sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Me: I've been wanting to read a story about a baby ghost who is calmed with a ghost pacifier! Shouldn't there be 1000 of those stories?

Spouse: I don't know of any.

Me: What? That is so obvious, it should be a cliche.

Spouse: *staring now* I think your mind works ... differently ...

###

Anyway, all this is to say: if that story exists, someone point me towards it. Please no outright horror, I have an 8 month old! Bittersweet okay, although I would prefer sweet. Please and thank you! Or, if you like this idea, feel free to steal. I would love to read it when complete. <3
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
 I have watched so much Naruto. Chunin Arc over these three days *_____* CHUNIN!ARC!SAKURA eeeeeee Sasuke WTF and also I forgot how easy it was to binge on short anime episodes.

Spousal Unit returns from his trip of creating evil overlords tomorrow. Can't wait. It was not as bad as I thought, but it was only three days.

(... and you know the saying about not counting chickens before they hatch? Chez moi we are busy staking out some velociraptor eggs in case they hatch.)
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
I spent all morning laughing aloud at work at this: Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father

(I can't wait until The Bean is old enough to start demonstrating some of these ... while I'm holding a phone to film the incidents. My God, my God, I am so glad that I was a child in an era where film was prohibitively expensive. And all most of the evidence of my online idiocy died with Geocities.)

Bite not, lest you be cast into quiet time. Neither drink of your own bath water, nor of bath water of any kind; nor rub your feet on bread, even if it be in the package; nor rub yourself against cars, nor against any building; nor eat sand.

Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? And hum not that humming in your nose as I read, nor stand between the light and the book. Indeed, you will drive me to madness. Nor forget what I said about the tape.

Day 1 was actually good. Super anxious that some calamity will happen tomorrow. But I do not know the day or the hour, right? So, more whiskey until I pass out asleep. =_=
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Saw this reading list/meme? at chez [personal profile] issenllo and because I've had an ... interesting ... day, I will decompress with it.

100 SFF books by female authors )
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Because I have no time. Ever. My life is a series of half-assed efforts made in a blur of exhaustion. It's a miracle any of them work out.

I have got to give ginkgo a try.

But who cares, because The Traitor Baru Cormorant is so, so interesting. Why haven't, like, The Economist and Planet Money (and their ilk) covered this book yet? Rhey're exactly the experts who understand best that "a sensible monetary policy" is a basic tool of conquest and empire, and could probably tell you all the stories in history where this happened, and then some rando politician swooped in afterwards to collect the credit ... or the blame. I feel like they should be doing a jig over this book existing.

(This is emphatically not a rec, more of a nascent book report. XD)

I'm not sure whether I like this story because it harps on topics that I'm interested in, or because I like it for itself. Baru would probably snort and say it doesn't matter. So that's that.

sundries

Apr. 25th, 2016 02:45 pm
sputnikhearts: suu from clover (suu)
Have started using Martha Stewart recipes. I know, so corporate. But in this world where everyone is an expert, self included, sometimes I just want a simple recipe--in this case, poached chicken breasts, not exactly the epitome of edginess--with some freaking Professional Quality Control. See also: why the NPR podcast empire is so pervasive among my demographic. I could spend hours slogging through various badly produced variations on Yet Another Podcast About Quirky Ephemera, or I could ... queue up Surprisingly Awesome.

(I bounced super-hard off Memory Palace though.)

P.S. That one-pot pasta really is all it's cracked up to be. My mods, because I can never resist: more garlic, more tomatoes, more basil. Bouillon cubes. Add other veggies at will. It's not haute cuisine but it's ridiculously easy.

#

Made some progress on writing and related professional development last week (?!) I don't know how it happened (?!), given that pretty much every day consists of me stumbling around frantically trying to finish projects in a blur of exhaustion. But I guess everyone else in the world is doing the same while feeling the same way, right? The human condition according to me.

#

I may finally cave and go to Lush this weekend to get some more bath bombs. The one and only I have ever tried (I believe it was the now-discontinued precursor to the Rose Bombshell) left a gigantic mess of various flower petals in my tub, which rather cancelled out my enjoyment of the immediately prior bath, because I also had to scrub the wet tub while eight months pregnant. XD But the Sakura looks safe ... and I have my normal center of gravity back. Mostly.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
So the Spousal Unit wandered by my comment in [personal profile] yhlee's post about how I Photoshop fake book covers for myself, and he complained, "If you're gonna say that, you have to give examples. Pics or it didn't happen!"

