Updates sporadically.

Friday, March 13, 2015

DC Comics: Can we talk about this?

The upcoming post isn't related to writing. I'm coming back from my long break for a tangential rant.

So, DC Comics -- can we talk about this:

Do you not see the problem here? Okay, let me make it a little clearer for you:

We need to talk about this. About the Mandarin collars. Because it really needs to stop.

Here's what I imagine happened. You all were sitting in good old DC HQ in Metropolis, listening to Kevin Conroy make ocean noises, possibly eating some very special brownies*, and suddenly Grant Morrison locks eyes with the two-headed Bruce Timm/Paul Dini hybrid and they all whisper in one voice, "Mandarin collars." 

And, like God made light, the age of superheroes in Mandarin collars was ushered in. It became gospel, a doctrine all would follow in the New 52 redesign. Because they're just so chic**, so powerful***, so heroic****.

Now, whenever a redesign passes across an editor's desk, there is only one question: can we make that collar a little more Mandarin?

I mean look at them. Really LOOK AT THEM. Let me lay out the most egregious offenders here. Let's start with:

Green Arrow

I'm not even going to get into any other elements of these redesigns that have my feathers a little ruffled. Nobody cares that I like my Green Arrow older, with a curly goatee. Just based on the collar, this is ridiculous. Because, why? The man is in a sleeveless hoodie. Why is he wearing an apparently sleeveless, Mandarin'collared black shirt under it? Why do we need this collar at all? Are the designers afraid of neck skin? Clavicles? What is happening here?


Martian Manhunter

I know, the big collar on his old cape was just so dated, amirite? But am I the only one who already finds these Mandarin collars to be completely dated? Because they are so overdone, I'm already sick of looking at them. And this one? Why? They gave him his signature bare chest, which I dig, but then they threw some weird shoulder thing on him just so they would have something to attach a Mandarin collar to. They are dictating designs just so a Mandarin collar can happen! 

Arguably, it may just be part of the cape. He does have a cape, after all. That must be the reason! Which brings us to:


What in the actual WHAT? At this point, I'm convinced that this entire redesign was a prank, just waiting to see if anyone was going to call them on it. Or perhaps there was a committee whose sole purpose was to mess with me. She's not even wearing a cape -- I mean, let's be honest. She's not really wearing anything except some thigh high boots and weird nipple clamps I can't even begin to comprehend the physics of. Except, there's that shoulder thing again, present solely as the vehicle to the Mandarin collar. 

Clearly, this is getting out of hand. No, this is beyond getting out of hand -- it is completely out already. I couldn't find a good shot of it, but I'm pretty sure even Wonder Girl's choker has been designed with a Mandarin collar quality in mind.

So, DC. I am begging you. Stop. Please, just stop. This isn't even bearable anymore. I'm so bored with all of these superheroes necks that I could cry. And I shouldn't have any emotions about superheroes necks. This is what you've done to me.

Please, find a little ingenuity. A crew neck. A v-neck. A boat neck. Just leave out the little divet even and give me a turtleneck. But enough with the collar. I just can't.

*I mean, there has to be some explanation for how the inspiration struck, and pot brownies seem as likely a motive as any.
**But are they?
***But really, are they?
****No, like, actually, ARE THEY?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Phew! And we're back!

The radio silence is over. It's been a long one, but it's been for a good reason: my novel is done.

I repeat: IT IS DONE.

