Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A post about the constancy of life and New Years

Blossoms to hold onto.
It is that time of year again when everybody is writing either their New Year resolutions or their accomplishments for the past year. My thought is more along the lines of what is still present, still ongoing. So here is my New Year list post.

  • My Labrador companion Cagney it turns out is not turning ten years old in a few months but in fact is going to be nine for another year. She and I are quite pleased about this turn of events now that she is over me aging her faster than she needs to. 
  • Cagney is still an excellent backwards tap dancer and gives a show every night when I measure out her evening meal. 
  •  I am still working on Book 4 of the Students of Jump series, which appears each day, (though I keep writing more scenes) to still have another 6K of words to get to the end. My book apparently has some Dr. Who Tardis qualities: the inside is larger than one would expect. 
  •  I am still disappointed with the movie version of The Hobbit. Where in heck did this white orc come from and since when was a dwarf the main character of a book titled The Hobbit? 
  •  Don't get me started on Ender's Game. But I still feel the same. Good news: no white orc.
  •  When building a house, everything takes longer than expected, still. Yet the roof is on, windows are in, garage doors are going in as I write and siding is going up. I remind myself daily that I could still be smoothing the concrete in the garage, and suddenly I feel as if we have been moving along quite swimmingly. 
  •  I am still getting older and expect to continue aging in the future 
  •  Teaching has been, is and will continue to be very hard work. Fortunately, students still have the capacity to learn despite their nearly all out effort to avoid this. I get updates a year or two after graduation that show that these kernels of learning take root and remain exponentially active for many years. As of this year, I began teaching my first grand-student. He is a much better student than his mother. Appears kernels imbed themselves in the genes. Who knew? 
  • Creativity still begets creativity. I am testing a theory: One can never run out of creativity. I'll let you know the results, but you have to hang around. I won't make the post until shortly before the end, and I plan to live a very long time. 
  •  There are in fact motor homes that one can be comfortable in. You just might not want to bring along two Labradors and two family members to test the comfort level. 
  •  You should still floss the teeth you want to keep. 
  •  Teenage girls notice teenage boys faster than the speed of light. Boys might be a little bit faster noting girls. Research is still coming in. 
  •  Having to pay bills teaches responsibility. Politeness, consideration, appreciation, timeliness, good work habits and sympathy are also benefits of this experience. Earning grades through one's own personal effort teaches the same lessons. 
  •  A kind word still makes a difference worth noting and is therefore worth giving. 
  •  Still keeping company with the best of writer friends, Marcy Peska and L. A. Hilden. 
  •  Another year with the best man in my life and he assures me he is looking forward to another. 
  • The finest of daughters continues to grow into a woman who will one day also be my best friend. Though I don't look forward to letting go of her girlhood, I am already reaching for her adult hand. 
  •  My daughter's Labrador is still terrified of white floors of any material. She treats them like ice and skates on her curled black nails in a comic lack of control that promises to end with all four legs spread out like Bambi but never happens. It seems an appropriate phobia considering the time of year. 
  •  I expect to continue blogging for another year, and probably longer. 
  •  Based on my current writing projects, I see several years of writing ahead. Theory on creativity appears well supported.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Been hanging out with the lady writers these days

Ready to read at a moment's notice

Just today I decided to make a list of my new favorite authors and was surprised to find that they were all women. What's up with that?  All my past favorites have been largely men, or in some cases women using male pen names. Same question applies. I suppose I'll have to think on that, but for now, I thought I would just highlight these ladies of writing. To avoid any favoritism, I am following the alphabetical rule.

Kim Headlee – she writes a series of books that is steeped in Arthurian legend. Her characterization is strong and ties nicely into the legend without being strangled by it.  The female characters are strong as are the male which is what I like to read as it really bothers me when generally one gender is more capable, intelligent and sensible than the other.  She is a skilled writer, and especially so in this particular series.  For more specific details on Headlee see my post of Learning from the Masters on Headlee.

L. A. Hilden – I tumbled onto Hilden's writing via Goodreads. It's been a while so I can't really say if I read a book by her first or started chatting with her first. But they were not far apart in either case.  I have enjoyed her time travel regency romance series.  She is particular about her research down to the tiniest details.  I am a sucker for good research as I love the marriage between fiction and history.  It has been quite some time since I focused largely on reading romance, so Hilden's books are actually a step away from my current interest, but not too big a step as I have lately run almost exclusively to time travel in my reading and this particular series of hers anchors itself in the main character's stumble back and sometimes forward in time. She's working on another novel laced with time travel that I have been treated with a glimpse at.

Marcy Peska – another author I have become close friends with. We met on Twitter via our dog interests and blossomed into sharing our writing interests.  Peska has two books out that are urban magic/legend stories imbedded in Alaskan landscapes. I am not much for urban legend, but throw in some magic and I am ready to take the leap. Leap I did and I met a strong woman character who is finding her way through unexpected elemental magic, friendship and danger. The characters are genuine and full of spark, particularly Vivian who shares the journey in quips and quarrels that show her depth of character and struggle to deal with the unexpected magic she finds all around her.  Remember, you promised a bunch of people (not just me) a book 3, Marcy.

