Hobbies Are Important I Guess…

Howdy, howdy!  I’ve kind of been in a funk for a long time.  None of the things that used to excite me (anime, manga, even music) have held much interest for me.  While I was sick, I even stopped playing my mindless games for a few weeks.  The only thing I’ve been consistently doing is reading, and that hasn’t really drawn me in either.  I read a chapter or two at a time, then get bored no matter whether I’m enjoying the book or not.  And I think we all know (if you’ve been following my blog) that my writing schedule has been super inconsistent.  So, I decided to try finding some kind of hobby that might interest me.

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Apathetic, not sad.  Thank you very much.

While we were running errands on Friday, Dad and I stopped by Hobby Lobby for some yarn for a project he’s doing in the pond.  As he was searching for a certain type of yarn in green, I looked around the aisle just for the fun of it.  I like yarn and random crafts.  I used to love cross-stitching.  But I don’t do anything like that anymore because I have a stupidly limited range of motion and can’t get my hands close enough together to manipulate everything that needs manipulating.  It’s the same reason I stopped playing video games.

Anyway, when I was younger, I had tried crocheting.  I never finished anything and have no idea why I stopped, but I never started back up because the hooks were all too short for me to reach with both hands.  Needless to say, I was surprised to see a few hooks that were super long hanging above the normal crochet hooks at Hobby Lobby.  After much internal debate, I decided to get one and a skein of multi-colored yarn.  Actually, Dad got them for me (thanks, again!).

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This is going to be more fun than I thought.

A lot of writers I know seem to knit or crochet or have similar hobbies, so when I saw that hook (which is apparently a Tunisian/Afghan hook designed for a special type of crocheting, but can be used like a regular hook) I figured I could give it a shot.  Granted, I remember absolutely nothing from my earlier attempts at the craft, so all I’ve been doing thus far is research, but I feel that little tug of excitement that I’ve been missing.  I have a project picked out (and approved of by a friend who crochets as something a beginner can handle).  I’ve been watching videos of how to do the chain and single crochet, as well as how to sew the project together when I reach that point.  All I’m missing is a yarn or tapestry needle, but I won’t need that until I get the crocheting done.  I hope to start on that part soon.

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Me: “Wish me luck?” Also me: “Nope.”

What about you?  Do you have a particular hobby (or two, three, forty)?  What drew you to it?  Are you currently looking for a hobby or learning a new one?  Feel free to share your thoughts or comments or questions here or on my social media pages!

P.S. If I succeed at my first project, I’ll make sure to post pictures!  If I fail, I’ll probably just let this whole thing fade into oblivion with no further mention.

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Howdy, howdy!  It’s (already) April once again.  Can you believe it?  A quarter of the year has passed us by.  As many of you know, that means it’s National Poetry Month.  I admit that I haven’t given poetry much of my time this past year, but I want to change that.  At least for a month.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until my Facebook friends started posting daily poems.  So, I thought I would devote this post to a few of the ways that I hope to celebrate this month.

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1. Write a poem.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I wrote one.  But I recently had a nostalgia moment where I read through some of the ones I wrote as an undergrad, and that made me really miss the structure that poetry provides.  I used to love writing villanelles and haikus and sestinas.  Anything with strict constraints.  I liked looser forms as well, but they weren’t as challenging.  That little trip down memory lane even resulted in me submitting a poem to a contest.  Send good vibes!

2. Read a book of poetry.  Maybe I’ll read an anthology filled with different authors writing about the same subject.  It’s always interesting to see how different people tackle the same basic topic.  Then again, maybe I’ll read a collection by one author.  I like to see how a collection connects from one poem to the next (or doesn’t connect at all).  Hell, maybe I’ll read both kinds.  It’s still early in the month after all.

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3. Base a story off a poem.  I’m almost done with my current novel attempt, so I’m hoping to work on more short stories and flash pieces, that way I have more things to submit.  I know I use art a lot for inspiration, but I’ve also been known to use songs and poetry in the past as well.  It might be an adaptation, or it could just be loosely connected, but hopefully it’ll be something good.

4. Take the time to listen to some poetry.  I don’t know of any upcoming readings around here, but YouTube has plenty.  And there are always podcasts.  I’m sure if I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations, I’d come away with too many options to check out in a month.  Feel free to shoot me some podcast or other ideas for places to listen to poetry here as well!

