Thursday, December 21, 2006


"The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw." -- Havelock Ellis

"If her DNA were off by one percent, she'd be a dolphin." -- Gregory House from House, M.D.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sad Tidings ...

The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The gravesite was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very smart cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still, as a crusty old man, was considered a roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; two children, John Dough and Jane Dough; plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart. The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

(Not sure what the original source for this was any more - found this in my old received email. Enjoy!)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Two Awesome Words

Quoting here in both cases:

Telesthesia: sensation or perception received at a distance without the normal operation of the recognized sense organs.

Synesthesia: A condition in which one type of stimulation evokes the sensation of another, as when the hearing of a sound produces the visualization of a color.

The first is, of course, just a fancy way of saying "extrasensory perception," but I like the flow of the word and the "formal" feeling of it. The second - well, I'm fascinated by synethesia in general. In fiction, it's a fascinating way to convey sensation.

Monday, December 11, 2006

First of (my) kind

I just sold my first fantasy poem - a pantoum - to The Fifth Di... This is only my second attempt at submitting poetry, so I'm excited to find it a home.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Nothing in Particular Quotes

"Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." Mark Twain

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'" - Isaac Asimov

"I think laughter may be a form of courage." -- Linda Ellerbee

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Making Cliches Work For You

Fantasy is built on archetypes, where the fine line between subconsciously resonant and cliched is a difficult one to discern. When chosen with care and deliberation, however, even a cliche can work to the storyteller's advantage. I've just finished two books, surprisingly enough in sequence, that handled this in a masterful fashion: Dave Duncan's The Magic Casement and John Moore's The Unhandsome Prince.

The first book is a "serious" fantasy story, though the first few chapters (and they are long chapters; ten in the entire book, subdivided) are light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek - partly to illuminate the mindset of the young characters, partly to pave the way for the changes to come. And of course you know - instantly - that the prophecy will come true, that the stableboy will get the girl, that the charming and "perfect" young man is not all he seems. Freed by that framework, the joy of the story is discovering how that will come to the pass. (Warning: by the end of the first book, only #3 has been answered!)

I call the first book serious because Unhandsome is definitely not: a down-to-earth comedy that pays homage and loving satire to the conventions of the genre. In this vein, long description or background would be inappropriate, but Moore manages to convey sympathetic characters and a compelling plot despite a lack of intricate detail to invest in. Some of Moore's details as to how a fantasy world would really work are great fun. For instance, the Assassin's Guild isn't an actual guild, but instead a front populated with royal guards. Anyone who comes in trying to hire one is roughed up and told to stay out of trouble (until word gets around).

Neither of these books would work without the implicit, sometimes instinctive understanding of the cliches or archetypes. They work with them consciously, giving us a "home" to start from and then launching off in unexpected directions.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hour by Hour

A surreal fantasy mystery, Hour By Hour is about a priestess of fate and time who attempts to unravel a thorny question for a foreign monarch ... and it's sold! Abyss and Apex will be printing HbH in their second or third quarter 2007 issues.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Five Ways

How many different ways can you write the same scene? Given a specific scenario from my trusty 3 AM Epiphany book and tasked with writing five different takes, I came up with the following. This actually is a fantasy excerpt - I've used Sophie and the Mermaid in exercises before - but you can't tell here. Potentially if I went on and he turned into a wolf or somesuch. ;-) Starting with "normal," moving to staccato and ...

Sophie moved across the Mermaid Café on lifted toes, looking for a spot to sit. It was unusually crowded for a Tuesday. She took a step forward and hit the edge of a potted plant. The tray jerked in her hands as she tumbled forward. Her foot hopped ahead to support her at the last second, and she breathed a sigh of annoyed relief. She noticed a dapper blond man seated at one of the few tables that wasn't crowded, his eyes fixed on her. As soon as he saw her looking, he flashed a broad smile and nodded to the seat across from him. Sophie approached with care: if he was patronizing the Mermaid, he was more than he seemed.

The Mermaid, Tuesday, jammed. Sophie on her toes, scanning for a seat. A sudden encounter with a potted plant - a snap of the tray - and freefall before her foot came down with a crunch. An exasperated sigh. The sense of eyes on her ... a dapper blond man. Isolated, a man alone, but smiling as he noticed her. He nodded to the seat across from him. Sophie advanced carefully; she knew there was something under his surface.

Sophie sidled and ducked through the Mermaid Café, sometimes strategically popping onto her toes to look for an island in the chaos. Tuesday, usually a sleepy day, burst at the seams. She lost track of one shuffle-step and collided with a florid vases of dyed roses. Momentum sent her spinning forward, the tray gyrating in her hands. Her foot slid, accidentally balletic, to catch her fall. She huffed out an exasperated sigh. Then her eyes lighted on an elegant blond man, all signature lines; his lips broadened into a smile as he bowed his head, acknowledging her and inviting her to sit in the same motion. Sophie picked her way over diffidently, wary, knowing that the Mermaid's patrons didn't fish in normal ponds.

It happened something like this, mid-day roundabouts the middle of the week, with the Mermaid Café about ninety percent full. Somewhere between one step and the next, Sophie slammed a foot forward to balance herself, bumped into something in a pot that might have been a fern, might have been roses, and nearly lost her tray - not necessarily in that order. She sighed, eyes rolling up in her head. When they rolled down, they ended up in the vicinity of a dapper man - his hair somewhere between silver and yellow - who grinned, or perhaps smirked at her; the expression could have gone either way, though his cheerful nod had only one interpretation: an invitation to sit. She sauntered up more than anything else, ill at ease. You couldn't be sure of anything in the Mermaid. Usually.

A chique café off the beaten path on a sleepy Tuesday. People jammed elbow to elbow. Sophie, sophisticated, sleek, reduced to a fine simmer as she arched onto her toes. The crazy rock of a vase as she hit it with her hip. The tray askew in her hands before she had time to think about it, her usual grace turned upside down. Then back on her feet again, intermission over, the movie of her life playing smoothly again. Freeze-frame, an attractive blond man at one table. Lips just a tiny bit askew, one side higher than the other; a perfect chin on the downturn of a nod. And Sophie caught with one foot half-turned against the ground, pondering light in her eyes. A snapshot of her thoughts: anyone in the Mermaid shouldn't be taken at face value.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Your mission, should you choose to accept it: play around with this form of poetry.

The pantoum is a form of poetry arranged in four-line verses with an ABAB rhyme scheme. Here's where it gets complicated: the second and fourth lines of the first verse become the first and third lines of the second verse. The process repeats until you reach the last verse, where you dip back into the unrepeated first and third lines of the very first verse -- they become the second and fourth lines of the LAST stanza.

Wait, wait. What?

Essentially, a three verse pantoum would look like:




Every word must be the same, but you can change punctuation freely. All I have to say is - good luck. ;-)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm also thankful for ...

... sales!

"Retirement" was just accepted by The Lorelei Signal and not only that, apparently I gave the editor an idea. She had never considered flash fiction in the magazine before and even added it as a continuing part of her issue makeup.

Now I just need to sell more things that aren't flash. I'm starting to turn into a sprinter. ;-)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Season's Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It's a small holiday here, just me, my parents, and the dog. (Cannot forget the dog.) We used to drive up to Connecticut to be with my mother's family, a two day haul with an enormous traditional buffet at the end. Now we're all grown up and grown past, but there's always something a little strange about not being there. But we are not the only ones who have changed our holiday: my aunt goes on a Thanksgiving cruise, my grandmother is in an assisted living home. There are no more children, really: one of my cousins is married; the four I can remember being born, in sometimes a bewildering succession, all have drivers' licenses now. (Or one may be on her permit - but point stands.) Time moves on, but here, this is a day for looking back and being comforted by the security of what we have.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Agenda, Message, Theme

The first three or four answers in this interview present some interesting points about writing with a message - or, in this case, why some writers don't:

Food for thought, mostly. Whether we intend or not, I think it's hard to deny we speak from the strength of our inner voices.

