San Diego Comic Con 2012

Two years in a row, I went as a +1 of a pro (acted as “assistant” to an old friend). This year, I finally decided to jump through the hoops (ey-ya!) and have just gotten my registration confirmation for my (regular attendee) tickets. Won’t be able to make it on the Saturday, but I look forward to the craziness Thursday, Friday, and Sunday!

2011 In Review

A few days until the end of the year, so I figure I’d do some reflection.

It’s kinda strange that so much happened this past year — yet right at this moment, it all feels so removed in time… I wonder if this is what getting old feels like. Or maybe I’m just excessively tired. One thing’s for sure — I’m looking forward to the new year quite a bit. 

So, 2011…

The world went through quite a bit of turmoil and change… The uprisings — successful or not — in the Middle East and the civil war in Libya. Bombings in Russia and Somalia, and shootings in Norway. Shrinking economies and global financial woes. Earthquakes and tsunamies, and the hurt and damages they caused. More volcano eruptions. Floods in Southeast Asia. Breaking the seven billion human population mark.

Good things happened too, of course — a bunch of internationally recognized baddies bit the dust. Anthropology has been having a good year. So have planet hunters and elementary particles hunters. We had some nice medical advances as well (successful first-of-a-kind medical transplants, figuring out the sources of some really bad diseases and illnesses, to hopefully one day tackle them, etc.)

Here in the U.S., it’s been a political and economic mess. Displays of pettiness and incompetency by the vast majority of politicians, disheartening prospects for next year as an election year, the growing dissatisfaction of the population losing steam and sprouting the unfortunately inadequate various Occupy movements. Crazy tendencies in intellectual property laws. More culling of the internet. Not a very good year for democracy. Not a very good year at all, on average.

On a personal level, it was a more or less temperate year. I went from a resident to a citizen, survived layoffs and reorganization at my job, visited a new country (South Korea). Got involved with a Sikrit(TM) new project that may or may not grow into something bigger. Had a book cover published by a small press. Did a lot of reading and research and planning for what might become my personal business venture in 2012. Didn’t write and draw as much as I wanted (or should have). Have been facing some health issues (thankfully none too serious at this very moment, but a very loud reminder I’m growing physically old). Have been having an iffy luck with technology, and an even iffier luck in my personal relationships. Shut down my writing group. Have been very, VERY short on time and not good at all at managing my stress levels.

In previous years, I’ve done best and worst of the year in books and movies, but I think I’ll pass this year. Probably part of my frustrations with 2011 is that I didn’t read as much as I’d have liked, or catch many movies. Convention and conference-wise, I only made it to the San Diego Comic-Con, and even there, I didn’t have many highlights. The beginning of the year was disappointing for cRPGs (really, BioWare, what were you thinking?), and my rig crashed before I could find the time to play the other games I was looking forward to (Witcher 2, Deus Ex2, Skyrim) (oh, and yes, when I’m talking about “iffy luck,” I’m being very, very restrained in my sentiments).

So, I think I’ll leave it at that. Considering everything else that’s been happening in the world around me, it’s hard to complain about 2011. Still, I’m ready to close the page on it, and tackle 2012.

Here’s to a better next year!

[From “Nothing Much — And Then Even Less”] Checking In.

So, lately I’ve been a bit on a philosophical kick. I wrote something like four looong posts for this place revolving around “My Island” — a mental exercise I do from time to time, on what would be an “ideal” society, politically, economically, and socially, counting the fickle nature of human beings and the advance of technology. Of course, I thought better than actually publishing the posts (mostly because they weren’t self-contained essays, but more like random thoughts jumbled together). Maybe one day, I’ll compile all of it into a long essay or maybe even a book. But not today. And not here.

Instead, today I’ll announce that I’ve finally discovered a place for short fiction that actually works for me! But that deserves it’s own post. With the name of it as a title. So, that’s coming next.

[From “Nothing Much — And Then Even Less”] So, now that the first post is out of the way …

Four more days, and I’m flying out to Massachusetts, to attend the Viable Paradise XIII workshop.

Needless to say, I’m duly panicked. I’ve never attended an official workshop before, and I’m not really sure what to expect. I understand there will be some tearing apart of the writing I sent as my application, and also tearing apart other people’s writing. I attend (and currently host and organize) a writing group, so I’ve had some experience with critiquing fiction, although my group uses more of a conversation style, rather than “the reviewer talks and writer stays quiet” format I’ve seen recommended across the internet. But I also understand there will be on-the-spot writing, which I’ve never had to do and I’m really nervous about. And I tend to be intimidated by Names. And Names there will be.

So, I’m counting days and fretting away. I’ve let the piece of writing I used for my application sit untouched, and it’s taking quite a bit of willpower to do so. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’ll think it’s the worst piece of crap under the sun when I hear other people talk about it or read it at the workshop. Harboring severe lack of self-confidence makes life fun. I can’t wait!

Either way, I’ve decided to start this blog to follow my experiences at the workshop, my adventures as an aspiring author, and more or less anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ve attempted other blogs before, but have never been good at keeping them up to date. I sincerely hope I’ll do better with this one.

