FF: Company

October 12, 2018

Ogapoge Reads!

Jim’s been away most of this week – he gets home this evening .  In his absence, books have been my companions.  Well, books and cats and guinea pigs and even the fish.  But I’ve been reading a lot.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.

Last Call by Tim Powers.  Lived up to good memories so I decided to read the entire “Fault Lines” trilogy.  It’s an unusual series in that the first and second books are completely independent of each other.

Expiration Date by Tim Powers.  Bonus for this one is that it’s set in the three days leading up to Halloween.  Very seasonal!

Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.

In Progress:

Murder at the Bar by Margery Allingham.  Audiobook.  Among her many gifts, Allingham writes phenomenal dialogue and dialect.

Earthquake Weather by Tim Powers.  This is the first time I’ve read this in tight sequence with the previous two.  Interesting to see how elements from the prior novels are woven in from the very start.

Also:

Still looking at various magazines.  The first of the “shop for Christmas” catalogs came in this week as well.

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Not Teasing

October 10, 2018

Growing Obsession

Somehow I doubt that if you’re reading this, you want to know how much rain we had on Sunday (about two tenths of an inch) or how many tomatoes we picked yesterday (about a quart of cherry tomatoes and another quart or so of romas), or how the pomegranates are doing (very well, we’re harvesting two or three every other day).

These things are very important to me.  Weather and the garden are two of the foundations of my life in autumn.  Another is pet care.  Another is…  Well, the point is, what I figure you check these Wanderings out for mostly is news about my writing.

This impression is confirmed by how “hits” go up markedly when I talk about some aspect of my work.

I’ve been writing a lot but, since I’m not one of those writers who wants to share every detail along the way, I’m caught in a bind when it comes time to write a Wandering.

Some people have commented that I’m a “tease,” when I comment that I’m busy writing or that I just finished an exciting scene, but don’t share anything about the content.  The reality is, I’m not teasing.  A tease is trying to get a rise out of those teased.  I’m not.  I’m just reporting the facts.

Why don’t I like to talk about a work in progress?  Because the story is evolving as I write.  Unlike, say, my good buddy, David Weber, who had a pretty firm idea where the Honor Harrington story arc would end way back when he started the series over twenty years ago, I really don’t know where Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest are heading.  I’m on the adventure with them, a ghost chronicler hovering along behind, transcribing like crazy.

But the process isn’t that linear.  Sometimes while I’m writing a scene, I realize something about a character that gives him or her a lot more dimension.  When I’m polishing my rough draft, I’ll slide in some of this information.  This is one reason I don’t workshop works-in-progress, and rarely do readings from unfinished works.  Until the exploration is complete, I myself don’t know what’s going to happen.  What happens later may change the details I preserve.

When I stopped writing last Friday evening, I had no firm idea what Firekeeper, Blind Seer and the rest would encounter next.  On Monday morning when I sat down to answer the weekend’s accumulated e-mail,  I suddenly realized what Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and their companions were going to see when they moved along a particular passageway.

Sound crazy?  I guess it would to some people, but I bet it doesn’t to everyone.  The creative process is as varied as are those who create.  Mine has worked for me for a good number of books now, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Ask me about the teppary beans!  I can tell you all about those.  Maybe next week?

FF: A Time and a Place

October 5, 2018

Kel Knows Not to Look Too Closerly at Medusa’s Web

Beginning some re-reading this week…  There’s a time and a place for that, too!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  Very good.  Author’s contentions strongly supported by primary source material.  McCullough himself reads this one, which is a plus or minus, depending on your tastes.

Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers.  Very much enjoyed.

And Another Thing…  by Eoin Colfer.  Set in the universe of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  Mostly harmless.

In Progress:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  While waiting for other books to arrive, delving into an old favorite.

Last Call by Tim Powers.  Decided I was long over-due for a read of this particular favorite of mine.

Also:

The beginning of the month has brought numerous magazines to our door.  I’m sampling a few, fiction and non-fiction.

The Pleasure of Process

October 3, 2018

Go For It!

This past weekend, I finished my first kumihimo beaded bracelet and started a new one.

You can see the finished bracelet in the picture above.  What you can’t see is how close that bracelet came to never existing.  When I wrote about beading last week, that beaded piece was about three inches long (the finished coil is seven inches) and I knew it had flaws.  By the time I was done, there were a few more errors.  And the bracelet was too long because an unclear element in the instructions led me to use too many beads.  I have fairly small wrists, so after I attached the findings (fasteners), the bracelet slide right over my hand.

