The Stories Begun











{August 2, 2015}   Concerned Dalek is Your Friend

I seriously considered writing this post in character: A huge wall of caps lock and angry, shouty love. That I did not proves my restraint is legendary. You’re welcome.

Most of you don’t know me. I’m just some strange juxtaposition of persistent yelling and self-care advice on the internet, known as Concerned Dalek on Twitter. It’s a thing. A weird and wonderful thing.

Recently, I revealed to a fellow Whovian my parody account status and spent the rest of the night giggling in wonder at being recognized for my work of less than 100 tweets (then, it was 77; at time of writing, I’ve hit a grand total of 93; at time of posting, this will be the 100th tweet). I’m a writer, and that this is the writing that has reached the biggest audience was a joyous absurdity. It was a trippy experience, but also a sharp reminder that people had responded in a way I could never have expected and that it had been a while since I had tweeted.

So, on Friday, I started tweeting again. I went from 80 some-odd to 100+ followers in the matter of a day (I know, that’s not very much on Twitter, but it’s still a minor explosion). People started responding in a deeply profound way again, like they had when this all started. Y’all are a beautiful bunch o’ people, I tell you, but I gotta admit that I find all of this more than a little strange.

Because, in all honesty, Concerned Dalek is yelling at me.

I’m terrible at self-care. Truly, I am horrible at self-care. I forget to eat or take my pills until it’s been 18 hours since my last dose or communicate my needs until I’m WAY past the boundary line and approaching full-on manic. I have to carve out time to do my nails (which takes half an hour, generally) and convince myself the time is well spent. I feel guilty for budgeting for things like massages, because that money could be doing “better things,” despite the fact that I know that a) I have room for both this and “better things” in the budget and b) I cannot do any sort of thing, much less a better one, if I am not taking care of myself first. I am useless without my sanity and since I’m really bad at making time at home to maintain it, I have to make a monthly appointment. I am much more reluctant to dismiss a calendar item than I am a to-do list item or a concrete notion of something I should do. (Oh, yeah. I have a to-do list which has it’s own task category for self-care. This is a recent development, but a wonderful one. I get points on an app for taking care of myself. I recommend this to everyone who is at once motivated by competition and bad at self-care.) So, I put the appointment on the books and maneuver myself into a position in which I am breaking a contract if I do not take care of myself. It’s a little sick that I have to do this in order to convince my brain to prioritize self-care, but it works.

Do you see why I need Concerned Dalek?  I hope to get to the point in which I don’t need this any more. But even so, it’s a need I have in my life right now. Concerned Dalek is the yelling, loud, and slightly ridiculous counterpoint to all those heinous whispers in my head about being selfish or having so much to do or being not worthy of the time it takes to stick a few stickers on my nails or of being called my chosen name/pronouns (I’m NB trans. Xe/xyr/xem, so you know.). Everything Concerned Dalek yells into the void is a message I desperately need to hear. Miraculously, it’s a need that seems to be filling other peoples’ needs at the same time.

Now, Concerned Dalek didn’t start out this way. Concerned Dalek was created when a friend got a particularly nasty bout of Con-Plague and I wanted her to take care of herself and feel better. Mostly, I just wanted her to laugh, as being sick is a generally humorless experience. I pretended to be Concerned Dalek on Facebook, yelling, “HYDRATE! HYDRATE! HYDRATE!” and offering tea and kleenex. I was transported by the fanciful notion, and sketched a rather terrible cartoon of said dalek and wrote a get well card in (rainbow) Circular Gallifreyan for my dear, sick friend (that was done in Paint, by the way – never again). This, then became the account’s profile photo and header photo, respectively. The first tweet was my simple wish for her. What started as a silly gift for a friend became a thing in the way of internet things (largely due to the second tweet, I think), albeit a small one. People started reaching out for internet hugs and advice and it was a delightful, hilarious, touching, and profound several weeks.

I took a couple unintentional hiatuses as my life dramatically changed, in good and bad ways, and did my best to continue occasionally yelling into the void, hoping I would listen to myself. And then I got recognized for my seventy-seven ridiculous tweets, angrily demanding I (and others) love myself (and themselves). Life is a weird and wonderful place.

So, I’m committing to tweeting three times a day. You all seem to enjoy it and The Doctor knows I need it. Hopefully, morning, lunch, and before bed tweets will reach as many people in as many time zones as possible. I kinda hope this gets bigger (because I fiercely believe everyone needs a better education and constant encouragement in self-care), but I dearly love the small, intimate community I’ve already got. You all are perfect and lovely and I really want you to remember that you are worth the effort of taking care.

Pursuant to this tweet, it took me a while to choose to decide if I wanted to include some words from behind the curtain. Revealing myself felt veeeeeeerrrrry frightening. Especially since I’ve blogged about many things in my multi-year history, including things I’m not proud of (I have left those things up not because I stand by them, but because I refuse to erase my mistakes – they happened, and I hope it’s clear that I’m doing better). I’ve also been blogging since before I acknowledged my trans identity/sexuality, so I was afraid of giving people ammunition to deny my identity. This was opening a door. Then, I remembered that this was a community that was all about humorous, ridiculous, earnest self-care. I’m still a little scared, but I think you’ve all earned this trust. Besides, I was really excited about the surprise I’ve been talking about.

And so, to end this very strange love letter to the people in the void who seem to enjoy me yelling at myself and them, I wish to celebrate the 100 tweets and 100+ weird, lovely, odd people along for this ride. A giveaway of sorts. I’ll post this blog a multiple times this week on Concerned Dalek, and everyone who re-tweets/favorites it will be put in a drawing* for one of five prizes:

Grand Winner: A signed sketch of Concerned Dalek quoting your CD tweet of choice in the scratchy pen style of my profile picture, a signed Circular Gallifreyan hand-drawing of your CD tweet of choice, and a chance to pick the self-care theme of a no-less-than three tweet series by CD (to be approved by me, ultimately, but I don’t expect problems).

Runner Up: Pick two of the above three.

Three-Way-Tie-for-Third: Pick one of the above three.

