Month: October 2014

Pottermore and Me

At first I felt guilty about joining Pottermore and wasting precious hours not writing. This was two days ago. But now, on my third day of “life with Pottermore” I am feeling slightly less guilty. Still guilty, but less so.

Yes, Pottermore is still a massive time-suck that is completely useless (WHY am I obsessed with dueling?! WHY?! I suck at it!), but it’s also helpful for my writing in two ways. One, it’s strangely inspirational. J.K. Rowling, who started off as just a random nobody who spent her off hours writing a novel about a boy wizard, is now one of the most successful authors in history. I can guarantee that I’ll never be as famous or as widely read as J.K. Rowling, but her success story is inspirational nevertheless. I’m not sure why that is — why Rowling and not, say George R.R. Martin? I have no answer for why I find Rowling an inspiration and not Martin, but I do. Perhaps it’s her accessibility. Not the kind of accessibility that lets me know what she had for lunch or which football team she’s rooting for, but accessibility when it comes to her writing life.  And that’s exactly what Pottermore is; it’s accessibility. It allows fans to get access to her writing process and the way her imagination works. I love reading about how authors work, how they get ideas. I love seeing what methods they use, and I love to use some of their methods for my own work. It keeps my mind stimulated and makes the act of writing seem fresh.  So Pottermore *is* helpful in that sense; I’m getting a glimpse into the mind of the Harry Potter author and seeing how she created her stories and her world.

It’s also helpful as part of my “stimuli” theory. When I’m writing a fantasy story, I need fantasy-based stimuli to keep my imagination buzzing. By using the interactive experience of Pottermore, by exploring the world of Harry Potter, I am able to generate ideas for my own fictional world. The swish of a cat’s tail in the darkness of Privet Drive is enough to get my mind racing with story possibilities. The rows upon rows of dusty boxes at Olivander’s stimulate my senses — the smell of the dust; the crinkle of the parched boxes; the pale, hazy light from the storefront window that streaks across the old wizard as he searches the endless stacks. The images and graphics and icons — they all work like little electrical shocks, reanimating my creativity and propelling me to open Scrivener so I can get back to my own novel.

So yes, I should probably spend less time on Pottermore and more time actually writing. But there is a place for Pottermore in my writing life; I just need to make sure I don’t get stuck there.

“It’s the eyebrows”: Thoughts on the 12th Doctor

Peter-Capaldi-Doctor-Who-Time-of-the-DoctorI like that he’s meaner. Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor will always be my first Doctor – and thus, a part of me will always claim he’s my favorite Doctor – but, boy howdy, do I love Peter Capaldi as number 12! I was the lone voice of reason amongst my group of Doctor Who friends, who all had doubts about “the old guy,” but having seen him be amazing on The Hour, I knew Capaldi would be fantastic as the Doctor. First, he’s Scottish. And as a fake Scottish person myself (Digression: I can do a wicked Scottish accent… and this is NOT bragging. It’s mostly to do with the fact that I have no life and once spent an entire summer watching nothing but Kelly MacDonald movies and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, all the while perfecting my ability to talk like a Glaswegian), I appreciate the Doctor’s new accent and think it totally suits a rather grumpy, rather prickly Doctor (and I love that he noticed that he had an accent). The Scottishness of the Doctor extends beyond his accent — he’s clever, and smart-alecky, and gruff — and I’m glad Moffat and Capaldi didn’t gloss over the accent but used it as a way to explore a different facet of the Doctor’s personality.

I also love that this meaner Doctor is a throwback to the first Doctor, William Hartnell. The first Doctor was essentially a grumpy old man. Capaldi’s Doctor is what I picture a young Hartnell being like: smarter than everyone else in the room, annoyed by others’ lack of intelligence, uncomfortable with letting too many emotions show, snippy and caustic because it amuses him but also because it keeps his deep, deep loneliness buried.

rick-and-mortyAlso, I can’t be the only one to notice that the tone of this new season and this new Doctor feel like they are riffing on Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. I know that Rick and Morty is an homage to Back to the Future (with a little Doctor Who thrown in), but I’ll be damned if the dialogue from, say, “Mummy on the Orient Express” doesn’t sound like it could be transposed word-for-word to Rick and Morty. Of course, Doctor Who is not copying a gross-out, R-rated adult cartoon – I don’t mean to suggest that – but it’s uncanny how well Capaldi’s Doctor matches up to Rick. Maybe it is the eyebrows…

Dear Boardwalk Empire: Thank you for giving us Mickey Doyle!

