My older son manages to surprise me on a rather regular basis.  I'm almost certain that I forget he's actually younger than he gives the impression.  He's only five and a half at the moment.  But he's tall for his age, and linguistically, he's far more adept than your average five year old.  Today he just finished his last day of Pre-Kindergarten.  Next year he'll be in school "full time".

So to back things up, about three years ago, a marvelous writer, Catherynne Valente ([livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna) started up a project to write a YA book.  Out of necessity and urgency, it was a crowdsource funded book.  At the time, I recall I donated a bit, and I think I read the  at most first two chapters as she posted them up on the web one new chapter every week.  My wife was in her ninth month carrying our younger son at the time, who was born, maybe two weeks after the postings started, and then I promptly forgot all about the novel.   That's not to say that the novel was forgettable, just, well, two kids somehow end up feeling like twenty in short order, and you think you've got everything down after the first one, and you totally find out that you do not.  So, out of touch, out of sight, and off it goes.

Fast forward a couple of years, she makes this wonderful post giving us readers a promise that she won't talk down to our kids with her writing.  Now, this is not too long after I've "met" her at Boskone, and got to hear her read a section of her fantastic story Silently and Very Fast. I bought a copy of that before I left the reading (thank you Kindle) and I knew I had to get my wife, Celine, to read it.  (Which I did, and she loved it.)   So, I decide that, you know what?  No time like the present to read her YA book to my older son.  Why not see if I can't manage to rope in another fan.

Now, caveats.  I'd only glimpsed the opening of the story.  I don't really know what's an "appropriate" age to read the novel.  But one thing I do with my older son is nudge him a little further along the path whenever I can.  Because, all fatherly love put aside, he's a pretty smart kid.  He was reading on his own by three.  We've read together Odd and the Frost Giant, and The Hobbit, and all of The Spiderwick Chronicles just as an example.   Most nights, he reads his own stories to himself, books that are much more typical for a five year old to have.  But when he's good, and we have time, he gets a little extra reading time with Dad (or Mom).  And when I do that, I go for the bigger books, so I can judge if we're okay, or if we're beyond him or not.  And if he's sitting there, asking questions and mostly paying attention, we're fine.  But if he's all over, then, okay, I've probably shot past him.

So, we're reading along tonight finishing up chapter four, and it occurs to me that I never actually told my son the title of the novel we're reading.  He just called it September's story, and well, that's a whole lot shorter than the actual title.  And, as someone who grew up with a name shorted to two letters, there's one thing I tend to do more than anything else is shorten names.  But we're at the point where the main character, September is talking to a new character, the Wyverary, (read the story, that will make more sense) and mys on perks up asking what's the name of the story we're reading.  Now it's written on the top every screen(page? What do you call it in an ebook?) but it's much fainter, almost grey text instead of the nice crisp black of the main text.  So I pause and read it to him:  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

That's a mouthful.  I said to him, you know almost all the words, but this one big one here, might be a bit hard.  And I pointed to Circumnavigated.  I repeat it, and ask him what do you think it means.  Without hesitation, he responds: to go around in a big circle until you get back home.*  

Now, I read him chapter one and two, but I switched off with my wife, so she could read him chapter three.  So I think to myself, ah. Celine must have gone over with him what circumnavigated means.   So after we finish chapter four, and I kiss him good night, I go and check with my wife.  Nope.  Never came up.  Now, he's just finished pre-K.  It's not impossible that somehow the word circumnavigate came up during school.  I'm sort of doubtful on that one however.  I remember learning the word only in context with the great explorers, Magellan and Drake, and if I recall, that was in like fourth or fifth grade?   So here's my five and half year old, and figured it out through....logic?  Context?  I can't even imagine.  Yeah, I'm pretty impressed.

So to bring this back around to yuki_onna.  Thank you for not dumbing things down.  Because I have a kid who needs the challenge.  And even if he won't get everything on the first read through of the book, that's okay.  I mean, isn't one of the joys of reading, re-reading a book again when you're just a bit older and seeing deeper into it?   And to the rest of you out there, if you write for kids at all, I challenge you to follow suit.  Don't hold yourself back thinking to make it easy on the kids.  Our kids deserve our best.  Every time I begin to wonder if I'm pushing him too far, he shows me he can handle it.  

Oh, and I think I succeeded, and now have three fans in the house.  :)

*I don't think I got his wording 100% right, because I didn't jot it down word for word, and I'm writing it from memory almost two hours later.  But that's as close as I'll be able to scribe it now.


Tags:
Okay, this gets brought up a lot in reference to ebooks, so I think it bears some examination.

My friend Blue mentioned that one of the things that most bothers him about the Kindle in particular (and perhaps any DRM'd ebook in general) is the lack of an ability to loan a book to a friend.  First, let me state for the record my jealousy of Blue's well stocked Library.  It has been groomed and grown since as long as I've known him, and I have, in fact, been a lucky recipient of his beneficence.  I.e. he has loaned me books. 

As a reader, this is fantastic, because sometimes I'm just too afraid to jump in and buy new authors. (Truth be told this was much more true in the past than it is today, for a number of reasons.)  One of the most disappointing things in the world is purchasing a new book, getting it home and learning that for you, this one is a dud.  Not every reader clicks with every author.  Yeah, that sucks, from both ends of the equation.  Getting a loaner book or two is a fantastic way, as a reader to "test drive" an author.  Do you like their style.  Can they deliver on the promise.  Etc.  This is just like the old tried and true "cassette tape" idea, whereby you would make a tape of a few songs by some of your favorite bands, and give them to friends who might like them and think how awesome they are.  And become fans.  Which of course is part of the goal for readers when they share.  To turn their friends on to the types of things that they like.

Because, despite some appearances, in general people get it that if there is a large enough fanbase, it will eventually support the economics of keeping said author (rock band, artist, etc.) in business.  As readers, I believe we *do* get it that if not enough people are buying the books that it means that there might not be further books.  Especially those of us who are the types of readers who will bother to build up a loaner library of their favorite authors.  Many of us might not know how best to go about helping an author build up a fanbase, but that's a whole other post.

So it might seem a bit counterproductive on the face of it, I mean, if I loan Blue a book, say Goblin Quest  by Jim Hines a book I actually think he'd enjoy (yes Blue that is an actual endorsement I think you'd enjoy the whole Goblin series.  And now, I wonder how long before the FTC comes to hunt me down because I've just endorsed a book on my blog.) it could mean that I've cost Jim a sale.  But, I happen to know, that if I loan Blue the book, and he does in fact like it, it means that he'll likely go out and buy the other books in the series, and possibly some other books by Jim Hines in other series.  And in Blue's particular case, he is the type who just might go back and buy a copy of the book I loaned him anyway, just so he has the complete set.  Because not only is he a reader, he happens to also be the type who likes to collect books.  (Which is not everyone, so that's by no means a guarantee, but then, it's not even a guarantee that if I suggest or loan a book to him that he will, in fact, like it.)

So by now you're probably saying: um..duh.  You just described in several paragraphs what is colloquially known as "word of mouth" and you might even think I over did it at that.  But here's the thing.  Blue wants to replicate that same experience going forward into a digital medium.  I don't blame him.  I do too.  And that's why I get caught up in making what I call the hard choice.   Do I buy any individual book in dead tree edition, or do I buy it in digital form.   The idea that I'd be willing to loan out a book to certain responsible friends (IE people I trust to take care of my books and not return them barely readable) has always been a part of my social sphere.  I'm a book geek.  Many of my friends are also book geeks.  We read.  We enjoy reading, and we also enjoy chatting about books.   It's a lot harder to chat about books, if you haven't read the same books. What we desire is the shared experience.  And hence we recommend, and loan out books. 

To further make my dilemma worse, my wife is also a reader, and she will sometimes read genre stuff, though on occasion genre stuff annoys the crap out of her.  And since we have just the one Kindle, I have to think: will she read this book too?  Because if I think she might, I'll have to pick up the dead tree edition.  If its a book I figure only I'll read, then I feel okay buying the digital vesion.  Of course, as with anything that is a recommendation, there are no guarantees.  Some books I think she'll like she doesn't.  Sometimes I think she won't like a book, and she does.  Sometimes, she'll like an author, but the book creeps her out, and she hands it back to me saying, I can't read this.  (This can even happen based solely upon the cover.)  Since often she reads as a way to relax herself to get to sleep, i can't blame her.  Reading something too creepy right before bed has been known to mess with my sleep.

And more recently, I've had to consider author signings.  Going to conventions, and meeting many more authors these days, I've started to acquire, and even seek out autographs in books.  Until very recently, I never did that before.  That's just something you can't do with an ebook.  (For now, though I suspect that signed digital copies won't mean quite as much as signed physical copies do.  For me at least.)

Last thought on the print edition is this: when I walk around holding up a book to read, people will sometimes ask about it.  It's kind of a mini walking billboard for that book, and hence for that author.  You don't get that effect for ebooks, and you also don't get the random discussions with people about books or the author as I've occasionally had while out and about in the real world while holding an actual print edition. 

So wow, that's a whole lot of reasons that all sit in the against column in terms of the Kindle and ebooks in general.  You might wonder why me, as a rapid technogeek, enthusiastic supporter of the Kindle would bother doling out a long post that seems to point out all this in the way of negativity toward the product I'm a big supporter of.  Well, it's the truth.  I don't want to sweep these things under the rug, and pretend they aren't a valid concern.  It is a valid concern.  And I don't have an answer for it.  I myself have to think about this with every single book purchase I choose to make.  Sometimes the decision is easy.  Perhaps there is no ebook version available.  Or, in some cases, which I have yet to understand why, the ebook is more expensive than the physical book.  Yeah, that kind of thing makes life easy.   But those are less, and less the issues as both more publishers come out rapidly with the ebook and the folks setting the prices for the ebooks get their collective heads in gear and line things up more reasonably.

