Follow Friday: Carrie Rubin! + Thoughts on Horror

It’s my pleasure to give this week’s Follow Friday to Amazon bestselling author, and physician, Carrie Rubin. Carrie’s blog is enlightening as well as humorous. She’s chock full of great stories, in addition to being a lovely and supportive blog friend. Go visit her blog and maybe even buy her book :)

Fridays are usually freeform. Mostly, I preface them with a Follow Friday, and then I yak about whatever’s going on with my projects, or something on my mind. This week – a brief discussion about horror, as that’s been something relevant to me this week.

Horror and I have never been good bedfellows. I’ve never seen Saw, or Hostel, or even classic slasher movies like Friday The 13th. Until I was 17 and Repo! The Genetic Opera became one of my favorite movies, I had a real aversion to gore as well. I’m still squeamish, but only with the “realistic hardcore” gore from something like Django Unchained or Saving Private Ryan. Or anything that involves demonic possession. Or really hardcore disturbing stuff like American Horror Story, because of all the disfigured skinless serial killers they’ve got running around. But the fake, dismembered-limbs, bright-red-blood, obviously-fake-entrails gore from Death Race 2000, or the 300 movies, or even Harper’s Island? Doesn’t really bother me anymore.

I can count the amount of “scary” movies I’ve seen on probably one hand. About the only ones I grew up with were Poltergeist, which is fairly tame, and some mild Stephen King fare like The Langoliers and The Stand. Last year, I watched Devil during October and quite enjoyed it.

So, since it’s the season of horror, I’m going back and watching a few movies I would have been afraid of once, but can now handle just fine. Austin and I have begun with the Scream trilogy, which is on Netflix. I’m adoring them so far. The irreverent humor is just grand and I’m still never able to guess who Ghostface is. The first one was basically like “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Murder Spree” and I really need a gif of Matthew Lillard being hit with a phone and whining about it as he’s simultaneously bleeding to death. And they’re really not scary at all so much as they’re hilarious. I don’t even know why movies like Scary Movie were made if Scream already nailed the horror parody.

Next on the list: The Cabin In The Woods, which is a Joss Whedon movie and supposedly quite wry; The Craft, which I’ve seen bits of before and enjoyed; may give the first 3 Resident Evil movies a shot (as I’ve seen 4 & 5 and they were basically just action movies with a few zombies). Maybe Cursed too, because I think it’s on Crackle or Amazon? I may also watch Rubber, which is a dark indie comedy about an evil tire that rolls around and makes people’s heads explode. And I’ve got The Cable Guy, World War Z, Carrie, Rosemary’s Baby, Apollo 18, The Raven, Prophecy, Let The Right One In,  and Donnie Darko all in the queue, all of which I’ve never seen… that should be enough to get my slightly wimpy horror/thriller fix for Halloween XD

And after all that – Chicken Run. Because Thanksgiving. :P Have a good weekend!

Follow Friday – L.S. Engler!

Happy Friday! My follow recommendation this week descends upon L.S. Engler, a charming indie author. You can buy her first book Soulless on Amazon (look at the pretty cover!), or submit to her World Unknown Review – an indie lit mag she’s compiling. She’s a cool gal, so check her out!

H.K. Rowe has challenged me to present pics of my workspace, but I haven’t gotten around  to taking any yet. So that will probably come next week!

It’s been a busy week for us and I’m still trying to carve out time for writing with this new work schedule. I’m the type of person who needs at least a 2 hr block of time to accomplish anything. Some writers can scribble anything when they’ve got a spare 15 minutes, but I don’t think I’m focused enough for that? I almost need a big block of time to sit, say a few ohms, and get cracking on whatever I’m trying to do. (This also applies to chores and the like too. I’m not one who can do drive-by laundry on a weeknight or something. I need to set aside like, a whole morning, and get it all done at once).

So, not having more than an hour at a time to rub together is difficult for me. Truly, the only way I can deal is to go upstairs at 7:00 every night and leave Austin to his lonesome. However, if I’m super productive, then it doesn’t have to be every night. I could set a goal of 20,000 words a week and that’s just 10 hours. I can find 10 hours.

