Friday, November 10, 2006


At the risk of sounding hokey, I think proper music is really important to writing. Yes, I sometimes want silence --but lacking that, I look for songs that echo the themes and improve the prose.

I organize songs by character, and also by chronology and setting.

Some of the playlists for my current fic:

Lucky to Have Jonesy (Sophie's Theme), Jeff Beal (Carnivale Soundtrack)
Guys Do it All the Time, Mindy McCready
Ten Thousand Angels, Mindy McCready
That's the Way I've Always Heard it Should Be, Carly Simon
Per Te, Josh Groban
If You'd Called Yesterday, Julie Roberts
Wake Up Older, Julie Roberts
Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan
Elsewhere, Sarah McLachlan
Let Go, Frou Frou (Garden State Soundtrack)

Why these?
I find Riza easier to write than Roy. Maybe that's because I've got an ear for her. Otherwise, it's because I've embroidered heavily on her character. I guess we'll see.

First: I think Riza's one of those "still waters run deep" women. She is obviously loyal, composed, dedicated.

But when she takes the uniform off? It happens so rarely, it's hard to infer anything from her behavior. I look at what she wears and I see "classy" and "conservative." I put a pair of heirloom pearl earrings in her dresser drawer, simply-scented soap in her shower, and a middling white wine in her fridge.

I look at her puppy, and I think, "warm-hearted, despite the above." So now there's a dog bed on the floor, and probably a couple of chew toys tucked in cabinets and shoes. And probably a little more hair on things than she would prefer.

So I add a much-abused (and probably puppy-chewed) broom to the list. Some furniture polish under the sink, silver-framed pictures of her parents. Maybe a pretty vase, blown glass with motes of soft green and specks of yellow. I think she'd appreciate that kind of handiwork --from the look of her room in the anime, she seems to enjoy light and air. Glass works with that. So do watercolors --I'm thinking of one print in particular, a close up a pair of Cala lilies that is just slightly surreal. (If you're interested:

From the simplicity of her hair and clothes, Riza isn't a frills person, so no lace on her sheets. Minimal sheets, for that matter, we're not talking silk or thousand-count thread. We've seen that her bed is really simple, in fact, just the basic pillows and a navy blue bedspread, but I can see there being a throw that orbits the room, something in an airy, cream-wheat-navy plaid.

You see, of course, how much of all this hangs on a couple of articles of clothing, the way she dresses her hair, in the few scenes that she appears out-of-uniform. (I'm thinking particularly of the end of Episode 51, and the recent Ishval flashback chapters from the Manga. Also the adorable scene where Barry falls for her. ;P )

Anyway, these songs are chosen to reflect these kinds of qualities: "Lucky to Have Jonesy" for its gravity and beauty, "Guys Do it All the Time" to reflect her certain sassiness, "That's the Way" because of it's quiet desperation and nonconformity. The Julie Roberts' tunes because they're bluesy and mellow, "Per Te" because it's about "living" for somebody else that you love, the McLachlan tracks because besides being mellow, the lyrics are very conscious and appropriate.

Maybe more later. :P


Friday, November 03, 2006

I haven't said anything-

up until this point about what KIND of fan fiction I'm writing. I really hate to get framed into something, genre conventions, whatever. Particularly since I think this piece is going to be 90% my work, and 10% material bothered from the author. The concepts and names are her, but believe me, I'm weaving my own cloth with the leavings.

Still. I might as well get it over with.

Full Metal Alchemist.

Yeah, bite me. :P

I'm a Roy and Riza fan. Actually, mostly a Riza fan. I have this huge hard-on for loyal subordinates, particularly if they die in demonstrative and tragic fashions. Riza hasn't gotten shot protecting Roy yet, but you just know she's cannon fodder. Maybe even in his eyes.

In my other lengthy works, Elyssa was another "loyal-subordinate" type. Marie as well, in her own way. Altair is a complete deviation from this pattern: she never trusts Thomas or Imogen enough to be loyal to either of them. One of the many reasons she interests me: Fand doesn't look like anything that's come out of my brain to date.

