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Writing Process Blog Hop

  • Posted on July 8, 2016 at 9:29 pm

Natasha Duncan-Drake has an interesting blog-hop going on which Chris Votey tagged me in. His most recent (and best, if I do say so myself) work, the Daygar Legacy, is an amazingly well-researched and well-written vampire romp through medieval europe. Definitely take a look. This is an interesting prompt as it is geared towards the how and why of the writing process, as individuals find it. The worst part of it, I think, is going to be finding two to three people to tag! Wish me luck!

Rules:

  1. Introduce who referred the blog tour to you
  2. Answer the following 4 questions:
    1. What am I working on?
    2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
    3. Why do I write what I do?
    4. How does my writing process work?
  3. Introduce the people you’re passing this on to (3 – 4 people if possible who will then post a week later)

Well, let’s get started.

  1. As I stated above, I was referred by Chris Votey, who runs the wonderful blog Madness of a Modern Writer. He and I met via twitter, after I finished my first ever NaNoWriMo and got full of myself, thinking I could be a professional writer! He’s become a mentor and a very good friend to me, although our politics differ quite a bit. He’s pushed me to great heights in my writing and in the way I look at the world, and I honestly adore him. Check out his books Terran Psychosis and Scraping By, if you really want a good can’t-put-this-down read!
  2. Four questions
    1. I’m working on a lot right now, but with my current creativity block, it’s all a bit on pause. But the major projects are:
      1. The Kurylian Saga, an epic fantasy series with a male poc main character who has to learn how to forgive his most hated foe when they’re forced to work together;
      2. A Greater Love, a regency-era-set asexual romance novel that takes a lot of it’s plot from tribulations from my own life.
      3. an unnamed short story set in the victorian era, which so far is a romance between a human serial killer and a rakshasa.
    2. To answer this question, i have to explain the very first actual story I ever wrote. You see, when I wrote it, there wasn’t really a genre for ‘the villain is the protagonist’. It just hadn’t been invented yet, really. So the fact that the first story I ever wrote featured an all powerful witch brought down to the power of a child and forced to relive her life so that she might learn the error of her ways means that I was already thinking ahead of the bell curve. I have always tried to be different, to understand other’s minds, to think outside of my own. So I think my work is different only in that I MAKE it different. I make it more inclusive, more daring, more open than others that I could name.
    3. The why of it is closely tied into who I am as a person. I’ve never really liked being me. Even in my earliest fantasies, my earliest daydreams, I was always someone else. So of course, when I get the chance, I’m going to make the main characters as different from myself as possible. Beyond that, however, is the fact that I’m always seeking the ways to see how others are JUST LIKE ME too. Perspective has always been a driving force in my life. Everyone has their own perspective, and I think that’s why I write what I do.
    4. My writing process is a bit hit and miss. Most of the time I start writing just before I have to go to bed. Procrastination at it’s finest. Of course, there’s a fine tradition of authors writing while laying down in bed, but I don’t usually lay down when I’m writing. I sit up, in my bed, on my computer, and open Scrivener. In scrivener, I pick up where I left off and start writing the next scene. I always do this, too, I always write linearly, despite having a program that lets me pick and choose. It makes it fit better in my head. I usually manage anywhere from 25 words to an entire 5000 in one sitting. During NaNoWriMo it can be even more.
  3. I tag Tunafax, who writes some of the most amazing fanfiction I’ve ever read! She’s writing a story right now called Witcher that makes some old fairy tales look tame. It’s a beautiful, gothic tale of wishes made and lives saved, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.
    1. Kudalyn was recommended to me by Tunafax, and she’s got an amazing repertoire of stories! Not only that, she’s adept at writing a drabble from a picture source. One of her favorite stories, Summoning Slifer, is a very nice look into a very not-human mind.
    2. Another amazing writer, Ashe, does an amazing job with description, levels even I aim to achieve. Her story The Living Daylights is amazing.
    3. And then there’s Ariasune (Alias for short) who should absolutely join us! Her work Akhet has that lovely touch of humor and tenacity that made me love Good Omens so very, very much. Definitely give her a read!
    4. And not tagged, specifically, but in a post that I took real interest in, Nana posted her writing process in EPIC detail.
    5. The person who tagged Nana made some good points in theirs as well. Empress, as she calls herself, has some lovely insights into the writerly mind.

I hope the three I’ve tagged have as much fun writing this out as I did, and will spread the love! You can read Ashe’s response to the tag here.

A Review of ‘Eat That Frog!’ by Brian Tracy

  • Posted on August 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm

In Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog!, you are given a set of rules/suggestions to follow to increase productivity and reduce procrastination. I read this book, cover to cover, hoping for some guru secrets. Unfortunately, it was a little underwhelming. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, as I enjoy most self-help books. However, I felt a lot of what he was talking about was common sense. Plus, he really pushed that frog-eating thing a little too hard in my opinion.

