Turn Me On: Musical Mood

Today’s prompt for the monthly Twitter game #AuthorConfession asked about my main character’s favorite song. Honestly, he doesn’t have one, because it would fall into a retro-modern trend that doesn’t yet exist.

Since I can’t predict music in our near future, I’m going to bring the question back to what I use to create develop the characters in my current project.

I mentioned in “Music for Writing” that music is a part of my writing process. This really is not unusual for writers. Nona Mae King on Writers Helping Writers Become Authors suggests that music helps writers in four ways: encourages focus, enhances mood, and promotes inspiration, and encourages us to seek inspiration.

Here’s a glimpse of music I’ve listened to while writing scenes. (Sometimes the videos even relate to my story!)

Other Notables:

Bonus: Here’s a song I played on repeat for a short story about one character’s backstory.


Do you like any of these? What are your favorite songs?

Banner featuring "Recenter" cover

Thursday Thoughts: Thank You for Covering Me!

I’m not the most modest person in the world. This is not a post about having to cover up with clothing. Just getting that out there.

This post is about another type of exposure.

For the first time, I played a Twitter hashtag game called #GuessWrite. It’s a monthly game that incorporates other hashtag games for writers. Each game’s prompt through one week shows a clue to the month’s theme. The challenge is to correctly guess the theme.

The winners receive a bunch of prizes, some of which I’m figuring out.

One offer is for a critique and another for attention on Instagram. (I know almost nothing about Instagram! Here’s to a new learning experience.) Cori Lynn Arnold gave me a e-version of the crime thriller Thin Luck. Author Lexi Miles will spotlight me on her website with an interview, so please watch for updates.

Getting all of this attention is fun. Thank you, #GuessWrite hosts!

Speaking as if a new connection can weave one tighter to the creative community…

I was poking around my writing critique site and noticed that Tina Chan was giving away pre-made book covers. Here’s one that I nabbed for a short story associated with Changing Sides.

"Recenter" short story cover

Isn’t it exciting? I’m in love with it.

Tina was amazing about tweaks–fast and easygoing. You can see this and more free pre-made covers at thebooklander.com. Thanks, Tina!

 

Near Future Tech: Home Printing in a Day’s Work

The big news last month in home construction was of the 400 square-foot (38 m²) house built by a 3D printer in Russia. The companies Apis Cor and PIK say the house was meant “to demonstrate the flexibility of equipment and diversity of available forms”.

What this means is that it could help not only the typical builder but also builders off-planet and the tiny house movement.

Surprisingly (to me), using 3D printers to quickly construct buildings is years old. Yingchuang New Materials Inc in China printed ten buildings in a single day, and they used recycled materials, inspiring an extra boost of optimism that our descendants won’t all live within giant trash heaps.

I totally missed that news in 2014.

That same year, a British company was in the news talking about 3D printing concrete buildings. The Russian house is concrete. This is how fast developments happen.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) movie poster

GitS Live Action: A Pretty Shell Lacking Heart and Smarts

Hollywood has a reputation for taking a well-loved franchise, digesting it, and vomiting out a movie that their confused producers think will look close enough to the original to appease audiences.

They did it again with the latest Ghost in the Shell movie.

In this particular take on one of the most influential fiction franchises* to come out of any country, Hollywood made a movie whose storyline I’ll summarize as:

Zombie kids rebel against a disorganized police force and an evil businessman.

This summary, however, might make the movie sound better than it was. This movie wasn’t only a huge disappointment, it made me feel ill similarly to how I felt in November. I felt the theater wondering how the producers were fine with taking an intelligent, well-loved collection of stories and making into a work that (as far as I can tell) could only appeal to fans of mindless action.

Here were a few of the big issues with the live action version of Ghost in the Shell (GitS):

  • The violence necessary in previous versions of GitS* went unjustified and even glorified by the emotionless action scenes. Even as characters talked about the importance of remaining their humanity, they demonstrated no concern for other humans outside of they could be used to serve individual goals.
  • While it looks like a mashup of cyberpunk tropes, it become a copy of copies that can replace none of the originals. Nothing in the setting surprised me.
  • Technology and culture presented as far-future at times looked outdated. The text introduction read like something out of the 1980s.
  • The story failed to take advantage of the medium.
    • We’re supposed to care about memories that are never shown. A few flashes of Major‘s (yes, that’s what the main character is called in the movie) family could have established an emotional connection.
    • The lack of people in public places is never explained, is counter to the crowded city in the animated versions, and contributed to the sense that humanity is absent in the movie. A seconds-long explanation could have taken the form of clips of average-looking people hooked up to their homes.
    • The settings too often looked fake–especially the vehicles, which looked like moving stage props. Again, the absence of people in the background contributed to this. So did the inexplicably clean home interiors.
  • Characters, who are supposed to be a part of an elite policing team, repeatedly made rash decisions that unnecessarily endanger their lives. Section 9 often feels disjointed, unprofessional, and dangerous to the general public, especially in light of Major’s tendency to disobey orders without any negative consequences.

