Monday, January 30, 2012

Stand-alone vs. Series

I've come to the conclusion that I don't like reading series.

<hides face in an overly-girlish-manner and waits for the backlash>

No really, I've read several series this year, and with every one, I liked the first book, sometimes the second one was okay, but I always had to push myself to get through the third one.

I'm trying to figure out why, but I do have a couple theories.

Is everyone familiar with Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory?

Essentially, it says that if a human's basic needs for survival (food, water, sleep, shelter, etc) are not being met, there's no way that person will be sparing a single thought for anything beyond that, especially other people's needs. We pretty much turn into animals and it's only when we're comfortable that we can spare the energy to be civilized.

In a series, the stakes have to go up with each additional book.

This means, in the first book, it's normally just about the main character saving their own ass (or someone they care about). As the series progresses, inevitably, the character starts caring less about their own needs/desires and gets all altruistic and sets out to save-the-world.

Which (personally) I find gets boring.

The characters become less flawed and become more saint-like. Even when their lives are threatened, if it's book 2 or 3 in the series, usually the character will choose to be noble rather than be selfish.

Maybe it's not that I find it boring, maybe I find it unrealistic? I think it's a rare person who can truly put the needs of strangers above their own, yet there are numerous series of books where the main character chooses to do so. It becomes... trite.

Perhaps it's just me.

I like self-destructive and broken characters. I enjoy reading about characters who are near the lowest point... and then receive a swift kick in the jaw. Anything with a raw fight for survival.

Now, it doesn't have to be all literal, like throwing a character out in the freezing cold and placing a starving bear next to them... often I prefer if it's psychological/emotional. But not angst. I don't do angst.

To clarify, it's that line between *savage/animal* and *civilized/human* that interests me. That knife-sharp-edge where a person finally looks up from their own wounds and realizes they're not the centre of the universe. That crystal-clear instant of self-awareness. Of character growth. Of deeper understanding that there's a bigger picture.

To me, that's real. That's interesting. It grips my attention and holds it. It could be anything, from a kid finally standing up to the class bully, to someone fighting with depression, self-harm, fighting with their siblings, or even living on their own for the first time. The struggles don't have to be life-or-death. It just has to be important to that character.

Maybe it's that I don't like heros. I've never cared for the 'evil-simply-cause-I'm-evil' bad-guy villain thing either. That whole right/wrong, good/evil binary-mentality feels too manufactured. Shades of grey are far more interesting to explore and closer to reality.

Perhaps it's 'cause the, "I'm going to save the world!" speeches tend to sounds a lot like presidential candidate/politician spin. Plato's theory of a philosopher king was certainly an interesting one, but I don't think there's a single chance it would ever work in real life.

But back to the problem of series I've read in the past year.

Do you remember the second 'Pirates of the Caribbean' movie? The plot ended about 3/4 of the way through... and when I stood up to leave, it just kept going... and going... 'cause it had to pack in all the set-up for the third movie...

There were a number of great books I read last year which have sequels coming out this year. And I dread they're going to play out like PotC2. Even a couple of the first books were great up until the last few pages, where suddenly I was groaning and rolling my eyes 'cause they didn't end naturally... they had this awkward foundational work for the next book slapped in, almost like an afterthought. Like a bad epilogue, I found that soured my enjoyment of the rest of the book.*

What do you guys think? Do you prefer series or stand-alones? If 'yes' to the series thing, what do you think of the arc towards heroism that is so prevalent? Is it overdone, or is that one of the reasons you like series? Can you think of any good exceptions?

To those who write series, do you find it difficult to up-the-stakes in each book? Do you plan out the character/plot arc in advance before you start the first story?

*because of my policy to avoid spreading negativity, I'm deleting the page which listed what I've been reading to avoid anyone knowing which specific books I'm referring to. After all, just 'cause something isn't my cup-o-tea, doesn't mean others won't love it, and I don't think it's right to stomp all over what someone else likes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

My brain is trying to kill me

So, I seriously think my brain is trying to kill me.

Here's how it begins:

First, I happily confirm to myself that, "I can't do < x >, and that's perfectly okay!"

Then, my sneaky brain gets to work. It pokes and prods and teases. It holds up a shiny new idea and waves it around until I'm thoroughly distracted from whatever I'm currently doing.

...and that shiny new idea always seems to include whatever I had just happily accepted that I couldn't do. Somehow my brain finds the perfect bait, it points to the teeniest loophole it has found and says, "Y'know that < x > thing you said you couldn't do? Well, c'mon, looky here... can't resist now, can ya? I know you wanna give it a try..."

So, a year and a half ago, Project #1 got torn apart (rightly so) by my writing group. I said to myself, "Well, that's the only story idea I had, I guess I can't be a writer, and that's perfectly okay!"

...then I start getting harassed by thoughts/images/scenes from Project #2. My evil brain was keeping me awake until I was nearly insane. Isn't that considered some kind of torture? Sleep depravation? Don't cults use that to bewilder their new recruits? It hasn't water-boarded me yet, but I don't want to take that chance...

I might need a good lawyer to sue for emotional and psychological damages.

So, Project #2 got written, but while it was out with beta-readers this past August, I said to myself, "Well, I guess I can't write 1st person, oh well, that's perfectly okay!"

...and my dastardly brain began to pester me with another story... one where the main character was mute. MUTE! So the only possible way to tell his story was (you guessed it) in 1st person!!

So I thought, "Well, okay, a small child's perspective is pretty tame and he's sort of innocent/calm, the same kind of slow-stories I normally write. I still can't write a tension-filled first-person voice with, like, murder and stuff."

Groan... do you see where this is going? So, Project #4... and just to throw in an extra monkey-wrench, the character is freaking genderless. Really brain? Really? What have I done to make you hate me so much?

So why am I talking about my murderous brain?

Oh my goodness... there might actually be a semi-normal boy/girl relationship in Project #5!

I swear I haven't been replaced by a dopple-ganger, it's only my brain trying to kill me.

I'm not a romantic, either in real life, or in my writing.

This has been, like, my kryptonite for as long as I have ever been writing. I have never remotely been interested in, or considered writing, a story with romantic sub-plots. I often joke that my attempting to do so might be one of the signs of the coming apocalypse (hey, it is 2012).

I was writing a scene and I suddenly stopped and went, "Oh crap..." 'cause there it was, a romantic relationship on the horizon, like when you've already stepped off the curb and your centre of gravity is pulling you down... and then you notice the puddle under your feet... the moment it's too late to avoid it.

Do you have any idea how disturbing this revelation was?!?! I could almost hear the diabolical laughter ringing through my synapses as my brain chortled with glee.

