Tag Archives: Chameleon in a Mirror

Back to Aphra Behn and Chameleon in a Mirror

The new version of Chameleon in a Mirror, my literary time travel featuring Aphra Behn, is going quite well. I’m 7,000 words in now, and if this keeps up, I can increase the target word count. Of course, I have a huge advantage in that I have the print-out of a completed novel by my side while I work. It may seem ridiculous to some that I have elected to type the novel in from scratch when it would be that much faster to just revise it, but that’s the point. I originally wrote this novel over fifteen years ago, and while I think the structure is still sound, my style has changed quite a bit. Sometime last summer, I had considered bringing Chameleon in a Mirror out as my first ebook novel, but when I started revising it, I realized it would need a lot more work than I originally envisioned. Then when my freelance editor of choice said she was booked through January, I decided to go with Yseult instead. I wanted to get a novel up by the new year, traditionally the best season for ebook sales, and Yseult had already been through both editors and translators and had been published in three languages (just not the original).

Then naturally, after I published Yseult and it was doing pretty well, it was much more logical to get the next Arthurian novel, Shadow of Stone, ready for publication.

But now that’s off to the editor, and Fragments of Legend is in need of more research, I can devote the time and effort needed to Chameleon in a Mirror. If I were just to revise the file, I would be much more tempted to leave things as they are. I’ve used the method of typing over from scratch a number of times, and I find it very effective in liberating myself from my old word choices. It also helps in questioning research and enlivening dialog and even in big picture elements like character motivation. The thing is, if I’m typing rather than just reading, I’m much more likely to hit a spot where I say to myself “Now wait a minute!” And then instead of revising, I’m writing completely new passages, which are (I hope) more in keeping with where I am now as a writer. 🙂

As Aphra Behn once said, “Faith, sir, we are here today, and gone tomorrow.”

In the marketing and sales realm, “Looking Through Lace” is doing quite well after its four day freebie, garnering another 5 star review and climbing through the paid ranks better than I expected. Here’s where it stands as of this post:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,532 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#15 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Short Stories
#23 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Anthologies

It’s still one of my favorites of the things I’ve written, even though it was first published almost ten years ago, so I’m very happy to see it reaching so many people. 🙂

Marie de France, Aphra Behn, and changing horses midstream

So here we are, at the beginning of a new round of words, with new targets and new projects, and I’m finding myself having to admit I need to change my goals. After months of concentrating on ebooks and editing, I returned to Fragments of Legend with the best of intentions, especially once I looked at the numbers and realized that with only 500 words a day, I could get a complete rough draft finished in a couple of months. Then after several days when the writing was like pulling teeth, I realized that for the section I’m working on, I not only need a compelling complication, I need to do way more research.

Sometimes resistance does have meaning.

At first I was hoping I could brush up on what I needed as I worked, and I started going through my books on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine again, consulting the web for more sources and to look up references the books only mentioned in passing. And then I stumbled across Marie de France.

Since I’ve done plenty of research on Arthurian literature, I know of Marie de France, but I was unaware that the works that have come down to us are in Anglo-Norman French, and many experts place her at the court of Henry II. And since my main character, Judith, is a medieval woman who will eventually write an epic, Marie de France would be a perfect addition to my cast of characters! (I love those kinds of moments while writing.)

The problem is, I know next to nothing about Marie de France, and have only ever read one of her lays, many years ago. So it’s back to the books and the doodles for a while until I can get this section worked out in my head (or on scrap paper).

So in order to get back into the habit of writing regularly, I’m returning to my old Aphra Behn novel project, Chameleon in a Mirror. Rereading the old material a few months back, I realized that my style had changed quite a bit, and I’m going to have to start all over almost from scratch. But as compared to Fragments of Legend, in my Aprha Behn time travel, all the parts are there and all the research has been done; the words getting me from the first sentence to the last just have to be different. So here are my new research and writing goals:

– Read up on Marie de France and her contemporaries, while beefing up on Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in the 1180s. From this research, come up with appropriate complications for Judith’s time in England.

