IWSG – My Duty (Or Not)

Published February 6, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

OMG, I suck.  I started this post more than a week ago, hit “Save Draft” and then totally forgot about finishing it and actually hitting “Schedule.”  UGH.

And on to your regularly scheduled — and much delayed — IWSG post…

Okay, this is going to sound off-topic at first, but I went to see a movie…um…when was that?  Well, at some point not too long ago.  (Ugh, I may be losing my mind already.)  Anyway, there was a trailer for the movie adaptation for the first novel in yet another YA series.  In particular, this was for the adaptation of the first novel in the “Artemis Fowl” series.  Which I gather is the name of the boy who’s the main character.

The boy.

Artemis.

Virgin goddess of the hunt.

Who refuses the company of men almost entirely.

That one.  And people keep giving her entirely feminine name to male characters.

It’s not that hard, guys!  In Greek, an -is ending is feminine!  E.G. Thetis, Britomartis, Briseis, Chryseis, et cetera.

Even easier, when a name exists in a masculine and feminine form, don’t give them the one that doesn’t match their gender.  (Unless you’re specifically trying to make a point about gender with that character.)  If your character is male, then you need to use the masculine version, Artemus.  It’s only common sense!

But people keep doing this, abusing the goddess.

I’m just barely willing to overlook the Sailor Moon cat, because a lot of Japanese names are unisex, so when Japanese writers borrow names from other languages, they don’t always research whether or not native speakers would give that name to a character of that gender.  (This seems to happen especially with the use of feminine names given to male characters.  My favorite JRPG series has guys named Sheena, Salome and Lulu.)

But for a series of English-language YA novels?  Nope.  Cannot be forgiven.  I think there’s a character associated with D&D that similarly assaults the goddess’s good name.

With this movie coming out, this has now reached a boiling point of “this cannot go on!”

So in my desire to avenge Her, I realized the best method would be to spread the opposite, to popularize a god’s name as the name of a female character.  And whose name better to emasculate than Her twin, Apollo, such a symbol of masculinity?

The plan, therefore, is to write a YA series of novels with a heroine named Apollo.  She starts out a normal enough girl, but early on in the first book she gets told what it seems like every lead of a YA fantasy adventure is told:  that she’s “the special.”  In this case, that means she becomes the queen/princess/high priestess/what-have-you of a country/race/planet/religion/etc…but there are certain parties who won’t accept a teenage girl in that role, and they go to war to remove her from power.  Thus the title of the series of books is “The Apolleonic Wars.”  (Yes, I know “Apollonian” would be more proper, but I got the idea for the name on seeing the book I was reading with something in front of it so that the “N” was blocked in “Napoleonic”…)

However, not all is as it seems.  You see, young Apollo is not actually “the special.”  It would come out either at the end of Act II of the first book or at some point later in the the series (depending) that she was chosen for the role specifically because the people choosing her thought they’d be able to easily manipulate her.  So after that revelation, she’ll have to find a way to stop the war and do something about the people on her own side that instigated it by putting her in that position of power to begin with, despite that she’s just an ordinary girl with no special abilities or anything.

You may be wondering why I’m sharing this so publicly, giving someone else the opportunity to take the idea for themselves?  Well, the thing is, for this to be effective as vengeance for the wrongs done to Artemis, the books would have to be both professionally published and sell well enough to effectively feminize Apollo’s name, at least among the generation who might grow up reading it.  And let’s be real, that’s probably outside my ability.  No, scratch that.  It is outside my ability.  And yet I feel like this needs to happen.

Therefore, I’m sharing this in case anyone actually talented at YA-novel writing would care to have a go at it.

If you’re going to use this, tell me in the comments so I won’t do it, too.

Oh, or you could write something else using “Apollo” as the heroine’s name.  Or some other god’s name.  Again, let me know if you’re going to do that, too, so I can make sure to use the same one.  (And no, “Shiva” doesn’t count.  Because it has to be Greek.)

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IWSG – Another New Year

Published January 2, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Ugh, I’ve seen too many of them, you know?

Well, anyway, I’ve come to realize that a lot of the problems with my writing stem from my poor characterization.  Or rather, that no matter how hard I try, my characters very soon slip into the same two or three characters I’ve been writing for the last umpty years.  Even if I’m using someone else’s characters, who absolutely should not be acting like that.  It’s a very frustrating realization, to say the least.

I’m going to be applying myself during the coming year to overcome this flaw…

…though I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to go about it.

First step will probably be a lot of re-writes, unfortunately.  I think I managed to improve the characterizations in the second draft of last year’s — uh, sorry, year before last’s — NaNo novel and separate them a bit.  But that type of re-writing is long and tedious, so I hope I manage to fix the problem in the first drafts in the future.

I’d probably do better at thinking of possible solutions if I wasn’t sick as a dog and really tired because it’s late at night.  (I know, I know, I probably shouldn’t be pre-writing in that case, but if I don’t, it won’t go out at all!)

Welcome to the Year of the Woman!

Published January 1, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Happy New Year!  And welcome to the Year of the Woman!

Not that it’s an official designation (as far as I know), I just decided that for me, this is going to be the Year of the Woman.

I decided that on Christmas, as I was opening my presents, which included three books:  Elizabeth’s Rival by Nicola Tallis, When Women Ruled the World:  Six Queens of Egypt by Kara Cooney, and Domina:  The Women Who Made Imperial Rome by Guy de la Bédoyère.  On top of that, when I was shopping for the office Secret Santa, I picked up a couple of cute illustrated books, one about 50 goddesses and the other about 100 women who changed history.  I got next year’s calendar from a Kickstarter project a while back, and it’s the Women’s History Calendar, with each month featuring information and art related to numerous important women throughout history.  Today will see the first ever New Year’s Doctor Who special (replacing the inappropriate Christmas specials the new series has had up until now) featuring the first ever female Doctor, who will start her second season later this year (which is exciting, considering her first season was, to my mind, the best season of the entire new series).  And in the real world, the Speaker of the House will be a woman again, and more (and more diverse) women are in office than ever before.  So, yeah, Year of the Woman.

