[sticky entry] Sticky: Howdy

Jan. 24th, 2019 10:18 pm
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Welcome to my journal! I live in New England, and I'm a novice writer and very amateur birder. Most of my entries here discuss my efforts to be a better writer. I also occasionally post links to my fanworks (see [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl); review books and movies; and, every once in a while, write about my life.

One topic you'll see me write about from time to time is my Craft on My Commute project, in which I read books about writing craft and productivity. You'll find my current list of completed books under the cut.

Craft on My Commute Books )
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Status Update:

1. Words written this week: 3,127. I wrote every day this week and met or exceeded my GYWO daily quota (411 words) five times, up from previous weeks. This week I wrote most of a shitty first draft, as Hemingway would say, longhand for a fic in a Gothic horror fandom. I find that it’s easier to plow through a story idea when I write on paper as opposed to on a computer, mostly because it’s materially more difficult to tinker or go backward. I know my next draft is going to need a lot of clean up, which is intimidating, but my hope is that I'll be able to give every section of my story a consistent amount of revisions and edits. 

2. Write 4+ mornings per week: Close but no cigar according to the rules I established last week.

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! I actually got my act together the night before and got in a whole hour-and-a-half of writing time Friday morning.

4. Write two original stories: No progress this week.  

5. Write to prompts for story ideas: No progress this week—all of my writing energy went to working on the fic. I’m starting a three-week Gotham Writers Workshop online course on character development soon, so hopefully that will enable me to check this box in future weeks.

6. Post Personal Fanfic: No progress this week. I realized that the fic I'm writing is one that I'll want to give to a specific recipient because 1) they offered the specific prompt that inspired me to write it, and 2) I am really encouraged by the fact that I can find fans of the source material that may actually want to read it. The recipient I had in mind included the prompt in their recent Yuletide sign-up, so this may be a good candidate for the New Years Resolutions collection. Fortunately I have a slew of other WIPs that would meet the criteria for this personal fic goal, as long as I can make myself finish them.  

7. Craft on My Commute: This week I started The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne, who also created the Story Grid website. This book is geared much more toward questions of structure than the LeGuin book. It also is written by an editor rather than a novelist. I've found it helpful to include books by editors and sometimes even agents in my reading list because they see a large volume of manuscripts and can common on patterns, particularly in stories that don't quite work. 

I decided this week that this writing goal needs some structure, too. I can mark this goal complete for the week if I read a Craft on My Commute book for at least four of my 10 commute trips per week.

Helpful articles and resources this week:

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I needed to reach the end of Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story to really appreciate the guiding metaphor for her book. I expected that this book would focus on how to construct a compelling story through plot, themes, and character, but the lessons she presents are more about how to understand, traverse, and reveal stories that already exist. Hers is not the first book I've read that suggests that stories are somehow out there waiting to be discovered and honed, as opposed to something that writers build. 

While I still need to built up faith that I'll find the stories I'm meant to write, I'm glad I found my way to LeGuin's succinct, elegant guidebook. The
 text clearly defines and provides examples of the tools writers use to explore and uncover their stories: word choice, sentence structure, point of view, verb tense, and narration. If you have a rough idea of these concepts, but want to make that knowledge more precise, this book is a great place to start. Her discussions of verb tense and different types of narrators were clear and simple, and revisiting them in this essential way refreshed my thinking about how to identify and use these narrative elements. She delivers her advice efficiently and with a lot of charm (even when being a bit of a curmudgeon), which made the time I spent reading and learning from her delightful.  

If you are looking for writing exercises, the ones LeGuin includes in this book are great. She introduces each with a clear description of what idea the exercise is designed to teach or demonstrate and provides examples of how to alter the instructions so you can explore a different aspect of the lesson. The subjects of the exercises range from word choice and sentence structure to exploring narrative points of view to managing exposition and backstory. One thing I like about her exercises in particular is that you don’t need to apply them to a work in progress. LeGuin provides a few simple scene or story ideas to help you get the most out of the exercise and the accompanying lesson.

While reading this book, I realized that I may not have ever read one of LeGuin’s novels. (If I have, it's been decades.) Friends, if you are a LeGuin fan, which of her books would you recommend to a new reader?

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
1. Words Written this Week: 2,959. This week I primarily wrote brainstorming notes and draft text for my fic, which I hope to finish by the middle of this month. I achieved the daily word quota for my Get Your Words Out pledge level (411 words) three days this week. I also completed my first GYWO check-in for January. As of 1/31, I wrote 7,053 words, putting me around 5 percent of my 2019 goal (150,000 words). This is still behind where I need to be, but I did surpass the mini-goal I set last week (6,370 words for the month), given that I started the GYWO challenge about halfway through January. Gotta keep my head down and run my own race. 

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved, mostly by moving my Craft on My Commute reading to my ride home. I realized that I should have some more specific rules for this item. So, to be able to check this box, I need to write for 20 minutes or more before noon.  

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved. I also found a hotel in Maine for my late winter/early spring writing retreat so I now have a longer term treat to anticipate.

4. Write Two Original Stories: No progress this week (see #5).  

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved a little bit. I did one or two exercises from the LeGuin book but mostly focused on my fic (#1). I realized that I needed to reframe this exercise so it will be more useful.
Thoughts and feelings about this under the cut )

6. Post Personal Fanfic: Some progress this week (see #1). 

7. Craft on My Commute: I read most days this week and finished up
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. LeGuin. I also listened to part of Episode 234 of the DIY MFA Radio podcast, in whch the host interviewed David Corbett, author of The Art of CharacterIt was interesting to learn more about the interests and writing strategies of the author of one of the best (if intimidating) writing guides I’ve read. The podcast option continues to be helpful for this project because I carry a change of clothes and shoes to work during the winter (two on gym days) and sometimes it’s nice not to have to carry a book on top of everything else. 

