Yes, there will be Men!


Lest you think I’d not include men in this story, I assure you there will be. And a light bit of “romance” although I have no intentions of putting that front-and-center. It’s an intentional decision on my part. In my own life, I put my life on hold thinking I had to sort out the romance first. You know, find the man & get that all tied up with a ribbon before I could relax, enjoy the rest of my life, and pursue my own dreams.

Damn, that was stupid.

So I’m not letting my heroines fall into that trap. Romance is fine as a secondary plot, but I want their lives and struggles to take center stage. That’s not saying I’m going to wait until all the stress is done before I begin putting couples together. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my own life its that love is about two people fighting back-to-back against the rest of the world. These things don’t always have to be taken on by ourselves.

Some characters are going to have a harder time with that than others. Like George, who is completely resistant to the idea of ever getting hurt again.

So its a fine line, allowing my characters to develop their independence first, then bringing in the romantic angle. Trust needs to be built first. Friendship needs to grow. And some characters need to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee. Needless to say, there’s only the foreshadowing of these things to come in this first book. There might be one complete couple by the end of the next book; possibly three. I’ll know when I get there *grin*.

Part of what I’ve done in order to delay the gratification here, is to develop male characters that could literally fit with any of the three main ladies. I absolutely hate it when its too predictable! We have choices in the paths of our lives…sometimes we make the right ones and sometimes the wrong. Eventually, we can’t go back and undo those mistakes, we simply stand where we are and make the best of things.

Although George is the oldest female, there are even several options open for her…as the men  are conveniently in the age group slightly between her and Hope, and that’s just in the initial group. There are other people who live at their eventual destination, just to keep things confused. Mwuahahahaha…

Writing is often like playing God, isn’t it?

Before I get too power-happy here, let me begin introducing the male characters. I’ll start with Hans.

His first name isn’t likely to change any time soon. I named him Hans for a reason; he’s named after my own path not taken. A gentle soul I met while working at Greenpeace in my very early 20s. Don’t get to excited here…I was a canvasser (read: begged for money). I sooooo should have…and very nearly did. At that time I was in a relationship with an emotionally abusive man who was suicidally depressed. I had realized we were isolated…he hated my friends, I hated his so neither of us had any friends. I was trying to wean us off of each other by limiting our time together and developing new friendships. It was at that time I met Hans.

Things fell apart (saw that coming, did you?) and I ended up quitting Greenpeace because of a massive depression he went into, where he landed himself in the local hospital under observation. I was worried, frantic, and couldn’t concentrate anymore. I quit my job and never saw Hans again.

As always with these characters, that’s just the beginning. There’s a little of my husband in this character as well, as both the character of Hans and my hubby were in the Army. Like hubby, Hans is gifted. He sees things. Of course, he doesn’t consider himself gifted.

He’s the son of a good ole boy from Texas and an immigrant mother. Originally, the plan was to make his mom German but I have another German in there. I want to maintain ethnic and cultural diversity so I’m playing with other “Nordic” cultures. Possibly Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic…not sure. So he’s currently without a surname. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

His mother and her sister are the only family from his maternal line in Texas. They are both brutally murdered, and the murder goes unsolved for many, many years. The rest of Hans’ family is brutally simple and primarily male. There is no room for weakness. When he starts seeing the ghosts of his mother and aunt, he goes a little nuts. The perfect solution? Join the army.

The discipline and distraction of the army belays the apparitions for awhile. But all too soon he finds himself discharged and trying to begin a new life far away from his native Texas and all those memories. But it doesn’t work. The apparitions begin again, harsher, more frequent, and he begins to lose control. He tries everything he can think of; anti-depressants, psychiatry, alcohol.

Its in this desperate, half-crazed state of mind that he crosses the threshold to George’s store.

He’s dubious but desperate. George practically drags him into her reading room to consult for him. Before the book’s even begun, they’ve forged a friendship from this. She’s helped him deal with the visions, helped discover the murderer, and even gently helped him learn how to handle his “gift.” Although he has always paid her for her services, he feels a great deal of obligation toward George, and a certain amount of love.

But then he meets Hope.

Hope is instinctively drawn to him, although she represses all such feelings. After all, she was raised a good little Christian girl…and she has a hard time dealing with concepts like “passion.” Boys weren’t her form of rebellion, after all, it was spirituality of a different type and intellectual pursuits. She’s a shy geek at heart. So although she practically foams at the mouth when Hans is around, she’ll never say or do anything to get his attention.

Personally, I don’t blame her. He is, in my mind anyway, gorgeous. And he has a reserved politeness, a chivalry you don’t find often these days. There’s a gentle wit about him, and a gallant need to defend everyone he cares about. Combined with a body built by the American miltiary (and they do build a good looking man, whatever I might feel about war) and a slight drawl…

Well, yeah, yum. 😉

Spiritually speaking, Hans is our Nordic. Not Asatruar, not reallyanythingeasily defined because he has an absolute horror of organized religion of any sort, and would never contemplate pushing his religious beliefs…or even discussing them much…with a single soul. It is the most personal of beliefs to him.

As I mentioned, the remaining family members are primarily male, good ole boys, and…you guessed it…survivalists. Which will certainly come in handy on into the book…By profession he’s a mechanic which, again, will come in particularly handy. (Ooooh,foreshadowing!)

As will his completely insane uncle and cousin who he lives with.

All things in time. I’ll get there!

 

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There are No Small Characters.


