The Agony of Sorting My Books

See Life, and all that for my last general update.

Well, it’s been some time. Again. And for much the same reasons I had already shared. Life crept up on me, and work crept up on me, and the future bludgeoned me with a frying pan while I was distracted by the other two.

Progress has been made, though. I know where I will be living, come fall, which is always reassuring. I will have a steadier income during the academic year than I had anticipated, so my savings have breathed a sigh of relief.

And I have begun the process of packing up all my worldly possessions to schlep across the Great State of Texas. (There really isn’t any word that encompasses the soul-crushing tedium of moving better than “schlep”.)

Now, please understand, I don’t actually own all that much in the way of furniture and such.

The bulk of it is books.

Books are heavy.

I had come to the conclusion late last year that the collective mass of my books was probably too great to be moved across Texas, and so I started sorting them then. The problem is that my stacks were labeled something like this:

TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — TO KEEP — WHERE DID THIS COME FROM? BETTER KEEP IT.

I don’t have a problem. It’s not hoarding if it’s books. (I stand by this firmly, even though at last count, I had about 300 in my bedroom alone.)

But now I have to get to it in earnest. I can’t bring myself to throw away a book, so they’re all going to the shop at my local library, which adds some books to the library’s shelves and sells others incredibly cheap to give people a chance to grow libraries of their own. It’s a good system. I’m pleased to contribute to it. But it’s still painful to watch a box of my books disappear into their back room. It’s like saying goodbye to friends.

My old friends can make someone else happy, now. That’s my comfort as I part with them and hope I can whittle the collection down enough to fit into a single U-HAUL.

What book in your collection could  you never bear to lose?

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Life, and all that.

It’s been a while, and I’m sorry about that, but I’ve been doing things! I really intended to post here more, it being winter break – I’m a university instructor – but break also seemed like a good time to cross a lot of things off my to-do list, so I did that, instead, and the blog fell by the wayside.

First of all, The Mage is out in both digital and paper forms. [Click!] Hurrah! It was delayed, but Amazon’s support teams were, well, supportive, and the technical difficulties have been surmounted.

Second, there’s a new project in the works, one unrelated to Lost Knowledge. I was teasing it all last year. The van Helsing Legacy: We Shall Not Sleep. There’ll be more information soon, and there are chapters beginning to go up for subscribers on Patreon.

Finally, this year is going to be a cyclone. We Shall Not Sleep will be coming out at some point in 2017, but I can’t yet venture a date. Instalments of No Cage for a Crow will also be releasing regularly. I intended to have Liminality #4, The Martyr out, too, but… I’ve been accepted to a PhD program. Elsewhere. This means that my year is going to be a sledgehammer-blow of seeking housing, seeking employment, moving, starting classes, starting a new day job, etc. I’m over the moon, of course, but I also have no illusions about the impact this will have on my time. It’s going to be greatly diminished, as will my disposable income, and publishing is both time-consuming and expensive.

The result is that everything, publication-wise, is up in the air. I will still be writing, though, and sharing that writing, so if you were thinking about contributing on Patreon, now would be a great time to sign up, to help me continue turning stories into books as my life changes course.

I’ll keep you updated as this journey continues. Wish me luck!

A Writing Meme – 5

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4

23. How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?

Oh, perfectly willing. In fact, I’ve just… Ah, but no. Spoilers. Mwahahaha.

24. Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.

Kim had an obese cat named Bud. He got old and died, because even wizard cats get old. If you’re following the Liminality Series, you’ll soon be introduced to Erin, who has a squad of buff men she calls her “entourage,” though they’re actually thralls, which is what you call it when a faerie keeps humans for pets.

There may be more miscellaneous pets in the future.

25. Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favourite picture of him!

bashful_by_justleftofcenter13-d34dw92Well… I do. Just very, very poorly. I used to keep a file of sketches of my characters, until I realized my descriptions were more useful than my doodles, most of which looked like unidentified marsupials.

I like it a lot better when other people draw them for me.

Here’s Lenny, as envisioned by my dear friend Jennifer.

26. Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.

As in, are they significant to the plot? Eh, some. Morrigan, for instance, is not a conventionally pretty girl. She looks startlingly like her brother Sherlock in a wig and will, in a much later book (not a major spoiler) be arrested for posing as female for the purpose of felonious solicitation. Hard to make the charge stick, of course, after an undignified strip reveals that she is a bit female.

