Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Angel in the Galley

I'm sorry, ducks, I haven't anything exciting to write about.

So let's talk about something everyone likes: food!

Here on the airship Inkstained Succubus, we like our food. In fact, I've written two cookbooks, neither of which is readily available.

However, on my Wednesdays when I can think of nothing else to share, you'll get a new recipe, tested in our galley and force fed to our authors and crew.

I've discovered the fun and games that is Pinterest. You can find me, goggles and all, there quite often.

As I mentioned, my oldest son recently graduated. To celebrate, we made Awesome Brownies of Awesomeness
They are loosely based on this pin:

4 packages of brownie mix (eggs and oil to make them with), mixed as directed
1 bag of chocolate chips
2 packages mint oreo cookies

I just did these in a pan, but I think a muffin tin is a wiser choice.
Line the muffin cups with paper liners and pour just enough brownie batter to cover the bottom.
Add one oreo to each muffin cup.
Mix chocolate chips into remaining batter.
Cover oreos.
Add second oreo to cup. Cover with batter.
Bake as directed until brownies are done.

Mint chocolate chip ice cream on top of these is complete overkill, so please, go for it.

Be good and don't blow up the kitchen, and maybe later this summer there will video footage of ice planets and how my own genius children cope with problematic food.

Clear Skies!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Our Notification system

So, what happens when you send a submission to Inkstained Succubus?

Once the missive arrives by Aetheric Tank aboard the airship, our Mad Scientist seizes it and scuttles below-decks, cackling maniacally, thrilled to have something new to read.

Up at the wheel, I will hear clanks and bangs and the occasional chortle of laughter or shriek of terror (depending on the manuscript). If zie deems it worthy, zie will send it up to me, employing our specially trained Ferret Delivery System. Ferret Delivery: we'll get it there or we'll eat it. You never know. I'm always tickled to see one of the little beasties climbing up the rigging, the manuscript in a wrought brass tube on its back.

The ones our Mad Scientist deems Not Right will be sent a nice note, saying "Thank you but this isn't right for us at this time. We encourage you to submit for other calls. And please, the pigeon is on us. Pigeon pie is especially good."

Once I get the manuscript, I read it over and decide. There are two primary sorts of missives that come off my heap of a writing desk.

"Please revise and resubmit."  This means I liked the story. A LOT! Enough to consider it even though the author didn't pay attention to our formatting requirements. Even though the author didn't read the submission guidelines. Even though the story is 1/4 as long as it should be. Even though the author doesn't know the difference between they're, there and their. Even though the author has made creative punctuation an alternate lifestyle choice. (On my airship, we keep our punctuation firmly clapped inside the quotation marks, where the devious boogers belong)

"Your contract is attached." This may come with a "revise to our formatting" missive as well. This mean you are about to become an Inkstained Succubus author, if you accept our generous terms of a comfy oar and bench all your own, padded collar and chains and all birds and skyfish you can eat. And a daily rum ration, of course. You can't sail with a Sparrow without a rum ration.

On occasion, I have to have our Mad scientist flogged because zie sends up a true stinker. I think it's mainly to keep me on my toes. Or maybe because zie has a crush on the Quartermaster. Never can tell with pirates or geniuses.

There are any number of calls still open. Please have a look at the website. Our Ferret Delivery System is getting restless.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Seen Around the Net

Hello dears.  The Lost Lab is having a Mental Health Week so I've got the blog.
(The Angel has the Phone box! Horrors!)

This will be link salad today.
I should have something interesting for Wednesday. But today, it's other smart people and the smart things they say.

The most amazing article for anyone who wants to write female characters:
Woman have always fought: Combating the Women, Cattle, Slaves narrative

It references James Tiptree Jr's The Women Men Don't See. The link is to a .pdf.
James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice Bradley Sheldon is the most amazing collection of vintage pictures. 1908 x-rays, 1930s telephone repairman, Oscar Wilde in Greek national costume and a 1690s map of the world without water. And phone hats. Mustn't forget the phone hats.

Just for fun, a Novel Plot Generator. Comes in straight and QUILTBAG romance, paranormal and mystery.

