Let’s get straight to the exciting part: My serial, The Questors from Effpiem, is moving forward! Since my last blog post, I’ve finally gotten busy revising that story, which is the first step in my plan to re-release it in a remastered edition, a la Tee Morris. (Okay, inspired by the efforts of Tee Morris. If my remastered edition is even one-quarter as good as his remastered edition, I will consider it a success.) I’m doing this by transferring the story text from OpenOffice into Celtx a little bit at a time, tightening up and polishing the writing as I go along. I plan to keep Seasons 1 and 2 of the serial in a single Celtx project file, so I’ve been thinking about the details of Season 2’s plot. I already knew I was going to add a new character, but I just recently figured out a backstory for the character that will give him an interesting internal conflict. No spoilers, but I’m excited about creating Season 2.
This weekend, I took a step that will, hopefully, help me expand my creative horizons and develop my skills in both sewing and podcasting. On Sunday afternoon, I saw an announcement on my local community college’s home page saying that tickets to the local community theater were only $7 with student ID. “Cool,” I thought. “I should check out their website and see what shows they have coming up.” When I read through the list of productions on the site, I came across a play that was new to me, but instantly got my attention: “I Hate Hamlet.” I won’t copy-paste out of respect for the theater’s content, but the basic premise of the play is that a stage actor has landed the role of Hamlet, even though he hates that play, and is mentored throughout the production by the ghost of a now-deceased, but well-respected figure in the local theater community.
Reading about this play got me all fired up because its premise is eerily similar to the premise of the first season of Slings and Arrows, the TV series we discussed on my last podcast, The Ghost Light Podcast. One of the things that sparked my interest in the TV series, and in co-hosting the podcast, was the fact that the series was about a theater company. Theater is an art form that I’ve enjoyed and admired from afar for most of my life. My mom always took me to see plays at the high school where she taught, and I eventually ended up in the pit orchestra for one of those plays, which was an absolute blast. During the production of the Ghost Light Podcast, I always thought I should get involved in my local community theater somehow, or at least show up for a play or two. I never did either of those things during the podcast’s run, but this year, I will.
Since I loved Slings and Arrows so much, I knew I would love “I Hate Hamlet,” too. Reading about it pushed me from just thinking about volunteering to actually volunteering. I filled in the volunteer signup form on the website. In one of the text fields on the form, I mentioned that I had enjoyed Slings and Arrows, and that it was the reason I was so excited about “I Hate Hamlet.” Today, I got a response from the costume shop coordinator. I was delighted to see that in her response email, she said: “Isn’t Slings and Arrows great!”
One of my favorite parts of co-hosting the Ghost Light Podcast was listening to my co-hosts Paul and Darcy’s stories of shenanigans in the theater world. I’m really looking forward to experiencing theater life firsthand, even if only as a costume shop volunteer. Anything I get to help sew for this or any production will be a labor of love. I’m very happy to lend my sewing skills to the theater. The costumes will probably be more challenging than anything I’ve sewn before, but that’s a good thing, because it means I get to learn new things. In addition, I hope to be able to record some live audio, or maybe even live interviews, while I’m volunteering. No promises, but I will try. If I do get that audio, I will use it to create some theater-focused episodes of my yet-to-be-named podcast, which will be designed to complement this blog. It will feature my serialized fiction, as well as other content related to my various creative endeavors.
I had known about Patreon for a while, but over this past weekend, I finally got around to setting up support for some of my favorite people. I decided to do this now because Monday was the anniversary of the event that got me started down the road to being a podcaster. (For the unfamiliar, Patreon is a tool that lets fans of creative people become patrons of their work, so that the creators receive an ongoing income stream from their ongoing creative endeavors. Patrons can decide how much to tip their favorite creative people per piece of content they create.)
Monday, January 26 was the ninth anniversary of the day I started my part-time job at the library at my university. My job was to sort and de-duplicate old records and put them into archival envelopes. Once I started that job, I had 12-15 hours per week to spend performing semi-mindless manual labor all by myself, and my supervisors said I was allowed to listen to music with headphones. It was 2006, and I had just discovered podcasting thanks to Wil Wheaton‘s blog and his new-at-the-time podcast, Radio Free Burrito (of which he recently wrote a brief history here). In addition to music, I burned all the RFB episodes up to that point to CDs (yes, really. I got a generic MP3 player, then a secondhand iPod, later on) and listened to them while I worked. In the comments to one of those episodes, somebody linked to Podiobooks.com, and I was instantly hooked on the wealth of stories that were available there.