I’m planning on observing it by focusing my reading list a bit (though not entirely), especially in terms of the Read Harder Challenge (2019’s list offers plenty of options there, as always) and probably in terms of my final paper for class.  (My final class!  Yay!)  I might try to focus my self-challenge writing, and maybe I’ll even get started on that Sailor Moon fanfic I’ve been thinking of.  Or maybe not.  Dunno.  Still a lot of planning needed on that one.  (It’s a cross-over with one of the greatest video games of all time, Final Fantasy VI.)  And my April A-to-Z is probably going to be about women in myths (possibly leaning heavily on that 50 goddesses book)…though that’s only if I do it; I’ll be neck-deep in the research for my final paper by that point.

Let’s see, was there anything else I wanted to say in this post?

Oh, well, it’s not exactly “Year of the Woman” stuff, but I’ve also got a very atypical plan for the coming year.  Since I’ve been backing a number of (mostly very weird and wild) tarot decks on Kickstarter, it occurred to me I should get a book on tarot, not just to explain the meanings of the cards (which I used to know, but have mostly forgotten by now) and I ended up stumbling on a book with 365 different spreads, written with the intention of letting people do a different reading every day of the year, and I figured “hey, why not?”  They’re all for different types of questions, of course, so some of them are probably going to end up being about my characters in things I’m writing, because I have no need of, say, love readings.  It occurs to me suddenly (now that it’s totally too late) that I should have bought a special notebook to write down all the results in.  I think I’ll start out by writing them in a regular notebook and then copy them into said special notebook after the fact.  If anything comes up interesting (esp. for the ones about my characters) I may do a post about it.

Finishing up Read Harder 2018 (the lazy way)

Published December 27, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Right, so, mass post to cover everything that didn’t get its own review.  Several of these are last minute replacements to make up for much longer books I didn’t have time to read because that stupid YA book held me up so long that my class started and things picked up at work, and all that rubbish.  Also some of these I read before class started, but I didn’t get around to their reviews because the review of the lousy book also held me up.  (Because I suck.)

Anyway, for laziness’s sake, I’m going to go by their order on the challenge list, starting with Challenge #2, “A book of true crime,” which I am skipping over as I’m embarrassed that I own the darn thing.  It’s something I bought in the school bookstore (with my parents’ money) back in the ’90s, relating dumb things criminals had done.  It seemed harmless at the time, but looking at it for the first time in more than a decade, I see a lot about it that’s unsettling.

Moving on to Challenge #3, “A classic of genre fiction,” I went with this:

The short version is “good books, horrible edition.”  Seriously, this paperback “classics” edition from Barnes & Noble is so bad.  I mean, I guess it’s okay if you’re the type to ignore endnotes entirely, but I’m in the habit of reading them.  Which I had to get out of pretty quickly for this thing.  It was bad enough when it gave endnotes explaining things that no reader would likely need explained (what a brontosaurus or a griffin was, for example), but when it gave a note that was a freaking spoiler, that’s when I said “no, screw you, endnotes!”  Ugh.

Uh, yeah, that was not relevant.  Also — still in the irrelevant category — wtf is up with that cover image?  It’s a neat image, yes, but it has sod-all to do with the books.  The future visited by the time traveler has no high tech anything, let alone this 1950s fantasy of the high rise city of tomorrow.

Back to what’s relevant, I was amazed at how little there was in common between these two books and my expectations.  The Time Machine has more in common with the opening sequence of Time After Time than it does with either of the films adapting it that I’ve seen.  The book’s future is very different from what any movie has ever delivered, and honestly it’s not even something a movie can deliver unless it’s going to be a very uncomfortable and relatively short picture.  In the movies, the Eloi have not evolved much from humans, while the Morlocks have become hideous mole-monster-people.  In the book, both species have become physically entirely distinct from human beings.  Which is much more likely, really, but not so easy to film.

As to The Invisible Man, it’s very different from other books of its sort.  Not that I’ve read a huge number of them (are there even a huge number of them?) but I’ve read both Frankenstein and Dracula, two of the works that pioneered the rather disparate genre that would create the Universal Monsters. 😛  It’s much less intimate with the title character…or anyone else, for that matter, if I recall correctly.  (Ugh, trying to review a book I read in August or whenever is not so easy in December.  Especially considering I’m sick.)  It was a really interesting read, though.  As long as you’re not reading this edition.

Okay, moving on to the next unreviewed book on the list, Challenge #5, “A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries.”

This is the sort of thing I wouldn’t have counted for Read Harder if I hadn’t run out of time.  “Rakonto” is the name of a project I backed on Kickstarter.  The idea of the project is that a group of teachers go to various countries and meet with groups of children who for one reason or another don’t get…okay, wait, rather than me trying to sum it up, I’m going to quote their campaign page instead:

Children love to tell stories.

However, in many places in the world, their creative voices are rarely heard or cultivated. Rakonto helps amplify the voices of these children by traveling to developing communities and implementing storytelling workshops that build on children’s natural potential to become storytellers.

In these workshops, we teach students the power of storytelling, challenging them to write their own original stories. In doing so…

  • We encourage students to take pride in their local heritage and to find their own voices
  • We empower students by sharing methods and tools for powerful expression, helping them grasp their potential as creative individuals
  • We help students imagine themselves as agents of positive social change

And it goes on from there about how there’s a global shortage of teachers, and how many children live in areas where they’re not getting the basic education that everyone should have the right to, etc.  They take the stories the children have told, illustrate one or more, and send them out to their supporters as books, with the proceeds from the books going to pay for more workshops in other countries, to keep the project going and encourage more children.

