Friday, December 28, 2012

Year in Review: 2012

Made it through another year (just about; hopefully nothing happens in the next three days to prove me wrong).

Stories finished:
  • The Utopia Project, second draft: An evilgenius/madscientist sends kidnappers across the Atlantic Ocean to procure test subjects for an illegal experiment involving a new world.
  • Mind Butcher (Unwise Ones): Events in the life of Vincent Linden pertaining to the Mind Butcher incident.
  • Dominic the Wanderer (SatFK): a knight gets a course correction from the lady of the lake.
  • Taras, synopsis: Taras Radev, who has been sent to a reform school in tsarist Russia, uses various schools of magic to rescue his friend Aleksei and to find his independence.
  • Tournament (Unwise Ones): In preparation for the freshman tournament, Amy Lejano makes friends and discovers enemies.
  • Ingrid's Quest (SatFK): On a quest to save the Wise One, Ingrid forges a new path for herself through iconoclasm and unconventional magic.
Currently working on: Orsolya (Unwise Ones), synopsis. Next will be Matt of the Lekron, synopsis.

New Anberlin album!

Optimus (Best Posts):
  • getting into band staff and wind ensemble
  • going to Boston, China, and Cancun
I look very much at home at MIT, yes?

Significant quotes:
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
-George Bernard Shaw

"You have to go under for a long time into the dark waters of the mind and stay there."
-Natalie Goldberg

"Think not: this is ill fortune; but rather: to bear this worthily is good fortune."
-Marcus Aurelius

"Death is nothing. But to live, defeated and without glory - that is to die every day."
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Best books:

Evelyn's bookshelf: 2012-best-books

More of Evelyn's books »

Book recommendations, book reviews, quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Preparation for 2013:
logbook and calendar

Happy new year, everyone! I'll be back next week with some longer posts - it's been a while since I've felt that I had the time to sit down and think something through, and I'd like to get back to doing that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Good Hunting

Shall we embark?

Cleopatra's Own Galley, Warwick Goble

Some drawing tips from Gary Panter. I really need to sketch more.

How to get things done with index cards.

Yet another INTJ description. Hurrah, Augustus Caesar.

Advice from Austin Kleon on how to get noticed. First thing: "Be so good they can't ignore you."

Strange Horizons:
Catherynne Valente on mythpunk:
I've always considered the appending of -punk to whatever other word to indicate that X is not merely being explored or ruminated upon, but in some sense broken, harmed, and put back together again with safety pins and patches, a certain amount of anxiety, anger, and messy, difficult emotionality expressed in the direction of X.
The Gross Anatomy of Horror, by Nicholas Seeley

How would you like eating from this plate?
Poignant: click and drag. Zoomable version here, but I recommend exploring the original.

Justine Musk on writing the opposite sex.

Speaking of gender: boys in YA fiction, by Sarah Mesle.

Home of Gisele D'Ailley van Waterschoot van der Gracht, who gets points for having one of the coolest names I've ever read.

Several guest articles from the SFWA website:
Confessions of a Museum Bunny, by Deborah Walker
How I Went from Writing 2000 Words a Day to 10000 Words a Day, by Rachel Aaron
(Also from Aaron: musings on steampunk. I like the phrase "boss hog".)
60 Rules for Short SF and Fantasy, by Terry Bisson
Building Secondary Worlds, by Mark Charan Newton

From Broad Universe:
Worldbuilding advice from Sarah Monette
Culture via character by Elaine Isaak
Designing fantasy creatures with science!, by Trisha J. Woolridge
Medieval worldbuilding guide by Paula R. Stiles

Hecate Demeter speaks of trees, with the poem "On Houses" by Kahlil Gibran.

In the Northern Wilderness, Ivan Shishkin

Good night.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Matt of the Lekron

Imagine for a moment that you are seventeen years old and you find out that your biological father is dead and that neither your mom, nor your best friends (one of whom has been missing for a week), nor you are, strictly speaking, human.