The only praise I can give this movie is that most of the actors did a decent job, the writers pulled together elements from previous versions with their own twist in the second half, and the directing allowed me to focus on the prettier shots.

In particular, Michael Pitt as a broken cyborg was lovely enough that I cringed when his character complained of being ugly, and all of the closeups of Scar-Jo provided welcome distractions from the story.

*For a relatively brief overview of the GitS franchise:


Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Robot with a flower

People: Loved to Pieces

The lines between human and machine continue to blur, perhaps at a faster rate than during any time in the evolution of Homo sapiens. While technological developments make androids and algorithms more humanlike, they’re also bringing more artificial parts into humans.

Here’s an intimate look at some recent developments.


What do you notice about someone close to you?

Their smile?

F.A.C.E. is an expressive android, used as”an emotion conveying system” with a perfect smile.

Their eyes?

Not everyone can return your gaze (if you’re able-sighted), but that might change in the near future with the help of bionic eyes.

The feel of their skin?

Soft, robotic skin developed by Georgia Tech gives “a sense of touch that is at least somewhat analogous to” what healthy human skin feels. (There are those who might still prefer bioprinted skin for replacements.)

Is it the reassuring sound of their heart?

Whether they have an artificial heart, one needing the assistance of a robot, or one that has pumped in time to emotions since birth, does the heartbeat remind you that they live?

What about their mind?

Would it bother you to discover that they had once changed their mind–really, changed their mind’s home–with a mind transfer into an artificial brain?


We are going to be embracing a future when the game of “Would You Still Love Me If” steps up to another level, don’t you think?

 

Water drops over dictionary, by Janeke88

Thursday Thoughts

Writing Weaknesses

Someone asked on an online writers’ site for a description of our writing weaknesses.

Most of the answers were comforting for their familiarity. Overwriting? Done it. Underwriting? Same. Obsessively reworking, clinging to ineffective phrases, struggling to describe settings? Yep, lived that life. Isn’t it nice how as writers we push through the same drama on our individual paths?

For me, new issues develop weekly that are harder to explain.

I’ve been writing for most of my life. From the moment I could reproduce words on paper, I was trying to fit them together into stories.

In my twenties, a health scare inspired me to make panic-inducing decisions about what my aims in life. At the top of that list was Share my fiction.

That meant I had to write more. Nothing was going out into the world until I figure out what a mature story looked like. Most of my attempts were adolescents that needed to stay home.

In the following years, I read books on writing, attended writing groups, studied my favorite novels by picking them apart over and over, journaled and blogged about the writing process, pestered authors in my with social circles with questions, and of course, wrote.

Those years, the undesired break from writing fiction that spanned another few years, and the past several months of reentry into writing communities has provided me with more than enough time to identify my primary weakness.

It’s self-confidence.


Knowing What to Share

Self-confidence: (noun) realistic confidence in one’s own judgment, ability, power, etc.

Figuring out what’s worth researching, titling, and finding images for is almost impossible without the ability to assess what people will read.

List of tentative blog titles, by A.M. Fals
A snapshot of the most recent draft posts. March 8, 2017.

On average, I publish one out of every four blog posts drafted. Guessing wildly here: I save a draft post for every three ideas. Coming up with ideas is quick, growing out of my focus each day. Each post, however, takes hours to write and edit.

Parts of unpublished drafts end up in my story notes. They aren’t useless. The writing about links and new concepts can feel like a waste, however.

Some days, the most anxiety-filled ones, I wish my blog came with an actual editor–a person who would tell me what to write when. Other than the obligatory coffee chats and surprise check-ins, this could save not only time but also energy and sanity better sacrificed to my fiction.

Yeah, a leading editor would be nice.

Would you like to take on the role for a few minutes? Tell me what you really want to read more about.


Quick Thank-You for Support

An anonymous person showed me love through the Buy Me a Coffee button on my sidebar. Getting money for writing is an incredible feeling. Positive feedback is, too.

Thank you so much for the coffee and note, dear reader!

"Rainbow Pride Cheesecake" by Paul Richmond

for Authors: Rainbow Awards

March 1, 2017 | Update

This post about Rainbow Awards was written in December, scheduled to post, then forgotten. (I’m no longer scheduling posts. Anything I don’t care for the day of remains in my Drafts folder.)

