Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lie On Floor

I’ve been meaning to do a blog about NaNoWriMo since December 1st, but life keeps doing this hilarious thing were it carries on and then smacks me about with boughts of ‘can’t be bothered’ which I fill mainly with sleeping these days.
Anyway, I’ll summarize—I didn’t get to 50,000 words. I did finish the book, but it just didn’t want to be proper-sized, no matter how I tried to embellish or add scenes/characters to keep it going, it’s just not a novel-length story as yet, so although I’ve got a rough draft, it’s pathetically short. I tried to make up the rest of the word count, working on other projects, but it felt like cheating and I didn’t end up even logging my final word-count into the website (or even figuring it out) so… maybe next year will be better! If I won, I don’t know, and I kind of don’t want to know at this point, because either way, I don’t feel like I did my best.
I’m starting to notice a somewhat disturbing pattern. I don’t think it will constitute a real pattern unless it happens again next year—but last year, I had a bit of a disaster I lost about 8,000 words from my NaNo novel, which I was eventually forced to just rewrite, which was lame, since I’m still convinced that the first draft of that section was better than what I ended up with.

That’s didn’t derail me though, I still finished at well over 50,000 words and had a rough draft of a novel on my hands that I actually still don’t hate a year later. NaNoWriMo 2011 - Nailed it.

This year, my computer broke.
It’s still not fixed (anybody have a soldering iron?) and I eventually managed to rescue the files and start writing on a borrowed laptop, but I was struggling with this project to begin with, so that was kind of a slug to the gut.
So, NaNoWriMo 2012 – Fail.
Now, I’m getting paranoid though. I feel like I can anticipate a similar disaster for NaNoWriMo 2013.  Hopefully I’ll handle it more like 2011 than 2012.
In any case, I’m glad that I did it and now I’ve got another rough draft to work with.

I kind of hate it.
It’s a mess. Trying to write a novel based on someone else’s vision was very difficult for me. I think it was good practice though. I ought to be able to do good ‘working-writer’ type things like that. I used to be (understandably) ashamed that when I first started writing, all my stuff was exclusively fanfiction, but now that I’ve had plenty of time to consider all my options as a writer, there’s something to be said for trying to represent someone else’s stories/characters/themes in such a way that you can please another creator, or an established fan-base.  
Overall, writing this book was definitely a positive experience, even though I legit hate it right now. I think there’s a lot to work with, and maybe in a few years, when I’m not so resentful of it, I can come back to this story and rework it.
Now, I’m going back to the projects I abandoned in October.
The Knight of Redboat City– Which I predict will take longer than anticipated if only because I stopped dead at about 3/4ths of the way through and decided to completely change the tense/perspective. Twice. Also, I’ve rewritten the beginning five times and I still think it’s weak.
Untitled Space Opera – Every name I come up with for this one doesn’t manage to look any better on paper than “Untitled Space Opera”. It’s so close to being finished. I hate it when I finish a book and still don’t know what it’s called.
Salvages (2nd Draft) – Also close to completion. I’m hoping to come in below 150,000 words this time.
Boney Fae Ly – The sequel to Rosenrot. It’s about 2/3rds finished. I’m reluctant to work on it while I’m still reworking parts of the first book, but that’s probably a tiny bit of a lie since it’s what I’ve worked on the most lately.
Yay, writing!
Distractions (A list of everything that will prevent me from completing these projects in a timely manner)
Eating all the food
Work & Church (Barista-ing and teaching my classes, preparing for my classes)
Christmas (This includes parties, shopping for/making and wrapping presents, the traffic associated with Christmas that always seems to eat up more of my day than it should, Decorating & Baking, Preparing to sing in church, going to other wards to watch people sing in Church/Concerts, A General Feeling of Christmas Nostalgia that leaves one staring wistfully out the window for far longer than intended)
The Sundance Film Festival (which could conceivably fall under work)
“Oh look, a bird!”
My cat wants a cuddle
“I should probably do some yoga/body-rock/Kung Fu before I’m so tired I can’t see.”
“How long have I been lying on the floor ignoring my responsibilities?! Wasn’t I going to write today?”
So, there you have it. If I can just overcome all these distractions I predict I can have four newly completed books in just a few weeks.
…Don’t hold your breath or anything.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Once there was a Floating Eye of Death

Lane is in a Vans commercial with DJ Lance Rock! it's AWESOME!

