Archive for December, 2018

FF: Under the Tree

December 28, 2018

Ziggy Is VERY Impressed

Santa, well, actually, my husband, Jim, gave me a phenomenal present for Christmas: audiobook versions of the first five volumes of Will (and later Will and Ariel) Durant’s ambitious historical synthesis: The Story of Civilization.  In the past, I’ve read some of the volumes, and I own the entire set in print.  This last can be very useful when the audio makes a reference to an illustration.  I’m incredibly excited!

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 Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.

In Progress:

The Grey King by Susan Cooper.

Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.  Audio.  I’ll be listening to this for a while…

Also:

The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook. I had to give up on this one.  Too pedantic.  It’s possible that some of this may have been due to the reader’s style, so I may eventually check out in print.

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Post-Christmas Post

December 26, 2018

Ogapoge Claims Some Presents

So Christmas is over, except it really isn’t.  My mom’s still visiting.  We’re going to be making sausage today or maybe cannoli.  Or maybe both.  A lot depends on the weather and whether we’ll have guests dropping by.

Did you know that today is Boxing Day?  Do you know what that means?  I didn’t until my dear friend and sometime Thursday Tangent collaborator filled me in. For your amusement, I’ll include a link to our chat so you can astonish your friends and neighbors with your wealth of wisdom.

I hope that whatever your winter celebration may be, you have or have had a lovely one!

Kel Under the Tree

FF: Christmas Letters

December 21, 2018

Kel Claims the Limelight Again

Yes.  I like receiving Christmas letters.  I’ve “met” many of my friends’ kids that way, and have enjoyed “watching” them grow up.   Sure, there are Christmas letters I don’t enjoy.  The thinly veiled advertisements that some of my writer friends send aren’t appreciated.  The occasional clueless brag still happens.  But usually these annual updates are well-balanced and amusing.

Jim and I send out our own Christmas letter.  I used to write handwritten notes.  Then in one year my dad, grandfather, and several beloved pets all died.  I realized I’d slit my wrists if I had to keep writing that over and over again.  So I started a Christmas letter, and now enjoy the challenge of squeezing a year down to a single page.  And I still write personal notes.

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 Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

In Progress:

The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook.

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Also:

Christmas letters.  See above.  I like having them in print, so I can cuddle up on the sofa with a cuppa and savor.

A Writer’s Predicament

December 19, 2018

Cuddle Up With a Good Story

Last week my author’s copy of Sword and Sorceress 33 arrived, brightening my day and tempting me to curl up and read.  My story in the collection is titled “A Familiar’s Predicament.”  If one of the characters in the story looks just a little like the dragon in the picture, you can just say I was writing about what I know.

I’ve owned that particular soft-sculpture piece since 1989.   I acquired it at the very first SF con I attended:  Lunacon in Tarrytown, New York.  I went there to meet a writer with whom I’d exchanged several letters: Roger Zelazny.    Memorable times.  I certainly didn’t know when I was wandering the Dealer’s Room, trying to decide what to get as a souvenir, that I was at a major turning point in my life.  If I’d been told that I was, I would have been completely wrong about what that turning point was.  You see, I had my first big job interview the following week…

Not knowing when a turning point is coming is at the heart of “A Familiar’s Predicament,”  along with a cast of odd and surprising people.  I look forward to writing more about all of them in the future.  I hope you’ll take the time to meet them, as well as enjoying other stories in the collection.

To this point, I haven’t given into the temptation to curl up and read other stories in Sword and Sorceress 33, mostly because when I have spare time from domestic duties, helping Jim with his PT, and getting ready for the holidays, I’ve been writing.

Yes.  Once again, I’m deeply immersed in the new Firekeeper project.  I’ve had a few queries as to why I’m not done yet.  The simplest answer is that, unsurprisingly, the story turned out to be more complex than I thought it would, so it’s longer.  I’ll have more to say about the book once I have a complete draft done, but I don’t like talking about works in progress in too much detail.  Something superstitious in me is afraid I’ll jinx them!

Now I’m off to do a few holiday prep things, so I can free up my thoughts enough that I can go run with Firekeeper and Blind Seer.

FF: Is It a Contradiction?

December 14, 2018

Yes. Kel’s Eyes Really Are That Green!