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5. Look back at some of my old favorites.  I used to have a few poems memorized, but I can’t get all the way through any of them anymore.  From Ai to Donne to Poe, there are a lot of poems I should probably revisit.

That’s my plan for celebrating National Poetry Month.  What about you?  Are you going to read or reread some of your favorite poems?  Maybe you’ll write some of your own poetry.  What about my visual art friends?  Have you thought about making your art based around a poem?  Feel free to share your plans here or on my social media pages!

Guest Post: How Transmedia Storytelling Can Kickstart Your Stagnant Writing Project

Hello, hello!  Welcome to my first quarterly (March/June/September/December) guest post.  For the inaugural edition, please welcome my friend and fellow Stonecoast alum, Derek Hoffman!

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Borrowed from Derek’s Facebook page.

How Transmedia Storytelling Can Kickstart Your Stagnant Writing Project

By Derek B. Hoffman

You have a story. Yes, that one. It’s the one you know you’re supposed to write, but you can’t seem to crack it (or regain inspiration to continue) and you cringe each time a friend asks how it’s going.

Yet it still calls to you. Whatever else you try to fill your time with, creative or otherwise, it’s the thing that won’t let go and won’t move forward. So what do you do?

Think sideways.

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Think outside of the screen, the pen, the shuffled stack of drafts you’ve shoved in a half-crushed Amazon box. Think transmedia.

I know, what does that really mean? To put it simply, it is a way of telling a story across multiple media. But it’s more than that, it’s also using multiple types of media purposefully because “each medium makes its own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story” (from “Transmedia Storytelling 101” by Henry Jenkins). You can find the wiki here, a couple great resources here and here, and a slew of academic articles here and here. It’s a lot to take in, but what it boils down to is a call to think in 4D about the story you need to tell.

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If you aren’t familiar with the book, you can scroll through Amazon’s “Look Inside” option to get an idea of what’s inside.

Transmedia storytelling uses technology and media to broaden the story and engage a greater audience. In House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, the main book is a series of nested narratives that tell a story about a story, about an event. As a family unpacks in their new house, they discover it contains a mysteriously expanding labyrinth that holds more than a few secrets of its own. The narratives mimic the labyrinth, with text twisting and winding through the pages. Footnotes are peppered throughout, giving it a more academic and researched feel, though only 25% of the references are legitimate.

To give the story credibility, Danielewski published a website before the book release. The Internet was still capitalized back then, and the website played to the interests of an audience seeking hidden truths, long before the doubts of Fake News and strategic disinformation. There were also rumors Danielewski helped the manuscript go viral by dropping it at tattoo parlors and bars as a loose collection of papers tied with a string. The musician Poe (Danielewski’s sister) released an album of songs alongside the novel. Suddenly, readers could actually hear the echoes down the five and a half minute hallway.

More simply and more recently, transmedia storytelling can be seen in the 2017 show Thirteen Reasons Why, about a set of cassette tapes left by a girl who committed suicide. Jay Asher published the book in 2007 with hints to lead readers to, you guessed it, a set of audio tapes he had posted on a website.

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The book can be found here.

So, how does this make your writing easier?

Well, maybe the reason your book isn’t writing itself is that it is more than just a book. Are there:

  • different entry points into your story?
  • multiple audiences you want to engage?
  • different perspectives, voices, or subplots that lend themselves to audio, video, blog, or website?
  • supplemental facts, graphics, maps, or historical details that could add dimension

Let go of the pencil and pick up the keyboard, microphone, brush, or camera to give your story new life.

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What next?

Set yourself up for success 

First, take a moment to set achievable goals. Unless you have an amazing amount of free time, and/or resources, be real with yourself and your story.

  • Spend a weekend breaking down your story to see what areas could benefit (or not) from a transmedia approach and our thinking sideways experiment.
  • Then think about your creative resources (e.g. your own talents, friends and family, and local schools and artists).
  • Take account of how much time and money you may be willing to put toward this endeavor (consider crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter as well).
  • Lastly, remember to think about any ethical impacts your project may have during execution. Don’t worry, I’ll talk more about this in a couple sections.

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Get uncomfortable

It’s time to break your story. What’s left inside when you peel back everything else? What is it that made you want to write it in the first place? A character’s tale that had to be told? An image that haunts you? An intimate, whispered conversation? A political or religious allegory? Or are you determined to buck every trope in a given genre? Whatever it is, find it (or remember it).

