Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Empathetic Sadist

Blogging friend and fellow writer Krystal Jane has mentioned more than once in her posts that she is a character-driven writer. I think this means that she creates her characters first (or they instantaneously leap into her mind and demand to be written), and then she proceeds to find or fabricate the story world that would best serve these larger than life personalities. 

I'm the complete opposite. I guess you could call me a story-driven writer. I come up with my story concept first (which usually starts with a what-if scenario--i.e. "What if there was a society in which everyone could, with a single touch, transfer their pain?") and then proceed to create the characters that would best fit my concept. In other words, unlike Krystal, I've never had a character "demand" to be written (kind of sad, actually). A story concept, yes. A character, no.

Until now.

For the first time ever, I am being stalked by a character. I am so in love with him, but sadly I have nowhere to put him. I am tentatively calling him Grayden, but that might change later. Grayden was partially inspired by Eric's E-mails to Young Damsels (I suspect Eric is also a character-driven author), and partially inspired by a flash fiction piece I wrote last year called The Apathetics. I'm going to give a quick profile about Grayden, but first I have to start by defining two key terms:

em·path noun \ˈempaTH\ (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.  
sa·dist noun \ˈsā-ˌdi-zəm, ˈsa-\: a person who derives enjoyment from being violent or cruel or from causing pain.

Okay, where am I going with this...? Well, Grayden is a sadist in love with my MC, Audrina. He is constantly visualizing the disturbing things he wants to do to her, and is very open and honest in communicating his fantasies with her in conversations similar to this:


Audrina: "Whatcha drawing?" 
Grayden: "Oh, just a little sketch of you tied to a tree and me whipping you with a switch." 
Audrina (leaning in): "Are those needles on the tip of the switch?" 
Grayden (coughing): "Uh, yes. Sorry." 
Audrina: "Oh. Okay." (pauses). "You want to go to the movies later?" 
Grayden: "Sure."

See, the catch is, Grayden is also an empath...which is why Audrina is so inordinately calm with him. He can never act on his sadistic fantasies, because his ability to apprehend the emotional state of others causes him to feel the anxiety/fear his pain is causing them. And sadly, he has no masochist tendencies. That is--while inflicting pain on others excites him, he hates enduring pain himself, so he is unable to act on his primal sadistic urges (kind of like someone who loves chocolate but can't indulge in it due to an agonizing cavity). Audrina is fully aware of Grayden's most-contrary psychosis and has remained his one true friend (though I'm not sure if her caring for him will ever translate to romantic feelings).

Okay, I wrote a whole bunch more about Grayden and Audrina (including some exposition discussing how the two met and how Audrina discovered Grayden was, well, crazy), but realized I was getting carried away ranting about two characters who I probably won't be able to accommodate into a story for another decade. So I'll just sum up by saying I love the impossible complexity of Grayden. I love the challenge of trying to translate his very disturbed character into a protagonist, along with the dynamic of the reader trying to figure out whether he's a good guy or a bad guy. Also, I'll have to decide how far to let Grayden's fantasies go or how often he "slips" (i.e. sometimes I'll push through that toothache to enjoy a piece of chocolate...will Grayden be tempted to do the same?). But his character is way too colorful to not write into a story...someday.

In other news, I'm still trudging through revisions of my MS, and I hereby take back every nice thing I have ever said about this process. I sort of hate revising with a white hot searing passion. I'm getting ready to start my fifth (or is it sixth?) rewrite of DoT's final chapter, and the good news is I think I came up with an approach for that chapter that will solve most of its problems. The bad news is I'll probably end up throwing my laptop off a balcony before I see it through.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Art of Unsexiness


This is a clip of Carrie Heffernan on King of Queens, attempting to pole dance for Doug. It is painful to watch. Poor Carrie has no idea how to be seductive. Sadly, she reminds me of me. Not because I've pole danced before (I haven't. Not on purpose). But because I am the unsexiest person. Okay, this is only amusing because, like Carrie, I have a relatively fit body that should lend me at least a little sex-appeal, but my clumsiness and general lack of seductive know-how (or whatever you call the female equivalent of 'game') totally detract from that.

