Egyptian Vacation Notes

Many apologies dear Reader for the lack of an update on Sunday. I was marooned without internet in the lovely land of Egypt. I admit, I didn’t miss the wider world too much, in my little slice of Paradise. I must say, I am thoroughly refreshed, and ready to begin the new season of classes. My writerly inspiration was also quite refreshed, and I am ready to begin my new year of writing as well.

Egypt is a fascinating country, and in many ways not at all what I expected. My impressions, fleeting as they are, are rather mixed on the whole. On the one hand, Ancient Egyptian history and art is one of my passions, and to see the actual carvings and still colorful decorations on actual tombs was one of the highlights of my life. On the other hand, I was quite shocked at the level of poverty evident everywhere in a country I have always idolized. I will not give a blow-by-blow account of my vacation here, but I did want to touch briefly on my trip, particularly since I suspect that it will be influencing my writing for some time.

Egypt’s scenery, culture, and language are vastly different than anything I’ve been personally exposed to before. Even were I not a writer, the anthropologist in me would be fascinated by the opportunity to learn more about the Egyptians. Granted, a short cruise is no precisely the best way to do this, but I think it was a good first introduction. I fully intend to return at some point. And no doubt, stories about Egyptians both ancient and modern will ensue.

Meanwhile, I’m just pleased to be home in my own place with internet and all of my books again.

Quick Note

Just a quick note to let the Reader know Sunday’s update may be late/nonexistent. My husband and I leave today for a week’s cruise down the nile (I can not begin to tell you how squeerific I am right now) and I am unsure what my internet status will be. So, if possible I will post an update on or near Sunday, and if not updates will return the following week.

Have  a great week/weekend!

My Literary Heroes: Bujold

I have many favorite authors, both those who are giants in their genres such as Tolkien, Lewis, or Pratchett, and less universally well-known authors like Lackey, or Feist or Pierce. However, among my favorite authors there is only one who’s ‘voice’ and style impresses me to such an extent that she has become my Literary Hero, and that one is Lois McMaster Bujold.

This topic occurred to me recently as I lay re-reading Ms. Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor for the umpteenth time. Like any author, her style changes over time, and even from novel to novel. But despite this, I find her unique depth and insight is present throughout most of her works. This quality about her writing is extraordinarily difficult to define, but it affects me like no other author’s style ever has. The effect it has on me is quite profound, drawing me in, and often leaving me thoughtful and pensive for hours, or even days afterwards. Of course, different books produce this effect to different degrees. Paladin of Souls, for instance, transports, enthralls, and leaves me thoughtful for days, regardless of how recently I’ve read it. Conversely, some of the earlier Miles Vorkosigan books, such as Warrior’s Apprentice or Cetaganda, while thoroughly entertaining do not have quite this effect on me. This is not of course a problem, but rather its opposite, as I thoroughly enjoy reading Ms. Bujold’s books because I know she’ll always surprise me.

As I mentioned, that certain defining quality which Ms. Bujold’s writing has is somewhat difficult to isolate. Part of it must of course be her characters, which are extraordinary in their depth, seeming almost to be real people. Part of it may be the conflicts she devises, which are always imaginative, though not necessarily unique except in their twists. But beyond this, there’s a certain something about her stories, which causes you to stop and think about the underlying issue, which is often applicable to modern life. Some of this is certainly her language skills. She writes some of the most quotable books I have ever read, full of pithy one or two line sentences which capture vast ideas in a few words.

So, my secret writerly dream, is to have this same depth and meaning in my own writing, no matter how fantastical the subject. I don’t think I’m there yet, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be, but having a role-model to look up to can only help. And of course, give me a good excuse to keep re-reading all of my favorite Bujold novels. After-all, it’s all research, right?!

Thought for the Week: “Yet loyalty must run both ways, else it becomes betrayal in the egg.” Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Currently Reading: Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings

A Writer’s Resolutions

Today being the last day of the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to do all those New Years type list-things. Since I started only barely over a month ago in my blog, a look back is not precisely necessary yet. Instead, I will look forward, to the future of my writing career and this blog. So, here are my ‘resolutions’ for 2010. These are, in no particular order:
  • Finish editing my novel
  • Write the second novel
  • Write more short stories
  • Complete my MA, including writing a really good dissertation.
  • Get an agent, and maybe a contract.
  • Build the readership of this Blog, and consequently my writerly presence.
  • Publish a short story.

