Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

It took longer than I thought, but I am done with my worldbuilding and character profiles for Scylla and Charybdis. I figure the profiles are meant to be played fast and loose, and I'm sure I will add characters I haven't jotted down, adapt the ones I have ... I wrote profiles primarily for a diversity check and consistency.

There is a good reason for this: I'm having to do it in reverse for Journal of the Dead. Notating eye color, hair color, physical quirks and making sure this isn't too much overlap. Also have notes to review personality and speech patterns.

I am now twenty-two pages into my one-hundred-seventy page document. I am trying to keep my focus on macro elements: noting what needs to be changed, but not making specific marks about how. That will be for my second pass. I'm into the "journal" portion now, and surprised how messy it is. Thank goodness for editing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I mostly keep this to writing business, but I've recently had an exciting bit of harp news: I was invited to judge the Scottish Harp competition at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games - July 11 in Linville, NC. Definitely looking forward to it! I need to brush up on my dance music, as I don't get much opportunity to play it during gigs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pieces of Taboo

There are two topics in romantic fiction that I prefer not to tackle - one because I have difficulty portraying it with sympathy, and the other because I don't think it's possible. I've been pondering, when next the opportunity comes up, trying to write a story using one or both in an attempt to put myself in a point of view I don't agree with. Seems like something a writer should try every now and again.

The first is cheating on an SO. To me, this is almost unforgiveable. It is not a tactic I'd normally use in a story. I have trouble understanding how people get there.

The second is being romantically in love with more than one person, equally, at the same time. (Wow, lots of clauses there? But I'm not sure how better to phrase it.) Personally, I am not sure this is something that can actually happen. On some level, I think there must be an inequality, and to force two people to put up with one's dithering ... yeah. Not getting there.

On both counts, I freely admit that this is just my opinion, and a biased one, at that. But - steps outside one's box, always worthwhile.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Boot Camp: Week 3

Words: Obscure, pandiculation, qualitative, rancor, sallow, talisman, unconscionable.

Some better words this week, though I am beginning to feel a bit repetitive. I decided that I'm reaching the functional limit of this exercise - so one more week, and then back to square one with another session.

Best descs for this week:

He gave the impression of a shadow – dark, thin and vague, his movements an anxious flit. He dressed to match, undyed leather and a grey wool shirt beneath. His hair was unkempt, toussled; falling unevenly with more length to the left side. His eyes, however, were his talisman: vivid, brilliant amber – not brown, but a deep liquid color mixed with gold. A single blink of those eyes, showcased with thick, silky lashes, could command immediate attention.

Thick wild grasses swarmed over the few hillocks that interrupted the vast expanse of plain; their waving heads vanished on the horizon. Trampled trails, stripped of some green but rarely bared down to earth, showed evidence of the passage of horses. They glowed muddy gold in the early light as dawn rippled across the horizon, a languid expansion of color like a sleeper’s pandiculation. The plains seemed to drop out of sight into the embrace of the sunrise, flowing over the edge of the world.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

My weekly free write happened before I could write this post, so let's discuss that briefly. The prompt was to write about a poet and an anniversary - not necessarily the poet's anniversary. Myself being perverse, I decided to write about a court poet, a seer and the anniversary of something that hadn't happened yet. All right, so I have a love affair with seers, whether the interpretation of prophecy is loose or very fatalistic.

Anyhow, in planning this, I decided to use an old world, and was stunned by the setting I stumbled across, a world of islands isolated by wild seas and sunken landbridges. How had I never used this before? It just "pops" with possibilities.

Still in the midst of pre-work for Scylla and Charybdis, but much closer to finishing. In working on character profiles, I've found myself reluctant and tetchy - so I'm not pushing it, just writing down enough so I can be consistent and keep the characters distinct.

Just started my macro pass of the Journal of the Dead manuscript. I am pleasantly surprised by the intensity of it and how casually the worldbuilding glides into the story. However, there are other pieces that gave me pause. In particular, the self-defense killing in the first chapter still doesn't escalate believably.

