Monday, May 28, 2012

"Make good art." - Neil Gaiman

When I graduated from university seven years ago, our keynote speaker was some sort of visual artist who didn't speak English very well and who, for some reason, decided not to use an interpretor. He could've been reciting from an ancient Babylonian text for the half hour or so he was speaking, and I wouldn't have guessed otherwise. Suffice it to say, I wasn't very inspired.

But I do enjoy hearing other peoples' commencement speeches. J.K. Rowling at Harvard in 2008 and Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005 are a couple ones I re-listen to from time to time. And Neil Gaiman's recent speech at The University of the Arts was also immensely inspiring. If you haven't listened to it or read the transcript, I highly recommend doing so.

I especially liked this bit:

"Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.

Make good art.

I'm serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn't matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.

Make it on the good days too."

I think words like this help mitigate the negativity that inevitably accompanies all artistic endeavors. Unless you're extremely lucky, making art will always be hard work, and there is never a guarantee of success. There will always be gatekeepers, critics, bad media, some economy on the brink of failure, and a million and one more reasons to give up. I knew all of this before I had even received my diploma.

But if it were easy, then it wouldn't be worth pursuing, would it?

At the end of the day, good or bad, I'm still an artist. My canvas is a blank page and my medium is the English language. One year has expired since I decided to experiment by releasing my first book by myself. My books aren't bestsellers, but they are successful on a variety of levels, particularly because they are the fruit of my artistic endeavors. Seranfyll and Eligere were rather challenging to write. But they were also extremely fun to write. This is an adventure for me, and one that I intend to keep going on despite the news or if a traditional publisher decides to publish me or if my leg gets crushed and eaten by a mutated boa constrictor.

Off to make good art...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How DO you say "Seranfyll"?

I went to lunch a couple weeks ago with my folks and some friends from church. I don't get to see these friends often, and when one of them asked about my books, the question came up, "How do you say Domrey's last name?"

This question has come up several times and from various people since Seranfyll first released last year. I've also been asked how to pronounce the words "magi," "eligere," and other words, but "Seranfyll" has definitely been the most asked about. I never really thought that these words had to be pronounced precisely. After all, not everyone knew how to say Hermione's name until the Harry Potter movies came out. I figured that however the reader wanted to pronounce "Seranfyll," that should be it for him or her.

But one of the friends at lunch, who had some training in marketing, said that the reason people ask how to pronounce things is because it creates a "brand" in our minds. Humans are auditory creatures as much as we are visual, and when we hear and see something together, our brain makes associations that in turn make that object, even fictional, more "real" in our minds.

I didn't really understand that, necessarily, which is probably why I'm not a marketing expert.

But sorta like pronouncing "Hermione" properly, I can see why someone would be curious about how to say "Seranfyll." So, for curious parties (all three of you :D ), I've compiled a (very short and not in any order) list of some names and words from my books and how I've been pronouncing them:

Seranfyll - Despite what the mechanical text-to-speech voice on the Kindle says, Domrey's surname is not pronounced "sur-RAN-fil." And to make it more confusing, I've been pronouncing it two different ways myself. But how it actually goes (throwing linguistics to the wind) is "SAIR-ehn-fel," with the emphasis on the first syllable instead of the middle one. Another way to think of it is by saying the words "Sharon fell" and replacing the "sh" sound with just a "s."

mage - "meyj"

magi - "mey-jahy"

magus - "mey-guhs"

maga - "mey-gah"

eligere - I have to include a note here because I know I'm pronouncing this one "incorrectly." When I was looking up a latin translation for the word "elite," about a bazillion different words and renditions came up. This is a verb form I think, rather than an adjective. Or maybe it is an adjective. Anyway, the point is, in the grand scheme of the latin derived languages, I know I'm not saying or using it correctly. But for the purposes of my books, I've been pronouncing it as "El-eh-Gair-ee."

regius - "ruh-JEE-us"

Vieve - "VEE-ehv"

Arelle - "UH-rell"

Snevil - Kindle's text-to-speech makes his name rhyme with "level," but I've been pronouncing it as "SNEE-vul."

For anyone who's onto Eligere already, here are a few to add:

Amyrania - "AH-mer-RAIN-ee-uh"

Mai Mai - "My-My"

Ryu Jin  - "REE-yuu-jin"

Marrya - "MARR-ee-uh"

Makoa - "MAH-ko-uh"

O'hekolo - "OH-hey-ko-lo"

I think that's mostly it for now. If I hear of any others, I'll add them to this list. If you have any questions on certain names or words in the Seranfyll world, let me know by emailing me or commenting, and I can add them as well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beany Goodness

So, it's May. And I succumbed to the temptation known as Pinterest. One of my first pins:

I know. Profound.

I also gave myself a bit of a break from writing in April to catch up on reading and whatnot. I think I'm going to extend my break a couple weeks, however, for a number of reasons. For one, I'm going out of town for a few days. And secondly, I'm still reading Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card, and I MUST finish it.

Courtesy of Goodreads.
Or whomever they got the
cover pic from.
Of all the books that were assigned reading in college, Ender's Game was one I actually liked (I took a sci-fi/fantasy lit course as an elective).

If your'e not familiar with the story, Ender's Game is a sci-fi novel that features a boy nicknamed Ender who's a genius, and he's sent to Battle School along with other genius children where they're prepared to fight space aliens by playing games. It's a pretty heady story that draws a lot upon real military history, philosophy, politics, etc., but it doesn't feel like an over-my-head kind of book.

My favorite character in Ender's Game is Bean, another kid who is also a super genius (even smarter than Ender in many ways). He's called Bean because he's really small. And because of his extraordinary intelligence, other characters think he's like a little Ender. Ender eventually comes to rely on Bean a lot as Battle School starts pushing him and his team to their limits.

Ender's Shadow parallels Ender's Game, but from Bean's POV. One thing I really like about it (other than the fact that it's filled with nothing but Beany goodness), is that it shows how different Bean and Ender are. Both boys come from very different backgrounds: Ender from a typical family (if you don't count his genius brother and sister) and Bean from the streets.

When he gets to Battle school, Bean gets obsessed with learning about Ender and what makes him a great commander. Being from the streets where it was every kid from himself, Bean can't understand Ender's altruistic tendencies, like taking the time to help train other kids at Battle School. Why doesn't he let the others fail so that he can rise to the top?

He starts seeing that it's because Ender isn't in Battle School for himself, to see how high in the ranks he can go and feed his ego. Ender has one goal, and that's to defeat the aliens and save the world. That's his whole purpose for being there at all, and he knows that the only way he's going to be able to do that is if he empowers his team, and that's why they follow him.

I think it's really wonderful to meet someone (either in fiction or real life) who figured out why the heck he or she was put on this planet and used his or her gifts to rise up and meet that purpose. Particularly when that purpose is to save the world.

Still working on mine. And it's good thing that I'm not supposed to save the world.

In the meantime, back to reading and Pinterest...