I swear, after this point, I will never say, "I can't do < x >, and that's okay!" ever again 'cause I know that's like feeding a straight-line to my evil, evil brain and it will then mercilessly plot against me.

Seriously, anyone know a good lawyer?

...and you do know I'm totally joking, right? Truly, I think I just enjoy making things difficult on myself. Stubbornness, plain and simple. I hate giving up.

Does your brain try to kill you in nefarious ways? Ever hopped on board to try something you never thought you would do, either in writing or real life? What's the craziest thing you've ever tried?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gruelling marathon, short distant sprint, or capture-the-flag in the dark?

Show of hands:

Which sounds the most fun?

Anyway you look at it, writing is a long-haul, from the first moment of story-conception, through the long hours of typing, the cringing, self-torture of proof-reading your first-draft, that first stage of editing, the handing it to CP's to slash apart your pretty bows and neat plot-points.

...then more editing, and if you're lucky, you round the track and hit the gravel trail of querying which is another trek in itself... and let's not even talk about all the stages necessary to get from agent to shelf.

But you also get those nice, short sprints, right? Where your lungs are burning, but you can see the goal line of a finished scene before you, or hitting a daily/weekly word-count high.

Sure, it's a lot of hard business and serious work and sacrifices, like sleep, and family, and uhm, actual human interactions...

I think we should all have more fun, though.

I don't know if you guys are like me, but I think I have a pretty good idea about what my writing weaknesses and strengths are.

I'm not saying I'm 100% right... but I think I know. I have some awareness about what I struggle with and what flows with not a lot of effort. And the parts that come naturally, well, you start to get a kind of confidence from that. The weaknesses, you kinda laugh and push them a little off to the side so they won't be staring at you quite so directly.

Well, I do.

And the main reason I do push them out-of-sight-out-of-mind is 'cause they're not fun.

But there's probably something interesting about them, if I looked hard enough, from a different angle, or maybe trying to turn off all the lights and attempting to build a helicopter out of Lego in the pitch dark... oh wait... straying off topic...

Okay, the Lego helicopter came up 'cause my little nephew always says, 'Build me this!' And I go, 'I don't wanna!'

Real mature, I know, but he's only 4.5, so what can you do?

Building helicopters are boring. I'll do it to please him, but I build 'em fast and really don't care when he smashes it to bits three seconds later. I rush and have little-to-no emotional investment in whether it lives or dies. Like writing a scene simply to transition to a better scene that I actually want to write. It's never going to be good if I'm just trying to get it over with.

So, what do you do to make writing more fun for yourself?

I put in a lot of small details that make me laugh. Like the reason behind Simon's name and then challenging myself to never use the phrase, 'Simon said'. In one of my stories, there's a stuffed cow named Melvastyke (pronounced mel-vah-steek). The same stuffed cow that still sits on my bed (husband permitting, well, tolerating) that I've had since I was thirteen. I throw in prime numbers and perfect numbers, I make vague references to weird math-things, like phi, the number by which you calculate a spiral. In Project #5, I plan to sneak in a sort-of-mention of Schrodinger's Cat.

Sometimes I simply designate one sense per character. That character's descriptions/experiences will only ever use that one sense. I do this with colours, too, or images/associations.

There are an obscene number of sly references to my cat...*

And I'm trying to think up the oddest combinations of food for Triss to eat.

Having these things keeps the story fun for me, no matter how many times I go through and re-write, cut, change, etc.

My writing group (unknowingly) are also part of my game. When they make suggestions or ask questions, I remember those things. I read through the text and go, "oh, I purposefully used the word 'rend' here, 'cause of J's last story" and, "here's the part where L smacked me over the head 'cause I was being an idiot. Then she told me how to fix the problem and totally saved me."

I can read a line and recall who patiently re-wrote it on the page so I finally understood what an umbrella pronoun is, or which muddied-description became clear after all the baggage was stripped away.

And it becomes a game of capture-the-flag because every word, every phrase, every sentence has a history, a memory and often a reason to laugh.

Sometimes all you need for a little staying power is making a game. Who says you can't hide a few flags in your work? If that'll motivate you to keep going, to keep it fresh and fun and excited as you work through the text over and over and over again, then do it!

*No, I'm not a crazy cat-lady, despite the evidence...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Favourite Character Blogfest

I found an interesting blogfest this morning, one specifically to introduce a favourite character you've written. 

The blogfest runs from January 23-25. Here's how it works:

1. Decide which of your characters you'd like to introduce everyone to, and choose a snippet about this character (preferably no more than 200 words) to share about this character. (A snippet from your manuscript would be awesome, but if you're not comfortable with that, you can choose to do a character sketch--something to show us your character and writing.)

2. Between January 23-25, tell us who your favorite character you've written is and why and post your snippet.

3. Hop around to other participants to check out their favorite characters and a bit of their story.

So, I mulled a little on which character to choose and ended up with a character who's not a character.

Okay, she is, but she's kindof not, 'cause she's dead and the only references to her are through the memories of a ten year old boy.

I chose Kaitlin from Project #3, tentatively titled 'Left & Right'. You can read more on my 'what I'm writing' page, but the basic premise is a boy who was in a motorcycle accident which killed his sister. He lost his ability to speak, and a number of memories. He did gain two invisible friends, which has to do with Kaitlin and the accident, but is not directly relevant to this blogfest.

Kaitlin is Alexander's older sister who died in the accident. She's a bit of a mystery to me, but I do know a few things about her. She's actually Alexander's half-sister from the father's previous marriage. She fights (or fought, I guess, since she's dead...) with her new mother a lot and had a somewhat back-and-forth teasing relationship with her dad. She was around 18 or 19 when she died. I think she loved her brother in her own way, and Alexander was in awe of her 'cause she was everything he wasn't, bold, opinionated, and free.

I think I chose her because her death left such a gaping hole in his life. Alexander is broken from the accident, both literally (his stitched-up head), and emotionally (his inability to speak). What he wants more than anything else is just to see his sister again... and it breaks my heart a little.

Since Kaitlin only lives in Alexander's memories, here are a few snippets in chronological order (completely first-draft material):

I try to swallow, but my throat hurts too much, and then I think of Kaitlin. I don’t mean to think about her, but when I imagine what she’d say if she saw me cowering on the floor, I feel guilty, so I look up.

I wish Kaitlin was still here. I bet she would know and I think my throat wouldn’t close up if I tried to talk to her.

The next one needs a lead-up, basically, a kid in Alexander's class smushed a black/rotten banana into his school stuff:

I pick my jacket up off the floor and pull it on. I don’t care about the other stuff and I don’t care about the drawing. My throat tightens up until it’s hard to even breathe. I had left it at school on purpose. They were daisies, Kaitlin’s favourite flower. I was going to give the drawing to her for her birthday, but she’s dead now, so it doesn’t matter that it got wrecked.