Her silly face gets a close up at 0:46.

It looks like this 8D but less sideways.

Also, we visited the set of The Aquabats Super Show! this last week. Guinness has been helping with costumes. It was a blast!

They're filming the second season now, but the first season is new on Netflix, which is the greatest news ever!

Here are a few reasons you should watch

Fake Commercials

An actual band of superheroes pretty much just playing themselves only with IQ points slightly lowered


Weird Al is President

Guitars that shoots lasers

Anti-Negativity Helmets

Mr. Lawrence

"It's bigger on the inside!"

Strong Bad basically playing Strong Bad

Christian getting punched in the face by a tree

Spontaneous musical numbers

Monster of the Week including genies, aliens, the deadliest bees in space etc.

Animated segments

I need to go, so if you need more convincing just look at the page for the show.

Never mind, you don't need anymore convincing. Go watch the show!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Can we please treat the disease and not just the symptoms?

You see that elephant in the room? Okay, I acknowledged him, but I actually don't want to talk about Obama's reelection or Romney, just because it's just about the only thing I've talked about all week in real life, and I'm done for the weekend. Probably. Probably not.

I am, however, going to talk about the church. More specifically, I'm going to talk about church members a little. In between election-centered rants, I also went on a couple of member-rants this week.

Don't get me wrong, I love my people and will defend them to my last breath, but sometimes I just want to grab them shoulders and shake them. It was that kind of a week.

Today's rant is brought to you by this article that dad sent me.

First off, I'm skeptical of this “teaching self government” program. That's a different rant entirely, I just wanted to put that out there to begin with, so you can understand that I have a biased opinion against programs like that. I believe they do more harm than good. I sort of tend to file them under “IMPACT” etc. which I also disapprove of. Not that every principle is worthless, but that it can be taken to an extreme that actually negates certain crucial aspects of the Gospel. Besides, if you're living the Gospel correctly, you probably shouldn't need those things to supplement your life. That's the abstract of my criticism. For the full argument, see me in person. I dare you.

So, to get back to the article. It's all about the way that this LDS family dealt with their fifteen year old daughter putting a semi (meaning”not”) permanent pink streak of color in her otherwise naturally brown hair.

When my younger sister Jensen put a pink streak in her hair this is how my parents dealt with it.

“You look so cute!”

And a few weeks later, after regular washings, all the color had come out and her naturally blonde hair was color-free again. End of story.

My parents are awesome though, more on that later.

Don't worry, I'll give this family a benefit of the doubt at the end of my rant. Ultimately, I'm not arguing against their treatment of their daughter or in the decisions that they made—or guilt-ed her into making. It's not what I would have done. It's not what my parents would have done (my awesome parents) and I can outline all the reasons why, but that's not really what upsets me about the story. What really gets to me in the attitude behind it.

There is something very persistent and negative about the way church members have to constantly vilify arbitrary components of the main-stream in modern culture, i.e., I don't like it when church members crusade against things that don't matter when they could be worrying about the kinds of problems that actually threaten their souls.

Don't argue that “it starts small” because you know what, most of the time, it actually doesn't start that small. I've grown up hanging out with your kids and watching you ignore the real warning signs, because you don't want to deal with any problems that are potentially serious. It's a lot easier to pinpoint something obvious like pink hair, rather than talk to your daughter about the fact that she shows little to no enthusiasm for the young women program.

For most parents it's easier to rail for a good hour about a somewhat tight sweater than it is to talk for thirty seconds about the availability of pornography on the internet. Kids know this and they exploit it.

“Geez mom, I know.”

And then mom drops it because she's just as uncomfortable as her son is.

The war is not against pink hair, it's against Satan.

For the record, the “For the Strength of Youth” entry on Dress and Grooming is here.

Although the Gospel never changes, you will notice that the church makes small (and sometimes big) alterations to the written standards not because 'God's changed his mind' but, I think, because the world changes. Is coloring your hair extreme? At one time, wearing your hair down was extreme. Cutting your hair short was extreme. 

