Saturday, December 26, 2009

Probable Title for NaNoWriMo Novel

After much thought on the subject, I think I may have a very good and descriptively accurate title for my NaNoWriMo book: "Into the Glow Aborning." My general idea behind it is mankind transcending to become 'superhuman' with the help (and sometimes force) of nanobe-like aliens.

There has been great controversy in the fields of microbiology and astrobiology about certain agents that have been discovered (nanobes) and whether they are living or not. I'd like to explore that concept, then exploit it--that's what writers do. Here is a link to some of my research so far: Nanobes: A New Form of Life?

I'm very excited and have thousands of juicy thoughts erupting violently in my brain. They are all very delicious indeed, but only some of them are digestible. I must wait until I start writing (and then editing) to ferret out the tenderest and most tasty bits.

I am considering doing one of the most difficult of writing styles for this novel: the multiple P.O.V. Meaning that the novel will switch back and forth between the points of view of different characters. This style does not work in short stories, but when applied to a novel, and crafted with thoroughness (without slipping in characterization) it can be a very effective means of telling a story. I can't wait to idealize which characters I'm going to have witness the unfolding drama.

I know one of my characters already. He will be the main protagonist, the one we will sympathize with the most. His name is Nether Stowey.

If you think you've heard the name before, it's because you might have. Nether Stowey is the name of a town in Southwest England. It was home for a brief time to the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cat Writer Comic by Inky Girl

Inky Girl: Daily Diversions for Writers

Virtual Christmas Card

Here is a Virtual Christmas Card for all of you:

Mass at 8 a.m. this morning was beautiful. They moved the crèche from the back of the church in the old baptismal area to the sanctuary. What a wonderful change that was.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Memories of Christmas

It's Christmas eve, and my thoughts are taking me down memory lane. Back to the Christmases I spent growing up in Ohio.

I grew up on a tenanted farm and my family was very poor. We were in good company. Nearly all of the other rural renters in the area were at or below the poverty line. Such was the norm in a state that has always suffered from economic instability.

It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized just how rich we really were in our lack of material wealth.

I saw glimpses of it at Christmas. In both receiving and giving.

I can remember with wide-eyed wonder waking up on Christmas morning, and while not getting exactly what I asked Santa for, it was a source of ceaseless wonder to me just how intimately that jolly fat old man knew me. I would get books for Christmas. Mostly, they were used books, but that didn't matter to me. What mattered were the authors and the subjects. Stephen King. Edgar Allen Poe. Tolkien. Science fiction, fantasy and horror. To me, these were the best presents ever. They were gifts that kept on giving to an overactive childhood imagination that I hope I never outgrow.

The best part of all was the giving. Every year I would get an allowance to spend on buying some little trinkets for the children in my family. One year, I accidentally bought too many gifts and had some leftover presents that would be for a boy, but I had no one to give them to. One week before Christmas, someone from town told my uncle about a family whose father lost his job. They had no Christmas tree, no food and no toys for their two young sons. Everyone in our family came together to bring Christmas to this family, who were worse off than we were. And the two boys had presents from Santa to open on Christmas morning.

We did that a lot. I'm not bragging about it. It's just something that we did.

My uncle had a Santa costume given to him and he enjoyed playing Santa for the children around our country neighborhood. Nowadays, he has gone from playing Santa for the kids to dressing up as Elvis and playing music for the elderly in nursing homes. My uncle likes to make people happy. I am grateful to have been brought up in such compassionate surroundings. It has increased my appreciation for what I have and has instilled in me a desire to share with those who are less fortunate than myself. It is put into practice most efficiently when I am able to give of myself all throughout the year.

This is what Christmas is really all about: A King was born into poverty so that he could eventually ransom himself for all of us poor, miserable souls. God gives us this most precious of all Gifts.

So let us celebrate the joy of giving through all of 2010.

My prayer for you this Christmas and New Year is not original. And it is not new. In fact, it's very, very old:

The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  ~ Numbers 6:24-26

This prayer is most specifically dedicated to my friend (and CRHP sister) Debbie, who has taught me much about the Jewish heritage and tradition that Our Savior lived.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Basic Training for NaNoWriMo

As of last night, I began to exercise my brain and fingers for NaNoWriMo.

Although the Great American Novel Writing Adventure isn't until November, I have decided that I need lots of practice in getting used to sitting my butt in front of the computer writing more than 500 words at time, which is what I had my StoryMill progress meter set on. StoryMill is kick ass writing software, peeps!

