Sunday, February 19, 2017

Quality, Quantity, Ramblings

I guess I've just never really understood the quality over quantity thing. Because, like, you can't have quality without a little quantity. You spend forty years working on one book, one play, one painting, whatever, chances are it's gonna be crap. You get bogged down, you know? And there's no room to grow.

Like, sometimes I'll have a week where I just write, like, thirty poems. And probably half of them are gonna be crap. I know they're gonna be crap. I don't care. Sometimes that's kind of the point of them. I'll be on my third poem, and it'll be completely worthless. But then on my twenty-third, maybe I'll try something weird with the line breaks, something I wouldn't have thought of before, and maybe that'll somehow make poem number three salvageable.

I'd much rather publish twelve pretty good books, and maybe they're not perfect, but maybe someone will read them and they'll Matter to that person, than spend a decade writing an amazing literary masterpiece that no one outside of an English class is ever going to care about. Because sometimes, maybe most times, it's not even about all of the perfection you put into something you've dedicated your life to. Sometimes it's a completely random throwaway line that catches readers, that makes them care, that ends up meaning something. And I figure you've got a better chance of giving someone that thing that Matters if you have a bunch of things out there in the world.

You produce enough quantity, and some of it's bound to be quality. And the more you do the better you get. Better is a side-effect of more. And stories die, sometimes. Paintings, songs. You spend so much time trying to make this one thing better, and all the heart leaks out.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Zombies, Mermaids, Beasts

So I think I’m writing a movie review? Sort of? At this point I’m willing to write down whatever words manage to pop into my head, so this is what we’re going with. But I promise some fairy tales, too.

Okay. I’ve wanted to watch Warm Bodies forever. Like, since it came out, so for at least three years. And I finally got around to it over Christmas. Warm Bodies, for those of you who don’t remember or never found out, is about an awkward zombie boy who falls in love with a pretty human girl, and wants to make out with her instead of eating her brain. Talk about your star-crossed love.

Zombie Boy—we call him R—kinda eats her boyfriend’s brain. Then he kinda takes her to his zombie home in the zombie-infested airport. They hang for a few days, and then he helps her get home to her family and all the other humans whose brains he hasn’t eaten yet. And throughout this entire process, he’s becoming more and more human.

The movie ends with them finding the cure for zombie-ism, which—spoiler alert!—is the power of love, naturally.

You know, I used to think the power of love was pretty cheesy as far as sci-fi/fantasy problem solving goes. And, okay, I will not be getting over The Swan Princess Christmas anytime soon. (I can’t actually find the clip I’m thinking of here, but this one generally sums up why I think the power of love is kinda cringe-worthy.)

And then, well, I decided to graduate with a paper on the transforming power of love in folk and fairy tales. So. Anyway, we’ll come back to that. Right now, we’re gonna talk about how I ended up writing about a zombie movie.

I'm watching with my brother, is the first thing. And it's late at night and we're both a little sleep deprived. So he asks, you know, rhetorically, why this zombie kid is hoarding all this random stuff like vinyl and crap. And I say he wants to be where the people are. He wants to be part of their world. And I’m just messing around, right? But he says, “He’s a zombie, Jenny, not the little mermaid,” and that’s when I realize, he totally is.

Non-human, hoarding human stuff? Check.

Without a soul? Dead, so probably check.

In love with unattainable human? Check.

Unable to speak? Check.

Guys, this is some straight up Enchanted Bride/Bridegroom stuff right here. I mean, there’s the Little Mermaid checklist. Let’s go through the steps I used in that Beauty and the Beast Paper.

Cursed because of some creepy incest crap? No backstory provided, but we’re gonna put that one down as unlikely. Oh well.

Kidnaps the crush? Check.

Sees error of his ways, gets her home again? Check.

Girl goes back for him? Technically he tracks her down again, but the feeling, on her part, is definitely there. We’ll check it.

Beast turns into cute dude? Check. With a bleeding gunshot wound to prove it.

Or, what about that bit that bothers me most, the thing I always come back to: the Beast that must seem dumb like an animal, that lost little boy trapped inside his head alone forever, never able to express himself, to make the others understand. That, I think, is R's monologue, is what drew me to him so quickly.

Okay, enough with the checklists. My point is—well. I’m not quite sure what my point is yet.  (My teachers despaired, guys. We were supposed to be all about that Socratic thinking, but I am helplessly Aristotelian. We don’t break down the main point here. We start with the small stuff, and we work our way up. And up, and up, until something starts making sense.)

