Archive | December 2010

POV and Trope Reflections

Today my house smells delicious. Bryon and I spent this morning spiffing rooms, cutting back on the Christmas decorations, and prepping for big cooking. I began cooking a ham at 1, and I'll add a turkey breast to that at 2. As the day progresses, there will be a corn casserole and some fresh rolls also in the oven. I've got a key lime pie in the fridge, and Bryon will whip up some more rommegrot when it gets closer to time for guests to arrive.

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I apologize for being critical. No names are mentioned of books or authors, because these are largely issues of taste. However, I find myself wondering about the old convention of point of view.

Within the last couple of months, I've read a couple of popular books that are doing things with POV changes that I would have expected an editor to fix. In the instance of the first book, there were so many POVs, the books was choppy, and I couldn't bring myself to finish it. That, and, honest to God, there was a POV shift within one paragraph.

The second book is one that I'm reading for our SF book group. I've just started it, and there were three POV shifts within one chapter, back and forth, without any signaling at all. Doug Lain, a fellow writer, suggests that it might be in part because books are being written for non-readers, and this might be an emulation of television. I have always viewed telly with the idea that POV shifts are signaled, but perhaps I watch telly as a reader, rather than a non-reader, so I don't know if my perceptions can be accurate.

At any rate, I wonder about this. Have any of the rest of you noticed a change in how POV is written? Most books I read still signal POV change, and try to rein character POV in. In my own writing, POV is a problem, and I've become very conscious of reining it in and thinking about it. These books were so commercially popular that I was surprised that these authors were doing things I was being encouraged not to do. Based on a quick glance through Goodreads, a few of their readers minded, but the majority did not. Clearly, it's not them. It's me.

And while I'm at it, I've found this out: Maybe I am just not a very good reader of paranormal romance, urban fantasy. So much of it seems the same to me, which obviously makes me not the target audience for these books. There are, mind you, notable exceptions (thank you, Ilona and Jeaniene!), as well as many books I have not yet read.

My problem lies in part with the supernatural mish-mash that these books have become. A society must have every kind of supernatural creature now, as one is not enough. I'm not certain where that assumption comes from or why. Maybe today's writers have too much White Wolf in their background? Or that lots of people are doing it in their books, so now it's a convention.

And then there's my steampunk problem. The problem lies in having read so many independent, unattractive spinsters who marry difficult men in about every genre that I'm not sure that idea can be fresh to me any more. Perhaps my problem is that Elizabeth Peters was there first, and she is an impossible standard by which I evaluate other authors, including Elizabeth Peters' later works.

Frustration abounds in my reading life. Can you tell?

To end, then, on a positive note. I really enjoy an author who gives me something different. Thank you, Cherie Priest. I don't like zombies and still don't, but thank you for giving me an independent woman who doesn't go through the spinster trope, as well as a portrayal of non-stereotypical China men in Bone-shaker. And only ONE kind of supernatural critter at a time.

Oh yeah, and while I'm at it, I'll thank Jay Lake for Librarian Childress. Who doesn't define her life by her spinsterhood.

Yes, you can let lose with the guns of anachronism if you want to. I know marriage was how many women defined themselves. It's just nice to see something different. Even if the stubborn spinster was full of true, rather than spirited regret, well, that would be something...

Catherine

Swill Number 5

Note: This reviewer will not touch upon her own story in this review. Rather, I will focus on the efforts of my fellow contributors, whose work still crosses over into that literary border from time to time.

About a year ago, I wrote a review of Swill 4. I was delighted with the content. On the current issue's cover, Matt DiGangi says, " Swill is what I always thought underground literature should look like" and I agree. Swill is dangerously close to literature.

That said, this issue of Swill is different than its most recent predecessor. Oh, it's still disturbing bothersome stuff, sort of like a punk album at 78 RPM, but this time the world of the internal is where the magazine spends most of its time. Number 4 played with the outside world. Number 5 plays with the mind. Eight of the eleven stories in this issue are told from a first person perspective. The remaining three stories play their narration on an internal note. The narrators are not all unlikeable, but they are certainly twisted.

It would be hard to pick a favorite piece. Sean Craven's brutal Jimmy's Confession scans as torture for a good cause. You realize you sort of approve of the hero's actions while you wince at him for his violence and at yourself for your approval. Chia Ever's very dark The Quiet Type is an x-rated Poe with an Evers-eque twist at the end.

