Wednesday, August 24, 2011

[August 24th] Weird Tales' sudden change of editors

I'm very distraught at the news that Weird Tales has been sold and its staff fired. As I learn from The World SF Blog, a writer named Marvin Kaye has bought it in order to edit it himself. Details on the purchase are scarce and are competently summarized in the link I've provided. I find this very hard to swallow.

One of my goals as a writer was to have a short story accepted by Weird Tales under VanderMeer as an editor. Now that won't happen. I also lament the loss of the all female staff, which managed, in my honest opinion, to bring a state of Reconnaissance to the magazine. I can't say what will happen with the magazine now. I do hope it maintains popularity and credibility, but I am distraught that such an exciting and innovative era has come to an end.

Here is Ann's farewell letter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

[August 23rd] The Mall by S.L. Grey

As I prepare for my interview with writer duo S.L. Grey, I'll leave you guys to watch the trailer of their book "The Mall," which is a refreshing take on horror.

It doesn't just scare, it disturbs and leaves you in unease through most of the time. Enjoy:

Monday, August 22, 2011

[August 22nd] Sex, Anime and YA at random

This one is called "The Crying Tree"

I've been thinking about various topics to discuss in a blog post and also, I've been having random thoughts that can't exactly manifest into full fledged posts. So I'm stitching them together.

1] I'm tired of sex being ignored in fiction as an important pillar in a character's growth and arc. I see sex either tag along with ('naughtier') romance novels, where it acquires a sweet, sweet aura as 'making love' or I see sex turned into a weapon, either as manipulation or as violence. It's why most villainesses are portrayed as depraved or highly sexual. Poison Ivy, anyone? Catwoman certainly appears on a lot more pinup style art than say Wonder Woman? Why? Cause she is a bad girl, both from a legal and moral standpoint. When sex takes on a more important role in a work, the work itself is deemed as less important, because sex equals porn equals mindless fornication equals no place for a good story.

2] Japan needs to stop with the superhero crossovers they have picked up. Iron Man flat lined in a sense that Japan simply can't peg down his vices in a way that makes Tony Stark himself. Not to mention that the X-Men overhaul is appalling. While the Scott/Jean post-Dark Phoenix drama fits the Japanese storytelling method in anime, Emma Frost does not cry. Her name is Frost for a reason, you know. Composure. Yet, all the female characters are reduced to crying and panicky weaklings. Not to mention the breasts. I do not like the swollen flesh balloons and I do not like the closeups of them jiggling.

3] At the same time, I have to compliment Japan on giving the world "Ergo Proxy" and "Dead Man Wonderland". Though a bit typical for Japan as a story type, both follow a wonderful art direction, which more or less for my 'oh shiny' syndrome is a big plus.

4] Is YA a genre? From my comments on my Saturday post, it was mentioned that YA is an age classification, but more or less it has become a label and the term YA now creates certain assumptions and expectations, much like how Epic Fantasy makes the reader expect a multi-factional war. I feel the same way, when I hear adult fiction. I instantly think of sex and violence with a dose of reckless decadence.

5] I watched "Hanna" and was impressed. Just WOAH. It made me think of being a voyeour in a musical video game reality.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

[August 20th] YA Fiction is Female Territory, No Boys Allowed

I've been minding my own business on Twitter, when the @booksmugglers tweeted a link leading to a NY Times article, which in short complains that there are no books for boys and that YA books target a predominant female audience. You can see from the opening paragraph that you're about enter a bizarre world:

"At an American Library Association conference in 2007, HarperCollins dressed five of its male young adult authors in blue baseball jerseys with our names on the back and sent us up to bat in a panel entitled “In the Clubhouse.” We were meant to demystify to the overwhelmingly female audience the testosterone code that would get teenage boys reading. Whereas boys used to lag behind girls in reading in the early grades, statistics show, they soon caught up. Not anymore."

The author, Robert Lypsite, tries to convince the readers of his article that boys don't read because all modern YA fiction is geared towards girls. I think what Mister Lypsite is trying to say is that most popular and marketed YA novels that are spoken of are somewhat female centric. The Twilight boom has definitely boosted the profile of this particular YA genre. Is that a bad thing for boys and their literacy? Not necessarily.

For one, I as a boy always tried to read books written for adults. Can I say that based on my own experience I can judge for other boys? Probably not, especially not for American youth, when in fact I live elsewhere, but from my experience boys that do read, have been reading books with a very adult content, which was not especially targeted for them. Again, this may have a reasonable explanation in my country's case as we survive on the translated works from other countries, with our own national literary scene decomposing somewhere.

