Archive for December, 2012

Time Quintet Re-read: An Acceptable Time

Well, Squiders, here we are at the end of our re-read. I hope you’ve had a good time of it, and stay tuned for our next one, to be announced some time in the next few weeks. And it you hadn’t read the Time Quintet yet, I hope you enjoyed the books.

To be perfectly honest, I thought there were only four books in the series, but I did a Google search in the process of posting about the re-read and lo! there were five books.

I admit I don’t read much L’Engle outside of these books. I read A Ring of Endless Light last year and I didn’t really like it, so I think it’s the combination of science and religion that I like. She does it somewhat masterfully, really. To paraphrase something Bishop Colubra says in this book, it doesn’t matter if you believe in God, but he does, and that’s okay. Characters are religious or not, nephilim and cherubim exist, “El” talks to Noah, but none of it is in your face.

All right, onto An Acceptable Time. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like characterization isn’t really one of L’Engle’s strong points. All of her main and peripheral characters are essentially good-hearted people who do the right thing, whether or not they are a native person from three thousand years ago or a modern person. I’m not sure, if you took Polly out and replaced her with Meg, that you’d see any real difference in the story.

Zachary’s an ass. He was one in A Ring of Endless Light too.

Let’s see. It’s nice to see some continuity between this and Planet, with the People of the Wind, though there is no mention of dark planets or IT or anything of that nature. (And now that we’ve gotten all the way through without returning to IT at all, I’m a little disappointed. Maybe if she’d tied IT to the events in A Wind in the Door a bit, I’d be less annoyed.) And the part in the past, if you ignore the ability of all the characters to learn languages rather quickly, is interesting.

I did have a bit of an issue with the “modern” day part, however — specifically how disbelieving the Murrys are about the whole idea of time-travel. They were there for A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. They know things like this happen, even if they’re completely unaware of the events of Many Waters and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I’m not sure why so many characters are suddenly so closed-minded.

(Also, did something happen to Charles Wallace? Polly mentions that he “would have liked” the changes to his bedroom early in the book, and then he’s not mentioned again, hardly, though Meg, Calvin, Sandy, and Dennys are.)

All right, onto the discussion questions. As always, feel free to ask your own in the comments.

1. Madeleine L’Engle is sometimes accused of being culturally insensitive when it comes to the People of the Wind. Would you say that this is true when it comes to this book?

2. Polly is staying with her grandparents to be homeschooled, but Charles Wallace and Meg were not allowed to be homeschooled earlier in the series. Why do you think attitudes towards this have changed throughout the series?

3. While most of the “modern” day characters have been seen in other books, why do you think Madeleine L’Engle chose to include the character of Bishop Colubra?

4. Time travel throughout the series is rarely set up so that the time traveler returns to his/her own time without some noticeable passage of time (the only exception being Sandy and Dennys in Many Waters). Why is it important for time to pass in both times?

5. Many of the characters in the past have nature based names such as Cub, Eagle Woman, Winter Frost, Dark Swallow, yet the main characters do not. Why the difference in the naming scheme?

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Merry Christmas!

I hope, if you celebrate Christmas, that you have a lovely day full of love, laughter, and joy. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a lovely Tuesday, which is my favorite day of the week.Christmas with the Landsquid and the Alpaca(I’d look a little concerned if I were the Landsquid too.)

Holiday Complications

Last week, I talked about how it seems so much harder to get into the holiday spirit now that I’m an adult over at Turtleduck Press. But I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’ve figured it out.

Everything’s so complicated now.

When I was a kid, my sister and I had our routine. We’d watch every tapped Christmas special we could find (A Muppet Family Christmas was always my favorite), crawl into bed together, and then get up whenever we woke up, open our stockings, and wait for our parents to get up.

Then we’d do presents, Church, and spend the afternoon and evening at our grandparents, playing with our cousins and eating too much.

It was simple, fun.

