characters, fantasy, humor, world-building, writing

Dream-Maker

After the fun of my sci-fi mash-up dream, and urged on by rockinlibrarian (also aided and abetted by rthstewart, who nearly made me snort tea all over my computer with her take on the animosity between Lando Calrissian and Mal Reynolds (I am so going to think “Not right, man wearin’ a cape” the next time I watch Empire Strike Back, rth!)), I decided I had to start writing it down as a story. Not one for publication, or even for putting up on ff.net due to my blatant self-insert (but she’s not a Mary-Sue! She is not perfect and nobody is in love with her except her off-screen husband, but she and Mal do have great fun with harmless flirting by passing insults at each other), but just a way to get some of this marvelous creativity my subconscious was providing me with down on paper.

I’m about ten thousand words in, and it’s getting crazier and more peppered with cameos from other sci fi/fantasy stories with each paragraph. Mara Jade has insisted on popping in (for more than just a brief cameo, thankyouverymuch, what do you take her for?), and it’s becoming very clear to me that the Doctor would never consent to being left out of a madcap adventure like this, so it is clearly my duty to get caught up on that show, since I still haven’t made it all the way through the Ninth Doctor (though even the few episodes that I have seen have left me with a tendency to say “Fantastic!” just like Christopher Eccleston).

But aside from the sheer fun of this, and the marvelous outlet it has become for releasing any stress in my life, the other nice thing about this story (simply titled “fun” in my computer documents) is that is stirring up my creativity for my other writings, as well. Did you know I hadn’t written one word of fiction since before Christmas, up until I started this nonsense project? Not. One. Word. (Speaking of things that ain’t right.)

And then yesterday, I actually opened up my current MG WIP and skimmed it over, thinking how ready I am to get back to writing more about Cadi &co. And then I started thinking about Maia and Len (my older YA 1920s adventure-fantasy) and realized the first draft had finally settled enough that I was ready to tackle putting it into decent shape for the second draft.

Today I have to take care of some basic household chores (Carl’s been helping out a lot – blessed man keeps washing dishes for me, which is marvelous, darling, thank you – but breadmaking and laundry are still two tasks that will always be delegated to me), but I’m hoping to spend some time this afternoon or evening in “real” writing, writing I might actually be able to show to the world someday.

And I will not be abandoning my “fun” story, either – I have a sneaking suspicion that this is one tale that will stretch out for many years, to be added to whenever it strikes my fancy or I am getting bored, and never quite coming to an end.

What do you do to get your creative juices flowing again? What are some science fiction or fantasy characters you would add to a crazy story like mine?

humor, Life Talk

To Sleep, Perchance …

I haven’t been doing anything terribly interesting this week, writing-wise or life-wise. However, apparently my subconscious is doing its best to make up for my dull life by WILD dreams.

The first night wasn’t so great – it was actually more of a nightmare. Trapped on an abandoned cruise ship with a serial killer, me against him, (apparently I was a detective) me trying to catch him but feeling uneasily certain he was toying with me. Thankfully I woke up before the final confrontation. The overall tone of that dream was dark and creepy, even more than the events in it. Took several cups of tea that morning before I felt normal again!

The dream returned in a lighter fashion the next few nights – the cruise ship wasn’t deserted, and it had more of a Peter Wimsey feel – still serious, but not creepy, and this time, I always had the upper hand over the killer. One night it wasn’t even a murderer I was after, but a jewel thief.

Then last night – oh, I have no idea where this one came from, but I do most earnestly hope it returns, because FUN – my dream was a veritable sci-fi television mashup.

Started out in a green clearing, trees all around. All kinds of characters from sci-fi tv were waiting for their assignments from a platform at one end of the clearing (and no, I don’t remember any of them clearly). I ended up being sent on a quest with Chakotay (from Star Trek: Voyager) and Mal (Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly). Now, I was myself – Louise – and had no idea why I was tagging along, but dudes, I was not complaining. Both Mal and Chakotay (naturally) wanted to be in charge, but since we’d only been given a direction to go in, no actual specifics as to what our quest was (bad planning, Management), there weren’t too many problems at first.

