Get ideas for writing by getting out of your own head

go incognito

Go incognito: Get ideas for writing

Tori Amalie Dale shares a process to get ideas for writing to get out of her own persona and into a new point of view, so she can more easily observe others in the wilds of the local coffee shop.

http://torieamariedale.com/getting-outside-of-yourself-to-get-into-the-story/

I met Tori at the South Carolina Writers Workshop group that meets in Greenville, SC.  She has deep stories to tell. Check out her blog and get some new ideas for seeing what is right in front of you to mine for your own writing.

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Alyson Miers: What is it about Vampires?

Alyson Miers

Alyson Miers

What is so special about vampires?

It used to be that blood-sucking creatures of the night were vicious, predatory (albeit seductive) objects of fear, nothing more. In recent decades, they’ve become more complex. We used to be afraid of vampires, and werewolves, and now everyone wants to date them. Buffy the Vampire Slayer raised us to understand that vampires and demons could be friends to mortals, instead of foes, if they were so determined. While I have not read the Twilight series, I can understand Meyer’s interest in the pathos of vampires and werewolves. These are concepts of dangerous magical creatures who used to be human and now have little choice but to prey on humans.

Suicide is for Mortals by Alyson Miers

Suicide is for Mortals by Alyson Miers Adult Fantasy, not YA

My new novel includes vampires but not werewolves. There are various reasons for the omission, which may include that vampires’ condition affects them the same way all month long, and that they pass for human as long as they’re not eating. An important difference between werewolves and vampires is that for the latter, attacking humans is not merely about aggression and compulsion, but about survival. Blood is their food, and what happens when a vampire starves? This is one of the questions that arise in Suicide is for Mortals.

What remains of the people they used to be, and how do they feel about killing and eating people? How were they turned? There is space in the concepts for people to ask to become predatory creatures, but most of the ones we read about were turned against their will. Do they have any agency in the transition from victim of magical assault to nocturnal predator? Do they have little choice in preying on mortal humans like they used to be, or no choice at all? If there is a choice in the matter, how do they figure that out, and how do they exercise what little control they have?

Has a vampire ever tried to kill himself, and if so, what was the result? Even if he does everything right after joining the undead, how happy can he ever be? How do the undead get along with each other? How does the pursuit of pleasure change for those who can’t go out in daylight? What does love mean to those who feed on the blood of people who could have been their neighbors, friends and family?

These are the questions we ask when we write stories about vampires who aren’t villains, or even those who are villains but still have their own stories to tell. These are the paths we want to walk when we read these stories.

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The struggle over these changes surely leads many of the predatory undead to brood and rage against the loss of their humanity, even as the transition makes them more powerful than they could ever have been as mortals. We love the idea of that brooding, tortured soul lurking in our graveyards and dark alleys, don’t we? We’d love to be there to comfort him, and for the most part we don’t want to join him. We’re confident that the gorgeous undead predator would never hurt us, tempting though it may be to sink his fangs into our necks.

My vamps looked over my list of talking points for their condition and told me to pull up a comfy chair and get out some paper and pen, because I had a lot to learn from them. My bewildered newborn Scanlon, his cynical pack leader Andra, and our hardened predator Patrick love to turn my ideas upside down and shake them to see what falls out of their pockets. Nevertheless, they appreciate my willingness to listen to them, and they will be glad to meet you. Patrick will never say so, but Scanlon will be pleased to make your acquaintance.

Of course, my vamps do not hold this novel’s attention undivided in coping with the trials of immortality. The world of After Rezarta also bears ghosts. In the hierarchy of the living and undead, mocking and taunting ghosts is the only thing that lets vampires forget about their condition. Our ghost, Miranda, has a complicated history with the magical community, which makes it all the sweeter for the vamps to find out she’s a “spook.”

I’m not pleased with the way they treat her, but she dealt with much worse in her lifetime. One might think the undead and the spectral would be prepared to band together, but they have in common that they used to be human, and we humans know how gifted we are at exacerbating our divisions and undermining our common interests. Innocent people may well die if those vamps cannot deign to listen to their hated ghost. I will simply have to trust my vamps to do the right thing.

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Alyson Miers Maker of Stories

Alyson Miers Maker of Stories

Alyson Miers was born into a family of compulsive readers and thought it would be fun to get on the other side of the words. She attended Salisbury University, where she majored in English Creative Writing for some reason, and minored in Gender Studies. In 2006, she did the only thing a 25-year-old with a B.A. in English can do to pay the rent: joined the Peace Corps.

