Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

                        As you are doubtless aware, Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast yesterday.  I, and most people I know, are fine.  Most of us came through without significant property damage, and many of us never lost power, or lost power only briefly.
                        But nearly everyone included in those statements were also out of the path of the worst of the storm.  It is humbling to realize that there are parts of the country not far away from me where people have had to abandon their homes to protect their lives.  In Ocean City, a mere three hours drive away from me, Hurricane Sandy demolished beach-front property and flooded hundreds more homes.  Further north, in New York, dozens of people have lost their lives in the storm, and estimates put the property damage at twenty billion dollars.
                        One bright spot in all of this is the response of the presidential candidates to the disaster.  President Obama immediately put his campaign on hold to ensure that emergency crews had the resources they needed and that citizens in the path of the hurricane were kept as safe as possible.  Romney used his visibility at prearranged rallies to encourage people to contribute to or volunteer with relief organizations that would be helping mitigate the effects of the storm.  It is good to see that even so close to election day, the candidates can put aside their political differences to work for the safety of those affected by this natural disaster.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Frustrating Dreams

                       The past few nights I have been having a series of odd dreams.  Odd for me at least, but then, my dreams are usually fantastic adventures that have little or nothing to do with everyday life.  These dreams, however, are actually more like memories.
                       So far, I have had only one memory-dream per night.  But the memory repeats over and over, a different memory each night.  Each one is a moment that I wish I had handled differently, usually because I ended up hurting someone's feelings.  After the first two or three repeats, I start to be able to change things, but the changes are never for the better.  I wake up miserable, feeling guilty and vaguely as if I made things worse somehow, even though it's just a dream.
                       I assume that this has something to do with unresolved feelings about those moments, but I don't know what more I can do.  It's not like I can go back and change things, even if I managed to not make things worse as I do in my dreams.  And most of the people involved I'm no longer even in contact with.
                       Dreams are frustrating.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Warning: Political Rant Ahead

                    Okay.  I know we in the United States are in the middle of a Presidential campaign.  I know that people tend to feel very strongly about politics.  That's fine with me.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and frankly, of all the things you can get worked up about, the leadership of your homeland is definitely one of the better ones.  What really cheeses me off, though, is that the things that my friends and co-workers choose to harp on are either not relevant to the candidate's ability to do the job (Biden smiled too much during the debate?  Really?) or else are parroting party lines without acknowledging, much less seeming to care about, context.
                    Our electoral system isn't perfect.  I'll be the first to admit that.  But whatever deficits it may have, I'm quite certain that it was never intended to be a glorified popularity contest.  Yet that is exactly what I see unfolding around me.  Obama ads that bash Romney for his forty-seven percent comment, because it makes Romney unpopular.  Romney ads that focus on Obama's poor debate performances, because it makes Romney look better by comparison.  All around me I hear and see people talking about how this candidate was rude, or that candidate was too aggressive.
                    Whatever happened to researching the candidate's positions and making a logical, informed decision?  Is this idea merely the fevered product of my imagination?  I don't even care which candidate a person supports, as long as their conversation indicates that they have actually thought about the matter.  Unfortunately, few of my acquaintances seem to have given it even token thought.  Am I really the only one who doesn't just swallow their preferred political party's propaganda?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

