Wednesday, August 15, 2012

This week I found another nook in Azuranna's library with more books I haven't read yet. One is a book the mech fairies (and yes, many of my friends, too, hush) have been going on about for awhile now. Now I see why. Cinder by Marissa Meyer was better than it sounded even from the book blurb.
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1)

From the B&N website:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I read the book yesterday in huge gulps. This Cinderella spinoff provides a believable growing romance between Prince Kai and Cinder. They meet only a few pages in when he brings his broken android to her market stall for repair, jokingly saying it was a matter of notional security, though she suspects it might be less of a joke than he wanted to let on. Each time their paths cross after that, either accidentally or on purpose, they become more familiar with each other.
Cinder is one the few people the prince can trust as tensions mount across New Beijing and within the palace over concerns with the plague and the possibility of war with the feared Lunars. And Prince Kai not only treats her with respect, he asks her to call him by name without the title, something that flusters her a lot. Good thing she can't blush. Even more disconcerting, he asks her to be his personal guest at the upcoming ball, an offer she turns down.
Even if he really does want her there, self-preservation or not, she plans to escape her stepmother's control that night. Then it won't matter that he hasn't yet realized she's part mechanical, something she can't bear to confess and face his disgust over courting a mutant freak. But to save Kai from the evil plans of Lunar Queen Levana, she'll have to go to the ball anyway, even at the cost of the whole truth about herself being revealed for all to see.

The ending is gripping, not the ending I expected, but a cliffhanger, yet it feels right. The final words are perfect. But...ARRRGGGGG! I want the next book already! Gah!!!!!

Guess I'll have to read this one again before I have to take it back to the library.

Filk Friday: Steam Powered Giraffe

Friday, July 27, 2012

One of my friends tripped me onto this really fun video last week, and since I promised some more steampunk, here you go. Steam Powered Giraffe performs their song Brass Goggles. But after you go la da da along with the bouncing pug head, you might also want to check out the website of this musical pantomime group. They've recently released their second album which you buy either off the website or from iTunes. Personally, I think with this group, I want the actual CD with the extra goodies. And the DVD. These guys can not only sing; they can perform. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of them had broken out in a soft-shoe-shuffle. My feet were certainly tapping along.


Swords and shelves

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Been a little busy 'round the dragon cave lately. Between cleaning, organizing, and catching up with old friends, I haven't had much time to get back to answering questions about steampunk. Still more to do, but the cave is looking less cluttered. The fairies are brighter, and the gnomes are humming while they work. We need more shelves around here, but I've gotten them better arranged to get things off the floor. Much nicer when we aren't tripping over things, don't you think? And I'll see about elaborating further on steampunk in my next post.

Last Wednesday, a couple of friendly neighborhood knights took me on, raw beginner that I am, to begin teaching me sword and shield. I didn't hurt all that much, but I had almost no energy the next day. I have another lesson this afternoon. We'll see how well how I keep up today. And least the pixies didn't snicker too much, and the knights both said I did well enough for my first time.

I'm off to do some reading and maybe a bit of gratitude baking. The knights are so patient; they deserve a treat of some kind. Maybe some fairie cookies or brownie biscuits. What do you mean, do they have real fairies and brownies in them? Of course not! Azuranna would flambe me. Oh, that was a joke? Ohhhh. Silly me. ;D

My writing goals are going to have to change. I pulled out my one completed story the other day and started working on revising it. So instead of a word count goal, it's going to be by scene. By Sunday, I want to finish the first scene. My other goals can stay the same.

Society of Steam and ROW80 goals

Monday, July 9, 2012

My thanks to Azuranna--the big blue library dragon, for those of you who haven't met her yet--for posting my notice about moving. I think she's been glad to have me around her library cave the past couple years though she says little to me directly. But now I'm back to reading and writing after getting mostly settled in to my new home. So, today I have both a book review and writing goals to share.

While wandering the cave and saying hello again to the resident sprites and fire lizards, I found a newish book on the shelves that I hadn't read yet. It's book 1 of The Society of Steam: The Falling Machine by Andrew P. Mayer. Since I was in the mood for a bit of steampunk, I pulled it out. I am so glad I did, but now I'm banging my head against the shelf because I want book 2 and it's not out yet. I sincerely hope he's working on it.

