Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On using vampires

As a rule, I've never used vampires. Oh, creatures called that and mistaken for it, yes -- I have one novel series of sorts based around voodoo, Sumerian mythology and entities that became the basis of the vampire and were-creature myths.  I figure if you're going to have a world with supernatural things, having something as basis for some of the myths makes sense. The problem I have is that of horror: vampires aren't scary anymore. They haven't been for some time.

All monsters tend to be a reflection of the era they're in, echoes and statements about man and humanity. But it's harder to have a dark mirror when what we as humans do is generally plenty dark enough. So vampires -- like angels -- mutated into something closer to superheroes, to beings with powers and Kewl Stuff that, in the case of vampires, they had to not want. So, angst. Because living forever and never seeing the sun again is such a burden that vampires could never find it awesome or decide to fight crime or at least get a life. Or unlife.

As a side note, I have this theory that the transformation to a werewolf can easily be bracketed onto being a teenager: it would be interesting to take vampire and fit it into mid-life crisis, say. Stories about vampires endure because they are flexible in this manner: we choose what kind of story we tell with them, we shape the myth to fit the story that gets told. And not all stories with vampires in them are about vampires at all. (It is hard to write about vampires these days and not include a Twilight reference. This was that.)

In my case, I wanted to do horror. I have the setting, the idea of the vampire fits it. In this case, the vampire is a stand-in for a viral plague at the level of metaphor. But that doesn't stop the vampires from believing they are vampires or, in some cases, becoming movie/novel kinds of vampires thanks to using magic that comes with no instruction manual at all. I have posited the vampires as the origin of the black death and had one character claim a single vampire could exterminate the planet of human life in about 2 months. Whether this will be enough, in terms of narrative or craft, will be an exercise for the beta readers to hash over.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

An update on writing....

Nanowrimo is an odd event: historically if I pause a project to do nano said project dies. The story I was working on before my first nano languishes in a file somewhere, having been added to in fits and starts since when guilt set in but otherwise doomed. There is simply not enough time to get out all the ideas rummaging for space in my head -- a lot of them are abortive notes on files that I only do something with if the idea and characters nag at me enough to demand to be written. Many of these end up as nanos rather than anything serious.

Rites of Exorcism is different: for good or ill I have not been able to get it out out of my head even after writing it as a nanowrimo story. Short stories and novel ideas for the world keep coming to me, and as such I completed the first actually finished draft of the Book of Going Forth during nano, waited two days, and began work in the sequel. It is tentatively titled The Book of the Never-Dead *  and I figure writing it will also make editing the first book -- which I plan to do after writing this story -- more interesting. I've never tried this method of writing/editing before and never written a true sequel, so shall see how it goes.

This story also has vampires. Which will be the subject of another post.

* I very much doubt the novel titles will remain come later drafts; as echos of the Egyptian cosmology they do work but as actual titles they're pretty clunky. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Facebook & Google+ Status Updates part VI

(This one includes fragments of nanowrimo as part of it, since I decided to share torment people with bits of it as part of progress reports.)

"Oh, grace? No, we don't say that in this house.But I see someone is late bringing the black goat for the sacrifice."

If the internet is a city, where are you located in it?

I wonder what it would do if I remove all facebook ads by listing them as 'sexually explicit' ...

Bob was pretty certain the devil didn't want his soul when the last temptation offered was an expired can of soup.

Alice was shocked to discover that it only took three bottles of Uncle Alvin's hooch to replicate Wonderland entirely.

A potential starting line for a bad story....
The night unfurls itself like a great dark thing.

"The point of stories is to use lies to tell the truth."

"Is Amy a demon?"
"Liking school doesn't mean your friend has a demon inside them," I said dryly.
"Oh." Sasha thought that over.  "Could I learn an exorcism anyway, to be safe?"

Useless Fact About Myself: I owe two ties. I have worn neither.

Useless Fiction About Myself: I tell people I hate blueberries so no one will blame me when they're all eaten.

It was the eyes that said he was older than he seemed, for they were hollow and empty, the green of things seeping from wounds
...  You can tell I'm writing Young Adult, right?

"I could take you south," the fox said once it became obvious Boy would not dream of asking such a thing.
"With me? Really?" Boy grinned his foolish grin. "Why?"
"I doubt your life will be boring and I abhor boredom," the fox said, which was the truth, for the truth can be the most clever lie of all.

"I do not find it wise to do what I cannot undo. No one should unless they have considered what they cannot do once they have done it."

Last night a Sleep Thief stole my sleep. They take hours from us and sell it to the highest bidder. If you know someone who is poor and yet well-rested, then you know why.
(They say the warlords and politicians of the world pay so much for a decent night's sleep. So very much.)

