Sunday, October 31, 2010

WFC Day Four: Last Panels and Departure

I had trouble sleeping (amazing with how tired I was), so I ended up earlier than I intended ... and it turned out that even if I had gotten up with my alarm, I would have still been up to the Con area with time to spare, checked out, suitcases in storage and all. Whoops. Better than the reverse, I suppose.

I attended about half of this first panel, then stepped out for a presentation on reading out loud ...

What Do We Mean By Urban Fantasy Anyway? (Holly Black, Sarah Hoyt, Michele Lang, Cinda Williams Chima, Linda Robertson): What was discussed while I was there was the differing / overlapping expectations of the readers coming from paranormal romance versus the traditional fantasy reader, the sometimes narrowing of the definition to only first person narratives with tough women and romantic plots, and the difference between urban fantasy and horror. Also interesting, and of particular interest to me right now (though I couldn't tell you why) was the discussion of a closed / secret fantasy world versus an open one. (Maybe I'm about ready to try the latter myself.)

Heading over to ...

Reading Presentation: Mary Robinette Kowal on How to Give an Effective Reading: I used Kowal's excellent website to orient me for my own reading last night (and I highly recommend it), so I was familiar with some of this, but there was new information to be mined, and other points that were simply more effective in a face to face presentation. She discussed the most basic faults of reading - lack of projection, over-accelerated spped, and droning / monotone - and how to combat them by using the body's natural tendencies. She also discussed how to pick a proper selection (hint: maximum of 3-4 characters ... and the narrator counts as a character) and the five tools for differentiating characters - pitch, placement, pacing, attitude and accent ... which can be achieved without a real accent through the use of speech rhythm.

Another nice one I had read but forgot: if you have two chars talking, speak the lines of one to the left side of the room, the other to the right, and narrative returns to middle focus.

Check out the website, in any event.

True story about accents: I used to do Renaissance reenactment, and years later, someone told me the best way to knock yourself out of the accent after a long day is to say, "The beer is in the pickup truck." Try to do that in an Elizabethan accent. I dare you.

What is Left to the Imagination (Lawrence Connolly, Madeleine Robins, Delia Sherman, Martha Wells, Gregory Wilson): An intriguing final panel about what to leave out from the fantasy - what not to explain. The panelists pointed out that we're in a unique field as far as being able to get away with that sense of wonder ... but most of the time, the author has to know, even if it's not articulated. Still, whether it's a slow unveiling throughout the story or a mystery that remains, choosing how far to go is a tricky matter, and you can't please everyone. Someone referred to it as, "the balance of breadcrumbs to bafflement." Ambiguity can be richly rewarding ... or it can be confusing.

And so reluctantly, I left the world of the World Fantasy Convention and headed home ... to a puppy so excited she lost her balance and her hindquarters slid forward on her, belly up. I come back with a bubbling of ideas and thoughts, some entertaining encounters, an obscene amount of books and an even longer list of books to find ... a deep breath before going back under the waters of uncertainty.

WFC Day Three: Evening

I took dinner away from the ConSuite last night to give myself some breathing / relaxing room (ie, without people) before my reading. Then I went down for ...

What Can Be Done With Old Mythologies (Lynn Cantwell, Sarah Hoyt, Dave Sakmyster, Seressia Glass): This panel covered similar topics to the earlier one about mining the humor of mythology, but went off in different directions due to the slant and the panels. After hearing these folks speak, I'm eager to read Glass' book (received in convention packet) and tracking down Sarah Hoyt's books about the were-panther and were-dragon who run a diner. Besides discussion of treating the mythologies with respect, the group also touched upon using mythological figures as archetypes in secondary world fantasy and the inevitability of some form of belief even in science fiction.

Next, after a grueling half hour break, the BroadUniverse reading commenced with nine ladies, nine very different works, and a good time had by all. I think mine went over well - not great, but it was understandable and not torturous (I hope). I did end up, for the record, reading a brief clip from "The Naming Braid" (GUD) and a longer section of Taming the Weald (Gypsy Shadow Publishing). I also met a fellow writer from not too far away! Might lead to further conversations.

I put a copy of Sails and Sorcery (Fantasist Enterprises) in the raffle. That contains Currents and Clockwork, an older story of mine set in the Butterfly's Poison world. It's a world I keep coming back to: I have at least one additional novel idea, and the novelette of doom, Shadow-Play, is also in the same setting. Vlisa and Calais beg future stories, but I haven't figured out what to do with them.

