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swan_tower July 24 2014, 23:58

A Year in Pictures – Memorial in the Wake

Memorial in the Wake
Creative Commons License
This work by http://www.swantower.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The next time I take a picture like this one, I’ll have an easier time of it.

Hawaii was one of the last trips I took before I was in the habit of using Lightroom to edit my photos, which means I didn’t plan for the editing process in taking the shot. Which means I took about twenty-seven of these shots, trying to get one where the horizon was actually level — that wake you see is from the ferry I was riding in, so I kept being rolled in one direction or the other. In the future I can just take a wider shot without worrying as much about the framing, and then straighten it out in post.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

This entry was also posted at http://swan-tower.dreamwidth.org/670610.html. Comment here or there.
jazzfish July 24 2014, 21:16

ugh thud.

Spent half an hour this morning chasing Chaos around with a spoonful of wet food and a couple of pills.

Yesterday, found out CBS has revised the malaria guidelines as of Monday, and having visited any part of Jalisco (the state containing Guadalajara and Ajijic) puts you under a twelve-month ban on donating blood.

Too many things to pack and not enough boxes to pack them in. Somehow despite offloading an awful lot of books over the past six months to a year, we have almost the same number of boxes of books and we're running low on 703 banker's boxes.

Construction is ongoing in the apartment three floors up, a frequent buzzing/drilling/jackhammering noise.

We move in two and a half weeks. This is simultaneously not soon enough and not nearly enough time.

If you happen to see my focus please return it to this address.

Original post at Dreamwidth | comment count unavailable comments | Comment there or here
stina_leicht July 24 2014, 20:47

Barely Breathing

So, part of the revisions for Cold Iron include "OMG! Do More of THIS!" Always a good thing to hear from your editor, really. Except the THIS in question is... letters written from character A (Nels) to character C (Ilta.) And you know, the boi is a big sap and stupid in love. Meanwhile, the target of his affections loves him back but is confused due to PLOT REASONS. And well... I have this silly block when it comes to writing anything Romance-ish. Because HOLY SHIT YOU ARE A FEMALE AND THIS IS THE ONLY THING YOU'RE ALLOWED TO WRITE EVER. SO, MUCH SO THAT EVEN WHEN YOU AREN'T WRITING ANYTHING REMOTELY ROMANCE WE WILL LABEL IT THUS. BECAUSE FEMALE=SEX AND ROMANCE AND NOTHING ELSE. EVER. Yeah. Writer Brain so joyously gives that crap the two fingers. Except that's limiting in so many ways. Just fuck that. A lot. Still, I don't believe I'll ever write pure Romance because I find it excruciatingly dull. (I'm allowed. To each their own, babies.) That said, I do write romantic subplots because sex, attraction, and TEH FEELS INVOLVED (or the non-feels) are part of being human. Stories are about human beings first and ideas second as far as I'm concerned. (And this is why I highly doubt I'll ever read, enjoy, or write what the Old Guard™ deems Hard SF.) Soooooo... there's all of that baggage. And now add to this the fact that I hate epistolary novels. Like, a lot. They're so very difficult to do right--let alone well. There's that First Person PoV thing for a start, and then there's the "Let me tell you what happened after the fact." aspect that authors tend to forget mid-novel. It drives me nuts. "No. This is a diary/letter, people. You cannot describe things as they happen. That diary/letter is in Main Character's private room or whatever. They are not carrying the sucker around with them and writing while experiencing life. No one does this. Well, unless they're Tweeting and incapable of ripping themselves from tech long enough to actually experience this thing called life." Hey, those aren't my rules. They're the author-who-decided-to-write-a-fucking-epistolary-novel's rules. So, yeah. More baggage.

And Thus, Mine Editor Doth Said OMG Yay! Do More of THAT. Heh. And thus, I spend two days avoiding doing this very thing. So, I got help in the form of the awesome Liz Argall. Her suggestion was the best thing possible. "Stina, get out some paper and a fountain pen. Write the thing like a real letter." Why can't I think of shit like that? I mean, it was dead simple. Mopey love songs+pretty pen+paper=BLAM! Writer Brain engaged! I didn't even have to drink wine and watch sappy movies like I was thinking I'd have to do.[1] On a deep mechanics of brain level, it's obvious that this should work. You know? Anyway, I know the best people. I really do. Every character has their favorite music. Turns out, Nels is all about the Duncan Shiek and Radiohead and (in a turn of events I find utterly baffling) Dire Straights. Because nothing says mopey 18th Century Boi like some Blues influenced rock. (Nels? WTF?) That's okay. Sometimes you gotta go with whatever the character likes even if it's something you don't. (This happened with Liam a lot too.[2]) Anyway, Nels also digs Red Lorry Yellow Lorry. So, I can forgive him.

