layla: grass at sunset (Default)
The Boston Globe has an interesting take on revising your work: that it's largely a product of 20th-century culture (the Modernists) and technology (typewriters), and we might be seeing another shift as computers make on-the-fly editing possible.

Interview on writing with Elmore Leonard. Of particular interest to me is the part of the interview in which he discusses writing for money:
You’ve said that you’ve approached writing both with a desire to write and to make as much money doing it as you could. Do you think that kind of honest, unpretentious attitude toward writing has helped you be a better, more productive writer?

Oh, definitely. All writers are in it for the money. What other reason is there?

But what about the notion of the starving artist, not selling out?

Samuel Johnson once said that anyone who would not write for money is a fool. You know? From the horse’s mouth, that’s why we’re doing it, but still attempting to do it as well as we can and not sacrificing our voice. I’m not going to write like some guy who’s making a lot more money than I am just because he is.

Frankly, it’s not that important. The story is the important thing and then go for the money.

Are there any perils to writing with money in mind?

I’m not writing with money in mind. I’m making the writing as good as I can.

I like his honesty, and the fact that he pushes back against the interviewer's apparent assumption that writing for money = being a hack. I mean, doctors don't do it just for the money -- at least, the better ones don't -- but they still want to get paid!
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This is so cool: the Atlas of True Names. In a way, it takes our real world and makes a fantasy map out of it -- except it's all real!

Too bad they're sold out at the moment; I really want to buy one. Actually, I'm posting the link in part to remind myself to buy it when it's back in stock!

In other news, it was 93 degrees today -- I realize that the rest of the country is probably laughing at our pain, but look at it this way: most people in Alaska don't have air conditioning. I think I'm wilting.

In OTHER other news (but more important than my trivial stuff by far) DOMA IS DEAD, HOORAY! \o/ (And Alaska's Sen. Lisa Murkowski recently became the third(?) Republican senator to come out in favor of marriage equality. Good for her!)
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If you had to flee your house and country forever, and could only take one thing with you, what would it be? This photo essay poses refugees with their most important possession.

Now here's what I did, and what I recommend doing: before you click on the link, think about it. If you had to flee forever, what would be the first thing you'd grab, and the thing you'd want to keep with you? Because I think it's kind of an illuminating look into our lives, and here's what I realized after I did it and then looked at the pictures (and if you're going to play along at home, I recommend picking your "important thing" before you click on the cut).

Continued under cut )
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Today's cheery glimpse of spring:

The picture doesn't really give you the full effect because it didn't capture the falling snow, which was coming down pretty hard when I took it. Still, you can tell by comparing it to the one taken from the same angle a week ago that spring is not exactly proceeding forward here.

On a more genuinely cheerful note, I discovered this Croatian illustrator's gorgeous art -- definitely worth taking a look if you like lavishly detailed pen-and-ink art. The precision and shading is really incredible.
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For some reason I can’t seem to focus on any project for more than 5 minutes today. Guess I’ll write a slightly disjointed blog post, then.

Tomorrow I’ll be at the Biz Bee as the table-decoration judge. This is an annual fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Alaska: local business sponsor 3-person teams, who compete in a spelling bee. I participated on the News-Miner team for several of the years I worked there, and had fun, even if we often washed out in the early rounds (which, since we’re the local newspaper, is just embarrassing). Anyway, I haven’t been to the Biz Bee in a few years, so it’ll be fun, or at least different. There’s a small cover charge (proceeds going to the Literacy Council) if you want to just show up and watch.

Random link stuff (under the cut):

Read the rest of this entry )

Crossposted to Wordpress, Livejournal and Dreamwidth. Comment wherever you like.

Torn World

Jan. 10th, 2013 11:40 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Torn World is a shared world project that I’ve been loosely involved with, off and on, for the last year or so. (Not that I’ve been particularly active. I keep meaning to do more, but then … stuff happens.) Anyway, there is a new overview post at [ profile] torn_world, and there’s going to be a new ongoing story starting up soon, so if you’re curious about Torn World, this is a pretty good time to start watching the community — there will be overview and backstory posts coming up soon, leading up to the launch of a new world-spanning storyline.