If you’ve been following this blog, you know my main goal in this book is to destroy the world. If you haven’t been, you can read about it here http://wp.me/p1lH4W-7X. I get to tear the world apart and then repopulate it as I desire. (See it is a fantasy novel!)Some of the groups that will survive will not be my ideal survivors. There has to be some future conflict, after all. But this group, in this first book, this is my dream group. These are the people who I want to make it, to recreate society, to build a civilization that I would want to live in. Essentially, these are the best America has to offer, at least in my eyes.

This concept is reflected in my characters, and more so in the “supporting” characters; the secondary, primary, and even “only decor” characters. It’s important to me to get as good a cross-section of the beauty and diversity as I possibly can. Every single character is important. In fact, I have near complete bios on every single name I use…and will probably end up posting many of them here, for myself as well as for your entertainment. (It might help me keep track of them all!)  Secondary, tertiary, and “decor only” characters may evolve, may get promoted, may be used in the next novel or the novel after that as primary characters. Why develop another character when you’ve got a perfectly good spare lying around neglected?

So I begin posting today on the “secondary” characters although in my heart there really are no small characters. Just big characters with small parts at the moment.

Enter Bronwyn. Bronwyn’s last name is in flux, currently I have her named Bronwyn Welsh. It’s probably going to change. Of course, her friends call her Brownie.

Brownie’s mom is from Argentina. Her father left when she was still a toddler so she really knows next to nothing about him but his last name. As a person who is very private by nature, she would tell no one about her history, so if she knew more about him she wouldn’t be likely to volunteer that information.

Like others in this story, Brownie doesn’t really belong anywhere. She takes after her father with her looks; long, wild, flame-red hair, green eyes, and pale skin, so she’s not always embraced as “Hispanic.” As a practitioner of Voodoo, she’s often the odd lady out at Pagan socials as well. 

Brownie’s character serves four purposes:

First, she’s the clear perspective. She sees things, knows what’s really going on. She’s the voice of common sense. She knows who can be trusted and, more importantly, who can’t. Of course, she isn’t always listened to. If she were, there would be a lot less conflict and drama to write about! 

Second, she’s the role of best friend. I learned something from watching all that Doctor Who and that’s that every hero needs someone to talk to or they just look batty. 🙂 Not to mention, someone to cry to, someone to laugh with, someone to laugh at them and keep them real…etc., etc., etc. 

Third is long-term planning. This first book is very “Man vs. (un)Nature” so there isn’t a villain, per se. There are a couple of assholes, the jerk who abused George for instance, but no real good arch-nemesis. That does not, however, mean that there will not be one. I’m breeding one, a person who is in the first little group of friends, who will be getting eviler and eviler as the books continue, until it eventually comes to a head. Not in the next book, although I might reveal the villain in the next book, any actual battle with that person won’t be for at least a book or two after that. Brownie does not like or trust this person from the very beginning of the book, and Brownie being the person with clear perspective, is the one knows. Again, if everyone listened to her, there wouldn’t be any drama, now would there?

Fourth, there’s a very important connection with Brownie and her mom and what’s going on…but I’ll just tease you with that. Because I can.

So now I’ll admit that this character’s existence owes everything to Mousie. Because she inspired this character…so much to the point that Mousie’s my beta-reader and often suggests dialog, changes in dialog, or actions. If I get confused about a scene that involves Brownie, I can easily ask Mousie her thoughts on it and 99% of the time I will use her suggestions. I rely on Mousie just as Hope (and eventually George) relies on Brownie. Mousie is my muse and my clear perspective on things. She’s invariably right about who to trust and who not to. No, of course I don’t listen to her as often as I should…

But that makes great material for the book!

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I Will Hug Her and Squeeze Her and Name Her George


Last time I posted about my writing and such, I shared with you my first character, Hope. If you’re just “tuning in,” that post is here…http://wp.me/p1lH4W-8H.

I have to admit again that characters and dialog are where my heart lies. I get very attached to my characters. Like Hope, George is part of me. She’s the older part of me, the jaded, bruised, emotionally injured, older but not-necessarily-wiser part of me.

Again, I had fun with the background and name for this character. Her mother is a literature professor, her father an astronomy professor. Her entire family is academic or artistic. In this, she is one of the black sheep of her family. She owns…*gasp* ametaphysical store!

So I suppose those of you who know me or have followed this blog have some idea already of where the similarities between George and I began…

Anyway, her birth-name is…Aurora Borealis Noble. Yeah. Nice moniker, eh? There are several reasons for her nickname. First, there is a city in Illinois (not far from where the story begins) called Aurora. Second, ever hear a 3-4 year old child try to say Aurora? Hmm…yeah comes out “Awowa.” Not that pretty. The nickname of “George” is also a compromise and her mom’s idea…there was a French novelist whose pen name was George Sand (1804-1876)  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Sand) who was quite scandalous for a number of reasons, partially because she ran around dressed like a man for most of her life. There were other reasons, of course ;-). George Sand’s name by birth was Amatine Lucile Aurore Dupin. So Aurora acquired the nickname of George which has stuck with her throughout her life; mostly because she won’t allow anyone to call her Aurora.

