Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nanowrimo 2010 - here it comes again!

I am very excited about this year's National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) and another chance to write a first draft.

I can't believe that I have never thought of this before, but this year is a superhero novel. This will be my ninth first draft and I am determined to finish the 50,000 words even if I nearly missed my first four days at a management training course in Sydney and I'm behind by 6-7000 words.

I have been reading superhero novels running in the months leading up to November, and really liked "Soon, I will be Invincible" by Austin Grossman and "Karma Girl" by Jennifer Estep, but didn't like "Leaper" by Geoffrey Wood or "Hot Mama" also by Jennifer Estep.

I have also bought two other superhero novels from the Whitcoulls on-line e-book store to put on my Kobo e-book reader. I just bought "From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain" by Minister Faust about a psychologist to the world's best superhero team, and "Masked" by Lou Anders (Editor), an anthology of superhero fiction.

My novel features The Wingman, a superhero whose powers allow him to be second best at everything. He has a mimicking power that allows him to copy abilities, including super abilities from those around him. However, he let his team down years ago and they were slaughtered by a team of villains. Now, he's a pariah to the world, including other superheroes. Worse, this has spilled into his own mind and he doubts his own value.

At the beginning of the novel, the Wingman finds evidence for a serial killer who is killing aliens who live on earth. With his only remaining superhero friend, Raymond Taylor, aka "the General", leader of The Famous Five, they begin tracking down who is responsible.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SpecFicNZ Blogging Week – Day 3, the Bible

The Bible is the greatest work of speculative fiction ever written. Greater than the Iliad or the Odyssey, greater than the Epic of Gilgamesh or any of Shakespeare's plays.

There are Gods, prophets, magicians, miracles, conflict, betrayal, love, good Samaritans, villians and so much more.

As a source for ideas, there aren't any better places than the Bible.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SpecFicNZ Blogging Week – Day 2, superhero novels

I have recently read "Soon, I will be INVINCIBLE!" by Austin Grossman, a fun jaunt into superhero novels. I enjoyed it enough that I decided that it would be my genre for November's Nanowrimo novel.

If any genre defies Specfic boundaries and bleeds between sci-fi, fantasy and horror, it's superhero novels. A woman in a high tech battle suit teams up with an alien gladiator to fight a villain using an ancient Babylonian artifact to kill the Prime Minister of Uruguay for his own evil plans. What a lovely combination!

I think I'll enjoy November - I have never written in that genre and I am a huge comic book fan. There is so much material to choose from and so many directions it can go. I can do almost pure fantasy or pure sci-fi or a combination, introduce vampires or werewolves, have sorcerers turning the streets of New York into a replica of ancient Greece and have it all observed by an immortal alien sent to earth to observe, but who feels the need to interfere.

Indeed - very fun November. I think I'm excited enough to do the Kiwiwriters Prep-challenges in the archive before November.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SpecFicNZ Blogging Week – Day 1, the term "Spec Fic"

I've had this conversation with a friend of mine already. "Spec fic" or "speculative fiction" is a term being used to include "science fiction", "fantasy" and "horror".

Why is anyone using this term? I don't know. It's like using "Violence Fiction" to describe "War", "Spy" and "Detective" genres.

However, it's "specficNZ blogging week", so I thought that I'd contribute.

I think the term "speculative fiction" is lame. I like any of the other terms better. Firstly, if you say you're writing "speculative fiction", people are bound to ask "Are you writing science fiction, horror or fantasy?". It's the kind of term that nose in the air, hoity-toity science fiction writers would use to describe their work. "Oh no, I don't write science fiction, I don't have ray guns and googly eyed little green men, my work is speculative fiction, you know, stuff that could really happen."

This does remind me of the trailer for "Gentlemen Broncos" though. Doctor Ronald Chevalier (played by Jemaine Clement) says, "I'm assuming you love to write fantasy fiction, but the character names in your stories are suffering. Need thou not be afraid. We can add 'onius', 'ainous' or 'anious' to just about anything and it becomes magical."

I can hear Dr. Chevalier using the term "Speculative Fiction" instead of "Fantasy Fiction" and it would fit right in with the poncy tone he uses.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mr. Spock goes to Church

Una had a big birthday in July and we had a fancy dress party with "Legends" theme.

Once Una suggested the idea of Mr. Spock, there was no going back. All the costume places around town have suitable outfits (they have the blue, red and golden outfits and have for decades). I settled on The Costume Company on Willis Street.

I bought some ears on line that look just like these ones.

On the day, I decided to try and fix up my eyebrows, nothing too fancy. Una was going as Elisabeth Taylor and had arranged to have a professional makeup artist come around to make sure she looked suitably glam. When Claudine arrived, I asked her for some eyebrow work, but she said that she didn't have any gear for it, but knew someone in town who had just taught a movie special-effects makeup course and would still have all of their gear out and on the table.

Meet Church Haley, willing to do Spock eyebrows in the hour (literally). He did an absolutely amazing job and if you need something like that done, I can highly recommend him. He saw my little rubber Spock ears and said "I can do the ears for you to if you like." and then "Do you mind if I cut them up and make them better?" - could I say no to that?

