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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Only two days before November first and the start of this year's NaNoWriMo.  It will be my seventh time participating in this crazy endeavor. 

The first time I did it, in 2002, there were about 14,000 participants.  That number, 14K, was about my word count as well!

In 2003 I managed to get 50K.  I remember I was in the middle of a sentence, not sure which way to take it.  I already had the habit of running a word count whenever I paused to think, and that particular word count came out slightly above 50,000.  My brain shut off!  I couldn't finish the sentence!  Job done!  I think it took me more than two months before I wrote fiction again.  Brain empty.

I took a few years off; came back in 2007 with a new screen name (my current one).  It only took me a month to write again after getting my 50K; 2008 was about the same.

In 2009, the number of participants was around 119,000.  No, my word count did not keep up!  51,667 was my word count that year.  I didn't STOP writing until around the end of April, 2010, though!

In November 2010, I had a grand time writing my first dragon.  Opinionated and stubborn (one afternoon he refused to cooperate and told me to go take a nap!), he remains one of the most fun characters I’ve written.

This year, like always, I have no outline.  I'm a 'pantser' = write by the seat of my pants, letting the characters tell me the story.  I do have my main characters, a couple of auxillary ones, and ideas that I hope will carry me through at least the first three days.  I know that once the writing starts, options for the story line will pop into my head.  They'll go into a file to draw on when the story isn't flowing well.  Somehow it works. 

Practice is good.  NaNoWriMo is a marathon of a writing practice.  Every year my writing has improved from October to December.  I feel that every writer should try it at least once.  You push the boundaries of what you view as possible.  Prior to NaNo I wrote short stories.  I had no idea that I could write 5000 words in one day.  (My personal best is 6K; necessity and all that.)  In November, I usually write 4K each Saturday and Sunday.  I would never have learned that without NaNo.

No matter what the word count on that first morning of December, you’ll have a story that didn’t exist on Halloween and the thrill of writing along with so many others.  I think they are expecting over 200,000 people to participate this year, from all over the world.

Many of the people who read my blog are WriMo veterans.  If you're one of the folks who isn't and have considered writing a novel "some day," perhaps this is the year you try. Come join us!

Thanks for reading; comments always welcome.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"I've got the pen in my hand ..."

Okay, I'm gonna try a video here for the first time.  This is the amazing Steven Brust (SF/F author) performing Andy Breckman's version of "Railroad Bill," which will resonate with all authors with recalcitrant or strongly opinionated characters.  The quality of the video isn't great, but the performance and lyrics make up for that.  (There is profanity in this, in case that's an issue for you.)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cat Valente is Brilliant

I just finished reading one of Cat Valente's short stories that was published more than a year ago:

 "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time" by Catherynne M. Valente

Serious geeky writer envy!  O. M. G. This story interweaves science and myth and life in ways that made me laugh and cry and feel that I should just hang up the keyboard 'cause I can't imagine writing like this!  As a follow-up to my blog on opening lines, here's the opener for this story:  "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was a high-density pre-baryogenesis singularity."

Also I am eager to read more of her work.

Thanks for stopping by; comments welcome.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writing - Opening Lines

I try to learn from the authors I read.  While struggling with the opening to my novel, I pulled about a dozen books off the shelf and read the first page or two of each, focusing on how the sentences and paragraphs were constructed as well as the information imparted.  I'd read all of those books more than once and so could recognize how ideas presented were developed later.  The process helped me finally get a beginning for my story.  Here are some examples of opening lines I like: 


"The buckskin horse walked up Allen Street just before dawn."  Territory, by Emma Bull.  The narrator doesn't interpret anything in this sentence.  The lack of opinionated adjectives or adverbs enhances the sense that *you* are seeing this horse, and "just before dawn" there probably aren't many other people to see it.  (The cover lets you know this is a Western, so the fact of a horse walking up the street isn't remarkable in itself.)

"The first rays of the sun silhouetted Rifkind as she sat her war-horse and gazed on the ruin of her clan."  Daughter of the Bright Moon, by Lynn Abbey.  Unlike Bull's very tightly focused sentence, this gives a panoramic view.  The camera/narrator is viewing the scene from an angle where Rifkind is silhouetted, and pans to what she sees.  "Ruins of her clan" is interpretive, and it immediately presents a problem! 


"The little boy was frightened."  Dream Snake, by Vonda N. McIntyre.  We are pulled toward his POV; we don't know if we would be scared in the same situation.  And it engages us through our natural desire to protect a child. 

"Katie saw him first."  "Cryptic Coloration," by Elizabeth Bear.  This also opens in the middle of things without setting a scene.  We're with Katie, who is probably not alone as she was "first."  We have yet to discover who was seen. 


