Monday, August 27, 2012

Elder Black Pudding

Depression is a monster, and it's not even a very active one. It's more like a slime or a sludge or an ooze or a pudding, once you know what it is. It clings to your legs, slows you down, makes the struggle seem futile, until you want to give up because 'What's the point?'. Then it creeps up and swallows you. ... Elder Black Pudding Depression. (I enjoy the pun that is "inky death" in the descriptor of that link. Which is a good sign.)

It's not rational either. Anxiety & Depression feed one another, and both are extremely irrational. Crazy with a capital K.

I spent the better part of this last week practicing "fake it til you make it", without much success, but just enough to keep moving. That's why there were no blog updates containing any writing; I didn't do any.

Last night I finally pounded out a fresh 750'ish words, and over half of those are going in the can. This is not helping my ascent from the hole where that crazy part of my brain keeps telling me that I have nothing of value to contribute, but... it's still progress.

I am hopeful - and being kicked by my depression for every ounce I muster - that I will have offerings here to the muses, myself, and readers this week.

I also start school tomorrow.

In the meantime,  I wan to share words from other people about this monster (I'm afraid I don't have any witty titles for these): -- I really love Holly's stuff. Her voice is so honest.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Harry Harrison

It's been a week now, since Harry Harrison's passing and I feel like I've been remiss in not talking about it. While I've never written any real Science Fiction (my Flash-Challenge piece about Icarus is the closest I've gotten and has me learning a lot about Quantum stuff), it's always held a special place in my heart as a reader. I'm afraid I don't have any heavy insights to add to the masses offered all over the internet in the wake of his passing, but...

While catching up on some blog reading, I came across this post by Neil Gaiman where he shared scans of an article he wrote for Knave in 1984 (if you don't know, Knave appears to be the British cousin of Penthouse), where he interviewed Mr. Harrison. The scans are hell on the eyes to read, so I took the time to transcribe the article as I absorbed it. It is certainly worth sharing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday; Anthony & Julie

Here it is, my first Six Sentence Sunday. This is from a flash-fiction piece I'm working on that must fit into 250-750 words. It's still in the first draft, but it's what's in-progress:

They might've made a clean escape if they had seen the trap. Maybe it was a tripwire, maybe something else; Anthony only knew that one minute they were running, hand in hand, and the next there was a jerk on his arm and their hands were wrenched apart. He turned back to see her sprawled on the concrete, a mass of debris covering her legs. Neither wasted time in getting her free, and they'd escaped down the nearest manhole. He didn't notice the blood until he went down the ladder after her. The rungs were slick with it.

Feel free to leave feedback (I encourage you to), and definitely go check out the other hundred-plus authors sharing their six sentences.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Starting "Six Sentence Sunday"

While prowling around the internet, I was directed toward this "thing" called Six Sentence Sunday as something to do on a blog. As I'm trying to maintain a level of writing here and use this blog as a motivating tool, I decided to look into it. I'm enjoying the Flash Fiction Challenge, so why not try this out? (I'll explain a bit more about what it is in a moment.)

I looked around the site and realized that a lot of the authors that were participating in this "blog hop" were romance writers, and I felt a little nervous. Maybe I had missed a note about the community? Maybe I shouldn't go poking my nose in? Of course, that's just my anxiety getting the better of me. I sent a quick note off to the site admin with my observations and an inquiry about whether there were preferences - I'm not one to go barging in where I'm not a good fit, and I'm grown enough to realize that it's not personal when it happens.

Much to my delight, I got a quick note back from the host, Sara Brookes. She explained why I was seeing what I was seeing and made it clear that I was very welcome to join in on the fun:
The only reason romance is prevalent is because I started it, and most of the people who joined in when I did were my author friends in the romance community (since I myself write romance). They brought their friends and so on and so forth. We have had, and continue to have, a wide variety and welcome anyone who wants to participate, regardless of genre. We'd be happy to have you hop right in!
This is one of the friendliest emails I've ever received from a site admin, a complete stranger. I can't really say anything else about it. That email left me feeling pretty good about things - feeling pretty good in general. (I also really like that she used the word prevalent instead of predominant. If I had more carefully considered my own email, I would've made the same word choice. I used "predominant" - probably because I was feeling intimidated.)

