Thursday, September 29, 2011

Art in Words: Beauty

One person who I've always wanted to see through the eyes of is Leonardo Da Vinci. He saw things in such a strange and unique way. Just the variety of subjects he studdied and drew and invented. He must have been off his rocker. Somewhere between insanity and genius.

One of the things De Vinci was facinated with was ugliness. In his mind something that was extremely ugly was just as worthy of attention as something that was extremely beautiful because it was striking in a way that, to him, was another kind of beauty.

Sometimes we write stories that are beautiful but sometimes we write stories that are horifying or shocking or just . . . odd. And yet, even when our stomach is twisted in knots and our palms are sweating we say "that was some beautiful writing". In fact the tighter the knot, the sweatier the palms, the more beautiful we say the writing is. Because the 'beauty' doesn't have to come from nice, aesthetically pleasing feelings. It can come from a piece of writing's ability to affect us. To strike us. To make us think even if those thoughts are uncomfortable.

Part of me wants to connect that back to "Truth is beauty. Beauty is truth." and decide that if beauty doesn't have to beautiful then hard ugly truths don't falsify that statement, but I won't. Because this ramble is already highfaluten enough for a Thursday evening.

Go forth and write striking tales with which to affect the universe.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Your Questions Answered

So Keriann Greaney Martin, my fabulous fellow Alliterati, was the only one to ask a question two weeks ago. Her query, reproduced here in case you don't want to go hunting, was:

What is your favorite thing about steampunk (if you could choose one)?

Oh sweet Jebus monkeys is this a hard question to answer, especially given there are so many reasons why I love me the Steampunk.

Steampunk attracts me because of the do-it-yourself aspects of the community. Many folks either make their own costumes or purchase items from craftspeople at conventions or at sole-proprietor shops somewhere in their town. It's that return to an earlier age, when the lone artisan was the main salesman of consumer goods to the general populace. Folks also would repair their clothing instead of purchasing new ones, and this aspect of repair instead of replace very much appeals to me. (I come from a family where we keep things until they wear out, so the whole "fix-it-first" mentality is fairly well ingrained.)

The other major reason is the sheer inventiveness of the most ardent parts of the subculture. There are people doing new and unusual things every day with Steampunk, and some are making their livelihoods off these constructions after realizing that there was actually a name for what they were doing anyway.

This is a very, very cool subculture to be a part of ... especially considering there's a very communal feel in many cases with people being eminently willing to help each other out.

So I hope that answers your question, Keriann. ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Milestones Are Like Kidney Stones - Hard to Pass, And Then Sweet Relief

Before I had my own place with Hubs, I used to dream of the day when we could go pick out paint colors and furniture and wall art and our own dish soap. The waiting was almost painful. I wanted a place to call my own. A place where my parents weren't the masters, but Hubs and I were. We used to talk about it so often and it felt like forever until we'd reach that day.

Thankfully, that day came a little over three years ago when we got our first apartment about a month before our wedding (I know, we lived in sin!). We didn't have anywhere to sit besides the floor or the bed until we borrowed a folding table from my parents. Then we got to test drive all of the reclining couches and kitchen tables until we found the perfect ones. We lovingly picked out new towels and sheets and yes, dish soap. It was awesome. And it's still awesome.

Then last October, we closed escrow on our very own place. A place that we OWN. Those countertops over there, they're OURS. Same with those walls and the fireplace. And we have two bathrooms! You can't even believe how excited I was to have two bathrooms. No longer do I have to do the potty dance waiting for my turn (though I've never used our second shower). And a hallway! And don't even get me started about the washer and dryer. AMAZING.

I'm really glad I still appreciate how wonderful it is to have our own space. To reach an accomplishment that we ached for all through early adulthood (yes, I lived at home during my 5 years in college). It makes it that much sweeter that I had to work so hard for it.

No matter where you are in your life, there's always that next goal. To move from our amazing but modest condo into a house with a yard. To get a dog. To get a book deal. To have children. To watch them grow into adulthood. To retire. To travel to all those far away places that are so exotic yet so beautiful and mysterious and exciting.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, today was my dad's last day at his job. He finally reached that elusive milestone of retirement! A day that all of us hope to reach, that we DREAM about even though we may not even be close. Heck, I dream about it and I have at least 30 years to go. *sigh*

Today, I dedicate my post to my dad. After working for more than 35 years in a physically demanding job, he finally made it! And now he gets sweet, sweet freedom. Congratulations, Daddy!! You're the BEST!

What milestone are you working on?

Monday, September 26, 2011

CONTEST WINNERS! Finally! Or, why I should never make promises.

So you guys may remember me. I used to blog 'round these parts. Then we had the great idea of having a contest here at the Archives, and everything was going really well until my tooth got infected and I had to get a root canal.

In this post (my most recent one), I told you guys about the tooth. I didn't get the chance to tell you what happened next.

