Friday, September 30, 2005

Rejected! Aw-right!

Got some mail yesterday. It was nothing important, just, y'know, a letter from Challenging Destiny.

Instead was a form letter, but in a very interesting format.

The beginning of the form said that my story was rejected, and that the Editor-in-Chief reads all the stories himself, but due to the number he receives, he cannot always read the entire thing. There was a list of options below that that said: "How Much I Read Of Your Story", and the square for "The Entire Story" was checked off. Despite the rejection, this was good news.
It meant he'd read the entire story of "My Brother's Own Words".

It also meant that he'd had a desire to read it all the way to end, which says something positive about my writing.

Below that was a list of reasons why he didn't choose my story. The option for "You have some interesting ideas, but it just didn't 'do it' for me" was checked off. An ambiguous reason, to be sure, but look at the options that were not checked off:

-I couldn't buy the premise. (Which meant he did buy my premise! About a boy who's mother is a parrot!)
-There wasn't enough "meat" on the story - too thin (Which meant my pacing was good, and that I spread it out well!)
-Too many syntax errors (credit my mother's editing skills for the reason that wasn't checked off)
-Story has nothing new to tell (I'm creative! He thinks I'm creative! Wheeee!)
There were others, but I cannot remember them all, except for the fact that their lack of being checked-off made me feel very proud of myself.
But best of all, at the very bottom of the page in loopy handwriting, was the message ", your story is well written. I encourage you to send me another." He wants me to send MORE! He didn't write "Maybe you should try gardening" or something of that sort. He likes the style I write in, to the point where he is willing to seriously consider more of my work. I can't wait to send something else.

And on top of that, I have yet to receive a positive/negative response from CICACA Magazine, so there's still hope coming in the mail.

And that, my dear readers, is why this was the best form rejection letter I've ever received.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Finished! Another step up the ladder towards completion...

I've finished my second draft of my novel, finally. I chopped down the page number from 330 t0 278 (single-space 12 font), but upped the number of chapters from 16 to 19. I think I fleshed the characters out more, although in some cases it was most difficult. A few of the "how-to-write" books I've read discredit the notion that an author's characters can run away with the plot without the author's expression permission, calling it "twee" or "artsy-fartsy" and "how an author excuses bad characterization". That's not for me, I'm afraid. I like it when my characters branch off in directions I didn't expect. Here's how some of my characters fared during the 2nd draft revision:

-Kisaino (the Shining Empress character): She was the easiest to work with. In the novel, she is spoiled, foolish, selfish and headstrong, but as a character, she is the most obedient. She does exactly what I want her to do, and so she changed very little during the revision. I think it's because there is a lot of my personality put into her.

-Wild Bird (the female warrior character:) I changed her name from the tongue-twisting Torijiyu (which I got from looking up the words "Bird" and "Free" in my Japanese-English Dictionary), to Wild Bird. I eliminated chunks of her backstory, because I felt it would be better to introduce her past in bits and pieces to keep people reading. She was a little difficult - I wanted her to treat men with distrust, but it evolved into a deep-seated and irrational hatred of everything with a penis. Well, that wouldn't work, so I made her more restrained in the revision. She won't hesitate to punch Yang in the nuts when he makes a smartass remark, but now it's more due to the fact that they're always together, and know each other to a certain extent. She is now much less likely to knee a complete stranger in the nuts. She'll keep her prejudices to herself, and try to bury it beneath her sense of Dancer (warrior) honour.

-Yang (the outcast barbarian character): I tried to make him humourous in the first draft, and gave him chapters of tragic backstory and a vendetta to boot. That didn't work at all - it made him very dark, doubtful, and depressing, and even hateful at times. I wanted him to be cheerfully disturbed - not violently insane. So, in the seconddraft, he uses his humour to hide his sadness, and hides his barbarian heritage. His real name is Yang-Mah, but after getting permanently banned from the barbarian lands, he tries to throw his heritage away and try to live as a "civilised foreigner". He's also terrified of being alone and forgotten. He's still followed by the ghost of Kaede-Rih, his dead gal pal, and he still has a mission to kill the Emperor of Souka (whom he blames for his crappy life), but he's less determined to win as is he is to simply try, and is mostly convinced that he will be killed in the attempt anyway. This gives him a dark, sarcastic humour.
Plus, he's also somewhat lecherous.

-Clever Child (the child prodigy): I keep forgetting to put her in, because she keeps slipping into the background. Her original name was Lei-Lei, but with her Soukan heritage, I decided that each Soukan name would mean something, so she became known as Clever Child instead. She was not much changed, mostly because she insists on slipping below the radar. Her character in the novel is supposed to be loud, prideful, and bossy, but as a character, she's really shy and doesn't like to be included in scenes. Maybe it's because I turned her into a battered child in the revision.

