Monday, February 27, 2017

TWIC: Sci-am, prologues, nonsense, support, presentations

Sci Am has a lot of stuff relating to creativity but much of it is behind their paywall. The Science of Creativity has all the links.

Ink Spots and Fractal patterns.

I enjoy Sci Am's '100 years ago' posts. Repeats or summaries of articles written for the magazine that long ago. I think they have a "150 years ago' section as well. The current one describes new (in 1917) submarines.

Can you (I) be more rational?
Brent Weeks offers tips on how to write prologues.
As a writer, I think a prologue is a wonderful tool for a certain jobs, but it’s a heavy tool that should be handled with care, intention, and skill—or not handled at all. A prologue struts onto the stage of your book and grabs the microphone, saying, “I’m sorry, Taylor, Imma let you start, but first…” More seriously, it does tell a reader that what they’re about to read isn’t exactly part of the story proper. “I’m going to tell you a story, but first you need to know…” What is this, Great Expectations? “I’m going to tell you the story an orphan, but first, you need to know his entire family history….”
nonsense word generator. They look so real:

atinquitator, weapsts, recruidly, galawfulathers, skulatted, sketess,
humediveroully, polevianian, arbilitties, flassungs
Maybe I'm describing a lack of creativity, maybe I'm sharing my browsing habits on a forum that I designed for other reasons. Maybe someone wants to write a book with KKK characters and wants to learn a little about them. Anonymous (the hacker group) deliberately friended many Blue Lives Matter supporters to gain entrance to KKK. The tradecraft they use to attempt to maintain secrecy is interesting:
a Klansman asks "AYAK" ("Are you a Klansman") and listens for the response "AKIA" (A Klansman I am)
More at the Wikipedia page on KKK terminology.
Needed: A support group of creative friends.
Likewise, whatever criticism takes place during our CA [Creatives Anonymous[ meetings is meant to strengthen the work and its creator. The most important element of these meetings would be the anonymity. Not anonymity for the individual, but for the works being shared with the group – being shared in a smaller circler with the knowledge that it won’t be shared with the outside world…not yet, anyway. Instead of building a platform and showing something off to the whole world at the click of a mouse, many of us need to rebuild a safe place where we can display our work to a small group of trusted colleagues, get feedback, and refine…or abandon as needed.
Yet another subject I am trying to shoehorn into my blog's genre: presentation skills and tips.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TWIC: Best question, fan fiction, lessons from pixar, maps and handwriting

Discussing Fan Fiction. Below are three points I pasted out of order:
There is a lot of explicit content in many FanFic sites, which makes it something to consider when introducing young writers (like mine) to the prospects of fan fiction. So, yeah, don’t start fanfic in your classroom with a tour of some of these sites. Just saying
  • FanFiction sites are composed of significantly more readers (ie, lurkers) than writers, which makes a certain kind of sense, I guess, although one wishes that more people were writing (that’s the writing teacher in me talking). What kinds of hurdles are there for new writers? What kinds of entry points are there? Is there as welcome wagon?
  • Finally, FanFic sites are built under the radar, purposefully (except for Harry Potter worlds, which is supported by Rowling and her publisher). If teachers teach fanfic, do we suck the fun out of it and ruin the very thing that makes fan fiction so wonderfully unique and important to communities of young people? (FanFic is mostly the domain of teens and younger adults). I grapple with this question on many occasions (ie, video game design).
Free lessons from Pixar!
There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week.
Maps: From literature in general. Of the Iliad characters' homes. From the latter (my old eyes could barely make out the numbers so I redid them in black - follow the link for the larger original):
The art and commerce of Minecraft.

Since I just mentioned one of my son's favorite games, let me also give a shoutout to Roblox. My son was naughty with a gift card and the service people at Roblox were able to cancel his purchases and refund me a lot of money. I don't know much about the game but the service people were outstanding.
Thanks Banny, Brooke and Ashley.
How Louie C.K, tells a joke. I sometimes look at magician routines when considering how to teach a class; I don't have the time to rehearse every single class I give the way a magician or a stand up comedian does but I do like to work out some of the positioning and preparation. And when I teach similar material to several classes and will likely teach the same thing next year, I also like to think about this kind of planning.
Handwriting, fancy and not (both images have been shrunk. Follow links for full sized images):
Library script was used to fill out card catalogs and was deliberately spare and clear.

It made me wonder what 'copperplate' was because I had heard the term but never thought about examples of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Improving your imagination

