Thursday, February 28, 2013

To be or not to a writing group

Ok I've been kicking around the idea of a writing group for a while now. Well let me rephrase that. I've been thinking about starting my own since the more established group wasn't really my cup of tea. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. They didn't do anything wrong it just wasn't a good fit for me.

The other groups were too far away and I want to have face to face meetings. Computers and phones are cool for awhile be even I crave human interaction sometimes. Though when I want my space I want my space. Being a avid and enthusiastic NaNoer I've found over the years that I actually like writing when in a group setting, and it motivates me more.

In my area there aren't a lot of writing groups. Which is both surprising and sad because in the Triad we have 7 universities and 3 community colleges, and only two writing groups on the campuses. Those groups are only open to students. Top that off with one of the best MFA programs for creative writing happening on UNCG which has no writing group at all. This area is rich with creative people who are looking for outlets for their creativity. NaNoWriMo is lovely don't get me wrong but it only happens once a year. Well three times a year if you throw in the two camp sessions. So that leaves nine months out of the year with nothing happening. How is a gifted person like myself supposed to survive on that?

Now I find myself in the curious crossroad of going left into the land of not starting a writing group, or going right, leaping into that blue police box and starting a writing group. This is maybe a choice that I can't make on a whim or overnight. I might have to noodle this a bit...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

City Building Tommeh Bell Style

Now I know what you must be thinking...did she mean to say world building? Well not actually I got it right the first tie but thank you for being concerned about my mental health. Its so nice t be loved.

I am a huge fan of Tolkein, Martin, Lackey and all their elk and I love to just submerse myself in the vivid and fantastic worlds they have built in their novels and try as I might I just can't match their level of excellence. Now I know what you are about to say. You would say, "Letitia, not ever writer writes that same and your world does not have to be the same as their world." And you my lovlies would be right, but if there is one thing that I have taken away from my pastor is a spirit of excellence. I want to do things to the highest quality. And world building is just not my cup of tea.

So I said to myself. "Self if you can't world build maybe you can city build." Myself said, "Well let's give it a whirl and see how it comes out." Well I gave it a whirl and actually found that I'm pretty good at city building. Now I know there are a lot of urban fantasy writers that like to use existing cities as their backdrops. That is fine but I just hate doing all of the research you have to do to write like a local and an expert.

So I set out to create a city as the backdrop to my novel. I started with a state. Where should my story be located. People always say to write what you know. Well growing up in Germany didn't afford me the chance to live in one place and have a "hometown" like many people. I mean I spent a year in California and 4 years in Texas. North Carolina is the only state that I've lived in longer than anything. So I chose North Carolina as the setting. Well then for my purposes I had to do a fair amount of landscaping because I wanted to plop my city down in the Piedmont area which is in central NC but I needed to have a Dockworks area. So that took a fair amount of drawing on my part and let me just warn you my drawing skills are about as good as my Arabic.

Now that I had a state and it looked how I wanted it to look I had to actually sit down and build my city. I like to work smart not hard so I thought to myself, would I really want to build a city from the ground up, brick by bloody brick? And myself said "hell naw." So I looked at cities who skylines I love. Paris, Chicago, New York, Toyko and I based my city off of that.

Once I got the look of my city then it started screaming for a name. I usually like to start with a name because if I don't it drives me literally bananas, and that is not a good look for me. It took me a few days to come up with a name. I used generators, existing city names, old town names, friends, families, NaNoWriMo name adoption forums and nothing worked for me. Nothing seemed right. It all seemed generic and bland like vanilla pudding.

So when I'm stuck on a name I usually pick up and book and just turn my brain off with reading. The book my hands landed on the Son of Neptune by Rick Riodan. The name slapped me in the face like a Chris Brown flashback.


It was the perfect name and it aptly fit what I wanted to do with my city.

