Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King

Why I read it: I was in need of some polishing tips, last minute, for "Apocryphal". I tore the house apart looking for it. I pilfered it from my dad 18 months ago. Now I've read it, I should give it back. I distilled it down to a single checklist for myself first.

Tastes like chicken: All the editing courses I've taken. None of the story structure. This book is about the scene and paragraph level.

Bookmark: Checklist I made.

What I liked: There were some pretty simple things I could do to brush up my prose. That was nice. I searched for "said", and for "ly", "as" and "ing", just to quickly polish things. Other tasks took a lot of time.

Not so much: After a while I got bored and started skipping the samples.

Lesson: Well, make that checklist for myself. I read all the "Apocryphal" stuff out loud, and wow, that was interesting. I use too many commas.

A pickled onion is a poor substitute for a raspberry

But Sunday we were out walking in a park in Scarborough (not the blight that people say it is -- Meadowvale park is really cool -- and the river was totally in flood. I'd love to go back and see what it's normallly like, on a dry day) and saw raspberry bushes with unripe (a week or two out) berries. That's probably why I was craving them. Unfortunately, they're just not something I keep in my fridge.

Friday I sent in my application/submission package for Viable Paradise. Now, I wait. And work on the other 63 chapters. I hope I can keep some of the drive going. It would be nice to be able to let someone read the whole thing, maybe in August, with a reasonable sensation that all the scenes are there, and in the right order.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sea Leopard" by Craig Thomas

Why I read it: The title had Leopard in it, and as my brain was working on "Water Leopard", and "Sea Leopard" is sort of similar, when Ed left it on the floor in the living room, I picked it up. It's a library book.

Bookmark: Chapters Love of Reading Foundation

Tastes like chicken: I guess that Hugh Laurie book I read a couple of years ago was a send-up of this genre, though I didn't really realize it at the time, as I haven't read much of this genre. It's a submarine thriller. I think Hunt for Red October (the only other submarine thriller I've read, even though they're lying everywhere in our house) is a better book.

What I liked: Written in the early 80's, so it didn't know what we (think we) know now about the USSR at the time, and their resources, and stuff.

Plot: British invent a cloaking device and put it in a submarine. They fail to take it out when they send the sub out on manoeuvers, and then the Russians enact a plan to steal the sub (temporarily, until they can steal the technology) and then give it back by normal diplomatic means. They have some pretty cool weapons (the catherine wheel is nice). The sub-plot involves Hyde trying to find the cloaking device's designer, a recluse whose only confidante seems to be his college-aged daughter.

Not so much: I guess the world in the 80s was populated 95% by men? Maybe if Hyde had been a woman...

The main character was a cloaking device for a submarine that had a "cloaking device vs. self" conflict. The self of the conflict being the backup system, and the automatic switchover for it. Seriously. It's the only character that changed.

I had a hard time keeping track of the humans.

Lesson: If I was making a screenplay out of this book, I would consolidate Hyde the Australian and Clark the American into one character and have them not run their late-book adventures simultaneously. Though for all I know, these are recurring characters from one of the author's previous works. (update: I read in the Amazon reviews that this is in fact the first appearance of the recurring Hyde, who I would have cut. Interesting.) The last third of the book (especially when Hyde was out with the girl getting shot at by the Russians) did not entirely work for me.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

"The Dragon Prince" by Thich Nhat Hanh and "Children of the Dragon" by Sherry Garland

Why I read them: A few weeks ago I was on a long-ish drive, and I was thinking the way I do. There's this billboard near my house that had a Spanner ad on it for a while, and in the ad the model was wearing a leopard-spotted skirt. The background was white, with black rosettes with blue in the middle. I was thinking of stealing the colourway for "Leopard print cardi" from Knit.1 Fall 2007. So then I was thinking, it needed a better name. I chose "water leopard". And a story idea was born.

At around the same time, one of my coworkers told a couple of stories about his life when he was a little kid in Vietnam. It blew me away that someone who had been a boat person was now leading a normal middle-class life... I guess I had a failure of imagination and somehow thought that once a boat person, always a boat person. My bad. So the water leopard story had to take place in that sort of place. To get a feel, I got some library books.

Bookmark: Library receipts ("Children of the Dragon" was pretty short and aimed at a younger audience, so I read it in a sitting).

Tastes like chicken: One thing that surprised me was the story of the Spiral Palace, because it made me think of Spiral Castle in "The Book of Three", and so much other Celtic mythology.

Things I liked: Both books had the story of why there are monsoons, and that was especially neat, because I got to read the second one with a certain amount of acculturation to the tale. When that happens, it makes me happy.

There were tragic endings, which I don't associate so much with western/European fairy tales, at least the Disney-fied ones I was brought up with. There were divided loyalties that could not be reconciled, and, as mentioned in the introduction to "the Dragon Prince", rather than good-vs-evil, more of a progression (the Magic Gate, where a swordsman leaves his master all innocent, and doesn't realize as he becomes one of the demons he's fighting against, until he tries to go back to his master).

Not so Much: In "The Dragon Prince" especially, some of the stories seemed to have a jarring structure. The story would start at a moment of tension, and then wander backwards, and then backwards again to explain how everyone had gotten there, and then skip forward. I wonder if Vietnamese has different tenses than English and this was a failure of translation, or if that's a natural story structure for their culture.

I'd love to see some of these stories fleshed out, the way those Terry Windham-driven series did, into novels.

Lesson: Monsoons, more rivers than roads, different trees, different fruit, how to grow rice...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I really hope I'm spelling that right. Elizabeth Bear, when she's working on a project, sometimes has a daily list she fills out... how many words, mean things, etc. One of the items is "Words Word don't know". Asthenosphere is one for me. Whee!