So, anyway, this one, The Power of an Idea, is by a tenth grader in India.  (Which is a bit older than I was expecting from their description, but…)  It’s about elderly homeless people and how to help them so they won’t be homeless anymore.  A bit naive around the edges, but very sweet, and definitely a different perspective than you get in America.

Moving on, Challenge #7, “A western.”  I had planned on borrowing a book from my father for this one, a steampunk western with all sorts of real people reinvented in steampunky ways, which I’m told is quite good.  But I didn’t have time anymore, so I went with

a single issue of a comic book I backed on Kickstarter.  (I am totally not a comic book person.  So why do I end up backing so many of them on Kickstarter?)  It’s about a bounty hunter named Veronica in 1885, who travels with La Meurte, who may or may not be real, but is most definitely her lover even if she isn’t real.  It’s short, being only an issue of a comic book rather than a full graphic novel, but it’s very interesting.  I’ll definitely be backing the later issues, too.  (Though only at the digital level.  I don’t want to try to keep track of flimsy little comic books.  I’ll go physical edition if they get collected into a book later on.)

Next, Challenge #9, “A book of colonial or postcolonial literature.”  I wanted to read Kim for this, because what could be more colonial than Kipling?  (Also, I bought an RPG based on it off itch.io a while back, and I wanted to read the book before I played the game.)  But I totally ran out of time.  So, in a measure of extreme cheapness and possible cheating, I’m counting one of the books I read for class.

I figure it counts as colonial/postcolonial because it starts out in Korea while it was under Japan’s colonial control, and then it’s postcolonial as we follow the family of displaced Koreans trying to live in Japan.  This is not a book I would ever have read on my own, and I can’t say that I enjoyed it.  It’s just totally not my thing.  The stuff in Korea was very interesting, and the early part of their time in Japan was also pretty good.  Near the end of WWII it totally lost me, though.  I can pinpoint the moment it happened, too:  when a long-gone character returned to the story suddenly to play the role of “perpetual plot device.”  It’s a generations long book which only really started to make sense to me after one of the children grew up and fell in love with the English novels he was studying, particularly Dickens.  Then I got it:  this is a love letter to and imitation of Dickens, with a Korean/Japanese veneer (and thankfully much less dense text).  As someone who gets annoyed with Dickens’ propensity for continual and over-the-top coincidences, this did not endear the book to me.

Additionally, the author’s research was inconsistent.  She did do a lot of research, but only into the major things like political movements, historical events, etc.  A lot of the details slid by.  I only noticed one particularly glaring one, late in the book, when we’re in 1968, and a three year old boy is soooo excited to go to the store and buy the latest “issue” of Tetsuwon Atom and then hurries home to watch the anime on TV.  Yeah, so that felt really, really wrong to me chronologically, so I looked that up.  Tetsuwon Atom (aka Astro Boy in the west) ended in 1968 with the death of the title character.  I don’t know when in the year that final chapter was published (and it would have been in a magazine, not in “issues” like an American comic; the collected volume likely wouldn’t have hit the shelves until the following year) but I seem to recall that scene being set in the fall, meaning it was probably already over, and given the way it ended, the father would probably have tried to discourage his little son’s attachment to the property.  But the son wouldn’t have said attachment anyway, because the anime went off the air in 1966, when the boy was about a year old.  It took me about a minute to look that up.  The author could have done the same.  And no, I don’t think she was using it for its recognizability factor, considering she was not only using its original Japanese title, but even going so far as to transliterate “Atom” as “Atomu,” as it’s actually spelled in Japanese.

So, long story short, when we discussed the book in class, the professor explained to us that there were a lot of minor errors all throughout the book, particularly in terms of when particular foods were available in Japan and what they were called at the time.  (I didn’t mention the anime thing, because I didn’t want to sound like the biggest otaku ever, but I’m sure she was aware of it.  She’s just more interested in food culture than pop culture.)

Now, do little things like that ruin a book?  Well, no, not to most people.  But as I said, I didn’t like it anyway, because of the whole melodramatic, recurring coincidence thing.  It’s just not my cup of tea.

And moving on to Challenge #24 (skipping over #20 to end with it) we have another class book, and this one feels even more like cheating.  That last challenge is “An assigned book you hated (or never finished).”  I didn’t hate it, but this is the last book we were assigned in that class, and I didn’t manage to finish it on time because I was too caught up in work and in research for my final paper.

This book is a sociological/anthropological study of Bethel, a service community on the island of Hokkaido which helps mental patients discharged from the hospital to live their lives outside the mental institution.  Most of the patients were, at first, schizophrenics, though that’s started to change in favor of emotional disturbances.  Anyway, it’s a very interesting book and written with very simple language, not a lot of technical terms from pyschology or anthropology.  It did need a better editing job, though; a lot of grammatical errors made it to the printed page.

Okay, so last one, Challenge #20, “A book with a cover you hate.”  And again this is kind of cheating, because this is something I would have read anyway.  But it does qualify, though in a different way than they likely meant.  My choice for this challenge is this:

I’m sure you’re looking at that gorgeous cover and wondering why in the world I hate it.  Well, let me tell you this:  if you have ever read any Black Butler and just haven’t gotten this far, or if you think you might want to read it in the future, then just stop right now.  Because I can’t explain why I hate this cover without completely spoiling the contents of this volume of the manga.

Okay, so if you don’t want to read further, hit the back button now!

Just gonna add a few more lines of buffer…

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..

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Okay, hopefully that’s buffer enough.

So, the reason I hate this book’s cover is because Agni there is my second favorite character in the manga…

…and he is horribly, brutally killed in the first chapter of this volume.

And in a later chapter we see a shinigami completing the paperwork on collecting his soul, so it’s highly unlikely (if not outright impossible) that he’s going to be magically revived.

