Sunday, December 29, 2013

Postcard Giveaway!

That's right, I'm giving away two autographed postcards featuring the cover art from BRASS STARS.

Rules are as follows.

1. There will be two winners, to be drawn at random by an uninterested third party. Each winner will receive one autographed postcard via USPS First Class Mail.

2. To enter simply leave a comment below.


3. Tweet a link to the Eggplant page for BRASS STARS. Be sure to include @aggy_c in your message so I see it.

4. If you want more than one entry, you can tweet once per day, each day that the giveaway is running (8 AM, Monday, December 30 - 12 AM (Midnight), Friday, January 3).

I will post the winners names sometime on Saturday and they can then contact me via email to provide mailing information.

Good luck!

NOTE: It seems there may be an error with the comment form. If you are trying to leave a comment and can't (for whatever reason) you can email me instead (annagrace dot carpenter at gmail dot com) Please remove the extra spaces and replace the dot/at with the appropriate symbols.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

WIP Wednesday

More from Thingbreaker:

Hmm.” He looks at the paper again. It's so small, I can't imagine there is much there to read, but maybe he's just using it as an excuse to let another handful of minutes pass. Finally he tucks it into his pocket. “Are you nervous?”
You're shaking.”
I rub my palms across my trousers but it doesn't help. “I don't like being in chains.”
His eyes get narrow, as though this is a sign of some sort of guilt. “And why is that?”
Because I associate it with bad things.”
A shake of his head. “What things?”
I hold up my hands, fingers spread wide so he can clearly see the scar on my palm. “Auschwensier.”
I see.” He's quiet again for a moment. “Tell me what's in the satchel.” Some of the suspicion has left his voice.
Brandon Ipcriss' right hand and the remains of a magic Siphon.”
He's well trained; there's only the slightest flicker of surprise around his mouth. “The remains of a Siphon?”
And Brandon Ipcriss' hand.”
And how did they come to be in your possession?”
Ipcriss made an arrangement with me. I would help him reclaim his hand and he would help me locate my family. I carried the broken Siphon because I was in better condition to keep it from falling into other hands.”
Other hands.”
There was a small army of simulacra attempting to regain possession of it. And possibly to kill or kidnap Ipcriss.”
And you helped him avoid them?”
I smile, hard. “I put them down.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Oxford Comma Can Kiss My Arse (But Details Matter)

I am not Oscar Wilde. I do not deliberate for hours over comma placement. Nor do I stress over whether I need more or fewer commas. I know that I tend to under-use the comma, but it's not something I lose sleep over.

Before BRASS STARS was released there was a round of copy edits. Not really an arduous task, but one thing was immediately clear. The copy-editor knew the proper use of the Oxford comma and he wielded it mightily.

Changes were made with only minor grumbling on my part. (Mostly to the tune of "Maybe I should have done this when I wrote it." and a small chorus of "Fucking hell I do hate commas.")

But (and this is the important thing) it made the book better.

Currently, I'm revising a longer novel. Not a novella of a mere 90 someodd pages, but a full on novel that pushes 500+ pages. And by revising, I mean retyping from a paper copy while making notated changes and adding content where necessary. It's... tedious. But I'm more aware of the commas left out of the last pass. Commas I would normally not stress over. But, having just done this sort of tweak for publication, it's on my mind. So, as I see them (and certainly there are still some that I miss) I have been fixing them and, in future, I will likely try and put them where they belong in the first place.

Sometimes I see young writers (and by this I mean folks new to the craft, not young people) referring with some disdain to "the rules" of writing. Not "Don't start with a prologue rules" but things like "Pick a tense and stick with it". Story, I've heard it said, is more important than clean writing.

There is a smidgen of truth to that assessment. Clean writing will not save a dull story. But messy writing will kill even the most interesting tale.

So. Why do I say the Oxford comma can kiss my butt? Because when I start a story, I don't worry about the minutiae of the writing. I use fragments and drop in semicolons where they plain don't belong because I'm writing a draft and the only thing I'm worried about is the story.

BUT, once I start revisions, the details matter. Not just the details of the story or the characters, but also the details of the writing. The basic mechanics of the sentences and paragraphs and chapters. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the bigger picture of a story can survive a death of a thousand little errors. It cannot.

