When not writing, I blog. When not blogging, I write.

Just thought I’d explain my infrequent posting lately. There are a lot of things I can blame, but mostly, it’s the writing. The first 3/4ths of East of Yesterday was so easy to write. But this last quarter–or maybe the last 5th or 6th–has been every bit as difficult.

And I have it all plotted out. Remember this?

PlotWebs

 

(In case you don’t, it’s across-functional diagram of my plot, showing all the back and forth of time travel.)

I have kept it up to date with all plot tweaks, and I am progressing painfully through each bubble. Right now, I am on the column of bubbles all the way to the right! However, due to time travel, these are not the final bubbles. The time travelers swing back over to the left a scooch before they head on into the ending.

I am less than a thousand words away from 90,000. And of course, I think it is all crap. But hopefully that is just the summer blahs. Because I know I’ve written some good stuff here. :)

Another thing I think I can safely blame is some medications I have been on for high blood pressure. I started the medication just before The Sevenfold Spell was published, and I am in the process of switching to a different medication. The other medication just made me too sluggish and dampened my enthusiasm for things like blogging and writing. I don’t think it is any coincidence that six months after I started this medication, I felt too overwhelmed and had to shut down Debuts and Reviews. I already am already feeling an improvement in my attitude. This process of switching meds is going to extend into August. We have to do this safely, but so far so good.

Anyway, that’s my life update. One reading tidbit before I go — I am reading Kings of the North now, the second book in the Paladin’s Legacy series that I started last month. I am enjoying this book even more–lots of interesting characters, including some that we didn’t get nearly enough of in the original trilogy.

More on that soon!

Review – Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

Oath of Fealty CoverOath of Fealty
by Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey – March 11, 2011
ebook – 5.99 (purchased) – also available in paperback

I purchased this book quite a while ago, made an unsuccessful attempt to read it, and then set it aside. For quite a while now, I have been in the mood for a warrior woman story , but have been unable to find one that suited. So I restarted this book from the beginning, and this time, I had none of the problems I had the first time around.

This book picks up after the ending of one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, The Deed of Paksenarrion. I reread the Deed before starting this book, so everything was fresh. I recommend reading it before reading this one–it is well worth the read. At the end of the Deed, Paks is a paladin who helped her former mercenary commander, Kieri Phelan, ascend to the throne of Lyonya, one of the kingdoms of the North. One of Keiri’s captains, Dorrin, also helped. Another captain, Arcolin, manned Phelan’s stronghold in the kingdom of Tsaia.

This book follows Dorrin, Kieri, Arcolin, and occasionally Paks as the story continues. For Kieri’s story, he is mainly setting up his administration and determining how best to protect his vulnerable new kingdom. Arcolin has been granted Kieri’s former lands and possessions, and he takes control of the mercenary company.

Dorrin has the most intriguing story of all, and her story is the main plot. She is an estranged member of the Verrakai family, who were behind a plot to prevent Kieri’s ascension to the Lyonyan throne. The Crown Prince asks her to take control of her mostly-evil family, sending all that she finds to stand judgement–including her own mother and father.

Her estranged family are all under an Order of Attainder, which means everyone in the family is wanted by the law. Dorrin is given the duchy of Verrakai and is sent to round up her family members. She is directly aided in this by Falk, her patron deity, which, at times, seems to give her paladin-like powers.

Arcolin appears to be in a plotline that will take longer to become clear. He has taken one cohort to Aerenis, the war-torn southern half of the continent, where he has a contract to solve a bandit problem in the area surrounding Cortes Vonja. His plotline merges with Dorrin’s as it becomes clear that some of the Verrakai are tangled up in the plot.

Paks makes an occasional appearance, as her job seems to be to support Dorrin.

I wish Ms. Moon would state the ages of her characters; all I really know is that Kieri is in his fifties, but as a half elf, he is biologically equivalent to 35 or so. Dorrin and Arcolin are acknowledged to be somewhat younger in years. I am assuming Dorrin is in her mid-to-late 40s. I get the impression that Arcolin is a little younger than Dorrin–maybe 40 or so. But I could be wrong.

Most of the action in the story takes place when Dorrin and Arcolin are on the page. Dorrin’s actions are mostly magical in nature, whereas all Arcolin has is his trusty sword. I find Dorrin compelling, but by the end of the book I stilled needed a reason to find Arcolin equally so. He is trusty and dependable and fights to the death for his people, and that should be enough. But so far, he seems to be more of a secondary character than the others, even if his story takes up as many pages as the primary characters. T

The same goes for Kieri. Reading about him setting up his administration was just not compelling, and during my first attempt to read the book, it was during his part that I set it aside. And he is a primary character.

