Endings and Dissonance

So we watched the last episode of Castle last night. To say it was a disappointing ending to

castle

Rick’s got my expression as I watched the end of the episode.

the series is an understatement. Part of the problem for us might be that we stopped following the show this last season; some of the narrative choices the writers made weren’t very interesting to me—mainly Rick and Kate’s relationship being on the rocks. There are so many interesting ways you can add conflict to long-term relationships (which I thought they actually did a great job with earlier on with regards to the wedding planning, keeping their life separate from their work, etc.) that this seemed like a retread of the earlier will-they, won’t-they dynamic. I didn’t need to see that; they’d already done it. SPOILERS ahead for the Castle finale:

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April Short Fiction Read

I am tracking the short fiction I read this year for nominating purposes next year. An asterisk is a reminder to future me to revisit that story.

“The Stories She Tells Herself”-Kelly Sandoval at Daily Science Fiction

*“Sea of Dreams” -Alter S. Reiss at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“Rocket Man”– Lynette Meija at Daily Science Fiction

*Every Heart a Doorway-Seanan McGuire, Tor.com

“From the Editorial Pages of the Falchester Weekly Review”-Marie Brennan Tor.com

“When Lydia Becomes a Dinosaur”-Rachel K Jones at DSF

The Escapement of Lord Blackwell-Mary Robinette Kowal

“Forgetting How to Fly”– Arielle Freidman, DSF

*”Big Thrall and the Askin’ Man”-Max Gladstone, Uncanny

Wylding Hall-Elizabeth Hand

“Razorback”-Ursula Vernon, Apex

“Red as Blood, White as Snow, Black as Ebony“-Jordon Taylor, Fireside

“The Memory that Became a Girl”– Jennifer Campbell-Hick, Fireside

“Forever Now”– A.E. Decker, Fireside

“Abomination Rises on Filthy Wings”-Rachel Swirsky, Apex

“Feature Development for Social Networking”-Benjamin Rosenbaum, Tor.com

“Bear Bear Speaks”-Beth Cato, DSF

“The Sweetest Skill”– Tony Pi, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“Rabbit Grass”-Kelly Stewart, BCS

*“Will It Fly?“- Cheryl Wood Ruggiero, DSF

“Welcome to Welton”- Marie Brennan

*“La Beaute Sans Vertu”– Genevieve Valentine, Tor.com

Only a Little One“-Patricia Ash, DSF

Out of the Black“-KC Myers, DSF

 

 

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Shadow Puppets and Sketchbooks

So, UAB offers a series of pop up studios every semester or so and anyone in the community is welcome to attend. (And they’re free!)  I hadn’t heard of them before, but I signed up for two, which I attended last week.

Monday evening was a shadow puppetry workshop. I was aware of shadow puppets mainly 20160418_163934via Mary Robinette Kowal’s amazing book trailer for Shades of Milk and Honey. The instructors were fantastic–very enthusiastic, and very informative. They laid out a few basics, showed us a few ways to articulate joints, and then let us have at it. It was a two hour workshop, but I could easily have kept playing for longer. The stage is easily made at home with a cardboard box, wax paper or vellum, masking tape, and a light source.

20160418_184728I made a bird out of cardboard, lace, wire,  and brads. I’d articulate the wings differently next time, but as the instructor pointed out, the best way to learn these is by diving in and making a puppet, coming up with solutions as you go. (Much like writing, in fact.) The bird is not much to look at in the light, but I was very pleased with how it looked against the stage. I was also charmed by the trees–they’re just sprays of baby’s breath taped to the hills. One of the other participants made a dog and covered it with frayed burlap, which made very convincing fur when backlit. Part of the fin was thinking about how the light would affect the shapes, in addition to problem solving the articulation. This is something I’m looking forward to playing with some more.

The second workshop was about sketchbook prompts. I wasn’t sure what to expect from 20160425_111132 (1)this–maybe a lifedrawing session–but it turned out to be more conceptual: ways to generate ideas and explore shape and color. To loosen up, we started out by drawing a series of pencil frames and tracing rubber bands dropped randomly in them, then repeating the exercise with our non-dominant hand. You could do this with shadows from plants, a tangle of yarn, coins, anything. I like starting with the frames, too. You’re not worrying about the whole page, just this one little thumbnail.

20160425_111143Then all the participants generated a list of prompts with the theme “first”: first breath, first word, first friend, first loss, first love, etc., and then with thick markers and as quickly as possible generated a series of non-representational symbols for those words. I found that I started building some of the symbols as a narrative of sorts. I made a symbol for step and a symbol for friend, and then used both of them together as the symbol for pet (because my dog is my walking friend.)

We also got glue, brushes, and torn up magazine pages, which we then used to make 20160425_111157thumbnail collages (top row). We then did contour drawings of the collages, then used watercolors to paint them. With more time, you could keep going on iterations: a black and white drawing of the painting, zooming in on one corner and then drawing or painting that, using a copier to blow up a thumbnail and paint it on a larger scale, using it as the basis for a color print–different ways of iterating the artwork until it no longer much resembles the starting point.  The final exercise was another iteration: a mind map from the starting point of M&Ms (the instructor gave us each a pack for inspiration and snacking.) The idea was to take whatever was the oddest point you got to from the starting point of M&Ms and then use that as a starting point for another mind map. This is a way of easing your brain into topics you might want to paint (or write) about–starting with something inconsequential and finding something meaningful and interesting to you by sneaking up on it sideways.

Both of these sessions were great, and I’ll keep an eye out for future ones. It’s great to step outside of routine and try something different, and these gave me plenty to think about in addition to just being fun.

