Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Poll the Audience

As I am working on REFLECTIONS (aka Book the Third) and working a dayjob that I'm determined to give more of my attention to—y'know because they pay me to be there—I'm running a little low on blogspiration. It's been suggested that it could be entertaining if once a week or so I turned the blog over to a character to run.

The character being Ethanael, who is sulking at having been usurped as the secondary narrator for REFLECTIONS. Before anyone brings up the myriad dangers of allowing the Prince of Fortune a soapbox, let me point out this is far less perilous than signing him up for facebook. (A blog entry a week requires less energy to moderate.)

My question is, dear reader, what would you find more interesting:

(1) Entries about what Ethanael has been doing instead of narrating Book the Third. (General day to day things, with the humor being that nothing Ethanael does is really "general." )

(2) Topical entries—like writing advice.

(3) Some kind of narrative.

(4) Alternative suggestion made in comments.

Ta.

Monday, April 27, 2009

REFLECTIONS go!

(Yes, I know it's Lelouch. Just pretend it's Oliver—they have very similar hair.)

People sometimes ask me why I'm not on Twitter or why I slacked off on my livejournal or don't go to deviantART anymore. It's pretty simple: I know a distraction when I see one. For example, today I start Book the Third's zero draft. I've written two sentences, then gone to facebook to put on my status that I'm starting chapter one, then come here to do a blog post about it.

Could you imagine me on twitter? I'd never get anything accomplished. It would just be a means to avoid writing until someone called for me to do something or it was time to go to work. Life is noisy enough without 140 character bursts of additional static.

The whole trick to starting a new Runa and Valentine book for me is tuning out the noise and locking onto the story's signal. Oh... I think I just Ethanael-spoke those last two lines. Sorry, he's upset about not getting to be the secondary narrator for REFLECTIONS.

Oliver is up and I'm a little daunted about finding that characterizing voice that won't be quite as... distinct as Ethanael's. Plus, I'm contemplating changing the ratio so that the secondary narration is not interludes but alternating POV chapters, which means that Oliver would get a lot more "screentime." (Thus, he would need to be rather more easy to read than Ethanael.)

But I'll worry about all of that when I get to chapter two....

Dollhouse: Haunted



Or as I like to call it Mindscan: The Murder Mystery Comedy Edition. If you've never read Robert J Sawyer's winning Mindscan or his earlier novel The Terminal Experiment, Boyd's little lecture on immortality via brain-scans might have been your first introduction to the possibility. Not a new concept. Not a new idea. But executing it as a plot device to solve a murder mystery with incest comedy? Ok, definitely a new twist. (I was originally going to refer to this as 17 Again: The Murder Mystery.)

On its own, Haunted is a good episode. It develops the characters of Topher and Adelle, and Boyd gets to moralize while Victor displays his ability to do a Texas accent. As it was written by the two lovely people who gave us Echoes (plus Jane E,) you know it had some excellent Topher/Adelle. She gives him a friend for his birthday. Awwww... Every year. She loves him. Really. /ship

It also goes further to prove—as of last episode—we aren't supposed to think of Paul as a "good guy" any longer. Or at least to paint him as morally grey as the rest of the cast, which could possibly be setting him up to become involved with the House as an insider and not an adversary? Shall we say yes to this considering the trailer shows he's getting in the House next week?

Speaking of—what's the deal? Anyone else notice the strategic editing that implies Paul is Alpha?

The only issue with episode ten is that Fox has yet again screwed this series by waiting two weeks to show it. The break—so Fox could spread the two final airing episodes (of this season) during sweeps—has us coming back to an episode that is much slower in momentum than the one previous and likely the two following. In the scope of the series, it works for giving us time to pause and process and prepare for Paul Storming The House. However, with the break it felt like I was coming back to a transition episode that didn't do much to get me excited to keep watching.

Good thing that trailer for next week was there.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

FRAGILE ETERNITY by Melissa Marr



I read this book in day, because it's beautiful, it's compelling and it's simple. It's unfortunate that I have to state that I really did like the book, but what follows is likely to make some people conclude that I didn't enjoy Fragile Eternity. I did—I just wanted something else from it.

Part of why I read Melissa Marr is because we tell stories in different ways. Our focus isn't the same, and I find her to be like a perception check. Very few authors can tell a story the way Marr does as well as she does.

I tend to forget that I have to give her novels 100 pages to get started. Allow me to clarify—I do not mean this a complaint. Just an observation that she is not someone to read when you want to hit the ground running. Marr books are much smaller. Quieter. They weave around you. Gently. Carefully. Sweep you away when you aren't looking—and it's an admirable skill.