Lest anybody think I'm jumping the gun, let's go for candor. This has taken me a long time. Probably longer than it should have. Because, even though this is technically my "second" novel, it is the first one I've gotten into read-able shape. I learned a lot in the editing process to take into my future writing projects. And yes, I've decided to share these with you.
  1. Slow down. NaNoWriMo is great. No, I mean it. Without it, I never would have gotten this story to the page in the first place. But it still merits mentioning that a novel that took me one month to write then took me three years to edit. Three. Years. And the main reason is that I really didn't know WHAT I was doing. While I had the concept down when I started writing, I didn't have a plot. Let me tell you, going back and trying to inject more plot into a "finished" work is a lot harder than just getting your ducks in a row in the first place. So next time, I will slow down on my first take.
  2. Don't put another obstruction between the reader and the story. This was one of the biggest messes I had to clean up. I think it was on round three of editing that I finally caught this. Yanna, my MC, was framing EVERYTHING. Meaning, nothing just happened. It was "Yanna saw" this, "Yanna heard" that, "Yanna thought," "Yanna knew," "Yanna felt". And when it wasn't Yanna seeing/hearing/thinking/knowing/feeling, it was because something was busy "seeming". The grass wasn't just green. No, it seemed green. Adding these frames to everything puts a wall up between your reader and the work. If it is only warm outside because Yanna feels that it is warm outside, then your reader isn't experiencing anything firsthand. Nothing exists with immediacy. Nothing happens to your reader without being filtered and responded to by someone/something else first. Also, this is just repetitive writing, which you want to avoid when you're penning 70,000+ words. 
  3. Give your character a personality. So. My next big dilemma. I enjoyed writing my MC, but as a read and reread and edited and re-edited, I kept being struck with how bored I was. Not because of the story. Not because of the writing. No, it was her. Yanna. I was downright bored by her. And then when I realized: I'd given all of the personality to the supporting cast. I liked every other character, even the bad guys, more than I like her. Yikes! After finally getting an honest response by prodding one of my beta readers into confirmation, I had a big task ahead of me. I needed not only to figure out what her personality was, or how I could tweak it to make it more interesting: I also needed to go back and write it into her. A lot of headache could've been avoided by getting this figured out ahead of time.
  4. Find a helper and do some worldbuilding. And here's the ultimate lesson: writing isn't a solo project. For as solitary as it is to be at your computer typing out a story that no one else knows, creating a world that no one else lives in, you can't do it alone. Or, better put, you shouldn't. As smart as you are, as well as you know the world you're creating (which is certainly better than anyone else does), somebody out there is going to ask a question that you've never thought of. Luckily for me, I know that person's name. In my case, I'm married to him. My partner has the sort of practical mind that, as a fantasy writer, I occasionally find infuriating. While I'm busy creating a world of magic and wonder and mythology and gods, he's over my shoulder asking me where the sewage system is. What kind of metallurgy do they do? Have they invented bronze? Where do they get their copper and tin? Do they have irrigation systems? Where are the cattle kept? Do they have cattle? Crops?
    As much as it raised my hackles and I sometimes maybe just wanted him to GO AWAY ... his questions really improved my worldbuilding. Until he asked, my approach to many of these questions had simply been to ignore them until the novel required them to be answered. But by knowing the answers ahead of time, I was able to build a much richer, much more consistent world. So find someone to ask questions. Bonus points if they are not your intended audience -- odds are, you are at least a little bit your intended audience so you've probably answered all of those questions anyway.
And those are the big ones! I'm sure that there is a lot more, but just keeping in mind these four lessons is going to make book two that much easier. Because there is a sequel, and I will be starting it soon. And in the meantime, my query is nice and polished, my synopsis is getting a final spit shine, and I'm off to the races for a literary agent. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Fantastic-Schmantastic List of Easy Last Minute Costumes

Happy almost Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up in a costume of my own design and getting out there and seeing what other people have made. I begin working on my costume months ahead of time, all the excitement building up, until -- VOILA! HALLOWEEN!

That said, I know that not everyone is as Halloween-crazy as I am. Some of you may even be *gasp* costume procrastinators!

Well, no fear. If you're still struggling for a costume idea, you're in luck.

May I present to you:

The Fantastic-Schmantastic List of Easy Last Minute Costumes

All of these costumes are homemade and can largely be put together with nothing more than a journey through the back of your closet and perhaps a quick trip to your local thrift store. Here we go!

1. ZOMBIES. Look, we were never going to get through this list without mentioning zombies. Might as well get it out of the way. Way out of the way. It took a lot of strength for me to include this because, as people close to me know, I have a thing about zombies. Like, you know how somebody are irrationally afraid of spiders?
Yeah, like that.
But zombies.
Anyway, zombies are a decent last minute costume. But better yet, try going as a zombie with a twist! And since the blog is about fiction, why not make it a literary twist? Zombie Elizabeth Bennet is an obvious choice. Zombie Poe. Zombie Wilde. Zombie Peter Pan. Really, feel free to zombify to your heart's content.

Zombie Elizabeth Bennet Instructions

What you'll need:
For clothing:
White night gown (preferably ruffled)

For makeup:
White/pale face paint
Black/dark eyeshadow

For fake blood
Corn syrup
Red food coloring

Bonus: Peeling skinCorn syrup
Glycerin soap (liquid)
Gelatin (plain)
Makeup setting powder

Follow the instructions here to make some awesome fake blood. Before applying the blood, don your best frilly long white or light colored nightgown, easily found at a thrift store. Pin your messy hair bag in a "I slept in my prom hairstyle" kind of way. Paint exposed skin with white face paint or other very pale makeup. Use the dark eyeshadow to create sunken looking eyes and cheeks. For the finishing touch, apply fake blood to mouth and dress.

