Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Detriments of a One-Book Library

I just want you to imagine the expression on my face. Let me set the scene: I worked last night at the bar until 3 a.m. I have not, as of yet, managed to get any sleep. At 4:45 a.m. this morning, I was running the vacuum to get shards of crystal out of my carpet and muttering dire threats of bodily harm to whichever stupid cat had knocked it off. Finally, I gave up on the sleep notion and decided to just go all day (and my night shift) without any shut-eye.

Looking for some sort of entertainment (cable TV sucks now that college football season is over) I opened up my laptop and hopped online. Wandering through cyberspace, I come across this quote:

This decision to appeal was made after much prayer and consideration, and significant answers to prayer confirming God's will regarding this case. Witchcraft is an abomination (profoundly evil and detestable) unto God. (Deut. 18:10-12) It's time we listen to His Voice on the subject and not the dictates of our own hearts.

Harry Potter is being used to teach and promote witchcraft, Wicca, a U.S. Gov't recognized religion, in our schools, classrooms, and to this entire generation.

My first response: spit take on a cup of coffee. My second response: darnit, that had Bailey's in it! My third response: What in the HELL is this?

Then I had a revelation. Oooooh, I get it!

The first clue: the name of the website is HisVoiceToday. This is the website of Laura Mallory, the lady who is taking her case for removing Harry Potter from public schools to the Supreme Court.

Are you freaking kidding me? Doesn't this woman have anything better to do with her time? Like maybe, oh, I don't know--volunteer at the local hospital or nursing home or work to help child literacy or maybe even (dare I say it??) to READ THE FREAKING BOOKS?

She hasn't read them. She's condemning something she hasn't even read. Once upon a time, a year or so ago, I had a very ugly confrontation with a member of my writing group (at the time; I have since departed) on this very subject. She, a WRITER, had nothing good to say about Eragon and she HAD NOT READ THE STORY.

*takes a deep breath*

Okay, morons, let's walk through this slowly. First off, you can't ban a book you haven't read. That's just plain stupid. How can you judge something you know nothing about? Isn't that along the same lines as racism? sexism? homophobism? IF you don't READ the book, then your opinion about said book is worthless.

The ALA (American Legal Association) has compiled a list of the most challenged books of the 21st century. Here's the list:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier

3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou

6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers

7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris

8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz

9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

10. "Forever" by Judy Blume

Huh? "Of Mice and Men?" You're joking right--surely no one is stupid enough to want to ban one of the great books of the 20th century, would they? A Judy Blume book? Noooooooo. Maya Angelou? People really have a problem with a book that rates as one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had in literature? No way. We're not THAT dumb....are we? And right there at the top--the Harry Potter series.

Congratulations, Ms. Rowling. You're keeping good company.

I've read Harry Potter. I own all the movies. I picked up the first Harry Potter book on a whim. I love children's literature; I still read Louisa May Alcott and the Anne of Green Gables series and the high school and beyond years of Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart. So, when I opened Harry Potter, it was more to see what all the fuss was about.

I discovered that quickly. The writing is evocative. The characterizations are brilliant. The premise is so creative and the implementation so skillfully done that when I finished the first book, I went to the bookstore and bought the other three that were out then just so I could see what happened next.

And what happened next? This:

Today's generation faces evil like no other in history with the bombardment of violent, sexual and occult images of our modern mass media. I think perhaps we are so desensitized, we couldn't recognize it even if on the plate in front of us. This case addresses only one facet of that evil, being spoon-fed to our children, even in the public schools. With the deceptive, exciting, children-friendly packaging of witchcraft in the Harry Potter series, our youth today view witchcraft not only as good and fun, but harmless fantasy.

Ooooooooookay. Tell me: if kids view witchcraft as 'good' and 'fun', then how could they also see it as 'harmless fantasy'??? After all, Harry Potter encourages people to pick up the occult, right?

