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Album Challenge

Many and Great Mistakes - The Desolation Project

Album Cover

The challenge:

Imagine this image is the album cover for your new band, The Desolation Project. However, you’ve been slack, and you haven’t actually written the songs for the album yet. Oops!

Your challenge is to come up with titles for ten songs that will be a perfect fit for this album.

I’ve been meaning to post my entry for several days, but I’ve been busy. Life, etc. You know.

Anyway, tonight (3/26/2012) was the deadline, and we voted, and although I didn’t even consider mine up to par with the others, much to my surprise, it won. Here’s what I came up with.

I wish the other five folks would post theirs because they were all so good. This was probably the hardest time I had selecting my top two picks of any of the challenges to date. Congratulations are due to Kate McCridhe and Paolo Alfa, who came in second and third, respectively.

We all went with “Concept Albums” where the songs all tied together on some theme. It’s funny, too, that I don’t think any of us overlapped at all, although I tried to overlap with one other person, but could never make the title work. She did, and it blew me away. “Lullaby for a Sonogram.” Mine was going to be something like “Trojan Defeated.” Hers clearly rocks; mine just as clearly does not. I’m glad I went with “Hod’s Missile (Toe)” instead.

Now, because I’m anal retentive (Should that be hyphenated?), I’ve put a link on each title to explain what it is in reference to, in case you don’t know. Probably very unnecessary, but . . . it’s what I do. The Icarus one is supposed to refer to the hang-glider in the image, and the Quixote one is supposed to refer to the windmills. Now you know more than you probably wanted to.

Note: The image above was created by Sherry D. Ramsey and I’m using it without any sort of permission at all.

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Live Reading of “D Is for Dragon”

Dragon (the dragon bridge in Ljubljana, Republic of Slovenia) by Zoe52, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  Zoe52 

Hi, everyone. I wanted to let people know that this-coming Thursday night, March 22nd, 2012, at 6 PM SLT (Second Life Time), I will be reading my story “D Is for Dragon” live.

Second Life Time is the same as US Pacific Time, so that’s 6 PM on the west coast, 9 PM on the east coast, and 10 PM if you live in those extreme eastern provinces in Canada. You can probably do the math to find your local correct time.

The reading will occur in the Workshop building, on the second floor beside the traditional meeting circle. Our area is in the Pen Station region. The reading is a voice event, so attendees are encouraged to come with their “ears on” and their microphones off. Since the event is also being recorded, we request that you refrain from using audio “gestures” or other devices that create ambient noise.

If you get on, my name on Second Life is “Sathor Chatnoir.” Contact me or “Timothy Berkmans” (our host for all things podcasterrific) for a landmark to the event site, or click on that link above (on “Workshop building”). Show up early (15 to 20 minutes, I’d say) so you can adjust your settings for voice.

The recording (or perhaps a cleaner one) will appear on our podcast in the next couple of months.

Those of you who are not already on Second Life can get on (For free!) by going to the web site (See that handy link earlier in this sentence?), downloading the software (For free!), and creating a character (For free!). Those of you who don’t want to be on Second Life can wait for the podcast. (For free!)

Those of you who <sniff> don’t want to <sniff> hear my story (that I worked so hard on), I <sniff> understand. Really. It’s <sniff; wavering voice> OK. <sniff> Really.

For free! Did I mention that? (For free!)

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An Interesting Metaphor for Writing

I was just listening to a podcast (The Skeptics Guide to the Universe) on which author Scott Sigler was discussing his upcoming novel Nocturnal. It’s a science horror novel, which means that it’s a horror novel, but not based on anything supernatural; he meticulously made sure that everything in the novel is based on real science.

During his interview, they digressed onto how upset people were with the endings of Battlestar Galactica and Lost.

Supposedly, the creators of BSG and Lost both claimed originally that they had plotted out everything before they started shooting. The Lost creators in particular claimed that everything was important, and viewers analyzed every frame of video.

Then, after the series finale, the Lost creators admitted they were making it up as they went. There was no intended end-point from the beginning. Every plot was pulled out of the air, with very little to no thought given to continuity or arc.

Sigler compared the two styles of writing to an architect and a gardener.

An architect designs a building from the foundation to the roof, noting with precision where plumbing, wiring, fixtures, structural details, etc. are going to be located in the end product. And when the building is constructed, the building is a physical representation of the architect’s design right down to the finest detail. A beautiful example of this style of writer is Connie Willis. In several interviews I’ve heard with her, she has said she leaves nothing—or precious little—to chance. The plot is outlined before she writes a word. The characters are designed to fulfill the plot’s requirements.

A gardener, on the other hand, plants a bunch of seeds. He has some idea of the impact he intends, but these are plants, and who knows whether they’ll come up as intended—or at all—or how much they’ll grow or whether they’ll be the right color? And after everything sprouts, he can either replant or prune or fertilize, and what comes out of the other end is an organic (sorry, I couldn’t resist) product that may or may not be what he originally had in mind. It may look similar, or it may be something entirely different, even if it is just as æsthetically pleasing. This is where I am. It’s also called “discovery writing.”

I will add a third one to the mix to represent what I’d like to aim for. I don’t want to be an architect; the way I write, I would get bored with the story because in my mind, if I’ve drawn the blueprint that meticulously…then why write the story? And I will readily admit that the gardener approach isn’t working for me, either. I plant so many seeds that don’t produce, but in the meanwhile, they sprout and have to be weeded out. I waste a lot of words going down blind paths that don’t lead anywhere or scenes where the characters veer off into discussions that ultimately have to be pruned.

What I would like to aim for is the landscape designer. Someone who plans based on the best information they have, with an idea to what the project should look like in the end, but who also realizes that sometimes changes have to be made along the way. The ground might be harder in the spot where you wanted to have the pansies, so instead you put your bird bath there and move the pansies over here, but now the phlox has to go over there

And sometimes, the landscape designer ends up with something that they never intended, but is better than what they set out for at the beginning. But because they had a plan, it still has the backbones in place.

OK, maybe the analogy gets a bit forced there, toward the end. But at least it gives me a convenient way to keep it in my head.

And you know is the first writer that comes to mind when I think “Landscape Designer”? J. Michael Straczynski, creator and main writer for the wonderful TV series “Babylon 5.” He had a five-year arc for the show and each character. But when the star of the show decided to leave (amicably) after one season, he had a contingency plan. And when an actor in the second season decided her character wasn’t getting enough to do and wanted out in spite of the fact that her character was going to be a huge, critical role down the road, he had a contingency plan. And when another main character departed after the fourth season, he had a contingency plan. And each time, the show quietly dealt with the loss, working them into the plot and coming out the other end better. Or if not entirely better, at least not utterly destroyed (I’m sure I don’t have to argue that the fifth season would have been better with Ivanova instead of Lochley, but that Lochley didn’t ruin the show, either).

I’m going to stop, here, before I gush more about Babylon 5, which you should be watching right now instead of whatever trivial thing you’re doing.

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