Tuesday, January 17, 2012

winter, we has it

 Sad! Here is our Christmas tree, stripped of its ornaments and fallen in the back yard, decorated only with fresh-fallen snow.
The cat is afraid to go past it, because she would be outmatched and outwitted by a small dead tree.

Early morning snow yesterday. I took this photo, then went out to sweep the walk and sidewalk. Today more snow, alternating flurries so thick it was difficult to see, with bright clear skies reflecting dazzlingly from the fresh falls of snow.

Arthritis, possibly... In the mornings, if I stand for a while, to do dishes, or fold clothes or mix up scones, my hips / lower back hurt quite a bit. Sitting down for a while sometimes helps, or a cold-pack. Exercise doesn't seem to prevent it.
So I'm going back to 10 methotrexate on Happy Methotrexate Day, and see whether that makes a difference, though it will probably take about a month to tell.

Writing... Argh. Stupid history, all happening at the wrong time to fit my story. Why can you not be coordinated?
At the WFC 2011 autograph session I spoke briefly with Marie Brennan, who has had her own struggles with the ECW timeline and trying to work Cromwell into her plot when he's nowhere near the area for the first part, and dead for the second part.
On the one hand, there's the argument that one is writing fiction, not history, and should be able to change things to fit plot. On the other hand, if one is going to change anything major (a sliding scale, of course) why bother writing historical fiction at all? Why not go the Guy Gavriel Kay route and just write fantasy closely based on history?
Or, like a certain popular writer whom I shall not name, just mess around the facts in perfect confidence that my readers either don't know or don't care.

But I would care. Even though I'm working vampires and witches into the mix, I want to stick to the recipe for the rest of it.

Other stuff: on the weekend we drove out to Sea Cider for Wassailing, and saw Morris dancers and a Mummers Play. Pics next post, promise!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

under the year-end tree

 The tree came down after Twelfth Night, as it should. I fiddled around with my camera, but couldn't quite catch how silvery and otherworldly it looked in the dark morning.

 For happy things to find under the tree, a round-up of photos from World Fantasy, starring Viable Paradise alumnae/i. First up is Nikki, author and fibre artist, with great hair.

Terri, author, editor, and kick-butt earth-mother.

Dave, author, cool dad, and Voice of Podcastle.

Zak, the best-dressed dark fantasist I know, and Sharon in conversation with Sherwood Smith. More great hair. 

What do you think of this for my new author-photo? I think Cory really makes the composition stand out. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

readers' rights AGAIN!

What with the Week of Writerly Whingeing just past, it seems time to repost this, so's y'all can hold me to it should I ever be widely published.

My Pledge of Readers' Rights
If my books are sold and published, and people I've never met read them, I hereby admit the following rights to any and all such readers:

1) The right to not like my book, and to think it is crap.
2) The right to stop reading and to judge my whole book on howeverlittle you read.
3) The right to completely miss my point.
4) The right to dislike any of my characters, even based on a partial or inaccurate reading.
5) The right to dislike my prose style and to quibble with my word choices.
6) The right to find fault with my plotting, worldbuilding, or other big-picture aspects.
7) The right to share these opinions in person, twitter, blog post or other social media as they appear.
8) Other rights that seem good and reasonable and occur to me later.

I do not grant to the reader the right to make me change something already published.

I have the responsibility to act like an adult.
That is, the responsibility to listen to criticism with attention, using my own critical faculties to find what's useful and what's not (just as I would with a workshop critique).
That is, the responsibility to not hold grudges or look for ways to do down someone who doesn't like my writing however they express it.
I was tempted to weasel here, to say something about tone, about even-handedness, but given that writers generically want nothing but praise, in bucketloads, even-handedness is way too difficult to quantify. As a reader, you have a perfect right to think that anything I've written is a load of crap and to say so, in those words or similar.

I retain the right to bitch in private to my friends about how you completely missed my point, dear god do these people have no reading skills at all?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

sometimes I'm clever 2

Another lazy post, reposting something I was musing about on a message board a few years ago. I thought it might have some relevancy, given the re-examination of Mary Sue on the Zoe-Trope and other good blogs (a decent round-up of links on this post).

