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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In Defense of Rick

I watch The Walking Dead. I think about the zombie apocalypse way too much on way too many levels. Blame the writers.

Season 4b has been completely amazing on just about every level. The writing, the effects, the acting - it's all good. So good, this is the first time I've considering buying a season on DVD. I mean, I like the show, but I'm not completely crazy.

I've started watching Talking Dead because I don't have any real people to talk with about the show (and turtles don't "chat" with strangers on the Internet). I was startled to hear some people have issues with Rick's decision to oust Carol from the prison.

Now, Rick isn't my favorite person on the show. My favorite person is usually the conscience of the group, and usually dies 20 episodes after they assume that role (RIP Dale and Herschel, and I'll be gracious enough to include Andrea because as much as I hated her, I respect her intentions). Rick can't be my favorite because I can't forgive him for the way he holds his revolver. Either build some muscle or get a smaller gun, Rick. You pack like a gangbanger. It's a miracle you hit anything.

Sorry.

Rick has been the official unofficial leader of this group from the moment he stumbled into that cluster of motor homes and tents in season one. Why? Because he was wearing a law enforcement uniform initially, I suspect, but it held because he made good decisions (except about his wife, but that's another post) that benefited the group and individuals.

Rick has the ability to weigh the needs of the many against the needs of the one and come out ahead. Shane (and just about every small group they've encountered) was about survival at any cost. Disagreement with the Governor meant getting your head cut off and stuck in a fish tank. Yes, you can survive that way for a while, but real survival in the zombie apocalypse means finding like-minded people and protecting the snot out of each other. And killing zombies. Nobody seems to understand how many zombies they need to be killing every day, but, again, that's another post.

Carol's crime was murder. Secret murder, but, yes, murder. She killed two people in cold blood. I don't believe she went Hannibal Lector on them, but she made a choice on her own to take two lives.

Her motive was preservation of the group, but she didn't have the right to act on that decision. There was a council in place. She was part of it. She acted alone because the council wouldn't agree with her.

Rick was right to banish her because you can't have a member of the group willing to kill other members of the group whenever they think it benefits the majority. How do you define "benefits"? How do you define "majority"? A year ago Carol would never have gone so far. What will she be like in another year (should she survive that long)?

I understand Carol's reasoning. I sympathize, but she went too far. Rick's solution was just and merciful. He could have killed her himself (which would have been wrong on the same scale as what Carol did in the first place). He could have brought her back to the group for sentencing, which would have created another giant mess and further shattered group cohesion. Instead, he gave Carol a chance to find another group and start over. Again, his choice was for the group and for the individual. And Carol recognized that. Even in that moment, she acknowledged his leadership and accepted the sentence, even if she doesn't appear to accept that she made the wrong choice.

I love Carol, but sometimes love has to be tough. Rick understands that (and it unfortunately makes him a bit crazy now and again). It's why he's a good father and a good leader in the zombie apocalypse. If only he would figure out how to hold a gun.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May our zombies be so easy to kill.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Scrivener

I've heard about it from Lioness (who has the Mac version) and Ralene (who has the PC version). It's supposed to be incredibly helpful for organizing any kind of writing in the first draft stage, whether you plot or pants. It has "index cards," split screens, calendar features for monitoring story timelines: you know, a real miracle for the modern writer.

There was a sale. I had some money. I took the plunge.

I hate learning new software. More than almost anything. Forging neural pathways is excruciating to me, no matter how useful they might become. Over the last three days, I'm halfway through the tutorial, and I've taken innumerable tea and nacho Dorito breaks (I don't have biscuits at the moment) while my brain tries to ooze out my nose.

I've also started converting Justice for All into a Scrivener version as practice (the tutorial practice file was boring).

Why not convert Dangling Justice, my current WIP, you ask? Multiple reasons, not the least of which is I'm a dumbass. I have to start with the hardest thing first, remember? I'm the idiot who would make a queen-sized quilt for my first project instead of the placemat. And let's be fair. Justice For All is the queen-sized quilt of my literary career.

I had forgotten 1) just how much I've already written on that story, and 2) just how massive it may end up being. I mean, I seem to have about 350 pages already, and I don't know that I'm half done. No wonder I gave up.

By the end of the week, I should not only know the basics of Scrivener, I should have Justice For All ready for later. 'Cause I'm still going to finish Dangling Justice first.

I wanted to include a link to Scrivener, but the page isn't loading. I guess you'll have to look up Literature and Lattes on your own.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. May your neural pathway forging be pleasant. 



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Long Term Goals

Preparing tax paperwork is not my favorite activity. I keep excellent records, and I am generally able to put hands on anything I need, but anytime I analyze my money, I get...a little weird.