As you can see, I have fun with names as well as the background why the name was chosen. Parents don’t always think these things through thoroughly when coming up with a name for their child. I myself narrowly escaped being named “Sarah Lee.” <shudder>

And yes, for the record her last name is an homage to my favorite companion from Doctor Who, Donna Noble. In fact, if you shorten “George” into “Geo” which a lot of the characters do at various times, it’s pronounced “Jo” for my other most favorite companion, Jo Grant. I am just that much of a geek. So I guess authors have no more common sense when it comes to naming characters than parents do naming children! 😉 I’d also like to add that the prefix “-geo” comes from the Greek word for Earth. Damn, I love playing with names!

The surnames of my characters may all end up getting switched about although I think George’s and Hope’s will probably stay as they are. I like the implications of George’s surname “Noble,” particularly for the struggles she goes thru as well as the fact that she becomes designated leader of the little tribe I’m developing. Hope’s surname of “White” fits as well…because she was raised as white as Wonder bread with mayonnaise; she is the most naive of the characters.

George is Hope’s Aunt, and thereby the sister of the other “black sheep” of the Noble clan, Mary Shelly Noble White who has gone off the deep end into conservative-fringe-almost-cult-like “Christianity.” George has gone off in the opposite direction of her sister. She left her small town to head for college in the City of Chicago. With the freedom of university life, she was able to begin exploring the religion she’d been most interested in, Wicca, as well as many other metaphysical studies.

Unfortunately, she discovered she was not cut out for academia. (And again, this is where we have a lot in common). There simply wasn’t anything offered that she could understand studying for four years (or much longer) that would be worth the investment of time and money. All the subjects she was drawn to were ones that had no reward for education.

So she leaves academia and attempts the life of the 9-5 work world, finds a boyfriend and tries to settle into mundane life. The man she had a relationship with …well, isn’t worth her energies. He abuses her mentally and emotionally, cheats on her with her best friend, and then proposes to her best friend.

Angry with herself for failing in college, at work, and at love, George is ready to give up. Her grandparents pass away and leave her a fairly large inheritance…just enough for her to invest in a house and a business. So she opens a metaphysical store.

This is where we find her at the beginning of the story. She’s had the store for…oh around five years or so. By this time, George is almost a complete isolationist. People come to her for what they need, and she’s always helpful but always aloof. She will not allow herself to care for them, nor for them to care for her.

Her spirituality has suffered in all of this as well because, naturally, the boyfriend who abused her was her High Priest and her now ex-best friend High Priestess of the coven she once attended. She has turned her back on Wicca, but no one really knows what she doesbelieve in. Her aloofness includes keeping her spiritual beliefs close to her chest. In the store, she is always completely neutral. She exhibits knowledge and understanding of whatever her customers are looking for and never speaks a word of judgment or support. Just the facts, ma’am.

As a result of her policy of non-interference, she now runs the most popular and best known metaphysical/occult shop in the Chicago suburbs.

Even if the rest of her family thinks she’s completely off-the-wall nuts.

George is alone, but not lonely. She is content in her isolationism because she’s finally found a place in the world. She’s doing what she feels she was called to do. She’s at the store all day long, and often takes on clients after hours as well, doing consultations, various spiritual cleansings ,or getting rid of mischievous spirits. George’s life is neat, tidy, and busy. Too busy for her to even notice that she might be missing something. Not that she would ever stop long enough to think about it, or acknowledge it if she did.

Until, of course, Hope shows up at the store. Let the chaos begin.

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Two Worlds Colliding


The last time I posted about my creative writing endeavors, I went over the plot of the book I’m currently working on. Or I should say I revealed what I am comfortable revealing. I am still a little paranoid, I admit it, but not without good reason. After all, if I reveal too much, who will want to read it? You’ll have read it already! Not to mention the mighty bugaboo of someone coming along and stealing my idea. Not likely, I know…but still possible…! Anyway, for those who missed it that can all be found here…

https://camylleon.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/my-paranoia-is-showing-again/

I like to think its a fairly unique idea. Maybe not completely so, I’m not so vain as to think that no one could possibly have thought or written anything like it. However, it is my own take on it from my mind so its got its own flair, so to speak.

The characters are another factor that make these books so individual. I have to admit that characters and dialog are my stronger suits. Where I struggle is actually with the plot. I have a plot line…but keeping it moving, keeping it active, keeping it exciting is where I have to work the hardest. Don’t worry…I’m working on it! Its a fantasy genre novel, so I know I have a certain standard of action to meet. Not maybe as hard as a SciFi novel, but right up there.

I also have some minor struggles with description. I have to admit, I have a tendency to skip over large amounts of text when I am reading. I know its really well done and all that…the author has taken pains to immerse me in this world, relaying all those minute details of ambiance and character description. It just bores me to tears, honestly. I don’t care if the lead is six-foot-four. I might care if he’s seven-foot-three; that would be an interesting detail that would make him…well stand out. (Sorry about that.) Whether someone is blond haired and blue eyed is sort of irrelevant unless it has something to do with the character…and I find authors throw a lot of unnecessary detail in. Well, unnecessary to me. I think most people enjoy it. Thus my struggle.

But that’s not what I wanted to post about today. Today…its all about my favorite subject, the characters. This is where my two worlds most certainly collide; reality and fiction.

I can’t help it. Maybe because this is the first creative writing I’ve done in 20 years or so, maybe because its just the way I am, but the 2 main characters from this book have an awful lot of me in them, and an awful lot of my life. They aren’t me, per se. Just facets of me…me from a certain moment in time…from a certain angle. There are differences, big differences, but I’m inside their heads a little too much.

