FF: Appreciated Your Suggestions

April 20, 2018

This Looks Interesting…

Thanks for the suggestions last week.  I have a list!

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.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

Implanted by Lauren Teffeau.  ARC of a forthcoming August release.  Cyberpunk where the cyber isn’t just window-dressing but it integral to an increasingly complex plot.

The Skyliners  by Louis L’amour.

In Progress:

My Wicked Half Sister by E.M. Tippetts.  This series is really hard to classify.  The first book was more or less romance.  The next couple were CSI mysteries.  This one is what anime/manga would call “slice of life.”  Suffice to say, I’ve enjoyed them all.

The Easter Egg Murders by Patricia Smith Wood.  I usually shy from “cozys” with cute titles, but I know the author and she has lots of grit so I’m giving her first a try.

In the Bleak Midwinter by Julie Spencer Fleming.  Audiobook.  A WW reader recommendation.  So far good characterization and setting.

Also:

I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite manga before bed.  Gives me really odd dreams.

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Pruning Your Words

April 18, 2018

Asphodel Within a Tangle

Imagine me, sitting behind a table with my books spread out before me.  A lady with a pleasant smile comes up and starts examining the wide variety of offerings.

NICE LADY: “So when you write a book” – she is holding a copy of Asphodel – “do you plan it all out in advance?”

ME: “Not really.  I start with an impulse or idea – in this case, the idea of someone waking up in a tower and not knowing why she is there – and then I go on the adventure with my characters.  I’d get bored if I knew everything that was going to happen in advance.”

NICE LADY: “So, that means you don’t really plot?”

ME: “Oh, I definitely plot.  I simply plot as I’m writing, and then afterwards.”

NICE LADY: “Afterwards?”

ME: “That’s right.  After I’ve finished the story, I know what it’s about, so I can cut away the bits and pieces that don’t serve the story.  It’s like pruning a tree or shrub or even a tangle of vines.  Getting rid of extra material makes what’s left stronger.”

NICE LADY: “Oh…  Don’t you feel that wastes your time?”

ME: “Not at all.  Even those writers who outline in advance find that they need to do some shaping and trimming when they’re done.  It’s just a question of when you do the pruning.  In my case, I do most of it after I’ve written the full piece, not before.”

NICE LADY: “I’d think that plotting as you write would be confusing.  How do you keep track of who’s doing what and where?”

ME: “In my case, I do what I call reverse outlining.

 “This helps me keep track of who is doing what where and even when.  I talk about my technique both on my blog and in one of the essays in my book on writing: Wanderings on Writing.”

NICE LADY: “Thanks!  I’ll definitely keep what you’re saying in mind.  I thought I had to know everything about my book and characters before I started.  This is a relief.”

ME: “Glad to help.  Just remember, it’s okay to explore as you write but, at some point, you will need to free your plot from the tangle.  Otherwise, the story you’re trying to tell will end up strangled.”

FF: Back in the Game

April 13, 2018

Starlight: Child of the Wild West

The short story is completed, but working on it did take chunks of my week and weekend, so I’m moving slowly back into the reading game.

Right now, I’m in the mood for stories that can have plenty of tension, but will have a positive resolution.  Any suggestions?

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.

What are you reading?

Recently Completed:

Tempest and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.   As book one of what looks to be a two book series, lots of build-up for events that didn’t happen.  If you’ve read Pierce’s “Immortals” cycle, you have a strong sense where this series has to end.

In Progress:

Implanted by Lauren Teffeau.  ARC of a forthcoming August release.

The Sky-Liners  by Louis L’amour.  I’d be more annoyed at how the main female character is portrayed except that I’ve met woman who would behave just this way.  Is it sexist if it’s correct?

Also:

Making my way through magazines, but more keep showing up!

What Happened Next

April 11, 2018

To Quail Or Not To Quail?

Last week I told you about how Jim told recounted a dream he’d had, and how what he told me generated an idea for a short story.  Here’s what happened next.

After Jim told me about his dream, I scribbled a few pages.  Then, when I had spare time, I did research to round out my idea.   As soon as I could, I started writing, beginning with typing up what I’d written longhand.  It looked good.  It even looked great, but it also was getting long and the dramatic climax that had been my initial inspiration was nowhere in sight.

When I had written over 4,000 words (that’s sixteen pages, give or take) and the story was still a long way from completed, I had a sudden, horrible realization.  What I was setting up would only work if I turned my initial concept into a novel.  I’d thought my research would tighten down my options.  Instead, it had given me too many cool ideas.

