The Mask Behind the Mask: The Sunshine Blog Thingy, a J. A. Rama Exclusive

CURSES! I've been foiled into blogging by the queen of glitter and glam herself, Elaine Witt!

It is a rare and strange phenomenon that pulls reclusive J. A. Rama rabbit out of her dark cave. Behold, The Sunshine Blog Thingy has done so!

Rabbit of DOOOOM

So what is this fair creation, you ask?

1. I answer some simple questions about myself.
2. I write ten more questions and tag my fellow victims!

Beware, minions, I mean, gentle readers. You have been warned.

Here it is then, a random glimpse into that which is the human-shaped void bag filled with melancholy doom metal, rainbows in the dark, nightmare plot bunnies, nerdy gifs, and undead unicorns that is me!

Do I amaze you?

1. If you could cast the starring role in a movie loosely based on your life (only with dragons and pirates), who would you choose?

I thought long and hard about this one, and I finally settled upon my answer. It takes the courage of one hero to be the center. It takes the unsung sacrifices of many to help the hero succeed. I would like to memorialize he who becomes the Watson in a world of Sherlocks, the real behind the scenes badass.

My cabbages!
My cabbages!
My cabbages!
My cabbages!

My cabb- Oh, forget it!

May your cabbages live long and prosper.

2. Is the pen or sword mightier? Why?

A pen, because you can still stab you enemies with it then immortalize tales of their infamy...in their own blood. Can a sword do that?

3. You have to pick one food to eat, every day at every meal, for the rest of your life: what is it?

Natural peanut butter, no question. This stuff is magic, I swear. It's delicious. I don't eat meat, so PB is a good source of protein. I prefer the taste of natural PB, and an added benefit is that it doesn't have extra sugar and preservatives added, so it's nutritious!

4. You can relive one moment in time: when and why?

The moment when an idea shapes itself in my head, and it's perfect.

I love that I get to relive that moment many times, in many ways: dreams that are so real they need to be written down immediately, moments washing dishes when it all comes together, the rush of sitting back and realizing I've written two thousand words. It's all great in that blue moon when it happens.

I have ALL the bunnies.

The rest of the time, though...

I am also master of Tumbleweed.

5. What book have you re-read the most?

Whoo, that would be These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer.

Why yes, I AM a writer of science fiction and fantasy. So why does TOS make the top of the reread list?

Get ready for a monolith.

I have always loved books with good romantic plots. It doesn't matter if they are understated or more prominent, as long as they have depth enough to make it FEEL like the characters are perfect for each other, and aren't just slapped on to force them together.

These Old Shades has everything that I love in a romance. Great main characters who are flawed, but who grow together and who BELONG together by the end, accurate historical worldbuilding that grounds the story, great supporting characters, and a plot with multiple dimensions that doesn't depend solely on two people falling in love to push it along.

Solid characters you can't help but love, who leap off the page and exist in their own right without just being two-dimensional fleshbag surrogates for bad steamy scenes. Actual histories that aren't just contrived to push them together. Character development that never tells, or angsts, but gently says volumes without anyone saying a word, that gently lets out a word, a gesture, a look, carefully layered to show the characters growing into different, better people, growing together, and becoming perfect for each other.

Huh, I never realized that last bit, but it's true. Many stories attempt to show romance by building the perfect guy and girl and then throwing stones to keep them apart, OR building two completely disparate personalities who would never be together in real life and then shoving them together like a five year old playing Barbie and Ken, OR . Those things never happen in this book. At the beginning, the characters don't seem to belong together, and they really don't. The beauty is that they both grow, so they DO belong together by the end.

I really like that the characters are written so they actually conform to the nature and beliefs of the era they live in. They are certainly NOT your standard 21st century hunky and spunky pair.

Party like it's 18th century Europe!

Accurate history. A world that exists for its own sake, and isn't just an excuse for everyone to show off their corsets. This book isn't your run of the mill historical bodice-ripper romance. Georgette Heyer was THE expert on the Georgian era, so the book is packed full of historical detail so that the story is thoroughly grounded and you can FEEL the different time, yet all so masterfully woven in so it becomes part of the story without ever being an infodump. It's an intricately crafted work that reads simply, but packs in a ton of depth.

But oh no, it doesn't stop there. Many romances to me seem to be devoid of much depth beyond the bare bones necessary to get the MCs to bang, separate, then bang again happily ever after. This book has romance, intrigue, adventure, and a rich cast of characters who just bring this whole thing to life. This is Heyer, so of course nothing more than a kiss happens, but oh, the buildup to that kiss and the growing closeness of the two characters is just glorious!

Justin Alistair, the Duke of Avon, is the ultimate badass bad boy, and, as he would have it, the devil himself. Now, many books SAY that the bad boy is bad news, that he's beyond saving, but only show him moping around, or show that he really has a heart of gold, so that the readers love him. Not so here. Avon shows he's a terrible person right from the first page, and he owns it. Everyone knows it. Heyer makes sure WE know it. Yet, the magic of the story shows as he slowly changes, and you find yourself rooting FOR him.

