Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Relaxation

As I was ranting about last Friday, my math class (for which I signed up, so I technically have no business complaining) hasn't left me much energy for creative work. But today, there was an exam so I got to leave early and I didn't have to take the bus home, and so I spent the day rereading the first Harry Potter book (best possible birthday present for a 7-year-old). I was going to read the first two chapters of Perks of Being a Wallflower (for school summer reading), but then I got bored, so I took a catnap instead.

By now I'm probably boring you as well, but it seems to me a small miracle that I did this. Though my class is only two hours long (and, as I said, my idea to take in the first place) the loss of my mornings is doing bad things to my creative output. I'm glad that I'm managing to reclaim any time at all for myself and my art.

It reminds me of the most recent post at Theodora Goss' blog called Writing Despite it All (that's the name of the post, not the blog). In the post, she writes about how you have to insist on the importance of your writing and you can't just find time for it, you have to make time. I haven't quite reached this point, but I swear I'll start.

I haven't worked on my first-in-years longhand story in a while, since I haven't been going on walks and that's where I'm writing it (not that I could today anyways, it was raining the whole day), but while waiting to get picked up in the library I started writing another story about a guy who gets caught in between some powerful/inhuman beings...I probably won't fully develop it because it lends itself to politics, but it was fun nevertheless. And even if I don't know what I'm doing, at least I'm writing, right?

So this post has become kind of rambly, but that's the point I discovered today: that despite my busier schedule, it's still summer, and I still have time to do a whole lotta nothing.

Agh, I can't leave it like that. Have a scan of a WIP: [link].

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monstrosity

Again and again.

Vin smashed his fists against the man’s face. One-two, one-two. The pro boxers training to be thugs at Besen would have laughed at his technique, but they could not begrudge the results.

Two teeth, looking sad and small on the ground. Vin’s opponent – though perhaps that was giving him too much credit, he wasn’t giving nearly as much as he was getting – turned and spat and a fount of blood sprayed from where his remaining teeth had cut against his tongue and the insides of his cheek.

The man staggered back a few steps and looked up, perhaps hopeful that Vin had finished with him. But no – Vin had only let him retreat so that he was at the right distance for him to draw back his foot and kick him in the pit of his stomach. He crumpled to the ground.

Vin smiled. It felt odd on his face, as he never smiled, but this was different. This was a fight. Of course he would smile.

Now for the fun part.

He walked – sauntered, more like, sauntered like one of those goddamn flyboys who liked to prank people by stealing their hats and hanging them on the top tower – over to where the other guy lay in a heap. With each footstep he flinched, and when Vin’s shadow fell over him he whimpered and held up his hands.

Before he could beg for mercy – oh, how Vin hated when they did that – Vin’s hand darted down and clamped over the top of his head. He squeaked, and then started a low murmuring prayer.

Vin ignored him. He was drifting, drifting from the cool clear place of his mind in which he resided during physical fights, drifting to the dark corners. His worst memories flicked by him – the families of those boys he’d driven insane throwing rocks at him, the signs outside the courtroom declaring that monsters must be put to death even if they are eight years old, the sight of his arm very nearly detached from his shoulder, the fear in Andreas’ eyes as he turned from the gibbering sobbing robbers.

Then his nightmares: a rabid dog lunging at him, and the owner laughing; the pit of leeches; the bear chasing him through candy stores; the endless falling as a heavy crossbow bolt shot him out of the sky. Subtler ones, too, but just as terrifying for all that: drowning because the ocean did not love him anymore; Mrs. Phaedra Kale closing the door in his face with a look of purest hatred; his cat running from him because he smelled like blood; the lava of the Arcimen Volcano burning away not his sins and fears but his flesh.

And farther. He was shuddering with the catharsis of unloading the very worst of his mind into someone else, and he could not stop. Now he came upon the deep-seated soul-fears, of death and of being forgotten and of being capable of the worst things. He was lying in a coffin, his name had faded from the gravestone, he was alive but he was holding a knife to the throat of the person who had been the kindest to him.

This last image shook him so much that he was jarred right out of his own mind. As his head cleared, he took in his surroundings: he was still standing over the poor man who’d been pitted against him, but rather than praying the man was screaming.