Most others work off certain archetypes, or common-sense extensions of their personal habits, genetics, etc. Lenny is nonthreatening: small, untidy, blond, but with unusually bright blue eyes. Daniel is severe and has an ascetic, angular appearance to match. Kim spends an awful lot of time sitting and reading, so she has thick, soft hips and thighs. She has the black hair and warm, dark complexion that comes from her mostly Indian ancestry. Jadwiga has the brown hair and eyes that are prevalent in Poland. Her scars prevent her from re-entering a society that largely frowns on extensive body modification, even though it wasn’t voluntary.

27. Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there’s nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.

A few. In the small stuff, Daniel has such poor eyesight as to be non-functional without glasses. He can perceive large, blurry shapes, but wouldn’t be able to identify an object on a table three feet away, unless it was producing a distinctive sound or smell. With glasses, though, he can see just as well in the dark as in daylight.

Lenny suffered a brain infection as an infant and was totally deaf until his teens, except to the voices of ghosts and other dead beings. When he was fourteen, he began to regain some hearing and could perceive loud noises as a buzz. Becoming a vampire restored it completely, but left sensitivity and the inner-ear damage that prevents him from balancing. Other vampires would still consider him disabled, since the lack of balance means he can’t move superhumanly fast without hurting himself. Also, though not in the category of disabilities, I write him as non-neurotypical and asexual. A few readers have asked me if he’s on the autism spectrum, and while not precisely correct, it’s a useful analogy. His brain is designed for effective interaction with the dead, and as a result, interacting with the living is often difficult for him; likewise, his body is designed to facilitate moving spirits out of the world, not into it, so no sex drive.

Now you know.

A Writing Meme – 4

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3

18. Favourite antagonist and why!

Signe, hands down. At least in Lost Knowledge, though I have a contender coming up in a future publication.

She’s not a primary antagonist, or anything. She’s not a bad guy, exactly, though she’s certainly awful. She just does a great job of poking at everybody’s insecurities, harassing them endlessly, and failing to put up with anybody’s rubbish.

19. Favourite minor that decided to shove himself into the spotlight and why!

It’s a duo: Lenny and Kim. Shadow of the Mountains was the first Lost Knowledge book I planned, and originally, it was supposed to be the only. Everything in Liminality was intended to be backstory, plotted but never written. But Kim and Lenny elbowed themselves into center stage, and I couldn’t say no when I realized that their story was really so much bigger than I had ever imagined.

20. What are your favourite character interactions to write?

I sort of already answered that without realizing that this was coming up, so I’ll go with a different answer.

Right now, I’m drafting The Van Helsing Legacy, and I am really digging the interactions between Meg and Chessie, the monster-hunting flatmates around whom the story revolves. Sort of without my consent, they acquired a bit of a buddy-cop vibe. You’ve got to admit that a bluestocking and a flapper chasing down vampires has a certain appeal.

21. Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?

Well… yes. Jeremiah’s got Cynthia, and Cynthia’s got Kim. Nobody’s got young children, though.

There’ll be more parent-child interaction in No Cage for a Crow, but it’s still mostly at a distance. Morrigan doesn’t get on well with her parents.

22. How long does it usually take you to complete an entire story—from planning to writing to posting (if you post your work)?

This is impossible. Everything I’m writing now has been percolating in the back of my head for ages. The Medium started brewing in 2005 or so, about the same time I began writing the atrocity that eventually became In the Shadow of the Mountains. The Morrigan Holmes series occurred to me when I was five. Yes, five. I’ve had The van Helsing Legacy rolling around in my head since the first time I saw a Hammer Dracula film, and I don’t even know when that was. I can’t possibly trace a story from inception to completion. The writing is variable. I was writing ItSotM for eight years before publication. The Medium brewed forever, but only took me a year to write, edit, and publish, probably precisely because so much thought had gone in beforehand. I drafted The Wailing in less than a month, but it’s short. There is no consistency in my time frames.

The Writing Meme  – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 3

The Writing Meme – Part 1
The Writing Meme – Part 2

12. In what story did you feel you did the best job of world building?

Hm. No clue. I’d have to ask a reader. But, well, the Lost Knowledge world is growing with each story. The building won’t be complete until the last book comes out.

That said, the coolest piece of information I’ve dropped so far (in my opinion) comes in The Medium: 

“Conscious access to memory is a unique trait of living things, but memory itself is not. It’s encoded in the minute vibrations between elementary particles. Our entire universe is built of information given shape. Part of that is its history. Its memory. Now watch.”

13. What’s your favourite culture to write, fictional or not?

Oh, golly, you can’t ask that of an anthropologist. Pick a favourite culture? Can’t be done. But, as mentioned previously, I’m always in love with whatever shiny new thing is currently going down, and right now, I’m researching Polish history for that nameless gothic thing. It seems that, whenever anybody decides to take over the world, they always start with Poland. In-depth research is a bit tricky for someone with only a high-novice understanding of Polish; there’s less literature in English than I would like. Ah, well. I found a volume of translated fairy tales, and that’s entertaining me, for the moment.