It's 1880, New York. Young ladies are expected to do what men tell them and make good marriages. They aren't allowed to vote or do heroic deeds. But Sarah Stanton, a young socialite, still hasn't given up her dream of joining the Paragons and helping them fight crime and villainy. The fact that her father is one of the Paragons only makes the restriction against joining more pronounced. As a child, she'd been allowed to roam the halls of the order's building and spend time with inventing genius and leader of the Paragons, Darby Dennis.

But after he's murdered right in front of her, Sarah is barred from the Hall by her father and ordered to have nothing more to do with the order. Now she must work with the mechanical man Darby created known as the Automaton in order to unravel the mystery behind the murder.

What they find along the way is a conspiracy involving one of the order's members, a traitor in their midst. To save the order and uphold her mentor's dying wish for her to help the Automaton, Sarah must become more than what society expects of her and become the hero she's always dreamed of being.

In retrospect, I think I'd call this book omniscient POV, though I didn't really notice while I was reading. There are multiple viewpoint characters, none of which are in deep perspective. There's a distant feel, but it works very well for the style. From what I've noticed about steampunk stories in general, they all tend to be distant, more observational, which is much like stories actually written in the 1800's. I thought it was very done, so if you want an example of how to write this way even if you aren't into steampunk, I recommend this book. And the steampunk elements are mostly restricted to the heroes and villains, so it doesn't play a huge part in society as a whole. Steampunk-lite, I suppose you could say. Whatever you want to call it, I'd say read the book.

ROW80 Goals:
1) Write for a minimum of 1 hour or 200 words (whichever comes second) 5 days a week.
2) Read at least 5 ROW80 blogs each check-in.
3) Write 2-3 blog posts each week.

I think there'd been something else I wanted as a goal, but I'm a bit distracted right now. Too much talking going on in the room. But this is a good start. We'll see how I do by Wed's check-in.

Break for moving

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

So much for getting back on track with my blog; I'm moving in a week and a half. (Hubby got a new job, taking us back to OH and the majority of our friends.) While we are planning to get internet, I don't know how fast we'll get it set up. Thought I'd let you know in case you miss me. :D I will try to read stuff here and there as time permits, but any thinking beyond packing/loading logistics and lists of moving details tends to fall by the wayside. Hope to be back in the swing of a couple posts a week by the end of July. I'll have a new library to raid for knocking out my TBR pile. Yay! I'll have my laptop, so even before I get hooked back to the internet, I can work on book reviews. Plus libraries often have internet, so when I have time to go, I can schedule all completed posts. Have a great summer!

Fun video Friday: B5 and alien confusion

Friday, June 1, 2012

Babylon 5 is one of my favorite shows. I've got all 5 seasons on DVD plus the pilot episode and In the Beginning (tv movie). I don't have a few of the other movies yet, but they're on the list to pick up.

One of the many reasons I find this show so amazing is in how aliens might get confused when trying to use another race's idioms. Personally, I think I think this particular one is funnier by being wrong than what Londo intended to say. Remember when writing mixed race cultures that you think how races can muddle things up even when they have an excellent grasp of each other's language.

Getting things mixed up allows for moments of humor even in characters who are usually very serious.  You don't have to give these sorts of lines only to the characters intended to be there for comedic relief. Londo himself is more of a tragic character considering his personal arc over the 5-year storyline. That's actually what makes the punchline in the first clip even funnier. He's so serious about it, and neither he nor his aide Vir realize the mistake they've made.

In the second clip, Londo is studying an Earth children's song, trying to make sense of it. Again, he's very serious and frustrated, and no humans are present to make fun of him for it. The only others in the scene are two Minbari: Delenn and Draal, and neither of them know the song either.

Filk Friday: Twelve Days of Star Wars

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tom Smith is one of my favorite filkers. Here's Twelve Days of Star Wars performed at World Steam Expo last year. I wish I could have gone. Dearborn, MI is really close to where several of my relatives live. That would have made a great combo trip. Enjoy!

Worldbuilding in progress

Monday, May 14, 2012

While I'm letting my muse mutter in the background on how to fill a short gap in my current WIP (after finishing a rather intense pair of scenes for my two MCs, particularly for the mage), I decided to ponder on some of the worldbuilding for their story.

I don't sit down and create a world, then find a story. Characters and situations comes first, sometimes when I'm not ready for them. Sort of like this story. Rather out of the blue, I imagined the meeting between this cursed young woman and an aging mage. It was going to be more of a semi-comedic fantasy love story, but it's become more of a epic fantasy adventure with kingdom politics and love to provide complications.

