FF: Food, Scripture, and Inspiration

October 18, 2019

Persephone Reaches Out

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’m enjoying hearing what you folks are reading, too!

Recently Completed:

Mister Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Audiobook.  Slow build based around a puzzle reminds me quite a bit of Ready Player One.  A lot fewer fight scenes, less Eighties trivia, replaced by computer trivia.

Kebra Nagast edited by Gerry Hausman.  Interesting balance of anecdote and Rastafarian scripture.

Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style by Helen Willinsky.  Food and how it is prepared is a terrific window into a culture.  Helen Willinsky’s introduction alone would make this book a great find, but each section, sometimes each recipe, has a little write up that makes this a gem.  When winter comes, I want to try some of the recipes.

In Progress:

Sourdough by Robin Sloan.  Audiobook.  Another slow story, very introspective, but I’m enjoying the internal journey of Lois.

The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbojornsen & Moe, translated by Tiina Nunnally.  I’ve read many of these stories in the older translation, but Tiina Nunnally’s translation removes the British interpolations and provides a greater sense of the Norwegian roots.  The various introductions include a lively foreword by Neil Gaiman, as well as the original introductions to various editions by Asbojornsen and Moe.  The latter provide a lovely perspective on the evolution of the text.

Also:

I’m not a great fan of post-apocalyptic fiction or film.  One exception is A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.  When we were invited to a post-apocalyptic themed Halloween party, I pulled out this favorite, re-read parts, and have resolved to attend as a booklegger—complete with a chest of books to share.

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Beauty In Different Interpretations

October 16, 2019

Elizabeth Leggett, Emily Mah Tippetts, and Lauren Teffeau view Death

Theme can be a strangling cord or an inspiration.  Last weekend, Jim and I went to a gallery showing that demonstrated how a shared theme can inspire extraordinary leaps in creativity.

The show in question was Readings: A Celebration of Speculative Fiction Through the Lens of Tarot Art at Keep Contemporary Gallery in Santa Fe.

The show was curated by our friend, the Hugo Award-winning artist, Elizabeth Leggett.  In addition to her work, the show featured that of Lee Moyer, Sienna Luna, and Reiko Murakami Rice.

What we saw as soon as we came through the door was that, without any prior consultation, each artist had chosen a different way to interpret the theme.

Elizabeth Leggett has long drawn inspiration from the rich visual images in the prose of Ray Bradbury.  She chose to create twenty-two amazing paintings, each inspired by a different Bradbury story.  To help the viewer share her creative process, she provided a print portfolio with details on which card in the Tarot deck was depicted, a quotation from the story, and a short note about why she chose that particular image.

Lee Moyer was the only artist to make his contributions look specifically like playing cards.  The highly complex border design was silkscreened, but he added individual details to each border, including highly-individualized icons for each piece.  Mr. Moyer’s connection to the SF/F theme was to feature different writers as the figures on his cards.  Each was accompanied by a wonderfully eclectic selection of images related to their work.  We lucked out, and Mr. Moyer was available to provide a guided tour through his pieces, which definitely enriched the experience.

Rowan Derrick, Me, and Cale Mims with some of Lee Moyer’s Art

The other two artists provided only a handful of pictures, but these individual gems increased the overall glitter and shine of the exhibition.  The media and styles were very different from either Elizabeth Leggett’s or Lee Moyer’s work.

Looking at this show made me think about how theme anthologies have long been a staple of the Science Fiction and Fantasy field.  I’ve contributed to at least fifty.  In my opinion, those anthologies that have worked best have been those where the theme is vivid enough to provide inspiration, not just a unifying element, while at the same time not being so limited that the stories begin to seem more similar than they actually are.

One of the weird things about the human brain is that it draws connections where none actually exist.  This leads to superstitions like “deaths come in threes” or believing you’ll have bad luck after you break a mirror.   After a traumatic event, connections are manufactured in an attempt to force order on a chaos—maybe as a sort of perverse reassurance that the bad luck will end.

At their best, theme anthologies stimulate a writer to try and find a different twist on the theme.  At their worst, the reader begins to anticipate how each story will develop, based upon repeated tropes.

Many years ago, I heard a prominent magazine editor lament that he wasn’t getting more submissions from the same authors who he saw contributing to theme anthologies: “After all, they can write about anything for me!”  But what he was missing was that he, too, had a theme, and one that was much harder for a writer to be inspired by: the tenuous, tentative theme of “What the editor envisions the magazine to be.”

