23 February 2009

Stupid People

OK, I can tell from the way my face is breaking out that I am PMS-ing and it is, therefore, entirely possible that I am not being completely rational.

That out of the way: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?!!???!!!!!!!!

Honestly. All I want to do is set up my freelance editing business and edit stuff that I want to edit. Is that so hard?

It seems to be.

Here's the sordid story: I'm trying to set up a contract with a company in a non-English speaking country and can't seem to get them to understand that while, yes, I have a degree in a certain social science, I do not really consider myself qualified to edit in that field because I have done nothing in it for the last FOURTEEN YEARS.

Meanwhile, I have oodles and oodles of experience editing in certain areas of biomedical research, areas in which I have undertaken a great deal of training, formal and informal, but which apparently - because I have no piece of paper to declare me competent in that area - counts for nothing.

This is stupid.

OK, OK, I can see that they might want a person with a "hard science" degree editing hard science stuff. That makes sense. To a point. Then it gets stupid.

Because if you have at your disposal a person who is a good editor in a certain area, what difference does their level of formal training make? I assert that it doesn't make much. I may be a bit more cautious when changing certain things than a person with a hard science degree. I may query authors a bit more than someone with a hard science degree. But I'm a damn good editor and I will make the language you use to report your science all shiny and appealing to journal editors. That's what I do.

Furthermore, I really have nothing by a passing interest in my undergrad degree field. I'm sorta just over it.

Which puts me in quandry: What do I do? What do I tell these people?

I've tried already to explain my position, but they aren't listening. My option is to edit in this other field -- the one I've been out of for 14 years -- or... nothing. No contract. No money. No nice little start-up client for my fledgling freelance biz.

Which sucks.

.

16 February 2009

Lessons Learned

I thought the Character Clinic (CC101) Joely hosted over the weekend was fabulous! Even though I didn't win anything, I learned a ton about how to build characters and what I like about them - among many other things.

And it's the "other things" that, for some reason, are really churning around in the ol' brain right now.

Two interesting things occurred as a strangely direct result of CC101. One, I'm not prepared to discuss yet. It's still churning, and it ain't turned to butter yet...

The other is the big one for me (a big pain in the ass, that is...): theme. Stories have themes. They just do. Any good story worth the paper or pixels it's printed on, anyway, has a theme, an overriding, overarching thread of wisdom that guides the ultimate outcome. That's how I define it for myself, anyway.

I flat-out SUCK at theme in my own writing.

There are reasons for this.

First of all, I blame the fact that as a reader, I don't like to analyze. I don't like digging for meaning. I hated high school lit classes (and didn't take any in college unless they were in another language). I just about despise what Susan likes to refer to as "great litra-chur", because, dude, I bust my ass all day, every day with job, kids, house, hobbies, etc. I do not want to work when I read -- I just want to be entertained, be lost in another world, be someone else for a while.

Second, I like a story with an adventure best, and that's what I like to write too. My ever-so-logical brain therefore likes to argue: "It's an adventure! It's a quest! We don't need a theme! We just need more monsters!"

Last and most important, I am not a Believer In Things. Maybe I'm overly practical, maybe I'm a die-hard cynic. I don't know. I do know that I don't do god or God or Buddha or Allah or whatever else is out there. If you've stopped by before, you probably already know this.

But it goes deeper than that. And gets weird.

For example, as much as I love a good love story in my adventure or even a well-written romance sans adventure, here's what I believe love actually is:

Ya ready? You're gonna be shaking your head with pity, I guarantee it.

OK, really: Love is...

a biological trick your mind plays on your body to get you to reproduce.

That's it. No cupid. No destiny. No such thing as a soul mate. It's all in the DNA, in other words. All that happy, glowy, goo-goo, ga-ga crap is a mere by-product of a very successful ploy - encoded in your DNA - to ensure that you... make more DNA!

Now isn't that cynical in the extreme? How can someone who believes this at the very deepest core of her being ever write a love story?

Logic says it's impossible. Logic says: Oh, please! Get a grip!

And yet... something about all that reading about character creation this weekend shook something loose somewhere. Don't ask me how, 'cuz I really don't know. And I haven't changed my mind about any of it, but somehow my perception changed.

