Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Character, New Artist

I write so many things these days I'm sure it's hard to follow along, but, if you ARE following the School for Wayward Demons (looking at you, Frank G.) there is a new chapter up: Gabe Sees Demons... And They See Him. Today's story is the introduction of one of "my" characters, Gabe Herrara. The story also features art by Alexis Cooke:





If you didn't know, we actually have TWO artists working on the School for Wayward Demons. So far, you've mostly seen the work of Mandie Brasington, but today, we not only get Gabe's debut, but Alexis' too. This is just a small bit of a large piece I'm sure we'll see later on.

So, go check it out.

Also, if you were expecting a new UnJust Cause chapter today, I'm sorry. Life jumped up and swallowed me whole. I had work today, Japanese class this evening, and things just plied on from there, I guess.

Tomorrow, perhaps!

Also, if you're interested in learning fan fiction from me, Tate Hallaway/Lyda Morehouse, I am co-teaching along with my collaborator Rachel Gold in January at the Loft.  https://www.loft.org/classes/detail/?loft_product_id=96011

Friday, October 17, 2014

Podcast and Fan Fic Lessons

First, because I know you've all been waiting.... the new podcast is up: Ni-ju kyu, Oetsu. The title is my attempt at combining the number of our podcast 29 (ni-ju kyū, in Japanese) with the character Oetsu who CONSTANTLY does this kind of number rhyming thing with his name in the current chapter of Bleach. We also review Fairy Tail, Toriko, and Ao no Exorcist (even though I wrote that one up as well.)






I have to say, for us, this podcast is pretty darned articulate, and since we forget to sing the spoiler song, there's 50% less annoying singing!

All wins, in my opinion.

I also wanted to report on my fan fic class at the Loft, which was part of the Youth/Teen Writers' Conference. The nicest thing about the conference is that it's free, which means that attendance is huge. There were probably about 25 teens in my class, which means there was a TON of energy. It helped that I started class with a "what's your fandom?" question that elicited some squee when people heard their own favorites mentioned. I also said before we started that this was a no shaming class, so you know, if you wanted to confess to still reading some One Direction bandom fic, no one was allowed to laugh TOO loudly at you.

The thing that I decided to do since everyone seemed keyed up to share was to ask them what THEIR list of fan fic pet peeves were. I got some interesting results.

NUMBER #1: grammar/spelling errors.

So, for all you grown-ups who think that the next generation doesn't give a toss about language because they're texting all the time, you would be so very, VERY wrong. 

NUMBER #2 (and actually some other ones later could fall under this one): Tagging, Get it Right

The complaints for this one including being surprised by a fic that started out moderately dark that then took an unexpected left-turn, "Mature" rating that wasn't hot enough, and similar things. 

We did discuss how hard "tagging the dark" can be when you're posting as you write... since you might not notice how dark something is getting. But, a lot of the answers boiled down to: get a beta reader and listen to them. I learned that there's apparently a beta reader/writer connection place on Tumblr called "Writer's Halfway House", which among its many tips, will connect writers to beta readers. 

NUMBER #3: Self-insertion/Mary Sue.

No surprise there. Mary Sue has been disliked since the very first fic of its kind was penned. HOWEVER, I did point out that there's nothing wrong with Mary Sue especially when you're young and first trying things out. My very first piece of fan fiction (which happened to be my very first piece of fiction, period) involved Han Solo rescuing me from my dreary life. Nothing wrong with that... IF YOU TAG IT.

Which, by the way, was pretty much a solution to a lot of problems: tag, tag, TAG.

NUMBER #4: Weak endings/Didn't stick the landing.

Far more problematic, especially given the way a lot of fic gets written--which is to say, on the fly. We talked about general strategies, especially the idea of outlining or starting with an actual point. (Not required, of course, particularly for drabbles and such, but if you want to have a strong ending, you need a strong start. A strong start is far more certain when you have a THING you want to say, a point, a theme, a thesis, if you will.)

