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Can I Use This for NaNo?

'Cause I have trouble with plots.

Dark Trail

Plot? I work on much more organic level.

As in, I can barely write. I don't think I've written a word of fiction for several months.

Plot plot plot. Plot. Climax! Plot.

Yeah, I got nothin'.

Okay, seriously now.

Let's start with a girl.

No, wait, a boy. Guy.

Has a brother, ahh, twenties? Maybe don't want to get too far away from my realm of experience, or too close to previous characters.

Okay, so there's a character. That isn't plot. I need to get him at least in a situation. Say he's on the lower social strata...and I just looked at my bookshelf and saw "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" so let's make him magical! I've never written magic before.

So that's not a plot, and might be too close to Rogue Agent Gerald Dunwoody. Maybe he stole it?

Call him Blake for now. Blake the anti-hero? Don't think I can make that work. Guess he's just a little confused with not-so-great friends who stole the magic and dumped it on him for safe keeping. Which will get him in trouble. Let's put him space! That's a bit much. Here we have a character and situation and impetus.

What happens next? Find out in November!

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I Prefer Books

I have no imagination.


Oddly enough, asking for a new animal by combining three is a popular one in art classes. Or at least it was in the classes I remember. They didn't have to be pets, at least, but the idea was still to use real-life references with originality.

I hated that assignment.

The straight truth is that I don't have that kind of creativity. I've always preferred working with what's *there* already. I'm too practical for the fantastical and can't let go of "this wouldn't work"--the details just get me all tangled up.

But I do have a favorite tri-creature.

Diana Wynne Jones' book Dark Lord of Derkholm has griffins physically eagle and lion, but mentally the children of their *human* parents. (Their father is a magical cloner). So two of the children are human, but the rest (at first) are griffins of various colors and sizes and magical abilities.

Kit is my favorite. He's the first, the biggest, and the darkest. The book itself skews toward campy humor, and slightly satirical, and then it takes a darker turn--

I must like this style, I just realized its similarity in that way to the Rogue Agent series. --

Anyway, Kit is my favorite, but especially paired with his human brother, Blade. The two of them join up, with the rest of the family to help their father be the "Dark Lord" for a series of tours from a world like ours wherein the tourists pretend to be part of heroic groups. Of course, these themed battles really do destroy their world. And Kit and Blade learn magic (from a giant old dragon).

It's been so long since I read those two books. I need to read them again! I guess I don't dislike this prompt so much anymore.

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Remember the Mountains

Rusty Truck

I'm not sure I was a person until after high school.

So my advice would be: at least go out once. Talk to people on occasion. Read better books, because even though you read all the time already, no one takes you seriously unless you can quote random Latin literature. Make up is actually wonderful, and makes you feel pretty, as do clothes and shoes that at least fit. Cut your hair, it looks bedraggled and ridiculous. Smile more. Sneak into pictures on occasion: it's more flattering than sneaking out. Wear shorts and skirts more often, so at least you're equally freckled. No, I guess learning to drive earlier really wouldn't change anything. Apply to better schools, even if you can't afford to go. You can always wave the acceptance letter in naysayers faces.

Are you kidding? I wouldn't say any of that!

Well, maybe I should have talked more with my friends. At least gone hiking more often, up in the local mountains of which there were many. Gotten lost near A's house, up in the hills. And also, the smiling and wearing make up was good.

But, remember that time with A, when we went up past the pond that we used to visit when we were younger and still caught frogs and lizards? Only it was summer this time and almost completely dry, so we went exploring. Those old gnarled posts of juniper wood with strings of barbed wire weren't of enough of a deterrent when it's late afternoon and we were completely bored. And we walked past the rusting truck, although maybe you should have dared to go nearer, and then you might remember more than it was orange.

Her cat ran lightly alongside.

At least we didn't stop. Even we came across the bleached bones of some poor cow and could only regret that it wasn't the skull. Wasn't it a pelvis? The grey-green sagebrush wasn't too dense for walking, and we came up across that hill. After that, wow, we could see so far--the Warners dropped along the horizon looking even less looming since we were so high. It was a little scary then, because we turned around and it was sunset, and we didn't know where we were.