The serious painkillers and antibiotics I was on gave me a pretty bad complication from side effects. We started in urgent care, where they advised us to just "keep an eye on it" at home. The next day, I was pretty sure that I needed more help, but then the Power Outage That Shut Down Southern California happened, and I couldn't go to the ER because there were a lot of people out there that had very legitimate reasons for being there.

Luckily, the power came back rather quicker than anyone expected, and we were able to go to the ER in the morning. A very lucky thing indeed. I had a couple minor procedures done and they declared me fit to release. But it was an ordeal. I hadn't eaten in a week because of the pain in my mouth and not feeling good from the meds. I still didn't eat very much the week after. I lost seven pounds between my urgent care visit and the followup with my primary doc seven days later.

I was wiped out, weak, tired, and still not feeling great. I just needed to heal, but it took some time. On top of that, I STILL got to have a root canal done-- in two visits. The last visit was last Thursday, and while there's one more dental appointment in my near future, the root canal is over with and the next one can wait. And wait it will-- Hubby and I are taking a vacation for our anniversary in a couple weeks and I refuse to have yet another dental procedure before we go.

So that's where I've been, Alliterati, and while I'm no longer on Vicodin, you are more than welcome to call me names. :)

Anyway, on to my contest results! In the event that you've forgotten what the prizes even were (Dude... I totally did... no shame at all in that), here's the original contest post to refresh your memory. Remember, if you've won, please email me at wickedmoon921 at gmail within one month to claim your prize or I'll pick an alternate winner. I will try to get them out ASAP but will be honest-- probably won't be til later in October, after we get back from our trip.

Okay, without further ado...

Well, some ado.

First, the winner of the creative contest, and therefore the picker of the first prize:


Jeigh's entry for the Greatest Novel That Never Was:

Lydia had always known spoons were the safest and most practical of all utensils. How people had survived on the Notherworlds before the Razing of All Pointy Things had simmered civilization down to just her tiny village was a mystery to her. But one day, a mysterious and handsome stranger shakes the very foundations of her beliefs with the shiny fork in his hand and one question tumbling from his full, slightly chapped lips: "How do you people eat steak around here?""

Thanks for the giggles, Jeigh!

And now for the random winner.

Usually, I use for this sort of thing. But I only had a handful of entries this time, and I was feeling a little loopy this morning. So I let my cat(s) pick the winner.

Here is the story in pictures:

Contest entry names on a page

Torn into pieces

Crumpled into balls and ready for an impartial cat-judge

Said impartial cat-judge. I think he looks a little Simon Cowell-esque in this photo.

The important selection

Reaching for the Alliterati's Next Top Idol Dancer

Congratulations, Adam!!! You can pick your prize after I hear back from Jeigh unless you choose the mystery prize. Then just email me a genre and age group and I will pick something for you :)

Thanks for your patience, everyone! Happy Monday!

Friday, September 23, 2011

A delayed and embarrassed contesteur makes good guys will forgive me for being internetless for a few more weeks, right? I feel like I've dropped off the face of the blogging earth (but I took my phone down with me so I could tweet. Hee!) Whilst unpacking AGAIN, I discovered a treasure trove of contest prizes that not only ha I not sent out, I HADN'T EVEN CHOSEN A WINNER. Blerg! So today for my post I mean to make right. So...@jadencoal, if you're still out there, a winner is you! Congrats! But in the meantime, I understand that as a writer, we can be very particular about our tools which is why I'm offering to share my life changing Japanese pen with EVERYONE. If you'd like an awesome writing tool, get on twitter and DM me your address. I'll send you a rad Japanese pen! It may be a week, a month, a year before it gets to you, but rest assured you'll get something before I leave. In three years MUA HA HA. Ahem. Again, thanks for the patience, everyone! DM @kmcriddle...or just stop by and say hi! Twitter's the place to be, writers. SERIOUSLY. (insert funny lolcat pic emphasizing my point.) Fingers crossed for Internet this week!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Art of Words: Seeing

I am taking an art apreciation class this semester. I think most writers see themselves as artists to some degree or another but it is interesting getting the perspective of visual art. Surprisingly --or perhaps unsurprisingly-- a lot of the concepts are very similar to what we talk about in the writing furums. Therefore, because

1) Relating things to writing makes me remember them better,
2) I have been somewhat uninspired in writing related topics the last couple weeks, and
3) I am an amazingly talented multi-tasker and can therefore study and blog at the same time

I will be working on a series of writing talks related in some way or another to visual art.

Beginning now. With the topic of Seeing.

According to artist Robert Irwin "Seeing is forgeting the name of the thing one sees." This is an easy enough concept to wrap your head around in a museum. Instead of putting names and functions to the things one is presented with you look at them, see them, touch them, hear them, enjoy them, in their own right and not as whatever it is you asume they were meant for. But how could forgetting names possibly relate to writing, a medium that is made up of tiny little names for every thought English speakers have ever tried to record?