Tattoos didn't used to be forbidden, but the church spoke out against the practice of body modification after it was hi-jacked by counter/alternative movements in Western Culture. I don't think that's a coincidence. The same thing kind of happened with beards. Beards used to be perfectly acceptable. Gentlemen had beards, but society changed and beards became kind of alternative. After that, the men of the church were encouraged (and in some cases, required) to be clean shaven. (Personally, I'd love to see this change again, I like a beard, me:)

I'd say that colored hair could arguably fall under this category of evolving fashion in grooming. Sure, a few decades ago, having hair dyed rainbow colors meant you hung out with these guys.

But who are we to judge, maybe they're nice?

Now though, things are different. Having pink hair doesn't necessarily mean that you're spending all your money on rock-concerts, and getting your tongue pierced in the school parking lot by the same kid who supplies the weed.

Now, colored streaks are considered whimsical, ethereal and even kind of classy when done correctly.

If you're going to argue against dyed hair using the whole 'unnatural' argument with rainbow colors, than I'd just like to take that thought to it's logical conclusion real quick. Dying your hair at all is unnatural. For that matter, cutting it/styling it/perming it should be called into question.

Sorry, but I just don't think so, and I have a hard time accepting the arguments that I've heard against the logical conclusion train.

“It's alright if it's a color that appears in nature.”

Okay. Why?

“Because it's natural.”

Not for you, blondie.

On a related note about the change in the Western Culture's attitude towards pretty-pretty rainbowy hair, I introduce you to this lovely plaited mane.

She's adorable. I can only see the back of her head, but that's dang cute and you know what, I bet she's a nice girl. She's probably on vacation with her family right now and was very grateful and loving to them for taking her along, but in a week or two she needs to go back home to her job and her volunteer work at the local animal shelter.

That's a bit of a side effect of this attitude that a lot of church members gloss over. It offends people when you talk about choices they made as being totally unacceptable. It makes it sound like you're assuming that they're creeps, because (let's face it) you are.

I work at a coffee shop in Salt Lake City, so I am constantly surrounded by people who don't follow the word of wisdom. They're pretty thick-skinned, a lot of them, but I've found that I have to be careful about the comments I make, because it hurts their feelings when I'm critical of their choices, just like it hurts my feelings when people are critical of my choices. The way conversion/coming unto Christ is supposed to work is that you teach people the truth and their hearts change, so they personally feel inclined to make different choices. Attacking the choices first isn't really the good way to go about helping someone, if it works, it's because of guilt, not because of a true change of heart. The true stuff can come later, but don't count on that. That's bad missionary-ing.

There is a very fine line between standing for truth and righteousness and being overly judgmental and ultimately hurting the Lord's plan by pissing off all the potential investigators that we meet. It's a constant balancing act and one of life's challenges is that you figure it out.

“But it's hard!”

Of course it's hard. Suck it up.

Articles like this take it for granted that “Of course all good people know that dying your hair pink is a regrettable lifestyle choice that leads to sneaking out at night, drugs and dog-fighting”, and then we end up with a bunch of cute, sweet pink-haired girls feeling bad about themselves and like they're not good enough, or at least that church members don't think they're good enough to join the church/come back to church/associate with church members.

Well done.

Now, here's the part where I try to be fair to this article that so infuriated me.

I don't know this family. I don't know the parents. I don't know the girl. I don't know all the facts. I don't get to raise this girl and I have absolutely no justifiable reason for why anything I say should matter to her or her parents except maybe because I'm just clever.

Ultimately, it's the parents responsibility and divinely appointed right to raise their children the best way they know how, and it's clear from the article that the girl had previously agreed to follow the family's rules, which included not messing with her hair.

She knew her parents would be upset and she did it anyway, which makes what she did wrong.

Her folks had every right to consequently be upset about it. I just hope they realize that the real problem with what their daughter did is disobedience and not necessarily the inherent evil of the color pink or a massive violation of the Dress and Grooming standards set out by the church, because it's freakin' debatable at least. I doubt they've acknowledged the real root of the problem, because, well, I know a lot of Mormon families and they're not all experts in human behavior/motivation.