As you know, I have nothing against writing novels.  However, I really didn’t think that the initial vivid image I’d garnered from Jim’s dream would be served by being an element in a novel.  Instead, it would be buried under a lot of other material.  It might even be squashed flat.

Reluctantly, I realized that if I were to serve my initial inspiration, I wouldn’t just need to re-write and tighten.  I would need to start over entirely.

Lots of writers quail at the idea of starting over.  They don’t want to “waste” what they’ve already written.  I’m not immune to that fear but, as I paced around my yard, I realized that the creative work I’d done to that point wasn’t wasted.  Some of the cool stuff I’d found in my research would certainly be useful later.  The fictional New Mexico mining town in which I was going to set the story was considerably more well defined.

So, on Friday, I put aside all the other jobs on my list and began all over again.  I wrote through Friday, although I did need to take a break to attend a meeting.  By close of day, I had replaced my initial 4,000 words, and was on my way toward the final scenes.

On Saturday, I’d hoped to go to a coin show with Jim and our friend, Michael Wester, but I cancelled so I could keep writing.  When Jim and Michael came back from the show, I stopped to have a sandwich with them, then I returned to writing.  By late afternoon, I had a rough draft with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

I also had assurance as to whether or not I’d written a better story, but at least I hadn’t let my initial inspiration become buried under too many words and too complex a plot.   I printed what I’d written, set it aside to mellow, and gave myself Sunday off.  Monday would be soon enough to give the story another look.

As of this writing, I’m still in the polishing and refining stage.  I’m only sure of one thing.  I’m glad I didn’t quail at the challenge of starting over again.  Sometimes, that’s the only thing to do if you want to write the best story possible.

FF: Behind the Curve

April 6, 2018

Ogapoge: Boxes With Lando

The short story I talked about in my Wednesday Wanderings this week has meant I’ve been doing less reading for fun as I do reading for research, so fewer books on the list.

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.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Lando by Louis L’amour.  Reread.

In Progress:

Tempest and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.

Implanted by Lauren Teffeau.  ARC of a forthcoming August release.

Also:

Finishing off magazines before I’m overwhelmed by them!

Dreams Into Stories

April 4, 2018

Maybe Kel’s Writing

Jim and I often tell each other about our dreams.  One of the nice things about living with him is that, for the first time in my life, I share a bed with someone who dreams nearly as vividly as I do.  Jim doesn’t remember his dreams as often as I do or in as much detail but, when he does, they’re worth hearing about.

This past weekend, Jim mentioned a particularly vivid dream to me.  Even as he was telling me, I thought “This would make an interesting element in a story.”  No.  I didn’t go and write myself a little note.  I do that sometimes, but not often.  To be honest, I react to a list of story prompts the way I do to homework assignments.  I feel I’m somehow falling short if I don’t use them all.

Yes.  I know that’s ridiculous, but that’s the way my brain works.

Anyhow, I enjoyed Jim’s tale, then went on with my morning.  My mom was visiting.  When she came out to chat over coffee, I forgot entirely about Jim’s dream.  Later, when Mom needed some down time, I parked myself on the sofa to read.  The last thing I expected was for a story to start talking to me.

When it did, I grabbed a pen and some paper.  By the time Mom came out to rejoin us, I’d covered about four pages with scribbles.  The rest of the weekend, whenever I had a moment, I did some research to fill in details.

I’ve had other stories begin with dreams.  One of these, “Behind the Curtain of Flowers,” is included in my short story collection, Curiosities.  I’ve used elements from dreams in other short stories and even novels.  Pearl and Albert, two of the main characters in the “Breaking the Wall” novels (beginning with Thirteen Orphans), first introduced themselves to me in a dream.

In fact, now that I think about it, my earliest “stories” began with telling my dreams to my sister, Ann, who would listen with drowsy interest – and maybe a little doubt as to whether I was making some of it up.  Maybe I was.  Dreams do so often suffer from continuity problems!

I haven’t quite finished writing the story I started this weekend.  If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take advantage of my inspiration flowing fast and hot, and get back to writing!

FF: Racing to the Finish

March 30, 2018

Persephone and Tey

I finished my re-through of Wolf’s Blood this week.  Then I realized with a shock that Nebula Award voting closes in just a few days and I hadn’t finished my homework.  So I’ve been racing along.  No.  I won’t tell you what I vote for, because my reasons for voting for something can vary widely.  Sometimes it’s voting for the least “meh” in a category.  Other times, I’m torn between a couple options that each have value.