Last night was a perfect example of this. I decided to try on three sets of lingerie Clint had ordered for me. While I tried on each piece inside the bathroom, he sat waiting, ready to enjoy my fashion show. The following is more or less what he heard through the bathroom door:

Okay, babe, I'm trying on the first one...
(banging noises, possible cupboard doors slamming) Almost there...
Wait--why is there an extra hole?
Damn it--
(more banging) Okay, I think I've got it...
Crap, where am I supposed to put THAT?
No, this isn't right...
You're still there, right?
(muttering) If I put this leg here, and that one here...Okay, GOT IT.

*Saunters out gracefully, like the whole process was a breeze*

At least I didn't hurt myself through this process by, I dunno, stabbing myself with a knife or something. Oh wait--YES I DID. Lingerie attempt #2 went something like this:

Alright babe, I'm putting on the second one...
Oh, this one is really cute!
Hold, on, I just have to figure out how to strap this thing-a-ma-jigger...
Oh, I think I got it...
Wait--why the hell would they put a tag there? No, no, no, that's a terrible spot for a tag. Do you have a knife...? I need to cut this sucker off...
(knife passed through door) (banging) Hon, you need to sharpen this knife. It's completely dull--
(giant bang)
FUCK.
(metal object clatters to floor)
(hubby cries out "Are you okay?")
(pause) (then singsong voice) Yeah, everything's going great!
(more slamming, clanking)
Um, do we have any band-aids?

*Saunters out gracefully again, looking hot as all get-out in skimpy lace garments accessorized with massively bloody thumb*

I never did get to lingerie attempt #3. By this point I was worried I'd burn the house down.

Maybe I should take lessons from Doug?


I swear the dude would get more tips than I would.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Horror-Phobic

You guys know I hate horror, right? Blood and gore...can't do it. Which makes no sense, because I wasn't raised as some thin-skinned sissy lala. Seriously, Shan and I could wrangle spiders and hold snakes and weren't afraid to get down and dirty. We were the ones out in the desert building forts--never playing with dolls--and refusing to cry if we skinned our knees (my sister broke her entire femur bone once and never so much as shed a tear). So I'm not sure where this very 'girl-like' aversion to horror comes from. When I was little, my mom loved horror movies. Not that she was really into meaningless slasher flicks or paranormal horror (like Nightmare on Elm Street...remember that one? I still remember some chick getting eaten by her mattress), but she loved anything having to do with serial killers preying on guileless young women (seriously, this was my dear, sweet mother--what is WRONG with her?). Anytime the butcher scenes would flicker across the screen, I would dive under the blankets, clamping my eyes shut and covering my ears. Or I would run out of the room completely. My mom would playfully laugh and holler out "Come on, it's all just fake!" And I knew she was right; I knew it was fake. But such scenes didn't simply gross me out. They actually made me feel sick and miserable. And I wasn't the only one who suffered from horror-phobia as a child; Shan was the same way.

You would think as adults we would have grown out of this. You know...gain enough life experience to be able to separate fantasy from reality. But no. I might actually be worse as an adult, maybe because after years of convincing myself that I can't cope with horror, I've deepened my own psychosis. But whatever its roots, things get bad for me very fast if I happen to catch a glimpse of a grisly, gory death on television. First I get that miserable, sickened feeling, and I feel like I can't stop myself from internalizing what's happening on the screen, even though I know it's not real. I anguish over the character being hurt/tormented, and if I can't turn the channel fast enough, I'll start breathing hard, sweating, and going into some sort of panicked state of paralysis (my damn 'deer in headlight' issue). If for some God-forsaken reason I still can't change the channel (remember, I'm paralyzed now, and the kids probably hid the remote in the fridge), then I would be forced to curl into the fetal position and scream out ridiculous chants or nursery rhymes (i.e. "Cinderella-dressed-in-yella-went-upstairs-to-kiss-a-fella...") until the scene is over (or until someone goes to to get a slice of cheese and finds the remote). By this time, I'm probably shaking and feeling like I'm about to throw up.

And this is coming from the person who didn't break a sweat through a 7.4 earthquake and didn't bat an eye when she had to clean maggots out of an injured chicken's butt.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

But, I am proud to say I wouldn't be writing this post if there wasn't some hope. I did discover recently that my steadfast Just-Say-No-to-Horror rule does have an exception or two.