So... there's that. And then tomorrow is Armadillocon. Quite a bit of my lack of enthusiasm--all of it really--is the fact that I'm having to say goodbye to the workshop. This is the last time I'll be running it. That's the truth. I hate saying goodbye. I really do. But... this is it. It's time. I'll miss you, Little Workshop That Could. I really, really will. I had so much fun. But you need to grow on your own with someone else.

Did I mention that I don't do goodbye very well?
---------------------------------------------------
[1] It's what I do when I write sexy scenes. Two glases of wine+candles+dark+Prince's entire oeuvre (because my brain is totally certain that Prince is sex on legs.)+permission to giggle because sex can be so ridiculous=sex scene. Sans wine and Prince, it's kind of how I approach sex anyway. Too much information? :)
[2] Writing with one's subconscious. Isn't it fun?
cmpriest July 24 2014, 20:39

Eight miles outta Memphis and I got no spare

Here's today's progress on my witchy art-deco horror novel about Lizzie Borden thirty years after her parents' deaths - now featuring ghosts and non-ghosts alike, anti-Catholic conspiracy nuts, supernatural political shenanigans, the mafia, and a Bonus! space-worshiping murder cult hiding behind the KKK:

    Project: Chapelwood
    Deadline: October 1, 2014
    New words written: 6745 (Hot DAMN.)
    Present total word count: 118,093



    Things accomplished in fiction: Draft Zero, ya'll!

    Things accomplished in real life: Neighborhood jaunt with dog; grocery shopping; went to Walgreens to pick up a prescription.

    Other: This is not a personal word-count record, but it's damn close. I think my highest daily output was way the hell back in 2002, and it was over 7k. But this? This is very, very nice. (I always work faster toward the end, as the story picks up speed toward the finale.)

    EXTRA Other: I think this is actually the longest Draft Zero I've ever produced. Previously, it was Boneshaker ... but I think that one was around 115k. Can't remember off the top of my head.

    BONUS Other: Today I also passed 150k words for the year so far. A GOOD WORK DAY, yes. But now? Now I am absolutely BEAT. And I need a DRINK. And also I need to charge up my laptop before it craps out on me.

    [:: vanishes in a poof of wifi ::]

    Number of fiction words so far this year: 151,086
redheadedfemme July 24 2014, 19:02

My tweets

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splinister July 24 2014, 19:00

Worldcon Comic Book Programme


Nearly two years ago my friend James Bacon phoned me up and asked me if I’d be on for designing the comic book programme at Worldcon in London (known as Loncon 3) in August 2014. I agreed readily enough as I was keen to raise the profile of comic books at the event. Comics are still a bit of a newcomer to Worldcon – the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story was only introduced in 2009.

I didn’t realise how much work was involved, which was probably lucky for James, as I might have turned him down if I truly understood.

I now have huge respect for the Worldcon programming team (especially the techs who have managed its database). They have achieved a gigantic task with professionalism and tact. The programme has gone online today, and I’m really pleased with the result.

Just to give you an idea of the logistic challenge involved: there are 9,000 members of Worldcon, and 1,000 of them volunteered for programming. There are 600+ cross media programme items happening over the five days of the convention. The volunteers listed their areas of interest in the programme, as well as indicating what times they didn’t want to be scheduled, or events they didn’t want to be panelled against.

Plus, many of the people I wanted to use on programming were in high demand in other areas. I had to try to assemble a diverse list of panellists, while avoiding clashes with other programme items. Sometimes I couldn’t squeeze people in because they were already heavily scheduled, and you have to try and be fair with allocation of panels. Other times people dropped off panels because of various reasons which caused difficulty in re-assigning a replacement because of the panel topic or time slot.

And always we were up against deadlines: finishing the draft programming, adjusting the programme after an onslaught of email, and finalising the programme on time for the publication deadline. Even now, I have some minor changes to make due to extremely late line-up changes.

It’s a very difficult job, and I was only in charge of one department. The people at the top level – James Bacon, Liz Batty, and Ian Stockdale – had to oversee everything. There are way too many other people to thank, but I also need to mention Emma England, Spike, Niall Harrison, Mark Slater, Alissa McKersie, and Esther MacCallum-Stewart who have been particularly helpful to me.

I have so much respect and admiration for the trojan work of all the staff of Worldcon, who have put so much effort into designing an event for the enjoyment of others – on their own time and for no payment.

