Friday, November 30, 2012

Rough Draft Fridays

An excerpt from Ebb, this time from Joaquim's point of view. This sets up some of the problems Joaquim has as he tries to accomodate his own growth to the problems of coming home.

“Wash your boots, milord,” he mumbled, dropping to his knees as Joaquim drew closer.
“No,” Joaquim responded reflexively. Men like this were common in Apsia, offering a dozen petty services in hopes of small coin. Years of training made Joaquim speak without thinking, seeking to turn the old man away before he became too much of a nuisance.
Perhaps because he was deaf, or perhaps because he was more determined than others, the old man reached for Joaquim’s boots as Joaquim drew close, the wet rag moving forward.
“No, I said,” Joaquim said. He tried to skirt the old man’s hands, and a flicker of irritation sprang to life inside him. Joaquim was in a hurry; he had not seen his parents in months, he was cold, tired, hungry—
One weathered hand scraped the leather of Joaquim’s boot, running the rag along the side.
“Sisters help you, man,” Joaquim said, coming to a stop. He bent down and helped the old man to his feet. For a minute, the old man resisted, lunging for Joaquim’s boots, cloth at the ready. He was old and weak, though, and Joaquim eventually got the man to stand. “I don’t want my boots cleaned, and I don’t have any coin.” The last bit was true, for Joaquim had given his last silver to the woman at the waterfront, but it didn’t do anything to ease the sick feeling in his gut.
The old man wavered, his cloudy eyes moving across Joaquim’s face. Then he spat on Joaquim’s travel-stained shirt, wrenched his arms free, and hobbled back to the corner where he had been waiting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Novel Wednesdays

A passage from Jim Butcher's Grave Peril.

This is from the opening chapter:

"I'm a wizard. I don't have time to be married."
"I'm a knight," Michael responded. "And I have the time. It's worth it. You're alone too much. It's starting to show."
I scowled at him again. "What does that mean?"
"You're tense. Grumpy. And you're isolating yourself more all the time. You need to keep up human contact, Harry. It would be so easy for you to start down a darker path."
"Michael," I snapped, "I don't need a lecture. I don't need the conversion speech again. I don't need the 'cast aside your evil powers before they consume you' speech. Again. What I need is for you to back me up while I go take care of this thing."

I love how well Butcher does characterization and dialogue. It's very easy to get a feel for both characters from this snippet of dialogue, and, as a plus, the dialogue is also funny.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A belated happy Thanksgiving

My apologies for the tardiness with this blog post; I have, unfortunately, been far busier over these last few months than I ever expected. Writing has taken a bit of hit, although I am still fairly close to being on schedule. The blog, on the other hand, has received fewer updates than I had hoped.

This is just a post wishing everyone a belated happy Thanksgiving. Although this is a U.S. holiday, I feel that this is a day that everyone should have (even if it's not in November and doesn't involve eating turkey). Spending time focusing on gratitude, especially for the important things in life like family and friends, has helped me immensely with other personal difficulties, and I think everyone (myself included) can do better at trying to have a grateful heart.

My best, belated wishes to everyone for a happy Thanksgiving and a happy heart of gratitude, even when things might not be going their best.

Poetry Mondays

I think the next few weeks will be from Thomas Wyatt, one of the pioneers of the English sonnet and a translator of Petrarch.

MY galley chargèd with forgetfulness
   Thorough sharp seas, in winter nights doth pass
   'Tween rock and rock; and eke mine enemy, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness,
And every oar a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forcèd sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the wearied cords great hinderance;
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain.
    Drownèd is reason that should me consort,
    And I remain despairing of the port.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Rough Draft Fridays

Another excerpt from Ebb, this is from Tides's viewpoint again, and it sets up some of the issues that she is dealing with.

The girl, though—slender too, with only the first curves of a woman, but she was beautiful. Skin the color of sunset on the high grasses, and although her hair was tangled, it had a dark sheen that would be the envy of any woman in Apsia. She wore an identical gray robe that left feet and legs bare, and more than one man—and woman—turned to stare at the girl’s exposed calves. Tides heaved a sigh, put her head down, and reached for another fish. In the Gut, beauty was more dangerous, in its own way, than coin. Three days these children had huddled on the waterfront. It would not be another three before the boy was dead or in the galleys—they were all but the same—and the girl, were she lucky, a whore.
Little Teeth had not been any older than that clubfoot boy when Tides had saved him from a similar end. She had found the boy picking garbage from the salt water, she had taken him home. He had been a grown man when Sipir’s crew broke down the doors and killed him.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Novel Wednesdays

A few brief lines from Ray Bradbury's short story "The Night."

Here, at this spot, civilization ceases, reason ends, and a universal evil takes over.
You realize you are alone. You and your mother. Her hand trembles.
Her hand trembles.
Your belief in your private world is shattered.

Although I almost universally detest the 'second person' point of view, I love this short story so much that I'm willing to forgive it. Bradbury writes so well, and this is such a heartbreaking story. I think these few lines are the center of it, and I'm not sure I've ever seen italics used so well (especially since they are used so often and so ham-handedly in genre fiction).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Poetry Mondays

Here's a poem from Elizabeth Bishop that I love:


Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite `The boy stood on
the burning deck.' Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rough Draft Fridays

Another passage from Ebb, from Tides's narrative.