“NO I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m SORRY please stop GET OUT OF MY HEAD –”

Vin was breathing hard. He’d gone too far that time, had fallen into the things that made him wake up in a cold sweat. Because he knew that he would die and be forgotten, and when he was feeling as he did right now, running high with the thrill of a fight, he could do anything. If he could drive some guy he’d never met before, had nothing against, right to the brink of insanity, then why couldn’t he do something less to someone he actually liked?

I’m a monster, Vin reminded himself. I can’t trust me.

Even now, as he stood watching his opponent’s screaming taper off to short wheezing gasps, Vin could not help but admire his handiwork. The bruises would last for weeks; he’d have to get replacement teeth; he would not sleep well for months. I did this, thought Vin, not with remorse but with pride.

The moderators of the fighting tournament descended now, having determined that Vin had been victorious. Medics carried away the other man and Vin was left to find his way back to his quarters.

As he did so, a reporter rushed to greet him. “Mr. Mind Butcher,” he said, voice as oily as his hair, “what was it like to be back in the fighting ring? Were you nervous? How did you feel?”

No better than a buzzard.  Vin looked directly at the reporter, let the man see some of the monster that prowled around in his soul.

The reporter gulped, but repeated his last question. “How did you feel?”

The fight-high still buzzing in his head made him less irritable, perhaps, than usual. Vin told the man the truth. 

“Alive.”

--

Written a couple of weeks ago (when I was angry).

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mutually Exclusive

T/F: Math and creativity cannot get along.

Hm.

Please be false.

--

I like math.

As in, really like it. So much so that when asked my favorite/best subject, I say math without hesitation. Numbers make sense to me. They're friendly, and reliable.

Simplifying expressions is like honing a sentence to the fewest possible words. Discovering mental math shortcuts is like figuring out the perfect way to phrase a description. A reduced equation is matched in elegance only by a well-crafted line of verse. I'm taking a summer math class (to make up for my evil/slow middle school, but that's another story altogether) and it is fun.

But I also swoon at the sight of full bookshelves, and picking up a pencil to scribble off some madcap idea brings me just as much happiness as picking up a pencil to strike out a variable that appears on both sides of the equal sign. Catch me reading a good enough book and it's like I'm comatose.

Both these make me happy. So why is it so difficult to transition between the two?

I could make some unfounded statement about how math and creativity are controlled by different hemispheres of the brain and neurons are lazy and go on strike like Frenchmen, but I don't want explanations, much less excuses.

It just irritates me that these two things that I enjoy so much cannot get along.

I've been trying to find a way to prove, conclusively, that math and creativity are not incompatible (ew, proofs. Well, if creativity has a black sheep - *cough*randompaintsplatters=/=art*cough* - math must have one too).

They're both about finding the variable -

no. Some things are meant to be left mysterious.

(Well, i am is an imaginary number.)

Two sides must be balanced -

no. Too much balance is boring in creative works. Something needs to be slightly -off- in order to be really interesting.

Themes-

can you find some philosophical meaning in y = mx + b?

/Now I'm going to try.

There's a beginning, middle, and end -

booo. Middle means showing work.

A challenge -

no. Wait. Yes. Yes! Kinda. Aren't both about working through the process and finding new techniques and such? But what do you get at the end? An answer. A story. A - a something.

Argh. Sorry about this rather rambly post, but this has been bothering me for the past couple of days. Sort of silly, I know, but...aaagh, I can't help it.

To reward whoever had the patience to read through that, have a snippet of something I've been working on:

Several times, he found his way to the ocean. And that’s when he discovered more about himself: that he couldn’t drown, that sharks may look impressive but it’s impossible to befriend something with such an alien mind, and that faced with the looming immenseness of the sea, he was nothing. The unending darkness stretching into infinity always made him feel hollowed-out, as transparent as the tiniest sea jelly, and no more important.

He didn’t know whether he loved the feeling or hated it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sidereal

Let's go stargazing, shall we?