Some helpful background on Mary Sue is found on this Making Light post.

And then there's me, below.

I was reading a book by James N. Frey (the writer, not the fraud) - The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth. It uses the Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey as a framework, and I found it entertaining even though I'm somewhat dubious about Campbell, the same as I am about Robert Graves.
Anyway, Frey provides a handy-dandy checklist of the possible characteristics of the Hero (he neatly end-runs the sexism thing by making his own exemplary Hero a woman):
The Hero is a protagonist, is an 'outlaw', has courage or finds it, is good at his/her trade, has one or more special talents, is motivated by idealism, has been 'wounded', is clever and resourceful, is sexually potent/attractive, is stoic, is loyal, is physically superior, may have a special birth and special destiny.

You'll note I've bolded a few of those. Now, I direct your attention to The Original Fiction Mary Sue Litmus Test, and to the following questions:
Is the character highly attractive? (3 points)
Are one or more other characters attracted to her/him? (1 point)
Is the character related to royalty or nobility? (4 points)
Is the character the last surviving member of a family/clan/race/species/etc.? (2 points)
Was the character ever forcibly banished from her/his family/tribe/country/etc.? (3 points)
Does the character have an angsty childhood, or an angsty past? (1 point)
Was the character abandoned by her/his caregivers? (2 points)
Is the character unusually accomplished for her/his age/species/etc.? (2 points)
Does the character ever easily learn a difficult skill (e.g. learn to play guitar in a matter of weeks)? (3 points)
Does the character have a special birthmark or other marking? (4 points)
Does the character have any particular skill at which she/he the best or among the best? (2 points)

Which made me wonder. Is Mary Sue a mythic hero? An attempt at a mythic hero? Is the Hero a Mary Sue? What's the difference? I'm hesitant to say skill, because the myths have been through so many hands and languages the skill of the telling is kind of hard to be sure of.
At the time, I didn't go with the answer that's becoming the clearest in recent discussion--that the great difference between a Mythic Hero and a Mary Sue is that the Mary Sue is a female character, especially one written by a female author.
How dare a mere gurl act like a mythic hero? What would Joseph Campbell say?

Tangentially, this is one of the reasons why I prefer fairy tales to myths--that the protagonist in the majority of fairy tales is interchangeably male or female. But that's probably another and longer post, for some later time.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

wherein I am artsy

 Thought I'd be lazy and just post some of the photos I took in the summer, a couple of which aren't bad, or might be mildly interesting.

 This below is a view of the shower (women's) at Coopers Lake Campground, the site of the Pennsic war. The building is over 100 years old - if you zoom, you can see adze marks on the roof joist. For several years, these three stalls (and three on the other side for men) were it for showers, unless you rigged something at your campsite. Now that Pennsic gets over 10k attending, there are a couple of shower trucks and other buildings, plus most group encampments have shower tents. It's still a rare occurence to find the whole room empty, so I commemorated the moment. About 2 or 3 am, I think it was, and the greenish light gives it a nicely underwater eerie look.

 At Mark's urging, I took my camera on a couple of early morning walk-runs around the camps. I may have mentioned that many groups do elaborate painted fabric walls or trompe l'oeil gates. This group went for the macabre. If someone had been awake I would have asked if it was a portrait or a generic head.

 I took so many photos on the way back, of changing landscapes, rock formations, cool clouds and lotsa vistas. This one comes under cool clouds--I like the way the sky mirrors the perspective of the lane lines, though I probably should have trimmed off some of the top third to emphasise it.

 Rock formations, did I say? Nature--not that subtle, really.

 We pulled over into this tiny town below for the sake of photographing the, um, mesa, that overlooks it. Although we found a good vantage point and got shots of it alone, I prefer this view interlined with houses.

 I'm a bit of a sucker for neon. We came out of the last hotel early early-oh, and I saw this sign against the hill. Just in time--a couple of minutes later the lights went out for morning.