Category Archives: me me me

On Not Being Ready

I was a bit unprepared for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m using an all new, all different approach, because I felt that last year I plotted but didn’t actually worldbuild. So this year I focused on the research and worldbuilding and let the plot find me as I learned more about the period and place (New York City in 1906).  I think I like how it turned out, I have okay characters (I’d like that to improve before I write my next book) and though I have nearly no outline I have a good idea of what will happen and why it will happen and it’s all grounded in the world, which is what bugged me the most last year.

As of this moment I have 2,172 words, which is not great, but between being a zombie for two days (long story. Short version, new drugs didn’t work out) and only writing last night I think it should work out.

If I was unready for NaNoWriMo, that’s nothing compared to how unprepared Apple was when they released iOS5. Abrupt change of topic, I know, but it actually relates.

So iOS5 is all nifty and shiny and stuff, and I do dig the new notification center, sorta.  Except for the part where it’s ruined too many nights of sleep since I upgraded a few weeks ago. You see, notification center is actually great if you’re the kind of person for whom out of sight really is out of mindm because it’ll keep your notifications where you can look at them and dismiss them when you’re done. It’s great, but there’s one major thing missing: a sleep mode.

I’ve got really bad insomnia, I have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, the whole nine yards. So when a feature that is, by far, the least intuitive iOS feature I’ve ever used wakes me up at lest once a week with notifications I don’t remember activating, well, we’ve got a problem. I won’t ever remember to turn the notification center on if I turn it off at night, my reaction to the vibration setting is actually worse than it is to noise, and there’s no way to say “please don’t make any noise between 11pm and 7am.”

As much as I hate to do it, I have to turn off all non-essential noises and badges, including Twitter, which is nearly essential, because taking away my sleep is the fastest way to drive me crazy. I hate it, and as Veronica Belmont says “if you have to turn off all the good features (location, notifications) for it to work, they’re doing it wrong.”

So true. I’ll be over here, writing through a fog of sleep deprivation and waiting for a sleep mode.

 

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What Cheesecake Really Costs Us: the DC Reboot and why I own a bottle of Twilight perfume

I haven’t posted about the DC Reboot yet, I’ve been out of work and the books I was planning to pick up seemed like an unnecessary expense. I can’t really write about something I haven’t read, so I haven’t had anything to say.  Then last week’s comics hit and threw the ball into a court I’m a little more familiar with: the visual treatment of women in and around comics.

If you haven’t yet read Laura Hudson’s incredible editorial on Comics Alliance about the treatment of Superheroines in the DC Relaunch, do yourself a favor and check it out.  There have been plenty of other reactions to last week’s comics. Today, an interview with a 7-year-old, via io9 sparked off a discussion on Twitter today about whether it was appropriate for the writer of that piece to be showing pictures like the ones in question (from the T rated Red Hood and the Outlaws) to her child.  I think it’s fine for her to use them as a teaching tool, perhaps because I have more memories of my mom talking about Barbie being an unrealistic representation of the female form than I do of actually playing with Barbie dolls.

Thinking about my mom, about Barbies and about unrealistic representations of the female form made me realize have something to say about this topic. I wanna tell you about Christmas last year.

You see, my mom is the Batman of Christmas shopping and she still has us give her christmas lists (due by 9 pm on Thanksgiving Day) because she enjoys the challenge of finding the best price on a set of Rock Band Instruments or whatever. So, while I was putting my list together last year, I added a bottle of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Heroine perfume. It seemed like a great idea because I like a lot of the notes in the scent, I like the idea of helping out the Hero Initiative and I never seem to pull the trigger on buying whole bottles of perfume .

So imagine my surprise Christmas morning when I open a bottle of perfume from my Mom and it isn’t Heroine. It isn’t even a BPAL scent, it’s this. That’s right, it’s Twilight perfume. Volturi Twilight Reign Scented Body Mist in the Romance shade.  Now, I like Twilight a bit, and I would have just laughed it off as a fantastically terrible thing to own if it hadn’t been for my mom’s answer when I asked her why she hadn’t gotten me the BPAL.  “Erin,” she said, “have you seen the picture on that website?”

I hadn’t actually, because I’d read about the perfume on Geek Girl Diva’s blog and she cuts off the picture a bit, making my memory of some generic tough girl with a gun a bit incomplete, see:

Seriously, there are other scents in that line closer to the one I asked for. I already own and use plenty of floral spring scents, what I asked for and needed was something more wintry.The woman in that picture is covering her breasts and her junk and that’s it. When forced to look at the full picture without the distractions of the BPAL website, I’m completely disgusted. Compare it to the Twilight thing on the left, which despite being utter crap as far as perfume goes looks so very much classier.  No wonder my mom chose the one over the other.

