Links

What I’m reading, plus stuff…

So, tonight’s workout was lots and lots of snatches, plus a bunch of wall-balls. I’m still working with low weights, but it was still a good workout, and both our coach and his shadow said my form looked good, so that’s a happy.

Writing is going well – I feel like the last week or two of material are all on-track except for yesterday’s, which I mulched at lunch and re-started. It’s an interesting process – trying to feel my way through a story where I’m not sure what’s going to happen. Usually, I start throwing random stuff in hoping it’ll all make sense in the end, which seems to work for some writers. This time, though, I’m trying to stay very aware of the different motivations in play, and build realistically from those. There’s some good potential for conflict, if I can just resist the twin urges to defuse it or gloss over it!

Not much else going on right now, though I am looking forward to going to the Southington Apple Harvest Festival soon. mmm, apple fritters. :)

Scintilla

Not sure how my subconscious would feel about posting the active story, so here’s a bit from the mulch pile. :)

Going through a portal still took his breath away, every time. One minute, he was in the Hub, facing a ceramcrete arch that existed for human peace of mind rather than out of necessity. He could see the wall on the other side, right up until the last inch of the hover cleared the portal’s transit horizon. In that instant, with no sensation of movement except that of the hover, he was in another world.

The light was what hit him first, bright enough to make him squint, and hot on his skin in a way that sunlight tamed by fiberoptic skylights never could be. Then the air. It wasn’t just the smell, so different from the constantly conditioned and recirculated air of home, but also the taste and temperature and texture. He swallowed hard, and took a deep, conscious breath. Humidity, plants attracting pollinators, soil bacteria decomposing dead matter, resin from the evergreens. He exhaled and inhaled again, mentally noting each observation. Nothing hazardous, nothing unexpected. The familiar routine calmed his nerves and staved off the panic he had struggled with in his first few transits.

“Come on, newbie. Time to set up, before the sun sets.”

New book, new comic, whee!

Robin McKinley’s new book Shadows is out!

I read it over the weekend and enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s reminiscent of both Sunshine and Dragonhaven in some ways. All three happen in worlds very similar to ours, but with some fundamental differences that – and this is the reason I wouldn’t lump them in with the urban fantasy genre – everyone who lives in those worlds is aware of.

In Sunshine, everyone knows about magic and demons and vampires, but for the most part they just get on with their lives. In Dragonhaven, it’s the existence of dragons, which are an endangered species that still exist only in a few nature reserves.

In Shadows… well, it’s hard to explain. There’s magic, but the government has tried to wipe it out, by cutting out the genes that allow magic-users to do their thing. But magic is a part of the world, not just the people, and there are these things called “cobeys,” or coherence breaks, which are sort of like a natural disaster of the magical kind. And poor Mags is just trying to cope with a new step-father and her senior year of high school.

Anyway, I liked it. :)

***

Last night, I discovered that Aaron Williams, author of Nodwick, PS238, and Full Frontal Nerdity, has a new comic available online!

Use Sword on Monster looks thoroughly amusing, though I haven’t had a chance to read much of it yet. If you like humorous fantasy, check it out!

Monday, monday…

I *so* wanted it to still be the weekend! It was a fairly nice weekend, but far too short. :)

Here, a picture:

That’s our lovely kitten lounging in my writing chair. :)

Anyway, on to a snippet – this one’s a story idea that I jotted down this morning, but I’m trying not to let it distract me from my current WIP.

Scintilla

“Here, take a look at this.”

“What is it?”

“A sword.”

“Well, yes, but… is it a display piece, meant to hang on someone’s wall?” It didn’t feel like any sword she had ever seen.

“Take a few practice swings.” The weaponsmith gestured to the pells, and with reluctance, her visitor picked up the sword and and swung.

“No resistance!” She swung again, shocked by the novelty of a sword that didn’t object to being wasted on wood and straw. “A practice blade? But why make a practice blade so fine?”

The weaponsmith grinned. “Come here. Now swing it at me, although I’ll thank you not to connect.”