There are a lot of things I love about Boardwalk Empire – the soundtracks, the costumes, the fantastic sets, the fabulous acting from the entire cast – but the thing I love most about Boardwalk is Mickey Doyle. Paul Sparks has created a character not normally seen on television; in fact, he’s a throwback to the old character actors of the 1930s and 40s. These actors never really played anyone but themselves; they each had a shtick and they stuck to it. Elisha Cook Jr., Dan Duryea, Frank McHugh, Ned Sparks, Peter Lorre, Eugene Pallette, Guy Kibbee, Warren William. It’s not that any of them played deep, riveting characters with complex emotions and fully developed character arcs. What made each special was the quirky character he played. Mickey Doyle is one of those same great characters. Some how, some way, Sparks has taken a goofy, throwaway character, and turned him into a supporting character masterpiece. The bad jokes. The lechery. The sinister, rat-like smile. The implausible indestructibility. That laugh. Mickey Doyle could jump right into a 1931 Warner Brothers gangster movie without missing a beat.

I’ve been a big fan of Boardwalk right from the start, but what really made me fall in love was the moment when Mickey Doyle got thrown off the balcony at Babette’s and yet still managed to survive. He’s like a cockroach; nothing can kill him. My dream is for Boardwalk Empire to end with everyone dead or in jail… everyone except Mickey Doyle. I hope he gets the last laugh (literally).

Warming up to write

I have a problem. I know I should write everyday — and I am happier when I do — but I can’t simply sit down for 30 minutes or an hour and start writing. I need a “warm-up.” Basically, I need a (lengthy) period of time before I actually put words to paper in which I let my mind wander and my imagination imagine. I need to visualize things, play around with story ideas, and just basically get lost in my own head for awhile before I can start writing. And this presents a problem because my warm-up time often exceeds the actual time I have to get my writing for the day done.

Since my little one arrived (she’s four months old), I don’t have hours to devote to warming-up and then writing. I have maybe a half-hour, maybe an hour total, but that’s not enough time to rev up my imagination and get through my daily word count (which at this point is 600 words a day, IF I want to make my deadline of December 30).

Does anyone else need a “warm-up” time before she can actually sit down and start writing? Or am I alone in my sorrows?

One thing I’ve found helpful — since I don’t have enough time to do my “warm-ups” — is to basically immerse myself in stimuli all day long that keep my imagination flowing. For example, my current novel is a retelling of Arthurian legends (basically, Merlin trying to save the world, but in the present day), so I listen to Celtic-sounding music all day, read books and watch T.V. that are fantasy-based, and try to only read and look at things that put my imagination into the world of King Arthur, the Middle Ages, dragons and monsters, magic, etc. etc. So far my total immersion plan has been going pretty well. I feel like what I’m doing is “feeding” my imagination all day long so that when I do finally get a few minutes to sit down and write, my imagination is “full” and I can get to the business of writing without wasting time.

The difficulty, however, is when I can’t do total immersion. At the moment, I am completely stalled with the novel because I haven’t been able to immerse myself in stimuli. So as a result, I haven’t written in over a week and I’m not feeling the “heat” of the story anymore. I need an emergency dose of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, two doses of my Sandman comics, and a flip through the new Brandon Sanderson book I just downloaded (The Way of Kings). If nothing else, I need to start listening to my old Clannad albums (Legend for the win!).

Being a writer

I have always been one. Or at least, I have always remembered being one. I still have notebooks from childhood that contain stories I wrote. I remember composing a story in fifth grade about a drop of water and his adventures spent going down the drain (there was quite an episode involving the blades of the garbage disposal). After an epiphany in 11th grade, I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter and devoted a great deal of time and money to studying screenwriting in college. I even moved to Los Angeles for a brief period in order to pursue my dream (turns out, L.A. is fun to visit, but I didn’t want to live there). My love of movies, however, landed me a few freelance jobs, writing about classic films. I actually received payment for my writing (which, however small it may have been, was still pretty awesome). And despite my swerve into a career in teaching (high school English, yo), I still consider myself a writer. I have always been one and I always will be.

But now I’m doing something different. I’m actually committing myself to the goal of become a fiction author. It’s the thing my fifth grade heart always wanted, but somehow over the past twenty years, I let it slip out of my head. I let other jobs, other goals, other types of writing seep in, but now, finally (and maybe it took starting a family to realize it), finally I’ve decided that I really should do the one thing I’ve always wanted to do: Write books.

So now I’m here — as a way to connect with others, as a way to document my journey, as a way to make sure I stick with it — and hopefully over the next several months, I will go from being a writer who is trying to write a novel to a writer who has written one.

What will follow on this blog are things related to my novel, things related to my writing process, things related to my life, things related to the things I love (mostly, but not limited to: science fiction, fantasy, comic books, new movies, classic movies, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, theater, folklore and fairy tales, language, J.R.R. Tolkien, Harry Potter, music, theater, and magic). My hope is that this blog will keep me honest. I say I’m a writer; now all I have to do is write.

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