There’s this really cool gazebo in the backyard that came with the house. Mom hates it ‘cause the wood goes all green and slimy in the winter, but I like it. It’s still too early, but in the spring, birds build their nests up near the ceiling where the beams come together. Last summer Kaitlin and I threw down blankets and stayed there for hours and hours. When we were real still and didn’t talk for a long time, the babies would poke their heads out and cheep and you could watch the parents fly back and forth and feed them bugs and stuff. It was neat.

Mari is one of Alexander's invisible friends:

I’m wearing a jacket over my sweater, but there aren’t any goosebumps on Mari’s bare skin. I wonder again if she’s a ghost. Maybe when you’re dead, you don’t get cold. I hope that’s true. Kaitlin always hated the cold.

He’s [A & K's father] found the Monday night football game and Seattle must be playing. With my fork, I push another green bean to the side of my plate and I wonder if he’s feeling lonely. Kaitlin loved green beans. She always used to watch football with dad and cheer really loudly for whatever team was playing against Seattle. I don’t think she really liked the game, ‘cause she didn’t have a favorite team or anything. I think she just liked to make him mad.

These last two sections are separated by about a page, but are continuations of the same thought:

I lied. It’s not that I don’t remember the accident, I remember some parts, but not the whole thing. It’s like someone’s spilled a box of puzzle pieces in my head and only a few landed right-side up. The edges are sharp, like razor blades, and when I try to fit them together, it hurts and all the right-side up pieces turn red against the grey upside-down ones. Spots of red on grey. Blood on cement. Mine or hers, I’m not sure which, but probably both. You don’t get seventeen stitches in your head for no reason, and they don’t keep the coffin lid shut at the funeral unless you’re messed up real bad.

The doctor said the helmet saved my life, but I don’t know why I was wearing one ‘cause I wasn’t allowed to ride Kaitlin’s bike. Mom would’ve had a fit. She always said she’d kill me if she caught me even sitting on the seat and she told Kaitlin she’d throw the bike keys down the garburator and flip the switch. For Kaitlin, that was a threat worse than death, and mom would’ve done it. When she caught Kaitlin smoking last year, she put Kaitlin’s cigarettes down the garburator. Her makeup once, too, but since the sink spat tobacco bits all over the kitchen, mom held a pot lid over the opening, which was good. Even with that, mom's hand got cut a little from the flying shards of pink plastic. Kaitlin just laughed, but she did run and fetch a bandaid.
I wish I could remember Kaitlin’s face. When I’m home and staring at the family photos on the wall, I see her and think, oh yeah, that’s what she looked like, but as soon as I step away, it’s gone. Like one of the grey upside-down puzzle pieces in my head, I can see the shape of her and where she used to fit, but the details are still flipped over and hidden. She was dark, like dad, but I can’t picture what her nose or eyes were like or how her face looked when she laughed.
But she did laugh. I think she laughed.

Belated reflection of 2011 and looking ahead

Yes, it's already January 23rd. But it's Chinese New Year today, so I think it still counts...

I'm not much for resolutions. I think most of my true goals are long term, but of the particular kind where it's impossible to set too sturdy a goal-line in front of my nose, otherwise it will simply twist around into a noose.

2011 had a lot of good things. I started this blog and began interacting with other writers online. I've gotten over my fear of other people seeing my 'mistakes' by posting, commenting and even putting up first-draft material for critique. In June, we sold the last house I renovated and moved into the witch's hut, which I love (despite the witchiness, and all the crazy deer), 'cause through all the years of moving & marriage, I've never had the yard and trees I've craved. We also lived part-time in Vancouver for about six months, my 'home-town' which I have sorely missed over the last few years of island-life. We travelled a bit too and I cut off about 12" of hair, which always makes me feel lighter.

2011 also had a lot of bad things. There was altogether too much sickness, death, heartache, fatigue & worry.

I'm looking forward to 2012. To the possibilities that exist, to the goals I will fight for, to the new friends I will make and the pre-existing relationships I will strengthen & build. I'm eager to challenge myself with re-learning the art of porcelain painting so I can carry on that tradition left behind by my Nana. I'm itching to de-witch the yard, re-build the crumbling stone walls, cut back the four-foot-tall grass, plant gardens and replace the badly-leaking workshop roof and rotted floorboards so I can move my tools out of the garage and free up some room to actually park the car.

And of course I'm looking forward to improving my writing, in whatever form that may be.

I'm a fighter, but I'm entering this year a little battered, a little weathered, and a little less feisty, but I'm still looking forward to what 2012 promises.

After all, I'm a silver-lining kinda girl.

Happy New Years (again) to you all.

2012 is going to be a good year :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Culture & family

If you can't tell already, I like writing sibling relationships. I think it's interesting how family dynamics come into play, the whole nature-versus-nurture thing.

My stories also always explore the idea of trust, which is certainly different between friends, who you can pick/discard and family... who you're pretty much stuck with ;)

I've never written about sisters before, or twins, but I've thought about doing so ever since I read 'Alva & Irva', by Edward Carey when it first came out around 2003.

Issabel is the older twin. I'm slowly figuring out what strengths and weaknesses they have and how they compliment each other, yet I haven't decided what they would compete over. Issabel is better at distance killing, spear & bow, while the main character (still nameless at this point she has a name now!!) is better with a knife. I'm sure that has some relevance in how the events of the plot play out, but I'll just have to wait and see on that.

...and, in typical fashion, I literally typed 2,945 words of the story before my main character had a name. Sikka, to match with Issa. Though that would be the shortened form. Don't know what the full name would be 'cause if I had to truly match it with Issabel, that would make it Sikkabel, which sounds absolutely horrid.

...maybe I'll just leave it as Sikka and never mention/think about it again...

Athough I still am wondering about the sisters, I do know the kind of relationship they have, and I think I'm starting to figure out the inner-workings of their complex relationship with Komil. I hope some of that is already coming out in the last two scenes I've offered up, and in this additional short scene, where the narration-style ends:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Description up at Unicorn Bell

If you want a preview of a later scene in Project #5, the last half of a scene is up here.

...I spent this morning watching youtube videos on how to skin a bear as research... ugh.

Since I grew up next to a farm, not a lot of things gross me out, but for some reason, it's different seeing an animal all cut up and knowing it's not because someone is eating it/using all the parts. They're just taking the skin and discarding the rest.

Which is what really unsettled me. Sure, I love my leather jacket, and it's not like I'm about to trade in my shoes for woven-bark sandals, but I know the leather came from an animal where all parts of it were used, even the cancerous tumours which are turned into meat-slurry for processed pet food.

