Friday, September 30, 2011

How I Write-- Writer's Block (or how I fight the monster in the shadows)

This week, my Accountability group are going to answer the following questions: This week's topic is writer's block? Fact or myth? How do you deal with it?

I think writer's block can definitely happen. It's the monster in the shadows, feeding on muse crack. I'm always envious of those who can claim they don't believe in it, those who force themselves to keep moving, despite the block. That is the most disciplined writer, those who can stand up to the monster and look it in the face and then reach into its throat and pull out that half-devoured muse crack back out.

Me? I'm still working on it.

There are ways to hold off that monster, by having a file of ideas, but sometimes, that's not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes the words is what's blocked... a writer block's mutation version of mental constipation. For me, this is the worse. It's when the ideas are all there and I KNOW what I want to write but it just won't come out.

Or what about writer's block's bad boy cousin, procrastination? Now that one... he's one slick beast, luring me with the sparkly pictures and ideas on Pinterest or my TBR pile. I'd like to say that procrastination helps with the writer's block (my excuse), but no, it doesn't. I've fallen victim to this dirty scheme way too many times to know better. And the thing with procrastination, is that it's addicting. It's a drug. I can't just read one chapter. One chapter becomes three and then I find myself having wasted all day and the book done. But oh, there's always more books, procrastination whispers, 'not like you wasted the time. You were studying writing'.

Yeah, that excuse doesn't fly when you have deadlines and books to write.

So what DOES work? What will beat back the dreaded writer's block and stop it in its track before it inhales your musecrack and causes word-constipation? BICHOK--butt in chair, hands on keyboard-- is something a lot of people say works. By showing up, you should be able to write. Not really. Not when that monster is on your shoulder and devouring the words before they even form in your mind. How can showing up help if you are just staring at a screen, fighting tooth and nail for every word? It doesn't.

For me, keeping busy helps the most. I'll clean the apartment and do the dishes. Go shower. I'm not sure what it is about water but somehow, this helps. I read somewhere once that it had to do with re-energizing ions in the body or something, but whatever the reason, things come easier when I'm being busy. I don't mean busy in the -I-Need-To-Concentrate-Or-I-May-Hurt-Myself, like chopping up veggies or something, but, mindless chores. I said once that I'm a daydreamer. I daydream the scenes I'm having trouble with. I put myself in the shoes of the characters and play the scene out. I note the dialogue and what happens.

When that doesn't help, I listen to music. Loud. And yes, I give in to procrastination and play games... and while I play these games, daydream those scenes that are giving me fits. As much as I'd like to blame procrastination for everything, it does help at times. Pinterest is good at giving me ideas because you can create collages of ideas for characters and scenes and whatnot and that can help to fight off writer's block.

I don't know if there will ever be a surefire way of fighting it off, but for me, these things help. In small doses, that is.

For more on what my friends have learned while writing, click on their links!

Danie Ford
Emma G. Delaney
Kimberly Farris
Kristen Koster

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Time Travel-- A breakthrough in the Speed of Neutrinos

Do you remember the post I did a few weeks ago about time travel and it not being possible, because scientists had demonstrated that a photon couldn't be sped up beyond the speed of light?

Well, physicians at CERN have had a breakthrough. According to Reuters and BBC, scientists have claimed to have recorded neutrino particles going faster than the speed of light. What does this mean? It means that Albert Einstein's theory of relativity- that nothing can exceed the speed of light- could be wrong.

After thousands of experiments, no result of a particle breaking the limit had ever been documented. The last three years, however, Dr Ereditato and his colleagues have found that neutrinos may just do that.

The team had been preparing a beam of one type of muon neutrinos (neutrinos can come in a variety of different types and can change), sending them from Cern to an underground laboratory. The experiment had been to see how many show up as a different type (tau neutrinos). Instead, what they found was that the particles showed up a few billionths of a second sooner than the speed of light would over the same distance. After repeating the experiment 15,000 times, they reached the same statistical results.

If what was found is true, this could change a lot of what we know about the rules of physics. What do you think of these findings?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Six Sentence Sundays

In the WIP I'm currently working on, the hero and heroine have a small little gesture they do throughout the book. It's nothing big, but even before they became more, they did it. It's a way for them to keep a connection. All they have to do is link their finger together to re-affirm their bond.

His palm curved around her arm as he slid a wide, leather bracelet over her wrist, securing it. She felt something cool against her wrist and realized the leather band concealed a small weapon. “Be safe. I’ll be listening. If you need help, I’ll be there.”

