Tag Archives: fiction stories

A novel attempt

I finally decided that I will try to write and finish a novel. Of course, I’ve been entertaining such ideas for years, as I suppose a lot of people have. So why do I feel like I can do it now, when I’ve only failed before? You gotta keep trying, but there’s that old Einstein definition for insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So I am trying again, but I’m doing things differently, and hopefully this will lead to more success.

1. I first wrote the plot arc as a short story. It was originally meant to be a short story but there were so many things I wanted to touch on that I didn’t have time for, even at 7000 words in length. I know how I want the characters to develop, how they feel about each other, and what their motivations are. I know all kinds of societal details that play into the characters actions and motivations.

2. I’m in a writing group now. I know a bunch of people who might have suggestions on how to do better, or what to do if I hit a wall.

3. I’m approaching the writing differently. In the past I said, whelp, 100,000 words, here I go. Around 25k, I got bored, felt like my work was unfocused, and quit. This time I’m thinking of it as a series of short story ish chapters. I have a bunch of little stories to tell in 2-5k words or so. Per point 1, I already have a rough outline of the overall story. As I go, I’m outlining a few chapters forward with further details– what scenes happen in each chapter and where do they happen. So I have a macroscopic outline of everything and a microscopic outline subject to the flow of events. We’ll see how it goes. I’m planning on writing one chapter a week, with weeks off allowed for alternate projects.

I’ll continue to post my progress. It will be interesting to see what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. Any suggestions are welcome too! But basically, it’s time to just write. Chapter 1, here we go…

Book Review: Downbelow Station (C.J. Cherryh 1981)

Note: I avoid spoilers in this review. Any plot details I mention occur early in the book.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I’ve had Downbelow Station on my shelf for a while. It’s 526 pages, so a little on the long side. I’d seen the book on a few “best of” lists, but no one I know has ever mentioned it. It was the 1982 Hugo award winner. So finally I bucked up and read it, and it was excellent.

Although I see “Downbelow Station” described as a hard science fiction book, the technological aspects of the book do not occupy the foreground. The interactions and desires of the characters do that; in some ways it’s a  high-class space opera. I found the style of the book most similar to Vernor Vinge in books like “A Fire Upon the Deep” with a little more militarism. I wonder how much the post Vietnam era affected the portrayal of militarism; the warring elements do not come off positively in this book. Cherryh does a good job developing culture; we can see the cultural differences between Union, Company, Pell, and the Downers. If you like sweeping science fiction, this is a highly worthy read.

Most of the action takes place on Pell Station, a space station orbiting a habitable planet with natives called “Downers” in the year 2352. Humans have expanded into space, one station after the next. At some point in history, humans developed faster than light “jump” technology, so they can spread further yet, into the “Beyond”. The humans in the Beyond have become disassociated with Earth; likewise Earth is somewhat detached from the stations. Pell finds itself between the forces of the Beyond and the renegade forces of Earth. The first 20 pages or so lay down this background; it’s a lot of exposition and it’s confusing and not totally engaging. The beginning is the weak point of this book. Once the ground work is laid, the story takes off.

We arrive at Pell when the Company ships of Earth force the station to take on a bunch of refugees from another station which has been destroyed in the conflict between the Company and the Union of the Beyond. These unregistered people are housed in quarantine, or Q, which is lawless and places a great deal of strain on the station’s resources. Over the course of the book, we watch people from Q, from Pell station, from Union, and from the Company as they vie for the strategically valuable Pell. The people of Pell station I found especially interesting, and their interactions with the Downers.

There are several other books in Cherryh’s Union-Company universe that I look forward to reading. Check out my Top 20 science fiction novels for more science fiction recommendation.

Fairy Tales FREE on iTunes!

My illustrated collection of science fiction themed fairy tales, Vironevaeh: Science Fiction Fairy Tales, is now free to download for the Apple iPad. Click HERE to go to the iTunes page.

Vironevaeh: Science Fiction Short Stories

 

Happy reading!

Zish and Argo Artwork

My biggest goal over the holidays was to complete painting for the Zish and Argo book. Last night I finished the last painting! Hooray! Champagne! Zish and Argo has 13+ full size color illustrations, painted in water colors. The picture below shows the ones I finished during the holidays. For reference, they are about 8 inches tall. In the next couple of weeks, I will pull together the art and put up book details. The featured image shows the tentative cover that I just finished as well.

Tomorrow I head back north to new projects and adventures.

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Artists: Walter Crane

I love to go to art museums to new style ideas. On a recent trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), I visited the art nouveau section and saw a piece by English artist Walter Crane:

Walter Crane plate at VMFA.

The plate mentioned that Walter Crane did children’s books.

So I went home and ordered a couple of his books. A Floral Fantasy in an Old English Garden anthropomorphizes the flowers of the gardens in beautiful art nouveau fashion. Below is a photo of one of the pages. This page depicts bachelor’s buttons. All the little details, down to their boots, are done to match the characteristics of the plant. Another panel shows a battle between a thistle knight and a snapdragon. Walter Crane has several children’s books besides this one. Since Walter Crane died in 1915, his works have entered the creative commons, and they can be had very cheap, especially digitally.

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Walter Crane also did more adult works. Neptune’s Horses reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings where the elf summons up the waters to fend off the nazgul, but it was painted over a century before.

A little on watercoloring

This week I am spending most of my time painting the line-art from The Galactic Adventures of Zish and Argo. One of the things I really like about watercolors is that they travel well. I’m on the road for the next couple of weeks, but it is just as easy to paint here as it is at home. A major reason for the portability is the type of materials I use. I bought a Windsor-Newton field box set several years ago, pictured below. At $50, you might experience a bit of sticker shock. I’ve only recently had to start replacing pans; it lasts and lasts.

I have used the liquid watercolors as well. I find I enjoy the quick set up of the solid colors. There is no need to dole out paint as you go, and you only use what you need. Plus it’s easier to travel with. The solid paints can still deliver good intensity and brightness. I roll all my brushes up in a bamboo case like this one, and then I’m ready to go anywhere and paint anything. If you have a pigment-ink printer, you can economize on your watercolor paper by selectively choosing what you print. I discuss that more in an old entry, here.

I read a watercolor book a few years ago that I found helpful as well: Watercolor Tricks and Techniques, by Johnson. If you are curious, it is worth a look.

So there are 13 paintings for the core of the Zish and Argo book. I have 7.5 paintings done, so I’m over halfway! The Robotoids say hello!!robot

Xmas from Zish and Argo

I began printing and painting the line work for The Galactic Adventures of Zish & Argo. Now that painting has begun, I hope to have the first book pulled together in a month or two. In the meantime, this project has been a source of great joy.

I have become fond of the characters, so I find myself doodling the pair engaging in a variety of activities. Happy holidays from Zish and Argo!

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