Writing Report for the Week Ending 19 March 2017

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Weekly recap of writing-related activities. Last week’s goals:

1.   10,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.

2.   Second draft on my Scotty short story. First draft stands at 3,953 words.

3.   Hero’s Life revision notes continued. Five chapters would be good.

4.   Five chapters of scene description step on Bad Teenage Poetry.

5.   ISIRTA*. Finish listening to Series Three.

6.   BSG**. Write the post for Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2.

7.   Short Story Submissions: 3. Theoretically, I’m on vacation this week, but there’s a lot going on. I don’t think this should be hard for a change.

8.   Stretch Goal 1: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

The Results:

1.   Not just not a bump, but a dramatic underestimate. I finished this draft and still teared up at the last scene. Setting this aside to rest for a bit and I’ll come back to the “read it aloud” draft in a month or so.

2.   Done.

3.   Hero’s Life revision notes: 7 chapters accomplished.

4.   Bad Teenage Poetry scene descriptions: 6 chapters accomplished. Missed one day or it would have been 7.

5.   Nope. Managed to not get to these. Catching up on several podcasts.

6.   Well, I got the notes done for episode 5. I wasn’t at home for more than half the week, but I did have it on the computer I had with me. Time usage noted below.

7.   Zero. Moving right along.

8.   Nope.

I said something last week about an event having some waiting involved? I seam to have used that waiting to accomplish rather a lot of editing beyond the original targets while ignoring a few other goals. Under the general heading of “all writing is good writing” from a polishing your craft perspective, that’s okay, especially because I’m rather happy with what I accomplished.

So now we should set some goals for this week, right?

1.   Hero’s Life revision notes continued. I managed seven chapters last week, so let’s try the same again. Marking this one as the primary project this week, so if I find extra editing time, this is top of the list.

2.   7,000 words of progress on the third draft of Draugr Rising. I actually started this last night, polishing the first chapter.

3.   Second draft on my Chapel short story. With the first draft (with notes) standing at 5,637 words, this is a loftier goal than the same draft on the Scotty short last week.

4.   Five chapters of scene description step on Bad Teenage Poetry. Since I made six last week, this seems reasonable.

5.   ISIRTA*. Finish listening to Series Three.

6.   BSG**. Write the post for “Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2.”

7.   Short Story Submissions: 3.

8.   Stretch Goal 3: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

I wrote as the second last line of a story once, Every day is a new one. That’s true for everything, but I’ve got it in my head for writing right now. Every day is a new one. So is every week, bringing new targets and goals, new distractions, and new directions. Wonder what I’ll accomplish and find this week.

Be well, everyone.

* ISIRTA = I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again

** BSG = Battlestar Galactica

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

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by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

So, I found this on several “best genre fiction in translation lists”, and the idea of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (the title trilogy and a location in the story) intrigued me enough to try the book. I enjoyed the read, mostly, but feel rather mislead. This book is in no way Fantasy. And I don’t mean that it doesn’t suit my definition (which I’m generous with), I mean that there is absolutely no speculative element. None.

This is a work of historical literary fiction. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, at times, it’s a beautiful thing in this book, but it’s not what I wanted, and that’s probably one of the main things that hampered my enjoyment of the book.

The Shadow of the Wind takes place in post-WWII Barcelona and is, ultimately, both a coming of age story and a romance centered, mostly, around the primary character of Daniel, only child of a widowed father who owns a bookshop. At the heart of the book is the mystery surrounding Daniel’s favourite author and why someone is systematically hunting through Europe to destroy every copy of the man’s books. There are other, smaller, mysteries in the story, and other characters with issues and tragedies in their past and present. It’s a sweeping tale that nonetheless has a very human, personal grounding.

The other major issue I have with the book is the way we learn about some of those issues and tragedies. The author has a huge tendency of the author to resolve plot points by telling a story within the story, not in a quick info-dumpy kind of way, but in a long, drawn out fashion going on for pages, or even chapters. Sometimes, by the time you get back to Daniel, you’ve almost forgotten what was going on, it had been so long.

It’s an old device, used heavily in earlier decades and centuries, to frame your narrative as if your hero is looking back from a comfortable old age, or some point later in life and the story is being told to catch you up to that present. I’m more than tired of it, and to have the same device used multiple times in the same story was extremely irritating.

