Enchanted Forest, INC. – Novel Excerpt

Yesterday, probably yesterday, who knows with exams being the way they are, a few people expressed some interest in reading my fiction.  What follows is an excerpt, the prologue from my novel Enchanted Forest, INC.  It is Terry Pratchett-esque fantasy/humor/adventure/snark.

There comes a point when a yipping dog has to be put outside or locked in a room or just generally shut up.  With muscle relaxants, sedatives, wine, whatever is on hand and easily administered.  To Malin’s mind, this point had come some 20 minutes previous.  Malin was not a dog person.  No, he was definitely catlike in every sense — rude, apathetic, interested in hunting things weaker than himself, graceful, and scornful.  If cats could talk, and would bother long enough to answer, they’d agree that Malin was very much one of them.

At the moment, he was sitting outside of a window on a turret of a very tall, somewhat foreboding castle.  The wind was picking up and it had begun to rain a very annoying, misty sort of rain that offered very little in the way of atmosphere but a lot in the way of damp.  He was waiting.  If he’d had a tail, it’d be twitching impatiently.

And Princess Gertrude’s dog would not stop barking.  She and her handmaiden had been trying to calm it since he’d arrived — dogs didn’t like Malin.  Nor did they like intruders, so it was really no surprise that the dog was having a fit.  The surprise was that the princess hadn’t sent the creature away long ago.

Still, nothing like the thrill of the hunt, eh?  Normally he was easily bored, but tonight, no, tonight he could wait forever.  Happily.  Well, not happily so much as willingly.  And maybe the dog was getting on his nerves a bit.  And maybe it was a little bit cold.  And probably the rain and wind weren’t good for his skin…

He glanced through the window.

The window had sheer curtains, he couldn’t make out features, but he could see the slender figure of the princess and wondered off-hand how many liberties one could take before a princess no longer counted as innocent.  The search for a maiden princess of marriageable age had taken a very long time, but maiden was a very specific requirement that one could easily work around. With her permission, of course, who didn’t love a scoundrel?

The somewhat larger shape of the handmaid was wrestling with the small dog. If they’d understood dog language they would have heard, “Hey, there’s a man outside your window.  Let me at him!  LET ME AT HIM!”

Of course, they didn’t understand the dog. The handmaid finally managed to get the dog outside. The door closed behind and Malin waited a beat to make sure they’d gone.  He opened the window without a creak, and delicately landed on the floor inside. Really, astonishingly like a cat.

The princess turned, and they both froze in horror.

When you think princess, you’ve got certain expectations: slim, blonde, blue eyes — and the princess certainly had these but… her eyes were small and piggish, her hairline was receding, and she had spots on her abnormally large nose.  She would have been merely below average in the looks department had she not decided to remedy the situation by using as much makeup as possible.  Cartoon round spots of red on her cheeks, drawn on lips and eyebrows, and that hideous shade of blue eyeshadow.  Her teeth, well, they were the teeth of the greatest monarchs worldwide: horsey and a bit frightening.

The look of stupid surprise wasn’t doing her any favors.

Malin pulled out a locket with a portrait in it.  The girl in the portrait was stunning — flawless skin and a tiny nose.  He held it up and compared the two for a moment.

“Are you Princess Gertrude?”

She smiled.  This, Malin decided, was worse than the “O” of surprise she’d been offering before.

“Of course.  What can I do for you?”

Princesses are not, generally, good at self-preservation, their default position being polite rather than, say, running and screaming.

“Are you sure?”

“Well, I certainly have been up to now.”

“Right.  It’s just that I have this portrait,” he walked over and showed it to her.  “Is this really you?”

“Oh yes, I remember Hans the Elder painted that not a year ago.  I do think it looks so remarkably like me.  Are you returning it?”

“By all means, keep it.”

He snapped his fingers and she fainted into his arms.  He carried her out of the window and disappeared into the night.

Moments later, the dog burst into the room.  What a dog of his size could have actually done under the circumstances remains unknown, but he was pretty sure he’d have had it under control.

Your Domain Has Expired

I got an email today from WordPress.

The domain upgrade at [blog name] has expired.

