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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.

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IWSG: Conflicted

Published March 1, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

So I’m back to being insecure again.  (This, I suppose, should come as no great surprise.  If I wasn’t prone to insecurity, why would I be taking part in the support group, right?)

After some SNAFU stuff on the NaNo forums regarding my nearly submitting my 2013 NaNo novel for self-pub, I made a pledge to myself that “screw it; I’m never publishing anything, and that’ll teach those jerks!”  (And no, that didn’t entirely make sense even at the time.  And the people in question were not trying to be jerks.  (Most of them weren’t, anyway.)  But it’s one of those heat-of-the-moment resolutions that becomes firm and feels permanent, because you feel like you’ll have lost if you go back on it.)

After that, I took the smart path of withdrawing from the NaNo forums for the next couple of years, but I don’t learn too good (poor grammar intended), and so I’ve been active on the forums again.

And this time the guy really was trying to be a jerk.

Basically, he said that I’ll be a racist if anyone in my entire novel has a different skin color from everyone else.

Yes, he was advocating an entire planet of uniform skin color.

And he thought that was somehow less racist than having a diverse world.  Ugh.  (And keep in mind, I neither said anything about nor intend to introduce any ethnic stereotyping or prejudices.  It’s a world very unlike our own, without our social construction of “race”.  They have some prejudices, of course, but they’re based on culture and nationality.  (Read any 19th century work wherein the English discuss people from other European nations, and you’ll see the kind of thing I mean.)  But really even those prejudices are unlikely to come up much, because it’s a steampunk/fantasy adventure with heavy doses of m/m romance.  They’re going to be much too busy flying around the world looking for the pieces of the McGuffin and flirting/having sex for weighty social issues to come up much.  Because I write light escapism.)

So, because he said all this crap about the world I’m trying to put together for a series of novels I haven’t even begun to start writing yet, I feel like “now I have to publish it just to prove that f***er wrong.”

But that is in direct opposition to the 2013 doctrine of “never publish anything ever no matter what!”

Which puts me in a weird emotional bind.  All the more weird considering I haven’t even named the main characters yet.  (Well, it kind of grew out of an AU fanfic idea, so for my plotting purposes I’ve been using the names of the movie characters.  Though at this point there’s not much similarity between my characters and the movie ones.)

It’s probably a moot point.  I’ll probably finish the first draft of book one (assuming I ever start writing the thing) and go “wow, this is irredeemably terrible” and go back to writing other stuff.  (That is, after all, what usually happens.  Like my 2012 NaNo novel, the last time I tried to spin an original novel out of a fanfic idea.  I was enjoying writing it at first, but by the time I was done I was just like “ugh, I never wanna see this piece of trash ever again!” and I haven’t opened the file since.)

Anyway, amusingly enough, this all kind of ties in to this month’s optional question

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Because that 2013 NaNo novel?  It was the result when I finally got around to writing something I’d been planning since I was 18.  (So the idea was almost twenty years old.)  I think I had actually started writing it back in the summer of my 18th year, but…not sure what ever happened to the manuscript.  (And I guarantee it had zero similarity to what I eventually wrote.)

Current WIP – First Class

Published June 25, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Yeah, no one seems to have read the first excerpt, but I’m going to post another one.  Because.

Actually, I have a good reason:  the opening I posted because I was hoping someone might tell me how to make it less lame, but this one I actually like.

It’s not necessary to read the previous excerpt, I think.  All you need to know going into this is that the narrator is a 95% closeted homosexual man named Ashley, in love with his (straight) best friend, Paddy, who has no idea he’s gay.  (Okay, actually a lot of that information doesn’t come up in this excerpt…)

Oh, I’ve bleeped out the swearing with asterisks, because I’m not comfortable swearing on my blog, despite how much I swear in real life.  Some of the names aren’t fixed yet:  the college president’s is a temp name, as is “Julia”, who hasn’t even got a last name yet, having been saddled temporarily with [lastname].

As always, please be aware that this is the very rough first draft, okay?


Do you know why Raiders of the Lost Ark immediately became one of my favorite films of all time?

No, it’s not because I was hot for Harrison Ford, though he is pretty sexy in the role.  It’s because of that classroom scene at the beginning, with all those girls gazing dreamily at a man who is utterly uninterested in them.

Because that was my life.

Not that any of my students ever wrote “I love you” on their eyelids.  Too subtle for those girls by far.  I wouldn’t have put it past them to write it on their breasts, though.  (Well, it was the ‘80s…)

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Current WIP Excerpt – Opening

Published June 22, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Well, it may be a mistake, but I’ve decided to post the opening of my WIP.  It doesn’t currently have a title — it probably never will have one, since it would only need one if I ever tried to publish the finished product — and it’s probably going to suck just as hard as everything else I’ve written, but I feel like there are quite a few good bits so far, and I’m going to post those later on.

The opening…well, it’s not bad.  Not by my standards.  It’s a bit awkward, though, and a bit…almost argumentative.  (Given my narrator’s character, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.)

I’m a little unsure about the way I handle the lists right at the start.  Feels a bit cheesy, but “1. Once” would feel pretty cheesy, too…


Excerpt:


1ce upon a time, there was a beautiful girl.

2 She was being abused and/or was very unhappy.

3 A handsome prince rescued her.

4 They fell madly in love.

5 The end.

There’s a whole slew of fairy tales that follow that outline, though sometimes steps three and four are reversed.  The motif infected other genres, always following the two cardinal rules:  the lovers must be young and beautiful, and they must decide they’re in love almost immediately upon first meeting.  (And don’t think high literature is exempt from this dreck.  How long did it take Romeo and Juliet to decide they were in love?)  Hollywood inherited the outline and embraced it with considerable verve, though they did eventually add a slightly improved variant:

1ce there was a good-looking boy.

