Unhappy Holidays

From Justina Luther today, the second part of a story she began last week. It’s a holiday tale about two people who have no reason to celebrate; they don’t know each other, and have been brought together by someone who appears to have her own agenda. The compulsory joy of this time of year can have a devastating effect on those who can’t force themselves to participate, and Luther’s story seems to be capturing that dark sentiment well. 

DIY

Joynell Schultz has designed the cover for her new novel Love, Lies & Clones, and on her blog today she provides a wonderful description of the cover design evolution. She provides images of the six different designs she’d considered, along with a comment on what she did and didn’t like about each.

These DIY testimonials further inspire me to publish my own work. The effort will be difficult with no promise of reward, but this is a journey I have to take. Writing is the only job I’ve ever wanted to do, and I won’t feel I’ve completed this job until I publish a novel, or twelve.

Meetups and Mosquitos

Back in spring, I began attending the monthly meetings of a local writer’s Meetup, and since that time have submitted the first three chapters of The Land Without Mosquitos for review. The response so far has been, shall we say, interesting — my fellow writers find the story a bit bizarre (which they should), but they find the characters interesting, appreciate my style, and have stayed invested in the story. A few critiques will likely influence my next revision of the novel:

  • After reading the first chapter (where Jane “discovers” the mysterious object in her apartment), my readers didn’t know what to make of Jane’s confusion; they understood she was looking at an iPhone, but couldn’t understand her lack of recognition. In discussing this response, we agreed that identifying the novel’s genre could be helpful; if readers know the novel is about an alternate reality, they would be more likely to accept Jane’s confusion. Up to that point I hadn’t known how to classify my work — it had both science fiction and fantasy elements, but I didn’t feel it fit neatly into either category — but when I said it was “Alternate Reality Fiction” (is that really a genre?), my reviewers seemed a bit more at ease with Jane’s behavior.
  • Jane’s friends and co-workers respond far too calmly to her wild story. Her boss, Gary, is particularly far too conciliatory; in the words of one reviewer, “this guy needs a backbone.” Gary will play a central role in chapter four, and I’m eager to experiment with making him less patient with Jane.
  • There’s too many passages that describe Jane’s confusion over an object that is familiar to the reader. One suggestion that I’m eager to follow through with is to transform those passages into dialogue — have Jane point to an object, ask “What’s that?”, and then reply with amazement at the response.

That’s just a sample of the response I’ve received so far. I’m actually quite pleased with the feedback I’ve received, and plan to submit the entire novel for the group’s review.

The Good, Fight

Mark Aldrich (aka The Gad About Town) supplements his always entertaining Today In History series today with an extensive analysis of last month’s Presidential election in the United States. As Mark shows, Trump’s rise to power is not entirely unprecedented, as his rhetoric has been used by many American politicians in the last century and a quarter. History, as the saying goes, doesn’t actually repeat, but it most certainly rhymes.

I haven’t written about politics in this blog since the day after the election. The time required for NaNoWriMo certainly had something to with that, but so too did my shock and yes, disappointment and anger at the outcome. My opinion of The Fraud has not changed — he’s a maniac who admires dictators, and an existential threat to our country. We’ve faced greater threats and the checks and balances built into the Constitution will allow us to survive, but I also believe he has to power to cause a great deal of damage that could take decades, perhaps generations, to undo.

To minimize the damage, the incoming President and his administration will need to be resisted by people of good conscience. The punctuation of today’s post is entirely intentional — there not only needs to be a good fight, we need the good, to fight. I’m not sure what exactly that means yet (although I’ve all but given up on the Democratic Party, at least at the national level — yes it’s important to vote, but it’s also foolish to believe that Presidential and Congressional elections are the solution to our nation’s problems). Maybe the answer will come to me at the end of the month, during an overdue vacation in a land of abundant warmth and pleasant sand, or perhaps I’ll come to the conclusion that I need to create my own answer. All I know now is that staying in my comfortable home while the world around me falls on its face isn’t going to work for me.

It’s time to fight. Don’t know where the battle will take place, who or what foes I’ll be facing, or what weapons I’ll wield. But the fight is coming, as sure as the dawn, and I’m not running from this battle.

Two Voices, One Heart

I’m always pleased when find inspiration in two very different posts:

  • On the Be Inspired..!! blog, empress2inspire encourages us to remain committed to our dreams in spite of adversity. In a world filled with cynicism, where sarcasm is accepted as a poor substitute for intelligence, it’s refreshing to hear a sincere voice proclaim the power of perseverance.

