Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The machete unsheathed

Finally revising: I spent a week house-sitting for friends in Vancouver (it was originally to be house- and cat-sitting, but the cat was boarded at the vet's instead, since I'm not qualified to give injections to any living thing) and finally, finally, I got stuck into the revision of Willow Knot.
Apparently I'm still recovering from the cold I brought back from the UK, since I was hacking up phlegm randomly through the day, and falling asleep between 7pm and 9pm each night.
Still and all, I got at least 5 hours of steady pruning in each day, and cut at least 10k wordage. Plus doing a little tidying and dusting to earn my keep.
What I removed: restatements of previously established material, which I think is a workshop habit resulting from posting chapter-by-chapter; notes to myself describing places and plot points (cleverly disguised as narrative, but not necessary to the reader); groundwork for plot or motivation that didn't end up happening.
The unicorn is gone, gone, pretty though it was. The babes in the wood remain, because I believe they're thematically important: not all tales end well. Some incidents are intensified, like the encounter with the head groom in chapter one, which is now nastier and introduces the 'traitor' point.
The first part is still a survival narrative, like Hatchet, or My Side of the Mountain, or half of Canadian literature, depending which critics you read. That's what drew me to the story in the beginning, the question of how the little sister manages in the forest by herself, and since she knows her brother is enchanted, how does it affect her actions and decisions?
FutureBarb notes: about 17k has presently been removed, but some of it will have to come back as the holes are filled.

I made sure to go for a walk each day, and the house is in a pleasant part of Vancouver, with quirky little shops and restaurants, second-hand bookshops and (oh no!) dollar stores.
I'd brought books from my To-Be-Read pile, and still ended up buying books, at Book Warehouse and at two of the used-book places. I also bought (doom! doom!) notebooks. What could I do? There were at least three dollar stores within an easy walk, with notebooks and stationery decorated with oddly translated English or strange images:

The icecream snowmen are just creepy. I love them. You can find more of Menji's notebooks here. I also found new Barunson notebooks, and a Young Art pocketbook that says 'I Love Coffee'.

I did read books, filing it under 'research', though most of it was reacquainting myself with the subgenre of fairy-tale retellings. I finally read The Door in the Hedge, but wasn't as taken by it as I'd hoped after Deerskin and Beauty. I finished A Telling of Stars, and got started with Winter Rose and A College of Magics.
But it's late, here, so I'll comment on them later.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

you should buy these books

I've mentioned books by friends from time to time, but perhaps a pulling-them-all-together post is due. I wanted to call this 'pimping my friends' books' but pimping seems to have altered its meaning to 'refurbishing and decorating to an extreme' rather than 'touting the attractive points of', over the last few years. Oh, and my Illustrated Oxford informs me that pimping as an adjective means 'small, mean, sickly', which amuses me.
But on to touting the virtues of recently-published books by people I know.

Zoe Marriott, light of the Furtive Scribblers and ABE Books forum, has two books out in the UK, by Walker Books. The Swan Kingdom, her first, is a retelling of the Swan Brothers folktale that deepens the emotion and complexity of the characters while keeping the enchantment of the original story. It's been out in England for over a year, and is finally available in North America from Candlewick, in hardcover, with paperback coming next year (according to Munro's Books in Victoria). Both the UK and US covers are lovely, and the writing matches them.

The third image is her second book, also from Walker: Daughter of the Flames. Aren't these gorgeous covers? Every bookshop clerk I've shown them to has exclaimed over how gorgeous they are. Daughter of the Flames also centres on a young woman who must discover who and what she is during a time of turmoil and danger, but the setting here isn't green Celtic fields and forests, it's a harsh desert torn by ethnic hatreds. Zahira is a scarred, orphaned warrior, where Alexandra was a gentle healer, but both discover that even those who love them best have kept the truth from them, and they must make their own decisions, however great the risk for them and for others.
Which sounds awfully portentous. Both books are darned good reads--Zoe writes a kickass action sequence--and I'd recommend them, particularly if you're looking for fantasies with strong female characters. (It's just a little frustrating how long it's taking for them to be available in North America.)

Rachael de Vienne's Pixie Warrior is available from e-publisher Drollerie. I read the first chapters when we were both members of the Online Writing Workshop, and had the good fortune to read an earlier draft of the book. I was intrigued right away with the mix of strong historical setting in the Pacific Northwest, and the unusual fantasy slant of a pixie woman loving a mortal man, plus the distinctive and cheeky voice of the narrator--their daughter.
Strong female characters, humour, action, and an unusual story. Oh, and another nice cover, showing Sha'el peeking out of her father's pocket.

Jennifer Pelland, Viable Paradise alumna and staff, is a quite different writer. Her collection of short stories, Unwelcome Bodies, is out from Apex. I bought my copy at Potlatch. I haven't read them all yet, because I discovered that after reading each story I needed recovery time, the same way I did when I first read Harlan Ellison (his stories from the 60s, before he disappeared up his own enfant terrible legend), because however fantastic or futuristic the settings, the people and emotions are true and the stories cut deep. I read "Big Sister/Little Sister" in the evening, and it seriously interfered with my sleep, so consider yourself warned. On the other hand, there are pieces like "When Science Fiction Cliches Go Bad" which are just plain fun, almost guaranteed to leave you unscarred.

Even though they're far from needing whatever puny push I could add, Doyle & Macdonald's latest book Land of Mist and Snow, is a fine fast-moving tale of magic and adventure at sea, a dandy addition to the still small library of historical fantasy. It's personal taste, but the story took off for me with William Sharps' entry, rather than at the opening with John Nevis, so I was happy indeed with the Sharps story in F&SF's February issue.
Of additional interest is the log that Doyle & Macdonald kept of the writing of Land of Mist and Snow, with insights into the process from research through revision to receiving the ARCs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Happy bank holiday!

I am back from the UK, as of April 30th, and it was a fine trip in many ways. Unfortunately, airplane travel doesn't go well with a semi-suppressed immune system, and presently I have a disgusting catarrh and sore throat, along with a need to sleep for two or three hours in the afternoon.
Details of the trip will thus be posted in days to follow.