Friday, April 30, 2010
Just a quick note
We've bad weather so I'll make this quick. i enjoyed the blog tour. I've posted new scenes for Qiri on the Explorations
page. I'll be traveling before long but hope to get in several more scenes and posts before then, and perhaps a few while
i travel, though connectivity is always pot luck.
30 apr 10 @ 9:12 pm
More later when I'm sure the power won't go out.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
A Last note on Raven's Ladder
I was going to comment on the story line but in the process of looking at other comments on the book, I came to understand
why i can't. Jeffery Overstreet can spin a good story: Raven's Ladder includes story tellers as important side characters
and every character has a story. But the author makes a bigger difference between a short story and a novel than i generally
do. I always aim and encourage that every scene and element feed the story, and this may, but it isn't a single story in
the traditional sense, not even a complicated one, but a web of tales interwoven and we won't know their ties until the end,
that I have not yet reached. The readers of epics may find the weave a little easier to follow. The rest of us will just
have a read carefully and enjoy the trip.
28 apr 10 @ 9:59 pm
So a comment on the religion. This novel handles it the way I like to see: no sermons in sight, no formal lessons, but wise,
insightful tales that teach of good values, through success in the right way, failures in the wrong, faith, trust, courage,
and others as befits the circumstances, all with real people doing real things, making hard and easy choices, not always right.
In proper fantasy, offworld fashion, the key religious figures seem to be Aurelia, an often-mentioned but unpresent girl
or woman who discovered something magical regarding colors, colors whose presence are signs of goodness of magical strength
for those who find them or carry them, and the Keeper, a creature few believe in that seems to be on the scope of the the
king of dragons and who gives direction and aide on occasion when prayed to. Their roles are not exactly those of God and
Christ, but they are the focus of local interest at least, decidedly on the side of Light and right, and aides to those who
need them, which is close enough.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Dialog and more on Raven's Ladder
Two new scenes on the New Explorations page. I think I have a bit better balance here between dialog and action and such
than sometimes, though Mr Overstreet, author of Raven's Ladder probably wouldn't think so. (In case you didn't catch yesterday's
post, I'm participating in a blog tour on the book and the publishers kindly sent several of us free copies of the book.
I'm still reading it: it's a long book with a complicated story and richly textured writing so it's not a quick read though
it's a very pleasant one). Anyway, he has a much higher proportion of narrative, side comments, and descriptions of facial
expression and all than I generally do with dialog.
27 apr 10 @ 9:39 pm
For avid readers, that probably makes it more interesting and makes a good substitute for pictures. For myself, I'm not sure.
I tend to "watch" videos and tv while I do crafts more often than I sit and read, so I'm used to listening to rapid
exchanges of words without much in the way of visual ques and my writing shows it. It also makes me a bit impatient as a
reader, especially the first time through a book, so I found myself skipping to the next set of quotes if I saw that a dialog
was going to go on for a bit. My second read of the book, I'll get the rest, after I know where the story is going. That's
when the reader gets the most out of a good wordsmith, as Overstreet seems to be: the second read or more reveals hints and
nuances and offers more complete understanding of the meat of the tale even though the story line is already known.
The story so far... well I won't be a spoiler because I don't know how it goes and found it surprisingly difficult to even
guess what direction it was heading, there are so many complications provided in the process of world building. But some
key bits are a people, troubled already, are chased from their refuge by an earthquake and by plantoid things, evil things
that come up from the ground. Cal-raven, the king and primary protagonist, is focused elsewhere because of signs and portents
and a truly impressive thing that reads like the king of all dragons, called the Keeper. He has a much more personal quest
to deal with, challenges to face, before he can really address and solve the problems of his people.
I think it will be a good story in the end, and I'm sure modern readers will enjoy it, but it's not nearly as straightforward
as my little summary has made it sound. It's full of twists and turns and complications and the interactions of side characters
and just a little too much of all of it in one book for my tastes. I'm more of the Anne McCaffrey school: build the world,
but build it part at a time. Build the whole world's story, but follow a few threads at a time and world build through several
novels, not one. Raven's Ladder presents a lot of the world and its peoples all in one book, so the story will be a full
blanket when it's done, not just pieces. For those who like that, you'll have many interesting hours of reading ahead of
you. Those impatient like myself might want to read all they can about the story from other reviewers before they begin,
so that they have a feel for the story when they start and can sit back and just enjoy the wonderful prose without rushing.
