Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seriously considering a bad idea. Well, a new bad idea.

It seems from comments in reviews that those who pick up The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye randomly often do so on the strength of the title. As I make my (very) slow way through the revisions of The Blade That Whispers Hate, I'm considering changing the title. In fact, I'm thinking every Amra title should start with 'The Thief Who...' to make it plain that they all belong to a series.

Yes, this will cause confusion.Even more confusion, actually, since Thief Who Spat was originally titled Thagoth. But I'm starting to think it might be worth it in the long run. Part of the appeal of the Larsson Millenium Trilogy books, for example, are the intriguing and thematically similar titles.

And what new title am I considering for BWH, you ask? The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble's Braids. With apologies to Tom Waits, of course.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tarqis Excerpt


They were beating somebody bloody in the alley behind Velman's wiggery.

It was a precise, methodical beating, Murgut noted with a professional eye. Two toughs held the cripple by his arms while a third dealt out the punishment with both meaty fists. There was a workmanlike method to it. Face, body, body. Face, body body. No heat behind it, but good and sufficient force. These three men in their dockyard clothes had been paid to send a message, was all. Not really an unusual thing in Tarqis.

No, what was unusual was the message's recipient.

The fact that he was a cripple, one leg hopelessly twisted and a cane a little distance away in the muck didn't signify. Plenty of cripples got their beatings just like haler men. But the silk hose on the man's legs, now that did signify, as did the gold head of the discarded cane. As did the ermine stole, and the brilliantly white linen shirt that was fast soaking up the man's blood. Nobles didn't get beatings in Tarqis. Poisoned cups, sure. Sharp knives across the gizzard, on occasion. But nothing so common as a beat-down.

And then there was how this nobleman was taking it. Which was to say, he was actually taking it pretty well, all things considered. Oh, sure, there was some harsh grunting, some barks of pain. An especially telling blow brought on an earnest groan. But there was no sniveling, no pleading, no 'do you know who I am?' or offers of payment to make it stop.

No, the nobleman was taking it about as well as anyone could. As well as Murgut might have, were he in the poor sod's position, which thankfully he was not. Then the man caught him looking.

And rolled his eyes, for all the world like he was enduring the world's most boring dinner party.

The absurdity of it nearly made him laugh. Murgut turned to go, before he got noticed, or involved, when something the cripple said around the fists stopped him short.

"You there. When I'm- thud- finished with my friends -thud- here, I'd like to speak wi- smack,spit, groan- speak with you."

"Shuddup," said the man with the fists. He glanced over at Murgut, then did a double take. Stepped away and put a hand to the knife at his belt.

"Speak to me?" said Murgut, ignoring Goodman Fists. "About what?" Despite himself.

"Employment. If you're any good with that humping great broadsword there. Are you?"

"Passable," he replied.

"I said shuddup," the tough repeated. "And you-" aimed at Murgut "-piss off."

"Del," muttered one of the arm holders, "he's got the brand."

"Don't use my name, you stupid git. And that brand's as fake as your mother's teeth."

Murgut rubbed the puckered burn on his forehead. "Actually, it's not."

"You're an imperial gladiator? Piss off. I got work to do." And he turned back to the cripple and cocked a fist.

Murgut didn't want to get involved. He never got involved. He'd spent far too much of his life in the fray to climb back down in it if he didn't have to.

And yet.

"I was an imperial gladiator, Del. Past tense. In case you hadn't noticed, this is Tarqis. No arena. No Empire."

Del turned back to Murgut, a look of exasperation on his homely face. "I don't give a runny shit. So what?"

"So I'm currently unemployed. And you're beating my prospective employer to a pulp. So stop."

"You should know I don't pay any extra for holidays," the cripple said through rapidly swelling, split lips. And was ignored.

Del hawked, spat. "Now there's a problem. My employer paid for a hundred punches, one third of which to this twisted little git's face, specified. And I'm only up to sixty three."

"Sixty four," said the heretofore silent arm-holder.

"Sixty four," clarified Del.

"I promise I won't tell if you knock off early," said Murgut.

"Lips are sealed," added the cripple.

Del gave Murgut a considering look, then shook his head. "Nah. I guess I have what you call a work ethic." He started to turn back to the bloodied nobleman.

Except, Murgut noticed, his center of gravity was all off, and his feet were planted wrong. Which was why he was already moving when Del whipped the knife at him. Or where he had been a fraction of a second earlier.

Murgut didn't bother trying to unsheathed the sword. Not enough time, and the alley was too narrow to use it effectively anyway. Del was already following up his knife cast, fists clenched, snarling.

Murgut batted aside Del's powerful but slow punches, found an opening with disappointing speed, and took it.

The heel of his palm did more than break Del's nose; it pulverized cartilage and drove bone fragments into the man's brain.

In the Imperial gladiator scholae, no credit was given for restraint.

Del fell to the muck of the alleyway, convulsing. Murgut knew he wouldn't be getting back up.

Sent from my iPad

Finding the vein

I have good veins, or so the drawers of blood assure me. Good meaning easy to find and stick a needle into. Little blue highways running right below the skin in the crooks of my elbows. Might as well have flashing arrows.

Other people are not so lucky. They suffer multiple exploratory punctures when in a situation that calls for blood to be drawn. Bad enough to have a needle in your arm. Worse when they have to go hunting for the vein, jabbing you over and over.

This is not actually a post about the perils of phlebotomy, however. It's about writing. About how I write. Like the phlebotomist, I often have to go hunting for the entry to a story. Sometimes it's as easy - there's the vein, stick it - but much more often I've got to to try my luck, and just start jabbing at the general area until the vial starts to fill.

