Embarrassingly bad writing

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Buried in the bad writing you are about see is a story kernel I plan to go back to eventually, after some extensive worldbuilding. I thought I'd share it since many of my writer friends this week have been displaying embarrassing bits of their own early writing. This story got criticized for all the wrong things by classmates in my college creative writing class, and the actual problems ignored. Here is the first scene of Chapter One: The Rescue.

Garath thought he was going to die. The midday desert sun was searing his battered body. He was bruised all over from the beatings they had given him last night and again this morning before being disposed of out here in the desert. They expected that the sun and animals would finish him off quickly, but he had managed to hold out this long. He had to, or else he'd never find out why this had happened to him. He tried to think back to it. No! Too painful! Can't deal with it! I must find a way to survive first.

But how? They had given him just the thread-bare clothes on his back, a broken piece of mirror, and a pair of worn-out leather shoes. They had jeered at him as they hung that jagged fragment on his chest, telling him it was so he could see how much he had fallen. The mirror scratched his chest and kept flashing the sun in his eyes every time he looked down. The thong was too short for him to slip it over his head and his fingers too sore and tired to untie it. He had no shelter, no food, no water. He knew he had to find these things soon or her would die. The sun had stolen much of his moisture already. There was so little vegetation out here, no available water, and he felt like a parched weed rooted to the ground. He tried to slow his breathing to conserve moisture. He saw the Ajanta Mountains to the north. If only he could reach the mountains. He could find water and maybe even people to help. If only. What am I thinking? The mountain range might as well be the moon. I'll never make it that far in like this. But I've got to keep moving.

His thoughts spiraled back to the painful reason he was out here. Betrayed! Who did it? Who turned them against me? And why? All he could remember of last night was that whirl of hateful faces. He couldn't think straight; he was too tired, too thirsty, in too much pain. He couldn't understand; it made no sense. People who had been his trusting friends all his life had turned against him violently. From the whirl, only one face stood out. His fiancee, a large bruise darkening on one cheekbone, looked at him with fear and left him, forsaken. That was when the beatings began and despair enveloped him like quicksand.

He forced himself past the heartbreak and back into the present. In getting up, his body shrilled with pain. He couldn't tell exactly how badly he had been beaten but knew that he was in poor shape. His ankle had twisted under him when he fell from the morning's rough treatment, and his arm hung awkwardly at his side. The pain from the attacks blended in with the pain from the fierce sunburn. Looking around again, he saw the Ajanta Mountains still beckoning him with the promise of safety but still out of reach. Just to the east of the range he noticed what appeared to be an oasis. It was probably a mirage or a trick of his suncrazed mind. But since he had no better choice of direction, he staggered toward it--hoping.

That's all I'm going to make you suffer through. I'm sure you noticed a vast number of rookie mistakes. Passive sentences galore, redundancy (egads, the amount of redundancy here), distant narration, bland and telling phrases, and more. The funny part is that my classmates loved this part. It was the next scene, of only slightly better writing, that threw them off. "There's this guy out in the desert! And he thinks he's going to die!...And then there's an elf." Much excitement-->letdown. Of course, there's an elf; it's a basic fantasy story.

Just goes to show why you should make sure your crit group accepts your story's genre. Then they are more likely to help improve your writing rather than complaining about the title or the mountain lion (in scene 2) being referred to as a panther. ("Panthers have to be black." No, no they don't; panther is a generic term. Sorry, I did my research. Rawr.)

Anniversary Contest and Announcements

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friday was the one-year anniversary of the dragon's library being opened to guests. No big explosions or rampaging trolls to mark the occasion, though Azuranna would like to thank the dedicated pawful of visitors who have walked among her shelves and said hello to the fairies. She had hoped for at least a small village to take up residence nearby, but even the few of you have brightened her century.

In honor of the occasion, the library is getting some renovation over the next couple weeks. Watch for changes made and let us know what you think. I've set the pixies to work on determining colors, while the ogres ready their pickaxes to create a catalog room. There might be some other things I'll do around here to make it more inviting. Maybe a dining room?