I am still rather worried about the fact that what would normally be the sample portion of the manuscript is entirely in third person, while the bulk is in first: the titular "journal," which the character starts writing in. Besides the POV difference itself, Rhiane's voice is rather different from the narration in the chapters. I don't want to be presenting agents with a "sample" that doesn't represent the whole ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Boot Camp Week 2

Words: Hapless, iconoclast, jettison, kinetic, laissez-faire, magnanimous, narcolepsy

I continue to be a little underwhelmed by the choices for word of the day. Some of these are also words I would never use, not because there's nothing wrong with them, but "laissez-faire" doesn't fit well in a secondary world fantasy, and narcolepsy is not something with which I concern myself. Ahem.

Again, the best descriptions - in general, not necessarily from the use of the word:

She had a look as if someone had dripped her from a cave ceiling: a pale white stalagmite, slender but bottom-heavy. Her flyaway russet hair was cut just below the nape of her neck, one hapless lock curling down the center of her brow. Her eyes were set just a little too wide and a little too large, giving their blue a waifish and vaguely alien look.

A narrow path – a dirt track at best, a blotch of mud at worst – trailed up the side of the mountain, weaving close to the sheer sides. Piles of scree clumped at every odd bend reminded the travel that the mountain was prepared to jettison its load of rocks at any moment. It was a dark stone, flecked with obsidian, dampened by a perpetual drizzle, and no trees relieved the ascent. The greatest splotch of color was from the pale grey moss which climbed the walls, crawling into fissures.

I seem to best at descriptions that are vaguely depressing and sort of falling apart at the seams. Hrm.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mismatched Lyrics

We've all had that experience of hearing lyrics and getting them not quite right ... and what we're hearing either doesn't make sense or twists the entire song around. Two of mine:

Actual: "Til a man of low degree stood by her side ..." (Delta Dawn, Helen Reddy)
Heard: "Til a man of loaded grease stood by her side ..." (This is actually fairly similar. It just doesn't make sense.)

Actual: "A dollar says it's true: this town gets hold of you ..." (New York City Lights, Sophie Ellis-Bextor)
Heard: "Our daughter says it's true: this town gets hold of you ..." (Right, okay then.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Today I am sick. I don't think it's a flu - could be food poisoning - but I have been wracked and nauseated and dizzy.

In any case, today was a day of administrivia. I picked up my editing copy (first go-through) for Journal of the Dead - which, regardless of how good a novel it is, is definitely my best title ever. My plan:

Read through the manuscript once to a) gather data - make sure I have hair color, eye color, vital stats, positioning of towns, etc, recorded and correct; and b) write a scene-by-scene list with the plot / char-development / subplot / other purpose each serves.

Review these to see if anything needs to be cut or majorly restructured

Read through the manuscript a second time to mark where I want changes.

Use the editing copy to rewrite the manuscript in a clean blank document.

Possibly! print the manuscript again to do one more hard-core editing pass. It depends on how I feel at this point.

Either way, a couple copy-edit passes on the computer copy and then I'll start working on synopses and a query letter.

Projected completion time? Erm ... May - June?

On a smaller note, sent a number of, "I haven't heard from you, did I miss a reply?" notes to markets. Everything is running slow as molasses.

Almost done with my notes for Scylla and Charybdis. Again, I had some surprises with numbers and results when I sat down and thought things through in detail - part of the reason I'm glad I did this.

Finally, added, "Children of the Revolution" by Kirsty MacColl to my soundtrack. I'm ninety percent the song is actually about the Vietnam War, but it very much fits the tone.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Boot Camp Week 1

Words: Zealous, Abstinent, Beleaguer, Candor, Daunt, Eclectic, Fastidious, Gargantuan

I was sort of disappointed that none of the words thus far are unfamiliar to me - ah well.

Been enjoying this boot camp session, though it isn't very intensive: I complete it quickly each day. The other thing that differs from previous exercises is context. In previous boot camps, setting, character and plot have been at least implied and often outlined. In this one, I've stayed fairly generic. I've avoided names and numbers. Most of these descriptions could be plugged into a number of stories, with the exception that references to modern elements aren't going to work in a medieval-style fantasy, and some of the place descs have a vaguely Victorian feel.

Here are the best of each - person and place - from this week. This is best description, not necessarily best use of word ...

