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Posts Tagged ‘driftwood’

after-action report

The reading went swimmingly. Quite a good number of people in attendance, and the stories went over well. For the curious, my final choices were:

1) “The Wives of Paris” — even if nobody had voted for it, I might have read this one, just because I’ve been looking forward to doing so for ages. As it also got a goodly number of votes in the poll, my desire had some justification to back it up.

2) “A Heretic by Degrees” — lots of votes for the various Driftwood options. I didn’t get the new story revised, so opted for this one instead. Especially because Borderlands readings are about the only opportunity I get to read longer stories; usually time constraints prohibit it.

3) a selection from A Star Shall Fall — if you’ve read the book, I did the two scenes where Irrith goes hunting in what Ktistes claims is a bad patch but isn’t really, and finds the, er, special room. (Circumlocuting so as to avoid spoilers.)

Now, back to the revision mines.

Fascinating Title Goes Here

The Internet has this magical ability to cough up stuff on whatever topic you’re thinking about, even when you aren’t looking for it*. At the moment, that’s this post by Jay Lake, which led me through daisy-chain of other posts by Seanan McGuire, Edmund Schubert, Misty Massey, and David Coe, all on the topic of titles.

I have titles on the brain right now for two reasons:

1) I just sent my crit group the most recent Driftwood story, which doesn’t really have a name yet, though my tongue-in-cheek dubbing of it as “Two Men in a Basket” might end up sticking just for lack of anything better.

2) I still don’t have a title for the Victorian book.

These two situations have different root causes, I think. Thanks to the first three installments in the series, the Victorian book is hedged about with all these requirements that I should fulfill if humanly possible: it has to be a quote, the passage the quote comes from has to work as an epigraph (ideally for the last part of the book), it should have a verb (ideally at the end of the phrase), etc. Finding a piece of Victorian literature that will fit all the requirements at once is proving much more difficult than I expected — to the point where I may well have to compromise on one or more points, though the perfectionist in me doesn’t want to. For the Driftwood story, on the other hand, the problem is that I don’t have any requirements. It’s a wide-open field, and so I end up standing around in it, not sure where to go.

And it’s made more complicated by the fact that novel titles and short story titles aren’t quite the same kind of beast. Certain things could work for either, and in fact I think you can generally port novel titles onto short stories without too much problem. But short story titles can’t necessarily go the other way. “Nine Sketches, in Charcoal and Blood” strikes me as only working for the short form; “Letter Found in a Chest Belonging to the Marquis de Montseraille Following the Death of That Worthy Individual” would NEVER go on a book. Short story titles are allowed to be wordier, because they don’t have to function as a piece of marketing in the way their novel-related cousins do. (Exceptions like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making are just that: exceptions.) Cleverness in book titles is somewhat limited to humourous work, while a broader range of short stories can get away with it.

I’ve said before that my best titles usually show up at the start of the process; my average titles are the ones I stick on after the fact. (I have some bad titles, too, but let’s not talk about those. They’re after-the-fact efforts, too.) What makes a title good? It has to be evocative — which is one of those vague, hand-wavy descriptors I actually kind of hate, but I don’t have a better one that manages to combine the concepts of “striking” and “memorable” and “suggestive of more than it’s saying.” Lots of writers try to achieve evocative-ness (evocativity?) by throwing in nouns that supposedly carry that quality: Shadow. Soul. Dragon. Yawn. My attention is drawn more to odd juxtapositions. Queen isn’t a terribly interesting word, but the contradiction of The Beggar Queen is a lot more intriguing.

And then you have to worry about titles in a series, and how to make it clear these books belong together. I have to say I’m not a fan of the Mercedes Lackey answer to this question: Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, Magic’s Price; Winds of Fate, Winds of Change, Winds of Fury; The Black Gryphon, The White Gryphon, The Silver Gryphon . . . well, if you dropped all the books on the floor it would be easy to sort the trilogies from one another, but exciting this is not. I prefer Dunnett’s approach with the Lymond books, where the titles may not be individually brilliant, but the running chess metaphor connects them all. This is why the pattern of the Onyx Court titles matters to me, too, because the structural characteristics are what advertise “this is part of that series!”

But you still have to come up with the title. For the Victorian book, I go looking in Victorian literature, but what about stories or novels where the title could be anything? How do you even get started? I swear, sometimes it’s harder than writing the actual stories. If you have any brilliant thoughts, please do share them in the comments.

*By which I mean that our brains have this magical ability to notice stuff that matches the pattern of what we’re interested in. But it’s more fun to say the Internet gets credit.

Yay Driftwood!

Finished another Driftwood story. Wrote most of this one on the Bahamas cruise, because it wasn’t really work work, it was fun work. (Especially since the goal of this one is to have a Driftwood story that isn’t depressing.)

Current title is “Stone and Sky,” but I hope to find something more interesting before it gets sent out to magazines. It needs to sit for a bit and get critiqued first, though, so the title fairy has some time to show up.

(Right now, my subconscious wants to call it “Two Madmen in a Basket.” It is possibly a silly enough story to make that work.)

Driftwood in your ear

That header sounds painful, now that I think about it.

Anyway, if you would prefer to listen to a story about Driftwood rather than read it, you can now download the audio from BCS. (Which also has a new Aliette de Bodard story this week, one of her Aztec pieces. I haven’t read it yet, but I am very much looking forward to it.)

