Archive for January, 2019

Library Book Sale Finds: The Glimpses of the Moon

Howdy, squiders! I dug back into my collection of library book sale books and came out with The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton, circa 1922.

This is another one of those books where I try to imagine what I was thinking when I picked it up. Did I like the title? Did I think I should read something by Edith Wharton? Who knows?

Title: The Glimpses of the Moon
Author: Edith Wharton
Genre: General Literature
Publication Year: 1922

Pros: Beautiful writing. Just, really pretty.
Cons: I wanted to strangle the male lead for 75% of the book.

As a caveat, I use “general literature” for basically everything that’s not an obvious genre. This is a story about two people, married on a lark with an agreement that they can divorce if something better comes along for the other. They are fringe members of society, spending time with the wealthy, but not having money themselves.

This is not an overly plotty book, so I won’t spend a lot of time there. What it is is a look at the opulence of the twenties and what is important, and how relationships work in a world where you can buy anything you want. A lot of social commentary. Somewhat reminiscent of The Great Gatsby (which I despise) but less likely to drive you to depression.

I do take a bit of umbrage with the male lead, Nick. (See?) He has a mild crisis of morals over something the female lead, Susy, does, and instead of doing anything useful, runs off and doesn’t talk to her for the next five months.

Dude. You suck. I know the whole point of the book is about love and realizing what matters and blah blah blah, but you are trash.

I admit I got so mad at one point that I flipped to the back of the book, which I NEVER DO, to make sure things were going to get resolved, because if I had to read 250 pages of shenanigans with him just running off for good, well, it wasn’t going to happen.

The writing is so so pretty. The characters are so so frustrating.

So! Would I recommend this book? Not sure. The writing is gorgeous, the human study is great, the moral is…iffy. There is kind of the implication that whatever Nick did in the interim is okay because he came to his senses in the end, which maybe was a good message back in the day? But I really just wanted to slap some sense into him.

So! Up to you, really. You know what you like. I thought it was okay, but I’m not going to be picking up other books like it for a while.

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Movie Round-up

I don’t get around to a lot of movies (a combination of small, mobile ones combined with just not liking to sit still for that long in one go), but I have actually watched three in the last week. Madness, I know. And since movies seem to be more of a common element than books (i.e., a person is more likely to have seen the same movie than have read the same book), hey, let’s talk about them.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

While we are generally Star Wars people, we didn’t go to see this last summer, partially because summer was very busy, and partially because the hype around the movie was very lukewarm. (We did however, get tickets to go sit in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit.)

But I actually really liked this. I thought the story was fun and while the guy playing Han doesn’t look like Harrison Ford, he did sound and act like him. And I ♥ Chewy. So if you missed this for whatever reason, I’d give it a try. I’d watch it again.

Lego Movie 2

So, hey, my sister-in-law got us tickets to a special preview showing of Lego Movie 2 (which comes out on Feb 8). In general, I liked it. It’s about what you’d expect, though I had this weird feeling for a bit, like, uh. How to explain this. Like, the Lego Movie is self-contained and I’ve seen it so many times (it is a favorite of the small, mobile ones) that it felt like the existence of a sequel was some sort of weird fever dream. I missed part of it because the smaller, mobile one had to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think it was anything terribly important.

Also, there are Lego velociraptors.

The Greatest Showman

The husband came home and was like, “I ordered us a movie from the library!” Like, weirdly excited. This is the movie from 2017 with Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, which is honestly all I knew about it going in (and I think I also knew it was about P.T. Barnum but I’m not 100% on that).

Guys, I enjoyed this stupid movie so much.

The music is amazing. And the story itself is mostly fluff, which I appreciate in a time when it seems like everything has to be gritty and realistic. I have already watched it twice.

(I got chills during the first number, which probably means I have to buy the movie now. That’s why I own the 2004 version of Phantom of the Opera. Have you seen that? When it goes from black and white to color and the Phantom theme starts…that’s my favorite part. Sometimes I watch just that part. The last time the play came through they’d taken that part out of the musical which is SACRILEGE.)

(I’m not a huge Phantom fan–I think the characters are dumb, except for Meg–but I do like the music. And the beginning.)

ANYWAY, that’s what I’ve seen lately. Watched anything good yourself? The new season of Star Trek Discovery has started, so I need to get on that ASAP.

