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Friday, February 24, 2012 17 comments

#FridayFlash: A Lost Owner (Accidental Sorcerers, Season 2 pt 3)

And now things pick up a little…

Accidental Sorcerers, Season 2
Part 3: A Lost Owner

Part 1 • Part 2

Image source: Webweavers
They turned. The speaker’s manner of dress was as odd as his speech — he wore robes of light grey, travel-worn, and a large-brimmed hat. A dagger was sheathed at his side, a common sight among outlanders. He crossed his arms, hands to his shoulders, and nodded his head. Mik took the gesture to be a sort of bow.

“Yes sir,” said Mik. “Our mentor is the local sorcerer.”

“Ah, good. Your fellow townsfolk spoke true, then.” He spoke directly to Mik, seeming to ignore Sura altogether, which Mik found odd but agreeable. “I have lost something, a valuable possession, and I need aid in finding it.”

Mik’s mind leaped to an obvious conclusion, but did his best not to show it. “May I ask what, sir?”

The outlander smiled. “You are obviously honest and trustworthy, but I would speak to your master if I may. I mean no offense.”

“I take none,” Mik lied. “Our mentor lives across the river. Any boat for hire knows the landing.”

“Forgive me, but can you not take me in your craft?”

Mik shook his head. “It’s only a canoe. We have enough room for ourselves and our packs, and our mentor forbids us to separate when in town. I mean no offense.”

“I take none. It will be as you say. Please be kind enough to tell him I am coming?”

“Of course… who shall I say?”

“Ah. I am called Ahm Kereb. Please do not let me delay you further.” Ahm Kereb turned and walked away.

Mik and Sura said nothing as they returned to their canoe and paddled across the river. It was only as they pulled themselves up the bluff by the knotted rope that they felt comfortable enough to speak.

“Was that an Easterner?” Mik asked, puffing as he climbed behind Sura.

“I think so. That name sounds familiar.”

“The Ahm part. It’s in the name of that desert. The one where our dragon came from.”

“You think he’s looking for it?”

“I’m sure of it. He’s a strange one — he didn’t even look at you.”

“You noticed that?”

“That, and the way the orange merchant did look at you.”

Sura stopped a moment to laugh. “Jealous?”

Mik puffed, delaying his reply. “A little. Maybe.”

“You should be jealous — I got a better price for these oranges than you could have!”

Mik laughed. “Well, I’m not as pretty as you!”

“But you’re mine. And I’m yours. That’s what’s important.”

And Mik found that reason and emotion could sometimes agree.

“To be honest,” said Bailar, watching the river from his chambers, “this answers one question as it raises two more. The dragon arrived here, so far from home, because it was brought here. But why? And how did it escape?”

“I don’t think how it got away matters so much,” said Sura.

“So are we going to give him the dragon?” Mik looked ready to protest.

“Not right away. I am not convinced that his intentions are honest.” Bailar turned away from the window. “I do not remember the Eastern tongue well. But I think the name he gave you means something like God-Knife. The old saw holds: If your deeds would bring you shame, do them by another name.” The sorcerer looked out the window again. “Melton is crossing the river, with a passenger. So there may be letters coming. Mik, go and greet our guests. Give Melton his due, and invite him in — he will need to wait to carry his passenger back. Sura, I suggest you move your little friend to the kitchen fire. Then bring tea to the common room.”

Ahm Kereb stepped outside, accompanied by Bailar and Sura, where Melton and Mik stood exchanging pleasant gossip. “I must return tomorrow,” he told Melton. “Will you be available to convey me?”

“Maybe,” said Melton, “but any boatman for hire can bring you. I come only to take or deliver correspondence.”

“Watch for a banner, Melton,” said Bailar. “There may be a letter for you to take tomorrow.”

Melton nodded and turned, waving at Ahm Kereb to follow. They took the longer path, down to the wide landing where Mik dispelled the ice dragon last winter. Bailar and his apprentices watched them from the stoop until they disappeared around the first bend.

“Come,” said Bailar. “Let us pour some more tea and discuss this.”

