Rebecca Day

Archive for October, 2007

Magical systems, generally

Posted by rwday on October 28, 2007

A couple of form rejections, one from Strange Horizons for “Mourning Jewel” and the other from ASIM for “Stepchild.”  I’ll get them sent out again tomorrow, but honestly, it’s depressing as hell sometimes, and short stories are, right now, a distraction from the novel I ought to be working on.  I’ll keep sending out the finished ones, but unless I get knocked upside the head with an idea that won’t leave me alone, I’m not going to write any new ones for a while.

We were in Ohio for family stuff this weekend, and as usual, I planned to write in the car, and as usual, I really didn’t.  I polished a bit, edited some, fiddled with ideas, and worked on organizing some files, but no actual writing was accomplished.  I really hate burying myself in my laptop while my poor husband drives in silence.  He’s not a big music listener, doesn’t do audiobooks, so my conversation is pretty necessary when the road gets long and boring.

I did go over my current project with him, basically making sure the way I’m handling the magic seems logical and consistent to him.  He’s read a lot of second world fantasy and has definite thoughts on magic, so it was very helpful.  We both agree that too often magic is either inconsistent (i.e. your wizards seem to be able to do pretty much anything, and yet Voldemort is still running loose  there are all these problems that could easily be solved by a couple of well-placed spells) or worse, the fantasy reads like a bad D&D adventure with people hurling magic missiles around willy-nilly.  Besieging a castle?  Why bother with trebuchets and starving them out?  Just zotz them into the stone age with your Awesome Spell o’Doom.

No thanks.

The thing about magic in my world is that it’s largely considered part of the past – like in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, there was once a time, an almost mythical past, when magic existed, but that time has passed.  Of course, that’s just the perception of most of the common people, which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality – magic is still there, it’s just kept quiet.   It’s the Middle Ages, after all, and their world has a Pope and will soon have an Inquisition, and besides, one guy with magic generally isn’t much good against ten thousand peasants with scythes and cudgels.  Magic is an ace in the hole, a last resort, so you don’t get people conjuring up chairs out of thin air a la Dumbledore.  My magicians get their chairs the old fashioned way – the make their peasants build them.

We also talked briefly about me doing a romance, just to see if I can.  I have a pretty decent plot developed for a futuristic romance, and when I finish Fim and set it aside to season, I may give it a go.  I know fantasy romance is what’s selling these days, but vampires bore me and I don’t see that I have anything new or original to say about werewolves, really.  Though neither does anyone else, from what I can see. Seems like half the books on the romance aisle have the word ‘Moon’ in the title.  Makes me want to write one called Arse Moon, about Bradley Barebutte, a ruggedly handsome cop who turns into a wolf when he drops trou. Somehow I don’t think the literary world is ready for that…


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New Thaw Review!

Posted by rwday on October 22, 2007

FromRainbow Reviews. And a good one, which is always nice!

I had a very productive weekend – moved forward on Fimbulvetr, plus came to some decisions on direction. I’ve been angsting over how to convey that Yorvik isn’t just York being mispronounced by the peasants, that my 1300 England isn’t our 1300 England, because it’s not really readily apparent in my first chapter, which is narrated by a 13 year old girl. My second chapter narrator isn’t exactly the type to be dropping a lot of hints about the socio-political situation either.

I know the trend these days in SF/F at least is to avoid the infodump and work the worldbuilding into the text, and I’m doing that, but honestly, I’ve read a few books in the last few years where the worldbuilding was so subtle as to leave me still confused four chapters in. I never made it to chapter 5. Maybe I’m shallow and lowbrow, but I want to know where and when I am and the basics of how the world works fairly quickly so I can concentrate on the actual plot and characters.

So there will be a prologue, just a short one, set at a pivotal time in the formation of the world, about 200 years before the story starts to serve as a sort of anchor.

At least, there will be once I stop blogging and go write it.

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And again…

Posted by rwday on October 18, 2007

Another rejection, this one on “Blossoming.”
Thanks for letting me read your story. It’s exceedingly well-written and enjoyable, but it didn’t quite make the final lineup for a couple reasons: first off, the anthology is practically filled at this time, and unfortunately, yours is but one of dozens of subs I received right before the deadline of a 6-month submission period, all of which has forced me to be make some rather hard decisions; second, although your story is very good, it stretches the guidelines (the book plays a smaller role than I had hoped). I certainly wish you the best in placing it elsewhere. I also hope that you will submit to any future anthologies I edit. I’ll try and email you so that you can submit earlier.

Not a bad rejection, and he’s right about stretching the guidelines, as I didn’t write it for that anthology, just had it in progress and it sort of fit, so I gave it a shot. I wasn’t expecting a sale on this one, really.  I’ve pretty much learned never to expect a sale.

When I first started out at this, every time I sent a story out I honestly thought (in the dark recesses of my mind) that it would sell.  I mean, how could any editor fail to appreciate the OMG brilliance that is moi?   I re-read those stories over now and cringe with embarrassment and have a much more realistic perspective on my own writing and the standards of the markets.  The problem for me comes in knowing I’m not doing the quality of work I want to do but forcing myself to keep writing anyway because if I don’t, I’ll never get to the point where I’m doing the quality of work I want to do.