Then, having been encouraged earlier, I wandered into the Edge 10th anniversary party. I suppose I don't really think about it, especially because for most of my life, I've been in situations where I've been forced to act as if I'm not, but I am deeply, intensely shy. I have become good at one-on-one interactions and formal situations (for instance, MCing for a performance), but party environments are way out of my realm. The publishers, Brian and Anita Hades, were very nice / friendly - they actually stepped in and nudged me to talk to specific people. Which ... I did!

I came out of the whole thing feeling as if I had made some kind of victory, because I came out of my shell more than I usually do. It's a process.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

WFC Day Three: Part 2

I may write Part 3 tonight, but it won't be posted until I get home tomorrow. Internet is pay-per-24-hour period, and I can't justify spending another ten bucks on it for the two seconds I'll probably be awake. ;-)

The Lighter Side of Death (Jason Sanford, Esther Friesner, Laurel Ann Hill): Discussion of death as a character in funny fantasy. Of course, you have to get the obvious example out of the way - Terry Pratchett's Death. There was also discussion of Dead Like Me (yay!) and, wonder of wonders, Craig Shaw Gardner's "Disagreement with Death." I made a bit of an idiot out of myself when Hill asked if anyone had read it because I can *never* find *anyone* who has read those books and they, probably more than anything else (Douglas Adams included) shaped my idea of humor in spec-fic.

Anyhow, things discussed were the inversion of expectation, the fact that people in tough life-or-death situations often use humor to survive, and the fact that real world deaths are - horrible as we feel to laugh at them - sometimes just plain funny. I got two distinct idea sparks from this panel ... they're not complete stories, but they'll go in my files and I might be ready to take a break and write one in December.

Authors and Ideas (L.E. Modesitt, Tim Powers, S.M. Stirling, Jason Sanford, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ellen Kushner (panel-crasher)): I approached this panel with trepidation. I honestly expected to disagree with what they would say. Instead, I got a wonderful affirmation of the priority of story and the fact that the beliefs authors most commonly express in their works are the ones they don't even realize they hold. The authors touched upon the challenge of creating characters who hold beliefs the author doesn't share and the potential for fantasy to erode confirmation bias because it addresses situations in a different order.

Personal example: The world of Butterfly's Poison was consciously designed as a Renaissance setting, and one of the things I did include was slavery. I deliberately didn't want all my characters to express progressive attitudes about it because it jarred with the setting - basically substituting modernity for authenticity. (One character does free his slave and she's basically his willing bodyguard / confidante, but the other chars definitely think it's a little weird.)

Later, I tried to convert the setting into an RPG. I used a group of slaves who crash-landed on an island as my premise. I got one player who wanted to play someone whose main goal was to rid the world of slavery, which I emphatically did not want. It was never designed to be something to be defeated in the world. Yet I'd never say that I support slavery in any way, shape or form. I just feel there are inequities in the world that you can't solve, and they can be mentioned in a story without diminishing the final victory.

... which I guess illustrates a deeply held belief of its own, as I think about it.

Okay, this has been more about me than the panels - sorry! Wish me luck with the reading.

WFC Day Three: Part 1

I have a nasty little cough going. It's allergy related, so not a health concern, but sort of embarrassing. Pay no attention to the coughing brunette in the corner.

The Story Cycle vs The Novel (Suzy Charnas, L.E. Modesitt, Dennis McKiernan, Mette ivie Harrison): Discussion of the difference between a cycle of closely linked short stories and a novel ... and standalone novels in a series versus a broader arc, because of course all writers are editors and they like to make tweaks to the text at hand. Also the difference between a collection and a story cycle. The central difference, of course, is that standalone stories require an ending / climax, whereas each chapter doesn't ... and, of course, collections really don't sell.

(I thought about trying to frame a question around my time traveling stories, which are written all out of sequence - both in the "real" timeline and the eras my characters are traveling to. I decided not to break anyone's brain.)

I also posed a private question to L.E. Modesitt about titling, because I'm curious about how folks do it - and specifically, when they do it. (I find that all the titles I've come up with after completing the work are unsatisfactory and were certainly a struggle - I'll share some stories after the WFC.) He pointed out that shorter titles are better for a simple matter of marketing - the longer the title, the smaller it is on a cover.

