28 November 2003

Still having trouble seeing through the tears of laughter: Kitty Video. (Thanks, Sue)

22 November 2003

Oh, yeah. Draft one of The Secret Common-Wealth is 52,370 words. For while I thought it might be closer to 70,000. Now I've got to convince my increasingly decrepit laser printer to print it out. Double-spaced, it'll be close to 200 manuscript pages. It's a little novel, but not as little as my last one.
Gee, now that I've finished my novel for NaNoWriMo (or the first draft, anyway), I'm kind of at a loss. I don't really feel ready to start anything new, and I'm not quite in the right frame of mind to work on any of the things I left unfinished at the beginning of November. But I don't want to lose to 2,000-words-a-day momentum, either. I'm thinking I might change direction completely, and work on some comics.

19 November 2003

50, 301 words and one more big scene to write. For a while I thought it would be longer, but then things started moving much more quickly. Hooray!
It occurred to me last night, when I should have been sleeping (which is when things usually occur to me), that this novel that I've almost got a first draft of fits right in the tradition of stories about fairies requiring human women for success in childbearing. A while back, I read a novel called Fairy Tale by Alice Thomas Ellis. It was quite good, and I must remember to find a copy. Anyway, in the novel, the Welsh fairies need human women to bear their children. That reminded me of Charles deLint's The Wild Wood (still, for some reason, my favourite deLint novel), where the main character agrees to bear a child for the fairy folk, because their own queen is incapable. I was thinking of writing an essay on that theme in literature -- the need for a human woman to bear fairy children. In folklore, it more usually shows up as the fairies needing a human midwife, or sometimes a human wet-nurse (which is why women are in great danger of being taken right after childbirth). So I've been keeping a list of all the books I can recall that have those motifs as well. And now I've gone and written one. I guess it's an idea that's been haunting me. I wonder how many stories it'll turn up in. I still haven't exorcised shapechangers from my creative psyche. I think nearly every story I've written since I finished my Master's has shapechangers in it. I was about to say "Except for The Secret Common-Wealth, " but then I remembered the fox woman Maddy saw in the woods near her old house. Yikes! I thought writing was supposed to work out the haunting things, not keep bringing them up over and over. Oh well. It's fun to see what permutation comes out each time I start a new story. At least the main character isn't a shapechanger this time.
Just for fun, I did a numerological profile for Maddy (at Facade).
Hmmm. Almost ten o'clock and I haven't written anything yet. Actually this is becoming disturbingly normal.

18 November 2003

44, 757 words, and today I discovered that Dubhghall plays the tin whistle and the Pied Piper was a fairy. Maybe.

17 November 2003

The end is nigh. Really, really nigh. I'm not so sure any more that I'll have much over 50, 000 words. My characters are heading into the grand finale, whether I'm ready for it or not.

16 November 2003

I find it comforting that these things happen even to Neil Gaiman:
I had an utter fanboy moment when a faintly familiar-looking person came over at the end and introduced himself as Philip Pullman, and I just started gushing foolishly, and he was kind enough not to notice.
Hah! Just cracked 40, 000 words. I guess I can justify buying myself the t-shirt now.
What if Neil Gaiman, Tim Burton and Robert Smith were flatmates? Read Nice Hair, and find out. Amazing what turns up when you go through old bookmarks. And if you like that one, try Jinks by the same writer/artist.

15 November 2003

Typed my brains out last night, due to the silly notion that I should write as much this week as I did last. So I'm up to 37, 754 words and closing in on the goal. The end of the story is approaching, too, despite some weird and unexpected detours.
34, 829 words and the bloody fairies continue to take over. Meanwhile Donald Macleod is not-so-quietly going insane (or having a breakdown, anyway), and I think there may be too many characters who don't do very much.
Gah! I am losing the ability to type and spell at the same time. Sometimes the sequences of letters that come out bear only the slightest resemblance to the word that was in my brain.

14 November 2003

Today Maddy went into Doon Hill, which wasn't supposed to happen. But there was her mother waiting, so in she went. I don't know if the scene will stay or get cut, though it seems to have revealed Dubhghall as an ally. That's kind of nice, because I rather like him. You just can't tell with fairies, though. A lot of my adults are turning out to be very much less together than I originally thought they were, which means that Maddy has to really keep her head. And how do you keep your head when you're getting the grand tour of a fairy hall? I don't know, but maybe I will by the time she makes her way out again.

