and sketch out the oh-so vital final chapters.

4) Writing a chapter and then editing it will NEVER ever work, because I usually get the story at the point where I also lose patience with writing the novel. I understand how all the pieces work together into one wonderful mush only after I'm near the resolution. It's a good lesson, since I entertained the idea to write and edit simultaneously not only once and I gather I need to drop that one.

5) First drafts are for sucking. Period. It's liberating to chant that and accept it. I wanted to edit as I wrote, because the MC internalizes in a very uptight and highbrow manner. It's a very hard to maintain voice, but as long as I know what I want, revisions shouldn't be much of an issue.

So these are my discoveries. What are yours?

Monday, October 25, 2010

YES, I am Revising AND doing NaNoWriMo

At the moment I'm doing the insane, reading in preparations to revise my novel "Crimson Cacophony" and decided that, why not, I can do NaNoWriMo at the same time... So, so intelligent of me. But my mind has been made on it. Wish me luck as I battle it out on two more fronts.

The project I will be undertaking will be a dark and twisted superhero novel with several points of view, which is something new for me. I had always juggled with one or two MCs in my novels. This time around I will be juggling four. Needless to say, this will be the first in a series. Because I think it's the least research-needy book from the list of projects I've compiled. So I will most certainly enjoy writing it. I hope so.

Await November to be a NaNoWriMo themed month.

Friday, October 22, 2010

#FridayFlash The Brain is the Brawn is the Brain

The Brain is the Brawn is the Brain
By Harry Markov

To say Pete Homes thought his life unsatisfactory would be correct, it would probably also be considered an understatement well deserving of an award. Pete would agree and then he would most certainly present you with a 84 page-long thesis to illustrate why that is. You see, Pete thought and he did it a lot.

Pete thought all the time, even when he touched himself at night [during those times he'd theorize as to why there was no one to do it for him]. It goes without saying that Pete's 'friends' mocked him. They would call him The Thinker, which Pete thought was better than the classic Lard-Ass.

"Hey Thinker, did you find out why we exist?"


"Thinker, tell me now, why did the chicken cross the road?"

Then most naturally they would commence laughing.

Pete, the 'Thinker', Homes understood how the world worked - for he'd thought about it a lot - and his conclusion: money did not rule the world, muscles did. He'd analyzed every possibility with or without muscles and deduced that if he had muscles - big, sculpted beauties -, then he'd be happy.

Nobody messed with people, who had muscles. If he had muscles, Peter thought, then he'd be the alpha male, while the others would remain inferior gammas. Women would swoon over him, driven by their prehistoric instinct to seek protection and copulation with a suitable male. It was all obvious to the Thinker. Simple, if one thought about it.

And Pete did, because Pete thought a lot. All the time, a stream of thoughts as long as the Nile, as consuming as a flood and as pummeling as the waters of the Niagara Falls. Among overthinking everything that crossed his line of sight, Pete indulged a lot of his brain cells in his personal project called Portrait of Misery, in which he thought about his shortcomings as a human being, all resulting from the unfortunate circumstance that was his Jabba-the-Hut physique.

Now, Pete had attempted to adopt muscles. He had tried going to the gym, but he found he did not like it there. The smell of feet, pits and crotches, his unsurprising non-existent tolerance for pain and residual sweat on the equipment re-routed his energy to chewing. Because Pete - the sad, sad cliché that he was - entertained an emotion-based eating disorder.

If Pete was a movie character, he'd be the fat, miserable nerd, ranked lower than the homo BFF. Just background... no, the background to that background.

To say that Pete was fed up would be correct. However, there was another entity, which was just as disgruntled. That entity was Pete Homes’ brain, which unsurprisingly called itself Spock.

Spock had had enough [fuck this shit, in his words] and decided to give Pete what he wanted and shut him up once and for all. Being in control of Pete’s medical-mystery-of-a-body, Spock diverged Pete’s thinking energy into his muscles.

