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Showing posts from February, 2009

Literary vs Genre - the Analogy to Poetry

Lady Glamis is discussing the age-old question of litearary vs genre fiction. Genre Writer: Genre books have plot. Literary works have pretension. Literary Writer: Literary works explore life and language. Genre pulps are about bombs that go bang and bombshells that bang. Genre Writer: Snob! Literary Writer: Hack! I know I have about as much chance of putting this dispute to rest as bringing peace to the Middle East, but here's my take on it. Writing a genre novel is like writing a sonnet. Writing a literary novel is like writing free verse. The sonnet has a lot of rules. It has to have a certain number of couplets, it has to begin and end in a certain way, it has to rhyme. It should also be meaningful, profound or beautiful. Free verse has no rules, except it has to be meaningful, profound or beautiful. And -- ironically -- if it has couplets and rhymes, it is in danger of being mistaken for a sonnet, so free verse usually excludes such tropes. Some poets mix forms. They mig

When to Revise, When to Relent

I know. I said no more rewrites of Book 1. I promised I would go on with the rest of the series. And if this series is no good -- then let it be. Start something new. But I'm not rewriting for the sake of rewriting. Or just because I'm depressed my full was returned with a polite "it's not there yet." Well, okay maybe it is in response to the agent's commens on the full, and to the advice I garnered from the Secret Agent Contest, and from meditating on High Concept. If I didn't have respect for those two agents, I wouldn't take their advice, but I do respect their opinion, so I'm taking a hard look at my story. Mostly, however, it's because I have a great idea how the book can be improved which is still in keeping with my original vision for the story. In fact, I think it captures the heart and soul of the story even better . Yet, I am still trying to rewrite cautiously. There's always the temptation to rewrite to the point one is writin

What Happened to all the Followers?

When I peeked at my blog this morning, I saw that the two sweethearts who had decided to become Followers of my blog had awakened from their temporary insanity and unfriended my blog, or whatever you call it. I was sad. Then I clicked on Janet Reid's site, and noticed she had lost all her Followers too.  I could believe that all my Followers saw the error of their ways, but hers? No way.  So what's going on? Has there been a Blog Rapture, which swept up all the Followers of Blogs to internet paradise while the rest of us are left behind? * * * Oh, and if I ever do get my Followers back, how do you feel about being renamed "Minions of this Blog"? * * * UPDATE:  My Minions -- er, Followers -- are back! Hallelujah!

Two Things I Love About This Cover

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Oh my. I'm jealous of this cover on so many levels. The artist in me dreams of painting such loveliness; the writer in me longs for a book cover like this to grace my own stories. This is the kind of cover where I know I MUST buy the book, no matter WHAT the story is.  *Moonstruck sigh.* I haven't read it yet, only drooled over it, but it looks as though Freda Warrington  is fully capable of delivering a story to match the cover. * * * When I started writing Dindi, oh, ages past, fae / fey / faeries were rather rare in epic fantasy. Now they are everywhere. Did faeries jump the shark while I dithered in revisions? How depressing.... Here's the thing. My faeries aren't really European faeries at all. They're closer to kachinas or orishas. I made the decision not to call them kachinas, for a variety of reasons, but now I'm questioning my own decision. If I, as a reader, have noticed a lot of fae, chances are agents and publishers have seen ten times the nu

The Corn Maiden, Chapter 1, part 2

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Distance muffled the sound, so Dindi tilted her head to listen. Definitely a woman’s scream, coming from far away and further up, in the wild hills above Lost Swan Clan’s territory. A faery clan, extinct now, had once lived near Swan Rock. Their vengeful hexes haunted many caves and cliffs. More recently, Dindi’s grandmother, Mad Maba, had danced herself to death in those same hills.    A cursed region indeed – which made it the perfect place for Dindi to dance with the fae in secret. She was the only one imprudent enough to go there. At least, she had been up until now. The woman screamed again, in pain now. Dindi ran uphill toward the sound.  I hope I can reach her in time to help, whoever she is. Cultivated fields gave way to wild slopes of aspen and pine. Here one found no footpaths, only deer trails. In places, she had to avoid tangles of thorny brush, precipitous ditches, or bald patches of scree. She reached Swan Rock, an odd boulder as big as a house. The rock seemed to stretc