Is book loaning a good thing from the author's point of view?  I can't really speak much from personal experience at this point on that side of the fence.  However, the anecdotal info I have from authors with published novels is: when it works the way I described above, they appreciate it.  They like it when we help turn friends into fans. There are problems when we try to apply all of the above to the digital world, but that could be its own post in and of itself.  So we're left with this: the current technology available to readers doesn't well replicate the tried and true methods of loaning friends books.  We could try to find technological solutions to shoe horn that into working in the digital environment, and I've often heard it suggested.  The idea of being able to "loan out" a copy which would be temporarily removed from your device until it gets returned to you.  That's all neat, but frankly, I think we can all just admit that digital replication of the work completely voids the whole comparison.   I mean, I can't trivially make a copy of a print book.  I could photo copy it.  (*cough cough* been there, done that *cough*) I could retype it, and print it out for a friend.  It's feasible, just not all that practical.  With digital, it's point, click, done.  That simple.  And I think that means we need to consider how to shift the paradigm.

Which is to say: what do we get out of the loaning experience as readers.  What is the crux of what we want when we do that.  And how to we replicate *that* experience in the digital media.   As I see it, there are at least these bits involved:
  1. What's mine is yours.  By sharing books, we show physically our hospitality and our friendship.  It is tangible.  It says I'm willing to give you what I can to make your life better too.
  2. Shared experience.  By sharing the experience of the book, we can connect on more levels as friends.  The things that we have gone through together make us bond stronger as humans.  I think that's just a part of our nature, so by desiring to share experiences, it helps us bond together.
  3. Expanding the fan base, will keep the product coming.  People get this.  If you like something, and you want to see more of it, we know that we need to generate buzz.  We know we need to help create more demand, because like it or not, that's how economics works.  If there's not enough demand, there won't be any supply because it will be just too costly to create.
There's probably more than that, but I think that those are the underlying emotional components that we get out of loaning books.  I think that what gets talked about when this comes up is mostly parts 2 & 3.  But people don't always discuss part 1.  And I wonder that's as tied up in the spirit of books, in the same way when people discuss the "smell and feel" of books. 

So how about you, do you like to loan out your books?  Do you keep large collections?  Or just trade them in at first opportunity?  Do you even care if the ability to loan out books exists in the digital market?  Or do you figure that recommendations alone are enough?

Can you think of anything else on the topic I missed?

Okay, this gets brought up a lot in reference to ebooks, so I think it bears some examination.

My friend Blue mentioned that one of the things that most bothers him about the Kindle in particular (and perhaps any DRM'd ebook in general) is the lack of an ability to loan a book to a friend.  First, let me state for the record my jealousy of Blue's well stocked Library.  It has been groomed and grown since as long as I've known him, and I have, in fact, been a lucky recipient of his beneficence.  I.e. he has loaned me books. 

As a reader, this is fantastic, because sometimes I'm just too afraid to jump in and buy new authors. (Truth be told this was much more true in the past than it is today, for a number of reasons.)  One of the most disappointing things in the world is purchasing a new book, getting it home and learning that for you, this one is a dud.  Not every reader clicks with every author.  Yeah, that sucks, from both ends of the equation.  Getting a loaner book or two is a fantastic way, as a reader to "test drive" an author.  Do you like their style.  Can they deliver on the promise.  Etc.  This is just like the old tried and true "cassette tape" idea, whereby you would make a tape of a few songs by some of your favorite bands, and give them to friends who might like them and think how awesome they are.  And become fans.  Which of course is part of the goal for readers when they share.  To turn their friends on to the types of things that they like.

Because, despite some appearances, in general people get it that if there is a large enough fanbase, it will eventually support the economics of keeping said author (rock band, artist, etc.) in business.  As readers, I believe we *do* get it that if not enough people are buying the books that it means that there might not be further books.  Especially those of us who are the types of readers who will bother to build up a loaner library of their favorite authors.  Many of us might not know how best to go about helping an author build up a fanbase, but that's a whole other post.

So it might seem a bit counterproductive on the face of it, I mean, if I loan Blue a book, say Goblin Quest  by Jim Hines a book I actually think he'd enjoy (yes Blue that is an actual endorsement I think you'd enjoy the whole Goblin series.  And now, I wonder how long before the FTC comes to hunt me down because I've just endorsed a book on my blog.) it could mean that I've cost Jim a sale.  But, I happen to know, that if I loan Blue the book, and he does in fact like it, it means that he'll likely go out and buy the other books in the series, and possibly some other books by Jim Hines in other series.  And in Blue's particular case, he is the type who just might go back and buy a copy of the book I loaned him anyway, just so he has the complete set.  Because not only is he a reader, he happens to also be the type who likes to collect books.  (Which is not everyone, so that's by no means a guarantee, but then, it's not even a guarantee that if I suggest or loan a book to him that he will, in fact, like it.)

So by now you're probably saying: um..duh.  You just described in several paragraphs what is colloquially known as "word of mouth" and you might even think I over did it at that.  But here's the thing.  Blue wants to replicate that same experience going forward into a digital medium.  I don't blame him.  I do too.  And that's why I get caught up in making what I call the hard choice.   Do I buy any individual book in dead tree edition, or do I buy it in digital form.   The idea that I'd be willing to loan out a book to certain responsible friends (IE people I trust to take care of my books and not return them barely readable) has always been a part of my social sphere.  I'm a book geek.  Many of my friends are also book geeks.  We read.  We enjoy reading, and we also enjoy chatting about books.   It's a lot harder to chat about books, if you haven't read the same books. What we desire is the shared experience.  And hence we recommend, and loan out books. 

To further make my dilemma worse, my wife is also a reader, and she will sometimes read genre stuff, though on occasion genre stuff annoys the crap out of her.  And since we have just the one Kindle, I have to think: will she read this book too?  Because if I think she might, I'll have to pick up the dead tree edition.  If its a book I figure only I'll read, then I feel okay buying the digital vesion.  Of course, as with anything that is a recommendation, there are no guarantees.  Some books I think she'll like she doesn't.  Sometimes I think she won't like a book, and she does.  Sometimes, she'll like an author, but the book creeps her out, and she hands it back to me saying, I can't read this.  (This can even happen based solely upon the cover.)  Since often she reads as a way to relax herself to get to sleep, i can't blame her.  Reading something too creepy right before bed has been known to mess with my sleep.

And more recently, I've had to consider author signings.  Going to conventions, and meeting many more authors these days, I've started to acquire, and even seek out autographs in books.  Until very recently, I never did that before.  That's just something you can't do with an ebook.  (For now, though I suspect that signed digital copies won't mean quite as much as signed physical copies do.  For me at least.)

Last thought on the print edition is this: when I walk around holding up a book to read, people will sometimes ask about it.  It's kind of a mini walking billboard for that book, and hence for that author.  You don't get that effect for ebooks, and you also don't get the random discussions with people about books or the author as I've occasionally had while out and about in the real world while holding an actual print edition. 

So wow, that's a whole lot of reasons that all sit in the against column in terms of the Kindle and ebooks in general.  You might wonder why me, as a rapid technogeek, enthusiastic supporter of the Kindle would bother doling out a long post that seems to point out all this in the way of negativity toward the product I'm a big supporter of.  Well, it's the truth.  I don't want to sweep these things under the rug, and pretend they aren't a valid concern.  It is a valid concern.  And I don't have an answer for it.  I myself have to think about this with every single book purchase I choose to make.  Sometimes the decision is easy.  Perhaps there is no ebook version available.  Or, in some cases, which I have yet to understand why, the ebook is more expensive than the physical book.  Yeah, that kind of thing makes life easy.   But those are less, and less the issues as both more publishers come out rapidly with the ebook and the folks setting the prices for the ebooks get their collective heads in gear and line things up more reasonably.

Is book loaning a good thing from the author's point of view?  I can't really speak much from personal experience at this point on that side of the fence.  However, the anecdotal info I have from authors with published novels is: when it works the way I described above, they appreciate it.  They like it when we help turn friends into fans. There are problems when we try to apply all of the above to the digital world, but that could be its own post in and of itself.  So we're left with this: the current technology available to readers doesn't well replicate the tried and true methods of loaning friends books.  We could try to find technological solutions to shoe horn that into working in the digital environment, and I've often heard it suggested.  The idea of being able to "loan out" a copy which would be temporarily removed from your device until it gets returned to you.  That's all neat, but frankly, I think we can all just admit that digital replication of the work completely voids the whole comparison.   I mean, I can't trivially make a copy of a print book.  I could photo copy it.  (*cough cough* been there, done that *cough*) I could retype it, and print it out for a friend.  It's feasible, just not all that practical.  With digital, it's point, click, done.  That simple.  And I think that means we need to consider how to shift the paradigm.

Which is to say: what do we get out of the loaning experience as readers.  What is the crux of what we want when we do that.  And how to we replicate *that* experience in the digital media.   As I see it, there are at least these bits involved:
  1. What's mine is yours.  By sharing books, we show physically our hospitality and our friendship.  It is tangible.  It says I'm willing to give you what I can to make your life better too.
  2. Shared experience.  By sharing the experience of the book, we can connect on more levels as friends.  The things that we have gone through together make us bond stronger as humans.  I think that's just a part of our nature, so by desiring to share experiences, it helps us bond together.
  3. Expanding the fan base, will keep the product coming.  People get this.  If you like something, and you want to see more of it, we know that we need to generate buzz.  We know we need to help create more demand, because like it or not, that's how economics works.  If there's not enough demand, there won't be any supply because it will be just too costly to create.
There's probably more than that, but I think that those are the underlying emotional components that we get out of loaning books.  I think that what gets talked about when this comes up is mostly parts 2 & 3.  But people don't always discuss part 1.  And I wonder that's as tied up in the spirit of books, in the same way when people discuss the "smell and feel" of books. 