In fairness, most people aren't, it's not just a church thing.

They have personal standards that they hold firm to, and that's to be admired. Helping your children to follow those standards is very important. Even when those rules are kind of ridiculous/without an explanation that satisfies me personally.

The Lord does this too, e.g., we still don't actually know why we're not supposed to drink green tea.

(oops, sorry to interrupt but I wanted to warn you, here comes an abstract from another separate rant.)

It's a rule and I follow it, without question, simply because Heavenly Father said. Eventually, every church member needs to get this through their thick skulls. Following the rules that your parents set for you, even when you don't agree with or understand their rules is an excellent way to begin learning an eternal principle.

There is some value in obedience for obedience sake, especially with parenting, but be careful about how you use it. You don't want to abuse it.

Let me finish this ranty-poo with one final thought. I'm not a parent. I'm nearly twenty-five and single and a bit of an idiot sometimes, but I don't think I lack the experience needed to understand rebellious teenagers. I never was one, but basically all of my friends proudly were. All of them came from LDS homes. I was with them during their darkest times; during the fights that fractured their relationships with their families. Some of my friends, I'm very sad to say, could have turned out a lot better off, a lot stronger and happier and basically just not-so-screwed-up if they'd had parents who were willing to lay aside their weapons during the battles that dixn't really matter and address the real threats against their child's spiritual well-being.

And, maybe this particular family, with the no-longer-pinkish-haired fifteen-year-old isn't a proper example. Maybe these particular parents are just really thorough about helping their kids through every single challenge they face, so they're bored and had to resort to nit-picking about pink hair. That's a possibility, I guess, but if that's so, they are the exception to the norm that I'm familiar with.

I'm used to seeing parents who have the unfortunate tendency to pick the wrong battles. It's a bit like your child is going to war, and you show up for a skirmish or two near the beginning, but when they really need you, you act like the war is over and wave goodbye. That's your child's soul this battle is being waged over, isn't it worth feeling a little uncomfortable and out of your depth? That's how your kid feels all the time. Being a teenager is vastly unpleasant, or don't you remember?

All my friend's parents in high school were like that, and they had one other thing in common.

None of them listened to me.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Doctor in the TARDIS with Rose Tyler

I am subjecting my younger sister, Guinness to the new series of Doctor Who. It is positively the most entertaining thing in my life right now.
We had a Who-nathon this weekend after I got off work earlier than expected and felt like making cupcakes and watching Doctor Who, which was about as perfect as it sounds. So, we sat down and finished season two.
You can actually pinpoint the moment when dear Guinness went from simply liking the show to when she transformed into a true Whovian. I’d say it was right around ‘The Empty Child’. Freakin’ Moffat.
Anyway, she did not take Billie Piper leaving well. Like, this was War Horse level hysterics.
Her face was all red and puffy and there were tears everywhere and she was wailing and murmuring ‘Rose’ over and over again, and I’m not even sure she remembers that twenty minutes of blurry grief. It was awesome.
I did finally get her to calm down, but I had to find a kitten for her to cuddle and get her to eat a cupcake. She still sniffled every few minutes for pretty much the rest of the weekend.

Let me just say, in case you’ve gotten any other impression, Guinness is a twenty-two year old thoroughly modern, hipster genius college student. She’s rough and tough and once punched Cthulhu. This was a very rare and special moment to see her regress to being a six-year-old. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but now she’s back to being all adult-ish and cynical. 

P.S. Happy Guy Fawks day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo! Yup, it's that time of year.

