Posts Tagged ‘“Cassandra”’

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So. I thought that I’d talk to you guys some about what’s been going on with my book.

Or, rather, books. Because I have two of them now.

That’s right. I’m working the first draft of a second novel, entitled Daughter of Flame, which is the book that I mentioned in this post. It’s a YA fantasy novel set in sort of semi-quasi-modern times. It’s basically the story of Fiona Lyesmith (American Gods reference intentional), who is the half-mortal bastard daughter of Loki. It’s got a lot of stuff in it. I’m only at the beginning now, but I’m planning on including lots and lots of things: Kitsune assassins, and elves, and dungeon crawling, and chaos magick, and the Fates, and flying goats, and all kinds of other awesome stuff.

And there’s music. Fiona Lyesmith is a singer, and music is a key part of her life, just like writing is a key part of mine. So I’ve sprinkled liberal references to Fiona’s favorite bands throughout the book, which include some of my favorites as well. Of course, I’m not a musician, so I’m mostly making stuff up here, but in the case of fiction, verisimilitude beats realism nearly every time. Besides, I feel like all creative people have the same feelings about their work, whether they’re writers or musicians, game designers or bakers.

In any case: Daughter of Flame is coming along. I’m still at the stage where I’m getting to know the characters, but I like them, and I’m getting to know them better. The novel is YA (young adult), so I have to have a different mindset when it comes to writing it. I’m not as comfortable with including explicit violence or sexual content as I am with some of my other work. In addition, I can’t swear, which feels kind of uncomfortable. I’m a sailor-mouth. I prefer it when I’m able to cuss. The fact that I’m pretty much reduced to using “crap” and “damn” when it comes to swearing feels like a weight around my neck sometimes. (Even so, I’ve kind of fallen in love with the phrase “Jesus Christ on a stick!” which my characters use, and which I’ve found myself saying sometimes.

I’ve also come to realize that Daughter of Flame is sharply different from most YA these days, which I dignify with the term “smoldering magical teen boy with abs abstinence porn”, or SMTBWAAP, for short. (It’s pronounced sumtubwhap, so you know.) You know the kind. It’s the kind of chaste paranormal high-school romance that has been burning up the charts because of Twilight and its ilk. Daughter of Flame is not that. It’s kind of the opposite. It’s heavy-action, slightly intellectual mythological portal fantasy with a kickass soundtrack. I could never imagine Fiona Lyesmith listening to Linkin Park, Maroon 5, or Justin Bieber. She likes to rock out to Lacuna Coil blasting a hole through her eardrums. If she met Justin Bieber, she’d probably pants him.

So, yes. Good music, Norse gods, and cool characters: that’s how I think of Daughter of Flame.

As for Baby #1? It’s coming along nicely. I’ve written six chapters of Draft 2, with a total wordcount of around 25,000 words (basically, this means that it’s a fifth of the length of d1). I’m not looking forward to the massive cuts that I’m going to have to make. I’m probably going to have to get rid of around 50,000 words before I sent Lotus out to agents and publishers. Line edits won’t be enough. I’m going to have to cut whole scenes. Which is bad, because I love what I’ve written. I love the characters and the world that I’ve created. It’s going to be hard to lose some of that.

Oh well. I can put some of the deleted scenes up on Axolotl Ceviche when that happens. (By the way, this summer I’m probably going to migrate everything over to axolotlceviche.com, which I own. Just a heads up.) There’s a lot of work to be done before Lotus is going to be of publication quality, but I can get it done. Finishing d1 has given me a huge burst of confidence when it comes to writing.

Speaking of which: Remember “Cassandra”, that story I wrote WAY back in April of 2012? Well, it’s going to be a screenplay.

More on that soon.

~ Ian

 

 

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…and as you can see, it done had the shit revised out of it.

There’s still a long ways to go before “Cassandra” is even close to being ready to send out. But it’s moving along, and that pleases me.

Remember, kiddies: writing is actually about three-quarters rewriting. An unrevised work is an unfinished work.