Results below:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why women take their clothes off

Due to an interesting mistake on Facebook, one of my posts was confused with the title of this post.

So, an interesting exercise is to come up with reasons why women take their clothes off:

1. when they take a shower
2. when they change (shopping, gym, spilled something on their clothes, going out for the evening etc...)
3. when they have sex
4. sometimes when they go to the doctors
5. when they get a massage
6. when they want to go streaking
7. just for the hell of it
8. when they are actors and are acting out any of the above...

Thanks for the great idea Graham.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why do women still change their names when they get married?

I posted the following article by Catherine Deveny on facebook and had the most emotional and largest number of comments ever on my facebook wall. Deveny received a huge response and posted a follow-up article a week later.

I agree, the original article is inflammatory, but this doesn't dismiss the points she made.

The question, "Why do women still change to their husband's name when they get married?"
Gets the answer: "It's easier."

Of course, it's true. There are so many problems that just go away when you change your name. From children having the same last name (most people want this), to no more questions at immigration or customs or health insurance or schools or wherever. These hassles go away when everyone in the family has the same last name.

The thing is, if "it is easier" were the complete answer, then men would be changing their names to their wife's last name just as often. BUT THEY DON'T. This is Deveny's entire focus, which almost everyone talks around. This was also true on my facebook wall by the way.

There are only a small number of options on the table in our culture (the West in general). I don't have numbers for New Zealand, but in the US, around 90% of women who get married take their husband's name. Of the remainder, the vast majority keep their names (this is apparently in decline), some hyphenate the two names together and some tiny fraction create a new name with their husband.

What percentage of men take their wife's last name? The funny thing is that it's so new and rare, that it's never been studied and no one actually knows the number. There is no doubt that it's rare, but exact numbers are elusive. Here is an interesting article about men adopting their wife's last name and the backlash of doing so.

Of my friends on facebook, one knew 5 (holy crap Batman! 5!) men who had adopted their wife's last name. Interestingly enough, a few of them did it because "It was easier." All were European, which is no surprise, since Europe is far more liberal than the US, Canada or New Zealand.

If we were seeing "It was easier" equally from men and women, it would make perfect sense, but when 90% of the women are changing their names and almost no men are, "it's easier" just doesn't cut it. Clearly, there are strong social pressures.

The simple answer seems to be that we live in a patriarchal society and not an egalitarian one. The custom of women taking the man's name after marriage is completely one sided in favor of the man, with all the sacrifices coming from the woman. The social pressure is incredibly strong, with most people having a strong opinions, especially the men who mostly wouldn't even consider changing their names.

I know that as a man, I have absolutely no interest in changing my name to my wife's last name. It's not that it's a bad name, but I've owned my name for a long time and it is unique on-line. I never expected my wife to take my last name either and we didn't even have the discussion when we got married.

But, if you want a real egalitarian society, there are only a few options:

1) everyone keeps their name
2) someone in the couple volunteers to change their name
3) failing 2, flip a coin to decide

In the case of 1) and when a couple has children, 2) and 3) apply to the children as well, so either you flip a coin for the children, or someone in the couple volunteers.

If you want everyone in the family to have the same name, then only 2 or 3 work.

I think that all the other options, like hyphenated names or made up names are ultimately failures. Hyphenated only works in the first generation and fails in the 2nd generation with grandchildren having four part names and great grandchildren with eight part names, which is just silly. Made up names is the worst of all possible worlds, since not just one member of the couple loses their name, but both do, and find themselves unattached to their family history, which is the best part of having a name.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SoCNoC - just caught up!

I finally caught up on SoCNoC after lagging behind for the last few weeks. After losing a day early on, I've struggled a bit to focus and at least keep my lag down to one day only.

It's funny, I keep imagining that I'll wake up early and spend a few hours catching up, but in the end, it's always after the TV shows are done and it's 10 o'clock and I write until 12:30.

Still, caught up is caught up and by day 21, here I am at 33414 total and over 3200 words written today.

I can't say that my story is working out that well, but I have managed to pull all the 5 different threads together into one. I consider that alone an accomplishment. It's the first time that I've had so many separate threads before. I kept it very simple and just cycled through them, bringing them closer and closer together, merging first two, then three and four and finally five. Very satisfying.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SoCNoC - halfway mark

I hit the halfway point with SoCNoC (Southern Cross Novel Challenge) last night. That means I've written 25k words so far in June and am just one day behind the expected pace.

Here's how I got there:

day date total today
1 01/06/10 1694 1694
2 02/06/10 3615 1921
3 03/06/10 5352 1737
4 04/06/10 6197 845
5 05/06/10 6829 632
6 06/06/10 8861 2032
7 07/06/10 9741 880
8 08/06/10 11597 1856
9 09/06/10 13342 1745
10 10/06/10 15736 2394
11 11/06/10 16755 1019
12 12/06/10 19205 2450
13 13/06/10 20068 863
14 14/06/10 21301 1233
15 15/06/10 23511 2210
16 16/06/10 25096 1585

Not exactly stellar, but despite being a little lazy, I've managed to stay only one day behind every day. I keep telling myself that I'll catch up on a weekend day. Maybe this weekend. :(

Good luck to all the other SocNoCers and HalfNoCers out there - I hope you're having a great June.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

English weirdness - plurals

I quite often get into discussions about the weirdness of English. Things like "fluff" rhyming with "enough" and "threw" rhyming with "through", "taut" and "thought" etc...

