Monday, November 24, 2014

Dispatch #30: The Politics of Politics

by Lupe Fernandez

“I don’t like politics.”

How many times have I heard some a reasonable person, “I don’t like politics.”?

The word politics conjures up many images.

A cramped, windowless room, hidden in a back alley, filled with fat, sweaty, balding men smoking cigars like candy. They wear suspenders and count greasy stacks of money, boasting of who’s on the take. The unions. The police. The sanitation workers. The mayor.

A sterile corporate boardroom filled with attorneys in expensive suits, sipping imported bottled water and speaking the language of demographics, focus groups, percentiles, market shares and stock market index. The click of electronic devices. The hum of air-conditioning.

Fat talking heads on the Propaganda Channel with flashy graphics, sound bites, sitting around a coffee talking, pretending to be ordinary folk with their designer clothes and expensive jewelry, blaming the current administration for the weather, the war and the price of cheese.

“I don’t pay any attention to politics.”

Do you have pets? I have four cats. They practice feline politics. Sugar is the aging President. She’s the alpha feline, but her health is failing. Bella and Binks, opposing senators, jockey for position as the President-Elect. Duchess, the special needs cat, has the same seniority as Sugar but lacks intelligence and ambition to be President. Bella and Binks screech, scratch and chase each around the house. When Binks can’t harass Bella, he torments Duchess, eats her food, corners her in a room. The President intervenes between Senator Binks and Citizen Duchess, but Citizen Duchess often rebuffs the Sugar’s help. President Sugar doesn’t like to share the sofa or the bed with the other cats. She has a weakness for diary products, even though diary upsets her stomach. Bella likes to lay about and purr. She also urinate on beds, blankets, tables and other inconvenient spots.


That’s feline politics.

According to that hotbed of anarchy, The Oxford Dictionary, one definition of politics is The activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.

Let’s look at basic story structure.

My protagonist or individual wants via activity, debate or conflict to overcome an obstacle. The protagonist needs courage, knowledge – tools of power – to achieve this goal. The protagonist is governed by family, friends, self-awareness, ignorance, secret organization, school, a king, a queen, supernatural forces or a dystopian society.

“I don’t like politics.”

But vote for my book with your dollars.

Monday, November 10, 2014

It's Nano Time. Quotes to keep you writing

By Susan J. Berger

It's NaNoWriMo time again.   I am following Dawn Knobbe's lead  and using this years' NaNo to make last years novel into a readable 2nd/3rd draft.
She also did a post on inspirational quotes for NaNoWriMo.
If you've never tried National Novel Month, it's a great way to get a first draft. Deadline is everything . You have thirty days to do it.

This isn't about being perfect. It's about getting the words out. If you get the words out, the story will come. I guarantee there will be lots of surprises.

"Here's the bottom line; writers write. Sometimes words flow easily. Sometimes it's like sloughing through mud. Either way a professional writer keeps writing."
 "A word after a word after a word is power." - Margaret Atwood

Dory and I have so much in common. I often stop to Google.

“Don't worry about what you're writing or whether it's good or even whether it makes sense.” 
Lauren Oliver
“Remember: Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
Ray Bradbury.
Advice from a Hollywood NaNoWriMo coordinator.
"When all else fails, throw in a Zombie."
Will you revise after NaNoWriMo? Of course, but right now the trick is meeting the deadline.
"There's an old folk saying that goes: whenever you delete a sentence from your NaNoWriMo novel, a NaNoWriMo angel loses its wings and plummets, screaming, to the ground. Where it will likely require medical attention.”
Chris Baty
“You can't edit a blank page”
Happy writing.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Dispatch #29: Time Travel

by Lupe Fernandez

This is a well-worn and well written subject in science fiction and fantasy literature with many conventions and paradoxes. So here’s my contribution. Facebook. Yes. Facebook. I do recall a YA novel that uses Facebook as a time travel device. But my story is real.

Sort of. I graduated from Sunset High School in Hayward CA in 1980. Thirty four years ago. Recently, alumni have been having a virtual reunion on Facebook. Comments about “hey remember when...” or “Whatever happened to…” or “what’s that fun…” and many oaths of fealty and promises of meeting. Whenever I look at their faces, aged though they may be, I see a time machine. I remember these people as they were, or rather as I observed them. I don’t know them today. I don’t know what forces, what emotional changes, what psychic wounds changed them, molded their political, spiritual and any other kind of attitudes.

I’m naive. I expected them to share my flaming liberal views. When I read comments of a conservative bend, I wonder “wait? Is this the person who smoked in the quad, made out on the band bus, drank copious amounts of liquor, picked a fight, dressed fashionable, danced salaciously…you get the idea. See, I’m naive.

I didn’t know them even when I was in school with them. I saw only the surface. I didn’t even know my own mind. It was too cluttered with regret, anger, longing, loneliness, lust, quizzes, homework, Corn Flakes, white bread, science fiction books and girls.

Now zoom across the decades, past Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, The Commies, New Wave, Grudge, OJ, Space Shuttle, 9/11, computers, Blackberries, Star mail, the Internet, DVDs, apartments, UCLA Extension, query letters, SCBWI, marriage, daughters, cats, etc…

I could not have foreseen that my wife was in my journalism class. That her maid of honor would be her best friend. That I would be related by marriage to a football player in biology class. That said football player’s son would date my stepdaughter in high school. That another alumnus would be an elementary teacher for my nephew. That another alumnus would officiate my marriage. That I would live in the shadow of Mt. Diablo with a million dollar view.

I am rich in memories. I still dream about high school. I’m late. I don’t know what class I’m supposed to be in. An important assignment is due, but I can’t remember what it is. When I’m awake, I still have unanswered questions about high school. Why did my first girlfriend break up with me after a week? Yes, I’ve written about this before. I still don’t have an answer.

I could list names of the Class of 1980, but they would be foreign to most readers. Yet, to me, their names are pregnant with a moment, a song, a noise and regret.

I’ve covered all the four basic food groups of high school. Girls. Class. Homework. Cafeteria. What this post needs is sensory detail, so now a paragraph of memory, back in time. 

I’m in line at lunch. Trays clatter. Stainless steel lids clang over heated lunch trays. It’s Sloppy Joes. Ground beef cooked in tomato sauce with spices. I’m a few people down from a marching band trombone player. He slides his tray in front of his ex-girlfriend serving behind the counter. Her plastic gloves crinkle as she hands him his lunch. He looks blankly at her. She won't look at him, thinking of what they were, what might have been and what they are now.