Write your story however you feel necessary. And then polish that baby 'til every little comma shines. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

WIP Wednesday

More from Thingbreaker.

I come to spitting water and shivering.
Rebekah hefts the bucket, as if considering whether or not to empty the second half over my head. “Are you awake?”
I toss wet hair back out of my eyes. “Now.” A moment of fumbling before I realize my hands and feet are bound, coils of rope holding me fast in a heavy wooden chair. There's no prickle of magic from either chair or rope. Not charmed. Getting loose won't be hard once my magic wakes back up. At the moment it's burning sluggishly. No doubt suppressed by whatever was in that dart.
Rebekah sets the bucket down and pauses to pull a stool out of an awkward stack of furniture.
I look around, trying to get a sense of where we are. Aside from the pile of furniture the room is nearly empty. A battered sofa with a broken leg sits unevenly across the room. A large cloth covered swath on the wall that might be a mirror and a few lights burning sullenly on either side of an empty fireplace.
And it's damned cold.
Rebekah has taken most of my clothes, leaving me clad in trousers and shift – barely enough to keep the chill from shaking me to pieces. Especially now that I'm dripping with water.

Monday, December 9, 2013

All These Words Are Stupid!

The other day I pulled out my work journal and starting sketching out part of a scene from The Steampunk Novel. It's an addition to an existing scene and I wanted to get the bones of the new material down on paper before I forgot.

So, I wrote the following sentence.
Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side of his face.
Only it wasn't that simple.

From the very first word, I realized it was one of those days. You know, Those Days. When this little voice starts screaming in the back of your head as soon as you set pen to paper. Some folks term it Writer's Block, but usually it's more like Writer's Indecision. This complete and nearly overwhelming doubt about every letter being formed on the page.  

So writing that thirteen word sentence took somewhere close to three minutes. The thought process was something like this. (And it's important to remember that I already had all thirteen words written out in my mind. I knew what the sentence was. I knew what I wanted to say. But this was the fight that took place trying to get it onto paper.)

Keira sat no, not sat. maybe straightened or stirred. what's the rest of the sentence look like, dummy? stick with sat for the moment. she was sitting in his lap. Keira sat up and laid cupped. no. rested. placed. cupped. placed. (This bit went on for a good two minutes.) gah. just stick with laid. Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side really? either side? how about against? no, that sounds too forceful. okay. Keira sat up and laid her hands on either side of his face. that's wrong. how about cheeks? or should it be jaw? that sounds even weirder. but face? come on. what kind of hack are you?

So, three minutes and thirteen words later I finally had the first sentence of this new scene on paper. Time for round two.

Her so what? now we start every sentence with a pronoun? how old are you? seriously, this is the worst thing you've ever written. 

And on it went. But the more words I put on paper, the quieter the voice got. The more words on paper, the more I was able to see the shape of the scene and you know what? It wasn't that bad. A little rough around the edges, but not bad.

Folks always want to know when rejections stop hurting, when the writer's block goes away. And the answer is... maybe never. But over time you can learn how to deal with the doubt and the disappointment that comes with getting a story turned down again. Or struggling with a scene that just doesn't want to do what you thought it should. Or struggling with each and every word because you just can't imagine that anyone else would ever be interested in these stupid words.

My key strength (and flaw) is that I am as stubborn as the day is long. When I run up against a wall, I will bang my head against it 'til that mother crumbles. There is sometimes a bit of crying and consumption of tea and chocolate in the interim. But eventually that wall goes down and I go on.

This is what works for me.

For some it will be easier to find a way around the obstacles. Or under them. Or simply to wait 'til they crumble under the ravages of time. (Which, since this is all metaphorical can be not as long as it sounds.)

So. When that voice in your head is screaming "All these words are stupid!" remember the following. (I've said this before, even recently, but it bears repeating.)

1. Few things are as bad as we think they are.
2. What is bad can always be fixed later.
3. You cannot fix what you have not already written.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Writing BRASS STARS: Influences

As a human being, everything I bump into on a daily basis has some influence - good, bad, subtle, obvious. Every book I read, every movie I see, every song that trickles across the radio, even billboards and conversations overheard at the gas station, they all filter through into the dark sticky space of my creative subconscious.

But some things have a more direct influence.