Well, it feels a bit narcissistic for me personally to upload fake book covers of my stories in public so I'm not going to post those. (But if you actually want to see a couple, PM me. I'm always happy to show off ... in private.)

BUT. I CAN DO BETTER.

A few years ago a friend of both myself and Spousal Unit came up to us and said, hey you read a lot of SF, there's this book that I can't remember. Here's the plot, do you know it?

And my friends, it was an AMAZING PLOT. More amazing than anything I have ever conceived.

"it's in the southern us, and people are searching for a great general robert lee (but it turns out to be a chinese robert lee) w/ a chicken against central planners controlling an entrepreneurial computer personality that founded a rebellious transport company."
So this was inevitable. And yes, I did the "shitty gold bezel letters" on purpose. I sent it off to him with a note about how this was a scanned cover of the book from a helpful librarian. (He took it well XD)

cut for an enormous cover image )

We never did find the book and are convinced that it's something he dreamed up. But hey, you never know, so drop me a line if we're wrong XD
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
Spoiler-free review: I was just plain bored. By everything. Except Tisarwat. Amaat bless her and her lilac eyes. (Which I assume is a middle finger to Mary Sue litmus tests.)

#

I would love to read some space opera with empires and whatever that's written by someone with actual civics experience. You know how "let's drill to the center of the earth!!!" movies drives scientists nutty? When the civics is bad to that level, my blood pressure starts to rise these days. XD
sputnikhearts: (daydreamin')
... is knitting while watching television, which has always doubled as dinnertime with the Spousal Unit. Now it's triply efficient! I might even have my Backbay sweater in a few more months at this rate. Next in my queue is the Mother of Pearl sweater for Bean, whose birthday is conveniently enough in the fall.

In theory I have always liked the French People As Depicted In Lifestyle Books approach to savoring life and food (usually as a metaphor for life), but 1) it presupposes a level of contentment that I will never achieve, regardless of finances or responsibility levels, and 2) actively partaking in leisure requires actual effort, plus it's an art unto itself, one I have not perfected. And 3) my superpower is that I can turn anything into work, as you see here. XD

Sensaplace

Mar. 23rd, 2016 12:17 pm
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
(I'm trying to blog more on my WP blog, where this originated. Gotta figure out how to crosspost to DW.)

#

Spousal Unit was recently in Venice for work. When he came back he said that he couldn’t figure out how a place built like Venice could possibly exist. I said, it’s no wonder Italo Calvino wrote Invisible Cities; Venice almost seems to demand it, and he happened to be the person who could do the job.

(I had requested a copy of Le città invisibili as a souvenir of his trip, but alas, it was not doable. I hope that just means I’ll get to pick out my own copy on an Italy trip in the distant future: Rome, Florence, and Venice. Spousal Unit’s contribution to this discussion: “Yeah, you need to visit Northern Italy–it’s all the parts of the Frick you liked, only everywhere and all the time.”)

#

I’m taking a break from SFF reading and scanning my bookshelves for something else. It will likely be “period” literature–perhaps something Italian or Japanese. Something that lovingly renders silken embroidery, gilt wood, etc.

Flemmings talked about books, mostly urban fantasy ones, having or lacking “sensaplace”, a favorite feature of mine in stories. An urban fantasy story, to me, is a love song to cities, and they must have foundations in solid bedrock as well as scrape the sky. That’s why I don’t seek out a lot of contemporary literature. They assume their default is the reader’s default and so the resulting book feels ungrounded. I am uncomfortable, physically, reading a book that I can’t visualize. One gets motion sickness when the inner and outer perceptions of movement clash; it’s the same feeling but with text on a page. This also applies to SFF. I had an incredibly hard time getting through Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand because it was impossible for me to envision.

There’s a trick to minimizing the amount of set-dressing for maximum sensaplace–the semiotics of ballet made me think of this the other day as I was dreamily perusing rehearsal pictures. A hairnet on the ballerina means Romeo and Juliet. Frenchiness means Sleeping Beauty. (Coppélia and Giselle can be hard to tell apart in the beginning! Peasant bodices everywhere. But of course they diverge wildly after Act I or so.) Mental macros, if you’ve got them installed.

#

Then again, I’m writing a historical fantasy set in fake-Florence, so maybe I should be reading history books instead. Haha.
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
So I finally read Kings Rising. This is, I think, the first thing I've managed to read to completion after having Bean. ACHIEVEMENT.

Anyway, I wish bookstores had a “Hot BL Trash In The Best Way Possible” genre because 1) that’s where CP/KS belongs, and 2) where can I find more of it in English, the hard work of translating is a real buzzkill when you’re trying to properly enjoy some hot trash.

