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Archive for May, 2017

Still running on low brainage, and recovering from a wonderful long weekend at war. To tide you over, and also give you a really excellent perspective of what I do on the weekends, here’s a couple of fabulous short films made about the SCA by a very talented lady. Please to enjoy.

 

 

vimeo.com/176280231

 

vimeo.com/196029359

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Lots of stuff going on around here right now, and not enough brain to deal with it all. So, please to enjoy some interesting stuff I found on YouTube.  😉

 

Manuela & Esperanza: The Art of Maya Weaving

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrBdRbrXMVw

 

Weaving a Culture: A Film on Saris of India (Part 1)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_TEHWmL6fY

 

Weaving a Culture: A Film on Saris of India (Part 2)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfgUp-NYSOI

 

 

 

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We’ve all seen it. The nick-of-time rescue. The bomb diffused with one second left. The suspect bolting when the cops show up, resulting in a parkour-style chase around the city. These, and many others, are standard tropes in film and television. Sadly, they and their ilk show up a lot in fiction writing as well. I’ve even poked fun at some of them before (“Attack of the Killer Clichés”, “Return of the Killer Clichés”).

It’s time for them to die. Really. NOW.

They used to have their place on (rare) occasion. But speaking as someone who watches a lot of streaming video while playing with string, I’m sick of seeing them EVERYWHERE. And, with the crush of indie publishing, fan fic, and writer’s “critique” sites, I’m seeing it more and more in fiction as well.

That’s just lazy writing, people.

Not that I haven’t done my fair share of tropes and stereotypes. Part of my reason for doing this piece is to remind myself of all the bad writing habits I have, and possibly figure out how to fix/avoid them. As opposed to just avoiding my writing all together…

 

Minion tea[4]

…and dark chocolate…

 

So, why do we have such tropes in the first place? One word: drama. We’re trying to up the drama quotient. For a story to be successful we need to have tension and consequences and challenges for our characters to wade through. If there’s no risk for the character(s), there’s no reward for the reader(s).

But there’s a bazillion ways to cause trouble for our characters. It’s time to get inventive. We writers are really evil geniuses channeling our Dr. No selves onto the page, so let loose your inner demons and give the world you’ve created something to REALLY worry about. And I don’t mean turning that bomb they’ll need to diffuse at the last second into a dirty bomb, or a bio-bomb. Been there, done that, played the video game.

No, if you need to blow shit up, do it metaphorically instead of literally. If your characters are well developed (see “It’s Made of People”), it should be easy to come up with stuff to throw in their way. What’s the worse possible thing (or person) that could happen to them? Why does it need to happen? How will it advance the story or the character’s development? Everything you do on the page needs to keep things moving forward, in some fashion, for the overall arc of your writing.

That doesn’t mean leaving out things that can add depth to the world you’re creating, though, just because it doesn’t directly affect what’s happening. Black-clad mercenaries are a dime-a-dozen. But mercenaries who collect butterflies and read Harry Potter are something else again. Now you have some depth you can dive into. Will any of that be pertinent to your story later? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, though, it gives me-the-reader something interesting about your character I can latch on to. There’s more there than black leather and a gun. That could mean there’s more to your story than the usual revenge/redemption/killer rampage most mercenaries inhabit.

 

Dominatrix Minion

That’s not the kind of black leather I meant. Now I need the eye bleach…

 

But what if I REALLY want to blow something up?

Then blow it the fuck up. Make it spectacular. Make it a surprise. Make it heart-rending. Make it anything but the usual. I don’t want to see your hero rushing in at the last second, huffing about how the bomb squad won’t get there in time and is it the red wire or the blue wire as he bites through both with his teeth to save the day. I want to see him crushed by defeat because he DIDN’T get there in time. Or horrified because he didn’t know the bomb even existed. Or secretly elated because now he has the perfect excuse to go on a murderous rampage.

Okay, yeah, that’s another trope, too. Sorry.

The point is, do something DIFFERENT. If you’re finding yourself falling into the same old comfortable ruts for plot points and character development, get out. Pretend it’s Opposite Day and you’re playing a game of Calvinball. Be wicked. Be absurd. Be outrageous. Kill the hero, because he’s not really the hero, his female sidekick is – psych! Don’t kill anybody, because the bomb was really a dud! The bomb DOES go off, but the entire city is coated in glitter! Anything but the usual.

And how do you know if it’s the usual? Just ask yourself: have I seen/read/heard this before? If you have, how important is it to keep it “normal?” What happens if you do THIS instead? If the ticking time bomb is integral to your story, what are you doing around that to make your characters and story different?

 

minion-emergency-helpame

Read a book, they said. It’ll be fun, they said…

 

There are occasions when we depend on tropes and stereotypes as a kind of shorthand for the reader. It can make for less explanation/exposition, and allow us to get on with the real reason this story needs to be told. But we should never depend on them. The world is comforted by formula – the tried and true (see Hollywood) – but we writers need to constantly rail against the expected, the normal, the usual, and really dig into exploring our worlds to the fullest. Whatever your genre, whether fiction or non-fiction, we want the reader to be entertained, enthralled, surprised – not bored or disappointed. Give them predictable and they’ll give you the cold shoulder. Writing is lonely enough – we don’t need to chase off any readers in the process.

Turn the formulae on their heads. Find the peculiar, the wretched, the dangerous, and let us have it. Always challenge yourself. You’ll be a better writer, and I’ll have more cool things to read.

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She’s not at all what you would expect.

No shroud of murky darkness. No raving anger. No muttering excuses. No whorls of swirling depression blasting everything else to bits.

Just a sympathetic smile.

She sits on my desk sipping from a delicate teacup, as if her appearance in the middle of the night – and the middle of my writing – is a perfectly normal occurrence.