The fairies were only going to play a minor role in this story. It's supposed to be about kids and parents and coping with death. Now I think the Good People are taking over.

13 November 2003

Unreason's Seductive Charms:
We may speak admiringly of Greek rationality, of the Age of Reason, and of the Enlightenment, yet it is far easier to find great writing -- and even, paradoxically, serious thinking -- that extols unreason, irrationality, and the beauty of "following one's heart" rather than one's head.

Very thought-provoking essay by David P. Barash (link via Frankenstein Journal.)

12 November 2003

Wondering suddenly why the mothers of two of my main characters have the same name as my mother (and me), I looked it up:

Usual English form of
Maria, which was the Latin form of the New Testament Greek names Mariam or Maria (the spellings are interchangeable), which were from the Hebrew name Miriam. The meaning is not known for certain, but there are several theories including "sea of bitterness", "rebelliousness", and "wished for child". However it was most likely originally an Egyptian name, perhaps derived in part from mry "beloved" or mr "love". This is the name of several New Testament characters, most importantly Mary the virgin mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene. Two queens of England have had this name, as well as a Queen of Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots.

I am no closer to figuring out this odd little occurence (keeping in mind that coincidences rarely happen in writing).

So then I looked up Madeline (it's on the same page as Mary), which is a variant of Madeleine, which is the French form of Magdalene (meaning "of Magdala"), which brings me right back to Mary. How bizarre.

Morag, which was supposed to have been Maddy's name, is the diminutive form of Mór, meaning "great."

One could argue that it's a religious thing, I suppose. Mary, Mother of God (and therefore mother of us all), and all that. But first one would have to suppose that I am religious. And, supposing that, one would be wrong.
It just occurs to me that John O'Brien (from the poorly-titled Taken, 1941) also had a mother named Mary. And my mother's name is Mary. (Then again, my own first name is Mary, so perhaps I'm just mothering my characters.)
Apparently Mary Fletcher Macleod doesn't want to be rescued from the fairies, and doesn't much miss her husband. This is probably good, for me anyway, because it makes things harder for Maddy. That, in turn, means it will take longer to come to a resolution (= more words), and it means more tension (= more interesting for the reader). Still, I feel kind of bad that I couldn't make Mary Fletcher want to be rescued so Maddy's happily-ever-after dreams could be realized. But that would be abusing my authorial power. Characters get very annoyed when you do that. (And thus is confirmed, for the non-writer, the basic insanity of writers, who behave as if their characters are real.)

11 November 2003

Davis Sexton writes a great article on bad writing and bad writers. (Link via Bookslut.) Here's a sample:
Nobody would attempt to give a piano recital without having first learned to play the piano. People realise they cannot make a satisfactory chest of drawers, or even a serviceable cheeseboard, without having acquired some skill in carpentry. They know they are not competent as dentists or plumbers, if they have not had any experience or training. Yet they think that they can write a novel by some natural gift.

Somebody please tell me if I'm a bad writer, okay?

10 November 2003

Just passed the halfway point on The Secret Commonwealth.

No, actually I just passed the halfway point to the NaNoWriMo goal of 50, 000 words. I suspect Secret's going to be somewhat longer. But not so much longer that I can't still finish the draft in November.

Just finished my latest multi-part Beginner's Guide (or should that be Beginners' Guide?) for the Creative Writing for Teens site at About.com: Writing Creative Non-Fiction. Bits of it I like, and bits I'm not so sure about. And, damn, it's hard to explain something that's defined by a negative. You end up talking about what it isn't instead of what it is.
23, 998 words.
I want this sword.
If only it weren't so expensive, I'd have me a subscription to 3rd Stone magazine. It's all about archaeology, folklore and myth. A little crackpotty, maybe, but that only makes it more fun.

09 November 2003

This morning's discovery: very, very cool masks. (Link via Neil Gaiman, of course.)
Oh yeah, and a new character called Dubhghall showed up unannounced. I looked up Dubhghall on Behind the Name, and it turns out to mean "dark stranger," which is very eerily appropriate. I love it when things like that happen.

