Friday, June 19, 2015

(Just Like) Starting Over

Gee, has it been so long? It's been nearly four years since I last wrote on this blog, positing an experimental reorganization of the trilogy Mages of Mâvarin. I gave up on that particular idea after about a week.

Since then, all my blogs have fallen by the wayside, my social media presence has mostly been on Facebook, and much of my writing has been non-fiction as the newsletter editor and social media consultant (and bookkeeper, photographer, etc.) for St. Michael and All Angels Church. But just over a year ago, I joined a writing group, hoping to jumpstart my fiction writing again. If you live in or around Tucson and write sf or fantasy, feel free to join us:

Tucson SF/F Writer's Meetup

In the past year, I've gone back to the first novel, Heirs of Mâvarin, and revised the heck out of it. Now it's a trilogy of short novels instead of one really long one. The idea is that this configuration is easier to market than the longer first novel, especially if it ends up as an ebook.

To do that, though, I needed to restructure the first book in the trilogy. It was fine as the first third of a book, but it lacked the proper dramatic structure for a stand-alone novel. So a major character, who originally learned something important a hundred pages in, has to figure it out toward the end of the volume. Another character has to escape from a place, while the first character has to escape into a different place. Overall I think it's gone well, and I have the meetup group to thank for the motivation and feedback. Thanks, you guys!

The book's new opening is as follows:

Rani Fost set down the belt he was embossing and slipped out the front door of the deserted leather shop. Del was already in the stable yard next door, shading his eyes and staring in the direction of the river. He pointed. “There!” 
Houses and trees blocked much of their view, but Rani spotted two riders, a man and a woman, barely keeping their seats as their horses neighed and plunged in fear of the large, dark creature that pranced in the middle of the normally quiet street near the lumber yard. Other hunters milled around, apparently trying to surround the creature. 
It was the monster from Rani’s dreams, the one he had been desperate to catch a glimpse of in his waking life for the past three days. At first glance the tengrem could have been another horse and rider; but there was no saddle. Instead of a rider, the equine back sprouted a furry torso, like a bear on its hind legs. Two long, hairy arms ended in pink-clawed, five-fingered hands. The dirty yellow horn in the forehead was long and slightly curved. 
The tengrem opened its wolf-like snout, revealing teeth so large that Rani could see them even at this distance. A moment later it spouted fire as a hunter ventured too close to the tossing head. The hunter’s horse shied as flame touched its legs.  
The tengrem bolted for the woods that covered the hills at the village’s edge. The hunters shouted and plunged in after it. Rani and Del watched for a few moments longer, but saw no more of the quarry or its pursuers.

The Clarion Write-a-Thon starts in two days, and I'm thinking of participating. This fundraiser for the workshop, where I first met my husband of 36 years, runs from June 21 to August 1, the same dates as this year's workshop. (I'm pretty sure that my Clarion started on July 3rd, 1977.) Their website explains the What and How of it:

Welcome to Clarion UCSD's Sixth Annual Write-a-Thon! What is a write-a-thon, anyway? Think charity walk-a-thon. In a walk-a-thon, volunteers walk as far as they can in return for pledges from sponsors who make donations, usually based on the number of miles the volunteer walks. Our Write-a-Thon works like that too, but instead of walking, our volunteers write with a goal in mind. Their sponsors make donations to Clarion sometimes based on number of words written, sometimes based on other goals, or just to show support for the writer and Clarion.
All donations are made through The Clarion Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
As I embark on my revision of Book Two of Heirs, should I make it a Write-a-Thon project? If I do, will you sponsor me? Better yet, will you join me?

Update: I signed up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New Paradigm Mâvarin Novels

I had an awesome idea today for revamping my unsold fantasy trilogy, Mages of Mâvarin. I’m very excited about it.

(Please note: This was originally posted on Tumblr, where it will mostly be seen by Doctor Who fans who have no idea what Mâvarin even is. (It’s a fantasy country in an alternate universe, geographically located in the eastern U.S.) But the Tumblr entry will be picked up by Twitter and Facebook, and here I am reposting on Blogger, which will also hit FB. So much duplication, and maybe two or three people will end up reading it. But it’s worth it.)

Anyway, here’s the background. I recently finished editing my first novel, Heirs of Mâvarin, and am gearing up to submit to agents and publishers. Meanwhile, I recently reread the sequel, Mages of Mâvarin, cut one scene and added another, and called it done except for tweaking. The difficulty with Mages is that it’s over 300k words long, long enough to be a trilogy. So years ago I broke it into three volumes, with vague stopping places in the overall narrative, sort of like Tolkien did with The Lord of the Rings. An Adept in Mâvarin would set up the several plotlines, Another Mâvarin would get Our Heroes in even worse trouble, and Return to Mâvarin would complicate things further and then resolve all the plotlines, more or less.

