Monday, February 2, 2009

general news & books

Mark left for Arizona this morning, to attend the Estrella War. The house is in various sorts of disarray, since he's been using most of the downstairs as a staging area for packing, and in the time just before he leaves I blinker myself and just think 'there is no point tidying, because much of it will be going away with him'. Thus, dust falls gently over the disarray.
Then the urge to tidy and dust and sweep will fall upon me randomly through the next several days, depending where in the house I am and what I happen to be looking at. These fits will increase in frequency and intensity, then taper off as the house reaches a level that I'm comfortable with.
Which is not to say that it would meet any particularly stringent white glove test, only that the horizontal surfaces will be accessible and the piles of stuff-in-progress will be neat orthogonal piles. They will also consist for the most part of my stuff-in-progress, Mark's being tucked away on shelves and exiled to the garage workshop while he's not there to protect them.

Virtuous things: I updated my website.
-finished "Gods'-Meat" and sent it off to the Potlatch workshop, realising with some shock just how long it had been since I'd finished a short story. Plotwise it may be an inchoate mess--a grammatical, correctly-spelled, nicely-paragraphed inchoate mess. I go with my strengths.
-sent three e-queries to agents. This I found oddly exhausting, traipsing back through blogs and LJs to discover their particular quirks and preferences, and tweaking the query to match. This one wants to know where you think your story fits in the market, that one thinks anyone who compares their work to an established writer is just showing off. This one hates Ms, that one hates being addressed by his first name. This one wants you to show your research in picking them, that one doesn't want to hear any of that fake personal stuff. I know it's because they're individuals, and I was prepared to do the research. I was just surprised how tired I felt at the end of a mere three queries.
I'm going to try to get 2 or 3 queries out each weekend, until I run out of e-queryable agents who handle fantasy, which shouldn't take long. Then start on the snail-mail queries. Oh yeah, and write another, better book.

Dubious things: A dental app't this Thursday to--if I'm lucky--put in a permanent crown, or--if I'm unlucky--root canal work. I'm very much hoping that the tooth isn't cracked. I've already got one cracked tooth that, when it decides to go, will require extensive repair work. I'd just as soon not have another.
The UVic Medieval Seminar on Saturday. I know I'll enjoy it once set-up is done, and there Will Be Less Set-up this year, because the new venue has much less display space, being a lobby entrance. I will dress warmly, in linen and wool, with woolen hose, I think. Also I will bring books. Books from my tbr pile, which needs to be dealt with.
Perhaps I'll dedicate this coming weekend to reading other people's published writing? And try to spend fewer evenings browsing the web, and more evenings tucked up with a hot drink and a paperback.
Then I could post reviews of what I've read. Oh, heck, why don't I do that anyways?

World Fantasy Freebies: People who regularly attend the big cons may take this for granted, but I was surprised and excited at the World Fantasy Convention 2008 to be given a very nice tote bag, with side pockets and net pockets and zipper pockets, and it was stuffed full of books! (My previous experience with a big con would be, umm, Worldcon in Brighton in 1979.)
Certain books were in every bag, the rest of the space was given to random books.
Mark and I went through and removed anything duplicated between us, or that we already owned, and cleverly there was a table where books could be left, swapped and picked up, beside the flyers and bookmarks table (which probably has a name). I browsed that table regularly throughout the con, and all I can say is that it was very clever of Mark the Wonder Husband to bring a mostly-empty suitcase.
So far I've only dented the freeby pile (I think it was described as 12 pounds of books, even though we're supposed to be metric.) Here's the first few:

Journey Between Worlds, by Sylvia Engdahl, originally published 1970, updated 2006. I quite liked the cover illustration, by Craig Phillips, which had a sort of Nausicaa/Moebius feel to it, very suitable. The book was an easy read, reminiscent of those 1960s career guides for girls that were disguised as novels. Only instead of becoming a tour guide at the UN or a fashion illustrator while finding love and possibly solving a mystery, Melinda emigrates to Mars. References are made between the American pioneers and the colonising of Mars, and the frontier spirit of ancestors and descendants. Mars has no aboriginal inhabitants, so that less comfortable parallel isn't much examined.