It’s come to my attention that the contest rules or any information specific to the 2017 Rainbow Awards have either been removed or buried within the contest creator’s websites. I have not participated in this contest before so don’t know the usual process. Please don’t get your hopes up that this contest will happen this year.

Do you know of any LGBT+ awards for fiction and/or creative nonfiction? Please share!


Rainbow Awards

In March, the first round of reading starts for the Rainbow Awards, an annual contest meant to celebrate LGBT fiction and nonfiction. The Rainbow Awards is open to work focusing LGBT characters and people.

Instead of a direct submission fee, contest entrants must donate to a selected non-profit charitable organization as a part of the submission requirements. So, whatever else it offers to the queer writing community, it promotes several relevant causes.

You could find more entry and judging information on the contest creator’s site, ElisaRolle.com.

Waveform clipart

Music for Writing

Likely, every creator has a process for getting into and maintaining the mood for a project. Music often is a part of mine. That’s because music that fits with the story help the words flow.

I like to assign a theme song–or three–to my main characters. For a novel I was writing years ago about a military experiment, the large cast of psychic teens contributed to a soundtrack four and a half hours long. Here was one of the songs for the main character.

I miss that soundtrack. It’s a poor fit for Changing Sides, full of melancholy songs about vulnerability, regret, and addiction. My current characters aren’t hyper-emotional teens dealing with life and death situations every day.

Only one song from that other novel’s soundtrack comes close to crossing over. It could work for Aaron if not for the theme of domination.

So far, I have a theme song for my primary point-of-view character: Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch” (via Vevo). It’s a strange song for a skittish punk, but it’s definitely his.

Because I have nothing else that fits, Cascada is on repeat while I write Lexi’s scenes.

That’s too much repetition.

Update: The song for Aaron and Lexi’s first meeting is “Watch Out” by Glovibes & Gary Caos.


What do you listen to when while you work? Anything?

Heartstream, by insspirito

Valentine’s Gift: Short Story

The heart is my favorite shape, so I take advantage of this day by scattering the heart-shape everywhere.

More importantly, today is a cultural reminder to tell people that you care for them. I want readers to know I appreciate anyone who has enough faith in me to dive into my fictional worlds.

As a thank-you, I’ve posted a free short story (1,940 words) featuring the main characters from my current novel-in-progress. Lexi and Aaron show affection in unusual ways in this sweet romance set in the future:

“Love Letters”

♥   Happy Valentine’s Day!   ♥ 

Spider Dress by Anouk Wipprecht

Futuristic Fashion

It started with a shirt.

In one of the first passages I wrote for my current novel-in-progress, Aaron Stallard surprises Lexington Amis with a new outfit.

The shirt unfolded into a collaboration of silky red strips held together by straps of matching black leather. Was it actually a shirt? Lexi flipped the pieces around several times until they resembled one. Someone had confidence in his intelligence.This garment was a puzzle.

Even while writing this, I wondered about its relevance. Why did Aaron choose this shirt? Where did he get it? These questions immediately birthed a new character, a fashion designer who shows up a few times later in the story.

That got me wondering more about what high-end fashion might look like 70 years in our future. What will it look like seven years from now?

Fashion designers are already incorporating what looks like futuristic technology into their designs.

Spider Dress by Anouk Wipprecht
Spider Dress by fashion-tech creator Anouk Wipprecht. Designed with 3D printing and microcontrollers, this dress reaches out when approached. There’s no need for bustles or brass knuckles to remind creeps to keep their distance.

Creator Anouk Wipprecht is “Rethinking Fashion in the Age of Digitalisation” with designs that include the skeletal Spider Dress (featured here), the Smoke Dress that surrounds its wearer in fog, and Living Pods, interactive flowery bots.

The sisters Ezra and Tuba Çetin created an “intelligent dress” that sets artificial butterflies aflight. You can see the design in motion in Intel’s video.

Using eye-tracking technology, designer Ying Gao has created a pair of dresses that light up and contort when stared at directly.

Other recent developments in wearable technology include cloth that blocks radio frequencies, unique uses of light and shadow as decoration, and couture that reacts to social media.

What we can look forward to, apparently, are clothing and accessories that interact with us and our environment for entertainment, decoration, and protection.

By the way, I wasn’t the first to imagine puzzling garments that serve more than one purpose. My fictional fashion designer was kinder on Lexi’s post-partying head than the incredibly imaginative Hussein Chalayan might have been.


sheknows.com presented nine more designs for you to enjoy in “Technology is taking over our dresses, and the results are amazing” (2014).