The Ten of Wands

January 31, 2010

It’s been a rough week. But then, it’s been a rough couple of years. Ever since the economy crashed and burned. And I know I’m not the only one. However, compared to what’s going on in Haiti, most of us, even those who are struggling in the US, are pretty blessed. And I have not forgotten that and have done what I could financially to help the people of Haiti.

But I have to admit that lately I’m starting to feel a bit weighed down. This is a picture of the Ten of Wands from the Rider-Waite Tarot Deck, illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith.

The following interpretations for the card are from the Learning the Tarot website, which is an excellent site, by the way, to learn the tarot.

trying to do too much
refusing to say “no”
taking all the blame
assuming another’s debt
doing the lion’s share
having to work overtime
shouldering all the work
being saddled with an extra load

feeling burdened
never having time to relax
feeling tied to a treadmill
being taxed to the limit
assuming responsibility
being held accountable
carrying out an unpleasant duty
cleaning up a messy situation
being left holding the bag

fighting uphill
doing everything the hard way
experiencing resistance
pushing against the current
having to work for every gain
finding that nothing comes easily

Yeah, I’d say I’ve been felling a bit like the Ten of Wands. What’s interesting about this card is the way the man is carrying the wands. For one, that’s a rather strange way to carry them. And it looks rather awkward. Plus, he’s carrying them in such a way as to prevent him from seeing what’s beyond those burdensome wands.

Which is what can happen when we have problems. They can appear to us as if they’re the only thing in our whole world. And the way that fellow is carrying those wands, with his face buried deep in them, there’s no way he can see where he’s going, much less that he’s near to his destination, the village just ahead.

My advice to him (and, consequently to myself) is to stop, put those wands down, figure out a way to carry them so that he can see where he’s going and then continue on. But this time with an eye to his destination and the confidence that he will make it.

Sounds good to me. 🙂


Cylons and Revisions

January 24, 2010

I’ve been revising a novella that I want to submit on February 1st for a submission call. However, in the middle of revising, I realized that a lot wasn’t working with the story. A lot. So I had to do some major cutting and now I’m trying to fix what’s left. I have eight days in which to do it so I’m not freaking out just yet.

But I did take time out from my revising to check out SyFy’s new series, Caprica. To be honest I did not have high hopes for this series. But I was curious enough to at least check out the premiere episode. And I’m glad I did.

Caprica is a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, taking place some 58 years before the Cylon attack. At this point in time, Caprica is a world flush with success, money and power. As a matter of fact, Cylons are in the process of being constructed in this series. But something unforseen happens in their construction which lays the groundwork for all that’s to come.

Commander Adama is an 11-year old boy in the series, so the storyline centers around his father, Joseph Adama, a lawyer, who is an immigrant from Tauron and came to Caprica to make a better life for himself. Apparently, people from the planet Tauron are looked down upon by others in the Twelve Colonies and are called “dirt-eaters” by the Capricans.

Anyway, the show was a lot better than I thought it would be and I will definitely continue to check it out on Friday nights.

Okay, I gotta get back to my ailing novella. I’ve torn the guts out of the poor thing and I’ve got to get it back on its feet.

Ciao for now!

The Heiress and the Human Target

January 18, 2010

Sunday, while busily working on my novella—I have to finish up one final scene today—I took a short break and started channel surfing.

I stopped at Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and saw that they were about to show William Wyler’s 1949 film, The Heiress, starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, Ralph Richardson and Miriam Hopkins.

The Heiress is one of those movies that I will literally stop whatever I’m doing (in this case drafting a scene for my novella) and watch it. It’s that good. I first saw it years ago, on TCM, and happen to come into the movie about 1/3 into it. But I was hooked. And I watch it every time it’s on TCM. (I should buy it and intend to one day).

The Heiress is based on a 1947 play, which was based on the 1880 novel Washington Square by Henry James.

De Havilland plays Catherine Sloper, the only daughter of a wealthy doctor. She is plain, shy and clearly lacking (as her father never fails to remind her) of the grace and beauty her deceased mother and the doctor’s wife lacked.

A very young Montgomery Clift plays Morris Townsened, a handsome, charming but poor man who woos Catherine, much to the annoyance of Catherine’s father, who sees Morris as nothing but a fortune hunter.

