Monday, November 21, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: All Ashore.

The coracle became a schooner then coracle once more, scraping against distant sands. There are challenges, but luckily a journey to Hades nor escaping Calypso was involved. Still, I cannot wonder at the parallels between a writer's journey and Odysseus. Indulge me, if you will.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 10

So yes, a terrible thing, to take a long passage and leave things unsaid. A terrible, wonderful thing. I like this exercise a lot because I have a whole chapter that leaves a whole lot unsaid in The Stone That Sings. Mostly because Juliette wants to blot out a terrible memory, but I need there to be enough so the reader can at least guess what is going on.

So it was great to take exercise seven, which I thought was horribly wordy anyway, and chop it down to its tense, immediate aspects, and allow the reader to fill in the blanks. I think I actually got to less than half.

I will have another post to talk more on my reflections around Steering the Craft. But for now, here is the exercise:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016

Well, now that that's over, its time to get writing/editing.

A Shot In the Dark: Thoughts on Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin

It's rare that I read a book, shove it aside and go on to the next one without a thought. I tend to ruminate on them -- chew on events, characters and how the story left an impact. Now I'm also reading for prose and style.
Atwood had me at the first line:
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
What war? What bridge? I definitely want to know what happens next. At the same time, the recitation is so breezy, so casual.  What's fascinating is that throughout this novel, we never go far from this epicenter, and we've been told the entire thing. Even when the story steps back to before Laura and Iris all the way to their grandmother's time, that moment stands in the wings, waiting. The Blind Assassin many times reads like a murder mystery, many times as a Noir script, and sometimes broods with a lush decrepitude that when you reach a point where Iris says, "Things go downhill from here." you might not be able to imagine why. But they do.

What's so impressive from a technical perspective is the story within the story, the pulp science fiction story that gets created while another story -- the rise and collapse of a Canadian aristocratic family through the Great Depression and the wars around it -- is being told. That story feels like a mix of a paean, commentary, and criticism of pulp stories of the time, but so well mixed into the story they don't detract in the least. And, it's a decent story on its own, and I felt just as much regarding the fate of that story as I did the story that encompassed it.

The prose is thoughtful, and takes us on digressions, much like a memory -- always related, but not always coming to a conclusion. Sometimes the reader is left with just the thought, and they have to make their own down, but they are never far from the story itself.

The characterization is incredibly vivid, which I think is why I get that noir feel, and realize, that for all the 'tricks' that author sites and author discussions divulge in order to make your story more interesting, there is no trick to interesting characters. There are distinctive voices and motivations. There is how they rub and clunk against one another. How they fight or not fight. Who they are, how they struggle.

Both stories in The Blind Assassin  are written is past tense (inclusive narrative tense), which I think was desperately needed for this story, which is told from the point of view of the older sister, Iris, who hops from the past, to even further back, to moments closer to the present, and of course her 'present situation' very freely. I imagine Ms. Atwood could have used present (focused narrative) tense, but I think jumping from one perspective in time to another would have been much harder. And the story flows so well in the inclusive tense that its hard to see how it could have gone otherwise.

I'll be thinking about this for a while. The main point is, you should read this book. I'll probably be reading it again. Atwood's prose fills a novel -- the words don't just occupy the pages but expand them. This is work of substance, and one day I hope my prose can evoke the same feeling in a reader.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter Nine: Extra

I almost skipped the extra part of Chapter Nine. I've been starting a re-read of The Stone that Sings and itching to do some editing. So I'll start with my first thoughts on TSTS, then move on to the exercise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Mutinous Crew Exercises: Chapter Nine

There were several parts to this exercise -- an exercise I found very enjoyable, despite all the time it took me to complete it. October is Halloween for me, when I turn back into a designer and engineer, and try to make fun and spooky animatronics for our haunted house -- haunted yard, really. You'd think, based on the spider theme of our haunt, I'd write more spider-themed things, but for some reason, I do not.

The hardest part of this exercise was writing about the other. No matter what I picked, it seemed like a shallow trait to aspire to give to the other, and at the same time, bring that up in a way that seemed perfectly natural. So, I found myself just making them sound as they do in real life -- genuine, but a little off. I hope it doesn't come across too badly.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 8 Thought and Exercise

I'll post more of the other exercises later, but normally I've been posting these inside at Scribophile, which limits the audience and the feedback.

