manifesta: (Coffee Shop)
I swear that post on the portrayal of women's strength and sexuality in paranormal romance and modern urban fantasy is forthcoming. I even have a decent chunk of it written. Unfortunately I have an exam and two papers due next week, and we're finalizing the script for the main experiment I'm working on. It's a design I've in been helping build from the ground up, so I'm super excited to see it go live by the end of March.

Salsa performance group also started last month. My partner and I have dreamed up some amazing moves for part of the choreography. This also means I hurt on a regular basis.

Black Widow's Walk is moving along. I adore the book but loathe writing middles. I'm pushing it forward out of sheer stubborness right now. I just finished a scene where some of the Spinners are busking on the street (stringed instruments + rain = bad) and in the next scene I return to the High Court, where one villian manipulates another villian. There will be deception involved, and someone is going to get Spun into oblivion.

This weekend I intend on studying, writing BWW, writing papers, studying, eating chocolate, seeing Valentine's Day, studying, making brownies, and celebrating a friend's birthday. Hopefully my next weekend will be more restful.

I recently reread Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn. I haven't reread Exiles in some years, so until recently I'd forgotten how utterly amazing it is. It's a complex, heartbreaking political fantasy that plays with gender roles. As always, I love love love Rawn's heroes and heroines.

Next quarter I'm going to host a giveaway contest for a book or two that I've read or reread recently that feature strong heroines. Why? Because I wish there were more books like Exiles and Skin Game and The Raven Prince, and I think the only way to change people's standards of what isn't acceptable characterization of women is to provide examples of what is.

Stay tuned.
manifesta: (Kahlan)
I finished reading The Onion Girl the other day and simply sat there in awe of how amazing it is. I love all of de Lint's works, but it is by far my favorite.

After winter break, I moved two dozen of my favorite books to my apartment. One wonderful thing about having them all here is that I can reread them at any time. Melanie Rawn and Anne Bishop dominate the top shelf, alongside Holly Lisle's Talyn and Hawkspar, Michael A. Stackpole's Dark Glory War (the rest of the DragonCrown War Cycle are there in spirit), and Amanda Downum's The Drowning City. On the second shelf are Jacqueline Carey's collective works, Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' series, Trudi Canavan's Age of Five trilogy, M. J. Rose's Butterfly Institute trilogy, Blood & Chocolate, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, and a gilded tomb of Jane Austen's works. The last shelf if a motley assortment of feminist books, including Malalai Joya's A Woman Among Warlords; Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and The Secrets of the Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander; various traditional urban fantasies or faerie tales like Palimpsest, Midnight Never Come, Holly Black's books, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series; and random other books I have on hand or haven't read.

Random observations: I wish I had brought more books by Marjorie M Liu and Lynn Viehl, as well as some S&S or high fantasies. (I've noticed when browsing through Barnes & Noble that very few epic fantasies capture my attention these days. Having been raised on Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and their ilk, this makes me sad.)

I also noticed that 95% of the authors are female. About half are ones that I read in high school or younger. Most were marketed and shelved as adult fantasy.

These are just the ones that resonate the most with me. Others that I would add, if I had room, would include Sarah Dessan (particularly Dreamland and Just Listen), Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay quartet, Memoirs of a Geisha, various Dragonlance, everything by Tamora Pierce ever, and I'm sure there are even more that I'm forgetting.

I would love to have a hidden library some day, where I can cloister my treasures away like a dragon. I could sit and drink raspberry hot chocolate and read beautiful stories while surrounded by hundreds of other beautiful stories.

Right now I'm reading The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, and as of 94 pages in, I'm remarkably pleased and amused. The hero has done nothing abusive and the heroine isn't an idiot. In fact, I may even adore her. Now, if only I could rid myself of the niggling thought that the heroine is only allowed to exercise such common sense and rebellion (in realistic if improbable ways for the era)  because she's a widow...