I heard it said recently (to paraphrase) that it may be better if writers don't recognize their own patterns: it makes them self-conscious, makes them change course, and may even do damage to the end result. Or ... less drastically ... it may just make writing annoying. ;-)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sale! (Soon to be website update)

Just sold a flash fiction story entitled "Progress" to From The Aslyum. Best part of this sale - probably the part that the yearly work appears in a print anthology! Progress is ultra-flash fiction, the shortest thing I have ever written:

Brace yourselves.

203 words. ;-)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Character Creation

Here's a short exercise excerpt wherein two individuals have to discuss creating a fictional character for a shared story. Wait a second ... that used to be my life ... anyhow, I was kind of tickled by the idea of fantasy characters writing what would be - for them - science fiction, though it didn't play much of a role in the excerpt:

“There’s no magic in this world we’re creating,” Isemar said thoughtfully.

Aeliam rolled his eyes. “We can’t do that,” he said. “No one would believe it.”

“It could happen,” she said. “Janel could be a researcher of ancient magic traditions -”

“How would people travel from place to place? How would they name their children?” He raked her with a superior look. “You have to think about these things when you’re worldbuilding, you know.”

The two youths sat on a dock in Pelindar city with their lunch spread before them, watching sailors unload one of the mighty merchant ships. Isemar was as sturdy and dark as Aeliam was light and lean.

“The same way we named her,” Isemar replied.

“By committee?”

“Well, why not?” She kicked her feet over the edge. “So we decided she just now turned twenty.”

“She ran away from an arranged marriage and her family won’t speak to her,” Aeliam elaborated.

She made a face. “But she’s a very sensible person.”

“Sensible doesn’t mean you don’t believe in love. I think a healer has to believe in love.”

“She has to believe in suffering, too,” Isemar countered. “Anyone who sees the poor and the sick knows how the wrong decisions often turn out. She can see the result of any decision she might make before her – she treats the court, too.”

“So she feels trapped.” He folded his arms stubbornly. “Who wouldn’t shrink away from another set of limits on her spirit?”

She heaved a sigh, but did not respond right away. “So her best friends are the priest – who of course believes in the institution of marriage and probably isn’t much a friend at all if -”

“But he likes her,” Aeliam insisted. “Maybe she even gives him a sort of crisis of faith.”

“You mean he’s in love with her, too? And that’s why he won’t shun her, even though the rest of the community does?”

“Ha,” he said triumphantly. “Got you.”

“The rest of the community would, then,” she amended with a severe look. “I do like that, though.”

“She also is close to the captain of the guard,” Aeliam continued, consulting his mental blackboard.

Isemar tapped her fingers together. “There could be a very interesting contrast if they were fighting over her, the sword and the soul.”

“Gah! No. She loves him like a brother. That would be wrong.” He grinned at her. “Just like I love you, natterbrain.”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Website Update

Added and my favorite naming language site to the Recommended writing links. I am no Tolkien, but there is something hypnotic about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The following website contains a list of the terms for various groups of animals. I remember being particularly amused by "a rabble of butterflies" ...

But then again, a sleuth of bears presents wonderful possibilities for a bizarre talking animal/mystery story ... or how about an implausibility of gnus? ... or a business of ferrets. I wonder what the business of ferrets is?

Note, too, that the herd plural of boar is "singular" - guess they really are antisocial.

Language is a crazy, split-personality, wonderful thing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sky Over Cinci

Remind me never to take a flight at night without asking for a window-seat.

I have yet to see anything that compares to the sudden rise of lights in the darkness, gold and blue and pulsing like a thing alive. The network of connections shimmer in a way that a stationary glow shouldn't, couldn't possibly. Others haze on the horizon like dawn. You could believe life started like this, a fractal web breaking the shadows. When conditions are just right - dark enough to hide any hint of the terrain; clear enough that you can see; and isolated enough that the lights are pinpoints rather than a sea - it's impossible to tell up from down as mundane lights and stars blend together.

(For those blinking: I just got back from a trip out of town. I'm okay now, really. ;-))

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Story Doesn't Matter?

This is actually the reason why I posted the last entry, where what was going to be a preface became a rant in of itself. A MMORPG conversation was the larger context for this statement that I've been thinking about: in a CPRG, the story doesn't matter.

Or rather, it's window-dressing, just one component among many. To paraphrase my source, it provides meaning for the decisions you make in the game (and the monsters you whack around). To a certain extent, I'll agree this can be true. I appreciate the slightly unique twist on the usual, "Prophesized heir rises to greatness," inherent in Morrowind, for instance - sure, you're The Guy or Girl, but you're also a heresy and deliberately groomed by the empire to use the prophecy AGAINST its originators - but I could happily play the game without it. The extreme example is the old Bard's Tale game ... in which the story is just an excuse for a smattering of dungeons.

On the other hand, what stands out for me about a great CRPG? Sometimes, if the engine is done really well, a unique element in the setting (more about that later), but most of all, the storyline.

A great example of this is Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Now, the game is somewhat clunky and incorporates far too many, "Run through this maze, my little rats, and kill things!" sequences to avoid some degree of tedium. But ... the evolution of the storyline is excellent, from when you discover that you're not this famous elf reborn - no, he's still living and kicking himself over his old mistakes - to the end discovery of the villain and his horrifying but ultimately altruistic designs. (The Victorian tech/magic fusion is fantastic here, though the worldbuilding is otherwise fairly unremarkable.)

A second example (serious spoilers ahead) is the new Bard's Tale game, which is a fairly standard rescue-the-princess pastiche ... played from the point of view of a womanizing pragmatist who doesn't really want to Save The World. What makes the game is the final sequence when everything is turned on its head. It's an excellent execution of mood, even if juvenile - but the writers played it for consistency.

The third is Betrayal in Antara, which lost out having a sequel - which it richly deserved - because Return to Krondor, which was its game-engine successor, tanked so badly. Again, Antara starts firmly grounded in the tropes, but builds out from there into a varied, unusual story with racial interplay, characters who are antagonists but doing "the right thing," and ultimately a twist at the end that made me do a triple-take - and cry out for the sequel that was never made.

I recognize I've spent far too much time on computer games over my lifetime, but they have shown me something about storytelling and how to wrap it around an interactive frame. And ultimately, for me, the story does matter.

I'm a MMOG! Half Man, Half ... Never Mind

I usually hear this as "MMORPG" (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game) but ... MMOG, the second M not pronounced, generates too many wonderful Spaceballs flashbacks to omit.

For those of you have not heard my basic rant on the subject, I shall review it – aren’t you lucky?

First, a basic definition. A CRPG is a computer-based roleplaying game, that is to say, it is defined by an internal and (usually) invisible set of dice, along with customizable abilities and strengths for “you” – your character. It follows at least a minimal storyline, with your character expanding his/her talents as she goes. An MMORPG is the same thing, but the imaginary world is populated by hordes of other players. Whether because the addition of players limits the programming constructs, or whether because designers consider the social aspect should provide more of the fun, MMORPGs tend to be somewhat less story-centric and have more repetitive elements. Specific examples for the still-lost: Everquest, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes.

