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December 31: New Year resolutions - yes, no, absolutely not ever never? (for [personal profile] rthstewart) [Tumblr crosspost]

Kind of! For example, my resolutions this year are to lose fifteen pounds and to get a decent job. (Also to write and post a minimum of 100,000 words of fiction, but I make that resolution every year so I'm not certain it properly counts anymore.) My resolutions last year were to reapply to college and register for a course, which I did, and to get a crockpot and start cooking real food more regularly, which I also did and will continue doing since I am now in the occasional-cooking habit.

The key points, I think, are to pick one or two reasonable goals, to plan a few simple things you can do to reach those goals, and to be willing to give yourself the entire year and accept that your commitment and progress will be fitful. The more goals you have, the more divided your time, attention, and motivation will be. People have limited stores of those things; don't overstretch. The more complicated your plan, the less likely you are to stick to it. It's a lot easier to change two habits than seven. Lastly, life does not proceed in an orderly line. You have to allow for setbacks and bad days and interruptions and so on. If you expect perfection, any minor problem may serve as an excuse to give up and not try to reach your goal at all. But if you keep slogging along, however winding the road, you may not reach exactly where you thought you were aiming, but you will at least get somewhere new and interesting. :-)

So if all I can find at first are cruddy part-time jobs, that's okay. They are steps on the path to an eventual good job, not signs of failure. And if it takes me a whole a year to lose that weight, hey, that's about how long it took me last time I decided to lose fifteen pounds, so I won't get discouraged en route.

And on that note, I have finished this meme. Happy New Year to you, one and all!


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 30: mapping worlds and fandoms, cont'd (for [livejournal.com profile] joyeuce01) [Tumblr crosspost]

These last maps are for worlds that have no accompanying story of any sort... or at least, not yet. Let's jump right in!


The above map is of a continent I call Gramarye. The basic premise behind this world is that long ago -- by which I mean somewhere between five centuries and a millennium -- there was a great war in which the two strongest magicians then alive fought on opposite sides. (The proximate cause was a king trying to unite the continent; one magician thought this was a way to create peace, particularly once the king's heir would eventually inherit, while the other thought peace imposed by force was impossible and also that the king in question was a tyrant and the heir had no reason to be any better.) The fighting ground on for years. Finally the conqueror king and his magician were defeated, but not before the majority of the continent was devastated, the land and seas poisoned for generations.

The king's magician had tried to contain the damage by twisting the entire continent and its coastal waters out of phase with the surrounding world. The other magician tried to raise new land from the ocean floor to give refugees a new home. Unfortunately their spells interacted badly, to put it mildly, and any further details would be massive plot spoilers if I ever get around to writing the story.

In the present day, a mysterious wanderer comes to the eastern edge of the Old Country (which is beset by mutated beasts) and takes a boy and a girl on a quest through the Waste. Meanwhile a traveling storyteller arrives in a small village in the New Country (which is beset by magical echoes of the great war) and strikes up a friendship with a local woman who works in a magician's household. These stories are related, and ultimately end with the breaking of the spell that has kept Gramarye locked away since the war, prevented its wounds from healing, and largely drained magic from the rest of the world.

The world-building I've done for Gramarye is mostly linguistic and genealogical, oddly enough. You can tell from the notes and corrections thereof above that I originally started with a gimmick idea of using Anglicized versions of Biblical names for people in the Old Country and Anglicized versions of Celtic names for people in the New Country, but later decided that was stupid. As for the plot, I am still quite vague on vast swathes of events and motives, and have never written even a tiny exploratory noodling snippet of actual narrative. But I'd like to get back to this world someday.


Moving on! I have mentioned, at various points in these map posts, that I occasionally draw stuff for Vicky (my sister). This can be as simple as a sketch on a piece of scrap paper when she wants a layout for three countries with a particular set of borders and relative isolation levels (which I am not going to show you because I gave her the paper in question years ago), or as complicated as the following two images:

Vicky's world preliminary sketch

As you can see, Vicky gave me a few basic parameters -- things that were involved in a story idea she had -- and asked me to make a map to support them. I got a little carried away and drew her nearly a third of a continent.

