Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

So I've had some delay in working on my editing for Scylla and Charybdis ... because I've had workmen in and out ... and I'm on the "read out loud" editing pass. I do not want to entertain / horrify them and embarrass / embarrass / mortally embarrass myself.

What I've just finished doing, too, is reading through all my worldbuilding and character notes for the still-unnamed fantasy / mystery novel. I've tweaked some points, either due to inadvertent contradiction or better ideas left dangling that I forgot about. I am trying to imprint enough of this in my brain that I don't miss any of the cool things I've created. Well. Most of them. If the whole book were this cool, you'd have to chip the ice off it.

Yes, I'm being facetious.

About to start a short story based on a writing exercise. Here's the original snippet, yet to be revised - for instance, I'm changing the name, since I appropriated Lina for something else, and some of the descriptiveness needs work:

Turgid artic waters rushed about the isle, swept by low currents towards the icelands and eventually, the base of the world. From here, Lina could see the dim shadow of the immense column that anchored them in the field of stars, but that was not her destination.

She clutched her cloak tighter to her, a speck of brown in the small boat, a figure no smaller than a child, though girlish amber curls had been given the hatchet job before she applied. One of the first healers to do so; accepted when three months of waiting turned up only two other volunteers, none quite so qualified.

The ferryman conducted her without glance or sound, but his apprentice kept peeking under his elbow at her. "Why are you doing this, miss?" he asked finally.

The voice did not match the woman, resonant, midnight-deep. "Someone has to."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Snippet

A section from early in Scylla and Charybdis, where Anaea goes to an elder on the space station about her encounter with a refugee - the first time she's ever met a male. The following is part of the dialogue:

“Is that part of why men aren’t allowed out of isolation? The language barrier?” The question hadn’t seemed so foolish in her head. To take her eyes elsewhere, Anaea focused on the pointillism painting behind Thalestris’ head. She had done a three-month rotation as an artist apprentice, but she hadn’t felt creative enough to stay, though she enjoyed the act of making something with her hands.

Thalestris chuckled. “A trifle, perhaps. A larger part of the reason is how durable Y-Poisoning is: it can stay dormant on surfaces for a long time. Bring it in with a salvage, expose a male who happens to be wandering the station, and you have a madman on the loose.”

Anaea bit her lip and said nothing.

“You’re thinking that seems tenuous. Remember this disease shattered everything we know.” Thalestris closed her eyes, added mildly, “There is, of course, the social element: reintroducing men would be disruptive. Technological advances recently have made it possible to consider the idea, but it will be a long debate.”

Anaea tried to imagine living side by side with someone like Gwydion, wondered why it was so hard to picture. Was he so different from her, apart from the physical element? And she had seen women – not many, but a few – who were larger and more muscular than he was.

“You’re saying that men are disruptive?” she asked.

“No more or less than we would be, in the reverse situation,” Thalestris said. “Men and women are strangely designed. They do not fit together with ease.”

Yet people had lived as such for far longer than they had not. Anaea recoiled from her doubt, swallowing. Thinking these questions made her uncomfortable.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I've done very little writing work since finishing Scylla and Charybdis, but I think one of the most important things for a writer is to learn your own cycles and habits and understand the difference between valid recharging time ... and goofing off or procrastination. The pitfalls of not having enough "discipline" are obvious: lack of product, minimal editing, etc. The pitfalls of having too much discipline are maybe a little subtler, but just as harmful. It can take the joy and inspiration out of writing.

Besides ... when you wake up, immediately starting make house maintenance phonecalls, get in the car, drive to a gig, come back, and alternate two different work requirements, ultimately finishing at 12:45am ... this ... is not a time for great writing product. It is, in fact, a time when incoherence is not only acceptable, it is expected.

Which I suppose should actually mean it is the perfect opportunity to product some surrealism ...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Snippet

In honor of the SaC pass just finished, here's the first two hundred and fifty words (about a standard book page) of the novel as it stands:

Waiting behind the airlock door, Anaea Carlisle tried to wrap her mind around the nature of the refugees she might see on the other side – if any were still alive. She clutched her medic’s kit in twitching hands and flicked a glance to Valasca Braun, the angular woman who led the team. Why did the chief doctor insist on leading so many salvage missions?

The door oozed open. Anemic grey light filtered in from the ship’s docking station. Valasca gestured them forward. “Stay cautious,” she said through her mask. “If anyone is alive, they won’t be expecting rescue. Stun first, apologize later.” The techs at Themiscyra Station had retrieved the crew roster, but hyperspace had damaged the ship too much for an attempt at jury-rigging communications.

