Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best of Vol 1

Music to drive by again - this time, I lit upon the idea of doing a collection of the best song from each artist I typically listen to. So I did, with a few caveats:

1. If the artist only had a few songs ripped, I typically skipped them. I also skipped a few people with tunes where none stood out (Clannad, for instance). I simply missed Lesiem - oops.
2. If I tried to include a song from every single musical I like to listen to, the collection would be nothing but. So I allowed myself three musicals and a separate "slot" for Andrew Lloyd Webber.
3. This is the fourth list I came up with an idea for, so a few of the favorites were already "taken." I grabbed songs that were close runners-up in those cases.

I dropped this list into my player, alphabetized by artist - and discovered it was a pretty good mix. It was already partway to ripping when I realized that it had alphabetized by first name. Oh well.

So, with no further ado:

1. MUSICALS (#1) 1776: But Mr. Adams
Comments: Ludicrously awesome lyrics and rhyme sequences. "I won't put politics on paper, it's a mania: so I refuse to use the pen in Pennsylvania." The inimitable Brent Spiner singing in this version.
2. AMY GRANT: Oh, How The Years Go By
3. (ANNA) SAHLENE: House
Comments: What can you say about one song so infectious it started a five year hunt ending in purchasing an import CD off a foreign site - not even in English? (The music is, ironically.) Let's quote the song: "Don't want your money, just your soul."
4. ANNE MURRAY: Wintery Feeling
Comments: Murray is pretty mainstream country - and pretty famous - but I bet most people have never even heard this song. I love it. It's very softly quirky.
Comments: Another place where I go for the obscurity. This song is bittersweet perfection. I cannot listen to it without tearing up. (And yes, I know Andrew should be before the Anns. This one I had to alphabetize manually and my brain seized up.)
6. BLACKMORE'S NIGHT: Writing on the Wall
Comments: I plead guilty to actually basing a character's storyline in a roleplaying game off this song, albiet loosely. The char in question already happened to be named Gretchen April before I encountered it. It was a trifle eerie, honestly, because it fit SO well with the character's emotional pitch ...
9. CHER: Dove l'Amore
10. CHERIE: Betcha Never
11. MUSICALS (#2) CHICAGO: Cell Block Tango
Comments: I had someone who I used to work with a lot in roleplaying games tell me that this song immediately reminded them of me. I chose to take that as a compliment.
12. DIAN DIAZ: Pot of Gold
13. DIDO: White Flag
Comments: Yes, again, NOT Here With Me. Hunter is a close runner-up.
14. ENYA: Book of Days
15. GLORIA ESTEFAN: You Can't Walk Away From Love
Comments: My favorite is really Wrapped, which you'll see later. But on the strength of this one, solitary song, I bought an entire CD - Vol 2 of Greatest Hits - and I simply adore it.
17. HEATHER NOVA: Walk This World
Comments: Nova almost didn't make the list at all, but this song is fantastic.
18. HELEN REDDY: I'd Rather Be Alone
Comments: When I was a new teenager and going through the sort of identity angst we humans do at that time, this song was my anthem. I still feel it holds more true than not. Listening to it is still like opening up a vein. (And yes, again I know this is a very obscure song by a high-profile artist.)

The other half is on the next volume.

The Weatherwoman

This story just sold to Reflection's Edge! I did a revised ending at the editor's request, and I'm very happy she liked it -- the moreso because I actually liked about eighty percent of my tweaks better than the original. It didn't change the substance of the ending, just the details.

The Weatherwoman is a coming-of-age / romance story set in my meta-world of the Stewards, a group of otherwise ordinary humans who came to the Citadel of the Gods centuries before ... and found it abandoned. Rather than let people across many worlds flounder in the sudden disappearance, they took it upon themselves to fill the enormous shoes of the gods. Pillan is a new Steward - meticulous, precise, cautious - who is assigned the out-of-character role of a weather god. When he meets one of his more unusual disciples ... well, that's all I intend to say about the matter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

This post was delayed by my MP3 player. I've been listening to CDs lately to grab more songs (which is going to lead to new driving lists, huzzah), and I've just reached the point where I have more files than room on my MP3 player. Thus, loading it is a painful process of choosing individual songs that I DON'T want. So I finally got the process complete, moved it over ... and only forty percent synced. I couldn't get the process to finish and I couldn't recover my list. So I had to do it over again ... three or four times. Apparently, you have to watch it to get it to finish.