Even wrapped around a hot mug of tea, Mik’s hands felt numb. “Indeed, he seeks the dragon,” said Bailar. “He claims it is a gift for a notable in the Northern Reach, a token of friendship. I suggested that if such a creature escaped, it would quickly perish in this climate. He claims the power of divination, and says it is still alive and near the river. That strikes me as odd: a spell of finding is a simple thing, relative to divination. There are some very specialized disciplines…” Bailar trailed off, staring through them. “Mik, what was it you said about the dragons this morning? Something about spirits.”

“Oh. People believe they house the spirits of people who die in the The Godforsaken. Is that important?”

“It may be. Now one of those specialized disciplines is enchantment, enhancing weapons and other items with magic. It was long the practice of Eastern enchanters, that the power of their weapons came from the spirit they bound to the blade.” Bailar grimaced. “Such a weapon is powerful indeed, but a willful spirit can cause great mischief for one who wields that weapon. Thus, the practice fell out of favor centuries ago and was then outlawed. But some are willing to risk the hazards, and others are willing to risk provisioning them. And he calls himself ‘Blade of God’ — an appropriate title for one with such a practice.”

“What can we do?” Sura asked, looking as worried as Mik.

“If the dragon heals soon, we may be able to put him off. If not… I don’t know.”


Wednesday, February 22, 2012 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

As always, we’ll start by welcoming a new follower to the free-range insane asylum: T.K. Millen, The Unknown Writer! Your badge is on the desk; sit anywhere you like, the inmates won’t even know you’re here. ;-)

I tweeted Monday: “In my dreams, #WhitePickups is a TV series.” And Lacy Gonzales, may God smile upon her, replied, “me too. Of course I also dream of reading it on my kindle app some day. #hint” So I guess it’s time to start getting serious about rolling it out. I need to set a firm date, April something I think, and get a move on. That might be enough incentive to get back onto Pickups and Pestilence as well.

Michelle Warren came up with this great pic that pretty much says it all about eBook pricing. Pretty much puts it all in perspective, huh? Since she said “share this image” I’m sharing it. I was tempted to Photoshop my White Pickups cover over hers, but that would have been rude.

There was a little more chatter about eBook pricing on a writer’s blog last week. I personally won’t pay more than paperback prices for an eBook, simply because they have less value than a paperback. You can’t pass them around or resell them. I can see hardcover pricing at initial release, but it’s more than a little ridiculous to price them higher than hardcovers. I’ve found some fantastic stuff in what some call the dross factory — some with typos, some without.

I’m thrilled to find my scifi/detective novelette Xenocide was spotlighted by Michael K Rose in #BuyIndieMonth — go check out some of the other spotlighted work too! (Oh, and Xenocide is only 99 cents, and I think I need 20 more sales to actually get a royalty check, hint hint subtle as a sledgehammer. :-)

Seeing several of my writing friends starting a mailing list, I openly questioned what the benefits are on Twitter. Ryan Hill responded with a link to episode 90 of the Functional Nerds podcast (hosted by my tweeps Patrick Hester and John Anelio) that talked about exactly that issue. So now I’m seriously considering jumping on the bandwagon. If I do start a mailing list thought, I’ll want to make it worthwhile for people to get those once- or twice-monthly blasts. I envision it will have “first looks” at previews and short stories, and maybe even some exclusive content. Definitely discounts for subscribers.

Don’t let me shout into an empty room — what’s going on with your writing or reading?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 No comments


I've seen this in email a couple times, but couldn't find the text with a quick Google. This is how I remember it:

A rich man wanted his son to understand and appreciate the wealth he had, so he sent his son to spend the summer with his poor relatives in the country. His son returned at summer’s end, looking tan and fit.

“So,” said his father, “do you now understand how it is to be poor?”

“Yes father,” said the boy. “I only see you a few times a month; my cousins see their father every day. I looked out their back door and saw gardens, woods, a lake, and mountains in the distance, instead of our walls and fences so close by. At night, we gathered around a bonfire and watched a sky full of stars, not hidden by the security lights I see here. We swam in a lake that is bigger than these grounds, let alone our pool. We played in woods that went on without end. We ate food we grew ourselves, instead of telling the help to go buy it for us.