I’ll send the images via direct message, and if you’re comfortable giving me your address, I’ll also send the originals via the post. If you’re not, you still have the images. Please feel free to use them on any platform, so long as you a) don’t crop out my signature and b) give credit where it is due (a link to the twitter account is perfectly acceptable). I think this’ll be reposted daily for a week or so before I do the drawing. I’ll give ample warning, I promise.

*Only one entry per person, but as I post this multiple times during the week, I’d appreciate any and as many re-tweets to spread this around as you feel comfortable giving. I want all followers/possibly new friends to have a chance at this. I also apologize that I cannot track shares/likes on Facebook, so please make sure you use Twitter if you want to be in the drawing.

I’ll probably do this again at 500 or 1000 followers, if we get there. We’ll see. For right now, though, I want to give a gift to the sweet people out there who support me in continuing to take care of myself. And to help you continue to take care of your wonderful selves.

Concerned Dalek is your friend. Thank you for allowing me to be.

LOVE,

CONCERNED DALEK (WHO THINKS YOU DESERVE AS MUCH LOVE AS YOU CAN REASONABLY RECEIVE)

P.S. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Concerned Dalek needed to show up at least once.

P.P.S. Not all that sorry, actually.

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Since I wrote Stars in Their Houses (my version of “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces” or, as it’s better known, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses”), a lot of things have changed in my public life. I’m now out publicly as pansexual and non-binary, I’m married to a wonderful man, and I’ve been part of a beautiful essay series about diversity in fiction (which had a second “season” this year that is far more expansive than the first and pretty phenomenal). A LOT of the last few years have been about recognizing the complexity and diversity in my own life and where I might be erasing/ignoring it in other places in my life. This was already something really important to me when I was writing Stars, but I have about three more years of experience, research, and education. It’s appallingly apparent where I didn’t just fail, but actively refused to see the reality of my characters because of comfort zones and fear.

So, in the editing process, a lot of things are changing. And I know that, should this manuscript ever see public light, it’s going to get some serious throwback about things like “diversity for diversity’s sake,” “forced diversity,” or “self-insertion.” I know this is going to happen. And it’s going to hurt. But it will be so worth it because diversity fits my narratives. This is no more self-insertion than the reality that three of the characters in the narrative have bi-polar disorder. Sure, I wrote that because it’s something I know, but I wrote the girls as they presented themselves (in this case).

Where I didn’t write the girls as they presented themselves was in the matters of sexualities and genders. Since the beginning of the writing process, I knew one of those twelve sisters was transgender. However, I stifled that response because a) fear of reactions and b) fear that I might mess it up. Now, this was before I had come to terms with being trans myself, so I have a bit more confidence in that second area and I care a lot less about the first fear. I still know, for sure, that I want to make it clear that the transgender sister wasn’t socialized to be a girl by being around eleven other girls and she wasn’t forced into being a female by parental expectation, but that she was, is, and always shall be a girl. Also, that she’s a LOT more interesting as a person than this one part of her. At the same time, I don’t want to erase this part of her identity, which would be easy to do because she is post-transition. That was one of the reasons I justified not explicitly writing her reality into the text initially and that is NOT OKAY. This balance of visibility and complex characterization is a challenge I don’t know exactly how to meet, and I know I’ll meet it imperfectly, but I also know that I’ll do my best to meet it as well as I can.

When it comes to sexuality . . . welp, that was a background static in my writing: “not all these girls are straight and by the way, you aren’t either.” But I so thoroughly quashed this authorial instinct (and personal truth) that I have NO IDEA which girls are what. None. In this aspect, I am going to have to approach the editing process as a truly new narrative I’m writing. I know the narrative is going to be WAY better in the long run for this entirely new story being told. I know this isn’t diversity for diversity’s sake but a true reflection of who these women are. I know I will be a happier artist and person when this is over. But it’s going to be rough and I know – again – that I will meet this challenge imperfectly. I commit to listening and changing when someone tells me I’ve screwed up in the portrayals (Don’t worry, I also commit to fully ignoring someone who tells me I’ve screwed up by including LGBTQIA individuals in my writing). Worth it. All the way.

The only time diversity would be forced in my writing would be if I forced it out the door, the way I did in my initial draft. That’s not my narrative; it’s a false narrative. I’m really tired of being lonely for the sake of a false narrative. Diversity is my narrative and therefore it fits within my fictional narratives.

I really hope you fit in there with me.

~RJL



{September 5, 2013}   Fandom and Head-Canon

Okay, drawing back the writing curtain for a minute.  I usually don’t talk about my process/views on the art’s interaction with readers this much, but this is important to how I read and write, so why not. You have been warned – there’s a heavy mix of academics and fandom in this.

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I’ve been doing a lot of work lately on my writing, so it completely makes sense that the writing blog got put aside. It may also be that I’ve been writing less here because when I get depressed I internalize so much that I don’t even write–and if anything can be said of this year, it is that it’s been an adventure in depression and working through it–but only enough to work on Stars.

So, a few months ago, I was in a race to finish this project that had been absolutely kicking my butt for over a year: the second story in my thirteen story series of faerie tale adaptations. Strains of a Sonant Storie is my writing baby. I have a lot of projects I have worked on and care about, but none so deeply important to me as Strains. The theory of Strains is as much about taking some well-known (and intrinsic to my childhood) tales, some lesser-known (also intrinsic to my childhood) tales and writing them in fun, different ways as it is about taking the stories that sit in my heart and finding a way for me to own their existence in my life. I literally have been studying faerie tales and mythology since before I knew what studying was.  I need to tell these stories as much for me as I do for other people.

Stars in Their Houses (my adaptation of The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces, or The Twelve Dancing Princesses) was an exercise in just about everything strange and wonderful in the evolution of a manuscript. When I built Strains as a project back in college, I had just the one tale I planned to tell in a modern context, an adaptation of The Frog Prince. Those plans haven’t changed–I’m still rather excited about my plans in that area. No, it was the plans for Stars that changed dramatically. I was in the middle of scripting out Scarlett (the Little Red Riding Hood adaptation), actually.  I wasn’t even thinking about Stars when it changed so forcefully that I could not work on anything else.

