Friday, August 27, 2010

SaC Soundtrack

Finished my first readthrough of the Scylla and Charybdis manuscript! It will go away for a short while (three days to a week), and then I'm going to plunge back in for the purposes of outlining. This is something I did when I started to edit Journal of the Dead, and it worked very well: it includes not just a plot summary of scenes, but what information / purpose it serves for worldbuilding, character development, foreshadowing, romantic subplot, etc. This should help me with cohesion, balance and cutting.

I know my followers don't have the same music tastes as I, generally speaking ... but just for kicks, here again is the soundtrack I put together for SaC. I've added two songs since I originally posted this. The songs divide loosely between situational / character specific, overall feel ... and gender-focused songs I chose because I felt bratty.

1. Us Amazonians -- Kirsty MacColl
2. Walk This World -- Heather Nova
3. Suddenly -- LeAnn Rimes
4. Defying Gravity -- Wicked soundtrack
5. Drops of Jupiter -- Train
6. There Is Nothing Like A Dame -- South Pacific soundtrack
7. I Do -- Lisa Loeb
8. Breathe -- Midge Ure
9. Turn This World Around -- Amy Grant
10. I Enjoy Being A Girl -- Flower Drum Song soundtrack
11. Children of the Revolution -- Kirsty MacColl*
12. The Safest Place -- LeAnn Rimes
13. Don't Rain On My Parade -- Glee cast version*
14. It's Raining Men -- Geri Halliwell
15. Free -- Sarah Brightman
16. Poor Little Fool -- Helen Reddy
17. Always Tomorrow -- Gloria Estefan
18. In The Arms of the Milky Way -- Laura Powers

Will probably run this, if not during all editing, then on and off at times. Close enough to mood music. ;-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Almost done with my initial readthrough of Scylla and Charybdis ...

I am surprised by how clunky some of the writing is. There are chunks I will be taking and reworking, not substantively, but stylistically. I noticed this mostly with the narration, but somewhat with the dialogue as well. It doesn't approach "As you know, Bob," but the characters are ... well ... overly clear at points. ;-)

I am not surprised, however, to find that there are a few sections I can cut and plenty to trim. Less in the description than in the thought patterns - there's a lot of places where Anaea thinks something through, takes a turn from it, takes another turn ... and ends up taking one turn too many for the clarity of the manuscript. Now frankly, this is the way my brain works - I can riff off a worry and my straight line becomes a labyrinth - but it's not great to read.

I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that the kearl (a companion animal genetically engineered from cats and monkeys) didn't feel tacked on. Her existence seems important and her presence well integrated. Which ... is startling because several times while writing, I had to go back a couple pages and re-insert references to the kearl. I kept forgetting she was there.

Still working on a Flow-world story (and I may call it Flow-world even if it never exists, because that's conveniently a decent label for the cosmology) and editing on my contest entry. Teeny bits of cutting and some adding in spots where I've realized I didn't explain things quite well enough. There's a huge, implied backstory under the main tale, but I did need to convey a bit more of it than appeared in the first draft.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Homebound today. Surprised at the amount of work I got done while vacationing. The only thing I haven't started is reading the Scylla and Charybdis manuscript.

My travels have given me a keen interest in historical spies. Unfortunately, there's no way to weave that in to the novels I'm planning. Well ... maybe it would fit in The Idea, but it wasn't originally constructed with spies, and if I put anything else in, it will explode. It might be possible to do a spy "episode" in my reality TV concept.

Also banked a lot of ideas for use in the "Flow" universe. Even though I am almost close to conceding defeat with the book, the setting remains a strong one for me ... and I already have a concept for another novel in the same setting, so it's not wasted work. I've also written (and am writing) short stories set in that contemporary-verse.

One of the conflicts in the setting is the clash between the water-witches - who believe in cooperation and containment of the fairy folk - and the Borderwatch - who believe that any fairy should be killed. The water-witches think the Borderwatch are fanatics who kill good "people" due to their black and white view; the Borderwatch think the water-witches are unrealistic, naive and the risk to humanity if a "good" fairy isn't is too high. (And both are, as far as me-as-author is concerned, correct.) Flow is presented primarily from the water-witch POV because Chailyn IS one. In the short stories, I've had more opportunity to explore things from the Borderwatch perspective.

