Monday, July 25, 2011

What You Never Wanted To Know

This week is going to be meme week. I have been sitting on a couple of rather hilarious memes for awhile and now information you never wanted to know about me shall be released into the wild. You have been forewarned.

And the best part? I get to tag you and force you to release similar information into the brambles of the internet. Mwahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK so you don't have to participate if you don't want to but I hope you do.

To begin with my crit partner Keriann Greaney Martin tagged me in a meme that may look familiar at first but on closer examination becomes deliciously twisted.


Are you a rutabaga?

Not to my knowledge. Though if I were I would want the dolls from Francess Hodgson Burnette's Rackedy Packed House to make a ten course meal out of just me so they can immitate the snooty dolls at Tidy Castle but have much more fun linking arms and dancing in a circle until they fall over.

When was the last time you ate lion meat?

When I was six and had just watched The Lion King. My mom would tell me she was feeding me hot dogs but I knew better.

Upload a heartwarming picture of something that makes you smile.

My feet and my sisters' feet hovering over a very familiar rug at a very familiar starbucks where I do most of my writing.

If you could go back in time and kick the crap out of someone, who would it be?

Nepolean. Really, one shouldn't go around turning revolutions into dictatorships. Not OK.

Name one habit that makes other people plot your demise.

Not planning their demise first.

What song would you like to be playing while you are kicking the crap out of someone?

"I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Disney's Mulan.

Where da muffin top at?

Drurry Lane? On top of the hill I think. Very cute little bakery but hard to find.

How many goats, stacked atop one another like Yertle's Turtles, would it take to reach the moon?

One with a good imagination and paper and ink. Some unusually evolved hooves that allow him to use afore mentioned instruments would also be useful.

Describe yourself using obscure Latin words.

Apoc hoc (take this)
Pax vobiscum (Peace be with you)
. . . I learned my Latin phrases from reading Walter Scott novels in high school so they aren't very extensive. The first was shouted while the speaker was stabbing someone, the second while the speaker was disguised as a priest. Consider the description as a contrast of extremes. Both sneaky and straight forward, violent and peace loving. Or maybe just really confused and doesn't know much Latin.

Why does evil exist?

Because good does.

What the chiz are you thinking right now?

That my previous answer was obnoxiously trite like something meaningful but unhelpful a wise mentor would say to a hero while he was in a tight spot.

So there you are. A lot of information you never wanted to know about me. And now for the fun part.

I get to tag as many people as I so choose.

Oh the power.

The diffictult part is in choosing people I don't already know have been tagged.

1. Roland
2. Tara Maya
3. Summer Ross
4. Karen Amanda Hooper

Pick a funny nickname for number 1.

Rollick. Yeah. I made a pun from your name. Consider this a sheepish grin, that is half apology half revel in the mischief.

Make up a rhyme about number 2.

Magic and intelligence with a touch of art
Risk taking bohemian, not afraid to start
on her own.
She won't moan
If her whimsical ink-sweat is not highly paid.

Where would number 3 hide in the event of the apocalypse?

I can't speak for certain but I think she would grow wings and fly away.

Where does number 4 purchase her pants?

. . . Somewhere in New York would be my guess. Other than that I don't know but its enough to make me just a touch jealous.

And later this week . . . an even stranger meme.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II post. (Come now. I write fantasy. You knew it was coming.)

This last Thursday night, like ever so many other human beings in the English speaking world, I saw the grand finale of the Harry Potter films. Watching movies at midnight has been a long time past time of mine. Often in costume. In fact, just last month, I saw a special showing of The Two Towers extended edition armed with home made lembas bread. But this wasn't just another pirate movie or something I could choose to watch at home on VHS (yes, another testament of my geek-dom. I still watch those). This was the last of a cultural phenomenon, a series that has taken over ten years to translate into film. So despite the fact that I had work at eight AM the next morning ,and despite the fact that it came after a long day at the DMV, I visited three theaters in person and then spent over an hour on line to get a hold of a ticket.

Eventually I ended up at Horton Plaza downtown San Diego. Needless to say it was crowded. The mall was swarming with young wizards and excited fans but there was something . . . different about these fans compared to those I've waited in line with for other movies.

First there was the costumes. Most of them were store manufactured. They were very accurate of course, but showcased none of the ridiculous dedication and knowledge it takes for a geek to piece one together on his own. There was one home made costume but after puzzling for some time over the inaccuracy I discovered (because the wearer of said costume was asked) that it was meant to be a Gandalf costume.

This was the first sign that something was wrong. As the night progressed many other strange things took place.

My brother and I sat in our seats, drawing each other Harry Potter themed word puzzles to pass the time

The ingenious and excruciatingly difficult Harry Potter word search my brother drew for me to do. You can tell how ingenious it was because he broke down and gave me hints (note the arrows) and I still didn't finish it before the movie started.

The slightly less ingenious crossword puzzle I drew for my brother. You can tell it is less ingenious because he finished it in a matter of minutes. Or maybe he's just a genius.

While we did this a light saber fight broke out somewhere in the theater, met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. A beach ball was released and thrown back into the air with shouted quotes from Spartacus. My little brothers' friend admitted to me that not only had he read none of the books but hadn't seen the last two movies.