The Corn Maiden, Chapter 1, part 1

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Six Moons Earlier, Seven times Seven Days Walk to the East It was not the kind of day one expected to meet death. The fae scrambled to greet Dindi as she skipped through the terraced fields of ripening corn. The rolling green hills stretched out in every direction under a perfect blue sky marked only with the V of migrating swans. The ripening corn smelled sweet and fresh. Innumerable clouds of tiny willawisps hazed the fields like sparkling mists. Maize sprites clambered nimbly to the tips of the straight-backed stalks to wave at Dindi when she brushed by them. Pixies of every color fluttered on luminous wings around her head, making her dizzy. “Come dance with us! Come dance with us!” they urged in a babble of flute voices. “Not today!” She waved them away. I could be taken for Initiation rites any day now , Dindi thought. And all omens indicate I’ll fail miserably. Like my mother. And my grandmother. And every single person in my whole clan since the days of the Lost Swan C

The Corn Maiden, Prologue

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There she was – almost hidden by the soaring sequoias. Between the trees, Kavio glimpsed a solitary dancer, graceful and pale as new maize. Who was she, and why did she dance secluded and all alone, far from the kiva and tor? He wove through the forest to spy on her, though he told himself he should not. Perhaps she had come to the woods to practice alone, as he had. The possibility intrigued him – who else besides he had no need of the guidance of the troop? Who else besides he would dare? She must have had magic, for she was human and not fae. Humans without magic danced only to hex, and would be killed in turn, if caught. Yet never had he seen a style quite like hers. She wore no ritual costume – neither wooden mask, nor cornhusk cape – only white doeskin hemmed with a maze of rainbow beads. Her hair flew about her, unbraided and wild. Though her aura showed no light, he had the odd sense she shimmered with power which warmed the cool December wood with hint of hidden Mays.

Excerpts

I'm going to post the prologue and first chapter of The Corn Maiden .  For blog-reader convenience, I'll break it up into 500 words-or-less segments, and try to add a nice mood picture for each one. There's no way to avoid them being listed in backwards order, because of blog conventions; I will put the order in the post title.

Just One Leaf

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One of my favorite Tolkien stories is "Leaf by Niggle." It is about an artist who aspires to paint a beautiful forest, only to find his talent insufficient to the task. So he tries to focus on painting just one tree -- perfect the tree, and then maybe, he will grow enough in skill to paint the forest. But the tree is too hard too, so he ends up concentrating on just a leaf. If he could only paint just one single leaf right! He hasn't much time because his pesky neighbor keeps bugging him (life) and because he has to take a trip (death). Life interferes with art. Death interferes with life. Art must be squeezed in between. Like Niggle, I wish I could paint the forest, or at least a tree, but it is a struggle to even capture just one leaf. I've been thinking about High Concept, and my Dindi series, and the desperate feeling that it falls far short of the forest I originally envisioned. I'm down to grasping at leaves. It's interesting to look at books which beco

Chapter One

I want to post Chapter One, but I'm having trouble pasting things in Blogger. UPDATE: I've figure out how to paste in Blogger (for now) but I'm having trouble with Chapter One.  ;)

High Concept Interrogation

The buzz is going around about High Concept stories again. So I'm looking my story in the face and asking it, "Are you High Concept?" "Yes," says my story. "I'm about Immortals fighting Death. Can't get more High Concept than that." "Yeah." I bounce my head in a shrug-nod. You know the kind I mean, where your shoulders are hunched and your nose is wrinkled. Your head bobs up and down, but the bob means maybe not more than maybe ."But -- don't get offended -- is that obvious in the first couple chapters of the book?" Pause. "No..." admits my story. "Is it even obvious in Book One at all?" My story shuffles its feet. "Lots of other cool stuff happens in Book One. It's Dirty Dancing meets Dances With Wolves!" "What is that even supposed to mean ? C'mon, story. You can do better than that." "The hero catches the heroine dancing without magic. He must choose betwe

Lonely Planet for Fantasy

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I confess. I used to be one of those fantasy readers who browsed bookstores by flipping through a fantasy book to find a map.  No map, no purchase. If the book had a map, I would definitely buy it, rush it home to copy the map onto a larger piece of paper, add little castles and pictures and then put it in my notebook of other maps. It was my own personal Lonely Planet of all the worlds I planned to visit in my imagination. Here's the irony. I suck at reading maps. In the real world, I'm dyslexic. I can't tell left from right, north from south, sometimes I think I even confuse up and down. Maybe that's exactly why it's necessary for me to have a map of my worlds. Otherwise, I can't keep straight where my characters are going. Chris Coen blogged about this question recently. Do you make maps for your story worlds and if so how detailed are they? What level of mapping do you use? Do you draw your own, or do you have a program do it for you? Or do you just

