Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I've mentioned this elsewhere, but the good news is I've finished my winter holiday anthology story. The bad news is, with a word count ceiling of 5k for the anthology, it came in somewhere over 8k. I'm working on a first editing pass now, which has it down almost to 8k, but it looks like this one is going to have to find another home.

Imagine the poor little homeless story, crouching on a park bench somewhere, feeding the pigeons ...

I'm still working on my character notes for the mystery novel, and though I'm enjoying the process, I'm starting to burn out on one thing - the names. I've chosen a naming convention which produces a very distinct look for very little effort (though those of you who have been following me for a while know that I love naming languages and can spend hours putting them together - heck, I even looked up a supplementary list of the hundred most common words to use) (this is an exceedingly long paranthetical and for that, I apologize) (where was I?) ...

In any case - though the naming convention definitely has a lot going for it, one of the things working against it is that it becomes difficult to come up with authentic sounding names after you've put together, oh, thirty or forty. Most will not appear in the text ... but at this point, without a clearer idea of how the plot will play out, I can't be sure which will be needed. So I'm sure that I've omitted some I'll need to go back and add, conversely.

I once saw a panel of mystery writers at one of my local(ish) bookstores who commented that they don't know whodunnit when they start writing - and because I think it would be fun, I decided to take that route. I'm going to firmly squelch a tendency I've had in the past, which is to set up the mystery so multiple people dunnit. One murderer. Two at most. It does not need to be a social event.

8/18 - 8/24
Word count: 1,959

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

GoodReads Review: Madman's Dance

Madman's Dance (Time Rovers, #3)Madman's Dance by Jana Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This, the final (?) book in Jana Oliver's Time Rovers series, brings the events of the previous two books to an explosive conclusion - shapeshifters, time travelers, meddlers from a future beyond, anarchists, and all combinations thereof. As with the previous two books, the majority of the action takes place in Victorian London, with some events in "now-time" from the prospective of the time travelers ... well, the point of view characters who time travel ... there's a dizzying amount of crossover, but it all comes together with crystal coherence in the end.

For the first third of the book, however, I was disappointed by the flow. In Madman's Dance, Oliver does a good job summarizing while still moving the plot forward, but for most of this portion of the book, I felt the characters were almost exclusively reactive, responding to the situation without much agency of their own. I also felt just a bit disconnected from events - I think in good part because Jacynda, who is so vibrant in the first two, spends much of this one profoundly altered and just ... not herself. As a new reader, I would not have been drawn to her. As someone coming from the previous two books, I missed the old Jacynda terribly.

A potential word of caution: while, again, Oliver does a great job filling you in on previous plot points without bogging down in it (which is a skillful feat, given how much happens in those two books that is vital to this one), I think the book loses something for not being read with immediacy. If you're going to pick up this series, I'd recommend going straight through.

But it all turns with Jacynda, and when she gets her feet back underneath her, so does the book ... and the way she leaps back into action is a delight. Her audacity and the controlled (barely) chaos she creates are a pleasure to read. The plot device that damaged her at the end of Virtual Evil comes into play and has intriguing implications in the later portions of the book. The reader learns a lot more about the transitives (shapeshifters), their organization, the Lead Assassin who emerged from the shadows in Virtual Evil ... and their future.

The ending of this book is a pitch-perfect illustration of character and exactly the kind of denouement you would want for a time traveler. It made me want to stand up and cheer. I was never quite sure I bought the romantic storyline here, but I think that's personal rather than anything amiss with the way it was portrayed. Definitely recommended as an ultimately satisfying close to the series.

View all my reviews

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Snippet

With where I am in both works I'm presently ... working on ... I had difficulty finding a section that didn't give away earlier action. This is from my winter holiday story:

The presents glinted under the tree, but Irena hardly thought about gifts this year - not even the look on her grandfather's face when he saw the antique watch. Instead, she was fixed on the party, the thought of spending time with Justin, and the hovering promise of mistletoe.

Christmas Eve arrived with no phone call from her mother, perhaps because she stood staring at the phone, willing it to ring. Irena expected to feel more resentment, but her heart seemed to be encased in ice. It was difficult to feel anything, even joy over the snow that had delighted her - still fresh and crisp on the ground, as if it had fallen that very morning.

"I am sure her duties are very important," her grandfather said.

"A midnight call, I expect." Her grandmother's pinched face encouraged her to believe this. "So as to reach us when it's properly Christmas."

Phone call or not, Irena didn't intend to be home at midnight. She endured a day of carols, cookies and traditional Christmas movies - a Christmas Story, Elf and, for reasons never properly explained, The Long Kiss Goodnight - with her attention elsewhere. She felt more distant from her family than she ever had before and wondered if it was more than the party on her mind.

"I don't feel well," she said after dinner, feeling the tingle of the lie dance on her tongue. "I think I ate too much. Do you mind if I lie down?"

"Go on, dear."

Irena trudged upstairs, resisting the urge to sprint instead. She plumped her pillow and blankets in what she hoped was a convincing fashion. Truth was, she had never broken out of her house before. What if she couldn't manage the climb down? Television made it seem so easy. Obligatory for any teenaged girl, in fact. At the very least, she knew she couldn't risk wearing tights and a dress. Well, she had planned on slacks anyhow. It was dorky, but her thighs were too big.

