That Telling Voice

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From my 2015 bedside sketchbook. Not a Pokémon, but I did catch this fox. Easier to make these little scribbley notes if your tools are handy!

Tired today. I was up too late last night.

I had a perfectly reasonable-for-me bedtime chosen, and the cats and dog and family even cooperated. But as my head hit the pillow, I heard that voice.

Do you write? Or draw? Or do anything creative? If so, then you know that voice. Or, if not the specific voice, then something from its family.

That voice that tells you Something Important that you needed to know about your story, or describes that line or stroke of color you need for that visual art, or hums out that accompaniment you’ve been looking for in the bass line. THAT voice.

In my case, last night I was visited by a character (notably NOT from the book I’m currently revising, which I suspect is a very good thing, because it’s nearly done and I couldn’t handle that kind of major upheaval in it) giving me the details of her death. I had known that she was going to die. I had thought it would be sudden, and offstage. Between stories, even. I had never intended to show her passing, just her companion showing up living the aftermath, later.

I should have known better. Best laid plans of mice and writers, and all that.

This character and her partner were both meant to be very secondary persons in a large story arc I’m working on, and they showed up and demanded their own story — actually, their own STRING of stories — be told. This woman’s very strong-willed. So I have a history with her. I should have expected her to show up, but I didn’t, and this is why I had to scramble out of bed and out into the living room so I could let her dictate the means of her passing, and her instructions for after. I am a reasonable touch-typist, so I didn’t even put my glasses back on. Just fired up the laptop and wrote what she told me, saved the document, and went back to bed when she finally said I could.

Three lessons here:

1) make sure you’ve got something to write (or draw or make musical notation or whatever your flavor) with at all times, because the real characters inhabiting your world will stop by unannounced. Don’t trust yourself to remember it in the morning, because there’s no promise this person will show up and repeat themselves.

2) be kind to the writers and other creative people in your life. You don’t know who’s been riding them. In the non-demonic-but-still-a-kind-of-possession way.

3) creative people, keep your friendships with other creative people. Because they’re the ones who go, “Uh-huh, uh-huh!” and nod in agreement when you start talking about fictional people showing up and telling you things. Instead of trying to have you locked up. And that’s a priceless thing.

Be ready for that Voice!

 

GBR #15: R.A. MacAvoy

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Self-portrait as a Pony —R. A. MacAvoy. Used with kind permission.

I’ve never been quiet about my love for the writing of R. A. MacAvoy. Back in my bookstore days, I pressed these volumes into the hands of many customers. As Bertie and I have been collaborating on Albatross and its sequel, she worries it would seem self-serving if I write much about her. And now I love not just the writing, but the person herself. Impossible to be unbiased, says Bertie, and she’s right. So I’ve called in the calvary! You can read R. A. MacAvoy’s bio on her blog.

The following is a  gracious guest post from my long-time friend and reading buddy, Kirsten M. Blair. When I asked Kirsten (@Lorac625) if she’d take time away from making tiny things and shiny things (some Steampunk in her Etsy shop, ya’ll!) to give me a reader’s response to R. A. MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon, she quickly agreed. We both thought that she’d read it previously. When we discovered she hadn’t, I was going to let her off the hook. But she sent me this the next day:

Amazon has this categorized as romance (probably why I hadn’t found it before) which it is, but… it is so much more. I couldn’t put it down. It took until the following day to start this review because I had to come back from the state of mind generated by reading it, and recover from the awe its excellence left with me. I didn’t expect this at the very beginning, as I find it frustrating not be able to instantly grasp where a story is going, but enough was quickly revealed — and was intriguing enough — to keep me going until I finished it.

It has fantasy, mystery, crime, romance, history and a gritty kind of reality soundly grounded in our ‘real’ world — like Charles de Lint’s urban books or Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill’s Bedlam Bards series. There are good, evil and in between characters — the main ones are fully fleshed in 4D (pasts and possible futures included or hinted at — I like knowing where/what characters have been/will be), but mostly it has a spell which only the best books cast, i.e., drawing you into itself and its world and out of your own. Definitely one to return to, and an author I need to read more of.

Thanks for “Yet another fine world ye’ve embroiled me in!” — KMB

Thank you, Kirsten! I’m so glad to have introduced you to another great book! You’ve got a lot of fantastic reading ahead of you. ((cue maniacal laughter)) The Great Balticon Readathon extends its power to embrace yet another with amazing literature! Bwaahaahaa!

Cat Status (because Laura Sue will be looking for it): confirmed, historically, and horses too. Presently, dogs. And the intermittent visiting bear.

GBR#6: Jody Lynn Nye

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Because we all know who is REALLY in charge here.

Attention novice writers: there’s a theme I’m noticing about the Balticon 50 previous Guests of Honor. In addition to the multiple awards most of them have accumulated, many of these folks have long lists of works to their names. Jody Lynn Nye is one of these: she has PUBLISHED more than 40 books, and over 120 short stories. And that’s what made it into print. Who knows how many not-quite-right manuscripts are lurking about the place? We know that practice improves any skill, and writing is certainly one of these. The Great Balticon Readathon is showing us people putting that very real work into their craft over years, and what the outcome of that dedication may be. Lesson in plain view: oh, you wrote a book? Excellent! Write another!

 

In the case of Jody Lynn Nye, one of these outcomes is my GBR pick, View from the Imperium. A delightful and very funny SF novel that is both political and military. I loved our erstwhile protagonist, Lord Thomas Kinago, who is essentially Bertie Wooster in space. Jeeves is there too, even more utterly competent and utterly mysterious. There are wardrobe disputes and social entanglements and missed cues woven throughout Nye’s story of empire management and mismanagement.  Delightful. And the reason people were giving me side-eye me for laughing aloud on the plane a couple of days ago.

This book has been around for a few years now, but contains a bit of prescient parallel to a current political situation. I won’t get into this right now, but I did identify with a particular bewildered political figure (the one with the cat). Can’t be more specific; my son’s been talking with me rather keenly about spoilers. Bad enough I let you know there’s a cat cameo.

But it’s Jody Lynn Nye, for heaven’s sake, of COURSE she’s going to get in a cat if she can. Visit her website and look at the photo gallery for images of her very handsome black cat, Jeremy. I can of course testify to the usefulness of having a large black cat around when writing or reading, as our own Bruce sets the scheduling at the Palmer household. In fact, without Bruce’s substantial presence and keen vocals, I’d not have been up at 5:30 this morning working on this blog post. He reminds me: if I’d kept his schedule from the beginning, I’d likely be finished with the entire GBR by now, and would be free to do what I really wish I could do. That is, follow Lord Thomas Kinago’s further adventures in Fortunes of the Imperium.

So: what would I speak with Jody Lynn Nye about, should I meet her at Balticon? Well, the cats thing is a simple one. If she feels like talking shop, though, I think I’d be interested in hearing her speak about collaboration. In addition to her own solo work, she’s written extensively with other authors, including such notables as Anne McCaffrey and Robert Asprin. A blog post she wrote back in October last year refers to a Publisher’s Weekly article referring to a protégé relationship with Angelina Adams in the “Stellar Guild series, in which a new writer builds on the work of an experienced author”. I would like to hear more about this, and what the experience was like for both of them. Note to self: see if she’s doing a panel!

If you can’t wait to get to Balticon 50 to hear more from Jody Lynn Nye, Doc Coleman over at The Balticon Podcast has an interview with Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett, replete with insights on publishing, editing, writing, and more. Good stuff!