And now for something completely different: a man with a tape recorder up his nose a short story online.
“Dragon’s-Eyes” is now up at the online fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, sharing the issue with Michael J. DeLuca’s “Of Thinking Being and Beast.” It was one of those stories that came together easily, but that left me feeling kind of bruised when I’d finished writing it. But I’m very proud of it, and I hope you like it as well.
Huh. After Anything But the Book Week, it feels weird to be writing two book-related posts in a row.
Today there’s an article on Spiral Hunt in SCIFI Wire. It concentrates on some of the worldbuilding I did for the novel, and what that turned into as I started to work out the plot.
(Also, while browsing on the site, I found that my nightmare of Jane Austen zombie novels has come true. I don’t know whether to raise my fists to the sky and scream “NOOOOO!” or pre-order the book. Probably both.)
Whoo. Made it. Now the fun starts.
And by “fun,” of course, I mean “overtime at my day job for totally unrelated reasons.” So it looks like I’ll have plenty to occupy my mind in the next couple of days without even getting into Spiral Hunt. I’ve also been tagged for the “seven things you might not know about me” meme by the Velveteen Rabbi, so I’ll be getting to that a little later in the week, and my short story “Dragon’s-Eyes” will be coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies soon.
In the meantime, My Favorite Author has been kind enough to post another author interview, as well as a review of Spiral Hunt. I think I managed to avoid sounding like a total idiot, so I’ll count it a victory. Thanks again to the blog-keepers there for giving me space to babble!
So I missed yesterday’s post. I have an elaborate excuse involving rogue nuclear weapons, a batch of muffin batter gone horribly wrong, and Sean Penn’s forehead, but honestly I just spent the morning taking it slow and having a nice cup of coffee (still on the caffeine, yes). And the muffin batter hadn’t gone that horribly wrong, so it all turned out just fine.
On to the next distraction. Because it’s Monday, and because I’ve been cranky all week, this is likely to be more of a complaint than an actual discussion topic, but seeing as it’s 17 degrees out, I’m going to stick with the complaint: It’s goddamn cold out.
Granted, this is not Moscow cold, nor is it even Indiana-winter cold (and it’s certainly well above “spit goes clink” cold), but damn, I’m tired of winter. I’d rather not have a sheet of ice on our front steps or a muddle of uneven ice for a sidewalk, and while the snow is beautiful, there’s been quite enough of it. And there are months to go. Months!
I’ve often found myself writing about warm times when I’m cold, just to remember the way it feels to be warm again. That helps, but stepping back from the writing when I’m done is then a little colder.
Are there any books that warm you up — stories of the tropics, desert planets, and so on? Any books that are best read under a comforter with a cup of cocoa? Or should I just move straight to the hot toddy and brandy method of warming up?
Vegetarians, I suggest you avert your eyes. Today’s post is for the carnivores. Specifically, the carnivores who happen to be good cooks.
The resident organist and I, along with another household, subscribe to a meat share project. This is related to community-sponsored agriculture in that we pay a set amount, and once a month we get a lot of meat.
There are a number of advantages to this: locally-farmed meat, for a decent price, and in a variety of kinds ranging from ground chuck to prime cuts. However, that variety is sometimes a little puzzling, partly because I’m not a very experienced chef. I know what to do with sausage or ground beef, and I can put most of the simpler cuts to good use. But I’m also having to search for new recipes to use the meat that we have. I don’t want to ruin a good piece of meat by treating it like something it isn’t (e.g., braising when I should grill, or vice versa). So over the last year, I’ve learned how to roast a whole chicken (and turn it into stock), prepare a decent pan sauce, and determine what cuts are best for the stick-it-in-the-slow-cooker-and-forget-about-it school of cookery.
All that is a lead-up to saying this: We have a large ham. Not a BRIAN BLESSED type Large Ham, but a slab of smoked ham in the freezer. It’s smoked but uncooked — says so on the label — so I don’t think I can just chop it up and, say, toss it with some fettucini and peas. It’s not a large spiral-cut ham or anything like that, but just an inch-thick slab of ham with a nice layer of fat around the edge.