Anatomy of a breakdown

Since everyone’s results from this will vary, I’ll throw down first. 

A girl stands in the shallows off the rocky coast of Maine. Her long nightgown is soaked up to the frilled collar. She walks forward into the ocean, grim and at peace.  

Seventy years later, a reporter on hiatus because of a major screwup at her job visits her friend in Maine. Out of her morning newspaper drops a microfiche news story about the girl’s disappearance.

That’s all I had, but it bugged me for a year and a half while I attended my graduate program (in Maine). Every time I watched waves crash against the rocks under a foggy sky, I saw the girl. Six months left in my MFA. It was time to get this going. I thought about:

  • What was in the news story for the girl on the microfiche?
  • What did the reporter’s online newspaper look like? What stories had she written before?
  • Did the girl have a diary? What was her story? Why did she likely kill herself?
  • Maybe the girl had letters from a secret love???
  • Did the reporter have a personal blog?

Alright, that’s a good start for different ways to approach or enhance the story. What else? Since I was in this program with other creatives, could I directly engage them? During the winter, we stayed at a cool, old inn. A ghost story, perhaps?

  • Maybe “accidental” audio or video of the girl from the reporter’s cellphone/camera.
  • Find out the history of the inn. Would it fit with the girl’s story?
  • An evidence bag from the old missing person’s case left at the front desk or someone’s room?

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Whoa. Hold on, now we are moving into ARG territory. ARG? Alternate Reality Gaming. It can totally be done. Check out some cool stuff from Lance Weiler here, but there are some major ethical considerations in going down this path:

  • What if someone believes your story is real? What kind of emotional/psychological impact could it have? Could they miss work or school? Could they report findings to the police? I know this sounds extreme, but you need to consider all of this.
  • Is there a way for people to opt-in/opt-out?
  • If you are performing research while executing your story (e.g. by using analytics on websites) are you obtaining permission? Is there a notice on the site that clearly states what is being collected?

Again, the above isn’t to scare you out of incorporating some really cool ARG into your transmedia project, but you need to be conscious of its potential effects and the rights of those involved behind and in front of the story.

Speaking of those behind the story…

Creative Role Call

Now you have an idea of what can be done. How do you do it? Well, there are several options depending on your social and financial resources.

  • You can form a creative collaboration with one or more trusted creative friends. These should be people whose work you know is solid, even if they aren’t professionals. You don’t want to have to manage people’s egos or confidence. Depending on what the work is, if it will be profitable, what kind of friendship you have, and more will determine how you might be able to compensate your team. Personally, even though I have some friends working with me on a transmedia project, and some have offered their services for free, or at a great discount, I want to pay them what their work deserves. It’s not that I have the financial resources, but I don’t want my creative friends to get burned or short-changed just because they are my friends. How will I pay them? We’ll get to that in a moment.
  • You can go it alone. If you have the skills to perform/create in multiple media, good for you! Make sure you have the time, and that it is worth the “life cost.” And whatever you plan for time, double it.
  • You can find creative resources online and locally. Do you need photos? Check Unsplash. It’s a great resource for free, hi-res photos that can be used however you like. They don’t even require attribution (though I highly recommend it). There is Fiverr for freelance design, translation, video, and more. Check out Artstation for inspiration and some freelance conceptual, environmental, and 3D artists. If you want to build a website for your project, check out Squarespace, Hugo, and WordPress/Themeforest. Also, contact your local community colleges and universities to see if they have a way for you to post what you’re looking for to students who might want some more real world project experience (and please pay them).
  • If there are self-publishing components to your project, check out Lulu and Blurb.

Now that you are finalizing your project plan and team, how are you going to pay for it all?

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Show me the money

Short of your own financial resources, or those of a publishing/media company, you need to crowdfund. And for this type of project, the only option really suitable to the task is Kickstarter. If you have to go this route, you need to look at their tips for creating a successful campaign, and you need to do some math to make sure that your project funding goal includes fees for using Kickstarter, shipping, production, taxes, etc. It’s not just about paying your creatives. And whether you use a crowdfunding site or not, you need to prep your mind for selling your project. Whether it is to people who have cash they are looking to invest in a cool enough story, or people you want to pick up your book, think of how to pitch it, how to package it, and how to sell it. This is the story that won’t let go. Now’s the time to push it out there. You got this.

