Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thursday Thoughts


Here's what I'm thankful for: four days with almost no work to do - and the stuff I do have is minimal or enjoyable. Seven movies loaded up to veg out in front of with my family. Food. Sage stuffing. (Yes, the sage stuffing deserves its own billing.)

To get on the usual TT topic, I'm also thankful that I finally hit upon a plotline for the next arc in Scylla and Charybdis. I'm a little concerned that I only found this nine thousand words in, but cutting is what editing is for - and I think the previous words give a very good flavor of matriarch society and what to expect, so they may be quite relevant. The big issue I'm struggling with is in-story timing. My characters are in situations where I'd like to jump to later in the day, but nothing that would happen in the intervening time is summarizable because it's all brand new to them ...

My other fictional attention has gone to editing. I'm working on an old story which I'm sorry to say is a clunky mess. The plot is (if I do say so my very biased self) awesome, but some of the writing is baroque and confusing. I wrote like this? Wow. It's a little stunning. I continue to chisel away at it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Life-induced near-standstill.

The current scene of Scylla and Charybdis really has a fantasy court scene feeling, but it's unmistakably science-fiction. A nice blend. Not necessarily what I meant to do when I set out with the whole novel, but a pleasing result.

My hour-write yesterday surprised me and came out scifi, so I'll have at least one more story in that vein ... once I finish it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ill Met In Lankhmar

I just finished Ill Met In Lankhmar, a compilation of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories - roughly the first half chronologically in-setting, I believe. It was certainly an entertaining ride.

The stories have an in-depth, leisurely descriptive style that lapses only during moments of high action - and sometimes not even then. It's a pleasure to read, though in some stories, it results in much of the story feeling like (very enjoyable) set-up with the resolution squeezed in the last couple pages.

An oddity of when they were written is the attitude towards female characters. It's not necessarily wholly negative, but it certainly comes off dated and a little limited - even when the female characters are strong in their own right.

There's a fair amount of headhopping, which is very nicely done because it moves smoothly back and forth between the two characters. That's definitely something you'd have most editors of action-style fantasy looking at you askance for nowadays, though.

There's an extent to which the characters are unsympathetic. I noticed this mostly in the earlier stories, the origins. Fafhrd in particular ranges between being a cad and an idiot and right back again in his first (chronological) story. Abandoning your pregnant girlfriend to chase after an actress ... and then sticking with said actress after she double-crosses you multiple times? Well, then. ;-)

The humor displays itself more in an attitude, most of the time, than in outright "funny bits." There's an underlying sense of the tongue in cheek, but best of all, it's a realistic tongue in cheek - it's laughing at recognizable human foibles (how they might appear in a fantastic setting, anyhow). So it never distances the reader from the story.

In any case, I have no grand conclusion, except I had a lot of fun reading this.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Finally ... finished ... Shadow Play.

A shade over 17,000 words.

Gasp gasp pant pant.

Even assuming it edits down 2-3k, that's still definitely a hardcore novella.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Final mix CD for my driving: songs about letting go, diving in, being overwhelmed ... sort of like I'm doing with this blog and my music, but it only happens at infrequent intervals.

1. Surrender -- Gloria Estefan
Comments: Title track. Vintage Miami Sound Machine. I have great fondness in my heart for the earlier music; it's not as polished, but in some ways it's more fun.
2. 8th World Wonder -- Kimberley Locke
3. Titanic Days -- Kirsty MacColl
4. I Believe -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Comments: This song contains what I think is one of the single best lines in any love-song: "(I feel) as if my luck and hope had found each other."
5. It Happens All The Time -- Anne Murray
6. I Surrender -- Celine Dion
7. Dear Life -- Chantal Kreviazuk
8. Say You'll Be Mine -- Amy Grant
9. It's All Coming Back To Me Now -- Celine Dion
10. Love Changes Everything -- Sarah Brightman
Comments: This is an awesome arrangement of this song - it starts sparse and builds perfectly. It's definitely a belt-out-in-the-car arrangement.
11. Truthfully -- Lisa Loeb
12. Learning To Fall -- Martina McBride
13. I Want You -- Alana Davis
14. Free Me -- Emma Bunton
15. A Little Push -- Gloria Estefan
16. Emotion -- Helen Reddy
17. As Long As You're Mine -- Wicked soundtrack
18. I Was Made For Lovin' You -- Paulina Rubio
19. How Can We See That Far -- Amy Grant
Comments: A pensive sort of finale about the impossibility of predicting the future and somehow making good out of whatever comes. After you've surrendered, where do you go from there?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

