Recent Reasons to Smile

♥ Janie asked me to have a Five-Minute Sit Down Breakfast with her in the middle of this morning’s chaos.  We managed two, but with a little practice . . .

 

Give Peas a Chance♥ Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of kid-oriented short stories written by an Australian with an uncanny talent for balancing poignancy with humor (The first one in the collection is here).  The audio version (read by the author and the delightful Ruth Schoenheimer), which I’m listening to in the car right now is even better.  

My favorite so far is “100 Text Messages you must Read Before you Die”, which proves that actions speak louder than words and there’s nothing more actionable than a father’s love for his daughter.

 

♥ Friends who snark out of affection.

 

♥ I woke up humming a favorite song that I hadn’t heard in over a year—and it played on the radio during Two-Minute Sit Down Breakfast so I could groove to it in front of the kids.

 

♥ Pomegranate and Blood Orange Skittles.

Darkside Skittles

 

 

 

 

(And also the concept of “the other side of the rainbow”)

 

♥ Air-conditioned workplaces.

HOT

♥ Kids in superhero costumes who are happy to have a serious discussion of the merits of Batman versus Captain America with you until their parents coax them away from the library desk.

Cap Shield

Fresh Paint app♥ Children who can be bribed into vacuuming their rooms and setting the table with a pad of drawing paper and an hour on my Fresh Paint app, respectively.

 

♥ That I managed to discover a continuity error in my WIP and managed to fix it all by myself yesterday.

 

♥ A Harry Potter/Hot Fuzz crossover fanfic series that works far, far better than it should.  Especially when it calls Dumbledore to task for some of his shenanigans and eventually has Ron in it.

Potter Fuzz

♥ That I had something to blog about after all.

 

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Weekend Writing Warriors: Odd Duck (Register)

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog, eight sentences at a time?

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Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

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Or if you’re a fellow Facebook addict (we can quit any time we want to, right?),
why not check out the offerings of the Snippet Sunday gang?

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This week, our wereduck hero, Tom, has a couple of questions for the werewolf that attacked him in the first chapter.

The werewolf is being held by Lowell Rhombeck, the leader of the Talbot pack, so Tom is headed over to that part of town.

VIEW_FROM_THE_NORTH_-_Kingscote,_Bellevue_Avenue_and_Bowery_Street,_Newport,_Newport_County,_RI_HABS_RI,3-NEWP,61-3.tif

Rhombeck’s place sat on a substantial acreage on the bluff on the upper west side of Talbot.  According to the plaque on the front gates, the National Register of Historical Places called it the Phelan House, though it didn’t mention that Mr. Phelan had been the leader of the Talbot pack when it first settled in the area.

It did state that in 1863, a number of Civil War soldiers did something historical on a corner of the property.  I saw a couple of monuments around the neighborhood honoring them and I knew a parade was held on Veterans’ Day, ending with a rifle salute at the City Cemetery, because the VA sent me annual notices.

Turner and I usually spent the day holed up at Grant’s place, watching a stack of the sappiest romantic comedies we could find and making Turner guess which actors weren’t human.   Kyle had a standing invitation, but she always volunteered for patrol; we all had our own ways of fighting flashbacks.

The packleader’s house wasn’t intimidating, if you liked enormous mansions that were decorated by generations of people who took their money, power, comforts, and personal interests very seriously.

It helped that the cells were in the basement.

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Rhombeck doesn’t actually live in the Kingscote Museum in Rhode Island, but it was built around the right time period and I love this image, so I transplanted it to one of the bluffs where I live, which isn’t within three hundred miles of where I’ve put Talbot City.

I defy your historical geography and substitute my own.

This Post is a Fuggly Hack

I don’t have a Real Post™ today, because I lost my grip on the amount of time I’d planned to use to write something thoughtful and profound and ended up using all of it to scan images of the family for a school genealogy project due tomorrow; attempts to fix my printer’s sudden amnesia regarding our WiFi connection; and copying out Sunny’s math homework by hand, while squinting at a series of tiny, texted images sent by an angel of a fellow parent, whose child did NOT forget his math book yesterday.

