Archive for October, 2012

Registration

I registered for my next semester of courses for the MFA this morning. One term in, I’m starting to get a feel for the flow of the curriculum design as a Low-Residency program. The course runs three years which is one year longer than the average. For most of those three years, students register for around 10 credit hours. Three of those are the accounting for the Residency week. Five of those cover the “Term Writing Project.” Any remaining hours go towards the “Academic” classes (RIG courses are 2 hours, but others may be 3… haven’t spent that much time looking at that level).

The encouraged progression of classes involves the three RIG classes being taken over the first terms. I thought about challenging that, and taking something else, when it hit me. The first part of the program is best served by actually writing the novel [the most intense part of the process], and reading a lot should help with balancing (nay, even contribute to) the writing process. Then, when the more challenging academic classes start hitting, the student should be getting into the revision stages.

Granted, revisions are no cakewalk themselves, but as the addage goes it’s easier to fix what’s on the paper when there’s actually words on the page and not blank.

So, for anyone else that’s looking into the program, there’s a hint as to the structure you can expect during registration.

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On the Subject of Reading Lists… Take 1

As part of the MFA at Seton Hill, students are required to take three semesters of “Reading In Genre” – RIG for short. Part of the purpose here is for the student to acquaint themselves with the conventions of their preferred genre over the three course cycle. Cycle? Yes… The idea behind the cycle is that each track is broken into three approaches to the readings (SF/Fantasy – Current works, Classic SF, and Classic Fantasy; Mysteries – Subgenres, Classic, and Contemporary, etc.). Students are encouraged over the course of their time to take courses across multiple genres, or take additional RIG sections, should they be so inclined.

I tell you that to tell you this. If you would like to know what some of the selected readings might be like for the program, here is the list of readings for four of the five genres. (Sadly, either no one in my group took the YA RIG this semester, or they just didn’t provide the reading list when we discussed the classes over the summer.)

As the title suggests, this will be the first of three posts. The other two will come at future dates, as I undertake my other two RIG courses.

Contemporary SF/Fantasy
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Leviathan Wakes – James S. A. Corey
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N. K. Jemisen
Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti – Genevieve Valentine
Railsea – China Mieville
Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Romance (Subgenres)
Never Romance a Rake – Liz Carlyle
Risky Engagement – Merline Lovelace
Jinx – Meg Cabot
I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella
Critical Impact – Isable Cooper
With Just One Kiss – Francis Ray
Horror (Psychos)
NOVELS
Psycho: A Novel – Robert Bloch
The Church of Dead Girls – Stephen Dobyns
Red Dragon – Thomas Harris
Misery – Stephen King
The Sculptor – Gregory Funaro
Joyride – Jack Ketchum
Batman: The Killing Joke – Alan Moore (Graphic Novel)
MOVIES
Seven – Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey
The Silence of the Lambs – Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
HOW-TO
Howdunit: How Crimes are Committed and Solved – John Boertlein, Ed
Mysteries: Subgenres
The Last Dance – Ed McBain (police procedural)
Final Jeopardy – Linda Fairstein (legal)
High-Wire Act – Franklin W. Dixon (young adult)
One for the Money – Janet Evanovich (crime humor)
Little Scarlet – Walter Mosley (P.I.)
Thief of Hearts – Tess Gerritsen (romance)
North of Montana – April Smith (FBI agent)
Writing Mysteries (selections): a Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton

For this round, I had the Mystery course… at the moment, I am in line for the Classic Fantasy track (with Horror as my second option). I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Early Halloween… on MVM

Since ’tis that time of year, time to get your zombie shuffle on.

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Thoughts on a Mini…

No, not the vroom-vroom from over the pond Mini (I’ve mentioned before how much I like driving mine, so it’s obviously out).

No, today I’m talking about this one. That’s right (for those of you that chose not to jump down the rabbit hole), I’m referring to the iPad Mini. As staunchly as he objected to a smaller iPad, I’m wondering if he was saying that because the technology wasn’t there, or if this is part of Tim Cook’s plan to maintain a competitive edge by diversifying (slightly) the available product options.

I missed the event yesterday – had some other things going on at work and hadn’t pencilled it onto my calendar to look for. Frankly, I wasn’t all that bothered by the speculation of a smaller iPad. Yes, I am still rocking a 1st generation. It’s not that I’m being a crotchety ol’ dinosaur (entirely). It’s the principle of how much tech does a normal person need? (Something MC would follow up with, “Yeah” then ask if I’m feeling okay since I just said that. Yes, I have a small tech problem. But I am also getting to a point where I realize that having multiples of some things just becomes overkill.) Wait… getting off track… Where was I?