My answers at Quora
I hope I am not breaking a Quora rule but I received these two questions within hours of each other. Wait, I can check ... 23 minutes and 1 hour ago. They are similar in a way that allows me to use one to introduce the other. I am going to post my combined answer to both locations.
All I want to know is how can I make my mental images clearer , more colourfull and more dimensional . In general I want to know how can I improve my cognitive ability of visualization.
I will highly appreciate sharing your own ideas and experiences about this topic .
Google definition: imagination
the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
"she'd never been blessed with a vivid imagination"
synonyms: creative power, fancy, vision
the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
"technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination"
synonyms: creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
the part of the mind that imagines things.
"a girl who existed only in my imagination"
There are a few ways to increase your imagination. I don't know much about drugs but alcohol and some others do reduce your inhibitions so your mind wanders more freely. Hemingway famous said, "Write drunk, edit sober". He also killed himself so he is not a role model in all things.
Another is finding variety in life. This could be anything from walking through a new part of town, taking a new course or starting anew hobby. Read a book in a genre you don't normally read. Listen to a different genre of music.
The last one I am offering is to force a connection between random things. As an English as a Second Language instructor, I often randomly choose four words from vocabulary lists for the students to use in a story. Or I use Rory's Story dice. I also ask my son to name a sport, a thing in the kitchen and something from school then make a story using those three ingredients.
Rory’s Story dice:
I've been writing about writing, but you can do this in other fields, too. A biology researcher might consider how a mouse might view the ecosystem to gain new imaginative insights.
Now to increase the quality of your imagination. This is the tough one. It gets clearer in the details as the person wants better visualization.
I am going to take this a little sideways and look at relaxation techniques that I learned from sports psychologists that involved visualization. I was taught to do various relaxation routines for my muscles and then visualize a calming place. I wasn't merely to describe it, but to add as much detail as I could. I chose a gentle hillside, under a tree, in the spring, warm and with a fresh breeze. In the distance I could see church steeples, grass and farmland and, .... Well, you make your own.
I think the audio files for guided visualizations here will help:
This site describes them a little: Using the Power of the Relaxation Response to Reduce Stress and Boost Mood One important point is that not everyone can visualize things:
Galton gave people some very detailed surveys, and found that some people did have mental imagery and others didn't. The ones who did had simply assumed everyone did, and the ones who didn't had simply assumed everyone didn't, to the point of coming up with absurd justifications for why they were lying or misunderstanding the question.
It may be that a search like this one can help increase your visual creativity

Monday, February 13, 2017

TWIC: money, maps, plots, covers, forests

Songwriters need a lot of people listening to their music before they are paid as much as their carriers.
Spotify just posted their financials and Paul Resnikoff at Digital Music News was quick to point out that the average Spotify employee salary is $168, 747.
Best case scenario, if a songwriter retains all publishing rights to their song then a songwriter would need 288,104,634.15 spins to earn the reported average salary of a Spotify employee.
I've long been a fan of maps. Especially of fantasy lands but the work to make intelligible maps of real places is an artform as well.  The CIA has released several decades of their maps.
keeping track of characters and subplots in your novel. How do you do it?
Book cover design. Below is a snippet of their infographic on the subject.

8 fictional forests.
In Australia, First Nations people will tell you about ancient spirits dwelling in our forests whether tropical, temperate or dry. Proud Lebanese will tell you that their cedar forests were used for Solomon’s Temple and to build Noah’s ark. They may not know that those same cedar forests appeared in the Epic of Gilgamesh, circa 2100 BC. Those heroes fought off monsters and cut down the trees. In contrast, the characters of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion travel on treeships beyond the stars…
The surprising arithmetic of literature. Below is one of three charts and discussion on the charts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Click Baitin': A game that changes the way you look at strategy!

In Clickbaitin', I look at click bait style titles and try to answer the question or guess what the link will offer. These answers and guesses are obviously parody - and fun to write. My stories are short as this is a sort of writing exercise and I do not intend to publish them commercially.

You'll never look at Tower Defence the same way again!

Another two villages attacked before dusk, thought Lord Harry, Earl of Mousehole. Twenty Viking ships sighted a mile offshore before visibility was lost. I have to agree with Camborne at council now.

He sighed, looking about his stone room. The stonework was rough and grey but the walls were thick and the furnishings warm enough that it didn't feel drafty. He enjoyed having casks of beer in the cellar.  That time was over. He probably wouldn't see this room again until it was cold. And God knew how cold it would have to be to convince the Vikings to stop. They might not be human.

It was spring in England and cold days were far off.  He called for his chief steward and when that worthy arrived he was sent to gather the men levied for the summer battles.

Harry dressed in surprisingly heavy clothes for the weather and went into another room where servants helped him with armour. He stopped them from collecting the heavy plate and instead went with lighter chainmail. Harry didn't care for swords and went instead for an ax and several spears and javelins.

His servants followed him carrying some of his gear as he went to the stables. Just as he had passed on the plate armour, he walked, not without regret, past his destrier and to his coursers. He prepared and mounted the horse he considered second in quality and his chief also prepared a horse and led remounts, including Harry's best, to be rode later.

Lord Harry and five other knights rode to meet Lord Camborne at Hayle with his war levy marching steadily behind. He would meet them again in Marazion.

That evening in Hayle, the tired group from Mousehole arrived. His aides prepared the tents while Lord Harry rode on to join the council.

Lords Camborne and Hayle were looking over the latter's ornate map while Ambros, his chief retainer quietly made suggestions. Harry listened as he approached.

"Hayle and Marazion", Harry smiled as his own reasoning was promoted, " are the key points for the west", Ambros said. "Also Gweek and Truro.  My Lord, your plan is sound but Camborne is not the best place to station troops."

Not appearing upset with being corrected, Lord Camborne saw Harry drawing near and said, "Repeat your reasoning for the towers and try to convince me that my troops should be far from my land."

