Monday, June 29, 2009

The Naming Braid to GUD

I just sold The Naming Braid to GUD, or the Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine ( This marks my first mainstream sale, GUD not being a speculative-fiction specific market. I am highly chuffed.

The Naming Braid, for information, is a braided (... right ...) retelling of three of the Lais of Marie de France. It springs from some of my observations about the course of the stories and how the women in them were viewed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

What an exhausting week this has been! I've been putting out so many fires at work (and just so busy in general) that I haven't had as much time to write as I would like.

I did manage to start the story mentioned in previous posts, even reached the first flashback. I'm having unusual trouble with names in this story - they're just not gelling. They feel too similar. By contrast, I don't really think I have a set culture feel to them ... just sort of gooing around in the fantasy territory.

Small progress in the novel projects. Within a chapter or so, Scylla and Charybdis will have made landfall on Elysium ... and I get to introduce the other cultural dimension. Of course, I've had opportunity (particularly in those recent section) to make it clear that the generalizations are averages and that different regions, planets, etc all have their own viewpoints and takes ... so it helps to avoid an inadvertent sense of being homogenous.

I'm reaching the point in Journal of the Dead where I stopped and went, "This is a stupid problem to have." To whit: I could not figure out why it would take my character most of the day to read two fairly slim books, but I needed the library to close before she got very far in book three - and she'd entered in the early morning. After doing some reality checks with people, I realized that not everyone reads that quickly and ... it's not as silly as it sounds. It still makes me snerk as a rather ridiculous thing to get hung up on.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Collection Idea

So for a while, I've been tempted to make one of my "novel" projects to write a collection of short stories. (I might even try to sell them as a collection first, though I know the places that pay money upfront for them are slim ... and most of them are looking for novella-length totals, which is way under what I'd end up with.) A large part of why I haven't put this high on my list (and anything but "top of the list" doesn't get written with novels, sadly) is because I am about two years back on story submissions and I have a log of 40+ short stories that haven't seen the light of day yet. So the last thing I need right now are more of them. (Yet I keep writing them. I'm an idiot.)

The idea is ... I have a world concept that involves three types of magic, with four disciplines within that. I also have a timeline (that needs a lot more detail - I just have "kingdom A, kingdom B" right now) that goes from pre-historic up to the equivalent of modern times, with some incorporation of rise-and-fall, growth of religion, major historical figures, etc. So I wanted to write a story following a sorcerer of each flavor of magic, set in a different era (undecided whether it would be chronological or back and forth).

A possible pay-off of this is a potential collection title is "Earth, Wind and Flesh" which is to my mind pretty cool.

But like I said - I need to come out of this with twelve more short stories like I need a hole in my head. Indeed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

New Story - Plotted

So I undertook answering the questions from the last post and came up with some interesting information ... stuff I didn't expect to use, but started to come into play as I worked on a plot outline. (Which I need for short stories, not so much for novels.) What I've ended up with is a very dark S&S story set in a manor ... I'm wavering back and forth about whether flashbacks are appropriate, especially as they're likely to make it long, but a) it seems more interesting than just narrating the information; b) everything in the past comes into play in the present and c) my short stories are always long. Why buck the trend now?

Anyhow, the questions got me thinking about story points in a whole different way, and I enjoyed that. I tried not to come up with too much of the plot until after I'd finished with the questions, to mixed results ... the two (three, if you count setting separately) wove naturally together.

New Story

So I'm working on mining my old boot camp exercises for stories again. I already have a mountain of free-writes backed up, but I'll get back to those.

Two camps ago, I did two descriptions a day (a character and a place) using the word of the day from I decided to take one of each from different words and then apply to the character a series of questions a fellow writer says she uses to design her characters. I thought they were a really neat way to study a person outside-in.

I chose my character desc easily; there's one I really love. From that, I decided I wanted sort of an S&S/action story, and to avoid what might be obvious, an indoor/urban setting. I ended up with the following two:

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 foyer of the estate swept outwards into the main hall, a hardwood-paneled expanse three floors high. Balconies rimmed the chamber, their bars cages around the many doors. Light stabbed down from a single circular window in the ceiling. The marble staircase pooled, the final steps oozing into the floor - which gleamed, pearl-flesh, like a zealous merchant baring his teeth.

