Saturday, December 28, 2013

All Hail the Dark Crystal!

You've seen 'Dark Crystal' right? No? Yes? Maybe? It's that muppet thing from 1982 that Jim Henson did. Ring any bells? Once you get past the fact it's a puppet movie targeted at kids, it's really about a genocidal war and slavery and oppression and to cap it off, the end of the world. Or the beginning.
Aughra sees what I did there.

No wonder I adored it as a wee tiny child.

The good folks over at The Jim Henson Company and Grosset & Dunlap of the Penguin Young Readers Group are holding an open call for authors to write a DarkCrystal prequel novel. As a writer who adores epic fantasy, especially gruesome children's stories and regularly gets notes back on my own work that this is really really dark for a children's story, I'M ALL OVER IT YO.

Except I found out around December 4th and the deadline is December 31th.


The contest organizers picked a fairly narrow time frame they want the book set in and the super-helpful folks over at Dark Crystal even made a .pdf doc of all the known canon from that era as a reference. The website itself is an excellent resource, especially to someone like me who didn't even know there were other books and comics and stuff expanding the universe.

Without that, it'd be like writing a Star Wars prequel without knowing about the Old Republic.

They want the book set right in the beginning, before the Gelflings realize the Skeksis are waging a secret war on them to drain them of their vital essence. To sum up, the Skeksis suck the life out of the Gelflings and drink it to keep themselves young. So think vampire, not Red Cross. The Gelflings are not sent home with balloon and a 'Thanks for Donating!' sticker.

That's also when things get weird. The timeline gives me a headache.

The entire movie is about the last two surviving Gelflings and a prophecy about Gelflings healing the Dark Crystal and restoring balance to the force and stopping the Skeksis, but the prophecy doesn't happen until the Wall of Destiny goes up about 100 A.G.C (After Great Conjunction) (There ain't no Gelfling Jesus to number calenders around) (It's fantasy, go with it).

The Gelflings don't know exactly what or who is attacking them until the Wall of Destiny happens, so there's a hundred year period during which eighteen Skeksis (canon number) wage secret war on the thousands and thousands of Gelflings and the Gelfling never twig to it. Not a tinfoil hat 'the guv'ment is gonna get me' war either, an actual war with hundreds of prisoners transported to the Crystal Castle and killed.

Just eighteen Skeksis. Maybe if they were Daleks, or Cybermen, or Borg. You want me to believe that eighteen lousy Skeksis managed to;

1) Always attack without getting spotted, 
2) Always escape with their prisoners, 
3) Secretly transport them into the Castle that's guarded by Gelflings, 
3) No prisoners EVER escape or elude capture, 
4) NOBODY noticed anything? Ever?

Well, they'd notice these guys. Meet the Garthim! 

Only three easy payments of 19.95, vital for all your Gelfling collecting needs!

The source docs say they're incredibly stupid but in the movie they're seen traveling from the Castle to the Podling village (hours away), smashing it up, capturing Podlings ALIVE, and returning promptly. Also they traveled to Aughra's Observatory (a place they'd never been) and did the same thing. 

They don't get distracted by plants or water crossings or funny smells?

Accomplishing those tasks is a complicated sequence of events. Break those behaviors down for a mo'. Have you ever tried teaching dog with no fetching instinct how to fetch? Or a cat how to pick up a rat without crunching it and letting the gooey cream filling out? They might not be truly sentient, but Garthim are a lot smarter than anyone gives them credit for.

I rewatched the movie, jotted down anything that caught my attention, and then camped out at a bakery with excellent coffee for about five days just free-typing as I tried to hash out my story. Stray thoughts happened. Ideas were examined and discarded with abandon. I went in a lot of odd directions before I settled on the high points and got busy writing. They wanted a 7-10k sample of the story I wanted to tell. HA! (I couldn't articulate that completely until I wrote the summery yesterday)

My excellent script reader, Michelle, was willing to take time out of her holiday to do a quick and dirty evaluation for readability and plotholes big enough the Galactica could fly through.

She sent it back on the 22nd, that gave me a little over a week to get it together. I spent the next couple of days polishing the edges and addressing each note. I FINISHED! (Uh-oh... a good thing happened... guess you know what THAT means...)

High on glee, I idly poked around the website just because I felt like it. Good thing I did.

