Saturday, March 31, 2007

Hmm, well ...

Progress, of an ambivalent sort. In my search for a home for Scylla and Charybdis, one of my favorite stories (and one of my few SF stories), I sent it to the Writers of the Future contest. Made the quarter-finals, which is better than prior showings, but still means my baby is looking for a home. I ought to be happier about this. I suppose it proves that I'm a glass is half empty gal at heart. Don't get me wrong, I grok that quarter-finals is an accomplishment of itself, but it still means that one of my best remains under wraps.

The hunt continues.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sage Advice

"You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" -- Ann Landers

"Nothing risque, nothing gained." -- Jayne Mansfield

(Again courtesy of my calendar.)

Seen on a bumpersticker:

"If I wanted your opinion, I'd read your entrails."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Gradually Become Agitated ...

Look at this. Then look at it again.

Trust me, you'll see something you missed.

This is primarily for musicians, but it's generally just Very Funny and you don't need to be musical to get a lot of it:

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Little Brag ...

Prefacing with the fact that Aiara is my online handle for those who don't know:


I've become tempted of late to write a story by coming up with maybe a dozen characters and half a dozen setting threats, plot threads and some kind of miscellany ... then trot out ye olde dice and run with whatever I have without necessarily planning ahead of time. It's a strange mix of artificial structure and artificial spontaneity that interests me, perhaps when my juices are running low. For some reason, ye olde novel is running slow right in the middle of climactic scenes - perhaps because I'm not terribly good at describing physical action. May simply be that I'm in the midst of a sea of rejection letters and working on other projects, though.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

And The Rivers Ran Green ...

Yesterday was one of the busiest days of my life - unsurprising, given that Celtic musician + St. Patrick's Day = high demand, but still.

Up at 6:30 am to ferry myself to the Association of Bridal Consultants OH/KY conference, where I believe at least a dozen consultants picked up my card. (One in particular seemed very interested - unfortunately, she's quite a distance away, which would mean a gas surcharge on my normal rates.) I played for forty-five minutes at the opening as people gathered, another hour and a halfish at lunch. This meant I attended the conference in between, two sessions and a nice goody bag including a miniature chocolate pizza which will cease to exist sometime today.

The keynote session was on wedding coordination and matching the client's style, which wasn't helpful for me, though there was pretty eye-candy. It also made me slightly less likely to elope, which is what I've been saying since I started playing a lot of weddings. "Agh, I'm just going to elope." The first session, however, was on networking and gave me a lot to chew on. I've already instinctively known this - if you want something, you have to give something first - but it was well-framed.

Arriving home slightly after 2pm, I had to switch outfits, retune - yes, again - and leave again at 5pm for a three hour gig at a local country club. (Do the math: that's over five hours of harp playing.) Unlike last year, no one stood up and started singing along when I played, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," which is a phenomenal relief. There is nothing weirder than playing a song and having your audience sing along on the spur of the moment, especially when you're playing background music and subconsciously expecting to be ignored.

Four or five times, I looked up and saw a small child (three or so) staring fixedly at the harp with father in tow. Later found out they weren't even there for the same event, but attending a wedding reception elsewhere in the building. Was absolutely adorable.

Got home around 9:30pm. Finiti. ;-)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fingers Crossed, Foolish Hopes Up ...

Submissions for Sword & Sorceress XXII, formerly under Marion Zimmer Bradley and currently bearing her name in homage, open on the 23rd of March - that's next Friday - and stays open until late April. Being somewhere between desperate and cheesy, and aware that they have offered an approximate response time of one week, I have three or four stories (the best I've written in that particular vein) lined up ... as a wise man once said on another forum, the experience of a story is subjective, so my absolute best may not be an editor's cup of tea, but #2 ... we shall see.

I'm wary, because I still feel kind of shaken over my laughable showing for Fast Ships, Black Sails (the pirate anthology), but ... I can't help but want to make my chances as high as possible.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The First Roses of Fall

My second poetry sale! The First Roses of Fall will be appearing in OG's Speculative Fiction at a time to be determined. Seth Crossman, the editor, spent a few passes making suggestions for tweaks - he was reasonable, very good at explaining his recommendations, and was able to help me hammer out some nuances. I'm very happy with the final version.