Revised Opening

I revised my opening based on feedback from the Secret Agent contest. Several reviewers felt the 250 word version felt rushed, so here I've re-inserted some lines I had cut to meet the word count cut-off.  ;)  Hopefully, the additions also explain a few of the questions people had about why Kavio was out in the woods himself, why he wasn't immediately suspicious of Dindi, and why the taboo is so important.  On the other hand, I hope it doesn't *over-explain* or drag on too much. Kavio glimpsed a solitary dancer, graceful and pale as new maize. She danced in honeyed light filtered though sequoias soaring up from languorous, bear-sized roots. Who was she, and why did she dance secluded and all alone, far from the kiva and tor? He wove through the wood to spy on her, though he told himself he should not. Perhaps she had come to the woods to practice alone, as he had. The possibility intrigued him – who else besides he had no need of the guidance of the troop? Who else bes

Stream Pirate - Instant Redhead

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Stream Pirate Cover Art

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Okay, Sara, this one's for you. I can email you the jpg file if you like. I tried to blend Alluvial Fan into the background and she came out with more glow than I intended. I hope she doesn't look  like a ghost. I'm afraid my pirate isn't quite as cute as the one on your site, but you should have seen the other choices. If you have requests for changes or had other ideas about what you wanted your cover to look like, that's fine too. Don't be shy, let me know.  :) If anyone else would like a cover for non-commercial use, feel free to let me know. (And, hey, if you want one for commercial purposes, that's cool too, email me.)

Cover Art - Version 2

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Here's another title and another take on the cover.  The main color theme is yellow, for reasons which would be obvious upon reading the book.  The previous cover used images of actual tribal societies. This one features a much more glamorous heroine, which, I must confess, I prefer.  :) I'm not completely happy with it -- the bear is a bit too obscured by the title. The corn cob doll peeking out here is actually a corn husk doll, and not quite right, but the only thing I could find available in royalty free stock images. This cover incorporates a lot of the themes: she is dancing (although I'm not sure you can tell); there's a bear; a corn doll; and corn. Only things missing are the fae and the hunky hero. But I couldn't fit everything.

Cover Art - Version 1

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One idea for a title was to name the series, "The Secret Society of Warrior Dancers" and each book a different term in the heroine's rise through the ranks, so to speak. First she would be "the Initiate" then "the Serving Maiden" then "the Traveller" and so on. I think I had seven, though I'm not sure what I did with the list. Anyhoo. I told this title to a couple of agents, one of whom specialized in fantasy and the other who handled only literary fiction and memoirs. The fantasy agent wrinkled her nose.  "Secret societies? Warriors? Dancers?" She shook her head. "It's all pretty trite." The literary agent, however, said, "Oh really? I thought it sounded unusual and intriguing!" Clearly, the thing to do is market my book as a memoir. *grin* So, here you go. This is a cover which would make the book look like a respectable addition to the literary section of the bookstore.

Mock Cover Art

There's nothing so inspiring as wasting long hours designing cover art for your work-in-progress. In that spirit, I've mocked up a few different possible covers for Dindi -- the titles, incidentally, differ as well, but it's the same book. Yes, this is what I've spent my weekend doing instead of working on Book 2. It's okay. I'll get back to real work tomorrow.

My Son's Paranormal Ability

"Me have idea." This is my toddler's latest phrase.  "What's your idea?" I ask with great interest. "Me idea -- drive cars!" "Wow! That's your idea -- you want to to drive cars?" "Yes!" My toddler, in addition to his clever ideas, also has psychic powers. In one of my writing groups, it was suggested that if we had a character with a paranormal ability, we give her some physical sensation to go along with it. Maybe every time she is about to have a vision of the future, she has a headache, for instance. My son apparently has such an ability,  "My tummy hurts," he announced.  "My owwie putted me to drive cars." Yes, that's right. He has a paranormal "tummy ache" which tells him when it's time for him to play with his little Matchbox and Cars cars.

Five Things I Love About Ebooks

Ok, I said what I don't like about ebooks. But the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages. 1. Ebooks open up new lengths, a new range of lengths. At the short end, online publishing has created whole new genres of flash, defined by various degrees of short: >100 words >500 words >1000 words Short stories of the traditional lengths (1000-7000) remain popular. But what do you do with those awkward 13,000 word stories which you can't cut down to fit in a magazine but clearly isn't a novel? This is not a problem for an ebook. Novel length guidelines on many epublishers look like this: Quickie: up to 15,000 words Novella: 15,000-29,999 words Short Novel: 30,000-44,999 words Novel: 45,001-69,999 words Plus Novel: 70,001-99,999 words Super Plus Novel: 100,000+ words What about mega-books of 240,000 words? There's no reason these couldn't be published as ebooks either. I haven't seen it much yet, although perhaps long books could also be sold

