numbers to chew on

When the Sword & Sorceress antho call went out, I sat down to see how many stories I had around with female protagonists (as that’s one of the requirements). I was startled to find the answer was: not many. Which surprised me; I thought I wrote female characters on a regular basis.

So I sat down and did some counting. These numbers have changed some since the original count (story sales, new stories in circulation), but the pattern’s still there, and still interesting. (At least to me. Your mileage may vary. If so, skip this post.)

Number crunchiness ensues


Maybe “Kingspeaker” is the GT story, after all. Since I just tried to revise it, taking those parts out, and they stubbornly migrated to other parts of the story, rewrote themselves, and generally burrowed in deeper. I’m not sure if it quite works yet, but now I believe it might eventually.

I think maybe I need to work out, for my own edification if no one else’s, the mythical backstory for how the kingspeaker thing got started. If I know that, I’ll know why this story needs to be the story it is apparently trying to be.

Um. Right. Enough with the vague babbling, methinks.

For once I’m starting early!

A photo of my dressform will do as a costuming icon until I think of something I like more.

For once, I’m getting started on a costume in good time. The Regency game isn’t until April 1st, and I’ve already got the vest and pants already (mostly) sewn, leaving me with the coat.

The coat, and a million and twelve buttons. I should have thought of that before I said I wanted to play a nineteenth-century naval officer.

<subconscious whines, “But it sounded fun! Er, not the buttons part.”>

Assorted thoughts: I really don’t have the body silhouette to pass for a man, what with my hips being bigger than my shoulders. (Caused more by lack of shoulders than pelvic endowment.) Which leads to trouble when the only measurement they give on a men’s pattern is the chest; I basically had to cut different sizes for the top and the bottom, and only figured that out halfway into the cutting. I am, however, getting more confident at modifying patterns. Someday this may lead to me sewing without a pattern, but that day is not today, nor tomorrow. True to form, I’ve made several mistakes so far that required ripping out one or more seams, but I must be getting used to it; I’ve hardly sworn at all so far. Then again, the project is still young, and holds a million and twelve buttons in store for me.

Also? The Horatio Hornblower series is pretty good, though I still think I like Aubrey and Maturin more. Ioan Gruffudd makes me appreciate Hornblower more in the movies than in the books. But I do get a little tired of somebody constatly taking a dislike to him for no good reason, when We the Audience can clearly see that he is noble, clever, loyal, and kind. It is not, however, a flaw that gets all that much in the way of my enjoyment.

naming woes, part two

So here’s the problem, really. I keep embarking on projects (short stories, novels, games) where the people — the guys in particular — need to have relatively mainstream English names, the sort that have been used historically. And when you get down to it, there aren’t a lot of those. And the more of these projects I build up, the more of the mainstream names I’ve used for major characters, such that I would feel weird then applying them to someone else.

But at this point, it means I’m hesitant to name anybody Julian, Robert, Leonard, Roger, Luke, James, Gregory, Edward, or Jacob, just to choose the most major ones. If I let Memento get in there, I have to add in Thomas, William, Simon, Francis, Stephen, Philip, Jacob again, Christopher, Archibald, and Nicholas. “Nine Sketches” also used Nathaniel, Francis again, Charles, Richard, and Jonathan. I could keep going, but you get the point; a lot of the common names have strong associations for me already.

This doesn’t mean there’s nothing left. I haven’t had anybody important named Henry (except oops, there will hopefully be the thing about Henry Welton someday) — okay, George (wait, that’s Caroline’s husband) — how about Samuel (Eleanor’s father) — crap. And some of my remaining choices, I don’t like very much; Andrew isn’t one I’m particularly fond of. Some of the names are currently reserved by future projects; others are bound up in old projects, and I face the question of whether I think I’ll ever resurrect them, or whether I should just go ahead, cut The Kestori Hawks loose as unusable, and free up half a dozen names for other people to have. (Assuming I can. Assuming my subconscious will let go of the idea that “Leonard” means that guy, the one over there, with all the angst.)

