Six Motivating Camp Nanowrimo Activities!

Humans!
I’ve been caught up with writing for Camp Nanowrimo, which is a ton of fun! However, sometimes it can be difficult to stay on task and keep writing, especially during Nanowrimo-style challenges where word-count is key. This is a list of camp activities that I’ve started with my writing group in an attempt to get one another involved.

Music Monday! Share a music video with the group to show off your hard work- one word for each second of the video. (e.g. If you want to rickroll the whole group, that’s only 213 words! :P)

“Twofer Tuesday(or “2’s day!”) Challenge your group mates by writing 100-300 words, and then tagging 2 more people to match that number. (Feel free to tag yourself for a ‘double down’ effect!)

Word Sprint Wednesday! As a group, try to rack up a tally of 10-minute word sprints. For keeping things easy between time zones, word sprints start at :00, :15, :30, and :45 every hour.

Treat Yourself Thursday! Find something you want (on amazon or another site) and “buy it” using words. If each word is a cent, then something that is $5 would cost 500 words. Then share your fake purchases with the group! That way, you can learn a little bit about each other, too.

Free-for-All Friday! Use a combination of any of the week’s methods to up your word count, and share with the group. Check out twitter for the #FriDare hashtag if you’re looking for extra inspiration.

Sketch Saturday! Have some artsy types in your group? Trade sketches with one another, at a ‘cost’ of 1000 words. Share information about your characters, and see how people in your group would draw them. I find fan art very encouraging!

A week is six days, right? If it isn’t it should be.

Have another activity you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

Write On!

-ARG

 

Camp Update!

(& A Disclaimer about Posting Schedule)

As I start into the third day of Camp Nanowrimo, I’d like to make a quick disclaimer! I won’t be posting everyday. I’m focusing all my time and energy on the manuscript, and I’m doing pretty darn well!

I’m at 8.3k words, my friends!

Working on a manuscript at this pace is exhilarating, but I still find myself pacing and pondering over scenes, rooting myself in place until I find the path that resonates. The heart wants what the heart wants, as they say. So while Camp Nanowrimo, or writing months in general, don’t necessarily eradicate writer’s block, the pace is driven upward by goals and awesome community. (It’s also waaaay fun to see that number go up.)

Since the b-log is new, I’m still working on developing a workable posting schedule. However, feel free to peruse past posts, and look forward to (at least) weekly updates! If you’d like to see something particular, contact me.

Happy July!

-ARG

Alpin Recommends Books: Fantasy

Humans! I thought I’d introduce a couple of fantasy books that have captured my attention recently. I’ve grouped these books based on some common themes, and these books have a very similar feel, but were recommended to me from very different sources.

An Ember in the Ashes: This debut novel by Sabaa Tahir is an excellent example of a unique, eerily beautiful, and terrifying fantasy world without the typical cross-continent travel aspect (although I fully expect it in the upcoming sequel). This story is told from two perspectives, Laia and Elias, who couldn’t be from more different walks of life, but are still in parallel situations. Laia is a young woman who volunteers out of guilt for a hopeless, deadly spy mission in an attempt to get information to help her imprisoned brother. Elias is a young man who just wants to get away from the cruel tactics that he’d been raised in as a member of the ruling group, but instead is goaded by future-tellers into taking a dangerous chance at true freedom. Overall, I loved this story, although it didn’t fully draw me in until the first chapter from the Elias viewpoint. My favorite character? The wonderfully deadly Helene, for whom I wish every happiness.

The Wrath & The Dawn: This debut novel by Renée Ahdieh is a love story first, and a fantasy second. The magic in this is an undefined system, that unfolds through its interaction with other characters. The mystery of the magic system left me hungry for more throughout, and this is the kind of book that begs for (and has!) a sequel. Although I have not read the sequel yet, I am looking forward to it once I have the opportunity. In this retelling of the Arabian Nights, the heroine Shahrzad is fierce, dangerous, and determined to take revenge on the King, who killed her best friend. Of course, there end up mitigating factors (sorta), but I hardly think of that as a spoiler. I have some difficulty relating to the love-triangle subplot, but I imagine given the prevalence in modern stories, some people love this sort of thing.  I highly recommend this richly written novel to fans of beautiful, dangerous worlds and beautiful, dangerous women.

