Gazing Blog


Corner of First and Myth

posted Nov 13, 2013, 9:18 PM by crystal carroll   [ updated Nov 13, 2013, 9:19 PM ]

Hmmm... so I haven't posted since July. Well, okay then. I've been busily working on the next book. The Corner of First and Myth is a collection of 14 short stories set in the City where mythology mashes up with the mundane.

Here's what it's all about.

A Day at the Mall

Description: The dead rise. This makes it difficult to run a shop at the mall.

Source: Crosses characters from the "Epic of Gilgamesh" with a woman working in a shop at a mall.

Why?: This is the era of silly (or not) zombie stories and I wanted to start with a normal woman opening the closet and finding not a talking cup, but a toothless zombie.

 

Waiting

Description: Hades waits for the return of spring.

Source: From the Greek Eleusinian mysteries. The kidnapping of Kore/Persephone, the Greek goddess of the spring, by Hades, Greek god of the underworld. The story is from Hades point of view.

Why?: I was reading Dante's Inferno (Canto 7) and for some reason Hades kidnapping Persephone sprang full blown into my head pretty much as you see it.

In Whose Savage Heart

Description: The goddess of nature searches for her missing daughter. A woman mourns her dead son. A mediation on winter and springtime.

Source: From the Greek Eleusinian mysteries. The kidnapping of Kore/Persephone, the Greek goddess of the spring, by Hades, Greek god of the underworld. The story is from Demeter's point of view. Includes triggers for non-consensual sex.

Why?: Having written "Waiting", I wanted to work my way through different perspectives on the same events. Here I wanted to balance Demeter's divinely immense desperation at the kidnapping of her child with the quieter story of a "normal" person mourning her missing son.

Into the Looking Glass

Description: The other side of the mirror, spring in the land of the dead.

Source: From the Greek Eleusinian mysteries. The kidnapping of Kore/Persephone, the Greek goddess of the spring, by Hades, Greek god of the underworld. The story is from Kore/Persephone's point of view.

Why?: A woman's journey to experience tends to be, "She had adventures and then she got married. Happily ever after. The end." I wanted to play into that trope of becoming an adult, while using the later Adonis story to look at the "ever after". Which is why so many of the stories in this collection are, in their way, variations of the Persephone story.

Queer as the Fork When the Knife Ran Away with the Spoon

Description: Beauty grew up in a box. He divided himself. How could he know who he was, unless he undid the wrapping?

Source: A retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" if Beauty were a black, gay, magic man with a velvet fetish and knack for roses.   The Beast really doesn't know what to make of the Beauty who showed up.

Why?: I knew I wanted to do a gender reversed Beauty and the Beast, but I didn't really want to write the monstrous feminine. From there, this story sprang to life full blown, because Beauty needed to exist.

A Little Goddess

Description: Like when Isis went to live in the marsh and begged for food for her baby, Serqa went to live on the roof of the Gorgos Sisters Hellenic Gymnasium for girls. Like Isis, she had a curse to lift and steps to take through the world that was full of magic if you’d stop to tell the tale.

Source: A very modified retelling of Francis Burnett's A Little Princess in an Egyptian/Greek magical realism setting. Mythology referenced is the story of Medusa and the very complicated Egyptian mythological family dynamics.

Why?: I've always loved a A Little Princess and I wanted to play with the redemption of a monster, who if you're familiar with the myth of Medusa, really got the short end of the stick. Although, that describes quite a few myths.

The Tyrolean CEOs Virgin Secretary

Description: From secretary - to kept man!

Hunt Zmenn had worked as Snow White's personal secretary at the Tyrolean Mining Corporation for three years. For three years, he'd kept the secret of his love since, after all, Snow White was a wealthy CEO and he was just a secretary raised in an orphanage after his parents were eaten by wolves.

When Ms. White's fiancé, Mr. Charming, left her for another woman, they ended up making love in the office!

Soon, he and Snow had more than just a working relationship. Where once Snow was happy to have Hunt safely behind his desk, now Snow wanted him across hers - passionate and willing.

Could Hunt surrender to Snow's erotic program and not lose himself to a whirl of desire? Could he find a way to pencil in love to Snow's agenda?

