Friday, February 17, 2012

4 Online Resources for Korean Sijo Poetry

This blog is publishing a lot of sijo lately and so I thought I would share some sijo resources.

1. Sijo Poetry website A website by the Sejong Cultural Society, with pages on various sijo-topics. A good place to start looking.

2. 'Sijo' at Wikipedia, the Liberal Encyclopedia --- gives examples of classic sijo and also tells the history of English-language sijo.

3. Sijo at --- gives a great number of classic Korean sijo.

4. Sejong Cultural Society Sijo Competition for students below college level --- Gives examples and explanations about the sijo. Entry deadline for the contest is March 31st this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What if your novel inspires a murder?

A great reason to procrastinate on writing your novel, or perhaps never finish: it might inspire a murder.

You might think that only Stephen King or Jeff Lindsay (author of the Dexter novels) really has to worry about that. But murderers can be inspired by anything.

There were two teen girls in New Zealand who were inspired by the music of Mario Lanza. They went on to make up their own fantasy world, and when the grown-ups objected, the two girls murdered the mother of one of them. With a brick. (One of the girls grew up to be the mystery author Anne Perry).

If Mario Lanza music can inspire murder, ANY old novel you might write could inspire a murder. You might not get called on it if you write books about saintly elderly nuns tending a garden rather than about serial killers chopping up prostitutes. But there is no predicting ahead of time what some deranged killer might claim as inspiration.

What is our moral responsibility as writers, then? We cannot control how other people will react to our work. But what we can do is ensure that our fiction has a moral compass.

'Fiction with a moral compass'. It's not fiction in which no character, not even Lord Voldemort, ever does anything morally questionable. Our characters may sin away. They may not even be aware that what they are doing is wrong. But if our fiction has a moral compass, we, as authors, must know, and we must find ways to share that knowledge with our readers. You don't need to preach a sermon. Just a word or two, perhaps out of the mouth of a minor character, to show that killings, theft, adulteries and the like are not the right or wise thing to do.

To be good at this, you must have an accurate moral compass yourself. If you have been trained by your church in catechism classes and know the Christian moral teachings well (or Jewish teachings, or Muslim teachings...), you have a head start.

If you are the sort of person who rejects moral absolutes and traditional Christian values--- the way I used to be--- this can cause a problem as it's difficult to get across the message that murder is absolutely wrong if you also have a message that NOTHING is absolutely wrong. But it can be done--- there are secularist, non-Christian and anti-Christian authors who write as if they had a good moral compass at least when it comes to murder, rape, child sexual abuse, major thefts and the other traditional moral teachings of Western culture that they don't reject.

Still it seems to me it's safest not to publish at all, just to be safe. ;)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Inspired by what I DIDN'T like in a favorite book

Recently I read the whole Hunger Games trilogy on Kindle (because it was cheap, and the story sounded interesting). I liked it. But what inspired my writing side was not the good parts of the book, but something I didn't care for.

Panem, the world in which the Hunger Games takes place is a future United States, but it is also a parallel to the ancient Roman empire. With one big difference between it and its sources. In Panem, there are no Christians. Or Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans or Pagans, for that matter. I felt the lack was illogical.

This inspired ideas about an unfallen Roman empire in which Christians existed but never became dominant, and were subjected to persecutions including the possibility of death in the arena. My story was centered around the idea that a group of young people--- children of Christian parents--- were ordered to fight to the death in the arena.

The unfallen Rome of the story I named 'Kirinia' and decided it was another world, that ancient Romans had gotten to by means of a Portal (transportation gateway between worlds/locations). I got the name 'Kirinia' from the name of an obscure Roman god, Quirinius. The Romans were actually sometimes called 'Quirites' from that name. I changed the spelling to eliminate the 'q'.

The name 'Kirinia' reminded me of the 'kirin', an Asian mythological beast which played a part in a world I created called 'Erileth'. This world had 5 kingdoms which corresponded to the Asian 5 Elements (wood, fire, earth, water, metal). Each element had colors, directions, creatures, livestock, grains and the like which corresponded to it, and so I decided to use these as a basis for creating the kingdoms.

The Earth kingdom in the Center of the world had the kirin as its beast. When I consulted my Erileth binder, I saw that I had decided to base the Earth kingdom's culture on ancient Rome. That decided me on the project of merging the new story's world with that of my old Erileth/5 Elements world.