Running up a hill in the night
The moon a baleful blind eye
The grass itching through our shirts
As we lay back on the ground
The sky was unfurled above us
Black as your pupils but nowhere as deep
Don't you know how amazing you are?
Don't you know your smile is a comet?
It's rare and it's beautiful
I'm watching a universe being born in your eyes
When I'm near you I can reach the firmament
You are more celestial than the moon
I have no need of the blackness above us
Because you are my sky.
(You are everything)

Let's go stargazing, shall we?

--

From S to L. He's in loooooove.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Links

Thought I'd share some links I've accumulated over the past...er...month.

First one was found through another writing blog (Terri Windling's?).  It's a piece by Holly Black about "aspirational thinking". I've been wanting to do this too - change my writing habits inorganically, that is. I've already started to write longhand more.

Old books.  Who can resist them?

Weird customers.  Some of these are really strange.

Austin Kleon's "How to Steal Like an Artist (and 9 Other Things Nobody Told Me)" has made the rounds of the blogosphere already, but recently I revisited his site and found links to other articles of his that are really cool.  I especially like the pictures he shows of his logbook, and am trying this out for myself.

Patricia C. Wrede is one of my favorite authors ever. Earlier this month she had a post about characters with useful information.

This is an older post from Terri Windling's blog about influence. Specifically, when you have to stop taking in the influence of others and go your own way.

Theodora Goss' posts are always worth reading. She recently had one about the messes. If you scroll down to the comments, you may see a familiar name... ;)

Good luck for the week, everyone.  I might be pulling out some old poetry later on, you never know.

Friday, June 17, 2011

L'Estate Non Mi Passera': In Other Words, Go Forth and Live

Blessings in disguise: limited internet access version.

A few things I got done that I usually wouldn't:
  1. I read a lot of books. 
  2. I started a piece of artwork.
  3. I finished it the next day.
  4. I played with my cat. 
  5. I looked around my room. (Strange how I never really seem to see it.)
  6. I realized how boring it was.
  7. I put up some decoration. (Let the walls live.)
  8. I went on long walks.
  9. On those walks, I worked on a story longhand.
  10. I realized that no matter how far the interwebz reach, you're going to miss a lot of stuff if you're living from behind a little screen.
Like the laughter of little kids playing in the park.

Like the bloodied feet that come from not-quite-broken-in shoes.

Like the smell and sight of flowers growing in unruly heaps along the fence behind the baseball field, just as lovely as any carefully staged macro shot from Tumblr.

Like the cool stone of the shaded table.

Like the air that seems too rich and beautiful to be anything but gold.

Like summer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Writing Tools

...that I have found supremely useful.

Books

-Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference (Terry Brooks)
-Characters and Viewpoint (Orson Scott Card)
-Writer's Book of Wisdom: 101 Rules (Steven Taylor Goldberry)
-Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)
-Description (Monica Wood)
-books in general

Sites

General/Inspiration
-the Drawing Board, the blog of Terri Windling
-Forward Motion, Holly Lisle's site for writers (great articles)
-Patricia C. Wrede's blog (lots of good advice posts)
-Random Word Generator (plus) (good for prompts)
-Theodora Goss' website (see also blog and advice)

Names
-Behind the Name - First Names
-Behind the Name - Surnames

Worldbuilding
-Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions
-Medieval Agricultural Year
-Medieval Demographics
-Worldbuilding Workshop via Holly Lisle's site (see above) (see also her ecosystem rules)

Other

-guts :D

--

What are your favorite books/sites to help with your writing?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The World of Utopia Project, part II

Here's the second part of my promised detailed synopsis of my story Utopia Project. Part one can be found here.

Characters

I have tons and tons of characters, so only the four of the most important from each country are detailed here.

NEUTSCH CONFEDERATION

Massif

Bone Maron: a bald boy who has air NE. Is NOT Aang. Best at combat in his class. Wind NE.

Ranna “Rat” Sade: her nickname says it all. Second-best after Bone. Fire NE.

Valerie Abascal: nice. Can’t use NE for an important reason.

Anthony Fernan: does not go to school with the above three. Can make friends with anyone (and yes, that’s important). Fire NE.

Alpine Kingdom

Tom Menoir: wimp. Water NE.

