Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Meanderings

I'm currently thinking ahead for Unnatural Causes and coming to the realization that I need beta readers.  I've been asking my writer friends for some tips and advice in that department, but there's one barrier:

Critiques dial my nerves up to eleven.  I also mentioned this on my writer forum some months ago, and a lot of people were bewildered.  They were surprised I still got nerves despite how long I'd been writing; despite the fact that I typically got positive comments on my stories; despite the fact that this group is wonderful for writing tactful, thoughtful critiques.

... none of which really moves the needle on my stress levels.

Why?  It's not because I'm super sensitive:  I want to know what's wrong, not be cossetted into a false sense of security.  I have a good strategy for analyzing critiques and deciding how to apply them.  I don't knee-jerk reject advice or get angry at the people providing it.

No, the person I get angry with is myself.

I am a perfectionist.  When something I've written has flaws, my first reaction is depression.  I tear myself up for being a subpar writer, and how could I not have seen that?  My second reaction is a frantic flurry to Fix It All NOW.  (This plays into that whole strategy above, too:  I've had to force myself not to act on certain advice until I see what other readers think or I've mulled over the best way to make a correction.)  It needs to be flawless, and here's where my tendency to incubate and backburner whirls about and bites me in the butt:  I can't stop worrying at it until I've fixed it.

Also where having a smartphone is more trouble than it's worth:  I can and do get my email at work, where I obviously can't do any editing because I usually am elbow deep in pasta or some such.

The only solution to this, really, is to be gentle with myself.  That, goodness knows, is an ongoing process, and broader than writing alone.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

GoodReads Review: Wildfire by Jo Clayton

Wildfire (Drinker of Souls: Wild Magic, #2)Wildfire by Jo Clayton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second episode of Faan's story, as she searches for her mother, control of her powers, and her own agency separate from the gods that toy with her. It suffers from a problem common to many a Book 2 of an old school fantasy trilogy: it's the middle, and nothing much gets resolved.

Indeed, as with the first book, Wildfire is a product of its time. The reader is plunged into the world with many unfamiliar words and customs and left to find her own way ... much as Faan herself is. There's much rich worldbuilding and some things that aren't quite explained well enough, but it feels like a very real, complex and lived-in place.

Faan has immense powers, but they are handled perfectly: she's a flawed adolescent struggling to make sense of it (without teen angst, mind), and it's as much a curse as a blessing. This is an example of book where being a Chosen One really works, and it feels vital and alive even to a modern reader.

The main problem with Wildfire is that much of the book is taken up with the city-wide conspiracy which tumbles Faan and her new fate-tangled acquaintances into trouble. This would be fine if they were involved in the continuance and untangling of the plot, but instead, the two storylines diverge. I never felt as if I was given any reason to care about the succession struggle going on in the city. I wasn't bored by it, but I wasn't invested in it, either.

That said, there are some great snapshot character portrayals, and the plot thread involving Navarre and his significant other, Kitya, has some really interesting elements. I'm curious to finish the series and see how it all ties up.

View all my reviews

Song Styles

So ... I did it again.

Another few months, another set of car CDs, one of which is themed on word association.  I always enjoy following a chain of thought via song.

Glassheart - Leona Lewis
Nothing Broken But My Heart - Celine Dion
Breaking Dishes - Rihanna
Breaking Ties - Oceanlab
Break Free - Colbie Caillat
Free Me - Emma Bunton
Free World - Kirsty MacColl
Real World - Eisley
Imagination - Helen Reddy
Me and My Imagination - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
The Wizard and I - Wicked soundtrack
You and I - Ingrid Michaelson
Together We - Clannad
Come Together - Echosmith
Happy Together - The Turtles
Happy - Leona Lewis
Sorry - Solas
Something's Going On - September (this connection is embedded in the lyrics; it's a "you'll be sorry" revenge song, and a glorious one)
Something In The Air - Sarah Brightman
Like Lightning - Idina Menzel
Situations Like Lightning - Carrie Newcomer
Thunder - Leona Lewis
Various Storms and Saints - Florence + The Machine
Kisses From The Sky - The Green Children
It's In The Rain - Enya
Wrong End of the Rainbow - Anne Murray
Blue - Chantal Kreviazuk
Clearest Blue - Chvrches
Brighter Than The Sun - Colbie Caillat
Wrong Side of the Sun - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
You Thought Wrong - Kelly Clarkson
Right To Be Wrong - Joss Stone
Right Away - Gloria Estefan
Right Now - The Pussycat Dolls
Nowadays - Chicago soundtrack
Rest of Yesterday - Alana Davis
Miles to Go (Before I Sleep) - Celine Dion
1000 Miles Away - Carrie Newcomer
Many The Miles - Sara Bareilles

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Meanderings

I recently read a post (linked here) that discussed the differences in realism between old school painting and modern artists - the former of whom generally worked from live models, and the latter of whom had photographs to work with.  I encourage reading the whole thing, because it's fascinating, but one of my takeaways is that the difference between real life and painting can also be compared to the difference between real life and fiction.  

Instead of rendering every detail in a photorealistic sense, the writer picks and chooses what to highlight, what to blur.  Instead of capturing a single moment in time, the writer captures the essence of the subject, suggesting details that cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Fiction shows us the world as we think we see it:  after all, when we look at a lake at sunset or an old friend, we don't notice each individual tree or every freckle, but we might notice a cluster of birds or new earrings.  Trying to portray every detail means the important gets buried ... which is actually a technique used now and then to conceal something that will become crucial later on, like a real clue in a mystery plot hidden amongst the red herrings.

There's a sleight of hand in both paintings and fiction.  Verisimilitude is not an exact imitation of the real, but rather something that feels real.  We can step back and analyze it, but the mind rebels.  We want to buy into the fantasy.

And, of course, a different artist can look upon the exact same scene and create a completely different painting (or story).  Our world is filtered through our own personal paint palette.

I'm not much of a visual artist, but I would wager that, if you give five artists a photograph, you will end up with more similar final results than if you set those same five artists loose on a landscape.  A photograph forces us to see reality, at least if we stop and really inspect it; a painting or other artistic rendering shows us the world as the artist wants us to see it.  It's their reality ... their fiction.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Here's to all the dads, granddads, stepdads, foster dads, potential dads, like-a-dads, and any other paternal figures I may have forgotten, including the doggie dads.