~ Ian

(PS: If any of you comment complaining that I’m not using the standard copyediting symbols to rewrite “Cassandra”, well, yeah. I know. I use a hybrid system of my own devising when I’m rewriting. I find it’s actually less time-consuming to use and more effective at replacing text when I’m rewriting. Of course, the system only makes sense to me, and it’s somewhat… weird, so I don’t expect it to catch on in the outside world.)

 

I’ve been revising “Cassandra” lately, hoping to get it sent out to potential markets by the end of the year. It’s not really a time-consuming process– I basically just do it whenever I have a spare minute. A couple days ago, I had some time to kill between classes, so I thought, “Hey! Why don’t I get a coffee? It’s a cold day, and I like coffee. I see no problems with this plan!”

So I headed to the Stevenson coffee shop, got a light-roast mocha (NOM SO GOOD) and a chocolate croissant, sat down at a table, and thought, “I should work on ‘Cassandra’ right now– after all, I don’t have anything better to do.”

I got out my hard copy of Draft 1 of “Cassandra” and one of my trusty red pens (despite the fact that I am a member of the internet generation, I prefer to work with a hard copy when I’m revising– it’s easier to read when it’s on paper, and besides, I like red pens), and started working.

It was after a couple minutes that I realized that what I was doing was maybe the most hipsterish thing in the world.

I mean, come on. Writing in a coffee shop? That’s cliché, and besides, I find it doesn’t work. When I’m actually creating, as opposed to just revising, I have to have my own space. Working on a story or a novel or a script or a song or whatever in a coffee shop just smacks of begging for attention, to me. It’s more about showing the world that you’re a writer, and less about, you know, actually writing.

However, this made me think about my own writing. Why do I have the right to call myself a writer? I haven’t sold anything. I don’t make my living off of writing. Whenever I tell someone I’m a writer, I feel like I’m lying.

Huh.

That last sentence was important. I’ll repeat it.

Whenever I tell someone I’m a writer, I feel like I’m lying.

No matter how far I’ve come as a writer– and Axolotl Ceviche has actually helped a lot with my writing ability– I always feel like I’m that same middle school kid crafting his Tolkien ripoff. I don’t feel like I’m actually a writer.

So, you know how I’m going to make that feeling go away?

You can probably guess the answer.

I’m going to keep on writing.

~ Ian

PS: Like usual, the title of this post has nothing to do with the actual post, and is actually a song lyric. I watched “Once More, With Feeling” last night, and so the songs have been going through my head today.

For the last year or so, I haven’t done any writing that hasn’t been part of two categories:

1. short stories, and

2. lame bullshit that I put on my blog.

This means that the longest thing I’ve finished in the last year or so has been “Cassandra”, which is 16,867 words in length. That’s not a bad length, mind you: it’s a perfectly good length for a fairly long novella, which is what “Cassandra” happens to be. But currently, The Lotus Imperiate (my current project) is twice the length of “Cassandra”, and will easily make it to six times the length before I’m done with it.

Which makes sense too. 125,000 words (which is my target length) is a good length for a first fantasy novel. That’s about 350 pages of paperback novel.

What makes The Lotus Imperiate different from “Cassandra”, though, is the fact that I’m experiencing a lot of stress and tiredness with tLI.

I guess it makes sense. Short stories are a lot like sprints: best gotten over with as fast as possible. Writing a novel, though, feels more like I’m running a marathon. Pacing is hugely important– both in the actual story and the writing process. When I started out writing tLI, I wanted to hit 2,000 words a day, making it 10,000 words a week (I typically take weekends off from strenuous thinkings). Now I’m typically only hitting 1,000 words a day. It’s not bad, not by a long shot. But it means that in the month and a half I’ve been working on tLI, I’ve made far less than I’d hoped. I wasn’t sure if I was going to finish the book by summer’s end. Now I’m definitely not going to.

