FF: Keeping Up With The Stories

June 8, 2018

Kel and the Penderwicks

I’ve been writing obsessively, so my print reading has dropped off, but I’m still managing at least some!

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.

So, tell me what you’re reading!

Recently Completed:

Leonardo daVinci by Walter IsaacsonAudiobook.  I enjoyed.  Minutely detailed at points, but nonetheless absorbing.  Lots of repetition for key points.  This is advantageous for an audiobook.

In Progress:

The Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall.  Closing book in a middle grade series I enjoyed.  This one has touches of YA concerns, but the POV character is younger.

The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling.  I’m up to “The White Seal.”

Have Sword Will Travel by Garth Nix and Sean Williams.  Audiobook.  Amusing middle-grade with some thoughtful comments on aspiration and reality.

Also:

Now reading latest National Geographic.

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Why I Write Both

June 6, 2018

Right now my work schedule is complicated.  I’m writing a short story on a relatively tight deadline, while I’m also forging ahead on Wolf’s Search (aka, Firekeeper 7).

The other day, a friend asked me which I liked better, writing novels or writing short stories.  The truth is, I like both about the same.  This is not the case for all writers.

Short and Long

I have friends who write novels to pay the bills, but their hearts are given to elegantly crafted short stories.  One writer I greatly admire works best at novella to novelette range.  Several writers I know can’t write short to save their lives.  Even a novella is a struggle.

For me, novels are great because they give me room to explore complicated intertwining stories.  Even when I write long – and I’ve written novels in the 200,000 word range – I don’t write “fat.”  I ruthlessly prune my prose so that even descriptions serve more than one purpose – such as giving both dimension to a character and details of an economy in the description of a meal or an article of clothing.

So, for me, writing a novel isn’t an exercise in being lazy, in not having to make every word carry some part of the story.  A novel is a place where I can tell more complex story, often one involving multiple people, each of whom has his or her own agenda.

This is one reason I find the recent emphasis on Main Characters or “MC” that has been cropping up in a lot of writing quizzes and prompts very frustrating.  To me, every character should feel as if – if you were given a chance to find out more about him or her – they would be the protagonist of their own story.  But I wander off topic.

So, why do I write short stories?

Every writer I know usually has more ideas for stories than time to write those stories.  Sometimes when I get a cool idea, I realize it will fit beautifully into a novel I’m working on.  More often, however, the idea will need its own story.  My first decision is whether that story will be short or long.

Simply put, there are ideas that are best served at a shorter length.   My “Unexpected Flowers” (recently published in Asimov’s) is under 2,000 words.  I could have turned it into a novel, perhaps an elaborate bit of literary fiction full of footnotes and clever cross-referencing as the alternate universes became more and more elaborately differentiated.  However, I don’t think it would have been a stronger story for more length.  It might well have been weaker.

In the last month or so, I have scribbled down at least three new ideas to explore when I have more time.  It’s possible one of these may become a novel, but I don’t think so.  Each one strikes me as the sort that will have more punch if told at shorter length.

Do I set a length limit when I start writing?  Usually not.  Sometimes an invitation to write for a specific project will come with an upper limit as to how long the story can be, but in those situations part of my brainstorming is coming up with a story that can be written within those assigned limitations.   If I feel the proposed story spiraling into more and more complexities, then I either put that story idea aside for another time, or I refine.

Now I’d better get back to writing.  I’ve been working on the novel earlier in the day, then the short story in the afternoon.  That may well switch, but for now, it’s a system that’s working.

Catch you later!

FF: Welcome to June

June 1, 2018

Kwahe’e Dreams Bagheera Dreams

June is here, bringing with it much sneezing and warmer temperatures…

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:

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.

In Progress:

Leonardo daVinci by Walter IsaacsonAudiobook.  Minutely detailed at points, but nonetheless absorbing.  Reads as if published originally in excerpts, with lots of repetition for key points.  This is actually nice for an audiobook.

The Jungle Books by Rudyard KiplingAn old favorite, but it had been a  long time since I read the whole thing, rather than bits and pieces.

Also:

A new Smithsonian arrived this week.  I’m sure it’s thinner.  One article dealt with something I’ve wanted to see happen for a long time: a concentrated effort to deal with invasive species by harvesting and consuming.

The Most Important Part

May 30, 2018

Completion and Inspiration

This has been a great week for feeling good about myself as a writer.

My short story “A Familiar’s Predicament” has been accepted for publication in the next Sword and Sorceress anthology.  This was a cold submission to a very limited market, so the acceptance felt very good.  I’ll let you know when it comes out.