Léon, the other MC, is a spunky ball of badass and adorable with understated (and the more impactful, for that) grim past, and the subject of the rags to riches plot. Léon ain't no damsel in distress. Léon needs a whole paragraph just like Avon, but this is all I can say for now, because I want to avoid spoilers.

The villain. Ohhhhh, the villain. Okay. One of the reasons Avon, who's a heartless bastard, comes across as sympathetic, is because the villain is an out and out scoundrel, and even if you know Avon is horrible, you completely empathize with his reasons for hating the villain. Again, I have to stop here because spoilers.

Also, the supporting cast. Each one may be a bit of a caricature, and you can certainly recognize 'types' that come up in other Heyer novels, but these characters are just perfect for the story. Each one of them has a role to play, each one is unique, and the story just wouldn't be the same without them.

I should say, this book actually has a squick list a mile long: vastly disparate ages, the, er, shifting relationship types between the two characters (that's as much as I can say without spoilers), and, er, the rather creepy way Léon worships Avon in the beginning and the way Avon accepts it (I can't say more because again, spoilers). It's certainly enough to put some readers off, but I've realized, since reading this book, that when handled the right way, any rules can be broken, and broken well.

As for me, if pretty much any other writer committed these crimes, I'd probably run away screaming. These Old Shades does it right. It's almost as if the characters themselves are aware of the readers' reaction, and themselves help to channel them into an alternate path that gently shows rather than tells why it may not be right for everyone, but it's perfect for the characters in question. The story itself, though real, reads almost as a fairy tale, which I think kind of helps.

Also, that climax, though. THAT CLIMAX. SO. GOOD. It is the single most chilling, most fascinating scene ever. If ever a character leapt out of space and time, even across the page, Avon did. Not only is his audience spellbound, but so is the reader. I won't give away what he did, but let's just say that it fills this writer's sour old heart with joy, and eyes with tears because it's just that badass.

I could go on forever. I really could. If you're looking for a romance that is unlike others though, I highly recommend Heyer. Perhaps this wouldn't be the best book to start out with, but I definitely recommend it.

Oh, did I mention, it's hilarious? ^_^

6. What never fails to bring a smile to your face?

Being around books. One time I was feeling really depressed, and I had a pile of books near me, so I just piled them around me like a book fortress. I instantly felt better.

7. Have you ever heard a song so sad or beautiful it made you cry? Please share.

Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel.

To be fair, I was already feeling depressed about something at the time, and it was exactly what I needed to hear.

November Rain by Guns 'N' Roses.

It was November. Someone close to me passed away. I couldn't listen to that song without tears for a couple of months after that.

8. Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Hook, or Blue Beard?

You need to ask?

Because Jack. <3

OH, you mean a different Captain Jack?

famous jack sparrow quotes
Because Jack. <3

Why yes, I'll take them both WHO SAID THAT.

9. Are you a truth, or a dare kind of person? Explain.

Truth. I'd rather rip my soul out and put it on display because I pretend to give no fucks, rather than risk painful physical injury because I'm cool like that. Am I a writer because I'd rather face an existential void than a real one? Really not going to think too much about her canon, where those sometimes become the same thing.

10. What’s your motto in life?

Que sera sera. That has been my motto for my whole life, which I just decided upon a moment ago. Why? I've had to cope with random things in the past few years, some good, some bad, some just...different. I've had to relearn the limits of what my body can and can't do. I've worried and been taken over with anxiety. The entire future is a heavy weight that's just waiting to crush you.

It doesn't have to be. I'm slowly learning that there are things I just can't control, so there's no use worrying about them. The human mind just can't take all that. What's gonna happen is gonna happen, and I'll face it when it does. In the meantime, sometimes it's enough to live life day to day, or even minute by minute, THEN look back and see how far I've come.

Just when you think you've figured out Thursdays...

There you have it, a look into the brain of J. A. Rama!

Apparently an infinite void within an infinite void.

Now, it's time for the moment of truth.

I tag YOU, Siana Blackwood and Misa Buckley!

Your questions are:

1. If you had to choose between being immortal or having power over life and death, what would you choose? Why?

2. What is your stupid superpower? Do you use it for good, evil, or chaos?

3. If you had to choose between going on a date with the Doctor, Sherlock, or the Winchester boys, who would you pick and why?

4. What is one book you would recommend to pretty much everyone? Why?

5. What place do you feel most comfortable being yourself? Why?

6. If you could augment one body part however you wanted, what would it be and why?

7. Deep space or deep ocean? Why or why not?

8. What is your favorite writing weather? Why?

9. Unicorn or dragon?

10. What is your go to writing music that never fails to inspire you? Share!


New Old ReLife'd UnDead Blaargh!

Yes, the tales are true.

God of Ephemera is gone, but not forgotten. All the old posts are still up, but it has been Re-Life'd into what you see here, Phractal Reality. It's all part of my efforts this year to get more involved in my neglected social media presence, and the fact is, I created God of Ephemera back before I even knew what I was going to write about on my blog, even before I became a writer. I'm still not ready to have An Author Blog, so Phractal Reality will still be my personal blog, where I mostly write about Writerly Things, cake, metal, and books. 