As part of the celebrations, I am holding my first contest. (It seems the thing to do, isn't it?) As an ode to my favorite mythical creature, write a short poem about dragons in general or specifically about Azuranna, the great blue dragon librarian who is our host. Submissions are open between now and October 8. Post them in the comments here. I'll announce the winner on October 11. Since so many people are giving away books lately, the winner will receive a crocheted bookmark in their favorite color, a useful accompaniment for booklovers.

Since a party is more fun when more people show up, I'm passing out party favors. Everyone who participates in the contest will receive a 5x7 print of my first dragon drawing as seen on one of my early posts. Being a follower is not required. (Though new people will be gleefully welcomed.)

(I hadn't realized how much I missed the whimsy I started the blog with until I wrote this post. I hope you will all participate to help keep it going.)

In addition the contest and renovations, I've already picked up a couple guest visits to the dragon's library. What a great way to begin my second year of blogging. On October 20th, Janice Hardy will be passing through on her blog tour in celebration of her October 5th release of Blue Fire: book 2 of the Healing Wars trilogy. (My copy is already pre-ordered; I'm so excited!) Then in early November, Juliette Wade will be here. Her third Analog story comes out November 7, with cover art no less. These two lovely ladies are fantastic authors and bloggers. I hope you will give them a warm welcome.

Filk Friday: Patterns of Amber

Friday, September 24, 2010

Patterns of Amber is based on The Chronicles of Amber, a series by Roger Zelazny. I've never read the books, but the song has had me curious for a long time. Now that I've found the wiki on the series, the song makes much more sense, but I'm not sure if I'd like the books. Sometimes the filk is better than the stories they were based on. The song focuses on Corwin of Amber, the main character of the first five books.

How'd I end up on this bandwagon?

Monday, September 20, 2010

I am not a pack follower. I don't ride the bandwagon.

When people start raving about "the latest hot thing" and that I absolutely must see it and will totally love it, I dig in my heels. Nobody tells me what I will or won't like. The cacophony from squealing fans, even when they aren't trying to convince me, makes me want to bury my head until the explosion is over. (Justin Bieber, anyone?)

This is not the same as my friends, having seen what I enjoyed in the past, telling me that they think I might like something they just enjoyed. Such as when you gave me your suggestions for my reading list. You know I like science fiction and fantasy and wanted to try some new authors and books within that category, therefore, you offered your recommendations based on that preference. Lydia went even more specific with her recommendation of Firelight, basing it on my particular bias in favor of dragons.

The books I'm most passionate about get little widespread attention. They don't end up on best seller lists or reside with the mainstream books. Since my favorites don't hang with those hipsters, I won't find other books I might like in those crowds either.

No, the logic does not compute.

I should have learned from Harry Potter. Book 2 had been out with 3 on the way before I picked up The Sorceror's Stone with extreme reluctance. Even though it was fantasy (lower age group aside, since I do still read MG and YA), the hyper attention it was getting made me not want to even look at it. Only the fact that I discovered my mom reading and enjoying it made me decide to give it a chance. (She had only started reading in order to understand the references she heard while subbing. Like mother, like daughter.) By the time I finished the first book, I was hooked on the series. And yes, I was one of those nuts at the midnight releases for the last 2 books.

I should know better by now, right? There's a few of the "must reads" on my reading list. No matter how much I resist, certain books have reached beyond the SF/F community. Stardust, Twilight, Hunger Games, Inkheart. I still expect to gag on Twilight, but I will read it. I put these books on my reading list despite my tendency to resist. I am still not getting on that wagon, d'ya hear?


I just started reading Hunger Games last night. Or to be more specific. I finished reading Hunger Games last night. Around 3am. I could not put it down.

I was about three pages in before I noticed that it was in present tense. So well done that it was all but invisible. Katniss captured my sympathies from the beginning. She didn't care that leaving the District to hunt and gather in the wilderness was illegal. What should have been illegal was the creation of a system that forced her to do so in order to keep her family alive. A system that included the Hunger Games in order to keep the Districts subdued under the Capital's will.

The Hunger Games: if you don't know anything about the book yet, think Gladiator combined with The Highlander. Giant arena. Twenty-four contestants. There can be only one...winner.