For short stories, 500 words in one sitting is fine, and I would often go over the goal line. But, for NaNoWriMo, it simply will not do. In order to have the minimum of 50,000 words in 30 days for NaNoWriMo,  I need to write at least 1667 words per day. So, last night I reset my progress meter to 1667 and went to work on my novel "The Coffee Wars." I started about 9:30 p.m. and worked until 11:00 and at the end I had written 1673 words. I was very happy. It was a little strange, because I did not go back and edit too much as I went along (which absolutely drove me bonkers) but that's the way I've got to get used to writing, if I'm going to have any luck with completing a novel. Just have to let the words flow, and take care of the clean-up later.

As a result of this, I finished Chapter 2 and got a pretty good start on Chapter 3. I'm going to do it again tonight. I will work on this novel a couple of nights a week and increase the number of nights I can do it, hopefully without letting my ongoing work on "Tiny Dragon" suffer, as I'm anxious to wrap that story up.

I'm considering this my boot camp for NaNoWriMo.

Wish me luck on my efforts to try an establish a pace in these months leading up to my first attempt at a 30-day novel. I will need your prayers, well-wishing and support.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How Do You Like Your Science Fiction: Hard or Soft?

My high school Earth Science class did not do much for me, except showcase how monumentally inept I was at science. After the first few weeks of struggling with it, I transferred to the General Science class and performed much better there.

I did learn a valuable lesson in those first torturous weeks of Earth Science. It would have a far greater impact on my writing than it would on anything else. It caused me to begin an exercise in thought that I now utilize on a regular basis, both when looking for story ideas or just for sheer enjoyment.

Microcosmic worlds. Neat little panoramas that reveal themselves in my brain that I like to try and sort out. My Earth Science teacher was the first to introduce this concept. A few years later, I read a classic short story by Theodore Sturgeon called "Microcosmic God" that established it beautifully for me and planted the way of thought firmly in my mind, so that I'm always looking for microcosms to speculate on.

What if there are microscopic life forms existing in their own engaging little world on the head of a match? And they experience Apocalypse whenever we strike it?

Most of these ideas are in the realm of fantasy and this is where I primarily live. There may be elements of science in my writing. And there most certainly may be horror. I like to mix it up a bit. I like that term "speculative fiction." It covers so much wonderful landscape.

I've often heard that some people are vehemently opposed to what is labeled "soft science fiction." My guess is that would be a story that doesn't sport some astrophysics or chemistry lesson every other page. "Here, Mr. Spock, is why we can not travel past the speed of light: blah...blah...blah." I'm not saying there's no room for hard science fiction in my life. A great deal of what I read is hard science fiction. But I do not write hard sci-fi. I write fantasy sautéed with science fiction, with a side dish of horror. I write "Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors of Weird." For me, it's about plot and characterization. I like my speculative fiction like my ice cream: sometimes hard, sometimes soft-serve.

I don't have a degree in physics, astronomy, chemistry or even writing. I've learned a few things over the years about the sciences that interest me: sociology, psychology and meteorology (meteorology actually applies some physics principles such as thermodynamics, the Bernoulli and Coriolis effects). I've found that structuring a good story out of these elements brings me the greatest satisfaction. And most folks seem to like it. I also believe that there is no more alien or horrifying a landscape than that of the human mind. That is something I love to explore.

Whatever hard science I use is employed like a sugary waffle cone, wrapping all that delectably sweet, gooey fantasy/horror weirdness down inside. I do lots of research and hope that I'm writing my science as factual as possible; breaking as few rules as possible, and if rules are slightly bent then I do my best to provide plausible scientific excuses for it without making it become a college physics lecture.

It's hard to do, but well worth it if the result is a satisfied reader.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Breakfast, Coffee, Project Planning and a Library Run

I'm getting up early tomorrow. I'm going to make a stab at it, anyway.

I want to rise about seven-ish, take my shower and eat some semi-homemade cheesy corned-beef hash for breakfast. Then hop in the car and head on over to check out the Sonoma Coffee Cafe for some strong "writer's fuel" and get some story planning in on one of my NaNoWriMo novel concepts (which I do not have a title for as yet).

Afterwards, I need to go pick up a book from the library that I have reserved that is geared toward helping me in formatting manuscripts for submission to publishers. I have a flash fiction story (a smidgen over 1000 words) that I feel is ready to get out there in somebody's slush pile. (I may submit it to Critters or SFF workshop for critiquing before I start mailing it out to Asimov's or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.)

