17 January 2013

Experiments in outlining

I'm the type of writer who is variously known as a "discovery writer" or a "pantser." I get an idea, usually a beginning, middle, and end, then start writing.

This isn't necessarily bad for a short story, since it's much harder to write yourself into a corner in 5000 words than in 50,000 or more. It's a really bad plan for a novel, though. (I've learned this the hard way.)

So when I read the Writing Excuses transcript Brainstorming with Mary and the supplemental material, I thought I'd give that a shot, since it explains an actual process with examples. I'm not very good at learning without examples, so when someone says, "Outline your story!" I balk because I don't know how. All I remember is mandatory paper outlines for high school English.

Anyway. I'm writing a short story from an outline right now. It's maybe a little easier, since I already have guidelines for each scene, and I can still discover things while I'm writing. The first draft is kind of rough (duh), but this will mainly need tuning of the word choice and style kind, as opposed to fixing the plot. Probably. Which is a little different, and I like it.

After this, I guess it's time to outline a novel. I have one in mind, even.

14 January 2013

Book review: Behind the Curtain

I reviewed Behind the Curtain: Travels in Eastern European Football by Jonathan Wilson for Bundesliga Fanatic.

Have a read over there, if you're interested.

10 January 2013

Book review: Interfictions

Interfictions, edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss, 2007, Interstitial Arts Foundation

What is interstitial fiction? The introduction by Heinz Insu Fenkl and the interview with the editors try to put a point on it, but the answer seems to be "I know it when I see it." It's about liminality, fuzzy borders, and being between things. Some stories are on the border between magical realism and fantasy; others are about characters who are liminal or liminal places.

My favorites in this collection were "Black Feather" by K. Tempest Bradford, "A Drop of Raspberry" by Csilla Kleinheincz, and "What We Know About the Lost Families of ---- House" by Christopher Barzak.

"Black Feather" reminded me a bit of Princess Tutu, because it seemed to be about fairy tales and changing the story that's been written.

"A Drop of Raspberry" was about a lake awakened by a man throwing himself in after his wife left him. The lake becomes human.

"The Lost Families" was a haunted house story, but it was a little more, too. The author's note at the end says it was inspired by his return to his hometown after a while away and realizing how he'd changed over time.

"Burning Beard" was also interesting, because it has Joseph (of the dreams) dreaming of Moses and the future of the Hebrew people and finding it terrifying.

Some of the stories weren't really my thing, and I thought some were a bit twee. I wish I'd liked "Emblemata" more than I did, because the idea--a lost/wandering god talks with a traveler in 1931 near the Buddhas of Bamiyan, now destroyed by the Afghan Taliban--appeals to me, but it's more a philosophical treatise than a story, which isn't my thing.

All in all, it's an interesting collection of stories, and I enjoyed reading it. I recommend it to anyone who wants to expand their reading horizons beyond the Usual Genre Stories.

03 January 2013

Book review: Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold, 2012

I received a gratis review copy of this book from Baen.

Last year, I expressed a bit of worry about the long-awaited Ivan book. Thankfully, the things I worried about didn't (quite) come to pass, though it's still excessively heterocentric. Sigh.

The curtain opens on Ivan, on a trip to Komarr with his boss for routine military stuff. Byerly Vorrutyer pounds on his door with a plea for help: befriend a woman who's the target of kidnappers, so they can't nab her. Ivan agrees (grudgingly--he has a typical Hobbit's lust for adventure).

Tej is on the run from Jackson's Whole with her half-clone-sister (it's complicated) Rish, aka Lapis Lazuli. She's working in a shipping store to try to get some money so they can make it to their planned destination. Ivan comes in to have a hideous vase shipped back to Miles on Barrayar, as a pretense to meet her.

Things don't go quite as Ivan planned, and he ends up tied to a chair in the woman's living room. After a series of misunderstandings, and the local Komarran police charging Ivan with kidnapping and Tej with illegal immigration, Ivan offers a spur of the moment solution: temporary marriage. It protects him from the kidnapping charge and her from the immigration problem (as a Barrayaran dependent), and they can divorce when they get to Barrayar.

The first half of the book is almost a comedy of errors. The second half is a heist. It's great fun, and Ivan is quietly competent (he's no fool, he just wants to keep his head down and out of the line of fire). The romance is woven through both halves (naturally, they fall for each other for real).

It's great fun, and while it may not be my new favorite Vorkosiverse (that would be Memory), it's in strong contention with The Vor Game for number two. I read it again right after I finished it the first time, which I think is a new re-read record for me.

If you haven't read any other Vorkosiverse books, I think you could read this (though you'd get spoilers for Barrayar and Memory). There are some in-jokes and references you might not get, but there's a lot of explanation of how Barrayar works (in somewhat clearer detail than across the other 14 books, on occasion), because Tej is befuddled.

If you have read other Vorkosiverse books and enjoyed them, you'll enjoy this.