Wednesday, November 30, 2005

50,226 words and four chapters that need finishing. I will bulldoze my through as much as I can get done before work, then more tonight after work.

But I wrote 50,000 words in one month!

Me, the eternal procrastinator, the person who spent weeks tortured by 2,000-word essays! I have a novel on my hands!

This isn't my first finished novel; when I was eleven, Ms. Perry, my beloved language arts teacher gave the class an assignment. We had one weekend to write a story about marshmallows. I came back with a novel.

Since those heady days twenty years ago, my output has come at considerable price. Instead of the 48 hours I spent on that first novel, this one took me about 100 hours. Mind you, instead of the 42 handwritten pages, this one is 118 single-spaced pages.

The novel needs at least two more years of work. A second and third draft, quite possibly a fourth. A friend whose father is one of the most well-known writers in Korea told me he does about twenty drafts of each novel. My four drafts seem rather pompous and naive.

There is also a lot of research that needs to go into this. What sort of glasses do vampires need when they drink blood at a banquet? What kind of funerals do mice have? How exactly does the Batthanyeum Library look like inside? Where were the gates of Alba Iulia's fortress?

For now I am not going to worry about that.

I think I'll just bask in glory.

Chimerists and Teratologists 

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On page 24 of Perdido Street Station (see Currently Reading at right), China Miéville mystified me with the following list of professions:
  • chimerists
  • biophilosophers
  • teratologists
  • necrochymists
  • karcists
  • vodyanoi shaman
Necrochymists and biophilosophers seem easy enough to guess. As for the rest, I needed the dictionary's help.

I think I nailed down chimerists and teratologists.

Chimerist obviously has its root from chimera or chimaera, the "fire-breathing female monster with a lion's head, a goat's body and a serpent's tail." Chimera also refers to a mutant, a creature spliced together from the body parts of different animals.

Teratologist was even easier. The dictionary had no qualms about sharing its definition: a teratologist studies animal or vegetable monstrosities.

That leaves me with karcists and vodyanoi shaman: primitive knife-grinders and vodka-brewing spiritualists?

Gyoda Blog and A Few Others 

Monday, November 28, 2005

Let me introduce you to the new blogs in the sidebar:
  • I came across Justin's Musings of a Drunken Monk when somebody googled "Gyoda blog" and found me - Maktaaq had its start in Gyoda, Japan, when I was a very bored morbid person in a sea of super-cheeriness. I then googled "Gyoda blog" and found Justin. He lives in Gyoda, not in my old apartment, but rather in the former apartment of my best friend's ex-boyfriend! I read his blog in hopes that one day he will go all nuts and trash that place.

  • Next up is Hebdomeros. He's a writer into whom I ran through the now defunct Litblitz blog. After Litblitz's demise, I wallowed in grief for a while, then realized that there was another writer's blog out there waiting for me to be more attentive. He writes reviews and is working on a fantasy novel, but on his blog he writes about writing. I do hope he'll write more about the secret world of ladybugs.

  • Then there is a complete stranger. His name is Roman Dirge and he writes and draws a comic called Lenore. She's a "cute little dead girl." Dirge writes a blog entry on OF MICE AND MENtal abuse about every two weeks. The best thing is, each post has a drawing of Lenore, along with skulls, bats, graves, taxidermied animals and cute mice. I am one of those people who keeps Halloween decorations up year-round so I totally go for this sort of stuff.

  • Another complete stranger I've taken to is Natalie Dee. She does drawings. Most importantly, she loves hamsters: "i love hamsters. they are my favorite pet. they are cute and furry and industrious and they live in a cage, so they do not crap all over the place. .....loving hamsters is an adventure in heartache." Plus her hamsters had names like Lenin and Stalin, which are almost as good as the name Lord Wellington for a hamster.

  • Drawn! has a gazillion pretty illustrations from all over the place. Presumably you have to check every day to keep up with the thing.

  • Also on the art front, there's Chief-Ten-Bears, a sculptor from Whistler who "used to be a city girl with a Starbucks cup in one hand and a leopard print tote in the other." The Chief now chops woods and carves wooden bears. No word so far about fetching water.

