Mini Update

NaNoWriMo isn’t going all that well. Just up to a little over 19000 words today, which is still a couple thousand under. And then there’s tomorrow. I’d like to catch up, but it’s so much easier writing somewhere else, where distractions don’t feel as acceptable.

Also, I’m back to obsessing over White Collar, the television show, and then the fan fiction of it, mostly because I have some great fan fiction ideas for White Collar which would be so much easier than trying to figure out this original novel thing I am at this moment attempting to work on. Like, White Collar, it has a genre, and I know the characters—as much as one can know a character as depicted by an actor, because at that point the character exists for so many people: the writer, the director and only then the actor. It makes for a fascinating (to me) philosophical discussion, but not really one useful otherwise. Maybe if I go into the philosophy of theater I can use it as a thesis. If that is already your goal, I may allow you to steal it so I don’t have to do the work.

But still, given my understanding and familiar with television show characterization and all attending issues, I can make do. Writing a new plot turns out to be the easy part, though I’ve always said it’s what I have the most trouble with. I suppose that’s because knowing the characters (however possible) and the setting and the genre. There’s already even a style there to build from.

This novel thing? At best the genre is a fantasy/dystopia*/magical realism and unfortunately even I don’t know exactly what that means, which is no good, given I’m the one writing it. In theory, I should have control over this sort of thing. And most of my characters don’t have names: even those who do only have place holder titles. One has just been dubbed O until I can think of something better. Also plot is hard. I have the beginning fairly down, and last week it seemed brilliant. This week, while I still have hope for the beginning I’m not convinced it’s possible to make it go anywhere.

Oh well, if I do ever manage to make it until the end of the month, I can go from there. At least I’ll have somewhere to start. It’s like discovering a new genus. I don’t have the full shape yet, so I can’t even start thinking of the connections to everything else.

*and google wants me to correct that to ‘topiary,’ which wouldn’t not fit either.


P.S. Can I add this to my word count?

A Change in Times

I did not post yesterday.

That’s the first since I decided on daily posts that I missed, which is disappointing, if only to myself. Not because I was sick, I’m healthy enough, if still a little congested. Not because I was busy—this is still small, narrow-minded USA after all. (That’s a little unfair, after all I just heard about a twice-monthly writer’s meetup.) No, I just…didn’t make it. Remembered that I should post about 6 pm, and didn’t think of it again until a quarter after midnight.

It’s just as well, what with NaNoWriMo coming up. And funny too, because it’ll be Tuesday and Thursday posts.

But I would have rather announced the change in schedule, as a matter of discipline. Funny that the post about NaNo was the one to end on, before my unintended break. But with 1667 words a day for the month, the posts here would get even shorter and I’d have to entirely surrender my tl;dr byline. And I’d so hate to do that  I also have a few fan fiction stories I want to work on at the same time (because I’m nothing if not ambitious), so keeping up a coherent blog won’t be my priority.

Slowing down the schedule a bit has actually been the plan for a while. I may have managed posting every day, but I don’t feel they’ve been as strong as they were before. This will give me more time to come up with an idea and develop it properly, instead of simply pecking at the keyboard while trying to watch Restaurant Impossible or worse, the news. That way just dilutes my focus and gives me far too many things to talk about.

I’m trying to take it as seriously as the Multicultural Lit class, way back when, where every blog post counted for a grade. And I really don’t want to get too naval-gazing, it’s unpleasant for everyone.

Besides, I know I have plenty to say, and I keep posting bits and pieces of my ideas before they’re articulated, and only afterward do I realize what I actually wanted to say. Of course figuring out connections between unrelated posts after the fact can give me new ideas, but  I’d like to have more time to properly develop them. Get several drafts in, do some proper editing and arranging before hitting the publish button. Maybe I’ll be able to learn something. And if I actually understand what I’m talking about, maybe I can even teach something to others. Keeping up this blog would feel so much less self-indulgent.

For example, the post I promised weeks ago, regarding my thoughts on the uselessness of education as a thing. Suffice to say, while I may be willing to play the devil’s advocate in a philosophical, academic (heh) debate, trying to compose such an argument during a political campaign makes me supremely uncomfortable.

Especially as, just a day or so after I’d decided to write such a post, I had to visit my former university’s website to learn more about my program having been suspended. California had one of the best university systems in the world for years. The complete and utter degradation of the same is, in my mind, as near to the scale of the destruction of our own economy. There should be far more support higher education in this country and I cannot express my disappointment in how it’s been handled over the past few years. So. You can surely see why I don’t want make even the most theoretical comment on the topic. God forbid, someone would take me seriously, and I just don’t feel up to the discussion.