I’ve been blogging for exactly one year as of today–the blog that has expired (though it’s been set to private for months) was my first, begun January 7th of last year. In exactly one year I’ve written there at Teen Skepchick, Friendly Atheist, Heresy Club, and In Our Words. I’ve guest posted at Brute Reason and Martin Pribble’s Blog, and…as you may have noticed…moved to Freethought Blogs.

Writing, which began with book reviews and a news-y and optimistic atheist blog has evolved into a mental health focus. I’ve figured out that I love interviewing, can’t string more than 700 words together for a post, and that godless heathens give the best hugs. I’ve started therapy, figured out how Twitter works, and moved out of my teenage years.

I’ve also met all my closest friends and my lovely partner. I’ve met you commenters, people who say really smart and wonderful things while having fun names. I’ve been linked to on Psychology Today and American Conservative (guess which one of those I was happy about), and accidentally introduced myself as Kate Donovan a few too many times.

Here’s to year number two of yelling at people on the internet.

You guys are great. Keep being that way.

 

New, New, New

New Years, new ideas, new things.

So, what say you to some new ideas for my blogging? I’m really looking for your responses, and yes, they will effect what I decide to do.

Important: I am Kate, not Ashley. I speak only for my posting. So, if you tell me I need to be making more ukelele videos, that’s nice, but I can’t sing, and you sure don’t want to watch me try to play music. 

Idea One: A weekly segment on a single mental illness, how it can present, criteria for diagnosis, myths and misconceptions, and holes and flaws in the methods of treatment and diagnosis. This got pretty great responses on Twitter, so it’ll be happening. Ideas for the first illness are much appreciated!

Idea Two: Mental health skepticism! I keep meaning to do more of this, but it’s slipped by the wayside. There’s a lot of nutty ideas out there about psychiatric medication (Do SSRI’s cause suicide?), therapy (Rorschach, anyone?), IQ tests, and on and on. I’d like to talk more about that.

Idea Three: Asexuality. Fun fact: I am under the ace umbrella. I keep meaning to write a general post about it, or a more specific one about (A)sexual, an excellent documentary, recently released, but somehow I never finish.

Other things in no particular order: These are titles of pieces that I’ve been meaning to write about, or haven’t gotten out of my drafts, and still haven’t managed to. If you like anyone especially (or conversely, dislike anyone), I’ll take it into consideration.

  • No True Scotsman, Apathy, & the Deep Rifts
  • DSM 5 vs. DSM IV
  • The varying levels of stigma associated with different disorders
  • Alternative Medicine as Complementary Treatment: Still a Problem
  • Making Your Conference Introvert/Social Anxiety Friendly
  • People Who Benefit From Therapy and People Who Have Mental Illness: A Venn Diagram

Is there other stuff I’m leaving out that you’d like to see? Comment below! Also, it’s a new year, and I need more blogs to read–self-promote or promote other people!

Behold the Blog: All My Stubborn Ounces

I’ve been meaning to make some regular features of my blogging here, and now that I’ve lassoed a free half hour to myself, I’m starting this one: Behold the Blog. Every Monday, give or take the occasional midterm, travelling, or mid-quarter-life-crisis, I’m going to talk about a blog I hope is new to you.

Today:

To Feel the Stubborn Ounces of My Weight

You’ll see I haven’t put a link on that title. That’s because the best posts on this blog deserve a very clear preface. I’m going to let Cassy, the author, tell you in her own words:

TRIGGER WARNING: No-holds-barred descriptions of sexual violence and strong language to follow (also, discussion of depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and anorexia). Please, practice self-care in reading this, as I made sure to do so in writing it.

Cassy is this lovely beautiful person I met almost exactly a year ago. I showed up to the first Carl Sagan Day Chicago, knowing very few people, and somehow in the hustle and bustle I ended up wandering over to the redhead holding nutella-frosted cupcakes.(Chocolate–it’s like magnets!). When I joined the Secular Student Alliance a few months following, we ended up as the only two members who woke up early enough to attend church: the culmination of our Send An Atheist to Church fundraiser. A little later, Cassy was the one of the two people I asked to make sure I didn’t skip out on my first therapy session.