When I got my first dog, Nimi (short for Nimue), my Dad was telecommuting.  I don't think he was particularly enthusiastic about having a dog in the house at first.  But ... Nimi would sneak up into his office and curl up in his lap during phone conferences.  She would stay there for hours.  They were buddies.

It's the day I usually make song-related posts, and oddly, a song about fathers didn't immediately come to mind.  But after some thought, I remembered this, which I've always loved:

I'll Go Too - Carrie Newcomer

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Meanderings

It's been a while since I've posted any excerpts, so I thought it was about time.  This is sometimes tricky, because the further I get into writing a novel, the harder it is to find a segment that makes sense without a lot of context and/or doesn't give away significant events in the plot.

This bit from Surgeburnt, though, is one of the past-storylines / flashbacks.  The reader has encountered references to Iskedelis, the non-human inventor who worked with Maren (the narrator) and her crew, but this the first time she's appeared directly in a scene:

Iskedelis' lab spanned most of a single abandoned floor, a labyrinth of improbables with a ridiculous number of reflective surfaces.  She had always loved shiny things.

"Desi!" she called.  “Come over and have a seat.  Would you like some tea?”

I surveyed the collection of slanted, paneled, and protusion-laden surfaces looming around her.  “Where should I …”

“Oh, foolish of me,” she chirped, spinning about with surprising dexterity despite the length of her frame.  Vrin bodies were divided into three segments, and they were most comfortable with the first two segments parallel to the ground.  She picked up a device that looked suspiciously like a toaster to reveal a bench beneath.  “Right here."

Iskedelis was small for her kind:  in first-joint stance, she stood only four feet tall.  Her carapace was a soft, gently burnished silver in hue, dusted with soot-grey spots.  The eyes that sought mine were the faceted compound eyes of an insect, with a saffron undertone I had only noticed at the tenth look.  A lot of Vrin wore sunglasses even indoors, not just to give humans normal to focus on, but because their eyes were unusually sensitive to light.  Iskedelis’ lab was dim, and she had long ago learned she didn’t have to hide around us.

“What kind of tea?” I asked, sitting.

“It’s Liber,” she said, then paused expectantly.

“Never heard of it,” I said.  “But whatever.”

She drooped, her segments slumping together.  “You don’t get it?  Liber … tea.  I laughed when Archer told me.”

“Remind me to smack Archer upside the head for feeding you bad comedy,” I said.  “Whatever kind of tea it is, I’ll have it.”

Iskedelis recovered, scurrying over to her teapot.  Her seven-fingered hands were vastly overqualified for the task, though the lack of a shorter digit sometimes made handling human objects tricky.  She could bend any of those fingers multiple times, but it wasn’t quite a substitute for a thumb.

Infinitely polite even with such news waiting, Iskedelis hustled back with two cups, handing mine over along with the sugar bowl.  She perched back on her haunches, watching me as I took my first sip.

Only once I had set down the cup did she speak.  “Well?  What did you find out?"

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Song Styles

I didn't post last Sunday because, on top of working, I had a lengthy meeting with two fellow harpers.  We run the Cincinnati Harpers' Robin together:  a group of traditional lever harp players who perform a few times a year, with a specialty in Celtic and early music.  Because our harpers have busy lives and varying skill levels, we are only able to rehearse as a group once a month, so we typically start preparing in the summer for our "winter tour":  Christmas through March-aka-St-Patrick's-Month.

We have a healthy repertoire, so we decided to limit our new additions to two, both of 17th century origins.  Here's links to lute versions of both:


We also looked at some of our older repertoire, tunes we had retired for a season or two and are considering bringing back.  This is one of my favorites, an English dance tune from the Playford collection that was actually played in the American colonies.  This will probably date me:  I first encountered this tune playing Sid Meier's Colonization!  In this case, this is an orchestral arrangement of the tune.


Looking forward to another season of good harping.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday Meanderings

So ... that story has found a new way to bedevil me, and I haven't even started to write it yet.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may know the tale I'm talking about.  For anyone else, here's the two-bit summary:

I have what was intended to be a very brief short story about a character who has been selected for an important position.  The pivot of the tale is her discovery of the cost involved.  I initially was dithering how to lay out the reveal and the resolution.  I'm now leaning towards an open-ended story, but to minimize the sense that the tale isn't finished, I'm introducing two other characters in the same boat with her.  Their storylines will resolve, even if the main story is left hanging.

So what's the problem now?  Hang onto your hats ...

Point of view.  I was originally going to write in third person, because the fact that there was only one character already creates a tight focus on her, and (on a non-story-related point) both the novel I'm currently editing and the one I'm currently writing are in first person, so I'm in first-person overload right now.

But now, with two other characters, that dynamic feels like it changes.  Adding them makes her less important, in a third person context, even though her inner thoughts will still be the only ones portrayed.  And this is a story about the character, not about the central idea.  First person would also allow me to use just a touch of the unreliable narrator effect:  this is what the character thinks about herself, but is that true from the evidence she's presented?  The character's personal beliefs and attitude will play strongly into the choice she makes.  The more evidence I give the reader to decide which way she might jump, the better ...

Besides "I'm overloaded with first person," (to which my mental response is kind of, "Well, suck it up, writer.") the main argument to NOT use first person seems to be that to write a deliberately open-ended story in first person feels a bit unfair / gimmicky.  The idea that a first person narrative is an individual telling their story to someone else / the reader is implicit, and ... can a storyteller deliberately omit the ending?  In this case, if the story *were* being told to another person (and I'm not planning on making that frame explicit / direct), the choice she made would be obvious.

I suppose that's a way to resolve it:  "Well, you can see the choice I made."  Hmm ...

Thoughts?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday Meanderings

One of the key parts of a good story is the use of detail:  not exhaustive, generic detail, but the right handful of details to shine light on the heart of the story.  Of course, in direct contradiction to that statement, that's not exactly what I want to talk about.

Rather, I think it's interesting what details a writer chooses to include, both to serve the heart of the story and those that buzz in the background.  One writer might include an elaborate description of a tapestry, either to point up the richness of the court or its long history, or perhaps simple for the pleasure of writing it.  Another writer would snort at these tapestry descriptions as fluff, but think nothing of dropping in a huge description of the food served at the banquet.  A third might focus their worldbuilding attention on flora, both borrowed from Earth and invented for the setting.