For links to other reviews on Raven's Ladder, check out the links on my Favorite Links page.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Blog Tour - Jeffrey Overstreet's Jacob's Ladder
No new Qiri post - that will come tomorrow so be sure to read the New Explorations page if you haven't. It will be replace
by the next scene tomorrow. Today I'm providing a few observations on Raven's Ladder, by Jeffrey Overstreet.
26 apr 10 @ 10:06 pm
It's a fantasy set on a not-quite Earth world. Human characters have a variety of magical and other talents and some groups
more than others, enhanced by outside sources or natural gifts. In classical fantasy fashion, travel is by foot or on animals
in the ballpark of medieval culture. (If it's based on a particular time or place, I haven't caught the clues but it is self-consistent,
so the details hardly matter. It's not a historical piece.
Overstreet is a great writer in what is sometimes called the "wordsmith" group. He knows what he's doing with a
sentence, even a complicated one. He does beautiful similis and metorphors and if you need some good examples of just plain
how to craft a lovely sentence or paragraph or flowery description, the book is filled with them. Story teller-wise, well,
I haven't finished the book yet, so more on that later.
"Exhausted by its tantrums, the storm that had pursued Cal-ravenís company for a night, a day, and another night finally
subsided. The sun came up smug and bold, casting golden rays. the continent of cloud broke apart, its remnants melting away
like dollops of butter across a hot pan."
That's how the section on page 50 starts. A lovely description and he does a lot of similar quality. The author especially
likes scenery and weather (as do I). He builds a wonderfully detailed and rich culture that will fascinate world-builders
and provide much fuel for discussion for fans.
In part of the world-building process, the author introduces a lot of POV characters in the first several chapters, (arguably
too many as I lost track of who the main character might be for awhile) but it's worth getting through them to get a broad
picture of the world and eventually the key players really take the lead, somewhere past chapter 6, with a good foundation
on where they are coming from if not yet where they are going (as I said, I haven't finished yet).
Ravenís Ladder can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1400074673 or your favorite book store
The Author Web site and blog is at http://lookingcloser.org/category/journal/
More views of the book can be found at the blogs listed on my favorites's page
Friday, April 23, 2010
I'm just barely keeping up with cleaning up Qiri and getting it presentable for posting. it still needs work, I'm sure.
I think the scene I've posted today could use a little more background on the woman pirate, something more than narrative
about her aids and guards, and lots more on Tebushey's relationship with them. Anything else it needs? Sometimes minimal
is enough. I've conveyed the really key points of the plot, something of the nature of the characters and the changing attitudes
of Tebushey toward Qiri, but bare minimums don't always make for a pleasant, rich read, nor do they fully present the worlds
and aliens, always an important part of good space fiction. It needs to contribute to the story, ultimately, but it serves
its own purpose as well.
23 apr 10 @ 9:03 pm
I'm keeping up about the same, which is to say just barely, with my mini, sentence a day journal that I started as my new
year resolution. I've missed a day now and again, more at the beginning than now, but for the most part i keep going. For
awhile I was trying to do it last thing at night, but fell asleep forgetting and did it in the morning. At first I felt odd,
but I only planned to do it daily, not when, and decided that morning could do as well so long as i do it with some regularity.
it was also interesting to note that I might be awake enough that early inthe morning, enough to write, whereas I never FEEL
particularly awake or conscious first thing, especially on work days.
Another thing I've noticed in the process is that the one sentence a day is not as comtemplative as when I did a similar mini
journal several years ago, while taking a course on nature writing. That course required a daily sojourn to some place with
nature (I was in a city, but city parks, highway divides with greenery, and neighborhoods with trees and birds and such counted.
Even pations with falled leaves or potted plants counted. The point was to focus on the green, the living, and write about
it, and it always seemed very natural to go from such topics to life, living, philosophy, and other contemplative ideas, and
the one sentence often reflected it, even though my life was filled with other things. Probably means I have cabin fever.
I at least need to get out, and look forward to my coming vacation.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I've posted an essay on Homeworld, wonder of wonders, a first draft, essentially the result of a personal free write, my reactions
to more in the paper about the impact of the Iceland volcano. I'm not sure yet if it is a first draft for a long poem, or
for a more properly developed essay.
20 apr 10 @ 7:34 pm
I've also posted the scenes that sort of parallel the last two, that I plan to merge or criss-cross with last time's. This
version caries the story a little further, and for the time being, it's the direction the story will continue to take, but
it's also one of those points that may lead me eventually to take quite a large detour before returning to the end (and one
of the reasons this whole set with the pirates might be the second half of book 1, or its own book.