The comedy angle would have been lots of fun. You know, a light-weight fluff fantasy novel with only a brush against the idea that looks don't have to be important, good for mental dessert. I'd have loved reading it. But I haven't the foggiest idea how to write that way. I don't read much fluff, only when I'm in the mood for something breezy. So when I started trying to implement the idea and the world started filling in around them, their personal histories became much more important, giving the tone a serious angle. But then that's what I read most.

Some of the setting history has shaped up just from writing stuff that the characters are thinking and talking about, but this past week I hit upon the need for having a solid way for how characters in the setting would talk about magic. Though it will be teaching my readers "how things work," the upcoming conversations themselves will reveal the differences in what each knows about the topic.

After all, I know some basics in fine art, but I don't know much about advanced technique or the best supplies to use for each style. Some of my customers at work know even less, so the conversations are interesting sometimes. ;) Plus some areas I'm rather good at, like sewing, or getting better at, like beading, so when people have questions, I can provide greater assistance. I'm trying to keep that manner in mind when one character teaches another about something. It's all filtered through what they know or don't know on the topic as well as their opinion and experience with it.

So I think I've nearly got the basics for how magic works figured out including terminology. Now I've got more of the world trying to form up in my head, like what technological developments are available in order to make the world less of a stock fantasy world. One rather neat site I found this morning while looking up Renaissance technology is a gamer's history notes from creating the world used for a homebrew game. It's specifically stated that the notes are not strictly historically accurate due to the slant towards a fantasy game, but it makes a great overview.

After following one of the links at the bottom to its new addy, I also found The Medieval Technology Pages, which is supposed to be more accurate. I haven't finished looking through it, but there are pages on a variety of daily life items like artesian wells, hops, soap, and windmills.

Ideas are marching in my head for upping the basic tech level in my world while still keeping guns and gunpowder out of it. Time to go think on how to integrate some of these ideas.

Hope the rest of you are having a productive Monday, too.

Filk Friday: Skyrim Theme

Friday, May 11, 2012

While this isn't filk exactly, it's music for a fantasy game: Skyrim. I haven't ever played it, though my sister tried to talk me into it a few months ago. I got sucked into SW: The Old Republic instead. But one of my friends on FB linked to this video of Peter Hollens and Lindsey Stirling doing their adaptation of the Skyrim theme song.


With one voice and one violin, they created 120 tracks that they put together for the full song. Then the two of them did some filming to create the amazing video to go with it. Awesomesauce with coolness on top.

As soon as I pick up another iTunes card, I am so picking up the song. Then I'm probably going to buy the Skyrim soundtrack. Some of these MMOs have great music tracks for writing to. I've already got one of the World of Warcraft CDs. This will make a great addition to my collection.


My blogroll

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sorry to everyone I was following. In switching email accounts for this blog, I forgot to copy over everybody on my blogroll. So I will be working on rebuilding my list. If you know I was following you and commenting on your blog from time to time and you don't see me back on your follower list in the next few days, send me an email. Hmm, now that I think about it, I wonder if I'd have even dropped off your list. The email is still valid; I just took it off this blog. Well, keep an eye out for me anyway.

Filk Friday: Carmen Miranda's Ghost

Friday, April 27, 2012

In honor of my newest follower (welcome, David), I was going to post a zombie filk today, but I can't find one on Youtube and the one I've played around with for my zombie story isn't finished yet. So instead, I'm going with a ghost song. How many of you remember the tv clips with Carmen Miranda and her huge hat of fruit? Leslie Fish played on that and brought Carmen Miranda into space as a ghost. This is one spectral visitor I'd be glad to have around. How about you?

Carmen Miranda's Ghost


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm rather behind on posting my review of Foiled, considering I read it last week. The fairies have been pestering me to get it done, especially since I loved the book. I mean really. It's a Jane Yolen story, but it's also a graphic novel. Cool, huh?

So that right there is what made me pick it up. I was in the mood for something of hers, so I was poking around on that shelf in the YA section of the library. When I saw graphic novel + Jane Yolen, well, it had to come home with me. The illustrations are by Mark Cavallaro, someone I'd never heard of before but is now on my awe list. The drawing style is what you'd expect for a graphic novel, but he handled the story very well. I'll get back to what I thought was particularly neat about how he did this.

