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Let me tell you a little tale

 Wanna help me fill my well?

gakked from pjthompson

Give me the title of a story I’ve never written, and feedback telling me what you liked best about it, and I will tell you any of: the first sentence, the last sentence, the thing that made me want to write it, the biggest problem I had while writing it, why it almost never got submitted to magazines, the scene that hit the cutting room floor but that I wish I’d been able to salvage, or something else that I want readers to know.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 16th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed your "Godlike Curse." It's such an ambitious fantasy, it's bound to open new niches in the genre. The sad placoderm was a wonderful, sympathetic character, and Kirna made the ideal foil for him.
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
I'm so thrilled to get some fan love for "Godlike Curse." I really sweated over that one because, like you noted, it *was* ambitious. Heady to know I pulled it off, especially since I hesitated to send it out at all.

I don't want to name names--that wouldn't be very professional of me--but a fellow writer critted it for me, and he ripped the placoderm's characterization to shreds. He told me that no one would ever believe that a fish could exhibit that level of intelligence and sensitivity. He did not believe, either, that Kirna could have feelings for something(one?) who, pardon the pun, wore his armor so tightly.

I really respect my writer friend and his opinions, so I almost crumbled. I even went so far as to delete the cover letter I had prepared for it.
Sep. 16th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
I loved the lushness and complexity of "Red Spice, Green Spice, Wintertide Rose." The idea of people voluntarily having themselves mummified so they could live on in the bodies of their loved ones as condiments really had me enthralled.
Sep. 17th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
Now Spice N' Roses (my fond shorthand for this one [I did listen to Mr Brownstone on loop while writing it]) is a personal favorite of mine as well. I think it aptly combines my childish love for Gross with more adult appreciation of Sentiment without ever tottering over into Sappy Gore.

The inspiration for this one was twofold. Part of it came from an article I read about a "mad" man who loved his wife so much that every time she cut her hair or nails, he collected the trimmings. The hair he kept in a pillowcase and slept on it every night. The nails he set into a brush handle; he had a tic of rubbing it over his bare skin. When she died, he kept her body in the cellar and took the trimmings himself.

While that was interesting on its own, it didn't give me a solid, independent story idea. That came during a documentary I was watching about a rare species of head lice. Apparently, some head lice cannot stomach biting into unseasoned scalp. So, the caring Momma Lice will kill and chew up one of her babies then regurgitate and spread it around the base of the hair follicles, encouraging the other wee ones to dig in.

I knew I had to write the story, when in a flash of stunning brilliancy, my mind combined the two tidbits of oddity and gave me the opening lines of Spice N' Roses:

Dillon lovingly ran his napkin around the lip of the jar before uncorking it; no dirt dust, no fuzz dust, no ordinary, banal, household dust, would ever tamper, would ever tarnish, would ever dare sully the dust of his beloved Rose. Holding his breath, he pulled out the cork and sprinkled Rose onto the juicy steak sprawled across his plate.

As you know, these lines don't appear in the story you read. How could they after my brilliant (forgive me if I sound a bit vain, but it *was* exceedingly brilliant, and as a writer it is my job to find the le mot juste) idea of using mummification instead of incineration? Ashes are, let's face it, overdone. Chutney is ever so much more in than plain old dried spices, wouldn't you agree?

Edited at 2009-09-17 09:08 am (UTC)
Sep. 17th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC)
I would agree. Just brilliant. I am speechless with awe.
Sep. 16th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
I loved "Desert Born". It was interesting to see more of Malo's background and the scenes with the desert born were particularly enjoyable. Malo is so much more than Bria's friend and definitely deserved a story of her own. I particularly enjoyed how Malo is portrayed as a shrewd, intelligent and ruthless player of the game of court in her homeland. It's so rare to see a woman move so forcefully across the pages of a novel.
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
I knew as soon as Malo appeared in The Traveler's Daugther that she would have to have her own tale told.

I really love the last lines of the book, but in the interest of not spoiling anything, I'll post the opening instead.

Malo sat in the prow of the canoe, head tilted to hear the drumbeats beckoning through the jungle vegetation. The smile curling her lips faded as she recognized the heavy booms. The music was not to welcome her home; her family was at war.

(FWIW, did I ever tell you that one day I'd like to write a book about Malo's return to her homeland?)
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
ha! Not as far as I remember, but that just goes to show that there's definitely a story in there somewhere. :))
Sep. 17th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
*nods* I already have the germ of an idea. :)
Sep. 16th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)
The symbolism and rich descriptions in "The Cheese We Left Behind" just left me flabbergasted and in awe. I never knew steampunk could be so beautiful.
Sep. 17th, 2009 09:43 am (UTC)
Strangely enough, this tale was in part inspired by a true event, but instead of leaving cheese behind, Julien and I, on a trip to the Maldives, left behind a bar of chocolate, which I am sure and certain and proof positive, changed the life of our houseboy.

