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.