Monday, March 29, 2010

Emigrant sold!

My science fiction poem (a cinquain - yeah, yeah, me and form poetry, I know) Emigrant has just sold to Sybil's Garage and will be available in their next issue.

I had a devil of a time titling this one ... I kept wanting to call it "Hiraeth" (which is a Welsh word not easily translatable, but equivalent to longing / homesickness), but there's nothing specifically Celtic about the poem, so I didn't find it appropriate. Not to mention the necessity of having a footnote on the poem. ;-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Goodreads Review: Swordspoint

Swordspoint Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I came into Swordspoint with high expectations, which may account partly for why it disappointed me - there's much intriguing and interesting about this book, but I also found it distant, puzzling and often vague.

The atmospheres of the twin societies - Riverside and the Hill - and their very different natures (or are they so different?) are flavorful and sharply drawn. There's a subtle wit underlying the story in several places - one of my favorite scenes was a description of a tragic play, all romanticized and prettified as only theatre can be.

Unfortunately, for the first quarter of the book or so, I was at a loss to find much forward movement in plot. There was a lot of setup, and enough questions to keep one reading, but to me, it didn't feel like much was happening. And there were threads started - like the apparently prominent introduction of Lady Halliday - that never really played through.

(For the matter of that, I thought the entire thread with Michael was underplayed. I found his evolution one of the best parts of the book, and was very disappointed not to see more of him near the end.)

I also felt as if I never got a good grasp on the characters, particularly the relationship between Richard and Alec. Motivation for other elements was described, but often seemed cold and short on emotion.

Finally, I never quite understood the political situation - the rankings and distinctions between Dragon Chancellor, Crescent Chancellor, and I know there was at least one more. I think I would have better understood the political interplay if the system had been more fully illustrated.

This book is constructed so much in the vein of things I like - politics, innuendo, double-meanings, plotting, four and five way struggles where everyone has their own agenda - that I'm still sad I didn't find it more satisfying.

View all my reviews >>

Boot Camp Prep

At this point, I seriously am trying to have as many posts for March as there are days. ;-)

After my last Thurs post, I firmed up the idea that I wanted to do another boot camp - a daily writing exercise. Because I try to use them to focus on areas in which I may have weaknesses, things that are new to me, or other aspects where I just want to stretch my muscles ... this time, I want the daily exercise to be a log line, a single paragraph plot summary (short story - not novel), and then either the first 200 or 300 words of the story. (What do y'all think is reasonable? I want to get a flavor of it, but I want to leave time for my other writing.)

To generate prompt elements, this is my plan:

A CHARACTER: Moving through 45 Master Characters (Victoria Lynn Schmidt), alternating between the male and female archetypes. I actually almost used this book to frame Scylla and Charybdis, but at the time, it wasn't as deep as I wanted it to be, and the archetype appropriate for Anaea felt forced. Time to give it another try.

A PLOT EVENT: Drawn randomly from Plots Unlimited (Tom Sawyer and Arthur David Weingarten). This is a book that, in theory, allows you to create a plot by defining its basic nature, starting with one of a list of beginnings, and then following the numbered options generated from each choice. I'm going to either reroll or "de-mordenize" any overtly modern selections (because I vastly prefer secondary world fantasy). And change the genders if appropriate, of course.

TWO RANDOM ELEMENTS: Drawn randomly from Once Upon A Time cards. This is an obscure card game that I picked up because Elizabeth on FWO used to use it to spark the "five elements" challenges over there. Most of the elements are pretty basic: a king, a ring, something is stolen, etc.

EXAMPLE: The Seductive Muse. (A), in trouble as a youth, returns incognito to her home town. A chase. A contest.

Does anyone think this sounds too complex and I should drop an element, or is it about right? I keep dithering. But for instance, I can see a lot of possibilities there. A few pieces naturally fall together into the shape of a throughline.

If I posted the best of the week - that is, the most entertaining combination, not necessarily the prompt I thought I worked best with - would anyone else play along with some? Could I post more frequently, or would that just exhaust people? ;-) I'd love to see (at least) the kind of loglines other minds came up with.

Intending on starting April 16th. This is a) the day after Tax Day, and even though I'm already ninety percent finished and will be filed and no longer thinking about it well before then; b) it's also the day before MZB S&S submissions open, so I'm going to be focused on editing up 'til then, but I'd better be done by the 16th. Ten archetypes for both male and female, each archetype having a hero and villain aspect, makes forty days. (Yes, the book says 45 - I believe that refers to supporting archetypes.)

Excited about this. I think there's something wrong with me. ;-)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What is this "social networking" you speak of?