"They say that the prospect of being hanged in the morning concentrates a man's mind wonderfully; unfortunately, what the mind inevitably concentrates on is that, in the morning, it will be in a body that is going to be hanged."  Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett.  This immediately introduces us to a strong, story telling narrative voice, not an invisible omniscient narrator.  The sentence feels balanced; the second half almost restates the first half but with an added twist.  It's funny, and we know that someone is in trouble!

"Matthew the Magician leaned against a wrought iron lamppost on Forty-second Street, idly picking at the edges of his ten iron rings and listening to his city breathe into the warm September night."  Blood and Iron, by Elizabeth Bear.  I love this sentence for its density, for the volume of information presented along with the image.  The identification of Matthew as "the Magician" makes this a fairy tale beginning.  The juxtaposition of 42nd Street and the iron rings sets up a contrast between two worlds.  And Matthew idly picking at those rings in "his city" shows he's comfortable in both.

Do you agree with my assessment of these openings?  Please share opening lines from works you admire and let us know why you like them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anak Krakatau

I guess we all know the story of the massive explosive eruption of Krakatau.  Not as many may know she has a daughter - Anak Krakatau. 

From the Borneo Post this morning:

"JAKARTA: The drastic increase in volcanic earthquake activities at Anak Krakatau has forced authorities to warn of a possible eruption.

"All quarters have been asked not to approach within a two-kilometre radius of the volcano, located in the Sunda Strait. Normal activities are still allowed outside the radius.

"Anak Krakatau is 40km from the coast of Lampong, Sumatera, and the coast of Anyer-Carita coast, Jawa.

"Local media quoted Head of Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Centre, Surono, yesterday that the seismograph recorded between 6,000 and 7,000 volcanic earthquakes a day.

"Prior to this, the seismograph only recorded between 100 and 300 volcanic events a day, said Surono to Indopos, as quoted by news portal Jawa Post National Network.

"Antara news agency quoted Andi Arief, Special Presidential Staff Disaster Areas Social Disaster Assistant, that, in theory, anything more than 1,000 earthquake activities could cause Anak Krakatau to erupt.

"He said the type of eruption has yet to be ascertained because developments are still at the intensive monitoring level.

"Since Anak Krakatau appeared on the surface of the sea on June 11, 1927, the volcano has erupted more than 100 times, with a dormant period of between one to six years.

"The explosive eruption of Anak Krakatau last July 10 hurled hot ash into the sky to a radius of 700 to 1,000 metres from the centre of the eruption, causing damage to seismic equipment placed at the volcano.

"The explosive eruptions which took place in the last four years were the magmatic type, throwing volcanic material and dust for 1,000 to 1,500 metres around Anak Krakatau.

"How wide the volcanic dust was spread, however, depended on the strength and direction of the wind. – Bernama"

I hope it doesn't have a massive eruption, but the number of quakes indicates serious magma motion.  We'll have to wait and see.

Thanks for reading; comments welcome.  >^.^<

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moar Bookkeeping

I certainly have read more books this year than last, even if I don’t read another one until January! Making the list and publishing it to keep myself accountable has worked for me.

(22) Elizabeth Bear, Bone and Jewel Creatures. Short fantasy of wonderfulness.
(23) Phil and Kaja Foglio, Girl Genius. On-line steam punk graphic novels. I started re-reading In May from the very first entry of November 4, 2002, and read it all, right up to the current entry. They have won two Hugo Awards for this. [EDIT: As of August, make that THREE Hugos!!] It updates on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Here’s a link to the beginning of the story:
Girl Genius starts here
(24) Emma Bull, Territory. Fantasy set in the American West. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and magic for the win.

(25) Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion. Fantasy. Another good one.

(26) Irene Radford, Thistle Down. Fantasy. Fun, fluffy; good summer read.
(27) N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Fantasy. Very good.
(28) N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms. Fantasy. Another really good one.
(29) Tiffany Trent & Phyllis Irene Radford, eds. Breaking Waves. A collection of short pieces to benefit The Gulf Oil Spill Relief Fund. There are some marvelous stories in here, including "After the Dragon" by Sarah Monette.

I highly recommend the N.K. Jemisin books.  These are her first published novels, and the stories are complex with well-realized characters.  I couldn't put them down.

Of course I will read more books before the end of this year. Terry Pratchett’s newest Discworld book, Snuff, will be available October 11, so that’s one for sure. And the TBR piles are still here...

On the other hand, ideas for my November NaNoNovel are popping up and there’s some editing to finish before I start on that!

Thanks for reading; comments welcome.