Personally, I don't often write about musicians, bakers or chefs, but those elements often sneak into my work in other ways.  Taste and smell are integral to my descriptions; I pay more attention to describing music and musical metaphors than I might to other aspects.  I've used various takes of music-as-magic in stories.  And I know that my other biases and interests influence what happens in my work.  For instance, in Scylla and Charybdis, Anaea finds herself fascinated with physical books.  The book-as-paper has almost vanished from society in that world, but its tactile nature and permanence attracts her.

And ... me, too, if I'm honest about it.

Years ago, I read a writing book for SF/F writers (alas, I can't remember the author or book!) that discussed another writer's series.  The series was a portal fantasy, partly set in the real world, partly in a fairy realm.  The guidebook author said that the parts that fascinated about her were not in the invented realm, but in the writer's depiction of the state in which they lived.  (Again, I so wish I could recall!)

Authors can strategize, pick and choose the details that make it to the final draft, but to a certain extent, I don't think authors can decide which details interest them and they end up focusing on.  It's something that sneaks sidelong to the heart of who they are and what love.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Song Styles

This post contains indirect potential spoilers for Unnatural Causes, a book which is still in the editing process and thus some ways from submission, much less publication ... which makes the odds of remembering an unspecified song reference, out of context, years later, vanishingly tiny.

Still ... you have been warned.

I love a "Yes, but" ending in my stories, and my novels are no exception, so most of them are open to a sequel, even if I haven't specifically planned or even intended to write one.  I have some half-formed thoughts for a sequel to Unnatural Causes, and I know that this would be a fitting song to represent the romance storyline:

Near To You - A Fine Frenzy

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Meanderings

I've been quiet for a while because, almost three weeks ago now, my desktop crashed with a dramatic bellyflop, leaving me to the tender mercies of my old laptop, (mostly) affectionately know as the Frankenlaptop.  It is called the Frankenlaptop for a number of reasons:

1.  It is fused together from spare parts.
2.  It has died multiple times and been reanimated.
3.  It bears a deep and abiding hatred for its master.
4.  It is capable of beating people up.  (It is quite sturdy and heavy.)

I was working on line edits for Scylla and Charybdis (more to report there soon, I hope!), and I was genuinely surprised that my laptop played nicely enough with Track Changes for me to continue through the marks.

So for a while, my routine shifted.  I've avoided intensive web-browsing, such as video watching, and I don't have the programs to do those nifty little graphics for BookQW (Book Quote Wednesday).  I don't have any games installed on the laptop, either, which let me focus on writing ... and all right, binge-watching Orphan Black.

Did this change help with my writing?  Did it grant some new insight?  Nothing earth-shattering or obvious, but I've greatly enjoyed working on my current short story, "Pieces of Her," and my novel, Surgeburnt, feels as if it's flowing more smoothly ... for now.  This book has been a multi-headed beast, which given its fantastic premise, is appropriate.  But writing ebbs and flows, and there are difficult times and smooth times.  Maybe this is simply one of those.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Loyal Dice is now out!

Leading Edge 70 is out with my story, "Loyal Dice" ... Pazia's first adventure. It's been a long and convoluted journey getting this one to print:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Song Styles

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmoms, foster-moms, stepmoms, like-a-moms, expectant moms, even fur-moms ... and all the moms I might have forgotten.

Because it's my day for songs, this one seemed appropriate:

Mom - Meghan Trainor

Monday, May 08, 2017

Monday Meanderings

I feel as if there's a constant tension in my creative process between the old and the new.

As a writer, I'm restless:  always moving on to new worlds, new characters, new ideas.  I love short stories in part because it enables me to take a snapshot of a concept - for instance, a flying city populated by people who believe the world below has been destroyed - and play with the thread for a bit before setting it aside and, like a child with crayons, merrily clutching for the next.  When it comes to editing for short fiction, I have a definite (if not always consistent) tipping point between when I'll overhaul a story and when I feel it's effort better spent on a new work.

I do this with harp, too:  I'm always eager to try new tunes, and I would far rather pick up new sheet music than revive a forgotten piece from my older repertoire.  And cooking:  I try new recipes almost every week.  I rarely go back.

On the other hand, I have a certain nostalgia for old concepts, characters and stories.  I'm an incubator at heart, so these tales that have had years to mellow from their writing have a powerful appeal.  I'm also a perfectionist, so looking at my old flaws, from awkward prose to questionable plot twists to cliche worldbuilding, I want to fix that ... and I'm also intrigued by the cascading changes that stem from making those improvements.

So I find myself caught between the two.  Should I try to salvage every story, or is it all right to decide that it's better to take what I've learned and spend the effort on a new work?  Should I go back and rewrite old novels, or is it better to mine newer, fresher ideas?  Is either extreme lazy and undisciplined?  Which one?  How in thunderation do I know?

And please, don't say, "Choose whichever appeals the most to you."  Oh, if I knew that, I wouldn't continuously dither about it.  Sometimes, it comes down to my sense of what might be more marketable, but that's always a best guess.

It's a work in progress.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Song Styles

When I first started writing Scylla and Charybdis, I put together a soundtrack for it:  songs appropriate to the overall plot / theme, specific characters, relationships, and some choices for the gender elements that were just plain bratty (see:  "There Is Nothing Like A Dame" from the musical South Pacific).  But it's been several years since then; oh, the time between first draft and publication.

Recently, playing some of my newer tunes, it occurred to me that this might be a fitting addition:

Fire Under My Feet - Leona Lewis

It certainly speaks to adversity and hope.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Monday Meanderings

When I say I enjoy creating things and being creative, I mean it in two ways.  The first is the standard usage:  I like the invention, putting together something out of nothing or the mental bits and bobs of everything.  The intellectual and inspiration side.

The second is more fundamental and broader:  I like making things from scratch, combining materials into a result you can experience, whether visually or with your tastebuds.  The physical and tactile side (even typing is tactile), which doesn't necessarily have to have a "creative" component by the typical definition.  Then again, even in the most specifically followed recipe, there's some variance, some trusting of instinct, and nuance learned in repetition.