After I got the name the rest of the city just fell into place. The history of Neptune even flowed perfectly for me. It started as a simple shipping town after the Spanish landed. It moved into a slave market town that grew into the printing capital of the south. Hence the Printworks neighborhood. The old slave market is now smack in the middle of downtown and it houses all the city administration offices.

At first Neptune started as basically as the first generation Matrix. It was a utopia. Everything was nice and shiny. People got along great and it was wonderful. Well that was an epic fail if I ever saw one. Cities just don't operate that way and frankly that was a rookie mistake. So I had to infuse some life into the city and Neptune started to take on a Sin City/Gotham feel and I liked it. That's when the Ramblings were born. The Ramblings are the Manhattanesque part of Neptune. Not in the sense that is the ritzy part of town people are willing to shell out college tuition payments as rent or mortgages  but as its one an island in the middld of Neptune with only one bridge connecting it to mainland Neptune.

The Ramblings are the ghetto part of the city. A concret den of iniquity. The whole of the city is corrupt so don't misunderstand, but the Ramblings is where the sin is out in the open for all the world to see. I've coined it as the old slaving town of Neptune. Out of the Ramblings grew the rest of the city.

Dockworks- this is self explanatory

Printworks- the original center of printing for NC. The Confederate minting press was located here. The Guttenberg Market is located here.

Oldetown- the oldest part of the city. Old money lives here and they like to keep out the riffraff.

Clock Tower Park which is surrounded by Clock Tower North and Clock Tower South

Digital City- the newest part of the city. The tech/medical heart of the city.

Central City (downtown)-

West End- actually a misnomer as its located on east of the river

East End- located west of the river. Its the funky hipster part of the city. The theater district is located here

I'm sure as I start writing the story for this city that other neighborhoods and things are going to crop up but that's all I've got right now and I've got the feel for each section of town. But this is my first attempt at city building and I have to say that I have enjoyed the experience and I will do it again in the future, but I think that I might be a little lazy and just base a few of my novels in Neptune.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Musing of a Conflicted Mind

So I've know for a few months now that I want to make writing and being an author my life's work and so I want to get a MFA in creative writing.

My first choice was going to be Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England but the funding I would need was a bit much and they don't offer nearly as much student funding as many US schools. I fell in love with Manchester when I did my study abroad semester there in 2010. They actual have a extremely awesome program and writing community with acclaimed faculty and excellent classes. They even host a bevy of writing competitions that do accept international entries. For me it would just cost too much and I am done with taking loans to pay for school. I did that as a ignorant undergrad and I'm not going to just keep doing the same thing over and over again.

So I turned my eye to US schools and stumbled across two in the North Carolina that I want to apply to. One is at my alma mater University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the second is at North Carolina State University. Now I already know how UNCG operates and run as I got my BA from there so while its appealing to stay on my home turf I do want to push myself and get outside of my protective bubble. Not that stepping out on my own is a scary concept. I relish the journey I just don't get the chance to do it as often as I would like so I'm thinking that NC State is going to be the only home school that I will apply to.

The second school that I'm looking at is University of Texas at Austin. They're program seems to fit my personality. Basically they will leave you alone to do what you do best. Write. On top of that they fully fund all of their students with a very generous stipend that will have you living comfortably in Austin. As the cost of living in Texas is still well below the national average. Austin is a lively and vibrant city that is suited for the quirky writer looking for a place to fly their freak flag high and proud.

I graduated from a Texas high school and while living in Copperas Cove, a small town 45 minutes from Austin was enough to drive me from the Lone Star state with a vow never to return unless I am piloting a DeathStar I feel UT calling my name. Of course going back to Texas will be a different experience this time because I will be returning as an adult with the freedom to go and do what I please.  With the money not to worry about paying for gas or buying food.

However I said all of that to say that what scares me the most is the actual writing sample. In the past I've had a few things here and there published. Mostly poetry when I was younger and more recently articles for UNCG's school newspaper, The Carolinian, some online blogs and magazines and fandom blogs. I wouldn't go as far to say that those pieces weren;t serious because I took them seriously and I put in as much effort into those offerings and I have anything else in my life that I considered worthy of my time.