So I started this blog a long time ago after attending a conference - I think it might been the WFC in Austin - where authors recommended keeping an active blog, because it was the easiest way to have changing content and would attract readers back to your website. So I decided to give it a try.

I didn't really expect to have a readership: my thoughts were to show activity for anyone who stumbled by. I confess, I hadn't really thought about networking ... I was content to have my little corner of busy-bee-ness. Last year, as my New Year's resolution (sort of), I started my Thursday Thoughts series of commentary.

Recently, I started getting more regular comments on my blog (hi, Aubrie!) and connected with someone I'd known from Pern fandom well over a decade ago (hi, Phoebe!). Then I picked up more followers (hi, folks!) ... and responding to their comments and commenting on their posts is becoming a fun new habit.

I have a very small number of followers compared to most, but all of a sudden I have my toe in this blog social water, and it's way more fun than I expected. Lots of the folks I'm following have great, thoughtful posts and entertaining discussions. And I'm getting fairly regular responses to my own content.

To me? Y'all will laugh, but it feels a little like the Twilight Zone. (The original, not the one with sparkly vampires.) I'm a hermit, and I never expected folks to notice my little nook out here. That said, you're all welcome: pull up a chair, sit down, and try not to make too much fun of my ruddy terrible social skills. ;-)

Creative Writer Award

Nicole over at One Significant Moment At A Time just gave me the following lovely award:

Thanks muchly!

To potentially pass it along.

I don't think Daniel over at Twigs and Brambles is the awards type, but I would love if he decided to pick it up. He does awesome, thoughtful posts on inspiration and favorite reads of the week.

Angie over at Notes From The Writing Chair for a recent post on writing with courage. Great stuff.

Phoebe North for MERMAN.

Now when is someone doing an Obnoxious Blatherer award? 'cause I definitely deserve that. ;-)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Soulmates Award

Given to me by Aubrie Dionne over at Flutey Words ... so preeeetty. Thank you, Aubrie!

Also ... wow. I actually succeeded in embedding an image for oh, the FIRST TIME EVER ...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

I posted recently on another blog about my feelings towards procrastination - that over the years, I've been lucky enough to develop a firm enough daily writing habit that I can (try, at least) not beat myself up about low productivity days ... because most of the time, when I take a break, I really need it, either to recharge my batteries or to mull over a plot point that isn't gelling.

I think my daily habit really took firm root when I was writing Blood From Stone. I did that as a journal in "real time" - if Shihyali didn't do anything for a week or two, there were no entries, but if several things happened in a single day, I typed like a madwoman for most of that day. So since it was so up-and-down by design, I didn't have a conscious idea how much I was producing.

Then I looked at my total wordcount and realized that in about two months, I'd amassed sixty thousand words. And that was in between writing my regular projects.

So ... a thousand words a day. I could do that with ease, and I set about doing it. I didn't maintain that goal indefinitely ... but that understanding of what I could accomplish with discipline blossomed for me in a lot of other ways. This also led to me doing a "boot camp" of a writing exercise a day, a training process I like to come back to occasionally. (Part of that was also finding the right exercise book, and I'm going to plug it again: The 3am Epiphany is a great book and flexible for any genre.)

I've turned a number of the exercises into stories or stolen the characters to do the same. Published stories are Instructions For An Initiate (Golden Visions), In These Shoes (Staffs and Starships) and Precious Cargo (Space Sirens). Finished but not sold are Super Solutions, Election and Shadow Play. (Yes. That Novella I keep whining about.) I've done boot camps from The 3am Epiphany, Creating Character Emotions, short screen scripts, descriptions using the word of the day, and random line + oracular card.

The upshot being that this not only helped me get into a consistent, reliable groove, but I got some good stories out of it, too.

This has been one of those rough weeks. I'd say it's been pretty epic: I'm going to remember the couple weeks from St. Patrick's Day, 2010, for a long time. But I know even when I can't work that my writing is waiting for me. It took a lot of effort to build up the relationship, but I can be relaxed that it won't fade ... even when I want to shout at myself for watching Cutthroat Island or Harry Potter (ahem) instead of writing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Romantic (Non) Tension?

This gives away something of Scylla and Charybdis, so if for some reason you don't want to know ... don't read.

I've been gnawing over the romantic thread in this novel and noticed something that seems atypical. There's plenty of uncertainty and tension before the characters admit they have feelings for each other ... but once that happens (fairly late in the book, but a good distance from the end), I've found it hard to generate any extended "growing pains" in the relationship.

