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A scruffy old guy in a van did indeed show up yesterday with my bag, so all’s well on that front.

In other news, I have a new icon, courtesy of my friendly not-so-neighborhood Singaporean assassin cook. (I just couldn’t resist calling him that.) As with my Long Room academic icon, I’m not sure it looks quite as cool when shrunk down to LJ icon-size, but it will certainly do for now.

Inspiration Has Its Own Timetable

Ah, the beloved and detested tendency of inspiration to strike when I really don’t have time for it.

In less than twenty-four hours, I’ve gone from revisiting the thought that I should rip out the Changeling-specific and Earth-specific aspects of the Central American stuff I cooked up for the Changeling game and use it as the basis for some kind of fiction, straight to two hundred some-odd words of a story that really, really wants to get out of my head RIGHT NOW. Nevermind, of course, that I’m working on Warrior and Witch, and really need to be focusing on that, not questions like how many Nahuatl terms I can get away with before my readers will quit in despair. The point is, having passed very rapidly through the stage of “well, I’ve got a setting, sure, but no particular story ideas,” I’m having to push at this bitchy little tz’ite in my head (huh, should I go on using the term tz’ite, or find something else? NO NO NOT TIME FOR THAT RIGHT NOW) to get her to shut up.

This will only encourage her, but I figured I’d share the beginning of the story.

Sitting alone in the green heat of the forest, far from the road and any observing eyes, Neniza began to craft her mask of flesh.

She began with her toes, for the face would be the hardest part. She would have dearly loved to shape herself into the slender, delicate form of an amanatl, but it would never work. Oh, she could take the form easy enough, but the amanah were not common caste, and she could never hope to mimic the ways of court folk well enough to pass. Instead she crafted for herself the petite, pretty form of a young alux peasant. The lord took his amusements often enough with such. It would suffice.

Her father had taught her this work, their art, after her horrified mother saw what she had birthed and left it in the woods. He would have preferred a son, Neniza knew. Daughters were dangerous things. She had not told him where she was going, what she intended to do. He believed they should stay out of sight, accept their exile to the forests — nevermind that he himself went to town all too often, to court the women of other castes and sire more children for them to fear. It was all right for him.

But not for her. She was too dangerous.

That means I’m powerful, Neniza thought, and began to work on her face.

Now I’m going to put her away and go back to work on the novel at hand.

Revision Thoughts

As I trundle along on the revision of Warrior and Witch, I find myself reflecting in certain ways that I was less inclined to, back when I wasn’t actually paid to do this stuff.

It’s easier to get scared, these days. I know people are going to read this. In the past, if I botched a work (and yes, I did, more than once, the most painful example being the first draft of Sunlight and Storm), then I could shelve it for a while until I knew how to make it better. More to the point, I was more willing to gamble in those days, because if I aimed high and missed, no one had to know.

To put it quite bluntly, I got very ambitious with certain aspects of Warrior and Witch, and a few of them blew up in my face. Now I’m sorting through the pieces, deciding which ones I can attack again and thereby make work, and which ones need to be excised as failed experiments, things I’m not ready to pull off just yet. I’m learning many valuable lessons in the process, of course. Spent some time tonight doing statistical analysis, since one of the gripes was that a particular character was getting too much screen time over another. Turns out to not be true, not by a long shot (the supposedly neglected character’s getting more than half again as much wordage, in terms of pov scenes, than the supposedly excessive character), but from this I learn that (duh) wordcount isn’t everything. So now I’m experimenting whether I can, through jiggery-pokery, bump up the prominence of the “neglected” character without actually ripping out half the “excessive” character’s scenes. I might have been better off agreeing to a third book, and splitting the plot of this one so it spanned two volumes, but I’m still glad of the decision I made; I fear my enthusiasm for this project wouldn’t have sustained me through a third book.

The problem is, there’s an easy way out of the problem: stop being so ambitious. I wouldn’t be in this situation if I hadn’t tried to write a sequel that would be noticeably larger in scope and complexity than its predecessor. And honestly, there are plenty of authors who do exactly that, and sell well, and have fans, and sometimes I myself am on of those fans. I can enjoy more of the same, if it’s competently done.

But I wasn’t willing to take that way out. And let me state here and now — since, in my own personal psychological calendar, January is the month I dedicate to ambition (in place of New Year’s Resolutions) — that I vow never to give up on ambition. Even if it means I find myself choking on indigestible tangles of political intrigue the day I decide finally to tackle The Iron Rose, I’ll still give it a shot.

Because I refuse to settle for just treading water, however comfortable it may be.

Photography Envy

Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve just been turned green with photography envy. The Coyote’s pictures from the Concordia game remind me just how much difference there is between the kind of photography I do (quick shots snapped off, sometimes with thought given to composition, but little to no understanding of light and other such matters) and the kind of photography you get with a good camera and knowledge of how to work it to the best advantage in the circumstances.

Case in point, three pictures of me from the Concordia game.

