Archive for the Writing Category

Celebrating Bad Poetry Day

Posted in Blogging, Miscellaneous, Somewhere Else, Writing on August 20, 2009 by gladlad

For the tiny minority of you who didn’t know that August 18th was national Bad Poetry Day… it was.  We held a reading at Somewhere Else, the hang-out spot we staff at in Cambridge.  Don’t you wish you could staff at a “hang-out spot”?  I did, when I was seven and watched a lot of “Silver Spoons“.  Dreams DO come true!

Anyway, here’s a picture of us getting ready for it,

BadPoetryDay

Click “read more” to experience the three poems I crafted just for the occasion.  Drumroll, please:

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A Musical

Posted in Music, Writing on August 21, 2008 by gladlad

just a little creative-writing scrap…

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He is a peasant, and he rises this morning to the shrill trill of a chickadee on the lawn. His wife is asleep and in the light of the sun she is beautiful, so much so that he must find a gift for her. His mind goes to the garden, where treasures await plucking, but which one for her this day? Among the new sprouts of Joni Mitchell and Stars, he remembers that yesterday the Eisley were already breaking their buds, promising tiny, brilliant blossoms simply perfect for a woman’s hair.

 

He gently slid out from beneath the hand-me-down quilt (a wedding gift from his mother: myriad hand-sewn patches of Beatles, Bonnie Raitt, Judy Collins, and bold swaths of Janis Joplin) and crosses the hovel floor. He pauses to stoke the night-fire; the heavy, sweet-scented Haydn reduced to coals, but still warm and cheering. At the door, other giants greeted from the distance. How lucky they’d been to find this plot; such a sunny hillock, with groves of Handel, Brahms and mighty Bach screening the garden and barn, and the single, towering Mozart waiting to be swung upon by the children and countless chattering squirrels.

 

It is a fine morning indeed. Dew still hangs on the broad, sleepy Morrissey petals around the door, and deep in the wood he glimpses a shock of Bjork growing wild in the shade. Spring is fine, he muses. Such treasures abounding! After claiming the Eisley sprig and returning to the house, his gaze falls upon the mantle, where he reminisces about their recent trip across the river to the village, where city merchants were stopped to trade on their way back from the sea. He had dreamt last night of their wares, still fresh in his memory. Each year new curiosities: Yet another line of Radiohead, even darker than the last. The old ones he had at home were much more to his liking, though. Festive Ditty Bops and rolls of soft, weathered Nick Drake caught his eye, but not so much as to cause him to miss the glint of a finely gilded mass behind some crates of exotic Ana Gabriel and Love Psychedilico.  Pushing past them, he had shouted in surprise.

 

To find a complete set of fine This Mortal Coil was a rare treat, and it seemed a miracle that the merchant accepted only three of his own creations in barter for it. “I like their shine,” the merchant had said. “Besides, this thing’s been taking up space since we picked it up a year ago.” His wife had given him a sharp glance, not understanding the magic the gloomy-looking pieces held for him, but she’d come to admit how charming it fit with the Jeff Buckley and Dead Can Dance already on the mantle. He gazes at it now, basking in the strange, silky taste it adds to the air in the little house.

 

He walks to the table, pours a draught of stream-chilled Blur and looks forward to breakfast: she’d promised a treat of smoked bacon and a new egg recipe spiced heavily with the Ratatat they’d dried last month. His taste buds quiver just thinking about it. Washed down with some warm Crosby, Stills & Nash, and he’d be ready for a solid day’s work. He wonders if – WHACK! The noise startles him out of breakfast reverie and he runs outside to find the poor crumpled body of a sparrow lying under the great pane of Cocteau Twins above the table. It was the second poor bird since they’d installed it to be fooled by the beautiful clarity. That came from the high Liz Frasier content, the craftsman told them. He thought the borderwork of brilliantly faceted Stina Nordenstam would deter just such an accident, but after all, it was that very crystalline transparency that had sparked the romantic notion of a dinner table view of the massive Taiko range towering above the Bachs. What extravagance for their little hovel! Is it really worth the price of the poor birds?

 

He cradles the tiny body, weighing nothing between his fingers, thinking of the sweet song its little voice would no longer trill, and wonders on an apt spot for burial. He decides on the little wild patch of The Cranes out behind the barn, with their multicolored bursts and dark, sleepy aroma. A cool, clear stream of Nada Surf rolls past the spot, and as his fingers tear through the loamy Portishead and Rusted Root for the bird’s final bed, the bright sun casts a glow on the land that, to the simple man, practically sings.

A note on the story, plus ramblings on Fantasy

Posted in Literature, My BOOK!, Things That Anger Me, Writing on January 15, 2008 by gladlad

I’d like to say a quick word about the content of the story of my book. In the previous post I talked a little about fantasy themes; sword hilts and whatnot. The story of my book will be set in a world easily labeled a “fantasy” one, but it won’t feel very much like Dungeons and Dragons. I love the fantasy genre as far as its possibilities are concerned, but within that genre I haven’t read many volumes that I thought were truly engaging and original, and those are both labels it would obviously be nice to attach to my own creation.