– Write 1,000 words a day on a new version of Chameleon in a Mirror.

In other news, “Looking Through Lace” is doing much better during this promo than during the last. During the first 24 hours, I had over 2000 downloads, and it is now in the top 100 Free in the Kindle store, and #2 in Science Fiction. (Carolyn Ives Gilman is beating me out, but that is definitely something I can live with.) If you don’t have my novella yet, please download a copy!

When reality is creepier than fiction

The other day, a friend of mine tweeted me about the sneakered feet that have been washing up for years in and around Vancouver, BC. Her comment was that it “creepily reminded” her of my story, “The Old Man and the Sneakers” (Farthing April 2006). I have to admit, the similarity had never occurred to me — my sneakers didn’t have any feet in them, after all — but once she mentioned it, I realized she had a point.

The funny thing is, the inspiration for that story was also a true incident, not the least bit gruesome, which you can read about here. The short version: a container ship lost a couple of containers of tennies during a storm, and after a while they started washing up on the shores of Oregon and Washington, my old home turf. This struck me as a wonderful starting point for a humorous story, which is what I used it for. Here a brief excerpt:

It began the summer the Nikes washed up on the beach by the dozen—but never by the pair. The old man knew it was a sign. Young people descended on the sleepy town on the Oregon coast to collect sneakers, descended on the towns to the north and the south, beachcombing for sandy, wet tennies as if the shoes were the rarest of treasures. They held trading parties in the Safeway parking lot, big public gatherings characterized by laughter and loud music.
That was when the dancing began.
It was all wrong. They danced in the parking lot, wearing mismatched Nikes and cutoffs, an intimate dance, hip and hop and hot, rubbing their body parts against each other, in public.
The old man watched, and his face grew red and his chest grew tight.

Now if the shoes had feet in them, I’m sure I would have written a very different story.

My progress on new fiction in the last week has been minimal, and I need to get back to a daily word count. But I’ve done a lot of editing on two different projects, both Chameleon in a Mirror and Yseult, as well as some brainstorming and organizational work on another novel, Fragments of Legend. Mostly however, I’ve been doing translating, the work that puts food on the table. We have a big project right now that needs to be done before we go on vacation — less than two weeks now. Nothing like a little pressure to make you work harder!

Aphra Behn and the Odds

For me, one of the great things about having Aphra Behn as a role model is that it keeps me from indulging in complaints about my lot too much. Of course, we all need to gripe now and then to get things out of our systems, but whenever I want to blame my life or somebody else for how little I get accomplished, all I have to do is look at Aphra and I know I really don’t have any excuses.

Not much is known conclusively about Aphra beyond her plays and publications other than that she worked for the Crown as a spy in the Netherlands. A number of her letters begging the government to reimburse her for the money she’d spent on her mission have survived. After she returned to England in 1667, she may even have briefly landed in debtor’s prison because the government refused to pay what they owed her for her services. At this point, her father was dead and her mother probably as well, and in any case, her family does not seem to have been wealthy to start with. The most likely candidate for her father was a “barber-surgeon,” and while the woman he married came from minor gentry, she married beneath her. There is no indication among any of the Aphra’s writings or the writings of her contemporaries about her that she had any wealthy family to fall back on, as did most of the “scribbling women” who came before her, such as Katherine Philips or Margaret Cavendish.

Nonetheless, two years after her letters to the Crown begging for the money to keep her out of debtor’s prison, her first play, “The Forced Marriage,” was produced by the Duke’s Company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It was a great success and ran for six nights, providing its author with two nights’ income. (The “third day” always belonged to the author of the play.)

She definitely deserves the famous words of Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own:

All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she–shady and amorous as she was–who makes it not quite fantastic for me to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.

The last couple of days, I’ve gotten an average of 25 pages a day revised in hard copy on Chameleon in a Mirror. I should be done by the end of the week. Then I have to get the changes into the file and start working on a cover. I may also be wanting to hire an editor to go through it one more time. But my goal is to get the novel up as an ebook at the very latest by the end of the year.