-Shouji (the mysterious boy): my favourite character, I modelled him on the actors I tend to like - that is, he is thin, sensitive, and shy (or as my parents like to say, "wimpy and weaselly"). While he is very submissive and obedient in the first novel, in the sequel I'll reveal his dark secret, and that he forced himself to adopt a shy and frightened personality in order to keep attention off of himself. But he's still sensitive, but he'll grow a bit of a spine in the second novel. For now, he remains a timid character.

-Kiboshei (the bad-boy brother): Okay, first of all, I'm making it MUCH less obvious that he's evil. In the first draft, I had all these scenes with him that were basically "Ha, ha, ha, here is my master evil plan! Look at how evil I am! And nobody knows but me! Ha ha ha!" or "Look what the good guys have done now! Drat! I'll do this instead! This is the revision of my master evil plan!" In the 2nd draft, I've eliminated those self-indulgent scenes - the reader will find out gradually the extend of his bad-ass-ness.

-Tando (the wise mage): I made him less perfect. He was a wise guru in the first draft, but in the second, he is still good-intentioned, but a great deal more manipulative and power hungry.

-Koriyasu (the mistress of the mage-school): I turned her from hard-assed to Racist and Abusive. She doesn't just make her bad students work, she beats the crap out of them. And, with the foreign Clever Child, I made her positively sadistic. Outside of the mage-school, she does have her positive political uses, but I'm still thinking up ways for her to receive her proper come-uppance.

There are other stages I must go through, however, before I can fully complete my work. My family members will read it, and I'll post a few chapters on my Fantasy Writers Forum, and I'll write more short stories to get some writer's cred for myself so that I can get an agent to help with my novel. So there is still a lot to do, but I'm one step closer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I'm learning Japanese, oh yes, I'm learning Japanese, I really think so!

はじめまして。AnimeJune です。 どうぞ よろしく。
"Hajimemashite. Animejune desu. Doozo yoroshiku."
"How do you do? I'm AnimeJune. Nice to meet you!"

Japanese is now my favourite class. I don't know exactly what it is, but I'm pretty sure that a mixture of my constant watching of anime, my experience in linguistics, my knowledge of French, and my superior ear for sound and music have made it remarkably easy and fun to learn Japanese.

Plus, the textbook has been enormously helpful in getting me to recognize different symbols of hiragana, although when I read it directly from the page (instead of translating it phonetically into English, and then reading it, as I tend to do when I'm studying at home), I can be rather slow, and have to go over it several times.

Some sad news, however: I have (temporarily, at least) given up going to BAKA meetings. I know that many of my friends are there, but with my workload, I don't think I can spare the Monday evenings, especially when I have a film lab that lasts until 5. In all likelihood, I will have time to return to BAKA in the second semester, when I don't have a lab.

I'm still writing for the Gateway, although I've started forgetting deadlines and turning in shoddy material last-minute, I'm afraid. I'll have to work harder on that.

And...on top of all that, I've now joined the Mixed Chorus, as a Soprano 2, which means I sing the high parts when it's only Soprano, but when there's a harmony, I sing below. It seems really fun, even though I've been miserable during the last couple of meetings. I have managed to make a few friends and not piss everybody off with my constant whining and complaining. It's pretty hard to keep up with the music, but everyone I've come in contact with who's had any sort of connection with the club assures me that it gets better with time. So I'm going to stick with it.

Better news - my novel is going swimmingly. I've written far more than I used to during the summer. I think a structured lifestyle of University makes me want to write more than when I have all this time on hands during the summer. I've already finished 4 chapters of my second draft, and I'm started to wade into the better parts of the latter half of my novel, the better parts that I don't have to re-write so extensively. I'm going to have my mother read it before I go to my third (and hopefully final) draft, though.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Another Year of University...

I have now started my second year of University!

For my re-emergence into social youth culture, my family and I went shopping for clothes. Sad to say, the majority of shopping trips made with my parents have ended badly. Before I was self-conscious about what I wear (which is to say, while I was still in elementary school), I frustrated my mother with an impressive display of complete apathy when it came to clothing. "Does this look good?" my mother would ask. "I don't care. Get it if you want." I would say. At that point, I was going through my "stubborn individual" phase, in which I could go around wearing a paper bag and would be as happy as a clam. During this phase, I wore mostly sweatpants and patterned turtlenecks.

Needless to say, after junior high (during which I particapated in gym classes in said turtlenecks and sweatpants) I grew to appreciate the simplicity and cultural-friendliness of bluejeans. And Gap. During this phase, the stress of shopping drew mainly from my mother's disapproval of what I wanted to wear. I would choose something I saw the popular girls wear, or something I saw on TV, or something that was just so pink and frilly and skintight that it had to look good on me, only to have my mother insist that the popular girls were thin and flat-chested, so that their clothes would never look good translated onto my voluptuous figure, because they either showed too much of the bra it was absolutely necessary for me to wear, or they made my breasts look even more exaggeratingly large than they already were, or they were extremely unflattering to my round belly. She was right 80% of the time, which was why, even through the fiction between us, I usually went with her choices.

