Monday, February 28, 2011

Idea #3: Rolling The Dice

I tried to keep it to a minimum, but fair warning: this post will probably contain mild spoilers for three as-yet-unpublished stories, and will definitely contain information from Fatecraft, available in the archives of Darwin's Evolutions.

That's because this idea centers around the continuing adventures of Pazia and Vanchen, maybe six months after returning to her home city. (The idea to do a novel with the pair actually comes from the editor of DE, but the concept is definitely mine. ;-)) Perky, outspoken, idealistic Pazia is a dice-maker or daserii - that's a real term and I didn't have to make it up; sometimes, life is just that good to you - while insular, cynical Vanchen is a clockworker / inventor, half-Icewalker ... which means he has the ability to see things not visible by normal sight. (Quantifiable things like heat and depth, not supernatural.) Pazia's dice-craft has magical aspects, and she takes her devotion to chance very seriously.

Pazia has a brother. He's a lot like her, adding haplessly chivalrous and prone to shooting off his mouth. During his trip to the mysterious City of Lanterns, he met a six-veiled light-mage by the name of Kalliniar ... and when she comes to him for help, he recruits Pazia and Vanchen.

My idea is to set up Pazia and Vanchen as investigators. I'm undecided whether they've already started, or whether this will be their first case ... and how it involves the city they're living in, so it's possible that Kalliniar's presence will be tangential rather than directly related. However, the combination of these characters seems to present a perfect opportunity for a mystery story. Pazia and Mathory are the children of one of the city's most influential merchants, so they have a hook into the city's power structure.

If I have concerns, it's that what I've defined of the basic setting seems to require a fairly standard world. I can deviate from it somewhat, but anything else would make the other stories seem like sleight of hand. I also am not sure how to handle point of view. Pazia and Vanchen seems straightforward, but adding Mathory makes it potentially lopsided, and if I add Kalliniar - which I'm not sure I would want to - it becomes sort of cutesy: boy-girl-boy-girl.

Also, I have no actual plot yet ... but details, details.

GoodReads Review: Sisters In Fantasy

Sisters in FantasySisters in Fantasy by Martin H. Greenberg

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This collection of stories features the work of female authors from a female worldview - not limited to female narrators - sharing stories they felt they needed to write. It's an interesting concept, and perhaps even mildly successful as a thought experiment, but as a whole, it fails, with individual stories coming off uneven, oblique and puzzling, often with marginalized conflict.

Maybe it was the sense from the introduction that the stories should be Important (all irony intended), and the fact that the editor felt the need to discuss the merits of each story. Now, I admit I'm biased in that this style of introduction is a huge pet peeve of mine. Either the story lives up to its description, thereby thwacking the reader over the head with it twice (once in the intro, once in the reading), or the story doesn't live up to its description, which comes off feeling like the editor is trying to force you to read it "right." So ... by this point, I may have been slightly inclined to be overcritical of the thematic content of the stories.

There were some good moments throughout the anthology, concepts I liked or characters that entertained, but (with the exception of the final offering) no single story was without significant flaw in clarity, pace or other areas. My second favorite story was Lisa Goldstein's "A Game of Cards," with an intriguing invented country in our real world, and even that seemed as if it rushed into the ending. In most stories, it was hard to figure out what was going on or they ended abruptly.

I read a lot of anthologies, and for me, the flow of an anthology is important - how it carries from one story to the next. Sisters In Fantasy was poor in this respect, as well, with the contemporary / real-world stories clumped together in the middle. I would have said the opening story was a poor introduction, but I wasn't really that impressed by almost all of them.

For me, the standout of this anthology is Katherine Kerr's "The Bargain," a lyrical story vaguely reminiscent of the Mabinogion. (Yes, yes, I know - high-falutin' invocation of mythology here. But that really is what it made me think of!) The rest, I'm afraid I could take or leave ... and that's a shame, because I like and admire many of these authors. To the question posed in the introduction, "Do we need another book like this?" my answer must be a slightly regretful, "No."

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Idea #2: Addressing It

Yes, there will be pseudo-puns related to the concept in the title of each of these idea posts, because I have no clue of project titles yet. It is entirely possible my choice will be influenced by which I can actually come up with a title for.