Which brings us to the why…

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So what?

Maybe you’ve read though this anxiously waiting for the secret to reveal itself on how to move forward with your project. Maybe you found it, but more than likely you are half-pumped, half-scared, half-apathetic, but fully convinced I can’t do math. No, this is about thinking sideways to move forward. It doesn’t matter if you create the most amazing project plan and gather the most talented team of artists, if you can’t finish the story, you’ve got nothing.

You are a writer. Transmedia, whatever you may think of its use to you and your project, is just a tool. One you can put in your rusty, blue, metal box with the squeaky hinges. Put it beside the Passive Voice Detector and whichever Manual of Style you despise the least. But put it in there.

Transmedia can refine how you pitch and define your story by forcing you to communicate with a creative team, and the world at large. It is a storytelling tool as much as it is a marketing tool. And this alternative thinking allows you to more easily evolve your narrative regardless of whether you continue down the transmedia path or simply use bits and pieces of the methodology from your toolkit.

Now, get back to writing.

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Derek B. Hoffman is a writer, designer, technologist, husband to a scientific wonder woman, and dad to two awesome boys. He can be found online at https://derekbhoffman.com and is happy to respond to your transmedia-project-induced cries for help at https://veracitybydesign.com.

Seven Things I Believe: Then And Now

Howdy, howdy!  I was cleaning out the notes on my phone yesterday, when I came across something from one of my workshops at Stonecoast.  This particular group was led by the lovely Theodora Goss.  Just about every day, she would send us off with questions to think about and we’d discuss our answers the following day after we finished our critiques.  One day, she asked us to list seven things we believe.  There were no guidelines beyond this, so things went in a lot of different directions from what I remember.  Anyway, I thought I would share my old list and make a new one.

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It’s just a pretty picture.

The old (2014) version, in no particular order:

1. I believe music keeps me sane while inspiring me.

2. I believe growing up and acting your age are scams created by people who are jealous of the young at heart.

3. I believe in priorities: food, sleep, and eye candy.

4. I believe life is too short to be serious all the time.

5. I believe family is more than blood.  It’s the people who love you and keep you around because of your flaws.

6. I believe coffee and booze were created to be mixed together.

7. I believe the angels punted my soul into the wrong body at birth.  I should’ve been Japanese.

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I just found this, so I thought I’d put it here and save it for later.

As you can see, I wasn’t very good at the whole introspection thing back then.  Spoiler alert: I’m still not.  I still completely believe in all of those things, especially the boozy coffee one.  But I thought I would give it another go now that I’ve graduated and have no one to ask me these weird questions anymore.

Here’s the new (2018) version, also in no particular order:

1. I believe there is more than one way to be a professional writer.  As long as you get words on the page and out into the world, it doesn’t matter if you write every day or not.  Find your own rhythm.

2. I believe binge watching anime (or whatever makes you happy) is good for the soul and cleanses the mind.  Not every day, but once every couple of months, just to give yourself a break from reality.

3. I believe puppy kisses have magical powers to perk people up.

4. I believe it’s important to surround yourself with people who have different viewpoints/backgrounds than you.  Along with the understanding that we don’t always have to agree, but that we can have civil discussions if we put in a little effort.

5. I believe in a thing called love!  Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that song.

6. I believe it’s perfectly reasonable to buy a book just because the cover is pretty.

7. I believe in myself.  This is not something that even crossed my mind when I was originally asked to list things I believed.  Despite all the rejection and failure, I’m finally at a place where I can say that I believe in me.  I will succeed.  Eventually.  At something.

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Yeah.  That song by that guy.

There you go.  Seven things I believed back then and seven more from now.  What are seven things you believe?  Feel free to leave your list here or on my social media pages!

The Pale Freak of the Moon

Hello, hello! Today hasn’t been a very pleasant day and I have no idea what to write about, so I decided to have some fun with this post. Earlier, I ran across one of those things where you use your initials to make a random phrase from their options (this one was “your nerd identity”). I really liked mine for once, so I decided to use it as a prompt for a quick flash piece specially written for my blog. It’s a first draft, so sorry if I ramble. As always, feedback and thoughts are welcome!

The initial thing in case you’re interested.

