Archive for August, 2022

FF: Impossible, Improbable

August 12, 2022
Persephone and Wolfe

Here and there, I’ve been fitting in time to read, but mostly I’ve been writing or thinking about writing or dealing with a lot of demanding real-life stuff.  How about you?

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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 it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  Book two in her “Dreamer Trilogy.”  The first is Call Down the Hawk.  A lot of whining in this one, and several attacks of the stupids.

Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout.  Nero out of his accustomed haunts always amuses me.

In Progress:

A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves.  Non-fiction.  Jim liked it, so I’m giving it a try.  On the final couple of chapters.  The author seems to think he’s invented “what if” which is a little wearing.  However, I learned some cool things, especially about oceans, so I overall have liked this book.

Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge.  Audiobook.  I have read this at least twice, but the rich complexity of plot and characters is grabbing my attention all over again.

Also:

A copy of American Archeology I’d somehow overlooked.

Green Tomato Stage

August 10, 2022
Green Turning Red

Right now, I think I’m at the green tomato stage of my current book.  Like the tomatoes in this picture, it started as a tiny seed.  Now, as I’m almost done with my rough draft, it’s shiny and bright and full of potential, but needs a lot of ripening.

Aside for the gardeners among us: The tomatoes in the photo are Punta Banda, the seeds of which I purchased from Native Seed Search, as part of my quest to find tomatoes that would handle the very high temperatures we’ve been having.  As you can see, they’ve done very well.  Our high this summer has been 107F, so slightly cooler than the last two summers, where we peaked at 112F.  We had a brutally hot May, followed by an early onset monsoon that helped a bit.  Temperatures have settled into a, for us, relatively moderate high 90’s to low 100’s, and Punta Banda seems to love this.

If you want to know more about tomatoes, ask in the Comments, and I shall happily natter on.

As to the book…  I started my rough draft about a year ago, but I had a considerable number of interruptions, including dealing with editor’s notes on A New Clan (the fourth Star Kingdom book, written in collaboration with David Weber), producing new e-book editions of Artemis Awakening and Artemis Invaded, writing the short story “Fire-Bright Rain” (a prequel telling what happened when the Library of the Sapphire Wind was destroyed), working on a new e-book edition of Child of a Rainless Year.

I also did a lot of promotional work for my three new book releases: Library of the Sapphire Wind, Aurora Borealis Bridge, and A New Clan.

In January, after the holidays and final revisions to A New Clan, I immersed myself in my current novel.  I realized that I needed to shift one of the major elements of the plot, and once I did that, the characters started doing things, and I started merrily writing away.

Then, in February, I had Covid.  One of the odd ways it hit me was that I couldn’t use any back-lit devices, especially computer screens, without getting a headache.  What did I do?  I shifted to handwriting, which I actually enjoy.  I stayed in this mode for several weeks.  When I could bear the computer screen for more than a short while, I typed up what I had written.

I have great hopes I’ll get a lot closer to the end of the manuscript this week, so I’m off to find out what happens next!

FF: Nothing Quite, But Almost

August 5, 2022
Roary with Garden Backdrop and Book

Another crazy week, so I didn’t manage to finish much.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, 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 it’s also a great place to tell me what you’re reading. 

Completed:

Nothing!!!  Well, several magazines.

In Progress:

A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves.  Non-fiction.  Jim liked it, so I’m giving it a try.  We’ve gone from the formation of planets all the way to river systems.

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater.  Audiobook.  Book two in her “Dreamer Trilogy.”  The first is Call Down the Hawk.  A lot of whining in this one.

Too Many Cooks by Rex Stout.  Nero out of his accustomed haunts always amuses me.

Also:

I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but that’s okay.

Ready? Action!

August 3, 2022
Roary and Mei-Ling Action!

This week I had an insight as to why action scenes take a lot of words to write, but before I get to that, I want to alert local NM readers that they will find information about a used book sale to benefit local charity June’s Senior Pet Rescue at the end of this wandering.

As I was working on a major scene in the book I’ve been writing, I became aware of a vague sense of dissatisfaction.  I turned off my computer, wondering why the scene that was so clear in my head wasn’t coming out anything like that on the page.

After what felt like hours (but probably wasn’t more than a single hour), I realized that I was pushing the scene too fast.  Why?  The explanation is sort of twisted.  The scene is fast moving, with a lot happening to six different characters, all of whom have very different tasks to carry out.

So, there I was, “seeing” the story in my head with all six mini-plotline happening at once, but forced to compose it in prose that is linear.  This was making me feel as if I should use as few words as possible, so that if the action had to “line up,” at least the line would be short.  But this was absolutely the worst thing for me to do. 

One of the ironies about writing action is that something that takes seconds in the characters’ experience may need many more times the words.  A conversation can take place in, more or less, “real time.”  That is, if you read it aloud, it would take about the same amount of time as if it really happened. Plus, say five to ten percent additional text (the “he said” and descriptive details).  Even if there is a strong visual subtext—as in what people are looking at or doing as they talk—it usually doesn’t take more time.  So, a ten-minute conversation will take about eleven minutes or less to read aloud.  The action is the conversation.

But in an action scene—a fight, a chase, setting a trap, even solving a puzzle—the action will take far longer to present on the page than it does to happen.  Let’s look at a pretty economically written attack.

Sheena swung her long sword at the lead zombie, impacting just below the ribcage, her razor-edged blade slicing smoothly through the viscous guts.  The blade jolted into the spinal column and stuck.

I timed reading this aloud, and had finished the swing motion within the first half-dozen words, yet the rest—especially the result of this attack—the stuck sword blade—needs to be there.

Another irony about writing action is that a too heavily detailed fight scene will not increase the sense of drama.  Rather than increasing the excitement, too much attention to meticulous detail actually slows the action down.  Unless the reader is an aficionado of sword play or fast driving or lock picking, they’re likely skimming the details, eager to find out two things: What happened and why it happened.

That “why” is the reason to include details at all.  If it’s a foregone conclusion, then an action scene isn’t really needed at all.  Or so I feel.  It’s a definite balance between writing as a poor substitute for film, and writing as more immersive, often more personal way of getting into events.

When I went back to the scene where I’d been dissatisfied, I let myself use more words, while keeping in mind the underlying reason for the scene: what happened, why it happened, and where this scene will lead the next part of the story!

And now for the book sale… 

The Literary Cat Book Sale will be held on Saturday, August 6, 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

7012 Arroyo del Oso NE, Albuquerque.

Proceeds to benefit June’s Senior Cat Rescue.

All books One Dollar Each!!  Several thousand books will be on offer.

Featured books will include SF paperbacks from the 1950’s to 1990’s.  Mysteries.  Thrillers.  Suspense.  General fiction.  Non-Fiction.  Atlases.

Many jazz and blues CDs also $1.00 each.

Sorry.  No children’s books.