So what's with the name? 

Phractal Reality derives from the canon of Deus Ex Machina, the world of the very first novel I ever wrote. That text has been trunked, but the characters stuck around in my head. I intend to go back to it one day. ONE DAY! The story is set in a series of worlds nested within each other as virtual or sub-realities between which the characters can travel, so...phractal reality. I had to mess with the spelling a bit to get a unique name. Boring, I know.

Re-Life is one of Deus Ex Machina's versions of necromancy, which is licensed by a galactic corporation of the same name. They resurrect people who have just died by granting them immortality in a sub-world as digital incarnations of themselves. 

Anyway, stay tuned. 

I may still post at a glacial pace, but I hope now I will actually have a pace. 


Confessions of a Writer

You know you have a problem if you straight up forget the name of your blog. Well. Crisis averted, for just now, we have an INCOMING!

Thanks to my friend Maxwell of The Wandering Quille who tagged me in this wandering blog thing, you all get a blog post! Not only that, you get a HUGE blog post. 

Sit back, and enjoy the enigma that is the inner machinations of my mind.

When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be? 

Hah, no. Compared to some, I’m a late bloomer as a writer. According to my parents, I’ve always been good at writing. They’ve always urged me to write, but as a child I never seriously considered being a writer. Looking back though, I think I still was a writer at heart. I remember now I created an epic fantasy romance story at the age of 8, to which I would add a little every day…in my head. I never had the guts to write it down, but the characters stayed with me.

Still, the first time I seriously wrote something was on one summer afternoon when I was 15. I was bored, so I thought, “I’m going to write a novel.” So I started writing about the first thing that popped into my head, which was a single light struggling through the darkness of space. That light turned into words of fire. I pecked away at a pace of only 100 to 500 words a day on average, but over the next year it blossomed into a rambling, incoherent, purple prose laden space fantasy monolith of over 100k. 

Which I never finished. My flash drive accidentally lost my draft, and with it, all will to continue. I tried to resurrect it several times from the older backups I had, but it never worked. It just wasn’t the same. The characters still stuck around in my head too. Sometimes I think my characters are smarter than me.

The second time I seriously wrote something was seven years later, when I decided to do NaNoWriMo 2010. I had heard of it before, but had never screwed up the courage to try. I gathered together some new characters, and ran off. I won. After that, I realized that I want to do this for the rest of my life. I haven’t looked back since.

What genre do you write?

I write a blend of fantasy, steampunk (ish), and science fiction. I think that was a foregone conclusion. The stories I love best were always about far off worlds, the wonder and danger of the future, the best and worst of humanity, magic and power from beyond time and space that humans can never understand, but seek to control. I blame Narnia, Lord of the Rings, pretty much anything Isaac Asimov wrote (but especially his robot stories AND his story ’The Last Question’), Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet, and Arthur C. Clarke’s stories, and many others for this. I think the best descriptor would be science fantasy. I love stories that read as one genre but are really another. 

Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project? 

Oh man, here’s another one with two answers. Well, because it’s November, my work in progress is my NaNo novel, which I have previously described as Swan Lake in space. My NaNo novel has fragmented into two different stories though, so,  

Godlost is a time travel science fantasy adventure about a bitter Time Agent of the Dominion (think female James Bond with magic tattoos like The Illustrated Man), Caliiry ren Tandoraen, who’s sent to a planet that has dropped out of the universe to restore it and retrieve a precious Dominion artifact. When an accident with a kills her team, she's told to lie low and await orders. Having gone through a similar event in her past though, Caliiry knows that there's more to the accident than there appears to be. So against orders she puts together a crack team of rebels and locals (a.k.a. Biopunk Avengers) to journey into the heart of the paradox, find out what happened to the team, hopefully save them using the remains of her time travel allotment, and restore the planet before their world is wiped out. However, what she finds is an intricate conspiracy between the planetary races and the Dominion that has chilling ramifications for the future of humanity...and the key to unlocking it all lies in her own past. Can she face the nightmares that haunt her, and unravel the web of conspiracy that stretches across the galaxy and into the heart of time itself?

The Star Dragon is the story of my first characters that I'm finally writing down, although there are changes to get rid of the cheesy bits. It takes place in my main story world's far past, in a time that has sunk into legend. Dragons and humans have lived in uneasy peace for eons, with wars breaking out every so often. Ever since the coming of the Draderi, skilled mages who can journey to far off lands in the blink of an eye, the human kingdoms have been prospering, bolstered by the influx of foreign goods and magics. The kings of the realm hope to band together to finally defeat the Sorcerer, a dark force that has plagued the realm for ages.

However, it's a little known secret that the power of the Draderi on which it all rests is drawn from the dragons. As the humans get stronger, the dragons grow more angry, and mass to attack, drawing off the human forces from the sorcerer's citadel and scattering them across the realm to put out the fires. Empires turn on each other, and prepare for war. Dragon slayers again rise to prominence. The Draderi play the nations against each other. And the Sorcerer's shadow grows...