She nodded and slid her fingers along his, hooking their index fingers together a moment before she slipped away, back onto the dance floor.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How I Write-- What have you learned?

This week's question: What have you learned by writing?

Writing for me has always been a way to get out my thoughts onto page, to tell the story of all the voices in my head. I've always been a daydreamer. What else is there to really do on an hour long bus ride to and from school growing up? Oh sure I read, but I also loved to just stare out the window and let my imagination get the better of me. I'd dream up 'stories', of characters and conflicts.

I never thought about writing seriously, not until grade 8 when I decided to try my hand at it. By grade 9 I was writing the WIP I sold to Carina. Yes, it took me a long time. BUT, it taught me persistence. I've put stories aside before. I gave up on them when I lost interest. With this particular story, the characters were just THERE. Yes, the story has evolved a lot. The first rounds I was extra critical on characterization. They seemed flat. And if I saw that, then my readers surely would, so I spent the time when I would read books of published authors studying them. Studying how the characters were developed and what made them tic and come to life. Once I felt I somewhat had a grasp on this, I decided I couldn't plot. At. All.

So... I worked to change that.

The thing with being stubborn (just ask my family, I'm told that all the time), is that I don't let go of things I'm passionate about. For me, this book was IT. It was important to me in a way no other story had. So I persisted and I re-wrote it at least 6 times. The thing about re-writing, I learned what worked and what didn't. Yes, I could have simply shoved it under the bed with the dust and the books I didn't want anyone to know I was reading, but I couldn't do that. I spent years reading articles on how to write. I don't doubt that it's needed to an extent, but I learn better by actually doing it. You can read about how to create characters or plotting all you want, but if you spend all your time doing that, then you aren't writing and you aren't growing as a writer in your own right.

For more on what my friends have learned while writing, click on their links!

Danie Ford
Emma G. Delaney
Kimberly Farris
Kristen Koster

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mermaids: Pt 2- Reproduction

Last week I talked about mermaids and how they could potentially see under the water—eyes like fish, not like ours. Today’s discussion is how mermaids could possibly reproduce if they were real. This isn’t going to be a sex-ed. I imagine it’d be something similar to dolphins. However, that wasn’t the question a friend asked me. She asked whether mermaids would lay eggs or have live birth.

Would they take after the fishes, considering they’re fish-like from the waist down or would they take on the live birth like mammals? If we go by the fact, for the moment, that they are fish-like completely from the waist down, then we should assume that their reproductive organs are as well. That would mean that they’d lay eggs. But let’s step back a moment. If mermaids did lay eggs and then were fertilized by the males after, there wouldn’t be much diversity of the species as a whole. Also, fish can lay hundreds of eggs. Even if only half of them hatch, that’s a lot of mermaids. You’d expect a lot more sightings.

Therefore, this leads to the explanation that mermaids would have to take after whales and porpoises= live birth. Not just that, but mermaids have been depicted with mammalian traits (i.e. breasts and a navel). If you account for probably only one baby per pregnancy, maybe two, the odds seem more reasonable. Also, if you look at the depictions of their tails, it closely resembles that of a dolphin rather than a fish.

What about their scales? Dolphins and whales don’t have colourful scales like fish do. I would assume that it is just artistic license. If you look at drawings of dolphins, some are drawn with scales as well and we know they don’t.

So what do you think? If mermaids were real, how do you think they would reproduce? On a fiction note, do you like stories of mermaids?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Six Sentence Sundays

This bit of muse crack inspired a particular scene of mine in BOOK1 (title to change) where the heroine and hero are having a conversation about the hero's favourite memory. For me, it's a touching scene, one that reminds the reader that J.C. can feel and be vulnerable.

J.C. was silent a moment. “It was beautiful. I don’t recall the reason we went, just that we ended up on this wooden platform, high up into the trees. It was so black you had to watch your step. The mountains aren’t exactly all that safe to walk through in the dark. We had our flashlights and that was all.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

How I Write-- Ideas

This week on How I Write, the question that was posed was about ideas and how we got the inspiration to write the WIP we are currently writing. Or ideas in general.

In a past post, I mentioned that in Fatal Visions (title to change), the idea came from two Playstation games. I was hooked when I was in highschool playing Medal of Honor and Final Fantasy. I was in love with Squall so my J.C. was modeled after his looks. Medal of Honor... secret missions, war... guns... enough said.