In one way, this is very therapeutic. In another its terribly dangerous. Because this is what is going to hurt the most when the rejection slips start coming in. When you put too much of yourself into any art, the rejection is excruciating. I think I’m ready for it, but…well, we’ll see when we get there, won’t we?

To you, my friends, I will reveal some of these characters. There are a lot of them, actually…although only 2 primary and 4 secondary or so in the first book. I’ve got way more background than necessary on a lot of the secondary and even tertiary characters because I have every intention of continuing this on into at least 2 more books chronologically and probably a handful of parallel books as well. After all, if I’m going to all the trouble of building this world, I might as well play there for awhile!

I’m going to begin by sharing with you the first of the primary characters. By the way, the names of the characters have been fairly well thought out…but may change. There’s a couple I’m very attached to and a couple that have never quite settled right with me. I’ll get to that though…

I’ll begin with the youngest because right now she’s the first to appear in the book. That may change, too…

Miriam Hope White. She prefers to be called “Hope” although her parents refuse to do so. Her mom’s name is “Mary,” and this is how she came to be named “Little Mary.” Yes, her mom is that kind of woman. In fact, Hope has been raised in a very closed-minded, repressive, controlling kind of Bible-thumping household in a just east of nowhere bumblef*ck town. In the first scene with Hope, Mary’s taking her to her high school graduation rehearsal. She has two brothers; Mark and Luke. Yeah…it’s that kind of house. I would have used John and Matthew but I’m using Jonny elsewhere (although that may be changed) and Matthew has RL connotations so I try to avoid it.

When I was trying to figure out her name, I knew that her first name would be Miriam…but the middle name, the one she would use…that I wrestled with. I figured her parents would use one of those old-fasioned Puritan kind of names so I came up with a list; Prudence I couldn’t use (Charmed reference), Faith I couldn’t use (sis-in-law’s middle name as well as my neice’s), and there are far too many Graces in media already. This left me with Patience and Hope, and a few that sounded more like Hippy names than Puritan. I chose Hope. It seemed to fit both her character and the plotline of the book better.

Hope isn’t like her parents, she doesn’t fit in. Her mind and heart are far too open. She has a craving for knowledge and sneaks out to libraries and bookstores at every chance. She has an inclination toward Wicca although she’s had no way to pursue it given her circumstances. Her best friend is Cassie, a Lutheran girl that her parents don’t approve of although she is Christian…she’s not the right kind of Christian. Her parents have planned Hope’s future out, packing Hope off to attend the same conservative Christian college as her older brother with the anticipation she’ll get a nice Mrs. degree.

Hope has other plans.

Hope is in many ways “young me.” My upbringing was conservative but not quite as bad as hers. Ok, nowhere near as bad as hers. She came about as a combination of my own experience and something my mom said to me once. Since my hubby and I have no children, when I was lamenting about this once and my fears of the future, my mom suggested my brother’s children might seek us out and become closer. My brother isn’t by any means a Conservative Christian like Hope’s family. Far from it. But I have estranged cousins that my family hasn’t been in contact with for 20 years or so. Cousins who married brothers and joined a very, very, very conservative…no, cult-like…Church. And so Hope’s family was born.

Her background gives me a naiveté to play with, a fresh perspective, an “outsiders” look at what is going on. Everything is new to Hope.

Of course I yank her out of this closed up, narrow-minded world and throw her into the crazy, frantic, big-city, metaphysical world of her Aunt.

 

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What I’ve Learned from the Big “D”


It’s almost been a year since I started this blog. I know…its hard to believe! One of the first subjects I tackled was my health, and the fact that I had been diagnosed with diabetes. I attacked that one because…well, at the time there were a lot of people reading from my Facebook page, and I wanted to be open with it right away with everyone. That way, I got all the questions out in the open, answered them right away, and didn’t have to repeat myself over…and over…and over…

It wasn’t that much of a surprise. I am overweight, had been for years, and there is a family history of diabetes. I knew my grandfather had it; I didnt’ t know his mother had it as well. In fact, she was insulin-dependent. But then, we didn’t know so much about it then.

I am fortunate. Before I’d received the diagnosis, I’d already made some important lifestyle changes. My diabetes was under control before I started to control it! Just cutting out fast food and soda was a huge factor. That wasn’t enough for me, however. I don’t want to just control it; I want to beat it into submission. My numbers were close enough to “pre-diabetic” that I figured, with a little work, I could get there eventually. The longer I can stay there, the less likely the more tragic effects of diabetes will be.

As a result, I am always thinking about food. Always. Every bite I put into my mouth is conscious. I’ve had all sorts of weird thoughts about food, and here are some of my realizations:

I actually now enjoy drinking water. I never thought I would get to that point, after fighting soda addiction for so long! But its true. I like it. And although I haven’ t noticed any of those other changes you’re supposed to have when  you’re being healthier (like more energy…where is this fabled energy I’m supposed to have?), I can truly tell when I haven’t had enough water.

Bigger bites do not mean more taste. As a matter of fact, bigger bites means that the food isn’t going to last as long. Smaller bites are better because the flavor is going to be in my mouth much, much longer. No more wrapping as much spaghetti as I can around the fork and shoving so much in my mouth that I have a hard time closing it, let alone chewing.

I can have a piece of fudge. I cannot have a half pound.

Eat when you’re hungry. Because if you eat when you’re ravenous you will eat so much more, and randomly shove things in your mouth that have no right being there. Like a half pound of fudge. Because it’s there. And you can’t wait to cook something.