That leaves some concern about "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" ... though they're all very SHORT words. (It's not much longer than "Butterfly's Poison," as a string.) And makes "Flow" the best title ever? ;-)

Moving along ...

The Continued Viability of Epic Fantasy (Blake Charlton, John Fultz, David Coe, David Drake, Freda Warrington): Conclusion here was that epic fantasy is very much alive, but it is evolving towards a shorter, more standalone form as a simple question of economics ... and with the success of the LoTR movies and the conclusion of the Wheel of Time, it is a much more viable form of fantasy than it was five years ago. It's no longer agent / editor anathema. Those big, thick fantasies apparently have another name in the industry: chihuahua-killers. So if you take the book, hold it out at arm's length, and drop it ... you get the idea.

All this is great news for me, but I am still am content with the "mannerpunk" label I've put on Journal of the Dead. Though I did ask the panel about mannerpunk and they were, honestly, boggled. I am sort of encouraged by this.

Lunch break! Free Panera. Two two-thirds of a broken chair.

Guest of Honor Presentation: Lee Martindale Interviews Esther Friesner: Awesome, as you'd expect. Esther Friesner is a ham. She's lively, funny and an engaging speaker. She talked about the experience of winning a Nebula (then another, the next year) and how she came up with the Chicks In Chainmail series - browsing the art show at a convention (so many of these stories started, "I was at an SF Convention ..." to the point where Esther led the crowd in a chorus near the end) and thinking about SF concepts, she rattled through trashy babes behind bars movies and then ... boom. She's also the queen of the SFWA Muskateers, who put on charity fencing demonstrations. The money goes into the SFWA medical fund, for SFWA members who have medical emergencies and can't pay for them. Nifty stuff.

Btw: I learned yesterday that "Death and the Librarian" was titled due to a gift from Terry Pratchett. He gave her tiny figurines of two of the figures from his books ... yeah, you can see where this is going: Death, and the Librarian. The story, mind, has nothing to do with it. (And I really wish I had brought my DatL collection with me to be signed. Whine.)

Slaughtering the Evil Hordes (Robert Redick, Eric Flint, Dennis McKiernan, Patricia McKillip, Tom Doherty): This was a very thoughtful but quick-moving panel about how to handle the evil horde in a day and age when it's no longer fashionable to automatically assume the "other" is monolithic and villainous. There was discussion, particularly from McKillip - who, though quiet, is very deliberate and contemplative about her process - about the idea of the evil from within, of having to conquer that ... either before, after or completely unrelated to the horde. It was pointed out that many of the hordes are the aggressors, coming to take what you have rather than work for it themselves, so in that sense they can be painted as evil ... and that maybe, ultimately, the fantasy horde hasn't gone out of style because psychologically, soldiers have to picture their enemies as faceless to function. Still, there are many ways beyond / outside of the horde to write solid fantasy, even war-based fantasy.

I need to ruuuun ... next panel in ten minutes. I am going to skip the ConSuite and actually pay for my dinner so I can escape back up here and hopefully get a 40 min - 1 hr nap before the last session of the day and then my reading (oh gawd oh gawd I am going to DIE). See you on the flip side!

WFC: Writer or Fan?

I've had a couple people ask me if I'm a writer or a fan, and my answer has been an awkward, "Well, both, I guess." I don't know why, in this context, I've been less certain about introducing myself as a writer.

I guess one reason is because lately, my progress has really discouraged me, and I've started to wonder if I "have it." Another reason is that in this context, I sort of feel as if people are expecting "real" writers - people with pro publications or books in print. It's a comparison issue. When I'm moving around in company that includes Esther Friesner, Eric Flint, Dennis McKiernan, etc, etc, can I really call myself a writer?

Also, I am idly pondering if it is too late to start putting "Lindsey W. Duncan" on my stuff. Would help the confusion with the British actress and I'm always introducing myself as, "Lindsey With-an-e Duncan" anyhow. I am only partly joking.