Overall rating: 3 stars. The language used to tell the story is lavish and beautiful and I suspect that means the translation is nothing short of spectacular. But I never quite got over waiting for the fantasy element to slip into the book somewhere and the nested narratives just irritated me. I have to come down overall on the side of liking the book, but not nearly as much as I could have.

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Book Review: Flight of the Nighthawks

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Book one of the Darkwar trilogy, which I plan to read all of this year, just not in a row. I’ve found in the last few years that I need the smorgasbord of my reading to have a lot of variety in it. Too much of one thing, no matter how good it is, can get, if not boring, then temporarily stale. And this start to a new trilogy isn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped, so we’re not exactly starting in a great spot.

I started this story with the anticipation of visiting some favourite characters I hadn’t spent time with in years. I got a bit of that, but not as much as I’d hoped. Not nearly as much.

This is a strange book with a lot of shorter story arcs, some introducing new characters who will probably become important later in this trilogy. But those story arcs are only loosely held together. I felt all the way through that this was only barely a complete story on its own. It reads a lot more like set up for the book that comes next and reminds us of all that has gone before. There are actually a lot of references to previous stories, maybe too many.

Add to the weakness of the overall plot, there were significant moments, especially near the climax of the novel, where I Mr. Feist was deliberately hiding things from me. Well, not just me, but any reader. Now, an author is supposed to hide things from the reader, building the plot, building suspense, building anticipation. This is good storytelling. Things should be hinted at, happen off screen, or be misrepresented through the eyes of the characters.

But it’s not good storytelling to have one character tell another character something without actually telling them. “Bob explained his plan to Mary, who thought it was a great idea.” End scene. Or something similar. A very weak storytelling device and one that always leaves me flat. This was how we got from setup of the climax to the climax itself so that everything happening would be a surprise. I spent a little time being irritated with the author.

And the Pug of this story, the master magician, while still having hints of the previous character, is a brooding, slightly full of himself, less edgy version of his original mentor, Macros the Black.

Overall rating: 3 stars. With the scattered storyline, mediocre storytelling, slightly disappointing characters, I still enjoyed it while I read it. Less because of the book itself and more because of the feelings of nostalgia it generated. I read the original Riftwar saga as a teenager repeatedly. It’s sometimes a wonderful thing to catch up with favourite characters, but I wonder if I should just do a Riftwar reread instead.

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Writing Report for the Week Ending 12 March 2017

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It’s that time again, time for what I’m trying to make the traditional weekly recap. Last week’s goals:

  1. 4,891 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising, all that remained.
  2. 5,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  3. Five chapters of scene description step on Bad Teenage Poetry. The outline actually has 30 chapters, not 40. I was remembering a different plot, I think.
  4. ISIRTA*. Listen to 4 episodes in Series Three.
  5. BSG**. Finish the post for Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1 and make notes for Part 2.
  6. Short Story Submissions: 3.
  7. Stretch Goal 1: 2,935 words of editing on the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette, all that remained.
  8. Stretch Goal 3: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

The Results:

  1. Complete.
  2. 12,765 words of progress on the “make it pretty” draft. This takes me to almost 2/3 of the way through the narrative, and I have to say I’m a lot happier with the story than I thought I would be at this point.
  3. I actually managed 8 here. Not bad progress. The actual first draft isn’t on the list to start for a little while, but since I seem to be struggling so hard with Shrine, I might rearrange the projection a bit.
  4. Somehow, these never made it to the front of the play list. I’ve fallen behind on a lot of podcasts lately, and wanted to catch up on a couple.
  5. Well, I watched the Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2, but I need to go through it again to make notes.
  6. 0 submissions this week. Moving right along.
  7. Finished the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette. I think this works fairly well, too.
  8. Someday.

I got a little sidetracked this week, or maybe a little focused, or both. Aside from the extra progress on two of the primary goals, I also started the Revision Notes draft of Hero’s Life, the second book in the Heroes Inc trilogy. Enjoying this so far, and I think it can go on the regular tasks list for the next couple of weeks.

