Wordsmith Studio Homecoming 2015: What are you reading?

For the best effect, please read the headline of this post with an incredulous tone 😉

WSS Homecoming 2015

1) What are you reading?

Just like I work on multiple project in my writing, I read multiple books, both ebooks and print, cause I kind of have this problem. I can’t stop buying books of any variety (!)

So here’s my current reading list:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Although I’m sure it suffers in translation, I’m enjoying this novel immensely.
  • InFusion by Scott Overton. I’m beta reading this SF novel for an author friend. I’ll save my specific feedback for him, but, just so you know, I think it’s great 🙂
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. On finding your calling. It’s kind of serendipitous that I found out about this book back in January.
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I picked this up last year after seeing Patricia at Ad Astra. I figured I should get off my butt and read it . . .
  • Pain, Porn, and Complicity by Kathleen McConnell. An academic work on SF&F movies and television series. It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in that particular non-fiction pool.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I’m listening to this on Audible. Narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton.

2) What was your favorite read in the last year (or month, or…)?

My favourite reading of recent recall is A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I rated it five stars, though I haven’t written a proper review. Yet. This is the kind of fantasy novel I love to read. It’s also the kind I write and there were a lot of similarities between Czerneda’s Jenn Nalynn and Ferrathainn Devlin, the protagonist from my WIP. I was enthralled to the end 🙂

3) Do you have a favorite genre?

Yes and no. I favour fantasy novels of any age range, but I also read science fiction, historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, and romance novels (though I must say I haven’t read many of those recently). I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading, as well. Again, most on my non-fiction reads tend to be writing craft books, but I also read as a form of research for my various works in progress, and sometimes, stuff that I’m just interested in. I learn something from everything I read, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the book. In other words, I read as a writer.

4) Bend one step further: are there alternative forms of writing or art that you have found inspiring or even dabbled in?

In my “searching” phase of university (the undeclared years) I majored in music and art at different times. Performance anxiety put the brakes on my music career, though I still love to sing. I was summarily drummed out of art class when my professor called me nothing more than an “illustrator.” From time to time, I still sketch, but I’ve honestly never been very good. I’ve sunk all my creativity into my writing for a number of years now. In 2000, I did the crazy, being in between jobs, and auditioned for a Theatre Cambrian production of Hair (Y2K). I sang and danced in that, for what it’s worth 😉

6) Back to your main inspiration: Do you have “mentor” titles for the writing you are working on?

I’ll reframe this in terms of “comps,” or comparative works. As I mentioned above, I learn something from every book I read, so I don’t have any “mentor” titles, per se, though I would identify several novels/authors whose work I aspire to.

  • The above-mentioned Julie Czerneda and her A Turn of Light. I’ve committed to read more by Julie.
  • Juliet Marillier’s Celtic legend inspired Seven Waters series.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Though he writes in a created world, it is based on painstaking historical research. I’m not that dedicated, but I love the stories he writes. He’s actually made me cry in the reading.
  • Sherri S. Tepper. Just anything she writes. I love her ideas. Or should I say lurve?

6) If you didn’t already do this for #4, what music inspires your writing?

Okay, now you’re going crazy. Or you will if I offer up all 963 songs on my iPod (!) Suffice it to say that any music I like is generally something I’ll add to my playlist. I have music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the new millennium. I like some pop, a lot of alternative, celtic, and world music. I also have more eclectic selections on CD: The Rites of Spring, Satie’s gymnopedies, The Symphonie Fantastique, Carmina Burana, Gregorian chant, a number of Sequentia recordings (including the Eddas), gamelan music, Tibetan singing bells, shakuhachi flute music . . .

My favourite artists (I’ll pick up just about anything they release):

  • Imogen Heap
  • Tori Amos
  • Sarah Slean
  • Florence + the Machine

7) Have you ever thought of this: what book is your main character reading?

Interesting question. I’ll even answer it.

