Friday, May 29, 2009

Reading List

A recent post on brought my attention to some of the more classic fantasy novels ... and in the case of the one I'm reading right now, novellas. I'm currently meandering through The Complete Compleat Enchanter, a compilation of the long-shorts by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt from the 1940s. I'm enjoying the experience and "feeling out" the conventions of the era, so I decided to keep at it.

I could have reserved a good dozen books, but decided to stick with three to start because I don't know what my reading time is going to be like ... and one of these is four books in one. The ones I marked:

The Mabinogion Tetralogy - Evangeline Walton, because I'm in love with the Welsh mythos and would love to see how this retelling plays out.

The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle, because I have no idea why I didn't read this years ago. Honestly? There is no excuse. I should be in chains.

The Once And Future King - T.H. White, which I actually have read, but it was a very long time ago ... but I remember enjoying it, hence its re-addition here. The reason I had to reserve it is because I cannot find my copy. Anywhere. Argh.

This will all start after I finish another book which I found while looking for The Once And Future King and have always meant to read: I just found my copy of Machiavelli's The Prince.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Since I've just hit paged 17 of 170 in my Journal of the Dead printed manuscript, I'm - actually less than a tenth of the way through, as there are no more partial pages after the journal begins. Still, to think that almost ten percent of the story is in third person before the switch is startling. It's a necessary move; hope I can overcome when I get to querying and submitting.

I'm beginning to worry that Scylla and Charybdis is too heavy on the worldbuilding and description. The issue is simply that everywhere Anaea goes, even the most basic things are brand-new to her. I have to paint the picture along with her reaction, while still propelling the plot forward - and then to make things more glumpy, it would be pretty low of Gwydion not to explain things to her since he's standing right there. However, in many respects, this exploration / discovery IS the plot. I think of this as primarily a setting story (unusual for me) followed closely by character. The more formalized plot structure is a distant third.

It may be simply that I'm unused to a setting that is front and center, so my mental sense of the ratio is off. Time will tell.

Speaking of time, I'm having the curious sense of deja vu. Did I complain about this same issue before?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Instructions For An Initiate

This one was a long ... long ... LONG haul! but my flash fiction story Instructions For An Initiate, an experiment in second person imperative (that is, rather than being told as if "you" were a specific MC, it's told as if an invisible narrator were issuing commands) has SOLD! (sold ... sold ...) to Golden Visions magazine.

Now for the walk of gravity-defying ceiling scuffery.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

If I just relax and stop trying to pace myself, Scylla and Charybdis seems to work much better. I have some rough patches as to how long the journey is supposed to take - it turns out that the way I built hyperspace and the sub-light distances between corridors, the exploratory mission I was picturing as a long-term thing couldn't have taken more than ten days to get to the vicinity of Themiscyra. Wow.

Ironically, the main reason I've made hyperspace travel-time so short is I don't want to leave my two characters in the shuttle for ages because I have less pretext for him not to tell her everything he can think of ... and that makes my novel boring. Help, I'm adjusting my setting in accordance with narrative necessity!

Journal of the Dead - I am pretty much convinced that the new-file rewrite was worth it, though I wonder when in the world this novel will finally be ready to face the world. I thought I would be totally done by May - June. Fall? If I say certainly before the end of the year, I may jinx myself.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The website for the World Fantasy Convention 2010 has just gone up and ... the topic is whimsical fantasy. I am so excited! Add to that the fact that it's in Columbus, which means my travel expenses are down to a tank of gas ... still far enough away that I'll need a hotel room, but I don't think lodging in Columbus is that expensive.

I am thinking of buying my membership in October this year, because there's no way I'm NOT going and it's $25 less before Nov '09.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Scylla and Charybdis spatial progress update - now in hyperspace. I'm not real proud of the mechanism I use for hyperspace as I think it's pretty stock ... but it's not an element that's terribly important to the story, so I mainly just needed something that would work for quick travel without getting in the way of the rest of the setting. I am enjoying the weird little pseudo-mystic quirks I've added to the experience - and the fact that ships use mechanical clocks because there's no way to track galactic positioning from hyperspace.