Oh yeah. And then, because I’m not having issues enough, there’s the problem that if I name a character in the Elizabethan period Gabriel, most of you will roll your eyes at the slightly flashy name, and a few will run screaming and waving your copies of the Lymond Chronicles. My own work isn’t the only association I have to watch out for.

I should name the guy John and be done with it, but it just doesn’t work. And I’m not yet to the point where my subconscious is ready to reuse things. For secondary characters, sure. But not the main ones.

Which is how I end up with ideas like Peregrine Thorne. But that isn’t his name — though whoever’s name it is, he looks interesting — so I keep working.

naming woes

Few writing blocks frustrate me more than a character I can’t name. I can’t do jack if I don’t know a character’s name. Without that, how do I know who he is? How can I guess what she’ll do? The name is everything, and sometimes it takes forever to find; I think Saoran eluded me for three years.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out if this guy’s name really is going to be Sir Peregrine Thorne. If so, I’m going to have to work a damn good reason into his backstory; you can’t go parading around with a name like that and pretend it happened by accident.

Even if that is his name, it still only gives me half of what I need. I’m trying to explain to the female character that “Malkin,” while a genuine British diminutive (of Maud, actually), also has a variety of slang meanings ranging from “slattern” to “female genitalia.” Neither of which are meanings she wants to be carrying around with her.

I don’t want to admit how much of tonight I’ve spent on this task. But since I can’t go anywhere until I get over this hurdle, I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Edited to add: Christ. This is apparently trying to be a story full of People With Inexcusable Names, since now the female character is pondering options like Amaranth, Celandine, and Chrysanthe.

Edit #2: No, dear, you can’t be Britomart. I dislike authors who use names from other things but don’t know what they’re referencing, and I refuse to read The Faerie Queene for you.

Edit #3: Maybe Sylfaen? Or Ailis? She’s allowed to have a weird name; she isn’t human. Unlike Mr. Sir Peregrine Thorne up there, who is supposed to be quite human. I don’t know. At this point, I think I’ve been beating my head against it too long. Time to go to sleep, and see if any of my possibilities still look good in the morning.

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

I’ve always known that I don’t like grading. But this is the first time I’ve been able to put it in such appalling terms:

I procrastinated from grading tonight by doing my federal and state taxes.

Doing my taxes was preferable to grading.

Ye gods.

it’s back!

“Once a Goddess”

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou word meter
1,266 / 4,000

I celebrate the return of the Zokutou meter (which was down for a while) by showing the progress I made after last night’s post.

The 4000 total is just an estimate. I have the beginning of the story, now. I’m formulating the middle, and I’ve got a vague niggling that might turn out to be the end. This is farther than I’ve ever gotten with this story (remember, this is attempt #5), and I’m pretty sure it’s got the legs to make it to the end.


Man, I miss the Zokutou word meter. I’ve embarked on my fifth attempt to write “Once a Goddess” and I’m 472 words in, but I don’t have a visual way to show it.

(Yes, I know there are other word meters. I don’t like them as much.)

Hey, if I do well enough with this story, do you think they’ll put me on the Nebula ballot like ksumnersmith?

Dude, how cool is it that a writer I know personally — not “hey, I’ve had conversations with her” but “hey, she’s about my age and we’ve been in an anthology together and shared a room at a con” — is on the freaking Nebula ballot? And not just on it; her story got the slot reserved for the Nebula jury’s hand-picked choice.

Go, Karina!!! When you’re a Big Name Author, I’ll be able to tell other people I once shared a migratory sun patch with you. 🙂

explanations, seen and unseen

A few days ago, I had an brief exchange with Frank Wu on the topic of explanations and how they differ between genres. The comment that started it was anent my own story in Talebones, but the part I found myself in disagreement with was a broader issue than the instance in question:

We had some interesting discussions at Radcon about science fiction and fantasy; one idea that fell out was that in science fiction, things are explained (perhaps poorly, but at least there is an attempt), and in fantasy, we just accept the hand-waving (oh, it’s magic).

I’d like to expand on the thoughts I started in the comments over there.