Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"How about one for ill-considered blog posts?"

I think I need to make it a rule that I should never respond to an email, or any other form of communication for that matter, until at least an hour after I have first seen it (or heard it, or read it, or whatever else I might do). Every time I send immediate responses to things, I seem to get myself into trouble.

For instance, I responded badly to my mother's email from yesterday, and now I've come to find out that wasn't what she meant at all. Her worry was more that I wouldn't be able to draw people into the lives of new characters, not that I shouldn't write anything else.

Fortunately for me, and probably the only reason I've survived to the age I have, my mother is usually quicker to forgive than she is to get angry. She does have a temper, but it takes a lot to set it off, and it always helps if people apologize. Which I did.

To add to it all, my body is behaving badly, as if I had caught a very mild form of flu. I don't have a fever, but I feel like I do, and both my balance and my digestion are somewhat off. It may be the effects of stress, or I may actually have picked up some kind of germ, but it's still unpleasant.

On that pleasant note, I shall depart for the day. The cats need to be fed their dinner, and I need to encourage myself to do something useful. And not to get stupidly depressive. I do hate how strongly the state of my body tends to affect my mind and my emotions…

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Is there a return desk for hereditary gifts?"

My mother emailed me earlier this morning. She's read the first two posted chapters of "He Nearly Killed the Cat" and while she thinks it's cute, she feels that I need to "begin the hard slog of creating new characters that will engage your audience," as she put it herself.

Mom feels, according to her email, that I should "[r]efuse to connect them (my shiny new characters) to any previous character" and that I should "[f]ind their unique qualities." As an example, she used Homecoming, another original story that I have been working on, on and off, for the last two years.

If you have been with my Facebook page for a while, I wrote about Homecoming in one of my notes. My loving mother (and that is not sarcasm—she does love me and wants only the best for me) believes that those characters are less derivative and therefore more worth my time.

Unfortunately, the Homecoming characters are only one step less derivative than the "He Nearly Killed the Cat" bunch. Sorry, Mom. Guess I fooled you, even though I didn't really mean to. Do you still want me to write Homecoming now, or has my honesty tainted it for you?

I guess that I am also failing in making my point with "He Nearly Killed the Cat" and the Legendbreakers universe in general. What I was trying to say, and what I hope I am still trying to say, is that a story isn't worthless just because it uses elements from other stories.

I know that I'm taking this too hard, that my mother didn't say and doesn't mean that my current work is worthless, just that she feels other things would be more worthwhile. At least, she did when she didn't know that the thing she prefers also drew from my previous work. I don't know how she feels now.

Apologies for the slight emotional dumping nature of this post. I have to go now. It sounds like one of the cats is into something they shouldn't be again. Will do my best to continue writing today—I'll certainly experience worse over my writing career than a slightly critical e-mail from my own mother…

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"One tenth in one week. I think I'm onto something."

That is, one tenth of the word count needed for a piece of fiction to be considered a novel, especially in the speculative fiction genres. And that also is, the amount of time I've been seriously working on "He Nearly Killed the Cat."

Despite one or two critical reviews, I do think I'm onto something with this story. I apologize to anyone who doesn't like the puzzling aspects of it, but I felt that too much exposition too soon would be more likely to drive readers away than a few unsolved puzzles.

After all, I have a good track record with clearing up things which originally puzzled readers. See the previous main Dangerverse stories as well as most of the AU's. Exposition, on the other hand, requires a light touch, especially in wholly invented universes where everything has to be explained.

I'm trying to err on the side of "making the story interesting," and maybe I haven't explained enough. Maybe there are too many unsolved puzzles and not enough information to keep people's interest. I never said I was perfect, and I still have plenty to learn. I always will.

Still, the vast majority of reviews have been positive, and the story is far from over. The characters from the original Legendbreakers novels have decided they want to come and play, so I will be introducing them shortly. They were also mentored by Eve and Suzie, and live only one domain over.

