Mirth Alia
21 December 2011 @ 11:33 am
In other news: TELL ME STUFF?  
Man, I have been so boring lately.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR MORE INTERESTING LIVES, FRIENDS. I probably won't have anything interesting to talk about until I finish my George Clutesi books. WHAT HAVE YOU ALL BEEN UP TO.
Current Mood: thoughtful
Mirth Alia
03 November 2011 @ 03:19 pm
I live! Kinda.  
So those [community profile] aather and [insanejournal.com profile] sabra_la_tau games that I mentioned I needed distraction from?

I kind of joined them.


So that's what I've been doing lately, along with reading Diana Wynne Jones' Enchanted Glass and tearing through all of Kimi ni Todoke in one weekend. I've been trying to push more art practice and writing progress out of me, but it's still really tough for reasons I have yet to figure out. I swear I didn't have this much trouble a few years back. Maybe it's because I'm tired all the time now?

I have made some progress in the character development for the Mahou Shounen thing, so that's encouraging. Research for the game idea, however, is at a standstill, partly because I keep checking out awesome books and then... don't get around to reading them for whatever reason. Stuff for [personal profile] after_nightfall has been progressing in bits and tiny pieces, and I need to keep telling myself that I don't have the time to try and join Dreamwidth's development team, much as I would love to and everyone on there is awesome. (I guess I'll have to keep throwing my money at them instead.)

I did head down to Geek Girl Con last month (which was amazing), and that on top of Halloween on top of friends leaving for Spain on top of concerts a few weeks before might have just been too much. I've been having trouble at work, too. November and December are looking to be much quieter, so we'll see if that changes things.

In other news, I've been hearing very mixed reviews about Wacom's new Inkling. Does anyone actually own one who'd be willing to give an opinion?
Mirth Alia
25 August 2011 @ 09:06 pm
More Portland than Chicago.  
My beautiful pocket watch from @duchessclothier came in the other day!

Some of you may find the engraving familiar.

A mirror-polished nickel pocket watch with a closed face, engraved in scripted font with the quote 'Dare we, Grant? Dare we?'. It's leaning against a square marble coaster sponged in green and yellow dragonfly patterns, bearing curly script reading 'Live well, laugh often, love much'.

The same pocket watch and coaster, only the watch's face is open, showing a plain clock face numbered 1 - 12.

I absolutely love it and will be carrying it everywhere I go. It's made out of very polished nickel, so it's tough and shouldn't tarnish like silver, and I was assured that the back can be popped off to change the batteries. The only way it could possibly be better would be to have a date ticker and a light-up face, but apparently it's almost impossible to find those types these days.

I look forward to explaining the quote to curious passersby.
Current Music: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is . Chicago
Current Mood: excited
Mirth Alia
06 June 2011 @ 03:29 pm
Hitachiin twins? In MY alternate Venice fantasy?  
The white-robed boys swept back their hoods and Locke saw that they were twins; perhaps a year or two older than himself, and far sturdier-looking. They had the olive skin and black hair of the true Camorri; their identical long, hook-ended noses, however, were something of an anomaly. Smiling, they joined hands and bowed in unison from the waist.

'Um, hi,' Locke said. 'Which of you is . . . which?'

'Today, I am Galdo,' said the one on Locke's left.

'Tomorrow, I will probably be Galdo,' said the other one.

'Or perhaps we'll both want to be Calo,' added the one that had first spoken.

'In time,' Father Chains interrupted, 'you'll learn to tell them apart by the number of dents I've kicked in their respective arses; one of them always manages to be ahead of the other, somehow.' He stood behind Locke and placed both of his wide, heavy hands on Locke's shoulders. 'Idiots, this is Locke Lamora. As you can see, I've just bought him from your old benefactor, the master of Shades' Hill.'

'We remember you,' said presumed-Galdo.

'A Catchfire orphan,' said presumed-Calo.

'Father Chains bought us just after you arrived,' they said in unison, grinning.

'Knock that bullshit off," Father Chains said, his voice somehow regal. 'You two have just volunteered to cook dinner. Pears and sausage in oil, and a double portion for your new little brother. Get. Locke and I will deal with the kettle.'

Sneering and gesturing rudely as they went, the twins ran for the curtained door and vanished behind it. Locke could hear their footsteps trailing away down some sort of staircase, and then Father Chains motioned for him to sit beside the copper money-kettle.

Thankfully Tamaki is nothing like Locke and Kyouya only has a few shared similarities with Father Chains. I'm sure you can pick out which.