BEHOLD, Pete Homes lost weight.

Pete was dumbfounded as to this peculiar phenomenon... His mind was thoughtless in the face of this conundrum. For one Spock could use some silence.

The pounds fell from Pete like leaves in a picturesque autumn scene. ‘Friends’ became ‘friends’, who were interested in the miraculous weight loss. Pete, however, didn’t get the hint to stop with the thinking and soon after all the fat, body odor and greasy skin had been exorcised, muscles began to form on his current wire-hanger, boyish frame.

It was around the time, when Pete had a swimmer’s body, when a woman decided to touch him down below, decided she liked it and then did a lot more. Pete Homes, voted most likely to die alone in high school, had a sex life and a brand new frontier of thought for his cognitive gymnastics. He’d never been happy and he thought how he’d been correct about the singular significance of muscles as a prerequisite for satisfaction, how much better his life was and how it would be better with more muscles.

Who would have thought that Pete Homes would win Mr. Olympia? Then again how could he not with bowling balls for biceps, baseballs for triceps, barrels for pectorals and a buffalo’s romp.

All the while Pete grew and grew, thinking how much more he would win. Subsequently, he did learn after growing some more.

When his pectorals rose so high that he couldn’t see beyond them, the doctors came. Pete had graduated to being a medical mystery again, no longer invisible to the world, but the world invisible to him. Around that time Spock reconsidered his plan as a bad idea in the first place, but what had started could not be reversed for Pete thought more than ever, quick bursts of frightened and erratic thoughts, which fed his muscles.

The last Pete heard was that he had grown so large that he had developed a gravitational field stronger than that of the Earth. Then silence.

Pete wondered whether he would orbit around the sun as a planet. Spock groaned.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Notes to Myself for When I start a First Draft

It's basically how I keep my journal, but without pictures. Picture is by Eilyn.

I'm currently revising my novel "Crimson Cacophony" [the closest I've come to editing anything longer than 10, 000 words] and I think that if I was a stranger and tried to read the manuscript for the first time, I'd shoot myself with a hunting riffle à la Supernatural. It is a complete mess of a thing and I do mean the actual manuscript, the thing that you read.

Here are the two most important things I'd not to myself and give to you as advice.

1) If you plan on keeping your world-building [especially if that world-building involves, say, a magic system based on the theory that matter vibrates and that it's the frequencies of objects that cause change in the physical world] non-electronically, make sure you use one and the same notebook, journal or whatever for the notes. In my universe, I've gone as far to create a complicated regional and hierarchical society based on talent, skill and the nature of the magic in a person. Magic is way more complicated than that. I involve a bit of linguistics in all of that AND I have no clue where half the stuff I noted down in, so keep all the eggs in one basket. Just this once.

2) If you plan to write the first draft on paper [in my case both my eyes need rest and the story usually flows better, when I write my first drafts by hand, otherwise I keep spotting mistakes in the draft], then make sure you write so that in the end, you can read. Tiniest of the littlest of the beadiest of letters [all swirled into an abbreviation of a word] DO NOT speed up the reading process. Also avoid abbreviations that you are not absolutely sure will make sense to you and never EVER, ever write with light blue pen. If you want to go blind, yes, sure why not, but don't do that to your vision or you will need telescope lenses for your glasses.

Tomorrow I'll blog about what lessons I have learned about writing from reading my first draft and those will be more content related.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things I learned from Rejection

I have talked about rejection about how they could be used as constructive tools, but to be honest they make you feel like that picture. It's like being shot in the ass, which is not at all pleasant. In that last post I list what rejections do apart from triggering self-doubt and reopen old wounds:

~ weed out all those that are unfit for the industry from lazy writers to pseudo writers
~ harden your skin [totally applicable in daily encounters]
~ teach discipline and determination
~ is another reason to get back on your ass and write

I received a new rejection letter yesterday and it thought me a few new things.

