A couple weeks back, I was bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t managed to do as much reading this year as I’d liked. That is still technically the case, but it’s certainly gotten better– enough that I at least don’t feel guilty when I tell people I’m an avid reader.
For the most part, that’s meant that I’m reading through the last five books of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. They’re fun. Horatio Hornblower in space, basically. The space battles are incredibly detailed, and the characters are fun. And it’s undeniably light reading, for the most part. As much as I enjoy them, I can’t argue that they’re high literature in any way.
And that’s just fine.
It can be easy to fall into this idea that there’s less value in “lower” stories. Most people don’t go so far as to say that you shouldn’t ready anything but the best stories, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a general belief that it’s more valuable to spend your time reading them than the alternative. If there’s no way you can read everything worth reading over the span of your life, why waste time on anything but the best?
To some extent, that’s a reasonable point of view. There are so many fantastic and truly well crafted stories out there, and it would be a loss to not read and enjoy them. But at the same time, sometimes you don’t have the focus to appreciate or even follow the complexities you find in those sorts of stories. Or sometimes you just want to read something fun and easy– just like you sometimes just want to eat some popcorn instead of a real meal. And that’s why it’s so nice to have easier reads. Like the Honor Harrington series.
Yet just because a particular story can accurately be described as a fluff read doesn’t mean that it loses all capacity to touch the reader. Sometimes reading something light and easy what it takes for us as readers to let down our guard more than we would with something else. There’s a point of diminished returns, of course. If something is too poorly written it will distract from any good points it might actually have. But outside of that, if a story touches you, it touches you. And sometimes a fluff read can touch you just as much as anything else. Or if not, then it can entertain you and prove enjoyable for a while, and that is valuable too.
Hey guys! So, my schedule at work has me working 24 hour shifts on the ambulance. It’s “just” interfacility transports, but I still find it pretty awesome. That being said, the hours do get funky. So maybe we can blame the following on a late night, sleep deprived brainstorm. Because I think that’s actually pretty accurate. I hope you find it as amusing as I do!
Look. Just hear me out. Because if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Werewolves would make fantastic EMTs.
Wait! Stop! Quit backing away slowly and just listen! Ah, shoot– and put down that little silver figurine you keep on your desk! You don’t need it! What are you…? Yip! Quit throwing things! That’s completely uncalled for.
Alright, look. I’ll stay here on this side of the room, you stay there on that side of the room, and we can talk about this like civilized people. At least one of us is? Now that’s just mean. You’ll give me two minutes? Great! That’s all I need.
So! Werewolves as EMTs. First, the obvious. Ambulances run all night long. Werewolves are great at night! We– ah– they do their best work when the moon is up and the sun is not, so no need to worry about them not being awake.
Second, werewolves are strong. Great for lifting gurneys and moving patients. Also great for general emergency situations. Need something moved out of the way so you can get to someone who might be injured? They got you! Can’t find a jack to help change that flat tire? Just have your friendly neighborhood werewolf lift the car for you! Need an imposing presence so that no one gets in your way while you’re patching someone together long enough to get them to the hospital? No one wants to fight a werewolf.
Okay, so that last one may have more to do with teeth and claws than strength, but the point stands.
Third, rumor has it that the weirdest stuff happens when the full moon is out. So why not harness the weirdness (look, even I’ll admit werewolves are a little weird) and have it work in your favor? If your partner’s a werewolf, you’ll get that fuzzy advantage any night, but especially when the moon is full– when you just might happen to need it the most.
Fourth, ‘wolves are naturally familiar with using something like a siren to communicate with their surroundings. Because basically, a siren is just a howl that tells everyone where you are and to get out of the way.
Fifth, werewolves are great team players. Comes with being the sort of creature that thrives in a pack. Plus, all those scary stories you hear about werewolves being “bloodthirsty monsters” are from the ones that aren’t socialized and don’t have a pack. I can already guarantee that any ‘wolf that wants to be an EMT is going to be the type that is well socialized, and they’ll form a pack with their partner anyway. Problem solved!
And– what’s that? My two minutes are up? Okay, cool. That’s all I needed to say. Will you at least think about it? Great!
Wait, who are you calling? The local paranormal detectives? Ah, heck, those guys are mean. Fine! I’m leaving! I’m going! Just think about it?
HaHA! I did it! Fifty thousand words in July! And now I’ve got sixteen stories in various stages of presentability, and I’ve already started working on the edits for the first one. Actually, technically, I’ve just got fifteen to edit, since I had one of them pull double duty and act as my entry for the recent contest over at The Write Practice, so it’s actually in good shape and I’ll share it with you all here in about ninety days, once the rights revert back to me. In the meantime, you can go check it out here!
Other than that, since I don’t have much else to share, I can share the list of current titles for the various stories I was working on last month:
The Shadowed The Day We Lost The Hartwood Faeries Wolf Road Candle in the Window* Caer Modnaan The Secret Wood** Aeternatus Runner To the Horizon*** We Went Home A Page Worse Than Death The Windbringer The Lost Ones The Willow Book The Smallest Messenger
Most of these are (surprise, surprise) science fiction and fantasy. Which ones sound the most exciting to you? (Or in other words, which ones do you want to see me finish first?) And feel free to ask questions in the comments below!