Continue reading

The Trouble with Small Goals

Tumor roulette: And now we are talking about surgery for Neal. It seems to be the best way for him to keep the use of his eye. However, factors about whether we'll do surgery or not include how well he can take surgery at his age.

So, guys, I'll stop telling you anything until something definite actually happens. Viva the clarity of the medical establishment!

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Very interesting post from Ferrett Steinmetz today on how small goals can make you complacent.

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I think it is conceptually good to celebrate small goals, especially if they help you with motivation. I have been where Ferrett is. If you reach a certain point in your pursuit, you can be complacent in having gotten that far.

Usually, though, as I'm an overachiever who tends to try to one up myself, this complacency lasts a few minutes. Still, sometimes meeting the small goal will make me feel that I can relax, or that I'm where I want to be.

So, this year is a real change of focus. You'll notice that this is the first year that I haven't put a finite goal, like write book X, or publish Y, or even send out X submissions.

This is the first year that I accept writing as the thing that won't go away. It's not a hobby that I can put aside when I need a break. It becomes something I dedicate a certain amount of time to, vaguely akin to a career.

Not all my efforts will see the light of day. The goal isn't to dazzle you with my productivity. The goal is to make writing and the improvement of my writing a constant factor in my life.

I have this overarching large goal. I don't know what the end result of this will be, but it will be interesting to find out. That doesn't mean I can't celebrate small successes. However, my eye must always be on the next step.

It's a lifestyle now.

But you don't want this preachiness. No, what you want is a review. Of Swill. Coming right up.

Catherine

Meeting Yourself Coming the Other Way

On Christmas Day, I found myself watching Steven Moffat's version of Dr. Who. I watched Matt Smith go through his paces in a typical Moffat-style continuity finale, The Big Bang, and then we continued into this year's Dr. Who Christmas special A Christmas Carol.

I admire Steven Moffat's writing abilities. The man is an intricate plotter. He uses elements of his finale in early episodes of the season. In true Moffat style, we don't know what we're looking at until we know what we're looking at. Often these intricacies can be passed off as continuity errors, but with Moffat, everything happens for a reason.

Another theme Moffat employs is people meeting themselves coming and going in time. The Big Bang gives us two Amelia Ponds. No, the universe doesn't heave a shuddering sigh of entropy and explode. It cleans itself up and keeps going. Similarly, in A Christmas Carol, Kazran Sardick, both young and old, meets himself (themselves?). The theme of exploring who you are and who you will become, evaluated by yourself as you were or will be is a nice theme. It doesn't consider the physics of the issues, but it does get at the marrow of interpersonal reflection in ways those only considering the science conundrum can't touch.

Every once in a while, I'd like to sit down and talk to myself coming the other way. What might I say?

Continue reading

Mileage Turns Over to New Year

While Bryon shuttles his parents to Neal's first cancer consultation tomorrow, I will remain here planning our annual New Year's Eve Bachelor Turkey Trot. Never mind that this year's turkey will be a ham, and the bachelor will be late. We'll be here.

And Bryon will bring home specifics on Thursday when he gets back. Craig said lymphoma, but Ronda (daughter-in-law one) says carcinoma. Hey, if it ends in --oma, it's the same thing, right? *eye roll* There's also some worry about using chemo to treat him now, due to his blood condition, so the doctors that be are eying radiation only. Well, no point speculating. We'll get answers soon enough.

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Yesterday's writing time was figuring out what the heck the characters in my novella are after, which I did. Today I over-arched the story's plot, and I intend to spend a good deal of time re-arranging scenes and working on new ones. Things keep happening off camera, and that needs to stop.

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As of tomorrow morning, prizes should be winging their way to winners. Because I know the mail sorters feel sort of purposeless now.

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Working my way through Marion Engelke's Masks of Dying Warriors (about 3/4 there). Also ready for Chia's story in Swill. In drips and drabs we move forward on the reading.

Gotta go feed the cats. It's non-stop every minute here.

Catherine

And the Winners!

Santa stopped by and let me look at his naughty and nice list.

The naughty list was very full, but the winner of my one copy of Swill is Erica Pai.

The nice list? It's harder to find truly nice people, but it looks like Sean Craven and Miranda Suri made Santa proud this year. They will be getting Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler, and a collector's token guaranteed to work at Morty Moose's.

I'll be in touch to get your contact information soon. Thank you all for participating.

