Tags: writing

Silly - Dirty Face

Why so little science fiction set in Africa?

There is so much I agree with in this intriguing radio bit about science fiction in Africa, and much of it I've been saying for years. The BBC get's South African SF author Lauren Beukes to answer the question, "Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?" I think it was the wrong question... but the right answer.

BBC World Service - Your World, Is Science Fiction Coming to Africa?
Silly - Dirty Face

30-in-30, part 7

I went down to the bar for beers and darts with the boys. They denied me entry. Said I'd been kicked out of the boys club because I'd been writing poetry. It's true. I hang my head in shame. This is the poem that led to my disgrace. It's still a work in progress, but I'm done for now (thank you karindira for the help and feedback):

Her Smile

She has a smile,
Not like Mona Lisa's,
Not an untouchable enigma,
Mere mystery for contemplation.

She broadcasts her smile,
Bold, like light in darkness,
Sunlight's phoenix after rain,
Eureka dawning on Archimedes.

Her smile is inescapable,
Art that snares your eye,
Lighthouse to homesick sailor,
A sun around which to orbit.

Her smile has accomplices,
Head tilt and nibbled lip,
Eyes shine with mischief,
Laughing without laughter.

Her smile cuts to my chase,
Illuminates my darkest memories,
Bleaches, dilutes and demotes them,
Leaving me, a laughing boy, smiling back.
Silly - Dirty Face

Dual 30-in-30 Projects

The great (and greatly insane) Robin Williams said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it." In that spirit, I announce that I'm starting my own 30-in-30 project, inspired by my wife Theresa and our friends Cynthia, Manijeh, Kalina, Mike, Eric and others who have done something similar.

For those who don't know, this is a project where you do 30 creative things for 30 days as a way to free up your creativity and overcome mental blocks (Theresa blogged about it), and you do it in a public way, thereby creating additional motivation for yourself. Theresa did a portrait a day for 30 days, Cynthia created short movies, Manijeh is coming up with toy ideas, Kalina and Mike came up with 30-day comic journals, and so on.

I was undecided whether to do articles/blogs or cartoons/comics, and folks I polled were evenly split between the two. So I've decided to do both. So after letting this blog slip there should be some new content coming this way soon. I'm going to do whatever takes my fancy each day, be it a cartoon, a blog entry, an article, a comic strip or even a poem. It can also be wrapping up something I started but never finished. As long as it involves making something.

Either way I hope to reignite some creative projects, have some fun and get inspired. I hope you'll come along for the ride.

To make it a little crazier, I'm doing 2 30-in-30s at the same time. T and I decided to do a 30-in-30 project for fixing up things around the house. I was going to delay the arty 30-in-30 until the life-fixer 30-in-30 was done, but T thought I was copping out, and hell, if Cynthia could make 30 short movies in 30 days, I can build a stepladder to the moon... um, I mean I can do both. However, I have to be a little pragmatic because there will be days where we'll be tearing down walls and putting up new ones and such, so I may let this turn into a 30 in 40, but I'm going to aim for the 30 in 30.

My first day will be today. Most likely something written, given that tonight is the night a bunch of local writers hang out together. Just to add further spice, I'm going to add a couple of small personal goals into the mix as well. Maybe I'll blog about those... if I succeed ;).

Wish me luck and if you have any ideas for cartoons or articles you'd like to see me write, please share them with me.

Silly - Dirty Face

On Prologues, do they work?

I promised that I'd give a recap on my poll on prologues (which is still open and will remain so indefinitely), and here it is. The initial results are in. It's fairly simple really. The vast majority of readers do read prologues. Some few may skim them, but most would give it a go first and only skim it if it seems to be irrelevant or poorly written.

As far as writers went, it was more complex. Most would only write a prologue if the story needed it. Some never wrote one and others said it was just not their style. Not that it matters, given that readers will mostly read prologues, so writers' will likely be fine either way. What is interesting though, is that many writers and editors think readers don't read prologues, and this poll, small and unscientific though it may be, seems to suggest otherwise.

Overall though, people were just okay with prologues. Even though most would read them, the overall likability of prologues was only just above median (63%), which suggests that readers read them if the writer puts them there, but they don't particularly want to see them.