“Thank you, father, for showing me how poor we really are.”

It might be that those who passed it on were looking at what I call the “cultural superiority” aspect of the story — there’s quite a bit of that in country music these days — but to me, it speaks of how adults and children have different perspectives. An adult might crave wealth, then hide behind walls to keep it in and spend all his time gaining more wealth. But to a child, such a life is little more than a clean “nice” prison. Kids like to be outside, girls as well as boys. I remember The Boy as a toddler, having the time of his life rolling in the mud with an overgrown Springer Spaniel who adored him. And then there’s the whole hands-on perspective — like when I try to help Mason with something and he says, “I do it, I do it!”

When is it that getting dirty, doing stuff with our own hands, and spending hours on end outside becomes abhorrent? I know that, for some, that day never comes. Are they really worse off?

Monday, February 20, 2012 5 comments

Racing to Recovery

Mason’s cold has about run its course — he’s back to his old (usually) cheerful self — and hallelujah, he’s sleeping all night more often than not!

The Boy is starting to send some cash to cover what he owes us (oh that’s right, it is 2012). So we were in the local Mal*Wart to pick up the wired cash, and guess what was crouching just past the front door? Mason got all excited and walked all the way around it, then I got him to stand in front of it so I could get a picture. “Mason and race car!” he said, pointing to the picture; he’s not referring to himself as “Boy” now.

Speaking of The Boy, he and Snippet are officially on the outs again. Or was as of two days ago. She hadn’t been “home” for a while, and The Boy now says he’s going to get his own apartment when the lease runs out. Having heard similar things before, we’ll believe it when it happens. I am so glad we don’t have to deal with that drama up close and personal anymore. I guess the breakup will be truly official when Snippet moves back to Planet Georgia.

And speaking of Snippet, her mom (i.e. Mason’s other grandma) came to visit on the weekend. He enjoyed hanging out with her. While she was here, we — that is, the wife, her mom, and I — planted a couple fig trees out back. “We need to plant them where they’ll be sheltered from the north wind,” said the mother-in-law. You know, I never thought I’d actually use that Compass app… never say never, right? We ended up planting them behind the house. Maybe they’ll actually give a fig.

Now that Mason’s better, things are getting peaceful at FAR Manor. Time for something else to happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012 4 comments

Stranger Than Fiction

This kind of wafted its way into my Google+ stream. I just — it’s — wow. Reality really is stranger than fiction.

See this blast about Japanese Fart Scrolls for more details (and pictures)

I guess it proves that some humor truly is timeless.

Friday, February 17, 2012 21 comments

#FridayFlash: Market (Accidental Sorcerers, Season 2 pt 2)

You asked for more, and I’m glad to oblige!

Accidental Sorcerers, Season 2
Part 2: At the Market

Part 1

Image source: Webweavers
The tiny dragon chittered at Mik and Sura from its place on the common room hearth, as its humans brought in their breakfast. As always, Bailar followed them with careful steps, using his staff to keep his balance. He sat as his apprentices set out dishes and covered pots. Finally, as Mik spooned eggs and sausages into their mentor’s bowl, Sura reached down.

“Are you ready for breakfast too?” she asked the dragon. It chirped and hopped into her palm, and let her carry it to the table. A pinned strip of cloth held its injured wing against its body. A week ago, Mik had set the tiny bone under Bailar’s instruction, as it lay in magical sleep, while Sura applied a healing ointment to the torn skin. By the next day, the dragon stopped worrying at the bandage. Sura set it between her plate and Mik’s, where it could steal a piece of egg or meat from either side.

“Mik,” said Bailar, “have you learned anything new from that book of dragon lore?”

“Yes sir. Lesser Dragons, like the Desert Dwarf, heal rapidly.” Mik winced at his tone; it sounded to him as if he were reciting a school lesson. “We should be able to unwrap the bandage in another week.”

“If only we could heal broken bones that quickly.” Bailar smirked and forked up a sausage. “His appetite seems to be improving.” As he spoke, the dragon crouched then struck like a snake, snatching a piece of egg from the edge of Sura’s plate. They all watched as it held the morsel in its tiny front claws and nibbled at it like a mouse. “Strikes like a hunter, eats at the ready like prey,” he said. “That suggests it can be both at any moment.”