Fragile Eternity faced an uphill battle with me as its reader before the book started. Going in with a disdain for Keenan and a mild dislike of Ash, it falls on Seth to carry the story for me. He does, by the way, brilliantly. If Ink Exchange is the novel that made me love Niall, then FE is the one that makes me love Seth. He has a depth to him—the kind that Niall and Leslie have. A complexity of emotion and experiences that make these characters more appealing.

It could be because I look at the books from an older perspective that I find Aislinn too simplistic in Fragile Eternity to be a satisfying speculative protagonist. As a romance heroine, she might do better.

Which is the issue I have with this third novel. (It's romance-focused, which I suppose you could argue all Marr's books are.) Reader attention is shifted onto the love quadrilateral of Donia/Keenan/Aislinn/Seth. This dynamic is necessary to get to the interesting things—it is really Ash's behavior that provides the motivation for Seth's character transformation. However, in order for Seth and Niall and Sorcha goodness I had read through scenes and scenes of Aislinn waffling between Seth and Keenan.

Her indecisiveness isn't frustrating on its own. I mean, she's not quite 18, and I expect a certain level of emphasis on her relationships given the kind of story FE is. But as an older reader, I see how Keenan treats her as unacceptable. It frustrates me that time and again she makes excuses for him. The girl that Ash was in Wicked Lovely has been replaced by someone who chooses to surrender to her circumstances instead of make her own way.

Seth set out on a quest for his lady love while she remained in her tower and awaited his return. Only the quest provides him with experience and understanding that puts him on a different maturity level than his love who has stayed home. (Like if he'd backpacked across Europe.)

So at the end of the novel I'm left feeling that Fragile Eternity Ash doesn't deserve Seth's love or sacrifice because they're no longer emotional equals. I can only hope that Future Novels Ash will grow into the kind of woman who can have a happy-ever-after with him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PREY by Rachel Vincent


Order PREY at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.
Watch the PREY trailer.

One of the many things I admire about Rachel Vincent’s SHIFTERS series is how each book raises the bar for the next. In Pride, Vincent proved her ability to handle difficult moral questions and political situations with the best of contemporary speculative authors. PREY expands on the events of Pride, as Faythe confronts the impact of Calvin Malone’s political power play that cost her father’s place as leader of the territorial council and Marc’s place in the South-Central pride.

Plus, Manx is on trial for murder and Kaci’s refusal to shift has begun to impact her health. Leaving Faythe to balance being a caregiver, an enforcer, and a 23 year-old woman who struggles with the limitations her world wants to place on her. All without being able to seek support from Marc.

My only complaint about Pride was the lack of Faythe’s brother Ethan and his BFF Jace—which Vincent more than makes up for it in PREY. In fact, I would argue Ethan is the most important character in this book and Jace is the one that displays the most growth.

With her elegantly simple prose, Vincent deftly handles the extremely difficult emotional moments of the novel while balancing several interwoven subplots. Her plotting is tight and her writing is lean, as both she and Faythe have come a long way from STRAY. This is Vincent at her best and most compelling. Pulling no punches, PREY is both tail-kicking and heart-wrenching.

It’s not only the best book in the series (so far,) but one of the best books I’ve read this year. While I know that many readers are going to be shocked and upset by the events of the novel, I trust that what Vincent has done is necessary for her series. She’s fond of saying how PREY changes everything. All bets are off—and I can’t wait for book 5!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Congratulations to Susan Adrian, who completed her dissertation, and Melissa Marr, whose third novel Fragile Eternity and first comic Desert Tales: Sanctuary release today!

Back to outlining REFLECTIONS....

Friday, April 17, 2009

When the blog goes quiet just assume one of the following:

1) I'm busy being productive.

2) I have nothing to say.

3) I was eaten by this thing:


Congratulations to Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, who sold his historical fiction proposal... AKA Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. If you haven't clued in yet, here's the memo: Seth Grahame-Smith is a genius. Tell your friends.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dollhouse: A Spy in the House of Love



First off, I will say that Planet of the Dead—the Doctor Who Easter special—was enjoyable. Sort of a nice comedy with some cool elements. A few great lines, wonderful imagery and a fabulous female lead role. Plus, Ten's hair was in fine form.

I'm tempted to send a memo to Russell T Davies, as I know he's a big Joss Whedon fan, that if you want to know what to do with a "special" when you only have 4 of them instead of a full season, watch Dollhouse episode 9: A Spy in the House of Love.

A Spy in the House of Love packed about two or three episodes' worth of stuff into one:

1) Adele is Victor's repeat client Ms Lonely Hearts.

2) Echo knows about imprints and asked Topher to make it so she could help find the NSA spy.

3) NSA spy was Mr. Dominick.

4) The Attic is creepy.

