Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Editing on Scylla and Charybdis has me a mite discouraged. I'm adding so much emotional content that I never realized was lacking - which not only is pumping an already unacceptable word count, it's making me worry about my original writing process.

I'm at about the midpoint of the novel, which features one of Anaea's lowest points. She's sacrificed herself for a friend - I won't get into any more detail than that - and when an opportunity to escape comes up, she can't (ethically) take it.

I do realize that, in part, my take on character emotion is influenced by Ann Hood's Creating Character Emotions, which (among other points) emphasizes two things: showing the emotional reaction / feeling rather than telling it (showing the way the fear makes the character feel rather than labeling it fear) and avoiding the obvious cliches on how emotion makes people react. So I also do worry, as I add bits, that the reactions are too subtle / oblique ... but for me, I would rather err on the side of obscurity rather than hammering a reader.

As a sidebar - only a few more days to buy Taming The Weald from Gypsy Shadow Publishing and get two free harp tracks!

7/21 - 7/27
Word count: 783

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Since Fatecraft is now available at Darwin's Evolutions, and Loyal Dice is due out soon, I thought I would put up an excerpt from the next story in this series. It hasn't had its final edit before submission yet (much less an editor's eye), so please forgive a little roughness, but here Pazia and Vanchen have come into the hospitality of a forest race known as the Kivesh. (Iphiri, for the record, is a goddess of chance.)

Pazia awoke before her companion and crept into the shrine chamber. Her arm was still sore, but she could move it without wincing. Hafsha knelt, turning lengths of bone over in her hands. The daserii hung back, recognizing the ritual casting of morning lots.

Hafsha’s nostrils flared; she looked up. “Pazia. Please sit with me?”

“I don’t want to interrupt …”

“You are known to Iphiri. You are welcome here.”

Pazia knelt opposite the Kivesh, hands on her knees. “Thank you.” She ventured a question, “The people who brought us here yesterday seemed nervous. Is there something out there?”

“The forest is angry with us,” the priestess replied. “It has been this way for some months. Best to tread lightly.”

“Are you seeking guidance for that?”

“It -” Hafsha faltered. “Among other things.“ She changed the subject. “Do you know the language of the bones?”

“Somewhat – but not well,” she admitted. “I know a bit about every game of chance, but I’m more familiar with seer dice.”

Hafsha seemed to relax at this admission. “Close your eyes, then, so they might fall as they will.”

Pazia did so, waiting. The tink against stone echoed in her head. She squinted open one eye to see Hafsha pass her hand over the bones.

“You may look,” the priestess allowed.

Pazia complied. “What do they mean?”

“They mean …” Her lips rippled, not exactly pursing. “That good fortune has come to us as a gift from the gods, without expectation of return.”

Pazia had seen, in the second before the bones were covered, two crossed bones that indicated a trial or test. Hafsha was not being totally honest about the results. Had she and Vanchen walked from one danger into another?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

More editing done on Scylla and Charybdis - well, that's been the case pretty much every week, but this week I banged through a scene I keep dithering about removing. It's a word-game tournament, which Anaea enters on a whim, and which has unexpected consequences in the following chapter ... but a whole chapter of this, even though I keep trimming the events, still seems excessive.

As for mystery project, I've just encountered the reason why I had pondered waiting until later in my character-building to do my main characters: my entries get longer by bits and bobs as I go on. The entry for the prince - who is a semi-major character - is about as long as the entry for the apprentice, who is the main character's sidekick (more or less ...). I don't know whether it's momentum or shifting moods as I work.

I put this question up on my writerly Facebook, and I'll repeat it here. For those of you who read mysteries, a quick poll. Which do you prefer:

1. Books where the murder happens in the first pages (if not on the first page) and the murder is the immediate focus.

2. Books where the murder happens later on (but still early), giving the reader time to identify with the victim, while some connected plot thread provides the tension.

Or ... it doesn't matter as long as it's good. ;-)

I've already decided which way I'm taking my project - just curious.

7/14 - 7/20
Word count: 873 (oy ... ouch)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Since I've been talking about Flow a fair bit lately, here's the opening of another short story in the same setting:

Crouched over his laptop in a dank SleepRite motel somewhere southwest of Cleveland, Mannix Tippet waited for the werewolf to call.

The beast was not expecting Mannix to answer. The room three doors down was temporary residence of the water-witch Tala Blight, who had offered him sanctuary and a cure - as if that could absolve him of the blood he had shed. It had been simplicity to tap the hotel phone system. When the beast called Tala's room to confirm where they would meet tonight, he would not reach her.

Mannix shifted on the bed, starting a minor fugue in the springs, and pulled up his file on Blight. There before him, all the electronic details of her life: her saving habits to her tastes in fiction to how many times she had purchased lavish presents for friends who never reciprocated. Something more precise and useful than magic. Witches relied on it too much; she didn't even own a cellphone.