Now most of you know I play online TEXT-based roleplaying games, where the interaction with players and their characters is effectively a collaborative story. Fewer of you may know that I am also completely addicted to single-player CRPGs. My general feeling is when I want to get out my aggressions, I want to do it solo.

My prime complaint with MMORPGs is this, then: in general, they hurt both industries. Many players who would turn to text games end up on MMORPGs instead. There tends to be limited roleplaying on these games; I’ve never heard a report of it being widespread successful. However, it’s difficult to miss what you never find out exists. In any case, the visual aspect makes the text less determinative. Many who play online text games also MMORPG as well, sucked into that otherworld for hours. It’s an easier escape than asking a buddy for roleplay. In all fairness, on the game I play, we have acquired some people who found out about us from an MMORPG, but it’s not common.

On the converse side, because of the popularity of MMORPGs, it has become harder and harder to find solid single-player games. The number has gone down sharply since I started playing. I don’t know whether they’re easier for a design team to create, more popular, or just more profitable, but MMORPGs have definitely muscled into a prime computer game slot.

MMORPGs also seem to contribute to a specific CRPG trend that I loathe: real-time. That is to say, instead of having interactions (such as, let’s face it, combat) determined by a considered decision (“Okay, I need to cast a spell here – is it better to blast them or make them afraid?”) in a sequence of turns, everything happens continuously, as fast as you can click. Obviously, most MMORPGs are going to have to be in real-time rather than turn-based because otherwise you spend far too much time waiting for an idle player, but it bleeds over!

More later.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Quote Dose

The only reason for this particular update is because I can.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." -- Cicero

"To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk." -- Thomas Edison

"The absence of flaw in beauty is itself a flaw." -- Havelock Ellis

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Small announcement ...

A first contact fantasy story (coincidentally entitlted "First Contact") of mine placed in the monthly Writer's Challenge:

First Contact was a deliberate attempt by me to play with synesthesia. Since the character has never been allowed to touch or come into contact with anything save a small number of purified, sanctified items (hence the title), her first experiences with the sense of touch come in metaphors of the other senses.

It was, to be less hoity-toity about it, a lot of fun.

Monday, October 23, 2006


This is what happens when someone who is a disaster in the kitchen ... takes on an exercise that is supposed to use cooking to illustrate how a man and a woman interact. This is exercise 48, it is probably completely useless for a novel or a short story being too long with nothing happening, but it was fun to write:

Anevi stood amongst hills of grains and a treeline of vegetables trying frantically to figure out which went into the boiling pot first, her small body pulled up to the very tips of the toes as she bounced. “Let me see … let me see …”

Jaref leaned over her shoulder, starting to point. “You should -”

She batted his hand away, laughing. “You’re not supposed to do any of the cooking!” she said. “Sit back, relax, let me do the work for once.”

He grinned at her, grey eyes spackled with mischief. “It’s not precisely relaxing to watch you.”

Anevi scuttled about, brandishing the chopping knife back at him. She then picked up the bowl of rice and dumped it unceremoniously into the pot.

“There.” She beamed at him. “Started.”

“That’s only supposed to cook for -”

“Tsk, tsk, I have it under control!” To silence him, she whirled about and popped a strawberry into his mouth.

“Mmph, wait a second -”

“I didn’t know you could talk with your mouth full,” she said as she stirred the rice vigorously, taking “season to taste” to mean liberal assaults with the shakers. The iron-clad stove rattled as its fire burned.

He grinned at her wryly, pulling himself up on the counter. “Requirement of the job.”

She had control of the vegetables now, better with a knife than she was with the concept of moderation. She watched him out of the corner of her eye, feeling a bit remorseful now. She really shouldn’t tease him so much, but he made it so easy she blinked and she was doing it again.

“I hope this isn’t reminding you too much of work.” She juggled a carrot in slices and tossed them back over her shoulder in the general direction of the pot.

“No, you are absolutely nothing like any of the chefs I work with.” He leaned in for one of the potatoes.

Anevi spun about and brought the knife to a dramatic thwack-landing in the one right next to it. “Oh, you infuriating man!”

He yelped, sliding off the counter. His feet missed the floor and he landed with a crack. She slid around the island to help him, bumped the flour with her hip –

In seconds, the two were as white as ghosts, Jaref laughing helplessly, Anevi shouting apologies in a way that suggested divine wrath if he didn’t accept them and more importantly, stop howling. Finally, exasperated, she flopped down atop him and tipped his chin back to kiss him.

He broke the kiss to study her with thoughtful eyes. Finally, “You taste like cinnamon tarts.”

“Are you calling me a tart?”

He tried to protest, then ended up gnawing air as she put an elbow into his ribs. “Remind me why I talk again? Every time I do, I seem to get in more trouble.”

She ruffled his hair, pasting the flour more thoroughly into blonde locks. “I’m sure I haven’t got the slightest clue.”

An ominous burble came from the stove above. Jaref worked his way up into a crouch. “Anevi, the rice …”

She squealed an unladylike string of words and scrambled to her feet. Pot-holders, handles, and she whirled about with the entire pot a-slosh. Uneven breathing escaped her as she grinned down at him, rice saved, first course triumphant.

Jaref shook his head, leaning back against the wood. “You’re a disaster waiting to happen,” he said.

She grinned at him, unrepentant, even taking it as a compliment. “I know.”

He chuckled, dusting himself off. “And I love you for it.”

“If you’re not going to tell me anything I don’t already know,” she said sensibly, “will you please let me work?”

(Yep, that's it. 600 words sayeth the exercise - 600-and-a-bit, I stop.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Truth and Beauty

Mutually exclusive concepts? Take a look at this short film:

Definitely an unnerving series of images.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Musical Interlude

"After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." -- Aldous Huxley

"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." -- Berthold Auerbach

(This isn't about music perse, but I love Einstein and this quote rocks.)

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice." -- Albert Einstein

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself." -- Truman Capote

(And just because I'm incapable of being totally serious ...)

"The Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots as a joke, but the Scots haven't got the joke yet." --Oliver Herford

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Another 3 A.M Epiphany exercise, Wilderness asks the author to put two characters that you already know from your fiction in a wild setting of some kind - a forest, a desert, even an urban city where the characters don't speak the language. Don't explain why the characters are there (the part *I* failed in ;-)), just stay in one pair of eyes and slowly describe the other individual, who is evading the POV character, from things/traces left behind. Now, I tinkered with the first character I had in mind and couldn't think of someone else from the same world who would be doing this and isn't uh, dead or imprisoned, so I created someone for the second part.

This is set in the world of Blood From Stone, one of my retired novel projects, and occurs a few months after the last journal of that story. So Shihyali here is about 5-6 months pregnant:

I knew the deserts of Asedra so well each step felt like an experience of memory rather than the hunt I was now on. Only the new thought, the unfamiliar recollection that I was the Empress’ private hand, turned the sands to reality beneath me.

Li Hannava, the Lithomer who had once overseen the enclave at the edge of the desert, could only be a few hours ahead of me – the wind had not entirely blown away her footprints, a clipping trod with impossible baby steps. She was headed for the deep deserts with no apparent destination in mind, and I followed as the sands turned from brown and yellow to silver, bright and moony.

Asedra was pretty – too pretty. It was easy to forget what I was doing here and lose myself to the sights. I rubbed my stomach as the child of Cylaren and I made her presence known, a fluttery kick. The first child to be born in centuries whose mother had no soulstone, and I had no idea what would become of either of us.