So how about you, do you like to loan out your books?  Do you keep large collections?  Or just trade them in at first opportunity?  Do you even care if the ability to loan out books exists in the digital market?  Or do you figure that recommendations alone are enough?

Can you think of anything else on the topic I missed?

Over on Facebook, my "weRead" app (formerly known as Books iRead) posed the question:

How often do you re-read your favorite books?

Which is something interesting to ponder, since just last night, I was re-watching The Matrix Re-loaded.  (It was on, I was doing some on-line stuff including the wednesday night Delphi chat and I just left if on.)   I also caught The Great Escape this past sunday, thank you TiVo, and got to re-watch that movie too.  I recall thinking as I lounged in the attic and watched that movie that I used to watch the same movies over and over again a lot as a child.  I'd catch Star Wars (original flavor) on HBO, and stop and watch.  Must have seen The Princess Bride dozens of times, same with Highlander (there IS only one, thank you), but beyond that, I'd catch quite a number of other classic movies growing up, especially quite a lot of westerns that I'd watch with my Dad in the den on the black and white Zenith.  (It's not like we were missing out, more than half of those movies were in black and white to begin with.   I didn't even know that Gilligan's island had episodes in color until I was in Junior High, and we replaced that TV with a color one.)  My dad could watch the same old movies over, and over again too.  Like an appetite for reading, I'm sure I picked up that habit from him.

As a kid, I'd reread some books dozens of times.  I can't count how many time I'd taken out the various Narnia books from the library.  I re-read The Hobbit so many times my copy eventually disintegrated.  Many other books, I'd read a few times here and there.  Whenever there wasn't something new for me to read, I'd go back to my shelves, and read something I'd loved.

These days, I don't do that anymore.  It's not just that there isn't time.  I mean, there isn't.   As a kid, I had huge amounts of time to read, including even the walk to and from school.  (Seriously, how I never got hit by a car crossing the street with my nose in a book is a freaking miracle.)  Not to mention the surreptitious reading I'd do during classes.  Many a long "boring" day at school was passed enjoyably absorbed in the paperback I'd hide under the edge of my desk on my lap and read.  Even if I could eke back some of my time (say lunch and commute) the big difference as I see it is that I've got just too many NEW books to read, that going back to read old favorites seems a bit like I'm not performing due diligence.  (As if reading is supposed to be about due diligence or something.)  Or perhaps its this idea that I'm not going to have enough time to get to all the stuff I want to read, so I really can't afford to be "wasting" time by going back and reading something again, when I should be reading something new.  It makes the idea of rereading feel like a guilty pleasure.

And there is something enjoyable about digging in anew to an old favorite, as if visiting with an old friend that you haven't seen in a while.  Why shouldn't we take a bit of time out to go enjoy our old haunts?  It's not as if I'm going to get to read everything ever written out there anyway, no reason to make reading into a chore.  High School English classes accomplished that enough for most of us anyways. 

So how about you?   Do you have books that you go back and read?  Do you have perennial favorites?
Tags:
Over on Facebook, my "weRead" app (formerly known as Books iRead) posed the question:

How often do you re-read your favorite books?

Which is something interesting to ponder, since just last night, I was re-watching The Matrix Re-loaded.  (It was on, I was doing some on-line stuff including the wednesday night Delphi chat and I just left if on.)   I also caught The Great Escape this past sunday, thank you TiVo, and got to re-watch that movie too.  I recall thinking as I lounged in the attic and watched that movie that I used to watch the same movies over and over again a lot as a child.  I'd catch Star Wars (original flavor) on HBO, and stop and watch.  Must have seen The Princess Bride dozens of times, same with Highlander (there IS only one, thank you), but beyond that, I'd catch quite a number of other classic movies growing up, especially quite a lot of westerns that I'd watch with my Dad in the den on the black and white Zenith.  (It's not like we were missing out, more than half of those movies were in black and white to begin with.   I didn't even know that Gilligan's island had episodes in color until I was in Junior High, and we replaced that TV with a color one.)  My dad could watch the same old movies over, and over again too.  Like an appetite for reading, I'm sure I picked up that habit from him.

As a kid, I'd reread some books dozens of times.  I can't count how many time I'd taken out the various Narnia books from the library.  I re-read The Hobbit so many times my copy eventually disintegrated.  Many other books, I'd read a few times here and there.  Whenever there wasn't something new for me to read, I'd go back to my shelves, and read something I'd loved.

These days, I don't do that anymore.  It's not just that there isn't time.  I mean, there isn't.   As a kid, I had huge amounts of time to read, including even the walk to and from school.  (Seriously, how I never got hit by a car crossing the street with my nose in a book is a freaking miracle.)  Not to mention the surreptitious reading I'd do during classes.  Many a long "boring" day at school was passed enjoyably absorbed in the paperback I'd hide under the edge of my desk on my lap and read.  Even if I could eke back some of my time (say lunch and commute) the big difference as I see it is that I've got just too many NEW books to read, that going back to read old favorites seems a bit like I'm not performing due diligence.  (As if reading is supposed to be about due diligence or something.)  Or perhaps its this idea that I'm not going to have enough time to get to all the stuff I want to read, so I really can't afford to be "wasting" time by going back and reading something again, when I should be reading something new.  It makes the idea of rereading feel like a guilty pleasure.

And there is something enjoyable about digging in anew to an old favorite, as if visiting with an old friend that you haven't seen in a while.  Why shouldn't we take a bit of time out to go enjoy our old haunts?  It's not as if I'm going to get to read everything ever written out there anyway, no reason to make reading into a chore.  High School English classes accomplished that enough for most of us anyways. 

So how about you?   Do you have books that you go back and read?  Do you have perennial favorites?
Tags:
temporus: (time)
( Jul. 31st, 2008 11:07 pm)
Wow.  I been kinda busy, and haven't gotten to too many of these recently, have I?

Work has been busy the past two months, but we're just about back up to full staff, which is a tremendous relief.  Not exactly out of the woods, but definitely out of the thicket, and the trees hereabouts are starting to get spaced out a bit further, with occasional bits of actual daylight sneaking through the small interstices of the canopy.   (Wow, I can really beat on a metaphor until it bleeds.)   We're in full summer swing now, and it's been hot.  And rainy.  My son is learning words left and right.  Kind of freaky how I can come home from work, and he'll have a new word to show off.  But really, it's fantastic. 

Writing:  A story scrawled halfway, sorta-kinda.  Not exactly the worst, roughest draft of anything I've ever done.  But, you know, kinda close.  One story revised.  So many stories currently banging on the inside of my brain-pan right now, that I need to start letting them out before they do some permanent damage.  I know I need to wrap up some of these other revisions too, but I have to get a few more of the new ideas out onto paper, before they storm off in a huff.

Oh yeah, last month, my story "Sucker Kiss" came out in the GSHW AnthologyDark Territories.

Submissions:  One story out the door this month. 

Conventions: (New category) Went to my first SF convention in....16 years?   Readercon.  Still jazzed up from it.  Quite a good time there, and I intend to go back, as often as I can manage/afford.   Met cool people.  Had cool conversations.  Heard lots of interesting panels.  Laughed hysterically at the bad prose contest.

Editing:  No editorial duties this month.

Reading:  One book read this month.

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear: This is the first SF novel of hers that I've read.  Quite a far future SF novel, where the technology extrapolation borders on the magical.  I think when you get out that far from modern day technology, its nigh impossible to not approach that limit.  I'm not certain if I'd classify this as a Space Opera, though it contains many of the tropes: swords, armor, "princesses" knights.  Even angels, and basilisks.  Yet the author has managed to give us these tropes, much more in the fantasy vein than stock science fiction, in a way that you feel you can understand.  Over time, the generation ship, that has had some kind of catastrophe, and is now stranded in space, is no longer fully functional.  And the society, which it seems was never meant to be a full fledged permanent society, has also degraded with the environment, even as it has continued to evolve forward.  Which was something quite interesting, to see a society simultaneously falling back to older social forms, and drifting forward into new evolutions of structure, of society, of gender, even physical form.  In fact, one of the main characters is a woman who was an angel, with engineered wings.  Beyond all the trappings, the neat tech, the interesting situation, the multi-leveled intrigue between factions of both people, and beings that are beyond human, what holds the story together is the characters.  Rein and Perceval.  These are people who are each in their way broken at the start of the novel, and frankly, I'm not sure their lot improves over its length, except perhaps for finding each other.  But somehow, that struggle feels right, all the more interesting because its both personal, and by the end of the novel, a struggle for society itself.  Some bits left me a bit disappointed: I wasn't particularly fond of the unblades, and I couldn't quite understand why Perceval seemed to be the only knight errant character, and more to the point, the only such character with wings.  This seemed to get muddied further with the whole Angel/system concept, and never really came around for me.  But these were, in the end, rather minor problems in an otherwise enjoyable book.
temporus: (time)
( Jul. 31st, 2008 11:07 pm)
Wow.  I been kinda busy, and haven't gotten to too many of these recently, have I?

Work has been busy the past two months, but we're just about back up to full staff, which is a tremendous relief.  Not exactly out of the woods, but definitely out of the thicket, and the trees hereabouts are starting to get spaced out a bit further, with occasional bits of actual daylight sneaking through the small interstices of the canopy.   (Wow, I can really beat on a metaphor until it bleeds.)   We're in full summer swing now, and it's been hot.  And rainy.  My son is learning words left and right.  Kind of freaky how I can come home from work, and he'll have a new word to show off.  But really, it's fantastic. 