I finished Chapter Eight just as I finished Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. I confess that the multiple points of view, gliding from one to the other was challenging, as was the use of names as a formal surname, then switching to a more informal first name. I blame that on my initial laziness and started keeping track of names -- I'm bad with names, so perhaps this is a literary manifestation of my real life. Shocking, I know.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Becalmed

Over the weeks, the mutinous crew seems to have abandoned ship; I'm determined to press on. Writing is ultimately a solitary craft; I've traveled by ocean liner and by canoe, and am reasonably at home with either.   Many of us do better in our coracles, paddling in shallow waters well in sight of a safe, comforting shore.  I was surprised that so many stopped at chapter one, declaring that a particular musical analogy was inaccurate or they detected a "whiff of pretentiousness" - as if declaring a whiff of anything from words on the page weren't pretentious enough. Others chafed at the idea of gorgeous writing, and purposefully conflated it with purple prose, which, if they had read any further, wasn't the point at all. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Exercise 7

Exercise 7 from Steering the Craft is the exercise that was as engaging as it was long. It was as if the last part of the exercise lifted a veil and showed the entire scene that had hints with the other methods. So I found myself revisiting the earlier parts based on what I learned.

The actual exercise below the fold

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Article Review: Star Trek, Axanar, and the Future of Fan Fiction

Dany Roth did a good job producing an article that is about much more than just Star Trek, but used Axanar as one of the more complicated examples of the (non) interaction between fan and licensed works. It gave a good overview of the copyright-able and non-copyright-able aspects of fan fiction. After what seemed like a decent primer on copyright law, goes into actual lawsuits.
The article also goes into where the courts do not agree amongst themselves with the interpretation of 'fair use' and how that really makes things confusing, and since that can determine the fate of your fan work, it is a crucial area. 
The example court cases are very interesting and well worth a read.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 7

Chapter seven is a great exercise -- one not quite as contentious as the previous about tense -- and I'm puzzled why. Perhaps it's our binary nature. Tense has only two options: past (inclusive narrative tense) and present (focused narrative tense). With only two sides there must be for any situation a right and a wrong, and so sides are chosen.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 1 Revision

Chapter 1, Rev 2

The Stone That Sings isn't exactly in first draft, though parts of it are. I tend to write in waves, where I write Chapter 1, then write Chapter 2, then revise Chapter 1 -- This is the process that got the first five chapters on Scribophile.

But now that I've created the first draft, I'm on the second full draft. Things I learned in the first draft by completing it all the way to the end can now be added.

So what did I learn?

I learned that P'nem, Danek, and Lorot are members of a Syrrannite enclave on Vulcan. This makes them different from Vulcan standards, but also held in high regard -- they tend to be the moral conscience of the Vulcan people -- whether they are wanted or not. If it sounds like that might make them scolds, you are right. All this technology and such causing 'deviations' in the Way of Kolinahr, which is why they remain in the desert, even if the desert plays havoc with higher technologies.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Past Speaks of the Present

In Chapter 6, Subject Pronoun and Verb, Ms. Le Guin mentions references Lynne Sharon Schwartz, whose essay, Remembrance of Tense Past is an insightful analysis of influenza, miniskirts, and of course verb tense with many thoughtful examples of both success and failures of using the present tense (also called focused narrative tense, by Le Guin). In Steering the Craft, Le Guin analyzes the fallacy of 'immediacy' as a reason to use the focused narrative tense. In this post, I'll examine some of the other points Schwartz makes in her essay.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 6

I found writing this post really helped me contemplate and understand Chapter Six. Each chapter, I skip ahead to the exercise to get a sense of what the chapter will teach me and focus on those items. Chapter Six was the first chapter I've run into where that strategy was not helpful.  The opinion piece, more a cautionary tale about passive voice -- made me believe I was still going over familiar ground. After all, I knew what past and present tense meant and it was just a matter of using one or the other. So much for that.

I appreciate the fact that Le Guin pointed out that both present and past tense are fictive -- the moment we are reading the story is the only real 'present'. As much as I'd like to adopt the terms "inclusive narrative tense" and "focused narrative tense", it will confuse Scribophilians, and I'll wind up explaining myself repeatedly, even, as I write this article, the terms grow on me with just a few examples:

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 5

Chapter Five was a very short chapter in Steering The Craft, however, it's a very important chapter. So important, in fact, I completely missed writing a blog post about the chapter.  I really am a terrible  blogger. 

