Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where Ideas Come From

I've realized that not only have I not been writing, I also haven't been talking about writing. I guess those things sort of go together. This post was already half written, so if you were interested in how these weird story ideas end up in my head, hooray for you!

By far the easiest part of writing for me is getting that initial spark of an idea. I have dozens, possibly hundreds [I refuse to count them all up] of summaries, questions, characters, worlds, titles, scenes, etc. that could easily become their own story. Note I said story and not novel. Some of them are short story material, while I have only a few that would encompass a more lengthy series.

These have come from lots of different sources, all of which involve me spending a lot of time thinking and daydreaming and actual dreaming. Off the top of my head, I've been inspired by:
  • Clouds (twice)
  • Anthropology class
  • A circling helicopter
  • Other books
  • Hypothetical questions
  • Bizarre dreams
  • Quotes
  • Road signs
  • The Russian Revolutions
I promise, this is the short list. I could go on and on. As one of my favorite authors, Maria V. Snyder, put it in this interview, life itself is fodder for stories.

Case in point:

[My mother walks into the room after retrieving the mail.]

Me: Is there anything good?

Mumsy: [pause while she sorts through all the junk mail] Manatees?

Me: [considering] How do you know they're good though? What if manatees were secretly trying to take over the world? Wouldn't that be cool?!

I need to mention manatees more often so I can justify posting adorable pictures.
Sometimes Most of the time inspiration strikes at the most random moments.

However, this little speck of an idea does not translate to immediate best-selling author status. First you have to wade through all of these bits and pieces to find the ones that will really work. [My dreams are especially iffy in this aspect. Some of them are just too weird to be useable.] And then you have to have the patience to sit down and piece them all together. I'm having trouble being that patient.

Hopefully, one day I'll get an idea that's so good that I need to sit down and write 60,000 words in a month. Fingers crossed.

EDIT: I would have been happy to finish a book in a month. This fabulous author gets it done in a matter of days. You should read all her books. [And her blog, she's rather hilarious.]

Sunday, January 15, 2012

This I Believe... Food

This title has been sitting, lonely, for the past two months, just waiting for me to finally get around to articulating my thoughts on our nation's food practices.

And they aren't very positive thoughts.

I decided to write this post, way back in November, after watching the documentary Food, Inc. in my nutrition class. [Interestingly enough, some of the GM/Monsanto stuff I had learned in my sustainable textiles class last spring.] I've talked to a lot of people who've already seen it, but for the lucky ones who haven't, this is what you're missing out on:

I, honestly, don't want to know this kind of stuff about what I'm eating. I'd rather be blissfully unaware of animal mistreatment, the use of hormones and pesticides, unsanitary practices, etc. It's always easier not to know, and therefore not to care.

But now that I do understand just how messed up our food industries are, what am I doing different?

Not much.

The problem, as brought up at the end of the film, is that better food costs more. I certainly try to avoid fast food and actually eat healthy, but with a college-student budget I can't be buying organic food all the time. I try to avoid overly processed food, although I can't resist the temptation to eat junk food when someone else offers it to me.

If I could afford it, I would shop exclusively at places like Whole Foods and Central Market. How ironic it is that the people at the top of the corporations selling us cheap [in quality and in cost] food don't have to eat their own products.

It would be really nice if government agencies and policy ignored the industry giants and decided to really promote healthy eating. You wouldn't think the obesity epidemic would need to get worse for this to happen. If they subsidized fresh fruits and vegetables and organic or sustainable farms. If they supported farmer's markets and locally grown food. [When we were in Wisconsin, we toured a sustainable dairy farm. It was pretty cool and profitable. They even gave us free ice cream sandwiches.]

Of course, that would mean the government would have to care more about consumers [the 99%] than giant corporations and their lobbyists. I wish I could be optimistic about this - I mean, Obama is sort of a consumer-issues president, with the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - but I can't see the situation changing any time soon.

And besides, I won't be living here much longer. I suppose I should find out what the food practices are like in Eastern Europe and South America...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Fictional Idol

Oh dear goodness.

This is the reason I read. The reason crazy people work crazy hard on crazy books and then deal with all the hassle and waiting and rejection that is publishing.

My darling sister once (recently) made fun of me for reading "silly" books. There's nothing wrong with reading literature or the classics or whatever you want to categorize as "not silly" books. But I can assure you - really assure you - that commercial/entertaining/silly books are just as meaningful and deep as those serious, esoteric novels.

I've read quite a few of these very well-done, highly intelligent books recently. Anna and the French Kiss, The Dark and Hollow Places, and Supernaturally aren't simply about kissing or escaping zombies or paranormals [kissing]. They're about finding a home, for the most part. They're also about the mistakes we make and the beliefs we hold and the people we meet along the way. Basically, about humanity. That's why I liked them so much.

