Review #28: Stem, Stone, and Bone by Deb Taber

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Aug 8, 2010 in Reviews

Author Website:
Published by: Fantasy Magazine, August 2nd, 2010

stonePhoto by Jurvetson Creative Commons

The Story:

Jacinta has spent her days working in the cocoa groves of Venezuela since she was a child, collecting the beetles that hatch from the trees and slicing off their legs and proboscises with a little knife attached to her thumb. The lifeless beetles resemble beans, and the world is not ready or willing to think otherwise. There was a time when the children would go out and race beetles in the evenings as their parents got drunk on the black, blood wine of their harvests. But those times are gone now. There are no children being born in the Shining City anymore. The women only give birth to dull, lifeless stones, and life is changing all around them.

The Craft: 20 Master Plot – Metamorphosis


This is such a lovely metamorphosis story since there are so many levels of change. Life and death, childhood to adulthood, stone to stem to bone to stone. But the cycle is broken, and Jacinta is worried about her future and that of the Shining City.  With no children being born, there will soon be no one left to harvest the beetles. Already there are no nimble-bodied little ones to pick up the cocoa beetles that have slipped to the ground.

Jacinta gave birth to a stone once, and not even a pretty one. Now, this world of hers is falling apart — dogs are giving birth to gemstones and caterpillars fall to the earth and become seeds. Jacinta gets it fixed in her mind that she wants to become a mother again, and since none of the men she knows would curse her with the pain of bearing another stone child, she goes into the city and tricks a man into impregnating her. Again she goes through the metamorphosis of motherhood, bearing a stone, but it is her stone, her child, her love, and her emotional journey is fulfilled.

There’s so much awesome in this story, I don’t even know where to start. The writing was superb, and the story sucked me in with its inventiveness and fully fleshed out world. The characters had depth, and I could easily feel for Jacinta’s plight. It’s simply a beautiful story, beautifully executed.

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Review #25: Perhaps this is Kushi’s Story by Swapna Kishore

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Aug 1, 2010 in Reviews

Author website:
Published by: Fantasy Magazine, July 26th, 2010

Photo by Rosa y Dani Creative Commons

The Story:

Twin sisters, the eldest destined to marry the Headman’s son and lead their tribe and the younger resentful of that fact, listen to a story as told by their wise, old Tribemother. In the story, Kushi, a young healer apprentice finds herself caught between the will of her gods, the safety of her tribe, and her own morality.

The Craft: 20 Master Plots – Temptation


So of course my first 20 Master Plots story would have a frame narrative, but both stories are tales of temptation. I loved Younger Sister’s voice, how she kicked over her Elder Sister’s sandcastle without remorse, and then wanders off for awhile since it would take time for her sister to rebuild anything worth kicking again. Younger Sister gladly would have given into her temptation of crippling her sister if it hadn’t been for Tribemother stepping in and telling Kushi’s story.  But since the bulk of the story is about Kushi, I’ll analyze her temptation.

Kushi’s temptation comes in the form of gods whispering for her to kill her tribemate Bataar in order to protect her village. This is a tough decision for Kushi to make. People are dying because of Bataar’s ill-will, though Kushi is hard pressed to prove it. Kushi decides that she cannot kill because it would be immoral, even if it will protect Bataar from killing again. Her inaction results in the death of their Headman. Kushi directly accuses Bataar in front of her tribe and puts herself at risk. Her temptation had blinded her to better options for dealing with the situation, and as a result, she becomes exiled from her people.

Both tales are interesting with high stakes and good tension. I found myself wishing there was more to Younger Sister’s story though. Her character was so deliciously wicked that I wanted to experience her temptations directly. I was less engaged with Kushi, though I did like how each sister was given the opportunity to end the story. So who’s story is this? Perhaps this is Kushi’s story, but then again, perhaps not.

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Writer’s Life: How to Explain a Fictional Technology or Superpower

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Apr 23, 2010 in Writer's Life

So speaking of world building, Basic Instructions has this tidbit of advice about how to explain a fictional technology or superpower.

There’s definitely a balance to it: too little and you’ll leave your readers confused or distracted from the story. Too much, and they’ll be digging through a tech manual for plot and characters. Though I do admit, world building is fun to get lost in, especially when you’re trying to procrastinate on writing your actual novel. But it’s important to remember that not every piece of world building needs to end up in the book. In fiction, like in life, there is such a thing as TMI.

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