Then we ran into a friend I know in real life, except something was weird about her, and then, as we were chatting, she told me that she’d downloaded her consciousness into an android’s body because she’d been afraid of getting fat, and droids’ bodies never change. And then she ended up coming along with us because she had nothing better to do.

Things got hazy after that (I think I was starting to move toward waking up) … I remember a fight between Mal and Chakotay, and then a fight between Mal and my android friend (Mal, apparently, had a lot of anger issues to work out – though the droid friend started the second fight, and would have won it except I tried to pull them apart and accidentally dropped her off the cliff, but we figured she survived because, hey, droid bodies are remarkably resilient), and then just as we were getting close to figuring out what the point was of the quest, what we were after to begin with …

thump thump thump little feet coming up to the bed, “I have to go potty” little voice whispered, and even though Carl got up and I was able to get back to sort-of sleep, the dream was gone.

I most sincerely hope it returns tonight – I want to figure out this quest now (and also, would like to know if I was sent for more than just taking notes and pushing droids off cliffs).

What sort of fun dreams have you been having lately?

Note: I have not watched any sci-fi shows in the last several weeks, and the only sci-fi book I’ve read has been A Swiftly Tilting Planet, which is more science fantasy than science fiction, nor have I been reading/watching anything related to mysterious happenings aboard a cruise ship, so I really, really have no idea where these dreams are coming from. But they are, with the exception of that first nightmare, immensely amusing to me.

Books, characters, heroes, heroines, humor, reading list

"She Was Only Anne"

I am not a book reviewer, and this blog is not a review blog. I adore book review blogs. I just don’t review very well. I have a hard time being objective, and looking at something as either well-done or poorly-done, instead of “I liked this” or “this irritated the heck out of me.”

However. I am re-reading Persuasion for, I don’t know, the seventh time? Tenth? I don’t keep track of how often I read books, honestly. I know I started reading Austen back in my college days, and have re-read her books many times since. Sense and Sensibility is my least favorite – I would venture so far as to say I rather dislike it, mostly because all the characters are in good need of a Gibbs-head-slap – and my favorite keeps changing throughout the years. Right now, and for a few years, it is Persuasion, followed closely by Emma.

I think Anne Elliot is the best of all Austen’s heroines. More depth to her character than Lizzy Bennet, more spirit than Fanny Price, more clarity of vision than Emma Woodhouse, more common sense than Cathy Morland, and more understanding and wisdom than the Dashwood sisters. I love, as I approach my thirtieth year, that she is an older heroine, and one who blossomed later in life instead of early. I love how she shows that gentleness does not equal weakness, just as Louisa Musgrove proves that spiritedness does not equal strength of character.

Captain Wentworth is, I think, a bit of a jerk. He’s held a grudge against Anne for years, is deliberately rude to her, and flirts with the Musgrove girls without a care for how he might be affecting them. Yet, he is no Darcy, because we get to see him improve slowly throughout the book – not just changing after he is confronted with his faults, because he wants to be worthy of his love (I really hate the message that sends – that if you love somebody enough, you can change their character flaws. IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY OUTSIDE THE MOVIE AND BOOK WORLD). He sees his flaws for himself, recognizes where he has been unjust and acted wrongly, and then moves decisively to correct himself.

And I think that’s one reason why Anne and Captain Wentworth are such a good match – they loved each other as youth, were separated and grew up apart from each other, each developing into their own person, and then came back together as fully realized adults, each offering something special to the other, to help make the other complete.

Persuasion is great not just for the MCs, though. The supporting characters are all brilliantly drawn too – Mary Musgrove cracks me up with every re-reading; Admiral and Mrs Croft are delightful; Mr Elliot and Mrs Clay are just the right sort of villains – not too obvious.