And who exactly is to blame for this? No one and everyone. I know Adam Hughes is capable of drawing beautiful women without making them look like porn stars, I know BPAL is a company run by a woman and I assume the folks at The Hero Initiative are pretty darn smart, so why does she look like that? Well, maybe the art is supposed to be a generic comic book heroine and that is what we get in 2010 when we depict a generic female heroine: art that makes my mom think I ignored every one of our discussions about how Barbie is an unrealistic standard of feminine beauty.

This is cost of cheesecake, the cost of the inescapable assumption that depictions of women need to be aimed at the lowest common denominator. Greg Land on the cover of the Women of Marvel trade. Greg Horn’s Emma Frost covers. Star Sapphires. Catwoman. Starfire. It’s the look on my mom’s face when she drew my attention to that picture, her decision to buy a product based on the story of Bella motherfucking Swan rather than one featuring our generic depiction of a comic book heroine.

Whether or not cheesecake is the norm in comic books, it is the face we present to the world too much of the time. I wish I knew how to change that, but refusing to buy cheesecakey things doesn’t seem to be working, so I’m adding my voice to the crowd. I don’t condone cheesecake, it isn’t a defining factor of comics for me, so please stop using it to represent comics.

ETA: I went over time by about an hour writing this, but when the timer rang and I was still in my stride I decided to let myself write until it was done.

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Books and Tweets in Large Quantities

Before I get to a discussion of what I am reading I’d like to mark a momentous achievement: I have just posted my 10,000th tweet. It’s sappy but I’m excessively proud of it. Twitter has been such a force for good for me that I really like to mark the big moments like this.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way onto the important matters: What I have read so far this week, because being unemployed does wonders for your reading (warning, some of what I read is Jane Austen, my lingo may get all Regency on you, I apologize in advance).

First off, I scored the last copy of Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens (the fourth book in Brandon Sanderson’s epically charming Alcatraz series) from my local Barnes and Noble.  I know that I am a bad fan for doing this, that I should have pre-ordered it so there would still be a copy on the shelves to enchant some serendipitous child, but I’m lazy and it was sitting right there.  Alcatraz vs. the Shattered Lens was everything you expect from the series, laugh out loud humor, lots of action, a good heart, and crazy awesome magic.  This book has giant robots dressed as librarians, 13 year old girls with silver hair and giant swords, and bad math, magically bad math. However, since the last book both the main character and the writer have grown and matured.  Shattered Lens starts opening Alcatraz’s eyes to the fact that “the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters” and Sanderson handles it beautifully. The first person narration also got a bit more believable, not that it was ever bad, but it felt much more in character and also gave away a couple of secrets about the future.  It’s stuff that future Alcatraz probably wouldn’t think twice about writing, but that I as a reader was glad to hear.

Of course, that’s not the only thing I read since I last wrote briefly, I slammed my way through a gem from the most recent Audible $4.95 sale, Pride and Prejudice.  I’ve read it several times, watched the BBC/A&E/Colin Firth mini-series even more times, but somehow I had never listened to it before and in all the previous Audible sales the Pride and Prejudice was read by the narrator of my favorite edition of Jane Eyre and I couldn’t take hearing Elizabeth in what I hear as Jane’s voice.

As so often happens when I reread something in Audio the book was a completely new experience to me. I found myself identifying with Elizabeth less than usual.  I noticed her flaws more clearly than I had before, mainly her overreactions to events in the world around her. That sounds much harsher than I mean it to be, she develops decided (one might say, prejudiced) opinions about everything on the spot and holds to them doggedly until their incorrectness is flaunted in her face.  It’s something we all do. I know I react the same way to bad news, because I did so this evening and got it thrown in my face directly. I hope that by noticing it in Lizzie and myself, I’m growing past that way of thinking, like I have grown past her in age.

It didn’t bother me as much the last time I read Pride and Prejudice, but on this reread I was very conscious of being older than Elizabeth. It’s strange, because I feel like the same person I’ve always been, but I have gone beyond the Elizabeth stage. I graduated from College, got a job, moved out of my parents’ house and, shudder, grew up a bit (obviously not all the way, the first book I reviewed in this post is meant for 8-12 year olds). I still adore the book, but now the reflection I see of myself in the characters looks like a past me rather than the present me.

All of that introspection made me really want to reread Persuasion, which I have now started after downloading it from the ever-wonderful Hennepin County Library, but at first I tried to read something that’s been sitting in my Audible library for a few months now, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire. I’ve already read the Mistborn trilogy once, but I like to reread Sanderson’s books with his annotations, which are like a mix of writing master class and DVD commentary and The Final Empire has elements of Regency romance, so it felt thematically right.

