Archive for January 6th, 2013

2013 – Goals (Reading, Expanded)

It has often been said that writers read. It’s the understood rule of anyone that aspires to publication, or to improvement of craft. For the past few years I’ve been keeping a running list of what I have been reading, both for my own memory, but also for those that might be interested in discovering new books or see what might be influencing the imagination.

My average has been 30-ish books in a year. Considering that I am reading around living a life, a full-time job, and trying to write my own novel, I would say that’s not a terrible amount. It’s probably higher than the average books per year for someone my age, but I don’t have any concrete numbers that would either refute or support the idea. I have friends that read a lot more than I do, some less.

But I like reading. And I want to read more. If I could puree the pages and mainline the words to get the same effect, I would give it a try. It doesn’t work that way, but what if…?

Which is why I decided to try something this year. While I will still be reading (and maintaining a similar goal of 30+ new books read through the year), I wondered how high can I get? Nicholas Sparks said once that he reads about 100 books per year (or, did at the time of that interview). Can I make it to 100? How close can I get?

The picture above is my revised stack for 2013 with most of my “prioritized” reading materials to be chosen from. Note I said “most.” There are also quite a few ebooks that I have intention of reading that are, obviously, not pictured.

So that’s the challenge I mentioned the other day. Anything you have on your reading agenda?

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SHU WPF: 2013 Jan Residency (Day 2)

Another day at residency, another blur of experiences.

While technically the second full day of the residency, this was the day the workshopping began. I was scheduled to have my submission done today, which was what it was.

Workshops in the morning, and the afternoon session was one of the assigned modules for 2’s: Point of View. There were a lot of handouts, and a lot of good information… and I am still digesting all of it some six hours later. I went into the session with echoes of Elizabeth Bear saying “Point of View fixes everything” (from Viable Paradise), and it’s still ringing in my ears.

This was also the evening of the “Mentor Meetings.” Last June, i had to have a phone conversation with mine so this was the first time I was actually able to sit down with him in person. I was first on the schedule for the evening, so it turned into a “dinner meeting” in the cafeteria before he moved to the library for the rest of his scheduled students.

(For those future souls reading this with an interest in the program, remember: each mentor will be different, and their approach will be different, as will each writer’s previous experiences and writing levels vary. The goal of the meetings is to outline plans and goals for the coming semester’s writing term.)

My next few months are planned – goals for the program (written on the contract), as well as my own personal goals (exceeding what has been contracted).

After a group of us had finished our meetings, we high-tailed it to a restaurant near the hotel to hang out, decompress, and try to otherwise unwind.

Now, it’s time to start preparing for tomorrow’s schedule…

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A Scott Lynch (inspired) Response…

This is an older thing, something that some of my fellow VP 16ers had shared on Facebook about a month ago. It’s something that triggered something enough that I had been meaning to comment on it, and hopefully articulate my own thoughts about, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. First, a snippet of the essay that was shared:

Shit yes, Zamira Drakasha, leaping across the gap between burning ships with twin sabers in hand to kick in some fucking heads and sail off into the sunset with her toddlers in her arms and a hold full of plundered goods, is a wish-fulfillment fantasy from hell. I offer her up on a silver platter with a fucking bow on top; I hope she amuses and delights. In my fictional world, opportunities for butt-kicking do not cease merely because one isn’t a beautiful teenager or a muscle-wrapped font of testosterone. In my fictional universe, the main characters are a fat ugly guy and a skinny forgettable guy, with a supporting cast that includes “SBF, 41, nonsmoker, 2 children, buccaneer of no fixed abode, seeks unescorted merchant for light boarding, heavy plunder.”

For those that didn’t read the full piece, Lynch responds to commentary from a reader who… disagrees with the existence of the character.

So, a little context. First, Scott was (unofficially) one of the instructors at Viable Paradise. Second, he addresses two issues that are varying degrees of hot buttons for me: characterization and gender. Which leads me to my own thoughts…

I’m disappointed that there is that much of a lack of intelligence on the part of the random person that provoked the thoughts from Lynch. The willingness to dismiss a character in a fantasy novel because of some shallow belief that 21st century life situations are limited to the present – that history isn’t riddled with single mothers doing what they had to to just survive. Let alone that such issues might also exist in a fantasy setting. I mean, really? What kind of idyllic environment is this person looking for? Or is the problem the person had with the character’s ethnicity? Meh… fuck that. We don’t live in a monoethnic world, so why should fiction, especially fantasy?

Why gender is an issue is more convoluted. In case you didn’t know, I am a male. And I write stuff. I can fairly easily pull off writing male characters – I have a whole life of relevant experience to draw from. Women? Have several in my life, but to write effectively from a female character’s perspective is not as informed a skill set. But I believe it’s one that I need to develop in order to open up my opportunities to level up in “Writer’s Craft.”

I started thinking about this a little more than a year ago as I was preparing for my MFA/PhD applications. For the UK schools, I had to develop a research proposal. Where I ended up finding myself, thinking about developing a rounded ability to write from either gender, rounded characters, was looking at the existing studies of Feminism. Much of what I found discussed the rise of Feminism, and how the depiction of female characters changed, but always through the influence of women’s contributions. What about those male writers whose stories presented some angle of pro-Feminism – strong female characters capable of being more than just the damsel in distress or evil spinster?

So that was what I proposed, a study of speculative fiction from the pro-Feminist* perspective, and how female protagonists written by male authors have changed. And I had to compile a rough list of possible sources (novels, essay collections, etc.).

And Scott Lynch’s response earned the book a place in my source list, if I do end up pursuing the project. Worst case, it sounds like he’s provided an example to look at in my endeavors to write fuller female characters.


*In much of what I read “pro-Feminist” is a designation applied to men that support the concepts and ideals of Feminism.

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2013 – Goals & Resolutions

I mentioned the other day about how my 2012 Resolutions settled out. While I still like the list approach, and I do have a sketched out list of things – both professional and personal – I’m going to steal something from Scalzi here.

Instead of “Resolutions” I’m going to invoke “Goals”… I think I was already leaning that way last year, but I think “Resolution” suggests something to complete. Some of the things on my mind are more about progressing towards… not necessarily completing.

1) Improve my consistency… working on time management, my BIC/WOP (Butt in Chair/Words on [the] Page), and my general productivity.*

2) Work on improving my fitness & reducing my weight. I have a 10 month old. The day job is sedentary. Writing is likewise a generally sedentary thing. Improving the physical aspect should lend itself to keeping up with my son, as well being conducive for slinging ink. And slinging ink then improves # 1 above.

3) Continue reading – another post to follow, since I have a challenge to discuss…

4) Make progress on some domestic projects that have been idle for far too long… photo scans, cleaning out the garage, etc.

In short, lay some new foundations.

* Balance is a key thing, and the biggest thing I have struggled with for years, even before Mary Catherine. Last summer, after getting accepted to both Glasgow and Seton Hill I entered a brief mental funk trying to figure out which way to go. I got second, third and fourth opinions. I even had someone do a tarot card reading, to get yet another perspective (or, to get out of my own headspace and think a little differently). One of the results of the reading was helping me do some self-reflection and realization of just how out of whack my time management can get. Something I then started working on late in the year, but with shortcomings in consistency as my fall term wore on.

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