Part of my tiredness in writing this story, though, is the fact that it’s structured like a heist story. You get the idea: there are a couple of people who want to steal a MacGuffin, they assemble a team, the team encounters Difficulties®, the thing is stolen, et cetera et cetera. It’s a heist story in a fantasy world, true, and the people they’re trying to steal the MacGuffin from are gods living in a flying city. But the basic plot structure remains the same.

I’m still in the team-assembly part. I could have made it go faster, of course, but I wanted to build up the characters and their backstories/motivations before I got the team assembled. I’m still in that part at the moment, which is part of the reason that I’m bored with it. But I’ll be out of it soon. I hope. And that’s when all the action gets started: the sneaking, and the fighting, and the hiding, and the chases, building up to a Big Thing happening and then another Big Thing, where the book will end. (I’m not about to give out spoilers to my unfinished first draft of a novel, even if the only person who’s ever read it is me.) And that’s the stuff I want to get to. I’m tired of setting up the pieces. I want to get to the actual game.

Where was this post going? I don’t really know. Writing The Lotus Imperiate isn’t turning out to be the zippy fun ride that “Cassandra” was, though. And I guess I just needed to share my thoughts on the whole business. Yes, yes– this is a somewhat whiny rant. Tough. It’s my blog. I’ll say what I want.

What was I saying again?

Oh yeah.

Tired.

Carry on,

~ Ian

I finished “Cassandra” just five minutes ago.

The length of the rough draft is 16,867 words. It’s the longest thing I’ve completed for… a while now.

I’m feeling very pleased with myself at the moment.

But also tired.

And slightly hungry.

Yours,

~ Ian

One thing that I’m continually surprised at when I’m writing is how much I put myself into the story.

It’s kind of scary, actually. Let me give you an example:

In the story, “Cassandra”, there is a character called Cassandra*. Now, Cassandra shows up several times in the story, in various guises. And the main character is in love with her (it’s not exactly a love story, but romantic relationships play an important role in the story). Now, when I’m writing about Cassandra from the perspective of the main character, I’m in love with her. Totally. Passionately. I’ve been in love before; I know what it feels like. So when I’m writing about Cassandra, from the main character’s perspective, I can feel that exact same rush of chemicals in my brain that cause the sensation that makes falling in love so damn good. It isn’t like empathy at all: I am in love with Cassandra, and the main character is the puppet through which I give my love to her.

When I’m not writing, though? It’s kind of scary. I think about Cassandra and I don’t feel anything. I mean, she’s fictional. She’s not even committed to paper. I haven’t printed out “Cassandra”, so until then she just exists as characters in a .pages file.

And I look at Cassandra, and I think, WHAT THE FUCK, GIRLFRIEND? WHY DO I FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU WHEN I WRITE ABOUT YOU? I AM YOUR CREATOR! YOU ARE NOT REAL! YOU ARE A FIGMENT OF MY OWN IMAGINATION! I AM NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU– I CONTROL YOU! YOU ARE MY PUPPET, DANCING ON MY STRINGS! DANCE FOR ME, PUPPET! DANCE FOR ME!

But when I’m writing “Cassandra”, and at the same time writing Cassandra, I go into the main character’s brain. I become the main character. And the main character is in love with Cassandra. So, logically, I’m in love with her too.

cannot emphasize how batshit gorram loco this is.

But it’s what happens.

Take heed, novice writers: You don’t control the story. All you can do is hang on.

~ Ian

*The character Cassandra is not why the story is called “Cassandra”. The reason why the story and the character are both called Cassandra is the same reason, though.

There was a sudden short burst of blogging activity earlier this month, when it seemed like I had something new to say every couple of hours. Well, this week, that well has run dry. I haven’t got too much to say, really. Maybe working on “Cassandra” has made my writing gears kick into overdrive, and this means that my cup runneth over with creative fluid (ew) when I’m working on “Cassandra”. But I’ve reached a point in “Cassandra” where I’ve gotten stuck. I know how the story ends, and I know the basic path that I’m going to use to get there. But I’ve hit all the big scenes that I wanted to hit when I made a basic mental outline of the story in my head: the mud wrestling scene, and the underwater Westside Story dance fight scene,* and all the other important ones that I wanted to do. So I’m kind of at a point where the clear path is lost. And because of that, I haven’t been updating my lame blog as much. I’m sorry, to all my followers (all nine of you!).