I am not a heavy reader; I can’t devour books at breakneck speed like my wife can. My mind wanders a lot, and it can take me a while to finish a novel. I reread sentences constantly, a few times, to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Therefore, when I choose books I try to be pretty selective about their content; I usually won’t commit to something which seems run-of-the-mill or cliche, no matter what genre they’re in. I made that mistake with Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’. (Steel yourself for the following opinions if you are a lover of his works, and also know that I never got past the first book.) I had already decided that the series looked kind of cheesy, but one of my friends (a respectable guy) swore by them and I agreed to give it a shot on the condition that he’d, in turn, try the Lord of the Rings, which he’d always put aside as well.

I’m sorry Robert Jordan, but Tolkien got to me, and history in general, first. Everything in Wheel of Time is from Lord of the Rings. There is an Elf, a Ranger, three friends with a sword, a bow and an axe. They have a wise and crabby old-man friend. There is a Dark Sorcerer Lord scouring the kingdom for the Boy with Unexpected Magical Powers. There are even Orcs (“Trollocs”… ugh). And those are just the glaring ‘similarities’. It even had my most hated pet-peeve fantasy/adventure theme cliche, which I will most likely refer to again in posts to come: the “kid who finds out s/he’s the savior of the world for absolutely no reason and plus gets sweet powers” cliche. Otherwise known as the ‘Harry Potter’ theme (or the ‘Naruto’ theme, as I like to call it). Some books are able to utilize this theme in a unique way. ‘WoT’ didn’t.

Some fantasy works I like:

*the Riddle of Time trilogy by Patricia McKillip
*Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind(graphic novel) by Miyazaki Hayao
*Lilith by George MacDonald
*The Water of the Wondrous Isles by William Morris
*Watership Down by Richard Adams (well, it’s sorta fantasy)
*The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
*The Silmarillion may be even better fantasy than the LotR Trilogy

Obviously, there are more, but if you know any of those titles, maybe you have a clearer picture of how not-Tolkien-y they are. I guess I’m just solidly in the camp (I hope there is one, or I’m gatherin’ firewood all alone) that holds that you just shouldn’t mess with elves and dwarves and rangers any longer, or you will be stomped on by Middle Earth’s mighty boot. Do I hear an “Amen”?

Wow, that all took a turn for the nerd. At any rate, none of those appear in the world I’m crafting. I promise. More later on what will, because I’d like it to be up for a little discussion. Oh, and my Wheel of Time friend “didn’t really get into” Lord of the Rings. He thought they were pretty uncreative.

Prelude to The SCHEDULE

Posted in My BOOK!, Writing on January 13, 2008 by gladlad

Well, having called in sick to work the last couple of days while I and the rest of mine suffered in the ancient Chinese “Hell Of Two Families With Many Children All Having The Flu In The Same House” (thrown out of the final script of Big Trouble in Little China) I didn’t get to work on the Schedule until tonight.  But before making the actual Schedule, I first had to make a list of all the things that needed to be Scheduled.  Without further ado, here they are:

Art design sections:

General design style: artistically unique expressions for basic elements
-wood
-water***
-fire
-fabric
-stone

Character design

-Main Characters
-Secondary Characters
-World-fill characters

Environmental design

-Basic environmental theme for each continent
>>Flora
—plains
—tropics
—desert?
—beach
—cave
>>Fauna
—insect-like
—bird-like
—at least two stages of:
>>>>land herbivore
>>>>land carnivore
—unique lifeforms (storyline-specific)

-Cultural design theme for each continent
>>architecture
—rural architecture
—urban architecture
>>fashion
—rural fashion
—urban fashion

–Individual city/locale layout
>>>Unique buildings/attractions
>>>Map (if necessary)

(all of above for underwater environment as well)

World Map

Vehicles (Continent specific)

-General ideology/design evolution for entire world
-Culturally specific forms of following:
>>Boats
—small/personal
—Commercial/pirate
—Large commercial/military
—Unique (storyline-specific)
>>Subs?
>>Aircraft?
>>Rideable animals?
>>city/village ground vehicles
—multi-person transportation
—farming use (carts, plows)
—military

All this must be integrated with story development, which must also be scheduled as much as possible!

*****

Now I’ll be the first to admit that something incorporating all these elements comes out sounding a little “Let’s make a role-playing-game!”  I don’t want my beautiful vision bogged down in ridiculous junk like making sure all my background flowers have the same number of petals and can be artistically traced to the chemical production of gunpowder in their story world.  But what I do want is a story world with realism and a consistent quality of its own, as well as a template of content I can drag-and-drop from once the actual pages of the book begin to be drawn up.  By the way, is “story-world” a real English phrase?  It should be if it isn’t.  It’s a useful term.

Anyway, I don’t want my vast audience of supporters and critics to think that you can just build a magical world of beauty by encyclopaedically crafting every buttonhole and sword hilt and devising every single word of a fantasy language and birthing entire bloodlines of kings and commonfolk before you even really know what your story is about.

Oh, wait…  That’s called the Lord of the Rings.  Okay, so you can, but let’s just remember that Frodo was not scientifically designed; he was a work of the heart– of the story giving itself to you without asking for it!  The sentence “under a hill there lived a hobbit” (or whatever) was just a daydreaming scribble, and therein lay the magic and attraction of the whole setpiece.  Descend from soapbox.  All I’m syaing is that I pray my story, though I know and shape its bones, will drape itself in flesh not of my own artificial prompting, but of the story knowing what it needs to be by itself; of the Muse descending upon the toiling note-taker; of God breathing a sweet breath into the pouch still a-mending.  But first those bones…