This time, however, went so smoothly as to suggest the aid of divine intervention. While the fiendish fad of low-rise jeans and low-rise trousers in general is still alive and well, this year the majority of teenage girls and style-makers suddenly cued on to the fact that round bellies (not fatness, mind, but bellies less than flat) + tight, low-rise jeans = the "muffin top" effect, namely, the flesh of the belly bulges unflatteringly over the waist of the pants. To compensate, the style this year included long tanks and t-shirts, tunics really, that descend half-way past the rear end and completely cover the belly, and short jackets and shoulder-sweaters (that cover the shoulders and can be knotted just below the busom -- a look, I might add, that is much more flattering on proud-chested women then on the skinnier, flatter girls). Due to my slight incompetence in laundry skills, most, if not all of my shirts from the year before shrunk to the point where they could not cover my round belly, giving me no little embarassment. The mix-and-match quality of the sweaters, tanks, and tee-shirts not only gave me endless combinations, but also made it possible to redeem the shrunk sweaters and jackets, because the layering effect of short shirt over long shirt is very "in" this year.

With the once-in-a-lifetime miracle of a fall style that actually flattered my own figure, the shopping trip went rather well, and we all left with our tempers intact.

The first days of University went well. I wandered the Club Fair with the intension of acquiring a few pens and a bushelful of free candy (see post "Whoring for Candy", and imagine that situation, but even more intense), and ended up signing up for a Sorority house tour (where you gett a free tour of all four sorority houses, to see which one you'd like to join, with free food included), and arranging an audition to join the University's Mixed Chorus (where you got a sweatshirt! With the name of the university club on it, and your position in the choir! Like an athlete!). I have the feeling that I'm going to be hopelessly busy this year.

My Japanese class was a little intimidating, but became much more fun and easy once I read the textbook, which offered a useful trick to remembering which syllable was attached to which Hiragana symbol. Film studies was a bore and an enormous disappointment--from the way the teacher described it, it seemed to be very political, with very little actually having to do with film. My English seemed interesting - it's Victorian Literature, so I get to read my favourites Jane Eyre and David Copperfield over again.

I made lots of friends in Classics, and Symbolic Logic seems harmless. I have the feeling it's going to be a very hard year, in which I will have to go without a great deal of TV. A shame, really.

Also, today I was offered a coupon for the new Coca-Cola energy drink called Full Throttle. I got a can and took a few gulps - it tasted like lemon-flavoured window cleaner. Reading the can, I noticed they had a different list for the Non-Medicinal Ingredients (sugar water with some citrus flavouring) and Medicinal Ingredients (a wack of caffeine and riboflavin, and some other "medicines" I couldn't pronounce). They also had things on the can that said Adult Dosage: No more than one (1) can a day, taken as needed and Consult your health professional before drinking if you take these medications... They didn't have any warning about Consult your health professional before drinking if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but I think they are only one lawsuit away from putting that on anyway.

So, basically, they're being remarkably open about marketing a caffeinated drink like a drug. Caffeine is a drug, but you don't see warnings like that on bottles of Barq's. I didn't finish the can. I took one more gulp (just to experiment and see what would happen) and left the can on an empty table.

Nothing happened after that - except for the Student's Union. They've now acquired pink elephants and dead presidents to wander the Student's Union Building, throwing leprecaun gold at all the good little boys and girls. I caught a few coins, but now I can't find them, and my head feels funny.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Trying Again...(and again)

I have finally worked off the laziness to send my short story "My Brother's Own Words" to not one, but two fiction magazines--CICADA Magazine (the older version of CRICKET Magazine), and Challenging Destiny (a Canadian science fiction and fantasy magazine that is no longer in print -- it has its issues on the Internet now).

So this might give me an extra chance at publication, or I'll get twice the rejection. We'll just have to see.

By the way, I saw Brothers Grimm and Red Eye in the past few days. Grimm was just awful - the sets were lush, and the special effects weren't bad, but the acting and characters were just horrific. Painful to watch. Red Eye was highly entertaining, and not just because the delicious Cillian Murphy was a total bad-ass in it, even after he gets stabbed in the windpipe with a pen.
By the way, the bloggers at believe that I hate Christ and am drunk on the blood of Saints! Seeing as this comes from a cult of rabidly Anti-Semitic, pope-hating, "truth Catholic" fundamentalists, this must mean that I am on the right religious path.
Praise Jesus!