Worse still, I had already paid to read that horrible, horrible chapter.  Because the last volume ended with my favorite character, Prince Soma (Agni’s employer/dearest friend), with a gun to his head, and then a page with nothing but a sound effect of a gun being fired.  I knew there were ways to buy an officially translated version of new chapters within days of their release in Japan, and I couldn’t possibly wait to find out if Soma was okay, so I had looked around and found that comixology sold the chapters for $2.99 apiece.  I bought the relevant chapter and found that Soma only got shot in the hand, but the assailant proved himself unnaturally powerful and…

…I ended up crying so hard that I had to call my brother, hastily assure him that nothing was wrong, and then continue crying as I explained I needed to get out of the house for a while.  (The worst part is, I have a fair chunk of Black Butler merch in my house.  If things go as badly as I fear they might in the next volume, and Soma gets himself killed trying to avenge Agni by going after the wrong person, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it all, because I don’t think I’ll want to keep it.  Or even keep reading.)

Needless to say, when this volume was released and I saw what the cover image was, I was really pissed off that they had the gall to do this.  I mean, there have been characters on the cover of the volume in which they die before, but those were new characters who were only introduced in that arc.  Soma and Agni were introduced very early on, before the story arcs got so long, and they’ve been around for probably about seven or eight years now.  (I believe the manga recently celebrated its tenth year.)  As long as they’ve been around, they should have become effectively immortal.  I accept that in a supernatural manga where the title character is a literal demon, there are plenty of human casualties, even ones that you would want to have survive and join the permanent cast, but if the permanent cast are suddenly no longer so permanent…

Not to mention that the “evil twin” became a tired cliche decades ago.  I mean, I think in this case there’s still something supernatural going on (at the very least, he’s been raised from the dead) but that doesn’t change the stupidity of it; there better be something more complex and deeper going on than that.

And I could go on about this for ages, but I’ll stop because I doubt anyone cares.

Abandoned Book Report: The Alchemyst

Published December 13, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Right, so I may have said before how part of the reason I was more or less stymied in my blogging was because of a book review post on one of my Read Harder choices.  And I have decided not to bother actually finishing the review.  Because a) why torture myself?  And b) I read it in like June and really don’t remember much.

Except that I hated it.  I remember that.

And that the author’s afterword about the real people who inspired the not-actually-the-hero (Nicholas Flamel) and the villain (Dr. John Dee) was way more interesting than the actual book.  (BTW, I was proud of myself, in the early pages, for identifying the latter figure just by his being called Dee.)

I’m including what little I had written (back in August) of the review, and summing up the rest with:  the teenage twins who were the leads were utterly boring, the girl had zero agency throughout the book (her magic was stronger, but the two times she used it to save the day were not her triumph, because in one case it was an accident, and in the other she was literally being controlled by someone else), and their parents were apparently con artists posing as archaeologists, because absolutely everything the twins said about their parents’ work was wrong and backwards.  (FYI, author of this awful book, archaeologists have a culture or region they specialize in, and they do not go gallivanting all over the freakin’ world excavating in every random culture they feel like.  They only work in the one they’ve specialized in.  Traveling the world to lecture or do a book tour, yes, but excavating any old ancient civ?  No.  Doesn’t happen.  Also, children do not need to have archaeologist parents to know who Bastet is.  I knew that from a very early age, because I read books.  And yes, parents who are not archaeologists do give their children books on world mythology.)

This was a young adult book, either about the same length as the first Harry Potter book, or a bit shorter.  But it took me a whole month to read it, because I had so much trouble forcing myself to endure it.

Also, using “Alchemyst” to refer to Flamel as an epithet in narration was really, really annoying.  “Olde English Shoppe” names notwithstanding, I don’t think anyone ever spelled the word alchemist that way.   And if they did, it was when English spelling was so loose that it probably would have been spelled five different ways in the same document.

Anyway, thanks to replacing some of my originally intended books with much, much shorter ones, I now only have one book left to go in Read Harder 2018 (if it weren’t for this stinkbomb, I would have finished back in the summer months, before my fall class started!), so once I’ve read that (and it’s a manga, so it won’t take long, once I force myself to start) I’m going to post a group book report on the rest of them.

And what follows is the small amount I wrote back in August.  Complete with the “note to self” material in brackets that I normally would delete as I replaced it with the proper text.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to post again after the last post is that this review is going to be really hard and frustrating to write.  In part because it’s now been like two months since I finished reading this book, and in part because I really don’t even want to think about it again.

This is my review for Read Harder 2018 Challenge #16, “The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series.”

Where do I even start?

Well, at the very beginning, I guess.  Which, in this case, is when and why I bought this book.  I had recently finished writing my quasi-YA series about three young heroes who were all illegitimate offspring of heroes of the Trojan War.  (The boy being a genuine mythological figure, and the two girls being my own inventions.)  As I had ludicrous delusions of being able to polish the books up to a publishable state, I wanted to make sure they fit in with the basic YA crowd.  As such, I wanted to read some other first-in-a-series YA books before I started editing the first book.  And I saw this at the bookstore and thought it sounded interesting.

And as the back of the book pushed the title character, the immortal Nicholas Flamel, rather than the two utterly boring modern teenagers who were the actual leads, it did sound interesting.

[okay, for attacking their asinine claims about their parents’ discoveries, the archaeologists who accidentally discovered Homo floresiensis were Australian and Indonesian, not American, and they were looking for evidence of how humans migrated from Asia to Australia.  That is highly specified work which would not take just any random archaeologist who was used to working with fully developed cultures.]

OMG, IWSG again?

Published December 5, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Where did November go?

Oh, right, it went to NaNo and my final paper.  Bummer.