As I try to do too much with too little time, I found that I wanted to return to much-loved familiar places.  Re-reading can be stimulating, as well as soothing.  This sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t – at least for me.

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 find re-reading stimulating and soothing all at once?

Recently Completed:

Always Look On the Bright Side by Eric Idle.  Audiobook.  Read by the author.  Alternately funny and thoughtful, brilliantly presented.  This one was recommended by my friend, Alan Robson, in his book review column.  Now I’m recommending to you…

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold.

In Progress:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook.  I’ve read this many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever as an audio.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.  Reread.  I chose this one because the second book in the series, The Dark Is Rising is set at Christmas, and I decided to read the lead-in.  The two storylines come together in Greenwitch.

Also:

Still some magazine articles.  I will reserve my comments on social anthropologists who build complex theories to try to explain something anyone with common sense could figure out in about two breaths…

Floodtide of Ideas

December 12, 2018

The Soda Dam: Jemez River, New Mexico

Just a couple of weeks ago, limbering up my imagination so I could write even a few sentences was a time-consuming and not very rewarding task.  Last week was the first since Jim’s knee replacement surgery (which was on Halloween, for those of you who haven’t been around) that I managed to write every day.  As I’ve mentioned, the problem wasn’t so much lack of time as that my imagination was busy with other things.

One of the exercises I assist Jim with involves stretching out his quads.  A side benefit is that it helps keep scar tissue from constricting the knee.  We do this exercise at least five times a day, and the benefits – while not dramatic – have been visible.

Apparently, pushing myself to write at least some Monday through Friday of last week stretched out my healing imagination.   Where early in the week I had to push to write even a few pages – Tuesday was particularly tough – by Friday even a late start didn’t keep me from completing four pages.  Even better, while I didn’t write over the weekend, all sorts of little connections began to fall into place.

As I turned on my computer on Sunday to take just a few notes, I felt very cheerful.  I’ve always been a character-driven writer.  Now my character were expressing their opinions as to what they wanted to do next – as well as revealing certain things they had been hiding from the other characters.   (And from me!)

There’s just one problem about this new flood of creativity. It’s not restricting itself to the novel.  Instead, it’s popping out in some very unusual areas.  The last session of the RPG I’ve been running triggered some interesting thoughts that I really should write down.  Then there’s a niggling feeling that I’d really enjoy writing a short story or two.

Professional writers often have people come up to them with the following suggestion: “Hey!  I have a great idea for a story.  Here’s what I think we should do.  I’ll tell you my idea.  You write it.  Then we’ll split the money.”  Writers tend to think this suggestion is very funny since lack of ideas is very rarely the problem: the problem is lack of time.

So, what does one do when this embarrassment of creative riches occurs?

In my case, I try to prioritize.  Working on the Firekeeper novel is my current “homework assignment,” so I try to write on that every day.  This helps keep me from losing touch not only with the flow of the story, but with my enthusiasm for it.  Then I consider the other ideas that are clamoring for attention.

Game notes?  Those don’t need to be in my best prose, so I can knock those off pretty quickly.   An added benefit is that when I have enough game notes, I can pretty much ignore game prep as a writing project for a while, at least until my players do something I didn’t anticipate and I need to consider the ramifications.

Short stories?  This depends on how much the idea is obsessing me.  Sometimes I’ll start a short story so I don’t lose touch with it.  If it “catches fire,” then I try and write it side by side with my novel.  Sometimes, I even put the novel on side for a day or so to finish the short story.  This is not as detrimental to the novel as it might seem.  If part of my subconscious is occupied with a competing story, the novel will inevitably begin to slow down.  Getting the other story out of the way re-opens the floodgates.

However, if the short story doesn’t catch fire, then I keep the part I’ve written, but I put it on side until I have more time to think about it.  Maybe what I have is the seed of a story idea, not a full-blown story.  The time I spend “planting” the seed isn’t usually wasted.  At the very least, there isn’t a little voice in my head saying “Don’t forget that cool idea!  Don’t forget that cool idea!”

Sometimes I just scribble a note to myself on a scrap of paper and toss it into a box on my desk.  It’s full of similar scraps, and when time permits I pull them out and review them.

It feels good to have the ideas flooding through my head.  I have about twenty minutes before I’m needed anywhere.  I think I’ll use them writing out some of those game notes, so I can write more of my novel this afternoon.