Friday, October 29, 2010

WFC Day Two: Part 2

More panels:

Everybody Has Their Faults, Mine Is Being Wicked (Molly Tanzer, Mark Teppo, David Boop): This was meant to be a discussion of the comic villain, but ranged more broadly into the appeal of villains and the kinds of thought and motivation that work. If anything, the panel pointed out that humorous villainy could be more creepy - the juxtaposition, the uncertainty about whether or not we should laugh along and what that says about us. In some ways, the villain can be more appealing than the hero because the villain is usually proactive, whereas the traditional hero's journey implies / requires a reluctance. Arguably, psychopathic villains have lost their mystique due to the proliferation of CSI, Criminal Minds, etc.

Esther Friesner Reading: I missed the title and a very small part of this story - I misjudged the time and didn't go in right away because I didn't want to interrupt the previous reader. That didn't affect my enjoyment of the story at all, the tale of a six year old werewolf with decided Opinions about her situation. Friesner used an amazing reading voice perfectly suited to this excerpt, light and child-like without being babyish. Story was hilarious, too. Apparently in an anthology called Full Moon City ...

Transforming Fantasy into a Screenplay (Ryan McFadden, David Coe, Barbara Gallen-Smith): This panel talked about the challenges of adaptation in general: the fact that screenplays don't get into the characters' internal thoughts, the fact that the structure of a successful movie is very different from a successful novel and the disparity between the average screenplay length - about ninety generously spaced pages - versus the average novel. Also touched upon were issues specific to fantasy, such as the challenges of creating a believable world instantly. They ended encouraging screenwriters to mine short fantasy as an untapped source of ideas.

Sidebar: I either lost my Scylla and Charybdis outline or left it at home. I won't know until Sunday, when I get home. Sheesh.

WFC Day Two: Part 1

I kept sneaking into the ConSuite to eat today ... well, sneaking is the wrong word, that's what it's there for. Also, I am about as sneaky as an elephant.

Panels for the first half of today:

Fantasy Gun Control (Walter Jon Williams, Charles Gannon, Elizabeth Bunce, Lee Martindale, Ian Drury): This panel discussed why guns are missing from our quasi-medieval fantasy stories when hand cannons date back to the 1400s. Some theories suggested were the deep influence of the original fantasists, including Tolkien, who very explicitly wanted to move away from that evidence of modernity; the lack of "elegance" in a gun versus a sword, the intimacy of hand-to-hand combat, and the idea of personal courage / heroism that can be lost or diluted when weaponry is added. All these things can be overcome, but there is a very strong public perception / bias against it. Yet other genres - eg westerns - do romanticize guns ...

(My two most recent secondary fantasies do have pistols. Butterfly's Poison is set in a world where these things are brand new, and my mad-scientist inventor is maybe the first person to have come up with a multi-shot pistol. Pity he can't hit the broad side of a barn. And Journal of the Dead is loosely Victorian, so the presence of firearms is in the background.)

The Explosion of Funny Fantasy Series (Lucienne Diver, Laura Resnick, Steven Silver): Another one of those panels where the panelists debunked the topic in question, though not as vigorously as before - they just said it was less a question of explosion and more a question that a field once locked tight is now open for exploitation. Among the difficulties of comedy is the fact that it isn't universal and that pacing is very difficult to maintain - even if it's perfect in the book, you can't control how and when the reader will encounter certain sections. Putting the book down for a crisis? Reading hastily in the car? (... not while driving.) Even the slightest placement of a word or sentence can alter the comedic impact.

Making Mythology Fresh (And a Little Silly) (Elizabeth Bear, Kathy Sullivan, Laura Bickle, Esther Friesner): Another great panel, and one from which I came away with a particular number of books to look up. (Darn, that sentence still ended with a preposition.) Among the suggestions for keeping it fresh were to seek out more obscure mythologies, confront ancient myths with modern realities - akin to science fiction's extrapolation - and going back to the roots of myths that have been so well-mined that the derivations have become the familiar. (Not lookng at vampires here at all, no ...)

Also: never discount zombie Paracelsus. (Actual quote from the panel.)

At this point in the chronology, I take a break for lunch and browsing the dealer's room. At this point in real life, I hop away from my computer with every intention of creeping into the ConSuite again.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

WFC Day One: Evening Panels

Two panels tonight and I am wiped out. I have a business stop to make tomorrow in the dealer's room (which I may or may not discuss, depending on the outcome thereof), and once that's over with, I can ... well, not breathe easier, because my five minutes of spotlight for reading aren't til Saturday evening. Mock me if you will, I've done half hour stage sets and introduced numbers for a group - but then I have a five foot tall instrument to hide behind. And I'm good at making people laugh, particularly at me ... not so much with other forms of public speaking.

