Michaeline: Review of the new Bujold “Knife Children”!

(Note: no spoilers in the post, but there may be some in the comments. You’ve been warned.)

It’s been a bad few years for reading for me. First, I blamed it on my eyes, but now that I’ve had my reading glasses for a little over a year, I have come to realize it’s only partly about my eyes. Next, I blamed it on the internet – short, addictive bits of reading that reward almost instantly – and if they don’t, well, there’s another post or article to read. And hand-in-hand with the internet is the absolute drama of the past two years in the real world. Trump, Brexit, #MeToo – all that drama, all that conflict. Do I really need a real story when I’m sated with cat pictures on the one hand, and gutted by all the real world on the other?

It turns out, yes, a real story does hit the spot, and Lois McMaster Bujold published another e-novella in her Sharing Knife series on January 24, 2019.

 

"Knife Children" cover

A new book from Bujold! (Cover via Amazon.com)

“Knife Children” has that easy-going rhythm that is part and parcel of the Sharing Knife series. It touches on old Bujoldian themes such as taking responsibility, and the ever-present possibility of redemption. It also deals with the “one damn thing happens after another” aspect of life, and “go lightly over the rough ground”.

On the surface, “Knife Children” is Continue reading

Michaeline: Music behind the words

I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of beauty.” – Edgar Allen Poe (sourced from Goodreads)

We’ve talked many times on this blog about creating a playlist to help us get a better grip on character, setting or the feeling of a plot. And we’ve also discussed (here and among ourselves) the power of a good writing soundtrack that helps us tune out the world and dip into that trance state where good writing just flows.

And I believe we may have even mentioned the usefulness of reading a late draft aloud; we catch things we’d otherwise miss, and the spoken word highlights the underlying rhythms of the written text.

I suppose you could mark it out deliberately, and tell me just how many iambs I have in my pentameter. And a good writing teacher would say, when you put your rhythms in play, they should not mark the time, nor dally in rhyme, like a limerick on spring holiday. Those teachers probably have a point. On the other hand, using a series of short, sharp words to slap a guy in the face is legit, I think. Or flowing down a river of sounds and rhythm when you want to evoke a lazy mood is another thing.

There is a rhythm to writing, good or bad. I recently ran across an interesting clip of Steve Allen playing jazz piano while Jack Kerouac gives a short reading. They go well together, and if you’ll give it seven minutes of your time, you may find yourself meditating on the music behind the language.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LLpNKo09Xk

And I’ll leave you with this quote.

 “I’m very much aware in the writing of dialogue, or even in the narrative too, of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it … Interviewers have said, you like jazz, don’t you? Because we can hear it in your writing. And I thought that was a compliment.” – Elmore Leonard (sourced from Goodreads)

Michaeline: Welcome to Riverdale

Puff pastry with a layer of cream, more pastry, more cream, more pastry . . . more better! Strawberry on top.

The many layers of a Japanese mille feuille (by Miya, via Wikimedia Commons)

Over the holidays, I binge-watched Riverdale, which is a live action reboot of the 75-plus-years-old Archie comics, and I loved it. I always love a good soap opera, because they are layered like a mille feuille, but Riverdale? Riverdale has layers in five dimensions.

First, artistically speaking, I was struck by the Twin Peaks vibe from the first shot. We open on the tragic drowning death of campus hero, Jason Blossom. In some ways, it feels like a prologue, but it is exactly where the season’s story starts. We’re given a gorgeous backdrop of river and mountains, somewhere near the Canadian border, and the stunning contrasts of all that summer green, and the Blossom twins’ pale skin and red hair. (Tone alert: Riverdale has Twin Peaks’ striking look, but there’s 50 percent less mumbo jumbo. The story references Twin Peaks as an influence, but it’s got better pacing, in my opinion.)

When I headed back to the DVD menu to click for my next hit, the episode names reminded me of old movies and short stories. Stuff like “Heart of Darkness” and “Faster, Pussycats! Kill! Kill!” I bet a reading/watching program of these references would provide quite an education in how to set up murderous fictional situations. But even if you’ve never read or seen most of these classics (and I haven’t), you’ve heard of them. They are in a million pop references, and you get it. It’s a little touch that re-inforces what you know about this series: it’s a pop rendition of some of the best of the twentieth century. That cult-hit vibe makes it even more cool and mysterious.

The next thing you notice is the stars. I’ll circle back to the younger stars in a paragraph or two, but the older stars? If you are a woman of a certain age, Archie’s dad (played by Luke Perry ((!))) and his mom (Molly Fucking Ringwold! THE red-headed sweetheart of my generation!) will provide all sorts of other feelings and memories. They don’t particularly Continue reading

Michaeline: Short and sweet

SparkNotes.

My friend texted me and asked if I’d heard of them? “Aren’t they like Cliff Notes?” You remember, the condensed versions of the Great Books we were made to read in high school? The ones with summaries and arguments, and were always considered just a bit like the cheater’s way out?

She told me to check out their Twitter feed.

And the first thing I saw was this:

It turns out the SparkNotes people are witty, concise and economical with 280 characters, just like a good summarizer should be.

Oh, boy, I’m excited by the possibilities! Not only are they hip and funny, but there are all sorts of applications for the modern writer. Continue reading

Michaeline: New Stories from Bujold and Crusie!

A lady reading at a desk in her bedroom. She's wearing a warm robe.

