What I Have Been Doing Lately, and a Call for Artists

So, first off:

I realized today that I have missed the last two or three posting deadlines. I wanted to put up another chapter and maybe another book blurb. I in fact have something vaguely chapter-like written up on my favourite writing site. But I don’t want to post it without giving it a good look-over. And I haven’t had time to do that.

On Friday I will by flying to Sofia, Bulgaria to give a presentation on ancient Egyptian mortuary texts. The presentation will be less exciting than it sounds, I assure you. I have  been hectically preparing it all week, in addition to the thesis preparation I have been doing for my advisor. I am happy to say that my presentation is essentially ready, and my thesis pages will be sent off first thing tomorrow morning.

So now you all know what I have been doing rather than engaging in more entertaining pursuits. Real life is so tedious when you’d rather be writing. And I haven’t even got to real life yet. I’m still stuck in the student life.

Regrettably, I don’t see myself posting prior to about a week from now. If I’m overwhelmingly bored in Bulgaria, I may find the time to concoct a book blurb or spare piece of prose.

And now, to the second part:

I don’t think my blog has enough art.

I like art, of just about any variety. It inspires me. It’s fun to look at. It breaks up long lines of prose.

I can’t do art.

So if there’s anyone who would like to have their art put up on a blog, feel free to contact me. I’ve added a page over in navigation with details on what I’m looking for.

Nanowrimo Book Blurb # 3: Predestination

Samantha Goodwin has always known the shape of her life. That’s what you get when you grow up in the most powerful witch clan in the entire country. She knows when she’ll be sick, she knows when the frosts will kill the harvest – she even knows the day she’ll die. Everyone in her family knows it. It doesn’t make life terribly exciting, but then, what can you do? Everyone is content with (or at least resigned to) their lot in life.

At least, until he shows up.

A scruffy, scrawny boy on the run in a parallel universe somehow breaks the barrier between worlds and ends up in Samantha’s lap. Literally. The witch clans of his world insist that he must be executed. He is predestined to, after all. But Samantha finds herself helping him cheat fate and forge a new destiny, one that defies the power at the heart of her clan.

And if he can make his own choices, why can’t she?

***
I scribbled this one out on a late night train to the little town north of London where I’m staying. I just spent a full day at the British Library so my mind was in need of a thesis break and some creative output.
The idea didn’t spend long months fermenting in the back of my mind. It just rushed out. It came out of nowhere and will probably go nowhere.
Because I basically opened my brain and this story fell out, it’s not big on crazy metaphors or complicated, slightly creepy relationships. In my mind it’s a simple action/adventure/urban fantasy/parallel universe kind of story. No confusing, swirling narrative technique – just a straightforward, linear story line about a girl and a boy and the fabric of the universe.
That makes this much better nanoing material than the last book blurb, or the last novel I tried to actually write for Nanowrimo. Nothing needs a lot of deep thought, not at first. Things just have to happen. They don’t have to be terribly complicated.
I’m considering a love triangle aspect. Considering it. Love triangles are tending towards the overrated these days in terms of subplots, and so many stories have them. It would probably depend on what happens when I start writing, whether I can keep the excitement going or find myself flagging.
Is there enough material here to keep me going for 50,000 words and 30 days? What else does it need?

Travelling to England and a Hopeful Piece for this Blog

As much as I’d like to be posting a crisp, clean chapter (I feel as though it has been far too long), right now I feel a bit like a train wreck. Last night my boss scheduled me to work from 8:30 PM until around 2 AM. I had to catch a night bus home, then get up at ten minutes to five in order to catch my plane.

Which means: I’m in England! Hooray!

I am currently staying with another wonderful writing friend, catching up on old times. She has a beautiful poetry/photo blog worth taking a look at. I am trying not to fall asleep. In a minute I’ll probably give up.

The main purpose for my visit to England is to go to a wedding in Taunton. Two old university friends will finally be tying the knot, and I’ll get to meet a lot of people that I haven’t seen in years and re-engage with them. I also hope to write about the experience. Poem, short story, I don’t know what yet. But if I’m successful, it’ll be up here Tuesday.

I also have to do research while I’m in the UK, so I don’t know how many chapters I’ll be able to write. But at least I can try for another book blurb or two. Maybe that’s what the wedding will give me – my nanowrimo novel.

Does anyone else find other people’s weddings stressful? Difficult? The stuff of stories?

Nanowrimo Book Blurb #2

Earth of the near future isn’t as apocalyptic as some might have feared. Flooding has changed the face of the coastal cities – but most have been reclaimed or somehow preserved. Among them is Copenhagen, known for its canal architecture, its culinary movement and its tourism.