I want my bookshelf to look like this!

But here’s the idea I had today. Instead of breaking Mages chronologically, with none of the volumes truly complete as novels, what if I made the three books concurrent? The first book would cover Rani and Darsuma’s storylines, the second would be about Fayubi, Fabi and Temet, and the third would focus on Li and Prince Talber. Each novel would begin on the same day, and each would end on the same day, and some events would be retold from different points of view, as Moorcock did with Corum, Hawkmoon etc. This way, each book tells the whole story of what happened to those particular characters, and stands alone as a complete novel. At the same time, each novel provides context for the other two.

This will be a really interesting writing exercise, and may even make the books more marketable. Here I go, starting right now! Hooray!

But yes, I’ll be submitting Heirs in the meantime.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Summary to Scene, Sort of

I had a scene in what is now Chapter 29 of Heirs that until tonight was not technically a scene at all, but all summary. You know the bits in which Tolkien or Rowling or whoever disposes of days or weeks of story time in a few paragraphs? This was one of those. But without a bit of actual scene to anchor it, the description of Li's behavior during this period was all tell, no show. This deficiency has been bothering me for years.

Tonight I at least got a line of dialogue in, and a few specific actions to make the beginning of the passage into an actual scene:

“Early again, Li?” Teri Dibel asked.
Li nodded, but did not bother to answer as he hurried to Captain Perton’s office. The first day after his arrest and release, Li had managed to grovel his way onto a City patrol. ’Nishmû willing, he might win a similar assignment today, but only if there was still room on the roster. Otherwise he would try for Gate duty on one of the exit lines. Sooner or later, the traitor girl would either meet with dissidents or try to leave the City. When she did, Li was determined to be the one to capture her, abating his earlier mistake.
Once inside the Wall, he looked over Captain Perton’s shoulder at the half-completed roster, and his spirits rose. Perton had put him in charge of six trained Rovers, on patrol through the merchant district. Li accepted the undeserved honor with a smile and a heartfelt salute. Perton grumpily waved him off, sending him on his way

Not the best bit in the book by any means, but it's much less clunky than it was.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

What I'm Editing Tonight - a Clarion Write-a-Thon Extra

This poor blog has lain fallow to two years or longer. Its most recent entry before this was an ill-conceived fragment that I was embarrassed to see listed on my sidebar. Well, no longer. During the Clarion Write-a-Thon, which started today, I will be posting fragments from whatever I'm working on, and possibly other Mâvarin bits and pieces. For tonight, I just want to show you the update of the same fragment that's on my Clarion Write-a-Thon pag:

Li said nothing further, and without meaning to, Crel let herself be drawn back into the book’s narrative. 
After a while, she realized that Li was still in the doorway, watching her. “I’m sorry. Was there something else you wanted?” she said.
“Well, yes, but I can come back later. I didn’t mean to be rude.” 
“I’m sorry,” Crel said again. “I’m the one who’s being rude. It’s just that I haven’t read this particular legend before.” 
“I get that way about books, too,” Li said. “Do you ever get the feeling, right after you read something, that the whole world around you is a little different because of what you read?” 
Crel thought about it and nodded. “Sometimes, after I’m lost in a book, everything I experience seems to mean a little more, as if it were part of the story. Yes, I’ve felt that.” 
“Then the feeling wears off,” Li said, “and everything’s just the same.” 
Crel looked at him again. She knew just what Li meant. She’d felt it herself, but she had never been able to talk to anyone about it. Not to Del, and certainly not to Jamek. 
“Somebody told me a story a few days ago,” Crel said slowly. “It changed the world around me, and I don’t think the effect is ever going to wear off.”

I've just finished Chapter 29, which I renamed, and I'm up to page 444. I'm going to bed now. Good night!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Flip Rate: A Beginning

This one is in reaction to another dream. it's based on a series of books I enjoyed up to the point represented by the dream, and found problematic thereafter. The remarkable thing about that is, as far as I know, those books don't exist, but are the product of some previous dream.

This is a fragment, of course, but I hope I can make it coherent enough to stand as a short story, or possibly the beginning of yet another serial.

Fragments from a Possible Work in Progress

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2009 by KFB

Chapter One: Flip Rate

Part One

There was nothing strange about the girl. That much was certain. She was a perfectly ordinary human being, young and healthy.

I should know. I examined her, and I'm a doctor. Or was.

Oh, her circumstances were odd, no question about that. She was an orphan, apparently about twelve years old, living alone in a small, abandoned hotel along the Bering Strait. There had been an older brother, apparently, but Cinda was annoyingly vague about where he had gone or what had happened to him. "I didn't follow him. I was afraid," was all she would say at first.