While getting ready to take on NaNoWriMo again I decided to do something totally counterproductive.  I took a little while to look back on all my unfinished projects that I could be working on, instead of starting up an entirely new novel.
Ah, nostalgia. It’s so powerful and sort of hurty and now I really just want to go back to them and dust them off and work through the rough bits. But no, I’m going to set them aside and try to do something totally different.
This year, my project is a perfect example of three things I never write.
1.      It’s just straight fiction. There’s no speculative/fantasy/scifi/steampunk/magical realism tag attached to that ‘fiction’ label, it’s just ‘fiction’. The plot and characters never existed that I know of, but conceivably could according to the laws of nature with which I am acquainted in the real world. They’re just people, doing realistic people-y things.
2.      Its ‘literary’ which in this sense means that it works with the more modern model of a novel. Instead of building the conflict to its peak and then resolving everything/offering closure etc., it builds the conflict to its peak and then end the story in such a way that it really just leaves the reader to think about it and draw their own conclusion. I’ve always found this to be crap, but apparently it’s what really smart writers are supposed to do now. Whatever. Pretentious goons. We’ll see how that part of it goes. I may decide to give it a classic ending after all, but I’ll try for this, unless I choke on my own affectation.
3.      It’s not my idea. This is a big weird deal for me. Other people have offered up suggestions to me before, usually the conversation starts about like this, “Oh you write? That’s so cool, I wish I could write. I’ve got all these ideas, but I just don’t have the time. Say, have you ever thought about writing a book about (insertbrilliance). I know! You should write my book for me.”
Most of the time the idea they’ve got strikes me as pretty dull. Sorry, that’s the truth. I typically reply in a toneless voice with, “Sorry, I’ve got too many of my own projects to work on. You’re going to have to write that one yourself.”
In fact that’s my automatic response whenever anyone tries to tell me what to write a book about, even if it’s a mildly interesting idea, and that’s exactly what I said when the idea for this book was first given to me.
But I couldn’t forget about it. And the person kept bringing it up again, so they wouldn’t let me forget about it. I do actually like it, I began to realize.
I’ll go ahead and make it my NaNoWriMo project, even though its obviously not my usual thing… In all honesty, that’s one of the reasons why I set it aside for NaNoWriMo. Because it’s so different from what I usually do, I kind of can’t see myself sticking with it for long. I’m either going to have to knock it out all at once, or forget about it.
I’m not saying it’ll be brilliant, I’m just hoping that I’ll go ahead and finish the 50,000 words as planned and then I can set the rough, rough draft aside and get back to my other projects for a bit, let this poor, weird neglected child marinate for a few months/years and then when I’ve pretty much forgotten what I wrote, I’ll come back to it and see if it’s really any good.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Welsh Opera

Jensen and I have decided we’re going to write one. We talked about it a bit over the summer and then last night, Jensen actually started on it (Impressed face).

I’ve always thought writing an Opera would be an interesting challenge. It’s been years since I’ve tried to write music and maybe even longer since I really tried to annotate any of it, which means this is going to be pretty rough, I’m sure. Luckily, because Jensen is a genius, we’ve already got the plot and some of the lyric medio-formed. I’m fighting for the word owl (gwdihw, in Welsh) to appear somewhere.

So, get back to me in ten years and it’ll probably be done-ish. Jensen wants to do it full-tilt classic style. Economy of sets, just a few principle singers and a chorus, classical feel for the music. None of this modern stuff. We’re both a little sick of that.

Anyway, I scribbled up a summary for the plot that I’d love to share. Keep in mind, this is not the summary as it will appear in the program, this is the summary that I made up so that I could remember stuff.

The principles will all have names when we’ve had longer than a few hours to think about it, but right now our main singers are…

Howel – our tenor
Gruffudd – our baritone
Wise Woman – yay, alto!
EM – our soprano (I’d kind of rather her be a mezzo-soprano, but…)
Currently unnamed Welsh Citizen who gets the spotlight in the first act of the second half – another tenor, probably one of the noblemen hunters who accompanied Gruffudd out in the first act.
Then, a hearty Welsh chorus.

Part 1
Act I
Gruffudd reveals his plans as he stalks beasts in the forest. His father, the great king Llewellyn has died leaving the throne and the fate of Wales with his eldest son Howel. Gruffudd thinks this is a crap idea and expands upon all the reasons why Howel is a crap king and he'd be a much better one. Also, this hunting trip, like so many throughout history is really just an excuse to do some assassinatin'. The other hunters join him, including Howel, who clearly loves his treacherous little brother a whole ton. They carry on into the woods to hunt beasts/commit fratricide.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the woods, an elven maiden, EM (that’s not her name, it stands for Elven Maiden), is gathered with beautiful elven children, telling wonderful stories of how humans used to be subservient to elves, once upon a slavery ago. (This can easily be changed to other elven maidens since some people immediately want to sepuku upon hearing that they have to cast kids in this thing) anyway, their merriment and story-telling is interrupted by lusty hunters (our princes and their hunting buddies) the elves spy on them as Gruffudd and the others as they murder Howel--except he's not really dead, spoiler--triumphant, Gruffudd and his pals vacate the woods, leaving Howel gravely injured, but technically still alive, which our elf maiden discovers when she falls upon his "corpse" with tender tears.
Possible song titles for this act