2 He set his heart on a beautiful girl way out of his league.

3 He almost won her love…

4 …but then he lost it again.

5 Then he decided he loved the girl next door better anyway.

6 The end.

Yeah, it’s better since “the girl next door” is often his “best friend” at the beginning of the picture, but it’s always hampered by the fact that she’s either so hot that it’s utterly unrealistic that he’d bother looking any further than her in the first place, or the filmmakers work to make you feel like he’s “settling” for her and could really do better.  (Sometimes they break their backs to do both.  And that absolutely should not be possible.)  And, bottom line, it still gives you the message that love is based on physical attraction, and that you can decide you are or aren’t in love overnight.

Now, I won’t lie.  Physical attraction is very important to love.  Maybe it’s even at the center of it.  But not everyone sees the same things as attractive.  Sure, we follow what society tells us to a certain degree, but we don’t follow that far.

You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all this.  Well, it’s because I want to do my part to fight those outlines.  I want to tell you a story where that isn’t the case.  Love based on a moment’s glance at a pretty face is doomed to failure, but love based on a lifetime of friendship…well, that’s another matter altogether, isn’t it?

So if you want a story about a girl who sighs “I knew the moment I saw his face that we were destined to be together forever!” and is never proven wrong, I suggest that you put this book down and go look for another one.  There’s lots of ‘em out there.

What kind of book is this?  Well, it’s the kind filled with words.  Currently in English.  (I could translate it into ancient Greek or Latin, if you’d like?)  And in those words is a story.  Is it a true story?  Well…basically, but in the Dragnet sense of “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  And it was more than twenty years ago, so I’m fudging some of the dialog, I’ll admit it.  Maybe a few people got combined into one, or split into mulitples.  Or whatever.  But at the core, it’s a love story.  And an anti-love story.

And it’s a story about collegiate finances, if you’re into that.  (Is anyone actually into that?)

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The Difficulty of Inventing Words

Published June 7, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Not making up new words in the Lewis Carroll sense (or even in the Robert Heinlein sense), but in a more methodical, if still silly, way.  It’s much harder than I expected.

But let me back up a minute and explain why I’m trying to invent a word.

I’ve been working on my current novel project, which I’ve mentioned several times before.  (Like, cycle through the “Writer’s Corner” category posts, and most of the recent ones will be about it.)

In order to make the story interesting (I hope) and to have things actually happen (gasp!), I’m having to put my narrator through a number of events he finds unpleasant and humiliating.  (But that’s okay, because he’s abrasive, arrogant and sometimes a bit annoying.  So I don’t mind making him suffer a bit.)  I just wrote the conclusion of the first of those events, or rather the first major one.

Said event being that he was forced to pose nude for the faculty of the art department at the college where he teaches Greek (and sometimes Latin).  Why he had no choice but to pose naked for the (mostly female) art teachers is a bit of a long, convoluted and frankly ridiculous story that I don’t want to get into right now.  (But he’s  a side character (though he doesn’t know it) for a (made up) romantic comedy movie (a bad one), so it’s okay that the side plot of the novel (which is the main plot of the movie) is absurd.)

Anyway, after suffering a number of humiliations during the posing process, this happens:

            “Okay, next can you get down on all fours, head hanging down, as if you’ve just been defeated in something of dreadful importance?” Callie asked.

“**** no!” I replied.  I don’t get in that pose lightly, and not where just anyone can see me.  Especially while naked.

He’s got a hair-trigger temper, and this sets him off, all the more so because Callie accuses him of being immature, and then tries to sweet-talk him, despite that she’s in her 60s and dresses like a flower child (despite that, this being the 1980s, she was too old for that even during the 1960s).  So he’s ready to storm out in a huff and go home to sulk and fume, or at least get drunk.  (He does a lot of the latter…)

But he’s still naked, so he can’t just stomp out of the room.  (Especially since it’s mid-February, and though I don’t say where his college is located, in his original incarnation, several novels ago, he lived in Detroit, so Februaries would be pretty cold.  (I even looked up what that particular week’s weather was like in Detroit in 1982.  Very cold indeed.))

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The first week of summer vacation

Published May 19, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Just looking over how this first week has been treating me.  Or rather, how I’ve been treating it.  Or rather, how well I have — or have not — been living up to my plans.

Spoiler alert:  I have not been living up to my plans, at all.

So, my weekly plan was as follows:

  1. On Mondays, go out to lunch someplace nice, taking my laptop, and work at least an hour on my fiction writing.
  2. On Tuesdays, go out to lunch someplace nice, taking my laptop, and work at least an hour on my ludicrous desire to write (misanthropic) philosophy.
  3. Spend Thursdays cleaning my house.
  4. Find time every week — maybe even every day — to work on my mythological project.
  5. Read some of the fiction on my backlog pile.  Again, reading some every day.
  6. Start swimming laps every evening, or at least most evenings.  (Technically not an option on Sundays, when the Y closes early.)

My specific plans for this week were to make three very important phone calls first thing Monday morning, do my laundry, go shopping to get the new clothes I desperately need, go grocery shopping before I run entirely out of food, deposit my tax refund at the bank, and finish up some dolly projects.