Well, anyway, NaNo was good.  I had a lot of fun writing out three sets of mythology, loosely inspired by Greek, Roman and Celtic, in that order.  When I finished up with the Celtic (and a very abbreviated inspired-by-Arthurian-legends saga) I contemplated going on to one inspired by Norse/Teutonic myth, since the country based on 19th century Prussia/Bavaria is going to be in the next book and I actually know Norse myths (unlike whatever the heck I’m gonna base the mythic traditions of the France-like country on) but ended up not doing so because I didn’t have any names ready.

And why would that have stopped me, when I once very giddily wrote a sentence containing a character named “Derek Imtootiredtobethinkingupnames”?  Well, because the naming process turned out to be super-important to the other three.  I totally let the meaning of the names dictate how I used the associated characters, and I think that’s going to be really useful when I rewrite the first book (again) to work in all these new cultural details, because it’s let me separate the fictional countries from the real ones that inspired them.  (Of course the France-like country’s revolution is still way too much like the French Revolution for comfort, but…yeah, I’ll figure that out later.)

A few things really stand out that I’m most proud of in writing these mythic structures, particularly for the Greece- and Rome-like countries:

  1. Unlike in reality, where there’s almost no difference between Greek and Roman myths other than the names of the gods, there’s almost nothing the same between the two sets of myths in my fictional world.
  2. Though for the most part I based the personalities of the gods on my perception of their real world counterparts (there are exceptions to that), their relationships to each other are different, to the extent that, for example, the equivalent of Apollo and Hermes are twins, instead of Apollo and Artemis.  (Actually, though, Artemis still ended up having a twin, only it was Athene.  That culture ended up with like three sets of twins among the gods.)  The generational order is radically different from the real Greek and Roman one, which will help to let the reader see the countries as more than just Sparta and Rome under other names.  (Especially important in the latter case, since the previous Imperator is very obviously Hadrian.  Well, insofar as the whole Antinoos thing goes, anyway.)
  3. There are way more goddesses than gods.  Like, to the extent that in the one based on classical Sparta, the equivalent of Hera thought she had given birth to a monster when she gave birth to the equivalent of Ares, because after so many daughters, she didn’t understand that a son was a possibility.
  4. There’s so much less sleeping around, particularly by the Zeus/Jupiter equivalents.  (Although the lack of sleeping around is also kind of a problem, because the Aphrodite/Venus equivalents don’t do much of it, either.  To the extent that there had to be a footnote explaining that the Venus-type was the goddess of love, despite that she pretty much only has the one lover.  Who’s actually her sister.  Sometimes in the form of a man.  Because I thought Hermes/Mercury didn’t get to be enough of a trickster in the real myths, so I let the Mercury-type have transformation powers.)

Anyway, after I finished with the myths, I focused more on my paper (not that I wasn’t already working on it, mind you!), and in my off-minutes, I went back to a fanfic project I’d been working on in October…and ended up gutting and overhauling it mid-writing.  Which is kind of a first for me, but the old version was so much a repeat of another fic I’d written before, so…it’s working out better now.

However, overall, I’ve become aware of a stagnation in my writing.  I’m not sure if it’s because the fandom I’m currently obsessive over doesn’t allow much variety, or if there’s something else wrong, but I have a plan to fix it, which will coincidentally also fix my near-dead blog.  (Hey, two for one special!)

I’ve backed a few games on Kickstarter that are supposed to be party games where everyone sort of improvs a story or parts of one or whatever, but I’m going to use them as writing prompts.  This is especially the case for a game called “Pitchstorm” that arrived during November.  The actual rules of the game are that you draw three cards, one for a character, one for a “plot” and one for really bad notes from studio executives, and then you pitch the movie they would add up to.  What I’m going to do is to pull one of each of those types of cards, and then write a piece of brief fiction that answers those conditions as best I can.  Possibly in some cases it would still be more of a summary than proper fiction, but…the idea’s to get the creative juices flowing, yeah?  And I’m going to post the resulting stories to the blog.

And when will I start this creative new endeavor?

Not sure, actually.  The pinched nerve in my shoulder has come back, along with what feels like a pulled muscle in my right arm, so now that NaNo and class are over, I need to try and let them rest.  I’m trying to find time around work to go get a recliner I can sleep in, which should relieve some of the strain on the shoulder (I hope!) but I won’t even have an opportunity to go shopping for one until next week.

I’m also trying to hurry my way through a cheap-and-dirty finishing of this year’s goals on the Read Harder Challenge, and I’ll be posting capsule reviews for the rest of those books (or as many of them as I actually get through) at some point this month.

As soon as I post this (since it’s after midnight, I may as well just hit “publish” instead of scheduling it for a few hours from now, right?) I’m also going to see if I can change the title of my blog, because I don’t feel like it’s quite right for me anymore.  I mean, yeah, I’m still a graduate student, but only for one more semester.  (Finally, the end is in sight!)  And, well, I dunno.  It just doesn’t quite feel like “me” anymore.

 

Oh, but before I do!  I mentioned my NaNo novel having footnotes without explaining.  See, I was writing out those myths as part of a “book” on world mythology being written by a scholar who’s a character in the first novel in a series I’m working on.  (Said first novel’s first draft having been last year’s NaNo project.  Which I’ve probably said several times over the last few IWSG posts, but…)  So said scholar turned out to be the type to write extensive informational footnotes.  Because that let me add in all sorts of fun little details that weren’t part of the “symplified myth” narrative.  (Things like how there’s an archaeological site purporting to be where a particular myth took place.  Or historical details, especially the vast changes in the world situation between the first and second editions of the book.  Stuff like that.)

I had quite the shock when I went to validate my win, though.  My 57,575 word novel (yeah, I finished almost every day with a palindrome, because weird) went through the validation process and came out at about 49,500!  My mind boggled at the idea that I had so many words connected by a double-dash that it would have dropped by 8k words.  Until I suddenly realized that it wasn’t counting my footnotes.  (Which, I should admit, were also the footnotes to the first draft of my paper, because I suck like that.)  So I had to re-copy it into the validation box and then go in and manually copy every single footnote.  Then it came out at like 57,300.  And I then edited the total to what Word had told me it was.