The story centers on the nobles Saanelaph and Vhíl, Saan's rejection of her rigid upbringing to join the ranks of the Draderi, her partnership and romance with the ex Dragon rider Vhil and his uncanny luck,  Vhil's struggle to balance the call of a deadly dragon speaking gift and his desire to rise above the petty tyrannies of his men, Anelaph's quest for the source of the trouble, Vhil's endeavor to reunite the kingdoms against their true foe, their conflicting loyalties between their life's calling and their kin, and their struggle to create a patch of order and find their rightful place in a world gone mad. The truth is, they can't win them all...  

What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about? 

It was in fifth grade. There was one about a boy named Billy who woke up one night to find out that the world had been taken over by evil water people who mysteriously disappeared by morning, but they were still there. Lurking. Watching.

What's the best part about writing?

Once I would have said 'the thrill of creating something out of nothing,' except now that I'm more familiar with what a mess these things are. 

Therefore, I would have to say the best part about writing is revision: hacking the dead wood off my original draft, connecting the dots, and watching everything come together to become the beautiful, mad-eyed beast it was born to be. Making little connections on a reread that I didn't even know were there. Making a new layer of connections that flat out weren't there in the first place because I didn't know about them before, but well up out of nowhere. Chipping away at a scene, a story, a draft, adding  another layer of complexity and depth to it - and that moment of perfection when the gears all fit, and it sings, and it's way different from what I had envisioned originally, but it's also way better.

What's the worst part about writing?

Writing. Seriously. The first draft. The beginning. Hate those things. I write weird. I write in half sentences, random scenes, train of thought, random bits of worldbuilding, and generally rambling randomness. Then I assemble the story sentence by sentence, scene by scene, using those things as building blocks; I would say the story crystallizes layer by layer around a set of tiny plot grains rather than being written from start to finish. It's completely out of order and it takes forever, but I like the end result much better. This just means that the first draft is extremely difficult for me because it's the point where it's easy to fall into hate with the story because nothing is known yet and everything is a mess, and all the things that made me love the idea are as yet invisible. Yes, there are moments when I come up with a lot of ideas, but most of it is false starts and fighting uphill for me. I'm getting better at recognizing those, but for me the early stages are always the worst. 

What's the name of your favorite character and why?

I can't pick just one! I love them all. Some more than others, but not really one. One of my favorites, though, is one pain in the butt who calls himself Oscar Octavius Octodyne. He's a oneiromancer with the charisma of baby Lord Voldemort and the scruples of Darth Vader combined into one insecure package of doom, gloom, abandonment issues, and teddy bears. He was born when I dreamed about him in a fluffy hero adventure. Then I scrapped his story because it was going nowhere. Then I dreamed about him a second time and he came back with evil Vader powers and insinuated himself into another story. I cut him out again because he was creating plot holes around himself. Then I dreamed about him a third time, and he outright ousted the heroine from her place in his quest for a home, and made himself the villain. Needless to say, I shudder to think what will happen if I dare to cut him again. Probably he'll take over my brain. 

How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?

I write when I can. It's difficult for me on weekdays because I have a full time job. I'm not at all a morning person so writing early in the morning is out of the question. I can't concentrate if I have to think about other things anyway. The ideal time for me to write is between 11PM and 4AM, but that's pretty much impossible with a day job (even on weekends because it disrupts my sleep schedule), so I shoot for evenings. I'm usually drained when I get home, but sometimes I manage to get in about 300 words before I sleep. Weekends I put in some grunt work in the afternoons when it's quiet, and maybe before I sleep. I love waiting until it's dark, dimming the screen until I can just barely read my words if I want, turning off all the lights, closing my eyes, and then typing blind while blasting music.

Did you go to college for writing?

Nope. My major was information science with a computer science minor.

What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?

All of them, but I usually notice spelling first. That's not to say that nothing else bothers me though. I could write an entire post by itself about all the things that drive me up the wall, but I would really have to also put incorrect word usage (like confusing affect, effect, and effecting) as being right up there with the rest. 

I don’t really watch TV, as such. The only thing I’m really watching is Doctor Who, because it’s on right now. Every weekend, I catch up on the newest episode. It counts as writing homework because something or other always sets my muse off, right? Right?

What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you? 

Write every day. 

I never said I was good at it. Oops.

What advice would you give to another writer?

Don't compare yourself to others. There will always be those who claim that their way is the best and only way, but for every one of those, there will be someone else who works completely differently. Well, it's just what works for them. I'm not saying that trying new things is bad, but forcing yourself to conform to other people's methods and then worrying about why you're not where you "should" be can be at best a waste of time chasing shadows and at worst a blow to one's confidence. Yes, this means that everyone will develop their craft and stories differently and at their own pace. Some people can post readable excerpts of their first draft as they write it, and some will have rambling utter nonsense for the first three drafts. Neither is wrong. Figure out how your unique brain works, try a method that works with it, and play with that. If you find you're never reaching your goal, you might be letting the tool get in the way of forward motion.

What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?

TerribleMinds is one of my favorite blogs. If you don't mind bad (but absolutely hilarious) words, it's a great place for practical advice, motivation, and butt-kicking.