Source: A parody of Harlequin Present's romances with the roles reversed and the characters (but only the plot in the loosest sense of the word) from the story of Snow White, but with a lot more sex and axe carving as well as guest appearance by Little Red Riding Hood. Also references the Lamia, who is a snake/woman monster from Greek mythology.

Why?: There needs to be more Harlequin role reversal parody in the world.

Monstrous

Description: On a dark desert highway, travelers stop for the night at a lonely stop.

Source: A riff off of the trope of travelers getting into horror/hijinks at a mysterious hotel in the middle of nowhere. The mythology mixes the Mayan Hero Twins, who are Mayan trickster gods, with the Lamia, a Greek mythological monster. I've given the Lamia some of the characteristics of Circe from the Odyssey. The poetry starting each Circe section is from "The Lamia" by Keats.

Why?: I listened to Los Lobos singing their cover of "Hotel California" one too many times.

Under the Skin

Description: Marie could have managed horrible dreams. The soldiers who returned from the trenches missing arms and echoes in their eyes had horrible dreams. Everyone had nightmares. She dreamed of Papa tangled in the barbed wire, split in half by a winter hail of bullets as he drowned in mud, but that was normal. The Comtesse Melusine de l'Eau could have told her that they came from under the skin.

Source: A very loose version of the "Robber Bridegroom" crossed with Melusine (dragon lady/fairy ancestor of the Plantagenets) from French folklore.

Why?: Having written the Lamia as an old female monster being defeated, I wanted a triumph.

Last Nickel in the Nation Sack

Description: Sometimes there ain't nothing for a walking man to do, but play the sweet Delta Blues.

Source: The Greek myth of Orpheus retold as Southern gothic with various Vodou loa. The title refers both to a song by Robert Johnson and a vodou practice in which a woman keeps a "nation sack" with coins and various articles on her person to keep her man faithful.

Why?: With so many stories drawing on Greek mythology, I wanted to give a Greek myth a new context, while still playing on a story that featured a variation of the Hades and Persephone figures.

Moaning of Dust Around Which Branches Leaf

Description: Adonis never grows in the winter when he lives with his underworld Mother, Persephone. In the springtime of the year, his bones stretch and crack as he grows six months at once. The house of his above world Mother, Aphrodite, is a wild place. He is wild there.

Source: Gives the myth of Adonis the Flowers in the Attic treatment. It also borrows somewhat liberally from Dante's Inferno and the Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent into the underworld. The title is a reference to lines form the poem Khalida by the poet Ali Ahmed Said (Adonis).

Why?: Because I've always found the idea of Aphrodite raising Adonis from infancy and then becoming his lover as inherently creepy.

Lent Wings by the Storm

Description: Her first thought is no one will believe her. Her second is that someone must pay.

Source: Crosses the Sumerian myths of Inanna's descent to the underworld, which is about Inanna's journey into the underworld, Inanna and Shukaletuda, the story of Inanna's rape and her ensuing smackdown of everything, and some references to Inanna and the Mes, the story of how she got her mojo. The title comes from a poem by Enheduanna, who was both the first author in recorded history, and an Akkadian high priestess of Inanna.

Why?: I couldn't riff multiple times on the myth of Inanna without actually writing an Inanna story.

Chrysalis A Love Story

Description: Psyche dreams stained glass butterfly wings to fly her high above the City. Eros already has his wings.

Source: Retelling of the Greek/Roman myth of Eros and Psyche. It also borrows somewhat liberally from the Sumerian myth of Inanna's descent into the underworld.

Why?: One of the oldest stories in this collection. I was reading an article about Monarch butterflies in an inflight magazine and it came full blown to life. I wrote it on the backs of receipts in my wallet and my flight itinerary.

Fingers that Shine like Justice

Description: She is the whirlwind, which is fortunate, because it’s a sale day.

Source: African mythology

Why?: Since we began at the mall, I wanted to end there as well. Wrapping up with a goddess who rules marketplaces and war.

 



Days 6 & 7 of Writing

posted Jul 29, 2013, 10:00 PM by crystal carroll

Making a brief slap dash of question answers to make the form of a post.


6. Where are you most comfortable writing? At what time of day? Computer or good ol' pen and paper?


Good ol' nothing. I'm all about the typing. Terrible handwriting and fingers that type way-faring faster than I could ever write mean I've been typing stories since my old Compaq luggable.