The Pale Freak of the Moon

The dust cascades ahead of me as I slide down the side of the crater, no doubt signaling my arrival like ripples on a pond. At least, that’s what I imagine when the Freak tells me about the motion of the water on Earth.  Nothing like it exists up here, so it’s hard to follow her stories sometimes.

I slip through the shadows, avoiding prying eyes, as I make my way to her cave.  No one else dares to follow me down here for fear of her, but they have no qualms about throwing rocks from above when they see me out in the open.  According to the Freak, bullies are the same whether they’re here or on Earth.  Difference makes you an easy target until you prove yourself otherwise.  But no matter what I do, they still come after me.

“You’re late, child.”  Her voice, strong and deep, rings out from the depths of her home before I even cross the threshold.  “Did you bring it?”

I skitter into the belly of the cave without answering.  A soft glow tells me she’s by the shrine in a corridor off to the left.  She sits by the altar with her legs crossed and her arms stretched out to welcome me.  Her features are that of an Earthling, but her skin is so pale it emits a gentle white light.  Taking me in her arms, she performs the welcoming ritual of a hug.  I struggle with the gesture every time, my tentacles tangling around themselves as I attempt to reciprocate.

“Well?” she asks.

Pulling a vial from my pouch, I hold it out to her.  Inside, a single seed floats in a viscous purple fluid.  Blood.  Namely, the blood of my mother.  The seed, a pulsing green orb, is her life force.  She left it to me when she passed into the nether realm less than a week ago.  Normally, I would be expected to plant it in the ground and raise the resulting child with my life partner in order to keep my mother’s bloodline flowing, but I have no partner.  No one here wants to spend their life with someone whose eyes are as bright as the stars.  Not in a place where darkness reigns supreme.

That’s why I have to do this.

Mother understood my decision to interrupt her eternal cycle, even condoned it.  She knew how miserable I was here.  Still, guilt pulls at my hearts when the Freak takes the vial from me.

“It’s beautiful,” she says.  “Are you sure you want to do this?  You can’t come back if you’re unhappy there.”

My tentacles raise in an involuntary shrug.  “I know I’ll never be happy here, so what’s the point in staying?”

The Freak nods and turns to the altar.  It’s covered in things from Earth: leaves, stones, flowers.  I wonder, not for the first time, how she keeps these items alive, but don’t voice the question.  She chants in a language I have never heard.  It sounds older than time itself and lulls me into that place between waking and sleep.

When I’m finally pulled back into consciousness, I can’t tell how much time has passed.  I wipe the sleep from my eyes, but instead of the usual tentacle, I have a hand.  The flesh is a rich tawny beige that I always imagine when the Freak speaks of sandy beaches.  My entire body now appears to be that of an Earthling.  I rush to the reflective glass she has hanging on the wall in the main room as fast as I can on legs I’m unaccustomed to, falling countless times before I get the hang of it.  My eyes are still the pale blue, almost white,  I’ve always been scorned for, but they somehow seem natural in my new face.

“Amazing,” I say.  “You’re a miracle worker.”

“It was all you.”  She touches my shoulder and turns me toward her.  “I only allowed your human form to come out.  Everything else was already a part of you.  I told you you were beautiful inside.  We’re not done yet, though.  Are you ready to make the journey?”

I swallow hard and nod.  Words refuse to form on my tongue.

The Freak opens the vial I had given her.  My mother’s scent fills the room and tears prickle at the corners of my eyes.  Pouring the seed into her palm, the Freak makes a fist.  She chants more unknown words until the fabric of space and time rips open.  Past the ragged hole is a beach unfolding into the ocean.  It’s just as I always imagined.

“It’s now or never,” the Freak says.

The seed in her now open palm is withering.  The opening to Earth begins to shrink.  Hesitating, I take a shaky breath.  The scent of saltwater hits me for the first time and a calm comes over me.  Yes, I can be happy as long as I have this view and this aroma to get lost in.  I step through the portal and into a place where no one knows me, where I’m not yet hated.  I start my life anew.

The End

Character Questionnaires: Yes Or No?

Howdy, howdy!  While I was searching for something writerly to blog about, I kept coming across ideas for character questionnaires (getting to know your characters, things to know about your character before you start writing, etc.).  The questions varied from basic stuff about looks and personality to weird things like “what’s in their fridge right now?” (the main character of my novel-in-progress currently has pizza, coffee creamer, and pouches of blood in her mini fridge, in case you were wondering).  And, at first, this seemed like a really neat idea, until I came across a list of 1,000 questions I was supposed to know answers to for my characters.  Yes, three zeroes.  It seemed pretty excessive to me.  I started to wonder when something like that went from a useful tool to being something to procrastinate with.

