Who are you again?

A day off sick means… well, a lot of Minecraft, but also continuing the project to combine several years’ worth of world and character notes into one master document. I’ve now closed in on the main notes document, which is 39 pages long and has not been updated since the first draft of The Healers’ Road. A lot of it has since been changed, so there’s a lot of sorting out what’s current from what’s not. And “Oh yeah, that’s what he/she/that city used to be called.” Whew.

In the end, however, I will have one document in which I can stick all of the setting and lore info that got strewn throughout the first book, and then move forward with some idea that I know what the heck I’m talking about.

Someday.

And this doesn’t fit in with the Playlist, but I will link to it anyway as working music: if not all of the music from Rhythm Heaven, a bonkers Nintendo DS rhythm game that I love, then at least most of it.

June’s Reading: From Magic to Formatting

Still not making headway: 121 books on the TBR pile at the beginning of June, 127 at the end. Gah. Here’s what I did read, though: a smorgasbord of unconnected things that added up to quite a good month.

Fantasy, SF and Related Genres

Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood – Regretfully DNFd at about 30%. Ever have that feeling that this has got to be somebody’s catnip, but it’s just not your catnip? That’s how I felt about this book. I “got” all the references except one, I liked the characters fine, the premise is clever, things were happening… and I just didn’t like the style. It’s a very dense style in which every sentence is stuffed with as many geek references as possible and elaborately worded to be as jokey/clever as possible, as though the whole book were written in Whedon Tongue. It was cute and all, but I found it exhausting. Plenty of people love that style, so — catnip, just not my catnip. And that’s OK.

The Dresden Files RPG: The Paranet Papers – Not a novel, but still in the F/SF realm. I’ve been playing in a sporadic but determined DFRPG group since 2011. I’m sure the GM is going to find some new trickery inspired by this expansion. Wheeeee. And there are tweaks and such for magic-using characters (which is to say, nearly everyone) that look helpful.

Because I am contrary, I play a vanilla mortal — which is like playing a kitten in D&D. Not a kitten in armor who can dual-wield cutlasses, just a kitten. In our last session, we were supposed to throw down with the Big Bad, and instead my character semi-accidentally talked him out of his Grand Revenge and convinced him to be a better parent instead. I do not game correctly, is what I’m saying. I game like I write, if that’s any indication. Too many feels, not enough explosions.

But the sourcebook was cool, and my play style is not their fault. 😀

Romance

The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen (The Ivy Years book 4) – A previous book in the series popped up on my Kindle carousel, leading to “Oh YAY, there’s another one out, has been for a few months and I didn’t know but whatever, here we goooooooo~”. The series is just an auto-buy situation with me, and it continues to be so. Covers, though: Oh, covers. The cover has 0% of anything to do with the story; it seems to be made just to fit in with the rest of the series. That’s marketing!

Writing & Publishing

The Zen of Ebook Formatting by Guido Henkel – This is about the process of turning a document into an ebook in the most efficient way possible. A second edition just came out, so it seemed like a good time to catch up. I enjoy fiddly typesetting type tasks and already know a bit of HTML, so while the author is usually in “Don’t worry, this isn’t as bad as it sounds” mode, my reaction was more like “Hey, this sounds fun!” I haven’t scoured my first book to the ZoEF standards yet; I plan to do it along with the second book. Should be fun. Not even being sarcastic here.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris – As previously blogged, this is a memoir / grammar essay collection by a copy editor for The New Yorker. It’s a random jaunt through word nerd land, like a visit to a pencil sharpener museum. I do not care about Important People From New York Publishing stuff because I am under 60 years of age, and similarly, the author is an antiquated jerk about pronouns — but parts of it were fun.

Nonfiction

The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker – Fortuitous sale! I hope it did well. Main takeaway: People put up with a lot of thoughtless crap. This is a 101-level, here’s-what-we-are-and-ESPECIALLY-here’s-what-we’re-not type of book. I intended to go in as research, since I have two asexual characters coming up in future books. While I’ve read about asexuality quite a bit already, more research is pretty much always good. Besides, I want to learn more about people and the world, and be an empathetic and informed sort of person to the best of my ability.