I am, however, a bit shocked and appalled that I ended up with 8,000 words of footnotes.

IWSG: NaNo time again

Published November 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Bah, I really wanted to write a non-IWSG post this month.  I even tossed some ideas around in my head…during the commute to and from work, when I couldn’t do anything about it.

*sigh*

Well, anyway, I actually finished the draft I was working on about mid-month, giving me some time to play around with a new fanfic (which I didn’t come even close to finishing) as well as time to do some prep for NaNo.

I’m pretty confident that I’d have super-duper no problem finishing this year’s NaNo novel if I had no other demands on my time.  But I have a presentation and a paper to prepare (and as of this pre-writing, on Oct. 30, I’ve only had my main source for 24 hours, and have read about five pages of it, max), plus the museum where I work will be decorating for Christmas, which will likely take away the majority of a day when I’d normally be free to write (probably two or three, actually, as I’m going to need at least a day to pull all the toys that will go on display, plus I’m supervising a display case we always fill at a local library for the holiday season), and as Christmas season approaches I’ll have to be working more days as we get more busy at work.  So…yeah, life is going to do its best to throw a wrench in my writing plans.

Maybe there’ll be a freak snowstorm and I won’t be able to go to work for a week.  That’d help me keep caught up on NaNo and my class work.  Might kind of suck otherwise, though…

(Also, I am totally creeped out beyond anything any Halloween-related movie is likely to do.  Not ten minutes ago, a mosquito landed on my computer.  Inside my bedroom.  This is all kinds of wrong, and has left me compulsively scratching all over myself as if it’s already bitten me everywhere (despite that most of me is covered with cloth).  How did it get in my house?  How did it get in my bedroom when I always keep the door shut?  How is it even alive?  I know it was unseasonably warm today (70+ degrees Fahrenheit), but earlier this month we had nights that were down below 40; it should have died of cold.  Even worse, I didn’t wanna squash it on my computer, and so it got away, and now I don’t know where it is…)

IWSG – Twas the Month Before NaNo…

Published October 3, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Ack, I forgot to pre-write this!  *cough*

I find myself in pretty much the same place I was last month, with not getting much done on my re-write and desperately hoping I’ll finish it before NaNoWriMo starts.  Only it’s not just slow going because I’m having trouble motivating myself to get working on it.  It’s also slow because my class work picked up.  It’s been a while since I was in a really heavy-duty class (doesn’t help that I didn’t take a class last semester), and this one is turning out to be particularly intensive.  Like, one week the professor assigned us a thousand pages of reading and didn’t see what was wrong with that.  Even though she knows most of the students are either working full time or are taking multiple other graduate level courses.  Argh.

Speaking of “argh,” I had a strange dilemma come up a few days ago as I was working on the re-write.  The way this level of the re-write is going, I’m tending to copy-and-paste anything that doesn’t need to be changed to accommodate the new version of one of my leads, right?  (Because further refining those scenes can wait until the next draft.)  So in pursuing one of the radically, radically, radically different sequences, I had been so eager to move ahead (because it was just fresh composition, rather than trying to tell the same basic sequence of events with a different character) that I had skipped over a “cut-away” scene to show what some of the less prominent characters were up to.  After I realized that, and went in and put it in place, I remembered that at the last Camp NaNo session, I had written another “cut-away” scene to show what one of the antagonists was up to, and it had to go sometime in front of the previous one.  Then….

…..okay, let me start over with a few more details so it won’t get too confusing.  The main antagonist of this book is the prince of the country it takes place in, who is also the ex-boyfriend of one of the main leads.  However, the main antagonist of the series (yes, this is book one of a series) is the king, not the prince.  And although I talked a lot about the king in all the earlier drafts, he never once showed up.  So I had written a scene where the king is having a fit and orders his son to go hunt down that pernicious ex-boyfriend of his.  This was to lead into the “cut-away” scene I already had, where the prince goes to the bad-ass lady sky pirate and asks her help in approaching his ex-boyfriend.  So what happened the other day is that after putting in the scene with the lady pirate, I remembered the other scene, went to read it and figure out where best to insert it into the draft…and found out that I had written it in such a way that it was required to go after a battle against the Royal Navy that hadn’t happened yet.

*sigh*

Honestly, the worst part about that is that it meant that the entire writing session (most days I only manage to write in the interim between breakfast and leaving for work) turned out to be wasted, because everything I had done had to be undone because it was in the wrong place.

Delays like that are one of the main reasons I’m worried I won’t get the re-write done before November.  My class is the other reason, because I’m supposed to be spending October doing research for my final paper…not that she’s letting up with the heavy assigned reading for a second.  Ugh.  I am so ready to graduate that I can’t stand it.  (But I definitely need to take one more class after this, which really sucks.)

I’ve had some thoughts about my NaNo project, too.

My plan is to write out some of the myths of the world of this novel, because I keep having characters refer to their gods without my having a very firm idea of who those gods are or how they function in their societies.  One of the characters in the novel (in the new draft, anyway) is a scholar, so I just decided to set him up as more of a folklorist/mythologist instead of a historian, so he’s going to be the “author” of this book in-world, and that way I don’t have to worry about trying to change narrative voices between cultures.  And I think I may have said all that last month?  Well, anyway, my plans have narrowed and focused a bit since then.  Originally, I wanted to write every culture’s main myths, but since I want them all inspired by real cultures, that would require a lot more research than I have time for.  Instead, I’m going to just do the three cultures my three leads come from.  (If I finish all that and still have time, I might address the two cultures that are going to come up in the next book, one based on Nordic/Teutonic myth, and the other…uh…I have no idea what to base it on.  I need to research what little we know about Gaulish myth…but I fear it was not much different from the Celtic myths of the British Isles…)

