Filk Friday: It's a Fanboy Christmas II

Friday, December 31, 2010

It's a Fanboy Christmas II is rather strange, but it's got some clever parts (and a few groaners like the part about the Vorlans in the second half). Luke Ski is one weird dude. You'll hear references to Wonder Woman, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Wonderful Life, Star Trek, and more. Yes, he really managed to put so many diverse movies and shows into one long holiday parody medley. Freaky--but funny. See how many references you can recognize.

Filk Friday: The Guild's Christmas Raid Carol

Friday, December 24, 2010

I've been a fan of The Guild ever since I discovered them from looking up more about Felicia Day. She was so cute as Doctor Horrible's romantic interest in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. Here is The Guild singing their Christmas Raid Carol. And if you don't know anything about them, they are a parody of online gamers. They are a hoot and a half. And Felicia Day is on my list of actress/writers I want to meet and not because she's the writer/creator of the webseries. She's sassy, spunky, and seriously determined to be herself.

If you want to catch some of their videos, here are a few.
The Guild-Episode 1: The Wake-Up Call
Felicia Day interview part 1 for
Day's acceptance speech for winning Best Female Actor in a Comedy Web Series at the StreamyAwards
Day talks about The Guild and DHSaLB at ComicCon 2008

And if you enjoy the webseries, you should check out Day's new comic book, released on December 8th. It looks hilarious.

Filk Friday: Yar har har, a piratical carol

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bilge Pumps sing this awesomely piratical version of Deck the Halls. Have a jolly good time listening to this pirate musical comedy group from Texas.

It's Snow Joke

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Considering how much snow has been a hindrance for much of the US the past couple weeks, including for me getting writing and posting done, I thought I'd point out some thoughts about using snow in your writing, whether you are writing realistic fiction, genre fiction, or non-fiction.

People have different attitudes about snow. Some absolutely love it, like my son and my in-laws' dog; some fear it, especially when it comes to traveling, and some hate it. Sometimes opinions will change depending on the location, time of year, temperature, quantity, and how much wind comes with it. I'm sure many of you saw the reports about the Metrodome roof collapse from the sheer volume of snow that descended on Minneapolis, 17 inches according to the Buffalo News . When the setting of the story takes place in winter, consider these factors.

Location: Some regions are more likely to get snow than others. Tropical regions don't see any unless a sheer fluke of weather/climate change causes it to happen. A region that doesn't normally get snow is going to be more likely to panic over even a dusting than a region that is used to it, mainly with concern about what could have happened to cause such a shift in weather and what the effect would be on the ecology than the snow itself. Even though Florida hasn't had snow or much of it, the record breaking low temperatures has caused plants and trees to freeze over. Considering the importance of Florida's orange groves, this is a significant impact on the ecology and economy of their region.

Whether you keep the snow's effect on a local scale involving only a town or a larger scale where some areas are more affected than others, this a potential source of social, political, and economic conflict in your story. It could either be the primary conflict or one that serves as a backdrop to the personal conflict of your characters.

The other part of location that affects snow is the nearness or distance from a large body of water. Regions near a large lake or river will have more snow, at least until the water freezes over. And if near two or more bodies of water...well, you can imagine the increased effect. We have a local lake within a few miles of us as well as Lake Erie about an hour's drive to our northwest. Double whammy.

Time of year: When you expect to have snow, you usually make preparations: buying snow shovels, bags of salt, warm clothing, extra food supplies, and other necessities; getting the snowblowers and plows ready; and setting up the logistics of road clearing and travel. But when snow comes early, people might not be as well prepared as they'd hoped. This sets up conflicts with health and safety on both a personal and societal level. Travelers who get caught in an unseasonable snowfall might not have warm enough clothing to keep them from freezing or have enough food with them even if they do find shelter. Bandits may become more desperate, but at the same time, find that snow hampers their ability to raid on a large scale.

This problem also comes up at the end of the season. If people fail to maintain their preparations long enough or they've run out of supplies due to a long hard winter season, they could still have serious issues. Snow might hamper their ability to restock, whether it be because they couldn't get to town or because the town had run out of things when their shipments couldn't get through. This was a key issue in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Time of year also affects the quantity of snow, which I will get to shortly. People expect to see more snow in the middle of winter than the leading and trailing edges of the season. This may lead to conflicting attitudes regarding preparations.

