Monday musings

Today has been a fun blend of good and bad, but I can’t really complain at this point since the good presently outweighs the bad. My trip to the dermatologist was relatively uneventful, but I have to get another mole removed so as to avoid continuing the somewhat time-honored tradition of potential skin cancer developing. Some inspiration may have struck, but now that I’m thinking it through I’m a bit iffy (the novel writing will, sadly, wait until tomorrow). In light of feeling like my skull has been used as a volleyball today (Yes, I know I spend a lot of time with headaches. It’s the blessing of having molars that extend into my sinuses.), here’s some of today’s thoughts, events, and creative (or not-so-creative) ideas.

  • Fudge Brownie ice from Rita’s Italian Ice tastes how I imagine Tootsie Rolls would taste if you melted them down, then froze them. I’m not saying this is a bad thing so much as a bit of an odd taste experience.
  • I was told to switch to Dove body wash today, as Old Spice is apparently drying out my skin. My dermatologist said Old Spice body wash is more about the perfume, which explains why I’ve been such a manly-stinking lizard of gross, shedding skin lately. She clarified that there is Dove for Men, and seemed puzzled when I responded by saying I just want something that doesn’t make me dry like the desert.
  • My Of Monsters And Men concert shirt has emerged from its hiding place! I apparently left it in Carnegie forever ago. It still fits, which means I’ve not gotten too much fatter since seeing OMAM in concert. Small victories, people.
  • The go-to response to seeing my tattoo is some variation of “I didn’t think you were a tattoo kind of guy”, followed by asking me if I really thought it through. I don’t take offense to this, however, as nothing comes close to having someone ask me if anyone has ever asked if they can lick my tattoo. No, by the way. No one has. I’d like to keep it that way, thanks.
  • I have a pretty good idea as to where I want to go with the next chapter of A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders, but I’m actually still on the fence. It’d be another sort of intermission chapter, building some much-needed humor back into the narrative, but…Actually, now that I think about it there are more pros than cons. No spoilers!
  • Mango Habanero chicken wings are my favorite kind of chicken wings, but no one does them nearly as well as Buffalo Wild Wings. Perfect balance of heat and sweet (I didn’t set out to make that rhyme, but I also had to take a good bit of ibuprofen to make my head stop hurting…so I’ll blame the headache).
  • Carnegie will always act as a second home to me, if only because living near Pittsburgh has spoiled me. Do I want to go out to eat? Plenty of choices. Movies? What theater should I go to? Or maybe I should buy tickets to a play or musical (or sporting event or concert and so on and so on)? That said, I still think most Pittsburgh drivers, especially everyone else on the Parkway, are completely insane. To be fair, those people probably call me insane (as well as other, more profane things).
  • I really want to get my next tattoo, but I also have to pretend I am a responsible adult who can manage his money without immediately leaping at shiny things. The reality is that I’m a magpie, and I need shiny things. Womp womp.

At any rate, I should be winding down for the night so as to make sure I get enough sleep for tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment/mole removal. I hope that you all, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, are having a relatively pleasant start to the week.

The great vacation book catch-up

I made a delicious dinner of pulled pork sandwiches, but now I’m ready to hibernate and I couldn’t think of a topic for tonight. I glanced up from my laptop screen for only a moment and discovered, duh, I have the answer right in front of me. I’m referring to the well-stocked, largely-neglected bookshelves in my living room.

My habit of buying new books before I finish reading all of the ones I have isn’t exactly a secret. It’s actually the opposite, given how often I’ve mentioned it on multiple occasions. However, I have a vacation coming up soon. Once I survive–no, dominate–these next six days of work I will have at least a little time to sit back, relax, and get some reading done. I plan on getting back to working on stories and my novel, too, so that’s rather important, but this is more about reading. I’ve got three books I’d like to finish before returning to work, and so here they are (and why I’m reading them out of my options) in no particular order. Continue reading

Sunday, snowy Sunday

While I’m normally one of the first people who make fun of everyone boo-hooing about the cold and snow of winter, especially since I live in Pennsylvania where this shit is so common and unsurprising, I have to say I’m pretty well finished with this snow-and-ice-and-misery business.

I took a nap halfway into that last sentence and forgot what the Hell I was typing. As I often say: in my defense, I shoveled the sidewalk and driveway, and I cleaned off the cars. That counts for something, probably.

Since my goals are more focused on adding to the page count of A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders, I’ll make this quick-ish.