On a (mostly) unrelated note, I just discovered this awesome conlang-word generator courtesy of [ profile] trobadora. I’m mostly posting the link to increase the chances that I’ll manage to find it again, given the deplorable state of my bookmarks. *g* But I thought some of you might enjoy it, too!

Crossposted to Wordpress, Livejournal and Dreamwidth. Comment wherever you like.
layla: grass at sunset (Default) is hosting a couple of book rereads (with accompanying open discussion threads) that are of interest to me, and maybe to you! Their chapter-by-chapter reread of The Hobbit is just getting started. And they’re two books into a book-by-book Dresden Files reread. (The new book comes out on Nov. 27! WHY YES I HAVE PREORDERED.)

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Comical case names of actual cases in U.S. law (er, I assume so — there are citations for them!).

Each one of these obviously has a story behind it.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

A few links to cool things discovered lately:

18 Homes that Belong in a Fairy Tale – I can’t believe some of these are real houses that people actually (one assumes) live in.

25 Places That Look Not Normal, But Are Actually Real – some of these would make awesome sci-fi or fantasy settings!

Today’s xkcd is a diagram of the Saturn V rocket labeled using only the thousand most common words in the English language. As well as being amused by the descriptions (especially the part at the bottom), I don’t think I’d realized on a visceral level just how big that thing was.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Freebird comic of the day, brought to mind by this week’s cold snap + vividly clear, beautiful stargazing weather. (Obligatory shill: Freebird can be purchased here, and maybe EVENTUALLY it will have the “look inside the book” option — I’ve uploaded the files for that, so … *crosses fingers*)

I had the bright idea today of doing a “winter holiday gift box” option for Freebird, containing the book and some touristy Alaska swag, like keychains and mini Alaska flags … those cheap little things that local gift shops sell. Maybe a little piece of original art in each one. And then wrap it up nicely in holiday paper. Would people buy that? I guess that if I’m going to do it for this Christmas, I had better get right on it.

In other news, apparently an election happened. I suppose that it’s no surprise to anyone who knows me just exactly which way my general thoughts are trending on the way that things went nationally (*thumbs up*) or locally (*oh noes*). I am delighted beyond belief that marriage equality passed by popular vote in three states (and another one voted down a discriminatory amendment). And now I am looking forward to seeing how the next four years goes, and meanwhile, I’m infinitely glad to have the uncertainty behind us — not to mention all the political ads!

I’ve been reading election post-mortem posts and articles with interest, but the only one I’m going to link to (at the moment, anyway) is for reasons having nothing to do with the election: John Scalzi’s post Meanwhile in Darke County is currently hosting an absolutely fascinating discussion in its comments, starting about halfway down, on pre-industrial disease epidemiology, rural-urban migrations and birth control via infanticide. (Uh, well, I’m a total history geek, so it’s interesting to me!)

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Here’s a cool article: Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves.  (My favorite quote: “… within five months, they had hacked Android.”)

Along similar lines, a physicist in India put a computer with a high-speed internet in a New Delhi slum to see what would happen and got similar results: kids who quickly figured out how to use the computer and the Internet by poking everything just to see what would happen.

Children’s boundless curiosity and ability to learn is so amazing to me, and I think it’s deeply unfortunate that we basically are trained out of this as we grow up, and learn to think in terms of getting particular results and not looking silly, rather than trying new things just to see what will happen, and learning a ton of new stuff in the process.

Another nifty thing, from the second article:

I tried another experiment. I went to a middle-class school and chose some ninth graders, two girls and two boys. I called their physics teacher in and asked him, “What are you going to teach these children next year at this time?” He mentioned viscosity. I asked him to write down five possible exam questions on the subject. I then took the four children and said, “Look here guys. I have a little problem for you.” They read the questions and said they didn’t understand them, it was Greek to them. So I said, “Here’s a terminal. I’ll give you two hours to find the answers.”