Exception #1: I can handle reading *some* horror if I know (as in, have socially interacted with) the author behind the spine-chilling story. Even if the story is something that would normally thrust me straight into a horror-phobic panic, somehow knowing the face behind the words takes away the threat. It's like I can suddenly "hear" what my mom kept trying to tell me all those years--"This is NOT REAL." Yes, I know now this is not real, because I can see the person who created it, and I can gasp at this hair-raising scene and yell at the author for writing such atrocities and tell him what a douche he was for making me feel petrified and have a big laugh about it. Phobia? GONE. Just like that. You can't be paralyzed by a spider in the midst of holding and playing with one. You can still be scared, but your fear can't win.

Exception #2: I can handle reading *some* horror if the writing is exceptional. The horror genre (like any genre) is flooded with bad writing. Sadly, even mediocre writing is bad writing when it comes to horror, given how easy it is for gory scenes to translate as cliche or contrived (there's only so many big-boobed blondes you can massacre before your readers start getting bored). But I discovered recently that horror in the context of beautiful writing can be intriguing as all get-out. It still leaves me unsettled, unnerved, and a whole slew of other "un--" words, I'm sure, but I can cope. And the story, for better or worse, leaves a lasting impression on me, which is what good writing should do.

The Christian in me, however, along with the person who inherently hates human torment being flaunted and trivialized, will never be okay with horror, and will never choose it as a genre. I believe evil is real, and I would no sooner dive into horror than I would sit in the middle of my tumbleweed-infested yard playing with matches. Horror reveals a side of human nature that I have no desire to explore, and once its dark fingers start reaching inside of you, I don't know how easy it is to yank them out.

But I have to admit the dark little artist in me--the same one who painted THIS--


--sees the appeal (and then gets disturbed by that fact, and runs away screaming).

That being said, I have to admit that I am massively addicted to a series being written by horror/erotica writer--and twitter friend--Eric Keys. Though he is only two installments in, he calls these posts "Emails to Young Damsels." In the series, Eric draws from his collective experience from past attractions/infatuations/loves-gone-awry to create letters (or e-mails) to someone he addresses as "Young Damsel." Even though he talks to this young damsel as if she were a singular person, she is actually a symbol of all the women (aka: 'young damsels' ) in his life who have left an imprint on him. Though these letters are not exactly horror, they are deeply unsettling, disturbing, and do touch slightly on horror elements (i.e. the first one is titled "Your Screams are Like Music"). And damn are they beautifully written. I think part of it is the shock factor. They read so much like love letters, written from an eloquent, wistful soul, until you suddenly get a fork thrust into your chest via unexpected lines that give you a glimpse into the madman behind the words. For example, the first Young Damsel letter contains this excerpt:
Not sure why your absence seems more deep, today. But it does. This past week I longed for one more conversation. I felt like all the loose threads from so long ago still dangle. How long has it been? Years? Decades? And yet it seems like just a handful of days. 
And yet, there seems an odd beauty in it all. Like the threads blowing about in the wind creates a more vital art than any tidily knitted rug would ever be. 
But I still wish you were here. Sometimes beauty is painful.
That line "Like the threads blowing about in the wind creates a more vital art...," just...wow. Frankly I find this entire excerpt to be pure poetry. Oh, but wait. It gets better. He follows it with this:
Anyway, you are out of my reach for now. Consider yourself lucky as I have dreamt up some lovely, hideous things to do to you. Oh, your screams would be like music.
Um, WHAT? Enter: Madman. It's sheer brilliance. To make you fall in love with this woebegone soul, only to blindsight you with his insanity. Some readers might even find themselves feeling a little jealous of the young damsel that incited such depth of emotion and expression from him...until those last two sentences. At that point, they're thinking "Run, Damsel, RUN."

A part of me feels guilty for loving these letters. I mean, let's face it, the narrator is a bit of a sadist with morbid fantasies about the "hideous" things he wants to do to his young damsel, and he clearly gets off on making her feel scared. But on some twisted level he deeply cares about her (them), which makes it hard to outright despise him. * In other words, he is the best villain EVER. The villain that you're not allowed to root for, but you do, secretly, anyway, hoping no one will know that you empathize with his plight.

