Saturday, June 21, 2014

Nerdgirl State of the Union Address

I like that blog title. Makes me sound all presidential and junk. Not like someone who almost lost a toenail tripping over a pile of shoes yesterday. Ah, gravity and my own messiness: trying to kill me since 1985. 

This image was found at this site.

So, I haven't posted recently. I have been reading a lot, I've simply been too lazy to review things as they come up. However, I am excited to report that I have recently discovered the magical world of comic books, so that's claimed a lot of my attention lately. Now, they're not wholly unfamiliar to me. When I was a kid, I did whatever my brother did because my brother was wicked cool, so I read comics because he read comics. In particular, I remember digging Spider-Man, Daredevil, and X-men. I also branched out into some Cloak and Dagger at some point, but I actually remember nothing about those comics other than the fact that I liked them.

Getting back into comics has been overwhelming, if enjoyable. I simply don't remember how they work. It reminds me of my frustration with Greek mythology and Arthurian legends when I was younger and more naive. I wanted there to be a RIGHT version of these stories, the accepted version. I'd still read the variations, I just wanted to know which one was more legitimate than the others. I have no idea why. I guess I crave canon in all things, perhaps to create order from the chaos that comes of stories being retold in a thousand different ways. But the truth of the matter is, in some things, like myths and legends, canon is hard to come by. You might find repeating themes, common characteristics, and recurring plot developments, but when something springs up from a largely oral tradition, that shit is gonna vary. Every teller wants to add a flourish, which is why we end up with fairy tales like this that just go on with the "and then this happened... and this happened..." until you have enough material for three fairy tales. People who swapped stories back in the day did NOT understand the notion of a sagging plot hat.

Comic books... aren't that different. I was immediately confused, coming into the comic realm, as to where I'm supposed to begin reading about any particular character. Some of them had recent reboots, like She-Hulk or Nightcrawler, so that made it simple. I just hopped onto those trains as they left the station. But then I read "Night of the Living Deadpool" and fell head over heels for the merc with the mouth. I ran to my Marvel app for more, and... and... I have too many options. *sits down in the corner and cries.*

This image was found on this site.

Deadpool has had so many runs and miniseries and teamups that I have no idea where to begin. It's like coming to a place in a trail that branches off in nine directions, with a sign next to each branch that says, "go this way." It's okay, though, I'm working on figuring it out. I suspect Deadpool's humor translates well without a lot of background knowledge, so I really just need to decide where I want to jump in. I have a similar issue with Dr. Strange, who seems to have quite a lengthy history, but I love him enough to figure it out. His backstory fascinates me and he seems like an intriguing character. Plus, I hear he's getting a movie.

What helped me to get hooked on comics initially without being overwhelmed by all the iterations of the stories was that I began my foray into comics by choosing two series that have one linear storyline to follow: Sandman and Fables. While I know Fables has a few spinoffs and Sandman seems to have some bonus stories, it's pretty easy to find and follow the main thread. I've only read volume one of Sandman so far, but I did enjoy it. The stories got a bit gruesome, but not enough to deter me, so I've ordered volume two. As to Fables, I made it up to volume 10 and stalled. Volumes 1-5 were solid, with volume 4 being one of the best things I've read. Then my ship started floundering in a weird way and my favorite powerful, independent female character got turned into Donna Reed, so I threw my hands up in the air. I don't think I'm done with the series, but I need a break to think about things. Hopefully, this doesn't turn into the pre-breakup timeout I took with "Castle" years ago... 

In any case, I've found this article, "How to Buy Comics: A Beginner's Guide," to be helpful as I traverse this new territory. It also certainly doesn't hurt that the two comic book stores I tend to frequent, the Book Shelf in Tallahassee and Superhero Beach in Jacksonville, are magnificent places where newbs are welcomed and the staff is friendly and helpful. I heart the Book Shelf in particular, not only for the long conversations and helpful hints I've gotten from the owner, but for the fact that it is filled to brimming with rooms of used books. Even as I feel overwhelmed by my newbness, wading into a sea of comic books, the mountains of books across the room feel like a life preserver.

This image originally pinned here.

Of course, I haven't been just reading comics these days. I also read Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which was quite good, and I've been rereading Robin McKinley's Deerskin, albeit very slowly. Now, I say slowly because I used to reread Deerskin on a yearly basis, and it always tore me apart. I'd weep and snuffle through the pages, wanting to rescue the main character from her hardships, and then promptly smile and sigh and want to do it all over again. Now that I'm about 200 pages deep into my reread, I'm hitting some seriously heart-wrenching moments, so I've developed the habit of reading for a while and then stopping to feel all of the feelings. However, please don't think that this talk of weeping and being torn apart means that you should avoid this book. You should only avoid this book if you want to be deprived of the beauty of an exquisitely written and emotional fairy tale retelling that brings both mysticism and relatability to the old French yarn, Donkeyskin. So, you know, it's your life, if you want to do it wrong, I'm not going to judge you. 

This image found on this site.

I've also been writing, of course, because that's what I do. [1] I finished my novel, Ash, a while back, and I'm querying it. I also wrote several short stories that I've been shopping around. I've gotten three rejections so far on the short story front, with the jury still being out on two others, but at least one rejection actually turned out to be a positive development. One of my stories, "The Turning," had been bothering me. I felt like I had a cool setup, but maybe not enough of a "so what?" in the end. Sitting there, staring at the rejection in my inbox, I suddenly knew what the answer to the "so what?" was. It all clicked into place like some kind of magnificent Lego castle, and I could've hugged the editor who rejected me for giving me the kick in the pants I needed to think it through properly. So I put my nose to the grindstone to rework the ending. 

It was tough going for a while. I kept thinking, "Well, I was in a very specific mood when I wrote this beginning, and it's very dreamy. I'm not there anymore, so I'm afraid if I mess with it now, the tone will be inconsistent. I should wait to be in the right mood again." Then I read this blog post on "Not-Writing" by Patricia C. Wrede, which explains the difference between true writer's block and just plain not writing, and it hit me kinda like this: 

This image is also pinned here.

Ahem. So. No excuses. I kept on working. And in the end, I think my perseverance paid off. I finished the story and I'm pretty pleased with it, so it's off to the beta reader for feedback and then the final spit-shine. And in fixing that story, I actually figured out how to solve a plot problem in my novel, Beauty. So essentially, I'm walking on sunshine right now. Mind, I still have another story languishing in mid-process that I'm supposed to be working on right now instead of blogging. But given as this was how I felt the last time I attempted it-- 

This image is also pinned here.

-- I thought a little procrastination was in order. Besides, my blog was looking lonely and unloved. Something had to give. 

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the nattering, and will make good life choices and read Deerskin. Uh, also, if you have tips on how to dive into a comic book series with a long history, I am dying to have them. Until next time, gentle readers!

[1] Footnote: Does anyone else mentally finish the sentence, "that's what I do" with "it's what I live for, to help unfortunate merfolk like yourself"? No? Is it just me? Rats.