Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Water - Flash Fiction Part I

Chuck Wendig's blog has a challenge this week (200 Words at a Time, Part One), where you write the beginning to a story, 200 words or less, and then next week, everyone chooses another's work to continue with another 200 words, and then the week after we round-robin again, and so on until the usual 1,000-word total is written.  I decided to try it - here's my start at 200 words even!

The sandcat softly chuffed as it crouched, its dun coat speckled with black blending into the sandy floor.  The black tip of its twitching tail could be seen from the watering hole where antelope drank their fill, their white tails glowing in the dawn.  He tensed, and the beasts galloped off, to bells tinkling and soft hoofbeats as the caravan approached.  The big cat coughed in disgust as it stalked off, ignoring the approaching dust and ruckus. 

A swarthy man hustled a young woman down from a horse, pushed her to her knees, and addressed the older man who approached them both, “See, wiseman, as promised, the girl can sense water on the wind...”

“Silence!” he interrupted, before turning to the girl in a burnoose covering her from head to toe.  He peered above the veil, “Well, girl, you seem to be talented enough.  How do you sense the water?” 

Sana raised her head.  “I close my eyes until I see the sun blazing behind my lids.  Then I wait to see where darkness covers the sun.  It is in that direction.”  She bowed her head, staring at her bound hands. 

“Well, Hanara, she has magic.  Let’s deal.” 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NaNoWriMo Failure

Well, as I sigh heavily, I have decided I am a complete failure at NaNoWriMo this year.  I think I need to do some preliminary work before I can really participate fully.  At the very least, I need to have some idea about what I want to write.  I am going to pull some of my old writing out and retype it to get back in the mode.  In addition, I think I'm going to take up Chuck Windig's challenge, write 200 words for the beginning of the story, and then start a round-robin affair, where you take someone else's 200 words, add your own 200 words to make 400 words, then grab someone else's 400 words and wash and repeat.  I can write 200 words easily.

In addition, I have been doing some critiques of poetry on Goodread's Poetry group site.  I find I am actually pretty good at taking someone else's work and helping them improve it.  That gives me enough confidence that I might try my hand at writing some poetry as well.

But for now, the NaNoWriMo experiment is over for me, five days before the official cutoff date.  I'll just have to be satisfied with my 2,660 words rather than the expected 50,000.  (I am such an abject failure...wallow, wallow, wallow!)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jennifer Estep's Heart of Venom

Jennifer Estep presents her ninth novel starring Gin Blanco as an assassin with a heart of gold, although she has never killed anyone for money since the first novel several years ago.  In this one, Sophia is kidnapped by the same man who kidnapped her so many years ago and destroyed her voice.  Gin, who has taken on the Devereau sisters as her family, takes the kidnapping personally and involves her remaining friends and family in a rescue attempt.  For the first time, we learn about Sophia's back story, and it's a terrible one.  Her kidnapper is a violent, horrible Fire mage who fixated on Sophie from an early age and never has forgotten her.  But for his actions against her family, she vows he and his psychotic sister must die - and Gin always follows through on her promises.

I raced through this novel, especially appreciating that we finally get to see more about Sophie and her past. We have known since the first novel that something dark affected her years ago and several novels further in, we discovered that a Fire mage destroyed her voice by making her breathe in fire.  However, I was not prepared for how truly bad her experiences were.  Having been a victim of sexual abuse myself, I should have expected something similar to what she describes but not at such a young age as Sophia was.

To say that Gin is loyal to her friends and family is an understatement.  Gin is an atypical assassin.  As I mentioned before, she has not plied her assassin's trade for profit since the first novel; however, in this one, she would be rich given her body count.  Most of the kills are with her trusty knives, but she does do a blowout with her ice magic that wears her out.

Without giving away any spoilers, I was glad to see her reunited with one of the friends who seemed to have been out of sorts during the last few novels.  I loved the way he returned to accepting her as she truly is, blood and all.  I really enjoy this series and am looking forward to the next novel with great anticipation.

Thomas Sniegoski's "In the House of the Wicked"

This is Remy Chandler's fifth outing as one of God's warrior angels masquerading as a regular human being.  In this novel, the part-time PI is asked to search for Ashley, the now-college-bound teen who normally babysat his dog.  Unfortunately, her kidnapping is related to Remy himself, as a sorcerer has kidnapped her in an attempt to find vengeance against his enemies.  Not only that, but the war within himself between his Seraphim and his "humanity" continues, until his angelic powers are stolen and used against him.  Of course, Remy and his friends, Francis and Ashley herself, prevail against all evil - but is there a greater evil out there waiting for Remy?  Only the next novel will tell.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm so excited!

Recently, I was asked to review Cover Art for All Things Urban Fantasy.  This is the first time a REAL entity has asked me to write something for them.  They published it today, and I'm so excited!!!  My first name is published with my writing - SQUEEEE!!!.  Check out the reviews for yourself (link below).  I was amazed that my comments mirrored most of the other reviewers, who have been doing this forever.  I hope they ask me to do it again or even something else in the future - man, I'm feeling really great today!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Ender's Game"

I have to admit – I hesitated to see “Ender’s Game” at first.  I know that it is a classic Science Fiction novel and one that I should have read long ago, but I stopped reading most strictly Sci-Fi novels to focus on Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Mysteries.  Mostly, I was uncertain about whether to see the movie because of the controversy over the author’s personal views about gays. 