Like some writers, I also have a gaming background. My introduction to Dungeons and Dragons was third edition with an absent-minded knowledge hound of a wizard named Evairyn Malkor. I had a blast with Evvie, and the interaction with the other characters was great. At one point, another player and I decided that Evairyn (an elf - yeah, that will change ;-)) was the grandmother of her character.

(Some of you may recognize this name. For a while, I didn't want to use my real name / email address on some sites, so my alt email was EvairynMalkor. I've also used it Evairyn as a handle on a few places where Aiara was taken or unavailable due to brevity or such not.)

Evairyn's skill level in Arcane Lore was such that occasionally, I would roll to see if I recognized the monster, villain, spell ... I'd look at the obscene total number of roll + skill ... and then I'd look at the gamemaster and say, "Okay, tell me what it had for breakfast this morning." It became a running gag. But Evvie herself was very unassuming and self-effacing. (Off-camera, she had a fiance who was very like-minded. They would spend long nights researching together. No. Really. Researching. That's not a euphemism.)

To keep Evvie company, I've tapped an archer character I played - for significantly less time, but long enough to get a good feel for her. Keldrys Whitehand (called so due to the tanning hazards of almost always wearing gloves) is a good foil - almost, but not quite, a polar opposite.

And to completely switch up settings, I'm eyeing a concept where each season has a House and particular attributes associated with it. Individuals and kingdoms align themselves with Houses, in addition to being influenced by them as the year naturally progresses. I have a really intriguing take on magic, which I am arbitrarily keeping under my hat right now. ;-)

The plot involves the pair meeting on intersecting missions, getting arrested due to Evairyn's meddling in a royal matter, and then being pressed into the hunt for a "secret weapon" of a rival kingdom. The question of "why them?" is not arbitrary, but it's also not revealed early on ... twists, turns, hopefully enough to make it at least interesting. I need a bit more structure before I'd start writing, though.

My main concern is balancing the saturation of such a sweeping setting element - too much, and the story disappears under House-related details; too little, and it becomes lip service. Again, I'm also concerned about this looking like a stock plot on the outside. To be honest, though, I could actually go for a (fairly!) straightforward adventure plot ... and some of the later material would definitely kick it up a notch.

As a lesser aside - no romantic subplot. I just now (literally) thought of a way to work one in, but I'm not sure I'd want to, as it feels spurious rather than organic.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mannerpunk Anthem?

I just had a brainstorm. I think this song is a perfect anthem for mannerpunk:

Popular - Wicked soundtrack

Carry on!

Idea #1: Playing The Oldies

This idea was one of the first novel concepts I completed - I think it comes in as the second, if I count "The Cats of Mordue" (please don't ask) as a single project. Understandably, it was chock full of all the fantasy cliches you can name: Nelia, a reluctant heroine with great powers being chased by a power-hungry evil overlord, a retired great hero serving as her mentor, and I'm pretty sure there was a prophecy floating around in there, too. (The geography I laid out for the villain's stronghold looks a lot like Mordor. It makes me snicker now.)

Things took a turn for the more interesting (I think) when I introduced Ilidan, traveling companion, intended love interest ... and he just happened to be the villain's son. Alas, I was too green to see the opportunity the first time 'round, and he pretty much devolved into a stock villain.

I took a rewrite lap of this project surprisingly soon - I think this was during the period when I was deluded into the horrific idea that a "draft" of a novel had to be starting over from the beginning with new text. And I was already starting to get the feeling that my treatment of Ilidan was inauthentic, a cheat - and that I had better give his father some motivation as well. (Since I'd introduced telepathy into the setting, I decided to use telepathic monitoring as my bone of contention.)

I'm not sure how completely I realized it at the time and how much is hindsight, but something felt off. I looked at the ending, and it started to feel as if the most interesting choice in the story wasn't Nelia's, but rather Ilidan's. Hers was the "simple" heroic choice; his was more nuanced, more thorny. At the time, I didn't have the tools in my box to handle this. I just ignored it.

So the game plan to tackle this project again would be simple: give Nelia and Ilidan an equal share in the book. Make it *their* story rather than her story. That will change a lot of nuances; it may even change the ending. (Honestly, a lot of the plot and setting would be going in the blender anyhow, since I want to introduce some less hackneyed elements.) And here is where the almost-familiarity of the basic story becomes an advantage, because I can take something that readers know and are familiar with and re-cast it in a new light.