My results:

  1. I didn’t go out to lunch on Monday or Tuesday, but I have done a lot of work on my fiction.  Sort of.
  2. I haven’t even started the whole philosophy thing, though I know where I’m probably going to start.  Probably.
  3. Okay, technically, Thursday is only just starting, but…yeah, not likely to get any cleaning done.
  4. Haven’t started the mythology project.  Probably because I’m daunted by my desire to start by applying a Derrida-style deconstruction to the Iliad, which sounded like a cool idea when my professor was explaining how real deconstruction worked, but now that the idea is to be applied, it sounds a little overwhelming.  Also because there are a ludicrous number of names in the Iliad, and I’ll have to catalog each one.  (Maybe it’s not the place to start after all…)
  5. have been reading, at least.  But since I decided to start with a Kindle book, I can’t read in the bath, which slows the process.
  6. I haven’t even gone to the Y to pick up the current pool hours, let alone done any swimming.  (I haven’t even checked if my swimsuit still fits…)
  7. I made one of the three phone calls.  Yesterday.
  8. Due to rain, cramps and other general unpleasantness, laundry was not on the table.  (Well, my basement gets pretty damp when it rains.)  I eventually got dragged over to my brother’s house yesterday to “help” him get his stuff packed for his move.  By which he meant for me to sit there in his condo so he’d feel like someone was watching him so he’d have to work.  And so I did half my load of laundry there.  (Well, his condo has a very small washer and drier.)
  9. I felt like I was swollen, so I couldn’t go clothes shopping.  Also I had cramps on Monday, and Tuesday was just too cold and depressing to leave the house.  And then it was sunny yesterday, so I couldn’t drive anywhere because of my stupid arm.
  10. I finally got grocery shopping yesterday.  But I think I forgot some stuff.
  11. I still haven’t deposited that check.
  12. did at least finish one of my dolly projects.  And I almost finished another one.  Only everything seems to be not working right, so I have to take the doll apart again and figure out what’s wrong now and…ugh.  Putting that off for a while.  Because ugh.

So, all in all, not a successful first week of vacation.  Like, at all.

But I do like what I’ve been doing with my writing.

I spent most of the writing time over the last three days working on the “character questions” I came up with, “asking” the questions of each of the leads of the three main projects I was thinking of working on over the summer.  Asking Atalanta, Ariadne and Eurysakes the questions was kind of fun (along with one other character from the first book) but the idea of going back and re-writing their books is still pretty overwhelming.  There’s a lot that’ll need to be done there.

I didn’t get very far in “asking” the questions of the leads of my superhero thing.  I wanted to move on to the third project, the new project for Ashley and Paddy.  (At this point, I think I almost need to give them their own tag.  I keep talking about them.  Mostly in IWSG posts, but still….)

The idea was, basically, as follows:  you know how there’s this trend to give the heroines of romantic comedies a “gay best friend”?  (Or so I’m told.  The most recent romantic comedy I’ve seen was made in the 1990s.  If this trend was around at that time, it wasn’t in any movie I saw.)  Well, so how would the story look if told by that friend?  Especially if he wasn’t a terrible stereotype like I’m sure he would be in the movies.  So, that’s the starting point, with Ashley being the friend in question…though comparing his character questions to hers is pretty funny:  he never mentions her, but she’s always going on about how the two of them are best friends.

I finally began the actual book last night — I’ve done a decent amount of plotting for it, considering it’ll probably be  more of a novella than a novel anyway — and I’m really enjoying Ashley’s voice as a narrator.  (Yeah, it’s first person.  Given the premise of “bad romantic comedy as told by the gay best friend,” I wouldn’t be able to leave his POV, so I might as well just let him narrate.)  I looked up a lot of movies and stuff from the early 1980s (when it’s set) to give me an idea of how people dressed before the 1980s really got going, but I’ve yet to see if any of the more obscure ones are available on Netflix.  (Some of the less obscure ones I don’t even need Netflix for…)

Anyway, I’m thinking I’m going to enjoy this project, and I’ll probably want to talk about it a lot, so you may be bombarded with posts about it.  Consider that your fair warning.

In any case, I’m hoping that in the week to come, I’ll be able to stick to my plan better.  (And no, I don’t plan on filling you in on it every week.)  Also, next week I’m hoping I’ll finally pick up the myth retellings again.

Missing Letter Mondays – No “V”

Published April 25, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

The Author’s Oracle Tag

I saw this at Sara Letourneau’s blog, and thought it looked fun.  Also like something where I could omit this week’s letter with less effort than another chapter of “Peril-Led Princess“.  (It is coming back!  I promise!)  Despite that they’re my own rules, I’m not sure how the Missing Letter Monday rules feel about using the forbidden letter inside a quote…so rather than change the questions or use the letter, I’m just gonna put a * in the place of the letter-of-the-week where it occurs in the questions.

So the point of this blogging tag is that there are questions loosely inspired by the major arcana of the Tarot, which an author is to answer, focusing on their current work in progress.  Or, in my case, a major work that I keep putting off writing draft two of.  *shame*  But it’s been on my mind lately, so maybe this’ll get me working on that edit/re-write…once the semester ends, anyway.

Aaaanyway, let’s get on with it, ’cause I still need to do some reading this morning before I go to work.  (All text in bold in the following section is quoted.)