Now if I can just stay coherent long enough to fill out the contract properly - I have a massive allergen-induced headache. To the point where I actually had to reprint it because I flubbed the name of the piece.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Sword Review - Winged Words

This story, possibly the closest thing I've written to a fantasy romance, is now available at The Sword Review. I was pleased as punch when they accepted it, because I still consider this one of my best works. Interestingly, it's a reversal of the position I usually portray with work versus love.

Point your browser to:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fairy Tales

I've been reading old fairy tales, trying to reshape and recast a couple into short stories. It's an interesting process. Some of the cardinal dos and don'ts of writing don't seem to apply to the fairy tale, leaving both quite a job of reinterpretation and the question of whether or not these rules are universal or even necessary. This is not the occasional lapse, although the fairy tales that endure seem to have a greater degree of conventional elements. This is a continuous appearance in stories that are archetypal, ageless and endlessly fascinating.

Coincidence abounds; luck saves the hero. Outside benefactors are common, giving gifts that are just what the hero requires or providing advice at just the right moment. Sometimes, the story jumps to another section with no apparent explanation - we're given to expect a tale about a boy promised to a mermaid who never reappears in the narrative.

On the other hand, the often subliminal rule of three is almost invariably made explicit in the fairy tale. There are three trials, three sections, three wise men to consult. Unlike in most modern fiction, where this is hidden, the fairy tale revels in the triad. Also, too, there is a sense of cosmic motivation, the world moving around the hero to some logic that maybe - just maybe - we could discern with the right mindset.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Old Friends

I loved this quote when I saw it:

"I went to the thirtieth reunion of my preschool. I didn't want to go because I've put on like a hundred pounds." -- Wendy Liebman

I'm so glad I will never have a highschool / college / etc reunion.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Process

For me, the creation of a story, from first ideas to putting it on the paper to final review, seems to move through a distinct emotional arc.

In the first stage, when I'm playing with the ideas, everything is possible and everything is perfect. Nothing is work, and I may chew over the same section three or four times ... never coming up with anything quite like what I'll end up putting on the page.

When I'm actually writing, the story is a mess. The infodumps are too long, the references too oblique, the plotholes fall out of the sky mounted on giant eagles. Sometimes, I want to trash it. On the extreme end, occasionally I want to trash my hard drive. But at the same time, there is just enough fire to keep me burning.

The editing process is easier on me than the writing. I find something soothing about it. I usually spend a lot of my time cutting bits of phrases and slimming down my verbiage. Often I find I've made leaps in my haste; I bridge gaps and fix fences.

Then when I'm done, in rushes the sense of achievement again, a weird echo of where I started: the story in ideal, not necessarily what is on the page - I'm not sure that I, personally, can ever really see what is on the page and not all the mental structure behind it - but an abstract sense of the completed product.

I just went through this process in compression. I recently finished a short story tentatively entitled Left Eye, Right Eye, which I wrote in a rush - a couple hundred words Saturday, and then the rest of 7500ish between Sunday and Monday. Throughout, I felt like I was on a bad rollercoaster. I knew something was crazily off-kilter, but I couldn't stop. It was a compulsion.

Now it's done; it hasn't had enough time to cool off for editing, but at a tentative look ... it isn't as bad as I thought. Something about the actual process of writing gets me so absorbed in the minute flaws that I can't see the forest for the trees. Somehow, they don't bother me as much when I'm editing. I think it's because when I'm moving from idea to write, I'm trying desperately to translate the ineffable; when I'm moving from write to edit, I'm honing the known.

Between the two extremes is this awkward, ungainly child, too old to be an idea, too young to be a mature story. It is this teenager phase that comprises the writing of the thing.

No wonder I'm crazy.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Boot Camp Completed!

For the past six months or so, I've been going through The 3 A.M. Epiphany, a book of writing exercises. Since my goal was to do one exercise a day for the purposes of writing something new, I skipped most of those that required intensive research and most recently, those that were meant for editing works in progress. I missed only a couple of days since I began. But now I'm done, and I'm not sure whether I'm going to lay the book aside and just try to make sure I write SOMEthing every day, or whether I'm going to start afresh changing the length requirements or whether I'm going to randomly select an exercise from each chapter or ...