So I thought “Why not just cut it up, salvage the parts, and start over?  You’ve learned a lot about doing kumihimo from this.  Now you can make one that’s the right length has fewer errors.”

And another part of me said, “This is the first time you’ve done one of these.  It’s not as if you plan to sell it or enter it in a competition.  No one but you is probably ever going to notice the errors.  As for the length, you can work with that.  Get rid of the findings that came with the kit, and see if you have any smaller ones.”

That’s what I did.  One advantage of having done beading for so many years is I have an extensive kit of findings.  I also know what options are available.  The faster I eventually used was a magnetic clasp scavenged from a different bracelet that I’d meant to repair for years.  That bracelet was a little snug (which is why it had broken), so I put a new set of findings on it.

Tah-dah!  Now, not only do I have my very first kumihimo project to wear and enjoy – flaws and all – I finally fixed the other bracelet.

While I was sorting  through my kit, I found myself thinking about how easy it is when focusing on what you hope to achieve to forget the pleasure of the process.  Another project I’m involved with right now is a brand new SF/F magazine called DreamForge.  Will it be a success?  I certainly hope so.  I certainly believe it should be.  However, whatever the future brings, nothing will ever take away the pleasure that Scot and Jane Noel, me, art director Mike Zingarelli, and a few others have had in the process.

Please take a moment to look at DreamForge’s first Table of Contents.  When Scot writes about each of the pieces he selected, you can hear how thrilled he is.

My Jim makes arrowheads.  (Yep.  That’s one of his in the picture.)  His favorite material is obsidian, which is fragile, fussy, and often has hidden flaws.  But even when an arrowhead doesn’t come out just as he wanted, he keeps making new ones, not because he’s trying for perfection, but because he enjoys the process.

When following my friend Tori Hansen on Twitter, I learned about something called “Inktober,” which is basically a hashtag that encourages artists to draw one picture a day.  I’ve very much enjoyed looking at various people’s offerings.  To me, the focus of Inktober is on process, not perfection.  Draw a picture.  Post it.  Leave it.  Go do another.  This is the opposite – at least to me – of events like NaNoWriMo, which focus so hard on the end goal (write 50,000 words in a month) that the pleasure of the process is lost.  Writing becomes a race, not an art, not a craft.

My writing this last week went out of control.  I wrote over twice my self-assigned length.  Immersed in the process, I had a wonderful time.  Will I write that much again this week?  Probably not, but I’m starting this week with a strong reminder to myself that even with the writing that is my job, I can take pleasure in the process.

Oh…  The new bracelet I’m working on?  It’s an experiment in which I’m deliberately using slightly off-sized beads in different shades of blue in attempt to get both visual and tactile texture.  So far, so good, and if it doesn’t work out, so what?  I will have enjoyed giving it a try.

FF: Powering Through

September 28, 2018

Insouciant Ogapoge

A couple new titles this week.  I’ve wanted to read the book on the Wright Brothers ever since I heard David McCullough talk about it in 2015 when we were both guests at the National Book Festival.  Now the time has come…

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  Not my favorite in the series, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some excellent moments!

Alternate Routes by Tim Powers.  Hits several of Power’s themes but in new and different ways.  Fully realized story but with room for a sequel.

In Progress:

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough.  Audiobook.  Non-fiction.  Just starting.

Medusa’s Web by Tim Powers.  I’ve just learned there’s a sub-genre called “Philadelphia Gothic.  So far, this is shaping into what seems to be California Gothic.  Very good so far.  Somehow I missed this when it was first released in 2015.  A great surprise since Tim Powers is on my very short list of “must read” novelists.

And Another Thing…  by Eoin Colfer.  Set in the universe of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”  So far, mostly harmless.

Also:

Having deciphered how to do basic kumihimo with beads, I’m dipping into a couple issues of Beadwork magazine, just because.

Tactile Sparkle, Mental Spark

September 26, 2018

Kumihimo: Cords and Beaded Work in Progress

So…  This past week I re-immersed myself in writing on the new Firekeeper story.  I’d taken some time away from prose to double-check details and suchlike, but last week I dove back into writing.  The story is developing nicely, although I still am doing a lot of meditating, both pen in hand and while most of my brain is busy doing other things.

