Saturday, March 11, 2017

I am not a Feminist

This post has been long in coming. I've got so many different versions of it in my drafts and I hate all of them. So, again, I've scrapped everything I've written on this topic before and started over. This one will stick and hopefully not be so, so, well rant-y or negative or any other horrible adjective anyone can think of.

Every so often in the news, in social media, and other outlets there is something huge which happens which makes people bring up the "gender" discussion. Most recently it's been the entire election in the US what with certain comments being made. I'm sure you know what I mean. If you don't then you must have a cozy place under your rock *winks*

Anyway.

The entire situation with the election and many, many situations prior and after have spurned me to write this. Why? Because with the discussion of gender comes the discussion of feminism, what it means, who is or is not a feminist, and of course, the people who insult the "femi-Nazis."

I am not a feminist.

I know this might come as a shock to anyone reading this blog considering what I write about, particularly taking into consideration the kind of characters I write about. Let me explain.

I am an equalist.

What does that mean, exactly? It means I believe everyone deserves an equal chance in life no matter their skin color, religion, gender, sexuality, age, abilities (physical or mental), or anything else which defines us as different.

Does this mean we should be ignorant to people's differences? No, not at all. But these differences should not stop a person from obtaining a job, home, loan, vehicle, citizenship or anything else which certain people are denied.

For instance:

Individual A is a 30 year old black lesbian. Individual B is a 25 year old white heterosexual male. They are both applying for a job in a business position which is normally male-dominated. So, what happens? Individual B will get the job even if both are equally matched when it comes to qualifications and experiences.

I know we all like to believe this is untrue in 2017 but it is still difficult, if not impossible for women to get jobs in what are considered "male" positions. It is made worse if you happen to be anything but heterosexual or CIS. It is made even worse if you have a visible disability (like being in a wheelchair) or an invisible disability (like being deaf.) And almost impossible if you are a woman of color.

I believe people should be judged on their personalities, their qualifications, their talents, and their ability to do the job. Ideally, if a person has the experience, is qualified, and can do the job then they should be hired without anyone needing to worry about what having someone "different" on board might do for the overall image of the company.

I want people who are coming out as transgender or gender-neutral not to have to worry about the fact they might lose their jobs for it or have to keep their not-true-to-them personality at work alone. I want women of color to love their dark skin and not worry about skin bleach or white-washing themselves to fit into society's view for the "perfect" skin tone.

I want people to be proud of their religion and not have to worry about being told they are terrorists. I want people to be able to come into the country without having to worry about their faith, skin, or country of origin. I want women to be able to whip off their shirts in hot weather if they like or men to wear skirts, dresses, and make-up if they want - both without ridicule.

I want people to be able to be them without having to worry about their lives being in danger, or whether or not they can get a job or a home or even travel.

We have made a lot of progress since the 1950s but there is still a far way to go. Transgender or homosexual teens are still kicked out of their homes. Women (of color or not) are still treated as inferior in some markets based on the fact they are female. People of different religions are still not tolerated and there is still every kind of -ism out there.

Will we get to a point where everyone is treated equal? I hope so but I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. People, humans, are not comfortable with change nor are we comfortable with what marks us as different from one to another. The definition of "normal" is different for everyone and I doubt there will ever be a time when people forget about normal and accept people for "them."

Until next time: you know what to do.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Writing Tip #21: Who You Are

If you've made it to Tip #21 then you're now thinking to yourself: "Um, Renna, I'm a writer. Duh." Obviously. But like everything else in the complex world which is writing, you're more than a writer. Author? Sure. Editor? Yep. Promoter? Probably, well, should be. Social media royalty? It'd likely help.

This is not about you being a writer or any of the above. It's about who you are as a writer. Do you plan and plot out every detail? Do you open up a blank page, have a theme in mind and go with it? Are you a mix of both?

We'll go deeper: do you find you write better in the morning, afternoon or night? Are you more productive in small bursts or long sessions? Do you need to work on multiple projects at the same time or are you the kind of person who has to get something completely finished before moving onto something else?

Do you have to turn off spell check and grammar check to get a chapter done? Do you have to go back and read what you wrote before to get back into the groove? Do you have to edit as you go? Do you have to write in silence or can you write with background noise?

Do you write old-school with pen/pencil and paper or is everything stored on your computer? Do you need to use a fancy writing program or are you okay with the basics? Do you write linerally or write whatever scene catches your interest?

Why is this important?

Well, figuring out who you are as a writer will help you succeed in you know, writing. If you don't know what makes you reach your peak word count goals per hour/day/week/month/year then you'll never hit those goals.

The problem is figuring out what kind of writer you are can take time. It can also change over time in drastic ways. Finding out your most successful approach to writing comes with experience and investment. It can also come with changes in technology as the world around us ages.

See, I used to hand write everything on paper with pencil or pen. I would never finish anything and never planned. I would write whenever and paper didn't have spell check so naturally I didn't edit as I went.