This One Epic I Know

                       It has occurred to me that if people *cough*AuntVivi*cough* want to get to know me through my writing, I should probably spend some time talking about Ironheart.  You see, about four and a half years ago, while I was still attending College of St. Benedict in Minnesota, I started looking for online Dungeons & Dragons games to join.  I had been introduced to the game by a college friend, but no one on campus (that I knew of) had the time and motivation to run one.  So I turned to play-by-post internet forums, hoping to gain enough experience with the system that I might be comfortable running a game myself.  As it turned out, I did find and join a number of short-lived play-by-post D&D games online.  I also found Escape from Ironheart.
                       Escape from Ironheart was a free-form role-playing game, loosely placed in a D&D setting, but with no dice rolls and a much higher emphasis on characterization and storytelling.  It had already been running for six months, but due to several players dropping out, the DM, or storyteller, was looking for fresh meat  players to round out the group.  The concept was that Ironheart was the name of a prison, and all the players were prisoners attempting to Escape from Ironheart.  I submitted a character, Pyrene the Temptress, and was accepted into the game.
                       Little did I know, I was embarking on a literary journey that would last for years, meeting people who would become good friends despite, in most cases, never knowing each-other's real names.  There was Umber, one of the seven original vampires on a mission to save the love of his life.  Little Mar, an amnesiatic archangel trapped in a child's body.  Tare, the thief with a heart of gold and hidden powers.  Korram, a revolutionary who gave up his own arm for the power to oppose an evil ruler.  Ander, a holy paladin the gods returned from beyond the grave to cleanse the corrupt church.  And Sohssal, a mage who's search for immortality lead him to steal power from demons.
                       Together we wrote our way through Escape from Ironheart, and discovered that we had actually completed only the first part of a trilogy in the mind of Inspectre, the masterful storyteller who had woven our disparate tales together.  Invested as we were by then in the characters and the overarching plot, we all chose to continue.  As of this writing, we have completed the second part of the trilogy, Flight from Ironheart, and are a few months into the final installment, Return to Ironheart.  Other players have joined us, some only to fall away again, others staying for the long haul.  Those of us who have continued together have become a family of sorts, supporting each other through life events big and small, good and bad.
                       I have enormous respect for Inspectre and all my fellow players.  Every one of them has awed and inspired me with their writing.  Knowing them has challenged me to keep pushing the boundaries of my own ability, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Setting of a Future Race

                         Yesterday, I posted the mythology of a race from a science fiction setting I've been working out in my head.  Since no one commented with ideas about what the setting might be, I'm going to assume that either I didn't drop enough hints (very likely) and/or people were too busy to particularly care (also very likely).  So today, I'm going to explain the background for that post, both for anyone who was curious and for my own record.
                         The setting I have in mind is our own world, but it is at least a couple hundred years from now.  Somewhere in the first hundred years, humanity entered World War III, and a biological weapon was deployed.  Consisting of a water-borne virus with a long incubation period, it was designed to go unnoticed until an entire population was infected, before inducing hallucinations and ultimately a state of coma-like brain death.  However, it was accidentally released into the atmosphere, and within weeks had infected all open water sources.  Within a year, every human in the world had been exposed to it.  Within eighteen months, humanity was effectively extinct.
                         But the world went on.  Most mammals were unaffected by the virus, occasionally serving as immune carriers, but little else.  There was, however, one notable exception to this rule: dogs.  Domesticated dogs, starving and with few other sources of food, started eating the human bodies that were literally lying everywhere around them, ingesting the virus in the process.  In them, the virus interacted differently (perhaps mutating in the process) to form a symbiotic relationship with the canine brain.  Over the course of a few generations, this resulted in the species becoming dramatically more intelligent, to the point of sentience.  The newly evolved Canis sapiens quickly became the dominant species on the planet, forming unique cultures, technologies, and at least one religion.
                         The mythology that I posted yesterday was the creation story of that religion - based on tales passed down from ancestors who's memories and understanding of the human part of history were blurred, at best.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Mythology of a Future Race