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
 Status Update: 

1. Words Written this Week: 2,288. This week I mostly wrote for prompts and did some "shadow story" (documentation of "off-screen" events) writing for a fic I'd like to post around Valentine's Day/International Fanworks Day. I achieved the GYWO daily word quota for my pledge level (411 words) two days this week. I'm feeling a bit behind on my word count but I did start my pledge in the middle of the month, so I'll be satisfied if I can hit half the January goal (6,370 words) by February 1. 

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved, just barely. 

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! Going forward, I am going to try to wake up earlier so I can make these sessions a little longer.

4. Write Two Original Stories: Some progress this week. I started writing for an idea that I'm not sure will crack the 1,000 word story threshold I've set, but I'm interested to see where the concept goes.

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved! I wrote responses to several prose style exercises from my current Craft on My Commute book (see #7). I also kept doing the art postcard exercises, which have been fruitful for me thus far (and give me an excuse to buy more art postcards). 

6. Post Personal Fanfic: Some progress this week (see #1). 

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved! I started a new book this week: Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. LeGuin. I also listened to Episode 236 of the DIY MFA Radio podcast on writing on a morning when reading proved difficult. It was pretty good; I'll try out a few more episodes to see if I'll want to keep listening on a regular basis. 

Helpful articles and resources this week:
- #5onFri: Five Steps to Creating Characters of Color by Andrea J. Johnson at DIY MFA
- One Simple Tip To Improve Your Description by Robert Wood at the Standout Books blog

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Here are my Fandom Stocking entries, 'cause why not:

723 words
by [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl for [archiveofourown.org profile] calliopes_pen
Fandoms: Dracula - Bram Stoker, Dracula & Related Fandoms
Relationship: Jonathan Harker/Brides of Dracula
Not Rated, No Archive Warnings Apply
Collection: Fandom Stocking 2018
Additional Tags: Jonathan Harker, Brides of Dracula, Vampires, Gothic, Blood Drinking, Vaginal Sex

Summary: Once Dracula leaves for London, his women lay claim to his castle and to the victim inside. Now fully in the Brides' clutches, Jonathan Harker must choose whether to resist or to surrender.


Turning Time
340 words
by [archiveofourown.org profile] disgruntled_owl for [archiveofourown.org profile] MiriamKenneath
Fandoms: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel - James Luceno, Star Wars - All Media Types
Relationship: Galen Erso/Orson Krennic
Not Rated, No Archive Warnings Apply
Collection: Fandom Stocking 2018
Additional Tags: Galen Erso, Orson Krennic, Missing Scene, Angst, Manual stimulation, Memories, Backstory, Betrayal, Hand Jobs, Intimacy, Tragic Romance, Minor Canonical Character(s)

Summary: Galen gives in to Orson's affections to keep him from discovering Bodhi Rook's flight to Jedha. But once he takes Orson in his arms, Galen succumbs to memories, desire, and a longing to change their fate.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
This past weekend I attended Arisia 2019, an annual sci-fi and fantasy convention in Boston. The con program has a number of different tracks, including one specifically about writing with panels that include both writers and editors (more details in the pocket program here). I enjoy this track because it's like writer-advice speed dating. For the price of a one-day workshop at a writing center or adult-education school, I can get perspectives and ideas from lot of different people, who vary in terms of genre, experience, and role in the writing process. Here are some of the panels I attended and lessons I learned.

Tricks for Self-Editing: This leader of this small-group seminar described an approach where writers use colors and symbols to mark up hard copies of their manuscripts. She suggested that writers color code their sentences (or in novels, paragraphs) to make sure each sentence or paragraph is helping to achieve one of two key story story elements: 1) developing character or 2) advancing the main plot. It should also achieve one of these other elements: 3) advancing the setting, 4) advancing a subplot, or 5) establishing an emotional theme. She also suggested putting boxes of various shapes around potentially problematic words or phrases: adverbs, filter words, uses of the progressive or past-perfect tense. These uses may not be problematic in specific situations, but the boxes can help identify when certain techniques are being overused. As a very visual person, I like this sort of thing.

Writing Outside of Comfort Zones: This was probably my favorite session from the whole conference. The moderator,Smith College professor Andrea Hairston, did a great job of setting the stage by describing the importance of narratives to individual identity, how the narrow American mythology leaves the stories of some groups out and commodifies the stories of others, and how caricatures and stereotypes can become so ingrained that it can be difficult to distinguish them from character. The other panelists shared their experiences being black, queer, legally-blind and with having ADD or non-visible physical disabilities, experiencing sexual assault, or being an "invisible bisexual" (I know a thing or two about the last one). This prompted a lot of useful questions for me to think about in terms of creating three-dimensional characters.
The panelists emphasized the importance of being brave and trying new things and that everyone almost certainly gets some things wrong in their depictions, citing examples from their own work. The important thing is to own, and not deny, your bullshit, and to focus on your next project and opportunities to do things better. The group also talked about how to find, vet, and appropriately use sensitivity readers (and the importance of not generalizing from one person's experience). They also reminded everybody to take advantage of museums and their staff: these are professionals that want to share the histories and experiences of particular groups. 