I used to think I loved potatoes. Now I realize I never really knew what they tasted like. It was the butter, cheese, sour cream, and whatever I was covering them with that I liked. Now that I know what they taste like without all that…I’ve decided I can live without them.

If I don’t like the way my mouth tastes after I’ve eaten something, why am I eating it? There are some things that I can’t stand the after taste of. Pointless.

There’s a negotiation process. I can have ice cream, but I can’t have ice cream and spaghetti. Which one is more filling? Would I rather skip a meal and be hungry and have something sweet…or would I rather have a filling meal and not whine all day about being hungry? Food usually wins over dessert, believe it or not.

I’m only supposed to have so many carbs at once, so you know I’m being a lot more particular about that. If I’m spluring on chocolate, it’s not going to be any of that nasty mostly wax stuff they sell dirt-cheap around the holidays. If I’m gonna have ice cream, you can bet your ass it’ll be Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked not some hideous, pointless generic vanilla “ice milk.” Ugh.

Speaking of ice cream, it is pointless to eat more than a little of it. After the first few bites  your mouth is too cold to taste it anyway.

Damn, now I want ice cream.

Here’s the weirdest one: The global responsibility theory. See…if I eat more, I’m raising demand for whatever it is I’m eating. Following the law of supply and demand, that means that I am contributing to the raised prices of whatever that thing is. What does that mean? It means that I’m contributing, indirectly, to making that food substance more expensive for the poorer people who already have trouble affording food. That’s not fair, now is it? It also means that I’m very selfishly demanding more than my fair share of other resources: water and fertilizers to feed the plants that create the food and gasoline to transport the food products to the stores I buy them from. I’m also contributing more than I should to the pollution of the planet by using more things that are transported with fossil fuels, increasing the demand for produce in regions that are hard-pressed to keep up, destruction of rainforests to farm, and of course increased chemical fertilizer and pesticide use. Bad hippie. Bad.

I warned you that was the weirdest thing I’ve learned from the Big “D” didn’t I?

There are other things, of course. I’ve almost completely eliminated processed food. No more hamburger helper, canned ravioli or that sort of thing. (I now make soup that puts Campbell’s to shame.) Hubby still gets his mac and cheese…but honestly, I don’t even want to eat it. Which is good because it’s on my “absolutely not” list for a number of reasons.

I’ve even been relying on my bread maker more and more. Yes, I can make bread from scratch. No, it’s not that hard to do. I’m lazy, I admit it. It is healthier in the long run…very little sugar at all, and all of a teaspoon of salt in what amounts to two loaves of bread. (I only use the dough setting on the bread maker…then I let it rise a second time in pans and bake it in the oven. I hate the crusts on bread that’s baked in the bread maker).

I’ve also started making peace with vegetables. I’ve always been okay with salad…but salad now means more than just a plate of lettuce. Tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, cucumbers (love those in salad), celery, carrots, peas, pea pods, cauliflower, orange peppers (like them better than green)…all of it finds its way into my cooking (and salads) now. Even got hubby to eat broccoli which is a major accomplishment! Of course, I still don’t care much for vegetables by themselves…but I’m finding I like them in other things (soup, salad, etc.) and I’m getting pretty creative about adding them in.

It has been an interesting experience. And I don’t mean that sarcastically, for a change. ‘ve learned a lot. I’m going to learn more, I’m sure. But I’m not afraid. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.

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My Paranoia is Showing…Again.


“So what’s your book about?”

This is the question I dread. I realize that I will have to come up with a blurb eventually that encapsulates the whole thing in one or maybe two paragraphs. Its required when you submit a manuscript for publication, from what I understand. When I’ve finished this thing, to my own satisfaction at least, I’ll tackle that. In the meantime, I’ve been more-or-less dancing around the question. Not just because I don’t know how to explain it, either.

Because I’m paranoid. Someone will steal my idea.

Now first off, its pretty bloody hard to steal someone’s idea like that. Even if I were to say exactly what the premise of the book was, and you were to take the idea, there’s no way you would come up with the same exact book that I’m writing. The characters would be different, the dialog would be different, the descriptions would be different, it would be an entirely different book.

And it’s not like major, well-known authors are out searching through little known blogs like mine looking for new ideas to steal. Chances are that if someone without the creativity to come up with their own idea was going to steal mine, they’re relatively unknown and heretofore unpublished as well.

So I need to get over this particular fear. Especially if I’m going to garner any interest in this book at all.

Its finished enough that I feel comfortable sharing at least the bare bones of what I’m working on now. A little bit at a time, of course, and not the entire book…because I really would like to see it published one day. One way or another. Granted, I’m not likely to be the next Mercedes Lackey…but I would like to see my name in print on a book spine.

If you’re working in the fantasy genre, there’s  three common ways to get fantastic. Either historical/mythological fantasy, or your story is set in another world where these things are “normal,” or your character trips into a portal of some sort and is transported into another world.

The portal concept is ancient…and can be traced back to the most ancient of fairy stories, where the hero is taken “under the hill.” Even some Biblical stories could be looked at this way, where the prophet is taken into heaven and sees visions of the different angelical creatures. In “modern” fiction, this goes at least as far back as Alice in Wonderland, and is a main theme with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Thomas Covenant series, and even the beloved Harry Potter where it may not be an accidental portal, but there is most certainly a portal between our world and that of witchcraft and wizardry.