It’s going to be a good year for reading! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Since Christmas, I’ve been on internet half-rations – I’ve only checked the news, the blog and some YouTube. Yesterday was my first day back, visiting my usual haunts, and boy, the stuff I missed! (Trigger warning: FOMO!)

On December 25, 2018, Lois McMaster Bujold announced a new novella on her Goodreads blog! The story, set in her Americana Wide Green World universe, features Lily and Barr. She says it will be a stand-alone, but since she’s aiming to self-publish the story in “late January”, there’s time for long-time fans to have a leisurely re-read of the four Sharing Knife novels (starting with Beguilement; link to Amazon here). Whoo-hoo!

And on January 1, 2019, Jennifer Crusie wrote on her blog, Argh Ink, “Happy 2019, everybody. I’m gonna finish a book this year.” Well, a happy new year to all of us fans, too! I’ve been following the book-in-progress on her blog from its conception, and the first act promises a lot of fun: demons, cops, murder mystery, romance and some really excellent vicarious diner food. The Nick-and-Nita book may not be out in 2019, but at least it’s almost out of Jenny’s hands – she has excellent taste, and I think the biggest barrier to more Crusie out in the wild is that she doesn’t let ‘em go until she’s reached a point of satisfaction. It’s probably for the best. We fans are voracious, and the most frequent response to a new story is “more please”, which is simply not sustainable. At any rate, in a few weeks (according to an ETA on Jan. 4), it’ll be in her editor’s hands.

What a convergence of the stars! My two favorite living writers are going to release new stories! And I know a lot of my favorite bloggers (right here on Eight Ladies Writing) are also going to release new stories in 2019! (Please comment, Ladies!) And of course, keep an eye on the Friday writing sprints here on 8LW. Our readers are welcome to play, and of course, our Eight Ladies often put up a short, sweet nugget of fictional delight. Are there any new stories that you are keeping your eye on?

It’s going to be a good year for reading, y’all! Get your reading glasses polished!

Michaeline: Hopepunk and Presolutions Weekend

Welcome to Presolutions Weekend for Chez Duskova. What a wonderful idea to have a weekend and a holiday before the new year arrives officially on Tuesday! I’ll be cooking and cleaning – getting the home lucky and at least a little more comfortable so I can start 2019 with a better slate than 2018. I’ll be studying Japanese so I can be a little more literate next year. Of course, the ukulele must be played (I got the sheet music for Blackstar ★ for Christmas!), because music is going to be a big part of 2019. And, I’m going to write just a little bit – just enough to remind myself that I am a writer.

In addition, I’ll make my formal resolutions on January 1, so this weekend is also about sorting out my brain.

Two space-suited humanoids are enjoying the free air and freshness of a beautiful valley on Earth.

Hopepunk: where characters fight the good fight, and enjoy the fruits of their labors. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On Friday, I was reminded of the importance of “keeping up with the industry” – or at least the news of my genre. I read this great article on Vox by Aja Romano about a trend called “hopepunk”. Apparently, the idea of hope-filled, never-give-up, positive fantasy and science fiction (and a whole slew of other narratives) has been trending since July 2017! Alexandra Rowland sounded the clarion on Tumblr with “(T)he opposite of grimdark is hopepunk. Pass it on.”

Vox’s Romano defines some characteristics of hopepunk, then goes on to tie it into comforting trends like the Japanese kawaii culture, and the Danish hygge/hyggeligt that Nancy Yeager has shared with us on this blog. The article also contrasts the self-made do-it-yourself aesthetic of hopepunk with the “she was born with it” aesthetic of Continue reading

Michaeline: A Christmas Ghost Story

Welcome to this year’s Christmas story challenge! Here’s a somber little number to get us started on one of the longest nights of the year. Check back on Elizabeth’s post outlining the rules through the week! She’s also got a nice list of stories from challenges past. 

Unbeliever

A grizzled ghost from an old magazine looks at a young woman in a bed, possibly.

Stronger than death. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

The first thing you should know about me is that I was a nuclear physicist. I didn’t believe in woo-woo, and I didn’t believe in goddamn ghosts. I believe in the laws of nature and mathematics. And, yeah, sure, my girlfriend told me about that baffling Hamlet and his “more things in your philosophy” quote. But ghosts aren’t real. I never believed.

The second thing you should know about me is that I was supposed to get married last Christmas to the most beautiful woman on the planet. Kind, smart, super-sexy and she loves me too. But I was hanging lights on our house (our first house) after a freak rainstorm, and the law of gravity ruled against me. What a fiasco. No wedding, no honeymoon, and she still wears my diamond and gets drunk every night while I continue to not exist. Believe me, it’s the last thing I wanted.

And yet, here I am. And it’s been nothing like the woo-woo people led me to expect. No tunnel, no bright lights, no mysterious angels with blazing swords, carving out a stairway to heaven. And, baffling enough, it’s not been anything like my serious atheist colleagues have posited, either. No nothing. I’m just hanging around the house, still grizzly from the three-day razor stubble after my last Thanksgiving, ambivalently sloughing around the house and the estate, alternately angry at my fate and overjoyed to see Jenny’s sweet naked face in the mornings. There was supposed to be nothing after death. Not something. And I’m still having trouble believing it.

And so this is Christmas, one year later. Jenny’s got her wedding dress out – I’d never gotten to see it, and I want to blurt out how wonderful she looks. She’s having trouble with Continue reading