  1. 10,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind. I don’t think this is too much of a bump considering this week’s progress.
  2. Second draft on my Scotty short story. First draft stands at 3,953 words.
  3. Hero’s Life revision notes continued. Five chapters would be good.
  4. Five chapters of scene description step on Bad Teenage Poetry.
  5. ISIRTA*. Finish listening to Series Three.
  6. BSG**. Write the post for Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 3. Theoretically, I’m on vacation this week, but there’s a lot going on. I don’t think this should be hard for a change.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

Like I wrote above, I’m on vacation for the week, but there are a couple of significant events going on that are going to need a lot of my time. Things that are, gasp, more important than writing. For one of these, there may be an appreciable amount of waiting involved, so things may balance. We’ll see

Be well, everyone.

* ISIRTA = I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again

** BSG = Battlestar Galactica

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Book Review: Best SF 1970

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I was born in 1970, but it wouldn’t be for a couple of years that I’d discover television SF and a few more after that before I’d begin to read it seriously. When I did, I’d read voraciously, but I’d eventually find that a lot of the so called New Wave of SF wouldn’t work all that well for me. Happening smack in the middle of the New Wave, I expected a lot of this anthology to fall flat for me. Much of it did, but not all of it. This particular anthology has the added bonus of having a couple of stories available in translation for the first time. Of course, neither really worked well for me, but a translation doesn’t always do the original work justice.

Still, there were some good stories here.

The standouts:

“Black is Beautiful” probably couldn’t be written today, but it’s an eye-opening and mind-stretching look at what could be if all of the white folks left a major city to the black folks who are allowed to be competent and diverse. What might that society look like after a couple of decades?

“Oil-Mad Bug-Eyed Monsters” is a story of a member of an alien species who, collectively, are trying to buy up all of the oil rights on Earth because, well, they need it for the breeding fleet that’s on the way. Better we don’t think about it too closely.

“Traffic Problem” is an exercise in absurdity. What might happen to the rest of society if the American love of the automobile were taken to a ridiculous extreme. Eye rolling and disturbing at the same time.

Most of the rest of the stories were at least readable, though I’d consider more than a couple of them pointless exercises in throwing words at the page to see which of them might form sentences.

Complete contents:

  • Introduction (Best SF: 1970) • (1971) • essay by Harry Harrison
  • Gone Fishin’ • (1970) • short story by Robin Scott Wilson
  • The Ugupu Bird • (1959) • short story by Slawomir Mrozek
  • Black Is Beautiful • (1970) • short story by Robert Silverberg
  • The Lost Face • (1964) • novelette by Josef Nesvadba
  • Mary and Joe • (1962) • short story by Naomi Mitchison
  • Gorman • (1969) • short story by Jerry Farber
  • Oil-Mad Bug-Eyed Monsters • (1970) • short story by Hayden Howard
  • A Pedestrian Accident • (1969) • short story by Robert Coover
  • Traffic Problem • (1970) • short story by William Earls
  • The Asian Shore • (1970) • novelette by Thomas M. Disch
  • Erem • (1963) • short story by Gleb Anfilov
  • Car Sinister • (1970) • short story by Gene Wolfe
  • “Franz Kafka” by Jorge Luís Borges • (1970) • short story by Alvin Greenberg
  • Pacem Est • (1970) • short story by Kris Neville and Barry N. Malzberg
  • The Day Equality Broke Out • (1971) • short story by Brian W. Aldiss

Overall rating: 3 stars, but that’s probably generous. Not enough of the stories were really a good read for me to say I liked the book, but a two-star rating feels like a disservice to the stories I did enjoy.

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BSG: Lost Planet of the Gods. Part 1

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Delayed, but finally, here, my re-watch of Battlestar Galactica, after many years of it living fondly only in memory, continues with Lost Planet of the Gods. Part 1.

Overly Long Synopsis

I’m trying to remember how common it was for shows to have what amounted to a brief clip scene instead of a teaser. This tells me that they had to save on the budget somewhere, so why not make each show a minute or so shorter and just flash a couple hints of the best bits at the audience and go straight into the opening credits? And those credits are still on the long side for a TV show.

