Because I know a lot of my readers (like me) love gardening and herbs and doing stuff with that produce in addition to reading, I just have to share a link to Frances Silversmith’s website with you. She has introduced a great section there. Called “The Herbwoman’s Arts,” she talks here about herbs in fiction, especially SFF. So far, she’s discussed things like laudanum, healing salves and what goes in them, and how St John’s wort might stop not only depression but also nasty Fae trolls! It’s a lot of fun, and pretty interesting too. Go take a look!
The rain and the birds are conspiring to give me a bumper crop of split, pitted, or cracked plums. The week-plus of drenching rains has swollen the fruit too quickly, and the birds sense the nearby bounty, so they peck an unripe plum. Once its skin is breached, it splits and ripens fast, falling to the ground, where the birds will feast.
That’s where I step in. Several times a day, whenever the rains let up long enough, I step outside and scan under and around the tree. I scoop up the fallen fruit, and pick any cracked fruit still hanging on the branches. These get cleaned, then pitted and tossed into sugar and a bit of lemon juice to macerate. The following day, I make a small batch of plum jam. So far, I have one half-pint jar in the fridge (which didn’t “take”), 5 on the counter that did, and another batch (which should yield about 3 or so more jars) ready to cook later tonight or tomorrow morning. All I can say is “yum.”
In novel-land, I’ve printed out my first, very rough, draft. Today, I get to spread it all out on a table and begin the painful process of whacking, slicing, dicing, deleting, and rearranging words and scenes. Inserting new bits will come later. Right now, I’ve got to adjust the flow and pace, and cut the excess (I always write to excess, and must trim back later), and make notes where I’ve changed things mid-draft so I can correct those once I get back to the electronic file.
Why in print? For me, it’s easier to visualize how long a scene is when I can see it plainly laid out before me. And I can see how 3 long scenes running together might be too much–or how too many short ones are creating a sense of rush that the narrative isn’t justifying. Or…well, you get the idea. I can’t see all that when I’m scrolling on a computer. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to hold all this in my head. But that day? It isn’t here yet. So I’m doing what I have to do in order to make this novel work. After that, I’ll work on making it sing.
Oh, and how about a bit of good news? Another one of my VP classmates has had a novel sale! Read about it here. I’m so excited for him! (In case you missed it, the first of my VP classmates with a traditional novel publication offer is written up here; I think I may have only tweeted this one, so I’m putting it here on my blog where it belongs now.)
I’ve never done this before, but I guess there always has to be a first. I’m placing my Goodreads review of Jade City here, just so that more people can see that I found this book WONDERFUL and IMMERSIVE, and gave it a very, very rare 5 stars!
In this secondary-world epic fantasy, a certain type of jade gives human beings superpowers–but only those with training and a built-up tolerance can wear it without becoming suicidal.
The jade supply is centered on tropical island, and the whole setting has a modern south-Asian feel that sinks into your bones as you read. The author does a magnificent job of setting the scenes, of giving us the feel of each place, of making you feel like you’re there, experiencing this place. She also delves into the minds of her numerous POV characters, none of whom are alike, some of whom we don’t think of as likable. And yet, each one acts in perfectly understandable, believable ways in the situations they’re placed in, and the whole plot moves forward in an inexorable push towards clan war, though most of the characters don’t want that.
Plot twists kept changing what I thought would happen in wonderful, unanticipated ways that were utterly spot-on and true to life. Perhaps most amazing is that, while the threat of impending warfare keeps the tone grim, there is also a lightness to enough of the scenes, especially in the building of familial bridges, that keeps the book from becoming too dark and depressing overall.
If you love epic fantasy, and political wranglings for power with magic, and have been looking (often in vain) for the next book/author to love, this one is for you. The whole thing is engrossing and wonderful, and you may find yourself wanting to curl up with the book to finish it in a single sitting!
One word of caution for the more timid reader: the opening chapter for me, while immersive and wonderfully voiced, was also one of the most violent. If you’re not a fan of on-page violence, just get through that and the rest will be worth it. I promise.
There’s always a lot of conversation about what one listens to while writing: movie soundtracks, tunes that evoke the mood of your scene, classical, absolutely nothing at all…the list goes on and on. Basically it comes down to “whatever works for you,” of course. And here’s what works for me: anything without words I understand, or with a presence that will pull me out of writing-trance. In other words, nothing intrusive.
Sometimes, that means “nothing at all” is perfectly fine; I’m at home, the world outside is all birdsong and insect drone (or rain patter and wind moan), and I can write without interruption. Other times, however, I need to drown out the world–loud coffeeshop conversations (or crappy coffeeshop music), or the annoying whine and scream of leaf blowers and chainsaws, or whatever. At those times, I have a couple of options.
