Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving, Karalius Style

Oh yes, I'm really sitting at my netbook right now, writing a blog post on a holiday. Other people, I suppose, are watching TV and sharing stories with relatives, while the children hide under turkey-patterned tablecloths. And someone's already breaking into the dessert.

Not me. Nope.

The thing about moving to Florida is that you say goodbye to such legendary get-togethers. No more paper plates piled with slices of pies that you have no intention of eating. No more dozing, lulled to sleep by a combination of turkey and your uncle's story about the great-grandparents you never met. I've been living in Florida for over ten years, and while those memories of huge Thanksgiving dinners are fondly remembered - that's it. They're memories.

With all my relatives up north and my brother living 4+ hours away, this Thanksgiving would have been a quiet one... if me and the 'rents didn't decide to continue our Thanksgiving tradition of going to Disney.

Please. Don't pity me.

This year, we went to the Magic Kingdom. Upon filing out of the monorail, I got the sense that there weren't many Florida natives in the park today. People snatched maps from the park entrance, pouring over the times tables and huddling to make plans. Strollers nipped the backs of my heels. A herd of cheerleaders here for competition shivered in their uniforms. I heard the names of many cities, all over the U.S, being whispered like secrets. Thanksgiving Day is always crowded, but this year's atmosphere was caked with confusion. No one knew where they were going. In a way, that makes traversing the park more fun.

While on line for The Little Mermaid ride in New Fantasyland, I admired the dresses that the girls in front of me were wearing. The one dressed up as Aurora had glittery silhouettes of Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather on the hemline; Cinderella's dress had similar silhouettes of the carriage and Gus and Jaq. Who knew that such detail could go into those dresses? It's not something I normally notice, but with the lines as long as they were today, staring at the rock formations only remains interesting for so long.

Although we didn't have much luck with rides, the park was full of music. The dance party in Tomorrowland was in full swing. Goofy, Chip, and Dale start out on stage, but eventually join the crowd of kids and parents as they dance along to the DJ's catchy tunes. the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party parade dogged us whenever we went back to Main Street. With such wonderfully cold weather, everyone seemed full of energy - both the performers and the crowd. I even saw a few fathers take off running with their strollers full of squealing kids (something that NEVER happens in 90 degree weather here).

After lunch, we decided to walk over the the Contemporary Resort. And that's where I had this sugar cookie:

Special for the holiday season, this cookie is part of a sweet series of treats inspired by the yearly gingerbread houses ("houses" being a loose term. You never know what to expect) that some of the resorts participate in. I'm not really a gingerbread person, so I decided on the sugar cookie. What sold me on it? Mary Blair's characters sitting on the monorail was enough to convince me. 

The biggest surprise today by far was spotting Captain Rex as a new Vinylmation figurine on Main Street. For those of you who don't know, Captain Rex used to be the pilot of Star Tours, the Stars Wars simulator ride that took you all over the galaxy. Rex's optimism, combined with poor piloting skills, added character to the ride, making it one of my favorites growing up. But after Disney bought the Stars Wars franchise and rebuilt the ride, Captain Rex had been ousted and reduced haunting the cargo bay, doomed to echo his lines for all eternity. It's depressing, really. 

And no, the knowledge that due to the new timeline, Rex has not yet become the pilot I remember (and is currently defective), does not make me feel better. 

... I just had a Doctor Who moment. Woah. 

So anyway, as you can imagine, seeing him again in all his plastic splendor was awesome. Actually owning a Rex figurine? Near impossible. I'd either have to be very lucky or empty my bank account buying all the mystery boxes. 

Oh well. At least I have a picture. I'm thankful for that. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

That Time I Was Stuck in Revision Hell

Stop the presses: I’m finally writing about writing. It’s been such a long time.

