Friday, August 31, 2012

We Still Need Books

You'd think with the awesomeness that is Google we could do all the research for our books online. Yeah, I thought that too and was way off.

In a novel I wrote, I gave my protagonist a gun not thinking much about it. On the re-read, I realized I knew absolutely nothing about guns but made the weapon an important fixture in my story. I couldn't take it out without doing some serious damage to my novel. At the time, I had little money and knew no one who owned a gun. I went to Google and it was a mistake. Information overload anyone. So many sites and I didn't understand a thing I was reading.

I turned to Amazon and researched books on gun ownership. Found one I liked and bought it. After reading the book, I returned to Google only this time my searches were much more specific like videos on how to clean a gun, different types so I could choose the one that best worked for my character and since I couldn't hold one, I searched for videos on how a gun fires.

Another example. I love darkness and I'm fascinated with Carl Jung's Shadow. An internet search gave me tons of articles on the Shadow. Then, I found a library dedicated to all things Jung and nearly died. Found some useful information I never thought to search for and some great words and phrases to use in my stories.

You see where I'm going with this?

You think I'd learned my lesson. I didn't. My current WIP has people fleeing the big cities and building villages in the middle of nowhere because heavily populated areas are too dangerous. I want to portray building a village from the ground up realistically so I'm researching specifics on how the US was colonized. Goggle was the first place I went to and, big surprise, I didn't find what I wanted.

Search Engines are awesome but they're also completely useless if you don't know the right terms to get the results you want. If you don't know anything about a topic, books give you basic understanding so you can conduct a more thoughtful search.

Sometime, a Google search is needed. Let's face it, books are great but the images can be dated and they don't come with videos and virtual tours. Not yet, anyway. The CDs accompanying some books don't count. Seriously, how many non-textbooks come with CDs anway?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Pretty Cool Gadget

Just found out about an interesting gadget. I'm excited. Hope it works the way it sounds.
"Evernote has trotted out an update to its iOS app and accompanied the software release with an announcement of a collaboration with Moleskine. Yes, you read that correctly. The digital note-taking application has teamed up with the analog sketchbook maker to produce the Evernote Smart Notebook. Designed specifically for the refreshed iPhone and iPad software, the notebooks allow users to snag written notes or drawings right off the paper and archive them with the app -- making them searchable and organized for future reference"(The Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine: paper sketchbooks and journals get connected)
Wasn't familiar with Evernote so I checked it out. It sounds awesome. I downloaded it, of course. Don't know why I haven't come across it before, I take tons of notes on my iPhone

This Evernote/Moleskine team-up seems like a cool idea. I love my journals but searching them drives me up a wall. I've started typing most of my story notes. This makes organizing and finding information easier but, call me old fashioned, I still like putting pen to paper. This notebook sounds like the best of both worlds.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Digging Up That Passion


If you want books on writing I'd recommend memoirs rather than the how-to books. Don't get me wrong, the how-to books are awesome, I own and still use plenty of them but, I got much more from Stephen King's On Writing, Joyce Carole Oates' Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art  and Terry Brooks' Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life. You read one paragraph, one sentence and suddenly, you're itching to dive into your novel.

We writers look at the world differently. Everything is a potential story. This can drive me a little crazy, especially since I write dark fiction. I sought out these memoirs to know I'm not the only one feeling this way or thinking this way. It's nice to know some of the big names struggled with writing, with making a living as a writer. Books like these give you permission to be the writer you want to be not the one you think you should be.

I'm now into Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and it's amazing. I was floored to find out this book was published in the 90s. I'd never heard of it. What rock have I been living under? I may not be into nonfiction but I like being aware of notable books on writing.

This book is a collection of essays Bradbury wrote on creativity. He approaches writing like it's some wild adventure. You can feel the passion and excitement in every word and it's infectious. I love writing but it's a lot of work and it feels like my second novel permanently fried my brain but this book has me pumped.
"I hope we will not get too serious here, for seriousness is the Red Death if we let it move to freely amongst us. Its freedom is our prison and our defeat and death. A good idea should worry us like a dog. We should not, in turn, worry it into the grave, smother it with intellect pontificate it into snoozing, kill it with the death of a thousand analytical slices."
Awesome image!

Memoirs by famous authors are a fierce jolt through the heart or a powerful size 15 boot in the butt. Recently, I noticed writing has become something I simply do. It's been so ingrained in me that all the passion was just gone.

Because of Zen in the Art of Writing, parts of my story are falling into place. Sometimes, I'm staring at the words in the book but not reading them because something Bradbury said "fed the muse" and I start writing scenes in my head. It's awesome.
"Each of you, curious about creativity, wants to make contact with that thing in yourself that is truly original. You want fame and fortune, yes, but only as rewards for work well and truly done. Notoriety and a fat bank balance must come after everything else is finished and done. That means that they cannot even be considered while you are at the typewriter....
 What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn't it that day when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honestly, his eyes afire with admiration and cries 'That new story of yours was fine, really wonderful!'"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Picturing Your Dark Fantasy World

Thanks to all your awesome comments to the post Can't. See. Story, I now have no trouble picturing my world.