One of the forceful changes was the modernization.  The other was bouncing to and fro between a truly shameful amount of narration styles and narrating characters–third-person omniscient, third-person limited, first-person narration by the mother/youngest sister/oldest sister, to name a few–before realizing that this story belonged to ALL the major players. The story could not live if I didn’t give each sister a voice, nor would it be complete without the soldier. Yes, I had thirteen voices racketing around in my head while I wrote.  And yet another twelve peripheral characters who danced in and out at their whim, bringing little gems of themselves to be used in the story as I liked.  All of these wonderful characters, who I loved so dearly, were clamoring to tell me their back stories and futures and arguing with my decisions about them and showing me their true character with little anecdotes that just had to make it into the script or how was the reader going to understand them?

My head was a busy place.

And it would have stayed that way, but for one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: I put a strict, conscious moratorium on head-canon.

As an occasional fan-fiction writer and full-time head-canon lover, part of me screamed: WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! THIS IS THE ONE WORLD YOU HAVE FULL RIGHTS TO AND OWNERSHIP OF! THIS IS WHEN YOU PLAY TO YOUR HEART’S DELIGHT, NOT HOLD BACK! In many ways, that part of my brain was right: If ever, this was the time.

And yet, every time I found myself wandering into the back (or future) stories of characters, I would ask myself: Does this matter? Will it make it into the manuscript in some way, shape, or form?

If the answer was no, and it often was, I put down my planning pen and typed out another paragraph or two in the story.  I would only pick up my pen again if it was absolutely necessary, and not in that Danny Kaye sort of way.  If the answer was yes, on the rare occasion it was, I would scratch out long-hand what it was about the character I needed to know, what event affected how they interacted with other characters, or what time/culture determined the zeitgeist the character exemplified. Then, I typed another paragraph or two to keep me from moving on to the back story of another character.

This was hard. In some ways, it was torture for me because I like things to be complete.  So, a back story for one or two of the twelve dancing partners made me long for the back story of all of them.  College plans for Leoné (sister number seven) made me hurriedly pick up my pen to detail exactly what each girl would do post-secondary . . . and then throw the pen back down because NO!  Leoné’s future is important because reasons that I will not spoil and defining and the culmination of her and another sister’s plot depends on said sister sister waving Leoné’s future career in her face.  In fact, that moment for Leoné is vital to the end of the entire novel ending as it does, and it all hinges on her interrupted college plans.  Pisca (sister number eight, pronounced PISH-uh, for those wondering) also has some schooling relevancy to her plot.  Her skills enable the other sisters to get to the world below.  Of course her schooling is important.

Do you know whose schooling matters other than those two? No one’s. I mean, it’s significant that the older girls took over the secondary education of the younger girls once Mom went SUPER crazy, because it isolates this poor family even more (which is SO necessary to their commitment to escapism in the world below), but post-secondary education REALLY DOESN’T MATTER for the other ten girls.  And it kills me not to figure it out.

So why don’t I?

Because of you, dear reader.

Well, and because of JK Rowling.

But mostly you.

Backing the truck up, I promise.  I grew up as part of the Harry Potter generation and did the whole midnight release madness several times (although, one less time than my father did because HE STOOD IN LINE TO GET THE FOURTH BOOK TO ME RIGHT AWAY BECAUSE HE IS AWESOME AND THE PERFECT FATHER) and, frankly, I just don’t care for him anymore.  Even less than I did at the time I wrote this.  It’s not because he wasn’t a big deal in my teen years or that it wasn’t a joy for my friends to finally understand what reading for fun was, but because HE’S ACTUALLY NOT THAT GOOD. Also, because I HATE HOW ROWLING IS A MASSIVE CONTROL FREAK. She makes fun of non-canon shippers in interviews!  She still gives information out about the future and pasts of completely non-essential characters, not to mention main characters!  She wrote that stupid freaking epilogue because she just couldn’t handle her readership seeing anything about her books other than the way she does! Argue all you want that interviews are not corpus and therefore not canon, but interviews wherein she definitively states the futures of characters are symptomatic of her complete and total distrust of readers (see also: Dumbledore (or any character) being gay everywhere but in the books.)

I NEVER EVER want to be like this.

Because you exist, readers.  I write these books for me, but I share them for and with you.  I trust you with my books and short stories.  Not only that, but I give them to you so that your imagination can bring them to life in a way I cannot and will never be able to do. It is your imagination, your personalities, and your existence as individuals and ‘teams’ and a collective that gives my story meaning beyond “taking the stories that sit in my heart and finding a way for me to own their existence in my life.”  Sure, that’s what they mean to me.  In Stars, the characters mean even more to me because I built a lot of the characters’ isolation around their mother’s health problems – health problems I’ve been dealing with since I was young.

But that’s what they mean to me.  To you, it could be the freedom the girls seek that’s significant.  It could be their relationships with each other.  It could be the dichotomy of their attempts to escape the fatalistic nature of their names as well as how they desperately cling to those names.  It could mean something entirely different to you and, more than anything as an author, I WANT IT TO.

I want my work to mean something to you so badly that I am willing to let go of my instinct to complete things and invite you to complete it in your head.  You will never catch me saying, “Oh, this IS what happens after the last page.”  Nope.  Nuthin’ doin’.  If I ever get asked, “So what happens with blah-blah-blah, or what happens in so-and-so’s life?” my response will be simple: “I don’t know, but what do you think?  I’ll trade theory for theory.”

Because I don’t know.  Because what happens to so-and-so in your head is just as valid as what happens to them in mine.  The book is over.  I told the story I needed to tell. You read the story you needed to hear. Your future for the characters is just as, if not more, important than mine is because YOU are the one who brought life to the characters outside the walls of my mind.  My mind limits my universe.  Your mind expands it.