                      In the beginning, there were the gods.  And the gods were many as the hairs of the coat, and covered the whole world.  Yet still the gods were lonely, so they said to one another, "Let us make companions for ourselves, who shall be as Children to us, and we shall love them."
                      So it was that the gods took Beasts of the land, and raised them up to be Children of the gods.  And the Children of the gods flourished and spread across all the land, until they numbered more than even the gods.  Many of the gods loved them, but certain of the gods were Corrupt, and began to fear and to hate them, for the Children were many, but they were innocent, and in their innocence showed the Corrupt their own evils.
                      And the Corrupt began to mistreat the Children, saying, "They are only wild Beasts."
                      And the Pure gods admonished the Corrupt, saying, "They are our Children, do them no harm."
                      But the Corrupt would not cease, and soon there was a Great War over all the world, as the Pure and the Corrupt fought for the fate of the Children.  And the Great War was as a Beast which devoured the land for many generations.  Then the First of the Pure looked at the world and wept, for the Children suffered by the Great War, even where the Pure reigned.  So the First gathered the Pure and said "We must combine our power, and take the Corrupt out of this world, so that the Great War will plague our Children no longer.  But such a miracle will require a Sacrifice, for we too will go out of this world."
                      And the Pure answered with one voice, "We will Sacrifice for the good of the Children, and our Bodies shall sustain them."
                      So the Pure joined their power, and they abandoned their Bodies.  And they hunted the Corrupt, and took them out from their Bodies, so that in all the world the gods were no more.  Then they created a new world, where the Pure could dwell in peace.  But the Corrupt also created a new world, and they began a Second Great War between the worlds.
                      Then the Children ate of the Bodies the gods had left in Sacrifice, and they grew wise as the gods were wise, and knew good from evil.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This Space Reserved

                   When I can think of something to write, I will fill in today's blog here.  Unfortunately, if I intend to do anything besides sit at the table and stare at a blank screen before I leave for work, I don't think I'm going to have a blog post up before I get home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Vampires and Rapunzel

                   Today is a test of my resolution to write every day.  After a ten hour shift worked on five hours of sleep, I am finally writing something.  With the help of my wonderful boyfriend, who has been pestering me to quit being distracted by webcomics and work on my blog post, of course.
                   He says I should write about vampires, but I don't really have any ideas for vampires - not so much as a character quote or story concept.  I don't like working with a subject that has been done so many times unless I feel I have a unique twist to add to it.  And while I may personally hate the Twilight conception of vampires, I do have to admit that Stephanie Meyer at least gave an old idea a new life.
                   Lately, I feel that most of my best ideas have to do with reinventing classic fairy tales.  For instance, what would happen if Rapunzel was actually a spoiled teenager, and not the innocent captive so typically portrayed?  How does it change the story, and the characters, if the moralities are reversed in that way?
                   The first problem I run into with this concept, is that I don't know how to write a spoiled teen without making her sound like a child.  Every attempt I have made to script this Rapunzel, even just in my head, makes her sound about six years old.  Since I imagine that this would probably be a third-person perspective following Rapunzel, that makes her speech a crucial part of the story.
                   I also don't know the setting.  Is it a classic medieval fantasy setting, or a more modern one?  If I attempt a modern (or even science fiction) fairy tale, how do I incorporate the sense of isolation that is so crucial to the storyline?  In our ever more connected world, how can that isolation be anything but illusory, and how can the character of the prince fail to notice it?  But in a classic fantasy setting, the prince should be able to spend five minutes with Rapunzel and decide that she's not worth rescuing, causing him to ride off on his white horse and never return.
                   With a little luck, I'll glean some of those answers from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, the book I am reading right now.  The character of Estella is not dissimilar to the Rapunzel I want to create, though unlike Miss Havisham, the "witch" character should not actively encourage Rapunzel's worst qualities, simply fail to curb them.
.                  .                 .
                   And with that, my train of thought has reached an abrupt end of the line.  Perhaps tomorrow I will have more to say on this subject.  Or perhaps I will end up talking about something completely different.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Fairy Tale Storeroom

                 The door to the storeroom is nothing special: just a rough wooden door, the wide boards ill-joined and ill-fitted to the frame.  It might be the entrance to any random broom closet.  Yet, when opened, a golden radiance streams out, one that ought to have been impossible to miss through the gaps and cracks in the door.
                 Should an observer, eyes watering in the sudden glare, summon the courage to step inside, he would see an assortment of priceless items tumbled in careless heaps under the magical light.  A pair of glass slippers, one with a broken heel, perch precariously upon an enormous mound of braided blonde hair.  A red woolen riding cloak, sized for a child, hangs from the spindle of a large spinning wheel.  The spinning wheel, in turn, balances atop a large stone bearing an inscription, the words half-hidden by a large black cauldron with three clawed feet.
                 This is where the discarded odds and ends of fairy tales ultimately come to rest.  Forgotten and abandoned by the heroes that relied upon them, they make their way here, waiting to be needed once again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thinking VS Wanting