Veronica Roth – the author of a dystopian series. At this point in time, she hardly needs me to tell about what she has written. I enjoyed her books because I found her created society a reasonable evolution and its ultimate breakdown also well supported. Her characters are easy to connect to, in fact, easy to feel possessive about.  I found I was arguing with the play of events, but one cannot control the world he or she lives in, so how can readers expect everything to flow as they wish. This did not stop me from "Whatting!" at particular events, but I prefer my flabbergasted rampage to a predictable read any day.

Jodi Taylor – Her St. Mary's time travel novels have quite hooked me.  I wait for the February publication of her fifth book in the series. (I also read her Nothing Girl standalone novel and loved it as well.) What I appreciate most about this series is Max's humor and internal dialogue. She is the main character and tells the story with wit, flawed wisdom and loads of emotional baggage. After reading four of the series books, I know that when there is a moment for me to rest my tense expectations, something bad is about to happen and Max is going to be stretched to the limit of her imaginative escape powers, and emotional scars are going to tear, a marathon to the end.

Rysa Walker – The Chronos Files series.  I have read the first two books of the series and am waiting on the third. It is sort of a YA/NA time travel mix or perhaps it is a YA evolving over time into an NA. In any case, I am thoroughly enjoying the time travel "training" of Kate by fire and confabulation. Poor girl. It's not enough to have her losing lovers every time the history takes a flip, but she has to stop her grandfather from thoroughly destroying the world as she knows it (or keeps knowing it more than one way), while deciding who to trust/distrust/retrust/untrust and work the darn hourglass thingy that moves her through time.

April White – I will tell you right now, I avoid vampire and werewolf books purely on principal.  I have no explanation for that other than if everybody is writing about vampires, I am probably going to get annoyed. (Go ahead and shake your head, I keep reading time travel. I know, I know. I didn't say I was logical just avoiding a particular genre for some reason.) The point in bringing this up is that White's Immortal Descendants series includes a vampire or two.  And the main character is in love with a vampire. But that is not the focus of the series. Time Travel is the focus as is getting back alive, figuring out how it all works, protecting people important to her and avoiding all the interference that comes her way when she is just trying to save her mother, and then her lover, and then her friend, and his friend, and everybody else who gets pulled in. I hope book three comes out soon.

The immortal Connie Willis – I could blame her for getting me hooked on time travel if it wasn't for Heinlein who gets the blame for just about everything I do related to reading or writing.  However, I had been on hiatus awhile reading a lot of literary stuff (Jane Austin about killed me) and then I read Blackout, Bellweather, Doomsday Book, and…..  You get the picture. She was just trolling along, and I took the bait and been hooked ever since. Because I like time travel and nonstop up and down, breath-stopping difficulties and general lost in time stuff!

So there you are. That is what I have been reading lately. Yes, I have read other non-time travel books in between and several by men, but these are the ladies I keep checking up on and packing my Kindle with. They are the reason my files are now sorted by author rather than book title.

Who are you reading?  Is there a common factor?  Are any of these ladies on your list? If not, why not?


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Creativity: the art of the accidental inspiration

Rules of Magic
A couple of years ago, a fellow blogger and I discussed writing guest posts for each other. She writes in the combined fantasy/urban legend genre and hoped I could write a post about magic or how place contributes to a story.

I decided to do it on how every story has rules, and how rules of magic effect story development?  I thought I would come up with a set of rules of magic and show how these rules would govern the flow of the story.  Great idea, huh?

So I begin asking myself a set of questions:
  1. Who is allowed to use the magic?
  2. How is the magic performed?
  3. Is there an age requirement or limit?
  4. When is one eligible to perform magic?
  5. How is one recognized as a performer of magic?
  6. What makes one especially good at magic and therefore a respected provider of magic?
  7. What/who determines quality, strength and usage?
  8. Are there social rules governing its use?
  9. How does economics play into its use?
  10. How does social standing play into it use?
  11. How does one learn or is it innate?
  12. Can one be employed as a magic provider?
  13. Are there any personal costs to performing magic?
My post never was sent to my friend because in the process of answering the questions so that I could show how they would govern a story, I ended up with a great idea for a short story. A case of accidental inspiration.

Perhaps these questions could generate a story for someone else.

What unexpected inspiration led to a story, novel, poem or what-have-you idea?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Creativity: when the track is full and starting to backup

You know that feeling: itchy fingers, voices in your head, ideas backing up, the urge to sit and type like a maniac through a scene, a tirade of dialogue, a well-strung motif? That's where I am at, about to break out in a rash of words.

But there is a hold, the ever present disruption of life.  I have other work to do. So the log jam of voices stack up like train cars bumping into each other, linkages snapping in place, and me hoping I don't run out of track in this backward build up of freight cars.

I bleed off pressure by writing on note cards quick bits I might forget, short cues of dialogue, beginnings to leap off from, to prime the pump when that moment of tunnel writing pulls into view.

That is the nature of being a writer while working at a job that does not include being a writer. I have said before that I teach and that teaching keeps me quite busy. I live two lives which impose on each other, sparring for my time, my creativity and my concentration.  I do not fear boredom when I retire. And sometimes lesson planning turns into an intense creative process that is nearly as satisfying as completing a chapter, getting through a bit of emotional dialogue, typing ###.

But at this moment, writing now this little post will have to suffice as a tug on the rope to let off steam until this weekend provides a few hours of uninterrupted racing down the tracks of my current book coming to an end or my next book establishing its voice, both rattled into line, the engine having gathered enough pressure to make my breaks squeal against the anticipation.

Who else is at the station? How are you holding out?