Thoughts AND SPOILERS to follow XD

If you saw my Tumblr posts, this is the same content. )

BUT the most important outcome--for me as a reader--is that after thinking about Captive Prince through the lens of Dorothy Dunnett, I am now able to back-read Dorothy Dunnett … through the lens of Captive Prince. And let me tell you Dunnett got way more bearable once I mentally tagged it as Actually (Historical) Hot Trash.

(I have this weird hangup where I kind of assume everything needs to be read and critiqued through a lens of Serious Business, which is obviously untrue for so many reasons, but it’s very hard for me to turn that off especially when it’s, well, written as well as Dunnett’s books are. Coloredink tells me my hangup is called “overthinking it” and those of you who follow me on Twitter are free to implode in laughter.)
sputnikhearts: girl walking in fog. from amelie maybe? (girl in fog)
The last ... two years? ... of my life have been transformative. I:

- Left academia/laboratory research
- Started my science writing career
- Hit roadbump in said career, found a new job, eyeing the next roadbump
- Moved across the country
- Sold, then bought, a house
- Had a baby

Somehow, being busy makes me want to do more, not less, even as my sleep and energy levels tank.

I always say this but I, once again, intend to blog more. At the very least I will have more to say because I will talk about a lot of things besides writing, because I used to compartmentalize, but no more. I used to maintain, separately, a blog for writing, a blog for fandom, a blog for fashion, and so on. I used to care about, I don't know why, the pretense/performance of focus.

Well, I have stopped caring about pretending anything, except for, you know, whatever veneer of civilization that just barely nudges us above the orangutan. XD I don't say this with raised middle fingers, but shrugged shoulders. Lots of things can be said for having a baby/child/entering into any other intense caregiving role, but among the best outcomes has been a hard slap upside the head to the effect of: pretending takes too much effort and you have no energy left to waste. There's nothing like sleeping 3 hours a day for 6 weeks to change you into your truest self (both the best and the worst, and both of those were scary to encounter), or whatever you want to call it. That's the cliché that I've picked, anyway.

(Sidenote that everyone else in my life, online and off, seems to have made this leap way earlier in their lives. I have never claimed to be emotionally mature. But I do claim to know myself and to be working on it.)

The massive roadbump to all this self-discovery is, of course, that I have very little free time to do anything with it, and I'm having a hard time--ironically--compartmentalizing when I do. Yes the baby may be napping but my brain prefers to spend that time anticipating the next wail, instead of focusing on the story/code/MMORPG at hand. Is that a brain muscle that can be exercised? I hope so.

If nothing else, I am slowly gaining that parent superpower of super-efficiency. Everyone who said they had no idea how much time they were wasting before parenthood was right.

In that vein, I'm making my work more bite-sized these days. Some things currently on my plate:

- A redesign of my Wordpress blog, which I will crosspost to, is coming up. I am An Old now because I long for the days of text-heavy design, and not in the vein of Medium clones.

- I've managed to actually write some fiction. I leave myself lots of notes and ideas so I can jump in without having to remember what I was doing. My cyborg brain is called Google Drive.

- Cake for breakfast. Because sometimes that is literally the only thing you can shove into your face in the car while barreling down the highway trying not to be late for work. I wiped down my face with tea from a thermos and the last paper napkin in my purse. #winning
sputnikhearts: (Default)
2015 was overwhelming. I'm glad it's over, with a minimum of damage and even some loots. Hah.

Here's hoping that everyone has a good 2016!
sputnikhearts: (Default)
It's because my life has gone somewhat pear-shaped. XD; It's going to be okay, knock on wood, but yes.

Comments off. But if you were inclined, I'd appreciate some crossed fingers. Thank you. ♥

augh LJ

Jul. 24th, 2015 07:24 pm
sputnikhearts: (Default)
So this new friends feed thing, I'm divided. On the one hand it's COOL, like, the functions are super impressive and actually genuinely quite useful. Filters on command! Wow! Etc. On the other hand it also killed all the design aspects, which was about 95% of the reason I was keeping an LJ around. If I wanted boilerplate ugly-but-I-can-bear-it, uh, I would have stuck with Dreamwidth (sorry not sorry).

But now that the LJ advantage is gone, ugh ... of course the other 5% was there are still people I like and keep up with on LJ. So I'll hang around as long as you all do. ♥
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
(This one is about ... goals. Kind of? YMMV. Which is the theme of the post.)

Recently a friend paid me one of the great compliments I could ever have received.