NUMBER #5: OOC for no reason

If you're a fan and you're writing to other fans about beloved characters, for goodness sake try to keep the characters IN CHARACTER. This lead to a side discussion about the point of AUs. Some people suggested that Alternate Universes were good for focusing on character, because you're taking them away from the world and it's about the core of what makes them who they are. I suggested that this can also be the pitfall of Alternate Universes, which I tend not to like, because more often than not they feel, to me, like original fiction with the names stuck in just to trick people into reading it--but that may be harsh. I have been burned. But, I've also been pleasantly surprised. One of my favorite fics is an AU involving Renji and Byakuya were it all starts as a sleazy hook-up in a bookstore's back closet and they're entirely human, living in the modern world.

NUMBER #6: Spearbearers made of cardboard/OC (original characters) who are flat

I felt particularly capable to talk about how to do original characters right because more than once I've gotten complimented on my original characters in my fan fic. (I suppose this skill comes from inventing characters for, well, novels, but still.) The answer, in it's simplest form is: treat all your characters as human beings. No human being has only one characteristic. We are all interesting, even the vile ones have something about them that is redeeming and charming, etc. 

NUMBER #7: Evasion of plot

I was very surprised and pleased to hear this one come up. What is meant by "evasion of plot" is two things, 1) a tendency of fan fic writers not to go for the gold. They'll get to what should be a very painful moment and they back away out of a desire not to hurt their babies. But, what ends up happening is that the reader feels cheated of a bigger moment, a bigger payoff. And, 2) the similar, if different, problem of the author being coy with information that really just needs to be said. It's the whole 'why didn't they just say that earlier' problem. Or it's something that the reader should have been told, but is instead held back in the wrong-headed assumption that this makes the story more dramatic. The solution to that was: yeah, don't do that.

NUMBER #8: Fucking up the fucking

Yeah, we went there. There were a number of very interesting complaints about sex in fan fic. Firstly, the teens in my class do NOT want you to use inappropriate lubes. Please, people, do your research. A quote from class: "Peanut butter? JUST NO. So much NO." Similarly, do not break the laws of physical possibilities, which we labeled "parts doing the NO." I recommended the classic fan fic resource: Minotaur's Sex Tips for Slash Writers

My students also really craved sex scenes that skipped all the purple prose of "his alabaster skin" (guilty as charged!) but to the excision of actual feelings. We discussed, actually, the similarity between writing a good fight scene and writing a good sex scene. I told them that in a fight, what you want to concentrate on is a singular point of view and remember that a fight isn't just about the dimensions of the instrument, what part goes where, and for how long (like sex) and that it's actually a highly emotionally charged event (like sex.) So parts are important (like sex), but ultimately it's about feelings (like sex.) So make sure your fight scenes aren't gratuitous either. Make sure there's a reason for the fight and for the sex. 

Similarly, we discussed romance and how they want it to be so much more than love at first sight (which this generation firmly believes is crap.) They also absolutely hated when a write had a gay man who spent any time wondering "when they turned into a girl." They found this offensive on so many levels it wasn't funny. 

Foreplay was discussed as both something that could go on too long and that there sometimes wasn't nearly enough of. So we ended up spending a lot of time discussing ways in which we could work to make the romance and sex feel REAL. I said that, even though part of the appeal of fan fic is its fantasy element, there is some value in considering real life situations while writing about sex. It can make sex cute, funny and resonate more deeply when you take some time to try to add the people parts of sex that make it awesome--an example I used is consider breaking up the hot and heavy action with the classic... and now the cat has wandered in and is sitting on someone's butt or staring at you from the dresser. This makes the moment (potentially if you can pull it off) funny and real feeling.

NUMBER #9: The art of the Summary

We didn't get to this one because sex and romance ate up the majority of our class period, but people want better summaries from you, oh fan fic writers everywhere. Please take some time to figure out how to best summarize your fic. (This may be something that Rachel and I can spend some class time teaching because I believe it's an art that can translate to original fiction skills, as it's the same one that you use when you write synopses for agents and editors.)