The story itself is about a high school girl who took up fencing when her mom brought home a used foil with a fake jewel glued on as a pommel that she'd found at a tag sale. Aliera has gotten rather good at fencing, like possibly Nationals good based on hints from her coach. She trains every day, except for Saturdays playing D&D with her home-bound cousin (medical condition). But all of this focus on her studies, training, and cousin time, doesn't leave much left for a social life. She doesn't really fit into any of the social groups at school, not even the jocks.

Everything changes the day Avery Castle walks into class and is assigned to be her lab partner. The girls all ogle and gab about how hot he is, while Aliera tries to protect her heart (thoughts framed in terms of fencing, of course). When he actually asks her out on a date and that she bring her sword (foil--as she corrected him), she finds out a lot more than she expects about herself and the world. Like magic. And fairies. And seeing in color.

Remember what I said about something special with the artwork? The color angle is what I was talking about. You see, Aliera is color blind. And to help illustrate that, most of the book is done in shades of this plummish purple with a little brown, black, and white. But mostly the purple.

While in Grand Central Station, something happens and she puts on her fencing mask, and all of a sudden she's seeing things in color. Not everything mind you. But fairies, and trolls, and fantasy things. Those really popped when set against the plum. Made me think Genius!

I won't say what she learned about Avery, but I will say she found out she didn't get that foil by chance. She was meant to have it. You'll have to read the book for yourself to find out why.

Filk Friday: Battle Dawn (and ROW 80 Round review)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yes, I have another filk song to share today. Battle Dawn is sung from the perspective of Queen Selenay just before the battle with Ancar's men at the end of Arrow's Fall by Mercedes Lackey. I won't say much more than that because I think you should read the Arrows trilogy. Arrows and Mage Storms are my two favorite sets of stories within the Valdemar setting. And Lackey, in collaboration with several talented people, created several collections of music to accompany her world. Some are songs the characters actually know in the stories like Dark and Stormy Night and Sun and Shadow, while others like Battle Dawn and Trio are sung from their perspectives though not in the stories themselves.

While I'm re-listening to this, I'm thinking I may have to parody it for my current WIP. I can imagine Rhona singing a variation of this song at some point after the mid-point crisis which I have tentatively already planned out. "For Lycurgus and my dear twin, I swear that you will pay!" Muahahahahahaha!

ROW 80 end of round review:
I think I'd give myself about a C for sticking with my goals. Until this last couple weeks, I was great on reading new books (to me), so about an A, maybe A- there.

Writing 100+ words every day, meh. I didn't keep up every day, though most weeks, I did have an average of that many. And I did write some every week, which is better than during the previous round. Many of the days I didn't end up posting like I'd meant to were because I wanted to get my writing done first and then ran out of brain power for blogging. S'okay. Story comes first, even though I felt like I was letting you down anyway.

Exercise was the real kicker. Surely ten minutes every day couldn't have been too hard. But I don't like doing my favorite form of exercise when anyone but my son can see me do it. I'm not bad at dancing, just self-conscious outside of a class setting. And I just never got out the stretch bands or free weights instead like I'd intended. But when I did dance, I did it for more than just 10 minutes, more like 20-30 minutes. I will probably adjust my exercise goal for the next round to so many minutes a week instead of a day. I did get a half-mile walk in this morning just by taking the kid down to the bus stop.

My husband and I joined the local Y yesterday, so hopefully, that will help us both get more fit. Plus my husband is doing sword fighting with the SCA group here. He's going to try two-handed, since he can't shake the fencing style he learned in college which isn't compatible with SCA rules. They're also trying to talk me into fencing, but I want to get him geared up first before trying to get stuff for me. He's already got part of what he needs. In the meantime, I'll be working on my cardio.

Have a great weekend!

The upcoming release of Elemental

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One of my good friends Emily White will be releasing her debut novel, Elemental, on May 1, published by Spencer Hill Press. I'm very excited to see how her story has evolved, since I've only read some of the early drafts back when her MC had a different name. ;D If I can actually come up with any intelligent sounding questions, I hope to have her visit for an interview sometime before the release date. (Talking to her is easy, but interviewing in general is not. For me anyway.)

But this week, the trailer for her book is out, and I am proud to share it with all of you.

From the press release:

Just because Ella can burn someone to the ground with her mind doesn't mean she should. 
But she wants to.

