Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Wanderings

I've been debating if I want to start writing a new short story, to flex those muscles while I'm working up to my next novel project.  From a business standpoint, I'm not sure if it makes sense; I currently have a sizable backlog of unsold stories, and the markets seem to be closed more often, overbooked, on indefinite hiatus, or running brief submissions periods throughout the year.  On the other hand, I'm in a headspace right now where a bit of "play" might be welcome.

So here are some tidbits I've been tossing around:

Two women whose minds are trapped in the same body return to seek revenge on the monarch who banished them.  This whole one-body-many-minds trope is something of an obsession of mine; I've approached it numerous times from different angles.  My retired novel Journal of the Dead used the concept that whenever someone killed another person, the victim's mind leapt into their body.

Listening to the Sophie Ellis-Bextor song "The Walls Keep Saying Your Name," I thought about taking this literally.  There are two ways this could go; they're mutually exclusive, but I could always write both takes.  The first is a woman who can speak to residences, shops, any building, but the walls have no sense of time:  they may speak from the perspective of the present, or the past, or even the distant future.  The second is a city of sentient buildings, bound together in a hive mind.

And not so much a concept as two little sparks bouncing around, courtesy of the stock-needed whiteboard at work:  red dragon and rice wine vinegar.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

End of a Chapter

Yesterday, I finished my final editing pass on Unnatural Causes, my fantasy novel.  Just a few days ago, a memory came up in my Facebook feed announcing I had finished the first draft ... four years ago.  There's been a lot of water under the bridge in that time, and as far as the book, multiple passes and a beta read.  I wasn't planning on doing this final pass, but after an illuminating edit on a short story, I felt I had some new tools for tightening my prose.  I also wanted to smooth out any rough edges on the new material I added on the advice of (wonderful, lovely, sagely wise) beta readers.

This was actually my first time having beta readers for the whole book (though I've had people critique sections before), and I thought I would be a lot more nervous than I was.  Not to say I was chill, but something about considering the book as a whole was much easier for me.  I think Unnatural Causes is a much stronger book for their comments.

The first draft was 86 thousand words - shorter than I wanted, putting me in the unusual position of wanting to add content, and more particularly *not* to cut words.  This is much of why I ended up doing the final pass.  I typically write in an exceedingly verbose fashion and end up trimming quite a bit.  Since the original low word count of this novel discouraged cutting, I didn't do much of it until that point.\

Next step is the torture of the query letter and synopsis, and then ... Unnatural Causes is off to see if my next victim is an unsuspecting agent.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

GoodReads Review: The Dragon's Touchstone - by Irene Radford

The Dragon's TouchstoneThe Dragon's Touchstone by Irene Radford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

War dominates Coronnan, trampling the common folk under the feet of its lords, and fueled by the service of Battlemages. Racked by grief and guilt after he is forced to slay a former student in combat, Battlemage Nimbulan sets out to find a better way (with middling success until it drops into his lap - more on that later). The secondary protagonist, Myrilandel, is a witchwoman with amnesia, tossed into events by her need to heal and a mysterious compulsion.

This book is dated in many of the ways you would expect, and it hasn't aged well. There's a lot of reliance on fate, prophecy and - as just mentioned - inexplicable forces nudging the characters along. Myrilandel in particular doesn't seem to have much agency or motivation of her own; she just obeys the plot machine, thinly disguised as voices in her head. When she finally discovers the reason she was being compelled, it solves much of the story's problems, but it feels too convenient.

There follows, in the last pages of the book, a fast succession of revelations that feel as if they came out of nowhere. These come across as mysteries I should have been able to solve, but wasn't given enough evidence for. Maybe it wouldn't if I had read the "first" series (this is the beginning of a prequel series), but coming at it as a new reader, I was nonplussed by a lot of it.

There are some enjoyable aspects to this book. The state of the kingdom is nicely drawn, and many of the background events and the motivation of secondary characters feels grounded and realistic. The attitude towards sex, in particular, is refreshing in its pragmatism. In a lot of ways, I liked the movement of secondary characters such as Quinnalt and Kalen better than the main narrative. Apart from the grand forces that give this book its main arc, so much of what shapes the individual scenes is human pettiness and the smallness of fear, greed and jealousy. Those are the most compelling parts of The Dragon's Touchstone.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Wednesday Wanderings

 Brace yourselves:  like so many others, I'm going to talk about Game of Thrones (the show) - the most recent episode and beyond into this final season.

People have complained that after all the buildup about the Night King and the armies of the dead, he was defeated in a single episode.  I don't have a problem with this or feel it was anticlimactic.  The buildup to this most recent episode made it clear that there was no retreat.  Lose one battle, and the armies of the dead would swell past the point of no return.  As in the greater game of thrones, you win or you die.

Could they have the battle multiple episodes?  I don't think so, for two reasons.  First of all, it's only possible to maintain that kind of intense tension for so long before the viewer becomes fatigued.  The viewer becomes worn out, even bored, and future moments lose their impact.  Second, an episode break would have killed the momentum.

What did bother me in the episode was Theon's death.  Not the fact of it, but the manner.  Sacrificing himself was fitting to his arc, but I would have preferred if there was some kind of combat between him and the Night King / his lieutenants.  That specific choice have at least bought time.  As it was, it seemed meaningless; he delayed the Night King only long enough for that notable to wipe blood off his weapon.

So who sits on the Iron Throne at the end of this?  I hope ... it's not who we expect.  Tyrion, perhaps - his intellect would make him a formidable king.  (And if we put stock in certain glimmers, with Sansa by his side?)  Perhaps Gendry will seize the day.  Or in the tradition of war not determining who is right, but rather who is left, what if Jaime is left to rise above his family's twisted legacy?

Or picture this:  next episode, Daenerys announces her intention to march on Cersei.  Arya's all, "I just have to go do a thing."  Dany arrives, demands an audience with the queen, who ... pulls off her own face to reveal everyone's favorite assassin.  Story's over, folks, two whole episodes of follow-up and epilogue. 

You might detect from the thread of these musings that I'm not that fond of Jon Snow.  I don't dislike him, but as a character, he's such a bundle of well-worn tropes:  honorable to a fault, plain spoken, doesn't like politics, illegitimate son who turns out to be heir to the throne ... he's very much the expected winner of this saga, and that's a good part of why I hope it turns out otherwise.  Game of Thrones has succeeded in part by (sometimes) taking the unexpected turn.  Let's not end on the oldest plot in the book.