Ambros looked as his own master, then waved his hand at the map, pointing to various coins.  Before Lord Mousehole, far from his retainers, leaned forward to study the locations, he twisted his back and looked carefully about.

The Vikings were the greatest danger for the people of Cornwall but that didn't mean they were the greatest danger for him personally. He hadn't had trouble with these men but he had with others who were coming. Ostentatiously, he adjusted his long-hafted ax and then signed that he was ready to listen.

"Our castles are invulnerable, if we are close enough to them and have time to gather our chattel and lock the gates", the slight man told him. Harry knew this, of course, and waited the man out.

"But if we are slow to get inside, or the Vikings approach in stealth, they can break in and slaughter us. We are safest if we stay close to our castles. But inside the castles, we cannot defend our land and the monsters burn our forests and crops and carry away all they can."

Harry frowned at this bald description of their weakness and Ambros went on, "Our castles are not close enough to support each other and we move slower than the ships do." He pointed at a coin near St Buryan. A tower here, tall and simple, would allow us to observe Vikings rounding Lands End and send enough troops to defend our lands if they land anywhere west of Penzance or Pendeen."

"A tower?" asked Harry.  "I don't particularly want another fortification next to mine."

Ambros smiled. "No. A wooden tower, as tall as we can build it. Tall but vulnerable. All we want it for is to see over the trees and across the water."

"I get it but you want towers for see the ships and groups of men, mobile and ready to race those ships from harbour to harbour. The problem I see is the Vikings will see our men marching along shore."

Ambrose smiled again but it was Camborne who asked, "You have a better idea?"

"I do", Harry spoke slowly, carefully. "Between Penzance and Marazion is an ocean-side road, easily observed by ships. But if we built a hedge right at the cliff's edge, our men could travel unobserved."

"And if it were at the cliffs edge, no one could travel on the other side of it to threaten their fellow Lords", Hayle said.

A hedge takes time but we can start it now, transplant local hedgerows and have a good one ready in a few weeks", Harry said, the idea coming together as he spoke.

That summer, Vikings destroyed five villages on the peninsula. That was seven fewer than in previous years. The Northerners also lost thirty ships and many men. By September, they were threatening other lands, easier ones.

The next Spring, Harry, Lord Mousehole, lead his levy along the hedge, on the inland side but at dawn, next to the hedge and in full shadow.  The guards at Marazion were completely unprepared when his forces rushed the open gate and Daffyd, Lord Marazion, lost the fine chargers he had stolen from Mousehole fourteen months previous.

Harry had built the hedge to be deliberately a few degrees out of alignment with Stonehenge. When the sun lined up exactly with the rows of capped stones, it gave meters of shade for an avenging force to take advantage of.

Towers don't have to be fortifications and hedges can hide movement from more than just ships. These ideas had changed the way he thought about strategy.

I have now opened a browser tab for a map of England and several for horse breeds, looking for appropriate ones for my story. This site tells me I want coursers not destriers.
And now Wikipedia pages on Viking and Anglo-saxon arms and on military service.

Monday, February 6, 2017

TWIC: home decoration vocab, bad writing, photo editing software, ventriloquism, mills, animation

All the best words! For describing furniture and home decoration. This image has been cropped so if you want the explanatory text, follow the link.

This might be my writing. What bad writing looks like.
Use of “The X” instead of Character Name: Here, Ron is described as “the teenager”. This sounds awkward because we’re in Harry’s viewpoint, and Harry presumably thinks of Ron as “Ron”. The author is trying to avoid repeating “Ron” too often – but character names are one of the few things you can and should repeat; don’t keep stretching for odd variations. I often see “the man” or “the woman” used in this way, and (assuming the viewpoint character knows the person’s name), it invariably feels clunky.
DxO photo editing software, two versions out of date, offered for free.
DxO Labs did the same thing in 2015, when they upgraded to the version 10, so they gave away free license codes for version 8. They are again two versions ahead the ones they’re giving away. Sure, version 11 is the latest one, but I suppose 9 could still do the trick. Also, it’s completely free, and if you haven’t used this software before, it could be a great opportunity to try it out. The version 11 costs €129 (around $139) for Essential and €199 (around $215) for Prime edition. So, the first time users could probably settle for the free 9 version, at least for a start.
There is a video of DxO version 9's features on Vimeo.

A working title for the second book in my steam punk trilogy -I must admit it is presumptuous for me to describe it this way as not one book has been completed - was 'The Secret Societies Society'. This Boingboing article about secret societies in books obviously interests me.
Also from Boingboing, an interesting article about ventriloquism. I like the way the images shift form the technical to the simple. The latter:
Perhaps this might not be so creative now, but 1000 years ago? Wow! 1000 year old windmills in Iran. Maybe it is just neat stuff, rather than conventionally creative but I like it and this is my blog!

The drawings needed to animate skipping. The first challenge is that every third step is omitted and 32 frames are needed to show one cycle.
Then you need to work in where the arms, shoulders and etc are in each motion.

Well, that's the challenge for people who are comfortable drawing even stick figures. I have a few other challenges to work through.