Monday, January 31, 2011

Seasick Fish?

There's got to be a story seed in here somewhere, seriously. :) I'm reading Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, who's a wonderfully funny science writer. The book is about the space program (American, Russian, Japanese, whatever) and she's talking about space sickness, which it seems most astronauts do suffer from at least sometimes, whether or not they're willing to admit it to the media or even each other. She's looking at motion sickness in general, what causes it and what kinds of animals can get it, etc.

One Canadian researcher recalls a story told to him by the owner of a codfish hatchery. The fishmonger had call to transport some of his tank-raised charges by sea. "After the boat had been under way for some time, all the feed they had eaten was seen to be on the bottom of the tank."

If even fish can get seasick, the rest of us are doomed! LOL!

This is a great book, with a lot of information, data, anecdotes, experiments and experiences Mary had while researching it, told in her usual smooth-flowing style salted with lots of funny bits. (The footnotes are usually good for a snicker.) I'm almost a third of the way through and I know already this one's going to get a high rating on Goodreads. :)


Review of Candy Courage

And another review by Cole at Jessewave's, this time of my short Candy Courage. He gave it 3.75 stars and said:

There were a lot of things I loved about this story — namely the idea the story is based on. I thought it was a pretty great idea and it was showcased rather well, not only in how Glenn changes after he eats the candy and goes after what he really wants, but in the couple of little vingettes at the start of the story, which show random children and how the candy affects them. I thought the story of little Graciella, who was afraid of her big, scary dog, really cute.

The problem that I had with the story was that the two main characters, Glenn and Neal, didn’t really fit together. I have no doubt that they could if we were given more than a five or six pages of them together. The story is really about Glenn going for what he wants and ending up with a hookup, which is about all that can be told in 14 pages.

Cole's exactly right there -- I've never believed stories where the characters are all, "Oh, I love you!" after ten minutes of conversation and one roll in the sheets. I mean, seriously? o_O This isn't a romance; it's a story about how Glenn overcame his fear of making a move with Neal. I think they'll probably work out, but showing that would be a different story. Maybe I'll write it some day.

Thanks to Cole, and I'm glad he enjoyed it even if it wasn't a romance. :)


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Discussion on "The Chosen Hero"

NK Jemisin and Sam Sykes were talking about the Chosen Hero trope in fantasy, and the various ways in which it's problematic if you think about what-all it implies about how the world works. It's short but it makes a lot of good points, and Sam posted it on his blog. It's definitely worth a read for anyone who writes or reads fantasy.

Excerpt from Sam:

But in terms of philosophy, I sometimes wonder if the whole concept of The Chosen One isn’t a toxic one. I occasionally wonder if it’s right to put the concept of someone utterly infallible in all that he does out there, if it’s right to put up this concept that birth matters more than effort. Or, at the very least, if it’s right to put it out there without questioning it.

Excerpt from Nora:

And Chosen Ones who are “select people” or have some birthright to leadership are even more problematic, because then you get into eugenics. If some people are *meant* to be rulers, then that means some people are meant to be ruled — and the latter group can therefore never be allowed to have the power to self-govern. Why give it to them if they’re genetically or magically or psychologically less fit for leadership? And while you’ve got two divisions of people (“select people” and peons, patricians and plebians, whatever you want to call them), why stop there? If some people are especially fit to rule, why not decide that some people are especially fit only for combat, and some only for skilled trades, and some only for intellectual pursuits? And maybe some people aren’t fit to do anything but die, because they’re old or disabled, or because some of your industries (e.g., mining) are especially dangerous and you can’t spare anyone *valuable* to do that kind of work. You’ve just created a eugenicist caste system, whee.

There's more, it's good, click through and read. :)

I'd never thought of the Chosen One trope from this POV before, but the conclusions do follow from the given. Having the gods or whoever point a finger and say "You" implies that they're saying "Not You" to everyone else. None of the other people can become the hero, the ruler, the winner, no matter how hard they work, how good or moral or smart they might be. And yeah, that creates an underclass of people who might as well not even try to ever be more than a farmer or a potter or an assistant pig keeper, because that's what Fate has written for them and that's what they're suited for, The End.

