Whovians: Fans versus “Fans”

“There is no cause so right that you will not find fools following it.” –Larry Niven

Thus it seems with fandoms. There is no story so good, so innocent, or so full of lessons worth passing on that you will not find even one fan prepared to stink it up.

I know that. It’s an unfortunate part of human nature; no matter how good something is, no matter how good most of the fans are, there are always a few out there who make the rest of us look bad. Continue reading

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Patreon is Live!…. ish

https://www.patreon.com/sidequestpublications

I’ve created a Patreon “Creator” profile to help with my writing and to offer up early access to my novels and free short stories to anyone willing to become a patron.

I’m still working some kinks out with making intro and thank you videos, but the profile is, for all practical purposes, up and running.

The only thing left that I need to do is post the prologue to my current work in progress, to provide a free sample of the work being funded. Such a sample will be found on:
Pioneers of the Shatteredwaters on WordPress.com
Side Quest Publication on deviantArt.com
and of course on Side Quest Publications on Patreon
As well to as any site set to auto-sync from any of these.

So check it out! And if you happen to have a few dollars you’re willing to throw my way… I appreciate the patronage.

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Bugging Me: Fictional “Fat” People

That should read “fictional overweight people,” but “fat” works better for the title’s rhythm. Also it’s fewer letters and some sites are weird about title length.

Anyway:

The problem that bugs me lately is overweight people in fiction. Specifically, the problem is how they are sometimes handled in fiction.

There are the obvious problems: the overweight person is treated like a slob, or lazy, or greedy, or any number of other reasons that translate to “they’re overweight because they can be,” and is usually the villain, while the hero has this super thin supermodel figure because of whatever reason.
Or the reverse, perhaps the thin person is sickly and the overweight person is considered “normal” by society’s standards.
The time the story is set besides the point, neither of these portrayals are particularly realistic, but that isn’t even the problem I have right now. No, my problem stems from the fact that authors need to point out the characters’ weight at all.

It’s fine if your story happens to include characters who are overweight; this, as I unfortunately know from personal experience, reflects reality.
It is just as fine to not include overweight characters, provided you either simply don’t call attention to it (that is, you never actually claim that none of the characters are overweight), or you have a good in-story reason for not including them (such as a dystopia in which everybody is starving… though even then, glandular disorders can still realistically create overweight characters).

It is fine to have a particular character fixate on their weight, if you are establishing this character as having an eating disorder, an odd personality quirk, or is just really into eating healthy… perhaps, in the last case, they have a family history of certain health problems and are trying too hard to offset that history.
It is fine to have a character fixate on their weight if you are establishing something about the world they live in, whether it’s that society’s definition of “beauty,” or some magical influence in which casting spells is as much a workout as running ten miles.

It is fine, even preferable, to have a considerable variety of characters and an equal variety of their reasons for their figures, just as you would with any other trait.

All of this is perfectly fine… provided you never actually mention a number or any other specific details.
Because once you start giving the reader specifics, you had best make sure those specifics are realistic. Otherwise you’ll find yourself offending a lot of people over what may well be an insignificant detail.

Do not, for instance, do not, give me a mother of three grown children who is lamenting the fact that she has to wear a size 12 as though only “fat” people wear something that big, unless you can give me a damn good reason the character should be unusually small.
Why? Because that isn’t fat!
Look, I have never been pregnant, so I don’t have that influencing my weight. I’m still in my thirties, so while I’m certainly not going to get younger, I should (theoretically) find it easier to lose my excess weight than someone in, say, their fifties. I have a medium frame… but I’m short.
Assuming I build some lean muscle and lose that excess fat, size 12 is right around what I should be wearing. I’m basing that, not on how big I’d like to be, not on what “seems normal,” but on how big my doctor says I ought to be.
But someone who has been pregnant, not once, but three times, is old enough for all three children to be fully grown, and gives not a single detail on her frame or height? Okay, so she “doesn’t think of herself as tall,” but she’s never claimed to be short, so I’m assuming she’s average for a woman. And since her frame isn’t mentioned either, I’ll assume medium. And she isn’t a runway model, nor a ballerina, nor an athlete, nor anything else that requires extreme attention to her weight. By all rights, she should be wearing a few sizes larger than me. Yet she with her size-12 “I wish I could still wear a size 8″ attitude thinks she is fat.
And the only purpose this element served in the story is to show off that magical influence; she tires and sweats and yes, even loses weight, simply by casting what appear to be extremely simplistic spells in the form of songs. And even after another sorcerer had explained this effect to her, she still doesn’t understand how she is losing so much weight, and fears that she’ll eat enough to bloat back up because the spellcasting leaves her hungry all the time. There was nothing in the plot that required giving readers such a specific number….

