Friday, September 21, 2012

Short Story Television

I've only watched one episode, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of Science Channel's re-airing of Steven Hawking's Sci-Fi Masters.  I don't know how many of you watched it when it first aired. Or watched Rod Serling's Twilight Zone or Night Gallery.  The Outer Limits was another one.  These were television shows that featured short stories by the likes of Harlan Ellison and Serling himself.   Twilight Zone in particular featured stories that left you with something to think about. This is what I like best about science fiction.  Stories that raise questions, that expose the ideas behind the concepts we take for granted.

Watchbird, the first episode, took our anxieties about surveillance and the role of the government in keeping us safe, to a conclusion. What the conclusion is depends on what question you ask..  In the episode, the question is taken to the personal.  Who is ultimately responsible for what happens to what we create?  That's the question we ask about science often.  Who is responsible and how are we held accountable?

I don't know what the next episode asks.  Looking forward to it though. 

On the other hand, I was watching the Oscar-nominated shorts when the universe conspired with itself to line up Time Freak with my writing this blog post.  Love their answer to the question, "What do you think will really happen if someone masters time travel?"  Funny movie. 

That's what I love about spec fic. The variety of the questions and the breadth of the answers.  Meanwhile, I have a new bunch of authors to get to know.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Starting Over, Over again...

OK back to writing about writing.

I stopped because I was actually writing. Really. Put words on paper in the kind of order that encourages someone to follow them to the end. At least that is what I've been told about my writing.  It's readable.  And that is a good thing.

As for the other parts of writing, the revision and submission parts. Not so good.  I have a portfolio of stories, several drafted novels, tons of great ideas and not much completed. Oh, and I left out the poetry.  Not to mention all the other unfinished projects I've devised and begun.

Beginning to get a picture here?

Lots of beginning again.  Lots of something else that I have not put my finger on yet. It's not quite procrastination. It's something more subtle than that.  And that subtle this is what the Alchemist is good for.

I've brought it back to life, the concept of the Alchemist as a real-life character playing out an Adventure.  I had not considered what my next NaNo novel would be and it came to me that I could write her story, the story of the Alchemist Bard and it would be also about me.  Not literally. That would be really, really boring.  But, about the things I have a problem with.  Again, not literally. That wouldn't help me one bit.

I have this idea that putting what we know into story form gives us the perspective we need to see ourselves more clearly.  That is the idea behind writing to learn stuff.  I did it when I created Pod, one of my novel characters.  Created him in order to learn about language learning. He even ended up having a starring role in the final paper I wrote for that English composition class (if fact, the paper stalled until I surrendered to the Call to put him in the paper).

For some reason, I followed a blog link on Holly Lisle's forum and fell in love with the writer's process.  She writes about the work she is doing in the clinics she's taking from Holly.  I had been thinking all week that I need to do something like that, write out my process.  Another manifestation of the Alchemist Bard is as an RPG, role playing game, character. That one is really me.  Seriously. I am mentioning it now because there is, in the gaming world, a version of writing about the writing process. They are called "adventures" and they are little stories that help a dungeon master create plays for particular "campaigns".  Campaigns are the epics that players come to week after week and adventures are the episodes that make up the campaigns. That's my take on it, anyway.  For the moment.

All of the definitions are probably going to change as I adapt D&D to living my own life as an Adventure.  Why? Because I need the help.  Back to starting over again.  When what you are doing doesn't work, you need to try something else or drive yourself crazy.  So, in an effort to not be crazy, I am trying something else.  Using the system of leveling up and gaining experience points from D&D (by the way that's Dungeons and Dragons. Sorry), I'm setting up goals and intentions for this campaign of living my life better.

Why an RPG?  Ahh. That question is better answered by an expert, Jane McGonigal.

And I just got another answer, a more alchemical one.  Because I am a Dragon and I need to be freed from my own dungeon.  That's the campaign.  Now, for the Adventures!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Making things up...

I gave in.  I bought two Neil Gaiman short story collections: Fragile Things, and Smoke and Mirrors.  The only reason I haven't owned his short fiction before is that I didn't want to be influenced by his writing. Until I was ready.

I'm ready now.  I have enough of my own writing piled up to know who I am and who I want to continue to be.  I am a Gaiman fan in that I sit back and watch from the sidelines, watch the off-stage gestures.  I ask, "Is this a life I want?" and wonder if the answer will ever be yes, or no.  I've kept away from his short fiction because he draws from a place that attracts me as well.  And, I have a middling capacity for accents.  I'm not a perfect mimic, but sometimes, when it's close enough to how I write naturally, someone else's voice slips out.

Oh well.  Better here than on the page.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Alchemy as transformation

Not much to this post, really.  Just setting a set of parameters.

image from

I've declared this blog to be related in some way to alchemy.  The usual understanding of alchemy is that is has a relationship to chemistry.  Of course there is the lead to gold thing. Then there's the Philosopher's Stone and eternal life.  Neither of those is what I have considered as the guidance of alchemy.

When I was trying to define my experiences, the ones that seemed to be better addressed in some fantasy and science fiction stories, I focused on magic as a concept. Then I wondered about alchemy and its contribution to the ideas about magic.  From what I've discovered about the actual practice of alchemy, the work of transforming material from one state to another, the one quality that stood out was patience.  Patience and focus.

In the age of sub-atomic physics, the role of the alchemist is that of maintaining the same state of attention throughout one entire phase of the transformation.  We know from experience that maintaining one state of attention can be difficult.  We have all kinds of distractions and doubts.  But, if you consider that a shift in attention might change a process at a subatomic level, distractions and doubts might be a problem.