So in my whole "Am I a terrible person for liking this stuff?" debate (this debate was with myself, so it was pretty lame as far as debates go), I came to this conclusion: It's okay for me to enjoy this series. Because writing is art. And art explores all facets of human nature. It's supposed to make us curious and disturbed and intrigued. Just like any sculpture or painting, it's okay for me to let my eyes travel over it, take it in, pull whatever meaning from it that I perceive, and walk away when I choose.

Or I'm probably a terrible person making excuses. But the above sounded pretty good, right?  


*Disclaimer: (If you decide to read the first two installments of Eric's "Emails to Young Damsels," please note that while he does draw on some real-life experiences, this series is a work of fiction. In real life Eric is a very stable, non-stalkery, unthreatening, self-proclaimed "softie").**

**(Although, no offense Eric, I still wouldn't want to run into you in a dark alley at night)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

WIPMarathon Report - August

In chapter one of my manuscript, my MC Taz complains that her driver's license is "growing stale and moldy from lack of use." The same is true about my manuscript. If it were a cracker you'd chip your tooth trying to eat it.

Translation: I've done nothing this month.

So onto my pitiful stats.

Last report word count + chapter count/scene count: 108,878. 

Current report WC + CC/ SC: 109,033. I don't know how it's possible that my book grew by 155 words considering I haven't touched the thing this month. Same thing happened last month. I think words jump into my manuscript while I'm sleeping.

WIP Issues This Month: The fact that my work in progress hasn't really been in progress is a pretty big issue. 

Part of my problem is I feel so discouraged about rewriting the last chapter. Every time I sit down to do it, I get this blech-feeling and I make excuses to do something else instead. But it needs to be done! And I feel like I can't really move on to anything else until I do it.  

What I learned this month in writing: Manuscripts can not be revised through osmosis, no matter how hard you try.

Also, THIS, which I am going to *try* to apply for the month of September:



What distracted me this month while writing: August is the month I go back to work. The first few weeks of school are so insane that writing is completely off the table. Now things are stabilizing, and I really want to get back into the writing-groove, but I have to figure out how to bust through this new habit I've developed of avoidance and force myself to type through the 'ick.'

Goal for next month: To have chapter 37 (my last chapter) completely rewritten and final revisions of the book underway. I really, REALLY want to have this book published by the middle of December. I'd be an awesome way to ring in the New Year, plus I could start 2015 with book 2 underway (Aviva's story).

Last 200 words: My last 200 words haven't changed in two months, so I'll go ahead and post an excerpt from the middle somewhere. How about something light that shows all four of the sisters? *searches MS* Okay, here we go:

     Phee’s eyes, still narrowed, turned toward the flowers. The block of ice liquefied, and what seemed like a gallon of water dumped down on the table. Krystal lunged backward, dropping the flowers and nearly falling out of her chair. The bouquet landed on the table with a slop and then burst into flames, turning the puddle of water around it into simmering, hissing, melted-ice-soup. 
     Maybe flowers weren’t the best idea.
     “Phee!” The three girls shouted at once. 
     She batted her eyes innocently. “What? He obviously knows about us. Might as well have a little fun.”
     Stryder looked fixedly at Phee, then reached for the pitcher of iced-tea on the counter. He dumped the tea over the bouquet-torch until there was nothing left but scorched tiger lily mush. Now would be a very bad time for Mrs. Aevos to walk back into the room. He wondered if the four sisters had any idea how closely their powers were tied to their emotions. 
    “Shall we wait for you to levitate them or vanquish them or whatever it is you do?” he raised his eyebrows at Aviva, “Or shall we call it a day?” 
  Aviva smiled, appearing unruffled by the fact that Stryder knew she was ‘gifted.’ Having missed out on the New Year’s Eve drama, she was clearly enjoying herself. 
     “I’m pretty sure this soggy mess is beyond even my abilities.”