So, overall, I think I’m in favor of themes.  Perhaps the best themes are those that—like that for Readings—encourage individual interpretations, but avoid the marching in step that can happen with repeated tropes.

FF: Rich Selection

October 11, 2019

My reading right now continues to be a rich and varied selection…

Mei-Ling Considers Trying Jamaican Food!

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’m enjoying hearing what you folks are reading, too!

Recently Completed:

The Bends In The Road: A Memoir by Svenn Lindskold.  Svenn is my great-uncle, half-brother of my paternal grandfather, a relative I met only after I was an adult, but whom I’ve come to really like.  This is a thoughtful look at a life of over eighty years, full of rich detail.

In Progress:

Mister Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Audiobook.  Slow build based around a puzzle reminds me quite a bit of Ready Player One.  A lot fewer fight scenes, less Eighties trivia, replaced by computer trivia.

Kebra Nagast edited by Gerry Hausman.  Very dense, so reading slowly.

Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style by Helen Willinsky.  Food and how it is prepared is a terrific window into a culture.  Helen Willinsky’s introduction alone would make this book a great find, but each section, sometimes each recipe, has a little write up that makes this a gem.

Also:

Wolf’s Soul is done in rough draft, so I’m re-reading, polishing, tinkering.

TT: Drabbling in Feghoots

October 10, 2019

The Thursday Tangents Collection

JANE: Today I’m happy to announce the return of my long-time collaborator, Alan Robson.  As we promised, we said we’d resume writing Thursday Tangents as soon as we had something we wanted to Tangent about…

Alan, I’ve lost track.  How long did we write the Thursday Tangents?  How many Tangents were there before we ran out of things to babble about?

ALAN: We wrote 356 tangents over a period of six years. Goodness me!

I collected some of them in a free ebook.

JANE: Wow!  I’d forgotten we’d been so chatty.

One of the things we talked about was your plans when you retired.  One of these was finally having time to write.  From our various e-mail chats, I know you have kept your promise to yourself, even if you haven’t quite yet written the Great New Zealand Novel.

In fact, it was one of your stories that made me decide we needed to Tangent once more.  When you sent me a “drabble,” I admit, I had no idea what to expect.

What is a drabble?

ALAN: A drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words, not including the title. Hyphenated-words-are-argued-about.

 A drabble is not 99 words, and it’s not 101 words, it must be exactly 100 words. It turns out to be surprisingly hard to cram an entire story into that number of words. It requires an awful lot of self-discipline together with very careful word choice and sentence structure, so it makes a really good writing exercise. There’s a very strong sense of accomplishment when you finally get it to work.

JANE: Why is it called a drabble?

ALAN: The form derives from a Monty Python sketch and it is named for the English novelist Margaret Drabble, though I doubt if she knows that her name has been borrowed for that purpose. It’s also a real word, believe it or not. It means to make something wet and dirty by dragging it through mud.

And it’s worth 10 points in Scrabble.

JANE: When you sent me your most recent drabble, I was quite taken with it.  Would you like to share?

ALAN: I’d be happy to. But before I do, I’d like to go off on a tangent, if I may, and explain that in British English, the word “Ass” simply means a silly person. It has none of the ruder connotations that it does in American English. So bearing that in mind, here’s a drabble about…

An Ass on an Asteroid

The asteroid called Ceremony was an amorphous lump of rock that tumbled end over end in its orbit.  I wasn’t looking forward to landing my spaceship on it, particularly with untold billions of people glued to their television sets watching my every move.

Delicately I manipulated the thrusters to match my orbit with Ceremony. When I was satisfied, I cautiously lowered the ship to a perfect landing. I switched the engines off, opened the hatch and stepped down onto the dusty surface. Then I announced triumphantly to the waiting billions, “I am the very first person to stand on Ceremony!”

JANE: Tah-dah!

What I love about this story is that it is more than a punchline for a joke (although it certainly qualifies as a joke as well).  It has a main character, a plot arc, even a dramatic climax.

Did you find it hard to squeeze all of this into so few words?

ALAN: Writing the story wasn’t that hard in itself. I’m getting reasonably proficient at creating a proper story structure and, in this case at least, the punchline dictated how the story had to work. The first draft came out at about 150 words and took something like thirty minutes to write. Then the hard work began. I had to trim and cut and re-write and juggle so as to edit it down to the required word count. That took about four hours.