  • Finally, K-Bear from NY, a blog of more incredibly pretty pictures. There is Hedgehog's Journey, with the first installment, By Sea, in which Mr. Hedgehog sails across the ocean in the S.S. Octopus.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Recently I have been on a work-and-noveling binge, hence my lack of posts here.

In my writing mania, I have become a posting maniac on my work blog. If you want to keep up with my alter ego - no mad-scientists or piranha-woodpecker hybrids, in other words - the PMS Museum is the place to go. Recently I have written on these fascinating topics:Now go and read what I wrote there, silly. No wait. I think I might write more here.

On the noveling front, I've written 40,000 more words, with about 10,000 more to go to "win" this year's National Novel-Writing Month. In total, including the 15,000 words I wrote last year, I have 55,000 words of a very poorly typed novel with half-baked characters and dubious plot lines.

I am wringing my neck on how to expand the role of my grandmother's werewolf neighbour.

The werewolf was a real-life neighbour my grandmother had living next to her; his family locked him up during full moons. From behind the closed door, they would hear him howling and clawing at the ground. My mother says I even met him.

After I wrote him into the novel as a minor character named Archibald, my sister protested. "Arturo was my manager's name and suits a werewolf more," she said.

Poor Arturo needs to have a bigger role. But how?

Then there is the ridiculous break-up excuse the vampire gypsy playboy gives my taxidermist main character. Perhaps it's because I so would love to date a taxidermist that I can't fathom how this guy can break up with the girl. I just can't write about it plausibly. The gibberish I have so far just alludes to the fact that he's just not that into her. Moron.

I tried making his excuse more along the lines of "I am only doing it to keep from hurting you" but hell, if she is tough enough to neck with a vampire, she ain't going to be hurt.

The fur trapper love triangle thing also didn't work as planned - I mean, the guy hunts polar bears yet can't say "You! Woman! Sit on my lap!" He's going to need to shed his wussiness in the second draft.

I've written one of three requests for cameos into my novel in this quote uttered by a frail old man who meets my vampire huntress:
"She went to [the henhouse] fetch some eggs for my son's breakfast and returned as a vampire, with the vampire chickens in tow. The chickens could not bite but they could peck. My son was pecked to death! After the ..... attack, I found his husk in the bed left by that insufferable daughter-in-law of mine!"
Can you guess who that blogger-turned-vampire is?

I am not sure where the others will go; I'll probably slap on their names to some random zombie.

If anyone has further plot suggestions, this desperate novelist needs them!

Back to the novel now.

Vampire Hunter Logistics and National Novel Writing 

Monday, November 21, 2005

Logistics in the fantasy Transylvania were keeping me up last night.

I was worried about the chase scene with the villains having an unfair advantage. They not only appropriated horses from the peasants but also stole the only map in existence that would lead to the vampire castle. My main character is going by her sense of smell alone in tracking down the undead.

I thought of using the bear with additional pheasant, deer and boar heads as the main character's mode of transportation. My main character, by the way, is an organic seamstress who also happens to be a vampire hunter as a day job (though not a killer - this is important as her boyfriend, pets and employees are all vampires).

I figure the bearded girl, whom my main character has taken under her tutelage, and the fur trapper character can all fit on the bear's back behind the main character.

This way, with the bear galloping at full speed, they could beat the mercenary vampire killers to the mines that lead down to the vampire castle. The winged vampire muskrats can just fly alongside the bear. That solves getting to the vampire castle.

My only concern is that the bear has the boar and pheasant on the left side of his head and the deer on the right side. I might need to go back and throw in another animal head to even it out.

It has to be a game animal.

I thought of moose, but the moose antlers would get tangled with the deer antlers. Perhaps a vampire salmon head? A vampire hare?

I hate writer's block.

Zombies and Bellydancing 

Friday, November 18, 2005

My bellydancing night class takes place in a high school gym. It's a very boring class so I can't help but think about time. How late is it? Have twenty minutes passed? I am having fun! Weeeeeeeeee! Time, are yous peeding up? Is it almost time to go home?

Like all high school gyms, this one comes without a clock.

