Young Sasquatches in Love

Another short story published, and this time it was an effortless formatting job, which is a relief after the 50 Ways to Blunder Calibre (TM) dance which was getting Sungoddess ready for Amazon. Those seemingly endless blunders and bloopers were due to tiredness; they were that kind of mistake.

This story, Young Sasquatches in Love, here at Smashwords and here at Amazon, is light romantic comedy. Very light! Set in a world where supernatural creatures are running all over the place, protected by uptight government conservation-group schoolmarms whose grip of regulation and fine is, well, unrelenting. All Pete wants is a romantic getaway with his wife Joy, but what he gets is a sasquatch dubbed Goldilocks.

Good reading!

I'm reading a Dutch children's fantasy author, Leonie Kooiker.

She wrote a couple of books whose titles in English translation are The Magic Stone and Legacy of Magic. So far, I've only read the second - it's about a boy named Chris who lives in the woods learning magic from a crotchety witch named Janna, who belongs to something called the 'fine thread association' whose members communicate by sending each other pieces of crochet. It's charming. This book has stuck in my head for, oh, years, even though I'd forgotten the author's name and even the title. Last week I went hunting and found it on Amazon, and ordered it and the earlier book. Yes. The internet rules.

Yesterday Legacy of Magic arrived, and I picked it up and opened it for a moment, intending to leave it at home and go off to work instead with Arthurian mythology in the French canon instead. That's what I'd planned. But noooh, I read about two pages of the Kooiker, tucked it under my arm and abandoned Arthur and Lancelot.

There are very few children's writers who can do fantasy full of magic delight (as opposed to full of magical events) but everything that happens in this book is delightful - written in a kind of evening silver light of enchantment. Chris is forbidden by his association to use his magic stone for a year (to prove his self-control) so he doesn't. He runs around and explores with a friend named Alex, and there's a mystery about a lost coin collection, and things happen, this and that. A spell is cast, and cast again. Janna's upset with Chris and decides to kill him. Nothing's explained, it just happens. It all adds up to the evening silver light, which is really a matter of pure mood.

Kooiker reads like Margaret Storey, which is just about the highest praise I know for children's fantasy.

I'm really looking forward to getting The Magic Stone and reading that too at last.

All hail the internet.


Five prairie lilies now in bloom, thanks to the neat lady at the farmer's market who has been growing wildflowers for sale for, oh, at least ten years now. Last year, at last, she turned up with young lilies, and I scooped the lot. Now I have the pleasant task of fine-tuning the wildflower bed so the lilies have good groundcover around them - miniature wild buttercups, wild clover, miniature cranesbills, blue-eyed grass, shooting stars - and won't be elbowed out by the wild columbine, which have shot up crazy happy and are blooming two feet tall.

Eventually I will have red wild mallow in that bed. I swear it. They're gorgeous: brick-orange groundcover flower, with soft grey desert-zone foliage. I have only seen them in actual bloom once, but I adore them. If only I could get the dumb seed to germinate ...

(no subject)

No sooner had I finished my last day of spring planting for this year (five rose bushes, one tree peony) than the skies went lead-grey with cloud, and opened up, and poured. Rain falling in gushers. It's just what I most wanted.

My front yard is a south-facing slope, now adorned with a rose garden and a wildflower bed. It looks reasonable but disorderly. It's almost time to start moving things around and making it harmonious.

The tree peony is a Japanese Kinkaku, a reckless purchase in Calgary's climate, but I just looked it up online and it turns out to be perfectly well rated for Zone 4, so there. If it's happy it'll grow six feet tall and have enormous dinner-plate yellow-and-peach ruffled confections of flowers.

If I hadn't bought it, that image would have haunted me all year.

Now I'm watching the quite ridiculous movie Megapiranha.

Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling

From io9: rules of storytelling as per a Pixar genius. I'm saying genius because the Pixar people are, well, storytelling genii. Every one might as well as have popped out of a lamp - look at what they've done!

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.

#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.

#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.

#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.

#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.

#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?

#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?

#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

natter natter The Magician King natter natter

I'm an idiot.

Anyone would say so if they watched me set out confidently to drive to the T&T Chinese market for mushrooms and whatnot; and then I got lost. I turned one intersection too soon and, amazed, found myself driving down a totally unfamiliar Road to Nowhere. This happens to me all too often, but I'm learning to cope.

However I'm an idiot who had a city mapbook in the car, and soon found my way back on track. And then there was dim sum! Not indiotic at all.

Also, I may be idiotic on the roads but here at home I have a Vuvkstereara Cambria Plush orchid in full bloom, red and white with yellow falls, and it's gorgeous. I've got a Miltonia in bloom too but its markings look bold and showy next to the delicacy of the Vuvkstereara. They're both beautiful but it's like a child's drawing in felt pen next to good draftsmanship in chalks: Miltonia vs Cambria Plush.

Also, I may be idiotic (and besotted with orchids) but I've just read The Magician King. It's great! I loved The Magicians, but there's an obvious reason why it's shelved in literary fiction rather than in the fantasy section. It is firmly in the literary tradition, being about an ordinary man's flaws and failings (though true, against a wonderful pseudo-Rowling-and-C.-S.-Lewis mashup romp of a setting with side mentions of Tolkein, and who wouldn't love that?) - but an absolutely great book, one that makes its point with crystal clarity. However, its point is that if you're going to be neurotic, then even going to Hogwarts and discovering the door to Narnia won't help, and that's firmly in the literary tradition.

The Magician King is pretty firmly in the fantasy tradition, though. Its point is quite different ... well, perhaps because it has no such definite point as The Magicians. If you read The Magicians and loved it as literary fiction, you'd be disappointed in its sequel. But if you loved the fantasy dress-up in The Magicians, you'll adore the sequel because it is adventure in the same setting, with the universe's magic at stake. Anyway. I adored it as such. It even has a happy ending, with room for a third book to come, and if there is one I'm going to go crazy and buy it the moment it comes out.

On a Pale Horse

Celebratory smoothies!

That is, I celebrated with a smoothie, because I have a new short story published, here:

At Smashwords

And at Amazon

It's set in the Arabian desert, with camels and Bedouin and desert warfare and one wild card: a unicorn.

And yet another 5-star review

... wow. Everyone likes this book.

This latest review comes from Elizabeth Hull - thank you, Elizabeth! It's here at Smashwords

She says: The lyrical beauty created in this world is outstanding. Add to that a group of well-drawn characters, a plot that is totally different from anything written before and you have a fantastic read.

The characters aren't drawn as perfect people. They are flawed and they must grow as the story progresses, as it does to a startling and satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended.

How wow.

How wow is now (which could be a webpage title, come to think of it.)