Monday, April 30, 2012

What I read: April 2012

It's unlikely I'll read another book tonight since I guess I should do my taxes instead, so I'll just post this now.


OWW: Nothing. Yeah, I'm not sure this is valuable for me anymore. 

“Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed. Library book! Stylistically very different from the last few books I read. I was having a hard time with it until I realized that it’s sword-and-sorcery, and the tropes are for that sub-genre, not the high fantasy that I usually read. This realization led to an interesting conversation with the boy where I tried to explain the difference between the two sub-genres. I’ll be interested to see what characters pop up in the next book in the series.

“Not Cold Enough”. Not sure it counts to read things I wrote myself, but I did read the whole thing. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ad Astra

So there I was at Ad Astra on Sunday morning, doing a workshop on editing/revising and pitching, led by Julie Czerneda. She put us in groups, and when we were all introducing ourselves (the three of us in my group), Leo asked "so what do you write"? And I froze. Which is pretty bad when you're in a workshop about pitching. I thought about Fairfax, which is historical fantasy I guess (since Bucklepunk wouldn't ring a bell for anyone). I thought about Apocryphal and Toothbrushing club, which are both Urban Fantasy, and I said something lame and vague and didn't answer at all.

We were supposed to register for the workshop on Friday night, but I didn't know that, either because I didn't read the program very closely, or because it wasn't really in there (?). So I wandered in, and she asked me if I was on her list, and I said was I supposed to put my name on a list? And she said she had room, that was fine. I said did I have to do any writing, and she said yes, and a probably made a moue of sadness. So I'm sure I left a fabulous impression there. Well, it was early, and I'd had no coffee. Never did yesterday, actually. And I seem to have survived. She asked if people had paid for the workshop separately, or if it was included, and the other people said it was included, and I sat down. Awesome! Strange organizational structure, though. The entire weekend (I only went Saturday and Sunday) seemed a little lacking in clear information.

One of the topics discussed in the workshop was "crit groups", and it made me wonder if I'm getting anything out of OWW at this point. I rarely read anything, including the thousands of emails I've received, and I rarely post anything. And also, "If you're going to make it in this business, you have to learn to write to deadline, so you might as well start now and impose one on yourself." That's a paraphrase, but considering my endless editing cycle, might be a good idea for me to take to heart. So, Apophis, you have until Friday!

After the workshop I went to a panel about flash fiction. I went to one where people sat around arguing the definition of Northern Gothic Fantasy (after which I requested a Timothy Findley book from the library that is an example of Urban Gothic or something) and then finally one about the elevator pitch with some editor types, which gave a different perspective on some of the stuff covered in the morning in the workshop. Very cool. And then I went home to eat chicken noodle and buy groceries.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Flash fiction challenge: Pinocchinose

I actually had the idea for this story the evening before the challenge came out. We were standing around after karate class talking about how I broke Mike's nose (this was like two or three years ago, and I was the third person to break it in about two months, so I don't feel that guilty; it was getting pretty weak) and how it's never going to heal now, and it will just get longer and longer, that bit that's never going to reattach, and he'll be able to swing it and hit people like a third arm... anyway.


"Have you been taking your meds?" Simone asked. If she was calling, she was probably at home, bored.

"Yes," he lied. He could feel the skin stretching on his nose, the cartilage pushing outward and, like a faun growing antlers, he wanted to rub the stretched flesh.

"You aren't, are you?" Simone said. She sounded like she was pacing, probably tidying up her condo.

"Yeah, I am," said Jack. The meds were between him and his doctor. She was not either of those people.

He rubbed the back of his hand on his nose; the scabs were definitely peeling off. Still, he couldn't leave the house like this, with his nose getting longer. Children would point at him in the playground. The man in the home Depot would ask if that was a mask and was he here to rob the place. More learned people would make Cyrano de Bergerac references, but only the children would voice what everyone knew was true -- he was a lair, Pinocchio, except he was no longer a real boy, he was an adult, a man, a lawyer. Some people would say that was a fitting problem for a lawyer to have, and how could he practice law like that. Well, the joke was on them; lawyering was no problem, it was regular life that was the trick.

"You're at home, right?" He wasn't her problem, anyway. Simone was pleasant enough, of the proper social class, and an age-appropriate three years younger than him, but there was no chemistry.

"Of course I'm at home," he said.

"What is it you don't like about them? Is it the weight?"

"That's not a selling point for the drugs, no." he could handle that, maybe, if it didn't feel like his thoughts were pushing through butter. No, it was worse than butter, it was like trying to push his thoughts through hydrogenated vegetable oil. They were still in there somewhere, but there was no way at them that didn't involve getting covered in slime. Not like now. The thoughts exploded like fireworks and drifted together without the sulfur smell and the nasty haze. If only his nose didn't itch so much. He crossed his eyes and looked down at it. It was definitely longer than a few minutes ago.

"The fat is okay," said Simone. "I like a little bulk."

The fat was not okay, but he had a feeling it wouldn't last long, the way he was burning energy right now. He tried rubbing his nose on the wall, to peel off that long bit. A grinding tool might help get it back down to size. Those were all in the basement. Cell service would be abysmal down there. "Look, I've got to go," he said.

"I’m coming over," he heard Simone say as he hung up.

The basement was a barely used collection of tools and benches. He opened a drawer, took out a wood file, experimentally rubbed it on the tip of his nose. He rubbed harder, and the scabs came free, but that just unleashed all the pent-up growth from his sinus cavities. Sure, his head felt better now, but his nose was twice as long. He set the file back in its drawer.

