Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween!

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays. I enjoy seeing all the kids in their costumes, I love that everyone is talking about the things that go bump in the night, (I love eating candy,) and most of all, I love dressing up.

I will use about any excuse to dress up, so as this is my first Halloween at my current work place, I asked around trying to determine if the other ladies in my office would be showing up in costume. They said they would dress up "a little." You know, something they could remove quickly if needed.

That probably means witch hats or something, right?

I tried to plan accordingly. I have a trunk full of costumes, wigs, and other 'dress-up' accessories. I thought it safer not to go overboard, so I chose a costume that could be easily transformed into 'normal' clothing and showed up as a black cat. Okay, a black cat with fuchsia hair, but come one, I need to have a little fun, right?

Wouldn't you know, NO ONE in my office showed up in costume, except me. One woman wore a vest with pumpkins on it, but that was it for Halloween dress-up. *sigh* Luckily, my office is only a small part of a large library, so other people in the library did dress up. I didn't disassemble the outfit, but went through the full day as a bright-haired black cat. I got a lot of compliments, a lot of double-takes, and strangely enough several pictures snapped of me. All and all it was fun.

The pictures here my husband took on his cell phone, so not the greatest in the world, but here is me in my costume. Later tonight I'll be handing out candy, and then, in about oh...7 more hours NaNoWriMo official begins. I'm excited!!

Anyone have special plans for this Halloween? Anyone else dressing up?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Urban Fantasy: She and He



I just finished reading Unshapely Things, Mark Del Franco's debut Urban Fantasy novel, and it got me thinking about the gender disparity in UF.

Mark's main character (a magic-crippled druid) is male, which among UF titles, is very rare. Off the top of my head, the only other books I can think of with male protagonists are the Nightside novels by Simon R. Green, the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and Night Life by Rob Thurman. I know there are a couple more UF novels by males currently being released, but still, there doesn't seem to be many out there.

Mostly, urban fantasy is the home to a lot of sharp-attitude(d), kick-ass female protagonists. The girls run the show in this emerging sub-genre, but there is no denying the huge popularity of the few male series out there. This being true, why aren't there more men writing UF series? Granted, there are less men reading it, and most series have a strong romance sub-plot--not exactly a guy genre. From my time in the bookstore, I can guess the number of male readers of the genre is less than half of the total readers, but even if only a quarter of UF readers are male, that is still a lot of fans. (The funny thing about most of these guys? They are fans, they love the books, but DO NOT recommend any book with romance printed on the spine. With the sometimes blurry line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, the UF books the guy happens to love might have more romance/sex than the PR you try to recommend, but that 'romance' word stuck on the spine will scare him away. This is actually true for lots of female readers as well. In my bookstore days, and I've heard it other places since, I found romance readers were much more willing to step across the genre line and read UF than UF readers were to read a PR. But, I digress. )

What is it about UF that lends itself more to female protags? Is it because the sub-genre has its roots in fantasy, home of the damsel in distress and the support-role healer, so these kick-ass women didn't fit in the vaguely medieval societies of high-fantasy? Does it break the suspension of belief to have strong and sexually liberated women in any time period except modern/post-modern/or alternate-modern? Is it a trend that will eventually fade?

Recently, I've heard complaints that all the sarcastic women are beginning to sound alike, and another commenter mentioned they were sick of the "man with boobs" character (which I'll be honest and admit I don't quite understand because you don't need exterior genitalia to be obstinate or violent.) Are guys the answer to these 'issues'?
Guys aren't exactly new to the sub-genre, after all, Butcher could probably be considered one of the forerunners, but as mentioned, the titles with guy protags are scarce. Recently though, there seems to be more guys entering the scene. John Levett just released a book and Anton Stout has a book coming out soon. I'm drawing a blank on more, but I know I've seen a couple. (We won't count Mark Henry because his book has a female protagonist.)

Five years ago this sub-genre barely existed. Two years ago Butcher and Green were basically the only male writers. In the last couple months, a half dozen male UFs have been released or are on the docket to be released soon. Why the sudden influx of guys when there weren't many before? Is it the growing popularity of the sub-genre or a natural balancing to round it out? (Have you ever listened to mostly female choir sing? The handful of bass voices are a relief to the ear.)

If Urban Fantasy remains on its growing path and doesn't fade as a trend, it will be interesting to hear how it is described in a couple years. Currently, one of the most common descriptions I hear runs along the lines of "First person, kick-ass female with lots of attitude, with a suspenseful story set in modern times, typically a city, involving elements of fantasy/horror, mystery, and romance."
The first problem with this description is that, hey, we like our kick-ass guys too. The next being that lots of the guy's stories have little to no romance (and a few--very few--female stories don't have much either.) Then we also have a rising amount of 'rural' fantasies, as in those set, not in a city, but in the country side. Then of course there is the whole first person bit, which also doesn't always hold true. So, while this description probably describes a bulk of the genre, it doesn't cover the whole thing.