One of my huge concerns here, no surprise, is making it a project that an editor or agent will want to pick up and not immediately go, "I've read this a hundred times before." Part of this I can handle by re-casting the setting and plot, but I need the familiarity to pull off the conflict between the two characters. And the fact that this new construction almost certainly makes the book not only stand-alone, but necessarily sequel-less, forces me to re-examine a lot of other elements.

I realize that marketability isn't a thought I should launch out of the gate with, but I don't want to spend a lot of time writing something that no one will touch with a ten foot pole. I don't think this is an unreasonable concern. ;-)

What Lies Ahead

Just a ramble about the five ideas I'm kicking around for my novel. Rather than delving into them in depth, I thought I would first take a look at the elements the concepts have in common:

Genre: Secondary world fantasy for sure. Just what I'm feeling as a writer right now ... and my experiences at the WFC included hearing authors say that high fantasy is becoming more viable again. In addition, I am leery of being lucky enough to get an agent for an urban fantasy novel and then having he or she ask me for another book ...
Two of the ideas can also be cross-classified as a mystery.
Also, I am still grooving on "mannerpunk" as a subgenre classification, and it fits a few of these ideas.
Setting: One idea requires a fairly stock setting to frame the other archetypal elements. One idea, I've used the setting for short fiction, so I am slightly limited in how far I can knock it out of the box. Two ideas could have potentially very exotic settings. Over half of the ideas (okay, 3/5ths) are deeply embedded / infused in their settings.
POV: All but one idea involves multiple points of view, from a more or less balanced back-and-forth two POVs to a concept that could potentially make pitstops in at least a half-dozen heads. So I am almost certainly looking at third person. The lone idea that is single POV, I have a four-way debate about how to handle it.
Gender: Every idea has a female narrator as at least co-main character. (Is that like a co-pilot? Probably.) Two ideas have only female narrators.
Runner-Up: Three of these ideas have been passed up before at least once. (One has been passed up twice.)

And most significantly ...

Old Friends: Of the five ideas, only one would be brand new under my fingers (and even at that, it's loosely inspired by a prior idea). Two ideas are rewrites, involving extensive restructuring of the setting and some reconceptualizing of plot and character. One involves two old characters, used in entirely different (and unconnected) settings. The fourth involves characters I've written short stories about.

I'm honestly not sure whether this urge to go back to older inspiration is a good sign or a bad sign. On the one hand, I think there's something really powerful in this idea of taking something I loved and applying what I know now. On the other hand, I'm afraid it smacks of getting stuck in a rut. ... in a rut ... in a rut ...

Either I can't lose or I can't win. We'll see!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Today is a tale of two novels.

With "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" I am almost finished with the climactic scene in the final round of the competition itself. Next up - judging. I decided, yes, I am going to do a "Reunion Show" mini-episode as a closing note. What has been unique about this project for me has been dealing with the metafictional aspects. The integrity of the story is my first concern, but there are some elements that go beyond the text.

For instance, if you watch enough of the skill-based competition reality TV that I favor (I feel have to put all those qualifiers, because I'm not talking about "Pimp My Ride," which isn't competition, or "The Biggest Loser," which isn't about skill - and neither of which I have any desire to watch) ... you notice that you can predict who will be in the top and the bottom by how often you see them feature during the episodes. In early episodes, when you're dealing with a massive amount of characters, this is simply necessary, but later the editing becomes an almost addictive guessing game.

I actually spent a decent amount of time each episode thinking about this effect. The primary way I could emulate this was length of scenes, but I also had another tool: the use of first person. So there's an additional balancing element to the guesswork - does a first person scene have more prominence than a third person scene? Is it a good sign or a bad sign? Or are we just hearing from this character because they're entertaining?

As far as "Scylla and Charybdis," the ending was bothering me ... and this last week, boom, I had an idea for how to solve my problem that fits perfectly into the framework of the previous sections of the book. It will require extensive alterations to the last few chapters, but I shouldn't have to completely rewrite anything. I have the whole rest of the book to get through to incubate on this idea and figure out how to do it ... there are two ways I could jump, and one of them is less wishy-washy, while the other is more in keeping with the "full circle" design of the plot arc. I do not get both, so I have to decide whether I want to have my cake or eat it. (How does that saying make sense, anyhow?)

