Monday, July 25, 2011

Some New Art!

Hunter did some art of the two main characters of Boot Hill the other day, and I'm in love. (Click to view a larger image)

For those of you who don't know, on the right is the notorious gunslinger Finch (lookin' a little laid back, hehe), and that lanky thing on the left is Linds. It's quite a while before the two of them get this comfortable around each other. Like 400 pages 'quite a while.' But it's all worth it because things like this happen.

And there was much rejoicing!

Original link to art Here

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I have found my main character's voice

After many months of struggle and frustration, I have found my main character's voice.

You owe me one, Linds. Seriously!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back From Canada

So most of you might only vaguely know because Hunter mentioned it in one of her journals, but I went out to Canada to meet up with her and her sister, Alex, for a week. It was a wonderful time and a much needed vacation. Simply wonderful. There were mountains and lakes and waterfalls for miles. We drove and drove and drove from Calgary, AB all the way to Vancouver Island, BC and back in 6 days. It was madness. But mostly incredible.

Something else of huge importance: we worked out a huge plot hole in Boot Hill while we were driving. Thus reinvigorating me to pick up the reins of Boot Hill once again and start writing. Though more than anything I simply want to plot out the history of the world in which Boot Hill takes place. Because that shit's fascinating. So we'll see where it takes me. Oh, and I was finally able to flesh out a secondary character and member of Finch's gang named Emerson. I actually feel like I know who he is and what he wants; originally, he was just a skeleton of someone I knew could be a good character, but lacked details. Now I can envision him perfectly! Ah, it feels good to get to know my characters. Next up on the list? Fleshing out a character named Virgil. I'll report on my discoveries later on both Emerson and Virgil a little later. :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A few words on the WSJ article controversy on YA literature

The already infamous Wall Street Journal article has made its rounds to me this fine evening. For those of you who haven't heard: the above article was written on June 4th--just yesterday--and has received a huge backlash from the online young adult community. In short, the article discusses the moral degradation of young adult literature. The article's author deems much of the current YA literature as 'too dark' for the impressionable minds who consume it, and states its likelihood of having a very negative effect on the age group as a whole.

Though I'm sure my thoughts are already being echoed elsewhere--and worded much better to boot--I do feel the need to comment on it.

I have mixed feelings on the article.

As most of you know by now, I work in a bookstore--the very one mentioned in the above article. I have seen the teen section blossom into a wall of black hardcovers with red font. Vampires. Werewolves. Depression. Suicide. Drugs. Alcohol abuse. There was a table erected in the middle of the teen section called 'Tough Stuff' and had books like "Go Ask Alice" and "If I Stay" and "Thirteen Reasons Why" on there.

Yes, a lot of the young adult fiction that is being sold deals with 'tough stuff.' But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Books have the potential of impacting and affecting those who read them. No questions asked. One book might help reaffirm someone's convictions; another book might fill another person with despair and anguish; another yet might instill a reader with hope and a desire to improve. And at the same time, a book might do nothing to the reader; he simply takes it in and moves on.

Books can be powerful tools, for the positive or the negative.

But then I read this in the WSJ article:

"Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures."

This is where I draw the line. I do feel like there's a gray area where books can be influential in decision-making. But using books as a scapegoat for the real issue--in this case self-harm among young teens--is irresponsible at best. If someone begins to cut simply after reading a book about a cutter, there is very clearly something else at work here. How can a book be to blame for someone's behavior? It can't be. Ultimately, we are responsible for what we take in and how we process and react to it. In the case of young adults, parents should be part of their children's decision-making process regarding what they are reading and viewing.

Further, I have never read a young adult book that features a character actively engaging in harmful activities who continues to engage in said harmful activities without some kind of realization and subsequent change (thus giving readers who may currently be participating in similar activities hope to also change), or a negative repercussion such as death or permanent damage (in order to scare or dissuade readers to engage in such activities). Isn't that the entire point of a novel with a pathological theme? Correct me if I'm off base here, but how does that 'normalize' pathologies, or make them more accessible?

But the fact still remains that there is 'dark' literature out there, and it's being targeted at the youth. If you want someone to blame for this inundation, please, for the love all things holy, do not blame the authors for it. At the end of the day, they are at the complete mercy of their publishers. As a writer who hopes to one day be a published novelist, I have the right to write whatever the hell I want. It's up to the publisher to decide if the content is publishable, if it has a market, and what/who the market is. End of story.