When the annual lottery draws her sister's name from the girls' ball, Katniss plows her way forward to volunteer in Prim's place. Sweet and gentle, Prim wouldn't have lasted the first hour of the Games. Katniss at least has a fighting chance. She'll need every chance she can get. It'll be brutal out there. It doesn't help that she has a half-forgotten obligation of gratitude to the boy who will be her fellow contender. Let the Games begin!

Katniss reminds me of Nya from The Shifter. They are both spunky and operate on the outskirts of the law. Both are forced to weigh ethics against survival for themselves and the people they care about. Tough choices make for gripping stories.

Wait. What am I doing on this wagon and where is it taking me? I didn't ask to join the crowd, but I can't get down now.

Can this thing go any faster? Catching Fire, here I come!

Filk Friday: World of Filkcraft

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Somehow when I edited a phrase in this post late Thursday night, it messed up my scheduling. Sorry it's late, but I hope you'll enjoy anyway.

World of Filkcraft is something I stumbled into, and I have to say that their parodies are phenomenal. If you don't know World of Warcraft, you may not understand some of the references, but I think you may enjoy these anyway. Aergor and Aquilae are fabulous singers; their two co-conspirators, Maeril and Aeslin, are wicked lyric writers. Here are two of my favorites.

A Gnome is about a young lady who had been playing on the Horde side with an online buddy. After she'd not seen him around for awhile, she ran into a gnome who waved at her. Her buddy had switched factions to make an Alliance character. A gnome. (I love my gnome rogue, but I think her dismay is hilarious.)

I've Been Everywhere is an Orc's travelogue. The game keeps track of everywhere you've explored, and after you've passed through everywhere, you get a special achievement. The song cleverly fits in so many places with a perfect video capture at the end. Follow this link if you want to go to the video itself. The guy doing the song has a little bit in the comments about how he put it together. Pretty neat.

From grumpy to golden

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I had plenty of sleep, honestly I did. I got to bed not long after 11 last night, woke up briefly around 6, got up around 7. But dreaming of being shunned/ignored/despised does little for one's mood or confidence. My son didn't notice. He managed to get enough sleep that he woke up on his own at the right time. He didn't even need that much coaxing to get ready. No rushing involved.

But I was still grumpyish and with the dog eating a dead bird (gross and not good for her), I didn't feel like doing anything, not even playing on the computer. So, I laid down on the couch to rest my eyes. Hardly restful since my brain took me back into similar disturbing visions, disrupted only when my hubby got home from work.

But the fresh air (chilly) while doing the weekly garbage dump run helped clear the fog from my brain. Enough that when we got back, I pulled out another one of the library books from my reading list and started reading. (I finished Inkheart last night.)

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke was wonderful. I just finished reading it a little bit ago. Though Inkheart was good and made me curious enough that I will pick up Inkspell on my next trip to the library, Dragon Rider was even better. It grabbed me from the first chapter where IH took several chapters to pull me in.

Maybe it was the tone and type of threat. IH is more serious. After all, books and stories were in jeopardy. The villains were darker and threatened more than just a limited group; Capricorn and his subordinates were dangerous for the world even though only a small group realized it. Nettlebrand, on the other hand, was created long ago for the single purpose of killing the glorious silver dragons for an alchemist's greed.

After finishing Dragon Rider, I am feeling much cheerier and uplifted. How could I stay gloomy when I could soar with Ben and share his joy? Even with the use of prophesy and other fantasy tropes, the story relied on ingenuity and teamwork to save the day. The prophesy helped them in a few places with supplies, information, and directions, but when it came time to face up to the Nettlebrand, they had to figure out the strategy all on their own, one that had only been possible by the choices and discoveries made along the way by our brave travelers.

Dragon Rider carries some powerful joy within its pages. An uplifting tale to chase away the blues, I give it 5 stars and recommend you go soaring with Firedrake, Sorrel, Ben, and the other friends they make along the way.

Bring on the tea!

Monday, September 13, 2010

For getting up around 7 this morning, it's sure taken me a long to get my brain out of slug mode. I wasn't shorted on sleep by all that much either. I blame my allergies. Sinus congestion, body contracting sneezes, flooding nose, and puffy eyes go against alertness. Bleagh.

