Saturday, April 30, 2011

Who's Right? Who's Left?

Random fantasy ethics question ...

Imagine a situation where two fathers are planning an arranged marriage, but know that one half of the couple is in love with someone else. Who's worse:

Father #1, who is only now finding out about the existing romance, and is leery of the arrangement - but still agrees.
Father #2, who knew beforehand and has seen the couple together, but is a veteran of arranged marriage himself, fully confident it works, and has no qualms.

No "both" or "equally," please. If you had to say one's decision was more condemnable than the other - which would it be?

There's a basic question here about viewpoint, intent versus action, and ... I am curious what people think. For context in this setting, arranged marriages are a dwindling practice, but still accepted, esp. among the nobility.

As a sidebar, there are other factors to this debate, and I had a tough time narrowing down which ones were relevant without favoring one side or the other ...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

This was a rough week, and it came out in the writing / editing output - or lack thereof. I just completed my worldbuilding, with the exception of putting a few more dates into the timeline as I work with characters. The various backstories are so dependent on sequence, I needed a timeline to make sure that things could happen in the right order without time travel, and to discover some things that I didn't know happened at almost the same time. Ahem. Most of this will never see the light of day, but I'd hate to have said: X happens before Y and after Z, A happens before Z, but after Y ... wait.

I got the rare treat of finishing the timeline and thinking to myself, "Oh, that character is only eighty-nine. Good."

With Scylla and Charybdis, I am working on the last leg and rapidly approaching the sequence of scenes I recently decided needed a larger change - so nervous about that. Could be subconsciously procrastinating so I don't reach them. I wouldn't put it past me!

4/21 - 4/27
Pages Edited: 28

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last Post Addendum ...

And trademark hard copy submission signature: purple ink. No, I don't generally work in purple (twould be unprofessional) but my signature always is.

Honestly, I should have done that for my Sails & Sorcery signing, but I think if I ever sign books in the future (ha!), I'll have to make sure I have a purple pen on me.

Once More Into The Breach ...

Having received my first rejection for Journal of the Dead on a submission to a publisher, I'm now going the query route. In the past, while I've had a list of agents I definitely wanted to submit to, my research beyond that has been a bit scattershot. I decided to go into this time with a Battleplan (tm), and despite the headaches of the past few days (both literal - oww, allergy season! - and figurative - flooding under the garage steps has had me changing towels every few hours), I've come up with a system and information I'm happy with.

First, I set up an Excel spreadsheet with columns for agency name, agent, genres represented, method of contact, submission package desired, other notes, and then a personal ranking. (Actually, the ranking is the first item - on the far left hand side.) Then, I went back through the agencies I submitted to last time and reviewed their sites, adding this information into my sheet. I removed a few agencies from the list, mostly due to inaccurate information - the agent had left, no longer taking fantasy, etc.

Next step, I went trawling the net for other agencies. As a point of interest, I usually avoided agents that didn't have an obvious net presence. This isn't laziness (that's my story and I'm sticking with it - no, really), but more that I feel in this day and age, having that internet platform is important. I'm not terribly good at it myself, but I have a website, a blog and a facebook page. (Actually, I have three facebook pages - personal, author and harper. Oh, the travails of multi-tasking.) Anyone who has less presence than I do makes me leery.

(As a sidebar, I've already found Facebook's character limit on updates annoying, so I will not be joining Twitter. 140 characters? It takes me more than that to say hello!)

Originally, I had added a column for whether or not the agent accepted simsubs, but discovered that only one or two even wanted to be notified, so I moved that info into my notes and deleted the column. One thing I should have included and didn't was whether the agent sent rejections (or whether no reply was considered a rejection) and length of response time. I added a column for that and will add this information in as I make submissions. I also added a color code and a column for JoD to track the kind of responses I get. Why color and not words? I like color. It's also easier to get a quick picture.

Even though I have the summary, I'm still going to consult websites as I submit. Want to make sure I address more specific needs that I can't put in a simple spreadsheet. Still, it will speed me up. The best thing about the sheet thus far is one horizontal line fits perfectly on my widescreen monitor, with room to make notes for 4-5 projects. (I sincerely, sincerely hope I won't need those extra lines, because if I don't have an agent by then I may stab myself, shoot myself and hurl myself off a bridge while drinking poison ... but there it is.)