So I’m going to write the main myths of three cultures, one inspired by Celtic, one inspired by Greek and one inspired by Roman myths.  Once I’ve done the basic mythic background material, then I’m going to do that character’s “paraphrases” of the major mythic cycles.  And that’s where it’s going to get tricky, because a large part of the plot of the series is that a thousand years before the action of the books, a mystical doodad was used to erase all knowledge and memory of war from the minds of the human race.  It began to wear off after about nine hundred years, so there’s war again in the present, but there can’t be any wars or knowledge of war left in their myths…

…and that means I have to write myths that have obvious places where there used to be war, but it’s been removed and/or replaced.  The Celtic mythic cycle will be easiest in that respect:  I plan on it being about a character who’s basically a fusion of Cu Chulainn and King Arthur, so I can replace wars with jousts and tournaments.  (And it’s not like personal violence between individuals went away along with wars…)  But the Greek and Roman mythic cycles?  How do you tell a “based on the Trojan War” story in a world without the concept of war?  Actually, the Roman one will be easier, since the major mythic cycle that the Romans don’t share with the Greeks is the journey of Aeneas (only important post-Vergil, of course) and the foundation of Rome, and I can always have their culture hero fleeing his distant home because of a natural disaster instead of it being destroyed in war.  But for the Greeks, it’ll be trickier.  All the more so because I’m flouting the typical thing and my based-on-ancient-Greece culture isn’t based on our modern idealized vision of Athens (because let’s face it, the real thing was not such a pretty, erudite democracy) but instead based on the horrible, slave-powered reality of ancient Sparta.  Which means their favorite god wasn’t the noble Athene but the brutal Ares.  Athene can be reworked easily without the war part (some people probably forget she’s a goddess of war as well as of wisdom) but Ares?  Without war, all he’s got is sleeping with Aphrodite and hiding in bronze jars when Olympos is invaded by giants.  It’s going to be a real challenge to reinvent him both without war and yet while making it clear that he’s supposed to be a god of war.  (I may have to make him a god of martial arts, as it were, but even that doesn’t work because “martial” is still a reference to war…)

Anyway, strangely, despite that it sounds like I’m filled with worries for my writing, my main writing worry is…okay, actually, I have two.  One, I feel like I’m gonna flip out if I can’t write some fanfic soon and let out all my crazy new fantasies about my current OTP, but I don’t want to do that before I finish my rewrite, because I don’t want to contaminate the characters, and my brain is slow to change over between sets of characters in my writing.  The second — and bigger — thing is that I seem to have totally lost my blogging habit.  (I don’t even want to think about how far behind I am in reading blogs, either…)  I think it’s because I started work on the review of a book I really didn’t like, and the idea of finishing it feels oppressive.  Maybe I should just write a preface and post it as an “abandoned” review…?

I did actually have a good idea for how to start blogging again, though.  One that should help with my writing, even.  I just can’t act on it yet.  Among the altogether too many things I’ve backed on Kickstarter have been some card-based party games that I plan to use as writing prompts rather than games.  For example, one of them is called “Pitch Storm” (I think), and you get a set of cards suggesting ridiculous movie premises, complete with asinine notes from an incompetent executive, and you’re supposed to pitch the movie that would result.  So, what I plan to do instead is to write a brief story (or possibly detailed summary) based on the cards.  And I thought I’d post that to my blog.  But the game hasn’t been produced and shipped yet, so I can’t do that yet.  (There’s one or two others I plan on using for writing prompts, too.  I actually have one of them already, but it’s going to be the hardest to use for the purpose, it turns out, and I haven’t had a chance to try yet.)

IWSG – Stalled Out (+ An Idea Up For Adoption)

Published September 5, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Lately, I  just don’t seem able to write.  Not much, anyway, especially not at a single sitting.  My blogging has almost stopped entirely (I seem to be averaging about 2 posts a month on this blog, and about 1 every other month on my other blog), and my regular writing has really stalled, too.

Part of that is due to the re-write in progress, I think.  I believe I said last time that I was currently re-writing last year’s NaNo novel (and had been for both this year’s Camp sessions) and that for the current attempt I’ve completely replaced one of the characters, which has necessitated massive shifts in story.  Some of the scenes are barely altered (largely because he’s not in them), some are still similar enough that they’re easy to deal with, and then you get to the sequence I’m currently in, where there’s more that’s 100% new than there is that’s been kept.  And I don’t mean how much text and I can copy-and-paste from the old draft.  I mean the entire situation of why they’re in town, what they’re doing there and how they’re going to get to the island off the coast has nothing in common with the original version.  Once they get to the island, things won’t be as different, but…they have to get there first.  Today (er, yesterday) all I did was look over what I’d written the last time I worked on it (some two or three days previous) and ended up doing nothing, because I just wasn’t feeling it.

I feel like that’s a big problem with this draft, is that while some scenes I’m really into (mostly the ones with the two male leads interacting and developing the possibility of the relationship I originally intended them to have before I started the initial draft) and then there’s scenes like this one that feel like a chore to write (mostly, these are purely story scenes that don’t develop their relationship, even though they do tend to develop their characters).  I think if I was going back to my fanfic, I probably wouldn’t be in this slump, but I don’t want to stop halfway through this kind of re-write, because I feel like if I did, I’d never finish it.

*sigh*

It’s very frustrating, because I feel like there are a lot of wrong answers about what I need to do right now, and no right answers.

Another thing that’s bugging me is the world-building.  Specifically, the world’s religions.  I’ve based each culture loosely on a real world culture, and I’ve tended to have the characters just toss off mentions — generally in the form of oaths — to their gods, pretty much on the assumption that they’re identical to their Earth counterparts.  (To the extent that some of them don’t even have their own names yet, and just get [Athene] or [Aten] or whatever for now.)  I’m thinking of using this November’s NaNo to write up the mythology of their world, so I can have them more organically reference their myths and stuff.  Since I’m planning on releasing the final book (for free via LeanPub) when the re-writes are finally done, I could just release the myths as well, either before, after or simultaneously.  I haven’t at all started planning it yet, aside from trying to decide some of the details of what kind of myths I want to write (cosmogonies and theogonies, first off, then stories of the gods and major heroic tales for the cultures of the three leads), but I feel like it’s probably a good idea.  I hope.