This is what happens when you don't have a trail. Even the fences were out of sight. Of course A knows the area better than you do, so the frisson of nervousness was better off ignored. Keeping back in a straight line from where was the logical thing to do.

Before long we came across the horses that belonged to A's neighbor--the last home on this side! Nothing but wilderness on the other. I wish she hadn't told us that, although we were still probably close enough. Still, it was good timing since the dark was really falling. We followed the barbed wire line around the horses and made our way to the end of the road and the cat wasn't with us. Even as long as we stayed the cat just didn't come back. And it was full dark and the cougars had been really active over the past few months. A waited anxiously by the sliding glass doors, but then we had to go home. If we hadn't gone too far, no one would have been lost. That's always the first thing I remember.

But when A called too late at night, it was because the cat found her way home.

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Fear is Too Easy

Fear's Feelings !!!

What am I avoiding? Answering this prompt.

What I'm avoiding is too important, and I can't face up to it yet. I don't want to think about it, I don't want to talk about it. If I can't face it, I'm going to lose everything. If I haven't already.

Avoidance comes too easily. You know? It feels safer to not make any decision, to not commit. But that's a decision too, and the most dangerous one in the long run.

So, instead, I'm practicing. Because failure is so much worse.

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Never Throw Stones


I would never, never say "I told you so"! Especially with a "Hah!"

In fact, I assure you I will go out of my way to assure you that you weren't entirely wrong, and in fact had many good points. Surely there were mitigating circumstances.

No, I promise I'm not laughing at you. No, really, just a tickle in the throat, you know.

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Recently Amused

I take things as they come--and therefore am terrible at ranking anything, unless it's traumatized my in its awfulness or something.

I can't say Despicable Me is the absolute funniest movie I've ever scene, because I've never been able to keep track of such things.

However, Gru was far more amusing than I expected, and the trailers really didn't do it justice. The minions managed to stay on just this side of cute without (too often) becoming completely irritating...a fairly significant feat, considering they were very nearly irrelevant to the movie.

I loved the names of the girls, too. Margo, Edith, and Agnes, and their growing relationship with Gru as "Daddy" was actually remarkable touching.

While the humor was the level you'd expect from this kind of movie, the timing really helped it work for me.

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A Fantasy World without Footnotes

Character is the first thing I look for when reading, but a definite, clear setting is a close second. Fortunately, I've been on a reading kick lately, and actually have an example that covers both.

The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills (pseudonym for Karen Miller) has strong characters that are fully part of their entirely fictional fantasy world. Which is especially interesting because I don't think the world is given a name.

I think that indicates how strong a fantasy setting it is. In this book, the first of the Rogue Agent series, three different countries are in play: or rather, primary protagonist Gerald Dunwoody moves from Ottosland to New Ottosland, the colony, which is entirely surrounded by the desert country of Kallarapi.

Never, in any of these settings, is the audience given a rundown of the political system, the laws, the culture or the population statistics. Instead, the characters move through their surroundings, and like people reflect only on what immediately impacts them. So Gerald doesn't really think about how his government operates, but as a third-grade wizard and cog of bureaucracy, we learn about out it operates on a day-to-day level, and more importantly the attitude the government has to its function. Gerald's whole story begins when, at the factory he was sent to inspect , there is an explosion as a result of lax safety standards. Instead of the illustrious company being investigated, Gerald is fired.

Because he is only a third-grade wizard, several self-important first-class wizards go out of their way to make him further miserable--a very clear class structure that is only emphasized by his absent-minded, genius-inclined best friend Monk who is so far up the social ladder that, while he cannot directly get Gerald out of trouble, he can make the others back off. However, when his own stunts go awry, he isn't immune from the consequences.

The focus of the book is Gerald's time in New Ottosland. Unlike the mother country, New Ottosland follows Tradition with the capital "T". They speak the same language, every building is an exact copy, and every king is named Lionel and every queen Melisande--as are the first male and female heir. Gerald's problem is the new King Lionel disbelieves in any need for advisors or anything other than strict obedience.