Destiny Kills, by Keri Arthur, Spectra 2008. Cover firmly in the urban fantasy mainstream, bare female back with tattoo; though this one is old-style, credited to Getty Images, the swirly vinery around the title brings it back to standard.
I enjoyed the first half of this. It starts pretty bang! with our amnesiac heroine sitting naked on a beach beside a dead guy, remembering only that she has to perform a final ceremony for him when the sun rises. But the amnesia only lasts long enough to allow info-dumps in the guise of awakening memories, not to be a real difficulty, and the chasing about and outwitting of pursuers became samey. I love chase stories--see my extensive collection of John Buchan and Geoffrey Household for proof--but when the romantic leads decided to trust each other and have sex, the tension dissipated. Then the two villains, one human and one nonhuman, just to be even-handed, are so sketchy that their defeat(s) were anticlimatic for me. The final confrontation, which should be intense, since the building is flooding, was pretty well meh. I think this was because there was no tactile detail. I mean, even if you're a sea dragon, doesn't water lapping around your feet feel like something? But it was all perfunctory visuals. The ending verged on bathos:


The wizened dragon-king in his cold stone castle, with water lapping up to the carven feet of his ornate throne, in exchange for the gold ring that holds his ancestral power ... gives them a cell phone and tells them to call an Econolodge in Nevada.


Scavenger, by David Morrell, 2007. Cover has author's name in huge, and book title as bas-relief on stone incorporated into the artwork, mostly a small scene of entering a cave on the page underneath, revealed by a die-cut 'broken' corner. I don't by preference buy books where the author's name is the largest feature on the cover. I want a picture!
The writing is smooth, the plot races along, characters are in jeopardy, things get worse for our heroes, and I failed to be engaged, even though there's a tough-but-vulnerable heroine and a wounded-but-determined hero. I had a recurring itchy feeling that we were hitting all the major stops on the Hero's Journey (underground ordeal with symbolic rebirth? check). Still, it would be dandy reading for the airport or Greyhound, except that the ending felt like a cheat. If I'd been really wrapped up in the book, the ending would have been a wallbanger, but since I was dipping into it non-sequentially, I only groaned.

Paraworld Zero, by Matthew Peterson, on cd. I admit, I hung onto this because I'd seen the ads on the back cover of F&SF, and I was curious about someone who would pay for that sort of promotion (I don't know what it costs, but it can't be pocket change) but not for a designer to make his cover less amateurish. It was published by Windstorm Creative (discussed here) so he was probably responsible for his own cover as well as his own promotion.
I didn't get very far with listening to this, because the narrator has the sort of earnest, slightly nasally voice that I find off-putting. Also, the intro/prologue is an emergency birth by a woman covered with pus and lesions, fully described (yeah, now I'm complaining when writers put details in, there's no pleasing me). When I skipped ahead to the first chapter, with our young orphaned hero daydreaming in class and dealing with bullies, it was considerably more engaging, and I could see why kids might enjoy it.

Huh, that sounds pretty negative so far. Maybe I'll be better pleased with the next few.


Kali said...

Fpr Christmas, Janet got me a book out of the bargain bin at Chapters or something. Most of the time, those books are in the bargain bin for a good reason, but this time, I was blown away: The Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. Set in XII C. Cambridge during the reign of Henry II, this woman has obviously done her research, and when she uses an anachronism, you know she is doing it consciously. Her attention to detail is impressive and she also manages to tell an entertaining story, a murder mystery.

Really, I highly recommend it!


batgirl said...

Thanks! This was recommended on the book forum as well - I'll ask Mark if he's read it yet (he goes through a metric shipload of historical mysteries) and maybe I can get through it before he does.