Junior year was rough.


Once not so long ago, the prince of the Lightning Land came of the age when a man must take a wife. He thought that, because he would be the Lord of Lightning once his father died, he must have a wife both beautiful and obedient, who would never speak against him. For the Prince of Lightning, as well as being handsome and powerful, was arrogant.

Thus he proclaimed that he would take as his wife the most beautiful maiden in the Lightning Land. Many women came forth, but he dismissed them all for their minor imperfections: this one laughed too loudly, that one was plump, one other had poor teeth.

The arrogant prince began to despair of finding a suitable match when, during a storm, he went out onto the palace roof to see one of the maids watching the lightning and rain. Immediately he was entranced. She was beautiful, with long golden hair and a bright smile.

There were, however, two issues: she was low-born, and she was used to making trips across the Drowned Land to the Cities of Glass that appeared there on nights of waning moon.

But once the prince had set eyes on the beautiful maid, he would have no other. He made her promise never to cross the Drowned Land again and she, overwhelmed by her unexpected change of fortune, agreed. They were soon married, and one year later the girl - now Lady of Lightning, since the old Lord had died - bore a son she named Matthew.

For two years, the former maid - she never got used to thinking of herself as Lady Lightning - raised her son, the young prince Matthew, peacefully in the palace as her husband performed his duties as the Lord of Lightning.

But she began to feel restless, and longed for the adventure to be found on the other side of the Drowned Land. Yet she would not go, because she was loyal to her husband, and did not trust to leave her young son in the palace without her.

The Lightning Lord had a sister, Lady Leila, who exercised great influence in the palace. Lady Leila had a son, several years older than Matthew - a violent boy, very powerful, and much encouraged in his violence and power by his mother.

Lady Lightning suspected her sister-in-law sought to have him become the next Lord of Lightning.

However, when the former maid brought her concerns to her husband, he did not heed her: in fact, he became angry. "Do you think, then," he thundered, "that I cannot control even my own sister?"

Hearing his words, Lady Lightning began to doubt herself. Shouldn't she trust in her husband's power? But more time passed, and again her intuition told her: Lady Leila and her son were not to be trusted.

It's just a feeling, she thought.

But then, one day, a maid with whom she was friends came running into her apartments out of breath. "My lady -" she said, "My lady - I've seen Lady Leila speaking with a poisoner! From him she bought three vials!"

"Three vials," repeated Lady Lightning. Her husband. Her. Her son. Though her face was still, her mind was spinning with plans. "Thank you for telling me."

She was loyal to her husband - indeed, it could be said that she loved him - but she could not bear to do nothing when her son was in danger.

After a few days, she sent a footman she knew she could trust across the capital to contact her old friends. She provided one with enough money to rent some rooms across the Drowned Land.

Next, she asked her husband if she could visit her mother, who she said lived in the countryside. He gave his consent thoughtlessly, because she had been obedient to him all their married years. Already he had forgotten her warnings about his sister. And so within three days the former maid left the palace with her young son.

(Her mother had died before she came to work at the palace, and in all that time the Lightning Lord had never thought to ask, or if she'd told him he'd forgotten.)

Instead of doing as she'd told her husband, Lady Lightning and her son Matthew hid with her old friends, then took a boat across the Drowned Land and into the Cities of Glass.

The Lady Lightning found work quickly. Matthew went to a local school, where right away he was admired as the best boy at drawing and at math. He began to forget about his life in the palace, as the pampered son of the Lightning Lord.

Only one thing happened to remind him of his old life. One day, a month after their escape, he came home from school and his mother was home first.

"Mom?" he said.

She folded him into her arms and began to cry. He was confused, so he did what his mom did whenever he cried. He patted her on the back and said, "It's all right, it'll be all right. We're all right." Then, because he couldn't think of anything else, he added, "And I love you." She just cried harder.

