Monday, March 30, 2009

Reccs ...

I now have thirteen entries on my "Old Reccs" section of my website. (I keep my three newest at the top.) This is somehow ... ominous.

Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley

I simply loved this book.

It's a riveting account based on the premise of dragons as an endangered species in the modern world - everything feels scientific, accurate and real. The story focuses to a micro-level on the story of Jake, who finds an infant dragon next to its dying mother and risks everything to raise her ... when no one knows anything about how dragons grow up.

One of the best tidbits of dragon origins is that "real" dragons are Australian in origin ... and they have pouches like marsurpials, used for similar function. The astonishing bit is this works.

Dragonhaven proves that you can break the rules of writing and get away with it if you're talented enough. The first thirty pages are, fair warning, pure info-dump ... and yet it's so engrossing and fascinating that you don't notice. Similarly, there is a lot of summary throughout the book: there has to be, given the massive amounts of time and the gradual changes that occur during it. Yet this only begins to wear on the reader (or at least, this reader) close to two hundred pages into the book.

It isn't perfect: there are scenes that are I wished had been more illustrated and less summarized. But the narrator's voice is strong and compelling, and the through-line that it's a written account of "real" events works perfectly. Jake's voice is distinct; it also "sounds" like something an (albiet very intelligent) young man would write, rather than the work of a trained author.

The suspension of disbelief is a remarkable component of the book. By the end, I was buying things that would seem ridiculous if presented at the opening ... and it all seemed like a logical progression.

Anyhow - highly recommended.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Scylla and Charybdis seems to consist of frenetic leaps from one conversation to another. I am entirely off the course of the short story now, but very pleased with the direction. I am slightly dubious that Anaea hasn't stopped to interrogate Gwydion for more details about his society, but that would slow up the story with a dialogue info-dump - so I focus on forward motion until I've gotten a little further.

Not much more to say ... nearing the end of chapter three. They seem to be breaking fairly naturally around 3600 words.

Editing marks for Journal of the Dead - progressing nicely. My hope is that, by working from the printed copy rather than the original draft, I'll be more free to make changes, even drastic ones, as I input ... so I often have notes that don't directly fit with the current text. I am in Chapter Four of the third person section - one more chapter after this, and the narrative swaps to first person as the journal begins.

One thing I have to be very careful about inserting into the text is how in the world Rhiane is keeping this journal on her person - and there are times where she would have had to be carrying it to make an entry - without it being confiscated, and for that matter, how it isn't read by anyone else. I have a reason for this. It feels labored, but once worked into the storyline, it should work. I'm just nose-crinkly about it since it was an afterthought for me - I reached the final portions and went, "Oh, blast."


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Today would be free-write day, but I can't seem to get onto the forums ... and the lack of any messages to the effect of a reminder would suggest that it is down. Either way - I am a lump of allergies, so probably just as well.

Started to move through the manuscript of Journal of the Dead while trying to juggle the printed copy of my outline. Unwieldy thing! I am really concerned about the opening fight scene: it has to go bad and escalate fast enough for Rhiane to accidently stab someone before the rest of the guards get in from outside. As written, it doesn't work. My manuscript copy has a whole bunch of scrawled notes now on how to fix that. Certainly I can get away with Parik being short-tempered and preremptory, but there are limits.

Scylla and Charybdis is moving comfortably and ... going in a direction that was quite unplanned and didn't occur in the original story, though this is more an issue how I'm getting from point B to point C rather than a change in the positioning of the points. It's a summing of little changes I made that seemed to fit better as I got into more detail about the world and how Anaea got in this position.

I've recently been reading a riveting book called Dragonhaven by Robin McKinley (which, unless the last half utterly disappoints, will be going on my recommended reads). Its micro focus on emotions, reactions and coping with the unthinkable has made me think a lot more about these early parts of SaC, when Anaea is wrestling with her version of the impossible. I can't go into the same amount of detail as Dragonhaven - the scope of the story makes that impossible unless I want enough pages to comprise War and Peace. But it has given me some sense of just how much you can get away with ...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Arcane Whispers - Vol 2

So it looks like Arcane Whispers, Volume Two - the Best of Sorcerous Signals for 2008 ... will include not one, but two of my stories!

Luckily, they're very different in tone: Apartment Tour is an urban fantasy flash fiction, written with a bit of tongue in cheek bite. Soul Siblings is a long sword and sorcery-style epic with some heavy material - though there are some moments of humor if I'm recalling right. I'm nearly incapable of writing without it.

I am particularly excited about the latter because Soul Siblings has always been one of my personal favorite stories.

Even more amusing - last I checked, the illustration for Soul Siblings is frontrunner for cover art. I actually didn't vote for it because I liked some of the others (even by the same artist) better, and because it's a little inaccurate: the Geneb third eyes are supposed to be different colors from their normal eyes. There wasn't time to change it before Sibs went to press, so no big deal - it's still a gorgeous picture. I almost hate to bring it up if it does get the nod for cover art ...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Discovered today that I had used my last Beast of Albion card yesterday, so my boot camp is finished.

... and so is the macro-read of Journal of the Dead! I'm letting it set for a few before I print out the outline and see how much material, how many changes, what kind of issues I'm working with as I go back through the manuscript.

