ljlee: (relaxed)
If you're looking for a place to talk shop with other writers you might want to consider [community profile] go_write , a private comm for writers where I am a moderator. We check up on each others' progress and give encouragement, share discussions and tips on writing and so on. Most of us work on original fiction but we're very friendly and encouraging with fanfic efforts as well--I think at least half the active members are writing or have written fanfic.

The main body of the community is private so members can comfortably discuss projects in progress, but there are regular public posts where prospective members can comment. After a month of commenting on the public posts you can message me to apply for membership, and if accepted by the current membership (which will be the usual outcome if you were fairly regular about commenting and interacted politely with the existing members) you become a full member and gain access to the main community. You can read the membership policy here and start commenting on any of the available public posts at the community at large.
ljlee: (reading)
the poppet and the lune coverThe Poppet and the Lune (2011) by Madeleine Claire Franklin is a novel in the style of a fairy tale, with fantastic elements like witches, werewolves, spells, and a girl created from dead body parts.

Full disclosure, I got this book in audio form as a complementary review copy. About a year ago the narrator Elizabeth Basalto's sister was handing out audiobook review credits on the [community profile] books community, and I finally listened to the book last month because I had such a massive audiobook backlog to go through. This is my promised review.

Overall impression: the story was pleasant enough and the narration was okay. There are a lot of fantastic elements, as mentioned above, and there were genuinely clever and moving moments. However, I don't think the story followed through on what should have been its emotional core, and there were some Unfortunate Implications as a result. I will go into more detail on the story below, and there will be spoilers.

As for the narration,[personal profile] jeweledeyes who gave me the audiobook credit said this was her sister's first audiobook narration and it showed. Ms. Basalto's voice is nice and the delivery earnest, but I noticed some technical flaws and tics that I don't see with more experienced narrators. The performance, to my relief, was more solid than in the trailer video for the audiobook; however, it had the same airy quality that could be grating after a while. The repetitive intonation she used when she said "the patchwork girl," a very common phrase in the book because it refers to the heroine, was something of an annoyance. Still, I thought the voice and story were a good match, and wish Ms. Basalto well in her narration career.

In which I demonstrate why you shouldn't give me complementary copies )

In the end The Poppet and the Lune, despite clever uses of fairy tale elements and entertaining plot developments, undermined its own power by hollowing out what it held out to be its own emotional core. It is many things, fun, colorful, romantic, action-packed, and is also, ultimately, forgettable.
ljlee: (peach_moved)
I have been meaning to do a Mad Max: Fury Road post approximately forever since I've seen it (and you won't convince me there was a whole world, history, and civilization before it came out), but everything kept coming out as FTBRRLT MUST MARRY IT AND HAVE ITS BABIEZZZ. The only halfway coherent thoughts I got down were in a discussion with overlithe, so I decided to repurpose my comments into a blog post.

My thoughts on Fury Road are many and tangled, but one aspect among many is that it took and demolished common sexist tropes. Here are three major ones I can think of:

Spoilers, of course )

These three, Plucky Girl, Damsel in Distress, and Women in the Fridge are the major tropes that Mad Max: Fury Road did an excellent job of dissecting along with a whole host of toxic assumptions about women and men. The best part is, as Charlize Theron (Furiosa) said, the movie didn't even have a feminist agenda; the story is feminist by way of being honest and truthful, simply by presenting women as people. I've read stories with feminist agendas and they tend to be dreary and moralizing as agenda-driven fiction tends to be. (Legend of the Last Princess, though a concept, is representative of the type.) The latest installment of Mad Max is driven not by agenda but by truth, and that's why it is among the best feminist films of all time.
ljlee: (muzi_shock)
Following on the discussion of the highly rapey Sky Maiden and Woodsman story, I looked through my niece's copy to see it for myself. It was just a standard telling, but there was a page at the end of the book talking about the "lessons" for children. I read it, wondering if it put the problematic elements of the story in perspective.

I don't have the book with me anymore, but here's the general gist of the note:

Rage. So much rage. )

This is just one book among thousands, of course, and it does not by itself create culture. I wouldn't even care if it weren't part of a consistent message we are bombarded with, over and over from all directions. There is no need to censor the media we consume, but there is a need to question them. The only harm is in pretending that stories told to children are apolitical, because acceptance of the status quo as "harmless" is itself political.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Friday and the weekend was taken up with a series of work and social engagements (and sleep, sweet sleep) but I did read several articles about ancient Goguryeoh and Baekje and write out some of my ideas about Book 1. The most interesting article was about the strategic use of traffic routes by the ancient Chinese to cut the ancient Korean groups from each other and to contain them. It was like watching a chess or Go game in real geographical space, the way these kingdoms used key bases to contain and counter-contain each other.