For the bonus:

This is the best recipe I've found. Never mind that he does a horrible job of giving any measurements -- just focus on getting the consistency right. In actuality, this is very hard to mess up. Once your concoction is made, apply to any areas you want to make look peeling/decomposed/scarred. I recommend a nice neck/jaw wound, as though a zombie chomped down on your neck. Once the concoction is applied, go over it with the white face paint. Then take your fake blood and dark eyeshadow, and any other colors you have/want to use, and begin coloring it in the make it look disgusting. Set with some makeup setting powder if available.

Congratulations, you look disgusting!

2. Patrick Bateman.* Get back to your scary roots this Halloween. Zombies not your thing? Yeah, I don't blame you. But you can still get your scary on with a character like Patrick Bateman. The American Psycho title character can be done in a few ways, whether you're going for the minimalist overgroomed wax figure look or, my preference, the plastic poncho look. 

Poncho Sporting Patrick Bateman
What you'll need:
For clothing:
Clear poncho or garbage bag (a bottom up deal would be amazing, but not essential)
Blue or white button up shirt
Red tie

For makeup:
Foundation and concealer (optional)

For fake blood
Corn syrup
Red food coloring

Again, follow the instructions here to make some awesome fake blood. Put on your nice clothes. Make the most pristine tie knot you can. You need to look immaculate. I highly recommend the foundation and concealer because you want that face of yours to look creepy smooth, like a wax doll. With a high hold gel, slick your hair back. If you have a garbage bag for a poncho, cut out a head and arm holes. Don your poncho. Now take your fake blood and splatter your face and poncho. Practice a manic grin and hand out business cards.

3. The Grand High Witch. Anybody else have the (mis)fortune of reading The Witches by Roald Dahl as a child? I love Dahl's work, but that doesn't make these witches any less terrifying. Intent on killing children they look like regular people until the remove the gloves, wigs, shoes and entire faces to reveal their true form. 

The Grand High Witch in Disguise
What you'll need:
For clothing:
Black shirt
Black pants or long skirt
Black gloves
Ugly black shoes (her deformed feet can fit in cute shoes!)

For makeup:
Lip liner
Dark matte eyeshadow
Dark eyebrow gel (optional)

Bonus: Hair
Long black wig

This one will probably require explaining, but the people who know The Witches will be sufficiently freaked out by your ensemble. The key thing here is to get the clothing right. Once you don your black ensemble, the goal of the makeup is to make your face looking a little to right to be real. This isn't your face, after all -- it is a mask you are wearing to trick people into thinking you're human. So make the blush a little too circular, line the lips just a shade darker than your natural color of whatever you are wearing, and fill in your eyebrows to make them completely uniform. A bonus here would be to use a light brown eyeliner or matte eyeshadow to draw a seam line around the perimeter of your face to show where it comes off.

For the bonus: A wig is not necessary, but it can be a nice finishing touch. A long, straight dark wig has the bonus of allow you to reach up and scratch under it -- a telltale sign that you are a witch!

4. G.M. Dark, The Illustrated Man. People seem to have a weird thing about carnival workers to begin with, the transient lifestyle being a little on the side of ideal for convicts and criminals. And then, a carnie covered in tattoos representing the souls of his victims? That is the making of true terror.

The Illustrated Man, G.M. Dark

What you'll need:
For clothing:
Black suit
Top hat (optional)
Walking stick (optional)

For makeup:
Temporary tattoos, or skill with some washable markers/face paint

Bonus: Mustache
A curled up mustache not unlike Dick Dastardly's

As much as the monochrome black is essential, nothing in this costume is more important than the tattoos. They are what give the Illustrated man his name. So cover any skin that is showing with tattoos -- except for your face. These tattoos should be of people. This might be hard to find in temporary tattoo form, so enlist a friend to help and paint you with markers, face paint, or go for outline drawings and just use an ink pen. Once tattooed, put on your snappy suit, affix your mustache and go steal some souls.

*Update: So, the inclusion of this costume has been bothering me. I'm not gonna remove it from the list because it is a good costume. American Psycho is a well done horrorshow of a novel, and Bateman is an awesome horrible character. What's bothering me is the weird sort of tooled up cult around Patrick Bateman that seems to idolize him. But let's not get it twisted. There is a risk of this costume making light of murder, rape and general violence. That is not the intention. I think, in this case, it is a matter of where you personally draw the line. He is a fictional character from a well-written gruesome novel. But his crimes are very much poignant in the modern zeitgeist.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Short List of Don'ts

I've been away for a while ... obviously. Where have I been? Touring the Antarctic? Toiling away trying to find the next perfect number? Trying to make a sweater out of my own hair?

No. None of these. I've been working, hanging out with my partner, playing softball and doing a personality overhaul on my MC.

