Fiona McVie at Author Interviews did an interview with me. I chat about music, writing, books, and some other stuff.
I’m on a bit of a steampunk kick lately. I blame this poem, one of my nanopowrimo pieces, for it. Or, possibly the awesome steampunky clothes I saw at the Ren Faire. Or possibly the fact that I recently reread an old favorite, Paula Volsky’s Illusion, which I think arguably just might qualify as the first steampunk novel ever. (I am an avid rereader – whole other post)
I’ve been noticing something unique about the steampunk movement lately. It seems to be moving as quickly, if not more so, in the fashion, art and design worlds as it is in literature. Actually, I think it’s kind of been hijacked. I have to admit, when I see or hear the term steampunk, the first thing I think of is clothes. And jewelry. Then the brain goes to stories.
Steampunk is visual. And vague. Take a Victorian setting, add some clocks and airships or gears, some boots or whatnot, throw in a mechanical bird or two and voila! Steampunk awesomeness. (I don’t mean this as a bad thing, just sayin …. that would be my description of steampunk)
Case in point. I am working on a steampunk/postapoc/fantasy novel. I also have been toying with a full-on steampunk novella idea …. though knowing me, it would stretch into a novel probably. Also thinking of doing some steampunk poetry, or even better, a steampunk poetry collection. So I start googling. Come to find out, there are not very many markets looking for steampunk. I was pretty underwhelmed. I’m not saying there are none, just that I expected more. Lots more.
So, I checked Amazon. There were a good amount of books, but half of them were how-to guides for jewelry or whatnot. Didn’t find a whole lot of steampunk anthos either. Only one steampunk poetry collection.
I did, however, manage to find all sorts of steampunk items and art. And jewelry. I could tag pages and pages of awesome jewelry. Sigh.
Badass steampunk necklace # 1 (want)
Badass steampunk necklace # 2 (want)
Steampunk Owl (want)
Steampunk boots (want)
Steampunk coffee grinder (want)
Steampunk Barbie (Xmas gift idea)
Steampunk crow (love it!)
Steampunk corsets (want. want. want)
Steampunk bird/plague mask thing. Storyworthy.
Steampunk bird (love it)
Steampunk wedding cake
Steampunk butterfly 🙂
Steampunk art … lots of that.
My personal fave
Steampunk computer. Or, possibly a time travel device
Steampunk typewriter. Ok, really it’s just flat out Victorian. But calling it steampunk makes it cooler, right?
Steampunk hat box (Which, alas, would probably not fit the hat. Make that a steampunk jewelry box)
And last but not least, a steampunk Mona Lisa. Steampunk is official now.
What’s a girl to do?
A) Write anyway
E) Create a steampunk Pinterest Board?
G) All of the above …
I think writing is probably very similar to other crafts in certain ways. You start out with passion and little or no actual knowledge. Through practice, study, more practice, more study, you follow the age-old path from apprentice to journeyman to initiate to (one hopes) mastery. It’s a long process, and if you don’t have a deep-rooted love for what you’re doing, you may reach a certain point, you may even start making some money, but then you’ll probably either abandon it, stagnate, or worse, go backwards. I think the same could be said for a lot of things; sculpting, carpentry, sewing, painting, designing clothes … in general, that learning curve is pretty much the same no matter what you’re doing.
Writing’s a labor of love. Somebody (I think it was Stephen King) once said you have to write like a million words before you write anything decent. I believe it. If you don’t love writing, chances are you won’t get that far. I have tons of notebooks and typewritten fanfic-ish pages about 80’s heartthrobs and metal bands that literally make me wince when I read them now. But that was my learning ground. I very rarely wince at recent stuff, unless I find I went somewhere too personal with it. I may not love everything I’m doing now, but I don’t have the urge to burn or delete that stuff either.
I guess every now and then you just level up.
There’s a pretty wide chasm between theory and practice when it comes to a lot of the standard writing ‘rules’. Write what you know. Show, don’t tell. BIC. Raise the stakes. Kill your darlings. Conflict, conflict, conflict. Etc., etc. etc. You can know these things, and apply them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re applying them right. At least not at first. Every now and then some piece of writing lore or some mantra or bit of advice you’ve heard a million times just clicks and hits home. And every now and then you figure something out for yourself.
I just figured something out for myself.
In the age-old bloody debate between outliners and brainstormers, I fall on the side of brainstormers, usually. (Everything I’ve done has had a different process -I wrote one thing backwards, for instance- but that’s a whole other topic. It’s safe to say I’m a brainstormer.) I’m not sure it’s the best approach, as it frequently leads to me painting myself into corners, getting stuck, facepalming, etc., but for me writing to an outline takes the life out of it. I think that’s one of those things that just falls under ‘to each their own’ and there is no right or wrong way – only the right way for the individual.
