Friday, April 30, 2010

This Week in Linkage

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On: Articulating Race

I've come to realize that I've maybe bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to writing characters of other races.

I would very much like to write characters of differing race, viewpoints, and culture to my own. However, I've been struggling to find their voices. I'm very conscious of my privilege and naivety, and how good intentions informed by bias and history can translate into a literary disaster. Even in my own head it sounds self-congratulatory to say I have a relation of X ethnicity, I've read Y book, or I ally with Z person. I am learning the "Shut Up and Listen" mode when it comes to race.

The perfect storm of links lead me to following NK Jemisin on Twitter today. Her book "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" is something very high on my Must Read list. I had been reading some of her posts on Alas, A Blog without realizing it was her, and was very pleased to put together that blogger was that writer was that person who had some very interesting things to say about race. Makes me like her even more!

Stay with me, the link storm continues. From Jemisin, I discovered an essay called "No Country For Strangers" by ephemere, a rebuttal to "No Foreigners Allowed" by Charles Tan, a discussion about RaceFail in literature. From there, another rebuttal was "An Open Letter to Charles Tan" by Deepa D.

Finally, I came across a beautiful article by Nisi Shawl called "Appropriate Cultural Appropriation". This article, and all this reading recently, has taught me a lot already. I would also very much like to get my hands on the book "Writing the Other: A Practical Guide" Shawl wrote with Cynthia Ward, but I haven't found it yet.

If you're going to write race, ethnicity and culture different to your own, do your research, understand your privilege and baggage, write it well, not be so damn proud that you think you've done some "service to humanity", and even then be prepared for criticism and debate.

I realize I'm overly ambitious in tackling difficult subjects at the same time as re-learning the writing skill. I realize I'm probably going to screw it up and take a big berating somewhere along the way. But I am listening.

VA: Darker Projects - The Byron Chronicles

I very much enjoy Darker Projects' The Byron Chronicles, tales of the Paleman of Portland.

I have played a variety of characters in Byron.

In "Code of Conduct", parts one and two, I played Amy, a werewolf. I got to do deep, gravelly and growly. Fun!

In "A Time of Rising" and "A Time of The Fallen", I played Beth.

And in "Nicholas - A Christmas Tale" I played Gabriel.

I like David Ault's (Byron) work very much, and have participated in many productions with him. He sounds like "The Next Doctor" to me.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ruh Roh

My computer crashed last night.

I lay awake for ages, cursing and panicking. Today was supposed to be my writing day, and I didn't have any access to my files. So ok, I could postpone the editing I was hoping to do and simply start on something new (I did), but it made me realize something quite fundamental.

A lot of my life is on my computer.

I may be just beginning, and my collection of writing is small, but what if I'd started a novel, what if I was quite a way into it...and I lost it? What if there was a fire? What if my computer was stolen?

Shit shit shit shit shit.

I'd learned from previous crashes to have a partitioned hard drive. All my personal files are separated from the operating system, so if in case of a crash like this nothing will be wiped. Hopefully this time it will be a repair, not a complete reformat. But what if my hard drive was irretrievable?

About 1am, I decided I'd better start making backups. Something basic for the time being - put everything on a flash drive I can pop in my handbag, or leave in a safe place.

This got me thinking about what other authors do. I'd be very interested to find out from published authors whether they back up, put their manuscripts in a bank vault, store a removable hard drive in a safe place. Has a big name author ever lost a manuscript this way, a chunk of their writing gone?

A few thousand words I could possibly resurrect, but a hundred thousand words, all your notes and research gone? What heartbreak that would be.

Thankfully there is more than one computer in the house. I have an SO who is very handy with computers, and who has saved my digital ass many a time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week In Linkage

  • YA author Janice Hardy gives a simple yet effective way to edit and revisit dialogue in "Hey! Who said that?" on her blog "The Other Side of the Story" (h/t: SF Signal)
  • Steve Harper Piziks at Book View Cafe Blog talks about What To Do and What Not To Do when you received an acceptance from a publisher or agent in "A Time To Squee". (via SF Signal)
  • I have recently started following Wil Wheaton on Twitter. So many people have said to me "but what has he done since Trek?" - well, lots. He's an interesting and entertaining blogger, podcaster, writer, science geek, game geek, and attends many conventions, outside of his acting career. Also, he doesn't age! Wesley Crusher is Immortal, I tell you!
  • Also on #FF - The Dark Lord of the Sith
  • Escape Artists - home of EscapePod, PodCastle and PseudoPod - are running a flash contest. The first month of entries, for their fantasy podcast PodCastle, closes April 30th. Click here for contest information, rules and how to enter.
  • I joined up at Kiwi Writers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Au Contraire, mon amis!