Writing:  A story scrawled halfway, sorta-kinda.  Not exactly the worst, roughest draft of anything I've ever done.  But, you know, kinda close.  One story revised.  So many stories currently banging on the inside of my brain-pan right now, that I need to start letting them out before they do some permanent damage.  I know I need to wrap up some of these other revisions too, but I have to get a few more of the new ideas out onto paper, before they storm off in a huff.

Oh yeah, last month, my story "Sucker Kiss" came out in the GSHW AnthologyDark Territories.

Submissions:  One story out the door this month. 

Conventions: (New category) Went to my first SF convention in....16 years?   Readercon.  Still jazzed up from it.  Quite a good time there, and I intend to go back, as often as I can manage/afford.   Met cool people.  Had cool conversations.  Heard lots of interesting panels.  Laughed hysterically at the bad prose contest.

Editing:  No editorial duties this month.

Reading:  One book read this month.

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear: This is the first SF novel of hers that I've read.  Quite a far future SF novel, where the technology extrapolation borders on the magical.  I think when you get out that far from modern day technology, its nigh impossible to not approach that limit.  I'm not certain if I'd classify this as a Space Opera, though it contains many of the tropes: swords, armor, "princesses" knights.  Even angels, and basilisks.  Yet the author has managed to give us these tropes, much more in the fantasy vein than stock science fiction, in a way that you feel you can understand.  Over time, the generation ship, that has had some kind of catastrophe, and is now stranded in space, is no longer fully functional.  And the society, which it seems was never meant to be a full fledged permanent society, has also degraded with the environment, even as it has continued to evolve forward.  Which was something quite interesting, to see a society simultaneously falling back to older social forms, and drifting forward into new evolutions of structure, of society, of gender, even physical form.  In fact, one of the main characters is a woman who was an angel, with engineered wings.  Beyond all the trappings, the neat tech, the interesting situation, the multi-leveled intrigue between factions of both people, and beings that are beyond human, what holds the story together is the characters.  Rein and Perceval.  These are people who are each in their way broken at the start of the novel, and frankly, I'm not sure their lot improves over its length, except perhaps for finding each other.  But somehow, that struggle feels right, all the more interesting because its both personal, and by the end of the novel, a struggle for society itself.  Some bits left me a bit disappointed: I wasn't particularly fond of the unblades, and I couldn't quite understand why Perceval seemed to be the only knight errant character, and more to the point, the only such character with wings.  This seemed to get muddied further with the whole Angel/system concept, and never really came around for me.  But these were, in the end, rather minor problems in an otherwise enjoyable book.
Start with one word.

Wizard.

Tell me, what did you think of?  What could you say about the character that came into your head as soon as you read that word?  If all you know about a character stems from that word, what does your mind fall back upon?

We all have defaults, images, ideas, archetypes, that our mind bring into a story.  During a discussion with some friends, we talked about the idea of that default.  What is your default for a wizard-like character?  For many, even those who identified as non-gamers, the default for was a "D&D wizard".  This preconception would hold sway in the mind until such time as the author distinguished otherwise.  I found it interesting.   I said at the time, that the "D&D wizard" was not my default when I read.   When confronted with the obvious question: well, then what is?  I hemmed and hawed a bit, and I'm certain that I never answered the question.   At least, not really.

And it's true, my default concept of what a "wizard" is doesn't stem from D&D.  In fact, to me, magic, and wizards are things I conceive in spite of D&D, not because of it.  Of course, that then begs the question: What is it you mean by a typical D&D wizard.  Because frankly, the answer to that question is probably more important in defining why I don't consider my default archetype to be the "D&D" standard.

So what do I think of when I think of the "D&D Wizard"?    Physically weak old men. (Yes, specifically old men.)  Limited in what they can do, both in terms of choices of magic (that whole "Vancian" magic system), how often they could use it, and how magic interacts with the world.  Magic always seemed entirely external to the wizard, not supernatural, but extranatural.  There's an emphasis on memorization, and forgetting; formulas, and power or command words.  It's filled with strange limitations, like only being able to wield a dagger, or never being able to know more than a set number of spells.  An absolute path--one you chose early--and come by through long, hard hours of study.   Binary.  You're either a wizard, and can use wizardly magic, or not.  No in-between.  Magic is an accomplishment of intellect alone, an ultimate form of knowledge. 

Yes, that's a rather old school approach to the "typical" D&D wizard, and while the game may have moved beyond that prototype, that notion stuck in my head of what it means to be a "D&D wizard"  has not.

Perhaps that's not all that far off from what you think of as a wizard.  If you distill it:  Old man.  Long beard, funny hat.  Lots of knowledge that gives him access to power.  That'd fit right in with quite a lot of wizards throughout fiction, right?  You could say that Gandalf fits that mold, right?  Merlin too.   Belgarath perhaps?  Kulgan?  Allanon?  Zedd for a somewhat more modern figure?  Heck why not throw in Obi Wan Kenobi while I'm at it.

Sure, the trappings seem true to the mold of the D&D wizard.  All of them old men, with great knowledge and power.  (Heck I'm damned near positive that they all even have the beard and strange hat, if you consider a cowl/cape to fit that role.)   So yeah, there's some overlap here.  But if you take a step back, you look at every one of those characters you'll see something else.  Every one of them is a mentor figure.  Not a one of them is the main character of the stories within which they are most well known.  Now, when you take a look at how they work, yes they can do amazing things, and wield great power.  But most importantly what they all wield is knowledge.  Self knowledge.  And what they impart is not intellect; it's wisdom.  Their age is a symbol, and a signifier  that this isn't their story. Though by the time they show up, you probably knew that.  Notice that right when the going is toughest, each of these characters steps off the stage.  Their point is to enable the main characters to see how they, and the magic they will wield is a part of the world within which they live.  Whether its Arthur, whose magic is his kingship, his link with the land, or whether it's Luke learning about the Force and how it binds all things together.  It's not coincidental to link the wizard with this archetype of mentor.  Knowledge is a kind of power, no question.  But where D&D misses out, in my opinion, with their concept of the wizard,  is that they divorce knowledge from wisdom.  The wizard in their mold is about intellect, its about a knowledge to the exclusion of all else.  Whereas the kinds of knowledge as I understand a wizard, is one that encompasses everything.  Knowledge of the world.  Of the supernatural, and of ones place within that sphere.  And I never got that sense from anything that came out of D&D.

Of course we know that's not the only type of wizard you'll see in fiction.  Luke, after all is every bit a wizard as Obi Wan is.  But is Luke really the one you think of first at the mention of wizard?  I suspect not.

Do you have a different view?  Was there some other image that came to your mind when you first read the word above?  Do you think I'm pointlessly splitting hairs in my distinction?  Feel free to chime in.
Start with one word.

Wizard.

Tell me, what did you think of?  What could you say about the character that came into your head as soon as you read that word?  If all you know about a character stems from that word, what does your mind fall back upon?

We all have defaults, images, ideas, archetypes, that our mind bring into a story.  During a discussion with some friends, we talked about the idea of that default.  What is your default for a wizard-like character?  For many, even those who identified as non-gamers, the default for was a "D&D wizard".  This preconception would hold sway in the mind until such time as the author distinguished otherwise.  I found it interesting.   I said at the time, that the "D&D wizard" was not my default when I read.   When confronted with the obvious question: well, then what is?  I hemmed and hawed a bit, and I'm certain that I never answered the question.   At least, not really.

And it's true, my default concept of what a "wizard" is doesn't stem from D&D.  In fact, to me, magic, and wizards are things I conceive in spite of D&D, not because of it.  Of course, that then begs the question: What is it you mean by a typical D&D wizard.  Because frankly, the answer to that question is probably more important in defining why I don't consider my default archetype to be the "D&D" standard.

So what do I think of when I think of the "D&D Wizard"?    Physically weak old men. (Yes, specifically old men.)  Limited in what they can do, both in terms of choices of magic (that whole "Vancian" magic system), how often they could use it, and how magic interacts with the world.  Magic always seemed entirely external to the wizard, not supernatural, but extranatural.  There's an emphasis on memorization, and forgetting; formulas, and power or command words.  It's filled with strange limitations, like only being able to wield a dagger, or never being able to know more than a set number of spells.  An absolute path--one you chose early--and come by through long, hard hours of study.   Binary.  You're either a wizard, and can use wizardly magic, or not.  No in-between.  Magic is an accomplishment of intellect alone, an ultimate form of knowledge. 

Yes, that's a rather old school approach to the "typical" D&D wizard, and while the game may have moved beyond that prototype, that notion stuck in my head of what it means to be a "D&D wizard"  has not.

Perhaps that's not all that far off from what you think of as a wizard.  If you distill it:  Old man.  Long beard, funny hat.  Lots of knowledge that gives him access to power.  That'd fit right in with quite a lot of wizards throughout fiction, right?  You could say that Gandalf fits that mold, right?  Merlin too.   Belgarath perhaps?  Kulgan?  Allanon?  Zedd for a somewhat more modern figure?  Heck why not throw in Obi Wan Kenobi while I'm at it.