I'm a morning writer. Mainly this is a bi-product of having a job at which I freely (as in they pay me) all my brain cells. By the end of the day there's not much left for writing. That and I wake up auto-wrimo at 5am every morning.


7. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind? Are there any songs you like to relate/apply to your characters?


I don't generally listen to music as I write. Unless the story is inspired by a particular piece and then I listen to it on infinite repeat. A few years ago, I wrote a four part Superman piece on the four aspects of the character: Public-Alien, Public-Human, Private-Alien and Private-Human. Each piece was written while auto repeat listening to a specific Americana song: Rhapsody in Blue (Metropolis), Take Five (Still Metropolis), Journey of the Sorcerer (fortress of un-solitude) and An Outdoor Overture (Smallville).

Pondering the passage of time

posted May 23, 2013, 9:35 PM by crystal carroll

Halfway through the year and six months since my last post. I am, it would seem, very bad about about self promotion.

It's just that I've been busy writing. Okay, and studying Agile project management. 

Well on my way to writing the next book. A collection of short stories set in the same setting as "Blood Maiden"

To fill some space, here's some 30 days of (non consecutive - no really) writing.

4. Tell us about one of your first stories/characters!
I wrote a Barsoom story for a third grade class project. I remember as I stood in front of the class to read it that I decided that it wasn't really interesting enough. 

So, I adlibbed the rest of the story.

5. By age, who is your youngest character? Oldest? How about “youngest” and “oldest” in terms of when you created them?

If by character that shows up in a story, the youngest would be Hope, who in "Gordian" is three months old. If by youngest main character, excellent question. I don't tend to write children main characters. 

Oldest, ah, one of my oldest stories. I'd call it a Mary Sue of a story (given her awful angst, but she's thousands of years old. I parodied her a later story. Let's just say she was my drop in any era character.

Looking Back at 2012

posted Jan 2, 2013, 6:13 AM by crystal carroll

It would seem to be traditional to do some sort of year in review. 

Since this is the first year for this site, this is itself a milestone that the site exists.

It was one of my most productive years ever as a writer.  

I'm very pleased with getting "The Fifth Sun" and "Blood Maiden" out there. Both giveaways went quite well with a predictable mix of people liking and disliking my writing style, which can be idiosyncratic.  I’m pleased with both reactions. Obviously, I’d love for everyone to like what I write. But having some reviews that can help people, who will like my style of writing is a good thing.

Now I just need to finish the last few stories to get the set of short stories out there. And keep going.

I've wrote more in this one year, even not having done NaNoWriMo than I have in previous years. 

As in about 185k over the year. Most of that fiction that is fannish in nature. But some pieces that I’m very pleased with and have gotten the best reaction that I’ve ever gotten.

The difference from NaNo being, I actually think all those words are pretty good. Versus several NaNos that are masses of words that I really would like to go back to and finish up, but are all over the place. The more I look back on the lessons that this year gave me, the more I think NaNo isn't for me. I don’t need the structure. I need to be kept from tangents. Not from forced into them by a need to make a word quota.

This year everything I've written, I'm happy to have written. That I feel as if the universe said, go write that. From "Forty-One" which was very stream of consciousness about turning forty-one (as you may guess) to "A Study in Azure", which was perhaps the most ambitious project (The Fifth Sun aside) that I've ever attempted.  Yet every few weeks, I get comment on “A Study in Azure” that makes me very pleased with that effort.

Now then Yuletide. The project that pretty much defines the x-mas season for me these days. 

I wrote 18 stories this year, as last year. Again, all fic within my comfort zone. But it's always interesting to see what the universe will bring.

Now onto the new year.

30 Days of Nonconsecutive Writing

posted Oct 16, 2012, 8:09 PM by crystal carroll

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

What an odd question for a writing meme. I have as many characters as I have stories. Times lots.