And the hotel itself didn't make much sense. Who would want to vacation up here, far from the cities and amenities, along a stretch of sea the cruise lines could not enter without going aground? There wasn't even that much wildlife here, just a handful of auks and puffins, and the occasional polar bear lazing around on still-firm ice. Their habitat troubles were a hundred miles further south, and the survivors of global warming had not yet reached this godforsaken place. So there was no reason for a hotel to exist up here, run by an English girl almost certainly unknown by the State of Alaska's child welfare people. There was no village or town for fifty miles in any direction, no road to anywhere, no possible clientele except a small party of scientists studying the geological, archeological, ecological and meteorological evidence for the one time existence of a land bridge here. Which of course was what we were.

Six days of helicopter surveys with infrared cameras, landing on a likely spot and chipping away at samples of permafrost had let us to this luxury log cabin, the sort of thing Frank Lloyd Wright might have designed. Its graciously open interior spaces made clever use of glass and wooden curtains to bring in the heat and keep out the cold in a way I didn't quite understand. But I liked it.

The kitchen wasn't as rustic as it looked, and it seemed well stocked. Cinda was at the stove, flipping pancakes for us. Her flip rate was remarkable. Each pancake was perfectly cooked through in just about a minute.

I was rather pleased with myself for thinking up the term "flip rate," as if it mattered how quickly one could change pancakes from pools of batter into nicely browned discs. Funny, that.

When our expedition leader, Eric, asked where the food came from, Cinda said, "Oh, Jerry drops it off, once a week."

Jerry was the helicopter pilot who had brought us here. He was supposed to return on Friday. This was Tuesday.

"How do you pay for the food?" Eric persisted.

"Oh, with these." Cinda wiped her hands off on a towel and walked to a locked safe next to a glass-covered cupboard. After a few rapid twists of the dial she reached in and pulled out several shiny lumps of yellow rock.

"But this is gold," Vince, our geologist, exclaimed. "Unprocessed gold, like what came out of the Yukon Gold Rush over a century ago. What is it doing here?"

"Oh, it's been here a long time, my whole life," Cinda said. Everything she said seemed to start with "Oh," as if every thought our questions precipitated was entirely new to her.

"How much of it is there," Eric asked. "If you've been spending it on food and supplies...."

"Oh, I don't think I should tell you how much," she said, "but enough to last a while longer. Years, maybe. It's worth it to be able to stay here." She put the gold away, carefully spinning the lock afterward.

"Why do you want to stay?" Vince asked.

"In case Jack returns," she said. This was clearly not a new thought for her. Jack was her brother. We had determined that much.

After breakfast, Cinda showed us a framed photo of her family. It was black and white, and looked like something out of the 1950s or earlier. Everyone wore fur, in the style of a previous generation, and grinned at the camera as if in acknowledgment of a game of dress-up.

"This is my mom, Beryl," Cinda said, "and here's my dad, Erasmus. That's Jack, and this is me."

"What happened to your parents?" asked Lucy, the team's cartographer.

"They went out on the ice, a long time ago," Cinda said. "They never came back. Later Jack went looking for them. He never came back either, but I've seen him. Several times. He wants me to go out there with him, but I won't do it."

At this point I suspected that Cinda was somewhat delusional, but she was so matter of fact about everything that I wasn't certain.

"Why did your family come here in the first place?" I asked.

"Oh, they were looking for a place to have the baby. Me, I mean. I guess the sled dogs were lost or something. Then they found this hotel, and the sign, and figured this was the place to stop."

"The sign? What sign?" The only sign we had seen was the hotel name, World's End. Weird, maybe, but hardly an omen.

"Oh, do you want to see it?"

She led us outside, to a bed of ice immediately behind the hotel. The summer sun made it almost blinding, except for deep blue shadows, well beneath the surface. The numbers and letters they formed were so precise they could have been etched by lasers: "1929 BERE 2009."

"You see it?" she asked.

"We see it, but we don't understand," Eric said. "Why would that influence your parents to settle here?"

"Well, it's my family's initials," she explained.

"No it isn't," Vince said. "That would be B E J C."

"Oh, well, that's because of the nicknames. Jack is really Richard, but he didn't like that name, and Call of the Wild was his favorite book. So he's Jack. And my real name is Ella. Get it? Cinda Ella?"

I suppressed the groan that escaped the lips of several of my colleagues.

"What do the numbers mean?" I asked.

"Oh, they're years. The year my family first got here, and this year. The year I leave, maybe."

"You think we won't let you stay?" Eric asked.

Something in the sky changed. Blue became another color, gold maybe, like Cinda's nuggets. Something flashed in her eyes, and she shook her head. "I don't think it matters. The sky has changed, and I don't have to wait here any more. I think we're all leaving now. You're the people I need to help me."

"Help you do what?" Lucy asked.

"Go help Jack," she said.

That's when the flipping began.