The Author’s Oracle Questions

I’ll be answering these questions based on my semi-YA series which currently has no series title.  Mostly I’ll be thinking about the first book (yes, I wrote the whole series in rough drafts before editing the first one) which needs a new title, as the one I had when I was working on it sucked quite atrociously.  I narrowed down a couple of good candidates, but they both imply things that aren’t quite true, so I’m not so sure about them.  Anyway, the first book takes place about 18 years after the end of the Trojan War, and my three leads are Atalanta, the (posthumously born) daughter of Achilles, Ariadne, the (illegitimate) daughter of Odysseus, and Eurysakes, the son of Aias and the only one who’s a genuine mythological character…though my Eurysakes and the real one differ wildly.  Atalanta and Ariadne’s mothers were sisters, and they were…ooh, I can’t use that word!  They were, um, household workers of a non-free sort in a particular city in Lesbos, and when Achilles and Odysseus had to go to Lesbos for complicated (but mythologically accurate) reasons, well, stuff happened, and nine months later…my heroines were born.  Anyway, part of my point here — apart from the fact that the heroines must escape from Lesbos at the start of book one — is that both her companions are Atalanta’s cousins, ’cause I’m going on the more well-known, later form of the myth, in which Peleus and Telamon were brothers.  (Originally, Achilles and Aias were not related, y’see…)

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

Ariadne would be the most…uh…wow, most of these words use that letter.  She’s the one capable of the best perception of a situation, usually.  But she’s not as good at reading people as she thinks, so sometimes Eurysakes can make the better call.  Atalanta is by far the worst decision-maker; she tends not to think much.  It’s not that she’s not smart; she just got into the habit of letting Ariadne think for her.

II . The High Priestess: Do any of your characters ha*e *ery strong beliefs?

Yes, definitely.  Atalanta has a lot of them:  she’s deeply religious (which is quite different in ancient Greece than in modern times, of course), she has a lot of beliefs about her father (see below), and she has a lot of super-strong beliefs about what’s right and what’s wrong, and sometimes that gets her into trouble (usually the combat sort of trouble).  Ariadne’s strongest beliefs tend to focus on her father (see below), but she’s also got strong religious ties where Athene is concerned (the other gods are more of an afterthought for her).  For Eurysakes, the most normal of the three, again most of his strong beliefs focus on his father, but especially on how his father was wronged by the other Achaian kings (and especially Odysseus), and how it’s his duty to bring his father the respect and honor he merits.  Korythos, the new King of Troy in Book 1, also has strong beliefs, but most of them would be spoilers.  (Though the chances of anyone other than me seeing this book are pretty darned slim…)  The whole-series baddies also possess strong beliefs, but those would really be spoilers.

III. The Empress: Who is your biggest supporter?  Gi*e them a little lo*e here.

Er…my brother?  I guess?  I mean, he listens to me ramble about my characters and sometimes makes suggestions.  On some of my other books, he’s been willing to read them, but he didn’t get far in this one before being repelled…which is not a good sign…

I*. The Emperor: Do you outline or plan?  (You know… plotter or pantser?)

Like most people, a little of both.  I come up with an outline, but I rarely follow it too far before it needs to change ’cause I end up going in a different direction.  But a sparse outline helps me keep my characters at least a little reined in, and helps me to focus on where I’m going as I let the book follow its own flow.

*. The Hierophant:  What do you feel is your most *aluable piece of writing ad*ice?

Mmm…most of it I come across doesn’t quite seem to fit me.  If “keep writing but keep it to yourself” was out there as a bit of writing wisdom, that’d probably be the best fit for me.

*I. The Lo*ers: Which of your characters follow their heart? Is it for the right reasons?

Well, Atalanta does, because it’s all she knows how to do; I don’t know if that’s “the right reason” or not.  Ariadne would claim she’s following her heart, I’m sure, but she’s really only doing so when she’s doing something for Atalanta’s sake.  Or for Athene’s sake.

*II. The Chariot: Tell us about the first “darling” you e*er “killed.”

In this series, she’s…well, just in case, I can’t say who she is or how she relates to the others, but she takes a while to show up, and longer to establish herself as a character, rather than a bit part.  She was always antagonistic to Atalanta, because reasons, but…after a while I came to the realization that the bad guys would be out of character if they didn’t recruit her.  And they had the perfect hook to make her want to help them, so there was no way she would choose the side of the gods instead of the side of the baddies who want to destroy them.  It was heart-breaking for me, because she’s the offspring of two mythological figures, and I really wanted things to work out well for her, especially since her mother really got a raw deal in the original myth and in my continuation of it.  But once she turned on me — I mean on my heroes — I mean on the gods, I had no choice, and she had to be taken down.  Of course, she’s technically immortal, so she wasn’t actually killed…but she was thrown into Tartaros, so she may as well be dead.

*III. Strength: What do you feel your greatest creati*e strength is?

Coming up with story ideas; I think of lots of ideas that feel like they’re really great.  It’s just what I do with them afterwards that’s no good.

IX. The Hermit: Can you write in coffee shops or other busy places, or do you need quiet?

I used to be able to watch a film on the tube and write at the same time, but I can no longer do that, I’m sorry to say.  Writing in public places is still fine, so long as no one’s around me is talking in such a way that I can’t help but listen in.  (You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, right?)

X. The Wheel of Fortune: Do you ha*e a set routine or schedule?

Nah…but this summer I’m planning on making one.  I seem to spend extremely little time (if any at all) writing lately, so I plan on making a schedule for that and a few other things that need doing.  I’ll be posting about it sometime in early May, once I hammer out the details.

XI. Justice: What’s the biggest consequence that your main character will ha*e to face? (If it spoils the plot, feel free to be *ague.)