I have decided that I am going to Au Contraire, the New Zealand SF&F con in Wellington, August 27-29.

I have multiple reasons to go. The first being to support my friend Paul Mannering, one of the co-founders, writers, editors and Guerillas of BrokenSea Audio Productions (of which I do much VA for) is the Fan Guest of Honour. Yay Paul! Audio production and horror writing are quite the passions for Paul, and with his wonderfully twisted mind I have no doubt he'll be Something in the Horror genre. He's already on his way, having had a few short stories published.

The next reason really struck home with me just today. If I'm serious about Doing This, being a writer, I have to learn how to network, just as Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been laying out in her "Freelancers Guide" (if you think I'm raving about it, I am - it's incredibly helpful). Indeed, the post that I linked to last week gave me the impetus - if I'm serious, I gotta get off my chuff, suck up my tribbleations, and meet people.

The third reason stems from just that - networking and meeting people. There will be some interesting people at the con, notably Sean Williams (I have his Orphans series awaiting my eyeballs), Juliet Marillier (I enjoyed her Sevenwaters Forest Series), Russell Kirkpatrick (a New Zealand fantasy author, his Fire of Heaven series is also waiting on my bookshelf), plus a variety of other editors and writers. Good Flying Spaghetti Monster, no I will not hit them up for anything ridiculous ("Imma writor! Nawt publishd, but I iz kewl!" *crickets chirp*), I probably won't even talk to them at all. This will be my first proper con after all, and I don't want to make a fool of myself. All I require of myself is to sit quietly, observe, listen, and gently practise my networking skills.

The last reason is...full participation Rocky Horror! Oh hay-YELL yeah! I haven't done a full dress, full partici....PATION RHPS in years. Fun with fun sauce and fun sprinkles eaten with a fun SPOON!

So, see you at Au Contraire if you're going.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BBC4 - "Madwomen In the Attic"

BBC4 currently has a fascinating 30 minute documentary available to listen to called "Madwomen in the Attic".

It examines how the mad heroines of 19th century Victorian fiction may not have been clinically insane, but were suffering from the repression - sexual and social - of the time.

An article on the BBC News site entitled "Were the 'mad' heroines of literature really sane?" is an introduction for the documentary:

Notions of female insanity in the 1850s included "unrestrained behaviour," often merely Victorian-speak for female sexuality.
The documentary also delves into how these descriptions of insanity informed society's view of mental illness, posits what illness these heroines may have been suffering from if they were indeed "suffering from madness", and how repression and being committed to an asylum or attic may have tipped a boisterous lady over into the condition they were accused of.

"Attics are where wives who cannot be contained, who are over-sexualised and unruly are stored away," says writer and psychotherapist, Adam Phillips.
And would not anyone have then gone mad, locked up in an attic with gin-sodden Grace Poole?
The documentary is available for only 7 days on the BBC Radio site, so be quick.

Hat Tip to SFSignal.

ON: Failure, Frustration, and Finding My Feet Again

The pieces I have been writing of late have, for the main, included a raft of social issues dressed up as spec.

Of course I didn't think tackling social aspects would be easy, or I would get them right first draft. I am more frustrated at myself that I haven't been able to articulate the nuances of issues and character first time, then revisit them.

Then I have to remind myself I've only reintroduced myself to writing a few short weeks ago. It's not flowing smoothly, but like every skill I just need to keep plugging away at it. I gotta practise those characters, gotta practise getting the language right, gotta train my brain to express nuance.

Of course, my frustration at Failure on the First Pass is leading to a little frustration at my motivation. I now have two spec pieces that need a complete overhaul, and I'm having trouble getting motivated to tackle them again. I'm supposed to be perfect first time! I don't fail.