Then I did my usual thing: I closed the door and went off somewhere else.

They answered all five questions in two hours. The physics teacher checked the answers, and they were correct. That, of itself, doesn’t mean much. But I said to him, “Talk to the children and find out if they really learned something about this subject.” So he spent half an hour talking to them. He came out and said, “They don’t know everything about this subject or everything I would teach them. But they do know one hell of a lot about it. And they know a couple of things about it I didn’t know.”

It’s an amazing world we live in.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Sketch Fest today! (And shortly I will be off to Ellen’s house for lunch and art!)

Here’s a poignant and thought-provoking article I ran across: Top five regrets of the dying. I think it’s worth pointing out that not all of this, or every aspect of this, is within everyone’s control. Not everyone can choose whether to work long hours or not. People with brain-chemical imbalances (which includes most of us at one point or another) can’t make themselves happy through better decision-making. And so forth. But I also think it’s worth looking at this list and thinking about how you’ll feel looking back on it in twenty years or forty. Are there things you’re not doing now that you’ll regret doing later? I remember when I was in my teens how I used to ask myself “Will this matter to me when I’m 25?” (25 being the oldest that I could imagine myself, I guess. *g*) And now I’m 36. What, of the things I’m doing now, will matter to me when I’m 50?

We had a windstorm a few days ago and a lot of the leaves fell off the trees, but before that I took a few pictures of the colors. I love this time of year — with all our aspen trees, the woods behind the house look like the ground is covered in gold coins.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Poetry Fishbowl today at [ profile] ysabetwordsmith's journal. (Instructions/explanation at the link.) She does these regularly, and I think it's a fabulous idea and keep meaning to link to them, but I am so sucktastically erratic about reading my LJ friendslist that I don't usually notice one is going on 'til it's over. Also, the theme this time is Hart's Farm (scroll down to the description), which is a setting of hers that I really like.

Meanwhile, I have been learning a metric shit ton of stuff about writing lately. It's interesting to have been doing this as long as I have been (technically speaking), and still feel like I am at the bottom of the learning curve. But one of the things I've been learning about lately is finding my own voice. There have always been things I've written that I have connected to very strongly, and things that I haven't, and I think I'm starting to figure out the difference between them.

My natural tendency as a writer, generally speaking, is to focus on "up" beats rather than "down" beats -- I do write dark, unhappy stuff, and I kill characters and so forth, but I would say that my general view of the world and of human nature is pretty optimistic, and this is reflected in my fiction. I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of years, however, writing short stories and trying to sell them to various SF markets, and attempting to match the general style of the markets I'm submitting to, which in most cases means that I'm trying to write dark, dystopic stories with unhappy endings. And I've been realizing lately that no wonder those stories weren't selling -- either I didn't really enjoy writing them, or else I had to fight my natural tendency towards happy(ish) endings in order to end on a "down" beat, and of course that is going to make the finished product feel stilted and formulaic.

It sometimes feels that there is not much of a market out there for the kind of stuff that I tend to write, but that doesn't mean changing what I write; it means finding the markets that fit my type of story (which was what I did - successfully! - with Sword & Sorceress) rather than changing my style to fit the markets. Which is basic Writing Theory 101, but it seems like it never helped to be told that; I had to figure it out for myself via a lot of unsuccessfully laboring on incredibly depressing stories that never went anywhere.

(It probably says a lot that I have never had this problem with fanfic at all, and usually not so much with self-published stuff, either. it's only when I specifically aim to write stuff for publication that I end up in a self-conscious zone where I'm trying to guide my work to a specific stylistic goal, and usually failing. It's not just self-conscious striving for publication - it's also trying out stylistic experiments that don't work, which is what some of Raven's Children is - but the point, I guess, is that I'm finding myself doing it more naturally and less self-consciously as I learn to relax and settle into celebrating my own strengths as a writer rather than trying to fight them.)

