Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Getting Inspired By History

"World Map 1681 - No. 1" by Gerard van Schagen
Photo by Chuck Coker.
On a side note, I recommend downloading this image. It is crazy cool and detailed.
And they had no idea what Alaska looked like.

My Dilemma

I was recently told that I ought to create a much more detailed back-story for my MG fantasy world. I ought to know how dragons came into my world and how they changed human history. This made sense to me, and I felt a little silly for not doing it before. I'd always had ideas, but I hadn't fully fleshed them out.

At first I was a bit stumped about some of the specifics, but then I started listening to history podcasts. So many interesting things have happened throughout human history! It's hard not to be inspired when the story is told in a compelling way. (Side note: not all history podcasts are told in an inspiring way.)

I mean, anybody can give the cold, hard facts. The facts alone typically aren't what make a story thrive. It's the odd little details.

Genghis Khan
(Photo by Ludovic Hirlimann)

Hardcore History

For me, Dan Carlin's Hardcore History helps bring history to life. He actually tries to give an idea of what life was like on the ground. And it just so happened that when I was searching for a way to deliver my dragons into my world, I listened to his series on Genghis Khan, and I thought, "What if these Dragon People had been living the rough life on the Mongolian steppe for years and were led to conquer Europe by a ruthless and brilliant leader?"

Genghis Khan

Did you know that at one point in time in history, Genghis Khan's army (his son was the Khan at this point) had stormed through Europe defeating armies left and right? I'd had no idea.

(Picture curtesy of Internet Archive Book Images)

When the Khan's army was on the verge of finishing off France and basically owning all of Europe, the Khan (Ogedei - pronounced O - geh - die) died, and the armies pulled back so they could elect a new Khan, and that took forever and was a bit contentious, and that's why we don't speak Mongolian today. Or something like that. Seeing as how it didn't actually happen, there is, of course, debate on exactly what would have happened.

People Had Crazy Names Back Then

I've been listening to a few different history (and other) podcasts. It's good stuff for a long trip. I learned about Charlemagne and his dad, Pippin the Short, and his son, Louis the Pious, on my long trip to a wedding.

Long story short: check out a few history podcasts. You might learn something cool.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Whimsical Cake for Me

As a special treat, my husband took me to a nice restaurant, and the desserts were amazing - very delicious and almost too amazing looking to eat.

Here was Nigel's dessert:

If I remember correctly, it was a honey flavored ice cream that was so freaking good set on top of a little cake and covered with some baked meringue. A honey bee baked Alaska sorta deal.

And here is my dessert, with Nigel stealing some of it.

It was chocolate mousse inside and quite delicious, although by this point I was completely stuffed. Everything was edible, but I was informed that some of the flowers tasted a little bitter.

They weren't too bad, but the mousse was definitely the most delicious part.

And that's all you're getting for this post. I felt our desserts deserved a post all their own. I mean, honestly, they were gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How I'm Like A Two-Year-Old

I'll admit it, I can be kind of annoying. You know that stage in life where you're always asking, "Why?" or "Why not?" I never completely outgrew it.

This image came up when I search the Creative Commons for "Why"
I laughed.
So here it is.
(Photo by Patrick Wilken)

Because I do have a certain level of social awareness, I try not to always ask the question when it pops into my head, but watching movies with me can get irritating if I like you so much that I'm truly comfortable around you. I always want to know why someone did something.

Don't worry, I try to give my friends, family, and husband a break sometimes (I worry less about my husband; he's stuck with me). I sometimes make a real effort to watch movies without talking, just as a kindness to them.

I ask the same questions when reading books, but since the only person I can reasonably ask my questions is myself, I'm less annoying in that scenario.

(Photo by BuzzFarmers)

You wanna know what really bugs me?

There are way too many times when there doesn't seem to be any real answer to the "But why?" question. I don't know. Maybe I'm just missing it. I can be oblivious sometimes. But sometimes I think the writer's answer to the "Why?" question is just "Because." Situations like that make me grind my teeth in annoyance.

I try really hard not to be like that, to the extent that I come up with really long and complex back stories to explain some of the smallest stuff in my novels. It's kind of ridiculous, but it makes me happy. And, to be perfectly honest, if you ask me "Why?" about something that I actually hadn't considered, I'm more than happy to make something up.

Because I am in love with the question.

This image came up when I searched "Perché". I went with it.