Works in Progress

A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders – 70 pages/11 chapters; about 1/3 of the way complete, give or take

Cordelia’s (short story) – Complete! Working towards submitting it places.

Woman Seeks Vampire for Dinner and a Movie – Still just notes, but with more direction

The Repository of Lost Ideas – Notes, notes, and still more notes.

Interview with a Retired God – Still only a title, with the beginnings of an idea to go with it.

Works On Hold

The Devil Suggested I Do It (novel; working title)

Warpt Factor (the novel)

The Lodgers (novel)

On the plus side, there’s now a lot more in the Works in Progress section than in the On Hold section. That must count as some sort of progress, right? Right? Tonight’s Oscar night, however, so I need to make some more writing happen before then. Oscars night means it’s time to drink and live-tweet my disdain for Hollywood.

Capturing the magic of magic systems

The concept of magic (or magick, in some cases) is absolutely fascinating to me. It’s neither inherently good nor evil, and it has a virtually unlimited number of practical uses. Each fantasy world has its own approach to magic use and magic systems, too, further adding to a story’s complexity. Better still, magic can range in importance from being a key plot device to just being background noise.

Alternatively, there are plenty of arguments against magic in fantasy (written, on-screen, etc). It feels like a cheap solution that characters can use to further the plot and bypass otherwise-insurmountable obstacles. It’s lazy. There are too many different approaches to the same thing. And so on. While I appreciate these views, I don’t necessarily agree with them. I think a large part of how well or poorly magic and a magic system works in a story comes down to how it impacts the way characters interact. I’m not just talking about how characters interact with each other, but also with situations and environments.

A quick and easy example to go off of: a character is entering some temple hall. It’s vast and ancient, and above all else it’s most certainly very dark. Yes, the character should be carrying a torch. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. There’s always a chance some giant spider-demon had to be dispatched by the torches flames earlier. That’s not the point. The chamber is, as all ancient temple halls are, loaded with dastardly traps just waiting for some careless rube to trigger them. There are also convenient, relatively well-used torches lining the walls. They’re extinguished, however. It’s not like someone gets paid to stick around these places and reignite torches for a living; the folks who did wised up years before and unionized, making it near-impossible to keep such rooms as this well lit.

Now the character could very well build suspense by crossing this room by torchlight. There’s no doubt in my mind that readers would be on the edge of their seats, fearful for our nameless hero. Or the hero could ignite the torches with a well-used, well-timed spell. With the right elements–a mysterious shadow shifting about, or perhaps something foul awakened by the newly reignited torches–and the right pacing, this use of magic works to help the plot along while still helping build tension. This example doesn’t even begin to delve into the realm of possibility in which backfiring spells and misspoken curses, among other things, exist.

There’s also a lot of fun in basing entire civilizations around a centralized magic system. It allows for a lot of fun what-ifs. What if that society’s magic system collapsed suddenly (whether that was by means of the magic suddenly no longer being accessible or turning against the magic users)? What if the ability to properly harness magic was only afforded to society’s super-rich? Or perhaps its outcasts, instead?

Obviously, all things in proper moderation and so on and so forth.

What’s the best approach to magic? To really own it and make it part of a story? To let it be a small part of a bigger world? Or, perhaps, is it best to just avoid it entirely and work on other methods of storytelling?

On elves, orcs, and other standard, fantasy fixtures

Fantasy creatures are all pretty well universally recognizable to most fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike. Orcs are usually the big, burly ones with green skin and a need to break bones, invade places, and generally wreck things in the name of honor, family, and glory. Elves are beautiful, often androgynous, woodland-dwelling masters of archery. There are certainly plenty of variations on these themes, but they are tried and true enough to keep readers (and viewers and gamers) coming back. Is it because these types of characters are familiar, bordering on near-family? Or are they more like set pieces to the overall story?

One of the driving forces behind A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders is that I wanted to play around with these races of characters. High elves are always the most revered, esteemed characters, but why can’t they be laughable, lowly gutter-scum? Why not make orcs sophisticated, reformed from their more bloodthirsty ways? Does deviating from the tried and true versions of orcs and elves and so on reduce them to something less than they are meant to be or help them grow into something more?

Are writers better off sticking to the usual of what works or should we focus on mixing things up more often?

I’m asking these questions as I write, of course, but my focus is elsewhere. I’ve been slacking, and this novel has been sitting. There’s writing to be done if I ever expect this to be the novel that gets me noticed by HarperCollins (wish me loads of luck, please).