* This is the one that’s already finished!
** I’m almost certainly going to change the title on this one. The story sorta got away from me…
*** This one… I never really figured out where this was going. But I like the title. We’ll see what happens!
Three days left! And after a quick writing session this morning, my current wordcount for this Camp NaNo event is sitting just above 42k. My sister and I have exchanged fourteen different prompts, so I have fourteen different stories in various stages of being written, and while most of them are terrifyingly rough, I really, really like the ideas, and I can’t wait to start polishing.
At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I might actually be making this goal, and I’m very excited. I am also looking forward to the time next month to start working on Tanner and Miranda in earnest again, this time with the rust knocked off and a writing habit formed again!
How about you guys? Anyone reading who’s also doing Camp NaNo? How are you feeling about your projects?
In case you haven’t noticed, I like science fiction and fantasy. (If you hadn’t, allow me to point you to the rest of my blog.) Now, for the longest time, I thought the two were roughly the same thing, just in different settings. And to some extent, that’s probably true. There’s certainly a reason they often get lumped together on bookstore shelves and are usually said together in the same breath. Yet as I’ve thought more about why I like both so much, and as I’ve had more time to focus on the worldbuilding side of my own various projects, I’ve come to the conclusion that the two really do have different strengths and are certainly different enough to warrant the distinction.
First, fantasy. My first love, mostly thanks to the fact that such stories can and often do involve things like dragons, unicorns, and grumpy wizards. Growing up, that usually meant that I was giddily excited by anything that fell under the swords and sorcery category. Lord of the Rings? Loved it. Anything to do with King Arthur? Sign me up. Wanna watch Dragonheart? I’ll be right there.
These days, while I still have a fond appreciation for all the stories mentioned above, I’ve also found myself branching out a bit. For instance, anything that involves magic in what might otherwise look like our world today tends to at least pique my interest. For instance, I really enjoyed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And playing Shadowrun.
And for all the differences between these various stories, there are also a lot of similarities. For one thing, ancient evils crop up with a worrisome consistency. Magic is old. Our heroes find themselves caught up in traditions that have existed for ages. As a gross generalization, fantasy stories are full of wonder at the old, whether that looks like a medieval fantasy or a modern one that finds itself uncovering those things that happened long, long ago. There’s a reason fairy tales start with the words “once upon a time”.
For me, when I find that some story idea or another seems to want to turn itself into a fantasy story, that usually means that it has something to do with the past, at least in my head. Maybe it’s just a chance to re-imagine the parts of history that are so much fun to romanticize, or to interact with a so-called simpler world. Or maybe it’s a way to come to terms with the past.
Either way, it boils down to a focus on what once was, with perhaps a nod to how that affects things today.
Science fiction, on the other hand, looks to the future. Maybe these stories are just ways to imagine what we might be able to figure out someday. Or maybe they act as a warning for what might happen if we don’t mend our ways. Or maybe they give us something to strive for. But whatever way you look at it, the science fiction genre is as much about the future as fantasy is about the past.
Are there exception to this? Oh, absolutely. But Star Trek (all of them) is very purposely imagining what humanity might be able to do in a utopian setting (whether you agree with them or not on the methods chosen to get there). Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series takes place in a solar system that is nearly unrecognizable after the advancements humanity has made, and while not all of the advancements are good, it’s hard to deny that they’ve got some really, really cool things going on. Science fiction stories have a remarkable ability to provide a space to imagine what might be, and so to imagine some of the things we’ll have to think about if and when we get there.
Of course, it’s not all black and white. Of the top of my head I can name off several fictional worlds that have some distinct elements that I’ve argued belonged to either science fiction or fantasy. For example, Star Wars. The fact that it both involves spaceships and is set “a long time ago” with a bunch of knights running around is evidence enough of that. And then you’ve got Stargate, which has the humans of Earth finding ways to make these fantastic technological leaps… in order to fight old false gods. Or you’ve got J.S. Morin’s Black Ocean books that just say to heck with it and do both. Because they can.
In other words, like I said before, there’s definitely a reason they get pushed together so often. And there’s certainly nothing that says a story can’t look both to the future and the past at the same time. In fact, I think a lot of good ones do just that. But if you’re looking to imagine something about the future, that’s what science fiction is meant to do. And if you’re looking to engage with the past, fantasy stories have all sorts of things to say about that.
I have this memory from when I was a kid and our whole family went to San Francisco on vacation. The room (suite?) we stayed in was on the top floor, offering us this magnificent view of the city through a huge window that covered what I remember to be the entire wall and ran floor to ceiling. As you can imagine, my siblings and I, being young and fearless and completely unaccustomed to beautiful cityscape views, responded by plastering our small selves against the glass and staring out at all the everything.
