It’s been too long; have some new Miska

Sorry everyone. I’ve been pulled from my regular posts by school work, and until now I didn’t have any kind of extra material lying around that I felt okay about putting up here. I warn you now that I will likely not finish Miska’s story here this time around. But if you liked Miska before you’ll be happy to know that you’re about to get a few weeks of Miska posts. I figure doling out the first few chapters in chunks is appropriate. They’re way better now: I’ve written and rewritten the story a few more times, and I have the prologue and then some ready to share with you.

Here’s that prologue…

Continue reading

Advertisements

League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik

20404555

I’m surprised to find that I’ve only reviewed one other book in this series in any depth.

 

As that review mentions, I’m definitely a fan of the Temeraire series. But more to the point, I think that League of Dragons is an excellent finish to this series. Better than many of the preceding books, which is difficult. Better than some of the really good preceding books, which is even harder.

In many ways, this book shows Novik doing exactly the opposite of what Stirling so loves; she somehow manages to cut out all the slow bits of the novel while keeping all the pieces that are important to the story. But that’s wrong, because it’s not like this is a non-stop action adventure. This takes plenty of time to devote itself to social intricacies, diplomatic considerations and the like… but Novik knows what matters, and she takes out everything else. She has a narrow focus on the heart of this story, and she has honed it until it delivers exactly that. Yes, there’s a little extra around the edges, but only enough fat to let you enjoy the flavor without overpowering the piece itself.

I want to stress, from personal experience, just how hard it is to do that. I can only imagine how much material must lie on the cutting room floor. There have to be scenes, long and involved scenes, which simply didn’t end up necessary to telling this story in the best way. The clarity and relative brevity of this story speak volumes about the discipline shown by Novik (and presumably her editor) in making this book, and I think I’ll return to this book to appreciate this for some time to come.

Funny. I’ve hit this point in the review, the one where I could start delving into further intricacies to tell you about particular bits of goodness, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s enough that this is a good series about dragons. That it is also a story about a British man in the early 1800’s who learns that, maybe, more people are people than he had realized is (exceptionally good) gravy. The fact that it somehow encompasses adventure and social intrigue and feels like period fiction in the best possible way only makes it better.

If you haven’t read the series yet, you have a great deal to look forward to. Except that book about Australia, which is unfortunately rather sluggish but let’s not talk about that. Go ahead and enjoy.

Prep for next semester & Barium Deep

Sorry for missing last Friday, I was busy driving to a family reunion and didn’t have something prepped ahead of time.

Anyway, I have good news! I’m making progress on my project for the fall. It’s possible that I’m not supposed to start it yet, given that this is in fact a school project, but I’ve already bitten off too much to chew so I don’t feel guilty about it.

I think I’ve already mentioned this, but the goal that I’ve set for myself is to not only write a middle grade sci-fi space adventure but to edit and write a second draft of it too. I’m not sure what the technical length requirements might be, so I’m using the 50,000 word novel as my measuring stick. Given that I’m openly inspired by Diane Duane’s So You Want To Be A Wizard (which the internet tells me is roughly 124,000 words) my 50k target is possibly conservative.

I have previously hit a regular 2000 words a day for a month at a time. My hope for this section of the summer is to push myself back up to speed, get into the rhythm of writing that much every day, and thus prepare for producing a novel not just once but twice. There’ll be an interruption to this pattern when I run off to work at LARP camp for kids, but with a little bit of luck I’ll be able to make it stick.

And if I cheat things just a bit, by getting some additional material for the project done while I’m ramping up to the pace I’ll need, I don’t think I’ll lose any sleep over it. Besides which, much of the material that I’m writing now is stuff that may never see the light of day. I’m writing scenes for the story (which will be about Barium Deep), but I’m also writing about the background of the setting and trying to figure out how things work. The more I can establish now (and the more excited about writing this story I can be) the easier it will be when I have to be writing it all through the fall.

This means I’m doing research. I’m reading articles on AI and augmented / mixed reality and space exploration and 3D printing and whatever other technological things I can find that seem appropriate to incorporate into my space setting. And I’m reading and watching things that feel like the right tone or genre or subject matter: So You Want To Be A Wizard, 2001: A Space Odyssey, some of the Vorkosigan books, Digimon Tamers, etc. It’s a bit eclectic.

Actually, here’s a cool video to watch. It’s totally not the same technology, and it’s a very different time period, but something about the claustrophobia, compactness, and industrial nature of submarines seems like it translates well to spaceships in my mind. That training & orientation video really emphasizes the intricacy and condensed nature of the WW2 submarine, and those both feel like things that would carry over to the future of putting humans in tin cans in space. You use the space you have on important things, like the machinery that keeps you alive and keeps your ship powered and moving. Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, everything else is extra.

