Archive | April 2009

Reginald Rath Rides Again

If you need to giggle loop your day (Coupling reference, anyone?), Dr. Squeaky recommends Two Vampires and a Panel Discussion in the latest issue of Drops of Crimson, edited by the ever hard-working J. Lee Moffat. It's sort of a tribute to my life as the long-suffering wife of a Hammer horror fan, among other things.

There's some other good stories there as well if your UF buttons need pushed. I particularly enjoyed Sea Devil by Kenneth Mark Hoover. And I have to appreciate the ending of The Bus Stop by Gary J. Beharry. Teenagers. They'll make more...

At any rate, enjoy!

Catherine

Endowed Chair Recap

Dr. Squeaky managed to wing her way through two and a half hours of academic schmoozing about Hulk Hercules, although, quite frankly, my voice is fried now. Here's a typical conversation.

Visitor: Tell me what you did for your project.
Dr. Squeaky: I was approached by Cats Curious Press to write a series of children's books about mythological gods in modern times.
Visitor: (Begins to grin). That sounds like fun.
Dr. Squeaky: It was! The only parameters I was given was that it should be a middle grade/YA book, and the title had to be Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler.
Visitor: (Broad grin) That's wonderful!
Dr. Squeaky: It was! I even went to Chicago to interview wrestlers.

It was fun. I talked about writing a MG fantasy in my cartoony voice, and it all worked. There's some talk about a Kirkwood book signing, and lots of enthusiasm about getting the books for kids and grandkids. All in all, a very successful session. With rotating truffles. And citrusy shrimps.

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While waiting for the gig, I completed around a page of Death by Drowning, which seems to be coming out like Athena, mostly fully formed from my head. Now, I'm spending the rest of my night coughing and relaxing, feeling good about the whole author thing.

See you tomorrow. I predict more pantomime teaching and a return to Decorah.

Catherine

Endowed Chair Presentation, Capsule Reviews

You know, when you are really sick, everything else you've had before and cranked about makes you feel like a hypochondriac. 🙂 The doctors are having me do laryngitis the old fashioned way--I have a prescription for ZPack, the cannon of antibiotics, but I'm not to use it unless my temperature spikes. Which it has not. So we struggle valiantly onward, sniffling, speaking squeakily, and occasionally giving ourself a buzz with codeine impregnated cough syrup.

Generally, I am a very charismatic and energetic presenter. The Minnie Mouse voice that laryngitis has left me with means that I will have to rely on other virtues to talk about the book. There will be a lot of whispering and pointing today. It is what it is. Classes will also be cut to the bare bones. What questions do you have? Here are some skeletal instructions. Live long and prosper.

I am itching to get back to my manuscript, and have some hopes of doing that tonight. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Some quick other things that I should mention before I try to stumble through some work:

I read Michael Jasper's The Wannoshay Cycle. It's very, very good. I am not an SF reader by nature, but MAN, that was something. The premise: The Wannoshay crash land on earth. Humans and Wannoshay negotiate each other. The execution: a psychological ensemble piece with engaging aliens and humans. I'll be looking for more of Michael's books. He writes with a delicate touch, but a sturdy follow through.

I've just begun Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith, which is a gentle juxtaposition of Celtic myth and Scottish short story.

On Monday, I took a look at Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible. Stalin ultimately exiled Eisenstein for part 2, which I have yet to see, but part 1 is laced throughout with propaganda and dramatic posing.

A less patrician offering? Okay. Last night, The Man (TM) and I watched Caprica. It was fine. Teenage Zoey is spooky, but I'm not sure about the Tauran Mafia overtones. Overall, I was satisfied.

Right. Wish me luck. I'm off to make some hot tea, check a couple of stray papers, and basically piddle about until 2ish.

Catherine

The Itis

Or, really, laryngitis. Bryon and I came back from Minneapolis, me with a cough. A trip to the doctor's revealed that I had laryngitis and the beginnings of bronchitis. So I've been taking it easy the last two days, and hope to be back in the saddle at work tomorrow.

We'll probably skip Blood this week, as I have an Endowed Chair presentation about Hulk Hercules to focus on tomorrow. I'll croak through it.

At any rate, back to being AWOL.

Catherine

Villains

Am I wrong? Do you notice a definite lack of villains in most books? Modern writing uses multi-faceted characters who are morally ambiguous. I don't want a return to the melodramatic days of mustache twirling, but I find myself looking for villains, and finding my examples are more classic than not.