 

Happy Reading!

-ARG

Cooking for Humans!

Easy Taco-based Lasagna

Sometimes, humans have to be entertained, and I find that the best way to entertain these funny little bipeds is to feed them! Minimal-prep dishes can be whipped up easily, and as long as you intend to be around for an hour or so, a total win on inexpensive ways to feed these voracious creatures.

Ingredients: OVEN READY lasagna (6ish sheets?), 1 can black beans, 2tsp cumin, 2tsp chili pepper, 2 cloves garlic, cheese (2ish cups total, more is probably fine), 1-2c frozen spinach, and some kind of tomato sauce (4tbsp? It doesn’t have to be much),

Supplies: Oven, Lasagna pan, can opener, knife, tin foil

Preheat oven to 350F. Put three of the little oven-ready lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the lasagna pan. Open bean can, do not drain, and spread beans even-ish over the lasagna noodles. The watery-goo from the bean can will cook the noodles in utero in the oven.

Mince the garlic with the knife thing. Sprinkle the cumin and chili powder on the bean layer, along with the garlic. Skip the garlic if you’re a vampire or if your guests might be vampires. Sprinkle a cup of cheese evenly onto the beans.

Put another layer of oven ready lasagna noodles onto the cheese, then cover that in your tomato sauce. Spread this out so that all the dry noodle is covered by the tomato goo. Put the frozen spinach on that. Sometimes I have to smash apart the clump while it’s still in the bag.  Sprinkle another cup of cheese on that. You can add more spices here, like red pepper, more cheese, or even oregano. Cheese counts as a spice, right?

Cover top in tinfoil. Put the lasagna dish INSIDE the oven at 350F for 35 min. Take off the tinfoil, leave in oven for another 5-10 min (this is to make the cheese on top all crispy).

This should take minimal prep- if it takes longer than 8ish minutes to put together/get in the oven, you need a better can opener.

I wish you many luck packets in your experiments with human food! Honestly, they seem to eat almost anything with cheese in/on/under/near it.

-ARG

Creating Playlists for Writing!

Hello Humans!

Supposedly, appreciation of music is some kind of universal human trait, and I’ve learned to enjoy it. A lot of people, myself included, listen to music at some point when writing. However, when I’m writing, the music needs to reflect the mood I’m trying to portray, or at least be relevant to the story, and I get particular about the kind of music I’m listening to when I write.

Without further adieu (ha!), this is a skimpy little method on how I create writing playlists, which I’m sure has many variations all across the ‘net. I try to start quite a while before my project is underway or in the beginnings, but I’ve been “collecting” songs for particular projects in personal YouTube playlists a lot recently.

Note: Determine if you can listen to music with lyrics in your own language, or another language, or if you get distracted by human vocalizations. If you do get distracted, try limiting your search to instrumental music!

  1. Check out soundtracks or playlists that other people have made. I like to go to 8tracks and search via strange keywords. My absolute favorite playlist for a couple of projects has been VILLAIN(OUS). Feel free to explore on this platform, and stick here if you find a series of playlists that suit your needs.
  2. Take notes of songs you like, or don’t like, from your current music habits- either listening on a long drive, or letting YouTube or Pandora suggest possibilities.
  3. Create a playlist on YouTube (or your preferred site). Once logged in on YoutTube, you can select a small “+ Add to” button, underneath the video in the current layout. If you’re creating a new playlist, you can name it here, or select a previously named playlist.
  4. After you’ve started to put songs on your playlist, you can find the playlist in your library, and order them in whatever way you like! This helps me to smoothly transition into different emotions for a particular work. Remember that you can start playing the list anywhere!

Creating a playlist of music that helps me to resonate well with what I need to write helps me to stay focused and provides me with an extra oomph of motivation. Also, you can share your playlists with other humans by changing your preferred settings. How endearing!

Happy Listening!

-ARG

 

WIP: Confessions of a SuperFake

Although this may be not terribly useful to some readers, I thought I’d describe one of my Works in Progress (WIP) today. Since I tend to have several stories at different levels of completion, this will probably be part of a series.

Without further ado, I present Confessions of a SuperFake!