~ No matter how tough you are, the writer is an emotional individual, who suffers from ups and downs, and the rejection is a natural down. It's one of those bad moments that sour your mood. Even if it doesn't elicit tears, the rejection sends the message 'you are not there, yet' and nobody wants to hear that. After all, we are all special snowflakes.

~ Rejections are impersonal. I think that is the hardest aspect of a rejection to fully realize. Our work is personal to us. Our work is impersonal to us. Trying to view our own work as impersonal on business level is a survival skill to numb the sting.

~ Writing after getting a rejection is a bit of a nightmare, because the doubt sharpens the blade of our inner critic. I mistrust what I write and edit it until it's a hapless cock-up, until the text loses its original voice, meaning and vitality. The rejection came, while I was revising and the effect was immediate. Do I need to add tags here? Does this make sense? Is that expression too much? Do I need to add more explanation? Thankfully, I decided to trust my story and give it to my alpha reader, who thought that overall it was a strong piece.

Subsequently, I was also reminded that writing is subjective and that rejection makes it a bit harder to judge for yourself [not that was any easier in the first place]. Always have someone to help you stabilize.

That's from me. What has rejection taught you?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Things I Learned from Editing

A thing I learned from editing my short story 'Hurricane Drunk' is that I, as a writer, have to pay attention to the consistency of worldbuilding and that even that the smallest of details that rings false can snap a reader from reading whatever suspension of disbelief you have created. My long travels around the interwebs have proved the existence of such readers and now I'm reminded after stumbling on a conundrum in my own writing.

In 'Hurricane Drunk' my main character Tatyana converses with a sentient hurricane via the widely spread Morse Code. Now, in the original text I actually give the combination of dots and dashes that represent the word 'why' in Morse Code, but that is the English word in the original, English Morse Code. For those aware that Tatyana is in fact a Ukrainian/Russian name and that the witch in the hut with four chicken legs is Baba Yaga then they'd think that I tell a story set in Russia with Russian speaking characters, which is in fact what I'm doing.

It would make no sense to use then the English 'why' and translate it with the English Morse Code as that would be clashing with the consistency of the rules I established, even if I had not made them obvious. There would be always someone to spot it out [during submissions or eventually after publication], so I thought that it would be better to go with the Russian 'why' [почему for those interested] and then go with the Russian Morse Code. BUT then I'd have people wondering why so many dots and dashes one needs for a simple 'why'.

At this point I have to say I realized that this is a minor detail with little significance to the story as a whole, so I got that out of the scene. This is the second thing that I learned from editing my short story, learn when a detail is of importance to the story or not. In this case, I did not think it was important enough to follow it up.

Friday, October 15, 2010

[Friday Flash] Worst Origin Story Ever

NOTE: I'm back on the #FridayFlash scene. It's been a long time since I've had the time to get a flash done [on time that is] in-between projects, so here is a slightly humorous super hero tale to entertain you.

Worst Origin Story Ever
by Harry Markov

‘Crack!’ was the only sound that accompanied the door’s sudden transformation from cheap pine to splinters. At this point Amelia didn’t bother with buying a sturdier front door, opting for a heavy stock of identical spares.

Why would she, when every month paramilitary troops would rush into her living room, as was the case at the moment. Four armed soldiers stormed her apartment, spreading into a half- circle before stopping. After a quick glance at the clock (three minutes into the new Monday) Amelia concluded that they were right on time.

“Are you here for the kidnapping?” she asked the unit leader. Thirty-four abductions taught a person a lot about the chain of command in illegal organizations.


“Well good. Shall we go on, then? I’ve packed some light reading and a midnight snack, just in case it’s necessary.”

“You serious?”

“No. I am joking,” truth was that constant abduction was a drag (not to mention how it spoiled all her weekend plans) and she wanted to shake things up.

The unit commander didn’t respond, not that it was of great import. Amelia’s reputation as America’s Most Abducted Woman prohibited her from consorting with the underlings (it was only appropriate).