Even through the mask’s filter, the corridor smelled like overstewed tomatoes. The hum of electronics sputtered and snorted, disconcerting Anaea: she was used to hearing such sounds as white noise. Every time they cracked, she tensed, expecting someone to leap out. Of the six-woman team, she was the least imposing – one of the tallest, but slender and pale. In the light, her dark auburn hair washed out.

Valasca led the way to a door that had been melted open. The ship’s hub – central point for navigation – lay beyond, choked with broken girders. Anaea gasped as she saw the two bodies. Her eyes widened at the shapes, larger and more square than what she thought of as human norm. One had a fringe of hair on the chin. Males.

Editing Pass Finished!

I just finished what I'll choose to think of as the third pass over Scylla and Charybdis. First pass and a half was making notes in the hard copy and then transferring them; second (and a half) pass was what I've just finished, going through the computer file again, and that extra half pass comes from having the earlier chapters critiqued and extensive revisions.

Next step is to do a pass where I look for continuity issues and whenever I encounter something, scan the whole manuscript for references / lack thereof ... combined with a read-out-loud test, since my brain seems to work such that these two complement each other.

I had the word count down as I approached the final chapters, but adding and expanding the emotional reactions there increased it again. I keep telling myself not to get freakish about added words, but I don't think I'm listening ... ;-) Still, there's no doubt I added a significant amount of necessary fleshing out.

For the curious, word count:

Draft: 161,124
First pass: 153,325
Second (or third, or whatever) pass: 151,784

The Changeling Letter to Sorcerous Signals

I just sold "The Changeling Letter" to Sorcerous Signals (! Look for it in November ... please consider voting as your favorite story, too. Don't worry, I will definitely remind you then.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

I'm almost done with my building notes for my mystery novel, which needs a title before I start writing, or it will never have one. Ironically, I already have the first line more or less figured out in my head.

My main concern with the narrative is that I'm writing from the first person perspective of the familiar, who is from a very alien mindset. This is avoiding the traditional trope, where you have a narrator who watches the genius detective. I decided on this because it's a fantasy novel first, a mystery novel second. The point is, however, I need to avoid making her narration a "humans in funnysuits" situation - where the differences of mindset and culture are only skin-deep. Among the attributes of her people is the fact that though they're very perceptive and clever - brilliant, even - they don't understand falsehood. Which is where her sidekick / the enchanter's apprentice comes in ...

Another stretch for me that might not be for other people is I've placed the apprentice in a romantic relationship best described as dysfunctional. She loves him, he wants her up until about the point he can actually have her, and it's circled back and forth like this against any better judgment for a few years before the novel starts. Cross your fingers for me that I don't chicken out or make it too black and white. Not to say that it's an acceptable situation, but there's a difference between an opposing character and a villain.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

GoodReads Review: Doppelgangster

Doppelgangster (Esther Diamond, #2)Doppelgangster by Laura Resnick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Esther Diamond is a struggling actress in New York City ... and sometimes the only job you have to help you through is that of a singing waitress at the friendly neighborhood mob hangout. This leads her headlong into murder, mayhem and the tabloids as a doppelganger curse dogs (... and speaking of dogs ...) the gangsters. If this isn't complicated enough, she has to avoid the suspicion of her hunky cop would-be boyfriend long enough ... to actually *become* his girlfriend.

Fast paced, witty, clever and consistently good at racketing up the insanity - all without ever sacrificing believability or heart - this book is a joy to read. Resnick has a unique grasp on the comic aspects of mobsters - no one writes them quite like she does, and watching scholastic sorcerer Max try to grasp the language is just one of the many hilarious sequences in the book. And the dog - excuse me, familiar - is a charming character in her own right.

This book pokes fun at some tropes of urban fantasy and inverts others, and does it with affection. As far as other cliches, one of my personal pet peeves is when a main character has to hide something from her significant other, sometimes with "comic" mishaps preventing her from doing so, until he finds out anyway, and thus much angst and aggravation ensues. Resnick handles the inevitable problems with Lopez in what I found to be a satisfying way, sidestepping my usual irritation with the entire trope.

If I have one quibble, it's that the mystery is a bit weak: I figured it out by process of "what has the writer included?" elimination rather than clues-in-story deduction (and by one suspect being a trifle too obvious). But the story is so much about the characters puzzling it out that it really doesn't matter.