Other oddities are words that can't possibly be pronounced without context. Examples:
1. minute
2. tear
3. bass
4. sewer

I got into a similar discussion on the weekend. This time, it was English plurals. Because English is a mish-mash of different languages, happy to borrow from almost any other language ("English is to language what Microsoft is to computing" from "Xenophobe's guide to the English"), it has lots of ways of pluralizing words. I claimed that there are at least a dozen ways of pluralizing in English. The smart (smart-ass?) people I was with said, "Oh? That sounds like a lot. Come on then, give them to us." Another request was for me to have all the examples on my blog - so, this is it. NOTE: There are possibly even more than a dozen here, but I quite often group them together.

straight s:
1. car->cars

2. dish->dishes

3. cherry->cherries

irregulars - I will count them as 1
4. dwarf->dwarves , hoof->hooves, similarly rooves, leaves, elves

5. deer, moose, fish etc.. (some odder ones are species and series which don't change either)
6. ox, brother, child-> oxen, brethren, children
7. foot->feet, goose->geese, similarly teeth, mice, lice, men, women etc...
8. formula->formulae, indices, matrices, vertices
9. axis->axes, crisis->crises
10. criterion->criteria, phenomenon->phenomena
11. datum->data (similarly media, medium, millennia, memoranda)

Some other odd ones out:
12. alumni, cacti, fungi

even more odd
13. beau->beaux, or bureaux, chateaux

So there you go Ed. ;-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

4th annual SoCNoC continues...

I've had this story in my head since November's Nanowrimo. I've mulled it over and talked about it with some friends and read a book that had some similar ideas between then and now.

Strangely enough, for such a fully formed story idea, it's been slow going. I'm at 11,597 words so far, which is a full day behind yesterday's required pace (13,333), let alone today's (15,000). Probably the slowest I've had in the first 9 days of any novel writing month, since I always tend to hover around the slightly ahead mark (last year was a little wonky, since I had a house move, but that's exceptional and only later in the month).

Oh? You want to hear about the story?

I have five, count 'em, five threads all with the same main character happening at the same time. The settings are a soldier in a war, the member of an Antarctic expedition, a monk in training, a software developer in Montreal and finally, a businessman working with a scientist. Eventually, they begin to meet each other. The question is, why are there duplicates? Who made them? What is their purpose?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

4th Annual SoCNoC starting tomorrow!

SoCNoC, to those who don't know, is "The Southern Cross Novel Challenge", which is to some of you, a difficult, challenging, novel writing competition where competitors write 50,000 words in one, 30 day month. To others like myself, it's a giddy, beautiful, roller coaster ride of excitement and fun. Not that I would ever imply that these things can't overlap!

I'm sure that there are people reading this saying, "What Travis? Another novel writing month? I thought you did one in November?!"

Indeed, November is a novel writing month, but that's "National Novel Writing Month" or Nanowrimo, is a completely different beast. SoCNoC is set up for people in the southern hemisphere, where the weather cooperates during June to keep people indoors and writing (true for the last three weeks!).

SoCNoC is special to me since it is, at least partially, my creation. This is a photo of the original Kiwiwriters crew dreaming up something that would let us do writing challenges all year round:

I'm not in the photo, since I was taking it, but that's my old place, I swear it is. Left to right, it's Andy, Chris, Jane and Kerryn. Andy came up with the name "SoCNoC", which is one of his many, brilliant contributions. Kerryn is still the energy that keeps the site going.

Although I haven't done a thorough check, I believe I am the only person to have completed every single SoCNoC (three so far), and I plan to finish this one as well. I have an idea lined up and I'm ready to go. Tomorrow is the day.

I'll see you all in the writing trenches!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Cuba Street Garret

I am a stoic guy. I don't often get excited. About anything. When I first saw the Cuba Street Garret, I got excited.

What is the Garret you ask? It is a space in Wellington where writers can rent a small space, free of distraction and sit down to write.

It isn't just that there are private offices for writing or that it's a lovely space with lots of natural light and style that makes you want to take a clean, fresh breath. It's not that it's free from distractions like children or television or traffic noises. It's not that it's free from spouses asking for you to take out the garbage or do the dishes. That is just the start of the excitement.

This is a space that collect authors! This is people who write and publish. The idea of exchanging information with these people is intoxicating to me. The information doesn't have to be about writing either. It usually isn't, but doesn't matter and you always learn something new and go away feeling better.

In the interest of supporting something I find worthwhile, I am happy to talk about the Garret and get as many authors interested as possible. Come by, see what it has to offer. Contact me any time and I'll be happy to show you around. If you feel even 10% as excited as I do, you'll be happy you did.

Thanks to Douglas Wilkins, for first showing me around and thanks to Martin Haughey for taking the photos.