Still, it's amazing how many videos there are dedicated to skinning dead animals. When you think about how writers had to do research 15-20 years ago, it's just a whole 'nother world.

Sorry, this was a pretty gross post, wasn't it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Deer, smoke & darkness

I'm crazy about fairytales, folklore & mythology.

In fact, one of my undergrad papers was used as source material for one of the PHD student's dissertation, which is not a common thing.

The paper I wrote was about the rooster, an important symbol in Ifugao culture, literature (epics, myths and folktales) and also in their rituals. The rooster plays a very multi-facuted role as a symbol, a sacrifice and a god.

Most of my undergrad papers were on similarly obscure and strange topics. Like the one on Vac I've mentioned previously. The ...general strangeness... of my research topics either endeared me to my professors, or distanced me. If there were three-hundred books already written on the subject, I didn't want to have anything to do with it.

But at least I was consistent :)

And all the library ladies knew me by sight ;)

I think, during all the time I sifted through musty books and burned my eyes peering at blurry microfilm, I secretly wanted to write my own stories of blood and gods and monsters. I mean, as humans, that's how we first explained the world, so how could you get any closer to where *story* came from?

So I'm having a blast with this new little oddity. I don't think it'll be long enough to be a full novel, it might never see the light of day beyond a few posts on this blog, but it's fun :)

This more matter-of-fact voice is what feels more *right* for this character.

Next scene:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Your name in a book

I just started reading a new YA book, and on the second or third page... there was my name in black and white...

My name is common enough that there are about a million different spellings for it, but uncommon enough that I've never seen my exact spelling in a book before. Actually, I've seen a lot of YA authors with versions of my name...

So, what kind of character did *I* show up as?

Apparently a really ditzy cheerleader :D Surprisingly (and thankfully) not a ditzy blonde cheerleader, 'cause that's so overdone... like the bitchy blonde character that always seems to show up in YA to hassle the heroine.*

But I had a good laugh over that.

When I write, I try to never use names of people I know in real life, but I know there are people out there with names like Simon, Triss, etc. Every once in a while, I wonder what they'll feel like if they ever saw their name associated with one of my characters.

Have you ever found your name in a book? How did you feel seeing your name in print? Were the characters in anyway similar to you, or completely off the map?

*Okay, I just finished reading the book (yeah, I'm a fast reader) and she's not only ditzy, she's a horrible, irredeemably gossipy bitch. All-in-all, it was pretty funny :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Afraid of the Dark

Way back before NaNo started, one of my real-life-writing-buddies was worrying that she might get stuck partway through.

So I offered up a challenge.

If she should get stuck, then both of us would write a short story (or something longer) beginning with the line, 'I never understood why some people are afraid of the dark.'

Unlike me, she successfully completed her 50,000+ word NaNo goal, so there was no need for her to play out this challenge. I, of course, was only shooting for a half-NaNo.

But that darn sentence has been rattling around in the back of my head for months...

So I've started something new... something weird, something closer to a fairytale than I've ever before written. I need to pull out some of my... dozens? of fairytale/folklore/mythology books because I know there's a certain flavour in this story that I need to draw out, and I'm not quite yet sure what it is... pepper? basil? cardamom? anise? Maybe it's the sharp, iron sting of fresh blood?

No, I'm not writing about vampires

Of course, like always, I don't know much of what's going on or what will happen. What I can tell you is that there's no desert-setting this time. It takes place far north where the sun disappears for half the year, so there'll be snow, wolves, bears and icy-sea-critters. There's probably going to be some form of transformative magic, 'Darkness' itself might be a character, and there will be a thinly-veiled reference to Schrodinger's Cat. Something like this will make an appearance, perhaps not in terms of actual form, but concept, as this video inspired a few intriguing ideas. I've also been thinking about Miyazaki's animated film, 'Princess Mononoke' quite a bit. I should re-watch that soon.

Are you curious?

Here's my first page, well, just over a first page in terms of word-count I suppose (first-draft material of course). I'm pretty sure a lot of it will change during revisions, depending on how the whole 'darkness' thing turns out. I'm not 100% satisfied with the voice either. In this first scene, I think a couple lines are too poetic for the character. I think they need to be straight-forward and not overly descriptive. That is what feels right for this character.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pulling all the pieces together

Over the last four posts, I've given you guys a brief glimpse into the history of Western art and the Idea of Artist.

Yes, I've skipped over a ton of stuff, yes, I've generalized, yes, I've waved my opinion around like a red flag in front of a bull. I confess, I wrote all five of these posts in a single afternoon (since it was sort of one, long continuing thought), so undoubtably there are gaps in information and loose-logic.

I love art, just as I love writing, so don't get me wrong and think I'm trying to demonize the institution.

Elitism in all forms bothers me. It's when we start drawing lines that we start marginalizing other people.

The idea that art is somehow this untouchable, holy, genius-inspired wonderful thing that the unwashed masses can only struggle to understand and capture... I think that's a load of salesman-crap.

As a culture, Westerners value intelligence, education and experience. When something is valuable, it has worth. It has merit. Art, just like writing, is a process of refining technique, training your eyes, your brain, your hands. Like any profession, it's a matter of specializing. It requires hard work, time and effort.

In her post, Janice Hardy said this:

But going back to the "agents killing art" post...

With the vast technologies available to us today, I found myself thinking about writers who just want to create art. They can put up blogs for free and start creating, making their work available to everyone to read. Nothing is stopping them. Agents aren't killing their art because art can't be stopped when you can display it where millions can see it for free. (of course, getting millions to come see it is another story).

If the sole goal is to create art, then why is it necessary to get an agent and sign a deal with a major publisher? Isn't the goal of getting an agent and signing with a big publisher so that you can make money? They are, after all, a business, and the goal is to make money by selling books that are commercially viable. By selling product, not art. Just as I don't try to sell watercolors to my design clients, I wouldn't try to sell something to a publisher that wasn't a commercial product--a sellable book.

If you're complaining that agents won't take you on because you won't make them money, isn't that admitting that money is what you're really after? Not the distribution of art? Because you can publish without an agent or a big publisher if you aren't in it for the money. Or the prestige of being with a big publisher. Or the validation of having pros in the industry say "yes, we think your work is good enough to sell."

So, can writing be art? Or is it commercial?

Why was Shakespeare so successful and popular? His purpose was to write plays that drew in audiences and sold theatre tickets. How can you not call that commercial? Dickens was paid by the word to fill newspapers. Do you think that's wrong?

Shakespeare understood how to communicate with his audience, so he was successful in selling his Ideas.

Steve Jobs was all about the user experience. By making Mac products easy to use and reliable, he became successful.