Now, everything I need for a novel can be found in one Word doc with a supplimentry document usually called "planning." I can still write whenever and I need to go back and read what I wrote to get back into the groove. I edit as I go and I always write from beginning to end, never deviating from the timeline to write a cool scene I'm looking forward to ahead of what comes before it.

I'm also a mix of both plotter and pantser. I have a large picture understanding, characters, a timeline, and maybe a few subplots but the majority of details and sometimes even entire scenes are written on a whim.

Heck, sometimes the entire story changes as I go and I end up with something better than I thought I would. I have to have music playing in the background or my brain will wander off and I won't get anything done.

Knowing all of the above has helped me win multiple NaNos, Camp NaNos, and has allowed me to successfully write a million words for the past, er, four years? Yeah. Something like that. It's allowed me to finish forty-someodd novels, a bunch of short stories and start Avalora (which is never-ending I swear).

I've also been able to plan my life around my writing. I know what I need to hit my optimal word counts and know how many hours it would take me to bang out a medium sized chapter. This means if I know I'm getting up early (or need to) I can plan some extra time to write during the week. I can plan around life-stuff and writing-stuff and not fall behind on anything.

I have time to socialize, to plan trips, work, and STILL make the million in a year. Mind you, I have gone from "must work on one project at a time" to "can work on more than one project" mainly because of the sheer size of Avalora and man, sometimes I need a break from the universe despite how much I love it.

There isn't a magic pill or special trick to figuring out who you are as a writer. You have to try everything in order to find the perfect flow but once you do then you'll be better for it.

Until next time: you know what to do.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Review: Wicked Appetite

Why did I pick it up?

It was one of those books I got from the box sale at Book Depot so it came with the 40-odd books I got for $35. I actually picked it up because it had no dust jacket and the hard cover underneath was black with this kind of like red-bronze writing to give it the title and author name. I took a chance.

I didn't recognize the author name and I think if I had I probably might have put it down to wait for the rest of the series to come out. Yes, Book 1 in a series of (hopefully) seven books. Book 3 of this series is coming out next month and this was published in 2010 so it looks like I'm in for a wait. ONWARDS!

Review of Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich:


I'm going to be straight-up (as I am 99.9% of the time): I'm not sure what to think of this book. I started it on May 25th and finished it in a little over two hours. I kid you not. I started at 8:50AM, read while waiting for my doctor and saw him at about 10:55AM then took five or so minutes to finish the last few pages at home.

So why am I not sure what to think of it? Well, the premise is kind of cool. Lizzie finds out her excellent cupcake making ability is magical (no kidding) and she's an Unmentionable who has the power to find these charms to make a Stone. There are seven stones, each taking after a deadly sin and when combined they'll bring hell to earth. For those that don't know the sins are as follows: Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride, Sloth, Wrath, and Envy. I remember them because of Fullmetal Alchemist, not the Bible, by the way. *winks*

Anyway, so we meet Lizzie, learn a bit about her past and she goes to work that morning. She has a run in with the bad guy, Wulf, and then meets Diesel the gorgeous hunk of man who is also an Unmentionable on a mission from BUM (I kid you not, that is the acronym of the organization trying to save the world) to gather the stones and keep them from Wulf...who happens to be his cousin.

See the BUM thing? Yeah, that's kind of what this whole book was like.

Diesel's ass tingles when Wulf is near. He can (possibly?) read Lizzie's mind. There is a lot of cupcake eating. A witch in training can't control her spells and leaves someone talking gibberish then gobbling. A fat person is made fun of. The charms make these four relatives who were left the charms from their uncle hoard weird things: 1) Food and over-eating which makes sense with this being the Gluttony stone. 2) Paddles and dog collars: glutton for punishment, okay. 3) Locks, oil, ferrets...uh? 4) Kids. No really. KIDS. The poor girl has six of them because of the charm. Let's not forget the odd monkey who one minute understands you and the next is being a monkey and flipping everything off. And the cat who's apparently decades old and has one eye and half a tail.

Then there's Hatchet who's the ONLY other person in the state who can do the same as Lizzie: determine if the charm is part of the stone. Once all four charms are together they reveal the stone and the stone tablet where the other stones might be hidden. Do Diesel and Lizzie get the stone? Yep. Do they get the tablet? Nope. They let Wulf have it as Diesel's job was the stone only. *facepalm* Really dude? Really?

Oh and did I mention Diesel and Lizzie can't have sex because if they do one of them looses their powers? This is despite their obvious attraction, Diesel's flirting, Lizzie's drooling over him, and everything else throwing them together in a romantic sense. Oh, what are Diesel's powers? He can unlock a door with a touch and sense Wulf. Oh and he has the power to look good naked.

See, the book was a nice, light, and sometimes entertaining read. I felt like Glo (the witch) was just kind of there for comic relief. And Lizzie's dad coming to visit was just an excuse to get Diesel away from Lizzie long enough so she could be kidnapped by Hatchet. And her not making good cupcakes one day wasn't much of a threat of her losing her powers as she could still sense the charms within hours. It was a kind of bleh tension where there was no tension in the book. I'm not even sure what genre this would be classed in.