I recalled Li Hannava crouching in front of me, laying a gentle hand on the bulge. The fear and consternation running down her frame …

They were afraid: every one of them. The Lithomers had more reason to be than most, for the loss of soulstones would destroy any source of power they had, but no one could face the change with equanimity. That Jyhisu could carry their stones was bad enough; this was terrifying.

“I can abort the child,” she said with the air of one doing me a great favor.

I stared at her and then raged, shouted – I should have stopped there, somewhere, but the pain made me tear up and the only way to keep from weeping in front of the strange woman was to rant instead. I lapsed into silence with a shaky apology.

A rock where she must have paused, leaving a wisp of ebony hair behind her. Long, trailing, a lace twirl to itself. Here she’d splashed water from some kind of canteen. Not as citybound as she looked, then.

Hannava was not running from me, my unnatural state and my fit of temper notwithstanding. No, she was one of the conspirators, perhaps the last – I had no confidence that was true – and she should know, better than anyone, that escape was impossible. This was desperation.

I closed my eyes and reached out for the threads of her soulstone. I encountered resistance, a stubborn haze. Frowning, I bulled forward in mind, and encountered a soft overlays of blues and creams, neatly interwoven, as tidy as the woman herself. I steadied my idea of her direction, calculated the approximate distance, and then she slapped me away with a buzz like a hive of bees.

I grinned a bit despite myself. I like to think of myself as being as normal as the next person, but there’s something about fighting on Lithomer terms that gets my blood flowing. I don’t do it much – it’s not fair play, not when I can touch them but there’s nothing of me to touch in return. Not that I haven’t had Lithomers do some pretty impressive things to my surroundings …

In the shadows of the next dune, I found something etched into the rock. Three words: please leave me. They were surprisingly steady for being rock-scratch, and I traced them with one finger until the last wobbly loop.

“Sorry,” I murmured.

She’d written me letters of introduction calmly enough, her hand as flowing as the sea. She even seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my mission …

(Hit the word count here so - no more!)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

On Superheroes

Some of you may be aware that in my copious spare time, I also run plots for Crucible City MUX, a superheroes game. I go through phases where I'm embarrassed to admit it, so depending on timing, some of you may NOT know. ;-)

So I roleplay antagonists, villains, the occasional plot point and flavor characters in structured scenes. I've run everything from wrong-headed idealists to megalomaniacs to madwomen to mercenaries. I build my plots up from character: I've got X idea for a primary NPC, what would they do and why? Because of this, it's been very important for me that I understand why every character is doing what they're doing. Very few people really think of themselves and their occupation as evil; to avoid this question, to me, leaves a very flat individual.

One character I created started as an idealist - we'll note his mundane name is Casimir. He formed an association with himself and a few others as much with the idea that he could rein them in as for his chosen crusade; an ecological one, noble enough if one weren't willing to go to criminal extents to advance it. One of them became the love of his life despite some leanings towards psychosis, and they had a daughter together who never learned about her father because ... mouthy kid. Things began to fall apart when one of Cas' companions, Irune, contracted a deathly illness that nothing could cure. Casimir struck a deal with a malevolent nature spirit to cure her and things went downhill from there. He showed up in a second plot after his wife died; he was coerced into serving lest his daughter fall into villainy. She didn't appreciate the help. To add insult to injury, his boss at the time was Irune - who had, in being cured, set herself up as the next host to aforesaid malevolent nature spirit. So from honorable villain to, "This is my fault, isn't it."

On the other end of the spectrum, take Soren. Mercenary, assassin, coolly unrepentant - one of my more direct stabs at a Hannibal Lecter mentality, which is something I've always aspired to. He remained entirely pragmatic about his situation, held no grudges against his opposites, even expected nasty treatment from the heroes after he's killed one of their allies. He believed himself to be strictly a go-between; to quote, "I'm the hand on the knife, not the blade or the intent." In an unnerving way, I think I even managed to make him likeable.

Anyhow, that's what I try to do. I think it helps my writing tremendously to spend these greater chunks of time behind questionable mentalities. It's that much easier to build a solid, comprehensible thread.

Sale! (Plus website update)

My short story "Good Taste" - what I hope is a mildly creepy story involving a golem (of sorts) who rebels against her creator - has just been accepted by Aoife's Kiss magazine.

Of course, I've put it on my website. Look for it roundabouts next December. Hey, it'll be a good Christmas present for ME ... ;-)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


"You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it." -- Albert Einstein

"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself." -- Josh Billings

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." -- Scott Adams (That's the Dilbert guy, not the Hitchhiker's Guide guy.)

The Enchanted Fish

You can now read "The Enchanted Fish" at AlienSkin Magazine . Check it out!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Website Update

Added a news section with an interview by novelist Joanne Hall. My apologies for my silence over the past several days - been dealing with a bit of generalized depression and haven't felt much like talking. I shall return.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Other Senses

I always try to focus on other senses besides sight when writing: for whatever reason, smell comes very readily, and I often use it in a metaphorical sense. Touching fiction with these other senses fills in another dimension; focusing on them produces unusual results. I just finished a short story for a contest on first contact situations that follows a character who has never been allowed to touch or come into contact with just about anything, so to describe sensations from her perspective, I had to use a lot of synesthesia - things that feel like sounds or sights. I'm also doing an exercise right now from the point of view of an old RPG character, Klervyn. (I can take no credit for the name.) Now, I've changed some of the weirder aspects, but he basically doesn't use his eyes - as a conscious choice, not because he's blind. Describing things with minimal to no visuals is quite a challenge. The specific exercise is to use an idiosyncratic mode of perception, and it seemed to fit.

I'm also working on a new novel project. I've decided to weigh the point of view characters just a bit and see how it turns out. Chailyn, who has lived most of her life in a quasi-underwater environment, is very aware of smells because of the drastic shift from one to the other. Kit, who has an overactive imagination and typical teen angst, is very conscious of shadows. I should be able to use this to play up a certain claustrophobia and suspense in the story, as they spend much of it evading the main antagonist with no way of knowing where he is or when he might catch up to them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Jupiter World Press

Send your best thoughts to Mary K. Wilson of Jupiter World Press, who has regretfully decided to shut down JWP and its imprints. Selling stories individually was a fun experiment, but I guess the negatives finally outweighed the positives. I for one will miss it. Good luck to her in all future endeavors.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


This post does not, in fact, have anything to do with religion.

It is, rather, another exercise excerpt - 13 - where the assignment is to write something from the omniscient POV of God, or something like it. I chose to do this in the world of Butterfly's Poison (my most recent novel project). Technically the POV is "Goddess" as most of the "civilized" human nations believe in a monotheistic deity named Aline:

The people of this world are on the verge of discovering chaos theory. When they do, they may find they understand the order around them much better: elements of randomness, choice, will against whim, all normalize into a gorgeous pattern when studied at a distance. These people are like the islands they inhabit, a countless number adrift in a sea, close enough to touch but never doing so.

A professional astronomer on royal retainer studies her subject through a lens ground by diligent Pirie craftsmen. She watches the heavens dance and dances with them, luminous with that fleeting brush with infinity. Her apprentice is pocketing one of her measuring devices while she cannot see and wondering how much a fence will pay him for it – not a third of its value, it turns out, because the man is constitutionally designed to cheat callow young merchant’s sons who have never felt the fire of wonder.

She will notice it is missing in a few days, and that only because she needs it. He will be filled with a sudden – and to him, inexplicable – urge to tell the truth as those myopic blue eyes blink in worry. She’s too old for him, but impossible not to love.

