Friday, September 26, 2008

You Know What I Hate...?

I hate how hard it is to lose weight. I know I sound like such a girl, but I've been regularly working out at the gym for over a year now and I think I've lost all of five pounds. The worst part? If I don't work out regularly and decide, "Oh what the hell" and have a peice of pie, I INSTANTLY gain a pound that it's taken me months to walk off.

Mother bluther.

On the flipside, my friend and fellow writer Naomi Kritzer gave me the latest DVDs of "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one, of course,) and I can now catch up on all the comings and goings of my favorite SF TV show.

Yum, Jamie Bramber.... All he had to do to lose weight was jump rope for a couple of episodes, goll dang it. Why doesn't that work in REAL LIFE (tm)????!!

Now I'm off to go have some bread and water....

Grumble, grumble.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Urban Fantasy and Real Life (tm)

In class last night, I ended up talking about... well, a lot of things, but one bit I thought amusing enough to share here is about where FANTASY ideas come from.

I've yakked on here at this blog a lot about where to get good science fictional ideas, but not so much about fantasy. One of the things I ended up writing on the chalkboard last night was: "notice weirdness."

I do think that's really fundamental to being a good speculative fiction writer. If you notice the weirdness of every day life, you begin to articulate ways you can describe that. I remember a class many years ago (or maybe it was the MarsCon panel on "plot" with Walter Hunt, in which Kelly McCullough and my alter ego got seriously wound up about how "every scene needs to be in SERVICE TO PLOT!!!" and I'd had so much coffee, Walter worried my head was going explode.) Anyway, the point is, that I remember explaining to someone that writing good exposition/narrative is like imagining that you (the character) are traveling with an invisible foreign exchange student (the reader) through you fantasy/science fictional landscape. When you stop to buy a soda, you might turn to him/her and explain, "In this country, we use credit cards for everything. Money isn't real here, it's just electrons, which represent debt...."

How this relates to "noticing weirdness" is that you can't really distill concepts like our economy into little, entertaining sound bytes unless you spend some time noticing just how absurd it all is, you dig?

And it doesn't have to be something so complex as our economy, it can be noticing other small, random weird bits that then mushroom into full-blown story ideas. The example I gave last night was from a real conversation I had with friend and fellow writer Sean M. Murphy on Tuesday night. He said, "Hey, I've got this great idea for you to steal!" and then proceeded to recount his drive over. Apparently, he was behind this truck that had one of those business decals on the back. It was for a tattoo parlor called "Monster Ink," which was cool enough in itself because it very easily lent itself to any number of urban fantasy ideas in which tattoos have magical/totemistic powers, but the best part, he said, was the phone number: (651) ***-DEAD, which automatically made him ask one of those central to story generating "what if" questions: What if a vampire ran a tattoo parlor??

So there you go.

My advice to all you writers out there: Notice Weirdness!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nature Walkin'

Today St. Paul Public Schools have what they call an "early release" day, which has always sounded to me like some kind of prison term, but you know... what it means is that in not that long now I'll be picking Mason up from school. Our plan is to go somewhere for a nice, long nature hike. Both Shawn and I worry that Mason doesn't get to go outside very much now that he's a full-day kindergartener. The truth is, he could pretty much count on almost a half-day of outside adventure when he was in Pre-K. I loved to, (when weather permitted, of course, I mean, this IS Minnesota) spend the afternoon with him at the beach, in the park, walking in the woods, or just running around (or even just sitting and reading) in our own backyard.

It's a beautiful day out today, and I've never visted the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Reserve, which is just south of the international airport and a short drive from the Mall of America. The information on their web site looks cool. Plus, if it turns out not to be to our liking, we're not far from Minnehaha or Hidden Falls at that point.

I need to go if I'm going to get any "real" writing done. See ya all on the flip side!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Happy Belated Mabon

For our Mabon celebration last night, Mason and I baked cookies in the shape of fallen leaves. We decorated them with frosting in fall/autumn colors: reds, yellows, oranges... and even some green and brown (chocolate!) We also made moon shaped cookies, of course! I made several dozen because we have a very tiny maple leaf shaped cookie cutter that made bit-sized cookies I thought would be nice for Mason to take to his kindergarten class for snack treat.

Mason has been very anxious to start his "magical training," so we also did a very small ritual that we usually do on Imbolc, but have been forgetting... which is that every year we add a bead to our life necklaces. Mason's was started at his Wiccaning, and this year he added beads for the cats. It wasn't a very harvesty thing, but as we beaded we told Mason about why we celebrate Mabon and about how the days will start getting darker until we finally reach the darkest day: Winter Solstace.

For my own harvest things, I've been baking a lot of bread to save on food costs this year. I make a single sandwich loaf every other day now. I got a really good recipe from one of our thousand of baking books that I've been slowly perfecting. The bread is perfect for sandwiches, but Shawn has also been craving some "artisan" bread, like French baggettes, which I'm going to try to make now and again as well.

At any rate, Happy Mabon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Monday... I'm writing about ideas over at Something Wicked. As I say there, I'm not one of those writers who can come up with really cool ideas at the drop of the hat. I believe this is one reason why I'm a novel writer rather than much of a short story person. I guess I feel like if I'm going to invest all the energy it takes for me to come up with a cool, viable* idea, then I want to milk it for all its worth.

Ironically (or perhaps synchronicity-ly,) my Loft class subject on Wednesday is: "'Where the Heck is Schenectady' Finding SF Ideas." I've write about this subject here on this blog before, but every time I teach this class I come up with a new answer to this age old question. Tune in on Thursday to see if I've got a different insight after talking about it for two hours at the Loft.


*This is the hardest part for me. It's one thing to come up with an idea, another thing for it to be well-suited to hang a story on, you know?