Idea for a world (probably an rpg), based on fans having fits over George Lucas changing the SW movies:
A world where the gods act like Lucas does. Each day, you wake up to find the world tweaked a little more, creation an on-going class project ....

"I'm not saying the lawyer IS a demon," I said. "I'm just saying that's the safe way to bet."

If you could be the death for one person, who would it be?

"I left her for a week. One week, and she emailed me with updates about her life, begging me to come back to her. Even about the lives of strangers, if you can believe it. I think if I left for over a month, Fb would stalk me down and drag me online."
... this message has been brought to you from Venice, which is made of awesome. That is all.

Boy dearly wanted to ask what made someone a witch, but his common sense finally kept him silent on that. "Oh," he said instead, which could mean very many things.
"Quite," the witch said to one of those things.

Recycling bins with the arrows in reverse recycle intangibles: memories, dreams -- some say even souls.

We all know deep in our hearts that the gates of Heaven and Hell are closed. Tourists ruin everything.

Fun in Italy: Having seen far too many pieces of Mary and Jesus art, Jesse and I now critique each one based on how realistic the baby Jebus looks: does he look like a real baby? An adult? Is the head too small? It does liven up otherwise pedestrian and samey art.

"Of course I don't hate you." The witch smiled at Boy. "One must care about something to hate or love it at all, and I care for you not at all."

Today's unfact: the ruins of pompei were made 60 years ago out of papier mache in a bid to woo tourists to the region. The alleged historicity of them is due to time travellers (all of whom have grossly overdue library books).

Interesting fact on the Palentine Hill in rome: the ruins go down two levels, none of which are open to the public. Which means the fee we paid to walk them was akin to someone offering you a tour of their house via walking on the roof and trying to convince you that you'd seen the house.

According to modern theology, purgatory is a train station platform that no train ever stops at.

Things I could not convince my brother to do in rome: run up and stand beside a police officerin riot gear so I can take a picure of both of them. (You will note I did not volunteer to do this myself, but a leader must sacrifice his happiness for others.)

from nanowrimo notes on a character:
Randall (Never Randy, not any more) was a quiet kid, the kind of kid who didn't have any imaginary friends because they'd be busy visiting other more interesting kids.

He was wide awake at 3:33 am. They called it jet lag, among other things, but he was certain the Conspiracy wanted everyone to think that was all it was. He had shifted in time, days become other days, and he wondered if any other time traveller truly understood the power this gave them, or if they all just tried to 'adjust' back to normal like the Conspiracy wanted.

The weather in Rome is colder now, which is probably for the best since last week the Pope woke up and thought he'd died.

This years Nanowrimo notes have a section entitled 'major characters not appearing in this novel'.

"What if there is a limit to the amount of pain we can internalize? What happens to you when you reach it?"
The other smiled. "I have a knife. I spread it around."

Nano snippet of the day:
"There are things outside the darkness that mean us harm," I said quietly. "And we can burn brightly if we aren't careful, dragging them to this world like moths to a flame and extinguishing entire towns and cities in our greed, because they offer us power we haven't the wit or courage to refuse."

Nano at 11K, so here is a snippet from today:
In the dream my mom cries as my dream-grandmother's bitter words that fill the world like thunder, and that is finally enough to wake me: I never saw my parents cry even once when they were alive. They were exorcists and any tears they might have shed were held back for a later that never came.

4K written today, a snippet thereof:
That the instruction manual for the coffeemaker weighed more than Damien's computer had amused him to no end, but drinking instant coffee was not one of the sacrifices I was prepared to make to be an exorcist.

6K or so today on nano, snippet:
Mind you, odd theories can be applied to most any family with a long history."
"Like the royal family being seven foot tall lizards?"
"No; that's just stupid."
"You're the one saying this family has an au pair that is over a hundred years old."

"I know X looks bad, but you have to remember X gets a lot of abuse, always used in equations, never an answer, shunned by the other letters. You never see pythagorus use X, never see it as a real answer. It's always paired with Y, which as post-structuralist feminism tells us is a clear indicator of indicative gender inequality."

Ripped a page out of a notebook from 2004 to use as scrap paper and found written on it, under a dentist appointment, the following two things in point form:
- Necropuppet.
- Hitler Choose Your Own Adventure
... I think this means I should make sure I burn all my old notebooks before I die.

Nano slowly moves ahead. An excerpt:
"I'm sorry for this," I said to Emily.
"As sorry as you should be?" she said, and if there was malice in her voice she hid it well behind breeding.
"Whoever is?"

Writing typo of the day:
"I wiggled free of his arm" does not work if one actually writes "I widdled free of his arm".