The unworthy brother (We start off with an aria, because really, why not?)
Of on the hunt (we/I) go
Elven bedtime at noon
Slaying the boar/I put my trust in bloody hands
Elven lament (a lovely number that will be interrupted by a somewhat dissonant high-note-of-surprise when EM sees that Howel isn’t dead.)
I’m not going to go on about the songs all the way through, are you getting the idea?

Act II
Howel awakes in the kingdom of the elves and fairies, being nursed back to health by a wise witchy woman. Their duet is a mixture of her giving him "the call" which he of course refuses, encouraging him to go and take back his kingdom and rule his people justly and fairly as his father did. Howel is interested in going back alright, but just so he can lay the smackdown on Gruffudd and with any luck die himself in the process "For how can I go on living after I've shed my dear brother's blood?!" It's all very tortured, but our witchy lady is over it. Howel feels strong again and keeps trying to flee the elven city, only to be comically deterred by the elves themselves and the witchy lady as they continue their duet. Half the chorus is all for revenge, the other half isn't, divided by gender? Works with the duet, I think. Anyway, we'll probably need to add some more things, probably with the elven maiden and the withy woman planning to bring Howel back to the path of righteousness and/or unite their two kingdoms with marriage and baby-makin'.
Gruffudd returns to the city and with big crocodile tears and an Oscar-winning performance as he describes a fantastic and completely fictional account of how his brother was killed by a (big red dragon/lion depending on what kind of symbolism you what, or what you're trying to get Gruffudd to imply--has the dragon chosen him as the true ruler of Wales, or is it significant that it was a Lion in that he is the only one who can defend them from the English?) anyway, this is the big hammy villain song-and-dance. Think "No-More-Mister-Nice-Guy" from the Swan Princess. He's saying that his glorious reign is just beginning and let the lavish festivities continue!
Part 2
Act I
Howel attempting to woe coy EM. Very. Very funny. This is the big epic love number, but it's also the last truly light-hearted note in this whole production. Things gettin' pretty heavy from this point on. Basically EM has realized that she has true feelings for Howel and doesn't just want his kingdom, but wants him, whether he claims his destiny or refuses it, she'll stand by his side. But she'd still pretty sassy and not exactly leaping into his arm, ya know? Until the end, then there can be some snoggy-time. This will turn into a duet as well, though it starts out as two separate arias, if that makes sense. I'm thinking two totally different melodies that are in different keys, but both have key changes that eventually put them on the same level with each other, before the melodies adjust to become a duet. It makes sense in my head, and I think it'll be lovely.
Anyway, happiness is interrupted as a citizen of Howel's rightful kingdom is brought dying into the elven kingdom. He tells his sad story of how the new king Gruffudd has lived lavishly in his palace with all his friends and has taxed the people to the bone. He'd suffered a fatal injury hunting for food to save his starving family. He exhorts his king to take up his rightful place and his responsibility to his people, and dies of his wounds.
Howel sees now that revenge is not important, and neither is his brother or himself, what is important is the people of Wales! He will take the elven army and go forth to defend them, not for his own sake but for the sake of the Red Dragon! Cymru am byth!
Act II
The battle! It shall be EPIC! Lots of hacky/slashy and the final notes of conflict between EM and Howel, does she come with him, or does she stay behind? Howel goes to confront his brother and their final fight ends with Howel sparing his brother's life after Gruffudd openly confesses his crimes. Then, Gruffudd springs to kill his brother and revenge his own humiliation. EM jumps in at the last moment and kills Gruffudd to save her love. Howel's final song is a lament for his brother, whom he hopes will find a similarly faithful maiden in the spirit world, who can make him a better man, as EM did for Howel.
The End!