Anyway, I got to wondering: what is it about our favorite books that inspires us with more/better story ideas of our own--- the parts we do like, or the parts we don't? In YOUR experience, what inspires YOU more???

Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest: O Rose, thou art sick.....

When I was about 13 (about 1971), a learned doctor told me he could cure me of my extreme mental illness--- my fantasy life. I lived a good deal of the time in the worlds of my imagination where I had adventures with Batman and Robin, the crew of the starship Enterprise, and the gang at Stalag 13 from the TV show Hogan's Heroes. Sometimes the adventures mixed character-groups, as when the Enterprise was thrown back in time and a couple of crewmembers were beamed down to Stalag 13, a mythical magical place where anyone who combed his hair right and put on a fake mustache could successfully impersonate Adolf Hitler.

But this was a sickness. Experts had said so. My parents continued to send me to the therapist. I never actually tried to give up making up fantasy stories or my other odd behaviors such as obsessively reading the Bible and the Star Trek by James Blish, and obsessively re-watching television shows that fed my fantasy worlds. But, then again, the therapist never asked me to.

At some point I read the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott--- not as a school assignment, I rarely read books assigned to me, but because I was weird enough to like old books like that. The character Jo was like me--- she made up stories--- but unlike me she wrote them down and considered herself a writer.

I liked the identity of being a writer better than that of being a mental patient. So I began to think of myself as at least a potential writer. But actually writing down stories was hard. If they stay in your head, they cannot be harshly judged and made into a subject for mockery. I had enough mockery. The neighbor kids called me Retardo as it was locally rumored that in spite of my high IQ I was mentally retarded. And my sweet loving younger brother called me Pigface.

In one of the four high schools I attended, I somehow ended up in a creative writing class. Our assignment: write an opening paragraph for a story. This is what I wrote:

"In the beginning, John created the heavens and the earth. At least, that was John's opinion. It was for that arrogance that I vowed he must die."

The teacher started the next class day reading what I had written as an example of an excellent beginning. The first confirmation that my self-identity as a writer was more than mental illness at work. I tried hard to finish that story but got stuck. Maybe if the teacher had ever talked to me as an individual, he could have helped. But none of my high school teachers ever did.

In the subsequent years my fantasy life continued. My writing-things-down life continued to be unsuccessful. Some years after college I began writing weird poems. The first kind of writing that I could finish. I sent a few of them out to publishers. My first acceptance came from a Stalinist/Communist magazine called 'Struggle'. Since I was in my Youthful Marxist phase at the time that worked out well. I got more publications but gave up sending work out in time because of the high cost of postage and of sample copies of poetry magazines.

Recently I found out that my 'mental illness' was actually undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome. I also found out that my difficulty in finishing novels and other long writing projects was not due to my essential badness/laziness, but because I have Attention Deficit Disorder.

With this knowledge, I am working on my writing in new ways. I have started writing poetry again. I've self-published a poetry book, 'Where the Opium Cactus Grows', and started a poetry blog, Opium Cactus Poetry Immersion.

In today's writing world, poetry is pretty useless--- as useless as I often feel since I had to go on disability. But I've heard some nice things about some of my poems. I gave my current therapist a copy of my poetry book and he was impressed by it. Here is a poem from the book (with audio):

jump-rope-song of the apocalypse

fallout's fallingout
allaround myhouse
nuclear missals
commonerthan thistles
radiation ratkiller
firestormthe stormcellar
radiation sickness
reallymakes adiff'rence
bodiesinthe driveway
peopledying allday
fallout's fallingout
allaround myhouse

(c) 1989-2010 Nissa Annakindt

My novel-writing I am revising to make use of the things that have worked in my poetry--- mainly writing things in shorter sections which I can handle rather than the paralyzing largeness of saying 'now I am sitting down to write A WHOLE NOVEL!!!' Will it work? I don't know. But still, I make up stories. And I write.

This blog post is part of the Origins blogfest. Please go there to visit some other participants.

A Fortnight of Mustard: Origins Blogfest: How I Decided Writing Was the Best Form of Self-Flagellation

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Disorganized Writer: Cluttered Writing Area, Writer's Block and Asperger Syndrome

Once when I was working on background for a science fiction novel, I came up with a perfect military rank scheme for the space fleet in the story. 'Perfect' meaning 'not stolen from 'Star Trek'. I wrote it all down, put the paper in a safe place--- and forgot where that place was. I never found it in my household clutter.