So, what do you do?  You do the work to eliminate as much doubt and distraction as you can.  That might seem like some kind of psychological claptrap, but, if you consider that we are a collection of electromagnetic (E-M) fields, that E-M fields can and do disrupt chemical processes, then, if there is a way to assess and change the condition of the field, it might be a good thing to do.

Hence, alchemy.  Alchemy, when it is considered as a personal transformation practice, is a way to influence our experience of our reality to the better.

That's my definition as I practice it. I don't practice Alchemy, though.  I write stories, investigate daydreams, study to practice a philosophy called Huna.  All of which include practices that might be considered bardic.  Together, there is a way down the middle that suggests storytelling is a convenient means to transforming ourselves, a form of alchemy.

I will be working this out over time.  Alchemy. Storytelling. Transformation.  Fun and play, if you ask me, though.  Looking forward to having more fun.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just Showing Up

That is all. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the infiltration of the spirit of creativity and the power of just showing up and what to do when showing up is not enough.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Practicing the Art of the Short Story

My focus this year is short fiction. Why? Because I have seven NanoWrimo drafts and one Savvy draft that I need to untangle and work in to proper novels. I would go nuts if that was all I was going to work on. Too many ideas running through my head. Then, I started putting characters from the novels into short fiction and discovered whole new ways to indulge my personal world visitations. Also, I have created a couple of characters that live and practice in my world, my real world, and they have taken on a life of their own, wanting me to tell more and more of their stories.

All of this has led me to take more classes in which the short form is the medium of craft investigation.

I have already drafted and or finished seven stories this month with a couple of craft investigations. I have almost a dozen first drafts of shorts and more than that if I include the flash fiction attempts. At the moment, as I am writing this, I am also listening to (the first go-through) of a seminar on the short story: Narrative Espresso from Story Wonk.

Wow! I've only gushed about one other podcast and that was Brenda Dayne's Cast On, a podcast about knitting. If I tell you that all my worlds and most of my stories include some form of needlework, gushing over a knitting podcast makes sense. I hope. Then, I discovered Story Wonk and fell in love with another podcast. It's not just the personalities, although Lani and Alastair are wonderful to listen to and make me smile a lot. Both podcasts are sources of information that entertain me, that enhance my pleasure in the craft and art of their topics. More than that, though, both podcasts inspire me to continue to work on aspects of my interest that might be tedious, inspire me to keep going when I might want to give up. For Cast On, it's the pursuit of lace knitting. For Story Wonk, it's the pursuit of the craft of writing. Both require a kind of focus that I do not usually have.

So, that's the point. I've never really made that connection before: Lace knitting and short fiction are both about learning to develop my focus. In Huna, my alchemical training, one of the principles is
Energy flows where attention goes
and its directive is
Be Focused
Focusing attention strengthens my ability to focus. And being able to focus for increasing lengths of time gives me the confidence that I can accomplish the tasks of transformation, of making the world a better place, that I design.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Editing Bard

I'm at the stage, in a couple of workshops over at Savvy Authors, where I need to pay attention to the worlds I have created, and the texts I've documented them in.

That's just a fancy way of saying, I need to remember how I spelled the name of my main character and whether I capitalize Alchemist Bard or keep it lower case and when.

I was working on my copy editing skills and discovered a wonderful tool: the style sheet!

It's a professional tool created by the copy editor when she is combing the tome for the non-obvious inconsistencies. I was going to make a post for my fellow authors who are just beginning a guided adventure through the editing process. I realized, as I was going sifting the web for examples and comments, that my search would better suit a blog post. So, here it is.

Ann Aubrey Hanson
For my work, I use a two-level style sheet, one with formatting, punctuation, and spelling decisions in the top portion, and with an alphabetical list of words in the bottom portion. The alphabetical list allows me to quickly find and verify the spelling of any unusual or foreign words or proper names I find in the manuscript.

I have a habit of not putting in commas where I know they belong. After "said", for instance. That would be the very first entry on my style sheet. Why would I have a style sheet if it's a professional tool? Because I write speculative fiction, for one. I make up worlds as well as stories. Even when I don't make the world up, I need to know what I intend, or how I construct my voice when I'm writing.

For me, the style sheet is a window into my writing style. I notice, for example, that I use lots of words that could be either compounded (stylesheet), hyphenated (style-sheet), or written separately (style sheet). Having such a document would encourage me to be consistent.

Here's a post from working copy editor, Deanna Hoak, who works in speculative fiction, where she explains what a copy editor does. The comments are fun to read. Geeks abound! She also links to a post where she opens a discussion about whether or not an author should provide their own style sheet. Hoak doesn't like it, but there were a couple of comments in favor.
I'm fine with the author making decisions of usage for me, rather than my having to puzzle out what it is I think they want.

For the new series I did include a style sheet, which I used throughout writing the book to try to keep myself consistent. I put a note saying "In case of inconsistent spellings or usage, this is what I intended" on the style sheet.
Author Mary Robinette Kowal links to a style sheet created by Hoak, and Elizabeth Bear has a wonderful rant on a portion of one of her own style sheets.

So, how am I going to do this? First, I'm going to reprogram (or re-program) my word processor. I can make it do wonderful things like remember how I like to spell "worldbuilding" and not keep red-lining it. That reminder comes from Writer Services. Next, I'm going to make a style sheet document, mostly like the one I found on No. 2 Pen. She had me at:
...a style sheet can help streamline the editing process
With seven novels in a series, one book of three intended, and several short stories and poems, I need all the streamlining help I can get.

I'll share more as I get on with the process.

Being an alchemist is sometimes about allying with the process, taking it in its own time. Immersion. Putting together my own style sheets will eventually bring me into my own style guide. I will know myself better as a writer, but also as a person. The work will flow more easily because I will have metabolized it.