The exercise I did today gives away one of my characters on an MU*, which I kinda don't want to do, so I give you the second to last, which was to have characters from a novel or story "rehearse" a scene. I ended up digressing into this:

Shihyali pulled her hair up in a tie, dropped it, then made an absent gesture as if to cut it off at the roots.

"You'd look very fetching like that," Evnissyen said from where he sprawled, his body arranged with self-conscious lack of grace.

She shot him a withering look and said nothing. It was clear from her expression that she knew how he intended it.

"We have to work this out." He tapped one hand impatiently on the chair arm. "How we're going to come to an agreement. In the - you know."

They were both ginger about the idea of being fictional. She felt a bit superior, knowing she was the narrator, but that didn't protect her from anything, even if the author was notoriously unlikely to rewrite. It also meant he had more room to think independent thoughts. She suspected he spent a lot of them on - no, that was unfair. He was some kind of ascetic, as far as she knew.

"This concerns Rhadiath - my Rhadiath," she said. "My first priority is to protect him."

"Your Rhadiath." He snorted. "Not that I think he has the cunning in him to toy with you, but that's never going to work, you know that, right?"

"How would you know?" she shot back.

"You're not a real noble."

"Neither are -" She stopped. While they could argue his temperment and loyalties for hours, it wouldn't get them anywhere, and it wouldn't solve the conversation they had to have when the story resumed. She had started to adjust to the concept of space in between, of times that her journal omitted and the world seemed to spin to a standstill ... a standstill of planning and choreography.

He smirked at her. "You know perfectly well I am. But I'm going to tell you that he would never believe such a vast conspiracy without proof - and you don't have proof. You know that."

"I'm going to demand you get me proof."

"You know I can't do that."

"I can bloody well demand it anyway." Shihyali ran a hand through her hair. "And why can't you? Because it would endanger your neck?"

"Oh, that's right, you're pretending you don't care about my neck." She threw a shoe at him. He ducked. "Where did that come from?"

"Who knows?"

He rolled his eyes. "Even if I could get your information ... you know how delicate the situation is."

"You know I don't really believe in your rebellion," she said. "I'm not going to take that for an answer."

"Am I going to have to blackmail you? Because while we may not be on good terms, I admire what you're doing and I don't like doing that."

She shot him an irritable look. "I'm not going to change my nature just because you don't like threatening me."

"I'm not asking you to change your nature." He smirked. "Just your dialogue."

"Faugh!" She dropped back hard. "This would be a lot easier," she addressed the ceiling, "if you would just leave Rhadiath alone. Don't I have enough complication in my life?"

"Who are you talking to?" "

Whoever is directing this affair," she said with a wave of her hand. She narrowed her eyes as his smirk intensified. "Don't even think about it."

"Difficult not to." A slight smile teased his lips. "I did kiss you ..."

"Maybe they forced me to." Shihyali kipped to her feet again. "All right. Say this. Say I offer to help your rebellion - in limited fashion - in an attempt to defend Rhadiath."

"An attempt?" Evnissyen arched a brow ironically. "But all right. I trust you enough to do that - I really do," he added to her skeptical look. "I'll remember that."

"No, you won't," he said. "These chats we're having don't actually exist. The next time we're here, maybe ..."

She nodded once, grimacing. "I suppose I know that. I had a conversation with Arriatri here the last time that would have made things so much simpler - they're not supposed to be, are they?"

"Wonder what happens at the end? Do we get a sequel? Obviously you live, it's your journal, but ..." He waved a hand.

"Not necessarily," she pointed out. "I could end one entry announcing my execution the next day."

"You should do that anyhow. Scare the author."


Notice for my forthcoming short story and, if you click it, a really awesome looking cover:

My story, "Currents and Clockwork" is scheduled to appear in Sails & Sorcery: Nautical Tales of Fantasy, published by Fantasist Enterprises, independent publisher of illustrated fantasy books.