I think it started to change when my husband and I got serious and starting bringing each other home for Christmas. Our parents are both divorced, so instead of each of us managing two, we suddenly needed to do four. And, of course, they all overlapped.

And then our siblings got married, which also limited available times, and so on…

So now, I think, instead of being able to enjoy the holidays as a family, we get so stressed about trying to squeeze in all sorts of different family gatherings.

It’s truly ridiculous. Something has got to change. We have a child now, and in a year or so we’re going to need to start putting our family unit first.

Squiders, how have you dealt with managing the holidays when you’ve got both sets of parents (or multiple sets of parents, in the case of divorce) local? Anything tips for lowering the stress or dealing with hosts’ hurt feelings if you can’t make it?

The Evolution of an Idea

Anthologies are always interesting. First you’ve got to come up with a theme for the overall anthology, and then you’ve got to come up with a story that fits for it.

When we started brainstorming for Seasons Eternal, we had a bit of a hard time coming up with a theme idea. We’d done winter-themed for last year’s Winter’s Night, so we didn’t want to repeat that, but we weren’t sure where to go. Did we want to pick a genre? And not just something like, say, steampunk, because everyone else does that sort of thing. Steampunk with strong heroines! Steampunk with strong heroines who happen to be airship pirates!

It was actually my husband who came up with the premise that would become Seasons Eternal, the world where the seasons had stopped. I think it appealed to us because it would be a shared world, so our stories could be more interconnected than just four people trying to tell stories that may or may not be anything like each other.

So, theme picked, we assigned seasons. The way scheduling worked out, I was assigned spring a little later than everyone else, and, hence, got to work after everyone else, so I went into my story having a sense of what everyone else was doing in theirs.

At first, I was stumped. I don’t know if any of you live on the west coast, but that’s pretty much how I picture an eternal spring. It never really gets cold or hot, there’s not a lot of inclement weather you need to worry about, and you can grow things year-round. Let’s face it–if the seasons were going to stop, Spring would be the one you’d want to get stuck in. (In fact, my biggest complaint about the weather when we lived in California was that there were no seasons and it made it hard to mark the passage of time in my head.)

(Californians will tell you that there are two seasons: wet and dry. To that I say: Bah!)

(Oh man, candy cane and cocoa taste terrible together.)

As Siri says, stories are about people. And unlike a summer where the heat never ends, or a winter where the snow never stops, Spring doesn’t really bring any hardship to the people. In fact, they probably felt like they’d been blessed, where everyone else had been cursed. Like they had been deserving, like they had been…justified.

And they wouldn’t want to share their good fortune.

I don’t think I can say more without giving the story away. Seasons Eternal: Stories of a World Frozen in Time is available through Turtleduck Press at your favorite e-retailer. (Just a reminder that proceeds from sales goes to UNICEF to make children’s holidays more joyful and bright!)

Loving a Book in a Genre You Hate

I do not like historical fiction. It is my very least favorite genre. Not sure why–maybe I feel that the authors tend to force morals or ideas on the reader that are out of touch with the time period? Or I just simply don’t care. Or something. Either way, I tend to steer clear for my own sanity.

(Not to say that there are not the occasional ones that I enjoy quite a bit. I’ve read most of Tracy Chevalier’s stuff. Though I admittedly started with one that switched between modern day and a past time, which is one of my very favorite writing conventions.)

(I also want to point out that this is only a problem with modern authors writing past times. Stories written hundreds of years ago about times that are contemporary to them are fine, for obvious reasons.)

So it was to my very great surprise that I enjoy the Horatio Hornblower series quite as much as I do. I told myself that I was doing it for research–I wanted to set a story on a ship, and I know very little about them. (Ships have…masts! And sails!) Also, my husband was reading the first book and wanted to discuss it, and I occasionally indulge him.

But I love the books, I really do. We’re admittedly going chronological, rather than the order C.S. Forester wrote them in, so we started somewhere in the middle of his career, but I love everything about them.