Now, I am an advocate for GLBT rights.  I believe that you have no choice if you are attracted sexually to someone of the same gender or if you are born into what feels like the wrong gender body.  Truthfully, why would anyone ever make that “choice” with all the negativity that comes along with it?  Orson Scott Card does have a bias against GLBT rights, and so many who support those rights have chosen to boycott the movie (and probably his books). 

While I have not read any of the “Ender” books, many years ago, I did read his novels about the “Seventh Son,” Alvin Maker, a fantasy series.  I thought they were well-written and had some interesting concepts about religion and a messiah figure.  There was nothing negative about being gay in any of the novels that I read.  Nor was it an issue in the movie.  I chose to see the movie because I believe that art is art, regardless of the artist, and that sometimes art informs us about the artist and his views and sometimes it does not.   In this case, “Ender’s Game” can be seen completely separate from Card’s opinions about gays.  However, it truly is a disturbing story in how it treats children and adolescents. 

Asa Butterfield, as Ender, did a fabulous job carrying the tremendous burden of being a potential leader and hero for his people.  As a “third” (apparently no more than two children per family are typically permitted) and the youngest family member to attempt to make it through the war program that both his siblings failed, Ender has high expectations set upon him and set by himself.  Hailee Steinfeld shines as one of his team members, maybe not quite as brightly as she did in “True Grit.”  Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, and Viola Davis are the adults who are training these children to be warriors and leaders, and they do a fine job at describing the balance of the needs of the children against the needs of the military. 

Strategically, it is a brilliant concept to begin training children at such a young age and to expect excellence in such diverse topics as rocket science.  Children are resilient and better equipped to learn than adults.  Posing the training as games and competitions, particularly videogames, is particularly brilliant.  In today’s military, some of the most successful members are those who played videogames as teenagers.  However, when I finally understood the title of the story about halfway through the movie, I was ultimately deeply troubled by the concept.  Only the ending resolution made the movie feel “better” for me. 

Whether you are an advocate of LGBT rights or not, “Ender’s Game” is a fascinating look at military strategy and war.  It disappoints me that its artistic merits will not be judged by those who choose to boycott it based on its author’s opinions.  Ultimately, this is a movie that is ripe for discussion about honesty, manipulation, competition, warfare, and their effects on children and adolescents.  I would highly recommend it.  

As a side note, I am attempting to participate in the NaNoWriMo program this month.  While I did not write anything pertaining to a novel, I wrote this piece and spent another 1,540 words on a draft letter I am preparing to submit to my credit score report.  So at least I spent the majority of the day writing something!

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo - November 1

This is National Novel Writing Month, and it's the first time that I've decided to participate.  I really have no idea on how to start - characters, plot outline, dialogue, setting - it's all a mystery to me.  But I decided if I wanted to participate, at the very least, I needed to write something every day – regardless of how many words it is.  So I decided to start writing here and then maybe post some of what I write in my blog site. 
I think I’ll just start by writing phrases and lines that I particularly enjoy, words that come rolling off the tongue pleasantly. 

She sells seashells by the seashore.  I love the ocean, the waves pounding on the sand and the sand susurring down as the water pulls it back into the ocean and then pushes it back up yet again, rhythmically.  Rocking gently through the day and night, crashing through the storms and rains, the ocean has its own emotions and feelings that it demonstrates in its tides and waves.  One minute it can be calm and collected; the next it is storming and roiling in sound and fury. 

I love the forest.  Even though they both possess groves of trees, wild forests are filled with sounds that usually go unnoticed in big-city parks.  The wind rustling the leaves, branches creaking, a bird piping here and there.  In good weather, the shade dapples the ground, alternating with the sunny patches here and there.  It seems as though the trees sway gently in their own unpredictable patterns – never quite in synch with one another but making a rhythm of their very own. 

The desert is quiet almost all the time, except for when the wind blows.  The cacti stand at attention, and the sun beats down on the crusted earth.  Here and there might be the slip-sliding trace of a sidewinder or the scuttled clots thrown up by a scorpion.  Overhead the vultures glide in long, winding loops, barely moving their wings yet able to hang for hours seemingly without moving a feather.  Once in awhile, the thunder rumbles and heavy clouds hang low just before they dump their heavy load onto the earth and the water runs across the land in sheets, barely sinking into the hardened earth, just drifting across the land in little rivulets that eventually gather into long streams that rush across and threaten to drown the standing pillars of cacti. 

The Great Salt Lake is a dead ocean in the middle of nowhere, and it smells as though it has been rotting there in the middle of the nation for millennia.  The water is saltier even than the ocean, and it burns and itches against your skin.  Swimming is easy because you have to force yourself to sink, and your very spirit rebels against putting your head deeper underneath that unnatural liquid.  If by chance you accidentally swallow some of the water, you gasp and choke, and the tears you shed are not half as bitter as your stomach. 

There, my task for the evening is done.  I have typed over 500 words.  That must be enough for the first day of NaNoWriMo.  I will try something a little different tomorrow.  I must read up on Jim Butcher’s advice on writing.