Adventures in Seattle

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

June 29, 2011 -- 2:16 p.m.

Updates from the hermit.

Seattle is lovely this time of year, but full of pollen. I keep a spittoon nearby for the purposes of expactoration. Makes me feel like Gaston, or Mulan. What is it with Disney men and spitting, anyway? We had a cherry pit spitting contest back in Montana as part of Polson's cherry festival. And yet, surprisingly, spitting was not considered the height of masculine virility.

My family went to eat Chinese food to celebrate my younger brother's acceptance into UW/my other younger brother's first third of his summer law internship/my acceptance into grad school. As traditional, we ordered the weirdest things we could find on the menu. (At a previous Chinese restaurant, this led to my discovery and addiction to moss soup, which is very good). This meant 'pig ears' and something literally called 'Blood and Guts Stew' for my brother. The cook came out of the kitchen and asked him if he liked it. When he said he did, she went away shaking her head at the crazy Caucasian. We needed her to interpret what the different meats were. I thought the whole thing tasted vile and the intestines felt far too jiggly going my throat. But my brother gobbled down all the wobbly blood cubes (thickened with corn starch, maybe?) and wished there were more. I'll stick with my eggplant, thank you very much. It was quite good.

Pig ears are...well, pretty much like you'd expect. Very chewy. Like nibbling on someone's ear, only you're eating it. (Insert generic Mike Tyson joke here. *Baddabing!*)

Skin Farm is at 70,000 words and counting. It'll probably clock in around 90k. I did a good push but then wrote myself into a corner, but I think I've got a way to write myself out again. I got signed up for writers workshops at Worldcon. I need a new perspective, I can't quite decide whether my first chapter is too exposition heavy or not and I've tainted my writing group. The workshop looks at 8,000 words, so I spent time editing the first three chapters (AGAIN. I swear I've got the things memorized by now!).

I'm still toying with the idea of self-/e-publishing the book. I'm definitely feeling dubious. It seems to me that the best strategy is to wait until you have a sufficient collection to post several books at once and then hold sales trying to entire readers to get the whole series. I've been researching how authors with similar books have been doing, and the answer is pretty hit or miss. The ebook market seems to currently deal with a certain narrow demographic that I suspect will widen over time. One potential problem is categorization. Skin Farm has a young protagonist, but it seems like every other book in Y.A. is a romance first, a science fiction book second. So people looking to read books with male protagonists and limited smooching (Think James Dashner's Maze Runner) might not be shopping in that category. I might have better luck labeling it adult sci-fi. After all, Ender's Game has a young protagonist but adults love it too.

I wish Amazon had more sub-genres. Science fiction/fantasy as a category is much too broad.

Yesterday, I also wrote a 5,000 word short story, a re-write of the classic Cinderella fairy tale that came to me in a dream. Only in this version, she kills everything she touches and uses a glass knife to frame her evil stepmother for murdering Prince Charming's father. Rell's fairy godmother is a glass blower. I wasn't able to work in the step-sisters, but ah well. It's probably a better story idea in theory than in practice, but it felt good to work on something else. When I edit it enough that it makes sense, perhaps I'll post it. Whenever I write short stories, I go into 'fairy tale mode', meaning a lot of jumping around people's heads, heavy narration, and very shallow POV, so it probably isn't very salable, but it was fun to write.

Good Day

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

June 14, 2011 -- 12:21 a.m.
Good day. I managed to get 3000+ words on Skin Farm done. I also wrote up a 500 word synopsis. I have trouble with synopses, as I think everyone does. I can write ones that are about eight pages long or ones that are about a page long, but no in between. The short one, I cheated by doing the 'and they were tested by various challenges' kind of summary, but I can't think of any other way to do it. For some reason, God's Play seemed easier to shortly summarize even though it was a longer book. I'm not sure why.

There's a part of me that feels guilty for not writing more since I have a bunch of spare time at the moment, but there's only so much I can do before the well goes dry. I have to accept that I can't write at a breakneck pace all the time. I have my limitations.

It helps if I'm writing dialogue or action, then the words just fly by. It's also easier to write beginnings. As I get toward the end, it's harder to punch the keys because of worrying about past chapters and because of the looming sense of import. Your book is almost done. Is it any good? You'd better make it good and choose every word carefully, because the ending will make or break everything that's gone before. Maybe the beginning is important, because it gets people hooked, and maybe the middle is also really important, because it KEEPS people hooked, but the end is the last taste a reader will get of your style, of your philosophy, of your everything.

