swan_tower: (*writing)

So here’s the thing: I read very little (basically no) poetry. When I find a thing I like, I really like it . . . but the rest of it more or less bounces off my skull without leaving a mark. Result is that I don’t read much poetry, because the odds of me finding one of those things that will embed itself in my brain instead of poinging off my cranium are too low to make it worth the effort.

But! I have an internet at my disposal!

So those of you who are lovers of poetry: please recommend things to me that you think I would like. To assist in narrowing down that field, here are things I know I like in poetry:

* Narrative, because brain likey story.
* Aural devices, such as meter, rhyme, alliteration, and so forth. (With exceedingly rare exceptions, I bounce hardest of all off free verse.)
* Generally a darker mood; not sure why, but poems about how happy somebody is tend to draw less of my attention.
* Allusions to things I know about, be it mythology or pop culture or what have you.

I would also be interested in seeing the poetically-minded among you ramble on about why you like poetry: how you read it, what you think about when you consider a poem, etc. Theoretically we had a “poetry appreciation” segment in my high school English classes, but, well. High school.

I’ll put specific examples of what I like behind the cut, for space reasons.

Read the rest of this entry � )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

After the brouhaha over WFC’s panels the other week, I took to Twitter to brainstorm ideas for panels that would make World Fantasy more up-to-date with the current genre. Wound up with quite a few I’d like to see at some con, a selection of which are below.

Additionally, I propose a guideline for all panel programming: if you’re discussing a topic or subgenre and your panel is not explicitly about either a historical period in the genre or its most recent works, then it may be good to have your panel description reference one foundational work, one classic, and one recent title. So, for example, if you were going to talk about vampires in fiction, you could name-drop Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. If you cannot think of an example from within the last twenty years, then get Twitter or Facebook to help you out. Otherwise you wind up calling Interview “recent” and looking pretty ignorant . . . .

Anyway, panel ideas! Feel free to suggest more in comments.

* Serialized Publication — Both self-publishing and projects like Serial Box have revived this approach to storytelling. How does it differ from its Victorian or pulp-era counterparts (and from modern serialization on TV), and what are the benefits it offers to the writer and the reader?

* Living Memory as History — Fantasy is stereotyped as being mired in a medieval past, but historical fantasy has started to mine the twentieth century for settings. What’s the appeal of setting a novel not in the present, but within living memory, and what perils does that hold?

* Works in Translation — English-language authors often derive a portion of their income stream from translations of their works into other languages, but the flow in the other direction is much smaller. Let’s highlight recent successes of translation into English, and discuss what the barriers are that keep the numbers from rising higher.

* DVD Extras — Author websites and social media provide many opportunities for writers to “add on” to their works, providing additional details or explanation or behind-the-scenes glimpses of how a book came to be. Do these add to the experience, or does knowing too much take away from the magic?

* Trigger Warnings — Fiction, by its nature, often includes content that might be distressing to a given reader. There’s a trend on the internet to note when a post might contain references to triggering content such as sexual assault or child harm, and fanfiction has a long-standing practice of tagging stories to give a preview of what’s inside. How might professional writers do the same — and what, if anything, is the aesthetic cost of doing so?

* Everybody Writes It, Nobody Reads It — Certain genres appear to be more popular with writers than with readers. Or is that just received wisdom? Agents and editors say nobody wants a portal fantasy, and yet many authors want to write them; the same might be true of pulp. Why the disjunct?

* Resurrecting Books — It used to be that your backlist, once out of print, might never be seen again. Self-publishing offers the chance to give these books new life — but what should an author do when these works aren’t up to their current standards of craft, content, or more? Is it better to revise them before republishing, or should they stand as the historical artifacts they are?

* Examining Empire — Good-bye, faceless minions of the Dark Lord; hello, realistic examinations of empire and colonialism. Recent works such as Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant have delved into the ways that empires acquire and maintain power. Let’s discuss the angles they take, and what this tells us about the world today.

* Alternatives to Violence — The default assumption in the genre is that the stakes are high only if a lot of lives are at risk, and the most exciting victory a character can achieve is to win a climactic fight. But there are books that present alternatives, either by solving problems through non-violent means, or by basing the conflict on some other axis entirely. How do writers create excitement and tension without resorting to violence?