“The chapter about Desert Dwarves was interesting,” said Mik. “They steal eggs from nests, and eat insects. Carrion, if they’re hungry enough.” The dragon paused to listen. “Hawks and sandcats will eat them. Easterners say they house the spirits of men who died in The Godforsaken.”

Bailar cocked an eye. “Odd.”

“Not women?” Sura gave Mik a gentle poke with her elbow, and the dragon chirped.

“I don’t know!” he sputtered. “I’m just repeating what the book said! Maybe women are smart enough to stay out of that place or something.”

Bailar laughed. “Always the diplomat, Mik!”

After breakfast, Bailar went to his chambers but soon returned. “If I read the banners across the river correctly,” he told his apprentices, “the barges brought in fruit. Oranges from the Archipelago, I hope. Go and see — Sura, you know what a fair price is. If you know of anything else we need, purchase it as well.”

A few minutes later, Mik and Sura made their careful way down the steep path to the river. Sura watched Mik below her, uncoiling the knotted rope they used for safety and help on the way back up. “I’m so glad you’re here now,” she said. “I used to have to pull the canoe upriver so I wouldn’t miss the landing! Two of us can just paddle across.”

“You just love me for my strength.” Mik grinned at Sura’s laughing protest. Reaching the bottom, he turned and braced himself; Sura whooped and let go the rope, jumping the last few feet into Mik’s arms. After a thorough kiss, long enough for neither of them, they pushed their canoe into the river and struck for the far shore.

Reaching Exidy, they left their canoe on the bank with other boats of folk from up- and down-river. After adjusting the blue sashes that marked them as Bailar’s apprentices, they made their way to the marketplace. “Oranges!” Sura whispered, nodding to her left where a merchant showed off his fruit. They walked on — pretending disinterest was all part of the game here, as it was in Lacota.

“What do we need first?”

“Pepper, if anyone has it and they’re not demanding an outrageous price. If not, we’ll just use your flameweed.” She nudged Mik, making him smile. “That was really helpful. We need cheese, too. At least that won’t be hard to find.”

There was no pepper; but they filled Mik’s pack with cheese from local farmers, then made their way back to the orange merchant. The price he offered Sura was reasonable, but they bargained for the sake of good form. Mik mostly watched the man, and the way the man watched Sura. He knew Sura looking bright and smiling would get them a better price, but he did not have to like it. The mentor’s words came to him, almost a whisper: Part of you considers her your mate. You will have feelings, and at your age they are strong feelings, but reason is what makes a sorcerer. What you are in private is one thing, but in public you are fellow apprentices above all else. He remembered Bailar’s sigh before that last sentence, and the embarrassment he felt. So he stood and watched, until they bumped fists to signify agreement. The man filled her pack and offered it to Mik, but Sura laughed and took it herself.

“You would not carry your fair lady’s burden?” The man gave Mik a mocking look.

“His pack is already full!” Sura slung hers onto her back and took Mik’s arm. “I think we’re done.” She gave him a quick kiss to the cheek, making Mik smile as they walked away. The merchant’s smirk now looked forced, to Mik’s complete satisfaction.

As they left the market, they heard a strange voice behind them: “Excuse me,” it said. “You are the apprentice sorcerers?”


Wednesday, February 15, 2012 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

The #1 thing, as always: new blog followers. It is with great pleasure I welcome my fellow #TuesdaySerial staffer and home maintenance slave Tony Noland to the free-range insane asylum! Tony, your badge is on the table — there’s a stun gun too, but the inmates are cowed by your mad tiling skills so you probably won’t need it.

You may have noticed a slight change in the bylines here on the blog. I’ve been slowly working toward this for a while now, first on Twitter and new sites… so here I bid a fond farewell to my FARfetched alias. Something you have to do when you want to get your writing out there, is to go by your actual name (or a reasonable-sounding pen name). I’ll still keep my AIM email for a while though.