If there's a weakness in this interpretation for me, it's that I have trouble creating unless I have a purpose for the final product.  Food is easy:  that's going in my belly.  (Or someone else's.)  Stories and novels are intended for submission and the hope of publication.  I find that sometimes, it's hard to motivate myself to finish a harp arrangement unless I have a gig on the books where I can play it.  It's why I don't work much with visual art:  I have a fractal deviation, a drawing, a photo ... now what do I *do* with it?  What purpose does it serve?

Homemade ice cream requires no purpose, of course.  Just a bowl and a spoon.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Song Styles

The narrator in Surgeburnt is what is known as a Cityspeaker:  someone who is in subliminal communication with the embodiment of a city.  For her, the relationship is fractious and grudging.  She accepted the abilities from a dear friend, who transferred them on his deathbed ... and although we see Tahir only in flashbacks, they have the kind of friendship unique to two damaged, broken souls.

There's no romantic element between the pair, but this song is quite appropriate for Tahir, I think:

Colors - Halsey

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Song Styles

I've spoken before about the difficulties of arranging certain tunes for harp, primarily centered around accidentals and key changes.  What exactly does that mean?

Between the notes of the musical scale lie sharps and flats.  The easiest way to visualize this is with a piano:  the sharps and flats are the black keys, while the white keys are the natural notes.  The key signature (a handful of symbols at the beginning of the music) tells you which black keys to hit.  It's particularly easy on my harp, the traditional lever (Celtic style) harp, because the set the key, you flip up the levers.

So what is an accidental?  An accidental is a sharp or flat that doesn't appear in the key signature, or a natural note where (again, according to the key signature) a sharp/flat should be.

The difficulty of this on a lever harp is that it requires flipping a lever, which means taking one hand away from playing.  Not only that, the string is still vibrating, so if you return the lever to its previous position too soon, you get unwanted bonus sound.  The only exception is if the accidental consistently appears throughout the music.  In that case, you can set the rogue lever and leave it.

From a fiction perspective (since this is, after all, a writer's blog), who cares?  Well, any portable harp will almost certainly be traditional style; the pedal style harps played in the orchestra require a framework of a size that makes casual carting-about prohibitive.  Wire strung harps do not have levers, which means that the key has to be set by tuning the instrument before beginning play.  For historical context, levers are a (relatively) recent invention, so nylon / gut strung harps may have the same limitations.  But the actual technical design of levers isn't that complex, so it's possible for a typical fantasy world to have them.

What it boils down to is there are certain songs that are impossible to play on certain harps.  The big joke at my luthier (yes, harp players and harp makers have geeky in-jokes) is that a cross-strung harp is the only harp on which you can play "Flight of the Bumblebee."

Of course, the biggest harp joke is:  "How long does it take to tune a harp?  Nobody knows."

(Because by the time you finish, it's out again ...)

A pet peeve that I've seen in stories is strings that break from play.  Nope.  The amount of pressure being applied upon each string is far more than the average human's ability to pull.  The most likely time for strings to break is while tuning (we've all done that, believe me) or with a sudden drop in temperature.  Wood shrinks, increasing the continuous tension on the string and ... twang.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Some marketing advice will tell you to build a brand:  a tagline, phrase, description of the type of books you write that will attract readers interested in them ... a way of saying, "If you like this element, you'll find it in all my work."  I may not be describing this well, but that isn't really the subject of this post.

I've tried to distill what my brand might be a few times, and every time, I've ended up stumped ... or with a concept that excludes a significant fraction of what I've written or want to write.  For instance, outside of brand, I've typically said that my wheelhouse is secondary world epic fantasy ... but my two novels accepted by publishers to date, Flow and Scylla and Charybdis, are contemporary fantasy and science fiction, respectively, and my current query project, Who Wants To Be A Hero? is, while in the secondary world and epic buckets, also a comedy send-up of both mythology (primarily Greco-Roman, but it ranges) and reality television.

If I can find any pattern in my choice of writing, it's in the things I don't write, though that's a relatively small list:  hard science fiction, due to comfort level; horror; gore, also due to comfort level; and unrelenting bleakness.  Beyond that, my brain seems to take, "Oh, I don't write about X" as a suggestion ...

More than that, I suppose I have a subconscious fear (perhaps not so subconscious now that I'm writing about it) that applying a brand to myself will prevent me from taking the next tangent.  I have an unruly, hyperactive brain.

Is "unruly and hyperactive" perhaps my brand?

... nah.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Song Styles

I mentioned earlier in the month that there are two romance stories in Surgeburnt, one in the past storyline, one in current events.  It provides me a lot of opportunity as a writer to compare and contrast, though my narrator may be in denial about what's good for her.

Both threads involve some element of push-me-pull-you, mostly from Maren (aforesaid narrator).  But sometimes, when you push, the laws of physics push back, and that's the thought between this song on my Surgeburnt playlist:

The Universe Is You - Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Thursday, April 13, 2017

GoodReads Review: Beyond The Woods: Fairy Tales Retold ed. Paula Guran

Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales RetoldBeyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold by Paula Guran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a broad and varied collection of fairy tale retellings and fairy tales inspired - a number of the stories within are not based on a specific narrative, but capture the feel of a certain type of fairy tale. (A lot of these are also among the best stories in the book.) It spans everything from dystopian science fiction to urban fantasy (even historical fiction) to traditional fantasy ... you will probably find a story precisely to your tastes within.

For me, the anthology improved as I progressed within it. There were some stories, particularly in the beginning, that I simply didn't care for - not so much because they seemed to be flawed, but because they were darker than my usual tastes. There are a few others that seem to be paying lip service to the fairy tale, or diverging so far they don't seem to quite fit the theme. There were a few more that I wanted to like, but they just felt hollow or incomplete.

Further into the anthology are the gems: the wonder tales, the stories (like Shveta Thakrar's "Lavanya and Deepika") that fuse fairy tales of one culture with the setting of another, capped off with Tanith Lee's gorgeous scifi piece "Beauty." Ken Liu's "Good Hunting" was a favorite of mine, and a lovely take on technology vs magic.

As mentioned above, this is a huge anthology with a big range. As such, I don't think every story will be a match for every reader, but you will definitely find something to enjoy.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

It's That Time Of Year Again ...