Amelia was a good captive. Followed the armed men into the black van. Didn’t try any of the ‘funny stuff’ she was instructed against. Didn’t object to the unreasonably fastened cuffs. Nor did she correct them after incompetently tying the blindfold. It had taken a while (and a few bruises to her cheekbones) before she had learned the abductee’s proper etiquette. But she supposed it was all well worth it for then the gypsy witch that had cursed her would never see Amelia powerless, even if the witch had the upper hand.

During these nights, it was hard not to think of the curse: a sorry mad-lib-like thing played in an eternal loop:

“In the dead of night, in the days of sorrow (Mondays; nothing worse than the begging of the week, even if she liked her job) you will be taken by (insert criminal organization). You will suffer indignations and humiliations. Then you shall be saved by (insert law enforcer; usually with a five o’clock shadow) only to fall in love and then reap bitter rewards.”

Rather lengthy and specific. Unnecessary effort, considering Amelia only sacked two hundred people. Hostile takeovers didn’t happen without casualties and the gypsies had to go. It was part of the job description. Why couldn’t they deal with it? She had.

Amelia tried not to dwell too much on the unjust past. Instead she revised the reports and the data for the meeting on Wednesday. The upcoming deal would decide whether Amelia was junior partner material or not. In the mean time, the van had stopped and the henchmen lead her (still blindfolded) into a place with great acoustics. Outside she heard water. The air was heavy with fish and salt.

The henchmen seated her and the cold of the metal ran a chill down her back. Something was off. Amelia had done this enough to feel how this particular stillness held back something of importance, how aggressive the bite of the cold was, how no one made demands or bothered to laugh. All things that before had not happened. Perhaps they were a criminal organization of mimes. Maybe that’s why they did not talk.

Then Amelia’s ears picked up multiple clicks as if pins had fallen on the floor, but she knew better than to hope for a clumsy seamstress with lots and lots of pins to drop.

“Enjoying the twist?”

It wasn’t until Amelia heard that sandpaper-rough voice that she realized she’d been holding her breath. Fear had crept back so fast, Amelia gritted her teeth. If there was one thing Amelia loathed more than hearing about synergy, it was feeling afraid.

“You are no Shyamalan.” Amelia said, although uncertain to whom.

“You are mean-spirited.”

The blindfold slid off by its own volition. One mean, anorexic octogenarian floated above a bouquet of extended arms and barrels. She smoked from a cigarette holder. Smoke coiled, all white, as her hair, as her robes, as her eyes, swallowed in milky white.

“Who are you?”

“I am nameless.” She spun the smoke from her mouth into her bony fingers. “You left my people hungry.”

“You cursed me.”

“You begged to be cursed. Don’t worry. You will atone. I see that my child’s curse couldn’t beget change in your heart.” The movements of her fingers sped and the smoke thickened to white fabric.

“You don’t fear for your life. You don’t fear to be alone. You live, but you’re very much dead inside. I do wonder, however, if you would not live for others.”

The octogenarian finished and tossed a tacky Madonna-inspired leotard in Amelia’s lap. Then she reached inside her sleeves and tossed a cheerleader baton on top.

“Dressed as a stripper?” To Amelia that didn’t make sense.

“You are quick to smear everything with the dirt of your words. You will learn otherwise. The wand is your weapon. Will it and it shall be.”

“What do I need a weapon for?”

If Amelia thought the octogenarian gypsy a nutjob, suspended with cables, now she feared (as much as she hated admitting it) her to be the real deal.

“For them, superhero.” Yes, the witch said superhero...

Then the gypsy pointed below at the loaded guns.

“A word of advice. The wand will only work, when you are dressed.”

And with that the godly octogenarian dissolved, time rushed back, trigger fingers squeezed in for the head shot and for the first time, Amelia had to defend herself.

