Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

(It's been a crazy few weeks and my work schedule has been temporarily flipped around, which means I'm working my normal ten hour shift on Wednesdays ... hence the lack of a mid-week post.)

I posted a few weeks ago about my recent short story publication, "For As Many Dawns," which was based on the fairytale / fable The Buried Moon.  I adore fairytales, myths, fables and ballads, many of which share influences and borrow storylines.  Often, the lines between these different types of tales blur, and classifying them is a matter of personal taste.

I grew up on D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths and the varying Andrew Lang colored fairy books.  One of my earliest attempts at a short story was a rewrite of the Pandora myth, where Barbie was Pandora.  I've never grown out of the fascination.  The title track of my CD, Rolling Of The Stone, is an Appalachian ballad which is a distortion of a Scottish ballad, The Twa Brothers.  The original story is about two quarreling brothers, one of whom slays the other, and ends with the dead brother's beloved weeping over his grave.  In Rolling Of The Stone, the focus is on the beloved, Annie, who uses her tabor to charm her lover out of the grave.

As a writer, I love using fairytales (myths, legends, etc) as the basis for a story.  I think they appeal to readers, too, because the elements are deeply archetypal, often subconsciously absorbed.  And because of that, there's an implicit understanding:  you can take shortcuts or start in the middle, and (generally) readers will know exactly the landscape they've been dropped into.

I admit the lazy element, too:  there's a built plot outline with using a fairytale.  But then again ...

The fairytale is ripe for a plot twist, for subverting the expectations and taking an unexpected turn.  How do you figure out where to turn?  A great place to start is to take a good, hard look at fairytale logic, which is often poetic rather than rational.  For instance, how in the world did Cinderella's prince find her by footwear alone?  (I'm sure someone's written a story where the prince picks the wrong person because he happens to come across another girl with minuscule feet first ...)

Another fun way to play with fairytales is to transport them to an unexpected setting.  I once partook in a writers' challenge on the premise to take a favorite fairytale and then set it in a speculative subgenre you weren't comfortable with.  I rewrote "The Six Swans" as a cyberpunk tale, reworking the main character's prohibition against speech into being forbidden to plug into the network.

And the current short story I'm working on?  It's based on The Flower Queen's Daughter (found in one of the Lang books, though I'm not sure which), and starts with the moment where the hero proposes to the princess he's rescued ... and she says no.  The flashback explores a fairy's broken (or is it?) promise to him and the events that followed.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Song Styles

A few weeks ago, I asked about favorite Christmas carols, old and new.  (And I would still love to hear the answers!)  I just have to share one of mine, a song that makes me grin no matter how much of a Grinch or Scrooge I'm feeling, and one that stays in my annual music rotation:

Mrs. Fogarty's Christmas Cake

It is, of course, appropriately Celtic.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Song Styles

Surgeburnt is, in many ways, the protagonist against the world:  she's up against larger problems to which there are no solutions (or at least, there seem to be none).  But there are specific antagonists with which she clashes - and one particular character, Caprice, who holds a position of power and professes to be an ally ... but her background (and Maren's instincts) suggest that her offer of power comes with a price tag.

And now, in the current point of the narrative, Maren has had to take her up on that offer.  What exactly will be the consequences? ... well, I know, but I ain't sharing.

In any case, Caprice is a gorgeous, glamorous schemer, and I couldn't quite resist using this for her themesong (language warning):

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Anatomy Of An Idea: For As Many Dawns

We interrupt your (generally) regularly scheduled blog post to bring up a new publication of mine and talk a little bit about the inspiration.  You can read it here:

For As Many Dawns

(I do recommend you read the story before this post, if you do intend to read both, as here be potential spoilers.)

The kernel of this story comes from an old fairy tale or fable known as "The Buried Moon."  There's a bit of mythological this-is-why-it-is to "The Buried Moon:"  it starts with the conceit that when the sky is dark (new moon), the moon has come down to wander the earth.  In this particular fable, though, her progress through the dark forest is interrupted by all manner of evils, normally driven away by her light ... but when she trips over a tree root, the creatures swarm her and bury her in the swamp.  The fable has a happy ending:  eventually, a local village manages to free her.  You can read a version here.

It was the idea of this anthropomorphized moon, and the power of her light, that carried into "For As Many Dawns."  What happens to the moon's children after she leaves the heavens?  I wanted that feel of old tales, of legends, to seep into the story.  And how could a legendary problem have anything but a legendary solution?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Song Styles

With the holiday season nearly upon us, already upon us, or in full swing (depending on who you ask), I'd like to pose the question to you:  what are your favorite tunes?  It doesn't have to be Christmas - I've learned the Hanukkah tune Sevivon - or even connected to a religious holiday - I adore Marshmallow World, popularized by Johnny Mathis (and mangled by a Target commercial last year, but never mind that).

So ... what special songs make you smile this time of year, no matter how often you hear them?  Do they have special versions that are "right" to you, or can any artist sing / interpret them the way they choose?

What about ancient songs, passed down for centuries, sometimes fragmented and reworked?  What about the most modern of new classics?

Tell me what music stirs your soul.

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.

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