I slowly began to realize that I was not surrounded by fellow die-hard fans of the boy who lived out to watch the final battle with he who must not be named and compare the adaptation to J.K. Rowling's original. I was in an excitable crowd of people harboring varying degrees of fondness for Harry Potter who were out to have a good time. If I was certain you had read Terry Pratchett's Going Postal I would tell you that they were not true pin-heads. They were merely *gasp* hobbyists.

When I first began to read the Harry Potter books I was reluctant because they were so popular (a bit of my inner emo manifesting itself there). But my sister insisted that however much the books were overestimated in the eyes of the public they were equally underestimated. They are praised and hyped at every corner of the universe because they've made so much money and, well everyone else is talking about them, but few people really take the time to recognize their true literary value. The believable aging of the characters, the progression of the themes as Harry gets older, the way Rowling sets up plot twists so far in advance and then hides them with school yard drama.

With that in mind I don't suppose it was much of a surprise to see that Harry's last moment was over shadowed by his own popularity. The world is full of people who want to be excited about something and one hit movie will do as well as another, but what really struck me, and made me feel just a teensy bit lonely, was that they were playing the game of the geeks. Except that it wasn't uncool anymore and it wasn't as meaningful. I can't help but wonder, does this always happen when something good is discovered by everyone else? Is it maybe better to let some things remain unknown?

Monday, July 11, 2011

On Giving Critiques

I don't think I even need to comment on the invaluable effects of a good critique. I myself have some very amazing critique partners, (L. T. Host, Keriann Gearney Martin, K. Marie Criddle, Refugio Jones and Whitney Coleman) who help me to improve my writing constantly. I am sure many of you who have crit partners know exactly what I am talking about. When critiquing a piece however, it is sometimes difficult to know how much help I am actually being, if maybe I am ripping apart the writer's love child for my own pleasure. Here are some general guidelines I try to follow when I am asked for my opinion on a piece of writing, though ultimately it comes down to a lot of old fashioned intuition (drat writing and its inability to conform to absolute rules –except that that's my favorite part about it).

1) What is my relationship to the writer? Critique partners, of course, want nothing but my full, honest opinion but occasionally a close friend will ask me to review something they've written and I try to be a little more gentle. Similarly, if I am visiting a new critique group or critiquing something by a guest I tend to explain my comments in greater detail since they are aren't likely to be familiar with my verbal shorthand for particular writing issues.

2) How experienced is the writer? Some writers leave almost nothing but nit-picky grammar mistakes for me to discuss with them while others leave a vast legion of plot and formatting hiccups that I take issue with. When that happens I try not to point out every single item in their piece that causes me to pause. If they are bombarded with everything at once they will likely get discouraged and not know where to begin. Instead I will point out a few of the issues in the same order I would edit my own work, beginning with plot and character hiccups and then the structural and stylistic if there aren't too many of the others for the writer to deal with at once. Not because I don't think the writer can “handle” the feedback so much as it is easier to fix things when the focus is narrowed.

3) What are the good qualities of the piece? Sometimes good writing is harder to see than bad. When something is amiss it jumps out and screams at me but when everything is flowing smoothly I become involved in the story and forget all about the writing. It is just as important, however, for a writer to know what she is doing right as it is for her to know what she is doing wrong. I wouldn't want her to sacrifice her beautiful, clever use of language in order to quicken the pace. At least not on every page.

4) Is the comment I am about to make stylistic or a personal preference? Stylistic comments are usually pretty easy to find. If you prefer to dialogue tags or italicized thoughts, omniscient narrative, or present tense. These comments are worth bringing up but a disclaimer recognizing it to be stylistic or an explanation as to why that particular technique does not work in that particular spot is needed. Personal preferences, however, can be harder to spot. For example, if I were not attracted to particularly manly men I might be tempted to tell a writer that her character's love interest is unattractive when the majority of her readers would disagree with me. Similarly I might sympathize with a character I am not meant to if she is given a hobby I enjoy or a vice a struggle with myself.

So what are your guidelines for critiquing other writers' work? Do you tend to ere on the side of being too nice or too harsh? What writing issues can you simply not stand?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Could Have, Would Have

“I could write a novel if I had the time. I might not be very good at the language but I could put together a good story. I dream novels.” --Actual quote.

Perhaps I am over sensitive but these kinds of comments make my tongue bleed trying to hold back a retort. I can't help but feel like I've been letting the tannins of a good pinot roll around on the back of my tongue when someone comes along and tries to chug down the whole bottle in one go.

First, who actually has time to write? Writing is what you do instead of sleeping/eating/shopping/watching tv/doing the dishes because you can't help yourself.

Second, writing is all about the language. True, the grammar doesn't have to be perfect and the prose doesn't have to be poetry for the story to be compelling (though it does help) but you have to choose your words carefully and piece them together in a way that will make your reader not only understand what is going on, but care.

Third, dreams aren't novels. Dreams can inspire novels, they can be as vivid and complex as novels, but when you wake up and try to write them down they are full of holes. Wait, why was I so afraid to sound the strange gong? What were we doing at the monastery anyways? Why did the floating boat community we lived on have to close after dark and what did that have to do with the gong in the first place? (questions from actual dream) These holes can be filled but it takes a lot of careful thought.

I am sure that people who make such comments really could write a novel if they were willing to put the time and effort into it. It might turn out to be harder than they expected but they could do it. Still, there is one important factor that prevents them.

They haven't started one yet.

I hope I don't sound overly bitter and defensive. Do these kind of throwaway comments frustrate you at all?