AbsoluteWrite is another great place. It's got a wealth of information about what not to do, how to get published, and has a huge community of fellow writers to hang out with, and exchange help and tips.

Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?

I love baking. Death by chocolate is the way to go. I also enjoy drawing, and hope one day to create a web comic of my own. That's a long way off, though. I'm also currently trying to learn how to play the guitar. I suck and I can barely play a few chords, but I love music. It's never too late to learn a new thing, eh?

What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?

I don't watch much television these days, because I can't do that and write and keep up with my reading. That said, I am catching up on the new season of Doctor Who at the moment, although after next weekend it'll be on hiatus until Christmas. Does it count as writing preparation if every single episode inspires me somehow?

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

I'd have to name a series that reads as one story, which is the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. It's the stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White retold as one single science fiction adventure/thriller/dystopian series. Those who know me will know that I absolutely love retold fairy tales with a science fiction angle, so this is right up my alley. Well worth reading!

What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?

The Martian. Usually I don't go for survival stories because of a huge rant that I won't go into here, but I loved this one for its wit, humor, and geekery, the fact that it didn't go for the usual stereotypes, and that it had other believable plot elements besides the usual survival disasters. I haven't read the book, but the movie was great. 

What is your favorite book or series of all time?

Of alll time? Hard to pick just one, but one of my constant sources of inspiration, thus one of my favorites, is the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. It's science fiction, fantasy, and world hopping all rolled into one seriously epic story that I never get sick of reading.

Who is your favorite author?

Again, it's hard to pick just one, but one of my biggest reasons I write the stories I do is because of Isaac Asimov. His robot stories are the greatest thing, as is also his short story 'The Last Question,' which is hands down my favorite short story of all time. So epic.

What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Well, given that there's only one month left of the year, not much. I had originally wanted to finally finish a draft of something...anything...but it's too late for that. Instead, riding on the heels of the realization that NaNo's exuberant imperfection and manic pace just doesn't work for me anymore, I'm just going to keep working on my draft and focus on writing slowly and editing more as I go.

Where else can we find you online?

I'm on Twitter @Bobo_the_Bard, and I'm Agent Double Oh Zero on the NaNoWriMo website, but I only check those periodically. The one place I haunt, though, is my writing group - Steve the WriMo Forum. We're gearing up for NaNoFiMo over there! Which...is technically what I'm supposed to be working on now. Dang. 

Well, that brings me to the end of the segment where I talk about myself. Now it's time to talk about you guys! More specifically, IT'S VICTIM LIST TIME. 

I tag you!

If anyone else wants in, please leave a comment here with a link to your blog, or contact me on Steve.

To make it easier, here's a list of the questions below: 

Just to make it easier on you, here are the questions:

When did you first start writing?
Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
What genre do you write?
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress?
When did you start working on this project?
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
What’s the best part about writing?
What’s the worst part about writing?
What’s the name of your favorite character and why?
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
Did you go to college for writing?
What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors or grammar errors?
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
What advice would you give to another writer?
What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
What’s the best thing you’re watching on television?
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
What is your favorite book or series of all time?
Who is your favorite author?
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?

Where else can we find you online?


I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie.

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that I love collecting books, and am picky about how keeping track of which ones I have and how they're arranged to the point of being downright OCD.  We've got bookworms and book pack rats on both sides of the family. Teacher, my DNA ate my sanity, can I go home?

So of course, I was ecstatic then, when last weekend we were going through some old things, and I found a big book!

Look at that big book. 

If you can't read that, it's the complete novels of Charles Dickens.

It doesn't look that big.

Yes, that is my hand.
Does it? 

It's actually about a foot tall and wider than my hand, all 2000+ pages of it. It was still in its plastic wrap, unopened, but there were lots of holes, and it was falling off. I might have helped it along a bit. 

That's when I realized that this thing is older than I am. It had been sitting quietly buried somewhere all this time, never read.

I'd better get reading.

What, it's not just there to make my bookshelf look fancy!  


Blog Hop: The Dragon's Loyalty Award

You have now reached the edge of the internet.

But wait! It's alive? It can't be!

But it is.

That's right, this little blog got nominated for The Dragon's Loyalty Award in another blog hop!

First, I'd like to thank my friend Maggie Maxwell at The Wandering Quille for nominating God of Ephemera. That I must now resort to this blog necromancy is entirely her fault.

Second, I should probably explain how this works.
  1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and a link back.
  3. You must share 7 things other bloggers may not know about you.
  4. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for Dragon’s Loyalty Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  5. Copy and paste the award somewhere on your blog.
In that vein, therefore, I bring you: seven facts you might not know about me! (Unless you know me in meatspace. You know who you are.)

