Archive for November, 2012

Time Quintet Re-read: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

I want to begin by saying that I have a paperback copy from 1981, and Charles Wallace has an epically bad late-70s/early-80s haircut on the cover.

Let’s see. Having read this now, I don’t think I’ve read it before. I can remember, probably at least a decade ago, searching through used book stores and rummage sales in search of A Swiftly Tilting Planet because I had the other three books and not this one, but apparently I never actually read the book once I finally acquired it. Go me.

I did like it, though. I thought it made a good continuation from A Wind in the Door with the Echthroi and the upping of the stakes (though I continue to be uncertain how IT and dark planets connect, and there’s no mention of either in this book). I liked how small changes throughout history–even just in a few families’ lines–can turn a potential bad event into a good one.

There were some things I found infuriating, however. Whenever Charles Wallace was Within, he essentially disappeared. We know, from the narration, that his being Within changed something in the time, just a little, to get a more positive outcome over a negative one, to swing the balance, but you have no idea what it was. For example, in the colonial period, where Zylle was being tried as a witch, I assume in the original time line she was burned and so forth, but I couldn’t tell you why it went differently with Charles Wallace. After being Within Madoc, Charles Wallace asks if he gave Madoc the rune, but this wouldn’t have been true in later times because the rune was passed down through the families. So I would have liked just a hint of what changed with Charles Wallace there, what he brought into the equation that hadn’t been there before.

And with most of the times, I could guess at what had changed, but the one with Beezie and Chuck…I have no idea. Sometimes it seemed like most of the point of being there was to get bits of the story, leading up to the final Within, the one that directly determined whether it would be a good or bad future, the one with Matthew Maddox, but then, it was a bit of a false lead-up, because we didn’t get any more insight into what Charles Wallace did to help there than we did elsewhere.

I can see why she went back and set Many Waters  between this and A Wind in the Door. It’s been nine years, and you have to wonder what happened in that time period, why, after two encounters with dark forces in two years, that they’d gone so long without another.

On the other hand, you have unicorns in both this book and Many Waters, and they don’t quite work the same. Gaudior is an intelligent being, who can talk and think and so forth. While the unicorns in Many Waters can also travel through space and time, they don’t seem to be intelligent at all, and don’t really exist when they’re not there. I’m not sure why she chose to have unicorns in both but not be consistent with them.

Sandy and Dennys seem a bit out of character here if you take the events of Many Waters into account. Which is always a risk in backtracking your characters.

Calvin continues to not really be much help.

Questions!

1. Madeleine L’Engle has always been a bit vague about when and where the Time Quintet takes place, sometimes leaving contradictory clues. Based on this book alone, what would you say the when and where is?

2. Is it right for Charles Wallace to push people towards decisions that they would not have made on their own? Why or why not?

3. What is gained by having Meg kythe along for the journey?

4. What do you think the title means?

5. Why do you think it’s necessary to have time pass in the present while Charles Wallace and Gaudior are off riding the wind through time?

As always, your own questions and comments are welcome. And we’ll read our final book, An Acceptable Time, for December 27th.

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Of Sulking Alpacas and Scones

Landsquid left his house through the front door, carrying a basket of freshly made chocolate chip scones (which are the best kind) over one tentacle. He steeled himself, then quickly hurried down his front walkway, around the fence, and up to his neighbor and arch-nemesis Alpaca’s front door. He paused for a moment, listening, but there was no movement.

Landsquid hadn’t seen or heard from the Alpaca since he had attempted to take over the blog at the beginning of June. He’d been on house arrest ever since. Oh, Landsquid had been mad at first. There’d been the whole incident with being locked in the Alpaca’s basement with the ceiling turtles. FOR A WEEK. But at least he’d had some cocoa and Cheez-Its, and the ceiling turtles weren’t too bad, as long as you ignored them trying to gnaw on your head fins.

Landsquid paused for a moment to wonder what had happened to the ceiling turtles. Were they still in the basement? Had they escaped and made their way out into the wide world to find someone else’s head to drop on, or had they infiltrated the main part of the house, where the Alpaca was forced to stay?

That could be why Landsquid hadn’t seen him in a while. Hm.

Although, if the Alpaca was dealing with a ceiling turtle infestation, he’d been much too quiet about it. Landsquid had gotten used to the loud yelling that often drifted over the fence at even the most benign of times. But now, he’d been quiet for months. Landsquid was worried. It’d taken years to build up their relationship to the proper level of arch-nemesis-ness.

Before he could chicken out, Landsquid straightened his basket of scones and knocked soundly on the front door. At first, there was nothing, but then a long, strange dragging noise, just barely audible, started towards the door. It did not sound like the Alpaca at all. Landsquid clutched his basket tighter and debated fleeing. What was that noise, all slithery and light? He had horrible visions of some sort of forgotten creature, long resting in some deep, dark place, burrowing its way to the surface.

That could also explain why he hadn’t seen any ceiling turtles either. They’d be the first–and possibly the last–line of defense.

