Monday, January 31, 2022

"Glass, Wool, Paper" Is Live!

I don't normally blog on Mondays anymore, but I have a special announcement: my flash fiction short story, "Glass, Wool, Paper" went live at Flash Fiction Magazine on Friday. With themes of objectification of women and their resilience, it seems to be striking a chord with readers. The site is free to read, so please check out the story for yourself if you're interested. If you like the story, please comment on the Flash Fiction Magazine site itself, and feel free to share the link. (I think the most popular stories may be selected for an anthology, so that's why it would be most helpful to comment on the story over there.) I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Reading/Writing Update

 I decided to make my blog post this week about my reading and writing progress so far this month:

Reading: My goal for this year is another 150 books. As of Sunday afternoon (when I'm writing this book), I've read eight. The non-fiction books I'm reading are pretty hefty, so they take a lot of time. Once I finish Plagues Upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History, I should be able to catch up.

Writing: I've written about 9,000 words of my third cozy mystery, Bubble Tea and a Body. I'd like to get at least 10,000 done this month. However, my plans for this mystery have already gone off course. (I intended to have the victim die one way, but when I reached a certain point in the story, my instincts told me my heroine should find the victim already dead.) I'm debating whether I want to discard some of what I wrote to have the death happen the way I originally intended. Alternatively, I can use that type of death elsewhere in the series.

Regarding the Season Avatars series, I have a rough draft of Ysabel's short story written, but while I have some ideas about Kay's story, I haven't decided on the focus yet.

Revising: I have two projects that need revision: Gwen's short story "To Heal the Healer" and Restaurants and Revenge, the second cozy mystery in the Abigail Ritter series. I've read Gwen's story all the way through, but I still need to finish reading all of RaR. The first part of the book seems fairly solid so far, but I had issues with the second half. It's hard sometimes to find the time to write new words and revise old ones on the same day.

So that's what I've been up to the last few weeks. How about you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

As a naturally speedy reader, I can finish a typical novel in a few hours. This is one of the ways I'm able to read so many books every year. Sometimes, though, I want a change of page and am willing to read something longer and thought-provoking. This is the case with The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow. It took me almost two weeks to read this book, and I'll need still longer to digest it.

The Dawn of Everything (hereafter to be abbreviated as TDoE), proposes alternate ideas for how civilization (specifically, agriculture, cities, kings, and the rise of states) developed--or, in some regions, was deliberately rejected. They discuss a variety of cultures and archeological sites, from Egypt's First Dynasty (around 3100 BC) to 17th and 18th century encounters between Europeans and Native Americans. They look at cities from Mesopotamia to Central America, slaves in ancient Rome and along the Northwest Coast, and more topics than I could possibly list. I can't summarize all the key ideas the two Davids discussed, but here are a few that I remember:

  • Many cultures experimented with farming but didn't settle down to do it full-time. They might spend part of the year at one site and spend the winter fishing or hunting.
  • Women may have been the ones experimenting with agriculture and textiles.
  • Care-giving used to be valued more highly. However, slave-owning cultures may delegate this work to slaves.
  • Two settlements close to each other may deliberately adopt opposite values to distinguish themselves. 
  • Some ancient cities lack palaces or other signs of an elite class, suggesting the occupants may have governed themselves through networks of obligations. There are prehistoric sites where people may have temporarily gathered for rituals or big projects, but there are no signs they were forced to do this by a leader.
  • Kings come to power by control of violence, control of information (administrators), or personal charisma. 
  • The classification of a group of people as a tribe or state is less important than how they organize themselves.

Most importantly, many Native American cultures defined freedom as the ability to relocate, the ability to disobey or disregard orders, and the ability to imagine alternate ways of organizing themselves. (I think of these as freedoms of body, will, and mind.) For example, a chief may have absolute power in his village, but the rest of the tribe may choose to live out of his reach. Tribes may choose to be ruled by a council and require representatives from every clan to be part of the decision-making process.

With so many sweeping generalizations in this book, there were a few that I thought went too far (specifically, saying Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries who were taken into Native American groups unanimously returned to them when given a choice. Another statement I didn't agree with was the idea that animals never accumulate a surplus of food. What about bees or ants? A New York Times science article from last week states that in some species, animals can inherit high status or even tools from their parents, which give them an edge.) It would have been helpful to have footnotes on the page with the text instead of at the end (though since the Notes section was about 80 pages, that might not have been practical.) Still, in a world where most of us are not able to relocate easily or disregard orders, a book that restores the ability to imagine other lifestyles is invaluable, especially for speculative fiction writers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mid-Month Mysteries: Excerpt from Restaurants and Revenge

For 2022, I thought I'd try different formats for this series. Perhaps in the next couple of months, I'll schedule interviews or guest posts from other cozy mystery authors. Today, I'll share with you the opening scene of Restaurants and Revenge, Book Two in the Abigail Ritter Cozy Mystery series. This scene may change since I still have to revise, edit, and proofread the book. I hope you enjoy what I have so far!

