Tag Archives: grotesque

The Beauty of Terrible Stories (Part 1)

Hello!  Happy New Year!

Where have I been?

Well, I’ve been busy.

I got married.

Wedding with Radar

Not to the dog.  I didn’t get married to Radar.  I just like this picture a whole lot.  And you don’t need to see my husband.

I also had a birthday, which turned me 25 years old.

Then I finished my new draft of Grotesque, reread it twice, and sent it to my agent.

So yeah, I’ve not had a lot of time to blog, nor have I had many things to blog about.  The thing is, there is one subject I’ve been meaning to touch on for a while now, and that is the hilarious and inspiring stories that I encounter every day while playing time management games.

For those who don’t know, time management games are a type of clicky, iPad game where you control a character (or characters) to make them complete a set of tasks within a time limit.  It involves managing your time properly, hence “time management.”  I am addicted to these games.  It all started with Diner Dash, which I absolutely loved until it went the route of Facebook games.  More specifically, they wanted me to pay them to turn my real money – which can be exchanged for real goods and services – into fake money – which can be exchanged for fake goods and services in an extremely limited capacity.

I never understood that.  It made no sense to me that people would pay money for like… Farmville or whatever.  But I had already paid to own Diner Dash!  So it was cruel and unusual to ask me to pay even more money on a regular basis.

But that’s beside the point.  The games I love most now are called Gardens Inc. (1,2, and 3), Supermarket Mania 2, and Jet Set Go! (Their exclamation point, not mine).  I want to share some stories about their stories.  I wish I could use a ton of screenshots, but I don’t know what’s going to push me beyond the safety of the Fair Use Act.  Instead I’ll illustrate some of my points using Mini Bex, as per the norm.  I will also say that I love these games.  I bought them and have played them all multiple times.  So this is free advertising for them, because I am recommending here that you buy them.

Today we’ll start with Gardens Inc., which was created by an infinite number of developers.  No just three I guess.  Intenium, World-Loom, and Nitreal Games.

The thing about these games is they often have ridiculous settings.  The best example is Supermarket Mania.  You play a young woman named Nikki who runs a supermarket.

That’s it.

Perhaps the developers are aware of this, because they try to offset the mundane environments with over-the-top plots.  These plots often include Villains (with a capital V!).  And they are the best Villains, as you’ll see.  Here are the plots of Gardens Inc 1, 2, and 3:

Gardens Inc. 1: From Rakes to Riches – You play a young woman in overalls named Jill.  Jill’s grandparents live in a dilapidated villa and owe money to a man who wears a snow-white suit and sunglasses all the time.  This man’s name is Cliff Gold.  How much money do Gramma and Grampa owe?  A cool million.  How is Jill going to help them come up with the money?  By winning a gardening contest, of course!  A gardening contest that comes with a grand prize of a million dollars.  Because such contests exist!


Gardens Inc. 2: The Road to Fame – You play Jill again.  Jill and her platonic (for now) business partner, Mike, are starting their own company.  It’s called Gardens Inc.!  Did we mention they garden?  Well, they don’t just do that.  They also renovate fountains, Japanese pagodas, park benches, flooded footpaths, and two (Two!) different kinds of staircases (wood and stone).  Guess what?  Another gardening contest!  This one run by an 129-year-old woman who is a “famous” gardener.  Her name is Lady Bloom (duh!).  But also there’s a thief!  And the villain from the previous game, Cliff “I have a closet full of white suits” Gold, is also back for some reason!  And then Mike gets kidnapped!  By Cliff Gold!  Jill has to save him!  How does she do that?  By gardening, of course!  Because, thankfully for Jill, all of her problems can be solved with gardening.  It would be a real bummer if she was an expert gardener but the only way to solve her problems was through a series of fashion design related tasks.

Gardening 2

Gardens Inc. 3: The One With a Wedding – I forget what the subtitle for this one is.  Hold on… [Looks it up] A Bridal Pursuit!  That’s it.  Jill and her no-longer-platonic friend, Mike, are getting married!  But also they are trying to expand their gardening business internationally, which isn’t going so well because of the new villains, Max and Lydia Perfect.  Max wears a Hawaiian-print shirt all the time.  So you know he’s trouble.  They also garden and for some reason are trying to sabotage Gardens Inc.  Also Jill and Mike’s wedding rings get stolen, and there’s some French chick named Nicole?  And um… something about like… weird ancestry?  And caves?  This one lost me a little.  But you can bet they solve all their problems through gardening!

I highly recommend these games, as I said.  They are unique and challenging, with proper difficulty curves and an abundance of different levels.  Each level comes with a clue for a “Bonus Design Award” where you can plant the right colors of flowers for extra points.  But the “clue” is often something like, “Think about stripes!” or, “Everything!”  And then you just know to make stripes or use every type of plant.  Not so much a clue as a direct, explicit instruction.  Still fun, though.

So what’s the point of all this?  Why talk about the ridiculousness of clicky-game stories?  Well, where else do you get to get away with shenanigans like the kind listed above?  It’s so refreshing and fun.  You can laugh at it, but still be engaged by it.  Sure I don’t give a toss about Jill’s grandparents.  They look old enough to live comfortably in a retirement home.  And sure the mayor of her town wears a top hat.  It’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s fun to play along and pretend there really is a universe where gardening is the end-all-be-all for everyone’s livelihood.

The only other medium where you can be as crazy as that is manga, I think.  Like, my favorite manga is about a family that has been possessed by the spirits of the animals of the zodiac, and anytime they get hugged by someone of the opposite sex they turn into their respective animals.  So yeah… sometimes crazy, outlandish stories are fun.