Cocaine had once been an effective antidote to this problem. The current meds were pretty much the opposite, but mechanically, the dremel tool might do the same thing. He chose a router bit, plugged it in, put it up to his nostril. It didn't hurt much more than a dental drill, at last until he hit the cartilage. Then he jerked back, and the cord frayed away from the wall socket, and the tool shut off and wouldn't start again. Maybe part of cocaine's effect had been biochemical, in addition to the physical scouring.

There were two options left. His up close vision wasn't as good as it used to be, and Simone might be here soon, so maybe the band saw wasn't the way to go. He put the safety key into the belt sander, flipped the power, and put his face to the sandpaper just as there was a pounding on the door.

He'd recently changed the locks and re-hidden the spare key, so Simone might be angry and irrational.

He shut off the belt sander and took out the safety key, and put a paper towel to his nose as he headed back upstairs. If he had glanced at the windows he might have noticed flashing lights. But his eyesight was somewhat blocked by the wad of bounty on his face.

She wouldn't know he'd lied if she couldn't see his nose, even if he hadn't managed to get rid of the extra bit yet.

He opened the door.

But it wasn't her. Two cops stood there. A few feet back stood a pair of paramedics, and for some reason a couple of firetrucks were in the street. At first, Jack thought they would tell him he needed to evacuate because one of his neighbours' houses was on fire.

But no, they seemed all to be here on his account. "How are things going?" he said, through the paper towel.

"Would you mind stepping outside, sir?" one of the cops said.

Jack sighed. Simone had lied. She wasn't coming, she was calling the cops. He shut the door behind him, heard the lock click. That was fine.

"Your nose okay?" good cop asked.

"Just a bleed." The paper towel was sodden, dripping down his arm. Probably they thought he'd been doing coke again. Who knew what Simone had said about him.

He glanced across the street and saw her, sitting in her BMW. She had come by after all. But she had lied about something else. Her nose was so long, it was amazing she could turn the steering wheel.

It must be the fat. It wasn't okay with her after all. He was so right not to take the meds.

Monday, April 02, 2012

What I read -- March 2012

OWW: Nothing.

“In Ashes Lie” by Marie Brennan. Sometimes I let Ed read something when I’m done with it, and he loves it and goes to the library and requests everything else in the series. And then of course I’m committed. This was good, but I liked the first one better.

“A Star Shall Fall” by Marie Brennan.
It was nice to have less Lune. “Fairfax”, which is my current major project, is a historical fantasy, I suppose. It’s neat to see an example of pulling off successfully all the research that is required to make that work. It seems like every day I write something and think to myself, “I’ll have to look that up later,” whether it be about what the houses would have looked like, what they would have been made out of, what the people would have eaten... The two books I’ve read are not enough. I’m not sure anything will ever be enough.

“With Fate Conspire” by Marie Brennan. Toronto Public Library provided me with a bit of a respite on finishing the fourth book of this series (Ed had to renew it for me) since they went on strike. Not that I strictly approve of librarians going on strike – I have mixed feelings, and unfortunately not much of a clue about the issues, and think they’re sometimes playing into the enemy’s hand by being closed and hence saving the city money that the city shouldn’t save, and I work in high tech so I’m not unionized so I don’t get overtime pay but that doesn’t mean that other people shouldn’t, and don’t like myself when I argue about that sort of thing because employee relations shouldn’t be a race to the bottom and on and on.

These were really good books and have probably ruined me for the next thing I read, which won't have the same awesome richness, but at the same time I was happy to go to the library for my next reserved book (the strike ended Friday) and see that it was only 274 pages.

In process -- March 2012

First Draft

“Fairfax”. I’m on Chapter 28 now, with something above 70,000 words. A couple of days ago one of my friends asked me what it’s about, and my elevator pitch absolutely failed me! It wasn’t there! So I should work on that, I guess.

“Lucky Kate”. Short story, just a pile of notes right now. I get to write this when I have an actual main character, rather than just a situation, and once I do Draft 4 of Chickpea (Done, why doesn't this place have a strike-through?), a final draft of Apophis, and get XTree on OWW. Totally doable, right?

Editing

“XTree”. (short story) Started the month part way through the third draft. Finished that... Next I want to get it on OWW.

“Chickpea”. (short story) On March 12, I went through my piles and files until I found the current draft of this story. At first, I couldn’t believe what I’d found was the current draft, because it’s not at all close to the version in my head. After a couple of pages, I set it aside and filed for two hours. Ed asked me what I was doing, and I got to explain about “waxing the cat”. But the filing was productive, in that now I have better files (!) and found the comments to Apophis, so I can go back to that and maybe do a last draft and ship it out, and also, I realized that what is missing is backstory. I have this great main character, Savannah, and a great situation for her, and I know where she’s going, but I have no idea how she got there.

So on Friday night Ed and I were driving around and was lamenting the fact that I get stuck editing, and he suggested I try a “scene commander” approach. So I did that, and on March 26, I managed to get a fourth draft of this story, and I know how it ends, even though I have to rewrite that ending so it has some flesh. Turns out the ending I’d written was actually completely wrong and backwards. Amazing.


Being reviewed


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Knitting


“Joy” from Rowan Vintage Knits. All the knitting is done. I’ve even bought buttons! Now it just needs to be put together.


“Bome” fair isle. Sleeves done.