So, as long as I can remember and can keep myself writing and working on new things, I will start participating in Six Sentence Sunday regularly! (I know you're excited, right?)

What it is: Six Sentence Sunday hosts a list of links to blogs that are participating. By 9am EST on Sunday, participants are to have posted a blog entry containing 6 sentences from a current work in progress (WIP). What started out with one person grew to four people, and since February 2010 has grown to 150 links currently on the list for 8/19/12 (make that 151, as I've just added mine to the list - so I'll have a new post up two three days in a row when my SSS post lands Sunday morning).

I've linked the site a couple times here and will link back to it in subsequent Six Sentence Sunday updates - I encourage you to go check them out. Lots of six-sentence morsels out there, and you could discover a new author to love.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flash Fiction Challenge: Opening Line

This week's Flash Fiction Challenge from was to pick an opening line out of three. I went with "Thursday was out to get me."

No title, working or otherwise. Not so good at this PI stuff, but I do love it.

word count: 1375 (and still a sloppy, too-fast wrap up at the end)

Thursday was out to get me.

I played the video footage back again. Sure as shit, that was him and my gal, Friday, tucking bugs under my lampshade, and wiring my ficus in the corner. I knew I couldn't trust the girl - you can never trust a girl, but I didn't expect Thursday to turn on me. We'd been in business together for years. He was the Watson to my Holmes.

I sat back in my chair. It creaked and I sighed. We were so close to nailing the Mayor as nothing but a puppet for the gangsters. Thursday was supposed to be getting surveillance photos of the Mayor's afternoon closed cabinet, which pretty much everyone knew involved every mob boss head in the town. Even the cops knew, but no one cared. No one except my client, and she was going to be disappointed.

Who bought him off? Friday probably worked for one of the bosses, maybe even the Mayor directly, but who could buy Thursday? He hated everyone in town, except me. Seems I was wrong about that exception. I hoped they paid him good 'cause his family was going to need that cash when I buried his ass. Something was bugging me about the whole thing though.

Thursday helped me wire the video in my office. He knew it was recording twenty-four, seven and he knew I checked it before I came into the office every day. It didn't make sense that he'd plant bugs for someone else without taking out my feed first.

I hit replay again.

Friday kept look out the windows, flitting between them like an agitated bee. Thursday went to the lampshade first. Amateur move. He knew better. After the lamp, he pulled out a set of wires and went to work in my ficus. I love that ficus. It was hard to watch him rough it up like that, but there was something there. He looked nervous, and then - there it was. He looked directly at the camera and he looked scared. It all made sense now, but didn't make me feel any better.

Thursday wasn't out to get me - it was worse than that. I stopped the tape, pulled my phone out of my pocket. I dialed Mrs. Thursday. No answer. I called the kids' school, asked about them. Thursday made me an emergency contact, so they were happy to dish. The kids didn't come in today; Mrs. Thursday picked them up yesterday and said they wouldn't be to school for a couple days due to a death in the family. I hung up before I could say that there hadn't been, but if I didn't do something right there would be.

I dialed Thursday.

"This is Thursday." He sounded cool enough. I played along.

"Thursday, it's Vince."

"Vincent! Yeah, what's the problem boss?"

Thursday never called me Vincent. Nobody called me Vincent. "I locked the keys to my office back home. You in town? Able to come let me in?"

"Ahhh," he stalled. "No can do, Vincent. Death in the family and all, me and the missus are taking the kids out of town. I might not see you for a few days."

"Sorry to hear it, Thursday, real sorry to hear it. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you or the family. You know they are as good as mine, too."

"Sure, sure thing. We're hanging in there. Sorry I couldn't help you out with the key. If we weren't in such a hurry, I'd meet you halfway. Gotta go, Vincent."