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back to the Grind

I've officially been at work for two weeks now (and have neglected my blog for at least that long). My first day with students went well! Here's a quick summary of that first day:
  • The air conditioner in my classroom didn't work for half the day, then worked beautifully, then stopped working that afternoon (just in time for triple-digit temperatures).
  • My internet wouldn't work. Since we take attendance through an online system, you can see how this might be a problem. 
  • Our bells were't working. 
  • Our loud speaker wasn't working. Very convenient since our school uses the intercom system to instruct 7th graders where to go on their first day of school. Students are also led in the Pledge of Allegiance via the loudspeaker, so we were officially the most unpatriotic campus in America that week (though on day three it occurred to me that I could lead my own homeroom class in the Pledge).  
  • Our copy machines were not working. 
So that about covers it. I was surprised to discover that I loved not having bells! It was nice to not be at the mercy of some monotonous beep to decide when classes were over (though I did accidentally dismiss one class ten minutes early. Oops).

In addition to the first day of school hoopla, Clint and I have been in and out of the ER because Elijah was exhibiting symptoms resembling appendicitis and kept getting sent home by his school. It took three days before the ultrasounds revealed the culprit (what looks like an inflamed lymph node near the appendix). We seem to be out of the woods with all that now, but what an ordeal.

I have a new room this year, and I could not be happier with it. You see that door right there in the corner? (Ignore blanked-out poster--I had to censor that for privacy reasons).


That's an interior door leading to a small storage room--a space I share with two of my friends/coworkers, Naomi and Jen. Basically it's like a "secret passageway" into each other's rooms. Maybe it's typical for classrooms in the Midwest, East Coast, etc., to connect in a similar fashion, but it's rare at our school. 90-some percent of our classrooms are islands unto themselves, with only one door leading outside. Jen, Naomi, and I all teach 7th grade Language Arts, so this set-up is perfect for us to be able to pop in and out of each other's rooms throughout the day for quick collaboration (or just to say 'hi'). But for me, I love having colleagues right there that I get to see every day. It seems like such a small thing, but teaching can be a very isolating profession, and now I'm really enjoying that daily human-contact (okay, 7th graders are human too, sort of, but you get my point).

As far as writing goes, I haven't got anything done. I told myself I would allow myself a two week break from revisions so I could get reacclimatized with work. Now that two weeks is up, so I guess I better get crackin'.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Magical Pin

Imagine a "pin" gets repinned on Pinterest over 2000 times. What do you imagine that pin to be? Some awesome home decor item? A cover-release from Stephenie Meyer? An awe-inspiring tattoo from renowned tattoo artist so-and-so? (I really need to research stuff better before starting a post). Words of inspiration from Oprah?

WELL--I happen to have a pin on Pinterest that, as of right now, has been repinned 2,085 times. This amount seems absurd to me, especially given the fact that I am not an active Pinterest user, nor do I have bazillons of followers (unless 217 counts as a bazillion). But this pin gets repinned so many times on a daily basis that I actually had to turn off my real-time Pinterest notifications. 

Curious what it is? (Okay, you're not, because you've already seen the picture below, but pretend you can't see it and you're feeling all intrigued).

Drum roll please.........



Interesting, huh? Out of all the things that could ignite Pinterest-peeps' interest, for some reason THIS is the magical pin. And even I'll admit that this steampunk pistol looks pretty awesome. But, guys, this IS NOT A REAL GUN. I even made sure to clearly state so in my description--it's a laser light made to look like a gun. But people are re-pinning this thing left and right, plastering it all over their "Cool Firearms" wall, or "My Next Gun," or "Stuff I Can't Live Without," or whatever. Are they not paying attention to the description, or do they just not care?

Either way, I told myself if this pin worked its way to 2000 re-pins, I'd post it on my blog. Perfect timing too, because I'm still swamped with work and have no time to write anything meaningful.

You can view the actual pin here. Feel free to repin it yourself...and then you, too, can watch this sucker get repinned to high heaven.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Comic-Con 2014

I am SO swamped with work, but luckily I had this post on reserve (aka: sitting in "drafts" where I forgot to publish it):

I've noticed I have the tendency to avoid posts in which I have TOO much to say. Like our cruise to the Bahamas over Thanksgiving break way-back-when. We did sooooo much...everything from lounging on a beach right on an airport to visiting an iguana farm. But to write about it would take twelve pages! So I never wrote about it. Never posted pictures--nothing. A whole trip to three amazing islands with no record of it! It might as well have never happened.