On the other hand, I’ve also been meaning to write a very mean review for City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on Goodreads. It’s a book with a large, devoted, less-than-rational fanbase. Don’t get me wrong, most people who like the series seem to be perfectly rational, intelligent people. Unfortunately, the vocal minority are, shall we say, less than a stellar representation of humanity. Like with TwilightHouse of Night, Fifty Shades of Grey heck, even Harry Potter, some of its greatest fans tend to make one question the value in humanity. Unlike Twilight however, while City of Bones drives me up the wall during the reading, it makes me less objectively angry. At least, that’s the case more than a year after I read the thing. At any rate, I look forward to getting my first trolls for that review, though it may be too long after publication and hype to get much attention. 

So. That’s the news. I’m writing this in a cafe a booth over from two nearly unsupervised boys who are getting more and more hyperactive. Starting next week, I’m only going to post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and hopefully it’ll be a little more organized from here on out. Wish me luck!

I Like What I Like

Some people think that your given name influences your personality. If you think changing your name will give you better fortune, these people are willing to take your money to give you the best name possible!

Or, you know, just get them free.

Anyway, if Marie is a traditional name, maybe that’s where I got all my hobbies. Or maybe I just read too much as a kid. But uncool as reading is, I managed to get even more uncool as I got older and then went to college. I love picking up the unpopular hobbies.

Not like the hipsters people always make fun of but that I’ve never actually met outside of high school (isn’t everyone in high school a hipster?). But just the quiet stuff other people are tempted to make fun of especially on the internet. and not usually to my face. Another thing about the internet though is that it’s hard to tell, because lots of people have those hobbies, even there aren’t all that many in a given area and anyway you’re aren’t allowed to talk about such things with strangers because then you’ll be really weird.

So knitting, uncommon, much like the other crafts. Reading (obsessively) more common than tv-watchers think it is. Fan fiction reading a big, big thing, and also probably one of the biggest no-nos, aside from maybe playing the Sims games (which sadly, I hardly have time for, spending so much time online—and work of course. Work takes time away from everything interesting!

At any rate I’m not skilled enough with computers or math and not into enough manga and science to be a geek. As far as playground insults go I think that leaves me with dork.

Anyway,  I’ve always been vaguely embarrassed by the fact I read fan fiction. Because it has such an awful reputation—deservedly so, in the broadest strokes. As in any other subject, 90% is crap, but there are some real gems in there. Like the rest of web 2.0 (or wherever we’re at now), you have to do your own gatekeeping. You have to find your own meaning of culture and your own framework. <- Look, another, reference to Powys! And people aren’t ashamed of reading the Star Wars continuations when they come out in hard cover. Star Trek has the same, and having read those, they can be as bad as some fan fiction (if with slightly better grammar).

So there’s my justification for fan fic.

I think the only other one I don’t tend to bring up with people is the Sims and I haven’t been playing that often lately. And I can’t really justify it.

Because I really only play to take advantage of my control-freak tendencies.

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice

Teasing a Sleeping Girl

Originally uploaded by Maulleigh

Having written some 4000 words on Killing Time—a book that I can’t stand, less because I hate it, but because it has so many of my pet peeves—I’m suddenly questioning my reasons for posting it online.

Not that it isn’t practically tradition online to do so. There are several websites dedicated to nothing more than poking fun at badly written, plotted, and conceptualized stories. Sometimes published works like the Twilight ‘saga’, the two series of Laura K. Hamilton, and even the later Harry Potter books. Sometimes, and more often, the focus is on awful fan fiction or other online stories.

Killing Time wasn’t meant to be published, but it was published, so I think I’m covered. It’s started to seem kind of mean though. Which I don’t like to be, I think it’s a bad habit.

While I’ve thought before while reading some sporks that they go too far, I allow myself to be seduced by the amusingness. In some cases. For example, I generally don’t read the websites making fun of fan fictions. They aren’t as funny, to me, so I can’t claim a virtue here, but they are also generally working with avereragely bad fics. As opposed to those, say, Rose Potter. Which are well-known in sporking circles for their exceedingly awful badness and creepiness. So fandom itself will sort out the worst of the worst, and those are funny sporks.

Anyway, I think I might continue with my various reports on Killing Time, but only likely if I can continue to post more short essays about the tropes that I dislike rather than an actual spork. Although maybe later I’ll find time to do so, if on a more appropriate medium.

But this whole thought process came about because Laurell K. Hamilton recently made a blog post. Another author wrote a response. A link was posted on and discussion continued for several pages. Naturally, this ended up on FandomWank. Well, I don’t really remember the wank report, but I was, intrigued, let’s say, buy the other author’s response.