I don't really have a preference in terms of what gender I write from. I tend to write on limited subjective third person, which should mean that I'd prefer to write women, but it's all people. Then again, I've written fiction that has six genders. I suppose I like playing with gender stereotypes and play against them.

~~~
In other news, my giveaways of Blood Maiden on Goodreads and LibraryThing finished and the books went out. 
Interestingly more reaction to the physical book than the electronic. Reviews are what I'd expect. A couple really liked it, a couple were confused unto dislike by the juxtaposition of modern and myth. I did worry as one review that I'm not letting myself respond to indicated that there were copy mistakes that could be fixed by a copy editor, which since it has been copy edited had me wondering if I'd accidentally loaded the wrong version. Thankfully, there's such a thing as Word compare. So, if there are errors, well, it's not because I uploaded the wrong thing.

In complete awesomesauce news a story (the six gendered one) of mine has been translated into Chinese. I'm ridiculously tickled that someone would take the time to translate it. 

Sept Giveaways Complete Lead to Zombie Dreams

posted Oct 3, 2012, 8:40 AM by crystal carroll

I dreamt that it was the zombie apocalypse. So, naturally I got up and closed my window so I wouldn't get eaten.

When I woke up, my window was closed. Well, I'm glad what was probably the zombie sprinklers were prevented from sprinkling my brains.

Aka, what happens when you spend the weekend reading "Deadline" and "Blackout" rather than writing.

Post dream followed by "Countdown" and "2014: the Last Stand of the California Browncoats", which was both sad (the zombie apocalypse + SD Comic Con = sad story.) The more so as there's this overriding sense of a bygone era of fandom. Plus, dead fans. At least I now have a DR plan for the zombie apocalypse. Word to the wise, one of those backdoors dumps out (eventually) in the Marina behind the convention center.

Aka, that was getting off kind of lightly in terms of dreams.

This weekend both my e-book giveaway on Library Thing and the physical book giveaway on Goodreads finished. The coupons are emailed and the books are on their way. All that is left is to wait and see what people think. Hopefully, "Blood Maiden is a fantabulous book! Better than Cats!!!" or something.

I have started on the story that I am writing for the Kaleidoscope fiction exchange, which anyone who has ever read anything that I have ever done is going to read it and know who wrote it because it is obviously something I wrote like burning. Super secret, it will not be.

I'm also working on another side writing project that's refusing to line itself up, which means that I'm trying too hard and need to change directions. I tend to find that's a story's way of telling me that I'm writing the wrong story.

I don't so much get writer's block as I start writing complete tripe. If's effluent. It smells bad. I wrinkle my nose at it. That or I start getting "great" ideas and the story becomes more packed than Saturday afternoon at San Diego Comic-Con. That's really packed and has it's own aroma. Particularly on the days when we've all been in line since the night before. Clearly reading about the zombie apocalypse at Comic-Con is making me nostalgic.

There is such a thing as too many "great" ideas (and zombies). Recognizing the tipping point is where an editorial eye (or a boom stick) is important.

Back to the next project.

30 Days of Non Consecutive Writing - Day 1

posted Sep 30, 2012, 12:34 PM by crystal carroll   [ updated Sep 30, 2012, 12:41 PM ]

1. Tell us about your favorite writing project/universe that you've worked with and why.
This question is a bit like which is my favorite child. Pats my various stories. Okay, so they don't have feelings, but I do have feelings about each of them.

Of course, some stories are the result of a casual afternoon bit of typing and some are labors of much thought. Sometimes passionate creations the flood out of me. Sometimes hammer and tongs and when will I be finished with this poor story.

Highlights then.

"Pins of Bone, Six by Ten" was incredibly intense to write. Because it was for a fiction exchange and the person making the request had provided quite a bit of information, that helped prompt a number of ideas for what that person would like in a story. I find it's often simpler when writing to imagine pleasing one specific person (even if that person is yourself) rather than trying to imagine pleasing everyone. Mainly because you can't please all the people all of the time. If a story can manage to be an intensely good experience for one person, then that story has a purpose.

Pins of Bone is also a topic that I've written a number of short stories on, i.e., the Epic of Gilgamesh. While not actually the first story (that honor arguably goes to an earlier set of stories featuring Gilgamesh's father (for which I've also written fic), it is both an alien country of the past and incredibly human. Gilgamesh is arrogant and selfish and frightened and brave. Also, a surprisingly funny story. I love, love, love the scorpion dragons, who give rather amusing travel advice. Thus, they make an appearance in "Blood Maiden" in addition to Pins of Bone.