*****

Also, as of last night:

Black Widow's Walk

50,105/ 90,000
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
The start to the new year has been lovely. Over the course of New Year's Eve I blazed through Hilari Bell's Rise of a Hero, and then through Forging the Sword, the last two books in her Farsala trilogy (the first being Fall of a Kingdom). Her style is reminiscent of Alma Alexander's in her Changer of Days duology and features many similarities, although both first books came out around the same time. I don't really consider this to be a bad thing; I think each books expands in separate directions within the context of their own worlds. I particularly enjoyed some of the innovative obstacles the protags face in RoaH.

I think it's YA, but I could be wrong. I could see it as adult epic fantasy.

Yesterday I finished Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come, and it stuck me how ahead of the publishing trend my first two books were. My first was a contemporary fantasy when contemp/urban was just starting to expand, and my second was a contemporary faerie tale with roots in an alternative Tudor England. Books like Midnight that combined my two loves--faeries and real-world fantasy--were limited to Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block, and few others, all of which were YA.

Brennan's writing is luscious, and her leading female character a realistic mix of strength, desperation, and cunning. She also kept regional faerie lore intact, a task that must have had its difficulties.

Now, partially inspired by Brennan, I'm re-reading Charles de Lint's The Onion Girl. It has reminded me why I love urban fantasy--true urban fantasy, not the gutted version that's being reproduced over and over again today. It also reminds me of a time when women's strength in UF was portrayed through determination and character rather than the false symbolism of a vampire boyfriend or knives.

*****

Classes have started, and in lieu of finishing the last stats courses, I'm indulging in reading-focused history and women's studies courses, as well as psych of law. I'm still researching stereotypes with a professor, and will be for the rest of the year, but our direction may be changing a little-- something we discussed at our 8AM meeting this morning, 4 full hours before my first class. Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of science. 

The sociology department is trying to lure me over to the Dark Side. They've invited me to apply to work on a grant-funded research project, which would do wonders for my resume. Tempting.

Tomorrow I get to watch Pocahontas in class. On one hand, yay. On the other hand, this is ironic, given that I just watched Avatar last weekend, and was not that impressed (via [personal profile] shiegra).
*****
 
I finally figured out how to conduct political warfare via the use of illusions in Black Widow's Walk. I'm surprised it took me so long to come to that conclusion, but now that I have, it opens up all sorts of doors. I'm officially dedicated to finishing BWW by April 1st--a date at the end of the quarter that I picked randomly, but also happens to be the 5th anniversary of the completion of my first book. (Yes, I remember things like that.) If shit happens, shit happens. Regardless, it's nice to finally have an end goal in sight.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
See title. I hope everyone had a wonderful Halloween and ate lots of chocolate (I had some pumpkin spice Hershey Kisses myself). I was with some friends who came from out of town for most of the day, then joined up with another group later that evening for general revelry and good times.

Still plugging along on BWW. Over the past two days I've begun compiling character bios, writing up a few paragraphs about the primary and secondary characters, as well as the two prominent Guilds. Yes, I'm doing this after having just passed the 1/3 mark. I don't typically write bios (I have a long list of characters and their basic characteristics so I can keep track of whose hair color is whose, but that's it) but right now it's helpful for fleshing out their motivations. Several characters have portrayed animosity toward each other for foggy reasons that I was able to finally figure out (at least in part) today.

When I first started writing BWW, it was like trying to write two books at once: the BWW-that-used-to-be (the first time I tried to write it at age 16, back then titled Discord) and the BWW-that-I-wanted-it-to-be. The book in its current incarnation is neither of those. I actually tossed out a lot of the worldbuilding and plot I had brainstormed throughout August in favor of my older stuff, albeit with a lot of editing, but more and more I've been able to incorporate the stuff I threw out into the Spinners' Guild history. Which is quite spiffy, in my opinion. I liked what I was trying to do, and though it didn't work for the book where it's at now, it does set the past up nicely to cause all sorts of trouble for the present.