Honestly, I don't see a division between Western art and product. It's all about selling Ideas, the only difference is whose idea is getting sold. If we're going to marginalizing writing/writers as mere entertainers who offer up fantastical worlds, gritty underworld crime, idealized romance, beautiful and noble heros and heroines fighting the dark and evil forces, or the every-man struggling for the most basic of needs...

...well, that's the subject matter of the Louvre's collection right there...

Writers are selling an experience, a world, characters, story, and Idea, the same as an artist is. It's the heart of the story, which I've blathered on about more than once. Your ability to successfully sell that is no different than Michelangelo, and he didn't get paid for the pieces his patron didn't like.

Just like a badly-made product won't sell. I have nearly destroyed two different cell phones because the menu systems were so incomprehensible. I will never again buy one of those brands. Sure, those cell phones were a heck of a lot cheaper, but there's a reason the iPhone is so widely used...

...and why I use a Mac.*

You have to work hard to make your Idea, your message, understood. You have to think of the audience, think of their user experience.

I've said before that if the meaning of your writing is not being understood, it's your fault as a writer for not being clear, not the reader's fault. It is a failure to properly communicate the Idea. If you are stomping your feet like a child throwing a tantrum and saying, 'You don't understand my writing!' you're never going to convince others that your writing has merit. You need to work for it, improve your skills so you can effectively communicate with your audience.

In the original post accusing agents of killing art, all I see is an unprofessional so wrapped up in the Idea of being an Artist that they don't care about honing their skills to make their work understood, and therefore accessible, to those who would buy it. It's arrogance, pure and simple.

If you love your work, if you have pride in it, you should try to make it the best that it can be.

Alcar already made mention of this in the comments last time, but:

My life-drawing teacher in university once told my class that if you want to be a successful artist, you have to want people to see your paintings. If all you do is create art for yourself, what you're doing is essentially (not my term...) "artistic masturbation". You're not an artist.  All you're doing is pleasing yourself. That's not a professional attitude.

And I think writing is the same thing. You have to want to please other people to actually reach them.

I think that's the main difference between people who are writers and people who write. The professional attitude and commitment that drives them to improve their work. Artists are the same. People mock Jackson Pollock and say all he did was throw paint on a canvas, but he discarded hundreds, if not thousands of paintings he felt weren't up to standard. Even Leonardo DaVinci re-painted the Mona Lisa, re-posed her, re-imagined her, re-worked her.

Artists can't be successful without making sales, and neither can writers.

So what do you think? how was my sales-job? For those of you who actually hung in here with me through these extremely nerdy posts, do you think any differently about art and writing? And really, does it all even matter? Do we need these hard divisions to validate, or justify what we like and why we like it?

*I shan't get into my thoughts on Microsoft... just that, the more you know about how and why something is the way it is... well, let's say I've lost faith in Microsoft ever putting the user-experience before the almighty dollar.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Selling *the artist*

With the rise of contemporary art came mass marketing and commercialism. Literacy was at an all-time high, television, newspapers and radio spread ideas faster than ever before in history. Trade agreements paired with new shipping routes brought wonders from every corner of the globe, all available for sale at your local department store.

Since the early days of industrialization, production wasn't dictated by the rising and setting of the sun. Time was money. Capitalism was rampant and with their new-found freedom, artists were doing all kinds of crazy stuff...

Synchronism swept through the art world, often known as non-representational painting, where the artists took Impressionism one step further -> they were interested in the effect of pure colour on the eye. Scientifically. These are often compared to music because they were abstract yet created an emotional response. Instead of painting the tree, they painted the green so the viewer would feel the tree.

This was the first big American art movement where they weren't just copying what was going on in Europe.

Non-representational art was the first art that wasn't telling *a story*. There were no people, no landscapes, no recognizable figures within the frame for the viewer to draw associations and conclusions from. Through simple blocks of colour, artists were no longer restricted to lessons, history or statements. The Ideas that they were selling were distilled, simplified and wrung out. Scientifically using how the human brain reacted to colour, artists tried to capture/translate the pure Idea of emotion into a canvas. Instead of a lush forest with serene, lounging figures hitting the right emotional/psychological points on the viewer to tell them how to *feel* about the scene portrayed, this was just about colour. How could one paint *serenity* in pure colour?

Not all of them were interested in representing emotion, but they were still trying to capture and translate a pure Idea and sell it to the public.

If we wanted to compare writing to art, I think non-representation art would probably be the closest approximation to poetry. Clyfford Still is my favourite color-field artist. In my mind, his works truly are like poetry or music.

On the opposite end of the scale, Marcel Duchamp was obsessed with chess (he represented France in Olympic chess four times) and he created conceptual art, where the idea was more important than the work of art/material. This was the birth of ready-mades, where a mass-produced object is re-conceptualized as *art*. His most famous pieces were, "Fountain" and  "In Advance of a Broken Arm".

Look at those two pieces of art. Do you think they could get any further away from expressing emotion?

They're more like a pun, don't you agree? They're clever, witty, they make you re-evaluate how you view a common object, but they aren't trying to sell a strong emotion like glory, power, love, fear, etc.

American artists weren't only lashing out against old, European values/traditions, they were lashing out at the institution of art itself.

Personal freedoms were also celebrated with an influx of gay and feminist themed art. Women artists thrived for the first time in history and radical political, social and ideological ideas (like free-love and birth-control) came bubbling out from The Art School League, of which many students lived in the infamous Greenwich village. It's interesting to note that most of these artists were middle class and well educated. Essentially, a bunch of rich kids rebelling against their more conservative parents. Due to their gathering in that specific area, the wealthy packed up and moved away, which tanked the property values and turned it into a cheap-rent, bohemian paradise.

*Starving Artist* was like a badge these people wore... they used their art to scream, 'this is who I am and this is what I want'. They were selling rebellion, they were selling attitude, they were selling freedom from the old ways, the old rules, the old world. They were saying, 'my individual view of the world is important'.

Art began selling the artist.

Jackson Pollock was the first celebrity artist, where he was heavily promoted all over the USA, not only his art, but his rebellious-artistic-spirit. Peggy Guggenheim was his first major supporter, and her gallery was the focal point for American abstraction and surrealism. in 1951, Vogue magazine shot a lineup of spring dresses with Pollock's work in the background, to showcase their fashion as *sophisticated*.

Vogue magazine was using Pollock and his art to sell that image...

...and how is that any different from what traditionally-good-art was doing? No matter what material, what form, Western art was still about selling Ideas. Abstract art was just a new way to sell it. Because abstract art is hard-to-understand, it's a different level of elitism. Really, it's no different from the portraits which showed the upper-class Europeans as god-like, and what's funny is that the wealthy in New York city were all paying for similar, old-world-European-syled portraits to be made to show off their status. The same parents whose kids were rebelling in Greenwich village.