We open, for real, for another episode of “Dinner with the Adamas”. Well, for the first time, really. Learning Serina an awesome cook, we kick off a round of everyone making fun of Apollo (including Boxey) with Adama wishing he were far, far younger so he might pursue Serina himself. Finally, Apollo bows to pressure and announces that he and Serina are getting married. Congratulations are in order, and when Athena looks pointedly at Starbuck, he leaves quickly, letting us know there will be a bachelor party. Adama provides Blessings of the Lords of Cobol, leaving us to wonder where Cobol is and who its Lords are. Maybe we’re going to get hints about the Colonial religion.

But first, two patrols leave, Boomer and Jolly on one, Apollo and Starbuck on another, and Starbuck is sad that Apollo getting married. It won’t be the same anymore.

Transition to a shot of Cylon base stars and a recap of Baltar getting his command. No mention of a truce this time. I wonder if we’re supposed to forget that part?

Starbuck and Apollo find a void, a “magnetic sea”. Apollo goes a little too far in and Starbuck rescues him with some great flying – we see the limitations of Colonial radio and instrument technology here, but our heroes are safe and well as Flight Sergeant Greenbean and other pilots hide some booze (ale and ambrosia) from security (in black uniforms). Greenbean and crew are rescued by Colonel Tigh, who’s going to keep a tight grip on the party, but there will be a party. They deserve it after all. At the same time, Boomer and Jolly find a Cylon listening post, land and scan before leaving to warn the Galactica

Baltar spends time getting used to his new chair high above the floor, though I have to think it must be pretty dull when he’s not hatching an evil plot. What is there to do up there except stare at the walls? Without chewing the scenery too much, Baltar schools Lucifer in the art of sneakiness and lets us know that they’ll follow the Galactica from a safe distance and watch for the opportunity he’s looking for.

Boomer and Jolly return, but Jolly is really not feeling well, dizzy and sweating, and almost crashes his Viper. By videocall, Boomer reports the Cylon outpost then heads for the party. But now he’s not feeling well, drops to his knees, then collapses before getting a chance to enjoy his drink. Jolly is already in sick bay, or whatever it’s called on the Galactica, where Cassiopeia now works. Apparently, Jolly and Boomer skipped decontamination because they were eager to get to the party. Jolly is deteriorating quickly and they stick his hairy carcass in an iron lung.

Apollo and Starbuck, on the other hand, follow the rules and don’t go into the deep dark forest, er, don’t skip decontam and get to the party just in time to be refused entry because of the quarantine.

Later, more and more pilots get moved into iron lungs (actually called cryotubes or support chambers) while Apollo reports the magnetic sea and Adama gets mystical (so does the music), ordering them to head straight for the void.

To distract him from all of his sick squadron mates, Apollo and Serina have a quick fight. She’s just finished shuttle pilot training and he’s not thrilled. Sexism rears its ugly head and for a minute or so, he’s kind of a jerk, but he’s just worried about her and the danger cuts both ways. She’s worried about him every time he leaves the ship.

“Are you any good?”

“Top of the class.”

He comes around fast and they kiss and make up.

But it’s time to ratchet up the tension again so we return to the medical bay to find Jolly and Boomer both in cryogenic suspension and all but two of the viper pilots, plus half the bridge officers are sick.

What? We’re going to train girls as pilots?

Apollo comes to see his father, finding him doing research. When Adama passes him a list of cadets to train as viper pilots, Apollo puts up a bit of a fight, but bows to necessity, leaving as he tells dad to read the whole list. By Adama’s reaction, he didn’t know Serina was on it. In fact, there were twelve female pilots selected and Apollo and Starbuck get to train them all.

While Doctor Salik keeps pestering Adama to go back to where Jolly and Boomer caught the virus or they’ll all die, Adama keeps saying hell no, but gets slowly warn down because finding something out about the virus is really their only hope. In an accelerated training program, the new pilots of Blue Squadron are still in simulators and Athena shoots down both a cylon and Starbuck.

When Adama finally gives in, he calls Apollo to the bridge for a status update, oh and can you escort Dr. Selik to the asteroid? We could lose the whole squadron. None of them are qualified. Adama understands, but they’re going.

The launch is a bit nervous and rough looking, but more or less successful and the bridge crew, what’s left of it, cheers.