Okay, on to the writing stuff. I’ve started a new serial in the Accidental Sorcerers world. The story (the latest #FridayFlash) has done pretty well so far, with a solid pageview count and more comments than any other story has received since early December. Many of the comments were requests for more, and by Monday evening I ended up with a 4700-word story in five parts. I hope the rest is as well-received.

For this story, I tried to apply lessons learned from listening to PodCastle 194: Their Changing Bodies.

  1. Get to the point quickly. About 20 minutes in, I nearly turned off the podcast, because it felt like it was just meandering around in teen angst. Fortunately, turbulent traffic kept me from following through, and five minutes later I was hooked. I don’t want to give away the story line; go give it a listen. Subscribe to PodCastle while you’re at it. One of the good things about having an hour commute is that I can almost always listen to a complete story without a break.
  2. Make visuals count. One of the things I noticed about Their Changing Bodies was that every line had a purpose. There were a lot of lines that could have easily been amusing throwaways, or just nice detailing, but they all contributed to the plot in some fashion.

I might not have racked up a perfect score on #2, but it did prevent me from including several throwaway lines. There are one or two things that will be picked up in later chapters… which might get missed by readers who don’t go back and read the whole thing again, but I’m hoping that I’ll have a short YA novel when all is said and done. I do need to impose some kind of arc on it, though.

While I’m not making lots of progress on my so-called “front burner” projects, Accidental Sorcerers is a fun world to write in and at last keeps me writing until one or the other projects boils over.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 4 comments

Long November, Sick Grandkid

This “winter” has been one long November on Planet Georgia. The mini-winters that make up the season have been few and far between so far. I’ve actually had to stretch the definition to designate the last couple of days Winter #2 — it didn’t stay below freezing through the day, and the forecast sleet and “wintry mix” never materialized. I guess the Mountain West and Europe have been getting all their winter and ours to boot. It’ll be March in a couple weeks, so time is running out.

Meanwhile, the weather got to Mason: he’s had a cold for the last week and a half. He was pretty good about it at first, but in the last few days he’s run out of patience. He’s cranky, doesn’t want to eat much, and his sleep cycles are all out of whack. He really needs to eat; it would probably make him (and us) feel better. I really don’t know how he manages to get by on a handful of fruit and liquids (juice and a little milk), but he doesn’t look starved yet. And yet, he’s spreading the misery. Mrs. Fetched says she’s taking him to the doctor tomorrow, but she’s been saying that for a week now.

However, he has figured out how to use the iPad. He can wake it up and find a game (or Adobe Ideas, a nice finger-painting app), even if he doesn’t quite understand how to play just yet. His favorite game is Otto Matic, right now. Even “better,” he’s figured out that my iPhone has most of the same games — which means I can’t give Twitter a look without Mason crawling into my lap and trying to grab my phone. It did come in handy over the weekend though, when we were trying to keep him from nodding off in the car before lunch: I handed him the phone and he took it from there.

Tax time is here, but I’ve already done ¾ of the work: just waiting on Mrs. Fetched to get me the business expenses and car taxes.

I downloaded the Blogger app for my iPhone over the weekend, thinking maybe it would help me compose stuff at lunch. Kind of, yeah… if it bothers to save drafts. Google needs to do some serious work on that app, or make a mobile-friendly dashboard. It’s best feature is (again, when it saves) the ability to upload photos from the phone.

Oh, remember Prince Stinky? He disappeared for a couple weeks, but came back with a little matted fur but otherwise fine. I think he has a first home somewhere nearby, and comes here to visit when he needs a little weirdness in his life. Mrs. Fetched is making noises about getting him fixed, so he won’t spray everything (Daughter Dearest says he even scented my car last weekend).

Winter and headcolds both go away, so things will soon improve at FAR Manor. Just gotta wait it out.

Friday, February 10, 2012 30 comments

#FridayFlash: Dragon Rider (Accidental Sorcerers Season 2)

Update May 15 2012: This post has been getting a lot of traffic lately, I think from people looking for the dragon picture. While you’re here, why not check out the story? This one is only five parts, but the next adventure has begun too. End update.

This story was inspired by Eric J Krause’s Writing prompt #92: “A tiny dragon, no bigger than a hummingbird, befriends you.”