So instead of selling the elitism of being wealthy/powerful, abstract art was selling the idea of sophistication/intelligence/genius, which was attractive to the younger generation who were growing up in an entertainment/commercial-infused world.

Is everyone familiar with the tv series Mad Men?

Life magazine, August 8, 1949 ran a photo spread of Pollock with the question, "Is he the greatest living painter of the United States?" They were selling his attitude, marketing him. He was posed as a rebel/cool with legs crossed, smoking, arms crossed/etc. He glared at the camera, confronting the viewers. The photos screamed, 'if you don't get it, he doesn't care.' This image was taken up by actors, James Dean, for example. Pollock was shown as a star, and this trumped-up commercial image of himself is what broke him as an artist. He basically drunk himself to death after someone filmed his painting process.

But this is what first sold the idea of artists rebelling against the norms of society and living only for their art.

Freedom is what America was built on. Even Pollock's self-destruction was fed back into the marketing of art. Painting became a holy space to act, not recreate something. The artist was the actor, the viewer became the audience -> not allowed to be involved, the viewer was passive. What was important was the artist exploring themselves through the act of creating art.

Harold Rosenberg was a lawyer/poet who fed this new idea through his writing in the '40's. He reworked Kant's old idea of genius and pushed the idea that only the elite could completely understand an artist's genius/vision.

Commercialism isn't necessarily about mass-producing products, it's making people want to be part of the elite lifestyle, but it's all smoke-and-mirrors. Do you want people to think you're sophisticated, cultured and intellectual? Well, then slap some abstract art on your wall and buy the leather-bound complete collection of Charles Dickens novels or Pliny the Elder's letters. Who cares if you never read the books or even like the painting, it sells the Idea that you're of the cultural elite. For some of you, it may be interesting to know that Rosenberg later became a famous art critic for the New Yorker.

Stop for a minute and look again at the date of that article. August, 1949. The glorification of *the artist* as a product started just a few decades ago, and even that was driven by pure, unadulterated salesmanship.

After this brief history of Western art, can you still say art isn't all about creating products? Granted, now the artist him/herself is also a commodity. You can also port this directly into the writing world. Isn't it so important nowadays to be active online, as a writer? To have a fan page, a blog, Twitter, etc? It's not only the book that's being sold, it's the author.

No matter what form or technique, Western art always has been and always will be about selling Ideas, so what else can you call it?

Okay, I promise, my next post will be my last on this particular subject. the way, for those who have been hanging in through these extremely nerdy posts, you have now been officially introduced to what my husband teasingly refers to as my 'National Geographic Voice'. Seriously, never ask me about certain topics in real life, 'cause I will actually talk like this too...

Oh, and those ever interested in museum-hopping in New York city, if you go to the Met, check out Pollock's famous painting Autumn Rhythm. Here's a very nerdy bit of trivia if you like 'Where's Waldo?' books. The colours in Autumn Rhythm are all browns/etc right? Well, somewhere on that painting is one, tiny dot of bright red paint. The reason is, Pollock spread his canvases on the floor of a warehouse to paint and always had multiple paintings on the go at the same time. Because he was interesting in capturing 'movement' on canvas (in simple terms, he danced around and flung paint at the canvas), that tiny dot is a splatter from another one of his works that ended up on there by mistake.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Artist + freedom = emotion

So, last time we talked about Michelangelo and how Western art has always been about selling ideas.

Michelangelo's paintings are awesome. I think there would be very few people who would disagree when I say they are truly art, right?

Well, he hated painting. Hated. The pope forced him to paint the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo's famous for it, but if he'd had the choice, he wouldn't have done it.

Western artists were craftsmen. Hired to create something to the specifications of whoever was paying for it. It wasn't their message they were selling, it was their patron's message.

Do you think every painter, builder, sculptor, etc who built the great European churches were devout Christians? Do you think they passionately believed in the messages broadcast through the stained-glass windows, murals, statues, mosaics and paintings?

I'm sure many of them were, but I doubt they all felt they were called on by God to create Notre Dame and Chartre Cathedral.

I think I'd be safe in saying for most of them, it was their job. People didn't have the freedom and education to just choose their careers back then, they were apprenticed. Skills were usually passed down from father to son. Projects like the great churches were built over generations. 99.99% of the workers had absolutely no control over what they were doing. They were given the specifics and they carried them out exactly or they wouldn't get paid.

Sure, many artists battled against the conventions of what art was throughout history. Some of them met with success and slightly skewed the notion of art into a new direction. Yes, I said 'slightly skewed'. Usually one artist inspired another, who inspired another... so the changes were slow but gradual. Yes, there were bursts and booms, specific artists tied to specific movements like Claude Monet to the Impressionist period or Pablo Picasso to cubism, but each of them were drawing from an entire history of other painters, art forms and scientific advancement. For example, we can thank Japan opening it's borders to international trade in 1863 for much of the Modern art movement because this new/unfamiliar art style strongly influenced painters like Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Denis, Gaughin, and of course, Van Gogh.

Art used to be a simple thing, a flat view of the world and the ideals around us, and by us, I mean the upper echelon of society, the leaders, religious, political, etc. Good artists were recognized by craft, tradition and technique. The time, effort and precision they put into their creations.

Industrialization changed, not only the economic status of the artists, but the available materials. Paint was now made in factories, not by hand. Globalization made it easier to appropriate ideas/techniques/etc from all over the world and brought in a typhoon of cultures, religions, philosophy from which to find inspiration. Both of these were highly influential in changing the notion of what art was and what art could be, but I think there's something far more important.

The true switch from 'what the customer wanted' to 'what the artist wanted' is what triggered the change in valuing the emotional response one could receive from art. Sure, emotion had been part of art in the past, like religious art was usually meant to sell awe, devotion, a cry for peace or a call to arms, but again, that emotion was carefully calculated information being fed to the viewer through the techniques of the artists. There was nothing personal about it.

When the artist was no longer trying to sell to one particular patron, the artist had to sell to the public.

I know I'm about to make an incredibly bold and crude generalization, but here it is: that change in who was 'most important' can be directly attributed to the contemporary artists of New York City because those who founded the USA (and Canada) were freedom-hungry immigrants who fought against the imperialistic old-world, old-blood, old-money, class-obsessed, monarchy-based European countries they fled from. They wanted to tear away the old traditions and take control of their own futures.

Sure, the timing had to be right, with industrialization/globalization, but I think the idea of creating 'The New World' was like the spark that lit the fire.

Freedom was something artists never used to have, and with it came an explosion of what art was, what it could be and what it meant. For the first time, artists had control over what they made, even though they still lived and died by how popular they became, America was all about freedom, even if it was the freedom to just blow stuff up or vomit blue food colouring onto another artist's canvas.