Sure, the trappings seem true to the mold of the D&D wizard.  All of them old men, with great knowledge and power.  (Heck I'm damned near positive that they all even have the beard and strange hat, if you consider a cowl/cape to fit that role.)   So yeah, there's some overlap here.  But if you take a step back, you look at every one of those characters you'll see something else.  Every one of them is a mentor figure.  Not a one of them is the main character of the stories within which they are most well known.  Now, when you take a look at how they work, yes they can do amazing things, and wield great power.  But most importantly what they all wield is knowledge.  Self knowledge.  And what they impart is not intellect; it's wisdom.  Their age is a symbol, and a signifier  that this isn't their story. Though by the time they show up, you probably knew that.  Notice that right when the going is toughest, each of these characters steps off the stage.  Their point is to enable the main characters to see how they, and the magic they will wield is a part of the world within which they live.  Whether its Arthur, whose magic is his kingship, his link with the land, or whether it's Luke learning about the Force and how it binds all things together.  It's not coincidental to link the wizard with this archetype of mentor.  Knowledge is a kind of power, no question.  But where D&D misses out, in my opinion, with their concept of the wizard,  is that they divorce knowledge from wisdom.  The wizard in their mold is about intellect, its about a knowledge to the exclusion of all else.  Whereas the kinds of knowledge as I understand a wizard, is one that encompasses everything.  Knowledge of the world.  Of the supernatural, and of ones place within that sphere.  And I never got that sense from anything that came out of D&D.

Of course we know that's not the only type of wizard you'll see in fiction.  Luke, after all is every bit a wizard as Obi Wan is.  But is Luke really the one you think of first at the mention of wizard?  I suspect not.

Do you have a different view?  Was there some other image that came to your mind when you first read the word above?  Do you think I'm pointlessly splitting hairs in my distinction?  Feel free to chime in.
Okay, I don't know if you all have signed up for the FREE EBOOKS over at http://www.tor.com/  yet, but if you haven't rush, do not dawdle, over there and sign up now! Seriously, this has been the best thing I've done in a long time.   Counting the one available as of this morning, that's eighteen (18) free books.   Not to mention some cool artwork you can download for your desktop wallpaper.   Look, I don't know how long they intend to keep up with this giving away of the free books.  I thought they were only planning to give away an even dozen, but we're half again beyond that, and there's one slated for next week, so even if you missed out on previous ones, there's still new stuff on the way, and time for you to jump in and grab some.   They have several formats available: PDF, HTML and MOBI, so you can read in the format of your choice.

All I can say is THANK YOU to the folks over at TOR.COM for making this happen, and especially a tremendous THANK YOU to all of the authors and artists for allowing your work to be shared in this fashion. 
Tags:
Okay, I don't know if you all have signed up for the FREE EBOOKS over at http://www.tor.com/  yet, but if you haven't rush, do not dawdle, over there and sign up now! Seriously, this has been the best thing I've done in a long time.   Counting the one available as of this morning, that's eighteen (18) free books.   Not to mention some cool artwork you can download for your desktop wallpaper.   Look, I don't know how long they intend to keep up with this giving away of the free books.  I thought they were only planning to give away an even dozen, but we're half again beyond that, and there's one slated for next week, so even if you missed out on previous ones, there's still new stuff on the way, and time for you to jump in and grab some.   They have several formats available: PDF, HTML and MOBI, so you can read in the format of your choice.

All I can say is THANK YOU to the folks over at TOR.COM for making this happen, and especially a tremendous THANK YOU to all of the authors and artists for allowing your work to be shared in this fashion. 
Tags:
May is over. I'm happy about that. Not that May is, in general a bad month, it's actually a part of the year I love: spring and fall are among my favorite seasons for the weather here in New Jersey, just so much more enjoyable than mid summer like July and August, where it can be too hot, or winter like January or February where it's just cold and miserable. But I digress. It has been great weather, and so I have gotten some outdoors time. Including all sorts of planting, and lawn moving, and gardening, and weeding, and watering, and weeding, and gardening. To some of you, that might sound like an enjoyable pastime. I could really live without it. I'm not all that good at gardening, to be honest. Further, I hate mowing lawns. I do it, because someone's got to, and my wife's grass allergies make it a bad idea to stick her behind the mulching mower while it turns blades of grass into a fine mist. To be inhaled. Then produce asthma. So I figure, I've got a dozen or so more years of lawn maintenance ahead of me before the Little Man gets to the age where I will feel safe/comfortable with him doing the work. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up some of the weeding and watering duties before that. The day job is frantic, but I've mentioned that before. I expect it to continue to be frantic for at least one more month. Two tops. If it goes longer than that...I'm not even going to contemplate it as an option.

I got to feel just a bit older this month, as my eldest Nephew had his High School graduation this past week, and we went out for a party in PA yesterday. (Some of you might recall him as the chef-in-training that you helped earn a scholarship by voting for his video) I had a good time seeing my family, though it was a long day. Looking forward to the family reunion in August back in my home town.

Writing: I've been revising stuff lately.  Not enough forward momentum for me to be thrilled, but even if I haven't had as much focused time as I want, I'm putting some time in the trenches in the scraps of moments I can find.  I've got a story that's been knocking at the inside of my frontal lobes, trying to find a way to get out of my head and onto the page. I'm rather glad that I didn't run right out and start writing it though, because on the long trip out and back from my brother's yesterday, I came up with a few ways I could turn the straightforward idea onto a different path.  I still have to make some notes, and do a little research, but I hope to get a first draft going soon.

Editing: No new tasks in this department.

Reading:  One book.  I kept pulling out other stuff to read after I finished that novel, but by the end of an evening, I'm so exhausted, that I'm feeling under motivated to read.  I think I need to change gears and do some non-fic for a stint, see how that works.

Mainspring, by Jay Lake:  The world that clockmaker's apprentice, Hethor Jacques, lives on is literally a part in the machine of the universe, as is evident by the giant brass gears upon which the world spins its way throughout the heavens.  The nature of the gears that circumscribe the globe along what we could think of as its equator, divides the planet into two distinct halves, literally, culturally, biologically, and perhaps even spiritually as well.  The story starts in the North, in a small New England town, in a setting that seems familiar enough, if some signals show it is distinct from our own history.  In this version, America is still a part of the English Empire, at least this far into Queen Victoria's reign.  Technology has advanced differently than in our own world as well: there are flying ships of the Royal Navy--zeppelin like structures that are now a hallmark of the "steam punk" movement.  The opening sets things on end for Hethor, as he is confronted with the Archangel Gabriel, who sends him on a quest to find the Key Perilous, and wind up the titular Mainspring that.  His journey starts locally, but soon spans much further.  As the journey progresses, we move further, and further from anything even remotely resembling our own world, until we reach the Wall, that portion of the Earth that connects it to the clockwork of the Heavens.  Beyond which, things look far less like our world, except perhaps in general geography.  It is populated with vastly different peoples, cultures; a place where sorcery reigns, as opposed to the technological based North.   While there were some moments where I felt the story lagged slightly, and a few story threads that seemed, in the end, to go nowhere--or at least have much less significance than I originally anticipated--overall the novel was quite an enjoyable adventure.  I look forward to the Lake's next novel The Escapement in this same setting.
May is over. I'm happy about that. Not that May is, in general a bad month, it's actually a part of the year I love: spring and fall are among my favorite seasons for the weather here in New Jersey, just so much more enjoyable than mid summer like July and August, where it can be too hot, or winter like January or February where it's just cold and miserable. But I digress. It has been great weather, and so I have gotten some outdoors time. Including all sorts of planting, and lawn moving, and gardening, and weeding, and watering, and weeding, and gardening. To some of you, that might sound like an enjoyable pastime. I could really live without it. I'm not all that good at gardening, to be honest. Further, I hate mowing lawns. I do it, because someone's got to, and my wife's grass allergies make it a bad idea to stick her behind the mulching mower while it turns blades of grass into a fine mist. To be inhaled. Then produce asthma. So I figure, I've got a dozen or so more years of lawn maintenance ahead of me before the Little Man gets to the age where I will feel safe/comfortable with him doing the work. Hopefully he'll be able to pick up some of the weeding and watering duties before that. The day job is frantic, but I've mentioned that before. I expect it to continue to be frantic for at least one more month. Two tops. If it goes longer than that...I'm not even going to contemplate it as an option.

I got to feel just a bit older this month, as my eldest Nephew had his High School graduation this past week, and we went out for a party in PA yesterday. (Some of you might recall him as the chef-in-training that you helped earn a scholarship by voting for his video) I had a good time seeing my family, though it was a long day. Looking forward to the family reunion in August back in my home town.

Writing: I've been revising stuff lately.  Not enough forward momentum for me to be thrilled, but even if I haven't had as much focused time as I want, I'm putting some time in the trenches in the scraps of moments I can find.  I've got a story that's been knocking at the inside of my frontal lobes, trying to find a way to get out of my head and onto the page. I'm rather glad that I didn't run right out and start writing it though, because on the long trip out and back from my brother's yesterday, I came up with a few ways I could turn the straightforward idea onto a different path.  I still have to make some notes, and do a little research, but I hope to get a first draft going soon.

Editing: No new tasks in this department.

Reading:  One book.  I kept pulling out other stuff to read after I finished that novel, but by the end of an evening, I'm so exhausted, that I'm feeling under motivated to read.  I think I need to change gears and do some non-fic for a stint, see how that works.