Baltar’s ship has overtaken the Galactica, but they don’t understand why the fleet is heading into the magnetic abyss. He reiterates previous orders to capture a patrol pilot. What’s taking you so long?

Finding the asteroid, Apolloa goes in on his own, but there are Cylons about and a battle ensues. Pew, pew. The squadron disobeys orders to blow up more cylons and save Apollo’s butt. Pew, pew. Blow up the base. Apollo over his sexism issues, and congratulates the pilots

The mission a success, Adama orders the fleet into the void, keeps rubbing his amulet, confusing the crap out of Baltar while Lucifer notes that the viper pilots were erratic, so we’re not quite done with the sexism yet.

To Be Continued.

Story

I’ve got some issues with both the story and the storytelling in this episode.

First, the truce disappeared. The first time we saw Baltar get his command, at the end of Saga of a Star World, it was a new imperious leader giving it, and Baltar was going to give the Galactica a truce offering when he finally tracked it down. Noting that BSG was originally supposed to be a series of three TV movies, all on the scale of the giant pilot, I’ll forgive a little extra retconning (like when Baltar didn’t die last time), but it’s hard. When ABC changed its mind and ordered a series instead of the extra two movies, there had to be some story adjustments to make it fit the series mold. Rumour has it the writing suffered for a few episodes to get things moving fast enough through the Hollywood pipeline. That fits my viewing of this episode, but I’ll reserve judgement on the series as a whole for now.

There are other issues here, too.

  • Cassiopeia suddenly working in the medical centre instead of in her previously noted (but not defined) career as a Socialator, whatever that is.
  • The sudden notification that everyone has been picking up other duties and training so the fleet can survive, which makes sense but is out of the blue, er, black.
  • Why the pressure suits worn by the female pilots (which we’ve never seen or been told that the male pilots wear) are tailored to look like there are bikinis on the outside (knowing that Glen Larson was a Mormon and claimed inspiration from Mormon theology, I wonder if this was an allusion to the Mormon temple garments).
  • Women can be warriors. Why, the very idea. Even the Cylons notice something odd and ridiculous.
  • What the heck is a magnetic sea, or magnetic abyss, or whatever else they want to call it? It’s not enough that it’s a big void with nothing in it?

From a storytelling perspective, there are way too many short, choppy scenes in this episode, cutting back and forth almost every few seconds and packing way too much stuff into the dialogue. I don’t know if it’s a symptom of cutting things out of a planned movie script, but this storyline should have been pulled out to three episodes like the first was, giving it room to breathe and grow instead of crushing it all together like this. The pilots getting sick and the women training to be warriors happens way too quickly. It almost seems like it’s happening in a few minutes instead of days or weeks like it should be.

If we call the first two episodes of the pilot good, and I’d argue really good in places, then the wind-up chunk of the pilot might have staggered a little but is still watchable. Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1 is a tougher watch and probably not worth half a secton’s pay.

Acting

There is some good acting in this episode. Terry Carter and Lorne Greene are worth watching in every scene they’re in, while Jane Seymour comes across a little too helpless and girly at times when she’s otherwise a very strong actress as Serina. Richard Hatch is a bit melodramatic standing up to Lorne Greene about the female pilots not being ready for combat.

But I think the scene stealer is Lucifer, voiced by Jonathan Harris, whom some may know better as Dr. Smith from the original Lost in Space. “Isn’t he wonderfully devious? We can learn much from him.”

Dirk Benedict has a knack for delivering bizarre or off the wall lines and making them seem natural. We have him to thank for Frack and Felgarcarb rolling off the tongue, but also for the big takeaway line in this episode. “For Sagan’s sake, don’t shoot me.” I wonder if Dr. Sagan was flattered or amused. But there’s a bit of sexism built into Starbuck’s dialogue here, too. Even when they’re about to go into combat, he’s still calling them girls.

The female pilots are mostly background, with two exceptions other than Athena, a previously speaking role. Brie, played by Janet Julian, seemed mostly designed as comedic relief, a female Jolly, though designed to catch the attention of the younger male section of the audience. Deitra, on the other hand, was written as a strong, competent woman, which was refreshing, and played well by Sheila Wills, who sadly appears to have left the acting business sometime in the late 1990s.

