Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

When I first started writing, I thought of myself as solely a novelist.  Writing short stories had no appeal - or so I thought.  Even back then, I participated in fandom, and wrote short tales about my characters, though somehow - perhaps because this was for the love, never professional - I never really thought of that as "real" short story writing.  Or maybe because rather than creating a story out of new elements, I was taking snippets from character backgrounds or transcribing / filling in scenes roleplayed with other fandom folks.  I did short fiction for a fantasy e-zine I ran for a time, but they were all very much serials:  (mostly) self-contained segments, part of a larger arc.

So I told myself I had no interest in being a short story writer, that I was going to write and sell novels, and I believed me.  When I did start writing short fiction, it was with purely mercenary intent:  at the time, novelists had more luck with short story sales to back them up.  Then I found out - horror of horrors! - I really enjoyed it.

More than that:  I've been working pretty steadily on my novel projects of later, but took a break to work on a so-called flash piece.  (I say "so-called" because the first draft clocks in at 1,333 words.)  The satisfaction of setting up the opening, keeping a tautly wound plot, and then - most of all - finishing the story was glorious.  I've also been mulling on a couple poems - which, for me, entails looking at forms I want to play with - and brewing on a fairytale reworking.

I've come to the conclusion I need the break and the change in pace, taking a step aside from the marathon of a novel to write something more contained. ... relatively, because I am a big fan of the, "Yes, but ..." ending, where the current tale is wrapped up, but the story implies there's more to come.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

GoodReads Review: Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds - Patricia Lynne Duffy

(I don't usually post non-fiction or even non-fantasy books here, but this one so deeply involves the creative mind and perception that I had to share.)

  Blue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their WorldsBlue Cats and Chartreuse Kittens: How Synesthetes Color Their Worlds by Patricia Lynne Duffy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating exploration of the concept of synesthesia and the world of synesthetes, this book is both accessible and theoretical, personal and scientific. Duffy opens each chapter with a personal story that provides an introduction into the concept developed in the chapter, easing the reader from concrete illustration to the abstract of advanced topics. Synesthesia opens the door to contemplation of the source of creativity, the use of metaphor, and how the human brain regulates perception. A great, stimulating read.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

It's time to face facts and 'fess up:  I'm not going to meet the goals I set back here.  While disappointed, I don't feel I've let myself down or relaxed on my commitment to write.  I've made some good progress, but life interfered in a lot of ways.  The new job has been excellent, but very physically intense, and the commute is a bear.  My older dog, Lexi, got very sick very suddenly.  She's on the mend now and with a long-term plan, but it swallowed a lot of my emotional energy.  My venerable Frankenlaptop decided to do a swan dive, which interfered with my writing because I'll to write in the evenings while chilling in front of the television.

Some of the delays have been directly writing related.  I got my proof for Scylla and Charybdis (!), which took priority.  I also decided to incorporate an element into the worldbuilding for my next project that requires some research, so now I'm down the blissful rabbit hole of learning new things.  I'm also feeling like I need to stretch my flash and poetry muscles a little, so I may take a pacing break for that.

I've always been the kind of person for whom deadlines are liberating, but I'm also the kind of person who stresses over them and beats herself up for falling short ... so I know when I need to let go of the deadline and let things happen in their own time.  I hope both novels (all three novels!) will be better for it.

It's time to face facts and 'fess up:  I'm addicted to alliteration.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Song Styles

I've mentioned before that there are some thematic worldbuilding similarities between Scylla and Charybdis and Surgeburnt:  both are settings that have "recovered" from the apocalypse; both address a backlash against current society's constant connectivity; and both put physical books in an isolated but hallowed niche, primarily because I am a book nerd and have an undying love for ink and paper.  I even posited a theory that they could be the same setting, since the planetary denizens in SaC have long since lost contact with Earth, and I haven't ruled out space travel in Surgeburnt, at least not explicitly.  But that's a bit of silly fluff and I don't think I'd formalize it; the two settings *feel* very different to me in other ways, and to me they don't belong in the same universe.

But there is one more thing that is similar between them.  I recently discovered that they both have the same song on their general theme list:

Children Of The Revolution - Kirsty MacColl

(This is Kirsty at her best, by the way:  it's such bright, cheerful instrumentation and the lyrics are biting, snarky and dark.)