* It’s Not About You — Popular authors may find a fandom springing up around their works. How do they strike a balance when it comes to interacting with those fans? Authors have been cautioned for years that it’s dangerous to acknowledge fanfiction and other fanworks, but is that really true? And what’s an author to do when the fans say they aren’t welcome in their own fandom?

* Grimdark Women — When we hear the word “grimdark,” most or all of the authors who come to mind are men, and the stories they tell are often criticized for sexism and misogyny. Who are the women writing in this corner of epic fantasy, and do they receive that label on their works? Are the female characters in their stories handled differently from those in the works of men?

* Poverty in Fantasy — Many fantasy protagonists grow up poor, but in most cases it seems to be cosmetic poverty: the rural farmboy and the girl from the streets never seem to be malnourished or wondering where they’ll sleep tonight. What books feature protagonists who are realistically poor? What are the difficulties in writing about someone who lacks the free time and disposable income to engage in the usual activities of a protagonist?

* Bring Your Own Dragon — Our modern world is mobile like never before, but a lot of urban fantasy still features protagonists who are ethnically and culturally homogenous with their homes. Who’s writing about immigrant protagonists? How can an author navigate the mesh of different folkloric traditions, the dynamics of multiple cosmologies being real?

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Unless something changes in the next month or so, I will not be attending World Fantasy this year. Here’s some other people giving the background on why:

Sarah Pinsker on the issues with the program
Fox Meadows
Jim Hines
File 770 roundup

And then Darrell Schweitzer doubled down.

World Fantasy has had a number of issues over the years, but this turned out to be the straw that broke my back. As I said in my email to the concom, Schweitzer trumpets the fact that there are “smart and friendly people” at WFC; well, as a smart person, I decline to engage with a program that shows such profound ignorance of the last forty years, and as a friendly person, I decline to support the behavior of someone who doesn’t care how many people he’s alienating. He appears to believe that “PC ignorami” and “outrage junkies” are driving people away from the convention — so the only course of action I can in good conscience follow is to provide a data point in the other direction.

WFC is one of my favorite conventions, but that has more to do with the number of friends I can see there than with the convention itself. If they could update themselves to show any awareness of the genre’s development during my lifetime? That would be excellent. But so long as they’re presenting a program whose genre awareness ends at 1980, and so long as the man in charge of it thinks that women, PoCs, and anybody under the age of fifty is beneath his notice? I decline to join them.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve been watching Elementary, and I figured out why I subconsciously keep expecting Sherlock to relapse: because his drug addiction registers on Writer Brain as Chekhov’s gun, and therefore I expect it to go off eventually. But at this point (halfway through season three), I suspect that’s the point the writers want to make. An addiction is Chekhov’s gun . . . and you have to live the rest of your life with it sitting on the mantel, begging to be fired. Whether this is a suitable analogy for addiction or not, I can’t say — I have fortunately never struggled with that myself — but I’m pretty sure that’s the thematic point they’re aiming for. Which I do find interesting.

(What do I think of Elementary as a whole? I think I would like it better if it weren’t a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, because I often find it disappointing in that regard. Their Moriarty is fabulous, but sadly underused, and their Mycroft was not just a resounding disappointment but an active detriment to the story as a whole. But where it’s doing more of its own thing, I think it’s decent. Not hugely compelling for the most part, but acceptable background entertainment.)

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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After my test back in March, Shihan gave me a plain black belt to wear.

My real black belt had to be ordered from Okinawa, you see. Which takes a while — and then I vanished for three months, on account of house-buying and travel and house-moving and the dojo’s annual summer break. But tonight I went back, for the first time since early May, and this was waiting for me:

my karate black belt

Mind you, the really real symbol of my achievement won’t come until the dojo party this Christmas. As Shihan has pointed out, anybody can go online and buy a black belt — even one with their name embroidered on it in Japanese. But you can’t buy an enormous diploma signed by a ninth-degree black belt in your style, which is what I’ll get in a few months.

Still and all . . . it’s good to have the belt. 🙂

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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When I lived in Indiana, I would habitually go up to GenCon on a day pass just to go shopping in the dealers’ room. This year was my first time actually attending in any meaningful sense — mostly as a part of the Writers’ Symposium, but it counts, right?