New Year's Post, coming soon.

Catherine

The Father-in-Law Update

This isn't a real entry, but you do need to know after the previous dramatic entry.

My 87-year-old father in law has cancer. Strangely enough, we're all pretty upbeat about his chances for taking the tumor out.

His biopsy revealed a lymphoma in his sinus cavity behind his right eye that is about the size of a golf ball. Right now, the poor old guy looks like his doctor slugged him. One of the nurse's asked him if he fell while they were moving him from general hospital to oncology, and I assured her that they were responsible for his grandiose shiner.

Neal has been very upbeat and funny throughout this. It's been touching to see him and Phyllis, 84, work this whole problem out as a team. Bryon's two older brothers and their wives think Neal is at death's door. This is not the prognosis that the doctors are giving. They say he's a pretty healthy old guy, and they put his chances at surviving this as excellent. I've told Bryon that the person to listen to is his mom. If Phyllis says he's going, he probably is. Until then, we're going to listen to the trained medical professionals who say that something can be done.

In late January, they will begin attacking the tumor with chemotherapy and radiation. Cancer is no walk in the park. But we know from Neal's PET scan that this is an isolated tumor, and they feel it will respond well to treatment.

The best of all this is that Phyllis and Neal are going home today to spend Christmas there. Which has got to be the greatest gift to both of them after 3 nights at the hospital.

I'm doing okay. The last couple of days were pretty intensive as I played the sane daughter-in-law. When I got home yesterday afternoon, I mostly caught up on sleep, and today I'm trying to catch up on my writing.

Thank you all for your good thoughts, prayers, and support. I'm sure more will be needed. But I think everything's as good as it can get for Neal, short of not having cancer.

Merry Christmas,

Catherine

Off Line Today

My normal work day plans have been superseded by my father-in-law's surprise biopsy. There has been a mass found behind his eyes, and the doctor's are checking it out.

Cross your fingers for the Wheel of Fortune to land in the benign wedge, and not bankrupt. I'll try to let you know what's going on as I can.

Cath

A Catch-All Post

President Obama Signs Critical Legislation to Prevent Child Abuse and Domestic Abuse. The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell has garnered (and has deserved) the majority of attention the last few days, but this one is important to me, and I wanted you to know about it.

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Don't forget to sign up and let me know if you've been naughty or nice! The drawing will happen after 5 pm Friday night.

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So. Last night I started my expertise hours. I have budgeted out writing time for this week (not so much), next week (rather a lot) and the first week back at work in the New Year (a real challenge because I'm working office hours, not college hours).

Three things:

1. Twelve hours seems to be about right so far. Although it was a bit of a stretch during week 3, I did in fact manage to find 12 hours to write. When the semester starts, I have 3 hours to write each Wednesday in addition to evening and weekend hours.

2. Sitting down to just write is what leads to writing. Sitting down with the internet on to comment distracts.

3. Making a schedule to write also means making a schedule to exercise, which you are more likely to stick with during the school year.

So it turns out that writing is even good for your overall health!

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Vacation begins on Thursday, which means I will be MUCH quieter, and posting only occasionally. I'll be back here at least this weekend to announce my naughty and nice winners, but I will be much quieter as I work on novellas and syllabi.

I hope all your Christmas prep is going well.

Catherine

Naughty or Nice Give Away

As I mentioned this weekend before I disappeared into holiday travels and get togethers, my Swill contributor copies came in the mail. It occurred to me that I could give my one spare away to an interested party, and then it occurred to me I could give away a couple of copies of Hulk Hercules as well.

All you have to do to enter the contest is reply to this entry, either at Writer Tamago, or its Live Journal or Dreamwidth windows. Tell me if you've been naughty or nice.

Naughty entrants will be put in a drawing to receive Swill. Here's the table of contents. I'll autograph my story, should the winner of the drawing like. This issue might be of real interest to VP folks, as 3 of us are in the issue.

Nice entrants will be put in a drawing to receive a copy of Hulk Hercules: Professional Wrestler, as well the collectors coins. Two winners will get a copy of the book. Autographs are also an option here.

So, are you naughty? Or are you nice? You can enter both contests, if you want to take a crack at both, and if you're neutral like Switzerland.

Oh--entries end Christmas Eve, December 24th at 5 pm Central Standard Time. The drawing will take place shortly thereafter.

Merry Christmas!

Catherine