So that was June: a little bit of everything.

Friday Playlist: Microorganisms, magic, and mountains

Today’s soundtrack, unrelated to the post. Just something bouncy. (If anything, it’s on my soundtrack for the Academy. But I don’t know any songs about epidemiology and landscapes, which are the subjects of the post.)

 

And a couple of thoughts from this week.

Cool story, Professor Bro, but what about magic?

THR2 continues; lots of fun. Also getting lost in reading about the  history of medicine, and continuing to adapt it to the story-world by warping it through the lens of this world’s differences from ours. For starters, magic is a thing; how does that change history?

For one quick instance, in real life, there was a very long stretch of time in which we knew that germs/microorganisms existed, but we didn’t know that some of them were responsible for the spread of diseases. Most people believed that diseases were caused by bad smells, in what was known as the miasma theory. Being around open sewers made people sick; open sewers stank; obviously the stink was what caused the disease. Discovery is often about explaining what you can see with the technology you have at the time, and more importantly in practice, fitting it into the structure of ideas that people already have.

In the story-world, because they already use magic to heal people, they tend to shoehorn a lot of new discoveries about biology and anatomy into a framework of ideas explained by magic – even if magic isn’t related to the topic in question. But they don’t know that; all they know is what they’ve observed so far, and what people believe so far. According to the Church of the Divine Balance in particular, magic/life force is literally everywhere. Of course those wiggly bits you managed to spot under your new lenses are related to magic somehow. So they come up with an explanation that gels with what they believe about magic.

Less magic, more eye candy:

They’re still quite small, but I’ve opened up my scenery inspiration boards on Pinterest. So far, there are boards for Wildern, Vertal, Nessiny (the largest so far), Furon/the Islands, and I Don’t Know Where Yet, But This Is Cool, and I’d Like to Note It for Later. I’d like to work on a Kaveran Country board eventually, as well as cracking into Yanwei and at least one of the cities in Achusa. But since the main novel to take place in the Kaveran backcountry is already finished, I don’t want to get too sidetracked. That’s less “inspiration for me while writing” and more “fun side material for you while/after reading.”

(Caveat / disclaimer: Even if a location serves as visual inspiration for a location in the story, that doesn’t mean that its real-life culture is necessarily tied into the culture in the story. New Zealand is not Middle-Earth. Fiction is fiction. End disclaimer.)

If you prefer to keep your own mental image of things, that’s fine, too. If I ever get a character-based board together, I will keep that private for that very reason. Character mental images seem more deeply tied into the experience of a story, and having wrenches thrown into those works can be upsetting to a lot of people. On the other hand, it is interesting to me – and, I think, important – to realize the biases in the images we dream up for characters. As a writer, I think I can do better in portraying visuals; that’s an area I’m trying to improve.

It’s a fine line: I hope that others’ impressions of my characters are true to the spirit of the characters (ahem), but I can’t police their impressions, either.

Scenery, on the other hand, is less loaded, and I’m comfortable with sharing that. So that should be fun.

Update: Happy Summer Solstice!

Write longhand all week, transcribe all weekend. It’s like rock & roll all nite & party ev-uh-ry day, except the opposite.

I don’t have a song today. I do have about 3,000 words of scene to transcribe, mostly early-morning walking and “I have a secret I’m trying really hard not to tell my friend, and it isn’t working because she is nosy as hell,” plus digressions on goat cheese and architecture because it’s me. Did I promise you non-stop action? I believe I did not.  😀

I’m also reading Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris, a long-time copy editor for The New Yorker. It’s about 25% memoir and 75% essays on punctuation and grammar. Despite her retrograde stance on pronouns (ugh), a lot of it is quite amusing — like figuring out why there’s a dash in Moby-Dick or, in the same chapter, fielding a sniffy Letter to the Editor about the difference between “star-fucker” and “star fucker.” “Pedantic” and “easily amused” are not necessarily mutually exclusive, you know! So that’s fun. Full bookish writeup after I get a few more finished, as before.