His descriptions are spot-on. I honestly thought, at first, that he was contemporary to the time period (later 1700s to early 1800s) because everything was so perfect that it felt like it was someone who was intimately familiar with how things worked on a ship of the line. (C.S> Forester wrote from the mid 1930s to the 1970s or so.)

To be honest, it kind of reminds me of some of the science fiction I like, except, you know, being about the British navy during the Napoleanic wars.

My biggest complaint is that my husband is such a slow reader that I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like.

What about you, Squiders? Do you have a book or series that you adore that is in a genre you normally can’t stand? (Just want to chat about Hornblower? Also welcome!)

Warning: Duotrope Going Subscription

(I see it’s the time of year when the blog snows. Enjoy, Squiders.)

A few times over the years I’ve mentioned Duotrope as a good resource for those of us who write and submit short stories as they list markets and allow you to keep track of who you’ve submitted to, and what their responses were.

Duotrope has always been a donate if you can service, but starting on January 1st, they’re moving to a subscription model. They’re asking for $50/year, or $5/month.

If you can afford it and are willing to, go ahead and continue supporting them. However, one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about this move is that the submission stats, which they list on each market’s page, are going to become skewed as many users stop using the site. If you use these stats, then keep this in mind. (I don’t.)

If you are using Duotrope currently, you may want to back up your information in case you lose access to it when they go to the new model. More information on the changes can be found here.

Here are some alternatives if you don’t want to pay the subscription price (which, to be honest, is a bit steep for the service they provide, IMHO. I’d pay $10, $15, maybe $20 a year).

Microsoft Excel (or, alternatively, Google Drive’s spreadsheet function) can be used to track submissions.

Ralan.com tracks markets if you write speculative fiction.

The Black Hole at critters.org also keeps track of speculative fiction markets.

The forums at Absolute Write often keep track of new markets and anthologies that are currently looking for material, as well as many other useful things.

If you know of any other services that provide similar things, especially websites that keep track of non-speculative fiction markets, please share the wealth, Squiders.

Following Authors Across Genre

I was, for some reason, thinking about J.K. Rowling this morning, and wondering if she’s disappointed in the sales for her latest book, The Casual Vacancy. Sales for it have been decent, more than decent, really, but 120,000 copies in your first week when your last book sold 2.6 million copies its first week is quite the difference.

I haven’t read it; I probably never will. Its plotline and genre do not appeal to me, so even though I enjoyed the Harry Potter series rather a lot (as you can see by reading the re-read posts and various other Potter-related bits that have popped up here on the blog over the years) and think she’s an excellent author, exceptionally skilled, especially in foreshadowing and characterization, she’s lost me as a reader on this particular book.

This reminded me of a conversation we had on my writing forum a while ago, about whether or not you’d follow an author across genres. Like, say, your favorite fantasy author starts writing political intrigue set in rural England.

The answer seems to be…maybe, but it depends.

Most people pick what to read based off genre. They read mostly romance, or science fiction, or mystery. There’s elements of the genre that appeal to that person, and they stick to what they like. Reading is supposed to be fun, after all. Sure, occasionally people will pick something up that’s out of their comfort range for whatever reason, but that doesn’t tend to be the bulk of their reading.

If someone especially likes an author’s work, it seems like a reader will follow them to related genres, but if the author strays too far, the reader will normally stop following them after a while. In my own personal experience, the works of Jennifer Crusie have done this. I love Jenny; I think she’s witty and brilliant and I would like to grow up to be her. She writes primarily romance, with some romantic thrillers or paranormal romance thrown in. Lovely. But in early 2010, she and Bob Mayer (who had collaborated together before, and I really adore Agnes and the Hitman) put out a straight thriller, and as much as I love them, I wouldn’t follow them there. They’d gone too far.

Asimov wrote fantasy too, but no one really ever talks about it.

What do you think, Squiders? Would you follow your favorite author no matter where they went, or is there a point where you think you would stop? Have you stopped? What was the line that could not be crossed?