Then there is the scenery, and the overall feel of the book. I almost always read Persuasion in the autumn or winter months. It is that sort of book; it feels wrong to read it when it is light and sunny out. With only a few words Austen gives us a clear picture of Kellynch, of Lyme (oh how I want to visit there someday!), and of Bath. Bath comes through even clearer in Persuasion, I think, than in Northanger Abbey.

It shows the mark of being written by an older, experienced author. The pace is calmer, the humor subtler, the tone quieter and deeper than the others. It is, I think, Jane Austen’s masterpiece, and I think it a true pity that it is so often overshadowed by the brighter but shallower Pride and Prejudice.

Next up on my fall/winter reading list: Shakespeare and Elizabeth Gaskell! What are you planning on reading this month?

characters, humor, influences, world-building

Influences: L Frank Baum

One of the stories my parents like to tell about me is how I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz all the way through, all by myself, when I was in kindergarten. That may not seem so impressive now, but back then, most kids went into kindergarten not even knowing how to read. So I was definitely an anomaly.

It can be hard, when you have a kid who reads so fluently so early, to find books that hold their interest writing-style, and yet don’t tackle subjects that are beyond their comprehension. Baum’s books were perfect in this regard – the writing was sophisticated, yet the stories were simple enough that even an over-sensitive six-year-old like myself could read them without being scared or confused, or even simply overwhelmed with concepts beyond my ability to understand.

Baum has been criticized considerably for “sugar-coating” Oz too much, turning it into a place where nothing truly bad could ever happen, and while I understand that criticism, there was (and still is, really) always something very comforting about taking a trip to Oz.

(Never mind the fact that as it was HIS creation to begin with, he could do anything he wanted with it, and people still wouldn’t have had the right to complain. After all, if you don’t like it, don’t read it, but don’t act as though the author is somehow presenting a false impression of a real place when it was all from his head to begin with. Ahem. Small rant over.)

One of the other great things about Oz was that there was enough humor for small people, but the puns and plays on words are sheer adult amusement. I rarely, even to this day, get through an Oz book without a surprised and delighted snort at something that went completely over my head as a kid.

I have heard the theory that Oz was meant to be a metaphor on communism or capitalism or something political. Maybe it was. But I know that it can be read without any kind of political background, and enjoyed as sheer good story-telling, and that is how I prefer it. I would much rather not see a possible political background to a good story than misread a grand yarn as a thinly-disguised treatise on capitalism.

So, how had Baum inspired me? Well, aside from being, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of the very earliest writers I ever read alone, and quite possibly responsible for my lifelong love for fantasy, from Baum I learned the sheer joy of world-building, of creating a place that exists quite independently from the characters, and has its own history and inhabitants and can quite happily sustain any number of stories, just as this world can.

From Baum, too, I have learned the fun of playing with words, of subtle humor, of inside jokes between the writer and reader, at the characters’ expense. I tend to be more of an invisible narrator, telling my stories solely through the eyes of my characters, but I always enjoy taking a break from that role once in a while and trying that omniscient narrator bit that Baum does so well.

And, of course, Baum was a master at creating realistic children, spunky heroines and heroes who frequently found themselves in scrapes, but by using ingenuity and courage always worked their way out. Dorothy is beloved by so many, I believe, not just for her staunch loyalty to Uncle Henry and Auntie Em, but for her wit and spirit, and for the fact that even after she came to Oz permanently and became closest companion to the ruler of Oz, she still maintained her independence and practical outlook on life. In some ways, she was wasted in such a happy land as Oz. She would have made a wonderful explorer and adventurer in this world, as well as a great righter of wrongs. Alas! She is safe in Fairyland, and it is up to we other writers to create our own characters to right those wrongs, and have those adventures.

Perhaps, if we are very fortunate, one or two of them might in time be as well-loved as brave little Dorothy Gale.

Are you a frequenter of the land of Oz? Do you enjoy it, or do you find Baum’s stories too safe for your taste? Who is your favorite “spunky girl heroine” in children’s and/or YA literature? And what was the first chapter book you can remember (or others remember about you) reading on your own?