Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

It hurts my soul that for some reason, "unicorn" has become code for something chock-full of sparkles, glitter and rainbows, often topped off with pink.  I don't know where this interpretation came from; My Little Pony or Disney, perhaps.  Certainly, that's not the classical unicorn, which could be deadly if not lured in by a virgin, and according to some origin theories, was inspired by a distance view of a rhinoceros!

For as long as I can remember, I've loved unicorns and been fascinated by unicorn lore.  The first plane trip I can recall, I stared out across the flat, mushroom dotted expanse of clouds and decided that it was the realm of unicorns, called Halunea.  Maybe my unicorns were more sweet and fluffy than those classical stories, but they didn't sparkle.  (There's a Twilight joke in there somewhere.)

I always hated, too, the old fable about the unicorns missing Noah's Ark because they were too busy playing games, and that song?  Oh, it made me furious, with a dose of real childhood angst:  I got genuinely unhappy every time I heard it.  I ached a little.  (I was a weird little kid.  Move along.)  

In any event, during my AOL days, I made contact with Richard and Miranda Gray, who created the Beasts of Albion divination cards.  (I still use these for story generation.  They're beautiful and inspiring.)  The cards are divided into three kingdoms:  Strength, Wisdom and Purity.  The Spirit of the Purity kingdom, the "head" of that kingdom, is the Unicorn.

So we got to talking, and I brought up my dislike of the story.  They agreed with me and wrote an alternate version, where the unicorns missed the ark because they were too busy helping other animals.  I wish I still had a copy, but the memory stays with me.

Next stop, The Unicorn Of Kilimanjaro - photography.  Check it out.

Oddly enough, I haven't written often about unicorns.  A few of my short stories have featured them, but usually in an atypical fashion (in particular an urban fantasy story where they were shapeshifting psychic vampires).  Part of it is probably because they are used to the point of cliche, and so I worry about overcoming an editor's reaction, but that's not the full reason by any means.

What is the real reason about unicorns?  I have no idea.  Maybe it's a silence of understanding; I know them so well, I don't feel the need to explore through writing.  Maybe I'm just waiting for the right story, the perfect vehicle for my particular unicorns.  I'll have to wait and see.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Song Styles

I love this bizarre little song.

A quick summary of the storyline:  the singer is addressing her ex-boyfriend, whose new girlfriend has schemed to get him to take her to Paris - the implication is that he'll propose in the city of love.  And:

While she's in anxious anticipation,
I really hope you have a horrible vacation ...

Mon Amour

The combination of the quirky lyrics with the instrumentation just makes me grin every time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

Some of you who follow me on social media may be aware that Project Runway is one of my guilty pleasures.  Those of you familiar with the show, particularly if you're caught up on the present season, may have some idea why I'm bringing this up.  For those who don't know the show, it's a fashion design competition, which is an entirely different world, but still a glimpse into creative endeavors.

If you are following the current season but aren't current, you may want to stop reading.

In a recent episode, the designer Claire started to work on a shirt that was a near copy, form-wise, of the design that had won the previous episode.  The creator of that design, Margarita, was distraught, couldn't stop focusing on it, even when Claire changed what she was doing.  When it came out in the judges' panel, they pointed out that they borrowed from each other all the time.  It's a natural process in fashion.

The grand wisdom of social media, of course, is never to read the comments ... and, also of course, I did.  People came down hard on Margarita for whining, for being a diva, for not getting over herself.  I think almost anyone with a creative passion would understand how she felt.  Knowing on a logical level that an imitator hasn't done anything "wrong" doesn't help:  it still hurts.  And that line between inspiration and plagiarism?  It's often mighty thin and almost always subjective, as is the line between when something is a fair-game trope versus a specific person's trademark.

There is nothing new under the sun, just different arrangements of the same pieces, yet writers bond fiercely with their designs.  It's how we breathe life into them.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Thoughts

A day late due to schedule juggling this week; I was working yesterday, and while it was an enjoyable day, it was a hectic one spent running interminably back and forth to the ovens (pies, cookies, cheesecake!).

Thought I would talk today about my ritual for starting stories and novels; not the choosing or conceptualizing, but the very first step in the writing, before those first words hit the screen like a bellyflopping diver.

(It occurs to me I do have to specify screen.  I do all my writing on the computer, and am boggled by people who not only can, but prefer to write longhand.  Admittedly that handwriting is both physically painful and awkward for me, quite apart from the whole left-handed, "Oh, hey, did I just smear everything I'm writing?" problem.)