I think that boys read, but they may not read what Mister Lypsite is selling at the moment. As with all genres there are trends, certain genres and certain audiences rise to prominence, but that does not mean that there isn't anything else out there for other target audiences. It's just not in plain sight, which I think is far from the dramatic question Lypsite poses in his title "Is there any hope?"

Furthermore, I take gripe with the fact that most of his statements read like fabrications without any solid examples. Who said that editors "ask writers of books for boys to include girl characters — for commercial reasons —" and why would that "further blunt the edges"? I'm not a fan of the reasoning that a girl in fiction acts as a kryptonite for masculinity. And then of course comes the mandatory bash-speculative-fiction with "supernatural space-and-sword epics that read like video game manuals and sports novels with preachy moral messages — often seem like cynical appeals to the lowest common denominator".

Right, so the issue that Lypsite has is that boys are reading, but not what he's selling. Though I may be a bit biased by now, cause he certainly bashed speculative fiction. The whole article he wrote supports the theory that boys are interested in different readings such as nonfiction and that modern themes such as "disease, divorce, death and dysfunction" test better with girls. And I'm certain that should boys shift their interest in massive numbers to a genre, the industry will definitely pick it up and alter accordingly.

Plus, I think that the majority of boys are reading speculative fiction at the moment, but the one aimed at adults [though I am just stating this as a fact I have no data to back it].

SO, is there any hope for us poor, boys?

Friday, August 19, 2011

[August 19th] There is a difference from bird of prey to bird of prey

Two days ago I finished reading Birds of Prey, volume 2. I'm a huge fan of Gail Simone and this is the sole DC series, I was able to follow without having to read multiple others. The first volume, which ran from 1999 to 2009 turned into my all time favorite series. The reason: an almost all female ensemble cast from the brawn to the brains to the designated driver. I love female super heroes and it has little to do with pubescent male wish fulfillment, but more with the strong ties in my childhood, when I was exposed to the Magic Girl anime sub-genre.

Since those days a woman in a costume fighting crime/evil supernatural menaces strikes a very deep, creative cord in me. Birds of Prey came to me as a refreshment in a testosterone filled spandex universe and fully embraced the concept of a female warrior. It works. The first volume under Simone did and the second volume under Simone did. Whenever the series was written by a man, it kinda did click with me much. Not say that men can't write female characters. Paul Dini did a fantastic job with Gotham City Sirens, although that title felt more sexual and naughty.

Now, with the DC Universe reboot or relaunch or whatever they are calling it these days, a writer other than Simone will be heading the series. I'm not familiar with Duane Swierczynski's work, but he sure ain't no Gail Simone. The worst offense the people at DC did was mess with the cardinal cast:

Oracle will no longer be Oracle, but a very mobile Batgirl. I'm not sure whether the series will survive without Oracle, because it was because of Oracle's mind games that each issue blew me away. The intricate cat and mouse games, the deception and infiltration and double crossing. Without Barbara Gordon as the mastermind behind this operation, the Birds of Prey will be just like any other superhero team. And that is sad.

There will be no Huntress, no Zinda... Only the Black Canary, who also got a costume redesign I'd not wish on my worst enemy. Can any one recognize Dinah? I sure, almost, couldn't. Then we have Katana, whom I care for none. A new character, who may be of some interest and then Poison Ivy. Poison Ivy suffers again from a superhero fashion faux pax, but I think that the change from a villain to a semi-hero would be interesting to see. Almost like a mirror version of what Huntress was, a hero tip toeing to the dark side from time to time.

Either way, it's a shame that the guys at DC didn't at the very least keep artist Stanley Lau, who produced all the beautiful covers for volume two:

Will I love volume three? Possibly not... The very least I can give it a chance and see whether Ivy might not make it bearable.

I'm back on the editing train. I'm two days behind and by the looks of it, I will possibly miss my deadline. I've finished the chapters I'm happy with and will now write brand new ones, inserting the very menacing agent Thater. Ouch.

Project: Crimson Cacophony
Chapters Edited: 20
Words total: 37,303/90,000 (with 30,000 to add)
Chapters left: 16 (supposedly)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

[August 18th] First Sale: What does it mean?

I'm going for a simplistic piece. I'm a writer. It's me and the words.

Last Saturday, I’ve hit a milestone in my path [‘career’ sounds too presumptuous at this point] as a writer. My dark fantasy short story “Hurricane Drunk” has been accepted by the editor of Arcane Magazine for their second issue. Writing these words still feels a bit weird. I’m used to the rejection routine; send a short story and receive a rejection.