JANE: Given the pun at the end, your drabble can also be considered to be a feghoot. Two birds with one stone!

Feghoots are humorous short stories that resolve with a pun.  Unlike a drabble, they don’t need to be only 100 words, so they can sneak up on you.

I learned about feghoots from my buddy, David Weber, who loves them.  One memorable night a few months after Roger’s death when I couldn’t sleep, Weber set out to break my dark mood. To do this, he told me dozens of feghoots, one after another.  It worked.

ALAN: Ferdinand Feghoot was the hero of goodness knows how many stories written by the anagrammatical Grendel Briarton who, under his real name of Reginald Bretnor, was a respected science fiction author and critic. The name of the form derives from the name of the hero of course, and the only rule is that the story must end with a terrible pun.

Feghoots were published intermittently in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction starting in the 1950s. They soon became wildly popular. Isaac Asimov and John Brunner and many other authors also contributed to the form. The very best feghoots were so terrible that you really wanted to scoop your eyes out with a spoon after you’d read them so that you wouldn’t have to read any more.

Reginald Bretnor died in 1992 and Ferdinand Feghoot appears to have died with him, which I think is a great shame.

JANE: I’d love to hear another of your drabbles.

ALAN: I can do that. Here’s one I wrote about:

The Revolting Crew

The mighty spaceship ploughed through the void between the stars. The crew were near to mutiny and the captain was deep in angry conversation with the artificial intelligence in charge of supplies.

“What happened?” he demanded. “Come on, Marie, you stupid machine. How could you allow such a situation to arise? How did you expect us to travel five hundred light years with no toilet paper?”

“What is it to me?” said Marie haughtily. “I have no need for toilet paper.”

The captain buried his head in his hands. “What am I going do?”

“Let them use cake,” suggested Marie.

JANE: That made me laugh out loud, which brought Jim in from the other room so he could read it.  And he laughed.  Congratulations.

ALAN: Thank you. If you’d like to read a few more of my drabbles you can find them on my website.

In all fairness, I probably ought to point out that, although my drabbles tend to be rather feghhootian (because that’s the way my mind works), drabbles don’t always have to be humorous. Gene Wolfe, Brian Aldiss and many other respected authors have all written drabbles that are dramatic and thoughtful and sometimes quite deep. A drabble is just like any other fictional form and therefore it can be used for any legitimate fictional purpose. That’s part of the beauty of it.

JANE: I may need to dabble in drabble one of these days…

Walker With Sleeping Gods: Liz Colter

October 9, 2019

World of Mystery

Exciting News!  Alan Robson and I will be presenting a Thursday Tangent tomorrow, on a Thursday, even…  It will feature original fiction, thoughtful discussion, and everything you loved in the Thursday Tangents.  Make sure you don’t miss it.

Now, on to our regularly scheduled Wandering, a guest appearance by author, Liz Colter.

My encounters with Ms. Colter have occurred in mysterious stages, which is strangely appropriate, since that is how her fiction also seems to unfold.

I first encountered her as L. Deni Colter, the author of “The Weight of Mountains,” one of my favorite stories in DreamForge magazine’s second issue.

At Bubonicon in 2019, we were doing a panel on DreamForge before a surprisingly full room, given that it was early on a Saturday.  After the panelists had introduced themselves, moderator Emily Mah Tippetts announced that there were two other DreamForge authors­—John Jos. Miller and Liz Colter— in the room.  She then suggested they introduce themselves.

I’d known John for decades, but who was this mysterious “Liz”?  When she mentioned the title of her story, I was very excited.  Later, we ended up chatting.  Almost immediately, I knew I wanted to interview her.  In preparation, I read her most recent novel, While Gods Sleep…  But more about that later.  Let’s let her speak for herself.

JANE: Liz, I always start these interviews by asking the same question, so here it is…

In my experience, writers fall into two general categories: those who have been writing stories since before they could actually write and those who came to writing somewhat later.

Which sort are you?

LIZ: I’m a came-to-it-later writer. I was a massive daydreamer when I was young and I nearly flunked out of grade school due to daydreaming, but it proves to me that I was always wired for writing fiction. On top of that, I’m English born and was raised with a very English mother who was a strict grammarian. My vocabulary tested high when she started me in 1st grade a year early, and reading and writing assignments were always strong areas for me in high school and college. I was also an avid reader from about age 10 onward, nearly exclusively science fiction and fantasy.