Now we get to the academic part:

Stories live well past the life of the author.  The fact that there are so many stories without known authors is proof of this fact.  What makes these stories live?  Is it the fact that they were stored somewhere on a page or skin?  Probably not, seeing as the oral tradition is still our strongest tool for dissemination of information (though not necessarily correct information), despite the advent of the internet (hello, Youtube and Vimeo and Instagram Video, etc, etc, etc – even the internet recognizes the ultimate power of the oral tradition).  In fact, Strains of a Sonant Storie is named and written out of respect for those oral traditions! Stories live because the words of the many, not the few, keep them alive and I would be a consummate fool to ignore that, especially in the face of the origins of the stories I am adapting.  The author (you can easily insert artists of any kind here), upon presenting their work to a public (however small that public may be), is relinquishing control of their work to the masses, and doing so because they realize that stories need an audience to properly live.

This is the contract that I believe exists between every writer and every reader, no matter the novel.  In my head, Neville marries Luna.  That’s it.  That’s the future of the books I read.  In my head, Silas Lapham rebuilds his business, but never re-enters society because he knows the person he became in pursuit of it.  In my head, Penelope and Irene Lapham do enter society and, while Penelope is never accepted by anyone except her husband, Tom, Irene shines (but only because she ignores the darker costs of being in society).  That’s the future of the book I read.  Is that how Howells imagined the future? I don’t know – he’s too dead to ask.  Is that how Rowling imagined the future? I know it’s not, but I do not care.  The books I read ARE NOT the books she wrote.  And therefore, by trying to control how I relate to those books, she is violating the contract between writer and reader.*

I respect that contract too much to ever tell you something about a character’s future or past outside the manuscript definitively.  If it’s relevant, it’s in the manuscript.  If it’s not: decide for yourself.  If you disagree with my interpretations of my own characters: write a new ending!  Those characters are not the characters I wrote – they are the characters you read.  And I want you to be happy with their endings.

I want to uphold my side of the contract by declaring it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS how you think the characters’ lives turn out.  Unless, that is, you wish to tell me.  Then, please, share.  I can’t wait to hear what you think about their respective futures.  Oh, and I promise I’ll be speculating right there with you, trading theories back and forth.  Because the other part of that important contract is this: in return for the favor of bringing my work to life in a way I never could, I engage with you.  Outside of writing more manuscripts, you are my highest concern because you gave me a gift I could not have purchased/achieved/made on my own. The head-canon of the fandom IS what made/will make the book, so it is something I not only respect and encourage, it is something I love and protect.

Right now, my fandom is very small.  It’s a group of friends who are wonderful, amazing second and third readers (not to mention the best cheerleaders I could ask for).  When it gets bigger, though, this contract will still be in effect.  So, to my prospective readers who will have Stars in Their Houses, or other Strains from the Stories, in their hands one day: I have no idea what happens after my books end, and really only a vague idea of what happened before they began. I can’t wait until you figure it out, because I’m just as curious as you are. I want to hear your theories.

I know this was all very dense and a bit strange.  I know that my academic-esque look at the contract between author and reader flies in the face of creative ownership/intellectual property.  But it’s important to me that you, as my existing and potential readers, know that I believe – in a very academic, fundamental sense – that you are as important to the life of my creations as I, the creator, am. You always will be.  This is who I am as an author.

Best of luck to all you dear people (and in the hopes that, one day soon, we’ll be swapping theories),

RJ

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Okay, this went on way longer than intended.  But I’m happy with it.

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*Let it be known that I respect the hell out of Rowling as a person.  Her efforts on behalf of under-represented groups are nothing short of astounding.  Her giving attitude when it comes to money is admirable.  I like Rowling, the Person.  I do NOT like Rowling, the Artist.

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By the way, the faerie tale re-writes got put on hold because of a wedding and summer season of rodeo.  I really thought I could get them done around the wedding activities and before the summer season.  Thankfully, winter season has arrived.  Less thankfully, I’m moving at the end of this month so PACKING AND CLEANING FRENZIES FOR EVERYONE.  After THAT, though, I should be able to do my two months things as, again, I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo because that would actually hurt the progress of Stars in Their Houses, while this project will help.  Thank you for your patience and I hope that the me behind this curtain is an author you can like and/or respect. This was actually very scary for me because I really care about you as readers and revealing so much of my process and how I see my art’s relationship with you feels very . . . naked. Take care! ~RJ



{March 15, 2013}   Calling all faerie tale fans:

I need some help.

As you might notice, it’s been a while.  I tried to get a couple things prepped in January, but I was doing an INSANE sprint to finish up the first draft of Stars in Their Houses before the month was over.  We’re now in the pre-editing stage (otherwise known as “ignore it” OR, more accurately, “give myself some breathing room because I was about to crawl inside the manuscript and live there”) and I’ve been working on some other projects to make sure I 1) don’t get out of the writing habit and 2) to make sure I don’t get into the habit of *just* that style.  I went back to one of my pet projects (it’s something like eight years old and has been through three revamps and I just can’t give it up) and really sat down with the characters.  They’re finally who they’re supposed to be in my head.  Now that I have a grasp on them, it’s time to put them away until the editing of my draft has at least gone through round one.  I have a short that has some very fun characters that I’m loving and working on giving a strong ending, rather than a happy one.

That concept–strong endings–and this video put me onto my final project that I’m going to take on before getting back into Stars in Their Houses.  As I’ve talked about on this blog, faerie tales and myths are a specialty of mine.  I’ve not just been involved in a life-long love affair with them, I’m also good at seeing the creepy, nasty parts of the originals and understanding why those things were part of the cultural ethos and how that heritage is even relevant in the world of today.  I love the fact that my ancestors laughed at the dark and made it something easier to deal with.  Myths and faerie tales, for all the flaws they expose, are important.  This is why I decided to tackle some of the lesser known ones along with some of the better known tales in my Strains of a Sonant Storie series, which is the whole reason I started this blog.

As you might imagine, that’s one of my reasons to dislike Disney.  I LOVE Disney.  LOVE IT.  It may be a little Stockholm Syndrome-esque, but the love is there.  I also don’t like Disney very much because of what they’ve done to faerie tales.  It’s tough to see some of the most beautiful moments and lessons taken out.  The faerie tales of become sanitized and neutered.  EXCEPT: Disney can’t help it.  Some of that darkness does still bleed through.  Whether they intended to or not, some of those tougher lessons really do exist in the background or would exist if the movies didn’t end at “happily ever after.”  In order to convince us that that happily ever after stays happy, they make sequels!  BAH!