I cannot count the times I have been told that these books are "just fantasy." But if you would like to know the truth, please keep reading and do your own research. Not only is witchcraft a real religion, subtly intriguing and alluring our children and teens in unprecedented numbers, it is a dangerous one, often leaving its followers in darkness, depression and even suicidal.

Oh, okay. It's okay for people to read about witchcraft--but only if they're going to agree with you. For the record, witchcraft is NOT a religion. Wicca is a religion. If you really wanted to get technical, Harry Potter isn't a witch. Hermione is. Harry is a sorcerer.

*had to say it*

But this one is the kicker:

We need to ask ourselves three questions

1. Do you believe in a real devil?

2. Do you believe the occult practices listed in Deuteronomy 18 are really dangerous and do they really come from Satan?

3. How likely is it that the real devil, (Lucifer-Satan) has nothing to do with the worlds fastest selling book on the planet, that are communicating concepts of witchcraft to kids? (From: Steven Wohlberg, Hour of the Witch)

Okay so let me get this straight. Something evil is responsible for Harry Potter. Could it be......SATAN??????

Whoever said ignorance is bliss wasn't thinking about the rest of us. You know, one of the biggest problems we face as a nation is the overwhelming "Christian" desire a portion of our population has to stick their oh-so-holy-and-in-the-air noses into other people's lives.

Ms. Mallory, if you want a book to ban I can help you out. *grin* I just happen to have a few .pdf downloads of a few novellas I've written--nothing much, you understand, but they do deal with pagan gods and magic. And while I haven't written about Satan yet, I have written about his Greek equivalent. I'd be more than happy to send you some copies--free of charge of course! Who knows? It might broaden your narrow-minded, tight-lipped, sanctimonious horizons a bare centimeter or two. There are way too many "Christian" deeds for a lady such as yourself to perform--deeds that will make an immediate impact upon a family or your community and will serve you much better when you get to the pearly gates and must account for yourself. You see, the books you are attacking are almost single-handedly responsible for bringing children (and some adults) back to the joys and wonder of reading. J.K. Rowling contributes much more than her writing; she aggressively contributes and solicits aid for single parent families in the UK and does a lot of work for the MS Society as well. Can you say the same?

Perhaps if you had more than one book in your personal library, you'd understand these things better.

But I'm not mad at you. No, not at all. After all,

But a witless man can no more become wise than a wild donkey's colt can
be born a man.---Job 11:12

Oh, and

You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain
understanding. Proverbs 8:5

See what happens when you READ the book before you condemn it? On second thought, maybe you should spend more time reading the Bible. Obviously, you've missed a few things.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What Did I Do Wrong?

I am currently beating my head against the desk. I just got to listen to my daughter go off on an anti-abortion tirade.

Wait. Let me say that again. MY daughter (who apparently has absorbed NOTHING in my house) is ranting like an established 60-year-old pro-life male. Anyone who knows me is perfectly well aware that I am anything but indifferent to political issues. They also know that my basic tenet on such issues boils down to PERSONAL choices, whether those choices deal with abortion or who to vote for or homosexuality.

PERSONAL choice.

But, oh my heart stopped to hear my daughter go off on a tirade about *baby-murder.* Damnit. It's not so much her stance that I disagree with; it's the complete and total lack of tolerance for a point of view that she does not share. Evidently, I have failed in one aspect of parenting--despite all the allusions to the contrary, I have neglected to instill an open mind into at least one of my children.

Now, it is important for ME to have an open mind in regards to HER. If I say no to any request, I am narrow-minded. I've even been called old-fashioned.

ROFLMAO! Yes, I laughed at that too. Laughed hysterically until tears rolled down my face. If she only knew! Old-fashioned? Okay--if you can call having 21st century ideals old-fashioned then I guess I am.

But this? What's next? Racism? Homophobia? An affiliation with *gasp* either of the two American political parties?????

Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so.