For long after that whenever I worked on that particular novel I kept getting stopped by the fact that I needed the information on that lost bit of paper to get anywhere. It drove me nuts. And the novel never even got off the ground because of it.

I've also noted that I don't write much lately--- either on my WIP or blogs. It is probably NOT a coincidence that my computer desk is piled with clutter--- books, papers, notebooks, an emergency radio for blackouts, band-aid boxes.... This is not TOO surprising. My housekeeping skills are such that my place is only slightly better than those detailed on those 'Hoarder' reality shows.

There are books that help a writer organize their writing stuff. There are organizing books that help people organize their homes. Just one little problem: the writers of such books tend to presume that their readers DON'T have Asperger Syndrome. Or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Or, as in my case, both.*

Organizing strategies devised by folks who are neurotypical (normal) and who are naturally pretty well organized work well for people who are neurotypical and tend toward being organized. They don't work for folks like me.

I've read that for people with ADHD, putting something in a file cabinet is like burying it forever. And I said, yeah, that's me. Recently I looked in my file cabinet for the first time in a couple of years, and I found some stuff I had forgotten--- such as my children's story, The Dust Mouse.

I found a book which is helping me get my writing life organized in a way that works for me: Organizing Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder by Susan C. Pinsky.

This is a large book with loads of color illustrations (so don't cheap out and buy the Kindle edition). I've already found some good solutions for some of my most notable problems. I very much recommend that other Disorganized Writers read the book.

One caveat, though. Don't be like the victims/subjects of those Hoarder shows who have to accept the rules laid down by the organizer/expert as Gospel. You are your own unique person and should not be governed by some rule that might not make sense to you.

An example: in 'Organizing Solutions' Miz Pinsky lays down a rule for avoiding magazine clutter--- throw out all issues of a magazine except for the current one. This may work for typical mass-market magazines. But many that I've subscribed to are on obscure topics for which books may not be widely available--- such as my livestock related magazines, which I often consulted years after the issue date as new events happened with my goats or sheep. For this type of magazine, throwing them out after the month is up makes about as much sense as throwing out your books a month or so after you buy them. So in this area, I have to make a rule for myself rather than blindly following one set by the 'expert' organizer.

Another thing to be aware of in using the book is that sometimes it seems that the book is written not for the person with ADHD, but for the parent or spouse of the person with ADHD who wants to impose an organizing system on the ADHD person. In other words, it's not the ADHD person that has to be pleased with the proposed solution, but the spouse/parent.

My life experience is that organization imposed from outside only works as long as the person imposing it is there to enforce and tend the organized routine. As an adult I want a system that works for me, myself, even if there is no mommy-figure around to order me to put things where they belong in the organizational system, or to sigh and do it for me.

Many of the strategies in 'Organizing Solutions' work for me because I'm able to adopt them as my own. And I'm ALSO keeping some of the things that I've done over the years that have worked well. I'll be sharing some of the details of these things in future blog posts--- so be warned.

This is the first post in a series called 'The Disorganized Writer' dealing with issues specific to folks with Asperger Syndrome or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or chronically disorganized writers in general.

*Actually, my therapist says that the fact that I have 100% of the symptoms of ADHD doesn't count since executive function deficit is part of Asperger Syndrome. Executive function deficit has the exact same symptoms as ADHD and is treated in the same way, when it gets treated. So I tell folks I have Asperger Syndrome AND ADHD because that way they actually know what I mean.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A different way to 'cast' your characters

Ever hear this? "Pretend your novel-in-planning is an upcoming movie and pick which actors/actresses to cast in the roles of your characters."

It never worked for me. NONE of my characters look like Johnny Depp, or Errol Flynn, or David Tennant. Or Olivia DeHavilland, Billie Piper or Lara Parker.

Besides, the way my characters look and the sound of their voices don't really matter to me. I don't want to fix them by picking some actor to mold them after.

But yesterday I thought of a different way of casting my characters. Ignore the external things like the red hair or the tentacles. Focus on the essence of the character. And pick your model from the fictional characters you know and love.

So--- Private Detective Mary can be Pam the vampire from Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series. Her aunt Anna, a nun, can be Hermione from Harry Potter. Mary's eight year old Chuckie can be James T. Kirk from Star Trek. Her brother Arnold can be Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind.

For more complex characters, you can pick two sources, because sometimes Ralph is like Homer Simpson and sometimes he's like Lord Voldemort.