Well, she’s always risking life and limb in combat against an assortment of enemies, some human and most inhuman.  There’s one point in the series where the baddies try to coax her into joining their side, at which point she’s risking the consequence of a lightning bolt to the face, ’cause Zeus is watching her quite closely.  Other than that…well, there are a few minor run-ins with foreign kings that are of a less than pleasant type, but…mostly the only consequences would be if she fails in her goals of stopping the bad guys.

Wow, my books sound really shallow all of a sudden.

XII. The Hanged Man: What sacrifices do you make for writing time?  Or, what must your main character be willing to choose between?

Hmm…what does Atalanta need to choose between?  I can’t really think of anything, which is alarming.  But the thing is, I was kind of following the mold of some of the more grand myths, like Perseus’ quest to protect his mother from the lecher who wants to marry her, or Jason’s quest to get the Golden Fleece (minus the part where he starts being a horrible cad and all the wretchedness that follows) and there’s not a lot of…it’s just…the mode of the story is pretty simple:  go, do, fight, triumph.  I tried to add a little more to it than that, but…yeah, still ends up sounding really shallow, no matter how I try to shine it up.

XIII. Death: What do you do after you’*e finished a project?

After I finished the first book in this series, I went right on to the next one.  I wasn’t ready to stop writing yet.  Besides, I knew my pantsing would continue to affect where the story was going, and that later books would probably contradict earlier ones, but that the later tales would be better…and I was right about that:  something I had to say about the causes of the Trojan War in Book Six contradicted something from…Book Two, I think it was.  Either way, Book Six’s new wrinkle was much better, and might actually be truly original, so…yeah, I think I made the right call there.

XI*. Temperance: Please share your best-tested & pro*en tip for balancing writing and “the rest.”

I can’t balance anything; my life is chaos.

X*. The De*il: E*eryone has a nasty habit they can’t shake. What’s your main character’s?

For Atalanta, that’d be running off half-cocked.  She gets excited easily, and can’t stop herself from acting.  But she also has self-doubt that interferes at the worst times.  For Ariadne, it’s thinking too much and paralyzing herself by coming up with too many contradictory plans and/or possible pitfalls.  Eurysakes…honestly, I think it’s his way of talking.  He talks extremely slowly, just like his father did, which annoys those around him, and makes Ariadne cut him off a lot, because she’s pretty impatient about stuff like that.  (Though Atalanta is more or less the lead, it’s a team book, so I think it’s okay to list all three here.)

X*I. The Tower: Ha*e you e*er had to scrap an entire project and start o*er? How did it feel? Were you frustrated, sad, relie*ed, etc.?

Yeah.  This past NaNo’s project, “The Island of Dr. Tanaka.”  I was writing it specifically for these two characters I rescued from another book’s backstory, but then I didn’t finish it during NaNoWriMo, and as I kept working on it, it just got slower and slower and I couldn’t finish and I couldn’t finish…until I finally realized it was the two characters who had gotten the project going in the first place who were also killing it.  They just don’t fit the story.  But I like the story, so I don’t want to just abandon it.  So now I’m going to need to start again, with new characters in their places, and come up with something else for them.  (There are a number of my Insecure Writer’s Support Group posts on this subject…))  It is exceptionally frustrating.  To the point that I’m not ready to work on either of the projects yet.  When the semester ends and I get my summer break time, I’m either going to finally re-write Book One of the YA project I’m talking about here, or work on a superhero-themed short story I’m working on coming up with characters for.

Or possibly both, trading off one to the other on my whims.

X*II. The Star: What is your fa*orite part of starting a new project? New notebook smell? Getting to know the characters? Building the plot?

Probably the plot.  It’s usually what gets me interested.  But sometimes it’s the characters.  When it’s both, that’s when I feel the most compelled to write.  That happened with this semi-YA series; I was excited about both the characters and the whole-series plot.

X*III. The Moon: What’s the biggest lie that your main character is telling herself?

For Atalanta, it’s that her father was a great man.  Achilles was certainly great on the battlefield, but off it he was pretty reprehensible.  (Though my Achilles in the books (each book starts with a prologue during the war) isn’t nearly as reprehensible as he should be, ’cause I’m not good at writing that kind of character.)  At one point the heroines go to the the house of Hades to talk to a shade (because how could they not?) and Hermes and Hades both work pretty hard to make sure that she doesn’t meet her father’s shade, because they don’t want her to get disillusioned and fail in her quest, since that would be bad for the gods.  (Part of Atalanta’s main impetus to be heroic is to try to be worthy of who she thinks her father was.)

Ariadne is also telling herself lies about her father.  At first, she’s telling herself that the men who fathered her and Atalanta weren’t really Odysseus and Achilles, but a couple of con men (in modern parlance) claiming to be Odysseus and Achilles.  (This despite that Atalanta — at nine years old — was strong enough to throw a grown man onto a one-story roof.)  Once the oracle at Delphi had addressed Ariadne as the daughter of Odysseus, it was harder to claim her father wasn’t really Odysseus, so then Ariadne starts lying to herself that Odysseus is the scum of the earth, the worst man in the history of humanity.  While Odysseus can be pretty reprehensible, he’s nowhere near that bad.  And when Ariadne finally spends some time with Odysseus, she’s quite cold to him, despite that he wants to take up his responsibilities as her father and he genuinely cares about her.  (Of course, at her age, the only responsibility left to a father towards his daughter is to find her a good husband and pay a big dowry, but…he both offers to do both and also promises that he won’t force a husband on her.  Which is pretty astonishing for the time period.)  So one of Ariadne’s major growth points is coming to accept him, at least a little bit.