The story is called "World Wide Web" and the narrator is an alien shape-shifting arachnoid.

As for NaNoWriMo, I signed up a few days ago to take part in this November's exercise in mass insanity. My NaNoWriMo author name is 'Waning Gibbous' (another reference to my love of H.P. Lovecraft).

The idea behind NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is that you write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, starting on November 1st and ending at midnight on November 30th.

Winning NaNoWrimo is having the minimum number of 50,000 words uploaded by the November 30th deadline. The concentration is on quantity, not quality, so they advise you just to write, write, write and not give a whit how crappy it is, because, it will be crappy. At least for those of us writing our first novels. Nearly all first novels suck. The point of it is the experience. They tell you absolutely no editing during writing, which will be extremely hard for me. I'm used to revising most of my stuff as I go, especially my short stories. They've advised me that my inner editor is a jerk and I should pay her no mind. If you've got any kind of story at all, say the wonderful people at the Office of Letters and Light, you can begin editing it in December. November is for writing only, with wild abandon. Okay. I've got ten months to get used to that idea and to learn how to tell my inner editor to "piss off!"

So what do I win when I complete my NaNo novel, you ask? Well, I win the right to say to people, "Hey, did I tell you about the book I've written?" That's all. Oh, I get special codes to have Amazon's self-publishing affiliate (called CreateSpace) send me a special printed copy of my manuscript for free. And I can buy a winner's tee-shirt.

So, I'm going to write a novel.

What about?

I don't know yet. I have two ideas running through my head at present. I mentioned one of them above. I don't have a title for it yet, but I have a vision of Earth being visited by nano-aliens, creatures so infinitesimal that we can't stop them. They can invade our bodies where they attempt to direct our lives. At first, we don't know if they are demons, viruses or memes (which are still viruses, but more on a cultural level). There is an upside and a downside to their existence. Some of them are good and only want to share their special gifts with us in a symbiotic relationship. Through their incredible powers of healing and superior intelligence, those who accept the alien intrusion transcend and become 'superhuman'. Some of the nano-aliens, however, are evil (these are referred to by the good aliens as 'variants'). They want to destroy.

That's the idea I'm going to try and work on tomorrow morning at Sonoma's.

The other idea is one I already have a head start on. I've mentioned in earlier posts that I want to write a novel called "Mages of Morrow" based on my short story (still in progress) called "Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dragon." It will be set in the same realm, although in a slightly later time period. I could use all of the notes and research that I have accumulated in writing the short story. However, I don't know if I want "MoM" to be my first novel. I feel that my dragon (and prehistoric beast) creations have become so close to me that I need to give that book more than just ten months of planning in order to do it justice.

So, I have a weighty decision to make before November.

Aliens or dragons.

I welcome any thoughts on the subject from anyone reading this post.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coffee: Now That's What I'm Talking About!

Ah, coffee shops! The favorite haunts of writers the world over.

And why not? They do have incredible intellectual ambiance: writers (and readers) sitting at counters and tables everywhere, typing on their laptops or writing in their notebooks. And they do serve up the elixir of life. Ah...yes, coffee. Hot, wonderful, energizing coffee!

It's a question of long-standing debate: if you slice open a writer's vein, would he or she bleed ink or cappuccino? I'm not sure about the answer. In my own case, maybe a little of both.

I do know that there is a brand-spanking new little coffee shop that moved in just down the street from me and I can't wait to check it out.

It's called Sonoma Coffee Cafe and they are located right here in good old Pinellas Park, a suburb of St. Petersburg that used to be notorious more for saloons than for coffee. We still have plenty of those, too.

This Saturday morning, God willing, and the muse inspires me to go somewhere to write (other than the library), I am going to go patronize said establishment and see if both inspiration and the fine art of people watching conjures up any literary nuggets or causes any plot bunnies to put in an appearance. I'll take my pretty new notebook (for my NaNoWriMo ideas), order a cup of house drip and let the voices in my head do the rest.

I'll do a review of the place in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's Going On with My Widget?

What's going on with my weather widget at the bottom of the page?

It would have you think there is going to be no sunshine here in Florida for the next four days. Every day shows overcast. That's unheard of.

I like clouds, so I'm not complaining.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Shadow of Creativity: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Mostly

In an effort to improve my writing prowess, I recently began to think of creative springboards: exercises to fuel my creativity which I could write about and post on this blog, which is, in itself an attempt to become better at my beloved craft. 

