Of Organic Gardening, Twincest, and Video Game Pop Culture

Or, what I did this weekend.

Doctor Who © BBC. Game of Thrones © George R.R. Martin & HBO. I have no freakin' clue where I found this photomanip. I was either highly caffeinated or drunk. Most likely the former.

I did gardening yesterday. It was nice to get some raised beds started to cover up the burn marks Brian made in attempts to control the moss by using baking soda bald areas in the lawn. The sweet onions and the hardier herbs in the ground, with some tomato and pepper plants started in their places in my makeshift greenhouse downstairs. All the while, I started up the first book in the Game of Thrones audioseries, A Song of Ice and Fire. Unlike The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind, Song starts off with an interesting bang and keeps the ball rolling without having to break for pages upon pages of repetition. Currently I’m on disc 9 of 28, but we’ll get there eventually. Anyway, it turned out to be great background noise as I worked, even dragging out the portable CD player that fell on my head about three months ago when I tried to get a blanket from out of the closet–but that’s another story–into the garden (that’s backyard for everyone else whom like to pick on me for being an Anglophile) so that I may listen to the story whilst tilling the soil. About an hour into working, I hear the laughter of the adorable three-year-old next door and realise, “Dude, I’m listening to The Game of flippin’ Thrones in my garden and I’m surrounded by young families with small children!”

And yes, I kept right on planting whilst Bran is eavesdropping on Cersei and Jaime. Seriously, it was that scene where Wayne Knight shouts out “Dawson! We have Dawson here!” in Jurassic Park. Although the neighbour with the fence fired up his table saw and the neighbour on the other side was hauling out his grill and talking animated with his brother/brother-in-law/bromantic partner (not certain which), I figured I really needed to finish up outside because, heh, the alternative would be Manowar’s Kings of Steel.

So it was back into the cellar, and there I worked on two kinds of tomatoes, peppers and (don’t tell Brian!) eggplants. After that, it was laundry, dishes, and tidying up the parlour whilst — wait for it! — ripping through (in the legal sense) two more discs. Then I proceeded to mend two shirts, a winter jacket, re-stuff and reupholster the footrest and armrests of my ancient arm chair I had inherited from Jenny’s parents, change over more laundry, rolled some fingering weight yarn into balls (if you must know, sock weight, one blue, one white–do the math) –good Primus on Gallifrey, I got a lot done!

Taking a break from the plight of the Starks (and wishing the Lannisters — with the exception of Tyrion, at least he’s interesting — would just spontaneously implode) I switched over to another, this one physical, book, as far from A Song as one could get: Ready Player One by Earnest Cline. Now there was a great, fun, fast read! It’s Snow Crash meets Little Brother X without the Unicron-sized infodumps, and more 80’s pop-culture references than the first season of Spaced. First of all, it revolves around the history of video games. Actual history. Deep history. It starts with the Atari 2600 game of Adventure and the very first Easter Egg in gaming history, and continued from there. It was clever, well-written, and kept my interest, perhaps because it played off of my own childhood. (Only one mention of Doctor Who, however, and a brief Transformers nod. Mostly it revolved around John Hughes flicks and shows I watched only because, hey, I was a child of the 80’s. We were glued to the boob tube.) A phenomenal, fast, at times nostalgic read; highly recommended.

Now, back to the grind. It could either involve my epic metal station on Last.FM or continuing A Song of Ice and Fire. Some may not see a difference.


Not even the adorable pair with the grey kitty print.

Well, I’m doing something productive whilst I wait for my jeans to dry. I swear, I’m better organised when it comes to my jeans, but it seems as though one working pair took a walk, leaving me with my Amazingly Shabby Pair That Need To Be Put Out To Pasture And Shot But I Won’t Because They’re The Comfy Lounge Around The House And Do Yard Work Jeans. That and the grey kitty print pyjama bottoms, but I don’t do People Of Wal*Mart.