Which is why endings make me nervous.


I'm re-reading Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series. I liked it more when I was younger. It came out of a different age. I've become used to modern conventions, like magic systems with more rules. There's a lot of 'Camber learns a new spell' that can feel deus ex machina. Still enjoy it, though. Like old, familiar friends who've come to visit after so long.

CONduit 2011 Report -- Are Vampires Hurting Our Girls?

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

June 4, 2011 -- 10:11 p.m.

It's interesting how two people can have two completely different interpretations of a story. For example, my eyes widened at CONduit last weekend when Dragonlance author Tracy Hickman referred to the old folktale Bluebeard as a 'feminist empowerment story'.

In the story, a woman ends up married to a nobleman who tells her she may go into every room in his mansion except the basement. Of course, she goes into that basement while he's away and finds his dead wives hanging on hooks. Before she can escape, the nobleman comes home and tries to kill her, but she delays him long enough that her brothers save her.

I used to love this story, probably because the key the woman uses to open the basement door turns blood red when she uses it and won't scrub clean. Because I was that kind of kid. Bloody keys are cool.

So I've known this story for a long time, and I've always thought of it as a variation on the 'pandora/eve motif' where a woman is punished for her curiosity. The moral of the story is don't disobey your husband, or he might turn into a sociopathic maniac and kill you. A quick browse on the internet reveals that this interpretation is the most prevalent among folklore scholars...or at least among students attempting to sell their papers online. (This is one thing that bugs me on essay-selling web sites--the writing/analysis is usually so poor that if you did buy one and use it, you'd get a bad grade. If you're going to make money selling essays, you ought to at least be selling quality essays.)

However, Hickman's contention is that the Bluebeard story is actually a feminist cautionary tale about abusers. Don't marry someone who's perfect except for the fact he murders people, because the beast will come out in the end.

Now arguing about the legitimacy of an interpretation is somewhat silly--after all, what's the definition of legitimacy? By who's metric do you judge? Hickman's interpretation may have more substantiation than mine, because the female isn't punished at the end for her curiosity--she escapes death and is rewarded by retaining her dead fortune's husband. And Bluebeard killed his first wife even though she couldn't have found the room with the bodies, ergo curiosity may not have been what killed her (although Bluebeard could still have been using the room for something else he didn't want discovered.) So the female character could have been in danger regardless.

But it was more interesting to me how two people could view the same story and take completely different messages away from it. In extension, Hickman served on a panel talking about the modern romantic interpretations of vampires, which basically degenerated into bashing Twilight. (Which bugs me. Not because I like Twilight, because I don't, but because bashing on Twilight is too easy/popular. I never like people who shoot fish in a barrel--that's why I stopped watching South Park. Making fun of Paris Hilton is not a difficult feat of comedy. Same with the Daily Show and it's target on stupid right-wing nutjobs. It's better when it focuses on the nutjobs within the government, instead of the nutjobs commenting on the government.)

Anyway, Hickman views the vampire romance genre as bad because it suggests the monster--the traditional vampire seducer/rapist etc.--can be tamed and loving. He believes it tells women that it's okay to live and love abusers who hunger for blood because love conquers all.

My response, on the other hand, is that the vampire romance is an extension of the traditional romance genre's 'bad boy' with a supernatural twist. That twist gives heaps of wish fulfillment because the (mostly) ordinary girl (stand-in for the reader) is special enough that she's chosen to be privy to a secret world that her peers aren't. Whether it's Sookie Stackhouse or Rachel Morgan, she has a special access to a world of wealth and magic that ordinary mortals can only dream of. Every woman wants to believe they are that special enough to have that kind of access, and every woman loves the hint of danger that comes with the bad boy motif, with werewolves instead of bikers.

Because of my worldview, I tend to look at the vampire romance genre with benign amusement, viewing it as no worse/better than any other romance genre involving a lovable rake. I used to enjoy the books, until I felt the concept got too trite and predictable. Tracy Hickman, on the other hand, views the whole paranormal subgenre as very dangerous indeed.

The point is: Two people can have different ideas about the world, and their interpretations may not touch anywhere.

I was going to segue into stories about bad con etiquette, which seems to be getting worse every year, (including someone having an actual phone conversation during the vampire panel when Tracy Hickman was speaking. A REAL CONVERSATION.), but I've decided to try to be more understanding of other people's worldviews. Even if that worldview includes changing a baby's diaper during a lecture on the carpet two feet in front of my sneakers.