I set my goal for last week to finish Shadow Play. I haven't, but the day is young, and I don't have to leave the house for the rest of it (except perhaps to walk the dog). This has been because of positive developments that have eaten up my time and my decision to continue my round-table work on other projects, neither of which I would change - so it's all good.

I'm beginning to think the longer chunks system isn't working out for Scylla and Charybdis. I'm finding that I'm rushing to finish chapters. I can't do it by scene, because these vary: sometimes there's 2-3 scenes in a chapter, and other times, except for the chapter-break, a single scene continues for multiple chapters. This is because I've sometimes chosen to use summary / transition paragraphs rather than a simple break. (I may give this a second look in editing, but my gut instinct is that it isn't a problem.) Two pages, maybe? That's about 1500 words.

Or, again, it may simply be that I've had a heavy-crunch week, so I have less time to write and my project cycles are too long again.

I simply love the first part of the journal in Journal of the Dead. The back-to-life experience is beautifully described. It's a nice "bang" opening to the section. I'm concerned because Rhiane recaps some things the reader already knows, but the repeats are brief, and I think it's good to have it in her own words, as it were.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

Music list the fifth: songs that I'm a little embarrassed to admit I listen to, whether because they're brainless, silly, in questionable taste, bizarre or some other reason to hang one's head ... and still groove to it.

1. The Little Voice -- Sahlene
Comments: Smutty, with a helping of shameless "na-na-na"s to top it off.
2. Get With You -- Dian Diaz
Comments: Brainless; there's really nothing to the words, but the beat is infectious.
3. It's Raining Men -- Geri Halliwell
Comments: Seriously, do I need to say anything here?
4. Can't Stop Killing You -- Kirsty MacColl
Comments: Epic levels of warped.
5. Mucho Money -- Gloria Estefan
Comments: Any song where the underlying theme is, "True love? Romantic gifts? Heck with that, give me money," deserves to be on this list. It's also got that distinctly eighties sort of beat to it.
6. Turn My Motor On -- Kirsty MacColl
Comments: This song is just cheesy, which is enhanced by the 60s girl-group orchestration. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does enhance the cheddar.) All that aside, it would be on this list on the strength of this zinger alone: "Who wants your brain, your body's too much fun."
7. Once In A Lifetime -- Sarah Brightman
Comments: Those of you who know Brightman's pop songs will be familiar with their typical character - the soft, lyrical music sung with an angelic soprano. Now put this song in that setting ... the first time I actually stopped and parsed the words, my jaw dropped. I call it "The S&M song." Look them up if you don't believe me.
8. Naked -- Celine Dion
Comments: Title says it. Moving on.
9. Tic Toc -- LeAnn Rimes
Comments: Smutty.
10. X-Girlfriend -- Mariah Carey
Comments: Brainless - and it's Mariah Carey, for goodness' sakes. But it's catchy.
11. Sex In The 90s -- Gloria Estefan
Comments: I used to be sort of shy about listening to this song. Now I find it rather tame (and very funny), but it stays on the list for nostalgia's sake. It also amuses me to no end that this song is now about the past.
12. Lay Your Love On Me -- Emma Bunton
Comments: Smutty AND an ex-Spice Girl.
13. Here Comes That Man Again -- Kirsty MacColl
Comments: A very tongue-in-cheek song about cybersex, webcams, Monica Lewinsky (I think) and the EU. I couldn't make this up.
14. One By One -- Enya
Comments: I love this song - I think it's better than "Only Time," which was the runaway hit from this particular album - but really. It makes no sense. At all.
15. Fire -- Paulina Rubio
Comments: Mildly smutty and very predictable, but good for the Latin beat.
16. Darling, Let's Have Another Baby -- Kirsty MacColl
Comments: Hilariously dumb. Come on, isn't, "Darling, if you ever leave me, I'll cry a million tears. I'll go to the nearest boozer and drink ten pints of beer," the sweetest declaration of love you ever heard?
17. Strut -- Sheena Easton
Comments: On the face of it, a very suggestive song, but it's also fairly empowering in its own way - and hard to resist the rhythm (or the urge to belt out the chorus).
18. Love Toy -- Gloria Estefan
Comments: Completely mindless and silly. With vintage Miami Sound Machine accompaniment.
19. I'll Be Right Here -- Paulina Rubio
Comments: As for Fire, increased by fifty percent.
20. I Enjoy Being A Girl -- Flower Drum Song soundtrack
Comments: You could not get away with writing this song nowadays. Feminists would scream bloody murder. And yet it's so frothy and fun it's hard to care.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Eyes On Me

