Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This Blog Is Now Closed

Not that anyone's surprised. I mean, I never bother to update it anyway, right?

But not to worry. (If you were worried, that is.) I'm not vanishing from the blogosphere altogether. Ink Johnson over at Ink and Words has graciously invited me to team up with her in the hopes that we can both learn this blogging thing together. Hopefully guilt-trip each other into updating, have actual content, that kind of thing. And maybe pool our resources for a giveaway someday. You know, eventually. ;)

So, please change your links to http://sisterstwiceremoved.blogspot.com/ if you had one to me. If you didn't, no big deal, right?


Merry Christmas, Fabulous Finals Season, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Weird Politics (and This Day in History)

Loaded title, right? However, our day and age is not the first time when weird politics have been put into play.

In 1519, three powers were diplomatically warring it out in Europe: England, led by Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; France, headed up by Francis I and (not nearly as much in influence as Catherine) Claude, Duchess of Brittany, noted for her religious piety and not much else; and the Holy Roman Empire, under the the young and inexperienced Charles V, which contained Burgundy, the Netherlands, and, at that time, huge swathes of Spain and Italy.

Anglo-Spanish relations had repeatedly risen and crumbled due, mostly, to betrayal by the former Spanish king, Ferdinand of Aragon, Catherine's father. However, when Ferdinand died, Henry of England realized that England was a precious commodity and her services could be quite efficiently sold to the highest bidder. Henry, aided and abetted by his Lord Chancellor and Cardinal Wolsey, went about forming conflicting alliances with Charles and Francis. A key point in the alliance between France and England was an actual face-to-face meeting between the kings. However, in a form very representative of the time, this repeatedly failed to happen.

After several postponements on both sides, the kings of England and France swore an oath, as was fashionable at the time, not to shave until they met.

Imagine Francis' surprise when he heard on November 9, 1519 (hence "this day in history"!) that Henry of England had cut off his beard.

This may well have been the beginning of what I think is nearly five hundred straight years of disagreement between France and England, and indeed Henry VIII did end up siding with Charles V (it didn't hurt that he was Catherine's niece by her sister Juana, known to history as Joanna the Mad - nice title), but the reason for the shave-off might have been entirely innocent, and is occasionally documented as such: Catherine convinced her husband to shave it off, as she simply hated beards.

Politics are, by definition, weird.

(Source 2, Source 3, Source 4. Because I, having been raised by engineers, believe in the power of documentation.)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Gah, almost forgot.

Halloween costume!

This is an old(ish) picture (well...obviously - time stamp for the win!), because by the time I got ready to take my sister and her friend trick-or-treating, it was already a bit late, so no time for a photo op. I did walk the streets in this, though.

Got recognized once, too. Here's the primary screencap I worked from. Due to my dire inability to work with patterns, most of this was freehanded. My sewing machine - normally similar in temperament to a grouchy old man - and I developed an understanding on this costume. It was phenomenal.

Then the sewing machine died.

Sigh. That's life.

I love Halloween.

Aaaaaaaaand...we're off!

Yep. It's that time of year again. NaNoWriMo is upon is, and I'm happy to say I bagged my wordcount quota before lunch today.

(And let me just say I almost fell out of my chair when I finished tallying up the manual count and it came to 1687. Daaaaaaaaang. I have too much free time in the morning.)

I managed to balloon that out by 200 in the type-in, so I'm in decent standing for the first day (though my mom has me by 30 words. Hi, mom!).

Who else in the blogosphere is NaNoing? And how are you doing? Your story perking up at the whistle yet?

Best of luck to my fellow writing fiends, including those who are using the month for comics, manga, plays, and whatever other creative pursuits!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When Writing What You Know Isn't A Great Idea

Ever had that chapter that just refused to be written?

For me, last week, it was chapter thirteen. (Most people would consider than an omen, but I'm a 13-baby - May 13th, oh yes - and as a result I did tend to have more luck with the number than most people.)

First I tried a time skip, then realized I needed to fill stuff in. Deletion of 1600 words. (Well, not quite deletion - I saved them separately - but still, it hurt.)

I pondered and wondered and mulled and pondered over where I could go next, and then it hit me: I could finally use that age-old technique of borrowing something almost completely from life.

At my church a couple months ago, we were sitting in the sanctuary, about three minutes before the evening sevice would begin. Almost everyone was already there. The youth group was in the choir loft, ready to sing.

Then a woman stormed in and called out her daughter's name. She counted down from five and, when said daughter did not appear, she said for the whole sanctuary to hear, "Alright, you're going to foster care."

Our ministers swooped in and tried to derail her, but by the time they made it down front she had launched into a tirade about how the youth group treated her son (who had just run through the sanctuary shouting "Go to Hell" at a different girl), how said different girl was the devil, on and on. She refused to leave until she'd finished her speech, and I think the cops were called in later. The girl she'd attacked and that girl's younger sister ran out of the choir loft in tears, and we somehow managed to have the service.

It was one of those things that left a weird taste with everyone who'd seen it. Perfect, I thought, for twisting, editing, and putting in a novel. (How's that for a cold, uncaring writer?) It would fit perfectly with my story, I thought, with its neon-sign themes of the disagreements between parents and children. So I wrote it up and left the computer for a break.

And ran into a massive block. Couldn't write another word. The character I'd introduced wasn't fitting, it had ruined the mood of the story, I just didn't like it. I think it's one of the first times as a writer that I've been able to trace a blah feeling in a story back to its source, and once I got rid of it, I was able to write again.

Have you ever had a writer's intuition be totally, utterly wrong? Bleh.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Tell the Story

As I'm sure most of you are aware, Madeleine L'Engle has left us.