What makes a good villain? Here's an examination of six villains that have crossed my path, and why I think they're good villains.

1. Steerpike from Gormenghast. Steerpike is an abused boy from the kitchens who shamelessly manipulates his way into a variety of powerful positions, and then starts abusing that power. Hungry for more power and prestige, eventually he begins to kill for it. He also has a ferocious temper that makes him avenge what he perceives as slights.

Why does Steerpike work? He has humble origins, he has moments of humanities, the escalation of his deeds are so gradual we see him slip little by little, and by the time he goes completely mad, a small part of us wants him to succeed in contrast to his enemies. Make no mistake. He's got to go down, and he's evil. He's fascinating.

Peake takes 12 pages to kill Steerpike in my version of the book. A worthy villain gets a worthy death.

2. Dr. Doom.

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Dr. Doom comes from the hokey period of Marvel Comics. In general, I've been pleased with his portrayal in modern times. He is crazy and selfish, but when it comes to running his country, you can always count on him to do what he thinks is right for Latveria, in a really stern father kind of way. Doom is deeply flawed in so many ways, including in his irrational hatred of his rival Reed Richards. However, you can count on Doom to do what he says he will do, especially if you have the word of Doom.

There is no moral grayness about Doom. What you see is what you get.

3. Cardinal Richelieu

Of the characters on this list, the Cardinal comes the closest to that modern interpretation of villain as multi-faceted character. There's a reversal in The Three Musketeers that makes Richelieu almost seem a better man than the King (I believe he is), but his motivations make him the villain of the piece. Make no mistake. Richelieu is in this for France, but mostly he's in it for himself.

Most of the adaptations of the Musketeer films make Richelieu into a caricature of himself. I'm still trying to block out the Tim Curry portrayal from the last Disney effort! Brrr! Still, you've got to admire Richelieu's abilities to scheme and manipulate, and you've got to admire D'Artagnan's ability to save the day in the face of it.

4. The Operative from Serenity.

operative

Ah, Firefly! I could count the ways I despise your flimsy writing and your unsympathetic characters, but I would digress. Instead, I will praise the main villain of Serenity, the Operative. I admit that I like the Operative mostly because he wants to kill the crew of the Serenity, but there's more than that.

The Operative see the evil he does as a necessary evil in an imperfect world. He doesn't get off on killing little assassin girls, but he knows he must sacrifice himself to keep civilization safe, and he'll do it. He has embraced his role as monster, and will do whatever it takes to keep the world safe and sound from the threat of government experiments gone aglay (a little Scottish for ya).

That's cool. He's one scary guy.

5. Narnia Witches. The White Witch, of course, has a ruthless agenda and an unfeeling heart. She symbolically sacrifices the good in the world when she does Aslan in. I love her beauty juxtaposed with her temper. Also, I truly enjoy her sister the Green Witch, and the way she enchants Rillian to her own purpose. Yeah, they're some heartless, manipulative women who take charge of their own desire for power.

Those are my top five. I'd love to hear where you've read your villains, and who works for you.

Here are some villains I think don't work from fairly popular fantasy.

Voldemort: The threat is coming! It's so bad you can't speak his name! He's really bad! And...then he gets here, and he doesn't do much beyond that really scary scene at the end of book 4. And then he gets played by Ralph Fiennes with a squished nose and a bald cap. Meh. Somehow, I want a partial refund...

Sauron: Sure. The war is bad. The ring is bad. The orcs are bad. But all he does is glare, ya know?

At any rate, I would love to hear from you. What makes a good villain? An effective one? Who are your favorites?

Catherine

Meet the Frost Elves

The subconscious is an interesting thing. I'll spin for a while, and write a lot of words that I won't use. While I'm doing that, I seem to be putting the real story together somewhere underneath my consciousness. Then when I revisit the scene, or reorganize my outline, the work the subconscious has done comes out. I may end up discarding a great deal I've done before, but this feels right.

Tonight I did a great deal of organizing and shuffling things about. I decided on some terminology. Mortals, not humans.
Veridian for the mortal lands. And, my most Norwegian decision this evening, Elves instead of Sidhe.

That's right, Tolkien fans. If Elves were good enough for old J.R. R. , they're good enough for me!