Speaking of things coming out, my short story “A Green Moon Problem” is now live at Lightspeed Magazine.  You can read it on-line or download it.  There’s even an audio version, which I admit to thinking is pretty neat.  The “Author Spotlight” interview is worth reading, since it delves into the details of how the story came to be.  However, for this reason, it contains a number of spoilers.  Consider yourself warned and read the story first!

Later on release day, I had a foreign magazine request permission to translate “A Green Moon Problem.”  That was a nice pat on the head!

As you may recall, earlier this month my short story “Unexpected Flowers” came out in the May/June edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.  Last week, when reviewing that particular issue of the magazine, Adam Troy Castro praised “Unexpected Flowers” in these words: “There’s the short story, ‘Unexpected Flowers’ by Jane Lindskold, unquestionably one of the great short stories of this or any other year.”

Big smile!

I also did a lot of writing.  Wolf’s Search is now nicely taking shape.  I still have a lot to write and, even after the rough draft is completed, I’ll be spending time polishing.  However, Blind Seer has stopped growling at me.  In general, I’m feeling good about the shape of the evolving narrative.

I also started fleshing out the details of another short story…

So, which is the most important of these?  While the praise for “Unexpected Flowers” was terrific, and the really positive reactions to “A Green Moon Problem” were great, and having “A Familiar’s Predicament” accepted for publication made me glow, the best part was the writing.

Why?  Because writing is something I can influence.  Next week I won’t have a new story out.  Or someone might decide they absolutely hate “Unexpected Flowers” or “A Green Moon Problem.”  Getting another acceptance isn’t really likely, although I do have another story or two out there being looked at, so it’s not impossible.  (So’s a rejection!)

But writing is something I can do that relies on me.  I’m my sole audience, my biggest critic.  I haven’t started keeping track of my daily work count because, to this point, I’ve been going back and forth, fleshing scenes out, cutting extraneous detail, writing myself notes, and things like that.  Sometimes a hard day’s work has ended up with a negative regarding words written.  But as long as the story gets better, I go to bed feeling good.

This is not saying that last week’s reminders that there are people out there I’ve never met who think my stories are worth reading don’t make sitting down to write day after day feel a little less futile.  Writing is a very solitary job.  Positive feedback, when it comes, feels good.

Now, off to do more writing!

FF: Some Thought-Provoking Reads

May 25, 2018

Hollyhock Toad Borrowed My Kindle

I’ve been writing a lot this week, but I’ve still found time to read.  How about you?

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:

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julie Spencer Fleming.  Audiobook.  This author is showing a not unappealing tendency to intertwine close looks at social issues with her mysteries.  The historical sections in this one leave me with no doubt that I’m glad I was born when I was – especially for medicine.

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop.  A forthcoming collection of three novellas.  Very much enjoyed.  The problem is writing a blurb when I want to write an academic paper.

One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters.  Audiobook.  Second book in her Brother Cadfael series.  An old favorite.

In Progress:

Leonardo daVinci by Walter IsaacsonI’ve been wanting to read this since we went to the daVinci exhibit a month or so ago.  Just starting.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.  Enjoyable, although I admit to wishing that she hadn’t felt a need to include Sherlock Holmes.  But that’s my private bugbear and not a reflection on the author.

Also:

Almost done with the latest Smithsonian.

Toads, Gardens, and Stuff

May 23, 2018

Look Carefully. He’s There!

Today’s picture shows one of the residents of our yard.  This little toad (here shown in his hole) has chosen to make his residence under one of the hollyhocks in the bed against our east wall.

I’m very impressed…

Why?  Because this bed is about twelve inches off the ground.  This toad stands maybe two inches tall – if he’s not lounging flat, which happens to be his preferred posture.  So, if he were a human who stood six feet tall, that would mean he would be capable of jumping thirty-six feet in a single jump.  Talk about superhero moves!

Yep!  It’s now late spring, moving rapidly into summer, and, once again, my yard is providing me with a great deal of amusement.  If I were naming the seasons, I think I’d call this one “Potential,” because everything is fresh and green, we’re putting in new plants and seeds, as well as experimenting to see if we can make what failed last year succeed this time around

Last summer was particularly hot and dry – even for New Mexico where months go by with no rain at all.  So, why do I garden?  Isn’t that wasteful?  Shouldn’t I be more ecologically sensitive?

Well, I suppose from one perspective what I do could be seen as wasteful.  It’s easy to buy vegetables cheaply in the store.  Of course, they don’t taste as good, and they aren’t as good for you, but it’s possible.  So responsible gardening provides us with better tasting, healthier food.

