Archive for October, 2012

Time Quintet Re-read: Many Waters

Hopefully no one got confused (like Ian *cough*) and read A Swiftly Tilting Planet instead. While Planet was published before Many Waters, Many Waters goes first chronologically.

I still like it a lot. Bible mythology is one of my very favorite mythologies. I’ve done a lot of research on it myself, so it’s always nice to see it used (and used properly) in a story. My one real complaint is that she uses “nephilim” here to essentially be synonymous with “fallen angel,” whereas the term is usually used to describe human/angel offspring. But the nephilim are generally described as giants, and I like how she’s made them (and the seraphim) so much taller than the people. Also, one of the reasons God creates the flood is to destroy the nephilim, so hoorah to her for incorporating that.

Things I like about this story: the world. I like that she’s integrated these creatures that are mythological into the normal world. Unicorns and manticores and griffins – things that exist in stories but could have, conceivably, been destroyed in the flood. And I like that she made the people much smaller. We know that people used to be shorter, even as little as a few hundred years ago, so it makes sense, and it’s nice that she makes it so it’s hard to tell when exactly they are.

And I want a pet mammoth.

I also like the fact that while it is a retelling of a biblical story, it is not a religious story. There is some good vs. evil, like in the entire series, but aside from the fact that God (“El” here, which is also great, more on that in a second) actually talks to people and angels, there’s not a lot of morality that you’re hit over the head with.

Plotwise, this book seems completely stand alone, unconnected to the other books. First of all, we’ve got Sandy and Dennys as the main characters, when they’ve been merely peripherals otherwise, and there’s no mention of dark planets or Echthroi. Aside from the mention of tessering and some discussion of quantum physics, the scientific aspects are barely mentioned here.

Calling God “El” here is a wonderful move, because “el” literally means God. This is why the angels are named things like MichaEL (who is like God), GabriEL (strong man of God), RaphaEL (God has healed), etc. So not only is it an actual translation of God, but it makes things obvious without brow-beating.

Okay, onto the questions, and have Planet ready to go for November 29th.

1. How do you think disrupting their father’s computer program manages to result in actual tessering?

2. Do you think the twins were meant to go to that time period? Why?

3. Would you consider THIS to be a religious book? More or less than Wrinkle?

4. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle decided to move away from Meg/Calvin/Charles Wallace for this story?

5. Most of the creatures on or around the oasis are mythological or are nephilim/seraphim in disguise. Why do you think Madeleine L’Engle included the mammoths but not any other extinct creatures?

As always, your own comments and questions are welcome.


Snow: A Nano Analogy

I’m not sure why every time it snows my blog post is late. It makes no sense. Anyway, my brain is in strange analogy mode, so off we go.

I was out for a walk (yes, in the snow) and I got to thinking that snow can be a bit like Nanowrimo.

No, I don’t know what’s wrong with my brain.

Specifically, it’s like the excitement of Nano. It comes down light and fluffy and, even though you know you’re going to have to drive to work in it tomorrow, it gets you all excited.

And then it covers everything up and makes everything look pretty, much like Nano excitement is wont to do. You don’t notice that you don’t have enough plot, or that your main character has no personality, because hoorah, Nano!

But then it keeps coming, and keeps coming, and while you’re pretty sure you still like it, you may be getting a little tired of it. Also, it gets in your shoes, and damp socks suck.

And when it melts away, you find that underneath there’s rotting leaves and dead grass and last week’s newspaper. Everything that was hidden is now visible again and, even worse, soggy.

But oh, while it’s white and pristine, it’s so very pretty, and each time it starts, you can’t help but fall in love with it all over again. And get out your cocoa.

Am I crazy, Squiders? (We’re a week away, and I’ve yet to outline, eek.)

A Haiku of Plesiosaurs

(Just a reminder that the Many Waters discussion is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 30. This one is slightly longer than the other books, so plan accordingly.)

Oh, plesiosaur
Ancient lizard of the sea
I have heard it said

That you may remain
Deep in waters dark; such as
in Bonny Scotland

Is it also true
That in enclosed spaces you
can be self-folding?

That would be awesome.
Science doesn’t know your shade;
Obviously, purple.

Prepping for Nanowrimo

Well, Squiders, it’s that time of year again. We are a mere 13 days from the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and all the insanity that that entails. What is NaNoWriMo (asks probably a very few of you)? A writing challenge where you write 50,000 words on a novel during the month of November.

(We talk about this every year, Squiders dear. You’re welcome to peruse previous Octobers and Novembers for words of wisdom as the fancy hits you. I won’t be offended if you don’t.)