It was almost more than I could do to restrain the comment (complete with statistics, Supreme Court decisions, and real-life examples) that bubbled to my lips when she told me. It was all I could do to remember my own priority on how important it is for my daughters to create their own points-of-view on ANY issue and not to impose my own upon. It was hard, VERY hard, to murmur a noncommittal "That's nice, dear." and walk away.

But, I did.

Maybe that will bring the lesson home, more than my previous lessons ever have.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Who needs to blog when... can make movies instead. This new program is addictive. Check out the Doom Bunny movie I made for Bibsy!

The reason for all of this movie making frenzy? Well, let's just say other people don't know how to drive in the snow. Our van ended up in a ditch--hard--yesterday morning thanks to some idiot in a "four wheel drive" truck. Quite nice.

What was even nicer was the hospital trip afterward.

So, once again, I am laid up in bed and not permitted to move. Even I can't write for all those hours straight, so I've been amusing myself with making movies instead. I started looking into this because some authors I am acquainted with pay people to make promos for them. I wanted to see how easy it was.

It's not easy. It's not that hard, either. It is meticulous work, however, so I don't advise trying it if you're in the slightest bit easy to annoy.

Ten a.m.--time for more medicine.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Too much time on my hands.

Oh dear. Found a new hobby today. Check out this movie!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ah......Release Day! Pass Me The Vodka

So, the Shequanti comes out today. Once again, I'm excited. I love it when I have something on the verge of publication. Will it do well? Will people like it? Will my fragile writer's ego be stoked by some anonymous reader actually giving me a "good job"?!?!?!

Ah, the possibilities.

Yeah, so it's an e-publication. Yeah, so it's erotica. Big whoop. I still try to craft the stories with as much care as I put into my other work--actually a little bit more. I don't have vocabularic problems with mainstream. There are only so many terms for anatomical features, after all. But, I strive to create a credible plot and vibrant characters and I still have those moments of "Oh, my gosh--what if it doesn't work?"

The fact that I can't write a single book plays into that. I mean, what if the first book is so loathed by the general population that my publisher says, "Uh. sorry but this sucks." ACK! That would go on the wall of shame with all of those rejection letters.

Oh, I haven't told you about my wall? This is pretty funny. For the longest time, I thought that it would be neat to frame acceptance letters and hang them over my desk for inspiration. However, since reverse psychology has always seemed to work better for me I've been hanging rejection letters. It's become my list of people to say "I told you so" to in a few years.

You know, a few years from now when I'm rich and famous.

Yeah, I cracked up at that line too.

At any rate, some of the rejections are so out there that I actually blew them up so that I read them while reclining in my chair. After all, who wouldn't want to look up at a moment when struggling with a dangling participle and see some poignant comment like, "This is the most derivative story I've read in five years."???

But, I digress.

This release is a bit different from the Mythos books. For one thing, the plot is entirely mine and not based on an obscure Roman novel from the second century. For another thing, it's more of a test of my storytelling skills. It would have been difficult to screw up Cupid and Psyche. The Shequanti, on the other hand, was born in my little head. That's enough to screw it up from the get-go.

We'll see how it goes. I'm sure that I'll be either crying or crowing about it in the days to come. All I know at this point is that I'm hitting another milestone today. Perhaps I've been taking baby steps, but I'm still on the path. I think I'll pop off and do some work on my website.

Excuse me, but could you pass the vodka?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Playing Catch Up

All righty then. So far today has been somewhat productive, with my revamped anthology piece resubmitted to Dragon's Den. With the plot/character issues resolved, I think it makes for a much tighter piece---and I actually lost some words.

What? LOST words?

Yep--I lost about 500 words, which can only be to the good. I'll probably take another look at it when I get home from work tonight. There are a couple of other scenes I'm debating about keeping or not so I need to sit on it for a day or so and come back at it with a fresh mind.

In other news...

Getting a lot done on Shequanti 3. Spent some time this morning answering interview questions (gack! are you serious) and getting my promotional events lined up for the rest of the week. I have marked out space on my calendar (wow do I feel professional saying that) to get some more submissions circulating. I haven't had a rejection in a while; I'm starting to go through withdrawal. I have probably ten half-assed short stories I need to find a home for.