I particularly wanted to write women's perspectives into the backdrop of the epic. Gilgamesh's hubris in commanding the women of his city (no woman safe) to his bed made for an interesting parallel with his later confrontation with Inana. A very emotionally draining story to write. It felt (as stories sometimes do) as if I was writing down a true thing that hadn't been written down yet.

"City Stories" - This actually encompasses quite a bit of territory, but to date it's my favorite playground. I've always enjoyed juxtaposing opposing concepts in stories, so an urban landscape where literally any story can meet any mythology, all in the context of the humdrum everyday it catnip. Crystalnip. Something. Some of my best pieces have come out of the city.

"City - Chrysalis: A Love Story". My First City story. A modern retelling of the legend of Psyche and Eros. Dealing with a number of my issues with the original story (I mean seriously, her sisters were right - if she's sleeping with the guy she needs to know who the heck Eros is) and the same time playing with all the tropes. Psyche isn't a virgin. She isn't pretty or small or sweet. She's sharp edged, but she has strong female friends (my own trope - girl friends, good for help with with clothes, love life and epic quests).

"City - Queer as the Fork When the Knife Ran Away with the Spoon"- What if Beauty from the Beauty in the Beast was a black, gay man with magic abilities and a velvet fetish and a thing for roses. I've done this both as a short story and have a partially finished novel length version. Inverting stories is fun and Beauty was a sweet hero. Figuring himself out as much as figuring out the romance.

"A Little Goddess". My foray into children's stories, aka a retelling of A Little Princess in Ptolemaic Egypt with magical realism. Girls being supportive of each other. Kindness having a real effect on the world. Making the world's soul shadow grow. I'm not an unhappy writer. Not really an unhappy reader either. I may write horrible things that happen to my characters, but in the sense that fiction stretches us and informs a part of us, I have no real interest in writing works that ultimately don't yearn toward random acts of kindness. 

This story was wonderfully fun to research (I didn't use half of my research on the period) and dustily real to put down. Something I'd love to flesh out into a novel length piece some day.

"Bloody"- Since I was soppy with the last one, a horror story. Although, questionable as to horrifying for who. A retelling of Bluebeard, if crossed with Carmilla. Slight hint, another trope of mine is stories where the villain turns out to be slightly less badass than they think they are. Evil Gurl power set to eleven.

Hmm... that's enough I think.

Bechdel test

posted Sep 11, 2012, 6:31 AM by crystal carroll

In various places, I've tagged "Blood Maiden" with Bechdel test pass, or more properly, Bechdel/Wallace test. This concept was developed by Wallace and subsequently included in Bechdel's "Dykes to Watch out For" comic strip.

The idea is pretty simple. To pass the Bechdel test, a story needs to have two female characters, they need to talk to each other, and what they talk about needs to be about anything other than a man (brother, father, lover, friend).

Surprisingly a lot of big name Science fiction/Fantasy doesn't pass, because while there may be one warrior queen/priestess/person, she's often the only one.  If there are other women in the story, she doesn't talk to them. Now there are plenty that do pass, or that pass in interesting ways.

When I set out to write this story I wanted to write about strong female characters who are more than warrior princesses or, well, mom. So while the story is titled, "Blood Maiden", her friends and those friendships are an important part of the story. There are a lot of bromance adventure stories out there.

Here's to a fremance adventure. With, admittedly, actual romance between two of those female characters. I had planned on writing Danea as this rather shy person who had grown up home tutored because of the curse that said her son would kill her father. Only now allowed out of the house because of court order or something. The first time around, Blood Maiden was bused into high school (I'm a child of the 70s/80s in California), I know from busing. There she was sitting on the bus. There I was typing away at 5 am or so, and on stomped Danea in full Goth garb with a lojak on her ankle. I think the only thing that survives of that scene is her first words to Blood Maiden, which are something like, "Yeah, I've been lojacked. It's a symbol of the oppressive patriarchy." Blood Maiden fell in love like snapping fingers and I realized my main character was a lesbian.

It's always surprising when people you are making up, surprise you.

But the most fun was writing the group of them having adventures together.

City Stories - Blood Maiden's Setting