Have decided that, whether or not I finish "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" within the next week-ish, I am going to start my editing on the 1st of March. That will involve altering my word count goals, which is just as well. Despite it being a weekly goal rather than a daily goal, I've started to beat myself up for not hitting 1k daily, and then turning additional words on top of that into a competition ... it's not healthy. I need a mental retread.

Not totally decided yet, but over the next week, I may post the current contenders for the next novel project. Need also to mull and decide if there are more than four. Sigh. ;-)

Word count for 2/17 - 2/23: 10,406

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Like My Brain

I just attended a cooking class (more on that on the other blog) and picked up one of my small collection of spiral notebooks to take notes in. I flipped it open during the class and discovered:

Notes from the World Fantasy Convention in Austin, Texas.
Insanely bad doodling. A lot of it.
Notes from my SHSA (Scottish Harp Society of America) judging certification course.
The basic outline for Mind In Mind - I still remember that the names were generated from signs and license plates on the way to-or-back from Connecticut.
A dawn of history to modern era timeline - the setting was intended to be for a collection of stories. I'm afraid to look at it in detail, as I am absolutely sure I won't be able to recall what some of it meant ...
A GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System) 4th Edition character sheet I wrote during Ohio's encounter with Hurricane Ike, when I was without power (... okay, without *electricity*) for two days.
Emotion exercises from Ann Hood's book Creating Character Emotion, ditto.
Tempo notations for a Harpers' Robin set list.
Story sparkers and tidbits - sometimes on their own, sometimes interspersed randomly in the middle of other portions of the notebook. Basically, I dropped whatever I was doing to jot down fragments.

The best analogy for this hapless mess? This is a pretty good example of what the inside of my head looks like.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Just Friends?

I posed this question on a writer's forum a while back about a novel idea involving a rewrite from a fandom plot. (Which fandom isn't relevant, as completely restructuring the world from the ground up would be part of my game plan.) I thought it would be fun to ask it of my blog, especially as there are some new folks following me now (Hi!).

Here's the scenario - I've provided the names for ease ...

Kailyst and Imori have known each other for approaching two decades, as close friends and business partners (actually, criminal partners - they're the villains). They met when he was twelve, she was fifteen. There is no romantic vibe between the two.

In this potential scenario, Kailyst falls in love with Seshanna and gets married. Imori is no fan from the beginning (personality clashes), but after some months, she raises concerns that Seshanna is interfering with Kailyst's judgment on the business side. Now, two things are relevant: a) being they're partners, this affects Imori's success as well; and b) she's right - his wife's presence *is* hindering him. When being vocal doesn't work, she gets nasty.

Now here's my dilemma: I need / want to keep it unequivocal that there's no romantic motivation, hidden or obvious, in Imori's actions against Seshanna. Probably some jealousy is inevitable, but the overall vibe should be platonic.

So I wondered if which scenario would make this more plausible:

A) There's never been any hint of attraction between Kailyst and Imori. The question has never been on either of their radars.
B) Probably when one or the other was in their late teens (that is, after they'd known each other for years, but still about / over a decade ago), they experimented, kissed, whatever, and the immediate, mutual reaction was, "Eww. No. We must never speak of this again."

That's the question, then after a ridiculous amount of setup: A or B?

There's also C, I suppose, which is come up with a supernatural / magical reason why Imori's not even capable of going there, but that feels a bit like cheating. (Let's not mention that building the world around the plot is completely the opposite of the way I usually work, so it feels darn weird.)

As a point of interest, when I posed this on the writer's forum, B had a slight majority. More interestingly, if depressingly cliche, most of the men who responded had trouble believing that such a relation could have been consistently platonic; most of the women thought it seemed plausible. (Since it's her-to-him I'm concerned about, not him-to-her - he's pretty rabidly devoted to his wife - I can live with this reaction in any case.)

Thanks, anyone who feels like putting in their two cents. I am just insufferably nosey, and just as interested in how people view this as actually solving the problem. ;-)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Borders Bash

So my local Borders is one of the locations closing - which is surprising to me, as it's in a prime area (one of the fastest-growing commercial districts in the region). I will miss it terribly, even if I've been on a purchasing hiatus for a while. But sales call for wallets unleashed, so here's my haul.