The Past in Present Tense: Escaping Flashbacks: This was the most technical session I attended. Two grizzled veteran sci-fi writers and a novice writer moderator debated when, if ever, to use flashbacks and flash-forwards, and how else to successfully deal with time jumps. 
More under the cut )
The con also features a lot of other sci-fi and fantasy activities: book, movie, music and video game panels; costume contests; video and board games; movie, TV, and anime screenings; and the like. They also have some maker stuff. I attended a block printing workshop, which turned out to be another highlight of the con for me. I cut a mold and printed this design befitting my namesake.

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
1. Words Written this Week: 1,470. I spent most of my writing time working on two fics for [community profile] fandom_stocking, which totaled about 1,000 words when they were done. I also did a little bit of prompt writing (see #5). I achieved the GYWO daily word quota for my level (411 words) twice this week. I'll need to do a bit more to get my numbers up to stay on track, and will work on that next week.

2. Write in the Morning 4+ Days per Week: Achieved!

3. Friday Morning Writer Date: Achieved! My work week was trash and I was glad to have this practice as a something to anticipate and use to cheer myself up.

4. Write Two Original Stories: No progress this week.

5. Write to Prompts for Story Ideas: Achieved. I spent most of my morning writing time on the Fandom Stocking stories but I did do a few "postcard" exercises where I looked at some random art postcards from my collection and tried to come up with a story based on the images. I'm not sure I'd turn any of the specific results into longer stories, but I was intrigued by some of the themes that emerged.

6. Post Personal Fanfic: No progress this week.

7. Craft on My Commute: Achieved! I read for at least one leg of my commute each of my five workdays and finished James Scott Bell's Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life. I'd recommend this one if you haven't read a craft book in a while and are looking for topics of interest; this one offers bite-size pieces of advice on subjects ranging from plot development to productivity to marketing, which may help you identify areas you'd like to focus on. I also bought a notebook to take notes on these craft books in longhand, which I hope will help me retain the information better.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I started the Craft on My Commute project last year as a sort of self-led course in writing craft and productivity. I commute to work on public transit, so every work day I try to spend one leg of my trip reading craft-oriented books. This approach has helped me to carve out designated time for learning techniques so that I can devote other parts of my day to writing, reading fiction, or staring into space, when needed. It's provided me with encouragement (and sometimes a dash of gentle, healthy guilt) at the top of my day so that I remember to work writing time into my daily life. The hardest part has been figuring out to store the lessons learned for future use, but I'm working on a solution for that.

My completed books include

Now that I've connected with some new folks via [community profile] getyourwordsout and friending memes, I'd like to hear your suggestions for what to read next. What are some books you've read that have helped you become a better writer?
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
1. This year I pledged to write 150,000 words (or more) in a year via [community profile] getyourwordsout. It took me a while to land on this pledge level and it's still going to be a stretch, but I'm excited to be doing it as part of a community and I'm hoping it incentivizes me to keep up with the other things in this list.

2. Write in the morning at least four days per week. I did this off and on in 2018, often for a half-hour or so by candlelight before the sun came up. I've missed a number of days lately because mornings are so dark and I so want to sleep. Yet when I pull it off I'm glad. Morning is probably my most productive time and most of it ends up going to my job, but when I can get the writing done I feel like I've made an investment in myself.

3. Continue my Friday morning "writer date" at a coffee shop before work. I started doing this in December and so far it's something I've found myself happily anticipating, even if I have to force myself out of bed to make sure I have enough time to make progress on my writing project before I shuffle into work.

4. Draft at least two original stories longer than 1,000 words.

5. Generate ideas for original fiction by regularly writing to prompts. I'm struggling to come up with original plots and characters, and right now this feels like a good way to push through that and make progress on Goal #4.

6. Post at least one fanfic longer than 500 words that's not for an exchange, fest, or specific recipient. I've got a lot of WIPs that not only focus on things I love about the source material but also reveal themes and ideas that resonate personally with me. I want to work harder to get those out there.

7. Continue the Craft on My Commute self-study project I started in 2018. I've gotten a lot out of the books I've read thus far, but I need better ways of retaining the information so I can access it when I'm trying to solve specific problems in my writing.

Friends, if you have writing goals, I'd love to hear about them!


Jan. 9th, 2019 12:43 pm
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
 Hi friends,

Could you share with me the correct HTML code for putting your Twitter or AO3 handle in a DW post or comment? The kind that makes  the icon show up? I mess this up every time I do it (probably because I don't actually know how to code).

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I've been lucky to be able to write Horror of Dracula fic for several exchanges these past few years. I'm delighted to know that Hammer Horror fans are out there, and it's been a lot of fun to share a love of the studio's unique take on Dracula with them. My story this year: 

Fascination (10,671 words) 
by disgruntled_owl
for rosecake
Archive Warning: Graphic Depictions of Violence (vampire staking and references to decapitation)
Fandoms: Horror of Dracula (1958), Dracula & Related Fandoms
Relationship: Jonathan Harker & Van Helsing (Hammer)
Characters: Jonathan Harker, Van Helsing (Hammer), Arthur Holmwood, Lucy Holmwood, Mina Holmwood
Additional Tags: Minor Original Character(s), Bavaria, Vampires, Obsession, Vampire Hunters, hammer horror, Hammer films, 19th Century, Backstory, Vampire Staking, Minor Character Death, Vampire Decapitation, Pre-Canon, Friendship, Libraries

Summary: An elegant stranger arrives at the Karlstadt Municipal Archive, seeking the histories of Bavarian nobles for a mysterious purpose. Librarian Jonathan Harker aids the visitor in his research and becomes captivated by him and his secret mission. As sinister events begin happening in Karlstadt, Harker sinks deeper into his obsession until he learns the dark truths that will change his life forever.