He knew, without asking questions, that he would kill her. His malice was not for her personally, but it was also immutable. His superiors in the Borderwatch had told him there was informal peace and the supernatural threats both organizations had to face were more important than any difference in methods. The word 'peace' was hollow when a good man like his cousin died on a mission - and the unidentified witch who guided him emerged without a mark on her.

His cousin had drowned.

Mannix had read the official report, which claimed it had been an accident. That meant nothing when a few bytes could erase any truth.

"Take the beast," were his official orders from the Borderwatch. "Use her to find him if you have to, but make sure you can deny it."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

So much work, so little time! I'm currently trying to finish a story for an anthology call at the end of the month, and I realize that at some point, I am probably going to have to put everything else down and cram it if I want to finish and do any editing. As I have previously stated (somewhat tongue in cheek), it would probably be technically cleaner if I didn't have time to edit - but that's the only part of the story that might be better for not being touched. But in part due to a crazy-busy schedule, in part due to four major house issues I've had to wrestle, and in part due to the gaming (I admit it!), my progress for the past few weeks has slowed to a crawl.
Also working on character profiles for my mystery story and ran into a very silly problem. I had initially drawn up the suspects list with the victim's sister as one of the suspects - an issue of greed, as she would become the guardian of the victim's son. Then, when I sat down to write this character, this intense, perfect background wove its way out of me ... and the character was both an orphan and single. Whoops.
I thought about this long and hard, and decided to ditch the sister line. I have enough different motives and characters not to need greed, and the "new" background better fits the victim's style.
7/7 - 7/13
Word Count: 727

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

GoodReads Review: The Leper of Saint Giles

Leper of Saint Giles (Chronicles of Brother Cadfael #5)Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this fifth novel of worldly monk and self-appointed detective Cadfael, the tension of the book hinges first upon a bleak arranged marriage and the young man who is in love with the bride. Murder, when it occurs, adds a new dimension to an already intriguing storyline. There is a rhythm, a pattern and poetry to Ellis Peters' novels, and if that makes certain aspects of the story predictable, the tradeoff is the experience of the book.

Peters is as devoted - if not more - to showing the positive, luminous side of humanity, kind deeds both large and small, and her books brim with people who rise above the gravity of the crime. For me, personally, I sometimes find her take on pure young love to be repetitive, and I'd love to see darker romances ... but the characters in these books are always skillfully drawn and entertaining.

The writing style is poetic and leisurely, prone to details and a certain delicacy in description. It's not for those who prefer a swift, action-packed pace, but is ideal for slow immersion.

One of the best features of this series is that both the broader history - the tumult occurring in England between Empress Maud and King Stephen - and the personal history of Cadfael continue to evolve and change, not in earthshattering ways, but in subtle, organic steps. Shrewsbury can be relied upon both for its stability and for its forward momentum. However, a reader can pick up any of the books and generally feel neither lost nor as if something has been spoiled, should they go back and read an earlier volume.

View all my reviews

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fatecraft out! (Again ;-))

I always forget that Darwin's Evolutions seems to do releases right around midnight ... so here's Fatecraft! Meet Pazia and poor, put-upon Vanchen over at:


Sunday Snippet

Here's a quick piece from a short story I'm working on in the Flow universe. Irena has gotten curious about her new neighbor and gone digging about in the boxes in her garage:

Her fingers scrabbled at a cardboard flap, pulled it free. The scent of mothballs and something else, a little cloying – familiar, but out of context. It was full of snow globes; even the little tap she had given the box caused endless blizzards within. She scooped one out of the box. Instead of the expected scene – a cute snowman or a foreign landmark – there was a little cornhusk doll …

“What are you doing?”

Irena yelped and dropped the globe. It pinged off the concrete. She whirled to face her accuser, feeling the flush burn her cheeks. Moira Alban was a tall woman somewhere in the infinite expanse of middle age with auburn hair and eyes the color of a storm.

“Well, if it isn’t the girl who stole the kiwi,” she continued.

“I did not,” Irena said by reflex, then bent for the snow-globe. “I was just curious …”

She hadn’t seen the globe roll, but somehow, it was at Moira’s feet and the woman cradled it like something infinitely precious. “Do you understand the hazards of curiosity?”

In the chill and the dark of the garage, the words seemed menacing. Irena drew back, her heart pounding with a rabbit’s fear – even though she could easily have dodged past Moira, even though hers was the next driveway over and kids shouted at each other in the yard across the street. The rescue of that scene seemed impossibly far away.

“Killed the cat,” Irena said bluntly, and wished she hadn’t. Her skin prickled, even as her mind shouted at her that it was ridiculous. Neighbors didn’t attack each other for picking through boxes, and the garage door had been open. Surely that was an invitation. And how would Moira hurt her, besides?

Just by looking at her, she somehow knew.

Then Moira laughed, a full, rich sound animating the air. The menace evaporated. “Not the most original answer, but it will do. Since you’ve meddled with my boxes, you can help me carry them inside. Come, child.”