I literally had to reread the acceptance email to understand that I’ve done it. I’ve sold a story. To a magazine [awesome one at that]. A paying venue. It’s a simple thing that has happened. Someone said yes [though not just anybody, I always aim high]. Yet, this ‘yes’ resulted in a complicated emotional response. At first I roared [though in reality I probably sounded like a squeaking rodent, which found cheese heaven], I felt as though I have conquered the world. It still does.

Publication. One word and a thousand victories attached to it. It’s saying, ‘yes, I’ve been paid to have my short story appear in venue X,’ to the people, who ask ‘have you sold anything’ and try to belittle your craft. It’s receiving appreciation. It’s verification that you can do it. It’s the hope that this is just the beginning and that if you invest further, you may reap more. For me publication has an additional meaning.

It means that I’ve crossed the language barrier. It means that I get to slay my greatest fear in the face. Writing in itself is hard. Crafting stories in any language challenges the mind and has no exact regulations other than the obvious grammatical ones. Writing in a language that isn’t yours raises the bar and makes it ‘nigh impossible’ to an artistic soul with a paranoia [*clears throat*].

All the rejections I’ve received whispered to me ‘the editors can sense that you are slipping on a skin that is not yours; they can tell; they know and they will not have none of that.’ I don’t live in an English speaking community. I have no sense of how the language is spoken on a day to day basis. I’m not immersed in the cultural undercurrent connected to the language. How am I supposed to recreate the authenticity of the language, if I’m not exposed to it? This is the question, which burrowed between the lines of every paragraph I wrote.

I understand that I’m fretting over technicalities, but a story can’t live on a ramshackled stage. It doesn’t work, when the writing itself ejects you from what’s going on the page. This first sale proves that all my love for the English language comes across in my sentence structures and word choices and equates me to other writers at least on a technical level [bearing in mind that every writer has his/her unique voice].

What the first sale isn’t, is a law that states that from now everything will be fine and dandy. As people say, it’s easy to get published. It’s hard to stay published. The first sale is a promise of what may happen. Whether it does happen or not depends on the individual. Needless to say, I’ll work towards establishing my name in a niche. It seems possible, now that all doubts and fears are slumbering in their cave.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

[August 10th] Ahead of Schedule

This week's piece comes from Dan Duncan & I chose it because I wish I had the ability to go back in time and not waste it. Yes, I procrastinated profusely... Does a person go to hell for that?

I surprised myself by being ahead of schedule [hence the wonderfully imaginative title of today's post] and have gone over the chapter quota I wanted. Instead of resting my ass on chapter 10, I've completed edits on the next two chapters as well. I'm in love with how I've set things up so far. I've even divided the book in two parts and one prelude. The only issue so far is the fact that the usual garden variety Urban Fantasy [along with a lot other speculative fiction genres] runs a minimum of 90K and I have 61K novel.

While I do predict 10K increase, where I have slacked off in the last chapters, I still need 19K more. Theresa Bazelli, my alpha, suggested more interrogations and a brand new character and what do you know, my subconscious is actually excited to include a new character in the novel. I even know who that will be. *itch itch itch*

Project: Crimson Cacophony
Chapters Edited: 12
Words total: 18,129/90,000 (with 30,000 to add)
Chapters left: 24 (supposedly)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

[August 9th] Final Stage Revisions Entered

The title of this piece is "Imagine" & I'm imagining finishing something properly.

As anticlamtic as the blog has been, I for one can say that I have been doing work on “Crimson Cacophony”. I’ve finished with the preliminary reading, assembled all the plot lines in a chart and am able to throw in notes in the table as to what I have to fix in order to connect each chapter with the next.

I can’t honestly say that this feels entirely organic, in the sense that I have to answer questions that I have left in my own writing, like how the hell is my character feeling confident in her abilities, when each and every success she achieves has someone else’s involvement as foundation. The whole novel is a careful balancing act between the depression she feels knowing that she is marionette with very promiscuous strings and the delusional hope that she can obtain the power [magical or otherwise] of the imaginary super ego she has created for herself.

I can’t say that this in particular is plot as the struggle is internal and represents the themes of identity and control, which I’m fascinated with for this particular project. Nevertheless, this constant swinging motion from one state to the next should go uninterrupted throughout the duration of the whole novel, while everything else happens.

On another note, I’m not entirely happy at how I’ve rushed the last third of the novel. If you read my manuscript you will see three distinct phases. “I’m so in love with this project” which runs its course in the first ten to thirteen chapters, where everything is written to the fullest and a balance between show and tell has been achieved. Then comes “Eh, I’m kinda not interested, plus this is the middle and I have no clue what happens” with chapters that are okayish, but mumble events, glossing over the details. AND then it all crashes and burns with “Can I get this over with” with chapters as intelligible as monkey dribble on banana peels.