Nothing real much to say. Journal of the Dead is on hiatus. Scylla and Charybdis, the next chapter skated neatly out of my fingers and I'm working on another. I still feel like the whole project is too description heavy, but the clear, continuous picture of the setting is vital for it to hang together.

Two scenes of Shadow Play written as well, both courtroom scenes. I've discovered I rather enjoy writing these, though I'm not sure how authentic or interesting them are. The second scene in particular pumped my word count up - before it, I'd been hoping I might even finish under the 10k mark. But I'm relaxed and letting this one be what it wants to be.

Free write exercise yesterday, I wrote a beginning from the POV of Mathory Ke'Lieren - brother to Pazia of Fatecraft and Loyal Dice ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Real life update: total treadmill. Just about the time one thing calms down and I think, "Now I've got some time to kick back, relax and write - probably not in that order," something else goes fwoom.

That said, I got a lot done this past week. The completed second draft of Journal of the Dead I've mentioned (wheeee!); I also finished my alternate ending story for challenge ... and did further editing passes on the next two stories in the queue. Couldn't be more different: one's pseudo-Victorian with a major thematic twist, and the other a romance story in a medieval setting with culture and personality clashes a-plenty. First person, third person. I guess the only common element they share is that both characters are very much married to the idea of custom, tradition and social order ...

I finally started another chapter of Scylla and Charybdis. I was worried about getting back into it after such a long gap, and the first few paragraphs were awkward ... but then it was like slipping into a warm bath. Felt so good - a lot of my enthusiasm for the project was rekindled. Maybe that has something to do with the fact the MC is in the middle of a bona fide crisis - who knows? But onwards we go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


So we turned to business, a strange group with responsibilities we had never planned: a child, a socialite, twenty-two spirits and I.

Journal of the Dead first draft: 114,181 words
Journal of the Dead second draft: 111,992 words

Yes, I finally (re)wrote the last sentence. Third draft forthcoming, but for now - whoot!

(I am concerned that the total decrease was only a little over two thousand words, but there was a lot I felt I had to expand / explain. Hoping that won't be the case with Scylla and Charybdis ... erp.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sexy Scottish Schoolmarm in C

I usually don't post about the harp side of things here, but sometimes I just have to decompress in the best way I know - text.

So today I had a fashion disaster while preparing for a wedding. I have a brand new, sleek, pleated black dress skirt. I put on the silk white shirt I had planned to go with it ... and the best to describe the fit was that it floated on me.

(Note to self: you still have a few pieces of clothing left over from when you were close to forty pounds heavier. If the tag says medium, for pete's sake try it ON first.)

All right, don't panic. Back-up white shirt with three quarter sleeves. I look at myself. I look like an upscale schoolmarm.

Usually I have plenty of other options, but this was a very Scottish wedding. The groomsmen were going to be in tartans, and I had already told the bride I would wear my tartan sash.

For those not familiar with the Duncan tartan (ancient pattern - it's much prettier than the modern version), the predominant colors are somewhat unusual shades of green and blue with white. I know tartans aren't supposed to match, but for a wedding I don't think it's a good idea to clash with your own attire.

I cannot figure out if the one remaining, matching-with-tartan shirt I have - a pale green - is appropriate for a 5pm wedding. Finally I decide better safe (and schoolmarmish) than sorry.

I discover it's hard to drive in the skirt.

Apparently, sexy Scottish schoolmarms aren't supposed to drive.

Now I should add that this is one of "those" weddings, which surprised me because they were so Celtic in their sensibilities. The only move away from the traditional repertoire the couple had originally chosen was All I Ask of You for the unity candle, which was fine-and-dandy with me, because I love that song to bits.