Journal of the Dead - first edit begun! So far, I would say the process of rewriting into a clean file has paid off. I've felt much more free to change awkward phrases or cut redundant information. I feel more in control of when I need to add things, too. I'm still not totally happy with Parik's accidental death in the first chapter, but it is less forced. I think I've probably taken it about as far as I can until I get a fresh set of eyes on it.

I had briefly pondered cutting the chapter section and skipping ahead to the journal, but I think that seeing the process that leads Rhiane up to her rebirth is really important ... and that has to start with her son.

Short stories - I seem to be incapable of writing a short story right now that isn't long, epic and blathery. Have finished several in succession over 7000 words. One of them I think may become a series, if I ever get through my backlog of unfinished free writes. The idea of fantasy time travel is a great one, I love the two characters I've come up with - and it's an interesting way to explore clashing viewpoints and just ... well, settings. Which is an obsession of mine.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Surfacing ...

This past weekend was insane, and I'm still recuperating.

One of my former harp students, Christina, got married this weekend, and I played harp for her. Also came to the rehearsal (which I don't always) and was invited to the rehearsal dinner and reception. It's so nerve-racking to play for someone you've taught - the urge to be perfect has never been stronger. I'm not, of course, but I think I did as well I could have while still keeping one eye on the aisle.

Christina also had a Korean tea ceremony as part of her wedding - since her husband-to-be's family was Korean. I was really looking forward to this, and I found it an intriguing custom. Watching the ritual was a treat, and I happened to have a front row seat (as I was playing - again). I alternated between a few Eastern pieces which I learned for the occasion and two Celtic pieces that sounded less Western.

And the difference between the musical modes? Very stark. I was very leery of arranging the Korean tune, Ari Rang, because I didn't want to make it sound Celtic with the accompaniment. The other tune, Wen Ti, I played the arrangement out of my book - but it looks as if all the tunes in said book are arranged the same way, with the accompaniment simply being the melody a few beats behind. So I may not be able to get much more arrangement help out of it.

Also played Eleanor Plunkett, which is an Irish tune, but pentatonic and ends on the fifth chord. This makes it sound less conventional. Ridee 6 Temps was a Breton tune and ... I don't know, it just sounds very foreign and exotic.

Anyhow, after this, my Sunday was a double-session at the same location: 11am-1pm, then 5:30pm-7:30pm. Because of my poor little puppy, I had to come back between, so the round-trip mileage ran 127 miles (a little under 45 mins each way). Now, I hate driving this part of town - I wouldn't be surprised if the roads are the worst in the Cincinnati area. It also requires a little driving on I-75, which is a similarly deplorable stretch of highway. On the upside, I love the venue and wish it were closer: the people are very nice, there's always little kids who stop and ogle the harp (which is adorable), I get lots of compliments.

Sunday, I got so many comments in the second session that I felt like it interrupted the flow of the music. Good news, bad news?

Anyhow, combine with the fact that I haven't slept right since last Thursday night? I am waking up feeling dragged out. Haven't recovered yet.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Editing mark-ups for Journal of the Dead - complete! That means I have only one more step on this first edit, but it's the most time-consuming: the actual rewrite.

Sometimes I think my subconscious looks out for me. I just wish it would tell my conscious mind it was doing so! I spent a lot of time angsting over a particular plot turn - an incriminating document. I got to one of the last scenes and I realized ... I'd already built in a way around it without even realizing it. So I went back and crossed out a few of my frantic scrawls. Not needed, after all.

Scylla and Charybdis: by the end of this chapter, my two main characters will be off the space station! Break out the champagne.

Working on another F-W challenge story and sincerely hoping this one goes better than the last one.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Anatomy of an Idea: In These Shoes

I actually don't recall the thought process behind most of this story: unlike most of mine, it mainly developed in the writing. I got to a certain point, I made a decision, I kept going ... there are two or three twists in the tale that I really enjoyed creating.

However, I can remember how the whole thing got started, and that was with an exercise from The 3AM Epiphany. The exercise was (I think) to reveal information about a person or history through a piece of clothing. I chose a shoe, and the six hundred words I wrote (later pared down) much later became the opening of this story.