Vicky's world

(Note: the city in the lower right corner that got cut off by my scanner -- which has been really weird and temperamental since I got my new computer this spring -- is named Zeharra. Also, the city of Nemora and its surrounding lands have been traded back and forth between Alaria and Espiola for centuries. I'm not sure which country currently rules that region.)

This world has no name, so far as I know, and Vicky never did anything about the story. In fact, I'd forgotten about it myself until I went looking through my file folders for maps. I don't know much about the countries in this world, though I suspect the latitudes on this map are roughly comparable to Europe and northern Africa.

I took the hard copy down to D.C. last week and gave the map to Vicky as a little additional Christmas gift. I have no idea what she'll do with it, but it was always meant for her and now it's in her hands. :-)


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 29: Vorkosigan ladies fic (for [livejournal.com profile] joyeuce01) [Tumblr crosspost]

Summary: In which the Lady Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan greets her friend, Queen Lucy Pevensie of Narnia, upon the latter's visit to Barrayar. (325 words)

Note: This is not a fandom I have practice writing in, so you get a tag scene to an unfinished Narnia/Vorkosigan crossover I once tried to write for [personal profile] rthstewart but stalled out on. (The fragment is available here, and the explanation for the AU is in the post above that comment; just scroll up.)

Of All Possible Worlds... )

...I kind of want to write the rest of that original crossover idea someday, but it would be a novel and I do not have time for more novels, even assuming I could resolve the plot holes that stalled me out the first time. *sigh*


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 28: given all your fandoms, is there something that unites your pan-fandom interests? (for [personal profile] rthstewart) [Tumblr crosspost]

Ack, this is a hard one!

I don't think there are any hard and fast rules, but two general principles are that 1) I am unlikely to write much for a fandom unless it is print-media based (whether books or comics/manga), and 2) I am unlikely to be interested in a fandom in the first place (for writing or for reading) unless it has an aspect of the fantastical. Or, more accurately, unless it has some aspect that is clearly and obviously removed from everyday modern life in America. For instance, historical fiction occasionally clicks for me; relatedly, I tend to like 19th century literary classics more than any literary fiction written post-1950. And recently I've been watching Hannibal, which is so stylized and flat-out weird that it trips my "this cannot be real life" interest meter despite nominally claiming to be set in modern America. The print media thing is because of my difficulties with audiovisual media in general, and also because if I'm going to write in a fandom, I want to have ready access to canon so I can spot-check titchy little things as I write. It is a lot easier to flip through a book in search of one specific page than it is to find a particular scene in a movie, let alone a multi-season television show.

I am pickier about writing fandoms than reading fandoms, and not just because of my audiovisual media woes. I need a sense that the canon in question has unfinished corners. Unanswered questions. What-ifs. I need a rough spot to grip. Sometimes this is as simple as a non-POV character's experience of some situation or event, but more often it's a world-building issue. I love creating and organizing worlds, and I don't much care whether the original creation was mine or someone else's.

I also have an interest in female characters, but that's a factor that comes into play more after I've already fallen in love with a fandom and am wondering what specific story to write. The falling in love itself is not a logical process.


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 27: mapping worlds and fandoms, cont'd (for [livejournal.com profile] joyeuce01) [Tumblr crosspost]

This is the world of The Sum of Things, my unfinished NaNoWriMo attempt from 2004. A bunch of the world-building is older than that, though. I have printed files from my family's first computer, which I believe we replaced when I was sixteen, so I probably started noodling around with this world when I was thirteen-ish. (You may have noticed that I was really into creating worlds at thirteen: Kerr, Firsthome, and Kanos all date back to that period, as does Intarre, a world I have never gotten around to physically mapping.)

The basic idea is that Kanos is a rather precarious multi-ethnic empire that began as a military alliance against periodic invasions from across the western mountains, swallowed a bunch of surrounding regions via marriage and/or conquest, and then spent a century or two slowly falling apart from internal tensions. The component regions are Alland and Auvern (the heart of the original alliance), Orifan, Mandaking, Ayden, and Damiland. Auvern, Orifan, and Damiland are all ethnically distinct regions; Alland, Mandaking, and Ayden are separated only (ha! "only," she says...) by cultural differences, and the beginnings of linguistic splits in a previous common language, which itself was the legacy of a previous empire.

