The Hinterland Chronicles: Bilqis (Drabble #1)


Remington Typewriter I’ve been con­ceiv­ing The Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles for sev­er­al years, prob­a­bly six or more.

In Jan­u­ary of 2011 I was off from work for two weeks as I was suf­fer­ing from the excru­ci­at­ing pain of a pinched nerve.  If I had to wish a hor­rid pain on an ene­my, that would be it.  I’m still trau­ma­tized.  Dur­ing that time, I slept very lit­tle.  Between attacks of mus­cle spasms, at all times of the day and night and the steroids and the pain med­ica­tions I got very lit­tle sleep.  When I did sleep I was strick­en with mul­ti­ple recur­rent episodes of lucid dream­ing and hypno­gog­ic hal­lu­ci­na­tions.  I man­aged in that time to do some of what I felt to be my most crys­talline writ­ing.  That is how I felt at that time any­way.

I man­aged some inter­est­ing world build­ing and char­ac­ter devel­op­ment.  Inter­est­ing­ly, every­thing I wrote regard­ing The Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles was writ­ten in drab­ble form.

drab­ble — A drab­ble is an extreme­ly short work of fic­tion of exact­ly one hun­dred words in length,[3] not nec­es­sar­i­ly includ­ing the title.[4] The pur­pose of the drab­ble is brevi­ty, test­ing the author’s abil­i­ty to express inter­est­ing and mean­ing­ful ideas in an extreme­ly con­fined space.   (Wikipedia)

I recent­ly came upon a fold­er with about 100 pages of drab­ble.  I thought I would share them.  I’ve been review­ing them and using them to guide my cur­rent work.  I thought I would share them.

THC: B — Drab­ble #1

I saw you talk­ing to that duster,” said Nguyen.

I said noth­ing.  Couldn’t I talk to who I please?  Did I need his per­mis­sion, his approval?

Do you use dust?” he asked con­fi­den­tial­ly, lean­ing in.  I could smell the gar­lic from his last meal.  “You can tell me.”

I stopped, the com­bi­na­tion to my lock­er only half keyed in.  My heart raced and it took me a moment to under­stand why.

I don’t recall the moment when I reached out, tak­ing hold of his shirt.  “When will your jeal­ousy dry up?” I hissed hot­ly.

When you admit what you are.”


Permission to Suck


I’ve been writ­ing for the past four or so hours and I’ve man­aged about 1600 words.  That isn’t a lot.  I haven’t been writ­ing straight, mind you.  I keep tak­ing breaks to drink, surf the net, post sta­tus updates on Goodreads or com­ment on oth­er peo­ple posts, wor­ry about my diet, post to Twit­ter, con­sid­er cut­ting fresh let­tuce in the gar­den, chang­ing out the movies in the DVD play­er, con­sid­er start­ing a new game of ME (I know!), chat with my kids, play a few games of Scram­ble…

It’s just that I know that every­thing that I have writ­ten sucks like a vam­pire.

Do you know how hard it is to just let your­self suck?

Learning: the meaning of SUCCESS Pis­to­Casero via Comp­fight

In the past, I wouldn’t put down a word unless I had good clear pic­tures in my head and knew almost to the let­ter what I want­ed to write.  Let me tell you, going for per­fec­tion will promise a wretched bout of writer’s block if noth­ing else will.

So, I have this sto­ry, Bilqis, the first install­ment of The Hin­ter­land Chron­i­cles that I want to write.  Bilqis has been talk­ing to me for years now.  At first she was just whis­per­ing, then chat­ter­ing, and now she is straight up yelling in my head.  Oh the echos.  I need to write her.  I need to tell her sto­ry.  Good lord, I’ll go nuts if I don’t.

So, new tac­tic.  I said to myself, “Khaal­i­dah, just put down the bones.  You’ll clothe those bones in love­ly sup­ple flesh lat­er.”  Yeah?  Sounds sim­ple.  Right?

Only it isn’t.  I feel like a fail­ure for not being just so, per­fect, excep­tion­al right out of the gate.

I’ve been read­ing books about out­lin­ing (Thank you K.M. Wei­land, your book is great.) and edit­ing, and how to this or that.  A cou­ple of posts have come to my inbox recent­ly that basi­cal­ly say “just do it”, so here I am, just doing it.  And I am suck­ing like I’ve brushed my teeth with alum.

But, despite my appar­ent ADD, and my moan­ing, and my sad­ly low word count after so many hours, I feel exhil­a­rat­ed.  After all, 1600 words is bet­ter than 0.  Yeah?  Okay, so get out of here and let me write.  And hey!  Don’t you go wast­ing time.  Do some­thing you’ve been mean­ing to do, some­thing you keep mak­ing lame excus­es for not com­plet­ing.  And while you’re at, suck as hard as you please.

Review: Primary Inversion


Primary Inversion (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #1)Pri­ma­ry Inver­sion by Cather­ine Asaro

My rat­ing:

At the begin­ning of the year I decid­ed to active­ly seek out and read SF&F writ­ten by women or with women occu­py­ing the tit­u­lar roles. As you may imag­ine, when I first learned about Cather­ine Asaro , a female author who writes hard SF while read­ing the Com­plete Guide to Writ­ing Sci­ence Fic­tion, I was excit­ed and impressed and went in imme­di­ate search of books writ­ten by her. Aside from being an author and dancer, Asaro has degrees in chem­istry and physics from Har­vard. I felt imme­di­ate­ly assured that her books would give me that blend of believ­able SF and intrigu­ing nar­ra­tive I love. How­ev­er, not until I start­ed to read Pri­ma­ry Inver­sion did I real­ize that she can also be billed as a romance author.

This is where things sort of went bad for me.

I’m not sure if this is the point at which I am sup­posed to hand over my hon­orary girl’s club mem­ber­ship card, but I have a dif­fi­cult time with strong ele­ments of romance in my books. This is a per­son­al pref­er­ence. More accu­rate­ly, I can tol­er­ate romance if it is taste­ful, sub­tle, and does not make up the bulk of the sto­ry. Not quite so with PI, but this is not my only issue with this book.

It’s not that I hate romance… it’s just that I do. Ha. Specif­i­cal­ly, I don’t appre­ci­ate the over sen­ti­men­tal­ized, sap­py, UNREALISTIC, heart-rung qual­i­ty romance nov­els fre­quent­ly present us with. Even more specif­i­cal­ly, I pre­fer sto­ries where­in the romance is a hap­pen­stance occur­rence and not the crux of the tale.

Pri­ma­ry Inver­sion (PI) is the first nov­el in the Saga of the Sko­lian Empire series. PI is a hard SF, space opera, polit­i­cal intrigue and, yes, romance nov­el. As I typ­i­cal­ly do with my reviews, I will try to dis­cuss the mer­its of the book as I see and under­stand them with­out spoil­ing it for those who even­tu­al­ly chose to go on and read it.

PI is writ­ten in first per­son POV in the voice of the main char­ac­ter, Saus­cony Val­do­ria (Soz). Soz is an intel­li­gent, pow­er­ful super sol­dier-type who leads her own fight­er squadron. She is attrac­tive and at forty-eight years old looks about half that. Part of her super sol­dier prowess is due to her many cyber­net­ic implants, but also in part to her genet­ic make-up. She is Rhon (I still hon­est­ly don’t get it) and this makes her, in addi­tion to every­thing else, a pow­er­ful empath. She is fun­ny and spunky, bright and quick wit­ted. Soz is also the sis­ter of Kurj, Imper­a­tor of the Sko­lian Impe­ri­alate, and she is next in line to take his place. What this means is that she is old mon­ey wealthy and prac­ti­cal­ly roy­al­ty.

Her biggest inter­nal con­flict is a ten year old psy­cho­log­i­cal wound she car­ries after hav­ing been once kid­napped and raped by an Aris­to, a race that derives plea­sure from the pain of empaths.

At first I thought it was the first per­son POV that I didn’t like, but then I real­ized that in this case, first per­son wasn’t the issue so much as the char­ac­ter of Soz her­self. She is quite the Mary Sue:

  • Very Beau­ti­ful
  • Strange­ly col­ored hair
  • All men want her
  • Even men who don’t like her want her
  • An espe­cial­ly skilled pilot/leader/soldier
  • Heiress appar­ent to the Sko­lian Impe­ri­alate
  • Prac­ti­cal­ly roy­al­ty
  • Wealthy
  • Trag­ic past (rape) she is still trau­ma­tized by mak­ing her vul­ner­a­ble at just the right sit­u­a­tions
  • High­ly potent empath (Empa­thy is her super­nat­ur­al pow­er fur­ther strength­en by cyber­net­ic implants? Although there are oth­ers with this pow­er, hers is par­tic­u­lar­ly strong and well-honed.)
  • Pre­ten­tious name — Saus­cony Val­do­ria? Real­ly?
  • Incor­rupt­ible
  • Near­ly fifty but looks twen­ty-some­thing
  • Rec­og­nized her true love via ecsta­sy induc­ing mind meld

Dur­ing the course of this book, which spans over a few months, Soz enters into three rela­tion­ships. The first and most appro­pri­ate is with a man who even­tu­al­ly becomes a para­plegic. He breaks up with her so as not to destroy her life and prospects. Of course she was pre­pared to forego her com­fort and her posi­tion for him, but… Her sec­ond rela­tion­ship is with a twen­ty some­thing year old who seems ter­ri­bly naïve. Their rela­tion­ship was hard­ly explored out­side of their cud­dling and romps. He was her gold­en haired boy­toy. The last rela­tion­ship was with a twen­ty year old named Jaib­ri­ol Qox, who she met in the begin­ning of the book. JQ wasn’t just naïve but he was whol­ly inex­pe­ri­enced and also, being Rhon, had this imme­di­ate men­tal con­nec­tion with her that meant that they were soul mates. The prob­lem with this was that JQ is the heir appar­ent of the oppos­ing side a galac­tic war.

Yes, what we have here is a Romeo and Juli­et-ish tale.

I don’t like Romeo and Juli­et.

I don’t like my char­ac­ters per­fect and awe­some and unflawed.

I don’t like spend­ing an entire book stuck in the head of a char­ac­ter whose stuck on them­selves. She spends a lot of time stuck in Woe-is-me-land and I can’t stand that place. Not only that, rape or not, I have a dif­fi­cult time feel­ing as sor­ry for her as she does for her­self. As a mat­ter of fact, there was a scene in which, while drunk, she “mis­tak­en­ly” held a loaded weapon to her head. I kin­da wished she would have pulled the trig­ger. Oh, the mis­ery.

I’d also like to note here that JQ is the much younger male mir­ror image of Soz. In oth­er words, Gary Stu. See all those Mary Sue traits list­ed above? Yep. That’s him with the odd adjust­ment here and there.

So, you’re like­ly won­der­ing why I fin­ished this book. Well, in Asaro’s defense, and mine, PI presents so many inter­est­ing and fresh con­cepts and ideas that I can’t declare it a com­plete loss. The prob­lem is that the ideas that I per­son­al­ly found inter­est­ing, were either not well devel­oped of weight­ed in sim­ple yet exces­sive nar­ra­tive.

Again, first per­son brought me too close to this char­ac­ter who I did not care for. I believe that had this been writ­ten in third per­son, despite my dis­like for Soz, I could have stom­ached her.

As far as the SF ele­ments go, there are a ton of detailed tech­ni­cal descrip­tions that instead of adding to the over­all depth of the sto­ry actu­al­ly slowed the pac­ing. I skipped huge chunks to get back into the fray because at some point I’d just glaze over. Part of the issue, I believe, is the fact that PI has too many things going on. You know, less is more, and all that jazz. We have empath­ic beings, racial issues (although every­one in this book seemed human and white… don’t even get me start­ed on that), cul­tur­al issues, strong mil­i­tary ele­ments, space trav­el, polit­i­cal intrigue, cyber­net­ic implan­ta­tion, AI

About halfway in, I start­ed think­ing about McMas­ters-Bujold with her sub­tle use of tech­ni­cal ver­biage and easy believ­able roman­tic ele­ments. I missed that while read­ing PI. I know it isn’t entire­ly fair to com­pare the two authors, but the sim­i­lar­i­ties and the dif­fer­ences are strik­ing, I think, and Asaro could learn some­thing from McMas­ters-Bujold about sub­tle­ty and believ­able rela­tion­ship pro­gres­sion.

For me, the crux of the issue is that this sto­ry with all of its polit­i­cal intrigue and SF ele­ments, which I’d nor­mal­ly enjoy, appears to have been woven to sup­port these unlike­ly romances as opposed to the romances occur­ring as the nat­ur­al result of what hap­pens when two attrac­tive unat­tached and com­pat­i­ble peo­ple are thrown togeth­er. Deus Ex Machi­na is shame­less­ly and ruth­less­ly employed here and in the course of one tale is so over used as to become absolute­ly unac­cept­able.

The unfor­tu­nate past rape of Soz is a loom­ing ele­ment in this tale, as it col­ors Soz’s future expe­ri­ences. I know that rape hap­pens in real life, that it can alter how a woman sees her­self, how she feels about the world around her and that it col­ors future rela­tion­ships. Rape is trag­ic and hor­rif­ic and unac­cept­able no mat­ter what. That said, I don’t object to the inclu­sion of such a trag­ic ele­ment in a sto­ry if employed with the sen­si­tiv­i­ty it deserves. How­ev­er, in this case I do resent its use as it feels like a pil­lar upon which to prop the pro­tag­o­nist whose char­ac­ter is annoy­ing, weak­ly con­struct­ed, and paper thin.
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