Writer’s Corner

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IWSG – Genre

Published February 7, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

(Pre-writing to make sure I don’t forget!)

My writing life has been a bit slow of late, so I don’t have any fresh…well, anything, really…to talk about, so I’ll just stick to the optional question for the month:

February 7 question – What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

It’s sort of an awkward question for me right now, because lately (like, for the last year and a half) what I’ve been writing has been fanfiction.  And I’m not sure if that counts as a genre.  (I’m fairly sure it doesn’t, regardless of NaNo categories.)  So what genre have I been writing in?  I guess it’s either the catch-all “fiction”, romance or…is there such a genre as “recent historical fiction”?  Or rather, “recent alternate history” fiction?  Because the movie I’ve been writing fanfic of is set in 1984, but it’s not the real 1984, as it’s a bit more dystopian (without going full-on Orwell), and I have a tendency to play up the dystopian angle, though not enough to make it a work of dystopian fiction.

I suppose, for the sake of argument, I’ll pretend that “recent alternate history” is a genre.

I have to admit that I have a lot of fun with that, playing around with the early ’80s, not only in revisiting the decade (though the movie’s 1984 is also a lot less colorful than the 1980s I remember (admittedly, I was only 9 in 1984)) but also playing around with all sorts of things we all know came after.  For example, in one I wrote a while back, the reporter who’s one of the central characters of the movie managed to write a story that broke the fictional president’s reign of terror.  (Okay, okay, “reign of terror” is an exaggeration, but…for cryin’ out loud, there’s a scene in the movie where there are three police-types standing on the streets of New York with freakin’ assault rifles, and everyone ignores them, because that’s their “normal.”)  Because that happened about 1986 or so, I figured that made a safe bet that 1988’s election would go differently, and I could make a passing reference to “President Dukakis” in a scene that took place around 1990 or 1991.  (Admittedly, there’s no real reason to assume Dukakis would still have gotten the Democratic nomination in such a different 1988 primary race, but I figured “why not?”  Considering it was just a single passing reference, I didn’t see any reason to research the other contenders for the nomination to decide if someone else would have been more likely in the atmosphere left behind by a president whose corruption caused his own self-destruction.)

Still, as much as I love doing stuff like that, I guess that’s all secondary to the romance…which is more than a little weird, considering that I’m aromantic and don’t actually like romance as a genre.  It’s just that Curt and Arthur are so perfect together and I can’t help wanting to write about them somehow finding a happy ending together, despite their coming from such different worlds!  (Of course, the romance is the weakest angle of my already weak writing, what with having zero experience (not to mention being female), but…well, I’ve come to understand a few of the things I do a lot that are most absurd, and I plan not to do them anymore, and hopefully I can even excise them from some of my unposted works that are still waiting for editing, so that’s something, anyway.)

Prior to getting addicted to Velvet Goldmine fanfic, I used to write mostly various types of fantasy.  For that, it’s easy to say what I loved:  getting to utterly ignore reality, and create a new set of rules for my little fictional world to follow.  Admittedly, I frequently depended on pre-existing rule sets (like the set of novel-length works set in the Heroic Age of Greece, starring the offspring of three of the most important and famous of the Greeks who fought at Troy) but I still had more ability to tweak reality to suit me, and as long as I was consistent in that tweaking throughout the work, it was okay, you know?

Getting to create a whole new world, even if it’s only a tiny bit different from reality, is definitely my favorite part of writing all around.  I lack the descriptive ability to make others fully grasp what I’ve imagined for my fictional worlds, but my writing is pretty much just for me, anyway.  (I’ve only twice tried to actually publish anything, both times quite abortively.  I’m going to do a half-hearted self-epub of this past November’s NaNo once I’ve polished it up, but for very different reasons than one normally publishes anything.)

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IWSG – Late but not skipped!

Published January 3, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I totally forgot about this, again!  If I hadn’t checked my Reader on my lunch break, I’d still have forgotten.  *deep shame*

Aaaaaanyway, my self-thingy as a writer is not really in a good place right now.

I mean, technically, nothing about me is in a good place right now because things have been so crazy in the last week that I literally forgot I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday until two hours later, and then I was going to call today to apologize and reschedule only I forgot again.  (Ack.)