Sheeeeyeah right.

I lectured myself about expecting failure at the beginning of this endeavour, but that was about expecting rejection from publications, not failing at actually writing something near decent. So ok, mental shift: expect to fail at writing something I actually think I know something about, or am passionate about.

And there it is - a good example that the writing skill is 10% talent and 90% perseverance. Failure is an excellent opportunity to learn from your mistakes. I have to learn to not take failure and criticism so personally. If I want to be taken seriously as a credible writer, I have to practise these nuances.

Perhaps I need to insert time for rewrites into my schedule. I'm adamant that Writer Mondays are New Writing days - something fresh has got to be put down those days. So, to find some time for revisits - once a week, every two weeks, every month? Do I let the first (horrible) drafts all pile up, then I pick and choose what has the most potential? Do I let it simmer for longer, or attack it straight away?

Here is Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Freelancers Guide" to Failure - it articulates a lot of my feelings, and got me thinking about writing this post.

I've said it before - I'm going to admit my failures, luxuriate in them, so that when the bigger trip-ups happen they're not going to hurt as much. Failure is good. Failure is a teaching tool. I'm gonna make Failure my middle name!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Voice Demo Reels - Now available in two delicious flavours!

I can haz vox demo reelz!

By calling them "reels", it really shows up that I started my radio training back when reel-to-reels were still used. Old school is old school. Not that I use them any more, or could remember how to use them. I think I got about six months worth of training on them before moving over to fully computerized production systems.

Anywho, my demo tracks can now be found on the right hand side of the blog, just under my details. They come in two exciting flavours - one is my voice acting and narration demo, including different accents and VA styles; the other is my standard radio voice, nearly all using my New Zealand accent, because all my radio work is NZ based (the one American accent in the radio demo was from my Broadcasting School student station, where we aped dance club radio).

Any questions or comments, just drop me a line or leave 'em here in comments. I'm happy to do test runs and auditions if a different accent or style is required.

I'd love to be able to do voice work for animation, games, audio books, podcasts, new media, radio of any stripe, TV, documentaries, corporates, movie foley...heck, I'll give anything a go just so long as it doesn't overly offend my sensibilities.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Writing and VA: Brokensea Audio - "Body Slam Alley"

How to classify BrokenSea's "Body Slam Alley". Possibly as a vanity project where my writing, voice acting and wrestling fandom collided in one evil mess.

A successful failure? It was one of those projects I started off with the best of intentions, but fizzled. It was fun to take a poke at so many cliches, but maybe it was all a little too "in-jokey".

I also began it at the end of my relationship with pro-wrestling, and I found it difficult to keep writing about an industry I no longer endorsed. A fan of almost 20 years, things went totally skew-whiff after the Benoit incident. Even before then I was having problems reconciling the role of women in modern pro-wrestling. Yes, I did miss out on the hey day of joshi puroresu.

So, going by my tenets of facing up to my failures, I present "Body Slam Alley"; a comedy serial in only four parts about life on-stage and off at a pro-wrestling company, the idea of which was born during the days of late 90s Fantasy Wrestling Leagues.

I wrote BSA with the help of my good friend Damaris, and I also played "SugarBABE" (that stands for Bad Ass Bitch Extraordinaire).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This week in Revelling in Rejection

A small update because not much got done or happened this week on the writing front.

I entered a story in a competition.

I wrote another flash piece for another upcoming competition, and it is being workshopped.

I formalized my paid membership at the OWWSF&F.

There were no rejections or acceptances received.

Hopefully the next week will be more productive, now that Writer Mondays are permanent. Huzzah!

Baby steps...

Friday, April 16, 2010

This Week in Linkage

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Good morning, brave new world

I have made a change.

I wouldn't call it a change of Life Reboot epic proportions, but it's certainly a Life Shift.

I have negotiated a four day working week.

One of the rules of this blog is that I won't talk about The Day Job. What happens in The Office stays in The Office; my opinions here do not reflect on or concern my employer. The only time I will mention them is in relation to how much time I get to write. Sure, I can amuse myself with daydreams of fully supporting myself with my writing, but only the lucky few get that privilege. I'll keep chugging away at the mortgage with a toothpick.