Here’s the listing of all the events in my area. Several of them are cross-programme items, and here they are broken down by panels, talks, workshops, and screenings.

Panels

Thursday

  • 11am Underground Comics Go Mainstream: Has Digital Distribution Widened or Saturated the Audience?
  • 12pm Tove Jansson’s Moomins: Their Legacy and Influence

Friday

  • 11am British Comics: Influences and Influencers
  • 12pm Manga Evolutions
  • 12pm Diversity in Comics: The Good, The Bad, and the Missing
  • 1.30pm Best 21st Century Comics: Predicting the New Classics
  • 3pm What is Art in the 21st Century? (Cross-discipline panel)
  • 3pm Digital Comics (Academic track)
  • 7pm Comic Book Networking: It’s Not Just The Interwebs
  • 8pm Kapow! Best Comic Book Cosplays (cross programme event with costume/cosplay)

Saturday

  • 11am Revealing the Real World Through Comics
  • 12pm Fresh Perspectives: Comic Books for Young People
  • 1.30pm Old New Classics: The Off-Beat and Indie Comics of Yore
  • 3pm Setting Up Your Comic Book Press: New and Old Models Examined
  • 6pm From Page to (Small) Screen (media programme)
  • 7pm The New Supers: How Superheroes and Superheroines are Changing in Comics

Sunday

  • 10am Vox Populi: the new voice of comic book criticism?
  • 11am Writing and Pitching Comics
  • 12pm In Space No One Can Hear You Ink: The Best SF Comics

Monday

  • 12pm Comics: The Global Arena
  • 1.30pm How Digital Art Techniques Have Changed Comics

Talks

Thursday

  • 3pm: Experimenting with Comics by Karrie Fransman

Friday

  • 9pm Drawing the [redacted]: comics and censorship by Jude Roberts

Saturday

  • 12pm Grandville and the Anthropomorphic Tradition by GoH Bryan Talbot

Sunday

  • 3pm Bryan Talbot:’How I make a Graphic Novel’

Workshops

Friday

  • 12pm Comics Jam Session with Sarah McIntyre! (An event for young people)

Saturday

  • 1.30pm How to Draw Manga with Inko (An event for young people)

Screenings

Thursday

  • 2.30pm Moominland Tales: The Life Of Tove Jansson

Sunday

  • Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot

Monday

  • 1.30pm What Do Artists Do All Day? – Frank Quitely
  • 4.30pm Comics Britannia – Anarchy In The UK

I hope people enjoy the comic book events at Worldcon!

But, they’ll have plenty of competition from the tremendous variety of events in the other departments: science, literature, media, television, gaming, young adult, WOOFA, music, art, video games, academic, and costume/cosplay. It’s going to be hard to decide what to attend.

Oh, and do download the Grenadine Event Guide app from either the iTunes store or the Google Play store (it doesn’t even ask for any sneaky permissions). Once you download it, type in loncon, and it will download the programme directly to your device.

It will sync with the latest updates, and you should be able to create your own bespoke programme – very handy for those of you on panels.

Please have patience if you encounter any glitches, and report them. The techies will do their utmost to resolve anything within the realms of possibility.

~ Originally published at Splinister. You can comment here or there. ~

shweta_narayan July 24 2014, 17:52

Peacock quilt: finished image!


I know I posted some in progress pics of this gorgeous quilt lo these many years ago - but it's finally done so I MUST SHARE!
Design’s mine, hard work is all my mother, we started it in 2010, it's all hand-quilted, and right now she never wants me to design something for her again :D
I wrote a pome about it, well mostly about it. From back before I even considered co-editing ST :)
marydell July 24 2014, 17:02

My tweets

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jpsorrow July 24 2014, 16:31

Book Review: "Chimes at Midnight" by Seanan McGuire

This is the seventh book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. This is a dark, urban fantasy series, with an emphasis on the dark, focusing on how the fae are living in their knowes adjacent to our more mundane real world. The series starts off a little rocky in my opinion, but has steadily been improving both in the quality and focus in the most recent books, starting with Late Eclipses (book four). This book continue that trend.





The premise here is that October is investigating the sudden appearance of goblin fruit on the streets, which is highly addictive to changelings and humans, so addictive it kills them. Once she has proof that multiple changelings have died from the addiction, she goes to the Queen of the Mists to get help with the problem . . . and is promptly banished from the realm, given three days to pack up and ship out. Now she's scrambling to save herself from eviction from faerie completely, her allies banding behind her, and the only option may be to depose the Queen.