As part of that meditation, I’m teaching myself a new craft technique.  It’s an expansion of Japanese kumihimo – a sort of fancy way of braiding cords.  I’ve done sixteen strand round cords before, but this variation involves adding beads.  Beading – as many of you know – has been a weakness of mine since my mom taught me to sew beads and sequins on felt when I was quite young.

During my college years (in which I’ll include grad school), I taught myself both loom weaving and brick stitch.  Somewhere along the line, I learned how to do counted cross stitch with beads.  I have fond memories of sitting on the sofa while Roger Zelazny read to me and I made little counted cross stitch beaded thingies, including some silver roses.  These eventually became either gifts or Christmas ornaments.  It’s funny, but while I never really got into embroidery, add beads and I became addicted.

Beaded Dolls: Storm and Rainbow

I moved from counted cross stitch to peyote stitch (both odd and even count).  Later, I taught myself how to sew beads onto figures.   Jim set two of my figures in a lovely mirrored shadowbox so it’s possible to see them in the round.  I also beaded the toes of a pair of moccasins…  Beading on leather is tough!

Peyote Stitch Bracelets

I’ve also done a variety of stringing projects, although I will admit that working with crimp beads (which you need to do to attach most findings to wire) continues to be something I find really difficult.   One of the reasons I enjoy working in polymer clay is that I can make my own beads…

Now I’m off to write down some of what I’ve been thinking about.  Then maybe I’ll pick up the kumihimo disk and add a few beads onto the cord while my backbrain adds elements to the story.

FF: Shifting Priorities

September 21, 2018

Ogapoge Considers Alternate Routes

We’re definitely shifting to autumn, here.  Since no one is advertising “Autumn Reads,” I guess I need to figure out what works on my own.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Do you have any reads that go well with pumpkin spice?

Recently Completed:

The Bone Reader by Mab Morris.  A murder mystery combined with court intrigue, featuring a fortune teller who doesn’t believe her own prophesies.  I enjoyed but, honest assessment, the writing is not as strong as in the other books by this author I’ve read.  Still, I’d give it a thumbs up for people who like this type of story.

In Progress:

Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  I’ll be honest.  I miss the elements of alien intelligences and artifacts.  That’s part of what made this series special to me.  If I want to read about war and the moral and ethical elements that arise, I’ll read history.  Not bad.  Just not the stretch of the mind that I read SF for.  However, I’m  not done and don’t plan to quit.

Alternate Routes by Tim Powers.  Baen Books edition of a novel that apparently had a small press release first from Charnel House.  Three cheers to Baen for making this more widely available.  I’m just getting into it and it has the usual Powers weirdness.

Also:

I’ve been deciphering the instructions for a new craft project that was one of my recent birthday gifts.  Feels as if it’s exercising my brain in all the right ways to make me a better writer.  Weird how that works!

Emotional Continuity

September 19, 2018

Elephants Remember

News Flash! Editor Deborah J. Ross interviewed me about writing, my story in the forthcoming issue of Sword and Sorceress and other things.

In it, I touch on how negative influences have had a strong impact on my writing.  Here’s an example.

Last week, I took a week off writing to immerse myself in various aspects of the Firekeeper universe before moving into the next part of the story.  One of the complications about writing the seventh novel in a series is how easily it is to gloss over small details.  Add to this that I haven’t written a Firekeeper novel in over a decade and the complexity grows.

By coincidence, my pleasure reading included a series I am enjoying very much – especially for the evolving relationships of the central suite of characters.  I’m not going to go into details, but something I read made me think about an often neglected element of continuity – emotional continuity.

When something traumatic happens to a character, something that is key to a great deal of the action of that particular book, and then in the next book, something similar (but not identical) happens, I expect the characters to comment, to remember.  When they don’t, my sense that the characters are “real” suffers.

I’m not saying that the author must provide  a full recap of past events, not at all.  However, real people remember what happened to them and those memories influence how they act in the future.  Indeed, one could argue that our core self consists of an accumulated suite of experiences.  Whenever something new happens, we seek to understand it by relating it to what we have experienced before.  When something recurs, the most common reaction is “Here we go again!”   Even new experiences are often understood by how they relate to past ones: “I’ve had milk chocolate with fruit and nuts, but never with chile pepper flakes!”