She's left us a number of wonderful books.

We read A Wrinkle in Time in school in the seventh grade...maybe the sixth, but I'd already read it. That's one of the few books I can remember my mom actually reading with me; thereafter, I'd just take them and read them myself.

The middle school reread was a good chance to face things about the book that I hadn't understood as a younger child, face my "weird" feeling about it, a kind of prickly discomfort edging on scared, I think. "Weird" or not (and I think to this day that it certainly was), it was good. Better than good. It was great.

Mrs. L'Engle's thoughts on the writing process have been quoted elsewhere, but the gist of it is that the magic that happens in writing, its meaning, isn't intended.

I know that I, personally, tend to get caught up in making sure that what I'm writing has weight and depth, that it would tug at my heartstrings (or, in some cases, tear them out and stomp on the pieces) as a reader. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But when it gets in the way of me actually sitting down to write, then yes.

The very first thing any writer must do is tell a story. Depth, weight, and meaning come later. What we read for, first and foremost, is a story.

So tell the story.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Themes, YA, and Random Con Ruminations

I don't even know if "ruminations" is a word right now; I'm fried enough to actually think I can write a decent blog post, so here goes.

I just got home from a weekend at Dragon*Con, one of the biggest sci-fi/fantasy/horror/kitchen sink conventions in at least the Western Hemisphere. It was so much fun, and I was really having some post-con depression earlier today, when, on the way home, we stopped at a Subway and I realized that I couldn't strike up a conversation with the person next to me in line nearly as easily. At the con, I once had a ten-minute discussion about dice with a nice lady while waiting for the elevator.

Oh my gosh, the elevator. There were eight of them in my hotel, and from 9:30 in the morning to 11:00 or so at night, they were jam-packed. That was the only place I ever really saw people get cranky. Most of the time, though, the elevators were just fun; there's a sense of comradery that comes from waiting twenty minutes for an elevator and then riding it up eight floors before you can go down to the lobby twenty-two floors down. You don't even worry about whether it's an "up" or "down" elevator. Rule 1 od Dragon*Con: An elevator with an open door is a good elevator.

(Rule 2: Extra space for you is always a plus.)

One particularly fun elevator ride was one in which I was the last person who could possibly fit (as one of the smaller people there, this happened fairly often), and this was on the lobby level. The elevator then proceeded to stop at every single floor. I think the lowest level any of us was going to was 18.

So, to dissuade people from trying to fit, we tried out a set of Elevator Evasionary Tactics (or EET for short. Incidentally, EETing was more common than eating, because between panels and trying to catch the elevator to your next panel, you did not have time.). These included crowding the door to make it look more full when it opened, simultaneously exhaling as the doors opened, and turning our backs to the door. Great fun, great people.

I went to a lot of the writer's track panels (mostly because I knew how to get to them - the con was spread across three hotels in downtown Atlanta, and these were not easy-to-navigate hotels as a rule) and listened in to a lot of great discussions, but I think I got the most about storytelling from the panel on the show Fullmetal Alchemist.

(I don't care if you're sick to death of me talking about it; I will keep talking about it until each and every one of you has watched it. There are a lot of mediocre shows, and quite a few good shows, but there are some shows that transcend, to quote the single panelist, Vic Mignogna, voice of the title character. You think he's just saying that because he worked on it? He's not giving panels on the other eighty shows he's done.)

A girl in a Final Fantasy costume right in front of me asked Vic if there was one question he kept hoping people would ask, and what was his answer to it. He responded that there was a question that had been asked some time before, "If you could sum up Fullmetal Alchemist in one word, what would it be?" He said that he'd asked the audience and got a lot of wonderful, relevant words - "family," "love," "power," "hope" - but then someone managed to hit it right on the head.


The whole premise of the show is that (to quote the opening) humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. ... In those days, we really believed that to be the world's one, and only, truth.

There's a certain element of power in any theme if it's used well (my other favorites are those of family and betrayal) but this has a different quality to it. It can send chills down anyone's spine. Everyone knows, however distantly, what sacrifice means. And as Vic said, it's sacrifice that separates the villains from the heroes. The heroes sacrifice themselves, in some way, to help others. The villains (quite literally, in this case) sacrifice others to help themselves.

That's powerful.

I'm currently suffering the misfortune of being stuck in a freshman Literature and Composition class, and we all know what Lit/Comp teachers are like: a theme is a message that the story tells you (or rams down your throat), a moral. Don't live above your means, always tell the truth, yadda yadda yadda. I'm sorry, but last time I checked, that was called a message. Or a moral. I'm interested; am I the only one that thinks that "theme" is something less cut-and-dried? You tell me.

As a last note (because I did mention it in the post title) I went to a panel this morning in the YA Lit track. The topic was Utopias and Dystopias, and the conversation was fantastic (as was the panel--Scott Westerfeld, for the win!), but one thing Scott said really stuck with me, and I think it's an important thing to think about for anyone writing YA.

"It's one of the functions of parents to make sure their kids don't end up in a YA novel."

We'd begun discussing how the removal of children from their parents is one of the hallmarks (or at least creation factors) of a utopian/dystopian society. When you think about it, though, it holds true for most YA; there has to be a mechanism for getting parents out of the way so that the kids can go on their adventures. Something to keep in mind.

I'll be back with pictures as soon as I sift through the 84 I took for the good ones - though my entire family was there, the camera case ended up being my purse for the weekend. Just enough room for camera, keys, and money. Perfect.

I really need some sleep. Or caffeine. I'm not picky.