Book Review: Flesh and Spirit

by Carol Berg.

Warning: This is the first half of a two-book series. If you're going to buy one, just get both. I am so regretting my foolishness, because I just finished the first one, and now I don't have the other one.

The story's about a jerk who ends up getting left to die by an even bigger jerk, just outside a monastery. No, wait, says the second jerk -- you're going to die anyway, so let me take all your stuff as I go. But the monks rescue Valen (the first jerk), and he lives and decides that a monastery's as good a place to wait out the winter and better than most, so he takes vows, planning to abandon them when the ground thaws out.

But it gets better. You can read the Amazon reviews if you're curious, but it was actually pretty fun to find out what new problems this fool was going to drop next, so I won't describe it. Let's just say that every second of every scene, he had to choose between screwed and Jackie's "Screwed is on the other side of the room, saying I'm glad I'm not you" shirt.

But the realm is at stake, and it would appear that Valen's the only guy that can save it. At least, that's what the back of the book said. Actually, it was more like, "The realm is screwed, unless it gets saved, in which case, it's still screwed, unless it gets saved again, but wait! It's still screwed, and, uh, yeah. Did I mention screwed?" And Valen? If there's anybody who can save the realm, it's not him, so they're all really screwed.

The only really predictable thing about the book is that Valen pulls his act together. But it's kind of like a murder mystery. The writer agrees to reveal the murderer, and everybody knows this. The fun is in how the writer reveals the murderer, not some artificial suspense over whether the murder will ever be discovered or not. So, admittedly, Valen pulls his act together, but the fun is in seeing how he does it.

Other than that, the only real weakness of this book (being the first half of the story) was probably intentional -- the characters at the beginning of the book were pretty boring. They didn't make any choices, didn't get into conflicts with each other, didn't stand out as individuals. Valen was strong enough to carry me through, until -- ta daa! -- the other characters had the chance to stand out a bit more. Here's me, not telling you why.

Hm...it occurs to me that my tone here doesn't indicate the tone of the book in the slightest. It really isn't funny. Ironic, yes, but not funny. Dark, but not melodramatic. Full of detail, but not slow. Epic fantasy, but not so many !@#$%^& plotlines that you can't follow along anymore...speaking of which, I haven't read new epic fantasy that I liked (at least, still liked on the morning after) for a while. Yay!



Willfully not knowing what you're doing is the opposite of professional.

Writerly Ramble.

Writer's block is my subconscious's way of telling me I'm about to screw up in a big way. I can write mediocre stuff, no problem. But if I try to force my characters to move out of character, ZZZT.

As soon as I give up on whatever I'd planned, I'm fine. I don't even have to know what I'm going to write next, as long as it isn't Just Plain Wrong.

...Nevertheless, I don't want to hear any characters bitching about not getting any. I'm just saying. "So...I was going to make you lovers..." "No, no, that's no good; we're going to be not lovers." "Okay, got it."



Ray had her kindergarten graduation ceremony today. Send her some love :)


Indiana Jones and the FIVE MILLION LEGOS

Some guys, dressed up as Indiana Jones characters, roll a 5-million-block boulder down a San Francisco street.

Hey, either it sounds freakin' hilarious, or it doesn't. RUN, INDY, RUN!



Ian Healy, a writer buddy I met at PPWC, opens the floor for questions. I started to type out a lame question, then suddenly realized the best favor you can do for a writer is ask a question that requires a creative answer. Here's what I asked:
  • In case of zombie attack, and barring "the home of a loved one," where's the first place you would go and why?

  • What the weirdest job you've ever had?

  • What's your Tarot signifier, and what superhero do you associate with that (picked up that GN by Louise Simonson from the book store).

  • Why did Wash have to die?

  • What is your muse's weapon of choice? What DND class is (s)he? If that's too limiting, describe what RPG your muse would belong to, and character type.
So -- pick one of the above and start typing. If we've already had the Why Did Wash Have To Die (WDWHTD -- I so want a plastic bracelet with those letters now) talk, pick something else, okay?


Zelazny Novel Found!

A Zelazny novel, The Dead Man's Brother, was found among his papers and should be published February 2009.

Now, I've read a lot of stuff that Zelazny wrote that wasn't much good--pulp gone askew. But I've read most of it anyway.

(via Gaiman)


Which Shakespearean Play Are YOU?!?

I'm Much Ado About Nothing, which should come as no surprise, although I tend to think of myself more of a Midsummer's Night Dream.

Your Score: Much Ado About...

You scored 33% = Tragic, 67% = Comic, 32% = Romantic, 23% = Historic

You Scored Much Ado About Nothing! First published in 1600, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare's most enduring comedies, and probably his most performed to this day. Much Ado About Nothing tells the story of two pairs of would-be lovers and the hysterical events that happen surrounding the wedding. As Claudio and Hero prepare to marry, Don Pedro and his friends, bored with the length of preparation time, take it upon themselves in the meantime to play matchmaker to Benedick and Beatrice, two sharp-tongued would-be lovers whose love for each other is masked by the "merry war of words" in which they are engaged that both of them are too stubborn to lose. Based on your results, we believe you to be a quick-witted, light-hearted romantic who is probably very charming and charismatic. While your stubbornness may sometimes get the better of you, we are confident that you always eventually come to your senses and do what's best. You probably have a lot of friends and we like you too!