“Another day, another delectable drink created by Abigail Ritter, owner of the finest restaurant in Magic Lake!” I declared to Sherlock. “How does that sound?”

Sherlock, the crocheted fox I’d found in my grandmother’s apartment, was a stand-in for a camera audience. Someday I planned to post YouTube videos to bring customers to Isabella’s, my bubble tea restaurant named after my late grandmother. But before I felt brave enough to do that, I wanted to gain some experience recording myself. Sherlock, always willing to play with my phone, acted as both cameraman and critic.

Sherlock tapped the phone with a pencil held between his front paws. “Could be punchier,” he said. “How comfortable do you feel about talking and using a knife at the same time?”

I looked down at my fingers. I was still experimenting with drink recipes, but I was sure I didn’t want to add a super-personal touch like my own flesh to them.

“I’ll just take it nice and slow.” I smiled for my audience. “Today, I’m going to make a Citrus Delight. It’s going to have oranges, lemons, basil, sugar, and a couple of other key ingredients that will make this the most refreshing drink you could have on a hot summer day. So, let’s get to it.”

I already had all my tools—measuring cups and spoons, citrus squeezer, and, most importantly, the wooden spoon I’d use for stirring my creation—spread out around my cutting board. The fruit was in a mixing bowl I’d borrowed from my mom’s kitchen. I grabbed an orange and sliced it into quarters with a knife I’d found in this kitchen. After scrubbing and sharpening it, it sliced through the orange like the fruit was paper. Then I squeezed out the juice. The orange quarters didn’t quite fit into the squeezer, but I managed to get most of into the measuring cup. I grinned. Compared to what I’d seen chefs on TV do, this was so easy. I should have left my old job and opened my own restaurant a long time ago.

Sherlock held up a paw. That meant the recording was already at a minute. I couldn’t expect people to watch me all day. I had to hurry this up.

Rather than slice and squeeze each fruit individually, I chopped up the next couple of oranges. As I grabbed the second one, my grip found a soft spot. The sweet scent of orange soured. Sherlock sat up, muzzle in the air. He must have noticed something wasn’t right. I glanced down at the pieces. The insides of the oranges all looked the same. I could stop the recording and try to figure out which section had gone bad, or just keep working and hope it would be diluted out when I added the rest of the ingredients.

It’ll be fine once I add the sugar, I thought as I extracted more juice. It was just a small bad spot. It won’t make the entire drink bad. Besides, the Magic Spoon will fix it. The spoon had been carved from Magic Island wood and was supposed to make my bubble tea shop a success.

I added some lemon juice, fresh chopped basil, sugar, then diluted it with sparkling water and mixed everything with the Magic Spoon. The color was a cheery yellow-orange with green basil bits, though slightly pale. I poured the drink into a glass of ice. All I could smell now was the basil. If I’d gotten the proportions right, the herb should complement the citrus without overpowering it. I took a sip. There was the basil, the lemon, the orange, the sugar—and then a foul aftertaste that made me run to the sink and spit my drink out. I grabbed the sparkling water and chugged it down, but the taste lingered in my mouth.

Sherlock hopped down from the shelf with my phone to the kitchen island. He prodded through the discarded peels and flipped one over. The outer part of the orange was grey-white.

Apparently even the Magic Spoon couldn’t fix a rotten orange. I raced for the bathroom, hoping that getting sick now would keep me from being really sick later.

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

IWSG: Writing Regrets

Welcome to 2022! Here's hoping it's a better year for all of us.

This isn't just the first post of the year, but also the first Insecure Writer's Support Group post for 2022. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed

Our hosts for this month are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim (no link available), Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken.

Our question for this month is on regrets, not resolutions: What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

I would say my biggest regret is not finishing and publishing more of my work, specifically, Catalyst in the Crucible, which would be the third novel in the science fiction Catalyst Chronicles series. I got stuck on a story set between Twinned Universes and Catalyst in the Crucible, which made it difficult to move forward. (I have actually drafted part of this novel, but it's not finished yet.) Part of the problem with the novel is that although the first two books feature time travel, Catalyst in the Crucible would (a) throw some life-changing problems at my characters and (b) move into a new subgenre of science fiction. I'm not sure how fans would react to a mid-series change.

Of course, as long as I'm still able to write, there's always the possibility that I could go back and finish the story. I think about it occasionally. It's hard to accomplish when there are so many other writing projects I want to work on. (My writing goals for this year are to publish two books in my cozy mystery series and a collection of short stories in my fantasy Season Avatars series--so I can move forward and write more books in that universe.) Perhaps I should say my biggest regret is not being more productive, which would mean the best way to overcome that would be to stop blogging and return to fiction.

What are your writing regrets? Feel free to share them here--or, if you're here for the IWSG, leave a link to your blog post. I should also visit more bloggers this year!

Site Meter