For those of you who read my blog, here is a sneak peek at Neenie and Fox's neighbors in Outer Time:

Lin is a magician whose golden hair makes him look young, but whose blue eyes hint that he could be much older than anyone imagines. He was released from magical captivity within a stone pillar by his current girlfriend.

Nima used to work third shift to make enough money to satisfy her taste for Renaissance fairs and archery classes. Now she specializes in long-distance intimidation sniping and double target shooting exhibitions with her best friend.

Reyna was in the wrong place at the wrong time when a dimensional gate broke open. Her parenting, or rather "aunting," skills turned it into the right place, and she made it home with a young man who certainly thought it was the right time for them.

Jason always knew he'd spend his life traveling around and making music. He never dreamed of how far his talents might take him, or that they would turn out to be a gateway to a power he didn't think existed.

Intrigued? I certainly hope so. Watch for these four in upcoming chapters, and for other characters you probably know a lot better! This is, after all, a DV fanfic…

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"ALIENS! No, wait, it's just lightning. Never mind."

There was an enormous storm here last night, with several hundred lightning strikes inside five minutes (according to the local news). It got me up around 6 AM, after I had been up until three writing, and then scaredy-cats invaded my bed…

I'm not feeling quite as awake as usual right now, as you might guess, so this will probably be a short post. My current state of consciousness is hovering between "slightly loopy, good for writing" and "get horizontal within next ten minutes please."

As everyone who is enjoying "He Nearly Killed the Cat" will be glad to hear, I plan to take advantage of the good-for-writing portion of the evening as long as it lasts. It helps that I'm at what I consider a fascinating point in the story.

Writing fan fiction, while an excellent thing for developing writing skills in general, does have one major drawback. Because the world is already fully created, there is little need to describe characters or settings, since readers already know what they look like.

Therefore, my descriptive skills are not all they could be (though I kick butt at dialogue, if I do say so myself). With the chapter I am now writing, I have a brand-new setting to describe, and I hope to do so well enough that readers feel the same way I do about it.

Namely, that you could come around the corner one day and see it, and walk in the door and make yourself at home. Maybe snag a pretzel rod out of the jar on the counter, or steal some of the chocolate on the top shelf in the far left cabinet.

Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

(Not really, but hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"The team has been consistent..." "Yeah, we always lose!"

Since I have lived in Pittsburgh, I have gone to see the Pirates play at PNC Park five times. I have never seen them win. This past Sunday's game was especially heartbreaking, since they had two rain delays, then blew their one-run lead in the ninth. Ah well, I suppose we can't have everything.

On the other hand, I now have a cute little Pirates helmet cup that came full of ice cream. I wonder what the people at the Sweet Spot ballpark ice cream shop would say if I walked up to the counter and asked for a free refill? I'm sure I wouldn't get it, but the look on their faces would be fun.

I was going to write this morning, but there's a garbage truck outside my window and a vibrating feline on my lap. (Hi Sesame!) The combination of annoying and comforting distractions means it will be a little while before I can get my mind focused on "He Nearly Killed the Cat."

When I first conceived of this story, I thought that it would be just a distraction itself, a fun way to get used to writing in the Legendbreakers universe before I launch into one of the big projects like Bread and Salt. Of course, I also thought Living with Danger would be ten chapters long!

I really have to start being more suspicious of the things I initially dismiss as inconsequential. They usually turn out to be the most important of all.

In this case, the rules of the Legendbreakers universe mean that I am literally writing the self-originalization of the Dangerverse characters. I can't say too much more without wrecking the story, but if you have ever wished that the DV were an original… well, stay tuned!

I don't think I will tell you where the title of my post comes from today. If you're any good with Google, you can figure it out yourself. Besides, I have a warm cat on my lap and I don't feel virtuous at the moment.

Quick! To the writing before I lose my evil mood!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Saying goodbye, going away…"

It's the standard good news, bad news scenario. Good news: Damian McGinty, late of the group Celtic Thunder, has won "The Glee Project" along with another contestant. Bad news: Damian is now late of Celtic Thunder. He will not be touring with them this fall.