I've given examples from well-known fiction, but if you are a major Mercedes Lackey fan, pick some obscure character from the Valdemar series if that is the one that captures the essence of your character best.

The reason for this exercise is that when we conceive of a character, we often make him bland and generic. You want to start making the character come alive in your head so you can make him come alive to the reader.

So--- pick one character you are creating right now, and pick a fictional character that might capture his essence. And go from there....

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How to do an audio blog

I never knew how to make audio files (mp3s) on my computer until I discovered a project to read the Esperanto language translation of the Holy Bible aloud at Ken Caviness's page.

Here are the steps to get started with audio blogging:

1. Get a good headphone with microphone that plugs into your computer. Mine cost less than $30 at Walmart. I had to ask a girl that worked there to help me find it.

2. Get the free software Audacity which is an audio editor and recorder from

3. Play around with recording and playing back. It took me a while how to get it to 'read' the audio from my new microphone. Then I had to adjust it because it was recording my voice at very low volume, and when I raised the volume louder during playback, there was a hissing noise. But the adjustment was fairly easy.

4. Get an account at Ipernity. Ipernity provides a place to put up your audio files and pictures and such. When you upload a file, you will be able to get an embed code. You can put the embed code on your blog post, and the little audio player will appear on your post.

And that is how I audio blog. I think audio blogging is a natural for poets and writers. It's a way to give a reading to your fans/future fans from all over the world, not just in one location.

Preparing your audio blog

1. Write down the material you will be reading. (Print it out.)

2. Make sure the material is not too long. Something you can read in less than 5 minutes is great. Remember that people may not have long enough attention spans to listen to longer audio blogs. One poem (of less than epic length) or a short section from your novel is about right.

3. Practice reading it out loud several times. If there are phrases you always trip up on, repeat them over and over until you can get them smooth.

4. Record a practice run and play it back. Note any problems with the readings--- long pauses, putting the emphasis on the wrong word in a difficult phrase, speaking too fast--- and correct it in your next try.

5. After you have recorded, save it in an mp3 format. That means pressing 'export' and not 'save' in Audacity.

6. Upload your mp3 file to your ipernity page. Make sure the privacy setting is set to 'public'. Then you can use the embed code on your blog.

Have these instructions helped you? If so, be sure to put up a link to your first audioblog in this post's comment section!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Audioblog: Buy! Bi! Buy! from Where the Opium Cactus Grows

Buy! Bi! Bye!

at a dealer near you
the only leading brand
recommended by more doctors and
handpicked by juan valdez
for confidence that lasts
and whiter washes
anything else is just a
no sugar added
all natural
brand x

(c) 2010 Nissa Annakindt
permission to share this poem, including audio, is granted provided a link-back to this blog is provided.

What do you think of the audioblog? I had to read the poem over many times for practice before I recorded it. I'm thinking of doing more audioblogged versions of poems from 'Where the Opium Cactus Grows'.

If you are a poet or writer, what do you think of doing an audioblog of a bit of your work? It's actually quite simple to record sound on your home computer, I may explain how in a future blog post. It's kind of like giving a reading to an audience only in cyberspace instead of the real world. It's also a kindness to folks that have visual impairments or dyslexia.

I think audioblogging might be a way for author bloggers and poet bloggers to stand out a little in the blog world. What do you think?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Opium Cactus: On the Creation of Found Poetry

a sijo

In a dismal pile are found
stray words from many sources

thrown in a blender, tortured with forks
and aged six years in wooden casks

then inscribed by persian slave
calligraphers upon the floor

(c)  Nissa Annakindt

Another day, another sijo--- this one from my book 'Opium Cactus'. The topic is a totally different form of poetry--- found poetry. In the simplest form of found poetry you simply take someone else's prose words and arrange them like a poem. There was one alleged poet who came out with a whole book of 'found poems' from the words of a government spokesman he didn't care for. This type of found poetry raises for me an issue--- is it really my poem if Bill Clinton composed the words and I just arranged them to spite him?

But there is also found poetry where the poet has the work of not only finding the words/phrases but putting them together from different sources, working with them to express the poet's vision. I find this kind of found poetry very satisfying. I also use the method of finding the words/phrases as if for a found poem, but using about an equal amount of words of my own to create the final effect.

As to why I used one poem form--- the sijo--- to describe another--- the found poem--- I'm just weird that way.

Poetic prompt: write a poem about a poetic form that you like--- or one that you hate.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lina Lamont gets fourth blogging award

Thanks to Amanda Borenstadt, blogger at A Fortnight of Mustard, which is one of the top condiment-related blogs on the web, for this fine award.