I decided from the start I wasn't going to do the typical method of submitting to a rash of places at once - but neither was I going to be dumb and simply submit to two or three at a time, because that takes forever. (There was a time I didn't know this. We do not speak of this time.) So the plan was to submit to perhaps five or six to start, and then every time I receive a no response, send out two more. This keeps momentum going and means I'm doing it in small, manageable chunks - critical, with the number of other balls I'm juggling in my life. Obviously, I will reach a point of overwhelming mass, at which point I'll just do a 1:1.

As it so happens, my rank 1 (highest priority) list has seven agencies on it - one of which is currently closed to queries, but I know from prior experience that they close and reopen regularly. Six is a perfect number to start with, and I'm hoping to get the email letters out today. Whether the snail mail letter gets out tomorrow depends on if I have enough postage in-house. Tomorrow and Tuesday are insane days, so it will be Wednesday before I can get to the post office ...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Clunky bits, meet my red pen!

I've been pleasantly surprised with how far I've gotten on the editing of Scylla and Charybdis. It definitely will need more editing and probably a few outside eyes, at least on the first chapters ... but making a good start. However, Who Wants To Be A Hero? is looming at me, and I can't figure out when is a good time to make headway on that one. I don't want to wait too long, but I don't want them to meld together ...

My word count this week does not include a little over six thousand words of worldbuilding, in the messiest, most disorganized funnel cake sprawl of note-jotting I've committed in a while. The file itself is in decent order, but the way I put it in ... not so much. I keep looping back to add other information, nuances, address questions I forgot ...

Part of it may be the fact that this isn't a full construction. I've built what I need of the world, which means that global elements, magic, etc are deeply outlined, as well as the countries in which the story actually takes place, while other countries are etched just enough that I can toss in spice and refer to them consistently ... and beyond my partial world map, here there be dragons - metaphorically, not literally (although you never know ...). I know the name and general character of two places beyond the map - that's it.

I don't usually do maps; I needed this one because the geographic orientation of the lands is opposite similar locations on Earth, so I wanted a visual to keep me from reverting.

4/14 - 4/20
Pages Edited: 32
Word Count: 1,004

Sunday, April 17, 2011

On Writing and Skepticism

I think my years of writing fantasy have contributed to my skeptical view of the world, in particular spiritual concepts.

On the face of it, this might seem like a contradiction in terms, but it starts with how I approach new information. History facts and geographical nuances can spawn new stories (or how about the typo "left at the alter," which I added to my mental file recently) ... but so can mythology, religion, pseudoscience and modern "fringe" beliefs such as past lives. When I read about these things, my first reaction is not, "I believe that: it could be true," it's, "This would make a great story ..."

When I look at such concepts, what I often see first is not potential enlightenment or a way of understanding how the universe works. Instead, I see drama, cost, consequence, plot barrier and tension.

And I've taught myself to structure beliefs, higher powers, etc into a plausible world system. When you approach concepts with the mindset that anything is equally possible, the corrolary is that no single possibility stands out as truth. I am openminded: anything could be possible. But I am also unconvinced: (almost) everything just sounds like a good story to me, not an expression of reality.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

This weekend, I treated myself to a break from editing to work on a new short story and to read through the project I'm thinking of rewriting so I could take notes. Yes ... I consider it a treat, and that's how I thought of it.

The short story is for the "act of folly" April monthly challenge - more detail on their site. I'm playing with the idea in that the character is deliberately attempting to do something foolish and keeps getting thwarted. The story is also as-told-to an unidentified third party, so there are occasional present tense / pseudo second person interjections when she stops to explain or apologize to the listener. The identity of the third party is important to the resolution of the story, so I'm hoping it all works.

Being stumped over fantasy calendars again. I hate these: it's a no-win situation. You have the unappetizing choice between a) using our calendar and having it stick out like a sore thumb among all the non-Earth concepts; b) inventing a calendar and forcing the reader to wade through a bunch of gratuitious month-names (at least); or c) using bland, obvious names like firstmonth, secondmonth, etc.

I'm pondering doing a variant on the Earth calendar: instead of January, February, March, it'd be Janum, Februm, Maren ... does anyone think this is viable, or would it just draw you out of the story MORE than using conventional months?

3/7 - 3/13

Pages Edited: 29

Word Count: 5,242

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just The Messenger

I sold "Just The Messenger" to the new Darwin's Evolutions anthology series! Anthology will go into production once it's full, so date entirely unknown ...