I have no idea what to do with it. (Apart from carrying it around so that I can leap into conversations demanding “Did somebody order a LARGE HAM???”) Does anyone know what to do with uncooked smoked ham? I don’t even know where to start looking, since I’m not entirely sure what I have.
The Middleman: Caffeine is a drug, Dubbie.
Wendy: I’m holding a molecular stun cannon.
— The Middleman, “The Accidental Occidental Conception”
I’ve discovered something about this “Anything But the Book Week”: Because I can’t post from my day job, I’m writing these posts first thing in the morning. Often before I’ve had my coffee. This doesn’t excuse the incoherence, but it may explain some of it.
I started drinking coffee soon after I got out of college. For some reason, I’d stayed away from it all through college, even when I pulled all-nighters (usually for Williams Trivia). And it took me some time to move from mocha-flavor-mixer-with-half-a-dozen-packets-of-creamer-dumped-in to basic coffee with milk and sugar. But these days I have enough coffee during the week that if I go without it on the weekends, I really regret it by Sunday night.
Do you have caffeine issues? What’s your delivery method of choice — soda (or pop), coffee, cocoa, tea? (I still remember some fizzy vileness called Kick that had so much caffeine in it it made my skull feel like it was contracting.) And is it worthwhile, in the long run, for me to try to cut down on coffee given that I’ll undoubtedly come back to it the next time I have to wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning?
(Also, regarding the quote at the top of this post: if you haven’t seen The Middleman, then you ought to check it out. Gorillas with tommy-guns! Intergalactic boy-bands! Trout zombies! The Wu-Han Thumb of Death! It’s gleefully, unselfconsciously silly, and it’s worth downloading from iTunes.)
I’ve described myself as a plot junkie before, and it still holds true, particularly when I’m watching a movie or TV show. While I can enjoy a plot that consists mainly of “shit blows up real good” (yes, I liked Shoot ‘Em Up; I’m not proud of that), I really love when a story turns draws together the separate threads of plot and turns them into something entirely new, subverting my expectations and revealing that what I’d thought was the central story wasn’t even a scrap of the larger plot. That’s what will hook me on a show and will keep me with it long past the point where I’d have gotten sick of it.
Why yes, I did watch the season premiere of Lost last night. Why do you ask?
Anyway, there are times when this can backfire. There’s a certain point where not knowing what the show or story is going to do turns into not trusting the story. At that point, even when the I’m told me something straight out, I have trouble believing it. Even if the author or the show’s creators back this up. (I’m looking at you here, Battlestar Galactica.)
I’m not sure what the tipping point is. I just finished The Somnambulist, which has a plot that turns itself practically inside out, and I still don’t know what was going on at the end. (It also made me yell and slam the book shut at one point, then stare at it until I was sure I could read further without getting more creeped out. That’s a good thing.) So why do I trust the author there, when I’m having trouble with BSG and, even though I liked last night’s episode, Lost?
What about you? Does a knotty plot draw you in or put you off? What makes you trust an author or team of writers, and what can break that trust?
First things first: If you’re interested in taking a look at Spiral Hunt, or if you’re planning on getting a copy but just can’t wait till next week, then check out the widget below:
Browse Inside this book
The first fifty-some pages are available for you to read. Enjoy! (I’ll be adding this to the sidebar as soon as I can bully WordPress into doing what I want it to do.)
In the meantime, however, I’ve realized that if I keep thinking about Spiral Hunt over the next week, then my head will probably pop. So for the next week, I’ll be blogging once a day on anything but Spiral Hunt. Anything.
Today’s topic, predictably enough, is distraction. How do you distract yourself when you need to keep your mind off something?
It used to be that working with my hands would be enough – needlework, for example, kept me nicely distracted over a summer. But once I learn a skill well enough that I can do it without concentrating on it, the advantage is gone, and I get caught up in my own thoughts again. Cooking or baking something works, cleaning doesn’t. Writing only works if I’m writing something totally different from the matter in question. And while going for a long walk does wonders when I’m trying to work out a plot point, it’s no good when I’m trying to distract myself.
What are your favorite techniques for training your own thoughts in the right direction? Meditation? Conversation? Goofy TV shows?