Would I read Wicked Appetite again?

I don't even know, no seriously, I've no clue. There were some really great bits to it and some genuinely funny moments but it started to dive into the realm of "jeez I hope this thing is classed as satire" a lot more than I liked. Will I be picking up the rest in the series? To be honest? Nope. I didn't connect with any characters and frankly, I don't care if they ever find the other stones or how.

The Negatives:

So this was my first Janet Evanovich book. The people who have read her before say this is a plot rip-off from her Stephanie Plum series and honestly, there are enough people saying it on the first page of reviews I'm going to have to believe them.

Even hours after finishing this I'm not entirely sure what to think. A monkey giving the finger, farting, burping, making messes of nice cars so they're replaced every day, and behaving poorly is just...I mean, was he needed? The book could have survived without the monkey as a side-character. Cat? Yeah, Cat was needed. And can I just say despite how Cat saves Lizzie's life twice she still calls the poor thing Cat 7184 like it was called at the human society? I mean, what the Hell? This cat saved your life, warned you when you were about to be kidnapped, saved your life again and the best you can do is Cat?

The whole Leonard section was creepy and not in a good way. Creepy-sad even. This guy had a good life and because of this charm he collects paddles and rubber chickens saying he's been a "bad boy" (yes with that in mind) and needs to be spanked. His life becomes ruined because of him becoming a glutton for punishment. I'm still not sure what brother #2 (I can't remember his name) gluttonous idea was besides ferrets, oil, and locks but it pretty much screwed his life too. Not to mention the poor Shirley who gained 200 pounds because of becoming a literal glutton. And Melody who had six kids because of being a glutton for...kids?

Honestly, this concept has a lot of premise. Take out the monkey, the immature jokes (seriously my Mage-teens are more mature than these 20-somethings), and breathe some life into Diesel and Lizzie and you'd have an amazing book. Right now? It falls flat.

Final Review: ?.?/5. I honestly don't even know.

Until next time: comments, questions, thoughts, rants, rage, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Review: The Last Dragonlord Series

Why did I pick it up?

Okay, so this is going to be interesting because the first book for this series came out...oh...13 years ago. Yeah, really. Then the second book came out a year later. The third book? A decade after. Funnier, the third book is hailed to be the sequel to Dragon and Phoenix which is the sequel to Last Dragonlord. Um? What?

Oddness of how Bard's Oath was described as a sequel aside, I picked up the last and final book in this series because my friend mentioned it was on sale at a bookstore we both frequent. I picked up the first and I believe second one in a used bookstore that boasts a million books housed in one area.

I LOVE bookstores like this. You know the ones where you can't walk side by side in a aisle and there's piles of books everywhere and the shelves are double stacked oddly because they're so many books? And you walk in and it just smells so amazingly of old books and reading and love and glory and...sorry.

Back when I couldn't drive (again this series is that old), my friend and I would hop onto the bus on the weekend, head downtown to eat at this Chinese place then go diving into the realm of this used bookstore where I'd come out with a bag of a dozen books or so and she'd come out with one or two. She wouldn't finish her one or two by the time I finished my dozen but I've always been a quick reader with a huge appetite. Teachers would get mad at me for reading in class then be stunned when I gave them the right answer to whatever question they were asking and got some of the highest marks in said class.

This one time, we had a sub for physics and I was reading during the lesson cuz I figured this stuff out already. He asked me a question, I answered, and he stood their drop-jawed for a minute and left me alone. When it came time to do the homework in class, I finished then went back to reading while he just kind of stared. It was good day...ONWARDS!

The Review of The Last Dragonlord series by Joanne Bertin:

So I do have to mention: I LOVE DRAGONS. Anything that has dragon in the title or implies there will be dragons I automatically pick it up and read it. If you get to ever read my fiction, you'll notice in most of it I mention a dragon in some way at some point. So naturally I'd pick up this series. Naturally I'd still be wondering about it during the gap of time that occurred between book 2 and book 3.

The first time I read book one I think I finished it in a few days. Book two was the same. The second time I ploughed through this series I finished it in about a week. I remembered most of what happened in Book One but for some reason, Book two escaped me. I didn't remember what happened at the end but it was obvious I'd been through it as I turn down the top corner of whatever page I'm on if I take a break and there were old marks of turned down pages. I'd also highlighted character names cuz I'm fun like that.

Book three? You could tell the first two books had foreshadowing once you got to the third. The thing with Leet at the Dragonlord's home? Ha, made so much sense now. What I don't get is how long it took them to figure out something bad was going down. I mean really. Leet's whole bearing dictated something was up and it should have been investigated much deeper earlier than it was.

I did get annoyed at the whole thing with Pod and almost skipped her chapters a few times because why should I give a crap about this character who didn't exist before? Give me more Raven, Linden, and Maurynna. And then it made sense. Oooh...okay. Wait. That's a bit...convenient.