Naturally, I took my camera with me. Wound up not taking nearly as many costume photos as I thought I might, but I quite liked this Lady Thor, posing in a sunbeam:

Lady Thor at GenCon 2016

(I deliberately experimented with cranking certain settings to make the picture look less than entirely realistic.)

GenCon was a lot of fun. I went on a True Dungeon run at Patrick Rothfuss’ invitation, because of my participation in last year’s Worldbuilders fundraiser; most of us were complete newbies, but one of the players had such an enormous stack of equipment tokens for every class that we geared up and went through on Nightmare mode. We, uh, survived? I did a variety of panels, a one-hour workshop on Writing Fight Scenes (which hopefully taught participants many things, and taught me I should ask for a two-hour timeslot next time), and hung out with several friends from my Indiana days. All in all, I call that a good con.

Good enough, in fact, that I’m tempted to go back in a future year — and possibly to run a LARP when I do . . .

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (gaming)

Man, I’m behind on linking to these things. Have a bunch of Dice Tales posts!

“PvP(ish)” — on how setting up PCs to be in conflict (or at least contrast) with each other can be a good thing

“Older and Wiser — Or at Least More Powerful” — on character advancement in a campaign

“In Medias Res” — on the narrative challenges of introducing a new PC mid-campaign

“Every Title I Can Think of For This Post Sounds Like Spam” — on the mechanical challenges of same. (All my title ideas had to do with making things bigger, helping them grow, etc.)

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

I needed to be doing some random stuff on the computer this morning, so on a whim, I put on the first episode of Rizzoli & Isles, which is Yet Another Police Procedural, though with two female leads.

First thing I see: a bound and terrified woman, in the clutches of an unknown villain.

Which led me to ask on Twitter, What percentage of police procedurals open their pilot ep with a woman chased, crying, screaming, or dead?

Because seriously — at this point, that is the single most boring way I can think of to open your show. Also problematic and disturbing, but even if you don’t care about those things, maybe you care about it being utterly predictable. There is nothing fresh or new about having the first minute of your police procedural episode show us somebody (usually a woman) being victimized. I said on Twitter, and I meant it, that I would rather see your protagonist file papers. I might decide in hindsight that the paper-filing was also boring . . . but in the moment, I’d be sitting up and wondering, why am I seeing this? Are the papers important? Or something about how the protag is approaching them? Because it isn’t a thing I’ve seen a million times before.

The only thing that brief clip of the victim gives us is (usually) a voyeuristic experience of their victimization. They don’t make the victim a person, an individual we get to know and care about. They rarely even give us meaningful information about the crime, except “this person died from a gunshot/strangulation/burning alive/whatever” — which is info we could easily get later in the episode, through the investigation.

There are exceptions, on a show or individual ep level. But the overwhelming pattern is: here’s some violence for violence’s sake, before we get to the actual characters and the actual story.

I decided last year that I was done with the genre of “blood, tits, and scowling.” I think I’m done with police procedurals, too. I won’t swear I’ll never watch another one, but they’ve just lost all their flavor for me, because I’ve seen so many. And because I am so very, very tired with those predictable openings.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Last night, I went to the website of the California Democratic Party and filled out a volunteer form.

Because I believe that this election matters — and I don’t just mean the presidential election, though keeping that proud bigot, Donald Trump, out of office is a high priority for me. As I’ve said before, I think we as a society need to pay more attention to the down-ticket races, to the local elections and measures. And I think one of the most corrosive factors in the United States right now is the combination of apathy and organized efforts to restrict voting rights: the sense that your vote doesn’t really matter, and the passage of laws supposedly designed to combat the next-to-nonexistent problem of voter fraud, which just so happen to make it harder for the Wrong Kind of People to vote. I don’t know yet what my local party will ask me to help out with, but I’m hoping I can work on the “get out the vote” end of things.

But I won’t be choosy. Whatever they need, I will do my best to provide. Because I’m not sure I’ve cared about any election year as much as this one.