Besides the onslaught of pollen and drowsy thoughts of evil trees, mid-to-late April also means that submissions to the Sword & Sorceress anthology open, and as every year, I've prepared stories for it.  The anthology allows a maximum of two submissions - an initial sub, and if that isn't shortlisted, a second before the end of the submissions period.  I usually manage to get to the shortlist stage, with the second story if not the first, so I always have two in the pocket.

This year, my prepared stories are:

Chains - a shapeshifter on the run encounters a town locked in an astral prison
Speechless - a banished swordswoman returns to the manor of her old adversary; the reasons for her presence are filled by parallel story / flashback

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday Meanderings

A long time ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth ...

All right, not quite that long ago, but for the first few novels my ambitious childhood self wrote, when I started a new draft, I had my printout in my lap ... and I typed, from the beginning, in a brand-new file.  Sometimes, I would transcribe verbatim; other times, I would change, add or omit.  The act of re-typing it forced me to consider everything I was writing.  And it worked well enough - I might go back to it some day - but it was tedious and time consuming.

After that, I moved to editing in-line.  However, I started finding that I wasn't making enough changes:  I was reluctant to remove things because they would be gone forever.  I'd also occasionally have problems with cutting something and later realizing I shouldn't have ... and at that point, I wouldn't have any options for fixing it.

So I started the technique that I use now for novels and certain short stories requiring significant rework:  every time I start a new draft / editing pass, I save a new version of the file.  On a practical level, this allows me to go back if I need to reverse a cut; I can also double-check for consistency between versions.  On a psychological level - probably just as important - I feel more comfortable slashing even large chunks of manuscript.  They still exist:  I haven't destroyed the words forever.

I don't so much kill my darlings as lock them up in a psychiatric ward.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Song Styles

I'm a goal-oriented person, so since I have a Mother's Day performance on the books - a background job at brunch, three hours total - I'm using it as a goal post to finish learning new tunes and revive dusty ones.

Because I love new music and projects, the list a bit lengthy, but here's a piece of it:

Theme from Jurassic Park
The Entertainer (Scott Joplin)
Ancient Mother / The Earth is Becoming Green
The first piece is attributed as "Native American," but since my source is female singing group Libana, I don't have more details.  The latter is a Welsh song.  They sound very strking together.
Wen Ti - Chinese hymn
Scotland The Brave
Doue Lan a Vadeleh - Breton hymn
Somewhere Out There - from American Tail
The Bare Necessities - from The Jungle Book
Ave Maria (Schubert)
Oh, this one is a nightmare.  It's such a pain in the neck (or lower regions) on the harp that even though I want to like it, I just can't do it.  I'm learning it for wedding clients, and I figured this performance was a good excuse to force myself to finish it.
For Good - from Wicked

So a little bit of everything, which is a good description of my repertoire in general.  I certainly have a Celtic focus, but my interests vary widely.  They also stop about fifteen years ago (the last tune), though mainly because I try to avoid tunes that aren't in the public domain unless they are iconic / recognizable.

On a previous Sunday, I discussed tunes I've pondered adding, but they're all vocals, which limits their utility.  Most of what I book are background jobs like this one.

Thoughts welcome, as always.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Monday Meanderings

For me, effective, sustained humor requires the reader to identify with the subject.  I would cite three reasons:  1) it allows you to laugh *with* them; 2) it allows you to anticipate the punchline, which is an important element of comedic timing; 3) it keeps your interest in longer works.  I've read humorous novels that were very funny, but difficult to keep reading because the humor made the characters hard to sympathize with.  I stopped caring about what happened to them partway through, which for me, makes any story - no matter how well written or otherwise entertaining - a tough slog.

I know there are writers who will disagree with this, and I will concur that in short works, humor that doesn't let you engage with the characters and instead mocks them *can* be effective ... but I still much prefer sympathetic humor.

Which brings me to a comment heard at one of the World Fantasy Conventions:  parody only works (or works best; I cannot recall the exact wording) from a place of genuine love for the thing being parodied.  This idea stuck with me, and I really enjoy it.  It makes parody into a sly confederacy with the reader:  here's this thing we both love, but you've got to admit, it's pretty silly, isn't it?

For me, this is why most political humor fails.  Most of the time, those who engage in it make jokes at the expense of the opposite political position ... and in those words, "at the expense," comes the problem.  It doesn't come from an understanding and appreciation of foibles; instead, it points fingers at and mocks the other side.  In that sense, this political humor preaches to the choir; it might get laughter from people with the same alignment, but it turns off the targets.

Honestly, as a personal preference, I don't even like the humor that pokes fun at beliefs opposite mine.  I'm prone to picking apart the semantics ... 

In any event, affection for the target of the parody is why I had so much fun with Who Wants To Be A Hero?  I grew up with Greek myths (which says disturbing things about my childhood) and devoured other mythologies ... and yes, a certain brand of reality television is my guilty pleasure.  I love the skill-based competition shows:  Top Chef, Project Runway, Face-Off, even America's Next Top Model, though the drama gets to be a bit much with the last one.  They provide fertile ground to vent my frustrations ... do it with a wink and a smile.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Song Styles

This week, I'm asking for your input / help!  In previous posts on this subject, I've shared with you that I make car CDs for my drives.  I organize them around themes, since I find that more satisfying than just a random collection of favorites.  I've done themes from "Garden" to "Sum Of Our Parts" (various songs referencing body parts, which sounds odder than it is) to "Colors," and, of course, my word-association collections.  I tried a "Life Story" sequence, but I didn't care for it.

However, lately I've had some trouble coming up with themes that please me; it's too vague, or I might not have enough songs, the topic drifts, or the appropriate songs end up one-note.  That's where you come in ...

I'm looking for suggestions for topics / themes for my car CDs.  A CD fits approximately 20 songs, give or take depending on length.  So - any ideas?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Some of you may already know that I'm a self-professed Comma Queen, and I love other forms of punctuation, too ... probably too much.  I love the flourish of a dash, an ellipsis, or stringing together sentences with semi-colons and colons.