I might have come to writing earlier, but I stayed too busy after graduating from college, pursuing a lot of different interests, schools, and (as my biography will confirm) many careers. I never made time to write seriously until about twenty years ago when I found myself with a seasonal work break, a rainy winter, and my first computer. I started my first novel that winter and wrote 10,000 words in a week. I’ve never looked back.

JANE: Your official biography lists a wide and fascinating variety of careers including field paramedic, athletic trainer, and roller-skating waitress.  How did this very active lifestyle influence your writing?

LIZ: I’m a bit “Jack of all trades, master of none” but at least this has given me a wide range of interesting experiences and a fairly unusual knowledge base of draft horse farming, firefighting, emergency medicine, outdoor skills, and plenty of other things.  (That biography is by no means a complete list!) I’ve also had the privilege to meet a few true masters along the way.

As to how it’s contributed to my writing, in my early short stories I did what many beginning writers do and tried to write stories like ones I’d read,  avoiding things that were personal or unique to me. As my writing developed over the years, I’ve learned to draw more deeply from my past, not only from my experiences but, more importantly, from the feelings and truths that came with those experiences.

JANE:  In While Gods Sleep, Ty, your protagonist, is a locksmith.  Did you learn how to pick locks to get into his character?

LIZ: <laughs> No, that’s one skill I haven’t attempted to learn, at least not to the point of physically learning lock picking. That said, I am absolutely obsessed with getting details as accurate as I can in my stories. I fall down research rabbit holes constantly, so even the shortest of stories can take me far longer to write than perhaps they should.

Locksmithing was certainly one of the things I researched for While Gods Sleep. I did the standard Googling, but I also reached out on a writer’s forum and got responses from a couple of people who had practical experience and could answer my very specific questions.

JANE: Let’s talk a little about While Gods Sleep.  When I started it, I figured it would be a variation on the popular portal fantasy sub-genre, in which a character in our world is drawn into another.  The more I read, the more I realized you have two imaginary worlds here.  Why did you make that choice?

LIZ: I wanted this to be a contemporary fantasy but I used an alternate 1958 Athens, Greece setting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I’ve never lived in Greece, so I set it far enough back in history to hopefully give it a contemporary and accurate feel, but not be tied down to getting every detail of present-day Athens correct.

My second reason for the time period was to give the world a slightly less realistic feel since I needed to alter the history of Greek royalty to incorporate the storyline for an important pair of characters. They were the main reason that my Athens ended up being in an alternate world. I could throw demigods and creatures into the real Athens, but I couldn’t change the history of the rulers without changing the world a bit.

JANE: And those rulers…  Shiver.  Shiver.  So good.  So creepy without ever being a cheat.  Nicely done!

Based on what I’ve read of your work, you very much like mythic material.  What draws you to myth and legend?

LIZ: It’s almost a which-came-first question for me between my love of speculative fiction or my love of mythology and folklore. One of my favorite books as a child was a beautifully illustrated book of Russian folk tales, though the biggest hook into reading I can remember was discovering Tolkien at age 10.

In junior high and high school I spent much of my free time in the library reading all the Kurt Vonnegut they carried as well as all the Greek mythology I could find. I remember doing a research paper around tenth grade and choosing Hindu religion and gods as the subject.

 I honestly don’t know what drives the passion. Perhaps it’s learning the classics or the draw of mythological archetypes. Maybe it’s a natural progression from the fairy tales and folklore I grew up on or the appeal of learning about the similarities and differences of myths and religions in different cultures. Probably, it’s a bit of all those.

JANE: Tell us a little more about your other works.  While you’re at it, tell us why you’ve chosen to publish under several different names.

LIZ: To date, I have three published novels—two of them Colorado Book Award winners—and two or three dozen published short stories.

On the pseudonym, I went back and forth at first about using one, but eventually published my early short stories under my full name, Liz Colter.

When my debut novel, A Borrowed Hell, was accepted for publication, first by Shirtsleeve Press, and later at Digital Fiction Publishing, I revisited the question. My protagonist was male and my hope was that the book would appeal equally to all readers, and so I made the decision to switch to a non-gendered byline, L. D. Colter.

The next novel I published as L. D. Colter was While Gods Sleep—hopefully the first in a set of contemporary, myth-based novels from different cultures.