If you’re involved in politics, organizing or volunteering or holding some political office, speak up in the comments! I’d like to know who out there has already waded into this particular pond.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

It came to me while I was sitting through the interminable final action sequence:

Macho masturbatory bullshit.

Because the action scenes were generally half again as long as they needed to be (and full of obnoxious, over-used shaky cam), I had plenty of time to contemplate how done I am with The Adventures of Scowly McScowlface and His Total Awesomeness*. Matt Damon is a good actor, but this film gave him bugger-all to work with; I imagine the direction he received consisted of “look intense!” and pretty much nothing else. And although there was supposed to be an interesting character conflict at the heart of it all, the script basically just nodded in that direction and then went back to the tired old formula of evil cover-ups and revenge. Round about the point at which a SWAT truck started slamming through other cars at an improbable rate, I mentally checked out for good, with the three words given above.

It is perhaps unfair to dismiss the entire film as macho masturbatory bullshit. The most engaging parts had nothing to do with Bourne at all; they were about Nicki Parsons and Heather Lee, who are the actual drivers of the plot. (For a movie titled Jason Bourne, he was a remarkably reactive character, basically just punching bad guys and engaging in vehicle chases when somebody else gives him a reason to.) Even they couldn’t really save the story from its essential blandness; Lee, who’s got a better claim to the title of “protagonist” than anybody else there, spends quite a lot of her time staring at screens and talking into a microphone, telling other people what to do. And contrary to what the director seemed to think, rapid intercuts of people walking places very intently doesn’t really build tension. But quite frankly, watching a straight white dude go around inflicting mayhem has gotten boring enough that even the simple expedient of swapping him out for a straight white woman looks interesting by comparison. My days of needing nothing more than fistfights and explosions to engage my attention are long gone.

I prefer the new Ghostbusters. And Wonder Woman. And that remake they’re planning of The Rocketeer, with a black woman as the lead. Or, y’know, anything with actual characterization and depth. Anything other than The Adventures of Scowly McScowlface and His Total Awesomeness.

*So why did I see the movie? Free ticket, via my husband’s company, which had bought out the entire auditorium for a preview. In hindsight, there were better uses for my evening.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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That phrase probably makes no sense, but it’s the best I can do.

There’s a thing certain writers are capable of: Dorothy Dunnett and Dorothy Sayers are the ones who come immediately to mind, and Sonya Taaffe (she has a Patreon for her movie reviews — I’m just sayin’), but I’m sure there are others I’m not thinking of at the moment. These people are brilliant at describing characters. And what makes them brilliant is what, for lack of a better term, I keep thinking of as “oblique specificity.”

By this I mean something like the “telling detail” writing-advice books are always going on about, but leveled up. It’s the ability to find that one thing about a character, be it physical or psychological, that isn’t in the list of the top ten features that would probably come to mind if somebody said “describe a character,” but winds up encapsulating them in just a few words. And it’s the ability to make those words not the ones you expected: the line that sparked this post is from the Peter Wimsey novel Murder Must Advertise, where Lord Peter is playing a cricket match and accidentally goes to town when up ’til then he’s pretended to be just an ordinary guy. There are lots of phrases I would think of to describe how he starts showing a higher degree of power than he’s exhibited before, but “opening up wrathful shoulders” is not one of them — and yet, it works.

I want to read more authors like this. (Because I want to dissect what they’re doing until I’ve figured out how it ticks.) So: recommend authors to me?

I’d especially love to see this done in different contexts, because one thing Dunnett, Sayers, and Taaffe share is that they’re all writing from a more omniscient perspective than you’d ordinarily see in a modern novel. I think the added distance helps, because description doesn’t have to be delivered through the perspective of a character; not all characters are really suited to that kind of descriptive artistry. Though no examples are leaping to mind at the moment, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a variant of this done with first-person narrators, using the narrative voice to give descriptions more punch than they would otherwise have, but I’m not sure that’s always quite the same thing that I’m thinking of. (Since I’m kind of vague on what exactly I’m thinking of, this distinction is subject to debate.) I think I’ve seen it much less, though, with third-person limited narration, which lacks both the unfiltered individuality of good first-person narration and the analytical distance of omniscient. Then again, maybe that’s just a function of who I’ve been reading. I welcome any and all recommendations, especially if you can quote lines to show me how that author approaches it.

