A Certain Lack of Focus

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I just reached page 200 in my novel! I think I'm finally getting close to being finished. Right now I'm working on the climactic scene, which is more because I'm skipping around than because I'm actually that near the end. I expect the finished book will be about 250, maybe a little longer. There are a few scenes I'm putting off writing, either because they're difficult for me (the beginning is giving me fits) or because they're such a big deal I'm still intimidated by them. As I close in on them it will get easier, at least that's how it's been working so far.

GaleWriting a novel is a new experience. I chose to do a novel for my MFA thesis because I was afraid that if I didn't write one now I'd never write one. This particular story has been forming in my head for about seven years. I was feeling depressed, chatting with my friend Adam and trying to explain the kind of isolation I was experiencing. Finally I told him, "it's like being a changeling," and from there the story exploded.

It's pretty much unrecognizable now from the comic book concept I came up with as an undergrad. Gale is the main character of this book, part 1 of 4, and she didn't even exist in the initial conception. When I did invent her, I intended her to be a "bad guy" a nemesis for my main character, but instead she's turned into a full and tragic character, in some ways even more engaging than my initial protagonist, Breeze. Breeze will take over in book two.

One of the most alarming things about novel writing is how unpredictable it is. I'm used to short stories, 14-17 pages long, where I usually know everything that happens before I write it. With this novel, Lost Child of Summer, I had a vague outline in my head, but while the start and finished stayed at roughly the same spot, the middle wiggled around like the body of a snake. I know it sounds cliche, but it's almost magic to see how the characters take on a life of their own and the story twists in unexpected ways. It makes me feel a little powerless to realize that I'm not actually in control of my own story. With about a fifth of the book to go, I'm still not entirely certain about what's going to happen in certain parts. How weird.

Anyway, getting closer. Wish me luck. Here are some sketches I did way back when I first came up with the story. They don't really fit any more. Click on the images for a large version.

Page 1: "In more superstitious times it was believed that a spirit might come and steal an unguarded child." "The child would be replaced with the spirit's own unnatural babe. Candels, bells and other charms were often used to protect against this." "But sometimes the charms failed..." "And a human baby was lost." "And sometimes..." "No one noticed."changelingPage 2: "Naptime age 1 1/2" "2nd birthday party" "Zoo visit age 3 1/2" "Family Camping Trip, age 5" "Basketball game 1st grade"changelingPage 3: "Sheesh Mom, don't you have any normal pictures of me when I was little?" "Well... those are normal. For you." "Right."changeling

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Presidential Style Ratings

I just had the best idea ever. Ok, technically NPR already came up with something similar but I wrote most of this post before I read the whole article so I'm posting it anyway.

Heard on the news just now that McCain is hosting several vice presidential candidates in his home this week. So it got me thinking. What are they going to do be doing? Will there perhaps be unpredictable tests of character, thrown at various candidates with out warning? An unspoken contest to see who can cook the best patriotic Memorial Day hot dogs? Whatever they do, I'm sure tensions will be running high.

And everyone knows that people in close proximity with lots of stress and competition between them makes for good TV watching! So I propose a new reality TV show for this election: Presidential Judgment. Every week will be a new challenge. For example:

1. Say my approval rating is dropping rapidly through the floor. You're asked to take one for the team, and come up with a scheme to distract the American Public. Do you: a. Misspell "potato(e)" at a third grade spelling bee, b. Give a speech about Global Warming and/or claim to have invented the internet, or c. Shoot your best friend in the face?

What better way to rejuvenate the waning interest in Election 08? Imagine the Thursday night excitement when Florida Governor Charlie Crist forgets the cameras are on, and slips a baggie of white powder beneath the pillow of Mitt Romney. Or when McCain finds out about the secret love brewing between Romney and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal!

Really this is all very silly, but it does raise an important question about the nature of American TV: Why the hell didn't we do this for the campaign trail for Presidential nominees? There's still time, at this point Hillary and Barack won't be done till August.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Freight Elevator Photos

A professor's retirement party yesterday evening was held at the Lit in an old building in downtown Cleveland. Matt and I got to ride in a freakin' sweet old freight elevator (operated by a cool looking middle aged hippie) to get to the party. Here are a couple photos:

This one is looking up from the second floor but it actually looks deeper (higher) because there was more light.freight elevatorThis is on the way back down from the first floor. You can't make as much out but I like the composition so I thought I'd share it anyway.freight elevatorI'm going to try to start up my "drawings of the day" again this week, we'll see how that goes. Maybe call it "drawings of the occasional" instead. Most will be new work but I'll keep throwing in some finished stuff from my portfolio and teen stuff from my old sketchbooks when it seems fitting (aka when I'm feeling too lazy to draw something new).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Muggle Musings (kinda sad, I know)

I was re-reading the Harry Potter series the other day, I think thats third time or so I've read the final book (I've read the others more obviously). Whenever you reread something you tend to notice things that you missed the first (and second) time around, and I'm certainly picking up on mistakes that I managed to miss in the first place.

That's not to say I didn't find lapses in logic in my first reading, but most of the big ones, the obvious ones, were explained away. Snape's character for example always seemed a bit flat to me; in spite of the fact that I never believed he was a "bad guy" he was a little too conveniently and consistently nasty. The more times I read it though, particularly the final book, the more whole a character he seems.

He's not perfect mind you, there are still huge gaps, and I still feel like there was some scrabbling going on in the final book to explain how he could possibly be a good guy. I can accept that he hates Harry on site, the fact that he looks so much like his father is explanation enough for that, but why is he such a jerk towards everyone else? Aside from rivalries, he actually seems to get along well with Minerva McGonagall and the other professors, which would seem unlikely if he were so obviously wretched to everyone not in his own house. I think he starts to redeem himself in book five, when he seems to be more pretending to be cruel, but there's a big gap between "I see no difference" comment when Hermione's teeth grew all over the place and his suggestion that Crabb (or was it Goyle?) not choke Neville to death in order to avoid tedious paperwork. I've gotta wonder if in book four Rowling was really sure what she was going to do with Snape, because it seems like he could have been just as mean in less obvious ways, without giving away his uncertain status in Harry's eyes.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Slate Jokes

The Slate did a feature where readers sent in their scenarios of possible ways Hillary could win the nomination. Some of them are pretty funny, but this was my favorite:

"Hillary appeals to the Supreme Court, which, based upon a 2000 ruling, decides that the candidate with fewer votes wins the election. —John Kirkbride"

Awesome. Go here to read the rest.

Long Last

I am OFFICIALLY done with ALL my classes. Ok, maybe not officially until the grade comes in, but I don't have to go to any more classes! I am exactly 1 credit short of my M.F.A. *happy dance* Which doesn't actually translate to the amount of work I've got left... about another third of a book, 50 plus pages. *slightly slower happy dance*

Friday, May 02, 2008


Things are winding down, I should be back to blogging in about a week. Until then, here's a link to the Vindicator website which I FINALLY got designed an online: www.csuohio.edu/vindicator

It's not exactly finished... the pictures are largely unlabeled not because I'm going for some ultra-cool minimalist look but because it was 5 am. The labels that do exist aren't haphazardly slapped on the photos because I have no design sense (I hope) but because it was... yes, 5 am.