Thursday, June 8, 2023

Mucha Carah

I'm having a helluva lot of fun with MidJourney these days, despite all the grumblings against it. It's just too much fun to see my written words bloom into images, to see my characters and settings interpreted in dozens of different ways. 

This is MJ's take on Carah, the heroine of books 3, 4, and 5 of the Falcons Saga -- if artists Alphonse Mucha and Julie Bell collaborated. The first was done with MJ's version 4, the last two are version 5. Of course, v4 can't get the hands right. I've had very little success with birds' wings either. Hands and wings, as common as they must be in source imagery, are a mystery to this ai. I do find it interesting, however, that despite my prompt not once including the word "book," the ai insisted that a sorceress would be holding a book. Every single image, except the last one, featured a book.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Summit In Sight

Image from Unsplash

So I haven't detailed much progress on Blackbird in a long time, mainly because writing this draft has felt like climbing an interminable mountain. Is it ever going to end???

Even my husband and my mother, who are my biggest supporters, have been asking, "Are you ever going to finish it?" To which I invariably give them a look that is the non-finger version of flipping them the bird. If I were a snarkier sort, I might invite them to kindly sit in my chair for a few days and finish the damn thing themselves. But I'm not. So I wrote on.

On a good day, I don't really love writing a rough draft. And as far as Blackbird goes, the writing has been slow and difficult. Probably because the historical genre is so new to me and demands a certain level of accuracy and knowledge that can't be invented as with fantasy. It has been ... uncomfortable ... like squeezing into a spandex suit.

And my greatest fear for this story is that it will bulge in all the wrong places.

BUT! After slogging on step by step, scene by scene, the end of the climb is within sight. I hope to conclude Draft 1 by the end of June. Then I can begin the part of the process that excites me. Cutting the fat, bulging up the scrawny bits, and otherwise administering the necessary plastic surgery that turns this ugly child into a supermodel.

Well, I can dream, can't I?

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Is the Nile REALLY 1000 Miles Long?

 I have no idea. But Amelia Edwards claimed it was nearly that in her travelogue A Thousand Miles Up the Nile. Published in the 1870s, this firsthand account of traveling the Nile by dahabiyah tops the list of irreplaceable research material that I'm devouring while writing my historical novel. 

I finally thought to add it to my Goodreads bookshelf. The review I posted there is as follows: 

A Thousand Miles Up the NileA Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Along with Lady Duff-Gordon's published letters, A Thousand Miles Up the Nile has my go-to source for setting details (and shocking imperialist attitudes) when researching for my historical novel, which takes place two years before this book was published. My copy is dogeared, marked up, highlighted, and tagged with stickies. And when I traveled the Nile myself in 2021, Edwards' descriptions kept whirling through my head: in the rural parts of Egypt, much remains the same, and it was a trip back in time. To see the same things she described in the 1870s was breathtaking. I can't imagine what I would have done without this priceless firsthand account.

Even if I hadn't needed the book for research, Edwards' prose is magnetic, her insights both timeless and marked by her era, a fascinating read.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

 A very brief review. Just a quick reaction, really, that I posted at Goodreads. As follows:

Bellman & BlackBellman & Black by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. Several weeks have gone by since I finished it, but I cannot stop thinking about it. The rooks are haunting me -- in a good way. The story is an epic character study of a deeply flawed man, interwoven with mythology (no spoilers). The prose is poetic, the wisdom profound and moving. The only complaint I had was that, in the first half of the book, there is little setting detail. I'm a sucker for immersive settings, and this narration was slim in that regard, until the last half. The longer I read, however, I realized that had Setterfield included richer setting details throughout the novel, the thing would've been needlessly long. The two settings that matter, the mill and the funerary goods emporium, are painted in thorough detail. And so everything fall into place and the author's choices make sense.

(view spoiler)

This is a story I will read again in a few years. 

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Blackout Poetry

Blackout poetry is not poetry you write when the power goes out. I guess you could, BUT! Blackout poetry is the surprising results you get when you take a piece of text from elsewhere, carefully select a few of the words on the page, and black out everything else, leaving a startling new message. In honor of National Poetry Month, I took a random page from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (which is in the public domain) and ran it through the Blackout Poetry Maker, here: BLACKOUT POETRY MAKER 


 If I were to reformat these words, I might make them look like this: 

night, my retreat
of anguish-- 
wild, broken 
objects ranging 
through cold stars 
and bare trees-- 
of universal stillness

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Shiny New Editions

Slowly but surely, I'm re-releasing several of my publications with new covers and, in some cases, revised text.

I decided to start at the beginning. Way back in 2011, I published my story "Fire Eater" on Amazon as a sort of test run to learn the formatting ropes before I went through the grueling process of preparing a novel series for publication.

So today, I completed the cover art and interior edits (very minor) for this dark fantasy novelette, in the hopes that snappier art will entice more readers to download the story. It received positive reviews, of which I am very proud.

So, just as a record, and an example of how critical cover art is to attracting readers, I'm going to share the old cover and the new. The comparison is laughable.

Old Cover. BLECH!
New Cover. YAY! (Love that 3D affect in the pupil!)

Next up, I'll slap new digs on Sanjen's story, the novella A Nocturne in Red. Later in the year, I hope to do the same for the entire Falcons Saga, with hefty revisions for Book 1.

Download "Fire Eater" for Kindle HERE.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

National Poetry Month: The Clerihew

I have learned something new about poetry, which isn't hard because poetry is such a huge, broad, varied topic. New things keep falling out between the lines, and shimmer, bedazzling.

The Clerihew (who knew?) is "a whimsical, four-line biographical poem of a type invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem's subject, usually a famous person, and the remainder puts the subject in an absurd light or reveals something unknown or spurious about the subject. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and the rhymes are often forced." (Wikipedia)

So I gave this form a go in honor of National Poetry Month, and this is the cute thing I came up with:

Not earth-shattering poetry, but fun. The rhyme scheme is ABBA, too, but it's lucky it ended up rhyming at all, given my lack of a knack for it (nailed that internal rhyme!). But most importantly, I learned something, which is always a win. I do admit, however, I have a crush on that silly ol' bear.