Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

I finally swooped / settled in on my next novel project - it's idea #1 as posted a few weeks ago, for those curious.  As I started to work on the worldbuilding, I decided I needed to do it in two phases.  First, the science fiction / speculative angle:  advancing the world as we know it to the early 2200s.  Second, the fantastic angle:  altering / devolving / mutating the setting in response to the magical cataclysm.

This has turned out to be a smart choice.  It's made me think about developments that could become plot points, enhance the conflicts I've already considered, and at the very least, provide flavor and authenticity to the setting.  For instance, one of the things I realized in working on the "fast forward" of modern times is that money is almost certainly going to be wholly digital.  What happens when a cataclysm destroys most of that recording system ...?

In the original journal story, I was working off the top of my head, so the setting could most charitably described as generic dystopia with some default cyberpunk elements.  As I've worked on the retread, though, I realized that I assumed a lot of things just because they "should" be there, but they don't really make sense with a forecast of where the future is going.

It wasn't just the setting that had some cliche assumptions.  The story my narrator is telling comes after a rebellion falls apart ... but a lot of it relies on the assumption that, of course, the government is bad and the main characters are good because That's The Way It Is.  I did some mental kibitzing to strengthen this, but somehow, the idea of a rebellion just wasn't setting right with me.

Then while browsing Facebook, I came across a few posts relating to the television show Leverage, and I realized what I really had was a team working for individuals outside the bounds of the law.  It seemed to fit much better with my budding sense of who these people are and how they came to find themselves at odds with the establishment.

But there's still one more problem of assumption that I'm chewing on, because the way I handle it says a lot about humanity as a whole - or at least, my opinion of humanity as a whole.  I don't believe in setting out to write a story with a message - let the message evolve organically from the tale.  But here, I'm very conscious of the tension between what I might be saying and the conflicts in the story.

I'm positing a future society where bias in respect to gender, race, disability has been largely erased.  (If this is somewhat utopian, so be it - it gives me a headache to think that we're still screaming at each other in virtual-reality-Facebook decades later.)  But what happens when you ruin the world with magic and then dump magically-infused people into the population?  Do people go back to their ingrained tendency of labeling and dehumanizing those they don't understand?  There's a huge difference between "your skin color / plumbing is different than mine" and "you could set me on fire with a look" ... with a side order of "the stuff that's running through your veins destroyed our world."

How radically does the government react?  To what extent do people support the official stance ... or think it's too lenient, too stringent, not protecting us, fear-mongering?

As a storyteller (and since I'm writing about magically inflicted characters), on the face of it, it seems obvious that my best course is to make things as bad as possible.  But is that too easy?  Too black and white?  Too bleak?

Still working on that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm not one of those writers who can be completely devoted to one story, world or set of characters.  Sometimes, I wish I could be:  it would make my life much easier, especially when I come to the point where I've now found myself ... trying to decide whether to put my energy next.

Writing a novel requires a lot of commitment of time - not just in the writing phases, but with editing, and for me, worldbuilding and the stumbly, bumpy process of submission.  So the pressure is on (if only from myself) to pick the right project, and once again, I'm left wading through possibilities.

Other writers have told me to pick the one I like the best.  If I knew that, I wouldn't have so much trouble!  Truth be told, every time I spend some time considering a project / possibility, that one moves to the top of the mental list.  An online gaming friend once suggested that I roll a die randomly to determine; if I'm satisfied with the roll, then it's the right choice, and if I don't care for it, that's obviously the wrong choice.  Roll again.  Gets the subconscious mind involved ... hopefully.

Building my list of project ideas (see previous blogpost) brought up a memory of another, which put its teeth in my brain and wouldn't let go.  So I had to dig it up to add as an addendum.  I went to find the description I had used in the past, and discovered two things:

1)  I've been doing this method of outlining my thoughts for a long time.
2)  I have a lot of ideas involving dreams.  A lot.

So here's entry #6 on my list:

Basic Premise:  A world that decays around the edges, and must be rebuilt by using the solid stuff of dreams.  On the fringes of the world, a dreamweaver finds a mysterious woman and a smuggling ring of memories and dreams.  Secondary plotline involving a young figurehead king who breaks free of his guardian in an attempt to regain his heritage; may retool or eliminate this one entirely.

Pros:  dream interpretation is rich with possibilities to use in building a setting like this.

Cons:  idea is partly developed, and the secondary plotline feels well-worn / well-trod; may be better off discarded.

I somewhat feel as if this could be combined with one of the other ideas, but I don't see an easy fusion.  On the back burner for now!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Great Novel Pondering of 2016

So ... I went through this agony last May, expecting to choose a novel project I would begin in the next few months, once I finished Undertaking Chances.  Well, my little novella project turned out to be much longer than I had expected, and life hit me harder likewise.

And now, several months later, I don't feel quite the same about my possible selections.  So let's try this again.

These are the novels I'm pondering writing.  I have considered working on two at once, but am slightly tentative due to the inevitable sequel:  having two books to edit at once.  I've been there before, and it's not a pretty sight.


This concept is an abandoned journal story I started a long time ago – so this would entail starting again, and probably going in a different direction.

Basic Premise:  Post-apocalyptic world where the destruction was caused by an overload of magic dispersed via the internet, leaving a chaotic, fantastic world in its wake.  Our narrator is a magic-afflicted individual in one of the larger new nations.  She was part of a rebellion, but betrayed them to save their lives.  The plan is to write a dual storyline, both explaining how she got to the “now” point (not necessarily in chronological order) and unfurling a new plot.