It’s the most important month of the year for writers around the world because, as soon as November 1st hits, the month dons its alter ego mask and cape and becomes… NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month is for writers big and small, new and old, who rise to challenge of writing a full-length manuscript within 30 days. In order to do this, we writers forgo mundane activities like doing laundry, eating, and taking the dog for a walk.

Yes, this happens every year.

The official goal is 50,000 words – the minimum length of a complete novel manuscript. In my experience, my novels usually go way over 50k, but most novels do. Reaching that 50k is a true achievement anyway. Like winning a marathon. Only in this case, the gold medal comes in the form of your own hand patting you on the back. Or on December 1st, having your mother yell at you to finally start dumping your stinky clothes in the washer.

Although I’ve written my fair share of words each NaNoWriMo, I haven’t “won” yet. This is because I had been in graduate school the past three years where November is one of the most hectic months. Academia is always on the verge of chaos at this time. As a grad teaching assistant, grading and planning classes became more important than ever. Students burst into your office, demanding that their tardy sins be forgiven and that the A- they got on their last paper should bumped up to an A.

I had my own graduate classes to worry about too. 20-page annotated bibliographies don’t write themselves. My short stories had to go through the writing workshop mill, again and again, only to always come out in pieces. During my last year, when the epic movie that is Wreck-It Ralph was released, I adopted Felix’s “I can fix it!” mantra while staying up late at night, taking turns critiquing my students short stories and revising my own.

Somehow, I managed to update my piddling word count at NaNoWriMo’s hub every now and then. And each year, I felt proud with what I had accomplished.

Fast-forward to now.

Kind of. Because before I tell you what my current NaNoWriMo project is, I should probably explain my mental state leading up to November. Because I’m not working on Boys & Bees this month… despite the bees that literally plague the palm tree outside my front door. I know they’re looking for updates (or the fruit growing on the tree. Or both). I feel like a have the mafia, in bee-form, staking out my house until I finish that novel. Gah. Nevertheless.

Let me explain you a thing. Remember the novella I wrote and posted on Figment back in May – Stella Over the Fireplace? WELL, I hadn’t written anything new since then. That’s almost four and a half months of no new writing. What was I doing?

Revision. REVISON (it needed to be in caps).

After taking Stella down and submitting it, I found out that two publishers were having open door submission periods… around the same time. For those who don’t know, open door submissions means that a writer can, for a period of time, submit an unsolicited manuscript to a publisher for consideration. This is a rare, wonderful thing since most publishers only look at manuscripts sent to them by literary agents (hence, the term solicited manuscripts). Since my hunt for an agent continues on with all the endless mountain-climbing and orc-battling of The Hobbit, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the open doors. But I had to polish my manuscripts one last time.

And then I quickly sunk into the dreaded pit of revision hell.

Now, normally “revision hell” means that a writer is stuck in an endless cycle of revising the same manuscript over and over again. Yet for me, it was more like being constantly handed another manuscript to revise after the previous one was finished. It began with Tread Softly. I wrote the final chapter that I’d been putting off writing for a while. And then I shouted “I’m gonna wreck it!” and tore down the first three chapters, only to rebuild them into a shiny, much improved version. Then came tweaking and reworking the rest of it. After tying Tread Softly’s shoes and sending it on the bus with the other manuscripts, I turned by attention again to Birdcage Girl.

The opening chapter still didn’t sit right with me. And, between a few revisions on Pocket Forest, I realized that Birdcage Girl would probably need another overall round of polishing. That’s the thing with writers. We keep changing. We keep improving. Which means that as long as your manuscript is in your hands alone, you’ll always find something to revise. I shut off the lights, closed my bedroom door, and listened to the Pushing Daisies soundtrack until inspiration flew at me, saying, “Yes, this is the beginning. Right here. You were close, but this is better.”

Yay for soundtracks!

And so, I continued revising BG again too. When I had spare time at work, I edited and reworked sentences. When I came home, I stared again at another mess of words on the screen and revised some more. By the time I sent BG out again (I buttoned its sweater and waved as it boarded a plane), I was left wondering what else I had to fix / change / revise.