This is one of the few books that has made me guffaw aloud - repeatedly - and yet it is rife with moments of excitement, danger, drama and a little heat. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays

Saw this on Cherie Reich's blog and couldn't resist jumping in:

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others.)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

So here's mine, from page 73 of Doppelgangster, by Laura Resnick:

I smelled something foul floating up from the laboratory, a putrid, acrid odor mixed with smoke, incense, and ... wet dog fur?

"Max?" I called.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

GoodReads Review: The Best of MZB Fantasy

The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy Magazine Volume 1The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley Fantasy Magazine Volume 1 by Marion Zimmer Bradley

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I came into this anthology with high hopes, because while the years have taken the luster off them, I love my issues of MZB Fantasy Magazine and think they contain some of the most enjoyable, while still wholesome stories I have ever encountered. Unfortunately, this anthology - filled with what the editor considers the best stories of a range of issues (I am not sure how many issues of MZBF this encompasses; she does not specify); not, notably, necessarily those that the readers voted as the best - failed to live up to my hopes.

Of the stories in this anthology, I would have to say that the humor stories are the most disappointing ... strange, since one of my favorite qualities of the magazine was its ability to provide light but still believable stories. But in this anthology, the humor stories are generally of that quality where the behavior of the characters is stretched to ridiculous for the sake of a joke, ruining any suspension of disbelief I might have had. I didn't care what happened, and the humor wasn't gut-splitting enough to overcome that.

The editor's commentary, overall, detracts from the book. Bad enough that the first story is basically a "punchline" story (in that the only purpose of the tale is to reveal the final line, whether humorous or not), but MZB chooses to telegraph that ending ... making the actual read a bit of a moot point. The personal comments in the intros make it feel as if the magazine was a friends-only club ... not the impression I got from reading MZB's editorials throughout the issues I have.

It's a fantasy magazine, yet at least twice, I counted in the comments, "This is the closest to science fiction we've ever published ..." (you can't say that twice unless they're tied, can you?) and at least two other stories that verged on that territory. This in an anthology of nineteen stories, making about twenty percent of the total ... more if you consider two of the stories are essentially flash fiction.

Those two pieces of flash fiction are very vivid and enjoyable, however. Also of note is Jo Clayton's "Change", which gets deep into the mind of a non-human entity. " The Dancer of Chimaera" from Diana L. Paxson shows the unexpected consequences when a shy, girlish dancer on a space station finds true love. Interestingly, both of these are stories MZB lumped into the SF category (I'd argue that "Change" isn't).

Some of the better stories beyond those draw strongly on a mythic tradition. For Mary C. Aldridge's "The Adinkra Cloth," it is African myth; for Lawrence Watt-Evans' "The Palace of al-Tir al-Abtan," it is Arabian legend. I also liked Pat Cirone's "To Father A Sohn," though I am never a fan of invented pronouns and there's got to be a better way to do it.

Overall, most of the stories are readable, but have distinct flaws, and few are really exceptional. I wouldn't go out of my way to track down this anthology.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 02, 2011

Now Available: The Herd Mentality

The second issue of ParABnormal Digest, with my "The Herd Mentality" is now available for purchase here:

Four words: psychic-vampire unicorn story.

This one doesn't warrant a full Anatomy of an Idea post, as I can't recall a lot about how it came to be ... except to say that I very consciously looked at early portrayals of unicorns and the coloring of their horns and imitated that.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Sometimes, to get through one part of the writing process, you have to treat yourself with the promise of something else - or at least, that's my theory right now as I proclaim: verily, I will get through this editing pass of Scylla and Charybdis before I start writing another short story. It's looking more and more like my next novel project will be held over for November so I can commiserate with the Nanowrimo people. With luck, SaC will be prepared for the query process by then. It may not be in queries, as I'm still working through Journal of the Dead ...

With Flow up for the editor's eye soon (Double Dragon's, that is), I've toyed with the idea of another novel in that setting. Two ways I can go: a sequel (which opens up the potential for Hadrian's point of view) in the "new adventures happening to these characters" sense rather than the "continuation of the same story" sense ... or an unrelated mystery story I've been kicking around with an Asrai and her self-appointed mortal companion. In the grand tradition of Flow (okay, not very grand), this second idea is likely to involve another character cribbed from a MU*, a bird-like street kid named Gray (short for Igraine).

So I would just like to state for the record that the mounds of time I've spent roleplaying lately are not wasted, thank you very much. Roleplaying gave me my first book sale. Can't argue with that.