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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

returning to work

The boy is watching a movie I have no particular interest in seeing, and I’d rather stab myself through the hands than grade today, so instead I’m writing.

“A Mask of Flesh”

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meterZokutou
word meter
1,758 /
6,000
(28.0%)

I’m experimenting with a word meter to see if a visual indication of my progress helps promote a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, I haven’t the faintest clue how long the story’s really going to be — I believe the Zokutou meter was created for NaNoWriMo writers aiming for a set goal — so that 6000 is totally a guess. I know that Neniza is cooling her heels in the petitioners’ plaza, and the lord is about to show up, so I might be more like halfway through.

Or not, depending on how much description I find myself indulging in. This is a lush-description kind of story, and I haven’t even gotten to the lord.

Anyway, time to break, since I haven’t yet decided by which of two routes Neniza’s going to get to her goal. And besides, I’m hungry.

In Which There Are Many Stories

I sent in Warrior and Witch today, following a marathon of revision that turned my brain to mush. (It would have been nice if my brain had had all those good ideas about how to rewrite it earlier than the last minute — though I suppose it’s nicer than not having any good ideas at all.) My plan for the next few days involves lying around like a dead thing and doing as little work as I can get away with, but after that, what next?

First of all, I have five stories or so that have been awaiting revision — some of them for more than a year. I’ll probably ramble about them more in another post, but for posterity’s sake, on this list are “The Memories Rise to Hunt,” “Sciatha Reborn,” “On the Feast of the Firewife,” “Games in the Dark,” and “Apply Now,” which really needs a better title. I should do something with those.

I should also do something with the stories sitting around in various states of progress. “A Mask of Flesh” is probably the most likely to get itself finished soon, at which point I can think about turning the abortive mess of “Ink, Like Blood” into a related story for that one. There’s also “Even in Decline,” if I can figure out just where it’s going, though I refuse to work on that one until I get “Sciatha Reborn” out there (again, a related story — I like working in a setting multiple times). Then I blame for getting my brain back onto “The Deaths of Christopher Marlowe,” though that will certainly have to wait until I can do some reasearch for it. Similarly research-intensive will be “Hannibal of the Rockies” — I need to get back in touch with the relevant people on that one. (Hi, .) The Goddess Triumphant story to go along with “On the Feast of the Firewife” and its friends has a title now (“Kingspeaker”), but I’m not sure what exactly it thinks it’s about. Then there are older bits: “Once a Goddess” (I refuse to give up on that one), two different Driftwood story openings, another Twilight story, the “faerie trouble” story . . . .

Here’s the plan. Every two weeks, I’ll aim to get one of my completed stories revised and out the door. (Discussion of just what kind of effort that will take can wait for that other post.) Also, every week, I’ll aim to finish writing something. Not necessarily a short story; I know I don’t have the kind of time for that at the moment. It can be an essay for my website, or my ICFA paper, or my Pushing Boundaries paper if it gets accepted. But something. Every week.

And, in the meantime — yes, I’m delusional; why do you ask? — playing around with the next novel project. Which means revision of SotS-that-needs-a-new-title, and noodling with its sequel, which frankly I can’t wait to get started on. We’ll see what kind of schedule I put myself on for those.

But first, lying around like a dead thing. I feel I’ve earned it.

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.

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).

I must be a real author!

Harriet Klausner has reviewed Doppelganger.

DOPPELGANGER is a spellbinding, fantastic and unique fantasy due to the cast. Both Mirage and Miryo are two sides of the same coin except that one is a witch and the other a warrior. Although this is Marie Brennan’s first book, she proves she is a talented storyteller and a creative worldbuilder. Although there is a lot of action in this novel, the characters are fully developed and readers understand them because they have similar feelings and concerns as the readers do.

So, who is Harriet Klausner? She’s a woman who’s managed, in a fairly short span of time, to gain a substantial amount of clout in the reviewing world, by dint of the fact that she reads an enormous number of books. You know that challenge, where you’re supposed to read fifty-two books in a year? This woman probably reads fifty-two books a week. Maybe more. And she reviews them all. She’s achieved enough status that publishing companies deliberately send her review copies. Devi told me some time ago that yes, they were sending Doppelganger to her, so it was neat to see this go up.

If you want to read more of her reviews, she has a website, but a word of caution: one gripe I’ve heard against her style is that she tends to give plot spoilers in her reviews. I can vouch for the truth of that with her Doppelganger piece; she doesn’t describe the whole plot of the book, but she does mention something that I would consider to be a spoiler. So if you go browsing her archive, do so with care.

On a related note, the cover for Warrior and Witch is FRICKIN’ AWESOME. Devi and Rachel and I are drooling over it. You’d better believe I’ll post it the instant I get the go-ahead.

A Variety of Updates

If you have not yet seen it, I can give no better description of Casanova than to say that it is a Shakespearean comedy. It has disguises, mistaken identities, cross-dressing, lower-class clowns, and it ends with a wedding (in the sense of characters achieving romantic resolution; that matters more than ending with an actual wedding ceremony). The plot reaches ludicrous proportions of convolutedness at various points, but that happened in Shakespeare too. Very fun, very silly, very much worth watching if that’s a genre you like.

As far as the rest of my weekend is concerned, I should probably (from a practical standpoint) not have spent nearly the entirety of it gaming. But the gaming was fun, and isn’t that what counts? (Okay, look. Once the semester sinks its teeth properly into me, I won’t have much time for gaming at all. I decided to enjoy it while I could.)

In other gaming news, the Parliament is 99% cast, and the boy and I thought up a plot the other day that had me racing to the bookcase to pull out a variety of references and then giggling madly at how wonderfully perfect the idea is. If the rest of the planning for this game goes half so well, then I daresay it might turn out a success.

In other other gaming news, my Concordia costuming proceeds apace. Today I spent a disgusting amount of time working on something that in the end doesn’t look like much at all (finishing touches on the bodice), but I’m glad to have that out of the way. Now I just need to completely redesign the skirt, and I’ll be nearly done. (We’ll pretend that redesigning isn’t such a giant hurdle to leap as it truly is.)

Writing news: the current project is revising Warrior and Witch. Once that’s bounced off to Devi, then I can turn my attention to the pile of unrevised short stories, and also to playing around with the Novel That May Finally Have A Better Title. Which I’m looking forward to. It’s hard to overcome the tendency to be more excited about whatever’s next than whatever’s now; it happens to me in academia, too. I always get excited about next semester’s classes about halfway through the current term, when my enthusiasm for the classes at hand has run out. (And I haven’t even gotten to the endless copy-edit/page proofs stage yet.)

I’ve been going through a drought on the short-story front, not of sales — well, okay, that too; any stretch of time longer than a few weeks has a tendency to start masquerading as a drought, regardless of how silly that is — but rather a drought of responses. I’m waiting to hear back from so many places. At least when I’m getting rejections, I can sling the stories back out into the ether and feel like I’m getting somthing done.

Well, the sooner I get Warrior and Witch done, the sooner I can get fresh stories into the system, which will help. So I guess I should get back to work on, well, everything.