COSF_text_alt

Confessions of a SuperFake is a science fiction superhero novel that is currently being prepared for beta reading, which will start in August. The story follows college freshman Lexus Roberts, who is the first Technopath ever recognized by the secret superhero society.

Summary:

Lexus (Lex) Roberts just enrolled in Northern University on an engineering scholarship, almost 3000miles away from home. With no friends, a bit of an anger management problem, and a designing block that just won’t go away, Lex is struggling with freshman year. But when Lex accidentally infiltrates the top-secret College for [Super] Heroic Aptitude everything turns upside-down. Lex gets friendly new bestie with a dark side, a love interest with superspeed, and a whole lot of secrets. Can Lex balance college classes, faking a superpower, and a healthy dose of crime? Or will everything come toppling down in an explosive whirlwind of doom?

 

Personal Notes: I love this story and will start to search for the appropriate place to publish this novel sometime this year. If you have questions, or would like to participate in beta reading, please contact me! I would love to hear from you at any time. Sometime in August, I will be posting the first chapter on my website (IT’S COMING I SWEAR).

Write On!

-ARG

Writing Chapters

Determining what is and isn’t a chapter can be a challenging thing. I’ve been writing novel-length prose for a long time, and I’ve really only come across a few truths. So what is a chapter?

Answer: It depends.

It really does! I’m not just copping out of a blog post! These are my three requirements when I’m writing chapters. I don’t use page lengths or have a rigid list of must-haves.

  1. A chapter should tell a mini story. I think this is absolutely necessary to breaking up a longer work into shorter works. If your novel is a house, then the chapters would be your rooms. A room is hard to consider a room without a few walls, a floor, and a ceiling, and maybe a bit of furniture or art. Not every chapter is going to be the same length, or style, or have the same characters, but it needs to tell a small story. This small story could be in the form of a common theme or chronologically connected narrative, but if your chapter doesn’t tell a story, then chances are it’s a hodgepodge of scenes rather than a coherent chapter. Try this: Boil your chapter down into a sentence of what happens, e.g. “The MC gets into an argument, loses his glasses, and falls into a stupidly placed well.”
  2. A chapter should add to the overall narrative. The scenes contained within the chapter should move the story forward in some way. Whether that’s major character development, an important discovery, or a big battle sequence, a contribution to the main plot is necessary to lump the scenes into a chapter.  A chapter is a main division of your story, a puzzle piece, and if it could go missing without changing the outcome, then it’s not really a puzzle piece. Inconsequential clumps of scenes serve more as an intermission than a chapter.
  3. A chapter should feel complete.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a chapter is too long or too short or too rambling or too terse. Going to one extreme or another can happen with little warning, but there is a sense of wholeness about a complete chapter. When I write, I try to put a piece of most subplots and plots into the scenes, which serve as a reminder as to the story’s stakes and don’t allow a reader to let an important subplot drop off the radar. (Wow, do humans still use radar? Legit EM waves bouncing off of stuff? Ew.) In any case, this feeling is personal to the writer, and comes with time, practice, and a lot of reading.

In any case, don’t be afraid to experiment with your chapters! I’d still stick to these suggestions, but I made them, so take that with a grain of 1:1 ratio sodium chloride. Long, short, etc- the important part is that they work for you and your story.

Happy Writing!

-ARG

(Happy Birthday to MSB!!)

Magic Systems: General Process

Or ‘Alpin Attempts an Iffy Metaphor Using Earth Flora’

Whenever I work on a magical system, it usually starts out with one concept, and grows outward from there. The concept is sometimes a mechanic, or a general idea, or an abstract feeling. But any way the magic starts, growing the fantasy magic system is especially important. These are the steps I follow once I have the seed.