Portraying an epic Chinese-Korean chess match doesn't have to be racist )

My continuing attempts to outline the second half of Book 1 reminds me again how complicated this dynamic can be, with three kingdoms in a delicate maneuver of cross and double-cross. Sometimes I'm convinced I'll never get it right and the book will never get written, but that's a trick of time perception where it feels like the present is forever. I'll get past this eventually. I already had a couple of mini-breakthroughs today and I think I'm close to a workable story. Come on, self, hang in there!
ljlee: bam bam (headdesk)
I'm reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks--almost finished it, in fact. The good news is I found it pretty helpful. I'll probably review it later on, and will use the method described in the book to outline my novels in progress.

The bad news is that the book has its share of fails when it comes to sex and relationship in stories. One of these moments involves Thelma and Louise and the others involve romance in fiction. I figured I'd get my complaints out of the way before I discuss the rest of the book later on.

I don't think that expression means what you think it means )

The point of this post isn't to say "Larry Brooks is a terrible human being and no one should read his books!" In fact, I started out by saying his book is pretty good. Rather, this post is my attempt to unpack my own reactions. Unless I work through them thoroughly I'm going to find the ignored feelings of fear and anger coming out in other, sneaky ways, so I wanted to confront and deal with them first to give the book a fair shake.

Also, tempting as it may be when I'm feeling angry or threatened, I don't think Larry Brooks is a bad guy, either. I don't know him, but he seems to love his wife and is in most likelihood a decent guy like most men are. It would be so much easier if sexism were a matter of a few "bad apples" as some would like to believe. Instead, sexism is a hard problem precisely because it's a systematic, not personal issue--so pervasive that it sneaks into all sorts of media like this book, and because good people internalize these ideas not out of bad intentions but out of inertia. I know I'm not free of sexist ideas myself because I live in a system that perpetuates these ideas. The best I can do is critically examine and evaluate them, both in myself and it others. This is one of my attempts at that kind of critical examination.
ljlee: (candle)
Originally posted to the [community profile] write_away  community and copied here because I figured it might be relevant to some of my flist. Also because it's hard to find stuff there due to the lack of tags. Note to admins: If you don't allow users to create tags, create some yourself so the place is navigable.

Do you find that having a writer's temperament or talent affects your life in other areas, for better or for worse? Here are the ways it's affected me:

Good, bad, ugly )

It's not always easy to like this part of myself. I still have a suspicion of artistic types as shifty and untrustworthy, no doubt through the lens of parental disapproval. Surrendering to this strange possession was like relaxing for the first time in my life. I still do my day job, and try to be productive in my stunted way, but I'm better aware of how this writing disease stretches its tentacles into every corner of my life. I've also come to acknowledge that the pages of my own creation are where I truly live, whether I like it or not.

(Edited to correct the name of the community, lol.)

ljlee: Queen... er, Lady Misil (misil)
I am not the first of my line to write about my heroine's times. The celebrated thirteenth-century writer Lee Gyubo (李奎報, 1168~1241) wrote the Lay of the King in the Eastern Light (東明王篇), an epic poem about the first king of Goguryeoh a.k.a. my heroine's second husband. Lee, also known as Master White Cloud (白雲居士) and Lord of Gentle Prose (文順公), is my distant ancestor and one of the founders of my house.*

Fully illustrated with amateur photography )

That's how I visited an ancestral grave to pay my respects and ask for help. Yes, I am that desperate. It was nice to reconnect with this part of my heritage, and I know whom to blame if this project doesn't pan out.

Postscript: Another ancestor, the 18th-century academic Lee Ik, came up in my research as a scholar on Yemaek groups and the origins of the Korean people. I appear to have a multi-generational obsession on my hands.
ljlee: (candle)
After another compulsive bout of reading last night, I finally learned where my heroine's home in the first century B.C. was likely to have been located. Here's what it looks like today:

Folded for pictures and rambling )

My heroine's ancient home is now underwater, which is a bummer but not a huge one. I still look forward to visiting Huanren and the dam; in addition to research it's going to be like a pilgrimage to a woman whom I consider a spiritual ancestor, and the people and way of life she was a part of until she found the courage to leave it all behind at nearly fifty years of age. Two thousand years later she still fills me with awe, something no amount of water can touch.
ljlee: where I work & play (workspace)
Why turn Backspace off?

Some writing exercises (freewriting is one example) and challenges (such as NaNoWriMo) aim at freeing the mind to produce whatever comes up, and discourage editing at the writing stage. For many of us, however, deleting typos or awkward turns of phrase is a reflex that simple willpower cannot turn off. For this reason the web app ilys (which is crowdfunding via Kickstarter) has proved useful for people who want to turn off their inner editor while writing. Since ilys obscures the text that is being written, others turn to apps like Final Deadline or Momentum Writer.

Those who don't trust their content to an app whose stability they're not sure of, or have another application whose interface they like better, may have wished that the writing software of their choice supported disabling backspace and delete. If you're on Windows and install AutoHotKey, you can get that wish with a few lines of code.

Background on AutoHotKey, plus the actual script )

So there's your BS Off script. Go to town with it!


ljlee: (Default)
L.J. Lee

June 2016

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