I hope to achieve all these in the coming year, and more as well of course. But even if I don’t succeed, I will have had the satisfaction of having goals, and having tried for them.

So, here’s wishing a very happy and safe New Year to all my Readers. May you enjoy the path to all your goals, and achieve at least a few of them.

On Christmas Presents

I hope everyone got everything they wanted for Christmas and had some good quality Christmas partying with their loved ones too. It was a bit quiet here in the author’s household, but I did get some nice presents from my incredibly thoughtful spouse. These consisted, naturally, almost entirely of books. For the most part however, they weren’t ‘Fun’ books precisely, so much as reference type works. And one, particularly, will be incredibly useful to me as a writer. This one is the Updated Edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited (mainly) by Peter Boxall.

This book, is exactly what it says it is, a list with descriptions of 1001 books that everyone should read. And yet, as Peter Boxhall’s Preface and Introduction both state, it is so much more. It and its previous edition are, in fact, the opening shots to what apparently has become a worldwide debate on reading, why we do it, how we do it, and what we should read. More than the book itself, I think the ‘gift’ of this debate is the most precious thing of all for a new writer. Of course, the book will also boost my private reading list, making me a more well-read writer, which can only be to the good. But having this debate opened before me makes even more sense for a writer. After all, a writer who wishes to be published must cater to her Readers. But, before one can cater to anything, one must know what is desired. Thinking about the answers to the questions “Why do we read?” and “What do we read?” is important to this. This book doesn’t exactly answer these questions (indeed, I’m not sure such questions are precisely answerable in any definitive way), and neither does it pretend to be an exhaustive list of everything one should read. In fact, it cheerfully admits that some books are left out of the list which should be read, and hopes that we as readers will continue to read these. Nor are these titles strictly all best-sellers, or even all ‘literary’ (whatever that means) novels.

I admit, that at first, upon reading the title, my heart sank a bit. Here was another judgemental, dogmatic, pronouncement on what I ‘should’ be reading, regardless of whether it appealed to me or not. This sort of list generally offends and depresses me, because my favorite books are rarely on it. I was even further depressed, upon glancing through, not to even recognize most of the authors, never-mind the titles, contained within. However, upon further investigation, and reading of the aforementioned Preface and Introduction, I realized that my fears were unfounded. This book is not a list meant to exclude those who haven’t read these books from the ranks of the ‘well-read’ but rather more in the nature of a series of recommendations for those looking for something new to read. The more than 100 contributors to the book vary from critics, to academics, to novelists, to journalists, and the works listed vary widely as a consequence, not only in genre and style but also in time period.

Needless to say, I have not read all of the entries contained in this book yet, as I am still slightly overwhelmed by 1001 Books itself. Therefore, I don’t believe I can give my Reader an adequate post concerning the debate which it could be said to represent, and I leave that to be dealt with in the future. Nor have I even chosen a book to begin reading from within the list, though I am leaning towards Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible simply on the principle that I’ve enjoyed her other books and always felt I should read that one, but not yet read it. I shall certainly keep the interested Reader updated however.

Thought for the Day: I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.”  Fred Rogers

Currently Reading: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited By Peter Boxall


Midweek Fancies: Avatar

Today I am launching a new section of blog known as “Midweek Fancies.” These will all be in the middle of the week (of course!) but the day will vary from week to week. Also, the subject matter will be more esoteric than the Sunday installments. So, without further ado, the first Fancy!

Avatar by James Cameron

For anyone who doesn’t keep up with flavor-of-the-week and pop-culture, this is the newest 3-D movie just released a few days ago on December 18th. It is directed by James Cameron, perhaps most famously known for his Alien movies, and like those previous ones also starring Sigourney Weaver, albeit in a secondary role. Now first, we must state right at the outset that this movie is visually stunning. There are no two ways about it, one cannot argue over it, it just is. It takes new technology, and pushes it right to the edge for visual story-telling. The music, directed by James Horner, is also quite stunning, blending seamlessly into the storytelling to enhance without disrupting. With a few exceptions where the music is central to the story, I could barely remember the music itself after viewing the film, only the emotions it drew forth. And that is exactly as it should be.