There's a reason many people don't like contemporary art. Much of it feels like pure chaos and destruction, but often that's what war is, what social change is, what an overhaul of outdated, oppressive rules/beliefs is. This is what artists were questioning and while they tried to sort out their thoughts, their language of communication was art. Just as art had been used in France during the French Revolution to fire up the revolutionaries and later glorify their success, so art was used in America, yet with much greater freedom.

You can hate the means, you can hate the method, but you can't find fault in the freedom to make it.

Art was always something the wealthy had and the commoners did not have, but with the mass changes in the way the world worked, the rising middle-class and the self-made empires in the New World, for the first time, artists were exploring what they wanted to say, how they wanted to say it. Industrialized materials meant paint & canvas were cheaper than ever, so artists had even more reason to explore and experiment. They were selling their own ideas and ideals, not their patron's, but they still had to find buyers.

So what was this new generation of artists selling?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Purposiveness without a purpose

Rather than 'emotion', Western art was originally a way to impart knowledge to the illiterate masses.

Kings would stamp their faces on currency and spread it across their kingdoms, religious temples/churches/etc would use statues, mosaics and murals to teach lessons, stories, rules and beliefs.

Art was used to spread Ideas, and since Greece was the centre of Western culture, let's start there.

Ideas are beautiful in themselves, right? Plato thought a lot about beauty and Ideas. Is everyone familiar with his 'shadows on the cave wall' theory? Well, art was sort of a way to capture the Idea, which is perfect, unattainable, and impossible to completely copy/represent in corporeal form. And the Greeks were all about trying to create perfection/beauty through form. If you really examine art/architecture from this time/place, there's a whole heck of a lot of math going into it... the precision of ratio/etc is incredible.

So, if art was used to spread Ideas, then is 'good art' beautiful or useful?

The title of this post is a phrase by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), describing the nature of beauty. In other words, something that is beautiful pleases us. This is different than us enjoying it for it's purpose/usefulness. Take, for example, a car. We can appreciate it based on the fuel economy, the amount of trunk space, the number of passengers it can hold, etc. Speed can also be a factor. While we don't necessarily need to go 0 to 60 in under six seconds, there can be a quality of purposefulness in the raw thrill of acceleration.

We can also enjoy cars based on their beauty, the lines of the body, the colour, the sound of the engine, the materials of the interior, etc. These don't add any usefulness to the vehicle, but even if cars really aren't your thing, I think anyone comparing an Audi Q7 and a Nissan Cube strictly on their body design would agree that the Audi is more beautiful than the Nissan.

A lot of money goes into making the 'package' pretty, but that doesn't mean it's 'better' if we're talking purely about purpose/usefulness.

Kant believed that to truly appreciate the 'beauty' of something, the person experiencing it must remain disinterested, in other words, receive no pleasure/sensation. It is the perfection of the object's form and design which we appreciate and approve of. So, no getting all googly-eyed at a French odalisk painting...

Taking this to a modern level, I could say there is beauty in a software engineer reducing 1,000 lines of computer code into 20 lines. The code may do the exact same thing, but it has been streamlined so there is no waste and no redundancies or overlaps. There is a kind of beauty in efficiency and precision.

According to Kant's theory, beauty was significantly different than aesthetics (aisthesis -> Greek for sensation/taste), which stimulates emotions, intellect and imagination.

So, he suggests there is a clear distinction between something that elicits emotion and something that is beautiful.

One other interesting contribution of Kant's was his idea of 'genius', essentially the ability to create harmony through their materials, thus resulting in the disinterested enjoyment of the beautiful end-result.

I think its important to remember that Kant, and his predecessor David Hume (1711-1776), lived during the Enlightenment period, the Age of Reason, where the prominent ideals were centred around progress, including the notion of moral improvement, human rights, and freedom of worship/religion. Because there was so much scientific advancement, classification of knowledge became important and the first dictionary and encyclopedia were published. There was also a huge renewed interest in Greek/Roman art during this time, mainly because Pompeii was being excavated, but also because Greece/Rome was where ideas of democracy/etc were born.

Many of these advancements came out because of the French Revolution, and France was the centre of the world for artists at this time, and up until modern times. King Louis XIV wanted to stamp out the uncultured dialects/etc, so he established the French Academy, not only to standardize the French language, but to standardize all manner of French culture, including art.

Remember at this time, artists were essentially craftsmen. Like hiring a carpenter to build a deck off your house, art was commissioned by the wealthy according to specific guidelines. So the fact that the king essentially controlled what was art is not something we, as modern humans, can really connect to. Our world is so much wider than it was back then.

Art was a bill-board for the uneducated.

Shame, awe, humility, honour, reverence, devotion, disgust, fear, peace, trust, loyalty.

Think this. Feel this. Know this.

It was not only an efficient way to sell Ideas, but to solidify the notion of class. Only those in power had/used art, so they were the ones controlling what messages art was sending.

Like how parking a ferrari in your driveway is a statement of your status, wealth, taste, values, etc, having the means and ability to buy/commission/use art was a measure of being in the elite.

I'm sure I'll annoy some people by simplifying to this degree, but this is a blog primarily tailored for other writers, not Art Historians, so I'm going to generalize and state, what was considered beautiful during that time was a lot of Greek/Roman iconography, historical or religious subjects.

Like how a ferrari is almost a universal statement of wealth/status/taste, so hanging a piece of art that associated you with the ideals of democracy/intelligence/reason/etc was a statement about who you were as a person. This is the same reason Hitler was obsessed with Greek/Roman art/etc and tried to push the idea that the Nazis were the true children of the Greeks. By associating himself with the ideas of that civilization, he was making the statement that he (and his people) were enlightened and better than other people.

The USA did a similar thing with association when they began building up their country. They didn't have to re-invent the wheel. By using eagles, columns, allegorical figures of liberty & freedom carved in the familiar Greek/Roman style, they were laying claim to those ideas, to those ideals, re-selling them as their own.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's human nature to borrow where we can, 'cause it's efficient. Symbols are short-hand, like seeing a red maple leaf, most of the educated world would probably associate it with Canada, right?

Symbols are like an Idea distilled, and historically, Western art is all about ideas. You can take this right back into the very infancy of Western culture, far back before the Greeks.

In the Age of Reason, if something looked like Michelangelo made it, you were golden, so everyone just copied the same style. That is what sold. That is what was good. That is what made them successful and allowed them to feed their families. The other thing that was important is that the artist's hand was not visible. This means the brush strokes had no character. Paint was layered on in numerous, thin, floaty layers, not like the bold brushstrokes of more modern art. At this time in history, the artist wasn't supposed to show any part of themselves in the art.