Both characters are reserved but well-spoken, even-tempered, empathic. To some degree, they're two peas in a pod ... they trust each other absolutely long before the romantic question ever arises. So most of the problems that land in their path are external in some fashion.

The issue is this - while of course problems come up with any couple, every time I've considered extending these uncertainties over multiple scenes, it just feels wrong. They're both too prone to talking things out sensibly and giving the other the benefit of the doubt. I feel like I'd be adding angst just to add it and it doesn't even make sense with the story or the characters.

So I guess my question is this ... would you feel disappointed if a romantic plot resolved partway through a book and then the couple had a fairly serene relationship, speckled with just a few sudden bumps in the road? (Keeping in mind that the romance is not the main thrust of the story, and the chars have plenty of misery to deal with from the "real" plot. ;-))

Monday, March 22, 2010

Goodreads Review: Death Drop

Death Drop Death Drop by Alina Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Funny, outrageous, scandalous and chaotic, Adams' books are a guilty pleasure - a glimpse into the crazy side of figure-skating rendered with cutting wit and ever more bizarre soap opera turns. The characters are vividly rendered and often larger than life.

This book is breathless: in fact, after the prologue, the next eighty-some pages are part of the same extended scene, as one section of action rolls naturally into the next.

There's a good sense of continuity from previous episodes: Lian Reilly returns, Gary Gold and Lucian Pryce have cameos, and I was particularly pleased to see a bit of sexual tension that wouldn't have been appropriate in an earlier book return to torment Bex. (Though I did think that the off-handed mention of Jordan as promiscuous didn't jive with my previous memories of that character.)

The book isn't without flaws. While Bex has matured, it's taken some of the fun out of her, and I found her unusually passive throughout portions of the story, playing observer to the dramas around her. I also found that part of the conclusion wasn't properly foreshadowed and it kind of seemed like a nonsequitor when it was revealed ... but it wasn't the main thrust of the mystery, so not a big deal.

Overall, a satisfying - and very swift - read. It's amazing to me that Adams can turn out multiple books with this energy. It must be exhausting to write.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Repeat Performance

So Abyss and Apex (who published my story "Hour By Hour" back in 2007) has just accepted "Twice Given" for 2011! This is based on a true story of antiquity ... sort of ... ;-)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Goodreads Review: The Soprano Sorceress

The Soprano Sorceress (Spellsong Cycle, #1) The Soprano Sorceress by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Overall impression of this book: a sometimes ponderous but immersive look at what happens when a modern singer past her prime is dumped into a world where song is magic and has earthshaking effects. Some bright spots and low points throughout.

First off ... people have complained about the detail. Yes, there is a lot of it, but it's necessary to paint a full picture of the crudity of the world around Anna. The problem with the description is not the amount so much as the style - it's very plain and workmanlike. In addition, the description doesn't really "interact" with the characters - it's just there. Contrast that with the strong descriptiosn of the heat and the taste of the food, both of which directly affect Anna ... and consequently came through more vivid and less tedious.

There is a character named Jimbob. In a fantasy world. Now, I'm a stickler for not having "real" names in fantasy, but even allowing for my hardnosed nature ... Jimbob?

For the use of present tense, there is similarly no defense. It's actually a neat device to distinguish between Earth and Erde, but it really should have stopped once she crossed over. It makes it even harder to distinguish between the various countries, their spies and rulers.

On the positive, I found the story kept me reading - I kept needing to see what happened next. There's long periods of inertia, but they don't lose tension. There are also some interesting nuances of ethics, motives and justifications ... with few easy answers and some threads left unresolved. It's realistic without being unsatisfying.


But on the other paw ... just a little too much repetition. And if I was reminded one more time that a certain character reminded Anna of Robert Mitchum, I was going to stab someone. I guess I'm just an uppity youngster. ;-)

I also found that Anna relied too frequently on simply charring people. It strained my belief that she couldn't come up with an immobility spell ... that she wouldn't have done so after the first incident. She lamented having to do it ... except I was never fully convinced that she did have to.


There were other parts of this book that I did particularly enjoy. There's a real concrete sense of primitive culture, and Modesitt draws it out through some uncommon details. Erde certainly felt real, and I cared about its fate. And I loved Lady Essan and ... err ... Farinelli, Anna's horse. The horse is a force to be reckoned with on his own. Overall, the positive outweighed the negative and made for a decent reading experience.

View all my reviews >>

Movie Recommendation: Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat Island is an older movie, from before pirates were hip and cool and before they wore eyeshadow. (Well, Morgan Adams probably wears eyeshadow, but she has an excuse: she's a woman.) This madcap action movie involves buried treasure, hidden maps, questionable allegiances, mutiny, treachery, sexual tension, romance, swashing, buckling, naval battles, the blowing up of towns ... and even a monkey.