But, yeah, I’m not feeling good about my writing right now.  I put up a Christmas/New Year’s fanfic in my favorite fandom, and a bunch of others went up at the same time, because there’s a gift exchange at Christmas, so a lot of other fics went up at the same time, and they’ve all been read and liked more than mine.  Which doesn’t really mean much, since I write because I want to, not because I care what other people are going to think about it, but it’s depressing to realize that I suck so badly that everyone else avoids my work.  Also brings up the question of “wait, why am I even bothering to post it in the first place?”

I still haven’t started work on the re-write of my NaNo novel, because it’s going to be a hefty endeavor.  And it’s too cold to think hard right now.  Also I’ve kind of been hooked on a video game for the last month and a half, so that isn’t helping.  (Embarassing, but…it is what it is, y’know?

…hmm.

Not much of a post.  But today was a long and exhausting day at work, so I really don’t have the energy for much more.

Hopefully I’ll be in a better headspace next month.

IWSG – This year’s NaNo

Published December 6, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

As I said last month, this year’s NaNo project started out as an AU (alternate universe, for those not acquainted with fanfic terms) fanfic of my favorite movie, Velvet Goldmine.  But this wasn’t going to be one of those “serial numbers just barely filed off” projects; I did so little planning before it became an original project that almost nothing about it ever had a connection to the movie.  (The movie’s main three male characters were imported, but none of them have much connection to the originals.  Cal is the most like his inspiration, Curt Wild, but even he has a lot of differences, given his knowledge of steam-powered airship design, affinity with giant birds of prey and his tragic first love, who is the person he loved most in the world, and who was always totally original.  Except that he kind of looks like Ichabod Crane.  (From the Disney animated version.)  I’m not sure why he looks like that.  It just sort of happened.)

So, my reflections on finishing the project:  first and foremost, it’s a mess.  The point of this first book (in a series of eight, as currently planned) was to get them to learn about the MacGuffin (it doesn’t have a name yet) and get their hands on the book of clues as to where to find the pieces of it.  Well, okay, that’s not the whole point, but that’s its role in the bigger story.  So part of the process of finding out about it was to find the journal of the dead fiance of one of the main characters.  He had been researching the MacGuffin (and was killed over it), and had in turn learned a lot of his information from the journal of a man who lived a thousand years earlier.  (Very sturdy paper!)  So I kind of had this huge info dump as one of the characters was reading the dead fiance’s journal.  I mean, I broke it up over a few days, with other things happening in between, but…not good storytelling.  I’m thinking that my first task in a re-write will be to write the entire journal of the man from a thousand years earlier, divide it up into neat little chunks, and stick them at the beginning of each chapter.

But that’s barely scratching the surface of what needs to be done.

Read the rest of this entry →

IWSG – NaNo Time Again!

Published November 1, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Convenient that the first Wednesday of the month is also the first of the month; I only have to do one post to say I’m gonna be gone for November to do NaNoWriMo again!

As to this month’s question, I’ve almost always finished my NaNo project, during NaNo, but I’ve never published anything.  (Though I went half-way twice.  My first NaNo project (2011) I briefly self-published through LeanPub, but I’ve since taken it down because it was just utter rubbish.  And then last year’s project was fanfic, which I’ve posted on AO3, which is as close to publishing as fanfic gets without having its serial numbers filed off.)  The one NaNo project I never finished was 2015’s.  I didn’t finish it during November (despite hitting 82k) and though I tried to limp along with it in December, I eventually realized that the leads, who originated in the previous year’s NaNo as dead backstory characters, just didn’t fit the novel, as I was setting the interesting displaced in time/sci-fi story aside in order to focus on a rather tepid and unrealistic romance.  Once I came to that realization, I decided the thing to do was to stop, to move the characters to (another) new work that would be focused on their love story and almost nothing else, and to re-write the sci-fi story with new leads who were already a couple.  I was doing pretty well on the almost-nothing-but-the-romance book, until I saw Velvet Goldmine, and descended into the fanfic pit from which I have not emerged until, well, today.  (Because my NaNo project this year is not fanfic.  Even if the story idea originally started out as a steampunk Velvet Goldmine alternate universe fanfic…)

So…yeah.

I’m gonna be gone for NaNo until December.  Like always.

I think I won’t even bother keeping up with the Missing Letter Monday posts.  They’ve been pretty lame lately, anyway.  Better to just set them aside until I have some time to work on them properly.