Now we must come to story, and I will push all further content below the cut to avoid spoiling the movie for my Readers who have not yet seen it.

Continue reading

Editing my first Novel

Also known as “Things I discovered I hate about my novel from editing it for a week”.

  • The Title: “Princess” just sounds trite, and overly shortened. But I really can’t decide on something better. I do know that “The Librarian Chronicles” is perfect for the trilogy, but the first book remains in Name-Limbo.
  • The entire first two pages are the dreaded “Telling not showing.” Except all of the information is somewhat necessary to the proper understanding of the story, and the Narrator. So I must figure out how to work it in.
  • I fail at creative use of capitalization for effect.
  • I’m still addicted to parenthetical interjections. I’m considering forming a support group. There must be other sufferers (musn’t there?).
  • My Narrator is a bit overly pompous. This is somewhat understandable. I mean she’s a ridiculously well-read, 200 year old dragon. She’s supposed to be more wise than pompous, but at the same time she’s still awfully young for a dragon. Maybe that is where the pomposity comes in, and to be fair she gets progressively less pompous as the novel progresses. Oh well.

This is all just from the first three chapters as well. I have to admit, I rather thought I’d do a complete first read-through in a week. I was looking forward to it, eagerly even. And then I began reading and editing, and my great nemesis swooped down and carried me off to the land of laziness. Nemesis, thy name is Procrastination.

Thought for the Day: “My evil genius Procrastination has whispered me to tarry ’til a more convenient season.” Mary Todd Lincoln

Currently Reading: “Wolf Hunting” by Jane Lindskold

Words on a String

I just want to take a moment to direct the interested Reader over to ‘Words on a String’, a website run by a very dear friend, who incidentally also very kindly hosts this website. It was originally a private site for just a few of us to share our stories with each-other. However, recently among the authors who share over there, we began to think perhaps we should share these stories with a wider audience as well. So, each author has her own section within the site. Each of us is solely responsible for the content in our own sections. And finally, all of the work is unpublished, and much of it is unfinished. If you enjoy the stories, please do let us know, and perhaps it will inspire us to go back and complete them. If you find errors, in my section at least, feel free to let me know. My section is the one titled ‘Lia’s Shelf.’

So go, read, and enjoy.

Week in Review

Well, it seems to have been an interesting week, so I thought I would spend today catching up on the news. Next week we will continue with the regularly scheduled content.

On the internet front, there was the hulabaloo kicked up by Mr. Scalzi’s criticism of Black Matrix publishing. His first post on the subject can be found here, but I won’t try to map the entire storm which erupted around the writing corner of the internet. Much of it was rather silly, and generally deliberately dense. Nor was Mr. Scalzi the only one to register criticism of this company, though he seems to have drawn the most flak for his views, poor man. Granted, I don’t believe he particularly cared, but I did feel a bit sorry for him. Here he goes out of his way to try and warn those of us less experienced than he about a danger, and people go up in flames. That’ll teach him to do a good deed.

In other internet writing news, the Canadian SF writer Peter Watts was arrested and charged with “assault of a federal officer” upon attempting to return to Canada from a visit in the US. The details, as related by the author himself, are here, and Mr. Scalzi also has a post about the circumstances. Briefly, it appears that Mr. Watts was pulled over by the US Border Police, in order that they might search his car. During the course of this, for some reason, the police attacked Mr. Watts, arrested, and charged him. Whether or not this was police brutality, or perfectly reasoned response to a perceived threat by the police is the subject of much heated debated throughout the Writer-verse. Myself, I think I shall reserve judgement until the video tape (there is rumored to have been CCTV on site) is released to the public. I should say it was probably a really bad decision for Mr. Watt’s to exit his car upon being pulled over. However, I do think that being severely beaten, and possibly incarcerated for two years of your life, not to mention instantly acquiring a criminal record, is a bit of over-kill as far as consequences go for bad decisions. Nevertheless, the furor arising throughout the online writing community may prove good for something, if it can force the authorities to look at the issue of police brutality and address the issue in a way that won’t further handicap the honest defenders of the average citizen’s rights. This is unfortunately a very fine line to walk.