My primary experiment goes live this week, and so I'm going to be getting up at 6:30AM every day for the next week to run labs at 8AM. Just the thought of getting up that early makes me wince.

To anyone participating in NaNoWriMo: How's that going for you?
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
I'm 1/3 of the way done writing Black Widow's Walk! *dances* *snuggles book*

With the end of the last scene Deahnna realized something partly inaccurate, and in the current scene I switched to a POV I haven't written in before. She's a minor character, but an important one. I was also finally able to write in some nonheterosexual secondary characters that are adorable and make me squee with happiness. (It also helps that they're courtiers but not nearly so awful as the others.)

I'm not currently reading anything other than psych articles, though I did pick up Lynn Viehl's new Shadowlight in an attempt to keep it on the NYT list for a second week (which it did, and totally because of me). I also found Califa's Daughters by Leigh Richards a few weeks back in an indie store. It has the makings for a feminist fantasy, or in the very least a fantasy that plays with gender roles (ala Anne Bishop). 

It's been raining nonstop lately, which has been disheartening. I love autumn... but I love autumn more when it's sunny and chilly, not rainy and chilly. I just hope it doesn't pour on Halloween. I don't fancy walking down the street in a rather long dress (albeit with boots) and getting soaked.  (For those curious, I'm going as River from Serenity.)

The dress is actually longer than it should be for River's dress, but it's blue and layered like hers. As I was walking around in it the other day, I realized that it's an outfit Deahnna would approve of, if not wear.

I know. I'm weird.

Black Widow's Walk
 
30, 009 / 90,000
manifesta: (Rory/Logan)
# of shots of espresso in the past three days: Four.
# cups of tea: Four and a half.
# of experiments currently being worked on: Three.*
# of hours in the lab working with data: Numerous.

I had a huge midterm for stats/experimental design yesterday, among other things, which have had me running around trying to get everything ready. On the bright side, the exam wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Progress on BWW is touch-and-go. I think I've thrown the idea of writing every day out the window, and am settling for writing whenever possible. There are only so many sacrifices I can make before my schoolwork/physical self suffers for it. (I already managed to injure my left leg earlier this week at salsa while doing lifts with an inexperienced partner. Clearly, my sanity was lacking, because I never would have compensated so much for his lack of grip otherwise.**) 

On the bright side, in BWW Deahnna and Zephyr are no longer at a fete. Instead, they're in the library. As in, the library scene that I've been wanting to write for ages. I'm about 2k in and it's still got a little while to go.

I made double chocolate Andes mint brownies today. They're gooey and deliciously amazing.


*Coding the data for one, preparing to begin running labs for the second, and in the initial planning stages of the third.
**When coming down from the lift, I knew he wasn't holding on to me tightly enough and took the majority of my weight onto a single leg. Done multiple times, this can hurt.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
Quick writing update because, oy, I'm tired.

My characters have been attending the same fete for the last 10k. I'm officially no longer a fan of huge parties. On the bright side, at least one person's dead, and a lot more people are about to die. (And I only have one more scene to go before I can change settings. Huzzah!)

Black Widow's Walk

25,026 / 90,000
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
I know I said I was going to wait until Wednesday to start writing again, but I decided to skip tango tonight to resume something I really cared about. The past two and a half weeks have been rough. My computer would function in fits and starts, and for a day or two I'd be able to write something, and then the next day it would be dead again. During one of its rare lucid moments, I was able to look at some of my older pieces, including a few unfinished novels. The last time I had written a book from beginning to end was in 2006. Since then the farthest I've gotten on any book was 16k.

Now look where I'm at:

Black Widow's Walk

20,008 / 90,000

In celebration of a new laptop and wordcount milestone, here's a snippet from one of the more recent scenes in Black Widow's Walk.