Picture Books and Progress

Happy Friday, squiders! I hope you’re doing well. It keeps snowing on my plans over here in these parts.

I think I’ve told you guys about my plan to try out writing some picture books. I tried once before (waaaaay back in 2012, before I had small, mobile ones of my own) and it was hard, but now that I’ve read a ton in recent years, I feel like I have a better handle on the whole thing.

(hahahaha we’ll see, won’t we?)

In an attempt to have this go better than the last time, I’ve been doing some research. One of the things I’ve been looking at is how many pages you get to tell your story, since, unlike a novel, a picture book needs to fit in a set, industry-standard range, and it seemed important to understand what that was before I wrote the book and potentially ended up with too many or too few pages.

My research tells me the story tends to make up somewhere between 26 and 30 pages (with 28 being most common) with their being four pages of administrative stuff (such as title pages, dedications, copyright, etc.).

I’ve also been taking classes various places, studying illustration and narrative art and comics, all of which are very interesting. But I kind of feel like I’ve reached the point where I’m still poking around because I’m nervous about actually doing the work, if you know what I mean.

The last time I tried this (seven years ago! Good Lord!) went poorly. It is scary trying a new format. But I know what I need to know, and I just need to do the dang thing.

What else have I been up to so far this year?

  • I wrote the second-to-last section of my serial. The last part will be done next month.
  • I edited my anthology story. Just one more rounds of edits before publication. I’ve also spent some time making mock covers and poking titles.
  • I joined the genre stretch challenge over at WriYe (this month is dystopian + Gilded Age romance) and am about 1.5K into my story.
  • I also joined the prompt challenge, picked universes to work in (decided on Shards and the Trilogy), and chose prompt lists
  • Siri and I are actively working on CoHaR II now that we’ve survived the holidays (and Disney World)
  • One of my writing groups is doing their winter critique marathon, so I’ve got my space dinosaur story in there. So far, so good.

For the rest of the month, I’m going to work on the genre stretch story, CoHaR II, and the picture book. For February, I’m pondering a few different things.

  • Now that the nonfiction books are drafted, I should go back through them, compile them, add new sections, and get them ready for publication.
  • I’d also like to start a new draft of something. I’m pondering going back and doing Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class with something, which I’ve never gotten all the way through. But now could be a good time to do so.

How’s your January going? Thoughts on February? Things to note about picture books?

Troubleshooting Your Outlining Issues

All right, squiders! I think this is the last bit of the outlining book. And from here, it’ll be time to go back through all the nonfiction book posts, put them together, and see what’s missing. Woo.

Outlining issues essentially fall into three main categories:

  1. Over-outlining
  2. Under-outlining
  3. Feeling trapped by your outline

Over-outlining

Problems stemming from over-outlining typically lie in overplanning, i.e., all your creative energy goes into the outline, and there isn’t any left over for the actual writing.

So, how do you fix this?

This is one of the hardest issues to fix. After all, you can’t un-plan. The best thing here might be some distance. Work on something else for a while. Let the story get out of your brain. Test different levels of outlining, so you know where your limit is.

Then, after you’ve given it enough distance, come back and give it another go. It might be that without directly working on, the story has regained some of its mystery. Or, if you’ve discovered you need less of an outline, skim what you have instead of re-reading everything to avoid overwhelming yourself again.

Under-planning

Do you often find yourself staring at your story, having no clue where to go next? This is often a symptom of under-planning. If you don’t have enough of an outline, you might not have a good idea of where your story is going or what you’re trying to accomplish, which can directly lead into writer’s block.

The good news is that this is the easiest outlining problem to fix. Just plan the story out some more. If you’re not an outliner and don’t want to be, try something more stream of conscious, like a mindmap or a freewrite. I find that phase outlining the next section can be extremely helpful for this problem.

At the very minimum, you can try a simple fix–leave yourself a clue about where to go when you stop writing for the day. Some authors like to stop in the middle of a sentence (forcing yourself to try to recreate your frame of mind), while others prefer to jot down a few notes about where to go next.

Feeling trapped by your outline

Let’s say you’re happily writing along, following your outline. Everything is going great. But then, instead of following the plan, at the height of the climax, your character suggests an alternate path forward, one that makes more sense, both to the plot and to the character’s personality.

