Friday, June 17, 2011

Flash Fiction - Friends of Stone and Clay

Sonia Medeiros has a writing challenge themed Creature Feature up on her blog. 

Thanks, Sonia, this was fun!

Friends of Stone and Clay
by Pia Newman 
(498 words)

  I wasn’t very old, as far as gargoyles went. Only about three centuries. My church was the newest and smallest in town, and I guarded it alone. The other churches were older, bigger, and sported a formidable gargoyle on every pillar and turret. I was the runt of the gargoyle community and they never let me forget.
  Perching on my favorite stone outcropping above the door, I contemplated the last round of mockery that involved my ears being pulled and my tail being stepped on. Loneliness and self-pity were a heavy stone in my chest.
  “You look sad,” a little voice reached my pointy ears.
  I opened my eyes and found myself looking down at a little boy who was staring up at me. Children sometimes realize gargoyles aren’t just immobile stone statues. The Gargoyle Codex forbids us to reply, but right now the codex and the senile gargs who upheld it could kiss my craggy arse.
  “I am sad,” I confirmed.
  “Why?” he wanted to know.
  “Because I’m lonely.”
  “Grumpy’s lonely, too, since Happy got dead by my ball,” the boy said sheepishly. “I kicked it wrong.”
  “Accidents happen,” I said, wanting to comfort him. Losing a pet could be traumatic for children. I knew because they came to church to prey for their little friends’ souls often enough.
  “Is it nice up there?” the boy asked, nose crinkled in contemplation.
  “Very nice. Amazing view.”
  “How do you get up there?”
  “I’m a great climber.”
  “Can you climb down now?”
  “I’d rather not. There are too many adults around who might see.”
  The boy nodded as if this explanation made perfect sense. “So you come down at night?”
  “Sometimes. What’s your name?” I asked.
  “Benny,” he said. “What’s yours?”
  I liked this kid. Too bad his mother came at just that moment and pulled him away. He waved at me until they rounded the corner and were gone. I hoped he would come by again some day.

  He came sooner than expected. That same evening, in fact.
  “Gothar? Can you climb down now?”
  It was twilight, the streets deserted, so I scrambled down the wall beside the door.
  “A gargoyle?” came a muffled remark out of Benny’s jacket. “Seriously? How’s living up in the bell tower with a moving rock going to make me feel better?”
  Benny ignored the tirade and looked at me. “You want a friend? Grumpy does. She’s just shy.”
  “I’m not shy you little nincompoop. Let me out.”
  Benny giggled, the perfect little puppet-master. I nodded, wanting to see her. Even a grump was better than no friend at all.
  Benny opened his jacket. Large blue eyes blinked at me from beneath a pointy hat that was as red as the pouty lips and ruddy cheeks. A shiny varnish covered the entire creature.
  I sat back on my haunches, flabbergasted. My potential friend wasn’t a hamster or guinea pig or even a mammal at all.
  She was a garden gnome.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Youthful Follies Of An Aspiring Writer or Practice Makes Perfect

I’m in a bit of a rut at the moment, work-in-progress-wise. I just can’t get motivated and feel like I need a break from it. So I’m taking one by reading through a book I wrote at least five years ago; a fantasy with kings, castles, warriors, dragons, swords and of course a quest to save the world by finding an ancient race in a land far far away.

I started out with the intent of just reading a story I’d enjoyed playing with very very much, but the editor in me reared her nit-picky head by the second sentence. I still love the story, but, boy, does it need editing!

From page two on I couldn’t take it anymore and let my inner editor do what she would. By now I’m on page 50 (out of 250) and have already shortened the manuscript by 2.000 words, mostly by eliminating what feels like a gazillion “and”s and “then”s. This automatically took care of a lot of run-on nonsense sentences, for example:

By stating his situation, his powerless stand as the monarch of Layn, which until this day nobody realised to be a fact, the King of Layn had put his life into Salym’s hands. Which was the reason why Salym had obeyed without another word, and at the same time the reason for him feeling as if he were betraying his king and queen by leaving them farther and farther behind.


Furthermore, the dialog is so unbelievably stilted it makes me howl in a mix of laughter and tears. The British lords of yore had not such affected articulation as the lowest peasant in my verbose epos. It seems the apostrophe was still an unknown phenomenon to me at the time. I could not, would not and did not use it, so the dialogue is tremendously stiff and formal even when close friends speak to each other:

“There is no point in singing quietly. I could not do it”, she said. She turned her head to look at Salym, saw his disappointment. “Believe me”, she said, with a sorry smile. “If it were not too dangerous, I would be singing my heart out. Right now, I wish to be able to sing more than anything.”

*facepalm* *headdesk* *chinfloor* *scalpscratch*

So this manuscript isn’t without challenges, but that is precisely why I love it. It shows me plainly I have learned a lot when it comes to sentence structure, dialogue, voice, tenses and self-editing in the past five years. It is proof that writing really does improve with practice.

(Heaven forbid! My parents were right all along: Practice makes perfect.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creating A Book Cover - Hounded

In my last post, I raved about Hounded, Kevin Hearne's first installment of The Iron Druid Chronicles. The B-E-A-utiful cover is the first thing that jumped out at me, even in the form of the itsy-bitsy Amazon-pic in a list with many other books. 

Now I've found a Behind The Scenes Look with Kevin Hearne and his editor, on how this cover - and the others - was created. It's a fascinating process and I think it's amazing that the author got so much say in it. As far as I've heard and read in the infinite reaches of the interwebs, that's very unusual... but he definitely gave a lot of great input that really improved the cover, IMO. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Favorite Read Of The Year (So Far)

I don’t usually post reviews here, but I feel obligated to slap every fellow (urban) fantasy nerd in the head with Hounded, yelling YOU HAVE TO READ THIS!!!


Not only is the cover over-the-top-of-Mount-Everest awesome, but what’s inside is so much unexpected fun that I read it in one complete sitting and almost cried with joy when I figured out that the next two instalments are coming out tomorrow (“Hexed” June 7 - that's TOMORROW!!! YAY!!!) and in a month (“Hammered” July 5), meaning I wouldn’t have to wait for years for them.

Here’s Amazon’s blurb:

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound Oberon (whose love for Genghis Khan, Star Wars, French Poodles, sausages and Atticus himself provides the best comic relief I’ve read in a long time). His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

Action, humor, excitement, myth and especially the unlimited world building (every mythological, folkloric and religious faction from Native American over Irish, Norse, Eastern European to Indian is alive and kicking) make this a fresh new romp through the urban-fantasy-realms.

The only thing you shouldn’t expect is lovey-dovey romance - though that doesn’t mean Atticus lives a life of celibacy when not even certain female deities can keep their hands off this studly ‘young’ Druid…

Kudos to Kevin Hearne for this amazing debut!