Season of the Squid

"It ain't no sin, to take off your skin and dance around in your bones" -Tom Waits

0 notes &

Music of The Bearkeeper, Part Two

Music of The Bearkeeper, Part Two

Video here: http://rose-streif.tumblr.com/post/96008637287/music-of-the-bearkeeper-part-two-tl-dr-this-is

tl;dr…this is the vielle, Ariel’s instrument. (Actually, Ariel’s instrument is a modified viola, but more on that.)

The full essay:

The medieval predecessor to the violin, the vielle (Fr. “fiddle”) was played either upright in the lap, or under the chin. Like many medieval instruments, it was…

View On WordPress

Filed under Early Music Medieval Music Music Music and Writing The Bearkeeper Writing

2 notes &

Music of The Bearkeeper, Part Two:

tl;dr…this is the vielle, Ariel’s instrument. (Actually, Ariel’s instrument is a modified viola, but more on that.)

The full essay:
The medieval predecessor to the violin, the vielle (Fr. “fiddle”) was played either upright in the lap, or under the chin. Like many medieval instruments, it was gut-strung, typically possessing four strings with an added “drone string” running alongside the fingerboard; however, this arrangement could vary. It was one of the most common instruments of the Middle Ages, gradually giving way to the lira de braccio and the viols of the Renaissance. 

Instead of a reproduction instrument, Ariel Da Costa plays a modified viola; he also modifies his bowing style to help recreate the sound. Unlike his adopted brother, Daniel, he is lacking in raw talent, technical ability, and sometimes even the time in which to practice; some people might be surprised to learn that he is a musician at all. But when he takes up his instrument, his love for the music shows. He is unconcerned that he will never be considered a musical genius, for he knows that there are other paths to beauty: through mood, texture, grace, and most of all, the patience to keep working, perhaps all his life.

Filed under The Bearkeeper writing music and writing early music medieval music

1 note &

Music of The Bearkeeper, Part One:

tl;dr…this is the gittern, the instrument that Daniel played.

The full essay:

The gittern came to Europe via Moorish Spain in the 13th century; it was a gut-strung, quill-plucked instrument that was later superseded by the lute and guitar. 

In The Bearkeeper, the existence of a race of immortals entails the survival of what would otherwise be lost knowledge; they are, whether they like it or not, living historians. The group known as the Londoners have accepted this, working willingly with a secret society to impart what they know. One aspect of that knowledge is medieval music: it captures the imagination of music student John Schmidt, who then imparts that fascination to his own students, and through them (and their sometimes anarchic ensemble) to the city itself.

Daniel Kerrigan is his most naturally talented student. Being the most naturally talented, he has to work at it the least, and therefore doesn’t take it as seriously as the others. In fact, he would almost rather be doing something else, something that would challenge him, though by the end of The Bearkeeper he may be having second thoughts… 

Filed under The Bearkeeper writing medieval music early music music music and writing

0 notes &

Literary Terms I’ve Come to Fear

Literary Terms I’ve Come to Fear

Epic:  What this might actually mean, when applied to high fantasy, is that it is in need of a highly intolerant story editor. For every single tome, each of which may just run in excess of 900 pages. Obsessive fans will insist that it only immerses one deeper in the world, but I would be more immersed in a concise story that doesn’t meander aimlessly, drop plotlines, or keep repeating things…