Charlinders Walk Alyson Meirs

Charlinders Walk by Alyson Meirs

At her assignment of teaching English in Albania, she learned the joys of culture shock, language barriers and being the only foreigner on the street, and got Charlinder off the ground. She brought home a completed first draft in 2008 and, between doing a lot of other stuff such as writing two other books, she managed to ready it for publication in 2011.

She regularly shoots her mouth off at her blog, The Monster’s Ink, when she isn’t writing fiction or holding down her day job. She lives in Maryland with her computer and a lot of yarn.

Posted in Babbling, Guest Post | 1 Comment

Eagle Hunter Girl

Eagle Hunter Girl From A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page and the BBC

Ashol-Pan is the first female apprentice eagle hunter,

Ashol-Pan is the first female apprentice eagle hunter, which says something about Mongolia in the 21st Century.  Asher Svidensky Photography /Caters News Agency.

This young woman manages a 15-pound (7 kilo) bird with a 8-foot (230 cm)   wingspan that is capable of taking down a wolf or a deer, though the hunters usually go after rabbits and foxes (graphic video). Usually only boys are trained, but Ashol-Pan’s brother was drafted into the army, and she wanted to continue the tradition.

Asher Svidensky commented that Asholt-Pan was more comfortable with the large bird than the apprentice boys.

I remember wanting to learn some of my father’s carpentry trade, and his not being up for that–not wanting his little girl to be around the language and other aspects of construction. I could have chosen to learn more than I did, but I am so hopeful that more young women–and older ones for that matter–can learn skills that will make them as happy as Ashol-Pan seems to be as an eagle girl hunter (not huntress).

Ashol Pan, petting her eagle, a mighty girl. Photo Credit: Asher Svidensky

Ashol Pan, petting her eagle, a mighty girl. Photo Credit: Asher Svidensky

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Women are More than Lady Parts

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie –Photo credit: Ian West/PA Wire

In Hollywood, nothing is unusual about a woman having surgical procedures, but most of the time, these excisions are kept secret because they are designed to maintain the look of a 20-something starlet.  Then there are women, like Angelina Jolie, who are open and honest about their choices, as radical as they may seem, to maximize their chances of a long life and a long career.

Jolie has had her lady parts removed because she carries the gene that killed her mother and her maternal grandmother with cancer.  She uses her celebrity as a channel of communication, a statement of the realities of life, as opposed to the glamour of video.

Janet Hughes of the Western News suggests that Jolie will no longer be attractive “more than for her cheekbones” and goes on to discuss how other stars have used HRT and facelifts to stay young looking.  That’s their privilege—it is their bodies, and they make their choices.

But to suggest that Jolie is only cheekbones with no lady parts denies her talent, her intelligence and her backbone. Here’s a news flash: Women are more than lady parts.

Menopause is freedom from unexpected “accidents” of femaleness.  Menopause brings its own wisdom, whether from surgery or from moving out of middle age into cronedom.  It’s time that this culture grew up, and recognized that according to the 2010 US census, 42% of  adult women  in the US are over 55, the average age for onset of menopause
(adult = over age 19; 32% of all females,  16% of the total population).

It is ridiculous to imagine that 42% of women in America are no longer viable as human beings—or as actresses. I submit the following as evidence from IMDB:

  • Angelina Jolie lady parts

    Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie was made an honorary Dame by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of her work against sexual violence

    Angelica Huston

  • Candice Bergen
  • Diane Keaton
  • Glenn Close
  • Goldie Hawn
  • Helen Mirren
  • Judy Dench
  • Kathy Bates
  • Kirsty Alley
  • Maggie Smith
  • Mary Steenbergen
  • Meryl Streep
  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Renee Russo
  • Susan Sarandon

An agent once asked me, with a snide grin, if I wanted the main character of my first novel, Maven Fairy Godmother, to be played by Angelina Jolie.  The answer is still no, I’d prefer Kathy Bates, but for Maven’s arch nemesis and Fairy Godmother Superior, Jolie would be exquisite. She knows how to make hard choices and how to set priorities for her own life.  She is a grown woman, having intestinal fortitude, which is more important than lady parts. Someone explain this to Brittany Spears.