For ten years--ever since she was a small child--Ella has been held prisoner. Now that she has escaped, she needs answers. Who is she? Why was she taken? And who is the boy with the beautiful green eyes who haunts her memories? Is Ella the prophesied Destructor... or will she be the one who's destroyed?

Filk Friday: The Truth About Ninjas

Friday, March 2, 2012

SJ Tucker is a hoot. One of my friends had sent me a link a while back to her video "Playing D&D," and I loved it. (featured on a previous Filk Friday) This one is a live performance rather than a music video format, but her energy and charm is just as strong. Here's her song "The Truth About Ninjas." Enjoy!

Reading, writing, and crafting...oh my!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A month's gone by since I posted, but I haven't forgotten my ROW 80 goals. I'm about a 50% overall I think. I've written on half the days, exercised...mmm...less than half ;), but read many books. I won't try to give a full review on all of them, but here's a listing of what I've read this month (including non-spec fic) and the ratings I gave them on Goodreads.

The New Kid at School (Dragon Slayer's Academy #1) by Kate McMullan
4 stars - both my son and I enjoyed it.

Letters to Jenny by Piers Anthony
5 stars - I tried to write a review on this, and I flounder with the words. A must read. Very touching and a wonderful insight into a writer's life.

Song of the Wanderer (Unicorn Chronicles #2) by Bruce Coville
4 stars - doesn't really read like an individual book but rather like Part 2 of one mega novel. But I still really enjoy the story.

The Ship Avenged by S.M. Stirling and Anne McCaffrey
3 stars - not as good as most of the Brainship universe books, but that's mostly because of content, not the writing. Bit on the dark gritty side. But I was expecting that. Picked it up to read another story with Joat.

How to Be a Pirate (How to Train Your Dragon #2) by Cressida Cowell
3 stars - my son liked it, but the differences in some of the characters and dragons from the How to Train Your Dragon movie was disorienting at first. For instance, in the movie, they were ride-able. In this book, they were small enough to ride on people's shoulders. Cute story though.

The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
meh, granted it was written for kids but I've read intermediate books with tighter plot, even with keeping the whimsical feel that enticed me to pick it up in the first place. It had potential to be better.

Dark Whispers (Unicorn Chronicles #3) by Bruce Coville
4 stars- still not done yet with the overall story. Need to find The Last Hunt. I think that one is supposed to finish off the arc.

One Good Knight (Five Hundred Kingdoms #2) by Mercedes Lackey
4 stars - This book had some great twists both in plot and with the Sir George vs the Dragon tale. Great ending.

Princess of the Midnight Ball (Princess #1) by Jessica Day George
5 stars - Loved it! A fantastic spin on the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. The soldier didn't start off with the intent to find out why their shoes kept getting holes; he made friends with them first while working as a gardener at the palace. Friendship and concern made him finally take his turn to solve the mystery.

One Corpse Too Many (Cadfael #2) by Ellis Peters
4 stars - Pretty close to the movie version (movie #1) I've seen with Sean Pertwee as Hugh Beringer and Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael. This was recommended to me when I was looking for mysteries that were solved without modern tech. Very useful for people writing historical fantasies even when they aren't writing in this time period or setting.

The Sanctuary Sparrow (Cadfael #7) by Ellis Peters
4 stars - Yes, I'm reading them out of order. But it doesn't matter too much since I knew this and that the movies had been somewhat out of order as well. So I expected the change of Abbots from Monk's Hood. It has a few differences, but still very close in plot sequencing.

Monk's Hood (Cadfael #3) by Ellis Peters
4 stars - I haven't gotten to read A Leper of St Giles yet, but out of the three stories I have read and watched, this one had the most differences in plot. I rather liked the movie, but now that I've read the book, I think the book plot makes more sense and the characters more engaging. (And I like Brother Mark better than Brother Oswin as Brother Cadfael's assistant.) Still worth checking both versions out if you can find them.

Tripping Over the Lunch Lady: and Other School Stories edited by Nancy E. Mercado
4 stars - This collection of short stories was hilarious. Following each story was a blurb about each author's school years such as worst school smell, favorite field trip, and worst/favorite subject.

Harry and the Terrible Whatzit by Dick Gackenbach
3 stars - cute picture book. Harry's mom goes down to the cellar and doesn't come back up. He goes down and discovers the terrible whatzit. But he learns the whatzit isn't as terrible as he'd thought.