I mentioned that regency element on twitter and had a bit of a chat with Laura Fitzgerald (she works for Tor, so you know she’s awesome) about other fantasy books in that vein.  She brought up Shades of Milk and Honey, which I’ve been hesitant to pick up, probably because Pride and Prejudice and Zombies left a pretty awful taste in my mouth in some respects then I get home last night and the Hugo Award winning author of Shades of Milk and Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal, had tweeted at me about my concerns about the book, eventually using etymology to prove that she knew her stuff from a historical accuracy point of view. 1) This is just so cool. I totally appreciated her taking the time to tweet at me. 2) Of course I immediately reserved a copy of the book from the library (what? I’m still wary/chary about the book, and if I like it I’ll buy a copy to keep). 3) This is more or less my favorite thing about twitter, how the things you say resonate across the cacophony and reach people who want to hear them.

That’s enough from me for now, I have a bunch more to say about Austen, but I’ll save that for tomorrow because it’s long and, I think, far more self contained than this mess of a post could ever hope to be.

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Briefly

It’s snowing out there, really, really snowing, and I got about 4 hours of sleep. So of course I volunteered to drive my Mom around today. Facepalm.

Carcicles. n. Snow that has been defrosted from a car only to refreeze as spikes of ice. A true sign of snowy desolation. If Carcicles form on your vehicle you should seek shelter immediately.

I’m gonna hole up in my bed with my DS and an audiobook of Pride and Prejudice until I fall asleep. I’ll report back from the two potluck parties I’m hitting tomorrow.

Also I’ll add links and pictures to this post, because you can’t do them from your phone (ETA: obviously, this has now been done).

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Explaining Two Sentences in Five Paragraphs

Ugh. 0 words written on Project Rizzo Allen today.  I mean I did a lot of things, I applied for a bunch of jobs and played a little Kingdom Hearts (replaying these games is good for my mental health, I swear it is) and I continued my experiments with alcoholic ice cream floats, just no writing.  I imagine that a few of the things in those last few sentences are confusing, allow me to explain.

Project Rizzo Allen

Doctor Who artist Matthew Dow Smith mentioned on his twitter that he uses Muppets as code names for projects he doesn’t want to talk about in detail yet. This makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t mind talking about what I write, but I don’t make up titles easily, no writer should get too attached to any title, and, honestly, I freaking love the Muppets in just about every form. So I’m using Muppet code names. Don’t ask me where the Allen part came from because I made it up in August and I have no idea what the purpose was at the time*, but I like it enough to let it stand.  In fact, if anyone wants to guess at why I put “Allen” at the end I will accept any silliness you all come up with as truth.  I updated the sidebar with the Muppet codenames for everything and I’m glad I have a way to talk about things without having to make up official titles for them. I hate naming things as is, so having a pool of names to pull from makes my life easier, as the Muppets so often do.

I Applied for a Bunch of Jobs

Here’s the thing, I’ve been working as a contractor for over a year, so I’m getting used to minimal job security. This one snuck up on me during November. I’m applying to my top tier aspiration jobs right now, gonna do more extensive searching next week when I am actually unemployed, and I’ll probably use my bartending certification in more than one way before this month is out.

Alcoholic Ice Cream Floats

Speaking of bartending, I blame NaNoWriMo, late nights, and twitter for my latest little obsession.  I was struggling on Monday night to hit 25,000 words according to my sense of justice (I put some outline words in for padding because the NaNo site kept eating away at my word count in the official validation) and twitter gave me two ideas for celebration.  Matt was having Scotch and Mitch was having a Root Beer Float, so I combined the two and you saw the results yesterday. I’m working on a new one, I will say it’s Orange Soda based, but I’m going for a complex flavor that I haven’t worked out yet.  It’ll be cool if I can make it work.

No Writing

This isn’t strictly true. I write very intensive cover letters that I edit very poorly (I’m a terrible self editor, remember that if I ever ask any of you to beta read a book. Terrible. Self. Editor.), I tweet constantly and I’m writing this here blog now. So what I meant was that I did no writing on Project Rizzo Allen, but I did do some nice worldbuilding on Project Pepe during my commute.