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Pretty sure this would be the reaction from my novel-in-progress’ main character and her bestie.

I just feel like there are things you should naturally know about your characters before you start writing, even without a questionnaire.  Name/nickname, the basics of how they look, main personality type, any distinguishing features.  For me, these are all things that come naturally with the voices in my head.  I don’t need to write them down, because I know them.  Occasionally, I’ll make a conscious decision to change an eye color or hair color if I have too many blue eyed blondes or whatever, in which case writing it down somewhere is helpful.  But all the questionnaires that start off with these things feel more like a way to procrastinate than anything useful.  On the other hand, if you’re the type of writer who works on multiple projects at once, I can see how you might mix up characters without having some kind of reference sheet.

Then, there’s the group of questions about character motivations which seems a lot more helpful to me.  Knowing why your characters do things helps when you’re writing and trying to decide how they’ll react to different scenarios.  It makes writing believable scenes easier.  Say your main character freaks out when their roommate pulls out a sword in a non-threatening manner.  Why?  Well, if you know they witnessed their sibling getting stabbed, you can hint at that or build around it even if the reader doesn’t know it yet.  Something less severe: why does your main character throw a tantrum every time her boyfriend steals her Oreos even though she’s a grown woman?  Maybe her siblings always ate all the cookies when she was a kid.  If you know their motivation, you can figure out how they’ll handle things realistically.

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A completely acceptable reaction.

Last, they have the really out there questions.  The “what’s in the fridge” and “favorite sex positions” types of things.  These are the ones that I’m almost positive people answer to feel productive, but they’re really just procrastinating.  I don’t think my character’s preference for red Gatorade over blue has any impact on my story, unless there are monsters in the Gatorade, then maybe.  These are the questions that are fun if you’re having trouble writing one day and are hoping answering them will spark something.  Otherwise, you’re just goofing off.  And that’s okay!  I understand the desire to put things off, but don’t lie to yourself about it.

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It’s totally procrastination.  Own it.

Overall, I don’t find character questionnaires that helpful.  They’re fun and something to do if I’m stuck or really don’t feel like writing, but, honestly, I’d rather just write most of the time.  What about you?  Do you fill out character questionnaires wen you create your characters?  What are some questions you find the most useful?  Which ones do you ignore or consider unhelpful?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

The Show That Prepared Me For Life

Hello, hello!  I’ve been binge watching Sailor Moon Crystal the past couple of days and it got me thinking about how I would cope with life today if I hadn’t watched the original Sailor Moon growing up.  It’s one of those shows that prepared me for everything going on in the world today.  We all have a show like that.  Whether it was Ms. Frizzle and the Magic School Bus or X-Men or Batman or whatever you watched as a kid, we all have a show that has stuck with us and been a major influence on who we are today.  For me, that was Sailor Moon.  How could a magical girl anime prepare me for the turbulence of today, you ask?  Stick with me for a minute and I shall do my best to explain.

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One of my favorite pictures of all the Senshi.

Aside from a bunch of women kicking ass and taking names with the occasional backup from Tuxedo Kamen, this show was amazing for many other reasons.  Yeah, there was the obvious message that love and friendship can help you conquer any evil, including the evil that lurks within each of us (after all, if Small Lady can become Black Lady and Saturn can become Mistress 9, none of us can claim to be 100% good).  It reminds us that, ultimately, hatred and superiority complexes will fail.  It might take longer than we want, but as long as people don’t give up, good will eventually win.  We just have to believe in each other.

There are also more subtle messages that apply today more than ever.  There was the whole Uranus/Neptune relationship that the U.S. dub tried to pass off as them being cousins (everyone I knew saw through that charade and, honestly, the whole cousin storyline just made a beautiful relationship kind of creepy).  Not to mention Zoisite’s obsession with Kunzite in the original anime (again, no one I knew believed Zoisite was a woman in the dub).  Then came the Sailor Starlights arc where men transformed into women and back again (pretty sure they just cross-dressed in the manga, but I’m talking about the anime where they were biologically males until they transformed).  Early exposure to this kind of stuff wasn’t traumatizing.  If anything, it helped give me an open mind.