Here are the suggestions/rules that really stuck with me:

3) Apply the 80/20 rule to everything. – This means 20 percent of your activities will account for 80 percent of your results. So always concentrate your efforts on the 20% of activities that will yield good things.

This particular rule was news to me before this book. I had never thought of this as fact. I had always just assumed that putting in one hundred percent meant that the universe HAD to match you. But he’s correct. When I set three appointments at work for a special event, only one showed. And he didn’t even buy anything! So, focusing on that 20% tends to be a good idea.

This works in writing as well. Focus on finishing the 20% that helps you succeed later on. Outline, research, get involved, and that will help produce 80% of your writing for you! One article I read mentioned that when you have the energy to get things done, do the hard things, so that the easy things can be done when you are down.

8) The Law of Three. – Identify the three things you do in your work that account for 90 percent of your contribution and focus on getting them done before anything else. You will then have more time for your family and personal life. 

This goes along with the rule above. Identifying the three key things you do that make your work more profitable, more easily done, and more plentiful, then allows you to finish that 20% we were talking about earlier. My three things for writing are: Research, Outline, and Revise. These are the three things I do that contribute to finishing and polishing my manuscripts. At work, they are: Sell, Get Repairs, and Invite to Events.

13) Identify your key constraints. – Determine the bottle necks or choke points, internal or external, that set the speed at which you acheive your most important goals, and focus on alleviating them.

I learned a hard lesson last night at work. I work in a jewelry store, and I’d just sold a $3400 ring, to a couple who had walked in just to look. I thought I had worked very hard, and I was very proud of myself. I even split the sale with a coworker, so that she might benefit from it too, since it had been a slow night and she hadn’t had any sales that month.

Instead of celebrating with me, and acknowledging that I’d worked hard with the sale, she continued a rant she’d had earlier that day, saying that the only reason I had got the sale was because they had come in to buy. Now, this seemed really wrong to me. And I realised that her key constraint was most likely her negative attitude. Since in the last three days I have forced myself to repeatedly tell myself that I can make that sale, I have had three $1500+ days in a row. Clearly, my positive reinforcement of my own mental state has had some effect! This is only made clearer by the fact that before my reaffirmation, I had NO large sales, and in fact, had bombed a big event.

This rule resonates with me because, honestly, I think if she read this book, she might begin to understand how her negative attitude almost brought me down. So yes, despite it’s mediocre common sense, I do reccoment Eat That Frog! if only because, sometimes Common Sense is just what the doctor ordered.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Researching Mystery

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Today, I have a guest blog published over on Cindy Grigg’s website. We’ve swapped guestblogs, and her post, 9 ways to fix your Stereotyped Character is informative and fun to read! Go take a look at it! Also, take a look at the article, Researching mystery which you can find here:

If you’re curious, here’s the first two paragraphs of the article, for your perusal.

To begin with, I’m not normally a mystery author. To be specific, when I was younger, I only ever wrote fantasy novels, or romance. Now, however, I’m trying my hand at mystery novels, which means quite a bit of strife. I have a natural instinct when it comes to fantasy, so I find it easy to fall into. With Romance, I have my years as a fanfiction writer and fandom roleplayer to fall back on, which can both enhance and detract from my writing. (No one likes reading author’s notes, I’ve since learned.)

I came to mystery as a genre because I love the tense atmosphere. Maybe it’s less mystery and more suspense that I enjoy. But recently, I’ve found that I want a challenge. And the best way to challenge yourself is to write something you’ve never in a million years written before. But how can you write something you’ve never written before? How can you make sure that you don’t slip back into writing what you know? And worst of all, how do you manage to make it a GOOD manuscript when you know nothing about your genre?

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Nightmares in Human Shape

  • Posted on April 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

It seems never ending, the lessons we can learn from Fairytales. But often, villains look human for the most part. A few are even more human (and handsome) than the prince himself! And we are expected to remember that fact. Because it’s truth. Often, in real life, villains are human shaped, and kind, and manipulative, and every bit our friend until suddenly they aren’t. It’s rather interesting how that works, don’t you think?

The evil stepmother, or in some cases just mother, is always human. Although she might be a sorceress, or an evil duchess, or even an evil old witch, she’s still human. And her magic isn’t the only thing she’s got going for her. Our trusting naivete allows her to actually trick us into believing she has the best at heart. How sad is it, when we see these heroines fall for it time and again?