More music - the title taken from the Celine Dion song of same name, and dealing with the wandering eye. Differs from my previous Three's A Crowd stab in ... well, title, and the fact that the songs deal more directly with affairs.

1. Kirsty MacColl -- My Affair
2. Strong Enough -- Cher
3. Hotel Paper -- Michelle Branch
4. Blame It On Me -- Sahlene
5. Find a Way -- Amy Grant
6. Agony (Reprise) -- Into The Woods soundtrack
Comments: Taken out of context, this song is not so thematic ... until you hit the last line, "Ah well: back to my wife," that is. In context, the two Princes ("I was raised to be charming, not sincere.") are hysterical cads.
7. If Only She Knew -- Michelle Branch
8. Celestine -- Kirsty MacColl
Comments: The only song I know in which the "other woman" is the devil inside ...
9. Eyes On Me -- Celine Dion
10. The Last Goodbye -- Paulina Rubio
11. Words Get In The Way -- Gloria Estefan
12. Misbehavin' -- Thalia
13. Don't Think of Me -- Dido
14. Julia -- Chantal Kreviazuk
15. Heaven's What I Feel-- Gloria Estefan
16. Shadows -- Amy Grant
17. Always True To You In My Own Fashion -- Kiss Me Kate soundtrack
18. Let's Forget About It - Lisa Loeb
19. Caroline -- Kirsty MacColl
20. He Doesn't See Me -- Sarah Brightman
Comments: I often like to end on a "but" note. This is one such, the song of an unrequited love that can never threaten the beloved's relationship.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Ever After

My next CD compilation, this time with songs of happy endings.

1. Then You Look At Me - Celine Dion
2. The Second Element - Sarah Brightman
3. Now And Forever - Anne Murray
4. Wrapped - Gloria Estefan
Comments: This song, as aforementioned, would probably have been on the Best Of list if I hadn't actually created this list first.
5. Another Year Has Gone By - Celine Dion
6. Colour Everywhere - Dian Diaz
7. Now That I Know - Mariah Carey
8. Forever and for Always - Shania Twain
9. I Know What Love Is - Celine Dion
10. The Safest Place - LeAnn Rimes
Comments: There's some irony in this choice, as I always associate this song with an old novel project and one of the main characters - and when framed in that context, the "perfect love" described here is unrequited.
11. Oh, How The Years Go By - Amy Grant
Comments: ... and despite saying that I was choosing second favorites if the first was already "taken" -- here's the token accidental repeat for this group. Actually, "That's What Love Is For" should've gone on the Best list. Well, I'm not re-ripping the CD for one song, darnit. :-)
12. A Boat Like Gideon Brown - Great Big Sea
Comments: My boyfriend introduced me to this group. Sent me 3 - 4 MP3s. I listened, went, "This sounds too much like a pub band," and that was that, but I kept this one song.
13. I Belong - Cherie
14. Don't Look Back - Thalia
15. 1974 - Amy Grant
16. Thank Goodness - Wicked soundtrack
Comments: "Getting your dreams, strange as it seems, a little ... well ... complicated. There's a kind of a sort of a cost. There's a couple of things that get lost ..."
17. It's Your Love - Cherie
18. I Love You - Amy Grant
19. Ever After - Into The Woods soundtrack
Comments: Into The Woods is awesome. Here's an excerpt from this particular song:
Narrator: "There were constant -"
Chorus: "It's amazing -"
N: "- disillusions -"
C: "- that we did it."
N: "- but they never lost their nerve."
C: "Not a lot!"