So here’s where this project comes in.  Right now, any time I think faerie tale+writing it equals Stars in Their Houses.  I don’t want that perspective going into the edit.  I want faerie tale+writing=good, well-researched writing.  I don’t want it to be about Stars in Their Houses, I want it to be about good story telling with a firm understanding of what’s going on in the faerie tale/source material.  I can’t do that if I have preconceived notions about the tale rather than just working with the material I have.  To stretch myself, I’m going to take five of these ruined versions of the faerie tales and write what happened AFTER the ending based on a close watching of the movie itself with NO BACKGROUND READING (this will be almost impossible for me, just so you know).  I need help choosing which five Disney movies I’m going to do this for, so please help me choose!

Rules for candidacy:

  • Must be a Disney film (sorry, Fox/Dreamworks).
  • Must be fully animated (no Bedknobs and Broomsticks or Song of the South).
  • Must be based off a myth or faerie tale, NOT THE LIFE OF A PERSON THAT WAS MYTHOLOGIZED (sorry, Mulan and Pocahontas, for what they did to you).
  • Must be based off a myth or faerie tale plot, not an extrapolation of fae/myth stories (so, not Atlantis).
  • Must be based off a myth or faerie tale, not a novel (so, Alice in WonderlandPeter Pan101 Dalmations, etc are all out).

Rules for me:

  • I’ll go with the vote.   The top five vote winners (through facebook and these comments) will be what I do.  Even if I hate the movies.  Only exception, if an illegal movie gets a ton of votes.
  • Each movie gets a watch and a note-taking watch.  I promise, I’ll research it right.
  • I need to get them all done within two months.
  • Post them on here after one more watch of the film to be sure I stayed true to the characters.
  • Do the characters justice (or, in other words, no word requirements/limits, it’ll be as long as it needs to be).
  • After the ending means just sometime after, there’s no reason to start right after the movie ends.  Also, no reason to start at the end of the characters’ lives.  So don’t.  Choose a reasonable situation that might happen anytime in the futures of the characters.

So, vote!  Choose what three movies you would like to see me work with and remember: these are the Disney movies.  Be sure you want me to deal with the characters as Disney wrote them and the story as Disney wrote it.  Don’t be thinking, “Well, I know she knows the background on such and such so that one would be cool!”  I’m doing my best not to let that influence me, so no thanks!

The top five movies picked by Friday of next week will be the ones I use, so get your votes in here or on facebook NOW!

~RJLouise



{November 1, 2011}   Oh. Oh dear.

It really has been that long, hasn’t it?  And now it’s November 1st, the beginning of NaNoWriMo, the most enjoyably hellish month of the year.  I’m already 1700 words into the novel (hooray, I met and passed the daily average I’m supposed to maintain) and feeling good.  My favorite part of this feeling is that I chose a subject I was only so-so excited about and STILL managed to get that far in a couple hours.   And, despite my reservations and my insane lists trying to find something that I could get passionate and crazy about during NaNo, I fell in love with my story as I started it.  Sometimes, you just have to trust that what feels like a mediocre idea (or even a bad one) can still be good.  It’s amazing, when I take the step back that this blog demands of me, to see that growth in such a small endeavor.

So, good luck to all you NaNos!  I’ll be seeing you tonight at the kick off if you’re in my area, and if not: I can’t wait to hear from anyone who wants to share their harrowing stories of writing and failing and cringing (because you can’t edit or you’ll lose too much time).  I hope there are a lot of you out there and I hope you’re wanting to discuss.  I know for a fact that doing NaNo alone is NO FUN.  See you here or on the forums!

~RJLouise



Before I get into writing day, I want to talk a bit about leaving comfort zones.  Comfort zones are wonderful things if you like living the same life, never changing.  I, personally, am not a fan.  However, I have a feeling that I’ll have stretched my comfort zones to the max this week and will need a little extra “umph” to disembark from the boat today.  The boat is safe.  The boat is where I experience Sweden from afar, disconnected.  If this is what I do in real life (or even for a whole vacation) this is a problem.

Writing is best when it is real.  This state of being “real” cannot happen if the author lives disconnected from the world around them.  Connect.  Get off the boat.  Live.  You can’t do much of anything off shore except stare.

Now, onto writing day!  In light of June 14’s post, I’ve thought long and hard about what it is exactly that I want to do today.  I honestly don’t know.  I knew this would be an adjustment.  But I do feel that non-fiction is not where I want to be right now (though I have the beginnings of a non-fiction book laid out).  So, here’s my first attempt to write with others in mind. Excuse the clumsy.  In light of the fact that I’m crunching to get my blogs done in time for the vacation, I’m only going to be doing 500 words or so today.

The cat sat on the bed, cleaning itself in the sunshine.  The cat’s human, a vivacious auburn-haired girl, stood leaning against the doorway, just watching.  The calmness of watching the pink tongue lick in steady rhythm was just the sort of soothing feeling she needed.  Work had been terrifying today.  Sink or swim training is all well and good when every mistake you make doesn’t have the potential to cost the customer a thousand dollars.  Even though she knew better than to think of this job as anything other than a stepping stone, this was high-stress for her.  She hoped that one day she’d get used to it and be able to move on from the small company.  For now, she was just getting used to working a full-time job.

Eventually, the cat finished it’s washing and looked up at his human.  She could almost see his “eyebrow” cocked, seeming to say, “And what are you doing over there?”  She laughed, half at her silly cat and half at her silly thoughts.  She crawled over to the silver tabby and snuggled him.  A minute later, the cat removed himself from the loose circle of her arms and sneezed haughtily (as only cats can do).  He seemed to ask, “What were you thinking?  You make the bed warm.  you do not touch.”  She smiled at the thought.  If she allowed herself to be drawn into sleep, the cat would come cuddle.  She woke up with him curled into her back every morning.  Occasionally, she could force herself to sit still without falling asleep, but not often.  The cat would cuddle those times, too.