I did love the general story. I disliked how long it took everyone to figure out what was going on and how Linden had to prove to people it was all Leek's fault. Um, wait, wait, didn't it mention in the first book a Dragonlord's words are basically law? And here's people going against four of them? EH?

And how Leet meets his demise. Really? We're going to go there with him not suffering at all? Raven's whole being pissed at Linden thing is annoying as all Hell (Book 2). She's claimed you idiot! By powers you cannot hope to overcome! AT ALL! I think this carried over into Book 3 a bit but I can't remember, being totally honest. It was a few months ago I burned through the series again and...yeah.

Despite the few annoyances: this is another one of those series that will stick with me for a long while. Why? Weredragons. Yes. Linden, Maurynna, and all the other Dragonlords were awesome. I could've done without Raven to be honest. Otter was amazing. Let me be real here, I might have been able to do without the last book.

Oh and that hit at the end where Linden figures out he messed things up cuz of mind-hitting up Otter? Why? Why did that need to be like that? Couldn't it have been random mermaids and we leave it at that?

And in book two we totally leave behind the whole Phoenix line with no indication of what's happening in that area of the world. Um, crazy woman with an heir to the Phoenix throne left out there with no indication of where she is? Yeah, what? You think she's not going to try and find someone to reseal the new Phoenix and re-claim the lost throne? Come now.

Would I read The Last Dragonlord Series again?

Yes. Over a week. Again. As much as a few points and dropped balls in this series left me annoyed I really did love it.


The Negatives:

Aforementioned dropped balls. The whole Phoenix flying off thing and no mention of that area of the world at all in Book Three. The whole everyone being "Well if we missed Maurynna and Sha, who else did we miss?" was SO IMPORTANT...and dropped. No investigation into other non-seen dragonlords. No one even talking about the fact they thought Linden was the last then came two more out of the blue. No backstory with Otter/Leet/Jaida.

Linden didn't struggle with Rathan, didn't dodge Shan and didn't even mention his sword. The entire focus was on Leet and his whole desire to get revenge on a backstory we've known nothing about. I waited a decade for that? A DECADE AND NO NEW DRAGONLORD? Urg.

And a final thought: Is the green dragon on all three covers meant to be Maurynna? Cuz if so that's totally not what I picture her to look like. Really, shouldn't it be a red dragon (Linden) on the first cover or the peacock blue of Mauryanna, a black on the second (Sha) and the third either Linden or Maurynna (whoever wasn't on the first)? I mean, who is the green dragon? No one was even mentioned being green...

Final rating: 3/5, mainly because of book 3. Books 1 and 2 were great, awesome and amazing. Book 3 took a totally different turn and bleh.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, questions, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Writing Tip #20: Writing Believable Characters

Ever heard the phrase "Mary Sue," or it's male counter-part Gary Stu? No? Lucky you and I hope you never have to hear it directed to you. Enough with the weird rhyming, let's get to business.

A Mary Sue or Gary Stu is a character who is so perfect in their "originality" that they are completely unbelievable. They're super-talented in a variety of ways, gorgeous beyond words, kind, and with a tragic backstory they overcome, and every other character either loves them or wants to be them. They succeed at everything and get everything they want with little to no effort. They're also completely un-relatable to the reader, boring, and usually make my eyes roll out of my head.

Why is it important to know about them? Because you don't want to end up writing one. If you do then your readers plain and simply won't be invested in the story. How can you when your main character is so perfect you can't relate to their so-called problems?

As the writer, it's difficult to figure out if you've got a Sue/Stu on your hands. You have to take a step back and view all your characters as if you're not the one who wrote them which can be hard at best, insane at worst. What can help is making a brief list of your character's strengths, weaknesses, physical attributes, and personality.

If you're finding you've got way too many strengths compared to weaknesses or flaws then you're encroaching onto Sue/Stu territory. If everyone loves your character and thinks they're beautiful then you're starting to cross the line.

So, how to do you create a believable character?

Make them human. Every character should have flaws. They don't have to be obvious like a scar or missing limb and really, sometimes those aren't flaws depending on the situation. Mind you, personality flaws can be strengths depending on the situation as well. Let me break it down with an example (and a wee bit of "self-promotion"):

The character: Bane Grimgold from Avalora

His strengths: self-confidence, an uncanny ability to remember most of what he reads which enables him to make complex potions without needing to look in a book, Julliard level violin player, the ability to know pretty much everything when it comes to potions and Herbs, his general genius when it comes to language, history, and anything related to being a Dark Mage which he is. His ability to portal long distances and his wicked aim. He's an excellent cook and can clean.

His weaknesses: he has no sense of direction, he can't remember dates like birthdays or other significant events in his life which is why he gets a new ear-piercing for every important memory, unlike a normal Mage he can't do the basic spells everyone knows, he can't levitate his body or summon object to him which all Mages can do, and he's physically not powerful. He loses his self-confidence and "swagger" when he experiences strong emotions like confusion and depression. He also has a tendency to push people away when he's upset about something. He's lazy.

