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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

You Just Got Hooked

Excuse the blatant A3 reference. Since finishing Three Parts Dead and starting the query process, I’ve felt a bit disconnected from the world. Fortunately, I’ve taken an old friend’s advice and decided to view the space between novels as a great opportunity for short story writing.

I just finished a 16,000 word not-so-short that I’ll be desperately cutting and polishing over the next couple weeks for Writers of the Future, one of the few markets for such beefy compositions. It’s got romance, dimensional travel, biplane duels with insect dragons, and a general overtone of bitterness and regret — everything you want this holiday season!

This story started off as a dream, but is also an elaboration on a comic project I’m really excited to be working on with Mel, Captain Brushpen over on Blogspot. She does awesome work and has two great illustrations of my work on her site right now, both from the first chapter of Three Parts Dead:

Ms. Kevarian was driving
Tara is Skeptical

Rock on.

Pelagia and the Outsider Sleuth

I’ve been desperately editing Three Parts Dead for the last several weeks, so there hasn’t been much to report on the writing front, but I feel a need to give a shout-out to Boris Akunin’s Sister Pelagia mysteries (as if the internationally bestselling author needs my help).

I’ve read the first two books of the trilogy: Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog, and Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk. In these books, Akunin deliberately leaves behind the globetrotting 19th century adventurism of his Fandorin series to focus on the rural Russian precinct of Zavolzhk (sp?), ruled over in name by a pleasant provincial governor, but in truth by the formidable and intelligent Bishop Mitrofanii. The ostensible main character is the young nun Pelagia, a “ginger haired beauty” and noble Moscow widow who took the cowl after an unspecified tragedy.

From that description, you’re probably expecting these books to be traditional clue-hunting mysteries after the Poirot model. That’s not quite accurate, though they use so many traditional mystery tropes that they draw frequent comparisons to Agatha Christie and Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. The biggest departure from mystery tradition is the degree to which Pelagia, the main “sleuth,” is a part of the world she inhabits: she has friends, firm allegiances, and a great deal of faith. Detectives frequently appear as outsiders in mystery fiction, because the detective’s place is similar to the writer’s: both investigate a chaotic tangle of motives, passion, and temptation, trying to order everything into a coherent story. The rationalist Holmes and the roughed-up paladin Sam Spade fit into this model, as does Akunin’s other main character Erast Fandorin. This basic tension between the detective/writer and the observed society is the force behind Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, though don’t take that as an endorsement of the New York Trilogy from me — but that’s a rant for another time.

Pelagia, by contrast, is tied to the Russian society she examines by the constraints that society places on her as a nun and as a woman. Her skillful navigation of that society, in addition to (and occasionally rather than) her analysis of it, is a key to solving the mysteries she confronts. In some ways, the entire second novel is about the contrast between the purely analytical approach and the societal approach… but I can’t say much more without transgressing on spoiler territory.

My point is, anyway, if you’re looking for an interesting spin on mysteries, try these. They’re really fascinating.

Words to Beware

In the last couple weeks I’ve been working on a thorough edit of Three Parts Dead. This is part of August Editing Month; I’ve promised myself that in the month of August I’m not going to start work on another long project, and am instead going to polish the two novels I’ve finished in the last year until the Mass government can buy them for use as lighthouses.

This means slow passes through the story, re-writing of dialogue, and paying very close attention to language. A rule-of-thumb size for a novel manuscript is 100,000 words, and when writing that many words, as when running a marathon, you’re going to develop some distinctive tics in your style.

Good distance runners work the kinks out of their stride if they want to avoid hurting themselves; same with good writers. Taking this to heart, I’m assembling a list of words, phrases, and techniques I’m not allowed to play with any more (at least not until I play with some of my other toys more). Here’s what I have so far:

Just (the adverb)
for a moment
at last
interrupted dialogue (“But Susan, haven’t you considered-” “There’s no time for that now!” It’s a fine effect but I use it too much.)

What about the rest of you out there? Anyone else have these in their writing?

Three Parts Dead

It’s a rainy day outside and my mind has been all over the place, but mostly in Alt Coulumb, the city setting for my novel Three Parts Dead.

In Three Parts Dead, we enter a fantastic world a hundred years after human magicians (called Craftsmen) first discovered how to manipulate the same powers as the immortal gods. An immense war ensued, many Gods and Craftsmen perished, and now, fifty years after the ensuing truce, the two halves of the world, faithful and godless, live in varying degrees of uneasy peace with one another.

That is, until a young monk in Alt Coulumb, the steam-powered city of one of the greatest remaining gods, begins his nightly devotions to discover something is horribly wrong. And Tara Abernathy, an associate Craftswoman in the nefarious firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, will be hired to put it right…

Three Parts Dead is a steampunk-urban fantasy-legal thriller with some religion thrown in; I’m very excited about it and I hope you loyal readers out there in the interland will enjoy it too.

Substrate Blog

In the last two months I’ve helped start a writing group called Substrate. We’ve had two meetings thus far, and both meetings have really helped me — both by getting a strong group together for support and analysis, and by helping me work out kinks in my work (the bad kind of kinks, natch).

We’ve decided to start a group blog covering the writing life from a variety of angles. The group’s got a lot of voices to be heard, and a lot of talent to strut. I’m excited to be sharing the stage with them.

Our first post, by yours truly, goes live at virgilandbeatrice.com/substrate next week, on the 20th. Mark your calendars.

I’m also working on a video ad for the Book of Exodi story, and some more submissions that should go out in the next week or so. More on that as it manifests!

Be well, and rock on.

The Book of Exodi

Earlier this month, my author bio went live on the website for Eposic Diversions’ Book of Exodi, an anthology coming out sometime in the next month containing works by Harry Turtledove, yours truly, and a plateful of other authors. The concept is great: twenty different authors’ takes on the theme of planetary exodus, of the “We used up Earth-That-Was, and had to leave” variety. My story is a bit more of a think piece than my usual, and I hope you all like it.

Mike and the rest of the team at Eposic have been great to work with — helpful and absolutely professional the whole way through. I hope to get a chance to work with them in the future! In the meantime, check out the summaries on the Exodi web site (www.eposic.org/exodi) and get ready to order your copy, and watch this space for more information about Book of Exodi-related promotions and advertising.