Until next time!

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Words and Other Things

My best friend, Liz, and my best-friend-in-law, Martyn, loaned me a bunch of books the other day.  I just finished one of them.  House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a book about a guy who finds a book written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, that features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.  House of Leaves is a work of fiction, so technically if you read it, you are reading a book about a guy who doesn’t exist, who finds a book that doesn’t exist, written about a documentary that doesn’t exist, which features a house that doesn’t exist, that was filmed by a man who doesn’t exist.

You should read it.  It’s pretty good.  But very intense.  Not for the young of heart or the young of age.  Ye be warned.

The next book is The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson.  I’m still working on it, but so far as I can tell it is about a porn star who gets into a terrible car crash after combining cocaine, bourbon, and driving.  The crash results in lots of fire burning him all over his body, and then he has a chat with a crazy lady while in the hospital.  The chat is the thing I wanted to quote here, because it made me giggle with disproportionate glee.

I indicated the little statue on the bedside table.  “I like the gargoyle.”

“Not a gargoyle.  It’s a grotesque.”

“You say oyster, I say erster.”

“I ain’t gonna stop eating ersters,” Marianne Engel replied, “but that’s a grotesque.  A gargoyle’s a waterspout.”

“Everyone calls these things gargoyles.”

“Everyone’s wrong.”

The Gargoyle, pg. 81

See?  It proves something that was never called into question in the first place.  I once did thirty seconds of research on Wikipedia and now, years later, I’m reading a book that confirms my research and I’m all, “Yay!  This makes me happy.”  I just thought I’d share.  It’s a good read so far.

Finally, my computer broke recently.  I have the worst luck with computers.  But this time I don’t mean it crashed or it got a virus.  I mean it literally broke.  It started coming apart at the seams.  It’s currently being held together with duct tape and binder clips.

So I got a Mac.

Good news: I came up with a new comic idea.  I was inspired by English class and Shakespeare, since lately I’ve been working toward getting my teaching certification so I can teach high school English.  Without meaning to, this comic became a bit of an homage to Kate Beaton’s comic, Hark!  A Vagrant.  Though it was not intended, I am in no way sorry.  Beaton’s work is some of the funniest I’ve ever seen.

Bad news: My copy of Photoshop Elements is for PCs only.

Results: I drew the comic and then took pictures of each panel.  Enjoy!

Writer’s Block

WB Panel 1_1
WB Panel 1_2
WB Panel 1_3
redo 2_1(1)
WB Panel 1_5

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Defining a Genre

If you’ve been keeping up with my last few posts, you’ll know that I’ve been working on revising a book entitled Grotesque.  This book has been with me since 2012.  It has come so far since its first draft, but it’s not quite ready to be sent out to editors.  Why?  Because, as my agent, her interns, and I discussed, the book was hovering in an uncomfortable space between two genres.  It had adult themes and characters, but still read like a Young Adult novel.  In order to revise it, I had to take a step back and ask why the narrative voice wasn’t working, why it still sounded like it was aimed at teenagers.

Through extensive discussions with my husband, my best friends, and my siblings, I discovered that I was never going to be able to revise the current draft of the book to read more “adult.”  Why?  Because the content, structure, and plot of the novel were always going to be too YA.  No amount of aging up the narrative voice was going to change that.  At best I could have ended up with a YA novel that read with an incongruously adult voice.

This is how I decided to address the problem:  I gutted the book.  Took out the YA content and upped the ante.  I’m expanding the world, going into more details with regards to history and characters, raising the stakes.  And it’s working, though I’m only a few pages into the new draft.  My purpose for writing this post was to offer a quick, easy glimpse at the difference between a YA novel and a plain ol’ adult novel.  Here’s a handy Venn diagram:

Venn Diagram

You’ll note that I use a lot of words like “typically” and “usually.”  Why?  Anyone who knows me knows I hate blanket statements.  Obviously each genre has its own conventions – otherwise it wouldn’t be a genre – but there are exceptions to every rule.  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a book that I would classify as “Adult” but one of the main characters is a twelve-year-old girl.  Similarly, Sarah Dessen has written a Young Adult novel about relationship abuse, which might be considered by some as an “adult” theme.  As for audience, there’s no set age-limit.  Adults read YA all the time.  Younger readers can find adult novels that they enjoy, or they might be exposed to adult novels through school.  I read Cold Mountain when I was thirteen years old (Summer reading assignment), and believe me that book is not YA.  It’s the Odyssey of Vaginas and it made me supremely uncomfortable.

The point I’m trying to make here is that Grotesque had elements of both genres.  Oftentimes it comes down to the way a story is approached.  You’ll note in the middle section of the diagram that there are several themes mentioned that could belong to either side.  The difference is that an adult novel will approach a theme of sexual abuse differently than a Young Adult novel.  I don’t know why I always capitalize Young Adult, but not adult.  Just go with it.

With that in mind, I began rethinking GrotesqueGrotesque deals with a main character who has only been alive for a few weeks, yet his body is that of an adult… monster.  He’s an adult monster.  His love interest is an adult with a child of her own.  Interestingly, a common theme in YA is the transition from childhood to adulthood.  This theme is present in Grotesque, but in a different way.  Again, it’s all about how the content is approached.  The statue that comes to life starts out with the mind of a child, but he is exposed to the horrors of the world, and that causes him to age rapidly.  He is overwhelmed by the complexity of life, the gray areas of morality, etc.  These are adult quandaries.  And so that is the direction I am taking.  I am going all in with this.  We’ll see how it turns out.

Can you believe I did a comic?  It’s been forever, right?  Enjoy!


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