But all that was left was the blank page. A new story. And I was scared for the first time.

Imagine spending months on end doing nothing but changing words already written on paper. So when someone hands you a blank sheet and says, “create,” it’s not exactly a shining moment of freedom. Trying to write something new was like waking up from surgery without the use of my hands. Sentences dripped from my fingers, dull and jumbled, and I could hardly stand looking at what I wrote. I deleted almost everything I tried to write.

Me on a good day.

The thought of continuing Boys & Bees was very appealing for many reasons, but I knew that I’d want to revise all 30k before writing new chapters. Which was bad. Because I’d only be delaying the fact that I had to face the blank page again.

I had to force myself to use the other side of my writer-brain again. Turn off the internal editor. Awaken the dreamer. Nothing could shake me out of this stupor like starting a new project:

This title is shiny.
Planning WCFiL was fun because this new set characters are just… something. Really. They have interesting backstories, a stake in the novel’s main conflict, and when they talk to each other, I hardly know what to expect. Even though my writing is always fiction, the topic of this project is near and dear to my heart. I feel like, while I’ve been gaining back my writing-creating skills, I’ve also been exploring my own feelings about the topic. Expect magic, heartache, humor, and goose chases.

Say hello to a town that believes in the powers of love charms. The people of this town trust in their fortunes so fervently that they never question the mysterious woman handing them out… and how she can possibly know everyone’s romantic fate. A few hapless teens band together to form a rebellion bent on overthrowing the woman, but in the end, whose side is Love on?

However, like all of my projects these days, this one has a deadline too. So I don’t think I’ll be able to share it on Figment without taking it down quickly after. Hang on tight because you’ll be able to read this story soon, one way or another *cue evil laugh*

So this is NaNoWriMo... and I'm going to kick butt this year. I've got my headphones, Charlotte Bronte muscle tee, cup of earl grey. Today's NaNoThon is going to rock.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hurricane Who 2013

You need to meet my little brother.

... not sure... which one?

Saying he's little is ironic. Although I'm the older sister, he somehow grew as tall as a tree (at least, from my height), but I assure you, he's the baby of the family. Now that I've thoroughly embarrassed him, I'll tell you how it is he became a special guest at this year's Hurricane Who convention.

Hurricane Who is a Doctor Who convention in Orlando known for drawing in passionate fans and engaging speakers; the convention's small size makes for a cozy atmosphere with plenty of Tardis blues and Dalek reds on parade. This was a new experience for me because I'm used to going to large conventions with stadium-sized vendor spaces, endless panels, and very long lines for overpriced food, so the slow, yet charming energy of Hurricane Who grew on me the longer I was there.

Bill's projects in card form
My brother is an amateur voice actor, though it's hard to call him an amateur when he worked on so many projects. You'll find a list of his projects on his website, here. Bill voices mostly cartoon characters, whether it's playing a beloved character in a fandub or embarking on an original project. Sometimes it surprises me that he fell into voice acting - not because he can't do it (I grew up being entertained by his uncanny ability to mimic my favorite cartoon characters), but because I can't stand the sound of my own recorded voice, haha. I'll stick with the written word, thank you.

I went to one of the panels that Bill was on all about voice acting. So, despite my dear sweet brother's lack of Doctor Who knowledge (he's still stuck on Martha's season...), the audience was eager to pick his brain about voice acting. With him was Ashlee Webster, another budding voice actress who focuses on voicing for audio books and radio dramas. Also, there was a dalek. She had good questions.

Growing up, if you wanted to be a voice actor, you were told that you had to live in one of the major cities, line up outside for auditions, and cross your fingers that you, out of hundreds of applicants, would get your coveted role. But with all this new technology, becoming a voice actor isn't reserved for only those who live in a convenient location. As Bill said, you need to invest in a good mike, some fabric to sound-proof your office, and start perusing a handful of websites and forums where writers / animators / directors are looking for voice actors. Granted, they are usually tech-genius high schoolers and college kids, but it's a good way to start.