There will be weeks where I'll have to work five days for various reasons (sick leave, holidays, extended projects), but as it stands now fully fledged Writer Mondays are a reality.

Happy doesn't even begin to describe it. This is HUGE. It's like starting a new career.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

VA: Pendant Audio - Seminar Episode 9 "Personification" October 2007

Pendant Audio's Seminar series is a full-cast, ongoing anthology show with no restrictions on genre".

Episode 9 from October 2007 was "Personification" and included the play "Ruminations" in which I played ChaCha, a cow (Moo!) with sarcasm oozing from every udder.

Click here to download and listen to the show.

I performed this character in my normal New Zealand accent, and it reminded me very much of a Toyota ad I did for a Country radio station many years ago. It was fun to be able to drop some hilarious lines in my usual very dry speaking style.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On: Finding your happy place

One of the pieces of advice I am trying to abide by lately is "write often".

So much writing advice seems to revolve around writing often equals persistence equals creating a habit equals honing your craft. However, I have discovered I am the type of person who needs a specific set of parameters to be able to write efficiently. I need a certain physical space and volume level. I need to be undisturbed.

This is why I found my Month of Mondays a complete revelation. I had the house, and my home office, to myself. I unplugged the modem, put on some chill music and Had At. It was a full eight hours of undisturbed bliss.

I need more of this.

I have dabbled with writing in other spaces. I am far too distracted with people, loud music, internet, TV or radio around me. When I've tried it in between jobs at work, I have a sense of guilt. When I try to do writing as an after work pursuit, I'm too mentally drained to "start work again for the day". I DO see writing as work (learning, honing, feeling my way around the industry) - when I'm done with a full 8 hour (or more) day, I need to relax, do my other hobbies. Weekends are just that - I have a very specific framework for separating work and play. I need balance.

Yes, being able to write full time would be the ultimate.

Everyone's mileage will vary. There are the people who can tune out on the bus and write a few paragraphs. There are the people who can huddle in a cafe and write their masterpiece. There are those who sat with a typewriter in a tiny laundry and banged out 120K words. There are the people who can multi-task a household, job, kids and write amongst the mental noise. There are those who can write 3000 words before 6am, and those who can devote hours after a full day's work.

I am amazed by and applaud these people, but I am none of them. I can multi-task, but writing needs all the mental mess put away and requires my full, undivided attention.

I know my concentration in alternative environments may get better as I get more practise. Yes, I know my framework may be restrictive, but to get myself motivated I had to create framework and rules, or I would procrastinate forever.

Monday, April 12, 2010

VA: Pendant Audio - Seminar Episode 30 "Talk Show Radio" September, 2009

Pendant Audio's Seminar series is "a full-cast, ongoing anthology show with no restrictions on genre".

Episode 30 from September 2009 was "Talk Show Radio" and included the play "Wanda's Wonderful Wizard World" in which I played Wanda, a wacky woman hosting a wild show of wascally wizards.

Click here to download and listen to the show.

This character was done in an English accent, in what I call my "Panto Fairy" style (over the top silly). 'Twas fun!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

VA: Pendant Audio - Seminar Episode 33 "Substance", March 2010

Pendant Audio's Seminar is, according to their blurb, "a full-cast, ongoing anthology show with no restrictions on genre."

In Episode 33 "Substance" released March 26, 2010, featuring the play "Hugh Dunnit", I play Mary, a hard bitten detective. Click here to download and listen.

I'm hacking away at an American accent in this one.

I have done a variety of roles for other Seminar episodes, and will post them up in the near future.

Revelling in Rejection Redux

A quick update: the story that I said earlier had got through stage one of submission is now through stage two! Totally stoked! Now to wait up to, apparently, 3 months for the final word. Again, if that's as far as it gets, I'll be more than happy. An excellent result for a first try.

Also on the VA front, I now officially give Twitter and my blog a glowing pass mark for being useful tools in finding gigs. I picked up a narration gig yesterday after a friend re-tweeted that a friend was looking for a narrator who could do an English accent for a podcast read. A few emails later and I was in with a grin.