MLM No “V” – Another Author’s Oracle Tag

Published October 30, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So, in trying to decide what to post for my last Missing Letter Monday until December (yeah, it’s going away for NaNo), I looked through to see what I’d done in the past with this letter, and found this post with a series of questions for an author to answer about their current WIP.  And I decided that hey, I could just answer the questions again, only this time for the project I’m going to work on next month.  These questions were initially encountered on Sara Letourneau’s blog, in an open-ended “consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this” kind of thing.  So I guess that means I’m re-self-tagging?

Er….anyway…on to the questions, though (as before) I used some * in the questions when this week’s forbidden letter came up.


The Author’s Oracle Questions

The answers this time are going to be NaNo prep, for next month’s project, which I am planning as the first in a series.  (Who knows what I’ll actually end up writing, but…)  I keep putting off filling out the cool character sheet I found on the NaNo forums, so maybe this will help me with that.  It’s a genre-ignoring project with elements of the fantastic, elements of steampunk, and an LGBT romance.  And giant eagles.  Because all things are better with giant eagles.

0. The Fool: Which of your characters is the most intuiti*e?  The worst decision-maker?

The best decision-maker would be Ouden, the 12 year old girl on the crew of the airship.  She considers herself the one who keeps Cal, the captain, from dying all the time, and she’s pretty much right about that.  As to the worst…hmm.  That’s a tie between Cal and Elliot (the romantic leads), but for different reasons.  Cal is extremely passionate, and short-tempered.  He acts on impulse, but he’s also slow to trust, so he’ll do dumb things because he doesn’t trust someone yet, only then once he does trust them, he’d bend the fabric of reality if he could for someone important to him.  He was hurt horribly not too long before the book starts, so he’s become more slow to trust than before.  Elliot, on the other hand, is the ultimate naïf.  I mean, the guy took a madam’s word for it that she was just sheltering him out of the goodness of her heart, and had no idea she was charging the men who were also just taking shelter in the same room with him and who just happened to want to sleep with him.  (In his defense, he is quite young (about nineteen) and recently ran away from his sheltered home on the family farm.)

I. The Magician: What character, location, or object has the most positi*e influence in your story?

(OMG, I skipped this one last time!)  Probably Cal’s airship, the Audacity.  The cast would be utterly lost without it.  Although Cal wouldn’t be hunted without it, so maybe it’s not all good. Read the rest of this entry →

IWSG – Not Missin’ THIS Month!

Published October 4, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

Yup, pre-writing this two weeks ago, to make sure I don’t miss it!  (Because of course nothing will change between then and now, right?)

I’ll probably tack on an actual post at the end of this, but in the mean time, I’ll just real quick answer the question of the month for October (which oddly has nothing to do with Halloween!):

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Hmm.  I have surprisingly little personal information.  (LOL, that sounds crazy!)  But, really, by nature I’d spend all day hiding at home and doing whatever I pleased (reading, writing, gaming, toy collecting, shopping for more toys), and that means that’s what I tend to do when I have free time, so I have very little that’s the sort of thing they probably mean in this question:  no romantic ties, no children, etc.

On the other hand, the main character of my July CampNaNo work was essentially a self-insert into my current fandom obsession, so there’s a lot there that’s me:  total lack of social skills, asexual/aromantic, doll collector, museum employee, easily compelled into strange obsessions (but not in a creepy way), gamer, anime fan, Vocaloid fan, totally ignorant of 90% of popular music past and present, resident of this city, and 42 years old.  So, yeah, I guess I’ve slipped a lot of my personal information into a character on purpose!  But I doubt the work will ever be read.  I’m going to admit that she’s a self-insert in the (likely to be copious) author’s notes at the beginning, and probably in the summary, too, and self-insert characters are the Kryptonite of most fanfic readers.  (I find it highly amusing, possibly even ironic, that as I write these words, I am listening to a song “performed” by three Vocaloids produced by a company called Crypton Future Media.)  Of course, those notes will also explain that she’s just the vessel through which the readers are taking a tour of the 2017 edition of the slightly dystopian 1984 in the movie (and just like in reality, 2017 is infinitely worse than 1984) and hunting for clues as to what’s happened to the characters we know and love in the intervening decades, so maybe a few open minded fans will read it, but…heck, my stuff is only read by a few people anyway. Read the rest of this entry →

IWSG – A Day Late (Again)

Published September 7, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

*sigh*  I suck.  This is the second time (though thankfully not the second time in a row) that I’ve only remembered my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post the day after it was supposed to go up.  I could make a lot of excuses (things are hectic at work, I had my first assignment (of sorts) due this semester, I’m generally a stressed-out wreck) but ultimately this is just me being my usual idiotic self.