Matthew Wayne Selznick’s Brave Men Run: A Novel of the Sovereign Era was one of the many Podiobooks I listened to while sorting and de-duping records as a broke college student. Now that I have a real, grown-up job, I’m finally going to pay the author what I think those many hours of entertainment were worth through his storefront. Not only that, but I’m going to support his current and future creative endeavors by making a pledge via Patreon. That first adventure in his Sovereign Era universe definitely left me wanting more, and while that first Podiobook all those years ago was free, I’m happy to pay for its sequel, Pilgrimage, and the ongoing serialized short-fiction project that complements the two novels, Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights. I’ve written enough novel drafts to have some idea of how much time and effort went into all that fiction, and I believe it deserves to be rewarded.
The other creative person whose work I have enjoyed, and who I am proud to support, is M. Alice LeGrow. I linked to one of Marty’s blog posts about her work in my own blog post about cosplay. Her posts about being a birthday party princess can be funny, heartbreaking, insightful, informative, or any combination of the above, but they’re always a delight to read. I believe in the value and importance of her party-princessing endeavors, especially when they’re for charity, and I’m doing my part to enable her to keep doing what she’s doing for a long time.
In the past few years, I’ve been a part-time freelance worker myself (although the most creative thing I’ve done on a freelance basis has been voice acting). Through that experience, I’ve learned that entertainment and the things people create have value, and so does the time they spent creating it. I’ve also learned that many creative people, including the two I linked to above, would really love to earn some or all of their living through the things they create. I’m supporting them on Patreon because I value what they’re doing and want to help them achieve that dream.
This past Tuesday, January 13, I sat down and recorded a guest segment for Jack Mangan’s Deadpan Podcast. My segment will be in the next show, which will be released at some future date, yet to be determined. I hadn’t done any recording for a podcast since the Ghostlight Podcast wrapped up back at the end of October, and it felt really good to be back behind the mike.
The segment I recorded was 2 minutes and 33 seconds of me sharing my thoughts on the movie Big Trouble in Little China. It is the latest in the series of works that we’ve featured in our many Deadpan Paloozas over the years. What is a Deadpan Palooza? It’s a podcast episode (or, in many cases, a series of 2 to 5 podcast episodes) that discusses and celebrates a particular creative work, which may be a movie, a book, an album, or anything else. The very first Deadpan Palooza was called Zardozapalooza, and was dedicated to the movie Zardoz. It was released about a year into the show’s run, and started a tradition that became one of my favorite aspects of the podcast. (For the curious, the episode can be found here. The audio player still works; Zardoz-related content starts at the 15:15 mark.)
Every Deadpan Palooza to date celebrates a creative work that is important to the Deadpan podcast community. Most of these works were an important part of our collective childhood or adolescence. For example, we’ve featured Gross Pointe Blank, Watchmen, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, High Fidelity, and Blade Runner (including “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”), among others. Whenever there’s both a movie version and a book version of the work, we talk about both and compare them. Deadpan Paloozas are always a blast to contribute to and listen to, because everyone in the group always has something interesting and unique to say. I’ve always loved the collaborative, communal aspect of the Deadpan Podcast, and I will try to encourage others to contribute segments to my own podcast, whenever I start it.
In addition to all that, our Paloozas have introduced me to a number of works that I probably wouldn’t have checked out otherwise. I’m grateful to the Deadpan community for finally getting me to read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, High Fidelity, Watchmen, and Slaughterhouse-Five. They were all well worth reading.
Big Trouble in Little China was another Palooza movie that I’m glad to have watched. Without repeating my podcast segment verbatim, it was an exciting movie with an intriguing story line and great visuals. I will make another post here when the episode with my segment in it goes live.
This week, I’d like to share the latest developments in the making of one of my novels-in-progress, tentatively titled The Dreamers of the Dreams. It’s the story of what happens when an everyday guy meets the dreamer of the world he lives in. I wrote the first 50,000 words of this novel all the way back in November 2010. For the next three Novembers in a row, I unsuccessfully attempted to fit 50,000 words of writing into the spaces between workdays at my full-time job. This past fall, I decided to rebel against the rules for the first time and continue working on an existing novel draft, rather than starting a new project. I still didn’t get to 50,000 words, but I felt like I had moved forward with my writing goals.