I’ve also put up an extra tidbit for the Driftwood fans: “Smiling at the End of the World.” It’s a piece of flash fiction from Last’s point of view, but since Driftwood flash doesn’t stand on its own very well, I’ve chosen to just post it to my site as a freebie. Enjoy!

miscellaneous bits of news

Proof I have gotten way too pale: I managed to pick up a bit of a tan in freaking London.

Anyway, onto actual news, of the writing-related sort. Various bits and pieces accumulated while I was gone, so in no particular order . . .

1) I’ve sold an audio reprint of “Kingspeaker” to Podcastle.

2) Go here for another chance to win an ARC of A Star Shall Fall (scroll down for details). Author Stephanie Burgis is, with permission, re-gifting the copy I sent her.

3) Clockwork Phoenix 3 has gotten a starred review from Publishers Weekly, with this to say about my own contribution: “Marie Brennan sets the bar high with ‘The Gospel of Nachash,’ a fine reinterpretation of the Adam and Eve legend from a fresh perspective.” Also, finalized cover art.

4) An interesting post about “Remembering Light” and Driftwood more generally. I remain faintly boggled by how strongly people react to the setting — boggled, and flattered. I really do need to get more Driftwood stories written.

5) My remaining bit of news will get its own post in a bit, so instead I’ll use this spot to mention that I’m still seeking a title for the Victorian book. For those not aware or in need of a refresher, my requirements are here and here; you can leave suggestions on one of those posts, in the comments to this post, or send them to my e-mail (marie dot brennan at gmail dot com).

sort of needed, sort of . . . NOT

“I want to make a map of Driftwood.”

Making Last cough up his wine wasn’t the only reason Tolyat said it, but he had to admit that was part of the appeal.

On the one hand, more Driftwood stories = good, since the most common response to either “Driftwood” or “A Heretic by Degrees” is “You should write more in this setting!” (I’m working on it.)

Also, this appears to be that desperately-needed creature, a lighthearted Driftwood story. Given the inherently nihilistic nature of the setting, if I’m ever going to do a collection (which I would, I confess, like to do someday), then it would be good to leaven it with stories like this, where Last has an actual friend and they do something that’s just fun.

On the other hand . . . I did not need to start a new story right now. Seriously, Brain, we’re trying to clear things OFF the slate here, not add to them!

But this, uh, may be what I’m doing today. Depending on how much the brain decides to cough up. It would be just like it to hand me an opening and then quit, but maybe we can prod it into actually being useful . . . .

things I have a profound disagreement with

But before I get to the disagreeing: I’ve been so brain-deep in finishing A Star Shall Fall, I overlooked the fact that Podcastle’s audio of “A Heretic by Degrees” has gone live. So go, listen, enjoy.


Right, so, the disagreeing.

I find it interesting that Dean Wesley Smith begins this post with the assertion that “No writer is the same” — and then proceeds to make his point (on the topic of rewriting) with such vehemence and absolutism that it could easily be mistaken for divine, universal law. Which is a pity, because I think he has a good point to make; but the force behind it drives the point way deeper than I think it deserves to go, and as a result, people who find themselves disagreeing with the full version may miss the value of the reduced version.

I think he’s right that rewriting can hurt a story. It can polish the fire out, like focus-testing a product until it’s bland pablum that doesn’t offend anybody, but doesn’t interest them, either. Sometimes you get it right the first time.

But. He seems to be arguing (with the force of an evangelical preacher) that your critical brain will never be useful to you as a writer. This works because a particular rhetorical trick:


One door closes; another one opens.

Sadly, it appears that Talebones is closing. When I sold them “The Snow-White Heart,” I hoped that meant the magazine would continue on, but Patrick Swenson has decided to call an end, after thirty-nine issues. I hope the plan to perpetuate it as anthologies works out, though; I’ve enjoyed my dealings with Patrick, and the anthology market appears to be reviving after years in a moribund state, so that may actually be a viable course of action.

Let me segue from that bad news to some good news that arrived while I was on the road, hence not posting it until now. You may recognize the name of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, the biweekly online magazine that has brought you (among other things) my stories “Kingspeaker” and “Driftwood.” I’ve discussed them magazine before; they’re publishing good, strong narrative fantasy that happens to cover a broader range than usual of settings. In the nine months they’ve been running, I’ve seen Middle Eastern settings, African ones, Asian, Mesoamerican, frontier Western . . . Scott Andrews, the editor, has a real commitment to exactly the kind of experimentation I like.

I bring them up because Scott has recently completed arrangements for BCS to qualify as a non-profit, and that means he’s started seeking donations. (I don’t know for sure, but I think he was funding it out-of-pocket before.) He’s paying pro rates for a nice diversity of stories, both in print and podcast forms, and As You Know, Bob, the number of magazines doing that nowadays is shrinking steadily. I don’t know about you, but I want to see this one survive. It’s the only magazine I’ve ever encountered where I read every story (though not all of them work out for me), where I will in fact make the effort to go back and read issues I’ve missed, if I was busy or traveling when the new one(s) went live.

I can’t give it a stronger recommendation than that — without pretending it provides you with a free flying unicorn that shoots lasers and is a ninja whenever you read a story.

How much you donate, and on what schedule is up to you. You can give a lump sum now, or chip in fifty cents every time you read (or listen to) a story you like. Whatever. But check it out, and if you like what they’re doing, give a thought to supporting them. This isn’t charity; it’s a business model, and I hope it succeeds.