One of the subjects that came to mind was a "Why I Write What I Write" exercise, but to author it in the style of a writer whose work I admire. This is not an exercise that I intend to employ as a means of imitating or copying the style of another writer, but one that will hopefully teach me to look for, find and use my own voice, even when I am engaged in writing a Cthulhu Mythos piece in the Lovecraftian vein (which I have planned to do in the near future).

Someone once gave me a book of Lovecraft stories. I no longer remember who presented me with that awesome gift of reading pleasure or what the title of the book was. That information no longer matters. Keys are small things by themselves. But when you turn them, you can open doors into fascinating hidden rooms or ignite engines of great power and complexity. 

All I know is, the opening paragraph of one of the first stories I encountered grabbed me and held me spellbound and it does so still to this day. It sealed my fate in an overpowering desire to write. It is from a story called "Dagon":

I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below. Do not think from my slavery to morphine that I am a weakling or a degenerate. When you have read these hastily scrawled pages you may guess, though never fully realise, why it is that I must have forgetfulness or death...

H.P. Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island. His first published story was called "The Alchemist" and it was published in 1916 in a magazine called "The United Amateur."

Without further explanations, here is my Lovecraft inspired look into my inner madwoman, an apologia of why I write, and why I write what I write:

The Shadow of Creativity: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, Mostly

My friends are convinced that I am insane. They are probably right.

Mental balance and I achieved a stubborn stalemate many years ago after decades of ceaseless turmoil and foul warfare. Any measure of normal psychological stability now keeps a well-defined and uneasy, if not peaceful distance from me.

I’m a writer of speculative fiction and I know of no better habitation than the dark recesses of my own fetid imagination. My vistas are oblique, non-Euclidean and terrifying realms of stark raving chaos where strange and often horrifying things dwell in Fortean splendor.

The faces I prefer do not have striking jaw-lines or piercing blue eyes. Instead, I am drawn in a state of near catatonia to visages sporting tentacled chins and piercing fore-claws. Eyes? Just a singular, Cyclopean horror of unblinking, hypnotic skill is enough to send me into a frenzy of terrible shuddering and provoke uncountable sleepless nights. Whenever I do manage to heed the call of Morpheus to "Come, come" my sleep is troubled and oppressed by these maddening visions. I must then get up and write.

My tormented brain chants a continual mantra: sci-fi, fantasy, horror, steam-punk, alternate history, future history, cyberpunk, space opera, scientific romance…mmmm…zombies…alien shape-shifting serial killer spider…Cthulhu mythos….

Like a trapped mink, I'm stuck in the cruelly sharp steel jaws of my own design. Writing is a sweet, albeit temporary, release from the madness, the equivalent of chewing off a foot and limp-running headlong, blindly into the arms of reckless abandon. The Trapper's name is Sanity and I am determined he shall not have my skin!

There are (no doubt) writers whose works are sunshiny blossoms of spring days, all romance and straightforwardness, where there's no mistaking the authors intentions regarding character, setting or plot.

Comparing writing with painting, these writers would rack up with Claude Monet and his Water Lilies. Edgar Degas and his Ballerinas.

My writing is none of that easily definable stuff.

My work is Van Gogh, who, though he painted some pretty sunflowers, he also painted swirling cosmos skies and cut off part of his own ear to embrace his inner madness.

My writing is Jackson Pollock. I desire to chuck many of those elements of my mental mantra onto the page, grab a palette knife and start cutting in, the ink flowing from my fingertips to the keyboard to the blank screen, the chaos taking on form and finally, meaning.

In comparing my work with other speculative fiction authors, my earliest recollections find me contemplating the experiences of being absorbed in the macabre murkiness of H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and a starkly surreal and sometimes hellish poem that I often still to this very day find myself reciting snippets of without being cognizant of it called "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Then, I found my uncle's sci-fi collection and visited Niven's "Ringworld," became too confused at too early an age by Heinlein's "Stranger In a Strange Land" (but not in too bad a way) and discovered even more treasures at my school and local library.

All of these inspirations are what have fueled my intense longing to create strange phenomena, alien landscapes and slimy vistas of darkness so foul and inhabited by denizens so terrifyingly bizarre as to induce nightmares just by reading about them.

That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.

Yes, my friends, I am insane. But it's okay.

I am a writer. I can live no other way.

Dedicated to H.P. and to the author who is the source of my writer's "Quote of the Week" for this blog this week, E.L. Doctorow, who said: "Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia."