Thursday Thoughts

Last night, I started my next edit of Journal of the Dead: a computer-only edit where I go over each chapter twice - once in-depth, the second time an overview - and compare it to the outline. I've considered doing it the other way around, but my brain immediately starts picking nits, so that's not really viable. I'm actually quite excited by what I've done, which always makes me nervous. I always feel as if that means I don't have a realistic take on the work.

Knocked off two chapters of SaC this week. I'm feeling kind of snarly about it because I'm almost ten thousand words further on than I intended to be at this point. On the bright side, Gwydion is back. I managed to play it out so you don't see he and Flick "on camera" at the same time, but they did interact, so to satisfy potential reader curiosity, I'll probably have Gwydion make a few comments about him. One thing I've avoided thus far and want to keep avoiding is any sense of one or the other being jealous - Flick's relationship with Anaea just isn't Like That, and I've loved setting up the platonic feeling of that. (Gwydion's, on the other hand ...)

Still working on Shadow Play. Set my goal to finish it this week. I'm having tremendous fun with the cultural more towards gloves because Jennis has none on during the opening of this scene. Gloves are really ingrained in the whole society as "polite dress." They're not worn in familiar company, so it's not akin to showing too much cleavage precisely, but there's something a little improper (naughty, if you will) about flashing bare hands around, and I've gotten a really cool "charge" just from the male lead watching her hands.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Review: The Dragon Quintet -- ed Marvin Kaye

Mmmm … a collection of novellas featuring dragons? Sign me up. I'm really appreciating the novella as a form these days: the extra space to explore without the time commitment of a full novel. I enjoyed the introduction and exploration into the origins of the word - entertaining but thoughtful. The stories are described briefly but not "pumped up" (something which tends to be a major turn-off for me).

First up is "In The Dragon's House" by Orson Scott Card, the story of an unusual dwelling with a deep and fiery secret, and the whimsical, theatrical family that lives there. This story proves that you can get away with an infodump opening if it's entertaining enough, though I did feel the backstory went on a bit long. Furthermore, the pace of the whole novella was slow. However, the people feel real and intriguing, and there are vivid descriptions of the house's warm place and the waking dreams Michael has there. Overall, an enjoyable read.

A slow start is also a feature of Elizabeth Moon's "Judgment," the story of what transpires when Ker and his soon-to-be father-in-law discover unusual rocks along the pathway. Once this story hits a certain point, however, the emotions and the stakes deepen. There is a fascinating world just under the surface of Moon's story, explored - played with - but not exhausted. Cultural aspects play a key role in the progression of the tale, which I particularly appreciated. I did find the conclusion a little disconnected from the rest, and it also took on some "the moral of the story" aspects that were mildly annoying … but overall, it continued to hold the attention right through.

I do have a quibble about the combination of stories here: both the first two stories involve dragon-inside-person plotlines, though with different contexts. Seems like they shouldn't be one after the other to me.