Steampunk and fantasy though the story is, I just couldn't insert chocolate into FoxyAnna and RoxyDan's world. The alchemical and industrial possibilities of cheese, however, were just perfect, and when the idea of using camembert occured to me, I had to run with it.

Because you specifically bring up the symbolism, I'll just say that I don't think there is enough symbolism in use in today's literature. Not everyone can be profound enough to use the crust of a round of camembert cheese as metaphore for social glue and political change, but golly gee, can't more writers try?
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
I have to tell you, at first I wasn't very impressed with "My Best Friend's Camel". The concept was a little too bizarre and the setting was kind of unrealistic (I mean... camels really cannot survive underwater). But the climax really won me over. The scene was just so poignant and heartbreaking.

(You are hilarious, by the way. I'm contemplating doing this, but I'm afraid I won't be creative enough!)
Sep. 19th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
Actually, "My Best Friend's Camel" is my most controversial story in that it incites such varied responses. That always makes me shake my head. Who would have thought that submarine camels could invoke such diverse opinions?

I never really set out to write a heartbreaking ending, and I think that's why the story succeeds. If I had tried to make it poignant, it would have come across as melodramatic.

Just a sec. Ok, I'm going to talk spoilers here, so if you haven't read the story yet, here's your chance to duck out...


This is certainly just my opinion because, you'll have to agree, once a writer turns a story loose on the world, he or she can no longer claim to own it, but I think that the, excuse the pun, the depth of the emotion I captured in regards Smokey the Camel is too strong for the average reader. I think it cost me the Hugo. It was just too real, too visceral.

Perhaps the lines are their own aren't enough to wrench your gut just here, but I feel like posting them anyway. Call it therapy. I need to interact with my characters from time to time, even after I allow them to slip from my fingers and mind to the pages of a magazine or the pixels of a stranger's screen.

Smokey spread his toes and speared them into the slushy sea-bottom sand, straining silently to reach Sal Sandra. Serpent-like, Sal Sandra's hair swam about her head as the sinnersnake cinched her in a stranglehold. Her mouth gaped open, helpless, soundless bubbles hiding her face from Smokey's view.

Sorry. I thought I was ready to relive the scene, but it's still painful for me. This will take more than one therapy session.

(And stop contemplating! Do it. You ARE creative enough. :D)
Sep. 17th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)
By the way, I've been meaning to ask you if you'll ever get a chance to finish "Break Not the China, Absalom"? I really loved what I read of that. It's not every day one sees a story combining porcelain manufacture and the Biblical story of David.
Sep. 19th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
Funny, I was just toying with the idea of picking Absalom up again, but the first section took a lot out of me. With the trip coming up, I just don't think I have the energy to immerse myself in characters again. Julien told me that his mother's plates are off limits, and I'm not allowed to touch another harp before he goes back to work.

Personally, I don't think it is the harp playing that bothered him so much. I think he's a bit worried about what I'll have to do to convincingly write the ending. I don't want to spoil anything, but trees and hair will be involved. How could they not be?
Sep. 19th, 2009 12:08 pm (UTC)
My favourite of yours is "The Way We Found Her". Your subtle handling of a murder mystery (not your usual genre) by crossing it with a literary application of what could be time travel astounds me. The most elegant part is that you don't actually come out and say "time travel is the key" but rather hint at it, leaving the reader wondering if the time travelling really happened, or it was all in the mind of Ellen.
Sep. 19th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
I always wanted to write a murder mystery, and when the character Ellen revealed herself to me, I knew I had to give it a try, my usual genre or not.

Perhaps you've read a few interviews I did concerning the story, but most people want to know, Did the Tinkerman time travel or not? I wasn't sure the story would be a hit, but I had decided early on that I would never take a stand on the question, would never make a pronouncement one way or the other. I'm glad you appreciate that I left the puzzle to you, the readers.

Tick-tock, the clock whispered in the dark corridor with no one to hear. Tick. Tock.

The front door opened smoothly, as ever, before coming to a most unusual stop. Ellen sighed and pushed harder, glaring at the well-oiled, silent hinges as if they were at fault.

Light fell across the threshold, a minute's worth of yellow in the dark corridor. She shoved again against the odd weight, and the bar of yellow widened to a triangle of five past twelve, falling over a swath of red. A red as dark and sinful as Agnes' silk dress.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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