Or you could--you know--stop the blame game, put aside the scapegoats, and take responsibility for your actions. Today, we are flooded with 'tough stuff' in many, many more accessible ways than books; I've seen some graphic scenes in PG-13 films that I couldn't even picture being in anything other than adult fiction, and I feel like today's youth veer more toward visual stimulation than book-form entertainment! Parental regulation and communication is key when it comes to children viewing more mature films or shows, and it should be absolutely no different with books.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Unsettled

Over the past few weeks I've been unsettled. I'm not really sure why, but it's posing a problem. Though I've tried, I haven't been able to sit down and read a book straight through, or sit down and write more than a couple sentences at any given time. Nothing seems to hold my interest right now, and it's absolutely frustrating.

I have the time to write and to read. I have a lot of spare time this summer, and it might be the only time I'll have spare time for the next year since I'm starting school in the fall. Yet, here I am, doing nothing creative with myself. I have a huge pile of books on my nightstand, three of which I've started and haven't finished (The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson) that I truly want to get through, but I just can't muster up the willpower to do so. I have ideas for my story that need to be written down, but I can't seem to put the ideas into words on paper.

I'm not really sure what to do at this point. I can't stand this.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Missing In (No) Action

So I haven't been updating my blog as much as I had initially hoped, but first things first: I spilled water on my laptop and the keyboard has been out of commission for the past week or so. $145 later my computer is back up and running. But that's been the main source of my inactivity.

The second source of my inactivity is an admission: I'm stuck, and haven't been writing. No, let me rephrase that. I haven't really been trying. Don't get me wrong, I open up my files and stare at them long and hard, but the words just aren't coming out. I'm struggling to find my main character's voice, and I'm not exactly sure why.

I also feel so tied up with so many things going on in my life that I'm finding it hard to even so much as open a book and read, much less sit down and write. Not very much is even really going on (life-wise) when I think about it. But work has been a source of frustration for me, and just thinking about it overwhelms me. I'm having a very hard time focusing on one thing at a time. I've been kind of emotional and flighty lately. It's been a weird month.

Anyway, just a heads up that my inactivity might last a little longer, then I plan on kicking it more or less in the ass and continueing writing. We'll see how that goes. Wish me the best!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Bad" elements in books?

As some of you may know, I work retail at a bookstore.

Just five minutes before closing tonight, I spotted a young woman at the audio book wall, who looked a bit perplexed. I walked over to her and asked if she needed help finding anything. She paused, bit her bottom lip as if contemplating what to say, and then said, "Maybe you can help me. Do you have any recommendations for audio books that--how should I say this--don't have anything bad in them?"

...

What am I supposed to say to something like that? What does "bad" even mean? Bad from a religious standpoint? Bad in a taboo sense? Bad according to you? Sex? Gay romance/sex? Foul language? Violence? Drugs? Anti-religious messages? Incest? Rape? All of the above? I'm baffled that anyone would think it totally okay to give me a criteria that subjective and expect me to come up with something.

Predictably, I couldn't think of anything so unoffensive off the top of my head, and apologized for not being more helpful. (WHY OH WHY DIDN'T I RECOMMEND NICHOLAS SPARKS? Oh yeah, because he's a terrible writer.)

And the more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I don't think I can recommend a single "good" book title that's not a children's book (and even some children's books have violent scenes, or use magic that many religious zealots consider to be demonic--ahem, Harry Potter) or completely awful (looking at you, Sparks--and not all his books are rainbows and sunshine, might I add). But to be honest, who wants to read books that have nothing "bad" in them anyway? What's the goddamn point? I understand that a lot of people read to escape from the terrible realities of the world, but I fail to see the point in limiting your scope that far. To have nothing "bad" in an adult novel is unrealistic and delusional as far as I see it. Violence is, unfortunately, part of the human condition. Realistically, many many people swear. Drug use is everywhere. It's been this way for millennia. Now, do these topics have to be in every novel to make it realistic? Well, no. But my suspension of disbelief will be teetering if they're not at least acknowledged.

I guess what I mean to say is that I certainly wouldn't recommend Boot Hill to someone like that woman.