A good way to finish the week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Writing: This Week in Revelling In Rejection

Current Writing Mood: Frustrated.

My Month of Mondays ended last week, and I haven't had the chance to really sit down and knock something out. I have redrafted a flash piece that I want to enter in a competition, but I'm waiting on feedback from the workshop.

This one got a major overhaul after initial reviews, and it was a nice to have my eyes opened to how "messy" I'd made it. I like to make things challenging, because a life narrative is not simple, but perhaps for now I need to work on the basics - getting the first narrative/idea right.

Another lengthier short story I have up for review needs a complete overhaul as well.

I have entered one piece in a Flash competition.

I haven't submitted anything elsewhere. Bit PO'd about that, wanted to make a steady line of ongoing submissions.

I have received no rejections and no acceptances.

I don't want my frustration to roll over into procrastination.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

VA: Colonial Radio Theatre - The Father Brown Mysteries "The Three Tools of Death"

I was privileged to be able to perform a part in one of Jerry Robbins' Colonial Radio Theatre On The Air Father Brown Mysteries.

I played Alice in Episode Five "The Three Tools of Death".

Unfortunately at this page it does not show my name in the credits. To listen to the piece it's Pay To Play. However, on the small "Hear Sample" link, you can hear my blood curdling scream at the beginning of the play.

I enjoyed doing this piece very much, I used quite the old school English accent. Lots of swooning and screaming, hoo-rah!

I will make sure a sample of this piece makes it into my VA skite reel.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

On: Why it took me so damn long for my writing to get here

There are so many self-help blogs and books out there, all purporting to give you the right ounce of motivation, the right keys or steps to Become The Person You Always Wanted To Be (tm).

This isn't one of them.

I am here cataloging my journey to publication, but it is not by any means to be interpreted as inspirational, or some collection of "How To" steps. If there's anything to be taken away from this, perhaps it should be "How Not To" because I sure as hell faffed around for so long. I expect I'm going to do a lot more failing and learning along the way.

I've been rigid with the fear of failure for over ten years. Fear of rejection, fear of criticism, fear of wasted time. There's a lot about my personality and expectations that I've never really figured out where this all came from. I've had the means, the motive, and the ability, but I've always second guessed myself...all the time I was advising myself and others against second-guessing! I've always considered myself a loud, brassy individual who doesn't take carp from anyone, and getting bolder as the years go by. Through all my disgruntled chuntering about fear of wasted time, I HAVE been wasting time, spinning in a little circle of indecision.

The best I can pin it down to is that I wasn't confident enough in my life experience. I thought that To Survive I should become a good little worker bee first - I chose a career, worked towards it, got educated, then spent a decade - A DECADE - mucking around in corporate purgatory.

This is not to say my day job, or any other parts of my life, is bad. It's not. I'm good at what I do, it's been a solid base, and I've picked up some great skills - I've learned more from accident and intuition, more from the school of seeing What Not To Do, than any taught plan.

But we're here talking writing, not my career. It would be awesome if I could make WRITING my career, but I have other youthful ambitions (I'm notorious for having split focus) and a mortgage to deal with. I just wanted to show how easy it was to fall into self-survival mode - security first, happiness later. I would have loved to be a free spirit (I'm trying to be one now), but I came from too practical a base. All my motivational problems are my own, I can not get anyone else to kick my ass into gear.

This is not a pity party. I remember reading an interview with Juliet Marillier where she said - and I paraphrase - she did not start writing until her 40s because she wasn't ready for it. Perhaps I haven't been ready until now.

Thinking back to my original stabs at writing for publication, that may well be. When I was 20 or so, I wrote some woeful short romantic fiction, some of which got published in nationally distributed ladies mags. Oh woe, the feminist in me shrivels at the thought now! Thank The Whatever that I wrote under a pseudonym back then, I wouldn't touch that tabloid muck with a 10 foot barge pole these days! Yes, a good example of further enlightenment informing my writing style.

Having always been a Science Fiction and Fantasy fan, the next logical step was to have a crack at it. Back in 1999 I entered a piece in L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of The Future competition. I wouldn't say it was bad, but it could have used some constructive criticism, if I knew where to turn back then. It got me into the Highly Commended category, a wee certificate, and fan-girl pleasure at the thought that Anne McCaffrey, a judge that year, had read my piece.