And a couple of novels or ten. *grin*

Turns out the release date for Shequanti 2 is now March the 9th. How distressing! I was hoping it would be in February--BUT, perhaps in the long run that's best anyway.

*momentary pause for cat ass-beating. china does not belong on the floor*

At any rate, I'll be doing some more work on the Shoot The Muse website this weekend and getting it in gear for the release of Asphodel. Which, I might add, is starting to make me nervous. What if it gets panned..... would I survive the emotional blow?

Meh. Damn Elves. I think I'll run off and kill a few more of them so I can get my equinamity back.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down

All right, already. It's January. Get over the damn rain crap and SNOW would you? This cold, miserable, incessant rain gives me a pain in the ass--okay the lower back about two vertabrae up from the ass but STILL--you get my point.

What a nasty day. No need to do anything today but write. I had a very productive day on Friday and I'm hoping to exceed that today. I have to tend bar the next two nights (waste of time), have a book release on Thursday and a hell of a lot of writing to get done. Hopefully, it will snow enough here to force me to stay home for a couple more days (thank goodness for geographic location--living on top of hill has multiple benefits)but I can't bank on that.

Oh, and by the way, you know I'm depressed if I willingly quote the Carpenters.

At any rate, I'm off to try and hit my target for the day--which is finishing book three of the Shequanti and getting some serious revisionary work done on Asphodel. I'll pop back in later with a word count.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Blogging as an Exercise for Writers

So, continuing on my lecture of yesterday, let's consider blogging my writing exercise of the day.

You've all heard me harp--incessantly--on the need to write daily. Every day. At least something. Even a grocery list can be creative if you sit down and put some thought into it. How is the store laid out? What do I need to buy first? Saving the frozen foods for last--it's a plan, a scheme of action that forces you to think through what you're going to do.

The same thing applies to blogging. How do I open up my mind and explore the (usually odd) sequence of events that's mulling around in there? How difficult is it to get my fingers moving on the keyboard? If I start off with a boring, mundane topic (like blogging as an exercise for writers) where will that take me?

The fact of the matter is that blogging employs WORDS. Words are a writer's tool. In order to write effectively, you have to be able to sculpt your words into a meaningful sequence. Some of you know that instead of a minimum word count per day, I employ time blocks as my spur to action. Word counts are deceptive. Yesterday, for example, was an extremely prolific day. I cranked out over 14k. That is a LOT--even for me. Nine times out of ten, however, I'd rather produce two thousand well-thought-out words than fifteen thousand aimless ones.

There are days when the thought process moves slower. I have to stop and plan what I'm going to do next, or I discover a character whose personality isn't quite shaping up. So, I'll use part of my allotted time in problem solving. Even that is productive--extremely productive for the creator of fiction.

With blogging, however, it's all about the flow of words, the ability to take a nebulous thought and craft it into a logical, pertinent expression of where the writer is at. Granted, where I'm at is usually not all that fabulous of place--BUT, finding a way to EXPRESS that....ay, there's the rub.

Sometimes blogging turns into meme. Nothing wrong with that--particularly if your meme is sarcastic and attempts to be humorous. It's a personal journal, a revelation of the personality of the writer. For the most part, however, blogging takes on a life of its own. What starts out as a rant turns into a lesson--and sometimes the lesson is for the blogger more than their readers.

So sit down, open up a blog post, and write. It doesn't matter what it is; it doesn't matter what it's about. It's writing, and that is an exercise that writers need to employ daily. Who needs pilates? Think of this as yoga for the mind. As your flexibility grows, as your mind moves through the intricate shaping of words and thoughts, your creativity expands with it--and it's much easier to attack that story that's giving you fits or that plot development that made you pull your hair out the day before.