The door opened. Landsquid drew back, ready to flee if necessary, but it was an alpaca, wearing a ridiculously long afghan. Upon closer inspection, it was the Alpaca, though his usual mustache and monocle were nowhere to be seen. Instead, along with the afghan, he was wearing some sort of bonnet, and he had a pleasant smile on his face.

“Uh,” said Landsquid, thoroughly baffled. “How are you holding…up?”

“Oh, fine, fine,” said the Alpaca. “I’ve taken up knitting, you see. Very calming. Cheap–well, for me, anyway–too. Don’t have to leave the house, even if I could!”

Around the Alpaca’s fluffiness, Landsquid could see what looked like several ceiling turtles, crawling around on the floor, of all places, wearing turtle-shaped sweaters and booties.

“You should come in,” the Alpaca continued. “I’ve just got some new yarn spun. It’s a lovely shade of light yellow. It’d really bring out your eyes.” He kind of leered as he spoke. And not the typical ‘I am contemplating great evil’ leer that Landsquid was accustomed to, but more of a ‘I have been around yarn and ceiling turtles for too long and would like to knit you into a full-body stocking from which you will never escape, and then I shall feed you bon-bons and talk to you as if you weren’t really there’ sort of leer.

“Oh, no,” said Landsquid. “I’m afraid I can’t now. I’ve got to…wash my hair. But I brought you these scones, as, you know, sort of a ‘Don’t worry about trying to conquer my livelihood and feed me to ceiling turtles’ thing, you know.” He thrust the basket at the Alpaca. “Hope you like them. But I must be going I’m afraid. Yes, yes, well, I’ll see you later.”

He backpeddled up the walk and back towards his own house. As he went, he thought he might have heard the Alpaca whisper, “Yes, yes, you will.”

Dearly Beloved

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of my Merrell Siren Sports.

Shoe pic here

I can hear you now. “Kit, are you really blogging about your shoes? This is a new and somewhat distressing low.”

Well, they weren’t just any shoes. I bought them in April of 2010, and over the last two and a half years, we’ve walked, hiked, and climbed over 250+ miles, across three continents and six states. These shoes have traveled through ruined castles. They’ve climbed to the top of Machupicchu, retraced the Berlin Wall, and padded through redwood forests. We’ve climbed mountains, crossed prairies, sailed viking boats, and gotten the mail.

These shoes and I have done a lot together. Aside from the international trips, they’ve replaced my hiking boots here at home for my husband’s and my hiking adventures. And they’re freaking comfortable, so they’ve seen their share of gardening, shopping, and errands.

But now, alas, it is time to say goodbye. Even a good pair of shoes can be worn out, especially when you’ve gone on the adventures I have over the last few years. The laces are fraying, the mesh is tearing, and they just don’t have the support for being active in anymore. Besides, they used to be gray. (Well, except the obvious blue part.)

And so, my friends, we must say farewell, and make room for a new pair, which hopefully will have just as eventful a life as its predecessor.

(And, hopefully, the original pair will make it a little longer in the service of errands, dog-walking, and gardening.)

Add Some Symphonic Metal to Your Writing Playlist

Man, I apparently cannot get my Thursdays together this month. New plan: write them on Wednesday.

Are you familiar with symphonic metal? It is a fantastic genre of music, especially if you write fantasy like I do. If you’re someone who can listen to music when writing (with lyrics or no, both are readily available in this genre), then you should definitely look into it. It has all the things I like about metal (heavy bass, somewhat tribal drums) without the growling and screaming that some other metal genres feel the need to incorporate. Plus, as the name implies, oftentimes you have a full symphony present performing.

Add to that the fact that some songs have fantastical lyrics, and it’s great plotbunny fodder.

It’s closely related to power metal and epic metal. I’m not quite sure what the defining lines are between the genres.

I thought I’d provide you some bands to look at if this sounds like something that appeals to you. I came across the genre purely by accident, and it has been the best random thing to come into my life.

Symphonic bands to look into (almost all of these are European bands; for some reason we don’t put out a lot of this genre here in the states) – I’ve included a song for each for easy exploring:

1. Within Temptation Our Solemn Hour
2. Sonata Arctica Flag in the Ground
3. Nightwish – (two different vocalists, so you get two songs) End of All Hope, Escapist
4. Dreamtale Lucid Times
5. Amaranthe Amaranthine
6. Van Canto – (a capella metal) Water, Fire, Heaven, Earth
7. Symphony X Out of the Ashes
8. Rhapsody of FireEmerald Sword
9. Xandria Sisters of the Light
10. Bare Infinity Always Forever

What do you think, Squiders? What’s your favorite genre of writing music? Any symphonic metal band recommendations?

General Update and Thoughts on Adaptations

First of all, I want to apologize for missing Thursday’s update. I spent all of Thursday convinced it was Wednesday, and it wasn’t until my to-do app yelled at me about not blogging at about 8 PM that I realized my mistake. And then Friday was busy and I didn’t touch a computer all day, and Saturday went much the same, so at that point I figured we were closer to Tuesday than Thursday anyway and gave up.

