Friday, May 28, 2010

GoodReads Review: Wizards, Inc

Wizards, Inc. Wizards, Inc. by Loren L. Coleman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A more or less light-hearted anthology of stories about the working wizard in the contemporary world - with one exception from the inimitable and always fantastic Esther Friesner - this is a middling assembly of stories. None of them are terrible; none of them are particularly exceptionable.

Particularly early in the anthology, some of the stories have supernatural worlds overlaid on our real world that feel rushed and inorganic. However, the general light tone of the anthology is enjoyable.

One story that snuck up on me and entirely made me smile was Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Disaster Relief." One of my least favorite stories was the closing tale, Michael Stackpole's "No Rest For The Wicked." It felt like parts of a too-grey mystery novel.

Because this is an anthology, not just fifteen separate stories, and thus meant to be read (mostly) as a whole, I want to comment on that as well. This anthology is very well ordered; there's often a thematic link between one story and the one that follows it, presenting a different perspective on an idea such as magic chocolatiers. It creates a nice sense that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

FInally settling back into something like a routine. Finished the short story I mentioned last week, made good progress on Scylla and Charybdis ... and am now going to have to wrassle with it again because I'm at a section where I know exactly what I want to happen and not how to write it. Hmph.

The Journal "read out loud" edit continues. I'm having a bit of trouble focusing on it; I keep having to remind myself to slow down. Taking it steady should help.

Sort of been having a crappy little while with submissions. (I did have one very nice thing crop up, but as it will likely get rejected on the last step, I'm not going to say anything to jinx it.) However, I do have things on the shortlist for Marginal Boundaries, New Myths and Andromeda Spaceways ...

... and noticed that ASIM updated their "third round" acceptance odds from their original (blatantly wrong ;-)) 1 in 4 to a 1 in 20. This makes me feel better, as I've had more than four things shortlisted (then rejected) and by the original odds, the law of averages shoulda caught up with me ...

Am going crazy waiting for a few of my publications to come out, esp. the spring issue of GUD. It's spring! Where is it! *grin*

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Boot Camp "Result"

Here's what I did with the last prompt. The logline, and then for fun, the first two hundred words (or so) of the story. I would say I went for sort of a fairy tale feel, but it's really more the fairy tale feel that went for me.

Butterfly Inachis has big ambitions: court mage. First, however, she must find a way to impress the king in the contest he has opened to all the kingdom’s mages.


Inachis had mastered as much magic as she could by landing on the shoulders of unsuspecting mages and reading their books. It was time to make her move.

The other butterflies had told her that she was foolish and there was no sense dreaming of more than the luxury to flit through fields and soak up the sun … and she had not argued. It was easier just to wave an antennae in agreement and go about doing what she wanted.

Now the peacock butterfly flitted north towards the capital and the royal contest there. The king sought a new court mage – and had never particularly specified, after all, that his ambassador of the mystic needed to be human.

As she approached the massive brown track of the crossroads, she saw a stooped figure with a green hat pulled firmly down over escaping gold curls. Heartened and curious – she liked pretty men – she flitted closer.

“Hello?” she called.

Unlike most, he did not start, stare about him, hunting frantically for the source of the voice. He lifted his chin, looked directly at her, and smiled.

“Hello, butterfly,” he said. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Whither are you bound?” she

(Yes, I always end mid-sentence, a practice I will probably (re?) explain soon.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Boot Camp - Complete!

Finished my last day of boot camp yesterday and hadn't realized it - miscounted the archetypes.

I'm glad to be done; I was starting to get into a rut with it. Every plot was coming up romantically related, even the ones that weren't dictated that way by Plots Unlimited ... which by the way, has some dorky turns. One I didn't end up with, but noticed as I was browsing the book, goes something like, "(Character), blinded and deafened by a storm, is proposed to, and accepts, thinking it is (Romantic Interest). Later, she find out it is (Antagonist)."

Come on ... seriously?