But do keep it limited to description of characters, rather than other things. Scene-setting and action and so forth are worthy topics in their own right, but right now it’s the evocation of character that I’m particularly interested in dissecting.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Quoting just the key bits:

Brennan explores the power of memory, self-realization, and destiny in this mix of survival story and self-discovery tale. […] Brennan delights readers with this exciting, fast-paced start to a fantasy novella series.

Cold-Forged Flame will be out on September 13th. (As will the UK edition of A Star Shall Fall, as it happens.) I can’t wait!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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There are many things I liked about Captain America: Civil War, but probably the best aspect of the whole movie is the fact that I keep thinking about it, and about the arguments it presents. Just the other night I got into a discussion about it again, which prompted me to dust off this half-finished entry and post it.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, first: from what little we know about the Sokovia Accords, it sounds like they’re a steaming pile of badly-thought-out crap. (Not to mention wildly unrealistic in so, so many ways; as one of my friends pointed out, the most implausible thing in this film isn’t super soldier serum or Iron Man’s suit or anything like that, but the idea that the Accords could spring into being so quickly, with so many countries on board, without three years of very public argument first.) So when I say I’m increasingly sympathetic to Tony’s side of the argument, I don’t mean its specific manifestation — nor his INCREDIBLY naive brush-off that “laws can be amended” after the fact — but rather the underlying principle that some kind of oversight and accountability is needed.

Because the more I think about the underlying principles on Steve’s side, the more they bother me.

I understand his starting point. He accepted oversight and followed orders; the organization giving those orders turned out to be a Hydra sock-puppet. Now he’s exceedingly leery of the potential for corruption — or even just so much bureaucratic red tape that nothing winds up getting done. And he’s presumably reluctant to sign a legal document saying he’ll follow orders when he already knows he’ll break his word the moment he feels his own moral compass requires him to do so. That part, I understand and sympathize with.

But here’s the thing. It sounds like he wants all the freedom of a private citizen to do what he wants . . . without any of the consequences of acting as a private citizen. Soldiers don’t get personally sued when they destroy people’s cars and houses or civic infrastructure; private individuals do. Is Steve prepared to pay restitution for all the damage he causes? (Or are the insurance companies supposed to classify him as an act of God, no different from a tornado or a hailstorm?) Would Steve accept it as just and fair if the Nigerian government arrested him for entering the country illegally? It sure didn’t sound like the Avengers came in through the Lagos airport and declared the purpose of their trip to officials there. Based on what we’ve seen, it looks like Steve wants all the upside, none of the downside, to acting wholly on his own.

And this gets especially troubling when you drill down into him acting that way in other countries. I’m sure he thinks that petitioning the Nigerian government for permission to chase Rumlow there would eat up too much precious time — and what if they refused permission? Does he trust them to deal with the problem themselves? No, of course not — Steve gives the strong impression of not trusting anybody else to deal with the problem, be they Nigerian or German or American. To him, it’s a moral question: will he stand by while there’s danger, just because a government told him not to get involved? Of course he won’t. And this is the part in my mental argument with him where I started saying, “right, I forgot that you slept through the end of the colonial era. Let me assemble a postcolonial reading list for you about the host of problems inherent in that kind of paternalistic ‘I know better than you do and will ride roughshod over your self-determination for your own good’ attitude.”

Captain America is, for better or for worse, the embodiment of the United States’ ideals circa 1942. Which means that along with the Boy Scout nobility, there’s also a streak of paternalism a mile wide.

Mind you, Tony’s side of the argument is also massively flawed. Taken to its extreme, it would recreate the dynamics of the Winter Soldier: that guy went where he was told and killed who his bosses wanted him to, without question, without exercising his own ethical judgment. And anything done by multinational committee will inherently fail to have the kind of flexibility and quick reaction time that’s needed for the kind of work the Avengers are expected to do. The politics of it would be a nightmare, you know that some countries will get the upper hand and this will exacerbate tensions between them and the rest of the world, and the potential for a re-creation of Steve’s Hydra problem is huge. Plus, how are they going to handle people who opt out of the program? What’s going to govern the use of their powers — or do the authors of the Accords intend to forbid that use, without government approval? That’s a civil rights nightmare right there.