At the top of the tourism pyramid stands Henry Salt, the American owner of a hotel chain and one of the richest men on earth. At his right hand stands the controversial artist and misogynist Janus Van der Vindt, whose preservation of women as living statues has sparked debate around the world. Van der Vindt’s art is a mystery and a scientific impossibility, and many are eager to see it fail. So when his living statues begin to disappear from Salt’s hotel lobbies around the world, they’re eager to solve the mystery before anyone else catches wind of it.

Neither of them realizes that the journey will take them into the realms of the spiritual and the impossible. The answers lie not in the hands of normal thieves, but at the heart of the changing world, the nature of art and life, and the mind of Henry Salt’s brilliant daughter, whose fascination with the powerful men around her has a profound effect on their destiny.

***
So, this one’s a bit wordy. The idea has been floating around in my head for years – the living statues were first murder victims turned art, then art turned murder victims. Now they’re something else.
I feel like the last Nanowrimo book blurb was really based around this concept, of a normal storyline turned upside-down. The characters in it were people I tried to make interesting, but they were also tropes, easy to find once I’d picked out a setting.
This blurb is the other way around. I had the characters long before I had any kind of story for them. In fact, I don’t know what kind of story I have for them even now. After all, this is just for Nanowrimo. I haven’t made a big plan yet. But the characters were people I had fun playing around with. And when I moved to Copenhagen, I found a setting into which they fit.
First, you have Henry Salt. He’s a rich man, and a callous man. He likes to work and spend time with Janus Van der Vindt, his artist, primarily because Van der Vindt is controversial. Every time he makes a new piece of art, it’s in the papers. And if Salt commissions that art for his hotel, then his hotel is also in the papers. He doesn’t really care that Van der Vindt has been called a misogynist, a murderer, the antichrist, or a bad human being in general. He’s happy because it helps him make money.
Henry Salt’s most prized possession is his daughter, Medea. Though unattractive at 14, she’s a genius. She’s also attracted in an intellectual way to the 40-something Van der Vindt, who returns the attraction. The idea behind this relationship is not to portray pedophilia, but to make the reader feel slightly uncomfortable, as though their actions aren’t quite appropriate, but cannot be condemned with certainty. This is of course underlined by Van der Vindt’s disregard for other women.
One of the reasons that this book blurb was hard to write was because it’s not really a mystery, nor a fantasy, nor post-apocalyptic literature or action/adventure. I’d like it to have all of those – but not to be any one of them more than the others.
Anyway. That’s another Nanowrimo idea. I’d love to have time enough to write all these novels I’ve been thinking of over the years. Isn’t that how it is with all writers?

Nanowrimo book blurb #1

What do a prince, a magician and a cook’s assistant all have in common? Nothing – until their collective home is destroyed and they find themselves on the run. 

The low-born Marianna thinks herself fortunate to get a position as a cook’s assistant at the most prestigious finishing school in the country. Serving up the country’s future leader’s and magicians isn’t as glamorous as she thought it would be, but she can handle the scathing comments of her “betters.”

Things only become really difficult when an unknown force attacks the school, intent on abducting a prince in attendance there. In the chaos Marianna escapes – and somehow finds herself the protector of both the school’s most arrogant magical student and the prince, disguised by enchantment.

In their bid to reach safety they’ll have to work together, come to terms with who is better than whom and, most importantly, reach a consensus on breakfast.

***

So. Nanowrimo isn’t for another couple of months, thank God. I never know what I’m going to actually write for Nanowrimo until I sit down to write on November first. Or second. Or third.

But book blurbs are things I have always loved to read and write. The perfect book blurb makes you want to open the book instantly and immerse yourself in the world you have been promised – and for me, writing a book blurb for a novel I have yet to start makes me excited to actually get writing.

So tonight, I decided to put up a possible book blurb for a possible Nanowrimo novel. I hope to do it a few more times before the actual novel writing starts, as a way of putting ideas out there/asking for suggestions.

I came across this idea as a sort of take on the quest theme. The main character, instead of being some kind of chosen one or having some kind of unique talent, is possessed only of her brains, wit, and quick ability to chop onions in a crisis. For once, an ‘ordinary’ character has to take care of ‘extra-ordinary’ ones.

I like this role-reversal because it means the characters themselves will have to   come to terms with it. To the prince and the magician, this girl’s only function in their previous life was to serve up lunch. Now she is their caretaker. They have to look up to her.

While thinking this story over, I decided that the prince was probably a nice enough guy. It’s part of that chivalry business. So he would have a much less difficult time adapting to Marianna’s sudden relative power. But the magician – he’s a problem. He can’t face the idea that a common kitchen wench might be better at something than he is. So when his magic fails (which it inevitably does – we’ve got to level the playing field somehow) he has a lot of thinking to do.

In my brain, this is a comedic turn on the classic quest, a young adult type novel. Who knows whether it will ever be written, for Nanowrimo or otherwise?

What do you think? Is it fun for anyone else to write a book blurb? And if you could give this book a title, what would it be?