Think of it like the voice of the author suddenly intruding into a story. It was a big no-no.

But that certainly changed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Art and writing

To welcome in the new year, I'm going to bore you guys... so be prepared for at least a week of extremely nerdy posts.

Ever since I hopped into Janice Hardy's discussion on writing and art (my link) way back in October, I've been thinking, on and off, about art and writing. Originally this came about from a post on Janet Reid's blog commenting on another post accusing agents of killing *artistic*/literary books 'cause agents are only interested in making money, not art.

Can writing be art? Can art be writing?

Hardy's post touched on so many interesting ideas (so I encourage you to read the original post in its entirety, but first let's look at this:

To me, art is something that transcends. It inspires, captures emotion, causes emotion in others. It makes us think. It's goal is simply to be. (And I understand not everyone will have this same definition)

A painting can do this. So can music. We can look and listen and take something from the experience. But writing? I'm not so sure. We take things away from a story, but a story is different from plain writing. How many read to experience just the beauty of words on a page? Perhaps poetry is writing's art form. It does everything my definition of art does. It's not so much about telling a greater tale, but about evoking emotion.

One thing I want to clarify. I do feel that writing itself is an art. My question is more about where books stand and if they were indeed an art form in and of themselves, or a product and thus the commercial application of an artistic skill. 

She also linked another post which was responding to hers. The quick version is:

People write to create images, worlds and stories that never existed until we imagined them. Just because it can only be seen in the mind doesn't mean it isn't art. When I read I feel so strongly for the characters (if it's a good book). Every time I read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine I rock back and forth with Ella in the end and wait for her to break the curse. I have to catch my breath, I squeal with anticipation and yell at the characters. They confuse me, anger me, make me laugh; I could go one, but I won't.

C.S. Lewis created Narnia and it became so real for me that I thought "what if". Isn't it possible that there are other worlds?

To me it's about making the reader think outside their comfort zone. To ask questions is how we challenge what we think we know and broaden our senses. That is what art is. It can also be a product, but ultimately, isn't it so much more?

So, ultimately, what is art?

Well, I'm going to annoy you by saying there really isn't a set definition of art. Many people have tried to pin it down, but no one agrees, primarily because everyone's creating and critiquing it from different cultures, different times, different needs and different goals. As these things change/evolve, so does the definition of art.

History is written by the winner, right? Well, so is what we view as culturally and morally acceptable. Child-brides anyone? Age of consent? Prostitution? The legalization of certain drugs? Does a murderer have the right to live? How about dictators, cult-leaders, politicians, marketing/sales, war, mining, child-labour, pollution, seal-clubbing, etc? Should McDonalds be allowed to burn half the Amazon rainforest to make cattle ranches for their quarter pounders? How about soft-drink companies leaping into Vietnam to establish their products, not only on the day the war ended, but within the hour?

Our history, our philosophies, our culture, these things colour the words we use and the ideas we exchange and fight for, and since art is also a form of language, how could it be any less convoluted/complex?

What struck me as most interesting about both these passages is that both Hardy and M.E. (the person who responded) suggested that art and emotion are tied together.

Is emotion necessary to consider something 'art'? Is it one of the fundamental characteristics?

This is actually a very Western-central idea. Considering M.E.'s profile picture has a road sign in MPH, I'm assuming he/she is American, and I know Janice Hardy is American.

I'm Canadian, so I can't say I'm any less Western-centric in upbringing, but growing up on the west coast, there is a much higher infusion of Indigenous and Asian art/culture than in the rest of North America, which is primarily influenced by European and, to a lesser degree, African art traditions.

SO, for the sake of keeping within the scope of 'art + commercial products', I think it's logical to stick to Western art. It wouldn't be fair to, say, start talking about Buddhist monuments in SE Asia, Indonesian shadow theatre, Mogollan baskets, Borneo tribal tattoos or Haida totems.

When we talk about writing, we mostly talk about *Western* authors, European and American (I'm including USA & Canada in that word), so I think it's only fair to stick to the same kind of art. Apples to apples, right?

I honestly don't think there's any right or wrong answers here, what I'm most interested in are the different ideas/thoughts/opinions on this subject, the evolution of what art is, was and can be.

So, feel free to disagree, throw in your own examples/etc, but remember we're sticking to Western writing, art, philosophy, etc.

Oh, and one more thing I wanted to be clear about before we start... I'm going to be using the term, 'sell' a lot. By this, I am primarily referring to the idea of convincing someone of the merit/worth of something else.

You can't sell something that is worthless, whether it be an idea or an object. Both parties need to be in agreement about the value of something.

Does that make sense?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Motivation = 8.0, Health = 2.0, Result = ?

I've been sick for about a week.

That means reading and writing have been very difficult for my disadvantaged brain.

I did manage to get through most of the No Kiss Blogfest entries before dyslexia + exhaustion put me down with a migraine.

But I did get a query/blurb (version 1.0) written for Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags, otherwise known as Project #4.

Compared to the first query/blurb I ever wrote, (for Simon's Oath, nearly one year ago), I can see a vast improvement, not only in getting down to the heart of the story, but in capturing some of the *voice* of the main character.

Well, at least for my first try :) Editing, of course, is necessary.

If you're bored or curious, I've updated my 'What I'm Writing' page and thrown that sucker down.

Critique away, my friends. Shred it up and feed it back to me.

For now, I shall sleep.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No Kiss Blogfest

Happy New Year to you all!

Since I was born without a single romantic cell in my body, when I first discovered the No Kiss Blogfest (like, 20 minutes ago), I thought, awesome! A blogfest for the non-kissing-stuff!

...then I read the rules and kindof went... uhm, uh oh.

'Cause it's supposed to be all, y'know <blushes>, romantic and stuff... a scene that captures the not-quite-a-kiss-yet moment of tension.

So I've been looking. Oh my goodness, I have been looking through, like, every long and short story I have ever written and... and... I swear, I fail at being a girl. I almost never write romantic relationships, and when I do have something along those lines, the relationships are usually creepy, cruel, weird, obsessive, twisted or downright scary.*

The best I could come up with is a scene from Brake Fluid, Blood & Body Bags which is definitely not a story about finding romantic love...

There were a few I could have used from earlier in the story, but I didn't want to re-post something ('cause that's just boring), here's a scene I know no one has read yet. And to state clearly: this is only first-draft material.

EDIT: I'm swapping it out for a different scene. Sorry it's longer, but the other one wasn't technically an almost-kiss.

*And even though I have no hopes of ever writing a convincingly authentic romantic story on my own, Alcar, you are STILL forbidden from writing 'Simon's Oath' fan-fiction where Simon & Faith hook up in a sickeningly sweet, Disney-esque love-love relationship. Be warned: I know where you live...