Maybe the point is that the power of love can actually be powerful, that we can use it in fiction and real life. That love matters, that love can change things, that this is a reoccurring theme for a reason, and everything doesn't have to be horrifically cheesy.

Maybe the point is that you guys should watch this movie. Maybe it's that I just like the sound of my own voice. (Or the sight of my own typing, rather.) Maybe it's that R, like Disney's Beast, is actually kinda more appealing pre-transformation. I don't know, guys. I watched the movie. I made the connection. Go make your own point--my work here is done.





Saturday, December 10, 2016

In Which I Emerge from My Haze of Depression to Ask You to Give Me Money

Sorry I've been AWOL - depression hit hard this time, and I haven't been able to keep words in my head for long enough to write them down. I'm doing a little better now, but no promises for consistent updates any time super soon.

I'm planning to do a whole bunch of fairy tales posts coming up, but I have to track down my Grimms first, and the house is a mess. In the meantime, I've been doing mostly nothing, but I've got a couple poems and a couple scenes from a novel floating around. If you support me on Patreon, you can see some of that.

And speaking of Patreon, I'm about a third of the way to my first goal, which is enough money to buy some ISBNs and start publishing my work for real, without relying on Amazon. So any help would be really appreciated!

thin is still a thing, available for Kindle and Nook as well as in hard copies. I'm going to print about 20 to take with me to Illinois over Christmas, so if you're interested and in the area, let me know - avoid those shipping costs. People in the Twin Cities, same deal. Everyone else, sorry, but there's no shipping charge for an ebook, and it's a little cheaper anyway.

Also, my essay "And He Became a Handsome Prince: Humanity and Human Relations in the Folk Tradition" is now available for Nook and Kindle. It's all available for free on the blog, but the ebook is better formatted, and includes an intro, conclusion, and bibliography. Not that anyone's probably dying of curiosity about my bibliography, but if you enjoyed the essay, a three dollar ebook is a great way to show your appreciation.

And as always, there's Avalanche and Goodbye. Plus the Redbubble stuff.


Stay tuned for a post about the Frog Prince, eventually.

Friday, November 11, 2016

NaNo

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year. And it's really weird for me, because it's been such a huge part of my life, every year since I was sixteen. I would never have started seriously writing, the way I do now, if it wasn't for NaNo. I could never have finished my first novel, and I probably wouldn't have tried.

This time five years ago, I was already finished with my fifty thousand words, and on my way to one hundred thousand. But right now, it's just not something that's useful in my life. The deadline doesn't drive me to work harder like it used to, because I know that I can do it. And it seems pointless to write a whole new book when I already have so many in need of revision.

The thing I didn't think about when I decided to take a break from NaNo, though, is the community. Once a year for the past seven years, I've been a part of something, not just during November, but during October and December, too, as we gear up and then wind down. I gave that up. And a part of me really regrets it.

I could start today and still catch up, still get to fifty thousand words. But I'm not going to. I have a story that needs to be finally finished, and if I'm focusing on a word count, I won't be giving it everything it deserves. I won't be making it as great as I know it can be.

So no NaNo. Not now. But I do miss my community this year. NaNWriMo jump-started my writing career, but I think the community, ultimately, is the most important part of it. So I just want to encourage all of you who want to write to do it. Take part. Start now. Who cares if you can't make word count, starting a third of the way in?

A lot of people are not enjoying how November is going so far, and I really get that. So let's just take a break from Political November, and spend some time with Writing November. Write a crappy novel, hang out on the forums, make new friends. It's an amazing experience, and I hope you can all enjoy it, if not this year, then some November soon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Donkeyskin

You are a little girl. You are a little girl, and your mother is dead. Perhaps you are a child so young, you will not remember her when you grow. Perhaps you are on the verge, already, of being a woman. Did she know what torments she doomed you to?

It doesn’t matter. I mean, yeah, I’ve always been curious, but who really cares? She’s dead. Your dad is still alive and kicking, and spoiler alert: he seriously sucks.

Now, to be fair, your mom? She had a pretty messed up last request. Normal dying wishes include, but are not limited to: take good care of our daughter, try to move on, etc., etc. Normal dying wishes do not include “Don’t remarry unless the new chick is as pretty as me.” That’s not cool, lady. I mean, of all the things to make a priority on your deathbed. Seriously?