This news affects me more than I thought it would. I'm the last person in the world, and certainly I have no right, to stand in the way of anyone going after a dream. Still, when Krystal told me the news, I very nearly cried, threw our Celtic Thunder poster across the room, or both.

It seems big girls really don't cry. Neither do they wantonly fling things, especially when those things only halfway belong to them. Instead they sit down and calmly try to figure out why they feel the way they do. I find this terribly annoying in other people, never mind myself, but such is life.

Due to a great many factors, including my personality, my upbringing, my environment, and just plain stubbornness, I have had something of a prolonged adolescence. My mental image of myself is stuck at the age of seventeen, and though some of my emotions have matured, others haven't.

One of those immature emotions is apparently having crushes on celebrities. It helps that Damian is both quite handsome in the "black Irish" style and has matured from a sweet boy tenor into a dark chocolate baritone equally alluring on traditional ballads and pop standards.

(May I say in passing that I hope Damian never reads this, as I think it would cause us both terminal embarrassment. Note to any prank-minded readers: terminally embarrassed writers hole up in their bedrooms and categorically refuse to write. You have been warned.)

Another piece of immaturity I find myself guilty of tonight is wishing that everything could stay exactly the way it was. It's so good the way it is, this line of thinking runs, so why does it have to change?

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, life is change. Nothing's really ever the same, and all we can do is try to make as many changes as possible for the better.

So, with that in mind, break a leg guest-starring on "Glee", Damian. May the road rise to meet you and the wind be always at your back. All your Thunderhead fans will miss you on the tour this fall, but hey, they'll probably watch "Glee" just for you.

In the meantime, I'm going to make hay while the sun shines, or rather, write angst while I'm in the mood for it. (It may be somewhat ruined by the fact that Dragon recorded "The Glee Project" as "The Ugly Project" the first time through…)

The title of the post, in case anyone is wondering, comes from a song aptly titled "Saying Goodbye" from the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan. Look it up on YouTube. Have tissues ready.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"By the four you take and the two you give…"

Never fails. Open a window and there's a roaring garbage truck directly underneath. Granted, that's six stories down, but it's still noisy. Still, I think I can concentrate long enough to explain my new ideas for the Legendbreakers universe.

I wrote more about Legendbreakers in a note on my Facebook page (search for "Anne B. Walsh, writer" if you want to find me), but basically it's a defense of fan fiction. I'm not saying that fanfic is equal to original writing, but it should be allowed to exist as long as it isn't infringing an author's rights.

The Legendbreakers are a group of characters who have left their original stories and travel through the cosmos of storytelling, fighting against the Reality Cops whose mission is to destroy derivative stories. Some of them come from stories we all know, while others have been obscure up until now.

In any case, my three current titles for Legendbreakers novels are:

1. Bread and Salt
2. Water and Wine
3. Blood and Tears

Bread and salt have many symbolic meanings in traditional stories. They are a hospitality offering, a gift to a new family, or the items a liege lord gives to his newly sworn men. Thus, Bread and Salt will be the stories of the Legendbreakers as they interfere with traditional fairytales.

Water and Wine may be a bit more controversial, as it will involve religious mythologies. However, I will probably be sticking with the ancient myth systems such as Greek and Norse. I'll offend plenty of people in my career as a writer without setting out to do it deliberately.

Finally, Blood and Tears will be stories from the real world, either historical events which could have happened another way or things which didn't quite happen (in our world, anyway) and how the Legendbreakers were involved in either outcome. Reader input on this one is welcome.

I will also be writing a crossover with the Dangerverse, entitled "He Nearly Killed the Cat." Harry Potter fans will recognize this as a snippet of Lily's letter from Deathly Hallows, and Dangerverse fans will know that no cat is ever just a cat in the DV. So what if…

After all, Harry Potter fan fiction is one of the fastest-growing universes there is. Why shouldn't the Legendbreakers go looking for a native-born group to help them out? And if the group is already used to teamwork, so much the better!

There's just one problem.