The question I grapple with, and think maybe Qiri should grapple with, is whether Qiri should behave this way. A little sneaky
is fine, but I think she comes across as rather worse than that, as if she were becoming too like the pirates. She should
at least wonder if it's the best way to use her talents, and consider options, try them. If I get far enough on my "detour"
I'll incorporate some of it here or at least post it as an alternative ending sort of thing. The fun part about being the
author is that i can try several detours without the time limits or pressures the characters are under.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
smart quotes and other annoyances
My computer has been trying to set its own rules regarding smart quotes and I thought I had it persuaded, but i saw looking
at last Tuesdays post thet I only fixed half of them. sorry if that made reading awkward. I've tried to do a better job with
today's new scenes. I've also posted links to a recent blog tour in case you missed it, on the Favorite Links page.
17 apr 10 @ 9:20 am
The two new scenes and next Tuesday's will give you a sense of one of the ways I build a novel, a little more insight than
I like actually, but I won't get it fixed in a week so you'' see it in a raw form. I often write several versions of a scene,
several scenes that I haven't decided a sequence for, serving a variety of purposes. In pulling them together, their flavor
and tone as much as their circumstances guide the sequence, and so todays went before the scenes to come. In the process,
though, i realized that they are almost repetitive of each other, action-wise. That tells me that that really should be one,
perhaps longer and better developed, scene, maybe. The first hints at a phenomenon that the next will make more clear. On
the other hand, the next is more toned down when really it should build with higher emotions as the story goes on (another
reason to merge or otherwise change). So maybe I need most of today's scene to come later, but a very different scene here
to offer the hints, a little more toned down for the effect of a build up toward a crisis... You get why I won't fix it instantly.
I will probably create a new scene, perhaps using elements of the softer toned one to come and the hints offered in this one
about Qiri's singing, but following a more different course of events. I'll also merge the events of the two current versions
into a new, more complex scene that reveals more.
Just out of curiosity, can you guess where the hints are leading, already? i sometimes think I'm being subtle only to realize
that I'm probably more a hammer on china: action and impact speak larger than any formal message in specific words; it's just
harder for the author to tell whether the message is the one intended, as actions can be interpreted in more than one way.
(That's why an audience and test readers are so valuable.)
On another strand entirely, have you been watching the news? Another batch of (seemingly) natural disasters to inspire you
if you haven't already tried your hand at the Earthquake challenge. if you come up with a story to explain the disasters
(other than the usual theories of geology), post it and let us know!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Although i always picture this part of the book as having action like any good pirate flick, it's not swashbuckling, and several
scenes here are more threat than action, through dialog, and mood swings. More mood swing than I originally intended, thinking
that these would be part of longer scenes, but when I put the roughs together, I decided the series of short scenes and their
different flavors and moods showed as much story progression as long thoroughly developed scenes could do. (Mostly showling
the status quo and Qiri's adjustment to her circumstances, learning that she has some control).
13 apr 10 @ 9:00 pm
They still need development, as I'm sure is obvious to the discerning reader, but they are not likely to be expanded vastly
unless to merge them more completely into a single scene instead of narrative detached from the scene with the dialog. Notes
inserted waiting to be incorporated properly include:
wires and patched work barely tucked out of the way, mismatched clothes, bears and mustaches and wild hair, rarely washed,
bands just below the elbows to keep loose shirts or sleeved jumpers out of the way; others pushed their sleeves back, revealing
fighting scars and heavy muscles.
See any big gaps that I haven't noticed?
Friday, April 9, 2010
juggling evil and decorum with words
Keeping to Qiri's POV helps: she can express to a degree what amuses her, what she disapproves of or simply lacks interest
in, a somewhat cool observer to what could easily become come inappropriate hot sex scenes. The language is a little harder
to juggle but Qiri is intended for a teen as well as college age "young adult" audience, so I've avoided explicatives
and vulgar language in favor of allusions to vulgar attitudes and behavior. The result is probably fairly light-hearted more
than dark but I am more concerned that the bad guys come across as bad guys, and that evil behavior doesn't come across as
fun and desirable to impressionable youth. As always, I appreciate feedback.
