History: When Fiction isn’t Whack Enough

Herod the Great

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why write from history? Because seriously, even my caffeinated imagination couldn’t make some of this stuff up. From my (very rough) NaNoWriMo work in progress:

“Now, don’t judge him too harshly,” Saman said. “After all, the man is capable of deep love. When he left for the dangerous task of negotiating with Octavian, he feared that if he died, he would be separated from his wife, who would surely find another husband with her great beauty. So he left orders that should Octavian kill him, she should be executed at once, so that no other man might have her and he could be with her in death.”

Arash simply stared at his master.

“She learned of this, and rather than appreciating his vast devotion, she grew to hate him. In the end, he tried her for treason and saw her executed, and he grieved for a great while.” Saman’s voice was flippant, with a deeper undercurrent of disgust.

“I… should think he might,” Arash ventured.

“He named a tower for her,” Saman said. “The Miriame. It is quite beautiful.”

This is a lot of time-consuming research — really not ideal for the on-the-clock NaNoWriMo — but I confess to having some fun with it. I may post more findings later, but in the meantime, I’m quite behind on my word count, so back to work!

Authors at Robots & Rogues

Robots & Rogues Small Business Saturday posterCome out Saturday, November 29, 2014, to one of my favorite names in indie bookstores, Robots & Rogues. I’ll be there from 10 am to 3 pm, and there will be other authors present all day, including Stephanie Cain and others yet to be announced. You can even meet Santa!

We’ll be chatting and signing throughout the day, and it’s a great chance to get a jump on your Christmas shopping. As the name implies, Robots & Rogues is a good source for the geeks on your shopping list, but they serve other reading niches as well with mysteries, thrillers, non-fiction, etc.

You can follow the event updates on their Facebook page as new authors and features are added. We’d love to see you there!

The Monumental Marathon 5k: Go, Me!

Totally just an achievement post.

Last week I was traveling, spending much of my days on a bus. In the evening I found a hotel treadmill or, one lucky evening, a great trail by a river. I wanted to lift weights, but hotels don’t always offer weights. But all hotel fitness centers have a treadmill.

One night on a treadmill, I bumped up the speed to a jog. And when I was able to maintain that pace for a solid five minutes, I felt ridiculously proud of myself. (I know, I know. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll even laugh with you.)

Where I’m going with all this is, while high in a fit of optimism and fitness enthusiasm, I stumbled across a tweet warning of the imminent closure of registration for the Monumental Marathon. I hadn’t even known it was happening, but it offered a 5k. I signed up. Continue reading

Something Wicked, or How I Got Kicked Out of Book Club

Cover of "Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Cover of Something Wicked This Way Comes (film)

So Monday night I attended for the first time our local library’s book club. It may also have been my last.

The club was discussing Something Wicked This Way Comes, the creepy seasonal novel by Ray Bradbury. I’ve always felt vaguely guilty about not liking this novel quite as much as it probably deserves, but after listening to everyone else give their impressions, I felt like a positive fangirl. Oh, sure, a few enjoyed it, but at least half the group hadn’t even finished the book.

That’s not what got me into trouble, though. No, this particular session of book club offered dinner and a movie, and we watched the film adaptation for further discussion.

I realized I was both dominating the conversation and sounding rather negative, both of which I figured were bad for a first-timer, so I squelched myself a bit. And thus a blog post was born! But the comparison really does offer a really spectacular example of what removing the stakes and changing motivations can do for a story. Continue reading

A Halloween Treat

Two cousins, the boy dressed in military camou...

Two cousins, the boy dressed in military camouflage and the girl in a ballerina outfit, wait outside a door as they go trick-or-treating,. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll be honest, there’s a trick to this treat: this is only an excerpt. Not the complete story. (Sorry!) I’ve turned in three stories in the last two days, and there just wasn’t time to get this one done, too.

But I wanted to share at least a bit of it, because it’s seasonal, and it’ll be a fun peek behind the curtain of the writing process to see how it develops. Some stories keep a similar feel from the beginning, while others are hardly recognizable by the end. This one will change significantly before it’s done! but that’s why it’s called a draft. Also, please enjoy a glimpse of the quite-real Irvington Halloween Festival and maybe mark your calendars for next year!