Then comes the fateful question. I put the song on my repertoire list because I have to, really, but I don't point it out unless someone asks - and then I've got to admit I sort of lean on the strings a bit without actively making a mistake so it hopefully doesn't sound appealing and they choose something else.

Alas, this doesn't always work. So "those" weddings = in which I find myself playing Wagner's Bridal Chorus.

The Bell Event Center in Cincinnati is a gorgeous space. It was far larger than I had pictured; I was glad to be mic'ed. Beautiful wedding, beautiful venue. Then I found out that the cocktail hour I was supposed to be playing was outside. (I'm ninety percent sure this was my misunderstanding, not theirs.) And ohhhh! So cold!

The DJ for the reception was really impressed that I was willing to be outside, though. And someone asked for my card and asked if I did funerals. I'm never sure how to take that.

Upshot - I emerge triumphant, if I do say so myself.

Got a last-minute half-hour stage-set tomorrow. Waugh.

What's in a name?

So I can't decide if this means my subconscious mind is brilliant or my conscious mind is painfully stupid.

Throughout Journal of the Dead, it's pretty obvious that "Micaerith" is basically the equivalent of Greece. And then I said it today, and I just about fell over:

Me: "I mean, Elenhine is Helen of Troy."

I stopped. I looked at the names. I slapped a hand to my forehead.

I cannot remember for sure now if I did it deliberately or accidentally, but ... dang.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

Haven't had any time to work on Scylla and Charybdis since last week - I've kind of had a bunch of more immediate projects slam into me, including a more-in-depth-than-expected edit for Balance of Power, and an initial once-over for the next two stories in my queue to start the process of readying them for submission. Add to that the fact that I foolishly started an F-W challenge story and I'm still working on Shadow Play (which still promises to be novelette - novella range) and ... oof.

here's also a third story I may give an initial pass to because the editor of Darwin's Evolutions has expressed interest in seeing another story with Pazia and Vanchen, and it just so happens that I have one finished (but not edited). I'd like to get that to him soon after Loyal Dice comes out.

And I'm dying to write a Fib. (A poem based on the Fibonacci sequence.)

I like to multi-task, but this is nigh unmanageable. After I get through this particular thicket I'm going to try not to get tangled up in it again soon.

On the "whoot!" front, I am on the home stretch with the first edit of Journal of the Dead. Just reached the beginning of the climactic scene. Hoping to reach the end by this time next week. We'll see!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


My flash fiction story "Remember" is now available in Kaleidotrope - in the leading slot of the magazine, in fact! You can order yourself a copy over at:

This is a second person narrative about a long journey across the desert ... or is it?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Setting Integrity

I just received a request for a rewrite on the ending to one of my stories that touches upon a setting point. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem: if I agreed with the request, I wouldn't mind doing the bodywork throughout the story to alter the ending. However, in this case, I was working in a pre-established setting where I've written other works - including the last novel I abandoned; I was about 57k into it and hadn't even hit what I envisioned as the main action of the novel - and the setting point holds up as important for future ideas.

Now, I was able to make an edit that I think moves in the right direction. Do I think the setting point harms this individual story? No. It adds a tinge of realism to the conclusion. Sometimes the world is bigger than we are. But I thought it was interesting that this stricture came up for me, especially as I usually do hop to other worlds. We'll see.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Thursday Thoughts

By now, I've gotten far enough into Scylla and Charybdis - and I know enough about the rest of the cycle - that I can make a tentative estimate as to its final length. I'm saying between 140 - 150k. (For the layman, the upper limit @ 600 page book.) Grant that I'm only halfway there now, so it could change ... but this gives me a good idea how much cutting I'm going to have to do. I think, to be saleable, it needs to be more in the 125 - 130k range.