Cal in BedMethuselah himself is not dead. That’s a relief. Robert of RE-BOOKS , the gentleman whom gave me Methuselah in the first place, was an angel and allowed me the loan of his power cord. I’m hoping I can find one inexpensively around town–only begrudgingly hitting eBay if I must–in the very near future. I love that clunky laptop. So today I’ll be working on polishing up a cover letter; with the exception of one blurb I’m waiting on, the query letter is completed, the synopses (Five paragraph, two page, four page and eight page) are completed, and of course, manuscript is completed. I think I’ve got the author bio pretty much polished up as much as it’s going to get.

Artwise, I’ve been on a roll for Paradice Games. Got four pieces finished this week — a bit of a record for me, and two of them were put on hold for a bit due to moving/unpacking/settling in/book writing crunch. Broke out my markers, too — they missed me just as much as I missed them. They give more of an illustrator feel, but it works out, methinks. This weekend I might get some art for myself done; the Members’ Show for Waterville Area Art Society is coming up, and I’d like to have one new piece in for that.

And there’s the dryer alarm. Time to face the day!

“Alas, poor Methuselah…I knew him, Horatio…”

Macintosh Powerbook 1400cs

There may be a regeneration left in him yet...

There might be a chance, if I could find a power cord for him.

Alas, my trusted companion, whom proved over and over again his sturdiness and whatnot in handling manuscripts well over a hundred-thousand words, has an issue with the power cord. As far as I can trace, it’s probably a loose wire inside the base module, but it would be a bugger, let alone a fire code regulation, to try to strip the plastic away and attempt to reattach it.

Or just add it to the pile with Sophie and Raz Lyte for some future Frankenstein’s Monster-type art installation.

Right now I’m still putting in some hope for a power cord. In the interim, I foresee more library visitations and Google Docs.

At least the important stuff has been backed up, with the exception of some vignettes, which I could probably  rewrite–they were only one or two pages. Also, there’s my phone with the QWERTY keypad. I could attempt to fill up its memory that way. I’ve already started doing that with other brain dribblings.

Yeah. This weekend had been too perfect before this afternoon–something needed to go horribly wrong. But I have to keep reminding myself, nothing important was lost, nothing crucial was destroyed.

Good Primus on Gallifrey, if this doesn’t call for rocky road ice cream, I don’t know what does.

“Amy, what’s with all the hating on everything that’s too ‘mainstream’ for you?!”

"Leisure Hive"

for no particular reason. The Doctor, TARDIS, & Romana © BBC; K9 © John Leeson; artwork by Cyrway.

So asketh my cousin’s wife in regards to my earlier post in regards to mainstream fiction.

Well, I wrote that particular blog under concerns, mirrored in this Huffington Post article, about the average reading level of high school students and how mainstream books are following that trend. As I responded to her as such:

“…my concern is that, with studies released on our educational system that report that high school reading skills are averaging at a fifth grade reading level, and modern mainstream books are following the tread, it downright frightens me. I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue if those books were written at a more age-appropriate manner.”

But there’s always another side to every coin, and the coin I like to carry (other than the dollar coins which annoy some merchants–Suzie B.’s are my favourites) is the one of originality. Originality’s obverse is usually coincidence, it seems, or at least slated up as coincidence.

For a personal example (and many of my friends and associates have already heard this story), The introduction to Sin’s Tethers was different than what is in the final draft; in the first three drafts, since 2005 when we started writing it in novel form, it had remained virtually unchanged.

And then, late 201o, I began reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher. (Recommended! Read! Now! Ellen at Children’s Book Cellar has it in stock!) I got through the first page, put the book down, and dropped an “F” bomb. Coincidentally, the first page was almost verbatim to the introduction of Tethers, excluding character and place. No way Ms. Fisher could have known about our manuscript, and I sure as Unicron’s severed head wasn’t going to allow something that could be, in theory, questioned for plagiarizing. I had my husband and Jenny both check it, as well as Jenny’s step-son and my art student look at both the book and the manuscript just to ascertain that no, I wasn’t paranoid, and they all had a similar reaction. My answer? Rewrite, and I’m glad we did, because it’s a lot smoother and better than before.