Jim and I are very responsible.  When it rains, we collect water.  When it doesn’t rain, we water using soaker hoses, which saturate the ground while losing less water to evaporation.  We have designated specific high use areas – all of which are either raised beds or sculpted in one way or another to preserve water.  Borders around plants and mulch are two of our most frequently used tactics.

The majority of our yard relies on low water use plants.  We even – brace yourself, especially those of you “back East” to whom weeds are anathema and a green velvet yard is the goal of many – let weeds grow.  Of course, we don’t think of them as weeds.  We think of them as native plants.

Growing native plants has several additional advantages.  They are usually adapted to low rainfall.  They provide food and shelter for birds and small animals.  (We often leave native plants to go to seed for this reason.)  They hold down the loose soil, preventing erosion from wind and rain.

True, many of New Mexico’s native plants have stickers and thorns, but we choose what plants to pull, what to leave.  After over twenty years tending this one small ecosystem, we have a lot fewer plants with stickers, a lot more with flowers and nutritious seeds.

As a result, I can pause in my writing to watch finches busily harvesting spectacle pod seeds, or robins tugging up tufts of dry grass with which to line their nests.

We also provide water – although not a lot.  We have a tiny pond and a bird bath.  However, these are enough to attract a wide variety of birds and insects, including bees.  A little later in the summer, we’ll have dragonflies and butterflies.

The fact is, human land use has removed the sagebrush, wild grasses, and the like that formerly helped keep the ecosystem able to support itself even during dry years.  So while in one way we’re still being very human, in another, we’re being ecologically sensitive, providing food, water, shelter, nesting areas – and even damp places where toads can dig their holes.

I’m off to write now but, when I need to stop and ponder the next twist of the plot, I’ll wander outside, pull a few weeds, maybe plant a few more seeds.  Thus an additional benefit of gardening is that it makes me a more productive writer – a win-win situation all around!

FF: Past and Future Publications

May 18, 2018

Ziggy Contemplates With Starlight At Her Side

I’ve been meaning to remind you that The Long Sunset by Jack McDevitt, which I was privileged to read in advance of its official release, is now out.  It’s a Priscilla Hutchinson’s novel and involves aliens past and present.  A griping read, that gets pretty tense at times.

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:

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle.  Worth the re-read.

In Progress:

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julie Spencer Fleming.  Audiobook.  This one is turning into one of my favorite sort of mysteries – looking into a long past unsolved mystery, in this case combined with a current incident.

The Sacerdotal Owl and Three Other Long Tales by Michael Bishop.  A not-yet released collection of three novellas.  I’ve finished two, am into the third, and am greatly enjoying.  As a nice tie-in, the one I’m reading now “To the Land of Snows” first appeared in an anthology edited by Jack McDevitt entitled Going Interstellar.

Also:

I was almost caught up with magazines, then new ones started coming in!

As You Wish

May 16, 2018

A Couple Newer Offerings!

This week was filled with all sorts of cool things.  I’m going to share a couple of them.  Then I’m going to answer a request I’ve had from a bunch of people.  So, read on!

To my great pleasure and astonishment, my novel Asphodel received a terrific review from Publisher’s Weekly.   Why astonishment?  Because it’s never easy to have a book reviewed by PW and it’s even tougher when the book doesn’t have the backing of a major publishing house.  So, I’m very excited and because I’m excited, I’m going to share the review.

If you don’t like spoilers, read the first two lines, then the last line.  However, the spoilers aren’t the bad sort that give away resolutions, and one of my delights in this review is that the reviewer clearly “got” the book.

Okay…  Without further delay:

“Longtime fantasist Lindskold’s beguiling puzzle throws an inventive, amnesiac heroine into a magical world with undercurrents of forgotten trauma. An unnamed narrator awakens in a tower without any sense of her identity. Seven windows looking out on a distinct landscapes provide her only entertainment. She crafts companions by tying a pillow into the shape of a rabbit and drawing a sensible, living paper doll named Muriel. With these two friends, she projects herself in disguise into the scenes outside the tower. The trio stops thieves in an urban setting, hunts for a unicorn, rides giant seahorses, and engages in a dangerous battle with nightmarish, winged cherub heads. The narrator’s lack of hunger, thirst, and fatigue allows for endless exploration and the slow discovery of the rules of her powers. The companions’ excursions increase in daring until a visit to an Egypt full of gods and magic sparks the narrator’s desire to recollect her own identity. Searching for her past, however, exposes the bleak truth of her existence in the tower. This curious blend of fanciful vignettes, real danger, and existential mystery wends a twisting, pleasurable way through the powers of imagination.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

If you’re interested in purchasing Asphodel, you can find a full list of links (as well as some other cool stuff related to the novel) here.