And then, this summer, Cassy told her story:
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part I, Partner Rape
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part II, Date Rape
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part III, Relationship Violence
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part IV, Healing & Epilogue

She’s been blogging ever since. And she’s still the strongest person I know.

People looking out for Hollywood writers: Eddie Kritzer, the scam that will not die

I got the following comment today, and I’m sharing it as a blog post for everyone.  If you haven’t read the Eddie Kritzer saga, I will include a bundle of links at the end.

Just a PSA to keep Eddie Kritzer (a.k.a. Andy King) on the radar.

I’m almost certain a weekly post on Craigslist in LA is Eddie Kritzer scamming writers.

I have seen this posted EVERY Saturday since I moved to LA about a year ago. I did some digging and discovered Eddie Kritzer, and this post sure sounds like the scam he runs.

Here is the content:

SELL SCRIPT OR BOOK (HOLLYWOOD)

Looking for writers that have a compelling story to tell. If you have a story that you believe in, and you cant believe it’s not at your local Barnes & Noble or on the Movie Screen, then email me.
Say in one sentence what your story is about. You cant? Then how do you expect to sell your movie or book, You cant..Do the best you can
You could make $5,000, $25,000, $125,000, it all depends on your story and if it connects with the public.
This is not a guarantee you will make it, it means you could make it, it depends how strong your story is.
You make money by the number of books you sell, or how much your script sells for
You must be committed and motivated, and have a passion for your story and believe in it

Location: HOLLYWOOD
Compensation: $5,000, $25,000, $125,000

—–

Eddie Kritzer: The Scam Artist

A “manager” or “agent” or “disgusting troll who used my business contact to actually call me to talk about having sex with me”, depending on who you ask. Advice: if someone asks you for a fee upfront to read your screenplay, they are not legit.  Further advice: If you want to hate someone, I highly recommend reading the disgusting e-mails he sent to me.  Warning: Graphic.

Blog Posts in chronological order: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14

Reason Rally VIP

So, I sent my blog post yesterday to the Reason Rally essay contest and won two seats in the VIP section. Because I got here early, I actually got a seat in the front row.  If you’d like to follow me, I will probably posting mostly on facebook, which you can follow, or twitter.

The essay also got posted on RichardDawkins.net.  I am so stoked I might explode.

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Eeeeeeeeee!

Interview with Nicholl Fellowship Winner Micah Ranum!

FSU Classmate and winner of the 2010 Nicholl Fellowship Micah Ranum very kindly answered some questions I had for him about winning and what his life has been like since.

From the Nicholl Website

1. What script did you win with, what’s it about, what do you love about it?

My script is entitled “A Good Hunter.” The story is about a reformed hunter living in isolation on a wildlife sanctuary in Northern Minnesota. He becomes involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse when he sets out to save a young girl from a vicious killer in the wilderness.

I have found that in order for me to really become excited about a project, I need to love the characters. As a writer you spend countless hours with your characters and if you don’t find some reason to get to know them well, the script just doesn’t stand a chance. So while I love writing suspenseful moments, those moments mean very little if you don’t find a deeper connection with the characters and the world they inhabit. For me, Rayburn, the protagonist in A Good Hunter, was a guy I liked quickly. The idea of this man, who is a reformed hunter who now takes care of animals on this isolated wildlife sanctuary, spoke to me. You have to get invested in what it is the main character is after, and in order to do that you have to become attached to the hero of the story.

2. What’s your background? Where are you from, how long have you been writing, how many scripts have you written? Do you want to be a writer/director?

I am originally from Minnesota and have been writing screenplays for nearly the past ten years. Some years have been much more prolific than others, but all together I have written ten feature scripts, most of which I would never show to anyone.

Other than writing, I also went to film school at Florida State University where I earned an MFA in film production. While there, I wrote and directed five short films and had the pleasure of working on countless other students films.

I do hope to direct someday, but as of now I really just hope to forge a career in writing and hopefully directing will fall into place as a result.