Notes and Thoughts )
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
This year I received two stories from the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time video game fandom. I have a soft spot for the whole Prince of Persia series; I wrote some of my first fanfic based on Prince of Persia 2 and Prince of Persia 3D. The Sands of Time trilogy builds a rich, expansive mythology around the simple Arabian Nights-style premise of the early games, and the characterization of its leads—the Prince and his ally and love interest Farah—is some of the best I've ever seen in a video game. 

These two writers did a great job exploring Farah's backstory and her connections with the other characters, whether hinting at her links to the Prince or forging a dark link between her and the treacherous Vizier. Also, they both structured their stories in interesting ways that echo the fluid way that time works in the games. 

a tale of joy
by bittersnake
Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
Characters: Farah (Prince of Persia), The Prince (Prince of Persia)
Relationship: Farah/The Prince (Prince of Persia)
Additional Tags: Pregnancy, Future Fic, Story within a Story, Backstory, In which the author makes up and assumes a lot but hopefully it makes sense

Summary: Tell me a tale, father. Tell me a tale.


Divergent Stories
by Silex
Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
Characters: Farah (Prince of Persia), The Prince (Prince of Persia), The Vizier (Prince of Persia)
Relationship: Farah/The Prince (Prince of Persia)
Additional Tags: Implied Relationships, Pre-Canon, Non-Linear Narrative, Stream of Consciousness

Summary: Farah has been haunted by dreams for as long as she can remember, the sense that there's something more. She can see it in the way the Vizier looks at her, the way he listens when she explains. The dreams though, the stories, they've changed in her memory, slipping away into something new.

disgruntled_owl: (what)
If you like Star Wars, and cyborgs, and creepy things happening to Clone Wars-era Obi-Wan Kenobi, then maybe this is for you! 

Warrior's Body

by disgruntled_owl
for shanlyrical

Collection: Trick or Treat Exchange 2018 
Rating: Teen and Up
Word Count: 1,388 
Fandoms: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) - All Media TypesStar Wars - All Media Types
Tags: Grievous | Qymaen jai Sheelal, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Psychosexual Encounter, envy - Freeform, Nudity, Trick or Treat: Trick, Fight Scene, cyborg, Jedi

Summary: Obi-Wan is compromised during a stealth mission and wakes to find himself wounded, exposed, and in Grievous's clutches. As he tries to make his escape, the Jedi is forced to reckon with the creature within the machine.

Notes and thoughts: 
  • One of the blessings I've experienced writing for exchanges is that I have gotten better at empathizing with, or at least appreciating, characters that don't naturally attract my interest.  Here's hoping these experiences are making me a better writer overall. At the outset, I struggled with what I was going to do with Grievous, but by the time I finished the story, I found him to be a lot more intriguing (and I found Obi-Wan a lot sexier, too). It helped to watch both Clone Wars TV shows, which put the horror villain Grievous in horror-type settings (as opposed to sunny jungle planets surrounded by giant lizards). He's actually at his most terrifying in Tartakovsky's cel-animated Clone Wars series, where he's this nigh-unstoppable murder machine. 
  • I've seen countless Force pushes and throws in Star Wars movies and TV shows, but writing about how the Force works and how Jedi use it turned out to be pretty hard. 
  • I debated whether I could define this as a slash relationship when I was tagging it. I wanted to include a sexual undercurrent, but it's probably one the characters only subconsciously realize. There's no actual sex, but a lot of weird touching. I'm still feeling my way towards where the slash boundary actually lies, and what tags might be false advertising. 
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
What a great haul I had for this year's Trick or Treat Exchange! I really appreciate how generous these three authors were with their time and creativity as they wrote these stories.

First, a deliciously gloomy scene set prior to the events of Horror of Dracula, which reveals a dark moment in Van Helsing's past. 

Fandom: Horror of Dracula (1958)
by WilliamLazenbyotch
Tags: Abraham Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Count Dracula, Trick or Treat: Trick

Summary: Harker and Van Helsing meet one last time before the young man's ill-fated journey to Klausenburg, and the good doctor remembers an earlier brush with their adversary.

Next, a scene that explores the vulnerabilities, loyalties, and fortitude of Walter Dornez, my favorite character in one of my favorite Dracula-related fandoms. 

Dereliction and Duty
Fandom: Hellsing
by AceQueenKing
Tags: Alucard & Walter Dornez, Minor or Background Relationship(s), Background Relationship: Alucard/Integra, Alucard (Hellsing), Walter Dornez, Offers to Turn, Temptation, Old Age, Discussion of death and aging

Summary: Walter's hand shakes. It’s a quick quiver, nothing major; the china teacup rattles on its saucer in an ominous warning, but not a drop is spilled.
But it does not go unnoticed.
“Oh ho,” Alucard says, leering as he sips from his own cup, though it is filled with a more profane liquid. “Losing your grip, old man.”


And finally, a heartbreaking alternate ending for a a battle between friends set during the Clone Wars. 