View On WordPress

Filed under epic fantasy episodic Literary terms postmodernism satire

1 note &

"Can You Hear Me?" - Anonymity in the Age of Social Media
I’m not speaking of type found in chat rooms and comments sections, pertaining to the GIFT postulate (see: Penny Arcade) that we all know and do not love. I am speaking of unintentional anonymity, that of crowded spaces, where everyone is given a voice and very few are heard above the shouting. Social media was supposed to be a boon to the artist, and undoubtedly it is…with the right amount of luck, timing, persistence, and circumstance. But it is also incredibly easy to get lost in the crowd, for with the oversaturation of individuals—creative and otherwise—vying for attention comes a malaise on the part of the beholder, who simply starts…skimming. Suddenly it becomes much easier to focus on Aunt Boo’s latest Facebook meltdown than their crazy-smart cousin’s brilliant (but complicated) Kickstarter. And then we have an economy-panicked Hollywood to thank for spreading the philosophy that Original Ideas Are Scary, and therefore unknown creators and franchises are, too, but not everyone buys in to this, and many actively resent it.  But still, with so many celebrities on social media (or their agents standing in for them, for some celebrities are bugf*ck nuts and can’t be trusted with a Twitter account), some people don’t even notice the non-celebrities; or, even worse, they view them as non-persons, as though fame sprung from a vacuum and the high-profile people they admire never had to work their way up from nothing.Luckily, persistence, cleverness, and good work can raise one’s profile (see: The Oatmeal). But a word of warning: raising one’s profile can bring on the attackers (see also: The Oatmeal). So once more, persistence, cleverness, and good work will cause one to prevail (see: The Oatmeal, once again). It’s a narcissistic age, and some people frankly can’t tolerate the success of others, even if they themselves are successful, for that success may feel precarious or meager to them. They’ll frame their attacks in the language of condescension or outrage, but look at the timing. And for god’s sake, make sure it really wasn’t something you said…you might think your racist joke was “edgy,” but no, darling, that’s just racist. And stupid.Personally, I think my fear of spamming and my hatred of Twitter keeps me a little on the Luddite side of book promotion, which isn’t good, but I make up for it on the convention circuit, where I can talk to people face-to-face, something I’m much better at. Where I get really frustrated is when I discover the work of someone that I think is truly gifted, perhaps even a borderline genius, and I spew their praises all over Facebook and Tumblr…only to find that it’s been skimmed over or ignored. I want to shake my stubby little hands at the sky. And yet, sometimes I’ll discover later that someone did notice, in their lurky fashion, and that they bought the album/ebook/art/etc. And now that artist has one more fan, and is one step closer to being better known. Even small steps matter. 

"Can You Hear Me?" - Anonymity in the Age of Social Media

I’m not speaking of type found in chat rooms and comments sections, pertaining to the GIFT postulate (see: Penny Arcade) that we all know and do not love. I am speaking of unintentional anonymity, that of crowded spaces, where everyone is given a voice and very few are heard above the shouting. Social media was supposed to be a boon to the artist, and undoubtedly it is…with the right amount of luck, timing, persistence, and circumstance. But it is also incredibly easy to get lost in the crowd, for with the oversaturation of individuals—creative and otherwise—vying for attention comes a malaise on the part of the beholder, who simply starts…skimming. Suddenly it becomes much easier to focus on Aunt Boo’s latest Facebook meltdown than their crazy-smart cousin’s brilliant (but complicated) Kickstarter. 

And then we have an economy-panicked Hollywood to thank for spreading the philosophy that Original Ideas Are Scary, and therefore unknown creators and franchises are, too, but not everyone buys in to this, and many actively resent it.  But still, with so many celebrities on social media (or their agents standing in for them, for some celebrities are bugf*ck nuts and can’t be trusted with a Twitter account), some people don’t even notice the non-celebrities; or, even worse, they view them as non-persons, as though fame sprung from a vacuum and the high-profile people they admire never had to work their way up from nothing.

Luckily, persistence, cleverness, and good work can raise one’s profile (see: The Oatmeal). But a word of warning: raising one’s profile can bring on the attackers (see also: The Oatmeal). So once more, persistence, cleverness, and good work will cause one to prevail (see: The Oatmeal, once again). It’s a narcissistic age, and some people frankly can’t tolerate the success of others, even if they themselves are successful, for that success may feel precarious or meager to them. They’ll frame their attacks in the language of condescension or outrage, but look at the timing. And for god’s sake, make sure it really wasn’t something you said…you might think your racist joke was “edgy,” but no, darling, that’s just racist. And stupid.

Personally, I think my fear of spamming and my hatred of Twitter keeps me a little on the Luddite side of book promotion, which isn’t good, but I make up for it on the convention circuit, where I can talk to people face-to-face, something I’m much better at. Where I get really frustrated is when I discover the work of someone that I think is truly gifted, perhaps even a borderline genius, and I spew their praises all over Facebook and Tumblr…only to find that it’s been skimmed over or ignored. I want to shake my stubby little hands at the sky. And yet, sometimes I’ll discover later that someone did notice, in their lurky fashion, and that they bought the album/ebook/art/etc. And now that artist has one more fan, and is one step closer to being better known. Even small steps matter. 

