lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
"Concerning the Mystic Marriage of the Earth and Sun to Beget Works of Great Virtue and Power...

The title went on for another half page."


The Mystic Marriage is a historical fantasy taking place in the fictional European principality of Alpennia, beginning in the year 1821. Both a romance and an adventure, its primary plot revolves around Antuniet Chazillen, last daughter of an Alpennian noble family that has been disgraced and all but destroyed. Antuniet's life is bleak and devoid of most comforts and securities she'd been raised to. She'd been a scholar and her access to continuing her studies is severely restricted so, like many young women in her position, she makes a strained living by tutoring more wealthy students. The only bright spot in her life, if it could be termed such, is her single-minded quest to redeem her family's reputation through the art of alchemy and her discovery, mostly by chance, of a singular alchemical text.

Read more... )

Heather Rose Jones' Alpennia series consists of: Daughter of Mystery, The Mystic Marriage, and Mother of Souls.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Name Generators

Tuesday, 4 July 2017 12:51
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
As a writer, RPer, and all around nerd, I have a whole bunch of name generator websites bookmarked, and am always on the lookout for new and exciting ones. Of course I have also tried my hand at creating some small, primitive generators myself, like this one.

But one of the best qualities of worldbuilding, whether in games or in books, is the ability to simulate greater depth than you actually have. No one can build a world as rich as the real one, and if you tried to do it you would never have time for writing the actual stories taking place in this world. The trick is to make it look like the gaps in your knowledge are full of something that you just happen not to have mentioned. Part of it is investing more work into the things your characters have knowledge and interest in, or rather the reverse: make your characters proficient in something you're interested in developing.

What all that means is that most SFF writers aren't conlangers, and they don't need to be. You can simulate the richness of a unique language to the satisfaction of most, usually just by creating a quick-and-dirty phonology guide, and then staying out of your own way by being careful about idioms, puns and wordplay. The reader's (or player's) imagination provides the rest.

Part of my process is that I find it terribly difficult to write about characters if I haven't named them. This means I'll usually have a string of names before I have any kind of set phonological rules to follow. It also means I find it very hard to change those names, even if they were only meant to be working products. What I would like to be able to do is design a naming tool that you could input a string of names into, and it would break them down into an approximation of individual syllables, and then use those units to construct a series of new names.

I'm pretty sure I have the skills to do this, but it would take time and a fair amount of thought going into designing it, instead of just jumping into tinkering with code like I'm used to.

I'm open to feedback on the technical aspects of this project. I'm also interested in discussing the meta theory behind it, but based on the premise that I laid out. I'm not here for "everything you said is wrong, you're not a real fantasy writer unless you build your own language from scratch". Or anything along those lines. Comment at will, if you cross a line I promise I'll let you know.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
The Cloud Roads is the first installment of Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura series, a vivid and imaginative secondary world fantasy populated by a wealth of strange and fascinating creatures. Primary attention is given to the Raksura, a species of reptilian shapeshifters with a curious insectile social structure. This book is driven by worldbuilding, and as such, it must introduce a point-of-view that can ease the reader into the rich vitality of the setting, one piece at a time. Moon’s backstory as it is given is far from original, but as a vagabond traveler orphaned at a young age, he serves the book’s needs perfectly.

A well-rounded review requires revealing to the reader some things that the protagonist himself is initially ignorant of. Moon begins the story as a solitary being, camouflaged among strangers and unable to answer even the simplest questions about what he is or where he came from. The only others of his kind who he knew are long-dead. He does know a few things about himself, some of which he reveals to the readers, and others which he holds back. But the first turn of the plot is stated in the very beginning of chapter one, before doubling back to expose the transition in full.

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Binge-reading

Tuesday, 12 July 2016 09:19
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I tore through the first three books of Martha Wells' Raksura series like it was my job. Then I downloaded the sampler for the fourth book on Kobo and read it through. When I hit the fade-out, I decided that it was time to slow down. After all, if I binge too hard, I risk burning out on the series before I've even had a chance to get my excitement to the max.

Meanwhile I'm looking at the other "maybes" I downloaded and trying to decide what to read next. I never did finish Emma, actually. Maybe now is the right time for that. N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season starts out brilliantly but it's got a trying narration structure and it's depressing as all fuck. On the other hand, there is literal geology magic. I've been meaning to read Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come for years now, now might also be the right time for that. Or I could try and pick out something extra-frothy, to let me keep up the reading momentum more easily.

Reading dilemmas.
lea_hazel: The Little Mermaid (Genre: Fantasy)
I’ve been obsessed with mermaids since I first watched Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was six years old. Reportedly, after the movie I menaced my father with complex natural science questions like ‘what do mermaids eat?’ Fairy tales never really stopped having an appeal for me, even as a teenager when I grew frustrated with their simplistic and formulaic nature. It’s a good thing, too, because studying fairy tales taught me more about writing than almost anything else. To this very day, there are some words that, if I see them on a book cover, will spark an immediate interest: "dragon", for example. Or "mermaid".

Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: The outlook is somewhat dismal (Feel: Crash and Burn)
The first half of February was pretty intense.

I had one exam at the beginning of the month which I very nearly fucked up, but managed to rally for on time and will probably be all right on. I missed the deadline on the last two assignments on my other class. Hopefully though I have still accumulated enough credits to sit the exam, which is in a week.

I started a part-time job.

And I'm starting another writing workshop.

And next month I start my next math class. Joy.

Meanwhile I have been plugging away at a few ongoing projects, a Twine game and a card game (yes, real paper cards in your hand). I have a project in Hebrew which I've been working on translating. And I have a blog post drafted that needs proofing before I post it next week.

I am reading Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea and I got pretty close to the end before stalling for mysterious reasons. I've also picked up Inkheart, which I've had my eye on but hesitant about for some time. And I've been playing Queen at Arms.

This week, though, I've mostly been dedicated to Fallen London on account of the Feast of the Exceptional Rose. And the fact that I'm finally making progress on becoming a notable person. There's a certain unusual joy to playing an agender poet and detective who's "irresistible, compelling and sagacious" as the game phrases it. Hell, playing an agender anything is pretty compelling.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I read Sorcerer to the Crown, beginning to end, in under three days. Not a usual occurrence for me, not since my high school years. There's a particular joy to be had in devouring a book and not being able to set it down, and this is exactly the sort of book you want for this type of adventure. Light without being frothy, romantic without being cloying, and effortlessly funny. My favorite stories are the ones that have well-balanced measures of comedy, drama and action. It's a pretty difficult trick, but I think this book manages it remarkably.

Read more... )

Sorcerer to the Crown came highly recommended to me (from various sources), but I can honestly say that it exceeded my expectations. An instant classic, and one that I'm certain I'll want to reread on a regular basis.

Crossposted to hazelgold.com.
lea_hazel: I am surrounded by tiny red hearts (Feel: Love)
I submitted another story today. Something pretty low-key, I had a story ready that just needed some hefty editing. Fortunately I keep a Word doc full of submission opportunities and their deadlines so now I can set myself another deadline. Since working under crunch time seems to be the only way to force myself to consistently produce new material.

I am still waiting to hear back from another publisher about another submission, and I have some feedback material I have put off going through while I was in an editing haze. And next week I am (hopefully) starting a part time temp job, which will take one load off my mind.

My most recent review got some pretty good attention! This pleases me a lot. I, uh. I also finished reading Sorcerer to the Crown. Yeah. Yes, it took about three days, maybe less. Thoughts forthcoming, of course, and I also have a post about Solstice due once I've edited it to my satisfaction. Also, I'd really like to post it on the day of release.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a secondary world fantasy novel, taking place in an unmagical world dominated by a sprawling colonial empire.

Baru Cormorant is a brilliant native child, taken from her family by the Empire of Masks in order to be raised in a residential school on Imperial values. Her voracious mind devours everything they teach her, mathematics and astronomy at the price of doctrine and propaganda. Read more... )

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.

Yuss

Wednesday, 6 January 2016 16:02
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
Sorcerer to the Crown. Next on my reading list. \o/

Results

Wednesday, 25 November 2015 09:44
lea_hazel: Arthritis: It does the body bad (Health: Arthritis)
The results on my thyroid-related things are not encouraging. Therefore I am going to do two things, the first of which is to go to the pharmacy and buy some 1000mg vitamin D gel caplets (and a hot water battle because it is terribly cold in my hobbit-hole). Then I am going to make an appointment for an endocrinologist, by phone, which will be very fun. So much fun!

No, I have not gotten around to watching Jessica Jones yet, although I am confident from reactions that it will probably meet 80-85% of my expectations. Roughly. I have also not yet watched the midseason finale of HTGAWM. And I have not finished reading Baru Cormorant.

In fact, I exited Sunless Sea hell only to immediately dig myself a chest-high ditch in 7KPP alpha hell. Yes, there is a new alpha update and I am flipping out every which way. As usual, with a branching storyline the new content is scattered across multiple playthroughs and so unlocking everything I want/need to see is taking some time. I have had a hard time resisting playing the game late at night on my laptop, which has done my circadian cycle no favors.