This writing sample would actually be my first attempt at being a real writer. People in the industry will review my work and based on my abilities to show that I have potential to make as an author they will accept or reject me for their programs. This is like waiting for someone to ask you to prom times a million. which is weird because I didn't even go to my prom. I was a nerd girl with self esteem issues, so sue me.

you would think its weird that someone who wants to be published would be squeamish about someone reading their work, but I am.

I know that in a few months I won't be as nervous. That's just how I operate, but now I'm a ball of nervous energy about ready to spin out of control. So I may need massive doses of Doctor Who and CAstle with a side helping of Cookies and Cream Ice Cream to calm me down before I start on my writing sample. I've got till September anyways. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fiction Idea #1

So I've been noodling around with a few ideas for the upcoming Camp Nano session and I think I've landed on the idea that I want to go with.

Title: The Red Hood

Genre: fantasy steampunk

Protagonist: India James aka Kitty Canary aka The Red Hood. India is 23 years old and the headline act at the Bird Cage. Neptune's premier burlesque club and hangout spot for the Voltok Family. India is shorter than average barely five feet tall in her heels. She has a short bob of black hair, but she wears wigs a lot when she is out on the prowl. India grew up in the suburbs of Neptune. The only child of a local politician and a office manager for the local FBI office.

Other Main Characters: Rook Chess, another runaway that fell in with India and became the front man for the Bird Cage and the Alfred to her Batman. Marisol, India's personal assistant in charge of her appointments, appearance and fanmail. Another runaway that India caught sneaking around the club. And Det. Omar Farooq, one of the straight arrow cops on the NPD. He is in charge of the gang unit and the point man on the hunt for The Red Hood.

Antagonists: The entire Voltok family and all of their minions. The Voltok is a Russian crime family/werewolves that run Neptune. They are into human trafficking, drugs, guns, prostitution, gambling, and racketeering.  Sergei and Alyona are the heads of the family with seven sons and five daughters. So also has to battle against the corrupt cops, judges, and public officials.

Setting: This is going to take place in a alternative United States with a lot of steampunk influences. The main setting is going to be Neptune, North Carolina. A seething metropolis of crime that is going to make Sin City look like Disney World. The city is in the iron grip of the Voltok family

Plot: No one told India when she went to school that day that it would be the last time she saw her mother's face still attached to her head. Or the last time her world would make sense. When she finds both of her parents murdered and the Voltok calling card left behind India embarks on a bloody trail of revenge that pushes her to take on the veil of the The Red Hood to dispense her brand of justice on those responsible for the death of her parents.

Point of View: Right now its going to be 3rd person limited through India's eyes. But I may add investigative notes from Det. Farooq.

Story Notes: I haven't actually started on the plot outline yet and I'm working out the kinks in some of my characters and the plot, but I'm hoping during March I can nail down my plot points and things before Camp NaNo starts. I've got a fair bit of research to do as this is my first foray into steampunk, but I really feel like this story would be a great fit and plus I've been watching Warehouse 13 and HG Wells really inspired India. Though she does have a bit of Elektra and Catwoman thrown in there for good measure. I want India to be as tough as they come, but I want her to be a vixen with vulnerabilities. Not like a broken heart or mind nothing that far down the rabbit hole, but I want her to be immature in some ways but I don't know what. Like I don't want her to be so hard that she can't break because I hate those sorts of female characters. Like she has to be a real superhero or something. The Red Hood isn't going to get bitten by a radioactive spider or dropped into a vat of toxic sludge. She is just going to be a girl looking for revenge stalking the night for signs of her prey.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Me, my computer

First me and my computer, which I call Appa ( I have a wicked love affair with Avatar: The Last Airbender) have a deep connection. He is my fist MAC that I ever bought and he convinced me that Apple was the way to go. I had been a PC girl since 94 when you have to manually load up everything before you even got to the Startup Menu. We had a computer before the world wide web went online. It was all very exciting. I'm sure when the telephone was first introduced the world was abuzz with glee. Everyone except Mr. Carson (and if you don't know who that is you aren't cool enough to keep reading this blog.)

