Fluff and Fairies

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I’ve been feeling cold and unmotivated for quite a while, so today you folks get more of a fluff piece than anything really deep or serious.

For National Novel Editing Month in March and the April edition of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve been working on a Young Adult (YA) fantasy novel that I’m currently calling “Faylinn,” which is the name of the world in which the story is set. (Like with Rinamathair, the name of the world is the title of the work-in-progress until I find something better.) This is a different experience from my other writing projects because it’s a hybrid. It isn’t being written completely from scratch like Mariner Sequence, but it also isn’t a fan fiction outline that got revamped and then written from scratch. Faylinn is based on an already-complete piece of fan fiction, but I’m swapping out character names and adjusting the plot and world to be its own thing. I am also generating new content, but at the same time, I’m rereading a preexisting piece of work and doing major cuts and rewrites to it. Maybe that isn’t the best project to choose for Camp NaNoWriMo… but I just can’t do Mariner Sequence justice right now. I don’t want to spend all of my writing time on stories that aren’t as near and dear to my heart, but I also know when I’m not in a fit state for a particular story. So, fluff it is.
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The Power of Headcanon

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I recently went to see Black Panther with some friends, and if you haven’t gone yet, you need to reevaluate your priorities because it’s fantastic. *ahem* Anyway… as we were leaving the theater, one friend noted that during the very emotional scenes between T’Challa and his father T’Chaka on the Ancestral Plane, they noticed that T’Chaka had an old (but still very obvious) facial injury.** Since the characters were interacting in a spiritual realm, my friend wondered why this injury was still present since spirits don’t have physical bodies and therefore wouldn’t have those imperfections. Almost immediately, I commented that a person probably couldn’t spend years as King of Wakanda and the Black Panther without suffering some kind of accumulated spiritual damage, which then manifested in the Ancestral Plane. My friends just kind of stared at me and said that I had the strongest headcanon of anyone they’d met.

You see, while that explanation for T’Chaka’s appearance in the Ancestral Plane seemed perfectly reasonable to me, there was nothing in the movie itself to suggest that was the case. My internal headcanon and pulled from all my fictional sources and compiled them into an explanation. Actually, I’d come up with two possible explanations on the spot, one being the accumulated damage from a life of service and suffering. The other was that it was simply T’Challa’s perception of the spirit, giving it a familiar face. Kind of like how Anakin Skywalker’s Force-ghost appeared at the end of Return of the Jedi as a forty-something man rather than as his twenty-year-old self, who would have been completely unfamiliar to Luke. (No, I do not accept the insertion of Hayden Christensen into the remastered editions of Star Wars. There’s some headcanon for you!) Both of these plausible explanations occurred to me within seconds of my friend’s question, and I hadn’t even noticed until they pointed it out.
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The Problem with Paranormal Romance

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I like fantasy. I like paranormal stories. I like the Regency subset of romances. But when a romance is placed in a paranormal or fantastical setting with characters who are not human or only part human, it tends to fall apart. Not all the time, of course, but often enough to irritate me.  Too often the fantasy element becomes a short-handed excuse to get to the sex. Magical explanations cut through a lot of the natural uncertainty, trials, and discomfort that comes with forming and navigating a relationship. It’s an easy out. True love, impossibly orgasmic sex, lack of self control… magic is used to exacerbate romantic myths, justify a lot of shady behavior, and mask unhealthy relationships.

Let me be clear: I am not against having magical or paranormal elements in romances. I’m also not opposed to having romance or sex in fantasy stories. There are all kinds of interesting combinations one can create. I’m also aware that these are indeed fantasies; they are not going to reflect real life. Most don’t even come close. Escapism is nice, and erotica has its place on the bookshelves. The problem arises when magic is used to disguise lazy writing and perpetuate harmful myths.

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The Scrutiny of a Thousand Eyes

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I am not quite sure how to broach this topic. On the one hand, I think it is a legit concern. But on the other hand, it also sounds like privileged whining. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which it is, if the truth lies somewhere in between, with both, or with neither.

I’ve been having trouble working on Seahawks and Storms. I wrote the requisite 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo 2017, but most of it is poorly written garbage. I’m not feeling or hearing the characters like I should or have for other projects. And for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. I know I haven’t spent as much time with Samuel and Amaris as I have with Ryn and Scion. But even then I had something to work with. Now I just sit and stare and pull them through motions that don’t feel real. As I wrote, they were becoming less and less fleshed out rather than more. At this point, I’ve pretty much shelved the project and moved on to another.