I was complaining that I couldn't think of a way to wrap a narrative around my story. My friend did a Socratic session on me and it came down to: I'm afraid that nobody else will think that the story is meaningful, even though I do. I described the very brief plot to her.

"Huh," she said. "That sounds like a Makoto Shinkai story."

Before you suspect bragging: I am not as awesome as he is. I certainly don't have the patience or skills to run a one-person animation studio. XD Still, he is one of my biggest idols, and even if the resemblance is only in passing or on the surface, being told that made my freakin' day.

And then I was like, you know, this explains a lot. By which I mean, the past is a pretty decent crystal ball. What I mean is: look at your inspirations, your idols. To a first degree approximation, that's a pretty good indicator of your maximum prospects. I mean, if your model is Tolkien or someone else super-popular, then you can probably expect a lot of people to be interested in what you're writing.

Me and my idol being Makoto Shinkai ... well. XD Sometimes I agonize over that a little bit. Not because EVERYONE SHOULD LIKE IT, HOW DARE THEY but it's just that much harder to find a place for your stories when the topic is maybe a bit outré, or your self-indulgences and your id just don't match up with the editors and markets you're aspiring to.

This isn't a complaint, though. People like what they like, self included. It's only that I'm well aware that the market is real and that its forces are very real. I know that a lot of full time pro writers happily write to what the audience wants. They do the equivalent of take a market survey and crank out product to specification. Hit the sweet spot and you can really rake it in.

But it's just not me. I already write to order at my day job, why would I want to do it for my night job? I probably could, if you held a gun to my head, but of all the things I could do to pay the bills and keep myself fulfilled, that ranks pretty low on the list.

So then I realized, the proper way to go about things it to, first, have my eyes wide open and know what I'm getting into. Set my expectations and hopes accordingly. And after that, the only thing I can do is to work my craft as much as I can. Because one day, the one editor in a thousand who also likes Makoto Shinkai will lay eyes on my story. And on that day, my story needs to be ready.
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
Writing about writing: easier than actually writing! But I also think it is helpful to sort out the mess of instincts and emotions that respond when I press the WRITING button in my brain. So. Here we are.

#

1. A writer friend asked me a few weeks ago how I decide to make shorts stories vs novels out of my ideas. There was a lot more to the question/context, but this is the easiest part to discuss! XD

a. Some of it depends on how big the idea is. Orson Scott Card (wait, stop running) put forth the MICE (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event) Quotient of story design in his Characters and Viewpoint. (FYI, Karen Woodward has a succinct summary of this, and Writing Excuses also had a nice podcast on it)

I find this useful, not only as a springboard, but as a gauge. I think Writing Excuses laid it out better than I'm doing here, but basically, the more factors are involved, the longer the story should be.

In my current still-shopping-it-around short story, I was very clear to myself that it was an Idea Story and did not wish to dilute it with the other factors. If I had wanted, though, I think I could easily have expanded it. I have, like, 100 discarded drafts where the central idea veered off into some other direction; the central idea is one that's pretty easily adaptable.

In my WIP novel, there are multiple SFnal ideas that play into the plot, multiple characters who have tasks that need to be performed, something gone wrong that needs to be put right ... so that was obvious from the start that it needed to be a novel.

b. Another part of the answer came when I looked at how different the focuses (foci?) of my shorts/novels are. My shorts tend to be either intensely bittersweet/sad (A Study in Bronze), or satire (And Now ...). They tend to focus on my own obsessions (death! memory! legacy! sacrifice!) My novels tend to be thriller plots done up with comedy and somewhat fanficcy tropes (snark! hijinks! property damage! NC-17 farce!). I'd name them but STILL IN THE WORKS. But I mean. My current favorite is 90% NC-17 farce, 10% heartbreak, 100% happi endo. Whereas my current favorite short story is 1000% ~tragic love~.

Then again, I have a happy-end-ish novella in revision, and I never thought I would. So never say never, eh? (And that one was totally a milieu story. I mean. It was one long extended love song to the study of electricity and magnetism through the lens of urban fantasy. And the human elements that make up the circuits.)

In sum: short stories are where I go for catharsis. Novels are where I go to entertain. Who says you can't have it both ways?

2. I currently have a novel WIP, am shopping one short around, and am revising one novella. Lacking: a short story WIP, and apparently I totally get severe Empty Nester Syndrome with my stories XD So I went rummaging in my Evernote folder of "fiction ideas" and then ended up spending an embarrassing amount of time this week very down because I couldn't think of a way to massage any of my ideas into workable narratives. This is, I have to say, a problem I have not had before.