And then we come to today. And oh my goodness the magic is just seeping through me making it impossible not to tell you how amazing The Goblin War is. MAGICAL. AMAZING. OMG. [I should remember this I-have-to-write feeling the next time I'm sitting not knowing what to write in my own book experiment...]

I've already mentioned how much I love this series and author. I love it for the plot and the world and Hilari Bell's awesome writing and the characters. The characters. I realize I may sound completely insane, but these people and goblins (the goblins!) are some of my greatest heroes. I wish so desperately that they were real so that I could meet them.

Most especially Makenna. [Yes, the one I'm naming my first kid after.] I didn't realize until just now, finishing this book, that my obsession with her is due to the fact that I'm just like her - or at least hope to be. She's [a misanthrope who saves humankind], uncompromising in her loyalty to her goblin friends/army, brilliant in her strategy, and always fights for those who don't have anyone fighting for them.

And she wins.

That's what I'm most afraid of in the future: that all my dreams and work and everything will have been useless. That I'll fail in attempting to finish my Personal Legend. (Oh, The Alchemist. Another inspiring book.) Sure, the attempt is worth a lot, but succeeding is worth so much more.

For Makenna's successes, I'm willing to put up with all the stupid happy endings literature has to offer.

I think it's good to have role models wherever you can find them - in real life, in gossip magazines, in silly books, in scholarly papers. Makenna, and all her literary and real comrades, is someone I know I can turn to for a bit of humor, a bit of steel, and a whole lot of dedication to my cause.

So I will proudly keep reading and writing silly Young Adult novels that mean a whole lot more to me than a bunch of intellectual tomes.

[My word count, for those of you keeping track, is still the same BUT I have been working on the book. In a non-writing way. While I get back into the swing of getting things done. And quit making excuses. I am also trying to figure out a way to put it in a sidebar so I don't have to keep tacking it onto the ends of all my posts.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Big Brother is Already Watching

It's already the 11th? Yeah, still not turning on my laptop much. On the plus side, I've been reading and sleeping more than getting on the Internet.

Speaking of which - I think it's really creepy that these are the kinds of ads that show up on Facebook.

Even the game says "Beware."
The vaccine one I don't understand, but all the others are directly related to pages I like, my stated religion, and even this blog. Linking to my blog posts has tipped Facebook off to my publication aspirations (although they are several years ahead of themselves in advertising book publishing when I haven't even written one book).

Facebook should not know these things about me! Advertisers should not know these things about me! If I didn't rely on it so much to communicate and keep up with other people, I'd delete my Facebook in an instant. I've thought about it many times but never followed through.

I know the whole personalized ads thing is really old news, but it still bothers me.

There are a lot of things that I love about the Internet, things I say I can't live without. However, there's a big tradeoff to these - privacy. It terrifies me to think that people can easily find my address, phone number, hometown, school, social security number with just a little digging and clever hacking. Contemporary America is a scary, scary place.

Yet another reason I love reading (specifically fantasy) so much: people in books have an easier time reinventing themselves or disappearing without a trace.

More Blessed Word Count: 17,599

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Laptop, Reemerging

I've created a monster.

Not a literal monster of course. A literary monster, in the form of my previously mentioned little sister.

[This monster talk reminds me of the soundtrack our director put together when we performed The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds in high school. (By the way, this is the most heartbreaking, beautiful play I have ever been a part of. If it's ever playing near you, go see it. And then think of me playing Janice Vickery.) This was my song:

Sorry there's no visual to go along with it. The live version was harder to hear.]

It seems I sparked something in her little brain last month when I showed her all the research and notes that have gone into More Blessed - namely, a map and some ancestry trees. Now she's gone and started her own book (and at a slightly younger age than I started, too!) with it's own cut-and-paste Europe map and some strange families/characters.

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, this kid has been buttering me up for the past couple of years. She started theater in middle school (just like me), absolutely love architecture and houses (me too!), plays handbells (this one really goes to my mom), is a picky eater (although worse than I am), etc.

Although considering how many times she bit/hit/yelled at me not-so-long-ago, maybe I deserve some flattery now :)

More Blessed Word Count: 17,029

You know how excited I was to write a ton over winter break? Yeah, that hasn't happened. My only excuse is that I haven't turned my laptop on for days (allowing me time to hang out with family and read a bunch of books). Making a resolution to waste less time on the Internet has the unexpected consequence of also spending less time writing. I'll be working on re-motivating myself in my last week and a half of freedom from school.

Also, Happy New Year! I just realized this is January's first post.