As a fantasy writer especially, names have always been very important to me. From folk-lore's Rumplestiltsin to LeGuin's Ged, names have power. They hold meanings far beyond a simple collection of sylibles meant to represent something. They define. They dominate. They control. With a language active as long as ours, and with as many linguistic roots, historical contexts, and mythilogical conotation, not to mention modern medea references, and personal experiences, every name we hear is layered with ideas that may have nothing to do with the thing it is meant to define.

Or it might have everything to do with it.

For a writer choosing the words for a sentence is like trying to name a thought. We have so many choices before us that could mean something very similar to the thought in our mind and yet we pilfer our brains for the exact word, the exact turn of phrase. We plunder the dictionary for alternatives and torture our reader's minds with obscurities. Generic nouns and cunjunctions simply won't work.

Why? Because any writer with something to say doesn't want to say what is easy to say. They want to twist their readers' minds into seeing something new. Or better still, seeing something old as if for the first time.

A house then, in a good story, is not A house but THIS house. In the hands of a master writer it is no longer even A haunted house but THIS haunted house with THESE dangers. They may be similar to the dangers in other haunted houses or they may not. That is irelevent. What is relevent is that for these pages the reader will forget everything they know about haunted houses. They will fear, be thrilled, and experience the house as if they didn't know what it was.

In fiction "seeing" --the kind that makes one forget the name of what one is seeing --is in defying cliche`s and archetypes. Not necisarily by avoicing them but by transending them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Moving, mobile posts and a mini hiatus

For the third time in a little over a year, my little family has found ourselves packing everything up and moving to a new home. While great for other reasons, it does a number on your brain and will to do anything BUT pack and move and rinse and repeat. So I sincerely apologize for the lack of new content coming from yours truly at the Archives. But that doesn't stop my companions from having some amazing posts! In lieu of a real post this week, I entreat you all to scroll down and read others that you might have missed this week. They are AWESOME. Thanks as well for your patience (and for bearing with a mobile phone post, seeing as I have neither wifi or an actual computer at the moment.) Good luck with you own writing this weekend! I have a few friends querying right now and every drop of good thoughts, vibes and karma is with them. You know who you are! Keep us posted on the good, the bad and the ugly...I'm cheering for you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

When Life Becomes A Little TOO Much Research

You know how we are always told to throw our protagonists as much conflict as we can to keep up the story tension?

Whoever has been writing the story of my life lately had better be working on a masterpiece.

In the last two weeks I have experienced a hit and run, jury duty, a postponed check, X-rays, a complete electricity black out that rendered all the roads of San Diego un-drivable, a virus, getting lost on the freeway more times that I can count, missing class, and completely forgetting that I was supposed to have something brilliant to say to my fellow writers.

I'm just hoping its a comedy and not a tragedy. Everything eventually seems to have evened out ok so evidence supports the case that it is. But while I am making my apologies I thought I would ask:

What kind of places to you find unexpected research material? In those horrible, miserable weeks where nothing seems to go right? That's what gives you inspiration and fodder for fiction. That's how we connect to characters and empathize with them. We recognize those frustrations and admire their strength of mind to keep fighting. Sometimes they inspire us to fight back when we didn't think we could.

So find inspiration in the good things you experience -- the sunsets, the ocean, good cooking ---but don't discount the less pleasant ones. They give us strength and they make our stories stronger too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I really don't have anything to write about today

Sorry, Alliterati ... my brain's just plain blanking on stuff to write today.

In that vein, I'm opening myself up to questions -- both serious and non -- that you might want to ask.

Ask me something in the comments and I'll answer in next week's post.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Imaginary Friends

Do you remember that movie "Drop Dead Fred"? A little girl has an imaginary friend who gets her into all kinds of trouble. Her mother gets mad and pretends to tape him inside a jack-in-the-box. Then when the little girl grows up, she lets him out of the box and he's still the crazy imaginary friend she thought she made up. But now she's an adult and doesn't think it's funny anymore. Plus, Fred is a a perv.

Yeah, that movie was weird. But it's one of those '90s movies that I watched and would probably watch again on a lazy Sunday. [Spoiler alert - sorry, I'm sure you were dying to see this movie.] Can you believe they kiss at the end? Totally creeps me out.


I never had an imaginary friend as a kid. Probably because I had an older brother and sister to play with. (OK, so my friend David and I pretended in sixth grade that we had miniature dragons that we carried around on our shoulders. But that's beside the point. And actually, we got the idea out of a book about a kid with a pet dragon. So you see, it was cool. Totally.) The strange thing is, I feel like I have imaginary friends now.

I was writing on Saturday morning and I'm at the point in my WiP when the tension is really starting to build. I found myself getting all excited and anxious about what I'm planning to have happen to these people. These people who don't exist except in my own head. Kind of like imaginary friends.

I think this is an amazing thing that we do when we write fiction. People and places can come to life just by imagining their world and giving them a story. They become real to us. We bring them to life and can evoke real emotion in us. I truly care about them.

Right now, my imaginary friends are getting into a bit of trouble. I THINK I know how things are going to turn out, but not exactly. They've taken on a life of their own. Again, that's why pantsing is so fun :).

What's going on with your imaginary friends?