Monday, May 31, 2010

This Week in Linkage 31/5/2010

Meant to do this Friday, but I did my Racing Unicorn post instead. Here we go with...Stuff!

  • A Woman Scientist! Is Creating! The New Heat Shield! For the New Shuttles! ZOMG! "Kiwi Scientists Aiding NASA's New Space Shuttle Design"
  • I've been writing a lot of Flash fiction of late, not only for a project but because it's all I have time for. Flash is not as easy as you'd think to get right - with an economy of words, you have to characterize and world build very quickly. James Bloomer looks at why Flash Fiction is good practice for a writer of any stripe. (via SF Signal)
  • Steve Harper Piziks talks about What An Editor Does. Some excellent basic stuff here - good to know for a noobie like me (especially the stuff an editor DOESN'T do!). (via SF Signal)
  • Gaming my fave game, of course! ZAM talks to Bobby Stein and Ree Soesbee of ArenaNet in Part Two of Reinventing Tyria (Guild Wars 2), and I was most interested to read their comments about the voice artists and work involved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mood: Crabbeh

New Word Count: Zero.

If there's one thing the last couple of weeks has proven to me, I want this BAD. With my writing time taken away from me (and impending yearly celebration of decrepitude), I'm chewing Lil' Devil Firestarters and thumb tacks.

I think it's even obvious to people who don't really know what I'm doing on my Writer Mondays. I've been telling them I'm working on "Personal Projects", and they've been saying to me I looked pissed off - "Not getting any work done on those projects of yours?". Hell to the NO.

What's the quote? "If you wake up thinking about nothing but wanting to be a writer, then that's what you should be."

Unfortunately, THINKING about it is all I've got at the moment. The best I can do is editing. I don't even have any rejections to comment on, part of that being because I don't have enough out there in the slush pile.

I've been so envious - but pleased for her being in a happy place - to watch NK Jemisin talk about her word count stats on Twitter in the last few days. Oh to have the space, time, drive and lack of distraction to write!

I'm glad the ideas are still coming, though. My subconscious is not burnt dead at all. It's really chucking up some good stuff lately.

Hang in there sanity. We'll return to your regularly scheduled broadcast in a few weeks time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This Week in Linkage - 21/5/2010

  • Failure RULEZ! Everyone knows the story about how Harry Potter was repeatedly rejected before coming the next greatest book since the Bible, but how about a lot of other famous authors and their run ins with rejection? "50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected" is more proof that persistence pays off.
  • I love it when a story or writer leaps out and grabs my sensibilities by the throat. I recently read Alice Sola Kim's "Beautiful White Bodies" over at Strange Horizons - Part One here , Part Two here. It's so awesome to find writers deconstructing stereotypes along the lines I want to. Here Kim's "Beauty Is a Disease" idea is quite like a WiP I've been dabbling in...but she's done it so much better! I also noticed Kim has a story in the latest Asimov's. I'll be watching out for more from her.
  • #FollowFriday sez: @feministhulk
  • "Why Yes, we need to have this conversation again". A recently released SF anthology "Before They Were Giants" features 14 men...and one woman. The editor James L. Sutter was called out for Gender Fail, and to his credit he responded to all criticism with humility, open ears and respect, saying "Lesson Learned". +1 for Sutter.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

These Are My Women: My SF&F Heroines

Warrior. Princess. Unapologetic. Goddess. Hell Raiser. Powerful. Complicated. Woman.

Before I could put a name to Feminism, or knew that I wanted to be a writer, I was identifying with certain characters. I touched on it earlier, in my post about real life educational influences on my writing - annoyed with the boys having all the fun, I sought out the Georgina Kirins and Nancy Drews in my early readings. It wasn't any great leap then that I searched for strong female role models when I turned to Science Fiction and Fantasy in my teens.

The other day, I read a neat blog post by Tansy Rayner Roberts called "My First Favourite Female Fantasy Heroes". Though I've always had a "mental list" of my favourite literary heroines, and spoken about them at length with friends, Tansy's post has influenced me to put down in words what these Women have meant to me.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mood: Frustrated

Yup, here I am. Right where I thought I would be.

No Writer Mondays for a month. The first Monday in and I'm already chewing off my right arm...and I'm a righty. No, not THAT kinda righty...right HANDED.

Oh never mind.


I've come to very much appreciate the peace and quiet of a house all to myself. I'm gonna TRY to get some New Words writing done over the next month. Maybe I'll dabble in a rash of Flash. But it'll only be happening at night when my energies and brain cells aren't at their best.