This story made its first stop at Sword & Sorceress last year - I wonder that the editor (if she paid attention to these things) doesn't think I'm obsessed with assassins, given my first submission this year. On the other hand, it's more likely I've been labeled as obsessed with arctic environments: three, count them, three to that market alone. There's probably a little truth to that. On the other hand, I write plenty of non-arctic stories, those just happen to be the ones inclined in the sword and sorcery direction.

As anyone who knows me ... well, knows ... I stink at titles. Ergo I sort of slapped "In These Shoes?" on it as I was writing in reference to a Kirsty MacColl song. Unfortunately, it kept sticking because I couldn't think of anything better. I lost the question mark early on, but title is now final.

This has always been one of my favorites. I have a soft spot in my heart for the action combined with a very (I hope) emotional core.

In These Shoes

Me again - In These Shoes is now available over at Staffs and Starships! More about this later ...


I just finished Jana Oliver's Sojourn - and boy, was that a fun read! I very much recommend this book (and in fact, after writing this more detailed review, I'm off to add a shorter one to my website). Jacynda, a Time Rover, travels back to Victorian London in search of a missing tourist - even as Jack the Ripper roams the streets. She encounters two men with very different motives and one thing in common: they are Transitives, or shapeshifters.

Now, first off, I just have to admire the skill it takes to combine these two elements. Here are two very different types of outsiders - visitors from the future versus a secret society of shapechangers - which seem, in tone / feel, to be incompatible. But they blend together, and they work, and maybe it's partly the setting, but ... well done. Second off, here is a great example of how to do multiple points of view well. Watching the characters mutually keep their own secrets and gnaw at the others' is great fun. Way more fun than not knowing.

Book is not without areas where I quibbled - I thought a bit too much time was spent on Cynda's timelag. I also thought there were a few too many loose ends left undone. I did, however, appreciate that one of those loose ends was the romantic subplot. I've got to admit, this is partly because the character who was fairly apparently intended to "win" in the triangle was my lesser favorite of the two. Don't get me wrong, Alastair is a great character; but he annoyed me at times, whereas I pretty consistently just wanted to hug Jonathon to death.

None of this really marred my enjoyment of Sojourn. The emotional pitch was excellent - there were bitter moments were I just kind of lowered the book and went, "Awwwh." No, I actually verbalized an "awwwh," which I honestly can't remember doing before. I also liked how there were so many small events going on in the book, and yet it was unquestionably a cohesive whole.

Anyhow, I definitely will be looking to get my hands on Virtual Evil. I don't suppose Dragon Moon will have released it as a paperback? I really hate having to lug around trades ... even though this is one of the prettiest examples of such I've seen in a while. Yes, folks, even the cover is pretty darn awesome.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mutual Links

Just added two links from authors who have linked to me: K.E. Spires, who shares the table of contents with me in Staffs and Starships (first publication, huzzah!) and Sarah Ashwood from Sarah has had an exciting while with a poetry chapbook (... am I using the right word?) publication and a novel forthcoming.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

This is late because I intended to post yesterday and ... my desktop crashed. No motion. Not sure whether it's dead or just a minor problem. Got someone working on it.

Anyhow, this makes the progress of the past week somewhat ironic: I spent almost all of it working on a story meant for the monthly challenge. The story ran extremely long; Tuesday evening, I finished it an immediately started editing it with an eye for cuts.

Probably the story strictly didn't need to be as long as it was ... but I had decided when I started that I really wanted to immerse readers in the main character's head and explore her problems, so I wasn't going to skimp on flavor elements. I think this is part of why I'm a novelist at heart: I much prefer to explore a situation, immerse in it, rather than carve a straight path through a plot.

I did finish; I was almost done editing. Unfortunately, I was about an hour and a half away from when I usually do my nightly spot backup ... so the progress from about 1:30am Thursday morning to 6pm Thursday evening is - not gone, but trapped. I know the harddrive can be restored if the machine is truly trashed, so I'm leaving the story on there until then.

Still a demoralizing dropout. Grar.