I suspect my next reading binge is going to be non-fiction. I picked up two books and have two historical figures I want to do some research on: Mercy Otis Warren and Sarah Edmonds. This is slightly less weird than my previous binges. I've come out of my library with every book I could find on Helen of Troy ... dream interpretation ... gem mythology ... beauty pageants ... (for the record, despite the Helen of Troy legend containing the first beauty pageant, the two topics were not related.)

But this research may not go unused: I do have a setting that is the equivalent of post-Revolutionary America. "Menagerie" in The Sword Review was based in this world, and I've never used it since. I would have to reread the story (cringing all the way, I'm sure) to mine the setting points, but there's certainly room for sequel stories with those characters.

And, of course, so much of what I read gets transformed, reimagined, or sparks me in a completely different direction. Okay, now I'm just excited.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Goodreads Review: Thief of Time

Thief of Time (Discworld, #26)Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In my experience, there are two types of Pratchett novels: those that start with a tight focus on a single character / plotline and explode outwards, and those that start with several characters / plotlines and converge inwards. To me, the former are far superior, the latter never quite coming together. I never feel like the plot totally makes sense, the characters keep you at arm's length ... and it never quite feels as if they've earned the resolution.

Unfortunately, Thief of Time is one of the latter. The narrative is clever and some of the Discworld's best characters make their appearances, but it's hard to engage with the story. There are some intriguing extensions from earlier books, but I'm not sure whether they would be quite as absorbing for someone who wasn't familiar with those elements.

The exploration of humanity, the horsemen of the Apocalypse, the long-suffering Igor - and the mere presence of Susan Sto Helit - are worth reading the book on their own. Ultimately, however, I felt I was reading the book less for the throughline as for the "good bits." The sideshow was great. I was lukewarm on the main event.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ups and Downs

Good news: I finished my intended Gypsy Shadow Publishing contest story.

Bad news: It's about 8900 words.

Le sigh. At the core of me there is just not a short story writer. ;-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Snippets of DC

Things seen over the past few days:

The Declaration of Independence. One of only eleven ornamented Stradivarus violins. The flag for which the Star-Spangled Banner was written. An original copy of the Magna Carta. (Sadly, one of my first thoughts was, "I stole that!" If you didn't play on Crucible City MUX, it's a long story.) A perfect Gutenburg bible. The first map to have "America" printed on it. An entirely unique portrait of Queen Elizabeth. Julia Child's kitchen.

Story sparker for the Flow universe on the Metro.

And this, on the wall of the Library of Congress: "Art is long, and life is fleeting." Longfellow, so says Google. It stuck with me.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Progress on the synopsis continues. My goal is to get it down to five single-spaced pages (yes. *Down* to. Now you see what I am dealing with, here) and given the complexity of the storyline, I may call it good there. For now, I am going to put it aside and try for the one page / five paragraph version. I'll come back to it. That's a threat, synopsis. Cower in fear. Or at least stop being so difficult.

I can see the end in sight with my story for Gypsy Shadow's prompt. My main concern is that I have taken the age of the protagonist too far. Looking at the picture, I see a young person - a teen or a child - not a fully grown woman ... but I have made the reflected character too young to match. We'll see.

What's been interesting with this one is at the same time, I'm reading a book about dialogue ("Writing Dialogue" by Tom Chiarella, for the curious) and it's influenced the way I've written. One of Chiarella's main points is that, though it should always be shaped in service of the story, real dialogue is messy: people interrupt each other, speak in shorthand, don't answer the questions actually asked, don't listen to each other ... thinking about this has allowed me to create (I think!) subtler dialogues among the more "civilized" characters, to contrast with the subject of the image, who is very direct.

On vacation for a week now, so not sure when I'll finish. It's gonna be close.

I hope August 31st means "before midnight on the 31st." ;-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reasons Why Lindsey Should Not Write YA

Since writing Flow - which has a teen protagonist (Kit is fifteen; Chailyn, the other POV character, is twenty-four) - and then, after Journal of the Dead, working on Scylla and Charybdis - Anaea is nineteen - I've wondered if I should be looking into the YA market. Reading a few people on my bloglist discuss YA, I have finally decided ... no. Anything I could write would be lousy as far as the YA market is concerned. Why?

1. No School Experience -- I was homeschooled, not just for a year or two, but from kindergarten through graduation ... and then I took distance courses for college. The majority of my comprehension of highschool comes from watching Glee. This is arguably the social structure for contemporary YA. Even if homeschooled protagonists can work, I am handicapped even drawing the comparisons.