His strengths that can be weaknesses: he's stubborn to the point of being annoying occasionally, he's super-observant which means he can tell what's wrong with his close friends quickly which can bug the Hell out of them and make people unable to keep a secret around him, his motivation depends on the situation which hinders and helps the people around him, he hates certain aspects about his magic which to some people these aspects are a good concept, he has no internal sensor which is great most of the time but he has a lot of "foot in mouth" moments. He does have to be prodded to do any cleaning which means his room is normally a disaster zone.

Physical traits: he's over six feet tall and slender to the point he's too skinny. He's got dark hair which is perpetually messy, dark brown eyes, and pale skin. He has high cheek bones, a strong jaw line, and a long, thin nose. He also wears black all the time, normally lines his eyes, and has a ring on every finger.

All the above makes him seem more real, like you could walk into him on the street...I hope. Ha. Anyway, you probably noticed Bane has a lot of viable weaknesses, real concepts part of his personality he probably won't ever grow out of or change much. Sure he can play the violin and make any potion he wants but when it comes to magic everyone else can do he fails. He doesn't even have the ability to control an element which all Mages have at least one.

He'll always be the kind of person to go hide and shut others out when he's upset. He's not one to talk about his feelings or talk out a situation which has made him depressed or annoyed. In general, he's not good when it comes to talking about his emotions. All of this takes him out of the Sue/Stu category which means he can be related to by someone out there.

Does he have a tragic backstory? Sure. His dad died in a cave-in when he was fourteen and he's a half-Mage which means some people in the Mage community and the non-Mage community will never accept him and always hate him. He never made any friends until going to Avalora because all his school mates were non-Mages and the few Mages didn't want to associate with him because he had the potential to the Grim.

Is he a complex character? Yes. Which is what you want, especially when it comes to main characters. Minor characters don't have to be as complicated but it completely depends on their roles. The waitress we see for one or two scenes: we don't need something as complicated as above. We might not even need her name.

But, if you've got a main character then they need to be human, or at least come across as human. They need real feelings, opinions, flaws or weaknesses, strengths, and a personality. It'll make your story more believable and your readers will get attached.

Remember, if you fill out a similar chart and you notice you've got way more positive then negatives, you have to take a good look at that character to make sure they're not treading into Sue/Stu territory. That would be bad.

Until next time, you know what to do.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Review: Fat Vampire

Why did I pick it up?

The first reason is it was another one of those books that came from the $35/box of books sale at the Book Depot where I got around 45-50 books for $35. The second reason? I devour anything having to do with vampires. Yes, I even read Twilight. The first book of the series anyway. Third reason? Awesome cover.

The Review of Fat Vampire by Adam Rex:

The books starts with Doug: chunky, nerdy, and insecure at a Com-con with his best friend. Oh and Doug's a vampire. A fat vampire who's not sexy, or savvy, or dark, or handsome or any adjective having to do with the traditional vampire. In fact, Doug regularly has to feast on cows or resort to stealing blood from the local blood bank van at said Com-con.

Doug has to walk around in a poncho and despite his (accidental) vampire status he does not become the new cool kid or get any kind of powers to make up for his, well, fatness. His words, not mine. I'm okay with extra body fat.

Anyway, around half-way or so the hilarious one-liners and general funniness kind of dives. Doug suddenly decides he's going to ditch his best friend and basically hypnotize one of the theater girls into being his blood-slave/girlfriend. Mind you this change does come about when he's rejected by the new exchange student, an Indian girl named Sejal.

Sejal's backstory becomes way more interesting than Doug's entire situation and Doug kind of gets tossed into the background despite being the entire reason the books come about. There's some odd mention about a vampire hunter's TV show where Doug is being chased down as a prime suspect, and there's a play all the kids at school are part of. There's also the fact the whole reason Sejal transferred is because she became addicted to her computer and her parents sent her overseas for a kind of rehab.

The mystery of how Doug became a vampire (along with a few of the football players at his school apparently) isn't so much of a mystery in the end. It's a bit insulting the gay vampire was the one who wanted to turn a whole hoard of high school kids so one of them would kill him. Worse yet all the kids (the football players, NOT Doug) he turned were so insecure about a male turning them they made up some story about a hot chick.

The motives were kind of...bleh. Now, if it was left as a kind of coming-of-age story of how nerdy, chunky, forever-15 Doug learns how to deal with being a vampire, it would have been cool. But no, it kind of drifts off into some odd there-MUST-be-a-villain plot that leaves the reader thinking "Huh?"

I do have to say the cover art was good and it's one of the other reasons I picked it up, besides it being about a vampire and being a book I could get for $0.50.

Now, if we take the book as being a satirical piece of fiction: it succeeds. I'm not sure if it was meant to be satire though but we'll pretend.