As a kid there was one brief year when we had cable, and I used to watch reruns of Bonanza, Big Valley, Gunsmoke and The Rifleman on Saturday mornings. (This was back in the days when The Family Channel was cool.) Then in the evening I would watch gems like The Avengers, Star Trek and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. At the time I had no plans to write a story that would combine both Science Fiction and Western, but looking back it's clear where the seeds of Brass Stars were planted.

Of course, Brass Stars is not as bright and happy as the westerns I watched when I was young. Maybe because in college I discovered a director named Sergio Leone and actors named Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Charles Bronson. Then I discovered a related genre - the samurai film - and the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune.

I also discovered SF like Pitch Black and Alien, where the heroes are not always who you think and the ending may twist your expectations so hard you get whiplash.

The specifics get hard to pin down. I see a little bit of Last Man Standing (a retelling of Yojimbo set in a border town in the 1920s), a little bit of The Quick and The Dead, even a little bit of that horrible movie about Mars with Val Kilmer in it.

But that's how influences work. They seep into the deep parts of your brain and come back out colored by your own experience and belief and perspective.

There's more coming every day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WIP Wednesday

From a little novella that I love to death, but am struggling to finish.

All That Is Precious

“Stop this.” I put myself beyond his reach, rather than continue to fight. His breath is rough, the shake in his hands a signal of intense pain. “Are you that anxious for death?”
“At least then I would be with Marcus.” He stops, biting the words off sharp enough to draw blood.
The confusion I had put aside, rises. I thought I knew the challenges that would face me. Persuading a westerner to honor our traditions. The risk of bringing him back to High Green. But there is something else here. Something deeper that separates us. “Marcus?”
“The man you killed.”
I wipe my fingers across my forehead to ease the ache. “It was not my intention to take his life. And he will be rewarded in the next world.”
“That does not bring him back.” He glares at me, anger and grief dug deep in the lines of his face. I remember the way he held the third man from the skitter and my breath sticks in my throat. “You're samapenya.”
He shakes his head. “I don't speak Kanai.”
I pause, trying to find the right words in Alatiera. “It means... same-loving. You will make a poor husband for me because the man in the flying thing was your lover. Because I am a woman.”
He flinches, but nods. “Yes, girl.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

Writing BRASS STARS: Dust, Sky and Religion in Space

The early drafts of Brass Stars (and there were two and a half before I got to the one that was published by Eggplant Literary Productions) didn't have much in the way of religion. Tashn wasn't much a believer in anything except revenge and it didn't seem necessary to develop a system of belief for the other characters who popped in and out of the story.

There was, of course, mention of the crucifix her mother had given her, but Tashn never put much stock in it. She carried it for two reasons. One: because her father believed it was strong medicine that would protect her in the future as it had in the past and it was a small concession to his outlook on the world. Two: because it was a constant reminder of what had happened - a concrete little piece of the injustice done to her and her mother.

But that was the extent of the mention of religion, barely more than speck of history from the long-lost Earth.

Then Jackson became a central character and a foil of sorts to Tashn's quest for vengeance. He was on a mission of his own: redemption. And that meant I had to think harder about what sort of belief system might exist in the dusty edge of space.

The result was, at first glance, a kind of Yin/Yang or a dichotomy between flesh and spirit.
The idea of Sky: the invisible, eternal and all-encompassing thing sometimes called Space. Boundless and intangible, its appearance changing based on the perspective of the viewer, but never its nature.
The idea of Dust: the physical, palpable and corruptible matter of the universe. The building blocks that every visible thing is made of and to which we all return.

It was a simple idea.

But on paper it was complex. Tashn knew and acknowledged the existence of both, but rarely in a meaningful way. John Crow relished the nature of Dust, the needs generated by the physical and the satisfaction that came from sharing in the tangible. And Jackson looked to something transcendent to make up for his own corruption.

And that corruption and redemption, much like Tashn's need for revenge and Johnny's need for love, played out in the physical realm but reflected something that was more than just flesh and bone.

I tweaked and fiddled and put stuff in and took it out and finally decided to let it all ride. I'd chosen not to use a specific existing religion or spiritual system because I didn't feel it needed to be one special thing or another, so why would I try and make it into one special thing or another?

And that was that. Dust. Sky. Redemption. Judgement. Loss. Love. And a merciless young woman with a score to settle. All the makings of a good story.