A Trick of the Light
Fandom: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) - All Media Types
by LittleRaven
Tags: Anakin Skywalker & Ahsoka Tano, Ashoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker | Darth Vader, Character Death Implied/Referenced Character Death, Dark, Lights, Alternate Universe - Canon Divergence, Alternate Universe, Angst, Ambiguous/Open Ending, Ambiguous endings, Gen Work Ratings: G, Bad Ending, Eldritch, Mortis (Star Wars), Episode Related, Episode Tag, Episode Remix, Friendship, Holding Hands, Horror, Trick or Treat: Trick, Trick or Treat: Chocolate Box, vices, Episode: s03e16 Altar of Mortis

Summary: His reactions are so often reckless.
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I'll risk writing an mediocre review of Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton's Finishing School: The Happy Ending to that Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done, because 1) I've been struggling to get to it, 2) I've got library overdue fines to pay on it, and 3) most importantly, I really want to tell you about it. This book focuses not on the craft of writing so much as the sheer act of getting words on the page at all. It covers two main topics: the emotions that create roadblocks to writing, and the author's Finishing School model of finding buddies and setting up a system to get projects done. I value this book because it's more than a breezy pep talk about why writing is worth the effort. It's a strong, supportive hand on the back that reminds writers that others share their struggle that and steers them out of their own heads and towards other people that can provide help and encouragement.

In the first half, Tennis and Morton explain that "six emotional pitfalls" are what stand between writers and their work (as opposed to laziness or a lack of self-discipline):
  • Doubt: I'm not capable of the work or not "good enough."
  • Shame: I am ashamed of not finishing and too ashamed to finish.
  • Yearning: The work has to be perfect to be worth doing, and if it is perfect, I will be perfect, too.
  • Fear: Failure of any kind with respect to the work is too painful to risk.
  • Judgment: I don't want people to discover my mediocrity, or to be angry with me about things I've written.
  • Arrogance: I don't need anybody's help to get this done, or, my suffering around this work is "more exquisite" than what others experience.

The authors spend a lot of time on the nuances and manifestations of each emotional pitfall and provide examples from their own writing lives. They also explain how these emotions tend to travel in packs. It's tempting to skip ahead to the action-oriented parts of the Finishing School model, but true success depends on acknowledging and then working past these emotions. Each chapter in this first section concludes with descriptions of how to summon the will to keep going, or how to channel the power of that emotion into the work itself. These passages are longer and meatier than a pithy phrase, but I've found that walking with the authors through the logic of these strategies makes them easier to accept. 

The second part of the book describes how the authors created and/or implemented local Finishing Schools to help fellow writers complete long unfinished projects. They formed small groups that met weekly and carried out a standard set of deceptively simple tasks:
  • Physically block out on a calendar when they were going to write each week, and set goals for that writing time. Show that plan to a buddy. This type of planning typically happens at in-person Finishing School meetings. 
  • Contact (typically by text) your buddy when you start and finish your writing periods, and when you need encouragement to keep going. 
  • Report to your buddy and/or your group about what you've accomplished and whether you've met your goals.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat, until the project is done. 

The authors outline a series of principles to support this framework. The writing groups don't show each other what they've written or ask for craft-oriented help because Finishing Schools aren't critique groups. They're solely about getting the work finished, which puts everybody on the same playing field regardless of their project type, genre, professional experience, or talent. They provide a therapeutic outlet for writers who are struggling, but they are more about listening than about providing specific solutions to problems. The group also provides a place to celebrate successes--Tennis and Morton describe an amusing ritual of members dropping print copies of their finished work on the ground so they can hear the satisfying thuds. They add in other suggestions for finishing well, including creating a "detailed scenario of doneness" and writing a declaration that you deem the work done (and won't monkey with it anymore). 