But Riza --well, she's been predictable up until now. I have to admit, I hugely prefer the Manga to the Anime (much smaller plot holes, much more dialogue, better developed characters) but the Anime is done and the Manga isn't, and there is NOTHING that I hate more than an unfinished series. So I'm stuck writing from the Anime and the Movie, with background details supplied by the Manga. Which brings me to the real trouble.

I love the idea of Roy and Riza as a semi-couple (can't imagine either one of them married, certainly not to each other) but I don't believe in writing relationships that don't have chemistry, or even the building blocks of realistic success. (Unless, of course, the intention is to write about failed love.) At the moment, I'm not in the mood to write an emo fic. Living with my stepmother and dad, and having gone through my parent's divorce, I have this notion that I'm entitled to happy endings in my fiction. Like Darwin.

Anyway, I certainly don't waste time writing romances about relationships that fundamentally don't work. Unfortunately, in the Anime, Roy and Riza's relationship doesn't work. For so many reasons.

Mostly, theirs is just an unhealthy relationship. It depends on habit, on roles that they've assumed. It has nothing to do with Riza and Roy, and everything to do with Mustang and Hawkeye. I say this mostly because I consider their relationship unbalanced.

All kinds of real life relationships work in an unbalanced fashion. According to conventional wisdom, someone always loves more. I don't believe that --but then again, I don't believe in "being in love" and I think relationships are best conducted on a "friends with benefits" basis. As I see it, in life, your only goal should be getting yourself happy. The people that are also happy with you, and that stick around, are the icing on your cake.

Lets be honest: Riza doesn't have a life outside of Roy. If she spent a little more time with Hayate, maybe picked up calligraphy or watercolors, and put some work into her apartment, she would be a more interesting person. She probably wouldn't be consciously happier. But when her relationship with Roy inevitably went in the crapper, she wouldn't be alone, either.

And Roy --well, you can't look at how he behaves in any of the FMA canon material and say to me, "He knows and cares about Riza as a person." In the movie, she is mostly his foil: he trusts her, to be sure, but there is nothing personal between them until the very end. (Which development the movie immediately undermines.)

Even in the Manga, where Mustang and Hawkeye have more to say for themselves, and their exchanges approach caring, Hawkeye's still the one doing 90% of the emoting. Perhaps I'm cynical, but I really think Roy would be too busy looking cool and playing guessing games to empty three clips (or the Alchemicial equivalent) into Lust.

I realize that saying all of this will make me very unpopular in the Roy/Riza community. I'm really sorry. I've been accused of being bitter and insensitive on the subject of fictional relationships, and I don't think that's unfounded. I just have a very specific set of criteria for what makes a good relationship. That criteria comes down to three points: Mutality. Diversity. Integrity.

Hawkeye and Mustang do have Integrity --a combination of loyalty and honesty-- going for them. Riza's widely billed as the Colonel's "shoulder angel," the only one among his confederates who can speak her mind without suffering the consequences. As for Mustang --he's never lied to her, except for that once in the movie. With the balloon. (le sigh) Plus, they're indisiputably loyal to one another. So --one point down.

But it's clear that the pair's feelings aren't mutual, and that they can't be mutual within the current framework of their relationship. Riza is always Mustang's subordinate, the Queen on his chess-board. She is important to him strategically, even personally, but she's still a piece he's manuevering for his own ends. Riza, for her part, has accepted that secondary role, and set herself to Roy's support. Admirable, to be sure, but from that vantage she'll never be a woman to him --only a third arm, another weapon for his ends.

And in a way, their loyalty and dedication to their self-appointed mission is limiting: it inevitably leads to a lack of diversity in their relationship. One of the great strengths of a sexual partnership is that it can create an emotional tie between very different people --a covalent bond, if you don't mind a bad analogy. The individuals participating in the bond have access to one another's skills and knowledge, and each borrows from the other. Two brains are better than one, etc. On the surface (and especially in the Anime) neither Riza nor Roy have much new to share. They have the same professional contacts, the same worldview, and the same goals. Their alliance does not benefit either of them, except emotionally-- in fact, their alliance would be selfish, given the scope of their goals.