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The Starlights.  I wanted those boots, though.  That’s all I cared about as a kid.

The story arc that hit closest to home for me and, in all honesty, is probably the reason Sailor Moon stuck with me so much, was Sailor Saturn’s story.  She was a sickly kid and an outcast, but she had the power to destroy worlds.  It was the first time I remember seeing someone who had physical difficulties (granted, they were nothing like my own) who could be the hero (or the villain if she had chosen that path).  She proved that you didn’t have to be athletic or even normal to be powerful or even accepted by people.  For a kid like me, that was the best message I could have received.  If she could help destroy evil, I could put up with whatever life threw my way.

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The whole purple outfit didn’t hurt my love of Saturn either.

So yeah, Sailor Moon definitely helped shape who I was back then and who I am now.  It taught me about the power of women, the power of friendship, how to recognize evil, how to accept others for who they are, and how to accept myself.  What show helped turn you into who you are?

The Between Space

Hello, hello!  I hope those of you who had a long weekend for President’s day got to do something fun.  My weekend was quiet.  Anyway, you know that space between being awake and being asleep, where you’re never sure if you’re dreaming or if something is really happening?  That’s what I want to talk about today.  It’s the place many of my story ideas come from.  It’s not an entirely pleasant place, but it’s useful.  Sometimes.  Often, it just likes to scare me silly.  I’m really curious about other people’s relationship with this space as well, so think about sharing your own experience with me.

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Either I’m not innocent or my stuffed animals are slacking.

First, I should probably mention that I’m not a visual thinker like a lot of people seem to be, I almost exclusively think in words.  People will ask me to picture something in my mind and I can’t.  The only time I can think in pictures is when I’m super tired and drifting in and out of sleep.  When that happens, I usually start out thinking in words and they gradually morph into a kind of dream/mental movie.  I guess that’s part of my attraction to this place.  It lets me work through things differently than I normally do.

I suppose the reason that I credit this space with a lot of my story ideas is because it’s a lot easier to remember details from these half awake dreams than it is when I wake up with an idea from a normal dream.  Those ideas tend to be vague scenarios that may or may not be interesting.  They’re good story seeds, but the ideas that bloom in that weird little realm between worlds are the ones most readily written.

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And that place certainly is dark enough.

Granted, my time spent in that realm more often than not leads to nothing other than a few scares (those stupid jolt awake moments) followed by my mind running through all the horrific scenarios of what could have possibly woken me.  It’s usually noises.  There’re the bumps and thumps of zombies trying to get inside.  Werewolves are not an uncommon expectation.  The train horn usually conjures thoughts of serial killers and creepy clowns jumping off the train and murdering their way through town.  Most people (at least according to TV and movies) wake up assuming the wind or something equally as mundane unless they hear something after the initial jolt.  Not me.  My mind automatically goes to death and destruction and knows the only reason I’m not hearing anything else is because the culprit is luring me into a false sense of security.  I might’ve watched and read too much weird stuff as a kid.

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These types of thoughts usually follow the paranoia.

So, whether I’m just hanging out in the middle of random thoughts waiting to be jolted awake or having a story bloom in my head, I have an odd love for that space between waking and sleeping.  I like seeing my thoughts unfold rather than just telling myself things.  What about you?  Do you enjoy hanging out in that little realm?  Does it let you see everything differently?  As always, feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!

Dreamscapes And Stories

Valentina RemenarHowdy, howdy!  Did everyone have a nice Thanksgiving?  I must admit that I had a lovely day with delicious food and great company.  As for today’s post, I wanted to talk a little about dreams and how they influence my writing.  Why?  Because a couple of friends wanted to know if I remember my dreams and, if so, do they affect my writing in any way.  The short answer is: occasionally.  The dreams I do remember tend to be boring every day type things (usually just conversations with a random person) or terrifying nightmares that I bury deep down inside my mind.  There’s rarely anything between the two.  But, it’s the in between that usually become stories themselves.

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Dreams by Valentina Remenar.

Most of the time, my dreams fade away as quickly as they come.  If I do remember anything, it’s usually unintelligible garbage that I ignore or, if I’m having issues with a particular story and I’m getting desperate, I sift through in the hopes of finding some magical answer.  I’ve never had anything happen that’s as fabulous as the image above, but my dreams can still be pretty cool.  In other words, while dreams are neat and sometimes helpful, they aren’t an integral part of my writing system.