Skeksis don't make the Garthim until after the Wall of Destiny happens.



I say again, the Skekis DON'T build their foot soldiers until AFTER the Gelfling realize SOMEONE is after them. Okay, so, yeah... no. No. NO. The Skeksis are NOT gullible, or optimists, or battle hardy behemoths. They scheme and hide and plot and lie and lie and lie about what they're really doing for as long as possible because they're afraid the Gelflings could stop them.

So why would they start doing it when there's only eighteen of them? You don't go to war when you're outnumbered thousands to one with no soldiers. 

Tactical sense=none.

As a result, on Christmas day I discovered half my story just became invalid. Literally, I had twenty pages and ten of those were about the Garthim. Merry Christmas to me. I haunted the Author Quest message board, relieved I wasn't the only person thrown for a loop on the timeline, and prayed for a solution. After I wasted half a day wallowing trying to convince myself that I could hand-wavy that awkward fact away and give the Skeksis Garthim and keep my PERFECT STORY PERFECT, I accepted reality.

It was the five stages of grief in about twelve hours. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, like psychotic emotional Christmas roller coaster.

T-5 days to deadline.

You know what got me to the finish line?

Steven Moffat. Yeah, him. I saw an interview and he said that he wrote Blink over a long weekend and it went into production ten days later (I know, I know, he'd been thinking about the story a hell of a lot longer than a weekend) but the epic awesomeness that is Blink happened fast! In a weekend!

I can fix a short story over five days. Not that I'm saying I'm as badass or talented as Steven Moffat, but I CAN DO THIS and someday I want to write Doctor Who so as a step down that road, I'M FIXING THIS.

The rewrite process illustrated through interpretive dance: 

*Battle cry*
*Actual cry*
*Chugging beer*
*Weeping into the keyboard*
*Weeping angels on my keyboard*
*Fuck me it's three AM again*
*I can sleep in January*
*Wash, rinse, repeat*

Then a miracle happened, I DID IT. I fixed it, the Garthim are gone. It's as canon as I can make it. I'm going to fiddle with it for one more day searching for the next-to last typo (there's always one that gets away) before I submit and then put it on my 'You Tried' board as my last 2013 accomplishment.

'Cause I rule. 

*Pirouettes into the sunset*  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Whovian 5evah

Unless you hate sci-fi, you must have noticed Doctor Who is celebrating fifty years. Fifty years! Can you imagine writing a story that's stayed around and only gotten more popular as the decades pass?

The Doctor and I go way back. All the way back to... oh... 2010 or so. Shut up, I'm American. I have to pay extra just to get BBCA with my cable AND their programming is hardly a good representation of quality UK shows. Sherlock didn't even air on BBCA ffs, it aired on PBS. (An Americanized edit <---travesty.)

ANYWAYS, I had a point somewhere. 

My very first brush with the Doctor happened from some books acquired at a second hand shop back when I was a kid. I mostly remember being confused. I didn't understand the Doctor regenerates. I didn't understand the Tardis can travel in time and space. Random things were happening. Random people were happening. I was lost, so I set the books down.

Skip ahead a decade or two. I have a very clear memory of flipping channels and wondering if Gordon Ramsey was remaking the Walnut Tree again. He wasn't, but some weird thing was on. There was a woman yelling at a man not to blink and some creepy as fuck moving statues and a police box upstairs which made no sense at all and then it vanished and the statues went back to being statues, although they were even more creepy then. I thought it was the Twilight zone or something. I was hooked. I checked the tv listing to see what it actually was, then I dashed out the door. Late for work as usual.

'Doctor Who - Saves the World'

When I got home that night I looked for it and sure enough, it reaired the next day. (BBCA is infamous for showing nothing but endless hours of Top Gear and Gordon Ramsey. It's practically the Top Gear and Gordon Ramsey network.)

This time the Doctor was hanging out with some redhead and then he was on a train and there was knocking and this creepy blonde woman repeating what everyone said and THE ENTIRE TIME I waited for them to skip to the house and the creepy statues and explain how someone got a police box up those narrow stairs and why it disappeared and why was it bigger on the inside.

It shames me to say but it took for almost the entire episode (literally, three minutes to the end) before I realized I watched a different episode the day before. Apparently BBCA puts 'Doctor Who - Saves the World' for every single episode description.