What’s great about Montgomery Clift’s performance is, yes, it’s obvious that he’s after Catherine’s money but you sometimes feel that he actually does care for her.

Ralph Richardson is excellent as Catherine’s father, the emotionally distant Dr. Sloper.

It’s one of those movies where there isn’t a misstep, IMHO. Not in the casting, the acting, the directing, the plot, or the writing.

After the movie was over, I went back to writing.

Then, once I had written as much as I could for the day, I decided to watch the premier episode of a new show on Fox called The Human Target. To be honest, I usually avoid shows like this like the plague. Don’t ask me why, I just do. 🙂

But something intrigued me about this show and I watched it and I have to say I liked it.

Mark Valley plays Christopher Chase, a professional bodyguard and security expert, who insinuates himself into his client’s lives in order to become the human target, that is, he’s the one who sets himself up to take the bullet.

His cronies include Winston (Chi McBride), his business partner, who keeps wondering why Chase continues to endanger himself the way he does, and Guerrero, played by Jackie Earle Haley, of Watchmen and Bad News Bears fame, whose character I’m assuming was once a criminal but works with Chase.

The show is based on a comic book character called The Human Target, which first appeared back in 1972.

Nothing ground-breaking, I have to say, but I thought the episode moved well, Chase has a kind of devil-may-care but hidden dark side to him quirkiness, he looks good in a suit and the character of Guerrero intrigues me. It starts its regular programming on Wednesday so I’ll continue to check it out.

I’ve been watching Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries on the CW and they start their new episodes this week.

As for writing, I finished that short story I was working on last week and submitted it just in time for the submission deadline this past Friday.

Today I have to finish the final scene of my novella so that I can spend the next two weeks revising it as I have to submit it on February 1st in order to make the deadline.

And that’s all for now. 🙂

Creating Alien and Fantasy Cultures

January 11, 2010

When creating alien and fantasy cultures for your short stories and novels, there’s actually quite a lot of books out there that can be very helpful. I went through my library and found some that I’ve found useful.

Creating Alien and Fantasy Cultures

These books are useful for creating aliens, species for a fantasy novel and their cultures.

o The Science of Aliens – Clifford Pickover

o Aliens and Alien Societies – A Writer’s Guide to Creating Extraterrestrial Life-forms – Stanley Schmidt

o Writer’s Guide to Creating a Science Fiction Universe – George Ochoa and Jeffrey Osier

o Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy – 20 Dynamic Essays by Today’s Top Professionals – The Editors of Analog and Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine

o How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy – Orson Scott Card

o Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy – Crawford Kilian

o Worlds of Wonder – How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy – David Gerrold

o Concerning the Heavens – Creating the Science Fiction Novel – Melissa Scott

o The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction – Volume One – Edited by Dave A. Law and Darin Park

o The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy – Volume One – Edited by Darin Park and Tom Dullemond

o The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference – The Editors of Writer’s Digest Books

Books of Special Mention
o The Tough Guide to Fantasyland – Diana Wynne Jones – This book is more of a satirical look at the tropes and clichés in fantasy literature than an actual guide to creating a fantasyland, but it’s not only hilarious it can be quite useful in finding overused tropes and clichés in your fantasy stories. Or even suggesting some to use but maybe twisting them a bit to give them that extra bite.

o The Lord of the Rings – Weapons and Wars – Chris Smith – This is a book that details all the weapons, whether wielded by Men, Elves, Dwarves or Orcs in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy movies. It’s beautifully illustrated and I find it useful for ideas concerning weaponry for my fantasy characters.

These books are helpful for looking at aliens created by writers and/or artists.

o Aliens in Space – Steven Caldwell

o Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials – Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Ian Summers and Beth Meacham

Mating and Courtship Practices
These books are helpful in coming up with ideas for mating and courtship rituals for your alien and fantasy cultures.

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Love, Courtship and Sexuality Through History – Edited by William E. Burns (Six Volumes)

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life (Six Volumes)

The Mythology of Sex – An Illustrated Exploration of Sexual Customs and Practices from Ancient Times to the Present – Sarah Denning

Sextrology – The Astrology of Sex and the Sexes – Starsky & Cox

Sexual Secrets – The Alchemy of Ecstasy – Nik Douglas and Penny Slinger

I hope to, in later posts, talk about the actual methods and techniques I use when creating cultures for my stories. Until then, I hope these may prove helpful.


