Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why I like Andrew Bird

Every once in a while I'm sitting all innocent-like at my desk listening to music while I work, and I realize something like:

The song I'm listening to seems to be about trepanning.

How often does that come up?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nanowrimo: week 1

So this year's Nano project is "Pampelmouse", what I refer to in my own head as "Watership Down of parrots", though I'm nervous about saying that outloud. It sounds sort of pompous.

I have 11,693 words at this very minute, with another 577 to go for my morning target. (Yes, apparently blogging is what I do with my breaks?!?)

After a week, I am loving the fact that I can't explain my jokes, because a parrot doesn't have words to explain its jokes. The joke either works, or it gets missed.

And also, it is thus far impossible for my characters to sit around talking about what they're going to do, especially while eating. I do have some boring eating scenes like I always do, but at least they can't pretend to progress the plot. There's a lot more action than I normally write. Also, I'm making my main character suffer horribly.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Out there -- October, 2010

"Unicorn". Sent to market #7.

"Dolphin". Still at market #1. OMG I got an email of proposed edits, 24 October, 2010. Sent the changes back 27 October.

What I read -- October 2010

“Annabel” by Kathleen Winter. I had requested this book from the library a couple of months ago (there are 114 holds after me, so it must be good?) but had no recollection of why, and stubbornly resisted trying to figure out, in case I changed my mind or something, since it was coming anyway. And now I see it’s longlisted for the Giller prize, so I guess I’m lucky to have it now, since there will be a run on it later.

Turns out it’s the story of a hermaphrodite in Labrador, from when he’s born (he’s brought up as a boy) until young adulthood. I was trying to decide, after reading it, whether it was more about gender, or about Labrador. The lives of people there (Wayne is born in I think 1968 – can’t check, had to take the book back because it was overdue) are very much about the bush, and subsistence living. Really good, really made me think. It took me a while to read because it had uncomfortable bits for me, but fortunately I had another thing I was reading at the same time, so I’d read 40 pages, and then switch to the other book, and then pick it up again when I’d gained some distance.

But the story is a lot about gender. There are a lot of strong female characters who influence Wayne, and really the only strong male influence is his father, who was an amazing character, really well-defined. I highly recommend this book. The characters, the setting, the choices that Wayne makes are so strongly drawn.

“In the Dojo” by Dave Lowry. Here I could kill two birds with one stone. It’s research for the karate zombie novel, and it’s on Sensei’s reading list! This was the book that I kept switching to when “Annabel” became too stressful. It was also a library book. I got a lot out of it in terms of expected behaviours I think I’m not meeting in Sensei’s eyes, and the background of different things.

But one thing I kept thinking about as I read it was language. A lot of the Japanese terms used in the book were not the same ones we use in my dojo. Some of them (Kagami Baraki, for example) have a different meaning for us than for the author.

There’s a woman in our dojo who is Japanese. Japanese is her first language. Sometimes when I’m teaching, I’ll turn to her and ask if something is correct, and she shrugs. Apparently the Japanese we use in the dojo is not the same as the Japanese spoken in the real world. That made me think about secret languages, and what happens at work, for example, where we have all these crazy acronyms, or when Ed starts using a huge amount of medical jargon. And that made me think about my parrot novel, which I think I should start drafting soon.

“The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan. It’s about zombies, so it’s research! It’s YA, and it’s written first person present, just like my zombie novel, so I can be insecure! This book was an incredibly quick read. A couple of things that bugged me: I never got a clear picture of some of the characters. Like, there are two brothers, Travis and Harry, and I’m never entirely clear on which is older. Maybe she said sometime at the beginning, and I missed it because I didn’t realize it was important.

“The Dead-Tossed Waves” by Carrie Ryan. The sequel to the above. The first chapter seemed weaker than the previous, and I’m starting to notice differences between how the author handles the first-person present voice, and how I do it. I guess that’s what Caitlin Kiernan meant when she was writing about the interauthor a few weeks ago. Why is the narrator telling the story in this way, and why? This voice makes flashbacks potentially awkward, I think. While the ending clearly indicates that there will be a third book in the series, I thought this book was better-written than the first one. It’s a lot more complicated, with a lot more stuff going on, various different problems and threats, and that’s what I like.

In process -- October 2010

"The Rabbits". Short story. 10,000 words or thereabouts. September I finished the second draft. I want to get this on OWW, but it needs at least one more draft. Often people who read my stories say I've ended it at the point where it just starts to take off. I think I've just realized why -- it's because my main characters are often passive victims of whatever circumstances I've created. I can fix this, I think. At least in The Rabbits.

Karate Zombies. Still 61,792 words. I have now read the first 6 chapters. I’m rewriting the first chapter. This post http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/10/all-important-first-chapter.html is making me worry.

“Succubus”. Short story. 12,000 words. Page-a-day. First draft complete. While I was “researching”, I came across the Japanese Yuki-Onna, which pleased me greatly because of Catherynne M. Valente, whose writing I respect very much.

Troll. Around 1000 words of first draft, on hold for NaNoWriMo. Ed and I spend a lot of time in culverts when we’re out walking, because Toronto is a weird place. It seems relatively flat, but that’s because everything is a bridge over a river, or a rail line, or... well, I guess I need to finish the story.

Apophis. 1200 words, first draft complete. The monthly challenge from OWW was to write a story from the POV of a rock. I’d never done the monthly challenge before, but I had a scrap written in an email that could be easily moulded. And I often find that when I write something under duress (I.e., have to finish before nanowrimo; to the challenge’s specifications) I surprise myself. And contrary to what I regularly say, I don’t hate surprises. Well, not all the time.

I know Apophis isn’t actually going to hit the Earth anymore, but for the purposes of this narrative, let it go.

Pampelmouse. 2010 NaNoWriMo novel. I’ve written a one page, 30-chapter outline, not because the story needs to be 30 chapters long, but because November has 30 days in it, so if I write a chapter per day I can accomplish my goal. Because November doesn’t start with a weekend this year, I’m using this as my “page-a-day”, which will get me started every day.

Back and left front finished. Realized I’m going to have to re-knit the sleeves, so I packed it in a box. I don’t want to look at this sweater right now.
Anhinga. Back, left, and right front finished, center panel started.