The song applies to my projects in different ways, but it is definitely appropriate for both.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

One of the best recommendations I can make for fellow writers is this:  critique the stories of others.

We all take for granted the advantages of having someone else read our work, from big picture review to catching typos that our eyes just skip over, but even if you never submit a story to a workshop or post on a forum in turn, the process of critiquing can be immensely helpful to your own writing and editing.

First, it helps hone your critical eye.  Picking out what elements you like or don't like in a story and - even better - trying to analyze why helps you be aware of flaws when you return to your own work.  Read a tale that involves an act of deus ex machina, and it might bring your attention to a badly used coincidence in your novel.  It's also a "safe" place to notice these things, when you don't have the personal attachment of it being your keyboard-borne baby.

Second, it helps you separate objective and subjective issues, especially if you read outside your preferred tastes.  Is this battle scene and its gore over the top, or are you just not the intended audience?  What about an unhappy ending - is this cheating a reader, or do you just hate them on principle?  This kind of perspective is useful to have when, inevitably, an editor's rejection bounces back to you with comments, and you have to decide whether or not they have a point.

Third, the act of writing the critique improves a different set of writing muscles.  An effective critique discusses the story subjectively and without directing its suggestions straight at the author - where comments can too easily be taken as attacks.  Instead, a good critique focuses on how the reader reacted to the story, without much attention for the author.  (Comments like, "English must be your second language," or even, "I assume you're a native, because your grasp of (X) culture is ..." are landmines.)  This leads to using "I" language instead of "you" language, which puts people on the defensive in any context, much less one so artistically personal.

Of course, reading a set of critiques is a skill of its own ... but that's another topic.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

It hurts my soul that for some reason, "unicorn" has become code for something chock-full of sparkles, glitter and rainbows, often topped off with pink.  I don't know where this interpretation came from; My Little Pony or Disney, perhaps.  Certainly, that's not the classical unicorn, which could be deadly if not lured in by a virgin, and according to some origin theories, was inspired by a distance view of a rhinoceros!

For as long as I can remember, I've loved unicorns and been fascinated by unicorn lore.  The first plane trip I can recall, I stared out across the flat, mushroom dotted expanse of clouds and decided that it was the realm of unicorns, called Halunea.  Maybe my unicorns were more sweet and fluffy than those classical stories, but they didn't sparkle.  (There's a Twilight joke in there somewhere.)

I always hated, too, the old fable about the unicorns missing Noah's Ark because they were too busy playing games, and that song?  Oh, it made me furious, with a dose of real childhood angst:  I got genuinely unhappy every time I heard it.  I ached a little.  (I was a weird little kid.  Move along.)  

In any event, during my AOL days, I made contact with Richard and Miranda Gray, who created the Beasts of Albion divination cards.  (I still use these for story generation.  They're beautiful and inspiring.)  The cards are divided into three kingdoms:  Strength, Wisdom and Purity.  The Spirit of the Purity kingdom, the "head" of that kingdom, is the Unicorn.

So we got to talking, and I brought up my dislike of the story.  They agreed with me and wrote an alternate version, where the unicorns missed the ark because they were too busy helping other animals.  I wish I still had a copy, but the memory stays with me.

Next stop, The Unicorn Of Kilimanjaro - photography.  Check it out.

Oddly enough, I haven't written often about unicorns.  A few of my short stories have featured them, but usually in an atypical fashion (in particular an urban fantasy story where they were shapeshifting psychic vampires).  Part of it is probably because they are used to the point of cliche, and so I worry about overcoming an editor's reaction, but that's not the full reason by any means.

What is the real reason about unicorns?  I have no idea.  Maybe it's a silence of understanding; I know them so well, I don't feel the need to explore through writing.  Maybe I'm just waiting for the right story, the perfect vehicle for my particular unicorns.  I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Song Styles

I love this bizarre little song.

A quick summary of the storyline:  the singer is addressing her ex-boyfriend, whose new girlfriend has schemed to get him to take her to Paris - the implication is that he'll propose in the city of love.  And:

While she's in anxious anticipation,
I really hope you have a horrible vacation ...

Mon Amour

The combination of the quirky lyrics with the instrumentation just makes me grin every time.