There was a letter on the countertop. It read:

"There's been a coup. Lady Leila's son is the new Lord of Lightning."

Matthew's father was dead.


This is one of the stories that I'm tossing around in my head for when I finish revising The Utopia Project. I've been thinking about it because it, like the amazing Welcome to Bordertown, is urban fantasy.

Electricity demons, Californian history, and a trombonist main character who's not afraid to shoot for the ledger lines. I look forward to writing this one. In fact, as I leave for vacation today, I'm bringing along this story in my brain.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I realized I haven't posted my art in a long time. Have some sketches:
Lorenzo Donati, from the not-yet-story SF. A knight, the crown prince's best friend.

Clockwise from top left:
  • Andreas Kale (Unwise Ones) - healer, oboist
  • Orsolya Markov (Unwise Ones) - Peacekeeper from the Metallic Citadel
  • Amedea (Amy) Lewis (Unwise Ones) - trombonist, go-getter
  • Radu (Utopia Project) - elite gang member, kidnapped

Lots and lots of sketches: geometric doorways, buildings, images from dreams.

Friday, December 7, 2012

After the Ice notes, pt. 2

Continued notes from Steven Mithen's After the Ice.

Wrangel Island mammoths: “200 km north of Siberia” (252) at time of Old Kingdom Egypt

Planning a trip across spacetime

Itinerant among several cave systems

Volcanic crater called Palli Aiki in Patagonia

Cut sections out of the root system of a poisonous tree

“Beyond the rocks there is a grassy plain, and then a lake, which blends imperceptibly with the distant sky” (266) - puna of the Peruvian Andes

Massive dams

Epiphytes: “plants which attach themselves to another for support and extend wandering tentacles through the air” (275)

Butchery is a long business

Cascadia: southern Alaska to Norcal - “deep fjords, convoluted sea passages and many offshore islands” (297) - most complex hunter-gatherer societies ever - salmon fishing, diverse hunting and gathering

Wargata Cave, Tasmania: impenetrable rainforest, Kutikina Cave, hand stencils with blood pigment

Imbracite: glass from Darwin Crater, bedrock -> glass because of meteor

Teeth, shells, and stone; upland glaciers; extinct lakes; charcoal and red ochre

Megafauna and “civilized” people - in Australia (Liverpool Plains) ~ 4000 C - Diprotodon (rhino-sized wombat)

In harsh environments, knowledge of landscape spiritually ingrained - storytelling and dances to communicate vital knowledge

Ritual: burning grassland (implicit: new growth)

Animal masks, elaborate headdresses

Ritual fight gone wrong -> real -> unleash something

Polygyny -> lots of fighting to reduce the supply of men

Animal with plant limbs - “yams and waterlilies” (333)

Aboriginal Dreamtime: Rainbow Serpent changes among snake/kangaroo/crocodile, created bodies of water

Myths having basis in environmental changes: misplaced causality

A good thing once unjustly seized becomes bad

Dense population -> social tension and violence

Lowland source: muddy water; mountain source: sediments

Valleys hidden in the mountains, not just one unending range; an enclave, intermontane

“Ridges from which he can see the huge expanse of forest climbing over hills to disappear under heavy cloud” (340)

Axes made from shell

Sundaland: prehistorical Southeast Asian landmass - Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Java, Sumatra - “forest and mangrove swamp” (351) - primordial, dangerous, overpowering, few flowers, dark, humid

Aerial roots, so trees “appear to begin in mid-air” (351)

Butterflies drink sweat? Ominous - revisit butterfly story? everyone at the coast because butterflies rule the forest

In rainforest: birds, turtles, frogs, fish, prawns, crabs, wild cattle; tubers (for carbohydrates), ferns, fruits, shoots

Forest streams tied to culture; ghosts and gods

Rhinos and hyenas in China (Ailuropoda-Stegodon fauna)

Ichang Gorge: “fantastic towers of curiously splintered and weathered rock” (360) - limestone on Yangtze