14. How do you map out locations, if needed? Do you have any to show us?

I do have a pile of fantasy maps somewhere, for a project that was shelved several years ago. Everything else takes place in our world, though, so I just print things out from the internet and scribble on them in Sharpie. I’m sure I can dig up some examples, but they’re likely in the very bottom of one of my file boxes and will take some time to locate.

15. Mid way question! Tell us about a writer you admire, whether professional or not!

I am (fondly) jealous of Jodi Lamm’s ridiculously fine ability to turn a phrase. I am so in love with her Titan Magic trilogy and look forward to the third book’s release. Gorgeous, subtle world-building, fascinatingly flawed characters, spine-tingling twists… Am I gushing? Go buy her books. She’s also loads of fun to talk to.

16. Do you write romantic relationships? How do you do with those, and how “far” are you willing to go in your writing?

Eh, a bit. Not much that’s yet been published. There will be a touch of romance in The Van Helsing Legacy and in that unnamed gothic piece. I don’t like the glorification of infatuation, though. Being in love is enjoyable in the  moment, but has no lasting worth at all without a deliberate commitment. Otherwise, it’s just a fling, with all the depth that word implies. If it’s a fling, I write it as a fling. If it’s love, though, the decision is more important than the emotion.

Sex doesn’t interest me in the least. You won’t find anything beyond implication in my writing.

17. Favourite protagonist and why!

Oh, definitely Kim. She gets things done. She’s determined and efficient and has a sense of humour, and she isn’t impressed with Daniel’s whinging. I’ll be sorry to leave her behind when Liminality is done. But hey, that’s what Patreon is for, right? I’ve got loads of deleted scenes and backstory that’ll have to come out somewhere.

The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 2

The Writing Meme – Part 1

6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol’ pen and paper?

I always have a notebook with me, because you never know when or where you might find yourself with ten minutes and nothing to do. If I have a choice, though, I prefer early mornings or late nights at my desk. A burning candle is nice, too. I always draft on paper. Always. Transcribing from paper to screen constitutes my first round of revision.

7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?

Sometimes, but only instrumental. I’m a fan of Peter Gundry and Philip Glass for writing. There are certainly songs that remind me of my characters, but I don’t make playlists for them, or anything.

8. What’s your favourite genre to write? To read?

The bulk of my writing so far is paranormal. I’m really enjoying mystery, as well, but I have no plans to branch out beyond Morrigan Holmes. Future projects – The Van Helsing Legacy and that gothic back-burner – return to paranormal, though in time periods other than the contemporary. I guess I just like a real-world setting with slight, ah, embellishments.

I read anything I can get my hands on. About equal parts fiction and non-fiction, the fiction about equal parts mystery, horror, paranormal, science fiction, historical, satire, YA… More picture books now than previously, since I collect them for use in my classes.

9. How do you get ideas for your characters? Describe the process of creating them.

I hate this question. I think most authors do. There is, in fact, only one character whose origin I can pinpoint to a single moment. John, from The Siren, was inspired by a comment on a Youtube video. Everybody else evolved sort of organically. I’m thinking about stories for a while, telling myself stories, and suddenly realize I have a character.

I can describe how they develop, though. Most of my Lost Knowledge characters were involved in role-play around the internet for years before I began publishing the books. I can’t think of any better way to really get to know a character than to have someone else throw situations at them.

10. What are some really weird situations your characters have been in? Everything from serious canon scenes to meme questions counts!

That role-playing background resulted in some really strange ones. Daniel once wound up married to a time-travelling airship captain from a steampunk alternate universe, living in an interdimensional bubble where they were occasionally attacked by Daleks. Non-canon, of course, but he still hasn’t forgiven me. Lenny’s been turned into a wolf, hit with a love spell, attacked by Umbrella Corp. zombies, and press-ganged into taking care of a magical toddler. Kim and Jadwiga have, for the most part, been spared any particular indignity, except for that one time they both got really smashed and almost came to blows over the lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Canon is about to get weird, too. No spoilers.

11. Who is your favourite character to write? Least favourite?

Individual characters aren’t that interesting, to me. I like to play characters off one another. Current favourite is having Kim and Daniel in the same room, snarking at one another, closely followed by Signe tormenting Daniel.

hated writing Sebastian. It was incredibly emotionally taxing, and I am forever glad that I ultimately decided not to give him the status of point-of-view character. That would have killed the series.

