FF: Non-Standard

May 17, 2019

Keladry On The Alert For Evil

In the last week or so I’ve read a wide variety of types of fiction, confirming my strong preference for character driven plots—as long as those characters are interesting and complex.  What’s fascinating is that even a “standard” plot becomes non-standard as soon as the author puts solid thought into how their protagonists will react.

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:

A Gathering Evil by Michael A. Stackpole.  Dark Conspiracy game setting published by GDW.  Uses the amnesiac protagonist very well to introduce a complex setting.  Sly situational humor enlivens a serious action/adventure plot.

Evil Ascending by Micheal A. Stackpole.  Three different POV’s in this one.  I liked each one, but preferred the tighter focus.

Evil Triumphant by Michael A. Stackpole.  Even more split POV in this one, and much, much more military hardware lovingly described.  Not really as much my thing, but I thought it had a nice twist at the end.

In Progress:

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Touring the various city states.  Just finished Syracuse.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones.  Wanted a complete shift of story…

Also:

 I’m re-reading the 90,000+ word manuscript of Wolf’s Soul to refresh myself on details before I write the conclusion.

Advertisements

Skinny Has Friends!

May 15, 2019

Skinny Shares Lunch With A Friend

Our co-resident Skinny the thrasher has been expanding his social circle!  As I told you in a Wandering about a month ago, we first met Skinny when he was using our bird block as a source of food during his struggle to survive after being orphaned.  He has since claimed our yard as his territory.  Until this spring, Skinny didn’t seem to have many friends, but now things are changing.

Last week, we saw Skinny not only sharing “his” bird block with another thrasher, but actively feeding it.  We think, but aren’t certain, that Skinny’s friend is a juvenile.  However, some courting behaviors mimic parent/child behaviors.  Our guess is based on how, in the photos Jim took, the bird being fed seems to have a shorter, less curved beak, which is one of the few ways young thrashers differ from fully mature.  If so, then Skinny may have a family.  Adult thrashers take turns minding the nest and the young, which might explain why we haven’t seen two adults foraging together the way we did the two thrashers we assume were Skinny’s parents.

Skinny has also come to something of an agreement with P.F., the cottontail who likes to hop up on the bird block and stuff himself.  Possibly because an earlier incarnation saved his life, Skinny considers the bird block “his.”  Although he has never seemed to mind sharing it with the sparrows, finches, quail, and doves, he was not happy to have this large, furry creature plop himself on top and munch away.

However, last week, Jim got pictures of P.F. and Skinny sharing the bird block.  This doesn’t mean they don’t still compete from time to time.  We’ve seen Skinny sneak up on P.F. and poke him right on his fuzzy rump.  And we’ve seen P.F. launch himself for the top of the block, never mind who else is there.  All in all, Skinny seems the more territorial, while P.F. is simply opportunist.

Skinny and P.F. Have A Lunch Date

Our toads are also back, and our teeny-tiny pond is once again hosting both nightly singalongs and copious quantities of tadpoles.  We saw one of last year’s tadpoles perched on the edge of the pond, contemplating whether he could manage to leap down into the water.  Hey, four inches is a long way when you’re only about half an inch tall!

Wolf’s Search is now off to the copy editor, and I’m reviewing Wolf’s Soul before moving along to writing the conclusion.  Time to curl up with a stack of paper and a red pencil or three.  Catch you later!

FF: Not Always To Be Sneered At

May 10, 2019

Persephone Devours a Book

Game fiction is, often with great justification, sneered at.  Why?  Well, in the worst game fiction, you hear the dice rattling  However, when written by a talented author, the story can benefit from all the effort that went into designing the setting and backstory for the game. Another benefit is that good gaming fiction—like the best games—is strongly character driven.

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 Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia McKillip.  Quest fantasy, a bit on the light side.  Not what I’d recommend for a first reader of her work, although there is some clever language and marvelous description.

In Progress:

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Touring the various city states.  In Athens now, examining the question of tyranny within an ostensible democracy.

A Gathering Evil by Michael A. Stackpole.  Dark Conspiracy game setting published by GDW.  Uses the amnesiac protagonist very well to introduce a complex setting.  Sly situational humor enlivens a serious action/adventure plot.