Fantasy as a Rejection of the Present (Theodora Goss, Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Jane Moore): Every now and again, there's a panel where the panelists seem focused upon debunking the panel topic, and it cracks me up. This was one of them. It was a very thoughtful discussion that went beyond fantasy as a form of nostalgia and into its possible use as social agenda, its expression of the anxieties of the age, etc. For instance, it was suggested that part of steampunk's popularity might be that it goes back to the last period where the average person really understood technology.

(I'm writing down a lot of book titles. My Amazon list is going to sprawl out again after this, I can just see it.)

The Logic of Absurdity (Gerald Warfield, David Levine): Unfortunately, Eric Flint, who I was looking forward to seeing on this panel, was a no-show. He couldn't make it in time. Hope he's not stuck in an airport now. The other two joshed him good-naturedly in absentia. Handpuppet Flint: "Hi, I'm Eric Flint, and I'm not here."

Anyhow, this panel was not about what I expected, and at first, I was disappointed - it was more about using absurd, larger than life elements within stories. However, it turned out to be very relevant in ways I hadn't expected. They talked a lot about the rules of absurdity, the need for it to fit into the framework; how it was essentially an element in context, and in a wholly "absurd" world, the normal becomes out of place. This seemed to affirm some of my gripes / quibbles with "weird" fiction, and I felt better for hearing it. (Of course, it's all subjective, too.) Other points: the absurd still needs to map onto the reader's experience. If you've got plot, character and setting, one of those elements can be absurd, maybe two ... but try to make all three absurd, and it crumbles.

So not at all on that note, what do people think of, "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" as a title?

WFC Day One: Arrival and Afternoon Panels

Dropped the dog off this morning - I've never seen her prance and squeak like that before - and hit the road for a very windy drive to Columbus. Got off an exit too early and wound through the less ... prosperous parts of the city, then ran into a detour my GPS didn't know how to handle and had to just keep driving until it got back on track. Was surprised the hotel didn't have its own free parking lot. Ended up walking in from the garage with my laptop bag and my luggage, then adding the truly mammoth WFC freebie bag before stumbling up to my room. I carry a harp around all the time. I'm tough. But that was work.

(Maybe it will make up for all the candy corn. Yes, I had a craving for candy corn, so I bought some.)

Sorted through the conference bag - a great collection of books, including Ian Esselmont's Night of Knives, which I've been meaning to read. (I didn't care for Erikson's first Malazan novel, but heard that this book in the same setting was worth checking out.) Far more hardcovers than I remember there being in the past. One too many urban fantasies, so I went back to the trade table and exchanged it.

Also put out some freebie flyers and postcard-ish things for Gypsy Shadow Publishing on the freebie table. Hope I picked a good spot!

First three panels of the day:

The Art of the Mashup (Jeff Connor, Jay Franco, Jim Frenkel): Three great, funny guys with a lot of intriguing things to say about the growing popularity of mashups - loosely defined as taking something classic and twisting it by the introduction of something that doesn't seem to fit. The originating book of this recent fad-wave, of course, is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I have to point to a couple of personal favorites: "Franz Kafka, Superhero!" (a short story in the Mike Resnick-edited "This Is My Funniest") and Jana Oliver's Sojourn, which while not strictly a mash-up takes some elements (time-travel, Victorian shapeshifters) that you wouldn't necessarily find together and fuses them. The fellows discussed this as a fan/nerd-driven phenomena, with connections to fan-fiction and comic book crossovers.

(Topical to me, since my planned NaNo novel is basically a mash-up of heroic myth and reality television.)

The West Doesn't Exist (Marie Brennan, Dennis McKiernan, Freda Warrington, Liz Gorinksy): I thought this panel was misnamed - sorry, guys. I expected it to be about cultures that aren't often used in fantasy. Instead - a wonderful turn of events - it was about the proscribed / forbidden / impassable zones on fantasy maps, about whether the world even had to be round, about considering climate and human ingenuity in crossing obstacles, about places that weren't mapped because they were very constantly changed. There were reminders that peasant geography is often proscribed into a tiny sphere: this village and our neighbors is as far as most people might think. Ultimately, leaving the blanks leaves room for wonder.