My next published novel was an epic fantasy, The Halfblood War from WordFire Press (that first novel I mentioned earlier, which I started that rainy winter on the farm). While plenty of readers, like me, enjoy multiple sub-genres of speculative fiction, my contemporary and my epic fantasy novels were very different. I decided to use a slightly altered pseudonym for my epic fantasy, L. Deni Colter, to make it easier for readers to know what they’re getting from me, as I expect to continue to write both contemporary and epic. Both my newsletter and my website list all of my books, as do my other social media pages, so hopefully everything is easy to find.

JANE: You’re not the only author I know who uses slightly different names as a “code” to guide reader expectation.  It’s an interesting choice.  Can you give me a link to your newsletter, in case any of my readers would like to follow any of you?

LIZ:  They can sign up for my newsletter here.  I have a website, too, where all my secret identities are listed.

JANE: I’ve taken a lot of your writing time with this chat, so I’ll let you go.  I definitely look forward to our next in-person meeting, and to reading more of your work.

FF: Odd Roads

October 4, 2019

Persephone Vogues!

I hope some of you will join me and Jeffe Kennedy at Page One Books in Albuquerque, 4:00 pm this Saturday for a book event featuring my Wolf’s Search and her The Orchid Throne.  I’ve been looking for the right hat, but may need to settle for bringing cookies…

While I’m at it, here’s a teaser for next week… Alan Robson and I will be back with a really amusing Thursday Tangent featuring drabbles and feghoots.  Don’t know what these are? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

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.

And I’m always interested in what you have to recommend!  No unreliable narrators, please!

Recently Completed:

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  A rich and detailed survey of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  As background “music” are the forces that would lead to the acceptance of what would become Christianity.

In Progress:

The Bends In The Road: A Memoir by Svenn Lindskold.  Svenn is my great-uncle, half-brother of my paternal grandfather, a relative I met only after I was an adult, but whom I’ve come to really like.

Mister Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  Audiobook.  Rich description, so far very light characterization and plot, but we shall see…

Kebra Nagast edited by Gerald Hausman.  Just started.

Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style by Helen Willinsky.  Food and how it is prepared is a terrific window into a culture.  Helen Willinsky’s introduction alone makes this book a great find.

Also:

Research can take me down some very odd roads.  Right now, that includes Vogue.  What surprises me is how excellent the writing is, and how often thoughtful cultural issues are discussed.

Wish Come True

October 2, 2019

Kel And A Friend

If you’ve been wanting a chance to hang out, visit, and even hear me read, drop by Page One Books here in Albuquerque this coming Saturday (October 5) at 4:00 p.m.  To celebrate Wolf’s Search (the seventh novel in the Firekeeper Saga), I’m doing a book event with the lively and vivacious Jeffe Kennedy.  Her latest release is The Orchid Throne, the first volume in her new Forgotten Empires fantasy series.

Not able to make the signing?  Well, I’ve heard your wishes, too.

When Wolf’s Search came out in July, I received numerous queries as to whether copies could be purchased directly from me.  I’m happy to announce that my website bookshop has received an extensive facelift, and Wolf’s Search is now available.

Also available are numerous books from my backlist, as well as some newer releases.  Prices include U.S. shipping by Media Mail, free signing and/or personalization.  Don’t see what you’re looking for?  Feel free to query me.  I may be able to help you.

Remember: Signed Books Make Great Gifts!  With that in mind, my Bookshop page provides links to some of my favorite independent bookstores.  Their helpful staff might be able to help you find that rare book you’ve been looking for or secure a rare signature.

On the short fiction front, many of you have expressed a fondness for my character, Prudence Bledsloe, who made her first appearance in “The Drifter” (first published in The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Monsters; also available in my short story collection, Curiosities).  Prudence’s second adventure was “Choice of Weapons,” included in the anthology Guns, edited by Gerald Hausman.

Now, just in time for Halloween, Prudence rides again in the newly released collection, Straight Out of Deadwood, edited by David Boop.  Prudence needs a place to hole up for the winter, but it turns out that the small town where she takes the job of schoolmarm is hiding a deep, dark secret—one that not even Prudence, who is far more than she seems, may be able to handle.  “Doth Make Thee Mad” is a story of twisted vengeance and an unlikely savior.

Finally, for those of you who are eagerly awaiting Wolf’s Soul, I’m happy to report that I’m just about done with the rough draft, and will be shifting over to polishing and refining, possibly by the end of the week.  If all goes well, I should have it to you by early in 2020.