3. Have you applied to other contests or festivals? With what results?

The 2010 Nicholl competition was the first screenwriting competition I have ever entered and will likely be the last. As a winner of a fellowship, I don’t believe I qualify for most other competitions.

4. Did you get feedback from nicholl on your writing? Once you were a finalist what was the process from there to winner?

I did not receive any feedback from the Nicholl Fellowships, but I did not ask for it either so I’m not sure what their official policy is on sharing feedback.

Once I reached the finalist level in the competition I was asked to submit a brief letter describing my background and my aspirations for the future, as well as a description of a script that I would like to spend my time working on during the fellowship year. Overall the process was simple and painless. The waiting, on the other hand, was a nightmare! But when the call came from the director of the fellowships, Greg Beal, I couldn’t have been more elated. It was such an exciting moment and much needed validation.

5. Did you meet the other winners? Did anything seem to separate them from others?

I met the current fellows and finalists and also had the honor to meet several brilliant past fellows as well. Most writers tend to live such isolated existences that it is hard to discern what separates a professional from an amateur. How do ten scripts rise to the top in a competition like the Nicholl Fellowships? If I knew the answer to that question I would be happy to share, but I am not sure anyone knows that answer.

There are so many ingredients necessary to make a good script great that if just a few are missing, the story just won’t feel quite right. Basically, tell an entertaining story and make sure it is full of conflict with dimensional characters that a reader and an audience can fall in love with. But first and foremost, fall in love with your own story so that you can spend lots of time necessary to rewrite your work.

6. Tacky question: have you gotten the money? Have you bought anything exciting? Did you have a day job and did you get to quit it? Has your life been turned upside down with calls for screenplay deals and agents?

The fellowship money is not given in one lump sum. Instead it is dispersed in five payments over the course of the fellowship year. But after I got my first check, I did purchase a new Macbook Pro. I had been using a touchy nine year-old imac that is well past retirement age.

Before I won the fellowship I was fortunate to be writing fulltime. My wife and I moved to Los Angeles without much of a backup plan. Once we arrived, and I was able to secure a manager we decided that I would spend a few months writing full time while she would support us. A few months extended into over a year, but we kept seeing progress and it just seemed like the struggle would be worth it in the end. The Nicholl is a huge step and the sacrifices that we made have worked for us, but it has not been easy. While I have supplemented our income with small amounts of production work from time to time, I have been lucky enough to really spend my time working on the craft of screenwriting.

My life hasn’t been turned upside down yet, but doors continue to open. The script has garnered a lot of attention and I do expect good things to happen in the coming year. I already had a manager and an agent so I was not looking to sign elsewhere. But from what I gathered, the writers who did not have representation found it quickly.

7. There’s always grumbling about the race, sex, geographic locale, and genre of the majority of Nicholl winners, though the first three line up pretty closely with submissions. Do you have any thoughts on that? How does it feel to have won with a fairly atypical genre?

Personally, I think the competition is about as perfect as one could expect. The blind submission process ensures that everyone gets a fair chance. No script contains information about the age, gender, etc. of the writer. With that said, if a script comes by about a menopausal woman taking a road trip with her 3 dearest friends, I’d wager that it wasn’t written by a 22 year old guy. Nor is a gratuitously violent slasher flick filled with teen sex usually written by a 50 year-old woman. In that regard, the process is a little subjective, but I think good work usually gets recognized. But gender and race issues are a much larger sociological issue that cannot be so easily pinpointed and dissected in a screenwriting competition.

Geographic locale is simple. Most people who take their work seriously, move to the location that best fits their needs. If you want to become a country singer, move to Nashville; if you want to study Chimpanzees in their native habitat, move to Africa; if you want to be involved in the film industry, Los Angeles is where the industry is. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it from somewhere else, it only means that it’s that much easier to surround yourself with like-minded peers.

It was exciting to win with a thriller; however, I do believe that even genre scripts need to have a good dramatic through line. We have to like the characters and we have to root for them to succeed. Every good script needs several layers to really work on an emotional level.

8. You had a manager who sent this script out to the tracking boards about a year ago. Did she help you with the script? Did you make any changes before sending it to nicholl? Did you get any meetings off of it then?