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CampNoWriMo 2015 Day 0

Alternate title: I’ll finish that novel yet!

Welcome to my first ever Camp NaNoWriMo listing. I’ll be working on my fantasy pirate novel, currently titled The Graft, for the duration of April and beyond. You can check out my profile over on the site if you’d like, or even encourage my progress by sponsoring me and helping The Office of Letters and Light raise money to buy school supplies and the like.

Just like with my NaNoWriMo posts, I plan to update my Camp NaNo progress a day late, and the numbers reflect that. That is, Day 1’s progress will be labelled for Day 1, but posted Day 2, Day 2’s progress will be posted Day 3, and so on.

Unlike NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo allows me to set my own goal. I can, if I choose, take it easy and write a short story and leave it at that, or a collection of short stories, or poems, or a script, or whatever.
It also doesn’t look nearly as bad if I don’t write every single day, or if I don’t make a specific daily count every day.
So this time around, I won’t be updating you with word count progress… just plot progress.

For Camp NaNo, I opted to, as that alternate title would suggest, finish a novel that I started during my second NaNo event, back in 2011.
Because I am going to be editing as well as adding new content, the novel’s current word count will be included in my total; as such, I elected to set my Camp NaNo’s word count goal as 75,000, which requires me to add at least 30,000 words to the current draft. Perhaps I shall change that as I go, depending on what sort of progress I make…. :D

Good luck to all the campers out there, and let’s get writing!

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My Authors, Male and Female

I’m a member of one of the NaNoWriMo groups on FaceBook, and the question of how many male and female writers we read seems to appear a lot lately on those pages.

Granted, the real questions were about how many male versus female authors male readers read, but it inspired me to examine my own personal library. Continue reading

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Language and Misunderstandings–When Worlds Collide!

Okay, this blog is, or was supposed to be when I created it, mostly about my fictional pursuits.

Yeah, I knew that wouldn’t last long.

This post… isn’t about those pursuits. Not even close. Though a creatively-inclined person could work it into a story if you so chose.

No, this post is about the misunderstandings that arise when we don’t say quite what we mean, and who holds responsibility for those misunderstandings. Especially when the misunderstandings carry tones of prejudiced attitudes.

I recently found myself dragged into an argument–because I allowed myself to be, as these things happen–about the use of fictional languages versus real ones.

Continue reading

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Trouble With Outsourcing–Best Buy

Someone once told me, years back, that it was “racist” to expect a business to require its employees to know English when dealing with English-speaking customers.

No, I didn’t get it, either.

I’m sorry, but language is learned. It is something we choose to use. It is not part of the completely-beyond-your-control details that make your race your race. Ergo, it should be impossible for such an expectation to be “racist.”

But besides that, can you see, from a business point of view, just how that logic fails?
That’s right, this person told me that it is racist to expect people who are paid to provide me with a service, a service that I pay for, to understand what I am saying so that they can provide that service accurately and efficiently.

That’s not racism; that’s good business sense. Continue reading

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My Artistic Flaws to Overcome

Otherwise known as, my personal failings as an artist. ;)

Not exactly a “New Year’s Resolution” list–I’m nearly a month late on posting that–but it could serve the same purpose.

Anyway, the things I’m trying to overcome as an artist:

1. I’m impatient.
I can take a long time to get a story written down without trouble, but I can generally see the event unfolding in my mind only slightly faster than I’m capable of typing.
But with a single drawing, I see the entire image in my head, all at once, and I want to get it down! Right! Now!

I’ve long ago learned that what looks like a simple sketch might take a more practiced artist (which is to say, one with any practice at all) several hours to draw, so I know I’m being unreasonably impatient with my own work.
But there is a fine line between knowing this and being able to act on it.