The soldier swung in slow motion, ready to pull the blade away the moment it pushed for blood. It stopped a hair’s breadth away from the smith’s arm, just where she intended, and she grunted in surprise. She tried again, again, each time faster, each time stopping easily before the blade drew blood, even when she angled the swing up, to the smith’s throat.

“It would swing as smoothly if you were facing an enemy, and take their lives just as easily as you just spared mine.”

“What is this?” This time, the warrior’s voice held awe rather than puzzlement.

“An unenchanted sword.”

I like the idea, of a world where enchantment is so commonplace, so matter of fact, that an unenchanted object inspires wonder. And maybe a little fear. :)

Links

I get a lot of my new book recommendations from John Scalzi’s “Big Idea” feature, where an author of a newly released book writes a guest post about the idea, or ideas, that led to the story. The posts are a fun read, even when the books don’t sound to my taste, and I’ve found quite a few books that I love this way.

It seems quite promising that another author has taken up this idea, (with his blessing – that’s where I got the link) and is starting a similar feature called “The Spark,” to highlight South African and African authors! The first essay is quite good, and I might even pick up the book at some point.

This sort of thing, plus sample chapters, is why I don’t worry about the fact that anyone can self-publish these days – because there will always be people interested in curating the morass of titles, and in providing a venue for publicizing titles their audiences might enjoy.

I get ideas for books to read from all sorts of places, but here are three more that have had a pretty good hit rate for me:

Ilona Andrews’ blog – When Ilona enjoys reading a book, she’ll often post reviews, and while not everything catches my eye, I’ve found that her taste and mine have enough in common that her recommendation will almost always make me take a closer look at a title. Of course, I also love her books, so it makes sense for me to frequent the blog. :)

My other two biggest sources are publishers, which I suppose shouldn’t be too surprising.

Tor.com (I get the email newsletter) is more than just a book publisher, it’s practically a magazine. The website publishes articles and original fiction, as well as previews, reviews, news, and cover reveals (I love those cover reveals!) for books published by the Tor imprint. The newsletter is frequently entertaining, and I get to hear about all their new books as they come out.

Baen, while once a big favorite of mine, hasn’t been a great source for me in recent years. That’s more a matter of my taste shifting than any loss in quality, however, and they do still publish a couple of my must-read authors. (Yay, Wen Spencer and Lois McMaster Bujold!!!) If you like adventure sci-fi in the tradition of Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton (they’ve reprinted a lot of Norton’s books, actually), their sample chapters and free library are well worth a look!

What are your favorite sources for finding new books to read? I’d love to add to my list. :)

Some (Not New Year’s) Resolutions

I’ve always thought the idea of New Year’s resolutions was sort of strange, especially the stereotypical same-as-last-year, broken-in-a-week type.

But that doesn’t mean that resolutions can’t be useful – just that I think they should be made when and where they become relevant, rather than according to an arbitrary calendar date and tradition.

That said, here are some resolutions that have recently clarified themselves in my mind, that I’m going to work on going forward. I don’t really expect any of them to be easy, but that’s not the point, is it? The point is to recognize them as ways I want to improve, and to keep working at them!

Be less judgy.

Yes, I know that “judgy” isn’t a real word, but it fit this resolution better than “judgmental” can. “Judgmental,” for me, has connotations of unkind, but justified judgement. That sense of being justified is a poisonous little fillip on a really harmful attitude, which makes it that much harder to resist.

“Judgy,” on the other hand, sounds just as silly and petty as that attitude really is. Among other things, it has no productive or beneficial effect. If expressed, it hurts other people’s’ feelings. If bottled up, it makes me roil with impotent frustration and an anger that verges on fury when I really get wound up. It eats up enormous amounts of energy and attention, and makes relations with other people more tense, whether or note they’re the target of my judginess. It’s just not worth it…

It’s kind of like the addiction to anger that can make you browse inflammatory news sites for political articles to rant at – it’s a stimulant, essentially. And a poison.

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to remember my resolution when my usual triggers hit, and reset my reactions to them fairly quickly. Now that I recognize what I’ve been doing to myself, I’m impatient to stop. :)

Be more dedicated to writing.