Brace yourselves. There's a wall of text coming!
  1. There are certain things I HATE wearing, and will only do so under varying levels of duress:
    • Pants and shorts. ESPECIALLY jeans. Can’t stand ‘em. No matter how loose and pajama-like they are, I always feel like my midsection is being compressed. Ugh. That is why, unless it’s an activity that absolutely requires pants (like riding a bike), I’m almost always wearing a dress or a long skirt. Air flow. Freedom. I like those things.
    • Socks…and shoes. Sweltering foot prisons, all of them! Unless I’m doing something that requires extra protection, I wear comfortable cushy flats. Socks IF it’s cold.
    • Turtlenecks. Neck vices. HELL to the NO. When it gets cold, I rock the scarves or die trying.
    • Sweaters that don't have a button-down front. Again it's because they make me feel suffocated, but I can get away with avoiding them, given that I live in Florida.
  2. My handwriting never did settle down into one neat pattern like most people's do. It's not that it's terrible, or illegible. Neatness I can achieve, and it looks like an adult's handwriting, but  consistency is impossible. I can never make my letters the same size, shape, weight, or style, across more than two lines of text. It's easier for me to write legibly when I don't have to lift the pen or pencil as much, which is why I when I hand write anything, I write only in cursive/longhand. Even so, I end up with about five or six different styles of handwriting just on the same page. As for printing, NOPE. I can't be having with that.
  3. I love gloomy, rainy weather. The nastier it is outside, the happier I am. Sunlight, hisssssssss! It burns usss! I like sad. It's like happy for deep people. Sad, yes. Sad endings, no. Much as I love drawing inspiration from the gloom, there must be at least a ray of sunlight at the end of the story. That’s the end though, and until I hit it, I love putting my characters through every level of hell. 
    • My favorite mode of writing is to wait until it’s pitch dark outside (bonus points if there’s a thunderstorm), turn off all the lights, turn up the music, dim the screen, close my eyes, and pound away at the keys. However, having to wake up in the morning for work has made that a luxury. Still, in order to properly keep characters in the throes of existential angst, any sort of rotten weather is the way to go. I do my best writing then. 
    • It's true, I function like a Terry Pratchett troll. The colder it is, the better my brain works. The hotter it is, the more I shut down. I work best when it's slightly chilly. Thus, writing-wise, my most productive months are the ones with dreary weather. Needless to say, living in Florida does NOT help. 
    • Hurricane season this year has made it a little better though. While my coworkers groan at the miserable weather, I'm sitting in my cube or car grinning like a kid at the glorious thunderstorms we've been having. (Also, since music is as necessary to writing as breathing, I grin like a kid every time the riffs of the song I'm listening to sync with the lightning, because that is pretty metal, no lies.)
  4. The only romance I read is by Georgette Heyer. I could probably write an entire post about why I love Heyer, so I'll just go with the short version here. Her stories are historically accurate, it's actual romance as opposed to mere smut, and her books are hilarious. In general though, I don't have any objection to romance as a genre, but I find so much of it to be an excuse for smut with not much in the way of character or world development, which just doesn't do anything for me. That said, I do love romantic subplots/arcs coupled with other main genres.
  5. I'm obsessed with music, specifically metal and rock. I’ll talk about metal here, because it is the main source of many of my plot bunnies, and comprises the vast majority of my novel soundtracks. 
    • Doom metal, death metal, black metal, power metal, prog metal, symphonic metal…I will listen to it, no matter how obscure or esoteric. I collect and categorize albums into my own arcane genres the way writers organize their bookshelves. 
    • I trawl the internet daily for stuff I haven’t heard, and I pretty much listen to a new (new to me, even if it's been out for years) album every day for at least 5 out of 7 days of the week. 
    • I’m pretty sure that all the albums I’ve amassed over the years (either via Spotify playlists, digital purchases, CDs, etc.) number in the thousands.
  6. I’m increasingly realizing that while I’m a writer, I kind of enjoy being an artist too. My parents always knew I’d be a good writer, though I didn’t see it until much later. However, I know that I've been drawing things since my chubby little hand could hold a pencil. It trailed off after high school (though it never entirely stopped) for various reasons - time, lack of direction, tedious art classes that sucked all the joy out of it, hand injuries. 
    • Those of you who were around when I started seriously writing after my first NaNo will know of the struggles I had wrestling with my story hydras, and figuring out how I worked, let alone how my story worked. Well, I was (and still am, to a degree) having the same troubles with drawing. 
    • In suffering through those art classes though, besides gaining knowledge, I learned one thing: I just cannot draw anything that doesn’t have a story behind it. Landscapes? Still lifes? Abstracts? Pretentious interpretations of life, the universe, and everything? Copying a model from a magazine? Psh, I’d rather scoop out my eyeballs with a charcoal stick and serve them to a yeti on top of a hot fudge sundae. 
    • Drawing a character enacting a scene from a story, though? BOO-YAH. Somehow, finding reference pictures of human models who looked like that character, scenes from our planet that looked like that scene, etc. all suddenly became fun. Practice became fun. 
    • Strangely enough, I’m also realizing that the opposite is also true: I can’t write an entire story without drawing at least some part of it out. It’s a great tool for breaking through plot holes and POV problems for me. In fact, I’m increasingly coming to realize that drawing and writing are inextricably linked in my mind. I can’t do one without the other. 
    • That's why I really want to do a web comic one day. This would help me use how I work in order to help me fill out my two greatest weaknesses: plotting a story beforehand, and designing the world, both of which are required for a comic, to some degree. It also lets me properly exercise and practice both my writing and my drawing, without having to switch and prioritize between them. That’s not to say that’s all I’ll ever do, but I would like to do at least one comic to practice with.
  7. At this moment, I have 115 ideas. 92 novels, 39 short stories, 4 novellas, and 6 plot marshmallows (ideas and snippets that haven’t been formed yet.) Oh wait. Add one script to that, for which I just had an idea. Let’s just say that with the workload I’ve given myself, I’ll have to hope that some of the life-extending technologies I have in my stories actually come to life, because the only way I’ll get through them is if I clone myself repeatedly so that I really can work on multiple novels at the same time.
Well, so there's that monolith for you to ponder over! Make of it what you will.