Paul and Bill, up to no good

Later on, Bill appeared again with Ghost Hunter's International star, Paul Bradford. I mean, you know, before he got into voice acting, my brother was a ghost hunter. But that's a story for another day (oh boy). So Bill and Paul shared a table during the convention and they told ghost hunting stories during their panel (or rather, Paul shared the stories. Bill just provided witty quips, since he wasn't part of GHI). 

I also attended a panel called "It's the Coat." I scratched my head over that title when I read the schedule, but it makes sense. After all, Doctor Who has some of the best coats in television history.

The entire panel was a celebration of costuming in Doctor Who, starting with the panelists calling up every Doctor cosplayer to the front of the room. I was disappointed that the topic of bow ties never came up in conversation, but it was fascinating to hear about monster makeup from the classic episodes and a theory about how the Doctor's coat pockets must be linked with the Tardis (and are, therefore, endless).

No, that guy isn't David Tennant


How could I even dream of writing about this convention without sharing some fantastic cosplayers and sights? Strangely enough, while there were a lot of doctors, I think I've seen more of them at a typical convention. However, I saw many Amy Ponds (her clothing is pretty easy), River Songs, a few impressive weeping angels, and a lot of little kids who had great costumes. Paul Bradford, a big Whovian, even donned his Ood costume - and ran into a little boy who had also dressed up as an ood. 

Paul Bradford (left) with little Ben Ben Defrin and Paul Defrin

The funny thing is, as soon as the boy took off his mask, he got scared of Paul and started backing away with a nervous smile on his face. So cute. 

Vincent Van Gogh, a little Cyberman, and a plastic, remote-controlled Dalek
If you haven't seen the episode of Doctor Who with Vincent Van Gogh, you should do that right now.


Okay. You're back, right? 

Well, the guy who dressed up as Van Gogh had not only looked the part, but also had Van Gogh's character down pat. He came to our table spewing a rambling monologue about "hearing colors," which had us almost in tears, remembering how the particular episode ends. But you know all about that, right? Because you just watched the episode.

There was a little Cyberman, pictured in the middle. I don't know how he lasted so long in that costume, but it was brilliant. The last photo isn't cosplay (after all, the lady dressed as a dalek is already pictured at my brother's panel). However, this remote-controlled dalek was the most popular item of the day. And each time someone bought one, it was immediately opened and used. I had to watch where I was stepping in case I bumped into one of the daleks.

Other Stuff

Bill was nice enough to lend me a corner of his table, so I rolled out my Pocket Forest gear. Selling an e-book is a difficult feat when you can't literally hand a copy to a potential reader. So. I made handouts in the hopes that if anyone was interesting in reading Pocket Forest, they had only to hang on to the paper. And it's pretty. It was a fun experiment, but I feel like it would have gone better if I included something on the handout about how I think that Rose Tyler is epic or something. Because it's true.

I also decided to dress up for Hurricane Who - kind of hard to resist when Hot Topic came out with such a cool collection of costumes for Halloween. The Tardis dress I settled on was comfortable and fun to wear and I certainly wasn't the only girl at the convention wearing one.

The entire weekend was packed with Doctor Who-induced adventure. I'm still fairly new to the fandom, having started with the ninth doctor with no classics under my belt, but I feel like watching Doctor Who has been a writing-changing experience for me. I learned so much about character development, plot twists, logic that's not so logical, and making readers laugh and cry and laugh again. As a writer, this show has a lot to teach. I'm proud to say I love Doctor Who

So on I trek, catching up with Season 7, Part 2, and wondering what Moffat and the crew have in store for future seasons. Oh, and wearing my Tardis dress out beyond the borders of the convention, haha.

... like Jellyrolls.