To listen to a truly creepy audio version of "Dagon" visit "The Drabblecast."  Clicking this link will take you directly to the site. "The Drabblecast" is a weekly short fiction podcast. The stories there are mostly narrated by the extremely talented and creepy voice of Norm Sherman. 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Every Mac User Knows

The help desk people didn't inform me that when I zapped my PRAM, it might zap me back. Now my brain is stuck in 'safe mode.'

People Without Pets

We'll be sad if dogs and cats transcend sapience and leave Earth. What will we do with their squeaky toys and catnip mice?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Frog's Tale

Well, I've been inspired by frogs again.

Quite possibly, my muse was a frog that was transformed and lived a very unhappy life as a muse. Thus I am tormented with crazy but brilliant (IMHO) ideas concerning frogs. Or an equally plausible reason is that the frogs living in the tree outside my bedroom window are actually brainwashing me as I sleep with their incessant chirping.

Whatever the motivating factor is, I have been thinking about the whole Frog Prince story lately. You know, the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm? It inspired me to do a twitfic (for those of you who don't know, a twitfic--or twabble--is a one hundred character story, not including spaces) about it. See "Pop Culture Fairy Tale" in an older post.

That failed to calm my muse on the subject.

I started getting the notion that perhaps there was another side to the story. One that needed to be told. And maybe, just maybe, the Grimm's got the story from a rather biased, and therefore unreliable source. The princess. Did anyone even bother to discover how the frog really felt? Was he happy about being a prince and marrying the princess? What if he wasn't?

Now, with thoughts like these, an ordinary person might think: "Who cares?"

Writers are not ordinary people.

So, I've started writing the a new take on the classic tale from the frogs perspective.  I'm calling it "The Reluctant Prince." I'm not intending it to be very long, or to take too much time in the telling. But tell it, I must.

Maybe then my frog prince muse will let me sleep at night.

Until the next inspiration, anyway.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Research, Research and More Research...

I love the library.

I've been accused of being a closet librarian, I love books so much and spend so much time in Dewey Decimal World.

I am on my local library's website searching for books more than I check my damn email.

So, I go to pick up some books today that I have requested from other libraries in the area, since my library didn't have them. I approach the desk and hand the librarian my card and say, "I believe you're holding some books for me."

She looks at me and laughs, "So what else is new, Miss Kelly?"

If they'd let me, I'd put up a cot in the science fiction and fantasy section, being the speculative fiction reader version of the "The Self-Taught Man" character in the Jean-Paul Sartre novel "Nausea" that works his way through the library from A-to-Z.

Today I picked up a fabulously cool book called "Dragonology" by Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer. It looks like an ancient book. It's large (like, coffee-table book sized, but not very many pages) and it had tons of stuff in it, like samples of dragon scales and wing membranes. It looks sort of like a book you'd expect to find at Hogwarts, in Harry Potter's world. I am going to get a lot out of it for research on my dragon story (and possible future novel).

I also found a pretty good article online from the NY Times Science section from 2003 on dragons and where we, as humans, may have gotten the idea of them. It's called "From Many Imaginations, One Fearful Creature," and if you want to, you can click on that title and read the article.

I've been filling the "Hold Me Closer, Tiny Dragon" section of my story notebook with all kinds of great ideas and information, and hope this book and article will be the fuel providing me with more energetic thoughts on the matter.

I've also got to start researching psychological information for my novel "The Coffee Wars." This story is about humanity becoming enslaved to an alien race through hypnosis and addiction to a powerful drug and how we struggle to break the bonds and fight our enemy. Our biggest enemy in this story is not our alien oppressors, but our own weaknesses. No surprises there.

This novel concept grew out of a short story I wrote called "We Hardly Ever Cry Anymore."  It's a very short, flash fiction piece that is first person narrative of an unnamed protagonist who relates his experiences of being a "worker" on a farm that grows and processes the alien plant Waithyll into the drug that desensitizes and enslaves humanity through a detached euphoria. I've been told by too many of my friends that this piece needed to be part of something bigger, and so, the idea for "The Coffee Wars" was born.

I am going to be doing NaNoWriMo next year, God willing and the muse doesn't go on strike. I am seriously considering doing "The Coffee Wars" as my NaNoWriMo novel.  I'll have to think about it.
I wonder, does it count if you've already started?

So. There you have it. I am keeping very busy with research. I plan on doing some writing on "Tiny Dragon" this weekend.

I also have a huge pile of books to read.