I've been trying my hand at some romance lately, which has never entirely been my cup of tea, but one of the reasons why I thought it might be a fun way for me to write something salable is because romance is all about the happy ending. Ironically that is one of the big reasons why it often isn't my cup of tea, because I prefer my happy endings uncertain (snatched from the jaws of defeat!) and dislike knowing from the beginning that things will work out for the characters. On the other hand, I have read romance that I liked, and the process of figuring out the aspects that made me like it, and then attempting to translate that into my own writing, has been really interesting.

Edited to add, because I'm still thinking about this: I remember commenting as far back as 2003/2004 that Kismet, which was my "play place" - a dumping ground for ideas that I considered too bizarre, silly or cliche to burden my "serious" novels with - was getting a great audience response and was so fun to work on that, unlike RC, I never got tired of it and couldn't really see myself getting tired of it. But I don't think I had ever carried it through to the conclusion I've come to now: that what made Kismet fun to read and to write was that it was closer to my natural "voice" than anything else I was writing at the time, and that was a style worth pursuing.

Edited yet again: To add another link! I knew there was something else I wanted to link here. The SF/fantasy webzine Crossed Genres is trying to raise the funds at Kickstarter to pay their authors pro rates. (If you visit the page, there is more info - you'll notice they've already met their first goal, but since that went smoothly, now they're aiming for a second, higher goal that requires significantly more funding.) It would be great to have another pro SF market out there, especially since my general experience with them has been that they're great to work with!


Jun. 7th, 2010 09:39 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
In lieu of actual, interesting, insightful content, which I seem to utterly fail at generating lately, I bring you this awesome bit of snark regarding the perennial requests that artists and designers get to "draw me this complicated thing for free!":
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Orion sent me a link to this post on creativity and what might be the best anecdote on failed projects ever:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -- albeit a perfect one -- to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes -- the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Time to roll up my sleeves and throw some more imperfect pots.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
1. It's cold again. Woe.

2. We have a sick chicken. I'm not sure what's wrong with her, though looking up chicken diseases online, there are several dozen different things it could be and they all have the same basic symptom ("Chicken looks unhappy"). I was honestly expecting to wake up and find that she'd died in the night, because she was looking terrible when I brought her in last night -- hunched and fluffed up, labored breathing, eyes shut, unresponsive. But this morning, she was looking around in the cardboard box where I stashed her in the garage, and I think she'd had some water to drink. Maybe she was just hypothermic or dehydrated or something. Here's hoping she's perkier yet when I go home tonight. (Now I'm wondering, seriously: do you have to harden chickens off like houseplants? Can you just take an animal that's been living inside and put it back outside again?)

3. Last week I made my writing goals. Go me! This week is not looking great. The current KCL story wraps up on Feb. 11 and I'm still dithering about which one to do next.

4. Car failed. Car is now fixed. 'nuff said.

5. I really want to do a decent roundup of posts in the Cultural Appropriation/Racism in Sci-Fi/Pro Writer Blogfail, because there's a lot being discussed that's very pertinent to writers of speculative fiction (of any color) and to us as SFF fans and as human beings, but I'm not even sure where to begin. Seeking-Avalon has a timeline of the basic bones of the main argument, and [ profile] rydra_wong has been keeping an extensive series of link roundups. A few links that I've read lately that had particular resonance for me (your mileage may, of course, vary): [ profile] kate_nepveu writes an open letter to white people in SFF fandom; [ profile] coffeeandink presents How Not to Engage in Discussions of Cultural Appropriation (a deconstruction of this post) with interesting discussion following in comments; and [ profile] nojojojo points out that we worry about it too ("we" meaning writers of color; "it" being cultural/ethnic sensitivity and [mis]representation).

6. I found this post, on breaking a novel down into three "acts", potentially useful as one way of managing a large project. I may try this on the next big project I tackle (possibly the next Kismet book, since so much of it is still unformed). And a link from Elizabeth Bear's blog (which, granted, I feel a bit guilty about linking to, but she does have good writing stuff on there, and yes, I still have her on my reading list): PTSD is not sexy, and survival of violence is not merely an interesting character flaw.