Yes, that's a very dynastic perspective of relationships. But to me, there's no other reason for the bother with a relationship --given that you can enjoy all the benefits of a more formal arrangement, without ever living together. Fuckbuddies wouldn't necessarily share their social circles with one another, though, where an official "couple" would. Better that they get involved outside of the military and look for allies in their significant other's circles, if they really want to effect change.

In short: Riza and Roy have the foundation of a working relationship, but the chemistry isn't right as yet, and I think they'd bore each other over the long-term. "Hey, honey, what'd you do at work today?" "Same thing you did, dear."

All this said, the potential for chemistry is THERE. It's real, or we wouldn't all be perking up our ears and watching them so eagerly.

Some of that potential is just circumstance. They're both attractive, of similar ages: we know that the two of them have some history together. If Riza cannot draw Roy out the way that Ed can, Roy leans on her to a degree that he cannot with Ed.

Some of that potential is also changes in perception and characterization as the series progresses, particularly the most recent Manga releases. For example: adopting Hayate was a step in the right direction for Riza.

And truly, there is some direct evidence for a relationship between the two in the Manga. In 37 and 38, alerted by gunshots over the radio, Roy comes rushing to Riza's rescue: his timely intervention probably saves her from Gluttony.

And the coded dialogue that precedes the fight is especially funny once you know it's Hawkeye on the other end. "But wouldn't your scaaary lieutenant be mad at you if you don't get back to work?" As far as I'm concerned, that entire exchange qualifies as mad flirting: it's as though by roleplaying, they get to actually talk to each other about their jobs.

Take a look at Roy's face on the bottom of page 33 (of 37), or Roy's last statement on 36 (also of 37), "Please let me make it in time!" Given the evidence, I can't believe that Mustang doesn't care for Riza at all. (Reference also p. 16-17 of 38, "WHY DID YOU SHOW UP!" "First lieutenant . . . I'm glad you are alive.")

The question, to me, is whether Roy cares as much as Riza does. And my answer is --I don't think so. Not in the Manga, and certainly not in the Anime or the Movie. There's still a critical inequality there.

So the things I'm working to correct, in my fiction, are several:

I'm trying to put Roy and Riza on a more equal footing. Roy and Riza's respective military ranks have very little to do with this. Their relationship has always been a Chief/Indian construct. I'm not bucking for that to change entirely: but Riza can afford to exercise a little independent authority of her own.

Part and parcel of the above: I want to depict Riza working on more specialized projects, outside of her comfort zone. She's good with a gun, fine. She'll be giving range instruction and teaching sharp-shooting. Teaching something you know well is a whole other challenge. I want to put her with a field command, as well. Not anything large, but a small squad of soldiers with petty politics that she will have to address.

And then, of course, there's the lack of physical chemistry between them. There's a reason Royai fans fluttered when Roy reached out and touched Riza's hair at the end of Episode 51: we hadn't seen much between them to give us hope, up to that point. But that touch points up a real problem between them: Riza's an Ice Princess if there ever was one, and Roy is a Known Womanzier. Her past and reputation emphasize her innocence; Roy's legend has plenty of sexual undertones. I doubt that they're what they pretend, but they have a lot invested in those pretenses. I don't know about you, but I don't see Riza enjoying an exotic sheets-session, or Roy suddenly turning into a tender lover. (He's not even a tender human being, for Christssake.)

So I have to find some sexual medium that works for them, and that carries convincingly through fifty thousand words. (I hate stories where the sex comes at the end, like the lollipop after the shot. If characters have real chemistry, they're gonna be going after each other, and they're not going to wait with grace.)

These are just my current thoughts. I'll post my solutions here in a few days.



Marzipan plays a prominent roll in my fic.


Tis the season for delicious sweetened almond paste, and I am ever so succeptible to Swiss Colony Catalogs and memories of Taormina. . .


Oohboy. (6771 Words)

It's been a writing orgy, between day one and two. I know they say to get ahead now. I'm not finding it all that hard, as yet.