I would have loved to pick up the whole bookstore and walk off with it, but I had a specific budget. The list is also shorter than it might be because three of the books were pricey. I also purchased a CD.

What I did walk out with:

The Curse of Chalion -- Lois McMaster Bujold. Whenever I walk into Borders, I pick up six or seven books, but can only buy six or five. (Various other permutations thereof.) Invariably, I pick up this book. Invariably, it's the one left on the cutting room floor. I figured I had better buck up and buy it for once and for all. For the matter of that, the odds are good it's the same copy I've been picking up and putting down for over a year ...
Dead Beat -- Jim Butcher. Dresden Files #7. Uh, this book appears to have been placed on a rack. It's standard paperback width and two inches or so longer. What?
Thirteen Orphans -- Jane Lindskold. New series. I love Lindskold's high fantasy series something fierce. How could I lose?
Gentleman Takes A Chance -- Sarah A. Hoyt. I heard Hoyt discuss these books at the WFC, and she made them sound irresistible. Werecritters! The magic of diners!
Songs of Love and Death -- ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. This is one of the bank-breakers, a chihuahua-killer hardback anthology. Dozois is a solid anthologist (is it sad that I know a lot about anthology editors and their taste?), so I was definitely on board. It does irk me slightly that Martin gets top billing as editor. I have no quarrel with him as a writer, having declined to read his series due to personal taste, but I'm sure Dozois has the lion's share of the work and experience on the editorial front.
Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen -- ... well, duh. Cookbook! With improvisation notes and suggestions! ... and I hate the s's grammar format, even though I know it's technically correct. It looks so messy.
How To Be A Domestic Goddess -- Nigella Lawson. No-brainer purchase, this. The older gentleman who rang up my books looked at the back and said, "And a book by your sister. She looks like you," and I replied (essentially), "Durr, what?"

I am a happy reader. Now to manhandle these books onto my overloaded shelves ...

Friday, February 18, 2011

GoodReads Review: Blood Rites

Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best thing about this book is a dog.

That's not an imprecation on the quality of the book, which is hilarious, intense, surprising and even thoughtful by turns. Rather, it's an expression of this reader's pleasure at the portrayal throughout of a scrappy, supernatural puppy. It's very evident that Butcher is a dog owner and lover, and maybe I'm biased, but I read a little bit of Bichon in the furry tag-along's behavior.

In a way, the puppy is a good example of the way details infuse the whole story, from developments in the life of Dresden's friend (hmm, is that the right word?) Murphy to the difficulties of planning a raid on very cunning Dracula-esque vampires. You would think the story of an investigation centered around an adult film production and psychic-sexual vampires (a whole different court and kettle of fish from those mentioned in the last sentence) would come off gimmicky and shameless, but it's deftly handled, lampooned when necessary, treated honestly otherwise.

If you read my review on the previous volume in this series, I had issues with cohesiveness. I found none in Blood Rites. There's probably almost as much going on, but it's fused together more smoothly, and though it still has multiple climaxes, they follow each other in natural sequence. If I had any complaint, I think that the final fight scene was a bit muddled - the way the plan changed and the scene devolved into something like a brawl wasn't entirely appealing to me. That's not enough to lose a star off the rating, however.

Coming into the series from the previous five volumes, I had the feeling that the emotional revelations within would have less impact to a new reader. However, this is not because Butcher lacks skill in setup: all the pieces were there. Rather, there's just no substitute for the slow, gradual melding of literary flavor over five books.

And what a satisfying stew it is. I've briefly mentioned the humor, but it really bears more praise. I love the way Dresden wise-cracks (even when he knows better), the turns of phrase that fly past ... and the way that it enhances rather than diminishes the darker and more serious sides of the book. It's a delicate balancing act, requiring attention to detail.

And dogs.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Though not the completion I had hoped for, this was a very good week for work on my novel. It looks like the manuscript will end up longer than anticipated, but still within ranges that shouldn't freak an editor out. I have a few fundamental questions about the structure that will affect my first edit, so for the first time in (my) history, I will probably be asking readers to check over a segment that I haven't edited yet.

Or I may turn chicken and flee for the hills.

I suppose ostrich would be more appropriate, if I'm going to be a bird and running. Longer legs.

Actually, I do suspect that there is a small chance the non-edited version will have fewer typos. I tend to write pretty cleanly, technically, and frequently when errors emerge is when I'm not quite careful enough with how I've revised ... or I accidentally cut two words instead of one and don't notice ...