She was wiry, sparse, a collection of attenuated muscles strung taut over thin bone. One part warrior, one part scarecrow, daubed in the colors of decay: leaf-mold brown hair, turned-earth skin, pallid grey eyes. Most of the time, she kept her head down and her voice soft - but the grave-chill she could summon when roused would daunt even the fiercest of challengers.

The ground cover grew more sparse deeper into the forest, shrubs and smaller trees fading away as their cunning neighbors sucked away the descending light. Those who had dwelt here were old enough to have a history surpassing that of nations. Gargantuan trunks swelled upwards like the roots of mountains, their peaks hidden in a fog of green. Leaf-fall crackled underfoot, the whisper of ancient voices. Pebbles kicked from emperors' feet lay as scattered gravel beneath.

Friday, January 09, 2009


For the sheer, odd fun of it, I decided to put together a loose soundtrack for my novel project. Now, my choice of words notwithstanding, there's no arc between songs - I just put them in an order that was varied and enjoyable to listen to. Each individual song was chosen for reasons ranging from the deep to the bratty. So I have:

1. Us Amazonians - Kirsty MacColl
Reason: I've been referring to my station residents as "Amazons" for a while now (and they all have names from that mythology) - but more than that, this is a bright, upbeat, affirming song.

2. Walk This World - Heather Nova
Reason: The invitation to exploration, the "broken" vibe the entire song gives off - it feels right with what I'm doing. This would fall into my male lead's POV, strictly speaking.

3. Suddenly - LeAnn Rimes
Reason: A song about abruptly (... suddenly ...) being out there in the unknown with everything that supported you left behind - yeah, going there, doing that.

4. Defying Gravity - Wicked soundtrack (Idina Menzel, Kristin Chenoweth singing)
Reason: I already rhapsodized about this. Powerful song about not being held down, particularly by authority ... which is really what Anaea ends up doing. Also, gorgeous, powerful - and I could even cast her friend Orithia as 'Glinda' here, though their relationship never becomes adversarial. Definitely the, "I can't go where you're going" vibe fits.

5. Drops of Jupiter - Train
Reason: I confess I have very few songs by male artists in my collection. In looking for something specifically for Gwydion, this seemed appropriate - and seems much like the way he'd end up viewing Anaea.

6. There Is Nothing Like A Dame - South Pacific soundtrack
Reason: Because I am a smart aleck. (And for the record, it's not "you know darn well." I'm amused that someone bowdlerized the lyrics.)

7. I Do - Lisa Loeb
Reason: Another song on the subject of defiance and asking questions. This is supposed to be an anti-love song, but it works just as well directed at the leaders of the station.

8. Breathe - Midge Ure
Reason: One of those endangered species, a male artist song. Again, though, I think it fits Gwydion very well. In particular, I'm fairly sure this is meant to be a religious metaphor, which fits in the context that I've made him at least slightly devout. (Is that an oxymoron?)

9. Turn This World Around - Amy Grant
Reason: A "some day" hope to change a fractured and isolated world - check.

10. I Enjoy Being A Girl - Flower Drum Song soundtrack
Reasons: Because I am also a twerp. (Sidebar: this is a song you could not release nowadays. Feminists would have screaming fits. But so much fun.)

11. The Safest Place - LeAnn Rimes
Reason: The sensation of real strength and support; the desire (again) to change the world ... I have not really decided whether I am going for the "sweeping plot" yet, but I see Anaea as an idealist.

12. It's Raining Men - Geri Halliwell
Reason: Because, thirdly, I am a brat.

13. Free - Sarah Brightman
Reason: To represent Anaea and Orithia - who were lovers a number of years before the story starts, but became good friends after breaking up. (According to the Harem liner notes, the line is "when the bars of freedom fall" not "when the birds are free to fall." Couldn't find a version printed right on the web.)

14. Poor Little Fool - Helen Reddy
Lyrics: Not available. Bah!
Reason: This one fits into the general theme of escape and breaking rules ... and I admit I just love it. If anyone does find these lyrics, I'd be grateful.

15. Always Tomorrow - Gloria Estefan

Reason: This sense of isolation, of having lived in hibernation, is very much the point where I wanted to start Anaea from. But - as said - there's always tomorrow ...

