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.


Blues in Week 3

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Week 3 of National Novel Writing Month has begun, and, as always around this time, I’m feeling kind of wrung out with the entire enterprise. Buckling down and pounding out words for a rough draft isn’t exactly new for me. I can’t say that it’s always been easy, but it can be done. I know because I’ve done it before. I did it for (most of) Ravens and Roses, the first book in the Mariner Sequence. I did it for my Dark Crystal novel contest entry, “Search of the Sun-Child.” I did it for the fantasy / romance / steampunk / political intrigue hybrid that is Courting the Moon.

So why is Seahawks and Storms giving me so much trouble?
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Films Just Gotta Be Fun

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Okay, I’ve got a little bit of Marvel movie fangirling to get out of my system, so consider yourself warned.

Still with me? All-righty, then.

I’ve been to see Thor: Ragnarok twice in the last five days. Was it a good movie? Well, I had fun and enjoyed it, but as for a more objective view, that depends on what standards qualify a movie as “good.” I’ve got a bit of a sliding scale for films which depends heavily on what kind of movie it is. Films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe get more lee-way from me than some others because they are based on comic books, and those are already all over the place in terms of plot, character, and continuity. But I still acknowledge that many of them are held together with explosions, CGI, and witty banter rather than solid storytelling. They are essentially what I call “popcorn movies:” films with a lot of visual splash and pizzazz, but little real depth or even sense. Films like Pacific Rim, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and the James Bond franchise. And yet they still have a great, almost magnetic, appeal for me.
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Of Prep and Prequels

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The Hundred Days by Geoff Hunt

While most people are excited for the coming of pumpkin spice, winter, or the season premiere of The Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo, which begins in (gasp!) only eight days. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk since April when I finished Courting the Moon, and only nibbled at the edges of projects. But National Novel Writing Month (especially in conjunction with the Legendary Novel Writing Challenge) usually gives me the kick in the pants I need to get back on track.

So, to facilitate this imminent frenzy of vomit-typing, I picked a project that I only have the vaguest idea about: the second book in my planned Mariner Sequence series entitled Seahawks and Storms. Now, even though this is the second book I’m writing in the series, Seahawks and Storms takes place about 600 years before the events of the first book, Ravens and Roses. It will tell the story of the first Admiral of the Mariners, Samuel Tempest, his wife Amaris Seahawk, and the founding of their new home, the land eventually called “Marina.” If you’ve ever read The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley, you’ll see that the relationship between my two books is in a similar style. Each book can be read as a stand-alone, in publication order, or in chronological order, and should all still make sense. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.
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The Difference Between a Convention and a Conference

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It’s been two months since I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, so I’ve had time to mull over the experience. Going somewhere new for the first time is always stressful, as one cannot know what to expect. The information I learned there was good, the speakers were engaging, and my fellow attendees were both kind and polite. I don’t really regret trying out this new opportunity when it arose.

However, I also don’t think I’ll be going back.
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Living in the Future: The Fate of Science Fiction

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Plenty of genres will remain relevant in the future:

Horror, because we still like to be scared.
Fantasy, because magic retains its fascination since it can’t materialize in the real world.
Romance, because we still love, long for, and lose.
Humor, because we need to laugh.
Historical Fiction, because we want to experience other times and places.

But what about Science Fiction? During its Golden Age, this genre presented the perfect opportunity to extrapolate on emerging technologies and speculate where they might take us in the future. Some of those postulated futures turned out to be eerily prescient. But now we live in an age where automated cars and soft AI are becoming reality. Where we carry powerful miniature computers in our pockets that connect us to virtually any person on the planet. Where 3-D printers create entire houses in a matter of days and drones deliver packages directly to your home. Everything keeps getting (or seems to be getting) faster, sleeker, and more efficient, changing the social and economic landscape at an astonishing rate.

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Breaking Routine

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(Personal photo 09-11-2017. Click for larger image.)

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You’ve heard me wax eloquent on the importance of having a routine. Something that ensures you get done everything that needs doing, especially your writing. But today I want to talk about the importance of breaking routines as well as keeping them.

Usually when we talk about breaking routine, it’s a bad thing. We mean to complete certain tasks, but something unexpected throws a monkey-wrench into the careful plans of mice and men. And then we talk about the struggle to get back into a routine once it’s been broken.

However, there are two very good reasons to break routine on purpose:
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