Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Happy Holidays to all!  The days are (slowly) getting longer and sunlight is on its way.

Working on the edits for Scylla and Charybdis while writing Surgeburnt has made me aware of the similarities under the hood.  Both are very different worlds with even more diverse characters and plots, but - of course! - they come from the same mind, so some of the sensibilities and the assumptions that lead to world developments are similar.

One of those has made me very aware that I'm a bit obsessed with the book as a physical, unchanging entity - paper and ink.  I'm still a devoted reader of paper books:  I don't own an e-reader and will read on-screen only when absolutely necessary.  This is also partly why anthologies are my favored source for short fiction reading:  printed magazines have become increasingly rare, but anthologies have, if nothing else, a solid niche with most major publishers.

In the first draft of Scylla and Charybdis, I had no clear thought of giving Anaea an interest in books:  it was something that developed in the writing process.  In later drafts, and especially now as I'm working with an editor, I've been pushed to truly examine the allure.  Is it sensory, tactile, an experience beyond the words on the page?  Is it the fact that the printed page cannot be altered - at least, not in one specific volume?  A digital file can easily be altered.  A book, packed away safely, will have the same words, the same font, the same look centuries later.

In the world of Scylla and Charybdis, bookcraft is a fringe endeavor - much like people today enjoy constructing period costumes and trying to replicate authentic instruments.  It's a way of preserving the integrity of history.

As I did my worldbuilding for Surgeburnt, I knew I wanted to have ink-and-paper books in that setting as well - but perhaps more prominently.  I followed a similar line of thought, the idea that the virtue of a book is the fact it doesn't change to whim and fashion.  In the case of this setting, entertainment - television, movies, etc - became increasingly user-customized, with consumer input bombarding the system.  The job of the scriptwriter became to incorporate these whims into divergent storylines.

Much of history, though, involves backlash - a process of thesis and antithesis, finally resolved in synthesis.  (I used this idea in other parts of my worldbuilding as well.  For instance, in some ways, the Empire in Scylla and Charybdis has regressed from our current societal tendency to be constantly connected.  Being hard to reach / contact became a sign of status.)  In this way, people in the Surgeburnt world came back to books.

... and thus, the Order of Librarians rose to prominence.  A small group associated with the Library of Congress, their initial purview was merely preservation.  When the market demand for printed books resurged, they were ideally poised to meet the need and expand across the country.  They also formed a retrieval department tasked with hunting down and acquiring antique volumes by any means necessary.

With all of this, you might think I'm vehemently opposed to digital media.  I'm not:  I love the possibilities of internet research, and the fact that you can "shelve" a book in multiple categories offers huge possibilities for readers ... among so many other advantages.  But I think a case may be made, on the other hand, that I am obsessed with the paper book.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

GoodReads Reviews: Fight Like A Girl - ed. Roz Clarke

Fight Like A GirlFight Like A Girl by Roz Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From the exotic depths of alien space to futuristic slums, from down-to-earth fantasy realms to those embraced by gods, this anthology features female fighters in all their forms. The worldbuilding and action scenes are highlights of these tales; the fights are tense and engrossing, and the worlds feel authentic and lived-in. (There were a few cases where the worldbuilding became heavy; too much information that didn't always contribute. I wondered if these were stories that attached to a novel or larger series.)

The stories range from traditional arcs to vignettes - snapshots of a day in the life that (generally) resolve in satisfying fashion, regardless of loose ends. A couple didn't work for me because they felt as if they ended too early: I was unhappy not having the answer to the question, "What next?" There were also a few brilliant twists.

Another facet of this anthology I appreciated was the organization of the stories. The first story shows the female character a distance; the second takes the reader closer ... and then we step into the skin of the lady protagonist. It's a great journey.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 19, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Here's a thought about experience, change and skills through the lens of roleplaying games, but applied to writing and life.

A few years ago, I was a staffer on an online roleplaying game.  For those not familiar with RPG systems, the one involved here is point-based:  everyone gets a certain number of points to build their character, buying skills (diplomacy), advantages (wealth), attributes (strength, intelligence), powers and other aspects.  As the game progresses, the character is awarded more points to spend so the player can develop them.