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“Normalize the Idea of Women Existing”

NPR keeps me in touch with the insanity of the world for my 9 minute commute every day. Yesterday I heard a story about a cartoon for adults, BoJack Horseman, and an issue that the writers and artists struggle with to be true to themselves and to comedy: women exist.

The underlying assumption there is that the default mode for any character is male, so to make the characters female is an additional detail on top of that. In case I’m not being a hundred percent clear, this thinking is stupid and wrong and self-perpetuating unless you actively work against it, and I’m proud to say I mostly don’t think this way anymore.”
–Raphael Bob-Waksberg

image from BoJack Horseman by http://lisahanawalt.com/

Is it funny when women do things that are gross…like slobber on someone? Can women be gross and funny?

The point of the story was an argument between show runner Raphael Bob-Waksberg and production designer Lisa Hanawalt. In a one-second sight gag, person and a dog are waiting for a bus on their way to work, and when a car passes by, the dog slobbers on the person. It was originally written for male characters, but Hanawalt argued that there was no reason for the characters to be male. Discussion ensued that it would not be funny if women were gross–like men.

The article mentioned a study that showed audience perception of a crowd of people to be 50/50 male and female, when in fact women were only 15% of the group. This explains the token character on any show. For example, Nichelle Nichols was 16% of the bridge crew on Star Trek TOS, as was George Takei, with Chekov and Spock as white guy normals beside  Kirk and McCoy. If you add in Scottie and Nurse Chapel, each character is 11% of the group, 55% white male.

Even these young professionals, people who believe they are feminist and equality based, still need to be made aware of their own gender bias as male=normal. This is very ironic as all fetuses start out as female–or what are nipples for?

Unconscious concepts are never examined unless challenged, as they work within a culture, until they don’t. If a cartoon about an alcoholic, has-been-actor horse can raise awareness and make social change, write and draw on.

Read the story here: For ‘BoJack Horseman,’ It Matters If A Cartoon Dog Is A Man Or A Woman

 

 

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Nimoy: the Full Body Project

The Full Body Project

The Full Body Project

 Many fans of Leonard Nimoy knew that he was a photographer, but I recently found an article about a shoot that he did with fat women, a show called The Full Body Project.

The women, members of the Fat Bottom Review, a burlesque troupe, presented him with a different kind of project, exploring the models themselves as people rather than using them to explore some other idea, even if that idea was about feminine power and spirituality.

His work on the Shekhinah as the feminine aspect of God is mystical and spiritual, but different from these images because as he says  those “pictures were not about [the models]. They were illustrating a theme, a story I hoped to convey.”

“Art,” Nimoy says “is about illumination.” His images explore the joy these women have in their bodies and their joy for life. At one point he asked them to dance to the music they brought, and he captured their exuberance.

The Fat Bottom Review - from the Full Body Project by Nimoy

The Fat Bottom Review – from the Full Body Project by Nimoy

These women are projecting an image that is their own. And one that also stems from their own story rather than mine. Their self-esteem is strong. One of them has a degree in anthropology and will tell you that ideas of beauty and sexuality are “culture bound”—that these ideas are not universal or fixed, and that they vary and fluctuate depending on place and time. They will tell you that too many people suffer because the body they live in is not the body you find in the fashion magazines. –Nimoy

Upstate Steampunk 2014

Upstate Steampunk 2014

I’m not the fashion magazine type, being as fat (let’s be honest here–not overweight, not big, but fat) as these wonderful women are. I find myself in an ideological struggle with identity with them on the one hand and with a negative feeling on the other–much the same as when I look at myself in the mirror.

 I am glad to have found these role models, women who know who they are and who are full of themselves as they are in these lovely pictures. Somewhere out there on the innerwebs are a series of nudes with me as an earth goddess…at least there used to be. But for now, this will have to do.  

Thank you, again, Leonard Nimoy.

 

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Spring Equinox Haiku

Spring Ghosts

Spring Ghosts

blooming ghosts foretell
spring through cold wet dark as life
returns from red clay

On my way to work every morning, I see these ghostly blooms, volunteer bradford pears and plum tress lighting up the gray woods of the damned daylight saving time darkness of a wet, raining morning.  The balance of light and dark, of warm and cold–it is still March–and the promise that the green will return brings the hope of new days remembered in the ghostly reminders of spring. Happy Equinox.

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