If I’m lucky, I’ll find an answer to a plot problem if I really focus on a certain part of a dream.  The most recent example I have is actually from last night.  I was having one of my stupid conversation dreams (I don’t even remember who I was talking to), and the only topic that stuck out to me was a random mention of Medusa.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to insert some more hints at demons and monsters early on in G&G, but I was stuck at a part in chapter three that I had no clue how to tweak.  A version of Medusa’s powers will actually really help me out there.

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Snakes are fun.

 In extremely rare instances, I’ll come away from a dream with a story idea.  I can actually only think of two off the top of my head.  I even wrote a little synopsis of one to help me remember it:

Dream Idea – Nick has no luck with animals. The one pet he had as a kid died, and his mother refused to give details. He constantly feels like he’s being watched, and has nightmares of nothing but blood. Little does he know that two factions of shifters are after him to be their savior. One wants death and destruction, the other wants peace. Which one will win his allegiance?

This was written after a bigger story started formulating in my head.  The dream itself was actually just a kid playing outside with a puppy that ended really bad with blood and yelping and sadness.  And there were two pairs of glowing eyes in the bushes on either side of the yard.  It was weird and creepy and memorable.  I got distracted by other stories, though, so I haven’t worked on this one.

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I hope not.  My nightmares tend to be recurring.

 So, I guess my dreams influence my writing sometimes, but not as much as other things.  Daydreams, on the other hand, play a huge role in my writing.  But that’s a topic for another time.  What about you?  Do your dreams influence your creative processes?  To what extent?  Leave your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages.

A Day Of Art

Hello, hello!  Last week, my friend Marika invited Dad and I to go to the Dallas Museum of Art with her and the munchkins.  I’ve lived roughly half an hour away from this museum all my life and can only think of two other times I’ve been there, so we decided to go with them.  We spent the afternoon wandering around some of the exhibits.  Dad kept getting too close to the fancy furniture, so the staff kept a wary eye on him.  We got huffed at for allowing one of the munchkins to touch a sculpture (to be fair, it was outside and looked like a fancy garbage can, so yeah).  We also got to talk Masterpieces and Stephen King with the guy in the gift shop.  All around, it was a nice day away from actually writing (and yes, I’ve been a good little writer with meeting my word count lately).  Sometimes, getting away from your own artform and exploring others is healthy.

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And sometimes, it’s just weird.  All pictures courtesy of Marika.

 I’ve always liked art anyway, so it’s not hard to imagine me finding plenty of inspiration in a museum.  But I admit that I was a little surprised by just how much inspiration I came away with.  For instance, the  Irving Penn exhibit (open until August 14) had a few images that are still stuck in my brain almost a week later.  One of them, which I don’t have a picture of, was an eye in a keyhole that had a keyhole reflected in the eye, kind of like a tunnel effect.  I don’t know why it’s stuck with me, or if it’ll cause a story to blossom, but it gave me something to think about.

Aside from inspiring the writer in me, I was also tempted to draw again.  There was quite a bit of abstract work that was interesting, as well as some things that looked like they were drawn by a three year old (not my cup of tea).  But, it was actually the furniture on the fourth floor that really made me go “Ooo, I could do that.”  Meaning that I could draw similar patterns, not that I could build anything.  I’ll leave the woodwork up to Dad.

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I could definitely draw a swirly design like this.

 Then, there were all the things that weren’t exactly inspiring, but they were simply beautiful.  Not everything has to make you think or make you want to create.  Sometimes, we just need some eye candy.  On the second floor near the room where you can see one of the restoration areas, there was the Wittgenstein Vitrine (a fancy display case the DMA restored).  It’s a really ornate box decorated with silver and pearls and opals and moonstones, etc.  But I wouldn’t even know what to display in it, let alone what to write or draw about it.  It does nothing for me except sit there and look pretty, and that’s okay.  We need that just as much as we need the inspirational things.

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A corner of the Vitrine.

 So, what is this post all about aside from me telling you about my day at the museum?  Nothing, really.  I’m just saying that it’s okay to take a day off once in a while to explore creative outlets outside of your norm.  Put down the pen or step away from the keyboard and go explore a museum or go to the symphony or whatever.  It might help you recharge, and you could have fun in the process.  I know I did.