I'm trying to think of ways to subvert this. You could have someone who's been Chosen to perform some task, but maybe that's all they're good for and everyone knows it. So you've got a bodyguard/babysitter following the Chosen One around to make sure he doesn't choke on his own shoes before fulfilling his narrowly-focused but necessary destiny, and once he's done, give him his reward, pat him on the head, and send him home.

Or you can come at it from the POV that the god/Fate/Oracle/whatever doesn't decide who's going to do great things, but rather knew who was going to do what. Certain sects of Christianity have spent a lot of time wrestling with the whole predestination question, but to me there's a clear difference between causing and knowing. If you assume omnicience but not omnipotence, then your oracle can say "This one, but not that one," with no question of actually controlling anyone's life. Or maybe you have a Hero's Oracle who'll give a prediction to anyone who comes to ask, but the people who come to ask (a long journey over hard terrain, of course) are the ones with the ambition and ability, and thus the ones more likely to get a "Yes, You" sort of answer. [ponder] But anyone can do it; it's up to them.

Another thought -- the oracle would have to give "No Comment" type messages to some people, because foreknowledge can change the decisions a person makes. Or even lie to them sometimes? Although that kind of manipulation could be considered interference and you're back to having the oracle choose people and force a path upon them. [ponder] Maybe the person's response to hearing their fate is part of it? Maybe it's just a potential -- so if you ask, "Will I be a hero?" the answer tells you the most heroic future you have available to you at that time, and it's your choice to work toward it or turn away. If your potential heroism is to step in front of an arrow and die saving the girl who's going to eventually defeat the Evil Wizard-King, well, some would be content with that and some would say "No freaking way!" and high-tail it back to the smithy. But what if that choice impacts the prediction given to the girl who came last week and was told that she could defeat the Evil Wizard-King?

This could get twisty. Of course, that just makes it more fun to play with. :)


Monday, January 24, 2011

Review of Hell Is in the Details

Cryselle did a great review of Hell Is in the Details, and gave it four out of five marbles.


Benioth, the Demon of Laziness, is behind on his memos and has just found out he needs to corrupt a soul by midnight to make quota. Luckily the Demon of Sodomy doesn't mind sharing the fun, and Benioth runs into Andy, who's still innocent but eager to have someone fix that for him. It sounds like a perfect situation, but somehow things never go right for poor Benioth.

I always suspected that corporate America got some of it's less attractive features from the Infernal regions -- Angela Benedetti makes that point very strongly, with memos and quotas, job reviews and last minute hustles to get it all right. Benioth needs to scurry -- corrupting someone beyond redemption using sloth takes a while and he -- really! -- doesn't have all night.

Now, in order for this all to work, you have to reserve judgment on one notion that had me going uhhhhhhhh but you know what? Hell really is in the details.

This was fun, and it gave the devil his don't.


This was a fun story to write, too, and I'm glad she enjoyed it. :D


Friday, January 21, 2011

Review of Reach Out and Touch

Cole at Jessewave's Blog is going through all my Hidden Magic universe stories, and this week he reviewed Reach Out and Touch, another Cal and Aubrey short story. He gave it 3.5 stars and said:


Though Cal has been Aubrey’s apprentice for over ten years (and also his lover), he is still a “baby mage” compared to Aubrey, who is 220 something years old and has been a practicing mage for two centuries. Aubrey never lets Cal forget this — and to remind him, he is always setting little traps for Cal or finding some way to show his dominance. Yet, Aubrey really is the best master and no matter how much of a rascal he seems at times, he does know what is best for Cal. But whether Cal has a natural propensity for arrogance, or being Aubrey’s lover makes him feel the need to meet his lover as an equal in their craft, he sometimes does very foolish things against Aubrey’s advice.