To me, punctuation does more than simply inform the grammatical composition of the sentence; it alters the rhythm and flow.  As a musician, I feel these patterns even if I don't express them consciously.  It's in editing that I might go back and look logically at whether I want the effect in this spot or that, whether this sentence works better as a long, breathless string or short beats.

So think of a sentence, ended with a period, as a phrase in music.  The insertion of a dash is a sharp staccato note followed by a rest - an abrupt cessation of sound.  For a harp player, this is a significant distinction because the harp rarely falls completely silent:  unless muted, notes continue to ring.  To create a quick "burst" of silence requires laying your hands on the strings to stop them.

An ellipsis, on the other hand, is a rest without muted strings or the dot in a tied note:  a small marker that indicates to hold out the end of the thought, to suspend it before continuing to the conclusion.

Semi-colons almost work in reverse; they take two separate phrases and unify them.  In this case, it's compression rather than extension.  Musically, for the harp, I think of fingering.  Part of what makes a phrase unified on the harp is that the hand remains engaged; at any one time, there is at least one finger on the strings.  Coming off at the end of the phrase creates a break to the ear.  But there are times when it's necessary or appropriate to come off mid-phrase, and that ... is your semi-colon.

(It is not lost on me that I am using the punctuation I am rambling about sprinkled throughout the above.)

Another incidental music connection:  if you're familiar with notations for vocal music (and wind instruments as well, I'm told), there is a symbol that indicates where one can take a breath.  And ... what a coincidence ...

It looks like a comma.

Of course, like any other writing tool, phrase, etc, overuse reduces the impact.  I've become more sensitive to my (over)use of these punctuation marks, and I'm starting to take a hard look at when they are truly necessary as I edit.  To all those who have waded through my past pauses, either as reader or editor, I tend my sincere apologies.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Song Styles

My novel-in-editing, Unnatural Causes, is a murder mystery:  the death of a prominent and controversial mage by her apprentice and familiar.  The familiars in this world are extraplanar beings, and their status is uncertain:  indentured servants at best, slaves at worst.  I put two themesongs in my notes to play off their attitudes towards the world around them.  The first is hard, driving and rebellious:

Are We All We Are - P!nk
(Warning:  language)

It also has some relevance to narrator Vil, who personally is defiant and impatient.

The second is more aspirational, a hope for peace:

The War Is Over - Sarah Brightman

But with their future in doubt, their primary advocate murdered, what truly is in store for the familiars?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Well, !@#$%^.

I've never used profanity much in my fiction, though at least in part, it's because I write a lot of secondary world fantasy and I don't feel all of our modern cursewords translate very well.  In a world with strong religious beliefs and where sex outside of marriage is social taboo, there are some that can make the transition (you know the ones I'm talking about), but oftentimes, it's better to use something more directly evocative.  Inventing unique profanity is tricky, and it's difficult to please everyone, so I tend to go for broader exclamatory phrases.

Even in my contemporary or SF stories, though, I tend to use it sparingly.  People who critiqued the opening chapters of Flow commented on Kit's tendency to use "Holy schnitzel," telling me that I didn't need to sanitize for a young audience, but that was never the idea:  it's simply a verbal quirk of hers.  Hadrian drops a few well-placed words, but even at that, they're few and far between ... and I just checked now, and there is quite literally *one* swearword in the entirety of Scylla and Charybdis.  (Unless my editor asks me to put in more cussing as we go.)

Am I prude?  Not hardly.  I work in a profession - culinary - where profanity is often seasoning as liberal as salt.  It's not even an expression of conflict:  it just speckles the dialogue, and when directional, it's almost invariably aimed at an inanimate object.  We talk to our equipment and our food, and it had better behave.

But I keep two separate rules in mind when it comes to profanity:

Every time you use a particular word or punctuation (exclamation points come to mind), you decrease its impact.  If every other sentence ends with ... ! then it becomes invisible.  This is part of why "said" vanishes so effectively in dialogue.  It's a word that you want to disappear, to be recognized as a handle but to stay out of the way.  I have an ongoing problem with the word "subtle."  It's such a fun modifier to use in unexpected places ... but in repeated use, it becomes expected.

The second rule applies more specifically to profanity:  it looks much dirtier on the page than it sounds in real-life dialogue (or even movie dialogue).  If rendered literally, real dialogue might be crowded out by the four-letter adjectives.  It would make a character seem incoherent, not impassioned.  To create the illusion of reality, you actually *need* less profanity.

The difference is, in part, that the spoken word flits quickly out of the brain within a few seconds, but the written word is visually on the page and at least in the reader's peripheral vision for however long it takes to read the full page.  It lingers longer and has a bigger impact.

I'm put in mind of listening to Orson Scott Card speak many years ago about his experience writing for comic books.  He had written a script that involved a character being tortured.  The artist pointed out that it would be too intense for readers because unlike a written description, the image would remain there, permanent, on the page.

In this case, of course, the "image" is the written word, carrying much stronger than the imagined reality.

So as far as efficacy and verisimilitude ... a little goes a long way.  Maren, the narrator of Surgeburnt, has something of a foul mouth, but I'm still watching to make sure that it doesn't weigh on the narrative.  When an expletive does come into play, it does exactly what it's supposed to.

Of course, this has the potential to get me into trouble as the majority of my writing is still clean or almost completely clean, so I have to remind myself to check it before I submit to a family-friendly market, just on the off-chance ...

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Song Styles

And now for something a little different ...

As mentioned in my bio and occasional passing in these posts, I also play the traditional lever harp - sometimes misnomered as the Celtic harp.  While most of my repertoire is in that realm (Scottish, Welsh, Irish, etc), I do also play some popular tunes, spanning everything from Andrew Lloyd Webber to a smattering of Disney tunes (courtesy of a princess event last year) to the Theme from Jurassic Park.

I've been thinking about adding another vocal to my repertoire in an of-the-moment vein.  Obviously, the possibilities are endless, but I'm trying to find something that might be recognizable to listeners, so more left-field ideas like Love Is A Camera have been shelved.  (Though an Angie Baby / Camera medley would be excellent, simply because I think of the two songs as describing the same woman ...)

I would love your opinions!  Personal favorites here?

So in no particular:

1.  Chasing The Sun - Sara Bareilles
Brave may be more famous, but for me, this is the stand-out track of The Blessed Unrest (though I Choose You comes a close second).  It's gorgeous lyrically and musically - that note at the end of the line, "sun," is unexpected and perfect. 