 

The air grew damp )

 

Thank you to everyone for your patience with me! I hope to resume a normal life now.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
After a variety of hold-ups, BWW is moving again. YAYAYAYAY. I've been feeling rather weary, so I've been trying to listen to my playlist for BWW more often, just to jazz myself up. I usually only listen to it (and always with earphones in for the illusion of surround sound) when writing Deahnna's scenes, which admittedly are probably a third to half of the novel. Most of it's neo-classical violin music (Vanessa Mae and Bond in particular), and many times what I'm listening to will impact what Deahnna's playing or someone's feeling at that given time. Today involved Bond's song Duel and an impromptu pizzicato (plucking of the strings with the fingers) bridge that morphed into a lullaby-waltz.

Also: I wanted to mention that I'm very, very saddened by the passing of Patrick Swayze. Coincidentally, not long before I found out about his death yesterday, someone asked me what my favorite movie was. I grew up watching the movie Dirty Dancing and it's a HUGE part of the reason I love dancing as much as I do. Yesterday I watched it again and rewound to each of the dance clips. I realize that Michael Jackson represented childhood for a lot of people, but Patrick Swayze represented mine. 

Still reading Palimpsest. I haven't had much time to myself that hasn't been dedicated to writing or sleeping since training began, but hopefully I'll finish it this weekend.

Black Widow's Walk
 
16, 054 / 90,000

manifesta: (Dangerous)
It occurred to me today that in a lot of books, the female characters are often referred to as "beautiful" first and foremost before anything else. I keep tripping over that word, too-- my first impulse is to describe Deahnna as beautiful... right before going on to add that she's a talented violinist and infamous for her devil-may-care attitude. I think she's beautiful. Zephyr, the lead male character, thinks she's beautiful. But that's not what she's known for. She has other qualities about her that are awesome; hello, she's a badass violinist. (And she could Spin most people into an illusion so taut they'd never again know up from down.) I'd rather let the reader decide if they think she's beautiful, but not base it on me telling them she looks that way.

On a related note, Kate Elliot asks: Have you read any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed? (I'd like to add, do you know any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed as strong?) They've developed quite a list already, but I bet the list for epic fantasies that don't portray women, especially strong women, is even longer.
manifesta: (Writer)

A while ago, SJMaas posted an entry with pictures of her desk. Since I'm ridiculously proud (probably more so than can be justified) of putting together mine, here's what's on it:

 

There's nothing on the walls at the moment because they were sprayed with mud and thus blue tape doesn't stick to them very well. I'm hoping to get a few tackboards for notes and a white board for novel plotting and/or psych experiment planning soon. I live pretty minimally and don't like a lot clutter, so my current set-up it really nice.

 

1-3 are usually carried around in my purse.

1. Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. I usually keep a book or two around (though I have more on my bookcase).
2. Moleskine notebook containing various writerly ideas and a decent chunk of world-building for Black Widow's Walk.
3. The mandatory iPod. Complete with coconut gummy earphones. 
4. My beta fish, Magnolia. He's about a year and half old and named after a street in downtown Bellingham, WA.
5. Lavender and cedarwood oil and reeds. Its twin is in the living room and is currently spreading tendrils of vanilla-goodness everywhere. My goal is for our apartment to be the best-smelling place in the world.

 

6. Dell laptop where all the writing occurs. The wallpaper is a friend and I posing backstage before a salsa performance in June. (I'm the one with the sunglasses). I like it because my dance shoes are reflected in the mirror. Black Widow's Walk and its accompanying files (a tentative and vague scene list, the pitch, names, etc.) is contained in the folder by my shoulder.
7. Mandatory coffee cup. It was filled with 2% milk at the time, but usually it's tea.

Also: I've been contemplating the fact that since moving in, either my (totally awesome) roommate and/or her friends and/or my friends have randomly been wandering in and out of my room throughout the day. I've since considered hanging a tie on my doorknob when trying to write. Awkward connotations, but perhaps effective...?