  1. The Waiting: Take your itty bitty seed concept, and wait. Consider it, think about it, wait it out. Don’t smother it. Sometimes seeds take a while to grow. It’s also ok to toss it jack-and-the-beanstalk style and see if stuff comes to mind.
  2. Careful Growth: At some point, you’ll notice your idea growing a little, becoming more than just a single concept. When the little magic seed becomes a little magic seedling, and it needs some attention. Think about your magic system, how the concept might work in a story, and jot down a bunch of ideas. It’s important not to kill the idea at this stage- If you trim your concepts here, it’s like trimming plant roots. It’s brainstorming. Let the concept sprout roots until it hits water.
  3. Identifying Root System: So if you imagine your main concept as a seed, then the seed has sprouted roots, and some have thrived in your brainstorming session(s). From your brainstorming sheet, identify the concepts that work best together. It might sound ridiculous, but this can include cutting your original concept. If your concept seed has produced an offshoot that you like (love!) more, then pursue that route. Your magical system may be complicated at this point, or it may still be simple, but at the very least it needs to be tangible. This is where you can say: This event could happen in this system, and here’s how.
  4. Planting: Now that you have a solid base, it’s time to plant the metaphorical magical system into an actual world. Give the system stories, by giving it a world (or galaxy, or multiverse!). Take time and find the difficulties and benefits to your magical system, and how these affect the universe surrounding it. Ask ‘What if’ and ‘How’ and ‘Why’!
  5. Blooming: Once you’ve grown your magical system, it’s time to reap the benefits. This is where you can find or produce characters, conflicts, or arcs that will drive a narrative. Whether you’re intending to place a series of independent drivers into your story (as with community storytelling, like Dungeons and Dragons),  or you plan to write it yourself, you have a solid foundation in your magic system that will serve as a major mechanic in your story. Make something beautiful!

Happy Planting!

-ARG

“I know how plants work!” Alpin lied.

 

Alpin Recommends Books: Sci-Fi

If you are a human like me, you may enjoy the mental escapes from normal life from storytelling. For your perusing, here are a few of my recently read science fiction books/series, and a quick summary of thoughts on them.

Illuminae: Illuminae is possibly the most visually stimulating  books I’ve ever read.It’s not a graphic novel, but the occasional diagrams, use of light and dark, and dossier formatting left me almost unable to put it down. This sci-fi thriller combines futuristic science and rebellious protagonists in a mystery that left me both struck and satisfied.

Cinder: Cinder is the first in a four part series called the “Lunar Chronicles,” a sci-fi retelling of a series of fairy tales. This genre seems to have taken a hold on the YA market, with young protagonists and the promise of a happy ending… eventually. The strong female characters, distinct lack of love-triangles, and well-paced revelations led me to read the entire series in rapid succession.

Dragon and Thief: Dragon and Thief is the first of an incredible six part series which follows 14yo human Jack and his new symbiotic alien dragon, Draycos, as they try to prevent the genocide of Draycos’ people. This universe is filled with diverse aliens, daunting technology, and stakes that made me devour all six as soon as I got my hands on them. The Dragonback books are not just adventures for middle-grade or YA readers, but for adults as well looking for a complicated world that reads easily and stimulates imagination.

That is all for today.

-ARG

Please note: I do have hand-like appendages. I use them to manipulate my environment and hold items, just like a normal human would.

Cooking for Humans!

Broccoli-Curry Mac&Cheese.

I make a mean macaroni, totally fit for human consumption.

Ingredients: 6 cups water, box of mac&cheese, 2cups frozen broccoli, 2tsp butter, 1/4 cup milk, 1+cup cheese, 2tsp curry powder, 2tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp red pepper (optional)

Supplies: Big pot!, Strainer (optional), container/stirring mechanism (not your hand, humans seem to think this is unsanitary/unsafe)

I start out with a box of mac and cheese, and a couple cups of frozen broccoli.

Boil a few cups of water, like six. Put the pasta and the macaroni in the pot, but turn down the heat some and stir. I sometimes  burn food, and my humans do not like this. I am not allowed to cook at night.

Eight minutes. Boil the macaroni and broccoli for 8 minutes, then strain it.

Put it in a big container, and add like 2tsp of butter and stir it in. You can add the powdered cheese and quarter cup of milk, but you’re also gonna need like a cup of cheese more than that.  I like cheddar.

This is the important part: 1-2 tsp of curry powder, 1-2 tsp of chili powder, and some red pepper. Stir in. Can do more, can do less. I like more!

It takes like 15 minutes total, and is super popular among the Alpins that live here. I like to call it “brocurry mac” but that might be a little too brilliant for regular usage. And it sounds like I’m pronouncing broccoli wrong.

-ARG