Would I read it again?

Probably not because of the ending.

The Negatives:

THAT ENDING! WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?! URG. Doug doesn't get to see any redemption and the reader is left with a literal list when the author breaks the fourth wall (to an extent) and describes possible endings for Doug. WHAT? NO! I don't want possible endings! DID HE DIE OR NOT? Jeez. This is the first time in a long while I've wanted to toss a book across the room in frustration.


Final review: 1/5 all because of the freaking ending and Doug's downhill transformation. Even if meant to be satirical that ending was so disappointing. If the ending had been different and the book stuck with the themes in the first half this would have been a 5-star review.

Until next time: comments, rants, rage and questions cane be directed to the comments.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Writing Tip #19: Killing Your Darlings and How to Deal with it

Any writer new or old knows the famous Stephen King quote: "Kill your darlings." What's a 'darling?' Any character, scene, word, chapter, or even full-length novel you wrote. No, not your actual darlings or loved ones, just the fictional ones.

What does he mean by "Kill your darlings?" Simple. KILL THEM ALL. Sorry. I had a Spartacus moment. Anyway, yes, King means to kill whatever you might feel is super important in your novel and yes, sometimes even your main character. Why? Lots of reasons.

When you kill a character you instantly invoke some kind of emotion in the reader and making your reader emotional is your goal. If they feel nothing then you're not doing your job. Then there's the whole dealing of the death of a character your other characters have to deal with and that will give you conflict. Plus hey, there's a cool death scene to write.

When you kill your scenes, certain words, or full chapters then you're tightening up your writing. You have to learn to read your writing from a reader's perspective. You have to learn to read your writing as if you've never read it before. You have to disengage yourself from every word, scene, and chapter so you can make your novel the best it can be. What does it do for you? Makes you a better writer. Plus it puts less strain on your editor.

So, how do you deal with killing your darlings?

First off you have to take the initial step in actually, you know, killing a darling. Start small: take out a few unnecessary words then take out a whole scene, maybe even *le gasp* a chapter. Honestly dissect your writing, look it over word by bloody word to see what doesn't move the story along. Once you find that non-consequential bit: take it out.

What do you do if that unneeded bit is a character? Well, you slaughter them mercilessly while cackling from atop your high tower. Sorry. The imagery helps me.

But seriously, you kill them. Throw them off a building, have them stabbed 27 times, let them get hit by a car, have them beheaded, burned to death, have a heart-attack, whatever makes sense for your world and your story. BUT, make sure the death will be impactful.

Don't go randomly killing off all your characters seconds after you introduce them (I'm looking at you Basilisk). You have to make the reader feel something for that character before you kill them off especially if they're a main character. Minor characters? Eh, not so much though you can and should feel free to try.

How do you know if a character is going to die? You take a good, long look at your story and that particular character. How will the story change with the character's death? What impact will this death have on the other characters? Do you need this character in another part of the story? Can your story survive without them? The deaths in The Walking Dead are all meaningful.

*SPOILERS* Pete's death by Rick's hand shows Rick's descent into madness, how he's become this tragic "survive at any cost" character which is emphasized by Morgan's reaction. Noah and Aiden's deaths reveal how much the Alexandria group really needs to learn. Tyreese's death is the loss of the "optimistic" character. Beth's death is the loss of innocence. *End Spoilers*

Like I said before: every character death has to mean something or move along the plot. If it doesn't then you didn't need to kill that character off. Don't kill off a character to end a series because you think you'll keep writing if you don't kill said character off. You'll have a lot of disappointed readers if you do that. Readers like to imagine what could have been after the series.

So, how do you deal with a character's death?

It depends on the character. You can either slaughter them horribly or have them go peacefully but again if you're not feeling something then your reader won't. Every main character I've killed I've felt something for. Yes it hurts. Yes I was balling like a baby as I wrote. But guess what? My readers will do the same.

So, buck up, take a few breaths, and kill the darling. Feel free to cry. Don't worry if you have to stop to get some semblance of sanity back. Do it. Kill your darling because it'll make you a better writer.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Revival

Why did I pick it up?

New Stephen King baby, why didn't I pick it up would be a better question. I own most of his books and at some point have read a good deal of them. I couldn't do the history-type novel (11/22/63) he put out a couple of years ago. For some reason I've never been able to get through The Stand, The Shining and I abandoned Danse Macabre recently.
I own Doctor Sleep but since it's a sequel to The Shining, I'm kind of wanting to slog through that before moving onto the sequel. I'll get there eventually.

My favorite King novels? Carrie, Thinner, Gerald's Game, The Long Walk, Cell, The Girl who Loved Tom Gordan, Under the Dome, Pet Semetary, IT, Lisey's Story, Christine, Bag of Bones, and The Dark Tower Series. You can actually see a glaringly obvious tribute to Dark Tower Series in Tale of the Twins. There are a BUNCH I'm missing because I suck at titles, but yes, I generally adore King. I've yet to pick up Mr. Mercedes since it is a trilogy and I've a thing where I must have the thing ended before I read the whole thing...which is why Dark Tower kinda bugs me.

