Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sage Advice

Seen on the TV today:

"Never open your mouth until you are absolutely certain your brain is going to work." -- Tommy Dewar

Sunday, January 28, 2007

History Lesson

No, not *our* history, who do you think I am? The city of Pelindar (which was the setting in an earlier post of mine) appeared again in an exercise sometime ago entitled Landscape and Time (100), which asks the writer to create the human history of a specific piece of land. So verily:

The sandy crescent of coast on which the city of Pelindar rested was bleak but fertile, a steady year-round chill allowing for the growth of crops that neither froze nor burned under the withering sun. The seasons changed, but the wandering tides kept them in check. Winds built up rumbling along the shore, as if they, too, had found a safe harbor.

There had been civilization on the Grey Coast for millenia, almost as long as any other region, but it had not been "civilized" for all of that time. The first settlers were semi-nomadic farmers, an amalgam of intermingled families without distinction of tribe or hierarchy. Bound together by a limitless series of individual ties, they communicated through an almost instinctual network of family and companion.

The first Grey Coast villages were affairs of convenience, half-hearted, helter-skelter, leaving no trace when they dried up and blew away with the next strong wind. The people remained, incestuous, insular, regarded with flat affect those few explorers who landed on their soil and found that the Coast was too distant and too tenacious to tame. Within a few generations, these ciphers became legends, and not particularly important ones.

When the western lands left their dark ages, the Cenorians discovered the Grey Coast. They fenced in land that seemed to them to be unclaimed. Half the time, they were correct. The other half, they clashed with the locals over matters of right and trade - but by and large, Cenorian solutions were peaceful, the invaders having long since decided that the best means to enlightened society was example.

The first five cities - little more than fortified towns with a few extra towers - sprouted up at randomly chosen points along the Grey Coast. Gradually, the most strategic of the two locations grew to prominence: one in the north, gateway to the civilized world, and one in the far south at the site of modern Pelindar, where the first lighthouse outside of Indessa was founded on the outermost island.

The Cenorians were crushed under the wave of the Black Crusade, as many were. Four of its cities were raised; the other became a slaving pit. The observatory island survived, but became forbidden territory on pain of death - and because of its isolation, became the ideal bolthole for resistance.

An uprising started there, joint of Grey Coast natives and Cenorians. They freed the region, but the slave-city became anathema. No one spoke of it. No one visited it, though its towers could be seen from any hill of any size - and on the Grey Coast, there were many of these.

The Gull Alliance dominated for a while, then subsided, followed by a number of other business consortiums, then a Giserian tyrant. It was the eastern Tirefs who wrested it from the hands of his imperial infallibility and who both built Pelindar in thrice its earlier glory and threw open the doors of the observatory to learned contemplation and discovery. The Grey Coast has not been the new world for a long time; there are ever further horizons.

Three change of hands later, the Grey Coast is a free nation - for now. There are still native tribes in the hills, but their influence can most easily be seen in darkwood eyes, stretched slightly with green and yellow, and in double jointed hands made for fine and mysterious work. In an attitude, too: a sense that what the outside world decides, however shattering, can never alter the sand in the bays.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wish me well!

Having discovered that Night Shade Books (an up-and-coming small press turned medium press turned publishing force) is releasing an anthology of pirate stories, I'm trying my hand at another nautical tale. The catch? ... Fast Ships, Black Sails is closing to submissions at the end of February. Which means I need to finish and edit this baby in a twinkling. Not only am I crazy enough to attempt this, I'm also eyeing another anthology with a similar close date, Magic and Mechanica. Send me bursts of decent inspiration, I need 'em. ;-)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sassy Statements

Courtesy of my page-a-day calendar:

"I can't stand makeup commercials. 'Do you need a lipstick that keeps your lips kissable?' No, I need a lipstick that gets me equal pay for equal work. How about eye shadow that makes me stop thinking I'm too fat?" -- Maria Bamford

"When my enemies stop hissing, I shall know I am slipping." -- Maria Callas

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Like Clockwork

I just sold a sorta-short story (really, when it pushes nine thousand words ... can you call it short?) entitled "Sailing The Seventeen Seas" to Fantasist Enterprises' Sails & Sorcery anthology. The nice part is, S&S will be coming out early to pick up on the wave of interest from the last PotC movie, so I should have less than a year's wait before I see my baby in print.