The basic premise is three brothers have equal pieces of the map to an immense treasure ... and the fourth brother, Dawg, is after the pieces. One of those brothers is the father of Morgan Adams, lady pirate. When Dawg kills her father attempting to acquire his piece of the map, she's in command and on the trail. Her first step to hire a slave who reads Latin to translate the map ... and enter Shaw, a rogue, scoundrel and man of many talents, who has been enslaved for thieving.

It's a riotous, full-throttle movie, with plenty of action mixed with some very funny lines ... most of which require context, or I'd be quoting. Certainly, it's not deep theatre, but it's fun. Though the action is arguably cinematic, the environment is gritty, dirty and period. And, of course the battle has a third angle: the government of Port Royal.

There being no supernatural in this movie, the special effects wear better, despite it being older. For my money, Cutthroat Island holds up nicely in comparison to the flashier PotC movies. Sure, it doesn't have the cast - but Geena Davis and Matthew Modine play well off each other, and Frank Langella makes a fantastic villain. Check it out if you can.

As an aside, there must be something about Geena Davis: this is not the only quirky action movie I love (flaws and all) where she stars. The other is The Long Kiss Goodnight, where Davis plays an amnesiac discovering her all-too-dangerous past. That one features Samuel L. Jackson as a private investigator working for her ... and it's the only movie I've ever seen him play a character who is, well, frankly, a dork. (Also a cameo for CSI: NY fans -- Melina Kanakaredes plays his assistant.)

Prolific Blogger Award

I just received this award from Aubrie over at Flutey Words ! It's described as: "A Prolific Blogger is one who is intellectually productive...keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content."

Well ... *active* I'll give ya. ;-)

The rules of the award:

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!
2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.
3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to the original post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit the original post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we can get to know the other winners.

So I have been blogging in such a little bubble I don't really know seven active bloggers yet. Some folks are brand new to my list and I'm just getting to know them. ;-) But here's three, if they'd like it:

Diana over at The Scribbling Sea Sprite with all her publication musings.

Daniel over at Twigs and Brambles - he's just gotten into blogging consistently recently, but turns out a lot of thoughtful context. (Unlike me, who just raaaambles.)

And Phoebe over at Phoebe Eating as someone I knew an eon ago in (hushed whisper) Pern fandom and just ran into again recently online.

Friday, March 19, 2010

It's up!

My story is now up at Every Day Fiction:

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

The less said about the last twenty-four hours, the better.

Onwards to writing!

Sizing up what I hope will be my final pass through Journal of the Dead, I've decided - since I'm not having to deal with other people in my space thinking I'm crazy - that I'm going to try reading it out loud.

This means Rhiane will acquire a rather inappropriate (to the story, that is) high-class, Renaissance-period English accent.

I don't know if I can blame it on my old RenFest encounters or not, but this has always been my instinctive read-aloud voice for first person.

Finally got through what probably is the most actiony sequence of Scylla and Charybdis. It's one of those scenes that would probably be a brief page or two if the protagonists were trained fighters - with my pair, it's longer, harder and (I hope) scarier. It was a surprisingly fast write and difficult by turns ... I find that I instinctively type faster when my characters are in danger (this is faintly ridiculous), but there were a lot of logistics that I had to stop and consciously work out. I am glad to have it behind me. On the downhill run!

Monday, March 15, 2010

So ...

I am going to pay attention to the random letters blogger spits up before comments can be posted and save the good combos as names for a future story. Whether I'm going to try and do something meta in the story to acknowledge that they're blog-inspired or just write something straight up has yet to be decided.

Life and Death

For those who have been noticing my music posts ... no one's obligated to reply. I just kind of like to ping them out there. As mentioned in comments, these are the mixes I stick in my car for driving. Sometimes you can tell the relevance to the theme from the song title. Other times, it's more buried. Pardon my blather. ;-)

I don't really think this title (Life and Death) requires any explanation.