Again, the quality of the books has increased steadily and this book was solid. The characters are, once again, engaging and the plot moves along at a swift pace. In earlier books, the plot and some of October's decisions were . . . well, rocky and sometime didn't make sense. Not so here (or in the previous few books). Seanan appears to have completely settled into this world and this character. Probably the best part of this book is how October finds her allies supporting her in her efforts, all of the actions in previous books coming into play to help her achieve her goal. Also great, October doesn't wallow in angst and being alone, nor does she hesitate to accept the help she's offered. In past books, she'd refuse help or shove it to one side, which was always annoying. As a character, she's grown, and this book brings all of that growth to the forefront. Also nice, some of the plot threads that were alluded to in previous books (such as the goblin fruit being a problem on the streets, and multiple other side comments) are finally pulled together and addressed. Not all of them, and there's obviously some loose ends in this book that need to be tied up, but many of them come together here.

So, overall, a great book in this series. One or two minor things were overplayed (the kissing of Tybalt got slightly annoying and also the reliance on the Luideag in the first part of the book) but those were, as I said, minor. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series, which should be out sometime this fall.
dsmoen July 24 2014, 16:20

Rejecting Bad Writing Advice

There was a time when I was so starved for any writing advice, I’d take whatever crap would fall in. Granted, I was a Scientologist at the time, so you could say I was particularly primed for not only sources of bad advice, but also the unquestioned acceptance of same.

Over the years, I found that my brain became so constrained by all the bullshit I’d accepted that I found it impossible to write at all. I was bound by the red tape.

If You Want to Sell a Novel, Sell Short Stories First

Look, having any kind of respectable publishing credits helps. No question.

But not all novelists can write short. Even if they can write short, they may be nowhere near as good a short story writer as they are a novelist.

So here’s my revised answer to that: Write short stories because you want to. Submit them because you want to.

If they don’t speak to you, there are plenty of other, better ways to spend that time.

You’re Never Going to Make a Lot of Money as a Short Story Writer

I heard this last weekend. Verbatim.

Do I believe it’s true? No, I do not. Edward D. Hoch made a living as a short story writer.

Do I believe the odds are against you?

Sure, if you insist on thinking of it in terms of odds, which I don’t think is helpful.

Rather, I prefer to think of it this way: if you want to make a lot of money as a short story writer, you’d likely need to have a large number of relatively uncomplicated (in the sense that it’s a “short story” idea rather than a “novel” idea) ideas that you can write and polish to professional levels.

I know me: I have a smaller number of ideas but they’re more complex, and thus I’m a novella or novel kind of writer.

There’s also the issue that how much you make from short fiction depends on what venues are available for you to sell it, including film and television. Excluding self publishing at the moment, I’d argue that novella length has new life in the digital first markets.

Case in point:

We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don’t make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all — contributor’s copies are common — whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

(Quoted from here.)

I’d say that most people would think $8,000 was “a lot of money.” Somewhat fewer would consider $4,000 ($2,000 x 2 writers) “a lot of money.”

But $10,000? For two pieces of short fiction? That’s a lot of money.

Ahh, but she writes male/male romance, you say.

I say that’s not the point. The point is that this construction, “You’re never going to make a lot of money as a short story writer,” assumes things one cannot possibly know about me and my future. It’s a prediction that my future will suck because someone else’s past (e.g., the speaker’s) has sucked.

Besides, Clive Barker did pretty well with this one novella. There are other examples, too.

Rather, it’s more helpful to know what kind of writer you are and whether or not that road would be easier or harder for you. If you’ve got a background writing short non-fiction, then writing short fiction may be easier for you.

Just because it’s a hard road isn’t a reason not to do it. A hard road is still a path, just a difficult one.

There are plenty of kinds of writing, if writing is what you want to do. If it’s not, there are plenty of things to do in almost any field. I really wish I’d understood this early on, because I felt roles were far more rigid when I was in high school. Maybe that was my mistake.

You Should Write in Third Person Because It’s Easier to Sell

To which I respond: my favorite novel’s in second person.

You’re four hours into your shift, decompressing from two weeks of working nights supervising clean-up after drunken fights on Lothian Road and domestics in Craiglockhart. Daylight work on the other side of the capital city comes as a big relief, bringing with it business of a different, and mostly less violent, sort. This morning you dealt with: two shoplifting call-outs, getting your team to chase up a bunch of littering offences, a couple of community liaison visits, and you’re due down the station in two hours to record your testimony for the plead-by-email hearing on a serial B&E case you’ve been working on. You’re also baby-sitting Bob—probationary constable Robert Lockhart—who is ever so slightly fresh out of police college and about as probationary as a very probationary thing indeed. So it’s not like you’re not busy or anything, but at least it’s low-stress stuff for the most part.