Actually, though, the decision is a little deeper than that. Sidhe is a Celtic word. The Norwegians do call these creatures elves. We want our folklore to be cohesive. Except when we don't. (I won't tell you about that, until I get to the godmothers, however.)

13461 / 90000 words. 15% done!

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This will feel a bit like sugar in the raw, but here's my favorite material from tonight. I like Sigfried and Sigurda as they begin to take shape. My goal with Sigurda is to make her the less emotive, the one you must guess at. I need to ramp up Sigfried's character as I write more, but I want him to develop more on his own, than me forcing him. Then I'll rewrite what I think is necessary.

Sigfried’s clear eyes flashed. His sister Sigurda crouched down near the trees, examining ruts in the frozen ground. They were mirrors of each other, both of their hair ice white, their eyes the sky blue of deep winter depths, their skin unnaturally pale. Where they walked in veridian, frost followed them. Sigurda place a hand on the tree to steady herself as she rose, and she studied him for a moment. Her breath did not cloud as she spoke, as they were colder than the weather.

Sigfried’s handiwork lay beneath him. A large troll was splayed on the ground, unconscious. It had been a challenging battle, but in the end, the quickness of an elf proved much better than the strength of a troll. Sigfried guessed the troll was a young, inexperienced one at best. “I thought they were supposed to be impressive.”

“Are we feeling overconfident?” asked Sigurda. While her expression remained frozen, a smirk edged her voice.

Sigfried sheathed his clear, flat blade. Hers hung from his belt like a thick icicle. “I defeated him rather easily,” he said, smugly.

“We chose here to exit for a reason.” Sigurda knelt over the troll’s body, and he melted. Rock sank into the field, root and tree and stone became one with its origins. “He’ll sleep,” said Sigurda. “By the time he digs himself out, we’ll be far away.”

Sigfried watched the border mists twist and buckle. A wind fanned his cloak behind him. “All the patrols must know something is happening.”

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Not So Much

We had a lovely dinner with friends, and then I came home to some work emails that couldn't wait. Pshaw! That means that writing wasn't what I wanted tonight.

BUT we did do something. I outlined the fight scene and the next scene. Here's hoping for more output tomorrow.

13008 / 90000 words. 14% done!

Sometimes I see the appeal of not having another job. I also see the appeal of not having a job that follows you home. Bleah.

Catherine

Angela Korra’ti on Poetry

Welcome to National Poetry Month on the Drollerie Blog Tour.

My entry is up at Anna's blog, and here's Anna's entry right here!

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Other folks on this month's blog tour will be telling you about how poetry has influenced their writing. Me, I'm not as much of a poetry reader, with one particular exception: I'm a sucker for sonnets. I've been known to write a few myself, particularly when members of my favorite bands are the topic of discussion; I'm particularly proud of "Ode to the Hair of Alan The Doyle".

But when it comes to influencing my actual writing, I was hard pressed to make a connection. Oh sure, I could have told you all about "Andris and Larain", my first stab at a fantasy-based epic poem. Aside from that, though, and the periodic fangirly bursts of verse I put out every so often, poetry doesn't make much of a dent.

Until I got to thinking more about Faerie Blood, the characters in it, and in particular about how the old Warder of Seattle, back when she was a fresh young Warder of Seattle, had a bit of poetry come into her life.

Hope y'all enjoy this glimpse of Millicent meeting the man she'll one day marry, and thanks again for reading all our posts!

Downtown Seattle, January, 1953

Three in the morning was no time for a girl to be out on the streets, especially the streets that ran under the half-constructed viaduct over Alaskan Way. But then, that was why I had Butch. The shotgun's weight in the holster beneath my coat was a comfort; so was the thrum of the city's energies, rising up into me right out of the ground with every step I took. My nerves were on edge, twitchy as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but I was ready for whatever might leap out of the night.

I wasn't ready, though, for a ragged voice bellowing somewhere in the darkness ahead of me.

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth... done a hundred things you have not dreamed of..."

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Troll Galleries: Final Two and Word Count

Industrious author is industrious. This marks the end of the classification of my Decorah photos.

The Opera House at the Winnishiek Hotel

Striking pictures of Phelps Park

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Phelps Park looks troll built to me. The stone work is wonderful and interesting. Nick's first scene is here. The Widow lives in the woods down by the river.

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Meanwhile in writing...Look! Fourteen percent! Yes!

12942 / 90000 words. 14% done!