Fat Bele was a fool, of course, to say that the fisherman gave Tides honeyed eyes. True, he was not as old as other fishermen—there was a respectable amount of gray in his neat, combed-back hair, and an equal portion in his tangled beard. Not old, not really. And yes, his eyes were brown like candied sugar, and he had a nice smile when he chose to show it. His trousers needed hemming—any woman could see that, the way they frayed—and if he wore a shirt with fewer patches, and stood a little straighter— 
No. Tides cut off the thoughts. Those were the thoughts of a wife, and although he was, indeed, her fisherman, she was not his wife.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Novel Wednesdays

Another passage from Faith Hunter's Blood Cross.

"According to police records, vamps hadn't been totally in the closet in certain cities across the globe, even before the famous staking of Marilyn Monroe by the Secret Service in the Oval Office while she was trying to turn President Kennedy."

What I like about this is first, the tone--some of Hunter's dry humor shows up--but also the way that humor becomes part of the world building. It helps, particularly in urban fantasy, to explain how magic forms part of the larger history of the world, and in this case, Hunter does so very effectively with only a single sentence.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Poetry Mondays

This should be the last Whitman for a while--just so we get some variety.

The beginning of his remarkable poem, "Scented Herbage of My Breast."

Scented herbage of my breast,
  Leaves from you I glean, I write, to be perused best afterwards,
  Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death,
  Perennial roots, tall leaves, O the winter shall not freeze you
      delicate leaves,
  Every year shall you bloom again, out from where you retired you
      shall emerge again;
  O I do not know whether many passing by will discover you or inhale
      your faint odor, but I believe a few will;
  O slender leaves! O blossoms of my blood! I permit you to tell in
      your own way of the heart that is under you,
  O I do not know what you mean there underneath yourselves, you are
      not happiness,
  You are often more bitter than I can bear, you burn and sting me,
  Yet you are beautiful to me you faint tinged roots, you make me
      think of death,
  Death is beautiful from you, (what indeed is finally beautiful
      except death and love?)
  O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers,
      I think it must be for death,

The poem goes on, but I just love, love, love this poem. I don't want to post all of it because it's so long, but it's worth a full read.  Again, the way he plays with the idea of leaves, and the complexity of the emotions underlying the poem, are fascinating to me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rough Draft Fridays

Here's another passage from Ebb, early in Joaquim's narrative. It's a reminder of who he used to be, before Akiivka and before meeting Bri.

The neighbors, of course, knew where his parents had moved. Joaquim struggled to keep the grimace from his mouth as Pattieche leaned toward him from the doorway, the white gauze dress doing little to support her sagging breasts, her mouth smeared with dark paint. Too many years she had tried to bed him, and too many years he had thought her games amusing, one more Apsian sport. Now, though, he just wanted to know where his parents were, and getting the answer took too long. When he pulled Bri from the door, trying to ignore her smile, Pattieche drew back into her house and slammed the door.
“She’s displeased,” Bri said, still smiling. 
“She’s old and bored,” Joaquim said.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Novel Wednesdays

Today's selection comes from Faith Hunter's Blood Cross, the second volume in her Jane Yellowrock series.

From the first chapter:

"I'm Jane Yellowrock, traveling rogue-vamp hunter, skinwalker-in-hiding, and occasionally muscle-for-hire. I know how to fight, how to protect myself, and how to use the array of weapons that were currently under lock and key in my bedroom, safe from the attention of the children. I wasn't so good at understanding humans or witches or vampires, and I sucked at social situations, but this gig in New Orleans was giving me a chance to learn a lot about all that. And about myself."

What I like about this passage is that it sets up the character very well for readers who might be new to the series. I also like the character Hunter develops; Jane has a lot of problems, but she has some clear strengths as well, and more than that, she's interesting.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Poetry Mondays

Here is a little more Whitman, since he is so very good and so very important in American poetry.

This is from "Song of Myself," but from much earlier than the parts I previously cited. Yes, that means you're getting the selections out of order, but I love the end so much I wanted to put it up first. Here's another section, one that I think is remarkable:

Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
  I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

  I pass death with the dying and birth with the new-wash'd babe, and
      am not contain'd between my hat and boots,
  And peruse manifold objects, no two alike and every one good,
  The earth good and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.

  I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
  I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
      fathomless as myself,
  (They do not know how immortal, but I know.)

  Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
  For me those that have been boys and that love women,
  For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
  For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
      mothers of mothers,
  For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
  For me children and the begetters of children.

  Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
  I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no,
  And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away.
What I love about this is how Whitman locates complicated ideas in everyday items: 'not contain'd between my hat and boots' is a great example of this, but I also love 'Undrape!'

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rough Draft Fridays

Another snippet from Ebb:

Old age wrote the past onto the present. Adence leaned up against a building that had, once, been a counting house, and then, years later, a warehouse, and was now—to judge by the crude, if accurate, painted signs—a whorehouse. The wooden signs were not his only clue. Giggles came from inside the building when the door swung open, along with a warm burst of air, like a slap of summer in the winter streets, fragrant with the lemon oil that the whores dabbed on their wrists. Just a whiff, but enough to make Adence remembering a certain doe-eyed girl in a house not far from here, and the way the oil had tasted on her skin when he had— 
With a shiver, Adence pushed himself away from the wall and staggered into the street. That was most definitely not his memory, although it was as clear as day.