"See you soon, Thursday." And that was it. We were really going to have to work on our code-speak if we both got through this. Best I could guess was they were listening in. Maybe it was only to his end, maybe it was to both, and maybe they were at the Halfway Inn. I had to assume Mrs. Thursday and the kids were there, too. I know that's how I'd do it if I were them.

I went down to my office and piled up the evidence we collected so far on the Mayor. I took pictures of it all and sent it to the phone I keep in my safe, then I burned my phone’s SIM card and tossed the phone into the compactor. I deserved a new one if I pulled this off without getting myself killed. I put the evidence in a briefcase and put on my good shoes. A man shouldn’t die wearing bad shoes.

* * *

Friday sat behind the clerk’s desk at the Halfway Inn, twirling a lollipop against her lips. “Hey Vincey, sweet of you to visit me at work. How’s business?” Pretty sure she was calling me a sucker. Also pretty sure she was right.

“It’s been better, but let’s not dance, sweetheart. I didn’t wear my dancing shoes. Where’s your boss?”

She started to play innocent, so I pulled back my jacket to show her my piece. “Why so serious, Vincey? Besides, I don’t know what you mean. Mister Crisper ain’t here.”

“Not Mister Crisper,” Crisper was the owner of this shoddy excuse for a flophouse. He didn’t have a clue what was going on below decks.

“I ain’t got no other boss but you, then, Vincey. But I can’t take a break til Mister Crisper gets back to take over the desk. You wanna wait up in 113?” She slid a key across the counter.

“That sounds like a great idea, sweetheart. I’ll get things ready for you.” If they were upstairs, they didn’t want any more of a mess than I did, that was good news in a tornado of bad. I took the key and went up the stairs.

One of the muscles was waiting outside the door. “That the stuff you’ve got on Mr. Calone?”
“Might be. Who’s asking?”

“Doesn’t matter. That the only copy?”

“These are all the originals from my office. No copy prints left there.” It wasn’t exactly a lie.

He grunted, seemed satisfied. “Give it to me. I take the case, I check it out. I walk away, you wait 10 minutes, and then you can go inside and take what’s yours.”

“Why don’t I just do it after I give you the case?”

“Wouldn’t want you following us, Mr. Doonan. And it gives the boys a chance to toss your place to make sure.” He grinned like he was the most clever man in the world.

I could wait and I wasn’t worried about them tossing my office. I’d eat my hat if they found my safe, and my shoes if they could crack it. I handed him the case and he shuffled through the papers and the pictures. When he seemed satisfied, he walked away, humming some song I didn’t recognize.

The hall was too quiet when he was gone. I started getting nervous. I put the key in the door knob after five minutes, but it wasn’t the right key.

I kicked in the door.

Thursday was tied and gagged, in a chair by the window. He was slouched forward and I couldn’t see his face, and I was glad. He wasn’t breathing. Mrs. Thursday was laid out on the bed, not moving. She probably wasn’t going to move again, judging by the amount of blood soaking the mattress. I didn’t see the kids. I kicked in the bathroom door. Both of ‘em, Lucy and Thursday Junior, were wrapped up like cocoons in the tub, but wriggling like worms. At least they were alive. I left them there to look at the scene a couple minutes more.

When I cut ‘em loose all they wanted to know was where was their mom, where was their dad. I made them put on a blindfold before I took them through the room, told them I would explain when I got them home.

I used the room phone to call the cops, though they probably knew exactly what had happened, since it was cop cuffs holding Thursday to the chair and his missus to the bed. They knew me, and the sarge let me take the kids home after a quick statement. I was their legal guardian now.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Geek & Sundry: Story Board Episode 1 Recommendations

Nothing original here, just a list of recommendations made during the course of the Geek & Sundry Story Board Episode "Urban Fantasy: Threat or Menace?" and a couple of links that I forgot to put into my last post. (Putting them here as I don't expect folks to go back through a previous post to find two itty bitty links.)

I mentioned two authors that I forgot to link:  David Boop and Delia Sherman. Both were mentioned in the context of Interesting Things that they've said about genre and things revolving around the notion.