I’d link to the whole album of pictures if the Coyote hadn’t requested we keep the password private. Suffice to say that the compositions he directed his subjects into go a long way towards capturing us-as-characters, rather than us-as-players-in-funny-clothes, and that the colors come through with wonderful richness. Coyote, I may hire you someday as my photographer for research purposes, since once of my recurring questions has been, how the hell can I show photos of what I’m working on, without them looking flat to an outside eye?

And yes, that would be the dress which ate my life lately. I’ll have to find other excuses to wear it. (Once I replace the now-destroyed sleeves. And either get a new crinoline, or widen the waistband of mine so it stops pinching a nerve in my back.) ) You can see more detail of the fabrics, and also what I did to my hair, in this shot, but watch out for the blinding glare of flash off satin — I was shiny that day.

Methinks I might photoshop these shots a bit — with permission, Coyote — to get rid of the scars and weirdnesses like that inexplicable patch of red on my neck. They’re fantastic pictures, and I’m thrilled to have them.

‘Twas Late After All

Stupid half-updated websites (though, to be fair, I can totally sympathize with the difficulty of hunting down and updating every spot on a series of websites where a particular piece of information is given). Turns out that, contrary to whatever webpage I was reading, the deadline for expedited HSC forms is Friday at 5 these days, not Monday at 5 like it used to be. Though she kindly told me that I probably wouldn’t have gotten reviewed this Wednesday anyway, since they have a lot of applications piling up to review. So I won’t know the results of my application until some time after Wednesday of next week.

I also want to hire myself out to the HSC people for the purpose of rewriting their forms. Not the wording, per se — at least some of that stuff is federally mandated to be the way it is — but to reorganize its presentation so that it, y’know, makes sense. For starters, the paginations are a bleeding mess, such that (for example) page 3 of the form is page 6 of the document, and when it tells you to do a particular thing involving page 3, you have to be sure you’re looking at the right one. Second, they don’t get around to giving you the nice instruction packet that tells you which forms you need to pay attention to depending on what you’re doing until page five. But I think the one that takes the cake for me is the fact that an addendum to the form (the “Conflict of Interest” question, regarding whether or not anybody involved stands to make money off the research results) — an addendum which, mind you, has been in effect for more than three years — is on page two. Which is not part of the form. You have to go add it onto the form. The “Reminder of New Procedures” bit on page 3 is still giving you updates from 1999. One of the women in the HSC office told me the Conflict of Interest question was still up at the front because people keep forgetting to include it, and I had to bite my tongue not to suggest that people might be more likely to remember it if it were actually on the form it belongs with.


But I managed to notice that question, and add it in, and the woman in the office who took my form (not the one with the dumb answer) gave me a big thumbs-up for having caught it. Apparently that’s Reason #1 people’s applications get rejected on the first round; they fail their Perception rolls and don’t notice they need to put something from page two on page fourteen.

So now I twiddle my thumbs and wait to hear back.

Post-Concordia Post

Wow — I haven’t had a game hangover this intense in quite some time.

Yesterday (for those of you not involved) was the Concordia game for Changeling, wherein Faerilyth got crowned High Queen and I, as Morwen, sat in a room playing the part of Condemned Traitor Awaiting Judgement. Which was not nearly so tedious as I feared it might be.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who came and talked to me during that time. Partly, of course, because that would have been one hella boring game if you hadn’t, but even more because those were a bunch of truly fantastic scenes. No doubt I’ll forget some people (that was a long game), but I recall having conversations with: Queen Mary Elizabeth, Queen Mab, Queen Morganna, Faerilyth before her coronation, High Lord Varich, High Lord Eleanor, Princess Lenore, Sir Seif, Duke Topaz, Duke Firedrake, Duchess Igrania, Duke Dray, Duke Kelodin, Duke Aeon, Countess Anne, Baron Weyland, Lord Mu, Sir Rowena, Sir Danwyn, Dame Airmed, Sir Ranulf, Adama, Ochun, and Vincent Cross. Plus a few others who wandered into the room in company with someone else but didn’t really talk to me, like High Lord Donovan, High Lord Eleanor’s consort Sir Tairngrim, Lady Ayame, and Midir, Adama’s faceless assassin.

In other words, damn, I was a popular traitor.

I’m glad the scenes were so good, since Mab gave me her favor before I could even ask her, thereby rendering unnecessary the hours of trying to finagle a favor out of somebody I had expected to go through. And it was an interesting experience, spending 99% of the game sequestered in a single room, leaving it only long enough to a) do my level best to commit political (and very nearly literal) suicide and b) find out what the consequences of that would be. During the periods when everyone assembled for court and I was left alone, I stayed in my room instead of going to eavesdrop OOC, whereupon I paced back and forth and planned my speech of accusation. (That, for the record, was an idea I’d come up with at 2 a.m. the night before while trying to fix the sleeves of my dress so I could bend my arms, so that I would actually have something to do at the game, some goal to actually strive for. After all, politicking needs to be spiced up with a few Grand Gestures. Even if mine then got eclipsed by the Crazy Cold Iron Suicide). My one regret is that for OOC player reasons, Duke Rococco was not there when I did it, since I was later told second-hand that he might have taken up my challenge to Meilge. And wouldn’t that have been interesting.