“Must have been thrown out by accident,” he’ll say, squelching it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


The Enchanted Fish, a flash fiction story that illuminates the origins of a certain famous phrase (to say which would give the game away), has just been sold to AlienSkin Magazine and is due out in their Oct/Nov issue (!). Look for it soon.

(Website updated, of course.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

My Family

Let me tell you a bit about my family:

My cousin (the oldest brother of the two mentioned my "Down Maribelle Lane" inspiration post) went into the bookstore with a friend and, for a prank, moved all the Bibles into the mythology section.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Website Update

Added: "The 3 A.M. Epiphany" to Writing Recommendations.

(Also added: Welsh competition wins to harp side of site.)

Famous Last Words

For pure and pointless amusement, a massive list of the "famous last words" of late, lamented (or unlamented) roleplaying characters. For some of these, you have to "be there" as to the gaming system - a number of these I never quite understood. But a lot are just universally funny, so check it out:

(Ed note: Found why I couldn't font-switch. Feel stupid now. ;-))

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Critique Mining

(For whatever reason, I can't get my fonts - I've reloaded blogger several times to no avail. So pardon the typeface here.)

I'm part of the SF/F/H critique group Critters, which is a system for getting a lot of critiques from a lot of people in a short amount of time. The sessions run Weds to Weds; critiquing gets you "credit" so when you place a story in the queue, your status determines how high it goes ... and, of course, you can't continue on the list without maintaining at least a seventy-five percent crit ration. That is, one critique submitted every three out of four weeks.

My run of "Ten Cities Down" just finished, with what for some reason was a record number for me - fifteen, plus possibly a late crit or two tomorrow morning. At 6500 words, this was a fairly good response - responses drop off sharply, it seems, around 5k. My general process for working through the information I've got is this:

Starting with the first critique, I write down the general aim of each topic in the comments. I save specific language if I find it helpful, which it often is. Then I make a note next to it that says whether I agree, disagree or am unsure of the statement being made. I copy all the nits (minor grammar/typo points) to go through separately. Then I move on, copy anything new, mark it, and put tick marks next to anything that is repeated.

When I'm done, I take a look at what I have. Any comments I agree with, I generally mark for change. If there's something I strongly disagree with and only one or two people said it, I feel comfortable safely discounting it. If, on the other hand, there is something I strongly disagree with but it comes out resoundingly, I will give that a hard look. Oddly, I find this almost never happens - I tend to see where most commonly repeated comments are coming from.

This time, I'm doing something unusual. I'm jotting down ticks specifically for character development. This is because I got a rough mix of people who thought the characters were wonderful and people who thought they weren't well-fleshed. I'd like to see how it fills out.

When I start to work through the story, I generally start with the nits, then go to the simplest issue and build up. I've found this method works very well for a coherent workover, taking advantage of the wisdom of readers without losing my center. That notwithstanding, the process is a grueling ego-bash. Always. ;-)

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Unstable Self

About a week ago, I picked up a book entitled "The 3 A.M. Epiphany," a collection of writing exercises focused on playing with technique and style rather than the usual product-focused "Write a story about ..." one tends to see. I've been doing one daily since. (Today's is #8; I'm running late and haven't finished it yet.)

Just to share, this is entry #4, The Unstable Self, in which the exercise is five hundred words where the narrator switches first and third persons. I think this is one exercise that actually says "a story" and I just have a fragment, but ah well. I took one of the book's suggestions, to use italics to differentiate the switch, and decided to switch POVs when the character was communicating with a racial hive-mind:

Sirane communed with the shadows of the canyon, her body braced without tension as she waited for her quarry. The hilt of the long knife lay cool and ready in her palm. She shuddered to herself, knowing there was no other choice: windgiver Leya Srinath had to die, or the blood of her kin would run and never stop until the last drop had been swallowed by the thirsty earth.

I opened my mind to the braided thoughts of my family. “We’re frightened.”
“We have trained ourselves better than any army in the world. We will not fail as long as our hearts are true and sure.”

True and sure, I thought: that was the problem. It was not that I doubted this was necessary, but I had joined the Blade to keep a watch on my body-sister and protect the borders, and never expected to strike a sentient being.

Dust calligraphy rolled down the canyon, dying down after a moment to reveal the small mounted procession. Two guards bare to the waist, their bronze skin flayed by the sun; an elderly cloudreader, her rheumy eyes as white as her hair; and a tall, coal-haired woman with tresses unbound that Sirane recognized as the windgiver. The only female clan leader in three generations, Leya had refused to garb herself as a woman of the clans, but there was no mistaking her for anything else.

Sirane felt a twitter of guilt. Leya had inspired many changes in the clan system and planned more that would have benefited everyone – but there was no time for progress in the face of extinction. She half-stepped onto the ledge above.

“We may fail,” I said to my family, a plea to stave off their wrath.

The reply was warm, understanding, but implacable. “We will not fail. Be strong.”

I did not know how many minds were with me then. It did not matter. I tapped into the wisdom of my forebears and let it flow through my arms, inform my stance, mix and mingle with the training I had received. Their voices whispered in my veins.

One of the guards reined in his sun-white and held out a hand for attention. Sirane edged back and took a running start. She vaulted off the rock and landed with a hard thud on the back of the horse. It reared, tramping in the dust. She grabbed the startled guard’s hand for balance and used the other to slam the blade between his ribs. It was cold, seamless, guided by memories not her own: she dumped the body over and slid forward to catch the reins before anyone could react.

The other guard bellowed and wheeled to confront her. “Mindless cull!”

“How little they understand,” one of my family commented in my head. “Do we see now?”

“We never had doubts,” I bit back as I met the charge. Our blades slammed together. I ducked his second sweep and took him out with the next blow.

“Are we sure?”

Leya had not been idle: holding onto the bridle of the cloudreader’s horse, she thundered away. Sirane kicked her horse after the woman and caught up at a gallop. Her heart jumped into her throat, but she had learned this, too, perhaps better than fighting: how to hamstring an animal.

The mare toppled, and the windgiver was thrown to the ground. Sirane leapt off the side of her borrowed horse and advanced, heart pounding. The blade quivered as she tapped it under the woman’s chin.

Leya’s head came up, her eyes clear and bright. “Don’t listen to them,” she said. “Shut them out.”

Shut them out? My mind whirled with the enormity of it. Sooner tell a person to stop hearing sound, to stop craving water. I started to retreat to the comfort of the braid, then hesitated.

“We have a job to finish, Sirane.”

We. We when it was I, after all, taking the risk, my presence alone out here in the canyon …

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More Quotes

"The earth laughs in flowers." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. " -- Douglas Adams

"Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious and anything self-conscious is lousy. You cannot try to do things. You simply must do things." -- Ray Bradbury

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Quotes of Note

"One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." - A.A. Milne

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...'" - Isaac Asimov

And from Albert Einstein:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Welsh Parking Only: All Others Will Be Dragon-ed Away

Yesterday, I competed in the North American Festival of Wales Eisteddfod. (I believe that is Eye-STETH-fod, where the dd is a lisping "th' as in thistle, but my Welsh is yet of beginner's quality.) This a competition of language and music: poetry, prose, recitation, storytelling, singing and instrumentals. It is divided into categories such as Welsh and English with Welsh themes/origins, solo and groups. It is also divided by age, a common occurrence in Celtic style competitions for the primary purpose of protecting the adults from the scary prodigy-children.