I have to finish up five queries and synopsis over the next week or so, including two for incomplete WIPs. Usually I never do any of that stuff until I am done. But hey, opportunity knocks, so here I am today, writing the dreaded synopsis for something I’m not quite finished with yet. I’m several drafts in and at 105k, so the bulk of it is behind me, but I’ve still got missing pieces, worldbuilding to do, and plot holes you could drive a truck through. In other words, what I have left on this are the kind of key points that may not mean a lot more work word-count wise, but need to be just right in order to tie everything together.
Did I mention I hate writing synopsis?
Guess what? The damned thing just helped me fill in a few key gaps and sort out some pacing and sequencing issues, and just moved me a helluva a lot closer to nailing the Final Battle.
The next time I find myself headdesking while I am a good portion of the way through a project that’s when I need to write the synop. Because then the crafty storybuilder advicey stuff that’s soaked into my brain over the years will just fill in the gaps.
I’m pretty sure that somewhere out there some author already said that in an interview. I probably even read it. But it didn’t click until I experienced it.
Suddenly I no longer hate writing a synopsis. Well, not as much anyway.
Methinks I might have just leveled up …
The other ghastly terror? There’s a huge palmetto bug lurking somewhere in my apt. I’m sure at some point tonight my neighbors are going to hear a bloodcurdling scream coming from my apt. Sometimes I really really really really really hate living in Florida. Its wildlife is NOT OK. I HATE THOSE THINGS!!! Blech. Shudder.
Ok, I’m done now. Carry on.
I’m a writer, but I love art in any form. I can (and do) spend hours looking at sites like Pinterest and Tumbler. I’m all about feeding your head and your muse, but also, I just love art. Here’s an example from one of my favorite artists, Chris Achilleos. This is the sort of thing I would look at and immediately start thinking up stories to.
I find the creative process itself pretty interesting. I’m always curious about other people’s methods and experiences. All around the world, at any given time, there are probably hundreds of thousands of people engaged in this art or the other. Musicians are jamming, painters are painting, writers are writing, etc. etc. etc. There is a common thread in the need to create, and whether it comes from a need to heal, to speak, to express oneself, I suspect that at some level, for most creative types, it pretty much comes down to ‘I HAVE to do this or my soul will wither and die.’
I see something different in every WIP I have. One is a tapestry. I was vaguely conscious, while writing it, of the sense that I was weaving threads together. Another is a painting, or more of a mural, really, but I wasn’t painting it so much as uncovering it from a covering layer of paint, scratching away the coating a bit at a time.
In another piece, I pretty much wrote this as a story.
And don’t even get me started on the one that is a labyrinth. The plot for that, as a diagram, would look something like this. It’s been driving me nuts for years and I suspect I’ll be grey, wrinkled and half-senile before I’ve completely solved the damn thing.
I find it interesting how people approach art in different ways. I was recently listening to an interview with the (omfgamazing) band Pontiak, and at one point in the interview, one of the members mentions that he sees music. Literally sees music, as color; to him different patterns and notes are different shades. Another member of the band sees music as shapes and patterns. (I’m not quoting this word for word, but the interview is here.) Anyway, from what he described, I’m guessing music presents itself to him as fractals. This blew my mind for a second, but then when I thought about it, it isn’t much of a leap to go from one of their songs (sample – North Coast) to something like this. (Oddly, I sort of ‘see’ their music now too)
I love fractals. I think the universe speaks and dreams in fractals. They’re pretty, but there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. Fractals are essentially mathematical formulas presented visually. If you want to kill a few brain cells, read the Wikipedia entry on them. If you keep an eye on sites like LiveScience, you’ll notice that fractals kinda sorta resemble, a graphic of brain synapses firing
or a virus
or steampunk art
or ugly/pretty Gothic looking carpets
I also found Dr. Emoto’s water experiment fascinating. He froze water, wrote messages on it, and then photographed the results.
(Note: the water they played metal for looks like a speaker \m/)
Ok, so fractals are, at their basic level, math. I fricking hate math. I despise numbers. My brain was built for words, not digits. But, as was noted in the movie Contact, if there is a universal language, it would not be words, but math.
Music is math. If you can’t count, you can’t play.
Dance, on one level, is math. If you can’t count the steps as choreographed, you break the pattern.
Photography is math. You’re measuring light, shutter speed, apertures.
Sculpture? Math. Algebra, I guess, because then you are dealing with angles and such. Painting? Yup. It’s there again. Angles. Shapes. I guess that might be more trigonometry, but close enough.