Now I’ve never heard of Jennifer Armintrout, the other author, but I thought her blog post rather well-reasoned. As did the person who posted it on amazon, unless they intended to cause a kerfluffle (which is entirely possible). However, the thread really got going when someone, called R. Harinandansingh (R.H. and given the masculine pronoun, because the shes are confusing already), objected to Armintrout’s calling out L.K.H. Because it’s ‘unprofessional’. When I first got to his comments, I immediately dismissed them. First they were inflammatory, and secondly ridiculous. In what way does being a published author take away your right to critique? How does being any kind of career-artist (as he seemed to imply) mean you can’t have an opinion on others in your field?

Then I started feeling uncomfortable about having dismissed R. H. so readily. It’s not like the original post was an attack on Armintrout. As another poster brought up, yes, there is a long history of author’s taking pot shots at each other—see Mark Twain’s “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses”, and Twain is vicious, though witty—but it’s never been nice.

Of course, Armintrout never claimed to be nice. And though L.K.H. may not have directly addressed any specific author’s in the post, she was talking about the craft of writing. And as another author, and especially a published one, she has a right to respond to a post that essentially demeans authors who don’t write the same way L.K.H. does. Also, when it’s online, it’s public. As far as I’m concerned, when it’s published (and a blog is a form of publication), it is, by definition, published. Now, if L.K.H. had written this in a protected, private journal, online or otherwise, I might take more issue with the propriety of responding like that. But she made her opinions public.

I just don’t see why the response by Armintrout, however emotional, is less than professional. R.H. makes a point of saying that only artists can’t critique each other (or he seems to) and that lawyers and doctors should because their professions actually make a difference. (Or so I recall, it’s been a few days since I read the thread.) However, I very much enjoyed the beginning of Armintrout’s first (only?) response on the amazon thread, defending her original post:

1. I did not write the blog because I have a problem with LKH’s writing. I have adored all the books I’ve read from her…My blog was not a criticism of her as a writer.

3. I didn’t write the blog out of professional jealousy or “cattiness”. I would love to have the word “catty” removed from any discussion of female authors from now on. When Nicholas Sparks routinely slams the romance genre, no one calls him “catty”. They call him “outspoken” and “opinionated”. “Catty” is a word we use to describe women who aren’t acting like sugar, spice, and everything nice, and it’s bs.

I wrote the blog because I don’t like it when people who are feeling insecure for whatever reason decide that the only way to bring themselves up is to attack others. LKH has a lot to be proud about, and other authors do not threaten the success she’s made for herself. You may find my blog unprofessional. That’s fine. I’m really, really unprofessional. I approach my career as one approaches their first year of college: too much partying and running of the mouth and not enough work. But I get really p.o.ed at the idea that LKH gets a free pass to sling passive-aggressive attacks at every other author who puts a pair of fangs in their books in order to make herself feel smarter, more successful, more like an innovator, or whatever she was trying to accomplish.

Can I say, firstly, that I love number 3 wholeheartedly? Spot on, and also, Nicholas Sparks strikes me as an obnoxious idiot. And, actually, fits the definition of “catty” to a T. So perhaps it just needs to be a cross-gender insult. But it isn’t and so should be given up.

And the only way any profession keeps itself going is by discussion. Authors don’t write in a vacuum either. Perhaps all the cutesy niceness has done nothing for the quality of writing produced. Perhaps a good challenge once in a while might do some people some good.

Only a Little Link Happy in Justification: Part 2

There is still so much more to come from Killing Time! I mean, I only just got through two issues, and about 30 pages.

But then I realized that it looks like all I do with my time is read bad Trek publications and read TOS fanfic. Which is so not the truth. I’m still reading Spies (the first person manages to be convincing from both the adult and child perspectives), mentioned in an earlier post, and of course the topic of said post, The City of Falling Angels. And because that couldn’t possibly be enough, I’m also reading The Nobility of Failure (about the tradition of Japanese heroes and tragedy, published in ’75 and drawing maybe too heavily from Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, but still fascinating and eminently readable for its genre); I’m also working on two “literary” novels: Clover, which I want to write a blog about, because so far I’m finding myself disappointed, and Separation, a French novel that is beautifully written and personally challenging, and will likely also get its own blog post. Assuming, of course, that I can finish Killing Time before it kills me.

Those last four books are library books, by the way. After I’m done with those, I still have The Biography of a Cathedral and The Lost Girls. And it looks like I still have Deadheads checked out for my eventual post on Reginald Hill even though I’ve finished it, and If You were a Tadpole and I was a Fish, which I think I’m just going to turn in. It was a fun read though.