How would you describe the sub-genre? If you could rename it, what would you call it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pre-plotting: My process before plotting the story.

The idea for my NaNo story has been percolating in the back of my mind for months. Even before I sat down and really started thinking about it, I had a rough idea of the world, my main characters, and the general plot (thank goodness about that last one, nailing down the plot is one of the hardest things for me typically.) The past few weeks I have been brainstorming with pen and paper because it lends itself to more organic organization. I might post what some of my brainstorming on paper looks like later, but, to give you a quick description, it typically includes very few paragraphs with lots of circles and squares of text linked together with lines. (Oh yeah, and doodles. I never remember drawing them, but give me a pen and doodles will end up in the margins of about any piece of paper I'm around for an extended period of time.) I'll be honest, I don't spend a lot of time going back over the mess I make while brainstorming, but it helps me to get it out there.

After a couple brainstorming sessions, my story has turned from and extremely general idea to a little bit more clearly defined. Time to figure out the details.

At this point in the process, I know enough about my characters and their plans to form a jumping point, but especially in fantasy, the world a character lives in really shapes who they are and what they do. For instance, the series I have been working on the last few years is set in a fictional city that could be almost any major city in modern day America, and the existence of supernaturals is a closely guarded secret. On the other hand, my NaNo story is set an "alternate history" type world, where the existence of supernaturals was made public sometime back. Without knowing anything about the characters in question, a fact like that automatically changes how they will react to possible events. The rules of "magic" in the world also shape how the characters act and the possible path of the plot.

So, before I begin to make any kind of plot outline, I start with a little pre-plotting. I define the history of my world, what type of "creatures/supernaturals" will inhabit it, what type of magic exists. I try to delve into how culture will have developed and establish a social hierarchy. I ask myself questions like how supernaturals are policed, what a rule breaker would suffer, and if that particular race of supernaturals functions as a kind of "exclusive club" or if they freely share/associate with other sups/humans. None of this information is specific to the characters in the story, and while I compile this information into word files, the reader will never learn most of it .

Why do it then? Well, for me (and I am not an expert at anything, so this is only my process and everyone is welcome to their own) I need to know this information now, before I get any further, because this will help me figure out more about my characters and help me work out my plot. I keep a 'bible' of my world in files on the computer (instead of just in my head) because I will forget, and changing the 'rules' half way through a story leads to lots of rewriting later. This doesn't mean I won't change some of this information or flesh it out more as I get into the story, but it is a very strong starting point for me. Also, reading over this compiled information tends to fill me with new ideas.

This is the stage of plotting (or pre-plotting) I'm in currently with my NaNo novel, and I must say, I'm enjoying it. I absolutely love world-building. Once I feel like I have the world and races fleshed out, I'll go on to the next stage of pre-plotting, which will be compiling character bios, but that is another topic for another day.

How much planning do you do before starting a new novel? Do you keep extensive files of information about your world, or do you rely on your characters to show you the world as you write?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NaNoWrimo: The Madness is Coming.

Yes, it's that time again. Time to stockpile your coffee. Time to stick takeout menus on the fridge. Time to begin clearing the calender and warning family and coworkers to expect you to be in a zombie-like state when they see you, if they see you at all, during November. Time to prepare for the madness.


What is all this preparing for? National Novel Writing Month! NaNoWriMo is a challenge that hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world take during November. The Goal: to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th.

The forums just opened for the new year, so if you've always wanted to write a novel go sign up today! Then, if you're a plotter, it's time to start plotting. If you're a pantzer, well, I guess you can go hang out in the forums. At midnight November first, the madness will begin.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Myspace revisited

I'm taking the plunge again and heading back into the madness that is Myspace. I've had an account for over a year, and it's been months since I checked it, but recently a lot of writers have been joining the ranks, so I thought it couldn't hurt to reinvestigate Myspace.

I've customized my page so it's not so boring, and I'm currently going out and friending the authors/people I know. If you find me before I find you, please feel free to friend me. I haven't decided if I'll mirror my blog on myspace or not. I'm terrible about mirroring to my LiveJounal account, so I can't imagine I'll be very good at remembering to mirror THREE blogs. What do those of you with myspace accounts do? Do you mirror all your posts, just the really important/informative ones, x-post none sticking to only one blog, or do you make separate posts for your different sites? (Okay that last one makes me cringe even thinking about it.)

I also haven't figured out exactly what to do with a myspace page. Right now I'm doing the fan girl thing and seaching out authors I read (or those I'm waiting to read like a lot of members of Fangs Fur and Fae.) And I'm friending people I talk to on loops or in chapters. If/once I'm published, I hope that myspace will be a way to reach out to readers, but right now, I'm not sure what to do with it. What do you like about other peoples' sites/blogs/myspace? What can a non-published writer do/talk about that you find interesting?

Speaking of both interesting things and Myspace. I found the coolest slideshow maker that I linked to my site. Tell me what you think! (You can make your own here.)




Well, off to get some real work done. Happy Monday everyone!