I've always loved psychic abilities and the paranormal. I'm not quite sure when my interest in the supernatural began, but once it started, it took a firm root in my imagination. But I also come from an anthropological and science schooling. It's not enough for me to just 'assume' something paranormal. I like trying to examine the workings of it and give it a scientific explanation. So when my characters developed psychic abilities, I had to think of a scientific method to explain it. A virus that mutated the DNA? What if they are latent abilities from our previous evolutionary lines? What if early hominids communicated through telepathy? These were questions that I asked myself and helped develop the main idea around Fatal Visions.

Currently I'm in edits for (working title) Tempting the Shadows. This book is in the same world as Fatal Visions, but in the story, I asked myself, what happens when a person is a familiar to another? What does that do to their relationship?

It's amazing how songs can also influence ideas. For TS, Nickelback is particularly good. One song fits the main characters and how they feel about each other. They have always been there for each other, and will continue to. No matter what. They have gone through some rough moments, not just life threatening situations and no matter what, they stick together through it all, even when everyone is against them. While I write, I'll often listen to it on repeat.

For more stories of inspiration and what drives their ideas, visit my fellow writers and friends:

Danie Ford
Emma G. Delaney
Kimberly Farris
Kristen Koster

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mermaids: Pt.1- Eye Physiology

A friend of mine gave me the suggestion to do this week’s post when her daughter asked how mermaids can keep their eyes open under the water, and whether or not they lay eggs or have live offspring.

Mermaids, they’re mythological creatures of the sea, half human and half fish. They’re known to sing to sailors and entrance them, distracting them from their word and causing people to walk off the deck or run their ship aground. The first mermaid stories appeared in Assyria ca 1000BC. It’s said that the goddess Atargatis, mother of an Assyrian queen, loved a mortal and when she unintentionally killed him, she jumped into a lake. Ashamed, she tried to take the form of a fish, but the waters couldn’t conceal her beauty so she took the form of a mermaid, human above the waist, fish below.

This isn’t the only story. There are some from all around the world, at all periods of time. A sighting was even proposed in 2009 off the town of Kiryat Yam in Israel, offering a prize of one million dollars for proof after dozens of people had reported seeing a mermaid leaping out of the water like a dolphin.

This brings me to mermaid physiology. Can mermaids see under the water? If so, how? Human eyes aren’t designed to see clearly underwater as we can out of it. Yes, there are those who can get used to it, but for the most part, eyesight will be blurry, not to mention chlorine and salt water will make them sting. If mermaids are human from the waist up, wouldn’t their eyes be like ours? As something that has adapted to life underwater, there are certain things that would need to be different. Just like needing gills to breathe, mermaids would need eyes like a fish to see. If you think about it, it’s believed that a long time ago, humans evolved from fish, so why not have a branch of that evolution that stayed in the water? Just think about Neandertals and Homo Sapiens. They lived side by side. Mermaids could be a line that just hung around. If mermaids were a new evolution, I’d say there’d be more sightings and we wouldn’t necessarily see stories about them going back to 1000BC. Yes, there could be a mermaid mutation gene that is rare, but still, you’d hear about some babies being born with tails and whatnot.

(Before rotten food gets thrown my way, I know this is a bit far-fetched, but, the point is that this is all the use of imagination and evolution does weird things. Some lines branch off and continue, some stay in limbo, some haven’t been discovered yet. Fossil records are spotty. There’s so much we’re still discovering.)

Ok back to fish eyes. Fish don’t have true eyelids, not like humans who have them to prevent their eyes from drying out or protecting against dirt. A fish’s eyes, however, are always covered by water. Whereas human irises can contract or expand depending on light conditions, fish irises don’t because light never changes in intensity underwater. They don’t have need for such an adaptation. The biggest difference between the human and fish eye, occurs in the lens. With humans, ours are fairly flat or ‘dishlike’. In fish, however, it is spherical or ‘globular’. Human eyes are capable of changing the curvature of the lens in order to change the focus at varying distances (flatter for long-range and more curved for shorter). Although fish eyes have a rigid lens and the curvature can’t change, it can move toward or away from the retina like when you’re focusing a camera.

Fish that live in dimly lit regions usually are found to have larger eyes. Because mermaids would probably live deep in the sea where it’s not as light, they would also have larger eyes than humans. Next week, I’ll get into the second part, do mermaids lay eggs or have live birth? What do you think?

Check out this interesting article if you want to read more about mer-physics.