I’ve also been jotting some notes about my NaNo project, which I’m getting more excited for. I’m not sure I’m gonna have a rigid outline for this one, but it’ll be nice to try something new and experimental. Something I’ve never approached before. I’m not going to tackle this one with the determined intent of being published, but we’ll see how it turns out. If it’s good, then maybe. If it doesn’t work, oh well. At least I’ll have another 50,000 words of practice.

Follow Friday – Kate Turville!

Happy almost-weekend! Today, please join me in following the lovely Kate Turville. I like Kate because, like me, she’s a scientist and a writer! Although, she’s an Australian environmental scientist, which makes her about 10x more epic. Her posts are really funny sometimes, but they’ll just as often make you ponder life.

This has been mostly a “recover from being sick and do some book research” week. It’s also Charleston Restaurant Week, so Austin and I have been busy going out. I think Tuesday was the one night we were able to stay in. And tomorrow, we’re going to see a Boston Pops tribute orchestra, so no rest for the wicked again! I’ve got a headache, so I mostly just want a nap -_-

But yes, book research – one of my favorite parts of the creative process for this particular project. I’m structuring a story bible for the Paradisa series, so I’m leafing through my mythology books and trying to clarify the world. I often feel like I should be working on my draft instead of researching, but hey, the research has to be done sometime. At least it’s something productive. And it can be quite inspiring too. I’ve stumbled across many East Asian or Celtic gods and said “oh snap, that guy is awesome. I’ve got to work him into the story somehow.”

I did manage to write a few pages, and I feel like inspiration has returned in full. It’s just a matter of finding the time and tearing myself away from Austin for a few hours. It sounds easy, but it’s hard to say “I’m going upstairs now, don’t talk to me until 8:00.” Alas. There’s always Sunday, which I have to myself, and I’m determined to let the chores lie and write instead this time.

Have a good weekend!

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!

Some Talk On Setting Descriptions…and Follow Friday @NannaWrites !

For today’s Follow Friday, I hope you check out a rising Danish writer named Nanna Andersen. Nanna posts book reviews and tips on writing. I also think she’s just started building her platform, so give her some love!

As for me, my Draft Five marathon begins today! Hopefully. I’m going to see Guardians of the Galaxy at 5, with dinner afterwards, so that should leave me a whole evening of writing. I have finished 19/21 chapters in my new outline, so that is nearly set. My final two betas are delivering feedback this weekend, which will be added into the new outline as best I can do.

But here’s a “writer topic” before I head off to the weekend – setting description. Dad called Mom a few days ago and they talked at length about my book (with rather different opinions, as you might imagine from following this saga). Dad insists that I need more setting descriptions in the book. Like, five-senses surround-sound half-a-page setting descriptions for almost every place the characters enter. Lord of The Rings level description.

My mother’s opinion, and mine, is that no one wants to read all that. Those are the paragraphs readers are most likely to skip – aka, paragraphs I do not want in my novel.

To Dad’s credit, setting descriptions are flimsy in my book. This is because I honestly haven’t decided what everything looks like yet. I should probably go into more detail about the made-up places in my world, for those are places that readers have never mentally, visually, or physically been. A reader may be able to fill in some blanks with their imagination, but I ought to paint a nice two-paragraph picture = A literal visual translation (is this a house? a courtyard? a city?) plus time of day, weather, inside/outside, damp/dry, and a general mood of scary/safe is a good bet for most settings.

However, I don’t find it necessary at ALL to describe, at length, settings that a person can imagine clearly without my help. Like the airport. We’ve all been in airports. We know what they look like, smell like, feel like. Even if you’ve never been in one, you’ve probably seen them in movies. I will not waste time describing the ugly carpet, blowing AC, sterile colors, and uncomfortable plastic seats. First of all, none of that matters to the plot. Second of all, the reader “gets it” without that needing to be said.