Such shame that she had to do it dressed in a leotard. Not to mention that she had the worst origin story ever.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Angela Slatter on The Happily Never

I thought of writing something writing related, but honestly, this Angela Slatter blew me away with this very in-depth piece [it's a thesis after all] on The Chosen Girl in the fairy tale tradition. It's all very fitting considering the fairy tale wave I'm riding. Here is Angela's introduction:

The Chosen Girl
At the end of the fairytale, at the happily-ever-after end, there is invariably one girl left standing. She has come through a variety of trials set for her by fate and has triumphed by winning the heart of the prince. More often than not, she has won the competition to be chosen. She will generally have been one of a pair : a pair of sisters (full or step), the mother-daughter pair (again, full or step), aunt-niece, childhood friends, etcetera. Inevitably, there is a future up for grabs and, if we take the wisdom of Highlander to heart, in the end there can be only one. So, who is – what is – the ‘chosen girl’ and how does one become her?

For the whole piece: HERE

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Jane Candia Coleman on Writing and Music [via Booklife]

Yesterday I spoke about my experiences with basing prose on songs. Today, while finally daring to crack open my Google Reader after two weeks of neglect, I discovered a short piece on Booklife. The author, Jane Candia Coleman, draws parallels between music and writing as medium and she comes to some interesting conclusions. I have quoted one here:

Third. Timing. In any extended musical composition timing is critical. There is a time to be serious, a time for fun, a time for crescendo, and an understanding of how to approach and do closure. By which I mean how everything is wrapped up, themes, plot, character, mathematics, as in Bach, who did it so perfectly, and in writing where we must all do the same thing and leave not only an echo of what might have been but a sense of satisfaction that everything is wrapped up right and tight.

No one can argue against this. At least in my opinion.

To read the whole article click [HERE]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Basing Prose on Songs, My Observations

As you know, I've been writing short stories based on songs and since I've already written a few posts on character development and their creative history, I decided to write a post on basing prose on music and lyrics. I've only written three pieces [well four, if I include the one, which became a blueprint for a brand new world] in between longer projects, which is far from qualifying me as an expert, but I've made some interesting observations. I'd like to share them and see, if you agree with me.

It's obvious, but the actual music [instruments, sound, composition] sets the mood and hints towards the genre and possibly the type of story that will be told. A lot of my writer friends use soundtracks [without lyrics] to help with their stories. Sad strings for intense emotions such as heartbreak, death, abandonment. Horns and big orchestra pieces for epic scenes and electric guitars for hard-core, gritty action.

Music is potent when it comes to the fine tuning of the heart and then conveying emotions on paper. It acts like a lens, a natural amplifier. What a writer should do is trust the music to find the right direction for how to adapt a song into a story. The lyrics are guidelines and not law. Ultimately, the sound should decide whether you'll write a joyful tale or one filled with sorrow. Words lie, sounds never do. For instance, I tried to fit 'Hurricane Drunk' [my crazy Dororthy/Baba Yaga mash-up] into a story about betrayal and a love triangle during a ball. On its own, this is not a bad idea [for the record, it was a supernatural ball], but in the context of the composition it didn't work. Why? Because the song is rather primal in its self-expression, while the ball is rather restraint.

Another observation that I've made is that a writer should choose a song that tells a story. It may seem easy, but it's actually very rare these days [unless you listen to country music or gothic], because current mainstream music worships choruses played on a constant loop for about 70% of the actual single. What is even worse is that the chorus itself is the repetition of one word or a short phrase. In this regard, I'm lucky, because I've chosen 'Florence + the Machine', whose album can be viewed as an anthology. For instance, 'Drumming' is about love so passionate that whatever the lyrical heroine tries is futile and she does try. 'Howl' is about love transforms its recipient into a primal monster. Definitely story material.