You aren’t scared to die. You aren’t worried about how sad your husband is going to be, or about how your daughter will grow up motherless. Nope. You just wanna be the prettiest. I mean, who cares? You’ll be dead. That ain’t changing. No point in envying the living.

So. Back to you, little girl. Your mom is dead. Your dad is sad. And you? You’re growing up. And you’re getting pretty. And prettier, and prettier, every single day.

And dear old dad is not enjoying this whole widower thing, but he respects the wishes of the dead, and sadly, your mom was smokin’ hot.

And you, honey, you look just like her.

So one day, you’re just minding your own business, doing whatever princesses do, and your dad comes up to you, and he’s all like, “Hey, kiddo, let’s get hitched.”

This is where things get seriously screwy.

“Um, Dad,” you say, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“Dad,” you say, “there are laws against that.”

“Dad, you changed my diapers. Do you really wanna go down…?”

Well. Daddy’s nothing if not stubborn, and he hasn’t been quite right since Mommy bit the dust. You try a different tactic. The spoiled brat tactic, specifically.

“Dad, I wanna have the prettiest wedding dress ever. I want a dress as bright as the sun, and if I can’t get married in that, I’m not getting married at all. So there.”

And Dad, impossibly, produces one. When you throw a fit about how it isn’t good enough, and demand one the color of the moon instead, he gets that too. And the one that’s all the colors of the sky.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. “Dad,” you say, “you know that donkey that poops the gold that’s the source of all our kingdom’s wealth?”

Your dad does, indeed, know that donkey.

“Well, if you really loved me, you would kill that donkey and make me an outfit out of his skin.”

And amazingly, proving once and for all that incestuous lust is indeed a more powerful force than greed, the old nutcase does it.

Only one thing left to do. You throw that donkey skin on your back, you rub some dirt in your face, and you make a run for it.

You, in your donkey suit, you take a job at the castle of a different king. Your coworkers point and laugh. Forget them. You’ve dealt with worse.

Still, it’s hard sometimes. You’re only just a girl. Sometimes, when you have time off, you lock the doors and try on the dresses your daddy gave you.  Sure, he’s a disgusting psycho, but he’s the only family you’ve got, and those clothes were pretty. You live in the skin of a dead donkey, hon. Sometimes you just want to look nice again. Like a princess. Like someone loved and taken care of.

And then you find the aviary. Pretty birds. Pretty dresses. No people. It’s such a good place to sneak away to, to feel like you again. You don’t know it’s the prince’s favorite place to hide away, too.

Of course you meet eventually. In a way. You’ve seen him before. Maybe you have a little crush. But you’ve been down this road. You know what you’re doing: nothing. Steer clear. Do not get involved in this crap again.

But the prince. You, honey, are new at this. You walk down a hallway, and then, well, you just chance to peep through a keyhole, you little pervent. And the girl you see, well, she’s smokin’ hot. She’s too smokin’ hot to just walk in on. That would be disrespectful, man.

She’s also so smokin’ hot you, like, can’t function because you’re so busy thinking about how hot she is. You gotta find out who this chick is so you can marry her or something. You ask around, and everyone’s like, “That room? Yeah, man, that’s where the donkey freak lives. I think you’re…confused.”

So you go to your room to waste away and pout, and when your mom asks what’s wrong, you say you need Donkeyskin to make you a cake.

And here you are, Donkeyskin, just minding your own business, and suddenly the prince is asking questions about you. So you make a cake, and you drop your ring in the batter, because, hey, maybe he’s not a creep like your dad, and it would be cool to be a princess again.

Dude finds the ring, and it turns out your fingers are freaking tiny, because we’ve got all this Cinderella crap going on now.

You guys get married. You live happily ever after. Your dad comes to the wedding and you forgive him, of course, because that’s what good girls do. And since this is Perrault, and he’s big with the lessons:

Moral 1: It’s better to endure hardship than neglect your duties. (And this would be the duty not to marry your dad? I guess? What about his duty not to marry you?)

Moral 2: Virtue is good. (Way to go, Donkeyskin. You didn’t try to hook up with your daughter, you didn’t look in people’s keyholes, you are rocking the virtue here.)

Moral 3: Love is more powerful than reason. (Hence the forgiveness for dear old dad?)

Moral 4: Bread and water are totally sufficient for a girl to live on. (Um…what? Are we not gonna talk about how trying to do your daughter is bad? No? Just focus on the diet? ‘Kay then. I guess we’re done here.)