The first of four pages.  And yes, the hand is supposed to have four fingers, though I'll admit that it does resemble a pinkie amputation, rather than the thumb-tuck i was going for.

The first of four pages.*

And then I had to finish up my wordcount, because if I want Thanksgiving off from Nanowrimo, I can’t start slacking now.

So instead of entertaining you with my quirks and eccentricities and the epic battle to keep our elderly cat as continent as possible—or at least incontinent in acceptable areas—here’s a link to  terrific article by Cory Doctorow, which was published in this month’s issue of LOCUS:

My theory is that the parts of our brains that keep track of other people and try to model them, the seats of our empathy, can be tricked into treating the adventures of imaginary people as though they were real. Even though your rational mind knows that imaginary people are inconsequential, the largely automatic, unconscious systems that organize information about the people around you in order to figure out what they’re likely to do — and that let you predict how they feel in given situations and sympathize with them — don’t differentiate between information about real people and imaginary people.

“Stories Are A Fuggly Hack” Cory Doctorow, LOCUS, November 2014, p.25

And while you’re reading that, I’ll be trying to get my printer to cough up those school project photos I scanned and/or hacking away at the fuggliest story I’ve written, to date.

Wordcount, ho!

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*And yes, the hand at the bottom is supposed to have four fingers, though I’ll admit it does resemble a pinkie amputation, rather than the thumb-tuck I was going for.

Book Review: Twenty-Sided Die

Dice Shaming

 

Brian Prisco gives good nerd.

I figured he would, since the co-worker who  handed me the trade paperback, saying, “My friend’s book finally arrived! Oh, my god you have to read this!” is fearlessly fluent in nearly all species of fandom.

If you can’t trust a woman who carries an R2D2 lunchbox, drives a yellow car detailed with Charlie Brown stripes, is willing to talk about the relative BAMFness and Kinsey placements of Doctors War through Twelve, and has a little, knitted, science blue sweater warming the Zachary Quinto action figure she keeps in her work cubicle, you have no trust in you to give.

Plus, the cover is excellent.20-Sided Die

Twenty-Sided Die is a Kickstarter-funded collection of short stories connected by a group of  small-town misfits who have bonded—more or less—over Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, comic books, summer camp, philosophical conversations about cannibalism and literature (and boobs), bullying in its various forms, and the sheer hell of navigating high school and what may (or may not) come after.

The main characters are distinct and unforgettable—and if one of two aren’t entirely likeable (possibly by choice), they still have our sympathy.  We know these guys, and in many ways, most of us are these guys:

Dobby, the vicious, DM whose main motivations appear to be junk food and unrepentant spite;

Caleb, the fundamentalist paladin whose karma is about to hit his dogma;

Spence, a simmering wizard who is desperate to blow this popsicle stand;

Scotty, a snarky band nerd of a dwarf who would like to graduate without losing too many teeth to a privileged, troll-sized bully; and

Ben, a trailer-trash, Hinton-esque Outsider (please for to note the capital O) with the heart of a ranger.

My favorites among the supporting cast are Dory, a girl whose thermonuclear response to Dobby’s mysogenist insults in “Geek Out”  is worth twice the price of admission, and Mr. Ambler, a former dork turned cool teacher* who is one of the few adult providers of perspective and sanity in remarkably, if realistically, unfair situations.

The stories cover a lot of ground, with varying impact.  Some are clearly meant to be squinted at in WTF delight (“Human Consumption”), some are quietly powerful (“A Steady Hand” and “Grendel”), and others are a sucker punch in the solar plexus (most of the final third of the collection).  The best of them are hilarious, infuriating, heartbreaking, victorious, and tragic—sometimes all at the same time.