She had once read that cats worried if a human was too still for very long.  Even though they could sleep all day, when a human slept too long, the cats got nervous.  That was why the cat had slept on her chest when he was a kitten.  Supposedly.  Perhaps the small of her back allowed him to hear her breath or heart enough to know she was alive.  That at least made sense as to why he chose the small of her back.  Well, other than the reason that he needed to get off her chest due to size.  Oh how funny this cat was.  But the perfect companion.

She lay in the sunshine, trying to remain still for her cat.  She began to relax and breathe deeply.  Her mind wandered to a particularly horrific part of the day.  She let the horror seep out.  She thought about another mistake she had made–thank goodness her trainer had caught it!–and let the embarrassment seep out.  She felt like she was absorbing sunshine and pushing out the terrible feelings that had made up her day.  Eventually, the cat curled up next to her and began to purr.  It didn’t take long for her to pass out in her nice work clothes and without supper.  She would be hungry in the morning and frustrated with her inability to even change out of her clothing, but the relaxation that came from camping out with the cat and allowing herself to let go of her day would be worth it.  She would be refreshed.  She would feel confident.

And her cat would still love her if the day turned out badly again.

Thanks bunches!

~RJ



I cannot believe England went by so fast.

So, as of right now, I should be bumming it in the Göteborg (Yutuhboreee) Airport reading some Simon Winchester book (he is AMAZING) and waiting for my family to meet up with me.  But we’re going to pretend I’m still on the plane as that’s the major event of today!

There’s something to be said in finding wonder in every day life.  Now, I know that hopping on a plane in England and watching Hamlet’s castle ago by on my way to Sweden can hardly be called every day life, but work with me.  Please.

When I flew home from college, I always knew when I was approaching home because the turbulence would kick in.  It’s just a feature of living in Colorado.  Turbulence=home.  There were times when that was inspiring to write.  When that swelling of the feeling of home from freaking turbulence was so overwhelming that I had to open my computer as soon as I was able.

Then there was the time I was on the beach and the wave kicked up the sand just right and the sun hit that wave at the exact moment as to make it look as if I were swimming in champagne.  That image broke a months long block on a story.  These things can happen.

I have seven hours to wait in the Göteborg airport for my family.  I am hoping, perhaps madly, that the flight over here, will have given me some inspiration for the hours to come.  I fully expect the views to have been stunning, but also the views in these seven hours to come as well.  People watching can be some of the most effective writing inspiration I know.  “Banal” interactions are the best fodder for writing.

The view from the writer’s chair is always beautiful.

Remember that,

RJLouise



I’ve been thinking quite a lot about time the past few weeks, seeing as I’ve had so little of it and now that I leave for Europe tomorrow the previous statement is even more true.

On Sunday, I was privileged to go to a gathering that’s main purpose was to hear a singer of quite some talent.  He’s a friend of a friend and was willing to do an informal performance for a small group of us.  It was a lovely time.  He also opened the floor for questions and in that time the question was brought up, how does one balance talent verses work?  I think, in this case, talent being the inborn ability and work being that which improves the raw material.  I really liked the answer the singer gave.

He said that all creative people are a bit selfish and have that need for accolade and therefore naturally seek out the path in which they can get the most credit for the talent (and work) they possess.  He said that when the creative being makes the decision to give that talent to other people and stick with it no matter what, that’s when the artist can find true happiness.  I couldn’t agree more.

I was talking with one of my brothers earlier that day about a book I recently read that bothered me quite a bit because it was a Bi-Polar author’s view of life with Bi-Polar and her view was SO bleak.  It was the most depressing piece of literature I have read, not because of tone, but because I could sense that the author really did think that the two options of insanity or heavily-drugged “reality” were the only options available to someone with Bi-Polar.  I felt ill.  If any of you follow my personal blog, you know that I don’t shy away from talking about my experiences with Bi-Polar.  Furthermore, many of you know that I even rejoice in them, because of the broad spectrum of emotions and life that has been brought to me because of my experiences with this disease.  However, it has taken almost a full thirteen years with this disease to get to that point.  As I was talking about this with my brother, he repeated the advice that my father had given me when I mentioned my almost physical reaction to the book and its sad message: write about your experiences.  Do it in such a way that people know that this is not the only option.

I’ve always planned on doing just that to some degree, but this experience with the book, my father, my brother, and some random singer from England who I barely know, has solidified my conviction.  And it’s not something to do eventually, it’s something to do every day from today.

So, today I make the decision to share my creativity, to make use of it.  I’ve already tried to do that to some extent and I don’t suppose I’ll be perfect at it right away, but I know that I’ll be happiest in my writing when it’s for others and not for myself.



Last week I promised another bit of nostalgia for writing week because I had been reading through all of my old things.  As I’m typing this, I’m still trying to choose what to do.  I just have no idea what I should pursue, which is sort of why all those old projects died and why I chose that particular project last week: it was one of the few projects that has managed to stay alive over the years.  Perhaps this is because, despite what it may look like from last week’s scene, it’s not a romance.  Like every teen, I was caught up in the whimsy of romance when I began writing.  However, I soon found out that I am not a romantic and so most of my stories became very hard to maintain.  Silly me.  Still, there is a romance that is historical enough and interesting enough that I think I am willing to work on a scene that I had to leave out for time/word count (I hate maximum word counts for assignments).  This would have been in Sirius, my creative piece based on my research on Malory’s view of women in the Arthurian legend.  In Sirius, the Round Table (which came to Arthur through Gwenhwyfar’s dowry) is in some ways alive to Gwenhwyfar (she calls it her bach, a Welsh endearment) and this is when she begins to understand that her choices are ever going to be influenced by the table.

Father began presenting suitors he considered worthy of the table when I was just shy of my sixteenth birthday.  He had always considered warriors best, painting them bright and shining with his words and leaving them to live in my mind as glorious echoes of what might be.  None of these men Father presented measured up to the meanest of Father’s pretenses.  Nevertheless, I was willing to give them a chance.  These men were real, concrete.  Something in their reality made them compare to Father’s fantasy.  Perhaps it was not immediately apparent, this special quality that my father had perceived.  Certainly he was not all he seemed at first, or I could never imagine my gentle, faerie-crazed Welsh mother marrying him.