The good news is, I'm sure that when I go back through it, I'll see unnecessary descriptions, overly wordy sentences, and potentially whole scenes that don't need to be there. (I'm toying with the notion that the entire chapter I just wrote falls into that category.) As I did for Journal, I'll be doing a first-read outline so I can see what's where and why it is. This isn't just a point-by-point outline: it's a list of the purposes the scene serves. For instance, the same scene could move the main plot forward - and also advance the romantic subplot and fill in setting details. Some segments might only serve one purpose but still be necessary.

The OTHER good news is, I should be finished with my first edit of Journal well before I'm ready to start editing SaC ... so I will be able to get a gauge, by how much shorter the second draft is (first draft clocks at 114k), how hard the above editing is going to be.

I'm on the home stretch with the first Journal edit. Kind of excited about it. It still really seems to hang together well.

Due to my sale of The Winter Queen, I'm prepping another story for submission. I had planned to send it out yesterday ... but as I started editing it, I noticed I was making a lot of changes, not to the fundamental structure of the story, but filling in little holes, expanding dialogue that was too quick, cutting bits that were unnecessary. As I know my editing is weak and feeling like I know what I should change is rare, I'm going to keep plugging at it for a while. Currently in the middle of a second pass; if I do a third and I'm only making minor changes, I'll send it. Otherwise I'll wait a few days. It may be - gasp - as late as next week before I get it out. Augh! My queue is halted.

I'm a little concerned about Balance of Power just from a niche / market standpoint. It's an adventure-style story. That's not to say it's complete fluff: there's a lot of elements in it about choice, freedom, compulsion and a little sprinkle of duality. However, they don't create an arc so much as musings throughout. So you definitely have to argue that the romp is the point of the story ... we'll see, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Winter Queen

One of my fastest acceptances ever: after a little over twelve hours (submitted just after midnight last night, even!), Golden Visions accepted my story The Winter Queen for their second 2010 issue. This was my first word-tumble story, and huzzah! It now has a worthy home.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

A Versatile Visage

Poem now available in Vol 2 of Emerald Tales: Masks or Appearances Can Be Deceiving. I got the final slot closing out the issue. Check it out:

This poem marks an unusual milestone for me: it's the only piece I've written for a specific theme that sold to a venue on a completely different theme. (It was initially composed for Cinema Spec.)

Thursday Thoughts

My, I was talkative in September, wasn't I?

Had a better week and (no coincidence) a more productive one.

I know my main concern in editing Scylla and Charybdis will be amping the tension through the sections where the primary thing my narrator is doing is exploring. There are currently long descriptive / narrative passages - all with purpose, but I don't think they make the reader worry about what happens next, though I hope they're interesting enough to draw along with curiosity. I'm currently working on a scene where she's ambushed in the street - hurrah, action! - and realized I have to explain why her young escort would leave her in a neighborhood like this. So that will have to go in the next scene.

I am inching closer to the climactic scenes in Journal. I've done a fair amount of cutting in recent pages - not large sections, but unnecessary sentences. Some of them weren't even lined out when I made my markings, but in reading back I decided they were fluff. I'm very curious to get to the end and do a word count comparison. I may come out slightly shorter than the first draft despite several additions throughout, which to my mind is a good thing.

I'm about two and a half thousand words into my new short story. I've decided to relax and let it be whatever length it wants to be, which is probably going to be novella. There's a lot of world exploration here, but I really wanted to immerse the reader in the setting and the characters. I'm particularly proud of how I managed to imply the glove-wearing custom of the Seventeen Seas - it's pretty universal among all "civilized" cultures, just like you'd wear a shirt in public - without saying much direct about it. Getting the "loud piety" into the dialogue is tricky because my brain doesn't work that way.

Here's a quick flash of description from the story that I'm proud of. It hopefully tells a bit about the city, the character and his homeland:

The press of people on the cobbled streets was light, but the buildings - sandstone and pale green limestone, an earthy dappling of color - made him feel claustrophobic, even though few were over two stories high. He missed the clear line of sight afforded by Calathinyan roofways. The streets were well-maintained, the walls splashed with vibrant murals of gods, country scenes and optical illusions, but he always felt as if he were pacing a rabbit's warren until the avenues broadened into a courtyard or agora.