One Thing I Hate About Ebooks

I think ebooks are close to having curl-up-in-bed portability. All the other stuff like, "I like the smell of musty paper" is something that is just a matter of what you're used to. It's meaningless in terms of giving print books any real advantage over ebooks on a reader. Some people hate ebooks because they think they can't curl up in bed with an ebook. Some people hate ebooks because they miss the musty smell of paper, and the tactile delight of turning pages. That's not my beef at all. Here's the main difference in advantages I see between print and ebooks. I have to update the programs on my computer every frickin' six months. I have actually lost some early pieces of writing because they are on floppy disks. I still have them physically, but they are inaccessible. In contrast, I also have books I've inherited from my grandmother, some of which are over two hundred years old. I can read them easily. They have permanence, solidity and access

A Writer's Valentine's Day Story

Once I fell in love with a man who didn't fall in love with me back. * * * I'm a writer. So when I write a Valentine, it tends to turn into a novella-length opus. And I've embarrassed myself by sending lengthy, unrequited love letters, more than once. The first time I sent one to my high school / college sweetheart. I wasn't sure I was in love with him, but I wrote him a long, sappy letter anyway. He called me in response to my letter to tell me he was now seeing someone else and planned to marry her. Ouch. Still, in this case, it was my pride which was hurt more than my heart. Not so with the second time I wrote a love letter. * * * This time I was convinced I was in love with one of my co-workers. I did everything I could catch his attention, but he never even noticed I had fallen in love with him. He didn't act like he loved me -- I'm not even sure he liked me. My friends, who had probably read too many romance novels, assured me not to give up, bec

Progress Report

I'm working on Dindi Book 2, Section 1. It looks like it will be about 20,000 words, which is fine. I hope to finish it this weekend.

"Luke, I am your father!"

I'm trying to decide whether to have a Darth Vader moment. I have a character who is looking for his dad in Book 3 (of Dindi). I have another character, who showed up in a completely different context in Book 1. Should they be related? Disadvantages: * My original idea was the dad would be from a particular tribe (not the same as the existing character) * He also dances the wrong Chroma - I would have to either change his Chroma or change something else, to make it consistent * Too many coincidences might seem hokey * Dad was supposed to be real jerk, and this character is moderately heroic Advantages: * Tightens the story by connecting previously disconnected story threads. * Reduces the number of characters * A character who is sometimes a jerk and sometimes moderately heroic is more interesting I think the last point is swaying me toward doing it. I'd probably want to end up redeeming the dad anyway -- I'm just a softy that way -- so why not save myself th

Secret Agent!

I found out about a delicious contest on the blog of Miss Snark's First Victim. The idea is so delightful, I couldn't resist entering. Fifty (raised to sixty for reasons explained on the blog) aspiring authors submit the first 250 words of their completed novels. A agent, about whom we know nothing except what genres he/she represents, reads them. At the end of the contest, the Secret Agent unmasks herself/himseslf and picks "prizes" for the winners like a read of a partial or a full. Pretty sweet. In addition, everyone crits other entries, so, even if you don't catch the Secret Agent's eye, you still receive helpful feedback on your novel's opening. I entered. Wow, though, the competition is intense. There are a lot of entries which I, personally, would love to keep reading. * * * UPDATE I just finished reviewing all sixty entries. Whew -- and wow. There's some really lovely prose and smashing hooks in that bunch. It's intimidating, but

Two Things I've Learned About Outlining

Break out your violins, cause I'm gonna wail and whine. I was supposed spend this month finishing my Mother of All Outlines. Instead, I did the usual shoddy-bum half-baked outline I usually do and then immediately snuck off to continue writing on Book II. Now, I had an excuse. (Naturally.) Each book has a number of story threads, which follow different PoV characters and eventually meet up somewhere in the book. One of these threads, for every book, is not like the others. It's usually a series of events from the past. In Book I, a thread follows the mysterious Corn Maiden. In Book II, there's a thread which follows Mayara, an Aelfae orphan whose whole family is murdered by humans, and who is then taken in by humans who don't realize she's fae. Since these threads are in the past, they are out of chronological sync with the rest of the series. When I write them, however, it's easier to do it in chronological order -- so I like to write the whole sequence as

Cannibalism and Parenthood

I took my younger son (also known as "Spawn: the Sequel") to his doctor for immunizations. The doctor reminded us of the usual things. Don't shake him. Put him to sleep on his back. Car seat must face backwards. And so on. She added, "It's also great to read to him. At this point, he doesn't care what you read, he just loves to hear your voice. You can read him any book, whatever you're reading, such as..." Here she leaned over to pick up the nonfiction book I had brought in with me. She read the title out loud. "... Cannibalism, Headhunting and Human Sacrifice in North America. " Pause. Blink. Look of horror. "Um. Ok, maybe not that book." Note to self: Do not bring research books for that chapter on human sacrifice into the pediatrician's office.

Sending

I'll be sending out the full mss of Dindi to an agency by this Friday.