He's influenced a lot of my gorier horror and sarcastic comedy moments. I love how he can write a short story and bang out a novel over 400 pages. I love he's got so many books but not all of them are perfect and some of them some people (like me) can't stand. Everyone has their favorites with him and everyone has the ones they don't like and that's freaking awesome.
And ending the King fangirl-ness, moving onto the book itself. ONWARDS!

The Review of Revival by Stephen King:

So, first off: there's no body in the beginning. Nope, just a six year old boy, pardon, a 60-something man recounting his life from six to the age he is now. But this is King. We know the horror is coming. He foreshadows it coming when he first talks about Jacobs. And are we disappointed with the horror that comes to Jacobs? I wasn't. Totally knew it was coming from the set-up of seizure farmer driving the same road as Jacobs' wife but the whole "where's his FACE?" and one-armed wife? That was cool.

The minister (Jacobs) losing his faith? Predicable. Getting up at the pulpit and telling people why he lost his faith? That was pretty kick ass. Jamie losing his faith shortly after because he likes the minister? Predicable. Jamie being so good at rhythm guitar, playing in multiple bands, and becoming a druggie? Story of lives. Running into Jacobs at a fair and getting electro-shock treatment to be cured by Jacobs with Jacobs' home-made electro pulse machine? Wait, what? YES.

We see hints of said machine when Jamie's brother loses his voice and Jacobs' is the one to bring it back before Jacobs' horror happens. Anyway, Jamie and Jacobs part again then is found by Jamie's new boss (one Jacobs sets him up with) a few years later.
Then shit starts to hit the fan. We find out Jacobs has been curing people with not just his old carnie show but with his new healing show. Is he doing this for recognition? Because he's nice? Nope. They're all guinea pigs because he has a bigger goal in mind for his special electricity but Jamie's not sure what said goal is.

Of course Jamie and his boss Hugh go to see the show. Of course Hugh has revealed he was healed by Jacobs and that's why he took on Jamie in the first place. Course Hugh freaks out and has a color-episode. Then Jamie just can't let Jacobs go. Why? Because some of the people Jacobs has healed have had harmful episodes. Jamie's had one in which he randomly wakes up and starts stabbing himself. A woman cured from blindness put salt in her eyes. A kind cured from a disease ends up in a mental institution then hangs himself. One guy eats dirt.

So Jamie confronts Jacobs who wants to hire him but Jamie says no and Jacobs (in his 70s now) disappears only to reappear to say to Jamie: you can either help me or I'll let the only woman you ever loved die of her lung cancer. So Jamie helps. And Jamie cuts a deal he'll go back to Jacobs when the obsessed electricity man wants.

And Jamie does go back and we find out why Jacobs is doing what he's doing: he wants to find out what happen to his wife and son. And he does. By bringing back a dead woman during a thunderstorm. By doing so he unlocks something in all his former healed patients and they all kill a loved one and themselves...except Jamie because for some reason unexplained, he was the catalyst Jacobs needed in all this.

And what awaits us after death? Freaky ant overlords who make us slave under them for the hell of it. No peace. No redemption. Just ants whipping us if we fall down and total torture for our unlives. THERE is the horror. The part about Jamie's older brother (the first healed, remember) and Jamie still getting the visions of said ant folks? The icing on the cake.

THIS IS KING. The build-up. The odd-ness. The loving the characters and knowing them like they're your family. The CRUSHING of said characters so thoroughly. This is King. All that shit starts with E.

Would I read Revival again?

I'm going to have to cuz I burned through it on May 19th. Yes. One. Day. I nearly died but I couldn't put it down.

The Negatives:

I wish it was longer. I wish there was a bit more explanation about Clair but I get why Jamie didn't go into it. When something that traumatic happens to a family member then you don't want to talk about it.

Final Review: 5/5. This is a revival for Stephen King. This breathed new life into wanting to pick up the few books I'm missing and re-reading him from the beginning. Yes, I know I'm nuts. So sue me.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Writing Tip #18: Death and Where to Stick 'em

This tip is going to be way different than the other tips I've written about so freaking long ago. Sorry about that. Anyway, we're not talking about dealing with the death of your character. That's next time. Today, we're dealing with what happens to a typical person when they're, you know, KILLED. And yes in the physical sense.

For those who don't know: I wrote a 13 book thriller/murder mystery series. I went into the Forensics side of things (vaguely) and found out a lot of interesting things about what the human body does when placed in the vicinity of various deadly objects.

In short: can your character jump into ice water and swim for a mile? Nope. Unless they're immune to the cold they will experience hyperthermia almost immediately. If the water's cold enough they may even have a heart attack upon hitting said water. There are certain factors in determining hyperthermia. I found a cool article: HERE. I used said article's information in Bloody X-Mas.