And on the subject of projects that take far longer to create than to imagine, I’ve recently taken up woodcarving, and would also (once I have the tools) like to give wood burning a try.
So now I really need to work on drawing; I’d like to make some of my own patterns, instead of relying entirely on images other people provide… though there’s nothing wrong with using a premade pattern for practice, or occasionally for gifting under certain circumstances.

2. I hate to waste resources.
It is almost entirely for this reason that I prefer working digitally. Granted, the ability to undo a mistake with the click of a button is nice, but what really interests me is that I can never “use up” my papers and pens.
But I do have plenty of sketchbooks, bought over the years with practicing in mind. As I admitted to a friend on deviantArt, how is that not waste if I never use them?

3. To follow up with the digital art, I like to experiment.
I take very much a “what does this button do” approach when trying out different tools and features. I’ll willingly use any shortcut for the sheer curiosity of seeing what it does.
That being said, I still try to make something good.

4. And another “digital” flaw–I am terrible at drawing on one surface (graphics pad) while looking at another (computer monitor).
I think a lot of people who do digital art have this problem.
The other common problem is that computers break down. If I rely entirely on digital art, never practicing on paper, then the loss of such a tool represents time that I am not practicing. Note that this is just as much a problem for writing as for drawing. And a digital file is much more easily corrupted than a piece of paper.

5. I am forgetful.
In seeking advice, I might ask an artist how he or she achieved a particular effect… and then ask that exact same question the next time that artist puts up something using the same effect.
This is also why I don’t enter many contests, or don’t often reply to comments or thank people for following/liking my work (or for offering constructive critiquing), in spite of leaving such messages in my inbox for the very purpose of reminding me.

6. In spite of being a writer by choice, I don’t always convey my intended meaning very well, especially in “real” communication (as opposed to all those fantasy narratives I dream of publishing).
Case in point, if I ask what tools you used to achieve a particular digital drawing, I’m not asking what program you used–I’ll actually ask what program it was if I want to know that, and I’ll usually only be interested in that for financial reasons.
No, if I ask you about tools, I’m asking about details like line thickness, opacity, number of layers, and so on. I consider those to be the tools. The program you’re using is merely the canvas you use those tools on, and makes less difference to me than whether the piece is digital or hand-drawn.
And speaking of which–the tools we use do not make the artist, but they can make a difference to the art, else why do we choose certain kinds? Why would we need to?
The answer: we choose them because they make a difference. Different tools work better for different projects, and our talent allows us to learn those tools and decide which one is best for the effect we want.
I see it one of two ways: either the time and talent, as “things” used to produce our art, are just as much tools as the physical implements (in which case tools most definitely do make the artist precisely because talent does ;) ) or….
The talent makes the artist, the artist chooses the tool, and the artist uses both talent and tool to make the art.

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Minor Nitpick: Context and Correct Word Usage

I could go so many ways with this one.

There are the “commonly confused word” lists, words that sound a lot alike but are spelled different and have obviously different meanings, like “its and it’s” or “there, they’re, and their.”
There are the (apparently) less commonly recognized, yet still commonly confused or misspelled words like “nitpick” or “knitpick.”
And there are words that aren’t really words (or so grammar teachers keep telling us) like “irregardless.”

Or there are the words that have no connection between them, that one couldn’t imagine how anybody could confuse them for each other, yet the confusions still happen.

My nitpick here is thus: What is with this trend of using the word “cannibal” to describe a man-eating creature regardless of what that creature’s own species is?
Are professional writers using a dictionary that is magically available only to them? Because I can’t find any definition of the word that specifically means eating people. A person eating other people, yes, but every definition I’ve seen is that a “cannibal” is something that eats its own kind.

Case in point: a cannibalistic human like Hannibal Lecter would eat other humans, yes.
But a cannibalistic tiger would eat other tigers.
A cannibalistic giant, as Doyle called the Allegewi in The Secret Saturdays, should eat other giants (not necessarily humans as the Allegewi was actually known to do and which was Doyle’s reason for calling it a cannibal).

