Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Hard to believe the year is almost over ... it's been different than any year before, but I still feel as if I'm holding my breath, waiting.

The Ishene and Kemel story has pretty much turned unusable, at this stage. Simply takes too long to get anywhere - the pacing is all off. I'm not even sure it's possible to edit it into decent shape. But maybe I can cut a chunk out, use it in a novel (it could happen!), or simply use it as a frame of reference for other stories.

Aaaand ... I finished my editing marks on my paper copy of Scylla and Charybdis. At this point, thinking it will sit until I finish the novel I'm currently writing. I have both sizable cuts and small cuts marked throughout, including a whole miniature scene I thought was darned unnecessary and took up breathing room. I also have little notations throughout that just say "emotion." Ah, the cryptic-ness of notes to yourself.

I have to get about 30k words out of this manuscript to get it into a range where the length isn't a handicap. Will I be able to do it without sacrificing story, or will I end up carrying this massive turtle shell on my back? Only time will tell ...

Word count for 12/23 - 12/29: 8,977

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

It is the week of Christmas cheer and Christmas cookies (not necessarily in that order), time with family, a puppy substituting quite convincingly for a two year old, and too many movies, some of them bad.

Through all this, I am fairly proud of myself I got the usual amount of writing done, though I had one day down in the word count dumps due to generally enjoying myself in other arenas.

This week, I resumed a story I had paused back in October (!), after the original opening was written in November of '09 ... and in the context of a secondary world fantasy with academic magic, I get to write about the concepts of time travel and cloning, with a side-order of the more traditionally fantastic predestination. How I love Ishene and Kemel, and the things their lives let me tackle without ever preaching or writing a thought-story. The first tale was a straight-up adventure (though it does deal a bit with racial prejudice), but since then, I've really enjoyed the playground of fantastic time travel.

Also still working on my reality TV novel, and becoming concerned about the judging panel sections. The fact that the competitors get to defend their performance and then the judges talk about it separately means that I effectively show what happens, talk about it, then talk about it again. It's a good opportunity for humor, but over several episodes, I worry it becomes too repetitive. It's starting to sound like Beowulf. (Since this current episode is about poetry and odes, I got to make a few meta-cracks regarding my opinions of Beowulf that probably most people won't get. Not unlike this one!)

Word count for 12/16 - 12/22: 7,635

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Rise, Progress and ...

I just finished reading The Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution by Mercy Otis Warren, a comprehensive (one might say exhaustive) account of said historical event from the perspective of a woman who lived during the period and corresponded with several of the Revolution's leading figures, including George Washington and both John and Abigail Adams.

Despite the extensive discussion of events, battles and negotiations, what I found I primarily learned from this book was not the history it contained, but other aspects, such as:

How history books were written in this time period. The author's bias is plain, not just in word-choice, but in the slant and description of events. She also stops to comment on the personal and moral character of the players. This is not an aberration: this was common practice in history books written around the turn of the eighteenth century.

The use of language and grammatical conventions. It came as no surprise to me that the sentences were long and convoluted, and definitely written to a higher level of reading comprehension. What did surprise me were what I'd think of as grammatical error, most especially the overuse of commas - even in places where the addition of the punctuation actually (to me) obscured the meaning of the sentence. This brings up a disturbing consideration: are we fated to keep losing commas?

The vocabulary caught my eye, too: I've never seen "sanguine" so frequently used, and of course, we no longer use "warmly" to mean heated and intense (as in debate).

The illumination of the depravities, mercies, acts of vengeance, retaliation and honor that occurred on both sides gave me a new perspective on some of the personal impact of the war and the way humans rose or sank down to its level. (The way Warren treats the defection of Benedict Arnold, though painfully partisan to the sensitivities of those used to modern history books, was particularly interesting in this light.)

But some of the historical aspects did jump out for me. I hadn't been aware that the Empress of Russia and her policies had influence on the European scene. Most of the histories of the American Revolution I've read neglect the naval battles that occurred during the same period over French and English holdings in the West Indies.

In any case, a heavy read, but worthwhile for me on several counts.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

When we get snow in Ohio, we don't just get snow. We get blowing powder, slush, ice over snow over ice, and sometimes all three at once. I'm fortunate enough to have seen snow rollers, an extremely rare phenomenon where the weather essentially makes its own snowballs by blowing the snow across icy ground. (How rare? Not quite sure, but the conditions are very precise and wikipedia's article has links to individual incidents.) This was several years ago, but I always keep my eye out for them.

About writing ...

I just finished my short story for the FWO challenge last night. As usual, it is too long, though I'm happy with how it turned out. The romantic subplot feels a little underdeveloped, so I will have to figure out how to enhance it without adding to the word count. I usually don't include romance in my stories unless the story is about the romance, but this was an experiment in a particular kind of dynamic.