Recently I was reading another book on how to submit to agents, and came across a reference to how Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was original. That was the point where I returned the book to the library. My reasoning: I found that statement factitious. Why? Because I’ve read Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake books (up to Narcissus in Chains.) The first book, Guilty Pleasures, was written in 1993. (We also have Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries, starting up in 2001. And [thanks to a friend from the library for pointing this one out] The Vampire Diaries, which preceded them all in 1991, although that follows two vampires and a human, but I digress.) Because I had read Anita Blake books, to me, the Twilight books were not, in my opinion, original.  They both followed a similar plot line–human in love triangle between vampire and werewolf, all must work together to destroy Big Bad, and throw some romantic tension in there for good measure. It’s actually a common plot in many books with a romantic slant, minus the preternatural creatures: two rivals and the woman they love, forced to work together to overcome a challenge, and then the woman chooses one rival but remains friends with the other/they all hook up in a threesome/they all go to the pub to have a pint until the whole thing blows over. I’d like to know what Bram Stoker thinks of the whole ordeal, actually. (Technically, I read that before LKH, but I consider that in its own league of untouchable awesomeness.)

Another point of originality: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Again, in the aforementioned post, I had expressed that, while better-written than Twilight, it still had a main character whom I wanted to be first in line for an all-you-can-eat buffet for Stormbringer, even knowing that, as it was written from first person, she wouldn’t meet her just dessert. (I’ll admit: I loved Rue. Only character, other than Prim’s cat, whom I could feel any sort of positive emotion for.) In 2006, when Hubs was doing his first Trek Across Maine, I came across a bootleg of Battle Royal, filmed in 2000, and watched it twice on a stormy Friday night. (Thank you, Anchor Bay, for finally releasing it Stateside!) Premise: teenage children are sent to a televised battle to the death, one man standing takes all. The movie was, as I learned later, based on a book of the same title, written in 1999 by Koushun Takami. The ending was nearly in both Battle Royal and Hunger Games. (I won’t go into it–to quote River Song, “Spoilers!”) But the basic premise–televised battle to the death, as I was reminded–was explored in The Running Man by Richard Bachman, in 1982.

The argument is truly nonexistent: the fact is, those whom had experienced a particular piece of work first is going to find others similar as pale imitations, regardless what had come first. It’s like arguing which Doctor is the best. I’ll always say Tom Baker. Another point: look at all the Sentai spin-offs. There will always be a special place in my heart for Tommy, the Green Ranger, even though Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had been blatantly Sabanized from Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. But I had seen MMPR first. Sunshine Superman, even though Donovan had wrote the song, I find the Salvation version better, because I had heard it first. One cannot help that others hadn’t read or seen a previous premise.

The Wicker Man should always be the exception. The remake should have been struck from existence–it was seriously lacking in beautiful Scandinavian women singing in the nude. Not to mention plot. And Christopher Lee. Everything is better with Christopher Lee.

But I digress.

“‘Breach hull, all will die’…even had an underline.”

...or not...

Silly Fanart of Ixidor and Mishra. Characters © Wizards of the Coast. Silly Art by me. Only here because I wanted some art up.

(Above quote from Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.)

So,Law of Nines was…disappointing. It was a great start, very smooth, kept my attention…until Bethany dies. And I continued wading through thinnly-veiled social critism and parallels to current events for another hundred pages before I decided to return it to the library.I guess one doesn’t notice the themes so much in the high fantasy novels. My next book on the list: Hounded by Kevin Hearne. But first, work!