Anyone else waiting for news about the elves and Occupy North Pole? If Santa isn't the 1%, I don't know what is.

Little known facts about the devil:
* When She goes shopping on Earth, She only pays in pennies
* You will known She is near when your cell phone rings and it's a spam caller
* She finds Satanists to be as much a trial to bear as Jesus finds Christians
* Sometimes, when no one is watching, She eats low-fat foods

I wrote this today. I feel so ashamed.
"Aiden's an exorcist; if people don't pay up their homes just get repossessed."

And done nano this year at exactly 70,000 words. The final lines are from a magazine interview between two of the characters.
D: "What I think is that everything is a risk and sometimes we have to take one, uncalculated, and that's all free will is."
PS: "Free will is falling in love?"
D: "Yeah. And falling so well that you try to never see the ground."

Fun thing to do working at a major computer company: Replace the word 'bug' with 'feature' in all releases.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And the end....

of Nanowrimo for this year. The novel ended at 70,000 words on the nose, since I added in three words in one line to get it. In some respects, this was the hardest nanowrimo I've ever done since, unlike all the others, this was a non-nano project -- aka one my brain says 'this could be a good novel' vs my normal idea of trying a new genre or just getting an idea out of my head, which is my normal fun with nano. As such, the story stalled a few times and was almost redone from a different POV once. Interestingly, the last 10K took almost a week to write since it was the last part of the nano and a lot of plot and story elements had to be resolved and come together.

Did they? Well, no. By that point I was too aware of stuff I'd be changing in the next draft and wanting to have this draft reflect that. Which is probably a sure route to madness, so I finished this draft as was and had fun with  it. It did manage to surprise me in some small parts, a few of the people in it turning darker or tougher than I'd thought and I discovered the big change for the next draft is to shorten the timeline a lot. Aiden is an exorcist, and very good at that: this novel was him dealing with non-ghost stuff mostly and being out of his comfort and knowledge zone. As such, taking four days to figure out the major plot stuff going on made him seem drastically more incompetent, and possibly stupid.

Things I learned this year:

1) Plotting worked. Less plotting would have worked better. I write to find out what is going to happen as much as anything else and this draft left little room for me to be surprised which led to some sections being rather slow to write since I had, at least in point form plot notes, 'done' them already and the plot didn't deviate much from them.
2) I think I may use nano for something I plan to Do More with again in the future. It does limit me to one nanowrimo a year, but that's just fine; I could do more, and I have, but I have no need or desire to. 
3) I don't think I'll use nano to rewrite a concept from scratch and such again, however: using it for something new is more to the point and a better break from other projects. (And yes, this may violate #2 but what the hell. I'll still limit myself to the one nanowrimo, however long or short it turns out to be.) 
 4) Trying to write one story that's over 80K should definitely be a challenge to myself; very few of my first drafts are that long. 
5) I had fun, even if sometimes the story didn't feel fun at all. Working on one project off and on for over two years is not my cup of tea: I tend to get idea, write, move on to next idea, write, and so forth: I think this story and Boy and Fox are the only two projects I've stuck with for a long period of time, and the latter is missing some indefinable something to make it work.

Also, my collective nano wordcount for 8 years is now:  862,374 words. Daaaamn.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A curious thing happened on the way to 50K....

Hit 50K tonight for nano and looked back at the chart in amusement. The first day I managed 7K and the same on the 5th. I'd hit 25k at that point, faster than I'd thought I would given my goal was ~80k at best (I hope for 90K and expect 80K, it seems to be about my natural length). I went to bed Saturday night having a moment of doubt about Damien's character and saw the novel from the pov of Damien instead of Aiden. And on Sunday morning I began to write the entire thing from scratch, reaching over 1K in writing and a lot of notes -- the latter in the privacy of my head.

Saner heads than mine prevailed in convincing me to keep going with Aiden's pov, if only because it was more challenging than changing it to Damien's. I saw the wisdom of that and moved forward again; despite that, by the 10th I was only at 37K and most of the days had been about 2K, though the tenth had been 4K. So this weekend I knuckled down and did 14K over two days, pushing me over the 50K mark. The plot developed a few twists, the characters surprised me a little and the story is flowing ahead again.

The trick for me at this stage is not thinking too much about the next draft: I already realize what I wrote as 5 days of plot  should be condensed into 3 and a lot of the conversational stuff between the characters can probably be pared down to the grit of it in the next draft.