Meanwhile writing is proceeding sort of apace with 3-4 stories running in parallel. And writing in Hebrew now, because I'm doing a workshop. And thinking of gathering a local writers' social group for chatty meetings twice a month or so.
lea_hazel: Arthritis: It does the body bad (Health: Arthritis)
Doctor has some suspicions regarding my persistent fatigue (and also seemed concerned about my tendency for heavy sweating). Sent me for a bunch of blood-work and heart/lung tests today. I'm worn out. I don't know when/if/how I will get back to studying, which is a high priority, and trying to fucking write something, which likewise.

Meanwhile Baru Cormorant is screaming good. There are things in this book that I didn't know I wanted to read, you know?

And the second update of the 7KPP alpha is out, too. Just in time, as last night I won at Sunless Sea for the very first time. Wow. Maybe now playing out the other ambitions will feel less urgent? I kept the captain's lineage (despite the fact that it lacks the handy bonuses you get from playing Fallen London) and that left me in a pretty cushy position for a novice captain, but the map regenerated and it must be Salt's revenge or something. Last time I had the Salt Lions right next to London and the map overall was very convenient. This time the tile just east of London is the Snares, which means I've got bound fucking sharks prowling right near London. Boo.

I think I might go lie down a little. Or try to rally the energy to make myself some tea.

Book News

Monday, 16 November 2015 12:15
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
Yesterday I got about halfway through The Traitor Baru Cormorant. I had a big of a pickle getting my hands on the ebook, since it transpires that the US edition is not available for purchase from my IP. Which means I couldn't get it through Kobo, my usual method of buying ebooks, for some reason. Never mind that, though. What's important is that, though it's not exactly what I expected, it's still a very entertaining read.

Baru Cormorant is brilliant, driven and ambitious. The world of the Empire of Masks is considerably more complex (in more ways than one) than what I've gotten used to seeing from secondary world fantasy. Issues of sexuality make a central theme in the book; issues of gender identity and expression come up, although as far as I've gotten, they are still not a major thread in the plot. More like part of the backdrop, the cultural imperialism that pervades the setting and provides an impetus to all of Baru's actions.

Like I said, I'm enjoying it a lot.
lea_hazel: The outlook is somewhat dismal (Feel: Crash and Burn)
Last week there was no blogging and very little writing, due mostly to real-life considerations. November has not launched well, but there is still time to change that. To that end, I've decided to submit my review of Uprooted (Dreamwidth link here) to a non-fiction anthology. Crossing fingers and toes and all that.

In the mean time, I am still looking at all sorts of possible avenues for publication, while at the same time waiting to hear back on an interview for a tech job. And classes. And a writing workshop.

...and Sunless Sea.

On an unrelated note, I am looking at WordPress crossposting plugins, so if you use one, I'd love to hear about it.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
I actually finished reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik quite a while ago. I've spent a lot of time mulling over my review, trying to figure out what I want to say and how to say it.

I can tell you that the reviews I've read are all positive, and they're right. This is a very good book, and well worth reading. It has everything that you could want from a novel in that it's tightly-plotted, full of compelling characters, and the world-building is both creative and coherent. You'd be surprised how rarely that's true. Written in first person from the heroine's perspective, Agnieszka has a strong, clear voice that makes itself known from the very first sentence.

Uprooted - Naomi Novik )

Everyone has struggled with a feeling of belonging. I know I have. That's part of what makes Uprooted so compelling. It doesn't gloss over the dark undertones of blind loyalty, whether it's to a person or to a homeland. As a heroine Agniezska loves her home in the valley, or perhaps she is merely so attached to it that she's become insensible to its faults. For better or worse, the pull of the valley never lets up, and she never struggles against it. It's toxic or it's beautiful, but it can't be resisted.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Neuron cell (Science: Brains)
25 day streak on 750words.com. I've been using it for almost a year and I've found it to be an immensely useful tool, both creatively and therapeutically. This month I've signed up, yet again, for the one-month challenge -- aspiring to write three pages (or 750 words) every single day in June. My previous attempts at this challenge have been very unsuccessful, but I hold higher hopes this time. Not only because I'm more than halfway through and so far it's been almost easy, but also because for the first time in a while, I'm writing full-time. Ostensibly.

Sunday through Tuesday, I did no writing at all (other than the aforementioned three daily pages). It's my third week being unemployed/self-employed, and my motivation seems to have ebbed more than a little. It didn't help that I was inexplicably sleepy on Sunday and Monday. I spent a lot of time dozing off, half-awake rereading old fanfic, playing hidden object games, drooling over the Steam summer sale and catching up on Sense8 (a truly ridiculous show).

Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon sprawled on my bed, tearing through Naomi Novik's Uprooted like it's my job. I got the sampler booklet at last year's Dragon*Con when I went to see her talk on transitioning from being a fanfic writer to being (also) a pro writer. And proceeded to chicken out of trying to speak to her in person. Lousy move, given that even then I was making plans in the general direction in which I am now more specifically stepping. Of course, if I was aiming to write a novel, my path ahead would be a little bit clearer.