I’d love to hear your comments on this work in progress, so please don’t be shy. Also please note that it will be available for a very limited time, because it is just a draft — and trick or treating doesn’t last forever! Continue reading

It’s October!

Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan

Autumn leaf color in Shinnyo-do, Kyoto, Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s hard to pick a favorite time of year — I like pretty much everything except March — but October would be near the top of any list. The colors, the slanting light, the crisp temperatures along with favorite traditions such as bonfires, pumpkins, and spooky stories.

I write this from a train car rolling through autumn colors. Trains are a great way to experience scenery, and I’ll have a travelogue post soon to share with you. But I have something else to share as well. Continue reading

The Proposed USFS Photo Ban?!

Ansel Adams landscapeIt’s about to become enforced policy: it’s illegal to take photos in national parks and on federal lands without a $1500 permit. The fine for taking unauthorized pics will be $1000/photo. Even in the /cough/ Ansel Adams Wilderness area.

USFS says it’s to protect the forests. Sure, our parks have been under a lot of stress — illegal logging, water pollution, drifting air pollution, human-started fires have all taken a high toll. You know what’s not damaging parks? Digital and film recordings. Photography doesn’t ACTUALLY steal the soul, you know. Continue reading

Feminism & Writing

So the “f-word” is getting a lot of chatter this week, as Emma Watson spoke to the UN on Monday about feminism. Of course some people immediately threatened a nude photo leak (or manufacture, since apparently no one has legit nude photos of Watson) to bully her into being quiet. [see update below]

Way to prove Watson’s point exactly, people.

There are two fundamental problems here, and I can personally contribute to fixing only one of them. But I’ll explain them both. (And yes, this is still about stories!) Continue reading

Mowing and Murder

A swath of wildflowers between a pond and old barn.

I left most of the wildflowers for butterflies and other pollinators.

Mowing is pretty boring, and I generally have a lot to mow. So sometimes I think about stories while I spend hours on the mower.

I’m also a sucker for the wildlife on my property. So my mowing/plotting sessions go a lot like this:

So what if she opens the door and finds a body? Maybe he’s been dead for a long — Move, little snake! Get away from the mower! — okay, so anyway, he was probably tortured before — hang on, lemme wait for this vole to get clear — so, tortured, and so there’s this traumatic issue with everything she imagines — oh, are you butterflies using these wildflowers? I guess they don’t have to be cut, after all.

I’ve heard some people say they’re disturbed by things written by people they know, like they can’t believe someone they know could imagine such things. But writing violence or horror doesn’t really predict violent or horrible behavior. I’ll eviscerate a fictional character, but when I saw a rabbit running into the field I was mowing instead of away from it, I deduced a nest of bunnies hidden somewhere and didn’t mow there for another two weeks. Most writers I know are like that — ruthless in fiction, but in reality such softies. Continue reading

The Amazing Lily Library

I mentioned my visit to the Lilly Library in conjunction with the From Gillette to Brett Sherlock Holmes conference, and how amazing it was. Today I’ll tell you exactly why it was amazing.

First, a bit on the Lilly Library itself. Lilly Pharmaceuticals is of course a household name (you’ve heard of Prozac, right? Or Cialis?), and the Lillys have traditionally been generous. Josiah K. Lilly was a collector of stamps, coins, rare books, and more. In the late 1950s he donated more than 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts to the university, which became the foundation for what is now a major rare book and manuscript library.

Inverted Jenny

Inverted Jenny (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took notes because my brain couldn’t retain all the fascinating facts being explained. J.K. Lilly’s stamp collection was so large and so significant, at 77,000 pieces, that since its breaking up and sale, there’s not a major collection in the world which does not contain Lilly stamps. To give you an idea of the caliber of the collection… You’ve probably heard of the Inverted Jenny, the 1918 stamp on which the plane was printed upside down? Only 100 of these erroneous stamps were recovered and they are among the most prized. Mr. Lilly had a corner block of four. Continue reading