Taxes are a forced annual review of my financial life. "Where your treasure is, there is your heart." I wish this review put me in a better mood, but I have nature and nurture working against me in the financial realm. Nothing could foul my dad's mood like an evening balancing the checkbook. Shopping is mom's usual method for ditching the blues. Not the best template.

So when I see in black and red that my writing expenses outweigh my writing income for 2013, I must allow that, according to Dave Ramsey, writing remains my hobby, not my business. I could be upset by this, but I am not, for several reasons.


1. Writing is not my day job. 
Statistically, it takes at least two years to turn a profit on a new business, and that's when you go all out, whole hog, throw yourself into making money mode. I haven't, because I don't need to. I have a day job. I write because I want to (at least, I think I do). Any income at this point is icing.

2. Time is part of the plan.
I need writing to keep my brain active and supplement my income years from now (cause my day job does that at the moment). My current writing goal is to build inventory, one quality book at a time, so that I may reap a harvest later. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Turtles don't sprint.

3. I must have fun.
God meant for man to work, even in Eden. That tells me God expects us to enjoy what we do. I used to enjoy writing, and I have varying degrees of faith that I will enjoy it again. Doing something I enjoy and getting paid anything for it is gravy on the icing.

Finally, most of last year's expenses were Realm Makers' related, and something of an anomaly for my writing education budget. Take that out of the equation, and I made a profit on writing last year. 

I've put the checkbook away for the moment (until April 15, anyway), so my general mood is improved. My writing mood is even keel. Slow and steady wins this race. I've got the slow. I'm looking for the steady.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Enjoy whatever weather you're facing today. It will change in a few hours anyway.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Depth

What do I mean by "depth?"

Allow me to date myself. Remember that scene in Wayne's World 2 when Wayne needs directions and asks for a better actor to deliver them? No? Here's a refresher:


Not every character in a book needs to be Charleton Heston, but if a character is important enough to have lines, I kinda want to know they existed before those lines were delivered. I'd also like to know they'll go on existing after they exit stage left.

I recently saw a high school performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a Shakespearean wannabe about two minor characters in Hamlet and their existential wrestling while off-stage waiting to deliver lines. It's billed as a comedy, but, you'll forgive me, no play where the main characters dies is a comedy. At best, it's a dark comedy, but I digress. The play highlights that these two characters exist only to serve Hamlet. They have no other purpose or life outside of that reality.

One of the things I love about Anne McCaffrey's stories is the interconnectedness. Minor characters in one book become main characters in another, and have cameos or off-hand mentions in yet other books. People know each other. She wrote fanfic for her own worlds. Everybody could be somebody in an Anne McCaffrey universe, and you never knew who would get the spotlight next.

When I read a fantasy novel, I expect every character to have a story and a reason for existing other than just moving the plot forward. I don't expect to read everybody's story in the same book. Most times that back story can't be part of the main plot. But...I'm OK with glimpses. A mention of a former relationship. A token with obvious emotional value. A scar indicating an interesting tale if only you had a chance to stop and hear it. 

A fantasy novel walks a fine line. The author must not only make you care about the main characters, but must introduce you to a brand new world without confusing or overloading the reader with history, description or back story. It can be done. McCaffrey did it. Robert Jordan did it. George MacDonald did it in short stories, for goodness' sake. 

Advice for today's author seems to include streamlining. Paring down your wordcount. Writing to a shorter attention span. Not bad advice, but I fear we go too far in paring out any word that doesn't "advance" the plot. Some words advance the reality of the world in which the plot happens. I find those words valuable. 

Happy Thursday, dear readers. "If you gotta spew, spew into this." 

Oops. Wrong movie.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Biggest Gripe

My biggest gripe with most fantasy books (and the occasional sci-fi if it involves alien worlds) is lack of depth.

The first series that ever impressed me with diversity was Dave Duncan's Magic Casement. Can't remember if that's book one or just one of the four. Doesn't matter. Duncan's world encompassed "races" that were all variations of human but with distinct physical and cultural characteristics, and those differences played into the story. Loved it (Duncan had a varied background himself in both education and employment).

TT: Anne McCaffrey actually did the same thing, but with so much subtlety I didn't realize what she'd done until years later. She remains a master of the craft, and one of my "mentors."

Another thing Duncan did to impress me was muddy up his stereotypes. He added gray to a world of black and white. Good guys could do bad things and vice versa. I couldn't tell at first glance who would play what part. Depth.

Katherine Coble recently said books written by those under 35 tend to lack flavour. While there are people half my age who've lived twice my life, she's not wrong. Experiencing life should translate to depth in writing.

I'm not saying longer books are better. Fred Warren is a master of conveying powerful emotion with few words. I am saying I wish more well-written books had a feeling of history to them. A sense that this world existed before you opened the book and will continue after the last page is turned.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May your world have only as much depth as you can handle with God's help.