Also:

Wolf’s Search edits have taken a lot of reader energy…

Wary of Robins

May 8, 2019

African Pygmy Falcon

About a week ago, Jim and I went to the zoo.  While we were there, we met the magnificent gentleman in the picture above.  He is an African pygmy falcon, and I’m pretty sure that sparrows larger than he is routinely visit our bird feeder.

While we were chatting with his handler, the falcon—I didn’t catch his name, but I think it was something like “Hugh,” so he’ll be Hugh here, today—kept anxious watch around him.  I thought he might be wary of the humans, but this wasn’t the case at all.  Hugh’s handler explained that Hugh worries a lot about robins.  It seems that even though Hugh is half their size, the local robins know a raptor when they see one, and are certain that any moment he’ll fly off on a bloodthirsty rampage in which no robin will be spared.

Hugh does not appreciate this acknowledgement of his perceived ferocity, especially since a robin is way out of his class as potential prey.  Hugh dines on insects, small mice, and smaller birds.  He’s very swift, reaching speeds of forty-five miles an hour and diving at up to twice that.  He brakes using his tail feathers, so he doesn’t transform himself into a puff of feathers and optimism when he hits his target.

I would have been excited to see Hugh at any time, but since one of the characters in Wolf’s Search is a small falcon, I found this up close and personal time very useful.  True, Farborn is a merlin, so he’s a bit larger than Hugh, but who am I to scoff at serendipity?

For those of you who are saying to yourself, “Why does the name Farborn sound familiar?” I’ll add that Farborn appears as a character in Wolf’s Blood.  His role is small but crucial.  In Wolf’s Search, he’s still coming to terms with the ramifications of those events.

Now I’m off to continuing grooming the manuscript of Wolf’s Search…  Catch you later!

FF: Various and Sundry

May 3, 2019

Kel Wonders Why Moriah Isn’t On The Cover

My reading this week has been rather scattered because I’m taking some of my reading time to work.  Still, I manage a little just for fun.

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:

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett.  Re-read.  Lovecraft meets silent film.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, this week volumes 19-23.  Manga.  Re-read.  Sorry that the story is over…

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip.  Re-read.  Held up well for me.

In Progress:

The Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia McKillip.  Quest fantasy, a bit on the light side.

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Up to the Dorian incursion.

Also:

Smithsonian’s most recent.

Forthcoming Firekeeper! Catnip Socks!

May 1, 2019

Persephone Demos Catnip Socks

This week I finalized a deal for the very first short story ever featuring Firekeeper and Blind Seer to appear in DreamForge Magazine! “A Question of Truth” will be in issue three, which is scheduled for late August 2019.

“A Question of Truth” is set after Wolf’s Blood, but before the forthcoming novels Wolf’s Search and Wolf’s Soul.  It was inspired by my awareness that a certain event in Wolf’s Soul had a complete story that preceded it.  However, if I were to tell that story in the novel, it wouldn’t fit into the flow.  Since I needed to work those details out, I decided to do it in the form of a short story.

The opening sentence reads as follows: “Prompting from an insane jaguar is probably not the best reason to investigate a dark, dank hole in a hillside, but Firekeeper and Blind Seer had long ago learned not to ignore Truth.”  For the rest, you’ll need to read the story in DreamForge.  It will not be featured elsewhere for the foreseeable future.

You can subscribe to DreamForge here.  Both print and digital versions of the magazine are available.  We’re negotiating with Hugo award-winning artist Elizabeth Leggett to do the illustration.  (In case you didn’t know, DreamForge is lushly illustrated.)

To anticipate a likely question: “When is Wolf’s Search coming out?”  At this point, we’re still on schedule for August 2019.  I’d love to have the novel available for Bubonicon.  I’ll keep you posted as we get closer.  If you don’t want to miss updates, sign up for my mailing list, which you can do on the homepage of my website.  If I can manage to do something other than writing and pre-publication production, I might even have some sort of contest or giveaway to celebrate.

If you’d like to know more about how I’m handling this project, you might want to look at my Wandering from a couple month’s back, “Wolf’s Search (And Other Projects) Update,” here.

Now Persephone, one of my cats, says I’m being too serious this week.  She suggests that if I’m going to tell you about things I’m doing, I should tell you something really, really important like How To Make Catnip Socks.

Many years ago, my cats informed me that catnip mice were simply too small.  Although cats like toys they can bat around, cats really appreciate toys they can wrestle, kick, lie on, and use as pillows.