At this point, I decided the setting needed three questions to go along with the character. So my questions are:

What are they wearing?
How do they feel about what they are wearing?
What do they have in their pockets (or about their person, ready say, in case of a werewolf attack?)

Who lives here?
How do they feel about it?
What doesn’t fit?

From this, I should be able to get a good spark for a plot ... whoo.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

My prime concern about Journal of the Dead right now is the story-within-stories. These are interludes explaining how the individual spirits who travel with Rhiane ended up being sentenced to death. They're long for internal tales, but wouldn't be considered lengthy if taken as separate short works. There are five spirits and six stories: Ihseye's is broken into two somewhat shorter chunks.

One concern is they start fairly early into the journal. I waffle back and forth as to whether this is a problem since the reader will have just come out of third person (the chapter section), or whether it works better because it builds on that expectation.

Overall, I've decided that I'm justified having these interludes because:

1. They provide character flavor and color; rather than info-dumping the spirits' backgrounds, you really get to meet them AND (again) half of them turn out to have plot relevance. I hope the first time the reader runs into a reference to something they saw in the sidestories, they'll keep their eyes peeled for more.
2. There's precedent. I point to American Gods, which has long interludes, earlier in the book than my first digression -- not to mention that none of these interjections, while they are flavorful, have any direct bearing on the plot.

On a more cynical note, the interludes are far enough into the manuscript that by the time an editor sees them, they'll be looking at the whole tamale, and I don't think even if they ARE a problem, it's weak / significant enough to bring down the whole work.

In regards to Scylla and Charybdis, I am currently having some mental disconnect because I'm reading the fourth book of the Mabinogion Tetralogy - the one involving the mythological Gwydion - while writing about my Gwydion, and they couldn't be more different. The name was originally chosen as an homage; when I was writing the SaC short story, I wanted a mythological manly-man to contrast to my Amazons. I went for Welsh because ... I like Welsh. My intellectual decision-making for stories only goes so far!

I suppose I could have named him Pwyll.

I'm a trifle concerned about this warlord's assistant who is ... well, pursuing Anaea. His sudden attention feels a bit thin. On the other hand, it's a point I'm trying to illustrate about the society, that those at his level are accustomed to having what they want, and that leads to a fair number of frivolous impulses chased down with unnecessary intensity.

I finished the form story about dancing, btw. It is a universal not-hit - but it did get written.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Frustrated at my lack of progress with writing (specifically selling) lately, I made the following comment:

"I feel like Penelope with that stupid tapestry."

The sad thing is, my listener understood what I meant.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Not much more to report on the two novel projects: they're lumbering along. I've been pretty consumed with a harp workshop that I'll be giving this time next month, getting the music and handouts prepared and trying to excise a rhythmic inaccuracy that I slowly learned in one of the tunes. Speaking of harp ...

Also working on a short story that was based on a "worst day on the job" prompt. I always feel as if I'm too clinical when writing about harpers. I never ramble on, but the flavor and detail, to me, don't seem as if they're interesting - from the inside of my head, I'm more likely to feel I'm showing off. Reader reaction to the last story where I did this was that the bits and pieces worked and flowed well ... I think it's just that I'm inherently self-conscious of something that's, "Been there, done that," to me.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Servant of Winter

Hey, it's up!

I feel rather sheepish for missing it, but my poem is up at Silver Blade:

This was the first villanelle I wrote, and it wasn't done in poetic form initially. It was part of my 3am Epiphany "boot camp" and the assignment was to write a brief prose piece that used the elements of a villanelle. In fact, this was the first time I'd ever even heard of the form.

I recast it as a poem and started submitting it. I spent some time wrangling with another editor who decided not to accept it, and I did change some of the things he requested back - but the final version was much stronger, I think, and much thanks to his suggestions.

The Mabinogion Tetralogy

Two of my books arrived early this week and I promptly picked them up. I was briefly intimidated by the size of the Mabinogion Tetralogy, a mid-sized hardcover book of over seven hundred pages - but it being four books, this seemed not unreasonable, and I decided that I would feel free to stop if I didn't connect with the first book.