Hop to it. Blog daily---then write.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Fine Craft Of Creativity in Writing

Once upon a time, I succumbed to the myth that creativity was unforced and spontaneous. I believed that it was never a matter of the writer's choice as to when inspiration would strike, but a combination of chance and circumstance. I have come to the conclusion in recent weeks, however, that this is not necessarily the case.

For example...

Asphodel was entertainment driven. I was laid up on the couch for almost 3 years without vital necessities of life like internet and cable tv. I had to entertain myself, so I wrote. Every night, I went to bed after hours of working on the story. What would I do tomorrow? How would such and such plot conflict be resolved? What possible way would I find to extract the heroine from whatever her current crisis was without resorting to deus ex machina? The next morning, I'd fire up the computer with trepidation. Would the muse show up? Or, would I be relegated to playing endless hours of Snood waiting for divine revelation to strike me?

I very rarely played Snood.

It was interesting to witness, almost as if in third person, how my mind took over the solution of whatever story dilemmas I'd created the day before. I do not recollect any conscious thought going into most of my plot resolutions. They just....happened and I let the story follow the flow of my much-nimbler-than-I-realized mind.

Nowadays, things are different. I am more organized as a writer. I have allotted time blocks set aside daily for writing which I rarely miss. (Granted, lately I haven't been writing much but that's not my fault. I'm back on track now.) I don't wait for the muse to show up any more; now I drag her, kicking and screaming, to the laptop with me.

I rarely have a direction when I sit down to write, even now. I'm never quite sure which project I'll delve into until I open up the file. But then the words just flow--yes, some of them superfluous, some of them even--dare I say it?--adverbial, but still they struggle and race onto the screen without a conscious decision on my part to force them out. The difference, however, is that now when I write I am conscious of my craft.

The craft of creativity. It is a lost art in many ways. Creativity must be channelled, funnelled into a recognizable shape and form that adheres to the standards of the profession. Creativity must be restrained within the confines of the willing suspension of disbelief, yet must stretch those boundaries to the utmost if you are a speculative fiction writer. Creativity must be uniform, garbed within the strictures of grammar and vocabulary and accessibility to your readers. Asphodel was written with only one reader in mind: me. Believe it or not, it's very easy for me to understand what I'm writing. It's not quite so easy for others to follow my convoluted thought processes and extreme vocabularic choices--or so I'm told. My later stories, however, were written for other people to read. Darkshifters began as a short story that I thought I'd post at fantasy writers just to get a feel for this new world bouncing around in my head. Then it turned into a compulsion. Do any of you realize that at its height, I was churning out over a chapter a day of Darkshifters? While still working on the sixth book of Asphodel?

No wonder I'm irritable.

Lately, the erotica venture has shut out some of my more mainstream writing time. Now I have deadlines (yes, I hate them) and obligations to meet contractually. I've had to learn to focus my creative thought processes minutely into a single project in order to get it done. It is a lesson more writers need to learn. Until you've mastered the science and sitting down and writing every day whether you want to or not on a story that you don't really feel like touching at the moment you can have very little concept of what goes into the CRAFT of creativity. Not an art--that is internal and fueled by inspriation-- but a craft, a skill honed by practice and dedication over a significiant amount of time.

Make no mistake, that time factor has a hell of a lot to do with it. Until you have the time in, there's absolutely no reason for any young author to make demands on him or herself that are unattainable. In writing, more so than most creative fields, the art cannot evolve until the craft is second nature--and it is within the craft that the writer's true fulfillment is found.

Stop being so hard on yourself. It will come in time.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Aft agley

Strange isn't it, how things never work out as you plan.

The Suckeyes proved that they were, after all, no better than any other nut or legume and lay down to die in front of the Gators. *hack, hack, hurl* The only high point of Florida winning the national championship is that I get to point out ad nauseum *Well, at least Tennessee only lost to Florida by a point.*

Hehehehehe. So cruel.