But I came to realize that Ariadne is also telling herself a much bigger lie about the way she feels for Atalanta.  I started writing a follow-up to the final book, which starts out with them going to all the places they gained help during the main series, and letting them know that the enemy has been defeated.  But when they get to Troy, they’re going to meet up with the daughter of Hector, and following some desire on her part to kill Atalanta because of what happened between their fathers, more stuff will happen and they’ll end up on their way to Hattusa to see the Hittite king, and other stuff will happen, and I didn’t really get too far.  (They hadn’t reached Troy yet.)  Anyway, as I was writing that, returning to the characters after about a year, I suddenly realized that Ariadne didn’t just possess the standard cousins/sisters feelings for Atalanta:  she wasn’t aware of it, but her feelings were more romantic in nature.  I had not intended that to be the case, so I was pretty surprised by it.  I had Eurysakes point it out (he didn’t think it was right, since Atalanta and Ariadne had been raised pretty much like sisters) but Ariadne of course denied it utterly, unable to understand that about herself.  I’m not sure if I’ll make her realize he’s right or if she’ll keep denying it.  And I’m not sure if I’ll try to make it apparent in the main series as I re-write or if I’ll let it remain as it already is.

XIX. The Sun: Do any themes, symbols, or objects come full circle in your story?

Hmm….I can’t think of any, off-hand.  Except the prologues:  the first one shows the, well, the introduction (and leading off to the bedchamber) of the heriones’ fathers to their mothers, and then shows their births nine months later, while the final prologue returns to Lesbos and shows the girls at about nine years old, and shows their mothers again, while intimating some new things about why they were born.  I’m not sure if that’s really “full circle” or not, though.

XX. Judgement: Do your characters get what they deser*e? Why or why not?

Well, in the books already written, two of them basically do…sort of.  At that point, they’re all three heroes, and they should get a happy ending, right?  So at the ending of the last book, they’re all setting out on a journey together, to share the news of their triumph, and generally to enjoy the trip, glad that they won’t be attacked so much anymore.  This is exactly what Atalanta and Ariadne want, though they do merit better still.  Eurysakes wants to marry the woman he adores, but at the end of the book he still can’t, because Helen has not yet coaxed Ramses into allowing his adopted daughter to marry a non-Egyptian.  (Yes, Helen, Queen of Sparta, is trying to play matchmaker between a Greek prince and an Egyptian princess.  It’s that kind of series.)  So he hasn’t gotten the happy ending he wants yet.

After the books, though (and I mean after the unfinished one here), Eurysakes will get to marry his Egyptian princess, and he’ll go to rule Salamis, at least until he and his brother gift it to Athens.  This is will break up the trio, though of course the girls are welcome in Salamis at all times.  But their happy endings get less and less happy, because I had in mind another series, set millennia later:  Atalanta will be forced to accept immortality and marry a god (and yes, “forced” is the word, because she doesn’t like him) and Ariadne will be left alone.  So after the books, the heroines don’t get the happy ending they should.  Which I recognize is really weird, and a little messed up, especially considering the male in the trio does get his happy ending.  (Though Ariadne will end up in an Amazon-like town the heroes help establish in one of the books, so she’ll be all right, except for the pain of being parted from Atalanta.)

It’s probably weird that I came up with this much of what happens to them long after the books end…

XXI. The World: At what point did you know that you had to write this project?

After seeing two back-to-back film trailers that utterly desecrated the entire idea of ancient Greece, in my seething fury at Hollywood, I was re-reading and re-writing my Trojan War book.  When I got to the part about Achilles killing Thersites and being sent to Lesbos, where Odysseus would perform the purification rite to cleanse him of the homicide, I started wondering what happened when they were there other than the purification rite.  I started imagining a dialog between them, as Odysseus kept getting Achilles more and more drunk, mostly for the laughs.  (This dialog ended up being a large part of the prologue of book one.)  When I knew I had to write the project was when I started wondering what the two girls would name their daughters (who in my initial imagination were just going to run off to be Amazons) and as soon as I decided the daughter of Achilles would be called Atalanta, I knew I had to write their story in full.  (Naming her Atalanta was actually an inside joke to my Trojan War book:  when Thetis took the nine-or-so-years-old Achilles to Scyros to disguise him as a girl, he suggested that his girl name should be Atalanta, which of course Thetis rejected.)

 

So, that’s the end of the questions.  Since I’m just borrowing the questions and wasn’t strictly speaking tagged (she just left an open “anyone reading this” kind of tag) I’m not gonna tag anyone else.  ‘Cause weird.

Anyway, for those unfamiliar with me talking about these books, I want to point out that this is the first time the heroines’ names appear on my blog.  (Well, in connection with these characters, anyway.  The names show up in talking about the original mythical characters for whom these characters are named.)  I’m not sure if using their names like this is proof that any hope of publishing has disappeared, or if this means I actually secretly still think it’ll someday be publishable and I’m subconsciously trying to raise interest.

Ugh, this turned out way too long.  (Took like two hours!)  Why do I always think long things are going to be short?


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IWSG – Last Minute Post

Published April 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Lol, I totally forgot about the Insecure Writer’s Support Group this month!  (Hopefully I can get this post written and posted before my scheduled April A-to-Z post goes up at 8:40!)

Anyway, I haven’t been doing much fiction writing, lately, still.  I want to say “oh, it’s just lack of time,”  but I think it’s also lack of incentive somehow.  I’m not too worried about it; I’ve gone through dry patches before.  I just need something to kick-start me, probably.

Anyway, I’ve talked before about the problems I’ve been having with “The Island of Dr. Tanaka,” last year’s NaNo novel, which I still haven’t finished.