Self-induced madness

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to celebrate and damn the progress I’ve made! This week feels like it has been an eternity, which is unfortunate. Has that prevented me from getting writing done? Nope. Am I particularly excited about how much I did get done? Also nope.

In Progress

A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders (working title) – It’s also waiting to be approved for posting on Authonomy. I’m also still actively adding to the page count, enjoying suggestions and edits as beta-readers provide them.

Cordelia’s (short story) – Still screwing around with plot details so this doesn’t turn into pointless rambling

Woman Seeks Vampire for Dinner and a Movie (short story) – The title exists, and the basic plot is sort of there

One Hundred Days of Blogging 2.0 – because that should be mentioned since it is taking up fair bits of time

Authonomy stuff – Presently this only consists of A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders (working title), but has the potential to turn into a means of getting more attention for other works as well, such as things that will be mentioned in the next section. This is what happened to my HarperCollins goal, by the way, as it’s the most likely way I’ll ever get published by them (even if the odds aren’t exactly in my favor)

Backburner Projects

A picture is worth a thousand of my terrible jokes.

A picture is worth a thousand of my terrible jokes.

Warpt Factor (the novel) – At some point, this means I will have to remove the existing material and use it for source bits. Sorry! However, a certain aunt has requested/demanded this happen, and since I’ve lost the original notebook full of information from Warpt Factor (the series) and I wasn’t about to just let this die, I figured “Why the Hell not?”. Keeping in mind, of course, that this isn’t going to be happening too soon. Probably. We’ll see how thin I can stretch myself before I go completely crazy.

The Lodgers (novel) – Yes, this still exists. Yes, it’s going to happen eventually. No, I’m not going to scrap it. However, even if I were to choose to work on two novels at a time (something I’m on the fence about)…this wouldn’t be one of them. It’s not really in the forefront of my thoughts, even if it is a fun bit of fiction to write. It’s also far more of a shift towards purely adult reading, what with the characters and their tendencies toward expletive-heavy speech.

The Devil Sort of Made Me Do It (or whatever the Hell I titled this) – I haven’t forgotten this one either. A good friend of mine has made forgetting it impossible, in fact. Hah.

Submitting more short stories for publication – Most certainly needs to happen. Strongly considering Cordelia’s as a possible submission for The Literary Hatchet.

These posts are actually very therapeutic, as they help put things into perspective for me. Especially on days like today, when I feel like I’m accomplishing so little. One book published, and onward towards getting a book published by HarperCollins. To that last end, if any of you have an Authonomy account and would be so kind as to read, critique, and support my novel (if you like it, of course) once it’s available, I would be immensely grateful and most assuredly return the favor.

Ninety days remaining.

Weekly Progress Recap

I was going to name this day’s entries Wednesday’s Weekly Work Updates, but I would hate myself too much. And so, for now, dies the alliterative titles.

Wednesday’s posts are simple ones, acting more as a kick to my ass to help me get moving a little faster for the remainder of the week (instead of potentially slowing down, of course) instead of a means of being entertaining. Just like all of my other blog posts are something other than a means of entertainment. Zing! I really burned myself there.

My heart’s not in this tonight, as I took a nap that left me feeling like someone pushed me down a cartoonishly tall cliff, complete with many rocks for me to bounce off of.

The Progress So Far

Unnamed Novel-Project – 53/??? pages; 1 new chapter in progress, plenty of editing completed

One Hundred Days of Blogging version 2.0 – What the **** was I thinking?

Things I Need to Focus On

“Cordelia’s” (short story) – Status: Mapped out in a notebook

“Woman Seeks Vampire for Dinner and a Movie” (short story; tentative title) – Status: Locked in my brain-meat

Projects On Hold

The Lodgers (novel) – Started, but trapped in creative Limbo

The Devil Sort of Made Me Do It (novel; tentative title) – Started, but trapped in creative Limbo

[Redacted] – Nope. Nope nope nope. Not telling. Sorry.

Miscellany

Super Deluxe Commented Copy of Joshua Harkin and the Wicked Nightmare King for Lindsey (the best beta-reader the aforementioned book had) – Uh…In progress-ish.

I feel like there’s more going on, but I can’t honestly think of it at the moment. Obviously this is ignoring my 45+ hours of work and tendency to take naps on a regular basis.

Ninety-six days remaining.