St Peters Fair (Cadfael #4) by Ellis Peters
4 stars - The town is still dealing with the effects of the fighting that had happened when King Stephen moved in on Empress Maud's forces earlier in the year (see book 2). A series of events seemed ordinary at first but they covered a deeper plot involving kingdom politics.

A Coming Evil by Viviane Vande Velde
4 stars - This intermediate level story is a historical fiction story...with a ghost. I wouldn't have picked it up since I don't normally read war themed stories-this one takes place during WWII in German-occupied France-but I liked the author's spins on Rumpelstiltskin in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, so I gave this one a chance. Glad I read it, because it worked well, and she uses the ghost aspect in a unique way. A nice way to introduce young readers to some of the issues that some kids faced during the war without being in the middle of the worst parts.

As you can see, many books, a couple of which had been on my to-read list. I've also been doing lots of beading and crocheting, experimenting with pieces I'll want to sell once I open my Etsy shop. Some aren't too bad, but some things are too tedious or not working as well as I want. Even though all this crafting has taken up a bunch of my brain time, my ROW 80 goals have kept me from losing track completely.

Creating a magic system: Sanderson's First Law

Friday, January 20, 2012

I wasn't sure what I wanted to cover today or even if I was going to cover anything. I haven't finished another new book just yet, nor have I read anything else the past couple days. But as I was sitting here drinking my Cafe Mocha made with my new espresso machine, I was studying my worldbuilding notes for my trogg and wizard story. No more putting off figuring out the rules for magic. The wizard has been backed into a corner and has to start explaining things to the trogg girl. She wasn't allowed to learn the societal laws regarding magic before she got cursed, and after the curse, the only things she's learned has been from overhearing things. Not exactly reliable.

Yes, I could leave magic more free form. It was going to be like that, not really taking center stage. But magic and the societal laws regarding it both make a big difference in what happened in the past to the wizard, what happened to the girl, and what will happen in the future to both of them and the society they live in. The wizard will have to use magic, and magic will get used against them. Which means now I really have to define it.

However, creating magic systems is like social studies in general: my weak area. In one of my other novels-in-progress, my husband created the magic system, so I just have to fit the powers and abilities into his framework. (It's a joint project.) Magic is tangled with the social structure in this world, so it's particularly tricky. Studying a couple of the other well developed magic systems (D&D and Darksword) has given me some ideas for how to shape it, but neither quite works for how I want magic to function in my world setting.

This morning I just typed "magic systems" into the search line on Google and found this great article from Brandon Sanderson. I've never read any of his books, though I think Mistborn is on my TBR list. This article mentions his first experience on a panel at Worldcon on the topic of "How does the magic work?" His first thought was "it has to have rules." But everyone else on the panel adamantly disagreed, stating that with rules comes a loss of wonder. Well, in trying to defend his stance, and in reflecting later on the alternative position, he came up with this law:

An author's ability to solve conflict with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

One of the corollaries: Magic doesn't need strict rules, but it can't undermine the plot.

He expands on how to apply this rule on the continuum of soft magic to hard magic, just like in SF there is the continuum of soft science to hard science. He uses Spiderman, Gandalf, and Harry Potter as specific examples but also mentions several authors who have approached magic in ways differently from himself, yet he still enjoys reading their stories.

In some aspects, my trogg and wizard story is leaning toward the hard end even though not a great deal of magic will be used on center stage. But when it is used, I want readers to understand what is going on and the risks involved. The wizard won't be telling the trogg about how magic works directly, but he will be explaining the social laws and a bit on how they are trained, so indirectly, some of the rules on how magic works will be hinted at including types that may show up later in the story.

Though the article doesn't exactly help me create the system itself, it does explain why I need to hash out how things work in this world right now, frustrating as it is for me. And I really like his approach toward writers who use magic differently from his own style. Though I'm more of a definer even when I'm winging it, I have enjoyed books that fall more toward the soft end.

How about your writing? Do your stories fall toward soft magic, middle ground, or hard magic? Or if you write SF, what is your the SF equivalent?

When magic and detective fiction collide

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I finally got around to reading one of my husband's highly recommended books: the first book of the Dresden Files - STORM FRONT by Jim Butcher. We have some overlapping tastes like most of Lackey's and McCaffrey's books (and Harry Potter, go figure), but even though we're both big SF/F fans, we have widely different preferences within spec fic. Well, last night I was browsing through our newly reorganized book collection (with my flashlight since the power had gone out thanks to high winds), and I decided to grab something different.