Deep Freeze and Alien Sex

January 7, 2010

It appears that 2/3 of the population of the USA are experiencing some sort of deep freeze. Whether from bitterly cold temps or tons of snow.

Here we’re going to get snow, then bitter cold again and then—YES!— a warm up back to the low 30s! Wow, that’s going to feel practically balmy. 🙂

However, before that happens we’re getting snow today. Possibly about nine or so inches before it’s all over. 😦

I’m in revision mode on my short story and drafting mode on novella. I need to submit my short story next week and novella the end of this month.

For anyone who saw Avatar, apparently the full love scene between Jake and Neteryi (and I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone) will be on the DVD. Cameron cut the scene to keep the rating at PG-13, which I kinda figured he did. But if you noted in the movie that the Na’vi use their queues to synch with the animals and plant life on Pandora, you can imagine (if you care to, that is) how they use their queues during mating.

Personally, I find watching people make love on huge screens with blasting surround-sound a bit unnerving and over the years I’ve noticed that, except for some hard-core action flicks (and even not so much in those anymore), movies don’t have anywhere near the amount of explicit sex they used to have. Cable TV sure does, but movies not so much. For one thing, PG-13 ratings nowadays usually spell bigger box offices as opposed to R rated movies.

As for alien sex, a couple of years back I went to a panel discussion at Wiscon on alien sex. That is, creating sexual practices for your alien characters. It was a fun discussion as the panelists and the audience discussed myriad ways to imagine and write about mating practices for the aliens in one’s stories.

Most of the suggestions for doing so advised writers to look at the sexual behavior of creatures here on earth and extrapolate from that. When I have more time, I think I’ll do a blog post on that very thing. I’m doing a lot of thinking and reading about world-building. Creating races and species and their cultures for fantasy or SF is very important when creating a brand new world that you want to immerse your reader in.

Busy New Year!

January 5, 2010

This is how my brain feels right now. Beautiful, symmetrical chaos.

I’ve got two deadlines this month, with one coming up next week. It’s a short story, which I finished drafting yesterday but I have to revise it now in time to make the submission deadline. I have a bunch of stuff I need to get out by 2/1 and there are deadlines looming behind that!

My 2010 Calendar

January 1, 2010

This is the calender I picked up for 50% off over at my local neighborhood Borders. Not sure who ZoZo the Magic Queen is, but I love this calendar. It’s the perfect calender for the new burst of creativity I hope to experience in 2010. I watched the ball fall in New York’s Time Square last night and I was touched to see that Dick Clark was still there! He has difficulty speaking but he was there for the start of 2010.

So, it’s January 1st of the New Year. I know some people like to cook special foods or do certain rituals in order to ensure happiness and success in the new year. I don’t do any of those but of course, like most of us, I can’t help thinking about and wanting to lose weight. A friend of mine, however, has offered to help me with my goal to do so, and I’m certainly not going to turn down her offer.

As for my writing, I can pretty much sum up my goals in four words. Publish more. Make money. 🙂

So, today I need to do a bit of organizing of my writing space and make a list of goals, at least for the first quarter of 2010. I find that easier than making some overall yearly goal.

Last year, on this very day my laptop died and my son had to wipe my hard drive and reload my operating system. Which, if I had not backed up everything, would have been a catastrophe of epic proportions. Anticipating such a horror again, yesterday on New Year’s Eve I backed up everything. Unfortunately, I had to do it manually on a series of thumb drives but one of the techy gadgets I intend to purchase as soon as I can is an external hard drive.

But laptop came on today and no problems (knock on wood) so far.

I had thought to buy one of those planners that you carry around in your purse or bookbag but I bought one last year and never used it. I have my Excel spreadsheets, with which I do most of my scheduling, a nice little black notebook, where I jot down ideas, notes and stuff I need to remember, and I recently downloaded a free software that PBW recommended called Chaos Manager. It’s a nice bit of software that’s on my desktop and has been instrumental in helping me schedule my writing and everything else.

It’s briskly chilly here. I’m talking temps dropping at some points to -25 degree windchills for the next few days! Big time brrrrrr!

So, anyway, here’s to a brand new spanking year. May it be prosperous, challenging, exciting and ultimately satisfying for us all!