I think it must have been taking a second look at my favorite characters through other writers' lenses -- Oh, that one's static trait is this! and .... OOOOoooh! It means that! and Heey! He's a Cancer! and so on.

At some point late last night or early this morning, it all shifted and instead of "It's just DNA", I now have "It may just be DNA, but it's going to find you whether you want it to or not."

Makes sense, right? I mean, it happened to me (and if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone...) - I fell in love, I got married and here we are smack dab in the middle of Happily Ever After.

So now I have a theme, at least for Novel #1 with which it fits PERFECTLY (*boggles*):

You can run, but you can't hide. Love is gonna find you whether you like it or not.

.

15 February 2009

101 Ways to Love Your Characters: Characters by Collision

OK, like I said several posts previous, yapping about how great my own characters are gives me the willies. But in the spirit of CC101, I will do it anyway. :D OK, I'm not really going to talk about how great they are, but I will tell you the story of how two of my characters came to be.

First, let me introduce Fenn and Kesera, the two main characters from my very own Novel #1 (of spaghettified plot fame...). Fenn is Prince Charming with a tragic past and a drug problem. Kesera is a bi-racial damsel causing distress (to pretty much everyone around her). I like them a lot. They are very patient with me, thankfully, so perhaps someday, when I become capable of plotting my way out of wet paper bag, I will manage to get their story told. :)

Anyway.

The story of the way they came about as characters is sort of interesting (at least I think so), so I thought I'd share it. It goes like this:

I saw this movie, King Arthur, which I absolutely hated almost every minute of (despite the fact that Clive Owen is in it). Leaving aside the idiotic idea that Arthur was actually from the Russian steppes (don't mess with my legends, maaan!), the reason I hated the movie so much is because I never felt that any of the main characters really had anything at stake. OK, sure, according to the plot, they were supposed to, so maybe it was just that the acting wasn't remotely convincing. Whatever. In my opinion, there was nothing worth seeing in that movie. Save one thing.

Now - I made a point of saying I hated almost every minute of that movie. The minutes I did not hate, had him in them:


Only he looked like this:



The actor's name is Til Schweiger and in that awful movie he played Cynric, the son of the invading bad guy. Cynric's story was the only one I cared about in that movie; he was the only one who had anything at stake -- he wanted his father to respect him. His father wouldn't give him the time of day.

None of which matters, because it wasn't his story that stayed with me, but his face. And his outfit. And that braided beard. And the look of despair he had when he finally gave up on his dad.

A few weeks later I saw one of the Tomb Raider movies, the one with the mountain in Africa and the well of life or whatever it was. I don't remember. What I do remember is the guy who played Lara Croft's almost lover, specifically I remember his accent. I think it might have been Scottish.

Anyway, soon after seeing that movie, the accent collided with the face, outfit, braided beard, and look of despair. Next thing I knew, there was Fenn. Glaring at me, all silent and deadly-like. From the deck of a ship headed south, a direction in which he did not want to go.

I had no idea why. I had no idea who he was or what the hell he thought he was doing in my head.

But when I asked him, he told me.

And thus was Kesera born.

Fenn didn't describe her or anything -- he had never seen her himself -- but he told me where she was and when I poked around in her castle, there she was. Also glaring, also kinda deadly-like.

I don't remember now whether her appearance came from a movie -- her hair may well have been inspired by Lara Croft's -- but I know her eyes are exactly like my friend Megan's (bright jewel-blue; in the right light, they almost seem to glow). The rest of her came from a song called The Gypsy Rover. As sung by the Wiggles. (Yes, those Wiggles. Of "Fruit Salad, Yummy, Yummy" fame...)

So - that's the story of Fenn and Kesera and how they came to be. And, yes, most of my major characters sort of "appear" like that -- all dressed up and itching to tell me where they want to go. They are usually made up of bits and pieces of other things I've seen or heard that have run into each other in my brain and melded together to make something new. I guess it's an odd way to come up with characters, but I'm one of those "visual learner" people, so maybe that's the best way for them to get my attention. lol! :D

.