The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

A Writing Meme – 1

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you’ve worked with and why.

To be honest, my favourite is usually whatever shiny new thing I happen to be working on currently, and my various projects are different enough that it’s a bit apples-to-oranges trying to compare them.

I love my Lost Knowledge world, because it’s flexible enough to incorporate almost any new folklore I come across, and I have fun working with monsters who are basically just screwed-up people.

I love dipping into the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes in the Morrigan Holmes serial I’m working on. I love the contrast between the glittering upper classes, the stolid middle class, and the starving, tubercular masses upon whose backs the other two build their lives. It’s all very pretty, but only until you actually start paying attention.

I  love the classic horror world in which I’ll be playing with The Van Helsing Legacy, based in part on my deep and painstaking folklore research and in part on the old Hammer films. The post-war attitudes of absurdity and cynicism will be tough, but I welcome the challenge.

And there’s one more on the back burner that I won’t discuss too much too soon, except to say that it’s had me reading lots and lots of old gothic fiction, and I’m very excited.

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

There are 832 documents in my combined “Character Profile” folders. It’s possible I have a problem.

I don’t have a real preference. There’s a roughly equal number of males and females in the work I’ve published so far. The Liminality Series follows two women and two men, all of whom are pivotal. Women are outnumbered in No Cage for a Crow, but it’s written from a female perspective. Women will far outnumber men in The Van Helsing Legacy (also written from a female perspective), as a result of the dent World War One made in Europe’s male population.

There certainly needs to be more female-driven literature. I may as well contribute.

3. How do you come up with names, for characters (and for places if you’re writing about fictional places)?

I keep a list of names I like, with a connotation analysis and etymology, if I can find one. It’s sorted by gender and origin.

For real-world fictional places, I research trends in place-naming by time period and geography. For instance, a near-future project will take place partly at Blackeagles in Cumbria. There are no eagles in the area, “-eagles” being a corruption of “-eccles”, referring to a church. Blackeagles is named for the burnt-out ruin of a monastery outside the town.

For invented-world fictional places… Boggle.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!

The first I can remember was a ‘novel’ that spanned something like ten or fifteen black-and-white composition notebooks, begun in… second grade? Third? It was horrible. A girl named Sabrina got sucked into a magical world and was made their princess for no particular reason, and she was the best at magic and had beautiful eyes that changed colour and beautiful hair that changed colour and a magic ring that did I-forget-what, and there were unicorns, and I believe she was able to turn into one at will (though this was never a useful skill). It didn’t really have much of a plot.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest?

Chronologically, Aaron Margolis, from In the Shadow of the Mountains, is youngest in Lost Knowledge, being fourteen when the story starts. He’s recently been beaten out by Snail, of No Cage for a Crow, who is nine.

Oldest is tough, since I have a few who have technically existed since the beginning of the universe. But I guess they only halfway qualify as characters, so I’ll have to go with Signe the Swarm, first introduced in The Wailing. She’s forgotten how old she is, but the prevailing opinion in the wizard community is that she’s old enough it’s possible she was never human at all.

I came across this interview on DeviantART and couldn’t trace it down to an original post. If you know where this originally came from, please let me know so I can give appropriate credit.

The Writing Meme – Part 2
The Writing Meme – Part 3
The Writing Meme – Part 4
The Writing Meme – Part 5

The shades of autumn encroach.

Each autumn day is growing shorter, the evening shadows are longer, and the wind mutters secrets in the cracks around closed doors. It is time to mull wine, light a candle, and remember days long past. A perfect time for a good book.

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A Halloween in costume, as Doctor Varanus, protagonist of G.D. Falksen’s The Ouroboros Cycle.

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Recounting the Great British Sojourn – Day 4

What a day it was! Extraordinarily hectic, we began by walking down to Glouster Street Station to purchase Oyster cards so we could take the bus into the city with our tour director and his walking group. We went through St. James’s and then down Picadilly, where the group split up.

Mother, the Minion, and I browsed Hatchard’s, the oldest bookshop in London, then popped down to spend a solid hour in Fortnum & Mason, stockpiling tea, biscuits, and handkerchiefs. It’s a beautiful building, with not a detail overlooked. Marble, polished granite, dark wood, gleaming brass, friendly and polite attendants. It was lovely. I enjoyed it much more than I did Harrods. Harrods felt like consumerism – expensive so that its patrons could be seen spending money. Fortnum’s felt like materialism – expensive because everything they stock is made well and made to last.