Changing my project has helped. Not that this shouldn't be my novel (and not that I don't feel guilty it's not) but I'm so hooked on this story right at the moment that I don't think I could write anything else coherently. I'm so hooked that I worked on it at least twelve hours straight. I've written playlists for this thing. It's mad, I'm telling you.

I have playlists for my novel too, actually. That's not entirely unique to this project. I find it really helpful to listen to appropriate music while I'm working, since I can't count on silence. And most of what I listen to might as well be silence. I've heard these CDs so often that the music barely registers on the conscious level (though I hope my better choices get reflected in my prose.) For example: "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Mis, is going right now. Don't really ignore that one, but that's because it's amazing. The rest of my music, not as much.

Waiting on the Pussycat Dolls CD to arrive before I do any sexy writing. Though I have some great ideas for that part as well.

Bed for now, though. (More later! But Linka needs sleep NOW.)


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cat Exploded!

First, a tidbit from Neil Gaiman's most excellent website and livejournal. Ithought it pretty well expressed my feelings on the subject of this contest. "House burned down. Car stolen. Cat exploded. Did 1500 easy words, so all in all it was a pretty good day." "Got call this morning to say I'd got Nobel Prize for literature. Wrote less than 300 words (285) probably unusable, so lousy day." And so forth.)"

Also, I have to confess that I'm NOT working on my novel. This will seem terrible, I'm sure, particularly when I admit I'm working on a piece of fanfiction for the contest instead. But I'm writer enough (and believer in muses and sibyls and things like that) that I am not going to fight my own interests. Right now I really want to be writing this fic, and well, that's what I ought to do until it runs out. Or else I'll be cranky and the novel won't come. It's just the way of things.

And if it's any consolation, it is a really EPIC piece of fan fiction. : P


Monday, October 23, 2006

I'm eating again.

It's been years since I was like this. Nibbling on pages, scratching down unfamiliar words. Hiding notions away in little pyramids that crumple into each other over time until the result is a concrete of its elements. Hard and solid and homogenous.

Not that I like homogeneity. Just within a single idea. Ideas should be only single thoughts. There is plenty of space still, when you're done with the one, to express the extra clause you would have added, the and or but. It can stand on its own (or it's not much of an idea) so give it its due room.

Then, if you have to, tack it on to another idea, sit them together, let them bleed together. In my case, make a little world of them, a scribble on the pages of the Moleskin you bought (an involuntary shudder of revulsion there, Alex whispering reverently that it was the notebook of Darda and Van Gogh, and me thinking, please-god-don't-let-me-ever-take-myself-that-seriously-I'll-do-anything) and I let it sit. Percolate, ferment. Like mare's milk (koumiss, damn my Anthropology paper) and

I put rocks into the tumbler and what comes out isn't amethyst or crystal or iron or glass, but something that's all of those, mixed and squashed and likely misshapen in its original context, but real. Because only ideas are pure. Everything else has trace elements. Everything else is heterogeneous.

Just thoughts, I guess, because right now I'm working on an Event/Resonance chart that is both fascinating and deathly dull. It really should be a catalog of motifs repeated, but I don't know what my motifs are even going to be yet, so that seemed sort of futile. So I invented Tarot motifs that are working well, one suit per chapter (using the Major Arcana seemed sort of predictable, so I used the minor arcana, and only the suits.)

I'm sort of liking it, though. Just another kind of structure in the book, another stab at coherency (but not homogenity.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

All We Really Do is Steal.

Or: A Writer on the Business of Writing. The Eccentric Buggers essay.

I feel like I can write on this subject with a little authority. I spend a many hours each week putting words on paper, sometimes even in an advanced fashion that qualifies as authorship. And I dedicated a semester to writing about the sticky, awkward, and revealing relationship bewteen the writer and the writing. We put ourselves in our stories, and our stories come into us. We are less ourselves for every character we invent, whose mannerisms and thought patterns we mimic --and then, often unconsciously, adopt.

And at the same time, we are more wholly ourselves for the creation. No one imagines a plot or person in a vacuum: there is always some shared desire, some caveat or tic or memory the author shares with the authored. That bond --and the self that originated it-- are reinforced with every word. It's why I would argue that even the infamous casulaties of the craft --Hemingway, Plath, Woolf, Faulkner-- were healthy in their way. Their writing utilized their flaws, was the healthiest expression available to them, and the vehicle of the only wholeness they achieved.