It just kills me.

It's already bad enough that there are no mirrors in a dance class and that the instructor spends one sentence of her time on teaching new techniques. Without a clock, I can't evenly allocate my limited quota of faking having a good time to all parts of the hour.

By the end of dance class, I and my only buddies, a very hip Iranian mother and her two teen knockout daughters, become very, very sarcastic. We've all used up out fun quotas. We get tangled up in the veils and groan whenever the teacher plays the song about Cairo.

Once my fun quota is used up I begin thinking about zombies. They are outside the gym and they will break through the windows. I can use the ping tables to block the gym door but the tables will only slow them down. Zombies cannot be stopped.

Every week during class, I study the ceiling. I could climb to the top in the eventuality of a zombie attack. From that vantage point, I could watch the carnage unfolding below.

Once the zombies are busy with my classmates, I could possibly kick out the windows at the top of the gym.

Then I could make a run for it to the donair shop across the street. You know, for weapons.

National Novel-Writing Marathon 

Sunday, November 13, 2005

So I am 8000 words behind in my National Novel-Writing schedule. Four days off (for a weekend and two sick days) means two thousand words a day that I need to blow out of my ass.

The ghost muskrat point of view is not working. Ghosts turned out to be pretty boring; they just re-enact their deaths all the time.

As for the decapitated lady, my novel has hundreds of decapitations, so maybe I should lay off the decapitions for a while.

The Siamese twins did make it in the novel: "There was also a pair of Siamese twins, called Ping and Pong on stage, and Stan and Dan off stage. The freakshow tried to cash in on the Oriental craze; eventually the boys decided to split their proceeds and go their separate ways."

Last night I had a real breakthrough. A new character, but one with an interest in the advanced taxidermy, like my main character. The two proceed to have this conversation:

"If you want to feel the spider's carapace here, you'll see that with tarantulas you're not sewing soft tissue but a hard exoskeleton, that is very brittle and very easy to break." Chriselda pointed to the spot between Baby Sally's cheeks where the tarantula met the face.

"Very nice," said the soldier with genuine appreciation. "The nerves must have been hell to attach."

"Yes, and I work without anesthetic. Even with restraints, the subject won't sit still. I can definitely see the attraction in working with fully dead subjects."

"Well, stoat tableaus are all the rage in Switzerland, I hear," said the soldier.

"You're very interested in organic tailoring."

"And eating? Can all three heads eat?"

"No, unfortunately, the human head has to eat for all three. I got one esophagus installed-" Chriselda here pulled open the left arm eel's mouth. "But it got clogged with furballs."

"It couldn't get a good grip on its victim?"

"Yup, so it would just tear out the victim's hair. Since they share one stomach I was afraid the baby might get colicky."

Allrighty, that's enough blogging for one night.

Caffeinated tea ready, peppermint anti-headache lotion applied to forehead, laundry being ignored, it's time to slot in 500 words between now and a bathroom break. Wish me luck!

National Novel-Writing and Transylvania 

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Though my novel was originally set in a quasi-Germanic country, recently I have come to superimpose the adventures of my characters over Alba County in Romania where I was born.

The castle I originally envisioned resembled Deva citadel in Hunedoara County, though in my novel it is not a citadel but a moated castle. It is near woods which in my mind rather resembled the woods on the hills near my ancestral village, Tibru, some fourteen kilometres from the county seat of Alba Iulia. Tibru has the Roman citadel which becomes a castle. I just wrote in the Tibru cemetery and the werewolf's house next to my grandparents house, though I have yet to use these to greater effect.

The village down the hill from Tibru is called Cricău and is the site of a vampire plague in the middle of my novel. In my family's history it was where the witch who cursed my grandmother lived.

As for the smallish town where the introduction takes place, I am trying to replace my Germanic town with the Romanian town of Turda in Cluj County which neighbours Alba.

The problem is that though I am using the general geography, I've had to retain the Anglo-German names of my characters and the details that make the story clearly North American. (I've also not bothered correcting the anachronisms as my novel makes no claims to being a piece of historical fiction.) In my mind I also can't stop picturing Germanic housing that occasionally becomes Victorian English.