Things are picking up in Scylla and Charybdis. One dynamic I hadn't really explored in the short story was the interaction between Anaea and Orithia - her current friend and ex-lover. At the time, I just threw in the "ex factor" because it served to illustrate an aspect of the station. Now I'm finding that it has more dimensions. I also am enjoying building the contrast between Orithia, who is outwardly rebellious but inwardly conventional, and Anaea, who is outwardly obedient but inwardly daring.

I also introduced Penelope, Orithia's kearl - which is a companion animal somewhere between a cat and a monkey. Now, Anaea wouldn't think of them like this, so I didn't directly describe it as such, I just used descriptors that keyed into the two animals. Hopefully, when Gwydion meets kearl later and I get the opportunity to explain fully, it will simply fit the pieces into place for anyone reading.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

(Albion) Boot Camp Week 5

There seemed a lot of sentence material in This Is My Funniest 2, so I waited a few days before swapping over to Stardust.

For whatever reason, the past few days I've been having trouble incorporating the Albion card into my exercise - the sentence sparks a thought, and all of a sudden I realize that I haven't involved the first element.

I've had a few places where I've taken some effort to stop and consciously re-contextualize the sentence - just to make sure I'm not using the same set-up and surroundings as the original implies.

I am pretty sure that I have less than a week of cards left. Overall, a satisfying exercise. I hope to come back and write one of my excerpts, though which one? So many appeal ...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

My progress on my novels was somewhat derailed (happily) due to a request for a rewrite from a prestigious market. The edits to the story then proceeded to eat my head completely for close to twenty-four hours. I re-sent it yesterday morning and today got a notice it would be 3-4 weeks before he could see it. Augh the anticipation!

In any case, I am now in the last few "phases" of the Journal macro edits - time in the world is measured by the date within a moon-phase. I think my spreadsheet is very long - I won't be surprised if it is more than 30 pages. Being able to see what each scene consists of should allow me to go through and note where would be best to insert discussion of element X, element Y ... then I take a micro pass at the manuscript.

Then I rewrite from the manuscript in a clean document. Oh, this will take forever. I'm not even sure if I am over-editing, but I know that one of my weaknesses is that I don't edit enough, so putting myself through such a laborious process is a worthwhile experiment. It may work for me; it may not.

I'm concerned that Scylla and Charybdis is too "talky," but I've tried to keep the tension going. I guess the issue here is that I've never written a story whose purpose is so entirely to explore the setting, so I may not have a good feel for the balance. The worldbuilding seems to fit pretty naturally into the narration, but there's so much of it. I also realize that I need to be more intensive about Themiscyra, as knowing precisely where Anaea comes from is crucial to have a frame of reference for her later journeys.

I am also starting to feel like a bit of an imposter. I always knew there was some serious material with the gender dynamic - but my intentions had been to play that light, less a sociological treatise as an exploration not unakin to a child crawling through one of those Playspaces. Now I'm seeing other serious psychological questions and even a few religious ones, and I really don't feel as if I have any business commenting on these things. I never set out to have a "message" in my fiction, and I'm concerned that I sound like I'm preaching now. It's fiction, it's a story ... and yet I am so worried about what I might be saying, perhaps inadvertently, that I don't know what to do.

All this and I'm still in Chapter Two.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I just finished Neil Gaiman's Stardust - stayed up last night to finish reading the epilogue. On balance, I enjoyed it much more than American Gods. It has a beautiful feeling of archetype and fairy tale, yet delivered with a sly humor. Much of this comes from a matter-of-fact tone. In American Gods, this surrealness sometimes worked to the detriment of the story - things were so detached they seemed unrealistic. With Stardust, the tone blends wonderfully into the mood.

One thing did disappoint me, and I'm not sure if it's partly because I saw the movie and I was expecting a big climactic battle: the ending was very flatline. It didn't really "go" anywhere. Even the romantic revelation at the end just sort of happens. I do agree that the flash-bang in the Stardust movie would have been inappropriate here, but to me, it seemed less like a novel climax and more a simple stopping point.

The epilogue, I should add, was lovely, and it made me sniffle. It was a striking final note. (I am counting this as an "after the ending" summary.)

Having now read the book, I'm rather puzzled by the movie adaptation in general. It seemed to spend a lot of time on elements that went by in passing in the book, while excluding others ... and even adding things that don't seem to fit with the Stardust world. Some I understood for adaptation and presentation, and others just due to Hollywoodisms, but the pacing between book and movie leaves me a bit bewildered. I did think the portrayal of the Stormhold ghosts was delightful, however. Nicely done.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Space Sirens is now available, including my story "Precious Cargo." This story was written especially to be submitted to this anthology, which is best described as space opera with (swashbuckling?) female protagonists. I already had Kirin and her aunt bouncing around in my head from some exercises I'd done, and they wanted a story. Some day I may go back and write onwards, but I think it would be more of a novel-to-come than a series of shorts.

Anyhow, check it out at! I really like the description Carol Hightshoe (editor) put together for my story.

On more minor news, my story "Remember" has been bumped back to the October Kaleidotrope. My poem in Aoife's Kiss should be out this month, but I'm waiting to receive my print copy to be sure as it's not in the online edition.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

(Albion) Boot Camp Week 4

If I'm adding right, this next week will be the last full week.

I almost forgot to change books yesterday, after having finished This Is My Funniest 2 on Friday. So far - given a random pick of two - the book is working better than its predecessor.

I've got a lot of sparkers I'd love to continue. So many stories, so little time ...