And in a way, I’ve decided I never will.

It’s not that I’m giving up on it, per se.  It’s just that I’m abandoning the draft altogether, and I’ll eventually start over with two of the characters replaced.

I’ve talked about them before (and if I weren’t so rushed for time, I’d look for the links, but I am, so…they’re probably all on the “IWSG” tag if you’re really interested) but the two leads are the reason this book just wasn’t working.  Ironically, they’re also the reason I started it in the first place.

I wanted to excise them from the backstory they originated in, the one that was going to have them die three days after finally realizing their love.  ‘Cause that’s a pretty sucky ending for anyone, right?  But I couldn’t write a realistic drama about two young men in the early 1970s overcoming the social issues surrounding accepting their love for each other.  I couldn’t even write that about about what homosexual men go through now, let alone about what it would have been like a few years before my own birth.  (I could research the ’70s easily enough, if I had time, but I don’t.)  So I put them through this convoluted accidental time travel thing, and created what I feel like is a pretty interesting setting, and gave them some fun characters to interact with.

But I just wasn’t feeling it.  The scenes with them always ended up just being about their love story, and the mysterious time travel thing kept getting pushed aside, especially after Ashley confessed his feelings.  (Except when my other POV character was able to step in.)

I think the problem is that — despite their origin as backstory characters for a goofy sci-fi piece — they’re actually very down-to-earth characters who need a moderately realistic story.  So I’m going to enlist my brother’s help and have him come up with a “Die Hard”-like story for them (only less violent, since I’ll be the one writing it) in a setting I’ve come up with.  No idea when he’ll be able to do that (I haven’t even given him the materials to work with yet, and he’s in the process of moving right now, so he’s sort of busy) but he did agree to do it, so it’ll happen sooner or later.  (Most likely later.)

As to “The Island of Dr. Tanaka,” I’ve decided the best thing to do is to just do a flat-out replacement.  I took out two characters, so I should put two characters in.

The characters I took out were two men — one aware he was in love with the other, and the other in love but unaware of it — and they were soldiers serving in Vietnam.  That last part came from their original backstory in the other book, and it was a mistake all around; I know very little about the armed forces, after all, and it necessitated them being sucked out of time in the very first scene, to hide my total lack of knowledge.

The characters I’m going to put in, I’ve decided, are two women (it’s always easier for me to write for women, for obvious reasons) and since the ones I’m removing are lovers, they’re going to be lovers, too.  But none of this “he’s straight; he’ll never love me back” crapola that I had to deal with in Ashley’s POV.  That was annoying.  So these woman are already lovers.  And because I liked the other three soldiers who ended up in the book, I’ve decided that they’re war protesters who were doing something outside some training facility.  That way my shouty sergeant — who is, after all, based on every drill sergeant in any movie ever, pretty much — can be a drill sergeant, and the green recruit can be so green that he’s not done with his training yet.  It’ll be a little harder to work in the medic and the combat/rescue chopper pilot (though he’s more of a plot device than a character anyway) but I think if the training facility is well outside of town, and one of the girls gets hurt, that’ll probably do it…though I’m still not sure what my medic’s doing there, unless he’s in the process of being released from service.  (It’s actually sort of important for the plot that he’s been in Vietnam for some time now:  he’s a sci-fi fan, but if he’s seen too much Star Trek, he’ll be too suspicious of the island’s AI.)

I’ve also slowly been coming up with story and character details for the experimental piece of fiction I wanted to write.  Since I decided that almost everyone in the cast will have a superpower — most of them totally useless — it’s been fun coming up with character ideas, but not all of the powers tie neatly into the plot I came up with.  Came up with some good hero names for that world’s Superman-analog, though.  (No names yet for the Batman/Iron Man-analog, though.  She’s going to be trickier to name, because there’s some weird stuff going on with her suit.)  I did actually write the very beginning of it, but only about 3-400 words, if that.  I came up with the scene and wanted to write it down, y’know?  It might not actually even be the beginning; it could just be the introduction of the male lead, and the actual beginning could be the introduction of the female lead.  Since she’ll probably be more the focal point of the story, that might make more sense.

Of course, the “character ideas” I’ve been coming up with have mostly just been about powers, and not much about things like names, personalities and especially appearances.  Some of the personalities are easily extracted from the power set, at least in part, but appearances and names are serious weaknesses for me.  Even the heroine hasn’t got a name or an appearance yet!  (Another reason I haven’t really done much with it yet…)

I’m not sure why I have so much trouble with names and appearances.  I mean, names are pretty darned crucial, right?  (How can you write about someone if you don’t know what to call them?)  And appearances dictate the way everyone around them reacts to them, but…honestly, very few of my characters in anything have ever had an appearance, unless it was back in my fanfic days, and then they had an appearance (and a name) before I even got to them.  (Usually.)  I think it comes back to my lack of visualization skills.  I don’t usually know what my locations look like, either.  I just don’t think in images.  Maybe that means I shouldn’t be a writer…?

Well, I’m running out of time to get this posted, so I guess I’ll just hit the old “Publish” button and worry about it later.

IWSG – Not a lot to say, really

Published March 2, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

Another double post Wednesday!  (Yeah, that’s going to keep up for a number of months, until I get rid of my ever-growing backlog of quotes.)

Anyway, it’s been a very slow month for me as a writer.  Like, deadly slow.  I haven’t had much time for writing, not writing fiction, anyway.  I have to spend a lot of time reading for class, and I have a paper due every week, which doesn’t help.