Online fandom seems to be pretty good about creating similar supportive communities for fanfic writers, which leverage social media so we can support each other. That said, I can see how the in-person nature of Finishing School would do more to encourage me. I find it easier to be accountable to a small group of people, especially those that I know and/or will physically see, than a broader online community. The one-to-one intimacy of texting a buddy has and likely would continue to help me power through inertia. I don't think I can handle creating a formal Finishing School in the near future, but I intend to implement a few of these tactile ideas in my writing life. 
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Dear Yuletide Writer,
Thanks for participating in the exchange! I love all the buzz leading up to the exchange and the cozy thrill of reading the stories in the winter darkness. I can't wait to read what you write! Here’s a bit about me and my requests.
In General
Relationship Interests: I enjoy het, slash, and femslash. Poly relationships are of less interest to me, but I am open to reading them about it if you find it makes for a compelling story. I’m particularly intrigued by romantic possibilities for older characters, sexual extortion, and relationship power dynamics and imbalances (particularly between villains and protagonists). I also like to read and write gen, including mentor/student relationships and brief moments of connection between characters that might otherwise remain strangers or enemies. 
Other Likes: Gothic tales, noir, intrigue, atmosphere, vampires, ghosts, period settings, spooky monsters, ruins, fairy tale motifs, nature (forests, deserts, oceans, shores, and swamps), villains and their motives and psychological characteristics. My tastes in fic trend dark and serious, but if you'd like to write something lighter, fluffier, or sillier, please go for it.
Do-Not-Wants: cannibalism (vampires drinking blood is okay), bestiality, zombies, mpreg, gratuitous graphic violence, scat/watersports, tentacle porn, underage, body horror, animal or child abuse. Please no reader insert stories. 
Gray Areas: I’d prefer not to read stories about infidelity or very explicit rape/non-con. Given my relationship interests, dub-con is okay. I understand this territory is murky, so don’t worry too much about crossing a line. I’m primarily trying to avoid really extreme or violent situations. 
Story Characteristics: I’m good with missing scenes and canon divergence, but I like to stay in the world of the story, so I’d prefer the story not be set in a dramatically different AU (coffee shop, high school, etc.). I'd also prefer not to receive a story written in the second person.  
Fandom Specifics
Brides of Dracula (1960)
Requested Characters: Any
Help me build up this fandom! I have a bunch of Brides of Dracula WIPs, and any story you'd write for this fandom would not only entertain me but encourage me to wrap my stories up. This sumptuous gothic film gives Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing more of a center stage than he had in Dracula, but there are so many fascinating characters in this story that I’m sure I’ll enjoy anything you write about. In case it helps, here are some suggestions:
  • What did the Baroness and Greta do when they first realize the Baron has become a vampire (if they did not call for a priest or a doctor)? How did they learn that his affliction is vampirism, and not something else? How does she trap him with the silver chain in his wing of the castle? 
  • Tell me about a time when the Baroness successfully ensnared a woman or man for the Baron’s consumption. How does she find the victim, and how do both she and the Baron lure the victim in? You could show this ritual happening for the first time. What internal conflicts and fears does the Baroness overcome as she commits to keeping her son alive, even if it means that others will die?
  • Dig deeper into the fraught relationship between the Baroness and her vampire son. Show me a scene between the two of them. This could be just after she traps him in his wing of the castle, after she brings him his first victim, or just before he turns her into a vampire and escapes.
  • What becomes of Gina and the village girl, now vampires without a master? Does Van Helsing pursue them?
  • What happens to Marianne? She begins the movie as a plucky but naive character. How does she change and what does she decide to do with her life in the aftermath of her encounter with the Baron?
I adore Peter Cushing and his characters so rarely have romances, so if you’d like to go that route, please feel free. Van Helsing and Marianne is the obvious pairing, but feel free to explore others that come to mind. 
Frankenstein - Hammer Movies
Requested Character: Victor Frankenstein
I really enjoy how these films showcase Peter Cushing’s capacity for acting clever, calculating, sinister, and intimidating (and sexy, quite frankly). The Baron is a force to be reckoned with, and what I love about Hammer’s portrayal is that he’s so committed to his scientific advancements that he’s convincingly blind to all the horror and evil he does (as compared to Frankenstein in the novel, who seems to prevaricate about what he’s done the moment he lays eyes on his creation). So far, I’ve only seen The Curse of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, but if you’d like to build a story off of the events in one of the other films or a situation of your own invention, please do. 
The Curse of Frankenstein is one of the few instances I’ve seen where a Peter Cushing character gets to be sexy on screen (referring to his dalliance with Justine, where both his arrogance and his desire are delicious.) If you want to put him in a romance or play up his sexuality, go for it. That said, please keep it in character. This includes considering how seriously the Baron is likely to take a relationship with a particular character (he can clearly compartmentalize his fondness for Elizabeth and his lust for Justine in Curse) and whether he’d even be considering lust, romance or violence depending on where he’s at with his work. (In this latter case, I’m referring to that ill-conceived rape scene in Must Be Destroyed, which is not only troubling to watch but made no sense for the Baron or Anna’s characters, and seemed to aggravate everybody involved in acting in or producing said scene.) 
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Requested Characters: Dracula, Van Helsing

I love this version of Dracula. Christopher Lee's portrayal of the Count is at once terrifying and sensual, grand and feral. Peter Cushing is his match as the clever, noble, indefatigable Van Helsing. The screenplay puts some interesting twists on the original Dracula story, such as Harker going on a stealth mission to infiltrate Dracula's lair instead of just selling him real estate. I’ve listed both Dracula and Van Helsing as requested characters, but I would be happy with a story focused on one or the other, or involving some of the other characters. Some story possibilities:
  • Van Helsing hunting Dracula once before and failing, almost meeting his doom. 
  • Van Helsing recruiting Harker to hunt vampires. Is Harker Van Helsing’s first apprentice, or has he had others (and did those precedecessors meet similar grisly fates)? Why does Harker decide to help him, especially given he’s about to settle down with Lucy?
  • Dracula claiming and initiating his bride. What was their relationship like before Harker’s arrival at Castle Dracula?  
I don't necessarily ship Dracula and Van Helsing, but if you want to go that route, feel free.
Prince of Persia Sands of Time - Video Games
Requested Characters: The Prince, Farah

I only play about 8 video games, and three of them are the Sands of Time, Warrior Within, and The Two Thrones from the Prince of Persia series. I love the slow-burn romance between Farah and the Prince  that begins in Sands of Time and continues in the Two Thrones. That said, if you'd prefer to write about only one of the two, or to bring in other characters (the Dark Prince, the Vizier, Kaileena, etc.), please do. Some ideas:
  • What kind of life does Farah lead between the events of the Sands of Time and when she encounters the Prince in Babylon?
  • As she grows up, does Farah suspect the Vizier, her father's adviser, of something treacherous? (I'd be open to a Farah/Vizier ship).
  • Is there more of the Kakolookiyam world that the Prince and Farah can explore together? What other lore does Farah know about the world and what do they discover?
  • An extended, intimate scene between Farah and the Prince, either alone in the beautiful ruins of Azad or in Babylon, would be delightful.

Happy writing! 
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
Dear Trick or Treat Creator,
Thanks for participating in the exchange! I hope you're as excited about it as I am. Here’s a bit about me and my requests.