Right… iPad Mini.

As a concept, I think it’s great, especially to compete with dedicated tablet readers like Nook or Android. As a multi-function device, it looks like a no-brainer option – as awesome as a regular iPad, only smaller (duh!). But I’m not really about to rush out and try to pick one up when they hit the streets. Go hit up the local Best Buy to play with one maybe (sweetie, I said “maybe”…) but I’m not about to buy one… yet.

And here is why I say “yet.” First, I would want to test drive one – I did that when iPads were first coming out, to see what the interface was like and play with the functionality of the apps. The cogs started turning, thinking of the possibilities – being able to write without pulling out a laptop (if a notepad wasn’t handy), media portability/experiences while traveling (load the sucker up with movies & TV shows and we’re golden for hours!)… and gaming.

Which is part of what takes me back to “yet.”

In case you missed it, almost eight months ago we had a son. While he still has a ways to go before he’s coordinated enough to do much with it by himself, there will likely come a point when we start filling up the iPad with learning games or videos to keep him occupied on long drives to the grandparents (or even longer drives to the great-grandparents). And if all three of us want to have access to things on the device at the same time?

At that point, I might consider a Mini. In the event that something irrevocably bad happens to one we currently have. At that point, I might consider a Mini.

I know there are a lot of Droid related enthusiasts, just as there are a lot of Amazon enthusiasts, and a whole slew of Apple enthusiasts that get crap from everyone else because of Apple’s “walled garden.” A lot of it comes down to platform manipulation, lock-in, and content management. Part of why I have switched over to Apple in the last five years (after vehemently being anti-Mac for most of the previous fifteen years), has been the ease with which they allow me to flip content across devices.

Damn train jumped the track again… the iPad mini.

Just by watching the presentation pieces, I’m impressed with the device. If I did not already have an iPad, I would definitely consider getting a Mini, which is probably part of the point. With a smaller device, and a smaller price point, the business mind is seeing this as an offering to win as many new people over as they can. Repeat business is great, but it’s the new blood that will help maintain market shares. But it’s a device I would have to play with for a little while, first, before buying. And I would have to have a justifiable need to add another device.

I will admit, the black one looks pretty sweet. And it should fit easier in a book sleeve for a smaller carry-on pack. And…

(grabs a d20… *shakes* [rattle of die rolling across the table]….) Whew… successful save vs. shiny… for now.

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Not Dead… Just Busy

It’s close to the end of one phase of the MFA program (tomorrow, 10/24), and since I’m just now starting to get my head out of the post-VP shell shock, I have quite a few things that I need to accomplish by then to come anywhere close to making deadline.

So, back to the word mines.

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Armageddon… on MVM

I came of age inthe days of big hair and crunchy guitar riffs. One of the biggest of the day was a group of working class guys from England… Def Leppard. And this comes from one of their biggest albums.

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Interesting Thought on Voting…

I voted today.

It’s nice that the early voting options have become available so those that work regular 8-5 jobs can have an increased chance to spend a few minutes exercising a constitutional right without having to be penalized when trying to vote on election day and lines running longer than what can reasonably be managed during a lunch break if the after-work family schedule is too full to be able to make it before polls close.

That said, I did notice something interesting as I walked up to the voting station. There’s signs indicating a demarkation line that basically indicates – “no campaigning beyond this point”. Signs marked the grassy areas around the voting location, but what I noticed struck me as one-sided. Most of the signs tended towards only one political party, with the most prominent placements (as close to the voting line as allowed) reserved for one particular candidate.

Yes, in an effort to remain neutral, I am intentionally avoiding any specific party mentions. Just something I found interesting, and encourage you to watch for wherever you are when you go to cast your own vote.

You are going to vote, right?

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Tentacles… Take 1

This passage comes from a story that I wrote a couple years ago, one that was a part of my MA thesis and was also the story I submitted for VP 16 this year. What you will read below is from the original draft, before it was modified to the “final” draft that had been in place since the end of that semester. Since this is out of the context of the story, what you need to know is this: the story was my first attempt at horror-ish writing, and I was pretty blatantly riffing off of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos.


The air was crisp.  He was standing on a rock surrounded by water.  There appeared to be a submerged sand bar trailing back to the beach. He lowered himself to the water, and began wading back to the shore.  The currents changed, and soon he was forced to tread water.  As the sand bar shifted under him, he began swimming to shore.