And I pride myself in that. My story deals with oftentimes serious subject matter. It's violent, crass, and brutal at times. But I wouldn't remove those descriptors from Boot Hill for anything in the world. They make the story mine, and the characters, however "bad" they may be, make it real. I'm sure there are some novels out there that aren't any of these things, are more or less "good", and happen to be well-done. I'm sure of it. But I'm not about to go out of my way to read them. I'll stick to my "bad" fiction and "bad" characters, thank you very much.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I should be writing but...

I should be writing but I'm not.

I've been distracted with that little thing called life for the past few days. Still, I don't feel bad about not writing too much; I broke 1,000 words on chapter two at the very least, and I plan on finishing the chapter by the end of today if all goes according to plan. Hooray for having the next two days off of work!

All in all, I feel much better for at least trying to write something every day, even if that something is very insignificant. It's significant to me. Making writing a habit as of about five days ago has made me feel infinitely better about myself, and I plan to keep on it. I'm more excited about Boot Hill and about the actual process of writing than I've been in years.

Wow, to not be ambivalent about everything for a change.

Here's a writing protip: don't creepily hang out in the parking lot of a community park--writing on your laptop while in your car--when there are children around. You get dirty looks from mothers. I can't even imagine the looks I'd have gotten if I happened to be a really fat, overweight, middle-aged man.

I just confirmed that I'm going to Canada at the end of June to meet up with the lovely Hunter (the co-creator of Boot Hill) and her sister for a week. I'm incredibly excited; I haven't seen my friends in just over a year, and I've always wanted to visit Canada--Vancouver in particular. Which is where we're going! So stoked, so stoked.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

500 words

Yesterday, I wrote 500 words.

It doesn't seem like much, I know, but when you take into consideration the 4+ months of 0 words total (not including some editing/rewriting of chapter one, originally written in November), this is quite a feat for me. It's helping me realize how out of practice and neglectful I've been. Not a good feeling.

But on the plus side, I'm getting excited for what this story holds. And it's really starting to take shape. Hunter and I recently discussed (at length) how our magic system works. It looks badass and unique and I feel like it really works as far as our world is concerned. I ran it by another writer-ly friend of mine while getting smoothies yesterday evening, and she loved it! So, that's encouraging. For so long, our magic system had a giant "?" hanging over it. This development is incredibly motivating.

Time to make Lindsay's life miserable (he's the main character, for those of you who don't know). Well, even more so. He did just get shot 5oo words into his narration, after all. :)

So far my prose isn't the best, but hey, that's what editing is for. Time to get rid of the inner editor and move on. Get this thing finished.

Going to try and break 1000 words today. Wish me luck!

Just an FYI, this song is gorgeous and perfect for writing to. (The whole album is, in fact. Called Person Pitch.) Check it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

why i blame the Internet + worldbuilding pt. 1

Today was supposed to be the day I started work on re-writing Boot Hill.

However, when I got home from the day job today, I realized that this humble little blog needed some attention because it looked like, well, shit.

So, five hours later, and this is what I have to show for my time. I know, pathetic, right? But it'll be worth it in the long run! I've already given myself justification for spending so much time on it, so there's no use in trying to make me feel bad. Actually, don't try; it'll probably work.

Plus, the banner is a huge, sprawling picture of a very sad looking Finch. I love it.

On a writer-ly note, Hunter and I have been deliberating and trying to decide the actual mechanics of the magic/energy/technology systems in our world. For a while there, we just skimmed over the specifics because it didn't seem necessary (and let's just face it, I'm lazy). But as the story has progressed over the years, these specifics are becoming absolutely necessary for us to know because they're irrevocably woven into the story.

I won't lie; world building is insanely hard, and I don't care what anyone else says.

This is what angers me about folks who look down on fantasy as a genre; do they not understand that excellent fantasy writing requires a world with believable rules, one that can immerse you and runs like a well-oiled machine? Whether it's a fantastical version of our world or an entirely unique one, fantasy writers have to work extra hard to ensure that their setting is believable and engaging.

Visualizing the world of Boot Hill is easy, but when it comes to the finer details, I struggle. I always have. But I'm realizing now that I need to face this quandary head-on. Avoiding it is doing nothing but providing an excuse for me to produce no results. That's not going to fly anymore! An update forthcoming.