The importance of emotional or experiencial continuity is one reason that senility is such a horrible thing,  not only for the sufferers, but for those who love them.  The person you once knew is vanishing, in part because he or she cannot make those little connections to past events that are the heart of identity.   PTSD is another side of emotional continuity.  In this case, rather than remembering too little, the person is subjected to remembering too much – even to having traumatic experiences “flashback,” contaminating what in reality is a pristine or unconnected situation.

When I’m writing stories featuring continuing characters, what’s most important to me is to establish the sense that the characters have emotional continuity.  To me that’s more important than dates or order of events.  After all, humans do forget such details.  We’ve all had those discussions as to whether it was two or three summers ago that Uncle Joe got that horrible sunburn.  The sequence of events is less important than what those events did to us, and how our future actions are influenced by them.

Another element that goes into writing believable emotional continuity is making sure everyone doesn’t react the same way.  Let’s go back to Uncle Joe’s sunburn.  Uncle Joe is going to remember the pain, and maybe how dumb he felt for forgetting to renew his sunblock or for falling asleep out on the beach.  Aunt Reba is going to remember not only her concern for Uncle Joe, but the fact that their long-planned anniversary outing ended up cancelled.  Cousin Buck is going to remember how annoyed he was because Dad getting sick meant he had to call off the date he had with the pretty lifeguard.  And so on…

When I read a book in a series where the characters seem to remember events perfectly well, but not react to current events in light of past experiences (especially when those experiences were traumatic), my sense that they are real begins to ebb.  When they start reacting in light of events from decades before, but seem to forget what traumatized them two years ago, then I feel the fingers of a plot-driven author stirring the pot, rather than feeling the characters actually exist.

Does this ruin the read for me?  Not necessarily, but it definitely makes me acutely aware of how I don’t want to do that to my characters – or to my readers.  In thinking about what bothers me as a reader, I strive to become a stronger writer.

Now…  Off to write!

FF: In the Midst

September 14, 2018

Give A Cat A Bone (Reader)

This week I’m in a more normal pattern.  I’ve also been reading magazine stories here and there.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  I ended up being really interested in this one.  I’m learning that the opening chapters – which tend to be very gloom and doom – could chase me away if I didn’t already like the series.  I realize that goes back to the very first novel in the series, Leviathan Wakes.

In Progress:

Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey.  Audiobook.  Once again, things are pretty gloomy and stressful and everyone is cranky…

The Bone Reader by Mab Morris.  A murder mystery combined with court intrigue, featuring a fortune teller who doesn’t believe her own prophesies.  So far, so good.

Also:

Still doing continuity reading from the latter Firekeeper novels as I move into a new plot arc.

Absurd, Hopefully Not Impossible

September 12, 2018

The Front Page of My Bullet Journal

Last week, after I announced the publication of a new e-book edition of Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls, a fan e-mailed me and politely asked for an update on the forthcoming Firekeeper novel.  Her e-mail expressed concern that the fact that I was doing other projects meant that I’d lost interest in or was stuck on the Firekeeper novel.

I’m here to reassure you that this is not the case.  It’s actually the opposite.  Simply put, the project has grown beyond my earlier expectations.

Initially, my intention was to write a short Firekeeper novel.  Well, I both am and am not doing that.  The story turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated.  Is anyone other than me surprised about this?  So definitely more Firekeeper is on the way.  Stay tuned for details as I have them.

In the meantime, please try some of my other works.  My newest is the somewhat surreal Fantasy, Asphodel.  I’ve also produced new e-book editions of all six of the original Firekeeper novels, as well as my older novels When the Gods Are Silent, Smoke and Mirrors, Changer, and Changer’s Daughter.  Some of these are also available in print via my website bookstore.

Prefer short fiction?  My collection Curiosities is available in both print and e-book.  Looking for advice on writing?  Try my Wanderings on Writing.

As you can see, “Jane Lindskold” is more than a one-flavor author.  I hope that no matter what your favorite of my flavors is, you’ll try another.  You might be surprised by how much you like it.

So, although I’m laughing at the absurdity that my “simple” project has turned out to be a lot more complex, I’m also here to reassure you that it’s not impossible – just that the timetable has changed a smidge.

PS — The Absurd Tiger is by Rhari, whose Sandshadow portrait I featured a couple FF ago.