Kidding. But still an amusing thought.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
I was all set for a big writing session last night (yes, on a Friday; I was beat from training, I wasn't going dancing, and few people are in town, sooo...) when I barely was able to get 50 words after an hour of frustration. I gave up at about 400 and went to bed grumbling. My allergies woke me up at 7:30 this morning, so I staggered out of bed and started writing. Things went more smoothly after a few failed starts. I just finished a scene, and in the next one Deahnna makes a startling re-entrance to the High Court. I'm helping some friends move in today, including my roommate, so I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do tonight.

While waiting for the cable guy to fix my internet the other day, I read about half of Palimpsest. Valente's prose is luxurious and sprawling. The story still has me confused, but it's becoming clearer. It definitely resonates with Charles de Lint's work, and it's refreshing to read a fantasy that's minus the typical forms of magic or bloodshed.

Black Widow's Walk

14, 043 / 90,000
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
I'm all moved into my apartment! It's gorgeous, with a balcony looking over the street and large rooms. It took a while, but my cable was set up today, and I put together my desk yesterday with only minor injuries. Training starts tomorrow at 8:30AM.

I had hoped to write more tonight, but halfway through I realized the scene I had anticipated on writing next simply couldn't happen yet. The two leads don't trust each other enough, and it's going to take a little more time before they do. I shuffled some scenes around; hopefully this order will flow better.

I know I'm behind on commenting, but I will, soon! I hope your weeks have been wonderful.

Black Widow's Walk

12,853 / 90,000
manifesta: (Writer)
I finished reading The Drowning City this morning while hunkered down against the rain. It's a refreshing new spin on the fantasy genre, one that I appreciate. I hadn't expected some aspects of the ending, and I definitely became attached to some of the characters, particularly Xinai. My only wish is that Adam had had a little more presence; for a bodyguard, he didn't do much bodyguarding.

I just finished writing two relatively head-hurting scenes in Black Widow's Walk. They're transitionary scenes, and so their main purpose (among others) was to get the story from point A to point B. Thus led to me pacing around my room trying to think up ways to make them more interesting to read and less boring to write. I finished chapter two and started chapter three in the head of a secondary character with malicious intentions. Oddly, her head's fun to be in. I'm not sure what that says about me. I also found a historical tidbit that fits in very nicely with what I imagined when I dreamt up a book based on the title Black Widow's Walk. (The title came first, the story came after.)

On Wednesday I'm going to be moving into my new apartment! College doesn't start back up again until later this month, but I'm returning early to attend a week and a half of training workshops related to survivor advocacy and violence prevention. It's a yearly thing to brush up on old knowledge, and I'll get to bond with the new team members.

My cable will hopefully be set up by Thursday night. Unfortunately, the summer's pretty much over, and it's going to get busy from here on out. I'll update as often as I can!

Black Widow's Walk

11,050 / 90,000
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
As promised for when I hit 10k, the teaser for Black Widow's Walk. I actually wasn't able to write yesterday because my eyes hurt so badly due to allergies (not being able to see tends to hinder the writing process), but I made up for it today with 2k+ words. May I present: completely raw and unedited goodness. Enjoy!

 

in the glory of the maelstrom )

Now that I'm properly exhausted, time to sleep.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
The Drowning City by Amanda Downum is nummy. The atmosphere is particularly lush, the characters are badass, and they eat curry. CURRY. It makes me long for Thai food just reading it. Ohmygosh.

In regards to Black Widow's Walk, I figure I might as well post the pitch if I'm going to rambling on about the book. (For those on the access-list, sorry for repeat content.) Keep in mind that by the time the book's finished, the pitch in its current state probably won't be quite so accurate anymore.
 
the only ones that know what's real and what's not are the assassins )

Ta-daaaa.

Deahnna's way of coping with her schizophrenic tendencies is to constantly surround herself with music, which often means she resorts to humming. I've had this amusing impulse all day to plop her down in the real world and give her an ipod.