The most relevant external enemies are Dorin Rhae, Halo, and the undrawn western regions beyond the mountains and highlands. Dorin Rhae is larger than it looks on the map. Tobal, Caermarin, and Nezzany don't extend much past the physical space their names take up; all the rest of that area is actually Dorin Rhae. The Dorinians are ethnically closely related to the people of Orifan, and there is both a lot of cross-border tension because of old internal hatreds, and a lot of cross-border cooperation, particularly with Orifani separatist movements. Halo is a sort of feudal theocracy, and has been fighting a slow-motion holy war against the rest of the Eastern Lands for centuries. It's as much about land as about faith, really, but Kanos is both the closest country and the one physically in possession of former Haloro territory, so it takes the brunt of the attacks. And the semi-nomadic people of the western high plains often get pushed eastward either by drought or by the movement and expansion of other peoples and nations to their own west, which puts a constant threat on Kanos's western border.

I didn't draw a map until late 2005, a year after I'd started serious story writing, and many, many years after I'd first started imagining the world out of the ether. But I do use it as a reference, and here it is. (The scribbly lines are mountains.)

Kanos and the Eastern Lands

This is a vast region! Kididama (which is a region rather than a country, and encompasses everything north of Kanos, Sheneska, and Halo) stretches past the arctic circle, while Ghisa and Skyora are both in the tropics. (The actual arctic circle is off the top edge of this particular map.) The Eastern Lands are home to three major religions (and dozens of minor ones), numerous ethnicities, and hundreds of languages. They are likewise divided by climate and internal geography. The various lands do share a few cultural touchstones, however, which are mostly related to the nature of magic and souls in this world, and to a couple international organizations that deliberately foster certain ideals that aid their own survival.

I want to get back to this world as well. I was never sure exactly where Talin and Ranna's story was going, and I'd like to find out...


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 26: formative stories you read as a kid (for Vicky) [Tumblr crosspost]

Um. If I talk about why, we'll be here all day, so I guess I'll just list a bunch of titles and series. My cutoff age is twelve, since one has to define childhood somehow and becoming a teenager seems a reasonable break point.

C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series, most particularly The Tombs of Atuan. Also The Dispossessed. Tolkien's Middle-Earth, most specifically The Silmarillion. Also Smith of Wooton Major. Grimm's fairy tales. Andersen's fairy tales. Children's books of Greek myths, Norse myths, and Christian myths (aka, a child's illustrated book of Bible stories). Every single one of Andrew Lang's colored Fairy Books. Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. The Burgess Animal Book for Children, by Thornton Burgess; less critically, his various Old Mother West Wind books. The picture books of Holling Clancy Holling, especially Paddle-to-the-Sea and Seabird. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy, Moon-flash duology, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Robin McKinley's Damar duology and Deerskin. Oz, all of it, by all official authors, plus Baum's Sky Island and The Sea Fairies. A child's collection of Arthurian stories, based on Mallory. Meredith Ann Pierce's The Darkangel and The Firebringer (not their sequels, which I didn't find until later). Tamora Pierce's The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (I read the quartet out of order). Piers Anthony's Xanth, annoyingly enough. Seaward and the Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Every juvenile adventure Heinlein ever wrote. Asimov's Foundation trilogy (not so much the later sequels). Clan of the Cave Bear and its first three sequels, by Jean Auel. Whatever encyclopedia edition my parents owned. Anna Sewell's Black Beauty. Every horse book Marguerite Henry ever wrote. Walter Farley's The Black Stallion and all its sequels, even the weird one with the aliens. (You may think I am kidding about the aliens; I am really not.) Caribou Traveler, by Harold McCracken. Shy the Platypus, by Leslie Rees, which came with an accompanying stuffed toy platypus that I lost at my daycare center.

I am probably forgetting a dozen more.


I was not remotely a balanced reader. If it didn't have animals and/or fantastical elements, I wasn't much interested. I mean, I read tons of Sweet Valley books (because Vicky had them in the house), and stupid amounts of R. L. Stine "horror" books (again, because Vicky had them in the house), and a fair amount of "realistic" fiction (because I was deathly bored and needed to read something, anything, even a cereal box...), but most of that just went in and out without sticking. I am still a highly unbalanced reader, though I've read a few pieces of the standard Western literary canon since my late teens, and I have taken to reading nonfiction more often than fiction.