Then I remembered something I saw at WDC 2017. There was a project going on at the conference called “Vulnerability is Sexy.” There was a wall of black paper and a submission box. You could write a secret on a slip of paper, put it in the box, and then artists from the project wrote the secret on the wall in an artistic, illustrated way, kind of like an illuminated manuscript. When it was done, you could see all of these secrets without ever knowing who they belonged to. Many of the secrets resonated with me, but one in particular stood out:
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DIY MFA Book Club: Prompt #10-12

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The final round! This is the third installment of my  DIY MFA Book Club responses, containing Prompts 10 and 11, plus 12 (which is more of a celebratory note than a prompt, but whatevs.) As I mentioned last time, there was a Prompt #9, but I skipped it because it depends on reading Gabriela Pereira‘s book DIY MFAWhile I have posted answers to these prompts in DIY MFA’s Facebook group “Word Nerds Unite,” I’m also posting this last set of prompts and slightly more in-depth answers here on The Cat’s Cradle:

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DIY MFA Book Club: Prompt #5-8

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Welcome to the second installment of DIY MFA Book Club responses! This round contains Prompts 5-8. There was a Prompt #9 on January 26th, but because it depends on reading Gabriela Pereira‘s book DIY MFA (which I have not read) so I’m skipping that one. While I have posted answers to these prompts in DIY MFA’s Facebook group “Word Nerds Unite,” I’m also posting the second set of prompts and slightly more in-depth answers here on The Cat’s Cradle:

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DIY MFA Book Club: Prompt #1-4

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Being a hermit of the literary kind, I tend to not join things. But I’d enjoyed Gabriela Pereira’s panel “Rock Your Revisions” at the Writers Digest Annual Conference last August and joined the mailing the list for her online newsletter. So I got an email announcing the DIY MFA Book Club starting January 8th. I mulled it over for a while and decided, “Why not?” Get prompts to share stories about writing with other writers? Could be fun! I signed up and got the first prompt on the 8th, the second on January 10th, the third on January 12th, and the fourth on January 15th. While I have posted answers to these prompts in DIY MFA’s Facebook group “Word Nerds Unite,” I decided to include both the first set of prompts and slightly more in-depth answers here on The Cat’s Cradle:

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Bizarre Genre Combinations

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Some people like to party on New Year’s Eve, myself included. However, my idea of a party is plopping down on the couch with a bottle of wine, a pound of fudge, and a stack of anime films on VHS. Yes, my brother Daniel and I went old school for the last day of 2017. And believe me, having a couple glasses of wine makes watching 1990s anime even more hilarious. The previews were a blast even before the feature presentation started. I haven’t actually sat down to watch any anime, new or old, for a while, and a thought struck me during our viewing: anime combines some weird-ass shit.
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2017: The Year in Review

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Well, dear readers… what can I say about 2017?

“A mixed bag” is about the best thing I can come up with. I feel like I’m ending the year on a bit of a low note, but maybe that’s just a warped perception of mine since, once again, many of my 2016 goals were not realized. A lot of my successes this year also had downsides so that they seem less like unambiguous wins and more like double-edged swords. Still, I’ll take what I can get.

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Post-NaNo Crash

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Hi folks! Just a short entry today. You know how most people end up in a turkey-coma after Thanksgiving? Me, I’m in a post-NaNo coma. I reached my word count goal for National Novel Writing Month (see Log #328 on my LeNoWriCha blog for details) but feel like I didn’t accomplish very much. Almost every word was a battle, and I’m not sure if it was because the story was fighting me, or because I just didn’t feel well. And, go figure, I haven’t worked any more on Seahawks and Storms since November 30th.

Okay, okay, I know, that really isn’t too bad. A few days to get my wind back from a well-deserved break. It is nice to be able to watch a movie again without feeling like I’m wasting valuable writing time. (After all, I still need to consume stories to feed my subconscious.) And I did do some writing this evening (by hand no less!) although it was not related in any way, shape, or form to Seahawks. But I must be vigilant and resist the urge to coast again, like it seems I’ve been doing for months.

Although NaNoWriMo refers to January and February as the “Now What?” months where revision takes place, I feel like it can begin sooner, depending on where you are in a project. Seahawks is still too new and unsteady to withstand editing, and I’m struggling to keep focused on writing rather than on all of the pressure towards publication that seems to have paralyzed me. So, the plan is to organize the prose that I do have into some kind of rough chronological order, reread previous notes, and do some research that I feel will help me get a better handle on what the hell is (or should be) happening. But most of all, I need to find my way back into that headspace that allows me to play and relax with my stories rather than twisting them into a predetermined shape with an eye to the future. Neither the past nor the future exist. There is only now… and words.