 Adverbs are probably one of the most talked about topics on Scribophile (besides the evils of Social Justice Warriors, whatever those are). But when Scrib talks about writing (a blessed but rare event) the evils of adverbs are invariably a topic of discussion.

I, for one, am glad that adverbs are added to the mix. Because the real topic isn't about the use of a part of speech but in what it means to use adverbs and adjectives in your writing. For the most part, adjectives and adverbs are an indicator of a weak vocabulary. Please note that it's not always so, but I do believe that one has to work from that perspective, and I think this goes for both adverbs and adjectives.

I received a critique that said "I don't know what basalt is. Can't you say 'black rock'?" I think it was a fair question, but I didn't ask Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars series to call piste a 'road of compacted snow'. As the phrase goes, "Words mean things" and especially now in the age of e-readers, a dictionary is just a few clicks away.

So, even though the idea has a bit of a bad-hair taint to it, I believe the writer is obligated to pick the best word. That means watching out for weak adverbs: quickly, suddenly, great, low. It doesn't mean that picking the obscure word from the thesaurus is the best bet either. There have been instances where I thought one word would be best, and then when I looked up its definition, there was some nuance to it that made it inappropriate. I guess my advice there is not to use the thesaurus without the dictionary. Again, with the online options available, there's faint excuse not to do so.

Sometimes, the adverb is all that's available or using less precise words they may fit the voice of the character as narrator or in dialogue. But even then, your voice should have a vernacular that your reader might have to work for, just a little bit. It's your job as a writer to make that work worth it.

So the exercise with this very short chapter was enlightening, though I found myself wanting to ask more questions -- what about adverb phrases?

We walked very carefully across the floor.
This one is almost the poster child for re-write unless it's part of dialog. "Very" is weak. How carefully? Oh very carefully. Very very, or just very? 

Here is where I was born. That’s it. Right there.
Hmm, this one is different. The wording here seems to generate a confidence between reader and writer, and I would probably skim right by this without worrying about adverbs or adverb phrases.

So is there a rule here? Probably not. Just that using adverbs and adverb phrases probably deserve a second look, with the case needing to be made for keeping rather than getting rid of.

So what about Adjective Phrases? Let's play with some examples:
That’s a lovely cake.
I would personally rework this if it wasn't in dialog, or it fit the narrative voice. For a narrative voice, I'd want to understand what made it lovely? Was it the pink rosettes along the edge? The ziggurat design in the tiers? Insert more cake terms here. I'm not a baker. Then again, if your narrator or speaker isn't either, they might just call it 'lovely' or 'colorful' or 'a mountain of sugar and lard'. In short, that can't be all that's said about the cake.
That soup is pretty cold.
'Pretty' in this sense is like 'almost' or 'very'. Kind of nothing words. How about tepid, or lukewarm, or chilled? In dialog, this is fine, but as narration, it seems weak.

Some people weren’t willing to pay extra to book a seat on the plane
Now this one is a completely different kettle of fish. This adjective phrase is needed, and shouldn't invoke the same sense of outrage that 'pretty cold' does, because it qualifies the people. So its not cut and dried, and I think while there are some adverb phrases that are necessary, for purposes of the exercise, where one is to write 'chastely' it seems we have to use some adverb and adjective phrases, or else we're doing some interesting gymnastics to avoid them. I tried to come up with an example here for the above sentence, but I wasn't able to.

So, at the end of the chapter, not much changes. There are no rules, but guidelines, which probably won't change. The examples of what to look out for are very helpful, and the exercise is enlightening. I'd recommend it for anyone.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Stone That Sings: Chapter 22

Chapter 22 is A Sehlat and her Girl

If that makes you think of "A Horse and His Boy" well, good. I certainly thought of it when I wrote the title, and that's where any Narnia similarity ends. The sehlat does not talk, nor is The Stone That Sings any kind of Christian allegory.

And I don't write nearly as well as CS Lewis, who was able to hide all sorts of allegory in his books and still make them a great read. His fans really are the most heavy-handed part of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Technically, this ending is falling action and an epilogue to tie up loose ends. My initial draft of this was almost entirely exposition, along with a form of reunion with Danek. T'Mar faded into the woodwork, and things were kind of explained along until the family arrives.

I did't like that. First, T'Mar is probably the most important Vulcan in Juliette's life. She's from a matriarchal society, one that is bonding goes, a lot more 'free flowing' than the clearly more binary Vulcans. This doesn't mean there's a sweet utopia of sisterhood -- at least no more of a utopia than any other Federation Planet, where the advent of warp travel all of a sudden makes us better sentient beings -- but it does mean that Juliette will be driven by female role-models.