Third note, it’s the summer solstice this weekend. So if we were all from Agna’s country from the books, a quarter of us would get a year older, and we’d be lighting bonfires and dancing and drinking wine and finding the excuse to have a week-long party. Lundrala, the holiday observed in Healers’ Road, has not happened yet. Still time to buy presents.

To update the last update, with an update in the update: The sale is still on, but I may hold off on releasing THR to Kobo & co. for a little longer. Amazon just shook things up in the program I was just about to quit, and I’m curious to see how it will pan out. So I may — possibly — keep Healers’ Road in the Kindle Unlimited program until Healertown Passage has at least one cycle in it too, then pack both up and release them elsewhere. We’ll see.

0.99 Summer Sale

Just realized that my eligibility window for launching a particular type of sale on Amazon is closing, so hey! 99c sale on The Healers’ Road on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk next week, June 21-28.

In mid-July, THR will stop being available through Kindle Unlimited, and if all goes well, start being available through a couple of other retailers.

 

Friday Playlist: Whoa-oh-oh-oh, also names

It’s been over a month since the last Ingrid Michaelson entry on the Playlist.  *turns over “days since” sign’s digits*

There’s not a ton of stuff going on in the lyrics, but because of its tone and spirit, it’s been one of my Healertown Passage theme songs since the beginning. Hope! And things!

Didn’t do as much writing at Origins as I’d planned, though the story is still moving. Unexpectedly, I was a) walking A LOT (which is good) and b) playing a whole lot of board games. I look forward to losing several more hours to our own copy of Empire Builder shortly.

Two book-related splurges from the con: a copy of the City Designer expansion for Campaign Cartographer 3, and one of these letter d30s. Why? Well, I have banks of (northern) Nessinian names on hand, and I can throw together Yanweian names pretty easily, but Kaveran names, which are Standard Fantasy Phoneme Soup, not so much. So if I have a random new side character — or four of them, as in this last scene — I can roll up an initial or a Scrabble slate’s worth of letters and cobble together something that doesn’t sound too ridiculous. Hopefully.

And that’s how the sausage is made? Dice. Dice and calling everyone things like (dude) and (the young one) in the first draft, until I have time to name them. So very professional.

Friday Playlist: *twee whistling*

I don’t even care that all the Friday Playlists posts are on Thursday. What’s time, anyway?

This song is twee as hell, and it repeatedly sticks in my head. Finished an emotionally wringing infodump scene today (because… everything I write is emotionally wringing, even infodumps), so let’s have some twee.

After completing the plot outline for THR2 and talking about it with my Number One Forever Beta Reader, I decided it wasn’t my imagination that there are still enough dangling plot threads to fuel THR3 someday. Funny how that works out. Try to resolve some questions in the characters’ lives, and even if you answer those, you a) generate more questions and b) introduce more characters with questions in their lives. HELP.

And by “help” I mean “yay,” of course.

I still don’t know what beats are, but here we go

The graph is moving, officially. The outline is unvetted but finished. And the new tactic of working in the morning and over lunch with a Kindle and a Bluetooth keyboard (forming a tiny, jerry-rigged laptop of sorts) seems to work pretty well.

This week’s posting will be thrown out of whack yet again, because 50% of everyone I’ve ever met and I will be at Origins Game Fair this weekend. Not exhibiting/crafting this time, just lurking around being lurky. Unfortunately, I am not the most skilled gamer. I’ve played perhaps twelve total sessions of Dresden Files, D&D, Fate Core, and Dread over the last five years. For a lot of people at this shindig, that’s a month’s worth of gaming. So I will not be playing much.

You know what that means? Hunkering down with coffee and the mini-laptop, that’s what. Convention center food court, here I come.

When we return, I hope to a) keep going with The Healertown Passage  (the name is still sticking, so far) and b) leap into the copy of Campaign Cartographer 3 I received as a gift this past weekend, because maaaaaaaaaps! I tell myself I’ll start slow/small and work my way up to mapping the major cities/countries from my books. But I’ll probably launch right into the deep end. Still, who doesn’t love fantasy maps?

* The title is semi-facetious. They seem to be TERRIBLY IMPORTANT, but I can’t seem to nail down a definition other than “a thing that happens.” OK then.