There is one other, less common theme. I’ve seen it used on occasion, especially in the “Arthur returns” kind of plot lines, and in more humorous fantasy fiction. This is the theme where they come here. In the humorous fiction, this is often where the worlds have already collided and you’ll find mythological creatures in amusing and awkward situations. You know…vampires in charge of blood banks. That sort of thing.

Ok, I’m going to jump a little here, but you’ll see where I’m heading in a minute. postapocalyptic fiction. I’ve never been big into it because, well, the whole nuclear holocaust was pretty scary to me as I was growing up. In high school, I really did believe that if I had a child, they wouldn’t live into adulthood because there was going to be a nuclear war and we were all going to die. Silly, I know now…but I was young and impressionable while shoes were being waved about overseas. However, now that I’m older and I’ve lived through that…I find I’m able to entertain the thought. As in find it entertaining, not worse than any horror movie.

In most postapocalyptic fiction, you don’t see the downfall of humanity. Ok, if it’s a nuclear thing, there’s no point. One minute fine…then boom…then post-apocolypse. *shrug* Not much to show, is there? You will see it more when there’s nice virus or something killing everyone off.

Some fantasy books will imply that their brand-new-shiny worlds are the result of some sort of apocalypse that mankind has already lived through…which is how the new creatures–and world–came to be. But you don’t see mankind’s struggle. They take place sometimes hundreds of years later. This doesn’t include Sci Fi where you might find out that the new world was created as a result of the crash of a space ship of some sort. Different subject. (Fantastic example of this: the DarkOver LandFall series by MZB.)

Following me so far? I know I’m rambling…but I’m getting there…;-) You get to see some of my stream of consciousness, how I came up with this crazy idea of mine…lol.

Ok. So we’ve got fairy portals and apocalypse. Fun, eh?

Now let’s look at the human mind. Once upon a time, I heard a story. How it was relayed to me was a bit of an exaggeration…as these things often are when they’re passed around like this. The game of operator is as true now as it was when I was a kid! Anyway, it goes like this…when the Conquistadors landed in the “New World,” the original inhabitants couldn’t see their ship. They saw them rowing to land in their tiny little row boats and wondered how they had come so far in such tiny little boats. They didn’t understand, couldn’t believe a ship as big as that existed; and their minds translated it as being a mountain or an island. They couldn’t see it for what it was.

Like I said, this tale is only partially true; there is a grain of truth in it. But it is true that our minds cannot see what we cannot believe. We block it out, explain it as something else. I don’t know exactly why; survival maybe? At any rate, I began thinking…

What if they were always here? If we stopped believing so we stopped seeing.

This would explain the occasional whack-job or even incredibly bright person who thinks they’ve encountered fairies, aliens, elves, or whatever. (I know a very nice, very sane lady who claims to this day she’s seen a fairy. I believe her.)

Let’s kick this up a notch. We don’t see because we don’t believe. We don’t believe because we don’t see. We’re in a jaded society, a society that needs concrete, scientific proof before we’ll actually accept something.

Add CGI to the mix now. Because of CGI, completely believable dragons, unicorns, centaurs, angels, flying horses, medusae, elves, dwarves, and everything else imaginable are now believable. We’ve seen them. Sure, they were on movie screen, but we all know that the younger mind is more flexible than the older; we’re raising a generation that will believe because they have seen.

Now let’s make that a portal. Only its a portal going the other way. Now they are here. Some of them won’t be any bother at all…others could be hazardous to human health. Some we can defeat; some we can’t. Some will get along with each other; some will not. There will be battles–human against creature, creature against creature, human against human. Water sanitation is affected by naiads, mermaids, undines…salamanders attack power utilities and natural gas lines are destroyed. Mass destruction, starvation, panic, gang wars, creature wars and so much more fun.

I’m beginning the story where it should, at the beginning, in a city, before reality breaks apart. By the end of the first book, they know they can’t possibly survive in a city. There’s no new food sources, sanitation is completely impossible, water difficult to find, and the gang wars for power and resources are out of control. Their only hope is to risk traveling from the city to the rural areas…knowing that creature activity is going to be worse once they get outside the city.

And of course, there are no cars. The gremlins got those.

Paranoia confronted. Maybe next time I’ll start getting into the characters a little…

 

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Worse than Fear of the Blank Page


…is fear of the first three paragraphs. For me, at least. Blank pages, or should I say blank virtual pages on my laptop screen, don’t faze me. Not in the least. In fact, the raw manuscript is finished. 12 chapters of it, with an average of about 7500 words in each. So, yeah, the blank page didn’t really stop me. Once I got going, it was just a matter of having the time and the concentration to keep going. There were a couple of blips along the way…but I don’t know that I could even call it “writers block.”

The first problem occurred because I’m reading about writing as I’m writing. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good idea right now. On one hand, listening to other people can ruin your art. On the other hand, writing is one of those arts that can be improved by learning. *sigh* So I’m reading along and writing along and I realize I’ve made something of a flaw. The “climax” ain’t all that climactic.

Everyone loves a good climax.

So I dove into the almost finished manuscript (I think I had 10 chapters at this point), tore some stuff apart and shoved a new climax into the approximate middle. Well, where I felt it belonged in the story, at least. Because of that, I had to go back and smooth out all the chapters before it and the couple I had after it. It wasn’t that bad. Ok, it was that bad. But I lived through it, right?