16. In The Arms of The Milky Way - Laura Powers
Lyrics: Not available.
Reasons: Apart from being a "space song" this has just about nothing to do with my project or its themes, but it is bright, joyous and a satisfying finish.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Yep, I finally figured out what it should be called.

I just realized that today is the free-write day for a writers' group I'm part of ... so depending on circumstances, may be updates on that as well. Not today, however, as it's not for another five hours or so.

Further world-work: I discovered that my initial concepts of the matriarchs as a small elite fell apart when I tried to "do the numbers" as to how many of them would be required to have the kind of small-focus rule I wanted. Instead, I end up with a population around seven million - still small in a civilization of a few billion, but much larger in the scheme of things.

Also, reading my Buddhism research has made me focus the discipline to psions particularly. Which means I have a psion who isn't a practicioner ... investigating why he feels uncomfortable with it (as I've decided is a good way to go) suggests some interesting things about his character and the dynamic with my main character.

However, I'm also doing a heavy rewrite of an old story. Some years back, I did research for a humorous fantasy story around beauty pageants. However, this research also produced a tongue-in-cheek science fiction story about a galactic pageant - one of my earliest stories that I submitted. It met with some good reactions for editors, but ultimately didn't sell - and just as well, because I wasn't totally happy with it.

Now, the macro elements of the plot still seem solid to me; it's just a matter of changing some details. There are also some good lines I wanted to recapture, while cutting the clunkers (a considerable population thereof) and fixing the dialogue. Wow. I've always thought dialogue was my strong suit, but there are some terrible bits. On the other hand, what they actually say isn't bad: it's the logic behind it. It doesn't make a great deal of sense.

So what I'm doing is starting from scratch with a printed copy of the old story at my elbow. This gives me plenty of freedom to drop things, move them around - and use the gems verbatim. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Boot Camp

As I do periodically, I've decided to take on another boot camp session: daily exercises on a specific and externally-imposed topic. (The general arc is something I design, obviously, but each individual exercise is "out of my hands.") Before, I went through "The 3am Epiphany" (Brian Kiteley); then I did a script-writing boot-camp using randomly-generated elements from a friend's "hat"; then I took on the exercises in "Creating Character Emotions" (Ann Hood).

This time, it's a description workshop. Every day, I'm going to look at the word of the day at and try to write two descriptions using that word: a character and a place. Because I need a stopping point or I'd be doing it forever / until I broke something, I'm going to arbitrarily say my birthday (March 1st).

Word today is zealous ...

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Knights Who Say Ook!

I just found out from a British source (... all right, a fellow writer on a forum) that Terry Pratchett was knighted.

The skinny is here:

This makes me giggle. Probably more than it should.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Thought Process Thursdays

As a New Year thing - and hopefully a steady commitment - I thought I'd try to post once a week about developments in whatever I'm working on that day, whether it be worldbuilding, editing or short excerpts.

Since it's Thursday - Thought Process Thursdays? Doesn't have much of a ring to it, but titles were never my thing.

Almost done with my planet and space station profiles for my science fiction project. Next comes the micro-level detail, starting with my "Amazon" civilization and working outwards.

I'm currently puzzled trying to rename my "Amazon" space station. It was initially Amygdara just because I liked the sound of it. Now I'm stumped. It may end up being Haven or Refuge just to go with something obvious ... but I am trying very hard to avoid the "random syllables thrown together because they sound cool" effect.

If I were being a complete twerp, I would just fuss around with "Amazonia" or similar until I got a good anagram.

So far, I've used three mythological references - Solomon, Annwyn and Elysium - some regular words - Independence, Centurion - a reference to physical geography - Twin Fires (in a binary star system) - and two homages - Perica (after the setting of an invented SF cult classic from the 2040s) and Eastwood. (... yes, as in Clint.) I have two more to name, counting the above.

All the star systems, with the exception of Tau Ceti, are designated by a 2 letter + numbers combo. I've had great fun coming up with the ways these would morph into names that roll better off the tongue. CX-118, for instance, tends to be dubbed "Sea of Ecstacy" by the ... sarcastic? Where this differs from just-random-syllables is I'm being very careful that everything has a natural and explicable origin.

Signing off for now.

If These Walls Could Speak

Now available for free reading over at Allegory! Check it out.

(First post of the year! Whoo.)