Ideally, this is the part where I would nominate some fellow bloggers to receive this award next, but this is the edge of the internet. Any who go beyond are liable to fall off into the void, where the tumbleweeds live.

Therefore, I dangle this shiny badge in the eyes of the cyber stars and electric wind. 

Who among you elusive spirits is brave enough to take on the dragon? 

If you so dare, and would like to be nominated next, post in the comments or let me know through your usual channels (forum, message, whatever). 


"My Writing Process" Blog Hop

This week, I am performing blog necromancy to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Thanks to my good friend Maxwell at her blog The Wandering Quille for inviting me!

Be warned. Here there be hydras.

1. What am I currently working on? 

What am I not working on? I am the owner of a badly behaved plot hydra. What’s a plot hydra? Take a plot bunny. Before 50,000 words crawl onto the sheet, it gets severe Wheel of Time Syndrome. The bunny spawns several bunnies. It is no mere epic -- it’s an omniverse. It devours worlds, and stories. It spans type, and genre. Almost every single story idea I come up with, no matter how obscure or unrelated, somehow ends up being part of it. In fact, I am currently balancing three different epics, each of which I came up with independently over the past ten years, all of which ended up joining into one huge genre-spanning mess, which constantly spawns everything from one-off short stories to entire epics. I'm not going to go into every single plot bunny I'm working on, because within that pit lies the path to madness. (Though anyone who knows me well will tell you I fell into that pit long ago.)

However, here are the three main heads of my plot hydra:

  • Hrothgar's Lantern - This is a code name, because the series has yet to be named. It's primarily fantasy, and is a collected set of all the fleshed out legends that are referenced in Dark Arcana, and slightly in Deus Ex Machina. The central story is about Duía Tóbiasin, a young woman who dreams of being a sorceress. However, in that age, only men may inherit or study magical power. When she confronts the oracle of an ancient dragon god to sort out her predicament, he grants her an amulet that will let her hop between realms: her quest is to find a certain Betrayer, "rent his soul in twain," and bring back one of the pieces to the god. The story is about her discovering how far she is willing to go -- against society, against her conscience -- to achieve her ends. (Did I just, in fact, make that last bit up? Yes, I did. Funny how all the pieces can be there, but it comes together when explaining it.)
  • Dark Arcana - This is a science fiction/fantasy/steampunk time travel series. The ringship Arcaen has been traveling through space for 20,000 years. It's got another 2k years to go, but it's currently mired in a pocket of a strange galaxy, where eldritch beings from beyond the void are imprisoned. Then Ethan Brooke, a brilliant scientist, discovers the secret to breaching the gates of space and time, and all chaos breaks loose.
  • Deus Ex Machina - This is a science fiction-with-fantasy-plot epic. Michron Nebulon is a clone of the prince of humanity, and also a cyberpunk necromancer. When the prince disappears, Mike must embark upon a rescue mission through the murky recesses of the galactic VR network to trace the missing royal, and stumbles upon a cyberpunk conspiracy that stretches back towards the Dark Ages.

For July, I will be focusing on Extremities of Artificial Life, a virtual reality zen dystopian novel that delves into the backstory of the parents of one of DEM's MCs. It focuses on two young...humans...who have always lived on a utopian island city, where a powerful god entity living in the city grid gives everyone what they want, in return for their obedience. The people are programmed to be content, else suffer from anxiety, depression, and mental illness for deviant behavior.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I’d like to think that it does, but let’s face it: I could make a laundry list of things that I try to do, but if past experience has taught me anything, I’d bet that I’d eventually come across other writers who have done each and every one of those things. It’s down to my characters, really; I just write what the adorable nutjobs in my head tell me to.. It may have been done before, but no one else could have come up with my characters, so my stories are new because my characters make them their own.

That said, while I make no claim to be the only person who does these things, I do enjoy pushing the envelope of genre boundaries. Dark Arcana has a plot that comes from fantasy, a “magic system” that is really science-based, people from all walks of life and history, and an aesthetic that is more or less steampunk. Its genre varies; it’s based on who the POV character is, and how much they know about what is going on with the workings of the world. Deus Ex Machina has an epic fantasy plot, but it’s probably the hardest science fiction out of my entire bunny collection. It takes place in spaceships, or cyberpunk virtual reality.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

Society will always tell you who to be,; reality will always tell you what you can’t do; popular culture will tell you what to like. Imagination has no such bar.