She got the award from Nick Wilford at Scattergun Scribblings.

Click 'read more' to find out why my cat is named Consubstantial and what I always bring to a swordfight.

Blogcrafting: 10 ways to get more comments on your blog.

Building up a blog? Ignore the cool stats feature on Blogger (or whatever your blog host gives you). The real measure of whether your blog is reaching folks is the number of comments you get.

Why is that? It's because many folks hit your blog while Googling for something else. On this blog the perennial top search term is 'david tennant naked', followed by 'anton yelchin naked', 'billie piper pregnant' and 'billie piper naked'. (But never 'billie piper naked and pregnant' or 'john barrowman pregnant' for some reason). Since my blog does NOT feature naked sci-fi celebrities except for that shirtless John Barrowman picture, most folks don't stay.

A comment means that someone has not only found your blog but has looked at it long enough to want to make a comment. This is great, even if the comment is hostile rant! Hostile rants often spur more sympathetic readers to defend you, and those readers are likely to come back for more.

How to get more comments:
  1. Comment on other blogs, especially blogs in your niche. Comment both on the more popular blogs and on the lonely struggling blogs. And make them good comments--- not just a 'nice post' or 'interesting blog'.  Mention something interesting in the blog post and react to it.
  2. End your blog post with a question, if only a 'what do you think?'.
  3. Write good blog posts of general interests. Even if it's your own author blog/book blog, it shouldn't be all about you/your book. Study articles on ProBlogger to learn how to write better blog posts.
  4. Join NetworkedBlogs on Facebook and publish your blog posts in your Facebook feed. This works best if  you have a good number of Facebook friends. NOTE: you will get some of your blog comments on Facebook instead of your blog. This helps your blog also, so don't worry.
  5. Make it easy to become a follower of your blog,  with the Google Friend connect widget AND one from NetworkedBlogs.
  6. Have good blogrolls. I have one for those who follow my blog, and my big blogroll of all the blogs I follow. They show both blog title and most recent post title. Blogger makes it easy to set up like this.
  7. Respond to your commenters by follow-up comments and by visiting your commenters blogs, if they have them. This helps turn your blog into a community. 
  8. Be positive and friendly when interacting with commenters, even hostile ones. Take the high road!
  9. Allow for commenters of different opinion. I've seen blogs where the blog-authors forbid 'debate' in comments. This scares off a lot of commenters as they conclude you won't accept any comments other than 'I agree completely'. Remember, even hostile comments help.
  10. Delete comments only when needful, as in the case of blatant spam comments and comments with excessive swearing and blasphemy, death threats or the like. I've also reserve the right to delete comments with personal attacks on me that I just can't handle at the moment, but if you are thicker-skinned, I'd recommend against that. Remember, comments are good!

I'm sure other bloggers out there have found other ways to increase their comment count. What works best on YOUR blog?

Blogging prompt: Every blogging day, choose one item from the list to increase your blog comments and do it. Go through the list. If you still don't get many comments, go through it a second time.

Welcome to my new blog follower, covnitkepr1, who blogs at AccordingtotheBook. Please check it out!

Opium Cactus: catpoem/claudius (with audio)

To my cat Claudius
there is a military force
at the nervous crane.

(c) Nissa Annakindt

NOTE: Poem from my book Opium Cactus. 

If modern poetry is drawing words out of a hat, this is the high-tech equivalent--- a Babelfish poem. Babelfish poems are created by writing an ordinary sentence, translating it into an exotic language (Asian languages work best) using Babelfish. You then cut-and-paste the Babelfish translation back into the Babelfish window, and re-translate it back to English. Or some other language. You use the resulting word-salad as source material for your poem.

'catpoem/claudius' came to be when I wrote the sentence 'My cat Claudius has a neurological disorder' and translated into-out of Korean using Babelfish. The translation it spat back is exactly what you see here, I only had to arrange it into haiku form.

My cat Claudius, by the way, was the best cat ever invented. He had a neurological condition and walked crooked and stumbled a lot. The vet advised me to let him live in the house. When the house cat Cheney had kittens, Claudius managed to stumble into the kitten basket and became the official kitten-sitter. One of the kittens, Germanicus, became his best buddy for life. Both Claudius and Germanicus died, I believe from drinking some antifreeze from a bottle that was cracked.

Claudius as a kitten
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