I was a bit disappointed by this story. That sounds harsh, but it really is because I love the other stories and the novel these characters are from so much, so I have very high expectations. Cal and Aubrey have a really amazing, nuanced relationship that always shines through their witty banter. Here, though, most of the story is told by Cal when Aubrey is gone. It is only towards the end of the story, when a contrite Cal is seriously in danger does Aubrey come home to find the disastrous situation Cal has created. Also, this story had a couple of passages that I thought weren’t necessary to the story. They were pretty technical about the magic that Cal was doing that I thought went a little too far in trying to explain what was happening. Ultimately, they took away from the story.


I can see where he's coming from, actually. This is more Cal's story than a relationship story. Aubrey doesn't come home until more than halfway through, and they don't start directly interacting until more than three-quarters in. If you're reading for the relationship and dialogue, there's not as much of that here as there usually is.

More Cole: "And I did like the story. I loved the ending in particular, which showed one of the rare moments between Aubrey and Cal that I love, when they’re finally on the same level and Aubrey shows his tender side to Cal. They are two of my favorite characters in this genre and I was very happy to revisit them."

I'll take that. :D


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review of Unfinished Business

Cole over at Jessewave's blog did a great review of Unfinished Business, and gave it a a 4.5/5.0 rating. (And he's going to be reviewing the other three stories in the Hidden Magic verse too, which is awesome. :D )

In part:

Aubrey is a master mage and over two hundred years old, while Cal is his apprentice in his thirties. They are also lovers and it is very easy to see how much they love each other — in their looks, little touches, and the banter they throw back and forth like old lovers who have been together a lifetime. It is an extreme May-December relationship in terms of age, yet the issues that usually come to light in such a relationship, especially an inbalance of power, are dealt with humor between the two of them. In short, Aubrey likes to brag about his grandiose power and Cal loves to poke the beast.


This story was such a delight. Not only did I get to revisit a world that I love and two characters who make me laugh, but for the first time, we get to see Aubrey and Cal in private. We see them from Cal’s POV and we get a pure voyueristic treat: magical sex between the two men. The story stayed true to their characters as humor and the little games they play shone throughout the dialogue. Also, though not as proficient, Cal is a mage as well, and as highly magical mortals, I knew that their sex had to be interesting. It didn’t dissapoint.

I love that Cole focused on Cal and Aubrey's relationship, because that's what makes these characters so much fun for me to write. They love each other deeply, but it's all plastered over with joking and teasing. There's something about them that makes me smile, and I never have to wonder how they'd respond to one another.

The age difference is definitely a key factor, along with the huge power imbalance on a magical level. In some urban fantasy or paranormal romances, one character is hundreds or even thousands of years older than the other, and vastly more powerful, and how they fall in love or even relate to one another is just sort of hand-waved. I can't imagine having enough in common with a guy even 20 years younger than I am to want to get into a relationship, much less a few centuries younger. With Cal and Aubrey, I'm focusing on making the age/power difference work here in a realistic way, and the shared sense of humor is definitely a big part of it. I'm glad that's working.

Thanks to Cole for his great comments. :D


Thursday, January 13, 2011

When Your Dog Wants a Turn on the Sled

This is one of the funniest videos I've seen in I don't know how long. :D

epic fail photos - Sledding with Your Dog FAIL gif
see more funny videos

Monday, January 10, 2011

Anthology Markets

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Sale and a Freebie

Torquere is the featured publisher over on Rainbow eBooks this weekend, so all their books there are 20% off, including my urban fantasy A Hidden Magic.

Also, the holiday story fest put on by the M/M Romance group on Goodreads -- the event for which I wrote "The Gift" -- is wrapping up with an e-book anthology of all the stories written for the event. The book is called Stuff My Stocking, and it's a free download on Goodreads. Lots of fun stuff there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review of A Hidden Magic

Cole over at Jessewave's blog did an excellent review of A Hidden Magic, with a 4.75/5.0 rating. :D

Angela Benedetti’s A Hidden Magic was a breath of fresh air for me. I love paranormals and fantasy, but usually they seem to be pieces of a few famous fantasy worlds cobbled together — not very original. Not here. This story took me by surprise and I found myself happily immersed in this unique universe that seemed to flow naturally from one page to the next. Before I started reading M/M, I used to read popular YA paranormals and many of them were about the Fey, in all different manifestations. I remember now why, although I loved the premise of these books, they always turned me off. I always felt like I was supposed to like the fey.