But I’ve had a good week. So I think I’ll tell you some vignettes from the week that I’ve had:

1

After I finish with “Cassandra”, and work some on Dance of the Dragon: The Erotic Cyberpunk Re-imagining of A Song of Ice and Fire**, I’m considering working on a superhero-related story. Maybe watching some of the Avengers-related stuff online has made me want to do this. I dunno. Whatever the reason, my mind is in a superheroic place.

But there are really only two ways you can go with a superhero story and not make it suck: you can write a dark, postmodern deconstruction of the superhero genre, or you can go so far as to making the story really damn stupid– so stupid that it goes beyond parody, and becomes something brilliant. I’m talking about having a story with a superhero whose power is fart-propelled flight.

The problem with writing the first kind of superhero story is… well… it’s already been written. Alan Moore wrote it in 1985. So you can’t have two stories like that around, because the second is superfluous. You can’t write Watchmen again. It done been wrote.

So I may take the story in a ridiculous direction.

If I ever actually write it.

We’ll see.

2

I have been watching a LOT of LoadingReadyRun lately.

A LOT.

So I’ve found that I have gained a slight Canadian accent as a result.

Not enough to be completely noticeable by others. But I notice it.

So that’s a little weird.

7

It is incredibly hot outside.

I have been forced to don shorts.

never wear shorts. You know those people who wear shorts ALL THE TIME, no matter how cold out it is? Well, I’m the opposite. I love jeans. I’m a jean-loving man. So I am annoyed at the fact that I have been forced to let my hairy pale legs be exposed to the elements.

For a picture of me wearing goddamn stupid shorts, look below:

So that my existential rage at having to wear shorts can be appropriately conveyed, I have created the below picture:

And, solely for my own amusement, here I am making my Mythbuster bobbleheads make out:

Where was I…?

…Oh yeah. Vignettes.

Pickles!

I watched Serenity last night.

Now, here’s the thing about Serenity: I don’t usually cry at movies. I understand why people do, but I tend to be emotionally detached from the whole process: I don’t see the characters as people so much as storytelling elements. Or the movie is so bad that I just laugh at their misery. (Witness my reaction to most romantic comedies.)

Whenever I watch Serenity, I cry like a tiny child.

So much so that this shameful scene once occurred (last year, when I had a roommate):

INT: Room 203 in Stevenson House 1.

ROOMMATE enters as IAN is watching Serenity on his computer.

ROOMMATE: What’re you watching?

IAN: Serenity.

KAYLEE (on-screen): Wait– Wash! Where’s Wash? 

ZOE (on-screen): He didn’t make it.

IAN: *sniff*

ROOMMATE: …Are you crying?

IAN: …yes.

Anyway, I think that’s enough self-humiliation for one night. Have a wonderful evening, wherever you are, and if you’re in one of those time zones where it’s morning already, then… well…

…damn you. You messed up my outro.

~ Ian

* Note: there are no mud wrestling scenes OR underwater dance fights in “Cassandra”. But I don’t feel ready to talk about what happens in the story yet, so I am lying to you. NEVER TRUST A WORD I SAY.

** Not the project’s actual title. But I don’t want to tell you what the project’s actual title is yet. So there.

I think of stories in terms of music, a lot of the time. I listen to music as I write, and I have certain genres of music that I listen to as I write certain genres. For example, when I’m writing epic fantasy, the soundtracks to Lord of the Rings and Princess Mononoke are perfect for me. When I’m writing science fiction, I prefer more “spacey” music. Pink Floyd is one of my favorites when I’m writing SF. (Hell, it’s one of my favorites any day. There is no activity that cannot be improved by adding “Comfortably Numb” as a soundtrack.)