2. Boys Boy Boys -- I had one crush during my teen years, but even considering that, it would be pretty accurate to say I didn't care about boys one way or another. I still am a pragmatist on the romantic front. It would be fair to say the giddiness of teen crushes is beyond me.

3. Identity Crisis -- Or lack thereof. Not that I haven't had my moments, but I've never really had a time where I didn't know what I wanted to be (when I grew up! ;-)). It's a direction I have trouble taking myself in fiction.

4. Rebellion? Why? -- I was a Good Kid (tm). I didn't even drink when I was in Scotland at the age of nineteen, because it was still illegal back home. I never understood the thrill of disobeying just to do so. All that stultifyingly good behavior would make for a sugary protagonist, to say the least - and from what I've read, that's no longer viewed as realistic.

5. Plugged In -- More a handicap for modern stories, but today's teens seem to be increasingly hooked up to every network imaginable. Whereas I am still hotly denying that my cellphone can do anything other than make calls. It's a phone! I don't need it to weigh melons! I don't want to receive tweets every two seconds!

6. Hypocrite? -- I could certainly read it now - in fact, Patricia McKillip's Dragonhaven, which I loved, is classed as YA - but the fact that remains when I was a teenager, I read a handful of YA books and otherwise skipped straight into "grown-up" books. Grant that the selection is a lot wider and a lot better quality than it was, but I'd still feel sorta ... dishonest writing something that I probably wouldn't have read at that age. ;-)

None of this is to diss YA - or even to insult myself, though I guess it does kinda come off that way - simply ruminations on mindsets that don't intersect. Add to that the fact that I find myself increasingly interested in protagonist-as-parent, and I move pretty firmly away from YA territory.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In My Hands ... In My Head

Just back from Kinkos and feeling heady. It's just a rough draft for my own reading and editing purposes, but there is something very satisfying about physically holding your book in your hands.

Unfortunately, there are some formatting snafus - mine, not Kinkos'; when I converted it to a different typeface and size for printing, not all of it made the transition - but luckily, the size change took throughout, so it's legible (and not itty-bitty as my screen print is). I suspect a mixup with the italics, as the mindspeech throughout is in the old font, but there only appear to be a few sections in the rest.

Right now, feeling as if my favorite project is the "reality TV" one for the reason that it's been far too long since I wrote a comedy. I enjoy writing humorous stories; my sense of humor tends to sneak even into serious works. I have written an entire comic novel before - that's actually the one Luna requested to see the entirety of - and had a blast with it.

On the other hand, I have similar concerns as to when I started Scylla and Charybdis: while I write with humor, I don't consider the bulk of my writing to be comedy. (SaC's issue is it's scifi, while I typically write fantasy.) If I produce something that's different from my usual works and somehow strike gold, will it be hard to sell anything else? Very much putting the cart before the horse here, but I wouldn't want to get locked in.

My gut feel may change in a few days ...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

I'm heartened with my synopsis progress: managed to find a surprising amount to cut, though I'm still working. Now I'm going to take a break from it and do some brush-up editing on the manuscript. Basically making sure I am holding the reader's hand appropriately through the early world elements.

I have a plan in place as I go forward:

1. Over my vacation / afterwards, I will read through my Scylla and Charybdis manuscript. There will be no outlining. There will be no editing. This will just be my opportunity to get a sense of the whole thing.
2. By the end of August, I will have chosen my next writing project. (Sigh ... I am dithering so much!)
3. September and October, I will work on worldbuilding, character profiles, outlining *if appropriate* (I usually don't need one, but some of these ideas require that level of coordination) and anything else I might need to ...
4. Kickstart the novel with Nanowrimo in November.

Further plans, not timelined yet: finish editing, synopses and query letter for Journal of the Dead. Begin editing on SaC. I will continue to work on short stories in the interim because if I am just editing / prepping I will lose the rest of my mind.

Monday, August 02, 2010

About Novel the Next

Here are the front-runners I've been dithering over. I do have a few urban / contemporary ideas, but right now, those are tabled because that honestly isn't what I feel like doing.