101 Ways to Love Your Characters: Neil MeqVren

I think my favorite thing about reading is being in a character's head. Nothing is quite like it. Movies, for instance, are great and I love them, but they can't ever come close to the experience of almost being someone else that you can have when you're reading a story in a well-written, really tight POV.

My favorite example to give of this is Greg Keyes' Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series. It's a great, great series and an amazingly told story. Four books follow a handful of characters caught up in a battle between good and evil. In a nutshell: there are kings, queens, princesses, knights, demons, aliens, assassins, religious cults, magical creatures, and dangerous secrets as old as the world. (Yeah - it's awesome.)

What I really love about it, though, is how the POV switches between the 4 or 5 main characters - a young, very headstrong princess; her mother, the queen; a knight in the queen's service; the "holter" in charge of the king's forest; a novice priest - and several of the minor characters to tell the complete story. Every time the POV changes, the whole feel of the story changes - a whole new world within the world of the story opens up. It's a whole new experience. Sometimes it's amusing, because each character's perception of the other characters is, of course, vastly different from character's views of themselves. Sometimes it's terrifying, because you find yourself in the head of a character who is being murdered. Sometimes you're in the head of the villian. Each time, though, you are totally immersed in that character's experience - to the point where you find yourself missing that character as his or her chapter ends and another character's POV takes over.

Neil MeqVren. Neil is my favorite character in this series and one of my top five favorite characters ever. He has one of the best journeys of any character I've ever read in a book. He is endearing in his innocence in the beginning, then tragic as his all convictions about honor and loyalty are slowly and brutally shattered, then he's charming as he begins to accept that if something might go wrong, you can count on the fact that it most definitely will, and then you cheer when he finally takes matters into his own hands.

The fact that you are so tightly in his head the whole time makes the experience that much better. You are privy to the thoughts he will not allow himself to speak aloud and the feelings he can barely stand to acknowledge at all. I suppose it's the juxtaposition itself -- knowing what he's thinking and observing that he won't say it -- that makes him such a powerfully memorable character. It's what makes him spring off the page, because haven't we all had thoughts we dare not voice and feelings we dare not admit? It says volumes about him without saying anything at all. Brilliant!

.

14 February 2009

101 Ways to Love Your Characters: the Darkyn

Yes, it's me again with yet another entry for the Character Clinic! I feel like I'm being totally obnoxious posting this much. Oh, well. :)

This post is another in honor of Joely and her fabulous idea, because it was she who introduced me to all the wonderful characters in Lynn Veihl's Darkyn series. She held a contest, see, and I won a copy of Twilight Fall. Yaay! Winning is good, but being introduced to a fabulous series of books you never knew existed is even better. I liked them so much, I went out and bought them all, and now I am merrily foisting them on everyone I know. :D

Anyway - the characters are what make this series so interesting and keeps me coming back. (That and the writing is really, really excellent, which pleases the editor side of my brain no end and is probably a topic for a whole other post, but whatever.) The characters are memorable, because they are so vividly portrayed -- each one has a very distinct personality.

More to the point of my post, however, is that they stay very much "in character" when they react to each other. This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a reader. Stories I end up not liking are stories in which characters have sudden and inexplicable personality changes. I get really pissed off when characters that are dark and sardonic one minute become sweet and sappy the next for no apparent reason -- other than the author needs them to for the plot to progress. This is something I learned ages and ages ago in high school acting classes and it was drilled into me by one of my favorite teachers of all time. It comes down to this: KNOW YOUR CHARACTER'S MOTIVATION. Every single second you are on stage. Every single page, paragraph and sentence of your story. In other words, KNOW WHY your characters are doing what they're doing. More importantly, however, make sure your reader knows why. Don't assume I'll follow a sudden personality shift, if you've given me no reason for it. Make it plain, make it easy to see. Otherwise, I'll put your book down mid-way through and not pick it up ever again. Lynn Veihl's Darkyn characters never violate this rule, and that's what keeps me coming back.

Some of my favorite characters are below:

Alex. Alex was, before being made into a vampire, a surgeon, a really, really good one. Her basic motivation is to "un-make" herself and go back to being human. Everything she does in the stories is based on this and she never deviates from this basic premise. She also a sarcastic, sharp-tongued, in-your-face modern woman, and she never lets the medieval-minded vampires change that, not even the one she loves.