We’ve talked about Nano Zen and Plot Death and what to do if you want to do Nano but aren’t feeling it. So, now, it’s mid-October, and people start thinking that maybe they should start getting ready if they’re going to. If you’ve done this before, you know what you need to do to be prepared. If this is your first time, I recommend that you have at least the following:

1. Main character (or two)
2. Setting
3. Basic plot and/or premise
4. Starting point

Realize that none of these things need to be set in stone, but you will make things infinitely easier for yourself if you have something for each point.

(Some of you may note that I didn’t include villain/antagonist in the above list. This is because I find they tend to be fairly organic–they come into being fully formed to block your protagonist and/or are defined by your premise. Your mileage may vary.)

This will be my 10th year participating, and probably my last. Dunno why, but it seems like ten years is some sort of threshold. My plan is to finally write the third book of my high fantasy trilogy, though we’ll see how it goes with our new family addition. People who have written (especially for Nano) around very small infants, do you have any recommendations? He’s not on solid foods yet, so I can’t leave him for very long.

Are you doing Nano this year? What are your goals?

When Is a Bad Book Too Bad?

I’m curious, Squiders. At what point do you put down a book that you don’t like? One that you honestly feel like you are wasting your life by reading. One that you are wondering how it ever made it to print in the first place.

When do you give up?

Is it as soon as you lose interest? If it doesn’t grab you by a certain point (first page, first chapter, etc.)? At some unspecified point where the author has managed to piss you off enough that you can’t bring yourself to care about the resolution anymore?

Or do you never give up?

Are you one of those people who must finish a book once they’ve started it? Who, even if you hate all the characters and think the author should be committed, push on to the painful end?

Where is enough enough for you? If you always finish a book, why do you think you do?

Or, are you a third type–one who tries to push through every book you start but, for some reason or other, find yourself putting aside books you are generally enjoying, never to pick them up again?

Oh, yes, Squiders, these types exist. I am, alas, one of them. I can count the books I’ve put down because I thought they were terrible on one hand, but for every one of those, there’s two good books that sit unfinished.

Are you one of these too?

I figure it’s the level of difficulty of the book. There’s either so much to think about that I want to let it percolate, or the scope is too big to get in a single setting. Something along those lines. I can see one of these books staring at me from to bookshelf: Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. I started it junior year of high school, I think. It was extra credit to read some portion of it, and I loved it. But I never finished it. I keep it around, because I’d like to some day, but it’s been over a decade at this point.

I figure the only reason I made it through Pillars of the Earth (which is one of the best books I have ever read, by the by) is because I was trapped in a lab for three days with nothing else to do.

So which are you, Squiders? A reader a book has to earn, a reader a book has to lose, or a reader who just needs to think about everything a bit too much?

A Landsquid, a Turtleduck, and a Ghost Story Walk Into a Bar…

Hey, want to see what a landsquid looks like when you haven’t drawn one in a few months?

what is this

My imagination is weird.

Also, in celebration of the haunting season being afoot, you can read my new ghost story, The Door in the Attic, over at Turtleduck Press for free!

Adventures in Old English

First, I want you to go here and then tell me if you have any idea what’s being said.

That, my friends, is Old English. If you were belaboring under the misconception that, say, Shakespeare is Old English, you now know better. You’re welcome.

(I know this seems like a very random topic. But I was discussing high school English over at Turtleduck Press and was reminded that this is a thing because my junior English teacher gave us Beowulf in the Old English and was like, “Enjoy!” and then let us flail for ten minutes before she told us it was a joke.)

Isn’t it ridiculous? Look at those funny letters we don’t have anymore. It’s completely unreadable. (The end of the Wikipedia article on Old English has the opening of Beowulf next to the modern translation for comparison.)

…and now, an hour later, I have finally escaped from Wikipedia, where I have learned much about language structure but mostly been confused by the number of categorizations of word types and sounds and so forth. I literally have no idea what some of this means. Here, someone decipher this for me: “Middle English [aː] (ā) fronted to [æː] and then raised to [ɛː], [eː] and in many dialects diphthongised in Modern English to [eɪ] (as in make). (The [a:] in the Middle English words in question had arisen earlier from lengthening of short a in open syllables and from French loan words, rather than from original Old English ā, because the latter had in the meantime been raised to Middle English [ɔː].)” (From the Wikipedia article on the Great Vowel Shift.)

Long story short, Squiders, I went in to try and figure out how we got from Old English to Middle English, and from there to Modern English (Shakespeare is Early Modern English, by the by), and it turned out to be a very long and complicated answer with lots of linguistic terms that I apparently lack the capacity to understand. (So it’s probably good that I got a degree in aerospace engineering and not linguistics. Ha! In this case, rocket science is the easier path. I have yet to figure out why some verbs are “strong” versus “weak”–besides endings–and that’s probably a fatal error.)