When the first warrior entered the great hall that contained the table, I felt physically ill.  I had already developed a deep disdain for the man and his disgusting habits, but this was more than mere frustration.  This was turmoil and violence.  This was poison and blight.  I had felt the presence of my table for nearly two years and I had learned to tell the difference between my feelings and its.  This reaction belonged to my table but was manifesting so strongly in me that I could not ignore it as I had in times past.  I excused myself, graciously or ungraciously I do not know, and did my best to regain some equilibrium.  When Father came to me later, I refused to consider the man.  I explained as best I could how the table had reacted, knowing my father thought that the table was merely an extension of myself.  Whatever he considered the table to be, he took my word for it.  The young warrior was not brought to our house again.

This pattern repeated itself several times with slight variations over the next several months.  I wasn’t always physically ill.  Sometimes my humors were out of balance in such a way that my mental faculties were taken away.  Sometimes both.  Soon it came time that I was sixteen and a half.  It was time for me to take a husband and we all knew it.  And yet, every time  a suitor was presented to the table, the reaction was desperate.  I cannot imagine what made the table feel that each and every suitor wasn’t just unsuitable, but was so horrific that it had to reject  each and every one vehemently.  I don’t know that any of them knew  why they never received a return invitation.  I’m sure rumors were beginning to spread.  My poor father was graying quickly and I was beginning to show signs of age that are not attractive in a maid.

Finally, there came a day when I went in to my table.  It had been quite some time since I had spent time at its feet.  I had long since given up the childish whims of a girl who needed comfort or solace.  Now, I was an adult.  Now, I needed answers.

“Pray tell, what are you doing?  Am I destined to be an old maid–a spinster–with nothing but a table for company?  Some company you’ve turned out to be.  You make me ill at the sight of any young man!”  I began with my complaint right away.  I saw no reason to mince words with my table.  It had been my constant companion for so long and besides, alive it may be, wonderful it may be, thinking and feeling it may be, but it was too different for me to care about whether or not I hurt its feelings.

Of course there was no answer.  Nothing direct anyway.  I had learned that the table communicated in gut feelings rather than anything as mundane as vocal speech.  It took a minute but a soft, negative impression to register.

“No what?” I yelled.

Loneliness.  Forlorn longing.  Both swept through me, then vanished.  I wasn’t sure I enjoyed this anymore than I enjoyed the violent and prolonged reactions to the men who came to call.  Those were merely embarrassing.  These emotions being visited upon me in mercurial fashion were draining.

“Thank you for that, I suppose,” I answered, no entirely sure what message the short moment of feeling was supposed to mean.  No loneliness, or should I be prepared for more of it because I’ll get more suitors it would never approve of?  I never really know with my table.  I couldn’t even imagine what the longing meant.  I decided to ask a different question.

“Why me?”

Surprise filled me.  Surprise that I’d even ask, that I didn’t want this.  That I hadn’t asked this for . . . there was a sense of multiples.  A sense of the table and I joined.  A feeling of “us.”

“Us?!”  This was the first I had “heard” of an us, that I had ever considered the table’s motivation to be anything other than self-serving.

Confirmation filled me.  This “conversation” had been much more direct than I had ever experienced before.  It was much more disturbing than words.  There was no room for deceit in this form of communication–my table was wholly transparent and entirely sincere.  In some ways, that was more frightening than dealing with a seasoned liar.  I wasn’t sure I wanted this sort of honesty.  The table though it knew best, my bach thought it was taking care of me!

Worse still, even with this transparency, there was the inexact nature of the mode of communication.  I knew the table meant well, but I couldn’t determine its intention.  Without that, I was left with a terrible decision.  Was I going to allow this table to continue to dominate any and every interview I was to have in the hopes that it some how knew best, or was I going to choose for myself, hoping that I could simultaneously ignore the strong reactions of my table and unsurface my own?

“I’ll be back,” I whispered.

Days passed.  I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was happening in my own head and every time I went near the room that held my table I felt a welcoming sensation that should have filled me with warmth.  Rather, it chilled me to the bone.  My table no longer hid in the background of my life.  I wished I could somehow go back to the moment before I confronted my table, before I allowed it to become such a strong, living presence and change something.  But the fact remained that I still needed the answers I had sought that day and nothing but speaking to my table would have even brought me close to them.  Wishing would change nothing; even if it did, the change would be for the worse.

My father stopped bringing soldiers home.  I think he sensed the discord in me, even if he didn’t understand it.  There was a silent agreement in the house that none of us would speak of the lack of marriage until I had sorted myself.  Then, and only then, would we approach the subject.  I appreciated the space.

However it didn’t help.  Months passed and nothing changed.  I worried and my parents despaired.

Finally, after cringing away from a certain doorway for nearly a full season, I stopped my dithering.  I marched to the room and entered the table’s presence for the first time since the interview that had spiraled me into this self doubt.

“I put myself in your hands.”  Happiness tainted with insecurity blossomed in my chest.  I found myself filled with fear, too, for I could not tell if the insecurity was the table’s or mine.

Tah dah!  Way late, but done! 😀



It’s writing Tuesday again!!  I cannot tell you how glad I am for this!  Usually I have at least one idea running around in my head, but not this time.  So, it’s time for another thousand or so words of creative something.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been re-reading a TON of my old stuff and determining what I want to do with it.  Some of it is still in that scary writer’s limbo: I know I want to do something with it, I just have no idea what that something might be.  Some of it has moved up into the “work on it soon, you dip” file (this is a slightly more urgent file than the “to be worked on” file mentioned in the last writing Tuesday post, just to be clear).  None of it has been tabled.  But, because of the nostalgia trip, I decided this week’s one shot (and next week’s) will be from images in as yet undeveloped scenes from these stories that have been flitting around in my conscious for a while.  This week’s scene is at least three years old (I began saving the ideas for it in April of ’08) and it’s about time I started writing parts of it down.  It’s from the rodeo family series I’m developing, the third book called Life on the Edge of the Grand Canyon.  The series is currently named after the first book because I’m too lazy to figure out what I want to call it.  Mostly, I’m working on this because it involves one of my favorite characters.  If I could marry this man, I would (Is that weird, creating a character you’d marry? NAAAAHHHHHHH!!).  You’re welcome, Celeste (That’s right, I so know you would, too!).