5) Ivy's role was to be a red herring and Dr. Fred wasn't the spy, either?

6) Boyd is the new head of security. Echo got a new handler named Travis.

7) Paul now knows about Mellie.

8) What is the purpose of the Dollhouse?

Pick one and discuss.

I'm going to focus on Paul. By telling him about Mellie instead of him finding out about Mellie, the impact of that reveal is lessened. Why I mention it, is because very little screentime was given to Paul's reaction. In fact, he didn't seem to have much of one. I'm sure this is so he could maintain his cover, but are we going to get to see him break some stuff week or should I conclude that Topher has more emotional depth?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies spotted in the wilds of
the Los Angeles Central Library Shop.

Let it be known foremost that of the things I do not profess any affection for, two of the high ranking are Jane Austen novels and zombies. In understanding the previous statement, it makes a stronger argument for the merits of Seth Grahame-Smith's additions to the classic Regency romance. For while I do not care for either Jane Austen novels or zombies, I am terribly endeared to any humor that arises from contrast. Gurren Lagann in High School? Code Geass in the Bakumatsu? Pride and Prejudice with zombies? How could such things not, by their sheer unexpectedness, be brilliant?

Upon finishing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I have no greater affection for Jane Austen novels than I did before reading it. The novel remains Pride and Prejudice—but it contains that necessary extra element (modern humor of the absurd) to keep a reader from throwing it across the room with the same vehemence as Miss Bennet skillfully employs her dagger.

Moreso, thanks to the marked improvement of Mr. Grahame-Smith's additions to the text, he has accomplished what no English professor or acquaintance could manage: I have finished reading a Jane Austen novel of my own volition. A place on the New York Times bestseller list is not enough—someone ought to give this gentleman and his editor the Nobel Peace Prize.

Details of the novel itself have no doubt be offered by those more equipped to judge and comment. I can only point to the service a series of Quirk Classics would do for my generation: Those "classics" that we never quite managed to read or finish rendered accessible.

One will have to clear a space on the bookshelf for them and Mr. Grahame-Smith's original historical fiction. I, for one, am eager to see where—when?—he'll take us next.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

That's what I said!

Just to confirm with everyone, USA Today—the day after my postseconded the notion that zombies are everywhere.

Pssst, Mr. Wilson, you forgot to mention Generation Dead and Mark Henry's adult UF series including Happy Hour of the Damned and Road Trip of the Living Dead.

You're very welcome. I promise to only use my ability to state what's obvious for Good.

From China with Love


Who names their kid Olilip?




In case of emergency need for creepy, break glass.





"TOYS: The Best Welcome Gifts for the Children"

Especially when they involve copyright infringement of Kenshin Himura. I almost bought this for Sarah K because it was pink and matched Kenshin's kimono. Then I realized I didn't know how to get it home without the cheap plastic pink-sheathed katana getting squished, so she'll have to settle for a photo.


DIY vehicular customization

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

History is your friend

Yesterday was spent in Research Mode, which involves my poor friends being told snippets of historical information with no preamble as to why I happened across them.

Things like the critic Higgins disdained Oscar Wilde's behavior in an article called "Unmanly Manhood." (Seriously, I don't even have to make the reference.)

Or Aubernon Herbet, an anarchist, was the younger brother of Secretary of the State of the Colonies, Henry Herbert, who put forth the British North America Act in 1867 that led to the creation of Canada. Which was a direct response to the Manifest Destiny proclamation of America.

Or of the items looted from the White House in 1814, only two were ever recovered.

History is facts—or the victor's version of them—but the magic is in the details, the connections between and behind those facts. That's where the story lives. Finding it is panning for gold—dipping your pail into those dates and gently shifting through the events shifting until you see something that sparkles.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Zombies are the new vampires

It seems for years there has been an abundance of sexy vampires in contemporary fantasy. Now, I like a sexy vampire now and then, but the supply has been far exceeding my personal demand. If you, however, happen to love sexy vampires then you are living in the golden age and will no doubt feel a bit threatened by what I'm going to tell you.

Zombies are the new immortal undead A listers. Maybe it's the taboo of eating flesh. Maybe it's a backlash against our culture's obession with beauty. I don't know. There are people far more invested in this who can probably answer the why? better. The important thing is to pick your favorite ghoul now so you're ready when your friends ask whom you'd rather have gnaw on your brain.

If you, like me, find the above paragraph makes you feel just the tiniest bit weary, don't despair. The recent wave of zombie fiction has made room for something refreshingly clever:



That's right Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I'm not the only person who has sat around and thought that most classic novels could be improved by the inclusion of the supernatural. Yes, it's still the Jane Austen novel and you'll have to endure some eye-glazingly dull passages, but with far less frequency than in the original text.