Just for fun, in Italian, the best word ever is "Perché?" Or, if you want "But why not?" it's "Ma perché no?" I have been attempting to learn some Italian. I may not understand the answer, but at least I can ask my favorite question.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Library Obession

(Photo credit to Samantha Marx)

For the past few years I've been on a mission: let people know that libraries loan out e-books. You can use the library without setting foot a library ever again! (But, really, why would you do that? Libraries are awesome).

Here are a few of the reasons I'm so obsessed with this fact:
  1. I love books.
  2. I love libraries. 
  3. I love free things.
  4. I'm pretty lazy.
  5. It is crazy convenient. I can decide one moment that I want a book and then one minute later, I can be reading it!
  6. I'm pretty much inseparable from my laptop, and now I can read and keep it close. (My preccciiousss.)
  7. You can try a book you just aren't sure about, and it's no big loss if it sucks.
  8. Surfing through books online feels more productive than surfing through movies on Netflix.
(Photo credit to Jason Mrachina)

Lately, when I've been talking up libraries to my friends and acquaintances (yes, this is something I really do), many of them have said that they're too busy to go to the library. And while one part of me (the part that adores libraries) wishes to scoff at this, I do understand. I can get that way too. But now that libraries loan e-books, there are no more excuses!

This message brought to you by a library-obsessed reader.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cinematic Inspiration

Okay, I'm going to stop watching Academy Originals and write this blog post. Which means, of course, this blog post is about the YouTube channel Academy Originals.

(From Brent Zupp)

I'm watching their series "Creative Spark" which shows mini interviews with members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The first one I watched was with Eric Roth (screenwriter for "Forest Gump" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"). The interviews are in short clips that give you a very brief view of what it means to have their job and be them.

This series features a movie costume designer, a film composer, director, and a ton of others I haven't watched yet.

(From SMN)

One that really touched me was Paul Haggis (writer-director of "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash") letting us see that he really has to struggle to create. It's almost a little painful hearing him talk about how he struggles to write, but for me, that makes it even more moving.

(From Brooke Atwell)

Then, for something fun and different, there's two best friends who write together (it wasn't explicitly stated that they were best friends, but, I'd say it's pretty obvious). They wrote "Legally Blonde" and "10 Things I Hate About You." Their video gave a little more detail on how they write than some of the others, and they're quite an adorable pair. (One looks like a character out of Legally Blonde.)

Anyway, it's a fun little series, and I hope you check it out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Starting All Over Again (Ugh)

Last week I mentioned my completed first draft but I didn't mention the MG fantasy I'd been querying and revising for the past year. That's because I'm going back to the drawing board.

Okay, so it's not quite as desperate as that. The plot is staying mostly in tact, but I am basically re-writing it only using bits and pieces of my much revised, much sweated over current draft.

I mentioned some very helpful advice I got, and that advice extended beyond how to write better description and to add in a "want line". The feedback I got made me feel like it'd be a good idea to start all over with the writing process, eliminating a large number of the first chapters, combining one or two more characters, and generally overhauling everything.

It's discouraging to know I've got that much work ahead of me (again!) but I think it'll make for a much better book, so I'm going to plow ahead with the changes. I've been devoting a lot more of my time to writing lately because I really want to make this happen and I'm sick of waiting, and the only way I have to speed the process up is to devote more time to writing (or, in this case, re-writing). Here's hoping it pays off.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My New First Draft: Narnia Meets Game of Thrones

This weekend I finished a 71k first draft. I'm certain it still needs a ton of work (as all first drafts seem to), but still, it's something of an accomplishment to plot everything out and get it all down into that first draft.

Photo credit to slynkycat.

I went for drama with the description in my blog post title. I don't know that my YA sci fi can really compare to Narnia or Game of Thrones, but I've got talking (robotic) animals, human-animal (mutant) hybrids and a few other elements based on a somewhat distorted sci fi version of the Narnia world. One of my villains is even loosely based off of the white witch.

Photo credit to Ronel Reyes.

And then, when I was writing the ending, I ended up killing off a few more characters than I'd expected (three total, which is quite a lot for me; I was only planning on killing off one). I've got two point of view (POV) characters, and they've each got their circle of acquaintances, friends, and enemies, and there's definitely some conniving going on. All of that plus the bloodshed led to the Game of Thrones comparison (in my head anyway).
So. Now I've got a first draft. I'm going to let it sit and forget about it so I can come back later to revise with fresh eyes.