On the writing front, I’m now back into Wolf’s Search, the forthcoming seventh Firekeeper novel.  Folks have asked me when it will be released and, for now, my answer is “When it’s ready.”  That said, for a variety of reasons – including the excitement about this book and wanting to get new material in your hands sooner, rather than later – I’m likely to make this book shorter than the previous books in the series.

I also have a couple of short projects I really want to work on before the shine fades off the ideas.  So there’s likely to be a lot of new Jane Lindskold fiction appearing here and there.  Running with the wolves seems to have been good for all aspects of my creative life.

And now for the request…  Several people mentioned having trouble finding the new Firekeeper ebooks, so (with the help of my pack member, Julie Bartel) I searched out links for you and am going to include them sorted by title.  All except the Amazon link will take you to where you can purchase an epub file.  Kindle, of course, requires a mobi file, so that’s what Amazon sells.

Ready?

Through  Wolf’s Eyes: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

The Dragon of Despair: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf Captured: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf Hunting:Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

Wolf’s Blood: Amazon/Kindle ; Barnes and Noble/Nook ; Kobo ; iTunes ; Google Play

So, there you are.  I hope that you will consider purchasing these e-books and/or encouraging your friends to do so.  Please remember that pirated works cost you quite a lot, at least if you enjoy an author’s work.  Why?  Because authors who cannot earn some or part of their living through their work end up unable to write because they’re busy teaching or selling real estate or whatever it takes to keep home and hearth together.

Also consider posting reviews to the various e-bookseller sites.  This encourages the bookseller to promote the work, which in turn brings new readers to the series, which in turn hopefully makes it possible for the author to earn a living.

Now I’m off to see what Blind Seer and Firekeeper have gotten themselves up to…  Good reading to you all!

Wrinkles and Doors

May 11, 2018

Cats Know All About Tessering!

Now that the new Firekeeper e-books are uploaded, writing is filling my time, but I hope to have a bit more time to read as well.

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:

A Fountain Filled With Blood by Julie Spencer Fleming.  Audiobook.  So far I’m liking this series enough to keep going.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  This childhood favorite held up well.  No.  I haven’t seen the movie.  I don’t tend to see movies based on books I’ve liked.  My quirk!

In Progress:

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle.  I remember how confusing I found parts of the final chapter.  I wonder how it will re-read.

Out of the Deep I Cry by Julie Spencer Fleming.  Audiobook.  Just started.

Also:

Catching up on magazines.   Making good progress!

New Firekeeper E-Book Editions!

May 9, 2018

New Design!

One of the projects I’ve been working on over these past many months is putting together new editions of the Firekeeper e-books.  Through Wolf’s Eyes; Wolf’s Head, Wolf’s Heart; The Dragon of Despair; Wolf Captured; Wolf Hunting, and Wolf’s Blood are all now available in new editions for both mobi and epub formats from Amazon/Kindle; Nook; Kobo; i-Tunes, and GooglePlay.

The cover art is based on the classic paintings by Julie Bell, and feature stylish, updated cover design.  The interior design is also updated, including classy new chapter headings.

Each volume contains a short essay providing a peek at my behind-the-scenes choices as I wrote the Firekeeper Saga.   Otherwise, changes to the text have been restricted to the most minor.

At this point, I don’t plan to produce new print editions, but most of the novels remain available in hardcover through my website bookstore.

An advantage of putting these new e-book editions together was that the task provided me with an opportunity to re-saturate myself in the Firekeeper universe, because I went over each book many times.   It was a lot of fun to see how much Firekeeper and her associates changed in the course of the series.  What I liked most of all was how those changes made them truer to themselves, rather than strangers to the people I started falling in love with in Through Wolf’s Eyes.

My re-immersion in the Firekeeper universe has, in turn, made me very eager to return to writing Wolf’s Search – the forthcoming seventh Firekeeper novel.   I’ll talk more about that novel when I’m closer to being done, since I’ve never been very comfortable talking about a work in process.  All I’ll say at this point is that Wolf’s Search takes place within a year of the events in Wolf’s Blood, and that Firekeeper and Blind Seer are two of the main characters.  Anything else is between me and the muse.

Finally, for those of you who have been asking for new e-book editions of my other Tor novels, be assured that these will be forthcoming.  However, I need a break from being in editorial mode.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, it can really get in the way of writing.