The scene was a familiar one: a small number of enthusiastic competitors, friends and family supporting, chaos and last minute changes, and a venue considered substandard in comparison to the rest of the event - though it was one of the nicest competition areas I've ever been in. No airplanes, no bagpipes, QUIET, restrooms within ten miles. Like other national Celtic style competitions, it maintained the tradition that even if there were only one competitor in the category, a first placement must be earned. In sum, it was one of the most organized and well-run competitions I've ever seen ... and the Welsh? Gorgeous.

I've always been fascinated with Welsh language and music. It's a mild obsession that goes back to the first fantasy series I ever read: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles. It was many years before I realized that they were inspired by Welsh mythology, but the seeds had been planted. The mere appearance of Welsh on the page is mesmerizing. It's a language that's visually lyrical and airy on the tongue. Welsh music is very rich and chordal, with an unusual convention of accidentals due to the use of the triple-strung harp - an instrument with three rows of strings, the outer ones tuned like the white notes on a piano an interior row capable of handling any and all accidentals. The triple harp allows an incredible range of quick sharps and flats and also some exceptional doubling techniques (where the same melody is played in both hands a split second apart, creating an "echo" effect on each note).

Of course, a lot of Welsh folk songs were borrowed and made into hymns - and a few others have become common folk culture. Chances are, you know far more Welsh than you realize ...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

World Leaders

I own a wonderful book entitled "Presidential Anecdotes" by Paul F. Boller, Jr. It happens to be very out of date - it stops at Reagan - and I'm not sure if there has been a new edition, but it provides insight as well amusement into some great (and some grating) men.

To quote:

During the battle of New Orleans, it was said, (Andrew) Jackson strode through the powder smoke to see the effect of his artillry fire and gave the order: "Boys, elevate them guns a little lower!"

From a long section about Lincoln and McClellan ...

A little later, greatly irked by McClellan's inactivity, he wrote: "Dear General, if you do not want to use the army I would like to borrow it for a few days." Lincoln gave as good as he got, too, when he felt like it. When McClellan, iritated by one of Lincoln's orders requiring detailed reports to the White House, sent him a telegraph saying, "We have just captured six cows. What shall we do with them?" Lincoln answered: "Milk them."

Then there's Calvin Coolidge, who has the lion's share of the good anecdotes.

The best story about Coolidge's taciturnity, told by his wife, concerns the society woman who said, as she say down next to him at a dinner party, "You must talk to me, Mr. Coolidge. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you." "You lose," said Coolidge.

And finally...

Reagan turned seventy in February 1981 and joked about his age in a speech at a Washington Press Club dinner. "I know your organization was founded by six Washington newspaperwomen in 1919," he remarked, then, after a slight pause, added: "It seems like only yesterday." Middle age, he went on to say, "is when you're faced with two temptations and you choose the one that will get you home at 9 o'clock." And, after quoting Thomas Jefferson's advice not to worry about one's age, he exclaimed: "And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying."

With all credits to the illustrious author, but I had to share. :-)

Monday, August 28, 2006

SALE! (and website update)

I just sold "Winged Words" to The Sword Review, both their internet and print editions. No date as of yet, but updated website to include the sale.

... glee!


One of the most controversial subjects in the fiction world for readers is the adaptation of a novel into a movie. Because Hollywood is notorious for pandering to a very simple dynamic and adjusting works to the same formula, many adaptations fall short or fall apart. And this has been, in particular, a theatre season for revisions rather than new visions: remakes, adaptations, and sequels.

Despite the pitfalls and angry fans, the disappointment of a beautiful and compelling idea done wrong, my favorite quote on this matter comes from Orson Scott Card. Card's had his own difficulties with Hollywood and luckily stuck to his guns. A group who wanted to film Ender's Game, for instance, had the grand plan of making him sixteen and giving him a love interest. But ultimately, Card has said, "The book's still there." No matter the quality of the adaptation, you can go back and the words, lines and events are still there unchanged.

More than that, there is the hope that even a bad movie will draw readers to the original book. I'm going to presume that Scifi's hack of "Earthsea" falls into that category ...

Someone else whose name, alas, I cannot recall, said that to be successful, a movie adaptation should have some surprises for the person who has read the book - it should, in some sense, stand on its own. I once took a screenwriting course and became acquainted with the requirements of the standard screenplay: strictures of acts, high points, and discoveries. It can't be an easy task to mold a novel to this form, and I'm sure there are movies that have failed because they have stuck too slavishly to the formula and ignored the altered tension points of the visual medium.

So the dangers here are multitude. How easy to depart too far from the original text; how easy to follow it so closely the result neither interests fans nor engages newcomers. I can only assume the way to make it work is to find the flavor, the underlying theme, and preserve the high points - and even that is a highly subjective process.

Anyhow, a few comments on specific movies:

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: I saw this movie before I read the book, so my perspective is a bit skewed, but I found this a very engaging, accessible movie - and found after I read that the movie had adhered quite nicely to the core of the book, removing some minor color events for simplicity and movie length and adapting others to create a more direct line of dramatic flow.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE: I put this one next as it's the other movie where I encountered the screen version first, as I'm sure is true for almost everyone. This is one of those rare cases where the movie surpasses the book. While there is some wonderful wit and sarcastic humor in the book, the character interplay is insular and truncated. Forced into dialogue thread by the constraints of film, the movie version is far more appealing.
THE PUPPET MASTERS: This movie went wrong in a number of ways, some of which were unavoidable. Heinlein's original novel (which I'm not much of a fan of to start with, admittedly) was set in an earth near-futureverse, and some of the story had to be axed to shift the setting to modern earth. Without that setting, they also had to make Mary a brilliant scientist - which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the book was very much a product of its time in regard to women. The worst part, however, is when the screenwriters chose to take the most interesting parts of the Masters out and strip them down to the pieces that left them, basically, generic horror monsters. Only three or four scenes survived from the book into the movie, and the main denoument is bizarre and largely unsupported by the original. I mainly tolerated this movie because ... Donald Sutherland.
HANNIBAL: ... huh? Some of the cuts made in this movie helped the storyline - I wasn't sad to see Mason's crazy sister get no air time - but mostly, they just diluted the core themes to the point where the original ending just wasn't believable. Even though most of the individual scenes were rendered fairly faithfully, the overall threads didn't pull together into a movie that was worthy of the source ... and unlike Silence of the Lambs, it leapt over the gore line. I think there were plans to make a sequel to this to take the main characters to the actual ending of Hannibal, but they never materialized. One thing I can't fault: Julianne Moore made a fantastic Starling.
LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY: This is arguably the most famous adaptation, certainly in the fantasy genre, and despite quibbles such the artificial interjection of Arwen into the movies, I think these movies do at core what they are supposed to do: catch the spirit of the original while still providing elements that surprise and engage fans. Some unfortunate things happen that I believe are because of the medium ... for instance, Faramir's reaction to the ring is often pointed out to me as being counter the books. However, without subtext and narrative, it is difficult to show the ring's drawing power if an inordinate number of characters just brush it off. I also agree with those who say the battle scenes took up too much of the movie, and there I intend to offer no defense.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Alas, Poor Stargate

In sad recognition of Stargate: SG-1's last season, a few isolated humorous clips. I've tried to pick short ones that require few descriptions and explanations. Jack O'Neill, of course, has the lion's share.

Jack O'Neill: All right, we came here in peace, we expect to go in one ... piece.

Sam Carter: You know, you blow up one sun and suddenly everyone expects you to walk on water. (No, really, she did.)

(Teal'c is an alien - of course ...)
Jack O'Neill: Do you read the Bible, Teal'c?
Teal'c: It is a significant part of your Western culture. Have you not read the Bible, O'Neill?
Jack O'Neill: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Not all of it. Actually, I'm listening to it on tape. Don't tell me how it ends.