Here's the best of the last four:

ARCHETYPE: The Maiden (Hero, Female)
PLOT POINT: (X) engages in a secret venture that endangers him/her. He/she asks for aid from a stranger, (Y), but (Y) warily refuses.
ELEMENTS: This Animal Can Talk, Contest

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

I have upgraded to Word 2007, and as default configuration, it has a running word count tally at the bottom of the screen. This is simultaneously the most awful and awesome thing ever. On the one hand, I don't have to keep checking my word count. On the other hand, it's staring at me. All the time.

Some return to normalcy, though I feel I'm in something of a slump. Trying to set up Anaea's interactions with her captors so that when one of them helps her out, it feels earned and part of her proactiveness. In Journal, read through my two favorite introduction scenes: Parashi's backstory, which introduces the reader to Razentis, and the tea at the Lan-Ritu estate, which brings Atsihl Lan-Ritu on stage. Two people who don't take themselves seriously in the midst of a calculating, backstabbing political society ... a breath of fresh air.

Still working away on finishing my free writes. I am completing a story from early October of last year. Sigh. But it's an enjoyable story, based off a topic of, "I couldn't think of a thing." It's another story with a character trying to find their inner core - seems to be a topic I keep returning to.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Goodreads Review: Stranger At The Wedding

Stranger at the Wedding Stranger at the Wedding by Barbara Hambly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After Circle of the Moon, Barbara Hambly went on my probation list. After Stranger At The Wedding, she is officially off probation and back in my readerly good graces.

I found this an absorbing, entertaining and suspenseful tale of a sorceress who - expelled from her family six years ago for reasons that slowly unfold and are revealed to be more complex throughout the book - returns upon the eve of her sister's Alix wedding to determine who wants Alix dead. The world is realistic and well portrayed, and I love fussy high society and intrigue.

Other reviewers have noted that the mystery was something of a cheat, and I have to disagree - with reservations. I found that the main reason I suspected what was going on was not because of in-story hints, but due to the device the author used to write it. I also did find that some elements were introduced a hair too late and lightly, but I've found this same flaw in mainstream mystery novels.

I thought the romance plotline was adorable, though my enjoyment of it was lessened slightly by the fact that I knew it was coming (again having read reviews here - note to self, don't do that before I've finished the book myself).

And the way the various elements of obligation, family and love are wound together is nicely done. This is not a message book (thank goodness), but it does treat these themes seriously without ever bogging down.

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Boot Camp responses

Here are the log lines I came up with for the two projects done yesterday:

Kierry was disinherited by his mother - a member of the fanatical Borderwatch - when he was bitten by a werewolf … but now he needs money, and she needs assistance of the not-precisely legal stripe.

Destitute former dancer Sarah is swept off her feet by a computer programmer who believes he has discovered the software to unearth his perfect mate.

The former is set in the same contemporary world as Flow, which does have werewolves, though they're less common / featured. Most of that setting focuses on fairies (and halfbloods, fosterlings, changelings), water-witches and mediums / seers as the central supernatural elements. I have a cosmology built around water, into which the wuffs don't quite fit (yet), but they do exist.

The Borderwatch is my "anti" organization. They're not precisely villains - they just see no distinction between any fairy and evil ... whereas by contrast, the water-witches are probably a trifle too lenient. I'm still writing short stories in this setting as the mood strikes me, and I try to show both sides of the argument.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boot Camp: Two For The Price of ...

I didn't post last week because it was Mother's Day, so here are the best two over the past two weeks:

ARCHETYPE: The Overcontrolling Mother (Villain, Female)
PLOT POINT: (X)'s disinherited son/daughter, (Y), tries to borrow money from (Z) on the condition that (X) approve the loan.
ELEMENTS: Lost, Prison

ARCHETYPE: The Seducer (Villain, Male)
PLOT POINT: Computer programmer (X) tests his/her new software
ELEMENTS: Beggar, Far Away

These were both combinations of elements that made me cross my eyes and go, "What?" before I came up with something.

I'm finding that the prevalence of romantic entries in the Plots Unlimited book has sort of glued my brain into romance mode. Even when I end up with combinations that don't require it, I often find myself working it in anyhow.