I'm starting to feel better for the day, but since I need to go jump into the short story I thought up the other day, you aren't getting much today. Sorry. But here's my reading list update:

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - read (see review from last week)
The Art and Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis - currently reading, almost done
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card - read, not bad but better for a fledgling writer. I've already learned most of what he shared in this book. Good information and well presented though.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke - currently reading, up to Chapter 3

I just bought The Mermaid's Madness yesterday (along with Red Hood's Revenge), so I'll be getting to that soon. And for October's (unpublished) reading list, I put Blue Fire by Janice Hardy on preorder. Yeah! But I've still got several books to get through for this month still if I want to finish them all.

Filk Friday: Flight 93

Friday, September 10, 2010

Filk is not always about science, science fiction, and fantasy. It also fills the role that the folk song holds, not surprising since filk evolved from it. Nowadays, country music has claimed much of the folk song role: (my definition) to speak of current events to hold them in our consciousness and move us to action. According to About.com, "Contemporary folk songs cover topics from love and relationships to racism, terrorism, war, voting, education, and religion, among other things."

I'm sure most of you have heard that song from Alan Jackson "Where Were You" asking us each what we remember from the day the planes crashed September 11, 2001. (It was one month before my wedding. A friend called me at home to tell me to turn on the news.) Though an excellent song, beautifully sung, the syrupy nostalgia bothers me a little. Where is the call to action? Where is the lesson we should have learned from this attack on our naivete?

As a folk type of song, it doesn't need those questions answered; it already satisfies the About.com definition. But I grew up listening to albums like Up With People, full of songs about doing things: "Freedom Isn't Free," "Don't Stand Still," "Up With People," and more. (I love "The Happy Song.") I think we need more doing, more learning from the past rather than just remembering it. More inspiration.

Leslie Fish's "Flight 93," a tribute to one group of that day's heroes, satisfies that need for me. Though it is about the people on the plane who chose to take a stand against terror and tyranny, the message for us is that we can each choose to make our own stands against those who would harm others. Though we won't usually have to pay the cost with our death, our choices can and do make a difference for someone else.

The Thief

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I picked up The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner while browsing the library shelves in the kids' fiction section. Sometimes books pop out at me and ask to be read. This was one of them. The cover has a pair of dirt-ingrained young man's hands holding a flattened spherical river rock with a glowing blue center. Also on the cover is the silver seal for being a Newbery Honor Book. Should be good, right?

Yes, it was. (What? Did you think I was going to give a different answer?)

Gen is in the king's prison. His bragging that he could steal anything, including the king's seal, led to his predicament. Oh, he successfully stole it. He just publicly showed it off in a wineshop to prove that he had. The guards mock him, asking when is he going to escape, and keep him chained at all times, even when other prisoners get to walk about in the prison courtyard for a bit of sun.

Now the king and his magus want Gen for his skills. The magus tells him, "There's something I want you to steal. Do this for me, and I'll see that you don't go back to prison. Fail to do this for me, and I will still make sure that you don't go back to prison." To add to the threat, the king shows him the small casket full of gold coins he will offer for Gen's capture if he tries to escape before recovering the desired object. A reward big enough that Gen would be hunted for life no matter where he goes. What else is a thief to do? Though he has no idea what he will be stealing yet (the magus says he'll learn that on the way), he accepts.

The Thief kept me engaged the whole way through. Gen is a fun character who entertained me with his interactions with the magus's apprentices and the guard accompanying them, and I loved the surprise reveal at the end of Gen's background and something he had done on the trip. Yet, the only thing that keeps me from giving this 5 stars is because of the reveal at the end. The book is in first person, so we should know things as we go about Gen. It's his thoughts we see. Yet, there are some places where it reads like Turner had either forgotten the true background or hadn't thought of that background yet. Small places like a page or a paragraph here and there or where there should have have some small clue or a different reaction.

Most of it works pretty well, because he isn't dwelling on the past, just contemplating his present. Turner does set up clues that he is more than he appears in the things that he notices, many of his comments, and that he does certain actions deliberately, like chewing with his mouth open. Something that someone from his supposed background would do, but not think about. And he finds it entertaining to see how it annoys the magus.