But I think it’s also just that I’m not really very motivated to write right now.  It’s this NaNo novel that’s been hanging over my head since November.  I don’t want to abandon it, but I’m not sure I can finish it.  It’s not that I don’t know what happens next, or even that the next scene is going to be all that hard to write.  Well, it’ll be hard in one sense, since I’ll have to describe things, and that’s my biggest weakness.  But there’s no painful emotions in the scene.  After I got through all the turbulence of Ashley having to come out to his best friend at the same time as he confesses his love for him, and then the ensuing whirlwind…writing the characters discovering  the now-ancient ruins of a far-future weapons factory shouldn’t be that difficult.

But I just can’t get up the interest to write it.  I’ve started re-reading everything I’ve written so far, in the hopes of renewing my interest, but it’s not working.  I think the problem is that the novel is incompatible with the characters I invented it for.

I’ve gone into aspects of this before in my IWSG posts, so I’ll just summarize.  Because Ashley and Paddy were taking over my brain, I thought I could exorcise them by making them the stars of their own novel.  But I didn’t want to write the gruesome story of the deaths originally planned for them (couldn’t have written it even if I’d wanted to, in fact), and I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge of writing a realistic novel about their struggles to come to terms with their love and fit into a society that wasn’t ready to embrace homosexuality.  Even if I was a mature enough person to write something that serious and down to earth, the required research into the late 1960s or the early 1970s would have taken far too long.

So I gave them a new setting.  In the original version, it was already established that they had fought in Vietnam, so I had them in a helicopter that went through a timeslip and ended up in the super-distant future.  I think the setting and explanation I came up with are kind of interesting, and it might make a nice story in someone else’s hands.  However, I’m spending as much time on the romance between the two leads as I am on the story, and the romance is totally freakin’ irrelevant to the story (as well as being utterly unrealistic).  And, perhaps worse, this story is just not the right place for these two characters.  They belong in the real world, not a distant future filled with all sorts of oddities.  (A strange statement considering they were originally dead backstory characters for a goofy, anime-inspired, reincarnation-and-robots novel.)

I don’t know what to do with the realization that my characters and my novel are incompatible.  I can’t just delete them from it and go on without them.  Among other reasons, none of the other soldiers from Vietnam are men whose heads I can get inside.  The one of them I like best, Caesar, is the brother of a Black Panther, so he’s paranoid that the brass were always watching him, expecting him to be doing undercover work for his brother.  As a white woman of a much later era, I could never get into his mindset enough to write his POV; I know my limits, and that’s way past them.  One of the others is an uneducated country boy, and then there’s the career military NCO, two more I’d never be able to understand.  So right now the only other character I can give a POV is Ricki, the time-displaced 80s girl.  If I were to remove Ashley and Paddy, I’d have to invent two new people to put in their place.  And, honestly, if I did that, I think I’d also do myself a favor and get rid of the whole “helicopter over Vietnam” thing, and make it a small plane somewhere in the US.  Caesar could still be there, as is, perhaps having just been discharged from his military service.  And the country boy wouldn’t require any change except that he’d be a civilian instead of a soldier.  The NCO would have to go, unless he was maybe someone who trained new troops stateside.  But with such a massive re-write…ack.  I think I’d want to finish draft one before I tried it, but I don’t think I can finish draft one.  (Catch-22 and back where we started…)

I had, for a brief time, been pretty charged up about the experiment I wrote about last month.  I even made up a lot of characters, some great story details, and I had a blast making up all sorts of totally useless superpowers for the squad of losers who make up the male lead’s gang.  I even wrote the first, I dunno, couple hundred words.  Just a bit that came to me and was really fun.  (That reminds me, I was thinking of posting some of it on the blog at some point.)  My enthusiasm wore down a little, though, perhaps in part because I kept telling myself to finish the NaNo novel first.  I’m pretty sure I could get the enthusiasm back quickly enough, but should I?  I mean, shouldn’t I finish the other one first?

I dunno.  Maybe it doesn’t even matter.  I mean, it’s not like I have a lot of time for it.  Between class, museum work, and blogging, I have very little time for anything else.  (Though blogging will take up less time after I finish researching for April A-to-Z.  Slightly less, anyway.  Maybe I spend too much time on my blogs…)

It doesn’t help, of course, that my arm is getting worse, and it’s now painful to try to type in most positions.  I’ve been put on new medication, which hasn’t helped, they did another MRI, which revealed nothing, and now I’m scheduled for a spinal tap next week, so they can find out if this is MS or something else.  (I’m rooting for it to be something else.  From what little I’ve read, I really don’t want to have MS.)  I don’t want to go through such a horrible procedure, but if it lets them figure out what’s wrong with me and thus enables them to fix it, then it’ll be worth it.  But I’m told I’ll need to spend 48 hours or more afterwards just lying down and recovering.  Which is a problem, because lying down makes my arm worse.  Maybe I can lie down on my back and read, holding the book up at arm’s length.  That might work.  Maybe.

Ugh.  My life sucks at the moment.  That’s the short version.

IWSG – NaNo Failure

Published December 2, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the first time, I’ve failed NaNo.

In the future, anyone who chances upon my profile will see four wins followed by a loss.  They might think something like “Oh, what a shame she messed up after so many successes!”

Of course, if they click further and look at the stats for the failed novel, then they’ll probably ask themselves “Why in the name of sanity didn’t she validate her novel if she had 87,474 words?!”

Well, the obvious answer is that to me, the goal of NaNo isn’t to write 50,000 words.  To me, the goal is to write a complete novel.

And I didn’t do that.

Read the rest of this entry →

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