Mainspring, by Jay Lake:  The world that clockmaker's apprentice, Hethor Jacques, lives on is literally a part in the machine of the universe, as is evident by the giant brass gears upon which the world spins its way throughout the heavens.  The nature of the gears that circumscribe the globe along what we could think of as its equator, divides the planet into two distinct halves, literally, culturally, biologically, and perhaps even spiritually as well.  The story starts in the North, in a small New England town, in a setting that seems familiar enough, if some signals show it is distinct from our own history.  In this version, America is still a part of the English Empire, at least this far into Queen Victoria's reign.  Technology has advanced differently than in our own world as well: there are flying ships of the Royal Navy--zeppelin like structures that are now a hallmark of the "steam punk" movement.  The opening sets things on end for Hethor, as he is confronted with the Archangel Gabriel, who sends him on a quest to find the Key Perilous, and wind up the titular Mainspring that.  His journey starts locally, but soon spans much further.  As the journey progresses, we move further, and further from anything even remotely resembling our own world, until we reach the Wall, that portion of the Earth that connects it to the clockwork of the Heavens.  Beyond which, things look far less like our world, except perhaps in general geography.  It is populated with vastly different peoples, cultures; a place where sorcery reigns, as opposed to the technological based North.   While there were some moments where I felt the story lagged slightly, and a few story threads that seemed, in the end, to go nowhere--or at least have much less significance than I originally anticipated--overall the novel was quite an enjoyable adventure.  I look forward to the Lake's next novel The Escapement in this same setting.
April was a less than fun month. The Little Man got sick.  And in turn I got sick.  That hosed the beginning of the month for me to a large degree.   Then work became intense.  Halfway through the month, someone I've been working with for the past eleven years, gave his notice.  He found a new job (good for him, it was a great opportunity) and that meant having to start learning everything I could from him before he left.  Which, uh, well you try learning everything someone's been doing for eleven years in two weeks and see how easy that is.  Yeah.  There's no question that he was a critical member of my team, and that he'll be missed.   To be frank, I've started to have some crazy dreams; just shy of nightmares, and I'm positive it has to do with the fact that my team, running lean as it was, is now a major contributer down.   The night before his last day, I woke up from a dream where I was with a group of people out in the woods, and the woods had caught fire, and we were slowly being surrounded.  And couldn't put out the flames.  Then I woke up.   That was tamer version of the kinds of dreams I'm talking about, but there's no question in my mind what that was all about.

But other than that, I've been fine. ;)

Writing:  One new draft.  Not happy with this draft, it's more  a sketch really.  I've got to go back and rethink it, make it an actual story instead of just a snippet of a moment.  I've got a novel idea that's been badgering me to work on.  I pushed back to place it on hold.  (Sometimes the stories don't want to listen.)   It might be worth doing the world building in the background, so that if I feel up for NaNo I can jump in with this idea.   Or not.  I've been nicking away at some revisions but they aren't as cooperative as I'd like, and I just need to get them done, and out the door. 

Editing: No official duties this month.  Did a little copy editing for a project that isn't mine, which was the first time I tried my hand at something more than just critiquing someone else's work.  Interesting experience. 

Reading: One book.

Small Favor  by Jim Butcher: I bought this one on the Kindle.  In fact, I found out that it was available on Jim's agent's blog, and within a minute of reading that had my Kindle out and this book purchased.  One minute later, the book was downloaded, and I could start reading.   Wow.  I think that's exactly what Amazon envisioned.  Anyway, onto the book itself.  The series gets better with each novel.  I'm not sure if this one will replace Dead Beat as my favorite, but it was close.  The plot was action packed, with enough good twists, including at least one moment where I got to say "finally! I've only been waiting for that moment for about five books now.  One of the things I'm more and more impressed with as the series grows, is that things evolve and change.  Harry has an impact on his environment, and his environment (namely being the target of so much chaos and mayhem) has a lasting effect on Harry.  Not just that he's had to change up his tricks, and get tough, but even in his attitude and relationships.  When things change, they stay changed.  As an example, whereas in the past, Charity Carpenter barely put up with Harry's presence around the house, in the opening scene during the snowball fight, she's right there having a good time with Harry and the kids.  A little less noir than the previous novel, this one is a bit more about the action, and the effects of previous novels coming home to roost in rather interesting and odd combinations.  There's plenty of Dresden wit, which is to say both the moments when he's actually funny, and those in which he just thinks he's funny.  The magic, swords, and guns all fly fast and often this adventure around, and I get the sense that things are wearing Harry thin.  This is also the second story where Butcher has tapped into Billy Goats Gruff.  (His short story Restoration of Faith has a bit about a troll and a bridge.)  That particular motif exemplifies just how the author managed such a complex weaving of plot lines throughout the book, such that almost every moment, you aren't sure what's next to be thrown at Harry.  The cast of characters in this book is long, damn near every friend and foe, and all those who dance between in Harry's life seem to show up at one point or another.  Which is probably why there's so much more action here, than old fashioned mystery.  But if you've gone this far into the series, I think this one will be sure to please.

That's a wrap.
April was a less than fun month. The Little Man got sick.  And in turn I got sick.  That hosed the beginning of the month for me to a large degree.   Then work became intense.  Halfway through the month, someone I've been working with for the past eleven years, gave his notice.  He found a new job (good for him, it was a great opportunity) and that meant having to start learning everything I could from him before he left.  Which, uh, well you try learning everything someone's been doing for eleven years in two weeks and see how easy that is.  Yeah.  There's no question that he was a critical member of my team, and that he'll be missed.   To be frank, I've started to have some crazy dreams; just shy of nightmares, and I'm positive it has to do with the fact that my team, running lean as it was, is now a major contributer down.   The night before his last day, I woke up from a dream where I was with a group of people out in the woods, and the woods had caught fire, and we were slowly being surrounded.  And couldn't put out the flames.  Then I woke up.   That was tamer version of the kinds of dreams I'm talking about, but there's no question in my mind what that was all about.

But other than that, I've been fine. ;)

Writing:  One new draft.  Not happy with this draft, it's more  a sketch really.  I've got to go back and rethink it, make it an actual story instead of just a snippet of a moment.  I've got a novel idea that's been badgering me to work on.  I pushed back to place it on hold.  (Sometimes the stories don't want to listen.)   It might be worth doing the world building in the background, so that if I feel up for NaNo I can jump in with this idea.   Or not.  I've been nicking away at some revisions but they aren't as cooperative as I'd like, and I just need to get them done, and out the door. 

Editing: No official duties this month.  Did a little copy editing for a project that isn't mine, which was the first time I tried my hand at something more than just critiquing someone else's work.  Interesting experience. 

Reading: One book.

Small Favor  by Jim Butcher: I bought this one on the Kindle.  In fact, I found out that it was available on Jim's agent's blog, and within a minute of reading that had my Kindle out and this book purchased.  One minute later, the book was downloaded, and I could start reading.   Wow.  I think that's exactly what Amazon envisioned.  Anyway, onto the book itself.  The series gets better with each novel.  I'm not sure if this one will replace Dead Beat as my favorite, but it was close.  The plot was action packed, with enough good twists, including at least one moment where I got to say "finally! I've only been waiting for that moment for about five books now.  One of the things I'm more and more impressed with as the series grows, is that things evolve and change.  Harry has an impact on his environment, and his environment (namely being the target of so much chaos and mayhem) has a lasting effect on Harry.  Not just that he's had to change up his tricks, and get tough, but even in his attitude and relationships.  When things change, they stay changed.  As an example, whereas in the past, Charity Carpenter barely put up with Harry's presence around the house, in the opening scene during the snowball fight, she's right there having a good time with Harry and the kids.  A little less noir than the previous novel, this one is a bit more about the action, and the effects of previous novels coming home to roost in rather interesting and odd combinations.  There's plenty of Dresden wit, which is to say both the moments when he's actually funny, and those in which he just thinks he's funny.  The magic, swords, and guns all fly fast and often this adventure around, and I get the sense that things are wearing Harry thin.  This is also the second story where Butcher has tapped into Billy Goats Gruff.  (His short story Restoration of Faith has a bit about a troll and a bridge.)  That particular motif exemplifies just how the author managed such a complex weaving of plot lines throughout the book, such that almost every moment, you aren't sure what's next to be thrown at Harry.  The cast of characters in this book is long, damn near every friend and foe, and all those who dance between in Harry's life seem to show up at one point or another.  Which is probably why there's so much more action here, than old fashioned mystery.  But if you've gone this far into the series, I think this one will be sure to please.

That's a wrap.
temporus: (time)
( Feb. 29th, 2008 08:05 pm)
February.   A whirlwind of a month.  Lots of travel, both for vacation and for work.  The whole family managed to catch some kind of stomach bug that's been going all around.   My new toy arrived.  Snow.  Some more snow.   Just all kinds of all over the place.

Writing:  One new short story first draft completed.   Written out longhand.  Then entered it to the computer and did a slight edit on the way there.   I like it, but I think I need at least one more pass of editing before I can hand off to some early readers for comments.  Unfortunately with all the chaotic last minute travel and then being sick, I just haven't had the chance to crack open this story for that edit pass.  Perhaps that's a good thing as it will allow me enough distance to turn a more critical eye that way.

Editing:  Cleared out my slush pile.    Yay.   When the magazine opens up for submissions again, I'll be sure to let folks know.  

Reading:  Due to nice trip up to Vermont, wherein I got to sit most of two 6+ hour car rides as a passenger, I got a heck of a lot of reading done.  All of it.  Yes all of it, done on my spanky new Amazon Kindle.  Two simple reasons for this.  One: it really is a great to have a ton of books for travel and be able to chose at whim what you want to read without any forethought, without carrying a ton of extra books.  Two: I wanted to put this through its paces to see what kind of sterner stuff its got to it, so that I can post up a review.  That'll come soon in its own post.   Most of the below are via Public Domain/Project Gutenberg.   One is an actual purchase of a current novel.

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope.  Adventure.  Romance.  Duels.  No pirates or giants though.   Some wonderful fun characters.  It reminds me of what I want in an adventure story where there can be intrigue and romance, and camaraderie.  It was an absolute blast, and of course, how can you not just kick back and have fun with a novel with an antagonist known as "Black Michael"?  Of course the story is a bit dated, but then I grew up on Errol Flynn movies, so dated movies about dashing heroes saving beautiful women will never go out of style with me.