Filed under writing books music art promotion social media nita naldi The oatmeal penny arcade

0 notes &

History and Its Malcontents 
There are a number of problems that one discovers when writing historical fiction, and even historical fantasy. One problem is that not only do the long-accepted schoolbook versions of events prove to be oversimplified or flat-out wrong at closer inspection, but that the events of 100, 500, or 1500 years ago can prove to be maddeningly elusive in spite of our assurance that the past has “happened” and is therefore firmly within our grasp. Look no further than today and you will see the tendency for any annalist/analyst to reject reality and substitute their own; it was no different in the past, and while we can praise the gods for the neutral parties who do their best to provide unbiased commentary, turn back the clock and it is difficult to know who was truly unbiased, and given that modern journalism practices were nonexistent, such sources may have been a rare to mythical breed.
Another problem we run into is that the experts can’t seem to agree amongst themselves, leaving the writer on the verge of throwing everything down and walking away. Small wonder some of us just make things up. Part of the problem is that some experts have agendas, whether they admit to it or not, and the other part of the problem is that historical events, especially those occurring in the distant past, have the maddening tendency to still make sense when seen from completely different angles. Was William Rufus murdered, or was it an accident? The events look highly suspicious when presented by one person, then not at all when presented by another. The saving grace for the fiction writer is…you’re writing fiction. It only has to make sense within the framework of your story. I would implore everyone to fight the scourge that is Hollywood History and make it as accurate as humanly possible, all stumbling blocks aside, but fiction does allow for some leeway, and fantasy for even more.
But then comes another problem. Some people have opinions. Not just opinions: they seem to think that they know exactly what happened 700 years ago, and that they know historical persons personally, and they somehow missed the “Fiction” designation on your book. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about them, even though they have the potential to be the most damaging to you. You can’t cure stupid. And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks that want everything played so safe that the characters have the personalities of marble statues and the novel reads like a history text book. A good cure for insomnia, maybe, but is that what you’re going for?  
As for me, I can take refuge in both obscurity and audacity, for Children of Stone, when it is finished, will be damn near a comedy despite the life-or-death situation of its characters. And why shouldn’t it be, with Chaucer as the narrator? Scholars put him on a pedestal as the father of the English language, but he was also the father of dick-and-fart jokes, with a healthy streak of sarcasm in his work. The depiction may delight some, and ruffle the feathers of others who take the man far more seriously than they probably should. Riskier still is depicting a national figure like Owain Glyndwr, however sympathetically. Some might not like to be reminded that he faithfully served an English king and only rebelled when that king was deposed and murdered (“See you later, you cunts. By the way…I’m taking Wales with me.”) These risks, among others, I am willing to take, even though there are always (in this case very humorless) readers and sometimes fellow authors who are quite willing to curb-stomp an ambitious small-timer for their transgressions. The majority, however, will hopefully be entertained, for in throwing all caution to the wind I think I’ve got a lively tale in the telling. With The Bearkeeper, I had a very difficult narrator in Matthew; he was chosen mainly for his unique thoughts and perspective and, because of his clairvoyance, the opportunity for me to write in both first and third person. But he came with his drawbacks, and I don’t think I will use him again. With Chaucer, the perspective is unfortunately more limited, but holy shit, it’s fun. He has come out as sarcastic, wily, perceptive, vacillating between humility and egotism, often hypocritical, gruff but sympathetic, crass (an “old satyr” as one friend put it), and with a tendency to become tongue-tied when put on the spot. I have found it unusual for female writers to stray from writing from the perspective of women, though many do, and successfully. Still, the fact that I have slipped into the mindset of a fat, ornery old man so easily scares me a little.
By my estimates I am now past halfway finished, and so long as I do not encounter more setbacks (brain damage, even minor brain damage, is a world of suck,) things seem to be back on track. In the meantime, I implore you all to do your research to the best of your ability, keep an open mind, and, holy crap, check out Theda/Cleopatra up there. Snake boobs. Rowr.        