Temperature: Not only is temperature itself a great source of conflict, particularly extreme highs and lows, but it also affects quantity and quality of snow. When temperatures are closer to the freezing point of water, snowflakes tend to be fluffier and more packable. That's the sort that makes wonderful snow forts, snowmen, and snowballs. However, in lower temperatures, snow tends to be finer and more likely to blow off the ground in a gust of wind. That's part of the problem my family has been facing. Our driveway won't stay clear very well, even when it stops snowing, because the snow is so dry and light, that the wind keeps shifting it to the low areas, i.e. the driveway, forcing us to clear it several times a day.

With such a long stretch to keep clear, and in such bitter cold, it becomes an arduous task, even with a tractor and snowblower. And that is only feasible in the daylight. We're struggling to find someone willing (and smart enough to do it the intelligent way) to plow it, saving the snowblower for keeping the edges tidy and pushed back. Plus the plow would have the lights to do it in the early morning and late at night.

We've had our share of conflict the past week and half with trying to get to work, damage to vehicles, and getting stuck due to quantity, temperature, and wind. Since we've had so many problems with a passable driveway, we've had to walk through the snow to get our paper and mail, get our boy to the bus stop and back, and having to do repairs in the cold. This means putting on appropriate clothing to keep us warm enough in the combination of wind and temperature. People who don't take such precautions could end up with frostbite or worse. Even when you take care for warmth, there is still the problem of moving through such deep snow, which brings me to...

Quantity: Light snowfall is easy to walk through, though it can and does make roadways and sidewalks slippery. Slip-and-fall accidents, skidding vehicles, and multi-car pileups are more likely in snowy weather. Airports have delays even in just a moderate snowfall.

Deep snow causes its own share of problems even without extremely low temps or much wind by making it hard to keep roadways, tracks, and other passages clear for travel and shipment and for walking in it. People with skis, snowshoes, or other footgear for staying on top of snow just have to deal with coordinating the gear, so they don't fall, and perhaps have muscle burn and other injuries from unaccustomed activity. People who are used to the gear will suffer fewer problems than those who aren't.

Without that gear, people have to wade in it. Those who are in excellent cardio health will find this less strenuous than those who aren't as fit. I'd consider myself reasonably fit, but with having to push through snow that had drifted to knee height and deeper, I had to stop several times while going down the drive yesterday to catch my breath and ease my exertion induced nausea. I did better when I forced myself to stick to a slower pace, but it meant I was in the cold longer. Of course having to stop frequently didn't get me down to the mailbox any faster, so not really a difference after all.

Wind: Though it affects the snow itself less than the other factors, wind plays a significant role in the severity of snow conditions. It blows snow around which reduces visibility and creates problematic drifts. It can also create dangerous windchills that some people are forced to endure in order to deal with the snow and snow's problems. Sounds become distorted, making it hard to hear people calling for help.

For the most part, I enjoy snow. It looks pretty when it covers the ground enough to hide winter-brown plants. But when there is so much that it causes problems, especially when the wind exacerbates the difficulties, I don't like it. I'd prefer to have much less of it. Fortunately, since we live in an area that expects frequent snowfalls (lovely lake effect we have here *rolls eyes*), we prepare by keeping food stocked up for when we can't get into town. We might run out of preferred supplies, but we will be fed. We also have multiple shovels, a couple snowblowers, and lots of winter clothing. And a sled, perfect for pulling a small boy down to the bus stop.

I hope when you write about snow that you will keep these factors in mind. Don't forget to keep them in mind for your own winter weather care. Be safe.

Filk Friday: holiday theme song for merchants

Friday, December 10, 2010

Every Christmas season I play this song. One: Tom Lehrer is brilliant. Two: It still fits the season of sell, sell, sell. 'Nuff said.

Enjoy this Christmas Carol.