Feeling my way through my six-sentences story. Currently leaving the provided sentences bold so I can look back and see where they are. When I paused, I had just used the second. Four to go ...

Word count for 2/10 - 2/16: 11,537

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scenting Rain

So I've started working on my story with the sentences so graciously provided to me - thank you, thank you, thank you! I have a rough outline with which sentence goes where and I've already taken the plunge headed towards the first. For your amusement, the opening paragraphs of "Scenting Rain," completely unedited and with most of the worldbuilding being made up as I go along:

Gerune stood on the highest temple balcony, drenched in sweat, not rain. Though weary and defeated, she whispered prayers through cracked lips. Her eyes remained locked on the horizon, though too bleary to see anything more than a thin line of blood. She knew each of the three thousand, seven hundred and ninety one sacred winds that made up the consciousness of the goddess, by name and purpose and history, and spoke to them as a family servant might, one who had lived in their household since birth.

There was no answer. The blank sky flickered with mocking stars. A high priest of Terisu had nine days to pray for salvation before she had to admit failure. It was the ninth evening, and a new spring trickled in the shadow of the volcano, but that was not enough. The very fact that this small source of water sprouted in the shadow of the red god's monument condemned her.

The fiery scent of torches mixed with the desert night, burnt caramel. Gerune leaned forward, hands the color of teakwood curling about the rail. The city of Qeva twined below, its roads following the ancient lines of wind upon the oasis. Mud brick glowed golden and copper with the falling sun. Canopies fluttered everywhere, sun-guards washed only by the rain … except now they were dusty, grey, invisible where they once would have shone like pearls.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Deadline ...

... is officially past, and I have not completed "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" though I am content with my progress. Thrills! Chills! Jokes about heroic cliches! Some really bad puns. And the philosophy of, "Anything for a good show," explodes in a big way.

Counting two lines given to me off-blog, I have enough sentences to work with. A very interesting mix of styles and implied plot points. (And Dan gives me the opportunity to indulge my obsession with describing scents.) I'm excited!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sentenced to Death

I need your help, gentle readers (and not so gentle readers), with some random elements for a short story. I am seeking five sentences, as simple or complex, sensible or peculiar, as fancy takes you. Your criteria:

1. No specific references to the modern era or modern technologies, such as fridges, cars, etc. I may end up composing an urban story, but I'd prefer not to be locked into it.
2. No proper names. If the sentence needs to refer to someone by name, use "(Name)" for that. Yeah, yeah, but I would change it anyhow. Sorry!
3. No ****ing profanity. ;-)
4. One sentence. Not two sentences. Not a paragraph. You can stretch this a little with a line of dialogue, but don't go hog-wild.
5. A willingness to let me use the sentence verbatim in a story which may eventually be submitted for publication.

My rules for usage:

1. Pronouns may be changed freely, depending on if I decide to write in first or third person. Otherwise, sentences may not be altered whatsoever (except in case of typo).
2. Sentences may be used in any order.

3. If for some crazy reason I end up with more than five, I'll choose five randomly. The others are optional to include. (Or might become another exercise ...)

Anyone who wants to see the end result, drop your email in your reply. And thanks in advance for giving my lazy brain a jolt!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

My subconscious is my greatest ally, solving problems in my writing that I often didn't even know I had, but I'm still often surprised by the way it surfaces. However, I've learned to live with the somewhat capricious impulses it conjures and even to harness them. For instance, I know that writer's block isn't a sign of rustiness or procrastination for me: it's my undermind telling that there's a plot problem, hole or weak spot that I need to resolve before I continue. So I've now learned that when I get that sense of reluctance and malaise to step back from the work and ask, "What's wrong?"

In this case, my subconscious granted me a real gift. This last episode of "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" has changed a lot since my original concept, when it was supposed to be a simple show-down between the last three contestants. The latest quirk not only enhances the drama (I hope!), it solves a problem that's been bothering me from the beginning: my main viewpoint character is (perhaps necessarily) rather passive. Now I get to put her in play with a vengeance, and it all makes sense with the development of the episode.

Not going to make the Valentine's Day deadline, but it looks like end of the month is a reasonable goal. I guess it'll be my personal birthday present to finish the darn manuscript. Wow, something about that just sounds wrong.