Back in the fall, when I reread my first draft of my novel The Dreamers of the Dreams in preparation for NaNoWriMo, I found that although I still loved the story concept, the writing just seemed lackluster to me. It felt like something was missing. Today, I realized why that was: Most of the novel takes place in the world of one character’s dreams, but when I read it, it didn’t feel like it was set in a dream world. It felt like it was set in the everyday, real world. One of the most notable characteristics of dreams is that their events are often strange and offbeat by the standards of the real world, and the landscape is never the same from one dream to the next. However, all of this strangeness seems perfectly ordinary and natural to the dreamer while the dream is going on. That feeling is what’s missing from my novel draft.
Here’s an example: Last night, I had a dream in which my parents had just bought a house for our family, but it was starting to slide off a cliff. Is this scenario at least theoretically possible in reality? Yes. Is it at all likely to happen? No. Did I realize just how strange and unlikely this scenario was during the dream? No, not at all.
My novel’s setting needs more of that dreamlike flavor. To be specific, it needs more references to plausible-but-unlikely events happening in the background, and more little things that have changed from one chapter to the next, like the colors of cars or the route between one destination and another. They need to be subtle and unobtrusive, and not seem like continuity errors. There need to be just enough of them to suggest that this setting is not the ordinary, real world, but without giving away the fact that this is a dream world before Corey reveals that fact to Landen. Most importantly, it needs to be clear from the way Landen and his fellow dream characters react that they don’t perceive any of those odd events as being out of the ordinary.
Corey and Landen are the two main characters of the novel; Corey is the dreamer, and Landen is a character who keeps showing up in his dreams for reasons neither of them completely understand. Landen is the main point-of-view character, and he thinks the world he’s always lived in is the real world until the events of the plot convince him otherwise. What I want to get across in the next draft of my novel is that, to Landen, the odd little quirks and inconsistencies that characterize dreams are normal. He is a native of the dream world, after all; for him, the world has always just been that way. That will also add another interesting dynamic to these characters’ relationship with each other, as they figure out that they have very different ideas of what is and isn’t normal.
This is the first of what I hope will be many blog posts that give a behind-the-scenes look at my writing process. I have many novels in various stages of the process, and one of my big goals for this year is to get to The End of at least one of them. I’m using this blog both to record the process and to keep myself honest about my progress on all my creative endeavors.
When I’m not writing or podcasting, my other favorite creative hobby is sewing. I enjoy making my own dresses for special occasions and events, including, but not limited to geek conventions. In 2014, I made two new cosplay costumes, an Easter dress, a sundress for the cruise I went on, and a full-length blue gown for Formal Night on the cruise. I also have several other costumes in various stages of the sewing process.
I had hoped that this week’s blog post would be about writing, podcasting, or one of the other projects I mentioned in last week’s blog post. I’m writing about sewing instead because it’s the only creative thing I’ve been doing this week. Why? On the evening of January 1, I received an invitation to a cosplay photoshoot through a local cosplayers’ group I belong to. It will be on Monday, January 12 at a beautiful local event venue that’s a perfect background for princess costumes. I decided to spend my time between now and next Monday getting my Merida outfit (this one) as close to finished as I could.
I started this costume back in July of 2014, but didn’t devote enough time to it to get it properly finished in time for my local geek convention. Right now, I’m working on adding all the features that were missing at the time of the con: sewing the hem and adding a decorative border (it was held together with safety pins at the con), fixing the back and adding laces (ditto), and finishing the petticoat to give it more volume. I had a good time wearing this dress at the con, but it would have been a lot more fun and made a much stronger visual impression if I’d had the petticoat, so that’s what I’m focusing on. Here’s what I’ve accomplished so far:
(Click to see at full size)
I attached the inner and outer skirt sections and put in the zipper this morning. In the evening, I worked on putting the waistband together. I’m getting pretty close to being done with this piece; I think I’ll need about two more hours of work to finish it. I will probably finish tomorrow night, then spend the rest of my weekday evenings working on the dress (balancing it with my classwork – yes, I’m taking a class right now, too.)