FF: Emotional Commitment

December 7, 2018

Variety Rules!

My reading this week has been intruded upon by my spending more time writing, but audiobooks are coming to the rescue.

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:

Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Set in ancient Egypt with lots of period material.  Very enjoyable, although the POV character might strike some as too vague and dreamy.

In Progress:

Always Look On the Bright Side by Eric Idle.  Audiobook.  Read by the author.  Alternately funny and thoughtful, brilliantly presented.  I’m enjoying.  This one was recommended by my friend, Alan Robson, in his book review column.

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold.  Not really a re-read.  I haven’t read this since it was in proofs, which is a very different experience indeed.

Also:

Although I’ve found short fiction tough to read unless in one sitting, I find magazine articles easy to read when exhausted before bed, so I’m plowing through the accumulated issues.

I wonder if it’s the fact that short non-fiction of this sort lacks the need for an emotional commitment on the part of the reader?

Reclaiming Writer Jane

December 5, 2018

Mayhem and Chaos: Emblems of the Past Month

This week I made an effort to reclaim some of my identity as a writer.  It wasn’t easy and I deliberately did not keep track of my word count because I knew it would be a struggle to get anything written.  But I did write.  Even better, I finished the scene in the new Firekeeper novel that I’d been working on when everything was interrupted by Jim’s knee replacement surgery.  This week I hope to move beyond that scene and get into the next plot arc.

A lot of elements contributed to my writer brain starting talking to me again.  One was Jim becoming increasingly mobile.  Right after Thanksgiving, he was told he could start using a cane.  Almost immediately after that, he started forgetting to use his cane.  This awareness on both our parts as to how much more confident he felt about his ability to walk really freed me from keeping a metaphorical ear cocked in case he needed me to get something, remind him of something else, or any of those myriad jobs that go into being a caregiver.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jim’s not “healed.”  Yesterday marked the end of Week Five since the surgery.  We’ve been told to expect at least three months before he is anything close to “recovered.”  Even then he’ll have further work to build his strength and endurance.    So we’ve not even reached the half-way point.  Jim’s not driving nor doing any chores that involve crouching, lifting, walking on uneven surfaces, carrying heavy objects, or…  Well, you get the picture.  But life is no longer a series of problems to be solved.  We’re accustomed to our new routine.

I guess I must love to tell stories because as soon as my imagination was freed up even a little, I found myself musing about aspects of the Firekeeper novel I’d been working on before Jim’s surgery.

Here’s a trick that might be useful for those of you who write longer works like novels.  If you know you’re going to be interrupted for whatever reason – and remember to include “good” interruptions like trips, holidays, and the like – then stop in the middle of a scene where you have a good idea what comes next.  Doing this makes it a lot easier to start again.

If you write yourself to a stopping point, you may find it a lot harder to get your mind back into the story.  Even though I don’t outline or plan out in advance, still I usually have a sense of the overall arc a book is going to take.

(My subconscious is calling me a liar, reminding me of a plot twist that just hit me this weekend.)

This sense of certainty increases the closer I get to a specific scene, so not finishing that scene gives me a place slide back into the story again.  It also can help to go back and polish about a page prior to that scene, just to get back into the flow.  Even with this preparation, starting up again was not perfectly smooth.  There were fits and starts, but eventually I came to the end of the scene in question.

Various events led me to not writing over the weekend.  However, because I’d primed the pump, I found myself thinking about where I’d take the story next.  By Monday, I was eager to get writing again.

Last week I also had a phone meeting with David Weber regarding the next Stephanie Harrington project.  This was followed by a bunch of e-mails as we refined points.  Rather than this new project dampening my enthusiasm for Firekeeper, I found that brainstorming with Weber encouraged me to brainstorm with myself.  I’m sure part of the reason I didn’t feel added pressure is that we won’t be starting the new Stephanie book until well into 2019, since we both have other things to finish.

Then, just because I’m insane, I’ve started a complicated new plotline for the RPG I’ve been running for almost seven years now.  Yep!  It seems as if my writer brain is trying to make up for having been on “hold” for the last month.

So, I’m feeling pretty cheerful, looking forward to writing more, and spending time with Firekeeper, Blind Seer, and the rest.  Of course, there’s Christmas looming, and my mom’s coming to visit, but as with Jim’s surgery, I’ll plan for the interruption.

Now, off to write fiction!