Brie in the cockpit.

Deitra defines competence in this episode.

Language

We further develop Colonial terminology, discovering such terms as yahrens (years), millicentons (a seemingly variable unit of time), fumerillos, crawlons, and hectars (probably distance). All of these are basically undefined, but the viewer can take a basic meaning from context of use.

In between making fun of women pilots, we do get one step for equality, even though it was clearly meant as humour. Girls are allowed to say felgercarb too, and it seems reasonably natural from Brie, even if we aren’t supposed to take her seriously.

An interesting note on one difference between the Cylons and the Colonials, and one that shows a fundamental difference in mindset. The phrase, “By your command” is well associated with the series, a Cylon (usually a centurion) acknowledging an order or dismissal. Not so recognizable, a Colonial warrior might say, “By your leave” to a superior officer when looking for permission to go about her or his duties. Not a big thing, but politeness counts in Colonial society, what’s left of it.

Technology

There’s not a lot of new tech in this episode or much in the way of new FX, but we do get to see some great detail on the full size Viper parked on the hangar deck for the first time.

There is the hand-held telescope used by Jolly and Boomer on the asteroid (that has real gravity and a breathable atmosphere), which were really tough to get a good capture of, sorry.

Let’s not forget Cassiopeia’s hand terminal in the medical bay, a big clunky TV remote control that probably didn’t look all that high tech even to a 1978 viewer.

And are the cryotubes worth mentioning?

Wrap Up

Tune in next week to the not very well cliffhangered or creatively named sequel episode, Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2. Will we find out if there is a lost planet? Or who the gods were? Is there a cure for the disease striking down most of the warriors in the fleet? With many of their friends dying, will Apollo and Serina continue planning their wedding? Why isn’t Baltar chewing the scenery more?

Be well, everyone.

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Writing Report for the Week Ending 05 March 2017

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It’s time for the what I’m trying to make the traditional weekly recap. Last week’s goals:

  1. 2,500 words of new fiction.
  2. 2,500 words of new non-fiction.
  3. 7,000 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising.
  4. 5,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  5. ISIRTA*. Listen to another 4 episodes in Series Three.
  6. BSG**. Planning to actually write the post here.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 3. Let’s get back on track. I’ve already got five stories picked out and the places I intend to send them, so I just have to take the formatting time.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: the usual adding of two chapters to the rough plot for Fallen Heroes. I think there are probably only six or eight chapters to go.
  9. Stretch Goal 2: another 3,250 words of editing on the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette.
  10. Stretch Goal 3: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead. Trying this one again.

The Results:

  1. 0 words of new fiction.
  2. 2,632 words of new non-fiction. Blog posts and book reviews, mainly.
  3. 9,962 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising.
  4. 5,520 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  5. ISIRTA*. Listen to another 4 episodes in Series Three. Accomplished.
  6. BSG**. Mostly written the next post. Not completely written. I need to finish a little polishing time and find or capture the images I want.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 1. The problem here might be that I don’t have a lot of time to just sit and do stuff in the last little bit. I’m not sure that’s going to get better. Still, with the day I spent a couple of weeks ago just doing submissions, I’m a little above target for the year so far.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: actually, I finished the rough plot here. While there are a couple of things I might expand and one that may not be necessary for the plot, the scene list breaks out to 47 chapters.
  9. Stretch Goal 2: another 3,554 words of editing on the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette.
  10. Stretch Goal 3: not so much here. But that’s okay. Stretch goals are supposed to be stretch goals. That I hit the other two so well for the last little bit means that mentally, they were more primaries to me.

Another really busy week, but at least no new trips to the hospital. Actually, it was probably less busy than it feels at this point. Half of my problem was learning to sleep during the daytime again after three years without a night shift.

