Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

First of all, check out my eerie fractal in the sidebar.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

Since it is, after all, Halloween, I thought I'd talk about some of the classical monsters.  So many of these - ghosts, zombies, vampires - revolve around the fear of death.  It's a concept that leaves me flat.  I don't find it frightening.  Once a person is dead, their body is an empty shell.  I don't find anything particularly horrifying or unnerving about the idea of being confronted by the unnaturally animated form of a departed friend or family member.  The thing that gets me (the only thing that gets me) about zombies is the unforgiving nature of fighting one:  it doesn't matter if you get away, one bite, one scratch will doom you.

To me, I find humanized monsters less viscerally frightening than the inhuman.  If the monster is human, you can reason with it - you have a chance of dealing with it through personal interaction, however slim.  The inhuman simply doesn't respond or react.  It keeps coming and coming.  On the other hand, a humanized monster is more compelling, more nuanced ... likely more ambivalent.  With logic and rationale, there is a chance for sympathy, however unwilling.

Witches?  So often, today, they're the heroines.  Devils? ... well, the same thing, really, but unless handled in a unique fashion, the religious element fails to invoke a deep, instinctive fear.

The only thing I can say about werewolves is - paranormal romance.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

It's official:  I'm going for it.

Two years ago, I aborted my NaNoWriMo project a few days in, not because I lost inspiration or thought I couldn't meet the goal, but because I felt I had too many other writing projects to put on hold for a month.  It was a decision of business and practicality, also taking into consideration the fact that I knew I didn't "need" Nano:  I could produce the 1,667 words a day required without it being a mad dash for production.

None of these things have changed.  I'm a little less buried in projects, but I still have a novel to edit (Who Wants To Be A Hero?) and a much longer to-do list with being in school.  It's been a while since I've produced a few thousand words a day, but I know I'm still capable of working back up to it.

But with all the pressures and deadlines in my life, it's time to set aside what I "have" to do as a writer and just do something I want to do, and having the communal goal of Nano may give me that extra little spark I need to find writing time.  I'm also keeping in touch with an online friend who has also committed to giving it a try.  Worst case scenario, I get a good chunk of my next project down.  Best case scenario ... if all goes well, Unnatural Causes may be a finished novel by the end of November.

Even if I make 50,000 words, I actually don't expect the book to be complete ... but who knows?  I'm in the mood to go for it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

GoodReads Review: Ice Will Reveal

Ice Will Reveal (The Time of Turning Back, #1)Ice Will Reveal by Julia Dvorin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an intriguing fantasy novel of destiny, intrigue and what it means to be chosen ... and if that all sounds a bit familiar, the story makes it into a strength. Fantasy readers are intimately acquainted with these ideas, and "Ice Will Reveal" does an excellent job both in examining them and in playing off our expectations. This is a book that takes familiar ground and makes it new. The use of religion is also particularly vivid - we're left wondering, just as the characters might be, which face of the Goddess is true? Has she intervened? Is there a plan? There are two characters developed throughout the book whose apparent role is suddenly and abruptly turned on its heel, and it's powerful both times.

As a writer, I particularly appreciate when multiple perspectives are used not just to show us what more than one character is thinking, but to foreshadow and increase tension by giving us knowledge one character or the other doesn't have ... and Ice Will Reveal does this beautifully with only a handful of scenes.

The two main characters are nicely balanced - one serious and faithful, the other cynical and clever. It's particularly interesting to see them through each other's eyes.

As an aside, not the author's fault, I think, but the book is littered with typographical errors in the use of italics. Some thoughts are italicized, others aren't, entire paragraphs that are clearly not character thought end up in italics ... the proofing in this book is otherwise clean, though.

Ultimately, I struggled with the star rating on this book because it is definitely a Book One in a series. There is an ending - which I was pretty confident for the last seventy pages or so wasn't going to be at all possible - but it feels shoehorned in and truncated solely to make sure that this was a standalone volume (and even at that, it really isn't). I definitely want to read the next book, but this was handled badly both as a traditional fantasy to-be-continued and a finished-story-arc.

It's a shame, because I really have no other complaints. If you love traditional fantasy and want a thoughtful, unusual exploration of some of its core tropes, pick this one up.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

My creative process - especially when it comes to arranging music - sometimes frustrates me:  while I feel very strongly about discipline and consistency in my creative schedule, I have trouble taking an idea or a tune and immediately creating from that jumping point.  I need time to let it stew and develop ... well, flavor.

Two weeks into culinary school, and already I'm putting my blog posts into cooking metaphors.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

But there is something to be said for the metaphor.  Just like a simmering stockpot or crockpot, just because you aren't actively minding an idea doesn't mean that it isn't developing.  Maybe one has to give it a stir every now and again, but the development for me is on the backburner of the mind.  Without the time, it lacks depth.  With too much time, the product evaporates.

I'm turning into the villain in Blazing Saddles, so I'd better stop with the comparisons.  But for me, the process is almost magical:  all of a sudden, what I need to do is crystal clear under my fingers, materializing almost as if by outside influence.  It's just a matter of striking that balance between patience and procrastination.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Anatomy of an Idea: Lightning Strikes

My story "Lightning Strikes" was just released by Kaleidotrope - go and check it out if you haven't.  This story has a lot of history behind the scenes, which all began with my favorite pastime:  worldbuilding.

A long time ago, I started working on a world just for fun - an ancient setting with various Greek-inspired city states.  I worked extensively on naming languages, in particular, but also designed a full pantheon and explored each city in depth.  I had intended to design other cultures - an ancient Egypt analogue, a Celtic / Spanish cross, and possibly a Native American-esque culture - but I never did get to that point.

However, I used this backdrop to write a story.  Nope, not "Lightning Strikes" - it was "Chatter Me Timbers," inspired broadly by the mythological Argo, the ship with a talking board installed by Athena.  It was published by the now-defunct Afterburn SF, which I miss - such a fun magazine.

Unless you have both stories for reference and are looking for it, though, you'd probably miss the connection between the two tales.  "Lightning Strikes" is set several hundred years later - Rome to Chatter's Greece.  I've done similar loose connections before, and coincidentally, the story was also published by Kaleidotrope:  "Voices" is a near-prehistory prequel to my novel "Journal of the Dead."

The idea for "Lightning Strikes" started with two ideas.  First, I wanted to write an action story with a character who wasn't career soldier, fighter, mercenary, etc, and second, I wanted to write about augurs.  As I started to develop the storyline, I decided to use marauding barbarians ... and for interest, I decided to make them centaurs.  (I did very loosely use the Native American inspiration.)  This meant I had to consider a fair amount of logistics about how they would deal with buildings in the city ...

When designing the climactic fight in the story, I decided I wanted to hit all the elements - earth, air, fire and water - but have the solution to each be inspired by a specific Greek myth.  The result was a story I'm very pleased at last found a home.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

This will be a short one due to first week of class:  still adjusting to the new schedule and working out both my workload and how much I need to do in one day to keep pace.  I'm hyper and energized and starting to feel the writing bug, but until I get all this sorted out, it has to be at the bottom of my list.

However ... I decided to do something a little wild with the vocabulary terms for my various classes - create a fantasy character and write in-context sentences including each word.  After having gotten my list for the Career Development, Management and Supervision course, I realized it will have to be an urban fantasy character, but some fun ideas are already popping into my head ...

I'm dithering whether to actually include these in my student notebook, which is a quasi-official document that will be reviewed and is part of the grade.  Obviously, that would be along with (and after) the usual vocab lists, but I wonder if it would just make them think I'm crazy ...

On the other hand, A) it is an art school; and B) I *am* crazy.