Here’s how to make a Catnip Sock.  Cut a large quantity of fresh catnip.  Stuff into a spare sock, stems and all.  (Tube socks work really well.)  Tie a knot on at the open end.  Present to cat.

 As the catnip dries, the sock won’t be as tightly stuffed, but you can untie and add more.  Even if you don’t, the cat will continue to enjoy.  I’ve seen my cats happily napping on nearly flat catnip socks in the dead of winter when the catnip has lost its first pungency.

Side note: Catnip is a plant in the mint family and is very easy to grow.  In most climates, the difficulty is keeping it from spreading.  Cut it frequently to keep it from going to seed.  Both the plant and your cats will appreciate this.  Catmint may be substituted or used to augment catnip, but it is less pungent.

On that cheerful note, I’m off to write.  I’m into the final section of Wolf’s Soul, and am pretty jazzed about how events are shaping up!

FF: Shelter From The Storm

April 26, 2019

Kwahe’e Dreams of Directing Films

News Flash: I’ll be at Page One Books this Saturday (April 27) as a guest bookseller helping celebrate Independent Booksellers.  There will be door prizes!  Best of all, I’ll have a chance to chat because I don’t need to do a panel or sign anything (unless you want me to).  I’ll be there from 1:30 to 2:45.

This week has been very stressful, so I’ve mostly been re-reading.

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:

In An Absent Dream: Wayward Children 4 by Seanan McGuire.  Audiobook.

Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell.  Novel.  Re-read, but it’s been a long time.

In Progress:

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett.  Re-read.  Not one of my favorites, but good.  It introduces Gaspode, who will become a recurring character in the series.  I’d forgotten the pre-Watch Detritus, too.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, this week volumes 11-18.  Manga.  Re-read.  The story is moving from slice of life, romantic comedy into the more serious part of the story, including backstories for a several characters.

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  I’ve read parts of this, but I don’t think ever the whole thing.  Jim gave me a set for Christmas.

Also:

A few new magazines came in, and catalogs.  Who ever knew there was so much stuff in the world!

Catnip, Italian Parsley, Zinnias

April 24, 2019

Alyssum, Hollyhocks, Marigolds

Catnip, catmint, Italian parsley, garlic chives, tomatoes, alyssum, blanket flowers, cardinal vine, chocolate flowers, Cyprus vine, hollyhocks, marigolds, portulacas, zinnias.  Other than all being plants, what do these have in common?

If you guessed that these are all domestic plants that already have or can be expected to volunteer in my yard this year, you’d be right.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, my yard does not provide the most gentle of climates.  Over the years, I’ve come to treasure those plants that seem to have domesticated us as much as we have domesticated them.   The results are often surprising and even quite lovely.

Often by late summer the vegetable bed on the east side of our shed looks as if portions have been quilted because of the amount of alyssum that volunteers from seeds scattered by past generations.  Yes, the alyssum takes some of the water that could go to my peppers and eggplant, but the plants also provide a natural organic mulch that keeps our sandy soil from becoming burning hot during the day.  And, well, they’re pretty, too.

Over the years, I’ve come to enjoy these volunteer plants quite a bit.  Sure, some get weeded out, but a lot more get transplanted or just enjoyed where they’ve sprouted.  Does this make for a rather chaotic and disorganized yard?  Only superficially.  I tend to think of it as working with nature, rather than forcing nature to work with me.  And since I’m the one who introduced the majority of these plants to the environment, well, this strikes me as making a compromise.  Maybe the parsley isn’t growing quite where I intended but, hey, I have parsley.

Not surprisingly, my stories come to life in a very similar fashion.  I come up with ideas, but how they germinate and the way they fit together often surprises me.

That happened this past weekend.  I’d been sliding elements for the final section of Wolf’s Soul around in my head, waiting to see how they would fit together.  Then, last Friday, as Jim and I were putting dinner together, I had one of those “aha” moments.  Leaving Jim to handle the final touches, I went and scribbled all over a piece of scrap paper and tucked it under my monitor.  I pulled it out on Saturday morning, crossed out one line, added a couple more.  Now I’m merrily writing away.

Is the story what I thought it would be when I started writing it?  Absolutely not, but like my alyssum quilted vegetable bed, the results are turning out surprising and even quite lovely.

FF: Modesty and More

April 19, 2019

The Novel Is Peeking Out At The Top

Until recently, it was more common to see a novel series adapted or expanded into graphic novels rather than the other way around.  Modesty Blaise anticipated the trend.  Interestingly, both were written by Peter O’Donnell, rather than one being farmed out to someone else as is common today.