Thank god for Netflix. I didn't skip Nine, figured out the regeneration thing, the Tardis thing, and basically fell in love with the whole Doctor Who thing.Which led to DragonCon 2013.

It's Seven!

Remember Vincent and the Doctor? I cosplayed as the entire episode.  

Dunno who the cute guy with the 'Keep Austin Weird' hat was, but he takes a good picture.

(It's Gareth David Lloyd)

(Blue Gillespie)

(Girl Number 9)

(Mostly Blue Gillespie)

(Tiny bit Torchwood)

(I'm a fan, okay? That's the point of cons. A place I can be a flaily flaily fan.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Holy Shitsnacks Batman! I'm a Quarter Finalist!

I will admit having been in an antiwriting funk for the last few months. I don't want to call it writer's block, it's been more like writers why-even-bother-I-suck-so-bad. AS IT TURNS OUT it was a sneak attack by the Insecurity Angel. Damn Insecurity Angel.

Then good stuff happened.

I was published.

I'm being interviewed.

And OH YEAH I'm a quarter finalist on Blue Cat.


First things first: I wrote a snark-laden article over what farriers wish horse owners really knew for 'Gypsy Horse World' under the oh-so-clever pseudonym, 'The Grumpy Farrier'. I divulged trade secrets like don't give my number to your flakey friend with the bonkers horse and for the love of little steel horseshoe nails, bring your checkbook to the barn don't leave it at the house. People, get with the program. 

Michelle Goode, who has done the amazing job of shepherding 'Camp Wishaway' through multiple drafts into something that might actually be worth reading, runs #loglinechallenge over on Facebook. She posts the prompts. We post the loglines. It's a symbiotic relationship. Like cats and the little plastic thingy that comes off milk cartons. She interviews one participant each month and this month (like two days ago) I got the lucky email with the interview questions and felt like a complete fraud because I hadn't done very much, y'know? I had a one page article published and... nada. Some random loglines. And yet I was calling myself a writer. Such a poser!

BUT THEN the NEXT DAY I got an email from Blue Cat asking me to vote in their title contest.


I scrolled through it with absolutely no expectation that I'd be on the list. Then I was. Then I freaked out I was on a title contest list. I will admit that I shrieked. Then I did further reading and discovered the title contest list was actually the Quarter Finalist list. I was a QUARTER FINALIST. ME! 130 out of 1847! I did pirouettes across the living room and that evidently disturbed my dog enough he dragged himself off the couch and blinked at me like I'd lost my mind. Seriously. Tyson was concerned for my sanity.

We went walkies. That turned into runnies. That turned into wow I'm a long way from home maybe I should have done a circle. But I was so full of energy and excitement I couldn't think and I was honestly bouncing for the first half mile. Maybe further. I'm still bouncing, actually. I'm not a poser! External validation! Whoo!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

15 Pages of Destiny

I'm subscribed to a daily e-paper that scours the web for screenwriting and writing stories and delivers them to my inbox in a condensed list. Random statement? I think not. I told you that to tell you this. A few days ago there was a short story about a contest closing soon. I didn't pay much attention but it was a slow news day and I was trapped in a waiting room so why not? 

What else did I have to do? Wade through the old issues of Reader's Digest and Golf Monthly? My horror script has been retitled 'Camp Wishaway' and shipped off to my script reader and I'd devoted all the thinking time I had to 'Keeper', my current project. I still haven't found a scriptwriting app that doesn't suck for my phone so I couldn't work on it. I was torn between reading old editions of People or trying something new. You know me, I decided to try something new. 

The contest details: Write the first fifteen pages based on their logline and win fame, fortune, and most valuable of all, a professional mentorship while you finish the script. It includes professional feedback every ten pages and I can tell you, that's not to be sneered at.

It's only fifteen pages. I could do that in the roughly ten days remaining before it closed. Because why not? I think that's the tagline of my life. This is what I have to work with. 

'After a storm destroys her small farm, killing her mother and father, an adolescent girl is sent off on a journey of survival.' 

Well. That's a bit boring, innit?

It had Wizard of Oz written all over it. I was suddenly less interested. But the logline wouldn't leave me. I spent the next two hours sitting in the waiting room turning it over in my mind. How could I possibly make that interesting? Could it even be made interesting?