Test: Which Shakespeare Play Are You?


Wolf and Butterfly, 1

So Ray's trying to dare me on to making up stories for her. Making up kids' stories is pretty durned primal, though, so I struggle. Ray picked out the character names, the subject material, and specified that it was supposed to be exciting. We'll see. Today's installment. I'm trying not to edit too much from what I actually told her.


It was the first day of school, and Rachael had had a weird day. All of her friends were in a different class, so she'd had a new teacher and no friends, until she'd met a new friend, Rafe. All last year, she'd told her mom about her day after she'd walked home from school, so she was looking forward to telling her all about her day.

But when she got to her house, her mother wasn't home. She wasn't upstairs, she wasn't downstairs, she wasn't in the basement, she wasn't in the garage. And the dog, Fluffy, was locked outside, even though she was usually in the house all day with mom.

Rachael unlocked the back door and let Fluffy in. At first, Fluffy barked and barked, but then she just whined. Rachael didn't know what that meant, but it didn't sound good.

Rachael did exactly what she was supposed to do in an emergency: she called her dad at work.

"Hello?" he asked.

"Hi, Dad," she said.

"Rachael? Is that you? Is everything all right? Let me talk to your mom."

"Dad, listen. Mom's gone. I can't find her anywhere."

"That's strange. She didn't leave me a message."

"Can you come home?"

"I'll be right there," he said. Before he hung up, he told her he loved her and she should be good.

"I won't do anything," she promised.

But as soon as she turned off the phone--beep!--it started ringing again. Ring...Ring...

Rachael knew she wasn't supposed to answer the phone, but she thought it might be her mother. Beep!

"Hello?" she said.

But instead of her mother's voice, a stranger's voice said, "The Queen Bee's stinger has been pulled." And then he hung up.

Hmmmm...., the phone hummed.

Never Go to Work!

They Might Be Giants has three albums of kids' songs! Here's "Never Go to Work" and "The Alphabet of Nations."

Which takes me to what is (usually) my favorite TMBG song: Particle Man!

Update: Tiny Toons did a version of Istanbul (not Constantinople). Wow. I missed some stuff in between being too old for cartoons and not being to old for cartoons anymore.


Writerly Ramble: Conflict

We went to The Forbidden Kingdom a few days ago. I read somewhere that it was "a Kung Fu Wizard of Oz," and yeah, I can see that. I liked it (quite a bit), but it wasn't a perfect movie, even for a popcorn action/adventure movie -- because of the conflicts.

The overall conflict was okay. Boy has to decide whether he's a coward or not, fair enough. Some minor plot holes I can overlook, like, "Why didn't Sparrow go after the Jade Warlord before then? Why was she hanging around a tea shop, anyway? Why doesn't she ever frikken put a case on her instrument?"

But what bothered me was that the movie would have a couple of scenes with great, Indiana Jones-style conflicts (where achieving a simple goal becomes increasingly and comically impossible), and then they'd drift off with a pointless scene with no goals or conflicts whatsoever, usually involving the female lead. Hello? Hello? What's the point of throwing a female martial artist in the mix if you're just going to use her for melodramatic subplots?

I started thinking about something Kenny Golde said at the writers' conference. I didn't get it down word for word, but it was basically, "If there's no conflict, skip to the next scene. Just sum it up later." Got a love scene? If there's no conflict, don't show it. Character successfully drives down the road? Great. Skip it. The reason why books don't show characters in the bathroom? Not too many dramatic conflicts, one would hope.*

All those years of teachers saying, "show, don't tell" were always missing out on the point. WHY "show, don't tell?" Well, because it's more exciting. WHY is it more exciting? Because conflict is exciting, and you should include conflict in anything you bother to show -- otherwise, just tell.

For example, in The Forbidden Kingdom, there's a scene where the main character is riding down a road with his staff outstretched in his hand. That's it. Duhhhhh..... Okay, now imagine the scene with various bad guys reluctantly backing away from him. "Ohhhh, he's holding out the staff so everyone knows he has it, not because he's an ass with a golden staff."

*Except for that one great scene from the episode of Mad about You where they're brushing their teeth together and Helen Hunt's character accidentally spits on the back of Paul Reiser's character's head. I think about that scene while I'm brushing my teeth with Lee the way some people think about driving off a cliff.



Parade of Phantoms is shutting down, and so my story "Fragile" will not be published there. The editor was apologetic and seemed to think I should be able to publish the story in a professional market.


Strange Ponder of the Day.

I got to wondering today whether torture had been angled according to personality types. "Meyers Briggs INTP? For you, the thumbscrews."




(Beatles + Metropolis = I'm the chick at 1:30. )