Can a character survive the blast of a 12 gauge shot gun at 10 feet? Nope. Unless the person shooting at them grazes them and even then it could cause your character's death. A 12 gauge shot gun can go through at least one cement wall and can blow a hole through a tree. The human body is all soft tissue and muscle. Our bones aren't even as hard as cement. If you get grazed with a 12 gauge, you are going down. This information appears in Hunter.

Can your officer character hit a target at 15 feet? Maybe but with a standard issue Glock: they're going to stun and not kill. The range on a police Glock is 10 feet and that's if your character is a good shot.

Can you shoot one-handed or while in a moving vehicle? Nope. Recoil is a bitch and you will have a sore wrist or be thrown back depending on the size of your gun. Can you fire a bigger gun from hip height? Kind of. The butt of the gun should be supported by your pelvis or your shoulder to prevent recoil because the bigger and more powerful the gun then the further back you're going to be thrown.


For those who think your character can survive a cut to the upper arm, stick a patch on it, and move around for days, here are some bleed times for various arteries. Bleed time refers to about how long it will take a person to die if they are struck in said place. It depends on the person's age, heart rate, etc. I found all these here when looking for the proper name of the brachial artery.

Carotid Artery (neck): 2 to 20 minutes.
Jugular Vein (neck): 2 to 20 minutes.
Subclavian artery: 2-20 minutes. This is an artery in the shoulder that runs down the front of a person's body and by the first rib. Unless someone does field surgery on you right away: you will not make it.
Subclavian vein: 15-60 minutes.
The Brachial Artery: 5-60 minutes. This is the one located in your upper arm and protected by the bicep. Depending where you cut along this artery changes the bleed time. Up closer to the arm pit and you're looking at the 5 minute range. Down further by the elbow and you might survive a bit longer.
Femoral Artery: 5-60 minutes. This is the big one located in your upper leg. You hit this puppy right and you're going down in seconds.
Axillary artery: 5-60 minutes. You can hit this via the armpit and front of the shoulder joint. It's hard to hit but an upwards slash or stab hit just right and the wound becomes extremely difficult to treat even with direct pressure. Yes: insta-death.
Inguinal artery: 5-60 minutes. It feeds the femoral artery in the leg and can be accessed by striking upwards between the legs and into the groin. Another extremely difficult wound to treat even with applying direct pressure. Think Blackhawn Down.
Aorta or any part of the heart: 1-2 minutes. These are instant death bleeders.

So, what's in a CSI Kit? It depends on your kit. Here's a good website to check out: https://www.shopevident.com/category/field-kits-crime-scene

How do you do an autopsy? Wiki-how gives you a nice step-by-step guide WITH pictures located here:
http://www.wikihow.com/Perform-an-Autopsy-on-a--Human-Being

How long will it take you to dig a grave? Well, that depends on a lot of factors. If you're doing this at night with a shovel, are average in athletics, and the ground isn't frozen from the winter, and the grave is shallow: about 3-5 hours, depending how shallow. You WILL NOT be able to dig a grave in an hour, with a shovel, in the middle of the woods, at night. It is not possible. I found a cool thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=486094

I have reams of information about decay times dependant on environmental factors as well as information about the human body in general. I don't have a link for any of it, sorry. I would suggest for any author wanting to delve into crime fiction or murder mystery: take a basic Forensic Anthropology and a Criminal Psychology course.

You can find plenty online (that's what I did) and you'll thank yourself later when your novel comes off as more believable. No, don't get a degree. You just need a single course available through a continued learning program to get you going. Of course, you can specialize in both fields if you have the time/money/motivation.

Until next time: thoughts, comments, rages, rants, questions, and out-right insults can be directed to the comments section.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

No I'm not dead

I've been concentrated on Avalora.

And I really suck at keeping up with "deadlines" (even self imposed ones) in keeping this blog going. I'm also kind of professionally unmotivated (re: lazy) when it comes to writing anything that isn't novel-related. Like a blog. Or tweets. Or whatever else.

But I figure I should let the few people paying attention to this blog know that I am alive and well. I've killed another million words, gotten a huge chunk taken out of Avalora, wrote a novel, and done a bunch of adult-ing.

My goals are the same as they've been years prior: making some money off the worlds I've created, losing some excess weight, etc, etc, etc. This year I've got some work-friends who want to get together and do a craft show. I've also taken up knitting (with a loom) so even if they don't follow through I might find myself a table or something.

I'm still going to be the lovely way irregular updater of this blog. I'm still going to be writing Avalora mainly on the weekends and the few hours a day during work. I'll post the reviews of books I did last year (ahaha) and the few writing tips I haven't got up yet.

I might even post updates on writing stuff and open the dusty file of Tale of the Twins to actually re-publish the poor creature of mine. No promises *winks*

What I can promise is I won't stop writing so you can be assured even if I don't update the blog I'll be around, pounding on a keyboard making characters suffer and cackling madly while doing so.

You know the drill about comments and what not.

Till next time.