The comments and additional thoughts were also revealing, coming from both readers and writers and echoing these results, but expressing some specifics, even citing some examples. Mostly though, they backed up the poll. Prologues are read, mostly... but writers, only write one if the novel really needs it.
Silly - Dirty Face

Prologues: The Poll

I've been to panels at cons where editors/writers believed that many/most readers don't read prologues and it made no sense to me. Surely a reader would always read the prologue? Or am I wrong? A recent poll of hands at our writers' group saw a 70%-30% split, with most agreeing with me. Well, almost. Truth is few had just a yes or no answer, so I thought I'd create this poll, ask all of you Science fiction and fantasy readers and writers to tell me what you think, and maybe get a good idea of the real answer.

Please spread the word if you can, from yout LJ, Twitter, FB, etc. The more folks who fill this in the more meaningful the results.

Poll #1495748 Prologues: Great, useless or just okay

As a reader of SF&F novels, do you read the prologue?

Always. Duh! It's part of the book.
Mostly. Sometimes I just skim it.
Occasionally. Sometimes they're just confusing or don't add to the story.
Occasionally. Depends on the author/genre.
Never. For me the book starts at chapter 1!

As a writer of SF&F novels, you write prologues:

Always/almost always. They're expected.
Sometimes, but only if the book needs one.
Rarely, I kind of hate them.
Rarely or never. It's not my style.
Never. Nobody ever reads them anyway.

As a gut check, do you like prologues? 1 is no, going through to 10, which is yes.

Mean: 6.22 Median: 7 Std. Dev 2.56

Any other thoughts on prologues and whether they are a good or bad thing? (or add a comment to the blog)

Silly - Dirty Face

A Weekend Starting Alone in a Bar, then Bellydancing and Art

We just enjoyed a busy weekend. It started on Friday with a gathering of former employees of my prior company. It almost didn't happen. I arrived on time, meeting at a bar chosen by others at a time chosen by others. I hate booze, but I'd been told the OJ was fresh squeezed. It was not; it was nasty from-the-can stuff for $4 a glass. I sat sipping this monstrosity for 30 minutes alone, in a bar, and I dislike bars. The only other folks alone at the bar were a couple of desperate-looking types. Great. One of them scared even me. Not the ideal start to the weekend. I hate it when other folks are that inconsiderate.

I was about to leave when a couple of others suddenly appeared, 30 minutes late. I then had to abandon my crappy OJ as the bloke who'd recommended the place had us relocate to a less-crowded location (twice). Still, once settled, the conversation was enjoyable and it was nice to catch up a bit. These are nice people, one in particular is a lovely sweet person. However, by that time all I had was 45 minutes with them, before headed out to a belly dancing show. I hated that by leaving early I was now the one who seemed rude. The truth is I'd planned to stay later with my ex-colleagues and catch only half the show, but once everyone else arrived late I decided I could leave early to be on time and catch the whole show.

The show was run by a current coworker, the inimitable Karissa, and her group, Offbeat Belly Dance. I'm not a big one for belly dance, though I usually enjoy myself, but I wanted to see one of her group's shows. As it turned out, by a strange coincidence several of my coworkers were also there for the first time, two of us with our partners (yes, agrathea was there). We all shared a table and a fun evening. Their group allows dancers to choose their own style and music, so there was some traditional, but also some hip-hop and some rocking dance music. It was very entertaining and a few of them were really good. The final act was exceptional, a trio whose act was a fusion of belly dance, tango, flamenco and cabaret.... and a little can-can too. A fun evening and nice to hang out a bit with coworkers. I was even the guy dragged onto stage to demonstrate how to tip a belly dancer... except one of the dancers demonstrated the technique on me.

Saturday we joined fellow writers to write at the home of one of them, which was both fun and productive. agrathea and I enjoy being there and the hostess (not sure if it's okay to mention her name) is great fun to be around, and an excellent hostess. Then agrathea had a celebratory dinner with a partner and a client, leaving me to catch up on my relaxation.

Sunday we joined friends at the art museum for lunch and art. Lunch was pretty good and the museum enjoyable... to a point. We'd not realized that Sunday was family day, so on the up side we had free admission, on the down side, long lines, big crowds and hordes of screaming kids. We took in a little Rembrandt and the Madame de Pompadour exhibit, before finishing up with the Ganesh exhibit... but by then the temperamental kid energy had worn us out and Madame de Pompadour and I... I mean agrathea and I, decided to head off to get some more writing done. We spent the rest of the day at a coffee shop (Chance of Rain) drinking decaf and writing, before headed home to watch a DVD and get some sleep.

A busy weekend... but we should have done some laundry.
Silly - Dirty Face

Where Writing and Life Overlap

My friend and former writers' group buddy kmarkhoover just blogged about two things vital to being a successful writer, namely ego and confidence. Pretty damned simple. I realized that, as a writer, I'd not been doing too well in these arenas of late. I do know what a writer needs to do and it's this and more. I just suck at doing it.