This is one reason I really, really miss the old system of “ranked” votes.

Why you’re not seeing Nebula nominees on my list this week is because I don’t want to admit what I read and what bored me to tears.

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.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

The Sackett Brand by Louis L’Amour.  I have an old fondness for this one.  Reread.

Knight-Napped (Dragonbreath 10) by Ursula Vernon.

Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey. (Re-read.)  Breaks every rule of mystery writing and creates a brilliant novel.  I pulled this out to read it because a friend mentioned he was reading Tey and I wanted her peculiar, individualistic prose.

In Progress:

Tempest and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.

Also:

Not much “also” because, as noted above,  I’m racing to catch up on the Nebula ballot so I can vote before voting closes!

TT: Goodbye For Now…

March 29, 2018

Hands Around the World

ALAN: I just checked, and our first Thursday Tangent was published on 1st June 2011. So we’ve been writing them for almost seven years. And in all that time, we haven’t missed a single week. I think we deserve to be very proud of how chatty we’ve been. If my arm was long enough, I’d reach across the world and give you a congratulatory pat on the back. And if your arm was as long as mine, I’m sure you’d do the same for me.

JANE: You are a properly restrained Yorkshireman, no matter how long you’ve been in New Zealand, and never mind how long you’ve been with your exuberant Australian wife.  If you think I’d settle for a pat on the back, you’d be wrong.  I’d give you a hug so tight you might need to worry about your ribs.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve often been asked how we got started writing the Tangents.  It’s pretty simple.  I’d write one of my Wednesday Wanderings posts, then Alan would say something in the Comments.  I’d answer, and sometimes we’d go back and forth right there.  Other times, the discussion went sideways, and we’d continue it via e-mail.  I had so much fun that eventually I asked Alan if he wanted to take them public and so we did.

ALAN: When you suggested that we start writing the Tangents on a formal basis, I found the thought very scary. But it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done. Even when the discussion veered off into areas that I knew little or nothing about, the research I had to do to bring myself up to speed was fascinating and it taught me a lot.

JANE: I agree that the Tangents have been a heck of a lot of fun.  I’ve learned a lot, too.  The time we compared healthcare systems was incredibly enlightening.  I also really enjoyed our long journey through every British king named Henry – with quite a few who weren’t sandwiched between.

Do you have any particular favorites?

ALAN: Yes. The ones where you explained the jargon and the vagaries of the American educational system that had puzzled me so much when I came across references to it in novels were really quite enlightening.

JANE: I’ll always be happy to translate American language and customs for you!

A reminder to our readers…  Alan has done a free e-book that contains all of the Thursday Tangents.  You can download it here It makes great short reading for when you’re stuck waiting on line or in a waiting room or whatever.

ALAN: Actually, the e-book contains only a sample of the Thursday Tangents. We’ve written more than 350 of them and, even in these digital days, that’s an awful lot of information to put in a single book.

But there’s an index and links to all of the Tangents here.

JANE: Thanks for the correction!  350?  Wow!  I had no idea we’d been so noisy.

As I said above, Alan and I enjoy chatting.  If we come up with another topic or so, I’ll post them as a special feature to my blogsite.  I’ll let you know in advance when one is coming, but you can always check the blogsites Tangent category from time to time to see if new posts have shown up on the site.

ALAN: Let me conclude this chat with something else that is probably new to you.

There’s a British satirical magazine called Private Eye which has a poet in residence whose “name” is E. J. Thrib (17½). Whenever a famous person dies, E. J. Thrib (17½) writes a poem which is always titled In Memoriam and whose first line is always:

So. Farewell then…

Thrib usually mentions something appropriate about the deceased and often compares some notable characteristic of the deceased with his friend Keith (or sometimes with Keith’s mum). Thrib’s poems generally have no rhyme, no rhythm, little reason and often they make very little sense. Nevertheless, E. J. Thrib (17½)’s opening line has become world famous in the UK and is very much a part of Britain’s culture.

JANE: I’ve never heard of that.  Are you going write us a verse?  Please do!

ALAN: Not me – but perhaps E. J. Thrib (17½) can oblige. I’ll ask him.

E.J. THRIB (17½):

So. Farewell then Thursday Tangents.
Sines and portents fill the page and each writer
Cosines their name on the dotted line at the end.
But only when the angle is right.
What will Keith’s mum read now
On bleak Friday mornings when
The coffee is cold and the breakfast toast
Lacks marmalade to spread?

