Archive for May, 2019

The Many Elements of Civilization

May 31, 2019

Persephone Wonders How Firebirds Taste

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.

And I love hearing what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

In the Forests of Serre by Patricia A. McKillip.  Re-read.  Lovely lush prose.

In Progress:

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Moving into a focus on arts and letters.  Having covered painting, sculpture, architecture, education, philosophy, poetry, we’re now just about done with drama.  I’m sure I missed some topics.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.

Also:

I’ve finished my review of the first 90,000 words of  Wolf’s Soul and am making a billion teeny-tiny changes.  That which does not kill the writer makes the word stronger!

Advertisements

Isn’t Necessarily Right

May 29, 2019

Mama Gets Ready

Despite the picture, this Wandering isn’t about birds, it’s about writing.  Well, it’s about birds, too, because the birds are what started my thoughts wandering down this trail.

When I was a kid, everyone knew that animals—especially “simple” animals like the sparrows featured in these photos—were basically organic computers programmed by that mysterious force called “instinct.”  Simple animals didn’t teach their young.  At best the young “imprinted” and thus became organic photocopies of their parents.

Turns out, what everyone knows isn’t necessarily right.  Even sparrows—like the delightful family Jim photographed on our bird block—teach their children.  How well in this case is an interesting question, since bird blocks aren’t exactly natural, but we watched for quite a long while as Mama Sparrow taught her kids to feed themselves.

Isn’t That Delicious?

I hope those lessons will extend to encouraging them to sample the plants we have growing in the backyard, many of which we let go to seed to provide food for the birds.

It turns out that “bird brained” birds aren’t the only animals who teach or at least learn by example.  I’ve seen many guinea pigs teaching their young what is and isn’t safe to eat.  Even when they’re not related, younger ones will look to their seniors for guidance.  This can cause a few unintentional ripples down the chain.  We’ve had a couple very dietarily opinionated guinea pigs convince their associates that something perfectly fine—even beneficial for guinea pigs—is “yucky.”  Currently, it’s carrots.  Sigh…

Many types of wild canines not only teach their young to hunt, they take advantage of their ability to regurgitate at will to carry back live prey—small rodents are a favorite choice—so the kids can practice in the safely of the home.

Nonetheless, despite ample evidence to the contrary, humans continue to superimpose their preconceived notions on animals, rather than viewing the animals as distinct individuals.  Not all cats cold-shoulder their humans when they’ve been away.  Mine tend to follow me around, apparently to make sure I won’t do it again.  But who knows?  Maybe they’re more like teenagers hiding the pizza boxes and beer bottles so their parents won’t know they’ve had a party.

My friend (and fellow writer) Walter Jon Williams once pointed out to me a minor error in one of my novels.  I sighed and said, “Well, I guess that makes this an alternate history, then.”  He laughed and very kindly replied, “It’s not what you know you don’t know that’ll get you; it’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you every time.”

That’s a good piece of advice to remember when writing.  Next time you start writing a standoffish cat or an eager-to-please dog or a faithful steed or a stupid cow or…  Well, you get the idea.  Next time you start to write what everyone knows, take a closer look.  It’s highly likely that what everyone knows isn’t actually true.

Now that I think about it, that’s good advice for life as well.

FF: Sunrise and Doorways

May 24, 2019

Kel’s House of Many Ways

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 look forward to seeing what you are reading!

Recently Completed:

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones.  This is sort of a sequel to her Howl’s Moving Castle, although the main focus is a young woman named Charmaine.

Chasing Sunrise by Emily Mah.  My sort of vampire novel.  Larissa doesn’t want to be a vampire, and does everything she can to resist.  Much more would be a spoiler.  I read this as an ARC.  The paperback is available, the e-book will be a June release.

In Progress:

The Life of Greece by Will Durant.  Audiobook.  Finished the tour and looking at major historical events and figures in more detail.  Currently just starting Pericles.

In the Forests of Serreby Patricia A. McKillip.  Re-read.  I haven’t read this one for so long it’s practically a new read!

Also:

Still reviewing the 90,000+ word manuscript of Wolf’s Soul to refresh myself on details before I write the conclusion.

Storyteller, Not Only Writer

May 22, 2019

Past Adventures In The Court Of The Faceless Tyrant

People—especially other writers—often ask me why I run a roleplaying game (and have been for many years) when prep for the game takes up some of my writing time. Last Sunday’s game demonstrated one reason.  I’m still grinning at the memory as I type this.

Sunday night I sprang a plot twist on my players. It was terrific watching eyes widen as, one by one, people caught the implications of what was unfolding.

Dominique, the unwitting foil for my revelation, did a brilliant job of playing her part as Persephone who, daring to hope for a very special Midwinter gift from her long-time crush, instead realizes that he’s proposing to her – in the form of inviting her to join a conspiracy.

I had no idea what Dominique/Persephone would do or say.  Being ready to react appropriately was definitely an adrenaline high.  She gave me a lot to work with.  After everyone left, Jim said he half-expected Dominique to really burst into tears. It was improv theater at its best.

My fiction-writing self usually waits years to see how a novel will be received. Often, I never hear.  Worse, when I do hear, most responses are not about what I wrote, but about what I didn’t write.  By contrast, my game master self gets to see the response in real time.

Running my weekly game jazzes me for my daily writing, maybe because my players are such excellent collaborators.  Nonetheless, I have no desire to reveal a novel until it’s done. Why?  Different type of storytelling, I guess.

I often define myself as a storyteller, not a writer.  I realize that’s not precisely true.  I am a writer.  I love the process of finding the right words to portray a character or describe a setting.  I love refining these elements until they’re as close to perfect as I can get them.

My earliest stories were told aloud, mostly to my two younger sisters.  Later, I daydreamed elaborate plots with only me as an audience.  My current two favorite forms of storytelling are descendants of those early experiences.

Now I’m off to be my prose writer self, who has been busily scribbling all over the manuscript of Wolf’s Soul in a quest for the perfect words and cadence.  Nonetheless, my oral storyteller self is already anticipating next week’s game when…  Well, we’ll just need to see!

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.

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!