The bitter part is that I actually had stuff to talk about.

I’ve got two things going on with my writing right now.  My super-massive fanfic (155k!) is finally getting a rewrite, more than a year after I wrote it, thanks to someone from AO3 volunteering to beta it.  I’ve never actually worked with a beta before (not in a proper sense; I’ve had a few people read things and then give me a few hasty notes with no accompanying back-and-forth) so it’s a little nerve-wracking, but so far it’s been really awesome.  She’s been giving me very helpful notes about places I needed to flesh out and follow-through on earlier plot threads.  (With so much text, it’s not surprising that things got forgotten!  Especially considering I wrote it in a month.)

The other thing is that I’m trying to get myself ready for this year’s NaNo.  I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while now, but wanted to get the fanfic urge out of my system before I started devoting any serious attention to it.  Only then I discovered Sparkler, an online magazine that would be the absolute perfect place to try to publish this project if it turns out good enough to try to publish it (which is, admittedly, highly unlikely), and so now I’m totally motivated to try and get this puppy written.

I did finally work out a really good solution to a backstory issue that had been plaguing me — which had the additional benefit of making one of the main characters already a wanted man before the story started, so he can’t possibly blame the other main character for dragging him into danger —  but I’m painfully aware of how little actual world-building I’ve done so far.  I want each country in this fictional world to be partially based on real cultures, but I have this distressing tendency to use that as a crutch, thinking of it so totally blatantly as a transported version of the country that my (chaotic) plot-development word processor file has placeholder names like notFrance and notJapan.  (And my dependence on their history was going to be even more ludicrously similar, to the point that they were going to arrive in France during the Reign of Terror and then (despite that they’re a century apart) end up in Japan during the Meiji Restoration.  Uh, not in the same book.  This is the start of a series.)

Trying to figure out the right way to handle that aspect of the world-building is challenging.  Though perhaps some of it can be left for rewrites?  I dunno, though, that sounds dangerous.

I need to focus more time and attention on the world-building before November (fortunately, it’s only September, lol!), but I don’t know how much time I have to do so.  I’m working more days than I used to, and my responsibilities have increased (which I’m not complaining about in the least; getting to design exhibits was something I really wanted to do!), plus my class this semester is what’s officially called “directed readings,” which basically means I’m self-directed and just check in with the professor every so often to make sure I’m on the right track…which means I really have to dedicate a lot of time to the research, since no one else is going to do any of it for me.  (I mean, I like that, but it’s also a lot more stressful when you stop to think about it.)

So, yeah, I’ve got a lot to be insecure about right now, and yet I’m also kind of in a hopeful place.

IWSG – Another Plot Up For Adoption

Published August 2, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

A week or so ago, I came up with something really pertinent I wanted to say this month about writing, possibly something I thought of because of July CampNaNo.  Whatever it was, I forgot it almost immediately, and I never have remembered it.  Soooooo…posting something else instead.

I thought I could share a plot idea — or maybe it’s only a situation — that might make a really nice story in the right hands, but those certainly aren’t my hands.  (It’s not the kind of thing I write.  It’s not even the kind of thing I usually read.)

The way I came up with this idea is as follows:  I work at a museum, and I’ve been cataloging some old documents that have been in the collection for ages, but haven’t been properly scanned and transcribed until now.  Some of the ones I’ve done lately have been letters from 1904 and 1905, from a man attached to the Japanese Pavilion at the St. Louis World’s Fair to the widow of one of the two men to whom the museum is dedicated.  There’s nothing even the slightest bit suggestive about these letters; he’s just being polite and friendly to a woman who was friendly to him, and whose late husband was an author whose works he admires.

But the fact that he wrote to her repeatedly (and that she kept the letters) always sets my writer’s soul twitching.  So the plot I’m releasing to the world is something like this:

An older man from Japan (say late 50s, early 60s, either single or a widower) comes to America for the World’s Fair, where he meets a woman some five to ten years younger than himself, a society widow, and she works in one of the ladies’ committees associated with the fair, so they end up seeing a lot of each other.  Slowly, they fall in love, but there are all sorts of social obstacles from both cultures, so it’s not just about their love, but also about whether or not they can bring themselves to defy the rigorous social conventions among which they were raised.  (St. Louis’s 1904 fair or Chicago’s 1893 fair would both work equally well for this, though I don’t know off-hand if there was any Japanese presence at the Chicago fair.)  Depending on the genre, they might well prefer society to love.