                Lately I've been thinking a lot about dreams, and the things that block them.  I have heard professionals in various fields - people who have already overcome obstacles and made a name for themselves - say that if you didn't make it, you didn't want it badly enough.  I'm not sure that I agree with that completely, but they do have a point.  If you want something badly enough, even believing you can't do it doesn't stop you from trying.  This blog is a case in point.  It is me dusting off my self-esteem and giving writing another chance.  Do I honestly think that this will in some way lead to me being published?  Probably not, but at least it is an outlet for the desire.
                I think most people go through life having given up on a dream, to be a writer, or a lawyer, or a singer.  We start to learn what it takes to fulfill our dream, and comparing ourselves to the leaders in the field, and we commit the error that kills all dreams: We think "I can't do that."
                At least, that's how it worked for me.  I can remember a number of dreams I've given up on: singer, teacher, and artist being just a few.  In each case, there was a point, or many points, where I looked at the work of someone who had been doing it far longer than myself and thought, "I can't do that."  Whether the statement is true or not almost doesn't matter - the fact is that by saying it, I sabotaged myself.  Instead of letting the achievements of those people inspire me to do better, I gave up, in my own mind, the possibility of improving.  I let what I thought I could do stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
                Now, the phrase also implies that anyone can achieve any dream if they simply want it badly enough, and I disagree with that.  Not everyone is cut out to be an Olympic gold medalist, or a brain surgeon, or an attorney general.  One of the problems with our culture, in my opinion, is the idea that if you are not one of the leaders (however that is defined) that your work is inherently less valuable.  This not only causes the culture to look down on entire classes of employment (construction, sanitation, retail, etc) but also to marginalize the value of those who do basic, necessary tasks in "more respectable" classes of employment.
                Anyone can be a leader, but everyone cannot.  A world full of CEOs would collapse, with no one knowing how to raise crops, maintain sewer and water lines, or repair any but the most basic structural damages.  The example is extreme, but the principle holds true in any field.  The singer who puts out one album, or none, is no less intrinsically valuable because she gives pleasure to a smaller audience.  The teenager flipping burgers has no less right to self-esteem and to respect from others because he is not the store manager.
                It is good and necessary to have dreams of better things, but we as individuals and as a culture need to take the time to acknowledge and respect the role of the followers as well as the leaders.  As individuals, we need to not be intimidated by what we think we can do, but rather strive to be the best we can be.  Equally, we need to be content if, reaching the peak of our ability, we are not the leaders of the pack.
                Don't let what you want to be undermine your pleasure in what you are.  And don't let what you think you are keep you from becoming what you want to be.

EDIT Jan. 4, 2013:  Feel Good Friday: The Lion in the Mirror is a sort-of follow-up on this post.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Beginning

                Welcome to One Writer's Workshop, a snapshot of the many and varied paths my mind wanders along!  I will be attempting to post *something* here on a daily basis.  It may be story snippets, character ideas, or just whatever I happen to be thinking about when I start writing.  Regardless, you can be fairly certain that if I'm posting it here, it is, at best, a rough draft, so please be patient with any grammar errors, redundancies, or other such "first draft" issues.
                To be honest I'm not sure what I am hoping to get out of this blog.  Partly it is a way to kick-start my writing habits, which have fallen into rather serious neglect of late.  Partly it is a way to record the often interesting (to me) places my mind goes when my body is occupied with routine tasks.  And perhaps partly it is a way of exploring the deep and tender places of myself.  Why I would choose to put that exploration on display I still don't fully understand, but nevertheless I cannot help but feel that this is the right decision.
                I hope you enjoy this meandering tour of the inside of my head.  I look forward to discovering many wonders with you.