Obligatory crossover bunnies aside, I've only just finished the prologue and I'm absolutely hooked. The writing is brilliant and obviously well researched, the dialogue cracks me up, and the characters are absolutely fascinating.

The summary pretty much says it all:

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a fantasy novel by Scott Lynch. It follows the adventures of a group of con artists known as the Gentlemen Bastards. They live in a city called Camorr, heavily based on late medieval Venice. The book is divided into two interspersed stories. In the present time, the Gentlemen Bastards must contend with the Grey King, a powerful figure terrorizing Camorr's criminal community. Every other chapter, however, delves into the history and mythology of Camorr, the Gentlemen Bastards, and especially the protagonist Locke Lamora.
Wikipedia entry accessed June 6 2011

The author, Scott Lynch, has his own [livejournal.com profile] scott_lynch, and finally, there is the following:

"Locke's first name is an homage to a character in SquareSoft's Final Fantasy VI, also known as Final Fantasy III in the United States. This game had a huge influence on me when I was in my mid-teens; I think it's one of the most brilliant and heartbreaking console roleplaying games ever created, a real work of art. "

So there is next to no reason why anyone who even remotely likes this genre shouldn't read this book.

If I can get my act together I think I may be compelled to illustrate some scenes from this book because seriously the lights and the glass bridges and dilapidated temples and hnnng
Current Mood: excited
Mirth Alia
30 April 2011 @ 06:05 pm
More doodles. Belladonna from... Belladonna by Anne Bishop. (Late #fridayreads!)  

Just a quick thing. I kind of hate the way she looks on the cover of the book, and I've had this image of her in my head for the entirety of Sebastian that I wanted to get down on paper while I still could. She looks a tad too young for 31, I think; I'll have to practice drawing faces of different ages.

I actually don't like the Ephemera books all that much overall; I like Glorianna, and a few other characters, but I've read three series by Bishop now and they've all got the same subjects, same themes, same kinds of characters, same kinds of threat, same kind of structure... etc. There's only so much of that you can take from the same writer before it starts to get irritating, unfortunately.

I have enjoyed the extensions on the Black Jewels Trilogy so far, though, probably because they're expansions on a really strong world that I loved and which was my introduction to her work. I have Twilight's Dawn sitting on my table waiting for me to be done with Belladonna, so we'll see if that trend continues.
Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Music: Exile Vilify . The National
Mirth Alia
02 April 2011 @ 04:16 am
30 Days of Female Awesome: Day 28  

Day Twenty-Eight: Favourite female writer (television, books, movies, etc.)

Let's go with just two this time.

Anne Bishop the cover for Heir to the Shadows, with a blonde woman in a long black dress sitting in a stone throne. A massive black dragon is coiled around the throne from behind.

Anne Bishop

Have you heard this story before?

You have.

All right, then.

Oh, you want another story...

Okay, I admit it: at first glance, most of Anne Bishop's work looks like finely crafted indulgent fantasies built around (a) Mary Sue(s). And to a degree, I suppose this is true. Having initially read her books when I was a teenager with a wild imagination and only just becoming aware of the world of sex and what it could contain, my opinion is likely to be more than a little biased.

That said, more than a decade later, I still love her books. Love them with a fervent passion. They're one of the few series that I can read over and over again with barely a pause for breath in between. The characters are strong and compelling, the relationships are intriguing and unique, and the worlds she crafts somehow manage to be intricate yet easy to understand and be absorbed into at the same time. She has a wonderful style of prose that balances itself between elegance and simplicity, making it an easy read without sounding dry or condescending. She lets dialogue carry itself, and carry itself well, and the details of her finely-shaped plots range from dark and thrilling to amusing and heartwarming.

While reading her books I have swore, gasped, laughed out loud, smiled fondly, grit my teeth, snarled, stared blankly at words while trying to gather the willpower to turn the page, and been driven by tension into skipping ahead only to flip back and read everything in between. In my younger days, her stories presented me with a different concept of honour and justice than what I was used to, a different perspective on female empowerment and the relationships between men and women (always a strong theme in any of her series), and a new notion of responsibility and protectiveness. An ideal, true, and one with its own flaws, but back then reading her books made me feel strong, like I could do anything despite being a girl — because I was a girl — and I think that feeling served me very well for a number of years.

I'm so glad that she continues to write regularly, giving me new pieces to devour and help take me back to a younger self who was a little more sure of herself and her place in the world. And while her books don't all share the same level of quality, they are all good. She doesn't taper off in plot or character development or interesting things as she continues to write within a universe, as I've seen other authors do. On the contrary, you really get the feeling that those worlds are alive, somewhere, and there's so many stories and people living within them that all she has to do is eye them for a little while and then convey what she sees to us.