Characters
None of my characters are human and all have an unusual collection of features like dark skin, bright red eyes with thick bright white hair. It's unlikely I'll come across anyone who looks like that. To make things even more interesting, some have cat's eyes, tails and wings. And then the animals don't look like regular animals. 

Your suggestions gave me an idea.

A while ago, I made a folder called Story Notes. I created a new document in this folder called Character Features and made a list of all my characters. Then, I went to Google Images and searched for different eye colors, hair colors and styles, face and mouth shapes; copied and pasted these images under the character's name.

Mary

For the mutated animals... that's what anime is for. Seriously, anime is awesome fodder for a dark fantasy novel. 

Doing this has me rethinking my character's features. I'm working backwards- figuring out the children's features before the parents'. I've already had to change some traits.  

Plotting features this way will take forever since I have like 30 characters between the novels of my trilogy but, it's world building. Creating an entire race of creatures and underground society pretty much from scratch and making it believable takes a lot of time and energy.

 World 
I did the same thing for the buildings. One document per building- dividing said document into Interior, Exterior and Landscape or Yard depending on how big the house is. Google Images also has great floor planes. 

The characters and buildings have been taking most of my time so I haven't gotten to gathering pictures of the different villages. But, I am working on a map. Since my world is similar to ours, I found a map of the U.S with only the major cities labeled. I'll see about making it bigger then, once I print it out, I'll plot my villages. This will help me see where each village is in relation to each other and give me terrain and weather. (The last two hadn't occurred to me until recently.)

Doing all this has given me a better perspective of the world, my characters, how the race of creatures first got their powers and how the power affected their physical features. Didn't see those last two coming either. See what I mean by different perspective ;) 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spirit Camera

I know, I know I'm a day late. I wrote this post yesterday intending to publish it on my lunch break but the internet was acting up. How cool is it NY has free WiFi in the parks? Would be even cooler if it worked all the time. But, it's free so can't complain. Once I got home, my brain pretty much stopped functioning. I keep telling myself to write blog posts the night before or over the weekend but it never happens.

Anyway, I had a great birthday weekend. I treated myself to some lipstick from Sephora. One a plum color. Really nice. The other was black. I know- dark- but I'd been dreaming of black lipstick since I first saw it.

Funny how things change. As a kid, I once wore black nail polish to school. I was super excited about it until one of my classmates said something alone the lines of You know some people may think you're into witchcraft because of your nails. It was awhile before I wore black nail polish again.

I also bought the video game Spirit Camera and some books I'm really excited about. You can see the books in my Currently-Reading widget to the right. Yeah, I'm reading three at once. What can I say, I can't help myself.

About Spirit Camera.

I can understand the negative reviews. Yeah, that's how you start talking about something you just paid $40 for ;) It's not for gamers. It's really like low maintenance. I've played much harder- more intense games. Spirit Camera reminds me of the casual computer games I play through WildTangent.

You use the camera on the 3DS a lot which is pretty cool. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't have a light so in order to play properly, you need to be in a well lit room. Sun coming through two open windows is not enough.

But, I bought it more for the concept and it was so worth it. For most of the game, (the parts I've played) I'm talking to or battling ghosts in my apartment. Not literally of course. The game uses my apartment as the background.
Not my apartment 
To make things more interesting. I have to move the camera around the room to find the ghost first.

The game isn't set entirely in my apartment though. Sometimes I'm in a creepy house. The character walks forward on it own. Too look around, I move the 3DS left, right, up and down. So far, the only controls I've actually used are L and R to operate the camera and A to speak to ghosts. See what I mean by low maintenance. It's still pretty cool. As you can tell, this is not a game you play sitting down. I spend a lot of time standing and spinning.

All I can think of is how cool it would be to combine this game with, let's say, a fantasy book. I mean I use a book to play Spirit Camera anyway. Awesomeness! You never know.


Friday, August 10, 2012

It Speaks to the Nerd in Me

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the video game section at Best Buy and came across Spirit Camera for Nintendo 3DS. As you know, I'm a sucker for people experimenting with new ways users can interact with content. Check out the video and you'll understand why I'm interested in this game ;)
Now, I'm not a gamer. I love playing video games and can spend hours absorbed in one- completely oblivious to anything and anyone- but, I don't play them often. That's why I switched my brand statement from "video game nerd" to "anime nerd". I watch anime more than I play video games. Even still, I'm in the store thinking, how could I not know about this! It's horror at that! And it looks creepy. I seriously stood in the aisle for minutes not wanting to put it down but that $40 price tag eased my grip.