Looking at my June goals, I'm not doing too poorly for being halfway through the month. I completed my [community profile] jukebox_fest assignment, Hail the Hunter, best described as "Florence and the Machine's Girl with One Eye with bonus megalomaniacal dragons", and wrote a whole bunch of Skyrim fanfic. I made good progress on a Collar of the Damned meta essay that's been in the works for about a billion years. I've been blogging steadily.

A little past the halfway mark, June seems to be treating me well.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
If you've been reading for a while, you probably know by now that by far my favorite game in the world is the strategic raising sim Long Live the Queen from Hanako Games. This is a fiendishly difficult game which combines a gentle parody of princess tropes, a thoughtful exploration of the skills necessary for leadership, and an unironic enthusiasm for sparkliness. Protagonist Elodie is the recently-orphaned teenaged heir to the throne, trying to survive the weeks until her coming of age and coronation.

Read more... )

I had some things to say regarding the approval of the nobles and why it's so important to maintain it, but this blog post is already far too long as it is. I think for the moment I'll leave things at that, and perhaps return to the subject at a later date.

Crossposted to hazelgold.net.
lea_hazel: Don't make me look up from my book (Basic: Reading)
One of the baffling and endlessly fascinating phenomena in pop culture is how devoted fans can become, not to a show or book, but to the ideology presented within. Even if said ideology is vague or formulaic, to the point where the preoccupation is pretty clearly with the thing in itself (as opposed to its philosophical implications). People list their religion as "Jedi" all the time, and not just as an in-joke. Despite that the Jedi order stands for such ultra-specific ideas (TV Tropes link) as "justice is good and tyranny is bad".

At this point in my fannish life, it's become pretty clear to me that, whatever capacity I might have had as a kid, I can't take this attitude seriously at all. Maybe my approach is just too aggressively Doylist (Fanlore link). I automatically default to thinking, "Why do the creators want so badly for me to believe in this thing?" I can't quite take it at face value. Morally-grey works become hard to stomach... because they're almost never as "grey" as their creators think. Authors are constantly subtly (or unsubtly) nudging their readers towards a certain belief, or conviction, or POV.

It makes certain fandom discussions uncomfortably interesting. And it makes playing RPGs very interesting. Over something like three years in Dragon Age fandom, I have completely failed to become a Fereldan nationalist. And I've developed an outright hostility towards Andraste (the Jean d'Arc/lady Jesus prophet of the game's fictional church). Why? Because I can.

But that's a different issue altogether, I suppose. Whatever game-makers (and show-makers, and writers) expect of their audience usually has very specific cultural undertones. Sadly, these are undertones of which they are overwhelmingly unaware. Mostly they seem to think that the philosophical and cultural underpinnings of their work are universally applicable to the human experience. People who were raised in a Christian secular society seem to have a really hard time with the idea that Jews don't believe in Jesus.

But I don't believe in Jesus. Even if I believed in God, and practiced the religion of my parents and grandparents, I still wouldn't believe in Jesus. And because Jesus and Christianity are beyond pervasive in mass media popular culture... given a chance to do so, I'm going to choose not to believe in space Jesus.
lea_hazel: Angry General Elodie (Feel: RAEG)
Now and then I deal with a section in a book that upsets me so much I have to seriously evaluate whether I want to keep reading it. It happened to me twice, recently; once, with Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Curse, and the second time, with Robin Hobb's Blood of Dragons (just now). Because I'm stubborn, I tend to try to delay this moment as long as possible. Invariably, this turns out to be a grave error. Someday I will be able to train myself to put the book down before I'm so angry that I can barely restrain myself from tearing it to shreds.

As the ancient elven saying goes, this is not a book to be set aside lightly.

Read more... )

I worked nearly an hour on this entry and I'm still nervous about it so I might as well just hit post.
lea_hazel: Wonder Woman (Genre: Comics)
It's reading Friday, because I was too tired to post anything earlier this week.

I may have forgotten to mention that I started reading Captive Prince. I finished the second volume this week, reading at breakneck speed whenever I wasn't at work or too tired to focus. Now I'm taking a break to read the fourth (final?) Rain Wilds book from Robin Hobb. This series is much patchier and more uneven than anything else I've read by her.

But dragons, right? The main relationship arc in the book is clearly between keeper and dragon, and it's fantastic and fascinating to me. Unlike the human male ~love interests~ which are as terrible as that set of words implies. I dreamed some sort of weird dragon keeper meta last night (or early this morning) but sadly didn't think to fix the details in my mind.

This makes me want to write a dragon A/U, but one that's totally different in the emotional dynamics than what I had been contemplating so far.

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