Music in My Soul by Qinni [I needed something fantasy related]

One final observation. Lyrics are not the plot. Following a song verse by verse a story does not make. It's limiting. What may work for the purposes of the song will most likely be of no use when dealing with prose. I think that art is born, when you take something that works best for your needs and then modify it to suit your taste and satisfy your desire. Anything great is born, because people wanted something that they like, but that hasn't been done yet. At least such is my logic about making art your own. Otherwise, we'd all be stagnant.

Anyway, the things I experienced from basing short stories on songs is that the obvious isn't always the best route to get the job done. It's not easy as you might and there are subtleties once you get your hands dirty as they say.

So tell me, have you based your work on short stories? If yes, what has your experience been? Do you agree or disagree? If no, are you willing to try?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

[Sunday Funnies] Zombie Octopus, Office Wars, Panda is an Asshole

I have not done anything remotely productive [okay, I will be lying if I say that I didn't, but the theme was fun, fun, fun today], so I decided to treat you to a funny picture and videos. Spreading the cheer and what not. First stop is Zombie Octopus:

Then we have the pretty intense Office Wars, which is the result of working in a cubical for the majority of your life. The reason why so many people 'die' is hilarious:

Last, but not least, I have a very interesting commercial, which uses fear and douchebaggery as leading marketing tools. Also, it seems that pandas ARE assholes. See for yourself:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

[Character Development] Baba Yaga/Wicked Witch of the East

While I've completed "Hurricane Drunk", the darkest and moodiest piece I've ever written, I am still in the throws of creative passion [after edits are due now that the computer is back online]. This is why I'll post the creative history of my witch, the main antagonist and evil beyond salvation, though to be honest she does display affection in the cruelest and sickest of way so as to not give the readers a cardboard representation of EVIL.

In the seed that spawned "Hurricane Drunk" in its dark, gruesome glory, there was no other character. My 'Dorothy' was alone and stuck in a house, which was forever trapped in the arms of a magic hurricane. Eh, so at random I decided to insert random images in the house to see what may happen [I was bored, in class and that story was not even a priority]. What I initially inserted was a witch like this:

"Riding High" by Gil Elvgren

NOT exactly as sexually charged, but I wanted a beautiful witch, who could seduce and at the same time appear wholesome [kinda like the Girl Next Door of Witchcraft]. Of course, I imagined the witch seduce a man in front of my Dorothy. For the witch, the man is nothing more than spell ingredients and the other white meat, to young Ukrainian-Dorothy it's one of her first associations with the word family.

Cannibalism came later. The witch, at that particular moment, seemed good. She lived a life that spelled mystery, but still I could give her motivation or something worth writing about. I do not write good people, so I resorted to creating an evil witch.

Since I had created a version of Dorothy, I felt that I could borrow a bit more and write an incarnation of the Wicked Witch of the East, because of those ruby red slippers. I only took the slippers and did not bother much with the actual character, for I had no idea what role in the Oz universe she played and how I could twist it [which is why I don't have an image of her] in my favor. So, I had an evil witch. This is better, because now she'd have to keep all her horrifying doings secret. Fertile for tension, but still nothing in mind. How did Dorothy get to the witch, etc, etc.

Parallel this brewing process, I was inspired by Theresa Bazelli's work on her novella, Two Sisters, which is currently serialized at Serial Central. She decided to go obscure and used myths and legends from Slavic folklore [my folklore], which made me look at my stories [all oozing Ancient Greek vibes] and crave to involve a Slavic figure in my stories.

Wham, the two ideas merged and my sexy witch, semi-involved Wicked Witch of the East morphed along with Baba Yaga the most notorious witch in my folklore. Like witches from old stories like Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga enjoys kidnapping children and doom pretty much everyone else:

"Baba Yaga" by Markus The Barbarian

But I am sure there is a story behind this one:

"Baba Yaga" by Waldemar-Kazak

Subsequently, Dorothy's cottage became Baba Yaga's Hut with big chicken legs, while the story became a coming-of-age discovery of evil and accepting the wickedness inside.

"Baba Yaga's Hut" by Yoitisl