So leaving T'Mar out didn't make sense, and I didn't like a long exposition. I am pleased at how that was resolved, and I think it establishes a far more interesting read. I suppose you can tell me if it does.

So what next? Well, at some point, fix up the beginning chapters to put them more in line with what I learned in later chapters. Flesh out some of the descriptions of Vulcan -- and toss the mirror out of that beginning paragraph. I might migrate the finished story over to Scrib, to get that final bit of polish. Scrib can be hit and miss when it comes to critiquing fan fiction, but I have gotten some very helpful critiques there.

This is the second novel I've completed. The first, A Perfect Join is probably still a perfect mess. But there are elements there I like and things I want to use. It was a backstory that very much needed to be written. And, with each novel, I learn a little bit more.

I hear good and bad about WattPad. But I think it might be a better home than FanFiction, if only because the reading interface for seems a bit clunky. But even with a clunky interface, I'm pretty it'll have a home there.

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 4

Our crew has picked up two more! Which is good, since of the original six, there are two posters. But this week was a challenge for me, wanting to complete The Stone that Sings and getting ready for a convention which is related to writing only in the fact there are copious amounts of alcohol involved.

Chapter 4 was about repetition, which, when used correctly, gives a section or a piece extra gravity, and even a mythic quality. Of course, most of us use it incorrectly because we do so accidentally. I am one of those writers who stops, thinks, forgets the previous sentence, and writes it all over again. So I am happy the grammar checking program I use helps me find those repetitions.

But I enjoy thematic repetition. It's the reader's reward for paying attention -- a universe that does not repeat itself, but rhymes.  I have the large repetitions outlines, but the smaller ones tend to happen organically. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Stone That Sings: Chapter 21

Chapter 21 is called Hunted

I wasn't pleased with the first draft of this chapter.

Well, that's not entirely true; I was pleased to reach a moment when Juliette's conflict with the Romulans was resolved. I was pleased that she makes use of the desert to defend herself and yet, the desert does not come to her aid. I was pleased with the image of the storm as a third participant in a very deadly three-way race. I was pleased with the echoes from previous chapters: The Loresinger, the Passion Operas, the Kli'Mari and of course, the sehlat.

But in my first draft, I didn't get far into Juliette's head, and without doing so, the chapter would run the risk of being like Home Alone. Oh, that quirky Juliette and her clever plans! And those bumbling Romulans!

By going deeper into Juliette's PoV, I was able to bring out her thoughts on things -- on death and what she would leave behind, and her manner of death. It was around the third draft that I found the right cadence, and I'm sure that I'll pick at it more.

Out of that deeper PoV came an opportunity to reveal that as the sehlat got closer, Juliette's thoughts became more predatory and bestial. I jumped on that because it gave me a chance to double-underline the idea there are insurmountable gaps between alien species, but those gaps enhance relationships when one is not trying to force the other to behave 'their' way. The sehlat has a strong influence on Juliette; Juliette's influence on the sehlat is more subtle, and I might bring that more forward in another draft.

In canon, Troi made some reference to 'getting lost in the beast', I found that a bit contrived just to establish some plot point. More on that another time, but I write it all off with the idea that while the Fifth House of Betazed deserves respect as any of the Decadet (my term for the top 10 houses), they are not the experts on everything. Besides, Juliette is a stronger telepath.

As a result of those changes, I think this chapter became the climax that it needed to be. In revising the chapter before, I'd find myself reading ahead to this one because it tied everything together pretty nicely and gave a sense of closure.

I'm not done yet posting the draft of The Stone That Sings. There's still at least one more chapter to go. Then it's off to edit the first chapters!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Steering The Craft: Three

I find myself thinking a lot about sentence length as I approach an intense chapter of The Stone that Sings. The timing of the exercises couldn't have been better for me. I've always been cognizant that sentence length mattered and could help pace a scene, but only when forced to write an entire paragraph of short sentences  did I realize that I gravitate toward longer sentences.
That's not bad. It just means that I might be missing an opportunity to better pace my quick events. At the same time, I'm still reading Song of Solomon where there is a change of this deeply reflective moment to the main character nearly getting garrotted.  What made it interesting is that sentence length didn't seem to change much, but the intensity remained, though there was a moment where I thought 'wait, what just happened'? It was really interesting.