This is a hard one… harder than I like to admit, in fact. I guess partly it boils down to self-doubt, since it’s hard to make writing a top priority if I still doubt my ability to make the dream of writing fiction for a living a reality. Building up more faith in myself is certainly going to have to be part of the process!

Really, this is something I’ve been working on for years now, but there’s still such a long way to go that it feels like teeny tiny baby steps. Just got to keep at it, right?

Anyways, on to the fun stuff!

Scintilla

Something different today…

C1 Security Clearance required. The words made her flip through to the next listing, no matter how tempting the data in that project. C1 meant getting full neural implants, and granting the Agency the right to monitor you through them. It was the ultimate protection for their data, and the ultimate price. Take that offer, and you’d never work for anyone else again, ever. No one else could believe their data wasn’t being read by the Agency while you worked on it. And implants… Vesper shuddered, remembering the million and one horror stories she’d heard about neural implants going wrong.

She flipped past, skimming over the Vervane post and a dozen others almost as bad. Sane projects didn’t get posted to the boards, because sane clients were able to simply hire a data service directly. Board posters were either too cheap, too demanding, or otherwise too unrealistic – or all three. “Stupid idea,” she muttered, closing down the display.

Some Links

How about some author blogs today?

N.K. Jemisin, author of quite a few amazing fantasy novels, only blogs occasionally, but is always interesting when she does. I can’t wait for her new book, “The Fifth Season” to come out!

Ilona Andrews is both an individual, and the pen name for the team of Ilona and Gordon Andrews – since they write urban fantasy, I’m guessing someone decided a female author name might sell better, and I can’t really say that’s not the case! They maintain an entertaining blog with a mix of day-to-day mundanities, writing, and occasional free serial fiction. And their books are a lot of fun too!

John Scalzi is a science fiction author, who just won this year’s Hugo for best novel with “Redshirts.” I read it, and laughed quite a bit in the process, but I have to admit that I first discovered Mr. Scalzi through his blog, and have only sporadically tried out his books. What can I say? Go check it out. :)

blasted…

This was tonight’s workout:

“The Seven”

7 Handstand Push-ups

7 Thrusters – 135/95

7 Knees to Elbow

7 Deadlifts 245/165

7 Burpees

7 Kb Swings 70/55

7 Pull-ups

7 Rounds for Time – This should be a long, steady paced workout. Scale to weights you can do Unbroken at least once. Share bars for Deads and Thrusters if needed, this workout will take a while.

***45 min time cap***

’nuff said?

Well, here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on:

***
Scintilla

Mak’s team were already starting up the haulers when they arrived, and she could hear machinery across the clearing too. On the way, they had passed a group setting up something out of nightmares, all long, sharp teeth designed to bite into the ground and churn it up. Jade was glad she wasn’t going to be working anywhere near that.

“How much space are you clearing?” she asked, looking around. The workers had already felled at least a square kilometer of forest, more than she would have expected them to need.

“About three times this,” said one of the women. “Adla,” she said, sticking out her hand.

“Jade,” Jade answered, taking it. Adla’s handshake was brief but strong, in contrast to her small stature. Jade wondered a little at the formal gesture, when everyone else had been so casual. “Why so much?”

“There’ll be even more later,” the woman answered, pulling thick chaps on over her pants. “This is just our start-up space. Shelters over there,” she said, gesturing back towards the portal site. “Crops,” her gesture included about half of what had been cleared so far and a good part of the forest. “Processing and power generation.” That wave included a swathe of forest to the west. All of it was uneven ground, if not outright hills.

***

aaand… some links

A semi-random assortment of what I’ve been reading recently…

“Arctic Sea Ice Delusions Strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph”

“Aloha! Introducing HuffPost Hawaii.”

Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius – Aww… Tweedle’s always getting in the way.

Plan refinement, “The Answer,” and Robin McKinley

So, based on observations of my own behavior, energy levels, etc, since announcing my most recent plan of posting MWF after Crossfit, I’ve decided to scale the commitment back to Monday nights, with the option of additional posts during the week. It seems to be the only day that I hit fairly regularly, so I’ll give it a try for a while, and see how it works out.