9 apr 10 @ 9:51 pm
It can be fun as well as challenging to write. Inuendos are one of those things that I have a hard time coming up with in
casual conversation when everyone is joking around, but with a bit of thought, I can sometimes manage in writing, and these
are the sort of characters where almost any degree of subtlety or crassness might be appropriate if I can come up with something
in the right ballpark.
Another challenge is to know what manner of bad behavior to show or discuss. Qiri's POV can help and harm. They aren't killing
people off aboard their own ship when they are being successful (when they are in trouble, maybe, but it's not yet time for
that; success first, trouble later with the success as a source of contrast). I considered bringing one of the aliens aboard,
though that require a change in Tebushey's attitudes, for the more physical reality of it, with that one getting killed off
in the end, but so far, Qiri hasn't been that dark of a tale, and I don't think it fits the flavor and tone of the rest.
Dark tales are certainly popular, so they have their place, but a main character that looks something like a big blue butterfly...
not a dark tale of lust and violence. In the end, the story has to be true to itself. Maybe I'll try something darker yet
still young adult another time, with an alien that has the right fit.
Writer's challenge 1: write a scene from the POV of an evil character.
Writer's challenge 2: if you normally write dark dramatic stuff, design a fluffy, sweet, or fun character. if you usually
do the latter, try the reverse and come up with a character of the night (NOT a vampire, warewolf, or other horror character)
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Well, I not only managed to write something for the Parsec competition (on the theme Color of Silence) but formatted and got
it ready and will be popping it in the mail tomorrow. No hopes of winning. I still found the theme near impossible to address
meaningfully and the story line is very fluffy -- not much better than the Earthquake story and some of the same characters
and their version of magic. It meets the basic requirements but I wouldn't say it met them well.
6 apr 10 @ 8:05 pm
Still, even if I do nothing else with the story, I consider getting it ready on time and sent in a valuable accomplishment.
It's been so rare that I sometimes wonder if I don't have a fear of completion. It's also good practice for meeting self-imposed
deadlines, always hard, and for calling an end to revision and editing, even harder for most writers including myself. We
always find more that can be polished, fixed, added to, trimmed... But eventually there has to be an end.
Actually, I probably often end just a little too soon. I was revising one I thought I'd finished but when I got close to
the end I found that I had finished with just a few notes on what I had in mind for an ending. I kind of know why. By the
time I get to the end of the first couple of drafts, it's taken so long I hardly know what all I've changed and suspect that
the ending needs massive readjustments (though usually it doesn't because I was driving toward some version of that same ending
all along). the impression, though, leaves me feeling like there's no reason to put a lot of effort into it since it needs
so much rework. Have to stop working at some point, but also have to finish.
Friday, April 2, 2010
As Qiri sings so I write
Another scene posted for Qiri.
2 apr 10 @ 6:59 pm
It wasn't a conscious thing at the time, but Qiri's reaction to being asked for cheerful tunes when she is barely coherent
in her distress reflects a lot of how I deal with writing: a write best those scenes that reflect my mood at the time. I
can deviate, but if I am depressed, a scene intended as cheerful is likely to come out ironic or sarcastic, the humor dark,
if I can muster any, and it will not have the flavor intended. On the other hand, it may come out very useful, which is one
of the reason I don't bother trying to plan my stories too closely until the writing is well in progress. Often I will try
to write scenes that reflect my mood, and can really give them the desired flavor, I think, better that way. However, every
scene should have some tension, forces of change, and change itself in order to further the story line, and that element of
the scene, i find, grows best when I am not just aligning with my own mood, but trying to write at conflict with it. It will
achieve a mixed emotional state rather than the more clear one I might have in mind, but later when I am revising and sequencing,
I can put the two scene elements together to enact a change and make a fuller scene through the combination than I could have
achieved in a single writing effort. Scenes that I have drafted in a single sitting are rarely complete scenes. (I am amazed
by writers that sit down and write a book in sequence. I cannot even imagine how it can work well and wonder how much is
changed/added in the revision!
In other news...
It is harder than I thought to pull together a proposal letter for an agent but maybe the difficulty of it means I'll come
up with something better than past attempts. I'm trying to write what could be a back cover blurb, this time, or pieces of
blurb. I thought it would have to be very different than writing but remembered that some blurbs are clips from the book,
so I'm trying to find clips where one character describes another very emotionally to see if that doesn't get me at least
a better starting point for a decent query letter.
Writer's challenge: take two scenes with different moods--they can be totally different characters or timelines but be prepared
to change out characters and details--then create a scene that begins with the tone of one and ends with the other.