posted Sep 3, 2012, 8:15 AM by crystal carroll

City Stories

Blood Maiden's setting is one I'm familiar with because I've been writing stories set in that setting for years.

I've always loved mythology. As a child, when I finished reading the all the books in the children's section, I wandered into the adults section and picked up a book on mythology. After all, I'd been reading the children's versions.

That was a bit of a revelation. But like biting the apple (or possibly candied fig), there was no going back.

The City landscape allows me to juxtapose everything in a modern setting without it being our modern setting. It's everywhere and nowhere. Hopefully, no one ever tries to figure out the landscape of the City, which is simultaneously San Francisco, Taipei, New York, Los Angeles, Mexico City, etc. I like mutually exclusive landscapes. The map of the place does and will change.

Into that landscape, gods come. They are all immigrants. There are no natives in this space, because it is an urban landscape. Or rather they all slowly slid together into this space. Mayan's living in the remnants of a roman coliseum that I visited in the south of france. It's why Blood Maiden's mother is so upset about the pyramids of Egypt. There was a legal dispute and the Egyptian gods had better lawyers and claimed original ownership of the concept.

Life's like that in the City.

Some, but not all, of the City stories can be read on my Shorts (Stories) page. Upcoming in the spring of 2013, I will be releasing a book of City short stories to fill in a few more perspectives.

Blood Maiden released

posted Sep 2, 2012, 11:44 AM by crystal carroll   [ updated Sep 2, 2012, 11:45 AM ]

My new novel "Blood Maiden" is now available in paperback and e-book.

Blood Maiden is downloadable in a wide variety of e-book formats on 

"Blood Maiden" is an urban fantasy set in the City, where gods from all mythologies mashup with the every day. Monster infested fog sometimes sweeps through the lunch hour. Occasionally traffic backs up because the Blood river overflows. Bicyclists can shortcut through the Sumerian underworld to City park as long as they don’t mind a few desiccated zombies gumming them. That’s life in the City.

Blood Maiden, a Mayan death goddess, is starting her senior year at Himinbjorg High, where her skin, hair, even the shape of her nose mark her as an outsider among the teenage Norse gods. While at home in the Mayan Underworld, anyone who is invited as a guest must face a series of trials. The winners will gain a boon from the Death Lords. Since the heroes never listen to Blood Maiden’s advice, they end up trapped in the underworld. Meanwhile, Blood Maiden's parents think that she'd be a great death goddess if she just had a little more self confidence.

Her friends have their own problems. Blood Maiden's friend, P.D., swallows a pine needle and gives birth to Raven, who keeps trying to steal the sun, moon, and stars stored in the hope chest in the living room. The twins, Isis and Nepthys, can't get any respect. Coatlique is impenetrable and isn't that fun to bring up on a date. While Princess Danae, Danny, has been lojacked by her father because of the "curse" that she's under.

If Blood Maiden can just figure out how to deal with Zeus perving on Danny, how to ask Danny to the winter dance, all the tangled prophecies everyone is under, and her parent's expectations, just maybe she'll figure out what she's supposed to do with her life without killing anyone.

Or they could all decide to be heroes."

"Blood Maiden is basically is 200+ pages of various types of girls being heroic, variously getting on each others nerves and helping each other. It's funny and horrible things happen, because it's based on mythology. The girls variously deal and fail to deal and then redeal.

I got the idea for the story when I was reading the "Pupol Voh" for research on the Mayan Hero Twins story for NaNoWrimo. I came across a 1.5 page description of their um, generation. Their mother, Blood Maiden, comes off as Snow White, if she'd saved her own damned self and it seemed to me that there are a lot of stories about heroes where a woman (see how I invert that) sleeps with a god, becomes pregnant, survives a page of hardship and then it's twenty years later and the hero is off to adventure. Clever and brave and whatever because his father (who hasn't been around for 20ish years) is a god. Um, okay. What about that really brilliant saved her own damned self character that I got for a page and a half?  I wanted more Blood Maiden.

Write what you want. It is one of my goals as a writer to write female positive stories that more than just pass the Bechtel test, where women have a single conversation about something other than men. I want to write women being heroic in all the different ways that can mean. Not just being warrior princesses, but getting the job done. Whether that's fighting monsters or raising the next generation of heroes.

The next several posts will be "Blood Maiden" specific as I talk about various aspects of the characters and explain details about the world.

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