By the end of the first chapter I was hooked. "Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face." The voice is incredible. I really felt sorry for Harry while he's trying to work with a police contact, keep a gangster from sending his thugs after him, figure out who is cooking up the new drug on the streets (to help with point 2), not reveal anything to a sexy reporter, solve a grisly set of murders caused by magic, and not take the rap for it by the police as well as the White Council and a biased Warden. Oh yeah, and not get killed before the Council even meets to put him on trial. What's a nearly broke wizard to do? Keep moving of course. And have a little faith that he's the good guy.

I really liked the combination of magic in a contemporary world with an old fashioned detective sort of novel. I've been reading more mysteries lately, for variety, and this was well done in more than just voice. The mystery kept me guessing but all of Harry's thoughts made sense as he worked out what was going on and how it all connected. I give this book 5 stars.

As for my ROW 80 goals, I haven't been as on track as I'd like.
Writing 100 words every day: Wed, Sun, Mon - no; Thurs, Fri, Sat, Tues - yes
Exercising 10 mins a day: Wed, Thurs, Sun - yes; Fri, Sat, Mon, Tues - no
New book for the week: yes a few times :D

I haven't counted today for yes or no yet, but I'm going to get on that soon. Dresden tied up my morning.

Fantasy for kids

Monday, January 16, 2012

Still waiting for my library books to come in from the other libraries. For now, here's some more kids' books.

CHILD OF AIR by Grace Chetwin
I wanted to read this one because I enjoyed her books about Gom of Windy Mountain. This is set on a different world, but it has much of the same feel, though written for a younger age group. Mylanfyndra and her older brother Brevan live with their grandfather away from most of the townsfolk on their mesa. It is only after his death that they learn why and what secret he had been holding since they were babies.

The only thing I didn't really like was the very ending; it was too abrupt. Seriously, I turned the last page expecting one more to finish wrapping it up, and it was simply done. The last few paragraphs do conclude it, but I felt it was too quick. It needed just a bit more in reflection or something. Other than that, it is well worth reading, a good story for intermediate readers, 10-12 year olds primarily would be my guess. That's one book off my overall TBR list. Too bad I just added about 3 more today.

TWO SILLY TROLLS by Nancy Jewell, pictures by Lisa Thiesing
This is an adorable picture book for very young readers. It says for K-3, but my son is in 1st, and I think he finds it a bit under him in reading level and story complexity. But that might just be him, too, considering he's been listening to me read Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse books to him the past couple years. In any case, this I Can Read Book is simple and charming with its 5 micro stories about Nip and Tuck, the two silly trolls who start off the first story with a mushroom home until a bear cub sat on it.

My son really liked this one, even though the reading level wasn't much more complex than the silly trolls story. I think he just got a kick out of the fact that anytime Grandpa Witch messed up, he got a black cat. And once you get a cat, you can't send it back. The Doobelator doesn't really come in until the second half of the story, but Grandpa Witch and his two grandchildren, Wanda and Willy are cute as they prepare for Halloween night.

Glad to see that despite my 2 month absence, some of my readers are still here. If anyone has any other spec fic kid books they want to recommend, you can either just list them in the comments below, or email me your brief reviews to dapperdragon (at) gmail (dot) com. When I get a few of them, I'll do up a post just of your reviews. I know at least a few of you have kids of your own, so please share any favorites.

Fun with kids' books and check-in

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

While I'm waiting for the books I requested at the library from my TBR list to come in, I picked up some kids' books. I had fun reading them with my son (chosen to share). Got a few more, too, but we haven't read them yet.

Wizard And Wart At Sea by Janice Lee Smith
Wizard and Wart In Trouble by Janice Lee Smith
My Mom Is a Pirate by Jackie French

I also just read Into the Land of Unicorns by Bruce Coville, picked for myself. I'm going to have to snag the other books in the Unicorn Chronicles from the library. It was fun.

So I'm good for my new book for the week. :D

As for my other two goals...
*Writing 100 words every day: check. I haven't written a huge amount over that, but I did do it, about double every day.
*Exercise 10 minutes every day: check. I danced for half an hour on Sun and Tues, and did ten minutes of using my new stretch bands on Monday.