The other problem is what I do about place names. I am writing with the geography and details of Alba County, with the majority of the story set in a fictional castle. But I love the Romanian names, with their accent markings that confuse foreigners.

One possibility is changing the Romanian names to something vaguely English: Cricău (pronounced Kree-Kugh-Oo in Romanian) to Crick.

I am also fluctuating between using the Romanian names interspersed with the German and Hungarian ones, depening on whim.

Turda, for example, could thus be Thorenburg in German; Alba Iulia would retain its Romanian name if I can stop myself from torturing myself with its curious Hungarian version, Gyulafehérvár; and Cricău could switch to its Hungarian name, Boroskrakkó.

The only sure thing is that my "research" is making me very, very homesick.

Novel Muskrat 

Friday, November 04, 2005

Last night I picked up How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (edited by J.N. Williamson) for an article by Ramsey Campbell, "What's Been Done to Death."

Towards the end of the article, there was a fraction of a sentence that stood out to me: "If an idea or something larger refuses to be developed, try altering the viewpoint..."

So, I decided to make Caesonia, named after Caligula's wife, provide that additional viewpoint. This is good because Caesonia has been dead for a good many years and I so wanted to have ghosts in my story.

Caesonia is a stuffed muskrat inspired by a real stuffed muskrat. At one of those dangfangled museum conferences, a rival museum had the muskrat at their booth.

"You can pet it," said the people running the booth.

The poor muskrat was bald.

"That's because so many people have been petting it on the head," they said.

I am not exactly sure what Caesonia will do now that she has a viewpoint.

Then there are a few other characters I want to add. A pair of siamese twins, for sure. Maybe a decapitated lady like the one in the fair I saw when I was eight.

I've decided that at one point all the ghosts in the castle will appear, beheaded, leaving no doubt as to why the castle was empty when the main character dropped in for a visit. It must have been the evil chancellor doing away with the traditional seats of power.

Ugh. Back to writing.

National Novel Writing Month 

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Every November as part of National Novel Writing Month (abbreviated to Nanowrimo) thousands of people attempt to write a novel. A novel in this case is 50,000 words in thirty days. Many succeed. Many more never get past zero words.

To write a novel in thirty days one needs to maintain a pace of 1667 words a day. Some Nano novelists churn out 2000 a day to make up for those days when they might need to slack off. Others attempt marathon sittings of 5000 words a day. Some nitwits even got past 10,000 words on November 1, but I sure wouldn't like to read the crap they're typing out.

I started my November novel-fixation on October 22, 2002. Hanging out in Alba Iulia's internet cafes, where smoke festooned the ceilings and teen boys downloaded porn for their embarrassed girlfriends, I decided that I would finally finish my novel. Here was the perfect idea: I would take any one of those novel snippets I had lying around and expand it to 50,000 words of brilliant literature.

That first Nano I got to 2000 words of a story about a unicorn called George the Turd that escapes from the Musée de Cluny. I read it out a few months later to a writing class and someone said, "I once wrote a story about a prissy unicorn too." That killed George.

The second Nano I began my novel about an orphan who kept lists of words hidden from a headmistress who used the orphans as slave labour. My orphan was to have run off with a black sailor called Tom, but as far as I know she still languishes in the dreary orphanage mending socks for seamen. I quit at 3000 words and my writing class liked that one better.

The third Nano got me to just over 15,000 words with the story of a travelling carnival, its vampire-zombie freakshow, an invincible heroine who has a thing for crosswords in a materialist country run by a militaristic chancellor, dozens of muskrats both living and taxidermied and a ten-year-old six-foot bearded little girl called Heidi. Heck, you can read it here.

This year I am going to surpass 15,000 words if it kills me.

I am trying out all sorts of novel - oh! a pun! - techniques: pegging my word rate against other Nano novelists' in friendly cutthroat competition, not going to sleep until I had my first 2000 words down, writing in note-form (I'll fill in the "saids" and "sigheds" later) and ignoring the pain that I am writing crap that no amount of editting can fix.

Is anybody else out there doing Nano this year?



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