History and Its Malcontents 

There are a number of problems that one discovers when writing historical fiction, and even historical fantasy. One problem is that not only do the long-accepted schoolbook versions of events prove to be oversimplified or flat-out wrong at closer inspection, but that the events of 100, 500, or 1500 years ago can prove to be maddeningly elusive in spite of our assurance that the past has “happened” and is therefore firmly within our grasp. Look no further than today and you will see the tendency for any annalist/analyst to reject reality and substitute their own; it was no different in the past, and while we can praise the gods for the neutral parties who do their best to provide unbiased commentary, turn back the clock and it is difficult to know who was truly unbiased, and given that modern journalism practices were nonexistent, such sources may have been a rare to mythical breed.

Another problem we run into is that the experts can’t seem to agree amongst themselves, leaving the writer on the verge of throwing everything down and walking away. Small wonder some of us just make things up. Part of the problem is that some experts have agendas, whether they admit to it or not, and the other part of the problem is that historical events, especially those occurring in the distant past, have the maddening tendency to still make sense when seen from completely different angles. Was William Rufus murdered, or was it an accident? The events look highly suspicious when presented by one person, then not at all when presented by another. The saving grace for the fiction writer is…you’re writing fiction. It only has to make sense within the framework of your story. I would implore everyone to fight the scourge that is Hollywood History and make it as accurate as humanly possible, all stumbling blocks aside, but fiction does allow for some leeway, and fantasy for even more.

But then comes another problem. Some people have opinions. Not just opinions: they seem to think that they know exactly what happened 700 years ago, and that they know historical persons personally, and they somehow missed the “Fiction” designation on your book. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about them, even though they have the potential to be the most damaging to you. You can’t cure stupid. And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum are the folks that want everything played so safe that the characters have the personalities of marble statues and the novel reads like a history text book. A good cure for insomnia, maybe, but is that what you’re going for?  

As for me, I can take refuge in both obscurity and audacity, for Children of Stone, when it is finished, will be damn near a comedy despite the life-or-death situation of its characters. And why shouldn’t it be, with Chaucer as the narrator? Scholars put him on a pedestal as the father of the English language, but he was also the father of dick-and-fart jokes, with a healthy streak of sarcasm in his work. The depiction may delight some, and ruffle the feathers of others who take the man far more seriously than they probably should. Riskier still is depicting a national figure like Owain Glyndwr, however sympathetically. Some might not like to be reminded that he faithfully served an English king and only rebelled when that king was deposed and murdered (“See you later, you cunts. By the way…I’m taking Wales with me.”) These risks, among others, I am willing to take, even though there are always (in this case very humorless) readers and sometimes fellow authors who are quite willing to curb-stomp an ambitious small-timer for their transgressions. The majority, however, will hopefully be entertained, for in throwing all caution to the wind I think I’ve got a lively tale in the telling. With The Bearkeeper, I had a very difficult narrator in Matthew; he was chosen mainly for his unique thoughts and perspective and, because of his clairvoyance, the opportunity for me to write in both first and third person. But he came with his drawbacks, and I don’t think I will use him again. With Chaucer, the perspective is unfortunately more limited, but holy shit, it’s fun. He has come out as sarcastic, wily, perceptive, vacillating between humility and egotism, often hypocritical, gruff but sympathetic, crass (an “old satyr” as one friend put it), and with a tendency to become tongue-tied when put on the spot. I have found it unusual for female writers to stray from writing from the perspective of women, though many do, and successfully. Still, the fact that I have slipped into the mindset of a fat, ornery old man so easily scares me a little.

By my estimates I am now past halfway finished, and so long as I do not encounter more setbacks (brain damage, even minor brain damage, is a world of suck,) things seem to be back on track. In the meantime, I implore you all to do your research to the best of your ability, keep an open mind, and, holy crap, check out Theda/Cleopatra up there. Snake boobs. Rowr.        

Filed under writing historical fiction historical fantasy alternate timeline The Bearkeeper history Theda Bara chaucer owain glyndwr