This story is more or less a sequel to Accidental Sorcerers, but is intended to stand on its own.

Accidental Sorcerers, Season 2
Part 1: Dragon Rider

Source: Webweavers
Sura twirled in the sunbeam, angling through the trees, until she stumbled and fell. Mik cried out and ran to her, kneeling in the cool leaves.

“I’m all right,” she said. “I just got dizzy.”

“Where did you see that dance?”

“A troupe from the Northern Reach came downriver last summer. They danced and played music in town. Some of the women did this dance, but they had long ribbons that wrapped around them as they turned. I don’t know how they did it without falling down!”

Mik smiled. “Are you sure you’re all right?” She nodded. “Good.” He embraced her, she embraced him, and nothing more was said for several minutes.

At last, Sura nudged him. “We can’t be too long,” she whispered. “We need to gather the herbs.”

Mik sighed, but knew she was right. He stood and helped her to her feet, although she needed no help, and they began walking. “What are we looking for again? I was only half-paying attention.” The woods were quiet; patches of snow stood in shaded places and there was still a nip in the air.

“You need to focus.”

“I know. But it was hard, thinking about coming out here with you, all by ourselves!”

Sura laughed and produced the list. “We probably won’t find all of them right away, but these are the ones we need.”

“Kingsalve? That’s a healing plant, right?”

“It has magical properties, too.”

“Oh. Right. I’ve been studying herbs so much, it all runs together after a while.”

Sura took his hand. “I guess the mentor wanted you to be ready for spring. The first plants to come up in spring are the strongest —”

“I remember: because they have the powers of all four elements.”

“See?” She squeezed his hand. “You remember some of it, anyway.”

“Isn’t that flameweed?” Mik pointed at a patch of bright red, off to one side. “We called it ‘poor man’s pepper’ at home, but everybody uses it in spring until the traders come. It’s coming up a little early this year.”

“You can use it for pepper?” Sura grinned. “That’s good to know. We’re almost out of pepper too. I had to stretch our supply, because we only bought enough for two. But it’s coming up at the normal time.”

“Then spring comes a little earlier here than in Lacota.” Mik crouched in front of the bright red plants. “You let it dry in a sunny window, then you can crumble it up and use it like pepper. How much do you need?”

“Fill a pouch. Our list has it too. Flameweed is good for fire magic.”

“I — hey!” Mik flinched, and Sura heard a chittering. He spoke softly. “Sura… come see this. But slow.”

Sura knelt next to her fellow apprentice and first love, and gasped. Something that looked like a tiny dragon poked its head over the flameweed, chittering and hissing at them. Its head and long neck were as red as the plants, but its body and wings were streaked with gold. Its underbelly, what they could see of it, was the blue of the sky.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“I don’t know. But I think it’s hurt.” Mik stretched a careful hand toward the creature, ready to jerk away. The thing stood its ground, chittering again. “It’s okay. We won’t hurt you.” He laid his hand, palm down, in front of it. “We just want to see you.”

It sniffed, cheeped, and climbed aboard. Mik winced at the pricking of tiny, sharp claws, but let it get a secure perch before lifting his hand slowly.

“It looks just like a dragon!” Sura breathed. “But it’s so tiny!”

“Is it a dragon?”

“I don’t know. The only dragon I’ve ever seen was the ice dragon that you rode here.” Sura laughed at the memory. “But the mentor will know.”

“It’s hurt, all right.” Mik smiled as it spread its wings, revealing a body no larger than his thumb; one of its wings was twisted and torn. “Maybe it can sit on my shoulder while we find the rest of the herbs.”

Perhaps understanding, it clambered up Mik’s sleeve to his shoulder. It nestled against Mik’s neck, and he snorted. “That tickles!”

“Yes,” said Bailar, exchanging wary looks with the tiny creature on Mik’s shoulder. “It’s a dragon, all right. A Desert Dwarf, if my memory serves. I’ve never heard of one coming this far west, or north. Let alone at this time of year.”

“Where do they come from?”