Your outline says one thing, but it feels right to do something else. What’s the solution?

Remember, above all, that your outline works for you. It is a tool, designed to help you move the story forward and avoid stupid issues in plotting (like forgetting a subplot, or accidentally introducing a deus ex machina). Once you write yours, there’s no rule that says it is an immutable document that cannot be changed.

If something better comes along, give it a look. If you don’t want to get rid of your initial outline, make a second one with the new information and see how it looks. And the next time you run into something that needs to change, do the same thing.

(I would caution not just making the change and running blind into the wind. Take a second to give the new storyline the same level of scrutiny you gave the original, to make sure you’re not introducing anything terrible that will be hard to fix later.)

Any other issues you can think of when it comes to outlining, squiders? Solutions for these issues?

Also, I’m moving back the readalong discussion for Green Mars. The holidays and the Disney trip got away with my time, and I’m not ready to discuss it next week. Let’s look at mid-February for that discussion.

WriYe and 2019

So, in December, I got an email letting me know that the WriYe boards were being refreshed for 2019, and it was a weird blast from the past. Do they send these emails out every year and I’ve just ignored them? Did they do something different this year? Who knows!

WriYe (at some point it was NaNoWriYe) stands for Writing Year, and it is a year-long writing challenge where you pick a total word count for the year. Each month has a number of individual challenges (new moon and full moon challenges where you try to get a certain word count on those days, genre stretches were you write stories outside your comfort zone, etc.) to help you stay focused.

Back in 2006 I joined a ton of writing communities/challenges, one of which was WriYe. (This was because I graduated from college in Dec 2005 and then moved to a new state in Jan 2006 with my then-boyfriend–now husband, so it wasn’t a totally bad idea–where I had no job and knew no one and was generally going completely stir-crazy. So I decided to focus on writing more than I had been in an attempt to save my own mental health.)

I did well that year–I won, and I became a mod-of-sorts closer to the end of the year. I think I was in charge of making up challenges. But I haven’t really done it much since then. The last time I tried was 2013, and I didn’t check in past August.

But, for whatever reason, WriYe sounded like a good idea this year, so I signed back up and here we are.

They’ve got a blog circle, so you may see periodic posts relating to WriYe throughout the year. This is the prompt for January’s:

What’s your WriYe Word Count goal for 2019? Why did you chose it? 
What are your plans for the year? What do you want to accomplish with your writing?

I picked a 75,000 word count goal for 2019. This is one of the lowest tiers (there’s 50K and 60K underneath it) which I feel comfortable with because I haven’t been terribly prolific recently (see: small, mobile ones) and so it should be doable.

(Also, I believe I can change it later if things are going really well.)

My plans are a bit up in the air. We did discuss things that I wanted to work on at the beginning of the month, but aside from the anthology and the sequel to City of Hope and Ruin everything is more or less an option. But I would like to do something new this year. And get some things done. So many things are in revision limbo and I’ve got to get them either polished and ready to go or give up on them.

Bonus: What are you most looking forward to in 2019?

I love the possibility that comes with a new year. Of course, this is completely arbitrary, since one can start a new thing at any old time, but there’s so much possibility right now.

But I am going to write something new this year, and gosh darn it, I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Also, they’ve got a complicated prompt system over at WriYe, and it’s been forever since I’ve done prompts, but they actually make sense with some of the things on my list this year, so I’m going to go for it. As soon as I figure out how it works.

Got any year-long goals this year, squiders? Tips on helping me focus? I’m in that weird state where there’s so much possibility it’s hard to pick something and settle down with it.

Epcot and Expectations

Happy Tuesday, squiders! I am so glad to be home! (Although I am behind on everything, but what else is new?)

You see, last week we took the smallish, mobile ones to the most expensive happiest place on Earth. I would like to say that it was a fantastic family bonding experience (and, to be fair, sometimes it was), but good Lord. My eldest is on the spectrum and I don’t know if I just forgot how overstimulating Disney World is or if I just never knew, but it was…overwhelming.

(I do not have sensory issues myself–aside from styrofoam, screw that stuff–and Toy Story Land about put me over. The noise and the lights and the colors, they will haunt me.)