Today on MPBN radio, there was a great interview onMaine Calling featuring Maine Women Write. (Their Facebook page may be found here.) Very informative, especially for the caller inquiring on the best way to publish his mother’s manuscripts. He had inquired about self-publishing, and one of the ladies (I believe it was the softer-spoken one) explained that the plus side of self-publishing is one has 100% of the control. This can also be a downside: you also have 100% of the responsibility for marketing it. This stuck with me as I’m going through the 2012 Writer’s Market. I’m updating our list to include publishers as well as agents, and making notes to what everyone wants for submissions (Query only; query and manuscript; cover letter and manuscript; query, bio, and  first born son; et cetera).

On Sautrday, we’ll be working on “packets” to send to the agents first. The blanket project will get its own Google account so to keep everything separate from any other solo projects we’re doing, and working on the co-author agreement.  In the interim between now and then, I’ll be researching if it is best to copyright the work. Saturday is Zero Time, and we don’t know where we will be. Most likely in The Studio, since that’s the only place where we have an internet-and-word-processor-capable computer. (We could take Methuselah the Powerbook 1400cs and the PSP, but they don’t connect very well. In fact, I don’t even know if there’s from the same planet. But I digress. We could also work at the library, too, until they kick us out for random spurts of “Hey–who turned out the lights?”.)

Tonight, however, I owe Jenny a birthday dinner. Maybe we’ll do work as well–second book planning, most likely. And if we go to our usual place, I can look forward to a fabulous house cab and amazing customer service. Seriously, the last time we went there, it was pretty much for coffee and dessert, and they knew exactly what we needed — full table, near an outlet. But I digress.



Welcome to Green Sky Country!

Green Sky Trilogy

Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

I’ve been guilty of being full of opinions when it comes to literature. If I don’t like a book, I’ll tell you, but I’ll also tell you why. I find that more times than not no one really wants to hear the “why”, especially if it contradicts what one believes.

For instance, it is no secret that I dislike the Twilight series, by Stephanie Meyers. Most women in my family love it. Other than the fact the grammar and language used was sub-par to Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, a book I had read in second grade, (I wanted to name our dog Nicodemus–that was quickly shot down by my mother, whom named the poor puppy “Sniffer”. Little good that did–a few months later, my parents got a divorce and my father gave Nicodemus/Sniffer away. But I digress) I found it rather convoluted. If I wanted to read about a girl wanting to get into the pants of a vampire, I’d read Anita Blake–wait a minute…fridge logic striking me again….

But my ranting about how I am so not understanding women is not the topic of this blog. Rather, I’d like to bring the reader’s attention above at the photo.

It seems as though in the past thirty or so years, what is considered “young adult” or “teen” literature has gotten less literary. Take the Green Sky Trilogy (Below the Root, And All Between, and Until The Celebration) by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Not only are they well written and articulate, they also manage to tell an amazing tale with a moral without being preachy. For example:

“There were times, during the early days of his novitiate, when it seemed to Raamo that the life of a novice was very like that of a Kindar child during his years at the Garden. Many of these novice classes where quite similar to those taught at the Garden, at least in method and approach. As a Garden child learned the Forest Chant, by imitation and repetition, Raamo and Genaa learned how to conduct an endless number of ceremonies and celebrations — how to administer to the ailing, how to take part in a Vine procession, and how to conduct a public celebration of Peace or Joy.” –excerpt from Below the Root

This was a series intended for grade school children, around 10 or 12 years old. They are intelligent and thought-provoking, with characters one cares about throughout the story. There’s conflict involved between Kindar and Erdling and Kindar, and all the protagonists work together to solve the trials thrown in their way. And, good merciful Primus on Gallifrey, the use of the English language is lyrical and beautiful.

Maybe it’s the fact that I find the first-person novels I’ve read, especially in the paranormal romance/urban fantasy, a bit pretentious. That and I’ve read Anita Blake novels. And yes, I do tend to have an issue with plots that seem to have been swiped from the back of a lorry, intentional or not.