Addison hated to call Jason with something this huge.  Well, she hated to call anyone with something so monumental, but Jason Stern especially.  She wasn’t a fool.  She knew how he felt, she knew that whatever she asked of him–unreasonable or no–would be done.  It felt like she was using him.  Then again, shouldn’t thirty years be enough time to get over someone?  It wasn’t as if she hadn’t given him his space.  He had come to her after thirteen years of silence.   That should have meant he was over her.  That should have meant that calling in a favor wasn’t a big deal, that they were just friends and that was that.  That should have meant she didn’t have to feel guilty.

But she did.  Addison could spend all day with the wouldacouldashouldas, but it didn’t stop the truth of how she felt.  Or the fact that she knew that thirteen years had been enough time for Jason to become a good man, but not enough for him to “get over” her.  Thirty years had been enough for that, maybe, but not enough for him to want somebody else.  Jason was a problem, a good friend, but a problem.  So, Addison hated to call him with anything, but especially something this huge.  Who was she kidding?  This wasn’t just calling in a favor.  Besides, she knew that it hurt her husband, Levi, that Jason might be able to do something that Levi couldn’t.

However, despite all this, Addison needed Jason.  Or, more correctly, her daughter, Coreen, needed him.  So, Addison called.  Three seconds, two rings, one deep breath.

“Hello?”

“Stern!”

“Ad!”

“That’s me.  Please tell me you’re home.”

“I am.  What’s wrong?”

“Who says–”

“Don’t play with me Ad,” Jason snapped at his long-time friend.  “Let’s be honest, you call me for two reasons: good news and bad news.  You never call just to say hey.  Besides, who on this green earth cares if someone’s home if the news is good?”

“You’ve got me there.  On all counts,” Addison said tiredly.  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.”

“Never you mind.  At least, not right now.  Tell me what’s wrong and we’ll figure out you bein’ a lousy friend later.”

Addison winced.  When she had met Jason, he hadn’t been nearly so honest or straight-forward.  She had taught him that.  Some days she appreciated it.  Some days she regretted it.  Most days, she couldn’t decide.  This was one of them.

“Coreen’s pregnant.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, that’s about all we can figure to say ourselves.”

“Is the boy in the picture?”

“No, and we don’t want him to be.  Lousy son of a buck, that one.”  Ad smiled through the tears that started to fall.  Jason had been the one to teach her that phrase.  When she was new to college rodeo, Jason had been her gateway to it all for a while.  During this tough time, these were the small things that she had to hold onto.

“What can I do?”

“I hate to do this to you, I really do,” Addison paused for a long moment, gathering the courage it would take to make this request, “but is it possible for you to let Coreen live at your place for a while?  She can’t do school and be a mom at the same time.  We’d come out and pick her up if we could, but she won’t let us.  We’d feel so much better if she were taken care of by someone we know and not in a dingy apartment paid by some waitressing job.  We’ll pay you rent, we’ll help out with any unexpected expenses of any sort, you won’t be responsible for her much at all, she’ll just be a really quiet roommate.  You won’t even see her that much, seeing as you’re on the road so much!” Addison rushed through the last part of her proposal as fast as she could, part from nervousness, part from guilt.  Was there even a justification for her request or was she completely out of line here?

“Ad, don’t be stupid.  When does she move out of the dorms?  She’s at U of A, right?  I’ll make sure I’m there to pick her up.”  Jason didn’t even bother to say yes.  As if there had been any doubt he would do what Addison asked him to do.  She called and he jumped.  There was a disturbing pattern to it all, but in many ways it was the least he could do.  He owed so much to her after the way he treated her when they were together that he had a lifetime of paying her back before he could call it even.

“She has until the end of this week.”

“Good, I’m in town until next week.  I’ll be able to help her get settled.  And don’t you even think about payin’ me rent.  D’you still have my e-mail, hon?”

“Yeah, Stern, I do.” Addison sighed.

“Send me hers and her phone number.  Make sure she knows to expect to hear from me.  We’ll arrange a time for me to help her move out.  I assume you want to be kept in the loop without her knowing?”

“You always were a quick study, Jason.”

“Maybe.  I don’t know about that.  Does she know you’re callin’ me about this?”

“Not yet she doesn’t,” Addison admitted.  “I didn’t want to get her hopes up.  I’ll only send you her info if she agrees that moving in with you’s the smart choice.  Frankly, I think it’s her only healthy choice, but what do I know?  I’m her mother, I haven’t known anything since she was fourteen.”

“You can’t beat yourself up about that, Ad,” Stern objected.  “Every teen is like that.”

“You’d think that, but not every teen runs off to college and gets pregnant their Freshman year.”  Addison wished she could take the judgmental words back as soon as she said them.  She was so glad her daughter hadn’t been there to hear them.  This was one of the reasons Addison secretly thought it was a really good idea her daughter wasn’t letting Levi and Addison come pick her up.  Things were just too volatile right now and were liable to blow up in their faces.  Perhaps in a few months, but right now there would likely be some unforgivable words said that wouldn’t just damage the parent-child relationship, but the grandparent-grandchild relationship to come.  It was time, hard as it was, to back off.  “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know you didn’t.”  Addison was grateful that, no matter how awful she could be, she had a friend like Jason, a friend who always saw the best in her.

“Just keep her safe, Jason.  Do what I can’t.”

“You bet, Ad.”

Jason was glad of the silence as he hung up his cell phone and tossed it on the couch in his sparse living room.  Well that’s going to have to change, he thought at no one in particular.  This was no atmosphere for a teen, much less an expecting mother, much less a child.  He was lucky, though, he had the means to change that.  It was time for a change anyhow.

See you next week with something else inspired by the archives!

~RJLouise



et cetera