The Story of a Sword

I had an idea a while back, something that came to me while I was lying in bed at night. It’s an unfortunately productive time for my imagination, when I’d like to sleep but instead often come up with story ideas. Then I struggle to record them and whatever resonance they hold for me before they slip away, and when I wake in the morning and stare at whatever I’ve written down I have to wonder why I thought it was a good idea.

Wait, no, I’m mixing this idea up with many others that I have. *This* one came to me while I was supposed to be listening to a presentation. I promptly jotted it down on my phone and emailed it to myself. Anyway, I’ve elaborated on what I think the opening of the story is and I’ll share that opening scene with you today. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, it’ll probably change… but first you’ll have a chance to enjoy it.

Continue reading

Still Busy: Have A Paper On Lloyd Alexander and Characters’ Emotional Growth

I don’t know if you want to read about how Lloyd Alexander constructed emotional transformation for his characters, but I wrote a paper fanboying about it last fall. I don’t want to fall out of the habit of posting something, even if I’m too busy to write a new post, so I’ll share that paper with you instead. I’m not sure how well the formatting has survived the transition. It looks legible from where I sit. Cross the vast gap of this break to enjoy it.

Continue reading

Why David Weber, Why?

Reading about flat characters in E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, I have just been reminded of one of the things that routinely frustrates me in David Weber’s work.  Weber likes trying to make characters who should essentially be flat, more or less caricatures intended to draw up conflict or drama or comedy (or maybe they should be comic but he refuses to use them in that way, making them painfully comic instead… more on that later).  But instead of accepting that these characters should be flat, he tries to flesh them out.  He tries to make them round, and make me care about them.  Nine times out of ten, he fails.

Continue reading

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

There are a number of covers I’ve seen for this book, and while they all ostensibly represent the book, the one above is the only one I saw in person that feels appropriate.  It’s a very good book, definitely worth reading, and more than a little dark.  Here’s the other one I’ve seen in print for a spot of comparison:

Continue reading

Flash Fiction Challenge: Attack of the Titles

I have been driving around with my brothers today, on our way to visit our mother for a big party / art show of hers.  To make up for my delayed post, I’ve overdone Chuck Wendig’s “come up with a title” challenge for this week; instead of giving you only one title, I’ll give you, um, fourteen.  Or maybe sixteen, though I suppose at least four of them are either variations or jokes of some sort.  Oddly enough, I found it far easier to write too many titles than to write just one.  As long as I thought I only had to write one, I felt kind of stuck.  Once I knew I was writing “lots,” I felt free to write whatever the hell came to mind.  It worked pretty well, I think.  Go past the break to read my list.  Quality not guaranteed.

Continue reading

World Building: Where Have All The Dwarves Gone?

Today’s post is brought to you by the caffeinated musings which have distracted me from my homework and encouraged me to write world background material instead.

The setting of For The King! is largely lacking playable non-humans at the moment.  There are a few dwarves or elves who might be somewhere in the realm of Duval, and there are some gnomes and halflings and others scattered around, but most people, in most places, are human.  The orcs and half-orcs mostly live to the northwest of the kingdom, generally part of the large nomadic tribes which roam through those sections of the Trade Lands.  Heck there are centaurs too, but they generally stick to the lands northeast of the kingdom of Duval, and don’t have much direct contact except with traders who venture out onto the northern plains.

And yet there are remnants of dwarven architecture throughout the center of the kingdom of Duval, and historical records definitely suggest that they used to live in the area.  So… where have all the dwarves gone?

Continue reading

The Golden Princess, by S.M. Stirling

It’s been a while since I read any S.M. Stirling, and I picked this one up more on a whim than anything else.  I’d gotten tired of the most recent spate of Change novels, probably because of a disconnect between my expectations and what Stirling was delivering.  I wanted Stirling to write an active story about a smaller group of characters, with palpable progress in the plot achieved in the course of each book.  Stirling did create that progress but it was far slower than I’d hoped for, and he spent more time focused on the milieu of the story rather than advancing the story that I wanted to see resolved.  In fact, after the first trilogy the pace of progress slowed precipitously, until it was almost a crawl.

The Golden Princess doesn’t change that pattern.  What did change was my expectations of what I’d find in reading the book.  And I have to say: reading these books as milieu fiction, as much about the world in which they take place as they are about any of the characters, is far more fun and rewarding than reading them with expectations of tight and fast plot.  Definitely worth starting up the series again.

Continue reading