2.  Try - Colbie Caillat 
Admittedly, this is probably the most recognizable song on this part of the list.  I adore the message, and the vocals are very suited to my singing style.

3.  Close Your Eyes - Meghan Trainor
The grammatical quirks of this one make me wince a bit, but the lyrics overall are lovely and the melody is right in my vocal wheelhouse.  For whatever reason, I had the very clear idea to start a capella with the bridge ("Show the world the you inside, raise your voice and close your eyes ...").

4.  She Used To Be Mine - Sara Bareilles
Yes, I know, Sara again.  This particular tune is from the Waitress musical, it is almost perfect for harp, and if I can get through the darn thing without tearing up ... it gets me right in the gut.

5.  Grigio Girls - Lady Gaga
I'm quite fond of this one, and the main appeal is that I hope to be performing at wineries at some point, so ... of course!  There's a small issue of either editing or omitting the bridge because of profanity.

6.  The Writer - Ellie Goulding
Do I even have to explain part of the appeal here?  Heartbreakingly gorgeous.  Another one I'd be a little nervous about getting through without choking up.

Picking up the pace a bit with two ideas that are a bit more on the bratty, "how much can I get away with?" side ...

7.  No - Meghan Trainor
... seriously.  It's primarily composed of vocal cadence and beat, which is very easy to achieve on the harp.  I just want to make people sputter in surprise.  Is that so wrong?

8.  Black Horse and The Cherry Tree - K.T. Tunstall
You probably know this song, even if you think you don't.  The real key to this one is to keep it fast; the lyrics practically turn tongue-twister at tempo.  Again, though, the backdrop is mostly rhythmic, which would be (comparatively) easy to knock out with chord patterns.

That's all, folks.  The real problem, of course, is I keep thinking of new options - there are eight here, and that doesn't even include older pop tunes I love - so I can't seem to commit to one enough to dig in ...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Meanderings

When it comes to my sensibilities as both a writer and a reader, I don't consider myself much of a romantic.  In fact, you might call me something of an anti-romantic.  I have trouble with a lot of common romance tropes, whether it be simple dislike or blank disbelief.  Personally:

I'm very suspicious of love at first sight.  I don't think it's a reliable foundation for a relationship.  Does it work out sometimes?  Absolutely, but for me, it's a matter of chance; that instant spark isn't some magical signal.  For me to be convinced, the first-sight attraction has to be followed up quickly by genuine signs of compatibility.

Obviously, as a fiction writer, sometimes I've had to fudge this, because it's very hard to write a short story with any kind of romance that isn't relatively rapid.  But I do like to play with the opposite:  when the "love at first sight" turns out to be built over quicksand, and one of the partners is something much darker than they seem.

I don't care much for Alpha heroes ... unless they're paired with equally Alpha females who don't take direction.  In fact, I had a long string of projects where the main romantic interest (male) was mild-mannered and quiet - the virtual opposite of the assertive heroine.

Does love conquer all?  Maybe.  Sometimes.  Should it?  Maybe not.  There's a point at which sacrificing for love becomes selfish, even destructive to the world around you.  In fact, in of one of my potential novel projects, one of the main plotlines is based around the villain's (very genuine) romance story, and how everything else starts going off the rails around it.

If there's one romantic plot point that makes me cringe every time, it's when one of the lovers has to give up a cherished career or even their whole world to be with their beloved.  (Portal fiction is particularly guilty of this.  Outlander, I'm looking at you.)  Maybe it's because I am a compulsively creative person, but if you told me that the only way I could be with a significant other was to give up writing, well ... there's plenty of fish in the sea, thank you.

When it comes to people who pine after an unrequited love, continuing to pursue your would-be love interest doesn't mean you're "not giving up."  It means you're stalking them.  And what if you succeed?  Do you really want to be loved by someone who had to be convinced?  To me, that's a really depressing thought.

But beyond all this doom and gloom, what do I like in a love story?

Friends whose long-term commitment and understanding deepens into something more.  I am a sucker for this kind of story, where the romance is based on a deep trust and connection between the characters ... where love is the very last piece of the puzzle.

Love that is truly selfless ... even beyond the love itself.  Characters who will walk away if that's what is needed to preserve the other person.  "I love you enough to let you go."

Banter.  Characters who battle wits and even might seem as if they're fighting from the outside ... but they do it from a position of deep security and trust in each other.

Characters who know that love means sharing secrets.  This may clue you into the fact that I hate the tired old romantic comedy trope of the hero/ine who has a secret she's afraid to share, causing strifle and turmoil when it comes out prematurely.  It's why I cheer every time I see a character steel his or her nerve and tell the object of their affection.  Can you really love a person without loving all of them?

So maybe I am a romantic, after all - just a very particular type of romantic.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Song Styles

As mentioned before, I have an old car with no capacity to pair with my phone, MP3 player, Pandora account, etc.  I don't like playing the radio because I don't know what I'm going to get, and for me, unfamiliar music while I'm driving is distracting.  So what do I do?  I put together themed CDs.

One theme I like to do every time is word association:  moving from the title / concept of a song to another, to another ... sometimes by a keyword, sometimes by related concepts, sometimes by opposites, and sometimes by something else entirely.

Here's my most recent sequence:

Sweet As Whole - Sara Bareilles (... if you look this song up, do not play it at work)
America's Sweetheart - Elle King
New Americana - Hasley
A New England - Kirsty MacColl
Wonder English - Eisley
It's Not The Things You Say - DJ Tiesto
Say Goodbye - Katharine McPhee
Don't Say Goodbye - Paulina Rubio
Bye Bye - Alana Davis
By Chance - Sophie Ellis Bextor (... okay, this one is weak.  Gimme a break, I really wanted this song on my list)
Lucky Me - Anne Murray
Trouble for Me - Britney Spears
Trouble - Leona Lewis
Queen of Peace - Florence + the Machine
Army - Ellie Goulding
Rangers - A Fine Frenzy
Warrior - Kimbra
Warpath - Ingrid Michaelson
The Road's My Middle Name - Bonnie Raitt
Last Name - Glee Cast version
Guitar String / Wedding Ring - Carly Rae Jepsen
Marry The Night - Lady Gaga
I Do - Idina Menzel
I Do What I Love - Ellie Goulding
I Do Not Hook Up - Kelly Clarkson
No - Meghan Trainor
I Don't Need A Man - The Pussycat Dolls
MANiCURE - Lady Gaga
Medicine - Shakira
Aftertaste - Ellie Goulding (... yes, I just got Delirium and I am deliberately trying to get a lot of it into this list)
Fade Away - Celine Dion
Disappear - Anna Sahlene
Already Gone - Kelly Clarkson
Lost Then Found - Leona Lewis
Find Me Here - Eisley
Here - Alessia Cara
Here With Me - Michelle Branch
Love is Here - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Now Is Here - Clannad
By Now - Sarah Brightman
Right Now - The Pussycat Dolls
Wait It Out - Imogen Heap
Best For Last - Adele