There were two exercises in the chapter. One to make sentences ultra short, the other to write a very long sentence. Unlike the paragraph with no punctuation, I found this a lot easier to edit, and went off the beaten path some to write a nonfiction bit for it.

I thought I'd add it here:

The action begins with an infrared sensor, a semiconductor, a relay, a solenoid, and a cylinder, who are helpless to do anything without that a curious hybrid of wave and particle, moving through the infrared spectrum, better known as photons, who never do anything with just a few and when in action number in a collection of more than millions, billions, trillions, or quadrillions, or any number that even has an ‘illion’ but a population that is best represented powers of ten, also called scientific notation, who as that almost uncountable mob, rain down in a pattern that deviates from what, once settled, a passive infrared (PIR) sensor decides is “normal”, whereupon the sensor’s circuitry changes the charge of a pin from neutral to positive which is detected by a microcontroller working through the workings of an electrical loop of its own, called a ‘program’, alters the charge of yet another pin, for the arduino has many, allowing an attached relay to energize a coil, a repeated loop of copper wire around a metallic core, until that coil gives changes the electric to the magnetic, and that magnet attracts a small metal lever away from one set of contacts and on to another, changing its position from open to closed, much like a light switch, an action akin to opening the floodgates to a much larger, and distinctly separate flow of electrons -- it is the role of the relay, to separate tiny flows of current from much higher voltages and currents that would make short work of delicate semiconductors -- which in energize a larger coil, creating an even larger, more powerful magnet for a larger job, easing back a large pin -- not far, but just enough, so that the seventy or so pounds of pressurized air, previously held back by the valve and confined to a compressor tank, can work its way like an unruly mob jammed in a doorway, and force the pin open even wider, and send the air down a hose to the bottom of a cylinder, allowing it to extend.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Stone That Sings: Chapter 20

Chapter 20 is Captive

This was a difficult chapter to write because the events bother me. I don't like writing about cruelty and abuse. But, if the events didn't bother me, I don't think they'd have much of an impact on the reader, and this chapter is designed, hopefully, to take the reader on a bit of a roller coaster ride. Its also very much where Juliette realized she's way out of her depth; and plotwise, things reach as low as they go. In my first draft, I what drove me through other chapters, enjoyable as they were, was getting to this one for many reasons.
I was excited to write the chapter because explains a lot about P'Nem and what's been going on at the monastery. Like a kid with a secret, it's been hard keeping it all this time. I hope the reveal is worth it. This chapter is also a springboard for the action that occurs after, and also lays out something I thought should have been more obvious in the Trek universe, that I bring forward in mine -- an unsettled past between the Vulcans and the Romulans.

Minor Spoilers below the fold.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Steering The Craft: Two

Section two is on punctuation.  The exercise is on writing a confusing, busy scene without it.

I actually did a couple things with this.
1) I actually wrote without punctuation or capitalization. I found this very confusing to do because it was easy to lose track of where I was in the narrative, and when I read back to try and recapture the flow, it was very difficult to read. ee cummings I ain't.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Stone That Sings: Chapter 19

Chapter 19 is Searching for the Hidden

Outlines can be a curse. You know all the major plot points, and sometimes the writing seems to rush headlong toward them without taking the time to really enjoy some of the middle areas.

But that's not at all why I'm excited about the chapter, even if it ends on a cliffhanger.

This chapter had a lot of surprises for me, one of which being the intensifying of the relationships in the Danek/Sri/T'Mar triangle, and the statement Juliette's mother made about "When you find your second, tell me again your first is enough." In fact, the curse was specifically written to foreshadow the plot point in Chapter 19. Especially since in the original outline, the love triangle was actually rather vanilla, which bothered more the closer I got to actually writing it. So I wanted to explain how it started, and how it evolved.

Juliette's relationship with Danek actually started from an obscure reference in a story I was doing for the U.S.S. Oppenheimer collection, and can be seen in The Uwda and the Others. Syvok never seems to get along with Juliette, which stems from something that happened on Vulcan. Which was a short version of Juliette getting involved with a Vulcan male, and her emotions playing havoc with his mind. The punch line to that was to be that nothing was wrong with the man in question, and it would take a visit from him, his wife, and their mother to set him straight as only Vulcans can. This was cute, but as I started writing about these characters, I realized the actual situation should be and would be more complicated -- but it leaves the opportunity for Juliette to even more damage.