You have to write (Heinlein's rules and all that). Write all the time. Start and finish stories all the time. And submit your work all the time. You need to be endlessly persistent (redundancy valid) and you need the ability to separate yourself from your work, or more specifically to not crumble into an emotional wreck when you get one of those inevitable -- and countless -- rejections. You have to remember that you are a writer, not an editor, and if you don't send stories off you are making an editorial decision, and that decision is, REJECTED! Send them all off. A rejection does not mean the writing is bad, though it might, but this will fix itself if you keep working on your craft by following Heinlein's rules. There are many reasons for rejection, often as simple as not being a fit for that magazine at that time. ogre_san once received an acceptance and a rejection from the same magazine, a day apart. A rejection is an opportunity, the opportunity to submit your work someplace else. Keep writing and submitting, and resubmitting.

I know all this... and yeah, I'm pretty much screwing it all up. I'm trying to fix this, with some small success, but kmarkhoover pretty much summed it all up. "Ego and confidence. Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. And never give up." I'd add a lesson I'm relearning right now, if you love writing and you're having no fun writing, then you're probably writing the wrong stuff. I was going to start a novel I think it would be a good novel and I might even have some fun writing it. But it didn't stir me. I thought about all the stories I'd read through the years that made me want to write, and what it was about them that stirred me. Then I came up with a brand new novel idea that was more of my kind of crazy. And it's exciting! I need that. I've done this with short stories too, taking the stories where I think they should go, rather than letting them take me. I'm going to go with my own crazy flow for a while and see where it takes me.

Mostly I need what kmarkhoover said, "Ego and confidence. Believe in yourself. Trust yourself. And never give up." I was talking about it just the other day and yet it did not fully sink in with me - classic "Do as I say, not as I do" stuff. This is not just advice for a writer, it's advice for life. All too often we don't reach for our dreams or goals... and we're making an editorial decision, and that decision is, REJECTED!

A woman just left my office for a job as a County Commissioner. She'd always wanted to get into this end of politics, then a County Commissioner retired and she decided to go for an appointment, despite it seeming to be an impossibly long shot. She was rejected at first, but then another County Commissioner retired and this time she was accepted. She had it right. Go for your dreams. Give it a shot. Try for everything you dream about. It's your job to put yourself out there and give yourself a chance to succeed, and to keep working at getting better at what you love to do. Give yourself a chance to NOT get rejected.
Silly - Dirty Face

(no subject)

Phillip Jose Farmer's web site reports that he has died. I loved his books as a boy & read many of them. Riverworld remains a favorite of mine, particularly To Your Scattered Bodies Go. The Stone God Awakens showed me that many writers have the same ideas, as I'd had a similar storyline myself, and I enjoyed that book too. My mother found The Lovers to be one of those books that changed the genre. He was not the best writer I have read, but I could live in his worlds. I'm glad I found his books and I'm glad he wrote them. His vivid imagination is a beacon for how to approach some of my own writing. He'll be missed.
Silly - Dirty Face

25 Random Things About Me

This has been all the rage, both on facebook and LJ. 25 random things about me. I enjoyed reading what others posted and decided to post my own.

1) I'm a South African who has lived in the US for over 13 years, living in 9 states during that time and visiting 41 of them. The moves were deliberate as I wanted to travel and sought out short contracts.
2) I miss South Africa immensely and part of me feels my destiny was to do nonprofit/non-governmental organization work there instead of gallivanting about the world. Later this year I'm going back for only the second time since I left.
3) I live in Portland, Oregon and I love it here. It's a hip city filled with progressives, hippies, do-gooders, tree-huggers, writers, artists, quirky bands, etc... i.e. my people. It's hard to imagine too many cities where I might be happier.
4) I'm the middle child of three and that's my whole family. No dad in the picture and the Nazis killed most of my late mother's family (they were Polish Jews).
5) I served 2 years in the South African military as an extremely unwilling conscript. I volunteered to be a medic because I didn't want to shoot anyone on behalf of an evil government, but somehow still got sent to a war zone where I flew rescue missions in the back of large helicopters... but never used a rifle, though I was supposed to. No heroism, I just knew they would not risk a helicopter. I've seen and carried dead bodies... even children, I've seen the results of torture, myself and another guy once futilely stopped torture going on in the hospital (they simply pulled him from our care), I've carried severed limbs, I've saved lives, helped in surgery and so on and I've been AWOL more than anyone I know (busted just once), though my brother was way more brazen about it.
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