This is not normal for me. Maybe it's the spring. ;-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Scenes where one character has to explain to another something the reader has just seen happen ... are annoying. Occasionally, there are places where it's worth having actual dialogue - when the reaction of the other character or the *way* the story is retold (and what's omitted or glossed over) is important. These are, to me, more difficult than the times when you can just provide a quick summary ("She told him about X") and move on. Even though there are new elements that advance the plot, there's all that old drek you have to wade through quickly (and hopefully make interesting in still other ways) to prevent a reader from skimming.

Which is, if you may have guessed it, the problem I'm having with Scylla and Charybdis right now. This current chapter hinges very heavily on the reinterpretation of previous events - on what the non-POV chars think happened versus what actually did. (I am trying to be vague! I am probably succeeding!) Trying to make the "recap" parts as brief as possible while playing out the action around them is a headache.

Head update: still not in a good place. Sigh.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Goodreads Review: St. Peter's Fair

St. Peter's Fair: The Fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael St. Peter's Fair: The Fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The distinct style of Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael novels may, on occasion, approach formula, but it's a formula that appeals to all my sensibilities and keeps me reading with a sense of pleasure. These are some of the few books where I simply can't care about any objective flaws. I love the immersive (albiet slightly ponderous) style of the prose, the rich historical detail, the female characters who are clever, subtle, strong-minded - and perfectly period - and Peters' frequent affirmation of the power of love. Here Welshman Rhodri ap Huw is a character of particular note - a very enjoyable part of this tale. So much happens in this book that could be taken for "random," but Peters does an excellent job of keeping the reader assured of the connective thread ... and it all binds up in the end with grace and ease.

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Thursday Thoughts

Last week was very disheartening in terms of rejections and real life disruptions, including a nasty twist in my back. Upshot is, I've been very uninspired. I'm not the sort of person who waits around for the right mood to write, but when I am this out of sync, there's no fighting it.

So that means not much to report in terms of writing ... except that once again, my personal needle phobia rears its ugly head and I cannot force myself to describe someone being injected with something. This may be why
(subconsciously) I invented the various patches that are used throughout Scylla and Charybdis - anything to avoid having to mention needles. Au...uu...ugh. Y'all are laughing at me now, I'm sure.

Noticed another issue with SaC that I'm not sure is a flaw - a lot of Anaea's internal thoughts come in the form of a series of questions. I think it fits with her general nature and even the thrust of the book, but I wonder if it becomes excessive. Another question to examine in editing.

I am beginning to wonder if I am afraid to finish this book because the editing will be epic. ;-)

Monday, May 03, 2010

My take

Here's what I came up with from yesterday's elements ...

Two estranged sisters - one a sorceress, the other a thief - meet when the latter breaks into the former's workshop to sabotage an engine of war in the form of a massive obsidian crow … but which is hero and which is villain?

I think I'm just going to post my logline from here on out, unless all the elements don't show up in the logline. What I am finding out, rather quickly, is that I'm getting a side benefit of practice with character descriptions in the first two hundred words. You see, when I do describe characters (and I don't always), I do it almost right away. It's a big peeve of mine when authors describe characters several pages after their introduction. By that time, I've already formed my own mental picture. So I try to give a few key details right away. I might add more later on, but the kind of thing you immediately notice about the character, you promptly see on the page.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Best of Boot Camp - Week 2

So today, I went out with Brother Cadfael to the International House of Pancakes.

Okay, okay, but I'm reading St. Peter's Fair, I took the book with me to my oddball dinner, and this thought occurred to me en route.

Moving along ... probably the oddest combination of elements I got this week was this:

ARCHETYPE: The Backstabber (Villain, Female) - she's the opposite of the Father's Daughter, a strong but cold female figure who considers herself "one of the boys."
PLOT POINT: (X), a burglar, breaks into a research laboratory
ELEMENTS: Bird, Long-Lost

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Now at RE ...

The Weatherwoman is now up at Reflection's Edge! Check it out.