So, to get my “introduction” to the whole wide world out of the way: My given name is Irina Ivanova. I’ve been contemplating using a pen name for a long time, and think I’ve finally settled on adopting “Rilan White.” All my decisions are subject to change, of course, but right now, this name feels right for several different reasons that I won’t go into here. (if you’re still curious: for one of the reasons I don’t want to use my given name, do a Google search for “Irina Ivanova” — I’ll just tell you that I’m not Russian, and then you’ll probably understand)

I’m an engineer by profession. I wrote my first science fiction story just over twenty years ago. I drew my first fantasy scene at around the same time. I think all history before steam engines is fascinating. I’m cautiously hopeful and love speculating about the future. However, in my own fiction I tend to put aside the likely and instead explore the unlikely. I love adventure and I love stories about overcoming (or manipulating) the odds. I also have a very soft spot for lone wolf tales. Generally, I’m attracted to grittier stories with realistic, darker characters in extraordinary (from our point of view) situations. That’s where I like to keep most of my writing, though I’ve also tried my hand at high concept shorts, hard sci-fi, and lighter tone prose.

Until about two years ago, writing was only a hobby for me. Since then, I’ve grown hopeful it may become more. Whether this notion is at all realistic remains to be seen, of course. And I hope to use this blog to show my progress.

[From “Six Strides Counter-Spinwise”] Midweek musings

Well, I had a really bad day at work. Almost screamed at a coworker, then had a momentary lapse of judgment and expressed my frustration in front of my boss. So, I’m not sure what kind of mess I’ve started. I’ll feel REALLY horrible if the whole thing gets back to that coworker of mine. I was in my right to be upset, I think, but the guy’s not having an easy time himself, so I should have just kept it between us two.

I’ll try to do damage control tomorrow (oh boy, oh boy, those are always fun) but I’m frankly getting a little tired of this nonsense. Ultimately, it really isn’t the guy’s fault — it’s the company culture that’s just spectacularly EFFed up. The lines that are drawn between responsibilities make no sense and cause such major cluster EFFs, it’s really a wonder the beast can even move.

But, anyway.

On the writing side, I’ve discovered the Hatrack River Writers’ Workshop Forum. It looks like a decent place, and they do critiques on the first 13 lines of short stories or novel chapters. I never realized the importance of these first 13 lines (which, incidently, are a first page on a properly formatted manuscript). I guess we learn something new every day.

So, I got brave and posted the first 13 of Flipside. So far, I actually have very encouraging reviews! And I have offers from a couple of members to critique the whole thing. I’m not really sure I want to go for that. Not that I can’t use more feedback, I’m just not sure if I want to send the story out to effectively complete strangers.

On a less encouraging note, I read Chapter 4 of Prehistoric to the local writers’ group and got all thumbs down. Lack of voice, apparently. I know I didn’t give a very good intro to the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the sole problem. I try to set up a generally dismissive, slightly detached voice using kind of a mock-formal vocabulary… apparently, the formal comes too strong, and the mock doesn’t. So, it’s probably back to the drawing board with this one. Or maybe I’ll just let it sit for a while, then try to maybe refine the voice. But I guess I’ll see when I cross that bridge.

[From “Six Strides Counter-Spinwise”] Happy Bulgarian Liberation Day!

So, I was being good last night, and went to bed at around 11pm, right?

Well, so I’m lying in bed, and I start remembering this old story of mine. And I almost get a panic attack when I suddenly think I’m FORGETTING it. So, I get into this complete madwoman frenzy, jump out of bed, start throwing around old boxes, trying to find the story. So, I finally dig up the notebooks, and spend the next couple of hours reading through the story. Needless to say, I’m dead tired again this morning. I really need to find a good way to record and organize my Bulgarian and hand-written stuff… Either that, or take a five-year sabatical and transfer everything to readable stories in electronic English format.

It’s kind of pathetic, but my stories are the only thing I’m internally truly “proud” of — and not because I think they’re the absolute bestest thing ever on Earth (realistically, they are mostly combinations of all sorts of horrid), but because, well, they may be my brain-children, but I’ve always felt they kind of take on lives of their own. And that’s a pretty amazing thing to see, and I feel an immense pride that I’ve become part of it.

And my one true nightmare is losing even little bits of this.

[From “Six Strides Counter-Spinwise”] Twiddle Thee Thumbs

Ok, so I really gotta get better at updating this.

I went to ConDWF two weekends ago, met up with a bunch of old friends and had a generally great time. So, not a droplet of writing (and very few droplets of sleep). Then I spent a few days recovering.

This past weekend, I caught up on errands and tried to get out of the apartment. And the rest of the time, I played The Witcher (one of these days, I will finish it, despite my struggle with a few of its unique, er, gaming elements). So, not much writing then either.

On the bright side, I did edit away at Flipside of Reason and gave it a new ending. I’ve now forwarded it to a couple of writing buddies for feedback. If I don’t hear from either by this evening, it’s off tomorrow.

I’ve also made it through a scene in Pack that was giving me some trouble, and I’ve jumpstarted Prehistoric again. I’m getting a much clearer idea of what the “ancestors” are gonna be like, and I’m making things tougher for myself, because I’m really taking away all reasons for the protagonist to actually want to work with them. There can be something called too much conflict. But in the wise words of a smarter, younger me, “oh, well.” The situation probably calls for an outline, but seeing how effective the outline’s proven for the progress of Pack, I think I’ll hold off on it for some time.

[From “Six Strides Counter-Spinwise”] A not very productive weekend

Writing-wise, I didn’t get much done this weekend.

I recently had a grammar revelation (which I could have gotten out of a grammar book, had I bothered reading one). So, I’ve been going through older stories, correcting technical aspects of the language. Over the weekend, I ran the treatment on the first sixth of what I have so far for “Varish” (~6K words worth of editing). I then tried to revive the scene I’m stuck on — spent a few hours to end up with a mere couple of hundred words. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good weekend for writing.

On the other hand, I sketched a little. Did a quick scene from “Varish” and a possible character design for “Pack.”