And war is brewing with Kallarapi, the desert that surrounds New Ottosland. Given descriptions of turbans, camels, and very prominent Holy Men and gods, at first glance, Kallarapi might read as the stereotypical middle-eastern backwards country. But holy man Shugat is, well, if not good, especially to our protagonists, at least right. Kallarapi is a fully independent county--it represents mostly how backwards New Ottosland has become.

The beginning the The Accidental Sorcerer is in many ways whimsical. There's a great deal of witty banter, and wry observations on the fabric of society. But the strongest part of the book, the most moving, is that there really is evil in this world, and no one can be perfectly good.

Evil is human, and there is death--and it actually affects the characters. Someone is tortured, and changed forever. Everyone is actually impacted by the end, and there is no magical healing.

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Nowhere is Far Behind

The hardest part about my hometown is trying to imagine it through objective eyes.

Looking west to Alturas

After driving hours on a narrow highway, winding through mountain passes and long, summer-dry valleys, any sign of civilization is a relief.

Even if there aren't all that many. But it's hard to stay awake this late, and the other town was gone before it was even there, it seemed. A paper-cutout ridge of mountains lines the horizon on the east side, improbably snow-capped. There really only seems to be this one main street--oh there are intersecting streets, but they don't seem to lead anywhere. Exploring further, there are likely only churches left to find.

All the streets seem too wide for the lack of traffic, and does anyone actually live there? Wait, two jean-clad people of indeterminate gender have just stepped from one of the stores. It's an old-fashioned main street: two-story, western-style facades, one-building blocks, and none of the stores particularly stand out. Although the Title Co. seems to have been repainted recently--as opposed to anything else, but it doesn't look much like a Title Co. at second glance, whatever a Title Co. may be.

Then there's the flashing yellow light: "FIE TUK CROSSING"

Over the railroad tracks and already more than halfway through town. But signs, finally, of not being in the Twilight Zone remake: there's a RiteAid! a Shell! And a Quiznos!--how sudden. Their bright, professionally designed logos and plastic colors seem dropped from Mars.

Fortunately, the incongruous sight passes quickly, and after the flashing red light intersection--the only one in town, the road continues, and real civilization is only a little more than a hundred miles away.

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If There's Sunshine

A vivid imagination can do wonders for your state of mind.

Cubicle Panorama

I have a lot of affection for my hometown.

That said, I don't want to stay here for the rest of my life. And as much as I enjoyed being in the suburbs in college, I never really met anyone.

But more importantly, I'm very good at entertaining myself. I see no reason to define myself by what I do. If I have to take a job that isn't exactly what I'm looking for...I'll manage. I've always been able to generate interest simply by doing, by learning. So if I do end up in a cubicle, I'll just put a few pictures on the wall and resolve to work the situation into the next Great American Novel.

The environment, culture, feel of a place: those things have always had the greatest effect on my mood. If I can't go out, get some sunshine, meet my friends at the great little shop on the corner...I stay home. And the inside of any place gets the same stale feeling when you haven't left.

Whatever I end up doing, I'd better be somewhere I can live.

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Playing with Dolls

Grudges take far too much effort to sustain.

Two little girls in a park near Union Station, Washington, D.C. (LOC)

I've never been able to keep them.

One night in the second grade, I was driven to write in my diary. The injustice was simply too great. We'd been best friends since the day after we fought in kindergarten, but there were some things I simply wouldn't put up with.

Yes, I did like spaghetti.

It was her dad who asked, we had spaghetti, and she, beyond all reason, got angry with me! This was beyond all bounds. I loved spaghetti, and I was the guest--surely I deserved it. She had no right to be angry.

The rest of the night went no better. And when I wrote that diary entry, I knew it would simply have to be the end of that friendship. I was simply practicing the language for the passive-aggressive letter that would be the only true way to express my deep disdain for the situation.

We're friends still, nonetheless.

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October 2012