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling.  Also quite the adventure, though a rather different type of adventure.  I found though, that the language of this one struck me as more vernacular, and it actually kind of got on my nerves a bit.  The bulk of the story is one person telling what happened to another, and you get a kind of broken English effect.  It pulled it off enough, but it knocked me out of the story a lot more than usual.  I think this might be an issue with being rather used to the modern styles which shy away from these attempts to stick in such vernaculars.  It's also a fairly short tale, I think more in the Novelette range.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy.  Again with the political adventure.  Yes, I'm straying a tad from my SF&F roots, and yet...this is a kind of seminal work that does have influence over the genre in many surprising ways.   It is a sort of precursor to the masked avenger archetype, that will eventually come into a fore in the comic book superhero about forty years later.   This one is a great adventure as the others, but a bit more intellectual rather than just bold derring do.   Which is of course, what really makes it fun.  I'm not sure if I knew somehow before I read this the Pimpernel's true identity, guessed it early on, or its a case that you're supposed to know/figure it out before the characters in the book do.  I'm pretty certain it's the latter.  In any case, what's masterful is watching the clever manipulations of the hero to outwit the villains.  I also loved to read a story where the woman character has some agency.  Sure she ends up causing much of the trouble, but she also strives to right that error.  And watching the beautiful woman rush to rescue the hero is cool by my book too.  Even if, during the course of her rescue, she ends up somewhat falling victim and needing subsequent rescue herself, I felt that she did use wit just as much as she was rescued. 

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman.  I'm an old school comic book kid.  I grew up with comics in the house, and just always loved superheroes.   I mean who didn't want to be Batman, or Spiderman, or Supes?  Heck, spent a good decade role-playing superheroes, both as a player and GM.  What a blast.  Anyway, I'd seen this book out there (and this is the only current book that I read this month) and right away this caught my eye.  A novel about the evil genius.  Personally, I'm on his side.  Oh yeah, there's also all this stuff about the heroes.  You know, the big hero group that saves the day.  That's nice too, with a bit of realism thrown in to make it not so squeaky clean like saturday morning Superfriends from the 70s.   But...that side of things didn't quite catch me the way the evil genius did.  It wasn't bad, I think I just have seen enough from the side of heroes that showing the dirty underclothes of the heroes (not literally) just isn't as exciting.  Now, the villain...man, he's just fun to hang around inside his head.  Watching him reveal his descent into world domineering arch-nemesis of this world's unstoppable hero is gripping and engaging in a way that the alternating chapters from the hero side never quite manages.  I really was rooting for him by the end of the book.  Overall, I had a blast, perhaps I'll get to see more of Doctor Impossible someday.  Hmm....I wonder....Dr. Impossible in '08?

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle:  Yes Sherlock Holmes. I've never read Sherlock Holmes, and just on a whim decided to grab this stuff and read.   I can see why its held up over the years.  Holmes is engaging to read about.  You want to get inside that head, and see where he's going, and you can't fathom how the heck he could possibly know what he claims to know.  Now, I'm the type of person who watches shows like Monk, etc, and I can usually determine the whodunnit by the first commercial break.  I've got probably somewhere well over a 75% hit rate.  I'm usually pretty good at figuring out things in books too.  (Say, the Harry Dresden novels....where I rarely get thrown off the case.)  But in this one, I had no freaking idea how Holmes knew and I didn't.  A touch infuriating, but in a good way.  About the only really strange thing to me, was how halfway through the book, its suddenly a western novel set in Utah.  It was so abrupt and bizarre to me, that I actually began to wonder if somehow, the book hadn't been compromised.  (It was a free download and all that.)  That is until I saw the name of one of the victims pop up, then I realized just what was going on was a flashback.  Wow.  That part, felt a little too much like one of the sidetrack stories in Les Miserables, which dearly as I love that story, was rife with tangentals that added far less proportionally than their length.  Once the action returns to London, the tale got me back, and held on to the finish.  

Note: for this month, I linked to the Kindle editions, just because I've got the new toy.  But most of this months stuff you could borrow from your local library. 
temporus: (time)
( Feb. 29th, 2008 08:05 pm)
February.   A whirlwind of a month.  Lots of travel, both for vacation and for work.  The whole family managed to catch some kind of stomach bug that's been going all around.   My new toy arrived.  Snow.  Some more snow.   Just all kinds of all over the place.

Writing:  One new short story first draft completed.   Written out longhand.  Then entered it to the computer and did a slight edit on the way there.   I like it, but I think I need at least one more pass of editing before I can hand off to some early readers for comments.  Unfortunately with all the chaotic last minute travel and then being sick, I just haven't had the chance to crack open this story for that edit pass.  Perhaps that's a good thing as it will allow me enough distance to turn a more critical eye that way.

Editing:  Cleared out my slush pile.    Yay.   When the magazine opens up for submissions again, I'll be sure to let folks know.  

Reading:  Due to nice trip up to Vermont, wherein I got to sit most of two 6+ hour car rides as a passenger, I got a heck of a lot of reading done.  All of it.  Yes all of it, done on my spanky new Amazon Kindle.  Two simple reasons for this.  One: it really is a great to have a ton of books for travel and be able to chose at whim what you want to read without any forethought, without carrying a ton of extra books.  Two: I wanted to put this through its paces to see what kind of sterner stuff its got to it, so that I can post up a review.  That'll come soon in its own post.   Most of the below are via Public Domain/Project Gutenberg.   One is an actual purchase of a current novel.

The Prisoner of Zenda, by Anthony Hope.  Adventure.  Romance.  Duels.  No pirates or giants though.   Some wonderful fun characters.  It reminds me of what I want in an adventure story where there can be intrigue and romance, and camaraderie.  It was an absolute blast, and of course, how can you not just kick back and have fun with a novel with an antagonist known as "Black Michael"?  Of course the story is a bit dated, but then I grew up on Errol Flynn movies, so dated movies about dashing heroes saving beautiful women will never go out of style with me.

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling.  Also quite the adventure, though a rather different type of adventure.  I found though, that the language of this one struck me as more vernacular, and it actually kind of got on my nerves a bit.  The bulk of the story is one person telling what happened to another, and you get a kind of broken English effect.  It pulled it off enough, but it knocked me out of the story a lot more than usual.  I think this might be an issue with being rather used to the modern styles which shy away from these attempts to stick in such vernaculars.  It's also a fairly short tale, I think more in the Novelette range.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy.  Again with the political adventure.  Yes, I'm straying a tad from my SF&F roots, and yet...this is a kind of seminal work that does have influence over the genre in many surprising ways.   It is a sort of precursor to the masked avenger archetype, that will eventually come into a fore in the comic book superhero about forty years later.   This one is a great adventure as the others, but a bit more intellectual rather than just bold derring do.   Which is of course, what really makes it fun.  I'm not sure if I knew somehow before I read this the Pimpernel's true identity, guessed it early on, or its a case that you're supposed to know/figure it out before the characters in the book do.  I'm pretty certain it's the latter.  In any case, what's masterful is watching the clever manipulations of the hero to outwit the villains.  I also loved to read a story where the woman character has some agency.  Sure she ends up causing much of the trouble, but she also strives to right that error.  And watching the beautiful woman rush to rescue the hero is cool by my book too.  Even if, during the course of her rescue, she ends up somewhat falling victim and needing subsequent rescue herself, I felt that she did use wit just as much as she was rescued. 

Soon I Will Be Invincible, by Austin Grossman.  I'm an old school comic book kid.  I grew up with comics in the house, and just always loved superheroes.   I mean who didn't want to be Batman, or Spiderman, or Supes?  Heck, spent a good decade role-playing superheroes, both as a player and GM.  What a blast.  Anyway, I'd seen this book out there (and this is the only current book that I read this month) and right away this caught my eye.  A novel about the evil genius.  Personally, I'm on his side.  Oh yeah, there's also all this stuff about the heroes.  You know, the big hero group that saves the day.  That's nice too, with a bit of realism thrown in to make it not so squeaky clean like saturday morning Superfriends from the 70s.   But...that side of things didn't quite catch me the way the evil genius did.  It wasn't bad, I think I just have seen enough from the side of heroes that showing the dirty underclothes of the heroes (not literally) just isn't as exciting.  Now, the villain...man, he's just fun to hang around inside his head.  Watching him reveal his descent into world domineering arch-nemesis of this world's unstoppable hero is gripping and engaging in a way that the alternating chapters from the hero side never quite manages.  I really was rooting for him by the end of the book.  Overall, I had a blast, perhaps I'll get to see more of Doctor Impossible someday.  Hmm....I wonder....Dr. Impossible in '08?

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle:  Yes Sherlock Holmes. I've never read Sherlock Holmes, and just on a whim decided to grab this stuff and read.   I can see why its held up over the years.  Holmes is engaging to read about.  You want to get inside that head, and see where he's going, and you can't fathom how the heck he could possibly know what he claims to know.  Now, I'm the type of person who watches shows like Monk, etc, and I can usually determine the whodunnit by the first commercial break.  I've got probably somewhere well over a 75% hit rate.  I'm usually pretty good at figuring out things in books too.  (Say, the Harry Dresden novels....where I rarely get thrown off the case.)  But in this one, I had no freaking idea how Holmes knew and I didn't.  A touch infuriating, but in a good way.  About the only really strange thing to me, was how halfway through the book, its suddenly a western novel set in Utah.  It was so abrupt and bizarre to me, that I actually began to wonder if somehow, the book hadn't been compromised.  (It was a free download and all that.)  That is until I saw the name of one of the victims pop up, then I realized just what was going on was a flashback.  Wow.  That part, felt a little too much like one of the sidetrack stories in Les Miserables, which dearly as I love that story, was rife with tangentals that added far less proportionally than their length.  Once the action returns to London, the tale got me back, and held on to the finish.  