Wild rice = Oryza rufipogen

Morphology: form; physiology: function

Two claims: one outrageous, one moderately unusual - state the outrageous one needs more investigation, support the moderate

Intricate Jomon pottery vessels - snake-rims

To make acorns unbitter: ash or burial

Use a caldera as a cauldron for big magic

Pig-traps: “narrowing walls to tightly wedge the pig once it [falls] in” (377)

Find mollusks and clams - depressions in the sand - stack shells lips-down in sand, put grass on top and light on fire

Dolphin bones

High Arctic, Russian Far East

Oak, elm, birch; bear, fox, boar; to north, conifers

Russian Federation: Sakha Republic in Siveria

“waves of fores-covered hills that rhythmically rise and fall before fading gently into sky” (382)

Siberian bison; mammoth steppe

Dwellings marked by boulders

Raw meat good for health at high latitudes

Mammoths frozen under snow and ice (Berezovka) - ate glowers; Berelekh mammoth cemetery

Conifers in article: slow growth (time capsules), toxic, unpleasant to eat, decompose slowly, big root systems

“Midsummer arrives and the skies become pastel, often like the mother-of-pearl from inside a shell. Strange haloes and coronas frequently appear around the sun and moon” (386-7)

Hunt swans and seals

Zhokov: polar bear as primary food source - butcher by removing lower legs and feet; cut apart head to remove canines and brain

Chalcedony; obsidian from where?; chert (what color?) and jasper

Clothes of reindeer skin - scrape with stone flakes set in bone handles, rinse, soak in urine; sinew thread soaked in seawater

Bladder-skin bags to collect water

Collect potentially useful stuff without having a specific purpose

Know specific polar bears

Indian ostriches in Thar desert - eggshells as beads

Kurnool Caves: limestone crags; the Charnel-house, Purgatory, the Cathedral

Boulders rising above trees

Generation ~ 25 years

Bolan and Kybar Passes: key routes into South Asia

Ancient burial at Mehrgarh: “red cloth shroud and a string of seashells” (409)

Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan; copper bracelet

Drive cattle through flames to kill parasites

“Mountain gorges open into wooded valleys edged by banks of scree which provide occasional glipses of jagged snow-covered peaks” (414)

Wild roses

Aq Kupruk: the White Bridge - Afghanistan

Knives, bracelets, and coins; bone pins, stone beads

Tying vulture/eagle wings to arms

Between hills and plain; walk between roofs on thick walls

Stone raptor heads (Nemrik, Iraq)

Umm Dabaghiyah: seasonal residences - hunting season - related paintings and shrins

Collected articles from various languages

“the distant Sinjar hills, furrowed with countless ravines, each marked by dark purple shadows that melted into the evening haze” (436)

“maze of mud-brick walls and alleys” (437)

Nile delta: “a vast expanse of lagoons, marshes and scrubby woodland, cut apart by a spider’s web of streams” (444) - annual flooding, so camp on dunes

Sansaveria: succulent plant in Rift Valley, also called olduvai; antiseptic juices, bind wounds

Headless animal images; combine human-animal forms

A tiger among cattle: evil v. good or Ubermensch v. the last man?

Chapter 50 title: Thunderbolts in the Tropics

Rock paintings attributed to gods and spirits

Lots small lakes: remnants of one big lake

Tadrart Acacus: Sahara’s central massif - sandstone and schist

Willow leaves: soporific, keeps sheep subdued; buckets of hide

Other writers: Paul Theroux
Among the Mountains, Wilfred Thesiger
Trans-Europe walking: Nicholas Crane, Patrick Leigh Fermor
Across Australia, Balwin Spencer and Frank Gillen
Archaeology of the Dreamtime, Josephine Flood
Stone Age Economics, M. Sahlin
African Trilogy, Peter Matthiessen
Maasai practical reasoning linked to cattle - J. G. Galaty