Monday, April 25, 2016

Taking Stock: April 2016




Surviving: Finals. Somehow.
Writing: Much more regularly. I’m not turning out any masterpieces here, but just producing a bit of something more or less every day has been wonderful.
Reading: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire, Under the Jolly Roger by L.A. Meyer.
Watching: Law & Order: SVU. Police procedurals are my kryptonite, and Law & Order is especially addictive. Movie-wise, I saw The Judge (good) and This Is Where I Leave You (very good).
Feeling: Sad that the semester’s ending and I’ll have three months with no assigned reading or papers. I never thought I would be, but I am.
Noticing: Pots full of flowers on doorsteps in the town where I go to college.
Appreciating: Warmer weather. It’s finally started to feel like spring.
Drinking: Way too much soda and not enough tea.
Eating: Homemade Napoleon Cake. It was delicious!
Admiring: The “Batman Through the Years” mug at my college bookshop which I won’t buy because it’s a waste of money...but it’s Batman. On a mug.
Listening: To “Someday” by Steve Earle, “Home” by American Authors, and “If I Had a Heart” by Fever Ray.
Launching: The Comics Cafe, a new blog for reviewing and/or gushing over comics! It’s still very much under construction, but you can take a look here.
Picture sources: X, X, X

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Publication News: "A Forest of Bones"

Back in November, I blogged about my short story Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, “A Forest of Bones”. Since then I’ve rewritten it at least four times, and went from liking it to loving it to hating it and back to liking it again. This story put me through the wringer, and I’m so happy to be able to say that it’s finally been published!

Quail Bell Magazine publishes both “real” and “unreal” stories. Some seriously talented writers have been featured on their website, so be sure to check it out.

I’ve already talked a bit about the inspirations behind “A Forest of Bones”--visually, it was very much inspired by Kay Nielsen’s illustrations and the whole baroque/rococo-type look. Starting out, I didn’t have a specific image or sentence in mind, just a feel--I wanted something pale, pretty, flowery, but also dark and spindly. The story really took off when I came up with the last sentence and the naming scheme. Each princess is named after a specific virtue, so you begin with Mild and end with Noble. I knew that Mild would be the main character, and I knew that neither she nor her love interest, the soldier, would be especially young or beautiful.

Here is the music I listened to while editing, and here is the Pinterest board. You can read the full story here.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Book Pile: Comics Edition

I was incredibly snooty about comics when I was younger, so I didn’t read my first graphic novel (In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang)  until last year. Right now I’m mostly devouring superhero comics, and while my reading has been pretty one-sided so far (mostly DC, mostly Batman), I’d like to share my favorites.

Watchmen---Dr Manhattan, The Comedian, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias, Captain Metropolis, Nite Owl, and the wonderfully sociopathic Rorshach,:

Watchmen by Alan Moore
Not for the faint of heart. I think this was the second comic I read, mostly because I’d heard it was A Book That Smart People Read and I’d like to think I’m a Smart Person. It was a bit of a baptism by fire, but I loved it. None of the characters are especially good (with the exception of both Nite Owls, I think) but all of them are more than what they first appear to be. Some parts are very dense, some parts are very basically everything I like. :)

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo
It’s A Christmas Carol...with Batman! The artwork is gorgeous and the story feels both perfectly Christmassy and perfectly Batman-y. It’s also told from the point of view of one of the Joker’s (reluctant) henchman, which makes for a nice perspective flip. There’s no way you can get through this without feeling warm and fuzzy by the end.

All Stars Batman and Robin by Jim Lee:

All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder by Frank Miller
This is probably the worst comic book--make that the worst book--that I have ever read. It’s also hilarious. The artwork is beautiful when it’s not ridiculously fanservice-y, but even it couldn’t save lines like this: “They call me the Joker, but I’m not very funny.” In fact, Batman comes across as the real psycho in this story; instead of watching him and Robin bond, you’re just praying the poor kid will come out alive. So, yeah, this isn’t a good book by any means, but it’s not one you’ll soon forget, either.

Batgirl (Cassandra Cain):

Batgirl: Silent Knight by Kelley Puckett
I already gushed about this one on Goodreads, so all I’ll say here is that Cassandra Cain has been my favorite Batgirl since way before I read any comics, and her story was everything I’d hope it would be. I can’t wait to get my hands on volume 2!

Li'l Gotham by Dustin Nguyen:

Li’l Gotham by Dustin Nguyen

Possibly my favorite Batman comic ever. These are adorable, pretty and so, so funny. My favorite part is when Batman and all the Robins get together to make dinner for Alfred on Father’s Day. There’s also a Valentine’s issue (the Joker gets sprayed with a love potion that makes all the female villains fall madly in love with him) and a Mother’s Day issue (Damien and Batman go to visit Talia al Ghul and end up fighting zombies). This is Everything's Happy and Nothing Hurts: the Series.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Being Productive

Before we get started, let me just say this: “productivity” isn’t my natural state of being. My natural state of being would probably involve me in my bedroom at 10:00 am with the shades pulled down, binge watching Netflix and stuffing my face. Or rereading my favorite books and moping because I’ll never be as good a writer as S.E. Hinton (DUH). Loving other people’s stories is a whole lot easier than writing your own.

Because, honestly, writing can get tedious. No matter how much I love doing it, it’s hard to stare at the computer for an hour and come away with (if I’m lucky) one or two pages. Then get up at next day and do it all over again. Rinse, wash, repeat.  I’m not a finish-a-book-in-a-month type of writer, and I don’t think I ever will be.

My solution for that is working on more than one project. Focusing on just one story at a time has never ended well for me; I get perfectionistic and claustrophobic and just want to backspace all the way to page one. Spreading myself around stops me from obsessing too long over any one story.

I also play certain songs over and over again until they fade into a nice background track--right now I’m listening to “Roses” by The Chainsmokers. “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” by U2 and (weirdly) “Life on Mars” by David Bowie are two of my favorite motivational songs. Plus there’s always “Try” by P!nk. I’m a visual thinker, which means half the time I’ll be tearing my hair out because I know exactly how everyone in a scene should look and move, but it’s not playing out right on paper. Having a soundtracks helps.

 So does journaling. Since college my entries have been few and far between, but I do try to keep track of what I’m writing (or why I’m not writing). Reading books about writers inspires me--I just finished The Art of Neil Gaiman, which is a beautiful book (fair warning: it includes a bunch of examples of his earlier work, some of which is pretty disturbing). I can’t see an empty notebook without wanting to fill it up with something.

And when all of that fails, I write. Right now I’m working on three different projects--a short story I need to polish, another one I’m drafting, and the very start of what I hope will be a much longer project. They all have bits of things that I love in them--ghosts and magic and horror and family--and so far they’ve all been flowing, which is wonderful. I’m not bouncing-of-the-walls giddy with joy, but I am satisfied, and that’s the most wonderful feeling.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the right ideas will stick with you, and they’re worth slogging through on the hard days. You can be unsentimental with them and just write, because they’re the ones that you need to finish, no matter what.

How do you guys stay productive?

Picture credit: X