True be told, if concept alone didn't make you smile in glee and stick this novel in your amazon cart, you're not going to be convinced by me appealing to your wit or excellent sense of humor.

As for those of us who still have a pulse, buy this book. Tell all your friends to buy it. Not just because it's brilliant, but because it needs to do really well so Seth Grahame-Smith's historical fiction novel will get picked up so I can know what it is about beyond a unique perspective covering the early 1800s through to the mid to late 1800s and that the steampunk fans are going to enjoy it.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dollhouse: Needs



This episode's joke is brought to you by caffeine and the glee of knowing SHARDS waits in my agent's inbox.

Ok, it's about to degrade into mythos/endgame ponderings...

1) How can you not love an organization that stages an escape to test their employees? The House thrives on its god complex.

2) Yet another example of how this show is fueled by the duplicity of characters—and there being more beneath the surface of what we're shown. This is why I keep insisting we are headed for serious mindf***ery as the season ends. You don't write this kind of a show and not go for the brain-stabby twist.

3) Dr. Fred's cleverness places her as sneaky spy suspect #1. Sneaky spy suspect #2 is still Ivy, Topher's assistant. (On the TV basis of why did you mention a character by name who's only on screen twice for no apparent plot reason?)

4) So Escape From the Dollhouse isn't our endgame. I say this because it seems contradictory of the show to claim it has given the characters (and us) closure only to re-open the possibility of escape. Then again, if you wipe the memories of the characters, can they really have closure? Or are we getting into one of those CLAMP-esque "the body remembers what the mind cannot" themes?

5) For the fun of "Topher's a Spy!"—we agreed didn't work, but it's still interesting to explore—I pose a question: Topher knew this was all a test, but was the gun that Echo carried actually loaded? I ask to determine how good of an actor Topher is. If he wasn't in danger, then there's a higher possibility he could be the spy.

Remember: the preview shows the spy chip thingie is found in his equipment. (Cuz Ivy put it there, no doubt.)

6) Dr. Fred said, "I'm not your friend in here." Where are you Echo's friend? Tell us!

7) Why was the file on FBI Paul in Dr. Fred's office and not Adele's? Was it planted there, or is there another reason that the caretaker of the doll's health has a file that it seems more logical to store with the caretaker of the Dollhouse's health?

7.5) If the file is planted, please tell me, what does the Dollhouse gain from further engaging Paul? What have they gained from survalliance and engagment of him in the first place? Previous to being shot, what was the motivation that kept him investigating the dollhouse when the first thing we see is his superiors telling him to back off?

8) Is Paul on the fast-track for recruitment... or he is a doll already? After all, how much do we know about him beyond his relationship with Mellie and his job? Have we seen any photos of family? Met friends? For a secondary protagonist, his personal life is suspiciously sparse.

9) Topher had a glow pen. Glow pens are way more awesome than flashlights.

8) I love Victor more and more with each episode.

Friday, April 03, 2009

It's Team Spiral FTW



SHARDS redraft complete at 81,766 words, and our plucky band of adventurers are on their way to lovely Agent M. Which is wonderful, because if this had gone on another week... well, I love the book, but I might've started throwing galaxies at people.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Winter causes me to suffer bouts of vicious impatience. It flares up while I'm trying to enjoy Dollhouse. Not while I'm watching it, mind, just after I've finished and I'm thinking about the episode.

The largest allergic reaction to patience this winter has been SHARDS. I'm not quite sure why. It isn't taking longer to write than FRAGMENTS. I'm just impatient. I wish it was finished, but I'm also a perfectionist with this inability to give something that I don't feel is as ready as it can be to my agent. (Poor M. I've been teasing her with this manuscript for months now.)

But this is how I know I love what I do... at 2:15 pm today, when I reached chapter nineteen AKA past that bloody middle part of the book that has been so damn hard to write each draft, I cheered and went "TAKE THAT, SHARDS."

Then promptly realized it was 2:15 pm and I wasn't dressed.

Writing is magic, you see. It vanquishes the power of time—or at least our ability to perceive it passing. You know how? Because we are doing what makes us happy. What we love to do—even when we tell people how much we wish we were finished doing it.

Because if I wasn't redrafting SHARDS, I'd still be writing something. The impatience is that eagerness to get to that next thing. To put the time and energy in discovering what makes it good and then the time and energy it takes to make it better.

You never stop writing. You're never finished. You can either use that as an excuse and a crutch, or you can realize it's what will keep you going.

Your choice.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Dear Google

Yes. You're clever.

Now stop it before Sarah Conner blows up your offices.

As for the most recent post, CADIE, Peter hates you because you write in comic sans.