And now, back into my hole to wait for spring.
layla: (Linton bad day)
New ultrasound cuff can stop internal bleeding on the battlefield.

I am SO using this idea in Kismet. Of course, they'll probably be so far beyond that in 2752 that it'll be like applying magnets for "internal troubles", but I've conveniently ignored this fact of technological evolution in every other aspect of their technology, so why stop with medicine? :D They could have a handheld version -- a non-invasive clotting gun, basically. Jamie should have one!
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
On a more cheerful note, I have been dying today reading this series at Slactivist: one guy read Left Behind so that you don't have to, and has been posting snarktastic commentary, a few pages of the book at a time, for the last four years. He's finally done (with the first book, anyway) and it's hilarious, as well as completely scary at times, considering that some people actually believe these wacko things. You don't have to start at the beginning; in fact, I started at the end and have been working my way backwards. For one thing, the conclusion is the best part, wherein the blogger points out that Left Behind actually is a book-length treatise that inadvertently proves, through its total illogic, that the literal Armageddon of Revelations could not possibly happen:

This is the great and insurmountable failure of Left Behind. It set out to be a work of propaganda, a teaching tool meant to demonstrate -- the authors would say to prove -- that the events it describes could and indeed will really happen. Yet their attempt to present a narrative of such events instead demonstrates -- I would say proves -- that these events could not and indeed will not ever happen. It proves that the weird and contradictory events of their check list could never happen in a world anything like the world we live in, or in any other imaginable world. It proves that their supposed prophecies will never, and can never, be fulfilled.

The whole thing is really not anti-religious at all; in fact, the blogger mentions from time to time that he does believe in God and I get the general idea that one of the things that annoys him most about the book is its complete and utter subversion of everything that's good about Christianity:

The authors follow some strange twists of logic to arrive at the idea that "love and peace and unity and brotherhood" is the message of the Antichrist. The idea seems to have its roots in the biblical warnings against false Christs, passages like Matthew 24:4-5, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." For these impostors to "deceive many," their claims must seem plausible, so they must talk like Jesus. A false Christ, in other words, would likely talk about the same things that Jesus Christ talked about -- love and peace and understanding and brotherhood. But this talk will be fraudulent, the false Christ wouldn't really mean any of it.

Somehow L&J seem to have lost sight of the fact that the words of such frauds should not be taken at face value. (I think this is partly due to their reflexive antagonism against "works righteousness," which leads them to emphasize words over deeds.) They are not on the lookout against the deceptions of disingenuous false leaders, but rather against anyone with a message of love and peace and understanding and brotherhood. They've gotten so caught up in guarding against wolves in sheep's clothing that anything in sheep's clothing is viewed as the enemy. So all sheep must be shot on sight.

It ranges from insightful to blackly funny to surreally hilarious. One of my favorite bits so far, from the commentary on a scene in which the Antichrist tries to subvert our (supposed) hero the journalist:

The scene above could be read aloud every year at the White House Correspondents Dinner for the edification of the journalists assembled there. This is how you should respond when some politician gives you a chummy nickname or invites you to a barbecue or lets you sit next to him on the bus or otherwise threatens to co-opt your independence by making you feel like you're just part of the team: You should jump back, point at them, and scream "Antichrist!" until they get the picture.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
California will begin granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples on June 17. And a Reuters poll shows that a majority of Californians do not want a constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage. Which means it may be here to stay. Yes!

Completely unrelated, a Tennessee woman who spent her life in an iron lung is dead at age 61. On the one hand, the way she died (power failure shut down the machinery that enabled her to breathe) is incredibly depressing. But she apparently lived a full life despite being paralyzed with only her head exposed from the machine for 60 years -- she lived with her family, got a high school diploma and wrote a children's book. And that's just awesome to me.


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