My manager certainly helped develop the script. I think a good manager will do that, but in the end it is still up to the writer to take those notes and execute. But a good manager will point out the weak moments and should push a writer to do their best work.

I did not make any changes to the script before submitting to the Nicholl competition. I was already working on other projects and felt that “A Good Hunter” was in a good place to submit to the Nicholl.

When the script initially went out I think I had around thirty meetings. After winning the Nicholl, I probably had another fifteen or twenty meetings and they still seem to be popping up several months later.

9. Any advice or recommended resources, books or websites on writing or the business? Words of wisdom for people who are older than 22 or don’t live in hollywood but still want to make it?

There are tons of great books on writing including Save the Cat, Story by Robert Mckee, books by Linda Seger and of course Sid Field. But other than reading those books, study the types of movies that you would like to write, read as many scripts as you can, but most importantly write. I’ve had days where I’ll read all the tracking boards and screenwriting blogs, read chapters in a screenwriting book, and then break down a movie or two, but at the end of the day, I hadn’t written a word. All of that busy work is important but you have to write – make a schedule that you can stick to. The only way to improve is to repeat the process over and over.

And most importantly, learn to rewrite your work. First drafts are never very good no matter who you are. Anyone who thinks they can write one draft and be done is delusional. There are many layers that make up a good script and most of those do not show up until rewrites.

10. What’s next? What are you currently working on?

I am currently writing two more spec screenplays. I couldn’t be more excited about both projects. But have found it never seems to get any easier. It takes hard work to write a script and maybe a touch of insanity to do it over and over and over.

Thanks a lot, and again, huge huge congratulations!

Busy!

Have you ever had one of those weeks where there was just too much going on?  That’s the sort of week I’ve been having.  It’s been good, great even, I’ve just had a lot on my plate.  I love the freelance writing I’m doing but, between working full-time and tutoring and trying to attend local freethought events, my weeks are already too full.  Then I got a special assignment from Social Axcess to cover NCAA Social Media for March Madness — so that required a lot of research, because I don’t know much about American sports, and I know even less about college sports.  This is because I resented being forced to go to prep rallies when I was in high school — I have a block when it comes to school sports.

Then I was learning a courier route at work, meaning I spent all day in a car driving, so I was working overtime and not in front of a computer. And I had a 1500 word piece due.  And I got laryngitis.  And it’s spring, so my allergies are in full bloom.  And someone wanted to consult with me about an editing project, which I just can’t take on right now, but it’s interesting.

Exciting news!  I’m going to the SCA Conference in Washington, DC right before my birthday.  Which reminds me that I need to put together some information on Social Media Strategy for them in the next day or two.  I hope I get the chance to see a little of DC, I went when I was in 8th grade and that was before I’d seen The West Wing and thought that there was something worth seeing in Washington.

And the world is apparently falling apart, but I haven’t really had time to absorb that.  CNN has just had one too many “Where is God in Japan” headlines for me to stomach trying to follow the daily news cycle.  And the Nicholl opened, and TAM registration opened.

So it’s Sunday and I still feel on edge, like I should be working, and there’s still plenty on my plate, but I’m taking a day off.  Of course, my brain is still going a million miles a minute — I don’t really drink, but maybe I just need a drink.

Nothing to do with the rest of this post

Secular Coalition for America Blog

I thought, you know, being a semi-regular contributor to 3 blogs just wasn't enough.  Sean Faircloth, who I have a total atheist political crush on, got in touch with me a few months ago to ask me if I wanted to help with his new project, creating a blog on the SCA site.  The help I ended up giving was just being a contributing blogger, but, you know, it's something.

The blog just launched this weekend, and today my first post went up.  So go be like, hey, there's that blogger I knew back when she wasn't cool enough to write for Secular.org

Oh, and it mentions Columbia and the local AU meeting, if you're interested in that.

Deep Thought

Why is it easier to be proud of something you’re absolutely no good at than it is to be proud of something you are actually good at?

Today, with writing money, I bought a sewing machine and made a skirt. It’s pretty crap, but whatever, I love it.

WOOO 3:30 AM SKIRT