So the staff of this game decided to have the game jump forward four years.  I argued hard for characters to be awarded a lump amount of points to reflect their development.  I was vetoed because the other staffers were concerned about character inflation.  They pointed out that people could rebuild / restructure their current points.  We finally compromised to allow people to spend a small amount of future points ...

But the discussion stuck with me.  Was it realistic for an individual not to improve over four years - merely shift their focus?  If someone focused on studying archery and fencing, would their academic skills degrade?  To what extent do we get better, and to what extent do we simply move our points around?  Can we really do it all, given enough time, or do we start dropping balls?  Even if we find that balance, does the universe find ways to keep us within our point limits?

For the matter of that ... when do we level up?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Song Styles

Even my comic zombie novel(la) has a themesong!  Albeit with tongue firmly in cheek:

It's Good News Week 

Just about says it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Holiday Reading

Looking to give the gift of reading to a friend, relative or enemy?  (Hey ... who am I to judge?)

Consider my contemporary fantasy novel Flow, either in electronic format or print.  Flow follows two characters:  teenaged Kit, bitter in the wake of the death of her mother and unable to control her budding powers; and Chailyn, a water-witch raised in the underwater Vale and only now sent to the surface for her first mission.  The pair team up to uncover who killed Kit's mother and find more than they bargained for:  predatory fairies, a rival organization to the water-witches known as the Borderwatch, and secrets buried in both their pasts.  They also find Hadrian, a bizarre young man with hyper-accelerated perceptions who invites himself along on the journey.

Looking for something shorter and even seasonal?  Try X-Mas Wishes ... 

Or enter the far-flung reaches of space with Taming The Weald.  (No holiday connection.)

How about a few anthologies with some fantastic authors and one hack?  (That'd be me.)

Unburied Treasures
Light of the Last Day

For fans of Celtic music, Renaissance music, or just good ol' music-music, I offer my CD, Rolling Of The Stone, through my website, and can autograph the inside cover if desired.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Meanderings

Years ago, I attended the Somerset Folk Harp Festival (one of the first) - not actually a festival so much as a professional conference with educational sessions, vendors, and evening concerts.  It was a wonderful event, full of positive energy and possibilities.

(There is a writing-related thought here.  There's always a writing-related thought.)

One session that sticks out in my mind was taught by Kim Robertson, one of the more famous names in the field.  The topic was performance:  all aspects of playing before an audience that didn't involve the harp, from dealing with nerves, to proper posture, reacting to mistakes, and talking to the audience.  Three things stayed with me.

First, the audience is on your side.  They want to enjoy the music; they want you to succeed.  I like to think this applies to writing, as well:  our expectations may be higher, our reading time at more of a premium, but we still pick up every book hoping to be delighted and entertained.

Second, Kim suggested that rather than starting with a verbal introduction, you go right into playing a tune.  This has become my practice.  I'm very shy, so starting with a comfortable tune is far more relaxing than speaking.  What's the writing analogue of this?  Don't start with a description of a sunset, I suppose.

Third, humor is wonderful, but there's really only one safe topic that you can joke about without the risk of offending someone:  yourself.  Self-deprecating humor puts your listeners at ease.

And isn't that true in fiction as well?  Some of the best, most memorable humor comes from the core of character and humanity - from (imaginary) people being themselves.  Writers can poke fun at their own inventions in a way that lets the reader be free to laugh ... even if that invention is sometimes a veiled version of reality.

Humor based in pop culture fades and becomes dated, then incomprehensible; humor based in politics often requires the reader to share the author's outlook.  But the humor of characters colliding is universal and can enliven any performance.

So authors:  make fun of yourselves, or at least your characters.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Song Styles

The editing of Unnatural Causes goes on hiatus again as I bury my nose back into Scylla and Charybdis, but I still have my fantasy-mystery novel on the brain.  The narrator and main character, Vil, is an enchanter's familiar in a world where familiars are being summoned from another plane.  As an outsider, many human customs seem incomprehensible to her ... including polite falsehoods, political lies, and other varieties of not speaking what one thinks.  And oh, she does.

This cheerful (and very 80s) song was first on my list of themesongs for her:

Orange Express 

"A toda maquina," at least as far as my research indicates, basically means "full speed ahead" or "at full speed," which is very accurate for this character.  (Spanish speakers, feel free to elaborate / correct!)