Down to the Wire

A timely reminder:  applications for this year’s Viable Paradise workshop close at midnight on the 15th of June – that is to say, this coming Monday.

If you’re on the fence about applying, time to hop off and get your application in the mail!

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An Early-June Miscellany

A trio of literary (more or less) links:

“Somewhere in the distance, a dog barked.”  If that line has an all-too-familiar ring to it, you shouldn’t be surprised.  Here’s an article from Slate on the barking-dog trope in modern fiction that will reassure you that you aren’t just hearing things that aren’t there.  If it inspires you to double-check your own stories for gratuitously vocal canines, so much the better.

Which brings us to another literary animal, in this case the dead mule, as encountered in Southern literature.  The dead mule is one of the genre-defining images, like unicorns and spaceships; much as the presence of a spaceship renders a story science fiction, the presence of a dead mule declares it to be Southern.  I don’t know what happens when you have a spaceship and a dead mule in the same story – something by Howard Waldrop, maybe.

And finally, from the editor of Clarkesworld, a list of the most common titles for short stories submitted to the magazine.

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It’s Magic!

starcat030513For all you folks out there who are interested in Jim Macdonald’s other artistic vocation (the one that isn’t writing novels), tomorrow and Saturday he’s going to be doing close-up street magic in Bradford, Vermont, as part of the local downtown merchants’ Customer Appreciation Days. Look for him out in front of Star Cat Books – he’ll be the one in the hat.

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Road Trip!

Magic Expo SignThis past Saturday Jim Macdonald and I went down to Boston to see Penguin Magic’s traveling expo, which was there that day.  The route and the area were familiar to us, since the Readercon site is in the same general neighborhood, but this time it wasn’t science fiction that brought us there, but Jim Macdonald’s other freelance avocation, stage magic – which isn’t as far a cry from writing sf and fantasy (or writing in general) as one might think.  Both jobs involving entertaining, and sometimes enlightening, the public by creating believable illusions . . . and both of them take a lot of hard work and practice.

Jim had a good time watching the demonstrations.  I don’t do stage magic myself (my job, in my role as Magician’s Significant Other, is to be the test audience and general critic for new tricks, old tricks, and routines under Magic Demodevelopment), but I had a good time anyway.  The event had a lot in common with various other specialized meetups I’ve attended or spectated at in my time – rock and mineral shows, mustache-growing contests, sf and fantasy conventions, and yes, writer’s workshops.  There’s a peculiar pleasure to be had in the company of a bunch of other people who all share the same obsession, and who can be counted on to understand why a person might spend all afternoon working on a new method of cutting a deck of cards, or trying out different ways of punctuating a particular sentence.

(Do I want a comma here?  Would a period and a new sentence work better?  How about two independent clauses and a semicolon?  No, that doesn’t work – the heck with it, why don’t I just cut the whole thing?  Can’t do that either, dammit; it’ll ruin the pacing, and besides, that’s an important bit of information I’m trying to slip in.  Let’s look at it with the comma again….)

Diamonds Magic StockAs is often the case at these specialized events, there’s also the pleasure of cruising the dealers’ tables and trying not to spend more money than one had absolutely budgeted for the purpose.  The setup to the left there belongs to Diamond’s Magic, which is local to the area (up here in the north country of New Hampshire, we count Boston as “local” for certain purposes. Montreal is actually closer, but we don’t need a passport to get to Boston, or at least not yet.)  We highly recommend them for all your magic-related shopping needs.

And a final note:  speaking of specialized groups and shared obsessions and the company of other people who understand why that comma is important enough to spend an afternoon fretting over it:  The application period for the Viable Paradise workshop remains open until 15 June.  If you’re planning to apply, why not get your application in now and avoid the last-minute rush?

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Two Peeves and a Link

Yes – it’s grey and rainy outside today, which means that it’s peeve time here in blogland.

Peeve the first:  It isn’t “per say” (though that’s what it sounds like.)  It’s per se, because it’s Latin, meaning “by itself.”  Per is one of those useful prepositions that also shows up as a prefix, usually one that means “thoroughly” or “extremely” or “completely” – probably from one of the other meanings of per-as-a-preposition, which is “through.”  (If you think that’s a wide range of meanings to stuff into a single word, just consider for a minute some of our English prepositions, which let us say things like “He came by himself to the house by the river by car.”  Which is an awkward sentence – I’d flag it in a heartbeat if I ran across it during a revision or editing pass – but not an ungrammatical one.)

But seriously, people, if you’re going to throw in Latin phrases, at least spell them right.

Peeve the second:  Don’t say “this begs the question” when what you mean is “this raises the question.”

Nobody, but nobody, gets this one right, and it drives me batty.  “Begging the question” is the English term for one of the common logical fallacies, also known by its Latin name, petitio principii, in which the person making the argument assumes as true, and argues from, the very thing which he or she is seeking to prove.  (For a fuller explanation, with diagrams, you can look here.)

Finally, to sweeten things a bit after that outburst of peevishness, a link:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America 50th Anniversary Cookbook, edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde, is now available for pre-order.  It contains 175 recipes as well as interior illustrations, and is available in both print and e-book formats.

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Where I’ve Been When I Haven’t Been Here

Working, mostly, clearing my way out from under a couple of editing gigs. Our trip to Albacon went well – it was a pleasant local convention with congenial people – and we were able to make a side trip to Ausable Chasm on the way out.

Chasm Sign02

Jim Macdonald (husband and co-author) has had a hankering to visit Ausable Chasm ever since he was a kid and first saw the classic Charles Addams cartoon showing the man and wife at a ticket window, with the caption “A round trip and a one-way to Ausable Chasm.”

Well, this year we finally made it. It’s impressive, even from up on the bank of the chasm:

Ausable Chasm01

All we had time for – we didn’t want to miss the Albacon Ice Cream Social later that evening – was the basic two-hour self-guided trail walk (well, Jim did the trail walk; I, as befits a person who has been spraining my ankles on everything from loose rocks to cracks in the linoleum since I was six years old, stayed up on the bank and enjoyed the tranquility.)  But I suspect we’ll be going back, now that we know what’s there. Both the chasm and the convention come highly recommended – do check them out if you have the opportunity.

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Albacon This Weekend

Jim Macdonald and I are going to be in Albany, NY, this weekend, at Albacon 2014.5.

The Doyle and Macdonald schedules for the con:

My schedule

  • Saturday 12:00 PM – The Real World in Fantastic Fiction
  • Saturday 1:00 PM – Autographing
  • Saturday 2:30  PM – Reading
  • Saturday 10:00 PM – Villaincon
  • Saturday 11:00 PM – If I  Am Ever The… (Evil Overlord, Hero, Sidekick, etc.)
  • Sunday 10:00 AM – Noir in SF Cinema (or, perhaps, Science Fiction in Film Noir!)
  • Sunday 12:00 PM – Novel Craft – great plotting & effective world-building

Jim Macdonald’s Schedule

  • Friday 10:00 PM – Crowning Moments of Awesome
  • Saturday 10:00 AM – Steampunk 101
  • Saturday 11:00 AM – Deathbuilding
  • Saturday 1:00 PM – Autographing
  • Saturday 2:00 PM – Reading
  • Sunday 12:00 PM – Novel Craft – great plotting & effective world-building

(The sharp-eyed reader will notice that Jim and I will be autographing jointly, and reading sequentially.)

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