Word count for 2/3 - 2/9: 10,480

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

GoodReads Review: The Heart of Myrial

The Heart of Myrial (Shadowleague, 1)The Heart of Myrial by Maggie Furey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A sprawling fantasy epic in an intriguing variant on the "science fiction settlers colonized a new world" setting, The Heart of Myrial follows the lives, large and small, affected by the disintegration of the Curtain Walls which artificially separate environments and hostile races from each other. Devestating climate has driven the country of Callisiora to the brink as Veldan, her firedrake partner Kazairl, and the dragon Seer Aethon attempt to pass through.

The main problem with this book is it was immediately obvious that it was going to be the first in a series. I have no problem with sprawling epics, but it took almost seventy pages to return to the perspective and storyline that began the book. There are no spear-carriers in this book: everyone has a name, history and storyline. A little flavor and color is wonderful, but when everything is important, nothing is. And all these storylines intertwine, crisscrossing over each other in a way that would be compelling in smaller doses, but becomes hard to swallow in this quantity.

Then there's the infodumping in the early portions of the book, sometimes compounded by its insertion in, "As you know, Bob," dialogue. It's an intriguing world that Furey has created, promising many secrets, and the development does improve as it continues, but the start is rocky.

Yet after all this, there's a definite pleasure in watching the storylines unfold, the revelation of the villain, the building of many small relationships - and the twists that emerge from the original plot and even the backstory. The characters are enjoyable and sympathetic, even - perhaps especially - those minor characters who emerge when a face is needed in the crowd. Also, Furey has an interesting perspective on how people deal with grief and tragedy, something which (I think) will only have more power in future volumes.

I will definitely seek out the second book, but be warned that - while it's implied that the original plot problem may be resolved - by the time the book reaches that point, so many other situations have exploded that the end can properly be called a cliffhanger. It promises to be a fun ride ahead.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

"She's Not There" by the Zombies

So after watching tonight's episode of Glee, which contained one of my favorite "oldies" songs, "She's Not There" by The Zombies, I got curious what the song was "supposed" to be about and did a trawl on

I discovered something fairly shocking: the line(s) is: "Well, no one told me about her" etc etc.

I had always heard it as "Will no one tell me about her" etc etc.

In furtherance to this (though less jarring), the line that follows, "It's too late to say you're sorry," which is actually, "How would I know? Why should I care?" came out to my ear as, "I would I know, why should I care?" (Which does make sense: "I'd say sorry if I could, though why should I?" essentially.)

This pretty much led me straight into interpreting it as being a song reflecting back on the life of a dead lover. (Possibly the fact that it was by "the Zombies" helped, though that would have been subliminal.)

The "actual" lyrics throw an entirely different spin on the song. My little musical world is rocked. It's a good example of how a very subtle change flips the meaning about, though.

I still will persist in thinking of it as "Will no one tell me about her," though.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I'm surprised how productive a week this was, considering I had an obscene amount of work (professional work and domestic / admin work) on Thursday and Friday - to give you an idea, I stopped working on Friday (actually Saturday) at 1:15am - a lengthy rehearsal on Saturday; Monday and Tuesday, I was almost-couldn't-stand sick; and through it all, I've been cramming music for a Valentine's Day gig.

Sadly, the bulk of the work was not on the novel, but I finished my untitled Seven Swans retelling and knocked out my piece for the 2k story challenge - what's called an "Outside The Box" challenge. Basically, OTB starts with a round-robin challenge session, where each person offers a prompt for something that's unusual or difficult to do in fantasy, the next person takes it and offers a prompt of their own ... it initially started as a targeted challenge, where members would challenge each other to fix their weaknesses, but it evolved into a more general / informal form.

Since I started this round, I gave the first prompt - "Write a story about an aunt / niece or uncle / nephew pair in which the setting is in some way a character" - and took the last one when the alloted time for issuing challenges was up - "Write a comedy of errors in which the only actual problem is miscommunication." To ensure that everyone has time to read each other's entries, there's a 2k word limit, which for me is possibly harder than any prompt unless I am starting out to write flash ... but I managed it.

One person has already posted theirs; five more (including mine) to go. Looking forward to seeing what other folks have.

Word count for 1/27 - 2/2: 10,870