Second is very voicey, and it’s both a boon and a bane because of that.

Write in whatever viewpoint you feel happens to fit the story best, including second if you’re so inclined. If you’ve never tried it before, consider rewriting a scene in second person. See how it feels. Try the same scene in first and third emphasizing different viewpoint characters.

There’s no single right answer, but some genres are more frequently in one or the other.

I’ll give an example, though, of where I think first person really hurt the book.

Twilight.

Edward hovered over Bella at night in part because he was protecting her against rogue vampires that she didn’t know existed. Because the book was written in first person, it made Edward look more manipulative and controlling (and for worse reasons) than was actually true. because the book’s POV only showed things that Bella knew, and she didn’t know the whole story.

Read the partial of Midnight Sun (Twilight told from Edward’s POV) alongside Twilight. The two taken together, plus the movie, are a rare opportunity to learn from POV choices and mistakes.

So, if the motivations of another character are important to understanding the piece as sympathetically as possible, consider writing in third. Or, you know, some other POV that’s not a single first person POV.

That Odds Matter

I know a lot of heartbreaking stories in publishing. People having solicited manuscripts lost in piles in a publisher’s office for years. People having their novel abandoned when an editor goes on maternity leave and the replacement editor quits to go into the food business.

There are all kinds of narratives about publishing, and one of the ones I want to address is this: that there is such a thing as odds that determine whether or not you’ll sell a story or whether it’ll do well.

When I receive, say, 100 submissions for BayCon, the odds that I accept your story is not 1 in 100. I don’t roll any dice. Did you write the best story I received? Does your story mesh with my taste? Does it fit the theme better than other stories? (We don’t require that it fit the theme, but it doesn’t hurt.) That’s not a matter of odds.

More than half the time, I reject a story on the first page. I’m sure every writer did the best they could on their first page. Sometimes, it’s a matter of fit. I’ve said that the story we buy has to be family friendly, so “fuck” on the first (or any) page is a non-starter. And yes, I’ve rejected more than one story for exactly that reason.

It’s entirely random that I once, back in the Abyss & Apex days, received two short stories in a row with first sentences that had unintended flying trees. Yay misplaced modifiers. (Both of those were rejected on the first sentence.)

So you’ve survived the first page. Does your piece plunge immediately into backstory on page 2 or 3? That’s probably the single most common reason I reject stories on pages 2 or 3. And yes, this can be done right, and it so frequently isn’t. I’ve done it badly myself. Recently. (First draft, so there’s that.)

Let’s say I get to the end. More than half the time, I’ll still reject the story. Most frequently, it’s one of: the story you started isn’t the story you finished, or you didn’t nail the ending.

Another common failure is what I call the “this feels like a novel chapter” problem. I didn’t really understand this phrase until I saw it a few times as an editor. If you’ve raised more interesting questions/problems/plot points that are referred to in the narrative but don’t happen in the narrative present, it’ll feel like it’s a piece of a longer work. The only way I know of to fix one of these babies is to trim off the glittery parts that point out to other plot lines and story arcs until it feels like the story is resolved in the short form.

But selling a story? That’s not a matter of odds.

Let’s say the first page is solid and interesting, and pages 2 and 3 are strong enough to keep me going, and I finish the piece, and you have a great ending. You’ll likely wind up on the short list.

If anything in the process involves odds, then it’s what happens on the short list, because generally there are more pieces than there are slots we can publish. Since we’re picking newer writers, name isn’t a consideration. It’s just which stories the various people like the best. (I pick the short list, but that’s winnowed down by a small group.)

If I Had to Give Advice…

Three little things.

  1. Is this beginning actually the best entry point for your story for a reader? Not just where you started writing.

  2. Love your piece for what it is. Every piece has issues. Do what you can, then move on. I remember going over another author’s piece in a critique session. The author was worried about how it would be received because of a structure issue. I thought it was fabulous as it stood. It was later nominated for a major award, pretty much as I read it.

  3. Don’t overwork a piece in response to critiques. One of the death knells of an opening is often over-response to a critique like: “I wanted to know more about X in the beginning.” Then the writer edits it in, destroying the opening. Someone wants to know more about the character? Good. Read on.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

shweta_narayan July 24 2014, 15:51

An Alphabet of Embers Kickstarter

shadesong July 24 2014, 14:10

...zoom...

* This past weekend, I went to Florida and met my new niece! Pics on Facebook.

* And now Elayna is in FL for the week so I can have my first uninterrupted writing time since April.

* Which is why I have not been on here.

* And why this post is now over.

* ok love you bye

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