1. So Spricht das Laben -- Medieval Babes
Comments: This is translated from German (I think) about life and death arguing over who owns the world and why.
2. Believe -- Cher
3. Goodbye, My Friend - Linda Ronstadt
4. She's Not There -- Zombies
Comments: I have no concrete proof this song is about death, but it sure sounds like it.
5. Long Way Down -- Laura Powers
6. Curious Thing -- Amy Grant
7. Isobel -- Dido
Comments: Ditto that. I'm not sure precisely what happened to the woman in this song ...
8. The West Wind Circus -- Helen Reddy
9. How Death Comes -- Medieval Babes
10. The Egg -- 1776 soundtrack
11. How Can We See That Far -- Amy Grant
12. Who Wants To Live Forever -- Sarah Brightman vs
13. Yesterday -- Leona Lewis
14. (You're) Having My Baby - Glee soundtrack
15. Finale: Children Will Listen -- Into The Woods soundtrack
16. Sign of Life -- LeAnn Rimes
17. Immortality -- Celine Dion
18. Dear Life -- Chantal Kreviazuk
19. The Last Words You Said -- Sarah Brightman
20. Play Me Out -- Helen Reddy

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Knock You Out

More music! This time, all touching upon ... well ... violence, often metaphorical.

1. Knock You Out -- DJ Tiesto
2. Bust Your Windows -- Glee Cast
3. If That's What It Takes -- Celine Dion
4. Cuts Both Ways -- Gloria Estefan
5. Big Boy on a Saturday Night - Kirsty MacColl
6. The Bonny Swans -- Loreena McKennitt
7. I Like It Rough -- Lady Gaga
8. Damn -- LeAnn Rimes
9. Us Amazonians - Kirsty MacColl
10. This Time -- Celine Dion
11. Brave -- Leona Lewis
12. Can't Stop Killing You -- Kirsty MacColl
13. Bleeding Love -- Leona Lewis
14. When Sharks Attack -- Leona Naess
15. Once In A Lifetime -- Sarah Brightman
16. Fight -- Amy Grant
17. Cell Block Tango -- Chicago soundtrack
18. Happy -- Leona Lewis

Another one!

And my (considerably longer) story "Balance of Power" is now available in MindFlights!

Check it out here:

Also, disregard the list of credits in my bio. I completely forgot to look those over and they are mindbogglingly outdated - from the last time I published with this magazine. Oops.

Anatomy of an Idea: Four Tests

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

The flash fiction story you'll find in the post below was written for an hour free-write. The topic was the following image:

And for whatever reason, a first-person plural account very quickly wove itself into my brain.

I just realized it's 3:30am with the time change, so I should go to bed.

Four Tests now available!

I think they're still putting the issue up so maybe I shouldn't squee yet, but couldn't resist:

(If you feel so inclined, I would love best-of-issue votes, but err, it's only flash, so that hardly seems fair when other people have contributed proper amounts of verbiage. ;-))

Saturday, March 13, 2010

In My Head

My next car CD mix - songs about the mentally disturbed, the crazy and most particularly, those who - figuratively ... usually - have company in their heads. Other dualism metaphors, too.

1. Dancing With Myself -- Glee soundtrack
2. The Walls Keep Saying Your Name -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
3. Hunter -- Dido
4. Shadows -- Amy Grant
5. Roots and Wings -- Anne Murray
6. Machinery -- Sheena Easton
7. Music Gets The Best of Me -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
8. Before You -- Chantal Kreviazuk
9. Angie Baby -- Helen Reddy
10. Just Dance -- Lady Gaga
11. Party In My Head -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
12. Ghosts in the Attic -- Leona Naess
13. Disappear -- Anna Sahlene
14. Outta My Head -- Leona Lewis
15. She's Just Not a Pretty Face -- Shania Twain
16. The Universe is You -- Sophie Ellis-Bextor
17. Beyond Imagination -- Sissel
18. Wound Up -- LeAnn Rimes
19. Poor Little Fool -- Helen Reddy
20. My Life Would Suck Without You -- Glee soundtrack
21. It Takes Two -- Into the Woods soundtrack

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Fame

First stop on the new driving-CD list, songs about the perils and pleasures of the high life ... or losing it.

1. The Fame -- Lady Gaga
2. High Flying Adored -- Evita (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
3. Troublemaker -- Anna Sahlene
4. Treachery -- Kirsty MacColl
Comment: This song deserves some explanation. It's a catchy, entertaining take twisting the usual chain of events - a star stalks a disloyal fan ...
5. Miss April -- Chantal Kreviazuk
6. You're So Vain -- Carly Simon
7. The Stars Fell On California -- Helen Reddy
8. With One Look -- Sunset Boulevard (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
9. Julia -- Chantal Kreviazuk
10. Fake Your Way To The Top -- Dreamgirls soundtrack
11. Gold Digger -- Glee Cast
Comment: This is one of those rap covers (and I never listen to rap) I really enjoyed ...
12. Fifteen Minutes -- Kirsty MacColl
13. Baby, I'm A Star -- Helen Reddy
14. Love Is All We Need -- Celine Dion
15. New Thing Now -- Shawn Colvin
16. Superstar -- Jesus Christ Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
17. Famous -- Gloria Estefan
18. What Do Pretty Girls Do? -- Kirsty MacColl
19. Paparazzi -- Lady Gaga
20. Popular -- Wicked soundtrack
21. Designer Life -- Kirsty MacColl
22. It Must Be Tough ... To Be That Cool -- Sarah Brightman

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Swan Maiden

This story sold to Port Iris Magazine ( First issue isn't (quite) up, and The Swan Maiden will be in the second. Nifty-looking site, so I'm psyched.