Monday, March 06, 2017

Monday Meanderings

As a writer, I enjoy writing exercises, story sparkers, and fiddling around with structured forms.  They're a different way to come at the creation of a tale; they change up your routine; they even force you to do problem-solving when you're trying to fit disparate pieces together.  In sum:  they're good for your brain!

Here's a self-designed exercise I like to use.  Nothing too fancy, just a structure to eke out a plot:

The Wordhop - come up with a list of words through whatever means you like.  15 - 20 is a good starting point.  You could poll your friends for favorites (... some of you may have seen me do this).  You could an entire list of words that start with the same letter.  You could browse the various dictionary sites and grab their word of the day for a week, though see my caution below.  Jumble the list.

Then ... well ... you start writing.  In the first hundred words, incorporate the first word on your list.  The second hundred words should contain the second, and ... you get the idea.  The words don't have to be equally spaced out; that's a way to make yourself crazy.  My word processor has a running tally, so it's easy to keep track.

When you run out of words, keep writing as much as you need to finish the story at hand.  (You could try "expert mode" where the story has to end where the words do; being a long-winded sort, I've never done this.)

Tips on the words - you want them to be interesting enough to require some thought to incorporate, but not so weird that they stick out like a sore thumb.

Proof of concept:  Saplings (Mindflights, July 2011), in which the list of words was based on the letter H, as was the name of the protagonist; The Winter Queen (Golden Visions 2010).

Here's a couple more I've played with ...

Sentence String - this time, the starting fuel is a list of random sentences.  5-6 is a good number.  I've polled friends or chosen randomly from books / trunked stories.  Tense and pronouns can be changed, but otherwise, the sentence should remain intact.  Play with the sentences; shuffle them around until connective threads start to suggest themselves.

Proof of concept: ... nothing published to point to, because these invariably run untenably long for me.  Can't promise the same thing won't happen to you!

Picture String - using a randomizer on an image site, pick 5-6 pictures.  In this case, they stay in the order originally generated.  Now I admit, I had the most success with this when the art venue Elfwood was young:  it was relatively easy to get a sequence of good quality fantasy art.  Depending on your source, you may want to throw out things that just don't fit.  You have two options from here:  build the plot as a line from picture to picture or start with whatever concept / thought pops into your head with the first and dive in, changing pictures as the mood strikes.

Proof of concept:  my very first publication - The Dreamweaver's Dispute (Leading Edge).

Finally, a plug:  I love the book The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley.  Besides being full of fun and engaging prompts, it's the only exercise book I've worked with where the majority of exercises can easily be worked in a secondary fantasy concept.  Too many exercise books have very contemporary prompts; they can be converted, but sometimes that takes the spark out of the prompt.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Song Styles

Earlier in the year (is it already March??), I commented that Sissel's Beyond Imagination was a song I adored, but couldn't find a character for ... turns out, I lied, because I had attributed it to Ioweyn, the heroine / prize of Who Wants To Be A Hero? - my novel-in-queries, which is best described as what would happen if skill-based reality television competition was invented by a Greco-Roman pantheon of gods.  I was riffing off my personal vices in this TV genre:  Project Runway, Top Chef, FaceOff, etc.

In any case, this necessarily involved a fairly large cast of characters, so I had to come up with quick ways to make them distinct, both for me and for the reader.  On the former front, I gave them each an encapsulating themesong.  For Paraneus, the blowhard self-proclaimed "perfect hero," I had to go with a classic:

C'est Moi - Camelot Soundtrack 

The cap on this, of course, is the backdrop of him riding across the countryside, singing this at the top of his lungs.  Pretty much a perfect snapshot of what I wanted for the character.

Bonus song of the day:  shout-out to everyone who doesn't (or simply can't!) color between the lines.  As a writer / creative who marches to the tune of ... a flute, I love the message.  As a harper who is almost pathologically of playing exactly what's on the sheetmusic ... I also enjoy the lyrics on a literal level.

My Song - Alessia Cara

Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Meanderings

Oh, the dynamic duo.

The archetypal fantasy novel is a cast of thousands; others succeed by focusing on a single character or thread.  As satisfying as the lone hero(ine)'s adventures can be, however, there's added dimension when they have a counterpart, ally, friend or even adversary to provide another perspective.  Get into three main characters and you start to have exponentially more combinations of plot and interaction, but two allows greater variety without diffusing focus.  It's also a great opportunity for compare and contrast.

Even if the characters have a common goal, they come at it from different angles and seek different rewards from its resolution.  Or two characters may mean two separate plotlines, dovetailing in location, antagonists, events, and/or origins, but not always intertwined.

From a practical standpoint, it gives the writer an excuse to have the characters talk to each other - or talk around each other - rather than weighting down the narrative with lengthy internal monologue.  Even when one (or both) aren't the sharing type, characters convey a lot of information in what and how they choose to evade.

As a writer, I'm a fan of the duo.  Flow shares roughly equal scene-time between Kit and Chailyn, though it is primarily Kit's story.  Scylla and Charybdis is definitely Anaea's sole story, but throughout, she always has a traveling companion to lean on. 

And the character I discussed in my Song Styles post yesterday?  Well, confessedly, the only other details I have right now for that potential novel is a rough idea of her traveling companion, an introverted dreamshaper ... but the collision of those two people is enough to suggest a rich stew of possibilities.  For me, it's a tantalizing spark that could some day become a novel.