Then I’m running right along, editing the manuscript on round one and I realize another flaw. I’m telling not showing. It needs more showing. More oomph. The problem is, I’m dealing with protagonists in one geographical area…and the disasters and chaos are supposed to be happening around the globe. Originally, I had the main characters witnessing these events through the wonders of television, radio, and internet…but it just wasn’t enough.

Okay, back to it again. Let’s add some vignettes in there to bring the drama up. They’re not main characters, they’re completely disposable characters (although in a side note to all of you, the people in the vignettes are not main characters but they are related to other non-disposable characters and some of them may be making appearances in later volumes, should I ever get that far!) essentially in short stories to demonstrate all the wonderful and horrible things that are happening around the world.

This is taking a lot of research and imagination because I have literally not been outside my home country. (I do not consider Cancun, Mexico to be a foreign country. Everyone speaks English and they have a Denny’s. A Denny’s, for Crissakes.) Fortunately, I have a wealth of friends and family who are more geographically experienced than I am, but still…

All these trials were manageable. I could handle it. But then I read two very disturbing details in one of these “how to write” books. Actually, I’ve seen in mentioned in a few of them, and even in some advice web sites.

1. Any conflict brought up in the first chapter…as soon as it’s dealt with, the book is over.

2. You can lose your audience in the first three paragraphs

AAAAAGGGGGH!!!!! TOOOOOOO MUCH PRESSSSSSURE!!!!!

I adored my original first chapter. But it was almost all character development. There was almost no conflict at all…and what little there was dealt not with the “plot line” but with a “sub plot” of belonging and all that. Grrr. So…here I am, the novel hasn’t even been finished yet and the book is over in chapter 2 and I’ve already lost my farkin’ audience.

So…okay…deep breath. Added something that foreshadowed all the stuff that’s going to happen. It actually added some to the character, in retrospection. And started going through the ENTIRE manuscript again to make sure that the “belonging” problem isn’t resolved until closer to the end of the book. So…now I have the real problem presented that isn’t solved at all (all good fantasy fiction is written in trilogies, right? Even sometimes 4, 5, or 35 book trilogies…lol), and the belonging thing is definitely drawn out.

But still.

The stress.

I keep looking at that first chapter. I’ve changed it again, added something that might even be considered a prologue. But then I’ve read that editors don’t take kindly to “prologues” these days…and even reject manuscripts automatically if they have a “prologue”…although if you submit the same manuscript with the prologue listed off as “chapter one” you might make it through.

What I want to know is who “they” are and what the hell “they” know, anyway.

*sigh*

Every single time I open the manuscript up to edit it, I begin at the beginning. The rest of the text has been barely touched, but I’ve been through the first 50 pages probably 20 times already. Is it exciting enough? Engaging enough? Will the audience understand what I’m trying to say about this character? Can I do it in fewer words?

The first chapter stress is killing me.

Granted, the experts say this and that about that first chapter, but I’m a reader. I know there’s more to it than that. If I’ve never heard of an author before, I know how I pick a book. I’ll look at the title. I’ll look at the cover. I’ll admit, I’m a little bias…I know I prefer female authors and female characters, although there are exceptions. I look for those notorious apostrophes and exotic spelling habits because if nothing else, that’s terribly distracting. If it’s an author that’s been recommended by someone I trust, I might try it anyway. Usually not, though. I’ll look at the beginning paragraphs, sure…but I also page to somewhere in the middle, randomly. It’s a habit I picked up from my mom. Because no matter what the subject matter, or who the author, or how tempting it might look…if its not readable, I’m outta there. But I give the author a chance…in the middle, where the pressure is off, where s/he’s picked up steam, gotten their landlegs under them, and are up and running. Its only fair.

If that’s good, I buy the book. And once I buy a book…well, I’m going to read it. And unless it’s absolutely horrible, I’m going to finish it. I’ve committed to the experience by taking it home. I have to say that in my experience most books (99% or so) have some redeemable quality to them, whether its characters, dialog, descriptive prose, plot twists or what-have-you, there’s something good there. Even in genres I can’t normally stand, I can find something. My mom is occasionally throwing me a romance novel, a mystery or one of those modern fiction things…(she’s in a book group) and even though I usually don’t care for the genre of writing (each genre has their own quirks)…there’s something I enjoy in them.

I guess what I’m saying is that I pray that either my first chapter is much better than I’m afraid it is…or that most readers in the world out there are like me and will at least give me a chance.

If I die prematurely, it will be the first chapter that killed me.

 

 

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A Dedication to the Yronwodes, Dr. Kioni and all other Involved Parties…You Haven’t Done NOTHIN’


We are amazed but not amused/By all the things you say that you’ll do/Though much concerned but not involved/With decisions that are made by you
But we are sick and tired of hearing your song/Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong/’Cause if you really want to hear our views/You haven’t done nothing
It’s not too cool to be ridiculed/But you brought this upon yourself/The world is tired of pacifiers/We want the truth and nothing else
And we are sick and tired of hearing your song/Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong/’Cause if you really want to hear our views/You haven’t done nothing/
Jackson 5 join along with me, say Doo doo wop [Repeat]
We would not care to wake up to the nightmare/That’s becoming real life/But when misled who knows a person’s mind/Can turn as cold as ice, mm hmm
Why do you keep on making us hear your song/Telling us how you are changing right from wrong/’Cause if you really want to hear our views/You haven’t done nothin’ Yeah, nothin’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji2ma2mfyhU

It was actually written about Nixon, I believe..but seems appropriate in this situation. Well, in a lot of situations, actually.