The Legendbreakers recruit only from worlds that have already been mostly or completely destroyed.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen. The Panther Author Goddess of Evil is back!

Oh yes, before I forget. The title of the post, and the titles of the three original novels, refer to the six things a new Legendbreaker must do to break his or her ties with the world where he or she was born. Want more details? Give me some encouragement to write that crossover and you'll have them!

(Yes, I'm shameless. You should have known that a long time ago.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"They say to write what you know… so crazy cats and laundry?"

I know, I know. I know a lot more things than crazy cats and laundry. But having my world consist of them for a couple weeks has been very relaxing.

Some writers need constant inspiration from the world around them. Others need to be more isolated, to let the ideas emerge from their subconscious. As I stated in an earlier post, I tend to feel like my writing is more "seeing" than it is creating, so I would class myself in the second group.

I know that I need social interactions, that I can't be by myself all day, every day. Still, I have a higher need for solitude than a lot of people. Trips to the library and the grocery store, choir rehearsals and possibly dance lessons, and plenty of correspondence with my fans seem to fit my needs just fine.

Of course, I'm still on vacation at this point. I'm learning the ins and outs of the voice-recognition software, finding out how difficult or easy it is to let it work for me. I've also had an expected but still annoying reaction to hearing my writing spoken aloud.

I'm used to having my writing go straight from my thoughts onto the page without any audible input. Even though I work alone, in my bedroom, fairly late at night when my roommate is sleeping and the only people around to hear me are the cats (who aren't people but you know what I mean)…

Well, what I'm trying to say is, I get embarrassed. Hearing spoken aloud the words that have played in my head, even in my own voice, makes me self-conscious.

Although I've heard my work read aloud before, it was always finished. When I saw flaws, there was nothing I could do except promise myself I wouldn't make that same mistake again. Irrationally, with a work in progress, I feel more humiliated by imperfections and end up stopping before I get very far.

I know that recognizing a problem like this is the first step to fixing it. I just wish someone could tell me what the second step was!

(Note to readers: No, this does not mean that I'm not going to write. It just means I've hit my first obstacle and am working on a way to get around it. Thoughts are welcome, but please, phrase them politely. This is a family blog.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I got a feline, whoo-hoo, so tonight's gonna be a good night…"

In case you can't tell, I was happy to see my cats when I got home last night, and the feeling was mutual. Poppy and Sesame were a little suspicious of the smell of my sister's Jinx on me, but they got over it quickly, especially when I emptied my suitcase so they could sit in it.

I'm grateful they weren't more suspicious, because I must also have smelled like a great many strange dogs. My family and I went to the Great Lakes Medieval Faire on Sunday, which is a pets-allowed affair, so that we got to meet lots of very happy dogs who wanted to be everyone's friend. Also two snakes and a ferret, but that's another story.

Despite our visiting the Faire on the one day of the season when it poured, we had a good time. My dad showed off his kilt, my mom bought a pretty leather pouch, my bigger brother fenced and tried the Highland Games, my sister was acclaimed Queen of Love and Beauty at the joust, and my littler brother got to run around in the rain.

On Monday, before I left for home, I got to go to my grandmother's house and help her make her little meatballs which go in Italian wedding soup. My fingers were cracking again (which is another reason that I like my voice-recognition software) so I couldn't roll the meatballs myself, but she and the boys showed me how it should be done.

Rather than spend $50 on a full tank of gas to make the round trip between here and my family's house, I decided to try out the Megabus to get home. I would've taken it both there and back, but Mom decided to deliver me our family's old TV and take me home with her afterwards.

Thus, on Monday, I found myself waiting for the Megabus beside a little girl who was proclaiming to everyone in the vicinity that she was going to be bad all day. Fortunately, she wore out all her badness in the twenty minutes the bus was late, and was good on the entire two-hour ride thereafter.

One bagel, hot tea, and trip to the library later, Krystal pulled up on her way home from work. I loaded my suitcase into the backseat of Dug, her car's affectionate nickname, hopped into the front, and was shortly at home among my rejoicing felines.