So far I’ve passed seven chapters. So that leaves 29 more to go and 30 K more to add to the flesh and bones that I leave in my ending. Suddenly, I’m not very optimistic that an end of August deadlines is possible.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

[August 4th] Back to the Editing Board

"My, my, my, how dusty you are, Miss Typewriter!"

With July slaughtered and rotting in my basement, where authorities will never think to look, I now have free reign to kick ass during August. As I pass through my August rebirth, I have decided that now is the time to add some homemade deadlines to the mix. Which brings me back to “Crimson Cacophony,” which lays one editing away from being ready to sent to my beta readers.

My stance on editing varies. Sometimes I love the power to remodel a story, seeing it grow stronger. In the cases I don’t know quite what the story needs, I despise editing and revising. More often than not, I dislike it. Why? First, I always seek the thrill of the new. New worlds, new magic, new fucked up characters. I’m a follower of the Shiny. Second, I have a terrible long term memory. I will write up half a novel and then forget what I wrote in the beginning, which is the primary reason why most of my novels collapse in on themselves.

The creation of a coherent plot demands me dashing to and fro between chapters like rocket propelled pendulum, which is nigh intolerable as I hate treading on the same idea, same piece of writing, same moments. Déjà vu and I are not besties. Considering that last time I edited “Crimson Cacophony” I had to pretty much make sure that the book I wrote doesn’t read like a psycho off his meds, I didn’t look forward to spending more time editing.

Yet, here I am, digital red in my mouse-wielding hand, and ready for action. This time it’s a very different sensation. I think that according to Chuck Wendig’s cake analogy I should be entering the glazing phase; what I mean is that I know the novel [a feat with my inability to even remember my cell number] and I know what it needs [apart from a publishing deal]. It needs fine tuning to the beginning and middle, then expansion of the ending, which I have rushed a lot.

Fort the particular purpose of keeping all the subplots in check, not that there are that many, but I want to ensure that consistency is maintained at all times, I’ve finally charted an Excel table to see which chapter deals with which subplots. The act of rereading each chapter and then dissecting and arranging the bits in the correct cells, give me ideas of how to weld each chapter to the following. I know that charting chapters in Excel tables is what occurs during plotting, but I’m not a plotter. I can only plot when I have a misshapen thing of a novel, with moments of awesome, which have to be stitched together. I’m almost halfway through this reading and charting. My deadline is August 10.

Then from August 11th until August 31st I will apply all the necessary changes and stretch out the ending chapters. Can it be done? Why yes, I’ve seen people complete two thirds of a book in that time. I’m positive that dealing a final editing can be achieved for that time period.

So what are your plans for August?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

[August 3rd] Knighst of Badassdome

I've learned a hard lesson, never ever to trust cinematic trailers. Don't you think they are a siren song, which lures cash out of your pocket, but then turn into a swan song for the movie, once you watch it... on the big screen... especially if it's in 3D.

Yet, I can't ignore Summer Glau, Peter Dinklage and Ryan Kwanten. That's having some bits and pieces from Dollhouse, Game of Thrones and True Blood in one movie. The premise for "Knights of Badassdom" is ridiculous for a B-movie, enough to be a fun and mindless flick:

Do you think it will manage to entertain? And don't you think that there is a rather interesting trend in movies to focus on LARP? Not that every movie has a focus on LARPers, but the movie industry is definitely sinking their teeth into this section of geek culture.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

[August, 2nd] In which July sucked

I’m going to have yet another of those whiny posts, sharing just what I have been up to this July. I owe nothing but full transparency of my actions, trials and tribulations, which have so heartlessly prevented me from exercising my constitutional rights to forsake my real time life in the pursuit of online happiness.

In this moment of time, had I been a character I’d be the fat old lady in a corset, whose always a bit tipsy, always a bit swaying to either side and not always with her full set of marbles. She would be prone to sighing and drawing dramatic gestures with her fan. Yes, I am in fact the 18th century version of your drunken grandma. Deal with it.

July spared no mercy. I braved through the obligatory 48 hour summer flu, which whacked me senseless during the weekend. Then I spent two weeks getting fillings at the dentist, which meant sleepless nights due to the aching tooth. In those days, you learn that painkillers can and are willing to be your bestest friends in the whole wide world. Summer also meant crazy times at the office.

Despite all that, I’m quite happy. I fulfilled my beta reading duties for Theresa Bazelli, half of them anyways. In between that, I crammed in some reading, though for that I’ll present a very detailed report later on. Surprise, surprise I started final revisions on “Crimson Cacophony”, you know that novel I started in 2008 and kinda avoided to revise and edit.

August abounds with promise. Let’s just I don’t screw things up.

So what are your plans for August?