 

  •  Meanwhile, the Karma Linguist‘s latest poem compares the search for love to a lottery; being successful at the game of love requires luck, but the effort to overcome bad fortune demonstrates the player’s worth. The interplay of monetary and emotional symbols is engaging, and the final stanza is worth quoting in full:

If I play this ticket right,
my life will
forever be
enriched standing beside you.

Having different perspectives appear in my Reader helps to broaden my own vision, and challenges me to explore new paths in my blogging journey.

Wing

I occassionally use the Discover feature of the WordPress Reader to find out what I’ve been missing in the blogging world. (I don’t call it the blogosphere, because that word is really stupid.)  One of today’s features is a profile of Julian Stockwin, an author of historical fiction. The post is largely a commercial for the Profile theme in WordPress, but it did lead me to the author’s WordPress site. Stockwin’s an interesting guy — after decades in the navy, he began writing, and has used his nautical and military knowledge to forge what appears to be a successful career as a writer of historical fiction novels.

Other than Michael Shaara’s outstanding The Killer Angels and the sequels written by his son Jeff, I haven’t reads much historical fiction. I do plan to experiment with the genre at some point, as I want to write about my ancestor Wing, a colorful figure who lived in Vermont during America’s Revolutionary era. He was a captain of his town’s Safety Committee, charged with defending against British raiders from Canada who never arrived. His dress sword has been passed down through the generations, and now takes up residence in the wall of my home office. I believe Wing’s history could be an interesting subject of a work that’s part biography, part history, and part fiction, and some day I’m going to get around to writing that work.

One Can Be Greater Than More

If I’m going to take a break from fiction and focus on reblogging for a while, I really should say something more about these posts I’m sharing than, “hey, this is cool.”

Over at the Writings By Ender blog, Austin L. Wiggins laments the epidemic of sequels in movies and novels, and encourages aspiring writers to focus on self-containted stories and novels rather than inventing a formula that can be extended across multiple volumes. I agree with his assessment — the last thing the literary world needs is another high fantasy trilogy, and the constant recycling of yesteryear’s stories is discouraging writers from exploring their creativity  — and have no plans to serialize any of the fiction I’ve been developing in this blog. Gray Metal Faces, being a novel about high school students, could easily be extended into sequels based on school years, but I’m going to conclude that work by eliminating any possibility of a follow-up story. (Don’t worry, nobody dies.) And while I could further explore The Land Without Mosquitos by introducing other visitors from Jane Summers’ alternate reality, I have no interest in doing so.

Let me finish a few works, get them published, and God help me actually make a couple bucks off my craft — then I can think about a multi-volume work. But that days a long ways off, and I’ve got plenty of work planned to keep me busy until I get there.

A Walk Through Memory

Taking a break from fiction for a while to recharge the battery of my creative desire; I promise to move on from this subject, but I gotta say it one more time — NaNoWriMo took a lot out of me. Until I’m ready to check back in to the game, I’ll be sharing noteworthy work that appears in my reader, such as this vignette from Counting Ducks on the enduring power of love.

Final Thoughts on NaNoWriMo 2016

It’s been a few days since the end of this year’s National Novel Writing Month event. I’m happy I participated, and very satisfied at having reached the goal of 50K words. Chapters six and seven of “Gray Metal Faces” have been completely revised, and the first draft of chapter eight has begun; honestly, I don’t think I would have accomplished so much if I hadn’t been trying to “win” NaNoWriMo.

But I’m not happy with those last few days in November. Getting those final few thousand words was difficult, and while I got the job done, I certainly didn’t enjoy myself. Writing shouldn’t always be easy, and I’m definitely not afraid of the work; however, during those last few days in November I was writing because I had to, not because I wanted to. Working on the novel became just another obligation, and I approached those final blog entries with all the enthusiasm of a dental appointment.

That’s not a feeling I want to experience again, and makes me wonder if I’ll participate in next year’s NaNoWriMo. Yeah, there’s a real good chance that I could end next November with a complete draft of the entire novel, which would be completely awesome. But to have that empty, joyless feeling — I’m not sure any accomplishment would be worth that.

So yes, I’m happy to have participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo, but whether I take part in next year’s event is an open question.