JANE: Damnit!  You’ve made me tear up, which is ridiculous.  Therefore, I refuse to say “farewell” instead I’ll say, “until next time”…

Collaborating With Myself

March 28, 2018

Worlds I’ve Made My Own

As those of you who read my Friday Fragments know, over the last few months, I’ve been re-reading the entire Firekeeper saga.  One reason is because I’m grooming the books for a new release as high quality e-books, each of which will include an original, never before published essay about some aspect of the series.

The other reason I’m doing this re-read is that I’m re-familiarizing myself with Firekeeper and her world.  The first book in the series, Through Wolf’s Eyes, was published in 2001.  It was written about two years before.  The sixth (and at that point final) novel in the series, Wolf’s Blood, was published in 2007 and, again, was completed close to a year before.

Now that I’m writing Wolf’s Search, I want to make certain I have all the little details of the series fresh in my mind.  Of course I remember the major elements, but these books take place in a rich and multi-faceted world, full of complex cultures and even more complicated people.  I have a good memory, but it’s not perfect.  Then, too, I’ve thought a lot about those characters and what might have happened to them in the years since I turned in Wolf’s Blood.  I needed to separate out my speculations from what actually made it onto the page.

As I was working my way through Wolf’s Blood last week, scribbling down small notes here and there whenever I came upon an interesting tidbit, I realized that the process was very similar to what I do before writing a story set in another writer’s universe.

I’ve done several of these.  Probably the best known of my collaborations are those I’ve done with my buddy David Weber, set in his Honorverse.  I’ve written two novels with him (Fire Season and Treecat Wars), as well as contributing  three novellas and a yet unpublished short story to Honorverse anthologies.  I’ve written a Berserker short story with Fred Saberhagen.  Stories set in another author’s universe include a couple of stories for S.M. Stirling (one “Draka”; one “Emberverse”), a story for the Golden Reflections anthology (set in the universe of Fred Saberhagens’s Mask of the Sun), a short story “Child of the Night” in a Jack Williamson tribute anthology, and  a story set in Larry Niven’s “Man-Kzin War” series.

And, of course, there are Donnerjack and Lord Demon, the two novels I completed posthumously for my much beloved Roger Zelazny.

For each of these pieces, no matter how long or how short, I immersed myself in the original writer’s prose and, if appropriate, specific universe.  When I do this, I’m not just looking for information, I’m looking for elements of style, tone, and pacing.  I want the reader to feel they’re stepping into that particular universe, not a pale imitation.  Sure, my take will be a bit different from the original author’s, but I want this to be the difference between where in the room you’re standing, not a completely different house.

This week I realized that, as I am writing Wolf’s Search, I’m collaborating with my past self – the Jane Lindskold who lived between 1999 and 2007, a woman who during that time spent at least part of that year immersed in the world of Firekeeper and her associates.  Collaborating with myself is sort of neat.  It’s also more than a little weird.

My modern self definitely wants to bring what I’ve learned in the years since 2007 to Wolf’s Search.  After all, I’ve written eight or nine other novels, as well as many short stories.  If I didn’t learn anything in doing that, then I’ve just been spinning my wheels, and I’m not that sort of person.  At the same time, the Firekeeper Saga has its own voice, and I want that voice to be present and familiar, even though this is going to be a new story.

Now that I’ve finished my re-read, I’ll be writing more quickly.  Wolf’s Search is already becoming a deeper, more complex story than I had originally anticipated.  But that is something to talk about later…

FF: Reading the Wild West

March 23, 2018

Kel: A Cat of the Wild West

I’m glad to hear that folks enjoy this list of what I’ve been reading.  This week’s reading took an unusual turn when I felt a sudden craving for Westerns.

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.

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Mustang Man by Louis L’amour.  Audiobook.  I have a sneaking fondness for Nolan, a would-be bad boy Sackett.  Reread.

The Case of the Toxic Mutants (Dragonbreath 9) by Ursula Vernon.  Mutants have never been so cute.

The Man From The Broken Hills by Louis L’amour.  More red herrings in this one than in a fish market. Reread.

In Progress:

The Sackett Brand by Louis L’Amour.  I have an old fondness for this one.  Reread.

Knight-Napped (Dragonbreath 10) by Ursula Vernon.

Tempest and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce.  Audiobook.  Just started.

Also:

Wolf’s Blood by Jane Lindskold.  About three-quarters done.

And some back issues of magazines, because I’m so far behind!