And to make me extra cranky, the person I'm filling in for is going to Disneyland.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This Week In Linkage

  • On the days when I run out of The Words, when we need a champion of Feminism Win, we have Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown. Here she does a complete and perfect take down of a fauxminist troll. There are days where I wish I could write half as good as Doyle and Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville.
  • I don't want to suck, I'm trying really hard not suck, I'm sorry if I do suck and I make your slush eyeballs hurt; I don't mean to do it deliberately, and I'm not oblivious to my screw ups. I'm learning and getting better. Jason Sanford ponders on Sturgeon's Law in "Living in a world where most writers suck". (via SFSignal)
  • Alyx Dellamonica ponders "Self Promotion - Starting too soon?" over at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. This post got me thinking about where I'd take my blog if something starts happening with my writing career ie: will I separate into a private blog and a public portal? How much focus should blogging get? Right now, Teh Pickled is simply a place to find me and point people towards, kinda like a CV...and a place to shout into the void. (via SFSignal)
  • Science Fiction writer's catnip! Finding this video is a beautiful coinkidink, since I'm currently writing a novella that includes a future iteration of the ISS. Mind your elbows as you take a video tour of the International Space Station:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On: My Accent...or should that be "moi accin"

Did you know that Phil Keoghan is a New Zealander?

How about Cliff Curtis?

Anna Paquin?

For the love of all that's Lost, Alan Dale?

What about Lucy Lawless?

Sam Neill?

Perhaps you did, because you take an interest in these celebrities, or their shows or movies. Perhaps you didn't, but don't give much thought to their accent being a little rounded, or in the case of Sam Neill or Alan Dale, thought of as British or Mid-Atlantic.

In all of these cases, these actors and actresses have had to fundamentally change the way they speak to be acceptable in their chosen career. No American accent, no dice.

Changing your accent for the wider pop culture and media market can be a double edged sword. Keoghan articulates how

it sometimes "pisses me off a wee bit because, you know, some people don't like that [he has that American] accent. Well, it pisses me off because they think you're less of a New Zealander if you have an accent."

I remember sitting in the movie theatre during a screening of "Attack of the Clones", and hearing the audience titter when Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett spoke ("You're not in Guatemala now, Jango Fett"). He didn't use a full American accent, but it was much closer to his normal kiwi accent. The separation between accents was even more pronounced in Daniel Logan, who played a young Boba Fett. Why did a New Zealand audience feel uncomfortable hearing a kiwi accent in a major piece of American pop culture? Does our distinctiveness not have a place in a global narrative? Will space - our future - only be inhabited by American speaking people?

On the other side of the Atlantic, Lucy Hockings is a New Zealand-born and educated news reader for the BBC, and though she struggled against institutionalism she has been able to keep her accent.

"When I started the accent was a huge problem and I was sent to the Royal Academy of Drama for speech lessons. They were unsuccessful. My accent is part of who I am and I work for an international broadcaster and it's a good reflection of the newsroom, which is very international."

As I've got older, I've railed against the ideal that to have a successful voice acting/media career, you have to have an accent acceptable to a wider audience, whether that's American or English. OK, so I can and will do it, I work very hard at perfecting accents, but it makes me question - what is so unnacceptable about my kiwi accent?

I get what makes it sound so "childish" - the rising inflection, the swallowed "dark" L, the lazy rounded vowels. I work on these within the context of my daily voice work. Therefore, it stands to reason that if I have a voice that I have been working to make good for New Zealand purposes, its quality should translate to a wider audience.

I'm not Phil Keoghan, I don't command the power and money that he has now, so it does seem ungrateful to be perturbed that it's my accent that's holding me back. But surely, all being equal - one has a clear voice, is a good actor, has the personality, is not reading for a particular character - the way I speak normally should be acceptable.

I've talked about it before, but the first time I used my normal kiwi accent for a world-wide (American based) podcast, I was absolutely ripped to shreds. I will take constructive criticism where it's due on my pace, enunciation, and pronunciation, but isn't there a responsibility on the part of the listener to attune to a global voice? It strikes me as sheer laziness bordering on American-centrism when a listener criticizes an "impenetrable" accent. The rest of the world has attuned their ears to American and British accents because of their proliferation in popular culture, why can't courtesy be shown for ours?

Monday, May 10, 2010

This Week in Revelling in Rejection

R E J E C T...this is what it means to me! Sock it to me!

This week's rejections brought to you by Aretha Franklin and Homer Simpson...a whole lotta "DOH!"

"Through The Open Door" was rejected by Clarkesworld after I gave it a clean up. Obviously I didn't clean it up enough, and pay attention on my proof reading because I was facepalming when I went over it again for submitting elsewhere. My spelling! My grammar! My...did I title the document wrong?