The hopeful part of me says it's because I've progressed enough as a writer to see the obstacles before I ever start, whereas five years ago I would have blithely written on, finished a draft, and THEN had it eviscerated in a workshop. I have now cut out that particular middleman, is all.

The realistic part of me says I've plucked all the low-hanging fruit and it's time to work harder XD

After a week of banging my head against the wall, I think I've managed to figure out how to write one idea--as a flashfic, as it turns out, which I very rarely write, but one of those was my first sale, so hey. And the other, well, I haven't figured out the solution but I've figured out at least one question to ask to get me on the path. So there is always hope! Which is a sentiment as good as any to end this post on.
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
Thanks to the lovely friending meme over at [personal profile] jadelennox, there are some new faces here! Hello and it's nice to meet you!

I'm Kara. I'm *mumble* years old, I consider myself a recovering scientist. For almost a decade I performed basic biology research, with a focus in genomics. Right now I'm a full time science writer on staff, specializing in renewable energy technologies. Thus: science non-fiction pays the bills so that I can write science fiction and fantasy at night! A sweet deal IMO.

In June I want to to blog a little bit more; I've had a lot on my mind lately. I had a few slow weeks w/r/t the origfic writing and that inevitably leads to some navel-gazing about what I am doing, why, my goals, etc. I also want to talk about the non-writing aspects of my life more (media consumption! science! cooking! knitting! sewing! family!) because they're present and important and enjoyable, especially when I get yet another rejection email, ha.

And if you would like to request a post on anything in particular, just ask! In July I think I'll do one of those memes where people request topics for days of the month.
sputnikhearts: laptop (laptop)
"A Study in Bronze" is now live!

(In fact it went live three months ago and I was so swamped that I DID NOT POST THIS. BAD AUTHOR, NO BISCUIT >_<)

ANYWAY. "A Study in Bronze" is my retelling of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle-verse) combined with a fairytale that I shall not name because spoilers.

In the great city of London, on the busy thoroughfare called Baker Street, atop a stone pedestal, facing the dilapidated flat of 221B, stood a bronze statue of a man. An Inverness cape draped over his shoulders, a deerstalker cap sat on his head, and in one hand he held a pipe.

Every day, thousands of Londoners walked past this statue, neither knowing nor caring who the man had been. Only curious children stopped sometimes to inspect the plaque below his feet, whose eroded letters barely formed the words:

SHERLOCK HOLMES
1854-1881


Read the rest at Mirror Dance!

If you read it, thank you ♥ and please do check out the other pieces in the Spring 2015 issue! And also the Summer 2015 issue, which is now out!
sputnikhearts: an open book (bookish)
1) Finished Ancillary Sword. Echoing everyone is saying that was not the same book as Justice, but it was pretty decent. Honestly it felt very paint-by-the-numbers to me, without surprises, until the very end. The translator thing was cool but unexplored, I guess to leave us something for book three? Or was it too China Mieville-esque to fit the general tenor of Sword?

(Insert "this is just how I feel, not trying to tell you how to feel, would never", etc here.)

Sword was largely about social injustice/imperialism and how someone with immense but not unlimited power (who does not necessarily code/present initially as such) might go about trying to right wrongs. Although I think that's an interesting and important thing to talk about, it felt really weird to me in this context. Not that Breq has some kind of messiah/savior complex, and I suppose it was unavoidable to bring up these issues given that the story is about a ridiculously conquering-happy race, but ... I once read a chestnut to the effect of, you figure out the story's protagonist by the heuristic: the story should, at its core, be about the most important day in the main character's life. I agree with this. In that vein, I felt that Justice did that perfectly. Sword ... wasn't really about Breq as such. And the fact that it did center around all those people and Breq's attempts at helping them (with mixed results, I suppose, although it's optimistic) and that's supposed to be "the most important day in Breq's life" (as it were) made me a little eyerolly.

Please note, this is not me saying "bad book". This is me saying, that was a good story, but why did it have to be from Breq's POV? Is there a Watsonian answer, or only a Doylist one?

I will definitely read Mercy, though, because the promise of the fight we're gonna see is just that good.

2) Many years ago I read Cordelia's Honor. It was decent, but didn't make me care to read on, and anyway I didn't have any of the sequels and nobody was telling me that the books apparently get much better, several more books in. Well, I now have my hands on most of them! (This was prompted by me finding out that Bujold beat me by multiple decades to a very specific joke I am still going to make in the next novel that I write. Should the stars align, etc.)

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Kara Lee

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