Still, it was like instant obsession. Since I'm not a gamer, I don't even consider buying any video games without thoroughly researching them first. I didn't do that for Spirit Camera and I still plan on buying it despite all the negative reviews.

Funny thing, horror movies don't usually scare me but a horror video game like Resident Evil or Silent Hill creeps me out. Don't know why. Maybe because it's more like I'm in a horror movie rather then watching one. I love things that can scare me!

Anyway, pretty much every time I've stepped into Best Buy, I made a stop at the 3DS section, looked at Spirit Camera and sighed. So, my birthday is in two days (Yay!) and I've decided to treat myself to this game. I'm so looking forward. The concept has me intrigued.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Dream Wins

I love writing and really want my work published but my goodness the life can drive you insane. Between world building, actual writing, building my platform and working eight hours, I feel as if I'm always tired.

How do authors do it? Well, it's not really a question of how. It's more like the only other option is to give up on their dreams so they find a way. I could cut platform building off my schedule and stop working to publish my book. I'll still write but only friends and family would read it.

But, no one said the writing life was easy. In fact, I read an article a couple of months ago, Writer’s Cramp: In the E-Reader Era, a Book a Year Is Slacking, that pretty much said the writer's life was getting harder.
Authors are now pulling the literary equivalent of a double shift, churning out short stories, novellas or even an extra full-length book each year.
Not only are we required to do our own marketing but apparently, we're now expected to publish more than one story a year. Intense right?

You have to look at it as an adventure. Pulling an all nighter in college writing a paper while downing several cups of Cherry Coke and Mountain Dew was not fun, or healthy, but it does make a great story. And the "A" in the class made it all worth it. With that in mind, I'm trying really hard not to look at the now but at the long term. What would I miss out on if I stopped now simply because I'm tired?

Funny, I woke up this morning a bit irritated because I was still tired but this post made me feel a lot better. What's even funnier- I had this type of post in my head for a while but resisted writing it for some reason. Lesson learned- don't fight the muse.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Annoying Protagonist Kills Story

Can't sell a story based on premise alone. Maybe it's just me. I don't care how good the story sounds or how well written it is, if the POV character is annoying then I'm putting it down. Forever.
"There is nothing more important than character, for your protagonist is at the heart of the story" "(Creating Not Good But Great Characters)
Started reading Beneath Raven's Moon about a week ago. Here's the blurb on the back.
When the Raven swallows the moon darkness descends and sometimes people die...That's what Catherine Carmichael was told as a child growing up at Ravenswood, the foreboding mansion built by her grandfather on a remote peninsula in upstate NY. Now, 20 years after her father's sudden disappearance and her mother's spiriting young Catherine away to safety, she returns to the shadowy old mansion for the reading of her eccentric uncle's will. There, amid ghostly servants and disturbing house guests, she must confront a legacy of evil and an urbane, dark-haired stranger who sparks in her the passion she needs to unlock her family's secrets....
Sound intense. The author started throwing around Edgar Allen Poe and ravens and it took place in a Gothic mansion. I'm like, how can this go wrong?! Catherine, the POV character, drove a knife right through that story. She has got to be the weakest protagonist on the face of the earth.

Far too often she's shivering, having panic attacks over nothing and getting light-headed every couple of seconds and nothing has happened yet. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and plus I really wanted to like this story but I couldn't do it. She annoyed me so much! Pity, what sounded like a great story failed because of the protagonist.

I switched to another book and was really in to it. I didn't care for the POV character but it wasn't enough to turn me off the story. Then, the character travels back to medieval times with this guy and starts judging him based on how he treats his prisoners. I'm like hello, you're not in Kansas anymore. That's how they did things back then. You don't have to like or support it just accept it.

It annoyed me because I liked the male far better than the female. I was done when she went on a campaign to make this man release his prison and when he refused, she plotted to do it herself.

Even worse. Both novels are romance and I'm like, how can this guy actually like her?

I know what type of protagonist I love and they weren't it.

For me, I'm sold by the smart-mouth character with an answer for everything. They're good people, extremely loyal to those they care about but aren't exactly nice people. Morally questionable and slightly psychotic- they have no hang-ups about killing someone violently but won't do so unless that person did something egregious to them or someone they care about. They're aggressive, slightly arrogant with an extraordinary attitude problem.
I have so much fun writing these characters.

If characters are such an important part of the story, how can you make sure readers will like yours? You can't really. Molding a protagonist to your potential readers' likes is dangerously close to writing for the market. If most books in your genre have one type of protagonist you shouldn't feel obligated to put them in your story especially if you're driven to write something entirely different.

Writing and getting your story published is truly terrifying. Talk about leaping into the unknown. How nice would it be if we could see into the future and know just how people will react to our story? But, even if we travel through time and discovered a lot of people hate our protagonist, would we change them? I probably wouldn't.