When I was in junior high school, Veterans’ Day and other patriotic holidays were celebrated by, among other things, playing Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to Be an American” over the PA system.
I hated that song. Still hate it. The thing is, I don’t hate it because I’m not proud to be an American. I hate it because it cheapened the pride I do have. Because it turned what should have been a considered, thoughtful approach to one’s country into a knee-jerk response, echoed the line that I always heard as defensive and whiny: “at least I know I’m free.” (Also, it was one hell of an earworm, and back then I hadn’t learned the trick of humming ABBA to get a song out of one’s head.)
I admit that a lot of this was the result of being in junior high, when anything I didn’t like had to be awful and why couldn’t anyone else see that I was right? But my dislike of the song remained. And I thought about it a lot this last year, particularly when Michelle Obama got excoriated for her (perfectly innocent, I thought) remark that she was finally proud of her country. It seemed that unthinking pride was somehow supposed to be better than the sudden realization that there was a cause worth fighting for.
For the obvious reasons, I’m remembering all that today. Over the last few years, I’ve been ashamed of what’s been done in my name as an American. That won’t go away because we have a new president. But now I’m also proud of where we are, of who represents us in the world, and what we can do.
Being proud to be an American doesn’t mean that I can sit back and bask in how awesome we are. It means that I have to work to make this country what we hope it can be — and if something goes wrong, if this administration or, in four or eight years, the next administration, wonks up badly, then I don’t get to throw up my hands and say well darn, I tried, what’s on tv?
We’ve had enough of despair. Time to work to make something to be proud of.
Arisia was fantastic. I heard some beautiful readings (arrived too late for one, drat), got to listen to or even participate in some interesting discussions, saw friends, finally met people I’d been meaning to meet for some time, had chocolate, gave blood, and overall had a great time.
Arisia was the first real con I ever attended, and so I think I’ll always have a soft spot for it. And even though the current hotel has its, erm, quirks (I didn’t use the elevator once! and now my knees hate the rest of me), it’s very good for people-watching. I love seeing fans in elaborate costumes, identifying some and just being in awe of others, watching how we interact and laugh together. There were an awful lot of gorgeous steampunk-esque costumes this year, something that I particularly liked since I’ve been poking at a few steampunk or gaslamp fantasy ideas lately (nothing to distract me from contracted work, but fun ideas nonetheless).
I left earlier than I probably ought to on Sunday — there were parties and panels and a dance that all sounded wonderful, but I could feel myself starting to wind down, and I know there’s a certain point past which I shouldn’t push myself. So I headed home, where the resident organist and I made dinner and caught up on shows we’d been missing. And in the morning there was shoveling and cinnamon rolls and edits and hot coffee.
Good weekend. Even with the snow.
I’m actually on something at Arisia this year! Two somethings, even!
Assuming the schedule doesn’t change too much, I’m up for the following:
Saturday, 8:30 PM (BU Suite) Reading – Margaret Ronald
I’ll be reading from Spiral Hunt, just a couple of weeks just before its release date.
Sunday, 3:00 PM (Room 201): The Hero as God’s Champion – Margaret Ronald, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Vikki Rose, Elaine Isaak
Elizabeth Moon’s “The Deed Of Paksennarion” trilogy, Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel” series, Lawrence Watt-Evans’ “Touched By The Gods”. “Between The Rivers” by Harry Turtledove, in how people must obey the commands of the gods. Of course, Tolkien and Lewis are fair game.
As usual, I’m in way over my head. But that’s where it’s fun.
I’ll be at the con Saturday and Sunday. Hope to see you there!
Okay, let’s just get the “I’ve been neglecting this blog and hope to be posting more often in the coming year” bit out of the way right now. Good? Good.
Honestly, I do mean to post more often, and I expect I will be posting more in the coming months. But for some reason, publicly resolving to do something has the opposite effect on me than it ought to: I dig in my heels, feel guilty for not living up to it, and dig in my heels some more. Not the best reaction, really.
Anyway. On to the new year, and to new work, including a short story that’s just gone up! “Ragnarok Has Been Postponed” is now up in the online magazine The Town Drunk, which is back after a hiatus. It’s a fun little story that I really enjoyed writing, and I hope you enjoy reading it.