Unlock the Muse – November 26, 2019

At one time all things are new. But old things revived can also be new. This year for my NaNoWriMo project, I chose to continue working on an ongoing project rather than start something completely new. Although this is not recommended by the official website, sometimes, you just got to break the rules. And there’s nothing wrong with revisiting an old project, especially when the new ideas start flowing and everything feels fresh once again.

Whether you’re working on something new, or “new again,” November is coming quickly to a close. I hope you are finding success in whatever you’re working on. Above all, have fun with it!

As a bonus dare for this week, here’s a thought brought to you from Dove chocolates:

Dove chocolate

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a journal entry that describes nothing about your day. Pretend you’re living another life.

This is another opportunity to try out something new. Don’t care for the way your life is going today? Try out someone else’s. Maybe you’ll find the “old” is just fine after all.

Encourage
In keeping with the spirit of “new” this month, I have a new set of Rory’s Story Cubes to share with you today. Here’s a roll of Batman dice for you! I hope you find fun inspiration to keep you writing all the words.

StoryCubes18

Happy writing!

Otherland Series, by Tad Williams: A Review

Tad Williams has long been a favorite author of mine. I first fell in love with his books with his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, and then moved on to others. I read his Otherland series many years ago when I was still on a student-borrow-books-from-the-library sort of budget. I have finally managed to collect copies of all of these books and decided this was the year I would finally reread them.

It was a huge bonus then, when I was able to fit each of them into prompts for the 2019 Reading Challenge, both the Popsugar and ATY challenges. Book one, City of Golden Shadow, I read for Popsugar’s prompt #8, a book about a hobby (online gaming); book two, River of Blue Fire, for ATY’s prompt #17, a speculative fiction; book three, Mountain of Black Glass, for ATY #19, a book by an author with more than one book on my TBR (I have eleven of his books on my list for this year!); and book four, Sea of Silver Light, for ATY #22, a book from the ATY polarizing/close call list – a book where the protagonist enters another world.

There is a lot going on in this massive series (four books totaling over three thousand pages!) which is really one long story. It follows multiple main characters – a young, professional woman from Africa, an African bushman, a teenage boy with progeria, an aged former test pilot, and many more. Even the “villain” is not so straight forward as all that, but there is layer upon layer of opposition that confronts the main characters.

The story opens with Renie Sulaweyo – an African professor working with virtual reality technology – and her widowed father and younger, dependent brother. Something happens to her brother while he is playing online with friends that puts him into a coma. Trying to help her brother, Renie sets off to figure out what put him into the coma in the first place. Her search leads her to a new form of virtual reality technology that has been secretly developed over the past decade or so. She learns her brother isn’t the only child to be affected in this way. Something sinister is going on and she intends to find out what.

Her path leads her to this new network, known as The Grail Network. But this super secret network is impossible to break into. Until an encounter brings her, along with several others into contact with someone who can get them into the network. Once there, however, they are trapped online and must move forward to find answers in order to make it out again.

This network consists of a huge number of virtual worlds. Anything seems to be possible here, from recreated fictional worlds such as Carroll’s Wonderland to Coleridge’s dream world Kubla Khan. There exists a warped version of Oz, a grotesquely corrupted wild west, an ancient Egypt ruled by the god Osiris, and even a bizarre cartoon world. Williams shows himself a master world builder in this series, as each world is flawlessly detailed, each complete with their own set of rules.

The Otherland series is set in a future world where fully immersive virtual reality gaming and other internet-based activities have been fully realized. Published between 1998 and 2001, the future tech is well imagined, and even by today’s standards feels impressively futuristic, and has stood well against the advances in real world technology. Though I was momentarily dropped out of the “voluntary suspension of disbelief” by the very brief reference to hunting for replacement batteries to power a hand held mobile device.

Otherland, like most of Tad Williams’s books, is massive. It is rich in detail, that for some might slow down the action. For myself, I love it. I can’t help but be fully engaged in the world he has created. His characters are beautifully drawn, and I need to know what happens to them. I will read anything written by Tad Williams, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Unlock the Muse – November 19, 2019

I recently tried a new route to work. More and more, urban growth has been impacting my normal route, and things have consequently slowed down. And now, signs have been posted indicating a massive development project will be underway on this route for the next several months. It seemed like a good time for a change.

Of course, new isn’t always better, and in this case, it made little difference. Sometimes in our writing routines, it might be a good idea to try something new. If what you are doing feels slow and stagnant, change it up. Take your laptop out to a cafe or a park instead of writing at your desk. Write in the morning instead of at night. Use pen and paper instead of your computer.

A new routine can shake things loose. If you’re stuck, give it an honest chance. You can always return to the normal routine if things don’t work out. And maybe you’ll return with renewed energy.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Spend 10 minutes today drafting the beginning of that dream novel or poem you’ve imagined writing.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’re likely already deep into that new novel idea that maybe doesn’t feel so new anymore. In which case, it might be better to jot down some quick notes on the “shiny new idea” that hit you in the middle of the night and table it until November is over.