I went to Disney World three times as a kid, when I was 8, 10, and 14, so it’s obviously been a while. But when I was little, I remember loving Epcot above all the other parks (though, to be fair, there were less of them then). I’ve always been a nerd, so I loved the science and technology aspect of it, and looking at what the future might bring.

(I am also fond of the World Showcase, though the last time I went as a kid, we got some chocolate dessert in Norway which was just the worst. I don’t remember what exactly it was, just that it was sacrilegious to the idea of chocolate. But, seriously, the World Showcase is a nice companion to the future world part of Epcot–the world as it is next to the world that could be.)

This time around, however, I found Epcot to be…disappointing? Languishing, maybe. Aside from Spaceship Earth, everything from when I was a kid is gone. (Well, Journey to Imagination is still there, but in some weird, less awesome form.) That’s not necessarily bad–it’s supposed to be about technology and the future, and that’s changing all the time!

But it doesn’t feel like they’ve replaced them with anything worthwhile. Like…it became too hard to keep up with the future, and so they just…gave up. Most of the buildings in the future world section are partially or mostly empty. The Innoventions buildings, which I remember being full of cool science things, have nothing but a small section labeled Colortopia (which was cool, not going to lie) and a handful of character meet n’ greet spots, most of which feel like they were put together at the last minute.

The two newer things, Mission: SPACE and the Test Track, are neat and fit in to the general idea of Epcot, but they’re a couple of things surrounded by empty buildings. The Seas and The Land Pavilions feel dated and are in bad repair. And the new thing they’re working on–a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed rollercoaster–feels completely out of place.

I mean, on one hand I understand. Epcot has no doubt been hard to merchandise, since it lacks the connection with Disney properties like the movies and TV shows. It’s also probably expensive to maintain, since rides and exhibits date themselves faster than at the other parks. (Hell, they’re still doing the SAME Indiana Jones stunt show that they we’re doing when I was 14 at Hollywood Studios.)

But on the other hand, the little kid in me that loved science and technology and dreaming of the future wants to cry. I remember Epcot as being this glorious celebration of science and space and dinosaurs and energy and the future. A tribute to what humanity had been and would be capable of. And it’s hard to see that anymore.

But hey, maybe my nostalgia is coloring my memories. Maybe Epcot has always been poorly realized and/or half-empty. I mean, my husband told me that Walt Disney had wanted to build an experimental future community (EPCOT stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), and so Epcot’s beginnings were already off-track before the park was ever built.

Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. Any thoughts on Epcot, squiders? Want to talk about rides that have been?

Why Science Fiction/Fantasy?

I was ditzing around the blog and discovered a variety of draft posts that never got written, for whatever reason. This is the earliest, from 2010, right after I started this blog up.

No reason to let things sit around forever, right?

Here are the notes I left myself for this post:

“Why I write scifi/fantasy

Including points:
-why read the real world?  It is sad and depressing
-you can do anything with scifi/fantasy (not even the sky is the limit)”

Good job, Kit. Very useful.

Maybe I felt like I had to explain myself, back then? I know that sometimes people who write genre get pushback from “literary” types about how genre stories aren’t real literature or whatever. I don’t think I’ve ever really run into that in person, so I don’t know if that was it. (2010 was an awfully long time ago.)

Since this was from the beginning of the blog, maybe it was as an introduction? Kind of a “here’s what you’re getting yourself into” sort of thing. I think I’ll go with that one.

In my case, the question wasn’t ever “Why Science Fiction/Fantasy?” I don’t think there was ever any other option available to me. I watched Star Trek with my parents before I could talk. My parents were huge scifi fans, and that definitely rubbed off. And when I found and read my first real epic fantasy book in sixth grade (The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks), well…I’ve never looked back.

That’s not to say I don’t like other genres. You guys know I love mysteries, and I’ve read my fair share of classics, romance, historical fiction, thrillers, horror, etc. But there’s something about science fiction and fantasy, about the possibilities, that has always stuck with me. In most cases, there’s a sense of wonder, a sense of possibility, even in the bleakest of storylines.

Plus, you know, dragons. And spaceships. Oooo, maybe dragons on spaceships?

It’s probably for the best. When I try to write something without fantastical elements I get a little melodramatic.

So the question isn’t “why science fiction/fantasy?” It’s “Why wouldn’t it be science fiction/fantasy?”

How about you, squiders? Why do you write/read your genre of choice?