So the first step is choosing a font.  For me, stories have a particular feel to them; I might not be able to put words to what that feel is, but it's there.  So do fonts.  Here's an easy example:  Comic Sans gets a lot of flack for being not particularly professional or serious, so it's a nice choice for a humorous story.  Another criteria for fonts is that they need to be legible, but not too big or small, when Word is blown up to 150%.  So I typically will write in 9 or 10 pt, but some fonts don't look good at that size.

Why do I blow up Word? ... let me rephrase that.

I've been increasing the zoom on Word since I got a larger monitor and 100% no longer filled the whole screen.  It's one of those "feel" things:  I hate a lot of white space around the text.  It makes me feel detached from the story.  It's also why I can't write in double spacing.

For shorts, I also like to futz around with picking a kooky, dramatic, whatever font for the title, though that doesn't have any serious bearing on anything.

Oh, the last, crucial thing:  I need a title.  Yes, for a writerly reason:  I find that if I don't have a title before I start, it becomes exponentially harder to come up with one.  Most of my post-writing retitles (I've had a few requests, once because the magazine had published a story by that same title in the previous issue), I've been pretty dissatisfied with.

Buuut ... also for a practical reason:  file needs a title.  Not that I haven't gotten around this:  I have a worldbuilding file entitled ArbitraryWorldNameHere.  And "She's Unable To Lunch Today" just has the filename of "Lunch."  (As a culinary type, this confuses me sometimes.  It may not have been the smartest choice.)

And then ... the opening line.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Song Styles

One of the backstory characters in Surgeburnt, Tahir, is deceased (we learn this very early on, since the narrator inherited his powers, so it's not a spoiler), and the character appears only in flashback scenes and in the narrator's memories of him ... but I like to think he has a strong impact on the storyline.  In many ways, he's the person with whom she has / had the most in common, but there was never any romantic inclinations between them.

This is the song that makes me think of him, despite the love story implicit in the tale.  As with a lot of these, the music video has no relevance whatsoever, though it is a pretty clever story on its own.

Colors - Halsey

(And speaking of misinterpreted but not necessarily misheard lyrics:  for some reason, my brain always wants to hear the lyric as, "You'll never be forgiven 'til your boys are two," as if one of the characters has kids growing up and ... I don't know.  I makes no sense, what.)

When I went to write this post, I also started to laugh, because I forgotten I'd given Tahir  the casting call of the fantastic Edi Gathegi:

Friday, October 06, 2017

Guest Post: Tales From The Underground

Y'all know I adore anthologies, and today I'm hosting a guest post about a newly released anthology from Inklings Press.  Read on ...

We have a challenge for you. Put your feet on the ground. Feel the earth under your feet. Now imagine… imagine what is under that earth. Imagine the Underground.
Tales From The Underground is a new collection of stories from Inklings Press – with a dozen stories from writers around the world, all imagining what might lie beneath the ground.
There are stories of fantasy, there are stories of science fiction, there are stories bringing you a shiver in the dark.
So here, join us as we discuss what lurks beneath…

What is Inklings Press?

Inklings Press started out as a collective of writers working together to publish short stories – and though the net is wider these days, thats exactly what Inklings Press remains. Royalties are evenly divided between writers, so every book sold gives contributors more money in their pocket. The press takes a single share too, the same size as any writers, to pay for advertising and promoting the book.
In short, Inklings aims to provide a place for writers who are new or up-and-coming, and were delighted to bring those writers stories to the world.

Why Tales From The Underground?

Tales From The Underground is perhaps the most natural development in the Inklings collection of books so far. The idea came from the writers of previous anthologies. In discussion, the writers themselves suggested the theme, so we ran with it. And the outcome is the biggest collection of stories yet from Inklings Press.

Who is in the anthology?

There are writers from around the world in the collection – there are stories that were authored in Australia, made in Mexico, that flourished in Finland and France, emerged from England and were born in The Bahamas.
The list of authors includes those with novels to their name, and those who are still taking their first steps in publication.
The authors in the anthology are Jeff Provine, Brent A. Harris, E.M. Swift-Hook, Claire Buss, Ricardo Victoria, Christopher Edwards, Lawrence Harding, N.C. Stow, Rob Edwards, Jaleta Clegg, Jeanette OHagan and Leo McBride.

You would love this anthology if you loved…?