On to the recommendations! (This list is from the Info section below the above-linked video.)

Diana Recommends:

Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne
Jane True series by Nicole Peeler
The Black Sun's Daughter series by M.L.N. Hanover

Emma Recommends:

Topper; Rain in the Doorway by Thorne Smith

Jim Recommends:
The Twenty Palaces series by Harry Connolly
Alex Verus novels by Benedict Jacka

Patrick Recommends:
Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Christopher Moore
The Odyssey by Homer
A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare

In addition to these listed recommendations made toward the end of the panel, I made note of a few other books mentioned in the course of the panel conversation. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list (it's not very long either).

Last Call by Tim Powers
American Gods by Neil Gaiman (I'm not 100% sure this was mentioned - it could be I was just thinking so hard about it when they were talking about Urban Fantasy & its cousins filling the need for fairy-tales/myths/folklore that I think it was mentioned)
The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams (will be released Sept 4, 2012)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Geek & Sundry's Story Board: Urban Fantasy

I've learned that I love panels. They are akin to miniature lectures and there's always more to learn if you pay attention. So, this week, Geek & Sundry launched the first episode of their show Story Board, titled "Urban Fantasy: Threat or Menace?" It's not a traditional panel, but a "hangout" - I'm going to call it a panel.

Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicle) hosted with Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Emma Bull (War of the Oaks), and Diana Rowland (White Trash Zombies) as guests. The whole thing was just over an hour long and well worth the time. It was obvious that they had a lot more to talk about, and it's a shame that it had to end at the hour mark. 

During the course of this panel they discussed several questions and I had several thoughts of my own that I wanted to put out there. Anyone is welcome to chime in with their own thoughts, here. Otherwise, I wouldn't bother sharing!

What Qualifies A Story As Urban Fantasy

Emma Bull opened the discussion saying she felt that to be an urban fantasy a story needed to be set in a city. Diana Rowland disagreed, saying that it only required the story to be set in the real world. Jim Butcher kind of wrapped up the discussion saying that the whole thing was really about bringing magic and monsters and other scary things to modern audiences.

For myself: If a story is not set in an Urban Environment, I don't feel like it should be called Urban Fantasy. This harkens back to my post about covers - like the cover, a book's shelving (what genre labels are REALLY for) promises something. Urban Fantasy promises two very specific things - not one or the other. It might be meeting the qualifications of Fantasy, but if there's no urban setting there should be no Urban label. Even the requirement of the Real World is a little shaky. Emma mentions Fritz Leiber's city of Lankhmar as a good example of a setting for what she'd consider non-Real-World Urban Fantasy.

This is also a good and solid example of how broken the idea of genre can be when you start talking about specific novels. The Wikipedia link there for Lankhmar lists the genre as Sword & Sorcery and Fantasy. (David Boop said, at Denver Comic Con, that genre is  dead and tags are the way to go. I tend to agree for pretty much these sorts of reasons.)

The City Is The New Forest (attributed to Delia Sherman)

There was talk about the Forest, and the City of modern days being the Forest of older stories.

I don't feel very strongly about trying to identify stories by genre, when I don't feel that genre is the right way to organize things, but there are certain aspects in Urban Fantasy (and within several other, related genres) that I find deeply interesting. Late in the panel, these authors discussed the gap that genres like Urban Fantasy are filling in the human psyche, in our need for stories. It is suggested that these stories fill our need for the Fairy-tale - which Rothfuss defined as "set in the Real World where something Other intrudes on that Real world" - and Emma Bull suggested that, instead of Fairy-tale, these stories fulfilled a need for Myth, becoming Contemporary Myth.

I don't disagree, but I think at this point, the topic started splitting hairs. Fairy-tales, Mythology, and Folklore share a very strong and central spirit. We've come to treat Mythology as "a way of explaining phenomenon in the world in the absence of science" - but what about the Minotaur? What about Io? What about a dozen other myths that don't serve to explain anything? And Fairy-tales have been relegated to the role of Moral Tale, when that's not at all what they were. Folklore may be a better compromise...