(For the record, my NaNo novel has the "weird / mysterious" culture in the west, not the east - though I am guilty of the barbarians in the north.)

Vampires Thick as Fleas (Melissa de la Cruz, Linda Robertson, Peter Halasz, Alex Bledsoe, Sandra Wickham): I didn't have much hope for this panel, and really got a pleasant surprise. There was a lot of discussion about vampires as symbols, and where their power is really accessed versus just being the "bad boy" in romantic fiction. What about scientific vampires? Why has the religious aspect almost vanished from most modern vampire fiction? Vampires speaking to fears of disease and sexuality. A modern obsession with the redemption story - but maybe some people can't be redeemed.

(Unfortunately, side-effect of this was it made me want to go back to an old project of mine, a post-mana-apocalypse real-world setting which had some traditional, non-mainstream vampires. I have resisted because a) it's a very, very dark story and b) it would require a lot of setup I don't have time to do for Nano, esp as it was always intended to have two plotlines: one the current story of the MC after she's defected from a rebel cause, and the other her flashbacks to the progress of that rebellion.)

And upcoming tonight, possibly the most topical panel for me of all: The Logic of Absurdity. The topic is the line between absurd fantasy and satire which essentially describes the real world ... and that line, and staying on the "right" side of it, is going to be my foremost challenge.

Three hours and I am so, so happy I committed to doing this.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brace Yourselves ...

There will be no Thursday Thoughts this week. Instead, look for updates on the WFC panels and other bizarre happenings through the end of the month. In 2008, I found this was a great way to process my thoughts - and hopefully interesting to someone else as well. So I'm giving it another shot.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


As my post of last week might imply, I love anthologies ... and one of the things I would love to do (some day!) is put one together. This is something of a pipe-dream, but I figured I would have fun thinking up some potential concepts. Here's a couple:

The Impossible Crime: Fantasy / mysteries are "in" right now, and more importantly, they're something I adore. This theme would be stories where the crime is committed by supernatural means - somehow impossible in the mundane world. For fair play to apply, of course, the stories would have to be very upfront about the "rules" of the settings. Tricky to balance without giving the game away? Probably ... but isn't that the fun?

Things To Do In Fantasyland When You're Dead: Since I can't use this for the title of a (serious) novel, how about a humorous anthology of characters after they've died ... whether we're dealing with a trek through the underworld, a character who discovers - the hard way - that they come back to life the next day, or a reincarnating demi-god. Actually, I would like to see this as a not-specifically-comic anthology, which I guess would mean ditching the title again. Drat!

One Line: I've seen the concept of "The story must start with this line" before, but what about a group of stories where the line can be incorporated anywhere, as long as it's somehow important? I wonder whether this would work better if the line was revealed in the intro ... or if it were left for the reader to discover. (EDITED to add: Put it at the end, so people who want to "spoil" themselves can?)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Haven't done much this past week - been buried in allergy fog and done a lot of harp-playing, including a networking gig on Tuesday. Hopefully it turns into something ...

Mainly been hashing out this fantasy / mystery short story that continues to bedevil me. I can only remember once before where I've still been changing so much - chopping, adding - after so many edits. That one had a happy ending, so I can hope that I can beat this one into shape yet. I would also love to get another two hundred words out of it - the "8k" market is limited, but it's less limited than the "over 8k" market - but it seems to be holding steady and stubborn about where it is.

I need to get cracking on my character profiles for my novel. One thing I've noticed in reality shows that I'm trying to emulate is that often, part of why you watch is to a) cheer on your favorites and b) see the people you can't stand get bumped off (... the show). There's a visceral intensity to it that I know is partly created by the fact that these are "real" people - grant that the faces the players present to the camera aren't often wholly authentic - but I want to capture as much of it as possible. So I've been consciously thinking about which of the characters fall into which category - which will the reader cheer for, which will they campaign against ... and hopefully, if I do my job right, some of them won't garner the same reaction from every reader.

I am a bit concerned about using a "camera lens" POV for the main scenes in the story, but I am intending to break that up with close-focus on individual characters - and off-stage scenes from a few, select POVs. I am hoping to emulate that sense of not knowing what is going through the character's head - until you step aside with them in the isolation booth. So much of this is balance between getting the meta-story feel of the base material without making it seem arbitrary or unnatural. I'm hoping if done right, it will give its own unqiue element of depth.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"First Contact" at Golden Visions

Golden Visions has just purchased my "First Contact" for April 2011. The only thing I'll say about the story right now is that it takes the concept "first contact" literally and deals with synesthesia ...