Like with any field of endeavor, writing practice brings writing improvement.  I don’t say ‘practice makes perfect’ because some people (and I may very well be one of them), no matter how much they practice will never be perfect (how ever you choose to define that).  I played the clarinet in high school and I was good.  I practiced a fair amount.  If I’d practiced more, I’d have been better, but I can guarantee that no matter how much I practiced, I’d never have played at the level of, say, Benny Goodman.  Writing is like that for me – I look at certain books and know that no matter how many words I churn out, how hard I work to perfect this craft, I’ll never write at the level of those authors.  They’re geniuses.  Of course, the other side of that is that I read some books and know that even if I sat down blindfolded and just typed 75k words of nonsense, I’d end up ahead of the game.  Being honest, I suspect I’m somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes high middle, sometimes low.  I can move myself up through effort, but I’m never going to be top tier.  The question is whether or not I’m okay with that.  The answer is probably yes.

Back to “Blossoming,” I need to find another market – was thinking Dark Wisdom, but they’re overstocked and closed, plus I’d have to trim 1500 words or so. Maybe Clarkesworld or Weird Tales. Clarkesworld responds pretty quickly, and you always get crit whether you like it or not! I’ll read it through at work today and make a decision.

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Posted by rwday on October 14, 2007

26 day form rejection from All Possible Worlds for “Imago Dei.” I’ll flip it back out to the next market on the list tomorrow. *sighs*

No writing to speak of this weekend.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with taking a weekend off once in a while as long as it doesn’t become a habit.

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Viewpoints and such

Posted by rwday on October 12, 2007

Fimbulvetr is now up to about 23k words and I’m wrestling for what is essentially the first time with multiple POVs. The closest I’ve come before was my very first foray into novels, Spirals, which has one main POV and three supplementals. That was pretty easy, plus of course I had that sort of beginner’s luck thing going where I wasn’t educated enough to know I was supposed to have problems, hence, no problems.

This is another kettle of mahi-mahi. Here I will eventually have 6 viewpoint characters, all more or less equal, each telling different aspects of the story. Their individual stories will intersect at various places. This is essentially what George R.R. Martin does with Song of Ice and Fire. (Not comparing myself to Martin, who is a frelling genius, in any way other than the technique I’m currently using, mind.)

First problem – giving each POV character a distinctive voice, because I’m using a fairly deep POV technique. I don’t want my reader picking up the book and not being able to tell from the narrative whether the story’s being told by a 30 year old priest or a sulky 15 year old girl.

Second problem – continuity. I’m telling each character’s story, but sometimes the telling of it is separated by 2 or 3 chapters of other people’s stories and I forget what I’ve already said, what’s going on, etc. I have to do a lot of re-reading and referring to notes that’s bogging me down. I’m beginning to think it might be easier to just write all of character A, then all of character B, etc., then break it into chapters later. The issue with that is I’m not sure with certain scenes whose POV I will end up using. For example, I recently rewrote chapter 5, switching it from sulky girl to priest. If I do the all of A, then all of B strategy, I’m guaranteeing myself a good bit of rewriting. Which I hate.

Third problem – redundancy. I don’t need six different people explaining to my poor beleaguered readers how the dynasty was established or what magical powers the tyrannical kings had. I need different POV characters to reveal different parts of the worldbuilding, and they need to do it in character. What sulky peasant girl thinks about the institutional church is going to be very different from what the priest thinks from what my noblewoman thinks, and because some of the narrators are a little unreliable, the truth lies somewhere in between. I’ve never actually planned how to incorporate my worldbuilding before. In Thaw, it just sort of dribbled out via David’s rambling. That isn’t working here – I need to plan a little more.

Planning. *sighs* Yeah, guess I’d better go do some of that.

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If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, do I have to leave my writing here?

Posted by rwday on October 3, 2007

9 day form rejection from Hardboiled Horror on “Hell.” No real surprise – it was a longshot, and a reprint at that. I’ll try to find some other reprint markets and shop it around, I guess.

I’m getting a surprising amount of writing done here in Vegas – I guess not being even slightly interested in gambling or nightclubs or shows helps with that. I’ve edited a couple of stories, did some writing on the plane and worked a while on worldbuilding and novel planning. Tonight, AH (after House) I’ll get back to the Ashes edits.

I started a rant on accuracy in fiction – historical, fantasy, SF – but it’s sort of morphing into my thoughts on whether writers have a duty to take their subjects seriously. I’m still formulating thoughts, but short answer? Yes, we do. What that means is going to vary by genre, but essentially I believe if you want your readers to take your work seriously, you’d damn well better do the same.

It’s also come home to me recently that not every writer wants the same thing from writing. Which means that my ‘taking seriously’ may not look much like what some other author’s ‘taking seriously’ does. But I think I’m right, so I sense that this rant may end up being pretty damn judgmental.

Posted in Rejections, Uncategorized, Writing | 3 Comments »