Yesterday it was finding out that the fairies had a perfectly good reason to kidnap Maddy's mother -- I was a little worried about motivation. Fairies, apparently, are always on the lookout for a good wetnurse, and women who've just given birth are very good at that. I knew this, but I'd forgotten. Guess my subconscious remembered. So when I read in The Enchantment of the Trossachs that it is "a wide-spread folk myth, in which a woman who has given birth to a child is spirited away by the fairies in order to nurture a fairy infant," I thought, "Of course. How silly of me to have worried." Even the fairies in my novel know what they're doing, quite without my help.

Phew! Busy day. Went into Langford with Sue to deliver the niece and nephew to their dad's, went grocery shopping, had a big roast beef dinner with relatives on the occasion of some more relatives being in town . . . Wrote 2, 357 words. Must sleep very, very soon (too much wine at dinner makes Niko a sleepy girl).

08 November 2003

18, 770 words. And now I'm going to bed.
It may well be a deep-seated awareness that even matters of Faerie, being less disturbing than those of nuclear physics, tend to provide a modicum of balance and sanity in an age that has already demonstrated, pretty conclusively, its ability to obliterate itself.
That's Alisdair Alpin MacGregor, from Land of the Mountain and the Flood (1965), which quote I found in Louis Stott's The Enchantment of the Trossachs ("published for the tercentenary of the spiriting away of Robert Kirk," 1992).

07 November 2003

16, 262 words and 4, 262 words ahead of schedule. Yee haw!

06 November 2003

Mad-cloud, Mac-leod,
Sitting on a stump,
Wants to stop the ocean
From turning to a dump.

What's she gonna do about it?
What's she gonna do?
She'll try to tell the dol-phins
To blame it all on you.

I only used the first two lines of that one in the novel, but it didn't seem right to leave it unfinished.
In an interview (sort of) at Slashdot, Neil Gaiman says:

There was a Sandman story I wanted to write, which would have been a heartbreaker, and would have been about the dreams and hopes of an unborn baby, who was, for whatever reason, never going to be born. I didn't write it because I could imagine it being thrust in front of some pregnant teenager who didn't want to be pregnant to make her change her mind about what she was going to do.

I'm thinking Gaiman knows much about the power of story and the reponsibilty of those who wield that power. (Though I can't help but lament that I'll never get to read what would probably be a very moving story by one of my favourite writers.)
I was going to mention it this morning, that today is Guy Fawkes Day and Bonfire Night.

Some of the English have been known to wonder whether they are celebrating Fawkes' execution or honoring his attempt to do away with the government.

I wondered that myself. We were going to have a bonfire tonight to incinerate all the stuff that didn't get lit in our Halloween bonfire, and toast marshmallows (which we forgot to buy for our Halloween bonfire). But nobody seems to be very organized, plus Angel's on, and once again, we forgot to buy marshmallows. So Guy Fawkes won't be burned in effigy at our house.

05 November 2003

Another tool of procrastination (but I'm at 11,482 words and counting): Clay Kitten Shooting. (Thanks a lot, Sue!)
Here's a very funny Neil Gaiman interview from Sequential Tart.
Yay! I just passed 10, 000 words, a whole day ahead of schedule.
Fun with rhyme! I made up a few poems for The Secret Common-Wealth.

Mad, Mad Madeline, talks to leafy trees.
Mad little Maddy’s got grass stains on her knees.
What’ll Maddy do when the men-in-white come
To take her to the mad house like her daddy should have done?

My main character was considered rather odd as a child. She saw fairies and ghosts and things.

There once was a girl dressed in green,
Said she saw things that never were seen,
Said, "That isn’t a tree,
That’s a fine, grand la-dy,
And you just can’t see what I mean."

I'm a lousy poet, pretty much, but these were fun.
I mentioned to my uncle the other day that I was suffering the second cold in as many months. He said -- joking -- something about Samson and that it was because I'd cut my hair. Hmmm.