But before the damage, we have Juliette becoming dear to both of them, so she is simultaneously the middle and both legs of the triangle, even though realistically, at least at this point, future stories show that Danek and T'Mar are married and happily so. But what that means for Juliette, T'Mar, and Danek is anybody's guess. There is still a chance Juliette is still just in thrall of the bond between T'Mar and Danek.

But this chapter was more than the ever-rotating triangle. Many masks come off in this chapter and a great deal is revealed about the badge, who seeks the badge, and their alliances. It really becomes part spy thriller, part young romance.

Which leads me to the next chapter, and in that one, I'll explain why that chapter is the hardest to write. Really!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Steering The Craft: One

Going into this exercise from Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering the Craft, I was a little dubious. I've been told my prose is a bit ornate, although this criticism is not consistent nor constant. So the idea of working the sound of language did not seem to be an expedient route to clarity and the millions, nay, thousands of millions of dollars waiting for me if I could just find a way to write the next 50 Shades of Gray

I am the type of person, however, that does find awkward wording by reading a paragraph aloud -- or at least under my breath, while I'm on the bus. Perhaps I should read this post aloud more.

So, going in, I was ambivalent, but the exercise itself was a lot of fun, even if only three of the six decided to actually post. That is an advantage of online forums -- one can always catch up. The examples in the book, which I will not share here, gave just a few ways one could play with the sound of language, but they were more than enough to be inspirational. Well, to me, at least.

As a result, I came out of the exercise a net positive and found myself trying to use the exercise as a warm up before I do any work on my stories or novels.

The discussion has been not as strong as I thought, with one basic dissertation on why they didn't like the book or the exercise, but at least they gave it a shot in the examples, and it was a fun example to read, and the perspective was helpful.

Not an auspicious start, becalmed at the beginning, but the ship moves on.

The Mutinous Crew

Someone on Scribophile mentioned Ursula K. Le Guin's Steering The Craft book on writing, and how they wanted to start a group around it, posting and reading each others' exercises and talking about the various discussion points.

Wow, a writing website that wanted to talk about writing -- after I had started to think that Scribophile was really more for the 'part time' writer who just wanted to snub their nose at fan fiction and talk about the latest HBO series. Thankfully, it's not only that.

So, I managed to find an older edition on Amazon.  But, even with six people, there isn't a lot of thought around the discussion pieces -- especially when the person who was "I'll join" added the caveat, "But I won't participate." This should strike me as surprising, but it does not. They wanted to provide support in some small fashion.

I must admit, my first concern was giving access to the book without someone having to buy it. I'm careful not to post directly from the book and made the group private. And with that, the group The Mutinous Crew started off.

This is my first attempt to engage in something like this, running or otherwise, over forums. We'll see how it goes. I'll put up a post for each exercise, meta and otherwise. I'm sure there will be some good things and some not so good things. I don't intend on holding back or sugar coating in my writing here. This is purportedly a professional writing site, so if there are shipwrecks, I suspect they will be as spectacular as they are rare. But I think Sayre's law will hold -- the fights will be vicious because the stakes are so small.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 18

Network, Cipher, and Light

As I approach the end of the novel, my drafts get draftier, and I find myself having to fix a lot more, which only shows what a mad rush it was to get to the end of the story.
This chapter was a challenge because it wasn't about major plot points, but more about putting things in motion, developing relationships, and solving the little mysteries to get to the big ones. I guess in story terms it is the minor victory before things go completely awry.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 17


The one thing I don't have in my outline is chapter titles. I chose 'Connection' if only because that seemed to be what was going on, but I realized that the title is quite ironic.
 I wanted to hit:
  • More information about the Raptor Badge and those involved
  • Juliette's meddling in the relationship between T'Mar and Danek
  • More information about what happened with the sehlat
  • Danek's growing interest in Juliette
  • Juliette increased distrust, yet continued reliance on P'Nem
There're a couple of threads on Scribophile about love triangles. I hate them because they become what people write when they don't have a story. Still, its hard to have a story about three young people and not have relationships defined, and if there is any ambiguity, you have the possibility of a triangle. But how can I avoid making yet another crappy love triangle?

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 16

Just an Injured Bird

Did I say that Chapter 15 was the chapter that I was dying to get to? Well, I liked. Chapter 16 was the one I really wanted to get to but was also the one I was dreading. It's less happy and more of a turning point and brings back the sehlat sub-plot with a vengeance.

