Sunday, March 31, 2013

New Baby, A to Z and Turning 31, Oh My!

I'm starting this post at 3 am because there's a hungry newborn baby in my arms. Severian Wolfe, born March 20th, continues mine and my husband's insane tradition of naming our kids after literary characters. Our first two are named after Elves from Tolkien's Middle-earth. The two after that are named after a prince and princess from Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles. Severian, number 5, is named after the main character from Gene Wolfe's (you see what we did there) The Book of the New Sun series. (Wolfe is also a reference to the lupine character from The 10th Kingdom movie.)

Who's the precious? You are!

Needless to say, this had made daily life rather busy lately. Hence my relative silence. And yet here I am signed up for the A to Z on Monday. I've been trying to come up with a good theme for the past month or so. I've tried several out and sat down to work out what to use for each letter and hit upon about 5 or 6 dead letters each time. Anyone who thinks blogging by the alphabet is easy should be shot. So in the end I've decided to fall back on the theme I picked for last year. The year when I signed up for the A to Z, put out 6 posts and then abruptly failed to do anything for the rest of the month. I guess this will be my opportunity to finish what I started since I had a lot of positive feedback on A through F. (Of course, I'll be using different words for those letters this year.)

The A to Z Fantastic will examine 26 qualities of fantasy literature that I think make it unique and wonderful. And I promise I'll finish it this time.

If all this weren't enough, today is my 31st birthday. Which means that I've been 30 for a whole year. I can remember when the thought of being 30 was horrifying, but the truth is it's been a surprisingly good experience. I've learned a lot more about myself in the last year than I have in a long time. I've noticed many changes from my younger days and I think that it's fair to say they were universally good changes. It's almost shocking, but I'm enjoying getting older. I feel like a better person than I've ever been before.

So all in all I am looking forward to April. I've always loved the Spring with its feeling of growth and potential permeating the air. This year I feel particularly hopeful about the coming months. I feel like I'm in a good place to really accomplish some things this year. Now how do you keep the evil spirit of procrastination away?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blogfest! My Favorite Movies

Today I signed up to post for Alex Cavanaugh's Top 10 Movie Countdown blogfest. And the truth is, I've been trying to figure out what my favorite movies are for the past week with little success. Oh some choices are obvious.

All three of the original Indiana Jones films were huge influences on me in my childhood. It was Raiders of the Lost Ark that sparked my love of ancient history and made me want to be an archaeologist for several years. Of course, when I became older and wiser I learned that what Indy does is not archaeology, but I never lost my fascination for ancient cultures that these movies inspired.

The Last Crusade is my favorite of the three. You simply can't go wrong when you pair Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. I'm also probably one of the few people who thought the new movie was fun and decent. Harrison Ford was still Indy and that's enough for me.

Jumping ahead, in the last few years I've discovered the films of Hayao Miyazaki and fallen completely head over heals in love.

Japanese animation is a great storytelling medium and Miyazaki is its King. I cannot overestimate his genius, every single one of his films is a work of wonder and delight and incredible imagination. ALL Miyazaki films are better than at least 95% of the other fare out there. I've blogged about Spirited Away before, but brilliant as that one is, it's not one of my favorites of his.

For me, his first epic masterpiece, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, is still the best. It's a story set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity is fighting for survival against a poisonous environment only to discover that their ancestors were responsible for the devastation that threatens to wipe out human life. The land its self has set up a system of purification, but can humanity survive long enough to see the remade earth? Nausicaa believes that only learning to live in harmony with the earth again can save them, but not everyone agrees and war sweeps across the kingdoms that remain while Nausicaa fights for life. The world of Nausicaa is vividly imagined and the conflict is both awesomely epic and deeply personal. The score is also one of my favorites. Joe Hisaishi, who does all of Miyazaki's scores, is as unparalleled a musical genius as Miyazaki is a storytelling genius.

Then there's Princess Mononoke. Everything about this film is beautiful. The magical forest environment where most of the action takes place, the nuanced characters, the amazing musical score. This is a story which never takes the easy way out. It asks tough questions about how humans should treat their environment, it pits several different characters with differing viewpoints against each other and yet there is no "bad guy" and no one faction wins in the end. The message is clear: life is sacred and hatred can do nothing but destroy.