04 November 2003

Here are a few very cool sites I found while doing research for my novel (6,364 words and counting), in no particular order except that's how they're listed in my bookmarks:

  • Mysterious Britain -- "a guide to the legends, folklore, myths and mysterious places of Britain"
  • Myth and Legend of Britain -- "Witches and warriors, ghosts and giants, dragons, demons and kings have shaped the landscape and captured the imaginations of people throughout history."
  • Mysterious Britain (another one) -- "Looking for something different? Want a fright? Want to hunt for sea monsters? Maybe Chostbusting?"
  • Historic UK -- "THE history and heritage accommodation guide to England, Scotland and Wales"
  • First Foot -- "the website dedicated to exposing the myth, the magic, the beliefs and the baloney, the history, mystery and blistery feet that make up every walk of Scottish life"
  • Caledonian Castles -- "The Web's largest collection of Scotland's castles, tower houses and fortified houses"
  • 03 November 2003

    If only my cat got along with other members of her species, I'd have a lovely blue-eyed white kitten with six toes on her front feet. Alas, Bast hates other cats. Here's a fascinating page on polydactyl cats. (Link via Neil Gaiman.)
    Hee hee: "The End of the Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe's cat.

    02 November 2003

    Here's a list of things to celebrate in November, if you're looking for an excuse to party. I'm assuming they know November only has 30 days.
    My inner child is ten today:

    The adult world is pretty irrelevant to me. Whether I'm off on my bicycle (or pony) exploring, lost in a good book, or giggling with my best friend, I live in a world apart, one full of adventure and wonder and other stuff adults don't understand.

    How Old is Yours? (See how good I am at procrastinating? And still I've almost reached my word count for the day.)
    Now I'm at 3,684 words (I feel like I'm writing a boring high school essay and counting every word -- "Only 46,316 to go"). Oh well, it is kind of encouraging to see how far I get each day. To know it's actually possible to do this thing, even if it isn't going to be the best I ever wrote (and it won't be, but that's what revision is for). Here's a little snippet:

    "The folklore book was really hard to read. All academic. I finally ended up skipping the partsthat the author had written, and just reading the stories he quoted. They were neat. Like fantasy stories, only more real because people really believed they happened. The fairy book turned out to be pretty silly. It was all little people with butterfly wings and some totally fake-looking photographs. But it was the only one they had at the library. I found it next to the Sherlock Holmes books."

    "That must've been
    The Coming of the Fairies. Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote Sherlock Holmes, wrote that one, too. He was a little odd."

    "Did Mum have that book?" Maddy set down her fork. She couldn't eat the overcooked green beans, but the lamb and potatoes and rutabaga had been delicious and filling.

    Dad looked down at his plate, as if he were trying to decide whether or not to tackle his own beans. He poked at them, then said, "I think she did. She had a lot of books. '‘Plenty of goodness and just as much crap,' she used to say."

    It's a bit of conversation between my main character, 14-year-old Madeline Fletcher Macleod (Maddy) and her dad (who doesn't have a name yet), about her mother (Mary Macleod, nee Fletcher), who died giving birth to Maddy. They've just moved back to Scotland, where Maddy was born (they left as soon as she was old enough to travel). Anyway, back to it.
    Now here's something truly scary: Mystery Park.
    The park is based on the “mysteries of the world” and the extraterrestrial theories of Swiss author Erich von Däniken.
    Woo hoo! The Secret Common-Wealth just hit 2,399 words, which is 399 more than my daily goal of 2,000. Yay, me!

    01 November 2003

    One person is already past 7,500 words. Guess they're trying to finish theirs in a week.
    First go and the novel's at 1,441 words. If I use every one of the 30 days of November to write, I need at least 1,667 words per day, so I've got 226 words to go for today. 'Course, I'd like to be done early . . . Oh yeah, it's called The Secret Common-Wealth. Betcha can't figure out what it's about (hah).
    From the NaNoWriMo Weekly Pep Talk:
    Writing a novel, unlike cow-tying, is not something you really ever know for sure you can do. It's one of those frighteningly unpredictable activities like lawn darts and breakdancing that people with all their faculties tend to shy away from. Because, as adults, we don't usually gravitate towards endeavors that make us feel like complete idiots.
    Wouldn't ya know it, it's the first day of NaNoWriMo and my second cold in two months just reached the drowning-in-my-own-fluids stage. Yuck. At least I can sit in bed with my laptop (the Internet cable even reaches in here).