Which reminds me: tomorrow night, pick up Battle Royal on Blu-ray. As for you, dear reader, hunt down the Green Sky Trilogy.

“More Broken Bones, Fewer Broken Hearts”

“So Paraphraseth Kevin Hearne, Author of the Iron Druid Chronicles.”

The Couple Who Slays Together Stays Together

Asbeel & Reese © A.K. Cyrway & J. De Salme.

As Jenny and I research marketing analyses of urban fantasy, we’re finding it hard to really pinpoint how to do this proper-like. One of the suggestions from our friend Don was to check out other urban fantasy novels on the best seller lists, which we did. Where, yes, it seems that the majority of the authors in the genre tend to be women, these are also in the “romance” category.

Which…complicates things.

The manuscript is not romance. It’s action adventure urban fantasy which happens to be written by two women, one of them (myself) whom was, at age thirteen, given a belt-full of tools and told “go break down the Stickshift Beetle” because she had stayed up half the night drinking coffee and playing Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis (blood code activated), and had too much energy to stay in the house. The last time I wore a dress was my wedding, and only because my husband did this little “may I please see you in a dress, just once?” bit. (I was going to do a tux originally.) I might have worn a skirt to my grandfather’s funeral–I don’t remember that much, I was distracted by my three-week-old clone niece crowd-surfing the relatives, and my sister looking up occasionally, asking, “Is that a cousin? Okay, she’s good.” (That and my grandmother mortifying my mother by telling my friend Dave “Now that I’m free, I’ll need your number.,” but I digress.)

Back to the manuscript. Or rather, the gender genre gap. Granted, there are some really great female authors in the genre. (And then there are the disappointments in which, yes, really great writing, but then fridge logic strikes and one realises, “Good Primus on Gallifrey, she ripped off Sailor Moon!” or, my most recent, “BATTLE ROYAL!!! PRIMUSDAMMIT TO SKARO SHE RIPPED OFF BATTLE ROYAL!!!” [Da Boss witnessed that one.])

Right now I’m reading The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind. And before that, A Kiss Before The Apocalypse by Thomas E. Sniegoski. Before that, Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock, but that’s my guilty pleasure. (I read pulp sci-fi. I love pulp sci-fi. I’m reluctant to see John Carter because I have fond, dated memories of my childhood reading A Princess of Mars. I have a hard time with movie adaptions anyway. Except for A Clockwork Orange. But that’s probably because I love Malcolm McDowell. And if I start singing “Singing in the Rain”, be forewarned: I just did something really, really evil. Usually in a literary sense. Like kill off a supporting character, torture a lead character, or blatantly trying to make it through one of the Twilight movies. I made it through the  scene where Bella arrives at the Cullens, by imagining Alex and his droogs bursting in and starting the ultraviolence — real horrorshow. By the baseball scene, I was missing half-a-bottle of Crown Royal and I think Clark Nova from Naked Lunch walked across the diamond a la Bigfoot footage. Again, digression.)

I think the last series I read where the author, female, had really captivated me was The Living Ship Trilogy by Robin Hobbs. High fantasy, yes, but it felt as though she had done her research on sailing and sea battles during the 15th and 16th centuries Europe. Yes, there was romance, but it was all second to the primary plot of an heir trying to find a place in the world, with the love of sailing and a taste of battle.

I think the closest I’ve found to my own writing taste is Karen Traviss’s City of Pearl. At least judging by the MINERVA library system, she’s better known Stateside for her Halo and Star Wars novels. Here’s a lady after my own heart: her books are militant in nature, with a root in scientific realism for science-fiction, and quite a bit of human behaviour woven it, be it love, revenge, or justice. Although I haven’t read her franchise-based works (I pretty much stick with Han Shot Period, and I don’t have an XBox to play Halo), I devoured City of Pearl in no time flat. But she’s not urban fantasy.

Well, back to the research board.