There was a stabbing pain on his legs which forced him under the water.  He looked around, forced his eyes open in the water.  There were tentacles, long, sinewy members that reached out for him from the depths, from something under the sand.  He kicked himself free and rose to the surface.  The cool air filled his lungs, biting them as he gasped, before the pain found his legs again.

He was pulled under the surface again; his arms strained to take him up.  He looked back at the tentacles, the long, dark figures reaching for him.  His arms stung as new tentacles groped for them.  He was being pulled deeper.  Above the base of the tentacles he could make out a pair of dark eyes – darker than the water surrounding them.  Below the tentacles, all he could see was a large blackness, something he was sure he wanted to avoid.

He struggled against the tentacles; the more he fought the tighter they became.  With no other options, he lowered his head, attempting to bite one of the things from his arm.  His arm had become covered in some thick material – It looked like hair, but it could have been something from the tentacles.  He wasn’t sure.   His chest tightened.   He needed oxygen, soon.  He looked up, and could barely see the surface.  He pulled his right arm to his face, craned his neck to get a good angle.  He sunk his teeth into the soft, wet tissue of the tentacle on his arm.  He felt the thing tense then loosen as his jaw clamped tighter.  He felt like a dog playing with a rope toy.   The tastes of bile and blood and salt water filled his mouth.  All that mattered was that the tentacles were letting go, and he was able to swim to the surface, towards the light dancing on the waves.

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Fulbright Away…

One of the things that has kept the last six weeks busy around here has been drafting a Fulbright Grant proposal. I was fortunate to get my initial draft for both Personal & Research proposals reviewed by the on-campus advisor, to point me in the right direction and suggest ways of tightening up the prose.

The catch is I am seeking a grant for Creative Writing… that falls under the “Arts” category (thankfully), but it was damned difficult to find any models to give me a hint how to approach drafting the Research proposal when the goal is a novel (I found some dance or film concepts, but I think novels involve a more self-intensive learning curve, and are harder to quantify – are more subjective – than other visual and physical art forms. Maybe I’m just too much inside my own head there, but that’s the headspace I was drafting from.)

It didn’t help that I lost track of the deadline over the past week, thinking it wasn’t until Friday when it was actually today, which led to all sorts of “oh, crap” thinking over the past two days to make sure all of my stuff was squared away, and following up on letters that hadn’t arrived yet.

But away it has been sent, with about two hours to spare. Now, the wait is on for January to arrive when I will find out if I move to the advanced rounds for consideration.

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So Much for an Anthology..

I discovered a call for papers over the summer for a YA-themed anthology for critical essays discussing YA Fantasy, Paranormal and Dystopian works… The call for papers was open ended, with the only noted agenda being to discuss said types of books. I submitted a proposal idea, was told it sounded good, submitted an abstract and was rejected.

Huh?

In the essence of full disclosure, I admit I was late in submitting the abstract. I am also not especially well versed in abstract-ese, so I could have very well missed including some information they might have been looking for.

But I was also confused by the information I received in the response. On the one hand, the guidelines indicated the abstract should be less than 500 words, but there was no minimum indicated. Mine weighed in at under 100 (modeled after the one I had accepted for Worldcon last year), and I was told if I wanted to submit a different proposal, the abstract would need to be at least 250 words.

Okay, that I can deal with (doesn’t make much sense to me based on the information I had, but manageable…). What really confused me was the notice that my idea “doesn’t fit with the age range or focus of the anthology.” Let me say this again… “Huh?”

Of the half-dozen specific titles I indicated in my rough proposal (Narnia, Ender’s Game, HP & Sorcerer’s Stone, Graveyard Book, Hunger Games & Coraline), Ender’s Game is the only one that would be a stretch based on the three categories listed.

At this point, with no clear indication or suggestion for what sort of more specific material they might be looking for, I’m chalking up the experience as over and moving on. Pity, that… it would hace been an interesting project to be affiliated with.

Moral of the story: When calling for papers, please provide specific criteria for themes that you would like to discuss… that really would make it easier for potential contributors to either hit the right mark the first time.

So where does that leave me? With an idea to run with.

Besides being disappointed with the lack of clarity, I’m actually not to heartbroken about not being selected. With the way my schedule has been for the last few weeks, not to mention what I am looking at for the next three months, reading new books and rereading others for my references would have been a fairly large time obligation in order to do the job well. I do still intend to write it up, but I might shift the area to cover works beyond the scope of YA.

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