And a cannibalistic tree would eat other trees, or “seeds and cones” as one kid claimed a carnivorous tree would do in… well, I’m not sure where I’d heard that one.
thought it was an episode of Sleepy Hollow, but I can’t seem to find that dialogue in any transcripts. Or maybe it was Grimm, but I’m having the same problem finding dialogue transcripts.
(I do recall quite clearly that the tree in question was found to be full of human skulls, so the double incorrect word choice besides the point, the kid was still wrong about that tree’s “diet.”)

That’s not to say that cannibalistic creatures would not also be man-eaters, just that that isn’t what the word means.
And there’s no way to tell whether this is the author using the wrong word for the purpose, or that the character is. There’s usually nothing else in these stories to suggest that the author–or the character–typically misuses different words, just that one instance with that one word.

And on the subject of words that are completely wrong for the context, how about one that’s less “nitpick” and more “blatantly annoys me?”
What about “deluxe” sandwiches at burger joints?
Now, I can understand using that word way back when, when burgers (or chicken sandwiches in my case) used to be fairly plain, and the lettuce and tomato on the “deluxe” version simply wasn’t provided on the regular cheaper kind.
But not any more. Rare is the sandwich without those toppings, and therefore rare is the need for a “deluxe” sandwich that adds only those toppings.
Deluxe means luxurious. And there is nothing luxurious about a sandwich with a poorer cut of meat, full of gristle, and fewer toppings than what the restaurant previously carried (like many of McDonald’s apparently disappearing Premium Chicken sandwich options like the Ranch BLT that I prefer), yet still costs just as much as that previous offering.
Or the “Ultimate” Chicken Grill at Wendy’s. Ultimate means “final” or “best”… so why  does Wendy’s bother promoting their Asiago, or any other kind of chicken sandwich, if they themselves believe that their plain “chicken lettuce and tomato” with no other toppings is better than anything else they could ever make?

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Places to See and Souvenirs to Find

So I was talking with some relatives and family friends about the State Quarters a while back, and it got me thinking about traveling.

Assuming, for sake of argument, that you had the time and money to go anywhere they wanted, how would you choose where to go next?
And what would you consider an ideal souvenir when you got there?

State Quarters and Random Destinations

The family friends had mentioned using the State and National Park quarters to make such a choice–when it’s time to go on a trip, you look through your pocket change, and you pick your destination from whichever states or parks are represented.
That may be fine if you’re willing to visit a random destination, and if you’re keeping your travels within the country.

But what if you want to go someplace specific? What if you want to visit another country?
My idea, then, would reverse this process. My idea is to visit another country, and obtain as a souvenir at least one coin of that place’s currency.

Specific Destinations and Souvenir Coins

The importance of the souvenir would depend on how I’ve obtained it: the best coins are those I acquire in the normal course of my stay, that I receive in my change when making purchases.
We have plenty of such coins from Canada and Germany alike, now I simply need the means and opportunity to visit other countries for the purpose.
Naturally countries that have gone over to a more “global” currency like the Euro would make this more difficult, but I would still try to obtain other coins.

The second, and less desirable, option would be to visit a shop that deals in older coins and buy the ones I want.

A third option, which falls somewhere in between the two, is to be given such a coin by someone else. If a friend or relative has visited the country and I have not, I would be willing to accept such a coin, but I would set it aside, a gift from the list of “places to visit” rather than a souvenir in its own right.
Or if I have visited the country, a coin given by a local–a friend I’ve made while I’m there, or perhaps a hosting family if I am so lucky as to not need a hotel–could work as well as a coin obtained during any normal purchases.

Themed Ornaments

The “coin” idea could happen, funding and free time depending, any time of the year. But there is another souvenir idea that I came up with recently, one that is specific to this time of year.

And that idea is Christmas tree ornaments.
I visit one country, purchase an ornament specific to that country. Visit another country, purchase another such ornament. And so on, until I can make a themed Christmas tree decorated only with those ornaments… and with any others that have sentimental value, of course.

The trick here is that it would either take a long time to collect enough ornaments, would require visiting multiple countries during one Christmas season, or would require finding such ornaments outside of the Christmas season.
Or all three at once. Or, quite possibly, buying such ornaments online if necessary, but like with the coins, the ornaments would really only count as “souvenirs” if I’ve actually visited the country, and as such should only be attempted as a last resort.
But I believe it can be done if someone wants to try it.

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