And isn't that the purest form of storytelling?

(Finally, I know very little about her as a person, but just her bio alone is an inspiration and an encouragement to me as a storyteller.)

Marion Zimmer Bradley the cover for Sword & Sorceress XV, with a blonde female warrior in chainmail drawing a glowing sword from a sheath on her back

Marion Zimmer Bradley

Time for another guilty admission: I haven't read all that much of Marion's own works. Her style of writing was always a little offputting to me, and though I've tried to get into her stories, I've only had partial success on a few occasions. I was actually rather tempted to put Diana Wynne Jones in this slot.

But I can't deny that Marion was probably the single most influential role model of my life in late grade school and most of high school, thanks to one single series: the Sword & Sorceress anthologies.

Starting in the mid 1980s. Marion was thoroughly fed up with the liberal slathering of gender discrimination and cliche male protagonists in the fantasy genre as a whole. As Wikipedia states, "As she explained in the foreword to the first volume, she created the anthology to redress the lack of strong female protagonists in the sub-genre of sword and sorcery. At the time, most female characters in sword and sorcery were little more than stock damsels in distress, or pawns who were distributed at the conclusion of the story as "bad-conduct prizes" (Bradley's term) for the male protagonists. Many of the early sword-and-sorcery works featured attitudes toward women that Bradley considered appalling."

So she began collecting stories from writers across the country, with only one major submission contingency: each fantasy short story had to center around a woman. Initial contribution was slow, but by the time Marion passed away, 18 volumes were published and the series was a huge financial success. She had so many amazing submissions coming in that she eventually had to limit them to invitation only because she couldn't get through them all and was having too much difficulty choosing between them.

But back in the early days of the anthologies, anyone who could pick up a pen, write a good story, and submit it according to the publishing guidelines got in. And on top of that, Marion wrote a little blurb at the beginning of each and every story in each and every anthology.

Those blurbs were just as important to me as the stories. In them, Marion introduced all the dozens of authors (men, women, some established authors, others newcomers on the scene, and some just brilliant, inspiring teenagers as young as 14 or 16) and shared a little of their lives with us. She shared little bits of her own life as well, of her family and her pets and what sort of processes went on in the making of the anthologies. She'd note themes in the regular avalanches of submissions, and would constantly dole out encouraging, practical advice to any aspiring authors.

Read your submission guidelines. Have compelling characters. Realize that short stories are often harder to write than novels. Bizarre collections of pets (and jobs) are par for the course for an author. It takes all types. Don't ever think you need to go to school for writing — most courses will actually make it worse. Sharpen your skills by reading the hell out of everything you love. Don't flaunt your age on a submission; let your writing do the talking for you. Have a gripping opening. Apply pants to seat of chair and write.

Marion was the reason I first began to get the tentative idea that I might be able to be a writer, that I could be the kind of person who created the stories I loved to read so much. She made me believe that it didn't matter how old I was, or what my experience was, or if I had any credentials, so long as I put my head down and wrote something good and was willing to learn and improve. By the time I was nearing the end of high school, I'd finally gathered up the courage to write a short story of my own, something that I was fully intent on polishing and submitting to one of the anthologies, because by then it was pretty much my dream. Even a rejection letter from here would have been an honour.

Then I read the volume where Marion stated submissions would only be by invitation from that point on.

And then I read the one where Diana L. Paxson announced her death.

It was a blow, definitely. My story quietly disappeared to the bottom of a drawer, not to see the light of day again. I've never been a magazine subscriber (my family couldn't afford it), and everywhere else in the publishing world seemed too intimidating to try for. Marion had been kinder, and easier to reach — she'd held out a hand for us, and then it was gone. I'd taken too long.

Maybe someday I'll find another anthology that drove me to create the way hers did. Maybe I'll even manage to find that story in the bottom of my filing boxes, dust it off, and finish making it into something presentable. If I do, it'll more likely find itself on the internet instead of in a book, but I'd like to think that I'd still be able to find a home for it — among other stories of strong women, and all of the extraordinary people and events that it's possible to weave around them.

In the meantime, I think I'll read through my collection again. It still holds the place of honour on my bookshelf, and I might as well read the hell out of something I love.
Current Mood: sleepy
Current Music: I Used To Love Him . Lauryn Hill
Mirth Alia
26 March 2011 @ 11:57 pm
We'll all be out catching stars tonight.  
I'm going to go ahead and believe that Diana Wynne Jones only died in this world. There are 11 more that she still might be alive in.
Current Mood: sad
Current Music: Connect . ClariS (Magical Girl Madoka theme)