It's unpleasant. It's stressful. Sometimes, yes, it's painful.

You see, I might have a general idea about the story I want to write. A general theme, a setting, a character, a scene. But I do not outline in any coherent fashion. I write in order to find out what it is I want, or need, to write.

Some people place writers into two groups- 'pantsers' and 'plotters'. The idea being some writers write by the seat of their pants, others plot everything out before they start. I don't know anybody who falls completely into either category. I doubt any writer exists purely within one or the other. But it doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, whatever gets your manuscript finished is good enough.

For me, I'm not a plotter or a pantser. I'm a questioner. When in writing mode, I'm constantly asking myself what and why. What happened? Why? What will this particular character do when she finds out? Most of the time the answer comes. Sometimes the answer is 'I don't know' and I put the story aside. Sometimes the answer is 'I don't care anymore' and the story gets buried for months or years; maybe forever. Or, to return to the metaphor that began this post, I'm a phlebotomist of genre, trying to find the narrative vein. Sometimes they have good veins, like 'Waste Land'. Sometimes it takes an unbelievably long time to get what I'm after, like The Blade That Whispers Hate. And sometimes the patient (or is it specimen?) dies and decomposes.

Whatever works, my friends. Whatever works.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

'Sweeny Among Nightingales' excerpt

“Naomi Marie Harris.” He stares at the file. He’s not reading it; his washed-out green eyes, behind the glasses, are not scanning. Why he’s even got a hard copy in front of him is a mystery.

“Naomi Marie Harris. Born London, 2167. Educated New Pembroke College, Cambridge Orbital. Single mother. Accredited Astrogator, licensed orbital pilot, most recently contracted with JurongCorp Initiatives.”

I sit in the uncomfortable plastic chair across the desk from him, waiting for a point to be made. I’d been a bit surprised to be interviewed by the Chief Operations Officer. I’d even allowed myself to get my hopes up. But they were fading now.

His office is chilly, and spartan. Has a nice view of the port, though. I have to keep myself from watching the shuttles come and go. Despite everything, there was some longing, some envy. It was pointless to deny it.

“Top grades. Stellar evaluations from every employer, every captain and XO you’ve ever worked with, and letters of recommendation to go with them.”

Finally he puts down the file and looks at me.

“I can’t hire you.”

I nod. Reach down to collect my purse. He was the last one on my list. Maris-Stella was the last company that might conceivably give me a job. I guess that’s what happens when you break contract less than twelve hours before a three year mission. JCI didn’t even need to blacklist me. They just had to make the facts known.

Of course, If I hadn’t broken contract, I’d have been on Hugo when Starnberger mutinied. Will mutiny. Time travel plays hell with tenses.

“Thank you for your time, Mister Cohn.” I stand up and put out my hand. He doesn’t take it.

“You were assigned to the JCI ship Hugo, correct? Three year contract to Barnard’s Star?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Please forgive me for asking, but why did you break your contract with JCI, Miss Harris? You had to know it would be a career killer, and nothing in your file indicates you’re a particularly impulsive person.”

Because that ship is doomed. Because I got a second chance to be with my daughter. Of course I couldn’t tell him that.

“Personal reasons, Mister Cohn. A set of circumstances that couldn’t possibly be repeated.”

“Have you seen the feed this morning, Miss Harris?”

“No. Why?”

He waves at the wall to his right, my left, and a flickerscreen appears, turned to the news feed. Hundreds of images competing for attention- burning houses, congressional hearing, commercials, morning talk shows, more labor strikes in the Netherlands- but many, and growing, are focussing on a single low-rez live feed from somewhere in space. Even with the poor quality image, though, I can see enough of the starfield to know the view has to be from Titan Orbital.

The flickerscreen picks up on Cohn’s visual attention and the images not related to it dwindle, disappear, leaving two channels, both broadcasting the same feed.

Two ships, locked down. No active drives, no extended arrays, no superluminal shrouds deployed. They’re just sitting there, within about a kilometre of each other. Much too close to each other.
They’re both Hugo.

“…sources on site tell me that the JCI ship Hugo made superluminal transition six hours ago. Final contact with Titan Orbital indicated all systems nominal. These same anonymous sources tell me…”

Cohn flicks his attention to the other channel.

“JCI spokesperson Desmond Tan says the company is investigating. He indicated that JCI ships are built on a bespoke basis, and that the company has not duplicated a ship to the level of specs we’re seeing here in more than fifty years. Meanwhile, neither ship has answered any hail. It is unclear which authority’s jurisdiction— ”

Cohn turns his attention back to me, and the flickerscreen falls silent, though the visuals don’t fade.

“I can’t hire you, Miss Harris. I think it’s safe to say that you’re going to be very busy answering a lot of questions, both from the press and more serious entities for a good long while.”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Waste Land review, life stuff

Hello my peeps,

Things have gotten interesting around here, as I am both searching for a new place to live and a new place to work. I might be the teensiest bit stressed out. So, you know, not much in the way of blogging has gotten done.

But I did notice that [erudite, talented, and eerily unerring in her perceptions] Professor Trisha over at eclectic / eccentric posted a lovely review of the short story 'Waste Land.' The phrase absolutely excellent may have been used, so when/if I'm homeless and eating out of rubbish bins come the new year, I can still look down on Dan Brown.

As for the 'Waste Land' sequel 'Sweeny Among Nightingales' -- well, it's coming. I refuse to fall into the trap of rushing it out the door before it's fully baked, which is sort of my usual modus operandi. Also, the homeless/jobless thing.

Au revoir for now.