However tortured the act, writing is fundamentally an act of hope, of reaching out. You don't put words on paper if you don't think anyone will ever read them. You don't put words on paper if you don't believe that you can make your reader care.

Anyway: there isn't much creation to authorship. Anyone who thinks there is should read the following: The Faery Queen, The Lord of the Rings Cycle, and The Eye of the World. Do it in that order, too. Georgette Heyer, then Connie Brockway or Julia Quinn. War of the Worlds, Martian Chronicles, Red Mars. Gibbon and any work of modern history. The Iliad --just the Iliad. (Here you see my Western bias: but I assume it's the same in other cultures)

Ideas are passed from hand to hand, writer to writer. We're all in secret fellowship with one another, squirreling away little bits of others' accumulated genius to add to our own. If any profession in this world has a Hive Mind, it must be writers. Ill-disciplined, eccentric Buggers.

Read my writing and you're reading Tamora Pierce, Patricia A. McKillip, Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robin McKinley, Kinuko Y. Craft, Charles de Lint, Andrew Lang, Jared Diamond, and so many others, a list that includes the Social Science Fiction of the 1950's, modern "Feminist" fantasy, Urban fantasy, fairytales of all eras, Shakespeare, and modern Anthropological theory.

More on this later, WOW raid. x.x


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fastathon. x.x

I agreed to do the Fast-a-Thon at my university for a couple of reasons.

To start, it's a good cause. For each person that participates, local grocery stores donate food to food banks throughout the St. Louis area.

Then too, one of the Nemerovs asked us if we would.

But finally, because I don't think I've been truly, involuntarily hungry, once in my life. That seems like the kind of experience that might be valuable for a writer, particularly one that wants to write about highly-stratified post-apocalyptic societies.

So I went hungry today.

I whinged about it a bit in guild. I'm going to whinge a bit about it here. Because, damnit, I am >..<

So hungry that it has to be in little "angry face" quotation marks, in fact.

I won't say I'm to the point where I'm fantasizing about food. But I am definitely to the point where I bitterly resent anyone who brings anything edible into my vicinity. I can smell the bag of white cheddar popcorn some guy at the checkout desk forty feet away is eating. I'm just about ready to flip over the library desk, grab the popcorn, and make for it like the Trix rabbit.

Seriously. I've been watching people eat all day. You don't notice it until you're not allowed, how much time we spend with our mouths wrapped around edibles. I don't know how Muslims get through a month of this.

The friend that recommended we fast warned that there might be side-effects. Dizziness, tiredness, inability to focus . . . I don't know that I notice those much worse than I have at other times, but I'm notorious for skipping meals. I have gone this long without eating before . . . but I don't think I've ever so persistently ignored food in the face of hunger.

How much worse if I simply couldn't afford to eat?

That's the reality for Altair, at least. Dinner gets scrounged. Supplies or meals, when bought, come out of hard-earned stashes of cash, and when there is no more money, it's sell something or go without.

Not sure that it helps to put this in a literary context. I am most definititely fantasizing in an inappropriate fashion about marzipan, and marzipan (in theory) will not appear in my story.




Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Now, officially--

NaNoWriMo doesn't start until November. So I'm not going to actually start writing. If you bend the rules the contest isn't fun.

However, I will have to produce 1, 666 words per day to make the 50,000 word goal. So I'm thinking November's going to be a bit crazy, and it might be a good idea to start work on this blog now, rather than then. Squeezing an extra 200 words out for a blog entry is going to be chancy on any given day in November.

Plus I'm feeling chatty, and we all know how that goes.

Anyway, the next few entries will be about prepping for NaNoWriMo, and we should all be excited for that:

-stock of gourmet tea (Alinka's, but check)
-a few hundred notebooks, in case I should feel like doing "real" writing (check)
-blue gel pen stolen from the Anthropology office (they have the best pens) (check)
-very empty blog (check)
- outline of novel (working on it)

I think we're well on our way. ^.^