Those were the major ones. We got kind of specific, like "wanton" versus "wonton" but obviously that falls under grammar and spelling. Likewise, there were a lot of specific questions about sex, which I fielded like a pro, that ended up as part of the list which I combined into a giant #8 above.

Yeah... we had to shut the door. No only were we screaming about lube, there was just a lot of general excitement to get to talk to someone about this sort of thing--not just the sex parts but the whole "oh and this drives me insane" thing.

So I would say the class went well. It'll be interesting to see what the various evaluations say.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Demon Chapter!

Mason and I will have a podcast once I'm back from teaching at the Loft's Youth Writing Conference today, but while you wait impatiently for that, you can read the newest chapter in the School for Wayward Demons that Rachel Gold/Calish and I are writing: http://entertheunseen.com/01-07-ben-takes-a-side-job/

In the aftermath of Theo's capture, we learn some interesting things about this strange new world she's stumbled into...

That's all for now, unfortunately. I need to prep for class still, but I'll have more to write about once I'm done.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Link Salad Days!

I am so amazing and busy, you can hardly keep up with me, can you?

Today is Tuesday which is my super-duper productivity day. I've posted a new installment over on Wattpad:http://www.wattpad.com/76031780-unjust-cause-part-26-choices-made. In this chapter, Alex thinks she's got everything figured out. So, of COURSE, the universe throws her a curveball... in the form of one Spenser Jones.

Also, Rachel Calish/Gold and I have updated our School for Wayward Demons, which you can read here:http://entertheunseen.com/01-06-everyone-catches-up-to-theo/. In this chapter, the demons finally catch up to our cheeky thief, Theo. Will she manage yet another daring escape? Tune in to find out!

I reviewed a couple of things up on MangaKast, too, in case you were curious about how I felt about the latest Ao no Exorcist chapter (61) http://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/ao-no-exorcist-61/ or its spin-off Salaryman Futumashi Okumura Yukio no Aishuu http://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/sorrows-of-the-salaryman-exorcist/, which, in my opinion, has the best tag line in the history of strange manga tag lines, ever: "This is my seriousness!"

Okay, wow. Impressed yet?

If not, you should know that I also taught the Loft's Open Pages class on Fan Fic last night at the Savage Public Library last night. Savage! Savage, Minnesota, which is somewhere down there with the other suburbs like Apple Valley and Burnsville. I did find it last night. Drove right to it, thanks to Google Maps, in fact. The crowd was tough, though not 'savage.' I had two students, which was twice as many as I expected. In fact, in case of disaster, I'd brought along my Japanese to study. One of the librarians decided to stay and.... I guess add warm bodies, but I find that the addition of an adult can make things awkward sometimes. Though, tbf, I was plenty awkward on my own. I had a HELL of a time speaking. Like, words... I stumbled, very uncharacteristically, through my own introduction, but I managed a fairly decent recovery (I think.)

Because there was an adult (beyond me) present, the two kids took some warming-up.

Teenagers, you know.

Plus, the whole point of Open Pages is that the class is supposed to self-direct, so I intentionally come under-prepared, with the idea that if the consensus is "We want to talk about how hard plotting is!" then we do that. But, mouths stayed firmly shut in the presence of another grown-up, so I had to run though that list y'all gave me of 'fan fic pet peeves." Luckily, my teaching style (chaotic good) lends itself to interruption and discussion, so going through that list seemed to spark thoughts, etc., and by the end there was a lot of chatter among the three of us. Also, one of the students boldly asked for time to write, so we spent the last half hour doing just that.

I never know with these things, but it felt, to me, ultimately, successful.

Probably that means I bombed.