But in the end, I come around to the side that says, there needs to be supervision and accountability. It’s all well and good that Steve feels bad when he fails to save people, but he wreaks a lot of havoc in the course of trying, and feeling bad about it doesn’t make the people he damages whole. (If memory serves, almost all of the destruction at the airport is caused by Steve’s allies, until Vision slices the top of that tower off: I doubt that was a narrative accident.) Is setting up that supervision and accountability going to be difficult? Hell yes. But there has to be some, because otherwise . . .

. . . well, otherwise we wind up with a larger-scale version of the problems we have right now with police violence. Which is a separate post, but I’ll see if I can’t get that one done soon.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Last year I talked about “girlcotting” Star Wars — supporting with my money and my attention a movie that gives me a female hero. So along comes Ghostbusters, a whole pack of women kicking spectral ass: of course I went to see it, on opening weekend.

I loved it.

Not in the same way that I love the original film. They’re different decades, different flavors. It took me a little while to let go of the 1984 version, to see this one for itself; there are parallels between them (on a variety of levels), but the 2016 film is coming at those things from a different angle. You can certainly line up this crew against that one (Erin = Peter, Abi = Ray, Holtz = Egon, Patty = Winston), but they aren’t the same people in drag. They go through a different arc and arrive at a different place.

And can we just stop for a moment to talk about Holtz? Jillian Holtzmann, the Ghostbuster played by Kate Mckinnon. This movie is basically the Holtzmann Show Featuring Holtz and Her Toys — and not because everybody else is boring; it’s just that Mckinnon walks away with nearly every scene she’s in. It is also apparently canon that she’s a lesbian: Sony seems to have instructed the director not to say so, but he’s not saying so in a way that makes the message pretty clear. If this isn’t the breakaway favorite for Yuletide 2016, I suspect that will be because it’s already too big for the exchange.

If you watched the original trailer and cringed, rest assured: that trailer was a terrible representation of the movie. The best lines aren’t in there. The characters’ nuances don’t come through. Patty, the character played by Leslie Jones, is not the one-note stereotype the trailer would have you believe: when she says “I know New York,” she isn’t talking about “urban street smarts” or anything like that. She’s talking about the stack of books she’s read that make her a walking encyclopedia of New York history.

(And dear god Chris Hemsworth’s character makes fence posts look like beacons of intelligence. It’s kind of amazing.)

It isn’t flawless. Neither is the original. But I enjoyed it a hell of a lot, and if I don’t go see it again in the theatres, it will only be because I’m still busy moving house.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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[This post will include discussion of exercise and weight loss, as an advisory for those who prefer to skip such things.]

Apparently moving house is a great way to lose weight.

I’m not entirely surprised by this. If there’s one thing I believe is true about body weight — well, if there’s one thing I believe is true, it’s that we barely understand the first bloody thing about how it works, and later generations will look back at us with the same kind of horrified disbelief we currently direct at Victorian icepick lobotomies. But if there are two things I believe, the second one is that there’s at least some truth to the idea that you can sometimes make a real change just by moving more.

I don’t mean formalized, focused exercise — though that’s good, too, for a whole bunch of health reasons. I mean being less sedentary: spending more time on your feet, more time walking, more time fidgeting. Because I haven’t been going to the gym lately, or even to the dojo . . . but I’ve been packing and unpacking boxes, shelving books, spending a much higher percentage of my day up and about instead of in a chair or on the couch. My weight’s been dropping slowly and mostly steadily for the last year, since I started trying to do that “ten thousand steps a day” thing, but the only time it went this fast was when I got stomach flu last fall. (And I don’t recommend that method to anybody.)

It still isn’t that dramatic: nobody’s going to look at me and say “wow, you’ve lost weight!” In a year I’ve dropped a little over fifteen pounds, which is a pretty slow rate. On the other hand, it’s sustainable. This isn’t a thing I do for a little while and then stop once I reach my target number; it’s a change to my lifestyle — a permanent one, at least until such time as injury or infirmity puts an end to it. I’ve gone from being the sort of person who defaults to getting into the car to the sort of person who actively wants to walk to the grocery store. I’m standing instead of sitting at my desk as I type this, swaying faintly to the music coming from my speakers; once I move the wall clock that is presently sitting on the other end of my treadmill, I’ll be able to start using that again while I’m at the computer. I’m not running three miles every morning, so my aerobic endurance is still the same crap it’s been for most of my life, but “activity” has become a thing I do all the time, in small, low-level doses, rather than a thing that gets fenced off in regulated blocks that are easy to fail at.