Option One is a playlist I’ve made that contains “background music” that I enjoy. It’s an eclectic mix of classical, new age (Enya, Marina Raye, and Anugama), and classical that has “nature sounds” mixed in. It’s soft, soothing, and lasts a long while. And it doesn’t require internet access, if I’m traveling. Perfect.
But sometimes you get tired of the same old thing, right? And I don’t want to spend all my writing time looking for something to listen to. So in the last year or so, I’ve been tuning in over at Tabletop Audio for ambient music. Originally created for RPG gaming sessions, there are looping soundtracks for your every mood: creaking winter woods, steamships, spaceships, elven glades, underwater, underground…you name it! And they’re always adding more. A couple of my favorites are Strangers on a Train (very soothing, that sound of clacking rails; kind of like clacking keys, right? Get clacking!), MiddleEarth: Dawn, Swamplandia, and The Long Rain. But there are so many I haven’t tried yet!
And while some folks have a fine time with Pandora, the ads really annoy me (so LOUD!), and I’m not coughing up the cash for an ad-free experience. So, I hop on over to Tunemark Radio, where I can listen to streaming radio from around the world. Remember that part about not understanding the language? This totally works, even when the broadcasters cut in and chat. And many of the stations are online only, with no announcers or ads to worry about. (A word of caution: it’s kind of addicting and overwhelming at first, and it’s easy to waste hours just flipping around listening in to places around the world. I know; I did this. But it is fun.)
OK, time to get listening. Tabletop Audio for me today, I think, as I’m reading and critting a whole lotta words in anticipation of Taos Toolbox (just over 2 weeks!). Happy listening!
Here’s a fun project that is just 10 days away and a few hundred dollars from full funding, and that I really hopes makes it. It’s an anthology called “No Shit, There I Was” and its full of tales I’m dying to read! And it’s from Alliteration Ink!, a great small publisher run by a great guy (I’ve been in one of his previous anthologies, and am still thrilled to be associated with this press). His press release has been denied by some local outlets because he, you know, actively solicits stories from writers from under-represented groups. And who wants that? So in addition to putting out great stories, he’s fighting the good fight against the forces of…mediocrity. Status-quo. Etc.
How do I know I’m dying to read these stories? Because I’m in an online writers’ group with many of them, and I can tell you they write great things! I simply can’t imagine that this themed anthology will make their combined talents wither; instead, I can only believe that such a fantastic prompt will have caused time and space to bow to their might. And I want to read it all! (insert terrible sound of an excited squee and a devious cackle agonizingly merging here)
For a mere $5 pledge on their Kickstarter, you can help fund this anthology and make it real (thus letting me read it!), getting an e-book copy for yourself. That’s pretty much a steal, IMO. I hope you agree. Like I said, I want to read it…
Every year, hundreds of thousands of wonderful stories are written and go out into the world. Along comes award season, and we readers scratch our heads, trying to remember which stories we read this year, not last year. What length were they? And which ones were by new authors who are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It’s a bit overwhelming at the best of times.
Some years, there’s a little help. Fortunately, this is one of them.
Writer SL Huang stepped into the breach and pulled together stories by 120 authors eligible for the Campbell Award this year. She’s put them into a huge ebook anthology called “Up and Coming,” and it’s available free until March 31st. That’s a whole lot of free reading, and I have to say, a lot of really good free reading.
So click that link, choose your format, and tuck your feet up–you might be awhile. Happy Reading!
The first year of Fantasy Scroll Magazine has been assembled into an impressive anthology by Editor-in-Chief Iulian Ionescu and Managing Editor Frederick Doot. Titled “Dragons, Droids & Doom,” the anthology totals 51 stories by 49 authors–that’s a lot of wonderful reading!
While I’ve had to step away from slushing at Fantasy Scroll, I fully believe in this worthwhile magazine, and hope that you’ll consider a purchase of either the print or ebook version for your favorite SFF fan (which might well be yourself!).
Awhile back, a terrible thing happened: Plasma Frequency Magazine had its coffers cleaned out in a scam.
After 16 issues and winning many awards, the magazine was broke and put on hiatus. But the publisher isn’t walking away. He’s running a Kickstarter for another 18 days, trying to raise funds for another year of publication. It’s a very modest goal, and as I type this he’s nearly there–just $150 shy of meeting his goal. Can you chip in a few bucks and help throw this great little ‘zine over the edge into the black? I hope so. I love what they’ve published to date, and want to see them continue. The Kickstarter runs until Oct 22, and there are some very nice pledge rewards, if you’re into them. Give it a look-see, and spread the word, won’t you?
Good luck, Plasma Frequency!