I've noticed that increasingly, music does enter my stories - usually not from the perspective of a musician, but as some kind of wonderful, ineffable force. Farewell to Flesh from Emerald Tales, about a person pondering whether to give up her physical life to become an embodiment of inspiration, is probably the most obvious example, but Three Great Loyalties - which *is* a story that features musicians, since it was based on a prompt to write about your (the writer) worst job ever - becomes about the transformative power of music.

For me, writing about harpers feels self-indulgent. It's equivalent to the "writer story" that so many editors hate to see. It's also a bit like work. I love playing the harp, yes, but I'm writing, I don't want to be thinking about harp. But, of course, it's hard to deny the influence that music has on my life, and my approach to arranging music is very organic and almost mysterious ... it comes out of me, and I'm not always sure from where. So that perspective definitely comes through when I incorporate music (or more broadly, art of any type) in my stories.

Count for 12/9 - 15: 7,771

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Saw something today that has nothing to do with writing, but made me smile, so I thought I would share:

I do a little part-time work at an office center nearby. About a week ago, a bunch of construction paper ornaments went up on the side wall of the main office, each one featuring a toy or other gift for a specific age-range. The board next to it announced that anyone who wanted to donate for homeless children could select an ornament, purchase the appropriate gift, and drop it off by mid-next-week.

Today I walked in, and the wall was empty except for one ornament. Beautiful.

As far my writing, the word count experiment is off to a good start. Seeing the tangible quantity is encouraging, and it's at such a pace that I'm pleased with the quality as well. I think it might be more effective if I weren't pausing around 1k words to do some editing every day, but I need to polish that off, too.

Really having fun with the short story I mentioned in the last post. I've thrown in two Celtic-geek in-jokes: the name of the seaside city is Abeul (... as in port ...), and I made a reference to a kind of river song - and since strathspey refers to the river Spey in Scotland, the canny could infer that's what I'm talking about.

I think I am going to track my word counts, but I'll put it at the bottom of the post so y'all can feel free to skip it.

Count for 12/2 - 12/8: 7,719.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Urban Fantasy

My primary love in writing fantasy is secondary world fantasy. I love exploring the limitless what-ifs in a setting. I love worldbuilding, both the act of creating a new world and incorporating it into a work in a way that seems natural and seamless. (Even if that sometimes gets me smacking my head into a wall, it's good smacking.)

However, I do write urban fantasy occasionally - that is, fantasy set in our modern world - and I've found there are two reasons I will reach for it:

1. Playing with real world mythologies and the occult. There are so many intriguing possibilities if you take myths and legends as true ... or mostly true. You can play with this in a secondary world, too, but it's less direct, and there's something viscerally satisfying about taking a piece of our old beliefs and making it real.

2. Humor. There are so many jokes and wisecracks you can make in a contemporary setting with our wealth of shared culture. It's also easier to highlight humorous incongruity in a more familiar setting.

There is one more possibility that I haven't consciously based a story around yet, but it makes sense to me as an appeal of urban fantasy. This came from hearing Sarah Hoyt at the WFC ...

There are places in our personal experience that, for whatever reason, we find magical. (In her case, it was diners.) This may be a childhood encounter; it may not. But transforming the metaphorical, imagined magic into real, concrete magic ... I think it's a very powerful idea. And it's certainly something that's (almost) unique to urban fantasy.

Oddly enough, I can't come up with a personal example right now. Maybe I was just born a soulless cynic. ;-)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

FWO has a highly entertaining challenge topic up:

I have a full-blown idea, but held up by a) finding a title and b) the fact that I'm still deciding whether I want one POV character or two. Two is difficult to pull off in a short story, but especially for the romantic subplot, I feel as if I want the push-me-pull-you of having both their perspectives.

The special type of song I've selected is Puirt a beul. Puirt a beul aka "mouth music" is essentially turning a dance tune into a singing piece, often with nonsense vocables. If I am recalling correctly, this is another of these forms that came about because of the suppression of Scots / Irish culture - their instruments were taken away, so they sang their dances to remember them. I know one puirt in Scots Gaelic - it's not easy!

I'll get off my Celtic musician nerd stool now. I'm using a secondary world, so it won't be called Puirt a beul, but the concept will be a centerpiece.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bird Out of Water sold

I just sold my short story "Bird Out of Water" to Crossed Genres and their Opposites theme for January 2011! This story was originally written for an FWO challenge to write about the offspring of two different fantasy creatures. I love the concept of CG, so excited.

What a nice way to start the month, wakin' up to a contract.