Oath of Fealty appealed to me on a deeper level than I expected. It was entertaining and thought-provoking, and I will be moving on to the next book to see what other twists Ms. Moon has planned.

Four stars

Creating A Sense of Intimacy–Or Not

Sometimes the tiny revisions help more than you think.

I was revising a cozy scene, and I removed several instances of the man’s name and replaced it with “he” or “him”. I don’t know when I first started doing this, but I have found that a scene is more intimate if you refrain from using names. As long as there are only two people, you only need use each name once, at the beginning of the scene.

Think about it–in real life, how often do you actually say the name of your spouse, sibling, or good friend? Maybe to get their attention, but while in conversation? And you don’t think of them by their names, either. You are beyond names.

I really noticed this kind of thing when I did some contest judging a few months ago. Several intimate scenes were ruined when the hero and heroine said or thought the other’s name too often.

And the opposite holds true as well. To create a sense of estrangement, use names. As soon as you bring in a third person, you have to use names, anyway.

Here’s the intimate scene, between brother and sister:

Adele watched as he stared at her. She refrained from shaking her head. Mike had a way of walking about in a haze of his own making. She reached over, clasped his hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her.

“Talk to me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything. She thought about leaving him alone, but he was always pretty good about letting her know when he needed his space. He wanted her there. She waited.

At length, he tried to speak, but only ended up clearing his throat awkwardly. She rose, went into the kitchen and brought back a glass of water. She handed it to him, and sat down again as he drank.

“First off, I gotta tell you that there’s a few things you don’t know. Things that happened between Mrs. Watkins and me.”

She frowned in outrage. “What! She’s your employee! She—”

“For God’s sake—that’s not it, either. Christ! What must you think of me?”

“Well, look at the way you made it sound!”

“Well hold on and just listen for a moment.”

She subsided.

And between a nosy boss and his subordinate:

Briggs escorted Peterson in twenty minutes later. He looked nervous. “Good evening, sir,” Peterson said.

“Good evening, Peterson.” Haley said as he lit a cigarette. He didn’t offer one. Briggs took his post by the door. Peterson looked at him nervously. Haley said, “Your first name is Bradley, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Brad is fine.”

“Of course it is. So how goes things with Eliza?”

“Um, just fine. Sir.”

“Do you like her?”

“Sure. What’s not to like?”

“I can think of many things.”

“Huh?” he gulped. “Sir?”

“You seem to have a problem with that, don’t you?”

“With what?”

“With basic courtesy. Calling your superior ‘sir’ for instance.”

Peterson looked pained. “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Were your parents deadbeats?”

“Well … yes sir. Pretty much.”

Any intimacy was gone anyway because Briggs was present, but I did use names a little more often than strictly necessary.

This is just one of the tiny changes I keep in mind as I revise. What did you think? Did I succeed in creating a sense of intimacy, and a sense of estrangement?

Dratted, Overcrowded Brain

Today, I got a nice email from Zillow. Why, you ask, would Zillow send me a nice email? Because of this post. They asked that I embed a link in it, and even though the link was rather real-estate-y and this is not a real estate blog, I did what they asked. Because they asked so nicely. Who knows? Maybe the cool architecture will inspire one of you to move to St. Augustine one day.

Lesson learned: It never hurts to ask.

Anyway, when I reviewed the post, I realized I had never written a promised follow-up. Even though I took the trip to St. Augustine and drove down the streets I mentioned. (In my Jeep. With the top down, of course.)

I keep doing that. Forgetting stuff I say I’ll do. I guess I need to come up with a reminder system. So I am going to brush off my old Google Calendar account–the one where I used to keep track of debuts–and have it send me reminders. Because apparently, this brain is overcrowded.

In fact, I think I’d better write a procedure for writing up blog posts. Because I evidently need all the help I can get.

(Nah. Cause if I do, I’m sure to forget I wrote the dratted thing.)

Visiting Old Friends – Fantasy and Science Fiction Blogs of Yore

With my impending return to the world of book blogging. I looked in on some old blogging friends. Here is what I found:

  • Old Bat’s Belfry – Mulluane recently restarted her blogging engines, so I knew her site would be active, and it is. I’ll have to read through her site to find an epic fantasy to read; I’m hankering for one. It’s been a while.
  • Grasping for the Wind – This site, run by John Ottinger, is currently not being updated. I am not surprised; I know he has a young and growing family. Let’s hope he returns to the blogging world soon. In the meantime, I let his blogroll help refresh my memory about other old friends, because we frequented the same blogs.
  • A Dribble of Ink – Aidan Moher has been nominated for a Hugo for best Fanzine with this longterm site, which has been around ever since the Fantasy Debut days. Congrats, Aidan!
  • Debuts & Reviews – I’m blushing. This used to be the name of this site. Thanks, John!
  • Fantasy Cafe – This site has been at a new domain for a while now. Seems to be still going strong, and is still stylish and beautiful. Good job, Kristen.
  • Fantasy Literature – I also knew this site was still in business. It has gotten a major facelift with a streamlined new look. That can’t have been easy–I know this site existed since before blogging, so modernizing it must have been quite a job.
  • Graeme’s SFF – Graeme is back! I thought his site would still be dead, but he had a new(ish) post with a pointer to his new blog, and he is keeping it up to date.
  • Neth Space – Hmm … Ken Neth’s has not posted since March. Life must have intruded, somehow. Hope he’s back, soon. His blog looks the same as ever!
  • GavReads – Gav Reads is still online and active. He apparently had a hiatus and rejoined the blogging world just last month. There must be something in the water.
  • Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist – Pat’s site is modernized and quite attractive, and still quite active.
  • Rob’s Blog o’ Stuff – still full of stuff! I checked out his recent books in the mail and several look intriguing.
  • The Speculative Scotsman – The Scotsman was just taking off as I was winding down, but his blog is active and looks great.
  • The Book Smugglers – Ana and Thea seem to be hard at work, as usual, producing a great site. They were nominated for the Hugo Fanzine award as well.
  • The World in the Satin Bag – Shaun was also nominated for a Hugo, but in the “Fancast” category for his podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show. Congrats, Shaun!

Well, I’ve exhausted John’s blogroll, and this was a good first pass. In a future post, I’ll check out newer sites that I have never visited before.

My Writing Process Blog Hop

This is the first time I’ve done something like this in quite a while. I was tagged by Will Hahn. Thanks for thinking of me, Will!

Sometimes, timing is everything. Shortly after I posted something about making this blog a book chat site once again, Will emailed me, offering to loop me into a blog hop he just happened to be participating in. So I went along with it.

You regular readers may already know the answers to these questions, but you may want to read on anyway, because I may just have tagged you. That’s right–participation is the name of the game.

Here it goes:

1) What am I working on?

I am working on a time travel historical called East of Yesterday. It takes place all throughout the 20th century before plunging into the 19th at the very end.

And I have a Regency-inspired fantasy called Magic by Starlight almost ready to query. If I can just smoothen (don’t you just love that word? My daughter invented it) out one key scene…

And finally, I have a highly experimental science fiction dystopian series of short stories out there called Petroleum Sunset. Episode Three is almost ready to go, but since I am self-publishing these, it takes me a while to crank these out. Here is the info on Episodes One and Two.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I am very excited about East of Yesterday because I am using time travel concepts that I have not seen anywhere else. I spent two weeks scrutinizing tvtropes.org time travel section to be certain.

So yeah. I’m not going to be specific. I’ll just say two words: road trip. And four more: fish out of water.

Magic by Starlight is a very polite action-oriented spy fantasy that draws heavily on Jane Austen. I went for pure fun with this story. I have a couple of other stories in the series thought out too, with fairly comprehensive outlines.

To sum up what is different about my work, I’d have to say the characters. In my two published works, The Sevenfold Spell and The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf, my main characters are a strumpet (Sevenfold) and a dwarf (Magic Mirror). I’ve gotten more subtle about the characters in my works-in-progress, but still, I like writing about characters who don’t quite fit in, even if the reason is not entirely obvious.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I like writing books that I’d love to read, so I write books that take place either elsewhere (out of the Western world), elsewhen (future or past), or both. I almost never read contemporary work. Julie Moffett is currently the only author I know who can get me to read contemporary work. I want to be swept away from modern life. I want wonder.

And so that’s what I write.

4) How does my writing process work?

Very poorly at the moment. Due to exhaustion most evenings, I am doing most of my writing on the weekends. That includes blog posts.

But when I do write, it is on a recliner, with my laptop on a very superior lap pillow (from Brookstone), with a small pillow propped behind my head. This is all to avoid repetitive motion injuries. (I am currently recovering from a dislocated shoulder blade that went undiagnosed despite repeated attempts for about 3 years). My recliner is tucked up next to a bay window, and I have two small tables at my side. It is very pleasant.

I warm up by looking at social media properties such as Facebook and Twitter, but I am not very good at social media that is not blogging, so I mostly participate by posting replies. I do this for about 20 minutes before opening Word and plunging in.

I always keep a wiki of my worldbuilding gazetteer using a wiki tool called TiddlyWiki. When I am drafting, I generally keep my wiki open and add any new names, places or concepts to it.

Tags

Since I didn’t clear any of you in advance, instead of tagging, I decided to ask for volunteers. As incentive, if you want to post your writing process next week, let me know in the comments and I’ll put up a post linking to your blogs.