Goals for the coming week:

  1. 4,891 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising, because that’s what’s left.
  2. 5,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  3. I’m going to start the scene description step of Bad Teenage Poetry. Looking for five chapters worth this week. The scene-level outline has 40, but that could change.
  4. ISIRTA*. Listen to another 4 episodes in Series Three, finishing the listening for pleasure step of this series. There are nine altogether.
  5. BSG**. Finish the post for Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 1 and make notes for Part 2.
  6. Short Story Submissions: 3.
  7. Stretch Goal 1: 2,935 words of editing on the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette, because that’s what’s left.
  8. Stretch Goal 2: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

I’m going to drop the new fiction and non-fiction goals for the rest of March and just see how much other work I can get through. Mostly editing, a little plotting, and we’ll see what I squeeze in for new words in whatever category.

Be well, everyone.

* ISIRTA = I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again

** BSG = Battlestar Galactica

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Book Review: The Fifth Season

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by N.K. Jemisin, and winner of the Hugo in 2016.

The world has an extra way to kill people. Actually, many extra ways, but they all stem from this particular earth being geologically unstable or the magic that has developed in a tiny number of people, giving them the ability to affect the earth.

Every so often, there’s a major tectonic catastrophe. Sometimes that catastrophe ends civilizations and sometimes it doesn’t, but once in a great while it causes a fifth season during which the earth recovers and people try to. These can last years, periods of what we might call nuclear winter, but caused by massive eruptions instead. Some of these border on extinction events, but life, and humanity, clings by its fingernails until things get better.

Now add in the orogenes, people who can, to varying degrees, control the environment around them. Ordinary humans don’t like them much because of the power they hold, and they are kept on a tight leash, forced to be a benefit to society according to their abilities and in whatever way society requires of them.

Oh, and the remains of a variety of past civilizations litter the planet. Some of them might have had some significant technology, but in the time period we’re concerned with, I’d call it a more or less age of enlightenment level, with a few odd exceptions in either direction.

There are three intercut narratives making up the story, telling bits of the tale and building bits of the world. All three are from the point of view of a member of the powerful yet downtrodden orogenes class. As a story telling device, I like the use of the same group being both powerful and powerless, a group of people who could take over the world if they truly wanted to, but who are too conditioned to want to. And I really enjoyed the diversity in experience and personalities of the main characters. There are no cardboard cut outs here. If someone is important to the story, they’re distinct and realized with their own voice.

There’s a great deal of world building gone into this story. Standard fantasy tropes aren’t to be found here: the author has built a completely fresh world. Ms. Jemisin’s writing carries you along through the exploration of character and society so well that when you realize what ties the three separate stories together, you find you knew it all along because she laid the groundwork so well while you were enjoying the story.

And it’s a strong story of the struggle to adapt. Individuals, groups, and societies. The world is a difficult place for all of those, and with the coming of a new Season, it’s going to get worse. Life is going to get harder for those who survive.

If I have one significant issue with the book, it’s that one of the narratives is told from a second person POV. I don’t really like second person as a perspective beyond a short story of a couple of thousand words. It wears on my quickly. Properly done, making the reader the subject of every sentence and action can lend an air of immediacy to the story, swallow the audience whole into the narrative. And Ms. Jemisin does it properly. The problem is, I don’t think it’s sustainable for long. Eventually, being the subject of things starts feeling like you’re being told what you’re doing or going to do. Maybe it’s me, but if that goes on very long, I start to resent it. In this book, I kept waiting for the second person parts to end and eventually found myself disappointed when that perspective took over, even though the writing remained excellent and the story stayed engaging.

Overall rating: 4 stars, leaning towards 4.5. I really enjoyed this book, but a third of it being told in second person perspective grated on me after a while. Plus, the book ends on kind of a cliffhanger. I knew it was the first book of a series going in, but I still would have liked the story to be more or less complete on its own. We end with new questions being asked and just the hint of new secrets being revealed.

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Writing Report for the Week Ending 26 February 2017

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Time for the weekly recap. First, the goals:

  1. 2,500 words of new fiction.
  2. 2,500 words of new non-fiction.
  3. 7,000 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising.
  4. 5,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  5. ISIRTA*. I’ll leave this at 4 for the week.
  6. BSG**. Finish the post for episode 4.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 3.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: add of two chapters to the rough plot for Fallen Heroes.
  9. Stretch Goal 2: 3,250 words of second draft on the Sulu novelette.
  10. Stretch Goal 3: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead.