The tabby version of said rejoicing felines has just joined me, and I'm surprised her purring isn't overwhelming the microphone. Fluffy, the black longhair I had when I was a kid, was the loudest-purring cat I ever knew, but Sesame comes awfully close.

In any case, this post is getting long and rather rambling, so I will close with one happy thought. I love my family very much, but I don't have to see them again until the middle of October. Now for some serious writing… but what?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"The cats are always crazy. They fit in well here."

Poppy and Sesame have been running around the apartment all day as if they were possessed. They slept in the sun for a while, then washed each other, then wrestled, then washed each other again. For them, this is perfectly normal behavior.

One of the nonhuman races of my largest original world, Trycanta, is essentially cat-based. Their behavior patterns in my head have changed a great deal in the year since Poppy and Sesame came to live with us. However, I don't consider this rewriting but merely seeing more clearly. Let me explain.

Writing, to me, is less a conscious creative process and more as though I can see into the lives and worlds of other people. My first inspiration for the Dangerverse was not like inventing an entirely new story, but like watching a scene from a movie that I had never seen before.

For this reason, I spend a lot of my "writing" time staring into space, playing computer games, petting the cats, washing the dishes, tormenting the cats with the roaring demon from hell which lives in the coat closet (it's even more fun when you close the bedroom doors so they can't hide), etc., etc., etc.…

This looks like goofing off, but in reality I'm just watching my movie. Sometimes, really more like often, I don't see it correctly the first time I watch it, or I misunderstand what I'm seeing and have to watch it again. The scenes are usually out of order, and sometimes the dialogue is unclear, but that just makes it more challenging.

At times like this, I get a better understanding of the Bible passage about seeing "through a glass darkly". It awes me, and at times frightens me, because even the imperfect sight I have now can be overwhelming. What must perfect sight be like?

With that overly brooding thought, I will leave you for now. Note to self: no more tea after eight o'clock at night unless there is a definite writing project in the works. Philosophy and the wee hours of the morning don't mix.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"13 plus 14 is 27... that's an apricot!"

Having a roommate addicted to hidden-object games makes for interesting overheard moments.

This post will be somewhat historic. Not only is it the first post after something of a long silence (for which I do apologize) but it is also the first post I am dictating using my brand-new computer and my shiny voice recognition software!

Although it did not capitalize "this", and although it is a little rough on the autopunctuation feature, it is still very useful and will save me a lot of time. Not to mention, it will keep me from developing carpal tunnel syndrome!

The life of an unemployed, and at the moment vacationing, writer is a quiet but fun one. (Should I find it amusing that when I said vacationing the voice recognition put in occasioning?) For instance, today, I washed a large pile of smelly bowls, petted two attention-hungry cats, and walked to my local library.

Walking to the library serves many goals. First and foremost, of course, I love to read. I gobble books at a speed terrifying to anyone who doesn't know me well. A speed-reading friend and I wagered a paperback on which one of us could finish Deathly Hallows first. I won, in two and a half breathless hours.

My mother has also been nagging me about getting enough exercise. My back is sore? I'm not getting enough exercise. I'm not sleeping well? I'm not getting enough exercise. I'm overtired? I'm not getting enough exercise, doggone it! So today I got exercise. This one's for you, Mom.

But most unexpected of all, I love to look at pretty things, and the neighborhood through which I walked to get to this library branch is full of them. From old stone houses with squat towers and slate roofs to overgrown gardens full of black-eyed Susans, the walk was delightful to the eyes.

It was also not nearly as sweaty as it could've been since the weather has broken some, which is a great relief to everyone. 85 degrees and humid may be nothing to our southern cousins, but around here, that makes people (and cats) melt. Today was a balmy and breezy 80. Just right.

So, having gotten exercise and located my nearest source of free books, I think I can consider the day well spent. Tomorrow is for laundry, for an appointment, and for wondering whether I should deal with my lack of social life or get started on my writing first. Thoughts?