The 69 Test: Broken Destinies

Monday, December 6, 2010

I heard about the 69 Test from The Sharp Angle, where you look at page 69 of a novel for voice and if the story goes along with the premise. My novels: not too sure if they pass. None of them are even completed drafts yet, let alone revised much.

But here's page 69 from my contemporary fantasy, currently titled Broken Destinies. It's the most completed story I have right now thanks to NaNo. Though still just a young teen, Kaylin is the lynchpin in the current struggle between Order and Chaos because of her abilities.

Would this excerpt make you curious? Just remember it's still raw. But then so is my logline. Come to think of it, learning about the 69 test and pulling up this page helped me finally write my logline. But I think it works, more or less.

Lugh shook his head. “I’m baffled. The lab was under the influence of Chaos. I saw in her mind the person who shattered her, my old foe Balor. He loves Chaos. However, the person who grabbed Kaylin was extremely orderly. That was carefully planned. He had every move figured out, like how to keep her from calling for help, probably drugged her, which fits why she blanked so quickly. His car was nearby and ready. I’d imagine he has a specific destination in mind. Things probably arranged in advance. We should expect delays dropped in our path. I just can’t imagine anyone in my circle who would do such a thing.” He sagged in his seat. Probably felt to blame for this.

Madai understood all too well. He sat up. “Any of them Kaylin has met would have used a different method. She trusts them, so different tactics. Therefore, at most they would have reported to someone. And since all of your contacts who have been in her presence, have spent more than just a few minutes with her, I don’t think they could have hidden such intents from her.”

Lugh straightened. “You’re right. And the only people I’ve mentioned her to have met her. So we can almost safely say that my alerted contacts are above suspicion. Which brings me back to: the lab is Chaos influenced, but this man isn’t. How would he have learned of her and why would he have snatched her from our care?”

There was no answer to that.

They were following. That was Father Rafael's expectation anyway. The first phase of liberation went well. The actual snatch worked just like his plan, although he couldn’t see how she could have alerted her captors. He was sure they hadn’t been watching. And they’d taken too long to get outside if they had been. He might have had a fight on his hands if they had exited more quickly. Granted he’d been prepared for that as well, but it was a distasteful course of action.

But she hadn’t made a sound, not even a muffled yell through the rag. He’d expected yells, not the soundless fright. With no sound and no immediate visibility, how could she have signaled to anyone? Maybe they’d had cameras on the backyard. He’d looked but hadn’t found any.

Irritated writer/mom

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sorry for having nothing posted in over a week. Thanksgiving was way too busy with people getting sick just long enough to prevent them from taking their trip, totally hosing all of my plans for a quiet house.

My son is a kid, and he has a right to some of my attention, but when everyone is doing projects or watching tv, I can't just sit down and write. The tv is too distracting (I've only learned how to tune out Disney Playhouse and Nick Jr); and I get guilted for sitting at the computer when there's house projects that must-be-done. Yeah, lots of cleaning, furniture rearranging, and the folks' annual dragging-out-the-Christmas-stuff. I know my son enjoys it, but it's not my holiday. I had nowhere to escape it.

The cleaning I still have left is more of the rip-the-room-apart-to-find-____, especially when it's because other people move things that I've put down (because it looks like clutter). Right now it's trying to figure out where my son's library book went that he checked out a couple weeks ago, since tomorrow is his library day. I last saw it when I put it on his desk with his library bag. Not there now, nor is it on the shelf with his own books. Really makes me want to scream sometimes. I hate hate hate not being able to find things, and other people moving things without telling me drives me bananas. How am I supposed to know if someone else moved it or if I just forgot that I moved it myself? Because I've done that: swear that I know I put something in __ place, but when I find it somewhere else finally, that's when I remember, oh yeah, I took it here when I did this. Grrrrrr.

I know I'm a pendulum between cluttered and organized, but I expect to find things where I left them. Is that too much to ask?

I'm trying to be a writer, but since I have no private place to work, would it be rude if I told everyone to go away, get out of the house?

I'm going to face this again later this month, just like I did over Thanksgiving break, and I'm feeling invaded even though it isn't my house. The holiday broke my stride, and now I'm stumbling to get back into my writing pace.