Sunday, September 16, 2018

Song Styles

I'm on my final editing pass for Unnatural Causes.  This is a targeted pass, to smooth out the additions from the previous pass and to cut unnecessary fat.  Since the novel is at 98,000 words and a bit of change, I'm in a different position than I usually am:  rather than looking for what I can cut that won't hurt the story,  I'm looking for what I can cut that will help the story.

So in honor of that, here's (one of) the quirky song(s) that I put down as a themesong for my narrator, Vil.  It's inside out and topsy-turvy, much like Vil herself even before the chaotic events of the novel:

Anywhere Is - Enya

This music video also gets thumbs up from me for actually connecting to the music.  Nothing drives me more nuts when the music tells one story and the video another ...

Well, all right.  People who say things happen "on accident" drive me more nuts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday Wanderings

Between the chaos of my daily life, I've been working on the worldbuilding for my next novel project.  It's coming together somewhat differently from my usual process, and I hope the changes will pay off.

I typically do a few short sections on global elements - cosmology, world history, magic system, general geography - and then focus on the specific individual countries about which I'm writing.  Elements may bleed over from country to country, or I may deliberately set up contrast between them.

With this project, I'm spending a lot more time on the global ... but rather than precise definitions, I've included scope, variance, and tendencies - a broader approach that gives me a framework upon which to hang individual regions (and individuals).  My hope is that the end result will be more granular, less neatly defined, and that when I get down to specific countries and cities, I'll have a clearer sense of how they fit into the world as a whole.

In particular, rather than simply saying "this is what religious people believe," (as if one global religion is realistic!) I've created a quartet of deities who manifest in different ways.  Some denominations may revere all four; others may believe in the existence of only a single deity; still others might believe in two, but consider them "good" and "evil."

It's a lot more work, but a) I think it will go quicker when I get down to the specifics, since I won't be creating so much wholecloth; and b) ... let's face it, I'm obsessed with worldbuilding and I would cheerfully spend all my time doing it anyway.

Another change to the way I usually do things is I don't have a mental outline for what sections I need.  I'm writing sections as they occur to me.  For instance, I just realized that I wanted to go back and talk about holidays.  Now, this is a general / global discussion; individual countries might have their own days of celebration ...

I'm also running into the weird issue that the word "chimpanzee" feels irredeemably modern and I'm not sure how to handle referencing such a creature, but that's another story.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Anatomy of an Idea: Soul Medley

As I mentioned in my previous post, Soul Medley is now out in Andromeda Spaceways #72.  I discuss briefly the origins of the story, but here's a more detailed account ... spoiler free, if you haven't read it yet, though I do encourage you to do so!

Soul Medley started in response to a monthly challenge prompt at  The prompt was to write a story about / involving music.  I decided to build a story around the repertoire of famed blind Irish traditional harper Turlough O'Carolan.  He's easily the most prolific composer in the traditional repertoire, responsible for a few hundred tunes.  Now, I'm not a huge O'Carolan fan; like many artists who churn out works, a lot of them start to sound the same.  But he does have a few gorgeous tunes.

One of the most unusual is Eleanor Plunkett.  There are two stories around Eleanor Plunkett, one about the namesake, one about the tune.  (You may sometimes see it referred to as Planxty Eleanor Plunkett, a planxty being a tune written in honor of a person.  Many of O'Carolan's tunes are planxties, whether referred to by that name or not.)  Eleanor Plunkett, the person, was allegedly the only survivor of her family, who shut themselves up in their castle and drowned in boiling water (?!).  Probably historical exaggeration of some sort, but that Eleanor was the last of the Plunketts is not in doubt.

Legend has it that O'Carolan was playing the first part of Eleanor Plunkett, the tune, when a bystander commented that he'd heard another song just like it.  O'Carolan was so incensed he stopped right there and never finished writing it.

So that takes care of the inspiration for my main characters.  For my antagonist, I decided to reference another traditional harper:  Rory Dall O'Cathain, also a blind harper of Irish / Scottish background (both cultures claim him) who pre-dates O'Carolan.

Throughout the story, there are references to other O'Carolan tunes, such as Sheebeg and Sheemore (the Anglicized translation of the Irish title), which refers to a battle between the fairies over two hills:  the big hill and little hill.  And I tried to make the journey through the underworld feel like a classic tale of the fairy, while still having its own unique qualities.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

ASM #72 Now Available!

It's out!  Check out Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #72 with my story, "Soul Medley" ... here!

Watch this space for a discussion of how this story came to be.  Or don't.  ;)

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Wednesday Wanderings

Last week, I discussed the CW's fantasy series, The Outpost.  This week, I'd like to talk about one of television science fiction offerings, Salvation.