Jayr and Aiden. The story of these two characters is told in Evermore, probably my favorite book in the series. Jayr, I like because she reminds me of me - reserved on the outside, on fire on the inside, but she'll never let anyone see it, especially not Aiden, the vampire she's loved in silence for 700 years. Aiden loves her, of course, but for his own reasons can't say anything either. Throughout the story they keep coming close to getting together, but it keeps going wrong -- for reasons that you understand completely as a reader because each time, what keeps them apart is based on their own basic motivations.



.

101 Ways To Love Your Characters: Miphon, Morgan Hearst and Elkor Alish

Another entry for Joely's Character Clinic:

These are my three favorite characters from the book "Wizard War" by Hugh Cook, which was published in the UK (and possibly Aus and NZ) as "The Wizards and the Warriors". Fabulous book, fabulous author, freakin' shame that it's out of print, in my opinion, and freakin' CRIMINAL that most of the rest of the books in the series Wizard War is part of never even got published in the US, because it's some of the best magic, world building, characters, and plot EVER and ....

Erm, anyway.... back to the characters...

Miphon. I love Miphon. And not just for his green eyes, I promise. Miphon is a wizard of the order of Nin, a weak-ish order of wizards in his world and "lives as as traveling healer with no fixed abode". He is often called a 'pox doctor' and regarded with something just above scorn by his colleagues (two other wizards of more powerful orders), but we instantly like him as soon as we meet him in the book because he is sensible, practical, sort of slyly, mildly sardonic, and seems to have a mysterious past that is alluded to here and there, comes in handy once or twice, and that is never quite fleshed out completely, which leaves you wanting more, more, more about Miphon, please!

He is, in a word, fascinating-from-the-very-beginning.

And he gets better. He makes mistakes - stupid mistakes - that lead to huge problems with solutions that make you want to smack your head when you realize YOU should have figured out the solution to his problem too and way before he did. He is tempted, tempted powerfully, and in exactly the right way, a way that makes you want to scream, "Take it! Take the power! Do it!", because you know he deserves it, you know he's earned it, you're sure - sure - he'll do good with it, and you cheer loud and long when he does - and then he scares the piss out of you with what he starts to do... and then he makes a really stunning and heart wrenching choice that has you all weak in the knees over him all over again.

Mmmmmm'yeeeeeeaah.... Miphon.

Morgan Hearst. Ah, Morgan Hearst... how I love Morgan Hearst! He's complicated. He's flawed... OK, really, really flawed. He drinks too much. He thinks too little. He's an anti-hero -- no, no, he's an anti-hero's anti-hero! He's... well, OK, honestly? Morgan Hearst is a freakin' mess. And you love him for it. You can't help it.

Elkor Alish. A warrior. An unbeatable, flawless, ruthless warrior. Elkor Alish is a tough one, actually. I'm never quite sure why I like him so much... maybe because he's so broken inside... *gulps, sniffs* yeah, that would be it. That, and you want so badly for him to heal himself... he has a tragic past, see - and I'm a sucker for a tragic past - and that makes you feel he really deserves to have it all made better in the end. *sigh*

.

13 February 2009

101 Ways to Love Your Characters: Gregar

Entry Number One in Joely's Character Clinic: Well, since I think Joely is so clever for thinking this Charcter Clinic thing up, I thought I'd start off with one of her own characters! Hah!

Gregar. Ah, Gregar... where to start? Well, I'll start with where you can find him: Gregar is a character in Joely Sue Burkhart's book The Rose of Shanhasson. (Go on! Go get it! You'll be glad you did, I promise!)

I always love a conflicted character (as you'll discover in coming posts...) and Gregar is definitely that. He is driven. He has a mission and a duty, and he is honor-bound to fulfill them. However, in his secret heart of hearts lurks an undeniable need that conflicts so deeply with all that honor, that Gregar would pretty much rather die than allow himself to have it. Excellent stuff.