"Sailing The Seventeen Seas" is set in the same world as my novel "Butterfly's Poison," though there is no direct reference to BP. It is probably set a decade or two later - I had a passing reference in the story to Synnove, the daughter of main character Treddian and only fifteen during the events of BP, as the unconventional ruler of Nevelia (a city), but I cut it in edits. In any case, why seventeen seas? Well, the world in which StSS (or should I call it S3?) is set has no real landmasses, only large islands and countless oceans, many of them called different names by different countries ...

StSS is the story of a merchant ship, a shapeshifter, an inventor, and a pair of fugitive passengers. Also like BP, the central character is an escaped Shardathi slave, but there the similarities cease. Vlisa Karhene is the first mate of the Narwhal and has the unenviable task of keeping her mad-scientist captain in line. The title of this post, of course, refers to the fact that the setting involves a higher tech level than most fantasy and a clockwork bird plays a key part in the proceedings. As for the rest, well ... that would be telling.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


You never know when your slip of the tongue will become someone else's continuing in-joke ...

There's a kitchen supply place known as Sur La Table (Roughly, sir la tahb(le?) - I have less than no command of French). My mother was in line at her local kitchen store when the lady in front of her started talking about, "Laser Table." It has become a family watchword.

Then there's my childhood friend, who was discussing various foods she ate abroad and enthused about the, "Barbarian sausage" ... I still love this image. (Bavarian, for the still clueless.)

And Gold Star Chili still gets called "Still Car Goalie" from a bit of accidental muddling.

But you have to admit, forget Egghead Software - it's more fun to browse at Eggsoft Headware.

I feel justified in neenering about these because I still get teased about saying, "The default setting for water should be no lemon," and "I'm going to boot up the stove." I am a child of the computer age, after all.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Idle Thoughts

A day or two ago, I read a short story in a magazine (I won't mention the name to be fair about it) that was a pretty entertaining tyrant-turns-good yarn ... or would have been, except it was unnecessarily graphic and sexualized. Nothing crucial to the plot was contained in the off-color mold; it would have been a far stronger story had it made its point without ninety percent of the references. I'm mystified why the author thought this was a good tactic to take; I'm even more startled that a magazine would take such a tale unexpurgated.

On the other hand, a more disturbing trend. I wonder who decides the difference between profound and silly or fractured in short fiction, and why I keep falling on the other side of the line. While I come to reading for fun more than to be challenged, I also am a smart reader and I have to wonder ... if I don't get it to the point where I don't even have a glimmer of it, much less a sense of, "Well, this feels like it would be interesting if I could put the pieces together," who does?

Of course, there is also an equally unnerving trend in fantasy short fiction that seems to shun worldbuilding and fully realized other-realms in favor of urban fantasy and close reinterpretation of mythic elements. While I enjoy both, I find it sad that it seems harder to find this bread and butter that, to me, is what fantasy is ultimately FOR.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Phonebook Fun

The following surnames came out of my phonebook. I was doing this for a story exercise, so I ignored ones that were too peculiar or too modern, but this is *plenty* odd in patches:

Abernathy, Achey, Alikonia, Amend, Arcuri, Bashada, Battle, Bonecutter, Clever, Coffin, Coldiron, Dressing, Drexelius, Enaiho, Eve, Fey, Fiala, Fightmaster, Goldwire, Hack, Hazard, Heckle, Jeranek, Kohl, Lawyer, League, Lively, Loving, Means, Minds, Moonshine, Morningstar, Muse, Music, Nation, Ndiaye, Nodes, Office, Outland, Pagan, Palace, Pancake, Prey, Query, Quitter, Rafter, Rainwaters, Rust, Scurry, Search, Shiver, Shorten, Sprinkle, Talluri, Test, Vest, Vice, Viola, Vigil, Warning, Wedding, Zilch, Devolve, Dice, Geis, Guard, Ice, Iori, Journey, Justice, Kill, Kinder, Knuckles, Leisure, Platter, Ploy, Register, Reveal, Sample, Self, Snare, Spite, Stonecipher, Trusty, Worst.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm Back!

Pardon the holiday lapse - I was busy, recovering, etc. But another sale to trumpet - "The Letter," a paranormal Dear John letter, was accepted by Flashshot. Like all flashshot pieces, The Letter is under 100 words - 92, to be exact. (Technically, this isn't a "sale" as Flashshot doesn't pay, but it's a respected market and ... visibility!)