Pros:  This is far and away one of the most original settings I’ve come up with. It’s wacky in what I hope are all the right ways.  There’s also a strong protagonist, and I’m drawn to the idea of doing a parallel storyline.

Cons:  I will need to do some pre-planning / plotting to make the parallel storylines cohesive, and this plot needs to be more or less started from scratch, because the one significant problem with the setting is I didn’t come up with any coheisve idea of how surveillance and record-keeping works.  Which, in a story where “I’m labeled and monitored” is a plot point … is a problem.


This concept takes a couple of my old characters from other places (both roleplaying campaigns, in this instance), introduces them to each other, adds a dash of conflict and … well, it would be fun.

Basic Premise:  Chiria is the adoptive daughter / servant of a villainous sorceress, trained as an assassin / enforcer but mostly raised by the sorceress’ animal constructs.  Her intended targets convince her to defect and run away.  Aforesaid target(s) take her to Pirelle, a high society lady, illusionist and spy, for training in how to live in the real world.  And that’s before one of Pirelle’s close friends loses his betrothed …

Pros:  These are chars with whom I am intimately familiar and engaged.  There are great opportunities for interplay and conflict between them / with the rest of the world.  Potentially, I’m also writing a fantasy-mystery, which is a goal of mine.

Cons:  There really is no firm plot yet.  I’m also concerned that Chiria is too similar to Vil, who was my POV char for Unnatural Causes, though Chiria is much less intellectual.


This concept also takes old characters, though in this case, they both exist in the same universe and, in fact, they’ve had a published story:  Pazia and Vanchen of Fatecraft.  (I have one more story in submissions about Pazia, another Pazia / Vanchen story on the backburner, and a third story about Pazia’s less-than-wise brother, Mathory – this last connects with the novel plot.)

Basic Premise:  Pazia, dicemaker, and Vanchen, clockwork inventor, have settled comfortably in a city when their lives are interrupted by her brother, Mathory, and an old acquaintance of his – a veiled mage who has been falsely accused of a crime.  It is left to the trio to unravel what really happened, tripped up by old rivals along the way.

Pros:  These are established characters I’m comfortable with, and I like their interactions.  The storyline also has the advantage that, again, it plays to my ambitions of writing fantasy-mysteries.

Cons:  To build this world, I have to comb the prior stories for details I’ve referenced, though that isn’t a huge deal.


This concept is a newer one – I came up with it along with the previous group, but ended up deciding I wasn’t really “feeling” it at the time.  Well, times have changed.

Basic Premise:  (Unnamed), along with five others, finds herself abducted by a cult – all intended as a sacrifice.  The ritual goes awry, and the six find themselves sharing the same body.  Whoever is in control also resumes their former appearance, but without access to the memories of the others … including what has happened in their “absence.”  How do they control the change?  How do they communicate with each other?  They’ll have to tackle those challenges before they can even think about getting back to normal …

Pros:  The idea appeals to me and would be a tight, personal story to tell.  Creating each as a strong, distinct character with a reason to be in their starting city sets up a lot of room for conflict.  I’d actually put the challenge of building several distinct (first person) voices in the pro column here.  Call me a glutton for punishment.

Cons:  I am a little uncertain about how to keep the scenes focused before the minds can communicate in any way beyond written notes; it seems like this might be too disjointed.  I am not even totally sure the body should change.  And as the summary might suggest, I don’t even know where it ends!


An old-but-original concept that I’ve passed up multiple times.

Basic Premise:  Our heroine has just died.  Unable to pay the toll to cross the afterlife’s river, she seeks a way to escape this limbo with other spirits in tow.  At the same time, her corpse has been abducted by graverobbers, and her former lover puts his job (as secretary to a highly-placed dignitary) in jeopardy attempting to rescue it.  A third strand develops as her little sister attempts to enter the underworld to plead her case.

Pros:  I always enjoy writing about the afterlife – I never get tired of it.  And here is an opportunity – in fact, a necessity – to build an entire cosmology … and again, some unusual, quite personal story threads.

Cons:  I am actually concerned this idea is too “old” for me to really zot life back into it, but I did want to include it on the list.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

I've had a lot of funny, bizarre, even absurd encounters in my culinary schooling / career, and I finally decided to start writing them down.  Perhaps I'll write a nonfiction book some day, or I might use it as a database to steal for fictional encounters ... but in whatever case, I don't want to lose my collection of tidbits, so I've started a document for it.  Just the act of beginning a file and thinking about it has brought memories I had forgotten about to the fore.

My categories are (because of course, I have to categorize them):

Math Is Haaaard

Classmate:  What is one half of a quarter teaspoon?  A half teaspoon, right? 

Things You Can Only Say In The Kitchen
Instructor:  Come over here so I can check out your buns.

"You Keep Using That Word ..."

As a Duncan, I have Scottish ancestry.  Banquet detail sheet for the Caledonian Society – a Scottish-American heritage group – includes the line, “Extra Scotch.”

Me:  Present!

"I'm Allergic to Water!"
(No really good, short examples yet, but they will happen, trust me.  Customer allergies are one of the most consistently absurd parts of my day.  ;-))  

The Customer Is Always Right 
We typically serve fruit and cheese bowls, including grapes, which are left in bunches for the visual effect.  A woman stopped me, quite concerned.

“People aren’t eating the grapes because they can’t get to them,” she said.  “They’re still on the stems.” 

Adventures In ...
Standing in class where each team had cooked a whole fish and I heard giggling behind me, followed by, “Augh!  It’s looking at me!”

“That’s better.”

Cast a look over my shoulder and someone has put an herb leaf over the fish’s eyes.

Sooo we'll see what comes of it.  If nothing else, it will be good to reread for a giggle.