A poll on digital piracy for Google News

La Maupin is growing popular again as more discover this swashbuckling and amazing woman.

Where to store food to make it last. We're all tightening our belts, and throwing away food hurts.

Interstellar meme. This is funny. Alpha Centauri just got Rick-rolled and Arcturus is still on "You talkin' to me?"

For fun historical research, especially for you horror writers, spend an evening at the Grand Guignol.

If Earth had a ring like Saturn. Gorgeous pictures.

A very large, very busy map traces out American Accents.

Gallup is polling on moral issues. Times, they are a-changing. Polygamy's approval rating has doubled.

C.S. Lewis on theocracy.

11 things Mad Scientists shouldn't do.  I disagree on keeping decapitated heads in cake-pans. It's shallow enough to be covered with plastic wrap so the nutrient solution doesn't short out the speech head gear.
As a companion piece: The Evil Overlord list.

That's all for today, dears. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday Updates

Hello dears.

It's Wednesday again, so Angelia has the blog.

There's not a whole lot happening at the  Den of Debauchery. We're arranging blog tours and generally doing promotional work.

However, all that is on hiatus this week as we prepare to launch one of the kids.  My oldest son, Christopher, is graduating from high school this week. In the fall, he's headed off to college in Fayetteville AR, over 300 miles from home. It's up in the mountains and absolutely gorgeous, but quite possibly the most rugged college campus I've seen. I would not want to drive those roads in icy weather, at all.

We're also going to see about getting him a driver's license this summer and he may be taking the written test tomorrow. He's already done three Advanced Placement tests, what's one more this week? He is trying to set the school record for passing the AP exams.

My oldest daughter and my father are coming into town Friday, so the Den will be offline most of the weekend.

We'll be back Monday, with more goodies. We may hear from the Lost Lab in the meantime.

Enjoy the May weather!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Filing off the serial numbers, part 2

When I came up short of stories for Adventuresses, I decided to try filing off some fanfic.  The original piece is called Sources of Power and originally appeared in the Star Wars slash zine Sanctuary Moon.   I considered redoing Hunter in the Shadows, but it is too closely tied to the universe.

And now, you've read both and you're sitting there asking me, “How can a story where the line--“Whoa, kid. She’s going to make a spectacle of torturing you to death in the public square, you’re gonna come up with the method, and you’re counting on Darth Vader to rescue you?  Have you gone crazy or am I dreamin’ this in the tank?  It sure ain’t making sense.” -- is a major plot point be LESS tied to the universe than a vampire piece?

Let's watch and see.

This is the opening to “Recovery” in Adventuresses

“Of all the beings in all the worlds, I am probably the only one talking to a rock.” Zora kept her eyes on the wind-scoured sandstone five centimeters in front of her nose. She clung to the shallow handholds and toeholds that held her to the cliff face. “Probably. Then again, it's a big galaxy.”

She didn't dare look up at the endless expanse of blue sky, clear of clouds, that soared above her for kloms in every direction. It had made her a little lightheaded to realize how vast it was. Looking down would be even worse. She'd climbed about two hundred meters up the cliffs.

She cleared her mind and thought of Talla. Pretty Talla, all pointed ears and furry tail, a Felina. The humanoid cats came in a variety of colors, but Talla was a rare tri-color, mostly white, with black and orange spots. Ordinarily tri-colors were more a patchwork of black and orange with white markings. The spotted ones were much rarer and considered quite lucky among her people.

The climb had begun easily enough. There was a path, steep but smooth, and she had followed it. It
narrowed and became more treacherous as it went until it ended a hundred meters up. The next phase offered handholds and footholds, carved into the rock, obviously by the Xingas family. These would likely peter out, leaving her grasping for a fingerhold on the rock.

She took a deep breath, imagined Talla under the mediwebbing, her pointed ears twitching even in sleep, her whiskers quivering at every change in air movement, and her silky tail held immobile to mend. The image started her climbing again.