Thursday Thoughts

I meant to be writing yesterday. Instead, I ended up spending most of my time with that previous massive post about my music-listening adventures and then doing up playlists for my car CDs.

At first, I was angry with myself. Then I realized ... with all stress and now-now-now in my life, maybe I just needed the chunk of time to goof off.

Been dippping my toe in the beta read pool with Journal of the Dead. Made sure I saved myself a new copy of the file. I've been trying to preserve each editing pass as a separate file - something I've never done before - so I can consult the difference between versions if needed. I had to consult the original text several times in the second edit because I'd dropped out words while transcribing ... which was not the purpose of this, but good to have, because I would've driven myself nuts trying to figure out what I'd intended to write from context.

Wondering if I should divide my writing folders further into Novels and Shorts ... and maybe Poetry, though that would be a small folder as most of my poems are in the same few documents. (I already have separate folders for business, idea notes and formatted copies.) How does everyone out there do it? I have well in excess of 200 files in my main Writing folder. This is starting to strike me as unwieldy.

Working on another Ishene and Kemel time travel story. This one is set about six years after the one I finished for February, so that puts it about a third of the way to the first story I wrote ... and gives a completely different view of their dynamic. They're boisterous twenty-somethings here, more confident, less brash (for Kemel; Ishene was never brash) and way more comfortable with each other, but haven't settled down into the mature relationship they have later.

If I go for a fourth story (!), I will have to sit down and do a timeline, because I'm going back and forth way too much and constantly referring to events that happened in between. For instance, the story start I have for a free write is the first time anyone has been permitted to time travel into the future ... and we get the backstory right away that Ishene is mourning for her late fiance.

I may also need a canon guide for myself. This is why I don't write series stories! The details are too hard to remember when it's been six months since I wrote the last one!

Yeah, that definitely deserved some exclamation marks. ;-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


First off - this post has nothing to do with writing and probably does not belong on my business blog.

Now that I've got that off my chest ...

I've spent a lot of time listening to music of late. When I buy CDs, I don't rip the whole CD right away: I listen through it several times, absorbing the songs, and eventually only rip the ones I like. There's usually at least a few songs that I have no interest in, so I leave them off. I often don't bother to rip middling tunes, either.

So my latest ventures have included some old favorites, so revisits, and some new experiments ...


Loreena McKennit -- An Ancient Muse: A traditional Celtic performer wandering progressively eastward over her last few albums. I love LMK's music - it's very pretty and easy to listen to. Even though she's a fantastic singer, her instrumental pieces are some of my favorites.
Best here: "Caravanserai" and "Penelope's Song" (a riif on the Odyssey from the POV of his long-suffering wife).

Sophie Ellis-Bextor -- Shoot From The Hip: Modern dance / disco style music with strong melody and lyrics from a lovely English alto. I just adore Ellis-Bextor's stuff - it's infectious and clever, and I've mentioned before that one of my favorite single lines from any lyric comes from one of her songs ("as if my luck and hope had found each other").
Best here: How do I choose? We'll go "Party In My Head" for some very entertaining / bizarre lyrics ("and all the guests mix brilliantly, 'cause I am them and they are me") and "The Walls Keep Saying Your Name" for an addictive and creepy, atmospheric sound.

Sissel -- My Heart: Classic-influenced pop music from one of the sweetest, most perfect voices out there. I love her sound - it's clean and pure without having that over-dramatic warble of a classically trained soprano. This music is a trifle tame for my listening tastes, but I could listen to The Song That Never Ends if Sissel sang it.
Best here: "Beyond Imagination." Gorgeous piece of music, a lot sweet, a little dark and with beautiful lyrics.


These are artists I'm familiar with, but haven't paid much attention to lately and / or wouldn't call favorites ...

Alana Davis -- Fortune Cookies: Apart from "singer-songwriter," I have no idea quite how to classify Davis - a little rap, a little R&B, a bit of Reggae, and a really distinctive smoky voice that I wish would put itself to a stronger beat and clearer melodies. The first time I listened to this CD, I didn't care for most of it. This time, I found twice as many songs that I enjoyed, so added some to my saved collection.
Best here: "A Chance With You" - an unusual song about letting go.