Note: for this month, I linked to the Kindle editions, just because I've got the new toy.  But most of this months stuff you could borrow from your local library. 
This roundup is late.  It's late at least because I just kind of wasn't excited by the idea of reporting a pretty dismal month.   The month itself wasn't dismal.  Just my progress as far as any kind of writing.   Work is crazy busy, and well we've got stuff going on at home, including some remodeling to add some comforts.  (IE a new bathroom, and some re-arranged space to make living more enjoyable down there.   It's pretty disruptive in physical terms, but in the long run there's no question that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Writing:  If I managed 1,000 words on several non-starts I'll be shocked.  I had ideas a bursting, but come time to put butt in chair and type, I managed to miraculously find all sorts of ways to distract myself.   Even editing really got away.  I'm going to start instituting some new measures to work on that.  

Submissions:  A "long lost" submission returned.  It's a second re-write request for the same story.  The editor gave concrete clear advice as to what she would like to see in order to make the grade.  I'm forcing myself not to rush in, as I'm pretty sure it'll either be third time's the charm, or three strikes your out. 

Slush:  Wrapping up the last bits of slush for Space and Time for this reading period.  At least, I think it's the end of the pile   (And even as I type this, I'm imagining a horde of stories storming my inbox.)  It was an interesting experience, and I hope that it works out so that I can keep on with them.  

Reading:  ~4 books.  I say approximately, because I read all but like one short story in a collection.

The Secret History of Moscow,  by Ekaterina Sedia.  I don't recall exactly when I first saw a promo blurb about this book, but ever since I did, I've been looking forward to it.  That of course could be a dangerous thing, like looking forward to a movie, you impart more emotional investment into something unknown and that gives, I believe, much more room for disappointment.  However, in this instance I think the novel delivered and then some.  The story grabbed me from page one, and  held on such that every spare moment I had, I read, until finished.  (Including staying up a good hour and a half past my normal bedtime two nights in a row!)  A masterful handling of layered stories, made up of the very personal tales of unique individuals whose stories defined and contrasted the breadth of the city that is the center of the story.  Not unlike Victor Hugo, these stories coalesced into a deeper more complex tale that combined a marvelous stroke of the fantastic that took this somewhere into the realm between magical realism and urban fantasy.   If I hadn't been hooked by her short stories, this novel would have made a dedicated fan of me by its conclusion.


The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snickett.  I'd seen the movie, which from what I gather encompassed the first three novels.  My wife has read and enjoyed the whole series, and I decided to pick one up and give it a whirl.  There were some things about the book that impressed me.  A strong consistent voice, and a well defined tone.  Something that, to be honest you don't always see in adult literature, with the prevailing modern sensibility of just existing as more like a camera in a movie watching the story unfold.  Here we have a narrator, and that narrator is a character in the story.  Enjoyable, but I fear it may have been a bit spoiled by having seen the movie first.  As time permits, I will probably make my way through them all.

Driven to Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD.  If you want to understand AD(H)D, this is a good book to start.    The authors themselves have this condition, and so they speak not only as Psychiatrists, but as people who inherently understand the issues and effects of the condition.  I'd heard Dr. Hallowell speak on NPR's the Parent's Journal and the way he discussed the topic made me want to read the book.  It's a subject you hear a lot about these days, and I think there's a lot of either disinformation or misinformation floating around.  It's good to get a point of view that covers it both from a clinical side, as well as a personal one, often relayed through the stories of many of Dr. Hallowell's patients.

The Metamorphoses and other Stories, by Franz Kafka.  Does it make me Emo if I like Kafka?  Does it help if I mention I was an English major?  Okay, fine.  I just like a good freaky story.  And Kafka does that, rather well.  From The Metamorphoses, to The Hunger Artist, to an array of other shorts.  A bit more than half I'd read before.  But the stories were entrancing anyway.  And in a way, this was the kick start that got my brain thinking in terms of short stories again.  Something I needed.  So thanks Franz.

That's a wrap on January.  Here's hoping February fares better.
 
This roundup is late.  It's late at least because I just kind of wasn't excited by the idea of reporting a pretty dismal month.   The month itself wasn't dismal.  Just my progress as far as any kind of writing.   Work is crazy busy, and well we've got stuff going on at home, including some remodeling to add some comforts.  (IE a new bathroom, and some re-arranged space to make living more enjoyable down there.   It's pretty disruptive in physical terms, but in the long run there's no question that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Writing:  If I managed 1,000 words on several non-starts I'll be shocked.  I had ideas a bursting, but come time to put butt in chair and type, I managed to miraculously find all sorts of ways to distract myself.   Even editing really got away.  I'm going to start instituting some new measures to work on that.  

Submissions:  A "long lost" submission returned.  It's a second re-write request for the same story.  The editor gave concrete clear advice as to what she would like to see in order to make the grade.  I'm forcing myself not to rush in, as I'm pretty sure it'll either be third time's the charm, or three strikes your out. 

Slush:  Wrapping up the last bits of slush for Space and Time for this reading period.  At least, I think it's the end of the pile   (And even as I type this, I'm imagining a horde of stories storming my inbox.)  It was an interesting experience, and I hope that it works out so that I can keep on with them.  

Reading:  ~4 books.  I say approximately, because I read all but like one short story in a collection.

The Secret History of Moscow,  by Ekaterina Sedia.  I don't recall exactly when I first saw a promo blurb about this book, but ever since I did, I've been looking forward to it.  That of course could be a dangerous thing, like looking forward to a movie, you impart more emotional investment into something unknown and that gives, I believe, much more room for disappointment.  However, in this instance I think the novel delivered and then some.  The story grabbed me from page one, and  held on such that every spare moment I had, I read, until finished.  (Including staying up a good hour and a half past my normal bedtime two nights in a row!)  A masterful handling of layered stories, made up of the very personal tales of unique individuals whose stories defined and contrasted the breadth of the city that is the center of the story.  Not unlike Victor Hugo, these stories coalesced into a deeper more complex tale that combined a marvelous stroke of the fantastic that took this somewhere into the realm between magical realism and urban fantasy.   If I hadn't been hooked by her short stories, this novel would have made a dedicated fan of me by its conclusion.


The Bad Beginning, by Lemony Snickett.  I'd seen the movie, which from what I gather encompassed the first three novels.  My wife has read and enjoyed the whole series, and I decided to pick one up and give it a whirl.  There were some things about the book that impressed me.  A strong consistent voice, and a well defined tone.  Something that, to be honest you don't always see in adult literature, with the prevailing modern sensibility of just existing as more like a camera in a movie watching the story unfold.  Here we have a narrator, and that narrator is a character in the story.  Enjoyable, but I fear it may have been a bit spoiled by having seen the movie first.  As time permits, I will probably make my way through them all.

Driven to Distraction, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD and John J. Ratey, MD.  If you want to understand AD(H)D, this is a good book to start.    The authors themselves have this condition, and so they speak not only as Psychiatrists, but as people who inherently understand the issues and effects of the condition.  I'd heard Dr. Hallowell speak on NPR's the Parent's Journal and the way he discussed the topic made me want to read the book.  It's a subject you hear a lot about these days, and I think there's a lot of either disinformation or misinformation floating around.  It's good to get a point of view that covers it both from a clinical side, as well as a personal one, often relayed through the stories of many of Dr. Hallowell's patients.

The Metamorphoses and other Stories, by Franz Kafka.  Does it make me Emo if I like Kafka?  Does it help if I mention I was an English major?  Okay, fine.  I just like a good freaky story.  And Kafka does that, rather well.  From The Metamorphoses, to The Hunger Artist, to an array of other shorts.  A bit more than half I'd read before.  But the stories were entrancing anyway.  And in a way, this was the kick start that got my brain thinking in terms of short stories again.  Something I needed.  So thanks Franz.

That's a wrap on January.  Here's hoping February fares better.
 
temporus: (time)
( Dec. 31st, 2007 06:39 pm)
December has been a whirlwind month.  With holidays, and first birthdays, and parties.  It is also the month where I traditionally veg out after taking on NaNoWriMo in November.  Instead, I tried to knock out a few short stories for some deadlines that came up this month.  Note to self: you are not quite ready to take on a short deadline for multiple projects with numerous other things whirling around your life at the same time.  Next time pick one project, and target it, don't try to take them all on at once.  Not to mention a large end of year crunch at the day job...the one that actually pays bills and therefore comes first.

As you might gather from the above, writing for this month was for all intents and purposes a failure.  I got some words on the page, but none of the stories headed in the directions I wanted, and I may have hit upon a case where research killed a story idea.  Spent too much effort researching because I wanted the story to be "right" and started to decide that the premise wasn't working.  And I got too wrapped up in the research itself so that I didn't step back and see the story.  Time to go back to basics.  I intend to finish the stories anyway.  Nothing says that they might not end up selling elsewhere.

Submissions: Waiting on one submission.  Lack of focus means I didn't get a new story out.  

Reading:  One book.

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, by Juliet Barker.  A thorough and engaging look at the buildup to, and the prosecution of, the Agincourt campaign by Henry V.  If all you knew about the battle, or even Henry V comes from Shakespeare, this book gives a distinct and different view.  That's not to say Shakespeare got it wrong, but that you can see where he took some artistic license with his history play.  What is even more compelling, was to come to understand what chivalry meant in the beginning of the fifteenth century.  Imagine wars where when a person was captured, you took his word that he would show up at a prearranged location so that  he might submit himself to be your prisoner.  Knowing full well that he might be your prisoner for years.  And they did.  Even in the middle of a war, people pledged that they would not aid their own countrymen but would instead report to your castle.  Fascinating.  Much goodness to throw into the brain's compost pile.  Hopefully it will produce some wonderful soil for stories, even beyond the one that sent me researching the topic to begin with.  (Not that it took much to get me interested in Medieval history of any kind.)

Looking forward to getting myself back on track and making some new headway with the new year.
 
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Edward Greaves

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