You bloody idiot! Oh well, bottoms up - it was a 5 salute weekend.

Also, an update on the upcoming month: I'm going to have to work 5 Mondays in a row as from next week. The concept hasn't sunk in yet, probably won't until I start getting itchy fingers and grumpy at myself for getting behind.

Oy. I need a drink.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Fan Fiction and Sexual Agency

In the last week a so, an internet bun fight has broken out over Diana Gabaldon's comments on fan fiction.

Some took the opportunity to blog about the cut 'n dry legalities of it. Some sighed, and re-iterated their stance on it. Some reminded the world what can REALLY go wrong if you encourage it.

Some took her to task for being "too sensitive" about it. That's a common accusation against creative types, and especially women. "It's all in your head" is a common shut down tactic, and in this case it's to drown out the concern of the one due to the perceived right of the many.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

An Ode to Influence

When I spoke yesterday of two teachers who were an influence, it got me contemplating who - and what - have made me the writer and reader I am.

Everyone has a story about This Particular Teacher or That Particular Book that changed their life. I can't say that I had Click Moments during the times I'm about to talk about, but hindsight has made me realize they're all pieces of the puzzle. Even the bad bits.

For as long as I can remember, I was encouraged to read by my parents. My bookshelves before age 12 were packed with Famous Five, Trixie Belden, and Nancy Drew. Between ages 13 and 15 I favoured "Sweet Dreams" and Sweet Valley High. Bleurgh, I'm so glad I lost interest in YA romance - I have a hazy recollection of being annoyed with the protaganists being waffly, giggly and intent on "first kisses", and if I was pressed to pick a favourite SVH twin, it was Elizabeth because she was far more practical and smart. I preferred the Five's George because she kept up with the boys, and Nancy Drew because she was pretty AND smart, and had ADVENTURES!

In fifth form, when I turned 15, I had a teacher who not only introduced me to Science Fiction, but also actively encouraged our class to write it. Trevor Blakeley, THANK YOU. In a girls school environment that seemed to think 18th and 19th-century literature was the be-all and end-all for "good girls" to read, being handed Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonflight" was the beginning. It started my passion for science fiction, and I've been a big McCaffrey fan ever since.

Fifth Form was the year I excelled in English, because the curriculum we were being taught was diverse and RELEVANT to young women in the late 80s. I still have fond memories of my class acting out scenes from Dragonflight. I did F'lar's fight with Fax. Two of the girls performed the birthing scene - it was hilarious but imbued with a gravitas all at the same time, the two girls performing with straight faces all the way through.

We also studied television production and magazine publishing that year. It was so much fun. I was rather a lazy student - tending to cruise if no one was mentoring my work - and I didn't realize how much impact the Fun of the year had on my work until I got my end of year results. I was in the top percentile. Because of this mark, I was put into an extra-curricular English class the next year that explored poetry and creative writing, but I was unsure as to why I was there - I didn't think I had the writing smarts *sigh*.

At least this extra class kept me sane, because it all turned to mush in sixth and seventh form, and I ended High School with average English scores. Hilariously, I learned more about English literacy and sentence structure through taking French - I've often wondered why my English teachers took it for granted that we were "supposed to know" this stuff, I really could have done with more grounding in the basics of literacy, essay and creative writing.

My English teachers these last two years were competent, but not overly encouraging. That encouragement was saved for the girls who were following the Bursary option. I had no intention of going to University (one of my first rebellions). Despite not needing Bursary, I still enjoyed English, but my last two years of High School English were a huge disappointment. To this day I can still recall two of the mind-numbing books I had to read - "Far From the Madding Crowd" by Thomas Hardy, and "Sons and Lovers" by DH Lawrence. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but after having read "Dragonflight", the depiction of women in these books made me bang my head against my school desk. To this day, the only use these books have been to me is answering a question while watching "Who Wants to be a Millionaire".

The irony of it all is that I eventually did go on to get a tertiary qualification, but it was on my own terms. So, to my seventh form English teacher who said I would be nothing without Bursary, stick that. I was something before I did my tertiary education as an adult, and I am something after.

Coming back to literacy and writing, I did have a fabulous English teacher in third form, Ms Angus. I have fond memories of this powerhouse of a woman - five foot nothing, with incredibly long black hair, and possibly the first feminist I had ever encountered. She was tough, but fair. She taught us about poetry and encouraged us in creative writing. In fact, I recall doing a lot of creative writing in her class, including writing the script for the unmade BBC version of John Christopher's Tripods finale (I liked the TV show, including "Sapphire and Steel", "Battlestar Galactica" and "Doctor Who", but my love for Science Fiction wasn't realized then), some weird fanfic thing involving Indiana Jones and Yoda riding four-wheeler motorbikes down the Tree of Knowledge into hell, and rewriting "Return of the Jedi" so that Leia was the hero. She said they were..."interesting".