On that note, I’m off to write.  Catch you later!

No Trick, A Treat!

FF: Weighted Toward Non-Fiction

September 27, 2019

Mei-Ling And Kwahe’e Share Memories

This week is a mix, but weighted toward non-fiction.  I think it’s about time for a fiction binge…

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.

And I’m always interested in what you have to recommend!  No unreliable narrators, please!

Recently Completed:

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issues 23-28.  Complex story, perhaps one of the few I’ve read in any form that tries to deal with the consequences of precognition when there is more than one with the ability, and everyone involved has different goals.  Ambitious, so not completely successful, but I admire the ambition.

Esteban by Dennis Herrick.  This non-fiction text takes a look at one of the most important yet consistently under-represented figures in the history of the Spanish incursion into the American west. Despite occasional forays into “narrative non-fiction,” which is a form I personally dislike, I enjoyed this book.

In Progress:

The Bends In The Road: A Memoir by Svenn Lindskold.  Svenn is my great-uncle, half-brother of my paternal grandfather, a relative I met only after I was an adult, but whom I’ve come to really like.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  We’ve finished with Jesus and the early church, and are now back to a rapidly decaying Roman empire.

Also:

A bunch of shorter stuff, including the latest American Archeology that may get a letter from me regarding inconstant terminology in one article.  Where were their editors?

Is Your Homework Done?

September 25, 2019

A Bonsai Maple Forest

I used to get asked that question by my parents—a lot.  Now I ask it of myself, especially at times like now when I have several writing projects that are crying out for me to get one done so I can move onto the next.

There’s Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to July’s new release, Wolf’s Search.  There’s the new Star Kingdom book with David Weber, for which I signed contracts a couple weeks ago.  There are various other projects, including a short story that started hopping up and down after a recent exchange of e-mails with Alan Robson, my former Thursday Tangents collaborator.

Here’s the problem.  And the big secret. Back in school, getting your homework done before goofing off was almost certainly productive behavior.  However, when you’re a writer like me there are times that staring at a screen or keyboard or pad of paper or whatever is precisely the worst way to get your creative juices flowing.

The same can be true of any profession that calls for an element of right brain thinking, or even non-thinking.  There’s a value to daydreaming, staring at the wall, doing a craft project, or any number of things that look like goofing off to someone on the outside.

Many years ago, I wandered on about how walking away from whatever you’re working on can actually be the best thing for those of us who draw upon our subconscious to get our work done.  Inspiration comes from the quiet corners of the mind, and sometimes the Muse doesn’t answer on demand.

So, why is there a picture of a bonsai at the start of this Wandering?  Two reasons.  One was that this weekend Jim and I went to Aki Matsuri, the Japanese Autumn Festival, and this was a display we really enjoyed.

The other is that bonsai are a good metaphor for a creative life that looks, from the outside, like what it isn’t.  Bonsai look like lovely, natural forests in miniature, but actually they are the result of a lot of crimping, cramping, cutting, and restricting.

For me, my creative life doesn’t work that way.  Mine is more like my yard which, right now, is overwhelmed with wild asters, going every which way.  Yesterday I sat in the yard and stared at them.  And then my Muse started whispering in my ear…

Wild Asters And Other Aspects Of My Yard

FF: The Distorting Lens of Perspective

September 20, 2019

Persephone Is No One’s Pawn!

Perspective is one of the least discussed elements in writing, whether fiction or non-fiction.  This week I seem immersed in many stories in which who said what about whom, as well as who may have flat-out lied are very important.

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.

And I’m always interested in what you have to recommend!  No unreliable narrators, please!

Recently Completed:

The Gameshouse by Claire North.  Three novellas interconnected by a developing plot.  Of these, I enjoyed the first (“The Snake”) the most.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issues 17-22.  I read this a long time ago, recently purchased and watched the anime, including the movies and OVAs.  Remembered there was more to the story, and hunted these out.  I’ve heard this referred to as a “tour of the Clampverse,” but it’s far more than that.

In Progress:

Esteban by Dennis Herrick.  This non-fiction text takes a look at one of the most important yet consistently under-represented figures in the history of the Spanish incursion into the American west. Over half-way done.

Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  The question of the historical Jesus has finally been reached.

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles by Clamp.  Manga.  Issue 23.

Also:

Back to writing on Wolf’s Soul, which has necessitated a certain amount of re-reading since I was away from the manuscript for a while.