I’m really excited about next week’s photoshoot because I’ll get to spend time with cool, like-minded people who have made cosplay costumes based on various fairy-tale princesses. The organizer of the event is the owner of one of our local party princess entertainment businesses, and I really respect and admire the work that she and her talented staff members do. Go read the final section of this blog post for an explanation of what they do and why I admire them so much; the author of that post says it better than I ever could. I’m definitely not cut out to be a birthday party princess myself; I’m not comfortable enough around kids, I don’t have the great skin it takes to be a party princess, and my Scottish accent is atrocious. Thanks to the blog I linked to, though, I have a lot of respect for what the professional party princesses in my town do, and I can’t wait to meet them in person.
Welcome to my brand-new website! This will be my permanent home for my writing, podcasts, audio dramas, and other creative things I do. There’s not much here yet, but eventually, there will be a podcast feed, a storefront for my original writing, links to other projects I’ve been involved in, and (maybe, if I feel like re-activating it) a link to my freelance work storefront, and a portfolio to go with it.
This is the first of my weekly blog posts for 2015. There was a time when I blogged regularly at my free WordPress site, but I haven’t written anything there in more than two years. What inspired me to start blogging regularly again was that Evo Terra and Sheila Dee, whom I respect very much as podcasters and as people, are setting off on an adventure around the world in 2015. I’m already checking their site regularly for new updates. I think what they’re doing is amazingly cool, and I wish I had the means or the opportunity to do something that cool this year, but I’m not quite there yet. They are using their new website, ShEvo.wtf, to document their journey through blog posts, podcasts, and photos. The journey I plan on taking this year won’t be as exciting or as epic as theirs, but in that same spirit, I plan to use this site to blog about it.
Evo and Sheila have named their journey “The ShEvatical.” I’m naming mine “The Year of Renewals.” I want to take a year to restart and revive past projects that I’ve left unfinished, renew old interests that I’ve let fade into the background, and set off on some new adventures that I’ve been putting off for too long. Here’s a partial list of them.
Projects to Revive
- The Questors from Effpiem. This was an audio fiction serial that I wrote and produced for Jack Mangan’s Deadpan Podcast between 2008 and 2010. I had so much fun writing and producing it that I decided there would be a Season 2, so I deliberately ended Season 1 with a huge revelation that provided a good hook for a sequel. For various real-life-related reasons, though, I never did get around to writing or producing Season 2. It’s time to fix that.
- Samira’s Nation. This was the novel with which I won NaNoWriMo for the first time (all the way back in 2005!), and when I hit the 50,000-word mark, I was approximately a third of the way through the story arc I had planned. It’s the story of the battle for the destiny of a newly-forged nation on a planet named “Renewal,” so this would be a great year to continue working on it.
- Bridging the Spheres. This was my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, my second win, and the closest to completion out of all my manuscripts. It’s a tale of conquest, exploration, discovery, and adventure on (and under!) the high seas in a world with civilizations both on land and in the ocean.
Interests to Renew
- Japanese. It was my major in college, and I still like it enough to want to do something with it, namely:
- Translation. I’ve been sitting on an opportunity to take a class in freelance translating for far too long. This is the year I’m finally going to seize the day. My original career goal was to be a Japanese translator, and I’d like to get back on that path.
- Reading. I’m on Goodreads, and as soon as 2015 starts, I’m going to click the button to set myself the challenge of reading 15 books in 2015. I know that the more you read, the better you’ll become at writing.
- Paper journaling/scrapbooking. I was very conscientious about keeping up with this at one point, but I’ve been falling further and further behind on it for years. I would really like to be up-to-date on it again.
- Star Wars. It was the very first fandom I ever got into seriously. I was 10 when the Special Editions were released, and 13, 16, and 19 when Episodes I, II, and III came out in theaters. I am (cautiously) excited about Episodes VII through IX, and I want to have a really good (or at least pretty good) Jedi costume in time for the premiere, preferably one that I made myself. I enjoy making costumes, and this has always been one of my dream costuming projects.
New Adventures to Begin
- Building my own computer from scratch. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do. It will be designed to support my next adventure:
- Hosting my own podcast. I’ve been saying I was going to do this someday since I first discovered Podiobooks.com. That was in January of 2006. I have a copy of Podcasting for Dummies sitting on my bookshelf. It’s staring at me. The first 24 episodes will feature The Questors from Effpiem as the core content. At some point, one or both of the above-mentioned novels will show up on the podcast.
In any given week, I may write about my progress toward any one, or several, of the goals on this list. I may also write about other creative things I do. New posts will probably be published on Mondays or Tuesdays most of the time. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and adventurous 2015.