IWSG – July CampNaNo

Published July 5, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So I’m doing the July session of CampNaNo again, and I’m already starting to doubt myself.

Not doubting that I can meet the NaNo goals, of course.  (Since you can change those in CampNaNo, it would be really crazy if I couldn’t.  I’ll probably meet my current goals before the week is out.  I might up my word count, just to look less ridiculous.  Dunno.)

What I’m doubting is just how I fit into the grand scheme of being a “writer.”

There’s all these CampNaNo support messages with tips and tricks for developing characters and plot and stuff.

My plots are usually haphazard and random.  (Last July’s CampNaNo was one of the only times I’ve ever tried to align a character’s arc to the standard definition of a character arc, and it ended up being a ludicrous 155k words long, in part because I kept adding unnecessary material in order to put the character through extra tribulations in order to provide him a tiny modicum of growth.)  My current characters are…well, okay, no, they’re not actually borrowed, because this is OC-based fanfic, but normally my characters are either borrowed or more intuited than planned; I tend to just have this gut feeling of “this is how this person is” without stopping to define anything.  (Sometimes it works, and sometimes it really doesn’t.)

Other people in the cabin are talking about the character and world-building exercises they use, and I feel like such a poser, because I just dash out whatever gobbledygook I feel like.

I mean, it’s not as though I never do anything to put a little effort into it.  I do research when I can/when it’s needed, but…that seems like it’s about as far as I can reliably go.  Even the amount of planning and sketching out the story in advance that I do changes from work to work.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just rambling pointlessly (both in my fiction and here).

IWSG – Quitting time?

Published June 7, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I have nothing in particular to say about writing this month (aside from the general fact that writing my bad fiction has kept me from writing any blog posts…or doing just about anything else) and therefore I shall fall back upon the question provided on the IWSG Sign-Up page.  This month’s question is

Did you ever say “I quit”? If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

It’s a kind of odd question for me.  I’ve been writing in one way or another since grade school (and considering I’ll be turning 42 later this year, that’s quite a long time!) so it’s an ingrained habit.  No, more like it’s part of the way my brain’s become hard-wired.  When I was a little kid and had trouble sleeping, my mother told me that I should replay my favorite movies in my head to lull myself to sleep.  Nice idea, but I didn’t know any movies well enough for that.  (Well, no, I probably knew Star Wars well enough, but that was hardly going to lull me to sleep!)  Instead, I made up stories to entertain myself until I got too tired to remain conscious.

It didn’t take long before I was doing that every time I got bored.  I must have been really little when I got that advice, because the entire process was a firm part of the way my mind functioned by the time my personality started solidifying.  And since none of the other kids ever wanted to play with me, I spent a lot of time telling myself stories.  (I have, at this point, gotten to the point where I literally have to be doing it while I’m doing almost everything else, unless it’s something I have to concentrate on really hard.  I can’t even watch a (brand new!) movie without imagining two or three of my favorite characters are watching it, so I’m both watching the movie and imagining how they’re reacting to it.  The only exception to that is a dialog-heavy foreign language picture, because I’m already multitasking pretty heavily in watching, listening and reading subtitles.  But even then I still tend to have characters pop in during the dialog lulls.)

Anyway, writing to me is nothing more than setting down on paper (or, far more often, on computer screen) the stories I tell myself in my head, which is often the only way to get a “rerun” to go away and be replaced by something new, as it’s  never as much fun to tell to myself after it’s solidified.  So I could never quit writing without ceasing to function.

But I’ve gone back and forth on the idea of ever trying to publish anything.

There was a time when I was convinced I was going to be a great, best-selling novelist.  Then I thought I was going to be a major screenwriter.  Then I realized I sucked and went into exclusively writing fanfic, which I wasn’t even sharing with anyone, for the most part.  Then something changed, and I stopped writing fanfic, and tried to turn myself into a (self-)published author.  And then I remembered that I sucked, and decided that I’d never try to publish anything, but I was still going to keep writing original fiction, because that was somehow “better.”  And then I got obsessed with Velvet Goldmine and started writing fanfiction again.  I’ve got a new really good original fiction idea on the back burner, waiting for me to flesh out its world and write it, but we’ll see if I return to trying to self-pub, too.  Not like the quality of my writing’s improved any, after all.

…hmm.  That didn’t really answer the question, did it?

Well, it’s just a guideline, so that’s okay, right?

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