I'm constantly surprised by why teens take a class on fan fic... and the levels that they come in at. Like last night, I had one student who didn't entirely seem clear on the concept. When it came time to write, she needed much more than a prompt. She seemed confused as to the point of fan fic, event though we'd been talking about it for about an hour. I explained that some people use fan fic to fill in the corners of a story--the bits you don't get to see, but might like to. So, for instance, if she wanted she could try writing about two of her favorite characters doing something mundane, such as grocery shopping or shopping for shoes. She seemed to thinks this was silly, since most of the time the heroes were in a life-or-death situations. When would they have time to shoe shop? I said, see, that's kind of the point. To take them out of the the plot and see what they're like in their ordinary life. But, then again, I said, not everyone likes curtain fic. So, maybe instead, I suggested, you could do a fix-itabout something that bothered you in the story that you wanted to change or write something that happened after canon had finished... like the story of what Harry Potter is doing with his life after school.

Finally, she seemed to settle on something, but it was kind of baffling to me, especially in comparison to my other student who not only instantly started writing, but also said that they had a FanFictionnet that they'd been active on until they forgot their password.

So... two VERY DIFFERENT students.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rambling While the Coffee Brews

Sheesh. Lyda is carrying this blog by herself at the moment. That isn't fair. I have been pretty good about updating my personal blog, which can be found to the right. But I've been really bad about doing the Wyrdsmith's blog.

I have a problem: I have spent most of my life in Minnesota. Minnesotans don't brag, which means self-promotion is very difficult. Even giving news is hard, if the news is positive. On the other hand, I don't like giving bad news. Why depress my readers, especially in the time of year when the days shorten and the holidays approach? We should be happy now. The leaves are turning. The days are crisp and clear. The last flowers are blooming. Halloween in coming, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I need to convince my partner Patrick to drive out into the country, so we can see the ghosts hanging from trees and the leaves in bright orange pumpkin yard bags. And I need to think about buying a pumpkin at the Farmers Market and carving it.

Good news. I started all this by talking about good news and self promotion. Remember to check my column at Strange Horizons. Sometimes I say something interesting. The next column, not yet up, is about the World Fantasy Award. The object itself is a very ugly bust of H.P. Lovecraft. Does it need to be changed?

I have a collection coming out in November from Many Worlds Press. It's fantasy stories based on Icelandic literature and folklore. Trolls! Ghosts! Vikings! Elves! The Devil! Puffins! A gigantic hydroelectric dam!

The title of the collection is Hidden Folk.

The coffee is now brewed and in my cup. I can stop self promoting. Back to Lyda.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

We're Late... And Early.

Because you've all been waiting with baited breath... MangaKast 28 has been posted: http://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/28-were-late/



It's called "We're Late" because Bleach and many of the others came out yesterday afternoon. However, because we waited (I had to work last night) the fan translations of Shingeki no Kyojin (SnK/Attack on Titan) came out so I reviewed those as well. In this podcast, Mason and I discuss Bleach, Toriko, Fairy Tail, and Shingeki no Kyojin. There is silliness with interjections of the occasional thinly-thought (what if Grimmjow is actually under the hood of “C” compulsion, has Eren been eaten before, etc.)

So, you know, if it's your thing... it's there for you.

The Hunt is On!

The newest chapter/installment is up on the School for Wayward Demons (and Misfit Witches) which I'm co-writing with Rachel Gold/Calish is up on our website: http://entertheunseen.com/01-05-the-hunt-is-on/

In this episode, we get a sense of the wheels that Theo's little b&e started turning... and now the question is, who will get to her first?  The good guys, or the ones I'm fairly certain want to kill her!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Tah-Dah! Tate Tuesday

It's Tuesday, so there is a new Tate installment: Bringing Balance and Force in which we learn the TRUE mission of the demon Internal Affairs agents. Dun-dun-DAAAAHHHHH.

There is also new story up on my co-writing project with Rachel Gold/Calish called "Demons, Demons Everywhere" and is the introduction to the character of Erin.