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Over the past few weeks, I've been sucked back into online gaming, which means less writing. It's a vice of mine to which I freely confess - but I also believe it to be valuable as writing practice, as it were, and is especially helpful in the area of clarity. If what you've typed out for your character to do / say doesn't make sense, you find out immediately. Cue conversations that involve characters yelping, "Ack, no - not what I meant!" or OOC (Out Of Character) conferences to straighten things out.

As someone who also GMs - that's GameMaster, for those unfamiliar, and yes, it can be a verb ;-) - it also helps on the plotting side. My experience has been that other players routinely come up with courses of investigation or action that I would never have even thought up if I had been writing a tale out on my own. So I have to rewind, sidestep and work out new responses.

So I'm indulging myself in these dangerous waters for now, with an eye on how much time it takes away from my projects. I'm also reading - Ellis Peters, which means that I tend to describe my life thusly: "Brother Cadfael and I are going to get my car's oil changed." "Brother Cadfael and I have a dentist's appointment."

6/30 - 7/6
Word count: 854 (yes, really ... sigh)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sunday Snippet

More Scylla and Charybdis from a few chapters later. Aboard the cargo spaceship known as the Bleak, she makes the acquaintance of Tobias Risingsun Mortimer, or Flick:

They ate a second meal together and Flick talked about some of his experiences in Defiance, his inventions, his grandmother – who, by process of deduction, seemed to be the only family he had. Anaea pieced together what a Tweaker was: a salvage expert who could give anything that might otherwise have been thrown away a new form and purpose … and an inventor without government sanction or funding. A unique product of the Pinnacle Empire.

She found that by phrasing her questions in an open-ended manner, she could keep Flick talking while sharing little in return. His cheerful spates of information sputtered out occasionally into jokes or questions – but he seemed more interested in what she thought of the crew or hypermentals or philosophical oddities than personal details.

“I mean, supposing they give every child an aptitude test,” he said. “Whatever they turn out to be good at, that’s what they do in life. It’d be efficient, right?”

“How could you possibly design a test that would cover all variables?” Anaea asked.

He crinkled his nose. “Neural mapping on a particular field of tests could account for that – but you’re avoiding the point. Would it be good for people?”

“I don’t know,” she answered. “I’m not an expert -”

“You don’t have to be an expert!” he burst out, gesturing wildly with his fork. “You just have to be human. You just have to have a heart in things.”

She wondered what he would think of the way she had left her home. “I suppose just as a thought exercise -”

The ship shuddered. Anaea’s plate slid out of her grasp and clattered on the floor. An animal bellowed.

An unfamiliar voice came through the overhead. “Captain of the Bleak, you have twenty seconds to surrender. Passengers of the Bleak, the warning shot you have experienced represents only a fraction of our firepower, and your only chance is to prevail upon its commander not to test it.”

The voice faded out, and was replaced by the tail end of creative cursing from the Bleak’s captain. “… frighten the passengers into mutiny, of all the low things -”

“You’re on broadcast,” someone else said.

Anaea rose in a flurry, then stopped, the blood humming in her ears. Pragmatism pulled her panic into stillness. Where would she go? She looked to Flick for some reaction, hoping to see him calm, even bored, but he sat shaking his head like a furry dog.

“Oh, no, no,” he said, “I put most of my take into hard barter -” He seemed to realize only then he was speaking out loud and pressed his lips together into a frustrated line.

“Everyone remain calm,” the captain’s voice continued. “They don’t know who they’re dealing with. The Bleak has outgun and outrun every decent pirate in the sector.”

“What about the indecent ones?” Flick said in a sotto voce. The other two passengers in the mess glared.

The deck pitched. The furniture was secure; nothing else was. Anaea tumbled, landing elbow-first in a corner with the remnants of two or three lunches. Voices yowled – animal or human, it was impossible to tell. Her arm throbbed.

Flick grabbed her wrist before she could stand. “Should’ve known a berth like this wouldn’t have the high-grade inertial dampeners,” he said. “Stay down. Crawl along the fixtures. Though really, where are you going? It’s raining food, what more could you ask for?”

She recognized his manic cheer for worry and swallowed.

Friday, July 01, 2011

"Wet and Wild" Giveaway for July!

To celebrate the acceptance of my contemporary fantasy novel, "Flow," for publication by Double Dragon, I've decided to have "Wet and Wild" Giveaway for the whole month of July. Here are the details:

1. Purchase my novelette (that's a long short, for the uninitiated) "Taming The Weald" from Gypsy Shadow Publishing sometime during the month of July. Make sure you purchase it directly from GSP - the editors have graciously offered to send me the email addresses of those who do, but I won't have a record if you purchase it elsewhere! It can be found under their Moonbeams line, or here:
Taming The Weald. That's the Wild portion ...

2. Sit back, relax, and you will receive two tracks from my studio-produced Celtic harp CD, "Rolling of the Stone." The tracks in question are: "Fingal's Cave / The North Brig of Edinburgh" - that's bridge to you non-Scots - and "Banks of the Spey / Tommy's Tarbukas." That's the Wet portion: two water-themed tunes and their medleyed companions.

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested!