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The Best First Sentence in the World [Apr. 20th, 2014|04:52 pm]


Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday (and I hope you're not just finding that out here).  His death reminded me that I've always thought that One Hundred Years of Solitude has the best opening sentence in the world.

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to see ice."  Of course the first thing you're wondering is what brought Buendia before the firing squad to begin with, and, more importantly, if he's going to get out of it, and how.  (It doesn't seem likely that an author is going to introduce a character just to kill him off.)  But then, frustratingly, Garcia Marquez starts talking about going to see ice.  You're left hanging, your mouth open.  "No, wait!" you want to cry.  "What about the firing squad?"

But that part is fascinating too.  "Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great roar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions."  They show the villagers magnets and telescopes, magnifying glasses and false teeth.  And finally, one year, they open a chest: "Inside there was only an enormous, transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken up into colored stars…'It's the largest diamond in the world.'  'No,' the gypsy countered.  'It's ice.'"

Writing teachers and books about writing will tell you that your first sentence has to hook the reader in some way, draw them in.  But this first sentence isn't anything as weak as a hook.  It's more like a giant wave rushing you along -- you can't stop reading.  And of course Garcia Marquez returns to the firing squad several times, and you do eventually find out what happened.

It's also Garcia Marquez introducing us to his method of story-telling.  Ordinary things, like ice, take on the patina of the marvelous.  And marvelous things, like a woman being carried off by butterflies, are recounted as if they're everyday occurrences.  It's an amazing balancing act -- and it goes on, perfectly, for 380 more pages.

(I used to admire the juxtaposition of "fire" and "ice" as well, but unfortunately I later discovered that this doesn't work in the original Spanish, that "peloton de fusilamiento," is more like "shooting squad."  Oh, well,  It's still brilliant.)
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Pumped from Using the Prompt [Apr. 19th, 2014|07:34 pm]

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Mason accused me of being hyper after having eaten all the Reese's Peanut Butter chocolate eggs (which I may have done), but I don't think it's the sugar that got me all jazzed. I had a surprisingly good "First Pages" gig at the Chanhassen Library today. I mean, I actually don't know if I taught anything to the THREE (hey, I was only expecting ONE, so this was an improvement) teens who showed up. But, I had a blast playing with the plot generators that we found on-line.

A couple of my favorites:

For absolute zaniness (including robots poking each other at a funeral), you really need to press "random" and try out one of the generators at

The other one that entertained us (though probably me more than them):

From the springhole site, I got the prompt for how I got my superpowers: "Bought them from a fairy."

In response, I wrote this:

They told me if I wanted to get superpowers, I had to buy them from the fairy. The problem was you never knew what it’d cost you. Fairies are fickle, you know. Sometimes they just want something mundane in exchange. I heard of a guy who got the power of invulnerability and all it cost him was a slice of Munster cheese. Other times, they wanted too much, stuff no sane person would part with. Sure, you’re immortal, but your body is gone, and you’re just stuffed teddy bear without even the ability to move or speak.

I don't know if I'll do anything with it, but it's kind of a fun start, isn't it?

The 'First Pages' is an interesting concept, and I do mean 'interesting' in the Minnesota sense. There's a kind of a theme to it. This one was generally supposed to be about "Reading to Write" and the description talked about what kinds of things you could potentially learn from reading books. But, the way that the education department bills it to their instructors is that you're supposed to be far more flexible than that. You're supposed to go in ready to teach that OR ANYTHING THE PARTICIPANTS ASK FOR. We talked a little about what books had taught us about writing (the answer is, of course: EVERYTHING,) but, generally, I'm supposed to go in and ask them what they want to learn... and wing it. I happen to be really good at teaching on the fly for the most part, but I always leave wondering if the participants (I hesitate to call them students in a situation like this) got 1) what they came for, and/or 2) leave feeling as though they got something out of it. I mean, the good news is that it's entirely free. I get paid, but they don't have to pay to play. So, I supposed anything I give them is worth the price they paid, if you look at it that way. But, they are giving up 90 minutes of their day, so I do feel like they should leave feeling like it wasn't a waste.

I never know if I achieve that or not.

Being an extrovert who is pushed to improvise, however = wired.

So, I came home, ate a lot of chocolate and was a little too silly while playing a game of Star Munchkin with Mason and Shawn. :-)

Oh, and yesterday, with his day off, Mason wanted to go to the Mall of America with his allowance and buy a big ol' LEGO set he'd been saving up for for forever. He got a LotR's set "The Tower of Orthanc." It's massive.

Plus, I got an unexpected royalty check, so we decided to splurge a bit as a family. We went book shopping at all our favorite used bookstores. Mason came home with LITERALLY a box of books. I got these:


I got Black Widow 1-8 and Full Metal Alchemist volumes 1-8 (missing #6). I also picked up some Shonen Jump issues that had Bleach in them to added to my collection. I like getting those to see what else was running in Jump at the same time, and because there are often little asides that give you names written in Japanese and whatnot.

Now, I'm going to try to harness some of this energy to write! Wish me luck.
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Black Widow [Apr. 18th, 2014|07:56 am]

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At the library yesterday, I gravitated toward my usual favorite section to shelve: teen (because they have all the manga and the comic books.) So, I came across this:


Black Widow: The Name of the Rose (Margorie Liu/Daniel Acuña). According to the back cover copy, "collecting Black Widow 1-5, plus some material from Heroic Age #1."

When I started it, I was a little afraid it was going to make me feel old again, like the new Hawkeye title did. The art is similar, but deeper:


But, for some reason, I really enjoyed the heck out of this title. I think maybe it's partly the fact that Black Widow is super-competient. She also gets beaten up, being mostly human, like Clint, but... she's just so much smarter and independent. Looking back to Hawkeye at the scene where Clint can't figure out how to untangle his cords for his entertainment system and calls Iron Man/Tony Stark, it's hard not to compare it to the time Stark is called in here... to find out that the reason Black Widow was attack was because she was secretly carrying a recording device, collecting spy information on EVERYONE (ally and enemy alike). Clint comes off as a moron; Natasha kicked your butt and you didn't even know it.

There are also a couple of scene that made me hyper-aware of Black Widow's sexuality. Guess what, guys, she has boobs. But, what SHOULD feel like gratuitous fan service never entirely did--even the scene where she's tied up, naked. I think the reason was because she comes off so completely unfazed by it. Like, 'ho-hum' bad guys are trying to make me feel vulnerable using my gender. Ah, well, I guess I'll just have to escape and KICK THEIR A$$ES WHILE COMPLETELY NUDE.

It's weirdly awesome.

I recommend it.
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More Lucius [Apr. 17th, 2014|05:16 pm]


I was looking at stuff about Lucius and was reminded of this letter.  He'd written it for his roommate, who'd wanted to meet me, for the roommate to give me at a convention:

Dear Lisa,

This is to introduce my friend and roommate.  He's a good guy, so sit down and have a drink with him if you've got a moment, OK?

Y'know, I just realized that this could be some incredibly devious ploy utilized by some demented fan in order to get close to the object of his obsession, couldn't it.  All it would take is half an imagination, a passing familiarity with my chicken scratch of a signature, the opportunity, and then the terror could begin.

Oh, well.  Live dangerously...

Yr. pal,

[Chicken scratch of a signature here]

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New Review at LOCUS ONLINE [Apr. 16th, 2014|08:29 pm]


I look at some vintage SF:
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More Incoherent Squee from Me [Apr. 16th, 2014|10:15 am]

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Mason and I recorded our sixth MangaKast podcast, and it's up for your enjoyment.


I kind of wish I could be slightly more articulate about why Ao no Exorcist is so awesome. I'd love to drag more people into that fandom and there are only 56 chapters to-date, so it wouldn't be hard to catch up.

In other news, there is a "wintery mix" falling on the ground right now. That's right: SNOW. I can hardly believe it. It's not right. At least my strawberries are still mostly covered by mulch, so I think they'll survive this. The question is: will Minnesotans? Because I think a lot of people are ready to weep (myself included.)
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now i'm calling all citizens from all over the world, this is captain america calling [Apr. 16th, 2014|09:52 am]

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[mood |relaxedrelaxed]
[music |Morning Edition]

It's snowing.

I guess this is going to be a thing now.

Heya, Jadis.

In other news, why hasn't the Internet made me a Captain America: The Winter Soldier fan vid to this yet?

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you must take the a train to go to sugar hill [Apr. 15th, 2014|07:56 pm]

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[mood |relaxedrelaxed]
[music |Ella Fitzgerald - Take the A Train]

I just invented a cocktail name, and it was so good I had to invent a cocktail to go with it.

It's a Manhattan variant--specifically, a variant of the Manhattanhenge, also known as a Black Manhattan, in which Amaro is substituted for vermouth. This uses bourbon in place of the traditional rye, because that boy I like prefers bourbon.

I like bourbon too, as it happens.

It's my reward for a stupidly productive two days.

I call this, "Persephone Takes the A Train," and it's in honor of the Storium kickstarter and my Jazz Age/Harlem Renaissance jazzpunk stretch goal.

2 parts bourbon (decent bourbon, please)
1 part Amaro
1 part grenadine (make and use real grenadine, which is just pomegranate juice cooked with an equal weight of sugar to make a syrup. If you use that corn syrup and red dye #5 shit, Persephone is going to look you in the eye and go right back to her mama.)
2 dashes orange bitters (Bitter Truth makes a lovely orange cardamom one that works well)
half a clementine or mandarin orange

Put the bourbon, Amaro, grenadine, and bitters in a lowball glass. Swirl to mix. Squeeze half a clementine into the glass and then drop the crushed fruit in so the peel oils infuse the drink.

Add a little ice.

Enjoy in a leisurely fashion while reading Langston Hughes and listening to Ella Fitzgerald.

I'll start.

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Keepin' on Keepin' on... [Apr. 15th, 2014|11:36 am]

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First of all, I posted a new installment of my grand experiment up on WattPad. I might have been writing up to the very last minute, but that just means this newest installment of UnJust Cause is HOT off the press!

You can read it here: UnJust Cause Part 4: Mochas and Motorcycles.

In this installment, Alex discovers that demons have a weakness for mochas. Also, it seems that the sexy redhead werewolf biker, Mac, is stalking her!

So, there's my sale's pitch. Go read!

I have to say, it's very different, writing this way. I kind of think I might be meandering a bit, but that's alright. I mean, I intend to do revisions before publishing this as an e-book, and it's probably good for me to take some risks. Otherwise, I'd never get this out there.

Tomorrow, Mason and I will probably have another podcast for you, also. I'm all caught up on Ao no Exorcist/Blue Exorcist, so I'll have to squee about that. That's a good manga, I have to say. Very engaging and, at the moment, a very TIGHT story.

Not a lot of other news. We're kind of waiting on snow. The weather people say it might be coming, 40% chance, anyway. Mason is looking forward to having the day off on Friday (I guess there's a holiday???) He wants to try baking bread. So, we're going to give that a go. Should be fun, if nothing else. On Saturday, I was invited to go to Minicon to be on a panel that would have been PERFECT for me, "Anime for SF Fans" (Right???!!). But, it turns out that the panel is scheduled at the EXACT same time as the one writing gig I have this month: I'm doing the Loft's First Pages thing down in Chanhassen. But, you know, it occurred to me, who is going to show up for this thing on the Saturday before Easter? Ah, well, I guess I'll find out. My luck, I'll have crickets and the Anime panel will be packed.

Right, I'm off to have lunch and post some fan fic as well. (My, aren't I busy?)
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we don't need luck. we've got guns. [Apr. 15th, 2014|10:10 am]

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[mood |sleepysleepy]
[music |Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention - Bow Tie Daddy]

The awesome news just keeps on coming.

1) I just sold my Moscow metro dog story, "This Chance Planet," to Ellen Datlow at No word yet on when you can read it, but soon, my lovelies. Soooon.

2) Zombies, Run! Season three kicks off tomorrow, April 16th. I wrote a story for it! So did Janni Lee Simner! So did some other folks you might know. Ahem.

3) Here I am at Mary Robinette Kowal's blog talking about My Favorite Bit of Steles of the Sky.

4) I'm a stretch goal for the Storium kickstarter. This is an awesome online interactive storytelling/roleplaying engine with a variety of settings. I'm providing jazzpunk.

5) timprov's War for the Oaks reader project book kickstarter. Awesome photos of awesome people reading an awesome book in an awesome city.
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