Now I'm feeling that way about Comic-Con. Even though it was only a one-day event for us, it was ten straight hours of complete over-stimulation, and to write a blog entry about it would go on and ON. So I've been avoiding it.

In order to break this cycle (because even though recording family memories sometimes feels boring, three years later it's awesome to read them), I'm going to simply write down three things about Comic-Con. Three ONLY. My favorite thing, my least favorite thing, and what we'll do differently next time we attend.

And then of course I'll post a few pics.

Here we go:

My Favorite Thing about Comic-Con: This sounds funny, but I'd have to say the people. Comic-Con is ridiculously crowded--like, I can't believe it's legal to stuff that many people into one building. According to the news (I can't remember which station), over 160,000 attended Comic-Con this year. But, despite the crowds, everyone I encountered there was SO friendly, whether it be worker or attendee (except for the security guards--they could be jerks). Overall it was a very spirited, happy group of people.

Oh yeah, and the costumes! And all the awesome art! And all the freebies! (Okay, I'm trying to cheat by squeezing in more than one favorite thing, but I'm done now).

My Least Favorite Thing about Comic-Con: In addition to the above-mentioned crowds (seriously, by afternoon it was elbow-to-elbow gridlock), I hated the lack of seating. If you attend one of the panels, that provides you a great opportunity to sit down and relax for a little while. But in the convention hall itself, you're forced to walk around for hours amongst the various booths with no relief. There were a few tables near the snack bars, but they were always occupied. Always. And anytime we tried to sit down against the wall in one of the side-corridors, the security guards would come by and tell us that we needed to keep moving. At one point we had ordered a couple trays of nachos, and with no where to sit, we took our food outside of the main convention hall and sat against a wall FAR AWAY from foot-traffic to eat our food. We still had a security guard come hassle us, telling us we needed to move along. It was beyond frustrating, because there was no way to eat nachos while trying to balance our conference bags and purchases. We ended up having to exit the convention center completely just to sit down.  Because of teaching, I'm used to being on my feet all day, but even my legs were throbbing by the time we left. So if you ever attend Comic-Con, wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to be on your feet indefinitely.

What We will Do Differently Next Year: Despite the crowds and lack of seating, we still plan to go next year. The thing is, Comic-Con actually wasn't that crowded from 9:00 to about noon. At those hours, there were even tables still available near the Snack Bars. So next year, our plan is to go for three days instead of just one. The problem with this year is we only had ONE DAY, so we were forced to put up with a lot of craziness for the sake of getting to see everything. Going for three days will allow us to take our time, take breaks during the really busy hours, eat lunch at a "real" joint, return to our hotel as needed to recharge, etc. Overall it should provide us with a more relaxing experience. Clint already booked our hotel room, so we're ready to go.

Okay, some pictures:


Trin and I getting ready to leave--her as a TARDIS and me as a Dalek. 
Her wig only lasted about an hour, and I switched over to jeans and flip flops in our parking structure when I found out we were walking nine blocks.


We made it!


 Entering Comic-Con


 Arghhh, blurry. Clint and Elijah were characters from Assassin Creed. 



 Trinity was so thrilled to get her Welcome to Night Vale poster. She got it autographed later by four voice-actors of the cast, plus the creator of the show. According to her, it was the "best day EVER." She repainted her entire room this week to match her poster.


 Clint and his new BFF.


 One of Trin's best friends happened to be at Comic-Con the same day as us. The girls ran off on their own for awhile and had a blast,


Trin and Tris in one of their favorite booths: The Dr. Who store.


 Elijah in his favorite booth: Skylanders



View from the window of the Starbucks two blocks away from the convention center.



My favorite--the Outlander booth! I haven't even read this series, but I SURE AM now! (P.S. I love that young woman's quite authentic-looking period-dress).

Trin and I with an Outlander guy.







 Clint has had a down payment on one of these since March. It's called an Elio. He was so excited to discover they had one on display at Comic-Con.


That counted as only a few pics, right?

Okay, sticking with three things wasn't so bad.