Okay, maybe it is a little more normal than it should be. But it’s not any less annoying.

Looking for all the world like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies, I half anticipate her guzzling from a jug of “rheumatism medicine” instead of that dainty china doll accessory. But then, I’m not entirely sure of the contents, and she’s the type that hides that kind of stuff in plain sight.

“It’s all right, dear,” she coos. “It’s for the best.”

I just glare at her. I know what she means, and what the rest of her litany will entail. I’ve heard it my whole life. Every time there’s a bump in the road. With every obstacle, every challenge, every rejection. Even with the successes, too. Always that little whisper just off my shoulder.

A raging monster would be easy to ignore, by comparison.

“It’s just the way of the world now.” She takes another sip, pinky out, and rests her cool blue gaze on me. “And it’s ALWAYS been the way of the entertainment industry. You’re battling terrible odds on the best of days.”

She’s right about that. I’m no spring chicken and ageism is rampant, even for novelists. It should be about the product – it should ALWAYS be about the product. But people are what they are. Prejudice dies hard, if at all. And being a good writer isn’t always good enough.

“You can’t help support the household with rejection slips.” Her gnarled hand rests gently on my arm, with a little pat for emphasis. “Maybe you should just stick with what makes money. There’s no shame in that.”

No shame.

No shame in settling. No shame in giving up. No shame being good, but not quite good enough. That’s the story of my life.

All my glory days were long ago. All the genius, all the talent, doesn’t mean anything in a world that favors the loudmouth, the provocateur, the bombastic. Give the masses a sequined three-ring circus and blow up the MC as the finale, and you might get some attention. Social Media is god and goddess. Repeat the inane enough times and it turns into a catchy phrase. Watch that catchy phrase all tarted up for Sunday dinner at the whorehouse win the presidency.

“No one wants smart anymore.” Granny pulls out her big brown jug and chugs a few. I’m not sure what happened to the teacup – there’s no sign of it amidst the clutter of my desk. “It’s all about fake news and alternate facts and screwing everybody but the rich in the name of Jesus H. Christ-on-a-cracker. That’s just not for you, dear.”

Ain’t that the truth. But someone has to be the light keeper. Someone has to be the repository of reason and common sense and fact-based intelligence. Who better than a science fiction writer?

“There’s already so many good ones out there.” She winks at me and swigs another gulp off the jug.

I hate that she’s in my head. I’m never really free of her. And I hate that she’s so often right. There are a ton of good writers out there, already. The David Gerrolds, the John Scalzis, the Chuck Wendigs, the Jim Wrights. All fabulous writers with scathing wit and near-prescient powers of observation. They’ll not only keep the light burning, they’ll weaponize it and napalm the hell out of the stupids. I live barely in their shadows – a cockroach hoping a crumb will fall my way so I can feel like the gods have blessed me.

The jug is proffered in my general direction. “It’ll take the edge off.”

Like that’s a good idea. Just hide in your poison of choice. Hide in that world someone else created because you can’t handle the world you live in. Or the world you should be creating. Real writers write. Fake writers dream of publishing deals while killing orcs.

Too bad I’m old and have tits. I’d probably be a damn good game writer.

“Of course you would, dear.” The jug is tipped over and drizzling its contents down the side of my desk. “Everybody loved having you run games in college. Thirty-five years ago.”

She may look like an innocent little old lady, but her delivery would rival Dame Maggie Smith’s best Downton Abbey snark.

On the downhill side of middle age, and nothing to show for my efforts. So much of my life spent dreaming instead of doing. Because of that little bitch perched in the middle of my soul.

“It’s too hard for you, dear.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you are – you don’t know the right people.”

“You’re good. But not good enough.”

“You don’t really want success, do you? Just think of all the crowds you’d have to deal with.”

If she were an ugly monster, beating her would be easy. Heroic, even. But Granny is a sweet little thing, always looking out for my best interests, of course. Protecting me from the hurt. I won’t get rejected if I don’t put myself out there in the first place. I’m okay right where I am. I have a nice house and a great husband and there’s no need for me to get myself all beat up over something that’s really a pipe dream. Let’s face it – everybody wants to be a writer. And they’re a dime a dozen. So many of them will write for free. And so many of them will write badly. The world is littered with terrible copy under noisy videos claiming to be news, and no one seems to care.

“That’s right, dear.” The teacup has returned, held between finger and thumb like it is a dirty diaper and there’s no pail in sight. “No one cares about quality anymore. So you shouldn’t waste your time.”

I lean back in my chair and scowl. “Fuck you, Granny.”

 

 

Worst thing you write

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Spring is just about done and summer is almost here (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere – ya’ll Southerners just HAVE to do things differently…). In the Pagan calendar, May 1st is usually celebrated as Beltane, aka Walpurgis, and is a celebration of life and fertility and beseeching the gods for a good crop of both food and children. Given that my heritage is mostly Germanic, I should probably be observing the date as Walpurgis. But I’m an American neopagan, so Beltane it is.

 

And in case you think such celebrations are but things of the past, here’s a few links to the contrary:

 

BBC News: “In pictures: Beltane Fire Festival welcomes in the summer”

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-39748054

 

The Irish Post: “Beltane: 12 facts, legends and traditions of Ireland’s ancient May Day festival”

http://irishpost.co.uk/120299-2/

 

The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA): “Coven celebrates Beltane at park to welcome spring, educate about Paganism”

http://timesleader.com/news/local/655663/coven-celebrates-beltane-at-park-to-welcome-spring-educate-about-paganism

 

I’ll be over here, celebrating in my usual way – with dark chocolate and bourbon.

 

Blessed Be.

 

beltane_3

https://www.goddessandgreenman.co.uk/beltane

 

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