“A vast desert in the east, called the Ahm a’droog by the natives of the region. That translates rather literally to ‘The Godforsaken.’ How it survived in this cold, or how it was hurt? That I don’t know.”

“Can we help it, then?”

“Certainly, Mik. But know this: dragons have their own agenda. It likely befriended you because you were there in its extremity. Yet it is never wrong to aid a creature that offers no violence.” His mentor smiled. “I named you Mik Dragonrider, since you came seeking my aid on the back of an ice dragon. But now, your name has a double meaning — you yourself have a dragon rider.”

Bailar turned away, and Sura took Mik’s hand. “Come inside now,” said the mentor. “It needs warmth above all else. It will likely sleep by — or perhaps in — the fireplace until it’s healed.”


Wednesday, February 08, 2012 5 comments

Writing Wibbles

As always, let’s start by welcoming a new follower to the free-range insane asylum: Anne Michaud, a fellow #FridayFlash'er!

The writing progress has been a little slow this week, but better than last week. Then again, getting anything done would be an improvement over last week. I’ve finished adding beta comments to Chasing a Rainbow, including some solid critiques of the introductory scene (posted as Far From Home). So thanks to Rachel Silvers et al for helping me out there. Sometimes, you can do too good a job: I was trying to make the reader feel what Chelinn and LodrĂ¡n were feeling, but what they were feeling was sensory overload. Good reminder to think about those kind of things.

I’ve added a few hundred words to the Chasing sequel, and I think I figured out why I’m stuck on Pickups and Pestilence — I was focusing too much on the pestilence and not enough on the characters. I should be able to parallel them somehow; once I figure out how, I’m off to the races.

On Monday, a lot of my friends on Twitter were up in arms about an article in the Guardian (a UK news outlet): Ebook sales are being driven by downmarket genre fiction. I posted the link this time, because I don't think it qualifies as link-bait. Sure, it has more than a few choice words for genre fiction:

The ebook world is driven by so-called genre fiction… No cliche is left unturned, no adjective underplayed. … In digital, dross rises.

That’s the snippy little snip that got a lot of people angry. But a little farther down, the article also has this to say about litfic readers:

There is a literary snobbishness at play here, clearly. … Consider those boys who read ostentatious poetry to pull winsome girls; the girls who read Vanity Fair to let the poetical boys know that they are clever and minxy.

The reading public in private is lazy and smutty. … I'm happier reading [historical fiction] on an e-reader, and keeping shelf space for books that proclaim my cleverness.

In brief: while genre fiction might be “low-brow,” litfic snobs (including the author, by admission) read it to impress — and they read genre fiction too, when they think nobody’s watching. When seen in that light, the “problem” with eReaders is that they make it harder to impress others of the preferred sex because they can’t see you reading Pride and Prejudice or whatever the “right” book is this week. So yeah, the article might be link-bait after all. But instead of getting one group riled up, this article tries to get everyone mad. I don’t have a problem with that.

But personally, I’ve never read anything because I wanted to impress someone else. I’ve done it for a grade, I’ve done it because a friend or relative handed me a book and said “this is good,” and most of all I've read books because I figure I’ll enjoy them. Maybe that’s because I’ve never lived where public transit goes anywhere I need. I get my fiction fix on commutes, via Podcastle and Escape Pod. I might start reviewing some of the stories I hear on those podcasts on my Tumblr blog.

Figuring I need to drum up some advance publicity for my next two releases, it occurred to me that I should add White Pickups and Chasing a Rainbow to Goodreads. I could have sworn I remembered seeing a how-to in their FAQ when I first joined, but couldn’t find it again. I tweeted a plea for help, and Loni Flowers had the right answer. Not only that, John Wiswell offered to do it for me. I ended up doing it myself, simply because I have more to add in the near future and don’t want to go bugging people when it’s not that difficult:

  1. Click the magnifying glass in the search field.
  2. In the page that comes up, click “Add a new book” over to the right.
  3. Fill in the starred fields, add cover page art if you have it.

Yes, it’s that easy.

May your writing be so easy, and your reading as enlightening.

Friday, February 03, 2012 16 comments

#FridayFlash: On the Georgia Road 5

Our reporters go pick up a loose end from a couple installments back.