  • Ferathainn Devlin: Sadly, all of Fer’s reading would be studying for her forthcoming initiation, so all of it would be history, scholarly works on magic, or non-fiction works on herbs and simples, astronomy, and the like.
  • Charlene Kalveras: School textbooks, and, because of what’s happened to her father, true crime.
  • Gerod: Owing to his impoverished upbringing in an environment of medieval feudalism, Gerod doesn’t know how to read. He learns, though.
  • Marushka: She hasn’t had any formal schooling, hopping around the world in a magical hut, so she’s had to teach herself everything. She steals books from libraries and reads omnivorously.

8) Do you have a favorite book, article or magazine for writing advice?

Again, I have several 🙂

  • Writing the 21st Century Novel, Donald Maass. Currently on loan to a member of my critique group. Actually all of Maass’s books have helped me immensely.
  • Any of K.M. Weiland’s writing craft books.
  • Any of Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series.
  • And the books that have helped me find my way to the writing life: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones; Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write; Heather Sellers’ Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter; Stephen King’s On Writing; Terry Brooks’s Sometimes the Magic Works; Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wave in the Mind.

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Alrightie, then!

I’ll have a wee Sundog snippet tomorrow about miscellaneous stuff, ‘cause sometimes you need miscellaneous stuff, you know?

Muse-inks

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Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

I’ve been blogging this puppy for a month and a half now (!)

There was so much more to Ad Astra than the awesome sessions, though. There was so much that I couldn’t take part in.

I mentioned waaaaay back in my first post that there was Klingon Karaoke (not karaoke in Klingon, though that might be cool …). There was an anime lounge with various series and movies running all three days of the convention, an art room, a Lego room, the book store, author readings, and signings.

Also, for every session I attended, there were, like six others. There was astronomy in the parking lot at night, the masquerade, gaming sessions, Consuite events, and book launches by various SF/F publishers.

And there was the Guest of Honour brunch, which I foolishly chose not to purchase a ticket for (hey, it was my first time, I didn’t know it would be so awesome).

If I thought it was possible, I could have stayed up for the entire three days and done something different every hour.

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

I attended readings by Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, and Dennis Lee.

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

I bought (way too many) books and got some of them signed by the authors.

I bought a couple pieces of jewellery and a t-shirt.

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year 🙂

The book haul

The book haul

What about you? Have you attended any conventions or conferences recently?

Ad Astra Day 2: It builds character

Panellists: Karen Dales; Patricia Briggs

Note: Steven Erikson was not able to attend this panel.

Humourous note: It builds the character or it gets the hose.

KD: Characters are the heart of your story.

PB: It’s all subjective, though. Everyone sees something different. The most important thing is that your characters be internally consistent.

KD: Who plays RPGs here? (Pause for show of hands) What the first thing you do in any game? (Create your character!) We have character sheets, even if they’re only in our heads. We have to become method actors for our characters.

PB: We have to step into their shoes. You have to look at the character’s purpose in the novel. If two characters serve the same purpose, one of them has to go. In Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, for example, the title characters serve the same purpose in Shakespeare’s play. They are expendable. Every character has to have a problem to solve. In a series, when one problem is resolved, another has to crop up to take its place. My Mercy, she’s a coyote shape shifter and therefore Native. Her job had to fit. She has her own business. She’s a mechanic for Volkswagons. She likes to fix things.

KD: For my series, I actually used a character I’d built for an RPG in the past. A to Z. What gets them there? Characters have to be complex. Origins need to be pre-defined so we know how they will react to the situations they’re put in.

PB: Characters have to make decisions. With actors, every action has a purpose. What does this gesture mean? What does their body language convey? C.J. Cherryh says every scene must accomplish three things. Mercy was abandoned and taken in by a werewolf pack. She has issues with women and abandonment. She needs to make broken things work. Ben is an obnoxious, misogynist jerk, but once Mercy, and readers, learned why, he became sympathetic. What is the secret the character would kill for or die to protect?

Q: How to you reflect growth in your characters?

KD: Body language changes given circumstances. Everyone has a mask for different occasions. Underlying that is the same core character, though.