I am not sure what influences I carried away beyond that pre-existing bent toward the fantastic rather than the realistic. Probably a love for logistical accuracy and an interest in ethics, but again, I don't know how much of that was learned versus how much was innate. It is also obvious that I overdosed on fairy-tales and myths, to the point that those storytelling patterns are deeply ingrained in my subconscious.


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: colored line-art drawing of a three-scoop ice cream sundae (ice cream sundae)
This year I finally got the Lucifer fic that I have been requesting since practically forever!

Transcendence: Elaine is tying up some loose ends after taking over the Universe. And one of those ends is an angel. A really angry one. (2,300 words)

It is a wonderful story about ethics and free will and the weirdness of becoming God, and an explanation for why Gabriel isn't in the main plot of the comic despite being created at the same time as Lucifer and Michael, and apparently being in charge of the Host back during the construction of the Silver City. Go read it and heap praises upon my mystery author!


I wrote two stories this year: my assignment in the main archive and a treat for Yuletide Madness. I will be surprised if anybody guesses my assignment, but the treat is probably pretty obvious... at least for my recipient, whom I told in advance that I was going to write it. *wry*


I suppose to make this count as a December Talking Meme post, I should say something deep and meaningful. But I can't think of anything, really. I love Yuletide. I first participated in 2008, back on the old archive, and I have done it every year since then. There is something magical about receiving stories in tiny fandoms of my heart, and I love knowing that I am producing similar magic for other people. For me, all the controversies over rules and changes, archive glitches, and mod responses or lack thereof pale in the face of that joy.

Yuletide is a touch of beauty in the darkest time of the year. ♥


December Talking Meme: All Days


[Tumblr crosspost]
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December 24: mapping worlds and fandoms, cont'd (for [livejournal.com profile] joyeuce01) [Tumblr crosspost]

When I was a kid, I used to walk our family dog in the rain sometimes and look at the little runoff streams that formed along the sides of the streets, racing along until they encountered a storm drain or, in one case, poured through a little concrete channel under a hedge and vanished into the scrubland that separated my neighborhood from the nearby golf course. I gave a bunch of them names and decided that they were the waterways of a fantasy kingdom, which I very creatively named Small, because it was a small land. (It was a small neighborhood, too.)

I elaborated on Small over the years. I worked in some ideas from a rather plotless fantasy scenario I liked to think about while I was in the shower or falling asleep, and also some stuff from the games Vicky and I played with two of our neighbors. In 1998, when I was sixteen, I drew a map. The village names are awfully English and somewhat twee, which may be Tolkien's fault -- there's some influence from the Shire, though the conception of elves and dwarves I was working with was quite different from Middle Earth. I had them living in a sort of sideways dimension accessible through occasional natural gateways, one of which was based on that little gap in the hedge that let a runoff stream vanish into the edge of the golf course.

Here is that initial map:

Small, old map

Vicky knew about Small, of course, and at one point we tried to cowrite a story in that setting. That is the source of the marker scribbles on the original map -- she was trying to diagram the journeys various characters would take over the course of the plot. That fell through. Our attempted collaborations have always fallen through. We think too differently about narrative. (I also hated her character names. I mean, Darkhead the evil wizard??? No. Not in my world.)

Anyway, I took the opportunity to make a tidier map and change some names so they made more sense. (The two Norburys are still inexplicable, though, since neither is anywhere remotely near the northern end of the country.)

Small, new map

These two maps are a little unusual for me, in that they are illustrated/symbolic. Villages are marked by tiny houses, forests are marked by tiny trees, etc. The occasional horseshoe shapes are tunnel entrances into the realm of the dwarves, and the little doubled horizontal lines mark gateways to the realm of the elves. (Note that Meadowbrook flows out of Faerie and then right back in, after passing by a rather interesting standing stone structure. Yes, that is the same old runoff stream that vanished under a hedge.)

I never did much with Small. I tried to write a story about a girl who lived in Stratham-by-the-Tunnels, but that never clicked. I made some vague gestures toward designing a religion and wrote fragments of a couple folk songs. I wrote a genealogy of the royal family, but that didn't spark any plots. I followed a foreign-born princess back to her original home and did a little world-building there, in the city of Shajento in the land of Qatham'bal, but the Ladyhawke-esque story I was vaguely poking at never coalesced into something workable.