I'd been dreading the chapter because it forced me to come face to face with the criticism I'd been handing out to multiple authors on Scribophile about injuries and combat -- which was to point out that many beginning writers depict combat and injury far too clinically -- even when the combatant is a non-com like Juliette. The other element I wanted to bring in is a sense of denial and the random tangle of thoughts that seems to accompany shock.

So this chapter is confusing because much of it is set around a traumatic injury. Does it work? I don't know. I'll let the feedback decide.

There are other pieces to this chapter. P'Nem breaks her almost perfect Vulcan veneer just a little, and the level of frustration with the entire situation reaches an all-time high. It also made sense to have Juliette confront Surot -- especially since he's more or less the moral compass of the monastery, but even he is involved in Juliette's situation to some level.  His position might seem confusing; I'm hoping that his position will make sense if not before, but the end of the novel.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 15

The Masters and the Loresinger

So I'm following an outline, and I've been dying to get to this chapter out for several reasons. One, because this ties together so many sub-plots that I've taken, and two because all of a sudden, not all the stakes are interpersonal.

Three, because I asked Tremor months ago to use his piece Chant of War, and he graciously accepted, and I wanted the chapter to capture the same sense of mysticism that Tremor carried forward from the Kavala. So I built this up in my head until almost anything that I threw down to pixels was going to be a disappointment. Hopefully, not too much so. A few spoilers below the fold.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 14


T'Mar has even more secrets than originally thought, and reveals that if Juliette is a captive of circumstance, her circumstances have been engineered, and she gets a glimpse at another layer of the onion.

Juliette also has secrets of her own. I struggled with this, because she is he character the reader gets closest to, and the narration is designed to pull the reader close. I think it makes a better story for Juliette to have secrets from the reader, even though there are moments when the reader is right there with her thoughts.

Finally there is some progress in improving the holo-projector. This alludes to the relationship that the Vulcans have with the 433rd house as well as brings back the theme of connection, and how Vulcans and Betazoids differ in celebrating success.

This chapter also reveals more about T'Mar's parents and gives the opportunity to show that Vulcan families are not all alike. This is also where almost incomprehensible differences between Betazoid and Vulcan relationships and marriage are made clear. I always saw Betazids and Vulcans being very forthright on the mechanics of intimacy, but from there the viewpoints sharply divide. Vulcans are almost required to put rigor around their marriages and mating. Betazoids have a tradition of breaking tradition.

Danek, Juliette and T'Mar are not designed with the traditional love triangle in mind -- the Terran idea of 'which one do I choose' wouldn't play well at all, but doesn't preclude any kind of tension. More on this in later chapters.

As her Matron points out, Juliette has a lot to learn in this area, as does T'Mar. 

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 13


FthinraKathi is a language that predates Surak, and is officially extinct. Luckily, T'Mar's mother has a thing for dead languages. So does Pylkau, it seems, who just does not like the idea of a Betazoid at the monastery at all.

It is also when T'Mar and Juliette reconcile, so it's not all Vulcans hating on Juliette. This is also a chance to flesh out T'Mar more, and show what lies beneath the cool Vulcan exterior. T'Mar is a novice with secrets.

The Vulcan Language Institute, linked above, was extremely helpful, and the history of the language structure really helped with the idea of a Vulcan that rose as a spacefaring culture long before the other species, but almost didn't survive the final test of any species -- having the power to destroy itself.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Stone That Sings, Chapter 11

The Passion Opera

Danek spells out some of the conflicts that are going on within the Vulcans in the Sas-a-shar community, and while writing this, while I try to stick with the outline, I had one of those epiphany moments.  I had understood that this community of Vulcans were part of a schism in how to best walk the Way of Kolinahr, but I had glossed over it in my initial outline. It started as simply a throwaway thought and a way to put the Vulcans in a less pristine technological environment because "reasons".

This chapter really got me thinking about what those differences meant, and at the same time, not have my small sect in the Sas-a-shar become a mix of "The Hills Have Eyes" or "Deliverance". At the heart of it, they were still good people, and good people that chose to live in a far more hostile environment. Later chapters will dig in to just how hostile this environment can be.

This is also an opportunity to give Lorot a chance to shine. He's been a bit of a comedic foil for P'Nem, but as someone who contributes a lot to keeping the monastery running, he has quite a reputation. He's also a gifted calligrapher -- an art dying on Vulcan, and elsewhere. This is really a chance to examine Art in a universe where matter and energy are starting to blend. I feel Star Trek skipped out on this, simply falling back to some sort of wistful thinking about the 20th century. I suppose one could look at it like some sort of re-enactment of some three hundred years ago, but at least in these contemporary times, they are niches. Again, in a universe where stuff is easy, maybe the wistfulness isn't as far-fetched, though I would say every century/decade/year would have its artists. But things get complicated in such a far-flung future.