Turns out the novella comes out next week now. Hurray! More time for promo! That works out well! Although I had to do quite a bit of switching up with events, it does work out much better for me. Although I am still mostly laid up upon the couch, I can at least work from the lap top without excessive .... er..... discomfort. Turns out that my spinal prosthetic is displeased with the infection that kept me laid up for the past ten days. *sigh* Nothing can ever be easy, can it?

We now have all the kitties in the new house and they are settling in nicely. No one is settling in more easily than the kitten I rescued a couple of weeks ago that my daughters named Biscuit. Biscuit? Was there ever a more ridiculous name for a cat? At any rate, Biscuit is already of the opinion that she is the Queen of the house. So far I have yet to disabuse her of the notion; she will learn as she grows older that only one can be the Queen and that is me. I am, after all, in charge of the dispensation of cat food. That makes me the ruler.

It's still cute.

As far as writing goes, over the last few days I have had the worst case of writer's block yet. I'd like to claim that it's the result of being sick, but the truth of the matter is that I just can't think of anything. I'm sure it will change. For the time being, however, I am content to be laid up on the couch with my books and a few movies while the cats play musical chairs next to me. It's a respite that I probably really need. As soon as I feel better, it'll be up and at 'em again with hammer and tongs. Might as well enjoy it while I can.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Prioritizing and Self-Justification

Ah, yes. My penchant for vocabulary has been resurrected along with my foul temper. Let's talk about prioritizing, shall we?

This is not a skill I excel at. I'll be the first to admit it. At the moment, I am a bit preoccupied with the national championship game tomorrow night...and seriously hoping that Florida gets its ass kicked.

(Obligatory football comment completed, moving on.)

At any rate, after my now-coming-up-on-eight-days-with-food-poisoning milestone, I am absolutely behind on everything that I need to do. I haven't written in five days, mostly because I can't hold my head up for longer than twenty minutes (that's getting better) I have a novella release this week that I haven't promoted at all and the deadlines for various projects are creeping closer. Scary stuff. Add to that the pomp and circumstance necessary for the national championship game at the bar (yep, my first shift back) and the desire to clean my house warring with the need to go see a movie and I am rather kerfuffled to say the least.

So, instead of doing anything about those issues, I have decided to blog.

Let's talk about a new word: self-justification. of my favorites. Thanks to this vocabularic tidbit I can rationalize anything that I do. For example: blogging about my inability to prioritize is, in fact, promotion for the novella. How do I figure, you ask? Simple. You're reading this, aren't you? *grin* Buy the damn book.

Sorry. Momentary pause for headspins. Perhaps in a day or so, I'll be able to see straight. Until then, it's nothing but self-justification for me, pal. Mwahahahaha.

Oh, and for all you Gator fans---fear the nut.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

And the Number One Reason NOT to eat at Taco Bell is.....

....ecoli, but that's not what this entry is about. Instead it is about the number two reason not to eat at Taco Bell and that's food poisoning.

I've never been poisoned before, although I'm sure some people have considered it seriously. Granted, this poisoning was an *accidental* poisoning brought on by poor sanitation and food preservation procedures (yep, had to get my dig in) but for pete's sake! After sickening loads of people with ecoli in Pennsylvania and the other northeastern states, would it have been TOO much to ask for a Taco Bell in Southern Ohio to actually made CERTAIN that the shredded chicken was good? yep, I watched New Year's Eve ushered in from the depths of my sickbed, and Dick Clark looked marginally better than I did.

If you've never had your stomach pumped, by the way, I don't recommend it even as a sado-masochistic exercise. I must admit, however, that I DID take notes. You never know when such a thing might some in handy in future stories. It's amazing what I go through for my art. *sigh*

At any rate, today is the first day I can hold my head up in five days or so, and even then only propped up by loads of pillows. I have to crank out some promotion for the Shequanti---which I'm now over a week behind on -- and I have to figure out what the latest controversy in DD is. All I know about it at the moment is one of my good friends is apologizing for using the term *fucking* to me in a post.

Yeah, don't go there. I didn't either.