Since this was written for MG, I can forgive keeping so much of the true background a secret until the end, even with being in first person. Even though there are the bits that don't quite fit, overall, it was still a worthwhile read. The geography, the pantheon, and regional histories she created make the world a rich setting. She even included a section at the end about what inspired her world creation. I give this book 4 stars.

I think I will actually go look for the second book of Gen's adventures: The Queen of Attolia. I'm curious to see what he will do next, especially considering one of the things that happened near the end of The Thief.

Filk Friday: ROFLMAO!

Friday, September 3, 2010

This is a fun ditty of a parody based on The Muppets song "Mahna Mahna." The lyrics the undead dude is singing are leet-speak words from World of Warcraft. I'll translate below the video. The song itself ends around 2:31; the rest is just the credits and rambly vocals in the background.

ROFLMAO-Rolling on floor laughing my a** off. (most people should know this by now)
PWN-Leet-spelling for "Own" as in "I totally owned that dude." A statement of superiority right after easily beating their opponent in battle.
n00b-New player, usually being derided for some clueless action or question.
UBER L33T HAX-Extremely good elite hack/cheat code. (yes, a double positive, for emphasis)
Pr0n-(I had to look this one up.) A deliberate misspelling of "porn" to get around language filters, sometimes for legitimate purposes in message groups, not just to be perverse.
WTG-Way to go. A standard commendation.
FTW-For the win. Congratulatory or boasting comment.
ROXORZ BOXORZ-(sorry, can't tell you, never seen it before this song)
OMG-Oh my God/gosh (depending on your upbringing)
HAX-A hack or cheat code for something.
L33T HAX WTG-"Super elite cheat code, way to go!"
PWN NOOBS FTW- Dominate new/inexperienced players for the win.
G2G-Good to go (off to the dungeon, to the raid, to kill horde/alliance in their own city)
C U L8TR-See you later.
LFG BRD-Looking for group to Blackrock Depths (a dungeon)
UBRS-Upper Blackrock Spire (raid level dungeon)
DM-Dire Maul (dungeon)
ZG-Zul Gurub (dungeon)
MC-Molton Core (raid dungeon)

September Reading List

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Here's my reading list for the month. There are ones I've wanted to read for a while, the few you've suggested, and others pulled from blog reviews. I'm trying to broaden my reading selection. In no particular order:

  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (because I may as well get this over with, will be used in major post near the end of the month)
  • The Mermaid's Madness (Princess novels-book 2) by Jim C. Hines (because I loved The Stepsister Scheme when I read it this summer)
  • Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn (because it's been waiting on my shelf all summer to be read)
  • Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson (from Brad)
  • The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson (from Brad)
  • Fantasy Lover (Dark Hunter series-book 1) by Sherrilyn Kenyon (from Jai)
  • Firelight by Sophie Jordan (from Lydia)
  • Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse series-book 1) by Charlaine Harris (because I might as well sample yet another vampire series while I'm at it and I've heard this is humorous)
  • The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (from blog review)
  • Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet (from blog review of later book in series)
  • The City and the City by China Meiville (from blog review)
  • Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip (from blog review and I liked The Changeling Sea)
  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (from many blog reviews)
  • The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (from blog review)
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (has been on my to-read list for too long)
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (from my to-read list, already checked out from the library)
  • Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke (from my to-read list, also already checked out)
  • The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (from browsing at the library)
  • The Art and Craft of the Short Story (from browsing at the library for something useful to help me write something shorter than a novel)
  • How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card (I liked his Characters and Viewpoint book, so I figured I might want to tromp through this one and at least scoop up a few ideas)
  • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose by Constance Hale (checking it out to see how helpful it is)

I'm sure there are other books I'll pick up this month. I won't post reviews for everything, but I will give everything I've read a rating. Look for my end-of-month tally of what I've read. If there are any books here that I don't get around to reading before the end of the month, they'll get bumped into the top of October's reading list. If there are any other books you want to recommend, you can still suggest them in the comments below.