This chapter also has Juliette obliquely referring to the Passion Operas again, this time to posit to Lorot how she sees her situation. His repsone, I hope, is clear.

The Stone that Sings, Chapter 10

Holograms, Refuse, and Refusal

This chapter introduces the ESH, or the "Emergency Stylist Hologram."

This started as a comedic idea and remains so in many ways. At the same time, much of Juliette's stress about her hair is one part vanity, three parts loss of control. The ESH is a resumption of control and the establishment of just a little more Betazoid normal in her life.

This also opens with Juliette asserting her independence. Vulcan society is very role driven, and much of the Vulcan/Terran romances are very much about the strong Vulcan taking calm, logical control of the relationship situation.   It should be very clear that the Stone That Sings dumps this on its head slightly -- first with the relationship between Lorot and P'Nem, and, more starkly,  the relationship between Juliette and Danek.  Juliette, coming from a planet of predominantly female Matrons, is expected to do work and get her hands dirty. Sure, there might be other houses with legions of consorts to take care of mundane labor, but that's not the 433rd House of Betazed's style.

Juliette is not able to articulate the political situation on Betazed, and while Danek is technically correct, there is a judgement factor added on which may or may not apply. Juliette certainly doesn't agree, which is good because it ticks her off enough to get a fresh robe and find something unusual.

Juliette has to make a decision, and it shows how important telepathy is to Betazoids, but to Juliette in particular, who resigns herself to a life on Vulcan versus losing her abilities.

The Stone that Sings, Chapter 12

As Is Proper

This is the first chapter that really brings up the idea of propriety in Vulcan culture, and runs Juliette right smack into that propriety. It was hinted at when Master Surot gave a tour of the monastery -- men and women live in different wings. This, of course, doesn't solve the problems of same-sex liasons, but that is what the Initiates are for -- but as young adults on the Way of Kolinahr, one can expect some level of control, or at least discretion.

This chapter also brings T'Sana forward, and gives more of a perspective of her concerns around Betazoids. It also brings to light the differences between Betazoid and Vulcan perspectives on intimacy, and what is proper to discuss in mixed company.

We also learn that manipulating Juliette into retrieving zattre was not entirely just a chore for Juliette, but also an object lesson. Master Surot tries to spell these things out quite clearly and at the same time also learns Juliette's distress around the Kolinahr Masters. As I review this, and look at the second draft I realize Juliette's interaction with the Masters should probably become a scene itself -- especially because its so powerful, and starkly highlights a major difference between Vulcan telepathy and Betazoid empathy.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Stone that Sings 9: The Matron of Summer

After a week, the Initiate T’Sana told the novices the sandstorm had ended, and that once cleanup was over, daily duties were to be resumed. Among many of the novices, there was a sense of restrained relief. Three days before, the monastery’s power had stopped, turning familiar corridors into a silent, lightless maze.

Juliette had stood breathless, trapped in the sudden darkness when the collective dismay of every Vulcan in the facility crashed into her, toppling her against a wall which she clung helplessly, fighting the undertow of sudden emotion, her eyes clenched tight.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Butcher's Bill

Those who hadn't been on the away team found it hard to conceive this prim, fastidious Cardassian had tortured hundreds. They hadn't seen the rooms, the devices, the logs.  They hadn't seen what remained of his 'patients.' But those who returned from Gul Maket's crippled freighter to the U.S.S. Valkyrja asked, "only hundreds?"

 He sat as easily as one could cuffed and bolted to a table. "I must say, Evlyn – May I call you Evlyn? You have lovely green eyes. What do the Terrans call it? Jade? Yes. They are so nicely offset by your dark complexion, but I think something darker would really make them sparkle. I know, I could mount them in a vitrine on black velvet. The trick, of course, would be letting you still see through them. I'd hate for you to miss what came next."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Okay, Not a Working Title Anymore

I have finally completed The Uwda and the Others. There may be edits along the way, but I think the story is solid enough to be considered complete. I had thought about copying it here, but I think I'll leave it on, which handles the chapter format better, even though I do like the blog format as well.

The Uwda and The Others