To whit:
* Cindi's vehicle needs to be more important, so the Beast must be getting repaired. (Damien repairing an RV should be fun.)  She, a a character, needs to bring more to the story and demand more out of it. Someone has to get in his face and not know or care about his reputation in a very select circle of people: she is that person.
* The DEA agents need to show sooner and do a little more in the story.
* Shortening the time-frame allows for the characters to figure out who the magician is a lot sooner; the current timeline makes them look even more incompetent than I'd intended.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Thoughts on a few monkeys

Thoughts on character background, most specificically the edit of:

To be honest, I really hate stories where a character behaves horribly and their sad childhood keeps getting brought up to somehow validate their bad behaviour

Because: hell, yes. I loathe this trope with a passion. Yes, horrible things happen to people. I get that. Everyone does. But not everyone who is abused goes on to abuse, not every person with a shitty childhood becomes a shitty parent. Choice is involved in who we decide to be and how we decide to react to the hand(s) life deals us. If you are an asshole, it is because you are an asshole.

In the case of nano, this is Aiden by and large. Yes, his parents did terrible things to him but he honestly doesn't see them like that: they're his parents and he loved them, as horrible as that can sometimes be. That his parents had motives that were on the side of 'good' doesn't change that at all: he was raised and taught to think in a very utilitarian manner and that his life was a worth sacrifice to stop Evil Things from happening. Others disagree with this (vehemently) and part of his growth as a character is when he decides to walk is own path as best he can.

He is a jerk, but that is by choice: it's how he dealt to lessons and his response to getting hurt by people and the word. Damien, on the other hand, tried to see every setback in life as an opportunity to grow. Not to forgive, no, but to try and forget a little and move on from things done to him. To an extent, they balance each other out and Vita threw them together partially in the hope they'd rub onto each other a little and become a little stronger in the process.

And since I plan this to be a series, it also means the reader gets to see Aiden become a bit more involved with people and the world, less of an exorcist and more of a human being. But at no point is the fact that his parents did a serious number on him during childhood going to be an excuse or actual explanation for his failures as a person.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Nano Day 7 .. an excerpt

I turned to see the local sheriff's car pull up. A tall, stern man who looked like he could bench-press snarling rottweilers got out of the driver's side, his boots shiny and uniform looking freshly ironed, the badge gleaming as he walked over.
      A shorter balding man got out the passenger side: He was thin and wiry and even sported a cowboy hat over rather more rumpled clothing, having an air about him of someone who'd seen most everything the town had to offer and wasn't prepared to be surprised by any of it.
      The sheriff ambled over and the locals parted without thinking, the truck driver removing his hat and looking like he wanted to chew more of the brim off in worry. The patrons of the McDonalds slipped back inside slowly but steadily, showing a natural distrust of the law I found curious: I'd have bet good money that the local law enforcement only did what the Klein family asked of them.
      The deputy wandered into the McDonalds, nodding amicably to people and talking statements. I just moved off to the side, throwing up a protecting circle around Damien the buffer him against emotions and saw his shoulders sag a little in relief.
      "Sheriff John Cassidy," the Sherrif said briskly. "Someone mind explaining the call we got about a hit and run?"
      The driver, whose name turned out to be Simon Saundersen, stumbled over barely seeing Damien jump out in front of him, trying to break, something hitting the window, but each statement was a little more hesitant than the last as his brain tried to parse someone being thrown into the path of the truck by an force unseen to him.
      "You throw something at the window, mister ...?" the Sheriff said, turning to Damien.
      "Daimen. I didn't see the truck when I was crossing the road," he lied, looking pale and shaken. That he was seventy pounds of nothing in a baggy sweater and coat helped hide that there were too many tears in the clothing for him to have no scrapes at all.
      The sheriff grunted. "We'll need to take you down to the station for questions anyway; insurance companies like stuff to be formal," he said, then added: ''Sides, it's a slow day so far and we're got coffee to spare," which disarming honestly.
      Damien just nodded, trying not to look worried as he glanced over at me.
      The sheriff glanced over, eyes narrowing. "You were walking with him, sir?" he said.
      I nodded.
      "I trust you have a name?" the Sheriff added.
      "Aiden Nel," I said, handing over my wallet when he held out his hand.
      "Long way from Canada, boy, " he said, handing it back. "You're that quack Klein hired."
      "I'm an exorcist, yes," I said.
      "Well, Simon here seems mighty confused by how your friend ended up in front of his truck across one lane so darned quick," the sheriff said, slipping into a stereotype with ease. "You reckon it could be ghosts?"
      I smiled brightly. "If the dead went about shoving the living into traffic I think you'd have a lot more fatalities, don't you?"

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Old notebook oddity

Ripped a page out of a notebook (which included notes from nanowrimo 2004) to use as scrap paper and found written on it, under a dentist appointment, the following two things in point form:

 - Necropuppet.
 - Hitler Choose Your Own Adventure

 ... I think this means I should make sure I burn all my old notebooks before I die