Challenge accepted.

What's the most dangerous thing they could be farming? Velociraptors? 

Maybe the location made it dangerous? What if they were lava farmers? 

Maybe the time period wasn't healthy for a child to be alone. I edged into 'Clan of the Cave Bear' territory for a while, then swung the other way and went more 'Journey of Natty Gann'. 

Maybe it was on another planet? Uncle Owen and Aunty Em were moisture farmers. Everything was great until the Empire attacked.

By the time we left I had a rough outline, three acts, characters, and what is hopefully a very dramatic first fifteen pages jotted down. I was more productive in those two hours sitting and thinking about my story than I've been all week. Cornered like a rat in a trap with nothing else to do, I can come up with some awesome ideas. Go team me. Now to polish the bastard and send it in...

UPDATE: I hereby take back every uncharitable thought I had about that logline. This script is going to amazeballs. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Women Writing the Future

I refer to Amanda Fucking Palmer and Veronica Mars. Amanda's a singer and Veronica is a fictional detective, but between them they're composing the future of media in huge, sweeping brush strokes.

In Amanda's recent TED talk, 'The Art of Asking', she mentions that her older album sold 25,000 copies, and to the record label that was a failure. It wasn't big enough to be a success and that, frankly, is mind boggling to me. Selling 25,000 albums sounds like a success but to the record company it just wasn't.

Right after that she talked to a fan who gave her ten bucks for a copy he actually burned from a friend. He felt bad and wanted to pay her for it anyway. He didn't have to do it, he didn't have to say anything at all, but he wanted to and that changed everything.

Amanda became the hat in the 'pass the hat' concept. People gave her money for her music. She encourages torrenting, downloading, sharing, but she asks for help because hey, it does cost money and she's gotta eat, pay her band, and stay tricked out in those fabulous punk cabaret costumes.

She freed herself from the bonds of the short-sighted record company and threw herself into the crowd, trusting that they would catch her. Her next album, 'Theatre is Evil', would be funded solely by the fans on kickstarter. It was a historic occasion, would they break her fall or would she crash to the ground?

Her goal was 100,000 dollars and her fans (and I'm one of them) backed her to 1.2 million.

She says that asking makes people nervous and artists don't want to ask for things and that's so true. I'm on the sponsorship committee on my derby team and so it's my job to go out and ask for donations. Support my team. Please. It's hard. It really is. I don't even have soul scorching music to show for it.

Skip ahead a few months.

I watched and adored Veronica Mars as a teenager. Veronica was clever, a modern Nancy Drew and she solved her own problems. But like most clever shows, it got shoe-horned into the category of niche show, one of those cult favorites only the weirdos enjoy and when it was canceled the usual batch of useless petitions went around to save the show in some fashion, and like always, the petitions failed.

Ten years later the show's creator, Rob Thomas, managed to secure permission from Warner Bros. to make a movie. I would've loved to be in the room for that. How did the discussion go? Exactly what words got that result? I'd dearly love to know.

I'm sure you've heard the results.

Veronica Mars made their goal of 2 million dollars in 12 hours. You know why? Because instead of executives looking at demographics or accountant pondering if there was a market, they just asked the fans. They said, "Do you want this to be a thing? Will you put your money where your mouth is?"

A veritable horde of fans raced each other to kickstarter to give their five bucks, ten bucks, fifty bucks- as of right now 1859 of them gave 200 dollars each because they wanted this movie to happen. More than 50,000 people have given 3.3 million dollars in a day and a half. Roll that number around in your mind.

Every so often I go on a rant about region locked content and the occasional difficulty I've had actually, legally, paying for tv shows I like because they haven't got (and might never have) a region 1 release. I know I can watch it on youtube for free. I am not unfamiliar with this concept. I don't want to. I want to pay for it so the people that make the stuff I like get paid and can make more of it.

I'm taking the long view here. I know my pithy contribution to the coffers doesn't actually matter, but when a bunch of people band together to do something, it matters. 'Theatre is Evil' happened and I helped make it happen. It would have happened without me, but it didn't. I helped. I get a warm fuzzy feeling every time I think of that.