I don't think any of these things are necessarily accurate, either. People are disenfranchised with their regular lives, they need escapism. Urban Fantasy, just like Epic Fantasy, just like Science Fiction, and all the labels in between, serve as a source of that. Urban Fantasy is just much more easily digestible, which leads us into the next part...

World Building in Epic Fantasy vs Urban Fantasy

Rothfuss suggested that one of the major draws of Urban Fantasy was the lower amount of world-building required (this results in less effort for the audience to immerse in the story - they know the setting). Of course, Urban Fantasists disagree, but I find the arguments on their side of the fence to be fairly weak. Yes, the Urban Fantasist is still required to provide description - as Emma Bull said, "Not everyone has been to New Orleans." - but they are not obligated to create an entire world. We've been living one and building one for tens of thousands of years that they get to use.

By no means am I saying that Urban Fantasists have to do less work. No, not even a little bit. There's a lot of research required when you are working in the real world, but this fact remains -

Urban Fantasists do not have to build the world from the foundation up in the same way as Epic Fantasists. There is world development and a required good use of setting, but the Real World provides a vast body of foundational material that the Urban Fantasist doesn't have to create or explain.

Consider, for a moment, the things an Epic Fantasist must think about and create that an Urban Fantasist may take for granted:

  • Geography
  • Ecology
  • Cosmology
  • Physics
  • Geology
  • Biology
  • Cultures (and all that entails)
  • Meteorology
  • Population (Flow, Growth, Expansion)
  • Societal Structures
  • Technology
  • ...conventions of time-frames: paved roads, wheeled transport, electricity, water services, etc...

Needless to say, the list could go on. I might've spared you some -ologies if I'd thought about it...

Sex - Where's the Hot?

The panel also discussed sex in Urban Fantasy vs Epic Fantasy. I don't have much to say about this topic, I'm afraid. Rothfuss said it best, "Sex is important to the characters, but it is rarely important to the plot." There's a balance that a lot of authors don't know how to keep.

Of interest: Rowland said she was yelled at for not having sex in one of her novels, whereas Rothfuss was yelled at for having it in one of his.

Sex seems to be expected in the Urban Fantasy genre, and they attribute this to its close relation to Paranormal Romance. I admit to having a reluctance to go too far into these related genres specifically because of this relationship. For example, I have read 16 of the Anita Blake novels. In the beginning of the series, there was a very good ratio of story to sex. When the sex started to actually get in the way of a story, I stopped reading entirely. I hope Urban Fantasy doesn't fall into that trap.

If you want erotica, go to the erotica section.


No literary discussion involving monsters, magic, or other such things would be complete without mentioning zombies. To wrap things up, I bring you this quote from Jim Butcher, with which I heartily agree:

"In the zombie apocalypse, it's not the zombies I'm worried about. It's the other survivors. Those are the guys who are gonna getcha."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Birthday Goals & Mux the Goblin

I didn't do this week's Flash Fiction Challenge (writing a situation from the PoV of both the antagonist & protagonist). I may save it for another day, though I am well beyond the usual Friday @ Noon deadline to play. (Who says you can't save your play for later?)

Yesterday was my birthday. I'm officially an old spinster at 31. I got two lovely cards from small humans (a friend's children), a little bit of birthday swag (including a copy of "Preludes & Nocturnes" the first volume of the 12 volume set "The Complete Sandman Library"), and an outing to some botanic gardens at the foot of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains here in Colorado.

My birthday present to me, however, was writing a new and complete story. The complete draft isn't finished, though I've written a summary of events and am working my way through those events. This way, I felt like I reached my goal ("finishing a new and complete story on my birthday") even though I did not finish writing the fleshed out story by midnight. With all of my other plans and a much needed nap, I didn't start writing until after 9pm. 1500 words later I'm not quite halfway through the tale and time was up.

 I'm still very pleased with my progress. I have a beginning, a middle, and an idea of an ending.

A little preview, from the first draft (trust me when I say this is VERY rough - there are places where I opted to just get the ideas down and worry about form later):