It’s exciting because I had all but given up on the world Project Pepe is set in, the original story (it was the NaNo novel from 2006) was a bit Mary Sueish and came darn close to X-Men fanfiction. I’ve always desperately wanted to do something cool there, because I like a lot of the worldbuilding, the characters and I think this world needs more Super Hero novels.  What I couldn’t figure out was how to mitigate the elements of, well, bad fan fiction until this week. I had a couple of those “What if I changed this?” thoughts that completely coalesced the story for me. It was what I like to call the coda book. I went through a period where all of my series had a main sequence and then a coda afterwards to give me some closure on the decisions I made during the series.  Anyway the coda, Project Pepe, is another feel from the Super Hero High School trope I was playing with originally and it’s so much better.  There is more meat to the story and I get to keep the parts of the world that I like while losing the baggage. I’ve spent months trying to work out how to do this world justice, and now I’ve figured it out and it feels really good.

So there, five paragraphs on two brief sentences about my day. How in the world did I manage to lose NaNoWriMo?

*ETA: I think I figured out where Allen came from, and I think the codename was originally for a completely different project set in the Project Pepe universe (thanks Evernote for keeping all my story notes sitting around), but at this point I’ve named so many parts of Project Rizzo Allen so many things that I’m just gonna run with it as is.  A gold star to anyone who guesses why I used Allen now.

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NaNo decompress

Today is the first of December and as such is officially designated the day of irresponsibility by all those who participated in National Novel Writing Month, hence NaNoWriMo or NaNo by those of us who take part in the giddy whirl of words and places and plots that is November.  This was my 6th NaNo and my 6th loss, but I’m not really saddened. I know I’m being a bit like Mark Tapley from Martin Chuzzlewit,

I would love to see Mark Tapley doing some serious ass kicking, because he would be jolly the whole time. He may be eligible for my zombie apocalypse fighting force.

That’s Martin being depressed on the stump in front of the depressing shack in the depressing swamp land he was tricked into buying in depressing America by slimy, slave-owning, American hucksters, a situation Martin finds depressing. That’s Mark off to the side, smiling like he’s out for a picnic, because even when he is dying of malaria in a swamp in America, Mark Tapley is jolly.  Which is why the survivors of my Dickens intensive put Mark’s catchphrase, “Still Jolly” on our class t-shirts, because we went through hell, but Dickens is hella fun.

So, I feel a bit like Mark today, because even though I technically “failed” the NaNoWriMo goal of writing 50,000 words in November, my previous best wordcount was 10,000 in 2005, my very first year, and I have never made it past the doldrums of the second week while still writing consistently.  This year, I wrote a bit on a lot of days, right up until the end, I socialized with other writers, which I intend to keep up, and I wrote 25,000 words. That is 2 and a half times as well as I have ever done before, which is a definite success in my book.

Furthermore, I get it now.  I’ve listened to writers talk about their need to write, to spend time with their characters rather than the “real” people in their lives and while I thought I got it, I had never felt it before.  Now, I totally get it. I really enjoy nights when I can just sit around and write, where none of my or anybody else’s issue get between us (those nights are few and far between, but they do happen) and despite all the pressure I still wanted to write today.  I’m not going to, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, but I wanted to and that’s something I was not expecting.

So today I embrace irresponsibility. I am not going to clean my apartment or do laundry (even though I should), I am not going to cook dinner, I am not going to apply for jobs (even though I need to). I am going to eat pizza and drink soda and play Kingdom Hearts and be frivolous, because today I have accomplished something and I want to revel in it.

Back on the horse tomorrow.

ETA: I also celebrated last night with a delightfully alchoholic root beer float:

Yummy yummy get in my tummy

Recipe is on my tumbr.

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Dear Blog

Dear blog,

I’ve missed you. I know, I know. I left you for Twitter and I’ve dallied with Tumblr for years as well. I truly love microblogging and I left you in the dust.

I really do love it.

That being said, there are some things only a blog can do. I miss writing “Profiles in (Fictional) Knitting” for the late lamented Daily Chum and I’d like someplace to spew whatever incredibly pretentious thoughts careen through my head while I try to figure out how to write a book, and I frequently get annoyed at reviewers of just about anything because it seems like no one gets why things I love are great. I don’t knit as much or as steadily as I once did, a side effect of graduating school, working all day, and not watching much TV. It’ll still be a part of what goes on here, but less than it was in the past.

I also keep hearing that writers write better if they warm up and sell better if they engage.  So, dear blog, I’m giving this another go. I won’t commit to anything, I might lose interest again in about 10 minutes, but you are like a robot created by a very add scientist living alone on an asteroid, you don’t have anyone else to work on you, so you have to wait for me to get my butt in gear and work on you.

Thats more I’s than anyone should have to bear with, blog, so let’s close with the hope of more to come, forgetting how very often your author has abandoned you in the past.

Ever Cordially,

~Erin

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