As for Nano, I am sad to report that it’s not going well. It’s admittedly rather difficult to get anything done around our new addition, and I find that it doesn’t seem to be terribly high on my priority list for the year. I’m not throwing in the towel quite yet, but I’m going to have to do a lot of 3K days to catch up.

Enough of that.

I recently finished reading Ironskin by Tina Connelly. It’s a steampunk-esque novel that came out last month, and purports to be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, at least from the cover quotes. But it’s not, not really, unless you count some allusions to the fairytale. What it is is a retelling of Jane Eyre, and quite obviously so from the very first chapter.

That got me thinking about whether or not Jane Eyre could be considered a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, and how many retellings in you could get on something. It seems like you could get pretty deep if you wanted to, like when a modern retelling of something alludes to another retelling of the same something, or when an adaptation gains as much fame or more than the original.

(That being said, I’m pretty sure Jane Eyre is not a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I don’t think the timing lines up right, though both stories do involve overcoming secrets to love someone. What do you think?)

(Also, I found Ironskin to be an interesting read. If you like Jane Eyre, steampunk, or interesting fantasy worlds, you might consider picking it up.)

Writers Never Miss a Chance to Procrastinate: Blog Hop

My friend and sometimes partner-in-crime KD Sarge tagged me to participate in this blog hop. Basic gist of the exercise is to answer the following questions about your work in progress and then tag five other writers.

1) What is the working title of your book?

It’s The Cry of the Trees. Originally, it was Phoenix Forever, but I had to change it after I rewrote books 1 and 2 and there were no longer any mentions of phoenixes in the trilogy.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is the third book in a trilogy. I originally started working on the Trilogy 15 years ago (holy landsquid) after I created two characters for a Star Trek RPG  that got canceled, because I didn’t want to lose the characters. I felt I put too much work into them. It’s kind of funny to look back now and think of their origin.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

High fantasy. Character-driven high fantasy. Woo!

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I…don’t honestly know? I’m not someone who tends to use real people as character inspiration, so I don’t tend to look at actors and think, “wow, that’s so-and-so.” It’s especially hard with this project since most of the characters aren’t human.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Kind of hard, since this is the third and final book. Probably something like: Will Malana and Danath be able to trust each other enough to do what is needed, when they’re not even sure that it’s the right thing?

Which is kind of crap, honestly, and unnecessarily vague, but I haven’t even written the book yet.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to publish the Trilogy traditionally.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This is the first draft. Thus far, it’s been a week.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hmmm. There hasn’t been a lot of high fantasy lately to compare it to. I guess Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris is similar in tone.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

When I first set down the original plot for the Trilogy, it really was because I’d spent a lot of time working on the characters and their backstory and didn’t want to lose that work. Many, many years, a genre-change, multiple rewrites of the first two books, many iterations of naming, and a complete overhaul of that backstory anyway later, I like working on the Trilogy because it allows me to put my own twist on my favorite genre, and allows me to spend time with characters that I’ve gotten to know very well over the years.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Every character in the Trilogy has a very good reason for what they’re doing, good or bad. Everyone thinks they’re working towards the greater good–even the bad guys.

Let’s see…I shall tag: Ian, Anne, Drey, K.A. Levingston, and Sarah. And, of course, Squiders, you’re welcome to play as well. Just shoot me a link in the comments if you do.

Exploring Speech Recognition

So, because I don’t have two hands to type anymore, I have been looking into speech recognition software. For those who are unfamiliar with this, these are programs that listen to your speech and convert what you say into text. They learn the more you use them, so accuracy increases over time. Understandably, this can be quite useful for those of us who find their hands full. There are a variety of different programs available, and I have been experimenting with them, in the hopes that I can increase the amount of writing I am getting done.

In fact, I am writing this post with speech recognition software even as we speak.

I did some research a few months ago and decided to try Windows 7’s built-in version. It works pretty decently, but I have been having some issues with it. It seems to only work in some programs, specifically those that are Microsoft products. For example, I have tried, in the past, to write posts using this program, but it does not work. Instead, it randomly selects categories it thinks I am trying to use. Also, sometimes it seems like the accuracy has gone out the window. But, in general, it works pretty well.

This morning, I tried to finish outlining a short story using my Google tablet’s built-in program. Unfortunately, my husband uses the tablet’s system more than I do and so it has been trained to him. The results were pretty hilarious.

For example:
“is the lead” turned into “to sleep”
“to desist” turned into “to to cyst”
“destroys some of their” turned into “this trace someone there”
“Jonathan goes” turned into “7 sins so so”
and, my favorite:
“tests his theory” turned into “test is Siri”

The result makes very little sense.

My husband just bought me Dragon NaturallySpeaking for my birthday. I installed it this morning and am currently using it to write this post. So far, despite only needing about 10 minutes for training, its accuracy seems very good. It also does much better with capitalization which is always been one of my main complaints with the Windows 7 version.

Do you have any experience with speech recognition software, Squiders? What program do you use, and how do you find that it works?