So take my money. Do what Amanda says. Ask for help. Don't ask how you can stop piracy (you can't) or get people to pay for this, just ask them to help. Repeat after me.

"Do you want this to be a thing? Will you put your money where your mouth is?"

They'll do it, or they won't. Give the fans the chance to show their love and fund stuff.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 aka The Year of You Tried

Apparently it's traditional to post a round up of what I did and did not get up to this year. Some people even post how many words they wrote last year. I can't even keep track of how many wips I've got at this point. God only knows how many words I've written and much more importantly, how many I've deleted.

So here goes.

January: Finished my first TV spec and got a brilliant idea for a horror movie. I decided that it couldn't be that hard to bang out a few feature specs 'cause I was so fabulous and talented and stuff.

February: Discovered I was delusional, it really was that hard to write a feature. I sent tv spec off to Scriptapalooza with visions of huge contracts and deals dancing in my eyes. Impressed myself with my ability to daydream.

March: Had grammar induced breakdown. If the comma was an actual thing I would stab it.

April: Started a rom com called 'Chunks' because what's a spec pile without a comedic romp about two people that don't really like each other, and yet somehow they're married? I learned the hard way about minor characters becoming more interesting than the major characters. Turns out that could very well be the death knoll of a spec. Still hadn't finished it.

Entered 50 Kisses contest with the aforementioned dreams of money and glory.

May: Got my very first script report on my horror from a for-real, professional script reader. Just recently I went and reread it to cheer myself up because the script, currently on draft 6, is SO MUCH BETTER now than it was at that point, a mere seven months ago.

Discovered Dead Roots, a zombie comic book, and pitched three or four ideas. Was soundly rejected, and then I saw a typo in the original email to the editor. Had typo induced breakdown. It was a nice change from the grammar induced breakdown.

June: Pitched more ideas for Dead Roots 'cause he never actually told me to stop emailing. In a bout of desperation, I shamelessly lifted the 'zombies appear' moment from Horror Script and he actually liked it.

Then rejected it.

July: Got feedback from the contest I sent the TV spec to. They liked it. Kind of. They explained why they didn't like it but I didn't understand their point until I was listening to Cabin Pressure. Received a revelation about tying plot lines together that rivaled Moses coming down the mountain, or Douglas finding out how much the Captain of an airdot actually gets paid when he works for Caroline.

50 Kisses announced they'd accept a second entry. Composed perfect do-over, complete with leaving off 'FADE IN' from the first line. Had another typo induced breakdown when I realized.

August: 1800 odd people entered 50 Kisses, but only 50 could win. I was not one of them, BUT both my entries made the long list, which makes me one of 16 people that could say that, out of 1800. 

So there's that. I hereby award myself an extra shiny 'You Tried' sticker.

September: Lost Scriptapalooze with my tv spec. Added another sticker to the wall.

Was 1 of 13 to be allowed in the Dead Roots Contest. I was lucky number 13, which I thought was funny. Lost by quite a wide margin in the end, but I still scratched out third place. My 'You Tried' collection is growing.

October: I've finished the first draft of a drama titled 'Keeper'. It's so bad it smells. I decided to let it compost on the hard drive for a while before I try editing it into something that isn't so eye searing bad, but honestly, really awesome mushrooms do grow in crap. I still have hope for it.

November: Found out about a poetry contest run by Brit Writers. I've never written poetry in my life, but I still managed to rhyme 'scratch' with 'snatch', revealing my natural talents and innate charm. 

I was completely devastated, but not entirely unsurprised, when I didn't win.

December: Some months back I sent a short story off for an anthology and promptly forgot about it.

It was rejected.


The editor liked it, it just didn't fit into the tone of the anthology so she told me to make it into a novella and resubmit. She pays by the word, told me to add more words, and then she wants it back.

So I suppose I ended 2012 on a high note? I don't know.

Next year Horror will finally settle on a title and be sent out into the world and Keeper will probably be joining Horror in a quest to bring me fame and fortune. Chunks may or may not be binned. Short story turned Novella will be done and hopefully published somewhere. 

A half dozen other things are in various stages of being written but there's not much to say about any of them at this point. They're not ripe yet. 

My resolution for 2013 is to sell some writing and finally sort out the comma. Or murder it. 

Whichever is easier. 

I suspect assassination on punctuation might just be the winner.