THANK YOU, Ms Angus. I wish I'd turned my brain on earlier and taken more of your classes.

Another aspect of my High School writing education involved Media Studies. Peter Olliver, my Media Studies teacher, encouraged me to be a copywriter, and this is where I got my start in radio. There's always an aspect of "What If" and I've always wondered what would have happened if I'd gone with my original idea of being a features journalist - another thing I kick myself over for because of my laziness, I found shorter form writing "easier". Gah!

After High School, my influences turned towards particular writers and books. I studied the literary short form on my own time for a while, and Katherine Mansfield made an impression on me as not only a New Zealand writer, but as a woman writer.

My love of dragons is heavily inspired by not only Anne McCaffrey, but also Melanie Rawn's Sunrunner series. Tad Williams' "Otherland" quartet opened my eyes to contemporary fantasy and cyberpunk. And Raymond E. Feist's "Magician" and Empire Trilogy with Janny Wurts are still some of my favourite fantasy epics.

My tastes have changed over the years, and I have gravitated away from the repetition of farm-boy-makes-good epic fantasy to harder Science Fiction. I also prefer strong female characters.

However, I can't pinpoint the time where I decided "hey, I could write that too" - it was a gradual thing that I didn't take seriously at first. I'm not even sure why I started writing short romance in my late teens. I do remember the surprise at getting a cheque in the mail for it, and thinking "I can make money writing!". I thought dragons and female science fiction writers were cool, and since it was primarily a "boys occupation" (hey, I was still young and stupid back then, mmkay?!) I had to be obtuse and give it a try too.

To the teachers and writers mentioned here - thank you for being part of what I am.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Introducing Editing Tuesday

I made mention yesterday that I had decided to make one day a week dedicated to Editing.

In the spirit of tightly structuring my writing schedule in an effort to stay focused, I've chosen Tuesday night as the time I open a piece and look at it with fresh eyes and sensibilities. It might be a work in progress that I know is only at first draft, or a piece that has been rejected and needs a revisit in an effort to clarify why it got rejected.

One of my mantras - one any good writer should have - is the oldie-but-a-goodie "Show, don't tell". Ok, cool. So how DO I show? Something I need to re-learn again. I'm telling ya, 15 years since writing anything of publication standard has seriously tainted my literary skills.

There are tons of blogs out there with "How Tos" and advice. One I've found recently - and I linked to her a couple weeks back - is Janice Hardy's "The Other Side of the Story". She has a standing date each Wednesday with "Re-Write Wednesday", and last week she wrote about the ol' "showing" technique in "Don't Tell Me Why". Simple, effective and hell...why didn't I get taught this at college? Oh that's right...they were too busy making us read dirgy Victorian fiction and watch dry-as-a-bone Shakespeare interpretations. How sad is it I only had 2 English teachers out of 5 years who ever taught me anything useful about WRITING (Ms. Angus and Trevor Blakeley, I salute you!).

Diversions...diversions...see that's my problem. Focus People!

Anywho, I have been beating myself up in recently thinking "I don't write enough new words" or "I'm scared of editing that piece" until I remember...up until 2 months ago I wasn't writing ANYTHING. Now I am. And submitting to publication

And that, in itself, is a bloody amazing feat.

Celebrate the little things.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This week in Revelling in Rejection

Rejection time!

Rejected by "Strange Horizons" for "Through the Open Door". Yeah, I was disappointed when I first got the email Saturday (been struggling with motivation and the ol' Writerz Fearz all week). Still, it was pretty ambitious to submit to one of the biggie e-zines on a first go. I have plans to revisit the piece soon on an Editing Tuesday (what I've now designated Tuesday nights) to apply a few things I've read about in some articles.

So, now that I'm over my disappointment, I'm fired up to revisit the piece and have a good ol' hack n slash. I do like the story very much, it's one I've had in my head for years.

I still have the other piece out there. Just hanging out for The Word. Ya know...checking my email every five minutes...obsessing...

I have two pieces in a competition, but it will be a month before I find out the fate of those lil' tykes.

While I now have a few Works In Progress (WiPs), I don't have anything near submitting standard. I'm torn on this - I REALLY would like to have more out there to keep me motivated and excited, but I also want to apply new found editing sensibilities to them and make the pieces as perfect as possible.