To be continued. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nightmare University

A dream, half-remembered. I hoped to build something more of this than I managed to retain, but ah, well. At least it sets a mood.

Nightmare University

by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2008

An alien who wanted to go Christmas shopping found himself trapped in a complex of academic buildings after dark, looking for a way out onto Route 39.

He walked down gloomy, formerly white corridors where students passed by, discussing coffee and homework. Muffled music came from behind a locked metal door painted orange, but when he opened it he found it was just the soundtrack to King of Hearts, flickering in an almost empty room.

He walked through the athletic apartment, where students in yellow T-shirts spoke enthusiastically about their several undefined sports. One female student said something rather interesting, and was answered with something rather profound. In the next room, two other students said exactly the same things. In the room after that, the alien could not remember what either couple had said.

He walked on into the law department, where he found a statue of an eagle, labeled American Plausibilitism. "Ah, that explains everything," he said. And woke up.

A slightly more coherent version, starring the Doctor and turned into a comic strip slide show, can be found on my LiveJournal.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Former Ficlets: An Archive

Like pretty much every other bit of user-generated content AOL ever hosted, Ficlets will be gone by year's end. This was a site devoted to ridiculously short fiction, limited not by word count but by character count. Stories could then be given a more normal length by writing a series of prequels and sequels - and Ficlets writers were encouraged to do this to each other's stories. To be honest, I really didn't like that part, because other writers took my characters in the "wrong" directions in their sequels.

Despite the fact that a glitch prevented me from logging on with the OpenID I used for my Ficlets, I was able to find them eventually and store them to Word. Here are three of the five pices I wrote for that site. The other two I will post later, fleshing them out into a proper story. New fiction on this site at last - what a concept!

Do You Want to Meet a Pirate?
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on March 23, 2007.

“Tell me a story,” the little girl demanded.

“What kind of story?”

“About pirates.”

“Do you like pirates?”

“Yup. Only I don’t know any.”

“Would you like to meet a pirate? Or would you rather just hear a story about one?”

“There aren’t any more pirates.”

“Yes there are. I know some pirates. One in particular.”

“A real pirate? With a ship and everything? Or do you mean the boring kind, that just copies video and sells it?”

“The kind with a ship and everything.”

“I don’t believe you. What’s the name of the ship?”

“Bad Wolf.”

“That’s a funny name for a ship. There aren’t any wolves in the ocean.”

“You’ve never heard of the Sea Wolf?”

“No. Can I meet him?”

“Her. That depends. Are you brave enough?”

“Yeah. Why? What will she do to me?”

“She might shanghai you.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Make you part of her crew.”

“That would be cool.”

“You couldn’t go home for a long time. No mommy or daddy.”

“That’s okay.”

“No tv. No iPod, phone or video game.”


“No computer.”

“I’ll think about it.”

The Secret Freeway
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on March 26, 2007.

(This one is based on a concept I've been playing with for decades - and I
still don't know what to do with it.)

I first discovered the secret freeway in 1986, the same year I learned that the back doors of every Yellow Roof restaurant lead into the same parking lot.

This is how it started.

It was a little over 4 AM when I pulled into the “Yeller’s” at El Cajon, California. It had been our traditional stop, the place to get breakfast en route from the Cleveland National Forest rest area to Disneyland. But everything was different this time. Jill wasn’t with me, and never would be again. I wasn’t headed for Disneyland, and it wasn’t time for breakfast.

I needed coffee, so I stopped anyway. It didn’t help much. I hit I-8 again eastbound, thinking that if I could just make it to the Cleveland rest area, I could sleep there. It was pretty much all I thought about.

An hour later, I pulled off. It wasn’t until I’d parked that I noticed the snow, neatly plowed but starting to drift in the biting wind.

And the Ohio plates on most of the cars. And the I-90 sign.

I was ten miles from Cleveland, OH, via the secret freeway.

What It's All About
by Karen Funk Blocher
© 2007 by KFB; published on June 04, 2007.

“What is it about?”

“It’s about how we change in response to outside pressures.”

“Boring. What is it about?”

“It’s about three teenagers trying to stay alive.”


“This isn’t helping.”

“Let me see the manuscript.”

The next day: “It wasn’t about that at all.”


“It’s not about people changing, or trying to stay alive. That’s incidental. It’s about alienation, Fox News, and the corruption of the Bush White House. Allegorically, of course.”

“No, it isn’t. Okay, the one character is alienated, but that’s about it.”

“Wrong. His friends are alienated, too, from their family and friends and a corrupt government. The government lies to the people, aided by the mass media.”

“There are no mass media in the story. It’s a fantasy world.”

“Your storyteller characters are the media. They are complicit in the government’s lies.”

“But I wrote that part before Bush took office.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s all right there in the story.” He looked at me kindly.

“Writers never know what the story is about.”