Earlier installments in this series:

“MARTA is offering free rides to anyone returning from the Volunteer Fair, going on this weekend at the Georgia World Congress Center. Just show your ticket at the Centennial Olympic Park station to ride for free, and you’ll be given a voucher for your next trip as well. If you’re looking for an organization to help out, representatives will be there to let you know what you can do.

“Not every group that needs help is in metro Atlanta, though. Sean McKinzie is ‘On the Georgia Road,’ returning to Cherokee County, to spotlight one of them. Sean?”

Cut to: Sean, exterior, freeway shoulder. Unincorporated Area sign in background. “Hi Marcia. You may remember when we went up to Lake Arrowhead a while ago. Cut to: exterior, college campus. “We drove by the Reinhardt University campus on the way there, and we said we learned some interesting facts at the time.

Cut to: Sean, exterior, brick buildings in the background. “Reinhardt was established in 1884 as an all-ages school, training students for teaching and ministry. Both the student body and educational diversity grew over the years, until Reinhardt College became Reinhardt University in 2010.”

Cut to: stock exterior, students on campus. “When the Emergency Services Preservation Act designated all of Cherokee County as an Unincorporated Area, in 2015…” Fade to: empty campus. “enrollment rapidly dried up. The few students that remained, nearly all from Unincorporated Areas themselves, were not enough to maintain a viable college program in Waleska.”

Cut to: interior, cafeteria. People gathered. “But that wasn’t the end of Reinhardt. The college was originally founded by what was then called the Methodist Episcopal Church, now the United Methodist Church. Reinhardt called Cherokee County home from its inception, and the church answered the call. Rev. Steve Pollen tells us about it.”

Cut to: interior, office. Man speaking. Title: Rev. Steve Pollen. “The county needed assistance with educational facilities, especially north of Canton. Furthermore, the college has a long history of excellence in performing arts, with wonderful facilities. Many professors, both active and retired, chose to stay and help us.”

Cut to: Sean, interior, classroom. “The school has had several names over its nearly 150 year history: Reinhardt Academy, Reinhardt College, then Reinhardt University. Now, it is Reinhardt Mission School, reflecting a partial return to its roots as an all-ages educational facility. Full-time enrollment is much smaller than it once was — roughly 300 students — but that doesn’t mean the other buildings are going to waste. Far from it.”

Cut to: interior, office, Rev. Pollen. “Many people have difficulty coping with the loss of technological props that once seemed like their birthright. We’re uniquely positioned to help them: for one, we’re close enough for them to reach us, and vice versa. We use dormitories to house those in need, and devote classroom space to teaching them how to cope. Cut to: exterior, log cabins. The Funk Heritage Center is also here on campus, and we’ve turned it into a hands-on learning center. Many people in this area lived without electricity and cars not a hundred years ago. We show them first that it’s possible, then show them how to do it themselves.”

Cut to: exterior, campus. Rev. Pollen voiceover. “Many ‘graduates’ from the self-sufficiency program return to their local homes and even teach their families and neighbors the skills they have learned. Those who are physically or mentally unable to cope with the hardships either make their home here on campus, or are put into the relocation program.”

Cut to: Sean, interior, stage. “Performing arts are a major draw for many students. Television is a luxury when electricity is scarce, so live music and drama are becoming popular in Unincorporated Areas. When the school puts on a concert or play, locals pack the seats in the Falany Performing Arts Center. Popular performances can draw busloads from Canton or even Cartersville. The school requires its full-time students to participate in one of band, chorus, or drama, and are graded on their performance. Those who aren’t suited for the stage can nearly always excel backstage in some capacity.”

Zoom out. Performers enter stage from both sides, singing a capella. “Rev. Pollen tells me that a Reinhardt representative will indeed be at the World Congress Center this weekend. The school needs instructors, counselors, and support staff, and can provide housing assistance for those willing to relocate to Waleska. On the Georgia Road, I’m Sean McKinzie.”

Cut to: anchordesk, Marcia. “Thanks, Sean. If you’d like to view earlier segments of Sean’s travels, or listen to more of the performance, check out our website.”


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