The childhood friend can sometimes become this. Someone we’ve trusted for so long that we barely have to think anymore about the oddly ominous things they say. They’re close to our heart, and dear to us, so we can’t believe that they’d do something wrong or evil or indecent in any way. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That this person would ultimately betray us. Usually out of a form of jealousy. Either of what we have, or of someone else’s new closeness to us. How strange that we should see this most ugly of human emotions on the faces of those we trust.

The greedy leader is worst, though, because often, we are too small, too singular to actually make a difference against them. But sometimes, we manage. Sometimes, we can call enough people together to actually gain a voice, to actually shout out “WE WILL NOT TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” and step out of whatever chains this horrid person has put upon us. It’s always nice, then the searing freedom earned.

All of these archetypes call out to us to be defeated, to be broken. Because they are us, only twisted, us, but broken and wrong and just… not right. They are us at our worst, and we must always put forth the best will we have to avoid becoming such foul villains. We hate them because they remind us of our own humanity. They wear our faces in the dark, and we can see, so easily, the path that it takes for us to slip down and into their shoes. Never once do we realize that by seeing them as they are, we are choosing not to become these beasts, these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

So continue writing, drawing, showing these enemies in front of us. How else are our children to recognise the threat when they have never been taught not to trust blindly. How can we protect the princesses of the future if we do not teach them that anyone can possibly be an enemy? I, personally, prefer the adventure of not knowing, and of believing the best in those around me. Sometimes I am hurt, but I always get back up, stronger and surer.

Moping Strategy (TW: depression, suicide, molestation)

  • Posted on March 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm

With a title like that, I wouldn’t put it past you to think this post is going to be all negative-nelly whining and teenage angst. Unfortunately for you, that’s only partly correct. Oh, don’t worry, I know why you came. To get the skinny on another person’s woes, their thought process. Did you know that there is an actual word for that? Well, there is, and the three hours I spent scouring google to try and find it, should tell you something about my state of mind right now. But honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you skip this particular entry in my lovely slice of wordery here.

Gushing about Good Omens

  • Posted on March 21, 2014 at 2:37 am
I hope to make this a series in reviews on books that really held my interest and that made me squeal. Yes, Squeal. I am, after all, first and foremost, a fangirl. If there is anything you’ll learn about me, it is that I ADORE things, and when I do? I obsess. 

So what are we going to talk about today?

 

image

 

This hot mess of satirical genius, written by two men I highly admire. Neil Gaiman, author of such renowned books as Coraline, Anansi Boys, and Stardust, who captured millions of imaginations with his comic book series, The Sandman. A personal favorite of mine from western graphic novel literature. Terry Pratchett is even more famous, I believe, for his amazing Discworld Series, rightfully so.

These two authors have come together in an amazing tribute to not only christian religion, but also humanity in general. Taking the bible and the end of times and turning it into a spectacle I would gladly read again and again, is no mean feat, ladies and gents. And the characters, they thrill me so!

The two main characters (arguably) are Aziraphale and Crowley.

As described by the book itself, Crowley is “An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards.” This is to say, he is not your average demon. He is the Serpent in the Garden, the Tempter. And he’s not bad looking in a suit and sunglasses, either. He is on a pet name basis with his counterpart, Aziraphale. Specifically, “Angel”. It’s ironic, and the fangirls (read: me.) have run with it.

Aziraphale, however, gets this lovely description: “Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide.” Oddly enough, though, Crowley is the one that strikes me as gay. I don’t know why that is.

Anyway, these two are the driving force behind the story. Literally. Crowley drives a Bentley the entire time in the book, and by the end it is literally held together only by his will. It’s amazing. From losing the baby Antichrist, to saving the world, these two are your ticket through the enchanting world these two men have created for us.

We get to watch these two characters grow and learn and generally fall out of their tired, uninspired existences, into something akin to human-hood, and it is beauteous. Not only do they become greater friends, but they learn that even if something is ineffable, that doesn’t mean it’s written in stone.

The entire plot revolves around Adam, the Antichrist. To quote our esteemed writers, “Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan, and Lord of Darkness.” But really he looks like an Adam.

It’s time for Adam to bring about the Apocalypse. Daddy Evilest says so. However, not only are Crowley and Aziraphale hot on his heels to stop him, but so are several other motley crews. The hilarity never stops.

But all in all, the story isn’t even about the apocalypse or about god versus Satan, or about ineffability versus free will. It all comes down to this one quote:

“It may help to understand human affairs to be clear that most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”

Because that’s what Gaiman and Pratchett have given us in this book. A book about humanity, and not just in humans, but in angels and demons and cars and witches. Humanity, the gift of being able to say, “I don’t like this.” and choosing to do something about it.

All in all, I’ve read this book three times. And I plan to sit down and read it again, very soon. Please, please, do the same.

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