And then I have a whole slew of other books I want to check out from the library once I get those returned, including Rebels Against the Future, An Uncommon Friendship, and The Music Room*. Volunteering at the library means that I’m the one who gets to do the grunt work like shifting the fiction and history sections, which means I come out with huge long lists of random books to read (or rather lots of little lists written on post-its folded into tiny square and littered all over my desk).  Lately though, anytime I read anything I’ve been wondering what to say about it. But I have piles of unread books I own (so much easier to put off when I don’t have to give them back). And I want to read City of Bones or Twilight**. Well, the last two only because I see so much making fun of the second, and the first because the author used to write Harry Potter fan fiction*** and the trilogy, I’ve heard, draws heavily from her experience. So I’d maybe pick on them a little as I’m doing here. (Or find value, as the case may be.)

Reminding me I have a purpose in this post, which is to say:

I do not understand!

See, in Killing Time, the alternate universe (AU) is one that the Romulans created through, well, let’s not get into that for now. But in the AU, apparently, the Vulcans are in charge, and earth people (Terrans?) are inferior. At least I think so. The universe is rather confused.

In the Rogue Agent series, I loved Mills leaving out any treatise on the set up of the world, but here it just doesn’t work. Mostly because it is based off of an already defined world (or galaxy, I suppose) and the alternate world isn’t familiar. Now, Van Hise does successfully make her alternate universe distinct from the original, but fails in giving it any internal logic of its own. Yes, the Vulcans are in charge, and the Enterprise now has the Vulcan name ShiKahr and apparently Vulcan labels:

Instead of the Vulcan inscriptions denoting deck levels and instructions, Terran English swam before his eyes.

(He’s undergoing the transition between worlds, because they first thought the alternate universe was a dream, and now the opposite. I haven’t yet gotten to how that works either, though based on the Romulan plot, it still makes no sense).

Having shown that the Vulcans, for whatever reason, are in charge in this AU, Spock almost immediately reflects on how he was disowned by his father for accepting the captainship of the ShiKahr. Why? As far as I can tell, because he was disowned in the original series for joining Star Fleet. But here, the Vulcans are in charge, and I can’t see any reason for his Vulcan father to object to his half-Vulcan son joining a Vulcan career. And doing well at it. Sarek (the father, disowned his son for becoming the captain. So if he’d stayed a druggie ensign like Kirk, it’d be okay?

If I read an explanation for this, I will bring this all up again. Since I’m writing as I go along, I’m completely willing to be shown wrong.

Although as he’s being disowned, Sarek reminds Spock that he will be “alone.” There is lots of emphasis on his being alone. Spock does not want to be alone. That’s a bad thing. In fact, he remembers T’Pring (his fiancée equivalent, which in canon didn’t end so well). And…I’m not sure what’s happening when he thinks of her:

Vulcan. T’Pring. Home and wife and family and expectations: gone. What remained? The stars—something T’Pring would have forbidden. Space—freedom. Isolation—acceptable…for a Vulcan. And Command—a different type of home altogether.

So, I’ll admit this isn’t badly written. And I think I’d enjoy reading it as a commentary on a closer world to canon that this, but I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work here. Did Sarek break off the engagement after disowning his son? I don’t see why he would, because I can’t imagine how it’d be the ‘logical’ thing to do. T’Pring doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with it. If she would have “forbidden” space, and he’s been in space for years, it must have been over a long time ago. I can see this being included as a shout-out to the original series, but I don’t know why it would be necessary. You don’t read novelization spin-offs from a TV series unless you’re already familiar with it.

But you know, it’s really the ‘alone’ thing that gets me. Spock, in the earlier quote says isolation is acceptable for a Vulcan (except that if he doesn’t have a wife, it’s only acceptable for a couple of years) but the page before we got this:

Somehow, whatever companion he’d once envisioned finding among the stars had escaped him.

In other words, his father disowned him for being so completely illogical as to go to space to hopefully just stumble across some random, drugged out ensign who would not only be a lifelong companion but soul mate. Just like that. Now this right here is, when only an implicit theme, drives me nuts (and Killing Time is more than willing to keep beating me over the head with it for the foreseeable future, as much of it as I’ve read). True love? Okay, I can live with that, or at least I’ve learned given that it’s become such an ingrained focus of the cultural lexicon. But a true love that is simply the only one ever and there is no other even unto there never even being allowed any other significant relationship of any kind at all. So, so wrong.

T’hy’la? Spock thinks. He wondered briefly if this human could be the companion, the friend, the brother. But…no. Images received during periods of physical—or mental—illness could not be considered accurate.

You came so close, Spock! Of course, he’s hallucinating Kirk at this point, who is “the” companion. And what really bugs me here is that Spock is not looking for a companion. No, he’s just hoping to randomly stumble across one. In space.

Plato's Stepchildren

Ah, if only he took seriously the mental illness theory…

And here I give up because, yay! it’s page 37. Out of 311.

*This is not the memoir by William Fiennes, which I found in looking for the link, and also sounds interesting. Sigh.

**Is this inflammatory?

***And was totally involved in the fandom wank that I mentioned in my very first post!