Clannad - Landmarks: Neo-Celtic music with strong pop sensibilities. I was pleasantly surprised by this; it had sort of faded into the back of my brain as Celtic-knockoff, but it's very pleasant, with some genuine gems. I'd still say that the songs that are good are wonderful, but the ones that aren't sort of fade into the background.
Best here: "A Mhuirnin O" -- I'm not usually a fan of songs whose lyrics I can't understand (hey, I'm big on the lyrics), but the beat and melody here are awesome.

Sheena Easton - The Lover in Me / The Singles Collection: Eighties (or is it eighties inspired?) pop music from a sugary (but pleasant) singer. I enjoy a lot of her highlights / greatest hits, so I thought to try another CD by her. Not ... so much. Found only two tunes I wanted to rip. It's hard to explain what turns me off, but I don't find her fast stuff very melodic, and her slow tunes just don't have enough interest.
Best here: "Swear" -- this one cracks me up. Why did I not rip this before?

Medieval Babes - World's Blysse: Renaissance music / poetry with a hint of modern flair. So ... my last encounter with the Babes (it's actually "ae" with a funny combined symbol) pre-dates MP3s. I actually started with Undrentide ... then lost just the CD (I still have the case) right before I was going to rip it. Argh. This is great music - it helps that I have a real fondness for all things Renaissance, having recovered from the painful overload of my Faire days - but it's best taken in small doses.
Best here: "Erthe Upon Erthe," an infectious melody with lovely instrumentation, and "So Spricht das Laben" -- translated, a really neat argument between life and death over possession of the world.

New Experiments:

Lady Gaga -- The Fame: Heavy dance music of the electropop genre. This was a recommendation, and I was kind of knocked for a loop, because this is totally not what I usually listen to. At all. Yet it's infectious, and for all the similarity of the song structure, it gets into your brainpan and grooves around. So I'm divided whether I would buy a second album and I'm a little embarrassed to admit I like it, but there it is.
Best here: "The Fame." Yes, mark it for the one time in a blue moon my favorite song is the title track.

Leona Naess -- Thirteens: A reflective, contemplative singer-songwriter. This is lovely, thoughtful music, heartfelt but not always compelling.
Best here: "Ghosts in the Attic" - clever lyrics balanced with an earworm of a melody. "When Sharks Attack" is a close follow-up for similar reasons.

Leona Lewis -- Spirit (and) Echo: R&B / Soul-inspired pop music from another English singer. (What is it with me and Brits? Is it the trends in their music mesh more with my preferences? Or do I just like the accent?) The first CD was an accident - I was hunting at Half Price Books for Naess (above), saw "Spirit" and thought, "Wasn't I looking for a Leona?" Lewis took a bit of getting used to, and I still find I have to kind of turn my brain in a different direction to appreciate the groove, but it's very enjoyable.
Best here: "Forgive Me" (Spirit); "Brave" (Echo) - powerful song about not being able to open up to love; and what I will, for lack of title, refer to as "Stone Hearts and Hand Grenades" - a bonus song stuck on the end of the final track of Echo.

DJ Tiesto -- Kaleidoscope: Electronica / dance. Also a referral. I would definitely class this as sparser and music more for background that active listening, but I love the driving beat. Some of the voices are a little nasal, but they blend well with the instruments.
Best here: "Knock You Out" for attitude.

Bonnie Raitt -- Silver Lining: Erm. Country. You know, I don't listen to country music - which is a shame, because country voices (like Raitt's), I positively love. They seem to be much richer and fuller than most pop singers. Though I like some of the songs, this was definitely a "once and not again" purchase.
Best here: "Wounded Heart" - here I'm drawn to the portrait of resignation.

Solas -- The Turning Tide: Neo-Celtic with strong traditional roots. These are folks I feel are springing out of the evolving tradition, and the results are wonderful. Their dance tune sets do tend to start to sound alike, but any individual set - or the songs - is worth the listen.
Best here: "Girl In The War" and "Sorry" - worth the price of the album alone. The first is a wrenching slow ballad about - well, pick your interpretation. That's part of the beauty of it. The second is a driving attack on the idea of repentance. Seriously, if you've read this far, google "Sorry Karine Polwart lyrics" (the original author) and read them. Mairead's voice is powerful and pitch-perfect for both (very different) styles.