The early part took little more exertion than climbing a ladder. Zora had scaled the furniture, trees
and walls of her house with her favorite stunt since she was a toddler: climbing the hallway like a lizard and dropping from the ceiling, much to her da's dismay. She and Talla had climbed most of the local rock formations, growing up together, each daring the other to climb even higher this time. Talla's Felina tail gave her the balance advantage, but Zora's primate hands were more flexible for gripping. Talla's people had only evolved opposable thumbs a few millennia ago. The climbing skills returned quickly and without thought. 

The handholds and footholds did become shallower about two hundred meters up. Zora rested on the last solid ones and caught her breath. She was halfway to the cave.

The winds were stronger up here. She pressed to the rock face, leaving no place for an errant gust to get
under her and pluck her from the cliff.

This is one of the sections I lifted whole-cloth and embellished.

From “Sources of Power”

The climb began easily enough. There was a path, steep, but smooth, and he followed it. It narrowed and became more treacherous as it went until it ended a hundred meters up. The next phase offered handholds and footholds, carved into the rock, obviously by the Tagges. These would likely peter out, leaving him grasping for a fingerhold on the rock. He touched the collar once more, imagined Han in the bacta tank, and started off.

This part took little more exertion than climbing a ladder. Luke had scaled the walls of his home on Tatooine, much to his aunt’s dismay, from the time he was a toddler. He and Biggs had climbed most of the local rock formations, and even tried a stretch up the walls of Beggar’s Canyon. The skills returned quickly and without thought.

The handholds and footholds did become shallower about two hundred meters up. Luke rested on the last solid ones and caught his breath. He was halfway to the cave. The winds were stronger up here. He pressed to the rockface, leaving no place for an errant gust to get under him and pluck him from the cliff.

Many basic action beats can be lifted. You see where the character names have been replaced. And you see where embellishment has been added. My fanzine readers all knew what Han looked like and what a bacta tank was. My original fiction readers needed some description of Talla and what mediwebbing did.

I also rearranged this story some. The fanfic opens with the freighter crash. That doesn't appear until the flashback in chapter two for our girls. The dialogue remains much the same, although Talla, a catgirl, calls her lover “Kitten” instead Han's usual flip “Kid.”

The crash, the capture by their arch-enemies, and the trek to the cliff to retrieve the scrolls of power all translated nicely. This is classic action-adventure stuff and would fit into any universe. I even gave Eska Xingas the same grudge Domina Tagge had in the comic book series and left the name of the planet the same.

However, I had to change the end, which was very much tied up in the Star Wars universe. (See above, the line about Darth Vader to the rescue)

So, I brought in Rafe Fioved, yes the same one from the recent Cliff Cody Story,  here the leader of a rebel group fighting the Xingas crime syndicate. He intercepts the ship, rescues his gun-runners sees them safely back to work. He serves the same Deus Ex Machina role that Chewbacca does in the original. Although, if you have a running distress beacon, is it really Deus Ex?

When you are doing this, the basic cookbook method is this.
Chart out the action in the plot. In “Sources of Power” it went like this:
-waiting for rescue
-taken by enemies
-bad bargain for medical treatment
-harrowing journey to get object
-return to homeworld
-death by torture, as bait
-arrival of the big fish
-escape in the confusion

Identify the elements that are too tied to the universe to translate
-The character names
-The tech names (most of it comes from Brian Daley's Han Solo novels)
-the Force blocking collar
-the Force

Remove those elements and see what is left. This is your base story/

Don't be afraid to alter the story.  I had to removed the last half the story and make things a straight-up rescue.

Add more description to your characters. Everyone knows what Luke and Han look like. But they've never met Zora and Talla.

All we know of Zora is that she's human female. Talla however, is a Felina. She's white, with tri color spots. The orange one on her head is her favorite skritching place. She has a tail and pointed ears as well. She has opposable thumbs and walks upright, but can travel on all fours as well.

I made the same mistake in “Recovery” as I did in “Sources of Power.” I didn't describe the antagonists at all. Domina Tagge was a minor character in the comics. I should have described her and her brother Silas. And I failed to describe Eska Xingas and her brother Byct in the same way.

Check yourself for that.