She tossed her cellphone on the dresser and eased the window open, wincing when it creaked. The cold slapped her in the face. She held her breath, sliding out shoulders-first. Her fingers clutched awkwardly at a frost-covered branch. It stung. She should have worn gloves, but they were downstairs in the closet. She wobbled out into the crook of the tree and pushed the window as far shut as it would go from the outside.

Then she was alone in the darkness.

Friday, August 19, 2011

(Belated) Thursday Thoughts

Oh, for the ability to time travel!

Yesterday was a long day, and I just lost track of it. Headed bedwards, I had the thought, "Ack, my post!"

So what's up this Thursday? Time travel. No, not really - I forget that I do, in fact, write about time travelers and have several of their stories pending submission. (The most recent story has a major plot hole which I still haven't plugged, so its submission date is indefinite.) Fantasy sometimes makes it difficult to joke around - something that seems to be meant in humor in a piece of fiction could be literal. So just to clarify ... the only time travel involved here is my effectively backdating this post.

This editing pass of Scylla and Charybdis is winding down - my cursor blinks at the beginning of Chapter Thirty-Two. There are a few throughlines I'm concerned about, but my intention is to do a separate pass where I exclusively focus on whole-book continuity issues and bounce around to fix those. This will be combined with my reading aloud pass, since bizarrely, I seem to notice large-scale continuity questions while reading out loud. My brain is a strange beast.

I'm beginning to weary of my character building for the mystery novel - which needs a title, stat! Or at least before I start writing, because if I start writing without one, it will never be titled - but I'm reluctant to pause and wing it. I'm over halfway through, but it's a lot of material. One choice I made I'm regretting a little is I've given each character songs to describe them and Tarot significators. These have been harder to choose than I had thought.

The victim's song (or one of two) is Celine Dion's "Immortality." I didn't actually choose it to be ironic, but now I'm looking back and facepalming.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Snippet

This is a piece from another Flow-verse Borderwatch story. (Not fully edited, so forgive a little roughness.) Brianna has just learned that her sister is pregnant ... while she and a group of agents are hunting an Alastyn (a waterhorse fairy) living as a mortal. They confront "Adam" on a beach, and the following ensues:

Carter slammed into Adam from behind and drove a fist into his lung. The skinny kid was a powerhouse and that blow would have incapacitated a human – but Alastyns have the lungs of a horse, and it only slowed him. I drew Adam’s attention with a feint of the knife. His head jerked around, teeth snapping, but he was too far from the water to transform. He kicked out at Carter, who mewled as the blow caught him below the kneecap.

We kept Adam from the water, circling. My thoughts whirled, already imagining sleepless nights spent nursing my niece/nephew – a hazy hermaphrodite – and miles driven as Greta forgot appointments or lingered to exchange coy words with a clerk.

“Brianna!” Marcus bellowed. Adam was upon me, far too fast. I drove the blade forward in a belly-thrust. It glanced off his ribcage, but the shallow cold-iron knick drew a shrill scream.

I locked my thoughts on the present. Unprofessional, sloppy … now to correct my mistake.

Marcus stayed back, blocking the retreat as Carter and I closed in. A technical specialist, Marcus knew enough fighting to stay out of trouble, but we were the enforcers.

Adam bared his teeth. “Who are you people?”

“Does it matter?” I asked.

Carter and I exchanged looks and moved in tandem. He kicked Adam’s legs out from under him as I lunged. The Alastyn hit the ground; I landed on his chest. I pushed the blade against the side of his throat.

“Ahhh …” The aspirated hiss of pain hung suspended, as if Adam were afraid to close his lips.

“Nice work,” Marcus said. “Finish it.”

Adam made a sound of disbelief. “If you know what I am, you know what kind of allies I have.”

“You want to give us names?” I said. “We’ll be happy to take care of them, too. Otherwise – shut up.”

He sank against the sand, but the smirk flitted back. “You should have her name it Dalia.”

I stiffened and – before I could catch myself up in questions – drove the blade home.

“What was that about?” Carter asked.

“Nothing,” I said, rolling off the body. I left the knife in place. We would bury him like that, with the remains of his victims.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I took about a two week break from my weekly feature(s) (assuming my recent Sunday addition counts) (oh, how I love parantheses (no, I'm not done yet)), unannounced and unplanned, but now I'm back.

The good news is I wrote more this week and am starting to retrench. The bad news is ... these words were in a short story for an anthology that has a 5k ceiling, and I am already about three hundred words over and not near done yet, though the end is in sight. I'll see how much I can cut, but I'm not willing to warp the story to shorten it. It's a winter-holiday theme charity anthology, so I'd love to get the story into the word count and done ... we'll see.

The entertaining thing that's been happening as I work on character profiles for the mystery novel is I've discovered personalities, motives, and new suspects whom I didn't anticipate. I've also uncovered new aspects of my world. I may never use some of what I've written down, but it has gotten the gears turning. At this point, I'm almost wondering if I should just backburner this when done, finish my novel(s) editing, and begin for Nanowrimo. I no longer participate on the forums, but the sense that so many people are in the same boat is still encouraging.

8/4 - 8/10
Word count: 1,536