Glee -- Volume 1 (and) 2: Yes. I'm a Gleek. I love the blend of clever writing and rousing song-and-dance throughout ... and just the music on its own stands pretty well, too. It's very easy to listen to and belt along with. I'm not a rap fan, but I found the covers done here accessible and entertaining.
Best here: "Take A Bow," "Don't Stand So Close To Me / Young Girl," "True Colors" (the only song on which the singer who plays Tina features, and seriously - why not more?) and ... "My Life Would Suck Without You."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Goodreads Review: Memory

Memory (Vorkosigan Saga, #10) Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Where do you start with a book this fantastic - and so often praised by previous readers? All right, first off: what they said. Further ...

Bujold has an amazing ability to blend humor seamlessly with situation, creating genuinely funny moments in the middle of the chaos and adventure. The supporting cast really shine in this novel, from brief cameos to recurring presences. Miles may be larger than life, but his world is also far larger than he is, and I'm always impressed by the subtle sense of satellite stories going on around his personal crises.

This is one of the few books that has been able to make me genuinely emotional about the disaster a character faces. I had moments of wanting to reach in through the pages and change it forcibly ... but the wild ride that follows makes it all worth it.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Recently, I've been fretting about the ratio in Scylla and Charybdis again. The two cultures depicted in the novel are meant to mirror each other, which means that I wanted to have both sections roughly the same length and weight. To briefly explain for those new to my rantings, if you break SaC down to its basic elements, you've got a female-dominated society and a male-dominated society. (Of course, it's more complex / granular than that.)

However - and somewhat to my surprise - I've found that I have spent slightly more time in the male-dominated civilization, and I won't be done with that until I finish the current segment. Considering that part of the exploration is showing how broken each side is, this kinda makes me feel guilty. ;-)

The imbalance isn't massive, and I can't put numbers to it, but it does exist. I've figured that I'm okay for the following reasons:

Of the pages I consider to "belong" to the MD sections, one episode occurs on a spaceship rather than in MD territory, so it's less fully immersed.
The start and end point is on Anaea's home turf ... which is a space station with no (that's zero, zip, nada) male presence.
There's also a section in the Sanctum that I haven't counted in the above, which is on FD ground.

Of course, all assessments are tentative until I've had a chance to study the whole draft and tear my hair out about it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Anatomy of an Idea: Farewell to Flesh

Since this story is now available in Emerald Tales Issue #4 - Carnivale - I thought I would talk a little bit about how the concept came to be.

Most of you know by now that my love is secondary world fantasy - stories set on worlds not our own. When I saw that the theme for Emerald Tale's was Carnivale, I had two thoughts: a) "Very cool!" and b) "Hrm, that it makes it difficult for a secondary world writer ..."

Being contrary, I didn't stop there. It brewed on the back of my brain for a while. Then, somewhere in the grip of a nasty bout of insomnia, it snuck up on me.

Carnivale means "farewell to flesh." That just has endless possibilities for fantasy interpretation. But why would someone leave their body? I thought about inspiring music, like a muse. That's when the term "chord-dancer" came to me and ... well ... danced around my brain.

So I got up at something like 4am and sent an email inquiring if an interpretation of the term "Carnivale" would be potentially appropriate.

Then I went back to bed, still mulling over the story. Sometime past 7am, I finally fell asleep ...

So a night's sleep for a story idea - fair trade?

Goodreads review: The Book of Kings

The Book of Kings The Book of Kings by Robert Gilliam

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I came into The Book of Kings with low expectations - I almost passed it by before I noticed it contained an Esther Friesner story - and was pleasantly surprised. This is definitely an above average anthology, well constructed, with fewer than the usual number of misses and several highly enjoyable stories. (Ironically, I felt that the story that the anthology was built around - Donaldson's story was the inspiration for it, and the editors set out to find similar "king" stories to include - was merely so-so. It was clever, but it left me cold.)

One of the special virtues of this collection is the inclusion of several much shorter pieces, providing a break in pace and tone. I thought the anthology was also nicely balanced between historical stories - and deft handling of the linked mythology - and those set in secondary worlds, though I would have liked to see a few stories with more developed settings.

But of course, not every story is satisfying, and a few left me annoyed. In general, I felt that the ones that failed didn't deliver on the premise, either because the action stopped abruptly or the conclusion was disconnected from the body.

My favorite story was definitely Judith Tarr's "In The Name of the King," an emotional and affecting portrait of a loyal scribe in the Egyptian afterlife and his relationship with his king. Worth honorable mention are Jane Yolen's "Journey in the Dark" (one of those very short stories mentioned earlier); Brad Linaweaver's "Blind Sceptre"; and Lawrence Watt Evans' "The Name of a King."

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Small Update

The official publication date for "Ostracized" is March 19. Will link when it's up. ;-)