Have people both in and out of the fandom read it. This will be your test. If the fandom folk say “Dang, since when are the boys lesbians?” you didn't do enough filing. If the non-fandom folk say, “Hmm, reads like something out of this fannish universe,” you blew it. If they like it, don't identify it and generally think it's original, you've done it right.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Tutor Trenches; Necessary Introductions & Retarded Ostriches

<3 Welcome~! <3
Language Disclaimer: If you're easily offended by stupid jokes or offensive language, kindly go on your way.

It can be hard to find a “nice way” of telling someone that you want to burn their paper and break the hands that wrote it.  I often sit, recalling the ever-present words of my boss: “Be sure to say something nice; you know, for encouragement-!” But somehow, it falls on the deaf ears of someone who grew up loving books and writing a various number of things. Because SOMEONE had to let this student out of kindergarten without being able to spell brick, and SOMEONE told them that they did a “passable” job on that essay, and that they totally deserve this grade because I never want to see your stupid face ever again, because the next time I do, I might very well shoot myself and drag you straight into whatever fecal-ridden Hell awaits me.

This is what one might call dishonest tutoring. I call it a living. I also call it happy hour, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell someone that they did a “good job” on that essay without being shitfaced enough to wonder why I can’t feel my eyelids. Because regardless of the alcohol, I’ll probably be vomiting later anyway, so I might as well have a reason with some kind of aforementioned positive.

Where I come from, English is a second language, and Ebonics is as close as you can get to a primary one. If you don’t speak Ebonics, you probably should run in any other direction until you stop seeing signs that say “Memphis”. At that point, you certainly won’t be safe, but you will certainly not be here and therefore on the better end of the eventual coin flip on whether or not to drink the funny blue cool-aid in the garage. Don’t get me wrong: I love Memphis. Here, there is music, the occasional good person, and you can even make toast. But not in May, which is the month of perpetual rain. It will then be soggy toast, and nobody likes soggy toast.

On a strange aside, I wonder if the Mississippi River is annually taking revenge on all those music loving bastards during the month of May, as one should usually take either a boat or a snorkeler depending on the number of people one might bring to see the annual concert(s) here. Or maybe it’s God trying to create a new flood, steadily building a workable scientific basis to continue being a constant question to scientists, and all the while he, Buddha, and Thor get wasted and bet on who can kill more Jews.

There is one thing I do dislike however, and that is the product of the local educational facilities. Specifically in the area of reading and writing. I have no idea if this is a widespread phenomenon, but if it is, I’d prefer if you told me at a later date, because I’m really not looking forward to building a nuclear device in my garage to free as many of us as humanly possible. But I do know that the number of times I see college papers that might have been written by a retarded ostrich is, to be quite frank, somewhat disturbing. Because God only knows what a smart ostrich can do, I mean fuck.

Why does this happen, I often ask myself. HOW does this happen? Are we living in a society where it’s acceptable to write on a 5th grade level and pass High school? Will college students have this problem later, and thus be forced to write super-doctorate work where one must endure twelve years of hard physical labor under brutal raptor overlords to get to a college level in writing? I often wonder why some people might opt out of tutoring. Then again, some of my co-workers are so sick of it that they just make fifty individual comments on shitty work and move on to the next assignment, not bothering to help the student build the tools necessary to fix their own work. I mean, I get it, because trying to save the academic careers of some students is like trying to get a toaster to make Subway. A whole fucking Subway, cheapskate Indian owner and all.

Thus, I’d like to welcome you to my world. The world of Tutoring in Memphis, or what currently has a “working title” of The Tutor Trenches. Why the trenches? Because some days, I sit in the bottom of the mud pit and wonder why I ever leave, as I see someone walk away with a song in their heart and something new that I taught them, with which they are quite happy. Other times, I wonder when Robert’s guts fell out, or what shade of beige I should paint Charlie’s skull with today. While some might call that crazy, I call it Stockholm syndrome, wherein I am the prisoner, and every new sentence with two misspelled words, a double negative, and a repetitive statement that could probably be omitted anyway is just another poisonous scorpion gently flung onto my naked, sweaty body: At some point, you've got to learn to enjoy the pain.

The Tutor Trenches is written by Naniar; It runs on Saturday nights, and will until the boss(es) decide to fire him for public drunkenness.