And oh my, let's not forget: he's dead sexy and dark and wickedly dangerous -- in other words, three of my favorite things! :D

In all honesty, though, what really makes me a raving, rabid Gregar fan is that his conflict is one that strikes a chord with me, one I thought was deeply buried, one that drags me out of my warm, comfortable, married-with-two-kids-and-a-steady-job life right down into Joely's Well, the place where all our darkest fears and desires hide and which is terrifyingly similar to my own Well. Which perhaps is why, at a certain point in Gregar's story, I just sat there reading this one page over and over again while I cried and cried and cried.

That's why Gregar stays with me, I guess: I've been there. I've felt that. I know just what he's suffering. And that is the kernel of a great character for me: a character that reflects some bit of being human that I recognize. Maybe it makes me feel validated. I don't know - that sounds sappy as hell, but I'm a sap, so it's probably true!

.

11 February 2009

eBooks

(This one's a rambler, guys, sorry. This is what happens to Bethanie when she is subjected to all work and no play...)

I've been meaning to post about ebooks - at length - forever. Of course, my life is such a vortex of unending activity, I have yet to really get around to it.

And since I'm in the middle of cooking supper, I don't really have time now either, but I must put in a plug, because I'm so... oh, I don't know, giddy, I guess, over my latest discovery/acquisition/experience. :-D

Here's the story: I've had a Palm OS PDA for years and years and years. I've upgraded from a Handspring to a color Handspring to a Tungsten E and - finally, a year or so ago - to a Treo. I love them - love them, love them, love them. I mean, I'm practically evangelical about them. Really. Don't get me started on how great they are unless you have 30 or 40 minutes for me to show you mine and all the wicked nifty things it can do.

Including my all-time favorite feature ever, an ebook reader.

Actually, I now have 2 ebook readers on the ol' Treo. One came from a company that started out as Peanut Press (or something like that) back in my Handspring days, which evolved into eReader.com, which is now some arm of Fictionwise, I believe.

And I like it. It works great, has never crashed on me and I have something like 60 or so ebooks that take up NO space in my house and that my children cannot destroy.

However, for the last couple of years, I keep seeing Mobipocket everywhere. I finally broke down today and downloaded it (it's free, but I dislike having two gadgets that do the same thing, so I resisted -- this is the same reason I haven't yet bought a Kindle... although the Kindle 2 is seriously tempting me -- the thing reads to you!). Why now? Well, because I really, really, really wanted a copy of Angelle Trieste's Devil Falls and since I didn't win the contest but was totally hooked by the excerpt posted as part of the contest, I said, "OK, fine. It's time."

So I downloaded Mobipocket, bought the ebook, downloaded it, loaded it on the Treo, and now here I am all ready to read! No muss, no fuss - no gas used up driving to the bookstore, no useless little bag I can't use for anything else, no paper receipt I have to stress over where to store, instant gratification, no worries over what to do with a book I end up not liking, etc.

I am pleased. :)

The moral, or rather morals, of this long and rambling tale of mine:

1. ebooks are freakin' COOL and are just getting cooler.

2. Writers, especially new ones trying to break in to the biz, listen up: Contests work! Posting excerpts works! Posting a link to where I can buy your ebook works great!

3. I want more.

4. Yaaay, ebooks!!!

5. I think that is all. For now.

.

07 February 2009

Where, Oh Where, Did Bethanie Go?

OK, it's been a scandalouly long time since I've posted ANYTHING here... terrible!

I have excuses - dozens, in fact - but I'm sick of dealing with them to the point of not wanting to re-hash them here, even if it means missing out on bitching about something. :D

Anyway, I've been working on some posts that are scheduled for next weekend for Joely's Character Clinic, and it's been interesting - and educational - picking apart why I like certain characters so much. There are some striking similarities, especially when it comes to male characters, heh-heh... :)

When it comes to my OWN characters, however, the brain gets all shy and tongue-tied and won't cough up anything. Weird. I suspect this stems from my rather vast insecurities about my own writing -- it seems presumptuous, at the very least, to expound on what makes my own characters so great and/or what clever tricks I use to add depth to them and make them memorable, when not only have I published no fiction whatsoever, I haven't even ever submitted anything, and rarely let anyone read what I've written.

In other words, I'm chicken shit.

Which is not something I will put up with from myself.

*sigh*

So I guess that means I will be forcing myself to write at least one post about my own characters.

But I think I'll save it for last, heh-heh...

.