We returned our purchases to the hotel via the Tube, which terrified the Mother and delighted the Minion. We survived the ordeal, though. For a system built beneath an ancient city while preserving as much of the surface as possible, it was as logical as one could hope. Memorizing all the routes would take years, but the maps made sense, and we did not board a wrong train all day. At any rate, we all felt absurdly competent when we made it back to Glouster Street in one piece.

Then back underground and to Baker Street.

There was a line for the museum – at least a hundred people. I think we waited about forty-five minutes, far, far longer than the last time I was there. They let in about twenty people at a time. It was absolutely worth it. I, amazingly, didn’t remember it anywhere near as well as I thought I did, though I suspect they have made some changes in the sixteen years since I was there last. The shop was on the ground floor, as were the staff offices, which had used to be Mrs. Hudson’s Restaurant. I was disappointed that the restaurant was not still in business but not crushed, as we had very good pub food the night previously. The first floor was the sitting room and Holmes’s bedroom, complete with Persian slipper, odoriferous experiments, “VR” in bulletpocks on the wall, violin, and correspondence affixed to the mantel by knifepoint. Some details were off – like the big, heavy calabash pipe on the table, instead of a dirty clay or battered old briar. And his catalogue seemed to be missing, although I suppose he would have taken that with him to Sussex.

The second floor ought to have been Watson’s and Mrs. Hudson’s rooms, but it has been made into exhibits – bits and bobs in glass cases with notes on how each object relates to a particular case. there was also a magnificent bronze bust of Holmes, with which, of course, I had my photograph taken.

The third floor was also  exhibits: sort of horrifying tableaux with posed mannequins reenacting scenes from the Adventures. And at the very top was a tiny little washroom and a pile of travel trunks.

We came back down, did some shopping, and made our purchases.

From the Sherlock Holmes Museum we caught the Tube to the British Museum. Unfortunately, we were under the impression that it closed a good half hour after it actually did, and so we only had an opportunity to see one  hall – African art, downstairs. We caught a couple of cases of Babylonian artifacts before the docent kicked us out. That was really a terrible disappointment. I wanted to cover at least Classical antiquities and Egypt. Next time, I suppose.

Dejected, we wandered out of the museum and in search of food, and we found a very good little Italian place only about a block away.

Another Tube ride to North Gower Street, where parts of Sherlock were filmed. The Minion straightened the ever-cockeyed doorknocker… which was awkward, as I think it is actually the door to somebody’s house. Oh, well.

And we finished the day with one last ride to Westminster, emerging directly beneath the clock tower, crossed Westminster Bridge, and boarded the Eye in time to see the sun set on London. By the time we had returned to earth, we were exhausted.

 

Recounting the Great British Sojourn – Day 3m

Day 3: Stonehenge in the morning, and an afternoon at Oxford.

This was the one I was waiting for. Up at six and dressed, breakfast at seven, on the bus by seven-thirty and on our way to Stonehenge. It wasn’t as long a drive as I had expected, really – probably a result of habitual seven-hour drives through Texas. We got there in good time and took the shuttle up to see the stones. They have moved the walk back quite a way, which, with the slight elevation of the henge, means that one can take photographs that aren’t swarming with tourists. I probably took at least fifty.

The wind was vicious, though. It didn’t take long for my ears to start hurting, and when I had photographed, to my heart’s content, we headed back down to the visitor center to see the model neolithic village. I also picked up a book of folktales and left with a prawn sandwich and a bottle of blackcurrant cider.

That’s when the day really began, for me. The afternoon was Oxford.

The coach parked by the Ashmolean, which I unfortunately did not have a chance to enter. We traveled down Cornmarket Street and down through the Covered Market, then past the Bodleian Library, past All Souls College, and into New College, walking around the quad and down the length of the chapel – dark wood and stained glass and an entire wall covered floor-to-ceiling with saints and angels in white stone. We walked through the garden, in full summer bloom and buzzing with honeybees and bumblebees. Finally, we saw the dining hall – which was a little awkward, as there were a few diners actually in it at the time.

And finally, the Bodleian itself. I was not asked to read the declaration aloud (so I muttered it to myself).

Back in London, late in the evening, the Mother and I attended Mass at Brompton Oratory, one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen, right up beside those I saw in Italy.

Supper at the Glouster Arms, where I had my first pint of Fuller’s London Pride, which, thank God, does not actually taste like the Thames water from which it is made.

I could have stayed forever among the dreaming spires, though, surrounded by the centuries of history of intellect and passion, learning every corner and gargoyle and grotesque, every pinnacle, every tower, every stone in every wall, listening closely and learning. I could almost imagine the entire city smelled of paper and ink. I will be back.