Happy Birthday, Blog! (and #CharlestonStrong)

I can hardly believe it, but Aether House is officially 1 year old today. Last summer, I started blogging regularly about writing philosophy, my process, my projects….and while I’ve slowed down considerably since, I’m still incredibly grateful to have met each of you between June 25, 2014 and  today. Thank you for taking an interest in my little corner of the internet! As always, I hope to be blog productive soon, maybe even get into a once-a-week schedule, but it will just depend on what comes to mind. I only blog when I have something necessary to say.

And today, I do.  I was going to mention something about the Mother Emmanuel shootings last week, as I’m a Charleston local and it’s really rocked the community for the past week. But I didn’t know what to say – I’m surprised anyone did. I’m pretty sure I’d met one of the victims, Cynthia Hurd, at some point during my time at College of Charleston. One of the other victims, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was a coach at the high school across the street from me. I know that one of them was also a sister-in-law of my coworker. It’s really sobering to be so close to this. Senator Tim Scott is a friend of my boyfriend’s family, and to see him break down into tears in front of the Senate….I really just wanted to give him a hug.

I’m very proud of my city, and my state, for how they’ve handled the aftermath. There have been a few outsiders trying to rile things up, the Westboro Baptist Church is going to supposedly start something tomorrow, and I think there has been a bit too much focus on the Confederate Flag stuff (within five days of the shooting, our representatives all unanimously agreed to take it down. Not sure the last time government worked that fast. Their response was swift and appropriate, what else is there to beat the a horse about, you know?). But the vast majority of people have been respectful and unified. Charleston is a beautiful city because it combines the most wonderful parts of the South – our sense of family, our good manners, our shared traditions – while merging the more progressive culture of the North. We are not cold and angry towards the injustice, but we are aware of it. I think most people in this town want to work together peacefully and thoughtfully against it.

Tomorrow is going to be pretty nuts though, because the President is going to be in town for Reverend Pinckney’s funeral. I feel a bit sorry for Pinckney’s family, as I worry that most people will show up to the TD Arena to see the President speak rather than to pay their respects to the deceased. :/

Please, if you wish to donate to the Emmanuel AME church and the families of this heinous tragedy, click here for the contact info for charities you can support.

The NaNoWriMo Isolation

I have been fighting off some kind of illness all week. BLECH. Luckily it’s taking a turn for the better today, but I have just been plagued with exhaustion. I sleep plenty every night, only for my eyelids to droop around 1:30. By the time I get home at 3:30, I just want to sleep.

But, can’t do that tonight. It’s Halloween! And my friend Greg is in town for fall break. And it’s my fourth anniversary with Austin (when I got in my car this morning, there was a Cthulhu plushie waiting for me. DAW.)  And the annual fair is in town.

So, all that’s coming to a head tonight, because the three of us are going to the county fair. I’m still feeling wobbly so…not sure how much I’ll be Tilt-A-Whirling. But it’ll be nice to hang out and take in all the energy from it. Then I’ll sleep like the dead tonight, get up once I feel like a person again, and spend the entire weekend inside. Resting. Writing for the  opening weekend of NaNoWriMo.

I will also be working on a cool project for the opening ceremony of AtomaCon, which is in two weeks! If you’re anywhere near Charleston, come and see our 3-day convention. We’ve got something for everyone, truly.

And grocery shopping. I guess there will be grocery shopping.

Well, I’ll rest as much as life will allow me to, and hopefully get a good start on NaNo while I’m at it. Good luck this weekend to all my fellow Wrimos!

Writing About Your Hometown

Stephen King writes about sleepy New England towns. Candace Bushnell writes about New York. Audrey Niffenegger wrote about Chicago. And the bestselling authors I’ve shared a zip code with – Bret Lott and Sue Monk Kidd – write about Charleston. When writers “write what they know,” setting is often the first thing they zoom to.

On the other hand, Robert Jordan lived in Charleston all his life, but The Wheel of Time didn’t involve Rainbow Row. Between Lott and Jordan, I’m the latter. Not just because I’m a fantasy author, but because there’s something awkward about setting my books in Charleston. It feels too personal, too self-inserty, especially because my characters can be very different from me. They could experience a side of the city that I’ve never seen. I have enough friends and coworkers to know that Charleston is what you make of it, and you can find any adventure you wish to have. Charleston can be the setting of a cozy, beachy romance, or it can be the setting of late-night college hijinks.

(Personally, I’d like to see the wild side of Charleston in books/movies. Nicholas Sparks does not have a monopoly on this town! Then again, I guess that’s what Southern Charm is, and we all wish that show would go away.)

I feel like I simultaneously know Charleston very well and not enough. I don’t know Charleston as much as I know “Michelle’s Charleston,” a subjectivity that does not lend itself well to setting. Plus, I think it would be distracting for my local beta readers, the same way it is for actors to watch themselves in movies.

At the same time, I am tempted to start off Paradisa in Charleston for one perfect reason – Clara. Clara is an engineering student. She is the daughter of a retired Marine commander. Her brother Connor was a Navy SEAL. The girl has soldier veins, yet I don’t want to put her in the military. I want her to be technical minded with mere undertones of that gung-ho spirit.

The only engineering school in Charleston is The Citadel.

It would be the perfect school for her to go to, and it would give her character an excuse for resilience that she sorely needs. She could have that soldier spirit instilled in her while still being the “smart” one, and not being hampered by actual military service. After college, she could become an officer, or she could leave the military life behind. She hasn’t chosen which, and that internal struggle could be a subplot. Simply changing the setting to Charleston would solve so much of Clara’s character that I can’t resist. Plus, since Connor is a chef, it’s more believable that he could eek out a bearable living at one of our award-winning restaurants downtown.

Connor and Clara’s hometown is mostly irrelevant because they leave it in Chapter Two. I think my knowledge of Charleston does more good than harm in this case. But I could never set an entire book here. Making a few references to street names and schools in the opening chapter is one thing, but navigating my characters through the Peninsula for 300 pages would grind my nerves. I’d be so worried about getting minute details wrong, or presenting my town in some incorrect or negative light. It’s funny how I don’t have that problem when writing about places I’ve never even been, but maybe my attachment to Charleston means I handle its presentation with extra care.

Do you enjoy writing about your hometown, or do you prefer to play in a setting that’s foreign to you?

Follow Friday: @AtomaCon!

Today is a pretty special Follow Friday, because I’m asking you to follow my mom. She runs the AtomaCon blog, which offers frequent updates about our joint sci-fi/media convention! Mom and I co-founded AtomaCon together (and I named it :P), along with an artist named James Christopher Hill, in 2013. So I hope you consider attending our convention in Charleston this November :) It will be our second year, and we’re introducing tabletop gaming, a film festival, and fringe science programming this go around. You can follow the blog via email.

I have had no time to write this week. Part of it is getting used to the new sleep schedule from a “when am I gonna write” point of view. Partly, it’s because I’ve felt like crap in the evenings. I don’t know if I picked up something during my Dallas trip or if my body is rebelling against my new schedule. But I’ve been crashing into bed at 9:30 or 10:00 every night because I’ve felt too nauseated and achy to stay up. On top of that, I’ve made new friends in the local tabletop culture this week, so I gamed last night and will tonight as well.

Alas, the weekend is coming up though. I’m going to refocus on my book and get at least one or two chapters knocked out. Just a bit more effort and I’ll be halfway through this revision!