Toto Menoir: older brother of the above. Not a wimp. Earth NE.

Omar Menoir: younger brother of the above two. A little bit crazy. Wind NE.

Gabriella “Gabie” Menoir: cousin of the above three. Opinionated. Very skilled fire NE.

Bayre

Madge Lobolinskaya: involved in the “Wolf Pack.” Confrontational, impulsive. She’s pretty good at wind NE but she prefers to hit.

Sheena Swiss: down-to-earth, farm girl and proud of it. Best friend of the above. Earth NE.

Jodet Sienna: skipped a few grades. Damn smart and she knows it. Not as nice as she seems. Water NE.

Derrick: doesn’t go to school with the above three. From the city. Can impress his betters. Earth NE.

SCLAVON ALLIANCE

Krven

Lieutenant Ivanka Florcax: 128 seasons old and no sign of slowing down. Tough soldier. Wind NE.

Lizard Pell: so named because his mom was sick while pregnant with him and got better after eating a lizard.  Dumb as rocks but strong. Water NE but he doesn’t use it.

Markus Pell: older brother of the above. Middle child syndrome + smartest person in his generation = alone.  Who knows, his readings may come in handy. Fire NE.

Janek Pell: older brother of the above two. Bright but not book-smart. Friendly. Wind NE.

Ulja

Radu “the Whirlwind”: one of seven elite members of the Ursa Major gang. Estranged from his family. May have a spark of honor beneath his ruthlessness. Wind NE.

Saline: insecure. Hates Terrence and is convinced that his father is corrupt. Water NE.

Terrence Chiyham: confrontational, preoccupied with honor. Hates Saline and is convinced that his father is a lazy good-for-nothing. Earth NE.

Kasimir Sarg: ringleader of a band of thieves. Friendlier than his occupation would suggest. Water NE.

Vodapa

Sashok: a little bit unhinged. Likes to hurt things. Water NE.

Silviu: skeptic. No social skills. Hates his siblings. Water NE.

Pelia: will take any opportunity to reinvent herself. Pretty voice but what she says is not-so-pretty (i.e. abusive). Water NE.

Vasilisa: kind and sweet. A born peacekeeper. Water NE.

APPALACHIA

Conflagra S.: “For SCIENCE” is a good enough reason for anything, in her opinion. All Appalachians have all NE types, but she’s absurdly proficient at all of them (additionally, she refined the wormhole technique). Too bad she might have a couple of screws loose.

Alonso S.: older brother of the above, important official. Would worry a lot more about his baby sister if he knew half of what she’s up to.

Robert Randolf: leader of the new world expedition. As such, quite bitter. Oh, and definitely not dead yet.

Myra Bell: one of the kidnappers recruited by Conflagra. Has more empathy and less crazy than most of her colleagues. Especially that Asmi Adler. -eyeroll-

--

Questions?  I'll take 'em.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The World of Utopia Project, part I

After I posted about my WIP Utopia Project, I got asked to do a more detailed synopsis. This is the first of two parts.

*Note: Please keep in mind that this story is a WIP. As I continue revising, I may change things.

Background

Even though I officially started Utopia Project in fall 2007, its roots go back much farther. The characters are based off the toys my friends and I had as children, and in 2005-2006 I’d used some of them in a truly awful manga set in the center of the earth which named its influences as Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh.

Well, at least improvement was the only option.

Two years older, I moved operations aboveground and gave my antagonists the advantage of existing unbeknownst to their victims. So the “ES forces” carved a technologically advanced civilization in the Appalachian Mountains while over in Europe, the rest of the characters busied themselves with war and survival.

Characters lost their Pokemon-inspired attacks and gained control over elements (“ES forces” all four, everyone else only one. Awwww. Well, at least half of them aren’t certifiably insane), a power known as NE in Europe and NSLP in Appalachia. I also made about a million new characters to fill gaps.

Once I got started, I made a lot of changes. For example, I decided that humans would not in fact be the only animals, and that trees would not be extinct. I also decided that Forfra, Forger, Forbel, Blood, Oil, and Water were terrible names for countries. Characters gained minds of their own. I surprised myself with how many different ways of killing people off horribly I could think of.

