Priorities: Blogging vs Life

I’m going to be dropping the frequency of blog posts, at least for the foreseeable future, to once a week.

This isn’t arbitrary, and I don’t much like it, but it’s better than the alternatives. If I don’t, I strongly suspect that I’ll be posting lower quality before long, and then stop altogether, quite possibly for several months. The reasoning is all tangled up with priorities that strongly include writing, so I figured it might be worth explaining.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m unable to work because of a depression/anxiety combo. (Yes, I’m aware, there’s intense social stigma against even admitting, let alone discussing, mental health issues. Guess what? It happens. It’s a medical condition, it’s real, it’s extremely common in varying degrees. Get over it.) One of the key things it does is undermine my ability to cope with stress – including the stress of too many projects on the go.

I had hoped to get my novel YinYang through the final rewrite and some formatting and make it available by the end of the month. I’m also trying to find time to work on a new urban fantasy novel, finish up a 25k word/60 pg Moonblood story to post, and add more to my Gaia series which is a combo of rewriting existing material and filling in holes now I’ve redone the format. Two blog posts a week aren’t the main reason why YinYang isn’t going to be out on time; much of that falls to a necessary and overdue switch between webhosts and trying to get everything set back up on two domains. However, while trying to deal with the unexpected complications, I realized just how much and how fast my stress was ramping up, which means it was starting from an elevated level to begin with: not high enough to have much impact directly, but high enough that it would take much less of an unanticipated crisis to knock me down hard. Continue reading

Anthropomorphization

anthropomorphize: 1. To endow with human qualities. 2. To attribute human characteristics to something that is non-human. (from wiktionary)

I live with four cats who are a fundamental daily part of my life. I know I’m guilty of anthropomorphizing them sometimes, although I make a serious effort to understand them on their own terms, and it’s more often teasing than for real.

I’m the admin of a lolcats (and other lolanimals) site, which is heavy on the sincere animal lovers, but a deliberate part of the game involves reading human facial expressions, body language, motivation, thought processes, and/or other interpretation into photos of cats (and other animals). This is, however, a game, and many of the regulars are fascinated by the realities of animals.

Assuming, of course, that one isn’t writing something deliberately playing with the idea… as a writer, anthropomorphizing animals is simply unforgivable for multiple reasons. Continue reading

Ideas: Self-Permission

As I said in my previous post, taking a look at where my ideas come from turned out to be a more complex subject than I anticipated, and ran into this one, which I think counts as a subject in its own right. Also as I said there, please be patient with material that looks like it’s wandering off-topic; it isn’t.

When I was nineteen, and came out as not heterosexual (I lacked the terminology at the time; the word I use now is “pansexual”), my writing went through a massive transformation. Instead of trying desperately to keep it “clean” with no sex or gender exploration, I started to allow myself to play with whatever came.

Fairly early on, I created, as a kind of shortcut, a set of characters that I dropped into a wide variety of urban fantasy situations, essentially to observe what happened – what if this character isn’t human but is a, oh, werewolf? dragon? vampire? Now, what happens if I switch which character it is? The dynamics were fascinating, watching how the story shifted and flowed and altered with small changes. Along with being an immense amount of fun (yes, this is my idea of how to spend not just a Friday night, but an entire weekend and then some), it also taught me an incredible amount about how stories work. However, since I was writing these only as an experiment, I didn’t censor anything or rule out anything, just let it all happen. Continue reading

Ideas: Where Do They Come From?

It’s now a cliche, to ask a writer, “Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s been a long time since anyone bothered to ask me that, and most of those were not out of any particular admiration – generally more along the lines of, “Where on earth do you come up with this wierdness, anyway?”. I decided I’m going to answer it anyhow, because it’s an essential part of the whole process. After all, you don’t get far writing unless you can think of something to write about. I’m reluctant to comment on where anyone else gets their ideas, but I do know where my own come from – and I know that I had a struggle with myself over one major source and its validity. In fact, this subject ran into another, turning this into two closely linked ones. The second part of this will be posted on Thursday. Meanwhile, since this is a more complex issue than I expected before I sat down and started to think about it, please bear with me if I seem to wander off-track at moments.

So. Where do I get my ideas? Part of the answer is, everywhere. From books I read, either fiction that sparks a thought of a variation, or non-fiction that triggers an “Oh, that’s neat!” reaction. From my own real-life experiences. From things people around me say. A major part of the answer is, from other ideas: starting to experiment with one idea leads to others. Trying out variations by changing a factor or two at a time and testing the results can lead in fascinating and unpredictable directions within the internal logic of the concept. Continue reading

Assumptions: Culture and Technology

Along the same lines as my previous post about assumptions, but of a different kind:

Why is it that fantasy fiction is, with overwhelming frequency, set in a thinly-disguised version of Dark Ages, or possibly Renaissance, Western Europe? There are exceptions, of course, but this has become a kind of industry standard.

Even if there’s no sign of Christianity as such, basic Christian values as understood in the modern mainstream Western world (not the same values as understood in actual medieval Europe) are prevalent. Men have careers and literally wear the trousers; women stay home to mind the fourteen kids and cook the meals in long skirts, although they may have access to limited career options. Charity may be present, but shaming of single mothers or same-sex relationships or non-monogamy may also be present if acknowledged as possible at all. If you’re creating a world, rather than using a historical time period per se as your setting, then why swallow this whole instead of experimenting? I’m not suggesting anything as heavy-handed as having the men stay home with the kids and the women all have careers; it’s not a feasible idea, anyway, biologically. Why not make at least small changes in the social structure? It makes it genuinely your own world, instead of a generic medieval setting. Whatever aspects you want or need for your particular story, great, by all means keep them – but do it as a deliberate and conscious choice, not by default, and take a good look at the other aspects of the society that you might be able to play around with. Continue reading