I bought him in the Spring semester of 2010 and I had barely had him an hour before I was in a SGA (student government for all the non-nerd readers) meeting where we were voting on the by-law revisions myself and six other over-achieving SGA members had been working on for four months. And Appa saved my life that night. And it was that day that our bond was formed. I would liken it to the bond between a loyal and their familiar. He anticipated my every need and his keys now fit my fingers perfectly. Even though a few of the letter on the keys have been rubbed off I still know what they are.

I think any writer forms an attachment to whatever writing implement they use for their craft and Appa happens to be mine. Though I do cheat on him with mountain of Composition books what I use for plotting and outlining.

Ok I think I've waxed poetic about App long enough.

So as I embark on my journey to the NYT Best Sellers list I have to fit my real life in there somewhere, and that is proving more difficult than I imagined. Not the wanting to be a writer part. I think I've got that part down. I'm applying to NC State's MFA program for creative writing next year. Which I am extremely excited about I can't even being to explain that and I am writing every day.

However I find that I have to get up and go to work! And that is a struggle for me. When I wan unemployed I got into the habit of waking up at 4 pm eating a bowl of Lucky Charms turning on the TV and grabbing my laptop to sit down and write. Then I would have lunch around 10 pm and dinner at about 6 am then crawl back into my bat cave to repete the cycle again at 4. That was great and life was good.

Now, that I have a job my writing is trying to remain in the driver's seat and I can't let it because I've got to make a living. Well a living that isn't writing at the moment.

And my family is having a hard time taking me seriously as a writer. Not that they don't support me don't misunderstand, but they don't get me. Well if I were being honest my family has never got me. I've always been the odd nerd out. Never-mind the fact that I'm strictly a fantasy writer and my family just doesn't get dragons, elves and Hobbits. So talking to them about my novels is like trying to take a zombie to dinner....never a good idea.

So I guess that's what pushed me into the arms of writing groups. I just needed to be around my people. Birds of a feather and all that jazz. I went to the High Point Public Library to attend The Story Cauldron's meeting and while it was a small affair I found myself really enjoying it. It allowed me to wave my nerd flag and get some love for it.

So maybe this can be my creative outlet while I am earning a living before my Masters program starts. Though I have a feeling that my alter ego the Ink Well Assassin won't be satisfied with just monthly meetings. I may have to sacrifice sleep to get some writing done. I am sure there have been plenty of great people who had to do without something in order to fulfill their life's dream and that maybe the road is less traveled for a reason. Not everyone is prepared to give up a part of their life to pursue their love.

Since my boyfriend who I thought was going to be my husband broke up with me I find that I have room in my life for a new love. And my writing will be he. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Two Year Writing Course

So I am embarking on a two year writing course. I've never done anything like this. Well until a few months ago I wasn't even sure that I wanted to be a professional writer. I had just started dabbling in the profession since 2012 when I participated in my first NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month for the sane people who don't try to write 50,000 in a month. Though I have to say I find NaNo men sexy (winkwink)

So its been seven weeks since this started and I find myself wanting to go faster then I remember that this is supposed to last for two years. Then I think to myself why in the hell am I doing this? I can't even commit to a car for two years and here I am handcuffing myself to plotting a story for two years? Am I crazy? No crazy would be the zombie drill that I run with my nephew at least once a month. Wait, did I just admit that? Moving right along.

Anywho this is going to be my own person journey from writing novice to a New York Times Best Selling Author. I'm going to whine. I'm going to rant and I'm going to rage, but I promise offset those moments with my triumphs and successes and generally upbeat attitude and comedic wit.

The revolution must be televised! Welcome to the Ink Well Assassin!