One in particular (“Wages of Sin”) is so breathtakingly inappropriate on so many levels and yet so masterfully written with such undeniable truth that it transcends itself and firmly establishes Dobby in my headcanon as chaotic evil personified. I am in awe .

I only had one difficulty in reading Twenty-Sided Die:  about a third of the way through,  I stopped seeing it as a series of  loosely connected stories.  Whether by design or chance or something in my own head,** the stories drew more tightly together, almost gelling into a novel—and a damned good one, too.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except the perspective shift—which again, may be all mine—lent a kind of uneven randomness to the first third, but only (I stress)  in comparison. And since this collection isn’t a novel, and presumably wasn’t meant to be, it naturally didn’t develop quite the way I kept thinking it should.

It’s completely unfair to judge short stories by long fiction standards—especially short stories that hold up on their own individual merits like these do—and the only reason that I’m saying all this is that my  unreasonable expectations are based on my sympathy for and involvement with these characters (even Dobby, which was a shocker, believe me).  I want more from and about them, and for them, too.***

So, I hope Mr. Prisco will forgive me.

And keep acing those charisma checks writing, please.

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*If the general atmosphere didn’t seem more D.C. than Marvel to me, I would suspect Mr. Ambler is actually Agent Phil Coulson in disguise—I’d still like to check his desk drawers for Captain America collectibles.  And Ben strikes me as Clint Barton with better luck—the bow isn’t the only parallel I saw.  I love them both and their conversations were my favorite parts of this collection.

**Possibly helped along by the “Chapter #” heading above the title of each story.  I’m not complaining about it—I don’t know if this was done on purpose or was simply a formatting issue, and I didn’t even consciously notice until I was writing this post—but it might have had a subliminal effect.

***I want Ambler to have his day, man.  I need Ambler to have his day.

 

Plotting around the Genre Bend

A friend and I were batting quips around discussing writing the other day and at one point, we both agreed that plot can be . . .  tricky.

I ended up misquoting someone* who once said something like: Plot is the journey to a goal—though the characters may not know this or may mistake which goal they each need to reach.

In my opinion, it’s far easier to figure out goals in genre fiction than in literary or general fiction, because they’re part of the definition:

carved bookMystery: solve the puzzle.

Romance: permanently cement the relationship between the MCs.

Erotica: same thing, but with stickier cement

Horror: live through the experience and/or reset it for the next group of idiots/hapless victims

Science Fiction:  save the world/species/universe/cheerleader/big picture while either scrupulously following or deliberately breaking the laws of the hard science of your choice.

Fantasy: complete the quest that will save the kingdom/village/species/nubile royal/known world/your own sorry ass and earn you your hero card and sometimes a bonus coupon for one free nubile royal/person next door/frustratingly smug companion/magical creature of your choice.

This list isn’t complete, of course, but the concept works with sub-genres or even when the genres merge, as they tend to do, to the confusion of library budget lines and catalogers everywhere.

In romantic suspense, the goal of the MCs would be to cement the relationship  while solving a spooky puzzle.**

In paranormal romance, that fantasy bonus coupon becomes crucial.***

In erotic fantasy, you save the the kingdom/village/species/whatever by gluing all the frustratingly smug elves to trees and . . .King of the Eyebrows

>cough<

Never mind.

Thoughts? Opinions? Additions?

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*I think it might have been Alexandra Sokoloff, who knows from plot arc construction like whoa—but if anyone knows for certain, please lay the facts upon me, because the doubt is starting to itch.

**There doesn’t seem to be many romantic thrillers out there, possibly because thriller MCs are busy people who can barely fit a whole night stand into their tight schedules of stopping international catastrophes that generally involve mutated viruses, treasonous politicians, or greedy corporations—though not greedy mutated politicians harboring treasonous corporeal viruses, because that’s horror—and keep losing your number during those extended transportation chases.  Or so they claim.

***But if it sparkles, it’s all sorts of horror.