This isn’t the sort of post where I say “and this will work for you, too!” See above re: the one thing I believe; we have no real idea why some approaches work for some people and don’t for others, and there’s a lot of stupidity out there on the topic. But I know that shifting my thinking and my behavior to this mode has been good for me, and not only because it has resulted in weight loss. It’s good for my brain, good for my mood, good for my longevity prospects.

For people like me, whose job is inherently sedentary, that’s pretty damn important.

. . . but I don’t care how good moving house is for weight loss, I ain’t doing it again any time soon. I’ll just have to get my exercise by other means.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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The set of cover images, that is:


To complete the set of actual books, you will have to wait a while longer — until April of next year, to be precise. But I’m about to send the manuscript off to be copy-edited, so I promise, I’m working as fast as I can!

My profound thanks to Todd Lockwood for an absolutely stunning artwork. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: his art in the Draconomicon was one of the things that inspired this series, and to have his work gracing the covers and pages of this series has been an honor. Tongue only a little bit in cheek, I pity my next cover artist: not only is Todd absolutely fantastic, but he and Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) have done an absolutely stunning job of putting together the entire look of these covers, with a clean and instantly recognizable design that leaves room for enough variation to keep the volumes from all looking alike. It’s a home run on all fronts, and you can’t expect to get that with every book and every series. I am profoundly grateful to have gotten it even once.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (gaming)

As I have been busy with the house move, once again you get a batch of Dice Tales links, my ongoing series over at Book View Cafe.

We’re continuing the discussion of character creation, in three more installments: Finding Flavor, which talks about how the advantages/disadvantages section of the mechanics is my favorite place to generate a character concept; A Matter of Leverage, on how gaming has influenced how I think about setting a character up for a story; and Team Players, where the collaborative aspect of character creation takes center stage.

Comment over there!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (*writing)

Jim Hines has been doing a thing on his blog where he genderswaps character descriptions to look at how women and men get depicted. He did it first with classic SF/F novels, then with more recent titles — including his own.

It’s an interesting enough exercise that I decided to go through my own books and see what happens when I genderswap the descriptions. Results are below. I skipped over the Doppelganger books because quite frankly, describing people has never been a thing I do a lot of, and back then I did basically none of it, so this starts with Midnight Never Come.


Read the rest of this entry � )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

I’m not much of a cook, but I’m trying to change that. Which means that as time goes on, there may be more of these “help me figure out how to alter this recipe” questions.

The recipe in this instance is involves some advice about how best to arrange a pan of chicken pieces and vegetables to ensure optimal cooking in the oven. Dark meat + carrots and potatoes on the outer edge of the pan, white meat and brussels sprouts on the inside, because otherwise the white meat will dry out and the sprouts will get a little charred.

All well and good, except I loathe brussels sprouts. (They have a weird aftertaste for me that I find very unpleasant. This is possibly related to being a supertaster, though I don’t know for sure; all I know is, most other people don’t seem to notice any aftertaste.) So what can you recommend to me that would profitably occupy the center position in the pan? It needs to be less robust than carrots and potatoes, while harmonizing well with them.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (Default)

Many thanks to everyone who has picked up items from the Great Swan Tower Moving Day Sale! It has been a great benefit to me, cleaning out the various boxes I keep my author copies in.

In the course of packing up, I found a stash of the US trade paperbacks of Voyage of the Basilisk squirreled away in a corner. (I’d been wondering where they’d gone.) So here’s an updated list of what’s available. Same drill applies: all you have to do is email me or leave a message here calling dibs on something and giving me your mailing address; I’ll respond to let you know whether it’s still available, and we’ll arrange payment. Shipping is included for orders within the U.S. Inscriptions on request.

You have one more week to order anything that strikes your fancy!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.


swan_tower: (Default)

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