ROW 80: Round 1 of 2012: Goals

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Round 1 of ROW 80 has already begun, but I jumped in with some writing before working on my goals this past week, plus I worked on some other non-writing related projects. I'm going very modest on my goals this round. In addition to writing and reading, I'm trying to do more crafting, so I need to give myself time for that as well.

Warmup goal: write 100 words every day. Even when I feel like crud, I can usually scrape out that much.

Read one new book a week. New to me that is, but I'll try to get some new releases in here and there as well. I have a huge list of TBRs to get through that is growing faster than I can knock it down. My over all reading goal for the year is 75 books, but that can include old favorites with the new ones. This will give me more books to write reviews on for this blog, something I feel I need to get back to doing again on a regular basis.

Spend 10 mins a day exercising. Super modest but doable. This is more to build a daily routine since I can boogie for an hour to my favorite music, but it's not a daily thing yet.

I'll probably adjust these and/or add new ones in about a month, but this will be a good start.

Unicorns and flowers, oh my!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm starting the new year off with a couple book reviews. This is more like what I'd intended the blog to be about, but I think I'll still keep up with writing updates as well from the ROW 80. Maybe a better blend of the old and new aims.

Over the holidays, I picked up a couple books from the library in the kids section. One my Goodreads list said I'd read before, but I didn't recognize the stories. Hmm. Well, I read it (again) and loved it. Twelve stories with unicorns of many forms fill A Glory of Unicorns edited by Bruce Coville. He also wrote the first story in the collection, The Guardian of Memory. Some of the stories take place in fantastical settings like in The New Girl, some might be our own backyard like in Tearing Down the Unicorns.

It's an interesting mix of stories that draw upon the legends of unicorns without being sappy. Authors in the collection are Bruce Coville, Janni Lee Simner, Gregory Maguire, Ruth O'Neill, Nancy Varian Berberick, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Katherine Coville, Alethea Eason, Nancy with Greg Labarbera, Kathryn Lay, Gail Kimberly, and Sean Stewart.

For a lighter feel, I also picked up Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris. As it says on the cover: part comedy, part love story, part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. As you can imagine, it's a whimsical sort of tale. Front cover doesn't really hint that it's a fantasy, but the blurb on the back had, so I had to pick it up. I wouldn't want to read it all the time, but it was a cute story.

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. He's just a commoner, though, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he's discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom--and she'll bump off Marigold to do it! Can Chris foil her diabolical plans?

I loved the whimsical feel of the story. Ed the troll is a fun supporting character. He's been trying to get into the tooth collection business, since the tooth fairy herself is falling behind on her duties but won't allow anyone to break into her monopoly. He doesn't want to take over, just get a piece of the action. He found Chris when the boy was a small youngster lost in the woods who refused to be taken back home. Somehow ending up like a parent, he does his best to teach Chris bits of etiquette from a book he'd collected at some point while not being strict enough to make the boy run away again as he'd done to end up in the woods to begin with.

The p-mail parts were another fun touch. Christian first makes contact with Marigold via pigeon, since Ed kept a pair of pigeons for sending messages of his own. And the cave they shared was just across the river from the castle where Marigold lived. Some of the messages are long enough that they are broken up into pieces in order to fit on the birds' legs. They are shown in order, but the book shows the breaks between pieces of paper.

So a fun pair of books. I hope you'll check them out. On the writing front, this week I got back to work on my trog and wizard story. During the holidays, I jumped in on a Word War with some of my writing friends online. I missed the first ten minutes because I'd forgotten about it, and my brain was starting off cold. But since I'd had some scene summary ideas jotted down for that story, I grabbed one and ran with it, writing about 850 words in 50 minutes, one of my best stints. So on Tuesday I picked up where I'd left off and added another 1250 words, though over the course of the morning rather than just an hour. Still a good day's work for me.

I didn't get much done yesterday since I was puttering on several other things as well, like trying to learn how to crochet a hex-base with beads. Still haven't gotten the hang of it yet even with the book and accompanying DVD. Best I've gotten so far looks like a horseshoe shape, like I haven't put on enough beads even though I have the correct number on. Sigh. Harder than it looks. I may have to try one suggestion I got which is to practice without the beads, since I think my problem is the closing the rings and stepping up to the next row (and first stitch after that).

That's enough for now, but I'll work on what sort of goals I want to focus on this month. I plan to post them on Sunday's ROW80 check-in. Maybe I'll have another book review for you then, too. I'm baaack! :D