Saturday, October 16, 2010


So when I'm in the mood for short stories for pleasure reading, I usually reach for an anthology. I love to see the way different authors tackle the same theme / idea. Anthologies also tend to be more consistently story / character-driven (as opposed to experimental / theme-based), which is what I prefer. From a skilled editor, I also love the macro elements of the way an anthology flows from one mood to another. (I've seen it done badly, alas.)

So I'm starting to put together a Christmas list, and I thought I ought to see if y'all have any recommendations of anthologies you've tried and enjoyed - because a bad one is no fun. Some specifics:

1. As stated above, I'm going to be more interested in theme collections, so "best of" isn't really my cup of tea. See also note about experimental stories (or not).

2. Fantasy or scifi is fine, but not so much urban-specific collections. I have no problem with urban fantasy, but I think there are so many possible worlds out there, an anthology ought to explore a lot of them.

3. I'm especially interested in fantasy / mystery crosses. I already own Murder By Magic and Powers of Detection and have The Dragon Done It on my wishlist. I know Dana Stabenow did another crossover antho, but I wasn't impressed with her as an editor. Yeah, okay, this is a long shot, but if you've encountered others ...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

GoodReads Review: The Muse of the Revolution

The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Foundingof a NationThe Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Foundingof a Nation by Nancy Rubin Stuart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An in-depth portrait of an obscure figure from the American Revolution, this book skillfully portrays Mercy Otis Warren both in her capacity as a political writer and as an exceptional woman of her time. Much care is taken to portray the life she lived around her famous works and illuminate her as a person. The book is liberally (but strategically) sprinkled with quotes from her letters, poems and plays, and also includes some quotes from reply correspondence.

This book is both informative and entertaining. The author does not interpret or apologize for Warren's failings - in fact, at times, I wish there had been a little bit more partisanship in favor of the subject. I learned some connected facts about the Revolution I hadn't known before, as well. The chronology is crystal-clear, though there is one point where there's a typo in the dating, accidentally leaping the account forward a year.

Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

It's (Almost) Official: WFC Reading

The preliminary WFC schedule has been posted, and the BroadUniverse Rapidfire Reading is slated for Saturday at 9:30pm.

Currently planning to read a snippet of The Naming Braid and a somewhat longer excerpt from Taming The Weald ... my five minutes of numbed terror. ;-) Wish me luck!

Thursday Thoughts

Still making my editing marks on Scylla and Charybdis. I would like to be through the book before November and NaNoWriMo, because I consequently won't touch it until December, but that's not looking good right now.

Started my fourth Ishene and Kemel story. One of the things that's delighted me about this is there are passing references to previous events - an embarrassing incident with the Hakathri and the time Ishene "tripled" over herself (went back in time twice to a location where she was already present). And I don't think you can tell which one is "real" - the latter is from "Double or Nothing" - and which one is invented - the Hakathri thing was a fabrication created in the original free write. This is what I love about writing these stories out of chronology: I'm creating foreshadowing, backstory and potential present (for another story) all in the act of writing one tale.

And, of course, it remains singularly appropriate for a pair of time travelers.

Also (yes, I'm busy) trying to finish my character notes for the reality TV project. I'm "feeling" it more that I'm getting into it, except the themesong part of it - while just for my amusement / potential playlist - is a disaster. I also tried to do a character portrait and decided ... nope. My art skills are still not there.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Anatomy of an Idea: Taming The Weald

This is a spoiler-free post, so y'all can read it without fear. Or do fear, because I'm an intrinsically scary person - as you will.

Obviously, since Taming The Weald started as an image prompt contest entry, my first inspiration was the picture provided by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. I knew the obvious assumption would be a fantasy story, so I decided to go in the opposite direction and do something science fiction - or rather, science fantasy.

That gave me the initial idea of having a single wild area on a space station. To further emphasize the contrast, the natives considered it a dark, dangerous place - but why wouldn't it be a potential source of food? I decided they had been eating synthetics for so long that the human stomach had started to adapt away from being able to process organic food. I ended up playing this down for the needs of the plot, but this was the first element in the theme of artificial versus natural that plays through the whole story.