Other awesome Miyazaki films that everyone should definitely see include: Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Ponyo. Though like I said, every single one he does is great.

Dune. Not the cheesy 80s movie. The visually spectacular, and much more faithful, mini series adaptation. (Do mini series count for this? They'll have to.) The book Dune is my favorite though its cerebral nature makes it a hard read. Somehow, the makers of this mini series managed to take a book that should be nearly impossible to film effectively and create an amazing visual interpretation that enhanced rather than detracted from my enjoyment of the book. (Which is saying something. I am a book to movie purist all the way.) The actors deserve major kudos for their portrayals of some of the most nuanced and real characters ever to grace genre fiction. If you like the Dune books and you've never seen this adaptation then you're really missing out.

I'll finish this not-a-Top-10-Countdown list with a couple of my favorite fantasy movies.

I admit it. I'm a sucker for David Bowie as the Goblin King. Dance Magic Dance. Also, Labyrinths are just cool.

"Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles."

What more could you ask for? That quote is actually from the book, by the way, which, yes, is still better than the movie. Though not by much.

All right, I cheated and didn't actually list 10 movies. I'm not good at categorizing my favorites. (Don't ask me why I signed up to do just that.) These are some of my favorite movies. They are movies that have had an influence on me as a person and as a storyteller.

Truth be told, I've always been more of a book person. ;)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Learning to say "It is good"

Take an insecurity and ratchet it all the way up and what do you get? An anxiety.

I've probably obliquely mentioned that I have anxiety issues before. But I'm one of those people who likes to (needs to, really) maintain a veneer of being calm and collected no matter how I feel on the inside. So while I'm projecting this...

There's a very real chance that on the inside I look more like this...

And the problem with the anxiety that I suffer is that it's general, meaning that at any given point in time I'm feeling strong anxiety about nothing in particular that manifests its self by making everything I want to do difficult. My anxiety isn't based on anything real or anything rational for the most part. And let me tell you, that drives me insane. Because I am a very rational and logical person. So I can sit back and examine my symptoms of anxiety and KNOW that there's nothing to be anxious about, no reason to argue about the possible consequences of every little thing, no basis to most of my fears. And yet, that knowledge has absolutely no affect on my symptoms. I simply can't control the physical effects of my fear. I can't stop the breathing difficulty or the rapidly beating heart or the muscular paralysis or anything else that I experience every time I need to make an important phone call. (That's right, I get severe anxiety from making phone calls. It's stupid and really, really inconvenient and I've been struggling against it for years with no results.)

Quite honestly, anxiety is something that people who have never suffered from it can't understand most of the time.

And I'm talking about this today because in addition to phone calls, trying new tastes, needles and other various things I suffer from anxiety of putting my own words out there for other people to read. I know that this is what's been holding me back for a long time as a writer. It was easier, once upon a time, when I didn't really consider publication as the goal of my writing. I just wrote because I couldn't help it and the only person I ever showed any of it to was my husband. Now that every word I write has the potential to be seen by the public...

Well, let's just say I even have a hard time hitting the publish button on blog posts. There's a part of me always second guessing myself, whispering "You could have said that much better with a bit more time". But down that road lies madness. If you start telling yourself that with a bit more work it could be so much better (even though it's true) then you'll never get around to publishing anything because it could ALWAYS get better. None of us are sitting down to the computer and typing up perfection on the first draft or even the 50th.

For me, this particular madness is preemptive. Before I even get a first draft down the voices are whispering to me, "Why bother? You'll never get it right. It will always fall short of what you want it to be." And that's probably true as well. It's probably been true of all the masterpieces of literature that were ever published. In one way or another, they fell short of the author's vision. And yet we have those masterpieces because at some point the writer looked at his or her creation and said "It is good." Not "It is perfect and could never get better" but simply "It is good."

I haven't managed to reach this point yet, but I'm working on it. I suspect simple discipline is necessary and I am admittedly not a very disciplined person in my habits. That's something I plan to work on this year.

So how about you? Do you struggle with this anxiety? Have you found ways of combating it? I could use all the tips and tricks I can get.