Jack O'Neill: So what's your impression of Alar?
Teal'c: That he is concealing something.
Jack O'Neill: Like what?
Teal'c: I am unsure - he is concealing it.
(Someone walked right into that one.)

(Again with the cultural differences ...)
Jack O'Neill: Teal'c, you don't have to stick around.
Teal'c: Undomesticated equines could not remove me.
Jack O'Neill: Wild horses, Teal'c.

Sam Carter: Normally neutrinos pass right through ordinary matter, no matter how dense. I mean, something like five hundred million billion just passed through you.
Jack O'Neill: No matter how dense.

(And in a really big room ...)
Daniel: You could fit every pyramid on Earth inside this thing and still have room to spare.
Jack O'Neill: Can you imagine heating this place?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Anatomy of an Idea: Soul Siblings

This story can be found here and I recommend that if you haven't read it and want to, do so before you continue here. Spoilers abound.

The Gedden (originally the Geneb) are a fantasy race I've had on my backburner for a long time. They date back to my first "epic" multiple plotline novel, a schlocky disaster which I divided into three parts at end of February, 1997. Though I can't place an exact date on it, I would have started sometime in late 1996. I was fascinated by the idea of a literal, physical third eye, of a race of soul twins ... and the penalty for their meeting. In book two or three - I forget which, and I never wrote either - my Geneb character was supposed to be forced by the villains to confront his soul sister. He lived and hooked up with the story's token werewolf, but his opposite died. There is no direct causal connection between Kenri and Delanor and Tarivan and Evyelara.

Flash forward to a more sane and better written era. I wanted to revive the Gedden, but wanted to do a story about mages. (Tarivan was originally supposed to be a different kind of sorcerer.) So I tried to think of what kind of magic might be particularly useful with a third eye, and lit upon the idea that it might allow you to see two different things at once. This would help if you were a seer and would otherwise be "engulfed" by the vision. The general form of the plotline fell into place quickly - the siblings on the same job, the capture, the rescue, the eventual denouement ... though in my original plan, it was Tarivan who died. The situation with Quirilan was inspired by a historical precedent - I'm not sure if it was Roman noblewomen and gladiators, but it probably was.

This story sat in my idea file for a while, marked uncertain as to whether it was a novel or a short. I finally decided to write it specifically for
Black Gate magazine after I received possibly the most glowing rejection of my life for Summer in Sadria, which was essentially a fantasy mystery. (So is Poetic License, which is coming out soon from Jupiter World Press ...) I lined out the story in general terms and started writing. When I got into it, though, I realized that I had made my villain just a stereotypical evil overlord and at least wanted to provide him with a concrete desire and a reason to resist him that was SLIGHTLY unusual. Imitating a god came to mind, I decided it would be appropriate to make Tarivan devout to contrast with his otherwise rootless personality, and this conveniently provided my (somewhat) happy ending.

Unfortunately, Black Gate rejected it, saying that they saw too many assassin stories, but it finally found a home with Afterburn SF. (In response YET again, I sent Black Gate another story involving a clockmaker and a dicemaker - news pending, hopefully good ;-))

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More Quotes of Note

These come from "The New Quotable Woman," a palmsized book my dad bought and gave me on the spur of the moment in New Hampshire ...

"Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired." -- Mother Teresa

(This quote sums up my usual approach to romantic plots and subplots. The heart does not need to shout when close enough to whisper.)

"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child." -- Maria Montessori (Italian educator, and inventor of the Montessori method)

"The one important thing I have learned over the years is the differene between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second is disastrous." -- Margot Fonteyn (British ballet dancer)

Northern Exposure

Over the past several months, I've been ordering the disks of this series from Blockbuster online, watching them, and enjoying them immensely. The dialogue is often poetry even when the topic is bizarre, and swings between thoughtful and intelligently absurd. It's an example of an ensemble cast show that works, characters fading in and out of prominence with the requirements of the episode.

The best way to describe the show's take on the world is to compare it to the medieval magical worldview. I don't necessarily mean that it's fantasy, though there are certainly episodes where impossible things happen - Ed's spirit guide, Maggie's romance with what appears to be a werebear. What I mean is there is an implicit and understood sense of the way things work, that things are connected in a way that scientific thought doesn't comprehend.

So I declare today Northern Exposure quote day. I'm told by webhunting that the authors are Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider. The latter two quotes here are from Chris Stevens, the town of Cicely's resident radio host, ex-con and philosopher; I'm not sure who the first one is.

"As a scientist, I am not sure any more that life can be reduced to a class struggle, to dialectical materialism, or any set of formulas. Life is spontaneous and it is unpredictable, it is magical. I think that we have struggled so hard with the tangible that we have forgotten the intangible."

"Goethe's final words: 'More light.' Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry: 'More light.' Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon. Incandescent. Lights that banish the darkness from our caves, to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's field. Little tiny flashlight for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor."

"Dreams are postcards from the subconscious, inner self to outer self, right brain trying to cross that moat to the left. All too often they come back unread: 'return to sender, address unknown.'"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Anatomy of an Idea: Down Maribelle Lane

Currently available here until the end of Sept '06 - if you have not read this story, I recommend you do so first as this post, of course, spoils the ending.

First of all, I can't take credit for it. The true story goes like this ... my aunt has four children, three boys and a girl. The younger boys, Jeff and Greg, share a room; the eldest, Tim, has his own. So one day a long time ago, Jeff went into Tim's room for some reason, and Greg panicked. "Jeff, don't go in there!" he said. "You'll turn into a toad!" Turned out Tim had one of those novelty signs reading, "Tim's Parking Only: All Others Will be Towed."

Fast forward to the Cincinnati Celtic World Festival, 2005. I'm wandering around the shops and there are the usual run of aforementioned novelty signs: "Irish Parking Only," "Welsh Parking Only: All Others Will Be Dragon-ed Away" etc.

I should note here that I had given my teacher a gift a while back of one that read: "Harpist Parking Only: All Others Will Be Plucked."

So, of course, I flashed back to my cousins, and happened to comment that "Witch Parking Only: All Others Will Be Toad" would make a great punchline. Between the fact that the seed had been planted, and that a friend of mine, Crystal, had just started up a writing group and (admittedly at my suggestion) made the task for the first month to write flash fiction ... Down Maribelle Lane came into being.

I chose the name Nimiane because it's a somewhat inobvious alternate version of the Lady of the Lake. (I should note my dog is named Nimue (NIM-ooh-way) so I have a slight fascination with the sound of it, but it's pretty!) Laudine is also Arthurian, and means simply "a widow." Some day I might write another story with this character, as the overall concept tickles me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Favorite Words

I'm in a random mood, so here's a list of some of the words I adore:

Amber, demesne, diminutive, elucidate, filch, fluid, impeccable, incandescent, irridescent, luminous, malachite, meticulous, moor, obsidian, orthopraxy, pensive, pique, pristine, pulchritude, russet, saffron, silver, stentorian, striation, sundry, superfluous, sussurus, tarn, telesthesia (I found this while hunting for an alternate word for psions), ubiquitous

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Art and Religion Versus Science

... or, why Arthur C. Clarke is not an anthropologist.

This is an essay I wrote for a literature course in Science Fiction. The prompt was for Childhood's End, so you'll understand more if it if you've read it, but the general theme is accessible to anyone.

In Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, the mysterious Overlords bring with them security and luxury … but they also bring the inevitable dark side of these two attributes: stagnation. According to Clarke, the religions of the world cannot endure when faced with the truth behind their own creation. Similarly, creativity is stifled as human wants and desires are met and the need for escapism dwindles. Childhood's End makes it very clear that both religion and creativity are unnecessary and unwanted aspects in a futuristic, technological society. This seems an overly hostile conclusion, particularly from a fiction author - and even the book itself may, perhaps unintentionally, contradict him.

Faith and religion wither on the earth of Childhood’s End when the Overlord history device opens a window on the past and allows humanity to see the true origins of each faith. Confronted with the knowledge that their founders are only human, not embodiments of the divine, the religions lose their strength and staying power. By definition, faith is an attribute that cannot be quantified or proved, but the science of the Overlords does just that: it takes the mystery out of the world. “Beneath the fierce and passionless light of truth, faiths that sustained millions for twice a thousand years vanished like morning dew.” (67) At the same time, scientific progress has built a world without friction or famine, a world where the succor of faith becomes superfluous. Creative endeavors meet the same fate: in a world where wonder is eliminated and all knowledge is obtainable – if not necessarily by humans – it becomes difficult to imagine and invent the unknown. To some degree, all art is a means of escapism, both for artist and consumer. When luxury is common and strife all but non-existent, the pressing need for new artistic endeavors slackens.

Indeed, Clarke seems very emphatic that the advance of technology – even the advance of human evolution – does not need either art or faith, and that the achievement of prosperity through the proper application of technological power renders these endeavors mute and unnecessary. “The end of strife and conflict of all kinds had also meant the virtual end of creative art.” (68) To some extent, he implies that both of these elements exist to comfort a confused and tortured humanity, and that the discovery of the correct facts and the correct way of life frees us from the need for either. The Overlords, at the very pinnacle of technology, have no artwork or decoration at all, exemplifying Clarke’s view. “The architecture of the Overlords was bleakly functional: Jan saw no ornaments, nothing that did not serve a purpose …” (187) To be sure, there is the colony of New Athens which champions the arts – but this small and isolated colony is ignored by the Overlords until it houses the Greggson children, and its artistic influence seems to have had no effect on the transformation of the first new humans.

This conclusion seems particularly ironic coming from the author of an innovative work of fiction: it downplays his own ability to spark new thinking about the world, even the scientific realm. Clarke clearly wrote Childhood’s End to illuminate a possibility, yet fails to recognize the crucial role that such possibilities play in the future of science. In the present day, scientists are beginning to pursue and build devices that were initially seen in the world of entertainment – even the gadgets and machines from Star Trek and Asimov. A traditional attribute of creativity is taking two unrelated ideas and merging them into one – another method that has allowed many scientific inventions and theories to grow and change.

Religion also has its place. Until humans become as logical and straightforward as the machines they build, many will find comfort in the idea of immortal souls and a master plan. These are things that are not subject to empirical proof, yet to many are questions that must be answered. Faith does not mean being blind to science: when the theory of evolution came to light, many believers found it confirmation of God’s plan, a more perfect and ingenius idea than immutable divine creation. Indeed, some sociological theories of religion even believe that it is intimately connected with the birth of science. As the world evolved from polytheism into monotheism, it allowed humans to conceptualize about nature in a new and interconnected way. Instead of believing in a plant god and a sky god, they could recognize that the trees grew because God made it rain. The days in which the Church stamped draconian denials on scientific principles are long over: most religions have recognized that the comfort they provide, no science can take away.

It is interesting to note that within Childhood’s End can be found a hint – perhaps intended by the author, perhaps not – that artistic expression and religion are far more important than they are outwardly portrayed. The Overlords are forever caught in an evolutionary cul-de-sac, while humanity continues into a new and glorious stage. But in what sense are humans superior to their shepherds? In preparing humanity for its evolution, Karellen says, “I am well aware of the fact that we have also inhibited, by the contrast between our civilizations, all other forms of creative achievement as well. But that was a secondary effect, and it is of no importance.” Or is it? Unlike the Overlords, the human race has art and music and literature and faith … it has a sense of wonder.

The Overlords of Childhood’s End engender an era of peace and prosperity, and the promise of evolution to come – but they also, without direct or overt action, destroy the twin worlds of artistic expression and religion. Clarke believes that, once de-mystified by fact, religion has no more purpose, and that creativity is unnecessary in a prosperous and fulfilled world; yet this neglects many of the contributions both have made to humanity over the centuries, and their place in the human mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Website Update

Another review added to the Reading Reccs section - Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Review For Apartment Tour

A review for my short story Apartment Tour (through Jupiter World Press) can be found here:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Home Sweet ...

This was written around Apr or May and describes my neighborhood fairly well:

Rows of houses wander without agenda down a neat green, the curb lined with trees meant to be identical when they were planted twenty years ago. The street spirals into cul-de-sacs and ambling lanes. Run-off trickles through lawns, spawning impromptu duck ponds and bogs – due in three months’ time to become furrows of burnt grass. The neighborhood charter asks nature to suspend itself into perpetual lush; it isn’t possible without a green paint concession. The only pollution on the air is pollen, saffron, hazy and accented by the smell of dead fish in the spring, the buzzsaw of cicadas in the summer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Website Update Part Deux

Entire website - yeah, you heard me - ported over to my domain name.

Website Update

Added new review to Reading section of website - Storm Front by Jim Butcher.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Quotes of Note

"No compulsory learning can remain in the soul." - Plato

Spoken by Lord Balfour in the British Parliament (according to James Hilton in The Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing):

"Gentlemen, I do not mind being contradicted, and I am unperturbed when I am attacked, but I confess I have slight misgivings when I hear myself being explained."

And from an SF master ...

"Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments." - Isaac Asimov


Hello to everyone and no one, depending on who sees this post ...

My name is Lindsey Duncan. There is a middle name floating around there, but I try to ignore it. I have been informed by Scottish-Americans in the know that clan Lindsay and clan Duncan have been feuding for centuries. Some people might says this explains a few things.

If you were to ask me what I do, I would tell you that I'm a professional harp performer. I play the traditional lever harp, sometimes mislabeled as the "Celtic" harp. My repertoire includes Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Renaissance, popular and seasonal tunes, with a few selections from Galicia, Brittany, Cornwall and the Isle of Man - rounding out the seven Celtic lands - and a couple classical pieces, mostly for weddings. I have a CD out entitled Rolling of the Stone and I teach adult and self-motivated child students.

I'm also a student through Indiana University's School of Continuing Studies with a self-designed major, taking courses in mythology, theology, political theory etc, with a concentration on social history and human belief systems. I take most of my courses distance. This may be an appropriate place to note that I was homeschooled from first grade up and I have ... strong feelings about traditional education.

If you were to ask me what I AM, I would tell you that I am a speculative fiction author. I write predominantly fantasy with a tendency towards high or epic fantasy and, conversely, humorous fantasy. I also write soft science fiction, though less commonly, and I've not yet made a sale on the SF side. I am currently working on multiple novel projects - with the most recent, Butterfly's Poison, I've just begun my final polish edit. I've sold a number of short stories, most recently through Jupiter World Press. You can find a complete list on my website. My ultimate goal is to become a published novelist ... and this Blog is devoted primarily to my writerside.

What, exactly, is the purpose of this Blog? Here I intend to post:

-News, including website updates
-Interesting found quotes on life, the universe, everything
-Discussions of topics that relate to SF/F and writing
-Excerpts and clips
-Occasional humor
-Things of Absolute Brilliance which I have not identified yet

Until next time ... ciao!