I had mixed feelings about Tanith Lee's "Love In A Time Of Dragons," a sometimes poetic, sometimes cruel story of a woman, a dragon, a champion and the love that develops from that familiar triangle. There are some beautiful, absorbing images throughout the story, and I was especially fond of the final chapter when everything comes together. In between, however, I questioned the main theme of the story. What I saw was not love, but physical obsession, something more primal and less spiritual. In addition, the point of view was such that, although at times I saw the main character's world with painful clarity, I was often left puzzled as to her inner workings - to the result that I felt one twist of the story was not fairly foreshadowed, and she sometimes came off as somewhat sociopathic or at least alien. I also found the raunchiness a bit of a turn-off.

I loved "Joust" from Mercedes Lackey, the story of Vetch, a young serf who gets the opportunity to escape the drudgery of his life … for the drudgery of caring for dragons. If the later events of the story are somewhat telegraphed by the unusual nature of Kashet, that is easily forgiveable for a tale that is tense, absorbing and emotional. The setting has nice details as well, a sense of history buried in this small land. This story is well constructed, with details appropriately placed and everything well-paced. Worth the read, though it ends with a beginning …

The final story, Michael Swanwick's "King Dragon," is an intriguing blend of fairy and technology, with a new approach to dragons as aerial weapons. Its narrator, Will, has the dubious honor of being chosen as the lieutenant of this dragon. Swanwick offers an exceptional setting, richly illustrated throughout the story and always promising more. I did find the ambiguity of the dragon somewhat unbalanced; it would have been more effective if it was more menacing earlier on. Sometimes, there's a slight distance from the characters that makes it hard to assess them - but this was definitely an absorbing read.

As a whole, I would say that four of the stories here - Lee's being the possible exception - were worth the read. They provide a solid story structure and make use of their length to explore the setting or characters in a way that is generally quite satisfying. The range of dragons here is somewhat biased towards mere animal - or are they? - but also encompasses the alien and the more than human. Recommended.

Best of Vol II

... continued!

This is the side of the list with a lot of country artists ... where my main exposure to them is from their only pop-rock album.

2. KIRSTY MACCOLL: Soho Square
Comments: Best of Kirsty? Try best of anything. This is one of my top five favorite songs. It's beautiful, wistful, sad, sweet - and one of the few songs that can bring tears to my eyes.
3. LAURA POWERS: I Surrender All
4. LEANN RIMES: Suddenly
5. LISA LOEB: Wishing Heart
Comments: I found Lisa Loeb fairly recently after an encounter with a Lilith Fair CD. My reaction to her music has been pretty bipolar: I absolutely love a song or I absolutely hate it with little middle ground. She also has some musical quirks that irritate me. This song, though, is infectiously fun.
Comments: One of the oldest songs on this list as far as my familiarity with it. Also another tear-jerker.
7. MARIAH CAREY: Close My Eyes
10. OLDIES: Incense and Peppermints - Strawberry Alarm Clock
Comments: I'm not sure this song actually makes sense ...
11. PAULINA RUBIO: Border Girl
12. SARAH BRIGHTMAN: The Journey Home
Comments: This one was a tough decision and sort of surprised me (I go through phases with what I like best from Brightman) - but I thought about it and I've always had a soft spot for this song.
13. SELENA: God's Child (Baila Conmigo)
14. SHANIA TWAIN: I Ain't Going Down
15. SHEENA EASTON: Modern Girl
16. SISSEL: Carrier of a Secret
Comments: Sissel has possibly the most beautiful voice anywhere. It's clean and pure without being sugary.
18. THALIA: Tu Y Yo (English Version)
19. VIENNA TENG: Whatever You Want
Comments: I have one Teng album. This song alone is worth the price of admission. Gorgeous, yet there is something so creepy about it - love it.
20. MUSICALS (#3) WICKED: What Is This Feeling?
Comments: Who would have thought a sugary, Disney-esque ensemble piece about how much two characters despise each other could be my most re-listened-to song for over a year? Fantastic - and not a bad finish to the set, either.