I was intrigued by the archaic style and the formalized, sweeping grandeur of the dialogue - and yet not entirely sure, to what percentage, the tone could be put to the subject matter, the period in which it was written, or the author's individual tastes. Certainly the feel of the original work is much present, though with other legends woven into it such that an entire universe stands behind the book.

One tendency I noticed seems to be a product of the times - I also spotted it in Jirel of Joiry and to some extent in the Harold Shea stories. Fantastic elements (particularly those of the otherworld, in this case) are presented vividly, almost surreally, with little attempt to explain their presence. Not that they seem off-kilter or out of place, but a modern fantasist would have to give some nod to how the monster subsists when there aren't mortals wandering through to eat, etc. There's an attitude of it, "This works. Just have faith in it," and ... to flout all the advice given to worldbuilders nowadays, it does.

An element that disappointed me, though again I can't tell to which of the three aforesaid influences to attribute it, is how "distant" the POV is. I didn't feel very engaged with Pwyll as a character; the (first) novel keeps you a good distance outside of his head.

I don't entirely know what to make of the heavy elements of goddess worship. That they may be suited to the historical period is outside my expertise to argue; they certainly don't feel inauthentic in that regard. I am less sure whether they are valid in view of the Mabinogion, or if they are not, if the stories can / should be interpreted as such. It doesn't seem an unreasonable projection into the storyline, but I'm not sold on it.

All that notwithstanding, however, I think I am going to press on and read the books that follow. I'm intrigued to see what Evangeline Walton does with the rest of the Mabinogion.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Today is also the goal-setting day for a group I'm part of, and I came to an interesting realization: the only time I've missed or fallen shy of a goal was when I made a conscious decision to switch my focus for something more important. (Or my computer crashed with the latest edit of the story I was trying to post on it. Le sigh.) This week it was a requested revision from a top-tier market. I'm still not totally sure that I managed to work enough in-depth changes to satisfy the request, but I reached the point where I didn't want to do more because it might cause problems in another direction. So - you make a judgement call.

I ran into a small plot issue with Journal of the Dead which I resolved by re-casting some of a scene and putting in another time break. My next chunk involves two fairly involved dialogue insertions / revisions.

I notice that I have some tense jumps in Journal, which I've decided to leave. Because it is a journal, there are patches where the narrator would naturally discuss thoughts / confusions in a more immediate fashion. I've kept these to specific, distinct chunks and not allowed there to be hops when there's story going on. That should minimize the confusion and make the tense shifts feel natural rather than in error.

I ran into an odd issue with Scylla and Charybdis: so far, Anaea and Gwydion have solved all their problems by spinning falsehoods. Now, honestly, this is pretty much the only resource they have available to them, but it still becomes a little repetitive. I've taken conscious effort to re-cast the other two encounters in this part of the story so they are more direct and face-value. (This also fits the theme of the society they're moving through.)

I remain oddly amused that this particular segment of the novel had me googling "Jewish entrance scrolls" because I couldn't remember the word mezuzah for the life of me, and I stupidly didn't write the term down. I hope Anaea's religious cynicism isn't off-putting, but I have to keep in mind as I'm working how foreign all this is to her. She's sort of an untrained anthropologist.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Form and Function

So right now, I wonder if I'm biting off more than I can chew.

Looking at the monthly challenge for, I waffled back and forth about whether to attempt it. Then I thought a flash fiction piece, a nice, succinct description of two quasi-elemental forces dancing - that would be fun to do. To give it more structure, and to imitate the way formal dance constantly comes back to where it started, I thought of using a looped sentence structure.

But then I decided that the dance ought to be between inspiration and tradition ... and with that, you can't just stick to the fixed form. Now I have ideas of starting fixed, then tossing in a few unfixed paragraphs - then having the last sentence in the story contain the initial word, but continue onwards for another part-phrase.

If I do this right, both the story content and form will play out the tension between structure and freeform. If I do it wrong, it'll be a big bloody mess.

We'll see, I suppose!