Background: In this world, magic is performed by creating "thought machines" - and the natural world is held suspect. Centuries ago, enchanters sealed off the realm of the Deep Ones, earning permanent acclaim for wielders of magic. Enchanters create familiars by blending parts of various animals together.
Story: A prominent enchanter dies under mysterious circumstances after petitioning for the rights of familiars. Her own familiar takes on the case with the enchanter's former apprentice as her sidekick. Unfortunately, the suspect list is long and tangled, and the authorities are no mood to see the answer found … much less to cooperate with a lesser being.
Pros: This would be my first attempt to truly do something that has been a goal of mine for a while - write a novel featuring a "traditional" detective in a fantasy world.
Cons: I write a lot of stories that are heavy on conspiracy / politic play. I am concerned I need to get away from that.

Background: This world has a mixed Egyptian / Grecian mythos, where the afterlife is of key importance and the survival of the corpse part and parcel to that. Losing the coin under the tongue also dooms a spirit to wander on the wrong side of the river.
Story: Our heroine … has just died. Unable to pay the toll to cross the afterlife's river, she seeks a way to escape this limbo with other spirits in tow. At the same time, her corpse has been abducted by graverobbers, and her former lover put his role (as secretary to a highly-placed dignitary) in jeopardy attempting to rescue it. A third strand enters as her little sister attempts to enter the underworld to plead her case.
Pros: I really do like the idea of writing a story centered around the underworld. Things To Do In Fantasyland When You're Dead.
Cons: I just did a riff on Egypt and Greece (Journal of the Dead) - though it was a very different feel and the mythos was not central to the storyline.

Background: A massive pantheon of bored, minor gods and an archetypal / trope-heavy fantasy setting …
Story: To entertain lesser gods, the pantheon decides to put on a competition amongst mortal heroes to create a new warrior-king - running them through various challenges and eliminating them one by one. (In a nutshell, it's reality TV competition - fantasy-ized. My model for this has been Bravo shows, The Next Food Network Star, and Project Runway.) Throw in a shapechanging demi-god(dess) intended to be the bride / husband of the victor, an old hero as mentor and teacher, mix, and stand back.
Pros: This is completely whacky, and I think would turn out to be a blast. The structure also gives me an easy way to map out plot and word count.
Cons: Deciding how much to script and how much (if any) to leave to chance; how to handle a huge and gradually diminishing cast; how to handle POV issues.

Then there's the concept I have taken to thinking of as The Idea - the one that has been brewing at the back of my brain for months, but has detractors larger and more significant than all those above combined. The origin is a rewrite of plotline(s) I used in a fandom setting - original characters in another author's world, for those unfamiliar.

Now, I feel that my storylines were departure enough that I am free of concerns about copying - but to work this requires constructing a world where some elements serve similar purposes. I'm concerned that it may look like a "coat of paint," but on the other hand, I have thought extensively about what I would do and I think I've come up with something unique, not at all inspired by the original, and that adds some interesting tweaks to plot. It also takes the mood and twists it from something fairly utopian into something dark and borderline amoral … perfect for the storyline.

Even after this, however, I feel that this is less unique in macro elements than - at the very least - ideas #1 and #3 above. There are certainly a lot of pieces I feel that are unusual, but they appear on the smaller level. Maybe the main large detail that I don't think you see too often is the overarching plotline pivots around the romance between the main villain and a protagonist's sister. (Note that I don't say the plotline *is* the romance, but rather develops from consequences thereof.)

Huge detractor the next is the level of complexity. First of all, looking what I have, I already know I have a trilogy. Book one can be made more or less independent, but I can also tell that I would need to finish all three before I could reasonably edit and submit the first one. That leaves me potentially writing two books that would never see the light of day. *Huge* problem.

Obviously, I also worry about the confusion created by the complexity, especially as I know myself - whatever I've planned, the actual product will be more labyrinthine than my original intentions. On the other hand, I not only have the plotline already, I know I will need to do a detailed outline to keep everything moving in the right direction … so I think I can cap the exponential increase.

And oh, the characters. The main huge attractor is these are people I developed over the course of months and years, I know them incredibly well, and I'd love to spend the time with them.

It would be simpler if this were a marketing question: which concept would sell better? That would definitely knock The Idea out of the running. It would be simpler if I absolutely adored one concept so much that I knew that was what I had to write. It would be simpler if there weren't confounding factors like my concerns about getting stuck in the same ruts. (Politics. Greco-Roman. I'm sure there's another one in there somewhere.)

It ain't simple!