Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Greetings and Charities

A skull wearing a Santa Claus Hat.
Happy Hallow-Days, Every Body!

We’re only days away from Christmas and I haven’t even got all my cards out or shopping done. (Sound familiar?) Although I do have all my decorating done, including my Haunted Holiday Mansion scene. No doubt this is the busiest time of the year and you don’t have to be Santa Claus to feel it; I’ve been feeling the stress of it all week. Some of that stress is coming from trying to choose a charity to donate to for this holiday season.

I wrote to one nonprofit organisation based here in Sacramento about donating some comic books to its literacy program for kids. It’s called 916 Ink.  They have a big comic book writing workshop program there for the youth they serves. 916 Ink provides creative writing classes for these kids to help improve youth literacy. They even compile the kids’ writing into anthologies they publish and sell in which the proceeds go to the program.

Well I wrote to the program and offered to donate kid-friendly comics keeping in mind that kids learn best to write by reading (as well as writing itself, of course) and this includes comics. I believe I even told them this in the email. This was over a week ago. They never got back to me. I know they take monetary donations so I would be willing to give them that, I was just trying to give away some extra comics that I have.

Another nonprofit comic book organisation that’s taking donations is Reading With Pictures. However, I believe they’re only taking monetary donations. This organisation encourages schools to put comic books in their curriculum to make literacy fun for kids. Now I’m not saying that kids should be limited to reading picture based materials such as comic books. But comic books are still a part of literature and art even if they have been traditionally known to be simple in storytelling and illustration. They are a part of pop culture from which most of us first learned how to read and were introduced to art right up there with our parents reading bedtime stories to us.

I also considered donating to Galaxy Press’s holiday cause which is a book drive they are doing through Toys for Tots. Galaxy Press is the publisher that puts out The Writers and Artists of The Future annual anthology that collects the winning stories and illustrations from each year’s contest of the same name. They are taking monetary donations to give free copies of pulp science fiction writer Ron L. Hubbard’s books to disadvantaged youth to encourage them to read more. That’s a really great way to donate to a cause while educating youth on classic pulp fiction from an older era making it fun to read. The problem with their charity project is that they are only taking donations by credit card and so offer no options that I could see on their website for other forms of payment. And I may need to pay by cheque.

Also here in my home Sacramento, the Children’s ReceivingHome of Sacramento is taking both toy donations as well as monetary ones to purchase Christmas gifts for the kids they serve, who many of are from abusive parents and broken homes. The cause is called the Angel Fund. Another one here in town, called the Sacramento Children’s Home who serve the same kinds of kids, is also doing a similar drive.

I also thought I should announce the charitable cause of a fellow science fiction writer, Beth Revis, who writes the Across the Universe series of YA books. She’s doing a drive where if you purchase her book, The Body Electric, she will donate a percentage of the sales to World Vision which is an organisation that helps impoverished families of third world nations.

So as you can see, I have a list of charities to choose from to donate to so I’ll be busy doing that for the next day or two. I’ll let you know the one I choose in the next post. I just wanted to make it known that this holiday season isn’t about getting what we want; it’s not about impressing our loved ones with expensive gifts that we get at big discount prices; it’s not about us authors making sales on our books through holiday promotions, even though we do take advantage of the season for that. These things aren’t the core meaning of the holiday season. The core meaning of the holiday season is love which is demonstrated in giving to the ones we care about, and that includes our fellow human beings who are in need. If there’s no other time of year to show our care for the world’s societies then let the holiday season be that time to care and do what we can to help make the world a happier place.

Happy Hallow-Days!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Holiday Writing and the Interdependence of Character Building and World Building

I apologise for skipping last week’s blog post. I’ve been trying to post a minimum of once a week. But because last week was Thanksgiving it got really busy with the usual holiday stuff (including that stuff called stuffing): Family gatherings, festive meals, and long visits.

I hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving. I did, with the exception that my aunt’s black cat got into the pumpkin pie and ate a hole near the middle and down to the bottom of the pan making it into a pumpkin donut pie! And no, I don’t take that as proof that black cats are bad luck, nor is my aunt a witch (though she dressed as one at Halloween). But so what if she were? In fact, I think black cats are one of the nicest looking breeds on the planet and may adopt one myself one day.

A cartoon black cat stands on top of the number thirteen.

I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted to, as much as I love my parents staying over during holidays. It’s a little tougher to work on my projects when relatives are here since my flat isn’t very big and so most of my writing space is between the kitchen and the living room (the two bordering each other). And so I don’t have a separate room I write my stories in. So I had to rearrange my writing time. Each day, I would get up extra early by an hour or two before my parents normally get up which is between 8:30 and 9. Unlike most mornings when I would first meditate and then eat breakfast, I skipped those two (delaying them to a later part of the day) and got to work immediately.

During these early morning writing sessions I either worked on my novella (of which I’m still at the rough draft level) and a YA short horror story that I plan on including in my next fiction collection. I chose these two projects for that time slot because I work on my fiction best when I’m alone. My non-fiction and articles I can do easily enough with other people around, but when I’m writing a draft of a fiction work I need to be alone in order to create that otherworld-feeling around me and take that writing journey that allows anything to happen. Kind of like mysticism, isn’t it?

The above horror story I’ve been working on is at the planning stage. I wrote the first draft almost a year ago and pulled it from my filing cabinet for revision only about two or three weeks ago. I outlined the story last week and am now on character building (or character development) which only yesterday I discovered may take a little research because of, let’s say, mythic connections some of the characters have. No doubt, the story will change even if in the slightest because the characters’ traits are going to have to determine their actions which in turn will determine the story. I also discovered yesterday that because of the characters’ mythic connections I would have to work on world building simultaneously. So I’ve been realising much more how interdependent these story elements are.

Along with my new short story collection, I am preparing to sketch some ideas for the cover illustration. You’ll see them soon enough in upcoming posts. As far as the final sketch goes, I plan to have a revealing of it here at the Fantastic Site sometime by the end of February (2015).

I forgot to tell you in the last post, if you liked the Far Out Fantastic Finds bonus that I provided,  please let me know in the box (either in the last post or in this one) and maybe I’ll make it a monthly thing, a kind of newsletter of the weird and wonderful.

Until next time . . .