In General
Relationship Interests: I enjoy gen, het, slash, and femslash. Poly is less of a thing for me, but I am open to reading about it if you find it makes for a compelling story. I’m particularly intrigued by romantic possibilities for older characters, sexual extortion, and power dynamics and imbalances (particularly between villains and protagonists). 
Other Likes: Gothic tales, noir, intrigue, atmosphere, vampires, ghosts, period settings, spooky monsters, ruins, fairy tale motifs, nature (forests, deserts, oceans, shores, and swamps), villains and their motives and psychological characteristics. 
Do-Not-Wants: cannibalism (vampires drinking blood is okay), bestiality, zombies, mpreg, gratuitous graphic violence, scat/watersports, tentacle porn, underage, body horror, animal or child abuse.
Gray Areas: I’d prefer not to read stories about infidelity or very explicit rape/non-con. Given my relationship interests, dub-con is okay. I understand this territory is murky, so don’t worry too much about crossing a line. I’m primarily trying to avoid really extreme or violent situations. 
Story Characteristics: I’m good with missing scenes and canon divergence, but I like to stay in the world of the story, so I’d prefer the story not be set in a dramatically different AU (coffee shop, high school, etc.). I'm also not into reader inserts or stories written in the second person.  

Fandom Specifics

Dracula- Bram Stoker
Characters: Dracula, Bride of Dracula, Van Helsing, Renfield
Requests: Trick or treat, art or fic
Some suggestions for this fandom:
  • Exploring Dracula’s dark deeds as a vampire before the events of Dracula
  • Exploring Van Helsing’s past pursuit of Dracula, or the dark/unsavory things he might have done in his quest to rid the world of Dracula
  • Stories about Dracula acquiring his Brides; about the Brides encountering Renfield or Harker; or about them taking over the castle once Dracula leaves for London
  • Renfield’s experiences in Castle Dracula before the story begins

Hellboy - All Media Types
Characters: Trevor Bruttenholm, Abe Sapien, Hellboy
Requests: Trick or treat, art or fic

I find Trevor Bruttenholm to be such a compelling character, and would love a story that focuses on him. Though slight and bookish, he is clever and brave, and capable of mercy in the face of great horror. His vampire-hunting exploits in BPRD: 1946 and 1947 are fascinating--especially his encounters with Soviet occult expert Varvara--and I loved his gravel-voiced portrayal by John Hurt in the 2004 Del Toro movie. You could write about some of his experiences raising Hellboy in New Mexico, or hunting monsters of all kinds. I'm also fans of Hellboy and Abe, and would enjoy stories about their relationships with Professor Broom or on adventures of their own. I'm most familiar with the Hellboy comics and animated films (Blood and Iron, Sword of Storms), but would enjoy fic or art based on the Del Toro movies or the BPRD series. 
Characters: Integra Hellsing, Alucard, Walter Dornez
Requests: Trick or treat, art or fic

I’d love stories centered on Alucard, Integra, and/or Walter, particularly character or family histories, spooky tales, or romances. My preferred pairing is Alucard/Integra. Walter is one of my favorite characters, and I’d be glad to read him in a pairing with any of the protagonists or with an original character. I’m most familiar with the first Hellsing anime, as opposed to the Hellsing manga, the Hellsing: The Dawn manga, or the Hellsing Ultimate anime. That said, if you would prefer to write or create art for these latter sources, that’s fine by me (though I’d prefer no evil/vampire Walter stories or artwork). 

Horror of Dracula
Characters: Dracula, Van Helsing
Requests: Trick or treat, art or fic

This is my favorite cinematic version of Dracula. Christopher Lee's portrayal of the Count is at once terrifying and sensual, grand and feral. Peter Cushing is his match as the clever, noble, indefatigable Van Helsing. Also, the screenplay puts some interesting twists on the classic Dracula story, such as Harker going on a stealth mission to infiltrate Dracula's lair instead of just selling him real estate. I'm sure I'll love anything you'd write for this, but here are some suggestions anyhow:
  • Van Helsing hunting Dracula once before and failing, almost meeting his doom
  • Van Helsing bringing Harker into his cabal of vampire hunters 
I don't necessarily ship Dracula and Van Helsing, but if you want to go that route, feel free. 
Logan Lucky
Characters: Jimmy, Clyde, Mellie, Joe Bang 
Requests: Trick or treat, fic
I'd really like a glimpse of Jimmy and Clyde's (and, if you're so inclined, Mellie's) sibling relationship, especially during or after their first robbery attempt. Or, do they have specific childhood encounters with the Logan family curse? Silly moments featuring Joe Bang also welcome. Please no sibling incest. 
Star Wars - The Clone Wars - All Media Types
Characters: Ashoka, Anakin, Barriss, Rex, Luminara, Padme, Obi Wan 
Requests: Trick, art or fic
I enjoy requesting Star Wars fandoms for this exchange because they offer a whole new universe to explore the meanings of horror, terror, gloom, and dread. The Clone Wars offers great settings to delve into these themes: the shadows of Umbara, the murky depths of Mon Cala, or even the vast emptiness of space. The battles of the Clone Wars leave behind trauma and destruction capable of haunting their survivors. Opposing armies conjure monsters or cyborgs like General Grievous to protect them or fight on their behalf. Please dig into whatever you find scary about The Clone Wars. Any or several of these protagonists can be a guide into these chilling situations