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Follow the Money…Kioni vs Yronwode, the Conspiracy Theory


Before I begin, let me say that much of this is hypothetical…completely hypothetical.

Flying Poppet posted an interesting piece about a bit of a brouhaha going on in the African Tradition circles. I was blissfully unaware of these shenanigans until I read this…

http://flyingdoll.net/2011/12/27/the-ongoing-saga-of-dr-kioni/

Which I reblogged yesterday. There’s been a bit of dialog and some interesting fact finding on the part of both Poppet and LJWitch, which you can find in the comments on the above post.

Ok, so now that everyone’s caught up…

Let’s step into alternative possibilities here. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that this little ritual of Dr. Kioni never took place. After all, none of us were there, right? All we have is the photographic evidence which was apparently well-publicized across both Facebook and major newspapers like USA Today.

What if Dr. Kioni had never performed any ritual or spellwork? What if…and it’s possible…he knows just enough to fake the aftermath. Mambo Racine has stated that there are Haitian Voudou rituals that do involve the live burning of a chicken. They’re not pretty, they’re not nice, but they do exist.

Having some (although not full) education in these worlds, I know I know enough right this minute to fake some pretty impressive things. Granted, the audience or clients would have to be fairly ignorant, but I’m pretty sure I could pull off…well being a Santera, for instance.

The police stated that they could not say with certainty if the chicken was alive or dead when it was burned. There are no witnesses, and the client that Dr. Kioni did this work for is anonymous. I would be to, if I were that person, but that’s irrelevant. The person may or may not exist. I’m going conspiracy theory here.

So…if he faked the entire ritual, just barbecued a chicken and threw it on a grave with some rum and a cigar (and really, how many of us wouldn’t know about the rum and cigar?)…what would he get from that?

I can tell you what he’d get. Because humans love a train wreck. I saw it myself when Swamp Witch and I had that minor incident. Both of our hits went up astronomically. People just can’t get enough of that stuff. The meaner, the better. I had a decision after that, and so did she. We could have continued the battle, spewing venomous filth all over the internet, and would have had extremly popular blogs to show for it. But we both decided to take the high road.

You simply can’t buy this kind of publicity.

So Cat Yronwode has jumped into the fray, and her son as well. I wonder if her hits have gone up as well? Hmmm…yes, I’d imagine so. Just that USA Today article would have multiplied Dr. Kioni’s traffic ten-fold…maybe even hundred-fold. Since Cat’s drawn her line in the sand, her web traffic has soared as well.

The finger-pointing, the name calling, and the petition signing continue. And will do so, through the foreseeable future. And both of them will be raking in the cash while the battle lines are drawn.

A true conspiracy theorist might even suggest this was all orchestrated…planned for their mutual benefit. After all…the original argument seemed to revolve around money…

The question is then, who is the real victim? Is it Dr. Kioni? Cat Yronwode? Does it matter which one of them is right and which one is wrong? Either or both could be guilty or innocent.

No it doesn’t matter. Because we’re the real victims here. Because every single person who practices an African Tradition is now a suspect. Every Santera/Santero, every Voudouisant, every Hoodooist, every Palo practitioner is now guilty in the eyes of the Western world. Now we’re all capable of horrendous, violent torture of animals. It was bad enough that the average Joe Shmo American couldn’t grasp the necessity of animal sacrifice; now we’re abusing the animals before as well.

The contamination will spread, I guarantee it. There are woefully ignorant people in the world who would love to believe the worst about all Pagans. This is just fuel for their fire…and we know what happens when you mix witches and fire. *shudder*

To give benefit of the doubt, Dr. Kioni could have been doing what he believed was a legitimate ceremony. He might have seriously believed the soul of the deceased was willing to work with him. He may have believed the plight of his client was drastic enough to require this type of sacrifice. He may not have made the decision lightly. Do I believe it? No, not necessarily. He strikes me as something of a snake-oil salesman. But I have known good people, people who had religion in their hearts, go bad like this. To be tempted by the money because they didn’t feel their spirits were bringing it to them fast enough. It isn’t pretty when it happens, but I can feel some compassion if that is the case. That doesn’t mean I’m going to contract him for services or recommend him to anyone…but I can see that side.

Same thing with the Yronwodes. Maybe they didn’t start the petition. Often times, friends will jump in and “help,” when they only serve to make matters worse. It’s possible their followers are a bit out of their realm of control. It happens. They might also have the best for their community in their hearts, they may truly want to live the whole life as I desire to…not to have to separate my spiritual side from the business side. To be able to work and support myself…for my spirits to support me…through working with them. It could be. Or it might not. They have done a great deal of work in preserving the Hoodoo heritage and making information available to people who would otherwise have no access. I have my concerns as to whether that’s a good thing or not…but that doesn’t mean their hearts are necessarily in the wrong place, either.

However, I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point is…and what we should be righteously outraged about…is what it has done to us. We’re not going to make a dime off of this. We’re likely to suffer for it, if only in little annoying ways. This entire episode has put all of our good PR to waste…we’ve been set back 20 years at least.

We are the victims here. I’m not going to waste any more pity on either of them.

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The ongoing saga of Dr. Kioni


I’m sharing this blog from my dear WordPress friend Poppet because…well, she says it best, and has done all the research and all that. Hoping to get some insight from my friends here at the Cave who have a little insight both in the Hoodoo and ADR/ATR worlds. I have my suspicions…what do y’all think?

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