My final bit of news is of a rather more personal nature. I have finally finished my Literature Review, and can now turn my attention to my novel with a clear conscience. It is with the greatest pleasure that I will begin the first round of edits on my Work in Progress, Princess (Working Title), and hopefully whip it into some sort of shape for my lovely beta readers quickly. As it stands, the premise is strong, and parts of the writing are good, but I have some minor issues, and certainly need to flesh out the characters a bit.

Thought for the Day: “An explanation of cause is not a justification by reason.” C.S. Lewis

Currently Reading: “Women in Ancient Egypt” by Gay Robins

Not exactly a book review…

**Reader Warning**

This is in no way a book review. This is in fact a book gush. I make no apologies for it, as I will be gushing about Terry Pratchett, and I frankly feel he deserves to be gushed about. If you disagree, I would politely suggest you stop reading this article. Also, I am very very very sorry for you. Now, on to the main Event!

Unseen

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

Published October 2009 (There appear to be several publishers, depending on location)

This book is only a few months old, and I have just recently had the opportunity to read it. I finished it in a day. Of course, this is not unusual for a Terry Pratchett book, as I usually sit down and don’t get up until I finish them about eight hours later. I was initially a bit trepidatious about this newest installment of DiscWorld. From the jacket you get the impression that it is a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet (the girl’s name is even Juliet!) set in (British, of course!) Football fandom. I must admit, I care for neither of these two themes particularly, and hence my trepidation.

However, as I should have expected from Pratchett, Unseen Academicals is only remotely about either Football or Starcrossed lovers. In fact, the Romeo-and-Juliet romance isn’t even the primary romance, though one might be led into believing it is so, at the beginning. Nor is Football really the main theme either, more the vehicle which Pratchett uses to present his theme. Now, I must admit, as I’ve only read the book once (so far) and my grasp on the “deep” theme is not great, yet. However, the very edges of it which I have grasped deal with the power of Fandom, the power of the ‘Team’, and breaking out of the mold.

While this installment of Discworld could be loosely put into either the Rincewind or the Watch story-lines, it is more properly an Ankh-Morpork novel. Rincewind is indeed present (running from the opposing team, in fact!), and Sam Vimes and his Watch make a brief, grumpy appearance at the end. However, the most interesting characters belong strictly to the City. Several new ones are introduced, who I hope continue into other volumes. Two of these are the Mysterious Mister Nutt (not plural, please) and Glenda Sugarbean. Mister Nutt is an absolutely fascinating Character, and I do not wish to spoil any discoveries for the Reader. Suffice it to say, he is created to deal with the theme of “breaking the mold”, and he does! In fact, I would venture to say, that in his diffident way, he not only breaks the mold, but stamps the pieces to dust and shoves them through the cracks in the floorboards. Glenda Sugarbean isn’t really mysterious, she’s just another of those Pratchett women who usually populate the Witches storylines. It is interesting to see her here in Ankh-Morpork, the solid, sensible, practical (but with a hidden Romantic side), motherly, dare I say, witchy woman. She’s the sort of woman I both hope and fear I may become some day. And in a bit of a departure for Pratchett, she actually has her own Romance as well, which I argue is actually the central Romance for the story. And moreover, she makes the same logical observation and its concomitant objection I’ve always had to the original Romeo and Juliet (represented briefly as the play Starcrossed)!

There are of course, several other interesting new characters, such as the aforesaid Juliet’s love-interest, Trev Likely, a new psychopath, and a few interesting new Wizards at the university. There are of course many of the old familiar favorites as well, though with new twists. We see an interesting new side of Vetinari (drunk if you can imagine!) and are treated to a rare example of Ridcully being sensible (mostly).

I will stop here, as there is not much more I can say about the story or characters without spoiling the delightful surprises contained therein, which I do not wish to do as stated above. However, I will say that while this is not in my top favorite Pratchett books, neither is it near the bottom. Nor is this status any fault of the book, it is simply pushed lower by the existence of other amazing Discworld books (the Witches stories). I had been afraid that perhaps Mr. Pratchett’s writing would begin to deteriorate as his Alzheimer’s progresses. I am thoroughly pleased and relieved that this is not yet the case. Moreover, as an avid Reader, I sincerely thank Mr. Pratchett for continuing in the face of what must be incredible obstacles. I salute you, sir. You are truly one of my writing Heroes.

Thought for the Day: “A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” Terry Pratchett

Currently Reading: “Women in Ancient Egypt” by Gay Robins