Friday, April 08, 2011

It's Raining Men

Male characters occupy a slightly unusual place in my fiction. The majority of my characters are female, and typically, I find that the women in my cast have larger, more distinct roles. This used to be a ridiculous ratio: in fact, I had a collaborator who said to me, "I know why the villainness wants my character: he's the only male left!" I've since achieved more balance, but I have a bias and I'm aware of it. (In fact, when writing Scylla and Charybdis, I realized I had chapters in the supposedly male-dominated region that were shy on men, so I gave one of the characters a sex change. My editing notes thus include the observation, "Make sure Justin is male. No, really.")

I also find that my male characters tend to fade into the background or simply fail as interesting figures more frequently ... but when they work, they form a high percentage of my best creations.

From "The Sintellyn Medallion," main character Tieruko is a figurehead king who realizes his past as an evil overlord's unwilling apprentice isn't entirely over. From "Journal of the Dead," foreign ambassador Razentis Ara-Anaxiar treats the deadly politics of the novel like a game, but still manages to be an engaging and likeable ally (I hope). From "Scylla and Charybdis," the Tweaker named Flick comes on like comic relief, but soon proves himself to be fiercely loyal with an immense heart. And in my novella / novelette "Shadow Play," narrator Irun is an expatriate legal representative who has lost his faith in the world ... almost.

Not sure what accounts for the dichotomy. Maybe it's the freshness of it: when a male character works, really works for me, it's uncommon enough that inspires me. Does that mean some day, I'll lose this aspect? I hope not.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

This week, I've been struggling a lot with the difference between what I need to do to further my goal of producing a (hopefully) publishable novel, versus what I want to do as a writer on a story playground. Now, don't get me wrong on this: I'm not contemplating projects I'm not passionate about or choosing based on marketibility. Instead, I know I should focus on editing, then focus on writing a single project ... but my brain wants to do prep-work / worldbuilding now, and it really wants to sink into both novel ideas, not one.

I am starting to resent this dichotomy. I want to be a professional author, but I write because I love it. Obviously, there's going to be parts of writing that are like eating your green vegetables - rejection letters come to mind - but it shouldn't be this hard or pervasive: something I will be spending months on. I shouldn't spend this much time angsting over this. Do I stick to my plan and fidget because there's so much else I want to do? Do I let myself off leash and accept that the next few projects are going to take a while? (I'm also concerned about if I take too much time editing, I will simply look at the whole thing and think, "The writing in this is crap.)

It's not a race, and I already have projects out there. Any advice?

(I think part of it is I've been editing solid for the whole past week, so my creative brain is playing caged beast ...)

3/31 - 4/6

Pages Edited: 32

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


After having had several people tell me it's a good tool for marketing, I've (somewhat reluctantly) signed up over at Facebook. You can find me at Lindsey Duncan for personal ... Lindsey Duncan, Celtic Harp ... and Unicorn Isle: Lindsey Duncan. Please feel free to friend, like, stalk me or whatever the heck it's called.

Honestly, right now I am too sick to focus on anything else. ;-)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Multiple Long Projects?

There is a question here, and a plea for your point of view - please read!

Having finally settled on the novel project I want to write - need to write, because it's been brewing and incubating for so long that if I don't tackle it now, it will be never; need to write, because it's the book that embodies the genre-blending (mystery in fantasy) I want to be all about - I had a horrible thing happen to me. I looked at an old manuscript (actually from a collab) and was blown away. We won't speak of the horrible craft in some of the writing, but apart from the fact that some facts needed to be foreshadowed or built up more firmly, earlier (naturally, because hey, I was pulling this stuff out of thin air) ... wow.

And I got so enthused, so delighted, in reading ... in remembering ... in finding side stories I had written and lighting upon alternate interpretations ... I can't remember being this gungho in a while, though granted I'm not sure if I'm just not remembering accurately. But I cannot find any downside, and that's a rarity. Some small concerns about cliche elements, but with this idea, I think I can fix those elements with ease.

I've thought about trying to write both books simultaneously (yes, I know, I know!) but the concerns are primarily: a) confusion of concept and b) I'd end up editing them both almost at once, and I'm already approaching that situation. I'm not sure that the first is an issue: they're both conspiracy / court intrigue concepts, but this is an area which I am so familiar and obsessed with that I think I might be able to better handle the similarity than someone for whom it might be two experiments. And in details, they are very different.

So for the writers out there: how many have you have seriously tried to write two novels at once? How did you figure out when to change between them? How did you keep the two separate? How did you handle the editing processes? Would you do it again?