Maybe you aren’t counting, per se, but those damn numbers still figure in.
So, ok. This all makes sense on some level. At our innermost, cellular, molecular cores, we are math. We are cells dividing. We are atoms and DNA that are basically built from numerical codes. We are made from elements that are again, numbers. Doctors test our health based on numbers.
But what does any of this have to do with writing?
Aside from the obvious use of rhythmic and syllable counts in poetry? Beats in dialogue? The three-act structure?
Here are a few diagrams of the hero’s journey as fractals.
I’ve always felt like creativity is a bit more than just scratching an itch. There are times I feel I am channeling something, or tapping into something. You know that feeling you get when something just comes? When you spit out a story or a poem all at once?
Maybe it’s just, you know, quantum physics.
I think I have some weird writer version of ADD, because in pondering all this, I find myself wanting to write this
Or maybe just print this and write a poem through the colors.
Or maybe I will just go draw some smiley faces on my water bottles.
I find it interesting to hear about what inspires different people. Some artists are inspired by people they meet, others perhaps may find a story in something historical, a news snippet or a real-life situation. Personally I am most inspired by music, art, history, and mythology. I love art, in all its shapes and forms. Granted, I consider black metal to be fine art, but I’m just as in love with ballet. I find stories in choreography, in songs, in photos, drawings, statues, you name it.
That’s why I love movies like Samsara. I watched this the other night. I have its counterpart, Baraka, and I find them both fascinating. These movies are visual – no dialogue. But they are stunning. They step back and look at the human race as a whole, from huge metropolis to nooks and crannies of the world that most of us barely think about, and the resulting footage ranges from breathtaking to heartbreaking to just plain bizarre. I get the impression that these movies hold a mirror up to the human race as a whole and ask ‘What have we become?’ but that’s my take. The films don’t pound any points home or tell you what to think. What you walk away with depends on you, your mindset. That’s brave, and I think it’s key. These movies don’t insult or undermine you by telling you what to think. They just make you think.
I’m sure there are highly intelligent people that would be bored to tears by these movies, but I absolutely love them. And of course, having Lisa Gerrard and Dead Can Dance involved with the score makes them even more awesome.
The word samsara is defined as a cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
The word baraka means blessing.
Stills from Samsara
This part was probably one of the weirdest things I have ever seen.
One of the most striking shots … caught between two worlds
Everybody has a story to tell …
Wouldn’t feel right to post about Samsara, the movie, without a footnote about Samsara Blues Experiment, the band. if you like Sabbathy-Hendrixy-Floydy-Blues-Metal, check them out.
I pretty much abandoned my livejournal blog in 2012. No particular reason; I just didn’t feel like blogging. Recently a spam comment led me back to an old lj post where I was ruminating about blogging and why I started one in the first place. Reading it made me realize why I lost interest. I approached that blog as more of a diary. Problem with that is I’m really not comfortable sharing personal thoughts publicly. I’m an introvert, and I’m actually very shy, unless I am drinking or just happen to click with someone. So I never really got comfortable blogging in diary-mode, and probably never will. On the other hand, I’m quite happy to babble on publicly about writing, Tard Cat, trees, movies, books, horses, history, the world, etc. Writers write, after all.
Hence the new blog. Or, revamped blog, I should say.
I chose the cover pic the same way I make a lot of decisions, even and especially major ones … intuitively. I’ve held various animals as symbolic totems throughout my life. Lions, horses, wolves, orcas, owls. The list keeps growing. Lately crows and ravens fascinate me. They represent so many different things … Trickster God, the carrion bird, the omen … there are layers and layers of symbolism there to dig into. Most of the connotations are dark. Doomy. And yet the raven might just be the silliest bird on the planet.
We’re all multi-faceted.
Today the interwebs are buzzing with people making declarations about how they are going to improve themselves this year. Lose weight, spend more time with loved ones, climb the mountain, run an eight minute mile. That’s great, though I think one should always strive to grow, and not limit thoughts of self-improvement to one holiday. But a leopard doesn’t change its spots. No point trying to force yourself to be something you’re not. I’m an introvert and probably always will be. But I’m also a writer, and I’m thinking it’s time to stretch the wings a bit.
I’m starting out 2013 with publishing news, for once. I have a short story coming out in Once Upon An Apocalypse, and a poem in Eternal Haunted Summer. Hopefully more announcements to follow soon. My writing life thus far has been focused on learning the craft and, well, writing. I’ve been building this massive backlog, but I’ve put very little effort into actually publishing much of it. This year I plan to focus more on putting my words out there.
So, my resolution is to keep this blog updated, and, keep the content less personal but hopefully at least somewhat interesting. Or at the very least, repost really cool pics and links to interesting articles.