As for the dress, well, I didn’t get all of the detailing done on it that I wanted to (the beaded chains for the sleeves and skirt got made, but not attached), and the organza proved too delicate for sleeves (the seams ripped out on both sides by the end), but on the whole, I think it was a success. If I can replace the sleeves with something a little sturdier, I should have quite a lovely dress, if one that requires about ten minutes of help to be laced into (thank you again, Prosewitch!).

Now, having made my post-game post, maybe I can get my head out of game space and start working on other things.

EDIT: Oh, and extra mad props to Sapphohestia, who ended up spending much of the game playing the part of my lady’s maid, coordinating the lineup of people waiting to talk to me (a surprisingly necessary service), and bringing me water and food when I started to die.

One Hurdle Down

Took the Human Subjects Research Test tonight, and passed it with 100%. I’d have been rather ashamed of myself if I hadn’t, seeing as how it’s a self-administered online test where you can have the tutorial open in another browser tab and check your answers as you go. But in a weird way that makes sense — the point is that you correctly ID how the procedures for Human Subjects approval go, and those aren’t the kinds of things you necessarily need to have memorized. You need to know how to look them up.

If you’re not familiar with it, this whole shebang has to do with the institutions now set up to monitor any federally-funded research (including any research conducted by members of federally-funded universities) that concerns living, breathing human beings. Think of things like the Tuskegee syphilis study, for an egregious example of the kinds of abuses it’s intended to prevent. The procedures get a little bit crazy (frex, you have to submit for approval any questionnaire you intend to use, and if you later decide to drop some questions from it, you have to get that approved, too — let alone adding some), but oh well. It’s the price of doing business in my field.

So I passed the test; now I get to whip up an application for research approval, to be submitted on Monday, reviewed by the comittee on Wednesday, and returned by (probably) Friday. The goal is to jump that hurdle in one go, but it may not happen, as the comittee often has some quibble they want you to amend before they sign off on it. But once I get approved, then I can begin my first actual, official, real-live-anthropologist research.

Okay, I promise I’ll stop posting soon.

Want to read Doppelganger right now?

You can buy it on eBay.

Seriously, it’s just a little bit surreal to find an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of your very first novel floating around the internet. And then disappointing to realize nobody’s bid on it yet. <g> I mean, I knew there was a secondhand market for these books — they get sent out to generate advance buzz and get reviews circulating — so I knew that yes, someday, there would be ARCs of my own work out there. Somehow, though, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon.

(Yes, I was Googling myself. Don’t ask me why Doppelganger got mentioned on a romance forum, but the person there said it was excellent. Woot!)

So I think I’ve entered two new realms of writer-hood today. This review business is one of them. The other, I was reflecting on this morning, as the reports start to come in of the lineups for Year’s Best anthologies.

In 2004, I published precisely one story: “White Shadow”. Other than a brief, wistful bit of dreaming when I heard there was going to be a Year’s Best YA Fantasy anthology, I didn’t give it much thought.

In 2005, I had five stories hit print: “The Princess and the . . .,” “Silence, Before the Horn,” “Shadows’ Bride,” “The Twa Corbies,” and “For the Fairest.” Now, mind you, of those all, only “The Twa Corbies” is more than five hundred words long — I published a lot of flash this year. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have hopes, though; I have a writer’s ego, which is to say volatile and capable of great delusions of grandeur along with pits of blackest despair. We’ll see if it comes to anything; I know Ellen Datlow was eyeing some stories from Jabberwocky, though I don’t know which ones. (I love all my creative children, of course, but some have special places in my heart, and “Silence, Before the Horn” is one of them.)

But the point is that I’m moving into a realm I’ve never been in before, namely, one where Year’s Best anthologies mean something to me as something other than just a reader. I might end up in one. I’m following their construction for the first time in my life, paying attention to who edits what, when they make their decisions, when they get published. I’ve
got seven more stories in the publication pipeline; they may not all make it out next year, but I might also sell more. I’m playing a new game now, and it’s kind of fascinating.

But that’s enough writerly procrastination for the night. I need to take the IRB test, which means getting into anthropologist-head.

I must be a REALLY real author!

Just got a heads-up for the Tangent Online review of Talebones #31, which contains my short story “The Twa Corbies”. Once again, some plot spoilers (some day I shall learn to stop being surprised by their presence), but I can’t complain too much when the reviewer is saying nice things:

I enjoyed Brennan’s characterization of a narrator who regrets the choices he made that enabled him to understand birds. The author’s experience as a folklorist allows her to give this story extra verisimilitude. While I haven’t heard the ballad this story is based on, I have heard many similar pieces in the Celtic tradition, and “The Twa Corbies” does a good job of capturing the feel of those.

So all in all, some nice ego-boosting today (to balance out two rejections, one of which had me scratching my head, the other of which had me politely saying “okay, but I disagree” with regards to what the editor would have preferred the story to be).