One of the nice things about this collection is the range of stories inside.
Fantasy is a strong theme throughout, as in the urban fantasy of Rob Edwards The Lords of Negative Space, about the world just out of sight. But there are also science fiction tales, such as Jaleta Cleggs tale, The Angels of Mestora, in which unwary dwellers of a distant planet are lured away from civilization by “angelsong”, and Ricardo Victorias Buried Sins, with a battle in an ancient underground city.
Jeff Provine delves into a cavern with a reputation for weird events, while Brent A. Harris takes us on a trip through time. N.C. Stow imbues her tale with the influence of Russian mythology, while both Lawrence Harding and E.M. Swift-Hook tell us tales of mythology in worlds of their own devising. Claire Buss goes underground in more than one sense in her tale Underground Scratching, and Jeanette OHagan presents a team of miners fighting for their very lives against supernatural powers.
Christopher Edwards tells us a tale of strange visions in an RAF bunker, and Leo McBride follows explorers retracing the steps of an expedition that never returned. There are ghosts, there are distant planets, there are things happening in the ground under our very feet. Legends are revealed, and legends are made. 
It is a delight to watch the stories take such different directions while all sharing the same theme.

Where can I get it?

Tales From The Underground is available on Amazon at You can also learn more at Each story also includes information about the writers, so if you fall in love with one of the works, you can follow the links to learn – and read – more.

So take a peek, and come join us, down here… in the dark. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Wednesday Wanderings

Alas for the internet, for it has one terrible consequence:  it is now almost impossible to go about singing ridiculously incorrect song lyrics, blissfully ignorant of the truth.  A single peek on Google resolves (almost) all questions, so we're left with the plausible misinterpretations or those so ridiculous that they can't help but stick in the brain.  (Recently, I was mildly heartbroken to learn that the line in Lady Gaga's "The Fame" is actually "Hot blondes in odd positions" - I was hearing "acquisitions," and it made enough sense I never bothered to look it up.  I was picturing cold-hearted but gorgeous executive(s) who had clawed their way to the top.  To me, a much more enjoyable take on the lyric.)

We all have our childhood favorites, the lyrics we didn't understand because the word or phrase wasn't in our vocabulary yet.  Mine was the "man of loaded grease" ("low degree") in Helen Reddy's "Delta Dawn," but also noteworthy is the fact that for literally decades, I thought the girl in The Zombies' "She's Not There" had *died*, due to mishearing a few key phrases.  "How many people cried ..." I thought of a funeral, not jilted / hurt emotions, and my interpretation spiraled from there.

Moving along to adulthood, in the category of "that almost sounds right," I came across Destiny's Child "Bug A Boo," about an obnoxious would-be lover:  "I want to put my number on the call block ... break my knees so I can't move ..."

Thought me:  well, that seems excessive, but I can see it ...

Oh.  "Break my lease so I can move."

Then there's the line you know you had to have misheard.  The Pussycat Doll's "Bite The Dust" is a possessive girlfriend talking to a would-be man-thief:  "Make a move and I'm on him like Fievel."

Wait, the mouse from American Tail?  Definitely not right.  I decided it was supposed to be "fire" and didn't think much of it for a while.  Then I finally looked it up:  "5-0."  As in the cops.  Okay, that makes sense.

And meat dress notwithstanding, I really don't think Lady Gaga's persona in "Marry The Night" wanted to "Put on some leather en croute."  ("and cruise")

Sometimes, you hear the words correctly (sort of), but it just parses oddly.  That's the only reason I can come up for this one from "I've Forgotten What It Was In You" (Maria McKee):  "Your arms were like a little pair of dice." ... paradise.  *Paradise*.

This, though, is the gold standard in absurd misheard lyrics.  If watched Dead Like Me, you're probably familiar with the haunting Metisse song, Boom Boom Ba - and if you're not, go listen to it first, because a) it's a beautiful song; and b) the misheard lyrics will forever ruin your ear.

Now, Metisse is hard to understand to start with, but many of her songs include lines or phrases in another language.  So that results in this glorious strangeness:

Boom Boom Ba - Misheard Lyrics

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Song Styles

It's the most wonderful time of the year ...

No, really.  As a professional musician, I've had to start working on my Christmas repertoire, brushing off songs that I haven't played for nine months.  Many of these tunes have been part of my annual set for years, so they quickly come back to my fingers and brain, but with fifty-plus pieces to revive and an instrument that doesn't lend itself to sightreading, I always start before Halloween ... and often when it's still far too warm to think about Christmas.

Is it any wonder I rarely listen to Christmas radio or CDs?  I start even earlier than the malls do.

By and large, my selections are Christmas tunes that I enjoy.  There are some I can't stand, and I try to avoid playing them.  For instance, I have an irrational dislike of "Silent Night," and will only include it upon request.  There's certainly no lack of beautiful tunes to play instead.

At this point, I have largely plumbed the depths of Christmas music that a) I like; b) is recognizable; and c) is playable upon the harp.  I would love to play the Charlie Brown Christmas song ("Christmastime Is Here"), but it isn't harp friendly.  Still, I'm always keeping my eye out for something new I want to add.