The Results:

  1. 0 words of new fiction. I’ll get to that in a minute.
  2. 1,446 words of new non-fiction. Ditto.
  3. 8,710 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising. New strategy is to pick a primary goal and once I’ve met secondary ones for the week, reallocate the time I would have spent on those each day to the primary. That was Draugr Rising this week, and probably will continue to be until it’s done.
  4. 5,032 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  5. ISIRTA*. Listened 4 episodes of the planned 4.
  6. BSG**. Finished the handwritten version of my notes during my second watch of the episode, but haven’t actually transcribed those or written the post yet.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 0.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: done. Twice. I actually added four chapters to this. Working my way to the climax of the novel.
  9. Stretch Goal 2: finished this one in five days then shifted the time to making extra progress of Draugr Rising.
  10. Stretch Goal 3: not enough static time.

So, this week’s trip to the emergency was the result of a horrible Xbox Kinect accident that resulted in my youngest daughter dislocating her left kneecap. This was not fun for anyone involved, least of all her. Her leg is in a semi-soft brace at the moment to give it a few days to heal. Other, less traumatizing, events have also intervened, but we deal with what comes up.

Goals for the coming week:

  1. 2,500 words of new fiction.
  2. 2,500 words of new non-fiction.
  3. 7,000 words progress on the 2nd draft of Draugr Rising.
  4. 5,000 words of progress on the third draft on Scattered on the Wind.
  5. ISIRTA*. Listen to another 4 episodes in Series Three.
  6. BSG**. Planning to actually write the post here.
  7. Short Story Submissions: 3. Let’s get back on track. I’ve already got five stories picked out and the places I intend to send them, so I just have to take the formatting time.
  8. Stretch Goal 1: the usual adding of two chapters to the rough plot for Fallen Heroes. I think there are probably only six or eight chapters to go.
  9. Stretch Goal 2: another 3,250 words of editing on the 2nd draft of the Sulu novelette.
  10. Stretch Goal 3: Story selection for inclusion in The Undead. Trying this one again.

Once again, I’m not anticipating any emergencies this week. However, I am going back to night shift for the first time in close to three years. Have the feeling it’s going to be tough to settle my sleep schedule, so I’m not sure how productive I might end up being.

Marking the second draft of Draugr Rising as the primary project right now, the one to work on when other things are complete or when I have a few spare minutes. Editing, I find I’m more able to do in short bursts when those bursts are available. Drafting takes a little more long range focus. Since I have lots of stuff to edit right now, that works out.

Be well, everyone.

* ISIRTA = I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again

** BSG = Battlestar Galactica

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Book Review: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld

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This is a shorter review than usual, but then, I didn’t finish reading the story.

Winner of the first World Fantasy Award for best novel, I wanted to like this book.

Actually, I really wanted to like this book. It comes from a time in publishing when everything made it to the public library where I did the bulk of my discovering as a kid and into my early teen years.

But the prose was cold and dry and kind of dull. So was the main character. Between the two, they were so cold and dry and dull that I could only get a few chapters in before I had to put the story down down.

Sybel is a sorceress of some kind, who lives on a remote mountain with only a few other people nearby. She collects mythical beasts, a hobby she inherited from her father and grandfather. At sixteen, she’s also an orphan, but powerful, and takes care of the beasts even as they take care of her.

Someone dumps a baby on her doorstep and she gets pressured into raising the child. Somehow, she grows to love him as well, but we skip too much to find out how or why and we’re left to understand that she loves the kid because she loves the kid and that’s what women do. And that’s typical of the first hundred pages or so: there’s not really enough given in the writing to understand Sybel’s motivations or why I should care how she feels about anything. Or if she feels anything at all.

Tamlorn, the baby, is the child of a king, but the king thought he was someone else’s, and there was jealousy and a war and bad blood all around. We never really get the full story of what went on, at least not by the point where I stopped reading, but it’s key to the rest of the tale. I have the feeling that the overall theme of the book is about making choices. There’s a little revenge mixed in, I think, and a mystery of some strange mythical creature only loosely described, but there’s not enough here to hold my interest.

Overall rating: 1 star, because I can hardly give it more if I couldn’t manage to finish it. Maybe if Sybel could have managed to call him something other than, “My Tam”, just once.

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