And I've been reading. I'm always reading. Any spare minute I have -- at lunch, on the train, on the elliptical -- I read. I read because I enjoy it, but I also consider it my writer homework. I read authors I respect, established authors, but I also read new authors. First novels, newbies to the field of YA and fantasy/sci-fi. I read to see what is being written, what is being published, what is being read.

And while I've found enjoyment in many of these novels, I've also come across some Don'ts. I was inspired to write these down for you after I had to put down a novel on page 7 because I was so beyond exasperated. It was such a sad experience as a reader, I realized that it was my heroic* duty** to share these Don'ts with you.

A Short List of Don'ts

  1. DON'T use dialogue as an excuse for exposition. Really, it's annoying. Imagine you live in a world where magic exists, but only a 7th child has the ability. Don't reveal this on page 2 by having Mary-Jo turn to Bucky-Bob and say, "We are so lucky to be 7th children, which means that we have magic and other people who are not 7th children do not since only 7th children have magic." Not only is this a horrible sentence -- it's also silly. Bucky-Bob lives in the world, too. Why would Mary-Jo feel the need to explain this to him in casual conversation?
  2. DON'T make your super special character go on about wishing they weren't special. Being special is every little kid's dream. Deep down, we all harbor some secret wish to be better at something than everyone else. So when Mary-Jo is the most awesome-est gymnast ever, don't make her prattle on about wishing she could just be like everyone else and not know how to do a quadruple tuck backflip into a roundhouse handspring ...or something. She was receive approximately zero empathy or sympathy from your reader.
  3. Speaking of which, DON'T have your character whine about being privileged. And while we're at it, don't you do this either. I've come across this a few times, usually monarchy wishing they could live like the peasants***, but the most egregious example was in the book I just put down. The MC, Guilty Gertrude, tells us there are two classes of people: the Gonna Dies, who are lucky to have food once a week, and the Silver Platters, who live in luxury. Guilty Gertrude then goes on about how she wishes she wasn't a Silver Platter. Oh really, Guilty Gertrude? Because you've just said the other option is to be one of the Gonna Dies, and I really don't think that's the better option. White guilt, or any permeation of it, isn't a good look.
  4. DON'T make your character tough. It's played out. I'm not saying that there can never be another good stoic character. But maybe it's time to consider some other personalities? There are a lot of options out there.
  5. DON'T make your character hotheaded. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule. If this is how your characters handles things, then go for it. But understand that this is also played out. You need to bring something else to the table the a redheaded girl who's badass with a bow and has a bad temper.
  6. DON'T be too serious. Not all novels are comedies, but all novels can use comedy. Your MC or somebody around your MC should be making jokes occasionally. Because that's what people do. If somebody was walking around taking everything in the world super-serial all the time ... well, people would probably laugh at them for taking everything so seriously.

*Because noticing flaws in others is the definition of heroism ... oh wait ...
**Hehe, duty.
***Really? You want to live in the street that people are emptying buckets of excrement on from their windows? Because that's what's happening in your medieval-y world.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy Fantastic-Schmantastic Birthday!

It is Fantasy-Schmantasy's one-year-iversary today!

And it's not just us, all these other famous people are celebrating birthdays as well:

Michael Jackson
Lea Michele
John McCain
Ingrid Bergman
Rufio -- I mean Zuko. I mean  Dante Basco.
John Locke
Paul Frank

And, most importantly and schmantastically of all, my baby sister, Rainey who is a infantile 17 years old today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

*NSFW (or grandparents)* Upcoming Author Interview

You ever have that moment where it's after 5pm and you suddenly realize it's a posting day and you haven't even thought of what you're going to write?

... yeah, me neither.

In totally unrelated news, today's post is a teaser! I will be interviewing self-published erotica author Jessica Satin, recent winner of the Bad Girls' Bible Erotica Contest with her piece Snow White and the Seven Huntsmen.* We'll discuss what got her into writing erotica, why self-publishing, how the process has worked for her and what her ambitions are as an author.

Get ready!

And readers of an appropriate age**can find some of Jessica's work on Amazon.

*To any parents and grandparents of the Blog Lady who might be reading this right now -- if you click any of these links, I seriously do not want to know.
**Whatever that may mean.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Problem Child (or Child Problem)

Think about everything that makes up a person. A person is a sum of their experiences, their circumstances, their genetics. They are influenced by friends, family, enemies, acquaintances, events. They are motivated by lust, greed, empathy, generosity, hormones, or even just the phase of the moon.

There is a lot that goes into writing a character that feels real -- even the most obvious author simulacrum creates headache and heartache as the writer attempts to create motivation and consistency that represent a personality and establish real personhood.

Which is why things get even stickier when we're talking about child characters.