In any case, with “Cassandra”, the story I’m writing right now, I have a list of songs that I think of as the “soundtrack” to the story. Here’s a few of them:

Gorillaz, “El Mañana”: Melancholy, beautiful electronic music that suits me well when I’m writing about sad things– and sad things do happen in “Cassandra”.

Pink Floyd, Animals: Easily one of Pink Floyd’s less-appreciated albums. Animals, in my opinion, combines the raw emotion of The Wall with the musical innovativeness of Wish You Were Here. My favorite song on the album, “Dogs”, is about half the length of the album, and is basically twenty minutes of driving prog-rock music that builds steadily to a massive climax. The whole album is a meditation on societal structures and the human nature, which I like, and it manages to be emotionally impactful without bogging itself in bland nihilism (like The Final Cut) or melodramatic navel-gazery (like The Wall). If the only two Pink Floyd albums you own are Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, then check this out. You won’t be disappointed.

Pink Floyd, “Welcome to the Machine”: This song is from Wish You Were Here, and it’s awesome. It’s a meditation on the meaning of rockstar fame, but it’s also an experimental electronic song that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in rock. Definitely one of my favorites.

Dream Theater, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence: Why haven’t more people heard of Dream Theater? Honestly. This album is pure gold. Most of its songs are about mental illness, and the music… it’s beyond description. Seriously, James LaBrie is my favorite singer of all time, and John Petrucci would be my favorite guitarist if David Gilmour hadn’t already beat him to the position. Some of the songs on this album that feed into “Cassandra” the best are “Misunderstood”, “Disappear”, “About to Crash”, and “Solitary Shell”.

Animals as Leaders, Weightless: Animals as Leaders is a band that a friend of mine turned me on to. They’re a progressive metal trio with no lead vocalist– all their songs are instrumental, and they’re all really good. (One thing that I like about the band is that one of their song titles, “Cylindrical Sea”, is a reference [at least I think it is] to Rendezvous with Rama.)

That’s all that I can think of for the moment. In any case, if you’re looking for a good piece of music to listen to, then any one of these songs is a great choice.

~ Ian

I’m not going to be writing a long post today. I had a terrible night last night, and I’m really friggin’ tired. Maybe when I catch up on my sleep I can dazzle you with my scintillating wit… but not now.

Currently I’m in the middle of working on a short story called “Cassandra” (title pending). It’s about re-living your childhood, and alien invasions, and video games… and all sorts of things. And I think it’s pretty good. Too good to put up on my blog in its entirety. Maybe I’ll post a snippet or two, eventually… but I’m hoping to send this one out for publication.

Anyway, for your amusement and delight, here are some one-sentence stories I did recently, inspired by Hemingway’s famous six-word story (for sale, baby shoes, never worn) and Paul & Storm’s One Sentence Songs. (That’s quite a pair of influences, isn’t it?)

I’m too tired to write right now. Must go sleep.

Love,

~ Ian

 

One Sentence Stories

“Sure hope that was a deer we just hit,” I said.

There I was, naked and alone, feeling new life stirring in my belly as I stared up at the rapidly-receding lights in the sky and wondering, What the hell just happened?

“Here’s the deal,” said the Devil: “I’ll make the girl of your dreams fall in love with you in exchange for giving you herpes.”

It wasn’t the way I’d expected to die– but of course, nobody expects to be torn to shreds by Bigfoot.

A word of advice: never use the same temporal coordinates twice when piloting a time machine.

After the best, most passionate sex I’d ever had in my life had concluded, I finally realized what the small, niggling voice in the back of my head was trying to tell me: “So, what’s your name?” I asked.

Looking back on it, my grandpa wasn’t “overly affectionate”, but simply a pervert.

Keep in mind that geese don’t really like to have their tails pulled– I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

Turns out that when you summon a demon, they don’t automatically have to obey– I guess we should have checked the latest errata.

“So,” said my second grade art teacher, “do you like movies about gladiators?”