I wanted an evocative name for this wild area. I didn't want to call it just The Forest or some such. I did a little browsing on (no, really) and came up with Weald. Instantly, I also had my title - which I prefer to have before I start, because my track record of being able to title afterwards is pretty abysmal. It's a Saxon word, so I briefly toyed with using Arthurian legend names for the characters, but none of the names I researched seemed to fit.

Back to the picture ... who is this? A daughter of the wild? I knew right away that I didn't want to write from her POV - for me, that would kill the mystique of the setup I had created. So who is the narrator, then? Keryn and her desire for a child came into my mind ... and I had all the basic building blocks in place.

I Am Puzzled!

This tickled me to death and then right back to life:

Yes, Gypsy Shadow Publishing puts their cover images up as digital puzzles. That's rather awesome.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Taming The Weald - released!

It's now out! Taming The Weald, my science fantasy story with Gypsy Shadow Publishing, is now available for your purchasing and reading pleasure:

(I love that the abbreviation is Taming. I have Monty Python flashbacks. "Monday morning, I want to be in there: taming!")

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

I just started working on the character profiles for my reality TV project, with the goal of starting for Nanowrimo in November. I'm dealing with an interesting problem: because the individuals from each country are the primary if not only thing the reader will see, they need to be representative of their origin ... but I don't want to "normalize" them to the point where they're the stereotypical Thanocian, Sarrlander, etc. Their behavior has to say "I come from country X" and "I'm individual Y" and potentially do it in a single scene. And I don't want to spend a lot of words setting this up, because the elimination style of the novel means that some of those people won't last too long.

A further issue I'm worried about - and I'd welcome feedback - is the opening. Traditionally, on these shows, the first episode does a lot of brief-clip introductions of characters, but I'm concerned it will get heavy and info-dumpy. I also toyed with doing a "casting" where the weirdest, most unsuitable folks breeze past - hoping to play up the humor - and someone we're rooting for doesn't even make it to the competition. I've only seen this once in actual reality TV, so though I have "Casting" jotted down in my structure, I'm undecided if I'm going to do it or not.

Next step for me is a short story, probably the last before Nano starts. It's another Ishene / Kemel story - this one involving time travel to the future and broaching the issues of whether or not the past is still immutable ... if the past you're looking back at is your present.

The more stories I write about these two, the less it becomes an adventure featuring them, and the more it becomes an adventure about them. Ishene's nature was important in my first story, but it was essentially a quest (sort of). The second story revolves around the death of Kemel's sister and how he deals with the fact that they can't change it, and it's also largely about their budding friendship - but it's still more about the mystery. The third story had other facets, but a pivotal point in the story was one of Ishene's shortcomings and the temptation to change it. This fourth story (whoot! Four) promises to be a lot about emotion, desires and her late fiance ...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

(Book) Mercy Otis Warren by Jeffrey H. Richards

This isn't a formal Goodreads review because the book isn't in their database, but I wanted to comment briefly on it. I did read this book somewhat out of order - it would have made more sense to read her biography first - but I had already started it when I realized the nature of the book, so I decided to push on.

This book is an exhaustive analysis of Mercy Otis Warren's writings, how it fits in the framework of the times, and what she was trying to achieve with each type of writing. It covers her exhaustive letters to family, major political figures and female friends, her poetry, her plays and (almost paranthetically) the history book she wrote. Richards' book is dense, with long, complex sentences that sometimes need a moment to sit back and process. And I found it fascinating ... for the history, yes, but also for the thoughtful discussion of literature in context with the time period and purpose.

To some degree, the book is apologetic, framing Warren's weaknesses in context with her unique religious and political perspective and her purposes for writing. However, Richards balances deftly and avoids making his text a statement that we should ignore the flaws in favor of what the author was trying to say. He is honest about where her works make for compelling reading and character creation (esp. the plays, of course) and where they come up short.

I cannot put my finger on a specific writing-related thing I learned from this book, but I found it very absorbing and educational on a front the author really didn't intend. Of course, there are great pieces of history here, as well - the discussions of Warren's letters to the Adamses (Abigail *and* John) and the British author Catherine Macaulay in particular - though it's ultimately a specialty book for a reader interested in literature of the period.