 Happy writing or drawing! I am looking forward to checking out your Halloween treat!
disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
On our second day, we hiked the tiny emerald trails near our bed and breakfast, which looked like Endor in The Return of the Jedi, then started our trek towards Portland. We drove in a rented yellow Mustang nicknamed Pikachu down through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I learned that national forests are quite different from national parks. The parks are carefully designed to welcome and guide visitors, with lots of signage and facilities and space management. By comparison, the forests have a wilder feel: people are welcome but we definitely needed to put more work into finding out where to go and how to get there.  Roads were windier, had more hazards, and were sometimes closed altogether (I’m really lucky Mr. Owl was there to drive). Still, the forest and its landmarks, like Iron Creek Falls, were beautiful, even though they were quite rugged. While Mt. St. Helens was technically in the area, the haze from the wildfires all but obscured it. 
Also, before I forget: the day before we saw a lot of campaign road signs, including several that read “Vote Fortunato.” None of them included the phrase “For the love of God, Montresor!” anywhere, which I thought was a damn shame.  
To reach Portland, we drove along the Columbia River Gorge, which marks the boundary between Oregon and Washington. There had been enough wildfire damage on the south side of the river that many trails—including those to famous waterfalls—were closed. Still, we were able to reach the Pool of the Winds and splash around at the top of the waterfall and in the ponds below. Between the Pool of the Winds and Iron Creek Falls, we saw a pheasant, more ravens(!), and a baby rabbit (which I hope was a Brush or Mountain Cottontail rabbit, and not just another Eastern Cottontail like we have at home). Both places enabled me to indulge my compulsion to put my feet in bodies of water when I am traveling. I guess it just makes me feel like I’ve really “been there”. 
We arrived in East Portland in the early evening. This place seemed to be the Brooklyn to downtown Portland’s Manhattan, or Somerville to its Cambridge. The area around our hotel was grittier and more industrial than what we would later experience on the other side of the Willamette River, but it was still pretty safe. Most of the people milling around were metal heads and goths chatting excitedly about the show they’d just seen. We ate a late dinner at one of my favorite restaurants from the whole trip, a Russian bar/restaurant called Kachinka. We were delighted to discover that an order of dumplings meant we got twenty-five or so little ones, and their Earl Grey Tea Vodka charmed me so much that I’m going to have to learn how to make it at home.    

disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)
I’m a few weeks behind on Fannish Friday because I’ve been traveling. Still, I’m going to devote this week to one thing: my love for the movie Logan Lucky (2017) (which happens to be what I watched on the plane).
Now, I like this movie’s forerunner, Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake of Ocean’s 11. The cinematography is glossy and gorgeous, the music chill, the protagonists witty and charming. One gets a brief glimpse of the main characters’ motives—Danny trying to win back his lost love, Rusty slaking his boredom, Saul completing his one last job—and one wants them to succeed because they’re clever and casinos are sleazy businesses. Still, Ocean’s 11’s pleasant, Prosecco-like fizz dissolves as quickly as the group disperses the end of the film. 
Logan Lucky takes the fun of the heist formula and gives it stakes and emotional resonance, which is why I couldn't stop thinking about it once it ended. The cast is much smaller, concentrating on the "cursed" Logan family, which gives it a mythos. Jimmy (Channing Tatum) is a recently-laid off construction worker whose dreams of football stardom were dashed by a leg injury. Jimmy’s a loving, attentive dad, and fears losing time with his daughter Sadie once his ex-wife and her second husband move from West Virginia to North Carolina. (It seems his prior criminal conviction from a failed bank robbery would prevent him from crossing state lines to see Sadie.) He needs cash to pay a lawyer to make sure he can still see her. Jimmy’s brother Clyde (Adam Driver) wound up in juvenile detention for participating in his brother's robbery attempt and later lost most of his arm fighting in Iraq. Clyde’s hobby is tracking down legends of the Logan family curse, which doesn’t seem difficult as most local folks seem quick to remind them of their family’s misfortunes. All of this—their financial woes, their tarnished family reputation, Jimmy’s fear of being separated from Sadie—drive the need for the robbery, for which Jimmy targets the Charlotte Motor Speedway. They’re joined by their sister Mellie, a hairdresser/speed demon who seems to have escaped the Logan family curse, and another trio of ne’er-do-well siblings led by the explosives expert criminal Joe Bang (Daniel Craig). 
The heist itself is quite fun, and Soderbergh and the writing team put twists on the Oceans 11 sequence of events to build toward the robbery. While Danny Ocean projects fancy blueprints, Jimmy cobbles together a model of the underground parts of the racetrack using old pizza boxes and toilet paper tubes. While Danny Ocean and his crew construct a replica vault and dazzle their way into the Bellagio with Saul's Eastern European aristocrat act, Joe Bang stages a prison riot to escape for the robbery and cobbles together explosives with gummy bears, bleach pens, and fake salt. Ocean and his gang plan to rob the three Vegas casinos on the night when they’ll have their maximum cash holdings, the Logan's pick a middling day when their robbery might go unnoticed, but then their plans are up-ended and they must rob the racetrack during the biggest race of the year. 

Logan Lucky really distinguishes itself from Ocean's 11 in the heart it shows, particularly in the second act. Jimmy races from the raceway robbery to see Sadie perform at a pageant. When she unexpectedly sings "Take Me Home, Country Roads," his favorite song, he seems to have a crisis of conscience about all that he's stolen, which is something the audience never sees the Ocean's cast contend with. The next day, the news reports show a truck with a flatbed full of money abandoned at a convenience store, presumed from the raceway robbery, earning the heist the moniker "Oceans 7-11." The bonds between Jimmy and his siblings—who have been fiercely protective of one another through the whole film—threaten to unravel at this betrayal. This new challenge gives the film its staying power, and makes the dénouement that much sweeter. The film ends with a bit of open-ended tension, which creates opportunities for a sequel. I have mixed feelings about that possibility; while it would be fun to spend more time with the Logans, I would hate to see these characters and their world become a gimmick. 


disgruntled_owl: annoyed owl (Default)

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