In general, I won’t spend more than 200 words on any setting description, even if we’re in a new place. Not only can setting descriptions be peppered through the scene instead of dumped in one swoop (“he walked over to an antique wardrobe, its teal paint weathered with age”), readers don’t need to know the shape of the crown molding, the number of tiles on the floor, or the parts-per-million carbon dioxide in the air. Do you think about those sorts of things when you enter a new space? Probably not.

So describe the settings to the length that they matter to the characters and story. Trust that your reader has some imagination, and that it’s actually quite fun to make up your own visual scene as a reader. Being spoonfed every detail is not only tedious, but it takes some of the fun out (for me, at least). It tells me that the author is a control freak and doesn’t want the reader to “share” the fictional dream as much as the author wants the reader to “obey” the dream. And I will probably admonish that author by closing the book.

Follow Friday! – Millie Ho, YA Writer and Artist #FF

Today, I strongly recommend that you follow the friendly Millie Ho. She is near my age and both a writer and an artist, so twice as talented as me! You can learn more about her writing advice and WIP at her blog, or you can check out her cute, snarky webcomic Sorrowbacon.

Talked to Dad last night. He’s 2/3 of the way through with Paradisa now. Since it took him a month to get through the first 30 pages, I never thought he’d get this far! Some of his comments during our phone call were actually fair and will be fixed. Some are fair but will be ignored. And some are like “you obviously skipped a scene, didn’t you?”

One critique I’ve gotten across the board from my betas is that my characters have too much self-doubt. When bad things happen, they don’t always keep their chins high. I agree to an extent, but I also insist on making these people behave realistically. If you were a normal person, thrust into a world of danger and mind-blowing revelations, would you just take it in stride? Or would you worry about yourself and your loved ones? Would you worry about dying? Would you worry about being good enough to fight?

Dad says “no one wants to read that. No one is happy in this book.” In my defense, my characters are not nearly as angst-ridden, self-loathing, sad, or self-destructive as some fantasy protagonists, but they certainly have a lot of fear.  I understand that reading about a character being really scared all the time is probably no fun, and that it should be fixed. But no one wants to read about impossibly confident people either. Would it make sense for characters to be “happy” when they’re facing the apocolpyse? Would it make sense for them to be okay with killing if they’ve never killed before, or be proficient in combat if they’ve never held a weapon?

Or should we see fiction as a mere form of escapism? As a way for us, as readers, to vicariously live through a person who is stronger than we are? Are we supposed to remember and love Indiana Jones for shooting a guy dead in the famous Raiders of the Lost Ark scene, and not think about how unrealistic it is for a professor of freaking archeology to nonchalantly murder a dude?

So next week, I’m going to write a post about “Expectation vs. Reality”, and the struggle to present a realistic human hero who is also confident enough to root for. It’s probably the biggest struggle I’m having with writing this book. Perhaps the companions of The Doctor will be the best mold to go by – ordinary people who make the choice to leave their mundane lives behind. It’s hard to do without a “chosen one” crutch to fall on ;)

Follow Friday! – Flash Fiction from Raven Apotheosis

In this week’s edition of Follow Friday, I encourage everyone to visit the beautifully designed blog of Edgar Hernandez – Raven Apotheosis. Edgar is a professor who posts daily short/flash fiction on his blog, primarily in *my* favorite genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. All of these flash fiction pieces emerge from some thought-provoking prompts or caveats. He’s also a heck of a nice dude, so go check him out!

In other news, my round one betas have one week left to read and review Paradisa. Eeek! Next week will surely be a bountiful harvest of feedback :P

Additionally, I’ve spent my evenings fixing up the study, doing my back exercises, and reading through my mythology books for sequel fodder. I’m about four chapters into the outline for Paradisa’s sequel, Ascendent, despite telling myself that the next novel I work on will not be Ascendent. Alas. Perhaps getting the outline done while I’ve still got the mojo isn’t a bad thing, though. I have until November to get cracking on an outline for Still Unnamed Trippy Othello Filmmaker Metafiction Novel .