However, those failures were not the end of this world! Note how the northern tip of Small -- which is at the bottom of the map, because we are in the southern hemisphere -- is bounded by the confluence of two rivers, which form the Great Mother River. You know where the Great Mother River goes as it flows northward?

Past Ochre Varos.


Small is the origin seed of Camia, aka the world of Finding Marea: Truth and Change in the Circle of Kemar. Small is one of the nameless lands of the southern pagans that Sister Harai mentions as a minor aside to her main narrative.

It's amazing how ideas mutate over the years. :-)


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 23: fic challenges in general (for [personal profile] silverblade219) [Tumblr crosspost]

I like them!

In terms of fests and ficathons, I do better with exchange setups than open prompt setups. I have never yet defaulted on an exchange, and have written extra fics for several of them. The exchanges I've participated in include Yuletide, Remix Redux, the Narnia Fic Exchange, Ladystuck, and Ouroboros Mix.

With non-exchange ficathons, my record is mixed to awful. I've participated in Femgenficathon (which was great fun the first three years, but after that I failed to write anything two years in a row, and wrote something nearly eleven months late the last year it ran), an LGBT fest the exact name of which escapes me (for which I never finished my story, though I do keep adding a hundred words at a time to it every now and then), HHR Serendipity (a Harry/Hermione prompt fest for which I did finish my story), the Narnia Big Bang (which I defeated the first year, but failed miserably at on the second attempt), and the Ladystuck Blind Darkfic challenge (for which I finished and posted my story literally two minutes before the collection went live).

I think the difference is the gift aspect of exchanges. In a prompt fest, if I miss the deadline the only person I disappoint is myself. In an exchange fest, if I miss the deadline I disappoint my recipient. The carrot-to-stick motivation ratio is entirely different. I have trouble with internal motivation, so having that extra external kick is very helpful getting me past my own inertia. I also like the challenge of writing a story to someone else's specifications, or working with the bones of someone else's plot.

On that note, some other things that might count as challenges include filling kinkmeme prompts -- which is fun, for the same 'writing to someone else's taste' reasons as gift exchanges. Of course, you are free to pick and choose the prompts you wish to fill, so there isn't the same pressure... unless you start posting something as a WIP, in which case suddenly people may be very invested in your writing progress. Three Sentence Ficathon prompts work the same way, though there obviously nothing can be a proper WIP; the closest you can get is people prompting follow-ups of previous fills.

I sometimes ask people to give me prompts on my own journal, which I feel free to reject if I don't know or am not comfortable with the fandoms people request. Thus far, I haven't had to reject any for inability to deal with a particular scenario or set of characters, but that will probably happen sooner or later if I keep up the habit.

I also like fifteen minute ficlets, or stuff like Cotton Candy Bingo and Thirtyforthree, where you get a single word or a simple concept as a prompt and have to write something relating to it. The challenge is partly to be relevant to the prompt, and partly in the writing restrictions. Fifteen minute ficlets obviously have a time limit. Thirtyforthree ficlets all have to be about the same threesome, though writers choose their own set of characters to smush together. Cotton Candy Bingo ficlets have a minimum length (500 words) and must be fluffy, for whatever definition of fluff the writer uses. *wry*

The common aspect in all of these things is the challenge. It's fun to put myself in situations where I have to write something I would never have come up with on my own, without the impetus and inspiration of the challenge setup, whatever it happens to be.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to revising my Yuletide fic. :-)


December Talking Meme: All Days
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
December 22: mapping worlds and fandoms, cont'd (for [livejournal.com profile] joyeuce01) [Tumblr crosspost]

This world happened because of a high school writing assignment. No, seriously! I wrote a really terrible story about a woman and her lover fleeing into the western wilderness, and a confrontation they had with corrupt local law enforcement which ended when it turned out the woman was a witch and magically clobbered the asshole who had been threatening to rape her and kill her lover. Then I couldn't stop thinking about the world I'd implied around the edges of the narrative, and it got a little out of hand.

World-building has a tendency to do that around me. *wry*

a lot of blather and then a bunch of maps )

I really need to get back to writing in this world. I remember enjoying it a lot!


December Talking Meme: All Days


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Elizabeth Culmer

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