Or ... is it?  During the first season, I posted about Salvation's exploration of coming-apocalypse movie tropes - it's almost a love letter to that particular subgenre - and how it took the familiar and explored them more deeply, an opportunity presented by the longer format.

In season two, the difficulties of writing an extended storyline that centers around a world-ending asteroid begin to manifest themselves.  There's only so many scientific barriers to place between the main characters and the solution before it either strains credulity or bores the viewer with technobabble.  There's also only so many other kinds of complications before it is no longer a story about impending collision and instead becomes a story about all the ways people can be terrible to each other.  Salvation does a decent job of this, but it's the places where the broader plotline strays from this central plot problem that are the weakest.

Among those, Salvation falls back on a familiar trope of spy / thriller shows:  the shadowy cabal that manipulates governments and decides the fate of nations.  I'm not sure how plausible such an organization really is, if it could really exist without being discovered.  In fact, I might be tempted to say that such a cabal actually belongs in fantasy, not reality.

Then again, how much of the science in Salvation is near-future science fiction, how much is currently in our grasp, and how much is pure fantasy?  I don't know enough about technology to answer that question.  For the matter of that, how many purely "real" shows indulge in technological solutions that don't yet exist?  Fudge the details of a drug?  Even grounded politics-based shows like Madam Secretary use invented countries to avoid insulting real nations, create tension that wouldn't be possible with a real place, or create parallels comfortably removed from our reality.

What about those cop shows where a single forensics expert does the work of six, so the viewer doesn't have to remember six people?  Or, as my mother is fond of pointing out, the attire that no real cop / attorney / businessperson would be allowed to wear to work?  Ultimately, every work of fiction is a fantasy, a reality that doesn't quite mesh with our own; that makes assumptions about the world which may or may not be accurate; that changes the rules to make for the best story.

So when it comes to defining genre lines, there's a lot to be said for that old saw about pornography:  you can't define it, but you know it when you see it.  It's a lot about overall feel.  Salvation feels like science fiction to me, so I choose to call it that.  If you chant a spell to become invisible, it's fantasy; if you press a button on a gadget, it's science fiction.  There was a time (I'm not sure if it's true any more) where scientists were certain that time travel was impossible, so any story that contained it was necessarily fantasy ... but time travel is so ingrained in our concept of science fiction that it continued to be classified that way.  Handwaving a memory-wiping drug in an otherwise non-fantastical thriller is fine, as long as it's plausible.

For a show that does an excellent job of keeping the viewer guessing about the paranormal - is this fantasy?  Is there a rational explanation?  Is what the characters believe more important than what's really going on? - check out Fortitude.  And expect things to get progressively weirder ... 

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Song Styles

Another few months, another set of CDs and music to accompany me upon my travels through the strange lands of the midwest.  Besides the themed sets, I enjoy doing word association, where song titles string one into the next through linked words, concepts, and occasionally shameless punnery.  This is my most recent set of songs:

A Hundred Wishes - Loreena McKennitt
1000 Miles Away - Carrie Newcomer
Many The Miles - Sara Bareilles
Miles From Our Home - Cowboy Junkies
Feels Like Home - Chantal Kreviazuk
Are You Home - Broods
Walking Home - Metisse
Take Me Home - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
House - Sahlene
Cigarettes and Housework - Rachel Fuller
Smoke - Natalie Imbruglia
Skies on Fire - The Green Children
World on Fire - Sarah McLachlan
Weight of the World - Chantal Kreviazuk
Heavy - Dreamgirls soundtrack
Heavy Metal Lover - Lady Gaga
Circle of Stone - Laura Powers
Circle - Sarah McLachlan
Never Ending Circles - Chvrches
Loose Ends - Imogen Heap
Let It Loose - Gloria Estefan
Break Free - Colbie Caillat
Breakout - Ronan Hardiman
Prisoner - Mariah Carey
Prisoner of Love - Miami Sound Machine
Hearts Without Chains - Ellie Goulding
Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken - P!nk
All The King's Horses - Joss Stone
Poem to a Horse - Shakira
My Song - Alessia Cara
Love Song - Sara Bareilles
Sarah's Song - Sissel
Good Old Song - Anne Murray
The Old Fashioned Way - Helen Reddy
Ages Past, Ages Hence - Loreena McKennitt
Dear Future Husband - Meghan Trainor
Marry Me - Martin McBride
I Do - Idina Menzel
Congratulations - Rachel Platten
Thank You - Celine Dion
Thank U - Alanis Morissette

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Story Sale!

The Colored Lens just accepted my story "Canvas Captured" for their fall issue!  Watch this space for details and suchnot.