It was great fun.

Setting

Here’s a (really, really) quick-and-dirty map, with all place names given in Neutsch:

(Map base courtesy of clker.com.  Scribbles/key are mine.)

The war between the Neutsch Confederation and Sclavon Alliance has been going on for a while (why it started is a detail upon which I have not yet decided). Unallied countries maintain trade relations with both sides. They measure time by seasons over years.

The Neutsch Confederation is bound together by language (the language, as you could probably guess, is called Neutsch) and trade. Massif (Central), Bayre, and the Alpine Kingdom are the three most important countries in the Confederation. Living conditions are not so good and schooling is geared mostly towards preparing children for the war.

Don’t steal food in Bayre in the winter. You’ll probably get beaten to death. Don’t expect justice in Massif. You’ll be waiting a long time.

The Sclavon Alliance is comprised of three countries: Kreven (Krven, natively), Ulja, and Vodap(a).

Krev are grouped by two-to-five-clan alliances and wear alliance beads in their hair to signal their allegiance. They were once nomadic, and the southern Krev are famous for their horsemanship. What they are not famous for is their intellectual pursuits and fine arts, but it would be a mistake to write them off as primitive.

Ulja’s central government is strong. Housing units consist of around 20 people (number subject to change). Sixteen housing units share farmland and a central hub which contains a school, mill, butchershop, etc.

The government has no hand in food distribution, which has led to flourishing gangs that raid other housing structures to take their food and/or take their own cut from trade routes. One of the largest and most prolific of these is the Ursa Major gang.

Vodaps’ky are mostly water NE type. Most people see the Sea (hahaha derp derp derp) as sacred place, a source of life. Villages are called pods.

One continent over is the Federated States of Appalachia. Language: Inglish. There are 20 districts and other territories in the Midwest and Canada.

One of the most important jobs in Appalachia is that of Head Scientist. The Head Scientist has carte blanche over whatever experiments he (or, more importantly for this story, she) thinks would be useful to the community. If the experiment is a success, the Head Scientist is honored lavishly. If the experiment goes wrong…

Setup

…the Head Scientist is shamed and kicked out of the government, unless her brother is an important official who manages to wrangle for her a stifling job in the Education Commission.

This is what happened to Conflagra S., a highflier who became the youngest Head Scientist at age sixteen. For two years she worked tirelessly on an experiment that made another planet habitable. She hand-picked the team to be sent in there, including her best friend Robert Randolf, opened a “wormhole” in the air, and –

And nothing. The wormhole collapsed and the entire team was lost in an unfamiliar world.

They are presumed dead.

Disgraced and demoted, Conflagra is not about to give up her plan. But this time she’s going about her business illicitly, with a group of the best and brightest from the Capital’s schools. They’ve been trained well for their task: to go east across the Atlantic to what was once Europe and to kidnap possible subjects for the experiment.

But before going to the new world, these captives will have to cross the ocean. And giant sea serpents are not the only monsters they’ll face.

Part two: characters.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Featured AAAAAAAH

My story Dare (at the bottom of this post) was featured at the Neverending Story Project. Oh, man, this is exciting.

:D

-makes derpy happy faces all day long-

Here it is!

(Character/setting info for Utopia Project will be coming up soon.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Utopia Project

The majority of you guys (my readers, whom I adore) started following this blog some time after my last post about my finished novel-length story, Utopia Project. So I feel a recap is in order.

Utopia Project is set about 1,500 years in the future, in a world where civilization has already crashed a couple of times. In what used to be Europe, a war between the Neutsch Confederation and the Sclavon Alliance defines life for all who live in the region.

It is a familiar life, if difficult.  And for a handful of people - children, mostly - that life is about to be upturned.

An ocean away, in the capital of Appalachia, a dishonored genius named Conflagra has assembled a team to kidnap people from the six major countries of Europe.  Her purpose?  An illegal experiment that will send its test subjects across the ocean and, ultimately, to a new world far from anything they have ever known.


...was that too melodramatic?

--

Want to know more?

The World of Utopia Project, parts one and two.