It's great that Cole appreciated this aspect of the book, because that was one of my goals in writing A Hidden Magic -- making the fey alien and dangerous, not just gorgeous people with pointed ears and a long lifespan. Not that I mind that kind of fantasy, but I wanted to do something different. Even when one of the fey seems to be on your side (like Willowen, or Azzy) they're doing it for their own reasons, and their motives are based on an alien point of view. I love that Cole caught that and enjoyed it.

There was also a particular device employed by Ms. Benedetti that I rarely see in M/M and really value if well written into the story. The prose changes very subtly with each characters emotions. The story is written in third person close, so if we’re viewing the action through Rory and he gets excited the prose will speed faster and the syntax will reflect his excitement. Conversely if Rory (or any character who has the lens) gets sleepy and is still trying to describe the scene, the prose will slow, the syntax disjointed, until it seems the prose falls asleep right alonside the character. This is done very subtley and when it is done will like it is here, it is a very effective tool in taking the reader along with the emotions of the character or the speed of the action. I was very impressed by this.

Cole's picking up on that made me beam, like, massively. There are times when I have to fight to keep some of my run-on sentences while going through edits. Yes, I go long at times [cough] but it's always for a reason, and Cole gets a hug and chocolate for picking up on how it works and how it enhances the reader's immersion into the POV character's head.

Read the whole thing here.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The 2011 Koala Challenge

McKoala has the 2011 challenge page posted -- head over and comment to sign up. An explanation of how it all works and how to earn points is on the linked page.

I had a lot of fun with it last year, even the [mumblecough] months when I pretty much flaked out, and found it helped me with my writing, and particularly with my submissions. If you're motivated by this sort of month-by-month challenge then I highly recommend this one. :)


Sunday, January 2, 2011

December Stuff and New Year Stuff

16,544 words written -- 7 pts
4 submissions -- 4 pts
TOTAL = 11 pts, yay!

Koala Challenge 9

My writing total for the year was 78,130 words. That's less than '09, which was a bit over 102K. :/ On the plus side, I sent out 26 submissions last year, which is more than any other year, and in fact I'm pretty sure that's more than total number of submissions I'd ever sent out before in my life, which is pretty darned cool, so I'm proud of myself in that area.

McKoala's Challenge definitely motivated me there; she's getting ready to start up a new round for 2011, and I highly recommend it. It's fun and motivating and you get cool graphics even if you flake off. :) I'll do another post with a link when the sign-up page is posted.

You know, I was sure I posted some goals for this year back in January, but I can't find them now. [squint] I was in the middle of getting ready to move at the time, so I might've been a bit delusional. :P What I remember was something like finishing and submitting the next novel in the Hidden Magic verse, plus some short stories (in any verse.) I didn't finish the novel :( but I had eight short stories circulating around, and three of them got published, so that's not too bad. Oh, and I wrote that SF romance for the Goodreads event, which is a freebie on my web site now

For the coming year, I will get that darned novel done and in (grrr!) and at least another eight stories. The 2010 wordcount was awful; I've got to improve that this year. I need at least one more free story for the web site, too. Ideally I want a free (stand-alone) story on my web site in each subgenre I write in, so people who want to check me out before paying money can try whatever kind of story they're into. So add at least one more free story to the total, bringing it up to at least nine.

And I want to be on Koala Approves every month this year. I should be able to do that -- 20K words written for the month earns nine points all by itself, and for each story submission I can subtract 2K words written and still make goal. That's not even counting editing points. It should be doable if I don't flake out. Given the realities of my variable brain chemistry, I'm sure I will flake out periodically, but if I shoot for a perfect score, maybe I'll only miss a few times. [crossed fingers] You've gotta aim high, right? :)

Best of luck to everyone for 2011. [wave]