Which apparently made my dad a little nervous, because I remember being gently (if urgently) ushered away from the glass.
And honestly, I can’t say I blame him. Because I rather doubt I would be able to do the same thing today, no matter how strong I “knew” the glass was. Chalk it down to a greater sense of my own mortality, or the realization of just how far down it was to the ground. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a true fear of heights, but I definitely have a certain… respect for them.
That being said, I love the views you get when you do get up high. And close to the edge. I noticed this the other day when I was up several floors in some building in LA, and the hallway ended up going along the edge of the building and the entire wall was made of glass that let you see out and down. I wasn’t expecting it, and I felt a sudden excitement somewhere in my gut.
It was a similar feeling to the one I get when I’m in a plan looking down, especially at take-off or landing. When you’re already at altitude it can be easy to just accept that this is what the world looks like through the window of a plane, but when you actually watch the ground fall away or reach up to meet you, that illusion gets shattered. And it’s amazing.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except to try to put down my thoughts on something that clearly touches some deeper part of me. As a writer, there’s always value in finding these things, because once you realize it, it’s easier to synthesize it and draw connections to other things. I’m never going to ride a gryphon through the clouds, but I’ve ridden a horse at a gallop and I’ve flown in a plane– so I can imagine what it must be like.
Or maybe something just took my breath away, and I want to share it with all of you.
Well… I don’t want to jinx it… but this might be the time I break my Camp failure curse! At any rate, I’ve already written more by this point in July than I have in any of my other attempts in their entirety.
It’s not a guarantee, of course, and this is all in the middle of starting a crazy new schedule at work, but I’m feeling excited! It definitely helps that my sister has been choosing some awesome prompts, too.
They’re not in anything like a presentable state yet, of course, but I’m really happy with the bones of all of them so far. And if all goes as planned, you’ll be seeing some of the finished products in the next few months.
What about you guys? Anyone else participating in this Camp NaNo? How’s it going for you?
Well. It’s here again. Camp NaNo. My nemesis. My white whale. The one that got away. The one that consistently defeats me. The one I can’t seem to best. And I, being too stubborn for my own good, am picking up my harpoon and going after it one more time. And my long-suffering sister has agreed to do it with me once again.
That being said, we are trying something different this time. For me, I’m hoping that shaking things up a little might actually help me motivate the way I want to, and I might actually end up hitting my goals (yay!) and I dragged my sister along in it because I don’t like doing things alone. Specifically, we’re going to be giving each other writing prompts every other day and writing a series of short stories– or whatever comes to mind. And the prompts can be anything! Traditional writing prompts… songs… pictures… anything we find.
I’m so excited! And here we are, June 30… the first prompts have been exchanged… let Camp NaNo commence!
It’s been one of those weeks (months?) where I’ve been having a really hard time reading. Chalk it up to the fact that I’ve chosen a bunch of really long books (like, more-than-nine-hundred-pages long), or just the fact that my attention span is more or less non-existent (SQUIRREL). Either way, the end result is that I just haven’t gotten through as many books by this point in the year as I’d like.
I’ve also, to beat a dead horse, not been writing half so much as I’d like, though I’ve at least been writing more recently than I have in a while, so there’s that. Given that reading is one of the best ways to immerse oneself in stories in general, and given that that’s one of the best ways to inspire one’s own writing, I can’t help but wonder if the two aren’t related. Then again, if I haven’t been reading much because I’ve had a lack of focus, that exact same lack would make writing just as difficult, if not more so.
There’s nothing particularly profound about any of this. Rather, this post is mostly just me bemoaning the fact that, whether there’s a good reason for it or not, I feel horrifically unproductive. It’s also me scrabbling back to a regular habit of weekly posting, which also happens to have the side effect of keeping those writing muscles more or less functional. On the bright side, it appears to be working, too. At least, the writing is starting to come more easily than it has in quite some time.
TL;DR: I haven’t been reading or writing as much as I’d like, and I’m not sure if the one is the consequence of the other or just both symptoms of the same thing.
Somehow, this will be the two hundredth post on this blog. Cue the gasps– I know I’m surprised! It’s been just over three years since I started this venture, and though I’ve hit a few bumps in the past nine months or so, it’s been an incredible experience so far and I’m already looking forward to the next two hundred posts.
So, first of all, thanks to everyone reading these things. I’m so grateful for every single one of you, especially those of you who keep coming back.
Second of all… I don’t have anything to post up yet, but the writing front for Tanner and Miranda has been going better lately than it has in a long time, which is so exciting! I think I complained a while back about the fact that I was having a hard time re-remembering how to write Miranda’s voice, but I seem to have passed that hump, and the snarky banter is coming along quite well, in my opinion. So, keep an eye out! If all goes as planned, I’ll be posting up some excerpts again sometime soon. Because I’m a writer, and it’s SO nice to be able to prove that again. Ha!
Anyway! Thanks again for sticking around thus far, and I hope you’re as excited as I am to see the next two hundred posts.