Speaking of Crossfit, I made it to all three days last week, yay! Also, Kerigan managed to squish his arm between his leg and the bar while trying a 225-lb clean, so we made a trip to the ER after Crossfit on Friday for x-rays. Thankfully, there’s no break! Just lots of pain. I think he might avoid cleans ’til it’s feeling better, or at least go with somewhat lower weights, to avoid the chance of hitting the same spot again. We’re supposed to push our limits, so a failed lift isn’t that uncommon – it was just a bad conjunction of limbs and bar that kept it from being the usual glancing (and relatively painless) blow.

Anyway, he seems to be feeling a little better each day, so that’s all good. Today being a holiday, we won’t be going to our usual 6:30 class, but we’ll be back to it Wednesday. :) (Maybe tomorrow too – we’ll see.)

On the writing front, I’m plugging away and still enjoying myself. I get a little worried, as I add complexities, that I’m going to lose the thread and wind up with something as long as I’d like but unreadable, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, it’s important to just keep going!

***

Scintilla

Jade stepped carefully, following the shadow up the rest of the way to the portal site. It paused outside the titanium plugs in the rock, going no further, and Jade risked stepping closer. A soft beep made her freeze again, pausing in the shadow of a stack of crates. The figure ahead of her tossed something that glinted in the light, then turned and walked back the way they had come – right at her.

***

Fun Links

First off, I highly recommend taking a couple of minutes to go read this excellent short-short story, just posted today: “The Answer,” by Sailor Jim, of “boingy, boingy, boingy” fame. (If you haven’t before, go read “On the Subject of Penises” too.) :)

Last time I posted, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about a couple more authors, but had so much to write about Hugh Howey’s books that they would have to wait for another time. (btw, I finished the Shift Omnibus and Dust last week, and they absolutely lived up to the standards set by the Wool Omnibus, maybe even surpassed it.)

So, today, I’d like to talk about Robin McKinley!

I first discovered Robin McKinley via “The Blue Sword” when I was probably around ten or eleven, and found it on the YA shelf at our local book store, and swiftly followed up with the prequel “The Hero and the Crown.” (Unfortunately, there’s no e-book version of either yet, though I still have the paperback, and read it at least once a year.)

Honestly, I’m not terribly impressed with the current covers, so here are the ones from my copies:

The Blue SwordHeroandtheCrown

I love these books. :)

When I was a kid, I had this strange pre-conceived notion that the authors of all of the books I loved were dead… I’m not entirely sure where that idea came from, but I am still sometimes shocked to see something new come out by an author I thought dead some thirty years ago! Which is a far more pleasant sort of shock than hearing that someone I thought long-since dead just died…

But I digress.

This preconceived notion made it both a surprise and a delight when “The Outlaws of Sherwood” came out in 1988! (Also no e-book version, *pout!*)

Anyway, I am delighted to say that Robin McKinley is *still* alive and writing, and I can’t wait for her new book “Shadows” to come out on September 26th! (Her newest works have both e- and paper editions, yay!)

She also keeps a blog at, appropriately enough, RobinMcKinleysBlog.com, where she talks about the daily vagaries of hellhounds, bells, and roses, as well as weekly installments of an ongoing story currently titled “Kes.” It’s one of the few blogs I still check regularly now that Goodle shut down their Reader service…

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve read everything she’s published yet, but I’m close. My favorites, that I re-read over and over are the ones I’ve already mentioned (except for Shadows, of course, since I haven’t read it yet!) and also “Deerskin,” which is a heart-rending novel that draws on several fairy tales, and “Sunshine,” which is quite honestly the most unusual vampire story I’ve read to date. Not your usual urban fantasy, for sure. :)

Anyway, that’s all for now. Being a professional writer who’s been at it almost as long as I’ve been alive, there are lots more books than I’ve mentioned here, and if you have a chance to read any of them, I say go for it! Happy reading. :)

© 2010 Catherine Wechsler, used with permission. http://cwechsler.zenfolio.com/

© 2010 Catherine Wechsler, used with permission.

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