PB: You’re limited by word count, though. To fully develop one character takes a hundred pages. Give yourself time.

Q: How do you balance complexity and consistency?

PB: Mercy surprises me all the time, but that’s part of her nature as a shifter. Experienced writers can predict what will happen and how a character will react. Think about your friends and family. How well do you know them? Can you predict what they’ll do? Think about TV shows and the characters you see there.

KD: Circumstances dictate character behaviour, but consistency is where everything originates.

Q: What is your advice regarding negative endings and death?

PB: The reader feels betrayed. Lois McMaster Bujold does this extremely well, though. You have to set up your ending. It must feel like it’s the right thing, the only thing that can happen. The ending must fulfill the character in some way.

KD: I hate Disney’s happy endings. I love tragedy, but it has to have a purpose.

PB: George R.R. Martin does this well, too. It’s what the story demands. Barbara Hambly did it, though, and ended up losing audience as a result.

Q: What do you do about info-dump?

PB: Write it down as part of the character sketch and bring it out as the story demands.

Q: Do some characters deserve to die?

PB: I’ve killed characters who didn’t deserve it and I’ve let some characters who deserved death, live.

KD: Ask yourself what the story needs? One bad guy might need killing, another might not.

PB: Justice must be served. In Pitch Black, for example, the pilot would have sacrificed everyone else for her own survival. When she later dies to save everyone, there’s a sense of justice being served.

Q: My stories are plot driven. The advice I’ve been given so far hasn’t been helpful. For example, I was told that all characters have to have limitations and they have to suffer as a result.

PB: You have to avoid the “super” character.

KD: One must suffer to learn. It’s a common experience, but not necessarily universal. Characters can learn by overcoming adversity.

The next chapter: July 2013 update

Just a few words here about my writing life of late.

I am continuing to revise Initiate of Stone, but at least once a week, I can’t seem to get to it after all my other responsibilities.  Then sometimes I make a choice.  This past Tuesday, for example, I chose to go to North Bay rather than taming my daily dose of the intewebz or write.  Though it was well worth it, I still felt odd not writing.

It’s an addiction now.  Healthy, but an addiction nonetheless 😉

Acceptances

Since my last update, I’ve received some good news.  The Atomy picked up two of my poems, Enhance will be accepting one of my photographs (wow!), and most recently, Sulphur will be accepting three of my poems for its next issue.

I received my contract from On Spec and am waiting to hear from their content editor on next steps (still so excited about this!).

I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces, but they’re both fairly recent stories and may need to mature (read, to be edited) before they find a home.

Writers of the Future wasn’t fond of “The Gabriel” but I have yet to recieve my personalized response.

Still waiting to hear about a few short story submissions from April, May, and June.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I submitted the first bit of a story to Erin Brady too, and I’m curious to find out what will come of that 🙂

Just as I was linking those publications, above, I noticed that Enhance has a call out for that flashy fiction stuff!  Go see!

Conferences

This year’s CanWrite! was a success.  I certainly hope everyone got a lot of good information out of my CanWrite! blog posts.

Since I’m now a member of the program committee, which includes responsibility for the conference and the CAA literary awards, I’ll probably have some news forthcoming about next year’s conference in the future.  Watch this space 🙂

I’ve had to make a decision about When Worlds Collide in Calgary.  Though I would love to go and the line up looks great (Patricia Briggs, Robert J. Sawyer, and Angela Ackerman will be among the guests), I just can’t afford it.

The conference fee is reasonable in the extreme, but it’s the air fare and accommodation that make the event costly.  Domestic flights are quite expensive. I had my eye set on Surrey this year, so I think I’m going to stick with that conference and go to WWC next year.  I only have enough Avion points to take 2 trips anyway and one is already spoken for (a friend’s pre-wedding party) so there you have it 🙂

There’s a writing contest associated with Surrey too, so I’ll probably aim to submit something for that as well.

It’s good to keep the creative opportunities lined up and ready to rock.

Writerly Goodness

What’s everyone working on these days?  I’d love to hear from you about your creative projects!