Some of the works that hit me over the head, and made me want to be a writer, were (including but not lomited to) the Time Quartet (Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, etc.) by Madeleine L’Engle, Isaac Asimov’s robot stories and books, and the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phllip Pullman. These works were larger than life, and yet, still human; they taught me that anything was possible -- that the mundane could be magical, that the extraordinary need not necessarily be extraterrestrial. They taught me that magic was real, that science and imagination were extraordinarily powerful, and that people could shape their own reality. They taught me to look inward as well as outwards; they taught me what it was to be human.

Real life drums it into our heads that there are very few remarkable people, and that the rest of us are all ordinary. I write what I do because I want to believe that we can all be the hero. I want to believe that we haven’t forgotten the thrill of the new frontier, and that one day we’ll be living amongst the stars -- hopefully, without an apocalypse! I’d like to think that we have it in us to learn from our mistakes as a species.

I want to believe that we can all be free.

4) How does your writing process work?

Here’s where I should have some fancy answer that explains the magic, but really, I’m still trying to figure that out. I started off with the oldie-but-goodie, flying by the seat of my pants; while I came up with some great stuff that way, it also left a mess. Currently, I’m trying out various outlining techniques, in an effort to create a proper skeleton for the pants. I think my best strategy has really been pillaging structural elements from other stories similar to my own. I managed to finish one short story that way, so I suppose that counts as a success.

That’s about it, really.

Next week, tune in to my fellow writing buddy JadedKitteh at her blog Dragon Dreaming


Day -6: A Few Choice Hors D'Oeuvres Of Observation

I don't have a 'real' blog post today. I just have several tidbits -- things I realized over the past few days.

No, I didn't make this.

  • Interestingly enough, I find that whenever I start a novel, I automatically default to third person past, omniscient, even if it changes later. However, whenever I start a short story, I automatically default to first person present. Both are written equally badly, but I wonder what that means. 
  • My stories keep blending together. Maybe it's because I'm working on different things, as they bite me, so inspiration leaks. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, and it's really just that you can't avoid some cliches, which are so general that they're common to all, and it'll sort itself out as I keep writing; the devil is, as they say, in the details. Maybe it has nothing to do with working on separate projects or not, and the characters/worlds really are the same; maybe I just tend to create characters along certain repeated tropes. MAYBE it's all three! At this point, I don't know whether I'm just worrying too much (I mean, everything is still really abstract at this point, not much than thematic at best), or whether there really is something to worry about. It's all a big fat 'I don't know!' At the same time, I can't simply focus on one project, even though it's what I'd prefer, because once I do, that story starts taking me for granted, and promptly sulks in a corner, and refuses to cooperate.
  • I'm shamelessly ripping this off of a forum post I wrote earlier, regarding something I noticed lately: Adequate characters are holograms (seeming real but fizzling out when you poke them) because they reflect the trope. Good characters are 3D because they show reality. Compelling characters go beyond the semblance of reality, and actively create the world around them. My point is, in order to make a character seem real to the reader, the character can't just be real, but has to be more than real. Part of that is due to the limitation of the written word, or non-auditory/non-visual sensory deprivation of film/television. How many real people do we know who would make good characters, exactly as they are, life and all? Story logic doesn't work like real life logic. The most human characters are superhuman. The most lifelike characters are larger than life. The most realistic story is larger than life. How or why this works, I can't say. I wish I knew. All I can say is, the beauty in it lies in the creator's ability to project not The reality, but to project a lie -- warped perceptions, misunderstandings, lying narrators, perceptions shaped by biases, and all. I wish I knew how to do this. How do you break through the wall of the trope? I don't want trope. I don't necessarily want to be a George R.R. Martin -- I mean, after all, I'm not him -- but I do want to similarly break the walls, in my own way. I want them to define themselves, and not be defined by any of my mental restrictions. The strongest characters, the ones that leap off the page, not only build the world for us, but they build the world as they see it. 
  • And as they don't see it. We all know that moment when we see through a character's eyes, and we, the consumers, know a moment when we know something is wrong, but the character doesn't. Wrong boyfriend. Wrong door. Wrong career choice. Wrong path in a moral dilemma. This most especially hits home in an opening scene -- ever see the opening for something, and you just know that the character is in the wrong place, but doesn't know it? It basically sets the tone for the entire story. I wish I knew how to do this. So far, when I've read books, or watched openers in film/TV, I was never able to figure out how they did it.
  • I am my own worst enemy. My fear of failure is so potent that it's woven into me like one of those choking vines around an old tree. It's gotten so bad that it literally stops me every other sentence. Even if I find myself writing randomly, under the heady throes of muse bite, the fever cuts me down before I can even eke out a sentence of the burgeoning brilliance bullshit. Then I slog on, writing on autopilot, never hitting the heights, because after every other sentence thereafter, my own inner editor tells me I'm not a good writer, and that I should just quit. This voice is so insidious that I thought I'd defeated it already when I got into a daily writing habit -- and only today realized that I'm still crippling myself. How do you defeat something like that?
There. I think that wall of text counts as a post, right?