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Showing, Not Telling

These two links are probably as elegant a demonstration of show, don’t tell as I’ve ever seen. I found them very useful and am leaving them here for 1) future rereading and 2) in the hopes that someone else might also find them useful:

http://maggiestiefvater.com/blog/i-sneak-into-your-brain-and-make-you-think-my-thoughts/

http://maggiestiefvater.com/blog/red-rage-ocean-longing-literary/

(Actually, the entire Raven Cycle thus far is a great demonstration of this, but it’s great to see Stiefvater break it down like this.)

I know I have a tendency to spell things out too much in the first draft, and then revise some of the obviousness out once I’m no longer telling myself the story for the first time.

 

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Short Fiction March 2016

This month, I filled out my first ever Hugo nominations. Yay! Go me! However, it made me realize that I don’t track my short fiction reading, and it was tough to remember what exactly I read in the 2015. (There was one story that I never could find, and I’m not even sure it was published in 2015….) So going onward, I’m going to track it so that *next* year, I’ll be able to remember what it was I read. This is short stories up to novellas.

An asterisk to the left of a story is a note to myself to consider it for award time next year. Obviously I will have to cut it down a lot if I keep starring at this rate. An asterisk to the right means I thought it was really good, but it wasn’t published in 2016.

I Am Graalnak… – Laura Pearlman

To Be Read Upon Your Waking–Robert J Bennett *

The Curse of Giants– Jose Pablo Iriarte

*A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers-Alyssa Wong

*The Ballad of Black Tom- Victor LaValle

Monstrous Embrace– Rachel Swirsky

Your Orisons May be Recorded– Laurie Perry

*That Game We Played During the War-Carrie Vaughn

The Builders-Daniel Polansky

*The Terracotta Bride-Zen Cho

The Three Resurrections of Jessica Churchill-Kelly Robson*

The Waters of Versailles-Kelly Robson

Spacedad– Amanda Grace Shu

Love is Never Still-Rachel Swirsky

The Shootout Solution- MIchael Underwood

Pockets-Amal El Mohtar*

The Sad Tale of the Tearless Onion-Ann Leckie

*Forest of Memory- Mary Robinette Kowal

*The Second Death-Teresa Frohock

 

 

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Podcasts

I’ve always enjoyed walking, perhaps even moreso since we got a dog. I like to listen to podcasts as I walk and pause for canine investigations of interesting smells. They basically break down into few categories.

 

Probably enjoys a bacon roll just as much though.

Rebus the dog. Drinks less than the detective he was named for.

On Writing:

Writing Excuses: This is a panel-style podcast, hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor. Often they’ll bring in a guest. Episodes run about 15-20 minutes.The last couple of years, starting with season 10, they’ve been doing something really interesting and running the entire season as a masterclass. Last year was on writing a book (or story) and this year has been exploring elements of genre in a deeper way. The focus of this podcast is on craft.

Ditch Diggers: Hosted by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace from various places on Morgan Freeman’s estates, this podcast is about writing as a job and a business. It’s  a sometimes NSFW, very honest look at writing life, sometimes with interviews, sometimes without–always valuable listening either way.

I Should Be Writing: Also hosted by Mur Lafferty, ISBW focuses more on the writer making the trip from amateur to pro and some of the emotional pitfalls inherent therein. It is safe for work, and very encouraging.

The Worried Writer: Sarah Painter interviews various writers about writing process and overcoming self doubt. I love hearing people talk about their process and their writing path, and Sarah is wonderfully encouraging.

The Journeyman Writer: is hosted by Alistair Stephens of Story Wonk and focuses on  craft. These are short (5-10 minute) episodes and cover a wide variety of subjects. I live pretty close to the grocery store and my kids’ school, and these are the perfect length to provoke thoughts on the drives to and from.

Writing Adjacent:

How Did This Get Made:  Not even a little bit safe for work. This show focuses on terrible movies and how they misstep. It’s not focused on the writing per se, but on the whole awful experience. For those who watch SyFy original movies like Jersey Shore Shark Attack for enjoyment of the “so bad it’s good” kind.

History and cool stuff:

Stuff You Missed in History Class: What it says on the tin. Interesting looks at historical events and figures, some of which you may have heard of, some of which you might not have. History is often weirder or sadder than fiction–loads of story idea sparks.

History of English: This is an ongoing, focused look at the development of the English language.  What amazes me most about this is how much history still lingers in words we use every day, and how this deeper examination reveals the way people lived and talked hundreds and thousands of years ago. Writers of secondary worlds, this will give you so many worldbuilding ideas.

Sawbones: Medical history. This one is new to me–I’ve only listened to a few episodes, but I will definitely be listening to more. As a species, we have done some very weird things to ourselves in an attempt to fix ourselves up.

I am always on the lookout for more to listen to, so I’d love some recommendations. What podcasts do you enjoy?

 

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Girls like Wolves

I tried to write a villanelle. Poetry that sticks to a particular form is like playing soccer–the fun is in the strictures. What does ball control look like when you can’t use your hands? How can you build meaning with a line that repeats at a predetermined interval? I enjoyed the challenge. The end result owes an awful lot to Angela Carter.

 

Girls like Wolves

 

Many things are lost in the wood

If you leave the path to stray.

Girls, like wolves, aren’t always good.

 

You keep to the path in a thicket of should

When your choices are wander or stay.

Many things are lost in the wood.

 

The wolf comes asking if you would

Walk off the path; he knows the way.

Girls, like wolves, aren’t always good.

 

Temptation is: you know you could,

Despite what mothers always say:

Many things are lost in the wood.

 

You lick your lips. It’s understood

No one will know if you delay.

Girls, like wolves, aren’t always good.

 

Onto the fire goes the red hood.

What else will you burn today?

Many things are lost in the wood.

Girls like wolves aren’t always good.

 

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