I’ve featured a cover from a collection of the newspaper strips here because, frankly, the novel had a trashy cover that misrepresents the novel entirely.

Oh…  And if you miss the usual pet portrait, go to the end for a photo of our cat Ogapoge taken about a year ago…

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:

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursual Vernon).  One review called this a screwball comedy with serious undertones.  That’s a good description.  Laugh out loud sometimes, edge of the seat at others.

In Progress:

In An Absent Dream: Wayward Children 4 by Seanan McGuire.  Audiobook.

Modesty Blaise by Peter O’Donnell.  Novel.  Re-read, but it’s been a long time.

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, this week volumes 6-11.  Manga.  Re-read.  The story is moving from slice of life, romantic comedy into something far darker and outre.

Also:

Writing, writing, writing….

Ogapoge Amid Towels

Easter Bunnies and Beta Readers

April 17, 2019

PF As The Easter Bunny

First, a follow-up to last week’s WW about Skinny the Thrasher.  The day after I wrote about Skinny’s rivalry with PF the Cottontail Rabbit for access to the bird block, we spotted them both eating from the block at the same time.  If we see them again, we’ll try for a picture.  In the meantime, as we lead into Easter, here’s a picture of PF as the Easter Bunny!

As some of you already know, last week a short post on my FB and Twitter feeds accidentally triggered something I feel is only courteous to address in more than a few sentences.

When I posted a brief comment about how I’d just realized that I’d forgotten to put chapter breaks into the manuscript of Wolf’s Search that I’d sent to my secret beta readers, I expected to be teased about my forgetfulness.  What I didn’t expect was the outpouring of requests for information about how to become one of my beta readers.  Some requests were from people I recognized as long-time readers, but others were from people for whom this was the first time I remembered seeing a comment.

When these requests continued, even after I’d responded in the Comments, I decided I’d better explain.

Here’s the short answer.  You probably cannot become a beta reader for me.  Unlike some authors, I don’t solicit comments about my work from the general readership.  I never have.  I am not likely to change.  My first reader has always been my husband.  After Jim, I usually ask a few friends for feedback.  Who these are varies widely, according to the project.

(If you’re still interested in why I work this way, read on…)

For example, one of the people I asked to read the manuscript of Asphodel was Alan Robson, with whom I collaborated on the Thursday Tangents for close to seven years.  From our many discussions, public and not, I knew that Asphodel was the sort of book Alan didn’t usually read.  When he read it and liked it, my feeling that I had something special in Asphodel was reinforced.

For Wolf’s Search, you’d probably be surprised to learn that none of my secret beta readers were fanatical about the series.  One hadn’t even read the last several books.  This was because I wanted to make sure that Wolf’s Search could serve as a “gateway book” into the series.  (Admittedly one with some spoilers, but still more a stand-alone novel than otherwise.)

Yes.  I do know some authors regularly send out copies to beta readers who are strangers or rabid fans of the series.  For some authors, especially those writing long series with long, long books, this helps them to catch continuity errors so they can focus on the new material.  For others, I am sad to say (based on hearing them say this), soliciting beta readers is merely a marketing ploy – an attempt to make readers feel they have been part of the writing process, even if they have not.

Maybe my attitude toward showing a book before it is polished was influenced by my relationship early in my writing career with Roger Zelazny.  Roger generally didn’t share his completed manuscripts with anyone except his editor.  When he did, he usually had a specific reason, up to and including impulsiveness.  (Full disclosure: I read the manuscripts of his last several novels well before publication.)  Roger also didn’t belong to any writers groups.  Hard as it is to believe in these days when social media makes it seem as if every writer shares everything, including deleted scenes and false starts, there are many writers who want their readers to see only the finished story.

More likely my choice then and now to keep unfinished drafts to myself is simply one of the many ways that Roger and I were alike.  Writing for me is not a collaborative process.  I don’t belong to writers’ groups because comments on a work in progress would stall me, not encourage me.  Even Jim doesn’t hear much about a story until it has been completed.  And after the work is completed, a very few readers are all I need to assure me that I haven’t missed some really obvious error.

Writers are very different in what they need.  I am the type of writer I am.  I hope you will not be offended if I continue as I have for these twenty-five or so years that I have been offering you my stories and unveil my works only when they are complete.