The idea is that what I’ll be writing will be a book from that world, specifically a book on world mythology.  I’ve already set up a character in the novel who’s a professor studying mythology, so I can have him be the “author,” and that way I don’t have to worry about setting up extremely different voices for the myths from the different cultures, because they’re all being re-told by the same author.

Given the way my writing seems to go, the myths will probably make better reading than the novel.

*sigh*

Aaaaaaanyway, it’s not that I’m running out of ideas.  It’s just that almost none of my ideas are about how to approach this rewrite.

However!  I had a great idea the other day (at least, I think it’s a great idea) for a movie musical, and I wanted to share it, on the off chance that someone might read this who happens to be (or know) a screenwriter.

The movie would be a musical adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.  Now, it’s been a very long time since I read the novel, but I seem to recall that Big Brother never showed up (in fact, the way I remember it going, I’m not sure he even existed) and I’d want that to stay the case in the movie adaptation…but he’d still get a theme song.  The way I envision it, the Big Brother posters would feature an artist’s rendition of Sting at whatever age seems appropriate for Big Brother (I’m picturing him the way he looked in the mid-’90s, but that might not be old enough), and the theme song would, of course, be “Every Breath You Take.”  Possibly with new lyrics that removed the lines that make some people mistake it for a love song.

I can honestly say that I think Sting would sign on.  (Of course, I don’t actually know much (or anything) about the man aside from his lyrics (mostly from the ’70s-’80s) and a couple of quotes I’ve seen.  But those lyrics lead me to believe he would be receptive to the idea.)

So, if anyone reading this happens to work in the movie industry (or know Sting), please think about this idea seriously!  I think that if the movie hewed as closely to the book as possible (using actual novel text for the lyrics of the new songs, etc) it could be quite something.  I give you this idea freely, and I want neither compensation nor credit should it be made.  I totally want to see it if done right, though.

IWSG – Wednesday snuck up on me!

Published August 1, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Not used to the first being a Wednesday!  *cough*

*ahem*

So, this month’s suggested question is about the journey to publication, and I detoured off that road years ago, so I have nothing to say about it, and will instead talk about how July CampNaNo went for me.

It was a very up-and-down kind of thing, honestly.  As I said last time, I had a draft with an alpha reader, and I couldn’t really address any big issues until I heard back from him to get an outside perspective on those big issues.  (It’s very annoying:  I could tell there were problems, and that they basically had to do with the structure and one of my three leads, but I couldn’t figure out what the actual problems were.  Too close to it, y’know?)

So until I got that feedback, it was mostly just me reading over it to see if anything leapt out at me as wrong, and adding a few scenes I knew needed to be there.  (Like a scene that actually contained the series’ big bad…)

And then I actually heard back from him.

Wow.  I mean, it’s amazing just how many blinders I had on, you know?  The lead I knew was a problem was 100% broken; he was supposed to be the reader’s entry point character, the easy-to-empathize with guy, and instead he ended up being the one character the reader absolutely couldn’t stand.  And all his points made sense.  (In fact, most of the particular things he pointed out as being problematic were things I had added in late in the planning stage to try and cover up for other problems that seemed much worse to me at the time.  I wonder how he would have reacted to the character if I’d just been like “screw it, who even cares?” and left him as originally envisioned?

After processing his feedback for a while, I decided to start a comprehensive re-write, replacing the broken lead with another character with the same name and hitting a few important details for plot progression (he still needed to be associated with the original version’s home town, for example), and to completely excise the “sub-plot” that ate up most of the novel.  (And which had caused one of my big structural problems, where the cast sat around on an island for two weeks so the problem guy could learn to read and one of the other leads could read a dead man’s diary.  So that problem goes bye-bye surprisingly easily, it turns out!)

Obviously, since he got back to me relatively late (I think it was around the 20th?), I haven’t gotten all that far in the new version, and the replacement lead is still not even in his characterization, because I’m sort of inventing him on the fly (sometimes being a pantser is a curse), but I think he should be more interesting this time around.  And the plot’s not going to be bogged down by my really pathetic attempts at “the feels.”

Overall, a very weird experience, because I went through the first half+ of the month barely able to think of anything to do to fill out the minutes for my daily goal, and then suddenly I had so much to do that there was no way I could finish it in the month.  (Well, okay, I might have been able to if I hadn’t had to do things like going to work.  And playing video games.  *cough*  Not that I exactly have to do that, but…)

I do feel a bit like I’m floundering in the new version, I have to admit, but that’s largely because I can’t quite nail down what the new personality is.  I should probably stop writing and figure that out before I go any further, now that there’s no longer a daily goal to meet…

One thing I did think of is that since I’m going to release it in a .pdf via LeanPub, maybe I can do some fun stuff with some of the extra-textual materials.  I’ve got things like a recruiting waybill for a British East India-type company (only without the imperialism, because that doesn’t exist in this world) and I thought I’d actually do it up like a handbill pasted on a wall, complete with curling corners and font flourishes and stuff.  And another thing is someone’s journal from a thousand years earlier (not what the other character was reading in the original version, btw), and I thought I might use one of the more legible handwriting fonts and put it on a rough paper-looking background, that kind of thing.  I may do the preliminary work on that (obviously, the final work will have to wait until I’ve finalized the text to go on the special pages) while I’m trying to figure out the new personality.  Not sure.  I mean, it’s not the most productive use of writing time, but now that I’m no longer on a NaNo deadline, why not?

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