And that's where I faltered. I picked up a tic from that moment in time - I can not write with someone looking over my shoulder. I was flatting at the time in a fun, busy household, and one of my housemates took their science fiction incredibly seriously. I was writing this piece with intention of entering the competition, and my housemate physically loomed over my shoulder and made a disparaging comment about a particular piece of science. Perhaps they were right, it needed a critical eye, but I was over sensitive at my first foray and completely lost my momentum. I submitted it, got as far as I did, and no more.

What a chicken. If only I'd believed in myself. The path of life is littered with the road kill of ifs, buts and maybes.

In between here and there, my writing has been in the category of "Dabble". I spent about five years writing opinion pieces for NZPWI, an online wrestling magazine. I did it for the fun and love of wrestling, and my good mates. Here I also suffered from procrastination problems. Here I did have a good friend who tried to motivate me, tried to tell me I had "something". Indeed, there were a couple of pieces I'd say bordered on good, but suffered from lack of focus and strong editorial intervention. This is not an aspersion on my friends. It was a piece of serendipity that we all came together at the same time, trusted each other to write well and what was right, and within our resources. This editorial intervention is something which I believe is missing in modern journalism, especially blogs which are passed off as content on many mainstream news sites (where standards should be MUCH higher than your Average Joe Blog), blurring the lines between strongly delineated fact and opinion.

Other places I have dabbled have been online audio plays. See my posts about the audio plays I've had produced at Darker Projects and Brokensea. Here again I've suffered from motivation and lack of strong editorial arm.

I could say a blog, book or person influenced me in some small part. I had a great teacher in high school who introduced me to Science Fiction and writing poetry; I liked the simplicity of Stephen King's "On Writing"; I tried a writing correspondence course...and didn't finish it; I found a little bit of similarity in circumstance in Shaun Boyd's LifeReboot blog; and there have been myriad articles, blogs and advice that have peaked my interest over the years. It's just they're all such a small fraction, and what it really comes down to is Me.

Why now? Why did it feel right that on March 1st, 2010, I sat down and wrote my first short story in almost 10 years? I know I gave myself the time and space to do it - I had leave to use up. But why THAT day did I put down a word, then another and another until I had 3000 of the suckers, instead of playing Guild Wars, doing some crafts, reading, or spend hours spinning on the spot beating myself up about not writing?

The great mystery of the universe - I DON'T KNOW. Don't ask me to give you the great answer to life, the universe and everything. Some people find it easy to write, I don't.

I was just ready.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hugo Nom Nom Noms!

I'm so proud and pleased to say that I know someone who has been nominated for a Hugo this year.

Congratulations to Rachel Swirsky (who I met through PodCastle), who has been nominated for her novelette "Eros, Philia, Agape" which was published at in March last year.

Congratulations Rachel!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Writing: Getting my ass kicked in the nicest of ways.

In the last few days I've been getting some incredibly useful reviews at the writers workshop I'm signed up at.

It just goes to show that I am nowhere near as good as I egotistically thought I was.

One reviewer in particularly gave me some excellent pointers on gay and PoC characters I was writing, and I felt like such a fool, but in a good way. Here I was thinking I was being so cool writing socially aware fiction and I'm totally screwing it up. Well, not totally but not thinking HARD enough about the characterisations.

I'm definitely not packing up my ball and heading home - this is the constructive criticism I really need. I find it so much easier to come from a stranger, because they're totally unbiased to my personality and ego.

This goes to show I need to slow down some of my "gotta get it out there" pace and not attempt to submit until I've been able to have a fresh look at a piece.

I've often used to think I'd be frustrated at having to re-think and re-write, but now I'm here I'm totally JAZZED. I'm definitely in what I call my "Obsessive Gemini" phase - that doesn't mean I believe in astrology, it means I get all excited about a project and sometimes that focus fizzles out when I don't get results. I'm getting excited/obsessive to a point that I'm distracted from everything else and I just want to go home and DO EEEEEEEEEET.

Oh darn, I just mentally splurged all over the blog. Clean up in aisle five!