If you’re not NaNo-ing, there’s no time like the present to dive in to that novel you keep thinking about. Write it!

Encourage
new
/n(y)o͞o/

adjective
1. Not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
2. Already existing, but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.

The word new comes to us through the Middle English neue, which comes from the Old English neowe, niowe, or even earlier, niwe meaning “made or established for the first time, fresh, novel, unheard of, untried.”

I found this bit from etymonline.com very interesting:

There was a verb form in Old English (niwian, neowian) and Middle English (neuen) “make, invent, create; bring forth, produce, bear fruit; begin or resume (an activity); resupply; substitute,” but it seems to have fallen from use.

Apparently, even what’s new can become old. Maybe we should bring it back into use – I’m going to newen a novel!

Make something that didn’t exist before. Experience something for the first time. 

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – November 12, 2019

It’s a new week. November is nearly half over already. When did that happen?

Did you try something new this week to excite your senses? I went to the local art museum and spent a good hour enjoying color, shape and texture. I had a fabulous time examining all the beautiful artwork. I am always impressed by the creativity of other artists. I’ll share more about my experience there later this week.

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, how’s your word count? I’ve had a rough beginning, but that is nothing new. I’ve made good strides this week to make up the deficiency, but I remain a little behind. My goal is to get caught up by the end of this week.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Celebrate Wednesday – the hump of the week – in a poem!

Don’t normally write poetry? That’s okay, we’re trying new things this month. Wednesday isn’t the middle of your week? That’s okay too. Write about Friday. Or Monday. Have fun with it!

Encourage
I’ll leave you with this thought from Dr. Seuss:

New quote 1

Happy writing!

The Martian, by Andy Weir: A Review

Prompt #41 on the 2019 ATY Reading Challenge is to read a book from the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards. I don’t usually seem to be on the same page as most folks voting on these awards, as the ones I choose never seem to win. However, the voting process for the 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards involved voting on the “best of all time” books. In this category was The Martian, by Andy Wier. I’ve wanted to read this book since I saw the movie some years back.

In this book, Weir tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars. Only six days into the mission, severe weather forces the team to abandon the planet. In the process, Watney is left behind, presumed dead. It turns out, he did not die. And thus begins his harrowing tale of survival.

The story is told primarily through mission logs that Watney continues to keep, perhaps mostly from force of habit and training. As a character, Mark Watney is fantastic. His sense of humor carries him through his ordeal.

Weir includes a lot of plausible sounding science. I don’t know how much of it is accurate, but it feels accurate, giving weight to the story and the mortal peril Watney is in at all times. The potentially dry sciencey bits are well tempered with real suspense and of course, the humor.

This is one of those rare occurrences where the book and the movie are equally entertaining. If you’ve seen and enjoyed the movie, you will probably enjoy the book as well. And same goes the other way around. Quite simply, this is a great book.

Warcross, by Marie Lu: A Review

I had been looking forward to reading Warcross, by Marie Lu for some time. So when I came across the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #39, a book revolving around a puzzle or game, I was excited to finally make reading it a priority. From the Goodreads blurb:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game – it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. … Hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. … Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the Warcross Championships – only to accidentally glitch herself into the action.

Warcross tells the story of Emika Chen, a down-on-her-luck hacker and bounty hunter living in Manhattan. Her rent is due and her last bounty got scooped by another hunter, so Emika finds herself taking desperate and risky action to avoid being thrown out on the streets. Expecting to get arrested for her trespass, Emika is stunned to receive a call from the game’s creator instead – with a job offer.

Emika ends up transported to Tokyo where she is inserted into the Championships as a player. She’s there to uncover a security problem, but finds something much more sinister instead.

The game descriptions are phenomenal and the action is fast-paced and fun. While I enjoyed this book, and will read the sequel eventually, it was a bit predictable. It wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped.

Unlock the Muse – November 5, 2019

November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is all about new things – new ideas, new goals, new novels. Whether you are starting a new novel this November, or – like me – working on an ongoing project, I’ll be celebrating all things new this month.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Excite your senses. Take a day and go to an art museum, a fresh-air market, anywhere that allows you to see, touch, taste, smell or hear new things.

This is a great challenge for this week, or even this entire month. Find an event that focuses on one sense in particular. Write about your experience, giving special attention to the specific sense you chose to focus on. If you’re feeling ambitious, find an event for each of your five senses!

Go try something new this week, I dare you!

Encourage
New things are exciting and fun – new adventure, new recipe, new shoes. But they can also be challenging and scary – new baby, new roommate, new novel.

Since this is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, let’s take a look at the “shiny new idea.” If you’re starting NaNo this month for the first time, or the tenth, and you still aren’t sure what to write about, don’t worry, the possibilities are endless. Your life experiences – whether they are memories of actual events or those experienced vicariously – are all fair game for novel writing.

However, if you’re genuinely stymied about what to write, or maybe you got ten pages in and just don’t know where to go from here, Sandy Writtenhouse of makeuseof.com has collected some idea generators to help spark more creativity.

Happy writing!