From what I can glimpse, Old English, in use between about 450 to 1150 AD, or CE, or whatever you want to use, was a Germanic language brought over by the Angles and the Saxons. It was largely a regular, though complex, system (apparently having 12 different articles – we have, like, two now). It, like Modern English, also borrowed words from other languages, mostly Old Norse and Latin in this case. Then the Normans invaded in 1066, bringing their own language, which was used as the “polite” language of the day and eventually got mixed in and so forth. Also, several of the more complex bits of Old English got simplified.

So Middle English (examples next to the Modern English translation on the Wikipedia page) starts at the invasion and goes until about 1470, when the printing press was invented and everything was standardized. (This is, apparently, why some of our spelling is so strange. Apparently the standard spelling comes from Middle English and has not been changed, while pronunciations have. Middle English pronounces all their consonants and vowels.)

Also, Middle English stole a whole bunch of words from other languages as well, which is why English is the Most Complicated Language in the world. (It’s not really. I even looked it up, and it’s not even in the top 10. Perhaps we shall go with Most Confusing instead.)


Well, Squiders, I have forgotten where I was going with all this, so I think I’d better just stop. You’re welcome to go at it yourselves on Wikipedia, but BEWARE.

The Dangers of Being Informed

So, like most of you, Squiders, I love to read. I love a drizzly afternoon with a book in my lap and a cup of cocoa close at hand. I love visiting new places and meeting new friends.

And, also like most of you, Squiders, I have a gazillion books floating around that I have yet to read. They come from a variety of places — gifts, second-hand stores, garage sales, new releases that I couldn’t wait for. They are everywhere, just waiting to be read.

It is my hope that I will eventually get to all of them. But I probably won’t, for one simple reason: new books keep coming out.

And I, like a good reader/writer, keep track of trends and so forth by subscribing to publisher’s newsletters and so forth. And they tell me about their new releases, and they sound fantastic, so I keep checking new books out from the library and I never get to the gazillion I have floating around the house.

My husband is this close to banning me from the library. (I put another book on hold yesterday. Don’t tell him.)

Tor is by far the most evil. They send out a couple of different newsletters — one has articles by authors (which I read and like, and then go read the author’s new book) with giveaways (oh, I so hope I win this month’s — they are ghost stories, eeeeee) and the other has free short stories and excerpts, and then enough awesomeness to make any scifi/fantasy fan go into rapture: re-watches of television shows, re-reads of book series, news on books and movies and related media, articles about science fiction and fantasy, etc. I would like to go live in that newsletter.

So, alas. I dare not give up my newsletters. But maybe I should be a little less impulsive about new books, no matter how awesome they sound.

Time Quintet Re-read: A Wind in the Door

When I first read this book as a kid, I remember coming out of it being slightly confused about what had just happened.

I still feel that way. I think it’s the end. The inexplicable wind that blows the door open. Is it supposed to show that Progo is still with them, in some form, or something of that ilk?

Symbolism has never really been my strong point.

So, anyway. It’s kind of like a more grown-up version of the Magic School Bus. (Now, children, we’re in Arnold’s Charles Wallace’s mitochondria! Do you note the difference in DNA from its host cell? Who knows what DNA is?) I know the point is to show that no matter how big or small something is (and we kind of dealt with “big” in Wrinkle), everything is interconnected and important, but I really liked the Magic School Bus when I was little.

I did learn (re-learn) about mitochondria, though, so hoorah. And Meg seemed to have grown quite a bit since the first book, though she does get a bit whiny at points.

I do kind of wish we’d connected the Echthroi (Greek for “enemy,” by the by) back to the Black Thing from Wrinkle somehow, or talked about it at all. Progo has one off-hand comment about dark planets, but other than that, the topic is not breached at all. Are there two evil forces at work in the galaxy? Does one work for the other? In what way? The Black Thing seemed more about control than destruction.

I also found the chronology confusing. The book was published in 1973, but the moon landings are several (decades?) in the past. I guess she’s trying to go near-future, but aside from the moon landings, she doesn’t try to age anything to make it seem futuristic at all. The environment seems perfectly entrenched in the decade it was written.

All right, onto the discussion questions.

1. How is Xing yourself different (and therefore better) than the Echthroi Xing you? Do you think it hurts as much?

2. Madeleine L’Engle invented the fictional farandolae as an essential component of this story. Why do you think she needed an additional level of depth past mitochondria?

3. What do you think it means that even a garden snake can be a Teacher?

4. Progo refers to himself as “practically plural.” What do you interpret this to mean?

5. The Echthroi appear to be something, so how is it that they can create nothing?

As always, feel free to bring up your own points and questions in the comments.

And read Many Waters (which, if memory serves me, is my favorite) for October 30th.