I realized today that I've been working on this book in some form or another every day for almost the past month. There was definitely a point where I was walking downtown to Starbucks everyday to brainstorm, and certain baristas automatically asked if I wanted an iced tall caramel macchiato the moment I walked in the door. I haven't had that kind of dedication to a book since before I started college. Hopefully I'll keep it up when I go back later this month.

Black Widow's Walk

7,037 / 90,000

manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
Worked on a good scene today, one that established fledgling trust between my two lead characters. I'm writing at a steady 1k or so a day, which is all I'm asking of myself for now. When I hit 10k total, I'll post a teaser (so in less than a week?).

I've noticed that I've barely described the environment at all, focusing more on the characters and their actions. My scenes have been somewhat on the short side because of it. I think it's an automatic impulse for me to downplay description after reading so many fantasy novels where there would be paragraphs after paragraphs of it.

I finished reading Naamah's Kiss yesterday. It's good in its own way, but not as good as her other novels. The pressing conflict just isn't there, and Moirin doesn't have to make any serious sacrifices. A huge draw for me in any novel is the level of the stakes involved. The greater the stakes, the greater the reward. A book without stakes that invoke emotional investment can still be good... but it won't be one of my favorites.

However, I will say this: Carey's portrayal of pansexuality through her main characters makes me very, very happy. In fact, I think her work qualifies for Outer Alliance membership: "As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity.  I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work." Link found via Amanda Downum, whose book I'll probably be reading next, because its luscious cover and badass female necromancer keeps staring at me from across the room.

Black Widow's Walk

5,018 / 90,000

manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
I've been gnawing my fingernails off with worry about the beginning of Black Widow's Walk. Is it too edgy, too potentially triggery? Did I do injustice to a subject that is very serious?

I texted my former roommate asking if she could read it and tell me if I was an awful human being (she does so enjoy informing people when they're awful human beings). She read it, gave me some feedback, and basically told me that I wasn't a disgrace to the population (yet). Major sigh of relief.

It's been a dark and twisty, to quote Meredith Grey, past few scenes. I've had to walk away from it at points. I'm hoping with the scene I begin tonight, a new character will add some light-hearted banter into the mix, and though the book will always be dark and twisty at heart, it'll cheer up a little more from here.

On a brighter note, I went to Borders today and came away with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (an urban fantasy harking back to the more traditional lines of Charles de Lint), The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (sword & sorcery?), and The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu (paranormal romance). 

I also picked up Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, a recent YA debut. I've been uber excited for this book because I'm, um, kind of obsessed with my major. Social cognition (how we think when we interact with others + how we think in general) is a lover of mine. In the fall I'm going to be conducting research with one of my professors on stereotypes and prejudice.

I probably won't get to read these for a little while because of I have oodles of other books to read, but I'll ramble on about them when I do.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
Finished the first scene of my dark something fantasy, with high expectations for the second scene. It's a dark 'something' fantasy because I haven't yet decided what to call it. Odds are it'll end up a dark romantic fantasy, but I'm rebelling against that notion for as long as possible. I keep calling it a dark court fantasy in my head, but it's a small, practically unheard-of subgenre that I may very well have made up and assured myself existed.

I debated continuing with the second scene, but I didn't feel like lingering in the head of a psychopath past 2AM.

Black Widow's Walk

1,636 / 90,000
 
manifesta: (Butterflies)

A lot of my August has been dedicated to making this book work. Here's to hoping it actually does.

I didn't intend on plotting it out, but in spending the past two nights piecing together old ideas with new ones, I've created a vague outline. Violence, insanity, illusions, a violin. A Court where the heart's cruelest truths are reflected on skin and bone. A half-mad heroine, a hero whose loyalties are divided.

I still haven't quite gotten down the pitch line, but trying to do so has clarified the catalyst and the climax. I'd forgotten how helpful that is in focusing the story. For now, I'm going to make some tea before I delve into the bowels of discord and disharmony for the rest of the night.